Apps for ELLs – Episode II – Futaba

This is the second ‘episode’ in Meghan Fahey’s ongoing series. For earlier posts see the links at the end.

If you’re looking for a multiplayer game that’s easily modifiable and fun way to help children learn new words with visual scaffolding, look no further….

icon175x175Futaba is a 4 player game designed for kids. This outrageously fun word quiz game can be used at home or in the classroom as a entertaining way to build language skills.

It’s perfect for children 4-8 and is ideal for supporting class room activities of all types (or just as fun to play at home!). Futaba is a great way to learn English but can be easily be modified for content specific vocabulary.

It’s pretty simple (in a good way); each player takes a seat around the iPad and taps in to start. The game begins as images zoom into the playing area. The first player to match the word to the image scores a point. Win 3 rounds and you’ll be awarded a giant (but very friendly) seedling… you are gamifying vocabulary.

Futaba (Japanese for ‘seedling”) was originally conceived to provide a simple and fun way for ESL students to



practice learning words in a classroom environment. Futaba comes with over 100 wonderful hand drawn illustrations, professional audio soundtracks and has high quality visuals. Parents, teachers and even students themselves can create their own content by using either the built in camera, the camera roll by copying images to iTunes. Dropbox account holders can also upload new images via the drop!

There is a free/trial version of the app, but the major features described are only available in the full version. Future support is planned for iCloud

Contact Meghan for more questions about the app or to share apps you’ve used with your students.

Earlier posts in this series:

Episode I: Bitsboard

3 Easy Ways to Take Full Advantage of the TESOL Website

by Stephanie N. Browntesol-50

The TESOL International Association is full of resources for your continued professional development. If you are new to TESOL or NNETESOL, it can be a little overwhelming to find the opportunities that are just right for you. Here is a brief overview of 3 ways to take full advantage of the TESOL International Association website and resources.

Finding an Interest Group: TESOL is a large and growing organization with professionals from all over the world. This large community allows for smaller communities to gather and discuss specific teaching and learning related topics. Interest groups do exactly that! Joining an interest group is like joining an ongoing conversations about topics most important to you, your professional development, and your classroom. There are many interest groups that range from adult learning to material writers. This is the best way to network and start the path to your professional career. Joining an interest group is simple and you might find that you want to join multiple!

Resource Center: Are you a new or seasoned teacher just looking a new activity or lesson to use in your classroom? The resource center on the TESOL website has your answer and more. The resource center is a database with: activities, lesson plans, assessments, teaching tips, convention/keynote sessions, convention general sessions, live event resources, virtual seminars, and TESOL position statements. You can both download these resources for your own use and share your own resources with the larger TESOL community.

The TESOL Blog: The TESOL blog is accessible through the website, email, and Facebook. The blog posts address many issues and topics within the field of TESOL. These are great resources to support your continued professional development. Plus, these are quick blog posts and not as formal as an academic article. These are great for learning on the go!

Remember that the TESOL website is full of resources! Try to take 10 minutes a week to read a blog post, submit a resource, or participate in continued professional development using the TESOL website. Teachers never stop learning!

Apps for English Language Learners – Episode I – Bitsboard

By Meghan Fahey

In today’s rush for technology, it’s easy to get bogged down in the latest and greatest apps and programs. It’s also easy to jump on every single free app. I found myself several times in my first few weeks wringing my hands and thinking, “These all sound great, but which ones are actually useful? How do they actually work? When am I going to have time to figure this out? I wish there was someone who had a “cheat-sheet” or tutorial, or who actually tried all these and speaks ESL/ELL!” Well, through several formal and informal conferences with colleagues, I’m making my way through the maze of apps to find the gold nuggets for all of us. I’ll share my findings here on the blog in an ongoing series. Hope you find it useful! Below is our first ‘episode’.



Bitsboard is like a collection of all sorts of learning checks you could think of doing with a student. More than one student could work with it at a time, as shown with the games icons below. Nonverbal to advanced ELLs can use the fun games to quiz themselves with pictures, spelling, and a variety of other approaches to vocabulary and simple language comprehension.

