Category Archives: Bilingual

DACA Hits at Bilingual Teachers

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 Did you know that Texas may lose 2,000 bilingual educators due to DACA end?

Texas stands to lose about 2,000 teachers who are in the DACA program, and as many as 20,000 such teachers would be affected nationwide. The clock is ticking, and without a legislative reprieve, within a few years it will be illegal for these teachers to  work in the U.S. Their loss would hit bilingual education, where there’s a constant dearth of educators, especially hard. Source: Dallas News

 Even more interesting:

The number of educators who work in bilingual or ESL classes has plummeted over the past decade. The state [Texas] now has about one such teacher for every 48 students in need. The biggest challenge in finding bilingual teachers often isn’t pay, but getting would-be teachers interested in the profession. (Source)

 Well, yes, it is interesting. Teachers are paid poorly as it stands now. Working as a bilingual educator is a tough job (yes, I worked as one in East Texas, Cotulla and San Antonio). The parents and kids are great, but institutional support is often confused, contentious, and under-funded.

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According to a McKinsey Study called “Closing the Talent Gap,” teachers’ salaries have declined for the past 40 years. In the past decade alone, salaries have decreased further in 30 states.  Had salaries grown proportionally to our classroom spending, the average salary would now be $120,000. Instead, a teacher’s starting salary is, on average, $39,000.  To some this might not sound so bad — but consider this: after 25 years of teaching, 25 years of professional experience, the average salary of a teacher is $67,000. That’s less than teachers would be receiving had they chosen to be a skycap at an airport ($75,000) or an insurance appraiser ($72,000). Source: Washington Post

As much as I applaud the UNT-Dallas’ hard work, we need more than anime, er, “ánimo.” Much higher pay, a transformed education system and good leadership.

Ok, maybe, all educators all need those.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Make Language Learning Comprehensible #duallangchat #ell #esl #bilingualchat #edtech

Do educators believe that practice makes perfect? Do you believe that English language learners’ brains work like muscles that, if properly exercised, will become more adept at the tasks they are set? These questions popped into my mind as I reflected on the following Tweet:
#ELLs speak, on average, less than 10 minutes a day in school. How can you learn a language when you aren’t allowed to speak? #WIDA2016
This tweet raises a few questions and responses. You are invited to inventory your biases, as I did when I resisted the inclination to agree. Let’s explore the questions.

The barrier isn’t language, but rather, our conceptions of how we seek to create input rich learning environments.
Remove the systemic barrier – Our own misconceptions about how humans acquire language.

Note: This blog entry originally published at TCEA TechNotes Blog as For the ELL Student, Does Practice Make Perfect?

Does Practice Make Perfect in Language Learning?

Stephen Krashen (@skrashen) points out that we learn language when it is comprehensible to us, when it means something. The Comprehension Hypothesis points out that we understand language (input) by achieving three criteria:
  • We have some language background to refer to.
  • We have some knowledge of the world around us.
  • We have context.
According to Krashen, this means that we acquire language by input, not by output. “Talking” he points out, “is not practicing.” He goes on to say, “More output, more speaking (or writing) will not result in more language acquisition. . .the ability to speak is the result of language acquisition, not the cause.” Speaking, however, does provide a way for students to obtain comprehensible input.
If Krashen’s second language acquisition hypothesis is accurate, then it does not matter that English Language Learners speak less than ten minutes a day in school. There is little correlation between learning and quantity of output. Practice, or activities that promote output, are important because of the opportunities they provide language learners in effective processing of input. Throughout this, students build a theory of the world around them, a “shield against bewilderment” (Smith, 2012).

If Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, How Do ELL Students Learn?

Providing a safe, language-rich environment can enable students to learn a new language and be motivated to use it meaningfully. Students have the choice whether to participate or not in a language learning classroom. Games, discussing topics of interest, storytelling, and projects present opportunities for students to acquire language that is at their level and that they can grow on (what Krashen calls “i+1” with the “i” being for “comprehensible input”). Grammatical accuracy comes as a result of successful second language acquisition, rather than through rigorous practice. Regrettably, the latter is standard in high school foreign language learning classes.

How Does Technology Play a Part in Language Learning?

