Monday, October 4, 2021

How to Help Your English Language Learners Make Friends in School

"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends,
never lose a chance to make them."
-- Francesco Guicciardini

Making friends isn’t easy.  I know – I attended a different high school every year for 10th, 11th, and 12 grade.  Making friends is even harder when you’re trying to communicate in a foreign language.  I know – I was an exchange student to Sweden my senior year and went to a Swedish-language high school, and had to learn the language from scratch.

So I totally understand how hard it can be for English Language Learners who are new to a school and/or do not know a lot of English.  What can teachers and other school staff do to make the adjustment easier and help the ELLs make friends?  Let’s look at some challenges that make it difficult for ELLs to make friends and then at some solutions to them.  But please note that the ideas I'm going to present are focused on when you're teaching in-person classes at school, not when you're teaching remotely.

A group of students in a classroom looking at a desktop computer monitor with a map on the wall behind them
Source: The ESL Nexus

a) Perhaps the biggest challenge is when ELLs are in pull-out ESL classes during the school day.  That reduces the chances ELLs have to mix with their peers because an ESL class will, by definition, be comprised only of students for whom English is not their first language.  That can make it harder to get to know native English-speaking students, especially if ELLs are nervous about speaking English, which many are.

b) Another challenge is that it’s hard to talk when you don’t have the vocabulary to communicate easily.  A lot of native English-speaking kids don’t know what’s involved in learning another language and may not have the patience needed to get to know English Language Learners.  But recess and other non-academic times at school are excellent ways to get students to mix together.

c) The last challenge I want to mention is that of time.  ELLs typically need more time when interacting with people because they are often processing what they hear in English and translating it into their native language.  Or they are searching for the English words to convey their thoughts.  However, during the school day, time is at a premium.

A group of young students playing soccer in a field at recess
Source: The ESL Nexus

a) Usually when ELLs are in pull-out classes, they do not spend their entire day in ESL classes.  At the very least, they have gym, music, art, and other “specials” with native English-speaking students.  There are a few things regular ed teachers can do to foster friendships among the ELLs and the other students in a class:
* Seat an ELL and a native English speaker next to each other so when there is pair work to do, they can work together.  (Of course, during the pandemic, they can’t be too close.)
* When doing group work, assign the members of the groups to ensure there’s an ELL in every group.  If students are allowed to pick who their group will be, they might not select an ELL, but working in a small group is a great way to get students talking to each other.
* When assigning homework assignments, have students in pairs or small groups comprised of a mix of ELLs and other students explain the work to each other to ensure they understand the task.  That not only will get kids talking to each other, it’ll also help you see if everyone knows what they are supposed to do.
* If you are given advance notice that an ELL will be arriving in your class, let your students know and ask them to be extra friendly.  They can do that by, for example: Making sure to say hello to the new student and introducing themselves, walking next to the ELL in the hallway when going to and from classes, offering to show the ELL where the bathroom is, how to use a locker (if that is a new thing), explaining what intercom announcements mean, and so on.
* When you learn that you’ll be getting an ELL in your class, inform your students and let them know what country the student is from (if they’re an immigrant or refugee) or what their native language is (if they were born in the US but speak another language at home).  Generate a list of questions about the country that your students can ask the new ELL, but emphasize that they shouldn’t bombard the ELL all at once.  Also let your students know that the ELL’s level of English proficiency may make it hard for them to understand what’s going on all the time, so they should be patient and know that they may need to repeat themselves sometimes.  Make sure your students know that the ELL is just as smart as they are but just needs some extra help in learning how to show that in English.

b) Even when ELLs do not have a large English vocabulary, there are still ways they can communicate.  Lunch and recess are great opportunities for kids to practice social language.  Mix It Up Day, sponsored by Learning for Justice, is a great way to help not just ELLs but all students get to know new people.  Here are a few things adults on lunch and recess duty can do to create opportunities for ELLs and other students to interact with each other:
* At lunchtime, arrange for a few students to sit and eat with the ELL.  They may even need to show the ELL how to go through the lunchline, if there is one.  If the native English speakers don’t know what to talk about it, here are a few suggestions: Ask the ELL what their favorite subject is, ask the ELL what they like to do for fun after school, ask the ELL if they have a favorite singer or movie.  It’s probably not a good idea to ask the ELL about their family in case they are coming from a traumatic situation.  If the ELL brings lunch from home, the other students could possibly ask about the food but only if done in a positive way that celebrates the food rather than denigrates it.
* Organize structured activities for the students instead of letting them just do whatever they want and hang out with whomever they want.  There could be a different activity each day or on just a few days, or an activity could last for just part of recess time, depending on the length of recess.  You could have either all students participate or just some take part, depending on the activity.  But including the ELLs in these activities, and creating times when the other students have to explain the activity or talk to the ELL in order to do it, can help the ELLs feel more comfortable with their fellow students.
* You could also ask a small group of students to invite the ELL to join them.  If you do this, it’s best to talk to the native English speakers first about it.  They should know that they will probably need to speak a little more slowly than usual and wait a little longer for a response when talking with the ELL since it may take them longer to understand what they’re saying.
* If you’re on recess duty and you see an ELL by themself, ask them if everything is okay.  They may be fine but they may also be shy and not feel comfortable approaching the other kids.  You can probably sense if that’s the case.   If it is, find a student that you know is friendly and kind and ask them to help you out by playing with the ELL; you can give them ideas for simple activities to do together.  Introduce the students to each other and tell the ELL that this other student has a game (or whatever) they’d like the ELL to do with them.

