Top Teacher Tips for Using DreamBox to Support ELL Students

A DreamBox Nation educator shares key insights

Teaching English language learners can be challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding and fun when you have technology that supports the unique needs of all learners. I am a 6th grade teacher at a preK-6 school with over 900 students in Herndon, Virginia. Nearly 50 percent of the kids walking through the school doors  are recipients of consistent ESL services. Meanwhile, the other 20 percent of students who can speak, read, and write in English, don’t necessarily do so at an age-appropriate level. For example, I have 6th grade students who have tested out of ESL services, but they can’t read English at a level comparable to their native English-speaking peers.

I am fortunate to have access to DreamBox Learning, which I include in my instructional practice. It’s a solution that supports ELLs in so many different ways. And it’s available in English and in Spanish. It’s led to huge successes in my classroom. Here are my top four ways DreamBox helps me and my ELL students.

  1. It allows me to diversify my “math workshop” time. I can rotate students onto DreamBox daily with the computers I have in my own classroom.
  2. I encourage students who want to be challenged and can provide extra homework for those who want to continue to learn and play DreamBox at home. It creates a great school-home connection. I love talking to parents about how their kids are succeeding on DreamBox in and outside of the classroom. It gives them a tangible way to support their children at home and keeps them informed about what they’re learning.
  3. I frequently utilize DreamBox for extra support with some students during pockets of time throughout the day. I encourage students that arrive early or stay late after dismissal time to play DreamBox, especially for those who do not have access to a computer or internet at home.
  4. Students have fun on DreamBox! This allows me to remind them that math is fun, and there are productive ways to use their screen time.

DreamBox is a great motivator that students love, but I still frequently face challenges, as every classroom teacher does. Here are some best practices using DreamBox I follow to help keep my ELL students focused and on track:

  • I keep a close eye on my class dashboard in DreamBox to see which students have been low on lessons or minutes. This gives me the opportunity to factor that into my math workshop rotations and vary who uses my classroom computers each day (I only have four).
    Top Tip Takeaway: Check the dashboard every morning. Students that appear in orange or red means they haven’t been spending enough time or completing enough lessons. These are the students you should try to allow more time on DreamBox in your classroom during the day.
  • I also try to get at least two rotations in a day for DreamBox (20-25 minutes), then I utilize about 15 minutes at dismissal time to have another group of students use DreamBox. 
    Top Tip Takeaway: During your math block, split the time into 20-25 minute chunks. Have groups ready to go on DreamBox during each chunk of time and the rest of the students can be working with you or on other independent or partner tasks.
  • I have an iPad, which is loaded with DreamBox, that I bring to school each day for student use. 
    Top Tip Takeaway: An iPad makes a difference as it allows for one more student to be on DreamBox throughout the day (plus it takes less time to login and load).
  • I put DreamBox information on newsletters, our blackboard site, and other forms of communication to encourage students to talk to their families about what they’ve learned.  
    Top Tip Takeaway: If you or your team compiles a weekly or monthly calendar/newsletter it would be great to have a reminder for parents to check out DreamBox.com and remind them to encourage their kids to use it 15-20 minutes a day at home. If your school or team has a website you can put an up an announcement there too.  
  • I bring up Dreambox at each parent-teacher meeting/conference and have a flier with login details to hand out.  
    Top Tip Takeaway: I use the parent letter that you can get from DreamBox to share with parents at the beginning of each year. 
  • I have helped some students acquire library cards and know that they can use computers and the internet at our town library (for DreamBox of course!) 
    Top Tip Takeaway: Many public libraries have computers for use for free, so I have printed out library card applications to send home with students to get them library cards so they can use the computers on their own time.

I’m always learning fun new things about how to use DreamBox and the steps I have taken are working! I see progress with all my students. Not only is this progress showing in their number sense and computation ability, but also their willingness to share answers to math problems when I am leading whole group lessons. They are also more willing to speak up when working in a group or pairing.  For many of my ELL students, they are gaining additional vocabulary and English skills because of their time on DreamBox!

Stefanie Vestal

Stefanie Vestal

Stefanie is a 6th grade teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools.She has been working in education for more than 10 years as a 6th and Kindergarten teacher and running after-school and weekend activities for middle and high school age students.She loves to integrate project based learning and social justice issues at all levels of learning.When not teaching she can be found coaching field hockey and basketball, participating in triathlons, reading, and hanging out with her Jack Russell Terrier, Fala.
Stefanie Vestal

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