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