#ReadYourWorld

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by Mia Ariela Allen

Mia is founder and Director of Professional Learning for Denver-based 4Ed Consulting.  Mia currently is working with school districts nationally and internationally to develop language-rich learning environments.  Mia is also a professional development facilitator and content developer for English Learner Portal.

As English Learner Portal prepares to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day mcbpon January 25th, Mia shares her thoughts on supporting our students with literature.  Hear the other English Learner Portal team members share their favorite multicultural children’s books by visiting https://englishlearnerportal.teachable.com.

 

Reading the world always precedes reading the word, and reading the word implies continually reading the world, Freire & Macedo (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world.

Even if your students have not been exposed to all of the recent news stories about or even photos of refugees, they may have heard about the crisis impacting young children and families around the world. Many of our nation’s refugee families, are resettling in communities across the United States. 

When we are talking to our students about the global refugee crisis, it is very important to reinforce your own student’s safety.  The journey that many of our newcomers have had to take was incredibly dangerous. As you consider the students in your class, you will want to first consider these journeys and how to relate the stories about refugees to their experiences.  As our students are able to begin to relate to these journeys to their own sense of safety, it will be important to first help students create their understanding of who a refugee is, where refugees may come from, and what newly arrived refugees might need to feel safe and welcomed in their new communities.

Children’s literature is an excellent way to support difficult discussions and to foster empathy and understanding about the refugee crisis.  These children’s books focus on two central and common themes; the refugee journey to safety and their experiences within the new community. 

imnewhereI’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

K-1st Grade Selection

This simple story is told through the eyes of three newcomer children; Jin from Korea, Fatima from Somalia, and Maria from Guatemala.  All three children share the struggles of feeling safe, welcome and comfortable in their new American schools.  Each student shares the challenge of communicating in English both in the classroom and on the playground.  This simple and approachable story helps facilitate wonderful classroom discussion on community, collaboration, and caring for one another.

 

colourofhomeThe Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood

1st-2nd Grade Selection

Hassan, a 1st grade student from Somalia talks about feeling homesick in his new community.  Hassan and his family have just recently arrived in the United States after fleeing war and spending time waiting in a refugee camp.  Like many newly resettled refugees, Hassan misses speaking Somali, his home, his community and is struggling to communicate in his new language, English.  Hassan is especially missing his cat, Musa, who he had to leave behind. When Hassan arrives in his new home, he believes he has left all of the colours of his world behind.  This incredibly vivid story helps our students feel empathy and gain a better understanding of some of the experiences a student their age may have overcome to begin a new life in a new community.

steppingstonesStepping Stones- A Refugee Family’s Journey

3rd Grade and Beyond Selection

Our final selection is a beautiful story told by Margaret Ruurs and accompanied by the art of Nizar Ali Badr.  As Ruurs highlights in the forward, the rock painting illustrations were created by Nazir, an artist in Syria.  The l rock illustrations highlight the story, in both English and Arabic, a journey to safety.  Much like the other stories, the newly resettled family is both hopeful and thankful for their new home and community.

 

Additional selections to consider for your classroom library

  • Ada, A.(2002), I Love Saturdays and Domingos
  • (1998). Mariante’s Story: Painted Words & Spoken Memories.
  • Anzalüda, G. (1993).Friends from the Other Side
  • Applegate, K. Home of the Brave.
  • Beckwith, K. Playing War.
  • Bunting, E. (1993) Going Home
  • Burg, A. Serafina’s Promise.
  • Cha, D. Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey to Freedom
  • Choi, Y. (2001). The Name Jar
  • Cohen, S. Mai Ya’ Long Journey.
  • Danticat, E. Mama’s Nightingale: A story of immigration and separation.
  • Deitz-Shea, P. The Whispering Cloth
  • Del Rizzo, S. My Beautiful Birds
  • DePrince, M. Taking Flight: From War Orphanto Star Ballerina.
  • Duncan, D.
  • Flores-Galbis, E. 90 Miles to Havana
  • Garza, C.L. (1996). In My Family: En mi familia.
  • Gillick, M. Once they had a country: Two Teenage Refugees in the Second World War
  • Gutiérrez, R. K’naan.
  • Hampton, M. The Cat of Kosovo
  • Hoffman, M. The Color of Home
  • Jimenez, F. (2001). Breaking Through
  • Jimenez, F. (1997a) The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
  • Kuntz, D. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey
  • Lai, T. Inside Out and Back Again.
  • Laure Bondoux, A. A Time of Miracles
  • Lofthouse, L. Ziba Came on a Boat.
  • Lord, M. A Song for Cambodia
  • Martinez, V. (1996) Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida.
  • Mead, A Girls of Kosovo
  • McCarney, R. Where will I live.
  • Mikaelsen, B. Red Midnight.
  • Palacios, A. (1997). One City, One School, Many Foods.
  • Park, F. My Freedom Trip.
  • Paulsen, (1995). La tortelleria
  • Pinkey, A. The Red Pencil.
  • Ruurs, M. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey (Arabic & English Edition)
  • Sanna, F. The Journey.
  • Simon, R. Oskar and the Eight Blessings.
  • Smith Milway, K. The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World
  • Soto, G. (1997). Buried Onions
  • John, W. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town
  • Tsang, N. (2003) Rice All Day
  • Young, R.
  • Wild, M. The Treasure Box.
  • Wilkes, S. Out of Iraq: Refugees’ Stories in Words, Paintings and Music.
  • Williams, M. Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
  • Williams, K. Four Feet, Two Sandals.
  • Woodruff, E. The Memory Coat.

 

Do you have a favorite multicultural children’s book you’d like to share in our online collection?  Make a video of you sharing your favorite and reasons why and send it to info@englishlearnerportal.com.  We’d love to have you!

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If you aren’t already part of our mailing list, please sign up HERE to receive freebies, announcements, and just to get to know us!  Looking for new ideas and graduate credits? Visit our Online Professional Development School!  Please visit the ELP website to meet the team and learn more about our services.

 

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Making the Grade: Process, Product, or Language Proficiency in Evaluating Writing?

Making the Grade: Process, Product, or Language Proficiency in Evaluating Writing?

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by Susan Zimmerman-Orozco

Susan is an elementary ESL teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools and consultant with English Learner Portal. 

 

By now most teachers across the nation have made it through the first marking period –Sw PD and with it, the first report card. As an ESL teacher in my district, my grading and reporting obligation has usually been met by submitting WIDA proficiency scores for the four skill areas on content we have studied and assessed throughout the marking period. USUALLY, that is, until this year when I became a co-teacher and BFF with the Lucy Calkins writing program.

rubricFor the first time in many years I feel like a content teacher, and I want my students to feel evaluated – by me –  not only on their English language proficiency, but also on their growing proficiency as writers. Ah, but whose criteria of their writing ability should I use? For example, the Lucy Calkins program provides checklists of skills students are acquiring throughout each unit.  These skills provide valuable information to English learners and their teachers, about what they are demonstrating, or still need to demonstrate, to be good writers.

The Common Core curriculum also provides standards-based criteria and indicators ccssfor measuring content mastery in writing. These give teachers the benchmarks for measuring mastery of student progress in grade-level writing ability.

Last but not least, our district provides five grading indicators on the report card, one for each writing focus topics (informative, narration, and opinion), one for process, and one for use of language, including spelling, cklistpunctuation, and sentence mechanics. This presumably lets parents and their children know if they are making acceptable progress in their studies.

If you could see my face right now, you would see something like this avatar.  And full dunnodisclosure, I truly did not even consider the implications of grading until it was already too late for this marking period. I had assumed that, per usual, I could rely on my WIDA proficiency levels to “grade” my English learners, and on my mainstream teachers for classroom grades in writing.

Since I am also bilingual in Spanish, I am also called upon to interpret for my classroom teachers for our end-of-first-marking-period parent-teacher IMG_0850conferences. Therefore, as I sat through one conference after another hearing some of my favorite teachers offer vague and somewhat superficial explanations for how our students were progressing and being graded in writing, I realized, “We have TOTALLY failed these students.” Not only have we not given them clear and quantitative criteria for measuring their progress towards mastering the content area, we have not formulated a clear and purposeful plan for building on what they already know and are able to do now in order to improve their writing in the future.

Now, I’m not saying their grades were bad.  In fact, they were lovely. But when a bright and fully-engaged native speaker and an ESOL WIDA proficiency level 2 student get exactly the same grade on their report cards, and you as the teacher are fully aware of the difference in their final product, we as educators have to ask ourselves, (a) what are we really communicating in terms of standards-based performance indicators and criteria for success to our students, and (b) how do we plan for future instruction, putting into place interventions, scaffolds, supports, and strategies that will actually support our English learners to make these grades anything more than a feel-good kinda-sorta representation of their effort?

