ELLevation: A Tool for Educators of ELLs

So, you need to conduct an analysis of ELP assessments for English Language Learners. Or maybe you’d like to restructure your ELL data collection and monitoring process. For many educators, entering and retrieving this information from a student information system can be a daunting and complex process.

ELLevation is a web-based software platform that supports the unique needs of ESL students by providing unique online tools to increase effective instruction, productivity, and collaboration among educators.

ELLevation is the first of its kind to integrate a comprehensive platform just for English Language Learners. It allows educators of ELLs to align instruction to data, monitor student growth, and facilitate collaboration between ESL and classroom teachers.  Imagine the possibilities when ESL and classroom teachers can set goals and create action plans that include instructional methods in the classroom.

Check out the innovative features of this program at http://ellevationeducation.com/

 

 

Mastery Learning and Content Creation on the iPad

By Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

In this era of testing , it’s a good time to reflect on the elements of  Mastery Learning as an instructional model and see how it may benefit the 21st century English Language Learner. ESL students of every proficiency level can benefit from this approach.

ELLs routinely participate in standardized assessments that are designed for native language speakers.  Oftentimes these students cannot accurately demonstrate their mastery of a topic without yet having mastery of the English language.

With the iPad and a mastery learning approach students can create dynamic and entertaining multimedia presentations that can be used as alternative assessments that inform instruction.

Most mastery learning concepts come from Benjamin Bloom who coined the term. Mastery learning is based on individualized instruction that is targeted and informed by data. Teachers use frequent formative assessment to monitor student progress and provide high quality, corrective instruction to improve student achievement.

Bloom introduced the concept based on the premise that even though students have various learning rates and modalities, if teachers provide the necessary time and appropriate learning conditions, nearly all students can reach a high level of achievement. Research has consistently linked the elements of mastery learning to highly effective instruction and student learning success (Guskey 2010).

This approach is a natural choice for ESL students who are often faced with rigorous content demands while struggling at the same time to acquire English proficiency. As ELL advocates, we know that our ELLs need alternative strategies to access content and they are not always able to demonstrate their content knowledge through traditional means of assessment.

The iPad provides the multimedia support for content that ELLs need and also allows ELLs to demonstrate mastery of a topic, regardless of their English proficiency.

The simplest way for students to demonstrate mastery is to use the built in video camera and have students create short direct instruction videos on a topic they have mastered. Another option is to use traditional tools like PowerPoint or Keynote on the iPad to create multimedia presentations.

Finally, there are many useful apps that incorporate images, video, audio, writing and drawing to create interactive multimedia presentations and videos. I’ve listed some of them in the table below.

Guskey, T. R. (October 2010) Lessons of mastery learning. Educational Leadership,68 (2),52-57. Retrieved from  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct10/vol68/num02/Lessons-of-Mastery-Learning.aspx

Educreations is a recordable interactive whiteboard that captures your voice and handwriting to produce video lessons that you can share online. Students and colleagues can replay lessons in any web browser, or from within the app on theiriPads. There is also a community showcase on the homepage or the “Featured” tab in the iPad app to view lessons that other teachers have created withEducreations.

Audioboo is an application for recording and sharing your voice with the world. This free version allows you to create audio up to 3 minutes in length and post that to your own account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it and it will save all that with the file. The audio can then be shared with your followers or via Facebook, Twitter & other social networks by managing your account at http://audioboo.fm.

Story Kit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Library Foundation. This app allows users to create their own digital book that includes video and voice recordings, images, drawings and text. The book is stored on the apps bookshelf to be edited or read at any time.  

Videolicious allows users to create videos without having significant editing expertise. Users choose from videos and photos stored on their iPad, place them in order and then stitch together that media. It enables them to use transitions, visual effects, and logos. Once users have picked the media they want to use, all they have to do is tap the videos while narrating over them, and they can later add soundtracks.

Explain Everything lets you annotate, animate, and narrate explanations andpresentations.Explain Everything records on-screen drawing, annotation, object movement and captures audio. Import Photos, PDF, PPT, and Keynote fromDropbox, Evernote, Email, iPad photo roll and camera. Export MP4 movie files, PNG image files, and share the .XPL project file with others for collaboration.

 

ISTE 2012: San Diego Bound!

We are on our way to San Diego this morning and can’t wait to get to the ISTE 2012 Conference.  Right now, we are delayed at JFK because of thunder storms, so it looks like  we will miss part of the day, but we are using this time to get ready for our presentation.

