Monday, February 8, 2021

What is DoK and Why Is It Helpful for ELLs?

" Do the best you can until you know better.

Then when you know better, do better."

-- Maya Angelou

What is DoK? That’s what I asked myself when a review of one of my TpT resources referred to it.  There are so many acronyms in education and this was a new one to me.  A quick search online revealed it stands for “Depth of Knowledge.”  Intrigued, I explored some more.

Learning about the Depth of Knowledge Framework
Find out how DoK can be used with ELLs; source: The ESL Nexus

Depth of Knowledge is a framework for evaluating how rigorous a task is.  It was developed by Dr. Norman Webb in 1977 in reaction to Bloom’s Taxonomy.  The Depth of Knowledge framework is related to Bloom’s Taxonomy but is not a replacement for it; rather, DoK works in tandem with it.
DoK ranks an assignment according to the type of thinking required to complete it.  There are 4 levels of the DoK framework, which are:
* Level 1 = Recall and Reproduction.  This involves remembering information and how to do something.  Another way to think of this is that it has to do with acquiring information.
* Level 2 = Skills and Concepts.  This involves understanding information.  Another way to think of this is that it has to do with applying knowledge that is acquired.
* Level 3 = Strategic Thinking.  This involves using the information in some way to do something.  Another way to think of is that it has to do with analyzing information.
* Level 4 = Extended Thinking.  This involves synthesizing information.  Another way to think of this is that it has to do with amplifying the information and applying it in a broader or wider way.

From my admittedly short dive into what Depth of Knowledge is all about, it seems that DoK is concerned with how deeply students must comprehend information in order to apply and transfer that knowledge to another context.  It’s more to do with actually using knowledge than with the kind of knowledge being used.

The Depth of Knowledge framework can be used to determine the level of complexity of an assignment or assessment.  That’s apparently what the reviewer of my TpT resource did.  She said, about my Martin Luther King Day Vocabulary Boom Cards, “A must have resource for sequence of and DOK of the events of MLK Jr. Life!”  Level 1 certainly applies to that resource because it asks students to match definitions to vocabulary words.  I think Level 2 can also apply because a recommended extension activity is to use the target vocab words to write about Martin Luther King, Jr.  Possibly Levels 3 and 4 could apply as well, depending on how the resource was used with students.

After learning about the Depth of Knowledge framework, I can see how it can be used with some of my other TpT resources.  For example, the African-American History Biography Task Cards, the Famous and Important Women in American History Biography Task Cards, and Women Around the World Biography Task Cards can be used to address Levels 2 and 3.

These 3 resources, which are also available in money-saving bundles (HERE, for just the 2 resources about women, and HERE, for all 3 resources) will be on sale during TpT’s sale on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 9th and 10th.  As usual, everything in my store will be 20% off and when you use the promo code FebSale21 when checking out, you’ll get and additional 5% off, for a total savings of 25%.  Other stores will also be on sale and offer discounts of up to 25%.

Use promo code FebSale21 to save up to 25%!
All resources in The ESL Nexus TpT store will be on sale!

A common issue when teaching English Language Learners is how to maintain rigor in the subject matter while simultaneously simplifying the language demands needed to access the content.  The Depth of Knowledge framework seems to be a helpful way of meeting that need.  As I continue to create resources, I’ll keep the DoK framework in mind.  


Monday, January 4, 2021

Happy New Year: A Freebie & and a Sale Announcement

Here's to a Happy & Healthy 2021 and what I hope will be a much better year for all!

View of the Sonoran Desert near my home in Tucson, AZ; source: The ESL Nexus

As a thank you for supporting my store this past challenging year, I've created a free resource for you. It's 4 images you can use as backgrounds if you are teaching remotely with Zoom or Google. It may work on other platforms, too, but I'm not completely sure. If you're not teaching remotely, you can just download them, print out the images, and use them as posters in your classroom. Click HERE for the link to get the resource; you'll be asked to make a copy for yourself and then you can access it. You can also click on the image below to get the freebie.

Click HERE to get your copy of the freebie; source: The ESL Nexus

In other news, I am almost finished creating Boom Cards decks for all my holiday puzzle resources. I recently uploaded decks for Martin Luther King Day Vocabulary, Valentine's Day Vocabulary, and Presidents Day Vocabulary. I'm working on the last one, which is for St. Patrick's Day, and plan to finish it in the next week or so.

Find all 3 resources in my Boom Cards Custom Category; source: The ESL Nexus

And I am pleased to announce that these 3 resources will be on sale Tuesday and Wednesday, January 5th and 6th, 2021, for the #BoomInto2021 Sale! Normally they cost $2.00 each but during the sale, they'll be discounted to $1.00 each. Each resource has definitions of 20 words related to the holiday and students have to find the correct word that matches the definitions. The first card in every deck provides instructions that tell students what to do and includes a list of the target vocabulary words. All the definitions on the cards have audio so students with lower levels of reading proficiency can listen to them instead of or in addition to reading the definitions.

Click Boom Cards Custom Category to find my resources on sale; source: The ESL Nexus

You can also find Boom resources on sale in other stores by using the #BoomInto2021 hashtag.

Happy Teaching!


Monday, December 7, 2020

These Charity Holiday Gifts Can Also Teach Your Students Social Studies

"The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others."

-- Homer

Every December, I had fun shopping for holiday gifts for my students.  I searched for small, fun things they could use in school.  I shopped at the school store and also at Target and Michael’s.  But it’s not a good idea to shop like that now during the pandemic, wandering up and down the aisles searching for that just right gift.

