Sunday, March 29, 2015

ELL Strategy: Wordstorming

This strategy allows students to brainstorm words related to a topic, generate questions, and set a purpose for reading. It also provides opportunities for activating and building background knowledge. Additionally, teachers can use this activity to asses students’ content knowledge before reading- if students can successfully predict a large number of topic-related words, the teacher will know that the students have a knowledge base for the topic.  After students brainstorm a list of words they think are related to the topic, they are then asked to  predict what the article is about and generate a series of questions they think the article will answer.

First, choose a short text related to the topic you are studying. Read through the article and select three to five letters of the alphabet that start key words or concepts found in the article. These letters should appear frequently throughout the text and should allow you do get an idea of the students’ knowledge about the topic.

Provide students with a Wordstorming organizer and ask them to work in small groups. Read the title of the article to students and show them any pictures. They should list as many words as they can think of that begin with the specified letters and are related to the content of the article. Allow students about five minutes to wordstorm.

Give students the opportunity to share their predictions and list them on a class version of the Wordstorming organizer. Record predictions as well. Read the article together, and the revisit the words, questions, and predictions students made.

Strategy adapted from Janet Allen's More Tools for Teaching Content Literacy. Photo by Laurah J.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Booksource Classroom Organizer

Last week I was away, enjoying some much-needed family time, so you have my apologies for missing Tech Tip Tuesday. But, I'm back this week with a great tip for you!

This week's tech tip is AMAZING and will change the way you run your classroom library. As an ESOL teacher, I always had a VAST classroom library of books at various levels for my students to choose from. Some were high-interest ones they couldn't find in the school library (Goosebumps, Graphic Novels, etc). I always have had a policy of letting students borrow my personal books for reading.

In the past, that meant a spreadsheet, a sign-out/sign-in sheet, and hours spent on meticulous record keeping (how many copies of that book do am I supposed to have?!?). When I found Booksource Classroom Organizer, that all changed!

Booksource is FREE and has a web interface and Android/iOS apps that work together to keep your classroom library organized, and so that you know who has checked out what at all times. You can even track student preferences by seeing what books they've checked out and how they rated them.

You can upload your existing spreadsheet book inventory to your account, or you can use the apps to scan the barcode and add books that way. Add student groups or classes to your account by importing a spreadsheet as well.

When it is time for students to check in/out books, you can either set up a station where students can check them in/out themselves via laptop or tablet, or you can do it quickly and easily yourself using the phone app.

You'll also be able to select email settings that allow you to receive weekly reports via email about who has checked out which book. You'll be amazed at how this free system helps keep your classroom library running smoothly, without the hours of meticulous record keeping!

Why this is great for ELLs:
Often time the school library has a limited number of books, and sometimes (depending on the district or school administration), none of the high-interest books our kids love to read. I believe that in order to get students to read, they have to want to read. Many of our ELL parents don't have time to take their kids to the library regularly. So, I think it is important to provide a way for our ELL kiddos to take home books other than the ones they can check out of the school library once a week. This website/app makes it easy to do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Zip Grade

This week's Tech Tip will make your grading process SO. MUCH. EASIER. I really can't believe I ever lived without ZipGrade. This tool can be especially useful during test-prep season. You'll be able to get feedback to students faster and be able to collect data for planning purposes without the hassle of "marking" individual papers. You and your students will know exactly which areas to focus on to be ready for the big test!

ZipGrade is available for iPhone and Android devices, and is used in conjunction with their web interface. You add students to classes and assign them numbers (or use student numbers provided by your district). When you're about to give a multiple-choice assessment, you create an answer key on ZipGrade, download and print answer sheets. Students answer on the answer sheets (they can even use a marker!).

Once you've collected answer sheets, you'll scan them with your phone. You'll have instant data available on your phone, as well as synced into your web interface. Here's what it looks like when you scan a sheet:

You can instantly see which questions were missed.  The app only provides answer sheets for 20, 50 and 100 questions, but the app will only "grade" questions that have answers in the key. You can see that I put in answers for 11, 12, 13, and 14, but since those were not in my answer key, the app didn't grade them, just highlighted them in blue. You could use the same answer sheet for a week's worth of quizzes- #1-10 for the first day of questions, #11-20 for the second day, and so on. Simply add each day's answers to the same key on your phone as you go.

How it can be used:

  • Daily Warm-up
  • Pop Quiz
  • Test Prep
  • Vocabulary Practice
  • Pre-assessment
  • Post-assessment
Why this is great for ELLs:
The faster we can get feedback to our ELL students, the faster they know what they need to work on. This makes grading an assessment so fast, you can tell students which questions they missed, and they can take time to go back and rework or rethink those questions. With less time spent grading, more time can be spent actually practicing and improving.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

ELL Strategy: Sentence Builders

This quick ELL strategy is effective at helping students use academic language in context while reinforcing their understanding of content concepts. This strategy assists students in linking related content words to construct sentences that are complete and correct content-wise.

How to:
1. Write 4-9 content-related words on sticky notes and create a grid (2X2 for four words; 3X3 for nine words)
2. Have students work in pairs to select three words across, down, or diagonally and construct a sentence.
3. Remind students to check that the sentence is complete, the information is factually correct, and if writing, have used conventions correctly.

