November 24, 2015

Together We Are Better

Hello everyone!

TESOL has an interesting article on co-teaching that I wanted to share.

The article Together We Are Better 


  • a definition of co-teaching
  • what makes collaboration/co-teaching successful
  • models of co-teaching/collaboration
  • barriers and pitfalls
 Click on over to Together We Are Better  to view the full article.

Happy reading,

Happy Teaching!

November 11, 2015

Get Back to me Video!

This short video is great to share with your classroom teachers on wait time!
So cute!

Get back to me with your thoughts!  :)

Happy Teaching!

November 5, 2015

“If only I had more time in a school day...”

Hello folks,
This is an article I wrote for Really Good Stuff Blog a few years ago.  Still holds true so I am reposting it here!
Happy Teaching!

 “If only I had more time in a school day...” 

Have you ever caught yourself uttering this phrase?  You can easily add those instructional minutes to your day by explicitly planning for your transition times.  Carefully considered transition times offer the key to maintaining an optimal learning environment, minimizes disruptions and behavior problems while maximizing instructional time.  By providing the structure of predictable routines, procedures and behavioral expectations, teachers offer their students, including second language learners and those who struggle with poor attention and impulsivity, an avenue to success during transition times.

Plan for the transition periods in advance.  Take a few minutes and think about the transition times that occur in your classroom. 

Common transition times include:
·      entering the classroom first thing in the morning
·      changing from one subject to another
·      leaving or coming into the room after assemblies
·      recesses or lunch, clean up time at the end of the day

The first step in planning for transition times is selecting a signal that you will use for each transition time.  Be consistent and use the same signal for all transitions.  Make sure it is a visual and auditory signal.  Provide enough “wait time” for students to respond.

Choose a method to instill a “sense of urgency” to the transition.  Students respond well to the feeling that their work and time is important.  By giving the situation “a sense of urgency” students respond quickly.  Set a timer, count, or sing a song to give students that “sense of urgency.  Often simply saying, “Class we have 40 seconds to enter the room quietly and slowly, return to our desks/tables safely and begin reading.  Ready go.” is sufficient to instill that sense of urgency.

Always follow the same procedure.  During transition times where students leave the room, teach them to put their materials away, stand up, push in their chairs, move slowly and safely to the door.  During transition times to the next activity include an activity that will help children adjust to the change.  Consider adding a quick opportunity to stretch, a song that focuses on the new activity or subject, skip counting or reciting a poem.  This gives students a break to readjust and provides slower students a bit more time to complete the transition.  Be deliberate in ending this very short brain break. Go right to work, don’t waste time here.  This creates a “sense of urgency” and shows your students that you value their time and work.

Be consistent.  Smooth transitions occur when students know what to do and how to do it.  Adhere to your schedule.  Have work ready for students.  As students enter each morning have a plan for exactly what they will do as they enter.  Look at your morning and plan for success.  Teach students to enter the room and
·      Hang up backpacks, jackets and coats
·      Turn in homework
·      Sign up for hot or cold lunch
·      Find their seats
·      Begin reading, handwriting or whichever morning activity you choose

Consider playing music or setting a timer the students can hear for the first minute students are entering the room.  Be very consistent and choose the same amount of time the music ends or the timer goes off in order to create that “sense of urgency”.  Transition times will be efficient and productive parts or your educational day when you value your students’ time and work.

Finally, good teaching of any routine and procedure is the key to success.  Remember to explain the expected behavior, explicitly model the routine and procedure, practice, practice, practice and finally provide feedback.  Congratulations, you are on your way to smooth, efficient, and safe transition times.

We created a helpful worksheet you can download for free.  Click here to download,  My Plan for Smooth & Efficient Transitions!

What strategies and activities do you use during transition times?  Please share your ideas with us!

Happy Teaching!
Lori Wolfe
Fun To Teach

October 21, 2015

Wednesday quote!

Happy Hump Day!
Just for fun here is a quote for this terrific Wednesday!

Happy Teaching! 

October 18, 2015

October tips to help your English Language Learners soar!

Hello Teachers,
I wrote this post for the Really Good Stuff Blog a couple of years ago.  I was reading through it and thought it still rang true!  So I am posting it here.  Let me know what strategies you use!
Happy Teaching....Lori 

We are knee deep back at school and looking good!
October is the perfect month for teachers with second language learners to take a moment and think about their classroom set up and its connection to student achievement.   Take a moment to insure that English Language Learners (ELLs) are oriented in the classroom to maximize lesson comprehension and learning.  Preferential sitting will facilitate the understanding of the lesson.

Here is a quick checklist you can use in your classroom:

1.All of your English Language Learners are facing you when sitting at their desks.  To access the content you are teaching they need to see your body language, facial expressions and gestures, etc. so make sure they are not sitting with their backs to the teacher at anytime.
2.Each ELL should be sitting next to a strong native English speaker.  This provides an age appropriate English model.
3. Assign a buddy peer to make sure your ELLs understand each direction and assignment you give.  Teach the buddy peer how to check in with their ELL buddy to make sure they understand your lessons.  

Enhance the language growth of your English Language Learners in the classroom by monitoring their English pronunciation and grammar.  Of course we don't want to correct every error, so select one or two language errors you notice (E.g. incorrect pronoun usage or irregular past tense verbs) and monitor and correct those issues when you notice them.   
Throughout the year it is important to accurately assess an ELLs reading comprehension.  Some intermediate language level ELLs can decode and orally read a passage without understanding a word.  Continually checking on reading comprehension and teaching comprehension strategies is imperative for ELL reading growth.  
Finally, if you have a volunteer in the room, don't forget the ELLs.  Use your volunteers to insure your second language learners comprehend your instructions and lessons.   These good Samaritans, can reteach your basic classroom procedures and routines to your ELLs assuring that they understand the daily procedure and set up of your room.  Help differentiate your instruction for second language learners by providing materials the volunteer can use one on one with lower language students.   A great use of your volunteers is to team them up with shy or reluctant speakers.  This configuration gives those students a smaller, safer setting to interact with a native speaker and connect to the class work.
What strategies do you use to insure growth for your second language learners?  Please share your ideas with us!

Happy Teaching!
Lori Wolfe
Fun To Teach

October 14, 2015

Circle Maps Video

Hello everyone,

I like this video explaining how one teacher uses Circle Maps in her classroom.  I shared this with classroom teachers as a great strategy to use with second language learners!

Happy Teaching!

October 7, 2015

Wednesday quote!

Hello folks,
 This is a fun quote!  Just another way to help students realize that work equals success!

I hope your week is going smoothly!

Happy Teaching! 

September 28, 2015

Idiom Bulletin Board!

Hello everyone!
Elementary teachers, are you looking for an easy way to make and creative an interactive idiom bulletin board that builds vocabulary and appeals to all students?    Here it is!  This is a great activity for your classroom including your ESL, ELD, and at-risk students.
Idiom Bulletin Board-Step by step
This easy, fun and creative bulletin board makes you look like a pro as you develop student vocabulary and language skills.  This bulletin board works great in a classroom or hallway for the whole school to be involved with.  Follow these quick steps and you will be on your way!
4-5 idioms and simple definitions
Computer/word processor
Images to represent the idioms and the definitions
Construction paper
Scissors/paper cutter
Step 1:
Decorate the Bulletin Board with colored Butcher paper of your choice.  Use a contrasting border that complements the color you chose.
Step 2:
Choose a theme for the idioms you will use.   Some popular themes include:
Bees, horses, weather, dogs, tired.

Step 3:
Choose 4 idioms.  Take care in choosing the idioms.  Idioms for intermediate language level students should be idioms that give a hint to the meaning.  An example of this is “it’s raining cats and dogs”.  The word “raining” is a clue to the meaning. 
Early advanced language learners can work with idioms such as, “you’re pulling my leg” which doesn’t give the learner any clues to the meaning.

Step 4:
Collect 1 picture per idiom that displays what the words say and another picture that shows what the idiom means.  Use your own classroom images for this or do a quick Google search for “idiom images”. 

Step 5:
Type up and print the idioms.   Glue the typed idioms and the images onto colored construction paper.  Cut to size.

Step 6:
Place the 4 idiom images that display what the words say at regular intervals across the top of the bulletin board.
Place the text under each picture.
At the bottom of the bulletin board place the image of what the idioms mean in random order.
Step 7:
Staple a piece of yarn under the text of each idiom long enough to reach to the image that shows the true meaning of the idiom.  Tie a loop in the end of the piece of yarn.

Step 8:
Stick a pushpin into the bulletin board above the random images that shows the true meaning.

You now have an interactive bulletin board where students can match up the idiom to the image of its meaning by attaching the looped yarn to the push pin above the image of the true idiom meaning!  Watch your students have fun and learn about idioms!

September 23, 2015

Wednesday Quote!

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday!

There is just no disputing this fabulous quote.  Another one I am going to make for my classroom!

Happy Teaching! 

September 19, 2015

The Language Strand of the Common Core Standards and English Language Learners

Hi everyone,
I wrote this article as a blog post last year for the REALLY GOOD STUFF BLOG.  It is still relevant and I thought I would post it again!  Let me know what you think!

Have you checked out the Language Domain of the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards?  This great domain elevates the importance of English grammar, conventions, vocabulary in the classroom.  It is essential for classroom and ESL teachers to understand this important strand.
As you know, the strands or domains of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts include:
·      Reading Foundational Skills
·      Reading
o   Literature
o   Informational Text
·      Writing
·      Language
·      Speaking and Listening

Let’s take a closer look at this important language domain.  The broad Language standards for K-5 are comprised of 3 subcategories: 
1.    Conventions of Standard English

2.    Knowledge of Language

3.    Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

Furthermore, each grade level has specific standards under these three categories, which are hierarchical in nature. These standards define what a student should know or be able to do at the end of each grade level.   The following table shows the essential skills within each of the 3 categories of the Language Standards, Kinder through 5th grade.  This table lists the progression of language skills by grade level.
Click here for a downloadable copy of the chart.

Here is a glimpse of the Language skills that I found of particular interest in each sub category.  Many of these require continued attention over grade levels.

Conventions of Standard English
·      Plurals: Regular and Irregular
·      Nouns:  Possessive Nouns, Collective Nouns, Abstract Nouns
·      Pronouns: Possessive, Indefinite, Reflexive Pronouns
·      Verbs; Past, Present, Future Verbs.  Irregular past tense verbs. Perfect tense verbs
·      Complete Sentences

Knowledge of Language
·      Formal and informal uses of English
·      Choosing words and phrases for effect and to convey ideas

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

·      Root words, prefixes and suffixes
·      Connect words to categories
·      Antonyms, synonyms and homographs
·      Shades of meanings of related words
·      Figurative Language: similes, metaphors, idioms

It is great to see language as one of the domains of the ELA Common Core Standards.  We all know that language is interwoven with speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Language now has an elevated importance in the classroom with this Standard of the ELA Common Core. 
Happy Teaching!
Lori Wolfe
Fun To Teach