Translanguaging Before a Study Trip

You’d like to use theories of translanguaging in your classroom but it seems like too much work?   One click on a web page and many of your students have a native-language resource.

In Google Chrome it was just a right-click to bring up this dialog box.  (More on Chrome Translating) Pick a language and the translation may not be perfect (often is not) but it is a great support.  I have some international students and volunteers working with SIFE (under-schooled) students.  Offering the help of this resources is often very effective for helping build background.

google-translate-webpage-arabic2                    google-translate-webpage-arabic


So yes!  We are taking a trip to a plantation!  If I give all of my students a bit of background on the site, the English tour and English class discussions will be so much more comprehensible for everyone.  (Native English students will benefit from this, of course.)  I want to have the students work in groups to discuss the major events that happened at this location so I will provide sentence frames for that.  But to make sure they understand the events, I’ve cut & pasted some of the events from the website to this WORD document.  I’d like them to do a quick illustration with an English sentence for each event.  I’ve highlighted 10 events in all, so we will likely jigsaw this activity or do it on posters for a gallery walk:


What I used to worry about:   Recent immigrants lack the background knowledge of our country when trying to learn about U.S. History.  Something I try to keep in mind now is that they have an abundance of background knowledge in other areas!  This adds to the depth of everyone’s learning.

History is a wonderful opportunity to look at over-arching concepts that can be applied and aligned to local history, world history and even current events.

Several of my newcomers had intimate knowledge of what it is like to be in a time of war.  Their perspective is incredibly powerful for our learning about things like push/pull factors, establishment of governments, conflict, etc.

We are all fortunate to have history all around us.  What places in your area can be visited to deepen the classroom conversation and learning across content areas?

At this point in the year (December) we have very few beginners for listening comprehension that started the year with us.  Everyone can understand basic English with support of visuals, gestures and other supports.  But we have new arrivals all the time.  I used to be perplexed at how to help my newest newcomers connect with what the class is doing.

I’m grateful research and findings in the area of Translanguaging.  There is now evidence that using the native language is  a powerful and effective way of deepening learning and helping ELs acquire both content and language learning in their second language. More by CUNY-NYSIEB, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York here:

Consider taking a trip to a historic site and look for a place that offers historical events that tie to historic events they will need to learn in other content areas.  (Bonus!  Archeology is a fantastic tie to science, technology and math – be sure to look for any connections or areas of interest your students show you.)

Happy language learning!








Kahoot! Seriously… Kahoot!

nil-kahootI recently became an Ambassador for Kahoot. (  So perhaps this post will sound biased.  But friends, really, I can’t find anything more engaging and useful for my classroom right now.   Students walk into class asking for Kahoot.  If that is the level of interest, I owe it to them to figure out the best ways to use this free platform.

Most teachers use it to review material.  That makes sense as it is super easy to make a quick online, multiple choice quiz.  I support that as long as you are including this type of review in a balanced program where students have plenty of opportunities to answer open-ended questions and other ways of elevating their thinking skills.  I absolutely use it for quizzes but I also capitalize on deeper uses (ie: Students creating Kahoots!) because I don’t want to only give them multiple choice assessments.  That is not stretching them as learners.

So for my students, producing English, comprehending English and acquiring academic/social language is our main priority.  I teach NELD which stands for Newcomer English Language Development.

Basically, We used 3 stories from  (fantastic resource for increasing reading for ELLs)  As recommended by the site, newcomers were to start on level 1 (audio if needed) and then move to level 2 and 3.  I gave some class time for this and also let them know that they could practice at home for Friday’s Kahoot.

To make the Kahoot, I took screen shots of the news stories at the highest level and made those images my question image.  (easy drag & drop when you make a Kahoot).  If you’d like to play the kahoot, it is here:

Because my class is English language development, my focus for the questions were a mix of content but also structures of language.  I took the opportunity to point out proper use of verbs and idioms as well.  Once those questions are played, the image is there to discuss why it is “kicking” vs. “kicked.”



For my BRAND new kiddos, I worked with them in a small group with the above images. I want them to practice saying the correct phrases aloud and News in Levels also has an audio feature so they can listen to the story and track the print for reading.

Remember that you can get a free Kahoot account at and your kiddos don’t need to make accounts to play.  There other uses of Kahoot that will have them thinking more deeply about content.  Kiddos making kahoots…. now THAT is high on Bloom’s!  That is another post.

This is our first day to have multiple volunteers in our room.  That is the next post!

Happy English Speaking friends!!


Preparing for Upcoming Author Visit!

paul-spellman-love-letter-1918-1919   paul-spellman-old-300  

Who is Coming?

Dr. Paul Spellman, author of several celebrated books on Texas History as well as Until I Come Home, the True story of Roscoe and Vera Diamond Chittim, during Roscoe’s service in the U. S. Army during World War I.

How Are Newcomers Preparing?

Students are practicing passages from Paul’s book to create a short video for him.  The video will be made from students reading parts of his works aloud.

This activity is highly motivating for the students.  One girl said “It is really incredible that he is coming to see us.” That is all we need sometimes.  Students to feel valued and appreciated.

The topic is especially important for recent immigrants as many of them are lacking the background knowledge of US History that Paul can help me provide.

I have to thank my friends at the Texas Historical Commission, again.  I met author Paul Spellman through mutual friends there and he enthusiastically agreed to visit our class for some story telling

Is there a topic your students would be fascinated by because of their age or experiences?  I bet there is an author willing to connect with your students in some way!  Consider making a video for that author of your students reading from his/her work.  You may ask the author if they wouldn’t mind responding by email to the class.  Or who knows… maybe you will get a visit!