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  • 19 Sep 2023 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by: DRC

    Reading is top of mind when it comes to closing gaps in student achievement and the Virginia Literacy Act calls this out specifically, stating that (source):

          “Every family will have access to online resources to support literacy development at home, and will be able to participate in the development of their child’s student reading plan”, and

          “Every teacher of students in kindergarten to grade 3: Uses evidence-based literacy curriculum for the entire literacy block assesses student learning using approved literacy screeners routinely throughout the year.”

    It comes as no surprise to members of VATESOL that English Learners (ELs) have unique needs when it comes to reading instruction, nor does it surprise EL teachers that most of the reading instruction EL students experience takes place in the general education classroom, with dedicated teachers who may not have a background in Second Language Acquisition. Given that 9.6% of K-12 students in Virginia are ELs, it stands to reason that all teachers need to be informed on what works best for their EL students when it comes to reading instruction. They also need to have the data necessary to make informed instructional decisions. One way to do this is to utilize the LAS Links Progress Monitoring and Student Report.

    ... for full access to DRC's blog, please click this link.

  • 16 Aug 2023 1:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Kathryn Manning, K-12 SIG Leader

    Starting out the new school year--how will you make an impact?

    Around this time of year, we’re all busy bustling about, getting classrooms ready to be the place of welcoming and warmth for all newcomers and returning students. To help with your fresh start to the year, consider the following questions:

    How can I better engage with parents?

    In what ways can I support my learners to continue towards their journeys of success?

    How can I inspire collaboration and understanding with content teachers and staff?

    Here are three ideas to help answer some of these questions, or get your own creative thoughts flowing:

    Family Engagement

    To set a tone for valuing parents’ funds of knowledge, try encouraging them to participate in parent interest surveys or a back-to-school activity. While many parents struggle to answer questions about summer vacation, pivoting to asking “How does your family spend quality time together?” instead can bring out more valuable information.  Many of our Hispanic families for example, enjoy participating in barbecues with both immediate and extended family. This information could possibly inform future back-to-school events for parents, where teachers and parents can get to know each other over grilled vegetables and smoky meats. During school registration or back to school nights, parents can be invited to contribute a welcome back message or express their wishes for a successful school year for all students.  Imagine a growing list of positive messages in all parents’ languages to set the tone of “your language belongs” at school. 

    Reaching out to Teachers and Staff

    At the start of the school year, leap into action with an ELL Newsletter (particularly useful for itinerant ELL staff) to keep coteachers and staff on the same page and excited to start collaborating. Content can range from ELL-specific teaching tips to fun facts about learners’ home countries (a tidbit contributed by Staunton City Schools) or even introducing yourself if you are a new addition to the team.  Adding a section on FAQs can also help with commonly asked questions related to identification, exit requirements, ACCESS testing, etc. to further support members of your team in understanding learners better. 

    Supporting Students Towards Continued Success

    Reevaluating and reflecting on our own teaching practices is a great way to ease back into the school year. Are we continuing to give students the space they need to use language, both inside and outside the classroom? In her presentation at CAL’s Improving Instruction, Assessment, and Policies for Secondary English Learners Across the Content Areas, Amanda Kibler gives key considerations to evaluating the language spaces we create for our learners.

    She challenges us to evaluate our curricular materials and scaffolding methods to determine how they support learners in their language practices: are we as educators overemphasizing accuracy, repetition, and simplicity?

    Who are our students and how do we communicate their value in the classroom? Kibler stresses the importance of reframing our mindsets to encourage classroom student talk in what she terms critical dialogue to support co-construction, intellectual purpose, and community support and respect. To guide our learners in this endeavor, we can create spaces for students to have agency in the classroom, engage with authentically-relevant questioning, and share their multilingual and multicultural voices and perspectives in knowledge building, while also building norms together to further this goal.

    Kibler, A., Valdés, G., Walqui, A. (2021) Reconceptualizing the role of critical dialogue in American classrooms: Promoting equity through dialogic education. Routledge.

