Posts from the ‘English Language Learners’ Category

Language Arts Stations

I have been working with a teacher who has an 8th grade Language Arts class that has quite a few ELL and SPED students.  She is struggling to find a way to meet the diverse needs in the class, work with students in small groups, and maintain classroom management.  I talked to this teacher about coming in and co-teaching with her.

I met with the teacher to plan out the lesson and decide what she wanted the focus to be.  She has been working on determining the subject and predicate in sentences and is moving into the different types of sentences.  She also wanted to be able to meet with a small group of kids.  We decided to set up stations.  She would create groups based on some classroom data.  That way when a group came to her, she would be able work on specific skills that that group was missing.  The four stations that we decided on were:  teacher station, creating sentences finding the subject and predicate, types of sentences foldable, and a parts of speech bingo.  I would create the foldable, provide the game, and an introduction to types of sentences.  She would create the stations, the subject and predicate station, and her teacher station materials.

Before class began, we arranged the desks in the class and put the materials at the appropriate stations.  When the students came in, we told them the station that they needed to sit at.  We did this because we knew that this group would struggle with movement after the instructions.  We started the lesson with an introduction to types of sentences.  I created a powerpoint (you can view or download it at this address: http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/32470/Types-of-Sentences ). to introduce the topic and explain the foldable.

After the introduction, we explained the task at each station.  At the subject/predicate station, students had to write one sentence based on a picture and then highlight the subject and predicate in each sentence. This sheet would be used as a pre-assessment for the teacher at her station (the one right after the subject/predicate station).

 

Subject/Predicate Station

Subject/Predicate Station

We got some good data from this station.  One entire group neglected to add a subject to any sentence.  This allowed the teacher to know exactly where she needed to begin her instruction – even further back than she had anticipated.  

At the foldable station,  students made a hotdog fold and cut out four sections.  Each section would be used to describe one of the types of sentences.  They would write a definition, a sample sentence, and a picture illustrating that picture.  They will use this foldable as a study guide for future assignments.

 

Types of Sentence Foldable

Types of Sentence Foldable

Inside of foldable.

Inside of foldable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our short classes (only 45 minutes), we ran out of time very quickly.  Students did not get to finish the foldable.  We decided to create an overhead and have them finish it as a warm-up.  We would provide the definition and they would add the sample question and picture.  This would provide a quick assessment for the teacher to see if they comprehended the various types at a very simple level.

 

 

Students working in stations.

Students working in stations.

 

 

At our debriefing, we talked about how great a job the students did, how surprised she was that a group of students didn’t add subjects to any of their sentences, how she adjusted her instruction to that, the fact that students were upset when they couldn’t finish their foldable (how many students do you know who complain when they can’t finish their work?!?), and how to build in the time to finish the foldable during a later class.

All in all, the kids did a great job.  I think that this might be a strategy that will be successful with this class.  

On a different note, the more foldables that I make, the more excited I am about this strategy and using it with students.

Building Background

The longer I teach, the more I realize that activating my students’ background knowledge about a topic is critical.  I find this especially true with ELL students.  There are lots of ways to find out what your students already know about a topic and what misconceptions they have.  This is also incredibly important – what do students not understand.  

There are several ways that I try and get at my students’ knowledge beyond KWL charts or having a whole class discussion.

Brain dump – where students draw a picture, give an example, or write down everything that they know about a topic or vocabulary words or a process, etc.  I might have students do this as a warm-up activity, an exit ticket, or at the beginning of a unit.  If it is an exit ticket, I would assign it before we started a new unit or topic.  That way I can collect some information that informs my instruction in the unit.  There are many off-shoots or extensions for this activity.  After students have written, you can group them using a Kagan structure (like HandUp, StandUp, PairUp) and have them share their thinking (maybe using RallyRobin).  This allows them to hear about many sets of knowledge.  You need to keep in mind that some students might share some incorrect information.  This is why you will probably want to collect their writing – so that you can address these.

What is the topic?  – You can use this strategy when you are introducing a new topic.  You write vocabulary words on the board (or overhead, etc) and based on the words, the students must decide what you will be focusing on.  This allows you to see if your students have any frame of reference for the topic.

What words don’t fit? – This activity is similar to the previous, except the students are told the topic and they must decide which words written on the board (or overhead) should be included in the unit and which words should be discarded. 

