G21 Raising Awareness of Child Labor

The Project Based Learning Activity entitled “Raising Awareness of Modern Day Slavery (Child Labor)” focuses on twenty-first century skills such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking, teaching others, ethical and emotional awareness, cultural competence, managing time and resources. My two middle school classes created the driving questions for their projects. My grade six’ class decided to create a driving question of “How can we create a commercial to raise awareness of child labor?” Grade seven’s driving question was  “How can we create a story to raise awareness of child labor?” (click on attached Renae Townsend G21 PBL Project)

My students followed three rubrics from Buck Institute, the creativity & innovation rubric, collaboration rubric, and presentation rubrics to help them understand and apply the project expectations. Throughout each class period, students had a project work report where they signed a group contract, created a project calendar, decided on task roles, coordinated a presentation day checklist, and completed a self-reflections on their project work (both daily and final project). You can access all of these handouts at following Digital Destinations wiki space, entitled the PBL St Kit Project Management Tools. During this project work report, my students reflected everyday in schoology under the class group that I created. The schooogy interface offered direction for my students so that they could see what each group was doing and could provide feedback to each other.

The reproducibility of the project by others was implemented when the GMS Language teachers asked my students to participate in the Language Fair. This amazing opportunity allowed for a public presentation of my student projects, even when the technological parts of their projects were not entirely finished. Fortunately, my students had done the majority of their research, so they were able to present their information in an oral presentation during the fair. They also supplemented their oral presentations with a “hands on” activity of having their audience create pinwheels and write down specific statistics related to child labor on the pinwheels. The impact of the learning for my students was emphasized when my one student, Cassidy, stepped to the front of the room and made a spontaneous and “improvised” presentation to her audience. What was remarkable about her presentation was the knowledge she demonstrated of the content and the enthusiasm she showed.

Finally, the impact technology had toward learning is demonstrated in the fact that my students were able to create multimedia presentations on an i-pad or the computer using several different apps in the workflow which incorporated planning, creation, and authoring or publishing on the one device. On the SAMR model, I believe that my students achieved the modification and possibly the redefinition level. They created i-movie commercials and a power point story, which they hope to display publically in the following ways. One, they will visit classrooms to present their projects to classmates. Second, they created QR codes that they will put up throughout the hallways of the school, to draw attention to their work and to spread the word about child labor. Finally, they will publish their stories on the Richmond Justice Initiative website, which will be displayed to the general public. The work will be sent (with parental consent) to RJI as soon as it is signed.

The advice I would provide for a colleague wanting to undertake this same project is to be willing to make changes or supplement materials while students are completing the project. Sometimes I had to tailor the scaffolding for specific groups with very short notice. For example, I noticed that students really struggled with was the creativity requirement of the project (especially my seventh grade boys). I had to provide scaffolding for them throughout the project. For example, I helped them create a story line diagram with plot/climax/etc, provide them handouts on power verbs/adjectives to insert into the story. While my sixth grade girls worked amazingly well together as collaborators, I noticed that my seventh grade boys had no knowledge of how to work together or collaborate. My solution was to create a separate activity for them where we focused on the language of collaboration. See Collaboration_Scaffolding_Worksheet. We also created a word wall so that the boys could refer to the language of collaboration while they were working. Both groups of students really struggled with sequence; or where to insert their research and authentic expert information into their projects. ***Remarkably, the authentic expert information for seventh grade was gleaned from the first hand experiences of one of my Mexican students who had first hand experience of crossing the border.

Additional advice for colleagues wanting to undertake this same project would relate to my own experiences as a teacher in implementing the PBL. When I actually decided to implement my lesson plan with my students, I experienced some anxiety. For the first time, I wasn’t in charge as a teacher and I had to force myself to “go with the flow.” My students decided the “driving questions” and they “set the calendar dates,” which was contrary to everything I’ve ever done as a teacher. Again, my biggest challenge was to know when I was required to step out and let my student’s take charge and when I was required to step in and provide scaffolding or additional exercises for my students.

What I might change about the experience, as documented in my plan is the following. First off, I would suggest that a teacher actually spend more time observing and understanding the ins and outs of a PBL before they implement it in the classroom setting. Perhaps they could visit other classes and collaborate with other teachers before they implement the project in their own class. I didn’t have this experience and it would have helped me in the implementation of the PBL in my classroom. Before implementing the PBL in my class, I spent a lot of time viewing videos of other schools that are implementing PBLs, researching Buck Institute lesson plans, gathering the rubrics, understanding what a driving question was, and understanding how to create a “Project Wall.”  The PBL course that Dr. Hendron offered this past winter made this experience possible. I spent a lot of time outlining the PBL lesson; but the learning curve for me was greater than I anticipated.

Here are two of the finished products:

Paul Fernandez Story


Language Fair; Raising Awareness of Child Labor

This year, the middle school ESOL students have been busy completing a Project Based Learning activity in which they are raising awareness of child labor.

The primary goal of a PBL is to present the final project to a live audience. For this reason, we were delighted to be invited to participate and display our work at the World Language Fair hosted by Leona Barnes and Katy Jones. The language fair was school-wide, with each room partitioned off for different activities.

The GMS ESOL students presented their PBL to visitors, made pinwheels, and streamed a video on child labor, all in an attempt to raise awareness of child labor.

Following are some pictures of our visitors and their participation.

World Language Fair

This next week, the GMS ESOL students will be participating in the World Language Fair. We will be displaying our work from our project based learning activity, which involves raising awareness about child labor.

The activities of the day involve the following:

Streaming videos for the public, from “Made in a Free World

Encouraging visitors to start their own awareness campaigns and start their own fundraisers.

We will also be making pinwheels to raise awareness of child labor/abuse.


Visit to the Kindergarten

On April 2nd, my two High School ELL level 1 students made a trip to read story books to Ms. DeLong’s Kindergarten class. In class, we had been practicing these children books for pronunciation and fluency. What better idea to give my student’s confidence! I was so proud of my teen-aged ELL’s, who read their books confidently and fluently to this small group of Kindergartners, some of which are ELL 1′s too. They also were prepared to answer the K’s questions-as we also practiced potential questions that the students might ask. Surprisingly, we were right on target with some of their questions…


“I Have a Dream”; Way to Decipher Poetic Elements and to Build Fluency

In ESOL resource classes, grades 6-8, we have been studying Martin Luther King’s speech as part of Black History Month and also as a precursor to my G21 lesson, which begins in the month of March and will touch on issues related to human rights and human justice.

Here are the activities we have done this far with the “I Have a Dream Speech”

1). We read the speech, stopped at each paragraph and deciphered poetic elements that Martin Luther King uses. For example, in the first paragraph of his speech, MLK states,

“This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.”

For this activity, we looked up words such as “beacon” or “seared.” Then, we drew pictures of these images in the columns, as a means of deciphering this figurative language.

i.e. For “Beacon of Light” we drew a lighthouse shining light on a person. For “seared in the flames” we drew a symbol for fire and then wrote the word “justice” and put an X across it. We then shared our pictures, discussed the poetic elements (i.e. metaphors and similes”) and then used the key vocabulary words in own own sentences as a means to familiarize students with the usage.

2). We summarized paragraph’s 4 and 8 of “I Have a Dream” speech. Students filled out graphic organizers in which they recorded the main ideas of these paragraphs. Then, they summarized the paragraphs in their own words and orally shared with classmates what they thought the paragraph said.

3). We listened to the speech “I Have a Dream” on our Promethean Board so that the video was life size and we could hear MLK clearly. We read the speech along with MLK as a means to practice fluency. My hope is to show the same speech again next class, this time using the Winchester’s Public School’s version of “I Have a Dream” speech. I will ask student to again read along out loud as a means of practicing fluency.

This entire activity fulfilled the ELL language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. In addition, it tied into the VA SOL standards related to reading comprehension, deciphering poetic elements, and history SOL’s re: to the civil rights era. Most importantly, this activity provided students a larger picture of the character traits of a true hero. It also provided students a picture of those in the past who fought for something greater than ourselves, and who fought through the use of passive resistance. This subject ties in nicely to my G21 activity, in which I hope to focus on issues re: to human justice and equality.


Following is a picture of my high school ESOL student who is proudly part of the Goochland High School JROTC program. I want to give a special thanks to Major Michael Petruzziello and Staff Sergeant Daniel Strong, who both have a background working with ESOL students in their prior school system. Both JROTC staff have already helped me, as ESOL teacher, and were instrumental in helping this ESOL student to adapt to school culture and understand appropriate social skills and interactions during his first year in a U.S. High School. They have also been instrumental in helping me meet the learning goals on my student’s Individual Instruction Plan (IIP) under the category of “Social Instruction” which involves the listening skill of following simple commands pertaining to classroom routines using illustrations (e.g., “Close your book.”)