    What great ideas have you had for back-to-school activities and resources? Feel free to share with us at VATESOL.

  • 16 Aug 2023 11:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Andrea Smith, Education Consultant SIG Leader

    Can social emotional learning (SEL) have an impact on English Language Acquisition (ELA)?  Factors such as home environment, teacher quality, and student readiness are known to determine ELA outcomes. There is a scientific basis for possibly including SEL standards in English Language Plans (ELP), however, in order to make specific implications for using SEL in the actual planning for English Language Learners in the classroom, more research is needed on data-driven methods of developing inclusive environments where all students feel their assets are valuable and that their culture is considered. In the Social Emotional Learning Guidance Standards from Virginia Department of Education (VASELGS), five areas are identified: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Social Management, Relationship Skills, and Decision Making and can be used to determine their relationship with language acquisition. Additionally, these standards are definitely worthy of considering when collaborating with homeroom teachers, other staff members and stakeholders. 

    For more information check out the VASELGS @ Virginia Social Emotional Learning Guidance Standards. Videos from the Virginia Department of Education on Social Emotional Learning for all populations can be found @ Social Emotional Wellness Video Quick Guides - Virginia CLC (

  • 27 May 2023 9:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Dr. Juvenal E. Abrego, Administration SIG Leader

    Math has always been a challenging subject for many students. For English Learners, math becomes more than a challenge; it is a puzzle so difficult to decipher that it causes students to quickly experience a desire to give up. The complexity of the aforementioned lies in the lack of experiences, opportunities or exposure to help ELL students understand that Math is not difficult, but rather magical.  Danielle, a math coach in VA, challenged her third, fourth and fifth grade students to develop powerful tools to transform math challenges into fun adventures. Students began by checking on their own magic tricks, which were aligned with their basic math computation skills. Once students had self-assessed their ability to add, subtract, divide or multiply; they proceeded to use small group time to quickly accelerate their math computation skills to obtain magic wands that would give them the power to develop additional tricks.

    EL students were excited to show Danielle all their tricks. Some of them came up with their own flash cards, mnemonic devices and other tools that they used to demonstrate how they were quickly building their super power to be math wizards. The powerful aspect of Danielle’s math coaching story lies in the experience that she set up for her students to see math as a fun game. For EL students, Danielle’s approach is not just a fun opportunity to learn math, but a way to capitalize in day to day collaboration with peers. It also gave students their own agency to find resources that could help them remediate their weaknesses in such a way that they could continue to face additional math challenges with the certainty that they can and will be able to become successful in math if they think of each math concept as a trick to grow their power. In learning English, confidence is key. The story of Danielle’s students reminds educators that English learners are not limited by language, but rather by the opportunities that their teachers may deny to them when they don’t believe in the power of meaningful learning.

  • 27 May 2023 9:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Hali Massey, Adult Education SIG Leader

    The definition of numeracy is “the ability to confidently interact with and engage in the mathematical demands of everyday life in the home, workplace, and community” (Ciancone, 1996). Numeracy tasks occur regularly in everyday life, and it is important for adult English language learners to have the language and context in order to engage with these tasks (Ginsburget al, 2006). In addition, the US uses several systems that are most likely new to recent immigrants, refugees, or new Americans, such as the Imperial System of measurement, monetary values, western calendars, etc., so numeracy in the adult ESOL classroom helps to orient English language learners to these systems and measurements that they will encounter in the United States. 

    Examples of numeracy include: 

    • Using quantitative data to express facts and opinions, such as comparing prices or sales or analyzing statistics to make decisions or form opinions. 

    • Calculating percentages, such as when shopping and calculating sale percentages and when trying to calculate how much tax is owed or how much tip to leave.

    • Measuring items, such as knowing how much medication to take and measuring ingredients when cooking.  

