BAP103 Motivation and Engagement for SLIFE

Motivation is everything.  If we don’t have engagement, what do we really have?  We might have fake readers & students who are doing the bare minimum.  But how would their learning change if they were engaged and intrinsically motivated to learn even when they are not with you?

I’m working around the US and Canada training, coaching, and modeling.  I’m seeing some amazing things for new arrival students.  This podcast is in response to feedback I’m getting from newcomer teachers I support.  MANY are telling me:

“I’m struggling with engagement.”

Well, we have solutions!  You listen to this show right here or in your favorite podcast app:

Listen to “BAP103 Motivation & Engagement for SLIFE” on Spreaker.

You may prefer to watch this show on YouTube or right here:

And you can always just read through the notes below.

In this episode, I am standing on the shoulders of Dr. Lora Beth Escalante, who wrote “Motivating ELLs,” Researchers like Daniel Pink, and also the work of Larry Ferlazzo who is a practitioner, blogger, and author of many books on the subject. In fact, I’m following 4 things recommended by Larry Ferlazzo in this article.

Larry has shared this in more than one article.  Check out more of his articles, books, and posts here.  In the podcast, I mention the good news and the bad news about motivation.   The bad news is that we can’t MAKE students be motivated.  The great news is, just as Sir Ken Robinson tells us, we can create conditions where things should grow.

And we know what we need in our “garden” for optimal motivation conditions.

According to Ferlazzo, these are the 4 things that help students become intrinsically motivated:

  • Relatedness

  • Relevancy

  • Competence

  • Autonomy

In the show, I talk about each of these things and how we can foster them for multilingual learners.  While this applies to all students, I am always specifically speaking to the teacher of SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education).  Here are some of the things I mentioned for each:


Relationships!  Does my teacher respect me?  Do the other students respect me?  How do we get along?  How do I feel as a person?  Is my culture appreciated?

Here is a show on creating a social contract if you feel that your classroom needs a reboot on how we treat each other.

Also, don’t underestimate how volunteers can support a sense of relatedness.  Don’t have volunteers, ask your principal or PTA to send out this video to the community:


Ask yourself if students understand WHY you’re asking them to do _______.  Whatever you want them to do, do they see the relevance for them and their lives?  As an example, I want students’ eyes to go across text when things are read aloud to them.  I need to explain to them why that is.  For example:

If I am reading aloud to emergent readers, I want them to track the print with their fingers when they are first gaining the language.  I want them to understand that if they track the print with their eyes 👀, they will see high-frequency words over and over again.  This will support their decoding skills in a powerful way.  They need to understand that 1/2 of all print is high-frequency words and gaining them will impact their language and literacy development dramatically.  They need to read WITH me.  We can absolutely chunk the text and help them negotiate meaning and be analytical about the text.  But as emergent readers, they need to track the print to get more high-frequency words.  This is the WHY.

Here is another example of relevancy from Kim Thyberg on Twitter:

I love how Kim is teaching grade-level concepts (claims/evidence/reasoning) but also helping her students understand how quickly they can begin to decode text as they gain these high-frequency words.


If I have a sense of competence, it means that I feel myself getting better at this activity.  Before we think our kids lack grit and give up too easily, let’s remember that these same students will fail over and over again at video games.  Why?  Perhaps because they’ve had a little win at that level.  They feel that they can figure out the level.. that they can master it.  They don’t have mastery YET, but they are improving.

We can also think about ourselves and something we are trying to learn to do.  Perhaps you want to bake your grandmother’s cookie recipe.  The first time t

hey don’t look very good but they taste pretty close.  So you try again.  You try again because the small successes in your attempts give you a sense of competence.  You feel that you can master it because you had some small wins.

When we think of our students who are not engaged or motivated… let’s think back to the last time they had an academic win.

There are many ways to give SLIFE little wins.  Examples include:

Showing them growth every time we speak to them.  Using any book and asking them to identify words or sounds of letters and pointing out any growth.  I tried to do this every time I had them in a small group.

QSSSA is also a great strategy that gives your entire class an opportunity to have a win.  See Ep 26 for more on QSSSA.


