Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Using Rubrics for Language Proficiency Progress and Academic Learning

by S. Romero

One of the biggest questions that teachers find themselves asking, especially when teaching ELLs is, "Did my students get the "gist" of what I want them to learn?" "Is their second language proficiency improving, and if so, in what area?"

Although our ELLs’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills are assessed annually, I need to keep track of their progress throughout the year. Anecdotal notes are great, however, as their teacher, I need something more concrete that measures growth which can be shared with my students and their parents. That’s when I thought about creating a rubric.

Before creating a rubric I needed to decide which area to monitor. I decided to start with writing since it can be more subjective to assess. I identified writing expectations that I wanted to target for a particular writing assignment. I made sure they were aligned to language proficiency standards of the state, in this case the ELPS. After identifying the standards, I created a rubric/checklist and included the expectations and proficiency language levels with descriptors.  See below.

I shared this rubric with my students so that there would be no surprises. We reviewed it and made sure everyone understood how it was going to be used. We took a sample writing and together we rated it. This helped clarify questions they had.

Here is a rubric that I completed for Ruben.

After reviewing Ruben’s strengths and weaknesses in the specific expectations, I know that Ruben knows how to write a persuasive letter, capitalizes proper nouns, and understands the use of punctuation marks in a sentence. What I will need to focus on during the next lesson is his use of proper nouns, use of subject and verb agreement, and any other expectations I may add.  

As far as the linguistic portion of the writing, I reviewed the language standards and the proficiency level descriptors for writing using the ELPS at a Glance.  I looked at the specific descriptions and identified the proficiency level that aligned with the skills of the student. Using the ELPS at a Glance  made it easy for me to review the descriptors for all levels: beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high.  You can view all the standards and levels at a glance. 

Documenting the proficiency level for each assignment helps me monitor students' language proficiency progress. It also makes rating at the end of the year a lot easier since I am very familiar with my students linguistic performance and the proficiency level descriptions.

Using this rubric, and others, allowed me to evaluate students' writing as well as their speaking. As you all know, a students' writing mirrors the way they speak. This tool helped me tremendously! It helped me track my student's progress, my grading was less subjective and it gave more accountability for both my students' learning and my teaching. I later created a more formal rubric that I used for other subject areas, which made grading a whole lot easier!

How do you monitor your ELLs’ language proficiency progress? Do you use checklists/rubrics? Share your ideas!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Importance of Music in Education - Part I

The Benefits of Music Education

A boy getting a piano lessonWe have heard or have read that music facilitates learning.

This is not a myth and we know the importance of it, but do we really value it and use it in our classrooms?

Here are some reasons why we should incorporate music into our classrooms.

1. Language Development

Music benefits children's ages two to nine language development.

2. Increased IQ

Children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. 

3. The Brain Works Harder.

Research has proven the theory that students who received music instruction had improved sound discrimination and fine motor tasks, and brain imaging showed changes to the networks in the brain associated with those abilities.

4. Spatial-Temporal Skills

There is a l link between music and spatial intelligence, which means that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together, like they would do when solving a math problem.

5. Improved Test Scores

Music can help with basic memory recall, so students can easily memorize information and improve their test scores.

6. Being Musical

Music can improve our students' abilities in learning and other non music tasks, but it's important to understand that music does not make one smarter. 

Words from an Expert- Musician Mariana Iranzi

"Music is important. It is essential in the mental, physical and emotional development of children. It helps in the development of math, listening, language, and motor skills and encourages creativity, expression and communication. Music connects others through history, art, geography, culture and dance. It supports the development of high self-esteem and confidence. Music is expression of the self and it's freedom. Music is a gift for life."

Helpful Resources: - great music for children in English and Spanish. - great programs to develop different skills through music.


Monday, August 18, 2014

The 21st Century Classroom

There is the misconception that if we just take a traditional K-12 classroom and fill it with technology, we have designed the perfect 21st century classroom.

If we just add technology, will wind up with high tech classrooms that will still lack meeting all students' needs.

Here are some ideas that should be incorporated into the 21st Century classroom:

1. Desks and furniture that support collaboration. 

Furniture should be able to accommodate multiple learners and then be repositioned for independent learning.

2. Ample electrical outlets. 

You should provide a  combination of electrical outlets, some of which are integrated into the classroom furniture, and power strips that are distributed through the classroom. 

3. Lighting that's easy to control. 

Use lamps, natural lighting or lights that can be dimmed easily. Also the students sitting furthest away from the projection screen, for example, must be able to see the workspace clearly and without interference from shadows.

4. Integrate Technology - Video
Technology Integration


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The 21st Century Learner

We are getting ready to start setting up our classrooms soon, so we should be asking ourselves:

Is our classroom ready for the 21st century learner?

The great news is that 21st-century learning can take place in every school and in every classroom!

It is evident that technology influences how our students learn. Not only educators and learners have changed, but also learning tools have evolved. While I was training teachers, I realized that some of them are reluctant to prepare themselves for this change.