Fortunately, there is something else you can do!  In addition to buying tangible gifts, I also purchased something from international aid organizations’ gift catalogs, in the name of my students.  I chose something from the catalog, filled out the form and paid for it online, and in the space where it asked if the purchase was in honor of someone, I typed in the name of my class.  I didn't involve my students in selecting the item because I didn't want them to know how much I was spending but if you wanted them to have a say in it, you could.  Soon after, I got a card thanking my class for their donation.  I'll give you links to the gift catalogs I used below.

Use ideas from aid organizations' gift catalogs that help people in need, then teach your students about the country their gift came from.
Charitable donations on behalf of your students make great holiday gifts; source: The ESL Nexus

After getting the card, I told my students what I had done on their behalf and passed the card around so they could read it.  The cards were colorful and gave the kids a glimpse of life in other countries.  I put the card on a bulletin board at the front of my room and left it there for several months.  If you are teaching remotely, you can show the card to your students by sharing your screen, then place it somewhere where it’s visible in the background when you’re teaching.  My students were always intrigued and thought it was really cool when they found out what I'd done.

I did this for my middle school ESL Social Studies classes but you can do it with any grade level or class.  Because I was already teaching world geography and world history, I didn’t spend much time discussing the countries or cultures of the people whose gift the class supported.  But here are a few suggestions you can do with students if you’d like (not all may be appropriate for every grade level):
* Ask students to find the country of their donation on a map or give them a blank map of the continent in which the country is located and have them label the countries
* Draw a picture of the country’s flag and find out and then explain what the colors and any symbols on it represent
* Do some basic research about the country and write a research paper or composition about it, or pick one aspect about the culture of the country and write about it
* Create a multimedia presentation about the country, including info about population, natural resources, religion, history, economics, literacy rates, etc. (or focus on just one aspect and go into greater detail)
* Teach students some words in a language spoken in the country and/or find a few proverbs from the country and ask students what they think they mean

You may be asking yourself: Why should I donate to an organization that helps people overseas when there is so much need at home?  It’s an excellent question.  My answer is that doing this can be a great teachable moment for your students.  It exposes them to people and issues in other parts of the world that they probably know little about.  By donating to an organization that works abroad, you avoid answering any potential questions about why you’re not donating to a charity in your own community.  Of course, you can always do that on a personal level and I have some favorite charities I contribute to every December.

The first organization I did this with was Heifer International, because I knew someone who had worked there and I was therefore familiar with it.  In later years, I used the gift catalog from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), again because I had a friend who worked there and knew that they did good aid work.  I recommend both these organizations highly.  To see the Heifer Project gift catalog, click HERE.  To see the CRS gift catalog, click HERE.

Another option is to follow the recommendations by Nick Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times who writes about world affairs and has a special interest in the education of the girl child.  For the past several years, he has published a column listing lesser-known but very worthy organizations that make positive change in the world.  Last year, I donated to several of the groups mentioned and I will do so again this year.  You can find his list for this year HERE.

There’s one more organization I want to mention.  I read about it a few years ago and then just the other day saw an article in The Washington Post about it.  It’s called Postcards from Timbuktu.  Having taught my students about medieval African Kingdoms, it caught my attention.  Basically, you choose from a selection of postcards on their website, type a message you want written on it, pay in advance, and then wait to receive the postcard.  What’s special is that it really does come from Timbuktu.  One of the postcards gives you the option to have a Malian student in a local school draw a picture on the postcard, with part of the proceeds going to the school.  You can also buy a few other items from Mali through the website.  You can find out all the details HERE.  I’m going to order a postcard drawn by a student as well as a couple other things.

Even if you don’t get these before your holiday vacation begins, your students will still be excited when they hear what you have done in their honor.  Mine sure were!



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Thank You for Your Service: Honoring Veterans

"Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day."

-- Charles B. Rangel

My great uncle Nat was a veteran of World War II.  He was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne and served in Europe.  Many years later, I made a documentary about his life; most of it is an interview with him about his service during the war.  Like so many others of that generation, Uncle Nat has passed away.  This post is written to honor him and all veterans.

Have you heard of the Navajo Code Talkers?  They were a group of DinĂ© (Navajo) Marine Corps soldiers recruited in World War II who created a code based on their language.  The code was used to transmit messages throughout the Pacific theater.  The code was never broken by the Japanese and contributed greatly to the Allied victory.

Sign for Navajo Code Talkers Museum in Kayenta, AZ
Visiting the former location of the museum; source: The ESL Nexus

In 2004, when I was visiting the Navajo Nation in Arizona with my parents, we stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant in Kayenta.  It wasn’t a planned stop but when I saw a sign advertising a museum about the Navajo code talkers, I just had to see it.  Although it was weird to see a museum in a Burger King, the exhibit itself was fascinating.  Since my visit, the museum has moved to a larger, stand-alone building in Tuba city, Arizona.

But the DinĂ© weren’t the only indigenous people who created codes based on their language.  Many others did as well, including First Nations Cree soldiers from Canada who were sent to the U.S. to develop a code based on their language.  Not as much has been written about the work of soldiers from other indigenous groups but just the other day, I came across a short movie about a Cree soldier who helped develop the Cree code.  It’s an interview with his surviving brothers and is interspersed with period images from the wartime effort.  It's a great resource for teaching about Veterans Day.

Image showing title of Cree Code Talker movie
Available on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase; source: National Geographic

If you’re looking for materials to help teach your ELLs about Veterans Day, these resources that present 20 vocabulary words about Veterans Day in fun and engaging ways may be of interest.

Use this resource to help teach about Veterans Day
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

Use this resource to help teach about Veterans Day
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

Many thanks to all veterans -- we very much appreciate your service!