BAP119 When Perfect Ruins Your Good

Are you letting the perfect ruin the good?

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You can listen to this show in your favorite podcast app or right here:

“Perfect is the Enemy of Good” – Voltaire

What does this quote mean to you?  To me, it has meant that I was not producing this show for a while because I have not had time to make the show notes as extensive as I normally do.

How unfortunate that is when I get SO MUCH good from putting out any show.  My learning is on overdrive every time I re-listen to a show to post it.  So expect more shows.  And expect them to be even MORE imperfect than ever before.  But for me, they will be good enough.  🙂

Links to What I Mention

In this show, I mention a great book by author and educational consultant (and my mentor), Nancy Motley.

Every educator should own Small Moves, Big Gains

Thanks for listening.  You are really helping me in my journey.

I hope you have a takeaway that helps you in your journey!

All the best!


BAP118 Making Americans ft Jessica Lander

I have some really great, free education for us in this show!  The wonderful Jessica Lander is here to share about her book (that I LOVE), Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education.  I’m thrilled to tell you that she shares so many ideas from the book in this interview.

You can find this show in your favorite podcast app or listen to it right here:

Listen to “BAP118 Making Americans ft J Lander” on Spreaker.

Jessica is not only the author of this great book, she currently teaches history and civics to recent immigrant students in an urban Massachusetts public high school.   Read about the many awards she has won and more about her impressive background right here.

I was honored when Jessica called me a few years ago to get ideas for her research.  I was even more excited to see my suggestions appear in her book!  In this show, we talk about this and several other innovative ideas that are happening right now.  She shares several!

In the show, Jessica explains that school communities must work to nurture a sense of belonging for immigrant-origin students.  I couldn’t agree more!  So then the eight chapters of the book are organized by the eight essential principles she details on the show.  Here is a peek at the chapters so you can see what she is talking about:

Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education

Introduction, Part 1 & 2 from the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: Belonging
    • Present: Lowell High School, Massachusetts
    • Personal: Robert
  • Part 1
    • Chapter 1: New Beginnings
      • Past: Americanization Movement
      • Present: Las Americas, Texas
      • Personal: Srey Neth
    • Chapter 2: Community
      • Past: Settlement House Movement
      • Present: Aurora ACTION Zone, Colorado
      • Personal: Julian
    • Chapter 3: Security
      • Past: Meyer v. Nebraska
      • Present: Fargo South High, North Dakota
      • Personal: Choori
    • Chapter 4: Opportunities to Dream
      • Past: Mendez v. Westminster
      • Present: ENLACE, Massachusetts
      • Personal: Safiya
    • Chapter 5: Advocates
      • Past: LBJ and Education
      • Present: Guilford School District, North Carolina
      • Personal: Robert
  • Part 2
    • Chapter 6: Seeing Strengths
      • Past: Lau v. Nichols
      • Present: International School at Langley Park, Maryland
      • Personal: Carla
    • Chapter 7: Acceptance
      • Past: Plyler v. Doe
      • Present: Global Village Project, Georgia
      • Personal: Diane
    • Chapter 8: Voice
      •  Past: Bilingual Education
  • Possible: Reimagining Immigrant Education
  • Epilogue: Belonging
  • Personal: Robert

I loved listening to her share about the past, the present, and the personal examples from the book.  She has really captured what we need to focus on from those three angles.

I also mentioned Dr. Marie Moreno who was mentioned in the book and was the principal of a newcomer center here in Houston, Texas. I am super excited that I suggested Jessica connect with Dr. Moreno when she was doing her research on folks doing interesting, innovative work for recent immigrants.

In case it is helpful, here is a link to my dissertation that I talked about briefly.

And I often talk about Dr. Ilene Winokur when I talk about belonging.  She is a great person to follow as well!

Jessica suggests that we find more ways to connect and share.  She has given us seven schools/examples, that are so important to know about, but she tells us to go beyond reading this book.  The more connected we are, the more we will learn.  And the more we can share.

She poses the question:  How do we create more communities of practice so we can collaborate?  She tells us that this is the work of now.

So please connect with her and with me.  We are both passionate about learning and sharing with our online networks. That is at least a start!

Jessica encourages us to support local bookstores.  It is also available at bigger book stores and you can click here to see that Amazon has the hard copy and audio versions available.  I am listening to it AGAIN because it is just a fantastic education for me and it is such a lovely read. I really appreciate her writing and storytelling.

You can also find the book and more at Jessica’s website:


You can follow her on Twitter here:

and she also mentioned Instagram here:

I appreciate Jessica and this book so much.  Big thanks to her again for all the work and everything she puts into the world.

How we can connect:

At the end of the show, I mention how you can register for the ML Summit if you are reading this real-time (Summer 2023).  That info is below.  HOWEVER, if you see this after July 15, 2023… the sessions should be streaming at the website for free so still go & check it out:

Larry Ferlazzo and I are excited to be Masters of Ceremonies.  We are all excited to learn together.  Just check out the lineup!

Hope to see you in the Zoom or on Twitter using the #MLSummit hashtag!  You can find me here:

THANK YOU again for being a passionate EduHero.  I appreciate you so much!



BAP117 Co-Creating Text to Support Grade-Level Content Learning

Want to support grade-level content learning for newcomers?  I’ve got you!  The school year may be winding down or over in many places but this is a great time to reflect on how you might use co-created text next year with your emergent bilingual students.  Or use it as part of an effective summer school routine.

This show follows Episode 115, where I explained how to use co-created text to teach literacy and accelerate language acquisition.  In that show, I promised to do a show about how to use it to support content area learning.  You can listen to this show in your favorite podcast app or right here:

Listen to “BAP117 CoCreating Text for Grade-Level Content Learning” on Spreaker.

What is LEA?

I often share about a practice called Language Experience Approach. I try to be clear that I don’t do it exactly as it was/is intended.  I am not an LEA purist because I adapt this technique based on the kids in front of me and the reason we are doing it.  But here is more on what LEA is:

Steps to Language Experience Approach (See photo for more detailed explanation)

  1. Students have a shared experience. (ex: we are looking at a poster with the water cycle)
  2. Students have a discussion about the experience. (ex: “I notice…”)
  3. Teacher writes key words and phrases on the board.
  4. Teacher writes sentences from the key words
  5. Teacher reads the constructed writing aloud.
  6. Students use the text in various ways.

The LEA [Language Experience Approach] is as diverse in practice as its practitioners. Nonetheless, some characteristics remain consistent (Hall, 1970): Materials are learner-generated. –All communication skills–reading, writing, listening, and speaking–are integrated. –Difficulty of vocabulary and grammar are determined by the learner’s own language use. –Learning and teaching are personalized, communicative, and creative.  – Can be found at

I have written about this strategy in Ep 26 and Ep 115.  Again, I don’t carry out this technique exactly as it is explained by researchers and there are many folks who know more about it than I do.  But I DO know that some form of co-creating text *AFTER MY STUDENTS HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN A CONVERSATION* has really helped accelerate language acquisition.

I am here today to tell you that it can also help you differentiate, it can help you be inclusive in content classrooms, and it can help all the students with grade-level learning.

Why Write?

I mention all the reasons we want writing in content areas for the average learner.  You can read about that at this post I wrote for Seidlitz Education’s blog:

Some of the research I mention on the show is from John Hattie’s Visible Learning work.  Writing can help us reflect and Hattie’s work suggests that Reflection and Evaluation have a strong effect on learning (.75 effect size).

I always mention Joseph Maurer when I talk about effective content teaching.  Joseph was a math teacher when I trained with him and he was also my own son’s Algebra teacher. We all marveled at what a skilled math teacher he was with newcomer and low socioeconomic students.  But he was also effective with gifted and grade-level learners.  In his trainings, Joseph explained that writing in Math (or any content area) is important for learners because it is basic to thinking, it promotes introspection and speculation, and it individualizes instruction (Fulwiler 1979, 1983).

I mention this math lesson where the teacher is using Seidlitz’s Seven Steps to a Language Rich, Interactive Classroom.  It shows what I mean by writing in Math being effective for thinking:

I also quote Tom Romano from his book Clearing the Way: Working with Teenage Writers.  He explains that we are not asking Math teachers to teach writing.  We are asking them to USE writing to teach Math.  That is key for effective math instruction.

Co-Creating Text Before, During, or After Instruction

This show offers ideas about co-creating text with students prior to teaching, during a lesson or after instruction.  Here are a few examples of what co-created content writing can look like:

Don’t forget to follow the incredible HS educators, Kim Thyberg (@KimberlyThyberg) for more secondary examples!

I also mentioned the amazing Aly Averitt (@AlyAveritt) as someone to follow.  She is a great Elementary teacher sharing a lot on co-creating text.

Here is the video of Ali I mentioned as a great activity we do at the end of each school year.

Here is how Gisele Belyea (@GiseleBelyea follow her too!) and her students improved on this idea using heritage language:

Also gave Alan November a shout out!  He wrote, “Who Owns the Learning.”  That is a great book that shaped how I partner with students.

Thank you for tuning in or for checking out the show notes on Ep 117.  I appreciate you so much!

Hope to see you over on Twitter (@DrCarolSalva) or Facebook (  I’d love to be connected!

Take good care,


PS:  If you missed this workshop, check out Upcoming Events to see what else we might be offering through Seidlitz Education. 

