Welcome to the Teacher Resources blog!

Hello Teachers!! This is our blog! It’s just for instructors!  We will post new information about ESL resources such as websites, new publications, technology in the classroom, worksheets, and creative ideas for use in your classrooms. This blog is also a forum for our ESL curriculum and sample lesson plans.

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Refugee Organizations

Our classes include students from all over the globe. With an increasing number of refugee students entering our program, I thought it might be a good idea to shed some light on the facts about displaced persons, what resources are available for them, and what organizations facilitate their settlement. At the end of the post are resources for local refugee resettlement organizations. Like most non-profit organizations, they are in need of donations and volunteers.

The refugee crisis that has erupted around the world has been a mounting problem for some time now. Every year numerous organizations publish status reports on the state of the world’s displaced persons. In June 2015, The UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR published their annual analysis of global forced displacement, revealing shocking numbers of people who have been forced to flee their homes. Here are just a few of the facts that emerged from the report:

  1. In 2014, global displacement reached historic levels: 59.5 million people were forced to flee their homes: roughly the same number of people in Britain. If these people made up their own country, it would be the 24th largest nation in the world.
  1. In 2014 alone, 8.3 million people were forced to flee: the highest annual increase on record.
  1. That means that 42,500 people were forced to leave their homes every daybecause of conflict or persecution.
  1. Of these people, 19.5 million are refugees, 1.8 million are asylum seekers and 38.2 million were internally displaced within their own country.
  1. 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.
  1. More than half (53%) of the world’s refugees are from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The largest source of the world’s refugees is Syria. One in five displaced persons is from Syria.
  1. The top 5 host countries for refugees are:
    • Turkey
    • Pakistan
    • Lebanon
    • Iran
    • Ethiopia
  1. More than half of the world’s refugees are children(51%): the highest figure in over a decade.
  2. In 2014, 34,300 asylum claims were made by unaccompanied children: the highest number since records began.Most of the children were Afghan, Eritrean, Syrian or Somali.

Organizations that Advocate, Educate, and Provide Services

International Office of Migration. http://www.iom.int/

IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. As the leading international organization for migration, IOM acts with its partners in the international community to:

  • Assist in meeting the growing operational challenges of migration management.
  • Advance understanding of migration issues.
  • Encourage social and economic development through migration.
  • Uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.

UNHCR. The UN Refugee Agency. http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home

UNHCR is “United Nations High Commission on Refugees”. www.unhcr.org They are probably the most well known organization that provides assistance to refugees, but they also do much more:

  • Advocacy
  • Alternatives to Camps
  • Asylum and Migration
  • Capacity Building
  • Durable Solutions
  • Emergency Response
  • Climate Change
  • Assistance

US Committee for Refugees and Migrants.  http://www.refugees.org/  This organization focuses its efforts in the following areas:

  • Refugee resettlement
  • Human trafficking
  • Advocacy
  • Migrant Children

USCRI North Carolina http://www.refugees.org/about-us/where-we-work/north-carolina/

Refugees International.  http://www.refugeesinternational.org/  Refugees International (RI) advocates for lifesaving protection and assistance for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises. We shine a light on the real problems, and make recommendations to policy makers at the highest levels that help shape the response to those in need.

International Rescue Committee.  www.rescue.org
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster.

Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration  http://www.oraminternational.org/en/  ORAM is the only international organization devoted solely to advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) refugees fleeing persecution due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Local Refugee Resettlement Agencies

  1. Lutheran Services (Raleigh) http://www.lscarolinas.net/services-for-refugees/refugee-resettlement/
  2. Church World Service (Durham) http://cwsrdu.org/
  3. USCRI (Downtown Raleigh) http://www.refugees.org/about-us/where-we-work/north-carolina/?referrer=https://www.google.com/
  4. World Relief (Durham) http://worldrelief.org/page.aspx?pid=192
  5. North Carolina African Services Coalition (Greensboro) http://ascafrica.org/

How can you help?

