Monday, May 27, 2024

3 Reasons Why Students Should Do an End of Year Review Activity

After Memorial Day passes, it feels like the end of the school year is just around the corner.  But in many places in the U.S., there are still 3 or even 4 weeks of school left.  It's hard to keep students engaged, especially when there are lots of fun, special activities going on that interrupt the typical flow of the school day.  One way to keep students both engaged and learning is to do an end of year review of what they learned in your class.

Middle school smiling Black girl holding 2 notebooks is at the right and the title text is at the left; the background is the color of a blackboard.
Graphic created by The ESL Nexus with an image from Canva

Why Students Should Do an End of Year Review

Reinforce Knowledge

Having students do an end of year review means they continue to use the concepts and skills learned and that will help them retain the information.  Using that knowledge in different ways means it is more likely to stick; that is, remember it later on.  Reviewing skills and concepts learned earlier in the year can transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory, where it can be retrieved in the future.  Research has also shown that new concepts, for example new vocabulary words, need to be used several times before they are "learned" so an end of the year review helps students imprint them in their minds.

Get Ready for Next Year

Reviewing what they learned over the course of the school year builds a foundation for future learning.  It ensures students have mastered the necessary skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the following year.  An end of year review can also help identify what students haven't learned so you can focus on reteaching that in the time you have left.

Foster Confidence

When students do end of year activities, that lets them reflect on the progress they've made from the beginning of the year to the end.  They discover how much they've learned and what their strengths are, which boosts motivation to continue learning.  Students may also see what their weaknesses are, which lets them know what they need to pay attention to next year.  If you used my Student Self-Evaluation Forms, students can refer back to them to analyze their progress over the course of the school year.

How to Make an End of Year Review Fun

One way to make an end of year review appealing to students is to give them a choice of how to demonstrate what they learned.  When students can decide for themselves how to show they learning, they are more motivated to do a good job on their work.
My Fun End of Year Choice Board Review Activities does just that.  It's a choice board with 6 options in 2 categories.  One row of 3 activities asks students to create something and the other row of 3 options asks them to write something.  Each group of activities includes an easy, intermediate, and challenging task to meet the needs of students at various ability and language proficiency levels.  After students have completed their projects, they can present them to their classmates if you'd like.
You can have your students select 1 or 2 of the activities to complete, depending on how much time you have available.  Complete instructions for every activity are provided and an evaluation checklist for each activity is also included, which saves you time when assessing students' work.

On a pale yellow background, text IDs 2 images underneath as the choice board and instructions for 1 activity; at the bottom of the image, more text on a pale yellow background says assessment checklists are also included and that refers to the 3rd image in the graphic; all 3 images are angled at 10 degrees and are on a light blue background.
Click HERE to get this resource
The end of the school year often has lots of interruptions to classroom teaching.  Having students do an end of year review is the perfect way to accommodate that.  Because students work independently on their activities, those breaks to your regular classroom routine won't negatively impact their work and students can just pick up from where they left off when they return to your class.
To find out more about this resource and to purchase it, please click HERE.


Monday, April 29, 2024

Teacher Appreciation Day and Week Deals for Teachers: Resource Roundup for 2024

Here is my annual blog post with discounts for Teacher Appreciation Week!  Like last year, instead of listing specific offers for teachers in disparate categories such as restaurants, stores, and museums, this year's post is a round up of websites that have collated all kinds of deals.

Overhead image showing yellow notepad announcing Special Deals, coffee in cup, and tablet saying dates of 2023 Teacher Appreciation Week. Background is white wood with a few color paper clips scattered on it.
Graphic created by: The ESL Nexus

When is Teacher Appreciation Week in 2024?

In 2024, Teacher Appreciation Week goes from May 6th through May 10th and Teacher Appreciation Day is on May 7th.  Not all sites have announced their special deals for teachers yet.  However, I'm publishing this blog post early so you have time to read through all the offers and see which ones you’d like to take advantage of next week.   
These meta lists have been updated for Teacher Appreciation Day and Teacher Appreciation Week for 2024.  They also include year-round offers so hopefully you will find them useful longer than for just the week designated for teachers.  (Because teachers should be celebrated all year long, not just 1 week, right?!)  So you'll have to click on the links that appeal to you to see which offers are valid when, although in some cases that is noted in their blurbs.

Websites with 2024 Teacher Appreciation Week Deals

Click on the green links below to go to each website:

* From DontPayFull: Teacher Discounts 2024: The Complete List of Offers for Educators

* From We Are Teachers: The Best Teacher Appreciation Giveaways and Deals for 2024

* From Dealhack: Teacher Discounts Guide: The Ultimate List of Stores

* From Teachers of Tomorrow: 25+ Teachers Appreciation Week Discounts and Deals for 2024

* From Rutgers Graduate School of Education: 68 Discounts, Deals and Resources for Teacher Appreciation Week

* And from PTO Today: Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 Resources 

The first 5 websites overlap each other and include many of the same resources.  The last website is more about the ideas for how families, friends, and colleagues can honor the teachers in their lives. If I find more discounts, I will update this post.

I haven’t verified all the links within the websites so it’s possible that some of them won’t lead to special offers in your own geographical area.  And, sorry international educators, but I'm pretty sure these discounts are only applicable in the US.

Special Food Deals and Discounts

In the past, these restaurants have had deals for teachers but they haven't announced them yet so I don't know if they will again this year.  They may not have anything on their websites until the weekend beforehand. Click on the green links below to see if these places are offering any specials on May 7th or during the whole week:

* Abuelo’s
* Applebee's
* Firehouse Subs
* Freddy's
* The Green Turtle
* Grimaldi's
* Insomnia Cookies
* Logan's Roadhouse
* McAlister’s Deli
* Mod Pizza
* Perkins
* Potbelly
* TGI Friday’s
* Whataburger
* Sonic

The restaurants usually ask to see your teacher ID so make sure you bring it with you in case they ask for proof that you're an educator.  They might also have other requirements so just check in advance.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!


Monday, April 1, 2024

Test Preparation Tips to Help Students Succeed on Tests

This blog post offers some resources to help students do well on tests.  First, I'll explain what got me interested in this topic and then I'll list some free and paid materials.

Black title on pale yellow background at top, photo of pencil on standardized test answer sheet underneath
Get a set of test prep posters & flash cards HERE; graphic by The ESL Nexus

My Test Preparation Revelation

A few decades ago, I spent a summer studying French at a university in Quebec, Canada.  Before the program started, we had to take a language test to determine which level we'd be placed in for our classes. 
Although I had taken French for 6 years in junior and senior high school, and a semester in college, it'd been a long time since I'd actually used it.  So I spent the night before the test reading the French textbook I'd brought with me. 
To my great surprise, I placed into the 3rd highest level when I got my result; the 2 highest levels being for people who were teachers of French.  My review cramming had paid off!

Teaching Test Preparation Strategies

After I'd been teaching a while and saw that my students didn't have great study habits when preparing for tests, I did some research into test preparation strategies.  Then, when the standardized testing season began, I explicitly taught the strategies to them.
When I say "strategies," I don't mean how to read and understand a text, or how to figure out what a math problem is asking.  What I mean is how to mentally and physically prepare yourself to do well when taking a test.  As well as how to study effectively to learn the content that might be on the test.
Even if your standardized testing season has ended, I think you'll still find the info below useful because it's also applicable to classroom tests.  And if your standardized testing window hasn't yet begun, please check out the info as I think your students will benefit.

Websites with Test Preparation Tips

These 3 websites give info about taking tests.  I haven't explored all the links in all of them but what I did see looked very helpful.  The websites are aimed at older learners but I think the material is also appropriate for middle school students, too.  The first 2 websites offer suggestions for how to study and prepare for a test; the last website also offers tips for how to respond to various types of test questions.
* Test-Taking Techniques and Strategies, from Wichita State University
* How to Study for a Test: 17 Expert Tips, from Prep Scholar
* Best Test-Taking Strategies and Tips for Students, We Are Teachers

Printable TPT Test Prep Resource

I turned the material I discovered when researching test prep strategies into a resource for students.  It consists of posters and flash cards with the 10 tips I discussed with my students.  The posters make a nice bulletin board display and the flashcards can be photocopied and distributed to students to help them remember how to prepare well when they have upcoming tests.  You can grab it HERE.

Books about Test-Taking Strategies

The following 3 books are part of a series published by Thomson Heinle.  I used all of them with my students in Grades 4 - 8.  The strategies were clearly explained and there was lots of practice opportunities.  All the books are well-suited for use with Multilingual Learners of English as well as other students.  (The links for the books are affiliate links.  That means that I make a small commission if you purchase the books but it's at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!)
Strategies for Test-Taking Success: Reading
* Strategies for Test-Taking Success: Writing
* Strategies for Test-Taking Success: Math

Good luck with all your testing!


Monday, March 18, 2024

How to Create Appropriate Science Assessments for English Language Learners

Teaching Science to English Language Learners is easier, in my opinion, than teaching Social Studies because it is less language-dependent and more hands-on.  Nevertheless, there is a lot of science terminology that Multilingual Learners of English must learn as well as certain text structures that are commonly used in science textbooks.  To ensure that they're assessed on their knowledge of science and not on their knowledge of English, I'm going to share 4 tips for creating appropriate science assessments for ELLs and then give examples for students at different levels of language proficiency.

Title text in black overlaid at top of photo, which shows a green blackboard with a chemical symbol on it and a desk with text tubes and books underneath and a partially hidden container with pens and pencils off to the left.
Find Science resources HERE; graphic created by The ESL Nexus

Tips for Creating Appropriate Science Assessments for English Learners

1) Use Visuals

Some Multilingual Learners of English may understand the concepts but not yet be able to use all the science vocabulary needed to explain those ideas.  Giving a photo or diagram to students and asking them to label, caption, or list info instead of writing sentences lets students demonstrate their understanding without testing their knowledge of English.  Visuals also help ELLs determine what is actually being assessed because, assuming they know the material, they are more likely to recognize the images than the words, especially if they are at lower levels of language proficiency.

2) Offer Sentence Frames and Word Banks

Providing this type of scaffolding lessens the language load on students.  Sentence frames aid students when writing responses to questions and help MLEs organize what to say.  Word banks give students the target vocabulary needed to answer questions or do tasks, which also lets them focus more on getting the answers right than on trying to decide which words to use.

3) Let Students Draw Pictures, Create Models, and Do Experiments

Creating 2-D and 3-D examples of scientific concepts allows students at all levels of language proficiency to demonstrate what they've learned while minimizing the amount of English needed to explain concepts.  Giving students the chance to show their learning through hands-on activities and projects often mirrors the way scientific concepts were taught so it makes sense to assess them that way, too.

4) Use Oral Assessments

For many English Learners, it is easier to express themselves orally than in writing.  Even if their grammar is not completely accurate, they can get their ideas across more effectively when speaking than when writing.  So letting MLEs orally explain concepts instead of responding in writing can be a more accurate way of determining how well they have learned the materials.

Examples of Appropriate Science Assessments for Multilingual Learners of English

For Beginning ELLs


The assessment is to label the parts of a plant.  At the top of a page, include a word bank with the target terms students have been taught; for example, roots, stem, leaves, and flower.  Underneath, display pictures of the different parts of a plant.  Students use the word bank words to correctly label the individual parts of the plant.

Middle School

The assessment is to identify things that are in different states of matter.  At the top of a page, type the words solid, liquid, and gas.  Underneath, show 2 photographs for each state of matter; for example, an ice cube and hail, a glass of water and a stream, a teapot of boiling water and a railroad engine with steam coming out of it.  Students label each photo with the correct state of matter it represents.

For Intermediate ELLs


The assessment is to demonstrate knowledge of the parts of a plant.  In the top half of a page, show a plant with each part – roots, stem, leaves, flowers – already labeled.  Underneath, give sentence frames that describe the functions of each plant part.  Students complete the sentence frames with their own words.  For example:
Roots help plants because they __________.
Plants use stems to __________ and __________.
Leaves are important because they  __________.
Plants have flowers because __________.

Middle School

The assessment is to describe the 3 states of matter.  On a page, create a table with 4 columns and 4 rows and title it States of Matter.  In the first column, leave the first cell blank and in the cells below write Solid, Liquid, Gas.  In the second column, write Properties in the top cell, in the third column, write Examples in the top cell, and in the 4th column, write Changes.  Tell students to complete the table by writing information about each criteria; for the Changes column, tell them to describe what happens when each state of matter changes to a different state.

For Advanced ELLs


The assessment is for students to orally describe the characteristics and functions of the parts of a plant.  Create a list of guided prompts and questions, such as: Where are the roots of a plant located?  What are the purposes of plant roots?  What else can you tell me about roots?  Use similar questions for the other parts of a plant.  You can tell students to include target vocab words in their answers as well, if you wish.  You can ask students individually face-to-face or you can have them record responses on devices if they all have access to them.

Middle School

The assessment is to do an experiment that lets students show they understand what the 3 states of matter are and that they can use relevant scientific terms correctly.  Put students in small groups and give each group something that is a solid, a liquid, and a gas.  Tell students to take a few minutes to observe each thing, then record their observations, write how they collected their data and their analysis of the data, and what their conclusions are.  You can give students target vocabulary words to use when writing, if you wish.  Then tell students to write a description of the activity and summarize their findings.

Wrap Up

If you need a textbook that is accessible to ELLs, I used Access Science, published by Great Source, with my middle school students and thought it explained concepts clearly.  The first chapter is about the scientific method, then there are 7 units for Earth Science, 8 units for Life Science, and 8 units for Physical Science.  Each unit contains 3 or 4 chapters.  Chapters are filled with color pictures, tasks to develop language skills, and vocabulary terms that are explained at the bottom of pages as well as in a glossary at the end of the book.  (This is an affiliate link.  That means that I make a small commission if you purchase the book but it's at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!)

I hope these tips and examples for creating appropriate science assessments for English Learners give you some ideas you can use with your students.  This blog post is the last in my series about creating appropriate subject-area assessments for Multilingual Learners of English.  Previous posts in this series were about creating Math Assessments, Social Studies Assessments, and Assessments for Reading, Vocabulary, and Writing.