c) Take advantage of any interludes you may find in the day’s schedule.  Before and after school, as well as homeroom, are good examples.
* If feasible, set up a before-school program that helps kids with their homework.  Focus on the ELLs but also allow other students to participate.  Such a program helps the ELLs with their schoolwork and, with the inclusion of native English-speakers, helps foster interaction between students.  My blog post about the program I set up will give you some ideas about how to implement this.
* During homeroom in the morning, you can design quick and easy speaking activities for your class.  For example, put a question on a whiteboard or send it to students’ devices, and tell them to discuss it with a classmate.  You can structure it more by specifying that students have to talk to someone they don’t know very well or haven’t talked to yet that day, to increase the chance of different students talking to the ELL each day.
* If it is practical, you can also try to implement an after-school program that is open to all students.  It could be a homework help program or some sort of social activity.  Encourage the ELLs to participate by sending home information to their families.  However, an after-school program only makes sense if transportation home is provided for the students.

It can take a long time to make friends if no one makes an effort to help ELLs do that.  Eventually I made some friends in each of the schools I attended but if my teachers had done any of the suggestions recommended above, I probably would’ve made friends more quickly.  I hope these suggestions help your ELLs make friends in their schools!


Monday, September 20, 2021

6 Free Back to School Resources for Teachers of English Language Learners

"Names are the sweetest and most important sounds in any language."

-- Dale Carnegie

Now that school has been in session for at least a few weeks in the US, you or your colleagues may have some questions about working with the English Language Learners in your classrooms.  It can certainly be daunting to face students who are not yet proficient in English and may struggle to understand everything you are teaching, even if have had training in how to teach ELLs effectively and have had ELLs in your classes in the past.

But don’t worry!  There are many things you can do to make your ELLs feel a part of your class and that help them comprehend your lessons.  A blog post I wrote a few years ago has lots of information about what to do if your ELLs aren’t doing as well as you think they should.

One thing not mentioned in my blog post is the importance of names.  Years ago, some teachers often gave their students nicknames, or shortened students’ names to make them easier to pronounce, or used Anglicized versions instead of trying to pronounce students’ real names correctly.  This is no longer accepted practice because it’s seen as devaluing students, instead of trying to make them feel welcome, by using names that are convenient for the teacher but may not accurately represent the students’ identities.  The social-emotional well-being of students is much more in the forefront nowadays, especially considering the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Quotation by Dale Carnegie about the importance of names
Source: The ESL Nexus

It’s really not that hard to learn how to pronounce names properly.  One method I saw recommended somewhere (I forget where so unfortunately I can’t give credit) is to use Flipgrid.  Ask every student to make a quick video of themselves pronouncing their name.  You can then watch them anytime to learn how to say their names correctly.  Even if it’s already been a few weeks since the start of your school year, you can do this as a way of introducing Flipgrid to your students, since it’s a great tool to use in your classroom.

Here are 6 more helpful resources for the beginning of the new school year and even beyond.  All are free!

Back to School Resources for Teachers of ELLs
Source: The ESL Nexus

* Colorín Colorado article about welcoming ELLs to the classroom
This short article includes lots of links to resources plus videos.

* U.S. Department of Education’s Newcomer Tool Kit
Includes info about who newcomers are and how to design programs for them; it’s 161 pages long but the table of contents has live links so you can go directly to the sections that interest you and skip the others.

* Aperture Education’s Social & Emotional Back to School Guide
These 43 pages are filled with useful ideas, activities, and lesson plans on how to nurture your students, their families, fellow educators, and yourself throughout the school year.

* First Book Accelerator’s Printable 2021 – 2022 Printable School Year Calendar
This diversity calendar shows holidays, historical and cultural events, religious holidays, and more.

* U.S. Department of Justice & U.S. Department of Education’s Ensuring English Learner Students Can Participate Meaningfully and Equally in Educational Programs
This 4-page document provides an overview of schools’ responsibilities for educating ELLs; it’s a helpful resource for your administrators or colleagues who many not be familiar with what schools need to do to provide an equitable education to their ELL students.

