January 2015

We are pleased to offer some great ideas that you can try this year in our first newsletter for 2015. We also have tips for welcoming new students who may have arrived in your school, particularly newcomers and refugees, along with lots of great book recommendations.

Type of Newsletter: TELLEGRAM
Date: January, 2015

Dear Subscribers:

We are pleased to offer some great ideas that you can try this year in our first newsletter for 2015. We also have tips for welcoming new students who may have arrived in your school, particularly newcomers and refugees, along with lots of great book recommendations.

All the best for 2015!

The Colorín Colorado Team

This Month's Highlights

Five Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Learning for ELLs in the New Year

We all know that resolutions are hard to keep and can often be unrealistic. The expert advice Kristina Robertson has received on resolutions (mostly advice from women's magazines) states that you are more likely to be successful if your goal is specific and measurable. Teachers are always looking for ways to improve in the classroom; to assist with any of your New Year's resolutions that relate to instruction, she recommends five specific and measurable actions you can implement to assist English language learners in the classroom — but suggests that you pick just one to try instead of all five!

Edutopia: Ideas for 2015

Edutopia offers ideas you can try this year with the following articles:

Interview Tips for ESL/Bilingual Teachers

If you are looking for a new ESL or bilingual teaching position, there are a number of things you can do to help prepare for the interview. This article by Susan Lafond on ESL/bilingual job interview tips outlines general information that will get you started, as well as areas of your own experience that may be helpful to highlight in the interview.

Don't Miss...

Federal Guidance Released on School Obligations to ELL Students and Families

This month, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released guidance reminding states, school districts, and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. The guidance explains schools' obligations to:

  • Identify ELLs in a timely, valid, and reliable manner
  • Offer sound instruction, qualified staff, sufficient resources, and access to school programs and activities
  • Provide ELL families with information about programs, services, and activities in a language they understand.

In addition to the guidance, the Departments also released multilingual versions of two of their fact sheets, along with tools and resources to help schools in serving English learner students and families.

These resources are available on Colorín Colorado and on the Office of Civil Rights website.

New on Colorín Colorado

Updated! The First Snowfall: Books, Lesson Plans, and Video

For many English language learners, the first snowfall they experience in the United States may be the first of their lives. It can be a magical experience, and it can also be a little overwhelming — and cold! These books and lesson plans from Larry Ferlazzo, TeacherVision, PBS, National Geographic, and others are great for turning a snowy day into a memorable teaching moment.

Video Bonus: Don't miss ELL teacher Amber Prentice describe her students' reactions to their first snowfall in this video clip!

Bilingual Magazines for All Ages

These recommended bilingual (English-Spanish) magazines and Spanish-language magazines offer activities, articles, games, and projects for kids of all ages — whether at home or at school! They can be used for literacy and language instruction of students who are learning either Spanish or English, as well as students in bilingual classrooms.

Common Core Corner

Creating Text Dependent Questions for ELLs

In their first post for 2015, Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder walk through the process of developing text dependent questions (TDQs) for ELLs in the middle grades, following the success of their earlier TDQ posts. They have selected a 6th-8th grade exemplar text in the category of Informational Texts: Science, Mathematics and Technology titled "The Evolution of the Grocery Bag" by Henry Petroski. Using TDQ guidelines from Student Achievement Partners' website Achieve the Core, they describe considerations in creating TDQs for ELLs, provide some scaffolds and supports for ELLs at different levels of English language proficiency, and share some suggested TDQs for this text, as well as a culminating activity for students.

Recommended Resources

KERA Series: In a Land Of Strangers, Paving His Own Path

In Texas, one in three children has a parent who is an immigrant — or they're immigrants themselves. They have to learn a new language, adapt to a different culture, and try to fit into a community that may not embrace newcomers. The public media American Graduate initiative, along with public broadcasting station KERA, is getting to know these young people through an online series featuring the diverse stories of students and families from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, China, and Pakistan. The series also includes engaging slideshows and videos.

