Archive for the ‘Issue 10’ Category

In This Issue (10)

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Increase Student Interaction in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Authors: Monica Gonzalez, Education Specialist, ESL/Bilingual

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin


According to TEA’s reports there are 817,165 ELL students in Texas, 456,051 enrolled in bilingual education, and 310,812 enrolled in English as a Second Language.  There are over 120 different home languages represented in Texas schools. 91% of ELL students speak Spanish.  With this increase in English language learners, our approach to teaching has to evolve in order to ensure success for this group of students.  English language learners (ELLs) are tested every year to measure their language development in listening, speaking, reading and writing (the 4 language domains).  Studies have shown that the best way for ELL students to rapidly increase their linguistic proficiency in these four areas is to increase student interaction.  Do you ask yourself, “What does that mean? What does that look like?”  Read on to find the answer to these questions.


Student interaction has been called classroom interaction, cooperative learning and student engagement. Regardless of the title or term used, student interaction is a practice in which listening and speaking skills of English language learners are enhanced through meaningful conversations with classmates. This interaction enables ELLs to think critically and orally share their views with classmates.  To know how to increase student interaction, you need to understand the linguistic development of these language skills.  As you read these descriptions, think of what you would need within each of these domains if you yourself were to learn another language.


Listening is the ability to understand spoken language, and to comprehend and extract information. It is imperative that students learn how to comprehend social and academic language.  Speaking is the ability to use social and academic language appropriately and effectively in different situations. Practicing social and academic language increases student comprehension and accelerates their oral proficiency.  Reading is the ability to comprehend and interpret written tests at a grade-appropriate level. Beginning readers may need lessons in phonics to learn the sound system of the English language. Finally, writing is the ability to produce written text with content and format to fulfill grade-appropriate assignments.  The expectations of writing will differ for each writer’s proficiency level.  Drawings would be appropriate for a beginner regardless of age or grade level.


Teachers who effectively engage students at high levels of interaction utilize three steps that scaffold each of the 4 language skills.

Modeling All students need to understand the desired outcome for the lesson.  Modeling is essential for beginning ELLs because the teacher is creating comprehensible input by demonstrating the processes students need to use to fulfill lesson objectives.   Teachers can translate and/or clarify, which increases student understanding and comprehension.

Guided practice is an activity that provides students the opportunity to grasp and develop concepts or skills while the teacher monitors students’ progress.  This setting allows for a risk-free environment in which students are free to verbally express themselves without the fear of making a mistake.  Students also feel comfortable because of the support of their peers.  Guided practice is not simply assigning a worksheet, problems or questions to be completed in class.

Independent practice provides students the opportunity to apply what they have learned.  When students are aware of the final outcome with resources such as rubrics and criteria charts, they can work together to practice or edit each other’s work before it is turned in to be graded.

This process of modeling, guided practice and independent practice is commonly called “I Do”, “We Do” and “You Do.”


The following table shows student interaction activities that follow the process in each of the four language skills.

Increase Student Interaction-table



TEA, last modified October 12, 2012.  Snapshot of ELLs in Texas.

Seidlitz, John and Auer, Valerie. Navigating the ELPS in the English Language Arts and Reading Classroom. San Clemente, CA: Canter Press, 2010.


Instructional Materials Selection & Adoption

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author: Jennifer Jordan-Kaszuba, Education Specialist



During the 2013-2014 school year districts will be selecting instructional materials for K-5 Math, K-12 Science and K-12 Technology Applications.  This selection is different than adoptions in the past in that districts will purchase materials they select using their Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA).  The State Board of Education (SBOE) is scheduled to release their list of materials in November of 2013.  To qualify for the list, materials must align to at least 50% of the TEKS for the subject/grade level/course that they represent. Materials under consideration for state level adoption may be print, electronic or a hybrid of both.



Gone are the days where a textbook system covering 100% of the TEKS, complete with ancillaries and more, was selected without thought to cost (as long as it qualified for the list), and books for every student showed up in August.  Instead, districts must now weigh the cost, quantity and TEKS coverage of all materials and make hard choices about which materials to purchase.   Districts will need to, if they haven’t already, form a committee to prioritize spending of the IMA.


Committees face the daunting task of deciding which courses and grade levels receive new materials: both to what extent as well as what internal preview processes and systems need to exist. District technology staff must also work with the committee to make sure any online materials will work with the district’s infrastructure. Math has new K-8 standards taking effect in 2014-2015. Science has new standards that were adopted in 2010 for which no long-term materials were adopted.  Technology Applications TEKS are also new and require updated materials.  More materials were submitted to the SBOE for consideration than ever before, with 50+ submissions for 8th grade science alone.  These considerations are in addition to the normal questions regarding quality, ease of use and suitability of materials for students groups with regards to differentiation.


Materials Preview

Districts should be actively reviewing materials as soon as possible.  ESC Region 13 hosts free ongoing preview opportunities on alternating Wednesdays during regular service center hours of operation.  District personnel may preview materials only – no vendors or publishers are present.  Pre-registration is required and space is limited for these sessions. For more information about dates and registration, click here.