* ELL EBook with Resources for Teaching English Language Learners
Last but not least, here's a 26-page TpT product with tips about teaching ELLs plus links to free and paid TpT resources for Pre-K to Adult learners; I compiled this ebook to help teachers help their ELLs.

I have many other resources for the beginning of the new school year in my TpT store.  Head on over there and take a look around!  And best wishes for a great school year!


Monday, September 6, 2021

It's the Boom Learning Back to School Sale!

Happy Rosh Hashanah to all who celebrate!  As the new year 5782 begins tonight, according to the Jewish calendar, I wish everyone peace, health, and economic well-being.  L’Shanah Tovah!

Apples and honey with pomegranates and the phrase L'Shanah Tovah happy Rosh Hashanah!
Source: The ESL Nexus
I’ve created a new Boom Cards resource that explains what Rosh Hashanah is all about. It has 2 parts.  The first is a reading passage with questions; there are 7 paragraphs, 1 per card, accompanied by a question about the text.  All the paragraphs, questions, and answers are read aloud to provide more support for students who need it.  The second part consists of photographs of 5 objects associated with the holiday and asks students  to identify them by answering a question.  All the pictures are used to illustrate the reading passage.  This section of the Boom deck is not read out loud.  

If you have students who aren’t familiar with the Jewish New Year, are English Language Learners with intermediate language proficiency and up, and/or have upper elementary native English-speaking students, this resource is appropriate for them.  Normally, it’s priced at 150 points but…

#BTSBoom21 Back to School Boom sale image for September 7 & 8, 2021
Use hashtag #BTSBoom21 to find the resources on sale in The ESL Nexus' Boom store
On September 7th and 8th, there’s a Boom hashtag sale and on these 2 days, you can find that resource and 2 more in my Boom store on sale for just 100 points!  My Columbus Day Reading Passage & Vocabulary resource and my Halloween Answer Questions resource are also on sale.  The Columbus Day resource is normally 300 points/$3.00and the Halloween resource is normally 450 points/$4.50.  In my Boom store during the sale, they are 100 points.  In my TpT store, they are $1.00 on September 7th and September 8th.  However, my Rosh Hashanah resource is only available in my Boom store.  To find the resources that are part of this sale, just type #BTSBoom21 in the search bars on the Boom Learning or TpT websites.

Covers for the Rosh hashanah, Columbus Day, and Halloween Boom Cards resources by The ESL Nexus
Find all 3 resources in The ESL Nexus Boom Learning store

Happy Shopping!


Monday, July 12, 2021

7 Ways for Using Historical Cookbooks to Teach Social Studies

 "Food is everything we are. It's an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma.It's inseparable from those from the get-go.
-- Anthony Bourdain"

Like many other people, I found myself spending more time in the kitchen during the past 18 months, and have the extra pounds to prove it.  But although I was never interested in learning how to cook when I was a child, ever since I bought 2 historical cookbooks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art many decades ago, I have been interested in the cuisines of other cultures and time periods.

Over the years, I’ve become more and more interested in food history, to the extent that I wrote a master’s thesis on how to use food to teach students about African and Asian cultures.  Whenever I have the opportunity, I buy cookbooks showcasing food from other time periods and cultures.  I also subscribe to some blogs that write about food in particular historical periods.

Why Use Historical Cookbooks
I think food is a great way to get students interested in history!  I cooked food in my middle school ESL Social Studies classes when teaching my students about China (see my recipe for glutinous rice balls for Chinese New Year.  When teaching about the indigenous cultures of the Americas before Columbus and when teaching about the 13 Colonies, I shared 2 cookbooks with my students that had recipes from those times.

Students often have a hard time understanding the purpose of learning what happened centuries and millennia ago – at least, my students did.  But incorporating food into my lessons made history more accessible, because what middle school kid doesn’t like to eat?

A display of the 18 historical cookbooks in the collection of The ESL Nexus
Historical Cookbooks in the collection of The ESL Nexus
I’m going to share my historical cookbooks and add the time periods they refer to, since it’s not always obvious from the title.  Many but not all of them have adapted the recipes for the modern-day kitchen so it's easy to make them.  But first, I’m going to offer some suggestions on how you can use historical cookbooks when teaching Social Studies.

