English Learners

The Family Writing Project Builds a Learning Community in Connecticut

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Author: Valerie Diane Bolling

Summary: Family writing projects are an powerful resource for families for whom English is not a first language and who are sometimes unfamiliar with the dominant school culture. The projects provide opportunities to build relationships among families, students and teachers while strengthening literacy. This article describes activities, structures and benefits of a family writing project developed in the Greenwich, Connecticut school community.
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Voces del Corazón: Voices from the Heart

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Author: Dolores S. Perez

Summary: Family Literacy Nights were created by teacher-consultants from the Sabal Palms Writing Project who partnered with two middle schools to reach out to parents and families in low-income communities. The article tells their story through examples and parents’ and students’ words (Spanish and English). It offers a set of guidelines and themes they felt would help to create inviting spaces that would encourage families and teachers to attend and participate; describes the TCs’ planning process of reading professional materials, writing and sharing personal writing which reinforced the value of writing and sharing cultures and histories; discusses ways that TCs and colleagues sat with parents and families to share their own stories; and provides a brief discussion of code-switching/translanguaging. This resource can provide background and inspiration for starting to work with families in ways that truly value the funds of knowledge of all involved.
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Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action: Building Immersive Writing Experiences for Bilingual Writers

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Author: Carole Edelsky

Summary: This article is a great resource for study groups, inquiry communities, and professional learning of all types with a focus on English learners and writing. After introducing two pieces of “gorgeous” writing from fifth graders in a dual language classroom, Edelsky explains how this writing came to be. First she provides a theoretical overview focused on how people develop language and identity through authentic work within a community of practice. Then she describes the genesis of a different approach to writing development among a group of elementary teachers dealing with the question of “how you make schoolwork like real out-of-school work.” Offering seven “partial answers,” this article is highly accessible with the potential to generate myriad inquiries into issues about language learning, writing, power, and equity.
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Lost in Translation: Assessing Writing of English Language Learners

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Author: Tom Meyer, Fabiola Lieberstein-Solera, and Martha Young

Summary: If you are planning professional development on the assessment of writing that involves students whose first language is not English, you may want to read this thoughtful article. The authors, the site director and two bilingual teacher leaders from the Hudson Valley Writing Project, describe an inquiry which focused on the question, “What if the writing rubrics we use don’t make sense to our bilingual students or their teachers?” By engaging in and studying a multi-faceted process of translating a rubric from English into Spanish, the team developed a rich approach to teacher reflection on student writing, assessment and writing instruction. Specific suggestions for planning are provided.
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Building Culturally Responsive Units of Study: From Texas to Mexico and Back

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Author: Katie McKay

Summary: By crafting units of study that cast immigration as part of the American historical process, a teacher-consultant at the Heart of Texas Writing Project creates opportunities for her bilingual fourth-graders to explore immigration in a trusting and productive classroom environment. This article can support discussions about how to connect curriculum to students’ own knowledge, how to explore sensitive topics with younger children, or how to use writing to support students’ understanding of history or current events.
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Long-Term English Learners Writing Their Stories

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Author: Lynn Jacobs

Summary: Long-term English learners—those who typically have attended school for at least seven years—speak English well but are often considered below grade level. Because they assume many adult responsibilities in their out-of-school lives, including household duties and translating for family and others, they present opportunities for teachers of writing. Secondary classroom teachers and those planning and providing professional development focused on writing for English learners will discover several effective strategies in this article. Jacobs describes the process and outcomes of working with her students to publish a book of stories and poems. The authentic nature of writing about their lives, together with models of published texts, motivated a desire to write well and boosted their confidence as writers.
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Digital Storytelling for Language and Culture Learning

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney

Summary: Interested in introducing digital storytelling in a writing classroom? Rance-Roney, a teacher with the Hudson Valley Writing Project, explains digital storytelling, discusses its strengths in promoting literacy, and, by documenting her own multilingual classroom work, suggests a path for getting started with this technology.
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Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Author: Leslie Patterson, Carol Wickstrom, Juan Araujo