Autonomy means choice.  We have seen many teachers sharing choice boards lately and as you can imagine, this leads to more engagement from learners.  All of us want some choice in what we do.  So perhaps we offer choices in how they participate in a task.  ie: with a buddy, on their own, with the teacher:

We can also offer choice in how they reflect on what they read:

But one of the most important places they need autonomy is in WHAT they read during free voluntary reading time.  We only had a few minutes a day to read for pleasure.  But I was always emphasizing that they needed to read on their own whenever they could.  For this to happen, they need LOTS of things to choose from.  If you chose to read something, because it is of interest to YOU, you’re less likely to fake read or abandon the text.  Stephen Krashen tells us that free voluntary reading is key to language acquisition.  And YES, our SLIFE can read… with support!

What can SLIFE, who have low to no literacy in their first language read? A lot!

There are many things they can choose from.  Examples include:

  • Re-reading things we wrote in class together for fluency. Explain why this will boost their ability to decode text.
  • A book they chose from the library or your classroom. We can show them how to negotiate meaning from any piece of text with technology (Google Images, Google Translate, Chrome Read Aloud Extensions)
  • Ergo-Hi-Lo Ebooks  These are high-interest, easy-to-read books that you can print or have e-versions.
  • If you have the budget, get a library of Saddleback Hi-Lo readers! Saddleback books are my favorite Hi-Low readers if you have the budget for materials.
  • A top tip is  I did a show about it here.  That free website is so important once the students understand how to level up within the same article.

Two Examples of Highly Engaging Activities that Boost Literacy & Language Acquisition


News in Levels offers so much choice.  This is not a little bit of choice… it is a TON of choice. It requires no login and they can choose from current or hundreds of prior articles.  Here is how it relates to what we are talking about today:

  • Relatedness:  I will conference with new students and show them how to use it. I have faith in them that they can quickly learn the skills to make this meaningful.  They can do it with a buddy or me or as a whole class for the first few times.  I want to know their interests so I ask about what they are choosing to read about… RELATIONSHIPS & HOW WE REGARD THEM.
  • Relevancy:  The link I am giving you explains to you and to the students HOW to use it and WHY it works for older emergent readers. I even made a quick 5 min video to show students how to use the site.  THIS OFFERS RELEVANCY for using this site and because they chose what they read about, and it is the actual news, it is by nature relevant to them.
  • Competence: If they follow my advice, they will go through all three levels of an article before they move on to a different new story.  They should be able to master level 1 with support (it is read aloud to them from YouTube, it includes images, they can use Google images & Google translate as well… they can even get support from others).  When they go to level 2 & level 3 it is just about exposure to more complex language.  They feel themselves getting better with word recognition the more they do of this.  It offers an opportunity to level up, small wins, A SENSE OF COMPETENCE.
  • Autonomy:  As I mentioned above… this site offers a great deal of choice.  The students need to have the autonomy to choose what they read and this site offers hundreds of articles.


I follow Noa Daniel and her Building Outside the Blocks philosophy has made a huge difference in my classroom.

  • Relatedness:  I model a choice project presentation.  Students learn about me and get the message that I want to learn about them.  All students learn about each other and throughout the year we are learning about each other and reinforcing appreciation for our diversity.  Choice projects offer voice. RELATIONSHIPS
  • Relevancy:  Students choose what to present about. They are RELEVANT by nature.
  • Competence: They practice, practice, practice what they will say.  They read & re-read & re-read their scripts for their presentation and what they turn in.  We can point out their progress in identifying and recognizing English words and sounds. This leads to a SENSE OF COMPETENCE.
  • Autonomy:  Students choose what they want to present about and they choose a day during the grading period that they want to present. There are many opportunities for autonomy.

Here is a video of a newcomer presenting her Personal Playlist project.  More projects with resources can be found here also check out Noa’s site.

I hope this has been helpful.  Shout out to all the teachers who are collaborating with me this year. I love all I learn with them!

Please take good care!

❤️, Carol

PS:  Here are resources including a free chapter download for DIYpd4MLs book:

Other resources I used for this show:



BAP102 Journeys to Belonging ft Dr. Ilene Winokur

This show should be relevant to all educators.  The book “Journeys to Belonging” by Dr. Ilene Winokur is now out and available.  This show includes research and practical ideas for supporting ALL students including marginalized learners.

You can listen to this episode right here or in your favorite podcast app:
Listen to “BAP102 Journeys to Belonging ft Dr. Ilene Winokur” on Spreaker.

Dr. Winokur has led a fascinating life and was on our show earlier this year. You can listen to that episode right here.  She is someone I have followed for years.  I appreciate all I learn from her and I’m grateful to have cited her in my doctoral research regarding what has an impact on the persistence of marginalized students.

