Saturday, July 30, 2016


Many people ask me "What do you teach a student who doesn't speak English?"  Usually, they are referring to the first few days of a student entering school with little to no English skills.  Some teachers lovingly call them "Newbies" others refer to these students as "Newcomers".

In Tennessee, we are lucky to have dedicated ESL teachers and educational assistance in many schools.  I came from California where all teachers were ESL certified and there was little to no support for a classroom teacher.  Those experiences in California didn't prepare me for the ESL world in Tennessee.  However, my classroom and fine art experience was a big bonus.  

Over the last decade, I have taught many levels of ESL students.  Undoubtably, a newbie would show up right at the most stressful of times...WIDA testing or State testing.  And yes, they have to test without knowing a stitch of English!   But, I digress.  Lets get back to.. 

What I Do With a Newcomer the First Weeks

I have a little bag of 'tricks' I call my Survival Kit.  The very first thing I do is lend a student/his teachers a device (either an iPad or an old iPhone (that is used like an iPod for internet access).  I then teach the student how to use Google Translate.  I know many of you are doesn't translate all that well.  My response is simple.  Google translate is constantly evolving and I have seen translations get better over the last few years.  Also, it is better than nothing or even trying to go 'old school' and use a hard copy translation dictionary.  If you keep to simple sentences, phrases or even words, I find I can understand the students meaning and he/she can also understand what I am trying to say.  There are also lots of funny moments when teaching using the voice recognition feature...we laugh and laugh when it gets it totally wrong.  I put together some lessons using Google Translate for my students.  These lessons are fast paced and take just a few minutes.  I or my educational assistant pull the student from class (usually RLA, Science or Social Studies) a few times a day to do these "mini-lessons".

On the first day, my ESL student can walk around school confident they can communicate their basic needs or his/her teachers can communicate to the student. It is a comfort to the student on those first few scary days and a way to show the student you care and want to get to know them.   Even if you do not know anything about Google Translate, you will by the end of these lessons.  They are step by step beginning with teaching the student how to turn on the device and find the app, to the end scanning a classroom worksheet and responding to the questions on the worksheet.  

Sometimes internet access can be 'sketchy'.  So, I also made these communication cards.  These are more heavily used by my K-1 students who would not handle a device as well.  And, not all of my students languages are available with Google Translate.  These are a freebie!  

After the first Google Translate lesson, I begin also teaching these SURVIVAL LESSONS.  

This is by far the fastest way to get students understanding and using English skills from Kindergarten to High School to Adults.  But, it also requires a teacher, aid or volunteer.  Each of these three lessons are broken up into 4 parts.  I teach them in smaller parts a few times a day.  They are fast paced and full of energy because we are using TPR or Total Physical Response.  Both the student and I are moving...and having fun.  Sometimes I can get through these lessons in a week, sometimes it takes a bit longer.  It helps if the child has some home language literacy skills, but certainly doesn't require them.  Students begin to learn not only listening and speaking, but also identifying the written words within commands, phrases and sentences.   Once you follow and understand the pacing of these lessons, you use them as a pattern to introduce other words that are crucial to the grade level/student.  Give the student options on what they would like to learn next.   

TPR is nothing new.  I use it daily in my regular lessons.  I even use Whole Brain Teaching and teach it to my classroom teachers.  But what is unique about these lessons are they are used specifically to teach language acquisition FAST!  I have a high school teacher friend who does this with High School students.  Another who teaches a foreign language this way too (TPRS).    MTSU has summer classes to learn a new language in two weeks using TPRS.  It is on my bucket list!


I also do lots of thematic vocabulary development with writing.  I find teaching students to write sentences with the vocabulary helps students form more oral and written sentences quickly.  These lessons can really be used as a template for other vocabulary lists you would like to teach.   Unit 2 teaches newcomers singular and plurals with clothing items and colors.

You and your students will love the game boards.  You can use them in a center with ANY list of vocabulary picture cards.

Friday, July 22, 2016

a Classroom or Party 
with $5

I have seen a lot of Classroom Theme Decors and it seems soon expensive!  I am thrifty at heart and love helping others save money too.  So, I created these Classroom Decor Sets that you can edit and customize to create a unique one-of-a-kind classroom theme for just a few dollars.

 These sets above are in back and white/grey scale to help save money on color printing.  You can certainly add 'pops' of color easily.  I like to layer my borders.  So with just a few sheets of construction paper and a few sheets of one of these designs, you have a unique border in minutes.

You may be asking yourself, well how do I customize these?  I have created some video tutorials to help you achieve some common looks from posters and labels to banners and artistic wall designs.  Follow me on this blog to see all the tutorials.  More to come!

If you would like a custom set, let me know!  I will do it for $20 more.  If you would like a cartoon of yourself, I can do that too.  Look and see some characters I made for a few teachers.

Would you like these team teacher's theme?  Here it is...I added lots of clip art to create unique unlimited looks.  Superhero kids, are average everyday looking kids...have fun and...start designing with this freebie!

Look at the neat gear art effects you can make of your classroom hallway, science fair, STEM event, steampunk classroom decoration, bulletin boards or party!  Gear up for a great year and don't forget to combine this freebie with the Gear theme classroom decor pack.

Have an LOL year!