Content Area & PWIM

PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model) is a great strategy for introducing a unit or reviewing what has been learned in a unit. As a strategy PWIM helps with building academic vocabulary while providing opportunities for students to share their thoughts orally, and be able to experience the content language visually. The versatility of PWIM is great as it can be used to show/explore: parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs…), phonological awareness, exploration of prefixes/suffixes, synonyms/antonyms, build into writing (sentences, paragraphs, stories…) and can act as a word wall!

Image was found on the website Unsplash: Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Welcome Back!!!

Welcome back!!! Here a few ideas to help English language learners that may be new to your class, school and community:

  • Give students time to adjust and acclimatize to not only a new language but the routines that may be very different from previous school experiences
  • It is okay (and normal) for a student to have a “silent period” as they get used to their new classroom and school.  They will be learning expectations and routines along with the class.
  • If possible take students on a tour of the school a few times teaching words for specific places and people in the school (bathroom, mudroom/boot room, office, principal…)
  • Create a book about the school with pre-made sentences: for example  “This is my __________”
  • Create (or find) an “All About Me” that includes information on family, languages, and interests
  • Connect new students with willing peers for partners for seat work, recess/breaks, lunch

Have a great start up!!! Looking forward to working with everyone in throughout the 2018-2019 school year.


ELL Communication Skills

One strategy that can be used in every content area and every level is group work (2s, 3s, or more) to build communication skills.  Building opportunities into the day for students to discuss and use specific language skills in order to build:

  • Speaking fluency
  • Listening skills
  • Asking & answering questions
  • Negotiating for a purpose
  • Academic language understanding in context

Math is one area that group work fits into easily.  In groups, students work together to understand and solve problems encouraging not only the use of academic language but community building within the classroom.  There are many different resources out there that can be used to build into Math Work Stations/Labs.

Two resources I have used that can be worked easily into Math Work Stations/Labs are:



Wanted to share a quick list of a few web based resources for helping with English Language learners develop their English skills.   Always preview a website prior to use:

  1. for safety
  2. to be familiar with the content, to better help show an ELL student where to go on the site.


Save the Date

On May 11, 2018 in the Dr. Kearney Middle School Library, we will be doing an English Language Learning session for teachers K – 12 to discuss strategies and connections to curriculum.  Bring a lesson, unit and a piece of technology to work with for the afternoon.

Draft ELL Standards

Last spring we were able to get our first look at the new English Language Learning standards draft from the Ministry of Education.   The graphic below shows four areas that have an impact on a ELL students learning needs.  These areas can provide a considerable amount of information about our students and can provide a starting point for planning.

Further reading can be done at:


Ways to help develop English skills for Kindergarten

A question was recently asked: How do families new to Canada get their preschoolers ready for Kindergarten? This brought to mind how often our ELL students often have younger siblings at home who will be entering our schools and will be learning English.

Here are a few ideas to for new families that may help support their little ones English skills development:

Encourage new parents to register with their local school, and ask what is going on around the school that they can be involved with.  Having the opportunity to play with language and become used to hearing English will go a long way in helping students be more prepared and comfortable for an English environment when they start school.

Excited for PWIM!!

Planning  and getting excited for the upcoming Picture Word Inductive Model or PWIM session for January 27, 2017. PWIM is a strategy that can offer an entry point to every student.  Here are some of the examples of the PWIM strategy being used in our district shared from staff at Robert Ogilvie Elementary.

A quote from chapter 6 of Teaching Beginning Reading and Writing with the Picture Word

Inductive Model, written by: Emily F. Calhoun.

“Some things do not change, despite students’ ages and abilities. The constant instructional goals remain critical in lesson and unit design and in teacher-and-student interactions: (1) building sight vocabulary; (2) helping students build confidence in their ability to learn; and (3) teaching students how to inquire into language and use what they know and find to read and write and participate fully in their own educational progress.”


Cultural Differences

How come…? Why…?

Sometimes, the why an ELL is not doing the expected behaviour is due to cultural differences. A student might not understand why you want them to look you in the eye or why you want an opinion opposed the “right answer” during a class discussion or a written assignment simply because those ways of communicating were not expected  within their previous educational experiences or appropriate within their culture. Learning about a student’s cultural background can help everyone be and feel more comfortable and respected. Understanding the differences between cultures can create teachable moments that enrich the learning environment of the classroom benefitting everyone.

Ways to start to learning about an ELL student’s home culture:

  • Ask the student and parents
  • Websites
  • Books – library (multicultural literature)
  • Community cultural centres
  • SWIS (Settlement Workers in Schools)
  • ELL Teachers (colleagues)
  • Documentary & narrative films

Behaviours that might have a cultural explanation:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Smiling when its not the expected reaction
  • Refusing to eat with peers
  • Does not collaborate with peers
  • Refusing to participate in PE
  • Not asking for help
  • Unresponsive or uncooperative working with the opposite gender
  • Reluctant to express opinions or debate
  • Being uncomfortable or embarrassed being praised

Not only must ELLs acquire English, but they must also adapt to a new culture with its own set of mores, social rules, conventions, and associated expectations for behavior” (Sousa, D. A. (2011). How the ELL brain learns. Thousand Oaks: Calif. p. 214).