Saturday, September 16, 2017

#ELLEdTech Twitter Chat: Tools to Support ELLs with Homework

Our next #ELLEdTech Twitter Chat is this Sunday, September 17 at 7pm EST. This month's topic is Tools to Support ELLs with Homework. Join us to share your favorite tech tools and learn about others!


Questions and Timeline
7:00 = Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What tools do you recommend to help ELLs with homework? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do these tools help teachers facilitate ELLs’ learning? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What are the advantages & benefits of using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any cons or drawbacks teachers or students might have when using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to incorporate technology into HW assignments for their ELLS? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat:
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern Daylight Time.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.
4. Starting at 7:05, @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.
7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurlbitly,goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet . If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.

Is this your first Twitter chat? Here are our rules:
1. Please stay on topic.
2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked. 
3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!
5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.
6. When responding to someone, please be sure to "mention" them by including their Twitter handle.
7. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, teachers, school staff, administrators--may see what you tweet.) 

You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We can't wait to chat with you on Sunday evening!

Can't make it to the chat? Check out the archives to see what you missed! (The archive is not currently showing everything. I'm still working on a better solution for chat archives- if you have one- please let me know!!)





Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Using Technology with Newcomers: Newcomer ELLs and Computer Time

Ok y'all. I'm about to get serious over here for a minute, and I'm going to say some things you might not want to hear. But, as an ELL Specialist, this is something that is incredibly important to me. Throughout my career, I've been lucky to get to work with newcomer English learners from all over the world. I've learned as much from them as they have from me.



Every time a classroom teacher gets a newcomer ELL, I can see that look of fear in their eyes as they wonder how they are going to communicate with this child, much less teach this child. Many teachers mean well but do not know what else to do with the child, and they end up putting the child on the computer. So, while the rest of the class is participating in activities that allow them to interact with peers, increase their language use, and gain valuable content knowledge and skills, the newcomer ELL is working in isolation on the computer.

Even worse, many teachers will put Newcomer ELLs of any grade level on programs like ABCya, Starfall or other programs that are designed for PreK and Kindergarten students.

Why is this bad practice? 
Firstly, most of the website students get put on do little to nothing to support the second language acquisition process. Many lower-level phonics and reading programs/websites are designed for native speakers learning to use their first language, not for learners who are acquiring English as a second (or third! or fourth!) language.

Secondly, putting an older child on programs designed for PreK and Kindergarten students is simply not age-appropriate- they will quickly become bored because it is so far below their developmental level. Students end up wondering why they're working on "baby" work while other students are doing real learning. It can be discouraging for students. How would you feel if you walked into a Swedish 101 class and they put you on an app for Kindergarten children?

Thirdly, these students need to be included in the classroom community and need to interact with their peers- that is how they will begin acquiring English. That's not going to happen if the student is isolated for most of the day working on the computer.

Here are some major differences between acquiring your first (native) language, and acquiring a second (or additional) language that need to be taken into consideration when choosing appropriate learning tools- including technology tools:

  • In second language acquisition, knowledge of the first language also serves as a basis for learning the second language. 
  • In first language acquisition, children spend several years listening to language, babbling, and using telegraphic speech before they can form sentences. Second language learners do not have this opportunity, and need opportunities to use the language with peers.
  • Older learners are able to use more metacognitive processes in their learning.  They can consciously analyze and manipulate grammatical structures, sound patterns. They can also analyze how language works. Older ELLs need opportunities to analyze and manipulate language and grammar.
  • Older learners bring more life experience and background knowledge to their learning.  They have more schemata and more learning strategies to help them learn the second language. Learning activities should tap into this background knowledge and schema. 
  • In older learners, there may be less sensitivity to phonological distinctions not present in the native language.  Older ELLs may also have fewer opportunities to learn and use language authentically. These factors may reduce the likelihood that second language learners will attain native-like proficiency.  
  • In first language acquisition, learners have many chances to practice with native speakers (especially caregivers).  In second language acquisition, teachers must provide learners with the opportunity to practice extensively with native speakers.
  • Almost everyone acquires a first language, but not everyone acquires a second language. Acquiring a first language happens naturally, while acquiring a second language often requires conscious effort on the part of the learner. 
Choose wisely!
Technology can be an excellent tool to support language growth- when used correctly. It offers students opportunities to learn in new ways that weren't possible before. Based on the information above, it is important to choose resources that support the process of second language acquisition. For technology, this means that it should:
  • Be engaging and age appropriate
  • Provide ELLs with opportunities to actively use the language
  • Tap into background knowledge and existing schemata
  • Allow ELLs to use knowledge of their native language during learning
  • Cover material that is developmentally appropriate
Here are some great websites I've found that you can use with Newcomer ELLs in grades 3+:

Limit Computer Time
Newcomers are going to learn far more English (and likely some content too!) if they are permitted to interact with their peers and participate in whole and small group learning activities. They will not learn English or content if all their time is spent on the computer. Furthermore, isolating these learners on the computer makes them feel even more out of place than they already do, at a time when we should be making them feel like a welcome and important part of the classroom community. For this reason, I recommend limiting ELLs to 30 minutes a day of solo computer time. Additional time can be permitted for using technology in whole or small group situations.

Wondering how to include Newcomers in learning with the rest of the Class? 
The answer is simple- scaffold the activities so they can acquire new language and new content together. Provide age- and grade-level appropriate activities and tasks, and find ways for them to demonstrate their knowledge with little or no language. You can learn more strategies for working with newcomers in my Newcomer series


Please teachers, I beg you- whatever you do, do not put Newcomer ELLs on PK or K programs/websites unless they are primary age learners, and please do not leave your newcomers on the computer all day. 








Friday, August 25, 2017

WIDA's 15 Essential Actions for Educators of ELLs


This year, one of the initiatives of our ESOL department is to help our teachers understand and implement the 15 Essential Actions identified by WIDA for educators of ELLs. These actions should be undertaken by all teachers working with ELLs- not just the ELL specialist!

Throughout this next school year, I'll probably make a few posts about the Essential Actions, so here's a quick video overview for you!





Wednesday, August 16, 2017

#ELLEdTech Chat: Tools that Facilitate Collaboration between ESL, Mainstream, and SPED Teachers

Our next #ELLEdTech Twitter Chat is this Sunday, August 20 at 7pm EST. This month's topic is Tools that Facilitate Collaboration between ESL, Mainstream, and SPED Teachers. Join us to share your favorite tech tools and learn about others!


Questions and Timeline
7:00 = Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: How do you collaborate with the teachers you work with? (ESOL, SpEd, Mainstream) #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: What tech tools do you use to facilitate collaboration? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What’s important to consider when using technology to facilitate collaboration? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any challenges teachers might encounter when using these tools? #ELLEdTech 
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to use technology to facilitate collaboration? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat:
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern Daylight Time.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.
4. Starting at 7:05, @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.
7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurlbitly,goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet . If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.

Is this your first Twitter chat? Here are our rules:
1. Please stay on topic.
2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked. 
3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!
5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.
6. When responding to someone, please be sure to "mention" them by including their Twitter handle.
7. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, teachers, school staff, administrators--may see what you tweet.) 

You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We can't wait to chat with you on Sunday evening!

Can't make it to the chat? Check out the archives to see what you missed! (The archive is not currently showing everything. I'm still working on a better solution for chat archives- if you have one- please let me know!!)





Saturday, July 22, 2017

Modifying Instruction for Newcomer ELLs: Chunking


So, we've covered Scaffolding and Supports along with Comprehensible Input. That means it's time to dive into chunking- my third tip for modifying instruction for newcomers.

What is "chunking"?
You  may or may not have heard this term before. Sounds kinda strange, right? Think about it this way: when you eat an apple, do you shove the whole thing in your mouth at once? No- that would be overwhelming and unmanageable- you'd choke! You eat small bits or chunks at a time to make it manageable to chew and swallow.

In the same way- when we give our students too much at once, they become overwhelmed and are likely to shut down or "choke". This is particularly true for newcomers- its much easier for them to become overwhelmed. So, we need to "chunk" for them- activities, directions, texts, tasks, information- providing small bits at a time instead of giving it to them all up front.

How can I chunk information for my newcomers?
It's really as simple as providing small amounts at a time. Here are some examples:

Directions 
When giving directions for an activity or task, don't give all the directions at once. Give one or two steps at a time. When students have finished those steps, provide the next set of steps or directions. When possible, provide directions orally and written. Another great way to help your newcomer ELLs remember and understand your directions is to use picture cards.




