New CELDT practice for 6-8th graders

I just completed a comprehensive practice module for the CELDT test for grades 6-8. It is in sliderocket format, but you can print out the slides if you want, or work form a SmartBoard or regular projector.

Note: The teacher says parts are meant to be read aloud by an instructor. Also, it is a work in progress,so I appreciate any corrections and feedback. Please share with anyone who is struggling with reclassifying English Language Learners in the middle grades.

Lesson: Reflect on Year with a ReadWriteThink Comic Strip

Objective: You will reflect on this school year and your learning using figurative language* and the Comic Creator.

In this lesson you will create a comic strip to reflect and communicate how your school year went, including what you learned, what you could have done better, and what you liked and disliked the most. 

Students  should already know:

1. what metaphors and similes are

2. What characters and setting are


1. Open the link below that says 

Click Me to Start!

2. Click on the Get Started Button. 

3. Think of a title and a subtitle


Title: Diary of a Funny Kid

subtitle: Francisco’s adventures in 4th grade

4.  Choose number of panels (recommend 3 to start)


5. Play around with the tools to get a feel for the options.


6. STOP! before you continue, turn to a partner and discuss how the year went. Think of 1 metaphor or simile you can use to describe your year: “This year was as ________ as a __________” or ” I can’t believe this year flew by so quickly. OR “This year was a real ________. I __________ so much.

7. Characters Remember. You are going to write at least 3 panels, so you have to come up with two characters. They will talk or dialogue. One of these will be you, and the other a friend, parent, or teacher.  You can add more characters later, but start with 2. 

8. Setting: Where do you want your characters to talk? You don’t have to be in school! choose a background form the menu. 

9. Once you pick your characters, pick a Speech Balloon. Remember, some balloons are only for things characters think and others for things they say. Remember, Think about what you want to say before you type it. 

10. A good way to start is by having a character ask you, “So how was your year?”

11. Finish all 3 panels and click Finish. 

Remember: it’s ok to mess up. Go ahead and try it twice if you didn’t like how it turned out!


To see if you completed the task correctly, you should have:

1. At least two characters and 3 panels.

2. Use at least one metaphor or simile in the balloons

3. Your reflection should say something more than “My year was good or bad”. Give at least one example of why the year went the way it went. 

4. If you write what you could have done better, then you did an AWESOME Job!

5. You had fun. 


*4RL3.5 Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text: Define figurative language (e.g.,
simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification) and identify its use in literary works.

Cancionero de Cinco de Mayo


The Battle of Puebla, commonly referred to as Cinco de Mayo, was just one event in a larger conflict called the French Intervention of Mexico, (La intervencion francesa).  We’ll save the history lesson to others for now, as it is too complicated to do it justice in a blog post.

As it turns out much of the content found on the web related to this “holiday” revolves (sadly, or amusingly, depending on your mood) around making piñatas, and coloring Mexican flags, or just simply reminding the myopic population of the USA  that Mexico even exists.

Instead of all this,  today we offer this Sound Cloud archive of popular songs from the era, as recorded by Amparo Ochoa, a Mexican folk singer and ethnomusicologist of sorts.

Some suggested uses:

Use the lyrics and songs in your bilingual or Spanish Class, and have the students do their own research about the terms, personalities and incidents mentioned in these songs.

Be prepared for some harsh anticlerical and anti-European tone and language! Also, be prepared for words that are not exactly in Spanish.

We give credit to INAH and Amapro Ochoa, a Mexican folk singer for putting this together.

Here is a slide share releated to this project with Lyrics!

Or try it on YouTube, where many of these files also live:

OR try Mixpod:<br><a

Want MORE? check out this “official” government site with downloadable (descarga) links to two centuries of Insurgent music!

Click here !

Grammar Quizzes: Comprehensive Resource for ESL


Don’t let the name fool you. offers more than just quizzes.

Starting in 1998 Julie Sevastopoulos started compiling ESL resources and posting them on the web under the name “Grammar Check”,  and to this day she’s still at it, updating and adding new English Grammar material under a new domain, “Grammar Quizzes”.

The layout of the  is free of bells and bullhorns. Its strength lies not in cutesy characters or flash-based animations, but in the huge breadth of the material she covers, giving the user hours of systematic language practice with feedback.

The content is tailored to intermediate students, and although it seems that it was made with adults in mind, it does not seem inappropriate for younger audiences.  I found the content to be useful to both non-native speakers of English, as well as native students trying to get a grip on some of the more nuanced verb patterns, or for anyone trying to improve their writing skills.

