Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pinterest to get teaching ideas

That lovely bunch of smiley faces is my family. Four of the eight adults are or have been English Teachers. So usually when I hit a brick wall or need help on a topic I pull an E.T. and call home.

However, the internet has truely changed how I can react. There is help all over the place, though I still call my mother quite often. While most of my friends plan their upcoming weddings (real or imaginary) on pinterest I tend to find the some great teaching ideas and graphics on pinterest...and what an easy way to organize them!

For example I have a bunch of pictures/comics related to punctuation: some of them I have found and some of them I have raided of other people's pinterest boards.

So I can divide things up by category: Grammar, Basic things related to being an English Teacher

I also have board for each of the classes I teach so later I don't need to remember what that article I used last year was, or where I found that great comic that one time.

Topics I teach in my TOEFL class, or my Advanced I class.

Anytime someone likes or Re-Pins one of my suggestions I get told. That is helpful since most people who like things that I like are probably collecting things that I can also use in my classes!

Do you use pinterest? Should I be raiding your board? Please let me know if there's anything about Pinterest you that I am missing!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reading Materials for Free!

I am not always lucky enough to have books with me
I don't have a bookshelf that travels with me from location to location, but I always try to give my students varied reading choices regardless of the empty shelves! I can have access to so many stories with the click of a mouse.

Magazines, blogs and newspapers are all an awesome source of reading materials, but sometimes it is nice to have something a bit more permanent. When you change age groups as much as I did it is nice to know that there are some free reading sources you can legally get (I can't very well discipline at students for plagiarizing if I don't keep to the same moral code)! Following is a quick non-comprehensive list of sites I have found helpful for reading materials.

If you teach the younger crowd check out WeGiveBooks. I would have KILLED to have known about this site when I was teaching pre-school and kindergarten (or even when I au-paired in the Netherlands). In addition to free e-books (many of them popular children's books not just similar characters doing similar things) when you finish reading a book you can click to donate a book! As a San Diego girl I LOVE that the San Diego Padres are behind this. How great is that?! They also have resources for teachers (everyone from pre-school to 12th grade!) So to summarize, you get free books, you get to help out people who also need free books, AND the Padres rock :) 

  • Wily Writers is a place I have found some great short stories. My favorite part is that you can normally contact the authors to let them know that you are using their story. Sometimes they will answer questions from your students, other times you can set up a skype date. If nothing else you can have students e-mail them a thank you. For example I was lucky enough to find Jess Hartley who has written some great short stories we used in my class and was kind enough to chat with my students! More on that here. They also quite often have the audio version of the story.
  • Free-e-books well with a name like this there isn't much left to the imagination. With a bigger focus on newer e-books this site is a nice way to find some modern examples of English for students to read.They have "educational" books, general non fictionhumor, short stories, and young adult. With so many options there has to be something that works for you.
  • NEW (added 6/16) Smashwords is a site I was just introduced to and it is AWESOME. It has books for sale as well as freebies. They seem to add new books every day for a constant supply of good reads.
  • NEW (added 3/15/2013Flip Builder  is a cute java site that has people actually "turning" pages. Not everything is free but the collection for little ones is pretty cute!
Made for Teachers
  • ESLMonkeys is a great site as well! A lot of the books are resource books, and there are a bunch of dead links but there's also some great interactive reading sites linked (Ghost Forest has a trailer to entice you into reading more.) ESLMonkeys also links to a short story by Robert Norris who in addition to selling his story as an e-book, a podcast and in print offers it to teachers and students for free online! The Many Roads to Japan: A Search for Identity is about John Banks and how he ends up in Japan. Basically the site has tons of fun free stories that English Language learners are sure to find interesting.
  • ELCivics isn't my favorite but for newer teachers who aren't comfortable enough working with authentic materials it offers 3 easy to use books with quick short stories and comprehension questions. It looks like it is designed for lower intermediate adults, but it is definitely worth a look.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers has 2,972 Guided Reading worksheets right now. 349 of which are free! They have every age level up to worksheets for adults. Similar to BusyTeacher these often contain built in activities as well! If you don't already have an account you can go straight to their sign-up page here
  • BusyTeacher Many teachers share not only worksheets but graded readers, short stories, magazine articles, etc. Often they even include activities. 

Most of these you can access with any normal computer, however I know that reading tablets are all the rage now. My friend has a kindle and swears by it so you may want to consider the investment.

Where do you go to find reading? Do you use more magazines and articles or do you prefer books?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer TOEFL

Oh TOEFL TOEFL TOEFL. Well, this year I have taught my first TOEFL class ever. It went... well. The class was a TOEFL class and a writing class. Not as many students passed as we would have liked, so when I give the class again in the Summer it will just a be a TOEFL course.

I am in the process of re-writing the course (with supplementary materials to make a 3 hour daily TOEFL course slightly less boring)

I am trying to add some songs whenever possible Madonna's Love Profusion for when we review uncountable nouns (and more importantly the quantifiers that go with them) and mainly because I LOVE the music video "5 people 1 guitar" I used Somebody that I used to know for Subject / Verb agreement.

Hopefully this Summer goes well!

Friday, May 25, 2012


To all teachers of idioms.

Idioms can be confusing. Is a Monster in the closet literally... or figuratively? And what does it mean figuratievly anyways?

My students are actually pretty good at these (YAY for one thing I don't need to review for this Summer's TOEFL course) but what I really like about this site is the ability to find idioms in other languages.

This way you can give students an example of something that is not literal in their language (compared to a direct translation of the english idiom).

Yes yes I know I know avoid translations when possible, but this is something I have found that really helps students understand the concept behind idioms rather than just memorizing words which don't seem to make sense.

The site:

Let me know how you teach idioms or what you think of the site!

Or try using dictoglosses, movies, songs or any other vocabulary trick if translating rubs you the wrong way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

2nd Evaluation

Well I improved! That's always a good thing :)

My boss actually came into my office yesterday to tell me that my evaluations this time had improved. I wouldn't be able to view the evaluations until the 18th, but he just wanted to let me know.

That took some pressure off me and I was not dreading reading my evaluations.

My 7am/3pm classes were a little mixed. They felt that since they needed a good TOEFL grade to pass they should have had more TOEFL practice. We did do TOEFL practice, buta lot of it was "hidden" in other activities. We also did lots of reading, but it wasn't multiple choice TOEFL style.

Anyways, we decided the students are right and we are changing the class to be more TOEFL based. Most the reviews were pretty generic:

"Fun class, i like to go..she makes interesting the class." 

"Sus clases son muy dinamicas, lo que convierte a la materia en una clase interesante y motivadora." 

"muy buena maestra, buenas clases,comprensible y buena para enseñar."

"Excellent! Teacher maybe i really don't love your explanations buy i love the way we practiced all, you put a lot of time to plained our class, i think you were my best english teacher ever! i've learned more english in this class than in all my life really! but all depends about my toefl score, that is the bad thing :c jajajaja but i really will miss you"

"I love this class. Just one thing i do not like; take the class in the afternoon is so annoying. But the class is ok." 
Those made me happy since I do try to make class interesting.

My 8:30 class had a lot of duplicates. A few chatty students, but overall I think they did well:

"Nice teacher just a little weird"

"Excelente teacher, me gustan sus clases, siento que pasan bien rápido, me divierto y aprendo."
"A very good teacher. The best teacher in the ITESM."

"Excelente profesora, aunque puede llegar a aplicar metodos poco ortodoxos alguna vez, es capaz de llegar a nosotros los jovenes para poder aprender de una manera mas esencial y no solo por 'machetear'."

and finally

"Hello Carissa, you´re a great teacher, although you scream often, it´s okay, because your class is better that way. You´re class is very fun, we always do different things and try to support us in every way. Thanks for the consult, we´ll meet again at you´re office ;)"

So I am improving...I suppose that's good ... though now I am a bit nervous about continuing to improve, I suppose I can just keep trying the hardest that I can. 
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