Cesar Chavez Activity

Recently, I blogged a reflection on the Spring 2013 issue of “Teaching Tolerance” a magazine written by “A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.” It highlighted five teachers who were selected for the 2012 Award for Excellence in culturally responsive teaching. The reoccurring theme among all five of these teachers is that they celebrated their students and their cultural diversity and used education with a  purpose to change the community. I was inspired by their ability to inspire critical thinking amongst their students.

This last marking period, I decided to focus on creating more activities and journal prompts that celebrate my student’s diversity and also inspire higher level thinking. I want my students to be proud of who they are and where they come from. First, I researched and printed out numerous pictures of famous Latinos to paste on the wall.

I started with Cesar Chavez and found his life story in Reading A-Z. We did the following activities which focused on reading skills, vocabulary support, discussion of history and ideas related to higher level thinking. Finally we journaled and made creative responses to support the activity.

1. Vocabulary support. I had students do a picture walk through the book. We then identified key vocabulary words through the use of the glossary. Prior to looking up the definition of words, I had students define them through context clues. Refer to this blog activity for this sticky notes and context clues activity.

2. Discussion of History. While completing the sticky notes and vocabulary context clues activity, we had a discussion on the word “civil disobedience.” We discussed other related words and names such as civil rights, unions (United Farm Workers Union), migrants, boycott, marches, fasts, and Mahatma Gandhi. We discussed the role that Cesar Chavez played in paving the way for immigrant civil rights.

3. Reading skills. Students read portions of the story of Cesar Chavez independently or collaboratively. We focused on the last chapter of the book entitled “Cesar Chavez’ Legacy.” Students were required to fill out an organizer to scaffold for summarizing skills. They focused on Who, What, When, Where, Why and then create a small written “summary” or book report re: what they read.

4. Journaling and Discussion (higher level thinking). These activities involved the following:

a). Defining the vocabulary word “legacy.”  We then chose one “concrete word” to describe Cesar Chavez’ legacy and two “abstract words.” Students chose concrete words such as “union” or “awards.”  For Cesar Chavez’ abstract legacy, students chose words like “pride” “freedom” “civil rights” etc.

b). Journaling and making connections. Students were required to think about the type of legacy they wanted to leave behind for their own lives (one concrete thing, two abstract things). I then asked them to journal about their own legacy. In addition, I asked students to differentiate between concrete and abstract and I asked them to tell me what they felt is the most important part of their legacy.

c). Discussion and making a creative response. Students shared their journal with class and each member filled out a response form telling each student what they liked the best about their classmate’s journal and they asked one question. We followed through with having students orally identify important qualities each of their classmates currently display when it comes to forging their own legacy. This allowed me as a teacher to spotlight the uniqueness and special qualities of each student in my class. Following are summaries of student responses re: their future legacies- in addition to some artwork that they created to support and symbolize their legacy.

Saul:“I would want to leave an abstract legacy of working hard and helping Mexicans. I think Mexico should become a better place. Also, I think I can make a difference if I work hard. If we work hard, we can end the Mexican cartel. Also, when I am done, I hope I left a good reputation of working hard work for people. I hope it really works and helps. Also, I want a statue to remember what Mexicans are really hard workers. Also, all Mexicans should have equal rights rich or poor. I would accomplish these things by working hard. I think I would want to leave an abstract legacy because Mexican should always be able to keep these things in their heads/hearts.”

Here’s Saul’s artwork that symbolizes his future legacy.

Katia: “The three types of legacies I want to leave are my bird Vencenzo and the money that I have (concrete). Two abstract things I want to leave are my love to my family and to believe that I was a good friend to my friends. The most important item is my love to my family to make sure that they know I will always love them forever. I would want to leave both concrete and abstract because they will both do good to my family and friends. I would leave my bird Vencenzo to my little sister Emily. I would like to leave my love to all my family including the ones I don’t know/met. Lastly, I would like to be remembered by my friends that I was a good friend who helped them. Those are the three legacies I will leave.”

Here’s Katia’s artwork that symbolizes her future legacy.

Wendy: “One of the legacies that I want to leave is a better life for people who really need it. Another legacy I want to leave is a place like a hospital for people who have problems in their mind. The last thing I want to leave is a clean mind because many people think about negative things. I want to help them realize that they are doing bad. I want them to think good like to look forward to school so they can have a better life and not be in jail or under highways. Those are my three legacies I want to leave. What are yours?”

Here’s Wendy’s artwork that symbolizes her future legacy.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar iMovie

This year, I read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to my two Kindergarten ESL students in both English and Spanish. We read the books over and over again as a way of reinforcing oral language developement in both English and Spanish.

The book encompasses many of the required Kindergarten standards: 

Building oral communication skills (LAK .3) I’ve struggled to support my ESL students in the oral language in the past. It’s hard to support Kindergarten student in oral language development because often we are busy completing academic and written work (i.e. literacy/math/science/social studies). Having a special time devoted to reading out loud and summarizing the story over and over again allowed for targeted oral language intervention.

Identifying and producing words that rhyme; identifying words according to shared beg. and ending sounds; and discriminating between spoken sentences, words, and syllables. For my ESL students, it was helpful to identify beginning and ending sounds (i.e. “M” for Monday and days of the week and for challenging sounds like “Through” and “The”). Also, it allowed for focused intervention of middle sounds such “g” in ”Hungry”). The ability to summarize the story in their own words  was important for discriminating between spoken sentences, words/syllables (LAK .4)

Counting and writing the # of items in a set of 1-15 (MathK.2) and Indicating the ordinal position of an object 1st-10th (MathK.16) Working on the sequence of the numbers and days of the week was particularly difficult for my ESL students. Early in the year, I found they had no prior knowledge of these concepts in Spanish (their L1). I supported my K students by having them learn numbers and days of the week in Spanish (via special songs). We then transferred this knowledge in Spanish to learning the days of the week in English. The Very Hungry Caterpillar was a perfect way to reinforce numbers/days of the weeks  skills.

Investigating and understanding the basic needs and life processes of plants and animals (SciK.7).

The concept of a caterpillar turning into a caterpillar reinforced the “life processes” objective.

Following are iMovies in which my two Kindergarten ESL students also created pictures to support the above mentioned standards encompassed in this book.



Living History for ESOL Students

Last Saturday, two of my ESOL students were lucky enough to spend time with an 1812 reinactor, Huffy, the friend of my volunteer/ESOL tutor, Ms. Liz. The boys were provided with a history review of the U.S. Presidents, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. They were also taught how to salute and to march. They even learned a little about social skills and how a 1812 soldier would have conducted himself as an “honorable gentleman.”


National Foreign Language Week

Both the GMS ESOL students and myself were invited to celebrate and participate in the festivities of National Foreign Language week. The events were graciously hosted and coordinated by Ms. Barnes (Spanish teacher) and Ms. Layne (French teacher) at GMS. Because we had two full days of snow, we continued the festivities into this week.

Faculty and Staff activities:

On Tuesday GMS faculty dressed up like a historical or current people from another country to be positive role models OR we wore typical clothing from another country.  Those who participated were part of a faculty drawing for a gift card. I dressed up like Sherlock Holmes and two of my ESOL students accompanied me throughout the school to hand out name tags to the faculty members who dressed up. We encountered many famous people such as Eva Peron, who gave us a live operatic performance, Rosa Parks, Marie Antoinette, Amelia Earhart, John Marshall, Claude Monet, and several beautifully dressed Latino ladies. The teachers shared information regarding their historical figure to students.  Following is a picture of several of the GMS faculty who participated.

Thursday: Wear colors of the French Flag (Blue/White/Red) or Spanish Flag (yellow/red).

Student Activities:

Poster making: All of my ESOL students  created posters of their countries for display in the hallways-along with Ms. Barne’s and Ms. Layne’s student posters. Several of my students wrote their posters in Spanish or Portuguese to show off their first language literacy skills.

Commercials: Ms. Barnes students compiled videos/commercials-some of which featured my ESOL students saying basic greetings in Spanish.

Tuesday:   Simple Foreign Language Word Games for prizes during lunch.

Tuesday evening: Foreign Language students visited the Goochland County School board to make presentations and to teach school board members a few foreign language words through activities such as Simeon Says and TPR (Total Physical Response).

Thursday:  French and Spanish Phrase Games for prizes during lunch.

Both my ESOL students and myself had a blast participating in Foreign Language Week with GMS teachers/students.  This activity instilled pride in my students and reinforced their strengths as foreign language speakers. Thank you Ms. Barnes and Ms. Layne for including us!!!!

ESOL Volunteers

Ms. Geri is one of my ESOL volunteers. Currently she is working with two of my elementary ESOL students in the home setting. While several of the ESOL volunteers volunteer in the school setting, there are benefits to having volunteers in the home placement.

1). In a home placement, Ms. Geri can be a liaison between teachers and the parents. She relays important messages to the parents in person on a personal level. We all know there are many letters sent home from teachers. Many of my ESOL parents speak limited English and have a very difficult time deciphering the letters and assignments that are sent home. With Ms. Geri’s guidance, she is able to support the parents who desire to assist their children, but feel frustrated because they do not have the educational background or language abilities to assist.

2). Ms. Geri helps to bridge the cultural gap between the Hispanic culture and the American culture. Miscommunications can occur between teachers and my Hispanic parents. If there is a volunteer in the home, they can provide insight or write me to ask for clarification/explanation regarding the miscommunications or misunderstandings. My volunteers “keep me in the loop” with essential information that is important to the academic and emotional success of my ESOL students.

3). The academic support that Ms. Geri provides to students during her tutoring/volunteer times are so helpful to me as an ESOL teacher. I am currently employed to work in three different schools in Goochland County-K-12.  Because of the nature of this ESOL program, I could not operate nearly as successfully as an ESOL teacher without the additional support.

4). Ms. Geri brings with her an array of prior job skills-one of which is teamwork and communication skills. Ms. Geri write me on a weekly basis to ask questions or for insight, to request information or materials, to relay important information, or just to summarize the things that she’s done with my ESOL students. In the age of technology, the home volunteer placements with ESOL students has been made easier by the fact that my volunteers can check the teacher blogs of my ESOL students on a regular basis. It is essential that the volunteers correspond their tutoring sessions with that of the regular content teachers, which Ms. Geri does. Communication and teamwork skills are essential to being a successful volunteer.

Thank you Ms. Geri for all that you do for the Goochland ESOL community! I believe that your service and commitment to the community is part of what makes America great. Through these acts of service, I believe we are empowering a new generation of  Hispanic children to become successful and contributing members of our society.


Letters and Poems to Soldiers

Here are pictures of the Middle and High School ESOL students who wrote poems and made cards for soldiers as part of the Goochland County “Got Talent” drive. Following are the podcasts of students reciting their poems.











Student #1 Podcast













Student #2 Podcast















Student #3 podcast













Student #4 Podcast







Student #5 Podcast







Student #6 Podcast















Student #7 Podcast

Dual Language Support is Important

I have two new ESOL kindergartner’s this year. As part of their classroom instruction time, I support them by reviewing concepts in both English and Spanish. We know from research that first language development in inextricably linked to second language development.

For more information on dual language support and it’s importance in English as Second language instruction, please refer to Linda Espinosa’s PDF articles and research entitled “Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners.”

This week, my students were learning colors and letters of the alphabet in their class.

For the colors review,  I made up the following rhyme for my students and we put it to a beat:

Red is rojo, Green is verde, Yellow is amarillo, Blue is azul, Orange is naranja.”

