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/

 

 

Finding their Voice

Finding their Voice        

English Language Learners develop basic oral communication skills during day to day interactions with peers and teachers, but how do we help our English Language Learners develop the cognitive communicative skills needed to be successful in academic settings?

The linguistic and contextual structure of vocabulary that is used in a school setting (e.g. a social studies text vs. a science text) challenges ELLs as they learn academic content.  In addition, ELLs encounter difficulties when attempting to orally communicate ideas and concepts because of their unfamiliarity of the grammatical arrangement of the words in phrases and sentences used in academic discourse.

ELLs need ample production opportunities with partners to develop oral fluency. Technology can be utilized to support oral language learning in both formal and informal settings within the classroom.  The use of technology provides a low anxiety environment with a focus on communication and error acceptance.

Here are a few interesting ways in which educators can help English Language Learners in finding their voice:

Voicethread is an amazing tool that allows students to upload images and files in different ways.  Students can post text, record their voices, and comment on other projects.  Students can write scripts and record with this useful web-based tool.  Like most students, ELLs enjoy recording and publishing their own podcasts. It’s simple to set-up and easy to use. 

Voki allows ELLs to create a Voki avatar and add voice to the character.  Students can record by phone, use text to speech, record using a microphone, or upload an audio file.  Customize the Voki voice, clothing, accessories, and background.  Then publish and share the Voki via e-mail or use a code to share it anywhere.

Just imagine students creating podcast discussions of book reports, autobiographies, debates, current events or just creating visual and oral representations of a set of instructions or a process.  With this technology, there are limitless activities and projects that will help ELLs find their voice.

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.

Bringing a Social Studies Project to Life

11 Multimedia Tools in 1 Great Project!

Thank you to Donna Colavolpe from Half Hollow Hills School District in NY,  for a Social Studies project idea that is a shining example of 21st Century teaching and learning.   Donna’s fourth grade class in NY used e-pals.com to connect and share information with another fourth grade class from St. Louis,  Missouri.

Step 1: The children began by writing introductory letters to each other. Then, they began comparing their lives to the lives of the Missouri students. Students used Google Earth to observe New York and Missouri. They wrote back and fourth to each other approximately twice a month.  They learned about each other’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, schools, friends and even holiday celebrations.

Step 2: The students researched everything about their home state using websites that were teacher chosen and attached to the class e Board. The sites were differentiated according to readability and included videos as well.  As they acquired information, they took notes in an Excel spreadsheet.  They also used digital cameras to take pictures of the plants and animals that they observed in their own backyards.

Step 3: The students used their notes to create paragraphs for a Power Point presentation.  These presentations were shared in class and also attached to the class e Board to share with others. Then the students attached their Power Points to an email to their pen pals.  The children in both classes wrote personal narratives  and published their narratives in Word and emailed them to their pen pals.

Step 4: With the use of Skype and web cams, the students in both classes finally met and were able to speak to each other face to face. They took turns asking their e pals questions and sharing what their favorite part of this learning experience was.

*Another option/modification for ELLs:  Have ELL students connect with students from their home countries so that they can compare and contrast their new home with their country of origin.