Making Connections

If 12 year olds ruled the world, what would school be like?
May 29, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If 12 year olds ruled the world, what would school be like?.


Choice and Reading
May 29, 2010, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Choice and Reading.

Spotlight on ELLs from Education Week
May 4, 2010, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I recently read a selection of articles about ELLs in the classroom,  put out in a packet format by Education Week .  They featured the latest research about all aspects of the topic.  The first article was especially significant for me since I am experimenting with ways to engage our ELLs in talk pertinent to the daily learning target in a certain ESL classroom.  This research confirmed the importance of teaching oral English across the curriculum. 

 Key points included:

  • ELLs need many chances to speak English in the classroom so they can find an identity or personal voice.
  • Speaking in the classroom strengthens verbal skills for all population groups.
  • Not enough time is spent  teaching oral English in the classroom.
  • More time needs to be spent supporting students in small groups and less on whole class instruction.
  • It is scary for teachers to turn lessons over to the kids.
  • Teachers don’t want to lose momentum or time trying to get kids to engage.
  • It is important to use sentence starters and have students work in pairs or small groups.
  • Monitoring and having an exit slip is important to keep students on task.
  • Vocabulary study is crucial.
  • Be sure to integrate all language skills:  reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • What does real discussion look like?  It is NOT teacher-generated with the same three or four hands of students going up and the others sitting silently by.

I also found a treasure trove in the article ELL 2.0 How to make the Most of the Web.  The author had categorized 9,000 links for students but was kind enough to pull 13 favorites which I will share with you. You must register for most of them but they are free.

For Students:  Students can save their work and note their progress as they practice their English through varied activities.  Teachers can create a virtual classroom.

Fabulous activities which use Total Physical Response – see it to believe it.

This is from a school which is without rival in providing ESL literacy activities and tools.

This is a site from Denmakr with interactive exercises and games to include listening and speaking with a voice recording feature.  These interactive exercises for Intm and Adv ELLs touch on food, money, work, shopping and maps.

This site will help students learn reading strategies, including visualization, prediction and summarization.

This site helps students make animated films easily and quickly.

This site let you and your students upload pictures from the Web, and create an audio narrative to go along with them.  Audio comments can also be left by visitors.

For teachers:

PDF downloads developed by the Peace Corps with excellent professional development resources for teaching ELLs.

Great printouts can be obtained here.  They are engaging and come with instructions on how to use them.  You can obtain even more by making a donation but it is not required.

This is a new resource with an extremely accessible design.  Teachers can share their lessons, including video and images.

This is a social networking site.  When one teaches, two learn.  You will learn from others posting their ideas and your idea will support others as well.

Happy Surfing.

Sandra Rands, English Language Acquisition Specialist

Salem Keizer School District

Building Bridges to Literacy
April 13, 2010, 7:03 pm
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Building Bridges to Literacy

I did cross lots of bridges to attend the three-day 20th West International Reading Association Conference the end of February.  It was worth it and therefore, I want to share some of the thoughts I gleaned there with you.  Full notes are in my documents widget.  Feel free to ask me for help integrating some of these ideas into your daily lessons.   Not surprisingly, we all came to one final conclusion at the close of the conference:


Here are the highlights of the sessions I attended:

RTI May Be Our Last, Best Hope gave five principles:  Match the text to the reader, dramatically increase reading activity, use small groups, coordinate intervention with classroom curriculum and use the experts – the teachers- to provide instruction.  Go to for RtI strategies.

The Daily Five included 10 steps for incorporating the Daily Five which are five activities done daily in the elementary classroom:)  Read to yourself from books you have chosen, read to someone else to improve fluency, work on writing, listen to the reading of good literature, practice spelling and use new vocabulary in authentic ways.  Go to

Keeping the Reader in Mind dealt with creating the right assessments to determine the needs of our students, keeping their many facets, including cultural, linguistic and social, in mind. 

Dare to Differentiate – Danny Brassell shared 50 tricks for differentiating.  They are all things teachers hear about but it was nice to have the list all in one place.  Great websites offered include:      and

Successfully Implementing a Student-Centered Classroom for Struggling Readers was presented by a teacher from Aloha who teaches a class for struggling freshmen, all regular attenders.  She used action research and came up with a plan that led to great gains for her students. The students chose their own theme and then lit groups were established with different books based on that theme.  Students took charge of their learning and presented their books to each other at the end of the term in creative, in-depth ways. 

Songs as Metaphors – Lyrics are filled with metaphors.  Unraveling a metaphor is the key to understanding a selection of writing in good literature.  Songs help teach students about feelings, imagery, and figurative language in their own terms.  Let students choose the songs but teacher has the final say in which ones will be used.  They must have appropriate lyrics and meaning for the school setting.  Some good songs to analyze include Elinor Rigby, If I Were a Hammer, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Long Ride Home and Pride in the name of Love.  +++

Word Sorts – All Sorts

Go online and google “word sorts” and you will be amazed how many you can find.  There are two types of word sorts: open sorts where the students decide how to sort the words and closed sorts where instructions for sorting the words are given, such as “group these plurals according to their endings.”  Other ways to work with words include “guess my category” or “in your reading, find all the words that denote a belief or philosophy.”  Try

Another keynote speaker, Ann Marineau challenged teachers to ask themselves, “How much of the day are my students writing?”  She emphasized that worksheets and questions at the end of the text don’t count.  She stated that 50% of the class period should be allotted for reading and writing.

Engaging Students by Donna Santman engaged me.  She taught the students how to communicate ideas to each other about what they were reading and studying without counting on the teacher to keep the “volley” going.  She used prompt cards to get the conversation going.  Then she stepped out of the conversation and wrote a transcript of their dialogue to share and discuss with them later. 

More Websites include: (official IRA website)                    (NCTE website)

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of the past centuries.” 
– Descartes

The Quest for Success for All 2010
February 4, 2010, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Improving Written Work

Hello Colleagues: 

Happy New Year and Happy New Semester.

I have just spent three weeks administering and reading student writing samples, rating them using the OR Writing Rubric for ELs and administering the Woodcock-Munoz test in both the early version and the revised version.  I have gained some insights as to holes in student knowledge, understanding and skills concerning the six components in the ODE Writing Rubric at “CIM” level as well as weaknesses in the Broad English of our ELs.  I am guessing that many of our “English only” students would have difficulty with this very challenging assessment.  It assesses one’s knowledge of technical terms for items used in daily life (all those “whatchamacallit” type words), one’s understanding of language relationships or analogies (“A fish swims and a bird _____.”  I had to pass the similar Miller Analogy Test to get into graduate school – yikes!),  and one’s ability to write with correct conventions including grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling.  We might all have trouble with the last item now that we depend so much on spell checker. 

Here are a couple recommendations based on my findings: 

1. Have a daily selection for editing using a sentence or paragraph taken from your students’ own writing.  List the common language errors on chart paper as a class and keep it posted so that you can easily add to it and continually refer to it.  See attach article from Poynter Online – Writing Tools by Peter Roy Clark for details on this suggestion.  

Here is “The  List” the author, Peter Roy Clark, came up with to get you started:
1. It’s not alot, but two words: a lot.
2. They’re going to keep the wet boots in their lockers, over there.
3. It’s a shame that the new puppy lost its way home.
4. The coach has been suspended. Two players are headed to the woodshed too.
5. Our finest hour will come when we are champions.
6. Her pride and selfishness know no bounds.
7. Not could of, but could have.
8. Not Baypoint Elementary, but Bay Point (for goodness sakes, spell the name of the school correctly!)
9. Not freind, but friend  (A fiend, by the way, is an enemy – the opposite of friend.)
10. Not aks, but ask.  In the past tense, use asked.

11. Not suppose to but supposed to; same with used to

12.  Et cetera is abbreviated etc.  Do’t switch the “c” and the “t”.  The period counts. 

Here is Peter Roy Clark’s summary:   Students of any age bear the responsibility for improving and correcting their own work. What turns the red light grammar to green is the process of using the knowledge on the list to revise, proofread, correct and edit one’s own written work. The mechanics of language are best learned when they are applied, day after day, in our reading and our writing. 

2. Do a daily dictation, reading a sentence from a previous day’s work or from a quote*. (see link below)  Students write it, skipping lines to allow for corrections.  (Read three times – once fluently, once two-three words at a time, and a final time for fluency.)  Then edit.  Students help the teacher reconstruct the sentence by reading back their work aloud.  The teacher will write on the board or overhead/doc cam so students can see the writing process as well as the final product.  Students  will write any corrections to be made under their initial writing.  The same dictation will be used over again for 1 or 2 days more and then tested.  (SK elementary students involved in the Literacy Squared Pilot out of UC Berkeley use the same “dictado” all week long and then are tested every Fridays.)  

3.  Check out the work of other teachers online to see what works in other ELL classrooms.  One teacher has set up an excellent BLOG in wordpress for her ELL classes.  You will find some great links for show casing student PowerPoint presentations, some embedded videos for sharing classroom rules and expectations with parents, and some links for rubrics for assessing reading assignments. 

