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


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