Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not another Cloze! How else to use songs in EFL classes

Songs are awesome! And I have seen SO many gap fill assignments (which are nice) but let's look at how else to use songs.

For the sake of continuity I am going to use one song for this entire post (though other songs will be mentioned). Let's look at It is a music video mixed from two K-op music videos (Fantastic Baby by Big Bang and Scream by) 2NE1 the song is actually by Regina Spektor and it is called, "All the Rowboats." I like to use videos students haven't seen, so this works well because even if they know the song my Mexican students won't know the K-Pop visuals, and if my Korean students recognized the bands they won't know the lyrics.

1. Make your own songs: So for this one instead of: "All the rowboats in the paintings they keep trying to row away, and the captains' worried faces stay contorted and staring at the waves." you could change it so something to review parts of speech, "All the nouns stay in the paintings they are objects or things. Without verbs they have no action there is no moving." or whatever. Songs are a great way to review concepts you have learned or just give students something to humm during tests.

2. Use songs to describe grammar points: This would be an easy song to use for prepositions (and you could follow up by asking about the people in the video: they are on the table, under the fence etc).

3. Practice Punctuation Lyrics are hardly ever punctuated properly as they are arranged by rhythm and rhyme rather than syntax. Have your students avoid comma splices and run ons by punctuating a song,
 "First there's lights out, then there's lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It's their own fault for being timeless
There's a price you pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here's your ticket, welcome to the tombs"

"First there's lights out, then there's lock up: masterpieces serving maximum sentences. It's their own fault for being timeless; there's a price you pay and a consequence. All the galleries, the museums, here's your ticket; welcome to the tombs."

4. Describe music videos! I LOVE music videos.
  • Write ten sentences describing the video. Have five of the sentences be incorrect. This can be any grammar point. Participle phrases, appositives, tense, proper modifiers, etc. Examples:
      • The owls eyes, looked right at you, are scary.
      • The people attacks the fence trying to destroy it.
      • There are much people dancing at the party
    • Students should correct the five wrong sentences 
      • The owls eyes, looking right at you, are scary.
      • The people attack the fence trying to destroy it.
      • There are many people dancing at the party.
  • Use the  grammar point. Tell students that they need to write ten sentences using participle phrases / adjectives / adverbial clauses / whatever to describe what is happening. They get really specific and sometimes funny!
5. Mess up the lyrics Write the lyrics incorrectly and have students try to fix them.
  • You can mess up the words for minimal pairs/homophones "Thirst their's lights out," instead out "First there's lights out." Depending on the level on your students you can either have them do it without listening (and then let them listen to check), have them listen without the paper and then pass out the paper and have them work from memory, or have them do it while listening.
  • Mess with the tenses:  "First there's lights out, then there are lock up" have students read messed up lyrics and fix the verbs. Then listen to the song to check. To differentiate tell some students how many mistakes are in each column, and don't tell others. Or, give one student a worksheet with more/more difficult mistakes.
6. Work the Paragraph Have students find a Topic Sentence in the song. It can be literal (Tequila makes her clothes fall off) or deeper "This song discusses immigration policies" "This song is about how people don't appreciate art" "This song is about a holocaust museum" Then have them find support in the lyrics. This really makes students follow paragraph structure using evidence from the song and then explaining it in their own words.
7. Spice up a song Take lyrics out of a song and have students make them better
  • Remind them to use synonyms. She says, "all the rowboats" a lot, what else could she say?
  • Have them add adjectives or clauses to make better sentences.
  • Underline phrases that could be changed to phrasal verbs or phrasal verbs that they have to change to phrases "First there's lights out, then there's lock up" --> First everyone has to make the rooms dark, then everything gets locked
8. Make it active! TPR doesn't have to just be for kids! Give each group a chunk of the song and have them make up a quick dance/collection of hand movements WHICH MAKES SENSE with the lyrics. This really means they have to focus on meaning and think outside of the box to prove comprehension.

There we have 8 easy ways to get songs into the classroom. How do you like to incorporate music? How else would you use this song?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Vacation: A great time for Webinars

To be honest I am not sure I'll make all of these as many are when I have my short stint at home in San Diego, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't attend one or two. There are many more out there, but these are the ones that interested me:

Thursday June 28th the British Council has a webinar on how to make every lesson great! It takes place at noon UK time (which means I am getting up early down here in Mexico) but it should be fun! The speaker is an Anthony Gaughan (veteran teacher of 17+ years in the UK and Germany). He is a Dogme fan so we can probably expect some unplugged thinking. No need to registeer just click here when the time is right.

I have Shelly Terrell's webinars booked (every Friday at 1p.m. for LA) but I never manage to make them. I also hardly know what the topic will be before which I think makes me less likely to show up, but here's a link for anyone interested.

