Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anti-Bullying Pink Shirt Day

February 25th is  Pink Shirt Day in Canada and in other areas that have picked up the trend.

Here's the story behind the name:

In 2007 at a high school in Nova Scotia, a freshman boy was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. Two senior students, David Shepard and Travis Price, saw this and decided to do something. They went to their local discount store, and bought seventy-five pink women tank tops. They reached out to their male buddies via social media and the next day they handed out the pink tank tops to all of the other boys who put them on over their normal tops.The bullies were never heard from again, and I am sure you can imagine the love that the bullied boy felt that day.

In honor of these teenagers who took a moment to right the world and do their part to stop bullying, every year on February 25th, people are encouraged to wear pink shirts and do their part to end bullying.

Here are some activities and reading you can do with your classes to celebrate.
  • Clean Paper
    • Give each student a piece of paper. Have them crumple it up. Rip it up. Scribble on it. My students have jumped u and down on it. Give them about one minute. Then tell them you want the paper back, in perfect form. Give them about five minutes to try and make their paper "perfect" again. 
  • Fill the Tube
    • Similar to the paper activity, but messier! Give each student a tube of toothpaste and a plate. See how fast they can empty their tube of toothpaste. Now give them a spoon and tell them to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
      • What lessons does this teach you?
      • Where do you see this in life?
      • Were any of you able to get your paper back to normal/toothpaste back in the tube? How long did it take?
You don't need to sacrifice a whole day to anti-bullying activities. You can still do a standard literature lesson with a bullying theme. Check out All Summer in a Day  by Ray Bradbury (You can find it in: A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories )

This is a fantastic story at a lower intermediate level. Lower grades may require more  scaffolding, but the

I have some pre-made lessons you can use.
My favorite question to ask students is what they think happened next. Did Margot forgive the other students? Did she and her family return to Earth? Were the students nicer to her after this day? Was the teacher punished?

If you are focusing on research or nonfiction, have them research Pink Shirt Day and come up with a similar activity their school could do. Have them write up letters to propose to the principal and samples. It would be a great interactive product that I am sure the principal would love!

What about you? What do you do to support anti-bullying in your class?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Audio Book Quizzes

I usually share links to audiobooks as well. We read a lot in class, so I know they are practicing that skill, but sometimes listening is more convenient. They can listen as they are doing the dishes, showering, cooking and other times that it can be a bit difficult to read a book.

Secondly, it can help my ESL students hear proper pronunciation or words. Even with my non-ESL students, this is nice because when we read books like Things Fall Apart, they can hear the African names spoken as they should be spoken.

Finally, in some cases, they can listen to the text as they read it. In some cases there are websites set up to do this. For example, with The Great Gatsby  the website ESLBits actually has the text and the audio book on the same webpage. Even when the audio and text are separate, students can still read and listen at the same time.

Students can actually purchase mp3s of the audiobook (or often find them free online). In the future, I want students to create their own audiobooks, but for this semester I wanted them to do something a bit different.

In the case off Things Fall Apart, the chapters worked perfectly for the project I wanted to do with my class. Each student was assigned a chapter to make a triv that would help the other students listen and check comprehension.

Here are the steps and a finished project.

STEP 1 - Setting the Stage
We used a triv in the class, so students could see what they looked like. We have used these before, but if you haven't I'd be sure to use one.

In my class we had read Yeat's poem, "The Second Coming," to prepare to read, Things Fall Apart. The next class we did a quick review on the poem by using this triv. (Triv is what calls their trivia games)

STEP 2- Explaining YouTube Videos
I introduce how to listen to the book on YouTube. Most students seem to really be amazed by this concept. They never considered looking for audiobooks on a site for mainly videos.

STEP 3 - Setting the Assignment
I treat this as an individual outside of school activity. They are each assigned one chapter. They need to find the chapter online, and use it to make a triv. We do a sample with the first two minutes of Chapter 1. They need
  1. Find an audiobook of their chapter
  2. To create a triv for their chapter
    • They need at least FIVE questions regarding the plot (or basic comprehension)
    • They need at least TWO questions regarding vocabulary (or literary /rhetorical skills)
They send these links to me and I share them with the rest of the class who can use them to study.

