Monday, July 22, 2013

Additional Resources Added

Summer always seems to bring not only a time of reflection but a time of "spring cleaning" and preparing for the new school year. For me personally, it is also a time of packing and moving this particular summer...As I have been sorting and resorting, I decided it was time to add some resources to our blog in order to round out our "collections" for teachers.

That being said, I am distracted from our postings on the Common Core, but will be back commenting in future posts.

So...some recent additions to the blog include  under Picture File Cards. Cut and paste a passage and it will lift vocabulary and find sources for images. Great for making chants and poems more comprehensible.

Tag Galaxy finds images for you when you type in key words, and don't forget both National Geographic and National Geographic for Kids Photo Gallery kids.nationalgeographic/kids/photos/gallery/.

Two other recent picture file card additions include Kitzu - collections from Orange County Dept of Ed. and Calisphere - collections compiled by the University of California.

Other additions are GLAD units found on school sites like Forest Grove and North Clackamas. Find their links on the right-hand side of our blog...

And there is MORE!

I also added the GLAD resource book from Los Angeles Unified School district. Thank you Main Street teachers! It is a handy little booklet of GLAD strategies and pictures of those strategies from different grade levels. Many teachers have commented about how useful this little booklet is.

And last, but not least...Marcia Brechtel's book -- Bringing It All Together...a handbook on GLAD strategies written by the creator of the model.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

More Reflections - Common Core and English Language Learners

One of the reasons my partner and I started this blog several years ago was to provide resources for teachers that we were training in EL strategies, especially since nothing was "out there" for our particular audience at the time. Since then, we developed our website (which is a continuing work in progress) which also lists resources for teachers. Teachers find our sites incredibly helpful, especially when we are doing follow up and/or coaching.

I was recently reminded of the importance of mentioning authors of resources and links by Larry Ferlazzo, an ESL teacher based in the Sacramento, CA area who posts constantly about what is working or not working in his ESL classroom. He has some of the best sites for ELs listed on his blog site and tweets resources 30-40 times a day, believe it or not! Well, I have yet to get there. :)

Here is the title of one of his "bests" lists - The Best Resources For Learning About Common Core Standards and English Language Learners. The link is:

I have yet to peruse all of the articles listed on Larry's best list, but will pick out a couple of my favorites for my next posting. Since Common Core is on everyone in the teaching world's minds right now, I think it is an appropriate place to start when thinking about the new year that is fast approaching. Can't believe we are mid-way through the summer already!

I think another appropriate theme when thinking about the new teaching year and about Common Core is year-long planning--how to develop one and how to then develop units with strong common threads and connections.

So, thank you Larry Ferlazzo for your lists and fabulous resources and for inspiring me to keep on posting for the teachers and colleagues that I work with! Next post -- continuing with the Common Core and then on to year-long planning....

Friday, June 28, 2013


One school year has ended and the next is (hopefully after a time of rest) soon to begin. Summer is a good time to reflect upon what worked in my classes and what did not. What will I keep? What will I change? What will I eliminate? What would I like to tweak or try?

Reflective practice... is the habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, reasoning, emotions, values and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individuals and communities being served. (Epstein and Hundert, 2002)

 Introduced in 1987 by Donald Schon, the concept of reflective practice is a way for beginning teachers to match their own practices to those of successful practitioners and for experienced educators to reflect on the effectiveness of their lessons and to be aware of the need to change practices and/or direction as their student population changes. As the concept grew in popularity, many schools, colleges, and departments of education began designing teacher education and professional development programs based on this concept.  
Unfortunately, in our need to reduce everything to its most basic components so that we can do it faster and have more people doing it, ended up giving us what Boud and Walker (1998) refer to as a “checklist” or “reflection on demand” mentality, where the reflective processes have no link to conceptual frameworks, and teachers are required to reflect without an established context for their particular teaching/learning situation. Reflection then becomes just another piece of “fluff and stuff” that teachers must do in order to maintain their status.

And yet…. reflecting on teaching is frequently cited as a fundamental practice for personal and professional development (Biggs, 2003; Boud et al., 1985; Lyons, 2002), although few see it as more than a time-consuming, abstract concept with no real practical benefits.

Reflecting on my practice as a teacher is what allowed me to spend over 40 years in education without burning out.  Teaching is complex and, as practitioners, we are faced with hundreds of decisions during our lesson planning as well as during delivery of said lesson.  It is the perfect example of “ongoing assessment” as we are led from the pre-assessment (or what our students know), to interim assessments (how the lesson is going and what our students are deriving from it), to summative assessments (what have we accomplished and what do our students know and are able to do).

