Helping ELL Students With Articulation

So I’ve been studying for the Praxis for Teachers of Other Languages (Yikes it’s going to be tough!!!) I’ve discovered two more resources for studying that will also be helpful for teachers who need resources knowing more about places and manners of articulation, as well as the International Phonetic Alphabet, check out Mobi Lieberman at The Ling Space (videos on YouTube and @

There is also an interactive IPA chart at .


English Phonemes and Pronunciation

English is one of the most complex languages in the world to learn, mostly because the 44 phonemes can be represented by more than 1,000 different letter (or grapheme) combinations! This video explains the 44 English phonemes and how they can be represented using the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, which is useful for linguists, speech pathologists and ELL teachers in analyzing speech patterns.

Our Legal Responsibilities to English Language Learners

Making sure that ELLs receive equitable access to curriculum, instruction, resources and opportunities is not only the right thing to do, it is actually required by law. There have been numerous significant Supreme Court Cases as well as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA – which replaced NCLB) that mandates the legal responsibilities of schools in regards to the rights of ELLs. I am sharing some videos with a summary of these landmark cases and laws.

Lau v. Nichols – Schools must provide ELLs with a program for teaching them English.

Castenada v. Pickard – ELL programs must adopt a sound approach to teaching ELL students, implement the chosen approach and monitor the progress of ELLs.

Plyler v. Doe – All students have the right to attend public schools near where they live in the United States, even if they are undocumented because all public schools receive federal funding. All students are protected under Articles V and XIV of the US Constitution, regardless of their immigration status.


Language Acquisition

Learning language is natural to humans. Unlike reading and writing, our brains are actually wired for listening and speaking! This innate ability helps us to communicate for survival, working, recreation, learning and millions of other activities. The process for learning a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth, etc.) language is similar to the process of learning a first language, although certain factors, such as age, environmental factors, intensity of exposure and other variables can impact the rate of acquisition, as well as the extent that a person acquires the language. This article at Colorin Colorado, Language Acquisition: An Overview by Kristina Robertson and Karen Ford explain the six stages of language acquisition as well as offer strategies for teachers to facilitate language acquisition.

Another fantastic resource for ELL teachers, classroom teachers and school leaders is this document: Help! They don’t speak English Starter Kit (which is way more positive than it sounds like!) It has fantastic resources for new ELL teachers and a million ideas in it from strategies for teachers to fostering partnerships with parents.

The final thing I want to mention in this post is that there is a difference in the types of language that students acquire. Social language, or Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS), develops much faster, usually in 1-2 years because it is the language needed to interact and “survive” in everyday situations. Examples of BICS/social language includes asking to go to the bathroom, talking to friends, ordering food. Academic language, or Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), on the other hand, generally takes up to 5-7 years to reach proficiency. Academic language is so tricky because it encompasses technical vocabulary, as well as discourse patterns found in academic writing such as test questions and textbooks. Examples of academic language include math vocabulary, science vocabulary, if____then_____, however, idioms, expressions, etc.

Jim Cummins was the researcher who theorized that language is like an iceberg. What we often see are students who appear proficient, but struggle in school. What we see is a tiny fraction of language needed to navigate school (BICS), but what students really need is often much deeper, (CALP.) Check out this post for more info: BICS v. CALP


Books and Events at Kentucky Refugee Ministries

I love Kentucky Refugee Ministries! Having been working and in graduate school as well as some other major life events this year, I have not had the opportunity to be involved, but my heart is definitely with them and I hope when things calm down a bit to be able to volunteer or support them. I love my KRM t-shirt and try to spread awareness in all of my circles! I recently discovered that KRM published some books from time to time about stories of some of their members, the newest one Flavors from Home: Refugees from Kentucky Share their Stories and Comfort Foods, even includes recipes! Here is more information about some upcoming events and some of the books from this wonderful organization.

  1. Flavors from Home: Refugees from Kentucky Share their Stories and Comfort Foods (also available on Amazon) Flavors from Home.jpg

2. Faith Grows by Risk (also available on Amazon) 51tVqtzaGPL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg


3. Passport to Flavor (event)   Check out the KRM website or Facebook Page for more information. This event information is from the KRM Facebook page. How fun does this look?!?

Passport to Flavor.jpg

Kentucky Refugees Ministries Event Info – From Facebook Event Page

“Join us for the 2nd annual Passport to Flavor from 6pm-10pm on June 23 to show your support for refugees in central Kentucky while also enjoying global flavors and live entertainment in an international market type setting! Last year we welcomed over 400 Lexingtonians to the event but want to accommodate even more to show support for Keeping Kentucky Global!

International food booths, world music and dance, and an opportunity to show your love to these amazing people who get to call central Kentucky their new home! We will be pairing home cooks from the DRC, Bosnia, Syria/Kurdistan, and Cuba with local Lexington chefs and have musical entertainment from Cameroon, Congo and Bhutan.

Tickets can be purchased online at for $30 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets can be purchased online until June 22. Limited number of tickets can be purchased at the door for $40 and $25, respectively.

*Please contact Dana Lea at if you need to request a meal to be kept back for you until Ramadan fasting time ends. We will have some vegetarian options at each booth.

Keep checking back here for blog spotlights on our home cooks and the food culture in each of their countries and further information about the upcoming event.

#RefugeesWelcome #SharetheLex #PassportToFlavor #KeepKYGlobal”  


4. Lexington World Refugee Day Summit (event)


This event held at the Lexington Public Library in Lexington costs $25, but includes lunch, parking and event registration. The summit will be held on Thursday, June 15, 2017 from 9 am to 5 pm. According to the event description, here is more information:

“In partnership with Lexington Public Library, KRM presents the 2017 Lexington World Refugee Day Summit. The Summit is an opportunity for community partners, teachers, medical staff, and volunteers to join us for a day of learning about issues relevant to refugee resettlement in Lexington. New this year is an Interactive Journey through the resettlement process.”        (KRM Event Website)

Recommendations for Culturally Responsive Teaching – A Focus on Afghan Culture

This video presents an overview of the history and culture of Afghanistan. I conducted this research prior to doing a home visit with a refugee family that had moved to the United States in January 2017 from Kandahar, Afghanistan. In addition to the research information, I also summarize what I learned in the home visit about Afghan culture, and make recommendations for teachers for being culturally responsive in their teaching and classroom environments. Take the time to visit families in their homes and get to know them and their cultures. It’s always a wonderful, eye-opening experience!

Cultural Tips from Around the World

I stumbled upon this great post at Laura’s Travel Tales that includes many suggestions on etiquette, dress, hand gestures, dining and cultural taboos from around the world. While I’m not nearly as well-traveled as Laura is, (jealous!) I do expect her tips to come in handy when encountering immigrant and refugee families from countries that I am unfamiliar with. Check out her post Travel Etiquette: How NOT to make enemies and offend people when travelling.


Photo retrieved from Laura’s Travel Tales May 2017.

Vocabulary Instruction & Academic Language

Oral language is one of the strongest predictors of reading success. In order for children to decode words and comprehend what they mean, they must first have the words in their mental lexicon. This is often frustrating for teachers because students who are English language learners or students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds start school significantly behind their same-age peers in the number of vocabulary words they know and can use in their expressive language. There are three tiers of vocabulary that teachers should consider when planning vocabulary instruction:

  1. Tier 1 words – basic, everyday words that usually do not require instruction; ELL students will require instruction in Tier I words. (i.e. talk, chair, happy)
  2. Tier II words – More sophisticated words that are high-frequency and occur across subjects and in various contexts (compare, elegant, purpose, summary, educated)
  3. Tier III words – words that are often only found in technical texts or are domain-specific (hypotenuse, theorem, denominator)

Apple Vocab

Academic language tends to include vocabulary from all three tiers, but especially Tiers II and III, including elaborate discourse patterns that may be unfamiliar to ELL students. The following resources include very helpful information on how to teach academic language.

Components of Academic Language – What I Have Learned by Jessica

The Need for Explicit Vocabulary Instruction – Make, Take, Teach by Julie