More updates

Hi Everyone!
In the next few weeks, I’m working on distributing the report to teachers across NC and getting the word out about how we can set up support systems for EL students as schools return in person this year!

I’m also currently working on writing an article for WUNC about the experiences of English Learners during the pandemic, where I actually interviewed one of the students I worked with this past year.

Finally, I am looking for opportunities to present my report and spread awareness about this issue through educational conferences!

I am excited to be continuing this project throughout the school year! Thank you for staying tuned with my independent study!

Final Product Update

Hi everyone! I finished my final product (a report for teachers/admin at Maureen Joy) a few weeks ago, and right now I’m working on sending it out! I’m hoping to get it to as many schools as possible.

I’m also working towards setting up an EL tutoring program between Maureen Joy and DA for the coming year! Stay tuned for more info on that.

Thank you so much for supporting me throughout this journey, and I’m excited to keep working on this project throughout the summer! 🙂

Last Small Groups Week 😢

This week, I did some of my last small group sessions with the 5th and 6th graders. It was so incredible to reflect on how much progress we’ve made, but also sad that the semester is already almost over!

In these next few days, my main focus will be finishing up my report. I met with Ms. Hall, the Instructional Coach at Maureen Joy, today to talk through next steps. After getting my report out to Maureen Joy (and hopefully other schools nearby), my goal is to set up a long term tutoring program between DA and Maureen Joy to strengthen support for EL scholars!
Getting the logistics worked out for this program will likely be difficult, but I’m excited for the potential for this independent study to grow.

I’m also hoping to work more on my Spanish and help tutor more students over the summer! I will keep you updated! Stay tuned for more info on my report and this program coming out soon, and thank you so much for being involved with this journey! 🙂


This coming week, I’m getting back into working with students after a short break, which will be very exciting! They’ll definitely have made a lot of progress on their books in class, so I think the dynamic is definitely going to be a little bit different, but I’m looking forward to meeting with them again!

For my final product, I’ve done a lot of research on online learning and EL students and I’m working on putting it together in a report.
I’m planning to have four major sections/themes: general problems EL students face, problems brought about by online learning, solutions schools can adopt, and solutions teachers can adopt.

Within these categories, I’m planning to weave in evidence (especially statistics) from my research, anecdotal evidence from my experience working with students, the experiences of the individuals I interviewed, and hopefully some data from the school as well.

Stay tuned for more updates on the final product! I’m also hoping to set up a tutoring system or bolstering existing DA clubs for the coming year to connect more with Maureen Joy students. I will keep you posted on this idea as well!

It’s crazy that the end of the year has come so fast! I’m so excited to be completing my final product soon, but I’m also sad that this study is almost over. However, I will be continuing to work on setting up support systems and hopefully tutoring EL students through this summer and beyond, and I’m excited for the journey ahead!

Reflection and Moving Forward

This next week, I won’t be able to meet with students as much because of benchmarks for the students. As a result, I’m excited to move more into putting together research and my final product (a report for Joy’s teachers/admin focused on setting up future support systems for students). One thing I’m having a hard time with right now is structuring the report, especially balancing between information from the groups I’ve been working with and information I’ve researched separately. I’m also hoping to gather more data on how students have progressed. I will keep this blog updated with news of the final product!

Newest Reflections

This week, I have started up with the new books! Boy: Tales of Childhood has been a big contrast from Esperanza Rising. It’s about Roald Dahl and his childhood, and while it is similar in the sense that it’s centered on childhood, it feels very different from Esperanza Rising. However, I think that it’s a bit harder for students to connect to, because it features Dahl talking about his childhood from an adult perspective. I will update you when we get farther into the book, but I will definitely be working on helping students connect to it a bit more.

I’ve also been working more on structuring my final product, although I’m still finding it a bit difficult to narrow down the focus. I’m conducting another interview this week (I have already interviewed an EL teacher at Maureen Joy! :)), so I think that will help me find more material.

