iPads in my ESOL Classroom

Over the summer, I attended the Transforming Education Through Digital Learning (TEDL) Summer Academy sponsored by Title 1 Technology Office during which they announced that they were accepting applications for a TEDL Classroom technology grant. Having had very strong interests in the use of technology in the classroom in general and in emerging pedagogical practices such as blended learning and flipped classrooms, I saw it as a great opportunity to transform my ESOL classroom into one that allows for multi-media platforms of learning.

The application required that you answer a series of questions regarding your knowledge of technology in education and its impact on students’ learning. I, of course, applied and became one of the lucky recipients of the TEDL Classroom grant this year.   This grant provides me with a classroom set of 30 iPads with sturdy cases, a MacBook Air, a mini-iPad for the teacher, and a mobile cart.

mobile cart

Our iPad mobile cart

The iPad case

The iPad case

This has been a truly exciting year for me and for my ESOL students, as well as for all other students at my school who can now have the opportunity to use digital resources and interactive tools in the classroom. With thoughtful planning, adequate knowledge, and appropriate use of various resources, this one-to-one iPad initiative truly has the capacity to transform teaching and learning in the elementary classroom. I applaud the initiative of the Title 1 Technology Office in allowing my classroom and other elementary classrooms to become TEDL Classrooms.

Kindergarten ESOL kids using iPad to practice letter sounds.

My Kindergarten ESOL kids using iPad to practice letter sounds.

My 5th grade ESOL students getting ready to use Edmodo for their reading comprehension practice

My 5th grade ESOL students getting ready to use Edmodo for their reading comprehension practice

Halloween-Themed Character Traits Bulletin Board

It is such a perfect time to teach CHARACTER TRAITS in October because I wanted my bulletin board to have a Halloween theme while displaying the awesome work of my ELL students on character traits.

Of course, I did not have to spend a lot of time thinking about what design to use because Pinterest has it all.  From skeletons to witches, bats, owls, monsters, skeletons, ghosts, zombies, and haunted houses – search it and you’ll have it.

I narrowed my search to haunted houses, and found inspiration in these designs found at afaithfulattempt.blogspot.com and bulletin board ideas.org.


Halloween Bulletin Board from http://afaithfulattempt.blogspot.com


Halloween Design courtesy of http://bulletinboardideas.org


Although my students completed various tasks on character traits, which I am going to share in another blog, I thought the CHARACTER SEFIES activity was perfect match with the haunted house design of our bulletin board.  Again, I searched for character selfies template on Pinterest and to my amazement, there were several really awesome templates that I found.  Most of them are for Back To School activities with “All About Me” writing prompt, but I still found what I was looking for, which was on CHARACTER TRAITS.  Click on the links below and they will take you to Teacherspayteachers.com.  Thank you, The Pinspired Teacher for an awesome freebie!   Please follow her on TPT.  I used the phone template by Stephanie McConnell of thenewprincipalprinciples.blogspot.com to illustrate their character selfies.  Check out her TPT products here.

Character Selfies template 1

Character Selfies template 2

The results:


OUr Character Selfies

OUr Character Selfies


And here is our bulletin board:

photo 3-2

Happy Halloween!

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Add Color to your Desk With These 8 Cute Organizers and Accessories for $10 or Less

Hello, educator friends!


October is almost over but the clutter in our desks has just begun.  A former boss used to tell me that a teacher’s desk reflects both the quantity of work one has to do and the attitude a teacher has towards that bulk of work.  The truth is, the million things that are on our desk are the ones that are considered “extremely important.”  And they are the ones that are usually part of the “clutter.”  