My colleague, Laura Zoromski, has created a great building background activity that she uses in her math class.coordianate-graph-explanation Click on this link to view an example and the explanation.

If you have a specific set of vocabulary words that you will be teaching, you can have the students pre-assess their familiarity with the words.  You can create a basic chart that lists the word and options on a knowledge continuum.  vocabulary-checklist Click on this link to view an example.  After you have taught the unit, have students re-evaluate where they fall on the continuum.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of strategies, but these are some simple, quick, and useful ways to help your students activate their background knowledge.

ePals

Almost a month ago, I signed my classes up at http://www.epals.com.  It is a website that matches classrooms from around the world that are looking to work on similar projects together.  I had my students get parental permission and started e-mailing teachers in other countries that had students of a similar age.  I finally had a class respond over the weekend and my students e-mailed students in Italy today.  My students are incredibly excited and enthused about communicating with students from around the world.

Here is how it works.  After you get parent permission (the site wants it for students under the age of 13, I made all of my students get one), you create an account for each student.  There are several options on the types of accounts that you can create for them – those are explained at the site.  After you have created the accounts, you get to select the amount of monitoring that you would like to have over each account.  I selected the highest level of monitoring, which means that each e-mail has to be approved for delivery both incoming and outgoing.  My students grumbled a little bit about this, but when I explained why this was necessary, they understood.  It was also a selling point with parents.  Students can access their account anywhere they have access to the internet.  I have signed up for computer lab time, our ePals are e-mailing us from their homes.

Even after our first day e-mailing, I can see the types of conversations that we will have about letter writing, use of slang, how to write questions, spelling, and editing on the computer.  I am excited to have them start receiving responses.

Eventually, I want them to share the books that they are reading and the literature that their ePals are reading.  This might lead into a shared project – the sky’s the limit!

Foldables® – Social Studies Continent Book

I have an old, new favorite.  Foldables.  I was exposed to them several years ago by a science teacher and used them in my Newcomer Social Studies class when I couldn’t find appropriate materials.  I was working on the 7 continents, the countries within those continents, and pulling facts from text.  I pulled maps from the Geography Coloring Book which was great because they were small enough to fit into my book.  I then assembled a foldable that allowed each continent to have its own two page spread.

 

Front cover of Continent Book

Front cover of Continent Book

Each continent had three sets of information:  country names, climate zones, and facts about two countries in that continent.  They were able to choose the type of information that they found on their countries.  They could choose:  animals, landmarks, culture, landforms, or historical events.  I checked nonfiction texts out from the library to help them find the information.  We used an atlas to find the names of the countries.

 

Left side of the continent book with country names.

Left side of the continent book with country names.country facts.

Right side of continent book with climate zones and country facts.

Right side of continent book with climate zones and country facts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the end of this project, my newcomers were able to search for specific information from nonfiction text, pull that information from text, and use it in their book.  As a culminating activity, I had them answer questions using the book as their resource.  I was looking to see if they could pull specific information from their own book.

This activity was engaging, interactive, and students were able to work at their own pace.  A success all around!

Since then, I have discovered that Dinah Zike has created many books on the different types of foldables that you can use in classrooms.  Pictured below are some other social studies examples from her.  I purchased one of her books and am looking forward to incorporating these strategies into my classes.

from Dinah Zike's Notebook Foldable book.

from Dinah Zike's Notebook Foldables book

 

 

 

From Dinah Zike's Notebook Foldables book

From Dinah Zike's Notebook Foldables book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will also be talking about math, science, and language arts foldables that I have created and used in my classrooms.

Amazon Book Reviews

As I looked at my students’ proficiency levels at the beginning of this school year, I noticed that most of my students struggled with their writing.  My district requires quarterly assessments, and again, they were unsatisfactory or partially proficient in writing.  I didn’t just want them to write for class, but I wanted an audience and for them to publish it as often as possible.

I was surfing Amazon and it finally connected for me – my students could post book reviews online.  I decided to find a way for them to use this site to publish their writing.  As I looked further into the site, I discovered that they could post their reviews as “A Kid’s Review.”  This was perfect as I don’t want them to put up their names or locations.  They will log in under my name, type their reviews, and post it as a kids’ review.

