Part 2: 5 Quick Wins to Support English Language Learners in the Classroom

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This post is sponsored by We Are Teachers and their partner Digital Promise. All ideas and thoughts are mine.

Data, when used in telling a school’s story, helps to paint an image in the minds of those receiving the message. From test scores to computer use, educators and administrators alike rely heavily on statistical information to help make decisions, target funding and share their school’s story with all stakeholders. While test scores or computer use may vary to the extreme ends of the spectrum, one thing that is on the rise for almost all schools is the number of English Learners (ELs) in the K-12 student population. In fact, according to US Department of Education, over 4,800,000 ELs were enrolled in schools between 2014-2015.

From interactive charts to maps, Our Nation’s English Learners offers a multitude of stories about the students we serve across the nation. Much of the information may come as no surprise to teachers in the trenches supporting English Learners in their classrooms, but what does plague the minds of many of these same educators is how best to support ELs and what best resources and learning opportunities are available to hone their own craft while their student population changes.

I have recently begun a series of posts on this matter and its intersection in literacy teaching. You can read my first post Here. This post offers how all teachers can model language learning by using these 5 techniques as well as an extension to your own learning through micro credentials offered by Digital Promise.

First, all teachers, no matter grade or content area, can apply simple techniques in the form of modeling and instruction to support students in the classroom, especially ELs.

5 Quick Wins to Model Language Learning in the Classroom

  1. Model. Speak clearly and calmly. Use a constant and predictable speech pattern while utilizing repetition and visuals of important words and phrases. This helps to cue students into recognizing cues while listening or viewing that is important to their academic discourse.

  2. Discuss. Unless a beginning language acquisition student, give all students opportunities to talk, read and write during teaching. Encourage participation through carefully selected groups, partnerships, scaffolding, etc. Language learning should involve active learning. The more students are thinking about ideas, wrestling with texts, and using each other to co-construct meaning the more powerful the understanding of the content and language.

  3. Vocabulary. All learning is partially done via words. If students do not understand the vocabulary they have problems accessing the material. In addition, ELs have to learn a new language on top of the content. Teachers should preview material and pull out vocabulary to focus on with all students. Choose words that are conceptual and topical, ones that appear frequently, or are essential for continued learning. (If you are looking for more vocabulary information check out my post here).

  4. Differentiate. Along with previewing material for vocabulary instruction, identify ways to differentiate material based on student needs, interests, and multiple learning styles. Consider difficult passages or concepts that may need to be anchored to an ELs previous background or experiences. Present material in multiple modes, audio, visual, multimedia, and provide access and choice to ELs based on needs and preference. Eliminate confusion by ELs by connecting the topics studied to content that is relevant and engaging.

  5. Support. Remember that every lesson is not only focused on content but also an opportunity to be a language lesson for ELs. Provide multiple opportunities to practice words and sentence structures or grammar usage. Encourage support from peers and other partnerships that can be fostered to help ensure success. Use the home language for difficult concepts or abstract topics but avoid constant translation by adults or other children who speak the EL’s home language.

While all teachers may not feel equipped to teach language to our growing EL population, there are many quick-wins that all educators can start doing immediately to model and promote language learning in their classroom.

Second, educators can continue their own professional learning through connecting with and learning from a variety of supports. Connecting through social media avenues, book studies with colleagues, and one of my favorites, the learning available through Digital Promise. Digital Promise has built an innovative system of micro-credentials to recognize educators for the skills they learn throughout their careers in order to craft powerful learning experiences for their students.

As student populations across the country continue to change, the more information, resources, and learning opportunities for educators will provide the best learning for our EL students. Educators need to continue to invest in their own training and understanding on how best to support all students. We can all be models of language learning each day in our classrooms!

From Topic to Thesis, Teaching Students to Write Argument

From Topic to Thesis

One of the most difficult things to teach young writers is how to develop a thesis that demonstrates an argument-worthy topic. And now with the Common Core State Standards emphasizing argument, teachers everywhere work tirelessly to help students be savvy discerners of information in hopes to develop thoughtful communicators of messages based on evidence.

