BAP035 Part II Activities for the Newcomer Classroom

Kenzie Twitchell and I are back!

You can listen to the show in Soundcloud, Itunes or right here:

Listen to “BAP035 Part II of Activities for the Newcomer Classroom with Kenzie Twitchel” on Spreaker.

In Part I of this topic, we talked about Language Experience Approach and who to follow to get great ideas about how to support your students to begin reading in the target language.  You can read all about that and/or listen to the podcast here:

In this Part II episode we are talking about activities that further boost literacy and language for newcomers and under schooled learners.  Now that you know how to teach a person to read, let’s look at what the newcomer can do to propel their own learning.  Older learners can absolutely take ownership of their literacy in a way that a 5 year old cannot.

I suggest that you start by training your students to understand balanced literacy as we mentioned in the last episode.  Now that they are beginning to decode text, what can you do to keep that momentum going and hook them as readers.  Let’s remember that every day they understand more English. And with comprehensible input, they are able to gain even more of the target language each day.

The students know that they must read more to become a better reader.  So they know the value of tracking the print with their eyes when anyone reads aloud to them.  That would be a read aloud by a peer, the teacher or a tech device.  I’m fine if they want to use Duolingo or other language learning software on their own time.  But in our class, we are capitalizing on compelling text and co-created text as we explained in Episode 34.  I’ll talk more about units of study in the next episode.

For daily practice, I highly recommend

Kenzie was familiar with another great free site called

Both of these offer choice and leveled non-fiction text about current events.

We discussed making Kahoots with the class and then allowing them to jigsaw content to make their own Kahoot quizzes.  You may remember that we began the year with a #SelfieKahoot about me and then one about them, so transitioning into content with that activity is natural.

Our students should be reading fairly quickly if we are using Language Experience Approach, tracking print and chorally reading daily.  It’s important that the students understand their role in gaining sight words and phonemic awareness.  I explain this to the students the same way I train teachers.  I talk about multiple exposures and show them how they will get blends with more exposure to text as well.  (I use the example of the word “Iphone.”  They all know this word.  They all understand it and even start to tell you that they know the ph sounds like the /f/ sound.  They know this because this word is meaningful to them and they’ve seen it multiple times in context. It’s a great example of the power of tracking print and reading more. It helps us illustrate how they will get more sight words and phonemic awareness.

Once they are reading, I want many leveled text options that offer choice. I cite the work of Stephen Krashen and the importance of Free Voluntary Reading.  Of course, they need to become readers first, but we want to be ready with choice text and time for reading in class.  For this I turn to Saddleback Publishers.  I love their High Interest, Low Readability leveled books for older Emergent Readers. Here is a video of when we got our first shipment of Saddleback books:

We discuss using Language Experience Approach to debrief grade level concepts and we mention the power of Google Translate for students when they are alone and wanting to practice pronunciation and reading.

Kenzie shares a few great resources with us

She directs us to

If you think these are too high for your newcomers, just wait!  Soon you will need things like this to differentiate for the students who zoom ahead in reading.

Kenzie also recommends Nearpod  and we both vow to look into it more closely.

I mention QSSSA questioning strategy in this episode.  Here is a 30 min VirtuEL PD video on how to do that.  The example is social studies but the way you would question is the same for all classes.

Last but not least, I mention this great resource by that was shared with me by Jeffery Robinson of Thames Valley District School Board in Ontario. This great sight allows you to download High Interest, Low Reading Level books and also read them online.

As I’ve mentioned before, my strong recommendation for the newcomer ELD class is for you to co-create texts with high interest and grade level content using Language Experience approach. Here is a video of my students using the anchor charts we have created together.  For more on that, including videos, check out Part 1/Episode34

Thanks again to Kenzie Twitchell of Salt Lake City.  She shared some great links and also shared her interest in how to help her newest students.  Be sure to follow her at @KenzieT_SLC

Have a great school year, Eduheroes!

My best,


PS:  We hope to see you at one of the events below!  Also, feel free to reach out if I can help with training, coaching or modeling.  You can reach me at

Join us in Houston, Texas on Oct 4th for Rapid Literacy.

Join me in South Carolina on Sept 12 & 13 for Boosting Achievement with Carolina TESOL

Join me at MidTESOL18 on Sept 28 & 29th.


BAP034 – Part I of Activities for the Newcomer Classroom with Kenzie Twitchell

So what do we do in the Newcomer classroom after the first days of school?