And please email me ( if we can come to your district to help you develop a plan for serving Newcomers!  One day of consulting is making a huge difference for our clients!  Reach out if you’d like to hear!



BAP116 The Student Motivation Handbook with Author Larry Ferlazzo

Guess What!  I have a ton of free resources on supporting intrinsic motivation for you in this post.
Our guest for this episode is world-renowned educator, Larry Ferlazzo.  He graciously joined me to talk about his new book, The Student Motivation Handbook: 50 Ways to Boost an Intrinsic Desire to Learn.  You can listen to the show right here or in your favorite podcast app:

Listen to “Ep 116 The Student Motivation Handbook ft Larry Ferlazzo” on Spreaker.

Here are some links I promised in this show:

The book is out NOW.  Get yours here.
The publisher’s webpage for this book has TONS of free resources.
For my own learning, I wrote out notes and reflections on my conversation with Larry.  Those notes are right here if you’d like to read them.
Thanks for tuning in!
Thanks again to Larry and thank YOU for being such a passionate educator.  If you are looking for PD in podcasts, there is no doubt about that!
My best,

BAP115 – Beyond Language Experience Approach – 5 Ideas!

Welcome Back!  This episode is full of ideas for what we can do to support language acquisition through the re-purposing of co-created text.

You can listen to this episode right here or in your favorite podcast app:

Listen to “BAP115 Five Ideas to Go Beyond Language Experience Approach” on Spreaker.

Re-using the text we created in class was foundational to accelerating language acquisition in my Newcomer classroom.  We saw our biggest gains when our routines supported a culture of conversation and students were willingly reading, discussing, and writing without my prompting.  Here are five ideas for how to re-use text you have created with your students.

After a while, the Newcomer class could look like this:

Quick Reminder of HOW we co-create Text

If you want more specifics on HOW to create text with your newcomers, please refer to episode 114 or go back and revisit episode 26. I offer a great deal of information on the Language Experience Approach to co-creating text and how I adapted it for my class of older newcomers. Here is a snap of p. 83 of the Boostin Achievement of SLIFE book to refresh your memory on how Anna Matis and I recommend doing this:

A Few Ideas of What to do with Your Co-Created Text

In the show go over just five ideas (of MANY) that are being done for newcomers in language-rich, interactive newcomer classrooms.  I talk about each one in depth:

  1. Re-read these texts for fluency.
  2. Annotate the text WITH students to make it more comprehensible or more complex.  You can do both at the same time.
  3. Re-enter the text and work with the class to change the writing. (Example: Use our imagination to come up with a different beginning or ending to a retelling,…write an opposing view…offer more ideas on a subject, etc…)
  4. Use the texts to teach the foundational skills that some of the students need.  (They don’t all need the same foundational skills)
  5. After students are familiar with the above routines, have them choose activities where they are working with partners to “read the room” for one of the activities above.  Reading the room can be facilitated with scripts that lead to authentic conversations.

Creating a culture of conversation is KEY


Here are my students comparing and contrasting different things we wrote about Emily:
I mentioned the research of Stephen Krashen’s with respect to Reading and ML’s language acquisition.
Here is a slide on that:
POST-IT Sticky Chart paper is the ONE thing I ask for in terms of supplies.
If anyone ever wanted to buy things for my room, my next ask would be Saddleback Hi Lo Readers
We used A LOT of News In Levels to propel kids’ reading after they read with us often enough to have more background for the language.
Don’t think that this is too babyish for our secondary students:

Remember, so much is possible because we are creating a culture of conversation.  For that, I recommend:

  • WIT (for elaboration)

  • Quick Writes to get our ideas down on a regular basis before talking.  Here is a post on that by Joan Sedita.  But don’t over think this.  Your newcomers can just free-write for 2 minutes and then start talking

I hope this episode was helpful.  Please comment or tag me on Twitter (@DrCarolSalva) or Facebook (@SalvaBlog) with more ideas!  There are so many. I know that I and other teachers would benefit from all the sharing.

Thanks for all you do!

PS:  If you’re interested in training, coaching or modeling.  We have some great results in districts that work with our Newcomer Division.

And this is coming up on Zoom March 22, 2023 for principals and other program leaders!

  Register right here: 

BAP114 Literacy for Older Newcomers, What is Practical and Effective

How can foundational literacy skills be taught to older Emergent Bilingual students?  This show is in direct response to educators and education leaders asking about phonics instruction (based on what we are hearing from the Science of Reading) and how that makes sense for our Multilingual Learners. I have lots of resources and practical ideas for you!

You can listen right here or in your favorite podcast app:

Listen to “BAP114 Literacy for Older Newcomers, What is Practical and Effective” on Spreaker.

I completely agree that every child needs to learn essential elements of reading.  But I would also offer you that our Multilingual Learners need more.  And please know that I was making all of this harder than it needed to be.  This show will outline what I did why I did it, why the students were learning so quickly, and where the research is that supports all of this.

Here are the links I mentioned in the show:

Much of what I talked about was from the Boosting Achievement book I wrote with Anna Matis. 


From the Seidlitz Education Blog

I promised the link to my blogpost on using writing in content classes:


Third Quarter NAELPA Webinar:  LINK TO VIDEO

Fourth Quarter NAELPA Webinar

From that webinar, I mentioned Dr. Denise Furlong, Emily Francis, Margarita Cruz and Elise Diaz. I recommend following all of them!

Dec 2022 Ellevation Impact Webinar

Here is the video recording     Here are the slides with the Links

Types of Newcomers & What Literacy Instruction Should Include

I also discussed what I use to guide my literacy instruction.  This is a visual of what I was explaining in the show:

Language Experience Approach (Co-Creating Text)

  1. Discuss a shared experience, such as a field trip or classroom project.
  2. As students discuss the experience in their own words, the teacher reframes their statements, recording their thoughts on chart paper for all students to see. At this point, students are connecting oral to written language by seeing their own thoughts and words recorded on paper.
  3. Once constructed, the teacher reads the text out loud to the students, modeling the sounds of the language with expression. Then with the teacher’s help, students practice reading the text several times.
  4. The teacher guides the students in recognizing specific words and aids in their development of reading skills such as determining meaning from context, phonics, and structures of the language.
  5. Students then use the shared text as a springboard for writing original compositions.

Below is an example of a recent co-created text I did with a class full of middle school newcomers.  I explained this one in the show.  I am also sharing some video clips of my high school students using co-created text in different ways.  (of NOTE: I did not have my own classroom in these videos.  My class was conducted in other teachers’ rooms during their planning periods.)

QSSSA – Encourage Speaking and Support Them to Communicate!

Newcomers (all students) *NEED* to talk before we begin writing together.  I promised resources for helping newcomers speak if you need that.  Episode 108 has a TON of resources on QSSSA. That is our top tip for structured conversations and it works great for newcomers:

Stuck on what to write about? You may want this post by Larry Ferlazzo which has great videos for using with Newcomers.  Larry has SO MANY resources.  ProTIP:  Subscribe to his blog!

Tracking Growth and Teaching Foundations

I use assessments like the ones below to get a quick formative assessment on what a child can read.  I just highlight what they can decode and file it away.  I pull out a clean copy every few weeks to see if we have more sounds, words, etc.  I am looking to show them growth.  Dyslexia Logic has many free printables.

Honetly, I pick ONE that is a challenge for a student and track that one but the other forms at this website can help guide what you show the student or your class:

For me, the key was to use text they cared about to teach foundations.  So these are assessments to show them growth.  But my lessons done with co-created text, shared reading or text we have made comprehensible for context.

Environmental Print – Capitalize on It!

I mentioned a super-powerful idea which is teaching phonetics from print in the learner’s environment.  Here is an example of an environmental alphabet made by Amanda McLaughlin in Omaha Public Schools.

And here is that FANTASTIC MLSummit (previously VirtuEL) session by Dr. Harvey Oaxaca.

I also mentioned that I did a show a while back with Jordan Mayer.  He has great insight for teaching foundational skills.  I learned a lot from him in that episode.

I hope this has been helpful.

Please connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.  I’d love to hear from you.

EVEN MORE RESOURCES (projects and more)

Check out my Rapid Literacy padlet.  It links to other padlets with many literacy resources.  Look for a video of a newcomer doing a “personal playlist” project.  (Thanks to Noa Daniel for all her wisdom in HOW we do projects!)




Did you know that I am part of an amazing team of Newcomer specialists?  I am!  We would love to talk to you about supporting your district’s needs so that you can support your Multilingual Learners and SLIFE in practial, powerful ways.  Just email me at to learn more.


BAP113 After a Traumatic Event ft. Kimberly Thyberg

Welcome to the Boosting Achievement ESL podcast. This show is about teaching your class after a traumatic event.  You can listen or watch the show in this post or find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Listen to “BAP113 After a Traumatic Event ft Kim Thyberg” on Spreaker.

In this episode, Kimberly Thyberg reached out to talk about returning to our classrooms after a traumatic event.  I highly recommend Newcomer teachers follow Kim because she is constantly sharing things that are working in her classroom.  Some of her tweets are below.

We recorded this show a while back so you’ll hear Kim and me talking about how we might create a sense of safety for our students following something difficult and frightening that we all experienced together.