In larger terms the question is, as we move into the next marking period: How will we clarify for ourselves as a school, a grade-level team, or as a co-teachers, the indicators questionand criteria for success that will not only inform students of our shared expectations for writing but which also will serve to better inform the rationale behind their report card grades.

And no, right now, I really do not have an answer to that dilemma. But I think it’s an important one to solve, because upon our response hinges the most important question of all: how do we as ESL teachers work with our classroom teachers to plan and instruct for student success in writing. Stay tuned, and as always please please please, let us know via the comments section below or email how you and your school are managing these issues.  

I hope you will travel with us as we puzzle out the best way to use Lucy to help our English learners – and all of our students.   But even more importantly, I hope you will share your own challenges, your successes, and your suggestions and recommendations for using Lucy to show these, our most fragile, learners that not only can they succeed as writers but also excel!

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If you aren’t already part of our mailing list, please sign up HERE to receive freebies, announcements, and just to get to know us!  Looking for new ideas and graduate credits? Visit our Online Professional Development School!  Please visit the ELP website to meet the team and learn more about our services.

Writing Language Objectives for Lucy Calkins, Step One: PANIC!

Writing Language Objectives for Lucy Calkins, Step One: PANIC!
by Susan Zimmerman-Orozco

susanSusan is an elementary ESL teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools and consultant with English Learner Portal. Rebecca Guzman is also an elementary ESL teacher in a local school system and consultant with English Learner Portal.

I started this blog as a way to “think out loud” about the struggle I’ve been having since fall as an ESL teacher supporting the Lucy Calkins writing program in K-Gr 2.  I knew that my best bet was to develop academic language by creating language objectives and scaffolding instruction that explicitly tied student learning to the target writing output.  HOW this is actually getting done is still very much a work in progress. As you read this post, I hope that you will think about your own challenges and successes you have had adapting academic language strategies to the LC writing program, and give me some feedback, suggestions, and recommendations on what has worked – and not worked – for you.

Help me out here.  Last Monday, the Lucy Calkins’ teaching point in our second grade writing lesson, verbatim from the guide, was:

“Today I want to teach you that when writers do something new, they don’t just try it once and give up. Writers are bold too. You can try new things in your writing, even if they’re not perfect.  Then you can see what you think. You can ask yourself, ‘Did it work?’ or ‘Should I try it a new way?’”

So tell me, readers, what’s the Language Objective?

SIOP training had been a “thing” at my school a few years ago, and several team members had been sent to training. However, in subsequent years several of the trained teachers cycled out to new schools and each fall the district served up another round of “critical” achievement goals and performance measures that filled our teachers’ plates to overflowing.  The idea of creating and teaching language objectives faded away into “just another thing I don’t have time for.”

susansgrouoBut as I reminded myself and my team last week, in a diverse school like ours (70% FARMS, 40% Hispanic, 40% AA, 55% ELL) all content objectives truly need to have accompanying language objectives that “articulate for learners the academic language functions and skills they need to master to fully participate in the lesson and meet the grade-level content standards (Echevarria, Short, & Vogt, 2008).” Feeling empowered, I promised my team at our weekly planning meeting that I would provide a language objective for their daily writing content objectives and create scaffolded lesson plans to support them.

Up to now, while I was getting better acquainted with the the Lucy Calkins program, I’d been supporting students classes by following up on earlier lessons that hadn’t  “worked” for my English learners (ELs). Basically I re-packaged and scaffolded the same lesson classroom teachers had written in more visual and engaging ways, throwing in some appropriate academic language points, oral practice, sentence frames, and vocabulary along the way.  

But now that I had hastily offered to deliver daily and meaningful academic language instruction, I realized I might have gone way outside my comfort zone. I panicked: What IS the academic language required for students to “make a bold move” and try things in new ways? And, was I the only person to find Lucy’s teaching points difficult to break down into language objectives?

I sought out trusted colleagues, and was relieved to discover I was not alone. Rebecca Guzman, an experienced classroom, SIOP, bilingual and ESL teacher helped me beckynkidsunderstand the disconnect.