Creating safe learning environments that promote language learning are possible with online learning management systems. Listening to others can result in comprehensible input. Some approaches for ELL teachers include the following:
  • Engage students in the authentic purpose of solving a problem (problem-based learning/inquiry-based learning).
  • Encourage student collaboration on projects focused on the creation of tangible product(s) (webquests, project-based learning).
  • Amplify human voices as they gather stories and share them (blogging, podcasts, digital storytelling).
Findings (Jarvis, 2014) suggest that 1) Language learners find that non-pedagogical uses of technology are helpful (as opposed to direct instruction via language exercises), 2) The Internet provides many opportunities for comprehensible input. Finally, technology enhances language learning when used for authentic purposes.
For more suggestions on blending technology into second language learning, you are encouraged to read Stephen Krashen’s blog on The Potential of Technology. Alsoread and listen to these TCEA TechNotes blog entries and podcasts.


  1. Jarvis, H., & Krashen, S. (February, 2014). Is Computer-Assisted Language Learning Learning Obsolete? Language Acquisition and Language Learning Revisited in a Digital Age. Available online at
  2. Krashen, S. (2013). Second Language Acquisition. Available online at
  3. Smith, F. (2012). Understanding Reading: A psycholinguistic analysis of reading and learning to read. Available online at

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Supporting ELL/ESL Learners with Tech

“What level of cognitive complexity are students operating at,” asks Dr. Chris Moersch, “when using technology in the classroom?” Technology, asserts Dr. Moersch, needs to be used to think and reason. “It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it (spending on technology) if you’re using it at a low level,” says Dr. Desiree Marks-Arias. “What is the potential for using technology at its highest level?” 

Note: This blog entry originally published online at TCEA TechNotes blog –

What an exciting conversation about the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS) and technology in the classroom!
To what extent are we positioning ESL (English as a Second Language) students to become college and career ready? According to the Alliance for Effective Schools, “About 63 percent of the 46.8 million job openings created by 2018 will require workers with at least some college education….” Traditional approaches to pedagogy often leave the ESL population underserved in preparation of post-secondary pursuits. Beyond analyzing traditional achievement gaps between student groups, including those who receive program services such as ESL, Special Education (SPED), and Gifted and Talented (GT), it is pivotal that equal attention be given to curricular and instructional gaps as they relate to (1) the integration of 21st century skills into core subjects and (2) pedagogical approaches that emphasize collaborative learning, technology proficiency, and problem-solving.
Identifying appropriate methods and strategies to narrow and eliminate such gaps requires a fundamental shift in our existing paradigm—observing achievement and instructional gaps not as indicators of student deficiency, but rather as opportunities for supporting and developing student learning and success—addressing “support gaps.” In essence, by evaluating support gaps, we can determine the effort and resources necessary for teaching, learning, and academic mastery. Source: The Support Gap: Supporting and Developing Teaching and Learning for ESL
Travel back in time with me to Thursday, June 9, 2016, when I had the opportunity to explore a topic that goes to the heart of equity in bilingual/ESL classrooms. That topic is the gap between how we approach teaching and learning in English Language Learner (ELL) Classrooms. Certainly, if you are an ESL/ELL/Dual Language teacher, or you are an administrator responsible for supporting ELL students, you will want to listen to this conversation. Be aware that this podcast is quite long at almost an hour in length.

Listen to TCEA Podcast #3: ELL/ESL Support Gaps
with Dr. Chris Moersch (@lotiguy) and
Dr. Desiree Marks-Arias (email:

ELPS and Technology: Dr. Marks-Arias and Dr. Moersch

Three ESL Support Pillars

  1. Student Achievement
  2. HEAT Levels
  3. LOTI Levels
To find out more about the Support Pillars, review the Powerpoint and concept paper (links 1 and 2, respectively) in the Links section below.


  1. ESL Support Pillars PowerPoint
  2. The Support Gap: Supporting and Developing Teaching and Learning for ESL
  3. H.E.A.T. Framework Overview
  4. LOTI Framework “Sniff Test”

HEAT Framework and ELPS:

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Book Review: Computers for ESL Students via @LabLearning

In 2014, Judge John Dietz ruled Texas fails to provide sufficient funding for schools to effectively serve a growing population of ELLs and low-income students. – See more 

English language learners…have the lowest graduation rate of all subgroups at 71.5 percent statewide. English language learners are one of the fastest-growing student groups in Texas with almost 1 million students, making up 18 percent of the school population. San Antonio was home to about 38,000 English learners in 2014-15.
Read more

A snippet of content from web site

When I cracked open the Welcome to Computers for ESL Students , I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would this be a resource that would offer watered down computer concepts and vocabulary? And, I wasn’t thrilled by the cover (nice design, though) since the content referred to topics that some might deem a bit dated:

  • Basic Computer Concepts and Vocabulary
  • Microsoft Windows (7 and 8.1)
  • Word Processing (WordPad & Word 2013)
  • Internet Explorer
  • Webmail
Then, I realized that this might be helpful for English Language Learners (ELL). In fact, I remembered many of the parents I worked with who would benefit from this book (and workbook), many of whom would have found the information quite helpful. Some of the key aspects of the book include the following:
  • Clearly delineated learning objectives
  • Images that represent the target ELL population
  • Online resources (I didn’t link to them since you probably need to own the book)
  • Picture dictionary for computer terms along with parts of speech and example sentences.
A snippet of content from their online resources
When you switch your perception of this being a book about computer terms and vocabulary to a language teaching book that happens to use computer topics as the content, you immediately grasp the genius of the text. With clear illustrations, easy to follow instructions and exercises, the book scaffolds language learning for ELL students of any age.
The companion workbook provides fill in the blank activities, word banks, paired conversation scripts and much more to enable practice for ELL learners.

With such rich activities and content, teachers of ELLs will want to take a serious look at books that enable language learning around a relevant subject such as computer related vocabulary and skills.

Labyrinth Learning…publishes easy-to-use textbooks that empower educators to teach complex subjects quickly and effectively — and enable students to gain confidence, develop practical skills, and compete in a demanding market.

Find out more via their web site.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

3 Steps to Leverage Technology for Language Learners

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Technology can change the way students communicate in the classroom. It can create new patterns of discourse. 

Looking for some ways to leverage technology to enhance dual language instruction? While the first impulse may be to buy content that has technology components, often materials aren’t readily available for purchase. District and campus staff can leverage technology to enhance dual language instruction by using it to create content, facilitate communication between classes, and, then, facilitate sharing.

Some ways to leverage technology include the following:
  1. Students and teachers can use digital devices as tools for authentic communication and for accomplishing intellectually challenging, nonremedial tasks in the context of culturally appropriate whole activities. 
  2. Students can use technology to produce theme-centered, multimedia slide shows, electronic hypermedia books, and publish their poetry and written pieces. 
  3. Students can use technology to graph real life data and explore–with audio recordings–the relationships between data and their graphical representations.
  4. Students begin to learn the words for the graphics they wish to incorporate in their slide show, as well as the processes of modifying, saving and retrieving their work. Students learn to interweave audio narration using the microphone on their digital device, with some experimenting in the target language by reading or translating their work

Here are 3 easy steps you can follow in any classroom, but especially, a language learning class:

Step 1 – Create Content:

The tools for creating content have never been easier to use. Consider the following:
  • Narrated Audio Slideshows  – (read more)
  • Create eBooks – Students can create ebooks that incorporate audio, video, and text. (read more)
    • On iPad/Android tablets, use Book Creator app ($4.99)
    • On Chromebook and/or laptops/desktop computers, create ebook with GoogleDocs and/or LibreOffice, respectively.
  • Digital Storytelling – Students can approach storytelling from two perspectives – oral composition or written composition. Remember digital storytelling approach can be used for any content area, not just text. And students reading peers’ context while listening to audio is powerful and supported in the research.
    • Oral Storytelling – Focus is on audio recording. Take pictures and then add audio narration. Or, simply record audio of a child’s story, then have them prepare text to match it.
    • Written Composition Approach – Students write a script, match pictures to main events in the script, then narrate it, combining all the components into a narrated slideshow.
    Step 2 – Publish Content
    If your district doesn’t have an its own online space where staff and students can publish video, audio and images, you can take advantage of GoogleApps for Education with its unlimited storage to house content and/or YouTube. There really isn’t any reason why you can’t share content with a global audience!

    Step 3 – Share, Share, Share
    Once content is shared online, consider creating a district clearinghouse for awesome content in a GoogleSite (web site). This can be organized by grade level, reading level, etc.

    The main benefit of these 3 steps is that it removes the some of the pressure of finding dual language materials, and instead helps students and staff create content that is relevant, appropriate, and engaging, while building on students’ key learning experiences. 

    View my Flipboard Magazine.

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    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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    Podcast 28 – 3rd Grade Bilingual Students Get their #Google On #TCEA13 @lackeym

    Martha Lackey sharing how her 2nd-3rd grade students
    “get their Google On”

    What a pleasant surprise to hear Ms. Lackey speak on how 3rd grade bilingual students are using GoogleDocs/Drive in their classwork! As a third grade bilingual teacher once upon a time, I was enthralled to see how Ms. Lackey was approaching the use of technology with bilingual students.

    One of the key points from Ms. Lackey’s presentation had less to do with the children, and more to do with the value of Twitter to expand her learning, to build her professional learning network (PLN). She remarks at the end of her presentation…

    What I’ve learned, i’ve learned from Twitter. I’ve really depended on my PLN. 

    Podcast 28 – Listen to Martha Lackey on “3rd Grade Bilingual Students Getting their Google On”

    My Notes

    • Ms. Martha Lackey, 2nd-3rd grade teacher. Looping teacher that travels with a class of students from 2nd grade to 3rd grader. Midlothian ISD, Midloathian Tx
    • Twitter: @lackeym
    • Google+
    • Read her blog at
    • Started on Google journey back in August of 2012. About 11-12 folks decided to go through the training and crammed in 3 days of training and received training. District applied for GoogleTools (?) and the whole team is attending. That’s where the journey began…using Google for 5 months.
    • Started using GoogleTools with Macbooks these were used immediately.
    • About two weeks ago…applied for a one to one iPad initiative and are piloting it. Students are now using 1 to 1 iPads.
    • Heavy duty twitter user – 
    • GoogleDocs projects:
      • The Global Read Aloud Project – this was announced via Twitter and being done through It made the 2014 Newberry Award list (The One and Only Ivan Katherine Applegate).
        • The book is about a gorilla and an elephant.
        • Character analysis of the story. To introduce them to GoogleDocs, 
        • After reading the book, students developed projects
        • Did a search on silverback gorilla. After finding images, the kids summarized the book
        • She shared with students not to worry about spelling…looking at sentence structure,punctuation, etc. A lot of kids are tech savvy.
        • Other students downloaded a diff picture…using the search tool in Google and are able to pull in content from Google. [Miguel: What about citation?]
        • This is third grade transitional year…these kids exit out of bilingual program by MS. Late transitional type program.
        • I have to decide as an educator, and decide if they are ready to exit. In third grade, that’s where the shift begins to happen. [Too bad the program isn’t a maintenance bilingual program rather than transitional]
        • If kids can’t write in English, they can do so in Spanish. This lets me know where they are in writing as part of language proficiency, as well as writing process.
    • Google Created Templates
      • Can you come up with a template to use with the book? We used two web sites:
      • Ms. Lackey shares the template from her presentation.
      • Template elements:
        • Type of animal, my animal is a/an.
        • Habitat; My animal lives
        • Diet/eats; My animal eats
        • Physical characteristics; My animal’s size is
        • Predators; predators of my animal are
        • Endangered; my animal is/is not endangered
    • Research Templates were created…these were shared via GoogleDrive, went to “Shared with Me” area and started typing in the information. There’s no fear in these guys.
    • Spreadsheets to do character analysis of the book The One and Only Ivan
    • Analyzing characters…give me a describing word. I also created a group that I can share with all my students via GoogleApps.
    • This is a great tool to use to tap into reading objectives…give me one or two words to describe that character. [I wonder if she thought about using a GoogleForm?]
    • Powerpoint using Google
      • 12.12.12 Blogging Project on Twitter – Paula Naugle: put out a project on this date…there is a wiki out there.
      • Read the 12 Cats of Christmas to go with the project. Did some brainstorming and shared template in GoogleDocs.
      • Created a presentation, Our 12 Favorite Google Project Dec. 12, 2012
      • Kids said they wanted to do their own ppt.
      • We came up with 5 diff topics as categories. Students proved her wrong in regards to the amount of work students were able to do in a short period of time (2 hrs actual vs 1 week which was teacher’s anticipated time).
      • Students engagement level was phenomenal.
      • Created a blogging project GoogleDrive folder. Students placed their work in there.
      • Student project assessment was in the form of a rubric. [did student develop a rubric? Email Ms.Lackey for rubric.
    • GoogleDrive on iTouch
    • – GoogleDrive on iTouch
    • What I’ve learned, i’ve learned from Twitter. I’ve really depended on my PLN. 

    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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    >Facilitating Language and Technology Acquisition: New Patterns of Discourse in the Bilingual/ESL Classroom


    Note: Another OldyButGoody…I wrote this article when I started my work as an administrator after noticing a bilingual/ESL workshop offered at the regional education service center. Although I couldn’t attend, a colleague did and brought back the materials. I read those, and then decided to craft the following article. I had a lot of fun blending learning from materials in a workshop I hadn’t attended with experiences I’d had years before. This is one of the joys of writing, blending the unknown into the everyday to create a new experience.

    When I began my career as an educator, my first students were bilingual fifth graders. In the country around Cotulla, they caught snakes for fun and rode horses. Later, trailing memories of billowing, red dirt and hot Cotulla water, I moved to East Texas to work with other children of Mexican-descent. There, the children of San Luis Potosi sang songs of Mexico in my bilingual classroom and over the school intercom. Truth, like those children, is bilingual. The stories we read, the conocimientos, or learning, we gained bridged the gap between languages. And, it was their storytelling that filled the anthology of writing that they typed up on old Apple //e computers, and later, Mac LC IIs.

    Since paper and pencil activities aren’t enough, it’s important to foster cross-language transfer of comprehension skills. We now recognize the power of native language reading skills and how they transfer over to second language reading achievement. The role of the bilingual/ESL teacher is not only one of teaching children how to read in the target language, but fostering story-gathering and story-making in the first language. Technology tools can play a role in this learning.

    The best in second language research tells us that language acquisition is involuntary, that our brains learn if the “input” is comprehensible. Simply talking is not enough–students must have hands-on activities. Although students may experience a silent period, pre-speech production, when they are acquiring language, we must provide opportunities for nonverbal or verbal responses to indicate that students comprehended the new materials or skills. Integrating technology offers students this opportunity.

    Bilingual teachers may be missing one of the most critical tools they have at their disposal in today’s 21st Century schools–technology integration strategies. In past articles, I’ve written of how information problem-solving approaches such as the Big6, graphic organizers, and web-based instructional tools can make a difference for Texas students.

    School districts are expected to modify instruction, pacing and materials to ensure “limited” English proficient (LEP) students have a full opportunity to master the essential knowledge and skills of the required curriculum. Using technology-enhanced activities, bilingual educators expand the opportunities for second language learners.

    For example, some key subject demands for L2 learners include:
    1) Reading textbooks: Students can easily map out the content or stories in the textbook using Inspiration software. The focus is more on chunking information than on playing with the computer, yet this provides a nonverbal way of exploring the text and expressing key concepts in their own language and words.

    2) Completing worksheets: Reading for directions is difficult but what if students had to create their own worksheets, write their own directions? Instead of focusing on a “lower order” task of filling out a worksheet, they could analyze directions and rewrite them to be more understandable.

    3) Writing reports and Doing Library Research: Students need a format to follow for defining an information problem, identifying sources of data for solving that problem, then planning the solution development, developing the solution, implementing and evaluating it. Students can learn these skills in the traditional manner, however, web-based information problem-solving activities can allow students access to “realia” that is in their native language. Once students develop the cognitive, problem-solving skills needed, they can apply them in their target language. A variety of approaches exist, ranging from the now passe webquest to problem-based learning plus multimedia approaches.

    5) Using rhetorical styles such as cause and effect, compare and contrast, argumentative or persuasive writing: Students can use these techniques. Like Kirby and Liner’s “Inside Out” activities, students can practice “soft,” and “mad” talking in their writing, but combine those activities with multimedia authoring.
    In each of these areas, students can use graphic organizers to construct their own meaning, gather important points during their research, as well as previewing the activity. They can also use approaches such as the Big6 to break down and solve information problems.

    As a bilingual teacher, my students used technology to produce theme- centered, multimedia slide shows, electronic hypermedia books, and publish their poetry. Writing poetry allowed students to be successful. Short writing assignments also allowed long tasks to be broken down into shorter ones. They also used technology to graph real life data as well as explore the relationships between data and their graphical representations. A key component of my classroom was the use of graphic organizers to analyze complex texts. As students mastered the use of a particular graphic organizer, we moved to another, so that they would learn to use the text-appropriate graphic organizer.

    In fostering writing, their work came alive through either the use of a word processor or multimedia slide show program. While the focus was always on the writing, students skills developed as they saw the words on the screen, hung their work in the school halls. One of my students, Sergio B., amazed me when he noticed that the words he was typing on the screen all ran together. It was at this point that he realized that words were discrete units on a page, and part of a sentence. Other students are captivated by the words on the screen. Even though they type with two fingers, the experience of creation is exciting as they write their way through, learning to express key concepts in their own words.

    Technology can change the way students communicate in the classroom. It can create new patterns of discourse. Even more so than the regular classroom teacher, the bilingual technologist must work to ensure that the students’ experiences as they interact with and use computers be qualitatively equal or superior to those of mono-lingual students.

    The rewards are great. As I look back to my bilingual classroom, I see the faces of my students who weren’t afraid to use technology–even if it was only monolingual. They used technology because it allowed them to share their stories, and capture the songs of home.

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    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure