Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays, Especially to the Behind the Scenes Folks!

"What makes me happy is the appreciation of people around me."
-- Nadia Comaneci

Every day when I go to the school where I’m volunteering, I have to sign in and out in the main office.  Well, next to the sign in book, I noticed something really interesting this past week and the other day I got permission to blog about it.

You know how, during the December holiday season, there are all sorts of fun activities for students and teachers?  Like: gift exchanges, bringing in special holiday treats to share with colleagues, handing out cards to staff members, wishing everyone Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Chanukah, and so on? 

I always gave tins of Danish Butter Cookies to the custodial staff, to thank them for all the work they did cleaning my room and the school in general.  I figured that was something all the custodians could enjoy and a large tin would last a more than just one day.
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
Thank you, Custodians, for all that you do! source: The ESL Nexus
But I never saw a thank you like the one at this school in Arizona: On the counter where I have to sign in, there was a large pail with food inside and a sign stuck into it.  Taking a closer look, I discovered it was a bucket of goodies for the people who deliver mail to the school.  What a fantastic idea!
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
Thanking the UPS, FedEx, and USPS people; source: The ESL Nexus
The men and women who bring the mail, pick up outgoing mail, and deliver packages certainly deserve the thanks of the entire school staff.  Day in and day out they work the entire year and I think this is a wonderful way to show the school’s appreciation.  And…I did notice that in the four days between my first sight of it and yesterday, there were definitely fewer items in the bucket.  So I guess the people for whom it was intended liked it, too.
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
What a thoughtful idea! source: The ESL Nexus
I’ll be taking a break from blogging next week and will return in January with new posts.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Education Around the World: Australia

"In a world as competitive as ours, the child who does not get a decent education
is condemned to the fringes of society.  I think all Australians agree that this is
intolerable.  Se we must demand as much of our schools as we do of out sports
teams -- and ensure that they keep the Australian dream alive for every child."
-- Rupert Murdoch, 1931 - 
Australian - American media mogul

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
 Map of Australia; The CIA World Factbook
It’s been a while since I featured a guest blogger writing about education in another country but maybe we can just pretend it’s taken so long since today’s post is about Australia!  I’d like to introduce Jade from TpT store Priceless in Prep, who teaches Prep, aka Foundation, which is for children who are 4-6 years old.  She works at a PreK – 12 Christian College which has their own preschool attached to the school.  Please journey with me to find out more about teaching and learning in Australia, in Jade’s own words:

Structure of Australian Schools
Education in Australia begins with Prep or Foundation (what the US calls Kinder) for children 4-6 years old, depending what half of the year they were born. Students usually graduate in Year 12 at age 17-18. There are options to leave school at the end of Year 10.

We are just now starting to have some schools transition into a “middle school” type format, however there are currently no specific schools just for these grades. We have either P-12 schools, or P-7 and then 8-12 for high school, with some high schools now starting to incorporate Year 7 as part of the middle school transition.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Jade's classroom; source: Priceless in Prep
We have a few different sectors -- public schools run by the government, private schools that are mainly run by the Catholic Diocese, and then independent schools, which are mainly Christian/Anglican.

The School Calendar
My particular school starts the day at 8.20am, we have morning tea and a lunch break, and finish at 2.50pm. We generally tend to have our Christmas holiday a little earlier than the public schools because of our longer school day.

Our school year starts at the end of January, and runs through to the first week of December. More specifically, it typically runs from around 25 Jan (the 26th is a public holiday) to Easter, then from the beginning of April to June, from July to September, and then from October to the first week of December.  We have a two-week break for Easter, and also have two week breaks between terms in June and September.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
View of Queensland, Australia; source: Priceless in Prep
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding grading systems in the past year. Our Primary school runs on a five-point grading system: Emerging, Developing, Demonstrating, Advancing and Extending. Demonstrating is equivalent to a C standard, but it is also the overall aim for the year -- meaning that the students don’t just scrape by with a ‘C’, but rather they have solidly achieved the expected standard for the year. It can be a bit confusing. Other schools have different language, but all must follow the 5 scale rating. Our high schools use a 15 point rating (E- through to A+).

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
To be a teacher in Australia, you need to spend 4 years at university and obtain a Bachelor degree.  You can do a 3 year Bachelor degree in a totally unrelated area, like business, and then do a 1 year bridging course to gain teaching qualifications. To teach ESL you can do a certificate online or through a university. I have a Masters Degree in Education (TESOL). When working solely in this capacity, we are called ESL Teachers.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Jade's classroom; source: Priceless in Prep
Learning English
English is the language of instruction. As I teach Prep, and am also an ESL teacher and qualified Dyslexic therapist, I teach all children the same, whether the come in speaking English or not. We start with phonemic awareness activities- listening for sound, rhyming, identifying beginning, medial and ending sounds, manipulating sounds, blending and segmenting sounds.... all before a single letter of the alphabet is taught.  Here is an example of the kinds of resources I use with students:
Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info about this FREE resource
We then systematically teach phonics, covering three sounds a week. We use Jolly Phonics. After the first group of sounds is taught, we introduce a few tricky words, aka sight words. We also start formal writing activities, and comprehension strategies. We move through our phonics to teach alternative spelling patterns.

Our school uses the Words Their Way program to focus on spelling. We tend not to follow the book so much in Prep because it is very text heavy and doesn't fit the Jolly Phonics order, so we make up a lot of our own picture sorts, write the room sorts and eventually spelling pattern sorts and cloze sentence write the room activities. We focus on the structure of sentences -- in Prep we look at every sentence containing a who and a what (noun and verb). We also use Fountas and Pinnell's books and their 20 Days of Reading program, with a specific focus on prediction, inferring, making connections, schema, and big ideas.

Curriculum
We are in the process of implementing a national curriculum, which is currently in its 8th version and still changing. Not all of our states have undertaken to follow the National Curriculum and it’s still largely a grey area. Our public schools are using the National Curriculum, and the Government has written a whole suite of units to support teaching the curriculum (C2C -- Curriculum to Classroom).

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
View of Queensland, Australia; source: Priceless in Prep
It covers English, Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education, The Arts (which may soon be split into 5 separate areas), Design and Technology, Languages, and HaSS (Humanities and Social Sciences)- this is a new term for SOSE (Study of Society and Environment). I believe this includes civics and economics for older grades, but only has history and geography at my year level. 

My understanding of the C2C from discussions with other teachers is that it is quite prescriptive and a bit restricting.  You can read about the Australian Curriculum HERE.  These posters in the Priceless in Prep TpT store complement the Australian Curriculum.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info
Testing
In Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 we have NAPLAN, which is a national test.  It’s very strict and stressful for the students. It is undertaken as 3 separate tests and over a few days. Year 12 students would normally undertake a standardised test -- in my state, it is called QCS (Queensland Core Skills) and lasts for three days. This test gives students an OP score (overall position) which is used as a ranking to obtain entry to university. This system is rumoured to be changing soon.

Final Thoughts
No matter where you are, we all are wanting to achieve the same thing and have the same challenges. Teaching is a hard job and it takes a special kind of person to do it!
Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Flag of Australia; The CIA World Factbook
Thank you very much, Jade, for sharing your knowledge of education in Australia with us!  I had no idea what the education system in Australia was like so I really appreciate learning about it from you.  You can read more about Jade’s teaching on her blog, also called Priceless in Prep, and you can find all her resources in her Priceless in Prep TeachersPayTeachers store.

Check out previous blog posts in this series here: South Africa, Canada (Quebec), Scotland, United Arab Emirates, England, Sweden, and Morocco.

Monday, December 12, 2016

8 Assumptions about English Language Learners

"The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages."
-- Roger Bacon

There are lots of myths and assumptions about working with English Language Learners.  How much do you really know?  Let’s take a quiz and find out!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Assumptions-about-English-Language-Learners-Video-with-Worksheets-2919666

Decide whether each of the 8 common assumptions in the list below is True or False.
1) Using English all the time at home helps ELLs learn English faster.
2) ELLs should learn to read first in English instead of in their native language so they don’t get confused.
3) ELL parents don't come to school conferences because they don't value education as much as other parents.
4) Most ELLs come from low-income backgrounds with low-educated parents.
5) ELLs will learn enough English in one year to do well in school.
6) When ELLs make grammar mistakes when speaking, it's best to correct them right away so they don’t make the same mistake again.
7) ELLs who don't know much English benefit from being retained a year because that lets them catch up language-wise.
8) Good teaching is all that’s needed to help ELLs succeed in school.

How’d you do?  Let’s find out!  The answers are given after each statement and then more information is provided so you can learn why the assumptions are True or False.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Esl-Nexus

1) Using English all the time at home helps ELLs learn English faster.  This is…False.
* The parents or guardians of ELLs, and any other relatives living in the household, should use the language they are most comfortable with, so all family members can easily communicate with the child.
* If their native language is stronger than English, the adults will model correct language patterns for their children instead of potentially using English with grammatical mistakes that the children will learn.
* When adults use their native language, the children absorb sophisticated language patterns and vocabulary and this will transfer over to learning English.
* Although there may appear to be a delay in learning English when a student is learning 2 or more languages simultaneously, the brain can distinguish between the different languages and the student’s language skills are ultimately stronger when he or she is bilingual.

