Free Webinar on Advocacy for English Learners

Were you able to join us for this free National Council of State Title III Directors webinar on EL Advocacy? Below are all the resources I shared.

Please consider joining the NCSTIIID! You’ll get the archived video and you’ll be joining a group of passionate stakeholders who are supporting English learners in a variety of ways. We need you! Join here.

Grass Roots Advocacy

by Carol Salva

The effort I am spotlighting today is One World Club started by Hannah Keller of Spring Branch ISD in Houston, Texas.  More efforts and ideas are at the bottom of this post.

One World Club was not started by the faculty but by a student community member that saw a need and took action.

Shortly after meeting some of our immigrant students, Hannah began tutoring the new arrival students with her friends. She organized events with so the newcomers would be included in activities like football games, museum trips, and other outside of school activities.


She then approached us about creating a formal club.  She began making posters and recruiting her native-born friends as well as students new to the country.  Soon it became a club for anyone and everyone.  The club helps with tutoring and navigating the norms of school but above all, it is a place where authentic friendships grow.



An Advocacy Ripple Effect

The first picture below is of two newcomers from OWC who started a math club this year. It’s a club for students who love math and students who struggle with math. Their goal is to partner students to help each other with peer tutoring.

The second picture is our 2018 Trick or Treat meet up.  Two students who are not immigrants showed up because they want to be a part of the club. They saw posters about it, they signed up and heard about the gathering. They came to hang out and traded phone numbers with our new ELs and said they were excited about more gatherings.  Imagine the positive outcomes for ALL the young people in attendance.


Families Stepping Up

The club’s reach is well beyond the building. Hannah’s family has hosted social gatherings where community members, faculty and school board members are in attendance. I’ve also hosted events in my home.  The adult and student friendships that develop at these gatherings are what our newcomer families say they need the most.  They need friends to help them navigate all of the unknowns of their new surroundings.


Opportunities for ELs to Give Back

The One World Club also offers ALL members an opportunity to give back to our community.  These young people (newcomers and native-born) are passionate about serving others.  This offers every member a chance to feel pride, dignity and the authentic respect they deserve.  Photos here of visiting a nursing home as well as grounds beautification around the school:


Standing with ELs

An example of standing in solidarity with immigrants, the club organized a “Walk to School Day” when public threats to Muslims began circulating on social media with a date specified.  Many of our Muslim girls stayed home from school in fear but they were aware that the club was organized and walking together from different locations to support them. Walk to School day is set to be an annual tradition where we celebrate healthy habits and friendship.


The club is making an immeasurable impact on our English learners and their families.  The newcomers have gained English quickly and some of the students (including SLIFE and newcomers) spoke to our school board to explain what the club has meant to them in an effort to see a similar club in other schools.   Another high school in our district has already started their One World Club.


The students have presented as a panel at our Region IV TEA Service Center as well as our State TexTESOL Conference.  They explain how teachers can help students with simple sheltered strategies and allowing these clubs to be a part of their school and community.


As requested in the webinar: Here is the 1 hour Video PD with three of our students (including SLIFE)

It is no surprise that Hannah Keller was awarded the State of Texas Student Hero award for our area.  This prestigious award is only awarded to 15 students across the state each year. Donna Bahorich, chair of District 6 of the Texas State Board of Education told us that there were so many impressive students but Hannah’s actions stood out among them all.


The efforts of One World Club are magnified and supported by local community partners.  Our district has an immigrant counselor, Patricia Economides who supports the club many hours outside of her workday.  She and other district employees such as Tommy Knapik, Avery Hammond, Olivia Shirley, Sara Russo, and many others bring support and opportunities to our EL families.  We have many faculty heroes for the ELs in our community!


Another very noteworthy partner is Trina Morford, a community member who organizes the Daily Dose education program for our district and others. She brings missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to provide ESL classes and more to our parents and students.

Trina is a community member who does much more than this impressive program.  She helped organize Unity in the Community social gatherings and meetings to specifically respond to challenges that are faced by our new families.

Our local outreach center, Family Point Resources, is able to bring all of us together and is doing incredible work with our students and their families. Coach Brandon Stribling, Ms. Stephanie Hruzek and everyone at the center go above and beyond to advocate for our ELs.  In the words from their website: “FamilyPoint Resources engages our community in supportive relationships that build hope, meet needs, and transform lives.  We accomplish our mission by working toward mutual growth through listening, playing, and learning.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Examples of their work include a partnership with Harris Country Department of Education to provide many services from GED and ESL classes to grocery programs, sports programs and other ways to include and support all families in our area.  Check out their upcoming events here.

