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We go back to school next Monday after a two week Winter Break.

Last week, I published PROFESSIONAL GOALS & PLANS FOR 2023: SURVIVE & MAINTAIN, which shares some…plans for this year.

However, I thought I, and readers, might find it useful for me to briefly share a few instructional strategies and online tools that have been working fairly well for my class so far, along with a few new ideas I play to try when we return:


I’ve written a lot about how I’ve been using peer tutors – lots of them – in my ELL U.S. History and Newcomers classes.  That’s continued to go well.  However, the vast majority of them are seniors and, as all secondary teachers know, it’s not always easy for seniors to maintain a strong focus in their last few months of high school.  I plan to counteract this tendency by doing a little more whole-class teaching and giving the tutors a little more time to “kick-back.”  They’re all great kids, and I’m sure it will work out.

My grammar-teaching strategy with Newcomers has continued to go well (see THE THREE-LEGGED STRATEGY I’M USING TO TEACHING GRAMMAR IN MY ELL NEWCOMERS CLASS – HELP ME IMPROVE IT!).

Doing weekly tests with my Newcomer students has always been an effective formative assessment strategy.  The added wrinkle this year was having one of my peer tutors put the scores into a spreadsheet and turn the results into a bar graph chart for each student.  You can see an example, along with learning about some other things I’ve tried, at HERE’S A SLIDE DECK I USED TO TALK ABOUT ELLS & ACCELERATED LEARNING.

Using lots of hard copy paper and pencil activities in my ELL classes has also worked well.  Last year, coming off distance learning, I tried to keep lots of things online and students tended to be less than enthusiastic.  Keeping most work online has continued to work very well, though, in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes for juniors and seniors.  So, right now, paper and pencil seems better for my younger students.  It will be interesting to see if that continues to hold true in future years.

Ending most classes with a quick online game reviewing the content we have covered that day continues to be a winner.  Lots of research has documented the importance of ensuring strong finishes, and how that puts students in positive frames of mind for the future.



Quizizz continues to be an incredibly effective tool for games and formative assessment.  As I’ve previously mentioned, students enjoy playing it, and I’m able to get a daily good sense about what is being learned by which students (and, of course, use it to inform my teaching practice for the following day).  Peer tutors create some of the games for students in my ELL classes.  In my IB Theory of Knowledge classes, one of the requirements is that presenters create games about their content that the class plays while I “de-brief” and evaluate with the presenters outside.

Blooket and Kahoot are also games we play, though not nearly as often as Quizizz.  They’re good for a change of pace, but I just don’t find that they provide as easily accessible formative assessment data.

EdPuzzle is an incredibly rich source of short videos with pauses for questions.  It’s a great supplement in both my ELL U.S. History class and in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

However, when I can’t find a pre-existing video on EdPuzzle that fits my instructional need, if I have to upload one, I always do it on FluentKey.  It’s like EdPuzzle, but it’s gamified like Kahoot and Quizizz.

Working on Brainpop is a very effective warm-up activity in my ELL U.S. History class.  It both provides needed prior knowledge and reinforces what we are learning in class.

For my ELL Newcomers class, the key online practice tools my students use are Quill, LingoHut, Learning Chocolate, Epic! ReadingRaz-Kids, and various Pashto language videos designed to learn English.  Students work on them for a few minutes as a warm-up activity, and at home for additional practice.



The new ideas I have primarily center on my ELL Newcomer class.

I’m working now on a multilingual personal report form focusing on the assets and areas of improvement for each student.  The student and I will complete it together, and it would include next steps.   Sometime over the next couple of weeks I’ll share both what I develop and how it went.

In terms of those “next steps,” I’m hoping they will include some activities students can do at home, including practicing speaking in a few different ways.  One would be using Adobe Express to find images and record themselves talking about them. Another would be to use the recording feature on Raz-Kids to record themselves reading books.

We’ll see how it goes.  Wish me luck!