The ASCD is offering a webinar on "Reading for Meaning: How to Build Students’ Comprehension, Reasoning, and Problem-Solving Skills." Harry Silver will be the presenter. It takes place: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 12:00p.m. ET. The intention is to teach stduents to read for meaning, and draw conclusions that they can defend with evidence. You can register here. offers a webinar of Enhancing Teacher's Effectiveness. You can register here

This event takes place on Thursday, July 12, 2012, 2 to 3p.m. ET. And is basically about, The research that talkes about the impact of teacher effectiveness on student achievement. And the best strategies to achieve that.  Presenters: Dr. Jack Parish, executive director, 
Georgia Association of Educational Leaders 
Kirk Vandersall, founder and managing director, Arroyo Research Services 
Christina Mills, 2010 Wyoming Teacher of the Year 
Dr. Becky L. Shermis, executive director of program design, Product Development Group, Laureate Education, Inc. 
Moderator: Dr. Christine Jax, associate dean of Ph.D., Ed.D., and Ed.S. programs, The Riley College of Education and Leadership

 Connie Moss is the presenter for another ASCD webinar, "Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim  for Understanding" Tuesday, July 17, 2012 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EDT The goal is to improve student's learning by "creating learning targets to help teachers create daily lessons and learning experiences that amount to something enduring and meaningful over time." This looks like something that would encourage autonomous learning which I am a big fan of! You can register here.

Another ASCD webinar is on Tuesday July 24, 2012 4:00p.m. - 5:00p.m. EDT  Mike Fisher presents as he discusses some of the web tools he has found useful for educators. I am always hesitant about these as I don't know how much will be repeat, but since the webinar includes specific tasks and appropriate tool choices, with real classroom applications it should be one to check out. You can register here

One of my first Webinars was done through San Diego State's Language Lab. They still do a version of it every Summer. It is Social Media Workshop and can be done via the internet OR on campus if you are in San Diego. The workshop is July 30-August 30 and you can register here

There's another Technology Webinar this time with Howard Pitler. The ASCD gives on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EDT This one specifically discusses how to integrate technology into clasrooms effectively to get the most out of student. Feel frree to register here
Do you know about any webinars coming up this Summer? Share your knowledge in the comments!

End of the TOEFL Course

Well, my Summer TOEFL Course has just about ended. It was... FAST Trying to cram the entire English language that the TOEFL tests on into one class was hard, teaching for a solid month was harder! I give the students their TOEFL exam in 6 hours. They all have the ability to pass...though I am not sure they will. Some of them get very nervous during the TOEFL; and forget to just breathe and guess. Overall I think the class went well, I used a lot of supplemental material. They listened to songs, watch clips, and did lots of lots of TOEFL worksheets. I can see where I would try to change the class in the future, but for now I feel that I did a pretty good job. How do you teach the TOEFL? Any tips?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Battleship the game differentiated for EFL

We aren't talking about the movie!

So much of my teaching I steal from teachers I had when I was in high school. I remember a go to game for my Spanish class in high school was battleship. The first day playing the game normally takes a while, but since students aren't always familiar with the game, but after that it is a breeze!

The best part is you can personalize this however you want! You just need a worksheet with two grids on it (one will be your ocean and the other one is the partner's ocean.

If you are unsure on the rules of battleship you can check out this simple video:

The difference is instead of saying "B-3" you would practice the target language.

If we were studying past participles it would be, "You called him Susie?" Or, "You called the pizza place." or whatever. You can make the Subjects famous people, teachers in the school, or just generic.

You can make the game easier by using pictures instead of words (have the rows be pictures of clothing and the collumns be colors)

If you don't feel comfortable making your own there are many templates available online. A search in Teachers Pay Teachers yields multiple teachers offering their templates for free (if you haven't signed up yet it is free just click here) .You can also find teachers willing to share their battleship games on busyteacher
Remember that these are provided for free but teachers REALLY appreciate comments/reviews.

Now, how can you differentiate the game?
You can make the game itself more difficult by having them play with more than one player, or by having the games altered a bit (each ship gets so many shots, if a ship sinks, it can't shoot anymore) This video explains altered rules pretty well

You can make the grammar more difficult by making them change the type of grammar with each shot (so if they are reviewing appositives the first shot has to have the appositive for the subject, the second for the object, etc.)

To make the game easier provide prompts and models on the target language (or a cheat sheet with conjugations of verbs you are reviewing, words you are using etc.)

Even though technology is giving us possibilities in the classroom it is important to remember the old stuff too!

Let me know if you can you think of any other ways to differentiate this game? Or feel free to contact me if you need a template and are having problems with the other sites.