Components for Reading Success

permission flickr ekelly89

permission flickr ekelly89

All of our ESL classes are “multilevel”, with some students excelling in literacy, and others in spoken language. Research generally proves that spoken language is more quickly acquired and written English takes much longer. So, with that said, what are some ways to improve reading and writing? What do we need to focus on in our classes? Is it just a matter of more reading? Explicit phonics instruction? Where do you begin with literacy instruction?

To work on reading, multiple experts agree that there are five things to address. They are:

  1. Phonological awareness-understanding that language can be broken into smaller units.
  2. Comprehension-the ability to understand text
  3. Vocabulary-new words to help in reading comprehension
  4. Fluency-ability to read/speak text
  5. Phonics-the relationship between sounds and letters

Differentiated Instruction in the Multilevel Classroom

As you well know, not all students are at the same level in any given class. Therefore, we have to do the best we can to differentiate our instruction and meet the needs of our students. The website www.fcrr.org has some wonderful examples of how to do that. It is geared toward elementary school, but the lessons and differentiation are applicable to our adult classes. Follow the prompts on the left side of the page! www.fcrr.org Florida Center for Reading Research is a wealth of information that includes not only assessment tools, but actual instruction and sequencing for reading instruction. There are step-by-step instructions on differentiated instruction.

 Here’s how to find it:

  1. Click on “How to Differentiate Instruction”. http://www.fcrr.org/assessment/ET/diff/diff.html
  2. Next, select a “grade level”. You will be taken to a sample lesson, presented in step-by-step fashion. You can now customize for your class!






Teaching Pronunciation: What should I do?

Thank you to Lisa Uribe Ceciliano for her insight and wisdom about teaching pronunciation! She taught the pronunciation class in the ESL Teacher Certificate Program for many years, and has a depth of knowledge when it comes to the subject. Here’s what she had to say in response to my questions.

What are your top five tips for teaching pronunciation?

  1. Be prepared with on-the-spot mini-lessons
  2. Don’t try to teach 3 hours of non-stop pronunciation – break it up
  3. After your presentation, PUT THE SPEAKING ON THE STUDENTS!!!
  4. Learn about teaching pronunciation so YOU feel comfortable teaching it
  5. Concepts like rate of speech, stress, intonation, rhythm, linking, and reduction are more important than concepts of individual sound clarity

BONUS TIP #1: Shoot for improvement, NOT perfection. Consider comprehensibility in choosing which topics to teach (“does “x” affect comprehensibility?” – if NO, move on; if YES, work on it).

BONUS TIP #2: (For students) speaking faster is not speaking better. Work on rate of speech.

How often should you teach pronunciation?
It should be built in the lesson based on the needs of the class. Some lessons need to be explicitly taught, while others can be covered in a short, mini lesson. It depends on the demographics and needs of the class. Assess their needs and the level of instruction that may be required.

What are your favorite websites for teachers?
eslblogs.waketech.edu (the WTCC EL Civics blog!)

What books do you recommend for teaching pronunciation?

Gilbert, Judy B. (2005). Clear Speech: Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension in North American English. Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 978-0-521-54354-5)

Baker, Ann. (1990/2008). Pronunciation Pairs: An Introduction to the Sounds of English. Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 0-521-34972-9/ISBN 978-0-521-67808-7)

Hancock, Mark. (1995). Pronunciation Games. Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 978-0-521-46735-3)

Note: I can attest to the usefulness of all these books. Pronunciation Games has activities to address rhythm, stress, intonation, etc. There are activities for almost all levels too! Maggie

Wisdom to share with teachers:
See TIPS ~ especially learn how to teach pronunciation so you feel comfortable with it. We avoid things that make us uncomfortable. Don’t make it up – learn how to teach past tense endings – it’s easier than you think once you know it!

Also, have fun! Use props – feathers, rubber bands, foam, colors, games. Pronunciation has fun props ~ use them!

As a teacher make sure you are comfortable with the concepts! As with any material, once you understand the material and are comfortable with it, the instruction get easier.

Keep an eye (and ear!) out for students “relapsing” – progress is made while “in” the lesson, and then “forgotten” after the lesson, so keeping the awareness and practice going is important.

Final thought:
If you haven’t learned how to teach pronunciation, or if you’re not comfortable with it, take a class (the WTCC Certificate class can be taken by itself), or read up on it before you tackle it in class – just as you would with any other topic. There’s no “mystery” in teaching pronunciation – just understanding the concepts.

Thanks again Lisa for all the information! Super helpful!

In addition to the info from Lisa, here are a few other places you might want to check out:



A compilation of practice sites:  http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2008/03/31/the-best-websites-for-learning-english-pronunciation/

What Do YOU Have Planned for Halloween?

Halloween Lessons and Resources

by Sage_Solar attribution 2.0 generic ccby2.0

by Sage_Solar
attribution 2.0 generic ccby2.0

Halloween is next Saturday, and many ESL teachers will include some type of lesson or celebration about the holiday. Here are some links to some of the most popular sites that offer lessons on Halloween. This post just might save you a search or two!

If you are new to teaching ESL, or unfamiliar with Larry Ferlazzo, this might be the first place you want to look. It is filled with links and ideas, from lower level lessons to lessons on metaphors and figurative writing! http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2008/10/05/the-best-websites-for-learning-about-halloween/

This site includes a powerpoint lesson, crossword puzzle, and other writing practice. www.elcivics.com/halloween




TONS of info and activities! http://www.esolcourses.com/links/halloween-resources.html

Above and beyond the usual vocabulary lessons about Halloween, this blog site has some good suggestions for classroom activities. This information is free, but they also have a paid site with complete lessons. http://blog.esllibrary.com/2010/10/25/10-ideas-for-teaching-halloween-english/

Comprehensive reading and associated comprehension activities about Halloween. http://www.eslholidaylessons.com/10/halloween.html

This site includes games for a Halloween party, but you could adapt some of them for the classroom.


That should be enough information to get you started on a fantastic Halloween lesson. What are your favorite activities or websites for Halloween?

Save Time by Using These Websites

If you want to spend less time lesson planning, and more time engaged with the students, we’ve got two websites that might help you:

North Carolina Learning Object Repository


The North Carolina Learning Object Repository is a  news and learning portal. The website says “This service is available to all North Carolina educators but it is managed by the North Carolina Community College System with allocated funds from the North Carolina State Legislature 2+2 initiative.” This site is RICH with resources such as lesson plans, videos, topic lessons, grammar, reading and writing.

The topics on the site are listed below. The most relevant for us is, of course, Language Arts, but there is other information within some of the other categories that could be of use in your classrooms!

Agricultural and Natural Sciences (4,179)                             Arts and Humanities (3,384)
Business, Management & Economics (546)                          Career and Technical Education (477) Computer Science (214)                                                                            Design (39)
Education (317)                                                                        Engineering (3,325)
Health and Medical Sciences (1,318)                                    Information Sciences (37)
Language Arts (381)                                                                 Mathematics (2,665)
Physical Sciences (3,202)                                                         Social and Behavioral Sciences (722)
Other (26)

Additionally, there is a “Resource Series List” available. Just a small sampling of these resources are the BBC, ReadWriteThink, Khan Academy, NCCCSS Virtual ESL Library, LearnNC, and many, many more. Think of it as a giant conflomeration of information! Search under “Resource Series” and you’ll find the entire list.

Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education


Again, a wealth of information covering a multitude of subjects. For our students, click on the “What’s New” link, next, the “LINCS Learner Center”, and follow the links according to your interest. There are several sites here for your students to use.

As you go deeper into the site you’ll find even more resources for the classroom and also research papers!

Help Me Understand the “Green Cards” and Educational Gains!

Let’s say you are a new, or newish teacher, at Wake Tech. Tomorrow is your first class! You’ve prepared a thorough lesson plan that covers all the four skills and includes creative, communicative activities. You even have a brand new pack of markers! You are READY!  With anticipation and excitement, you arrive at your classroom a bit early that first day.  Once you are settled into your class and awaiting the students, the intake folks throw some green cards your way and say “ Have a great class!” Um, um….….huh? If you’re like me, you probably thought, “What are these for? And why do I need them?”  So my dear teachers if any of that sounds a wee bit familiar, then you’re going to love today’s post. It’s all about those green cards, and why, you do, indeed, need them!