Thanks to the JROTC program at Goochland Highschool, which serves not only one ESOL student, but many other former English Language Proficient students, several of which have shared with me their hopes to join the U.S. military when they graduate.

ACCESS Testing; Prueba de ACCESS

GES, GMS, and GHS will be starting ACCESS for ELLs Summative Assessment testing from February 2nd to February 20th, 2015. For more information on the ACCESS test, please click this following link to WIDA.com

GES, GMS, y GHS tendrán las pruebas de evaluación sumativa de los estudiantes ELL a 2 de febrero hasta el 20 de febrero, 2015. Para obtener más información sobre la prueba de acceso, por favor haga clic en el siguiente enlace para WIDA.com

SMART Goals and Reading Comprehension

Our school has been tying our SMART Goals into our student data which is connected to MAP scores (Northwest Evaluation Association). Each of my students take a Fall pretest and create a projected RIT goal based on their own progress. The Reading data has goals performances which focus on the three categories:

1). Word Origins, Expand Vocabulary, Semantics.

2) Comprehension of a Variety of Fictional Texts.

3). Comprehension of a Variety of Nonfiction texts.

Goal performance #1 is connected to goals 2 and 3. Without knowledge of word origins, vocabulary and the semantics, students will not be able to comprehend what they read.

Following are some of the activities that I’ve chosen to do to enrich reading skills with my ESOL students in the Middle School and High School. Vocabulary comprehension is key for my students, and for this reason, here the following activities we have completed throughout this past semester.

1). Focus on Cognates. We have a word wall in my classroom in which we have compiled as we read through texts and passages. All my students are Spanish speaking, so we are constantly referring back to their L1 to make analogies to the Latin words and how they compare to the English words.

2). Focus on Parts of Speech. Earlier in the year, all my students created a Parts of Speech handbook delineating and writing examples of parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions). When we talk about vocabulary in a text, we always refer back to our handbook to decide which part of speech the word belongs to. We record the words on a word wall-in categories by their part of speech.

3). Focus on Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots. I have printed off DOE handouts which are taped to my student’s tables and are in the back of their ESOL folders. We constantly break apart the words we learn (after deciding what part of speech they are). We will change a word around and decided how the suffix changes the part of speech. For example, to oppress is a verb, oppression is a noun, and he is oppressed is an adjective. Here is an example of the sheets my students refer to from scholastic.com

4). Focus on Reading Comprehension strategies. Many of the activities come from the Virginia Department of Education English Enhanced Scope and Sequence Sample Lesson Plans. I’ve tweaked some of the activities to make them my own. For example, finding context clues in a story, we use sticky notes as we read. Students record the following on their sticky notes:

  • Difficult Word
  • Context clue(s)
  • ? (what do I think it means)
  • Definition: I provide the definition or we look the word up in their dictionary.

5). Focus on Dictionary Skills. My ESOL students must learn dictionary skills if they are going to conquer the SOL tests (paper-back dictionaries are only permitted). When we are participating in reading activities, I daily remind students to look up words in their dictionary. Using the paper-back dictionary requires numerous amount of skills (analytical skills are required to find the word, identifying prefixes/suffixes of the word, and decide which parts of speech we are looking for).

6). Focus on Applying Vocabulary to Sentences. I truly believe that vocabulary is best learned in context of a passage/text. In the same vein of thought, vocabulary must be used and written in a sentence. I can truly evaluate if a student understands the vocabulary word when they can use it correctly in a sentence. They demonstrate that they understand the semantics and the syntax.

Understanding vocabulary holistically and it’s complexities is directly tied into reading comprehension. For this reason, these are just a few of the strategies I have utilized to help my ESOL students this semester.


Enabling Future Generations; Spotlighting Mr. Rohrer

Currently, I teach ESOL students K-12 in Goochland County, in addition to working with non-English students at our Prep Academy. ESOL students at our Prep Academy work on GED coursework, an Edgenuity course which provides tutorials and GED coursework in their first language -Spanish.

How do I do this? Frankly, I couldn’t address all the needs of my ESOL students without the help of ESOL volunteers and tutors. Many of these individuals receive very small compensation for the hours they tutor ESOL students. Above is a picture of Mr. Rohrer, a retired Math teacher from GMS, who works with my Prep (GED student) three times a week. He tutors this young man in Math/Science. Without Mr. Rohrer’s additional instruction, which fills this student’s academic gap of 4-5 years of non-schooling, this student would be unable to successfully pass his GED coursework. Mr. Rohrer doesn’t speak much Spanish and my student doesn’t speak much English. So, do they communicate? As you can see in the background, Mr. Rohrer has a laptop and my student has a laptop. They both communicate through Google Translate, by typing into the tool what they want to say. So far, this tool has provided sufficient enough services to allow both Mr. Rohrer and student to understand each other.

Thank you Mr. Rohrer for all that you do for my ESOL student at the Prep Academy! Your dedication and volunteer hours have enabled my student to successfully pass a large part of his GED coursework.


Adversity; Use of Schoology for Dialogue and Demonstrating Empathy

We are starting a new unit for both Grade 6 and 7 ESOL, which involves learning about Martin Luther King’s contribution to Civil Rights in the U.S. during the 1960′s. I have divided the unit into two parts.

Part 1: Introduce Unit with theme song, “Lean on Me.” Discuss the theme/central unit idea, which is “how adversity or difficult situation provide us life-building experiences.” Review key vocabulary, journal and writing activities (apply theme to their lives).

Part 2: Read Reading A-Z book “Martin Luther King Jr.” Use the reading strategy of summarizing to understand text, understand and identify cause-and-effect relationships, identify and recognize prefixes/suffixes/base form through the use of sticky note strategies (leaving marks in our book).

We have just wrapped up with Part 1 of this unit, and I would like to share one the journal activities my ESOL students completed. Students completed their journal entries on Schoology, which is an online collaborative interface where students can access lessons, share journals, make comments to each other, etc.

Students were asked to reflect on the song “Lean on Me” in which Bill Withers sings “Sometimes in our lives we all have pain. We all have sorrow, but if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow.” Based on this message, I asked students to hone in on the topic of adversity in their writing, which was the key word for the unit. I asked students to journal about a time when they had adversity, pain, or sorrow in their own lives.  Students were asked to share what they did to be “wise” or to fix the problem.

Student’s journal responses were written on Schoology. Their stories were powerful and very personal. Schoology interface allows the entire class to access the writing/journaling of other classmates, they can read what each other say and respond (just as you would on FaceBook). A couple of my students shared stories related to immigrating to the United States; stories which involved poignant examples of adversity. In addition, several students shared stories about death and how they felt.

Using this topic of “adversity” was a wonderful way to share about painful experiences and to hear student’s voices. This provided a venue which allowed me to teach my students how they can demonstrate “empathy.” I believe that empathy is a learned behavior, an unknown skill set if students do not learn it at home. For this reason, I felt it important to directly teach students on how they can be empathetic. Following were some of the pointers I provided students in order to create empathetic responses.

  • Repeat something that someone has said or shared or ask a question. This shows empathy because it shows that we were truly listening.
  • Give a compliment to the person or say thank you for sharing. This shows empathy because we are reinforcing the fact that we appreciate that the person shared.
  • Give advise. This show empathy because it shows that you truly care about this person and that we want to help.
  • Say something nice and reassuring. This shows empathy because we are trying to comfort someone, again showing that we care.

I was so impressed by several of my students responses to each other on Schoology. Here are a couple student responses to a journal entry in which one of my students shared about her dog dying.

  • “Awwww so sad because your dog was everything for you :( :( Did you get another dog after Monkey died? What kind of dog was it?
  • “How did your dog got stuck in your door? Did your dog want to get inside of your house. I’ll find a way to help you.”

Here’s a student working on her “empathetic response” to a student entry. Overall, Part 1 of our “Martin Luther King; Civil Rights” unit has been a wonderful way for students to make personal connections to the subject of adversity. I found that Schoology was a wonderful platform and way in which students could share and empathize with each other!!!

Santa’s Christmas Miracle Field Trip

Our ESOL volunteer/tutor, Ms. Liz, organized a field trip for two of the GES ESOL families today to the Children’s Theater at Willow Lawn, where we all watched “Santa’s Christmas Miracle.” Ms. Liz’s insisted on covering all expenses of this outing as a Christmas present for all of us!!! This was also an opportunity to expose our ESOL families to the arts and culture. The outing was chaperoned by myself and the two ESOL mothers, along with their respective children (ESOL students).

