BA Podcast Episode 7 – Choice Projects in the Reading Class for SIFE

Here is a chance for you to visit my classroom & reflect with me!  This show is a recap of a lesson where I had a visiting teacher.

The podcast is available OnDemand here:

I want to first thank an awesome volunteer, Paula Gomez! She is a wonderful community member and I am grateful for all of her support.  She makes sure our students feel that they are important and they always ask about her when she is not able to come.  Thank you, Paula! You make such a difference!

Do you want volunteers like Ms. Gomez?  You can use this video below!  You might be surprised what happens when this goes out to your local community.  It is a quick explanation of how simple it is to make a big impact for newcomers as a volunteer:

So, yes!  We had a visitor from Round Rock ISD.  That is a district that has hired Seidlitz Education (the consulting group I work through) for many sheltered instruction trainings.  They are very supportive of their teachers of ELs!

So in the show I mention Language Experience Approach. This link from has a good summary with steps to follow in using this approach.  Christy told me that she does this as well. It is a favorite of mine for having SIFE or Newcomers reading co-created text from Day 1 in your classroom.  Boosting Achievement book has the steps for newcomers as well.

Christy saw my NELD  class which is a Newcomer English Language Development Class.   Read more about our guidelines for that class here.  I talk about NELD a lot so I focus my reflections on my Reading II class.  Both classes are choosing presentation topics right now.  I talk about why I believe that our SIFE students need a Reading II class that is focused on literacy and ESL for their specific needs.

I can’t talk about the power of reading without mentioning Stephen Krashen

In the show I explain that I share statistics with my students related to amount of reading & how many words they see a year.  Thanks to Nicole Marino for posting this visual she made based on p. 76 of our Boosting Achievement book:

The lesson was about choosing their topics and reflection on why choice is important.  My reading class will do things with this that are a bit different from the NELD class but both need choice projects. It’s critical for engagement and if goes as it usually does, the projects are compelling for them.  Not just high-interest… compelling. This is from Stephen Krashen’s Compelling Input Hypothesis. 

We must tread lightly and really get to know our students if we are going to invite them to share their stories.  They should never be made to share about their migration or other personal parts of their background.

This is why a choice project is critical.

The Lesson:  I explained the choices with visuals & a 3 min video of last year’s students talking about it. They could choose My Migration Story, My Country vs USA & What’s in a Name or any topic they want to choose.  Here is a link to the ppt I used. 

You can use the following video if you want to show your students that you care about their voice and their interests.  I like it because you see images of a variety of projects so your language learners have visuals and understand what a presentation might look like:

I have a lot more videos you can use for PD or for your class here at the Video Page of this Website. 

I mention that a big challenge with ELs is that we may not have enough time for them to be prepared!  Noa Daniel has an answer for us!  You can plan projects that build OUTSIDE the blocks of time! More on Building Outside the Blocks projects at her website.

Here are a few artifacts from the lesson.  I improved the planning page based on our reflections:

What went well:

  • Content Obj & Lang Obj review
  • Choral read and tracking print of objectives.
  • Asked students to rephrase what we would be doing.
  • Video reflections by SS from last year w images of projects
  • Slowed my rate of speech
  • Pointing & Gesturing
  • Stopped frequently and allowed L1 for negotiating meaning.
  • QSSSA is a great questioning technique for structured conversation. Valentina Gonzalez wrote about it here.
  • Pair up and talk activities – SO MANY times. Some were Middle School Dance (change partners 3 times), Find Someone Who…, Peanut Butter & Jelly… We share many activities for pairing students in our trainings.  Several are from Dr. Spencer Kagan.  More on him here.

Lessons learned for me:

Several. Ugh!  Like many teachers, I could rip it apart every time!  But I feel like we must resist that and focus on ONE or TWO things we want to change. Both Christy and I noticed the confusion of having the frames for the two different objectives on the same planning page.  In the images below you can see the difference.