Through the Bitsboard catalog you can instantly access thousands of carefully

Story Time

Story Time

curated lessons by fellow teachers, parents, and students from all over the world. Bitsboard is fully customizable.  You can easily create your own boards, add multiple users, and tweak the settings of every game to your liking. Bitsboard is a global learning platform.  You can share your custom lessons with one click with anyone via the Bitsboard catalog, so you and the gen ed teacher can be on the same page and, if the student has his own ipad outside of the classroom, they have a study guide right in their hands.

Fair warning: I had to sit down with my ipad and play around with this app more than expected. Like many apps, once you are familiar with how to work across the

Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz

catalogue and you know what each game looks like and how it operates, it is particularly useful. The website is helpful with an introduction to how to use it. And, if you are data-driven (or your school is), you can manage and track users (students).

For further questions and to suggest additional apps to feature, contact Meghan directly.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 in Vermont

By Sarah Forbesstudents-99506__180

K-1 ELL Teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary, Winooski, VT


ELL Teachers in WIDA states across the U.S. are busy getting ready to administer the new WIDA ACCESS for ELLS 2.0, a new and improved online version of the annual assessment of English language development for K-12 schools. The testing window has been moved to earlier in the school year – between January and February here in Vermont – meaning educators should receive scores before the end of the school year, and administrators will have access to these scores on the online portal. The online test is being offered to grades 1 through 12. For grades 1 through 3, reading, listening and speaking will be computer-based, while the written portion will still be on paper. The kindergarten interview style test will remain the same. Students will require an iPad or computer with a secure browser and microphone headsets. Accommodations are available to students who need them, and will be worked out on a individual basis with the test Coordinators. The new online portal allows for a central organizing system to create test session and groups, monitor student progress through the test sections, and manage student data. There are training materials and resources available on the WIDA website, and practice tests and sample items here: So far in my district (Winooski School District, Vermont) students seem excited to interact with the online system, and teachers are looking forward to this valuable opportunity to see their students’ needs and progress.

Register Today for Electronic Village

Don’t forget, today is the last day to register for free Professional Development through TESOL’s Electronic Village!

Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Anyone?

By Mary Lou Donahoeapple-256261__180

As part of my recent coursework on Inclusive Practices, I was introduced to two exceptionally useful books. The concepts in these books are critical to all teachers because when we plan our lessons keeping UDL principles in mind, we can create engaging lessons for all of the students in our classrooms.  Very importantly, this type of planning can obviate the need for us to create separate worksheets for individual students. When we use UDL Principles in our planning, the same lesson can be adjusted by having clear and purposeful goals.

Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching using Universal Design for Learning. Dr. Loui Lord Nelson. (2014). Brookes Publishing

Dr. Nelson’s book is an excellent introduction to UDL.  It is engaging, easy to read and very informative.  This book covers the many barriers that limit student learning. It also provides strategic insights into understanding learner variability, the critical differences students bring into the classroom and how to adjust for those differences in an inclusive setting.  She very clearly explains the 3 UDL Principles, checklists and guidelines.  It is a small book with big benefits to the reader!

UDL Lesson Planner: The Step-by-Step Guide for Teaching All Learners. Dr. Patty Ralabate. Brookes Publishing. Anticipated publication date: January 2016.

My professor wrote this upcoming book on lesson planning using the UDL Principles, and I was very fortunate to be able to read several chapters from it.

Dr. Ralabate tells us we need to think of creating lessons with purposeful goals.  Thinking of flexible lesson goals instead of constructive goals provides us with more options within a lesson and enables us to reach all learners. The book provides lots of practical information on how to write those goals and create inclusive lessons. The book will go on sale January 2016!

Please consider reading these two books. I believe that once you have mastered the concepts in these books, your lessons plans will never be the same.


Help Syrian Orphans by Teaching ESL via Skype

globe-960267_960_720There is a special opportunity to play a small part in the Syrian refugee crisis and directly touch the lives of orphans living in an orphanage in Reyhanli, Turkey. The orphanage has a school and internet access and is working hard to educate 120 children, age 2-12, whose parents were killed in the fighting. There is a great need for volunteer ESL teachers. It would involve teaching a child once a week for 30-45 minutes.

A simple web site has been set up to help teachers who have never taught by Skype and encourage them to lend their much needed skills to help these very grateful children.

You can read more about the orphanage in this story from The Christian Science Monitor called “Difference Makers”:

If you can consider helping, please send me an e-mail directly.