I am proud to say that our company, Seidlitz Education, has now added two very important people to our Newcomer Division.

Elise Diaz & Dr. Marie Heath have extensive experience with newcomers and they bring deep backgrounds in trauma-informed teaching and social-emotional learning.  Dr. Michelle Yzquierdo was the first newcomer specialist at Seidlitz Education and I know what I know about newcomers because of her.  Please reach out ( ) to learn more about how our Newcomer Division can support your work.

I have not had the same experience Kim’s class had gone through.  But I was able to tell her what we did when our community went through a natural disaster.  I wrote a blog post about teaching immigrants after that disaster back in 2017 and it was shared around the world. Classes in Canada reached out to my class because of that post.  It may be useful if you’re looking for ideas and resources along the lines of what Kim and I discussed.
In this show I mentioned the number of people displaced in the world and why Kim and I teach so many students who have limited formal education and have already lived through difficult circumstances.

Trauma Informed Educators Network

In our conversation, you’ll hear me tell Kim that I am subscribed to the Trauma Informed Educators Network Podcast.

At that link, you will find ways to follow them on Facebook and other opportunities to learn from TIENetwork. Their website explains that the TIENetwork is a social media network made up of 29,000+ practitioners in 100+ countries collaborating and connecting around being trauma-informed.

Teaching to Strengths Book

I also mention Teaching to Strengths: Supporting students living with trauma, violence, and chronic stress.  I have mentioned this book in other episodes, it is an important resource from Zacharian, Alvarez-Ortiz and Haynes.  You can find it here. The United Way Help Line and Website.

Some of What Kim Did with her Students After Our Talk

You can find this printable at
We also talked about all the great things Kim shares.  She is constantly showing what is working with her newcomers.  She is a great follow!

Thank you again, Kim for taking time to talk with me about this difficult part of our job.  ALL of us have now gone through a pandemic and so we can all connect to some of the difficulties you were experiencing.  We appreciate your vulnerability and your willingness to come on the show. It helps all of us reflect and learn.



Nov 15th 4pm ET: Free webinar on Literacy for Emergent Bilinguals in Secondary:

Our 3rd Quarter NAELPA/OELA/NCEL webinar on effective literacy (Elementary focus)



Emily Francis’ PLC4Newcomers Meeting where I shared about Literacy for Secondary Newcomers


I hope these resources are helpful.  Thank you for checking them out and thank you for stopping by this podcast.  You are really extending my learning.

Take good care!




BAP112 Free Voluntary Reading ft. Emily Francis

In today’s show, the author of If You Only knew; Letters from an Immigrant Teacher is joining us. That’s right, THE Emily Francis is here to help us talk and think about free voluntary reading.   We get some amazing ideas from Emily but this show offers so much more than that!  These notes are a mixture of links, my reflections and quotes from Emily.  They also include a short excerpt from her book that I read during the podcast.

Listen to “BAP112 Free Voluntary Reading ft Emily Francis” on Spreaker.

You listen here or in your favorite podcast app.  You can watch the YouTube version or just browse through some of the resources below.

And if you want to just run over and get this book, you can do that on Amazon or on the Seidlitz Education website.  You won’t regret it!

Emily is the perfect guest for this show because she is a shining example of what is possible with passion and persistence.  On this show, we usually focus on the most marginalized student, and that is a student who among other challenges, my not yet have literacy in their heritage language. How do we help that child while helping the entire class?  Emily is still in the classroom so educators stop and listen when she shares.  And she is constantly sharing!

In her own words, “Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a pleasure. Boosting achievement is always part of my teacher tool kit, and it’s always in my heart. You always bring in excellent tasks that we can take away to better serve our multilingual students. So if know me or you don’t, I am an ESL teacher. I teach English as a second language at the high school level is my fifth year, but it is my 11th year teaching.  It is my 19th year in my district as I was a teacher assistant before becoming a teacher. It is at the High School level where I found my passion, where I found my calling, where I found where I belong. …. If you know me on social media, I’m always sharing what’s happening in the classroom, on campus, in our community, anything that will highlight the excellence that our ELLs can reach.”


#PLC4Newcomers is a professional learning community that has come together to share and learn from other newcomer teachers.  Emily founded this group and keeps it alive with strong guest speakers and regular learning opportunities through synchronous asynchronous connections. You can search the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Be sure to subscribe to Emily’s blog so you don’t miss her updates on this and other happenings.

Free Voluntary Reading for Newcomers

I asked her to respond to people who say that free voluntary reading is not appropriate for students who are not yet literate in their heritage language or the target language of English.  Emily’s response was, “I think the people who have those comments, I don’t think they have seen it in action. … they need to see what it is that they’re doing. So if you are raising your hand saying that free voluntary reading doesn’t work for newcomers because they don’t have, “ the literacy skills you need to” go and see what is really happening. In my classroom, I had twelve newcomers sitting there, opening a book and reading books.  Saddleback is my Go-To!  Just open that box and they just go at it picking books that they find interesting. Sometimes it’s just the cover that it might be interesting. ‘Hey, there is something that looks like my country, let me read this book.’ As long as it’s something that the student can relate to, and as long as it’s something that the student can share that can make a personal connection, then the student can sit down and read it.  The most important thing is that they can turn around and share. You know, so I have had newcomers who may not read the entire book. They may read one page. Maybe that whole class time they took to read that one page, but that one page can turn into, ‘Hey, I made a personal connection. Hey, let me tell you, let me tell my partner what I read.’ Because there were so many choices for them. And that student finds that one book that he or she can connect with. There was one time where one of my students found one about a cell phone, you know, ‘Oh my gosh, I love cell phones! What is this book about?’ And that was it. That’s all that student needed to be able to sit down and read. So again, I’m the type that I never teach an entire book. I’m all about opening the book and finding what connects with you. And it works. And it works.”

Honoring Students

Emily also shared about the importance of autonomy and honoring our students’ interests. She explained that offering choice and grade-level text is about dignity and humanity. The audio episode is so powerful to hear Emily describe what her students get out of connections with different types of text.”  During this part of the conversation, we talked about the work of Dr. Stephen Krashen who is one of the leaders in research on second language acquisition. His work recommends that we find compelling text and then allow students to choose what they want to read.  Emily’s work is right in alignment with Dr. Krashen.

Ideas for Free Voluntary Reading with Newcomers

Emily described different ideas including:

  • word banks that are generated with the students based on their interests.
  • pairing up students who read similar texts so they can share about what they are reading.
  • developing a positive classroom culture
  • fostering connections with our students and between them.
  • Making sure they feel valued.

Posting to Social Media and Raising the Bar

I thanked Emily for sharing what her students are doing in class. Her social media posts are important for my learning journey.  She describes her intent this way,  “So the expectation. We have to set the bar as a language acquisition expert, we have to set the bar. When I post, hey, look at all the writing my newcomers are doing, look at the presentation. Or here’s a video of Louise reading in English. Then a content teacher might see that and say, well, if he’s doing that in her class, then he’s going to do that in mine, too. So, we set the bar. We do that as language acquisition experts.”

Getting to Know our Newcomers

Emily gets busy on DAY ONE engaging students in books and learning more about them.  Her explanation was “At the beginning of the year you can do ‘I am’ poems.  For example, I am Frijoles, I am Tamales, I am Mexico, I am Soccer. When you make activities that you get to know what’s interesting about the student, and then you post it in the room, that gives you ideas of what kind of books or what kind of magazines to bring in. So, there is some pre-work that needs to be done before you provide text. That way you can actually provide what they really would like to pick from.

Using Emily’s Story

I first heard Emily’s migration story when she was brave enough to write it down and then contacted me and Tan Huynh to get our opinions about publishing the post.  This post was compelling for me and for my students. We read together by chunking the text, tracking print, and stopping often to discuss what was happening.  As always, I allowed Google Translate to get the gist but we did our shared work in English.  You can do this type of activity with Emily’s story right here.

If You Only Knew: Letters from an Immigrant Teacher.

If I could recommend one book this year for your classroom library, this would be it.  When I told Emily how much the book meant to me, she said “I always have to say I thank you, and I hope you have read the acknowledgements, because I do mention you there. I published my blog about my personal life because you encouraged it. And then I got a phone call from John Seidlitz because you mentioned me at the table. So, I have so much to be grateful for you sharing about the possibilities, and reaffirming my story. Because as immigrants, it comes to a point when that story that we have kept inside of us, unvalued and unaffirmed, needs to come out. And sometimes it comes from people like you, like, hey, say your story is important, or sometimes it’s through text. I want to read a book that I’m going to say, oh, my goodness, this is my story. And so that’s my hope behind the book. So, when John Seidlitz and my editor Sarah Welch, sat down with me to talk about my book, we talked about the memoir version. Hey, here’s Emily telling her story…and it wouldn’t flow. It’s just the story of Emily. I don’t know. It wasn’t juicy. It wasn’t what we really wanted to until we started mentioning, okay, my story is like so-and-so in this area.  I started retelling students stories. And there you go. That was the key, the mixture, the intertwining of my story with the students. Centering students in the book.  It wasn’t about Ms. Emily Francis.  It was about students and their teacher. That relationship that we have built. I’ve got to learn a lot about my students through activities like I just mentioned earlier, like the I Am poems or readings, and students will come up to me and tell me how they relate to the text. So, all of these students identified in one way or another to me, and here am I sitting, looking at them and saying, oh, my gosh. I experienced what Sarah experienced. I am experiencing what Oliver is experiencing and those connections that I was able to make with students, that’s how the book ended up being letters to students.