STEP 4 -  On Their Own
Then students are on their own! I made these videos to help them.

Here's the video on how to sign up for an account:

Here's one on making triv:

I love this project because students are helping one another, and they become experts on one chapter.

Here's a Triv one of my students made

How do you use Trivs in your class?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Vocabulary Group Work

Happy Dance
Today was a good day!

I've been playing around with different seating charts since the beginning of the year. It has been tumultuous; we have had new students join the class, and some students go back to their home countries. Plus, the class has some very strong personalities.

Many of my past seating charts have been OK, but today I implemented "the one." It just worked! Students were collaborating on tasks (not just dividing up questions), they all stayed in English, and, most importantly, they actually stayed on task!

I was beyond thrilled. Today's lesson was a simple one, but to see it go so well made me ecstatic. My class is reading The Great Gatsby. Since this is a rather difficult text for ESL students, I took some time to pre-teach the vocabulary. I picked ten words that they need to know and we used them in the activity.

STEP 1- Modeling
I select one word from the chapter and use it as a sample. 

Contemptuous: showing contempt; scornful.

Since we can't use a word to define itself we look up contempt together

A combination of disgust and anger

Now we make a definition that anyone in the class would understand: When someone/something shows disgust and anger towards someone or something

To show they understand the word, they need to create a dialogue using the word. 
  • I usually need to remind them that dialogues are exchanges, meaning at least three lines between at least two people.
Then we "play" Whose Line is it Anyways? I ask the class what type of people would be talking that may be contemptuous. They shout out ideas, and I pick the ones that are the most outlandish (or easiest). Then I ask them to shout out a situation. They usually can't just shout out answers, so this is fun for them, but if you want, you can use this as a time to get shyer students to communicate by calling on them. 
  • Me: What types of people do we want to be talking? Who would make you feel contemptuous or be contemptuous?
  • Student 1: Teacher 
  • Student 2: Coach
  • Student 3: Dentist
  • Student 4: Doctor
  • Me: Awesome! Let's go with dentist. Where should the dentist be?
  • Student 5: Office
  • Student 6: Restaurant
  • Student 7: House
  • Me: Ooo, let's have him at the restaurant, So, I can say:

Waiter: Would you like to see the dessert menu?

Dentist: Is there anything sugar free?
Waiter: No, we believe in using lots of sugar.
Dentist: How dare you do such a thing? Sugar is a silent killer!
Dentist's wife: Dear stop being so contemptuous to the waiter. It isn't like he makes the menus.   

Once they understand the concepts

STEP 2- Assignment 
  • Each group is assigned one word. Be sure not to assign all of the words. You'll need one word not assigned to a group for Step 3. 
    • They need to look up their word, define it, and create a dialogue that they will present to the class.
  • Dialogues can be on ANY topic. This freedom really lets students have a little fun with it.
In my class I try to focus a lot on the difference between, "dividing and conquering" and collaborating. This is best done as a collaboration! Everyone pitches in and brings their own ideas to the table.
STEP 3- The Twist
  • Take the word that you haven't given to a group and tell the class you will be modeling what they will present to the class.
  • The twist!
    • Teacher in a deeper voice: What makes you think your boyfriend is cheating on you. Did he tell you? 
    • Teacher in a higher voice: No, but there were clear intimations
    • Teacher in a deeper voice: Like what?
    • Teacher in a higher voice: He didn't always answer his phone, and he stopped using my name. He always called me, "Baby," or "Sweetie."
  • Ask students what they think the word intimation means? 
    • Field guesses and help them come to the correct definition if they can't figure it out on their own.
  • Explain that they will be presenting their dialogues FIRST and then helping the rest of the class figure out the meaning. 
    • Give them a little (I did two minutes) more time to make sure their dialogues are ready or to practice.
This is the part that makes the lesson really interactive. Students aren't just presenting to the class; they're helping them discover what the word really means. The rest of the class isn't just taking notes; they are trying to guess!

