Teaching ELL Students with Novel Effect

Florida-based ELL (English Language Learner) educator, Renee Belvis, sat down with the Novel Effect team to share how she uses Novel Effect to teach baseball players English!
Teach ELL Students with Novel Effect

When most people think of Novel Effect, their minds instantly go to engaged elementary school students during a classroom read-aloud. What many don’t realize is that Novel Effect is a fantastic tool that is helping build literacy, community, and confidence for a much broader audience.

In this new blog series, The Novel Effect, we will dive deeper into a unique Novel Effect use case scenario and how it is changing the lives of learners you don’t instantly think of when you think “Novel Effect”. For our first installation, the Novel Effect team sat down with Florida-based ELL (English Language Learner) educator, Renee Belvis, who uses Novel Effect to teach baseball players English!

Teaching ELL Students with Novel Effect

Since 2018, Renee has worked with the international players of the Phillies’ minor league baseball team, the Clearwater Threshers. She learned about Novel Effect via Twitter, while looking for engaging content for teaching her ELL students. The app was a grand slam with her players! Even as adults in their late teens and early 20s, they love the sound effects and music the app creates while they read aloud and learn English.

Renee was recently contacted by an elementary school teacher based in Wyoming, looking for out-of-state baseball teams interested in being pen pals with her class as a part of her baseball-themed reading program. Instantly thinking of Novel Effect, Renee decided to use the app to showcase her students’ progress. The team set to work and created read-aloud videos for their pen pals, using Novel Effect!

Clearwater Threshers, Kliubert Avila (The Watermelon Seed), Eiberson Castellano (I Promise), and Jonathan Petit (Bark, George) reading with Novel Effect.

Once all of their videos were complete, Renee compiled every last video into an ebook created through fellow EdTech app, Book Creator, to make the videos easy to share. Book Creator makes it simple for kids and their grown-ups to build content for the classroom that is interactive, engaging, and fun!

Teaching ELL Students with Novel Effect: An Interview with Renee Belvis

Below, find our interview with Renee about her journey into ELL education, her work with the Clearwater Threshers, and how Novel Effect impacts teaching ELL students.

ELL teacher: Renee Belvis
Clearwater Threshers teacher, Renee Belvis

Novel Effect: As an educator with over 20 years of experience, what inspired you to start teaching ELL students?

RB: My mother and older sisters came to America from Germany in 1954 not knowing how to read or speak English. My sisters struggled in school with no programs to support their English language development while also supporting their native language. They lost their first language, German, in the process. As an ELL educator, I make sure my students retain their first language while learning English. Every project we did in class required them to use both languages.

Novel Effect: What are some of the biggest challenges you face when teaching your students and has Novel Effect helped you face these challenges?

RB: One challenge I face with the players that I did not face with my brick-and-mortar-school students is access to technology. The players only have access to their personal cell phones while, in my classroom, I had laptops and iPads. Some of the programs I utilize do not work well on cell phones. Another challenge is time. The Threshers travel out of town a lot, so I have to maximize the time I have with them while they are in town. Novel Effect has helped me face both of these challenges because the app can be utilized on a smartphone, iPad, or computer. Having all the books available in one space also allows me to maximize the time I have with the players. The app is easy to use, requires no extra equipment, and contains many of the books that teachers already have in their libraries.

Novel Effect: What is your favorite part about using Novel Effect?

RB: As an educator, I love experiencing the players’ reactions when they hear the sounds while reading. It’s evident that they truly enjoy the experience despite struggling with reading in English. In the past, as an ELL middle school teacher, I did a project where my students visited the elementary school next door weekly and read to a class. These middle schoolers were then able to teach their own parents the skills they learned in order to read to their younger siblings. I wish we had access to Novel Effect back then.
Clearwater Thresher practicing English with Novel Effect.
Clearwater Thresher, Wen-Hui Pan practicing English with Novel Effect.
Some of the baseball players are parents themselves. I believe that helping them use Novel Effect could carry over to them reading aloud to their own children. No one is ever too old to enjoy a read-aloud!

Novel Effect: Has there been a time when you saw Novel Effect truly make an impact on one of the player’s ELL journeys?

RB: The players have all become like sons to me and are an absolute joy to work with. They play their baseball games, sometimes doubles, yet come to class motivated and eager to learn. Their attitudes push me to bring them the most engaging content possible. Novel Effect has been great for that. One student in particular, Felix Reyes, took the time to write out troublesome words on sticky notes and even included pronunciation guides. When reading his selected book aloud, he felt so accomplished when he successfully pronounced and understood his new vocabulary. The sounds added by Novel Effect helped him feel more confident and truly gave him a purpose for reading.

Novel Effect: Do you and your players have a favorite story on Novel Effect?

RB: When selecting books for our pen pal project, I took the difficulty level into consideration, book availability at my local library, and the overall message and theme of the books.

Out of the titles I selected, they all really liked Gibberish by Young Vo because they could identify with the issues the character in the story faced. They also liked I Promise by LeBron James because they all know who he is and they are also athletes.

Interested in using Novel Effect as a tool for teaching ELL students? We have individual Educator Plans and School Plans available to make read-alouds easy and fun for everyone!

Download the Novel Effect app to bring stories to life with music and sound that respond to your voice. 

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