2) ELLs should learn to read first in English instead of in their native language so they don’t get confused.  This is…False.
* When young students learn to read in their native language first, they can use their knowledge of reading in their first language as a foundation for learning to read in English.
* Understanding the grammatical structures, narrative and literary elements and styles in English texts is easier for students who first encounter them in their stronger, native language.
* When students who are learning how to read learn how to do that in their second (or third) language, they have to not only learn literacy skills in a foreign language, they also have to process their learning in their second language, which slows down how fast they learn to read.
* Students are more likely to enjoy reading if it is easy for them, which is more likely when they first learn to read in their native language.

3) ELL parents/guardians don't come to school conferences because they don't value education as much as other parents.  This is…False.
* Many parents/guardians of ELLs don’t attend conferences because they are intimidated by American schools and don’t feel comfortable there.
* In many cultures, teachers are seen as the authority who knows what’s best for the child and not being involved is actually a sign of respect by the parents.
* Many ELL parents/guardians are nervous or embarrassed about their proficiency in English and don’t attend school functions because of that or because they don’t understand what the teachers say or what the activities are all about.
* Many ELL parents/guardians would like to be more involved but they work 2nd or 3rd shift and can’t attend evening or afternoon functions, or they would forfeit pay if they left work during the day.

4) Most ELLs come from low-income backgrounds with low-educated parents. 
This is…False.
* It is impossible to generalize about the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of ELLs because of the wide range of their circumstances.
* While many ELLs do come from a low-income background, that is not the case for all ELL families.  For example, the parents of some ELLs may be visiting professors at universities who brought their families with them for the duration of their stay in the U.S.
* The adults in some ELL families may be highly educated but unable to get an equivalent job in the U.S.  Perhaps their English language proficiency is not high enough, perhaps they are not able to pass the qualifying exams for their profession, or maybe they are just unable to find a job in their field.

5) ELLs will learn enough English in one year to do well in school.  This is…False.
* It's true that many ELLs can learn enough English in one year to communicate reasonably well in social and interpersonal contexts, such as at lunch, at recess, and on the bus going to and from school.
* But learning academic language, such as the language used in social studies, math, and science often takes 5 - 7 years because of the specific and technical vocabulary involved, the content-specific styles of writing, and the more advanced grammar structures used in textbooks and writing.
* ELLs may appear to be fluent in English after one year because they speak fluently, may not have an accent when speaking (especially if they are not yet teenagers), and seem to understand everything they hear.  However, a close look at their academic work often reveals that they are not making the same kind of progress as their native-English speaking classmates.

6) When ELLs make grammar mistakes when speaking, it's best to correct them right away so they don’t make the same mistake again.  This is…False.
* Stopping an ELL in the middle of talking to correct a mistake interrupts the conversational flow and makes it hard to communicate effectively.
* When ELLs’ oral language is continuously corrected, they may become nervous or unwilling to speak out in class for fear of making a mistake, which won’t help them improve their oral communication skills.
* As long as the ideas being conveyed can be understood by the listener(s), it isn’t necessary to correct every single error.  But if someone doesn’t understand what an ELL is saying because of a grammar mistake, then the error should be corrected.  Or if an ELL makes a mistake in using a grammar structure that has already been taught, then pointing that out can be helpful so the ELL knows how to use that structure correctly.
* Other grammar errors that are made can be noted by the teacher and addressed in a systematic manner at a later time.

7) ELLs who don't know much English benefit from being retained a year because that lets them catch up language-wise.  This is…False.
* If an ELL is not doing well academically in school and is behind his or her classmates, the student may not be getting the amount or type of ESL support he or she needs to be successful.  Retaining the student will not change the situation if the reason is needing more ESL services.
* Just repeating one year is not going to help an ELL learn whatever grade level skills and content knowledge she or he didn’t learn the first time.  ELLs need special instruction targeted to their language needs – keeping them back a year is not the solution to that issue.
* Retaining an ELL because his or her English language skills are not on grade level is considered discrimination on the basis of language origin and is a violation of the student’s civil rights.

8) Good teaching is all that’s needed to help ELLs succeed in school.  This is…False.
* Having a good teacher is important for all students, not just ELLs, but an ELL needs more than just a good teacher to succeed in school.
* ELLs need teachers who know how to deliver academic content in ways that make it comprehensible for students who are not yet fluent in the English language.
* ELLs need teachers who know how to develop the language skills of their ELL students in age-appropriate ways without watering down the curriculum.
* ELLs need teachers who are aware of the differences between a learning disability and a language issue so they can provide the best services to their ELL students.
* ELLs need teachers who are aware of and respect the cultural and linguistic diversity of their students.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Assumptions-about-English-Language-Learners-Video-with-Worksheets-2919666
Were you surprised that every statement was false?  There are a lot of misconceptions about English Language Learners so I hope this information helps you work more effectively with your ELLs.

