For the first time, I’m teaching an English class for English Learners. It has been interesting seeing how strategies I’ve used in my Spanish classes translate (ha, ha!) to this class. The activity that has really helped me structure the class is a class-opener that I call “Bookmarks,” which is an independent reading activity. I will share how I have used it in my Spanish classes as well.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to be an ELL resource teacher first. I believe that informal observations and collaboration are the most beneficial form of teacher training. A special thanks to Rachel Rice (English Teacher) for helping me to develop this bookmark strategy to incorporate reading and the ELA standards. Here’s what I did for my ELL classes…

Step 1: Take students to the library to pick out a book they want to read. I messed this up at first. I had about 20 books for them to choose from. Many of them were at their reading level, but NOT age appropriate. After discussing this with our librarian, she went out of her way to pull books for my students. We took a class trip to the library so they could choose. Lesson learned. It is crucial that it’s at their reading level AND they are interested!

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Step 2: Print the bookmarks front and back. Cut apart. On Monday, each student gets a bookmark for the week.

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Step 3: Set a timer. I embedded one into my Keynote. Another teacher suggested using one from YouTube. So students come into the room, grab their books that has their bookmarks and read for 10 minutes. And let’s be honest, it’s a quiet time for me to take attendance and tie up loose ends.

Set a timer

Set a timer

Step 4: Pick a prompt. I started by introducing one prompt a day so we could discuss it. Now they can choose from any of these as long as they use a variety. Notice that some of these prompts are easier than others to match their proficiency levels. As the year progresses, I add prompts that need more textual evidence and deeper thinking.

Step 5: Collect on Fridays to assess. I had to use the following rubric in the ELL class, but I use a traditional proficiency rubric in my Spanish classes. I have seen huge gains in reading scores, answers that have more details and (my favorite) they ENJOY the 10 minutes of reading.

Reading Rubric

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For my Spanish classes, I made a few adjustments. Each day, they chose a short article from a magazine or website. We focused more on the simple prompts like making lists (list all the people, list 3 events, find cognates), simple descriptions and summarizing. However, I realized if I give simplified examples, they were quickly able to do the other prompts as well. Also they told me that they prefer a variety of opening activities (read for a week, videos for a week, pair work for a week, etc.), so I honor that request. Many teachers have asked about how to differentiate for heritage speakers, well, these bookmarks have saved me! They can choose a novel and I give them the more difficult prompts.

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Share how you include independent reading in class!

Visit el Mercado for the Sp/Eng bookmarks in Keynote.