STEP 4- Listening

  • As each group presents, the rest of the class listens and guesses what the word means.
    • I hardly had to give any guidance today, but feel free to help your students focus or give them clues if they struggle. 
STEP 5- Final Product
  • Students take all of the words presented (including the two from their teacher) and make either a short story or another dialogue. 
    • If you want to add a technological aspect, you can have them make a comic stop on bistrips
    • There's a short story app for Windows 8.1 and higher called Chekov
    • You can also choose to make it a speaking task by using the sock puppet free app 
    • And many many more! 
  • I refuse to give more help with the definitions. If a student asks what a word means, I ask the group who originally presented on it to help. Otherwise, I point out the dictionaries sitting in the middle of the group's table.
Voila! Your students should feel fairly comfortable with these words, They've worked in a group, presented to the class, listened to others, and practiced writing.

Again, this isn't a new concept or activity, but it worked so well today I wanted to share it.

      Wednesday, February 11, 2015

      Infographic Project - Charity Based Research

      My students have done infographics before to practice argumentation and essay structure. This project uses infographics again, but this is a different project that is much more non-fiction and research based.

      This project has tons of technology and websites.

      I am really excited about it, and about being able to post about it. In total the charity infographic project took three classes, but there was very little homework. I am listing all the steps together here and you can divide them as needed, take steps out if wanted, or add to it. I actually did a bit more (e.g. I worked on using notecards) but here are all of the infographic based steps:
      1. To start, I pass around a sheet of statistics on a topic we are covering: in this case GMOs.We quickly review the statistics and go over whether they are for or against GMOs. Then, I ask students how interesting that was. Most of them say not very.
      2. Using infographics I found online earlier, I show them 10 different GMO statistics we go over each infographic and decide: how does it look, how are the facts, and is it for or against GMOs.
      3. Students on their own think about what they liked about infographics, and what they didn't. What seemed to work, and what fell flat. After some individual work I let them share with a small group, and then we discuss it as a class.
      4. In small groups (2-3) students are assigned to select an infographic about anything they want. They need to know 1. Why they picked the topic 2. Why  they liked it
      5. Students made short presentations on their infographics.
        1. The goal of 1-5 is to introduce students to the topic of infographics and have them get a feel for what they like and don't like. What colors don't work well. When is too much on an infographic too much? Is white space good or bad? etc.  For me, 1-5 took one 90 minute class.
      6. Finally, I let the students know that they will be creating their own infographic on a charity. 
      7. I gave them an approved (they had to be within the guidelines of the school) list of charities and told them to pick whatever one they wanted. They could also pick a different charity, but the school administrators would need to approve it. In groups of two-three students selected a charity.
      8. We went over good sources vs bad sources (we covered this before) and I let them research away. If a student started researching and realized they didn't like their charity, they were allowed to switch.
        • My students spent an entire class researching. While some finished early, most were really working the whole class period. For fast finishers however go to step 9.
      9. After I noticed some students had quite a bit of reliable research ready, I showed them There are other infographic sites out there, but (for reasons I will discuss in #15) I prefer to use this one. If done researching, students could create an account and begin playing on the site.
      10. I show them an infographic that I made on a charity (I selected one they didn't choose as an example). We go over what we like and what we don't like. We look at the organization pattern, the charts, the visuals, the colors etc.
      11. Examine and review infographic assignment.  Be sure that students understand everything they are expected to do.
        • Using the rubric on the assignment have students grade my infographic.
          • I usually make a few typos, or choose a hard to read font to make sure they give constructive criticism.
      12. Give a quick tour of Piktochart. I like having students learn on their own, but giving them a good start is usually a solid idea.
        • How to sign up
        • Where to start
        • Free vs Paid
        • How to undo
        • Where to find pictures
        • etc.
      13. Allow students to work on Piktochart
      14. Have students submit their Piktochart to me. I make corrections and give it back to them. 
      15. Model Presentation (This is why I like Piktochart! Some other sites have this option as well though.)
        • Using Piktochart's presentation mode I give a presentation justifying why I selected my charity. 
        • I am always sure to make a few easy to spot mistakes so students can correct me
      16. Have students grade my presentation
      17. Let students create their own presentations
      18. Students present their infographics to the class
      19. While presenting, students evaluate the infographic and the quotes
      20. Finally, my students evaluate themselves.
      DONE...for now. There's actually a final part, where my students raise money for the charity, but I'll save that for another post.

