Friday, April 29, 2016

Easy ESL Modifications Part 2!

If you're not following me on twitter (which you should be, it's my favorite social media platform for teacher ideas!), you may have missed my most recent #ESLtipOfTheDay posts. Here's are some of the most recent ones:

You are welcome to use these however you like: print them out, email them, make them into a presentation, the sky's the limit! The most common complaint I get from elementary classroom teachers is that there just isn't enough time in the day to modify every assignment for their ELs. These are five minute (or less!) modifications that can become a part of any classroom routine. Classroom teachers already have enough to do without spending hours painstakingly adapting every assignment, so I started coming up with these simple strategies to share.

What would you add? How do you modify instruction for ELLs in simple ways?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How to make sub plans when your students don't speak English (yet)

We've all been there- just getting into the swing of the school year, finally confident in all your students' names and they're all getting the routines when suddenly you wake up at two in the morning with a violent stomach bug.

Teaching is wonderful for a lot of reasons, but the number of germs swirling around my workplace every day is not one of them.

Sub plans are a pain no matter what you teach. I'd almost always rather be at school than get a sub, but sometimes there's no option. But sub plans can be especially complicated when your students speak very limited English and you're counting on the sub lottery to bring you someone halfway decent this time (we've had a sub drought this year and some of them have been truly terrible).

So what do you do? Here are a few tips and tricks I've found over the years that have made my sick days more productive for my students and less stressful for my subs:

1. Explicitly tell the sub in the plans to let students translate for each other and help each other.
More than once I've come back from being absent to hear my students complain that the sub wouldn't let them talk or explain the directions to one another. I'm not sure why, but some subs seem to be under the impression that the ESL classroom should be silent and assessment-like. I always start my sub plans with "These students are still learning English, so please let them help each other! They are welcome to translate or explain directions to each other, as long as they are respectful to you and trying to listen while you are talking."

2. Have a routine the students could do in their sleep, and have them do it with the sub.
We do calendar and morning work the same way every single day in my lowest English proficient class. In my sub plans, I tell them one of my most helpful and proficient students' names and say "Have [student] lead calendar and sharing time, then pass out the morning work. They will know what to do with it." 

3. Have more activities than the sub could possibly get through.
I usually scour TPT for resources and then run off two more than I could get through in a class. I also always include a read aloud on sub days, because the subs like them, they are good instruction in comprehension practice, and they take up a lot of time.

4. When all else fails, have them read.
Lots of research shows that language learners need more time to interact with text in their target language and we're always pressed for time to get through our curriculum and standards, so I don't always give them enough free voluntary reading time. Sub days are a great time to make up for it! Have procedures in place that the students are familiar with beforehand (can they choose any book or only from a certain shelf? Do they have to stick with the same book the whole time, or can they change if they decide they're bored? etc.).

I'm working on finalizing a copy of the sub plans that I used with my students last week when I got to go to the beach (it was great!) to put on TPT, so keep an eye on my store for those. 

What other recommendations do you have for subs with low proficiency language learners?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How to Make Personalized Readers to Engage Your Class!

My students, being language learners, tend to read English significantly below grade level. But it can be hard to find engaging books for older children at their grade level! I started writing my own passages for my students to read years ago, but there weren't as many illustrations as I'd like for my English learners to help them with new vocabulary.

Over time, I developed a simple template for making my own printable books, (which is available free from my TpT store here!). I simply copy the template into a new powerpoint, then change the text in the text boxes and add relevant pictures, either clip art or photos if I can find them.

While writing my own stories has definitely helped to make them more fun for my class, this week for the first time we got to do something entirely new: write a book together. My newcomers have been learning action and activity words (see my unit here), and to wrap it up we did a shared writing activity. My students dictated and I wrote on chart paper about our favorite activities to do. They introduced themselves, then told about themselves in the third person.

Yes, that classy wood paneling came standard with my classroom

Now, of course, this is the world's most boring book because just about all of my students' favorite activities is to play soccer. So we went outside and played some soccer, and I took pictures of my students enjoying themselves.

Then we came back in and used those pictures in more descriptive sentences, with words like smile, stand, run, and kick.

