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Feature Friday: Danielle from Carolina Teacher

Happy Friday, Kinder Tribe! It's time for another Feature Friday! Every Friday we will feature a member of the Kinder Tribe who will be sharing their expertise with us!

This week's awesomeness comes from Danielle from Carolina Teacher! She has some really excellent tips for reaching your ELL students! Take it away, Danielle!

Hey Kinder Tribe!  I'm Danielle from Carolina Teacher, and I am so excited to be a guest blogger today for Feature Friday.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I have a large population of Spanish speaking students in my classroom.  Last year, I was a part of an amazing professional development on working with Latino English Language Learners.

So I wanted to share a few strategies with you for how I work with the ELLs in my classroom.  (I will talk mainly about Spanish since that is what I have the most experience with, but many of these strategies work for ELLs with other backgrounds as well.)

Did you know that ELLs will understand English better if they continue to develop their home language, too?  Unfortunately, when children enter school, they often feel like their home language is less valued and they don't like to speak it.  I've heard stories from parents of older children whose kids won't even speak in Spanish to them at home.

A few ways you can honor their home language:

  • Allow them to speak their home language when they are speaking to their friends.  If possible, I like to sit at least two Spanish speakers together, so they have the opportunity to speak Spanish whenever they want or need to.
  • Learn about holidays, foods, and traditions from their culture.  Ask the children and families to share about their experiences.
  • Read books with Spanish words.  Allow your Spanish-speakers to be the experts, and teach new words to the class, as you read.
There are tons of books that include Spanish words.  Here are a few of my favorites...
Dear Primo has two cousins writing back and forth to one another.  One lives in the US in a city, and the other lives in rural Mexico.  It's great for teaching letter writing, compare and contrast, or just a fun read aloud.

Manana Iguana is a twist on the Little Red Hen story.  It's great for a fractured fairy tales unit!

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach is a super sweet folktale from Cuba.  It would also be great to include when teaching fairytales and folktales.  It is also one of my favorite read alouds.  I love the pictures!

This one is a little bit trickier, and can be dependent on the resources at your school.  I know a little Spanish, but not enough to feel confident in speaking with families.  However, there are lots of creative ways you can keep families informed and communication open.

Last year, I started using Google Translate for everything I sent home.  Although nothing is perfect, I checked with a few Spanish-speaking colleagues and they said this was a fairly good translation program.  Every time I wrote a newsletter, permission slip, or invitation, I copied the text and put it through Google Translate.  I always included a disclaimer at the top that said something like: "This was translated by a computer program.  I apologize for any errors."  Then, I copied everything with English on one side and Spanish on the other.  I was amazed at how this small action made a huge impact on family engagement.

I also try to have a Spanish-English interpreter available at class events.  Like I said, this can be difficult if your school does not offer an interpreter, but I wanted to share one strategy I used last year.  I contacted the ESL teacher at the local high school and asked if any Spanish speakers would be willing to volunteer as interpreter at our Open House and Curriculum nights.  This of course would not work for any conversations where you're talking about confidential topics, but can be super helpful at the class or school wide events.

The Frayer Model is a great way to develop vocabulary and language.  It is a graphic organizer that includes a child-friendly definition, a picture, examples and non-examples.

You introduce the word and develop each part of the graphic organizer together as a class.  There are lots of ways to adapt it to make it work best for your class.  Here's one we did last fall.  To help students get started on the concept of examples and non-examples, I had several pictures for them to sort.
You can also have students draw a picture, and then generate examples using their picture.  For Winter, we also did a Frayer model.  For that one, the kids drew and wrote a page to show an example and a separate page for non-example.  I'm so sad I can't find the pictures I took of their finished products!  It was a great way to tell who understood...they drew snow, ice, etc. for the example picture and summer, spring and fall pictures for the non-example.  Then, we made lists for the graphic organizer based on the picture.

I hope this gave you some new ideas for working with the English Language Learners in your classroom!  Thanks for reading.


  1. Great ideas Danielle! I work right at the Mexican border in San Diego, and I love the ideas you have and the books you shared! My students always LOVE when I read them stories that contain both English and Spanish words!

    1. Thanks! So glad you liked the ideas.

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