      For now, I'll show you some of my favorite infographics my students created. Click on the charity name to see the whole infographic.

      • San Diego Hunger Coalition was a group that really took advantage of all piktochart had to offer. They had fun picking different backgrounds, and they stuck to small chunks of text (rather than writing everything down). This group was a clear division of labor. One person researched cool facts and statistics, and the other person played on Piktochart until they found the perfect look. Normally I am more a fan of collaboration (rather than divide and conquer), but this group was persistently communicating, so it seemed to work well for them.  
      • L'Arche This student really had fun with the graphics. Every block in her presentation has the same theme, and all of the visuals go with one another. She also added little details where possible. For example, one of the graphics was of a person and it didn't include eyes, so using the shape tools she added them. Her partner missed a few days of school, so she did most of the work on her own, and I was really proud of the final product.
      • Build a Miracle Group was big into incorporating the graphics into the block. That is, nothing was ever stand alone, it was almost one big picture. They also found really great facts to support donating. This group was also one of the most prepared groups when it came to donating. They really worked hard to know their stuff and came across as quite knowledgeable.
      • Finally, Las Hermanas San Diego was a really fun group! They went outside the box a bit, and used the graphics in ways that weren't normal. For example, they used rectangles as surfboards, and put people in normal clothes standing on them to make surfers! Adorable!
      Thanks so much for sticking around for the whole post! This really is a fun project it helps teach students about:
      • the good charities do
      • research skills
      • visuals
      • learning how to use new computer programs
      • working in a team
      • organizing their thoughts
      • evaluating one another
      • self evaluating
      And of course, the writing and speak skills I am focusing on in my speech class were there (grammar, intonation, transition words, volume, etc.)

      I have the worksheets I used available for purchase at TeachersPayTeachers  if you are interested. You can also download the preview for free to see part of it.

      Sunday, February 8, 2015

      Valentine's Day Goodie Bags

      Assembling all the goodies
      A finished bag
      I just started this job at a new school, and Monday the English department has a meeting.

      Since Saturday is Valentine's day, I thought it would be a nice time to show everyone how much I appreciate them, by making little goodie bags

      I originally was going to make cupcakes, but so many people are watching their weight, I decided that candy was better. This way, if they don't want it, I am sure they can find a several students to reward with sweet treats!

      They aren't the cutest, and they aren't the most creative, but I thought I'd share them here.
      • Each person got: a pencil sharpener in our school colors
      • A cute little Coca-Cola glass
      • Cadny (to fill the glass of course)!!!
      • A monogram notepad made from their initial
      • A note thanking them for being so sweet

      If you were interested in making similar bags for co-workers, students, or really anyone, I made a PDF with the graphic you see above (free fonts via fontspace) you can download it for free here.

      Do you get crafty for Valentine's day? Or stick with something simple? Ignore it completely? I'd love to know more about what other teachers do.

      Tuesday, February 3, 2015

      But first, let me take a #Shelfie

      I am an English teacher. I encourage my students to read for fun, give students books as presents, and love when I find a student sneaking a book home from my class library.

      I believe that a love of reading is one of the best things any child can get from school.

      It doesn't need to be the classics, reading Ender's Game is just as valid as reading Pride and Prejudice. In addition to being a fun way to spend your time and learn, reading gives kids tons of advantages that will help them after they have finished their education in school.

      Reading gives people:
      • higher vocabulary
      • more empathy
      • improved grammar
      • lower stress
      • less likely to get Alzheimers
      • improved analytical skills
      • better writing
      • and SO MUCH MORE 
      Words Alive is an organization that has been around since 1999 when Leslye Lyons started it on the belief that lifelong learners (the kind who transform their communities) all start as readers.

      They create reading groups for adolescents, help families who don't normally introduce books to their children and so much more.

      Now Words Alive is active in 70 School and Community Site. They have 500 volunteers, and have served  7,600 children, teens, and families!