The New York Times: From a Rwandan Dump to the Halls of Harvard

Nine years old and orphaned by ethnic genocide, he was living in a burned-out car in a Rwandan garbage dump where he scavenged for food and clothes. Daytimes, he was a street beggar. He had not bathed in more than a year. When an American charity worker, Clare Effiong, visited the dump one Sunday, other children scattered. Filthy and hungry, Justus Uwayesu stayed put, and she asked him why. "I want to go to school," he replied.

Well, he got his wish. This autumn, Mr. Uwayesu enrolled as a freshman at Harvard University on a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights, and aiming for an advanced science degree. Now about 22 — his birthday is unknown — he could be, in jeans, a sweater and sneakers, just another of the 1,667 first-year students here. But of course, he is not. He is an example of the potential buried even in humanity's most hopeless haunts, and a sobering reminder of how seldom it is mined.

Discovering and Developing Talents in Spanish-Speaking Students

With the growing population of Hispanic students, it's more important than ever to persevere beyond the language barrier and nurture their gifts and talents. This book provides teachers and leaders with the skills needed to uncover each child's abilities and ultimately boost achievement for gifted Spanish-speaking students. Packed with strategies, suggestions, and materials teachers can use immediately to enhance instruction and assessment, this book shows how to:

  • Recognize students' unique strengths
  • Identify and develop the gifts of bilingualism and different cultures
  • Create challenging learning experiences for every student in the class tools and strategies to meet each learner's unique needs
  • Connect with parents and the greater Spanish-speaking community

Included are testimonials from teachers and students; examples of communications with and from parents; selected poems from gifted students; and inspirational stories from adults who overcame language challenges to earn college degrees and achieve successful careers.

Research and Reports

Hidden in Our Midst: Homeless Newcomer Youth in Toronto — Uncovering the Supports to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness

Youth homelessness is an escalating concern in Canada, with young people under 24 years of age representing the fastest growing segment of Canada's homeless population. However, there is a lack of research studying the connection between youth homelessness and immigration. While factors such as age, gender, race, and sexual orientation can affect a young person's pathway into homelessness, young immigrants also are impacted by language and cultural barriers, lack of status, personal ties, and history in Canada. This study was developed in partnership between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, representing an initial attempt to assess the needs of the newcomer youth population within the context of homelessness prevention and reduction in Canada.

In the Classroom

Welcoming Newcomers and Refugees

This month, you may have some new faces in your classroom! Here are ideas for creating a welcoming environment for newcomers, as well as for addressing the wide variety of needs of refugee students and SIFEs. In both articles, be sure to take a look at the great video tips from our ELL experts, also available on YouTube.

You may also find some helpful resources in these recommended booklists:

Books & Authors

The Red Pencil

By Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala — Amira's one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey — on foot — to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.

See this publisher's classroom guide for discussion questions and cross-curricular activities.

School Library Journal: Best Latino Books of 2014

This year's top selections for children and teens about and by Latinos are as diverse and multidimensional as the cultures they represent. From Pura Belpré Award-winners to debut authors hailing from Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, these stellar offerings speak not just to kids of Hispanic descent, but to all readers. As it proved difficult to choose a top pick, this committee has elected to put these works on equal footing, be they bilingual, Spanish-language, or in English.

Booklist: Snow, Snow, Snow!

These cozy, snowy stories are perfect for bedtime or for curling up on the couch! From beautiful wordless books about snowmen and polar bears to colorful stories about the magical experience of a character's first snowfall, these bilingual and multicultural stories will provide enjoyment for readers young and old alike.

Parent Resources and Outreach

Start the New Year Off Right: Resolve to Raise a Reader!

Many New Year's resolutions focus on developing healthy habits. Here's an important one for parents of young children: providing a regular diet of books and reading for their preschooler. Share this menu of reading activities with parents in the New Year! These tips are also available in Spanish.