There are eight letters in the story, and in each letter, there’s a theme that evolves. It could be immigration, it could be family separation, it could be addiction. So many things that come up throughout the chapters. But if there’s that one chapter that a student opens up and says, ‘This is me, and I can’t wait to tell the world about my story because I just read it in a book and I need to tell the world.’

So that’s one of my hopes, that a student can see this book as a mirror. And then again, those students or teachers who have never experienced anything like this, like the pictures you were just showing about teachers in South Carolina reading the stories, they don’t know what it is to cross a border. They don’t know what it is not to have anything to eat. They don’t know what it is not to be with your mother for several years. They don’t know what it is to take care of children at the age of 13. So, when they read something like this, my hope is that they have a light will go on and say, ‘I have students like that, and I need to do something about that.’ I have never experienced it, but I just read what it is to be sitting in that classroom, longing to be part of the classroom, longing to be someone, longing to break cycles, longing to be somebody. And that teacher can become that mediator.

That teacher can become the hero that student needs to reach the possibilities. So those are my hopes.”


I always get emotional when I hear Emily talking passionately about teachers or students. I told her that I loved this because books can be so powerful and can offer all of us that perspective.  They offer us a different world. They can transport us.  They open our minds.

As soon as Emily was brave enough to tell her story, it had an immediate impact on others.  That day it had an impact on me and it had an impact on Tan.  When she asked my opinion about what she had written for a blog post…I can’t even tell you the effect it had on me. I was blown away.  I said, Yes.  Right now.  Right now!  I thought, “This is going to be big.  This is so important.”

And it was big. Emily has continued to share her story, she has also gone on to several speaking engagements bringing people to tears and stoking advocacy from her keynote presentations to being featured on the Ellen show.

She is such an example to everyone.  It is such a powerful text because even so many young people would not have this type of experience, right? But through her book, she is giving it to them.  The book offers us so many things!  Teachers should be able to use it to teach about Mindset, a person’s value, Funds of Knowledge and more.

I recently published my dissertation on why SLIFE (Students with limited formal education) might drop out or continue in high school and graduate.  One of the major themes was how valuable they were made to feel.  It was “Degree of Esteem” that we held them in.  So even though they may not understand the words, you know, when someone doesn’t value you, you know it.  When I mentioned it, Emily had some things to say about this.  She responded with “Students will always have a story to tell about the campus they attended, whether it’s a good story or a bad story. And what do we want our students to tell about? If I belong, if you created an environment where you made me feel like I belong, I’m going to have a good story to tell about you, your classroom, and your campus. If I did not, then I will have a story, but it won’t be a pretty one. It won’t be a good story. Your name will be out there today. I can tell you I have nothing good to say about Martin VanBuren because I never felt like I belonged. …that sense of belonging, it’s key for our students. Even if they don’t graduate, because I’ve had students who just didn’t make it. They made 21. They did not graduate, but they left my campus with a sense of understanding that they have a place in society, that they can walk through a community college and get a GED and move on with their lives, because they know their value.”

They know that they can contribute to our society. So it’s really not about handing them that diploma. It’s about how do we make them feel? What place do they have in our society? – Emily Francis

I shared with Emily that she and others continue to challenge my mindset.  I shared that someone asked me why our newcomers don’t have a space on Student Council and I had no reply. These are the moments I need to help me reconsider the regard in which I actually hold newcomers.  We have to keep raising the bar in or minds and Emily is here to help us do that.

Excerpt from Emily’s Book

Emily allowed me to read just a few paragraphs from the book.  This is the part that I read. In this letter Emily is connecting to a student’s story and telling them what it was like when she first got out of high school and applied for different jobs.

“…Even when they didn’t require a diploma, there was always something else that held me back. I remember applying for jobs at banks and thinking how cool it would be to work in a nice, clean place like that. Some banks I applied for required a test to show how fast you could count money and process information. I’m not sure if it was my lack of confidence or my lack of English proficiency, but I was never able to pass those tests either. Another job I applied for was at an insurance office. All I was supposed to do was answer calls and sell the product. When I started practicing for the position, I was intimidated by the people on the other side of the line. I remember thinking, what if they ask me something I can’t understand? What if I can’t remember everything I’m supposed to know? So I called the next day and I told the office manager I wasn’t interested.

After that phone call, I realized I was not ready for the workforce. Even though I had completed my years of high school, I was not ready to contribute to society. I was scared and confused. I felt useless. But you know, Marco, we shouldn’t need a diploma to feel useful. We shouldn’t need a diploma to feel prepared to serve our society. What we need is the feeling that we matter, a sense of belonging in this country, a clear idea that who and what we are can impact those around us.”


Emily responded with “That’s a reflection of what happened when I was interviewed as a teacher assistant. After working so many years as a cashier, I was interviewed as a teacher assistant. And what gave me the idea that it could work, that I could be that teacher assistant is the validation of my story, the recognition that what I have experienced was enough, that what I had gone through throughout these years as an immigrant, as a student, was enough for me to contribute to society. And that’s all I needed to have that mind shift that I can be more than scanning a grocery store.”

Emily and I have talked about being a cashier and there is nothing wrong with that job.  It is a noble profession, for sure, but she had in her heart that she wanted to be a teacher.  We just want the students to understand that all of us can always go further. We can always look forward. That is the message I get from Emily is that she had that realization that she actually could do more. Always.

I loved her response to me.  She said, “It’s doing whatever you’re passionate about, whatever it is that you feel like I can contribute to society, whether it’s cutting hair like my sister, whether it’s running  an 18-Wheeler business like my other sister, whether it’s a realtor as apartments as my brother. I mean, we all have different choices. You are contributing, but at the same time, the core of that contribution is who we are not versus who people want us to be.”

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Boosting Achievement ESL podcast. I’m super grateful to Emily. She adds so much to the field and so do you. I hope you know if you’re supporting educators or supporting students as a teacher, how important you are, how valuable you are. I know a lot of times it might feel like you’re not doing enough and there’s not enough time, but I think this episode with Emily, I hope it helps you remember how important it is to make a student feel valued that has such a big impact. And yes, we are just a piece of their journey, but it’s an important piece and you can have a lasting impression.  That’s going to be one of the most powerful things you can do.

So if you’re listening to Education Radio, I’m pretty sure that you are passionate about supporting students and multilingual learners if you’re listening to the show. And so I want to thank you. Thanks for helping me with my journey and thanks for everything you’re doing.

All right, take good care.




BAP111 Teaching Newcomers What to Say Instead of IDK

I’m working in districts where we have been in school for 5-8 weeks. This show is in response to some challenges and reflections on what I want to emphasize more.  You can listen to this show right here or on your favorite podcast app.

Listen to “BAP111 Instead of IDK for SLIFE and Newcomers” on Spreaker.

An edited transcript follows with links to what I talked about:

This episode is going to be about lessons learned. I think there’s value no matter what you do if you’re a teacher, instructional coach, or administrator.

This is that time of the year when the honeymoon is over!  LOL.  Things are playing out in a certain way depending on what routines you put in place or did not put in place. What I’ve learned is that in many places where we’re not getting things off the ground with students, it’s because this strategy is not in place.  We are realizing that we did not emphasize the teaching of this skill enough.

So let me offer you the strategy, and then I’m going to tell you why it’s so critical for new arrival students.  And this one is important for even your highest flyer in your classroom no matter what you teach. And I’m also going to tell you about a fail, so look forward to that. People always say they love hearing about what didn’t go right or a non-example when I’m trying things.

So this fail is kind of funny too. All right, so here’s the strategy.

The sheltered strategy is to Teach Kids What to Say When They Don’t Know What to Say.

Let me say that again. We’re going to teach kids what to say when they don’t know what to say. Some teachers know this as an “Instead of ‘I don’t know’ poster.” We are working to remove “IDK” from our classrooms.

So let’s think about it a little bit differently. We’re not talking about a poster. Idk is what the students use. Many students text, I don’t know Idk. All right?

Often you will see a poster that says IDK, and it has an X through it in a classroom. The idea is that we are not going to say, ‘I don’t know’ anymore. Instead, we want to encourage other things such as: May I ask a friend for help? Would you please repeat the question? Where can I find more information? May I have some time to think? etc. That’s a fantastic poster to have. The company I work for, Seidlitz Education, sells these great posters of things that say, they’re beautiful.

WHY is this Important?  Can the Students Tell Us?

If you ask the kids, why is it important to say other things instead of I Don’t Know, could they tell us?  Have we talked with them about this and let them come up with answers.  This offers relevancy.

If I asked you to come up with three reasons why it is important for young people to say something instead of I don’t know, I bet you could.  As adults, we have built a skill where we might pause and say something like “Could you give me a minute?”  Or “Can I ask someone to help me with this?”

Just Google It!

