BAP045 Judie Haynes and Karen Nemeth of ELLCHAT

Twitter chats are great, aren’t they?  If you’re on Twitter for any length of time, and you’re there because you serve English learners, you will likely see the #Ellchat hashtag roll across your screen.

Follow that hashtag and you will open yourself up to a supportive community and endless opportunities for professional growth.
You can find this show in your favorite podcast app or listen to it right here:
Listen to “BAP045 Judie Haynes and Karen Nemeth of #ELLCHAT” on Spreaker.

The hashtag began as the name of a weekly Twitter chat.  To this day, you can tune in to Twitter on Monday nights at 9pm ET to see people following the hashtag to respond to the questions put forth by Judie Haynes and Karen Nemeth.

I had the honor of  interviewing these ladies and it was such a delight!

My respect for Haynes and Nemeth grew more and more as they explained all they have done over the years to keep the chat alive. During the show, we talk about how they met and how they began hosting the chat each week.

Through this interview I learned that both Karen and Judie have been board members and are active in NJ TESOL for years.  Judie started the chat with Linda Hahner in 2009 and Karen joined in 2010.

The three of us agreed that Shaeley Santiago was a critical contributor to the weekly chat.  Shaeley regularly helps with questions and, since September of 2017, she has been archiving all the chats on this google site.

Thank you, Shaeley!

What is the Secret?

Many of us are now running our own Twitter chats because we see the incredible value of what #ELLCHAT is offering our field.  As educators, we know that collaboration is the answer! As we attempt to replicate what Judie and Karen have done, we might want to hear what they feel have been important over the years.  They talk about the following points.  Much of this they learned through trial and error:

  • Being purposeful in asking questions that build momentum vs asking for opinions.  Karen mentioned that they don’t ask “What do you think about…?” but rather “What is a challenge you face regarding..?”
  • Ordering the questions in a particular way. Over the years they have played around with what types of questions to ask first.  They may start with a challenge and lead up to asking for resources.
  • Supporting people with models.  Judie mentioned that some questions don’t work out.  People don’t respond well to them or don’t answer them. Sometimes they will answer the question themselves to offer a model response.
  • Staying away from politics or asking questions that are more general and not about a specific statement or event in the news.  Example from a recent chat: What can teachers do to provide a culturally responsive environment when news stories and local or national events may highlight intolerant attitudes or actions?
  • Actually running the chat. They moderate and shut down voices that are not collegial. This likely helps people feel safe in the chat.  They also ask people to keep their conversations on topic.  (I’ve been guilty!) Judie said they learned to be gentle about this and acknowledged that it is a challenge even for her to resist being social and getting off topic when she sees friends joining.
  • Getting into the questions immediately as the chat begins. They ask for introductions but don’t make a big deal about it so they can get to the questions asap.
  • Fancy graphics are not necessary.  I love my graphics but I can appreciate that they are not necessary for a strong, successful chat.  Karen and Judie have proven that the quality of your chat is what people return for each week.
  • Consistency.  I thanked them more than once for all the years they have put into this chat. It has been there for us over and over again.  It has surely been a significant factor in the success of the chat and I feel that everyone in our PLN should be grateful for their service.

Why Should we be Grateful?

In a field where you can feel isolated as a teacher, our PLN is vitally important. As educators, we know the value of collaboration and we also know that many teachers cannot get to conferences or quality professional development.  #ELLChat has endured for almost a decade and has grown into somewhat of a culture with people using the #ELLCHAT hashtag 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

Judie and Karen run about 40 chats a year.  The time and energy they devote to “harvesting” information and creating questions are astounding to me.

They mentioned Tan Huyhn, Valentina Gonzales and other folks who are now in the PLN.  It was great to hear that they feel there are so many important voices in the collaboration.  We talked about the importance of collaboration among thought leaders like these to the new teachers with fresh eyes!

They often present at conferences on why people should gather on social media as a form of professional learning.  We all had to laugh when they describe the astonishment of younger teachers and those who complain that the veteran teachers are not willing to get onto social media.  At one point, Karen said, “Hey.. we are at retirement age and we are the cool kids!”  Ha! I couldn’t agree more.

I hope this show has convinced you to join us on Twitter as we collaborate around the best ways to support language learners.  If you’re already connected with us there, I’m so pleased to have offered you a window into the world of ELLChat.  It truly is the glue that holds our PLN together and we can all be grateful to Judie, Karen and Shaeley for the contributions they are making to our field.