Summary: Sites looking for examples of how to design a study and/or plan professional development focused on the impact of culturally mediated writing instruction (CMWI) for adolescent English learners may find this report by the North Star of Texas Writing Project a helpful resource. Findings suggest that positive effects are more likely to occur when inquiry-based professional development includes follow-up support as teachers learn ways to effectively mediate and differentiate instruction to meet particular needs of diverse learners.
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Understanding Community Literacies as Foundational to Teaching Excellence

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Author: Toni M. Williams, Diane DeFord, Amy Donnelly, Susi Long, Julia López-Robertson, Mary E. Styslinger, and Nicole Walker

Summary: This article from the NCTE journal Language Arts reviews several professional books that explore issues of equity and access. The books reviewed share the view that, as educators, we can support academic success for all students by expanding understandings about home and community literacies. It would be useful as a resource for study groups and teachers searching for books for their professional libraries, while others will find useful information on community literacies in the reviews themselves.
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Teaching Writing in an Assessment Era: Passion and Practice (NWP Radio)

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Guests: Jonathan Lovell, Mary Warner, Marie Milner, and Brandy Appling-Jenson

Summary: Directors and teacher-consultants from the San Jose Area Writing Project discuss their book, Teaching Writing Grades 7-12 in an Era of Assessment: Passion and Practice. The following key questions guided their work: “Why might my students wish to engage in the performative activity of writing?” and “Why might they wish to engage in this practice with not just dogged persistence, but with genuine passion?” Through powerful voices, two of the teacher writers discuss an I-Search project (segment: 20:54–31:27) and ways of empowering language learners (segment: 31.45–47). CONTINUE READING

Cultural Citizenship and Latino English Language Learners

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Author: Maria Franquiz and Carol Brochin-Ceballos

Summary: This short article emphasizes the importance of creating “a safe space for language and literacy development.” The authors argue for students’ rights to use their own “linguistic and cultural resources for learning.” Teachers who are eager for a conversation about about advocacy and Latino students, will appreciate learning how and why to build culturally safe and constructive classroom learning communities and curricula. The authors offer “four premises for fostering cultural citizenship” that are worth examining.
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Narrative Writing and the Common Core State Standards, from Helping English Learners to Write

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Authors: Carol Booth Olson, Robin C. Scarcella, Tina Matuchniak

Summary: In this chapter from Helping English Learners to Write, the authors explain the critical role of narrative writing in helping English learners develop their English language skill and succeed in English Language Arts coursework in the secondary grades. Building upon a strong research-based rationale for narrative writing, it provides many specific and effective teaching strategies that would be useful for middle/high school teachers. In addition, this chapter would be of interest to teachers beginning inquiry projects.
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Literacy, ELL, and Digital Storytelling: 21st Century Skills in Action

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Author: Yumi Matui and Clifford Lee

Summary: This video documents how high school history students created digital stories as part of the American Immigration Project. The semester-long multimodal project incorporated interviews, transcription. discussion, writing voiceover scripts, and digital production. Composing images and audio to create powerful presentations, students shared their stories at a final Exhibition Night screening. Teachers interested in project-based learning will find inspiration as well as practical strategies in the related resources.
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ELLs at the Center: Rethinking High Stakes Testing

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Author: Wilma Ortiz and Karen Sumaryono

Summary: How do we nurture intellectual curiosity, prepare students for a global economy, and validate and celebrate students’ cultures, language diversity and multiple literacies in an era of accountability and high stakes testing? The authors offer suggestions for ways teacher leaders can be advocates for equitable education and promote responsive practices for all students in spite of pressure from language and educational policies. This article could be a useful piece to read as part of a professional development series or study group on assessment and English learners.
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Responsive Teacher Inquiry and Innovation in Teaching ELA with Diverse Learners (NWP Radio)

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Guests: Steve Athanases and Juliet Waltleightner

Summary: This NWP Radio Show looks at a preservice teacher program that focuses on teacher research as a way of inducting new teachers into the profession. The speakers discuss leading preservice teachers through an inquiry during their field experiences in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms as a way to turn their attention to what they can learn from careful thinking and observation of students. The specific section on teacher inquiry in writing begins at 21:11. Useful as a model for those designing teacher inquiry programs, as well as a thoughtful examination of how new teachers are socialized into the profession. Includes detailed discussion of inquiry processes and rubrics.
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Whose Core Is It?

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Author: Christina Puntel

Summary: An elementary school teacher and bilingual coordinator pushes back against the mandated content/performance descriptors provided by her district to assert that the “core” of her curriculum is her students’ learning. “I teach with an ear close to the core of each child, to the core of the monarch unit, the silkworm unit, the family songs unit….” Her important reflection on the humanity of the students at the heart of classrooms and curricula will be of interest to teachers and study groups wrestling with the influence of mandated curricula on their teaching.
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A Fourth Grade Service Learning Project Engages English Learners

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Author: Robert Rivera-Amezola

Summary: In this video, a teacher of fourth-grade English learners describes how he integrated service learning and digital literacy in a civic engagement project. They used “My Voice,” a service-learning framework, as a guide to choose a project about water conservation and pollution. The teacher made information accessible to his students via videos and images as well as language by using the website Discovery Education. The students wrote blogposts, and completed webquests, podcasts, and digital presentations.  The resources that supported this work along with the student outcomes are made available on the video as models for teacher study groups.
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How Language Minority Students Can Learn in the Content Areas: An Alternative to Silence

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Author: Beth Winningham

Summary: A teacher researcher who studied the experiences of five language-minority students over the course of a school year offers concrete suggestions for improving the learning experience of middle/high school students in general, and English learners in particular. This article could be examined as a model of teacher inquiry and student advocacy.
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Know ELLs: Support for Teachers of English Language Learners

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Author: Great Valley Writing Project

Summary: This Ning, a social website/blog developed and maintained by several teacher leaders from the Grand Valley Writing Project in Central California, focuses on issues related to teaching English Language Learners. Sites and teacher leaders looking to maintain momentum after the conclusion of an institute or other extended PD opportunity would be well served looking at this site to see what is possible.
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Preserving the Cultural Identity of the English Language Learner

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Author: Wilma Ortiz and Karen Sumaryono

Summary: With an advocacy goal of helping immigrant students retain their cultural identities and succeed within the mainstream classroom while also learning a new language, the authors share several effective writing practices that validate students’ primary language in meaningful ways and promote a strong sense of self. These include: helping all students use key words from a variety of languages; inviting students to use their primary language in response to journal entries, writing prompts and free writes; using multilingual mentor texts; employing “writing to learn” in native languages to explore content; and using cooperative grouping to support speaking in English. The details and examples in this article make it an excellent resource for study groups, professional development or individual teachers seeking ways to support language learners.
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Breaking the Boundaries of Texts: Video Game and Literacy Curriculum Development for English Language Learners

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Author: Nora A. Peterman, Lan Ngo, Robert J. LeBlanc, Susan Goldstein

Summary: This article describes a study of a literacy video game designed to help English learners negotiate new vocabulary and unfamiliar language structures as they read. The game, collaboratively created on Gamestar Mechanic by a team including a public high school teacher, actively engaged that teacher’s EL students who developed a sense of ownership over their learning. The authors discuss gaming as a literacy practice and suggest how it might be adapted to other contexts. This article may be useful in professional-development discussions of EL students and multimodality and could be a suggested reading as teachers develop inquiry into these issues.
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Technology in the English Learner Classroom?

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney

Summary: How can new technologies foster the love of writing for students in the English learner classroom? How can our integration of technology narrow the digital divide? Sites or schools looking for specific ideas and strategies to frame a conference workshop or PD session might easily draw from this collaborative, pre-conference Artifact Rotation to sample four technologies—digital storytelling, blogging, podcasting, and Google Docs—enabling attendees to experience how to put students at the center as independent, engaged digital learners and writers.
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We Are All Teachers of English Learners (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Many NWP sites have retooled their recruitment efforts, inservice offerings and institutes in light of the significant demographic changes that have placed English learners in almost every classroom. On this NWP Radio show, teacher consultants from four sites offer a look at their work with multilingual students as a foundation for the development of site inservice and continuity offerings. This resource may be of use to teacher leaders looking for specific ideas and plans to support teachers of English learners in their schools and service areas.
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Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