Kenzie Twitchell is here to help us work through some standard routines that will have your students speaking, reading, comprehending and writing in English as quickly as possible.

You can listen to the show on Soundcloud, ITunes or right here:
Listen to “BAP034 Part I of Activities for the Newcomer Classroom with Kenzie Twitchell” on Spreaker.

Kenzie is going to be the person in charge of the ESL program at her campus.  She has experience working with language learners in general education classes but this year she will have an entire class of Level 1, Beginners.  Kudos to Kenzie for reaching out and trying to find the best practices for her new class!

Kenzie and another new teacher, Brianna Christine both watched a Beginning of the Year video I released on Youtube.

If you are new to teaching emergent English learners, you’ll love that video because it includes the five things I recommend to get your year off to a great start.  I highly recommend you watch that video if you have not already seen it.

Both ladies had the same question.  “So then what??”

So Kenzie and I set out to discuss what I believe to be the best practices for engaging and inspiring ELs to use the target language while building literacy as well.  Of course, you should be following the curriculum for your class.  But there are ways to deliver the content that honor what your students bring and align with Balanced Literacy.

For the last several years I have had students with low levels of literacy in their target language.  Kenzie also has had some experience with SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education).  So our discussion was one that takes those students in mind and also differentiates for the learner that has high levels of literacy.

In this show we discuss free voluntary reading (FVR) and how critical it is for our ELs (all students) to read for pleasure and read as much as possible.  The issue is that our students may not be able to read independently yet.  So we can use Language Experience Approach to help students gain literacy.  This approach is a way to engage students in reading and writing in English and offers a great opportunity for oral language practice.

Brianna was somewhat familiar with LEA but had more questions. Here is a video of me doing LEA.  This video actually offers a non-example and an example lesson:

The goals for English Language Development students are

  1. Get as many sight words as you can
  2. Get as much phonemic awareness as possible.

The goals for me are to

  1. Make my content comprehensible (grade level content)
  2. Develop their academic language
  3. Support grade level learning with opportunities for higher order thinking.

The text we read together needs to be somewhat comprehensible and we can do that by stopping and negotiating meaning in their native language or using other comprehensible input strategies such as visuals and gestures.  In these ways, we can help make text understandable to the student.  But we also need them to track the print so that they can start acquiring sight words and phonemic awareness as they acquire more English.

We can do a lot of grade level debriefing with language experience approach.  Those shared writing texts should remain available to the students for other purposes.

Above all, the students need to understand that it is critical that they read, read, read.  They should understand how many sight words they can gain by tracking print and how much those sight words pay off.  To get buy-in from the students, I show them the graphic above from Samson’s Classroom.  They need to see how much of the typical text is sight words or little high frequency words.  This video shows how my students work together to use our walls to gain English literacy and language.  Like all classes, they are awkward at first about working collaboratively, but you can see how engaged and empowered they become.

If they understand the techniques that build literacy… and they are gaining English comprehension every day… they start to be able to read and speak sooner verses later.

We also discuss the value of the following:

Following Twitter hashtags such as #Ellchat, #Ellchat_BkClub and #BoostingAchievement

Following Larry Ferlazzo on Twitter and also subscribing to his blog.

Finding anything that you can on his book, The ELL Teachers Toolbox .  Get the book or follow Larry for a ton of free resources.  The #ELLTeachersToolbox hashtag is also a great follow.

Follow Valentina Gonzalez, Tan Huynh, Carlota Holder and Emily Francis.  They are all masters at sharing research based, best practices for teachers of English learners!

I mention my training with the Gomez & Gomez Dual Language Model

I mentioned Stephen Krashen and this video by Valentina Gonzalez:

After all of this, Kenzie and I KEEP TALKING for another hour!  So we have a Part II of this topic coming out tomorrow.  In that episode, we talk about where you can take your students now that they are beginning to read and write in English.  We want to make the most of our time with the to support content area learning but also continuing to build their literacy and decoding skills.

Stay tuned for Part II!

I hope this has been helpful.  Thank you again, McKenzie Twitchell and Brianna Christine.

See you in Part II!


PS: Please reach out if you’d like to bring Seidlitz Education training to your district. We have thousands of happy teachers who can tell you that our trainings make a huge impact on their practice.  I’d love to tell you more about the different offerings.  My email is

Also! I’ll be in Houston, South Carolina and Kansas City in the next few months!  Hope to see you at one of these functions.