In my classroom, I found students struggled when creating a thesis and so I used a method I learned in college (Dr. Robbins) to help in this process. It really worked, and students often contacted me years after leaving high school for a copy of the steps they used to help them in college. Students worked through the following 6 prompts to help them narrow their topic and write a thesis:

         Defining the Topic

  1. This paper is about …. (subject): In particular, it is about …. (specific topic):
  2. The Central Question it addresses is who/what/when/where/why/how/whether ….
  3. The answer to this question is important because it is necessary to better understand the larger issue of … (significance):                                                                                                                                                                                                           Establishing Significance 
  4. This larger issue is not (or might not be) fully or accurately understood because … (Reason for doubt or uncertainty):                                                        
  5. It is important to fully and accurately understand the larger issue because … (Cost of ignorance or misunderstanding):
  6. The evidence seems to indicate that the correct answer to the central question is …. (thesis)

Example

Defining the Topic

  • State what you are going to study.
    • I am going to study Virtual Reality. In particular, I am going to investigate the impact of VR on K-12 education.
  • What question do you want to answer?
    • …because I want to find out how it affects the brain of children.
  • How will the answer to the question lead to a better understanding of the larger issue?
    • so that I will better understand why there are differing opinions in the world of academia on this use in the classroom.

Establishing Significance

  • How is the larger issue misunderstood?
    • Scholars, educators, and VR companies are treating this technology integration similarly to all other tools and resources without considering the immersive element of Virtual Reality and implications on the brain.
  • Why is it important that the larger issue NOT be misunderstood?
    • If we fail to recognize the difference of integrating VR in the classroom compared to other technology we could be putting our students’ in harm’s way.
  • State how the evidence demands the larger issue should be understood.
    • As we will see, many argue against the inclusion of virtual reality in the classroom claiming it is still too new to understanding the implications it has on the developing brain.

These steps help to clarify the topic and define the significance. Once students figure out their argument and why it is significant, research and writing are anchored in answering the question and finding evidence to support their argument.

21 Inspiring EdTech Women You Should Know!

-music expresseswhat i simply cannot-Writing this third and final post in the EdTech Women Trailblazers series was bittersweet. Educators are often the most humble group of professionals one could meet and I was encouraged, inspired, and filled with joy as I read the thoughts and advice from all of the women I featured throughout March. (You can read Blog Post 1 & Post 2 to learn about other women in this series.) This series was my personal way to give back to the hundreds of educators I have connected with throughout my career. There are many inspiring educators doing what’s best for kids around the globe, this was just a small sampling of those I hold dear in my PLN. The resources, collaboration, and passion from these women often goes unnoticed; now is the time to celebrate! These trailblazers are helping to lead the way in creating a change in the field of education and I am truly honored to know all of them!

 

starrStarr Sackstein, Hybrid teach/teacher coach

  • “I’ve been a long-time advocate for every child/teacher to be an active participant in his/her learning experience, including their voices in everything from curriculum development to assessment.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Twitter, Voxer, GSuite
  • Advice: Develop relationships with your students and really listen when they tell you what they need. The more present you are for them, the more they will be for themselves.
  • Connect with Starr: Twitter @mssackstein or EdWeek Blog “Work in Progress”

 

franFran McVeigh, Literacy Consultant for Great Prairie AEA

  • “Being literate is the key to having the power to learn from text (books, stories, print, art, video, and nonverbal cues of people) and is within the realm of possibilities for EACH and EVERY student in school and for the rest of their lives.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Hyperdocs, Twitter, Voxer
  • Advice: Relationships, relationships, relationships! Treat everyone with the respect and dignity that you want to be treated with.
  • Connect with Fran: Twitter @franmcveigh    Blog, franmcveigh.wordpress.com

 

melissaDr. Melissa Nixon, Director of Title I

  • “Being an educator is committing to children and their families with a life of service and dedication for a better tomorrow.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Voxer
  • Advice: You make a difference to someone every day.  Be kind. Be generous. Don’t be afraid to care deeply.
  • Connect with Melissa: Twitter @mmnixon73  Email mmnixon73@gmail.com

 

katieKatie Siemer, Director of Curriculum and Technology Integration at Forward Edge. I serve districts in Ohio as an integration consultant and edtech coach!

  • “I face each new day in education with determination to make a small impact one teacher at a time, all while finding humor every step of the way!”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Tour Builder, Eric Curts’ Resources, ISTE EdTech Coaches PLN
  • Advice: Be passionate about something… your content area, using technology, an after school club with the kids… anything! Education is going to be really hard sometimes, so you need something you really care about to pull you through the not-so-glamorous times or you will burn out really quickly. Every kid needs a champion, and you can’t be a champion if you’re just going through the motions. Love what you do, do what you love, and don’t forget to laugh along the way!
  • Connect with Katie: Twitter @Katie_M_Ritter Blog http://talktechwithme.com Email ksiemer@forward-edge.net

 

