Every year, I ask readers of this blog to share – either in the comments section or on Twitter – the title and author of their favorite education-related book, along with one or two sentences explaining why they chose it.
It’s that time again!
Please share them with me no later than December 15th. Then, I’ll compile them in a post to share. With luck, I’ll publish it before everyone has done their holiday shopping so you can put some of them on your gift list!
The title of this “The Best…” list is pretty self-explanatory. What you’ll find here are blog posts and articles this year (some written by me, some by others) that were, in my opinion, the ones that offered the best practical advice and resources to teachers this year — suggestions that can help teachers become more effective in the classroom today or tomorrow. Some, however, might not appear on the surface to fit that criteria, but those, I think, might offer insights that could (should?) inform our teaching practice everyday.
For many, the headlines provide enough of an idea of the topic and I haven’t included any further description.
Here are my choices for The Best Articles (And Blog Posts) Offering Practical Advice & Resources To Teachers In 2017- Part Two:
I’ve got to start off with by suggesting readers check out the posts at my teacher advice column at Education Week Teacher. Hundreds of top teachers have provided guest responses to just about every imaginable education question, and they’re all categorized and easy to access.
Brainpop videos are good, and I have a teacher’s subscription to them. But you have to pay in order to see them. Simple History is a YouTube channel that provides a decent selection of comparable – and in some cases, better – animations. They don’t offer the extras, like quizzes, offered by Brainpop. And if your school or district pays for Brainpop, the additional student creation options are great. However, if you’re in a school that doesn’t pay for it, and you’re already spending your money on a ton of other school-related resourced (see The Best Data On How Much Money Teachers Pay Out Of Their Own Pocket – What Do You Spend?), then Simple History is worth a look.
Now that Katie Hull are “done” with our third book on teaching English Language Learners (I put “done” in quotation marks since we still have to review the copy editor comments and then the final galley sheets before it’s published in April of next year), it’s time for me to start working on my next one. That one will be my tenth book overall, and the fourth in my series on student motivation. The first three were (each link leads to a ton of free resources):
This fourth installment will be published by Routledge either in the Spring of 2019 or 2020, depending on how ambitious I am next summer 🙂In the meantime, you can access tons of free resources from all nine of my books here.
Whether it’s knowing how students will react to classroom management strategies, the different styles of error correction, or if they’re having a bad day and want to do their work alone in the library, the idea of a platinum rule is good point to keep in mind.
Earlier this year I posted Here Are Two Activities I’ll Be Doing With My ELL Students The Day We Come Back From Break, which I included a lesson I did with students sharing research on how having cellphones out hurt cognitive performance. It ended up being quite effective, probably more so than anything else I’ve done around cellphones. With periodic reminders of the research when students had their phones our when we weren’t using them for class, it seemed to reduce inappropriate phone use and reduced classroom tension (it’s nicer for me to say “Remember what we learned about leaving phones on the desk” instead of “Please put your phone away.”) Now, another study has found similar results. You can read about it at The mere presence of your smartphone reduces brain power, study shows.
I’ve previously posted about E-Learning For Kids. They’ve added many additions online activities for math, English, Science and other subjects since that time.
EduTeach has lots of excellent video stories with closed captions.
These next two have a zillion animated stories perfect for ELLs. And they’ve been awhile for a while. However, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to share or have my students use them because I know that similar sites have hosted the same stories after having stolen them. Most of those sites that I know about have shut down, and these two have stayed around for many years. I don’t know if that’s because they host the stories lawfully, or because they may be hosted in China, which sometimes does not enforce intellectual property rights very forcefully.So. I’m adding them now, though will remove them if I learn they are stealing the stories from elsewhere. Let me know if you have any information: News 060s and E-Yep English Stories
ESSA & English Language Learners is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns. In it, Margo Gottlieb, Sarah Said, Catherine Beck, Heidi Pace, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Tabitha Dell’Angelo, and Lindsey Moses share their thoughts about how The Every Student Succeeds Act will affect English Language Learners.
I’m not sure how long they’ve had it, but the Al Jazeera news site has a very impressive tool for providing audio support for text – perfect for English Language Learners. It’s called “Read To Me,” and can be found at the top left of many, if not all, of its news stories. What makes it even more impressive is that each word is highlighted when its spoken, which makes it even more valuable. Yes, I know there are some concerns about Al Jazeera’s objectivity. However, I’ve never seen any issues with the articles I’ve used and shared. Teaching students how to be a savvy news consumer, of course, is another skill we have to teach (see The Best Tools & Lessons For Teaching Information Literacy – Help Me Find More). I’m adding it to The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners.
The question of how to best support Long-Term English Language Learners is one that many schools are considering, including ours….I’ve previously collected a number of related resources at The Best Resources On Supporting Long-Term English Language Learners,and we’re exploring those resources. We’re discussing lots of options, including creating a special classes that LTELL’s could take along with their regular mainstream English class, which appears to be a common recommendation. What does your school do to support Long-Term ELLs? Do you have special support classes? If so, what is your curriculum?
Earlier this year I sang the praises of the iSL Collective (iSLCollective Appears To Be A Jackpot For ELL Student Hand-Outs & Interactive Videos). I’ve continued to use the site as a wonderful resource for student hand-outs. However, for some reason, I didn’t really “bother” with their interactive videos. Then, I read about them again at Michelle Henry’s site, and explored them further. Boy, what a goldmine! Yes, you can create your own, and I’ll get around to doing that. But, for now, there are an amazing number of engaging, short videos that teachers can project and, as I do, have student with mini-whiteboards respond to questions when the video stops. The videos are searchable by lots of criteria, and there are already four hundred alone at the Beginner Level! Registration is free, but you don’t even have to sign-in to be able to use the videos (you do in order to create ones). Between their hand-outs and their videos, I’ve decided to move the site to an elite level – in my eyes. So I’m adding them to The Best Three Sites On The Web For ESL/EFL/ELL/ELT Teachers (which now makes four).
Less complex versions of our nonfiction and literary Articles [that are]Lovingly handwritten by our authors, who preserve all of the important knowledge of the original article, as well as the key academic vocabulary, rich syntax, word count, and beauty of writing.
Thanks to Nik Peachey, I learned about an excellent free site called Apps 4 EFL. The site has a huge variety of ready-to-use interactives and games for English Language Learners. In addition, teachers can use the site’s tools to create their own. Even better, teachers can create free virtual classrooms where students can enroll. You can read more about it in Nik’s post. I’m adding this info to:
Internet Polyglot is a simple site that is very good for Beginning English Language Learners. It teaches vocabulary in many different languages. It’s particularly helpful for the many Farsi-speaking refugees coming into my classes – Duolingo doesn’t have a Farsi course, and the Voice of American shut-down the excellent Farsi/English online site they used to have… I’m adding it to The Best Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced English Language Learner Sites.
Gianfranco Conti, one of the sharpest minds around in the language teaching world (I’ve previously shared many of his posts) has just begun a Facebook group called Global Innovative Language Teachers that includes teachers of all languages, including ELL/ESL/ELT educators. He was kind enough to write this description:
Global Innovative Language Teachers is a support group whose mission is to bring together language teachers from all over the world in the hope to go beyond insular views of language teaching pedagogy created by national curricula, imposed methods and theories and individual school policies and micro-cultures.
Ana Cristina wrote a post about an intriguing site called Word Booster. Paste in the url address of any online article and it will immediately provide you with several free PDFs of the article that has been displayed in a reader-friendly way, a word list, and a vocabulary test. I’m generally skeptical of sites that automatically create learner materials. I’ve got to say, though, that my experiments with Word Booster have resulted in some decent sheets. I still wouldn’t generally use them in my lessons. However, I think I will try it out next year by having students pick any article of their choice online and create their own sheets to complete. It might be interesting to see how it goes. I’m adding this info to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.
Thanks to Carol Salva, I learned about a NY Times column headlined What Is America to Me? In it, writer Margaret Renkl tells about her experience working in an ELL classroom in Nashville, and the challenges facing students – especially after the election of President Trump.
Wordsmyth seems like an exceptional online dictionary that lets you create several different types of vocabulary quizzes. Teachers can get accounts for free. The site has many other features, as well. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Create Online Tests. However, Bob Parks (its creator) tells me that they “are developing new functionality for teachers, including a full vocabulary study system.” When that happens, I might also add it to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.
I’m a big fan of StoryCorps and have written about them many times. They’ve recently begun producing a “weekly broadcast” described as “Stories from Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs.” These are short and simple videos with images and the transcript appearing as the words are spoken. You can see all of them at this YouTube playlist.
I’m trying to arrange an interview with both the author, Helen Thorpe, and the teacher of the class she observed, Eddie Williams.
Here’s how the publisher describes the book, and it’s followed by several links to book excerpts. If you’re an ELL teacher – trust me, you’ll want to read those excerpts:
The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado, in a beginner level English Language Acquisition class. Speaking no English, unfamiliar with American culture, the students face the enormous challenge of adapting. The newcomers are between fourteen and nineteen years old, and they come from nations convulsed by drought, famine, or war. Many arrive directly from refugee camps. Some enter the U.S. alone, having left or lost every other member of their original family.
At the center of The Newcomers is Mr. Williams, the dedicated and endlessly resourceful teacher of South’s beginner English Language Acquisition class. If he does his job right, the newcomers will leave his class at the end of the year with basic English skills and new confidence, their foundation for becoming Americans and finding a place in their new home. As the students blossom in his care, the book becomes funny, poignant, and uplifting. The story shows us the refugee crisis as a whole, but it is more importantly a galvanizing example of how to respond in a moral fashion to a troubled world by doing good at human scale, one family at a time.
With the US at a political crossroads around questions of immigration, multiculturalism, and America’s role on the global stage, The Newcomers presents a transformative take on these timely, important issues. Readers are changed and see the world through different eyes after experiencing this book.
(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Roxanna Elden)
Roxanna Elden is the author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She is also the author of the Disillusionment Power Pack, a free, thirty-day email series that helps new teachers through their toughest days.
The following piece is an adapted excerpt from The Disillusionment Power Pack, a free, thirty-day email series that helps new teachers through their toughest days. Often, these days fall in the period between mid-October and Thanksgiving break, a time frame so hard on new teachers that the New Teacher Center calls it “The Disillusionment Phase.”
One of the many lessons I learned the hard way as a new teacher was this.
Sometimes moments that are objectively bad – like a fight in your classroom – are not the ones that make you feel the worst. In fact, if you feel you’ve handled a crisis correctly, it can even boost your confidence.
Other times, an event that would seem like no big deal to anyone else drags your faith through the mud in such an unexplainably horrible way that all you can do is stand there, blinking.
A lot depends on context.
Here is an example of a moment from my first year of teaching that was not dramatic but was still quite horrible.
The big, important state test was coming up. The students in my fourth-grade, English Language Learner class were nowhere near ready. We were doing test prep. So… much… test prep…
I knew that doing non-stop practice tests wasn’t good teaching. But I also wasn’t sure what else to do. The whole school was doing test prep, and if my kids didn’t pass the test they wouldn’t pass fourth grade. So I did it, too. But even with the soul-crushing repetition of test-taking strategies, and even after using every bribe and threat I could think of, it seemed like I just couldn’t get my students to pass the practice tests. Couldn’t get them to start essay paragraphs with anything besides firstly, secondly, and thirdly. Couldn’t tighten any of our screws any tighter.
At some point in the middle of one of these days, we took a bathroom break. This meant lining the class up and heading into the hallway, where we’d collectively wait for each kid to go into the bathroom, come out, use the hand sanitizer from the supply baskets, line up in the other direction, and then go back to class. I couldn’t stop pacing back and forth. Maybe because I was so nervous about the test. Maybe because I was on my second or third Red Bull of the day.
When got back into the classroom, there was suddenly a huge commotion. It turned out to be about whether one the boys had – get this – used the hand sanitizer from the girls’ bathroom supply basket.
I couldn’t believe the kids were getting hung up on this little detail. The test was so close. The test! So I said, in a voice that communicated my sense of urgency (also referred to as yelling): “IS THIS REAAAALLLLYYY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?!”
Every single one of the kids turned toward me and yelled back, with an equal sense of urgency: “YESSSSSS!!!!”
A quick side note here: I have told this story to other people they usually think it’s funny. At this point, I think it’s kind of funny, too. But at the time, this moment felt like proof that I had used up every single idea I could think of to motivate my students and they still didn’t care. What had ever made me think I would be good at this? It wasn’t the first time I had wondered.
Then, I looked over at the hand sanitizer bottles in bathroom supply baskets. The bottle in the boys’ basket was empty.
Which made me realize I hadn’t bought any new hand sanitizer for a very long time.
Which made me realize that both bottles should have been empty.
Which made me realize the only reason the girls’ hand sanitizer was full was because the girl in charge of carrying supplies had been refilling it with water from the bathroom sink.
In other words, on top of all my other failures as a teacher, every kid in my classroom had toilet germs all over their hands. They had been “sanitizing” with bathroom sink water for weeks.
The worst moments as a teacher aren’t always the most dramatic.