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.