KKharimaharima Richards, Education Consultant

  • My goal is to continue connecting with other educators & leaders as well as learn new and innovative ways to provide our students with 21st-century learning experiences.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Twitter, GSuite, Canva
  • Advice: Create a vision that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. ~unknown
  • Connect with Kharima: Twitter & Instagram  @Kharima4 Linkedin or Email ksrichards4@gmail.com

 

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Mandi Tolen, HS Math Teacher

  • “I want to make education better for students by making myself better and helping those around me be better.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Bitmoji, Desmos, GSuite
  • Advice: Learn something every day and be willing to share it with others.
  • Connect with Mandi: Twitter @TTmomTT Blog Infinitely Teaching   Instagram    Snapchat

 

 

erinErin Olson, Instructional Leader and Curriculum Director

  • “I do not want my students and my children to be the best in the world, I want my students and my children to be the best FOR the world. ”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Tweetdeck, Flipgrid, AdobeSpark
  • Advice: The learning experiences we design and the environment we create stays with students long after they leave our rooms…our students still learn from those experiences and that environment long after they leave our rooms. Bring love, compassion, and grace to the classroom.
  • Connect with Erin: Twitter@eolsonteacher Email mrseolsonteacher@gmail.com

 

AmberAmber Bridge, Digital Learning Consultant at Grant Wood AEA

  • “As an educator, I love to explore and create different learning structures and see the outcomes of risk-taking, creativity, and problem-solving in those structures.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Makerspace Movement, Green Screen by DoInk, Google Keep
  • Advice: Every individual in a classroom is a learner and a teacher if you chose to listen.
  • Connect with Amber: Twitter & Instagram  @abridgesmith

 

claraClara Galan, Community and Content Marketing Lead, Amazon Education K-12

  • “My passion is to help teachers and schools nurture students to become the next generation of independent creative problem solvers.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Remind, Kahoot, GAFE, OER Commons, Padlet. Buck Institute for Education, Common Sense Media and Edutopia
  • Advice: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone – you never know where it will lead! Also, there isn’t one silver bullet (or tech tool) to solve the issues in education. Each group of learners (and each student) is unique in their needs and approaches.
  • Connect with Clara: Twitter @MsClaraGalan

 

amandaAmanda Dykes, Instructional Technology

  • “My goal is to help as many people as possible while keeping the focus on students and remembering school isn’t a place for adults to work but for students to learn.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: GSuite, YouTube Creator Studio, Adobe Spark
  • Advice: Don’t forget they are kids. They are not always going to sit still or stay quiet, they are not wired that way. Compliance isn’t what they are created to do. But they are created to make a difference and it takes understanding and love.
  • Connect with Amanda: Twitter h@amandacdykes

 

stacyStacy Behmer, Coordinator of Digital Learning, GWAEA

  • “You can’t steal second with your foot on first, take risks and keep on learning to make a difference for students.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Expeditions/VR, Voxer, Google Keep
  • Advice: Relationships are essential, get to know your students, parents and other educators and what passions they have and what type of learners they are because it enables you to better support and also builds your PLN!
  • Connect with Stacy: Twitter  @sbehmer

 

meghanMeghan Zigmond, 1st Grade Teacher & ITS

  • “Create an environment where all learners are encouraged to share their passions and curiosities, then build and grow them as a community.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Koma Koma Koma, Student Skechnotes / Doodles for visible thinking, & SeeSaw
  • Advice: Find your own passions and interests outside the classroom, then share them with your learners. Your passion and excitement for lifelong learning breeds more excitement! I think it makes learning more authentic for you and them, no matter if they are 6 or 36.
  • Connect with Meghan: Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat at @MeghanZigmond Blog zigzagstech.com   

 

bethBeth Still, Innovative Teaching and Learning Specialist

  • “My passion is to help educators discover the amazing things that can happen when they allow their students to have a voice.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Tour Builder, Google Sites (new), and Google Keep
  • Advice: Be brave enough to follow your dreams.
  • Connect with Beth: Twitter@BethStill

 

andreaAndrea Townsley, Curriculum / PD Leader and Instructional Coach at Benton CSD

  • “Everyone has something valuable to share and bring to the table, so making connections with colleagues within and outside of the district, community members, and families is a passion to help me to continue to learn, grow, and recharge.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw – as a parent and as a coach, Podcasts – Cult of Pedagogy & HACK Learning, & Train Ugly
  • Advice: Dance with your fears; don’t be content with your comfort zone.  Be a Jungle Tiger
  • Connect with Andrea: Twitter@townsleyaj  Blog townsleyaj.blogspot.com  Instagram @ajtownsley  

 

wandaWanda Terral, District Technology Coordinator

  • “By empowering others, I empower myself.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: G Suite, Adobe Creative Cloud, Twitter
  • Advice: Embrace your imperfections. Many of us are perfectionists and, while that quality often makes us great at what we do, it also fuels our stress and frustration. Continue to strive to do your best and push the envelope while also embracing your imperfections. Remember, your imperfections are the stepping stones on your growth journey. Without them, personal growth stagnates.
  • Connect with Wanda: Twitter @wterral Google+ (+WandaTerral) Blog ignitionEDU.com), and a variety of other spots which are detailed on about.me/edtech

 

ValerieValerie Brinkman, 1:1 Coordinator/Tech Specialist

  • “My passion as an educator is to spark a lifelong interest in a topic or issue for students.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Bloxels, Digital Breakouts, Socrative
  • Advice: Remember that each student in an individual and comes to you with their own story. Take time to learn their story and connect with them on a personal level to allow for great learning and better educational experience.
  • Connect with Valerie: Twitter @BrinkmanValerie

 

kristinKristin Ziemke, Teacher & Author

 

jenniferJennifer Williams, Professor, GlobalEd Program Developer, ILA Board of Directors

  • “To take action for social good and transformational teaching and learning through the sharing of stories, perspective, and experience in our global classrooms.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Nearpod, Participate, Global Oneness Project
  • Advice: Endeavor to be a teacher where all the children of the world are your students and all lands of the earth are your classrooms.
  • Connect with Jennifer: Twitter @JenWilliamsEdu Website: www.calliopeglobal.com  

 

JuliJuli-Anne Benjamin, Instructional Coach

  • “Dedicated servant to the successful trajectory of children Everywhere.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Kahoot. Global Goals/Teach SDG’s and all things Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.
  • Advice: Work to build and curate relationships with children. KNOW them when they are in your space and ground your pedagogical practice in student choice and student voice.
  • Connect with Juli-Anne: Twitter @JuliB224  Email edcampbrooklyn@gmail.com  

 

LauraLaura Gilchrist, HS Instructional Coach in Kansas City

  • “I am passionate about creating a citywide ecosystem to support learner innovation, agency, and opportunity access both in schools and in cities so that our kids can walk into their futures self-identifying as connected learners and leaders.“
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Google Keep, NYT VR app, Podcast app (subscribe & listen to podcasts)
  • Advice: Believe in yourself, think big, and connect with educators and ideas beyond your school. Your unique voice and energy make a difference in many lives–a bigger difference than you will ever know! Keep leading and lighting the way for our kids and for each other!
  • Connect with Laura: Twitter @LauraGilchrist4  Linkedin www.linkedin.com/in/lauragilchrist4 Blog www.lauragilchrist4.com

 

mariaMaria (Galanis) Arfanakis, iCoach

 

 

annAnn Feldmann, District Instructional Technology Specialist, Bellevue Public Schools; Adjunct Professor, Peru State College and Doane University

  • “Once upon a time I was a young girl and had a dream of being a teacher.  I wanted to create a classroom that students would want to run to every day. I am happy to say, I am living my dream! I’m in a position to influence and foster a culture of teaching and learning that provides engaging, personalized, differentiated, and choice-driven learning for all students.”
  • Current Edtech Favorites: Seesaw Classkick Schoology Voxer and iPads
  • Advice: Being an educator is an awesome responsibility and a great privilege and honor. Never forget that our job as educators is to serve our students and staff. Embrace the opportunities that are presented each day. Use your strengths and talents to encourage one another. Be present and positive while you listen, learn, and lead. Inspire all the people in your path. It’s in the spirit of working together and celebrating successes that new ideas are generated and people have the courage to implement something new.  Anyone who works with me knows, that my philosophy is that we are better together and build a community strength on strength.  “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” -Helen  Keller
  • Connect with Ann: Twitter @annfeldmann1

 

When I started writing this series to celebrate Edtech Women Making an Impact I realized how fortunate I am to be connected (both virtually and in-person) to Trailblazers in the field of education. From Authors to Makers, Coaches to Advocates the passion exudes from these women who put kids first, share generously, and leaving their mark on the world!

Fake News Should Die… Or Should It?

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This blog post is part of the CM Rubin World Global Search for Education which poses a question each month to leading educators for reflection and sharing. This month’s question is “how do we fight the fake news epidemic?”

