I love this video!  Not only is it super interesting, but it also gives an insight into what students may experience when they first enter the country.  Imagine listening to your teacher and he/she sounds like this girl all day long.  Every now and then you catch a few words that make sense, but not a lot is comprehensible.

The video helps demonstrate the importance of comprehensible input, as well as the special need for comprehensible input when a student first arrives.  Think about have visuals or translators available (even if it is Google Translate!) to help students get comfortable and begin learning “survival English.”   Having realia or pictures available to help students function as normal as possible can help newcomers feel more relaxed, welcome, and hopefully curb some of the overwhelming feelings and anxiety that can happen when you don’t have a clue what anyone around you is saying.



Read Works Reading Passages

Read Works is amazing!  As a teacher of older students, I am often at a loss for finding passages that are interesting, age-appropriate, and on the reading level of  my students (many of whom are reading below the first grade level in their native languages, let alone in English). is a site that provides free reading passages with accompanying questions based on The Common Core Standards.  There are fiction and non-fiction passages that are written about a variety of topics.  The passages are divided by grade level.  The site even allows for searching for passages based on standards.  I use this site to create tests, especially when schools are adamant about giving students cold-passage exams.

WARNING:  When you print the pages there is a header and footer on the pages that copyrights the material to  That’s great!  The issue is that the grade level is also listed.  Many older students feel uncomfortable about the fact that they are reading something for “little kids.”  I will usually use White Out on that part of the passage so that students do not become self-conscious.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Racism

Sorry for the hiatus.  Holidays…

I found this story in December as a post on Facebook.  While I’m 99% sure that it is fake and is definitely a simplistic version of a very serious concern, I think it demonstrates a cultural awareness that is necessary for teachers of ELLs to consider.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich is Racist, Say Portland School Official 

What I like about this story is that it really puts a funny spin on the fact that there is vocabulary, concepts, and general knowledge that we have as native speakers of English that non-native speakers may not be aware of.  It’s funny to think that a peanut butter a jelly sandwich is something that not all speakers, especially young children, may be aware of.

I remember that I teaching my first year in middle school before I heard the concept of culturally-biased test questions.  It seemed absurd to think that polar bears could be culturally biased, but for a speakers from a country that is always hot (South America), and to a student who has had limited education and access to computers, a polar bear could be a completely foreign concepts.  I saw another example later when one my older students had to read a passage about police dogs for her Biology class.  The student was raised in a refugee camp and had only been in the country for a few months before this class.  Police dogs were not prior knowledge for her.  Not to mention the fact that the biology concept within the passage was difficult for me to decipher (but this is a different post!).

Just something to think about next time you discuss peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with ELLs!

WIDA Can-do Names Chart

This is a great tool offered by WIDA!  You can use the .pdf file to type in the proficiency levels of the ELLs in your classroom.  It serves as a quick guide for accommodating or lesson planning.  This files contains ALL grade levels, as well as spaces in each grade level for the four domains of language (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).  Finally, at the top of each page (and for each domain!) there is a can-do descriptor for each level.  This is a one-stop-shop for the mainstream and ELL teachers to have at their finger tips

WIDA Can-do Names Chart

Accommodating ELLs

This video provides a very BASIC explanation of ELL language proficiency levels and how one might accommodate ELLs.  What I really like is the way the woman explains the ELL levels.  In Kentucky, we use the WIDA Access test to define the level of a student.  However, the principles are the same, no matter the terms.