I just think that the way I arrange my desk is perfectly typical.  To my left side  is a binder of my lesson plans, curriculum frameworks and class schedule. and beside it are piles of books that I currently use as sources or references.  To my right side are a rack with folders, 3 pencil/pen containers, two tiny boxes of other stuff such as staple wires, push pins, paper clips, etc., a tape dispenser, a big stapler, a note pad, my phone and tablet, and a hand sanitizer.  The center space is of course for my laptop.  In other words, my desk  can barely breathe at all.  And wait, papers that need to be graded are also in front of me in full view.  This is a teacher’s space.  My private space.  And here, I breathe and live my work,  Sure, we can find inspiration in clutter.  My daughter tells me that every time I nag about her room.  But in order to keep our sanity intact until the end of the school year, we do need to organize some of that clutter on our desk.  The solution:  Organize it and accessorize it with little things that add color and fun to our desk.  So here is a list of my top eight cute organizers that can keep the clutter away for $10 or less:


s0466769_sc7  1.  Post-it Pop-Up Green Apple Dispenser – available at Staples for only $5.67, it holds 3″ x 3″ Pop-Up Notes and already includes one pad (50 sheets) of Post-it® Pop-Up Notes.  Having this on our desk makes writing notes or reminders to ourselves (which I often have to do), our colleagues, or students so convenient.  This dispenser just looks perfect on a teacher’s desk!

Smart Stand-2T2.  SmartStand – currently on sale at Staples for $5.00, it is also available at Amazon for $9.99 in several fun colors and at Officemax for $7.00.  I can use it either as a phone stand or a mobile stand, which I find very useful especially at times when I need to let a student use my school-issued iPad at my iPad Center.  I do not have to worry about it being dropped or mishandled because the stand, with its silicone body provides just the right support.  The design is stylish without being too girly, which means that it can appeal to just about anyone.

0136469_PE293897_S33.  DOKUMENT Letter Tray – available exclusively at Ikea for $8.99, this letter tray has removable compartments and protective pads underneath and come in two colors, pink or silver.  I love the fact that Ikea just seems to have everything I need even when it comes to school and office supplies.  This trendy-looking letter tray would look really nice on anybody’s desk.


0136470_PE293898_S34.  DOKUMENT Magazine File – another Ikea-exclusive that comes in set of 2 for $6.99, this magazine file is available in pink or silver color.  As teachers, we have stacks of folders that we keep to organize our various documents.  Having them on a magazine file placed on the side of our desk just makes it handy and keep these folders within our reach.

UrbanGirl-SemiKolon-Pink_Desktop_Pencil_Box-SK35700065.  Semikolon Desktop Pencil Box– This four-compartment pencil box that comes in several colors is available at urbangirl.com for $8.99.  The dividers let you organize your writing utensils in one compartment for each kind.

10235561786.  Scotch Magic Tape Shoe Dispenser – If you want a desk that reflects your personal, sassy style, then this two-tone stiletto shoe tape dispenser is for you.  Available for $8.99 at urban girl.com, this elegant-looking dispenser already includes a 3/4″ x 350″ Scotch Magic Tape.

132444457.  up&up Paperclip Organizer – Target offers this paperclip organizer in clear color with 266 clips for $10.00.  With different compartments, you can place all your small stuff here within reach, like small binder clips and push pins.

k2-_c43bcfe2-c998-48be-9ef5-8b901089e836.v18.  deflect-o DEsk Cube – available at Walmart for $9.99, this desk cube has X dividers to place your highlighters or your markers in one place.


How you want your personal space in the classroom to look like is up to you.  So go ahead, check out these organizers and accessories and decide which ones will be useful and perfect for your own teacher’s desk.

Happy long weekend, dear teachers!

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Yes, Kids Can Blog, Too!

Hello, fellow educators!

I have been working on fully integrating technology in my ESOL classes this year.  I must admit it isn’t easy as it looks like because it entails a lot of careful planning of lessons and activities.  I want to make sure that students  also achieve a comfort level in using the technology.  After a few weeks though, of talking about digital citizenship, the features of the tablet and some basic keyboarding practice, I finally am able to launch our class blog.  You bet,  my 3rd and 5th grade ESOL students are on the roll to being kid bloggers!  And if anybody asks how kids can blog, my kids will beg to differ.   They will tell you:  Yes, we kids can blog, too!