The United Way 2-1-1 hotline is a fantastic resource for ANY services our ELs need.  We can advocate locally by making sure that our community members know about this hotline that serves thousands of people across the United States and parts of Canada.  They need to know that they need only call 2-1-1 and that support is available in many different languages, 24 hours a day for free.

Thank you for wanting to advocate for your language learners and new families.  If you have any questions, please reach out!

For more free webinars by the National Council of State Title III Directors, visit their website here.

Carol Salva

Seidlitz Education Consultant

Proud Advisory Board Member for NCSTIIID. Join us!

Twitter: @MsSalvaC


BAP037 Older ELs Learning to Write while Writing to Learn

Writing!  ELs need to learn to write but they also need to write to learn. And every one of them can do that. Listen to the show here or read my thoughts on this below:

This podcast episode and blog post are all about writing with English learners.  My focus for reflection is about how any English learner (pre-literate or nearly fluent) can write… and also how all of them can use writing to propel their learning. This picture is a student in Emily Francis’ class in Concord, NC.  Emily is an EL teacher hero who began her career in Elementary and this year is teaching high school.  (You’ll want to check out her blog and her story!)

I have this picture because Emily and other Twitter PLN members contributed ideas about writing with SLIFE in our weekly twitter chat (thanks everyone!) Many of those posts are included in the Twitter Moment at the end of this blogpost.

In the show I mention Abydos International, formerly the NJ Writing Project.  So there is the link to their services. I’m not doing the trainings anymore but I keep my certification current.  You can’t get better training for your writing teachers than Abydos.

Content Area Writing

Content teachers, this first part is for you.  In this episode, I use Math as an example.  I get questions all the time from content teachers who are concerned for their English learners.  This is understandable because most assessments after a certain age are READING assessments.  What I mean is that the test needs to be read and comprehended for the student to be able to be successful.
I offer to you that, in my opinion, the math content teacher’s main goal is to teach MATH.
Don’t misunderstand me.  I realize that all teachers are language teachers.  We have to be.  But there is a slight difference in our main goal.  Too often I see our English learners gain enough language to navigate and assessment but they are lacking in the content mastery because they were not taught at grade level.
I fully realize that it is difficult to teach grade-level standards to a student who does not comprehend the language of instruction. However, it is totally possible.  As educators, we just deserve more examples of what it could look like for our grade level and content.   I have many examples elsewhere on this website and if you have a specific learning standard in mind, reach out!  If I don’t have an example, I know my PLN will.

 What can writing look like in the content class?

In Clearing the Way, Working with Teenage Writers, author Tom Romano stresses that content teachers outside of Language Arts do not need to teach writing, but they should all realize that writing has us using language- and that is what makes us think.

So writing in Math can look like a journal where students reflect on their learning.  That can be with frames such as “I noticed…”  and “I solved that by…” I had the pleasure of being a parent to a child who was in a language rich math classroom.  Anthony’s homework always included a reflection piece.  There were less calculations and more writing about math and thinking about how things can be solved.  The EL scores took a huge jump in that class because the teacher, Joseph Maurer, understood how to use language to teach math.  This is a video that includes reflections from a new math teacher and also some reflections from the students in Mr. Maurer’s math class.  They are talking about how much conversation there is in their math classrooms and why it is important to their learning. You can see how an English learner would be gaining more and more language and literacy (and knowledge of math) in these classes.  And how they should be able to write some reflections. The two big ideas for this PD video are reviewing your objectives with the class (with attention to the STUDENTS using the vocabulary) and a Social Contract so that students feel safe collaborating in class.  For more on these ideas, check out this blogpost.

The students in that video are explaining why it is important for them to produce the language of math with each other and on their own.  As I said, I have been in this classroom and there is a great deal of writing.  They are writing to learn.  Writing personalizes our learning.  Each student will come into the writing wherever they are.  
On the show, I promised to include examples in these notes and it so happens that Kirsten Foti just reached out and reminded me of how powerful Roving Paragraph Frames can be for ELs. She is even finding success using it with some of her students who have learning differences. I learned this technique from John Seidlitz and included it on p. 67 & 68 of Boosting Achievement.  If you don’t have the book, check out this post by Kirsten Foti that explains it all and includes writing samples from her ELs.

In the English Language Development (ELD) Classroom

As the ELD teacher, my goal is to have students so interested that they forget that they are learning a language.  We Skype with archeologists, we Skype with other classrooms, we connect with people in our community and other authentic opportunities.  The students do a lot of speaking before I ask them to write.  We use sentence frames for speaking and for writing and we often use paragraph frames.  This video shows how we wrote scholarship essays with SLIFE students that all turned out to be over 400 words.  Each became personalized essays because the kids cared a great deal about the topic.

When we think about the writing process, we should consider that every child can participate in all stages.  if you are not sure how to include them, look at this Booksnap of pages 86 &87 of Boosting Achievement.  (quick thanks to Tara Martin for the idea of Booksnaps!) The table in this photo offers a way for pre-literate students to engage in every stage of the writing process.

Sometimes teachers ask me how we can make students write in English.  Well, the kids have taught me that we are taking the wrong approach when trying to make or force them to do anything.  Another goal I have is to always look for opportunities where they REALLY care about their writing.  One way to do that is to give kids choice and voice in what they write.
THE BEST resource I have found for this is Noa Daniel.  She is a teacher, a consultant, and a podcaster out of Toronto.  Her “Building Outside the Blocks” approach to project-based learning has changed everything for me!  We now build outside the blocks of time and students are empowered by selecting when they will present their work to the class.  They care a lot about what they write because Noa’s projects honor students in many different ways.  Here are a couple of examples.  In this one, Personal Playlist, my students had to come up with songs that tell about them.  One is a song that makes them nostalgic, another is an identity song and the last is a motivator.  Watch this short video to see Natalia’s project. She was new to the English language this year:

Here are the planning pages for this project, with credit and thanks to Noa Daniel.  I have only adapted them slightly for language learners.
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I have three other projects for your students to consider.  ** Notice that I said for your students to consider.**   KEY to all of this is choice.  I would never force a child to tell about anything they did not want to tell or write about.  I always have a “free choice” option if a student wants to write and present about something entirely different.  We just need to support them with some frames and set expectations for the final product. Here are planning pages for a few other projects including the scholarship essay:
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Thanks for taking the time to reflect on all of this with me. I hope it is useful in helping you include SIFE and all ELs in the act of writing.

Many hugs,


PS: Please check out all the places I will be presenting!   I hope to see you at one of them.  Also, remember that I am traveling across the US and Canada to bring Boosting Achievement and Rapid Literacy training to you and your colleagues.  Reach out if we can help!

As promised, here is the Twitter Moment with even more ideas from our PLN

As teachers of English language or teachers of content, we should have a goal of engaging students in the writing process.  Many educators out there agree with me.  Check out this Twitter Moment from our last #BoostingAchievement Twitter chat.  And join us every Thursday at 7pm CT for a quick 30 min #BoostingAchievement chat about raising the bar and supporting all ELs.

Not at WIDA2018? Here Are All the Resources!

Want to attend my “Hacking Literacy for SLIFE” session at WIDA 2018?

No worries, I have all the resources for you right here.  Not everyone can get to these amazing conferences and I feel that it is important to make sure EVERY teacher of ELs has a way to find practical techniques that they can use immediately.  Your work is just too important.  (SLIFE: Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education)

Also! This is a great guide to offering this session at your campus or at a different conference. Spread the love!

Know what else?? Angela Goetz helped me record the session to Facebook LIVE.  Here it is:

So I only have about an hour and 15 min with the good folks in Detroit this Wednesday but I will make it worth their while to come to my session.  I’m going to squeeze in as many practical techniques as I can.  And my goal is for the majority of them to be things we can do in ANY classroom.  I want to model those strategies that are critical for our ELs but actually boost the learning of everyone.  When you offer PD, do your best to allow the participants to experience these things and have them reflect now and again on how they affect THEIR learning.   We could all use reminders!

I am going to start by acknowledging the challenges of SLIFE. The ones on this slide are the big issues I hear most often and they are valid.  But I’ll also remind teachers that we have a solution for each of these issues.  We just need some practical techniques that work for all kids and also build literacy for our SIFE.


First I’m going to post my objectives.  POST the objectives… not just show them on a slide.  I will need to pack some chart paper but this is worth it because those objectives are a visual for students.  There are plenty of reasons for doing this and I want to use just a few minutes to explain why and what I’m doing.