“Her (Lucy Calkins’) thinking is that we are constantly introducing students to a menu of strategies they can apply to create a variety of writing genres; in other words, we are teaching  them how to be writers not how to write. However, our English learners (ELs) need repetition and coaching to create productive written work, rather than a quick  “I teach you-now go practice” approach.“

“Our elementary school ELs frequently come with a lack of background knowledge and writing  experience in their own language, so it’s almost like we are rushing them through all of these strategies but not giving them enough time to practice and get good at one thing before moving on (quality vs. quantity). I worry that if they do not feel successful at something it will stop them from wanting to continue learning how to write much less how to be a writer. “

Knowing that I am not alone in my confusion about whether to address content or language was reassuring.  Guzman writes weekly, not daily, language objectives, and further explained how she and her co-teacher approach the task: “I mostly focus on the actual content lesson activity to figure out what kind of language students will be expected to produce. I start by focusing on a specific language domain. Then I pull a language feature to focus on (i.e. grammar, vocabulary, etc..) followed by the language function (verb: explain, retell etc..) and then pick language supports that match the activity and/or student proficiency levels in the class.”

Her explanation helped me re-frame my question, “What is the language objective that supports “Writers are bold too. You can try new things in your writing, even if they’re not perfect,” to “What are the language objectives that will support the overall objective of Unit One: Lessons from the Masters Improving Narrative Writing.” Often the guide will give us a clue: In Grade 2, Unit 1, Lesson 3,  for example, Stretching Out Small Moments, as Authors Do, it is clear we will need to focus on sequencing words.  

But sometimes it’s not so obvious, as in my case of  asking students to make “bold new moves?” In these cases we should go back to the unit objective: writing narratives, and review our students’ work to identify their academic language needs and, over the course of our unit planning, ensure that we have mini-lessons that will  address all three of the WIDA Features of Academic Language: Linguistic Complexity, Language Forms and Conventions, and Vocabulary Usage across all of our students’ proficiency levels.

Easy peasy, right?  I can’t say yet.  I only just puzzled this out a few days ago.  Stay tuned for my adventures in Lucy Calkins Language Objective Land, but more importantly, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, let me know what has worked for you. Or what hasn’t.

quotetogetherdosomuchLike most ESL educators, I’ve attended training, read the word of experts – even talked to them, taken online courses, and attended my district’s workshops. But nothing – NOTHING – helps teachers more than the experiences of other teachers. I’m all alone in my school as I struggle to work this out; I hope you will share what you’ve tried, what worked, and other strategies and ideas you have tried. “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”  My students need you, and there is so much left to do….

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If you aren’t already part of our mailing list, please sign up HERE to receive freebies, announcements, and just to get to know us!  Looking for new ideas and graduate credits? Visit our Online Professional Development School!  Please visit the ELP website to meet the team and learn more about our services.

Reluctant Writers

A Journey Towards Implementing the Lucy Calkins Writing Project in a Highly Diverse School – Entry #2 by Susan Zimmerman-Orozco

October 14, 2018

Reluctant Writers

“So, Jessica,” I asked my ELL second grader, “Let’s talk about what you’re going to write.  I really liked your last story about the time you had to put your cat in the car and moved her to your new house.”

Three-fifteen in the afternoon, last period of the day, and all around us writing partners were sharing their work, and checking their Tiny Moments notebooks for adjectives and details. I was hunched uncomfortably into my tiny primary-grade-sized chair, vaguely wondering how I was going to be able to stand up later.  Jessica fiddled listlessly with the edges of a woefully empty-looking writer’s booklet, her long brown hair spilling sideways over the purple too-large glasses perched on the edge of her nose in an attempt to avoid my gaze.

IMG_0949I looked at her new story pages.  “Can you read me the first page?”

Jessica stared down at the haphazardly written words on the page and read. “We got a cat. My mom said lets get a cat.”

Another story about a cat, I thought. Hmmmm. “OK, writers sometimes like to make sketches, draw pictures of what they’re writing about. Did you draw pictures on your other pages?”  She turned to the next page, but it was empty.  “OK, so let’s talk about this.” I tried to sound enthusiastic. “Tell  me what happens next so we can draw it.”

Jessica looked at me blankly and replied, “We went to get the cat.”

“OK!,” I responded, feigning excitement, “That’s great!  Tell me about that moment. Were you really happy? Did something interesting happen?”

“No,” she said, dully. “We went to this man’s house and we got the cat.”

“Oh OK, well remember that good writers like to talk about special moments in their stories, like when something interesting happened, or maybe you had a strong feeling about it.”

She glared at me, clearly bemused by my sudden fascination with her cat. I soldiered on, “Remember, in your LAST story it was funny when the cat started running around your car meowing really loudly. Did something like THAT happen?”

“No.”

