Community & Hope: Teaching Refugees and Immigrants after Hurricane Harvey

I’m writing this blog on the floor of an empty house in Northwest Houston. Hurricane Harvey has finally moved off to the east. (satellite image from

I’ve had days of being on high alert, with rising waters, constant tornado warnings, helicopters and boats rescuing people around us.  Waters are still rising at my house but we are relocated now. My nerves were shot for a few days and we are now about to start the long process of dealing with the aftermath of the storm.  But right now, before dawn, I want to reflect and plan how I will help my students process all of this when we return to school next week.

I have an interesting group of students for a situation like this. I am a newcomer teacher so I teach students who have recently relocated to our city.  My NELD classes (Newcomer English Language Development) are students who were attending U.S. schools for only a few days when this hurricane struck. Many are coming from places of war, where they were displaced from their homes and had finally found a place to feel safe and out of harm’s way.  The irony.  Others have moved to Houston for a better life from Latin American countries and still, others have relocated here with family because my school is located in an Oil and Gas corridor.

So what will I do for my class?

I’m still deciding on all the particulars of the lessons but I know what my overarching theme will be for this first unit. Community and Hope.


My principal, Chad Crowson, just sent a heartfelt email to the staff to let us know that we are supported by him and the district.

2017-18 is about community.  It’s about a group of people coming together to support one another in a time of great need.  Stratford is not just a school.  Stratford is people – administrators, teachers, counselors, staff members, students, families, and community members – working together.  Stratford High School will not be defeated by a hurricane.  We’re too strong for that.  We’ll be better because of this.”

I’m so grateful for his leadership. If I carry this message into my classroom and make sure the students hear it loud and clear, I’ve done what all teachers want to do. I have opened my heart to my students so they might lower their walls of anxiety and uncertainty. Our classes must always be a place of refuge.  No matter what is happening in that child’s life, they need to feel safe with us.

So I will start by telling them that I am so grateful. My situation is one of inconvenience only. Our home has not taken on any water yet but as of today, it is still inching toward the door.  This could still change but we are gone from that house and safe.  My mother’s home was not so lucky. She is safe and staying with us.  But I will show them these pictures of her home from Sunday.

We will review the facts that Houston, the 4th largest city in the United States, was brought to its knees after days and days of torrential downpours. Catastrophic flooding took so much from our neighbors and friends. I will allow any student to share what they might have lost or how they count themselves lucky.  No forced sharing and native language is fine. My home is located near them. It is right by the school.  We lost power, and the school is located dangerously close to Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which are at their limits and flooding neighborhoods around them today. (Reservoirs are outlined in green on in this image.)   By the time we are back in school, we will have more information about that situation to discuss.  It is worth showing the students how and why the reservoirs were established and how Hurricane Harvey affected this system.

When we go back to school I may still be staying in this empty house.  Going on the 2nd day of no power, and the threat of the dams near us, we left our home yesterday to take refuge in our old house about 10 miles away. We are in the process of selling this house so we can stay here for 2 weeks. It is empty but it has running water, electricity and wonderful friends who brought us bedding, chairs, a folding table and other necessities.  Again, our situation is a very comfortable one compared to many.  My husband and son are separated from us because the airports are shut down but I’m confident they will be back with us by next week and I can share that while we were very scared, we kept hope that we would be reunited soon.

Our district provided us with this link that includes lessons and resources for our families. I will definitely share these with the students and inquire about their own needs for shelter, food, and assistance.  Houston is responding in a strong way to each other.  Our mayor promised to personally defend undocumented immigrants who may be hesitant to seek assistance.   What a wonderful thing for all of our students to hear. They should know how their leadership feels about every resident of the city.


Once everyone has had a chance to share, and I feel that it is a safe time to do so, I want to draw on a feeling and mindset that many of us shared through this disaster: the feeling of hope. In that, we can discuss the feeling when you think that there is no hope. I want to honor their real situations and feelings. But most importantly, I want to bring it around to the real effects when you do have hope. I want to impart the strong power of hope to all of them.

Over the past few days, I was continually struck by the lift in spirit we would get when family or friends reached out to us. Many offered help for which I am so grateful. But even just messages of concern had a strong effect.

