Monday, September 10, 2018

How to Collaborate and Communicate: 2 Skills for Students

"The fun for me in collaboration is, one, working with other people
just makes you smarter; that's proven."
--Lin-Manual Miranda

Now that the school year is in full swing, in the U.S. anyway, it's time to talk about collaboration!  Being able to collaborate effectively and in appropriate ways with others, whether it be administrators, teaching colleagues, students, or families of students, will help ensure the success of English Language Learners in school.  And in order to collaborate effectively, it's essential to be able to communicate well.

So please join my co-host Laurah, from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J, and me in the next #ELLEdTech chat to discuss Tech Tools for Collaboration and Communication.  These are the two remaining skills that are part of the 4C Framework.  To read more about Collaboration, please click HERE and for more info about Communication, click HERE.  The chat is on Sunday, September 16th and will start at 4:00pm Pacific, 7:00pm Eastern, and 11:00pm UTC time on the third Sunday of each month.
Come join the next #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on September 16th to discuss the 4C topics of Collaboration & Communication. | The ESL Nexus
Join us -- All educators are welcome!  Source: The ESL Nexus


Come join the next #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on September 17th to discuss the 4C topics of Collaboration & Communication.| The ESL Nexus
Join us -- All educators are welcome!  Source: The ESL Nexus
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction:  Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught. #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1:  Which tech tools do you use to help your students engage in collaboration and communication?  #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2:  How does providing opportunities to communicate and collaborate with peers support ELLs in language growth?  #ELLEdTech
7:21 =  Q3:  What are the advantages & benefits of using your favorite collaboration and communication tools?  #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4:  Are there any cons or drawbacks teachers or students might have when using these tools?  #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to use technology to support collaboration and communication with 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.

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, goo.gl or ow.ly 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 your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday!

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Monday, August 27, 2018

What do ELLs Think About Their ESL Program?

"There are no national frontiers to learning."
-- Japanese proverb

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by former English Language Learners.  I thought it'd be interesting to hear what they think of their time in an ESL program so I invited a few of my former students to answer some questions.  Here is the first interview.

Learn what former English Language Learners think about their ESL program in this guest blog post | The ESL Nexus
Part 1 in a series; source: The ESL Nexus
Chihiro is a Japanese-American girl -- born in the U.S. to parents who immigrated from Japan -- who was placed in my ESL class in 3rd grade when her family moved into my school district.  As an elementary student, I saw her and her classmates only a few times a week but starting in 5th grade, she and the other 5th grade ELLs were in my ESL Social Studies class which met every day.  At the end of 6th grade, Chihiro exited out of the ESL program.

We kept in touch as the years passed and I was very proud when Chihiro was named the salutatorian of her high school graduating class.  In addition to receiving her American high school diploma, Chihiro also received a Japanese high school diploma because she simultaneously completed all those requirements as well.

Chihiro is currently an undergraduate student in the nursing program at the University of Pennsylvania.  Below, she reflects on her time as an ESL student in American schools.  Her responses to my questions have been very lightly edited for clarity.

Learn what a former English Language Learner thinks about her ESL program in this guest blog post | The ESL Nexus
Chihiro in Tarrytown, N.Y., Summer 2018; source: Selfie by Chihiro
* What grade were you in when you first started receiving ESL support? 
I received ESL support starting in preschool. There was no official ESL program in my first Massachusetts school district at the time because there were not many non-English speakers. However, my school started implementing an ESL program when I started elementary school. I am not sure how true the story is but, apparently, they had to start an ESL program because of my poor English ability. If this story is actually true, I am slightly proud that I made a difference by initiating an ESL program.

 
* How did you feel about being in the ESL program?
I felt like I was being noticed and cared for. My first ESL program was with an ESL teacher who provided me with one-on-one, individualized teaching of English. My ESL teacher supported me by helping me with homework and class-assigned projects.  After I moved to another school district in Massachusetts, the ESL program in my new school was a classroom setting where I felt as though I was not alone. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed about my English ability, the ESL program created an environment for me to feel special and not feel afraid to practice English.

* How did being in the ESL program help you?
The ESL program helped boost my confidence in English. The ESL program was a special resource for me as a child. It was a place where I learned to voice my thoughts and questions. It was a safe environment where I could be confident that no one would judge me for making grammar mistakes. I also learned to write well through the ESL program because the class consisted of many writing assignments. Another major help was how the ESL program helped me retain my culture. There were a lot of discussions on identity and children losing touch with their family background by becoming “Americanized.”  In my case, because the ESL program did not shun but upheld my cultural identity, I felt I was able to keep both the Japanese and American culture.

