Sunday, November 26, 2023

How Would You Like to Enjoy a TPT Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) Sale?

It's Cyber Monday so TPT is having a sale starting Monday, November 27th at 12:01am Eastern time and ending Tuesday at 11:59pm Eastern time.

Everything in my store will, as usual, be 20% off.  The promo code for getting an additional 5% off at checkout is CYBER23. So you’ll save 25% on everything in my store during the sale.  Yay!

In red and white letters at the top, TPT Cyber Sale announcement, with details in the lower right and a smiling snowman in the lower left, on a blue background with snow falling.
Find great resources for ELLs & other students at The ESL Nexus!

Top 5 Resources for the End of November through December

* Organizing Writing, Editing Paragraphs, Writing Citations, Types of Writing
Includes 6 resources that teach students how to do different types of writing, organize information used in their writing, write bibliographic citations in MLA format, edit their writing and another resource of several rubrics and checklists that you can use to evaluate your students' work.
* MLA Works Cited Practice with Task Cards Activity, MLA 9th Edition
Students use 72 task cards to practice writing bibliographic citations in MLA format for 11 types of resources.
* Early American Colonies - Charts and Puzzles about 10 Early European Settlements
Blank and filled-in charts with information about 10 Early European colonies in the New World; also includes task cards, word search and crossword puzzles.
* Learning Disability or ESL Issue Guide for Educators of ELLs
An annotated questionnaire, with blank questionnaire included, that helps you figure out if a Multilingual Learner of English needs more ESL support or may need a referral for special education testing. It’s also helpful to use if an ELL is at risk of being retained.
* Multilingual Merry Christmas Posters (No Prep)
With 26 posters representing 23 countries. Six suggestions for using the posters to extend student learning are included, along with a word search puzzle using the names of all the countries.

Newest Resource

In addition, I've just published a resource about Hanukkah.  It consists of differentiated reading passages that explain the origins of the holiday and how it's commonly celebrated.  A picture matching task for the lowest proficiency version and multiple-choice questions for the higher proficiency levels are included.  Print and digital versions are provided.  Click HERE for more info about it.

Happy shopping!


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Half Off on 4 Boom Resources During Their Cyber Sale!

Boom Learning is having a Cyber Sale and I’m thrilled to let you know that 4 of my Boom resources are part of it!  The sale runs through Monday, November 27th.  My Boom store is called The ESL Nexus and the 4 resources on sale are all half price.

Black background with CyberBoom Sale title in white at top and images of 4 resources by The ESL Nexus that are on sale, with sale date in white text at the bottom.
Click HERE for more info about these 4 resources

What are Boom Resources?

If you aren’t familiar with Boom Learning, it’s an online marketplace selling digital resources for educators.  What makes it different from other teacher marketplaces is that the resources are automatically self-correcting.  That saves you loads of time! 

The resources are called “decks” and you can also get reports about your students’ performance.  Another advantage of using Boom decks is that they are compatible with Google Classroom™ and several other online learning platforms.

Resources on Sale at The ESL Nexus

Four of my Boom resources are on sale at 50% off.  Three are single decks and one is a bundle that contains many decks.  All of them teach or review vocabulary words about holidays.  One deck uses vocabulary words and definitions to uncover hidden pictures.
You can also use the hashtag #CYBERBOOM and then add The ESL Nexus to find my decks.  If you just use the hashtag, you’ll see lots of decks from other sellers that are on sale, though not everyone is giving 50% discounts like me.  Below are links to the decks on sale:
* Christmas & Chanukah Vocabulary
* Chanukah & Christmas Vocabulary: Solve & See Pictures
* New Year’s Day Vocabulary
* Vocabulary Bundle: 18 American Holidays

The bundle is a great deal because it normally costs $26.00 but while it's on sale, it's only $13.00.  If you're looking for something that can teach students vocab words about US holidays but is also fun, this bundle is just what you need!

Happy Shopping!


Monday, November 13, 2023

8 Books that Teach ELLs about the Pilgrims, the Wampanoags, and Thanksgiving

English Language Learners, especially if they are immigrants, may not be familiar with the history and customs of celebrating this iconic American holiday.  What can a busy teacher do?  I have rounded up 8 books to help you out.  And I’m including a bonus book just for teachers at the end.
Collage image showing covers of 8 books, with text in center on a pale yellow background
Books for ELLs at high beginning to advanced proficiency levels; source: The ESL Nexus

This list of 8 informational texts includes books about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the Wampanoags, and life at Plimoth Plantation.  Some of them are probably familiar but others may be new.  I have classified the books by reading proficiency level, using the WIDA Performance Definitions as a guide (available as a download on this page).  I used all of these books when teaching American history to my Multilingual Learners of English.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you purchase any of the books below but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)


2 books related to Thanksgiving, for low-level ELLs | The ESL Connection
Lower proficiency level books; source: The ESL Nexus
Life at Plimoth by Norm Chang; paperback.
7 pages of text with illustrations that look like photographs on every page.  There are three comprehension questions and one writing task at the end of the book.  This book uses a large font size and has plenty of white space to make it easier for ELLs to comprehend the text.

