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Wednesday, September 20, 2017


At our second annual Edcamp Arlington TX, we gave away George Couros' The Innovator's Mindset as one of many door prizes. I chose this one because it is one I want to read. It took me until yesterday to finally buy it, and it had immediate impact on me.

While I was drying my hair this morning (hey, I work in ever minute I can to read), I was perusing the introduction to the book. Couros writes

Well, I do happen to be a cat lover, so I stopped to watch the video.  

We are five and a half weeks into school in my district, and I am not seeing as much effort as I would like from many of my students, particularly for a college preparation class. This commercial spoke to me. I want my students to be more dog! 

So today I modified my lesson plan to address behaviors I am seeing on campus and in my classroom that I think need to be improved. Cat behaviors!  I was calling my students cats and making cat noises at them, speaking in complete metaphor about the cat behaviors. They were a bit confused until we watched the video. Then they were all about the dog behaviors!

I asked my students to write three ways in which they could "be more dog" - aside from eating their homework.  There were some definite dog references - be more obedient, fetching work to turn it in on time, walking faster to get to class on time. But I also received some serious responses about being more enthusiastic and actively engaged in class. We always share out, accompanied by some sort of applause - double clap, snapping, a quick Woot! Today, we barked our approval. 

I cannot say I have ever spent a dog hissing like a cat and barking like a dog in my classroom,  but this blog address does not start with crazyladyteacher for nothing. I am always willing to put my ego on the line and do something a bit ridiculous and adventurous in my classroom if it will benefit my students. 

I went with a bit of crazy chihuahua today. What can you do to #bemoredog?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Roving Paragraph Frames

This summer, I was introduced to a book chat on Twitter specifically focused on English language learners. The first book I read for #ELLChat_BkClub was Boosting Achievement: Reaching Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education by Carol Salva. Most of my students are long-term ELLs, but good strategies are good strategies, so I was not going to pass up the opportunity to dialogue with educators all over the country regarding this information.

I do have some shorter-term ELL students in my classes this year, ranging from two to five years. Although we are four weeks into the school year, I do not know about their educational careers prior to immigrating. I do know that I want to provide them with the best possible education, and in Boosting Achievement, I discovered roving paragraph frames. As an AVID teacher, my students engage in writing, reading, collaboration, and reflection regularly. The roving paragraph frames strategy caught my attention because of its ability to meet my AVID expectations in addition to assisting my ELLs. I often use writing frames and templates in class, but the addition of movement and collaboration makes this a special strategy.

After spending a week watching videos and taking notes over the AVID tutorial process, my students needed a day to get up and move. I used the roving paragraph frames strategy as a collaborative reflective writing assignment about our learning. Salva provides options for students who cannot yet write in English and for the newcomer classroom, as well as the following method that I used with my students:
  • Provide students with a sentence stem. They should complete the statement, creating a complete sentence. 
"It is important to understand the tutorial process because..."
  •  Students signal when they have completed their writing and are ready for the next step. Salva suggests having students stand up in preparation to move. Because my classes are large, I simply had my students set their pencils down. 
  • Students next rove around the room to find a partner. I used the Kagan Hand up/Stand up/Pair up strategy. 
  • Once a partner is found, students read (speaking/listening) what they have written to one another.  
  • Provide another stem for students to add on to what they have written, creating another complete sentence. Students may write the information they received from their partners or write a brand new idea. 
  •  Students signal when they have completed their writing and are ready for the next step. Salva suggests having students stand back-to-back. I used this idea, but I would like to caution you in advance: we had some booty bumping taking place. 😀
  • Lather, rinse, repeat until your students have written what you wish for them to write. I kept this initial round to four sentences, as I was not sure how my students would react.
After completing the activity, I had my students reflect on how we used listening, speaking, reading, writing, and collaboration with the strategy. It is important to me that they understand all aspects of communication skills as part of their college prep program.

These three students are my newest to the United States and all wrote equally as well as their native Texan classmates: 

Student from Mexico; in US 2 years

Student from Vietnam; in US for 3 years

Student from Vietnam; in US for 5 years

If you have read my blog with any regularity, you know that I consider all students to be English language learners. Middle schoolers still have a lot to learn about writing fluently, and by using roving paragraph frames, my students have a foundation upon which to build.

During my last class of the day, one boy asked if we were going to be doing this again. I told him that depended on whether or not the class enjoyed the activity. I was met with a chorus of resounding approval. I also have to tell you that my kids gave me a bit of a hard time. Apparently, I needed to increase the sophistication of the transition statements because they already know how to use the basics. Challenge accepted! Stay tuned.

P.S. I will be presenting this information at the TexTESOL V conference in Plano in a few weeks. If you happen to try this before then, I would love your thoughts.

P.P.S. Here is the presentation from the TexTESOLV conference. Thanks to all who attended and shared.