* What was different about your ESL classes from your other classes?

At the time, my ESL classes were different from my other classes because they integrated a lot of different cultures. I learned about the cultures of my classmates because the ESL classes were more open to sharing where our heritage came from and how our families practiced their cultures. It was also a comfortable place. The ESL class size was small, and that allowed me to be more comfortable to participate in class. I also received more attention and guidance from my ESL teacher whereas in my other classes, I never stood out and had to stay quiet to not disrupt my classmates.

* What should teachers and school staff know about ESL students?

I think ESL students can be easily misunderstood. I think there are expectations from teachers and school staff that ESL students know enough English. Sometimes, however, that is not the case. We all have our own pace. Because ESL students are still learning English, the words used or the way in which things are expressed may be taken the wrong way or be unclear. I think it is important for teachers and school staff to not just assume things based on the words spoken by them but they should try to understand the meaning behind their words. I remember how I would try to express something in English, but the words would not come out because I did not know the words to express my thoughts. Due to this situation, my teachers thought I was shy or did not like them. I also remember feeling disappointed and embarrassed when my teachers had a confused look, and I worried about being treated differently from my classmates because I was not fluent enough in English.


* What is one piece of advice you have for teachers who have ESL students in their classes?
Great question! One piece of advice I can suggest is to let ESL students talk and express themselves as much as they can. That can be through casual discussions, creative writing, or even podcasts. I think that is the best way students can improve their ability and confidence in the English language. The class may get loud and difficult to manage at times, like I saw my ESL teacher struggle with during class, but I think that was how I managed to improve my English the most. Instead of an uptight classroom setting with stressful assignments, the creative and lively atmosphere can encourage active learning.

Learn what a former English Language Learner thinks about her ESL program in this guest blog post | The ESL Nexus
Japanese & American flags; source: The ESL Nexus
Thank you very much, Chihiro, for sharing your experience and for your helpful suggestions on working with English Language Learners. Best wishes as you complete your college education!

If you would like to read more about Chihiro’s thoughts on learning English in middle school, check out the book TESOL Voices: Secondary Education.  Chihiro was one of the students who helped me write Chapter 2, which is about teaching content-based ESL.  You can find out more about the book HERE.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series, coming next month!

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Return of the #ELLEdTech Chat: Using Tech Tools for Creation

"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done,
the zest of creating things new."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This past July, I was in Washington D.C. and met my co-host Laurah, from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J, in person for the first time!  Up until then, we'd collaborated (a 4C skill that we'll be discussing soon) only remotely.  We got together for a lovely dinner at a Japanese restaurant and spent a few hours, um, chatting.  It was great to finally communicate (the first 4C skill we discussed back in June!) face-to-face.  Below is a photo Laurah took of the two of us in the DC Metro afterwards.

The #ELLEdTech Twitter chats resume on August 19th to discuss the 4C topic of Creativity: Join us! | The ESL Nexus
That's Laurah on the left, me on the right; photo by Laurah
So I am happy to let you know now that the 2018 - 2019 #ELLEdTech series kicks off this Sunday, August 19th, for another school year's worth of Twitter chats!  Laurah and I look forward to discussing with you all manner of using technology with English Language Learners over the next several months.  The chats start at 4:00pm Pacific, 7:00pm Eastern, and 11:00pm UTC time on the third Sunday of each month.

Our August chat will be about Using Tech Tools for Creation.  This is Part 2 of our series exploring how to use education technology within the 4C Framework with ELLs.  To read more about Creativity, please click HERE.

The #ELLEdTech Twitter chats resume on August 19th to discuss the 4C topic of Creativity: Join us! | The ESL Nexus
Join us -- All educators are welcome!  Source: The ESL Nexus
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction:  Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught. #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1:  Which tech tools do you use to help your students engage in Creation?    #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2:  How does providing opportunities to Create support ELLs in language growth?  #ELLEdTech
7:21 =  Q3:  What are the advantages & benefits of using your favorite Creation tools? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4:  Are there any cons or drawbacks teachers or students might have when using these tools?  #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to use technology to support Creation with 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.

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, goo.gl or ow.ly 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 your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday!