After narrowing down my top sites to Edmodo and kidblog.org, I decided to use kidblog.org for our class blogs.  All my students have to do is to go to our class website, and click “Our Class Blog” on the navigation bar.

 A Screen Shot of my Class Website

 Then, it will take them to our class blog page.  All they have to do is click on their grade level to access the blog site, select their name from the list, and log in with their password, which I have provided to them.

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 Their dashboard on kidblog.org looks like this:

A Screen Shot of my 5th Grade ESOL Class Blog Site

Last week in 5th grade ESOL class, we focused on character study.  I posted a question on character study that they are required to answer.  They are also required to at least post one response or comment to a classmate’s post.  Of course, as a teacher, I deemed it necessary to comment on each of my students’ posts.  I want my students to know that I am reading their posts.

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Blogging can be a very  fun and engaging way to let students write.  They are able to read their classmates’ posts and comment on them.  At the same time, they are able to correct their own spelling mistakes through the computer’s or tablet’s spell check feature.  So go ahead and try www.kidblog.org with your students!

By the way, a big thank you to Blogaholic Designs for the free Blogger template!

Happy blogging!

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Five Must-Have Educational Resources for Teachers

Hello, educator friends!

Finding the right teaching resources in the internet can be very challenging and time-consuming just because there are usually hundreds of them to choose from.  The time spent searching for the most reliable websites is now added to the time we already spend planning our lessons, grading papers and entering grades online.  But when we do find the right ones, we go back to them over and over again.  They become like our trusted friends who are there when we need them.  This is what I feel about my most favorite educational resources.  They are my go-to sites whenever I need something – say an activity, a video, a worksheet, a Powerpoint lesson, or an interactive game for a particular lesson. So, if you have found your favorite sites, bookmark them.  It can make your teaching life much easier.

Here is a list of what I consider as must-have educational resources for teachers:

readwritethink.org1.  Readwritethink.org – provides a great resource which you can filter by grade level, lesson, or resource type (student interactives or lesson plans).  What I like most are the interactive games which you can use for your computer center or as a fun activity in a whole group setting.

readworks.org2.  Readworks.org – has a plethora of lesson plans arranged by skills and strategy units, comprehension units, novel study units, and reading passages. All you have to do is register and you will be able to access these materials for free!  I like that they have short, leveled passages with question set, and suggested texts for specific reading skills.  It saves me a lot of time thinking about what text to use for a reading skill or strategy I need to focus on my lesson.

havefunteaching.com3.  Havefunteaching.com– provides an interesting set of worksheets, flashcards, games, songs, and videos that you can add to your list of teaching materials.  They offer materials that you can purchase, but they also have a lot of really useful ones that you can download for free.  Most of the phonics and vocabulary games that I use in my classroom are from this site.  

weareteachers.com4.  Weareteachers.com– is a site for almost everything a teacher needs:  classroom resources in different formats (printables, infographics, posters, etc.) classroom management tips,  blogs and articles about education and technology.  They have interesting posts that are worth your time, and they even include discounts and deals for teachers!

learnzillion.com5.  LearnZillion.com – offers a free collection of Math and Language Arts resources that are standards-aligned.  Resources are carefully organized by core lessons, task, assessment, practice exercises, and video lesson.  It has a Common Core navigator that is arranged by grade level.

Go ahead, update your resources with these really useful educational websites!

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Five Ways to Help Beginning English Language Learners in the Classroom

Hi there, teacher friends!

I just want to share with you the infographic I created that lists suggestions on how we, as teachers, can help our ESOL newcomers or beginning English Language Learners (ELL’s) in the U.S. classroom environment. It is undeniable that the number of ESOL population is growing each year across the country, and as an ESOL teacher who advocates for our immigrant students or ELL’s, I am excited to share with you what I find are time-tested ways by which we can help them survive the first few months of school:

As always, the most important thing is to teach from the heart.  Our kids know if the people around them genuinely care.  When they have spoken their first English words and say thank you to you in the future, it will be their best gifts ever.  Not even a teacher’s award can beat that.