Journey to Belonging

The hashtag is #Journeys2Belonging.  Check that out to learn so much about Ilene’s book and her work. She joined me and Stephen Hurley of VoicEd radio for this live show in September and you can now get your copy of this book on Amazon or through Edumatch Publishing.


She discusses her own journey, the research behind a sense of belonging, and how important it is for educators to set the tone of safety in our learning spaces.  You can learn so much by following Dr. Winokur on Twitter or on her website.

She also has her own great podcast and you can get links to all of that from the website.

Neuroscience and Psychological Safety

Ilene mentions a show with Stephen Hurley and Dr. Stephen Porges.  The body’s physiological response and need for safety is discussed in depth in that show.  Ilene references Dr. Porges more than once so here is that show for your continued exploration of the subject.

I am always fascinated to here Ilene’s thoughts about how we can create a safe space where everyone feels welcome.  We talk about what is practical and how we can support the emotional needs of our students and of our teachers.

I’m so grateful to Dr. Winokur for writing this book, for spending time with us, and for all she shares regularly.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode. You add so much to my journey!

Please connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.


PS: Our new book, DIYpd: A Guide to Self-Directed Learning for Educators of Multilingual Learners is out and you can download the first chapter right here.  We hope you’ll interact with us on Twitter for the current round of #MLLchat_BkClub.  Use the #DIYpd4MLs hashtag to engage.



BAP101 Dr. Margaret Aisicovich on her 100 Ways to Kill a Teacher Book

Dr. Margaret Aisicovich returned to talk about her new book, 100 Ways to Kill a Teacher: Cautionary Tales about Public Education in Canada.

You can listen to the show on any podcast app or right here:
Listen to “BAP101 100 Ways to Kill a Teacher” on Spreaker.

I follow Dr. Aisicovich because she challenges my thinking.  While working on my own dissertation, I cited her research on teacher and administrator perceptions of multilingual learners.  Her new book, 100 Ways to Kill a Teacher; Cautionary Tales about Public Education in Canada, shares pitfalls, heartbreaks, and limitations teachers can expect to face in the field.  On the show, she shares about this raw take on the field and how she hopes it will add to the profession.

In the show, we talked about some of the realities outlined in the book.  Many of us can empathize with the challenges teachers face.  Margaret hopes her book will help jumpstart conversations and serve as a call to action that can support change.

I agree that we need to constantly examine how we are functioning systemically. I was particularly drawn to the chapter on professional development and some of the challenges she describes. On the podcast, we had a great conversation about the possible pitfalls and how they might be avoided.

As we mentioned on the show, this book can help educators feel that they are not alone.  There are many situations that people do not expect when they enter the field. I appreciate Dr. Aisicovich for her candor and her passion.

Thank you Margaret and Stephen for the conversation and thank YOU for tuning in.

Take good care,


PS: Our DIYpd4MLs book is now on the shelves and you can join us for the launch party on November 15 at 4pm PT / 7PM ET.  Register right here to attend.  We are excited to offer a free chapter download to all attendees.

BAP100 Kid Inspired Classroom with John Carlson

Welcome to Episode 100!  In this show, you get to hear ideas and insight from John Carlson of Kid-Inspired Classroom. John joins us for a live show to share a practical tip that has had a huge effect in ESL classrooms.  We end up in a deep conversation about the value of sharing content and ideas.

You can listen to the show in your favorite podcast app or right here:
Listen to “BAP100 John Carlson of Kid Inspired Classroom” on Spreaker.

I purchased his book, Kid-Inspired Teacher; Organizing Wildly Productive ELL Classrooms and I can tell you that it is full of great ideas for teachers of Emergent Bilinguals.

I would also recommend that you check out his website.  You can subscribe to his blog and check out the site where he shares curriculum, strategies, advice, and more.

John is very active on social media where he shares free content and also lifts up others that are doing the same.  We talk about this on the show. 

He and I are both convinced that it is in our best interest to share what others are doing…even if that thing is in competition with what you’re doing for the field.

I respect John so much and I’m grateful to get to learn from him on a regular basis.  A great example is that in this show, he shares a “Choice Board Challenge” that is a great twist on an old favorite.  Tan Huynh, Dr. Katie Toppel, and I loved the idea so much that we will be using it for our Twitter book study on our new book.  That book study will be happening in November (more to come on that).

A big thanks to John Carlson.  I appreciate his willingness to do a live show with us on  And I also appreciate his willingness to support the field in so many ways.

