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

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