Two Villages: Two Hundred Years Apart by Dorothy Kaufman (series consultant); paperback.
10 pages of text about Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite.  Written as if a modern-day girl is visiting these places, the book has photographs on every page.  Some pages also include diagrams or maps and vocabulary words glossed in text boxes that overlay the pictures.  The second half of the book is about Old Sturbridge Village.  There are vocabulary activities and a glossary at the end of the book.


The Wampanoags, a book for ELLs | The ESL Connection
Book about the Native Americans who lived in Massachusetts at the time of the Pilgrims; source: The ESL Nexus
The Wampanoags by Alice K. Flanagan; paperback.
40 pages of text about the beliefs, history, traditional culture, interaction with the Pilgrims, and life today of this Native American Massachusetts tribe.  There is a two-page spread about Wampanoag pottery.  The font used for the text is large but the sentence structures are more complex in this book than in the previous books mentioned.   Lots of photos are included, which all have informative captions.  Resources for more information, a glossary and an index are provided at the end of the book.  A newer edition of this book is available.


Book about the Mayflower suitable for intermediate ELLs | The ESL Connection
All about the Pilgrims' journey on the Mayflower and their life afterwards; source: The ESL Nexus
...If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern; paperback.
81 pages of text plus a 2-page cutaway diagram of the Mayflower.  Written in question-and-answer format, information about life on the Mayflower comprises about half the book and the remainder is about how the Pilgrims lived in Plymouth.  There are illustrations on many pages but no accompanying activities for students nor glossary or index.


Book about Native American cuisine before 1500 suitable for ELLs | The ESL Connection
Appropriate for higher proficiency level ELLs; source: The ESL Nexus
American Indian Cooking before 1500 by Mary Gunderson; hardback.
24 pages of text about the culinary customs of Native Americans in eight regions of what is now the United States, plus a general introduction to Native American societies before Columbus and a page about Cahokia. Each region is described, with special emphasis on its food, and then a recipe typical of that region is provided.  Also includes two pages with customary and metric measurements, info about safety in the kitchen, and an illustration depicting numerous types of equipment used for cooking.  A glossary, resources for further information, and an index are at the end of the book.


Three books for high proficiency level ELLs related to Thanksgiving | The ESL Connection
Books about daily life at Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite; source: The ESL Nexus
I classified these three books at this level because of the specialized content-language used throughout; however, because they have lots of photographs, ELLs at WIDA Level 4 may also be able to comprehend some of the text in them.  All three paperback books are written by Kate Waters and published by Scholastic.

Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters; paperback.
30 pages of text.  Through photographs, Sarah Morton describes how she spends a typical day at Plimoth Plantation, from morning to night.  The text may be difficult for ELLs because her manner of speaking echoes that of the 17th century Pilgrims and uses a lot of vocabulary that is not common today.  There is a glossary at the end of the book, along with an explanation of what Plimoth Plantation is and short biographies of the real Sarah Morton and the girl who portrayed her for this book.

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters; paperback.
38 pages of text.  A companion to Sarah Morton’s Day, this book tells the story of Samuel Eaton by describing his life at Plimoth Plantation from the time he gets up in the morning to when he goes to bed at night.  Written as if Samuel himself were talking, the book may be hard for ELLs to comprehend due to the language used but there are plenty of photographs that accompany the text, which should help.  At the end of the book, lyrics to a song that was referred to in the text are included as is some info about harvesting rye, the clothes men wore, and the Wampanoag Indians, along with a glossary and biographies of the real Samuel Eaton and the boy who portrayed him for this book.

Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters; hardback.
35 pages of text.  This book complements the two books about Pilgrim children mentioned above.  Many of the numerous photos are full-page spreads.  This book might be easier for ELLs to understand because the boy uses contemporary language to describe his life.  Although there are lots of specialized words as well as Wampanoag words included, the glossary at the end of the book defines the terms and offers a pronunciation guide to the Native American words.  Also at the end of the book is a map of Wampanoag lands in the 1600s and a short description of the Wampanoag, plus a brief bio of the boy who played Tapenum for this book.