We will also be hosting three days of Instructional Materials Preview where vendors will be present to exhibit their materials and answer questions.  These free sessions will be done in an exhibit hall format and you are welcome to come and go throughout the day.  Pre-registration is not required but on-site sign-in is requested. (Register now.)


January 7, 2014         K-5 Math and Science (SP1425307)

January 8, 2014         6-8 Math and 6-12 Science (SP1428091)

February 21, 2014    K-12 Technology Applications (SP1428092)


Information about Proclamation 2014 and the SBOE process is available online from TEA.


Information about the Instructional Materials Allotment is available online from TEA.

Personal Financial Literacy Resources

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Authors: Region 13 Math Team

Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the revised math standards will be introduced along with a new strand to grades K-8, Personal Financial Literacy. Students are already learning about Personal Financial Literacy through Social Studies and in high school Economics. Now they will see how it ties to math as well. The PFL strand is going to require teachers to not only learn about a new topic, but learn how-to-teach this new topic. This has the potential to be difficult for teachers. Some student expectations can be organically integrated into the curriculum; for example in 8th grade students will be expected to…

8.12D calculate and compare simple interest and compound interest earnings.


Most 8th grade math teachers will be able to easily infuse this standard into their curriculum when they are working with rational numbers. Certain PFL standards could require more time and preparation. Consider the following 3rd grade standard:

3.9B describe the relationship between the availability or scarcity of resources and how that impacts cost.


Teaching this standard to 3th graders will more than likely require a learning experience that could take several days. But what support will teachers have in developing these activities for students? Because these standards are new, and yet to be implemented, we thought you might like to know about some resources available to teachers. Below is a compilation of resources that are available to teachers.





Federal Reserve Bank of New York


This site contains a printable journal with activities that students can use throughout the school year. The site also has other activities that support PFL, along with student pintables and support for the teacher.

Council for Economic Education


This site has dozens of activities that can be searched by topic, grade, author, and interactive resource. The activities include objectives, materials list, teacher support, and evaluation.

Money Math


Money Math offers downloadable activities that use real-life situations to lean about PFL. One activity allows students to examine the tax rate based on income, standard 7.13A.

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy


This site does not contain any activities for students; instead, it contains lots of valuable information to help teachers build their content knowledge of PFL. In addition, it has several calculator tools that students could use, such as a “Rent vs. Buy” calculator that allows students to compare which is more beneficial, buying a house or renting.

State of Oklahoma


This site contains several activities designed to support PFL. It also offers presentations to go along with the activities. The layout of the resources is user friendly and makes finding the perfect activity easy.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas


The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas offers lots of resources for educators. One feature that sets it apart from the other resources listed here is that it also has videos and interactive whiteboard lessons that can be downloaded.


In addition to these resources, Region 13 is hosting trainings provided by the Texas Council on Economic Education. These face-to-face workshops will provide teachers with resources that are correlated to the new Personal Financial Literacy standards. The trainings will be offered in grade clusters on the following dates: November 7 (K-2), February 10 (3-5), and February 26 (6-8). Find more information here.

Surviving and Thriving in the First Year of Teaching

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Authors: Region 13 Educator Certification Program Team


Living through that first year of becoming a teacher is something most teachers would not want to do again! The challenges facing a first-year teacher are enormous. On top of getting a handle on classroom management, lesson planning, and the unique working environment of a school, new teachers must also be prepared to have their students perform on the same level as the students of their experienced co-workers.

We wondered . . . how have the first couple of months of school been for new teachers this school year? We interviewed three Region 13 educators to find out.


What surprised you about the first weeks of school?

Rachel: How right everyone was about how hard it was going to be. Nothing can mentally prepare you for how challenging and even scary those first weeks can be.

Tamra: As far as planning goes – I realized it would be a lot of work and I would have no free time – but I had no idea how much work it would be.

Mario: I didn’t realize how tiring it would be to talk all day! It feels like foreign language teachers like me have to talk double. We say something and, if no one understands us, we repeat it. And then we translate so all students know what to do.


What surprised you about your students?

 Tamra: At first, the students were quiet little angels. But that changed! I didn’t realize how hard I would have to work to gain their respect.

Mario: I was surprised about how diverse students are in how quickly they pick something up. Some students get it the first time, but for others you have to loop around again and again. I have all levels of students in all of my classes, and that can be a challenge.

Rachel: The school where I teach is different from the school where I did my student teaching, yet I face the same issues here. I find that kids are kids. There are kids who are excited about learning, and there are kids you have to pull up, no matter where you are.


What challenges have you faced?

Tamra: I can’t believe how much you need to feel out the lesson you are going to do, and how you have to work it over and over again to get it right.

Rachel: Definitely for me, the biggest challenge has been lesson planning and being worried about what to do tomorrow.

