Monday, December 28, 2015

12 Countries that Start School in January and February

"From the end spring new beginnings."
-- Pliny the Elder

Although schools in the U.S. are on vacation now because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, do you know when schools in other countries begin their academic year?  It makes a difference if you have children arriving mid-way through your own school year because the decision about which grade the student should be placed in is not always an easy one.
New school year | The ESL Connection
Countries in the Southern hemisphere shaded in yellow; source: Wikimedia Commons
I first became aware that not all schools started their year in September when there was a possibility I would go to South America as a high school exchange student.  I was told I’d be departing in February because that’s when their school year began.  At the time, that seemed so strange!  Since then, I have taught plenty of students who came from Latin America and began class with me in January or February -- their families finished out the year in their home countries and then came to the U.S.

Aside from the issue of having students come during the middle of the year, with all that entailed of integrating them into my class, the biggest issue was always what grade the child should be placed in.  Usually, it would be the one after whatever grade the student had just finished.  But we also took into consideration other factors, including parent input, courses taken, and grades on transcripts.

What I learned, after spending many years on the team that registered ELLs who were new to my school district, was to look very carefully at the date of birth and the grade that a student most recently completed, and discuss the options with the family when there were two possibilities regarding the grade their child could be placed in.  While the team could not recommend a specific grade placement, we could point out to the school principal, who was the one making the final decision, if a student would be much younger or older than most of the rest of the kids in the grade the student should be in according to his or her transcript.  Most of the time, things worked out fine.
New school year | The ESL Connection
Home Language Survey given to new students enrolling in MA schools; source: MA DESE
However, on occasion there were problems when I had students who, chronologically, were one or even two years younger than their classmates because the student hadn’t learned things that the rest of the class had been taught the previous year and/or the student was less mature socially and emotionally than the rest of the class.  This second one was more of an issue, in my experience, because those students were less able to handle the workload and their behavior wasn’t always appropriate.  That necessitated a lot of discussion with the guidance counselor and the family – by me and with the student -- but often it was just a matter of waiting for the student to age into maturity.  Retention, might be raised as a possibility but then, fortunately, was always discarded because it wasn’t right to penalize a student for a lack of maturity since that was such a subjective judgment.  

On another occasion, I had a student who was two years older than her classmates.  Then, the problem went the other way because she was more mature.  Luckily for her, she moved to another school mid-way through the year and jumped a grade, meaning that at her new school, she was only one year older than her classmates.  

It can be tricky to balance the academic needs of the child with their social-emotional needs and all decisions need to be made on an individual basis.  It can be especially difficult when dealing with students coming from another country who have transcripts in another language that aren't translated.  The best advice I have is to talk in-depth with the families and even with the student, if he or she is at least seven or eight years old, using an interpreter if necessary, at the time the family registers, to determine where the student will best fit in and thrive in school.
When school begins in 12 other countries | The ESL Connection
World map with continents; source: The CIA World Factbook
Below is a partial list of countries where school begins in January or February.  The information was compiled from several sources but I couldn’t find exact dates for 2016 for several countries.  If you know when the school year in these countries begins, please leave a note in the Comments below so I can add that information to this blog post.

Guatemala = Second Monday of January
South Africa = January 13
Australia = January 27
Nigeria = January
Kenya = January
Malaysia = Early January
Singapore = Beginning of January
Costa Rica = Early February
Honduras = Early February
New Zealand = Between February 1 – 5
Brazil = First week of February
Chile = Late February

There are other countries that begin later in the year:
Argentina = Beginning of March
South Korea = Beginning of March
Japan = April 1
India = June
Indonesia = Mid-July

Guest posts in the “Education Around the World” series will resume in January.  Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Future is Nigh!

Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and ends,
of looking back and looking forward...
Blog post looking forward to 2016, with freebie | The ESL Connection
Image of Janus on a coin; source: Wikimedia Commons
It’s traditional at the end of a year to reflect back on the previous 365 days and try to objectively analyze how things worked out and then resolve to do some things differently in the year to come.

For me, there were many changes, not least of which was acclimating to my new home in Arizona.  But since I am no longer a classroom teacher, I would rather just look ahead and ponder all the wonderful ideas and plans and activities I hope to accomplish in 2016.  Not least of which is continuing to write about working effectively with English Language Learners and creating many more resources for educators to use with ELLs!

For inspiration, I created this mini-poster and am happy to share it with my blog readers.  You can download a copy for yourself HERE.  (It's a large file; please be patient.)  I took the photo on New Year’s Day 2015 near my home.  Yes, it snowed in Tucson!  The quote by Thoreau is, I think, appropriate for the season.  And what I really like about the whole image is that it combines, figuratively speaking, my previous life in Massachusetts with my current life in Arizona.
Looking forward freebie mini-poster | The ESL Connection
Download your own copy HERE
I wish you all a Wonderful Winter or Summer Solstice, depending on which hemisphere you live in; a Very Merry Christmas if you celebrate the holiday; and a Joyous & Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Vacation Time!!!!!