Here are a couple other links you might like to explore from CharacterCounts. 

The first features quotes* from famous people to use as writing prompts: 

and the second features lesson plans that can be used to improve students reading skills and comprehension, while also encouraging positive behavior: 

Email me with questions or comments about any of the above.  I am here to support you in your teaching and learning quest for “success for all”.

December 1, 2009, 6:32 pm
Filed under: assessments

Hello Colleagues:

With our second six-week grading period behind us and the holiday season upon us, we have our work cut out for us.  We need to continue our efforts to keep the students engaged in their learning, avoiding any temptation to “take it easy.”  (Here is a great way to play games in class though with a focus on learning:   ( Find Jeopardy, Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Smarter than a Fifth grader templates.)

I see that everyone is posting objectives daily – a big task but it will be worth it especially if students know where to look and there is a routine for pointing out/repeating the objectives.   Our last coach workshop emphasized that the district will refer to these objectives as LEARNING TARGETS and our leaders are encouraging us to try combining language objectives with content objectives to help students see how they are interdependent.  In Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works for English Language Learners,  Brinton, Snow, and Wesche (1989) point out four reasons to do this:

  • Language forms and vocabulary will develop as students study areas of interest. You can’t study an area of interest without learning the vocabulary i.e., any game or sport comes with specific vocabulary.   If you like to eat you might want to be able to read and understand the labels on the foods you buy and, of course, you will want to read and understand recipes.
  • Motivation plays a role in learning complex language structures. Teaching a structure by itself will probably not stick; there must be a purpose for learning the structure i.e., a required format for a science lab will call for certain language structures and vocabulary.
  • Teachers can activate and build on students’ prior knowledge in the content area.  ELLs may not have studied the American Revolution in their native country, but they have probably experienced conflict or even war in their homeland.
  • Language structure and form should be learned in authentic contexts rather than through contrived drills in language workbooks.  You could emphasize different structures such as “if….then.”  For example, “If you had to wear a uniform to school, how would you maintain your individuality?”  “If I had to wear a uniform…then I would….”

A combined objective for the above could be “I can read (literacy objective) about students living in Japan and use “if…then” statements (language objective) in order to show how student life in Japan is different from your own (content objective).  All of these objectives together make up the learning targets for our students – reading for a purpose, using a language structure, showing comprehension through comparison (probably written or spoken – could be through a visual).  (See the SKSD Assessment for Learning Newsletter Oct 2009 article by Robert Marzano.)

Now that you have your learning targets in place, you will want to monitor or assess learning throughout the class period.  In the SKSD Assessment for Learning Newsletter Nov 2009 excerpt from Marzano, providing feedback throughout the lesson is emphasized.  He points to four generalizations that improve student learning:

  • Feedback should be corrective in nature.  Let students see or hear the right way in order to see what is wrong with a response and make an immediate correction.
  • Feedback should be timely.  ELLs need immediate correction for pronunciation.  No need to say, “No, that’s wrong.”  Just pronounce the word or phrase or repeat the sentence correctly.  It is said that 24 hours should be the maximum time between assessment and feedback.
  • Feedback should be criterion-referenced.  Research shows that students learn more if they know how they are progressing along a continuum or rubric of some type rather than just how many correct answers they received out of the total.  The district has a website with CIM rubrics at but if you would like to make your own or borrow from other teachers go to
  • Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback through self-evaluation. The simplest way to help students correct their writing is to require them to read it aloud to someone.  They will catch the majority of their errors by hearing their own work and being cognizant because they have an audience.  Use standard correction symbols that are easy to understand and  to use.

              Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Hello world!
October 9, 2009, 5:46 pm
Filed under: objectives

Hello Colleagues,

On Statewide Inservice Day, I learned about a new blog site.    You can learn about it, too, at

I want to thank everyone for welcoming me into your classrooms.  You are all amazing educators – creative, fair, firm, patient, prepared, positive, supportive and hard working – always working – to help your students achieve their potential.  

I plan to continue my habit of writing on my blog.  You will see that I have added a link to last year’s blog – –  just in case you want to check out the side bar called Links for Educators.  It has some of the best websites I have found for graphic organizers, web timers, how-tos, class management, grouping, differentiation, etc.

 For this first entry on Making Connections, I am focusing on writing objectives, not only because the district has chosen that objective for the first marking period, but because setting goals and objectives is definitely the best place to start any new endeavor.  So here is mine:

Objective:  I will support teachers by visiting every ESL/sheltered content classroom on a regular basis (I have you calendared weekly into my schedule) and debrief via email or face to face.  I will  help you meet your PLC goals through observations/feedback coaching, assist you in accessing resources including other teachers, share best practices I see, model literacy strategies I learn at workshops and monitor the progress of your ELs.   This is going to be a long trip and I don’t plan on arriving at my destination for some time, but I will always keep it in view and I will enjoy my journey along the way.

Happily, I am seeing objectives written in every classroom.  Below are a few of the variations: 

 In a math classroom, the language and content objectives are posted on the board using two 8X11 sheets of paper for each.  Language Objective and Content Objective are permanently fixed at the top of the board on two distinct sheets of white paper.  Below each, attached with magnets are the daily objectives, short enough to fit on a second sheet of paper – the 60 font bold print landscape format allows it to be viewed from the back of the room.  

Next a sentence frame which supports the language objective is written at the top of the warmup problems and/or new problems projected via doc cam.  Students practice using the sentence frame(s) in order to correctly verbalize the math processes presented during the class period.  Sometimes the students do choral reading.  Everyone has a chance to practice that way.  Later, those sentence frames find their place tacked to the wall above the whiteboard, printed in 60+ font on 8X11 sheets.  The teacher can refer to them if students need help expressing a certain math process previously covered.

In a 20th century studies class, a teacher has many objectives written on the board separated into content objectives and language objectives.  They are always expressed with a variety  of academic words such as:  retell, define, summarize (orally or in writing = language objectives) with explain, interpret, analyze (ability to do these reveal understanding of the content) used as strong verbs for the content objective.  In one particular classroom, these objectives are referred to repeatedly during the lesson.  Students show their understanding of each academic action word by giving synonyms, examples, or other brief explanations to indicate that they know what the task will be. What a great way to further “unwrap” the language objectives for assessing student  comprehensive of the task at hand.

In many classrooms, the objectives are displayed prominently on an easel whiteboard.  This assures that the students will always know where to find the NEW concept(s) (uncluttered by other boardwork) that they will be expected to know by the end of the class period. 

Another important requirement of a good objective is that it is measurable and observable.  Will students be defending a stance on a current issue in their journals, comparing/contrasting the characteristics of plants,  discussing the literary elements of a favorite song, creating and presenting a skit in order to use the vocabulary of negotiation (function=content) , writing to a prompt based on a Channel One news story, defining key words that they will meet in reading,  identifying a substance, using the area model to determine a product ,  or graphing a function, etc?  After one has determined the content objective, he must determine what new language  – vocabulary or constructions – students will need to know in order to meet the content objective.   Yes, you could think of the content objective as the destination and the language objective as vehicle for taking us there.

 Note how one example – presenting a skit in order to use the vocabulary of negotiation – actually holds both a language objective and a content objective.  Negotiating is a function which equals the content in an ELD class.  Presenting a skit equals speaking as well as using the vocabulary, a combination of a content objective and a language objective.  Whether or not you write your objective(s) in one sentence or two, or more, just remember that in order to improve the literacy of our students, you always need a language objective, which generally involves writing or speaking, to indicate that comprehension through reading and listening is taking place. 

Research shows that pointing out the objectives at the beginning of the lesson – and having students repeat them (“Tell your shoulder partner our objective for today!”) – helps them focus on the learning during the class period.   Stating the objectives at the end of the class period helps both student and teacher ascertain that the objective was met during the class period; if it wasn’t, more work will be needed during the next class period.   Sometimes if the class period is too short to arrive at the destination,  the same objective will be posted for as long as needed to accomplish it.  It is up to the teacher to decide the most beneficial way to use posted objectives.  Just keep in mind that it is best to know where we are headed when we start out on any journey.

 One of the best ways to know if students have met the learning goal is through an exit slip of some type.  If a journal is used, it will give teachers and students alike a story of their progress during the school year.  At the Oregon Writing Project PD called Write On!, the value of  journaling in every class across the curriculum was modeled.  For example, in PE students would record their their progress and shortcomings in a particular sport and fitness program;  in art they might compare and contrast different works of art or note certain artists they admired;  in foods they could keep a running record of successful recipes, changes they might make for improvement, etc. 

My objective for attending Statewide Inservice Day was to try something I learned there right away.  Objective met!   I plan to continue to use this new tool so that we constantly make connections with each other, with our students and with our important work – guiding our students to become independent learners on the road to their future  – and ours. 

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.