Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Language of Math: iPads and ELLs

We've all probably heard it said that math is a universal language, however a closer look reveals that the language of math is actually very complex and can be difficult to understand without explicit instruction and opportunities for practice.

A 3rd grade teacher and I (an EL teacher) have worked to incorporate instruction on the language of math into our co-taught math class through explicit teaching of math vocabulary and daily opportunities for math talk. Because our math class has several EL students, multiple gifted students, and many other students in between, we use many differentiation strategies to give students what they need, whether it be pre-teaching, re-teaching, opportunities for practice, or acceleration on a given topic.

One of the differentiation strategies we are excited about involves the screencasting apps ShowMe and Screen Chomp on the iPads. Students who have demonstrated that they are proficient on a given benchmark are asked to choose a problem that addresses that benchmark and write out a step-by-step plan on how to solve the problem.

Then, the student grabs an iPad, chooses ShowMe or Screen Chomp, and records and narrates a screencast of him/herself solving the problem. Students can also screencast what they know about specific vocabulary words. During independent work time, students can watch a class screencast to help them understand a concept or vocabulary word they have been struggling with, or to preview the next concept we will be learning about.

Our goal is that all of our students have multiple opportunities to record and watch the screencasts, so that the iPads are viewed as a resource for everyone. The iPads provide an authentic purpose and audience for math vocabulary and math talk, and our students are engaged and invested in their learning.

Math Language: iPads and English Learners

Don't worry if you can't make it to Minneapolis for our presentation...just check out our presentation via Prezi and Camtasia:

We are very excited to share what we love about ShowMe and ScreenChomp tomorrow!
Have you used them in your classroom before?
Leave us a comment to let us know what has worked well for you or what challenges you have faced with screencasting!

Thanks so much and happy screencasting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Online Resources for Nonfiction Reading with English Learners

Image credit: http://discovernonfiction.weebly.com/
One of my absolute favorite things is working with students on nonfiction reading and writing.......

It is so awesome to see how excited they get about learning new things....when the topics are interesting to them and the resources are at their reading level.

When I use nonfiction reading resources with students, I follow an inquiry model to help set a purpose for our interactions with the text:

  • questioning
  • researching
  • discussing
  • creating
  • reflecting
Image credit: http://www.uvm.edu/~jmorris/preview/
I also do a lot of modeling the steps in the inquiry process:
  • How do I write a question?
  • What should my questions be about?
  • How do I read a nonfiction text?
  • How do I take notes from nonfiction text?
  • What do I do if I don't understand a word in a text?
  • What was the most important thing I just read (summarizing)?
  • Does this relate back to my inquiry question?
  • What do I want to share about my topic?
  • What would be the best way to share what I've learned?
  • Who do I want to share my learning with?
  • How do I write a paragraph?
  • Now that I'm done, what did I like about this project? What would I do differently next time?

Over the past two years, I have discovered some quality online resources for nonfiction texts -- unfortunately not all of them are free...but those that have a cost associated with them at least offer free trials.

Here's a quick rundown of my go-to sites for leveled or Engligh learner-friendly nonfiction texts:
  • National Geographic Explorer Magazine - identical content and photos at different reading levels
  • Readworks.org - a wealth of leveled nonfiction passages, complete with lesson ideas and assessments (all available for free!)
  • Education World: News for Kids - a site with several high interest articles for kids (with a 'words to know' section) - complete with teaching resources and ideas for each article (free!)
  • Washington Post: KidPost - current events in kid-friendly language
  • Reading A-Z - leveled, printable / projectable books on various topics; includes lesson plans, student handouts and comprehension quizzes (free 7-day trial, then requires a subscription)
  • Science A-Z - leveled, printable / projectable texts on various science topics; includes lesson plans, student handouts and comprehension quizzes (free 7-day trial, then requires a subscription)
  • Tumblebooks - online collection of animated, talking picture books - includes a growing number of nonfiction books on various topics (free 30-day trial, then requires a subscription)

One amazing site that facilitates student interactions with nonfiction text (or any kind of text) is:
image credit: http://www.readwritethink.org/
  • ReadWriteThink.org - collection of common core literacy lesson plans and online student activities and resources for interacting with text in meaningful ways


Those a just a few of the many excellent sites and resources out there for teaching students to love nonfiction reading...  
I'd love to hear about other sites and resources you use for nonfiction text with English learners -- feel free to comment below!

Happy reading!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."
— Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elevator Speech: Success in Co-teaching Math

A 3rd grade teacher and I have the opportunity to speak to our staff for the first time tomorrow about the success our students have had in our co-taught math class over the past 3 years....the only catch is we have about 5 minutes on our PD agenda!  So, we developed an 'elevator speech'-style presentation to highlight what's working for us and what we find challenging.

Check it out here and let us know what you think!

Wish us luck!  Hoping co-teaching continues to catch on at our school!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Schoology vs. Edmodo?


As an EL teacher at an elementary school, I work with several groups of students in multiple grade levels and in various subject areas......so, as you might expect, the management of student materials, resources and papers can be (in a word) overwhelming.  In an effort to streamline the management of these materials and provide students with an interactive and accessible virtual classroom space, I have been trying out edmodo.com and schoology.com with different groups of students.

Both edmodo.com and schoology.com offer a variety of important features for students and teachers, including:
  • a network of educators who use the site (including discussion boards for groups of educators)
  • searchable public resources for different subject areas
  • safe, invite-only virtual classroom spaces, managed by a teacher
  • online student discussion boards, quizzes, and assignments, as posted by the managing teacher
  • online progress monitoring, managed by teachers, but accessible by students and authorized parents
  • linking to/embedding other sites, such as Google Docs, School Tube, Youtube, etc.
  • uploading and storing documents and PDFs (teachers)
  • embedded app stores for easy access to featured and other apps for learning
  • accessible 24/7 by students and teachers

While all of these features are helpful, I came to realize that I have a few, more specific features that I am looking for in an online platform to really cater to my needs and the needs of my students:
  • teacher can include visuals in posts to students
  • students can interact via real time discussion boards
  • students can create and maintain a blog as a part of the same online platform
  • students can immediately view the results of quizzes, and can be given the option to re-take the quiz when they are ready
  • teachers can upload existing quiz questions from other mediums (ExamView)
  • teachers and students can link their account with their school Google Docs account

Based on my experiences so far with edmodo.com and schoology.com, I have found schoology.com to be a better match for my students and I (schoology.com includes all of the specific features I was looking for...and more!).  With that said, I feel like edmodo.com is, at this point, more established and has more public lesson resources available for teachers.  So, there are certainly pros and cons to both sites. 

Here is an example of a reading comprehension activity I posted on schoology.com for a group of 6th grade English learners:

I got the non-fiction passage and questions from readworks.org, posted the reading to schoology.com for the students, and then inputted the 5 questions and correct answers into a quiz format.  schoology.com grades each student's answers when they are submitted and will transfer them to my gradebook.  Voila!!

Do you use an online platform with your students?  If so, what do you use and why do you like it?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blogging with English Learners

With the first few days of school behind us, I know many students (and teachers) are ready and anxious to really get started with this year's learning. The milestones that everyone talks about stick out like neon signs to students in the fall...I am so glad I'm finally in 3rd grade so I can learn cursive, multiplication and division! Isn't 6th grade when we get to engineer robots? My brother told me all about the states research project in 4th grade and I want to choose Minnesota.

I love hearing students express their excitement about upcoming topics of study, and am always interested in ways to channel and extend their enthusiasm throughout the year. I also want students to be able to archive their work so that they can share their learning with others and look back in a year or two (or ten) and reflect on the all that they've done.

The 3rd grade teachers in my building began having students blog about their experiences during the school year, sort of like an online journal. The kids loved it because it gave them an authentic purpose for writing (they had an audience who could..and did... comment on their posts!), because they could add their own photos, audio clips and videos to supplement their blog posts, and because they could easily go back and make changes (from school, home, or anywhere) if they discovered mistakes or wanted to revise what they'd written. After hearing about the success of blogging from my colleagues (and their students), I knew I wanted to try it out with my English learners.

I decided to have my 5th grade ELs try out blogging as a part of our fiction and nonfiction literature circles (which we called
book club). In class, we chose literature circle roles for the week, and each group decided on the number of pages they wanted to read. Then, usually on Thursdays, we spent our time together blogging about what we read: everyone wrote a summary as a part of their post, and then they recorded their lit circle role for the pages read. On Fridays, we discussed our literature circle role responses together and then had time to read and respond to each others' blog posts. My students really loved reading the responses to their posts and answering their classmates' questions -- both on their blogs and in person.

Blogging was a great motivator, and we eventually discovered that we wanted to delve deeper into many of the topics we were reading about...by the end of the year last year, our literature circles had morphed into very motivated inquiry circles. I can't wait to use blogging again this year with students!

Blogging platform used: kidblog.org

Here are a few snapshots of our blogs:

My initial blog post:

And here are a few examples of student blogs:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Khan Academy

A big part of my job is collaborating and co-teaching with mainstream classroom teachers, so I always try to keep an eye out for technology that could be helpful for English learners (as well as other learners) in content area classes, such as math, science, social studies and language arts.

I happened to turn on the TV for a few minutes this afternoon and I caught a good portion of 60 Minutes, which was featuring Khan Academy - an edtech site that hosts thousands of free educational videos on (what seems like) any subject you may be interested in learning. I have used Khan Academy a several times with elementary and adult ed math classes, and have had positive results.

I see Khan Academy fitting into math and science instruction with English learners for a few main reasons:
  1. Students can learn at their own pace - they can stop, rewind, or fast forward to hear and see the information as many times as they need to really understand the concept.
  2. The videos provide modeling of both the new concept, as well as of the processing language necessary to explain and describe the new concept.
  3. Students can practice various concepts with practice problems, and are offered a corresponding video to watch if they get stuck on a problem. A personal tutor...just a click away.
  4. Teachers can track students' progress on Khan Academy by creating a free account and then creating a class list (students log in using a Google Apps account, and then add the teacher as a Coach). Once a student begins working on a set of practice problems, data about the # of problems right/wrong, as well as a record of the type of problems attempted are all accessible by the teacher/coach. This allows teachers to closely monitor progress and confer with students in a meaningful, specific and individualized way.

This year will be the first year I'll have students add me as a coach so I can track their progress. I'm pretty excited to see how well it works and will definitely report back!

For the record, the categories of topics covered by Khan Academy videos are (as of right now):

  • math
  • science
  • computer science
  • finance & econ
  • humanities
  • test prep

Have you used Khan Academy or some other screencasted video lessons? If so, which ones, and would you recommend them to other teachers?

Thanks for reading and happy Labor Day weekend! Hope the start of the school year goes smoothly for everyone!


Friday, August 24, 2012

PlanbookEDU Winner and Favorite Tech Tools for ELL

Happy Friday!

What a fun surprise today when I opened up my email and found out I was one of the winners for the free year's subscription to PlanbookEDU via The Caffeinated Teacher's blog! Yay!! I can't wait to use PlanbookEDU again this year! :)

One of my favorite things about reading other educators' blogs is learning about new and exciting resources and tools available online. I really appreciate hearing about how the tool can be used with students and being able to see real-life examples.

So, I would like to share a few of my favorite tried and true tech tools for ELL, along with some examples of how I've used them. This is just a partial list....and it's constantly growing and changing as I continue to learn more about new developments in ed tech.

I'd love to hear your suggestions and ideas about other ways to use these tools, and about other 2.0 tools and resources you love!!

Ms. Vazquez's School Website and Teacher Links:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gearing up for back to school!

It's always hard to say goodbye to the summer (especially this summer -- I got married in July and have enjoyed spending August traveling with my hubby!)....but I find it only takes a good conversation with a colleague or the discovery of a new techie tool to get my mind back on track for the beginning of the school year.

This week, I did some planning with a colleague in preparation for the 3rd grade math class we co-teach.  It was a great time -- not only did we have some inspirational conversations, but we also discovered some new features of a tech tool we LOVE: PlanbookEDU.  This online lesson planning tool just keeps getting better and better, including the ability to add Common Core Standards to your plans,  share your Planbook with others, and attach electronic files to your plans.  Love it!

I am constantly telling other teachers about PlanbookEDU and how much it has streamlined my lesson planning, but I have been searching for a thorough and easy-to-follow tutorial to refer them to....until now!  Check out The Caffeinated Teacher's blog for a wonderful tutorial on PlanbookEDU.  You won't be disappointed!!  The Caffeinated Teacher (Raye) is also offering a give-away of a free year's subscription to PlanbookEDU -- I'm definitely hoping to win!

Hopefully your summer has included lots of fun, friends, family and relaxation!  What do you like to do to get into the back-to-school spirit?

Thanks for reading!