Monday, May 22, 2017

Ideas to Help Your ELLs Avoid Summer Learning Loss

"Reading is a joy for my kids, and to swing in a hammock on a lazy summer day reading a good book just goes with summer."
-- Marcia Gay Harden

Schools nowadays often give reading and math assignments that students are required to do during their summer vacation.  My school in Massachusetts had lists of books for each grade level, starting at Grade 3, and students had to choose 2 books to read and then complete 2 of the tasks from another list to show they’d read them.  When school resumed in the fall, the work was collected, discussed in a Language Arts class, and a notation was made on students’ report cards if they had completed the assignments.

Talk about taking the fun out of summer!

I looked at the list of books each year and very few of them were appropriate for my ELLs.  Even though each grade level had books at a range of reading levels, most were still too difficult for any but the most proficient ELLs.

Check out the #ELLEdTech hashtag for some great tech tools to prevent summer slide in ELLs & grab a FREE checklist to plan activities that help avoid summer learning loss in ELLs | The ESL Nexus
ELLs need to read & write in English during the summer but they can still have fun; source, The ESL Nexus
It was a shame, because it’s very easy for ELLs at the lower levels of language proficiency to lose the gains they made in English during the school year.  If the members of their families aren’t using English at home, it’s almost unavoidable that ELLs will regress during the long summer vacations that are the norm in the U.S.  Plus, many ELLs visit relatives in their native countries (or their parents’ native countries, since many ELLs, like the majority of mine, are born in the U.S.) and spend several weeks using their native language and no English at all.

What can be done to mitigate this?  In our #ELLEdTech chat yesterday, lots of online programs, websites and apps were recommended.  You can use the hashtag #ELLEdTech to search for the chat and find the 15+ tools that were recommended.

In addition, several suggestions to help teachers present a summer learning program to their students were offered.  I’ve expanded on those ideas and created a checklist that you can use to help you organize learning opportunities for your students during their summer vacation.  You can grab your free copy HERE.
Check out the #ELLEdTech hashtag for some great tech tools to prevent summer slide in ELLs & grab a FREE checklist to plan activities that help avoid summer learning loss in ELLs | The ESL Nexus
Click HERE to grab your free copy
Since we're approaching the end of the school year and students will be on vacation for a couple months, at least if they're in the U.S., Laurah and I have decided that the #ELLEdTech chats will also take a break in June and July.  We will be back the second Sunday in August for another year of discussing how technology can help ELLs.

Check out the #ELLEdTech hashtag for some great tech tools to prevent summer slide in ELLs & grab a FREE checklist to plan activities that help avoid summer learning loss in ELLs | The ESL Nexus
See you in August! source: The ESL Nexus
Finally, on a completely different note, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while you might notice that it has a new look.  I’ve given it a makeover and my blog is, finally, mobile friendly.  Hooray!  It should be much easier now to read it on a smartphone or tablet, if you’re inclined to do that.  I still have a few tweaks to make but I am very pleased with how it’s turned out and I hope you like it as much as I do.  Thanks for your continued interest in reading about my ideas on educating English Language Learners!


Monday, May 15, 2017

May #ELLEdTech Twitter Chat: Preventing Summer Slide

"Slip, slidin' away / Slip slidin' away..."
-- Simon & Garfunkel

ELLs are probably more at risk of summer learning loss than other students if they don't have sustained exposure to the English language during their summer vacations.  But what can teachers do to mitigate this?  Join Laurah and me this coming Sunday, May 21st, and find out about some Technology Tools to Help Prevent Summer Slide in ELLs!

Join the #ELEdTech Twitter chat on Sunday, May 21, 2107 to discuss using tech tools to prevent summer slide in ELLs.
Join the discussion on preventing summer slide in ELLs, Sunday, May 21; source: The ESL Nexus
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introductions: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What tech tools do you recommend for preventing summer slide in ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How are these tools useful in preventing summer slide in ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What are the pros or benefits to using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any cons or drawbacks Ts should be aware of with these tools#ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers that want to help prevent slide in ELLs? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.
4. Starting at 7:05, @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.
7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

Join the #ELEdTech Twitter chat on Sunday, May 21, 2107 to discuss using tech tools to prevent summer slide in ELLs.
Share your favorite tech tools with other educators; source: The ESL Nexus
You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, or to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet. If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.