"People who read on holiday always have a better time because
it's total escapism, both physically and mentally."
-- Jasmine Guinness

When I was in high school, my parents pulled my sister and me out of school for nine days to go on a trip to another country.  They’d gotten a fantastic deal and didn’t want to pass it up; they also thought it would be a good opportunity for us kids to see another part of the world.  I told my teachers and they gave me homework to do while I was away.  Naturally, I didn’t do any of it until I was on the plane going home.

Thirty years later, I was one of those teachers: When my students told me they were going to miss school because they were going to a wedding in India or to the Dominican Republic because their mom had to help take care of a sick relative, and would miss weeks of school, I gave them work to do.  I made up lengthy assignments that weren’t based on the work we were doing in class since without the textbook and without the benefit of our class discussions, they wouldn’t be able to do or keep up with what we were learning.  But I felt the students should be doing something academic while they were away so I created work for them.
Vacation reading & writing resource | The ESL Connection
Travel is eye-opening but can be problematic when missing school; source: WPClipart
I also gave assignments over school vacations and long weekends.  Because that’s when students had more time to spend on them, right?!  Wrong!  Needless to say, 95% of the time the work came back uncompleted, the students somewhat apologetic (“I didn’t have time,” “I lost the paper,” I didn’t understand it”), and I, the teacher, somewhat frustrated.

Although it took thirty-five or so years, I eventually learned my lesson!  For the remainder of my classroom teaching career, I did not give my students projects to work on or tests to study for or compositions to write during their breaks from school.  However, I did emphasize the importance or reading daily to help maintain their language skills--I believe that is important for all students and especially for ELLs.

I designed my Vacation Stars product for teachers who want their students to read during school vacations and holidays.  But because it should only take 10 – 15 minutes max per day, that should encourage students to actually finish it.  There is a one-page template which is modified for different times of the year and each template has two parts, one for reading and one for writing; students can complete both or just one of these parts at your discretion.
Vacation Stars resource for reading and writing tasks during school vacations | The ESL Connection
Click HERE to find out more about this resource! Source: The ESL Nexus
In the reading section, students merely list what they have read, whether it be books or some other form of text (examples are given in the Notes to the Teacher section in the product).  In the writing section, students briefly write, list, or draw (if they are beginning proficiency level ELLs) what they have done that is social studies, math, and science related and also write about helping out at home and what they’ve read.  What makes this easy and quick to complete, though, is that the space for writing is small so students are limited in what they can write.  Optional activities that extend these reading and writing tasks are also included in the resource; they can be completed by students either at home or after they return to school. 

If I had had something like this when I was a student, I'm sure I would have enjoyed my vacations much more!

(P.S.  If you are looking for some holiday decor for your classroom or office, you might like my multilingual mini-posters that say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah in 25 and 20 languages, respectively.  You can find them HERE.)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holiday Harmony with the Old and the New

"A businesswoman needs a successful mix of design and practicality."
-- Donatella Versace

The quote above is particularly relevant because I’m very excited to present my redesigned blog!  I think it looks way nicer and is much more attractive than my original blog design.  While I liked what I had before – because obviously, since I created it myself, of course I liked it – I think this new customized design takes my blog to a higher and more professional level.  But it’s still easy to read and uncluttered, just like the old one, and all the features on the old blog are still here in the new one.  Many thanks to Laine from A Little Peace of Africa for working with me and implementing my ideas.  (She is still working on my About Me widget but it will ultimately show my logo and a little info in that space.)

Today is the first Monday of the month so it’s time for a new linky party.  In keeping with the theme of something new combined with something old, I invite you to link up three resources:  
* Your newest December holiday product, 
* One older holiday product for the season, and 
* A resource about the New Year or New Year's Eve.
If you don't have a product for New Year's or New Year's Eve, you are welcome to add another resource about Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa.  Resources with a multicultural flavor and/or holiday resources that work well for ELLs are especially encouraged.
Excelerating ELLs December 2015 Linky Party | The ESL Connection

Monday, November 30, 2015

Education Around The World: Quebec, Canada

Each little Province is a little nation by itself.
-- Charles Tupper

This week continues with the second installment in my Education Around the World series with a guest post by Paul Bougie from TpT store Creative Couple in Quebec, Canada.  I am especially pleased to welcome Paul because I spent a wonderful summer studying French in Quebec City many years ago.  
Education in Quebec, Canada | The ESL Connection
Location of Canada in North America; source: The CIA World Factbook
In his own words:

My Teaching
I teach ESL in secondary 4 and 5, in a French high school. My students are 15 and 16 year olds. I would say that I am quite lucky because most of my students are at a relatively advanced level of English for our region. The majority of my students, four groups, are part of the International Education Program. These students are used to working hard to succeed, and learning generally comes easier to them. The two remaining groups that I teach are at a much lower level of English proficiency.