When I review the Content and Language Objectives on the wall, I will draw everyone’s attention to each word by pointing to it as I read.  I’ll use some gestures of pointing to my chest and my ear while I say “Listen to me first. This is what it sounds like…” Our first Turn & Talk will be about how I opened the session/lesson.  I’ll ask participants to consider if they use Exit Tickets and why they would do that.  What I’m trying to get to here is that there are several things we can do to build literacy and language in the first few minutes of every class no matter what you teach.  And those actions are important for all the students in the class.  Here is a great powerpoint by Burleson ISD that explains why you would want to frame your lesson.  It’s about helping all students filter information and have a clear learning target for the class.  It isn’t hurting anyone that I’m pointing to the words and modeling the pronunciation.  In fact, most participants agree that they would benefit from hearing new vocabulary like “Circumference of Circles” or “Homolugus Pairs” before they are expected to use those words in class.


Before we get started and put on our “student” hats, I will ask participants to think about the student(s) they support.  It can be one student or some characteristics of the demographic they are most concerned about.  If they are in a session supporting SLIFE, they might think about the students who are struggling in mainstream classes. Or they might think about the teachers who teach Newcomer English Development.  We need to focus on a specific group for moments of reflection so that we can take reminders or new learning and apply it to our own specific reality.

More on differentiation below.


Questioning Techniques I’ll be Using

At this point, I will have already modeled one or two QSSSA questions.  (You’ll see me do it again at the end of the session) . Seidlitz Education consultants ALWAYS model this questioning strategy.  Honestly, I can’t see it modeled too much.  As a teacher, I want to internalize this technique and see as many different examples as possible.  So the one I will have used for this group might sound something like:

Question:  Why would a teacher model the reading of the objectives?

Signal:  Show me a thumbs up when you can complete this sentence frame.

Stem: A teacher would model the reading of the objectives because…

Share:  Turn to your elbow partner and speak in a complete sentence and the word “model”

Assess: I’ll roll a pair of dice to call on someone.

There are several sheltered strategies wrapped up in the way I am questioning them.  I will show this slide and ask them to reflect on them.  Am I holding everyone accountable for conversations?  Am I offering a low-stress way to produce language?  Am I offering wait time with a signal to indicate readiness?  Is my question worth asking?  If you’d like more learning about this questioning technique, check out this #VirtuEL18 video by me & Tina Beene.  We break it down for a social studies classroom but it works in all classrooms.

Later in the session, QSSSA will be a norm and I will try to remember to also use W.I.T. on someone to model how we can up the rigor of our questioning for any particular student.  I want to give teachers a way to differentiate in the moment.  So at some point, a participant will be called on with the QSSSA technique.  They will answer the question and at that point I might ask one of the following:

Why do you think that?

Is there another way to say that?

Tell me more about that.

This usually catches folks off guard and that is okay.  We always have a way to get support.  I’ll have the “What to Say Instead of IDK” poster somewhere in the room as well.

Instead of IDK Poster

Posters like these are important for every classroom.  We could do a whole PD on why that is.  But I like to have one up for these short sessions as a visual and also a support to participants.  It’s just another opportunity to model how our ELs & SLIFE can find success in any classroom with the same supports that are available and important for all students.  This one, however, is one that builds survival English right away.  These are some of the first sentences we learn in the ESL classroom.

I love to make this poster with my students so that we can discuss how to use it and why.  It also allows me to start with just a few questions and later add more complex responses such as “I don’t know the answer to that question but something I do know is…”

“Elevate the dialog all year!” – John Seidlitz

Ice Breaker

Some folks might skip an ice-breaker in a short session but having students feel comfortable working in your classroom is SO EXTREMELY important that I want to be sure to take a few minutes to do a ‘get to know you’ activity and have participants reflect on it.  The sooner your students feel comfortable, the sooner real learning can occur.  Look into Stephen Krashen’s Affective Filter Hypothesis for more on that.  This is also an opportunity to again think about their own specific demographic of students and how they feel in their classrooms.

Fundamentals of Balanced Literacy

In order to “hack” literacy, we need a basic understanding of Balanced Literacy, in my opinion.  That training is something many upper elementary and secondary teachers just don’t receive. Or we get training but the techniques used with 5 year olds just don’t make sense for my middle or high school classroom. 