I’m also hoping to create a page that I can keep updated about tidbits I picked up (like I mentioned in my last post). Please stay tuned for that possibility! 🙂

Learning Strategies!

We have finally finished Esperanza Rising and The Shakespeare Stealer! This past week, we wrapped up the unit with some free reading. Both the 5th and 6th graders really enjoy reading books with graphics. In 5th grade, we read a book with illustrations about Malala, and in 6th grade, we read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Pilu of the Woods.

I’ve also gotten a chance to work on different learning strategies with students. During sessions, I share the screen with the text on the Zoom and students use both the screen and their physical copies of the books. As we read, we annotate certain portions of the text (and I annotate live on the screen) to help further our understanding. We almost always read out loud to allow students the opportunity to sound out words on their own. We’ve also worked a lot on highlighting repeated details and annotating our reactions to the text. The main goal is to truly understand what’s happening in the plot ahead of time so that students can dive into thematic topics during class. We’ve also worked on recognizing character development and understanding how characters are reacting to conflict.

After this week, we’ll be starting with new books–Wonder for 5th grade and Boy: Tales of Childhood for 6th. As we dive into these books, I’m hoping to introduce new strategies for students, such as quick graphic organizers or videos to help them organize the text more clearly.

An example of a graphic organizer students might use

This week, I’m planning to focus mostly on research. I put together an outline for my final product last week, and I’m hoping to get some feedback on it and begin reviewing literature to find more information. I also talked to my content advisor, Profe Simón, about the potential for implementing a tutoring program at DA, so I will look into that more as well.

Thank you so much for continuing this journey with me, and I will keep you updated in the weeks ahead!

End of Quarter Reflection

Hi! This post is a reflection on my progress so far in my independent study! Stay tuned for some new blog segments and info ahead 🙂


Give a brief summary of content that you have learned so far.  
So far, I’ve learned a lot about strategies to support EL students as well as how COVID has affected Latinx populations, especially in Durham. For example, I’ve explored ways of annotating for meaning, vocabulary, and creating graphic organizers.

What has stirred strong emotional responses?  Anything shocking, pleasing, fascinating, appalling?
I was fascinated to learn how important learning in your native language is to understanding. To some (especially in traditional theory), it seems like complete immersion–trying to use the new language as much as possible–would be the most effective way to help students learn a new language. However a lot of research has shown that teaching bilingually and actually deliberately incorporating more words of the native language results in better outcomes.
I was also a little bit surprised at the variety of native language use among EL scholars. While some speak only their native language at home, which is what I had been expecting going into the independent study, others actually don’t speak their native language much at all or speak it only with one parent. Because the classification of “English Learner” is used to describe such a broad and diverse group of people, it can be difficult to truly understand the nuances in one’s experience and proficiency.

What new questions do you have about this topic?
I’d love to learn more about what types of strategies have been used with EL learners in person and how those have changed after moving online. I’m also trying to figure out more ways to expand impact–I would love to have more time with the students, but we’re maxed out in the time available in their schedules and my schedule. Instead, I’m hoping to find some creative ways to incorporate new activities into small groups or provide asynchronous materials.


What has worked out as expected?
I’ve been able to share my screen, annotate the text, and have them read along as expected, which has been great!

What has been challenging?
It can be difficult to encourage shy students to participate in meetings, and students also forget to attend sessions sometimes. However, I’m working on sending out more reminder emails and keeping sessions engaging to hopefully help solve this problem!

What are you learning about your learning process? 
Definitely the importance of picking up on the little tidbits and writing things down. Often, there’s small events that happen during sessions that can give me more insight into how student learn, but without writing them down, I’m likely to forget! Having a place where I can note even the tiniest ideas I have has been helpful. In fact, I’m actually hoping to share more of these tidbits with a section on my blog specifically dedicated to small, easily digestible things I learned each week!

