BAP025 – Monica Spillman, Learning and Teaching for ELLs

The more you share, the more you get back!  This week’s guest shares SO much in her journey to learn more about teaching language learners. Monical Spillman is getting her endorsement in ESOL and shares about that with us this week.  You can listen to the show right here.

Monica has a great background in Special Education and is now embracing a new demographic as she learns more about serving our language learners.  Like me, you’ll be inspired by how much she is doing! I learned several tips from Monica and I’m grateful to be connected with her.

In the show, we talk about the ESOL conference and the Blind Kahoot I shared with participants.  Kahoot has great resources to help you learn more about teaching with the platform through blind kahoots

She also used the example Kahoot I shared so her teachers could experience a Blind Kahoot.  Here is the link if you’d like to play a very short version of a blind kahoot and model how it might look for language learners.

Monica gave this Kahoot as part of a professional development she gave to the teachers in her school.  She tells us that her endorsement program includes giving PD which is a great way to learn more about any topic.  But you can tell that Monica shares by nature! She tells us about her love of #Booksnaps and other easy tech ideas that can make a big impact on our language learners.

I would definitely recommend that you follow Monica on Twitter!  She is at @MOSpillman.  Take a look at her feed and you will see that she is sharing a lot of great nuggets for us to grow professionally!

I’m grateful that she shared this presentation with me.  In this presentation, she is sharing 4 Tips for teachers on English learners.  I love links and I am now following the College Info Geek on Youtube because I loved the video she includes in these resources. 

This video on study skills and making flashcards had an immediate impact on my students!  Monica even helped me learn more about youtube and how to change the rate of speech on videos.  This might be something you already knew.. but that is my point!  We really don’t know what other people know.  So you can’t assume you don’t have anything worth sharing.  We all have things we can share and someone out there will likely be grateful that you did.  I know I am.

Thank you again, Monica for all the great ideas you are sharing with the world.  I appreciate being connected to you and I appreciate what a great model you are of being a connected, innovative educator!

Thanks for taking time to listen to the show this week.

Don’t forget to put in your proposal for #MADPD!  You have until March 30th and YES, you do have something you can share!

Read more about #MADPD and submit your proposal here!

So stay curious & have an awesome week, Eduheroes!


PS:  Do you have want more support? Please reach out if you’d like to discuss training and consulting on site or virtually.  You can book me through Seidlitz Education by reaching out to Kathy Belanger.

BAP024 Not Just a Field Trip. Discuss, Discover, Connect, Reflect

Great news! I have a way for you to honor your students, help them produce and acquire your target language, make connections to content area standards and have a lot of fun at the same time.

Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not!  I just  recorded a podcast explaining this all in more detail and you can listen to it right here.

This episode is about a recent field trip we took but also about how we prepared for it!

This 3 min video shows how we did it:

These are the steps you’ll see in the video:

  1. Discuss: the site and determine what background the students have.  I found a 3 minute video of the Texas Revolution and used some of the screenshots to make a Kahoot with facts about the history of the historic site.
  2. Discover: Students created questions for Dr. Jonathan Lohse, an archeologist working on site with the Texas Historical Commission.  We had an opportunity to ask those questions of him in a quick 30 minute Skype session before our trip.
  3. Connect: We connected virtually with Dr. Lohse and then, of course, we visited the site.  The day of the visit, the students were very engaged in the hands-on activities and they also came with context for what they would be seeing.  Our classroom discussions had led to connections in their own lives. You can read more about that below.
  4. Reflect:  Students recorded who they met and what they wanted to remember about their visit.

The history of our first colonists in Mexican Texas, the U.S. revolution and slavery are concepts that are generally covered in middle school.  So my newcomers would not have that background.  I appreciate how much we could expose them to in a short period of time that lead right up to what they should be studying in US History now.  We will now discuss indentured servants, the civil rights movement, the cattle industry and more as they relate to this historic site in our area.

I am very appreciative that the Texas Historical Commission put together a great day for us to learn from different archaeologists and historians in the field.  I was thrilled that my students, even those with very limited English, were able to ask their very thoughtful questions and learn about real world applications of science and technology within a Heritage Learning unit.

My recommendation when planning a trip is to consider your students’ background and also what education partners are particularly suited to help you reach these learners.  For me, I keep coming back to archeology.  If we work with archaeologists, we are able to tie history and heritage directly with science, technology and math.  These professionals can demonstrate many real world uses of what our students are learning in their content classes.  Some examples I mention on the show are the mathematics of measuring dig units such as Pythagorean Theorem,  using data and plotting on a grid. The scientific process is used continually along with earth science and concepts learned in chemistry such as half life and carbon dating.

One of the most important reasons to expose our immigrant students to archeology is that it allows us to have discussions as to WHY we want to know about our past.  We are able to have conversations about honoring ancestors and we open the door for our students to share about their culture and heritage.

For this year’s study trip, we decided to learn about and visit San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.  The Texas Historical Commission is a wonderful education partner who has always welcomed the unique perspective our language learners  bring.  The history of this site includes immigration when our area belonged to Mexico.  There were thousands of American immigrants crossing the border to become Mexican citizens at that time.  After many years, these settlers became unhappy with the Mexican government and so there was a Texas Revolution.  Instead of seeing this as content that is unique to Texas History classes, we can look at a broader view.  We have many parallels to US History and World history when we learn academic vocabulary and concepts such as “colonists,” “colony,” “revolution,” “constitution,”push/pull factors”, etc.  And we can take the history of the conflict and open a space for students to make connections to what is happening in their countries today.

