Thursday, November 28, 2013

The ten students who make me thankful

This face makes me a better teacher!

I am thankful for my students. 

1. The ones who give me their best "Oh my god teacher I am so bored I want to die" faces during class because they let me know that I need to try something new.
2. The ones that push me to the edge of my patience and make me a more patient person. Because, yes, for the thirtieth time, I do take late work, but I'll deduct points.
3. The ones that eagerly come to class ... some days I really need to see their smiling faces. Furthermore, while in class they work hard!
4. The ones that are utter terrors in the classroom only to be friendly and kind in the hallways. 
5. The ones that come to my office for extra help even when they don't need it.
6. The ones that come to my office for extra help because they know they need it.
7. The ones that get that look on their face when they fin
ally get a topic.
8. The ones that learn! 
9. The ones that don't! They are the ones that force me to reach into my bag of teaching tricks and try something new.

I am very thankful for them all, but this year I am especially thankful for one student.
He was very nervous when he started this semester. He had never taken an English course before, but they put him in the highest course of University English due to his TOEFL score. He was really nervous about keeping his athletic scholarship and keeping up in class.

We talked and he decided that he would stay in the class and try his hardest to manage. I insisted my door was always open. His writing wasn't the strongest, but he tried hard and it did improve.

In order to pass this class students must achieve a certain score on the TOEFL. The day before their final exam I received the TOEFL scores and this student did not pass. In fact his score went down. I was devastated. He was such a sweet student I hated to break the news to him.

Nonetheless, I was eager to send the e-mail that night so at the least he wouldn't need to get up early to take the exam. I let him know the bad news, but ended it by telling him he did not need to come in at 7am to take the final, so there was a silver lining.

His response broke my heart. The following is the gist though the emphasis is mine:

"I am very sad teacher, and I am sorry I let you down. I really enjoyed my semester with you.

If it is alright with you, I would still like to take the test with my classmates tomorrow. We started the semester together and I would like to finish it with them."

To end, with number 10. I am so grateful to have kind, genuine students in my life. Students who really feel the need to try hard and aren't afraid to make mistakes.

I am SO sorry this student felt he let me down (and I let him know that HE did not do ANYTHING wrong. The TOEFL PBT is not my favorite test for this purpose).

I am starting to ramble, so I will tie it all together. I am so thankful for the other teachers (online and in person) I interact with. Thank you for inviting me into your classrooms to learn from your lessons and students. Thank you for looking into my classes via my blog and lessons, and commenting to I can become a better teacher.

I am SO fortunate, and I bet you are too!

What are you thankful for?
All photos from this post are under a creative commons license 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Not-a-Holiday Lessons

I am not sure I can pick a favorite holiday lesson, or type of lesson so I'll summarize it as such. I try not to do literal "holiday lessons." Partly, this is because I teach at a school where all of my students are mostly Mexican and are already familiar with American holidays. So, unlike in the past, I can't have them present on a holiday from their culture and share it with the class.

I have also taught in America where, in some cases, there are students whose families don{t want them to have holiday lessons. As a result what I do like to do is letting my lessons be influenced by the seasons and holidays.

I like to do things with snow.
After the horrible Sandy Hook shooting I encouraged my students to make snowflakes to send to the school. I love origami lessons so even with Sandy Hook having students teach one another to make different snowflakes, or practice their listening skills by following your directions is great!
With little ones I change my normal "Poor Joe" lesson into a "Poor Snow" lesson.
When teaching clothing I focus on wintery items Scarves, Hats, Earmuffs, etc.


For the Spring you can still do things with eggs and Easter related concepts without jumping into Easter directly.

Admitedly I don't usually teach in the Summer, but when I do talking about vacations and parties works better than a history lesson on the fourth of July (for me anyways).

As Halloweeny as I get is my family of pumpkins song. Normally, I just select a slightly spooky story to read.
My poetry unit centers around, "Thank you Ma'm" by Langston Hughes. So it is easy to also talk about what we are thankful for and what changes we would like to make to the world to make others feel thankful. A reference to Thanksgiving of course. When I do this in the Spring we focus on Black History Month.

Monday, November 25, 2013

ESL preschools for native English speakers?

Preschool Students
I currently teach University and High School, yet I am constantly posting games and ideas for preschool? Why? I believe that by teaching students two (or more) languages at a young age we are really giving them one of the best gifts we can. I am not the only one who thinks so! This is an article by Jordan McPelt which discusses the positives of ESL preschools for English speaking students. 

Why English Speaking Kids Should Attend a ESL Preschool

As the world gets continually smaller through social media, technology, and all the different governments overturning for change, there are so many benefits to being bi-lingual. In fact, many people are trying to learn another language themselves because they can see some real benefits to being able to communicate with a larger amount of people in the world. There are quite a few benefits to learning another language while still young in age, even as young as pre-school. If you have the option to send your children to a preschool that offers English as a second language, you should consider this school.

Lucky number 7, but is earlier better?
Optimum Age
Many people don’t realize that when a child is learning to talk, their brains are wired and ready to learn a language quickly. Professionals debate on when the window closes for the brain’s optimum point of learning a language, but most believe that it is around age six or seven. Some debate that it may go into puberty, but no matter when they believe it ends, the truth still stands that once you are past this point it is not only harder to learn another language, but even things like perfecting the accent will never come. It is considerably easier for children to learn another language and the earlier they get started, the better. Preschool age is still in these formative years and having exposure to other languages, even if it isn’t the primary language spoken in the home, so attending one with at least one other language being spoken can be very beneficial for a child.

Building the basis for future learning
Building It Up
When a person learns to speak another language, it actually becomes easier to learn more languages. This is because there are plenty of similarities between languages. The brain is also more flexible in terms of having a history of adapting to multiple words and phrases for the same thing. This helps to pave the path for more languages spoken throughout life.

Exposure to Cultures
When attending a preschool that has multiple languages spoken, there are other differences that are going to naturally come along as well. The countries of origin that these children and their families come from have many different traditions, holidays, and ways of doing things. This is because culture is deeply rooted in these families, even if they have been out of their country for years. Having your child experience all of these differences gives them a wider view of the world and lenses in which to view it. When your child learns about other cultures, they broaden their understanding by realizing their way is not the only way to do things and can learn to appreciate differences in others.

Benefit in Other Areas
Immersion programs have long been a preference for parents who opt to have them brought to their
Language skills help math
schools. When using these programs it is often a few subjects that are taught in the foreign language rather than the entire day of that language only. Research shows that these types of programs have academic benefits like higher math scores and even more sharp critical thinking skills. If you are worried that it may benefit in some areas but decease other areas, like native language skills, rest assured that children are flexible and do not have any negative affects shown in their native language speaking. It almost seems as though during these formative years where learning a language is optimum that the brain is wired to pick up and learn many different languages.

Keeping It Up
In order to keep up the language that is learned, it must be kept up. Learning a language while you are young does not mean you will be able to speak it 25 years down the road. Constant exposure to the language is required to keep it up, so the benefits extend far beyond a year or two.

What do you think? Would you send your student to an ESL preschool?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poetry 101

We started working on Poetry in my class today. First I assigned all of the students an animal and gave them some keywords and told them to write me a poem. No rules or regulations, just... write a poem. Then we listened to volunteers read their poems. Most were very dark, but a few were light. Some rhymed, some used a meter (though I am not sure they knew it). One was just a series of questions.

We just finished reading, "Thank you Ma'm," by Langhston Hughes so we went over some of his poetry about dreams.

Then I passed out a sheet that had a few of Langston Hughes poems. "Dream Keeper", "Dream Differed", "I too", etc.

I've been preparing for this for a while so we have already talked about dreams in class. We have some dreams for the world, some for Mexico, some for our generation, and some personal dreams. 
We quickly rehashed their dreams as I passed out papers to each student. Each student receieved a different type of poem (Acrostic, Haiku, Catalog, etc.). I asked them to use that type of poem to make a poem about their dream. They read the directions, saw the examples and wrote their own type of that poetry.

If they finished early I looked over it and fixed any mistakes, or encouraged them to make another one about a different dream (or continue the poem about the same dream).

You can see one of the student's dream poems to the right. It discusses her dream of becoming a lawyer in the future.
Then they watched a video of me explaining a type of poetry. (Note the volume is low so you may need to adjust your sound)
After I showed them the example I asked what they noticed. They pointed out:
  • An explanation
  • An example
They also mentioned subtitles, but I told them that was optional and not needed for their classwork.

They were divided into groups of other students who had their type of poem. Some groups picked the best poems from the group and used those as their examples. Other teams chose to write poems together. I checked to be sure each group had a tablet or cell phone to make the video. If not I had my laptop, tablet and camera available for them to use (all of the groups had technology so mine was not needed).

One group's video for catalog poems
One group's video for quatrain poems

These videos are shared with the rest of the class and compiled into one video the students can use a resource for the different types of poetry in the future!

Overall this was a really fun class! They worked well in groups and spoke a lot of English to direct things. Making the videos took about 2 minutes, but preparing to make them took about ten.

This is tying into the dream flag project my students are working on, but I'll post about that next week.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh No! Poor Snow!

Don't hate me! Maybe it is because we don't celebrate Thanksgiving down here, or the start of the red cups at Starbucks, but I am in the winter spirit! As an early gift to everyone here's a PowerPoint of a winter adaptation of one of my favorite activities for little ones!
The activity is usually called, "Poor Joe" but in this case I changed it to "Poor Snow!" we use the exact same chant except we practice on a snowman.

I encourage you to make your own snowman using body parts and clothing you want to review with your students, but this gives you an idea.

If you are planning on practicing winter clothing here's another activity you may like to try.
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Considerations for Studying abroad in the USA

Royalty Free iStock

I think studying abroad is a fantastic way to meet new people, practice languages and really get to know more of the world. I studied abroad three times when I was in University! Carman Navaro has written a great post about things to keep in mind when students are considering studying in the USA. 

Years ago, most students would never consider traveling abroad to go to school. Today, however, more and more students are taking the opportunity to learn to another country. When international students apply to schools in the United States, there are certain protocols and procedures they need to follow. Unfortunately, if students are unprepared for their international applications, it could cause a great deal of challenges.
In order to have the best possible application process, it’s important that you’re prepared for any and all challenges that may occur. The following are a few common challenges faced by international students when applying to US colleges and universities.

Processing college applications is never a quick feat, but it takes even longer when the applicant is from another country. Schools will need to provide you with certain documentation stating that you’ve been accepted, and you’ll need to provide them with proof of a student visa. If you truly want to attend an international school, it’s very important that you start applying as early as possible. This way, you’ll give the school enough time to review your application and get their needs in order, and you’ll also give yourself enough time to earn a student visa. When you start early, you will avoid any major time crunches that could prohibit you from starting school on time.

There are multiple applications to complete.
Your application is extremely important, and schools will give much thought to students who have not completed the application. Make sure that you go through the application multiple times to ensure that you have answered every question.
It’s also important that you apply for a student visa. When you do this, you also need to make sure that you complete every question thoroughly and honestly. Your applications will be seriously scrutinized, and it’s important that you are thorough and honest if you truly want to attend school in the states.
There are language barriers.
All applications will typically be provided to you in English, and if you don’t understand English, it will be very hard for you to understand and complete the application. Make sure that you hire a professional translator or have the application translated so that you can accurately complete the application and any other necessary paperwork.
When you submit your application, it’s also very likely that the administration’s office will require an English application. You will need to have your application translated so that the admissions department can read and verify your information. If you don’t submit an application in English, it could deter your chances of being accepted into the university.
There’s a lot of documentation that needs to be received and reviewed.
Since 9-11, the United States government has increased security on letting people into the county. When you apply to school, the US government is going to require a great deal of documentation from you as well as schedule an interview. Unfortunately, too many people have tried retrieving student visas as a way of sneaking into the country, and it’s important that you adhere to all rules and procedures set forth. Make sure that you have and submit any and all documentation requested from you, including birth certificates, marriage certificates, acceptance letters, financial history and anything else asked of you. You also need to make sure you attend your in-person interview and that you answer all questions honestly. If there are any glitches in your answers or anything that would cause a red flag, you will be denied a student visa.
Being prepared for the student visa process is extremely important. Always know what’s expected of you so that you avoid any hiccups in your education. If you know about the common challenges you will face, you’ll be able to overcome those challenges and start your education in the United States successfully.
This guest post was written by Carman Navaro. She is a bilingual student adviser. Carman utilizes her skills as a translator and transcriptionist to help international students complete and submit necessary documentation.
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