Their main concern is that they do not feel like they have enough tools, knowledge and time to implement technology.
It is crucial for us to know how to use technologies to make material accessible and engaging. It is never too late to learn and if we are in education for our students, we can at least start somewhere. Let's not forget that technology is ever-changing, and we should not leave our children behind.

Where can we start?

The main question we should ask ourselves is—what do we want students to learn? Then we can choose what technology is appropriate for our students.

    Here are more questions that can help you get ready:

  • What tools and technologies will help my students (and perhaps colleagues) create, collaborate, and communicate better?
  • How can I let students learn with technology the way that they already live with their technology?
  • What is the appropriate role of the web, social media, mobile technologies, interactive white- boards, etc., in today's classroom?


21st century learner

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Use of Technology in Education and The 21st Century Classroom- Part I

They are everywhere!!!...schools, restaurants, stores... we see children of all ages (including toddlers) handling tablets, cell phones, computers and video games in many cases, better than their teachers and parents.
The rapid  change in technology is creating both opportunities and challenges for education.
Teachers are constantly trying to catch up with technological innovations.

The controversial questions are:

1.How do we keep up with the constant change in technology?

2.What technology is effective?

3. How do we balance it?

4. How can we implement it successfully?
My goal with this 4 part topic is to answer these questions and share ideas on how to incorporate technology in the classroom.
How do we keep up with the constant change in technology?
Voice amplification systems, digital projectors, document cameras, interactive whiteboards, personal response systems, and other handheld devices–these are among the many technologies that are quickly becoming essential tools for helping 21st-century teachers engage their students' interest and make learning more interactive.
As educators, we need to educate ourselves on how to use all these devices, educational software and how to effectively implement it in the classroom.
Not tech-savvy? No problem! Nowadays most school district value the use of technology in the classroom and will invest a lot of money in devices, training, software, etc.
It is never too late to take a class, attend a training or even watch training videos or webinars.
Here are some helpful links that can help you start keeping up with the overwhelming change in technology:
1. Great video on the history of technology in education:
The History of Technology in Education

2. Millions of resources, trainings, videos

3. Keep up with the latest news in education

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Parent Involvement- Part II

Have you experienced lack of parent involvement?

Does it frustrate you that your students' parents are not more involved?

Well, it is time to do something about it...

My first year as a dual language teacher, I was extremely frustrated because more than 50% of my students' parents where late for conferences or did not show-up, rarely answered my calls or helped their children with homework. 

After taking the time to talk to them, I realized that most of them really cared about their child's education, but they did not know how to help them.

It was a AHA moment because I had all these preconceived ideas - The language and cultural barrier was really the main issue.
This is a list of some things you can do to help your parents more comfortable with the school community:
1. If you speak your students' parents' native language, use their preferred language. 

2. If language is an issue, find a fully bilingual interpreter. Many times your school's parent liaison, another teacher, parent volunteer or community member will translate for you. Invite translators to PTA meetings and conferences.

3. Translate or ask someone to translate the written communications that you send home. Make sure that the translation is understandable to your specific audience, so it is not too hard to understand or too long.

4. Put parents in touch with bilingual staff even if you are bilingual. Give the parents a list of names and contact numbers at the district's office.

5. Teach parents how your school works, including the curriculum, standards, benchmarks, and materials.

6. Make sure your parents know the teacher and expectations.

7. Make certain that parents know their rights; such as, interpreters, programs, requirements.

8. Arrange a back-to- school night in the parents' native language and tour the school with them.

This is another helpful video on parent involvement (you can translated it and put it on power point).

Here is a great resource to help your students' parents.
Parent Program

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Parent Involvement Part I

Why is important to help parents become more involved?

We all now that a strong partnership between the home and school, will help children succeed academically and at home. Teachers need input from the parents about their children. Sharing information and teamwork is essential.

How can teachers be proactive?

One of my main goals as a dual language teacher was to get my students' parents more involved, not only in their child's academic lives, but also in the community... to empower them!!

I realized that this was not an easy task because there was a huge language and cultural barrier.

I decided to be proactive, so I created a parent academy that grew from 4 parents in my second grade classroom to being implemented in 13 schools in my district. 

How can you start a parent academy?

I started by creating modules that were based on a survey I sent at the beginning of the school year, asking parents about their needs and for suggestions for topics.

Then, I asked my principal for funds to cover food (you HAVE to offer snacks) and materials. When my academy grew, I approached the multilingual director for Title III funds.

I also asked around in the community for small door prices and volunteers for daycare, while the parents attended the sessions.

Finally, I asked my district's and region's specialists and consultants to donate an hour a month to present. 

This does take a lot of work and it was certainly a team effort.


Some of the modules I created, include:

1. US School System

2. Math/ Reading/ Writing/ Science Make-and -Take sessions

3. Parenting classes

4. Computer classes

5. College Prep

6. Community Involvement 

7. The 21st century classroom


Here is an informative video on parent involvement.

Coming Soon:

More ways to help parents get involved.