Friday, June 22, 2012

That major means what? Helping out with TOEFL

Often, at the end of the reading or listening section on the TOEFL they will ask the students, "In what type of class would this text/lecture be?" Whiich is a good question, except that many of my stduents don't know the difference between astrophysics and astrology...making it a pure guessing game.

I LOVE xkcd and there is a fantastic comic over there about all of the majors (and how they are terrible. You can view it here:

It can be hard to print out (because of the size) but if you copy and paste it into paint and make two collumns you can make it work on a horizontal page in word.

This awesome comic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. This means you're free to copy and share it (but not to sell it). More details.

I am not an artist (my class and their troubles with my visuals)

The other day a student asked which "shit" we were going over.

Recognizing this as a chance to review some minimal pairs (and correct an embarrassing mistake) I said, "We are going over the homework shEEt, remember that shit means something else." I grabbed my marker as some students laughed and explained what shit meant to those who didn't get it.

Then I made my way over to the board, "It's like ship or sheep"

And I draw a ship (to which all students nod and I even get a few murmers or "barco"): I repeat the English word and sound: "Ship"

Then I draw the beautiful sheep, to which one student says, "Sheep means like cloudy?"

Everyone laughs at my sheep as I try to defend it, "It isn't a cloud it has a head...and legs"

To which the student replied, "I thought it was raining"

At this point I just have to conceed my art is not the best. "Fine. OK. I am no artist, but just remember a shIp is not shEEp and a shIt is NOT a shEEt."

There is lots of stuff online to help you help your class with minimal pairs. When we studied minimal pairs earlier to help with the TOEFL. We used this worksheet which worked well.

ESL handouts also offers a worksheet which makes students listen carefully to George Michael's, "Careless Whispers"

If your students still struggle with minimal pairs there are lots of fun activities to do in class. My favorite website for home study is:

If you prefer books then you're lucky. When I took my CELTA and were my go to books for minimal pair and overall pronunciation help!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Differentiate Smarter...not harder

So, yesterday I caught the last two steps of Robyn Jackson's webinar via the ASCD, "Beyond Differentiation." I was a bad un-punctual teacher, so I missed the first 15 minutes.

Basically her webinar talked about the three ways to easily differentiate any unit you teach to help every student! Alright this sounds good; I am in!

The first step is unpacking your standards. As stated earlier, I was caught up with helping who was bored and reading a book of short stories in my office so I COMPLETELY forgot about this and ended up missing step 1. I am going to assume that this is when the teacher breaks down the standards so they are at their bare essentials and you can more clearly plan your lessons understanding exactly what you expect each student to be able to do at the end of the unit.

Divide your students. This is NOT dividing them among high, medium or low. There are four categories with only two qualifiers.

How does your student deal with content? Do they struggle with vocabulary words, and the basic content or they have a million words and understand the content. For example: If they rock content they can convert all verbs into participles and understand what a participle phrase is. 
Your students either have high content(HC) or low content.(LC)

How does your student process? Does your student apply process easily? Do they struggle with the process? For example: If they rock process they can put a participle phrase into a sentence no problem.

Your students either have high process(HP) or low process (LP)

Now by the end of the lesson a student should have the process and the content. So each student gets grouped by their starting content and process LCLP, LCHP, HCLP, HCHP

How do you figure out which student goes where?
  • Well you can give a pre-test (where each question signifies either content or process) and grade it deciding from there who is a best fit for where.
  • Have students self identify, "How much do you know about participles? Do you know all the irregular ones? Can you use them to describe a noun?"
  •  Have the teacher identify: If you know some students struggle with content put them in a different group
It should be made VERY CLEAR to the students that these groups are NOT rigid. They are fluid and as such students can easily move from one to the other. 

Here's what I like about this method.
It encouraged students to learn how they learn and help themselves. If they know they struggle with conjugating then they can learn that they need to focus on that.

I was discussing on a forum the other day that I listen really well. I learn VERY well by listening. When I read it takes me longer to learn. I know this about myself, it is why I prefer lectures and webinars to websites and books. I did not always know this about myself and once I learned I became a better student.

Here's what I don't like about this methodI know she said that students don't feel constrained by the labels because they are always changing, but I just don't believe my students would feel that way. Nor do I believe I would feel that way were this done to me as a student.

I prefer my differentiation done on the sly, "OK I have put you in random groups: Susie, Johnny, Jorge and Lee I want you to do the project this way." The groups are random the partners are selected by me, etc. This is a way to differentiate without making students feel inadequate

Make your lesson plans  and JUST think about the standard. What would work well for this unit? Focus on that. AT this point the teachers are NOT thinking of the students. Below is a screengrab from the webinar. At this point we are ONLY doing the grey.