#ELLchat also has a presence on Facebook so check them out there as well.

You can find all things Karen Nemeth at her Language Castle Website here. She has authored more than 10 books and has a great newsletter for people at that site where she has collected a lot of important information for her followers.

You’ll find more on Judie and the work she does here at her Everything ESL website. Look for the relaunch of her new site soon!

Check out her new book, Teaching to Strengths; Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress She authored this book with Debbie Zacarian Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz. While it is not an ESL book, it is definitely one that is important for the demographic I am teaching.

Thank you again Judie & Karen.  We are indebted to you and we look forward to the next 10 years of #ELLCHAT!

And THANK YOU for tuning in, for your passion for ELs and all you are doing! Please reach out.  I’d love to hear from you.




PS:  Let’s connect IRL!  Can you make one of these events??

TexTESOL IV Saturday, Feb 23.

NABE March 7-9  in Orlando.  I have Breakout Sessions

NAELPA, formerly NCSTIIID, is having our annual meeting on March 6 in Orlando. Come! I’m the keynote & on a panel that day.

Michigan Association of Bilingual Educators  (MABEMI) May 9 & 10. I’m a keynote and I have break out sessions

Awesome $129 rate for Rapid Literacy pre-conference May 8 through MABEMI.($99 if you go as a group!)

Long Island ESOL March 23rd. I’m on a panel and I have sessions.

Andrea Honigsfeld will be the Keynote Speaker for #VirtuEL19! – Let’s get some IRL watch parties together!




BAP044 M.A.D.P.D. and Why it Matters

English Learners need your help.  We need you to present at #MADPD.

You might be thinking that I’m talking to the teachers you support.  Or the teachers you learn from.  I am.   But I’m also making this plea to YOU.  We need all administrators, educators, student teachers and anyone in the field of education to take up this challenge.  You have something to share and it is time for you to share it.

Today’s episode is a plea and more explanation about the online event, #MADPD.  I promise, it will have SO many positive outcomes for you and for English Learners.  Listen to me and Derek Rhodenizer explain why and how. You can listen to the show on your favorite podcast app or right here:

Basically, you’ll present for a few minutes and do a Q&A for few minutes on ONE THING that makes a difference in your classroom.  Your ONE thing, could be exactly what a teacher needs to see to make a difference in their class.  And that will affect English learners in a positive way.

To affect change the way we need to, we ALL need to see that it’s our responsibility to share in a way that breaks down barriers for teachers of ELs around the world.  #MADPD (Make a Difference PD) does just that.

Please SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL HERE  to present your session over YouTube on May 5th.

As an example, I am including a MADPD session by Jennifer Hunter-Dillon.

Jennifer is from the Thames Valley District School Board and she presented for the first time at the 2018 MADPD event.  Her session is phenomenal!  I didn’t even understand the words “Pedagogical Documentation” when I watched it and Jennifer de-mystified it for me.  Great, powerful session.  But just like me… her technology failed her.  AND just like me, it was not a big deal.  She simply re-recorded and her video was put into the lineup for folks to come back to. Thankfully.  Her video has so many views!  Imagine how many English learners her video is positively impacting!

Several of our Twitter PLN friends have presented at MADPD in the last 2 years.

Here are just a FEW of our MADPD videos that inspired us to start doing more online PD a few years back.

Dora Deboer on Augmenting Language with AR and VR

Valentina Gonzalez: Keys to an Engaging and Effective ELLs Classroom

Tan Huynh: Words that Matter. Teaching Academic Vocabulary to ELs

Once again, here is that


Your proposal .WILL get accepted.  Join us!

Thanks for listening to my rant about this. I’m just very grateful to everyone I learn from and I am passionate about everyone sharing to help the EL education community improve our craft.  That’s what we all need and exactly what our ELs need.



Also, Join me at #MABEMI19! We are going to have an AMAZING conference!  I’ll be the keynote and I’m excited about my Rapid Literacy preconference day.  All the details are here.

Check out my friends’ podcasts that were mentioned in this show!

BAP043 Unit of Study – MLK and Kindness

YES! This works in 2021 and beyond.

Here is a full lesson with links and ideas for extension. Any time of year is a great time to talk about leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his role in history.

A focus on equality and social justice come at a time when our recent immigrants need them most. In this show, I will go into detail on how I teach a unit of study that begins with a review of American history and ends with Acts of Kindness.

You can listen to the show in your favorite podcast app or right here:
Listen to “BAP043 Unit of Study MLK and Kindness” on Spreaker.