I feel as if our city was just taken through a huge, horrific empathy project for other displaced people in the world. There is so much we can learn if we draw parallels to what is happening to refugees and others. I think it will be good for my students to know that you can make a difference for refugees in many ways.

The UNCHR reports that 65.3 million people are currently displaced from their homes due to conflict or persecution. 

What Can We Do?

I can’t help but make this connection and discuss it with my own children at home.  We see these heart breaking images of families in Houston being rescued by boats and losing everything they have.  But we have to take some comfort in the fact that if they survived this storm, they are being rescued.  Even while some in our city waited on rooftops for the boats to come, they had at least the hope that a boat WAS coming.

That is not the case for so many people in the world right now.  I have students who spent so many years without running water or electricity.  I have a student who was in a Burundi refugee camp without these things for 11 years.  Others that escaped war, persecution, and denial of education to finally come here. How will their perspective add to the collective knowledge and understanding of our class?

And what about the feelings of despair that my students have for family and others that are still in camps or seeking a place of refuge?  We will discuss ways that we can authentically contribute to the problem.  Last year, my students drew pictures and wrote letters of encouragement to children in refugee camps.  This may seem simple but sending out some type of support message is something we can all do tomorrow.  A friend delivered some of our letters said that the messages made such an impact on the people there.  The children in the camp were in awe that children on the other side of the world were pulling for them.  Matthew Garder, a friend, recently recounted a story to me by the actress Arta Dobroshi who was a refugee in a camp in Kosovo. She tells the story of when Richard Gere came there. She couldn’t get to him but just knowing he was there gave her so much hope. And of course, now, she uses her influence to help others as a Goodwill Ambassador. Hope.

Letting refugees know that we stand with them is an opportunity I will give my students again this year because I am keenly aware of the tremendous impact it can have. These messages and gestures of concern can affect the life of the person in need of help…and they also bring hope to the sender.

I will also let them brainstorm other ways we can help.  One of my classes recorded videos of their learning.

The videos show the students learning quickly, some going from non-literate to reading and writing in English and point out teaching strategies and reflections from the students. Those are shared publically in hopes that UN teachers and students in makeshift camp schools can benefit.

We will also look at what others are doing for refugees.  I am so fortunate to know about Techfugees and I will be introducing it to my students next week.   Moved by the plight of refugees in Europe, a number of technology industry people have formed a voluntary team  (which includes Matthew mentioned above) to create the series of non-profit “Techfugees” conferences, hackathons, and work with a global network of collaborators. The U.S. efforts are headed up by Andlib Shah who I had the good fortune to meet and thank at SXSW last year. (See photo)  

I’m grateful to Techfugees because they may not realize the reach of their efforts. Just knowing about this effort gave my immigrant students SO MUCH HOPE over the past two years.  A 24 hour live event by Techfugees founder Mike Butcher, Editor-at-large of TechCrunch and next to me in the photo, was the catalyst for using technology in my classroom. That shift in pedagogy has had a profound impact on the lives of my students and their families.  And they will be happy to know that Mike and the rest of the Techfugee team are pulling for us.

Techfugees helps us see that there is hope. There is always hope.

Back to Us Locally & Our Classrooms

I think it is important to go over community and hope in a global sense because that is what will make all of this more than just lip service to our  newcomer students.  If you are not in Houston, you can still use the events to help your students do the lesson ideas in this post.  Many of my students are not refugees but these conversations are growing all of our students as global learners. Point out Empathy, Grit, Resilience and Growth Mindset. These are character traits all students can use if we want them to be successful in life.

Here in Houston, we have so much community and so much hope.  My students are likely affected by this disaster.  I am grateful to be in a city where we are rising up to help anyone that is in need. People are leaving their homes right now, at 5:30 in the morning to volunteer at shelters, donate clothes and food and help our families rebuild.  We also have the assistance of people from around the world with many funds coming in from kind hearted people far and wide and our residents are ready to make good use of it.  We are so very fortunate.

At some point we will list all the acts of kindness we see in our city right now like Free Ice from H Mart, the Korean grocer.

Or the Mexican bakers who were trapped for days at El Bollio Bakery and used their time to bake bread for victims of the flood. We have so many everyday heroes around us. We have so much hope. All of this can be captured in shared writing with Language Experience Approach so my newcomers can be reading and writing and speaking in English that same day with content that is compelling, culturally responsive and relevant to them.

My wish for next week is that my students feel a strong sense of community in my classroom, in our school and in their new city.  I also want to drive home the fact that no matter what the situation, what people need most, is hope. If a person has hope, they will keep moving forward.  And moving forward is what we all need to be doing.


Newcomer Teachers’ Guide to a Strong Start

 I’m always scared at the beginning of the year! I worry that I won’t be able to meet all the needs of my new students.  I know this is silly because faith in them and high expectations are the two things they need the most. And we have that covered!

Image result for languagesAlso, many newcomer teachers agree that we have the most grateful students in the building. That is worth remembering if you are feeling nervous.

So no need to be scared!  But still, I like to be sure I am setting up a classroom culture that honors each child and maximizes every instructional minute.  Here are my non-negotiables for the beginning of the year… and oh! We do these with a lot of native language support to ensure comprehension and allow the students to reflect freely about these important topics:

Social Contract Created by the Students

It’s critical that none of the norms are created by me. But I usually have to ask them to be more specific than “respect.”  I might offer examples and non-examples such as tossing books at each other or laughing at someone who is taking a risk.  These are the questions we use which were told to me by someone who attended a Flippen Group training, Capturing Kids Hearts.

  • How do you want to be treated by your peers?
  • How do you think your peers want to be treated by you?
  • How do you want to be treated by your teacher?
  • How do you think your teacher wants to be treated by you?



Also, Dana Baker Larrick offered me these ppt slides that I used with my 2nd year students. Worked great!

Create a “Banish IDK” Poster with the Students

I start with three questions that will allow any student to participate as soon as they are ready.  Questions like these support our English learners in other classes and in their daily life.


Selfie Kahoots

We play a Kahoot I’ve made about myself on Day 1. They then get planning pages to bring in one question about themselves so we can make a class #SelfieKahoot.


There are many more ideas for Back-to-School Kahoots here.  I also have many Kahoot ideas on this site and you can find ESL Kahoot ideas in these blogs on Kahoot’s website.

At least One Structured Conversation with A New Classmate.

This quick video shows one of my newcomer classes on the very first day this week.  We practiced the frame and all were willing to read this frame from their name tent.  “My name_____. My family is from _______ and I speak ______.”  It is a little awkward as it is Day 1 but we are setting the norm of finding and working with different partners in the room.

This is not too bad for the first day! By the end of the year, everyone is very comfortable with one another.  In fact, I get a lot of buy-in from the students by showing them videos of our students the year before. 

They see that everyone is following the Social Contract and they are all collaborating.  When I didn’t have recent video of my own students, I used this video of Gerson Bermudez.  

Your students can analyze the behavior and progress of the students in my class. I have many here.

Through all of this, and throughout the year, I am explaining the brain friendliness of the activities, and also stressing metacognitive strategies so they begin thinking about their thinking. They need to know that it will be easy to speak and understand English in the Newcomer class. And that the more they engage, the faster their progress will be.

I had so many things planned for my first week and we only got to a fraction of them.  No matter. My main goal was to make sure students knew that I was happy to have them in my class. That goal was met.

Have a great back to school season!


SIFE Inclusion in Mainstream ELA Classrooms

Newcomers and SIFE mastering grade level ELA standards? What if they had limited formal education?   They can.  Our SIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education) are every bit as intelligent as the rest of the class.  Their foundational literacy skills (decoding, sight words, etc) will come more quickly if they have the same opportunities for reading as their peers. This post focuses on reading in mainstream ELA classes. A follow-up post will focus on writing.

To illustrate accommodations for SIFE & non-English readers, I have received permission to reprint the following blog post from Evan Robb.  Evan is an author, a principal , and a public speaker.  My background is in ELA so I follow his blog, the Robb Review, closely and recommend it to all ELA teachers.

Evan’s background is such that his reading suggestions already include differentiation but for the purposes of this article, I have made annotations with #booksnaps so that the accommodations for SIFE are highlighted:

Reading in Middle School Classrooms

by Evan Robb  @ERobbPrincipal

Popcorn reading, bump, and round robin reading do not make for great middle school classrooms! Often I am asked what types of reading should occur in a middle school English classroom? Three types or reading should be part of every middle school Language Arts classroom.  

Instructional Interactive Read Aloud

Reading can and should be taught. An interactive read aloud allows the teacher to model in a think aloud how they apply a reading strategy. This modeling during a read aloud builds and/or enlarges students’ mental model of how a strategy works. For this aspect of instruction, I suggest that the teacher models with a short text that matches the genre and/or theme that ties a reading unit together.  Short texts can include a picture book, an excerpt from a longer text, a folk or fairy tale, myth or legend, a short, short story, or an article from a magazine or newsletter.

Here are some skills and strategies that you can model in interactive read aloud lessons:

  • Making inferences
  • Identifying big ideas and themes
  • Identifying central ideas and themes
  • Locating important details
  • Skimming to find details
  • Author’s purposes
  • Purposes of informational texts (nonfiction) and literature (fiction)
  • Literary Elements and how each supports comprehension: setting, protagonist, antagonists, plot, conflicts, other characters, climax, denouement
  • Informational text structures and how these support comprehension: description, compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solutions, sequence, question/answer
  • Word choice as a guide to pinpointing mood or tone
  • Vocabulary building with an emphasis on general academic vocabulary, figurative language, and comprehension, using roots, prefixes, suffices, discussing concepts, diverse word meanings, and different forms of a word.


Instructional Reading

Instructional reading should happen during class. Students need to read materials at their instructional reading level—about 95% reading accuracy and about 85 % comprehension. Organizing instructional reading around a genre and theme—for example biography with a theme of obstacles—permits students to read different texts and discuss their reading around the genre and theme.

As an example, the class opens with an interactive read aloud lesson that lasts about ten minutes and occurs daily. Next, a transition to instructional reading. Find books for students in your school library, your community public library, and in your class library and school’s book room (if you have one).  Instructional reading books stay in the classroom, as students from different sections may be using the same materials each day.

A teacher can have students chunk instructional texts by putting a sticky note at the end of every two to three chapters. When students reach a sticky note, they stop to discuss their books with a partner and then a group of four. During this stop-to-think time, students can write about their books, connect the theme to the book, and apply strategies and skills the teacher has modeled during interactive read-aloud lessons.

Partners should be no more than one year apart in reading levels so they have something to contribute to each other. Students reading far below grade level learn with the teacher.

Independent Reading

Students should always have a book they are reading independently. By encouraging them to read accessible books on topics they love and want to know more about, you develop their motivation to read!

Have students keep a Book Log of the titles they’ve read and reread. Do not ask students to do a project for each completed book, for that will turn them away from reading. A book talk a month and a written book review twice a year on independent reading is enough. Reflecting on independent reading is important; getting hung up on how you will hold students accountable is not very valuable.  Remember, enthusiastic readers of any age do not summarize every chapter they read in a journal.

Students should complete thirty minutes of independent reading a night, and that should be their main homework assignment. Try to set aside two days a week for students to complete independent reading at school. Reading in a classroom is valuable!

Including the three layers of reading into a middle school curriculum brings balance, engagement, and motivation to the curriculum and holds the potential of improving reading for all students. When the teacher models how she/he applies a skill or strategy to a specific text, the teacher provides opportunities for all students to observe how a skill or strategy works. Instructional reading asks students to apply specific skills and strategies to texts that can improve students’ comprehension, vocabulary, and skill because these texts stretch students’ thinking with the teacher, the expert, as a supportive guide. Equally important is independent reading: easy, enjoyable texts that students self-select on topics, genres, or by authors that interest them—texts about two years below students’ instructional level.

Give this framework a try.  The goal is to increase reading and help students learn how to become strategic readers.

Image result for evan a robb principal robb review

Special thanks to Evan Robb for writing such a great article on inclusive reading best practices.  Evan and I communicated briefly to be sure we were on the same page about accommodations for newcomers.  I feel that this is a great example of how the mainstream and ESL teacher can collaborate virtually in support of our students who are SIFE. Image result for carol salva

The Power of Compelling Text & Easy Tech for ESL & SIFE + Week 5 Questions

No more baby books, please.  If we want our students to become better readers, we must hook them into reading for pleasure.   We must find ways to support emergent readers as well as on-level readers to continue reading.  The power of reading (more and more reading) is profound for mainstream students, for newcomers, and for SIFE (students with interrupted formal education).   Every student needs to learn to read, but older students do not need to do it with baby books.

I am always on the look out for text that might be compelling for my newcomers.  This blog post by Emily Francis was a powerful text to use for shared reading.  

The short video below shows some of my students’ reactions to Emily’s story. She has a few blog posts that work well so we read them over several days.  The recording of the video took place at the end of the school year so many of my newcomers had basic English to express their thoughts.  But some were brand new to the class.

My post last week discusses the importance of compelling input for second language acquisition. (Krashen 2011)  Emily’s story is certainly compelling.

This week we look at how this compelling story can help us with foundations of literacy.  Tracking print is what makes this activity powerful for emergent readers. It is offering them exposure to sight words and opportunities to build phonological awareness.

Technology use is simple here: I recorded my voice reading the blog on my phone. This is important so that I am able to walk around and monitor students’ ability to track the print. It allows me to analyze the behaviors of the class and to process the text with them if I am not reading while they track the print.

Every student benefits from exposure to words in context.  Still, we must differentiate for our more advanced reader.  For those students, this text is still appropriate because it is the message of the story that is important.  As a teacher, I have set a purpose for reading. We are reading about real people who have overcome challenges such as ours. But we can easily be also looking for setting, author’s purpose, theme or other grade-level standards.

I hope you can see how using narratives like Emily’s can absolutely develop foundational literacy but they are also culturally responsive and can help our newest students develop a growth mindset.

This padlet has many narratives that can be powerful for teaching reading to learners who are SIFE.

Content area teachers may consider this practice of tracking print for textbook passages, primary source documents, or word problems.  My suggestion is that you incorporate the strategy with a Talk, Read, Talk, Write approach keeping in mind that you’ll want to stop more frequently for more complex text or less compelling themes.

Hope you give them a try!


All questions for weeks 1-5 can be found on the book study landing page.

Part IV of Boosting Achievement:  Implementing a Practical Approach to Instruction  (Answer some of these, all of these or none of these. We welcome all ideas, reflections & insight!)

5Q1) p. 64 This section opens with examples of tasks that SIFE are capable of doing.  Illustrating is one example. Drawing my understanding of democracy is more cognitively demanding than repeating what my teacher just said about it…or choosing an answer from a multiple choice test.  What is another way that a pre-literate language learner might show you his knowledge on a subject? Do you have anything else to share on this?

5Q2)  p. 65 – 67 Structured conversations are key learning opportunities in any classroom.  Why are opportunities to participate in structured talk are critical for SIFE?  These pages show examples of ways to support and structure conversations.  Please share thoughts or any more that you could add to these.

5Q3)  p.72 This is a memory of a difficult to reach student, asking for more reading material.  It shouldn’t have been such a surprise because we can remind ourselves that every child wants to learn.  Have you ever had a hard-to-reach student show you their desire to learn? What do you think made the difference for that child?

5Q4)  p. 73 & 74  Balanced Literacy: These two pages attempt to offer a high-level overview of the balanced literacy approach.  Most secondary teachers (and even upper elementary teachers) do not get training in balanced literacy. Is any of this new learning for you?  Rephrase or respond to the parts of this overview that stood out to you the most.

5Q5) p. 75.  But what if they can’t read in their native language?  And we are in high school?? Read page 75 and respond to this question.  Use some of the facts mentioned about SIFE learning to read. Please add additional considerations or thoughts you have about things we should keep in mind.

5Q6) p. 76-p 81. These pages explain different activities that scaffold reading so that SIFE can get access to grade-level text while they are learning to decode print.  Watch the two short videos (  and and then look over the activities again.   Besides a newfound growth mindset, what practical reading strategies on these pages may have contributed to Nabil’s gains in reading?  Why do you think that?