NOW we step in and add steps for each of the students (the white background). 
Since we were short on time Robyn couldn't go into THAT much detail on each of them but we got a gist.
  • Low content students should
o  Get more practice on the vocab (cheat sheets, homework)
o    May need help connecting (Graphic Organizers)
  • High Content
    • Add ambiguity (selection of readings, raising other questions)
    • Add complexity (more irregular verbs)
  • Low Process
    • Keep samples around
    • Have formulas (Noun+ past particle + verb = sentence!)

  • High Process
    • Increase complexity of the process (Ass a participle phrase to a past perfect sentence)
    • Help students use multiple processes at once (Great, can you add an appositive to that sentence too?)
    • Improve speed and accuracy (Try to do five in 10 minutes)
    • Add restraints (Don't use the cheat sheet)

Robyn was very charismatic and seemed intelligent. I am just not sure this is the best match for my personal teaching style, but I will be keeping it in the back of my head while planning my fall classes this Summer. Amazon has quite a few books by Robyn the following seemed relevant to the webinar. In particular she mentioned how to support struggling students and the differentiation workbook.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Webinar Heads Up

If you haven't already ASCD has a free webinar today Beyond Differentiation June 20, 2012, 3:00 p.m. EDT

You can sign up here:

Are you bogged down trying to plan differentiated lessons to meet the diverse needs of all of your students? Umm... YES!

If so, join this webinar to learn how to create a customizable lesson plan that allows for differentiation without creating a lot of extra work for you. Not a lot of work for me? Sounds great! That's what they say right? Work smarter not harder :)

You'll take away strategies you can use to customize your own lessons so that one lesson meets the diverse learning needs of all the students in your classroom. OK OK sign me up :)

Hope to see you then!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Self-Evaluation for Participation Grades

But teacher… why did I only get an 85% in participation?

            To start I have heard the arguments against a participation grade. How it hurts those who are shy or have difficult home lives. I understand COMPLETELY the arguments against a participation grade. In some cases I even agree with them, however in my classes now I have one. My classes are partially conversationally and without it students would not be held accountable for their actions. I am a huge fan of students being accountable thus my participation grade stays.
             About 65% of my participation grade is just being polite. Are you on time? Are you present? Do you only speak English in the classroom? Do you refrain from texting? Are you a good listener when your peers speak? Are your bathroom breaks under 20 minutes? Do you avoid asking BEFORE class is over, "Are we done yet?" Are you prepared every day? So even being a shy and introverted student, if you e-mail me a few times or participate in class once or twice and are polite you'll get at LEAST a 70% in participation.
              Students know this. Their participation grade isn't a mysterious 10%. If it were I would have students who thought they had Aced it and are offended when they get less than 100%. I use this worksheet as an easy way to communicate why they got the grade they got, and also as a form of self-evaluation. 
It is interesting to see the different categories students fall into. I like to call them the four Ds
  • Degrading- If they didn’t raise their hand once they’ll change an always to never. They will give themselves an 75% instead of the 95% they deserve.
  • Deficient Mathematicians- These are the students who answer very honestly (yes I talk on my cell phone in class, I’ve missed 5 days, my grade? 95%).
  • Delusional- Teacher I ALWAYS pay attention in… umm.. what class is this again?
  • Dead On- Sometimes you get the kid who just knows what's going on and they get their grade right on the money.
 It is a great way to communicate with each one of these to let them know they are doing great, explain why your math is different, and otherwise respond to them BEFORE the grades go out. 

For ease of access this is a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store (remember you can sign up for free)

I STRONGLY encourage making the participation grade more known and less of a mystery. It doesn't need to be fancy, just keep them informed.

There are other ways to grade participation, this is just the best one for me.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Organized Opposites Origami

I worked at a gym for... 5 years I think? I still spell exercise incorrectly. I always want to type excersize. Origami is another one of those words I ALWAYS spell wrong (oragami...or orgami...ALWAYS)

Regardless of my inability to spell, I LOVE using origami in the class. When students are first learning we as teachers encourage TPR(Total Physical Response). We want a motion to be connected with a word.

Origami can be the same. It is very hands on and dynamic. One of the simpler ones I know comes with a story (storygami or storigami hmmm), which is why I think it is perfect for the ESL classroom. There is a simple box that I make with my students. You can download the PowerPoint I send to other teachers who want to steal the lesson at my  Teachers Pay Teachers Store  If you haven't signed up for Teachers Pay Teachers yet click here to go straight to their sign up page (Remember it is free!).

This is not the most amazing PowerPoint I have ever made, and I do not normally show it to students. Rather I do this as a listening activity where students follow my step by step directions. They really enjoy the box and the actions keep the words stuck in their head.

I've used this with  pre-school through high school. The pre-school students need help creasing the folds, but they can do it!

