ELL ExcELLence

March 2016

Building Background - Benefits of Using Sentence Frames to Build Background Knowledge

Even as native English speakers we sometimes struggle with just the right word to explain, describe, clarify, or elucidate what we want to convey. We always understand more than we can speak. One of best ways to engage English language learners (ELL) in actively acquiring new material is to connect their background knowledge to the new topic. So, let's give them some sentence frames to help them use language.

We will be most successful if we remember to always start with the concept or theme.

#1 When beginning a new topic, let pairs pretest one another. Write this sentence frame on a board, overhead, or PowerPoint, or make your own blackline master with the sentence frame repeated four to six times on a page so you can cut them into strips to hand out to the pairs.

A: "Do you know anything about (topic)?

B: "I'm not sure, but I do know _____."

or "I think it could be _____ because I learned _____."

After students copy the sentence frame, or use the handy strips, erase the word 'topic' in the first sentence. Write in the topic for today. It might be a theme, or a characteristic, or an emotion.

  • Read the sentence frame aloud to the students.
  • Read it again, and this time the students should repeat after you.
  • Give them sixty seconds (yes, really time it, using the entire sixty seconds) to look at the word and think about everything they know about it. No talking. No writing. Just thinking.
  • Next, let students use another 60 seconds (yep, time it again) to write words and phrases to capture their thoughts about the topic.
  • Finally it is time to talk.

This is time well-spent. Your lesson will be stronger and more relevant. Your students will be engaged. You can continue to spiral the content, connecting it to what they already know or previously learned. The ELs will build confidence as they are encouraged to think, write, and talk about what they already know.

#2 Plan more opportunities for student interaction. Here's another sentence starter than can be used with individuals, then shared in small groups.

This new theme of _____ reminds me of a time in my life when _____.

#3 Make sentence frames with the word 'because' to have students explain connections between previous learning and the new topic.

"I think the next topic will be _____ because our last lesson was _____."

This kind of sentence frame encourages prediction according to prior learning. This is a good time to show the students how much they have learned and how it all links together.

#4 After reading a story, a sentence frame can be used to let students speak with a partner. You can expand this speaking activity to include a second partner, like elbow- partners and across-the-aisle partners. Provide a sentence frame:

For example, "I think _____ is a hero, because _____."

#5 Ask students to make comparisons to concrete objects in linguistic ways. Hand out objects to students and give them some time to think and write again, before speaking.

Try this sentence frame with a variety of objects:

I am like this _____(Snickers bar), because I am _____ (nutty).

I am like this _____(Matchbox Ferrari), because I am _____ (small and fast).

I am like this _____(red pencil) because I am _____ (my face is red because I have to talk aloud).

The objects you use can be almost anything!

Now that your imagination is gearing up, make up some sentence frames to use tomorrow.

  • Think about how you would want the smartest student in the school to speak.
  • Then use your target vocabulary and academic language to make a sentence frame.
  • Encourage your ELLs to speak in complete sentences in all conversations in the classroom. This will increase their academic vocabulary, which maximizes learning, and builds confidence.
  • Kids like to feel smart!

Written by By Linda L Evans, Colorin' Colorado
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/881703

Professional Development at Williamsport High School

Williamsport High School Social Studies and English teachers met with ELL teacher Kelly Morton and ELL Lead Teacher Georgine Rabenold for workshops on differentiating instruction for ELL students and other struggling students. Both teams responded so well, that they have approached Kelly for additional resources (see below). Williamsport High School has seen a language development boom and it is a direct result of content teachers working closely with the Mrs. Morton to differentiate, instruct, and provide support.

Both teams are using Wilda Storm resources like the Informational Frame, Pros and Cons; graphic organizers like Writing frames for Argumentative and Narrative writing; and other ELL friendly strategies like Word Walls, Foldables, and Talking Tokens in their classrooms as a result of these two specialized workshops. In addition, Mrs. Morton showed teachers evidence of student work. English teacher Elizabeth Lewis added “The ELL PD was really helpful. Kelly and Georgine offered information and ideas that could be useful in my planning for not only my English Language Learners, but for all students who need a little extra support.”

Submitted by Kelly Morton, ELL Teacher at Williamsport High School

Diversity and Inclusion Training Opportunity for all WCPS Employees

On March 14 there will be a 2-hour session scheduled for any interested WCPS employee who has not participated in the training to-date.

This session is voluntary; you will not be paid to attend, but you will gain skills and awareness to assist both in your professional and personal life including sharing personal experiences, being exposed to great information, learning, and door prizes!

There is a limit of 35 seats:

· Monday, March 14, 2016 from 4 to 6 pm in the Funkstown Room/Center for Education Services

Please use this link to sign up today: 3/14/16 Diversity & Inclusion Training Sign-Ups

If you have any questions, please contact Terri Baker at bakerthe@wcps.k12.md.us

CAREER & COLLEGE FAIR with Sessions in Spanish

Thursday, March 10th, 5pm

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue

Hagerstown, MD

6:00 – 7:00 PM – Mr. Rick Wire is an expert in the field of college athletics, college recruiting, scholarships, and the recruiting process. Most recently, Mr. Wire has developed the first free NCAA Eligibility Calculator on the market. He will also speak on NCAA Eligibility. How to register, how to schedule “unofficial visits,” help families create a “recruiting plan” and show them how to find the right colleges.

2:40-3:30 invited students from NHHS will be visiting with representatives (AVID students, ELL students, Jr. IB students and students from the College Prep Class)

3:30 – 7:00 visit with representatives

4:30-6:30 AVID will run a spaghetti dinner fund raiser


5:00 sessions

English-Middle College (grades 9–10) Hagerstown Community College Staff

English and español- Starting at HCC (grades 10–12) Mr. Luis Flores

English- Starting at a trade or technical school- Staff from James Rumsey

English- Making Scores Count (grade 9-11) Beth Moore, Central Office

5:30 sessions

English-Making Scores Count (grades 9–11) Beth Moore, Central Office

English- Starting the college search (grades9-11) Mr. Jack Gest, School Counselor

español-Starting the college search (grades 9-11) Ms. Patrice Davis, College and Career Tech with Ms. Murtagh, Spanish Teacher

English-The college application process/common application (grades 11–12) Ms. Katie Eck, School Counselor

español-The college application process/common application (grades 11–12) Ms. Karen Folk, School Counselor with Mr.Uriel Galván , Spanish Teacher

6:00 – 7:00 session

Rick Wire, Keynote Speaker – College Recruiting / NCAA

FREE: ELL and Family Literacy Class for Parents of WCPS ELLs

Tuesday, Feb. 9th, 9pm to Thursday, April 14th, 11pm

221 McRand Court

Hagerstown, MD


Any WCPS parent interested in learning English as a second language


Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 2/9/16-4/14/16
9:00 am-11:00am
Register by contacting Jenna K. Freeman


Washington County Family Center, McRand Court, Hagerstown, MD



Jenna K. Freeman

Intake and Assessment Specialist

Developmental Education and Adult Literacy Services

Hagerstown Community College

11400 Robinwood Drive

Hagerstown, MD 21742


Inquire about the possibility of free child care on site while parents are happily learning English and family literacy strategies.

***This opportunity is offered through a special partnership between WCPS and HCC.

All materials are provided by WCPS and the course is taught by a certified Adult ESL Instructor from Hagerstown Community College.***

12th Annual MELLFIN Conference Equity for EL Students and Families

The Maryland ELL Family Involvement Network (MELLFIN)

Invites You to the 12th Annual MELLFIN Conference

Equity for EL Students and Families : A Shared Responsibility!

Keynote Speaker:

Salamawi Asgedom

Author, Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey

from Refugee Camp to Harvard

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Registration: 8:15-9:00 a.m.


Anne Arundel Community College

101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD 21012

Registration Deadline:

May 9, 2016

Registration Fee: $50.00

Includes light breakfast and lunch

Questions? Email us!