We will be presenting “No Boundaries:Using iPads to Reach English Language Learners” on Tuesday, June 26 from 2:00-3:00 and then we will be having a poster session on the same topic on Wednesday from 8:00am – 10:00am.

We have several new apps to suggest as well as a sample ELL lesson plan that integrates the iPad.  The storm is passing and we are getting ready to board the plane.  We”ll be posting and tweeting throughout the conference. So, stay tuned!

Flipping the Classroom for ELLs

Why the blended learning model is a good choice

One of the latest trends in the education world is blended learning. So what is blended learning and how can it help English Language Learners? The term blended learning has been used in education for many years. It involves the integration of traditional classroom instruction and educational technologies and can take different forms.  Nowadays, the newest model is the flipped classroom.

In a flipped learning environment, the traditional format of in-class lectures followed by at-home student assignments is turned around or “flipped”.  The student is required to watch an instructional video or lecture at home and then complete associated tasks or projects in the classroom.  While students work through assignments in class, teachers can better identify and target each student’s needs and facilitate differentiated instruction.

Another objective of this individualized approach is to empower students to direct their own learning by coming to class prepared to ask questions and problem solve with their peers after viewing the subject matter on their own.

For English language learners the model has some obvious advantages. While watching a video at home, students can take notes, work at their pace and re-watch the video as many times as necessary.  Watching video naturally lends itself to language learning, since the visual content is more readily accessible to students of all proficiency levels than complex textbook syntax and vocabulary.

The next day, teachers can spend less time lecturing in the front of the room (a la “chalk and talk”) and have more time to spend engaged with students, giving more personalized instruction, while the students use class time to complete tasks alone or collaboratively.

This brings me to the next and perhaps the most important advantage of the flipped classroom for ELLs.  When English language learners are given more opportunities to interact with their peers in class, opportunities to think critically, and use English to connect authentically with others to acquire knowledge increases dramatically.  

To read more about the flipped classroom and blended learning visit the following links:

http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/02/whats-blended-learning-ask-salman-khan/

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/02/09/a-first-hand-look-inside-a-flipped-classroom/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning#cite_note-Horn.2C_Michael_B._2011-1

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”

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Digital Solutions in Complicated Times

Monitoring Student Work with Discovery Education’s Assignment Manager

by Heather Parris-Fitzpatrick

Nowadays it is more important then ever before to document and monitor student progress consistently. Fortunately, there are educational websites that make life a little easier for our beleaguered teachers.

One of my favorite sites for managing classes and creating interactive learning experiences for ELLs is Discovery Education Streaming. In addition to the free teacher resources (hint: they are easily found by scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the homepage), school districts can purchase a subscription to the site.

Discoveryeducation.com provides subscribers with a simple solution for monitoring student progress.

After building assignments, quizzes, writing prompts, or science assessments in My Builder Tools, teachers can keep track and document student work using Assignment Manager. Users can select a tab to view results in three different ways: by class, by student or by URL or assignment code.

Viewing assignments by class is useful to see how many students have submitted or completed the task. Teachers can edit the assignment or due date and determine the progress the class is making as a whole.

Viewing by student allows a teacher to determine whether a particular student requires remediation. Teachers can assign extra practice or decide to delete student attempts on the assignment.

You can also view assignments according to url or assignment code. This may be useful when an assignment has been given to several different classes and you would like to view all class results together.

In addition to simply viewing, teachers may decide to export the results to an excel file so that it can be stored locally and shared with others. The excel file can be imported into a school-based student data system or printed for a parent teacher conference or a student portfolio.

That reminds me, e-portfolios are another great tool for student assessment. More on that next time!

What iLearned at ISTE 2011 – Part 2

What if? History Project

During our visit to the poster sessions at the conference, we learned of an interesting project conducted by students attending the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The teacher, Diana Laufenberg, created a counterfactual or alternate history project that focused on the investigation of historical events through research and creativity.

Students were responsible for identifying a point in American History where they would change the outcome.  After reading background information and identifying the point of divergence, students researched three events preceding their point of divergence, and then introduced three new events in history leading up to 2011.

The essential questions addressed three main ideas for this project:

How do the actions of individuals impact the historical record?

How do systemic changes impact the historical record?

How influential can one decision be in the historical landscape?

Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers in developing their presentation of ideas.  The project included an organizer, a work contract and a journal to record the process. Projects were assessed using a rubric and presentations were uploaded onto the school website.

American History can be one of the most difficult subjects for English Language Learners because of the unfamiliarity with historical events in the U.S.  The research needed for a counterfactual project can help ELLs gain an understanding of the impact these events have had on our lives today.

