Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Website Suggestions

This excerpt from a recent Marshall Memo (available at was too good not to pass along. Some summer days will invariably tempt kids to turn to the Internet for stimulation. The following will provide you, and perhaps your students' families, with some good suggestions. Enjoy!


Summer Websites for Students

(Originally titled “How to Stimulate Summer Learning”)

            In this Education Update article, Willona Sloan suggests twelve engaging educational websites to keep students learning through the dog days of summer:

            • Art Games: - Students can design their own abstract paintings online, learn about pioneering artists, and explore painting techniques.

            • Great Websites for Kids: - Dozens of recommendations for exemplary websites for students up to age 14, curated by members of the Association of Library Service to Children.

            • NGA Kids: - The National Gallery of Art website features the Photo Op program, which allows kids to use a virtual camera to take pictures and experiment with photo-editing tools; they can also create virtual paintings, assemble collages, and explore art history.

            • National Geographic Kids: and National Geographic Education: - Photographs and videos of animals and natural environments, links to encyclopedia resources, craft ideas, puzzles, and quizzes.

            • Oxford Owl: - More than 250 free e-books, and kids can print, illustrate, and construct their own picture books, play games to test their comprehension, and do math activities.

            • Pass the Plate: - Nutritious recipes from all over the world.

            • PBS Kids: - Videos from Word Girl, Arthur, and The Electric Company, and places to create comic strips, create and mix global beats, test-drive a space flyer, and do an experiment in the Inventor’s Workshop.

            • Science NetLinks: - The American Association for the Advancement of Science has interactive games, podcasts, information on the inner workings of the body, and science news written by young readers.

            • Kids: - The WebRangers game simulates being a national park ranger, and students can practice cryptology and code breaking, explore the 50 states, discover health careers, learn tips for saving money, and listen to stories from Peace Corps volunteers.

            • Wonderopolis: - Each day, this site explains a new “wonder” of daily life, for example, how to create harmony, why zebras have stripes, and where buffalo roam.

            • Word Mover: Available free through iTunes – Kids can create “found poetry” by choosing from word banks and remixing famous works.

            • iWASWondering: - Inspired by the middle-school biography series, Women’s Adventures in Science, this site has brief biographical information and interactive games, including a virtual telescope.


“How to Stimulate Summer Learning” by Willona Sloan in Education Update, June 2013 (Vol. 55, 36, p. 1, 6-7),

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Collaboration Among All Teachers of Second Language Learners

Recently I participated in the three-day professional development workshop series to support teachers and administrators that are working toward full use of the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) structure. This is the structure that Massachusetts has adopted to strengthen second language learner instruction across the state, align instruction of second language learners with the 2011 Curriculum Framework in ELA and Literacy, as well as Math, Science, Social Studies, and provide a strong basis for collaboration among teachers who shelter content (commonly referred to as ELL teachers) and regular education/content-area teachers.

Many district administrators have been asking for guidance on ways to integrate the WIDA Standards into their curriculum maps. This is a very reasonable request and the workshop series was a way of providing that guidance. The WIDA booklet called, 2012 Amplification of The English Language Development Standards, Kindergarten - Grade 12, (available for free download or spiral-bound purchase at was a strong reference point for our work. In addition, there are supports for introducing, understanding, and using the book with educators, at the site.  Integration of the WIDA standards, features of academic language, and understanding and use of performance indicators (models of these are provided in the book for all content areas and in all grades levels) occurs at the unit and lesson planning/implementation levels. However, in the same way that reading standards 1 and 10 are expected to support and be part of all units and lessons, WIDA Standard 2, the Language of Language Arts, would support and be part of every literacy unit and lesson. Thus, the global reference to standard 2 would appear across the year-long timeline of a curriculum map and specific features of language development and assessment would appear as part of unit and lesson development.

Much of the work we are currently implementing challenges us to collaborate on many levels. Integration of WIDA standards/structures is another exciting opportunity for collaboration among education professionals at the local level. Throughout the 2012-2013 school year, we met with Urban Literacy Leaders from across the state each month. Three of the meetings were built around ELL-ELA collaborative work. At our last meeting, several districts showed the work that they were doing to incorporate WIDA structures into unit development and lesson instruction.

One of the hardest ideas to understand well and incorporate into daily work with students is, that although a student may have little language, particularly productive language in English, that student may be very knowledgeable, have ample background, and be capable of creative problem-solving in certain content. All students are entitled to work with content at high levels of engagement. How we provide supports and what we require for demonstration of learning outcomes will change based on language proficiency. In the past we may have confused lack of language with lack of knowledge or understanding. These are areas that are difficult but not impossible to reconcile and they are a big piece of the regular educator's work with English learners. The performance indicators are a huge help in supporting our thinking about providing choices and supports for students as they develop language capacities. However, among the important ideas presented, the idea of ELL teachers and regular education teachers collaborating in support of all students learning at optimal levels is the most important. Our second language students are the responsibility of all of their teachers. All of our work contributes to every student's successes.

In addition to the Amplification Booklet mentioned earlier, there are two publications that have informed my thinking:
  • Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Rothenberg, C. (2008). Content-area conversations: How to plan discussion-based lessons for diverse language learners. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
  • Zwiers, J., & Crawford, M. (2011). Academic conversations:Classroom talk that fosters critical thinking and content understandings. Portland, ME. Stenhouse Publishers.