Even though I told them not to look at #2 question, this is confusing to newcomers:

We also reflected on a few students in who were disengaged.  We need to be careful about how hard we are on ourselves with this and consider the circumstances of students.  There is a reason why they are disengaged.  It is usually something I can better about instruction but sometimes it is what is personally going on with those students.  In the show I offer some background on these students.  Some have things going on at home that are very difficult.  Some have had me earlier in the day and part of my mini-lesson is a repeat. This photo is the work of one of my disengaged students.  This makes me realize that the project is meaningful to him.  

I also reflect on one of the students who is just gaining literacy.  She has no L1 literacy and is new to English so I expect that she will start to tune out a bit.  I have visuals in my ppt and using gestures but some of the comprehensible input for her needs to be in the checks for understanding and L1 collaboration with her peers.  As a teacher, I need her to get into a guided activity where she is supported and has opportunities to speak in L1.  Our language objective, all the sentence frames and opportunities to work with partners will have the English speaking and writing goals met.  This SIFE student has been trained to focus on gaining sight words and phonological awareness when we are in English and negotiating meaning in L1 & L2.  It is a balancing act but at the end of the lesson, everyone met the objectives.

Here is the project planning pages I will be using with the students. They have the language the students may want to use.  Special thanks to Noa Daniel for the W.I.N. project and the timeline help.

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In the show I mention that I learned about teaching to the top 25% from from Leo Gomez.  I am a Gomez & Gomez Dual Language Certified Trainer and I highly recommend their model for Bilingual teachers.

Another big thanks to Christy Reynolds.  I appreciate the collaboration and can’t wait to come see you in Round Rock!


Here is a sample from one of the completed projects:

Thank you again, Christy, and thank you again, Noa Daniel!

and thank YOU for reading and/or listening!




Hope to see you in person soon or online!

Round 2 of the Global Book Study. New materials for each week.

Back by popular demand!  PD the way YOU want it! You can do this study at your own pace with this book that is an easy but powerful read. And NO, you’re not too late! You and your colleagues can jump in any time on Twitter with the Hashtag #BoostingAchievement or the Flipgrid.  We will leave the last round’s flipgrid up and you can contribute or just reflect on the thoughts of others.  If you like answering questions, we’d love to hear your answers or just reflect in some way. Here are some resources and we have a specific posts for each week as well.  I’ve conducted the book study twice now, so there is more than one post for “week one” on my blog.  Look for links to more resources in each week’s post:






Many already have the book but if you don’t, it is now $9.99 on Kindle: You can also get the paperback on Amazon or at our website:


Those in the know are following Larry Ferlazzo on Twitter  and also Kirsten Lindle of TESOL who both recommended #BoostingAchievement highly for anyone working with ELLs:

Anna Matis and I know that there are several book studies going on so we monitor the hashtag #BoostingAchievement on Twitter. We will do our best to collaborate with you as it only betters this work!

Not good with Twitter? No worries! You can just follow it there.  We encourage you to use #Booksnaps(thank you Tara Martin!) if you’d like (please include a sticker of the book cover to cite author and title). Or maybe you want to participate in a Flipgrid like this great one we did during #ELLChat_BkClub this summer. 

The initial book study with more resources is on this blog at for anyone who wants to do it solo or in their district. I’d be happy to collaborate on that as well.

Hope to see your thoughts about the book and how it is impacting your work with your students.

We all learn better together!!


PS: Check out #ELLCHAT_BKCLUB on Twitter.  They are on to the next book but is where we got our start with online book study and I participate in every round if possible. Thanks to Katie Topple and Tan Huynh for creating such a wonderful place to collaborate about books.


BAP006 Carlota Holder is Boosting Achievement for ELLs and Teachers

We continue our professional growth with Carlota Holder this week. She is an EL Coordinator and Master teacher.

You can hear the podcast right here. 

With no one else in her building to help her advance her knowledge on a daily basis, how is she continuing to grow?  She shares! She knows that learning is social so she collaborates about her learning on social media.  Carlota is a SIOP trainer who coaches and supports teachers where 75% of the population are language learners.