Is this your first Twitter chat? Here are our rules:
1. Please stay on topic.
2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked.
3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!
5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.)

You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well know about it. We can't wait to chat with you next Sunday!


Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Honor Teachers: Let Me Count the Ways

"I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well."
-- Alexander the Great

It's that time of year again: Teacher Appreciation Week!  Personally, I think people should thank teachers all year long for what they do but it's also real nice when companies give educators a special shout out.

If you are looking for some flyers or images to advertise Teacher Appreciation Week in your school or community, the National PTA has an Event Toolkit with lots of materials available on their website.  What's real nice is that they are in Spanish as well as English.

Educators enjoy some free offers by various companies and organizations during Teacher Appreciation Week 2017!
Enjoy some freebies this week and next; source: The ESL Nexus
The places listed below are offering special deals this May.  Some of them are nationwide and others are regional but the deals looked good so I included them.  Many other businesses offer discounts to educators throughout the year but I did not include them in this round up.  Just click on the names to go to their websites for more information.

Food and Restaurants

Chipotle Mexican Grill
What: All educators can take advantage of their BOGO free Burritos, Bowls, Salads, or orders of Tacos
When: Tuesday, May 2nd from 3:00pm – Closing
How: Show a valid school ID

Cicis Beyond Pizza
What: A free Adult Buffet
When: Tuesday, May 9th
How: Show a valid school ID

Einstein Bros. Bagels
What: 4 printable coupons for: 20% off a purchase, BOGO Egg Sandwich, $1.99 Bagel & Shmear, $1.00 off any Bacon Sandwich
When: Now until May 5th when the coupons expire
How: Print out the coupons and bring them to a store

Food Lion
What: All educators can receive a 5% discount off their total purchase
When: Tuesday, May 2nd
How: Show a valid school ID and MVP card when checking out; find store locations here

The Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grill
What: Teachers can receive a free meal up to $12 in value or take $12 off the price of a more expensive item if you purchase a beverage
When: May 3rd
How: Show a valid school ID; dine in only

Lindt Chocolates
What: 30% off all boxed chocolates (not exclusively for teachers but, hey, it's chocolate so I had to include it!)
When: Through Wednesday, May 24th
How: Visit their online store; discounts are already noted

Educational Activity

Kennedy Space Center
What: Free admission for one educator to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex; additional tickets are $5 off
When: Between now and May 7th
How: Download a coupon and bring it and a valid school ID to the Will Call area

Resources for Teachers

What: A contest to qualify for a $1,000 donation from GoFundMe
When: Complete the requirements by May 18th.
How:  1) Create a campaign between May 1 – May 8th
         2) Include the hashtag #WeLoveTeachers in the description
         3) Raise at least $500 by May 18th

Blue Mountain Cards
What: 5 free Thank You cards with teacher themes (great to give to colleagues or if you are a parent, to your children's teachers)
When: No timeframe is given
How: Download them from the website

If you know of other special Teacher Appreciation Week offers, please add them in the Comments section below.  Wishing everyone a wonderful week!


Monday, April 24, 2017

7 Technology Tools for Newcomer ELLs

"America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts."
-- James Madison

Yesterday in the #ELLEdTech chat, Laurah and I discussed technology tools for helping newcomers, which we defined as English Language Learners from other countries who have very low proficiency levels of English.  Teaching these students is challenging, especially if they arrive in the middle of the school year and it means rearranging your schedule, which happened to me on more than one occasion.  When I first started teaching, I didn’t like working with beginner-level ELLs but as time went on, my attitude changed and I came to really enjoy teaching them.  It was so easy to see the progress they made and that was really gratifying.