The ability to reflect on what we do, how we do it and, especially, why we do it and then to develop, adapt, and change our plans to fit our particular student population – a population that is becoming ever so diverse in its composition and its needs – is what takes us on the road from newbie to expert.

Why do we need to make time to reflect now more than ever? 

The major changes in education make it necessary for us to rethink our role as teachers, to focus on curricular integration, teaching for meaning, interactive dialogue, socialization, and collaboration within the context of the classroom.  The move from the teacher-directed classroom has been in the making for many years, and yet we are, on a daily basis, bombarded by models, programs, and books that take away our ability to interact with our teaching environment and our students, by providing us with canned and scripted lessons that are only superficially interactive or meaningful.

If excellence in teaching, and improved educational outcomes for all students is what we aspire to achieve, then we need to regularly make time to evaluate our approaches to teaching and learning.  This includes knowing WHO are our students are and what their needs are; building partnerships within our schools, communities and businesses; establishing flexible learning environments utilizing those partnerships; creating new contexts for learning and revamping the old ones; and exploring what our students need to learn and how best to expose them to that learning.

Critical reflection allows us to become expert teachers, relying on a large set of skills and strategies that we often weave into our teaching instinctively.  Reflection allows us to look back at our choices and actions to remind us that they are based on sound educational principles and the knowledge that we have of our students.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another Game Site

We've added a new game site to our resources listed on the right-hand side of our blog. This site is a great source for creating board games with your students. Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Hi Everyone!

We have a new category of links posted on our blog on the right-hand side....ESL games. Take a look and let us know your favorites.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chant Writing

In case some of you want to try your hand at writing chants, start with the niehs website.  On that website, there is a section on games and songs.  That is where you'll find the MIDI files for the music.  Here is the direct link to that part of the website:

When writing a chant, start by pulling out the academic information from text or content-area. Make sure you have all the vocabulary words that need to be included.  Try NOT to write things down in complete sentences so that you have the flexibility of using whatever music is available.  

Then select the music by sampling the MIDI files on the NIEHS website.  The children's songs and popular songs are good places to start. (If you are teaching adult students, these are the songs that they will probably be exposed to from their children.  This adds a "culture" component to the activity.)

Finally, go to RhymeZone and get to writing.  Switch the words around to make the best rhymes, but songs don't always have to rhyme if they have rhythm. 

Hope this is helpful!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Flipped Classroom - Part 2 (Reflections)

1)   The flipped classroom was definitely a success.  My lectures were more focused and shorter.  Students were able to go through the material at their own pace. Students who were more familiar with the content or were already teaching could go through the lecture at a faster pace.  Students who were not native speakers of English could take their time and look up words they did not understand.  They could also check in their book and in the other resources for explanations of the concepts.
2)    Students found the forums time-consuming at first but in the end said that they were valuable as a tool for getting to know each other, applying the concepts that they had learned, exchanging ideas with their peers, and it also provided a valuable assessment tool for me.
3)    The classroom discussions and activities were the big winners. Having the students come prepared for discussions (and me not having to do a long lecture) allowed plenty of time for group activities which then afforded me the time to listen in, and pose questions as an informal assessment.
4)    I felt that my assessments were varied enough to allow each student to excel in the class regardless of their learning modality.  By the end of the course, I was able to assess my students’ ability to: a) comprehend the text, b) apply the principles to their student population, c) lead and participate in discussions, and d) participate in a group activity with an oral component.  The forums and journals also allowed me to assess writing expression and ability.

Feedback from my students and self-reflection gave me some ideas of what I would do differently the next time I teach my course.

1)    The most difficult thing for me to do was to let go of control. Feedback from my students said that the sessions where I felt the need to go over the lecture notes again were the least interesting. I must trust that my students will do what they need to do in order to come to class prepared.
2)    I definitely need to rework my syllabus so that students know exactly what they need to prepare before coming to class, what they need to be prepared to do in class, and what is expected of them after class.  The timeline for preparation, discussion and activities, and responding to the forums needs to be more explicit.  This is something that can also be addressed by changing the format of my school website.  Right now, it is mostly a list of resources followed by links for assignments.
3)    Although I like the discussions and activities as I have prepared them, I would like to continue to refine them so that they become a better assessment tool.  I would also like to look for alternate assignments so that students have a choice in tasks and projects.
4)    The final change is technical in nature.  I’d like to make my presentation more visually appealing by including short video clips, using the tools available through the Faculte Studio, and providing additional assistance via the Q & A capability of the website.  My school website also allows for self-paced quizzes to ensure that students have gotten the correct information.  I would not use them for grading, but they would allow students to gauge their level of comprehension of the topic and ask questions for clarification.