I teach in Trois-Rivières which is between Montreal and Quebec City. It is a beautiful city along the St-Lawrence Seaway. The city really comes to life in the summer, much like Quebec City with its cafés, restaurants and theatres. It really has a European flair! Trois-Rivières has actually been proclaimed the Poetry Capital of the World since the International Poetry Festival is held here each year. The population, around 150,000 inhabitants, is approximately 98% francophone with very few English speakers – even as a second language.
Education in Quebec | The ESL Connection
Statue of Sieur de Laviolette, considered the founder of Trois-Rivières; source: Charles Rondeau
The Canadian province of Quebec has a strict law that protects the French language. This means that its residents must learn French before English. No child can be enrolled in an English school in Quebec unless his or her parents have done the majority of their elementary school in English. Even foreign students must first learn French, and enroll in a French school. Trois-Rivières has welcomed many refugees from different countries in the past decade. The high school that I teach at is very multicultural. I have been teaching for 22 years, and I have more and more students in my class who struggle with English, because it is their third language.
Education in Quebec | The ESL Connection
Flag of Quebec Province, Canada; source: Charles Rondeau
General Information
Our classes have between 25 and 32 students. We teach 4 periods per day, each being 75 minutes. We begin at 8:30 in the morning and finish at 3:30 in the afternoon.

School begins in late August and finishes on June 24, our national holiday, the Saint-Jean Baptiste.  Our system begins with full-time kindergarten at age 5. Students do 6 years of elementary then go directly to high school. There are 5 secondary levels, numbered 1 to 5. A student graduates after his "secondary 5" and goes on to CEGEP in a career-oriented program, or a general university preparatory program. This CEGEP level can be 2 to 3 years depending on the chosen program.

An interesting fact is that here in Quebec private schools receive subsidies from the provincial government which means that enrolment costs around $3000 annually, unlike other provinces in Canada where private schools can cost upwards of $7000.

ESL and Curriculum Information
All levels have the same ESL competencies which are: 1- Interacts orally in English, 2- Reinvests understanding of texts and 3- Writes and Produces texts. Basically, the competencies could be simplified to Speaking, Reading and Writing.  My website has links to all the information that you'll need about our system in the MELS Programs section in the drop down menu from the Teaching tab. If you are interested, you can also get a look at the International Program and the objectives which are specific to it, under the same Teaching tab.  My teaching has to take into account both programs: the MELS (our ministry of education), and the IB (International program).

We have exams from our ministry of education in June of the final secondary school year. In order to get a high school diploma and go on to the CEGEP (collegiate) level, students must pass mathematics, languages: French and English, science and history exams. If students do not succeed, they can be held back, or pursue other options such as adult education.
Education in Quebec | The ESL Connection
Map of Canada; source: The CIA World Factbook
Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
A 4 year university degree is required where prospective teachers major in the subject they will be teaching. During each year of the program, university students must do some student teaching, the longest internship being in their 4th year, 3 consecutive months in the classroom.

Thanks, Susan, for allowing me to share my experience with others!

*     *     *     *     *

Merci, Paul, for giving us some insight into what it is like to be a teacher and student in Quebec!  You can find Paul Bougie on TpT at Creative Couple and at his website.

To read the first installment in this on-going series, click HERE to learn about education in South Africa.  And please come back next month to learn about education in another country!
Use promo code "Smile" to save 28% at The ESL Nexus 11/30/15 and 12/1/15!
Click HERE for products for ELLs and other students!
Finally, just a quick reminder to let everyone know that everything in my TpT store is 20% off during the CyberSmile sale on Monday and Tuesday, November 30th and December 1st.  And by using the TpT promo code Smile, you can save another 10%, for a total of 28% in savings!  You can catch some great deals on products like my Multilingual Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah Signs, my brand new China Bundles for Culture and Writing, and my Acrostic Holiday Poem Posters!

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 23, 2015

How Do I Thank Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

Thanking educators | The ESL Connection
Visual created by The ESL Nexus; definitions from
Teaching can be a solitary and often thankless job:  Teachers toil and burn the midnight oil, children’s tempers boil, administrators may foil sound lesson ideas, and education in the U.S. roils with reformers and politicians who think they know what ails the teaching profession.  It’s enough to spoil the idealism of people who want to help children and adults reach their fullest potential by providing them with the best education they possibly can.  In today’s climate, educators rarely get a shout out for all the good they do.

