Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BreakoutEdu + ELLs = Language Growth

I'm always on the lookout for innovative new ways to engage students, support language growth, and develop students into learners and thinkers. I was recently introduced to BreakoutEdu and the use of breakout and escape games in the classroom, and I think this can be a hugely beneficial tool for instructing our ELLs.



Back in October, I attended the Google Innovator Academy in Stockholm, Sweden (you can read about that here). Before I left for Stockholm, I received a BreakoutEdu Kit from the Innovator Program. We were supposed to create a short breakout game about our experience as educators for our fellow innovators to play when we all arrived at the academy.


Breakout games are great in the classroom for many reasons, but chiefly they develop several important skills (more on this later):

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Perseverence
  • Growth Mindset

I immediately began wondering how I could apply this to what I do, and how we can leverage it for our ELLs. As a coach, I do a lot of professional development, so that was a natural place to start. Before I even went to Stockholm, I ran my first game for teachers during one of my workshops. I've since used it quite a bit in professional development.

Next, I began to think about how we can use it to support language growth for our students. I think this tool has enormous potential for use with ELLs to develop important social AND academic language skills, on top of the key life lessons that are learned through participation. 

Before we dive into WHY this method is great for use with ELLs, let's explore the benefits in general. This awesome graphic from Sylvia Duckworth details 10 reasons for using Breakout with students.



So how does it benefit ELLs?
Well, first off which of the skills above wouldn't we want to develop in our ELLs? But most critically, this is a very effective way to combine the use of content skills/knowledge with authentic reasons for using the very academic and social language we want them to acquire. Additionally, it's highly engaging, easy to differentiate, and gets all students participating and practicing the focus skills. 

Communication and Collaboration
Breakout and escape games require students to work together with their peers, which helps to develop key collaboration and communication skills that will benefit students throughout life. More importantly, it provides an authentic avenue for our ELLs to practice both social language skills and academic language skills such as agreeing, disagreeing, explaining ideas/procedures/methods, and discussing their thinking with a group of peers. 

Academic Language Development
Since breakout games are typically centered around a content concept or skill, it also requires students to use key academic vocabulary and language structures. Again, the awesome part about breakout games is that they provide authentic situations and reasons for using that language as students explore information, look for clues, and solve puzzles. 

Perseverance and "Failing Forward"
One of the things I like best about breakout and escape games is that you don't always win- AND THAT'S OK. This is an important life lesson in general, but it also applies in a very important way to language learning. Language learning benefits from making errors and learning from them. When students encounter difficulties with communication, they have to reassess and find a new way to communicate their thoughts. This is reflected in breakout games. For example, when students try the wrong combo, they have to go back, reassess and try again. If they don't breakout, then the experience is a learning experience and can help future endeavors. Learning that failure is ok, and using it as a learning tool is such an important lesson for everyone, but especially for our ELLs. 

Don't miss my next post- I'll be discussing how you can scaffold language and differentiate games for ELLs at various proficiency levels. 




Thursday, November 16, 2017

#ELLEdTech Chat: November 2017

Our next #ELLEdTech Twitter Chat is this Sunday, November 19 at 7pm EST. This month's topic is Teaching Holidays in a Culturally Sensitive Way. 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 does it mean to teach holidays in a "culturally sensitive" way? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do you make sure to address holidays in a culturally sensitive way with your students? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: How can tech tools help with a culturally sensitive approach to holidays? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: What tech tools would you recommend for teaching holidays in a culturally sensitive
way? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to use tech to teach holidays in a culturally sensitive manner? #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!!)




    



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Breaking Out of Boredom: Using BreakoutEDU in Professional Development

Today I want to talk about one of the things I'm really excited about right now- using BreakoutEdu with teachers during Professional Development Workshops.



Just before I attended the Google Innovator Academy in Stockholm, Sweden (you can read about that over on my tech blog), Google sent each person in my cohort a BreakoutEdu kit. I'd only just learned about using breakout and escape room type games in the classroom a few months earlier, and was just beginning to create digital breakout games for teachers to use with their students. I was thrilled to get an actual Breakout Box of my own!


Of course, since I spend most of my time working with teachers, and leading workshops and other professional development, I immediately wondered how I could begin using this with my teachers. I found some awesome games on the BreakoutEdu site, BUT most of those designed for adults were related to team-building.

That didn't really help me- most of my workshops involve teachers from all over the county, and we're there to learn about ELLs, not build teamwork. Since I'm an ESOL Coach, I wanted to do games with my teachers that involved content related to the workshops I was teaching. To make that happen, that meant I needed to jump in and start creating my own games.

I looked at lots of examples, visited an Escape Room, and did lots of research. Then, I created my first game about The ESOL Bus- it focused on learning about three essential elements that should always be included in instruction for ELLs:

  • Build Background
  • Use Comprehensible Input
  • Scaffolding and Support


My teachers had a great time, and they did manage to breakout with just a few minutes remaining. Encouraged by that success, I then created a co-teaching game for a presentation I had planned for one of my schools who is implementing co-teaching. The same skills that are needed for a team to be successful in breakout- communication, collaboration, and respect- are also essential to building a good relationship with a partner teacher. So, teachers were able to explore best co-teaching practices to find clues and "breakout". Inside the box, I had candy (for the next activity on the agenda) and a card reminding them of those three essential "keys" to building a solid co-teaching relationship:


Later this month, I have my second session with the teachers in my Technology for ELLs Focus Group, and I plan to do a Breakout that will require them to use the skills they've learned about GSuite. I can't wait to see how it goes! 

After each breakout, I lead a reflection discussion so that we have time to discuss what we learned and what they thought of the breakout. 

All in all, if you are someone who leads professional development, I encourage you to consider how you can incorporate BreakoutEdu into some of your workshops. It's a great opener to get teachers up and moving and engaged, then you can tie in they clues they explored and what they learned during the Breakout to the topic of your workshop.

If you're already doing this, tell me how in the comments!






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!!)