Carlota begins by explaining that her school follows the TAP model for accountability and professional development. It provides more, such as a way to keep Carlota and other coaches accountable for how they evaluate and support their teachers.

We can’t talk with Carlota without first mentioning her part in the #VirtuEL17 conference


Carlota shares how he lives by Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) and that we can all get free webinar learning about it if we just follow SIOP on Twitter at @SIOPMODEL (sweet!)


How do you build your professional learning when you may be the lone wolf in your building?  Or if you already have a lot of sheltered instruction under your belt?  Carlota reminds us that even leaders in the EL world can learn so much by participating in #ELLchat_BkClub!  Newbies to Veterans alike can benefit from synthesizing their learning with others.  Thank you Katie Toppel & Tan Huynh for creating this opportunity!

Unlocking English Learners’ Potential is the 8.0 book by Diane Staehr Fenner & Syndey Snyder

We sing the praises of the tech for ELL ideas in the book ELL Frontiers. This is a great resource by Honigsfeld, Paris & Estrada.  Andrea Honigsfeld joined us for one of our book chats and we talk about how powerful it is when authors participate in #ELLchat_BkClub.

I personally got a great deal out of the round when we did the study of Boosting Achievement and we talk about that as well.

We reference Nancy Motley’s Talk, Read, Talk Write book. I refer to it a lot because that book and her framework for instruction are excellent for your content classes whether you have ELLs or not.

Carlota also shares her take-aways from the annual WIDA Conference in Tampa, Florida (It was really great, make plans to join us in Detroit next year!) You can follow WIDA on Twitter as well.

Incredibly, she shared a powerful story about how she used the intake forms from Boosting Achievement to determine if a student had interrupted formal education.  The teachers were beginning to suspect that a student had some cognitive or learning delays.  It turned out that the student DID have literacy in his native language and was not responding due to severe trauma.  When we wrote the book, the intention was to address affective needs, of course. But this story underscores that our students are coming with very different backgrounds and if they are not reading or writing, it may not be a SIFE issue or due to a lack of skills.  We need this type of investigation at every level when we are trying to determine how to best serve our students. Bravo, Carlota!

That leads us into “MASLOW before BLOOMS.” Tomaz Lasic writes more on that here. It’s the research behind addressing the needs of the student before we focus solely on academics.

Alberto Carvahlo! The superintendent of Miami Public Schools was the first keynote of the WIDA conference and we hope to find that recording to share it with you all.  Here are his top 5 Keys when you are trying to turn around a system. (And he should know, he took the Miami schools from a failing district to no F rated schools!) I tweeted these with  and included something I jotted down about each one:

  1. Leadership Matters. He fired all the principals that didn’t believe they had AP material students.
  2. Effective Teaching.  Teachers should not teach the curriculum… they teach CHILDREN the curriculum.
  3. Choice. Create programs that excite & engage our students!
  4. Digital Convergence. People want 2 observe and understand the world. Tech can provide educational equity.
  5. Teaching with Compassion. How can they learn when they feel unsafe?

Alberto Carvahlo for president!

We wrap up the show by talking about how Carlota & our other Indiana buddy, Jess Bell will be presenting at INTESOL in a few weeks. Lucky folks at that conference!  You can register & attend to see them here  If you can’t be there, be sure to add them to your PLN.  Following Carlota and her colleagues can absolutely help us elevate our knowledge of how to serve English Learners and how to support their teachers.

Also, don’t forget that we are having the #TexTESOL2017 State conference in Houston on November 2-4! MANY of our PLN members will be there also.

Happy Conference Season and Thank You again to Carlota.  We appreciate you so much!

Not at WIDA2017? Here is What I Shared


If you missed #WIDA2017, I have you covered.  I gave a session on what is possible for our newcomers and SIFE students.  I shared the video of Nabil, a student who had a fixed mindset about learning to read.  Once we shifted him to a growth mindset, he was much more engaged!  We can do A LOT with an engaged learner!