Thank you to Shilpa Palawat for reminding me that teachers would like ideas about Martin Luther King in the newcomer classroom and to Emily Francis for reminding us that we need to support our ELs with their content area classes such as US History.

We begin with the following objective at the knowledge/understanding level but you can see in the image that we will be at much higher levels of Bloom’s by the end of the unit.

Content Objective: I will identify Martin Luther King, Jr. and be able to explain his role in American History.

Language Objective: I will explain my learning to my partner by completing the following sentence frame:  “Martin Luther King, Jr. was important to American history because …”

Below I will explain the first lesson step by step.  In the bigger picture, I will be using these materials over several days so my content objectives change to cover verb tenses, social studies vocabulary, idioms as well as  Author’s purpose and more. Initially, my goal is to give my language learners enough of the basic facts to elicit rich conversations about social justice and equality. 

A larger goal I have is to make sure each of my immigrant students understands the sacrifices made by Dr. King and other civil rights leaders.  I want them to know that they are vitally important to the fabric of our nation.  I want them to know that there are so many people then and now that are willing to fight for their inclusion. And that this great man showed us how to fight with love.  These are messages that should not be lost on our English language learners.

The First Lesson

 Our students need to understand the basic facts about Dr. King’s life.

I roll out this first lesson in a TALK, READ, TALK, WRITE  (#TRTW) format. If you want to know more about the TRTW approach, I recommend this VirtuEL17 video by Nancy Motley, the author of Talk, Read, Talk, Write.

Talk #1:  The following quote is on the board for the students to consider. “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  I tell students that this is what is known as the “Golden Rule.” and I ask them “What does this mean to you?”   To ensure that all students have low stress opportunities to think and share, I use QSSSA for Talk #1.   If you’re unfamiliar with this great technique, it will change your life!  John Seidlitz developed this acronym for using several sheltered strategies together called Question/Signal/Stem/Share/Assess.  Valentina Gonzalez wrote a wonderful post about it here.

Read: Shared reading or partner reading of the text. To help them understand his biography,I have adapted a piece of text, Students work to answer questions that will also be in a Kahoot at the end of class.  My students know that they should be tracking print with their eyes when ever anyone reads a text aloud. They are trained to understand that they will get more sight words and more phonemic awareness the more they follow along as others are reading.  (Some of my higher students leave the room to do the reading and the collaboration in the library.  Most often I prefer that they stay because my groups need high, medium and lower levels of English.

Talk #2: I have linked here a quiz sheet about Dr. King’s life. Some answers are from the bibliography and others are meant to be researched.  I don’t care how they get the answers, my goal is to have them collaborating about the quiz sheet to prepare for the Kahoot.

Here is the link to play the Kahoot:

I have to give credit to Kahoot Hero NekyaHB.  She created a great Kahoot 3 years ago which I duplicated and adapted for my language learners.

I love the engagement I have with the students because they know there will be a Kahoot over the material.  But I don’t want to waste this engagement at the knowledge level of these facts.  I make sure to use visuals in the Kahoot so I can ask students what they notice.  We stop between many of the questions to discuss their thinking and their questions.  You may like this video on how I use Kahoot with newcomers.

The quiz sheet and the Kahoot are guided activities.   Throughout bot,h I use QSSSA to have students discussing their connections and thoughts about the work of Dr. King.  We also generate more questions during this time.  Native language is allowed but we use frames for English speaking and we do a lot of reading aloud in unison.

Write: After the Kahoot we have a quick write to summarize our thoughts about Dr. King.  I do this as a shared writing with my newcomers.  I use their ideas but I scribe the brainstorm and the free write in English.  See more on the Language Experience Approach here.  My intermediate/2nd year students do this more independently.  They still offer ideas for the brainstorm and I scribe them, but they compose their paragraphs independently.



So many lessons follow this one using and building on these materials. Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo, we have many videos and other great resources from his blog. Here is just one example: New videos for teaching about Martin Luther King

Last year I added a Flipgrid opportunity for my students.  Thanks to Jess Bell, who sent me this flipgrid example.  She has her students recording what their dream is.  The intro video should get the students off to a great start.

Helping ELs Feel the Love

One of our final lessons happens around Valentine’s Day but I’ve done it at other times of the year during Kindess week or any time we want to focus on random acts of kindness.  This blog post shows you how we had authentic writing opportunities using what we learned about MLK. 

There is quite a bit we can teach when we couple Kahoot, videos, adapted text and Flipgrids with our language and learning targets.  Especially when we are using great sheltered strategies techniques.