During ESOL instruction time, we colored many things with the five colors, ate candy with the five different colors, talked about the colors by making associations and comparisons i.e. green is the “monster color,” “orange is the color of the fruit ‘orange’” “the green ball and the green grass match.” We also played a game of “hot/cold” so that I could assess my student’s understanding.

For the alphabet, I printed out the books of the entire alphabet in both Spanish and English from Reading A-Z. This week, I concentrated on the first letters of both of my student’s names.  For example, my one student’s name starts with “A.” So, we practiced sounding out and writing the first letter of her name “A.” We then read the “A” alphabet books in both Spanish and English. In addition to sounding out all the “A” words in the alphabet books, we also practiced sounding out the first letter of her name by using the sequence of “letter/name/sound.”

Following is a picture of my two new kindergarten students in their Kindergarten class.


Project Based Learning at GHS


Goochland High School requires every senior to complete a “project-based” learning assignment prior to graduation. My graduating ESOL student completed her senior project this past year entitled “Finding the Right Career.”

This is the second time I have helped a graduating ESOL student through the senior project process. We also had community support from my volunteer Ann Casey, who provided step-by-step assistance and valuable contacts.

The steps for this hands-on senior project are the following:

1). The student took an on-line survey to determine her career strengths.

2). The student researched three recommended careers.

3). The student wrote an essay on the qualifications needed for each career.

4). The student interviewed and video-taped three different candidates in each recommended career.

5). The student completed a video project documenting her “quest” for the right career.

6). The student determined which career she wanted to pursue based on this project-based learning assignment.

Attached is a video clip she created documenting the process of her quest-a project-based learning assignment which will potentially impact her for the rest of her life.

Senior Project_2

I-Pod and Fluency Success

I used the iPod with my 2nd grader ESOL this past semester as a tool to increase fluency in reading. Kathy Shirley serves as the inspiration and pioneer in the use of iPods to improve fluency with ESOL students. You can research her work with ESOL students and iPods as technology director for the Escondido Union School District near San Diego.

My two 2nd grade students recorded fluency  passages from Reading A-Z. They also used this iTouch Fluency Station checklist to track their progress. Students self-assess their reading rate, expression, and correctness in pronunciation with this checklist. They return to the passage a few days later and see if they improve. The highest score they can obtain is a total of “6″ (scale of 0-6).

I just received the end of the year PALS assessment for my two struggling ESOL readers (grade 2). Their PALS history is the following:

Student #1:started out the year with Preprimer accuracy of 88% (his reading level). He rated frustration level at Primer with an accuracy of 75%.

Midyear, his scores reached Primer with 98% accuracy. He rated frustration level at First Grade with an accuracy of 82%.

The four months prior to end of the year (January-April), I implemented the iPod fluency activity. Within these four short months, this same student went from a Primer reader to Second Grade reader with an accuracy of 93% Second Grade.

Student #2: Started out the year with Primer accuracy of 94% (her reading level).

Midyear, her scores reached First Grade with 96% accuracy.

The four months prior to end of the year (January-April), I implemented the iPod fluency activity. Within these four short months, this student went from a First grade reader to Second Grade reader with an accuracy of 92% Second Grade.

It seems to me that the iPod activity has been successful with these students in increasing their reading fluency….

Who Reads This?

The teachers of Goochland County have been blogging for years and years. Blogs were how I first learned about Goochland County and decided I wanted to work here. I believe our blogs really make us stand out, but sometimes it is hard to convince teachers of this. All they want to post is a list of objectives for the week.

Ms. Townsend, our ESOL teacher, sent me a message today letting me know someone from the British Council had left a comment on her blog. Our ESOL students have been using iOS devices since the fall, and one of the apps that have become essential to them is MyWordBook, created by the British Council. Ms. Townsend mentioned it in one of her blog posts, and now they’ve read it.

Does a representative from the British Council read our blogs regularly? Absolutely not. However, if a blog post is interesting and contains more than a bulleted list of objectives for the week, it is more likely to have a wider audience.

Teacher blogs should be a window into the classroom, and a showcase of good instructional practice, and a tool to advocate for public education.