For most students, taking time to plan what they’re going to write about before they start girl_teachercomposing is an integral step in the writing process. Nonetheless, I could tell that Jessica was getting annoyed with my constant insistence that she have a plan. Nevertheless,  I was determined, ‘So, maybe the interesting part of your story is later? What happened in the end? Were you really happy? Did the cat do something funny?”

“No,” she said, “I don’t  like cats.”

By now Jessica was totally disgusted with my interrogation about a cat she didn’t even like, and I had become a bulldog worrying a bone as I watched our precious conferencing time ticking down to dismissal.

In her supplementary text, Supports for English Language Learners in Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing, Lucy Calkins and her colleagues reinforce the importance of oral practice for English Language Learners and on giving students multiple opportunities to plan and rehearse their stories out loud before they write. I knew that if I couldn’t get Jessica to talk about and plan out her story,  it might take too much work to revise it later. I didn’t want her to get discouraged about the whole writing process.

However it was 3:30 at the close of a long rainy day -with no outdoor recess.  Only 10 minutes of class remained, and Jessica’s stubborn and seemingly willful refusal to even try to make her story interesting, meaningful, or purposeful had me ready to pull out my hair. I scratched my head, gave her a beseeching look and blurted, “But Jessica, this story isn’t even  interesting. And you don’t even like cats! So why do you want to write about it?”

Startled, she stared at me. “Because I wrote about my cat the last time and you liked it.”

This was what I call a “face palm “ moment. I wanted to sink my head into my hands andsusan_facepalm rock back and forth on my tiny chair in despair. I looked deeply into her little 7-year old’s eyes, which clearly were not seeing what the big deal was all about,  and pleaded with her, “Come on, Jessica, isn’t there ANYTHING interesting in your life you could write about?”

“No,” she insisted.

“Really?” I begged. “You can’t think of ANY ONE THING you have done lately that you liked to do, made you happy, or something happened that was different than any other day?” By now I was nearly shrieking in frustration.

“No,” she shrugged, and continued nonchalantly “Unless like, when we went to Creepy Six Flags (a Halloween-themed event at the local amusement park) and these scary clowns came out and we screamed.”  Her face lit up as she remembered and the words came gushing out. “And when you go on the merry ground all this smoke comes out and then scary monsters chased us around. It was so much fun!”

Now it was my turn to gush! I almost grabbed and hugged her until she burst. “Oh my GOSH, Jessica!  THAT is the best story EVER! And you already told me all these really neat details about what you did, and the scary clowns, and the monsters….and how you felt, and you can write for pages and pages! You are AMAZING!” I practically jumped up and down in my seat, grabbed a pencil and stuck it in her hand. “Start drawing! You have ten minutes!”

Jessica looked at me like I had lost my mind, but she grinned from ear to ear – clearly proud to have come up with such a brilliant narrative – and quickly filled four pages with sketches. With moments to spare before dismissal, I sent her to share her work to the approving “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” of her classroom teacher. Another successful writer is born!

Yesterday I checked in with Jessica. She eagerly read me her narrative – all about the monsters, the scary clowns and the rides that disappeared into clouds of smoke (or as we decided – fog.)

“You’re becoming such a good writer,” I told her, reinforcing the message of Lesson 8: Revising with Intent, “because good writers include a lot of specific details and feelings like yours that let the readers know why you wanted to write about it, let them know your intent.”


She nodded
 and looked up at me, “Do you remember how happy you got when I told you my story that day?” She smiled shyly. “That made me really happy, too.”

And just like that, Jessica taught me the REAL message of that lesson, of all of the lessons, actually: the importance of connecting with your audience. Because as a teacher, my students ARE my audience. Maybe I don’t always connect with Jessica with written words and pictures, and maybe the daily mini-lessons carefully scaffolded for language and content are less than memorable to her 7-year old’s list of daily priorities. However, by badgering, cajoling, joking, and sticking with her until her creative light bulb lit up, I did manage to show her the one essential thing that all good writers do: I created a small, precise moment of emotion between us that made us both smile inside and say, “Aha! This is why we do this.”

boyswritingI hope you will travel with us as we puzzle out the best way to use Lucy to help our ELLs – and all of our students.  But even more importantly, I hope you will share your own challenges, your successes, and your suggestions and recommendations for using Lucy to show these, our most fragile, learners that not only can they succeed as writers but also excel!

 

 

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logoevensmallerIf you aren’t already part of our mailing list, please sign up HERE to receive freebies, announcements, and just to get to know us!  Looking for new ideas and graduate credits? Visit our Online Professional Development School!  Please visit the ELP website to meet the team and learn more about our services.