The World Beyond Our Classroom Walls: Online Resources

Whether you are a first year teacher or a veteran teacher, we know that the demand to meet the needs of English Language Learners is no easy task.  ELLs face increasing academic challenges along with language learning demands.   

As educators, it is essential that we create windows in our classrooms.  Windows that allow students to see information and to access the world beyond our classroom walls.  Windows that give English Language Learners opportunities to engage with their peers, teachers, and the world.

Here at ESL Techies, we are constantly searching for new and innovative instructional strategies and methodologies that promote discovery and engagement in the classroom.  Here are a few online resources for educators of ELLs:

http://www.everythingesl.net/ - K-12 resources, lesson plans and teaching tips

http://www.colorincolorado.org/ - a bilingual site for families and educators of ELLs

http://www.learner.org/ - educational video resources and professional development 

http://www.bogglesworldesl.com/ - printable worksheets and educational resources 

 http://www.eslhq.com/ - free ESL flashcards, worksheets and teaching resources

http://bigdealbook.com/ - interactive web environments, free materials, and resources

http://www.readwritethink.org/ - free classroom resources, lessons, and interactives

 http://www.enchantedlearning.com/Home.html - published educational material online

 

Using Digital Media to Create Authentic Writing Experiences for Students

by Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

With all the buzz about ebook readers, it is time for teachers to explore ways to incorporate epublishing into their student writing assignments.  There are several applications available that allow students and teachers to create remarkable, user-friendly ebooks that can be published on the web, printed, shared, or saved and stored locally.

eBooks allow students to follow the five step writing process: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing, with renewed interest in the final step.  The audience must be carefully considered and is no longer limited to simply the teacher or classmates.  In addition, ebooks allow students to support their ideas and content by embedding video (mp4) and image files into their writing pieces. For little or no cost, students can now create authentic multimedia viewing and reading experiences and publish them digitally (.epub) for a variety of audiences.  

ePub Bud is a free website that allows you to create a new book with their application or upload any sort of document and convert  it to the open .epub format.  You can store your books online and even sell them on Amazon and the Apple Bookstore. They also provide a forum for teachers to share teaching activities that incorporate epublishing.

If you are an iPad user consider downloading Book Creator by Red Jumper Studio.  This app costs $6.99 but is well worth it.  It is easy to use and the resulting ebook is polished and professional.

We learned about an excellent example of epublishing in the classroom at the NYS TESOL Conference.  ESL students in Amityville worked with education consultant Annette Shideler to create a book entitled “Surviving in Amityville.  A guide written by middle school English language learners for all English language learners.”

While reading “Swiss Family Robinson” students discussed the themes of adaptation and survival.  They connected the themes to their own experiences as newcomers in Amityville. Every student had a story to tell and advice to offer.

Then the ESL students collaborated on the survival guide. Each chapter provides an individual students unique perspective and advice.  The end result is an eleven chapter book that includes video and photos. The ebook is an authentic published work now available through iTunes.

For more information about this project read “Students pen middle school survival guide”

 

 

 

 

 

RTI for ELLs: “Our Kids” or “Their Kids”

by H.Parris-Fitzpatrick

Last week we presented at a NYC Conference for the CEI-PEA Children First Network.  The theme was RTI for ELLs and the audience consisted of both teachers and administrators who work with ELLs, but who are not Bilingual or ESL educators.  This audience analysis is a critical piece of information as it points to future trends in ESL pedagogy and the growing demand for information about our students.  

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my past experience, ELLs were not the center of the local or national education agenda.  In most districts, the ESL program was tucked away in a corner of the building and the responsibility for the academic success of ELLs rested primarily on the shoulders of the ESL teacher.  As an ESL professional, I shouldered this responsibility with pride and knew “my kids” needed me to navigate through the school system.  The ESL teacher still facilitates many things for their students; however, now there appears to be some relief on the way.

Call me Pollyanna, but we addressed a room full of teachers who were not trained in ESL methodology and they were warm and compassionate and eager to learn about how they can help “their kids”.  This is a big shift in school culture and I have some theories about why this has happened, but I’m not going to address that at the moment.

What is important to note, is that ELLs in education is a hot topic.  People want to know more about the instructional needs of ELLs.  The emphasis on literacy that is at the core of RTI, has brought to light this diverse population that is an equally important part of the general student body.  

So how can RTI help?  What exactly does it mean? In brief, at the Tier One level, RTI is a reminder to all content area teachers that academic tasks should be tiered and scaffolded for ELLs and that direct and explicit academic vocabulary instruction is required in order for them to be successful.  It is a reminder that teachers must monitor content and language comprehension.  It is an acknowledgement that we are all English language teachers.

As mentioned in a Practicioner’s Brief from The National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (NCCREST), intervention designed to improved literacy for ELLs is multifaceted. In “A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners, the authors highlight the need for comprehensive teacher training, http://www.nccrest.org/Briefs/Framework_for_RTI.pdf “less than 20% of the 56% of public school teachers in the U.S. who have at least one ELL in their class are certified to teach ELLs (Waxman, Tellez & Walberg, 2004). Thus, most teachers lack the training, expertise, and experience in teaching reading and other subjects to ELLs.”  

So, how do we address this need and maximize this time in the spotlight? The article provides guidelines that all districts need to consider when implementing RTI for ELLs

It is indeed ironic that this focus on ELLs comes when there is rising hostility regarding immigration and when economic times have depleted resources and programs. Yet, with every crisis, comes opportunity.

As ambassadors for our English Language Learners we are in a unique position.  People are ready to listen.  Get the word out.

 

Esparza-Brown, J., & Doolittle, J. (2008).  A Cultural, Linguistic, and Ecological Framework for Response to Intervention with English Language Learners