I typed up our sentences in my book template and used the photos from our soccer game to illustrate it. Now we have a class book that we wrote together, with actual photos of our class to illustrate it! My students love the book and choose it from the classroom library every day.

I think we'll be doing this with our next unit on plants, too!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Easy ESL Modifications for Classroom Teachers

If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you know I've kicked off a new series of ESL tips this week! All week long I've been sharing simple modifications that can be implemented in a general classroom to help English learners access the curriculum without hours of extra prep or modified assignments. Here are the four tips I've shared so far:

Follow the hashtag #ESLtipoftheday to see the new tips I'll post during the rest of this week! What other simple, five minute modifications do you use in your classroom?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Context Clues Bonanza!

One of the most important skills we can teach our ESL friends is how to use context clues to understand vocabulary they do not know. It would be impossible for me to explicitly teach every single word in the English language to my students, so they need to have the skills necessary to determine the meaning of unknown words on their own!

I've found that the easiest way to get my students to start thinking about context clues is to give them some explicit "clue words" to look for around a word they might not know. I've created four lessons around this idea, for four different kinds of context clue words: words that give the definition, synonyms, antonyms, and examples.

My students routinely LOVE this lesson. We usually start off with this video as a hook:

We talk about what detectives do and look for, then I pass out my students' magnifying glasses for the day and start to practice looking for "clues" in what we read. I try to do this unit towards the beginning of the year and it is one of the most memorable units we do- I still have students raising their hand and telling me every time they see the clue word "for example".

You can download my context clues units at my TpT store (or click on any of the pictures to be redirected there).

How do you teach context clues in your class? Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Clementine Novel Study by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is one of my very favorite novels to study with children- and don't let the orange cover fool you! My boys relate to Clementine at least as much as my girls and everyone laughs when we read it. Last eyar I purchased a class set of the Clementine books and a copy of this Clementine Novel Study packet (which I highly recommend) from Andrea Parker's TPT store.

Clementine Novel Unit

This year, I'm adding some more creative twists to our study, including a Clementine word wall (where we'll put the vocabulary words we learn as we read) and a character traits chart for Clementine.

And of course, the word wall is more memorable if it's shaped like a clementine:

We've been working on inside and outside character traits with my third graders all year, to help them achieve the core standard RL3.3: Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

ELL students in particular can have trouble with this standard because they may not know many words to describe character traits other than what they see, so we've been expanding our "inside" character trait vocabulary all year. For example, Clementine is free-spirited, funny, and outgoing. We'll see what other characteristics they can come up with! We'll put them on the chart with post its as we read the story.

I can't wait to introduce this hilarious novel to my students next week!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

New Resource and GIVEAWAY! Describing People Flashcards and Reader

It's the last day of Spring Break, and while I haven't quite gotten everything done that I wanted to (does that ever really happen?), I did manage to finish a few more resources and post them to my store. 

Next week with my newcomers, we'll be working on describing people. In my group, I have one student who has been here all year, and everyone else has come and gone since then, which means that only one student has actually experienced all of my lessons. Some students just arrived within the last two weeks and haven't learned feelings words yet, others are starting to produce language on their own and need more instruction in more technical vocabulary.

So I made a set of flashcards that include everything from hair color and eye color to feelings words. I intentionally chose photos instead of clip art for the feelings words because I find that my students sometimes have trouble interpreting the "feeling" on cartoon characters' faces. I also try to look for diverse children and adults for the pictures, because of the nature of my ESL class and the diversity we have there.

I used the same pictures (along with a few others) in the reader and decided to write it in such a way that students could practice asking and answering questions to describe the photos. After we've practiced describing characters for a while, we'll be moving on to playing Guess Who? to review the adjectives we've learned (have you all seen the new version? It includes food words, sea animals, and pets, which are other great vocabulary for my students to practice! Love it!).

We also like to listen to this song to practice describing words:

You can download the full packet here, but I'll also be giving away 5 packets to the first 5 people to share this post on facebook or twitter and email me at completely FREE! Simply email me with the subject line "Giveaway" and a link to your tweet or facebook share.