Join us in Houston, Texas on Oct 4th for Rapid Literacy.

Join me in South Carolina on Sept 12 & 13 for Boosting Achievement with Carolina TESOL

Join me at MidTESOL18 on Sept 28 & 29th.


BAP033 Sarah Williams and a Strong Start

If you’re teaching an ESL or Newcomer class… you’ll love this show!

I speak to Sarah Williams in this episode and I’m so glad we connected. She reached out because she is going to be a first year teacher and wanted to find people who do what she is doing.  I took this opportunity to share what works well for me at the beginning of the school year. You can listen to our conversation as a podcast right here.
Listen to “BAP033 Sarah Williams and a Strong Start to the School Year” on Spreaker.

I wrote a blog post about this last year so I’m reprinting that below.  I’m also including a youtube video on my top tips for starting the school year.  This video is 30 min long and goes through my top tips in more detail.

Sarah had already read the blogpost below when we spoke so we are going over the things in that video and also some of her ideas for classroom management.  In our conversation I learn about the PAX Good Behavior Game program for classroom management and self regulation. It’s great hear her passion for this program and her strong sense of how to partner with students to create classroom norms.

THANK YOU, Sarah for your willingness to come on the show.  I love your heart for English learners and I’m excited for you and the kids this year!

Newcomer Teachers’ Guide to a Strong Start

 I’m always scared at the beginning of the year! I worry that I won’t be able to meet all the needs of my new students.  I know this is silly because faith in them and high expectations are the two things they need the most. And we have that covered!

Image result for languagesAlso, many newcomer teachers agree that we have the most grateful students in the building. That is worth remembering if you are feeling nervous.

So no need to be scared!  But still, I like to be sure I am setting up a classroom culture that honors each child and maximizes every instructional minute.  Here are my non-negotiables for the beginning of the year… and oh! We do these with a lot of native language support to ensure comprehension and allow the students to reflect freely about these important topics:

Social Contract Created by the Students

It’s critical that none of the norms are created by me. But I usually have to ask them to be more specific than “respect.”  I might offer examples and non-examples such as tossing books at each other or laughing at someone who is taking a risk.  These are the questions we use which were told to me by someone who attended a Flippen Group training, Capturing Kids Hearts.

  • How do you want to be treated by your peers?
  • How do you think your peers want to be treated by you?
  • How do you want to be treated by your teacher?
  • How do you think your teacher wants to be treated by you?


Also, Dana Baker Larrick offered me these ppt slides that I used with my 2nd year students. Worked great!

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Dana Baker Larrick @ELLTeacherDBL

Create a “Banish IDK” Poster with the Students

I start with three questions that will allow any student to participate as soon as they are ready.  Questions like these support our English learners in other classes and in their daily life.

Instead of IDK

May I ask a friend for help?

Would you please repeat the question?

May I have some time to think?


Selfie Kahoots

We play a Kahoot I’ve made about myself on Day 1. They then get planning pages (download here)  to bring in one question about themselves so we can make a class #SelfieKahoot.


There are many more ideas for Back-to-School Kahoots here.  I also have many Kahoot ideas on this site and you can find ESL Kahoot ideas in these blogs on Kahoot’s website.

At least One Structured Conversation with A New Classmate.

This quick video shows one of my newcomer classes on the very first day this week.  We practiced the frame and all were willing to read this frame from their name tent.  “My name_____. My family is from _______ and I speak ______.”  It is a little awkward as it is Day 1 but we are setting the norm of finding and working with different partners in the room.

This is not too bad for the first day! By the end of the year, everyone is very comfortable with one another.  In fact, I get a lot of buy-in from the students by showing them videos of our students the year before. 

They see that everyone is following the Social Contract and they are all collaborating.  When I didn’t have recent video of my own students, I used this video of Gerson Bermudez.  

Your students can analyze the behavior and progress of the students in my class. I have many here.

Through all of this, and throughout the year, I am explaining the brain friendliness of the activities, and also stressing metacognitive strategies so they begin thinking about their thinking. They need to know that it will be easy to speak and understand English in the Newcomer class. And that the more they engage, the faster their progress will be.

I had so many things planned for my first week and we only got to a fraction of them.  No matter. My main goal was to make sure students knew that I was happy to have them in my class. That goal was met.

Have a great back to school season!