I’ve created a PowerPoint video with the information about these 8 common assumptions. There are 2 worksheets that you can download and use while you view it: the quiz itself and a page with a couple questions for reflection.  Just click HERE to access the video.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Use 21st Century Technology to Teach about the Holidays

"I think I'm a big kid at heart, so I get very excited about the holidays."
-- Bobby Moynihan

As someone who likes learning history and reading historical fiction, I totally enjoyed using technology to teach ancient and world history to my students.  What better way to get kids interested in learning about what happened more than 2,000 years than by using 21st century technology to keep them engaged?

Included in the Social Studies curricula for 7th and 8th grade were units on the origins of the major religions of the world.  I had a subscription to Glogster and used that a lot in my classes.  My students really liked the program because it let them be creative when designing their glogs (i.e. online posters) and they didn’t have to do a lot of writing to get their ideas across.

This made it ideal for use with English Language Learners.  They did  all the work in school since not every student had internet access at home, but that was manageable.  One type of assignment was to read about an important historical figure and then create a glog about him or her.  Each student researched a different person and then they shared their glogs with the whole class, so they got practice in giving oral presentations, too.
Some thoughts on using technology to teach about the December holidays & New Year's and a link up with holiday resources | The ESL Connection
Screenshots of 2 8th graders' glogs; source: The ESL Nexus
One thing that always puzzled me happened when we got to the Ancient Rome unit and the beginning of Christianity.  Many of my students were Hispanic, from the Caribbean, and were Catholic. They went to church and learned about their religion.  But they insisted that they were Catholic, not Christian.  For some reason, they had a hard time understanding that Catholicism was one form of Christianity.  Being Jewish, I thought it kind of weird that I was the one explaining their religion to them and I always told the kids to ask their families for more information.

Since Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s are fast approaching and I’m sure your students are looking forward to their winter vacation (or summer break, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere), I’d like to devote the December linky party to resources that use technology to teach about these holidays. 
Teaching about the December holidays and New Year's with technology -- a linky party at The ESL Connection.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m taking a break from blogging today since it’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.

Vintage postcard with Thanksgiving greetings | The ESL Connection
Vintage postcard from the early 1900s; source: Old Photo Archive
I wish everyone a very happy holiday!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tools for Teaching Tolerance, Promoting Cultural Awareness, and Countering Bullying: November #ELLEdTech Topic

The next #ELLEdTech Twitter chat will be this Sunday, November 20th.  Laurah and I changed the topic from what we originally planned and will now be talking about Tools for Teaching Tolerance, Promoting Cultural Awareness, and Countering Bullying.  Given the many incidents of intolerance that have recently been reported around the U.S. and the concern many ELLs have about the incoming president's policies towards immigrants, we thought it would be helpful if we could offer some resources to help students handle such situations if they encountered them.
Join the November #ELLEdTech Twitter chat to discuss Tools for Teaching Tolerance, Promoting Cultural Awareness, and Countering Bullying | The ESL Connection
Join us Sunday, 11/20/16!
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introductions: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What resources/tools do you recommend for preventing bullying or dealing with discrimination? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do these resources help ELLs? Schools with diverse populations? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What should teachers know before using these resources? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any challenges Ts might encounter when using these resources? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who are trying to support ELLs who've been bullied or faced discrimination? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.

2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”

3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.

4. Starting at 7:05 @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.

7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet. If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.



Is this your first Twitter chat?  Here are our rules:

1. Please stay on topic.

2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked. 

3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.

4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!

5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.

6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.) 



You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well know about it. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday evening!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Overcome Bigotry with Respect and Kindness: A New Resource

"We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic
and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens
this community - and this nation."
-- Cesar Chavez

In the aftermath of the most divisive presidential election in U.S. history, news reports of racist and religious intolerance and of people being told to “go back to your own country” are truly shocking.  As an educator of English Language Learners, as a member of a religious minority, as a woman, and as an American, I find it unacceptable.

Students, both those who are ELLs and those who are not, should not be fearful in school or in their community.  They should not be afraid that if they dress a certain way or if they speak another language or if they look and behave differently, they will be verbally attacked or physically threatened.  All adults, and especially teachers, regardless of their political preferences, need to reassure children that they are valued for who they are.  That the people engaging in these acts of prejudice are only a small minority of the people living in America and that most of us treat strangers as well as friends and family with kindness and respect.