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Author: Debra Schneider

Summary: How can we best support English learners in classrooms where rigorous curricula focus on intellectual practices across content areas? How can we engage in practices that enable students to construct rather than reproduce knowledge, develop deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge and forge connections between school and the outside world? In this review of Pauline Gibbons’s book, Debra Schneider shares insights and successful strategies emerging from her own”high-challenge, high-support classroom” practice and the work of her study group related to their reading of the chapter on Academic Literacy [see PDF].  An excellent resource for individual classroom teachers, study groups, inquiry groups, or those leading professional development.
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Exploring Issues of Equity: NWP’s Project Outreach Annotated Bibliography

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Summary: A focus of the work of NWP’s Project Outreach—an initiative that supported resource development and program activities intended to enhance the capacity of local sites to understand and address issues of equity in their local programming– included identifying a variety of articles and book chapters to support teacher leaders as they explored equity issues. The texts gathered here will be useful to teachers in a variety of contexts at their local sites and in area schools including in advanced and invitational institutes, in study groups, and in school-based professional development to support inquiry into issues of access, relevance, and diversity.
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Narrative Writing Works Magic with Children Learning English

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Author: Lisa Ummel-Ingram

Summary: Lisa Ummel-Ingram tells the story of engaging her third graders in creating books that honored their lives, language and cultures through storyboarding, sharing, conferencing, gathering information, and illustrating. Student ownership, confidence and language development extended into subsequent years as students saw themselves as authors and learners. This piece provides many details and examples of what worked as well as challenges along the way. It could be a valuable resource for elementary teachers or workshop leaders looking for specific ideas and support for implementing workshop approaches and culturally responsive teaching with language learners.
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A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School

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Author: Carol Booth Olson and Robert Land

Summary: This article documents a longitudinal research study conducted by members of the UC Irvine Writing Project in partnership with a large, urban school district in which 93 percent of the students are English language learners. Over an eight-year period, 55 secondary teachers implemented a cognitive strategies approach to reading and writing instruction designed to make visible the thinking strategies that experienced readers and writers access in the process of constructing meaning. An important resource, this would be useful as a text for study in a professional development program or for individual teacher research. The project “was not just an abstract research study; it was a concrete attempt to level the playing field for specific EL students in a large urban school district through sustained, ongoing collaboration with a dedicated and committed group of teachers…” The consistency of positive outcomes on multiple measures strongly points to the efficacy of using this approach with EL students.
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Grammar—Comma—a New Beginning

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Author: Mary Ehrenworth

Summary: Teaching grammar through inquiry and seduction? In this piece, Mary Ehrenworth shares strategies for moving away from direct instruction (which seldom works) to making it possible for students to “have an apprenticeship relation with great authors, even at the sentence structure level.” By honoring diverse dialects and helping students make intentional choices through inquiry (How DO authors choose verb tense?), teaching grammar becomes an integral part of the composing process. Examples of student work illuminate the effectiveness of this approach and make this article useful for workshop leaders and teachers seeking fresh approaches for teaching grammar within the context of student writing.
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When Third-Grade Writers Do Case Studies

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Author: Janet Kiddoo

Summary: Bilingual third grade students acted as helpers to first graders in a collaborative writing workshop. The third grade teacher guided her students through a process similar to teacher inquiry–to reflect on their own experiences as writers in order to help the younger writers, to take notes on their experiences as teacher/tutors, and to carefully think through the problems encountered and results obtained in order to improve their practice. This article models three useful practices in a writing context: 1) students as researchers; 2) older students as tutors to younger; and 3) reflective practice in writing and teaching.
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Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs: A TESOL Issue Brief

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Summary: This issue brief, from the TESOL International Association, is an overview of the Common Core State Standards that also outlines some of the initiatives in place to address the needs of English learners (ELs) in relation to the Standards. Excerpts from this resource may be useful in study groups and professional development sessions focused on the needs of English learners, particularly within the contexts of assessment practices and content-area text complexity.
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Demystifying the College Admission Essay Genre

