Mantras and Metaphors for Collaboration

A guest post by Tan Huynh

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I often hear EL teachers painfully retell their experiences with co-teachers using phrases like these:

  • “My teacher doesn’t want to collaborate.”
  • “They don’t give me time to teach the class.”
  • “My teaching partner says there’s no time to plan.”

When I hear complaints like these, I gently and subtly reframe the discussion by suggesting, “When teachers are not yet comfortable with collaboration, you can…” and then continue the conversation. Working with teachers can sometimes be sensitive and require advanced emotional intelligence, so I would like to offer a few metaphors and mantras for effective collaborative relationship building. Continue reading “Mantras and Metaphors for Collaboration”

Using Sheltered Instruction to Drive AP/Advanced Classes

by Dr. Stephen Fleenor


As a former AP teacher and AP testing coordinator, my experience has been that the role of sheltered practices in advanced classes is often underemphasized.  This seems strange considering that sheltered instruction is designed to enhance language development in content-area classes, and the reading and writing demands (and for foreign languages, speaking and listening as well) of AP classes are greater than most students have ever experienced.  For example, the free-response section of most AP exams is weighted at approximately 50 percent of the test, and the fast-paced timing of the multiple-choice sections means that students’ reading fluency and comprehension has to be tack-sharp for them to be successful on the exam. The notion that advanced learners do not need support in mastering advanced curriculum is simply untrue. Continue reading “Using Sheltered Instruction to Drive AP/Advanced Classes”

The Unspoken Communication of Body Language

by Valentina Gonzalez

“What seems logical, sensible, important, and reasonable to a person in one culture may seem irrational, silly, unimportant, and just plain ridiculous to an outsider.”

– Dr. Michelle Yzquierdo

Verbal communication holds value, but what we communicate with our body language also reveals the feelings and emotions behind our words. The tricky part is that the meaning of body language differs around the world. When we work with students and families from around the globe, being conscience of what we “say” nonverbally becomes particularly important. Continue reading “The Unspoken Communication of Body Language”

What Do We Do if We Suspect That Our English Learners May Not Pass Standardized Assessments?

by Carol Salva

“It’s easy to say ‘Don’t give up.’ But you don’t know how the person feels when the failure happens to them.”

Emily Francis

Some of your English learners will not pass their standardized assessments this year. How are you supporting them for this reality? Here are my top tips for helping these students keep moving toward their goals. Continue reading “What Do We Do if We Suspect That Our English Learners May Not Pass Standardized Assessments?”

Target the Talk

by Nancy Motley

Target the Talk

At the end of my first year of teaching, my principal asked what my plans were for the summer. After outlining my still-fuzzy summer agenda, she volun-told me to include getting ESL certified in those plans. She explained that it would be great for my career, that I’d earn a $500 stipend ($84.32 after taxes, right?), and most importantly, that she really needed me to help our English learners next year. Always up for a challenge, I agreed. Despite having had very little professional development regarding English learners, I was a good test taker and earned my certification. Upon returning to school for my second year, I had a class roster that included a majority English learners.   Continue reading “Target the Talk”

Create Public Success for Students

by Nancy Motley


Doesn’t everyone want to be successful? I know I do! I spend the majority of my time trying to be better…a better parent, a better friend, a better employee, and certainly a better teacher. In fact I can honestly say, I have never met anyone who likes to fail. I have, however, encountered many students who, because of their previous school experiences, begin to expect failure. I see it in a defeated look, in a tear falling down a cheek, and in the “eye roll” of my most apathetic student. These students do not like being called on in class, because they don’t know the answer or maybe because they lack confidence. Either way, they expect that they will be wrong. Compounding their uneasiness is the knowledge that all of their peers will be watching them as they fail. Continue reading “Create Public Success for Students”

Leading the Way! What’s Working for ELs in Texas: Call for Proposals

by Valentina Gonzalez

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All of you advocates and educational leaders are doing amazing work on campuses and in districts to support English learners. And because of that, great things are happening in classrooms across the state and the nation. You are planning instruction that is based on student needs. You are delivering quality lessons that invite and empower students. You are coordinating professional development opportunities and instructional coaching cycles that truly affect instructional practices. You are engaging parents and including them in their children’s education. And this is just the beginning. Continue reading “Leading the Way! What’s Working for ELs in Texas: Call for Proposals”

8 Ways to Scaffold Writing for English Learners

by Valentina Gonzalez

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Scaffolds are temporary supports meant to be released when no longer needed. Think of buildings that are under construction. When the building is in the early phases, more scaffolding is necessary to sustain the structure. As the building progresses, less scaffolding is needed. Finally, before the construction is complete, the scaffolding is removed. Continue reading “8 Ways to Scaffold Writing for English Learners”

Mastering Vocabulary with Visuals

by Stephen Fleenor

It’s as simple as this: mastering academic vocabulary is essential for mastering content. Granted, this probably marks the one million and twenty-third time that statement has been said, but it merits repeating for three key reasons: first, academic vocabulary is the language by which content concepts are expressed; second, mastering today’s academic vocabulary is fundamental for mastering tomorrow’s content; and last but definitely not least, the ability of a student to master academic vocabulary is directly tied to his or her confidence in the subject. Continue reading “Mastering Vocabulary with Visuals”