This is another one of those great things you can use even if you aren't a teacher.  Is there a tired looking mother and two hyper children in front of you at the bank? Take some bank brochures and tell them you want to tall them a story. They'll settle for a bit and the mom (and customers) will love you.

I had no idea that entire books were dedicated to these types of stories. If you are interested you may want to check one of them out.

DIY Parts of Speech Poem

When I was in high school, college and even throughout my masters I met a LOT of students who didn't know the basic parts of speech.

When I was in elementary school I learned a poem which started, "Nouns are just the names of things like rice and birds and snow and rings" it went on to explain other parts of speech, "When something is done the adverb then tells how and why and where and when" etc.

I heavily altered the poem to focus on what I teach in one of my classes and review the basics.

I also wanted to make it  more dynamic and interactive than just a poem so I made it into a mad libs like assignment.

You can download it for free at TeachersPayTeachers or BusyTeachers there also is a sample of the poem once it is completed. If you haven't signed up for Teachers Pay Teachers yet click here to go straight to their sign up page (Remember it is free!).

No booties or boobies

Something I ALWAYS avoid when teaching.
I was just reading Ken Wilson's FANTASTIC post about ways to motivate your students and one of his points is that teachers should not loom over their students.

I went to a Catholic school preschool through 8th grade. Our skirts were expensive; by the time I hit 8th grade my skirts were a little short. I always wore bicycle shorts under them, but that didn't make the skirts any longer! I got very good at a cross legged bend the knees almost squat to drink from the drinking fountain like a lady.
My tops normally aren't this low, but the point is made

How is this relevant?

I use that same squat now when I work with students! I find that kneeling gets cumbersome moving from group to group, bending over can give that awkward booty in another student's face or as another teacher pointed out a view of your chest.

If you don't have already have a method I suggest you get one! It really does help the students feel more comfortable and less intimidated.

Write, Fold, Pass, Draw, Fold, Pass, Repeat

I was trying to describe this great EFL activity to a friend the other day over the phone and decided I would just make a blog so I could include pictures (my very classy high quality made via paint pictures, but still).

This is a fun review activity for vocabulary words, or just when you need your students to practice forming complete sentences. Best of all it requires no preparation.

It is usually easiest to play this game in a circle, but if you don't want to move people that's fine, just be ready for confusion when you have people passing the papers around and be clear on who passes it where.

First everyone gets a piece of paper and at the top they write a simple sentence. The cat chased the dog, The man is standing on the moon, She loves the man...anything(well almost anything). 

I tell my students they have to use an active verb (not I am tall, or he is pretty) because it makes the game more fun.

Then they pass the paper to their right and the next person draws a quick (I have a timer and the students get a minute) picture of the sentence.

When the time is up have the students fold the top of the paper so that you can no longer see the sentence. In this case you fold on the imaginary blue line.

Now you should have a sheet of paper with a fold where you can just see the drawing.

The students take this and pass it to their right again. Now they have to write a sentence that matches the picture.

When I play this with my students they are NOT allowed to  ask the person, "What is that?" or get any help because it makes the sentences more interesting.

Once they finish the sentence they need to fold on the imaginary blue line so that the picture isn't visible and pass it to the person on their right.

This person should just see the sentence.  They need to draw a picture that shows what the sentence is doing. When they finish they fold and pass it to the right.

You can keep going until a student runs out of space, a paper has circled the whole class, or make it a timed activity. At the end I have my students unfold the paper and compare the first and final sentence. Then they try to find the person that started it.

I am hesitant to call this a game since there's no competition, no winners, and no losers, but the students have SO much fun with it I think you can!

So you could start this by giving everyone a different vocabulary word and having them make the sentence, OR you could have them pick whichever word they want.

Have you used this in class? How did you go? Did you adapt it? Let us know!

Friday, June 15, 2012

This is NOT a flippin' video

This commerical is always on TV in Mexico and I love it.

1. I love the song
2. It makes a good point about learning English
3. It is an AWESOME example of what NOT to use for a flipping video.

Why not?
1. It is too short
(there is no actual substance)
2. There is no explanation
(if a student didn't understand the repetition wouldn't assist them)
3. There are no visuals
(OK, I understand that it is a cassette, but just a friendly reminder to use visuals to stimulate your students!)
4. It isn't very dynamic
(Just explaining rules, or repeating a phrase is probably NOT the best route)

It just made me giggle and I was happy to see a relation with the new world of flipping classrooms I've just discovered.

Cultural Bias on Tests

When I worked one of my high school/college jobs at the gym
We did some TOEFL questions today with my college students and on one of them some of my students really struggled.

Now let's keep in mind two things.
1. My students are not American students.
2. My students tend to be from an affluent upbringing
(EDITED TO ADD: 3. This school is known as one of the best schools in Mexico. As such, the students are known to have an especially high workload.)