And as always, I want to thank YOU.  Your passion has you listening to education radio.  I’m honored that this show is part of your journey.

Reach out and let me know what you think of this episode!

Take good care,


BAP099 Strong Start to 2021 – TOP 5 Tips for the Newcomer Classroom

Are you ready?? In some parts of the world, we are already in Back-to-School PD!  So, as I do every year, I share my top tips & how they may look in the current reality.

You can listen to this new show right here:
Listen to “BAP099 Starting Strong for Newcomers in 2021 – TOP TIPS” on Spreaker.

I was able to talk about the 2021-2o22 school year with Stephen Hurley on a LIVE Boosting Achievement episode and that show is a big chunk of this podcast episode.  In the Fall of 2021, you can catch us on Friday mornings at 7am ET on 

I explain WHY they are my non-negotiables in this podcast.

*** THIS ALL BEGINS WITH A WELCOMING TONE, SMILE, WELCOMING BODY LANGUAGE.  My first goal is to be sure they each realize that I WANT THEM THERE.

  1. Name Tents (and activities we do with them)

  2. We play a Kahoot Quiz game about me (#SelfieKahoot)

  3. We create Class #SelfieKahoots to play

  4. We learn about the “Instead of IDK Poster”

  5. We create a Social Contract.

Here is the video I promise you iin this show:

I also mentioned that I have done this same “Beginning of the Year” tips show in 2019 and 2020.

In 2019, because of politics it was a more challenging climate than we had been used to.  (For serving immigrants, I mean)  That show reiterated these tips but offered a way to look at what we were taking on that helped me be more productive.  You may find that content helpful:

Then came the school year that started in a raging pandemic.  Last year’s Top-Tips for Starting the School Year had the same tips, but we needed to think about how we would do them in a remote/distance learning environment.

My hope is that you are teaching remotely *IF YOU WANT TO* and that you are not if you don’t want to.  But just in case you ever need to do that again, know that you have that Covid edition video & blog to reflect on how you can do these things when you’re not in the same room with your students.

In this show, I dropped a lot of names!  Each of the following people was mentioned because they have amazing content that they shared and they came to mind as I spoke to Stephen or reflected on my learning.  Here is how you can follow them:

Sara Sparks

Dr. Ilene Winokur

Lynmara Colón

Tan Huynh

Roland Chidiac

Maneka Brooks

Emily Francis

Jess Bell

Stephen Krashen & the Affective Filter Hypothesis

Here are a few visuals & a video of my high school students that I talked about:

Many teachers like Roxi Adkins have great ideas on how to welcome students and it goes beyond a trite name activity:


Of course, we talked about our Kahoots!  I have shared SO MANY things we can do with Kahoot here and on Kahoot’s website. 

Starting the year with a SelfieKahoot has never failed me.  Including this year in my summer school class:

Paper templates for the Class Selfie Kahoot can be downloaded from this padlet I use in my “Using Tech with ELLs” workshop.

We will have our next show with a deeper dive into the social contract.  Stephen Hurley has some ideas about it and we ran out of time.  Be sure to tune in for more on Social Contracts.  If you’d like all the scoop on how to create a Social Contract in the Newcomer Classroom (and why you want to), check out this episode or p. 47 from the Boosting Achievement book.


Last but not at all least, I will ALWAYS create a “What to say instead of IDK” poster.  Google image that idea and you’ll see many examples.  It is STEP 1 in Seidlitz 7 Steps to a Language-Rich, Interactive Classroom.  This is always the FIRST thing we work on, no matter when a student shows up in my classroom.

Thank you for tuning in or reading this post.

I am sending you positive vibes and gratitude.  Have a great school year!


BAP098 Amplifying Voices of Unaccompanied Minors Conference ft. John Seidlitz

Special guest, John Seidlitz, is on the show to tell us about an incredible opportunity on July 21, 2021.

The free conference, Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors, will feature inspiring speakers who have lived the experience of being an unaccompanied minor.

You can get this show on your favorite podcasting app or listen right here:
Listen to “BAP098 Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors ft. John Seidlitz” on Spreaker.