5Q7)  p.  82 Language Experience Approach: What are your thoughts about ESL teachers using this approach for reading and writing instruction of SIFE? Revisit the components of the balanced literacy approach on p 74.  Which best practices from p. 74 are carried out when we use an LEA approach?

5Q8) These final pages of the book are worth deep reflection.  Please reflect on:

  • 85: It is a written reflection of the video  We looked at how the activity propelled his reading, now reflect on how authentic writing was supported.
  • 86-87  The writing process for SIFE.  This process is best practice for helping any student learn to write authentically.  What are the implications for our SIFE learners?  Do you think their basic writing skills will improve if we allow them to participate in grade-level writing with support?
  • 90 – 91.  SIFE need many opportunities to write with support in every class. Benefits of writing in content areas is not limited to the SIFE population.  How is writing in math, science, social studies practical for SIFE while boosting achievement of the entire class?


That’s a Wrap! Almost….

Thank you for completing this book study.  Your work is so important. It can inform our collective knowledge as we study how to best support learners who may have been away from formal education for some period of time.

In writing this book, we received a great deal of help from our colleagues and our online professional learning network.  I ask that you join us so that you can add your voice to the conversation.  We use the hashtag #BoostingAchievement so as to be able to collect and review all that people are saying about this topic.  Your unique perspective can only add to what we know and how we think about education.  We hope you’ll help us keep the conversation going!

Carol Salva

@MsSalvaC on Twitter



Anna Matis

@AnnaTeachesELLs on Twitter


Language Acquisition for SIFE. Plus Week 4 Book Study Questions

How fast can you acquire a second language? Pretty darn fast if we offer comprehensible input, in a low stress environment, and you are a motivated learner.   If this all happens in an engaging thematic unit that is directly related to grade-level standards… BOOM!  You are both acquiring the language and learning content at grade-level.  Why would this be any different for SIFE (a student with interrupted or limited formal education)?  Every child has unique needs, but this post is about methods to help SIFE aquire English. Read on and I’ll try to explain my understanding.  I hope these ideas are good enough for you to challenge them!

So I believe that when my students acquire language quickly, they are acquiring mostly  BICS (Basic Language) and the solid research by Jim Cummins stating that it takes 5-7 years to acquire enough language for the ELL (English Language Learner) to be working on level with native peers.  I am not disputing this research.  I am saying that you can go faster than the norm with your basic language.  And your teacher can accommodate instruction to allow you to work at grade level the day you arrive in your new country.  All of this can help the learner in the area of motivation which is  a key factor in how quickly a person learns anything.

I want to know all the research I can but I like to go deeper in theories that are research-based and also give us clear strategies for helping students succeed (vs. the research that tells us how poorly ELLs are performing on standardized test, etc..Ugh!)  I also love real stories of people who are beating the odds because they are supported well or they are taking full advantage of opportunities,  growth mindset, innovative ways of learning.  I like to see just exactly WHAT is possible!

I had a researcher tell me that one of my videos of a student accelerating his second language acquisition was an anomaly.  That researcher visited my class and met many anomalies. So he said, “Actually…. it’s the teacher.  The teacher is the anomaly.”  Ha! That’s fine.  I am happy to be that.  Any one of us can be an anomaly (something different than the norm).  Believing that are kids can do more than people might think…showing it…that is exactly how a new normal begins to take hold.


What does it take for your class to all feel like they can beat the odds?  A combination of things for sure.  A key answer for me is this:  Use research-based practices and keep challenging your own mindset and the mindset of your students.  Keep an asset-mentality even in September & October! At the start of the school year when we all get amnesia.  When we feel like the process is going sooo slowly.  Find your like-minded PLN and remind yourselves of your WHY.  And what you know to be true.  Every kid CAN.  Every kid.

Consciously push out any negative, deficit-mentality thoughts you might have about SIFE, Non-English speakers or children from poverty.  It’s important for me to understand where statistics come from. But as we discussed last week, we can get a lot further focusing on the research and statistics that show advantages and possibilities for our students.  When we do this, they know we are serious about believing in them and that begins to help them to believe in themselves.