One of the most important historical events at this location was The Runaway Scrape.   After the fall of the Alamo, the residents of the town of San Felipe de Austin were ordered to burn their homes so the advancing Mexican army would not capture it.  The terrified residents grabbed what they could carry and fled eastward.  This concept of citizens having to flee their homes in a time of war is all too familiar to my students.  Many are refugees or fled a place of violence.  They have shared stories of losing their homes and possessions due to a war.

The students are finding so many parallels in history to what they have experienced or what has happened in their countries.  All of this, plus a chance to ask their questions, created very high engagement and a compelling desire for output.

I would encourage ESL teachers to review standards that are being taught in content classes so that you can use what makes sense in your ESL classroom.  If you are unable to plan with content teachers, they might provide you with their scope and sequence, their standards to be covered or you may be able to find this information on your own (ie: Common Core standards, TEKS, etc.).

Our main priority is to teach English speaking, reading, writing and listening skills.  But if  you can make science, math or history compelling to your students, it will benefit them greatly to learn English within a unit that incorporates those standards.

You may also be interested in a blog post I wrote last year with step-by-step directions to a great ESL field trip.

Thanks for reading about our adventures. Keep your expectations for your ELLs high!



PS: Present at #MADPD!  We all need to be presenting there. Your proposal WILL get accepted.

PSS: Want more support? Please contact Kathy Belanger if you’d like me to come to your area to work with you or your teachers!  I’d love to!

PSSS:  Please join us for the Boosting Achievement Conference in Dallas/Ft.Worth area on 3/17.  Here is all the information:

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab



BAP023 – Blanca Huertas, Honoring Our Newcomers

Engagement is everything! This week, Blanca Huertas joins us to talk about some of her practices that have boosted the motivation of her 7th and 8th grade newcomers.

Listen to the show right here:

Blanca is an ESL teacher at McAdams Jr. High in Dickinson, ISD.  She doesn’t work at a newcomer center. Her team serves about 40 newcomers in these two grades at her comprehensive school.  Bravo to Blanca because she is trying some innovative ideas to have her students engaged and interacting in the target language in English.

Blanca & her colleague, Ms. Garcia, came to a session at our Region IV Education Service Center in December (Thank you Region IV for having us at your awesome Bil/ESL Conference!).   At our session, Blanca met several of my students and was inspired by how empowered the students were to speak in front of hundreds of teachers.  She used the story of Wendhy Maldonado Rodriguez with her students and she explains the effect it had on her class. It was published by Larry Ferlazzo and  you can read it here. 

We talk about how her students connected with the story written by a recent immigrant who had gone through a similar situation to theirs in coming to a new land.

I’m inspired by Blanca’s initiative and I love seeing the big impact it is having on the mindset and literacy of her students.  I’m just as excited about the effect all of this is having on the mindset and literacy of MY students.  I’m grateful for the benefits we are both realizing from an act of honoring our students.

Blanca shares that now several of her students are asking to tell their stories and connect with Wendhy.  We both agree that we would never force a student to share their personal stories but we feel that it is important to create a space for them to do so.

Blanca honors her students in many ways.  I am honored that she has tried my Kahoot for ESL ideas and just wrote me to say the students loved it and were able to create assessments easily with the tool.  Great pics, Blanca!

Another example is one that she talked about on the show.  She our idea of Flipgrid for newcomer oral language practice and built in scaffolds for her students to use so they could respond to text they are reading.  My students have already joined hers in the flipgrid!  If you listen to the podcast, you will hear an example of one of her students and one of mine.

I am stealing the idea of putting a paragraph/response frame right into the flipgrid like Blanca did here:

One very cool update on all of this is that Blanca has been recognized by her district for her innovation and was spotlighted on their facebook page.  She was also asked to help give summer tech training on some of her wonderful practices that are honoring and engaging her ESL students! Check out that post that was forwarded to her by her principal! WOW! Congrats Blanca!

Blanca and her colleagues are doing so many wonderful things for their newcomers!  She is a teacher who not only supports her students but also shares what is working in this article that she wrote last year.  It is packed with great ideas on cultivating success for language learners.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab


Reading this article drives home the importance of seeking PD for teaching writing to our English learners.  Blanca attended an Abydos writing institute and her students are benefiting from it.  I highly recommend the institute for anyone teaching writing. The annual conference is next month and information about that is at the bottom of this post.

Speaking of Abydos, you will hear me mention a fellow Abydos trainer Brad Womak, in my reflections of the interview.  Brad was one of the conference organizers of this year’s #TALE2018 conference for Texas Association for Literacy Educators.  Brad said that my  students inspired him to give his own recent immigrants an opportunity to be heard at the conference and that it was like magic for the students and the teachers.

I love the body language of the teachers in these pictures!  They seem so interested!  But of course! It is such an important learning opportunity for us when we listen to the students themselves. Thank you, Brad, for sharing these pictures and for everything you share with us.  By the way, my students said they were amazing and impressed! 

Educators like Brad and Blanca are always looking for ways to lift up their students and in the show, it is wonderful to hear Blanca say that she is seeing great progress in her newcomer classes this year.

I’m honored to be connected with her and I hope you will follow her as well.  She and her students are a great example of what is possible!

Thanks again for sharing with us, Blanca!

Have a great week, everyone!  Please connect with me on Twitter at @MsSalvaC.   I’d love to follow your great ideas and share what I see working for us.  You know that we are all better together!


PS: Reach out if I can help you with web-based or live training or consulting.  I’d be honored to work with you!

PSS:  Can you join me for one of these two upcoming workshops in Texas?  The information for those is below.  We’d love to see you!

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab


Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab