I Want to Get Better at… Teaching ELLs

Summer 2018 I want to get better at...

No matter where you teach, you probably have English Language Learners (ELLs) in your school community. While it’s true that all learners are language learners, teaching ELLs may feel more challenging, especially if you’re new to teaching. Luckily, there are strategies and tips you can learn to help improve your teaching practice.

Want to get better at working with your ELLs? Check out these Teaching Channel resources for your summer learning.
Read more

5 Things English Learners Need From Classroom Teachers

English Language Learners

4.8 million.

That’s the number of English language learners enrolled in K-12 schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In other words, at least one out of every 10 students in classrooms today is an English language learner (ELL). As the number of ELLs continues to increase at lightning speed, the pressure is on for classroom teachers to examine their practices and find new ways of meeting the needs of this ever-growing population of students.

As an English as a second language (ESL) specialist, teachers often come to me full of questions about what they should be doing to help language learners in their classrooms. They worry that because they don’t speak another language, they won’t be able to provide the support their ELLs require. Yet, I know that with some reassurance and some new strategies, all teachers are capable of being outstanding instructors of English language learners.

In order to help educators on their way to becoming more confident instructors of ELLs, I’ve put together a list of the top ten things ELL students need from their classroom teachers.

Here are the first five:

Read more

Relax, Recharge, Rejuvenate: Stepping Up The Summer

Tchers Voice Professional Learning Blog Header

After months of 60-70 hour weeks, 5:00 am alarms, staying late at school to work with students, coaching games or events that don’t end until the wee hours, and so much more — the summer is finally here.

As a department chair, the teachers in my department need to check out with me on our cannot-come-soon-enough last day of school and, when they do, I love to ask, “What do you have planned this summer?”

The most common two responses:

  • Travel
  • Nothing

While there’s nothing wrong with either of these responses — in fact, I’d encourage time doing both — I’d like to suggest that summer is a chance for us, as teachers, to be intentional about finding time to relax, while also improving our craft in ways no “PD session” ever could.
Read more

Engineering the End of the School Year

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

As students walk into class, they gather all their materials and get to work right away on their collaborative projects.

Groups are independently engaged in their learning.

“I think greenhouses are going to be too expensive, but let’s look up the costs.”

“I think we should make a movie to tell others about our plan, because that’s more interesting than a PowerPoint.”

Does this scenario sound like a dream classroom, especially during the last few weeks of school? Well, what if this could be your classroom reality?

Keeping yourself and your students charged at the end of the school year sounds great and somewhat daunting. June can be taxing for students and teachers alike. However, the end of the year can also be the perfect time to try out new teaching practices and student-centered learning strategies.

If you lean in to the opportunity to reinvigorate your day-to-day routines, you can set yourself up to finish on a strong note, in terms of both instruction and social-emotional learning.

So, what’s the secret?

Orange Dot Border

Read more

Tch Tips: Five Ways to Recharge with Summer Learning

Tch tips

Your long-awaited summer break has arrived! While teachers are especially good at filling up their calendars with neglected to-dos and preparation for what’s next, be sure to pause and take your well-deserved break. You’ve earned it.

The world moves fast and, for a teacher, the summer moves even faster. You probably won’t conquer everything on that ever-growing list. But if you choose just a few things to work on this summer in your personalized professional learning plan, you’ll return to your classroom refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the new school year.

Beach with Sunglasses in the Sand

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Here are five ways you can recharge and level up on your own terms this summer.
Read more

I Want to Get Better at… Differentiation

Summer 2018 I want to get better at...

Differentiation is one of those things that never seems like it can be 100% mastered. Once you have your differentiation strategies dialed in for a particular set of students… you get a new set of students! But with these new students comes a new opportunity to learn and refine your teaching approaches.

This summer, build up the differentiation strategies in your toolbox so you’ll be more equipped to meet the needs of your future students. Start with these ideas:

Read more

3 Steps to Successful Student Collaboration

Tchers Voice Project Based Learning Blog Header

Why We Hang In There

Deep sighs, rolled eyes, slumped shoulders, and hanging heads, met with eyes yearning for hope… No, it’s not a summons for jury duty, it’s the reaction I get from teachers when I say, “student collaboration.”

#realtalk for a moment: Getting students to work successfully in a group is REALLY hard!

And yet, despite the complete exhaustion it brings us, we hang in there. Why do we do it? Because we know our students need it. And not just because there are flashy frameworks and graphics that tell us collaboration is important in school. And not just for their future career, college, relationships, or global competition; but because it helps students develop into more empathetic and cooperative human beings. And regardless of what our future looks like, we’re going to need those!

Orange Dot Border

Why It’s Hard

If you’re responsible for any number of human beings, you know that it’s difficult to facilitate effective group work — whether you’re working with children or adults. It’s hard to work through our differences — actively listening, embodying selflessness, and orally communicating one’s thoughts is a challenging process to navigate. Not to mention that issues of status and equity rear their ugly heads during any sort of group discourse (see Horne, Boaler, and Cohen). That’s a lot to manage in a classroom where available minutes continue to shrink with competing initiatives and demands. But all hope is not lost. With some basic systems and structures in place, the conditions for effective classroom collaboration can be established — read on to find out how.
Read more

Back to School Starter Pack End-of-Year Reflection: Your Final Checklist

End of Year Reflection

Congratulations! You made it to the end of the school year.

Are you excited for summer? Are you already thinking about the next school year? Here at Teaching Channel, we sure are!

At the beginning of the school year, we launched our Back to School Starter Packs, a set of checklists and resources organized by grade band to help you start the year off on the right track. If you missed these packs at the start of the year, don’t fret! We’ll be refreshing them for back to school this fall.

In the meantime, we’ve created an End of Year Reflection to help you think about your year and plan for the next. While it sometimes feels better to simply shut the door and forget, if you take a moment now to reflect and plan just a little, your future self will be happy you did!

Take 5 (or a little more) to Reflect

Head over to our Back to School Starter Pack page and download the End of Year Reflection (you must be logged in). Print it out, and use it to assess your year in the areas of Classroom Setup, Lesson and Unit Planning, Class Culture, and Self-Care. We’ve made it simple and quick to use — just a check-list and a few spots to take notes — so no excuses. You can do this now and save yourself time later!

After you’re finished, you may even want to take it a step further by joining the conversation in Tch Video Lounge. Our interactive video, Take 5: End of Year Reflections, asks you and other educators to take stock of your experiences this year. Share your thoughts and see what others are saying about their triumphs and struggles. You might just learn something new.

Speaking of learning… be on the lookout next week for our blog series, I Want to Get Better At… We’ll be sharing resources for learning about four key topics this summer: Differentiation, Collaboration, ELLs, and Assessment.

If you try our End of Year Reflection, let us know how it goes in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Orange Dot Border

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.