Friday, December 27, 2013

Good, Bad, Ugly #1

Good: Explaining to a student why their behavior is inappropriate, in a clear and non threatening fashion

Bad: Threatening or losing your temper with a student.

Ugly:  Eating your student

Good: Encouraging a student's dream or suggesting an alternative that they may enjoy.

Bad: Starting a fight with your student about their dreams.

Ugly:  Being eaten by your student

For more comics from pbf check out the book!

For classroom management tips, check out this post

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Five tips to travelers back home

You've lived abroad!

Whether it be through teaching, studying, or just traveling you had the chance to get out of your country and travel a bit! Awesome right?!

Here's some advice from someone who has been there before on how to successfully reintegrate yourself back home.

This one time I was snorkeling in Egypt...
1. Don't start every conversation with, "This one time in _______."

You don't mean to, but you come off as snobby. I did it all the time, "At this bar in Singapore." "This one time in Bangkok" "Oh my God, so my friend Ashley and were in Cambodia and...."
It is GREAT that you have traveled, but  unless the country is KEY to the story just stick to the basics, "A friend and I were at this restaurant," "My ex boyfriend and I were hanging out at a bar," "I was in class and..." if they ask for details go ahead and tell them, but by not name dropping you'll avoid shoving your experiences in their faces.

2. Don't be a know it all, "Actually in _______ they don't do that."

Actually all tigers are attracted to bright colors
Friend, "I wish they had chopsticks I hate eating Pad Thai with forks"
You, "Actually in Thailand they don't use chopsticks"
Other Friend, "That's weird my friend is Thai and he always has chopsticks"
You, "I've been to Thailand, so I think I know what I am talking about."
Oh good, now you look ridiculous. Instead of pretending that your year in Thailand (or week) has made you an expert, acknowledge that there are other perspectives.

Friend, "I wish they had chopsticks I hate eating Pad Thai with forks"
You, "Actually in Thailand they don't use chopsticks"
Other Friend, "That's weird my friend is Thai and he always has chopsticks"
You, "Huh, that is weird. I guess it must vary from region to region or on the meal. When I was there my tour guide told me they didn't, but that may be an over generalization"

For the record usually it is just the noodle dishes that use chopsticks (and that varies).

3. Explore your country
This is from a California road trip
When I live abroad I go site seeing almost every week. I see local villages, learn about he culture and food, and discover hidden gems of history. Then I return home and realize I know nothing about my home town.

Make an effort to make some day trips to see what is near your city. Do some digging on local history. Eat out in places that are rated well. Be a tourist and join a walking tour. Just because you're back home doesn't mean you have to go back to your old routine. Plus, now that you've seen some of the world you'll appreciate some things more. The Spanish architecture in San Diego really does look like Spain!

Find out what's so great about your city and embrace that. Avoid comparing it to where you've been though. I miss living in the Netherlands with great Belgian beer available all the time, but San Diego has a great local beer breweries and I've learned to appreciate waiting for the seasonal beers down here in Mexico.

4. Stay in touch

Jamie, Carissa, and Ashley at the Lantern Festival
Facebook has made this easier, but don't get lazy with it. Keep in touch with the friends you made abroad. Especially with those who speak other languages. You'll want to keep writing and reading in that language so you don't lose it.

Even those that speak English with you can be great contacts down the road. The picture on the left is my Singapore roommate and our good friend Ashley. Ashley and I met in Singapore in 2004. We kept in touch and met up again in 2007 when we backpacked through Europe and parts of Africa together. Oh...and again when I met her in Paris in 2009. The basic gist being, if you meet people who travel a lot, your paths will cross.

Also, finding someone you travel well with, is like finding someone you can be in a relationship with. I would not want to travel with all of my friends, so the friends that I can travel with I make sure to keep in touch with.  

5. Help others out

We met in Korea, then the Netherlands, then Spain!
Give a review of the program you studied with. Let your University know that you are willing to e-mail students who are considering going abroad. Join a Facebook group for au-pairs in the country you lived in. You lived there. You survived. You have something to tell. 
Did you realize that shampoo was crazy expensive in Spain? Let people know. Was the visa process in the Netherlands way easier than you thought? Let people know. Did you find an AMAZING hostel in Salamanca? Let people know.
You have all this knowledge to share and I am sure you appreciated getting a tip from someone else.
For example, to my right is my friend Lauren. She and I met in Korea, then ended up in the Netherlands at the same time. After that, I went to Spain. I told her about my Masters and she was interested. After answering a few more questions and sending her towards the admissions department she ended up applying and studying in Spain the next year! You never know how you can help someone.
Here's the problem though, you always seem to get these e-mails from people who haven't done ANY research on their own...and you're busy! No problem. Make up a form e-mail now that answers most questions or suggests your favorite secrets. Send this out with a quick note, "Hey I am sorry this is so fast, I am grading hundred of papers right now (no joke!). Read through this for some ideas and check out this travel forum for more. If you have any more questions get back to me and I'll help you out. This way you haven't wasted your time, but you've given them a serious nudge in the right direction.

There are my five tips to people returning home after they've lived abroad, but I know there are more! What do you think is the most important thing?

The flow of information online

This is a picture of my good friend Veronica. Veronica and I met abroad a few years back and now she's teaching in Vermont. She's trying to show that  pictures on the internet are fluid. That means that they can move around very easily.

Now, the problem is Veronica is about to get fired because there are naked pictures of her on the internet. It isn't her fault! There was one naked picture ... once, she sent it to her boyfriend and well... somehow it got sent to someone else....and someone else...and now there's a whole website full of them. It's just a big mess and the school board feels it makes her an unfit teacher.

Now, if she can prove that it is possible for a picture to travel around  the world WITHOUT her knowledge then she won't get fired.

This is really important everyone, so please do me a favor and share this picture.

OK, how much of that was believable? Most of it! How much of it was true? Absolutely none.

I don't know this teacher, and her first name isn't Veronica. She isn't in Vermont and there are NO NAKED PICTURES!

However, none of that matters. Once I have a picture I can do whatever I want with it. Is it illegal? Sometimes. Is it wrong?  Yes. Is it easy to stop? No! The internet is a big place, and Ms. Held probably wouldn't see this (especially with the fake name and such). But someday someone could meet her and remember seeing this story.

So, yes Ms. Held is right. You cannot control where it goes. You also CANNOT control what someone will say about it. Be CAREFUL with what you put online, and when you are writing ALWAYS double check your sources!!! Otherwise you will just spread misinformation even further, and (if you are a student) your grade will be affected. If you aren't a student your reputation could be affected!

Please be aware of what you put online, but also be aware of what information you take away (and this goes for teachers too!).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

End of Semester Gifts for students

I posted before about presents I suggest students bring for their teachers. In all fairness this blog talks about gifts I can give my students. I've seen this done a lot of different ways and I'll go over five of my favorites.

To start, why do I try to give students presents? Usually after a semester I really feel that I have bonded with my students. They've grown, I've grown. We've all grown. I feel like together we helped make each other better. It may also make them like English a little better, which is helpful for the next teacher they have.

1. Have an auction. Some teachers use a points system for participation. Other teachers give out these points (stickers or play money) but they don't use them for a grade. At the end of the semester, they hold an auction and auction off goodies to the students. It is a great chance to practice English for the EFL classes, but all classes get competitive as they bid on silly items. Go to your local dollar store and pick up frames, glasses, silly straws etc. I also know teachers that simply take this time to clean out their office / house and gift old puzzles, toys and other items. Students love this!

A local cafe I can take small classes
2. Take them out. Due to costs I can only do this with small classes, but I like to take them off campus. We grab a coffee (my treat) and just talk. In the end I thank them all for their time and effort in class and give them each a thank you letter from me detailing what I enjoyed most about having them in my class and including my e-mail to keep in touch should they need me in the future. I know other teachers who have dinners at their house. If your district allows this and your students are of the age where it is appropriate, then great! If you can have a small pizza party and invite parents even better.

3. Give a punny note. Sometimes I have too many students to take out, or I don't have the time to write them each heartfelt letters. In that case, I embrace the inner cheeseball that I am and give each student a small note attached to a pencil, eraser, or candy. They all groan at my corniness, but I usually get a few chuckles out of them. This works well for me even though I teach older students, but that's because I often use these puns for teaching pronunciation. If you are interested in doing something like this using your favorite search engine (or pimterest) should turn up lots of fun ideas! Even easier, to get a free pdf sheet of owls (like above) simply share this page with a tweet and you'll be taken to the file.             

Sample pages
The cover
(names covered)

4. Make it personal! I don't mean that you make them something (though that is an option!). Take something they have made. For example, before my students work on The Walrus and the Carpenter I give them each a stanza and have them illustrate it. Then we go through and discuss words they didn't know and what they think the poem will be about. We read the poem together and discussed the differences and made note of what the new vocabulary meant in context. Then I collected their drawings and never mentioned them again. At the end of the year I give them each a little photocopied book of the Walrus and the Carpenter illustrated by them! If your students have written a book, or a poem and did it well framing it and giving it back to them at the end of the year is a nice gift.

5. Make it yummy! These days of dietary restrictions (gluten free, peanut allergy, etc.) can be hard, but if you cook something that is permitted on campus go ahead and bring in some brownies or cookies. Even better! Keep it related to English by giving them the recipe. Then they will remember you every time they start to make a batch of your famous treacle. If you can combine this with number three, it makes it an affordable goodbye they'll always remember.

What did I miss? What do you do for your students at the end of your time together?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Gifts for Teachers

Around this time of the year I see a lot of posts on Facebook. What should I get my child's teacher fro Christmas?

I've seen some posts telling you what NOT to get, and honestly, I disagree with most of them. Other than illegal items, most teachers appreciate ANYTHING!

Here are five different types of presents that can fit any budget and every teacher.

Even if you don't have the time or money to get a gift, I always appreciate a card. The ones I like best aren't fancy; they are genuine. I just received one that was cut out of an old cereal box and said, "Than you so much for the classes you gave our son." Simple, sweet and it really meant a lot to me.

A lot of teachers jokes about the amount of gift cards that they receive. We get a lot of Barnes and Noble and Starbucks gift-cards. That's sweet too! Again, I appreciate them even more when there's a note, "Thanks for getting my child excited about reading. Please use this to buy more books to get another child excited." Any denomination is great! Some parents have expressed concern that a $5 gift certificate is too paltry. Not at all!
However, if you want to do something bigger contemplate teaming up with other parents. If you and 10 other parents each gave $5 you could get a $50 gift certificate to some place.

Pinterest is FULL of these! A six pack of soda with a note that says, "We're so-darn happy you are our kid's teacher." A basket with Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars with a note that says, "We need s'more teachers like you" etc. etc.

My cat looking dapper in his tie
If you paid attention to your teachers notes or your child's assignments you probably know a few things about your teacher. For example, my students know that I have a cat. Often I'll get cat treats, a new collar, etc. My students also know that I eat when I grade, so sometimes I get a box of nuts or dried fruit encouraging me to snack and not fail anyone. These gifts mean a lot because it shows that our classes actually meant something!
This also includes making scrapbooks, collecting letters from students, having students sign a t-shirt, framing a class photo, etc. 

Really :) I get a lot of handmade gifts and I appreciate every one of them. If you make jam, salsa, cookies, scarves, bracelets, frames, etc. I am sure your teacher would appreciate this. If you want to give each teacher a candle, a purse, or a package of pens. Amazing! The important thing is to spell the teacher's name right, and be sure you let us know you appreciate us...even just a little.

So those are probably the big five categories  to consider when gifting for your teacher! Thank you so much for being the type of person who cares enough to thank the teacher :-)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Classroom Management Books

I’ve written a lot about classroom management because I feel it is one of the things that people expect teachers to just, “learn.” While it is true that every teacher needs to learn their own personal classroom management personality, that’s no reason not to learn from others.

This blog will cover three books covering the topic of Classroom Management

Price: Currently $28.00 Length: About 72 pages
Special Education Classroom Management for Urban Teachers is a quick read written specifically for Elementary and Middle School teacher who have special education students. I recently saw a Facebook post by the British Council about Special Ed students in EFL classes. I don’t often see this topic mentioned, so I thought it was nice to catch this e-book on sale.
The author is an Educational Consultant Adrienne Johnson and the entire book is basically about the premise that, “Learning will not occur until the environment is conducive to learning.”
This is a pretty quick read that is great for new teachers, or teachers who are new to public schools. It has seven chapters. The first chapters include tips useful for any class and chapter six is specifically for special ed students. I didn’t really read anything that was groundbreaking, but I didn’t disagree with anything I read!
Most of the advice was solid and advice I follow and share with teachers: Make rules and stick to them.
Keep your students from goofing off
Some of the advice was a bit different than what I do: Review your rules every day so your students know that the rules are not negotiable. Nonetheless, I understand why it would be useful, and see why Adrienne suggests teachers do this.
The book basically gives general advice and then goes through with specific ways to follow that advice. Such as, “Beware of empty time,” as a teacher you can have learning centers, give students worksheets, or keep books out for students to read during their down time. 
Now, the author has one chapter specifically for Special Ed and that advice seems pretty solid. Again if you are a newer teacher or one who has never taught in a public school before this is a great book filled with some logical advice.

You don't need to yell!
Price: Currently $5.05 Length: About 133 pages  
Classroom Management Made Easy: Eliminate discipline problems by teaching students how to take responsibility for their own behavior is by Wayne Sheldrick.
I am a HUGE fan of teaching students responsibility. Yes, you may go to the bathroom, but you are responsible for the information taught while you are gone. Yes, you may turn work in like, but you will lose points.
This book essentially reviews a method of classroom management which encourages students to really learn responsibility for these actions.
Do you want to teach students to mindlessly follow your rules?
Are you looking for a way to punish students whenever possible?
Is your job just to teach your subject and nothing else?
If you answered no to the previous questions you may find Wayne’s book a useful read.

Price: Currently $.96 Length: About 160 pages  
I am going to end with the longest book Effective Classroom Management: An Interactive Textbook is a book compiled by Michael S. Mills. However, as stated the book is based on the, “accomplishments (and failures) of so many teachers.” As such it used to be free, now it is still under $1!
This book is probably the most jam packed. It covers different methodologies, different problems and different solutions.  One the other hand, I also find it a bit… chaotic to read. Nonetheless, it really gives you a very well rounded approach to many different classroom management ideas.

Are there any must reads you have found that revolutionized the way you manage your class? Is there a great book you would suggest for new teachers that covers all the basics? I’d love to check out your suggestions. Tweet me @eslcarissa or leave a comment below.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pronunciation and the Punchline

Here's a YouTube video of the recent class I held as part of WizIQs eltTechniques MOOC (it is still going on now and you can join to watch the sessions remaining live AND catch recordings of the ones passed)

Overall I rambled too much, but I covered some great ways to include jokes in your pronunciation lessons. If you are interested go ahead and give it a look. If you use jokes in your class to focus on teaching pronunciation in some other way I'd LOVE to hear about it.

Please get in touch with me, so I can learn form you :)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alphabet Books - Sharing Internationally

My students finished their alphabet books a couple of weeks ago, but I have been so busy I haven't had a chance to write about them!

One of the grammar points written into Advanced I is Participial Phrases! Normally, as a way to practice, I have the class write an alphabet book together which we then share with a friend of mine who has little children.

This year, I had a goal to be more global with my students' activities. As a result, I wanted to take this project one step further. In small groups my students each made their own alphabet books about animals, fruit, video games, or whatever they wanted the theme to be.

When they submitted the final I would grade it, but they would NOT receive the book back because we sent our books to other schools around the world!

In addition, the students had to submit their books in electronic form (PPT, PDF, etc.).

Not only was this a great grammar activity, my students and I also increased out digital literacy by finding sites with graphics they could legally attribute and use. They were quite shocked when I said that just Googling an image and attributing it is not an acceptable practice.

The fact that students were sending their work to other schools made this at least a little more exciting than most school projects (some students were REALLY excited!). In fact, the next class after they had submitted their final books one student asked me, "Teacher what the the students think?"

Well, once I hear back from them, I am excited to let my students know!

In the end, I definitely think I need to make it clearer that students need to correct their grammar when I tell them to correct their grammar, but overall I am happy with our final project and am sending out the e-books to teachers today!

I am hoping to do something similar next semester, so if you are interested please contact me.

Here are some sample pages from the e-books: 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ITESMs Inaugural Dream Flags

This is for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly carnival focusing on providing blogs to ESL teachers around the globe. If you'd like to contribute to next month's Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at, for more information and check out the other bloggers contributions here.

"What lesson or moment are you most proud of in the classroom?"

I don't know if I could pick one, but I can pick the most recent!
This semester I made it a priority to have my students do work which would NOT just stay in the classroom. One aspect of this was that we made dream flags!
We started the semester talking about hopes and dreams and kept that theme going throughout the short stories and assignments. 

When it got down to it we had a day or two of poetry where we made poetry videos discussing different types of poetry (Catalog, Diamante, Haiku, etc.)
Picking their favorite type of poem, students created their own poems about their dreams and put them on dream flags.

What are dream flags? Well, to the right is the description we posted along with our flags.
Basically, dream flags are an international art and poetry project inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags and Langston Hughes' poetry. 

It is a chance for students to contemplate and reflect about different dreams that we have and embrace in the similarities.

Once a year in Philadelphia there is a Dream Flag ceremony where schools that are able to are invited to send their flags to be displayed along others made during this event.

How did we go about making the dream flags?

After the students wrote their poems, their teacher looked over them for spelling or grammar errors. I was sure to keep in mind that poetry, unlike an essay, doesn't have to follow traditional grammar rules. My students LOVED this as it gave them the chance to be more creative and really play with the language.

Then, each student got a piece of material (usually a cut up t-shirt) that was about the size of a piece of paper (8.5 by 10). It was a windy day so we taped it down to the table to be sure it didn't fly off.

Most students wrote their poems down in marker first, but some of them went straight to paint.

After the basic poem was written down many students went over the text in a different color, or with sparkles.

Then they used the markers, stamps, and paints to decorate the rest of their flag however they liked.
At the end we carefully took them to my office where we spread them out to dry.
While we were doing this some students from other English classes came by and had the chance to work on their own flag! The catch? They had to write and speak in English! My students could help them with their poems (and I would play the video we made), but we had to communicate in English.

In the end the students made unique flags to represent their unique dreams!

Some of them still had errors, but the meaning and hope still manages to show through!

 Once we finished, we strung them up on campus and let people see what they were.
We also uploaded them to the dream flags gallery where other schools involved in the project can see them
I am looking forward to doing this again with next semester's class. Plus, in the next semester we'll send this batch of flags (and the next semesters) to Philadelphia for the ceremony which is really exciting for my students.

For more information on the dream flag project (like how to join or its history you can check out

If you end up being part of the dream flag project please let me know, so I can take a look at your students' creations! You can comment here, tweet me at @eslcarissa or find me on facebook 

Free Joke E-Books

I have read some, though not all, of these.

I would not suggest using all of these jokes in your class, but this is just an example of how many FREE jokes are out there!

As a teacher it is up to YOU to find the best jokes for your class.

If you don't have a kindle that's OK you can download the free app and use it on your tablet or smart phone. No smart phone? That's OK too! you can read them on the computer!

PLEASE be sure to double check before purchasing these. Most free e-books are only free temporarily. As of 8am (my time) December 4th, these were all free, ,but that could change literally any minute.

Also, be kind. If you are reading a book you didn't pay for, it is considered polite to leave a review for the author.

For more information on using jokes to teach pronunciation, check out my free presentation!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...