Some of the areas covered include:

adjectives, adjective clauses, noun clauses, modals, gerunds, infinitives, participles, adverbs, sentence agreement, articles, connectors, present, past, present perfect, conditional and passive tenses, and writing introductions and creating thesis sentences.

Each area is broken down into a thorough lesson, with various examples, links and technical language for the instructor, and practices to self-evaluate.

Some lessons even begin with a diagnostic, which can be very useful for a teacher to introduce the topic. In fact this site lends itself well to both individual practice, say in a computer lab setting, or for direct instruction with the use of a Smartboard and/or projector. The site also lends itself well to note taking and scaffolds the information in a way that is easy to follow.

Overall, The provide an excellent resource for the ESL/ELD educator implementing a blended learning model.

Breathe Some Humor into Your Drab Routine with Pixton Comics for Education

Pixton comics has been around for only a few years now and it’s no surprise that they have won many ed-techy awards in their short lifespan. But it took just a half an hour before I  became instantly hooked.

Pixton allows students and teachers can create their own highly-customizable comic strips with unlimited options, scenes, characters, poses, props, and backgrounds. The uses for these strips are manifold, but Pixton does a great job of making them user-friendly and purposeful. They provide a community where users can submit their comics to showcase learning, comment on , and remix other strips.

Teachers can make their own (as seen below) and assign students projects based on the strip. Students can remix them, or make their own. They can add panels, re-edit an already published strip, work collaboratively, and get approval from their teacher once their project is complete.  Teachers can also monitor student progress and manage their classes, assignments and grades.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pixton also allows users to print, download and (thankfully) embed their creations. For ELL’s the potential here is truly exciting. Students in groups or individually can add appropriate dialogue, even record their own audio tracks to correspond to each panel, or type content into speech bubbles to illustrate real-life scenarios, for example.  Ideas like these keep bubbling  like effervescent bursts of inspiration when one plays with Pixton.  Give it a shot here for a trial period.

Yeah, the downside is that it costs money. But It’s not out of this world, and one teacher could afford to make one account that allows up to four users. These could be set up as teams of students. The above strip will be part of a CELDT practice module that will soon be available for download.

Comparing and contrasting is one of the essential language functions that students of ESL and other languages are expected to master.  

You have the graphic organizers; you have taught your students the glue and mortar (ie the grammatical structure and phrases) in place to help them connect their ideas and find similarities and differences; you have probably assigned an essay to compare and contrast, say, lions and hyenas, and you may even be pleased with the results. 

Here is another resource to consider for your compare and contrast toolbox:

Who Assesses the Assessments?

Remember that catchy saying from Alan Moore’s the Watchmen?

Well, here is your chance to rate those old 20th century multiple choice high stakes  assessments! Time for teachers to do the assessing for a change. That’s right, even though most teachers sign ominously-worded affidavits prohibiting the discussion of most test items and language, we are still free to comment online and informally on the overall effectiveness of the CELDT, CST,   or any assessment. Thanks to a marvelous team of frustrated teachers,  as of August of  2011 we have…

Assessment Advisor  describes itself as follows:

Assessment Advisor is a website created by teachers that allows preK-12 teachers to review publicly available assessments that they use in their classrooms. It is a resource for educators who want effective means of measuring their students’ progress, and gives teachers a platform for voicing their thoughts on which assessments work, and which don’t.

Rate the CELDT exam

Anyone with any experience in matter can probably guess that most of the high-stakes exams currently available and widely administered are not exactly 5-star winners. In fact, the CELDT is rated at 1.57/5 stars, while the English Language Arts CST (California) can boast a higher rating of 2.29!

Granted, these ratings are not exactly quantitatively bullet-proof at this point, with most assessments relying on less than 20 ratings. Still, they provide a good starting point for further review, especially for test designers and state agencies  who are wrangling with the development of the next generation of assessments in this,  the post-NCLB age (is it too early to call it that?).  Will they listen to the teachers, or will the rely on the Arne Duncan, test-with-a-human-face market- based approach? Will these  experience-based numbers make into the Power Point presentations  of ed consultants who preach a data driven approach as the magic bullet for school reform?  Only time and more ratings will prove this to be true.

Please share and let’s get this project of the ground.

Edudemic Magazine built for the iPad Educator

The editors at have released their Edudemic iPad magazine, exclusively dedicated to the world of iPad in education. So far, they have published two issues, with Vol. 2 featuring an article written by us!

Download the latest version and tell us what you think.


The article, which we can’t link here because you have to download the magazine into an iPad, is entitled: Toward Meaningful iPad integration and deals with issues of app proliferation, equal access, and the future of app development in the age of Common Core State Standards.