You know, the reality is that we don’t use the skill so much anymore.  Now we just ask Alexa.  Or we ask Google. We google it. That’s kind of dangerous for the world, don’t you think?   In the Boosting Achievement book that I wrote with Anna Mattis, we cite researchers that talk about how a part of our brain is starting to atrophy because of technology.  We don’t have to think deeply anymore.  So then it is more important than ever that our classrooms are places where we can practice thinking, be more curious. Be more curious. Don’t just default to I don’t know.

It’s a teenage culture kind of thing, right? I’m sure you can appreciate, even for your own child, do you want them to be okay with not knowing?  So the first one that I always teach is, May I ask a friend for help? Because I’m trying to create a culture of conversation. And as soon as the student says that, we say, yes.  And I’m going to hover around that student, and I’m going to make eye contact, and I’m going to ask them, Are you ok to answer before we come back. I might have to give them the answer. We need them to have a win in that moment in front of everybody. And if they didn’t know the answer, they may not be the only one. They’re likely not the only one that doesn’t know.

Why is QSSSA not Working?

I’m going to talk about the Newcomer classroom. I am always talking about the newcomer student.  This week, I was in a newcomer classroom where the majority of the students have missed large amounts of formal education, and we are at high school.   The issue is that the students are not turning and talking when we want them to.  And we have a really good structure, QSSSA, for students to turn and talk.  But they’re still not talking to each other as much as we would like for them to, even when we encourage the use of native language.  We just don’t have it off the ground.

Modeling for Teachers

A part of my job is modeling for teachers.  So I decided I would model how to get this strategy off the ground with a class where most of the students are new to the target language of English.  I never promise that I can pull off a spur of the moment lesson well.  It is a challenge to model because I don’t know the kids and I don’t know the content.  But I’m willing.  I feel that it is important to be vulnerable enough to do these things to support the teachers. Even if  the lesson doesn’t go as planned, we get a chance to debrief and so we are both going to come out better.

Using Native Language

So remember that most of the kids in the classroom don’t understand what I’m saying. Now, a lot of these kids speak Spanish, so I’m going to just be honest, my first instinct would be to just say it in Spanish. I speak Spanish. And this is not the moment to worry about language acquisition. This is the moment to worry about teaching a skill so that we can acquire more English! Routines, directions, telling a student how amazing they are…Those kinds of messages we need to get across, however we can get them across.  Use your entire language repertoire to communicate these things.  We have Google Translate and I will use it or whatever I need to use to help me , might use whatever I need to make sure they understand.


A key word or phrase is always okay.  – Said by Nancy Motley in one of my first ESL trainings.)

But as the instructor, I want to stay in English as much as possible. I’m the model.  I would only just pop out of English for a moment and come right back in. I don’t want them to think that I will be translating everything. I want them to get comprehensible input (understandable messages) with me staying in English as much as possible. But again, this is so important that I would use my Spanish. Absolutely. Not a problem for me. It always has worked out just fine.


Translation Can’t be our Go-To Strategy for Comprehensible Input

I have no problem using Spanish from time to time but the teacher I was working with does not speak Spanish! And another thing is that several kids in there don’t speak Spanish! I could use Google Translate and I would still use some Spanish translation, though. I would still do it because the majority were Spanish speaking kids and they just communicate kid-to-kid better than they can with me often. They’re friends. So I would do it, but I would be thinking “What about my student that speaks Farsi? What about the child that speaks Arabic? Are they getting it?”  And so translation cannot be our comprehensible input default. And as the year goes on, I want to make sure it’s not because more kids have more comprehension and I should not need to translate at all anything pretty soon. So anyway, the teacher I was working with didn’t speak Spanish, and I want to make sure that I’m trying to model something that they can do easily.

How do I Get Buy-In for This Norm?

Okay, so here’s how it looks if everybody speaks English in my classroom.  I would write “I Don’t Know.” on the board and talk about how it is OK not to know answers.  I’d give them a scenario in life like if I’m at the bank and they ask me, “What is your husband’s mother’s maiden name?”  I might just need a minute. I might know it, but I might just say, “Can you hang on just a moment? Can you give me a minute to think?” My husband might be in the car, and so I might instead ask them if I could go ask him for help.

Most importantly, I want them to talk to each other. I’d like the students to talk and to tell me why is this important.  I want their buy-in. This is a lesson. It is not just, ‘Hey, we’re going to start doing this today.’

We can just write one thing on the anchor chart and add to it throughout the year. But they need to buy-in. They need to understand why it’s important. So I would have that “I Don’t Know” written on the anchor chart and at that point, I would cross it out.  Then I would add “Instead of…” and we can start writing other things we could say onto that poster.

Poster vs. Anchor Chart

Instead of ‘poster,’ let’s call it an anchor chart. It needs to be big enough for the kids on the other side of the room to be able to read it. Any environmental print needs to be big enough, written in big enough print, that it’s usable no matter where you’re sitting in the class. And it needs to be referenced.  Otherwise, it is just decoration.


That’s how it goes when everybody speaks English. So now I will explain what I do when they don’t comprehend much English.

I want to say, before I start to tell you about the simulation, No Forced Output. That’s a mantra in my mind that I’m saying to myself as I walk in front of a class of new arrival students or any students, no forced output. I am not going to force anyone. I’m never going to force a kid to speak in English. When they’re acquiring English, it’s just so cringy. And it is doing the opposite, the exact opposite of what I want, which is a low-stress environment where they can acquire, consume, and comprehend as much English as possible.

I want that to go as fast as possible. And there’s a researcher named Steven Krashen who will tell you it’s really all about reading. And he’s right, in my experience. I want to get them reading with support, high interest, compelling things, acquiring and understanding these words as they start to understand how they sound and as they start to use them, we get it off the ground, and it starts going so fast.

They have to be comfortable for that. They have to be really comfortable. Not freaked out. So whatever I’m doing in front of the class, they can attend to it, they can see it, they can get it. They can start getting little things. They can be comfortable enough to talk to their partner in a low-stress way.


One-to-one is low stress, so use whatever language, but I want them to talk to each other. Some of them won’t even talk to each other in their native language.

Think about that. A turn-and-talk. What could go wrong with a turn and talk in a regular math class?  I’m sure you’re thinking a lot of things.

They’re not talking about what I want them to talk about….

One of them is doing all the talking…

They weren’t paying attention, so they don’t know.

And on and on…

QSSSA is a routine that helps solve for so many of the challenges we face when we want students to Turn and Talk. It’s a top tip. It is our top tip.  I work for a company called Sidelitz Education, and QSSSA is always a Top Tip!  Chris Hagy of Charleston, SC has a padlet on the technique here. And this script by Michelle Gill is popular:

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That routine is one of John Seidlitz’ Seven Steps to a Language-rich, Interactive Classroom.  It is a fantastic routine.  But guess what step one is? Step one is teach kids what to say when they don’t know what to say.

Teaching Students what to Say instead of IDK is STEP ONE.

That is step one for a reason. We need low-stress environments where everybody is willing to take risks.  See, I don’t want to force them to speak in English, but I do want to arm them with something they can take anywhere they go in the building and also not be so worried that they’re going to be called on. So this “Instead of “I don’t know” poster that we’re creating, I have a little one for you.

They’re about six to a page and you can just print them out and cut them up and tape them to the desk. Tape them to their agenda.  Have a big one on the wall and also tape these on their Chromebook and everywhere so they can take it with them because it’s a skill.  It is what they might need at the doctor’s office. To use in math class. To use everywhere.

The Fail

Okay, so I’m walking to the front of a classroom where kids do not speak English. The class is for that. And these are new arrival students. And it’s at the beginning of the school year and it’s specifically for students who have missed education. So imagine there’s not much comprehension across the board.  So I went up there and I wrote, I don’t know on the board. And you see kids, they’re looking at it quizzically. So I think, “I’m going to explain this like I always do, but I’ll just use gestures.”

So for whatever reason, I pointed to my eye in my face. Ha!  I’m going to try not to laugh because it was so ridiculous.  So I pointed to my eye, but then immediately I was like, no, not that kind of eye .. I.   And I pointed to my chest and I saw a kid mouth “me” as soon as I pointed to my chest.  He mouthed me and I was like, yes, like me… I.  And another student pointed at me, like at the teacher, and said, I?  No, no, no… now my mind is racing. I’m thinking, God! Because you know what?  I did this for a living, for years. But every time I go in front of a class, I get slapped back into reality of how hard it really is. It is not easy to teach, period.  But you forget how intentional you need to be to teach newcomers effectively.  But I need this vulnerability. I need to be up there so that I can help. I don’t have to have a magic wand and do anything perfectly.  Or say “just do this!”  I was up there so we can figure out things together. And I know there’s a way to do this with newcomers. I’m just thinking, “Why didn’t I think about this before I walked up here??”

I was like, no, I (pointing at my chest).  Of course some kids got it. “I” is a very common high-frequency word. I like, I am here. Okay, let me just go on to “Don’t”… the word “Don’t.”  So I pointed to the word don’t, and I said, Say “don’t”, and everybody repeated it.

I wagged my finger like, no… like you’re shaming somebody.

Don’t… don’t… Don’t

And one of them said, “no.” And I said, yeah like “no.” But he was saying, “I no?”

No. So when I was shaking my finger back and forth, they were getting “no” like yes or no. So I was like yeah, it’s no…but it’s don’t.   And I’m trying to think, how do you say don’t? How do you convey don’t without saying no? Because the next word is know!

I don’t know.