I also shared this document and we went over what features participants noticed.  I used the #QSSSA questioning strategy from the Boosting Achievement book.

I sang the praises of as a way to help emergent readers up their reading level as quickly as they’d like.  Because we know that the more you read, the more you CAN read!

The message of my session was… what CAN’T they do???  Our EL’s CAN do everything the other students can do.  They may take more time to do it, but there is nothing wrong with our students.  If we accommodate for them, the sky is the limit.  And the immigrant SIFE students can catch up!  They can catch up and pass native born students.  It’s all about what you want.  We need to help them see that it is possible.

Here is the handout I used to break down what all I was modeling and what we saw in the video.


We also played part of a Mitosis Kahoot.  It is a great way to practice speaking academic language and a great preview the ESL teacher can do for content classes.  Here is the full BLIND Kahoot & more on how to teach with Kahoot.  Your biology students will thank you!

Thank you for helping us change the mindset! And thanks to WIDA for allowing me to share & learn in Tampa this week.  Fantastic conference!

Reach out if I can help with any of this.



ALL students can learn??  Of course they can!….  How ’bout “ALL students can teach us!!”

BAP005 – Four Messages for Language Learners

If nothing else, every language learner needs to hear these four messages:

  • You are important
  • What you are learning is important.
  • We will not give up on you.
  • You CAN do it.

We cover these four messages in Episode 5 of the podcast. You can listen to it here.

If you have attended one of our Seidlitz Education trainings, you may have seen a slide with these four messages.  Relaying these to our language learners is something we can all do immediately.  It sounds basic, but I find that I need to reflect on how I relay these messages explicitly, in my lessons and also in my actions as I interact with my students.  I want to thank Edna Martinez in Katy ISD for making such a great slide out of these.

She did it within 24 hours of being in the training and shared it on Twitter. This made me think about how very important these basic messages are to my language learners.  So I break each one down in the podcast this week.  I also mention what I am reading now, which is Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners, by Larry Ferlazzo.   I see a strong correlation here.  When we use researched based practices, we see many ways we can convey these messages to our students.  I strongly suggest that book and checking out other resources by Larry like his collection of the best posts on Motivating students.

So here are some of the points I  make in the show about these four messages:

You are Important.

What you are learning is Important.

  • Tracking print. Why I am asking them to do that? They need to know how it relates to Balanced Literacy
  • What is Balanced Literacy (How much of this do secondary teachers need to know?  Students need to know?)
  • Theories of 2nd language acquisition.
  • Growth mindset lessons.
  • Not Grit lessons but awareness of grit
  • Developmental assets
  • How students can learn their new language and gain literacy without you.
    • and other ways to track print without the teacher.
    • videos with captions and other things your English learners can read.

We will not give up on you.

You CAN do it.

  • We need to believe this about our students.
  • With every fiber of our being, we need to approach every day with the firm belief that our students CAN overcome.
  • Move from “Every child can learn.”  to “Every child can  be a leader!” and “We can LEARN from every child!”

BIG thanks to Emily Francis for putting a different spin on these messages.  How do they affect our own learning?  Ask yourself if you believe these things about your own growth.  If not, reach out. Your PLN is here for you and we can help!

Valentina Gonzalez & Karen Lewis on the Boosting Achievement Podcast Ep 4

Do you want systemic change for English learners? How about the ability to promote advocacy for ELs?  Is it possible to do this and also offer support to teachers around the world?  These two ladies are doing just that!  This week we have Valentina Gonzalez and Karen Lewis on the podcast.

You can listen to it HERE: (link updated)

Maybe you have gone to a great professional development but it never took hold across your campus.   Real change requires ongoing support for teachers and administrators.  This week we get to peek behind the curtain and learn from this dynamic duo. The two work as Professional Development specialists in Katy, Texas and in this podcast they explain how they offer innovative approaches to PD as well as ongoing support for the educators in their district.

We discuss this blogpost by Valentina. In it she explains in detail how the Office of Other Languages department in their district rolled out Sheltered Instruction based on the Seidlitz Education book: 7 Steps to an Interactive, Language Rich Classroom. The resources is practical and very well received but the support from Lewis, Gonzalez and their team went way beyond a one-time training.

We also get to hear how they are supporting their teachers to dip their toes into the world of Twitter. They participated in the #ELLChat_BkCLub book study on Twitter featuring ELL Frontiers.  I was also in that book study (thankfully!) and we all agree that the authors do a wonderful job of helping us see what is possible for ELs with effective use of technology.  The Katy OOL support team decided to get the book for their teachers and also offer a tech based training that was differentiated based on teacher proficiency level. 

If these gals sound busy, they are! But not too busy to put on what is likely to be one of the most important conferences this year for teachers of English learners. Karen is the current president of TexTESOLIV and has spent the last year working with her committees to organize and prepare for the state conference which will take place in Houston Nov 2-4th.

I remember Karen talking about her vision for the conference this time last year.  She wanted an uplifting, positive message and was determined to create an event that would promote advocacy and hope for teachers of English learners.   She talks to us her reasons.  She recognizes the real challenges in the profession but also the real rewards and positive aspects of teaching language learners.

The conference promises to deliver on Karen’s vision.  Valentina and I are both scheduled to speak along with many members of our PLN who are coming from around the country. We also have many impressive break out sessions and the two Keynote speakers are not to be missed.  Stephen Krashen and John Seidlitz are creating a buzz and sure to pack the rooms for their Keynote sessions.

It was wonderful to get to hear how these ladies got into the profession and get a glimpse of what makes them such passionate education professionals.

I’m honored to continue collaborating with them.  We mention the next #TxTESOL4 Twitter chat where the three of us will be joined by Tracey Schmidt, the new TexTESOL4 webmaster.  That chat that will be taking place on October 18th at 8pm Central.  Please join us for that!

We talk about how Twitter and Facebook have been powerful for bringing us all together and also helps to support teachers who might not be able to get quality professional development otherwise.  Along those lines, we mention #VirtuEL17, an online conference that is free and YouTube based for teachers to further their own professional development.

Big thanks to Valentina and Karen for all the collaboration this year around the twitter chats and for all they share with us.  Katy ISD is lucky to have them and we are all lucky to have them out in the virtual world!

Episode 3, Social Studies for ELLs with Tina Beene

What a win to get author and ESL consultant Tina Beene on the Boosting Achievement podcast this week!

You can listen to the show right here:

Her passion for supporting teachers is evident throughout the conversation.  Tina’s perspective comes from her years of teaching bilingual and ESL in Texas.  She is now a very in-demand consultant with Seidlitz Education and the author of the popular book, Teaching Social Studies to ELLs.

Tina and I discuss the unique challenges of teaching social studies to immigrant students. She brings up great points about language structures and background.  But Tina also offers practical ways to approach the differentiation that needs to take place.

Tina shares strategies and a positive point of view that should help all of us grow our mindset for what is possible in the Social Studies classroom.

You can follow Tina on Twitter at:

To learn more about her and inquire about having Tina come to your campus, you can visit the Seidlitz Education website here:

Tina’s book is available directly from Seidlitz Education products or via Amazon.

I also share a great tweet by Mr. Jesse Galvan, 5th grade teacher in Austin, Texas.

Jessie used the “Desk Olympics” suggestion from Boosting Achievement and was good enough to record a quick video of his students changing the desk arrangement to suit instructional needs. This strategy is something you can teach your language learners to do in less than one class period.  If you record the students practicing, they are highly motivated to get quicker. This saves so many instructional minutes! Newcomers and non-English speakers have no problem with this activity as a visual of expected desk arrangement can/should be provided for all students.

Thank you for tuning in this week!