What a blast we all had!!! Thanks Ms. Liz for an amazing holiday present!!! The event was topped off with a visit to see Santa, pictures with the cast of the play, along with lunch at Dairy Queen. Following are some pictures of our day!


ESOL Resource

Part of ESOL resource classes at GHS and GMS focus on study and test taking skills. In addition to this, these classes focus on organizational skills.

This past Friday, the last 15 minutes of class were devoted to organizational skills. I was delighted to watch one of my sixth grade students take over and help her classmate with organizing her backpack and binder. This student’s organization capabilities are definitely a strength. She proactively took over and cheerfully helped her classmate to organize all the materials from MP1.

What a delight both of these two young ladies students are:) Here is a picture of them hard at work.

Here’s a happy sixth grader-who now has a very organized binder and backpack, thanks to her classmate:)

Just Can’t Believe It!!!!

This fifth grade ESL student is reading all by himself!!! This picture was taken by our very pleased and devoted ESL tutor, Ms. Liz. What an amazing sight to see for all of those who have been involved with this student’s education. This student has had a long row to how for the first 5 years of his elementary education experience (preK-4). Studies show that students usually show that they can bridge two languages by grades 4 , especially if they receive the support they need in order to acquire a second language. This student has made us all proud this year, as reflected in his MP1 report card where he nearly reached A/B honor roll.

I attribute this student’s success to the following factors.

1). Devoted teachers and tutors who ensured that this student’s academic needs were attended to. This student is reading “Geronimo Stilton,” a high interest book that has many graphic clues and pictures to scaffold. This book was recommended to him by teachers and tutors who kept on encouraging him to find high interest reading.  They also focused on fluency and vocabulary comprehension.

2). Emphasizing leadership. I thank the tutor and certain teachers for believing in this student and emphasizing that he is capable of leadership, despite the fact that he struggles (ed) academically in the past. Currently, this student has been given “safety patrol” position at his school. We have seen so much positive behavior from this student, such as caring about other’s safety and following through to the end (respect and proactivity). This is reflected in the fact that this student is independently reading, as is required every day per homework requirements.


TPCAST in Song Lyrics

Currently, I am using TPCAST in both my Middle School and High School students to reinforce deeper level reading skills and scaffold for the interpretation of poetry . The poems/song lyrics we are analyzing are “Someday Never Comes” by Creedence Clearwater (Middle School) and “I Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele (High School).


Title. Without reading the poem, what do you think it will be about?

Paraphrase. Next to each stanza, write the poem in your own, every day language.

Connotations: What meaning goes with (con) the language that is being used? Keep a close eye out for: Alliteration, allusion, diction, imagery, metaphors, onomatopoeia, rhyme, rhythm, simile, and the speaker. Make notes in the margin about the meaning of the language.

Attitude: What is the author’s tone? Make notes in the margin about this.

Shift: Look for shifts in tone, action, rhythm. Identify the shifts by highlighting them and make a note in the margin.

Theme: What does the poem mean? What is it saying about life?


Título. Sin leer el poema, ¿qué crees que va a ser?

Paráfrasis. Al lado de cada estrofa, escribir el poema en su propio lenguaje cotidiano.

Connotaciones: ¿Qué significado va con (con) el idioma que se está utilizando? Mantenga una estrecha vigilancia en cuenta: aliteración, la alusión, la dicción, las imágenes, las metáforas, la onomatopeya, la rima, el ritmo, el símil, y el orador. Tome notas en el margen sobre el significado de la lengua.

Actitud: ¿Cuál es el tono del autor? Tome notas en el margen de esto.

Shift: Busque cambios de tono, acción, ritmo. Identificar los cambios marcándolos y hacer una nota en el margen.

Tema: ¿Qué hace el poema significa? ¿Qué dice acerca de la vida?


Ms. DeLong’s Dual Language Kindergarten

This year, I have the privilege of collaborating with Ms. DeLong, a Kindergarten teacher at GES. Currently, we are serving two ESOL students in this classroom. We have very little sheltered language training at GES as our ELL population has only begun to increase at a more rapid rate only in the last two years. We rely on resources that we glean on our own and share with each other. Recently, I shared with Ms. DeLong the following article “WIDA Focus on The Early Years: Dual Language Learners.” I am so proud to see that Ms. DeLong is proactively doing so many things this article talks about to make her Kindergarten classroom dual language friendly.

1). Ms. DeLong constantly refers to her non-English speaking student to say things in their language and to spotlight the things they already know. Ms. DeLong uses Google Translate on a regular basis to help her translate words/phrases into Spanish. For example, when Ms. DeLong teaches numbers in English, she also teaches them in Spanish. I recently participated with Ms. DeLong as she was teaching her Kindergartner’s the Letter “O” through the activity entitled “O is for Owl.” On the board, she wrote “I see the owl” and alongside she wrote “Veo el búho.”  She had one of our Spanish speaking students repeat this Spanish phrase and teach the rest of the class.

2). Ms. DeLong uses Google Translate to write daily messages to one Spanish-speaking parent (who speaks no English) in the agenda to communicate how the student’s daily progress in class or to communicate upcoming events or needs. She also just wrote the student’s entire interim report in Spanish by using this translating engine. This was an enormous help to me as collaborating ELL teacher-as I currently work K-12 and the job of translation for each and every parent is becoming an increasing task. Ms. DeLong also encourages our non-English speaking parent to participate in classroom and PTA events-with the help of Spanish speaking volunteers and myself.

3). Ms. DeLong utilizes dual language story books and other resources in class to help the second language student understand and feel accepted. She independently seeks out dual language story books from our library and also utilizes dual language story books from Reading A-Z.

4). Ms. DeLong constantly communicates with me-the ELL teacher-to make sure the needs of our dual language students are met. Her concern and care for my ESOL students is equal to that of each and every one of the students in her class. I’m SO appreciative of her openness, flexibility, and patience. Thank you Ms. DeLong for going the extra mile to ensure our Kindergarten ESOL students have a wonderful kindergarten experience!!

Following is a picture of a class activity in which all students created dual language posters re: to colors and the letter “c.”

Measuring Up Live

Every year, I have asked our ESOL program to purchase and online program called Measuring Up Live.

I have found that this program is a great resource for yearly, on-line SOL preparation. The standards on MUL correspond to Virginia Standards. In addition, I can select which standards I want my students to work on, which correspond to standards they are working on in their general Math, Science and Language Arts classes. For example, for Life Science and Physical Science, I can select the first category of “Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic.” I am able to monitor the progress of my student understanding and retention in this category via the administrative program. MUL provides a performance key of three levels “Below Proficient, Proficient, Advanced Proficient.” My student’s proficiency level is currently set at 70%, which then allows me to move them onto a new standard when they have shown me that they have obtained the measured goal for comprehension.

My students enjoy this program because it provides instantaneous feedback for students after every question is answered. If the student answers the questions incorrectly, an explanation of the incorrect answer is provided. Students are required to continue until they select the correct answer. Finally, students enjoy a small game after they answer 5 questions correctly.

Parts of Speech Books

For my Middle School students, grades 6-8, I plan on having them create “Parts of Speech” books.

1). Mini-Lesson: We will start with a small review of each part of speech at the following site: Grammaropolis

2) Creation of Parts of Speech Book. Students will create a book, either on their iPads using the app “Book Creator” or with regular paper. The books will contain the following: Definitions of parts of speech (i.e. noun, verb, adj), definitions and examples of the types of nouns, pictures to correspond, and finally sentences combining and identifying as many different types of nouns as possible.

Music in the Classroom

This year I have decided to use song activities for bell ringers. I plan on starting every class with a song during our ESOL resource period. Here are the many ways I chose to use song bell ringer activities.

  1. Establishing positive theme every day. There is nothing like a positive start to a class period. I love using music in the classroom as a bell ringer in my class for this reason. I also used the lyrics of songs to create a class theme. This year, I started off the year by introducing the song “Nothing More” by Alternate Routes. We established our class theme which is “We are Love, We are One.” I placed a poster with this theme at the front of our class where we review it and are reminded of it on a regular basis.

  2. Encompassing all four performance definitions of Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing through various activities. We listen to a song every single class period. We follow along by reading and recording key words on our word wall. Then, we follow up by speaking and talking about our interpretations of the song (i.e. What are the dangers that this song speaks of?) Finally, we complete many different writing assignments to follow up with the song. For example, I asked my students to journal about a time when they took an alternate route in their life and made a good decision. After completing their assignments, each student shared their writing/stories with each other.  I had my high school students complete their writing assignments and contribute to class discussions in Edmodo.

  3. Focusing on fluency. All my middle school and high school students have either an iPod or an iPad. Because of this, we are able to use the song lyrics to complete fluency activities using their voice memo apps. I found that fluency practice is perfect for song activities because students are listening/speaking/reading this song every day in my class. They can focus on pronunciation and reading fluency through reading song lyrics. My students completed fluency exercises using this attached iTouch Fluency Station checklist.

National Anthem Sung

My Middle and High School classes recently completed our National Anthem unit in which I used the national anthem as means to review poetic and literary elements-in preparation for upcoming English/Reading SOL’s. Every day during this review my ESOL students and I sang the national anthem. I am proud to say that all students who participated learned how to sing The Star Spangled Banner!! I’m so proud of them! Here’s a video of one of my students and myself singing the Star Spangled Banner together.


Liz’s Latest and Lucrative Inventions!

I can’t help but brag on my ESOL volunteer/tutor, Ms. Liz, who works regularly with two of my ESOL students. Ms. Liz and the teachers work in sync with the teachers, as we communicate daily or weekly about projects or specific homework tasks that need to be completed.

Below are two of Ms. Liz’s latest creations. The first one is the planet project. Ms. Liz assisted our ESOL student not only with completing his planet project, but implementing some ingenuity and creativity. Below is the planet hat that both she and my student came up with, complete with rotating planets and the sun as the center of the solar system.

I would be remiss to mention the most recent project Ms. Liz helped complete with a second ESOL student (sibling of the first:). This weekend, our student was required to create a “product” in which he is required to sell at his economics fair/store at school. Thanks to Ms. Liz’s ingenuity, our student will be selling his lucrative product “dog biscuits” at this fair. Tomorrow in Ms. Cachina’s second grade class, he will learn hands-on experience of what it is like to be a producer and consumer. He is also required to advertise his product. Below are some pictures as he and his brother completed the economics project in Ms. Liz’ kitchen.

Thank you Ms. Liz for all you do for these ESOL students of Goochland!!!!!

National Anthem Assignment

Currently students in ESOL resource and ESL class are learning the words/lyrics to “Star Spangled Banner.” We are also covering a brief history of the War of 1812, the time in which the National Anthem was penned.

Because we are beginning SOL testing, I thought this activity would be a small diversion from the numerous practice tests that we are currently doing in ESOL resource classes. Because “The Star Spangled Banner” is written in the form of a poem, it is also a great opportunity to review the elements of poetry (i.e. alliteration in the sentence “Oh say can you see”). We discussed the type of meter the lyrics are written, which is iambic pentameter” and we discussed how poets abbreviate words such as “o’er” “watch’d” to create the appropriate meter for a poem.

Following are ways in which I am using the song as a way to teach reading/testing strategies in preparation for the upcoming SOL tests. These strategies are particularly useful for ESOL students when it comes to deciphering reading passages that are loaded with difficult vocabulary.

  1. Pre-Reading strategy; Visualizing. A great reading strategy is to “visualize” what you learn after you scan the reading passage. For this reason, I had the students listen to, read, and identify the words they already knew in the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner.” Then, I asked them to draw a picture with the vocabulary words they identified. Most of my students were able to figure out that there was a war scene in the song, as they were familiar with words such as “bombs/rockets/flag.” Several students successfully visualized the setting of the first verse of the song and drew great pictures! I believe that having a big picture of what you are reading helps immensely when it comes to comprehension.

  2. Vocabulary. Once we started to study the vocabulary words, we discussed how we can “infer” what vocabulary words mean in the context of a sentence. i.e. in the sentence “at the twilight’s last gleaming,” I asked students to figure out the context clues for “twilight.” Context clues in the “Star Spangled Banner” would be words such as “light” “gleaming” and “dawn.” Using these context clues to figure out the meaning of a reading passage is also very important to becoming a successful reader.

  3. Dissecting words: We are learning how to dissect the prefixes/suffixes, the parts of speech of different words, and the base forms of words in order to figure out the meanings. For example, with the word  ”twilight,” we can dissect the base form of the word down to “light.” Since we know what light means, we can assume that twilight has something to do with “light.” Another important reading skill is to understand the meaning of prefixes/suffixes. I constantly drill my ESOL students on the meaning behind prefixes such as “di” or “mono” “re” and suffixes such as “ous” “ly” “ing” “ed,” etc.