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Author: Jessica Singer Early and Meredith DeCosta

Summary: This chapter from Jessica Singer Early and Meredith DeCosta’s Real World Writing for Secondary Students presents a writing workshop for ethnically and linguistically diverse high school students in which students receive instruction on specific genre features of the college admission essay. The chapter offers an overview of the college admission essay genre, key components of the workshop, samples of student writing, and professional resources for teaching the college admission essay. Equally useful as the focus of a professional development session or as the basis for a youth writing program, the chapter is especially relevant for teachers who work with linguistically divers youth as a way of providing access to “gate-opening writing tasks.”
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A Social Networking Space for Teachers of English Language Learners

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Author: Lynn Jacobs

Summary: This article provides the background story of the development of the Know ELLs Ning, “a space where teachers come together to share resources, support one another, and discuss their successes and challenges in teaching English language learners.”  The Know ELLs Ning is a useful resource for individual teachers as well as teachers leading professional development sessions, inquiry or study groups, or within an invitational institute to explore content related to teaching English learners.
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English Language Learners, Classroom Drama

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Author: Dana Loy

Summary: Through a year-long drama and playwriting project with her bilingual class of 8th graders, Dana Loy and a visiting artist engaged her students in writing stories that could be dramatized, learning about playwriting and working together as actors with the goal of developing a script that would be performed in a university theater. Along the way, these immigrant students drew on their experiences and strengths, improved reading and writing skills in both languages, discovered confidence and a sense of community, and increased their chances of remaining in school. An inspiring article filled with rich detail and examples that could be useful for teachers and sites interested in exploring intersections between writing and the performance arts—in classrooms or other youth programming.
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Immigrant Teens in the South Bronx Learn the Art of Online Discussion

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Author: Kathleen Costanza

Summary: This article describes the work of immigrant youth in the South Bronx as they discuss Sold, a novel about a Nepali girl whose stepfather sells her into slavery. A LRNG grant developed by the NYC Writing Project and four teachers enabled youth and teachers to use the Youth Voices platform for this and other student-driven online writing projects that fostered opportunities to write for authentic audiences.
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Supporting English Language Learners: What Happens When Teaching in Students’ Native Language is Made Illegal?

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This inspiring story of Floris Wilma Ortiz-Marrero, a teacher-consultant with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, describes how she became a vocal advocate for her ELL students in a time when the state made it illegal to teach students in their native language. In addition Ortiz-Marrero’s story, there are several important resources referenced and linked within the article. This article and the related resources would be a great starting point for teacher discussion groups focused on the ethics of ELL and/or bilingual education and legislation.
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Writing in Home Dialects: Choosing a Written Discourse in a Teacher Education Class

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Author: Eileen Kennedy

Summary:In exploring how to encourage her Caribbean teacher education students to use their vernacular dialects (vernacular Englishes, Spanish, and Haitian Creole) in narrative writing, Kennedy discovered reluctant writers who lacked confidence, in part because their use of home languages had always been suppressed. Over time, she helped her students compose drafts in their home language(s) and use Standard English for final drafts. For teachers and sites wanting to explore political and sociological implications related to suppression of home language and devaluing of students’ cultures and identities, this piece provides a rich, theoretically grounded narrative of strategies and possibility.
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Are You the Teacher Who Gives Parents Homework?

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Author: Carole Chin

Summary: In this chapter from the NWP publication, Cityscapes, an elementary teacher describes how she uses the writing of students and their families to build community, honor family cultures and languages, and provide a forum to address fears, anxieties, and concerns. Threaded through the narrative are many suggestions for activities that teachers might adapt to their own settings and communities.
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Double the Work: Challenges and Solutions to Acquiring Language and Academic Literacy for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Summary: This 2007 report by the Carnegie Foundation and the Center for Applied Linguistics identifies challenges faced by adolescent ELs in meeting grade-level academic expectations. It also provides recommendations for teacher education, educational research, school administrators and policy makers, along with instructional approaches likely to increase student achievement. The downloadable PDF would be an excellent resource for teacher leaders designing professional development programs, developing grant proposals, doing advocacy work, and developing knowledge about teaching middle/high school ELLs.
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Creating Intentional Communities to Support English Language Learners in the Classroom

