FREE PD! Virtual Book Study on Boosting Achievement

It is never too late to benefit from our global, virtual book study on the Boosting Achievement book!  If you don’t yet have the book, you can plug in at any point from July 9-Aug 12th. Even before you get your book! (Links to podcasts at bottom of this post)

If you’d rather do the book study on your own or with your colleagues, the questions will be posted on this landing page along with other resources to support self or group study.

Why should you read this book? Well, TESOL International is recommending it for summer reading.  And look what Larry Ferlazzo just tweeted about it:

Larry is an Ed Week teacher advice columnist, he writes about ELLs for the NY Times and he is an urban high school teacher.  These leaders in the ESL industry know what teachers need and so we are ready!  Share with your colleagues because this book is becoming popular with ANY kind of teacher. It really helps us see how our SIFE students can participate and thrive in ANY kind of class.   In fact! If you want to get all ready and jazzed for this, listen to this podcast with Derek Rhodenizer of #MADPD fame. Derek interviewed me on his show about the book and other innovative thoughts.  Listen here.

How do you join the virtual book study?  Twitter chats & Google Hangouts happen July 9th – Aug 12th!   Some of you just did an eye-roll when I mentioned Twitter & Google Hangout.  But no worries!  There is no need to be proficient with either of those technologies.   Anyone can jump right in! To participate or follow the chats:

On Twitter:  All you need is to have/create a Twitter account to follow the hashtag.  Just search on #Ellchat_BkClub to see the current book being studied. You will see all the questions and comments from others who are reading the book at the same time. Please do weigh in with your thoughts but it’s ok if you’d rather just see what others are saying.  After August 12th, the chats will be archived and links will be posted to the landing page.

Google Hangouts:  Same thing. All you need is the ability to watch YouTube. Some of us will be doing a few “hangouts” which will broadcast over YouTube.  We would LOVE to have readers in the hangout with us but you can also just watch. Send me a direct message on Facebook or Twitter if you’d like to be in one of the hangouts. Or just watch and comment. See Cassandra Chapa in this pic doing her #VirtuEL17 session and referencing the book!

This round of #ELLChat_BkClub is structured as a 5 week book study.  Questions are posted each Sunday on Twitter and on my Facebook Page with a link to the twitter chat. Just search #ELLChat_BkClub or send me a message if you need help to get started.

Here are places you can get this book so that you can participate or launch your own:

You can order straight from the Seidlitz Education Website. 

Also, Amazon carries the book now! This is the Amazon link. 

PODCASTS & Videos:

Tan Huynh wrote the amazing forward. Tan is a leader in the ESL PD online community and many of us were astounded to learn that he and his family are refugees.  His older siblings began school with interrupted formal education. His story and his perspective creates the perfect opening to a book which reveals what is possible for every child. I want to thank him again for his collaboration. We reflect on his the forward in Week 1. You can hear him tell his story on the Rolland Chidiac Connects podcast:

Carol was also interviewed by  Derek Rhodenizer on Beyond The Staffroom.  The podcast is a must-follow for education professionals wanting to stay at the forefront of innovation.  Derek is an administrator in Canada and one of the co-founders of #MADPD.  He read the book and you can listen to the interview here:

So yes!  Please Join us!  We know that learning is powerful when we collaborate.  Anna Matis and I wrote the book and WE are learning so much as we interact with people about it!

Thanks for your continued support!  Support of our book and support of ELLs and SIFE students!




Your Walls as a Co-Teacher

Effective uses of environmental print in your Newcomer, ESL or Reading classroom?  Here are some ideas that worked well for us this year.  The 3 minute video at the bottom of this post shows many of these ideas in action.

I am writing this post because I have realized that alone I can’t teach my students all the English they need.  But I’ve also realized that my walls are an excellent co-teacher!  Read on to see what I mean.

Key to all of this is that you create these with your EL (English Learner) students.  Update them as needed with your class based on who they are and what their interests are.  Then use and reuse them with your students all year long.