To that end, I’ve created a new resource, Quotation Posters about Respect & Kindness: Writing and Discussion Prompts. This resource contains 10 mini-posters with 5 quotations about Respect and 5 about Kindness.  Each quotation is overlaid on a photograph that can also stimulate conversation about kindness and respect.  Besides the mini-posters, the resource includes a list of 10 questions that serve as prompts for writing or discussion.  There are also 6 suggested ways to use the posters.  Students can write answers to the prompts on the included student answer page.

Use these 10 quotation posters about respect and kindness to help students overcome bigotry | The ESL Connection
Click HERE or on the image to download this resource
I hope that in some small way, these quotation posters will help teachers give their students ideas for responding positively to difficult situations or people that students may encounter. I also hope these quotation posters will help teachers maintain classroom communities that are oases of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding.

As another U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said: "This world of ours... must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect."

Monday, November 7, 2016

How To Easily Teach About Thanksgiving When You Teach Math

My most memorable meal is every Thanksgiving. I love the food: the turkey and stuffing; the sweet potatoes and rice, which come from my mother's Southern heritage; the mashed potatoes, which come from my wife's Midwestern roots; the Campbell's green-bean casserole; and of course, pumpkin pie.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/turkey.html?vm=l
"My most memorable meal is every Thanksgiving.
I love the food: the turkey and stuffing; the sweet potatoes and rice,
which come from my mother's Southern heritage; the mashed potatoes,
which come from my wife's Midwestern roots; the Campbell's
green-bean casserole; and of course, pumpkin pie."
-- Douglas Conant, 1952 - Present
former president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company

Teaching about Thanksgiving in math class is easy when you use these task cards in printable and Google Drive versions. | The ESL Connection
Wild turkey; source: Pixabay
If you're a regular ed teacher and you have one or more English Language Learners in your class, you've probably already noticed that they have a range of educational experience, language proficiency, and academic competence.  Finding the time to create lessons that meet all their needs, along with the needs of the mainstream and special ed students you also have in your class can be overwhelming.  Or at least very time-consuming.

As we head into the Thanksgiving and winter holiday season, you may want to incorporate some Thanksgiving or holiday themes in your lessons.  But ELLs who are new to the United States may not be familiar with how these holidays are typically celebrated in America.  If you're a content teacher of, say, math, can you really take time out of a lesson to explain to a few students what Thanksgiving is all about?  Probably not.  Wouldn't it be great, though, if you had a math resource that also included a cultural component?  That would let you simultaneously teach the math concept and inform your students about the holiday.
Teaching about Thanksgiving in math class is easy when you use these task cards in printable and Google Drive versions. | The ESL Connection
Find the Thanksgiving Math: Fraction Task Cards for ELLs & Mainstream Students HERE
Well, I have just the thing for you for Thanksgiving!  I've created two sets of task cards for teaching fractions that have a Thanksgiving theme.  To be specific, all the task cards are about foods that are typically eaten at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  There are sets of printable task cards and also a version that can be used in Google Drive if you have a paperless classroom.  Click here for more information about this product.

To help ELLs, and other students, who are not so strong in math, one set in this resource offers three multiple-choice answers for students to choose from.  The other set just asks students to figure out the answer.  Both sets, though, ask students to draw their answer as a way of demonstrating their understanding.  Giving choices like this -- by providing possible answers or offering a word bank -- helps students who are not proficient in reading because they know one of the answers given must be correct.  That lets them focus more on trying to figure out how to get one of those answers and not spend so much time trying to just figure out what the question is asking.
Teaching about Thanksgiving in math class is easy when you use these task cards in printable and Google Drive versions. | The ESL Connection
Sample Google Drive versions of the task cards; read more about this resource HERE
The cultural aspect comes into play because each word problem offers information about a Thanksgiving meal so when ELLs read the task cards, they will learn what a traditional meal consists of.  In addition, once the class has finished the problems, you can do a math activity that asks students who eats which foods for their holiday meal and then write the class responses as fractions.  You can also graph the results, or calculate the percentages for the results, depending on what skills you are focusing on in your class.

If you have any questions about this resource, please ask them in the Comments section below or in the Q&A section of my TpT store.

Monday, October 31, 2016

How to Keep ELL Families Informed about School

"At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success
is the positive involvement of parents."
-- Jane Dee Hull

Regardless of whether you’ve just finished your first quarter parent conferences or they are coming up soon, keeping families informed about how their children are doing is of paramount importance to students’ success in school.  I’ve written before about why I so enjoyed working with the parents of my English Language Learners and while communicating with non-native English-speaking parents of ELLs can be a challenge, it is also very rewarding. 