This is an opportunity for teachers and program leaders school leaders to hear actual stories of adults who came to the United States and arrived without their parents.
To attend on July 21 at 10am Central. Register here:
This event is being brought to us by Seidlitz Education in partnership with Inlier Learning.  The CEO of Inlier Learning is Orly Klapholz .  I often mention her for her work in the area of SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education).
John explains that he became passionate about supporting this cause after different experiences with unaccompanied youth and also recently with some adults who had been unaccompanied minors earlier in life.  Stephen Hurley, like many of our listeners, is not in an area of the world that is seeing large numbers of children crossing the border without adults.  He asked John to explain more about who these children are and why they are unaccompanied.
John gave some common reasons.  For example,
  • Poverty. Parents may have left their children with relatives while they come to the US to work in an attempt to escape extreme poverty.  Children may come to the US in search of those parents
  • Danger.  I had a student who was without their parents in the United States.  His situation was that once he became a teenager, he was captured by gangs more than once. He decided to make the journey to the U.S.  While it was dangerous to do so, it was less dangerous than his life had become in his home country
As Laura Gardner explains in this blog post, there were  19,000 unaccompanied minors at the US border in May of 2021.  John recommends we all read the post and watch Laura’s short video here to learn more.
The speakers at the event will include:
EMILY FRANCIS and one of her students.  Her story is particularly meaningful to me as we were able to use her blogposts about her journey to inspire so many of my students.
ARI HONARVAR grew up in Shiraz, Iran where she was surrounded by Persian poetry and art. John points out that Ari’s story is different from what many of us envision when we think of unaccompanied youth. Ari is a journalist, author, and Iranian Musical Ambassador of Peace.
DR. JOSE LUIS ZELAYA grew up in San Pedro Sula in Honduras and came to the U.S. as a child with two bullet holes in his legs.  He has since graduated with a PhD in Urban Education from Texas A&M University.
His Ted Talk about his journey is powerful.  You can watch it here:
During the show, John also mentioned our Virtual SLIFE conference which was also co-hosted by Inlier Learning.  That professional development opportunity is still available for you on the Seidlitz Education website. 
In my own reflection, I found it important to think about this conference in terms of how I can use the idea of amplifying voices.  I mention the ideas of Larry Ferlazzo.   He has many on building empathy among the class.  In this guest post written by Larry’s colleague, Pam Buric, she explains how students telling their stories had an impact on the rest of the school.
Educators like Larry Ferlazzo and Pamela Broussard regularly offer their students opportunities to share their stories.  They have inspired many other teachers like me to do the same.  It is always successful and powerful for the presenter and for those that get to listen.
I feel like that is my biggest takeaway.  The power of stories. They can help us build empathy, they can inspire and they can help us understand how to support our students.
I hope to see you at the Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors conference.  Look for me in the chat and to be tweeting about it with the hashtag:  #VoicesofUnaccompaniedMinors
Make sure you get your spot!  Register right here:
Thanks again to Stephen Hurly and to John Seidlitz for joining us on this show.
And thank you for listening or reading this post!
I hope to hear from you about it.

My best,


BAP097 Feeling Prepared to Support SLIFE with Dr. Margaret Aisicovich

Experiencing an interruption in education is not a cognitive issue.  It is a lack of opportunity issue.

Dr. Margaret Aisicovich, a member of my professional learning network, agrees.  But her research and experience, unfortunately, suggest that many educators still believe that SLIFE (Students with limited or interrupted formal education) are less capable than other students.

I was delighted to have Dr. Aisicovich join me for a live show with Stephen Hurley.  You can listen to my reflections and some of our chat right here:

Listen to “BAP097 Feeling Prepared to Support SLIFE ft. Dr. Margaret Aisicovich” on Spreaker.

I am using her research in my own doctoral work.  I am still early in my own process but my literature review and preliminary observations are in direct alignment with what Margaret shares on the show.  Part of her research centers around how teachers view their ability to be effective with SLIFE.  Her work was conducted in Manitoba, Canada, and in her area, students who missed foundational education are referred to as LAL (Literacy, Academics, and Language) students.

You can read more from Dr. Aisicovich’s dissertation via the University of Manitoba’s library.


Dr. Aisicovich has a master’s and a PhD in Education. She has been a K-12 principal, has taught grades K–12, and has taught in higher education. While she was teaching, she taught English as an additional language to new Canadians and published two books with her students: How I Got My Name, Lost it and Found it Again and An Anthology of School Stories by EAL High School Students in English and Their Mother Tongue.  You can learn more about her work at her website:

Dr. Aisicovich was born in Poland and moved to Canada at the age of six. She talks about that experience on the show.  Her perspective was so great for my reflection.

A big takeaway for me was how much we need to plan for our SLIFE. Namely:

  • Transitioning to mainstream classes
  • How they will get access to grade-level standards
  • How we will create spaces where they feel valued
  • Creating a system of equity

But a critical part of the equation is whether or not the teacher believes they can support the student.

I keep thinking about the teachers that would cry to Margaret because they did not feel prepared to support SLIFE/LAL learners.  Many of us have felt this way.

This is one of the main reasons I do this show.  It is helping me learn.  The more I learn from colleagues like Dr. Aisicovich, the more prepared I feel to support LAL/SLIFE.  All teachers deserve training to support their under-schooled students.

If you’re feeling like you want more support in this area, be sure to express that concern to your district, province, or your administrator.  And I’m including a ton of FREE resources below to support you.  Also, check out other Boosting Achievement Podcast Episodes on everything from how to teach a student how to read to practical strategies that can happen in every classroom. 

Thank you, once again, Margaret.  We are excited for your book to come out in the fall of 2021.  It is not about ESL or SLIFE/LAL students.  It is a book with tales about the pitfalls, heartbreak, and challenges people face when they choose the profession of being an educator.  Watch the newly released trailer here:

We are excited to have Margaret come back on the show to share more about the book closer to the release date.  Stay up to date on the book by following Dr. Aisicovich on Twitter.  She is at @MAisicovich

Thank you for stopping by the blog/show notes… for supporting my learning journey… and for all you do!

Here are the learning opportunities that can help educators support SLIFE

The Virtual SLIFE conference happened in Nov 2020 and all the sessions are still available on YouTube:

The ML Summit will be happening throughout the month f July. There are several SLIFE sessions:


Tune in for the next podcast with guest, John Seidlitz.  He will be sharing about the upcoming conference “Amplifying the Voices of Unaccompanied Minors”


BAP096 You’re Invited to the ML Summit! (previously VirtuEL)!

I realize that I sent you an email about the ML Summit but it is now just a few days away and I posted a podcast episode about it.  So there need to be some shownotes for it.  So please excuse the repetition or you can use this as a reminder that we start-up in just a few days!  Even if you find this post after July 2021, all the sessions are still there…as are the ones from 2017 to 2020!

Here’s that quick show just raising awareness for folks who don’t know about the virtual free conference:

Listen to “BAP096 You’re Invited to The ML Summit (Previously VirtuEL)!” on Spreaker.

These are the show notes I mention in the show:

Dr. Katie Toppel, Tan Huynh, and I are thrilled to bring you our 5th annual completely free, YouTube conference for teachers of Multilingual Learners.

This is the virtual conference previously known as “VirtuEL” and the one that Larry Ferlazzo just called the “PD event of the summer” if you teach ELs.  Links to everything you need are in this post.

You’ll find all the sessions and info at the ML Summit Google Site


Want an overview?  Here is a “How – To” explainer video on the home page if you’re not familiar with our website or you just don’t want to miss a thing:

Dr. Maneka Brooks is our amazing Keynote on June 24th

She is followed by a full day of Live YouTube breakout sessions!

We begin on July 5th with the first 3 sessions released and a slow chat about them at the end of the week.

That happens again Week2!   leaders in the field interacting with us each week.

Don’t miss the amazing pre-conference sessions happening all month long.  We have the incredible Valentina Gonzalez & wonderful Beth Skelton offering a live pre-conference on July 22.  That day is the only thing that requires registration to offer you a different way to interact.  Space is limited!

And again, July 24th is the big day!

Many many thanks to everyone presenting and engaging!

Katie, Tan & I are so grateful!







Reach out with any questions.

<3 Carol


BAP095 The JCPS Newcomer Academy ft. Gwen Snow and Dr. Irina McGrath

Great things are happening for Newcomers in Kentucky!  What is working for recent arrivals at the Newcomer Academy in Jefferson Co Public Schools?   Principal Gwen Snow and Assistant Principal, Dr. Irina McGrath share some very important actions they are taking to best educate their newcomer and SLIFE learners in their high school.

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

Listen to “BAP095 Newcomer Academy Success ft. Snow and McGrath” on Spreaker.

A Source of Pride

I was blown away when Gwen shared that the school is going on its 15th year!

It has become a source of pride and identity for their immigrant community.  This is in alignment with the leadership training Gwen has in terms of the important role a high school can play in the community.  Many of the students are coming back as leaders in the community and making sure that people know that the Newcomer Academy was their school.  How powerful and inspiring!