SHARE:

Monday, July 23, 2018

20 Resources ESL Teachers Need at the Beginning of the New School Year


"Know English, twinkle as a star of the world."
-- Videsh Vijay

Going back to school after summer vacation is always exciting but for ESL teachers it cans also be exhausting.  As the only ESL teacher in my school for students in Grades 4 – 8, and also Grade 3 in my last year as a classroom teacher, I taught multiple subjects in both pull-out and push-in classes, worked with students at varying levels of language proficiency in the same class, liaised with mainstream teachers, administered ESL assessments and filled out reams of ELL-related paperwork.

That is typical for ESL teachers.  As I became more experienced, I realized there were some things I always wanted to have available at the beginning of the school year, both for myself and for my students to help us get through the year.  I’d like to share my list of essential ELL resources with you because I think they'll help you have a smooth start to your school year.  They’re organized into 4 categories: Classroom Resources for ESL Teachers, Reference Books for ESL Teachers, Classroom Resources for ESL Students, and Self-Care Resources for ESL Teachers.  Click on the images for more info about each resource (or on the text links where indicated).

20 essential items to help ESL teachers have a great school year | The ESL Nexus
20 items to help ESL teachers have a great year; source: The ESL Nexus
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  That means that I make a small commission if you make a purchase but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

CLASSROOM RESOURCES FOR ESL TEACHERS

Wipe-Off Charts

If there was just one item I would have chosen for my classroom, it might very well have been this.  I had one flipchart for each grade level I taught.  On the top half, I wrote the content objectives and then the language objectives (I liked to separate them out) for the day’s lesson and on the bottom half, I wrote the agenda for the class and the homework assignment.  I had additional flipcharts that students used when working in small groups or pairs to brainstorm ideas and write up information during activities they did.

Flipchart Pads

This would be tied with or a close second to the wipe-off charts.  With all the grade levels I taught, it wasn’t always feasible to leave written stuff on my whiteboard for a long time so I used flipcharts instead.  In the top right corner of each page, I wrote the grade level so it was easy to find which page I needed for a particular class.  I didn’t usually tear out the pages because it was easier to just flip through to find the page I wanted.

Expo Markers

These I used to write on the wipe-off charts as well as on my whiteboard.  I liked this package with lots of colors because I could color-code things on the whiteboard by grade level, which made it easier for ELLs to know what was relevant for them.  I also used the different colors when explaining grammar points or teaching types of writing.

The Peace Corps International Calendar
http://www.rpcvcalendar.org/calendar-2019/
I love this calendar!  It lists secular and religious holidays for what seems like every country in the world as well as all the world’s major religions.  Each monthly photo is from a country where Peace Corps Volunteers have served and there is info about the country along with a smaller photo from the same country in the date section.  I submitted photos for many years in hopes of having one accepted but, sadly, that never happened.  Nevertheless, it’s a great teaching tool and one year, my school’s Cultural Committee (of which I was a member), bought one calendar for every teacher in the building and it got rave reviews.

Cuisinaire Rods

I learned about cuisinaire rods in my TESL graduate program and had no idea they were also used for math instruction!  They are very useful with lower proficiency level ELLs when teaching English Language Development.  I’ve used them for teaching grammar, for descriptive speaking and writing tasks, and for listening practice by telling stories.  This Busy Teacher article presents 15 ways of using cuisinaire rods in the language classroom. 

Binder Clips

These large clips fit perfectly over the top of the cabinets in my classroom.  I used them to hold posters and flipcharts when I needed to display things temporarily, such as unit objectives and posters about a particular civilization students were learning about.  Being responsible for several grades, these clips made it easier for me to have a print-rich classroom environment.


REFERENCE BOOKS FOR ESL TEACHERS

Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary

Every ESL teacher needs this book!  Regardless of the type of ESL class you have, your students will thank you for having this dictionary.  It is comprehensive and thorough and explains academic concepts in ways that ELLs can comprehend.  It also helped me define some Science and Math concepts to my students that I had a hard time explaining.

Longman Basic Dictionary of American English

What’s great about this dictionary is that it is aimed at ELLs at the lower end of language proficiency.  Each entry gives a definition is simple English, tells how to pronounce the word, and offers an example sentence.  The dictionary also explains how to use a dictionary and includes some brief notes on irregular verbs.

Webster’s New World Spanish Dictionary

I found this Spanish-English/English-Spanish dictionary invaluable.  Not only did I use it to help me communicate with my students’ families, I used it when my students just didn’t understand my explanation of something in English or when they didn’t know the English word for something.