The problem was that the in audio the man mentioned "work" and the answer was about "school." My students instantly ruled out anyone who worked being in school (other than a teacher perhaps) because students don't work. The conversation went something like this.

Student A: "Teacher it can't be B"
Me: "OK, why not?"
Student A: "Because students don't work"
Me: "Well, don't some students work? I mean it is possible right?"
Student B: "RARELY*"   
*I am very proud of him using rarely as we JUST learned that!

Teacher: "OK, this is a cultural thing. In America, most students have jobs. I had three."
Students: *blank stares*
Student C: "Really?"

Times like this I remember that we really aren't just teaching a language we are teaching a whole new culture!

I am trying to remember any time when something like this happened to me learning Spanish, but I just can't think of any? Can you?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Big Bang Theory Double Negatives

Here's a fun one for your students, when you work on double negatives in English. 

(As a note: The subtitles on this video aren't very accurate)

Have your students translate from Sheldon speak  "I would not object to us no longer characterizing you as not my girlfriend"

To what a normal person would say.

Quick and easy, but it works well!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tell and Draw Stories

This blog will talk about are often called "Draw and Tell" stories, though I think originally they were called chalkboard stories or chalk talk.

When I was teaching preschoolers English as a Second Language* (*well, ESL for most of them, I had a few students who were doing EFL as they were exposed to Chinese and Spanish at home) I quickly  understood the need to draw. There was no projector, no IWB, no reliable access to a printer, but I had chalk. I had tons of colored chalk.

This was unfortunate, as I am not a very talented artist, but it was something which I found very helpful. So, I drew. I tried to pull from my childhood and the things I loved most were the draw and tell stories. These are stories where the audience is told a story. During each step the story tells a little more and the picture tells a little more. Sometimes the final drawing fits with the story and sometimes not.

To the right you can see a  quick example about a story that starts with a boy who was attacked by bees. If you are lucky enough to have a printer I made a quick mini-book for this (as well as ideas). You can download it for free at my Teachers Pay teachers store if you haven't signed up yet you can join for free here.

As you can see the drawings don't require much artistic skill, so even my preschoolers could mimic them later  (and most importantly I could create them in the first place!).

These were useful at multiple levels for many skills.

It was sometimes an assisted dicto-gloss. I told the story and they needed to re-write it. Since there was a picture they usually remembered the big parts.

I also used these to help my students practice their predicting. What comes next? What else could we have said? Sometimes (like here) the picture doesn't tie into the story and I would ask the students to add that last line, "He was happy to be home with his dog" or something similar which would tie the story and pictures together.

With super little ones we practiced basic motor skills (yay drawing lines!), body parts,  and color recognition. So after the story we would have them locate the dog's nose, eyes, ears, etc. To assess they would have to "Color the eyes black. Color the ears brown," etc.

With my older students we practiced cause and effect transition words (because, since, as a result) and they would make their own stories that they presented to class at the end. In this case it wasn't so much the drawing rather the creating that they enjoyed. They had to logistically think of a story that matched each step. It was a really fun activity (though some struggled). It could easily be used for other transition words (First he went on a walk. Then he was attacked by bees. Later he ran into a lake...etc)

You can use it to practice verb tenses. He was walking when he was attacked by bees.

You can easily create your own Draw and Tells! This is one I learned when I was younger, but I made up one involving a cave and bubbles that made an octopus (I think I used it to practice counting with my little ones). I've seen ones involving using your numbers to make a mouse, telling a story about a ghost to make a cow and much much more!

There are also many books you can buy with stories that have already been created. I do encourage you to change these! Substitute words that are familiar or challenging to your students. Add transition words that clearly state what happens next. Throw in adverbs or adjectives to make it better for the lesson that you are teaching. A little flexibility goes a long way and so does a little fun!

For some other Draw and Tell stories check out these books:

For a detailed lesson on how I combined a dictogloss with a draw and tell check out this post: Dicto-Draw-And-Tell-Gloss 

Don't flip out! It is just a flipped class! (part2)

So after I listened to Jon and Aaron talk about flipping I checked out the flipped class tweets and saw that Crystal (Who Jon actually gave a shout out for her WSQ forms) was holding a webinar. So I thought...why not! (a recording is now available here: if you want to check it out yourself)

There were some technical difficulties so the webinar started 15 minutes late (5pm). I had an appointment at 6pm, so I hope I don't miss much at the end.