BTW, if you want to create an infographic, try this free infographic tool called Venngage.

Happy teaching!

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Five Practical Tips in Making Classroom Organization Easy

Hello, teacher-friends!

How was your back-to-school week?  I bet it was as interesting as you thought it would be.  And although school has begun,  I’m sure you still do a lot of finishing touches in your classroom.

If you are an elementary teacher just like me, I know you spend a lot of time and money in getting your classroom ready for back to school.  On the first day that you report back to work, you walk into your classroom – whether it be a new one or the same room assigned to you last year – that sure needs a lot of TLC and with furnitures to move here and there.  But isn’t this what we all do once we get back to school?  You take a quick scan of the room, and all ideas come flooding in about what new stuff is needed to design it, how the student desks will be arranged, where to put your most precious teacher’s desk, which will define the kind of workspace and privacy you will set as a teacher, and most especially, how you want your classroom to look like.  Then an overwhelming feeling sets in.  You look at your agenda for the first week, and you realize that with all the scheduled workshops and training on Common Core,  new initiatives and what-not, there will never be enough time to just organize your classroom.

If that is the case, do not fret.  Just like you, I tend to get overwhelmed by the daunting task of having to organize my classroom because I usually have very specific tastes in terms of what colors to use and how the learning space will look like.  Over the years of teaching, however, I have learned some ways to make classroom organization less tedious, less daunting, and a bit more fun instead.  So, I’m sharing with you some practical tips on how to make classroom organization easy.:

1.  Make advanced preparations by doing some research on the web about classroom themes and designs.  You will find tons of creative ideas on Word Wall and Bulletin Board designs, classroom set-up, learning centers and just about anything on Pinterest and on various teachers’ blogs.  If possible, decide on your theme and colors before the back to work week so that you’ll know what things to buy for your room.  For the month of August, I decided to use the “Minions” theme to go along with my back-to-school set of picture books.  This theme was inspired by We Are Teachers’ post on buzzfeed.com.  Click this link for more back-to-school bulletin board ideas.  I will change my bulletin board’s theme depending on the season and on my focus lessons.

My "Minions" Bulletin Board with Back-to-School Theme

My “Minions” Bulletin Board with Back-to-School Theme

2.  Check out the various stores’ online sites for good deals on the classroom materials you think you might need and that you know your school does not provide such as dry-erase markers, mini-whiteboards, storage bins for your classroom library and students’ supplies, sticky notes, etc., and make a list of what to buy and where to buy them.  Then, embark on a one-day shopping at these stores with a set budget. I found my green and red storage bins for my classroom library and red tiny buckets to store pencils and crayons and colored markers at the Dollar Tree store.  You will also find a lot of  good deals at Ikea, Five Below, Staples, and Target.

One-Dollar Storage Bins at Dollar Tree

One-Dollar Storage Bins at Dollar Tree

Back-to-School Deals at Ikea

Back-to-School Deals at Ikea

3.  Once you know what your room assignment is, decide where to place your desk and your shelves (if you have movable ones), and where your different centers will be.  Then, decide on the order by which you will organize them.  I find it easy to design all my boards first, followed by the classroom library and the Reading corner before anything else.  As I do this, I do a lot of moving around the desks and chairs just so I could reach the top of the classroom walls, which is why it doesn’t make sense for me to set up my students’ working space just yet.  When I am done cleaning my shelf, I start unpacking the boxes that contain all the books for my library. and that were already previously grouped by genres and lexiles.  Believe me, when all your boards are ready and your classroom library is set, everything else comes easy.