To what extent are you meeting the expectations of IS students?
I think I’ve done a good job setting up my blog, communicating with my content advisor and with the faculty at Maureen Joy, and running small groups! The place where I can improve is on independent research, especially about COVID-19’s effect, and trying to find some data to include in a future report. It’s sometimes hard to fit it in each week, so I’m going to make sure to schedule separate work times in my calendar for this!

What do you need help with?
I would say finding direction on working towards my final product. As I mentioned above, I’m trying to note little tidbits during small groups, but it’s been hard to research with a specific focus and figure out which info is most relevant for the report I’m planning to write in the future.

Looking ahead

Does your initial plan for the second quarter of this project match your current intentions?  If not, or if you can make it more specific at this point, describe needed changes or attach a modified plan.
I believe my initial plan for the second quarter (researching more, putting together notes, expanding to make more of an impact) does match with my current intentions! It has been difficult to determine where and what to research, but I think that sitting down and first deciding exactly what I want to include in my report, then aligning my research around that, will be helpful. I’m also a bit stumped on how to approach my idea of creating a long term tutoring system. I talked with Profe about it a bit this past week, and I think it may need to be built into a current Spanish class curriculum…however, we don’t know what DA or Maureen Joy is going to look like next year quite yet, so it’s hard to plan for this. I’m going to keep brainstorming on these things in the next few weeks!

Thank you for reading my reflection. I’m excited for the weeks to come!

Content for Small groups

*Note: from now on, I'm going to be using the term "EL" (English learner), rather than "ELL" (English Language learner), since this is the main term that is used at Maureen Joy and is more accommodating to some students.

Although we were on Spring Break, this was a really exciting week, as I started working more on content in my small groups. In 5th grade, we’re reading the Shakespeare Stealer, and in 6th grade, we’re reading Esperanza Rising. I’m actually really enjoying both books so far–they remind me a lot of the books I used to like in middle school! Since understanding the text is so fundamental to succeeding in ELA (Language Arts) class, this post is about the content we’re reading and how EL scholars are responding to it.

The Shakespeare Stealer follows a boy named Widge who works for an evil man named Simon Bass. Under the direction of his supervisor, Falconer, Widge is directed to steal the manuscript of Hamlet from a theater group. However, he begins to fall in love with acting and finds himself stuck between carrying out his duty and protecting his friends at the theater.

One thing I’ve noticed about this book that may be difficult for EL scholars (and non-EL students as well) is that because it’s set in the 1500s-1600s, it uses a lot of old and abbreviated forms of English that we don’t usually see. The characters also often speak in a formal way.

Esperanza Rising is about a girl named Esperanza who comes from a rich family in Mexico but is forced to immigrate to the US after her father dies. In the US, her life changes drastically, as she and her mother (her grandmother was forced to stay behind in Mexico) become farm workers in California.

The growth of the main character is definitely central to this book, as Esperanza becomes more independent and less focused on material wealth. Since this book is for 6th grade ELA, they focus a bit more on the meaning of the text and long term changes in the characters, which might make it more difficult for EL students. However, it also includes a lot of Latino culture and vocabulary in Spanish, and I’ve noticed that EL scholars have less difficulty pronouncing the names and words and understanding the events of the plot. The four students I’ve worked with are enjoying the book so far!

In my next post, I’ll be expanding on this topic and talking more about the specific learning styles, challenges, and successes I’ve noticed from EL students. I hope you enjoyed hearing about what we’re reading!


Hi Everyone! The past few weeks have been crazy busy. I observed more classes and started working directly with students this week, just introducing myself and explaining the process for the future. Right now, I’m working in small groups with four 6th graders and four 5th graders, and I’m hoping to expand to more students in the future!

In these small group sessions, I’ll be previewing the text with them for the next class section in ELA. That way, if I can help them understand what’s going on in the text, they can have some background knowledge before going into class. Then, in class, it’ll be much easier to look for deeper elements of the writing, such as themes and conflicts.

It has been a little bit difficult getting everything together–I hadn’t realized coordination would take this long! However, I’m still really excited to be working with students, and after researching more EL strategies in the past few weeks, I’m more prepared to help them break down the text!