I do an entire day of “Rapid Literacy” training where we go deep into it and also lots of examples of how we can align most of our activities to the principles of Balanced Literacy.  In this session, my goal is to give an over-arching idea to participants about best practice (or remind those who have Balanced Lit training) and then help them reflect on everything I’m doing (including the things mentioned above) and how they support literacy development.  Decoding skills, specifically.

If we are going to hack this, the STUDENTS also need a clear understanding of Balanced Literacy and why we roll out instruction this way.  Like our secondary teachers, they don’t need all the details (morphemes, phonemes, phonological vs. phonemic awareness…).  But they WILL benefit from understanding what we are doing and why we are doing it.  I want to capitalize on the fact that SLIFE are older learners.  That means they have more capacity for metacognitive awareness.  That is huge when learning to read or learning anything.  This is where it is critical that we train our students to understand how a person gains sight words and how a person gains phonological awareness.

Sight Words and Phonemic Awareness

Sight words…they need these!  The more sight words they get, the easier it is to decode text.  They also need to start to internalize the sounds of our letters and the blends, and the crazy English patterns of spelling.  What seems to work well in Kindergarten, spending time with the alphabet and lists of  Dolch Sight words, isn’t engaging for older learners.  Also, those sounds and words are very confusing for second language learners.  But they are incredibly important to build so we will learn them in context!  They will learn so many words and sounds of English letters same way they learned the word “McDonalds” or the word “iphone.”  They got it with multiple exposures, in context.  They start to realize that the “m” makes the /m/ sound because they recognize it from that other word or when they see their friend Maria’s name in print many times.

Please remember that these kids know more English EVERY DAY.  So the difficulty of all of this is lessened the more we do it.

Co-Creating Text

I will model Language Experience Approach or at least a few sentences so participants can see how I create a piece of mentor text with my class.  If you want more on that, check out this post and video where I am doing it with my classroom and also modeling QSSSA.  It’s a great video because there is some bad teaching in there that I point out.  (Super important to reflect with our specific goals for students in mind.)

Back to Differentiation

One of my main forms of differentiation in my classroom is the reflection piece for students. Each of my learners are at a different place in their learning for content, language and background. I am constantly reminding students of their role in the acquisition of language and literacy.

If they JUST arrived, their main focus should be on getting the ‘gist’ and staying attentive when we are speaking in English. They should know that their will be stops & checks for understanding with native language if need be, but their main goal is to attend to print and listening for phonemic awareness (sounds of the letters) and sight word recognition (building more automaticity with high-frequency words).  If they just stay attentive, they will start to internalize all of it with multiple exposures in context that allow them time to think and have conversations about their learning.

The long-term language learner should realize that their role is to continue to build sight words and phonemic awareness but they are also to analyze the structures of the language and to be on the look out for elevated dialog.  I will use words & phrases such as “significant” and “in a similar fashion” in my language objectives and in my co-created text.  I will quickly point out their meaning but the walls are my co-teacher for much of the year.

This is very important.  It is critical that the students realize their role and also for our content teachers to be aware of all of this.  That way the math/science/social studies teachers can do simple things like reading the objectives aloud and pointing to the words.  The student knows why they are doing it and the teacher can feel good about moving literacy forward.

Tracking Print

I am excited to use Tan Huynh’s forward to model tracking print and also an activity where I read aloud and stop for students to say the next word.  It is a compelling piece of writing and you have it here on the handout.  I will model a few other ways teachers can have students tracking print during this session.  Using Kahoot, News In Levels, My cellphone to record myself reading aloud… there are many ways to read WITH students that don’t seem “baby-ish”

Many of those techniques are on this website.  In fact, here are the notes from last year’s WIDA conference.

Here is the handout.

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My hope is to open the session with this video.  I think it is the perfect example of what is possible when you partner with your SLIFE students and with other EL teachers. (thank you Emily Francis!)

I’ll also be sharing some books by Saddleback Educational Publishing.  They are like GOLD!  They’re at booth 218 if you are at the conference. Otherwise find them at

If you are going to do a session with your faculty, I would also suggest this video by Valentina Gonzales.  In 4 minutes, Valentina Gonzalez shows the power of Comprehensible Input.

Thanks to everyone who shares information with me like what you see above.  If you have any questions or input, please just reach out. I’d love to hear from you!



PS:  What are the needs of your teachers?  We can come to your district and help you inspire your learners and your teachers.  Just reach out for a free consultation.  I’m at  or on Twitter at @MsSalvaC.