Links From My Latest Keynote

Hello EduHero!

Today I am addressing educators at the Texas Association for Bilingual Education conference in the closing session. I’m often asked to deliver a message that supports educators to stay in, or adopt, the mindset that helps us serve Newcomers or SLIFE.  If you scroll through the podcast episodes or the All Things Kahoot page, you’ll see that I approach this work with an attitude of joy and gratitude.  As teachers of Language Learners, we are some of the luckiest educators in the field.   Here are some of the resources I use to illustrate what is possible when we send a message of “All are Welcome” and focus on the gifts every child brings to our community.

Special thanks to Lynmara Colon of Prince William County Schools in Virginia & Natalie Wales in London, Ontario.  Today I used examples of how they welcome newcomers.

We began with these real statistics:

While these numbers are true, we have to look at what is possible for the children we teach, regardless of where they are coming from.   It starts with feeling welcome.  This book by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman was shared with me by Lynmara in PWCS this year.  We used the video of the read aloud as part of my session to kick off their school year. The “All are Welcome” message has been having a big effect!  Yes, they are experiencing unprecedented numbers of new arrival students, but teachers are focusing on how those kids feel, first.  We are layering in as many sheltered strategies and we can.  But feeling welcome is what so many teachers say is making the difference for their students.

As we work with ELs to gain literacy and language, we want to make sure they know how they can accelerate this process. We use a lot of co-created text and reading aloud and reminders of how they get sight words.  This post is a deeper dive into classroom routines and choral reading. 

Here is a recent post that takes a deeper dive into Balanced Literacy (what it is and how we can hack it). Once we have these two focus areas, we can work with grade level content and co-created text on any subject.

Don’t have many EL/SLIFE success stories?  Here you go!  We use examples like Francisco Jimenez and Emily Francis.  Their stories and more stories of success are on this padlet. We can hit many grade level standards as we read and write about these people. And one of my biggest goals is to help develop their MINDSET.  So these texts, or excerpts from them, are perfect!

I will also challenge participants to find the success stories that are in our own community.  Below is a picture of our One World Club.  We discussed how the students themselves are an amazing resource for each other.  Neighborhood students and immigrant students can work together to deepen the learning of everyone in the club.  Check out this video to learn how to start your own One World Club.

Not only do our SLIFE students need to feel welcomed, they also need to be honored for the perspective they bring.

How curious is today’s youth?

As a group, we watch this video and come up with questions we have.  It’s a challenging task for some as we are trained not to question or wonder anything anymore.  We can just ask Siri or Alexa!  But this is a great opportunity to illustrate that anyone can contribute to the wondering, and at the same time, I want them all talking about people who are overcoming challenges.  We want these kids more curious than we found them!  Natalee in Thames Valley uses it to foster curiosity with their SLIFE.

My hope for all of us is that we continue to challenge our beliefs.  We know that lack of a target language, and even lack of literacy, are not cognitive issues.  When we are working with students who are new to our country or new to formal education, we must remind ourselves of this.

Students with Limited or Interrupted Education are dealing with issues of OPPORTUNITY.

Let’s keep that in mind and continue to offer ALL of our students opportunities to wonder, create, question and contribute.

As usual, I went over #QSSSA as a strategy that levels the playing field.

I also offered W.I.T. Questions to help up rigor when questioning students.

A practical technique I shared was annotating your objectives.  I learned this from Dr. Escalante’s new book: Motivating ELLs  

Here is a great post with Molly Lange from Kentucky.  She was in one of my trainings and began annotating her objectives the next day. She says the kids love it and they are learning a ton:

I hope these links offer you some inspiration and ideas for how to serve students with limited education.  We have SLIFE students, who have gone through some very difficult things, graduating this year.  We can all take a lesson from their attitude.  One recently told educators in Houston, “We are not looking backwards, we are looking toward our future.  We can learn anything you teach us.”

BIG HUGE THANKS for everything you are doing to support ALL students.  Some of those kiddos are really wanting you to give up on them.  DON’T!  We don’t give up on kids and that is what makes you the amazing educator that you are.  That child might just need you in their memory some day.



PS:Will you be in one of these cities?

British Columbia Oct 24 & 25

Kansas City, Kansas on Nov 4th:

Full day of Boosting Achievement in Orlando, FL on Nov 6th:

Featured speaker at ColoradoTESOL Nov 8 & 9th

Nov 19 in Edmonton Canada for 7 Steps Training

Nov 22nd keynote at the Long Island Teachers’ Institute!

Full day of Using Technology with ELLs in St. Louis, MO Dec 2nd:

Dec 5th, full day of Boosting Achievement in Springfield, MO









Hope to see you soon!

BAP060 Teaching Older ELs to READ. The Basics!

Do you know how to teach a person how to read when they don’t know how to decipher text?  Maybe they can read in their first language… maybe not! Yikes!  Where do we start?  What do we focus on?

In this post, I have two ways for you to get this content.  You can watch the YouTube video below or scroll down to access the podcast.