See the examples below:

I would love to hear how you use this in your classroom!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Haiku Deck

I'm so excited to have a guest blogger for today's Tech Tip Tuesday! Susan is a talented ESL teacher with many years of experience working with ELLs, and today she's bringing you a great tip for meaningful technology integration.

This is Susan from The ESL Connection and I am honored to be a guest blogger for The ESOL Odyssey this week.  I recently came across a cool app that I am excited to share with you. Haiku Deck works on computers, iPads, and iPhones and lets people create online presentations in the form of slides.  Haiku Deck calls the presentations "decks," maybe because the final product is like a deck of cards with each card having an image and simple text on it.  You get to decide the design and where the text will appear on the slides, as well as what the background will be for each slide—solid colors or photos from either Haiku Deck’s curated gallery or your own computer.  It’s also possible to create charts.  This free app has three privacy settings and it is easy to share the decks with others.  The end result is similar to an old-fashioned slideshow but Haiku Deck is very much 21st century!

Here's an example of a deck I created:

SPRING - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

How it can be used:
* To write non-fiction reports
* To write book reports
* To write short personal narratives
* For persuasive writing
* To write cause-and-effect statements
* To write main ideas and their supporting details
* To create charts for various subjects
* For collaborative writing projects

Why it is great for ELLs:
The instructions are easy to comprehend and there is little text on the site itself to confuse ELLs when they use Haiku Deck.  The amount of text that can be included on each slide is limited, so students at lower proficiency levels won’t feel overwhelmed by writing.  Using photos for the backgrounds complements the written text and helps ELLs whose knowledge of English vocabulary is limited to get their ideas across. Students who are not fluent speakers won’t feel nervous or put on the spot because Haiku Deck does not include a speaking component.  ELLs can be paired with native English speakers to work together on the writing tasks, which not only supports their writing but also helps ELLs develop their speaking skills since they have to discuss and agree on the images and text they will use in their presentations.

Many thanks to Susan for sharing this awesome tech tip and being a fabulous guest blogger. Please check out her blog, The ESL Connection and find The ESL Nexus on TpT!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Scoop 3-1-15

Wow, I can't believe it is March already! My last few months have been so full of conference presentations, ACCESS testing for ELLs, and attending FETC. Hopefully this month will slow down a little.

Things I have to do...
So, this week I have to figure out what to do about my car- a less-than-fun prospect. I'd been saving up money to replace the '95 Maxima I've been driving since college. I had planned to save for another year, then sell the Maxima and use that money in addition to what I'd saved to buy a new car, and cover inspections, taxes, tag/title, etc. Well, the universe had other plans, and I had an accident on the ice Thursday night. My Maxima is totaled. Since the car was so old, carrying full coverage cost more than 2x the car's value in a year, so I couldn't afford that and only carried liability. Which means, insurance isn't going to help replace my car. I started a great GoFundMe campaign where you can get items from my TPT store or a hand-crocheted item in exchange for a donation.  

And of course, it is down to Sunday and I need groceries, but there was a thick layer of ice on the ground when I woke up, so it looks like I'll be taking a hike to the local grocery this afternoon and getting what I can carry home with me, supplementing when the roads are better.

I'm also trying to choose a Seuss book (I have so many favorites) to read to the children at one of our elementary schools tomorrow morning (if we have school) for Read Across America Day. I'm really looking forward to this since my work is mostly centered around teacher training these days.

Things I hope to do...
Later this month, I'm speaking to my district's tech trainers about Aurasma and how it can be used in the classroom. I'm really looking forward to that as I am in love with Aurasma. I think it is so exciting and has so many great applications for education (maybe I should cover that in a tech tip Tuesday soon!). I have most of the presentation put together, but need to do more practice with the newer version of Aurasma studio (my account is still on the older version).

Also, later this month is the third meeting of the Technology for ELLs Focus Group I'm leading for teachers in my district. We've completed our study of the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, and we've learned a lot of great new tech items. I need to put together this meeting, where I plan to show a few new tools, teach them how to make a video using keynote, and then we'll have a discussion about app evaluation and choosing apps for the classroom. I have a plan- I just need to make the presentation!

Things I'm happy to do...
In two weeks, we're heading down to Gulfport, MS for Gulf Wars. For me, this event is historical reenactment, family reunion, and fun with friends all rolled into one. Plus, I'm pretty sure it's at least a *little* warmer there than it is here right now, so yay for that too!

Interested in what other teachers are up to this week? Hop on over to Teaching Trio to see other scoops!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Blabberize

Wow- here we are at the last week of February already! Time flies when you're super busy! Hopefully everyone has been able to dig out from last week's snowstorms and resume normal life.

This week's tech tip will get giggles and shrieks of delight from your students- guaranteed! Blabberize is just so much fun for kids! This particular tool is excellent for help students develop their oral language skills while presenting information in a fun and engaging way. Students can create a blabber to share their knowledge on a topic.

How it can be used:
  • Retell a story
  • Explain a topic
  • Describe a historic event 
  • Explain a character's point of view
  • Describe a process
Why it is great for ELLs:
ELLs, especially those still in the lower levels of English acquisition, often feel "put on the spot" when asked to speak- making it an uncomfortable experience. Even more so if they are presenting in front of a group. Blabberize is a tool that allows students to explain what they know and demonstrate knowledge in a low key, comfortable way. They can re-record until they are happy with the final result. And well, let's face it.....the final result is ALWAYS amusing!

Here's a quick video tutorial showing you how to make your own blabber: