Sunday, July 26, 2009

Try TeacherTube

Originally published in Winter 2009 as a T4 (Tanny's Tuesday Tech Tip)


2009 marks the 2-year anniversary of TeacherTube as an online community for sharing instructional videos. TeacherTube was the brainchild of Jason Smith, a veteran educator. It provides free videos & professional development with teachers teaching teachers.

With TeacherTube, you can:

  • Browse hundreds of videos uploaded by teachers around the globe.
  • Upload Support Files and attach them to your lesson plans.
  • Save your favorite videos and create playlists.

Here are links to some TeacherTube videos I’ve recently viewed:

Dr. Skateboard teaches about simple machines

50 States & Capitals Cartoon Song

Abraham Lincoln reads the Gettysburg Address

Try it out! Make TeacherTube part of your weekly planning for engaging classroom instruction!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning Academic English

ALL learners, including native English language speakers, are continuing to learn "academic English." According to researcher Jim Cummins, Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, & listening related to content area material. Academic language acquisition isn't just the understanding of content area vocabulary. It includes skills such as comparing, classifying, synthesizing, evaluating, and inferring. This can take 5-7 years for ELLs to develop. (Doesn't this describe our work with ALL students?)

In contrast, basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) are language skills needed in social situations..."playground language." It usually takes only 6 months - 2 years to develop. Click here to learn more about BICS & CALP.

As the world is shrinking, we find ourselves working with students from all over the globe. We become learners ourselves in interacting with ELLs in the classroom. No matter what your experience or comfort level, just remember one thing..."Although there are hundreds of languages in the world, a smile speaks them all.” (author unknown)


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sideways Learning

I find it ironic to be considered a "teacher," when in reality I am more of a "learner." Currently,I am learning how to work with English Language Learners (ELLs), and how to navigate all the latest technology, while still trying to perfect my craft. Obviously, learning is a lifelong process and everyday there are new lessons to be learned... everyday I am still trying to "get it right."

This reminds me of "sideways learning," a term coined by E.J. Langer (1996). According to Langer, "sideways learning" is a mindful state that exists when one embodies an openness to new ideas, alertness to similarities and differences, sensitivity to particular contexts, implicit awareness of multiple perspectives, and awareness of what is occurring in the present .

Isn't that what we do as teachers? We must practice mindful teaching, reflecting on how our everyday actions support student learning. We must be mindful of the match between our instruction and the standards for which we are responsible, sensitive to the needs of different learners, and awareness of "who is getting it and who is not." The terms achievement gap, value-added and adequate yearly progress are now part of our mindful teaching and reflection. Is it any wonder we go home tired each afternoon?

We are constantly rethinking our instruction and trying to perfect our craft, knowing that tomorrow we will have another opportunity to support those students and close that achievement gap. So enjoy these last few weeks of summer, knowing that soon the school doors will open and each afternoon we will go home tired. Tired from "sideways learning," but anxious to get up in the morning and do it all over again.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Using Link Banks to support the English Language Learner

Originally published in March 2009 as a T4 (Tanny's Tuesday Tech Tip)

Did you know there are more than 5 million English Language Learners in American schools? Nationwide, one in every ten students is an ELL student.
Research tells us that all language learners have the same 2 critical needs, regardless of what language they speak. First of all, ELL’s need to become fluent speakers who can read & write English. Secondly, they need access to the same core curriculum as everyone else.

Here’s the top 10 ELL ranking, sequenced by # of speakers:
1. Spanish
2. Vietnamese
3. Hmong
4. Cantonese
5. Korean
6. Haitian Creole
7. Arabic
8. Russian
9. Tagalog
10. Navajo

A note about the acronyms: According to Dr. Stephen Cary from the University of San Francisco, LES/NES (Limited/Non-English Speaking) or LEP/NEP (Limited/Non-English Proficient) emphasizes what students lack instead of what they’re learning. ESL (English as a Second Language) refers to a certain kind of instruction, not a particular kind of student. The ELL (English Language Learner) acronym has gradually become dominant in local, state, and federal documents. Cary reminds us, however, that ELL could apply to all of us, however, since we never stop perfecting our abilities to read & write in English! (Working with English Language Learners, 2nd edition, Heinemann, 2007)

I’ve visited several West Clermont classrooms this year where the teacher expressed anxiety regarding the ELL student(s) in her/his classroom. WC teachers want to provide the best instruction possible to these students, but in many instances have not yet had the training they need. The following topic-specific list emphasizes free, web-based resources to help the classroom teacher quickly find strategies, lesson ideas, and ELL information. Directories such as these are known as link banks. Link banks are a big time saver for busy folks like us.

ELL Link Banks

I Love Languages
With over 200 languages represented here, this site provides hundreds of links to language learning resources.

Word Champ
Some WC high school teachers use this site. You can learn a language and get help from people around the world. Create online homework and activities for all ages and languages.

Isabel’s ESL Site
For the past 12 years, ESL teacher Isabel Perez Torres has maintained this amazing site. You’ll find language practice ideas, testing prompts, songs, games, and more.

ELL FYI: Ohio TESOL is a professional organization that has been around for 30 years. TESOL, or “Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages”, provides learning opportunities and resources to its members. For more information, visit

Online Reading to Improve Your Practice

• Educational Leadership’s ELL issue:

• Chapter 4 from Cary’s book, Working With English Language Learners:

Ahehee! Gracias! Cam on em! Shukran! Thank you!


Sites We Like

This summer I'm immersing myself in DIY professional development, reading and learning as much as I can about Web 2.0, social media, and other technologies for K-12 teaching and learning. I've opened a Twitter account to create my own Professional Learning Network, following teachers, admins, education experts, and writers from around the globe. Still learning. And eager to share with our westcler team.

For starters, let me introduce you to Free Tech 4 Teachers, an extraordinary site by real-life Maine social studies teacher, Richard Byrne, that chronicles all sorts of technology for you to examine, explore...and use in your classroom. What I like best (besides that it's all FREE) is that each post is short and simple and includes classroom applications and related sites. Subscribe, RSS, or bookmark Free Tech 4 Teachers.