Tech Tesoros for Modern English Language Learners with Martin Cisneros

Image of Professional Development session.

Martin Cisneros leading a PD on using tech to engage English Language Learners.

I was able to attend an EdTech Cadre Saturday Session on March 3, 2018 at our P.D.C. During his presentation, Martin Cisneros asked us to consider the following questions:

  1. What role do you think technology should play in educating English learners?
  2. What types of technology do you currently use with ELs in your school and why?
  3. How does Bloom’s taxonomy for 21st century learners pertain to the ELD/ ESL classroom and the use of technology?
  4. How can technology help to create a more student-centered learning environment?
  5. How can the P21 or ISTE standards guide instruction for ELs?

In this blog, we will explore Questions 2 and 4.

Martin presented the video discussion platform FLIPGRID.  A Stockton Unified School District teacher I know uses FLIPGRID with her long-term English learners in an afterschool program.

Now that the CA English Language Development Test (CELDT) has gone “bye-bye” and has been replaced with the English Language Proficiency Assessment for CA (ELPAC), we find that some test items are similar to the CELDT and some are quite different.

One ELPAC task type that is similar to CELDT is “Support and Give Reasons.”  Students listen to a presentation about two activities, events, materials, or objects and are asked to give an opinion about why one is better than the other.

  •    At grades K-2, the questions are usually about a personal choice.
  •    At grades 3-5, the questions are usually about a school choice.
  •    At grades 6-12, the questions are usually about a community choice.

In a lesson in the afterschool program, students were asked to choose what they would rather get for their birthday:  clothes or toys? After making their choice, students recorded themselves using FLIPGRID, giving their choice and two supporting reasons.  They were able to record and re-record their responses until they felt ready to share.

Classmates then listened to each other’s responses and determined 1) the choice their classmates made:  clothes or toys, and 2) two supporting reasons for their choice. Students then gave feedback to their peers about their supporting reasons (e.g., more detailed, relevant, academic).  Students could also offer peer feedback on grammar, word choice, pronunciation/intonation.

Have you used FLIPGRID or another tech tool with your English learners?  I’d love to know more about it!

(Editors note: Martin was the second of a four-part Saturday Speaker Series held at the P.D.C. The final installment will be featuring Jon Corippo on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Go Sign Me Up #371301.)


Social Media in the Classroom

Social Media logosFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are four of the most highly used social media apps that are used by students.  Schools have filtered these apps from their web servers.


Facebook Screen shot

Facebook can be an effective tool for communicating with the community about events on campus.

Social media has changed the world in a lot of positive aspects. It can be used as an educational tool by being used in a classroom or a school setting. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and others can provide a platform where users can exchange ideas and find answers to questions with one another and boost student interaction. You can also use social media for announcements, news, and/ or events that are going on at schools such as the Chavez High School Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can also build communication skills with social media, which is a great need for this generation. We find that students who are antisocial, shy, or who will not speak up for themselves or raise their hand in class might be more comfortable using these platforms and interacting with others online. Social media can also enable teachers to reach out to students and their parents.  

Twitter screen shot

Twitter is another tool that can help schools get the word out about things happening at school

Other social media sites such as LinkedIn or Indeed allow students to communicate on a professional level when they are trying to find a job or connect with community leaders. Resumes can be posted allowing interested companies to view and connect with potential employees. I believe social media is a great tool to be used in classroom settings as long as it is closely monitored.


A Saturday with Alice Keeler

Image of participants

Some of the S.U.S.D. Ed Tech Cadre with Alice Keeler at the P.D.C.

I will have to admit, I was one of those teachers who created worksheet templates on Google Docs and had my students answer their questions on the computer. It felt amazing not having to waste paper, let alone carrying the worksheets back and forth from work to home.  Finally, I realized that I was doing the same thing with paper, but instead, giving the worksheet on the computer. Don’t get me wrong, worksheets aren’t bad. There are days when I need worksheets, but how can I utilize computers in a more effective way? This year I got “the group”, you know “the group”. I had to figure out creative ways to keep them constantly engaged as I’m putting out rapid fires.  I started following teachers on Instagram and did what teachers do best. I “borrowed” ideas from them to make it work for my class. Quickly, I created weekly Google Slides with my priority standards, expectations, warm-ups with a visual timer and 2-3 minute math videos that aligned with my lessons. This helped, but did it help enough?

Image of teachers

S. U. S. D. teachers gathered for a Saturday session with Alice Keeler.

This past Saturday, I gathered with about 40+ SUSD teachers to laugh and listen to Alice Keeler (#Threedotsandatriangle) speak about engaging strategies and time-saving tips and tricks when using G Suite.

Tip 1: Title your Google Classroom Assignments or Documents with a hashtag, number, and a catchy title. (ex. #002 Kool-Aid)

There are times where it will take a while to find a document because I assigned my students using the same title as a previous assignment. When students, or even myself, search for an assignment there will be multiple results,  there could even be old assignments from previous years!

Tip 2: Ever post something on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter waiting for someone to like or comment on it? Students want that instant feedback/comment, also!

Utilize the private comments in Google Classroom to provide instant feedback. Think of it as instant messaging.

Tip 3: How long does it take you to open 30+ assignments your students turned in on Google Classroom?

Download Alice Keeler’s Chrome Extension “Alice Keeler Drive20”. This Chrome Extension is magical. It opens the first 20 files in a folder all at once, saving lots of time. Give it a try!

Tip 4: for my tech-savvy people:

Give students your question and give them one slide deck for the whole class to work on. Students put their name in the speaker notes and BAM! (One student per slide) All student responses/work all on one slide deck. Yes, there will be some hiccups, but Alice reminded us that kids will be kids and slides are free, so they can easily make another one!

A good idea image

A bitmoji example that can easily be used for student feedback.

Tip 5: How can we get our students engaged?

Add the Google Extension “Bitmoji” to personalize feedback, comments, Slides, or add it to the background of the Google Classroom header. Students start listening and paying attention when they can relate to you. Editors note: Do NOT give students access to this app as there are some very inappropriate images (language) in the app.  For more on this, go here.


I felt differently after I listened to Alice Keeler. Look her up, buy her books, or if you’re frugal like me, the least you can do is follow her on Twitter. She has an overabundance of great tips up her sleeve. Even for the primary teachers!

(Editors note: Alice was the third of a four-part Saturday Speaker Series held at the P.D.C. The final installment will be featuring Jon Corippo on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Go Sign Me Up #371301.)