So then I was like, okay, don’t. Just say don’t, and then no. And then point into my temple….know.


I know they’re thinking, “I no no?  And that no is with a K??”

Okay, right there. Let’s just stop. This all happened in just a few seconds, right?  To me, it is so funny.

Making Things Harder Than They Need to Be

It is so funny because I’m just making it so much harder than it needs to be. As always. As always, I’m making it way harder than it needs to be. Let’s back up.  I could have said it in Spanish because one kid finally did say “No Se?” That’s beautiful. Yes! Throughout the school year, if they say it in Spanish, I’m going to say, yeah, exactly. Or if they get it, yeah. I don’t care if they translate to each other all year long.  I just don’t want that to be their go-to either.  But anyway, as soon as he said No Sé, I wrote No Sé. And they’re like, yeah, okay. But there were still kids in the class that don’t speak Spanish.   But I did see that they can help each other understand this.  I saw a kid turn to another kid and make the gesture like shoulders up, palms up. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Yes. That kids should be teaching. LOL!

That kid should be teaching. Because here’s how I’m going to always do it from this point forward. They all got it when I made this noise, when I shrugged my shoulders, when I put my palms up, and when I made the “I Don’t Know” sound… it isn’t even a word. It is a sound.  So that gesture with your shoulders up and your palms up, that resulted in 100% of them getting it.  And they started laughing, and they’re like, okay, we get it.

I can also invite our kids who do have literacy in Arabic or something else to come and write that over here on this anchor chart. There’s nothing wrong with the native language. In fact, it’s powerful. But I want the English words big as that is our target language in this class.

So they understand this is what we’re talking about. But they needed to understand, just like any class, what does it look like in a class? So let me circle back that little moment that I had in front of that class. That little fail, I call it, was such a fantastic learning opportunity for me and for the teacher.  At least I  know it was for me and I hope for him because we debriefed afterward that we’re just making it harder than it needs to be.

Collaborate with Like Minded Educators

This is the kind of thing I get better at because I reflect on it.  I am reflecting on it right now in this podcast. But I want to talk with or communicate with other educators to remind me of the basic things that are most powerful.  And things like ‘When is native language okay?’  Again, A keyword or phrase is always okay for the teacher. I mean, when is native language okay for the students in an ESL classroom?

Always, always allow and honor their native language.

Students can use your entire language repertoire in this class because I have a language target. I have a language objective today. Our language objective is “We will use language such as “May I ask a friend for help?” and “Would you please repeat the question?”

That’s our language target today. And we all repeated it at the beginning of class in unison because that is low-stress. I’m not forcing anybody, but if we say it all together, you know, and we used it several times in the class, and I’m constantly bringing them back into English. The ones who can speak English, the ones who are able to repeat, the ones who are we’re constantly coaching for that through the entire 39 minutes. But you have to use your native language.

It’s a source of comfort. Your funds of knowledge live there… everything that you’re able to express.

I have a kid who speaks Spanish and a kid who speaks Arabic sitting together. And they do great, but they do use some of their native language. Their common language is English, but they can communicate with each other using everything they have.

We want to create a culture of conversation. And that conversation, we cannot force it all to be in English. But there’s more and more English as we are going through the year. I promise this is the answer. Low-stress environments, low-stress opportunities for output.

Opportunities for output. No forced output. And tons of comprehensible input. Tons of messages that you start to understand, what does that person mean? What are they trying to get across to me in this language?

Comprehensible input would be in the target language of English in that classroom. But comprehensible. So me making that gesture really exaggerated…it’s comprehensible. It was more comprehensible than anything else I was doing up there.   So we just played around with it. We’re just playing around with it.

Partner with Students.  Be Transparent

And you know, what is great about what happened is the kids don’t forget it. The kids won’t forget it if it’s a fail like that. I’m just transparent with them.  I was always telling my students that I’m learning how to be a better teacher every day. That’s what other people say, too.

I have heard Instructional Coaches say they don’t model because they don’t want to take the power away from the teacher.  NO.  You won’t take the power away from that teacher. I don’t believe that for a minute.  Let’s hold students to a higher regard. Partner with the students. I’m trying to get better about that.  Right when I walk in, if they let me introduce myself, I want to say “Hi, I’m Dr. Salva. Your teacher and I are both learning.  We’re always learning. I hope for you that your whole life you will be learning. So today we’re going to try some things together because I want to learn, and he wants to learn. And we’re always working together to get better at things, to get better at teaching you. And so what I learned from you, too.  And you guys learn from us.  So we’re going to try some things in here and see how they go.”

I mean, that’s just transparent because we’re all still just on this journey, all of us, me, the teacher, the principal, the kids, all of us. Hold them in high regard. We are all learning together, okay?

So Instead of, ‘I Don’t Know.’

Here are some things for my journey of learning lately on supporting teachers:

It’s not a poster. The strategy is not a poster because a poster is just decoration. If the kids aren’t using it, if we haven’t implemented it. And so if you look around your room and it is a small thing where kids can’t access it, or if we only talked about it one time, that’s where we learned, okay? We haven’t emphasized it enough.

We haven’t made it a norm. We haven’t made it our default. We haven’t spent time making sure our highest kid in the class uses it, because we ask them questions that they would need to use it like, “Can you tell me more about that?” Or “Can you say it another way?” Or “Why? Why do you think that?”

Are we using this to help with rigor?  Those kinds of higher-order questions would have your highest kids going, hhhmmmmmmm….  So you can offer them, “Okay, do you want a moment? Do you want to use something from the poster?”   We want all the kids to see that it’s for all the kids. So your highest kids have to buy into it. And if we want our students to buy into this technique, we need to give them the relevancy.  We need to explain all of this and make sure they all understand why it’s important.

Motivation – Helping Them Find It

We had kids speaking in their native language to each other and coming up with ideas of why it’s important because that was the thing. We need buy in from students. We need them to buy into this.

Larry Ferlazzo has written a lot on how to help kids be intrinsically motivated. I’ll link to one of his articles. Here are the four things.

I say them all the time. (I’m a Larry Ferlazzo groupie.) The researchers agree. If you want kids to be motivated, if you want people to find their motivation, intrinsic motivation, put these four things in the environment.

  • Relevancy like I just said, why is it relevant? How is it relevant? Why is it relevant to you? Why should you care.
  • Relatedness that’s relationships. Teachers have relationships with students, and students have relationships with each other, and we want to work on those because it really helps motivation. So relevancy, relatedness another one is:
  • Autonomy or choice.  So I give them that anchor chart, and you can choose whatever one you want to say. But how much choice you have in anything helps you be more motivated about doing it. And then the fourth thing that Larry writes about is:
  • Competence.  A sense of competence. That doesn’t mean I’ve mastered it. It means I feel myself getting better at it.  I’ve had a little win.

So that whole technique instead of I don’t know, it’s not a poster, it’s a skill. What do you do when you don’t know what to say? What can you say? So that’s what I was saying.

Recap on Some Things That Can Go Wrong

What can go wrong is that we can have it to where it’s just a poster. It may even be a poster that they can’t read. So to offset that, to mitigate those challenges, we would use it more often. Explain it. Explain the relevancy.

Have kids talking to each other, your relationship with them, hold them in high regard that you want their opinion about why it’s important and even using it, explain to them, we’re doing it in here, not because I’m the teacher and I want you to answer it’s because your voice is important. Your voice is important. And you may just need a moment. You may just need your friend to remind you of something. You may not know the answer, but that’s okay. You know a lot of other things, and together we know a lot.

Don’t Force Output but Expect Them to Use These Phrases?

So it may sound counterintuitive. Like what I’m saying is make sure they know what to say, but don’t force output. Okay…I don’t care if they say it in Spanish.  I don’t care.  I mean, once they’re comfortable.  If I get a brand new student that come this week, I’m going back to relatedness. I’m going to have a conversation with them one on one, and I’m going to use Google Translate to make sure they know that they are in a safe place. That I’m not going to randomly call on them. They’re new. I’m going to respect their need for support, but I’m going to have a lot of conversations with them.  They’re going to be pretty comfortable sooner versus later.  They will be ready because they’re in a classroom where we do these things and they’re going to see this is how we roll in here. This is a very safe place. So when I do finally call on them, it’s okay for them to answer in whatever language. It’s okay for them to use their entire language repertoire to answer.

Or they can even give me a signal.!  They can even point to it in the book when they are new or nervous.  And I’ll say, “Yeah, right!  The answer is landforms. You see this?   Landforms. What he’s saying is ‘This week we are studying landforms’. That is the right answer! Let’s all say that…”

If I’m trying to get complete sentences out of everyone’s mouth, we can do them in unison. And I can honor this child, whatever their language.

So think about your language learners. If you’re teaching language learners, they have different proficiency levels, and so a brand new student is not the time to force output, but they can be included. Inclusion!  They can understand way more than they can say usually. So let’s make them comfortable. They can attend, they can repeat, and in low-stress environments it all works better.  Remember, low stress opportunities for output.

Low-stress output could be one-to-one. That would be a whisper read to my teacher. That would be with the students getting comfortable talking to the person next to them one-to-one.