This week I want to offer more resources that deepened my understanding of language acquisition vs. language learning.  I am using terms that come from my study of Stephen Krashen’s work.   Krashen offers to us that Comprehensible Input is one of the most important factors in how you acquire your 2nd language.  As a teacher, I must make my messages comprehensible/understandable to the language learner.  I can do this with a variety of sheltered strategies.  Some examples of those strategies, are things that work well for ALL students.  But these are critical for our language learners:  visuals, gestures, slowing my rate of speech are just a few.  Below I will offer links to videos that have examples.

For a great overview of Stephen Krashen’s theories (they are so important for us to understand), read through this short document from his website. It is his Theory of Second Language Acquisition with research cited there as well:

I love all the theory. It gives such hope for every learner if we can leverage things like lowering the affective filter and amping up some simple things like gestures and visuals for comprehensible input.  It’s more complicated for sure, but what a practical place to start!

How About Short Classes on ESL? Or a Conference!

So what does some of this look like? Hmmmm……Wouldn’t it be great if you could go to an awesome ESL conference with big name keynote speakers who are proven experts in the field?  And there were a variety of 30-45 min ESL breakout sessions so you could pick the ones that made sense for your reality?  And, Oh! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could do that in your slippers & house robe, on demand, whenever you wanted?

You guessed it.  You totally can.

Thanks to the brainchild of Tan Huynh, the first annual #VirtuEL streamed live in June 2017.  But that was just the first year and that was only the live date.  The conference is available to anyone, at any time.  No, we don’t need your email, you won’t get spam from us. This is all free and on YouTube.  Just check out the first 5 minutes of Nancy Motely‘s Keynote session from that first year and you will be hooked.

The feedback is very positive.  If you follow these presenters, you can get so much free PD, you won’t know what to do with it all!   These professionals were hand-picked for their track record of sharing free, high-quality ESL training content.

Best of Lists from Larry Ferlazzo

One other website I would check out this week is Larry Ferlazzo’s blog. He spends so much time collecting the best of everything for us!  For content teachers, this post is great place to start: “Best Short Videos for Content Teachers with ELLs.” 

Gotta run but please reach out with questions.  There is so much more to learn from all of us.  That is why we are chatting it up over on Twitter & Facebook.  Please come challenge my ideas so we can think even more deeply about our learners.

Week 4 Book Study Questions!

For more on the book study, please visit my Boosting Achievement Book Study landing page.  It has links to the previous weeks and lots more good stuff.

WEEK FOUR QUESTIONS  (Answer some of these, all of these or none of these. We welcome all ideas, reflections & insight!)

4Q1) p. 48 – 49 Watch the video with the QR Code or here: Emmanuel was preliterate in any language but had a strong desire to communicate with the visitor.  What language standards for emergent readers were met in preparation for Dr. Babaloa? What else stands out about the video or the story on p. 48?

4Q2) p. 50 What is the difference between learning a language and acquiring a language?  Why is the distinction especially important for SIFE?

4Q3) p. 51 & 52 Read US History Experience with Paul Spellman on page 52 that describes how Carol’s Newcomer class prepared for an author visit. This video was made for Dr. Spellman: Many of the students were compelled to read Dr. Spellman’s book. Why? What else did you notice?

4Q4) p. 58 -59 The content teacher and the ESL teacher use language in different ways.  What are your take-aways from this?

4Q5) p. 60 – 61  How is the focus different for the sheltered science teacher vs the ESL teacher who decides to use science in a unit? What stands out to you on these pages?

4Q6) p. 62 Carol explains that English Learners should be assessed according to their level of English language  proficiency.  We must understand the proficiency descriptors to meet students where they are for language when assessing.  But what if that student has not been offered comprehensible input? What can schools do to help content teachers offer comprehensible input to ELs?

4Q7) p. 63 The reality for some learners who are SIFE is that they may not master courses like Algebra I if they do not have the foundational skills necessary for the class.  What hope is there for this student?  Read page 63 and respond with what the author suggests or other ideas you have for supporting these students.