Some ideas for WHAT to post:

Social Contract

A social contract is created at the beginning of the year to set classroom rules/norms.  A social contract is KEY but it is not created by me. The rules are discussed and agreed upon by the students once I have explained that I can help them learn English VERY quickly with the right classroom norms.  Everyone needs to feel good, honored and safe.  Students discuss how they want to be treated (by me and each other) and how they think I want to be treated.  Native language is fine during the creation of the contract but I write it in English using comprehensible input, students sign it, and it is updated and referenced all year long. It is one of the first pieces of text everyone is able to read.  Flippen Group offers great training on Social Contracts.


Banish I Don’t Know Poster

This anchor chart is the 2nd piece of text we create together. It is critical for newcomers to have a way to respond when they don’t know the answer or need assistance.  (This is actually a great thing to implement in any classroom, for every type of student.)  For non-English speakers, we begin with three responses that students learn quickly.  If called upon, no one is allowed to answer with “I don’t know” or shrugging of shoulders.  They can use the anchor chart for responses like “Could you please repeat the question?” or “May I ask a friend for help?”

We add to the chart and reference it all year long.  As new students come in, we highlight the top three so they can begin participating the moment they are ready.  This anchor chart is chorally read a great deal in the first days of school and we review/use it all year long. This, by the way, is Step 1 of Seidlitz Education’s very popular: 7 Steps to a Language Rich Interactive Classroom.  I highly recommend the book & training for any classroom, not just ESL.  It changed my life.

Shared Writing & Reading

There are many ways to do this.  Here is how I do this in a short, whole group manner: Class discussion of a shared event, then allowing the students to brainstorm ideas to be included in a quick write (as I scribe a bulleted list).  Then I model the quick write which we read together as I make it.  Finally, students copy this piece of text. Everyone is able to read it because they co-created it.   This has been very effective to accelerate writing and reading for new ELs. Marcia Taylor of the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition has written a great piece on Language Experience Approach here. This is the technique I am adapting for my class.

Some ideas for HOW to use what you post:

It’s worth noting that I don’t have my own classroom.  I am one of those teachers that travels with her supplies and teaches in other peoples’ rooms during their conference periods.  You might think anchor charts and environmental print would need to fall by the wayside if you don’t have your own walls.  Nope.  I quickly realized that I needed to find a way to respect the wall space of the host teacher (constant struggle, working on it) but also have environmental print accessible to students.  Some anchor charts stay up but some come up and down all year long. (I put a few hooks in the rooms and I use clothes hangers with clips. Post-it chart paper is pricey but worth it if you can get it.)  Here are a few ideas of how to use these:

Create Them WITH the Students

So yes, I create a different “I Don’t Know” poster with/for each class.  I create a new poster for each class of anything we are doing because the experience of creating the chart is what makes it comprehensible for my newcomers.  It also gives them voice and ownership.

Chorally Read Them, Students Read & Re-Read them for decoding

Emergent readers need multiple exposures to English print. The act of decoding text and recognizing sight-words can be learned in context with your co-created text.  We should explicitly teach the importance of multiple exposures, phonemic awareness, and sight-word recognition.  No need to go deep into that, just be sure the learner knows WHY he is re-reading.

Re-Read them for Higher Order Thinking Tasks

The University of Texas has a great post about benefits of re-reading familiar text.  They include it as a powerful method for foreign language teachers but some of those same principles apply to re-reading our own co-created text in the ESL classroom.  I will often revisit a quick-write and work with the class to analyze what we have written and how we can improve it.  Other activities can include comparing/contrasting posters from different classes on same subject.  Also comparing our English version to their native language version is worthwhile.  There are many ways to revisit text.  Several are in that UT link above.

Partner Read/Read the Room

Just getting up and walking around the room to read familiar text aloud (when they feel comfortable) is a good activity for emergent readers.  I always do this as a structured activity with sentence/response frames for the students to use.  (“I agree with this because…” or “I am not sure what this part means but I think…”)  My goal here is to have them practicing their reading but also using their new language to speak authentically about the text and the experiences.