There are also many more tools available now than when I was in the classroom for keeping ELLs families apprised of how their kids are doing in school.  Many of these tech tools have built-in translation capabilities, so there’s really no longer any excuse for not maintaining frequent contact with ELL families.  Today I’d like to offer several ways you can keep ELL parents and guardians up-to-date about your classroom activities and their children’s progress in school.  Of course, you can also use all these tools with native English speakers, too!

Most of these ideas were mentioned in our recent #ELLEdTech Twitter chat about tech tools for communicating with parents.  For the websites/apps in the list below, I added explanations from the sites themselves (hence the quotation marks) as well as my own comments.  Please note that I have not used any of these apps myself to communicate with parents, other than Google Translate and my own resource mentioned at the end, but I have heard positive things about Remind, Google Voice, and Twitter from other teachers who’ve used them for this purpose.

10 tools you can use to easily communicate with the families of ELL students, plus more resources in a linky party. | The ESL Connection
Source: The ESL Nexus
Websites, Apps & Resources for Staying In Touch

* Bloomz "is a new, free tool designed to help teachers, parents, and PTA members share information and photos through real-time communication and coordination.  Built primarily for the K-8 environment…"  You can send class updates, share photos and videos, manage events, create student portfolios, and track behavior.

* brightwheel (sic) is "Designed specifically to meet the needs of early education – brightwheel was built to be your all-in-one solution."  It's a program that offers ways to track enrollment, payments, food consumption, and activities as well as other things that are helpful in daycare settings.  It can also send messages, reports, and photos about children's activities.

* FreshGrade "is an online portfolio where teachers, students and parents all interact to capture and comment on the student's school work. The program also allows teachers to create and grade custom assignments, which are then tracked in the tool."  You can create digital portfolios which can then be shared with families.  A free e-book and training are also available.

* Google Voice and Google Translate: My #ELLEdTech co-host, Laurah, wrote a blog post on how to use these two programs to communicate with the families of ELLs.  There is also a very helpful infographic in her post that outlines the steps to follow.

* Parent Hub is a way to "Engage parents with updates about the amazing things happening in your classroom."  You create "channels" that group people, such as a class or an after-school club, into communities and then you send messages and attachments to them.  Recipients can respond to you, too.  It’s based in the European Union so privacy laws are different from those in the U.S.

* Remind "is a communication tool that helps teachers connect instantly with students and parents. Send quick, simple messages to any device."  You can send a text and have it translated into 70 other languages; you can also schedule when you want a text to be sent.

* TalkingPoints is a “multilingual texting platform easily connects teachers and families through text messages."  You send a text in English, it's translated into the family's language, they text back in their language, and that gets translated into English.

* Twitter: Thanks to S@FloradTeach for recommending Twitter to send messages and photos.  Tweets can be sent in real time or scheduled in advance.  According to Twitter, tweets can also be translated using Bing’s translation program but they may not be 100% accurate so the original tweet is also included.  I’d be curious to know if anyone has used this Twitter function; please leave a comment below if you have and let us know how well it worked.

* Weekly Progress Update Forms: A TpT resource with one-page forms in English and Spanish that comes in print and Google Drive versions.  Teachers fill out the forms on a weekly basis and send them home.  Academic progress, homework completion, attitude, participation and behavior are noted and there is space for comments.  Signed forms can be saved in folders to show progress during the course of the school year.

How do you stay in touch with your ELL families and keep them up-to-date on how their children are doing in school?  Please share the resources you use in the link party below!

10 tools you can use to easily communicate with the families of ELL students, plus more resources in a linky party. | The ESL Connection
An InLinkz Link-up

Monday, October 24, 2016

What Went Wrong With My Volunteer Presentation

"Go out and do something for somebody.  Go out and give something to somebody.
It will take you away from yourself and make you happy."
-- Joseph Jefferson

Remember how you over-prepare for the first day of a new class?  Well, that was me last week on my first day as a volunteer at a local K-8 school.  One of the volunteer positions was to test 4th graders on reading skills but I thought it would be more fun to help a teacher in her combination career exploration and life skills class and opted to do that instead.

So I met with that teacher a few weeks ago and scheduled this past Thursday for me to go in and talk to her 7th-8th class about a career teaching in a foreign country.  I spent about a day and half preparing my presentation.  Unlike when I was a classroom teacher and had a plan book with only a 3" x 3" box to write up each lesson plan, now I could type whatever I wanted without being constrained by space limitations.  And type I did: The notes for my presentation took up 5 pages.  That's where I went wrong!

