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Reflecting and starting over

Last semester, I got my feet wet in teaching an introduction to computers for English learners who really didn’t understand the technology they had been given.

In May, I committed to doing classroom research. I’ll be presenting on a panel about my work this March in Chicago at the annual TESOL International Conference.

Research, honestly, is something I do all the time: I try. I fail, I restructure. I try again.

But I’ve been less than great about documenting what I do. This semester, I’ve started over. So I’m planning on being fastidious about comparing my successes/failures/changes and why that happened.

So let’s jump in.

Here is my original proposal:

At BHS, all students receive Chromebooks. In the EL department, most students are newly resettled refugees. Many also would qualify as Students with Limited or Interrupted Schooling (SLIFE). They lack background knowledge and academic behaviors for “doing school” in a Western education system. Additionally, most students never had access to technology before coming to the United States, and parents are unsure of what students are doing on computers at home at all hours.

The school previously offered an intro to computers class, but it was eliminated with budget cuts. To address parent concerns, the school offers mini-workshops. But parents often do not retain information from these sessions. Therefore, I have implemented an action research study to explore these questions:

  • To what extent do one-to-one devices in a newcomer EL class promote learner autonomy and develop academic skills?

  • In what ways do digital artifacts provide teachers, students and parents a tool for tracking progress?

  • What are the students’ and parents’ perceptions about using devices in the classroom and at home?

I have developed a technology-based curriculum in my newcomer class to build student knowledge through devices, self-awareness, and home support. Using a flipped learning approach, students engage with various sites and build an online toolbox to support academic participation and foster vocabulary enrichment.  In addition, parent support will occur through home visits and targeted outreach.

The overarching aim is to build students’ competencies with devices and set them on a trajectory for success in content classes, where they will continue to engage with their devices.  Students will be able to see Chromebooks as tools for learning and will be able to move toward greater autonomy. In addition, parents will have a better understanding of acceptable activities and feel more empowered to set limits on device use at home via an informational campaign.

I am so excited about what I’ve learned and where this is going. It’s been in ways very successful. And in other ways, I feel I am running up against impossible barriers.

I have enrolled myself in an EVO Online course on Classroom Based Research. I am reading listserv posts and listening to podcasts to hone my teaching and webinars to help me find my way.

I’m not done yet.

And I’m excited to see where I end up when I finally report out in March at #TESOL18 #mytesol18



New year, new topics

As I’m getting lost in the minutiae of preparing for WIDA ACCESS testing, I am forgetting what I love most: learning. And as I look forward to #TESOL18, I also at this time of year try not to miss signing up for the Electronic Village Online! Registration for this ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS 5-WEEK FREE FREE FREE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT!!! Sign up here!!!

Timeline EVO18 Sessions

In the past, I’ve participated in flipped learning, learning about writing my own e-textbook and Minecraft. I’m still looking

over the offerings now this year.

I’m sure to return to my Minecraft posse… It’s so awesome building and fighting alongside other teachers spread across worldwide time zones. It’s even more awesome as we talk about how to use this platform to get students to chat. There will be a follow-up session at TESOL in Chicago at the Electronic Village. I haven’t stopped by there during the last couple of conventions, but I really want to meet some of my online friends face-to-face there.

Last year I lurked a bit in the QR Codes course. I so much enjoyed reading about how these could be put to use. It’s being offered again this year, too.

But my real interest right now lies in research in the classroom. I’m signing up tonight for The Classroom-based Research EVO 2018.

Won’t you join me? And then we can talk about it live at #TESOL18!



Waiting for my groove

Man, this has been a tough year. And we’re not even halfway through.395513826

Teachers in my district voted to go on strike. It lasted for four days. And that created a huge work stoppage in my class.

We hadn’t even finished a full week of school when this hit. And I’ve been struggling ever since.

My students are primarily former refugees, who now are trying to make their way in the U.S. school system. The problem is that most were not fully literate in their own languages when they came here. The theory of transfer has a tough time taking hold in our school.

So the secret disguised goal of my introduction to computers class–which I’m teaching for the first time ever to offset the great inequity of a lack of training for late arrivers subjected to a 1:1 program (what Alan November refers to as a “$1000 pencil” initiative)–is to teach what the my department lovingly calls “schooliness.”

Schooliness is the package of behaviors that help students succeed. These skills include:

  • showing up on time and attending regularly.
  • taking notes.
  • using English when possible while still taking risks to expand academic capabilities.
  • relying on first languages to negotiate meaning, then returning to the target language.
  • advocating for themselves in social and academic situations.
  • understanding how to find meanings of unknown words.
  • doing homework.
  • being self-sufficient and self-driven.

And I’ve been working with my little group to do this. Yet when I had to go home sick yesterday, I could tell they, for the most part, had done little to nothing relating to classwork.

So it’s time to put on my hard hat (heart hat) and start handing out invitations to stay after school, because I love them so much and don’t want them to fall behind.

At the end of last year, my colleagues and I talked about handing out heart-shaped detention slips. Not because we want to be punitive, but because we want them to succeed.

I’m to present on my experiment at #TESOL18, on an intersection panel. I wish I had great things to report about upending student apathy. I feel as though I have learned a lot from this experience of taking on this new class and new challenge, I also feel like I’m not quite there…


This time really food for thought

Who knew?

talking with kids about racism is an act of kindness and an act of freedom.

Food for thought as we move into the summer…

i wore a bra to get a job

A digital zine (meant to be read on the computer) for you if you live in Northern Vermont! how to talk to kids about racism_digital_vermont

A printable zine (meant to be printed double sided and folded) for you in you live in Northern Vermont! how to talk to kids about racism_to print_vermont

A digital zine for you if you live anywhere else! how to talk to kids about racism_digital_general

A printable zine for you if you live anywhere else! how to talk to kids about racism_to print_general

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YES Day 10: Looking Back

On the last day of Year End Studies, students get the opportunity to check out what happened in other programs. People who went on trips have to make presentations. Most of the cooking classes serve up tastes of what they made. And we went back to our pictures.

Through the generosity of Burlington School District, I was granted 20 iPads a couple of years ago for my EXCEL program, which serves the newest students in our district with the lowest English proficiency levels. Pictures are worth a thousand words, particularly when you don’t have the words yet to say what you want to say.

Sadly, one of our iPads was retired after this YES program. I usually make students carry them with their case covers, but the covers get lost. So this year, I went without, and one of my iPads paid the price.

But giving students the opportunity to document their learning in this way crosses language barriers and gives them a voice.

We used a program called Animoto, which is a simple online program that takes video and photos and throws them into templates.

I’d like to once more thank all the organizations that helped us out during this Year End Studies class: The Teddy Bear Factory; BCA Firehouse Gallery and Fletcher Free Library; Pomerleau Y and Pine Island Community Farm; Burlington Parks and Recreation for providing our beautiful parks and bike path; Shelburne Museum; Spirit of Ethan Allen, ECHO Leahy Center of Lake Champlain; Shelburne Farms; CHILL, my lovely colleagues at BHS for sharing your classes and Sara Crothers for showing us another beautiful part of Vermont; and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts educational programs.

It’s been a lovely two weeks. Next year, maybe we’ll do it again.

#YES@BHS #SoGrateful

YES Day 4: Yet another non-beach day :(

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So Monday was the one day where I had difficulties getting anything scheduled. So we were holding out again for good weather. Maybe today would be the day to play at the beach.

Um, no. No such luck…

So we decided that today we would again visit other classes to see what offerings might be on the menu for next year. And then try for outside later.

We walked down to the bike path to see one of the exercise stations. It was newly refurbished last winter. And now there’s new reasons to bike down to the waterfront. We got to talk about camping and point at the beach, but we didn’t get much farther than that. No sandy toes for me.

After that, we checked out the gardening group with Brian Williams. They are doing some work up at Rock Point. Mosquitos were thick! Brian took a few minutes to talk to us about the farm to school program and about working in different gardens around the community. They were working at putting in raised beds and had beautified the school’s gardens a few days earlier.

In the afternoon, we went to my neck of the woods, stopping in at Salmon Run, where we took the path down to the water, despite the sprinkles of rain. Then we walked across the river and saw Winooski’s nature path.

Because mosquitos were not our friends, we didn’t venture in too much. But we were there long enough to see a couple of places that might be nice for a picnic later in the season.

My thanks to Brian for letting us come see your class, and to Rock Point, for letting us use your restrooms and play on the swing.

#BHS_YES #SoGrateful


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