Activities and tasks
If you're already chunking the directions you give as suggested above, then the tasks and activities will naturally be chunked as well. It's great to give an overview of the complete task, but when it comes to actually beginning work, break it down into small, manageable pieces with clear directions. One students finish one chunk, then give directions for the next chunk.

Texts
If you ever studied a foreign language and were presented with a huge text, you know how overwhelming it can feel. Break texts into small pieces (such as paragraphs) for students, with opportunities to check understanding, get clarification, and ask questions in between. For newcomers, make sure that your text "chunks" don't have more than one important piece of information, and are comprehensible for their level of proficiency.

How can I make chunking easy?
One great way to easily chunk a worksheet or text is to simply use a folder and cut flaps in it to cover your different chunks. As the student moves through, they can open and close the different flaps to focus on one chunk at a time. I love this idea! You can even use old folders that have other things written on them, or a piece of large construction paper! Sticky notes work as well.

Another way, as suggested above, is to simply "chunk" activities or tasks by how you pace instruction, piece out tasks or assignments and provide directions.

Next up in the series: Alternative Responses and Assessments!




Friday, June 30, 2017

Modifying Instruction for Newcomer ELLs: Comprehensible Input


I'm sorry for having such a huge gap between my first two newcomer posts, and this one. The end of the school year was just so darn busy! The second tip I shared in the wayback to help you modify instruction for ELLs is to use comprehensible input, so that's what we'll focus on today.

What is "comprehensible input"?
Comprehensible input is a hypothesis of second language acquisition first proposed by Stephen Krashen in the early 80's. The hypothesis states that our ELLs learn and acquire language when they receive input (written or oral) that is only slightly above their current language level (i+1). In other words, the oral and written input we provide students should be mostly understandable, with only a few words or structures that are unknown or new to the student. Students will be able to understand the message, and will acquire new language in the process.

At the newcomer level, comprehensible input is comprised of short, simple sentences, known or learned words and phrases (i), with a few new words or language structures added to get that +1 in the i+1.

This video, while it is foreign language teachers discussing the use of the target language and comprehensible input, is a really excellent illustration of how you can make content comprehensible in the target language for ANY language learner- whether it's a student acquiring English as a second language, or a student acquiring a foreign language.


Why is comprehensible input important? 
The image below illustrates about how much a newcomer student might be able to understand when attention is not given to ensuring that the input is comprehensible.
As you can see, the student is really only understanding high frequency words, a few numbers, and some articles and common prepositions. Is the newcomer understanding enough in this scenario to learn new information? Is the newcomer understanding enough to even know what they're being asked to do? At best, we can tell that it seems like some sort of math problem.

When the input a newcomer receives is not comprehensible, they're likely to simply shut down. When the student shuts down, no further learning is possible- of language or content.

How can I make the input I provide to my newcomers comprehensible? 
There are many ways to ensure that the input you provide your students is comprehensible. The image below shows a few.

You can also provide visuals with oral or written input (visuals, visuals, visuals!). In one of the schools that I worked with this past year, the ESOL department chair created a shared Google Drive folder, with subfolders for subject area and topic. As the teachers went through the year and taught certain topics, they added images from Google and elsewhere to the shared folder. Since many topics span grade levels, it was easy for teachers who needed images for a topic to find what they needed to enrich learning and make input comprehensible. The teachers still continue to build and use this shared resource of visuals for their ELLs.

Another great way to make oral speech comprehensible is to use a lot of gestures and body language, or to even act things out for and with students.

Making input comprehensible does not mean "dumbing it down".
Its important to remember when you focus on comprehensibility that you are simplifying the language, not simplifying the content. It is possible to convey complex ideas in simple language, especially if you are using appropriate scaffolds and supports, as discussed last time!





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Modifying Instruction for Newcomer ELLs: Scaffolding and Supports



So, last time, I introduced you to 7 ways to modify instruction for newcomer ELLs. The first one on the list was Scaffolding and Support, so that's what today's post is going to focus on. You might want to put on a helmet, because I'm about to throw a lot of information your way!


What is scaffolding & support? 
Scaffolds and supports are strategies used by the teacher or tools that are provided to the learner. These tools and strategies provide students the "boost" they need to be able to access the content, understand input, and communicate knowledge despite a lack of English proficiency.