Mario: There are the days when I do my planned lesson and I think “What actually stuck?” I sometimes don’t get the return I wanted. It’s good to reflect and change, but it’s hard to realize I didn’t get done what I wanted.


What have you learned about lesson planning and classroom management?

 Rachel: I look back at the evolution of my lesson plans and feel better.  At first, I planned my lessons by creating a huge PowerPoint with tons of bullets. But now the PowerPoint and the lesson are much more pared down. The lessons are more about what the students are doing, not what I am saying.

Mario:  There was a week when I was worried that I was behind, and I had to plow though material. It was so boring! I was relieved when I found out we don’t get through the whole book in the year. I don’t want the kids to think “this is the place where we memorize words” . . . I want my classroom to be a place where they learn to communicate.

Tamra: After the first couple of weeks I was struggling with classroom management, and I thought “Do we have to keep these same kids after the first semester? Really?”  But now I’m already thinking about how I will miss them in May. It’s so true that the class that drives you crazy can become your favorite.


What support that you’ve gotten from other teachers helped you this semester?

 Tamra: I had discussions with the teachers on my team about what to expect from homework and activities. They helped me channel my energy. They’ve also given me a lot of help with resources and been really responsive to emails.

Mario: Every person in my department has been teaching for more than nine years, and they are so willing to help. Sometimes I get there in the morning, and someone will have stuck helpful worksheets or activities in my box. They remember what it is like to be a new teacher.

Rachel:  My team has been very supportive and shown confidence in me. They don’t hover; they show me that they think I can do it.

Mario: I definitely want to show that I can handle the work, but I also want my fellow teachers to help me. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to ask for help.


Using Edmodo to Facilitate Book Study: What I Learned

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author: Rachel Hernandez-Eckert

In the September 2013 In-Sight newsletter, I wrote about the beginnings of a group book study that our grant cohort is engaging in. We are studying “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?”: Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12.  Because the group consists of 26 educators from 18 different school districts, we had to wrestle with the issue of facilitating a book study without meeting face-to-face.  My colleagues and I decided that the best platform to do this through is Edmodo. (Edmodo is an online platform created to connect teachers and students in a “free and safe way.”)  Since I had never used Edmodo before, I had to take the time to play in the platform and discover the capabilities that it had.  We discovered that we could establish a group and post notes, quizzes and polls, create small groups within the larger group, and establish folders and documents in a library that we could then link to a post.  We could also hyperlink webpages and embed videos in a variety of ways for our group members to view.  For the book study aspect, we established a reading schedule and every Friday we post questions that require participant response.  The Edmodo group served two different purposes; first, we use it as our main avenue of communication and to share documents pertinent to our cohort of educators.  The result was the decline of mass e-mail communiqués.  Second, we were able to create small groups for our participants to engage in online discussion about the text they were reading.  The result was that we could actually see our participants in “process mode” as they read, learned and reflected together.



My recommendation for anyone trying to replicate this is to discover and practice with the platform features before you formally establish a group.  You may consider inviting a few colleagues to serve as your beta test group and make comparisons about what you see as the owner of the group and what they see as a participant.  I felt pretty proficient in the platform to launch the group, but I found subtle features that could only be learned once the group was established.  If you are considering using Edmodo to facilitate a book study as we did, you must establish a learning plan and consider posting weekly questions to bring your participants back to the platform for discussion.  The best part about this method of delivery was that I still felt connected with the grant cohort and we have been able to engage in learning collectively, even though we did not meet again until the following month.

Meaningful, Challenging Writing Opportunities for Young Children

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author:  School Ready Team

Writing in many early childhood classrooms is limited to:

  • Copying words
  • Name writing
  • Helping the teacher compose a Morning Message
  • Practicing correct letter formation
  • Whole group journal writing on assigned topics


While these practices are part of Pre-K writing instruction, much is missing! Opportunities to learn Pre-K Guideline IV.B.1 (Child independently uses letters or symbols to make words or parts of words-phonetic spelling) are often particularly lacking.


Example of phonetic spelling:



A high quality Pre-K program offers a balance of meaningful teacher-led and student-led writing opportunities that include all of these 5 components.



Throughout the week in a high quality Pre-K program, the teacher and students compose lists, letters and other forms of writing through shared or interactive writing.

During Center time, students are invited to write in various centers (e.g., food orders in a Dramatic Play restaurant and observational drawings in Science Center).


Children make books regularly or engage in Writing Workshop, composing their own texts.   Name writing occurs naturally throughout the day as students sign a wait list for a popular center, answer a survey or record their names on art work.

Rather than copying their names or isolated letters over and over again, young children need meaningful reasons to write. In Real Life Reasons to Write, Louis Mark Romei offers a short list of ten compelling ways to prompt young writers:

Questions to Consider:

  • How can you challenge and support Pre-K teachers to gradually begin offering comprehensive writing instruction that includes all 5 components?
  • How can you ensure rigorous, meaningful writing instruction including opportunities to develop phonetic spelling?