My Word Wall

My Word Wall

My Classroom Library

My Classroom Library

4.  Arrange your working space, the rest of your centers, e.g. Vocabulary and Phonics Center, Computer Center, Writing Center, etc., and the students’ working space.  Envision how your students will move around the classroom at different centers, and how you will also move around when you are teaching.  You will find that as you do this, you get a feeling of a sense of accomplishment that the hardest part was already done and you are now making sure that there is adequate space for teacher-student interaction.

My ESOL students' Reading Nook and Working Space

My ESOL students’ Reading Nook and Working Space

5.  Last but not least, treat the maintenance personnel and the office secretaries nicely and respectfully.  They will be your best friends, and in fact, your most needed friends just before school starts, and when school ends and whenever you need something.  Anything.  And I do not have to explain why.

Happy First Week of September!

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Five Powerful Ways Students Can Become Independent Learners

We are at an era in teaching where as teachers, we aim to become more effective facilitators of learning rather than just be a mere source of knowledge to our students.  Student seats are no longer arranged by rows where the teacher is always expected to be in front, but in groups that encourage open discussion and collaboration among them.  We design our activities so that they can truly become more independent learners who are able to monitor their own learning.

Taking into consideration that these types of goal require thoughtful planning and organizing, I have listed some ways by which our kids can take charge of their own learning in the classroom:

1.  Establish a set of expectations as well as routines and procedures for all your day-to-day activities in the classroom, such as: whole group discussions, read-alouds, learning stations or centers, carpet sharing, use of technology, bathroom use, etc.  These expectations should be clearly explained starting on day one and every time you introduce a new structure in class.  For exa,mple, students rotating in centers are one of the hardest to manage, which is why it is important to carefully plan each activity in the centers by providing simple but clear directions as well as model answers.  I typically would direct my students’ attention to each center while I explain the procedures for each activity before we begin with group rotation in centers.  Once students have gotten used to the routines and the structure, they become self-driven, independent, and more accountable for their behavior in class.

2.  Assign a team leader for each of your learning groups.  By doing this, you  deliberately pass on some of your managerial duties to selected students who you know have leadership qualities, which will then enable you to take care of other important aspects of your job rather than having to constantly tell them what to do or what not to do.  Students generally love to be given responsibilities in the classroom and lead their classmates.  I usually would have different team leaders every week so that everybody gets the chance to be a leader.  You would be surprised at how much this means to the kids, especially the younger ones who would love to do anything to please their teachers.

A first grade team leader giving a phonics mini-lesson

(A 1st Grade Team Leader Doing a Mini-Lesson on Phonics)

3.  Give them their own “teacher moment” by assigning a group project that will allow them to create an activity or a mini-lesson on a topic that has already been discussed.  For instance, intermediate students can do a Powerpoint or Prezi presentation, create a vocabulary game, or even a quiz for their classmates.  Primary kids can “take over” a learning group to review their phonics lesson or give a spelling bee on sight words or high-frequency words they have learned for the week.  In my first grade class, my kids love to use the mini-whiteboards to quiz each other on our vocabulary list.  When this happens, be assured that it helps a lot to boost their confidence, their social skills, and their oral proficiency.

First grade team leaders give a spelling quiz

(1st Grade Team Leaders Giving a Spelling Quiz)

 4.  Assign a “Teacher for the Week” to a student who has earned privileges to be one.  This “teacher for the week” can check class attendance, distribute and collect papers, take charge of your behavior chart, or oversee a learning station.  This encourages positive behavior among students because they generally want to earn this privilege.

5.  Design center activities or tasks at their appropriate proficiency level.  It is essential to provide directions that are written in clear and simple sentences and that students are able to complete tasks with minimal teacher supervision.  Centers are meant to supplement students’ learning and to work independently but at the same have the opportunity to interact with the group.

Just an added thought:  Always teach with a smile on your face!  Be nice but firm.  Be sweet without being over-friendly.  It may sound like a cliche, but in my years of teaching, I have found that when students like your teaching style and the way you relate with them, they tend to become more motivated to do their work, they have less anxiety in class, and as a result, they take charge of their own learning.