  4. Dictionary skills: For the word “perilous,” we identified that this word was an adjective. We recorded all vocabulary words on the classroom “Parts of Speech” chart, which is divided by nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs.  Once we figured out the base form of the word, students were encouraged to look up “peril” in their dictionaries. We discussed the fact that many words in the dictionary are the base form of words and that the prefixes and suffixes sometimes need to be removed in order to successfully find the meaning!!! This is an important SOL accommodation skill as all my ESOL students utilize a bilingual or English dictionary during SOL testing. Again, the ability to break down a word and identify the base form is very important in order to successfully pass a Reading SOL.

  5. Cognates: The ability to identify cognates in both English/Spanish (or other Latin/Germanic languages) is very useful for ESOL students when it comes to successful reading comprehension/test taking skills. Sometimes the base form of words are very similar in both English and Spanish. This also helps students to remember the meaning of words. For this reason, we were able to identify the following base forms/ cognates in the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner,” which were “banner/bandera” “bombs/bombas” “bright/brillante” “gallant/galante.”

I find that my ESOL students can become successful SOL test-takers if they can become proficient in all the above reading/test-taking skills.  Teaching these skills through the medium of the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” is a great way to do SOL review! Singing a song creates a wonderful diversion to the tedium of SOL review practice tests. Our national anthem is a song and kids LOVE to sing!!  In addition to learning a VERY important song, I hope my students remember this activity in years to come. I hope to have a little part in helping my ESOL students develop pride and respect for this great nation as future citizens of the U.S.!

Learning That Generates Enthusiasm

I’ve blogged about the Social Justice/Preservation mural projects that my students created. As a result of our trips and presentations to different classes, both students/teachers have asked us to do more.

  1. My ESOL High School students are invited to visit Ms. Exum’s AP Spanish Class to continue our oral conversation skills in both Spanish and English and to continue discussions about social issues/conflicts/concerns. We are planning a trip to Ms. Exum’s class on Thursday, May 1st, to discuss religion and different points of view. I hope that this collaboration continues as it’s a great way for my ESOL students to practice oral conversation skills.

  2. Two students from Ms. Ray’s 6th grade class requested that they come and conduct follow-up “interviews” with my ESOL students regarding the mural projects and the Social Justice/Preservation subjects that they presented to the class. One of these interview regarding the mural project “Preservation of the Environment” was broadcast on the GMS morning news, Earth Day, April 22nd. A second interview regarding the mural project of “Poverty and Human Trafficking” will be broadcast on the GMS morning news the week of May 5th.

I have been delighted at the interest generated by students and teachers. This goes to show that when students are inspired by things that are bigger than themselves and when they can tangibly discover the connections to what they learn, the spark of exploration is generated. Once lit, teachers only need to stand back and watch. Students take charge of their learning!!

Mural Projects; Social Justice and Social Preservation


This past month, my students wrapped up with the second step of the 2014 G-21 project. Part 1 of our project consisted of  discovering the history behind the Mexican Revolution and analyzing the art of Diego Rivera “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon.” To tie into the theme of murals, students created digital murals through the use of technology in Part 2, G-21 project.

This part of the project involved extensive research and written artist statements, which tied in elements of literature such as universal themes, symbolism, and imagery. Each student chose social justice or preservation issues. Students were required to demonstrate how they are involved in addressing the problem through the creation of personal images or symbols in their murals. They created their murals in three separate drawing templates on google docs.

Finally, students demonstrated knowledge of their research by preparing presentations and presenting their murals to classes throughout GMS and GHS. Thanks to collaborating teachers, Ms. Ray (English 6), Ms. Brooks (English 6), Ms. Falconer (Social Studies 6) Mr. Rooke (GHS World Languages), Ms. Exum (GHS World Languages), and Ms. Kimberly (GHS World Languages). Each teacher graciously allowed my students to present their murals in their classrooms. Thank you to the Goochland County students at GMS and GHS who were incredibly respectful and supportive of my English as Second Language students-many of which have accents and limited English. Because of such amazing student support and interest, students confidence was boosted.

Attached are the WIDA templates I created that tie VA SOL (Standards of Learning) to the WIDA ELD (English Language Definition) standards.

Reading/Writing: Mural_WIDA_Rubric

Writing: Mural_WIDA_Rubric_2

Speaking: Mural WIDA_Rubric_3

Also, attached is the step-by-step worksheet that students used to complete this project, the rubric used to grade them and Goochland County’s G21 Rubric.

Steps_Mural Making


G21 SY 2013_14

Following are abbreviated student podcasts of their murals, followed by their digital murals.

Student_Podcast and Mural 1









 Student Podcast and Mural 4