Book for teachers about Thanksgiving | The ESL Connection
For teachers -- it's more than a cookbook; source: The ESL Nexus

Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie, by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver, and Plimoth Plantation; hardback.
192 pages in length, this book details how Thanksgiving was probably celebrated by the Pilgrims and then proceeds to describe how it has been celebrated throughout the United States from then til now.  Filled with background information, recipes, photos, primary source info about Thanksgiving, and a two-page bibliography plus an index, you will never think of Thanksgiving the same way again.  I bought this book at Plimoth Plantation in 2014 and made the Boiled “Sallet” of Spinach (a warm spinach salad), which is a recipe from 1623, when I celebrated Thanksgiving some years ago.  I've also made one of the pumpkin pie recipes.

Top left shows photo of a turkey dinner and top right shows a photo of a Native meal of the "three sisters," title text is underneath on a pale yellow background, and the bottom half shows a view of a river near Plymouth, MA
Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving; source: The ESL Nexus

Although I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, I know that other families choose not to observe the holiday.  Americans’ ideas about the origin of Thanksgiving have changed as more scholarship has been done and Indigenous opinions have become more visible.  

The articles and websites listed below offer a perspective about Thanksgiving that is different from the one many people of a certain age grew up with.  Even now, teaching students about Thanksgiving from the Native American viewpoint or in a culturally respectful manner is not the norm in all schools.  But all students should be exposed to Native voices about how the arrival of the Pilgrims affected the Indigenous people in what is now the United States.  The first 2 links are articles and the last links is a website and all will help provide that perspective:

* The Wampanoag Side of the First Thanksgiving Story.  The Wampanoags were the people who met the English settlers in the 17th century and this article offers their perspective about Thanksgiving. 

* Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?  This article discusses what happened in 1621 from a Native perspective and how many Native people do or do not celebrate Thanksgiving nowadays.

* Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools.  This website includes letters you can send home to parents, links to resources, and books about Native American cultures that you and your students can read.

(This post was originally published on November 2, 2015; it has been revised and part of another post originally published on November 18, 2019 has been added to it.)


Monday, October 9, 2023

How to Create Appropriate Classroom Assessments for Different Levels of Language Proficiency

Creating classroom assessments that fairly and appropriately evaluate what English Language Learners have learned about a subject is crucial.  But when you’re teaching an academic subject, designing differentiated assessments for ELLs at various levels of language proficiency may seem very time-consuming.  Although there is certainly some work involved when designing such tests, after the first time you’ll have a test bank you can adapt for future assessments.
This blog post is the first in a series in which I’m going to describe some ELL assessment strategies you can use when creating tests for academic subjects.  I’ll also include examples of what you can do for different language proficiency levels for ELLs who are in mainstream classrooms.  Here, I’ll talk about creating assessments for ELLs in a mainstream regular ed Language Arts class.  I’ll discuss assessments for ELLs in Social Studies, Math, and Science classes in future blog posts.

Image of Black woman sitting at desk with pencil in one hand on a piece of paper, with opened book in partial view; title of blog post is at top of image
Graphic created by The ESL Nexus

Assessing Reading Comprehension

For Beginner ELLs:

* When teaching a novel to the whole class, let ELLs use a picture book or a graphic novel version of the book instead.  If the book is available in the student’s native language, consider letting them read that; however, they should also be exposed to an English version so they can develop their English language skills.

* Identify target vocabulary words and write your own definitions of the words in simplified language and give copies to the students as they read the text; only use definitions of the words as they are used in the text so ELLs don’t get confused.

* To assess if the students understood the text, have ELLs draw pictures and/or write single words about the material to show they comprehended it. 

* Create a timeline of events in the story and tell students to put them in the correct chronological order; you can do the same thing for cause and effect events.

* Write some simple sentences about the materials and ask ELLs to indicate if they are true or false.

* Decide what is most important to know about the novel and write up some questions using simplified language.  Ask the ELLs the questions and have them answer orally; evaluate the content of the responses, not the accuracy of their grammar.

For Intermediate ELLs:

* When teaching a novel to the whole class, use a graphic novel or simplified version of the book instead.  If an audio version is available, provide that to the students.

* Identify target vocabulary words and write your own definitions of the words in simplified language; define the words as they are used in the text and also provide 1-2 other meaning of words (it there are any) to help ELLs expand their vocabulary knowledge.

* To assess if the students understood the text, have ELLs write simple sentences about the material to show they comprehended it. 

* Ask students to identify main ideas, discuss character development, and describe the plot; they can do this orally or by writing lists or simple paragraphs.

* Ask ELLs to answer multiple-choice questions about the text as well as write short responses to open-ended questions.

* Decide what is important to know about the novel and write up some questions that are a little more complex than those used for the Beginning level ELLs, then ask the students the questions and have them answer orally either face-to-face with you or by recording their answers on a device that you can listen to at a later time.

