BAP016 Christy Reynolds, Middle School ESL Teacher

Success for newcomers can be measured in many ways. I’m excited to share what is working for the English learners at a Middle School in Round Rock, Texas.

Christy Reynolds from CD Fulks Middle School joined me this week to talk about the growth her newcomers are experiencing after only a few months in their newly created reading support class.  She also shares how they are supporting them in content classes.  The success of the students is showing up on their assessments but more importantly, it is evident in their attitudes, their interest and their engagement.You can listen to this week’s show in Soundcloud, on Itunes  or right here:

Christy visited my classroom back in October, just before she was setting up her own newcomer class.  I was impressed with her determination and her confidence in the newcomers at her middle school.

Earlier this week, Christy sent me these Chatterpix made by her first year students. You can see those here:

Christy says she is impressed with how much English they are using.  She also shares that they were inspired by one of my students who recorded a quick video for them.  I can’t wait to tell him that his video had an impact.

Christy did me a great favor by sharing that information.  I am always looking for ways to show my students that they are important and that they can inspire others.  This is foundational to looking at your SIFE and Newcomers with an asset mindset.

I hope you listen to the podcast so you can be inspired by the great things happening for these students in their first year in US schools.  We know that high expectations and a strong belief in our students will help them with their own growth mindset.  Kudos to Christy and everyone at CD Fulks Middle School for boosting the achievement of these English learners!  You can follow Christy on Twitter @UTexChick

Where can we connect soon?

I’d love to see you at one of the following trainings:

  • I’m attending The What’s Working in Texas Conference  Jan 25, 2018 #SeidlitzConf
  • March 21 in Houston– Using Tech with ELLs Conference in Houston. John Seidlitz and I will present this popular training again! (register below)
  • March 27 in DFW – Boosting Achievement of Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education (register below)
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BAP015 Social Contracts and Choral Reading for Every Class

Ready for a fresh start?  Whether you have great classroom management, or you’re struggling with it, this show should offer you a lot of value!  The focus is on two things that have been KEY for me as a teacher of English Learners.

You can listen to the show in iTunes or right here:

Listen to “BAP015 Social Contracts and Choral Reading” on Spreaker.

In the podcast you hear audio from the video I have included below.  As promised here are the steps to implementing a social contract from p. 47 of Boosting Achievement

  • Assume all kids want to learn. Once you offer them an opportunity to learn in a classroom where they were  successful, they will surprise you with the high expectations they will set for behavior.
  • Use the following four questions adapted from Capturing Kids Hearts training by the Flippen Group.
    1. How do you want to be treated by your peers?
    2. How do you think your peers want to be treated by you?
    3. How do you want to be treated by the teacher?
    4. How do you think your teacher wants to be treated by you?
  • Give those questions one at a time to your students.  They should spend a good bit of time collaborating and being specific.  I suggest changing partners many times with that first question so they can use native language and really talk about how they want to be treated.
  • Ask students to consider what types of behaviors stand in the way of students taking risks.  NONE of the norms should come from you.  But if no one brings it up, be sure to ask them about laughing at one another or anything you know is an issue for ELLs.
  • Nothing goes on the Social Contract until the entire class agrees on it and they all sign it.
  • Return to it frequently.  Anytime there is an infraction, you should stop and point out who broke the contract and ask if it needs to be altered.

I was recently honored by Sarah Lalonde with these notes she took from Boosting Achievement and shared on Twitter.  Yes! Please share this.  More teachers should know about the impact of this practice.


But don’t take my word for it.  My students have continually said that the social contract has been one of the biggest factors in their success.  My ESL students will also tell you that choral reading was important to them. Reading in unison may or may not fit into your classroom style but if you have ELLs I would strongly suggest that you at least read your key vocabulary out loud with all of your students.  For more on that, you can watch the video below.  It has teacher and student reflections on choral reading and social contracts.

The video includes a few seconds of Ginny Looney reading her objective with her 6th grade math class.  And then there are a few words from some 8th graders in a low socioeconomic area of my district who are talking about why it is important for them. (These are students from Joseph Maurer’s class – a class which scores very high on standardized assessments despite being in a low income area and with many ELLs).  At the end of the video you hear from Ginny.  She was a teacher who was struggling in her first semester but her 2nd semester was completely different because of those two things.  The Social Contract and reading objectives and other things in her classroom in unison (chorally).  It’s obvious that Ginny is inspiring her students to collaborate more and giving them ways to do it in a safe environment.

There is no better time to radically improve your classroom climate than after a break.  Why not try these things?  If you listen to the show I go into detail about how I present them to the students.  That is key.

Reach out with any questions or if you’d like me to come work with you and your teachers!  I’d love it.  I’d also love to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook. 

Stay awesome!


Also… check out UPCOMING EVENTS to connect in real life!


BAP014 Derek Rhodenizer of Beyond the Classroom

Are you modeling risk taking? For your teachers and for your students? How are you modeling accepting feedback?  It isn’t easy.  I’m really working on it! This week, you are in for a treat! I did a podcast swap with Derek Rhodenizer!  We talk about this and a lot more.

You can listen to the show in iTunes or  on soundcloud or right here:

I was thrilled to do this podcast swap with Derek Rhodenizer.  He is one of the founders of #MADPD, a leader on @VoicEDCanada and one of the most innovative people in our field.

