Did you know that students are NEVER too old to enjoy a picture book? This article here tells you more. Even adults can learn from picture books - I do!
The book Dreamers, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a stunning picture book with an amazing story about an immigrant mother and her baby immigrating to the US. While discussing it with our newcomer students, I began placing sticky-notes everywhere with all the ideas and thoughts that were rushing through my mind. Here is what I was thinking:
Packing Our Culture
I was 15 years old when I was asked to pack-up a backpack with a couple of outfits and whatever else I could fit in and carry with me on a journey from Guatemala to the USA.
I remember looking around the room and packing a few photographs and recuerditos (keepsakes) I didn't want to leave behind.
I do not doubt that many immigrants experience this moment when they have to decide what to pack and bring along their migration journey. Besides packing the essentials, many of us pack something that will remind us of the world we are leaving behind, representing our country, homeland, and believes.
Just like we pack-up objects, we also pack-up our identity within us and hold on to it as tight as possible because we know it is what makes us who we are. The things we pack-up within us are experiences, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, family, foods, music, culture, heritage, and more. All this builds our individuality.
Yuyi Morales narrates this personal experience perfectly in this image. We see how her backpack includes a jatana, a pencil, nature items, and Señor Calavera. If you follow Yuyi's Instagram account, you'd see how these objects represent her identity. Objects that she carried with her as she crossed over the Mexican border to come to the USA. And just like we see in her book, the objects that represented her identity were kept safe and packed up because they were being protected or perhaps they stayed packed up because she didn't feel like her individuality would fit in the new culture.
In Dreamers, we see the characters trying to blend in and function in a new country and culture but with a substantial struggle to be who they are.
I experienced this as well, and so do many immigrant students and individuals who come to the United States. While many of us love our home culture, our language, and everything about our heritage, society tells us that to function successfully, we must keep our background packed up and blend in the American culture and master the English language to be successful.
For many of us, it'll be years and years till we realize that our culture, language, and heritage are valuable and core to who we are.
For others, this realization will never happen - and heritage, language, and culture will be lost. To me, this is a sad reality that will hinder many generations.
Opportunities to Unpack
As an immigrant myself, I can tell you how intimidating it is to be yourself and unpack our background for all to see.
You look around, and everything is new and different. You listen around, you and all you hear is the new language -- a language you don't yet understand.
However, there are ways to embrace the differences while still appreciating what is packed within us and show them to the world.
Here are a few of them:
Having our culture and heritage unpacked is just the most wonderful feeling. How do you know your culture, language, and heritage is unpacked? - When you celebrate it, appreciate it, and embrace it. When you do not fear what others will say about who you are, how you speak, or what you're wearing. When you begin to find a place in your new home, you understand that we have more similarities than differences and contribute to society to create a beautifully diverse culture.
As we were reading this book with my student, we both had different takeaways from the text. Yousef here was able to draw what he understood what was happening in the story, then retell the story using his own words. He was able to personally connect with several parts in the story and was very confident understanding it because the images speak so much.
I am encouraged to write my takeaways because he did the same!
If you have read this book and would like to share your takeaways with me, please share them with me. I'd love to hear about your experience with this amazing book. Or if there is another book that would share these same ideas, I'd love to know of it.
Remember YOU matter! Your culture matters, your language matters, your heritage matters. So, showcase it...display for all to see and appreciate it.
Thank you for reading!
In Stories That Sparkle Powerful Conversations blog post, I shared a lesson I started with our SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Educations) ELs. This lesson led to another wonderful week where students created a wonderful presentation to show the rest of the class.
All our newcomer ELs are expected to present their learning in our ESL class, of course, the bar remains high for SIFEs. Just like Kanako Suwa says,
"Simplifying is GIVING UP, Scaffolding is BELIEVING.
Simplifying is dumbing down/lowering expectations.
Scaffold = same expectations and content + supports put in place to help Ss meet the expectations."
With the understanding that these students are capable of more - I encouraged them to create their own book using the sentences they had formed from the book Dreamers.
My students were very excited when they noticed that they were creating their own book using the information they understood.
Both students were able to create and publish their own book but only one student had the strength to record the reading. It does take a lot of courage to do this knowing that your voice is being heard by others and you're not sure of yourself in the targeted language.
So the platform I use to publish my students' stories is WriteReader. This platform is student-friendly and it can be used by students K-12.
One of my students used the camera to take some pictures of the book that matched his text, another student took photographs of her own illustrations.
Here's Yousef's book: DREAMERS (link includes voice/reading)
Here's Abril's book: DREAMERS
Both of my students did a great job and they are very proud of the work they accomplished.