Earlier in the year I showed my students amazon.com (most of them had never visited the site or heard of it) and how to search for books and read book reviews.  So that was where I started.  With a borrowed laptop and LCD projector, my students and I search the site, looking specifically at book reviews.  We pulled up reviews on books that they were reading.  They were shocked that people wrote reviews about books that they didn’t like and that people didn’t necessarily like the books that they loved.  They were also concerned that the authors would read the reviews and see that people didn’t necessarily love their book.  We made sure that we previewed some of the reviews before class so that we could specifically show them some examples where the reviewer had a lot of voice and was creative.  One of my students wanted to post a review about his favorite book right there, so we did.  He dictated what he wanted to say, read it over, edited it, and then we posted it.  It takes about 48 hours for a review to post, so I checked back a couple of days later, and there it was.  I showed it to him, but he said that he had already looked online and seen it.  

My next step was to have my students start breaking apart reviews and looking for the “must haves.”  I created a PowerPoint presentation to show students the various parts of a book review.

 

Pod area set up ready for class.

Pod area set up ready for class.

 

After going through the example, students worked in groups to highlight the major parts of their book review.

 

 

Students highlighting book reviews.

Students highlighting book reviews.

 

Groups working.

Groups working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I discovered that it was difficult for them to tell the difference between opinions and plot.  I can tell that we are going to have to work on this as they begin writing their own reviews – which will be next week.

If you would like to see or use the PowerPoint, it is uploaded at:  http://www.slideboom.com/people/ellclassroom

Genre Wall

This year, I have especially noticed that my students struggle identifying genre related to literature.  They can identify fiction or nonfiction, but they have been unable to identify specific genres within each.  I decided to develop an interactive way for them to begin to explore different types of genre.

imgp1739

 

I decided to begin with five main genre types:  realistic fiction, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction.  In addition to the board I created, I also found a descriptive chart that students can read through to find the genre type.  I made sure that I put picture examples of genre under each heading so that students could have a visual image that would help them decide what genre a book fits into.

Whenever a student finishes a book that they rate a 9 or 10, they can fill out the pieces of paper that you see on the board for extra credit (5 points).  This serves as an advertisement for other students and a way for them to figure out genre.  The information that they place on the paper are:  title, author, reviewer (their name), rating, and location (where someone else can find the book).

I have found that students enjoy sharing their favorite books in this way.  They also use the pictures to help them figure out the genre.  

I plan on adding other genres over the course of the year.

I have been incredibly pleased with these results.  My students are really starting to use these tools to help place books into different genres.

 

 

Writing to Publish

I am trying to focus my classroom instruction on authentic student writing this year.  I feel that if students feel that they have a real audience, then they will craft better writing.  I have devised several ways to publish their writing.  

I recently signed my class up for ePals.  This is a program that matches classrooms from around the world.  Your students e-mail other students their age.  They can share their history, experiences, culture, etc.  You can also set this program up so that you and the other classroom work on a project together.  I want my students to not only establish a relationship with their ePal, but to talk about the literature that they are reading.  I am hoping that it will broaden my students’ thinking.  If this is something that you are interested in also pursuing, I would visit their site at http://www.epals.com

I am also going to use amazon.com to publish my students’ book reviews.  They can post the reviews on books they have read under an account that I created.  The website allows them to select under 13 as an option.  When that is selected, the review shows up as “Kid’s Review” so I don’t have to worry about them adding their name or any personal information.  I have just started this project, and will post my classroom experiences soon.  The title of the post will be Amazon Book Reviews.

Another project that I am going to start next month with my students is a Holiday Letter.  Every year, my husband and I seem to get letter after letter from family members telling us about their year.  It really is a “year in review.”  It seems to me that this is just another form of summary writing, which, let’s face it, most students struggle with.  I am going to have my students write their own Holiday Letter and then mail it to family members that they don’t live with.  I then plan to piggy-back this with summaries later on in the year.

I am also looking to incorporate dialog journals into my class.  Another teacher in my district and I have started talking about ways to share our students’ writing with each other.  So far, she sent my students some writing to assess.  I am hoping that this will lead to a dialog journal of some sort.  I haven’t completely worked out the logistics yet, but it is something that I am excited about.  

I really think that all of these authentic writing projects will help my students refine and polish their writing.  At least, that is my hope!