Voices Vol 42 No 3


From The Editor

Yikes! It's October!

By Roselyn Rauch

What happened to summer? What happened to September? They were here a minute ago. Didn’t I just finish editing the summer issue of Voices extolling the wonders of our Spring conference?

Now you can feel the changes in the weather, and the biggest YIKES of all: there are Christmas holiday decorations in the stores. Oh, well. My mother always used to say, “Don’t wish your life away” and she made it to 103. I certainly am not wishing it away, but, boy oh boy, it is flying away on its own. So here we are in October with our Fall Voices.

President Cassandra Lawrence writes about how she is coping with a new grade and new demands in My Pathway to a Positive School Year; she includes several helpful resources. A really hot topic is SGOs (Student Growth Objectives) and BJ Franks offers help in SGOs: Carpe Diem!  Gregory Romero reminds us of The Importance of Standards for ELLs. Returning SIG Representative Eva Rogozinski writes about Professional Development for Teachers Working with ELLs: What should it look like? Marilyn Pongracz contributes 4 New Sites to Help With Changing Technology while Marcella Garavaglia asks, Are Your Students Ready for the New Computerized ACCESS for ELLs 2.0? From our Supervisors’ SIG,  JoAnne M. Negrín continues the theme with  On Embracing Change and Moving Forward.

Another critical issue is bullying in school. Special Education SIG Rep. Sharon A. Hollander writes  Not Another Article on BullyingLadders of Completion by Howard Pomann, Higher Education SIG Rep., tells how community college ESL students can attain success using previous experiences. Though now retired, Noreen Drucker  glories about being Stuck in the Middle and Loving it…The Wonder Years. Karen Nemeth (Parent and Community Action) and Monica Schnee (Early Childhood) contribute Share your Ideas about Parent and Community Action and Getting Ready, respectively

Special features include more news by Natasha Agrawal on Meeting KaHlaw at the Conference with Photos. We anticipate future articles chronicling KaHlaw’s weaving artistry and successes as  her  English language proficiency improves. Mary Quiroz reports The Fulbright Experience: More than Just an Exchange  about her experiences in Argentina for 3 months.

As always, I strongly encourage you to read beyond your own Special Interest Group (SIG). All of our work is interrelated and scaffolds one to another. There is so much that we can learn from each other and adapt to our own special needs.

Be sure to see the posting for the NJEA 2013 Convention: NJTESOL/NJBE Presenters and Workshops. Remember to check the Calendar page to see if there is a chapter meeting near you: if you haven’t experienced the networking at a local chapter, now is the time. The benefits of a NJTESOL/NJBE local chapter can be your lifeline in times of stress OR you can be the life-preserver for someone who feels that they are sinking under all of the new rules and regulations.

There has never been a more apt time to think, “One for all, and all for one.” That’s the goal of NJTESOL/NJBE for our ELLs.

Looking forward,


P.S. Read this edition quickly. Before you know it, I will be sending out the Winter issue!

Roselyn Rauch, Ed. D, retired from the Paterson Public School District as an ESL teacher and District ESL Resource Teacher, is a consultant with ESL Unlimited. She may be reached at rrauch@njtesol-njbe.org.

Cassy Lawrence

President's Message

By Cassandra Lawrence

My Pathway to a Positive School Year


It’s only three weeks into the new school year, and I’m already overwhelmed. A grade-level change; a new (and not so free of “issues”) Web-based student information system; program changes and add-ons; a lack of sufficient planning time; the confusion over SGOs; and a horrible cold: all of these have the potential to place me on a stressful trajectory. However, I’ve also been given the opportunity to mentor a new teacher; I’m working with great partner teachers; and I’m teaching the most wonderful group of 39 energetic, inquisitive, and enthusiastic dual language learners. With these in place, the road ahead looks good.

It’s inevitable that the new school year will challenge and tire us quickly. Challenge is constant in this time of ever-changing state mandates and district initiatives. We’re juggling several tasks at a time and struggling to meet the needs of our students. We can do it, though. There are ways to get our work done and continue to find joy in our profession.

Non-negotiables – like the Core Common Standards and departmental checklists – can be managed by time well-spent on preparation and organization. I dedicated time this summer to going over the NJDOE’s Model Curriculum for my new grade-level assignment, as well as accessing ELL Scaffolded Student Learning Objectives. I signed up with PMI (Progressive Math Initiative), a curricula utilizing free digital course content. I committed to using my interactive whiteboard more effectively this year after I found that PMI has ready-made SMART Board content. I also rediscovered the wealth of resources at Smart Exchange. With guides and materials like these, I know exactly where my students are headed and how I can effectively guide them there.

Keeping informed and up-to-date is undeniably one of the best strategies for navigating all of these changes. In recent weeks, SGOs (Student Growth Objectives) has become a recurring topic on The Hotlist. Information contained in NJTESOL/NJBE Guidance on Developing SGOs allows bilingual and ESL practitioners to make appropriate decisions with respect to this new aspect of our work.

As exciting and mind-bending as it often is to approach instruction in different ways, it can also be a weighty task, especially if you’re doing it alone. We can’t work in isolation, though. In fact, we should avoid it. Although my partner teachers and I have little common planning time, we make the best of what we have, sharing ideas, reworking plans, collaborating on student projects and displays, while supporting and affirming each other’s efforts. It’s human to feel defeated under pressure, but we work at not letting that happen. As a mentor-teacher, I also hope to support my protégé well enough so that she stays confident and optimistic in her work. Our profession becomes stronger when we raise each other up.

The Adventurers and the Explorers — the two groups of dual language learners I have the pleasure of working with this year — teach me a lot about resilience.  They’re third graders, and everything is funny, and new, and wondrous. They bounce into the classroom in the morning, energy levels high. When their attention falters, or they get tired, all it takes is a change of scenery, some physical activity, a read-aloud or a game, something to eat – and they’re ready to keep going. Some of them have just arrived here: you can see the culture shock, the struggle to communicate, and the exhaustion by the end of the day. Some of the other children have been here a while; they’re the translators, the helpers, and the buddies.

There’s so much to do and to be concerned about this school year. There’s even more for which to be excited and hopeful. I think the Adventurers, the Explorers, and their teacher are going to have a stellar year. That’s the path I’m taking.

Cassandra (Cassy) Lawrence is President of NJTESOL/NJBE. She teaches 3rd grade in the Dual Language Program in the Perth Amboy Schools district. She can be reached at clawrence@njtesol-njbe.org

Vice President's Message


By Sandee McBride

We are surely experiencing a year of transitions. An article dealing with change in Nevada was posted on our NJTESOL/NJBE’s Facebook page and caught my attention. It deals with the Clark County School District that covers more than half of Nevada’s public schools. I was curious to discover how a large area with over 70% of ELLs in their school population successfully engaged families and community members and also trained both culturally and technologically competent teachers.

According to the article by Lucy Keaton, assistant superintendent of the ELL Program there, much time was spent on literacy training and cultural competency. The educators were data driven, analyzed current information (we could use WIDA Model Progress Indicators and state assessment results,) and identified effective interventions by brainstorming and monitoring/discussing students’ progress at meetings (we could analyze SGO achievement). The students began their education the summer prior to starting school. Students and families attended classes gathering information regarding the school’s overall expectations, which might be significantly different from their home culture. The district experienced an increase in homework completion, less anxiety and frustration, and a community-like atmosphere with camaraderie and mutual understanding. They promoted activities such as ‘literacy night', ‘science fair’, and ‘math night’.

Aside from this vital home-school connection, Clark County focused on strengthening their students’ reading and math skills by providing teachers with strategies to integrate language for both communication and academic purposes (we could us WIDA and CCSS). Coaches were available for this aspect of the program as was consistency in instruction, curriculum/standards alignment and intervention strategies. (If you do not have coaches, the Hotlist is here to assist). They had the students read books of different genres from fiction to nonfiction, easy readers to chapter books. The resulting improvement in reading helped students decipher math problems.

Dr. Keaton employs a positive attitude toward ELLs and encourages all the teachers to do the same. (Positive talk about your students impacts the attitudes of mainstream teachers.)

Dr. Keaton sums it up when she says that it’s really about giving parents information, because once we get a lot of parent involvement we experience much more support and communication of the school's expectations.

Sandee McBride, NJTESOL/NJBE Vice President/Conference Chair



NJEA Convention 11/7/2013 Sponsor Report

NJ Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Engaging your English Language Learners Holistically
Category — Core Subjects
Instructional Strategies/Best Practices
Pre-K - Gr. 12
11/7/2013 1:00 - 2:30 PM
Participants will learn how to reach their ELLs by respecting and addressing who they are, where they come from, and what they need, based on research, education and world experience.

Five Strategies for Teaching Beginning ELLs in the Content Areas
Category — Core Subjects
Instructional Strategies/Best Practices
Pre-K - Gr. 12
11/7/2013 1:00 - 2:30 PM
Learn five strategies to provide an effective learning environment for English language learners across the content areas.  Teaching language arts, social studies, science and math will be discussed.

Freire Cultural Circles: Disrupting Educational Inequality with Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogy
Category — 21 st Century Themes
Affective Education
Pre-K - Gr. 12
11/8/2013 9:30 - 11 :00 AM
Participants will learn how Brazilian educator Paulo Freire's "Culture Circle" activity builds critical literacy and empowers teachers and students through the exploration of themes that have significance in their lives.

How Can I help English Language Learners in my Class?
Category — Bilingual/English Language Learners
Learning/Teaching Strategies
Pre-K - Gr. 12
11/7/2013 3:00-4:30 PM
This presentation will help teachers identify the language proficiency of their ELLs and provide them with activities they can do based on WIDA's Can Do Descriptors.

Introducing Intermediate ELLs to Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Research
Category — Core Subjects
High School
Language Arts/Literacy
11/8/2013 1:00 - 2:30 PM
Discover how to introduce intermediate English language learners to paraphrasing, summarizing, and research through a series of lessons that incorporate methods for accomplishing these tasks successfully and minimizing plagiarism.

Multilingual/Multicultural: ELLs and World Language Learners Lead the Way!
Category — Core Subjects
High School
World Languages
11/8/2013 9:30 - 11:00 AM
Educators can teach the value of multilingualism and multiculturalism by encouraging students to study language and culture.  ELLs and world language learners can then become role models of globalized citizens.

Muslim, Arabic-Speaking Students in the American Classroom
Category — Core Subjects
Pre-K - Gr. 12
World Languages
11/8/2013 3:00 - 4:30 PM
Presenter: JORY D. SAMKOFF
Do you work with Muslim, Arabic-speaking students and want to learn more about them? We’ll explore the cultural, religious, linguistic, and academic factors that teachers should consider.

Teachers of ELLs: Use Internet Resources to Connect and Collaborate
Category — Core Subjects
Language Arts/Literacy
Pre-K-Gr. 12
11/7/2013 9:30 - 11:00 AM
How can technology support all teachers who work with English language learners (ELLs)? Discover websites and social networking ideas to enhance the education of the ELLs in your classroom.

KaHlaw Meh at NJTESOL

By Natasha Agrawal

Klaw Meh with Loom

KaHlaw Meh’s presence at NJTESOL marks a new beginning. For Ka Hlaw, it was a debut, showing her art and culture at a teacher’s conference. For NJTESOL, it was a start of showcasing a refugee artist, and visibly demonstrating support for ESL families. Teachers looked on in awe of KaHlaw’s weaving, her delicate patterns and her ability to create beautiful fabric on the most rudimentary of looms. Just a few bamboo sticks and cotton yarn, wrapped around her waist. In her traditional Karenni skirt and sash, she was quite a phenomenon.


Teachers were enthralled to see her weave.  Many bought her colorful bags, some placed orders for custom bags. She was the talk of the wait staff, too, who were mostly Mexican. They all emerged from the kitchen to watch her weave, and to exchange stories of weaving in their villages.  Although languages were different, everyone communicated. Quite an ESL moment. Another highlight for KaHlaw Meh was meeting her children’s’ ESL teachers-a unique experience for the teachers and the parent!  

Since NJTESOL, much as changed in KaHlaw’s household. Her little bamboo loom is always in place between the living room and kitchen. Her kids either have to skip over it, or wiggle under it as her kindergartener tends to do. There is great pride in her family about her skill. Her older daughter often helps her weave, her younger daughter takes orders and translates, and her son takes pictures. Her husband lends a hand by making tassels and measuring the finished fabric. Even her kindergartener draws pictures of her mom sitting and weaving!

In the refugee camp in Thailand, KaHlaw was weaving traditional garments and bags. But in her adopted country, she is making little wallets, scarves, wristlets, table runners and phone purses.  Her English vocabulary has grown. She now knows words such as “check,” “Velcro,”  “zipper,” “button,” “order,” She explains that each motif in her weaving has its own name. What looks like a diamond is really a bud, and the cross is an opened flower.  She says that she has learned to create patterns in the ikat style too. That involves tie-dyeing the warp. As far as KaHlaw’s talent goes, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg.


We have much to learn from her.  Each weave tells me about her resilience through wars, desperation, inspiration, and longing for home.  She tells me she would like to weave even more intricate designs and add more colors.  However, she is glad for the opportunities she has gotten so far.  Weaving, she says simply, makes her happy. It provides a link to her past, and creates an identity for her in the present, and hope for the future.  In a new world of many unknowns, this is familiar: putting warp and weft together to create fabulous fabric. 

A big Tebwi, thank you in Karenni, to the organizers of NJTESOL/NJBE. You provided a unique opportunity for a refugee parent to demonstrate her talent and culture, and validate her identity.  And that is what teaching ESL is all about.

Natasha Agrawal, nagrawal@trenton.k12.nj.us, ESL Teacher, Robbins Elementary School, Trenton

Socio-Political Concerns

SGOs: Carpe Diem!

By Elizabeth (BJ) Franks

Even though developing Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) may have been a perplexing process at first, we need to seize this opportunity to define what we do. The advent of the NCLB, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the desire to expose ELLs to grade level English Language Arts, to integrate ELLs with their peers, thus the panacea (or presumed solution) to “push in” have eroded what we have traditionally known as “ESL.” As a field, we may have been tossed aside, pushed in, (or out,) and devalued. At the same time, every spring, our students are assessed on how well they are developing their English academic language skills and we often wonder, “What is the connection between this assessment and daily instruction?”

Along comes the teacher evaluation process and all teachers are required to identify “growth objectives.” Many of us are questioning what we teach and how do we capture what we teach. Now is the time to embrace the WIDA standards and if you have not already done so, study the WIDA documents. Your answers to those questions are found in WIDA land,  www.wida.us.

The process of developing SGOs not only provides a wonderful opportunity for ESL teachers to define their domain but also a chance to develop formative and interim assessments that capture the process of English language development. Administrators and general education teachers need to be advised of the connection between levels of academic achievement on standardized tests with the level of English language proficiency (Cook, Boals & Lundberg, 2011.) Therefore, when ESL teachers focus on the development of academic language, the performance of ELLs on standardized tests improves.

Accordingly, we need to make the direct link between WIDA ELD standards, ESL curriculum, daily instruction and ACCESS for ELLs. As ESL teachers, we need to understand how WIDA measures English language development and then we need to focus our instruction on those academic features. When you study the WIDA framework, you realize that WIDA measures language development through three criteria: vocabulary usage, language forms and conventions (grammar and mechanics,) and linguistic complexity. Consequently, it makes sense to use the WIDA speaking and writing rubrics to assess language development.

We suggest that you meet with your colleagues to discuss samples of writing to calibrate and clarify your interpretation of technical and specific vocabulary. Review the Model Performance Indicators (MPIs) and realize that WIDA writes the items on the assessment based on the MPIs. Study how they convert MPIs to questions and collaborate with peers on ways to create your own interim assessments. Ask NJTESOL/NJBE to host chapter meetings to have these discussions.

We can no longer work alone and isolated with our own curriculum that is disconnected from the general education curriculum. As districts align curricula with the CCSS, ESL teachers need to realign their curriculum with the district guides. As language experts, we need to analyze the text that students are required to learn and build our lessons around those themes and features. ESL teachers cannot do this single-handedly, so we need to collaborate and educate our general education colleagues. It is a new day and we truly need to seize this moment to define and articulate what we do. NJTESOL/NJBE is here to support your efforts.

BJ Franks is the socio-political concerns representative for NJTESOL-NJBE and an independent consultant at LLAMAME, LLC.


The Fulbright Experience: More than Just an Exchange

By Mary Quiroz

FallsIguazu Falls (one of the Wonders of the World) borders Argentina and Brazil.

"H ow was it?” will be the first question I hear from my colleagues as I return to school after having spent three months in Argentina. Thanks to the Fulbright Distinguished Teacher’s Award, I was granted the opportunity to conduct research, attend university classes and host professional development in the area of my expertise with a country that agreed to collaborate. My short answer will be “amazing”; who has time for more than that in the first week of September? My long answer will be something more like this.

My research project was to investigate the impact that sheltered instruction could have on teaching content area subjects to ELLs. I knew this topic would benefit my district in New Jersey as we have a growing population of ELLs that need to learn English to be successful in school and within the community. At the same time, my research indicated that Argentina was also working to develop English fluency for all its students for similar reasons. After I began my project however, I discovered that what I believed was a seed of interest, was in fact an orchard of need. Refining the instruction of content area subjects to ELLs was welcomed at every school I worked with. The professional development sessions I offered were well attended and productive. Many discussions were started; many connections were made.

Poster Water conservation Bulletin Board at Colegio Mark Twain; Cordoba Argentina

All public schools in Argentina are free, including the university; and therefore, crowded. Knowing this, my expectation of a close community feeling at the university was minimal. I anticipated that my attendance at educational offerings would go unnoticed. I was wrong. Through the classes, seminars, and workshops, I met a number of fascinating students and professors. I was welcomed in every class, asked to join Facebook groups, invited to schools to talk, invited for coffee to share ideas, I was even invited to a family’s ‘asado’, a traditional Argentinean BBQ which includes multiple cuts of beef, organ meats and chorizos (types of sausages).

Not once did I attend a function where someone did not offer to lead me further to another opportunity. Through these connections I was able to extend my studies of the language and culture of the country beyond what I had hoped for. I took advantage of breaks to travel around the country. I loved Cordoba, my temporary home. The hills of Salta and the mountains of Jujuy were breathtaking. Buenos Aires was as exciting as Carlos Paz was peaceful. I visited the home of Che Guevarra, the Bombero, Iguazu Falls, and the vineyards of Mendoza. I felt privileged to visit the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana (MAAM) dedicated to the preservation of the history and the remains of three Incan children from Liullaillaco.

FallsRecycling project at (public school) IPEA 113 Canada de Luque, Argentina

Even the food I ate was an adventure: empanadas (small individual handmade meat pies unique to the town they are made in); asados;  criollos (flaky biscuits), locro (regional stew made with beans, corn, bacon and veal; traditionally served on national holidays), café con leche (equal parts of steaming hot coffee and milk); milanesa (thin cuts of chicken or veal; breaded and sautéed; served with papa fritas — French fries).

I could go on. I feel honored to have taken part in this exchange. I hope this will inspire you to look into this rich and wonderful program. If you participate, you will have had the experience of a lifetime.

Mary Quiroz,   MQuiroz@woboe.org , ESL Teacher, West Orange, New Jersey



Favorite Websites: 4 New Sites to Help With Changing Technology

By Marilyn Pongracz

Finding good resources, making the best use of technology, and keeping up with its constant changes is a challenge.  From the online newsletters I receive, three sites below promise to provide the most help with technology.  While exploring these, I found another site, http://www.teachthought.com/. “Teach Thought” is a well-written blog on a number of topics, but focusing on what to do and how to approach the use of technology.  When I clicked on iPads, I found several helpful posts, including one on how to get started and keep your expectations realistic.

Graphite, http://www.graphite.org/, is a searchable list of reviewed media for the classroom from the non-profit organization, Common Sense Media.  Their simple and efficient search engine provides searches by media type: games, apps, or websites, as well as subjects and grades, and by cost – free, free to try, or paid.  Other places to start are the “Top Picks” and the blog.  The site also gives the option for you to create your own “board” on the site with the resources that you choose.  One drawback is that you can view the site or app within Graphite, but to actually go to another site, you have to open a new window and search for it.

http://www.commonsensemedia.org, Common Sense Media, the source of Graphite, is geared towards parents.  However, it has more content than Graphite, so it could also be useful for teachers as well.  In additions to apps, games, and websites, it also has rated of lists videos, movies, TV shows, books, and music.  There are also “Best Apps” and “Top Picks.”  Searches can be narrowed by age, subjects, skills, genre, topics, and learning ratings.  Unfortunately there is no search by cost.  I looked for apps, and most are around $1.99 although some are higher and a few are free.  The site also has a blog for teachers and professional development webinars with the option to view ones that are archived.

Activate Instruction, http://www.activateinstruction.org/, is a new site with searchable lists of all types of resources, many printable, for teachers to use with students at all grade levels and skills.  The major advantage of this site is that each resource is not only reviewed, but also aligned to the common core standards.   Teachers can create playlists of resources, activities, and videos on the site to share with their students.  In my search of reading materials for young students, I found a very printable and adaptable “Mental images graphic organizer,” in which students draw the images that they see in their mind while a book is being read.  I also discovered an “Alphabet Sorting Chart” which is actually a “Word Collector” chart for students to fill out.  The origin of the resources, such as Electric Company videos, are cited and linked.  There seems to be good sets of materials for pre-school, K & 1, and for grades 6-12.

Although there is no means to search specifically for ESL materials on these sites, many of the resources are adaptable.

Marilyn Pongracz is the Technology Coordinator for NJTESOL/NJBE and the English Language Resource Center Supervisor at Bergen Community College


Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Announcing our 2014 Spring Conference:

Pathways for the Next Generation of Language Learners

May 28 (Wednesday) & 29 (Thursday)
Hyatt Regency Hotel, New Brunswick

The 2014 spring conference registration form is now available on-line at

Please  take note of your membership expiration date when signing up for the conference and renew as necessary. This will save you time when registering on conference day. Your membership expiration date is after your name in the letter that announces Voices.