Doesn't scaffolding make it too easy? What if they don't need it? 
Scaffolds are essential for newcomer ELLs. ABSOLUTELY. ESSENTIAL.

As students gain proficiency, you can easily remove scaffolds and supports that you have put in place to allow them to function more independently! Scaffolds can also be switched so that you can use them to support students in reaching beyond their current level of proficiency.

What students will need to access the language and content will vary from student to student and based on the student's actual level of proficiency. It's important not just to consider their overall score, but also their scores for each subdomain- students may need more support in one language domain than in another.


Scaffolds should be appropriate for proficiency level!
If you remember in my last post, we talked about what newcomer ELLs are able to do in terms of processing and producing language. For our newcomer students, we are providing very simple input with simple sentences, common phrases, and basic words and expressions. Our expectations regarding production should be based around learned words and phrases, small chunks of language, and basic vocabulary usage. This is what we need to be scaffolding students toward, so the strategies we use and the supports we choose should be geared toward that level of language proficiency.

What types of scaffolds and supports can I put in place? 
As you know, I'm in a WIDA state, so when introducing teachers to scaffolds and supports, I always turn first to those three types identified by WIDA- Graphic, Sensory, and Interactive. The suggestions contained within the chart are really just a jumping-off point- this list is certainly not exhaustive.


WIDA also offers a list of possible supports divided by content area. Again, this list is not exhaustive!

Here are some of my favorites scaffolds and supports for newcomer students, all of which are pretty easy to begin implementing:
  • Personal Word Walls: Personal word walls are a great tool to provide your newcomer ELLs! They can fill theirs with words they need to learn and carry it from class to class. With each new word, they can include a drawing or even the word in their native language. You can also use Picto4Me to create personalized, visual word walls!
  • Word banks: Word banks are one of the easiest tools you can include for your ELLs, especially on activities where they're expected to produce language. For newcomers, one of the most difficult things is often remembering the vocabulary they need in order to express an idea or demonstrate knowledge. Word banks for newcomer ELLs should include words that they've already learned and that are relevant to the topic.
  • Classroom Word Walls: You may already have a word wall, but are you using it to full potential? Classroom word walls can be an excellent scaffold for newcomers when used effectively- they should be visible, interactive, and relevant . You can also find some excellent math word walls in my TpT store!
  • Sentence Frames: Sentence frames can really help students at all levels, but they're particularly effective for newcomers who have little to no understanding of the structure of the English language. They may have the mathematical ability or scientific knowledge to answer a question, but they don't have the language to communicate their answer. Sentence frames to the rescue! When using sentence frames, review and model them for students so they know how to use them effectively. After a few days of students using these frames in speaking and writing, you can usually remove them!
  • Visuals: The use of visuals is more to provide support to your newcomer as he or she is processing input. If the student can associate a word or phrase with a visual image, then they are more likely to understand and acquire the word into their own "language bank". You can create class picture cards using images from a Google search, insert images into powerpoint, add images to your word wall. Really, any way you can incorporate visuals is excellent. Another great way to incorporate visuals is to use picture dictionaries- ask your ESL/ESOL specialist if they have any you can borrow. Pictured below are some of my favorites from Oxford, or you can also create your own picture dictionary! 

  • Technology: Technology is a great way to help your newcomer ELLs acquire English. As a note though, I recommend no more than 30 minutes of solo computer time a day for newcomers. It is really important that they participate with whole group activities and interact with peers during class time!
    • Learning Chocolate: Great website that helps students practice vocabulary (with visuals) using all four language domains!
    • Quizlet: This is a great choice for helping ELLs learn new vocabulary with pictures and audio. Learn more with this article
    • Read&Write for Chrome: This great tool is from TextHelp, and it has many great functions to help your ELLs, like text-to-speech for reading documents and webpages, translation and annotation tools, and even speech-to-text! Learn more with this article.
    • Rewordify: This is a great tool for simplifying the language used in a text. It's not perfect, but it's a great starting point. Be sure to proofread, and simplify further if needed. Learn more here
I hope these tips, tools, and strategies for scaffolding and support help you as you modify instruction for your newcomer ELLs! Don't miss the next post in the series- Comprehensible Input.