Just imagine the alternate history that would be created if a student had never moved to the U.S.  How would this have affected their lives, schools, or communities?

For more information on the What if? History Project please visit:

http://tinyurl.com/whatifhistory

Digital Storytelling for ELLs

Developing Writing and Oral Communication Skills

Teachers are enhancing their content-based lessons using 21st Century tools to develop ESL students’ language and communication skills. They are discovering that digital storytelling projects increase motivation, creativity and overall achievement in the language classroom.  Not only do learning projects like this enhance the acquisition of English, but the students are also acquiring transferable 21st skills.

Free or fee-based  online subscriptions to sites such as discoveryeducation.com provide teachers with a variety of media that can be searched by subject, grade or media type as well as lesson plan resources and classroom management tools. Teachers have the option to download full video or video segments and to save what they like so that students can view and review them anytime or anywhere.

Teachers and students can script, record and edit their own digital stories. The Flip camcorder is portable and easy to use, but we don’t use their editing software.  Instead video clips can be imported into Windows MovieMaker or iMovie to create video lessons and study prep guides on content area topics.  Both MovieMaker and iMovie allow the user to import additional sound and picture files to create a movie project that is polished, professional and tailored to the learning objectives of the class.

Hall Davidson, www.discoveryedspeakersbureau.com, an expert on digital storytelling and teaching with media technology states: What veteran teachers suspected the research has proved: 21st Century students are different. With different attention spans, higher IQ test scores, and social networks, their sophistication comes earlier—with a different skill set. There is a silver lining: We can teach this “New Brain” more effectively, more efficiently, more engagingly. We have the technology! Media has evolved and education must evolve to match.”

Every Teacher is a Language Teacher

During a meeting with educational administrators today, Lisa and I were asked a question that we hear over and over again.  Every time, it goes something like this: “How do I help my English, (Math, Social Studies, Reading, Science, etc.) teacher work with the ESL students in his/her classroom?”  They go on to explain that their teachers don’t know what to do.

One unique book that addresses this very important issue is “Every  Teacher’s Toolkit – Closing the Achievement Gap for English Learners” by Karen Kwaguchi (Pearson-Longman).  This is a great book for teachers who have little or no experience with ELLs.  It includes lots of basics like a description of ELL language proficiency levels, a glossary of commonly used terms in English language teaching, and tips on teaching academic vocabulary. Each unit includes mini-lessons, useful graphic organizers and insights on ESL methodology.

Content area teachers need to be reminded that every teacher is a language teacher and every lesson they teach  includes a language component. At the same time, we need to provide all teachers with strategies that will enable the English Language Learner to access the content of each lesson.  This is the basic premise for The SIOP Model (The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) created by D. Short, M.Vogt and J. Echevarria (Pearson-Allyn&Bacon/Merrill). Visit http://www.siopinstitute.net/ for more information.

The SIOP model is  “a scientifically validated model of sheltered instruction designed to make grade-level academic content understandable for English learners while at the same time developing their English language.  The protocol and lesson planning guide ensure that teachers are consistently implementing practices known to be effective for English learners.” -from the SIOP Model for Administrators, 2008

Of course, I know there are no quick fixes or easy answers on training all teachers to effectively address the educational needs of English Language Learners.  The good news is that the right questions are being asked, which means better instruction for all ELLs in the long run.

A Multicultural Perspective on Women’s Rights

Women’s History month is the perfect time to raise awareness that multicultural views and perspectives must be part of the curriculum all year around. Wow! By far one of the best group projects I have seen recently is about Women’s Rights, created by Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn High School, NY.

Using Proboards.com, Mr. Reiff has set-up an online forum for his students’ group based discussion on women’s rights around the world. Each group is assigned a video clip for viewing along with several thought provoking questions to discuss together during class.  When they go home each student must watch the remaining videos and blog the answers to their questions using Proboards.

Proboards allows teachers to set up free forums for their classes to interact on.  Mr. Reiff set his pages up so that the students could easily find their assignments by clicking on the tab that had their group number on it.  More importantly, the content of each video expressed authentic, real-life struggles and successes of women from around the world such as the Dowry Killings in India or the moving speech “Ain’t I A Woman” read in honor of the author and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

This is exactly the kind of rich multi-cultural content that ELLs and all students need exposure too.  When it is delivered to the students through tools such as Proboards and video,  the diversity of the world comes to life in the classroom, the content is more comprehensible and the students will remember it!  By the way, I discovered that Mr. Reiff is currently a participant in the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  Congratulations to him!