I’m so grateful to have this educator in my life.  I first heard Derek on his show Beyond the Classroom a year ago.  I was immediately hooked on his podcast!  He reflects on his practice as a Director of Academics in such an honest and open way. And he brings on guests that challenge his thinking about education and it all makes for a very compelling show.

I’ve learned so much from him and I owe my own podcast on #voicEdRadio to him and Stephen Hurley. 

And if you want to be on VoicEdRadio… just reach out to these guys. They are looking for more hosts, more bloggers and definitely reach out to Derek if you’d like to present for #MadPD!

We get into a discussion about how we can model taking risks ourselves as coaches, trainers and administrators.  How do we model taking feedback from our peers  – all for the betterment of students.  We mention Flipgrid – try it out if that is new to you!

There are several shows where you can hear my friend Derek.  I subscribe to all of them!

Beyond the Staffroom With Derek Rhodenizer

A Word in Progress with Derek Rhodenizer


We also mention the Techfugees Global Conference:

Shout out to Sir Mike Butcher.   Another one of my heroes!

Thank you for listening!


JOIN ME on May 21st in Houston!

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BAP013 Book Study Take Aways

Passionate, excited educators come together in a Google Hangout to talk about the biggest take-aways from this round of the #BoostingAchievement book study.

I’ve turned it into this week’s podcast so you can listen to the audio right here:

Even if you’ve never read the book, you’ll still benefit from listening to the ideas and perspectives from people in different countries, grade levels and a positions in education.

We have different educational roles but we share a common bond. We teach or support students with significant gaps in formal education and target language.

We also share a strong belief that every child can achieve their dreams in our schools and in our classrooms.  We are shifting the way we are thinking.  We are not just paying lip service to the idea, we are truly educating the whole child.   While reading the book, and trying and sharing different techniques, we are finding that we can can serve these learners with excellence and deepen the learning of the whole class with the strategies that we use.

Thank you to Allyson who captured this chat stream that was going on behind the scenes:

In the show you’ll hear some of these references:

Katie’s class is reading Champion’s Game by Saul Ramirez

You can find me at the following events in the near future:

Region 4 Bil/ESL Conference: My students will have a session and Q&A panel for teachers.

What’s Working in Texas Conference on January 25th.

NABE March 1st – 3rd, 2018.  National Association of Bilingual Educators. I’ll have a Kahoot Poster Session

5 Keys to Using Tech for ELLs on March 21 in Houston – I will present this conference with John Seidlitz

Abydos Writing Conference:  April 12-15 I will have a special session

Also! The proposal window is open for these conferences. Many of us are going to submit a proposal! Join us:

Thanks for checking out this post and show. Keep learning and sharing so we can learn from you too.









BAP 012 – Inspiring ELLs with Emily Francis

Do you want your students to start inspiring each other?

Emily Francis is a perfect guest for this topic  and you can listen to the show right here,

The Boosting Achievement Book Study Questions are at the bottom of this post.

This week Emily Francis, Fab 5 Teacher,  joins us to help me recount how we met over Twitter last year and how our students actually brought us together.

You see, each year, I make a #SelfieKahoot to introduce myself to my class. Then the class makes one to build community. There are many positive outcomes from this. 

Later in the year, we create a holiday traditions selfie Kahoot with each other.

The following  video tells most of the story.  Basically, Ms. Francis’ class found our game on Twitter and played it.  They loved it and it sparked curiosity about different cultures around the world.  Her English learners wrote letters to us.  My English learners wrote back to them.  (Compelling Input! and lots of motivation to speak and write in the target language.)

Did you notice that one little video made by Sonbol to David?   That spontaneous video occurred because I had put the first names on the board on post-it notes so they could pick a name and write a letter back to them.  Sonbol picked up the name David and decided to send an audio message to tell them how amazing they are and how they should keep going.

Emily tells us that it was a great opportunity to talk about growth mindset.

I love all the compelling input and all the compelling desire to use the target language for these students. Most of all, I love that we have made them feel special and they know that they are inspiring one another.

My students are learning very quickly and I attribute a great deal of that to their mindset and their beliefs in what is possible.  They are just learning to read in English (some are just gaining literacy) but they are experts in many areas.  They have to feel this so they take advantage of the meta-cognitive strategies we are teaching them.  They have to believe that they can learn anything they’d like to learn.

When Emily asked me and Tan Huynh to read this post, one of her first blog posts, I knew she was put in my life for a reason.  I had been working with students with interrupted formal education, trauma, and lack of language and other hardships.  But I’d had them for an empowering year and things were going well.  Now Emily was giving us this piece of text to help solidify what I had been telling the scholars. Their potential is there.  They have all they need. They just need to keep moving forward.

The link is below and here is a short video of  my students responding to this video/blog post:

I know that Emily’s post can be a source of inspiration for your students as well:


Emily also mentioned this great tweet from Amy Fast:

This interview and post was a joy to write.  I am so indebted to Emily! I hope you will come see us in Houston in November 2018.  We will be attending the NCTE18 conference and we hope our proposals are accepted!

In the very near future, look for me at the Bilingual/ESL Conference on December 15th, 2017.

My students will have break out sessions and a student panel.   Register here:

Also, SAVE THE DATE for MARCH 21st,  2018 in HOUSTON!

Using Tech with ELLs!

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Please join us on Twitter or Flipgrid!

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