Category Archives: ESL

Tom Newkirk: On Writing Embarrassment—An Interview with Myself

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By Thomas Newkirk

In anticipation of the September release of my new book, Embarrassment: And the Emotional Underlife of Learning, I decided to reflect on what the book can offer teachers, students, and (I hope) other readers intrigued with the topic. We met in Tom’s office, a cluttered upstairs room of his house. From his window, you can see across Mill Pond Road to the former house of his mentor and friend Don Murray, who figures prominently in the book.

Why embarrassment?

In so much of what I read about education, the emotional life of the learner, particularly the teacher-learner, is ignored. We often get these rosy, uniformly successful depictions—all students are motivated, everything comes in on time, the teacher just loves every minute of her job. While I loved teaching, that was never my emotional reality. I regularly felt discouraged. I relived failures, often in the middle of the night. My successes seemed so much more intermittent than those in the accounts I read. I compared myself unfavorably with colleagues, and super-teacher authors and presenters—and I didn’t measure up.

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Language Study: Answering the Call to Action in the Classroom

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Written by: Jen McCreight based on a section from her book Celebrating Diversity through Language Study.


In today’s climate, many of our students’ families are feeling anxious. Anxious about whether they are welcome in the United States. Anxious about escalating disagreements and protests surrounding immigrants from countries near and far. Anxious that loved ones may be deported. Regardless of our own political beliefs, as teachers, we are called to empathize with, support, and love our students. We are called to respond to their social and emotional challenges as much as their academic ones. I am reminded of this each day that I open the newspaper or read about current events online, and over and over, the following story pops into my head, as clearly as if I had experienced it yesterday.

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English Learners in the Reading Workshop

Moses_Webinar_1080_FIN (1)"[As a new teacher], I needed theoretically sound, research-based, instructional ideas to support the students in my classroom. …[and] I needed support for the logistics: getting my classroom workshop ready; ideas for units of student and learning experiences; suggestions for whole-group, small group, individualized instruction and conferring; and ways to use assessment to drive my instruction. However, I needed these logistics to include the necessary linguistic considerations to support my English learners.”    —Lindsey Moses 


Lindsey Moses, author of Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop (2015), works with classroom teachers across the country supporting the implementation of effective literacy instruction in diverse settings. Her experience and research reveal extensive knowledge, ideas and examples to guide teachers with facilitating a workshop setting that is just as effective for English learners as native speakers.

Enjoy this clip from her most recent webinar series for a glimpse into this Online Professional Development opportunity.

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Breaking the Cycle of Limiting English Learners’ Potential

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This week on the Heinemann blog, we’re sharing a series on Language in the Classroom. The series was inspired by an article published by NPR on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, on the ways we teach English Learners in our country. While the NPR article was specific to English Learners, our hope is to use that as a jumping off point to broader topics of language instruction in the classroom. Each day this week we will feature articles, excerpts and insights directly from Heinemann authors and affiliates that further the conversation surrounding language diversity in the classroom, the challenges it presents, and what we know works.  


Breaking the Cycle of Limiting English Learners' Potential

adapted from No More Low Expectations for English Learners.

By Julie Nora and Jana Echevarria


Too often English Learners (ELs)—the students in our schools who are in the process of learning English —are described by what they cannot do: they cannot speak English, they are not prepared for mainstream classrooms, they do not understand the culture of schools in the United States, their parents don’t speak English and cannot help them with their schoolwork, they do not do as well academically, and so on. Even the official term limited English proficient consigns these students’ academic identity into a negative label of diminished capacity. These feelings are only increased by standardized tests and teacher evaluation, and we become trapped in a cycle of limiting potential. Of course, there are real challenges in teaching English learners in a language they have not yet mastered. Teachers need to use a variety of strategies to scaffold instruction. Many teachers of ELs have good intentions but lack specific knowledge on the complexities of teaching grade-level contents and language. There are many well-intentioned teachers whose teaching practices unintentionally communicate low expectations and deny English learners access to the education we want for them and that they deserve. Keep in mind, we deny English learners access when we:

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Dual Language Education in the Era of Minority-Majority

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This week on the Heinemann blog, we’re sharing a series on Language in the Classroom. The series was inspired by an article published by NPR on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, on the ways we teach English Learners in our country. While the NPR article was specific to English Learners, our hope is to use that as a jumping off point to broader topics of language instruction in the classroom. Each day this week we will feature articles, excerpts and insights directly from Heinemann authors and affiliates that further the conversation surrounding language diversity in the classroom, the challenges it presents, and what we know works.


Adapted from Dual Language Education: Program Design and Implementation  by Sonia Soltero

What sets dual language apart from all other language programs is the opportunity to develop biliteracy and cross-cultural competencies alongside speakers of both English and another language. Because the languages and cultures represented in the school and community are seen as assets, everyone comes to the table with valuable contributions. This type of additive education embraces diversity and creates linguistic and cultural bridges between diverse groups.

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Understanding the Comprehension Gap for English Learners

readingtolearnforels_mg5d6599Gaining knowledge from informational texts is an essential academic skill. Yet for too many English Learners, this skill is not developed sufficiently and as they move from elementary into middle school, the reading gap becomes a knowledge gap. This doesn’t have to happen, researcher Ana Taboada Barber explains, if we support EL’s reading of informational texts by pairing motivation practices with explicit reading comprehension instruction. In this post, adapted from the introduction of Reading to Learn for ELs, author Ana Taboada Barber writes how learning English, for her, was about broadening her horizons.


Understanding the Comprehension Gap for English Learners

Written by Ana Taboada Barber

It is true that English is a second language for me and that I experience less certainty communicating in English than I do in my native language, Spanish. However, the label of an English Learner (EL) would not be entirely accurate. I didn’t begin learning English because I was an immigrant in an English-speaking country. Learning English was the result of my parents’ choice. My mother spoke English fluently and believed in its value as a lingua franca—a bridge language, a language spoken worldwide that makes communication possible among people who do not share their first language. For me, learning English was an enrichment activity, a way to broaden my horizons.

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