    Some strategies for incorporating numeracy into the adult ESOL classroom include: 

    • Incorporate numeracy into classroom texts, videos, vocabulary, tasks, and discussions by aligning ESOL content with numeracy objectives: ESOL instructors can look at their curriculum or course materials to see where numeracy aligns with their content. This ensures that numeracy objectives will be contextualized within the already established classroom curriculum. See the following examples:

    Proficiency Level

    ESOL Content

    Numeracy Objective


    Sharing personal information 

    Learn names of numbers (1-100) in order to share age, birth dates, and phone numbers.


    Sharing time from a clock and dates from a calendar

    Use numbers to communicate the time on a clock  and dates from a calendar in order to answer the questions of “What time?” and “When?”.

    High Beginner

    Shopping and buying goods

    Use amounts of money in dollars and cents to answer the question of “How much?”. 

    Low Intermediate

    Shopping and buying goods 

    Use addition and subtraction to add up amounts, calculate totals, and determine balances.

    Low Intermediate

    Giving directions

    Use differences in time to answer the question of “How long does it take to get from Point A to Point B?”.


    Cooking and food 

    Use whole numbers and fractions to follow and/or write a recipe. 

    Example Lesson Plan


    Paying bills and making a budget

    Calculate a monthly budget using a given monthly income. 

    High Intermediate

    Paying taxes 

    Use percentages to calculate food and retail tax. 



    Determine the financial benefits of buying versus renting.


    Paying taxes 

    Use percentages to calculate state and federal income tax. 

    • Use graphics or images to represent statistics or situations that allow for numeracy discussions/activities: ESOL instructors can use graphics or images to engage learners in conversations that support learners in developing metalinguistic and metacognitive skills for processing numeracy situations in their everyday lives (Ciancone, 1996). For examples of instructional materials for this strategy, please see the members only resource section on the VATESOL website.

    • Assess how learners are using or need to use numeracy skills in their everyday lives and build off of those situations or problems. (Ciancone, 1996)

    In addition, these are some best practices to follow when incorporating numeracy into the adult ESOL classroom. (Ciancone, 1996)

    • Ensure that numeracy activities are interactive, collaborative, and relevant to the everyday lives of your learners. 

    • Encourage the focus to be on thought process and not on wrong or right answers and acknowledge various ways of thinking and reaching conclusions. 

    • Scaffold with visual representations such as images, graphs, charts, drawings, etc.

    • Integrate numeracy into the adult ESOL classroom from the beginning; meaning that all levels of proficiency are engaging in numeracy activities.  


    Ciancone, T. (1996) Numeracy in the Adult ESL Classroom. Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). ro om.php#:~:text=Numeracy%20is%20the%20ability%20to,opinions%20and%20to%20analyze%20situations

    Ginsburg, L., Manly, M., & Schmitt, M.J. (2006). The Components of Numeracy. National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL). resources/research/op_numeracy.pdf

  • 15 May 2023 12:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Victoria Pierson, VATESOL Vice President

    It sounds intimidating... submitting a proposal to present at a conference. We’re here to demystify the process and encourage you to submit a proposal for VATESOL’s upcoming conference this fall.

    First, let's break down the submission form. If it’s your first time considering a presentation at a conference, the submission form may seem overwhelming. Don’t worry… it’s really just three main sections of information:

    • Presenter Information: Share your contact information with us so that we can notify you if your proposal is accepted and credit you in our program! However, our proposal review process is fully anonymous - board members won’t be able to see your name on your submission until after all proposals have been reviewed and accepted or denied.
    • Presentation Type & Target Audience: Help us see where your presentation will fit within the organization of the conference. The Target Audience and Topic Emphasis fields are included in our program as a way for participants to easily locate sessions that may be most relevant to their current field or area of interest.
    • Presentation Details: Share with us the title, summary, and abstract of your proposed presentation. The title and summary will be printed in the conference program for participants, while the abstract is for our proposal reviewers to learn more about what you are proposing to present. Don’t stress… You aren’t expected to write a doctoral dissertation here! Just give us a clear and descriptive overview of your presentation: What information will you share? What will a participant walk away with after hearing your presentation? Be sure not to include any identifying information (like your school division, university, or hometown) in the abstract.

