Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our New Name!

When I started this blog back in 2009, it was for me. Documenting what I was learning as a relatively new teacher. But then I started sharing it throughout our district, inviting others to celebrate with me the good things that were happening in our little EL room. It even made it to a college course or two. Then I had The Cuteness and chose to stay home with him, and the blog sat dormant. But a few months ago, I got lassoed back into the teaching world, working with other teachers. And so it with revitalized spirits (and typing fingers) that I continue to share with our town, our state, and {dare I say} our world our take on Teaching ELs in the USA. This fresh start needs a fresh name: enter

Would you join me over there? (You won't find anything else here!) My fabulous hubby has been working hard to make it look pretty and work effortlessly. Let's go!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Many Words of Vocab

I'm so mad. I'm furious. I'm upset. I'm hot.
Yes, hot can relate to that angry feeling you get when the pop machine doesn't give you the can you requested...NOR your change back.

I digress.

Just like the many synonyms social English can carry, even academic English has synonyms.
Yes, even math has synonyms.

That's why it can be so difficult for ELs to discern what function a particular question is asking them to perform. And that is why Lena works through this vocab sheet with her students regularly. Especially with high-stakes tests using multiple words to refer to the same function.

Visual Learners

Long division is hard...for anyone. But combine new language + new content and it can become downright frustrating. That's why Lena has created this chart just of symbols to help her ELs remember the steps to long division.

Well, that and she uses Math Karate. Hey, whatever works!

Friday, November 4, 2011


Johanna is helping with her building's morning school program, Spartan Scholars. She addresses her students as "scholars."

"It sounds like you just answered my question with a single word," she'll say to a student. "Scholars speak in complete sentences...and you are a scholar!"

ELs don't need to be reminded that they are behind; they need to be pushed to get ahead! And Johanna uses oral language practice as a perfect tool for pushing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Parent Contact

"A school system without parents is just like a bucket with a hole in it." -Jesse Jackson 

Nicole has taken parent contact extremely seriously. Her goal? To make personal contact with 100% of her both of her buildings.

Now, Nicole is not one to shoot for 99.9%. In fact, if 110% was possible, she'd do it.

EL parents are accustomed to hearing one of two things: "Your child is behind" or Nothing. As terrible as this is to admit, it is sometimes easier to ignore a difficult situation than face it head on. 

Parents in Nicole's buildings are hearing neither of the above things. Instead they are being assured that their children are, in fact, progressing (even if it's at a slower pace than their teachers prefer), that they are being well cared for by their EL and classroom teachers, and that their insight into their child is invaluable to help said teachers teach their children in the most effective way possible.

Now that's motivating. That's what results in high parent involvement. Here's a reminder of why parental involvement is so important from

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


"Go ahead and start on your math sheet," EL teacher Amber directed. "I'll be with you in a moment." She scooted over to the other table with the other students' needs. 

Multiple students, multiple levels, multiple needs. Such is the life of a teacher.

Pound, pound, pound. Amber was interrupted by the harsh sound of pencil meeting textbook. Little eyes glanced back and forth between distressed student and concerned teacher.

Teaching reaches far beyond pure academics.

Eduardo had zoned from the classroom. "Eduardo," Amber began. No response. "Eduardo!" Still the pound, pound, pound of hopelessness. "Students, you may go back to class," Amber directed, sending the three scurrying from the room. She crouched down on all fours next to his spot on the carpet. "Eduardo!" she called. Fingers snapped, zone broken.

"I just don't understand, Mrs. Cotherman." And difficult it was. Multiple step problems with a new skill set.

New language, new content. Big words, big risk of failure. 

"Don't worry, Eduardo, we can do it together."
"But it's due today!"

Amber was able to pour confidence into the frustrated sixth grader by reminding him of what he did know, what he was capable of. And by reading the questions to him, helping him dissect the many words that he did know but that had jumbled themselves all together, and looking for those key words (in this case, "percentage" and "total"), he was able to complete his assignment. Even on time.

There are lots of modifications for ELs in mainstream classrooms. One of them is extra time (time-and-a-half). Another is being read the material. But it is never dumbing down the content. Make content accessible. Amber did.