Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Growing Colors By Bruce McMillan

If you click the title above, you'll be able to see the cover of this book. It is a very simple picture of a leaf. Each letter in the word "colors" introduces you to the genius of this book, in my opinion. The photographs are beautiful bright and simple! You get to see only two main ideas in each page, the color which pops immediately as you turn each page and the vegetable or fruit. I find that books that are visually simple are the best tools to work with newcomer or beginner students. No matter how old they are, these pictures are just great, Either to show the color or the vegetable or fruit, this is a great resource. I imagine if you are reading this, you have some sort of experience working with people who speak a second language, perhaps someone brand new to English who communicates with you only through gestures. How do you explain colors without words? Well, in a classroom, perhaps color pencils are the easiest way. You can also go around pointing at things that are red or green, for example. I find not all books are the best tools for this because there is so much color in them most of the time. This book in particular is excellent for practicing colors, however! There is no confusion about what you are talking about. Most of all it is beautiful to look at. I hope to hear what are your favorite ways to teach basic concepts like "colors" without words.

To add complexity to the teaching of colors, check this site out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Children of the World Say "Good Morning" By Herbert Mc Clure

This is not the newest book in the shelf but I just love it. I imagine if you've been around the ELL world, you have found that greetings in different languages are beautiful ways to acknowledge people, make remarks of the weather or time of day but, most of all being kind to others. This is a great book that reviews different languages and the way they say "good morning". Each greeting includes a phonetic pronunciation under the spelling of each phrase. Each word is printed in the corresponding alphabet, which includes Japanese, Chinese and Arab. It's a great resource to discuss greetings. I have a lot of students from different Asian countries and I haven't found texts that include languages like Laotian, Kamai (Cambodia), Thai or Burmese, though. If any of you know of some books, let me know!

Who am I? by Aylette Jenness

OK, so let me start by saying that I was so surprised to find out this book costs so little money. You can check for yourself if you click on the title. I think this is such a precious book to talk about how we all have a cultural and ethnic heritage to be proud of. This realistic fiction book is about a Caucasian student seeking to participate in "Family Heritage Day" at his school. I love to read this to my ELL students because it shows them that all people have a cultural heritage. I'd love to hear your comments about this one in particular. What is your own ethnic heritage? Do you find your ethnic heritage is a hook or a hindrance to teach English Language Learners?

Anno's Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno

Click on the title to see this book.

I wonder if you know Anno's Alphabet by the same author. This is as beautiful and practical as the former. An excellent book for newcomers in the upper elementary grades 3 - 5. It is great for practicing numbers, counting as well as learning the vocabulary included in the pictures. The addition of the items not only helps with the mathematical concepts of adding and counting but, as things appear it leaves no doubt of the meaning of the words that are being said and repeated. Perfect for Beginner or Early-Intermediate students in the K-2 grades.

I would recommend this book as a must for the ELL classroom library.

Color Farm By Lois Ehlert

You can see this book by clicking on the title!

This is a great picture book for beginner students. It is simple yet fun! The student can look at the colors, the shapes and animals. The best visuals for ELL students are pictures with "real" things, I think. However, this book's design of the animals is pretty accurate. I particularly love the cut-outs inside so you can see the same shape in three different colors, so when all you can practice is "square" or "green" over and over, you get variations.

I also find it useful to show all students how drawing is all about shapes.

I recommend this book for the classroom library.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anatole. By Eve Titus. Illus. Paul Galdone

Anatole reminds me of the hard working mouse in the movie Ratatouille and the courageous Desperaux. Anatole is a much older character, though. I picked this book up from my Public Library because it has a 50th anniversary seal on its cover. The illustrations look old but, the story is as fresh and relevant as ever. Anatole is faced with an existentialism crisis. This search takes him from a happy existence as a "trash collector" to an honorable and reputable position as vice-president in charge of cheese tasting at the Duval Cheese Factory.

I used the book to talk about occupations. We also did a character study. This book is a great book to discuss character traits because the main character is rich with them. I find this a useful thing to review because the concept of traits is a complex one and can be easily confused with "treats". Just this school year, I've had two students who've read the word as "treats".

The language is rather complex and formal. I would advice to use this book as a read aloud or a book to study and compare other mouse characters.

The Pencil By Allan Ahlberg, Illus: Bruce Ingman

Click on the title to see this book.

The Pencil is a wonderful book for all levels. It is a Fantasy book about a pencil who starts drawing a fun and wonderful world that most students can relate to. There are wonderful basic phrases like: "What's my name?". As well as complex language like leopards and tigers.

I used it to talk about occupations with all my groups. We talked about the job of a pencil and a paintbrush. The conversations carried us into some interesting and valuable teachable moments. Additionally with the 4th and 5th graders I used it as an example for descriptive words or character traits in this genre.

With my kindergarten beginner's group, the pictures tell the story so well that not reading the text didn't matter. The students understood the problem and practicing "What's my name?" was a blast!

I strongly recommend this book as a must in the ELL classroom library. I am sure you'll be able to use it in so many other different ways! I'd love to hear what you do with it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Welcome to 10-11 School Year!

Just a quick hello and welcome to the 10-11 school year eveyone!! I can't believe September's almost over... I honestly mean this. I haven't been able to write here I've been so super busy with all the beginning of the year preparations, etc. How about you? Have you been as busy as previous years?

A new thing for me is that I have a new wonderful teaching partner, so we've been collaborating and learning each other. I am very thrilled about our plans and our students! Simultaneously, I'm sure you are already guessing.... I am missing my previous partner. She retired so that's great - for her, but I find myself thinking about her often and wanting her input and wisdom. So it's also been a tad bit emotional. Anyway, hope your year is going great and exciting. I have a couple of books to share with you soon, so stay posted!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Signing Off for the Summer Break

The end of school year is always an exciting event. I am very happy to be over with all that and move on to Summer. I will be traveling and looking for books I can share with you here. So to all of you,happy, fun and peaceful one! We'll see you in Septemer!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Disappearing Alphabet By: Richard Wilbur

Click on the title to see this book.

Nancy Willard praises The Disappearing Alphabet " To put Richard Wilbur's rib-tickling verses into the hands of children is to give them a love of language that only the best poetry can isnpire. The nonsense and the rhymes in The Disappearing Alphabet is irresistible."

Alison Laurie says "This original and delightful new alphabet book should appeal not only to children but to everyone who loves words."

Have you seen this book before? This is the kind of book I pay hard cover price for. I love this book! The author shares his witty ideas in poem form about what would happen if we didn't have letters. How would our words look like without the "E"? Would we call lphant? or big boy? What about no V? How would we call "'V' formation"? Without the "M", well, you get the idea. It's just fantastic!

This alphabet book is not for beginner students. It is not for the very young, although you know your students better than I do, I haven't used with little ones but, with primary grades groups; older children who don't like the idea to read and "alphabet book" at first, but once they hear the first couple of poems they are hooked. This is a book you can use for tons of reasons. My favorite is for reviewing sounds. Discussing about them in a fresh and new way. Talking about how would a word sound without a letter sound is quite funny too, so it's a win-win situation.

This book provides a great playground for vocabualary analysis, just words, talking about words, how do you spell them how you don't spell them, what do they mean? If you like words, you'll love reading this book, furthermore, you'll help your students see how cool it is to carefully look at words.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Little Prickles

Little Prickles is a porcupine that longs to have friends. When his classmates cautiously commented about his quils, he became sad and grumpy. He would not want to play with others because he was too prickly! He hated his quils even though deep inside him, he knew they made him who he was. One day at school, the teacher explained the best way to write well, was to have a sharp and thin stick. Little Prickles eager to make friends, decided to give away his quils until his beautiful pink skin looked like a tasty dinner. What would he do now that his natural protection was gone?

This is a wonderful book for many reasons. It is a "Kids are Authors Award" winner; it's written and illustrated by children. It has very nice sentence patterns that help introduce new vocabulary beautifully complimented by the great illustrations. The story deals with the issues of Friendship, Self-Confidence and Identity; something most immigrant students or bicultural students deal with at some point in their lives - we all do for that matter. Reading this book will take you to many directions. A carefully crafted goal will assure your success not only in the lesson at hand, but in the future use of this same text. I love the fact that I can use it as a book to teach topics like animals (nouns), or adjectives and adverbs. I can talk about literary elements, (story problem) or children as writers. Also, it's a great book to go straight to the point and talk about identity. What makes you who you are?

I like to start with the latter, because that way, the deep insights and conversations are dealth with to start with. In the next ocassion, we can focus on the grammar elements this book richly provides. It's a great ELL classroom nugget!
It's a great book for the beginning of the school year too!

I'd love to hear what your experiences are using this book with your students!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day Holiday

I do not have a book to discuss today. I had been so excited looking forward to this holiday. It's great to have this three-day weekend break to rest and reacharge as we prepare for the last leg of our race. I do want to ask you, though Have you found a good book about Memorial Day to read to your ELL students? I am still looking for one, I'd love to hear any suggestions!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This First Thanksgiving Day By Laura Krauss Melmed, Illustrated by Mark Buehner

"This rollicking counting story celebrates the very first Thanksgiving Day with vibrant illustrations and lively verse. Follow the Pilgrim and Wampanoag friends as they prepare for a great feast, and along the way look for the bold turkey on every page - and for the very sharp of eye, there are all sorts of surprises hidden in the art!"

The reason why this is a great book for the ELL students is because it gives them background knowledge about Thanksgiving. Not necesarily about the feast and the classical story behind the Thanksgiving celebration but, about the scenery, the things that are icons for the Thanksgiving celebrations. I live in Oregon and looking for clams is a common scene -- as long as the tide is low. Children can connect what they know, with the way things used to look like back in the time of the Pilgrims. When I turn to The 11 rejoicing in the autumn sun page, It never ceases to amaze me because hide and seek is a universal game. Over the years, there have been interesting conversations about this game, mostly primary grade children who have lived in other countries and are old enough to remember playing hide and seek with other children there. So, in a way, the story may not end about Thanksgiving, but about what they used to play in their countries of origin with their friends and relatives. That is how we begin to build background knowledge.

I would love to hear the stories you'll hear.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Opposites, more opposites, and a few differences By Richard Wilbur

I found this book looking for another book at the public library. Has this ever happened to you? If you go to libraries, I'm sure it has. I don't think it's for children. I would not recommend to have it in your school or classroom library, however! A few excerpts would be fun and interesting for ELLs who have heard all the books on opposites there are in your school library, though. This book will be refreshing and fun! It is defenetly for primary grades above the intermediate level. Great book to review and build on high level thinking, analogies and humor.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

¡Sí se puede! Yes, we can! Janitor Strike in LA. By: Diana Cohn

"Every night, Carlitos sleeps while his mother goes to work as a janitor in the skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. When she comes home in the morning, she sends Carlitos off to school before she goes to bed herself. One night his mamá explains that she is not making enough money to support him and his abuelita. She and the other janitors have decided to go on strike to demand better wages. Carlitos wants to help, but he doesn't know how until...."

This is a great book on its own or a good companion from the previous one featured here: Cesar ¡Si se piede! Yes we can! By Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. It brings up important social issues obviously, but it is also a great way to talk about professions at home. I have done a Unit on occupations every year. I've found difficult, however for some of them specially the younger ones to be able to tell me what do their parents do for a living. Inspite of my encouragement to aks their parents what do they do, it just doesn't happen. I'm still puzzled about this. The point is that this year, I read this book and was a great ice breaker between children and parents.
The way this story is told, so simple yet with full details of what it means to be working under unjust circumstances not only for the employee, but for the whole family, somehow clicks the right way for the students to be quickend to ask and press their parents for answers about their jobs. I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Whistle for Willie By Ezra Jack Keats

"Willie longs to be able to whistle for his dogs and make many ingenious attempts". Ah, The skill of whistling! I do remember when I was trying to learn how to whistle! Do you? There are so many kinds of whistles and there are as many meanings behind every single one of them. It is a great topic to bring up with Students from other countries. I recommend this book to all ELL teachers who want to hear more about their students' cultures. I am sure you'll be amazed at the conversations this book will bring! I'd love to hear some of them too!

Friday, May 21, 2010

César ¡Sí se puede! Yes, we can! By: Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

"Bernier-Grand and Díaz have done a beautiful job of providing people with a creative approach to connect with and understand César's life, work, and ideals on a very personal level and to open the hearts and minds of the world to his legacy of social justice and quality for all poeple." (Julie C Rodríguez)

The reason why I think this is a great book for English Language Learners is not just because it is beautifully illustrated or because it is about the outstanding story of an immigrant and the American Dream. Besides all that, it is because the language though poetic, is simple and interjects Spanish expressions. I have read this book with elementary student Intermediate and Intermediate-Advanced proficiency levels with great success. They can relate to the poetry. It is simple, yet meaningful. It is easy to talk about language, but also about social issues and history. Highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Salsa by Lillian Colón- Vilá

"Rita, a young girl living in New York's El Barrio, describes the Afro-Caribbean dance music, salsa, and imagines being a salsa orchestra director".

Books that talk about something so ingrained in someones culture, like "salsa" dance are genius. The Media and TV have made these type of dances and music something complicated, showy and extravagant. Salsa is so special and personal. It's part of many Hispanic cultures soul. This book is a simple, gentle and true picture of what "salsa" is in a family, a home, a community.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

When I Grow Up

When I grow up: a young person's guide to interesting & unusual occupations, by Jessica Loy is an excellent book for students learning about professions. It has all the features I look for in a book for students whose language skills are limited. The reasons why I highly recommend this book for instruction are:

1. The vocabulary is rich, explicit and clear. Clear being the key word here because the pictures and the order of ideas and images makes perfect sense. You can read just the pictures captions and learn a new word.

2. Each profession is portrayed in a way that we can see what are the skills you may want to have to do that job. Each person/persons featured give little hints or advice about the kinds of skills they must have in order to do their job well. This particular aspect of the book is useful for ELL students because it facilitates the discussion of skills and what they are important. This book is a great tool to explain how if you like building things like the set designer featured in the book for example, you may find that skill will be the key to your success as a professional just as he did.

3. Every time you turn the page, you find a person featured as his/her profession. There is a brief mini-biography. The main body of the text consists of a succinct explanations of the tasks and responsibilities this particular job entails. These two pieces are clear and concise, yet full of rich language that weaves the students as they read hooking them directly to the new terms pertaining to the specific job.

4. Pictures, pictures, pictures! The pictures are wonderful!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meet My Neighbor the Artist

This is a wonderful book for ELL students. It belongs to a series authored by Marc Crabtree. The simplicity of the language and the telling about this neighbor is particularly valuable, mostly for Beginner and Intermediate level students. The pictures are wonderful and to the point.

Additionally to the simplicity of the language and the great pictures, you have a succint vocabulary list that is clearly depicted both in the pictures and in the story. Words like palette, painting (both as a noun and a verb), mixing (colors), as one of the things artists do, for example.

The book lends itself not only as a visual example but also as an introduction to several subjects, like being a visual artist, mixing colors, and introducing people. The title itself is a great example of how you introduce someone formally. This is the kind of book that I recently discovered it and I've used it for all the purposes mentioned. The children like it and have learned from it. My biggest vote of confidence to the success of this text was when last week, one of my students wanted a different shade of green than the ones in his 12 color pencil box. Another student encouraged him "to mix" the colors like Daniel Scott - the artist featured in this book.
Click on the title to view this book.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

Click on the title to see the book.
Library Lion By Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. No running allowed. And you must be quiet. But when a lion comes to the library one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren't any rules about lions in the library. It turns out, though, that the lion seems very well suited for the library. His big feet are quiet on the library floor. He makes a comfy backrest for the children at story hour. And he never roars in the library - at least not anymore. But when something terrible happens, the lion helps in the only way he knows how. Could there ever be a good reason to break the rules? Even in the library?

The reason why I love this book is because for many of the ELL students that I have worked with, Libraries are a brand new concept. there is a You Tube comment by Kevin Hawkes the illustrator just to contrast the differences between his experience as a child who finds the Library a constant in his life. Many of my ELL students have never been to a library until they come to our school. This book is such a wonderful way to discuss about much more than just behavior in the library. I love this book for ELL because it's a great platform to talk about rules and consequences when they aren't followed. Weather you can read this to Intermediate level students, or you can just do a picture walk and mimic and mimic good behavior in the classroom with Beginner or Newcomer students. I also love the way the author uses words like "scowled", "stern" and "twitched". These words are so clearly illustrated not only in the pictures, but in the context. It also lends itself to talk about things like voluntarism, as well as the job of a librarian. The concept I particularly love is the circulation desk. The way it is portrayed and explained is just wonderful. It never fails to amaze me how after reading this story, many students start saying "circulation desk", instead of "check out place"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Did You Say Pears?

Here's the first book: Did You Say Pears? By Arlene Alda. I highly recommend it. It is about homonyms. The photographs are very well taken, showing each object clearly. I don't know about you but, many times that is the problem with good books of this sort. The pictures are not to the point. I mean to say that they don't show the one item they are portraying. In this particular book the pictures are clear, simple and beautiful, I think.

Her website is:


I work as an ELL teacher in an Elementary School in Portland Oregon. I teach English as a Second Language and love every minute of it. Over the years I have found wonderful books that are extremely useful to introduce subjects on grammar or that clearly illustrate and explain ideas. I hope to share my books with you in hopes that they will help you too. I also hope you all will share your favorite books to teach ELL students with me. I can't wait to hear from you.