Jeannie Ferber 


— BAYTI [My Home] Orphanage Teaching Schedule —

All times are in Eastern Standard Time (UTC – 0500)

Mondays through Thursdays (3 groups/ each lesson 20 minutes / 2-3 children in a group)


Fridays (3 groups/ each lesson 20 minutes / 2-3 children in a group)


This message was originally distributed on the NNETESOL listserv. 

A Plea for Help

By Beth Evans

This post originally ran on Beth’s blog.

2345803b-0925-48da-9455-708ee695d73c_profileA few days ago, I blogged about a mom who recently was killed in a car accident. Here’s  a link to explain what happened.

The campaign to help this family, former refugees from Burma, has started. And you can help.

Here’s why you should feel like jumping in to help your fellow human being.

When you are a refugee, you don’t start at zero. You start at negative money. You have to repay travel costs, pay for housing after getting a small stipend. They don’t take our jobs. They don’t get subsidized housing. If you’re wondering about that, here’s an article that delineates costs of being a refugee to the United States.

These costs are common. Most countries charge refugees in the same way.

I just heard on NPR tonight, though, about a unified effort to make refugees’ travel to Canada a little easier. They plan to take in 25,000 this year and 25,000 next. Volunteers are lining up. They have more than 100,000 lawyers who have volunteered to help with paperwork issues. Organizations are ready to pitch in. The country is even waiving transportation costs.

If only we could be so welcoming.

Instead, many in the United States think we need to “hit the pause button” on taking in refugees.

I ask in this season of giving–in this time where all of us should dig deep and wonder what we would wish for if we were standing if their shoes–how would we want others to treat us?

One of our former students who moved to Utica, NY, from Burlington, VT, because there is a Burmese mosque there, said that none of her teachers even asked her about the accident. The people who died were all related to her. Nobody asked.

Maybe they didn’t know.

Maybe, like in Burlington, the newsrooms have been gutted so much that the article above that says the woman who died lived in Vermont but nobody knew where from just stands. With no follow up. Nobody digging deeper because there is nobody to dig. Nobody to get the word out. It still hasn’t shown up in local papers.

The people in the accident were hurt too much; the survivors had too little English to say the right words to get attention. Maybe. Maybe that’s what happened.

So maybe these teachers don’t know. But it hurt this student’s heart to know that it seems nobody cares.

So now, you can show you do.

Go to Me Me’s page.

Help this family live another day.

Beth Evans blogs at Beth’s Blog. Check it out!

6 Ideas to Make The Most of Your Winter Break

By Stephanie Brown


Winter break is only moments away. Whether in public school or higher education, for teachers this is a time to relax and regroup before the new semester starts. Here are 6 great ideas to motivate and inspire you during this intermission.

1. Reflection: Sit down with a large cup of coffee or tea and do a little reflecting on the past few months of teaching. What were some of the high points? Are there teaching moments that you want to remember? Are there issues or lessons that you want to avoid in the future? Just sit and reflect for 15 minutes. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, just write freely.

2. Relaxing Walk: Teaching requires long periods of standing and sitting. Take the time to go on a long walk or hike. Clear your mind and reset your body. Use this time to cool-down or to rejuvenate your energy.

3. Organization: I don’t know any teacher, who doesn’t have piles of paper and unorganized bags. Teaching can be stressful, but take 10-15 minutes and just organize 1 small pile or 1 small bag. Don’t overwhelm yourself but start the process of preparing for the semester.

4. Goals: Do you have any goals for the break or for the rest of the school year? Write them down in your planner or notebook and use them to motivate you. Sometimes its hard to get focused and organized with family and friends around.

5. New Experience: Take an adventure. Go to a new cafe or museum. This adventure could be 10 minutes or days. Either way, taking the time to separate yourself from your responsibilities can be a good thing. Also, you might have a fresh look on life, teaching, and preparing for the semester.

6. Rest: Get some extra rest. I can admit to staying up late grading and planning. Take the time to rest a bit over break. Sleep in or watch a movie. Do whatever your mind and body needs to relax and unwind.

I hope these 6 ideas can help you to make the most of your winter break. Happy winter and enjoy the few weeks of relaxation!

Conference links

In case you’re looking for conference links, please look here! Scroll down to the conference lineup. Links should be available there.


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