As long as my students understand the brain-friendliness of re-reading familiar text and interacting with it in authentic ways, I have had no problem getting secondary students to do any of this.

Extension for at Home Reading

Students can take home their copied version for more reading.  I also take pictures of these and turn them into .pdf files so I can print them as handouts.  For some reason, my bad handwriting is more interesting to them than typed print when we are reviewing our shared writing.  Some students are able to copy the anchor charts quickly but other new ELs (English Learners) benefit from a printed copy for at-home reading.

For more on how to work with under-schooled newcomers, see our new book, Boosting Achievement; Reaching Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education.  Anna Matis and I wrote this book based on the work I have done with middle and high schoolers who are SIFE. If you are on Twitter, join us for a global book study that will begin July 9th!  Just follow the #Ellchat_BkClub hashtag to get the questions so you can join the slow-chat conversation.

Thanks for reading this.  Please stay awesome.




My Kahoot Session & #VirtuEL17 – An EL Conference Delivered Straight to Your Device

#VirtuEL17  was amazing!  It happened in early June, but don’t worry, you didn’t miss it.  Everything you need to “attend” this virtual ESL conference is below.  Here is my Kahoot for ESL Newcomers session but be sure to explore the conference flyer below for more ESL sessions on a variety of topics.

You can play/teach an ESL Kahoot lesson by using this Kahoot I made:

Like many conferences, #VirtuEL17  features top ESL educators and specialists who are sharing their passion and effective techniques for working with English Learners.  The difference is that this conference comes right to your home, right to your device!  For all the details, see the conference program here:


VirtuEL is staff development by teachers, FOR teachers.  It is the brainchild of Tan Huynh, a master educator who blogs on the popular site, His site is a resource center that contains articles about instructional practices that support ELs’ language development.  Tan and I had been planning VirtuEL when we were asked to participate in the the virtual conference,#MADPD.  The day of learning inspired us and propelled us toward realizing Tan’s vision of a virtual conference for ESL educators.   His idea is taking shape now that we have so many sessions lined up that can be watched live and then re-watched on demand.  Most will be live sessions but some will be pre-recorded with the opportunity for a live Q&A with the presenters.    

Opening Keynote by Nancy Motley 9;00 am ET

Author and Seidlitz Education Consultant, Nancy Motley is delivering the first Keynote session 9:00 am Eastern.  This 5 minute video is a sneak peek of her talk and will give you an idea of the insight that Nancy will share with us that morning:


A Flipped Keynote by Larry Ferlazzo 10:45 am ET

We have another incredible keynote speaker at 10:45 am Eastern.  Educator, Author and Ed Week teacher advice columnist, Larry Ferlazzo, will be answering our questions and chatting with us about his talk on Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  To participate fully, please watch this 15 minute video by Larry entitled “Social Emotional Learning & Common Core.” 


FLIPPED PD: Bring your comments and questions to the conference at 10:45 Eastern and tune into Larry’s YoutubeLive event here.  Larry will answer our questions and hear our comments about this important tool for working with English Learners.  The video will have a chat feature or you may log into Twitter and post your comments using the hashtag #VirtuEL17.  I will be monitoring the feed along with Tan and Larry.

Thought Provoking Breakout Sessions 10:00 am & 11:00 am ET

The breakout sessions will feature several leaders in ESL instruction. Those sessions will take place at 10:00 and 11:00 am Eastern.  Presenters include Tan Huynh,  Cassandra  Chapa, Carlotta Holder, Valentina Gonzalez, Bret Gosselin, Andrea Honigsfeld, Katie Toppel, Ed.D and Carol Salva

You can find the lineup and all the links by visiting the conference flyer page here:


We hope you will participate in our first #VirtuEL conference.  I am inspired by what educators are doing on their own time to make this possible.   Thank you, Tan Huynh, Nancy Motley, Larry Ferlazzo, and all who are reading this.  We are delighted to deliver this innovative day of learning.  You deserve it!

Hope to see you here: !