You see, it really doesn't take much to help our English learners (and SIFE) to perform at their highest potential.
If you choose to use this platform to publish your students' stories, please let me know! I'd live to share them with my students as well.
Thank you so much for reading!
The Greater Cabarrus Reading Association (GCRA) holds an annual mini conference where educators in Cabarrus county and Kannapolis City Schools' teachers have the opportunity to learn from other educators and also earn CEU credits.
This year, I had the greatest opportunity to present and share the awesomeness we are doing in our classroom.
Event Date: 03/23/2019
My session title: Don't Just Make Your Students Write - Make them Authors
Learning how to encourage and inspire students to share their own stories using WriteReader
For a Youtube version on this presentation, watch this video!
**This post appeared originally in literacyworldwide.org on Jan 31st, 2019.**
“One of our most important responsibilities in school is to protect and advocate for our students’ individuality and identity; it’s their greatest gift.”
Personal experiences are powerful. My journey as a first-generation immigrant and a former English learner is now central to what I do. My personal experiences, coupled with my responsibilities as an educator, have helped me to embrace the role of an advocate and to create and establish a sense of culture that values students’ greatest gifts: identity and individuality.
When ILA launched Children’s Rights to Read campaign last fall, I immediately saw connections to my teaching philosophy and the role I can play in advocating for those rights.
Children’s Rights to Read—10 fundamental rights ILA asserts every child deserves—is a campaign in which ILA aims to activate educators around the world to ensure every child, everywhere, receives access to the education, opportunities, and resources needed to read.
As a high school teacher of English as a second language (ESL), my job is to analyze my students’ needs and to develop their linguistic and communicative competence in English in all language domains.
However, my goal as an educator is to create meaningful learning experiences that serve as pathways for connection. I can create those experiences through the framework of Children’s Rights to Read
On May 16th, 2018, Peter Cameron and Derek Rhodenizer made available a platform where more than 100 educators from around the world shared their best practices and strategies. I spent all day going from video to video learning from so many inspiring educators.
The link for all the videos is available here is you're interest in learning more and access all MADPD presentations.
I did not present during the event, but I applied to participate on their #MADpd Spotlight Series. Every week a presenter gets the spotlight with chats about the topic.
I decided to share the work my students did during our 2017-2018 school year. Their work is so amazing that was featured on www.Achievethecore.com. Check it our here and here if you want to read more.
I hope you enjoy this video and let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading!
This post is part II to the previous post about inspiring students to write. Read part I here. Part one was also featured on www.achievethecore.org on June 22nd, 2018.
In order to maintain my students' passion for writing, I realized that compelling ideas were necessary to maintain their interest in writing. One way to encourage writers is by thinking with the end in mind. This just means brainstorming some ideas to wrap-up their hard work as writers. Our idea was to celebrate our writing by publishing our work and sharing it with staff, students, and the world!
My students were super excited from the very beginning. They understood that they would have to work very hard to complete a work worth sharing with the world. They understood the power of having an authentic audience.
To support students develop the language needed to discuss the pictures, we created verbal sentences to go with each picture.
I truly believe that giving my students these sentences and saying them in a rhyming and choral way, helped them as they started their individual writing process.
As a way to provide the scaffold they needed to be successful writers, we created two anchor charts with some images and words just so they knew where to look if and when they needed support.
Notice I said, "WE created"! It is very important for students to take part in creating anchor charts...ultimately it is for them to use so it needs to be as kid-friendly as possible. If you just pull-out an anchor chart already created, it becomes just a paper on the wall with no use whatsoever.
For the first part of the story, I asked students to write their sentences in their notebook. We started with an image and used the image to complete a sentence. We also talked about using our drawings to add to our digital book.
Some students needed my support more than others, but for the most part, students were very good about completing their story.
Our Digitalized Stories
Once students had the first part of the story completed, students began transferring their stories onto a digital platform. The best and most effective platform to create digital stories with lower grade student is www.WriteReader.com. Students have used this app before so they just jumped right in to create their stories.
Watch my Kindergartners' presentation on YouTube!
First Graders' Work
Students were given complete freedom as to where to sit, how to take notes, discussions, etc. They all helped each other as they collected information. Students were super excited to see the pictures in the book and were so engaged in conversations about the topic. Students at a higher level reading and/or language proficiency were very helpful to students who needed more support.
Check out this video of students helping and learning from each other!
There's just something about writing what you read that supports comprehension...so I make my students take notes and draw pictures as they read and learn something new. Taking notes on a notebook had two purposes:
Here are some examples of students' work:
I was very impressed with their work and so were they! They were so excited about sharing with their peers all the facts they've learned!
Once we have collected enough information or at least answered the questions we agreed on, students began to publish their books using WriteReader.com.
Once their book was published, they shared it with one another and read each other's book. It was amazing to see how much reading they were doing and they didn't even realize it.
Read their published books here:
We invited Kindergarten, 1st-grade teachers, and administrators to our class the day of our author celebration.
Thank you for reading!
**This post appeared originally in www.WriteReader.com on May 30, 2018.**
As a first generation-immigrant, a former English language learner (ELL) and as an educator today, I’m astounded by how my two worlds are colliding. On one side of the continuum, we are given information by the National Center for Education Statistics of the alarming, continuously growing number of ELLs enrolling in U.S. schools. On the other side, we have educators who are facing one of the biggest shifts in educational practice; not only are teachers responsible for having each and every student access grade-level content, they are now also having to foster English language acquisition and/or dual-language learning.
Though this interrelation may be a challenge for some educators, it is an issue that needs attention since it is impacting our future-ready learners. Now the real issue is not what is happening around us but how we are responding to it. A positive way to respond is by growing a classroom culture that is culturally responsive and providing students with effective and/or consistent language support.
Merging my personal experience with my obligations as an educator, I see the critical need and responsibility to intentionally integrate tools into my lessons that not only highlight but sustain my students’ linguistic heritage. In my experience, WriteReader is the most appropriate and effective resource to use with our diverse students.
This web-based, user-friendly app provides a platform where students create and publish their own books using their creativity and imagination, while developing their academic and linguistic competence in English and/or Spanish. WriteReader places value on students’ linguistic heritage by giving access to its features in a dual-language format. This intentional inclusivity places value on their heritage and culture by providing a comfortable environment for students to take a risk in their academic, linguistic, and cultural development.
Let’s take a closer look at how WriteReader can be used to support students’ academic, linguistic, and cultural development.
There are several academic advantages for using WriteReader. While students are creating their own book, there’s critical thinking, collaboration, and reading and writing development. The creation of their book requires students to think critically about their sentence structure and focus on the image aligning with their text. Students collaborate with each other asking for support and/or showing their expertise. Literacy acquisition increases since they have to make sure that the letter they are typing phonologically aligns with the sounds they need to make the words. Students also have the opportunity and advantage to access their peers’ books and read just for fun. This reading is not frustrational since it is at the students’ level. Reading their peers’ books will also build students’ background knowledge on topics that may be new for them.
Students collaborating and publishing their book together.
A recent article, The Future of Education is in Two Languages, highlighted the impact that bilingualism has on cognitive enhancement, critical thinking, and sensitivity toward other people and cultures. The author, Fabrice Jaumont, is convinced that dual-language education should be the norm rather than the exception.
So, in order to create a sense of belonging for our ELLs, dual-language learners, and all students in general, allowing students to use their native language (L1) should be the norm in every classroom. WriteReader’s features allow students to navigate through the platform entirely in L1, providing an advantage for students to access content and provide opportunities to show their abilities. Students have the option to hear each letter sound as they type, which supports the phonological awareness in both L1 and the second language (L2). Another article provides an extensive explanation on literacy acquisition in both L1 and L2 and how language skills can transfer to another language, even while L2 is still developing. Encouraging students to use L1 when writing is honoring, accepting, and respectful. Languages are more than words; they help us define who we are, in our own words.
Here’s an example of how my newcomers use L1 with WriteReader to publish a bilingual glossary. To read more and get lesson ideas, visit Achieve the Core.
Newcomer students creating bilingual glossary.
Without a doubt, I’m convinced that language and culture are intertwined. Therefore, integrating tools that encourage and allow students the use and practice of L1 places value on children’s heritage and culture. Embracing and validating our students’ background and culture will create an environment where students flourish not just academically but linguistically too. Culture and diversity can’t be measured in a classroom; however, it can be noticed. When students are reading and writing about topics that they connect with personally and culturally, they are engaged at a deeper level. The use of compelling topics supports comprehensible input, as it relates to the theory of second language acquisition.
Read our published book about Cascarones here
"It’s about helping the next generation fulfill their potential and become successful human beings." - Dave Burgess
In closing, I’m inspired by a quote found in Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate. Dave writes, “With a focus on professional passion, teaching is no longer about relaying in content standards...it’s about transforming lives. It’s about killing apathy. It’s about helping the next generation fulfill their potential and become successful human beings. It’s no longer about memorizing facts; it’s about inspiring greatness.” With this in mind, I embrace the idea of creating a classroom culture that values students’ language and culture. Thank you, WriteReader for providing educators with a fabulous tool to validate our students.
Thank you for reading!