June 18, 2018

Interactive tools for English Language Learners

Equipping teachers at Newcomers High School with interactive resources for ELL students

Newcomers High School, located in the borough of Queens in New York City, was created to provide immigrant students with an academic program geared to achieve excellence by responding to their unique needs, while at the same time providing students and their parents with a supportive environment in their new country. 

The challenge

Newcomers High School looked to equip their teachers with technology tools for visual and hands-on learning that would benefit their ELL students

Newcomers High School opened in 1995 and was designed specifically to help the English Language Learner population, especially students who had just arrived in the United States. We have a very diverse population of students: about 53% Hispanic students, about 37% Asian students, and then the remaining group is from places all over the world, from Poland to Bangladesh.

The school itself has very high-quality teachers and has received an “A” grade from the city for the past five years. Our students are very eager to learn, despite having the added difficulty of needing to learn English. Before we found Boardworks, we were looking for animated content that would help ELL students visualize concepts that they really struggled to grasp otherwise by utilizing the SMART Boards we have in every classroom.

-John Perlaza, Assistant Principal of Math and Science

The solution

Boardworks’ ready-made tools provided teachers with a wealth of resources to accommodate ELL students’ needs

Boardworks initially attracted my attention because the presentations are very visual, which our ELL students really need when learning new content. The animations help simplify concepts in the lesson and the games and quizzes get the students excited to learn.

We also really liked that Boardworks could save our teachers time in planning their lessons. For example, the visual elements that the students really need are very time-consuming for a teacher to create, or just not as engaging in a poster or worksheet form. Plus, teachers then need to verbally explain the static image, which many students would not be able to process. With Boardworks, teaching abstract concepts is a lot easier because the animation shows the entire process visually and the teacher doesn’t need to rely on verbal communication as heavily.

I think it’s fabulous that we were able to provide our teachers with access to these resources that go with our available technology and covers our state standards. Teachers use it pretty much in every class and the good thing about Boardworks is you buy it once, and then it’s part of the school.

-John Perlaza, Assistant Principal of Math and Science

Implementation

Because it is easy-to-use, Boardworks empowers all teachers to differentiate their lessons and use their classroom technology daily

Boardworks is a very practical and easy-to-use software. The teachers like that the presentations run through PowerPoint because it’s intuitive. There really is no training involved. You just open them up and use them, and you can easily edit them for the needs of your students.

I think it’s great because a lot of the teacher can adapt the PowerPoints to their own teaching style, to whatever the needs of their class. Teachers tell me that they pull Boardworks slides for different parts of their lessons, whether the introduction, explanation of concepts, or review. Obviously, each Boardworks lesson has many slides. In our school, because the students are learning English, you may not be able to cover or go through content as quickly; you have to go at a slower pace to ensure that the vocabulary is emphasized and clarified. It’s great that the teachers can go through the presentation and pick and choose the parts that work for their particular lesson or style.

-John Perlaza, Assistant Principal of Math and Science

Results

With Boardworks, teachers have seen increased engagement and comprehension from their English Language Learners

We hear from students that they really like Boardworks because their teachers are using more technology in their classes. We initially purchased Boardworks for Math and Science, and students started asking for it in other departments as well so we bought additional subjects.

-John Perlaza, Assistant Principal of Math and Science

Boardworks gets students more engaged. Every time I say “Ok, who wants to come up to the board?”, everybody raises their hands and say “Me, me, me!”, so they get really excited. Boardworks helps reinforce a lot of the skills we need to work on with ELL students. The visuals and interaction really help them, so they are willing to participate more. It’s easier for them to match concepts, to answer questions based on what they see.

-Karini Saab, Science teacher

I absolutely find that with Boardworks, I save time in preparing for my lessons. It’s so much more efficient; where it may take me days to prepare one lesson, I have materials available immediately with Boardworks. Also, before Boardworks, I didn’t really use the SMART Board that much because I was somewhat “SMART Board-phobic”. Now, with just this one program, it has really thrown me into this world and I use it almost every day.

Students pay attention more when I use Boardworks. Students love watching the animations and they really pay attention to the diagrams because they move and are detailed and clear. I really notice that they better understand the lessons that cover abstract concepts, like cell membrane diffusion or the fertilization process. Because Boardworks is so dynamic, students can really see how technology is part of science. It’s a positive reinforcement tool to encourage students to love learning about science.

-Rich Sun, Science Teacher

Especially with our students being ELL, the animations are really helpful because they need clarity, they need visuals, they need concepts explained step-by-step. With the Boardworks animation, you can basically press play and it will show each stage with pauses between each one to give room for the teacher to speak. It’s not going so fast that you have to speak over while it’s playing, which would be really confusing for our students and difficult to manage for the teacher.

When a lesson is provided by Boardworks, I trust that it will be good. Sometimes if I’m making my own PowerPoint or SMART Board lesson, I worry about whether it will flow, whether it will be clearly presented, whether the students are going to understand it, whether my visuals will be good enough. With Boardworks, I already know it will be designed well. Plus, the resources match the curriculum, so when I preview the slides before I teach the class, it’s pretty much all set up for me, which leaves me time to do other things before I teach, like set up demonstrations or complete any of my other responsibilities.

- Isabella Parpas, Earth Science Teacher

"With Boardworks, teaching abstract concepts is a lot easier because the animation shows the entire process visually and the teacher doesn’t need to rely on verbal communication as heavily."

John Perlaza, Assistant Principal

"We initially purchased Boardworks for Math and Science, and students started asking for it in other departments as well so we bought additional subjects."

John Perlaza, Assistant Principal

"Boardworks helps reinforce a lot of the skills we need to work on with ELL students. The visuals and interaction really help them, so they are willing to participate more."

Karini Saab, Science Teacher