Some of the big ideas include:

  • Supporting Basic Needs & finding out what is available in the community.

Gwen and Irina shared some of the most foundational things they do including helping families with basic needs.  It starts with knowing what is in your community.  We brought up 211, the United Way Help Line for folks who may not know what services are available in their area.

211 can speak to your students and families in many different languages.  Take Gwen’s advice and call it yourself to see what the experience is like and to be able to better help your families use it.  I found it to be very easy to use and in my high school class, we called it on speakerphone to illustrate how to call the service.

The United Way helpline is available across the US and in many parts of Canada.

The website is also great:

  • Good communication with their parents. 

They hold in-person and virtual Town Hall Meetings regularly.  I was inspired to hear about how important their parents are to the school.  They are available to help them and their students with much more than academics.

  • Social-Emotional Support 

This is a school for recent arrivals and so it stands to reason that many have lived through difficult circumstances.  Teachers have SEL training and the school has SEL Leads so there is a focus on how to help the students with their social and emotional needs.

  • Specific Language & Content Support

Ms. Snow explained that their school provides intense English support.  The teachers are trained to provide instruction in English with a focus on strategies that support language acquisition and content learning for multilingual learners.

Dr. McGrath & Michelle Shory (also in JCPS) have a fantastic supportive website we all need to be following: ELL2.0

I learn so much from it:

Dr. McGrath added that they have structured their scheduling so students receive content support and additional language support. A specific advocacy period is among the innovative classes taken by newcomer students. She pointed out that there is a lot of differentiation happening as all of the newcomers come with unique backgrounds and assets.

Irina was excited to tell us about how she is working with the content teachers to plan for the next school year.  They will be doing action research on specific content strategies for Newcomers.   She explained that they will select a number of techniques, try them out, and then document and share what works for newcomers at different levels.  This will be great information for so many other teachers as well.

  • Standards-Based Grading

Gwen emphasized that it is important for us to allow students multiple ways to show mastery. Grading on the actual standards allows educators to focus on what a student has mastered.  They shared that it also allows them to build on the students’ experiences.

  • Resources

Gwen advises that we take a good look at our resources.  ALL resources… such as  Human Resources for example.  How are they spread across the district and how can they best be utilized?

  • Teach Them How to Be a Student in the United States. 

Gwen reminded us that we are not just teaching them content or language.  We are teaching them how to do school in the US. Irina offered that she remembered being a newcomer and how challenging it is to have to learn everything from how to operate a microwave to how tubes worked in the drive-through at the bank.

  • Welcoming Environment

In many ways, they are both telling us how important it is that we support the whole student. There was a strong message of creating a welcoming environment.  We can all create that.  We have a lot of research around being culturally responsive and lowering the affective filter for students.  It is no wonder their efforts are working so well in JCPS.

I was so inspired by what they tell us is working.  It is wonderful that they have a specific school to implement these ideas and we can learn from those practices even if we don’t have a newcomer center.  The Newcomer Academy is giving students a great start in their education journey.

Thanks again to Gwen Snow & Dr. Irina McGrath!

And thank YOU for listening!


PS: Keep your eyes peeled for the #MLSummit!  (This is formerly #VirtuEL) Search the hashtag and know that I’ll send out info soon on how you can participate in the July free conference.


BAP094 Hope with Agency & Shifting to an Asset Lens

In this show, Stephen Hurley and I reflect on the labels we use to describe our language learners and we end up sharing some practical ways to foster HOPE for our students & our staff.

You can read about it below, listen on your favorite podcast app or tune in right here:

Listen to “BAP094 Hope with Agency & Shifting to an Asset Lens” on Spreaker.

Many people in our field are making a conscious effort to describe students with terms such as “Multilingual Learners” or “Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Learners.”

I am on board with this 100%!  But  I am still on a very public journey of learning and still exploring this for myself.  That journey is sometimes uncomfortable but I mention Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability as we are reflecting.  Her work on ‘putting yourself out there’ has made an incredible difference in my life.

Stephen offers me a T. S. Elliot Quote that sums up the way I often feel about what we do and our learning journeys:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started, and know the place for the first time.  – T.S. Elliot

I still use the term “EL” and “ELL” when working with clients but I want to use different language when it is not necessary to be specific about students who are receiving services.

In fact,  Dr. Katie Toppel, Tan Huynh, and I recently authored  a book where we make sure to limit the use of the term “EL.”   As I speak to Stephen, you’ll hear me talk about the term “CLD” or “Culturally and Linguistically Diverse” students.  Katie, Tan & I know we want to use something other than EL when we refer to the students we serve, but we are still debating the right term to use.

