Reaching English Language Learners and July Professional Development


Here is a little known fact about me. I grew up in a school district with a diverse population. Because the population was so diverse, the school district invested in its students by teaching us to speak Spanish and French in elementary school. When I was in fourth grade, I began learning both languages. Upon starting middle school, I decided to concentrate on learning Spanish.

In all, I took seven years of Spanish. I stopped taking classes and practicing when I moved to a new school district in high school. Fast forward twenty years. I deeply regret not continuing to practice Spanish. My parents are not bilingual and I only used it at school. Naturally, I lost my skills. Ask me today if I can converse with you in Spanish and my response would have to be, “No, I cannot.” The odd thing is that I do understand parts of the conversations that are taking place around me. Here is a warning. Never speak in Spanish around me under the impression that I do not understand. Invariably, I will understand some of what you do not want me to know.

As I continue to work in the field of education, I see how bilingualism is more important than ever. I wish that I could record my lessons for my bilingual students in Spanish. I’m sure that it would be helpful for them.

Today, I read an article about a school district in Florida that was hiring bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico (Sokol, 2016).  Apparently school districts are competing for bilingual teachers due to a shortage. According to the article, many parents avoid communicating with school administrators because the parents are not proficient in English. Naturally, this can have an adverse effect on students when English is not the primary language at home.

I recall working in an elementary school and watching a child that had immigrated to the United States trying to learn English. While there was a special area bilingual teacher for this child, the primary classroom teacher was not bilingual. I believe this student enjoyed being in the library because he needed the time to unwind and explore learning in a flexible, student-centered environment.

When I interacted with this student, I reflected on my own childhood. I felt out of place when I switched school districts. It took me at least a year to feel comfortable with my new surroundings. I could not imagine how it would have felt if, in addition, there had been few people that spoke my language. The process was already difficult.

Yet many students are faced with the same challenge each year. Sparks (2016) notes that 75% of American classrooms have a student that is learning to speak English. Moreover, it is estimated that 10% of students attending public schools speak English as a second language. Sparks (2016) goes on to state that the percentages are expected to increase. For this reason, schools typically provide additional support for English learners through tutoring, instruction in stand-alone classrooms, and dual-language immersion (i.e., bilingual instruction) programs.

I believe that school librarians can help English learners. Besides offering a supportive, stress-free environment, a few other strategies that come to mind for school librarians include:

  • Providing materials in the native language of students
  • Identifying online resources to help them learn English
  • Providing before- or after-school enrichment programs that allow them to practice English
  • Assisting high school students to find resources to transition to college
  • Providing culturally relevant materials
  • Facilitating the development of peer tutoring programs to help students with reading
  • Inviting parents to use library materials
  • Providing literacy workshops for parents
  • Collaborating with public libraries and local organizations to develop community literacy activities
  • Inviting bilingual community members to be speakers
  • Creating global education programming that connects students through Skype for learning activities
  • Recording lessons and posting them online with closed captions
  • Locating another teacher, student, or community member that can help with recording bilingual literacy skill tutorials

In addition to the above strategies, I imagine that many of you are like me. I am always striving to build my skills so that I can be a better educator. One of my goals is to learn to speak Spanish again. I believe in free DIY professional development, so this was another one of those occasions when I turned to the Internet. I have been looking for free resources to help me rebuild my Spanish vocabulary. Below this post are some of the apps and websites that I plan to explore as well as another list of professional development opportunities for July. Enjoy!

Name Website Free App or Website
Babbel App
Bravalol App
Duolingo App & Website
Learn with Oliver Website
Memrise App & Website
Spanish 4 Teachers Website
Wlingua App


Sokol, M. (2016). Hillsborough recruiters seek to hire bilingual teachers in Puerto Rico. Retrieved from

Sparks, S. D. (2016). Teaching English-language learners: What does the research tell us? Retrieved from

July Professional Development

Title: Chromebooks 101: An Intro to Using Chromebooks in the Classroom

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm EST
  • Description: Have you heard the buzz about Chromebooks and wondered what all of the fuss was about? Or maybe you’re going to be using Chromebooks in your classroom and want to know more about them. Join Jerry Swiatek as he provides a general introduction to Chromebooks. He will explain the working screen, introduce some of the various Chromebook tools, and cover how a Chromebook differs from a “regular” laptop. Jerry will explore the advantages of using a Chromebook, along with some possible disadvantages or pitfalls to avoid. In addition, he will also share some tips for managing their use in the classroom.
  • Link:

Title: Using Google Apps to Create Interactive Student or Class Projects

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 2:30 pm EST
  • Description: Google Apps are great for making documents and slideshows, but did you know you and your students can also use them to make digital interactives? These interactives provide great ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge or explore concepts and content. In this fast-paced session, join Meredith Martin as she explains how to use Google Slides and Google Drawings to go beyond the basics with your class to create interactive reports, projects, lessons, and more!
  • Link:

Title: Before Bilingual Storytime: The Outreach Bridge to Engaging Latino and Spanish-speaking Families

  • Organization: OCLC Webjunction
  • Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
  • Description: If you want to attract Latino and Spanish-speaking families to your library, the instinct is to launch a bilingual or Spanish-language storytime. It’s the “if we build it, they will come” logic for attracting community members who are not being served by the library. Libraries may be disappointed to discover that it doesn’t necessarily work that way. In this webinar, recognize the critical role that outreach plays in bridging the gap between Latino and Spanish-speaking families and library services. Hear real-world examples of outreach strategies from librarians who successfully connected with their Latino and Spanish-speaking communities, and learn a basic outreach process that you can adapt for your own community.
  • Link:

Title: Creation Tools for Web Browsers: Projects for Students on Chromebooks

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST
  • Description: Students can create fantastic projects right on their Chromebooks! From presentations, to web pages, to stories, and more, students can demonstrate their understanding of concepts and topics using creation tools on the Web. Join EdTech Evangelist Monica Burns as she shares her favorite websites for creating student projects! She will cover a variety of free tools that are perfect for classrooms using Chromebooks, as well as project ideas and tips for using them.
  • Link:

Title: Help Students Take Ownership, Create, Share, and Reflect with Chromebooks and Chrome Apps

  • Organization: Simple K12
  • Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 @ 4:00 pm – 4:30 pm EST
  • Description: Join Naomi Harm as she shares how Chrome app smashing allows for students to demonstrate their understanding, reflect on a process, and envision creating a learning artifact that was previously inconceivable. She will discuss how it can help students take ownership of their learning process, develop technology fluency, and identify the best possible means to “show what they know.” When there are no limitations to what can be created with the available tools, then there are no limitations to how students can demonstrate their growth as learners.
  • Link:

Title: Crash Course in Visual Design

  • Organization: InSync Training
  • Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST
  • Description: Did you know that the visual design of eLearning, slides, and other instructional materials has a big impact on learner success? Well-designed materials can motivate learners, improve comprehension, and assist retention. In this session, you will learn the power principles that will have the biggest impact on your designs. You’ll look into ways that you can apply each principle for maximum success. The goal is to quickly increase your visual design skills as much as possible in one hour. You’ll be surprised at how much you can improve. You don’t need to draw well to improve your visual design skills; you need to learn the foundation principles and apply them.
  • Link:

Title: You Can Win Grants for Your School: Secrets and Strategies from a Pro (Part 3)

  • Description: More than 81,000 foundations give away nearly $50 billion each year in grants.Would you like to learn how to write competitive grants and bring “free money” to your school? Don’t miss out on your share of this $50 billion! Dr. Toni Rockis will review and dissect the eight typical sections of a proposal so you come away feeling equipped and confident to begin your own winning grant-writing journey. In the third and final webinar of this miniseries, Toni will give insider tips, tricks, and techniques for writing the last three sections of a foundation grant proposal:
  • Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST
  • Organization:
    • Evaluation of the Project
    • Project Budget
    • Appendices
  • Link:

Title: Virtual Conference on Data Literacy: Creating Data Literate Students

  • Organization: University of Michigan, School of Information and University Library
  • Date: Thursday and Friday, July 14 and 15, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST
  • Description: K-12 data literacy is in its infancy, and research about it is just now starting to gain momentum. When you register, you are invited to contribute responses to some informational questions that will be used to inform work about the state of data literacy in schools. Thank you in advance for taking about fifteen minutes to complete the survey embedded in the registration form. All identifying information will be stripped from your responses prior to it being reviewed by the project evaluator.
  • Link:

Title: ESSA: Professional Development for Educators

  • Organization: ASCD Webinars
  • Date: Thursday, July 14, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
  • Description:  Join ASCD’s Government Relations team in an engaging webinar outlining the definition and delivery of educator supports under ESSA. This discussion will focus on how the new law promotes personalized, ongoing, job-embedded activities for all school staff. You will also learn about

Title: It’s in The Game: Merging Contemporary Pedagogy & Instructional Game Design

  • Organization: InSync Training
  • Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST
  • Description: This interactive presentation will have participants discuss the current and future role of games in classroom and corporate education, review the instructional game design process, and deconstruct various learning games currently in use across the United States. These activities will bridge what we know about the act of play with contemporary, research-driven perspectives on digital storytelling, gaming as a pedagogical approach, and the nuts and bolts of implementing educational game designs as the basis for teaching/training. Participants who complete the workshop will: 1) be positioned to utilize games in their respective instructional environments; and 2) will be able to design basic-level instructional games of their own.
  • Link:

Title: Coding for Everyone: How Your Library Can Help Anyone Learn to Code

  • Organization: OCLC Webjunction
  • Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
  • Description: Computer programming, or coding, is a digital literacy skill that has become as important as reading and writing. Learning to code builds rational thinking and problem-solving skills, providing powerful tools that transfer to other subjects and create lifelong learners. Libraries have stepped up to help everyone learn the basics of coding – preschoolers, elementary school kids, tweens, teens, young adults, mid-career professionals, and retirees. In this webinar, learn why coding is important for everyone. Hear examples of informal and facilitated learning approaches, resources and best practices for library coding programs for a variety of audiences. And the best news is that you don’t need any specialized training in computer programming yourself to run a successful program!
  • Link:

Title: How to Connect Science, Technology, Engineering, Robotics, Arts, and Math in the Classroom

  • Organization:
  • Date: Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
  • Description:  In this webinar, Library Media Specialist Karey Killian will lead us in an exploration of how STREAM teaching can create meaningful learning for our students. Karey will address:
    • Approaching STREAM as a way of thinking through learning, not as a subject or a class
    • How to provide ALL students with opportunities to discover unique ways of making learning connections—despite individual economic backgrounds—with science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts, and mathematics
    • How to connect students’ experiences with those of other students, while sharing their learning adventures
    • How to help students showcase their discoveries with others
    • How to include STREAM thinking activities in the classroom
    • How to create unique learning adventures by using #Skypeclassroom
    • Link:

Title: How Create an Amazing Classroom Environment that Connects to Your “New” Children

  • Organization:
  • Date: Thursday, July 28, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST
  • Description:  In our webinar, Dr. Rebecca Isbell will share:
    • How you can create a warm and welcoming environment for your young children
    • How to set up your space so children are invited to be engaged in meaningful experiences
    • Which learning centers and work areas to include to support communication, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving
    • Which materials and choices to make accessible so children can become independent learners and responsible members of your community
    • Ways you can connect to these new children’s world, culture, and families
    • New and intriguing elements that can be used to enrich and challenge diverse young thinkers

Join Rebecca to collect practical and low cost tips to help make your environment the best place ever for you and your children! She will field questions from attendees after her presentation. This live, interactive session will benefit Preschool, Pre-K, and Kindergarten teachers as well as early childhood education coaches.

Title: Cultivating Curiosity in Your Classroom


Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development

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