A Culture of Conversation

And I can walk around and listen.  I can get a formative assessment. That’s better than me calling on one student that doesn’t know the answer or only calling on the professional answer. Always, if I call on somebody and they don’t know the answer, they can ask me something from the poster, or they can even point to the one on the poster and I can say “Yeah, this one says, May I ask a friend? Let’s all say that. May I ask a friend? Yes.  Okay… everybody. Ask your friend what do they think? And we’ll come right back to this person.”

But again, I’m going to make sure they have a WIN. See, with QSSSA, and Teaching kids what to say instead of IDK, you’re well on your way to a very language rich, interactive classroom.  I’m just asking you to respect the need for support of a brand new student, but in a way that allows them to acquire the language as quickly as possible.

I’m going to wrap up the show now and thank you for helping me reflect that’s, what I just did. This is my journey of learning. And thank you to everybody that’s allowing me to work with them and support them in their classrooms, in their districts, with training, with modeling, with coaching. Reach out. If you have any questions about that, you can find me on Twitter.  I’m @DrCarolSalva  or Come over to Facebook with us.  I’m also on Instagram but I don’t check that regularly. Sorry.

Last Thought

One more thing on “Instead of I don’t know.”  Think about the cumulative effect of that over a person’s life. Think about a student, what effect you’re having if you help someone build that skill right now over the course of their lives. A person who doesn’t just go, “I don’t know,” especially in this age of technology. What does that do for them in their working groups, in their lives, as they walk through their day, as they get their first job, as they get their next job? Look at the long game, always. Let’s look at the long game and realize the effect.  That’s what I’m asking you to do is realize YOUR effect.  Little things add up and they have major effects over a person’s life. So that relatedness that relationship you’re building with that student, it makes a difference.  Hold them in high regard. Hold every one of them in high esteem. Their voice is important, and you want them to have that skill so that as they go through life, they can show what they know and they can get the answers they don’t know, and they can add to their knowledge because the sky’s the limit.

Please stop and reflect on the huge impact you’re having on students. Thank you for everything you’re doing.


PS:  Check Out Upcoming Events!  We have a lot of places we can meet IRL!!


BAP110 Back to School Mindset and Resources

Welcome to the Back to School episode!  Any teacher should be able to gain some insight from this show but ESPECIALLY new educators or teachers that are new to teaching newcomers and SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education).

Below is the transcript and links.

Find this show on your favorite podcasts app or you can listen right here:

Listen to “BAP110 Back to School Mindset Plus Resources for Newcomer Teachers” on Spreaker.

In my part of the world, school is ramping back up.  So any time we go into a new school year, we have that excitement, but also the nervousness. I remember being a new teacher, and I was just beside myself, worried. And so today I am going to revisit five things that are like my non-negotiables when I start the year.  But this show if more than that.  This show is about mindset.

If you’d just like to hear about the 5 things, you can watch this YouTube video from 2018 that has over 5,000 views.  These five things to start the year in the newcomer classroom but, really, they would work for any classroom.

So your students may not have strong literacy or any literacy in their native language.  We are seeing more of that. But SLIFE are learning to read later than others because they have missed maybe formal education, that’s usually why SLIFE don’t have literacy. It’s because they didn’t have traditional education or an opportunity. That’s what it is, right? It’s a lack of opportunity for a lot of our students.

So if a child comes into my classroom and they don’t speak English, they don’t speak my language, it can easily look like there’s something wrong, or they may not be able to learn as quickly. And that’s just the opposite of what’s true. Most of the time, that child comes with lots of background and lots of language. It’s just a mismatch for my language and my background. So we want to keep that in mind.

That’s what today’s show is about. How do we go back to school with the right mindset to help everyone learn as quickly as possible, including me, including the person that’s teaching, because these kiddos are our best teachers. All right, so let’s think about this.

I always go back to these five things but I don’t need to do a show on them.  I’ve done that so many times.

  1. Create Name Tents for Low-Stress Introductions
  2. Play the #SelfieKahoot I made about me
  3. Get a Trivia Question to create a Class Selfie Kahoot
  4. Create an IDK Poster with the Students
  5. Guide Students to create a Socia Contract

Many readers/listeners have seen this but if you have not, and you want the explanation on each, you can watch the following video. You may also be interested in a show I did on them in 2018 and again in 2019  and we even did a COVID edition in 2020 for online learning.


I talk about these briefly in the podcast and I cite John Seidlitz and his 7 Steps to a Language Rich, Interactive Classroom.  I also mention the Flippen Group and their Capturing Kids’ Hearts training and John Hattie’s Visible Learning research.


What I focused on more in today’s show was mindset.  Here is a transcript of my thoughts from the show:


So here’s what I’ve learned. I have to keep challenging my mindset. I have to keep challenging it. I used to work with a man named Joseph Mauer. And if you have our Boosting Achievement book, youll see that we cite Joseph Mauer throughout the book. He’s an amazing educator. He’s a master teacher. I would go and sit in the back of his classroom because he taught in a low socioeconomic area, but he had some of the best scores in our district. And we have some pretty wealthy schools in our district. But, no matter what, his scores were always at the top. So we would go watch him. Josephnwas the one that told me about Capturing Kids Hearts. He was the one that showed me how to annotate the objectives. He had been through Seven Steps training, and he was implementing a lot of Seidlitz’s Seven Steps. So I leaned on him a lot when I went back in the classroom.  I was struggling because I was falling into default teaching. You know, it’s when you know better, but you fall into default because it’s stressful and you just go back to your default. So Joseph came and watched me teach when I had a whole group of newcomers. I hadn’t been in the classroom in a really long time. And they were all SLIFE kids. They were students with interrupted or limited formal education. And I was just having a really hard time getting a handle on it. One of the things Joseph told me was, you have to challenge what you believe. Where’s your “I don’t know” poster? I was like, “I can’t read that, but they can’t.” They couldn’t read it yet. I was like, “What good is that going to do???” And then he’s like, Okay, where’s your Social Contract? You need to do a social contract.”  Me: “They’ve never been in school. How are they going to create the norms??”

It was such a good conversation with him because he was just brutally honest with me that I had my bar too low. And I thought, what is too low when no one in here can read in English, and most of them can’t read in their native language?  And they’re in middle school!  They don’t know how to do school. They’ve never been in school…   So you know, there were all these things that they couldn’t do, and he was just not hearing me! “You don’t understand. They can’t do this, they can’t do that.”  But he reminded of what we all say we believe. We believe that kids can learn quickly in the right environment. Kids can learn very quickly. And he knew that I believed that this was a lack of opportunity.  Which is what was going on, right? Kids had not had the opportunity to learn this language enough or to learn to read, or to learn to read even in their own language.

They just hadn’t had the opportunity.

So I never forgot that. You have to challenge your beliefs. If you believe that they can learn quickly, then I need to stop focusing ONLY on what they cannot do. I need to know what they can’t do. I need to figure out along the way what they can and can’t do. But I need to keep putting the bar higher than what they can do because I’m there. We can do a shared reading. We can make that poster and read it together. I can track the print with my fingers, and the kindergarten teachers told me they’re going to use it to learn to read. That’s going to be a big part of their road to literacy because you’re giving them multiple exposures to little high-frequency words every time you read that poster, and it’s meaningful.  There are so many things wrapped up in some of the basic things that we need to remember to do. But it starts with what do you believe? What do you believe? Do you really believe every child can learn quickly? Or do I believe that every child except these kids?

What do you believe? Do you really believe every child can learn quickly? Or do I believe that every child except these kids?

And let me tell you, if you followed me for a while, or if you did buy the Boosting Achievement book, and you read the introduction, you know that the class I’m talking about.  They were fighting and climbing over desks, and it just seemed like there was no way. People were telling me they were unteachable.  But that had more to do with the environment than the child. By the time I came in and was asked to take over, they had spent months frustrated because they didn’t speak each other’s languages. And this was way before the pandemic when we started focusing on SEL. It didn’t occur to me. I felt like a brand new teacher all over again. And so I was in a high-stress place. It’s humbling to go back into the classroom. I say that all the time. I just want to lift you up if you are the one actually teaching because we think as instructional coaches that we remember. You can’t remember. There’s no way unless you’re the one actually doing it. And so I just want to lift you up and honor the fact that it can be a stressful thing because you want to do the best for your students. And their demographics keep changing and challenges keep coming at us.   So when Joseph came in to watch me teach he said things like “… but you know better than this. I mean, you know this, you taught this, you’ve trained this.”  That was true but I was in a high-stress place at the time, and we know that people don’t learn well and don’t function well in a very high-stress place.


So we found the answer in reflection. So what I would do is film myself. This was Joseph’s suggestion. I was also leaning on my instructional coach in the building, and he told me the same thing. You could film yourself, and you don’t need to share it with anyone. It’s for you. There are other ways to reflect, too. I found Twitter. I could reflect every day for 15 minutes.  Go to the hashtag #SLIFE (for students with limited or interrupted formal education) or whatever it is that you teach. You can find people out there who are sharing and will help you reflect. I could listen to a podcast like this while I’m doing the laundry. I’m having an opportunity to reflect. Dr. Katie Topple and Tan Huynh and I wrote a book called DIY PD for Educators of Multilingual Learners. The entire thing is about how to personalize your learning on your own. When you want to in tiny snippets or in long chunks, whatever you want to do. You can take your professional learning to the next level. Even if you’re the master, there’s room to grow, and we have to personalize our learning for that. We’re pretty proud of the book and teachers are having so much fun in the #DIYpd4MLs trainings we do in districts.