REad this blog post to find out the 2 mistakes the writer makes when giving a volunteer presentation. Grab a freebie, too. | The ESL Connection
Here I am teaching in China; source: The ESL Nexus
Everything was going reasonably well but before I knew it, the teacher was indicating that just 5 minutes were left…and I was only about halfway through my notes!  I had crammed in 4 different activities and tasks to cover such a broad topic and had carefully allocated time to each part of the lesson.  However, transitioning into the class took longer than expected and students needed more time to take notes than I'd figured.  So I had to rush through the remainder of my presentation.  I probably should have omitted the turn-and-talk activity because that would've allowed more time for the exit ticket task I’d planned.  The teacher was kind enough to photocopy and cut the exit tickets up for me in advance so I wanted to make sure that got done.

You can grab a version of the exit tickets here; I modified them so they can be used when giving a presentation about any kind of job.  Click on Make a copy when prompted by the message on your screen and then you can access the file.

Grab this freebie and read about lessons learned when a volunteer presentation doesn't go exactly as planned. | The ESL Connection
Download your own copy HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
It was disappointing not to be able to present the material the way I’d intended but it was a good learning experience for me.  (I’m not so sure it was for the students!)  Clearly, I didn’t pace things well.  Too much preparation is not a bad thing but I so wanted the presentation to go well that I overplanned to the extreme.  The good thing is that this class is a half-year elective and come January, there will be a new group of students.  My presentation will be much better next time!

REad this blog post to find out the 2 mistakes the writer makes when giving a volunteer presentation.  You can grab a freebie, too. | The ESL Connection
Here I am practicing taiji with a friend in China; source: The ESL Nexus
This week and the week after, I’ll be talking to the same group of students about being a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Now that I know how much time I really have available and I have a good idea of who the students are, I’ll be able to plan that presentation much more effectively.

The classroom teacher has already asked if I’d be interested in doing some classes about cooking Chinese food—of course I said yes!--and I will also be helping out in the school garden.  I’m really looking forward to this opportunity and periodically I’ll blog about my experiences as a school volunteer.  If you volunteer at a school or if you have any advice for volunteers, I’d love to read them in the Comments section below.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween: It's Not Just About the Candy

"UNICEF is working for the survival of children worldwide.  What can we do
to get more Americans committed to the cause?"
-- Clay Aiken

When I was a kid, every year on Halloween I carried a little cardboard orange box with me when I went trick-or-treating.  So did most of the other kids I went around the neighborhood with or saw walking along the streets.  Collecting money for UNICEF was as much a part of Halloween as wearing a costume and getting candy.

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
Official logo; source: Wikimedia Commons
After I got home and dumped all my loot on the floor in the family room, I opened that little orange box and counted how much money I’d gotten in donations.  Whatever the amount was, it always made me happy that I would be able to help some less fortunate kids elsewhere in the world.

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
Who doesn't love candy corn?! Source: The ESL Nexus
Looking back, I’m sure that carrying that small container in my left hand, the hand that didn’t hold the bag I hoped to fill with candy, played an important role in inspiring me to work overseas in development, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer helping people in West Africa grow more food and then in Asia teaching English so university students and professors could speak English with foreigners and read the journals that would help them help their communities improve their standards of living.

Halloween has changed a lot over the years.  Lots of cities and towns in the U.S. now proscribe which day and what time kids can go out trick or treating.  Giving unwrapped food such as fruit is no longer an option.  Many costumes are bought, not hand-made.

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
They need their UNICEF boxes! Source: Photo by gracey at Morguefile.com
But one thing is still the same: You can still go trick or treating for UNICEF.  I don’t know where my parents got those orange boxes I used every year but nowadays, you can order them online.  UNICEF has a website where you can not only order the boxes but also find other resource materials, such as stories about how the donations have helped children in various parts of the world.  There are also lesson plans, maps, posters, and certificates for kids who have collected money.  The website has sections for teachers, families, and community organizations.

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
Certificate of Appreciation; source: UNICEF
It’s not too late to order those little orange boxes for Halloween in 2016!  The deadline is Monday, October 24th, to ensure you receive them in time but the sooner they’re ordered the better.  The website also has info on how you can make your own wrappers for boxes to collect donations.  I encourage everyone to try and get their students to participate in this worthy cause!

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
Super-sized collection boxes; source: Photos from UNICEF
And while you’re waiting to receive your order of orange boxes, your students might enjoy these Halloween resources from my TpT store:

Read how you can help UNICEF this Halloween & find other classroom resources for students in this bog post.
You can find them HERE and HERE
 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tools for Communicating with ELL Families: October #ELLEdTech Chat

When you have to communicate with the families of your English Language Learners, do you:
a) Procrastinate as long as possible because you find it difficult to talk with people who don't have strong English skills?
b) Ask a parent liaison to get in touch with them on your behalf?
c) Send a text, email, or written message home in English and hope your student or someone else will translate it accurately?
d) Open Google Translate and hope the language you need is available and the translation will be comprehensible by you and the family?
e) Get excited because you enjoy interacting with people from other cultures and know the family is eager to hear how their child is doing in school?

