Language Exchange Club: Providing Emergent Bilingual Students with Opportunities to Participate in Extracurricular Activities

by Elise White Diaz

Research shows that when students involve themselves in extracurricular activities, their academic performance soars (Hollan, 1987). Fowler Middle School in Plano, Texas, exemplifies this. The school is known locally for its high STAAR scores and high-performing population. So much so that families move into its zoned neighborhoods just so their children can attend this remarkable school. Yet despite its success, when the school’s Special Populations committee convened and looked at the data, they discovered that not all subgroups of the student population were well represented in extracurricular activities—emergent bilinguals in particular—and that most of the clubs offered catered to already high-performing students. With these findings in mind, Fowler Middle School launched the Language Exchange Club.  

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Minimax Principle and Secondary Long-Term English Learners

by Natalia Heckman

If you are an ESL teacher, you have probably heard about Stephen Krashen. If you are an administrator, you have probably heard about John Hattie. If you have ever attended a campus accountability meeting, you must be familiar with the phenomenon of language stagnation. So what do Krashen, Hattie, and language stagnation have in common? They are connected through the principle of MINIMAX (maximum return on minimum investment).

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Who Are Gifted Multilingual Learners and How Do We Support Them?

by Marcy Voss

I noticed that Diego was the first student in the eighth-grade math class to finish the assignment. He was a quiet and respectful student who did not volunteer to speak in class because he had difficulty pronouncing academic math terms like “slope” and “y-intercept.” However, Diego willingly helped the student paired with him to correct mistakes and complete the math problems. As he was one of “my students” in my job as an English Learner Coach, I was to support Diego during class instruction to help him gain language proficiency and achieve academic success. Diego was in his first full year in US schools, having arrived at the end of the previous school year. I was told he was educated in his home country and had aspirations of becoming an engineer. This alerted me to the fact that he was motivated to learn. 

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The Role of Perspective in the Math Classroom

by Diane Kue

Mathematics has existed in every civilization throughout history. Its worldwide presence is why so many people claim it as a universal language. Further perpetuation of the claim is present in the classroom. A classroom full of students who may or may not all speak the same language can successfully and individually solve the same problem. After all, doesn’t 1 + 1 = 2 everywhere, no matter the language, country, or culture if the symbolic representation shows that one whole, joined with another one whole, makes two wholes?

However, the idea that math is a universal language because the answer to a problem is always the same no matter what language is spoken can be misleading. This notion focuses on the answer; it does not acknowledge that the processes to solve for the answer—or even the perspectives on the processes—can vary. When we focus on the processes to solve, we can discover and unveil various perceptions on or ways to look at problem solving. We find the whys behind the hows of problem solving. 

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I Have a New Multilingual Learner. What Do I Do? A Step-By-Step Guide

by Valentina Gonzalez 

The quality and quantity of preservice instruction in teaching multilingual learners vary, leaving many teachers feeling inadequately prepared. And even those who did receive some training may have never had practical experience applying what they learned. 

Well-intentioned teachers with their hearts in the right place are often left feeling overwhelmed as they think about how to best give newly arrived multilingual learners all they need to succeed. 

This step-by-step guide offers tips for teachers preparing to welcome newly arrived multilingual learners in all grade levels. 

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Not All Visuals are Created Equal (or Equitable)

by Stephen Fleenor

Visual aids have long been recognized as a powerful instructional accommodation for diverse groups of learners. Indeed, whenever I ask educators how to best support language learners, learners with special needs, gifted and talented learners, or learners with limited or interrupted formal education, the most common answer I hear is visuals. Not surprisingly, whenever I ask educators which instructional strategies generally help students learn best, I get the same response.

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The Effects of Noise Pollution on Learning in a Multilingual Classroom

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

by Natalia Heckman and Aloise Miller

From Natalia Heckman

Noisy classrooms do not always equal engagement. The idea for this blog came into focus after my recent conversation with my dear colleague and friend Aloise Miller. Flying over Texas, we chatted about voice levels, music selection, and classroom noise overall. The topic of this blog is noise pollution. Not the sound of students collaborating in groups or with partners. Not the sound of students playing games or enthusiastically debating a hot topic. We all know that kind of noise is good! Instead, we discussed the other kind of noise: the unnecessary kind.

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Using Prompts and Sentence Stems to Expose Mathematical Thinking When Problem-Solving

by Diane Kue

How students solve a problem—whether it is a standalone equation, expression, or a word problem—can be quite perplexing, especially when answers are unexplained. Students’ approaches and strategies vary, and their foundations of knowledge span a wide spectrum. It is probably truer than not that a mathematics teacher has come across the following scenario:

Teacher: How did you solve this problem?

Student: I don’t know. I just did it.

Whether the answer to a problem is correct or not, the pedagogical dilemma in this scenario is gaining access to student thinking so we can address misconceptions and incompleteness as necessary and validate or guide further application. But how do we get our students to use language to convey their mathematical thinking?

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Total Response Signals in the Secondary Classroom

by Sally Barnes

As a secondary teacher, Step 4 from the 7 Steps to a Language-Rich, Interactive Classroom was always the one I was most “lukewarm” in implementing. The idea of my 16-year-old students collectively giving me a thumbs-up or standing back-to-back seemed unrealistic. In my mind, I felt like I would get the same students giving me a thumbs-up that would normally verbally tell me they were good to go, or they’d show me they were ready because they had stopped working. 

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