So I was doing a lot of DIY PD by just watching my own video. It’s called micro-teaching.  I was also blogging. No one was reading my blog! It was a single-reader blog… me. But it was a place for me to reflect when I had a chance to write down what went well, and what didn’t.

Then it was really helpful when I just humbled myself.  I told the kids, I’m trying to learn how to best teach you. Can you help me?

Let’s learn together.

Phew!! It got better. It got way better. I need to do a Where are they now? show.

The Messages we Give Them

When they told me what they wanted to be,  my shoulders dropped, and I’m like, well, let me give you something a little more realistic.  🙁

Okay, now I was the problem. Who am I to say that they can’t be that?  They can. They just need to not give up. Even if you’re in high school and you can’t read right now, how much time do we all have? Whose timeline are we on? Of course we want to give them tons of options. I was really glad someone showed me things that I didn’t need a four-year degree to do, because I didn’t have the money, I didn’t have the means to go to a four-year college, and I didn’t have a good academic record either. But you just take the next step forward. You just take the next step forward. And we have so many things to support these students. Point them in the right direction and raise the bar and just tell them what they’re going to need to do.

Point them in the right direction, raise the bar and just tell them what they’re going to need to do.

But you know what? Let’s talk about what we need to do right now so that you have the best shot. Whether you have six months left and you’re going to age out, or whether you have the rest of middle school and high school, or whether you’re behind and you’re in second grade, you get to keep the learning. Whatever we learn this year, you will take with you on your next step. So you’re not starting from zero, ever. Just don’t give up.

My Research

I just finished my dissertation on what helps SLIFE persist through to graduation despite challenges.

It is going to be published soon.  Register here if you’d like to be notified when it is available on ProQuest.

I couldn’t work with any of those students that I’d ever taught. I had to find new students that had interruptions in education, that had entered US schools in high school, anywhere from two to ten years. They had missed of schooling. Some had been to newcomer centers, some had not. Some went into regular high schools.

We looked for themes as to why they did not drop out. It was a qualitative study. So we did interviews. And in today’s show notes, I’m going to put a Google form if you would like the entire dissertation because it’s about to be uploaded and we will send out a reminder if you would like it to be on this list. So we interviewed unfortunately, it’s hard to find students with limited education that don’t drop out. The research shows that they’re dropping out at a higher rate than students who are new to the country, that our average English learners are multilingual learners. That dropout rate is higher than the average student. But this demographic’s life is even higher and growing even faster. So it’s important to know what we are doing in our communities as faculties in regular schools and what families are doing to support or to make it harder. So we did interviews and we looked for themes in those areas.

And every area had pros and cons. Every area had family supports. What made it easier and what made it harder. And it wasn’t that some students didn’t have any family support, but they had strong support in one of the other areas. But I just want to talk about faculty. The two biggest themes for adults in the building… that made them want to stay in school:

Degree of Esteem that we held them in

Kindness and Patience.

Kindness and patience. I know you know what that means. And the way we talk to them in our body language and when we think they can’t understand us, they get it. They get whether you’re being kind and patient or not. And it makes a big impact, 100% of them said, on whether they want to stay in school or not. And let me just explain quickly if you don’t know what I mean by degree of esteem.

Degree of esteem means how do we view them? Do we view them in high regard or do we view them in low regard and pity them? Or feel like they can’t do what they feel it. So if you think of the word esteem, your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself.

High self esteem means that I feel very confident, Low self-esteem = I feel not confident and not good about myself. So degree of esteem is the level of esteem that you hold me in, do you hold me in high regard? Do you hold me in high esteem? Do you make me a leader in the class? Do you set up wins so that I can start to contribute more because, you know, my voice is important? Or do you say things and do things that give me the impression that you feel sorry for me and you don’t think that I can contribute much?

I’m going to give you just one example of what one student said. He had missed many years of school, and there was an adult in the building, and it was not even a teacher, but she asked him, what do you want to be? What did you say you wanted to be? And he said kind of sheepishly because he didn’t know if it was realistic. He said he wanted to be a pilot. And she responded, “I can see you in the air. I see it. I see you in the plane. I see you in the air..”

His words were “….  little words like that. I don’t think they [teachers] understand how important that is to the student.”

It’s a pretty emotional study to me. You know, I would think to anybody that teaches, right? That’s what we got into it for. But as an educator, you deserve some practical things. You deserve some things where you’re not killing yourself and staying up late at night and making special things.  For this demographic, we’re finding that’s not what you have to do to keep them in school. They said tutorials and summer school were the biggest things for systems. Those are the biggest things. And not special tutorials or special summer school. Just understand that every day I know more English and every day I learn more and I can read more.

And I might fail algebra again this year, but I’m moving forward. I’m going to come to tutorials, and I’m going to keep learning more algebra and more English. They said tutorials help them work in smaller groups and with different teachers, and summer school gave them an opportunity to focus on just one content area at a time or two for the whole summer. So these are things we already have in place.

I don’t mean to make all of this sound easier than it is, but I do feel like we’re making it harder than it needs to be for me.

Mindset. Challenge my beliefs.

Challenge what I believe, just like Joseph told me. What do you believe, though? What do you really believe? Do you believe kids can learn? Do you believe if they don’t give up, that there’s nothing that would be able to stop them over time.  Do you believe that kids beat the odds? Some kids beat the odds. OK, why not? That beat all the kids in your class if the determining factor of why they can beat the odds or how they feel about themselves and what’s available to them. So I’m going to end on this because I just think we just need to take this with us.

I need this so much because our world continues to change and our jobs all become more and more challenging and we just need to settle and think about what can we control and what can we not control and what are the things that are practical that we can do that have the biggest impact and how can we form relationships with students where we flip that script. Where we flip it and go. I know it’s hard. I’m going to do what I can to make it easier for you and understand that every day it gets easier. Every single day, just like going to the gym and working out, it’s hard, but you’re getting stronger and it becomes easier.  So just come with us. Just come with us. Okay, so here’s what I want to end on, okay? I really want to end on something that happened in that classroom back then that really makes me think now I try to hold on to it now.

So the class was full of language learners that had limited formal education. And they were in secondary, they were in middle school, the class I’m talking about. And it just seemed like an uphill battle. And I consulted with someone who is a leader in the field and I was asking what I could expect, like what’s the best scenario, best case scenario? And so they told me what the research shows. It’s going to take five to seven years just to learn a language and then literacy on top of that.  And they don’t have good outcomes for this kind of student. And XYZ and I said, yeah, but they’re learning, I mean, faster than I would have imagined because by now we had an environment that was so supportive and everybody felt like they were learning and everybody was motivated. Right? We’re fast forwarding to the second semester.  This person told me, okay, well, you might have one like that, but that’s an anomaly. That’s not normal. That’s not what’s generally happening in classrooms. Okay, but it’s not one. Okay, well if you have a few, they’re anomalies.That’s not the norm. Carol. I was like, okay, but everybody is learning faster now that we’ve been focusing on motivation and what like Larry Ferlazzo writes about how to help kids find their own motivation. We’re focusing on that and we’re making sure things are relevant to them. And that’s a big focus.

…everybody is learning faster now that we’ve been focusing on motivation

A lot of shared reading, shared writing, and relevant topics. They’re with some teachers and content classes that are holding a high bar, and they have them I mean, they had just optimal situations all over the place, and they’re all learning so fast. And she said, well, yeah, because it’s the environment that’s the anomaly. It’s the environment that’s not normal. So they’re all going to learn more quickly.


When you look at research, that’s what I want us to think about here. When you look at research that the average kid like this goes blah, blah, blah and takes this long and all of that, we need to ask ourselves why.  Why is this so?  What is the average classroom look like?  What is the average student with interrupted education having an opportunity to do? What’s the support look like?

Take it all into consideration before you say, okay, well, there’s no hope for this kid.

Make sure your environment this year is the anomaly.

Make sure your environment is what makes the difference.

You can do it!

All right, so that’s the Back to School episode of 2022!

But whenever you’re reading this, the principles throughout this episode should apply. You can take those five things that I talked about at the beginning, and you can implement those at any time in the school year. The biggest thing I wanted to talk about that applies anytime of the year is our mindset, my mindset, challenging my beliefs.

That made the biggest difference for me. And that goes a long way to helping the mindset of the students that we serve.

Where can we connect?

Come to Texas! 🤠

Come to Houston if you’re listening to this real-time in 2022, in November, we have TEXTESOL!  Our local TexTESOL IV chapter is hosting!

That flyer is for our state conference, and I’m honored to be a keynote speaker with Dr. Steven Krashen, Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld, and THE John Seidlitz. We’d love to have you here with us.

Also, you could come to TABE! That is the Texas Association of Bilingual Educators and the annual conference is here in Houston in mid-October.

I am giving a full-day preconference on Rapid Literacy for Older Emergent Readers.  More to come on that:

We would love to see you there. I’ll end this podcast, just telling you. Thank you. If you’re still listening to a podcast, again, you’re the type of educator I’d love my own child to have, and I appreciate you, and I hold you in very high esteem, in very high regard.


Please reach out if I can help you.

Take good care.

❤️, Carol