7 Ways to Use Historical Cookbooks in Your Teaching
* Cook a dish from the cookbook.  This is the easiest and most obvious way to use a cookbook.  Just make sure that you are allowed to share food with your students and always, always check that students aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients.  After tasting it, have students write a paragraph describing their reaction: What did they eat (introduce the topic)?  What was in it (the ingredients)?  What did it taste like (use sensory details)?  Did they like it (offer an opinion)?  Would they eat it again (write a conclusion)?  Students can share their reactions with their classmates if you wish.
* When teaching about a particular time period, create a display of books related to that topic and include cookbooks.  This is what I did when teaching early U.S. history.
* Photocopy a recipe for a main dish, or take a photo of it and share it digitally, with your students.  Discuss the ingredients used in it and how they differ from a similar dish the students are familiar with.  For example, share a recipe for a pie from a cookbook and compare and contrast that recipe with one you use yourself (if you bake pies).  As a follow up, you can have your students summarize the similarities and differences in a piece of writing.
* Photocopy a recipe for a main dish, or take a photo of it and share it digitally, with your students.  Have your students research the ingredients: Where they are grown (are they native to the country/culture using them or were they brought there as a result of trade), how much the ingredients cost to purchase, whether the ingredients were available to all social classes or eaten primarily by rich or poor people, if people still eat those ingredients today or if they are no longer popular.
* Divide your class into small groups.  Give each group a different recipe.  Have the students find the scientific names of ingredients that are plants – vegetables, fruits, spices – and draw pictures of them.  Students can also sort all the ingredients of the recipe into categories: animal, vegetable, fruit, spices, other.
* Display a recipe to the whole class.  Break down how the recipe is written: Does it have a separate section for the ingredients?  Does it indicate exactly how much of an ingredient to use (ie, does it say ¼ tsp or just add some salt)?  Is it written step-by-step or as on long paragraph?  After discussing how the historical recipe was written, compare and contrast that with a modern recipe.  You can have a class discussion first and then ask students to write something, to give them some writing practice.
* Display a few recipes from a cookbook from the time period you’re teaching about.  Discuss the format of the recipes with your class.  Then put students in small groups and have them name their favorite dish/food.  (Put students of mixed language proficiency levels in each group.)  Tell them to choose 1 of the dishes/foods.  Then tell students to write a recipe for it as if they were writing during the historical time period they are learning about.  English Language Learners who are not as proficient as other students can illustrate the recipe.  When the recipes have been written and illustrated, each group can share their recipe with the class.

18 Historical Cookbooks and the Time Periods They Address
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  That means that I make a small commission if you purchase any of the products listed below but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)
* The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia – Mesopotamia  (It’s a scholarly book rather than a cookbook but it is THE authoritative resource on food in Ancient Mesopotamia and a few recipes are included.)
* Tasting the Past: Recipes from the Stone Age to the Present – recipes from the Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Middle Ages, Elizabethans, Civil War, Georgians, Victorians, World War II, the post-war years in Great Britain
* To The King’s Taste: Richard II’s Book of Feasts – late 14th century England; the Peasant’s Revolt  (This is one of the books that got me interested in food history.)
* To the Queen’s Taste: Elizabethan Feasts & Recipes – Elizabethan Age in England; the Renaissance  (This is the other book that got me interested in food history.)
* American Indian Cooking before 1500 – recipes from Indigenous cultures of the United States  (This cookbook is aimed at children, not adults.)
* Mrs. Cromwell’s Cookbook – Oliver Cromwell; English Civil War (Available from a museum in England.)
* Recipes from a 17th Century Kitchen – England and the American Colonies (This is a 41-page booklet -- on Amazon, there is no cover image or any comments; I bought my copy at Plimoth Plantation but it’s no longer available in their online shop.)
* Colonial Cooking – the 13 Colonies in America  (It’s aimed at children, not adults, and has a different cover from my copy.)
* Plimoth Plantation: 1627 Autumn Recipes – Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts  (Available in the online shop of the Plimoth Plantation website.)
* Dinner with Tom Jones: Eighteenth-Century Cookery – early 18th century England, the Georgian Age
* Outlander Kitchen 1: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook – mostly recipes from Scotland, France, and North Carolina in the late 18th century; Jacobite history
* Outlander Kitchen 2: To the New World and Back Again – The Road to Revolution; Scottish history in America; a few recipes connect to Jamaica
* Revolutionary Recipes – the Revolutionary War in America
* The Unofficial Poldark Cookbook: 85 Recipes from Eighteenth Century Cornwall – England after the American Revolution; the Georgian Age; recipes differentiated by social class
* Cowboy Cookin’: Authentic Recipes from the Campfire – Old West in the U.S.; cattle drives in the West
* Sowbelly and Sourdough: Original Recipes from the Trail Drives and Cow Camps of the 1800s -- Old West in the U.S.; 19th century U.S.
* Arizona Territory Cookbook – Southwest U.S. in the late 19th century; Arizona history
* The Appledore Cookbook – late 19th century U.S.; 19th century New England history  (I have no idea why someone gave this a 1-star rating on Amazon but I have made a few things from this cookbook and I like it a lot.)

You can probably find a cookbook for any historical period you are teaching about; these are just the cookbooks that I’ve acquired over the years.  There are also lots of online blogs and websites about cooking in various time periods and many include recipes adapted for the modern kitchen.

If you’ve never used food to get your students interested in learning history, I highly encourage you to do so.  Bon appétit!