      Don't take my word for it! You can learn more about this organization here: If you are a San Diego reader, you may even want to call them with questions or to get involved:  858-274-9673.

      Words Alive is asking people to show how important reading is to them. They're requesting that people take a #shelfie to share their love of reading.

      It's easy to do, just follow these steps:

      Step 1: Take a #SHELFIE
      Take a selfie in front of your bookshelf. We want to see you, what you’re reading and how books have a place in your life.

      Step 2: Share your photo (You can tag me too, and I'll RT or share your photo as well!)
      On Twitter @WordsAliveSD / @mELTingTeacher
      On Facebook @Words Alive / @TheMeltingTeacher
      On Instagram @WordsAliveSD / @meltingteacher
      Use the following hashtag: #shelfie

      Step 3: Invite your friends (and students) to join the movement and take a shelfie.

      Finally, if you can, Help Words Alive build the home libraries of the kids and teens we serve. Follow this link for their Amazon wish list of titles.

      I can't wait to see everyone's awesome shelfies :)

      Monday, February 2, 2015

      New Learning Tools in e-Learning

      Today's guest post is written about e-learning tools! I am a huge fan of taking full advantage of the many tools the internet makes available to teachers, and I hope you'll find David's blog helpful.

      Anyone involved in education has been privy to the changes over the past ten years with regard to online learning. New mobile technologies and e-learning has changed the landscape of education forever. Of course, there are still some stragglers out there who have not bought into all of the benefits that the e learning world has to offer, but they are missing out and soon enough will have to join alongside the rest of us.

      In 2011, seventy seven percent of corporations in America were utilizing online learning. This is largely dramatic increase from the mere four percent that it was in 1995. This means that companies are getting involved in online training due to the diminishing technological barriers and shifting customer priorities.

      The industry for corporate training is worth two hundred billion dollars, in and of itself. Of this, fifty six billion represents e-learning. This is expected to grow into one hundred and seven billion dollars by 2015. This makes e-learning one of the fastest growing markets that is continuing to make its stride in the education industry. The reason for this is because of the many new learning tools.

      E-learning is growing and it is growing among all age groups. In fact studies indicate that e-learning has grown for older adults much more than among younger children with the average online user age being 34. This key in mind there are many new technologies which have created learning tools applicable to all grades and all key demographics.

      Learning tools are tools used for personal learning or professional learning. They can also be used to teach or train individuals. Key findings suggest that there is an increased consumption of IT and learning. Learning tools and working tools are merging with personal tools due to the fact that free online social tools are dominating the online learning field. Now professional and personal learning is under the control of the individual. Educational and training tools remain the top trending category for online learning with video and image tools in second. In third place is communication tools followed by networking and other platforms for collaboration. Blogging and web tools are ranked the fifth trend in the industry.

      Within the educational industry online there are elearning authoring tools such as the elearning software Articulate. There are also tools such as Udutu which is collaborative course authoring software as well as Camtasia which is a screencasting tool. There is a simulation authoring tool called Adobe Captivate and a course manager called iTunesU. Then there are quizzing tools. Quizlet is a tool that allows you to study games and use flashcards. Socrative is a student response system that is quite new. ProProfs Quiz Maker is another new tool which acts as an online quiz maker.

      There are many e-learning platforms available to users. Moodle is a course management system that is now widely available to educational and corporate entities alike and Edmono is an educational social networking platform. Coursera is an MOOC platform that companies and students can both use and eFront is another course management system along with Blackboard Learn. The latter two are best suited for educational institutions but can be easily applied to corporate training online as well. There are still other educational tools such as TED Talks/Ed which offers inspirational lessons. There is also GlogsterEDU which is an interactive poster tool and Learnist which is a pinning tool for learning. You can also use Khan Academy which is a video learning platform or Voicethread which is a digital storytelling platform.

      Author Bio: David Miller is an educational researcher who has several years of experience in the field of teaching, online testing and training. He is associated with prestigious universities and many leading educational research organizations. Currently, he is pursuing research in online knowledgebase software and is also a contributing author with ProProfs.
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