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney

Summary: How can teachers support English learners, including recent immigrants, in language acquisition while also investing all students in creating a classroom culture that encourages shared experiences, knowledge construction and the integration of resources that ELs bring? Judith Rance-Roney’s answer was to create the Culture Share Club as an intentional learning community within the classroom. Rich descriptions of many effective practices with solid theoretical and research grounding makes this article a must-read for study groups, professional learning communities, or professional development.
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Con Respeto, I am Not Richard Rodriguez

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Author: Norma Mota-Altman

Summary: Bilingual teacher Norma Mota–Altman recounts her experience as a Spanish–speaking child in school and explains why “English only” policies exact too high a price from English learners and their families. In telling her story, she brings a human face to critical terms such as “funds of knowledge” and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)—factors that enabled her later to succeed as a bilingual teacher and as a co-director of the UCLA Writing Project. This engaging article could spark conversation in study groups or professional development sessions focused on dual-language/bi-cultural issues.
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Bicultural Literacy: A Personal Exploration

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Author: Marcia Venegas-Garcìa

Summary: Educator Marcia Venegas–Garcia tells her personal bicultural story to “encourage…particularly those in power, to recognize that all children have their stories of literacy,” and to encourage a “less myopic,” more diverse view of teaching and learning. This personal essay, along with others, could well serve as a resource for inquiry groups exploring issues of diversity and bicultural literacy.
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Love Ties My Shoes: Long-term English Learners as Thoughtful Writers

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Author: Lynn Jacobs

Summary: Students in a high school English Language Development class writing a book? Lynn Jacobs’ story of her students success can inform teacher study groups and inspire professional development sessions. For details about the project, powerful student voices describing the process, and ties to professional literature that help to explain how and why this was a possibility for Jacobs and her students, check out this inspirational article.
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“I’m a Writer Now!” The Who, Where, and When of an ELL Newspaper

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Author: Joe Bellino

Summary: Joe Bellino, a teacher of English language learners, describes the process of publishing “Silver International,” a newspaper written by his EL/International high school students as well as how the paper positively affected readers, writers, and the school. This resource offers inspiration for study groups and teacher leaders planning professional development as well as for classroom teachers planning authentic writing experiences that give voice to the bilingual/bicultural experiences of their students.
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Community Connections for English Learners: Changing the World Starts with Just a Few Words

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This short article illustrates ways a teacher can engage colleagues in professional learning and provides examples of classroom activities that build connections between EL students, their parents and their community. Engaging students in creating digital movies to document the history of discrimination along with the impact of the Civil Rights Movement, Katie McKay encouraged students to consider how agents of change have been successful in securing individual rights. This multimodal, multi-disciplinary piece could be helpful for new teacher leaders or those finding themselves seeking ways to create authentic intersections with their colleagues and their English speaking and EL students built upon respect for all learners.
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The Ubuntu Academy: An Immigrant and Refugee Youth Writing Camp

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Summary: Ubuntu, a Bantu word that translates as “I am, because we are,” is the guiding philosophy behind the CT-Fairfield Writing Project’s two-week literacy lab designed to invite immigrant and refugee youth into writing spaces that honor their heritage and promote academic success. This innovative approach to youth writing camps will be a valuable read for sites looking for ways to reach out to underserved populations who might not otherwise have access to youth writing camps and enrichment opportunities.
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Resources for Educators of English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography

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Author: Judith Rance-Roney and Lynn Jacobs

Summary: With the goal of collecting “diverse perspectives in the field of teaching English language learners and to provide audiences with readings that will involve, inform, and inspire.” Judith Rance-Roney and Lynn Jacobs created this 41 page comprehensive annotated bibliography. Of special interest to classroom teachers of English learners, teacher inquiry groups, and professional development leaders, this rich collection contains many direct links to the original resources.
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