BAP087 Texas Blizzard Reflections

I recorded this episode at the end of a historic winter storm in Texas.  This week, we faced record-low temperatures for several days and our state’s electric grid operator lost power supply control. Other power sources failed as well and soon, almost everyone I knew in Texas was without water.  Many were without heat or water and living through multiple days of freezing temperatures.

You can listen to the show right here:

Listen to “BAP087 Texas Blizzard Reflections” on Spreaker.

Our family was fortunate.  We went without water for several days but this was nothing compared to what others have suffered through this crisis.  Family and friends are dealing with ruptured water pipes inside their homes.  People were scrounging for firewood and some resorted to burning their furniture.  Stores were closed or out of food.  A nursing home in our area had to evacuate 500 residents when they had no power or water.  Roads were too dangerous to make attempts to leave.

Despite the threat of CoVid, we took in different friends and their pets.  We felt fortunate to be able to offer shelter but everyone in our full house felt helpless and distraught as each day brought news of more winter storm-related deaths in our area.

Want to help Texas winter storm victims? Here are things you can do. 

In this episode, I reflect on the fact that my situation was a minor inconvenience compared to the hardship of others.  My thoughts turned not only to the Texans living through this nightmare but also to the students that I have served over the years.

As I thought about the refugee families in our area, I remembered how they weathered another tragedy we faced in Houston a few years ago.  That storm, Hurricane Harvey, also caught the attention of people around the world. This blogpost offers my reflections from that experience.  That post offers a perspective on teaching refugees and immigrants after such a terrible event.

Thank you again to Rola Tibshirani (@Rolat) & Dora DeBora (@DoDeBoer1) for guiding your students to reach out to us.

Similar questions come up as we face this new disaster.  As educators, many of us wonder how we are supposed to support our students during a time like this.

How are we supposed to get through this blizzard?

How are we supposed to get through this pandemic?

How are we supposed to get through this horrific school year?

You’ll hear me talk about:

  • Resilience
  • Perseverance
  • Community  & Collaboration

At one point, I posted on Facebook that we were melting snow for water. A refugee family in our area, who have seen unimaginable hardships, reached out to offer to bring us water.   We refused this kind offer, but it goes to the heart of community.   A few years ago so many refugees came to our area and we did not know how to help them.  Now they are helping us.

As an educator, I lift you up because I know your job is incredibly difficult.

I honor your efforts and I ask that you challenge yourself to look forward.  When you are not sure how to help a student with low levels of English or literacy due to lack of opportunity, remember that they are not dealing with a disability.  Focus on making SLIFE feel safe and included.  Make them comfortable so that their assets begin to be revealed.

I feel strongly that cooperative learning is our best bet to build confidence, relationships, and competence.  I have been quoting Cohan, Honigsfeld & Dove (2020) in recent workshops along with Vygotsky and other authorities on the power of teaming up and being social.

I saw so many parallels this week.  I watched my community, my city, and the world come together to help us move forward.

We are always better together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comment here or reach out on Twitter or Facebook.   You can also email me at

Thank you for stopping by.



BAP086 Natalia Heckman on Sentence Level Writing with ELs

When it comes to scaffolding output, Natalia Heckman asks herself “What else can I do, besides giving my students time in my classroom to write… to make it productive?” 

Natalia is my guest on this episode.  She is a former high school teacher and one of Seidlitz Education’s top educational consultants.  She has an incredible track record for supporting older ELs on the writing portion of state assessments but as Natalia explains, the goal is more than that.  Her real goal is to grow students’ literacy and ability to express themselves through writing.

The show notes below link to several free opportunities to learn from Natalia!  The podcast is inspiring because you can hear her passion for supporting teachers in the many ways we can do to support ELs with writing.  You can listen to the show if your favorite app or right here:

Listen to “BAP086 Natalia Heckman on Sentence Level Writing with ELs” on Spreaker.

I asked Natalia to come on the show to talk about this great blog post she recently wrote for Seidlitz Education.  It’s entitled Building Better Sentences: Rigorous Syntax for English Learners

In that post, Natalia explains what research says about how students benefit from rigorous syntax instruction.  She not only demystifies the concept of syntax but also offers a practical step-by-step approach to teaching syntactic elements or sentence patterns.

In her discussion with me on the show, Natalia explains the need ELs have for learning the structure of their new language.  She tells us that “Language is a system.  A well-organized system of symbols and sequences.”  She explains that when students learn vocabulary, for the most part, they are learning symbolic representations of words.  But when they put those together, they need to know how to form appropriate sequences.  This is what syntax is! When we are teaching syntax, we are teaching the ability to arrange words and phrases to create sentences.

And let’s remember that Natalia’s area of specialization is with high school ELs!

Be sure to check out that blog post for more on how Natalia explains this and her tips for a practical application in class.

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso

I love all the opportunities Natalia has for us coming up this spring!  As promised, here are links to the great webinars Natalia has presented for Seidlitz Education as well as links to her upcoming workshops:

The following two opportunities are available for FREE and On-Demand

Video🔗: Writing with Paragraph Frames Free Webinar

In this webinar, Natalia outlines a blueprint of a writing lesson for English Learners using paragraph frames. She explores online resources to create compelling assignments for English Learners of all levels. She offers her ppt slides here. 

VIDEO🔗: Supporting Literacy at Home: 7 Steps for Parents

This is a webinar filled with tips for parents. Jordan Greer, a language coach from Frisco ISD, joined Natalia in a conversation about ways to support literacy at home.  Slides are here.

Join Natalia Heckman for One of her Upcoming Workshops via ZOOM 💻!

MARCH 11, 2021

Moving ELs Forward on the STAAR/EOC Writing

Engaging Secondary ELs with Writing:

From Sentences to Paragraphs

March 25 & 26, 2021 from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm CST


March 27, 2021 from 8:30 am – 11:30 am CST

One more big thanks to her for coming on the show to talk about the need for this type of explicit instruction.

Please reach out and let us know how things are going and if there is a specific topic you’d like to hear about.

Before you go, here are a few places you can connect with me in the near future:

FEBRUARY 17th Zoom Workshop: Peer to Peer Interaction for ELs With and Without Breakout Rooms

Find out more here.

Also, join me on Monday and Friday mornings LIVE on #HurleyintheMorning!  Stephen Hurley is putting some great content into the world each morning with his line up of Live education voices.  I’m honored to be included.  Check it all out at: and please call in at 647-812-5894 if you’re listening to me live. I’d love to have your voice on air with us!

Thanks to everyone listening, reading and interacting.  I’m certainly a better education professional because of you.

Sending you positive vibes!