I want to change that and give my thanks to some deserving educators:

1) First off, many thanks to SHELLY REES and APPLETASTIC LEARNING.  We connected through TpT when she offered sellers the opportunity to have one of their products professionally printed and spiral bound.  I jumped at the chance to see what C is for China, my ABC book about that country, would look like, since it’s one of my favorite products.  It also pushed me to update the product with more content, which I’d been planning to do but hadn’t gotten around to yet.
ABC China book bound by Appletastic Learning on The ESL Connection
Cover of the ABC China book; for more information, click HERE
I emailed the document to Shelly and a day later received a response.  She had a few concerns about some of the pages—she thought they might not print out well.  We emailed back and forth and I made some changes.  I really appreciated Shelly’s attention to detail and quality control as it would have been very easy, and definitely faster, to just print out what I’d sent instead of helping me make my product better.  It only took one day to resolve things: Customer service was great!  A day later, I was notified that a package from Appletastic Learning was on its way to me.  It was sent by Media Mail and took just six days to reach me.
ABC China book bound by Applestastic Learning on The ESL Connection
Table of contents for C is for China -- The text came out very clear and easy to read
The hardest part of this entire project was opening the package!  That’s because it was wrapped extremely well.  But when I saw my C is for China book, I was absolutely thrilled!  The front and back covers look gorgeous because they are printed on laminated cardstock paper.  The pages inside, despite being printed in black-and-white from color images, look great, too.  It’s good to know that the product can be printed either way and it'll come out fine regardless.  Every time I look at the book, I just want to go out and share it with students; I'm that pleased with it.
Pages from C is for China; on the left are the pages that were revised as per Shelly's recommendation -- different maps were included that would print out better
So, Shelly, thank you so very much!  I am truly grateful for your generous offer and am glad to know about Appletastic Learning as a resource for educators.  You can learn more about her great company HERE.

More people I'd like to thank:

2) MRS. VANDERCORE was my kindergarten teacher in New Jersey.  Well, after all this time, I’m not sure I have her name right but it was something like that.  I’m thanking her for teaching us kids how to count from 1 – 10 in French.  I clearly remember sitting on the ground in a circle on the school playground as she taught us how to say the numbers in French.  That undoubtedly was the beginning of my life-long interest in learning about other cultures.

3) MR. SMYRL, my 6th grade teacher in Pennsylvania.  He made learning fun.  So did MR. WILLIAMS, my 10th grade English teacher in New Jersey.  Thank you both.

4) Thanks also to PROFESSOR STULTZ, who taught my favorite course in college, about the politics of Southern Africa, and helped inspire in me a desire to go to Africa, culminating in my going to Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps Volunteer after I graduated.

5) TINA, my Chinese language tutor at the first university I worked at in China.  She and her husband made me feel welcome and her lessons taught me, someone who knew no Chinese upon arrival there, how to manage my everyday living and also enabled me to travel around the country by myself after just six months in China.  Xie xie!  (Thank you in Mandarin.)

Lets focus on the positive and why everyone should be thankful for the education they received from their teachers instead of harping on what's wrong with education nowadays.  Who are some educators you would like to thank?  Even if they never see your comments, letting others know who these teachers are is a powerful affirmation of the impact they have had.  Please share your gratitude below.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vive La France!

Fluctuat nec mergitur.
(She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.)
-- Motto of Paris

Je suis triste.  I am sad.

Vive La France! | The ESL Connection
Coat of arms of the City of Paris; source: Bluebear2 via Wikimedia Commons
I was going to write this week’s post about being thankful and tying it in somehow to promoting my one and only Thanksgiving product.  I hadn’t planned it out though and then after Friday it seemed rather trivial.  If you are interested in my resource, you can get more info by clicking on the link to the product in the sidebar at the right.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Instead, I want to spend the rest of this post talking about what happened in Paris and how to talk to students about it come Monday.  And I'm publishing a day earlier because, well, I just don't want to wait another day.
Vive La France! | The EESL Connection
Eiffel Tower charm given to The ESL Nexus by relatives who lived in Paris in the 1960s
Actually, there isn’t much I have to say because, really, how can mere words express the horror, the devastation, the sadness, the defiance, the inchoate feelings of guilt and relief that are sure to be felt by some of the survivors and the solidifying “keep calm and carry on” feeling that others are already beginning to express.
Vive La France! | The ESL Connection
Poster originally created as British propaganda in WWII; this version created by The ESL Nexus
I am sad because no one should ever die the way 129 people in Paris died.  I am sad because yet again, Islam has been perverted by mass murderers.  I am sad because once more, world leaders and governments will pass laws that are probably necessary but which restrict ordinary citizens’ freedoms.  I am sad because the world has changed, another screw has tightened, and schoolchildren won’t know a way of life that is more open, more welcoming, more adventurous, more carefree, because they have to be on their guard all the time now.

How do teachers talk to their students about such things, human atrocities beyond the scope of imagination, let alone understanding?  These resources might help: 
* The Washington Post published an article with tips.
* Save the Children has a webpage with some guidelines.  
* The Fred Rogers Company has some suggestions.
* Bright Horizons has two e-books and although they were created to help children deal with earlier catastrophes, the advice in them is still useful.
* The Guardian newspaper has an article describing a leaflet for children created by a French publisher; excerpts in French are shown.

I remember Oklahoma City.  I remember September 11th.  I remember Beslan, Russia.  I remember the London transport bombings.  I remember the Taj and Oberoi Hotels in Mumbai.  I remember Sandy Hook.  I remember the Westgate Mall attack.  I remember the Boston Marathon.  I remember.  

Too many to have to remember.  But we must remember.

Je me souviens.

I remember.

Je suis triste.