I am also looking forward to getting ideas from the book I purchased as well as from the many websites available on the topic.  After all this time, I’m still learning and still loving it

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Times They Are A-Changin' (Part 1 - Flipped Classroom Reflections)

(by Dr. Alva Lefevre - the "L" in L&M Educational Consulting)

I’ve been teaching for what seems to be a very long time.  I’ve studied the research, practiced the strategies, and gathered a lot of information about my students. Some things worked and, over time, became part of my repertoire and others fell flat and eventually disappeared.  I tried models; didn’t like them; and finally realized that I must redefine the way I teach with each new group of students. 

I am presently teaching a course titled “Theories of Second Language Acquisition” at the university level and my students often joke that the name alone is enough to put you to sleep.  Over the last several years, parts of my course have been moving online making it a “hybrid”, with some sessions taking place on campus and others being in an online format (asynchronous). 

Embracing technology was not hard. Learning to live with it was another matter.

It was already a challenge to get to know my students when the course met on campus, as it only met once a week for a three-hour session and the “lecture” took up much of it.  Every quarter, my students would fill out an evaluation and tell me that the “best” part of the course was when they could discuss the materials with their peers and the class activities.  As much as I longed to be the "guide on the side", I almost always ended up being the "sage on the stage".  This was a very scary notion as I recalled my graduate school days of desperately trying to stay awake through boring lectures after a long day working.

Because the material can be overwhelming and I wanted my students to be ready to apply their knowledge when they took the methodology course, I spent a good part of each session explaining the theories, showing how the concepts would apply to the classroom, and I tried to challenge my students to figure out how the application would change depending on their teaching environment and their particular student population.  That didn’t always leave much time for activities and discussion and I would find myself rushing through a lecture to make time for the activities only to find out that not all students had understood the material. With my class composition being half native English speakers and half speakers of other languages; I felt that the pace was too slow for some and too fast for the rest.  The activities and discussions were fun; but not always fruitful from my perspective.  The students enjoyed them but were not always closer to understanding the theories or how they influenced curriculum design.

When I started to hear about the “flipped classroom”, I thought it made a lot of sense for me.  My students were motivated; and, for the most part, already used to having technology facilitate their learning.  Although the concept was not totally new, it intrigued me and I felt I was ready do things differently and to use technology as a teaching and learning tool rather than just as a way to access information and materials.

Flipping my classroom would entail having the "lecture" done at home via teacher-created presentations and having the class time used for activities and discussions.  This would give the students time in class to work on key learning activities and would provide a means to increase interaction and personalized contact between teacher and students.

The idea of the flipped classroom also appealed to me because it was a blending of direct instruction with constructivist learning and it catered to the three distinct roles in constructivism: the active learner, the social learner, and the creative learner.  Flipping my classroom would allow all three to flourish.

Students would be able to listen to a short lecture presentation at home, at their own pace, and read the additional materials.  They would come to class prepared to discuss the topic and to participate in group activities. 

During the classroom discussions, the students take an active role. Instead of just listening to the lecture and taking notes, reading the textbook and answering questions; they discuss ideas, debate hypotheses, investigate and design instruction as they begin to formulate ideas about their potential student population.  The group activities also bring into play the social learner.  Knowledge and understanding are constructed through dialogue with others and through the application to real-life scenarios. Finally, as creative learners, students examine their potential population and make educated guesses as to how the theories would apply to them.  This engages them in a discovery process and yields deeper understanding as they learn to make connections between the theories and their “real” environment.  It’s one way of engaging learners in an active problem-solving exercise that connects the knowledge they are acquiring with a real world application.

Putting my plan into action meant that I needed to focus my lectures so that, in recorded form, they would not be longer than thirty minutes.  It also meant that all ancillary materials had to either expand my students’ knowledge of the topic or lead them to make connections with other concepts.  At all times, they needed to be brought back to their potential student population. 

Packaging and narrating the presentations was time-consuming but received a thumbs-up from my students.  The discussions and activities were successful and it seemed that, from the formative and summative assessments, my students had a deeper understanding of how theory and application connected with students and classroom. 

In the second part of this blog, I would like to look at what worked in more depth and analyzed what needs to change – the how and the why.  I have found that there are many resources on the internet about the flipped classroom and that they can be as individual as we are.  A good reference is :

 Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, by flipped classroom pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, is available through ASCD

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