    Top Tips for Writing Your Proposal:

    1. Start with the theme. Past VATESOL board member Marie Rose-McCully shared:

    “Think about the conference as a conversation. How will your presentation fit into the conversation? What are you adding to the conversation? The reason we have a conference theme is so that people can engage in that shared conversation, examining a theme from multiple angles with even more perspectives. Proposals that do not add to that conversation feel out of place.”

    Our fall 2023 conference theme is : "Stronger Together: Building Partnerships for Language, Content and Community What great conversation pieces do you have to share with us?

    2. Follow the rubric. Current VATESOL teacher education SIG leader, Katya Koubek, highlights the importance of studying the rubric and ensuring that your proposal clearly meets the criteria. Clarity is key, so be sure to revise your writing before submitting!

    This year’s proposals will be evaluated for selection on the basis of the following criteria:

    • clear statement of objective
    • clear summary

    • current importance of topic in the field
    • focus and organization of abstract
    • relevance to conference theme and target audience
    • appropriateness of content for session duration

    3. Consider the audience. Past VATESOL president, Jana Moore, wrote:

    “What makes a great proposal is what the listener will get out of it. I don't want to go and listen to a speaker talk because they believe they are fabulous. I want to hear people talk about research or things they are doing in the classroom, and how it can be tweaked for my own purposes, or how that impacts what I'm doing. You can read a certain level of enthusiasm in proposals, and outstanding ones are those that ‘pop.’”

    That's it! Remember, what makes a great conference is a diverse group of presenters and presentations. We are looking for proposals from all stakeholders: K-12 teachers, administrators, adult educators, teacher educators, professors and university-level instructors, students... anyone who has something to contribute to our conversation!

    If you have any questions regarding our conference or submitting proposals, please email

  • 07 Apr 2023 10:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Kathryn Manning, K-12 SIG Leader

    How to Start your Own PLC…with another district

    For small-incidence districts where you may be the sole ELL teacher or go a whole week without seeing your fellow ELL team members, collaborating with ELL teams outside of your district may provide a fresh new perspective and spark ideas for how to improve your setting’s LIEP model.

    Step 1: Identify a District to Partner with

    When it comes to attending conferences, part of the excitement after hearing the keynote speaker’s presentation and perusing vendors is reuniting and catching up with that conference buddy you always run into at VATESOL conferences.  What if you didn’t have to wait until the next conference to catch up and could instead create something new and exciting now?

    After attending a consortium conference last fall, I reached out to another district’s team that presented on how to create in-house ELL-specific professional development and training to support content teachers in collaborating with ELL teachers.  Although unable to attend their presentation, entitled Smarter Together: Developing Teacher Expertise, I found that this team of Staunton City ELL teachers and an Executive Director of Instruction were more than happy to not only share their program model, but also major findings.

    Step 2: Meet Virtually or In-Person to Establish Goals and Purpose for Meeting

    After corresponding via e-mail a few times, we decided an in-person meeting would be best to exchange ideas and our own experiences with collaboration.  I pitched the idea to one of my content area coteachers, who quickly expressed interest in being a part of our growing motley crew.  Getting a group of educators together for a Friday after-school meeting is no easy feat, but we made it happen with the help of a shared interest in improving our district’s collaboration and PD model.  Our first meeting centered on how to create a system for change through staff ELL training: starting a pilot study, using Title III funds, collecting data to show progress, and how to encourage reflection among teachers as they try out and adopt new strategies for supporting English learners—quite the productive agenda even as we hit start on our teacher weekend modes!    

    Step 3: Keep It Going

    Almost three months later and our ELL cross-district PLC is still going strong.  Although our meeting setting has shifted from city hall to local coffee shops, we still bring a desire to grow and increase our knowledge base as educators. On top of improving teacher expertise, we have also added a book study to our agenda list as we dive into Andrea Honigsfeld’s Co-Planning: Five Essential Practices to Integrate Curriculum and Instruction for English Learners Like many ELL educators, we still vent about ACCESS testing and how to support our coworkers in being more intentional about supporting ELs in the classroom. However, I find that with new faces and ideas we also bring a dynamic energy that keeps us moving forward and excited for the positive change we can enact in our individual settings.  Stay tuned–we’re not done yet!