I am sad.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Columbus Didn't Reach India...But I Did and You Can, Too!

 "Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit."
-- Jawaharlal Nehru

There were a lot of students whose families emigrated to the US from India in the school district in which I worked and I taught many Indian students during my time there.  Even though Indian cuisine is one of my favorites, I didn’t know much about India when I first started working in that district.
About Diwali | The ESL Connection
Map of India; source: The CIA World Factbook
Then I was told to teach Social Studies to some of my ELLs and, wouldn’t you know, the 7th and 8th grade curricula included units about Hinduism and ancient Indian history.  So I read up on Indian culture and history.  I always made a point of mentioning when major holidays in various religions occurred because most of my ELLs weren’t exposed to them and I thought they should know, especially if the holidays were connected to the material I was teaching my students.

Veterans Day in the U.S. is celebrated on November 11th and I know there will be celebrations of various kinds in schools this week to honor American soldiers.   But this year, November 11th is also the start of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.  Also called Divali and Deepavali, it is perhaps the most important Indian holiday.
Diwali poster | The ESL Connection
Information about Diwali; source: The ESL Nexus
I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to India several years ago through the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program, sponsored by the U.S Department of Education.  This program offers small groups of American educators the chance to travel to a non-Western country for 4-6 weeks in the summer to learn about that country.  The aim is for the educators to incorporate what they learned during their trip into their future lessons.  My trip to India was wonderful and I encourage teachers to apply.  In 2016, there will be trips to Peru for K - 8 educators and India for 9 - 12 educators and to Senegal for teachers at community and four-year colleges.  You can find more information HERE.  The deadline to apply for next summer’s programs is early December.
Social Studies lesson in Chennai, India; source: The ESL Nexus
Good luck and Happy Diwali!

Monday, November 2, 2015

9 Thanksgiving Books That Even ELLs Can Read!

"Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast."
-- William Shakespeare

Do you identify with the Pilgrims: After more than two months at sea, they anxiously searched for land... and after two months in school, maybe you are feeling a little anxious about how to make sure your English Language Learners comprehend your Thanksgiving-themed lessons...  ELLs, especially if they are immigrants, may not be familiar with the history and customs of celebrating this iconic American holiday.  What can a busy teacher do?  I have rounded up nine books to help you out!  And I’m including a bonus book just for teachers at the end.  :-)

This list of nine informational texts includes books about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the Wampanoags, and life at Plimoth Plantation.  Some of them are probably familiar but others may be new.  I have classified the books by reading proficiency level, using the WIDA Performance Definitions for Reading as a guide (available as a download on this page).  I used all of these books when teaching American history to my ELLs.  If you have used any of them with your students, or have activities you did with these books, please let us know in the Comments section below.

2 books related to Thanksgiving, for low-level ELLs | The ESL Connection
Lower proficiency level books; covers from Amazon
Life at Plimoth by Norm Chang; Houghton Mifflin; ISBN 0-618-48403-5; paperback.
7 pages of text with illustrations that look like photographs on every page.  There are three comprehension questions and one writing task at the end of the book.  This book uses a large font size and has plenty of white space to make it easier for ELLs to comprehend the text.

Two Villages: Two Hundred Years Apart by Dorothy Kaufman (series consultant); Oxford; ISBN 0-19-430952-5; paperback.
10 pages of text about Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite.  Written as if a modern-day girl is visiting these places, the book has photographs on every page.  Some pages also include diagrams or maps and vocabulary words glossed in text boxes that overlay the pictures.  The second half of the book is about Old Sturbridge Village.  There are vocabulary activities and a glossary at the end of the book.

The Wampanoags, a book for ELLs | The ESL Connection
Book about the Native Americans who lived in Massachusetts at the time of the Pilgrims; cover from Amazon
The Wampanoags by Alice K. Flanagan; Children’s Press; ISBN 0-516-26388-9; paperback.
40 pages of text about the beliefs, history, traditional culture, interaction with the Pilgrims, and life today of this Native American Massachusetts tribe.  There is a two-page spread about Wampanoag pottery.  The font used for the text is large but the sentence structures are more complex in this book than in the previous books mentioned.   Lots of photos are included, which all have informative captions.  Resources for more information, a glossary and an index are provided at the end of the book.  A newer edition of this book is available.

Book about the Mayflower suitable for intermediate ELLs | The ESL Connection
All about the Pilgrims' journey on the Mayflower and their life afterwards; cover from Amazon
...If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern; Scholastic;
ISBN 0-590-45161-8; paperback.
81 pages of text plus a 2-page cutaway diagram of the Mayflower.  Written in question-and-answer format, information about life on the Mayflower comprises about half the book and the remainder is about how the Pilgrims lived in Plymouth.  There are illustrations on many pages but no accompanying activities for students nor glossary or index.