If you picked a, b, c, or d to answer the question above, then the next #ELLEdTech Twitter chat is for you!  And if you picked e, our next Twitter chat is also for you!
Join 2 ESL educators on October 16, 2016 as they moderate the monthly #ELLEdTEch Twitter chat.  Topic: Tools for Communicating with ELL Families.
Use the hashtag #ELLEdTech on October 16th to join us!
As we all know, the level of involvement of parents and guardians is an important factor in how well their children do in school.  ELL families are just as interested and concerned about how their kids are doing as other families.  But language and culture barriers may prevent some of them from being as involved as they or their children's teachers would like.  On the flip side, some teachers may hesitate from contacting the families of their ELL students because they don't know how they can reach them if they don't speak English well.  

There are more tech tools besides Google Translate available and co-host Laurah and I will be discussing a variety of Tools that Help Teachers Communicate with Parents and Guardians of ELLs.  Come join us on Sunday, October 16th, and share your thoughts and suggestions for effectively communicating with ELL parents and guardians.

Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introductions: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What tools do you recommend for communicating with parents & guardians of ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How are these tools useful? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What are the pros or benefits to using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any cons or drawbacks Ts should be aware of with these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers beginning to use technology to communicate with ELL parents & guardians? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.

2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”

3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.

4. Starting at 7:05 @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.

7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet. If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.



Is this your first Twitter chat?  Here are our rules:

1. Please stay on topic.

2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked. 

3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.

4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!

5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.

6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.) 



You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well know about it. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday evening!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Need Resources about the Presidential Election? Here They Are!

"Elections remind us not only of the rights but the
responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy."
-- Robert Kennedy

Only five weeks left to the U.S. presidential election!  You might be saying hooray but when I was a classroom teacher working with ELLs, some of whom were immigrants from countries with very different political systems, I always enjoyed election season.  It offered so many great, real-life opportunities for teaching my students about the American electoral system.  I flipped the curriculum and instead of teaching about the three branches of government at the end of the year, when it was supposed to be covered, I taught that unit in the Fall so my students had a better understanding of what was going on when they saw commercials and advertisements and heard other people discussing the election.

Find links to websites that teach about the presidential election & more resources in this month's Excelerating ELL linky party | The ESL Connection
Source: Pixabay
Having lived in countries that didn’t hold elections on a regular basis, or where the elections didn’t really matter, I always stressed to my students the importance of being informed about the candidates running for office.  I also encouraged them to accompany their parents or guardians when they went to their polling place to vote.  It’s my firm belief that if teachers can get their students interested in the political process and help them understand how elections work in this country, then when they are older they will be more likely to be regular voters.

Find links to websites that teach about the presidential election & more resources in this month's Excelerating ELL linky party | The ESL Connection
Source: Pixabay
My Social Studies for ELLs Pinterest board has several resources for teaching about this year’s presidential election that help students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation about the 2016 election.  They include material for helping students understand the debates between the candidates, suggestions on how to facilitate classroom discussions about the election, and resources for engaging students in the political process and becoming civically-involved citizens.  I am pleased to share these resources with you here so you can help your own students participate in the wonderful process we in the U.S. call democracy.  If you have another resource to recommend, please leave the name and link for it in a Comment at the end of this blog post.

Find links to websites that teach about the presidential election & more resources in this month's Excelerating ELL linky party | The ESL Connection
Voting booths in Arizona; source: The ESL Nexus
Blog post from MiddleWeb with suggestions for preparing students to watch the debates and questions for post-debate discussions
8 websites recommended by the School Library Journal
A collection of resources for teaching about civics, bias, and immigration issues

Teaching 4th Gr. Civics This Election Year
Blog post from MiddleWeb with links to resources about the Constitution, the three branches of government, voting, and more

The Election and the Educator
11 suggestions for teachers on how to appropriately discuss the election with students, by an Edutopia columnist

Description of the Letters to the Next President project, from Teaching Channel
Website where students age 13-18 can submit their own letters (deadline November 8, 2016)

American Presidents Series 2015-16 webinars
Links to webinars profiling 10 presidents

For more resources about the presidential election that you can use in your classroom, please check out the materials in this month's link up.

Find links to websites that teach about the presidential election & more resources in this month's Excelerating ELL linky party | The ESL Connection