It surely would make you feel good when at the end of the day, a student would come to you and say, “I had so much fun learning today.”

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When Students Become Teachers

As an ESOL teacher teaching multi-grade levels with kids of different abilities, I sometimes have this crazy idea of wanting one or two of my kids to “morph” into me so that there are three of us in the classroom teaching at the same time.

When all strategies fail, don’t we just want to turn into a wonder woman with cool super-powers?  Believe it or not, we have students that will drive us crazy the entire year.  Like Marcus who whines at every little thing.  Or Kyla whose attention span lasts only five minutes or so.  I remember an instance when upon entering the room of a first grade teacher (one who I consider to be one of the best in the building) to pull out my ESOL kids,  I noticed that she was having one of those rough days as her students were behaving like they were from outer space.  And it was uncharacteristic of her to exclaim,  “You’re all giving my grey hair right now!”  To my complete amusement, our principal who happened to pass by overheard her and jokingly reacted, “What’s wrong with grey hair?”  Hint. Hint.  She clearly needed those super-powers that day.

Ok, so going back to wanting to have cool super-powers, I actually felt like I had one when last Thursday, two of my kids volunteered to handle one of my centers.  They turned my reading center into a spelling bee station.  And because I have done spelling bee with them three or four times, they assured me they know what to do.  Here’s what happened:

  •  Kevin and William took charge of the kids in what was supposed to be the Reading station.
  • They handed out mini-whiteboards, dry-erase markers, and mini-erasers.
  • They asked me for a copy of the high-frequency words that was on our list for the week.
  • They quizzed the group on each of the words.

Here’s the most amazing thing that happened:  They actually did it as if they were ME!  They copied the way I would do the spelling bee, even the way I would count from five to zero and say, “Hold up your boards!”

Kevin and William as ME

(Kevin and William as ME)

 And I was free to just be moving around to see what was happening at the other centers.

Isn’t it incredible to have students “morph” into you?

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The Best Day Ever: Activities and Centers that Support Independent Writing

This week my kids learned about autobiography.  You bet it’s a big word to learn especially that most of them are English language learners with beginning reading level.  The first thing I had to do then, was to get them acquainted with the term.  I devised a game, which I dubbed as “Say it Right, Do it right.” The game requires them to say “auto” and “biography” alternately, each with different gesture, and whoever does not say it right with the right gesture during the game gets eliminated and goes back to his/her seat.  I did this, pointing to each kid alternately until everyone else, except one, is back on their seats.

Let me tell you this.  At the end of the game, the word just got stuck in their minds, a few of them were still saying the six-syllable word happily while lining up for dismissal.

My agenda for the day went like this:

Whole Group Activities/discussion

  • Say it Right, Do it Right game
  • Introduction to Autobiography (using an Anchor Chart with definition and short example with focus on use of pronouns I, Me, My)
  • Review of Phonics lesson: short /o/ (which I had to include as part of the summer reading program)


I created three learning stations for my 12 kids with four members in each group:

  • Writing Center – (It is necessary to place the strongest group of kids in this center during the first rotation; they are the ones who need less teacher support.)
  • Phonics/Vocabulary Center
  • Reading Center –  (This is where I am stationed so that I can guide them into reading and comprehending the text that is appropriate for their reading level.  This is also the time I provide more details about an autobiographical text).

To apply their learning, they wrote about their best day ever, just simply titled “The Best Day.”  In the Writing Station, I wrote the instructions and provided the template with an example.  I also have a word bank for them.  The center has markers, crayons, and papers – all they needed to complete the task.

The Best Day writing assignment

The Best Day writing assignment-2

     So far, I am quite satisfied with what they have done.

My kids at the phinis:vocabulary center

My kids at the Phonics/Vocabulary Center

Me at the Reading Station

Me with my kids at The Reading Station

This is Summer school and I just make the most out of the very few resources that are provided to me.  The classroom is bare of any decorations, and it is okay.  It is, after all, Summer.

Happy Summer!

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