Learner English -- A Teacher’s Guide to Interference and Other Problems

Most ESL teachers do not speak all the languages of their students.  So sometimes it’s hard to know why an ELL is making a mistake when speaking or writing.  This book provides information about 22 different language groups and the types of errors speakers of those languages typically make when learning English.  It’s a great resource to consult when you’re wondering why a student makes a particular mistake.

Teaching American English Pronunciation

This book is similar to the one above and discusses 14 languages, all of which are included in the other book except Vietnamese, which is only in this one.  However, this book also includes information about the sound system of English and offers classroom activities for teaching pronunciation to ELLs, which the other book doesn’t have.  I found that these 2 books complement each other and both are excellent resources.

CLASSROOM RESOURCES FOR ESL STUDENTS

Mechanical Pencils

I think mechanical pencils last longer than wooden ones and I like this brand because it comes with refills.  For the first class of the year, I put one pencil on each student's desk (along with other materials -- see below) but kids could trade if they wanted a different color.

File Folders

Each student got one folder to organize their in-class work and homework.  I let them pick which color they wanted.  I also used folders for students' writing assignments – each grade had a specific color – and to organize my ESL paperwork.  I bought a large amount at the beginning of the year from Staples so I had a supply on hand for new students who came during the year and for my own needs.  These folders on Amazon are essentially the same thing but possibly more expensive.

Spiral Bound Notebooks

I gave one notebook to each 5th – 8th student to use in my ESL Social Studies classes for taking notes in class and for doing homework assignments.  This size always lasted the entire year.  I usually got mine from Staples because they had good discounts for teachers at the end of summer.  But shopping from home with Amazon is certainly more convenient.  I preferred to give my students notebooks, pencils, and folders because I knew some of their families couldn't afford to buy materials and, also, having the same styles of notebooks and folders made it easier for me to keep students' work organized.

Composition Notebooks

I gave one of these notebooks to each 5th – 8th grader to use as a vocabulary notebook.  I wanted a separate notebook from the one they used for note-taking and homework so it’d be easier for students to see all their vocab words in one place.  As with the other notebooks, I usually bought them at Staples but Amazon is also an option.

Colored Pencils

These are especially helpful  for ELLs at the beginning and lower intermediate levels of language proficiency because they can draw pictures instead of write about what they are learning.  More proficient ELLs can use colored pencils for projects they may have.  I liked having individual boxes to reduce the chance of students arguing about using particular colors.

SELF-CARE RESOURCES FOR ESL TEACHERS

Tea (click on the images or green links below for info about each variety of tea)
I brought a thermos of tea with me to school every day.  Even though I didn’t lecture in my classes, I still needed something to soothe my throat throughout the day.  Drinking tea also helped me avoid eating junk food snacks.  And it warmed me up after doing lunch recess duty in the cold winter months.  My favorite blends were Irish Breakfast Tea and Peppermint Tea.


Classical Music
After students went home, I listened to classical music while I was prepping for the following day.  Classical music helped me focus because there were no words to sing along with.  I kept a stash of CDs near my desk but nowadays, of course, you can easily find music on Spotify or YouTube as well as Amazon Prime Music.

Escapist Novels (click on the images or green links below for info about the novels)
After eating dinner and checking my email, I needed to decompress.  My favorite way of relaxing was to read historical fiction and mysteries.  Both of the books recommended below are the first in multi-volume series.  They are both also major TV shows, which you probably already know.

Outlander, Book 1, by Diana Gabaldon: About a time-traveling English nurse who inexplicably suddenly finds herself in 18th century Scotland.  


You can also get a signed copy of Outlander from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore and they’ll ship it anywhere in the world.  Note this blurb on the bookstore’s website: “If you want your new books to be signed by Diana, be sure that the “signed” option is indicated during the Pen’s online check-out procedure, or specify you would like it signed if ordering by telephone or email.”

Poldark, by Winston Graham: About an Englishman from Cornwall who returns home from fighting in the American Revolutionary War, only to find he can’t resume the life he thought was waiting for him.

If you’d like to support PBS, which broadcasts the TV show, you can buy the book on the PBS website.  You can also buy DVD and Blue-ray versions of the TV show there.  (The link is a little wonky and does not always work so just do a search for "PBS Poldark" if that happens to you.)

Getting ready for a new school year is always hectic but I hope these suggestions for stocking your classroom and taking care of yourself will make the back to school experience a little easier for you.  Have a great year!

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