Last year Julia, one of our awesome Customer Success Managers here at Flocab HQ, heard an impressive story from Pamela Ferrill, a 5th grade ESL teacher in Madison, WI—namely, how Flocabulary was central in helping her students hit their language acquisition targets.
Julia sat down with Pamela to learn more about her robust integration of Flocabulary tools with her own ESL instructional techniques, and the impact she saw as a result. We want to share her strategies with you, too; here’s what we learned:
5th Grade ESL Teacher
Flocabulary Customer Success Manager
Pamela: Two years ago when I was at Falk Elementary, another teacher was using it so I decided to give it a try. I thought it was a great idea—teaching vocab through rap, teaching words in context. Additionally, I thought Flocabulary would be a great way to enhance my culturally and linguistically responsive practices.
Monday is our intro day when students get their word list from the Word Up unit we’re working on. We start with independent work, with students reading new words used in a sentence, guessing the definition, with their “Give One, Get One” worksheet.
We then transition to sharing their guessed definitions with one or two other students. We call this “Musical Shares,” and it’s a bit like musical chairs: I play music as students walk through the classroom, and when the music stops, they find a partner, wait to hear the vocab word from me, and then share their notes with their partner and make updates to their worksheet. I give them about 30 seconds, then start the music again to switch partners.
We then watch the Flocab video, and students continue to update their notes based on how the vocab word is used in the song. Next up are Quick Review questions; students are divided into teams, and a representative from each team are called up to answer the questions. We use buzzers and teams accumulate points for correct answers.
Finally, we finish up the lesson by updating our Personal Thesaurus: identifying the part of speech, synonyms, antonyms, and using the word in a sentence. Each vocab word gets an entry in students’ personal thesauruses, completed over the course of the week (usually we only get through 2-3 words on the first day). Before students leave for the day, I assign sections of the Flocab Printable Activity for homework, due at the end of the week.
Next time we meet, in addition to continuing with the Personal Thesaurus, I’ll have students complete the fill-in-the-blank worksheet for the Flocab video and additional activities as needed. We complete the Flocab Quiz at the end of the week.
My students can complete parts of their personal thesaurus in their home language, which helps with accessibility. We’re also starting to talk about cognates, to deepen connections both with their home language and other English words they know. I think Flocab is already a great tool for ELL students, without much augmentation: using words in context, captions in the videos, connecting word meanings with images and animations—all these are very helpful, not only for ELL students but for all students.
Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of multiple exposures to new words: this is best practice for all students, but ELL students benefit especially from more time and more exposure to words in different contexts to deepen understanding. We make sure to watch the video multiple times to help with this.
The places where I’ve seen a lot of progress are in one-on-one assessments, with students clearly improving in terms of comprehension and synthesizing information, and on their MAP assessments. All but one of my ELL students met their growth targets last year. I had one student who started at level P and ended at W on Fountas & Pinell. I also had a newcomer who had very limited English proficiency go from a English language proficiency status of 1 (limited English) to an English language proficiency of 6 (full English proficiency) in one year. I even had a district administrator notice that we had some great data!
They like the rap: it has a nice tune, it’s easy to follow. When I think about culture and music across the world, it’s all about patterns and rhythm. All cultures connect this way. The students don’t necessary realize that’s what’s going on, but they don’t need to. Rap also particularly resonates well with youth culture, even if they don’t listen to rap on their own.