For Advanced ELLs:

* When teaching a novel to the whole class, use the actual book in tandem with an audio version if one is available.  If no audio version is available, then partner the ELL with a native speaker and have them read the book together.

* Identify target vocabulary words and direct students to look up the words in a dictionary; if you have a dictionary aimed at ELLs, tell them to use that.

* To assess if the students understood the text, have ELLs write paragraphs about the material to show they comprehended it but minimize the amount of writing they must do since they will need more time to complete the task. 

* Ask students to identify the plot and the theme, describe cause and effect relationships about events, and discuss in character development in greater detail. 

* Give students open-ended questions about the text to answer.

* Give the same test to ELLs as the one you give to native speakers but do one or more of the following: eliminate some of the true/false and multiple-choice questions so the ELLs don’t have to process so much text, cross off 1-2 multiple-choice answers in those questions, rewrite instructions in simpler language so they’re easier to understand, allow ELLs to write less when responding to essay-type questions.

Assessing Vocabulary:

For Beginner ELLs:

* Find images that represent the target vocabulary words and put them on one side of a page or digital slide and put the actual vocab word on the other side; tell students to draw lines to match the words and pictures to each other.

* Alternatively, for each vocab word, put an image of it on an index card or piece of paper and on another card/paper, write the word.  Have students match the images and words with each other.  When they’re done, use your phone to take a photo of each student’s work so you can grade it later.

* Write simple sentences that use the target vocab words but instead of the actual words, put a blank line in the space where the words go; at the end of each sentence, put the correct word and another word inside parentheses and tell students to choose the correct word and write it on the blank lines.

For Intermediate ELLs:

* Put definitions of the target vocabulary words on one side of a page or digital slide and the actual words on the other side; tell students to draw lines to match the words and pictures to each other.

* Or, for each vocab word, write the word on 1 index card or piece of paper and the definition on another card/paper.  Have students match the words and definitions with each other.  When they’re done, use your phone to take a photo of each student’s work so you can grade it later.

* Write sentences that use the target vocab words but instead of the actual words, put a blank line in the space where the words go; put a word bank at the top of the page and tell students to select the correct words from the word bank for each sentence.

For Advanced ELLs:

* Put definitions of the target vocabulary words on one side of a page or digital slide, with a line next to each definition, and tell students to write the word that matches the definition on the line; at the top of the page or slide include a word bank to provide some extra support.

* Or, for each vocab word, write the word on 1 index card or piece of paper and the definition on another card/paper; or write the target vocab word on 1 card/paper and a synonym or antonym on another car/paper and tell the students to find the words that go together.  (But make sure that you’ve also taught the synonyms and antonyms – don’t just expect ELLs to know those words.) Have students match the words and definitions with each other.  When they’re done, use your phone to take a photo of each student’s work so you can grade it later.

* Give students a list of the target vocab words and tell them to choose a certain number (for example, if there are 10 words they can choose 6) and write sentences that use the words correctly.

Assessing Writing

For Beginner ELLs:

* For whatever topic you are teaching, tell the ELLs to make a list of the important words about that topic.  For example, if you’re teaching about cause and effect, students could write those words and then some simple transition words that illustrate the concept.

* Tell students to draw a picture about the topic being taught.  For example, when teaching figurative language, have the ELL draw a picture that represents an idiom or simile instead of giving a definition. 

* Let students write in their native language in response to a prompt, then use a translation app to translate their work into English.  Or ask another speaker of that language, who isn’t a student in the class (for privacy concerns), to translate the work for you.

* Create sentence starters about a topic that students can fill in with their own words.

For Intermediate ELLs:

* Have students write a paragraph about a topic using simple language structures.  For example, if you’re teaching about cause and effect, they could write a paragraph that explains what it means and use an example to describe a specific instance.

* Create sentence frames than guide students in their writing.  (Sentence frames differ from sentence starters in that the blanks can be anywhere in the sentence and can include more complex grammar features.)  Use sentence frames when asking students to write a paragraph about a topic.

For Advanced ELLs:

* Give students the same writing assignment that native speakers get but allow the ELLs to write less; for example, they can write a 3-paragraph composition instead of a 5-paragraph essay.

* When teaching a particular type of writing, for example persuasive writing, write a model paragraph or a model essay so ELLs know what their writing they should include and look like.

Wrap Up

You can use these differentiated examples as templates and adapt them for your own Language Arts classes.  When you design assessments for your Multilingual Learners of English, it’s essential to take into consideration their levels of language proficiency and then you can create assessments that measure their content knowledge, not their knowledge of English.