Book about Native American cuisine before 1500 suitable for ELLs | The ESL Connection
Appropriate for higher proficiency level ELLs; cover from Amazon
American Indian Cooking before 1500 by Mary Gunderson; Blue Earth Books; ISBN 0-7368-0605-9; hardback.
24 pages of text about the culinary customs of Native Americans in eight regions of what is now the United States, plus a general introduction to Native American societies before Columbus and a page about Cahokia. Each region is described, with special emphasis on its food, and then a recipe typical of that region is provided.  Also includes two pages with customary and metric measurements, info about safety in the kitchen, and an illustration depicting numerous types of equipment used for cooking.  A glossary, resources for further information, and an index are at the end of the book.

Three books for high proficiency level ELLs related to Thanksgiving | The ESL Connection
Books about daily life at Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite; covers from Amazon
I classified these three books at this level because of the specialized content-language used throughout; however, because they have lots of photographs, ELLs at WIDA Level 4 may also be able to comprehend some of the text in them.  All three paperback books are written by Kate Waters and published by Scholastic.

Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl; ISBN 0-590-47400-6.
30 pages of text.  Through photographs, Sarah Morton describes how she spends a typical day at Plimoth Plantation, from morning to night.  The text may be difficult for ELLs because her manner of speaking echoes that of the 17th century Pilgrims and uses a lot of vocabulary that is not common today.  There is a glossary at the end of the book, along with an explanation of what Plimoth Plantation is and short biographies of the real Sarah Morton and the girl who portrayed her for this book.

Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy; ISBN 0-590-48053-7.
38 pages of text.  A companion to Sarah Morton’s Day, this book tells the story of Samuel Eaton by describing his life at Plimoth Plantation from the time he gets up in the morning to when he goes to bed at night.  Written as if Samuel himself were talking, the book may be hard for ELLs to comprehend due to the language used but there are plenty of photographs that accompany the text, which should help.  At the end of the book, lyrics to a song that was referred to in the text are included as is some info about harvesting rye, the clothes men wore, and the Wampanoag Indians, along with a glossary and biographies of the real Samuel Eaton and the boy who portrayed him for this book.

Tapenum’s Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times; ISBN 978-545-32854-8.
35 pages of text.  This book complements the two books about Pilgrim children mentioned above.  Many of the numerous photos are full-page spreads.  This book might be easier for ELLs to understand because the boy uses contemporary language to describe his life.  Although there are lots of specialized words as well as Wampanoag words included, the glossary at the end of the book defines the terms and offers a pronunciation guide to the Native American words.  Also at the end of the book is a map of Wampanoag lands in the 1600s and a short description of the Wampanoag, plus a brief bio of the boy who played Tapenum for this book.

Book for teachers about Thanksgiving | The ESL Connection
It's more than a cookbook; cover from Amazon
Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie, by Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver, and Plimoth Plantation; Clarkson Potter/Publishers; ISBN1-4000-8057-6; hardback.
192 pages in length, this book details how Thanksgiving was probably celebrated by the Pilgrims and then proceeds to describe how it has been celebrated throughout the United States from then til now.  Filled with background information, recipes, photos, primary source info about Thanksgiving, and a two-page bibliography plus an index, you will never think of Thanksgiving the same way again.  I bought this book at Plimoth Plantation in 2014 and am looking forward to making the Boiled “Sallet” of Spinach (a warm spinach salad), which is a recipe from 1623, when I celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Education Around The World: South Africa

"Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation."
--  Nelson Mandela

English Language Learners and their families come from all over the globe and bring their cultures with them.  Even for ELLs who were born in the US and have always lived here, if their parents and/or other relatives were raised in another country, their children will absorb those customs and traditions, including ideas about education.  Schooling in other countries can be very different from K – 12 education in the U.S. and ELLs may not do things the way teachers expect because of those differences.  But when teachers know a little about how schools in other countries function, they will understand their ELLs better.  To that end, I have invited TpT teacher-authors who are not based in the U.S. to write guest posts about K – 12 education in their countries.

This will be an on-going series and I plan to publish one guest post a month.  Today, to inaugurate this series, I am thrilled to welcome Liezel Pienaar from TpT store The Lab in South Africa.  Here is what she says about teaching and learning in her country:
The ESL Connection -- Education in South Africa
Location of South Africa; source: The CIA World Factbook
General Information
In South Africa, the school year starts in January and ends at the beginning of December.  Students start school at age 6 (grade 0) but they can also attend a year earlier (grade 00). Primary school is up to grade 7.  Grade 8 - 12 is High School.  I teach grades 8 – 12; that is, from ages 13/14 to 18. 

The students in South African schools wear a formal uniform. Civvie days (days on which they can were other clothes) are always a hit and often used for fundraising! Sport is a big part of school life. Students are actively involved in rugby, cricket, soccer, netball, athletics, etc.
The ESL Connection -- Education in South Africa
Students in Cape Town, South Africa; source: Wikipedia
Most students will attend Public schools. Parents do have to pay school fees and every school can establish their own fee structure. Government subsidies are available for those who cannot afford to pay the fees. Many parents are now opting for Private schools, which are more expensive.

Students in Public school follow the CAPS curriculum and write their National Senior Certificate at the end of grade 12.  CAPS stands for Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements.  It is the curriculum that all government schools must follow. 

The curriculum focus in Primary school is on Maths, Languages and Science.  In grades 8 & 9 they have a lot of different subjects, e.g. Natural Sciences, Economic & Business Studies, Human & Social Sciences (History & Geography), Technology, etc.
The ESL Connection -- blog post about education in South Africa
Table Mountain, a famous landform overlooking Cape Town; source: Pixabay
From grade 10 they must take two languages, maths / maths lit, life orientation plus three other subjects. The Sciences are broken up into Life Science and Physical Science (Chemistry & Physics). 

In High School all students must take two languages --one home language and one additional language. They must also take Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy up to grade 12.  There is a huge amount of different subjects available and it all depends on what each school offers. 

Private schools offer various curriculums, e.g. CAPS, IEB (Independent exam board), CIE (Cambridge International Examinations), etc.  I work in a Private school that follows the CIE curriculum. 

Students do take standardized tests.  The ANAs (annual national assessments) are written by grade 1 - 9 students. The foundation phase students (Gr 1-3) write literacy and numeracy papers.  Gr 4 - 9 write Mathematics and their Home Language ANAs.

The NCS, or National Senior Certificate, is the certificate that students receive once they graduate from High School. Students have to write (and pass) the NCS exam at the end of Grade 12.  Everyone has to get a NCS pass at the end of grade 12. If they write CIE exams it will be converted to a certificate accepted by universities (equivalent to a NCS). If they write IEB or CAPS, they will receive a NCS.

A large percentage of my grade 10 and 11 classes are ESL students.  I use the resources in this product, my Biology Crossword BUNDLE Set 2, for review work before exams. It helps with definitions, spelling, etc. They love these!
The Lab product in The ESLConnection
Click HERE for the Biology Crossword Bundle Set 2 from The Lab
Learning English
We have 11 official languages in South Africa. Most students in South Africa are bilingual.  At my school, we have a lot of students who speak Afrikaans at home. They are coping well in school since they are exposed to a lot of English on TV, in the media, through music, etc. Most can speak and understand English; however, their written English might not be up to standard.  In my school, English is the language of instruction and is taught as a first language.
The ESL Connection blog post about education in South Africa
Political map of South Africa; source: The CIA World Factbook
We do offer English as a second language at schools.  All students must take two languages for their NCS exams - their home language (English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, etc.) as well as a First Additional Language. Many students choose to write exams for two Home Languages (1st language).  I grew up in an Afrikaans-speaking home and took Afrikaans and English as Home Languages at school.

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
To teach High School, you need a degree in the area that you want to teach (Science, Languages, etc.) as well as a Post Graduate Teaching Certificate (PGCE). Primary school teachers usually complete their B.Ed degree, which is a four-year degree.  No special training is required to be an English as a second language teacher, except for a degree in languages and a PGCE.  They are just known as the English teachers!  In fact, in many schools, you will find that the English teachers will teach both.
The ESL Connection blog post about education in South Africa
Flag of South Africa; source: The CIA World Factbook
Click HERE to find more information about education in South Africa here.

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Liezel Pienaar teaches Biology, Chemistry and Physics courses in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Her TpT store is The Lab and she has resources for all three subjects in her store. 
The ESL Connection -- guest post by The Lab
You can find her products HERE
You can also find her on Facebook.  Thank you very much, Liezel, for sharing your knowledge of education in South Africa with us!

Monday, October 12, 2015

How to Instill Good Behavior in Middle School Students, Part 3

"True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise
of the body; the two are ever united."
-- Wilhelm von Humboldt

Today I am finally going to share with you my #1 tactic on how to manage behavior in middle school classrooms.  It is...drumroll, please: Yoga balls!  I have five tips to offer if you are considering using yoga balls, as well as what some of my rules are for using them.  And if you are wondering how administrators view yoga balls, read on to find out what my ESL supervisor wrote in an evaluation after she observed me in a class where students were sitting on them instead of on chairs.  (You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

I started using yoga balls about four years ago, after reading articles about their benefits and realizing I had one in my basement that I never used.  (A quick Google search for yoga balls and middle school students brought up over 18,000,000 results!)  I brought my yoga ball to school, blew it up, and let students who had been diagnosed with ADHD use it in class.  This was towards the end of the school year and when I saw it was a hit, I decided to get a few more yoga balls over the summer and then, the year after that, I bought a couple more, until I ended up with five yoga balls.
Yoga balls in middle school | The ESL Connection
Yoga balls in my classroom; source: The ESL Nexus
All my students loved sitting on them!  From my unscientific observation, when students used the yoga balls, they were able to concentrate on their work longer and were able to pay better attention when I was talking.  I really felt that they did not get as distracted and were less liable to disturb other students when they were using them.  However, I did have to lay out some ground rules to ensure that everyone used the yoga balls appropriately.