To start she used PREZI so I was happy :)

So Crystal is a high school math teacher (seems like she does some of the higher levels: (pre-calculus) and some of the basics (algebra).  She started flipped classes because:
  • She was having problems with the traditional class:
    • Her students worked at different paces (OK...mine too)
    • They miss different parts (zoning out or missing days) (Not so much here on physical, but mental ooooh yeah)
    • They do homework incorrectly or not at all since it is too long between class and homework and they don't have guidance. (Yep)
    • Too much teacher talk time with only 20-30 minutes for students to work in class. (Yep)
    • Lots of tutoring for students who didn't get it the first time. (Eh, my students don't show up to tutoring, but...I suppose)
She reviewed what a flipped class is. Basically we go from being a "Sage on the stage" to a "guide on the side" (who coined those terms? I am in love!)
  • So, why is flipping better that the traditional classes?
    • I can work one on one with each student each day I see them! (This seems ideal)
    • There is the dynamic, engaging, interactive classroom that she always wanted but never had (again, this sounds good)
    • Students without parents who can't help students with their homework can have the teacher's guidance and support in class (awesome, I remember calling my cousin Karen when I was younger for math help once I passed my parents)
    • My awesome 2nd Graders in Getafe!
    • It is easier to differentiate classes. (ahhh differentiation...always the goal)
  • What flipping let's students do:
    • Students can pause, rewind, and re-watch lessons at their own pace
    • Students don't have to worry about getting behind when they are absent due to illness or extracurricular activities
    • Students can access the content for their class anytime, anywhere on any device.
    • Students become active learners and self-reflective, knowing when they need to rewind, or pause the material to ensure their understanding. Basically students are in full control of their learning
    • Students aren't stuck on homework problems anymore because now the teacher is here when they need them.
    • They don't get as frustrated by homework assignments because they work on the problems in class where there is support.
    • Students can discuss and make meaning of the content (higher up on bloom's taxonomy)
    • Students who are proficient can work ahead on lessons and challenge themselves
    • They can review material from any time in the year without waiting to see the teacher (or a response from her e-mail)
    • Students learn to manage time and are held accountable for their time in class
    • They receive instant feedback
From my perspective here is why I like flipping. I encourage my students to realize that their actions have results. I don't give bathroom passes. If they want to leave they can, but I won't repeat myself. I hardly take away phone, if they want to text and lose out on the lesson then they need to realize they won't understand things.

Flipping a class allows students to be in charge of their own education! They can control if they need to watch it again. They can control if they need to pause to understand a concept. They can stop it and do jumping jacks if they need their blood flowing!

However, like Crystal, I do think that the videos should be engaging AND the students should be engaged. 

Whether this is through asking questions in the video, making students to KWL sheets in Crystal's case: having her students WSQ.

Have them huh? Her WSQ (pronounced whisk)
W They watch the 8-15 minute video and take notes in their Student Success Sheet packets.
S Students write a summary of the main points of the concept. They are either given sentence starters to use as support or key questions to answer to guide their summary. (The questions make sure that they know what you want them to know)
Q Finally like any good AVID student they question! They either need to ask something that they don't know the answer to, or a question that they want to challenge the class with. The questions should be HOT (Higher Order Thinking) as this leads to good quality discussions

Sometimes they use Google forms to submit the students answers (instant feedback wohoo!) and paperless (save the trees!) A teacher can read all the answers because they do it outside the class. I have used Google forms before but am always hesitant due to Google’s less than stellar privacy policy, but I may just need to suck it up and admit defeat. Especially because one of the attendees just introduced me to Flubaroo which looks very appealing for Concept Check assignments.

OK we're coming up to my favorite part. She, a math teacher, said that she wanted her students TWIRLING every day Thinking, Writing, Interacting, Reading and Listening! (she had speaking as well, but I am going to say that's covered in interacting). How great is that? She acknowledges the benefits of a well-rounded classroom! Why can't we all do that? I expect my students to calculate the totals on exams and figure out their percentages. I think whole brain learning is always best!

So, personally to me (after my 2 hour flipping crash course), I don't think I would want to flip classes every day but I do think that it will be helpful when working on essays, paragraph structure, grammar points etc. 

The other classes are usually interactive already (focusing on speaking and small groups) and flipping wouldn't be the best fit.

If you want to know more about how Crystal flipped check out her blog, you can also see her worksheets and samples of student’s work:

Do you flip? Did you have questions?  Do you know of a good alternative to Google forms?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Don't flip out! It is just a flipped class! (part1)

Notes regarding the last webinars I attended are still coming, but I managed to get some stuff in on Flipped classes today!

First I listened to Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams talk about Flipped Classes in an ASCDWebinar, and here's what turned up :)

OK first let me say LOTS of people have said LOTS of things about flipped classes. They gave us a few links at the beginning, if you end up being interested or just have more questions you should really check them out!

Most people look at flipped classes as: "Classwork is done at home and homework is done at class" This is part of it, but they broke it down to some easy to see steps.

First off as a teacher you have to think. "What is the most valuable use of class time?"

For me, as an ESL teacher, it is speaking practice (pronunciation), them hearing native speakers, them getting to play with the language, writing, critical thinking and peer grading (which I standby as one of the best ways to learn).

To me, Aaron Sams said it best when he said, "We want students engaged in science, not listening in science." He admits that it started when he would record his lessons for his students. That way when someone missed class they could watch the class and catch up on the main ideas and then see the teacher with specific questions (YAY time savers)

In the end they decided to use the videos for the bottom two tiers of Bloom's Taxonomy (recollection and understanding) and trying to do the more complicated parts of Blooms together in class (analyzing, applying and evaluating) and possibly creating!

As a TBL lover this is great point. By moving the first two steps to home we have time in class to work on something more involved.

An important part to note is that the videos aren't always the first time the students see the information. Sometimes teachers give the videos at the start of a lesson. Other times they'll throw in in the middle. And yes, even sometimes at the end. The great thing is there's no WRONG way to do this!

Myths and Misconceptions:
  • Flipped classrooms are all about the videos. 
    • They are important to give you time to do COOL stuff, but they aren't the be all and end all of flipped classes. In some ways most upper division classes I've taken have been flipped. We were expected to do all the reading and research out of class so we could discuss and debate in class.
  • Flipped classroom relies on homework 
    • They suggested that you have stations, like in Elementary school, to avoid the homework concept. What about the Have vs. the Have Nots? Assign that homework to be done in school not at home just outside of the period (which is hard for athletes). Personally I think this part was a little weak and that with most of my students' schedules it would have to be done at home.
  • Flipped classrooms create a digital divide.
    • If a student doesn't have the internet you can put the videos on flash drives. If they have no computers you can burn the videos onto DVDs. The problems get bigger if you don't have a DVD burner, but you can write grants, ask the community for computer donations, ask a local tec company if anyone can refurbish some computers to help a school. Where there's a will there's a way!
  • Flipped classrooms propagate bad teaching (lectures). 
    • Lectures can be bad. They can be students falling asleep and teachers droning on and on, or they can be dynamic interactive classes. The same goes with videos. If we make interactive media rich videos then it is not encouraging bad teaching, it is giving us more time to teach in class while engaging students in a manner they are used to. They can be interactive. They are interesting. They are media rich for the YouTube generation.
  • Flipped teaching is only for math and science.
    • There's a PE teacher known as the flipped coach: Jason Hahnstadt. Basically, he feels that as a PE coach we spend too much time telling students how to move instead of them spending time moving. Check him out at If you can do it with PE then you can do it with any subject! 
  • Flipped classrooms will solve all your problems and make your classes perfect.. 
    • It is NOT magic! As Jon Bergermann said, "It won't solve all of your problems in class. You still have to be a good teacher."
So what is it?
  • A tool in the tool box. It is a tool in the tool box that you can use when it works.
  • Use the idea as a stepping stone/bridge to make best combination of homework/classwork you can use with your students 
  • Try to think of a flipped classroom as flipping the attention away from the teacher and flipping the attention toward the student.
The webinar discussed how helpful it is for special ed students (since they can repeat the information as often as needed) however I don't have special ed students so I didn't focus so much on that part.

  • What about students who can't learn from videos? (We recognize there are different learners)
    • Basically this allows students to use the videos as one way to learn, but allowing them to have others if needed. Basically it is applying self-differentiation. You assign tons of options of how they can get the knowledge and then they choose what works best for them.
  • You can also apply this to students' assessments. Students need different ways to represent that they have learned something. (It's why I give 5-7 different assignments for short stories and allow students to pick 3)
  • What about the kid who doesn't watch the video?
    • No magic bullet, this is just like every student who doesn't do homework.
    • Some teachers have students watch in the back and they just miss out on in class time.
So how can you easily flip your class?
My great IH San Diego students flipped!
  • Flip assessments
  • Flip the tools (iMovie, Prize, etc.)
  • I see myself flipping
    • Essay structure
    • Grammar points
    • Some of my TOEFL lessons
How long will it take to flip a school?
I thought this was interesting to note:

The first year: You will be working on something new, but keep at it!
The second year: You will have some bugs, yet things will be getting better.
The third year: Almost there you'll just be getting rid of some wrinkles.
By the end of the third year: Everyone will know that this is just the way things are done.

Well it was nice to hear from teachers and see the questions other teachers had. Parts of the flipped classroom seem appealing, and while I don't think I would flip my whole class I may flip a lesson or two along the way. 

The mentioned their book is out so if flipping classes is something you want to learn more about you may like to check it out.

(I found another webinar the same day! If you want to hear what I learned from a teacher using this now check it out here 

Have you had a chance to try flipping classes? What do you think? Or why haven't you done it yet?
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