 

Recently, Fake News has been getting a bad reputation, I’m hoping this post changes that!

Over half of Americans get their news from just one social media site – Facebook and 45% of US adults say government politicians and elected officials bear a great deal of responsibility for preventing made-up stories from gaining attention (Pew Research Center,  December 15, 2016). These statistics alarm me. Not the first one highlighting where people find information, but the second claim in which many feel the responsibility of identifying and stopping the spread of fake information resides with the government.

It is essential for educators to develop healthy skepticism within each child; critical discerners of information that are able to evaluate, analyze, and apply information that they encounter throughout their lifetime, no matter the mode.

Information is doubling every 12 days, containing fake news, half-truths, alternate facts, and reliable information; and while there are many resources (my list here) and blog posts written that offer apps, website, fact-checkers, and lessons plans for educators to utilize, we must not overlook the charge of education in our pursuit of combating fake news –  to develop independent, critical thinkers.

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A conversation I had with my 7th grade son and his friends this morning:

Me: What do you know about fake news?

Son: What do you mean?

Son’s friend: Didn’t you see President Trump on the news yesterday talking about news sources…

After a brief discussion on politics

Me: So what should we do with people or news sources that report and spread fake news?

Son: Fine them, make them pay…

Son’s friend: They should get jail time.

All the boys: Yes, jail time and not be allowed to report fake news. The government needs to shut those people down…

Me: So the government should police the internet, news sources, social media, conversations and get rid of all of the fake news?

Deep Thought

Son’s friend: Well that means I could be thrown in jail… or we could end up like North Korea…

BINGO!

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Fake news is not a bad thing. In fact, it provides teachable moments for educators across the globe. It begs us to consider who or what determines information as fake? And How can we support kids in their pursuit of understanding? The discernment of information and the application to construct one’s own understanding should be practiced and refined in every classroom across the country. With that being said, the importance of what should be done with fake information and the people or corporations that report this news as truth is a piece of the conversation that is missed.

 

  • What exactly is fake news?
  • Would killing off fake news truly help people?
  • Does allowing others to determine what information you have access to leave you with only factual and correct information?
  • Who should police the internet?
  • What role should the government play in determining access to information?
  • Does killing off fake news equal censorship?
  • Is censorship needed?
  • Can censorship be both good and bad?
  • Can censorship and freedom of speech coexist?

Resources, websites, fact-checkers are nice. They support an individual’s pursuit of knowledge. We use them as adults and we should definitely model and share them with students.

But

DO NOT forget the second part of the conversation, one in which students understand the value of fake news in the age of information. The conversation that includes the tough discussions on freedom of speech, critical thinking, approaching information with healthy skepticism, and censorship.

Special thanks to Shawn McCusker and Steven Anderson for sharing information freely!

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

3-strategies

Upon graduation, we hope students leave school equipped with skills, strategies, and tools to support a lifetime of literacy encounters. Whether on the job, in college, or informing oneself on Presidential Candidates; students will be continuously encountering text that must be digested and understood independently.

As educators, we must not only place complex text in the hands of our students but also support their learning through modeling and scaffolding of strategies Good Readers use to make sense and solve problems when reading difficult text. Although student understanding content is important, it is a transfer of these skills and strategies we want students to utilize any time they encounter complex text on their own.

3 Strategies to Support Student Interaction with Complex Text

Good Readers…

 1.  Act on the text to support their understanding. Annotation, the practice of making notes for oneself, is one-way good readers interact with complex text to help them make sense of what they read.

Common Annotation Marks – Demonstrate, use, and teach students how Good Readers interact with and mark on text to aid in their understanding.

common-annotation-marks

Digital Annotation Tools to Explore and Share with Students

2.  Identify difficult words in complex text and use strategies to help them understand meaning. Good Readers work within the word. They identify morphemes to provide part of the definition. Good Readers also work outside the word. They ask themselves what resources can I use to support understanding. For words that are discipline specific, Good Readers use resources, such as “Discipline Dictionaries” to gain meaning of unknown terms which aid in comprehension of complex text.

3.  Finally, educators can model specific strategies during an Interactive Shared Reading. The text is delivered by the teacher while students read along silently. It is typically short and lively and promotes rereading as a way students can make sense of complex text. After the Interactive Shared Reading, the teacher may prompt discussion and support peer interaction about the text. Create a screencast for students to reference for additional support with specific strategies. It is important for students to see the text being read and hear the teacher’s thoughts as they model the specific strategy. Check out these screencasting options.

Resources – Rigorous Reading, Fisher and Frey