In this blog post, I’d like to share some of the resources that were mentioned in our Twitter chat.  In the future, I’ll write about other resources for newcomers that are not technology-based.  These resources can be utilized by both ESL and mainstream teachers who have newcomers in their classes.

These 7 technology tools are great for helping newcomer ELLs learn English.
Technology can help ELLs in a variety of ways; source: The ESL Nexus
First, though, here is a more complete description of a “newcomer” student, from the Next Generation ESL Project: Curriculum Resource Guide by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

Newcomer programs are temporary, transitional programs for recently arrived immigrant ELs at the earliest levels of English language proficiency, often referred to as newcomers(Friedlander, 1991). They are designed to meet the unique needs of this population; among their goals are helping students develop basic English language skills, providing instruction in core content areas in preparation for participation in general education classrooms, developing multicultural understanding and intercultural communication, and guiding students through the acculturation process in American schools (Friedlander, 1991; Short & Boyson, 2012).

* One of Laurah’s favorite tools for vocabulary learning for newcomers is Learning Chocolate.  She said, “It's great because it involves all 4 language domains with vocabulary practice & has visuals.”  First you listen to the words and phrases, and then you can play the games for free; if you want to add your own, though, you have to register.  There are versions in US English, UK English, Chinese (written versions in traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and German.  There is also a page with links to other sites for learning English.

* “Another great tool to help newcomers to communicate,” according to Laurah, “is Picto4me, a free Google Chrome app. This is great for making word walls or communication boards and allows you to create printable communications boards for varied purposes.”  A communication board is a grid with images on it, similar to a Bingo or Jingo board.  Laurah wrote a blog post that explains why this app is good for ELLs.

* Laurah also loves Read&Write for Chrome by TextHelp.  “Read&Write for Chrome is great for providing accommodations or read-alouds for students with low proficiency -- it will read aloud documents (tests or quizzes, for example) as well as websites. You can use it for whole text or parts of a text.  It also has translation and annotation features.”  You can see how it works on their website by clicking on the orange icon with headphones in the upper right corner of your screen.  A single use subscription for one year is $145 and other options are available as well.

* Imagine Learning is another tool that Laurah says the teachers she works with love.  This is a paid program that offers instruction in reading, speaking, and listening skills, grammar, and vocabulary.  Translation into 15 languages is available.  Other programs are for math, struggling readers and special education students. Ideally used on tablets but can also be used on computers.  I couldn't find any pricing info online, which to me implies it's expensive and probably not something individual teachers would purchase on their own.

* Seesaw, suggested by Shaeley Santiago, is a program for creating digital portfolios.  It works on computers as well as tablets and other devices.  Students can upload written work, photos, videos, links, and more to make a portfolio.  There is a free version and paid versions that offer more features. 

* I recommended BrainPop ESL.  BrainPop ESL is part of the BrainPop group of programs and is aimed specifically at English Language Learners.  It offers videos (with two recurring characters), activities, and games that teach various language skills at 3 different levels.  Some free content is available but the paid version offers more material; an annual subscription for 1 classroom is $150.  Other plans are also available.  This page (ignore the Chinese text and click on the video) explains all the features on the Brain Pop ESL site.

* In a course I took earlier this year, I learned about Vocaroo.  I haven’t used it in the classroom but it’s a free program that lets you make audio recordings online and is really simple to use.  You can record instructions for activities, homework assignments, or messages for students, to name a few possibilities.  You can also use Vocaroo for assessment purposes by recording students at the beginning of the school year and then again at the end.  You can download the recordings in various formats, email them, or create a QR code for them, which I think is pretty neat.

Find out about 7 technology tools that are great for helping newcomer ELLs learn English.
Newcomer ELLs are challenging but rewarding students; source: The ESL Nexus
I hope this gives you some ideas for resources you can use with your newcomers.  I’d love to hear what else works well – just add your suggestions in the Comments below.