First things first.  What happens at registration? Each new student takes both a written and an oral test.  A file is created for each student which includes the following forms:  a permanent record, publicity release, attendance policy agreement, ability to benefit, and a green card. The permanent record includes personal contact information and is also where the student’s test scores are recorded. Now, about those green cards………

They are a tool to help you track your student’s progress. They are another record of test scores, and provide some insight into the student’s personal history and education. It includes the following information:

  1. Name, Address, Phone
  2. Native country and language – Do they know the Roman alphabet?
  3. Number of years of education- Do they have a solid academic background, or are they coming to ESL with limited educational experiences?
  4. Student’s identification number-This is the number that the students use to sign in to class at many of the sites.
  5. Test scores and dates-Both the written and speaking score will be included. You can take a quick glance at the green card to see if the student is making progress, has achieved an educational gain for the year, or when the most recent test was administered.
  6. Class level placement-Each time a student is placed in a class, their level and time of day is noted.

Let’s take a look at our student named RICKY MARTIN.

First test:         7/15/14 Ventures writing test (VW) and Best Plus (B+) test

Date                Lit                    Oral                 Form

7/15/14           50                    420                  VW/B+

9/10/14                                   471                  B+       ( Gain)

RIcky Martin Green Card

A note about educational gains……..The NRS (The National Reporting System for Adult Education is an outcome-based reporting system for the State-administered, federally funded adult education program.). It is the organization that manages and reports educational outcomes in adult ed. As you know, our funding is now predominately determined by educational gains, and not only by the number of students attending class. What that means for us as teachers is that we need to demonstrate to our funders that our students are improving. Students are expected to make an educational gain each program year. An educational gain is when a student goes to a higher NRS level. Let’s look at Ricky Martin’s test results.  Use the NRS chart to evaluate his test results.

Best Plus Score NRS Education Functioning Level
Below 400 Beginning ESL Literacy
401-417 Low  Beginning ESL
418-438 High Beginning ESL
439-472 Low Intermediate ESL
473-506 High Intermediate ESL
507-540 Advanced ESL

5/15/15   Ricky Martin got a Best+ score of 420, which placed him in the “High Beginning ESL” NRS level.

9/20/15   After 80 hours of class, he got a Best+ score of 471. This placed him into the “Low Intermediate ESL” NRS level. This is an example of a “gain”. He has moved up one level within the NRS.

Each student is expected to advance one NRS level every program year. These NRS levels don’t correlate exactly to our class levels, just fyi.

If Ricky Martin had scored 438 on his most recent Best+ test he would NOT have gotten an educational gain.

The next time you look at your students’ green cards, I hope the information makes a little more sense!

In the near future I’ll be reporting on the NRS.

Any questions you have about educational gains, green cards, or the NRS should be put in the COMMENTS section. I look forward to your feedback!

Three Apps for the Classroom That Teachers are Guaranteed to Love!

Hi Everyone! Welcome back to the Teacher Resources blog! So glad to have you!

Let’s start the new “blog year” off right with some new technology sites! What I want to highlight today are a few sites that have really taken off here at the Beltline Center! Maybe some of you heard about a couple of these during Vicky Dolganiuc’s technology report from the TESOL Conference! If you have the opportunity to use the mobile lab, or the I-pads you should definitely check out these sites! Students love them. And for you, they are a wonderful tool for games, assessments, surveys, and more.

KAHOOT. Let’s start with the popular kahoot website! It’s fantastic! You can make it as complicated, or as simple, as you want!  It’s an interactive game that students play on their smartphones or computer. So you can use this app in the computer lab, or in the classroom if your students have smartphones.

Here’s how to use it:

First, create a user name at www.getkahoot.com.  There, you can create quizzes, surveys, or polls.

After you select which quiz you want to use, the students log in at www.kahoot.it using a specific number assigned to you.  From there, start the activity.  After each activity there is a score and feedback on how the students are doing. When finished, you can save the results, and then you have an automatic assessment of how each student is doing.