  • 14 Mar 2023 6:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Isra Nikoolkan, VATESOL Blog Editor

    Andrea is an ELL Specialist at Orange Elementary School in Orange, VA. She currently serves on the Minority Advisory Committee for the Superintendent and is a member of the Orange County Youth Commission. She has been working in education, diversity, and inclusion for over 20 years serving as an ESL Instructor at both Montgomery College in Maryland and at Howard University in Washington, DC. Andrea and her family lived in Ghana, West Africa for five years where she served as an Educational Consultant for a nonprofit organization while homeschooling three of her four children. She has an advanced yoga certification and specializes in social emotional health as it relates to anxiety, trauma and racial justice. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Bowie State University and is currently a graduate student at Miami University.

    Andrea looks forward to serving in her role on the VATESOL board as Education Consultant SIG.

  • 12 Mar 2023 8:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Isra Nikoolkan, VATESOL Blog Editor

    Dr. Abrego Meneses holds a  Bachelor of Arts in Bilingual Education from the National University of Panama, a Master's Degree in TESOL and a  Master of Arts in English Education and writing. He obtained his Education Specialist Degree in School Leadership from Virginia Tech and his Doctor of Education in Executive Leadership, Planning and Policy from the College of William and Mary. Dr. Abrego Meneses is the principal of Cardinal Elementary School in Richmond, VA,  the largest Elementary school in RPS with the highest number of ELL students in the state of VA. Dr. Abrego has been an educator for 22 years. He began his career as an ESL teacher in the Republic of Panama. He coordinated ESL and Migrant School programs in South Carolina. Dr. Abrego Meneses has been a foreign language and IB teacher at the middle, high and college levels. He has taught ESL at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He has served as a school level administrator for over 8 years. 

    Juvenal looks forward to serving in his role on the VATESOL board as Administration SIG.

  • 25 Feb 2023 2:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Authored by Hali Massey, VATESOL Adult Education SIG Leader

    When planning for adult English language instruction, it is important to consider how to make classroom materials and activities relevant to the real lives of learners. Given that we live in a world that is dominated by technology, it is inevitable that learners will be asked to use different forms of technology in English. When navigating life in the United States, multilingual learners will need to be able to perform tasks using the internet, digital tools, smartphones, laptops, etc. Depending on their prior exposure to technology and using technology for specific purposes, these skills and tasks may be new to learners. 

    Because adult ESOL curricula are typically thematic units that focus on various aspects of adult life in the United States, we can analyze our curriculum to look for areas where digital literacy instruction, materials, and activities would benefit our learners and enhance our instruction. 

    Examples of aligning digital literacy skills to adult ESOL curriculum include: 

    Learning the alphabet 

    • Using keyboards (images or realia) to learn and practice letter recognition 

    Navigating local community 

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to look up local places in the community

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to navigate directions to and from local places in the community 

    • Using a map on a smartphone or computer to create local community maps

    Discussing weekly schedules and routines 

    • Using a calendar on a smartphone or computer to locate days and times and schedule appointments. 

    Discussing money 

    • Using a calculator on a smartphone or computer to calculate amounts and percentages.

    Instructional practices for integrating digital literacy into the adult ESOL classroom: 

    • Orientation: Spend time orienting learners to digital platforms and tools in the classroom, in-person, and in their home language(s) whenever possible.

    • Explicit instruction: Explicitly teach tools and vocabulary needed to engage in digital literacy skills - use images and realia to scaffold understanding.

    • Familiar tools: Start with tools and platforms that learners have experience using or at least exposure to.

    • Authentic tasks and skills: Utilize authentic digital tasks and skills in the classroom that mimic those that learners need in the real world.

    For resources that assist with integrating digital literacy into the adult English language classroom, please see the members only resource section on the VATESOL website.

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