Based on my experience, here are five tips for using yoga balls in middle school classrooms:
* First, determine where you will store the yoga balls—you need to make sure you have enough space in your classroom for them!  Then you can figure out how many to buy.
* Figure out what sizes of yoga balls you will purchase.  They generally come in three sizes that are based on the height and weight of the people who will use them, but each company that makes them sizes their yoga balls slightly differently.  Since I had students who were anywhere from under 5’0” to 5’10” in height, I bought medium and large-sized yoga balls.
* Let your students pump up the yoga balls!  I did it for the first two but then asked my students to do it; they were more than happy to help.
* Do not push the plastic pins that keep the air inside the yoga balls all the way down; if you push the pins down as far as they go, then it is very difficult to pull them out when you have to pump more air inside, which eventually you will have to do. And then let the students know that they shouldn’t play with the pins, in case they accidentally pull them out and the balls start losing air.
* If you have more students than yoga balls, create a schedule for who can use the balls on which days and post it where it can easily be seen.  This was not an issue in my middle school classes but I had ten 3rd graders and five yoga balls (but one ball was way too large for them so it was off limits) so each student had to rotate when they could sit on a yoga ball.  I devised a simple schedule that was posted above the counter where their work materials were kept.  It looked something like this, with names written in for each day of the week:
Yoga balls schedule | The ESL Connection
Simple schedule for rotating the use of a limited number of yoga balls; source: The ESL Nexus
It’s also important to create a list of rules for students to follow before they start using the yoga balls and revise or add to them as needed.  Here are some of my rules:
1) Students had to keep the balls on the carpet, not the tile, because I didn’t want to risk something from the hard surface popping the balls.
2) Students couldn’t bounce the balls like basketballs.  (Believe it or not, a couple students liked to do that.)
3) Students had to keep both feet on the floor at all times.  This was to minimize the chance of them falling off the ball, which did happen, especially in the beginning when they weren’t used to sitting on them yet.
4) Students could not bounce real high, as if they were on a pogo stick.  This was both to prevent them from accidentally falling off and hurting themselves and also because it bothered my eyes when they moved up and down rapidly like that.
5) Students had to put the balls away themselves at the end of the class.
6) If they didn’t follow the rules, they would be subject to my usual consequences for poor behavior.

Yoga balls in middle school | The ESL Connection
2 more yoga balls in my classroom; source: The ESL nexus
I bought my yoga balls at Target but only because that was most convenient for me and I had coupons for the store.  There were two brands that I liked: Reebok and Gaiam but since that was a while ago, other companies may have other brands available that you prefer.  I paid around $20 per yoga ball.

So what did my supervisor think about my ELLs using yoga balls?  She wrote, in an observation report from January 2013:  [The teacher] has a collection of stability balls which she allows her students to sit on instead of chairs.  It is believed that because the brain must engage in order to keep one’s body centered on the ball, the person will be better able to concentrate.  [Her] students’ level of involvement during this period seems to support this contention.”  The rest of the evaluation was also very positive.  I urge all teachers to get a few yoga balls and try them out with their students!

Do your students sit on yoga balls?  Do you have questions about using them in your class?  Please leave your questions and comments below and let us know how you manage the use of yoga balls in your classroom!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Acclimate ELLs to Autumn with a Linky Party

"The music of the far-away summer flutters around
the Autumn seeking its former nest."
-- Rabindranath Tagore

I hope I do not disappoint anyone but I am going to postpone my third and final post about behavior management for older students until next week -- please come back next Monday to find out what my favorite tactic is for middle school students.  Instead, since it's the beginning of the month, I'd like to offer a linky party for autumn resources that are appropriate for October and November.

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The rush that comes with the start of a new school year in September (or maybe August, depending on location)  has passed and it’s on to the routine disruptions of holidays in October and November.  Does it seem like just about every week another holiday is celebrated?

For ELLs who are new to the U.S., Columbus Day, Halloween, Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving might all be new to them.  Daylight Savings Time ends too.  Teachers can help their students who may not know why these holidays are celebrated or what the traditional ways of celebrating them are by doing activities that provide information about them and are not just for fun.
Excelerating ELL Education Fall linky party on The ESL Connection
A Fall day in Massachusetts; source: The ESL Nexus
My Halloween vocabulary task cards resource introduces common terms for that holiday and is aimed at ELLs with high beginning and low intermediate language proficiency as well as upper elementary students.  My Thanksgiving task cards resource gives ELLs and other students practice in solving word problems about fractions by using scenarios typical of that holiday.

What products do you have that you use with English Language Learners to teach them about Fall holidays?
  Please link up to two products below.  They can be for any holiday in October or November but should be resources you have used with ELLs or designed with ELLs in mind.  Please do not link up resources for December—that will be the focus of another linky party.  If you do accidentally upload the wrong resource, you can delete it by hovering your cursor over the thumbnail and then clicking on the trash can icon that appears.

(Next week, I'll finish my series about behavior management tactics that work with middle school students.)
Fall Linky Party for ELL Resources