It’s great to see that things are changing and more people are adopting asset terms to describe our diverse students. The current round of #MLLchat_BkClub (formerly #ELLchat_BkClub) is studying a fabulous book by Diane Staher Fenner & Sidney Snyder.  Notice the term being used to describe the students.

I feel strongly that we need to describe our students and refer to them in ways that reinforce all that they bring.  But I do worry about the confusion that can happen when we are not clear about who needs services, who needs what scaffolds, who we are advocating for.

Let’s be Clear.. AND Asset-Based

I work with districts and I am hired to help educators not only accelerate language acquisition but also to support SLIFE & other ELs access grade-level content.  That requires that we are clear about which demographics and subpopulations we are referring to.

But I think we can do this.  I feel that I can walk into a school and talk about ELs & SLIFE in terms of what we can do to support them.  In the same conversation, I can marvel at how wonderful the support is for all the Multilingual Learners.  I can tell a student that it is exciting to see them grow as a bilingual scholar.  I can assess the environment and talk about how inviting it is or isn’t for a culturally and linguistically diverse community.

In our live conversation, Stephen Hurley makes a good point that new terminology is always changing based on research and based on our perspective of the world.  He talks about the intersection of multilingualism, cultural diversity and linguistic diversity.  I think he is right… it is a complex place to be.

Some of Stephen’s Journey

Speaking of perspective, Stephen talks about how his own perspective was changed when he began interviewing speakers for the Shifting Linguistic Landscapes conference.  You can hear a great deal of it for free right here on

I highly recommend you check out that series.  You’ll get an opportunity to hear more about Translanguaging from the keynote Dr. Ofelia Garcia as well as other leaders in the field.

Stephen Hurley (who happens to be the founder of VoicEd radio) is constantly learning.  He speaks in this chat about the fact that embracing diversity in your classroom brings an opportunity to invite new perspectives.  YES!  His thoughts around that are wonderful to hear and great for our reflection.

Multiple Perspectives

As we discussed multiple perspectives, I told an anecdote of a newcomer who furthered everyone’s language and literacy by recounting how the history of the Texas-Mexico war was taught to him in his country. 

I mention how much language we get off the ground when we have engaging conversations and even debates. I always ask students to use language such as:

“I see what you are saying, but have you considered…?”

“That is an interesting point of view. From my perspective…”

“I agree that…”

“Tell me more about…”

But for these kinds of highly engaging discussions, the classroom needs to be a safe and respectful environment for everyone.

I talk to Stephen about one of the practical things I do in my classroom to achieve this.  We always set up a social contract.  The steps I use are from Capturing Kids’ Hearts, a program/training that some of my colleagues had received.  I write and talk about it here. 

I also shared my thoughts around supporting teachers who are burned out and having a difficult year.  I don’t believe the answer is to give up and think that the teacher can’t benefit from coaching or training right now.  Yes, many are in a high-stress place, and many are overwhelmed and their work is so difficult.  But that is the reality for the students that we serve.  The answer is not to say, “you don’t need support.”  The answer is to create a low-stress environment where people are having wins… where their voice is valued, and where we are all learning.  Administrators that work to create this atmosphere are modeling what we can do for our MLLs


Before we wrapped up we got on the topic of what gives people hope right now.  Hope is the answer for teachers who are burned out, students who are going through difficult circumstances, even ourselves and our families.

We all need hope and, lucky for us, EDUCATION offers so much hope.  Stephen made connections to the sense of agency around Hope.  He mentions a book by Thomas Homer-Dixon entitled Comanding Hope.

Stephen goes on to point out the difference when we say

“I hope that…”   (a wish)


“I hope to…”  (now we have agency!)

In these challenging times, I will continue to try to offer hope to as many students, educators and education leaders as possbile. But as Stephen says, I want to offer hope that comes with a sense of agency, not just a wish.

It reminded me of a quote that our newcomers memorized.  It can give students a LOT of hope… with agency!

So at the end of the day, I am still doing the work of being as asset minded as I can for our students.  You’ll likely contine to hear me fumble through different ways of describing our students and I appreciate your grace in that.  I’m working on what sounds right and feels right for different circumstances.

I’d love to hear what you think about the terms and how it is affecting your world.  Please comment here or find me on Twitter or Facebook let me know!

Thanks for