In the photo below, the picture on the left shows a question that is projected onto the screen. The picture on the right shows what the students see on their smartphones. The answers are color coded and easy to use.

First Grade Chromebook Pre-Assessment

photo by Kevin Jarrett/flickr

QUIZLET. The next great app is at www.quizlet.com. There is nothing simpler! Seriously, in ten minutes you can create an expansive range of vocabulary focused activities! You simply enter the vocabulary words you want the students to learn, assign a picture to each word (available o the website), and you are finished! Everything else is done for you!

When the student logs in to the site, they will find SIX different activities for practicing the vocabulary. The practice ranges from flash cards to concentration to writing. It’s very, very easy for you to create vocabulary lists! The site does all the work for you!

POLL EVERYWHERE. This app allows you to create polls for your students. It’s easy to use, and you simply enter your question, and the students respond on their smartphones (or you can also use it in on a computer). It’s a great way to get immediate insight and feedback from your students. www.polleverywhere.com

Free Lesson Plans and Activities

If you are searching for lesson plans you might want to visit the ESL Virtual Library of Lesson Plans. It’s a collection of plans and learning activities created by teachers at North Carolina community colleges.


Who can use the site? Anyone who teaches ESL!

What can you find on the site?

  • Lesson plans
  • Civics lessons
  • North Carolina Curriculum Guide (includes lesson plans and activities)
  • Citizenship Preparation
  • In My Own Words (students’ stories about coming to live in the United States)
  • Links to Literature (student activities to link literature to American history and civics)
  • Participatory Learning in ESL
  • Living in America (addresses civics and culture)
  • Salud Latina (health lesson plans)
  • Technology (lesson plans focused on civics/incorporating technology)
  • The House I Live In (civics, housing, and the American Dream)

Can I use these materials in my class? Yes, of course! That’s exactly what the site is for! Use the materials for lesson planning and classroom activites. There are worksheets, activities, lesson plans, videos, audio collections, and games.

Who created this content?  Most of the lesson plans were created by instructors at North Carolina community colleges. Each lesson plan includes the creator’s name/community college.

What is best about this site? It’s full of lesson plans and activities. Once you choose a topic you’ll find multiple levels of information. You just have to start looking around!  It’s very easy to navigate.

What levels are the lessons intended for? The majority of the lessons are appropriate for beginner and intermediate level students. As with most lessons, you can simplify or expand the lesson to accommodate the students in your class.

What is challenging about the site? As a user, I want to know the credentials of the authors, and also the sources and reasons behind a post. At times it’s not clear to me the purpose of a post, or the source of the information. But, that wouldn’t stop me from using the site! It has tons of information!! Take a look!

Teaching Vocabulary to Lower Level Learners

The New American Horizons organization is a wealth of resources for ESL teachers. They have multiple videos for ESL teachers that demonstrate teaching techniques and tips. Today we’re going to focus on vocabulary instruction for lower level students. There is a link to a video included in this post at the bottom of the page.

Some key points from the video:

TPR is a great way to introduce vocabulary! Why? It includes multiple skills and senses, such as watching, touching, speaking, and listening.

Teach the vocabulary in context.

  • Begin with explicit instruction.
  • Recycle the vocabulary through diverse activities.
  • Use the vocabulary in new ways.
  • Connect the new vocabulary to real life.

Questions that come up during the lesson.

  • If they are related to the current lesson, then deal with them at that moment.
  • If they are not related to the subject, address them later. (For unrelated questions, I usually have a “parking lot” list for things to address after the lesson.)

Classroom routines are important to support learning. Use the same games and activities for each lesson.  Students focus on vocabulary practice rather than learning a new game.  Use these activities to assess learning and where the gaps are. For example, students might be able to identify a word on the page, but can they spell it, or actually use the word?

Examples from the video:

  • Bingo-play first with pictures to associate the sound/picture relationship, and then next, with words.
  • Spelling activity-teacher dictates, students listen and use letter tiles to spell the word
  • Line up activities (by alphabetical order, birth date, etc.

Use the different activities to assess learning and where the gaps in learning are.  For example, the students may be able to identify a word, but can they spell it, or use it?  Watch this video for more details!