by Marcy Voss

It was Christmas Eve at the airport. As the barista prepared his coffee, she smiled broadly and asked him a series of questions so she could get his coffee just right. She then asked where he was going, about his family, about his family’s traditions. When she gave him the coffee, she told him to have a safe flight and to go create some extraordinary memories with his family—and, when he came back to the airport, to tell her all about it. The man walked off, but after a moment came back, intrigued about the woman’s secret to making such meaningful connections while serving coffee. The barista replied, “I’m not serving coffee. I’m pouring happiness into people’s lives.”  Continue reading “Purpose”

Primary Language Support in General Education Classrooms

by Valentina Gonzalez


What is Primary Language Support? 

Primary language support (PLS) is the use of students’ first languages to build on the development of their target language. For example, if a child first learned Italian at home and then begins school in America, the primary language of Italian would be used as a leverage to build the English language.  Continue reading “Primary Language Support in General Education Classrooms”

Differentiating Instruction for English Learners: ELPS Flip Book

by Valentina Gonzalez

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As an ESL teacher, one of my go-to resources for planning instruction was the ELPS Flip Book by John Seidlitz. The flip book helped me to personalize instruction and differentiate learning for each of my English learners. I took it with me as I planned collaboratively with grade-level teams. I loved the instructional guidance it provided as we planned for ELs at various levels of proficiency. And when co-teachers asked me what types of accommodations certain students needed, I could easily flip through the tabs in the guide to find the supports we needed. Continue reading “Differentiating Instruction for English Learners: ELPS Flip Book”

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”