In this show, you’ll get an overview of Balanced Literacy and some foundational understanding of how you can help a person gain the ability to independently read words in your target language.

UPDATE: LOOK FOR A NEW SHOW in 2022 that addresses The Science of Reading.

Science of Reading is an important shift in the field as we consider how the brain learns to read.  But it does not change how I approach non-English speakers and SLIFE.  They still need some language under their belt before we attempt to teach phonics.  And we can assess what phonics they DO know prior to a rolling out a scripted phonics curriculum.

This show is meant to explain how to teach someone how to decipher text.  We know that reading is much more than that.


Of course, it is.  But many upper elementary and secondary teachers get training in how to help students analyze text, think deeply and critically about the text.  We differentiate for students who cannot easily read grade level text.  But WHEN are they getting better at decoding the words?  When are they working on the ability to read words with automaticity?

Where do we start if the student isn’t able to read in their first language?  This is a training we would not normally get.  Or if we do, it doesn’t make sense in our reality.  This show gives you the understanding of best practice for teaching a person to read.   Let’s get the gist of that… and then I’ll tell you how I hack it!




I use these slides to explain Balanced Literacy (at a high level) to teachers.  I use slides like the ones below when I’m explaining to students why they need to read more (easy reading, shared reading, ANY reading..) and how they will begin to decipher text.  KEY is that they (and we) remember that they will understand more English every day.  I do a very basic phonics inventory at the beginning of the year and mid year to show them growth.  I take anecdotal notes when possible to see that they are progressing.  I don’t do any phonics lessons until the second semester.  We read together A LOT. They are flooded with low stress opportunities to speak in English with frames and read together starting on Day One.

I also assess students to get an idea of what they CAN decode about every 4-6 weeks.  I use assessments like this and also this so I can show them growth.  I also use nonsense words to get an idea of what they can do with letters and blends.   But it begins with their awareness.

I also want to be sure that you have access to this Rapid Literacy padlet.  It has many resources I use to help students grow their mindset, help them learn English and help them begin to read.

I want to also share the padlet we use for our Boosting Achievement workshop. There is a lot of overlap but the Boosting training is a bit more relevant for content teachers and anyone wanting to boost the achievement of the entire class while they include SLIFE.



Are you thinking something like….

But what should this look like in an ESL classroom?  (Check out Episode 26)

But my kids are not motivated at all. (Check out Episode 5 and then activities on the padlets above)

But my kids are not respectful to each other, the room is a zoo! (Episode 15)

But my students don’t believe that they can do it. (Episode 17, Episode 5, every episode really)

But I am a content teacher, what can I do to help with this?  Please check out all the other podcasts here! My PLN has helped me address these types of issues and so much more.


I will soon be doing a show that gives you more ideas of how I talk to the kids so they begin to take ownership of this process.

I use the slides above but I have some lessons that might be helpful to you.

Hope this was helpful, folks!  I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter.  I’m still learning and input from you would only further my journey, I am sure.

Please check out the Upcoming Events page to see where I’ll be in the near future:


No Prep Lesson That Will Take Learning Deep with Halloween & Day of the Dead!

One of my FAVORITE things to do is help kids compare, contrast and analyze things that are relevant to them.  I used to get overwhelmed by everyone’s different cultures but then I realized that when we let kids speak, and share from our own cultures, everyone is honored and everyone walks away enriched. One idea is to start with this Day of the Dead Kahoot.

Games lower stress and are an easy place to do some choral reading and tracking print while I read aloud. They can spark conversation, build community, and they often have us forgetting that we are learning a language.

You can play this Kahoot (created by Kahoot)  “blind” as an anticipation guide and then play it again to see what your students remember.  (This is usually when I help newcomers cheat.  Hey, it’s just for fun and to practice oral language.)

So in my room, we are doing this for language acquisition and I am telling students that we are practicing choral reading with Kahoot. 

If that is new to you, check out this video for an example:

As we play the Day of the Dead Kahoot with choral reading, we are also getting a peek into a cultural celebration.   This sets the stage for students sharing about their favorite holidays with Kahoot.  (Remember that we will take all of this into content later and it is VERY high on blooms for students to create assessments…this is a great start!)

After the Kahoot, we play a youtube clip of The Great Pumpkin and talk about these two different holidays.  They are completely new for some of my students.

Then it’s time for a QSSSA to get students talking!  “One key difference between Day of the Dead and Halloween is…”  “One similarity is…”

And from there we do a shared writing!  A refresher on that is here.

I recommend ESL teachers do as much shared writing and choral reading as possible. Soon your walls are dripping with print everyone can read.  Check out this post on what to have on your walls if you’re perplexed on how newcomers will engage in this.  

AND WOO HOO, Larry Ferlazzo just posted more Day of the Dead and Halloween resources!

The Best Websites For Learning About Halloween & Day Of The Dead

For more ideas on using Kahoot for ESL students, check out this page.

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Have fun, friends!


PS:  Check out the upcoming events page for more places we can connect IRL!