I hope you found this helpful.  I can’t think of a better time to be using the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in our classrooms.

Thanks for reading!


PS:  Please reach out if you are interested in consulting or training. I continue to be inspired by the educators in every district where I work.  We all want the same thing.  We want to help students be successful.  It’s my honor to share strategies that support those goals!  You can reach Kathy Belanger of Seidlitz Education to book me at  Or contact me directly at


BAP042 A Fresh Start for The ESL Classroom

Even the best lesson ideas can fall flat if we are struggling to get the classroom to follow our directions.  Things can also get off track when students don’t feel challenged or honored for their ideas.  My goal is to engage all of my ELs and work with grade level content while students gain literacy and language.   Does this sound unattainable in the ESL classroom?  It’s totally attainable!  But you might need to restart things to make it happen.  You can listen to this podcast here, on iHeartRadio, or in your favorite podcast app:

Listen to “BAP 042 Tips for a Fresh Start” on Spreaker.

If you feel like you are ready to just start over now is a great time.  A holiday break, a long weekend, or even a regular weekend is a great time to reset expectations with your students and try out new activities  I thought you might like to see my top tips for getting a class back on track so here they are:

  1. Routines. Have them and spend time training your students on the routines.  What should they do when they come in?  Where do they turn in homework? What should they do if we finish their work early? Spend some time explicitly teaching routines and then stick by them.
  2. Co-create Classroom Norms  It doesn’t have to be a social contract but get imput from your students. Revisit why the norms are important and allow students to help you create them so they feel ownership in the learning environment.  Here is a show that goes deeper into the steps and rationale for creating a social contract.
  3. Language Experience Approach as often as possible.  Co-creating text with your students will automatically increase engagement because you are honoring their ideas and allowing them to speak and contribute to the text you are scribing. You can write about a recent experience but you can also sumarize a video or spark interest and preview grade level vocabulary or content that will be taught in their content classes.  Check out this blog post and video for a lot more on how to do LEA with your students.
  4. Use questioning strategies that boost achievement and set ALL students up for success.  All of your students will be engaged if you use QSSSA.  If you need to know more about this technique, you can watch this 30 min PD video where my colleague Tina Beene and I explain it in the context of Social Studies.

    But you can see by this graphic that you can use this strategy with any content area.  Thanks to Michelle Gill for this great script to help teachers question in this way. She shared it on Twitter with this tweet that links to the download. Also try differentiating with W.I.T. when you know a student can elaborate more on an answer.  (W= Why do you think that?  I= Is there another way to say that? T= Tell me more about that.)  This is also a great tool for students to internalize as they learn to elaborate and develop ideas for writing.

  5. Banish IDK:  Explain to your students that it is totally OKAY not to know the answer to a question.  But from now on, we won’t be saying “I don’t know” anymore.  From this point forward, they can use one of these questions to be able to find more information.  By teaching students what to say instead of I don’t know, you’re empowering all students to be successful and also giving kids a life skill they can use immediately in other areas of their lives.


Use Kahoot!   A lot!  Don’t just review with this awesome platform. You can do so much more! Here is a page with many ways to use the platform.  ESL teachers can use some of the Kahoot Studio quizzes to pre-teach vocabulary for content teachers.  You can let your students create Kahoot quizzes and more.  Did you know that there is now a single-player app?  Any of your Kahoot quizzes can be played by a student 3 questions at a time so they can review concepts on their own. If you’re the newcomer teacher, you’ll love this video on Kahoot for Non-English Speakers:

You can even review those classroom norms by creating a Kahoot out of them!

Twitter Chat on Classroom Reboot

ALL of our twitter moments from our Boosting Achievement chats can be found here.

The Boosting Achievement Classroom Management Reboot chat is below.  We had a great chat on Dec 27, 2018 and so many of our PLN member contributed insight to questions about how to reboot a class when behavior has gotten a bit out of control.  Here are the tweets that were captured. THANK YOU to everyone who joins us for these great chats.

THANK YOU for checking out this blog and/or podcast episode.   If you’re reading a blog like this, you must want ELs to be successful and to feel valued.  I appreciate that so much!

I recently heard Emily Francis say that If your students FEEL valued and important they WILL  be successful.  I agree 100%.  Their timeline may be different as they grow in bilingualism or gain literacy.  But eventually, anyone can do that if they don’t give up and if they believe it’s possible.  Thank you for your part in their journey.