Sunday, February 28, 2016

Better Late Than Never

"If you waste time looking at the locked door, you won’t see the open window."
Krio proverb; source: Life in Sierra Leone, West Africa 

Phew, made it!  :-)  It took me longer than planned but, as often happened with my students, some unexpected things came up and I wasn’t able to finish my Black History Month freebie according to schedule.  However, it’s now available and there is still one more day to the month so: Thank you, Leap Year!

About the Resource
And if you can’t use this resource tomorrow, there’s always next year although you can use it anytime you are teaching about Africa.  The materials in this freebie are a sample of what’s in two paid products.  The sampler includes a photographic clip art image of an artifact that I bought in Sierra Leone, West Africa, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there along with three writing prompts about it.
Clipart and writing prompts from Sierra Leone freebie by The ESL Nexus
Click HERE to download the freebie sampler
I loved my time in Africa and would love to go back some day.  In the meantime, I have all my artifacts on display throughout my house so whenever I look at them, I can remember my time there.  Now, I am happy to share a little bit of Africa with you through the artifacts in the freebie sampler and the larger products.

About the Proverb
Krio is the lingua franca used in Sierra Leone -- it is an English-based language but with its own grammar and vocabulary words from Portuguese and other African languages.  Used as a language for trade by the different ethnic groups, it is also the first language of the group of people whose ancestors were slaves freed by Britain in the 19h century and who settled in the coastal area around Freetown, the capital.

Regarding the proverb that opens this blog post, I suggest you ask students what they think it means.  They could discuss it in small groups and then share their ideas with the whole class. You could also ask students to draw a picture to illustrate the meaning of the proverb. 

According to the book it comes from, the U.S. equivalent is "It's an ill wind that blows no good" (p. 65).  However, I think a better interpretation is "Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees."  In other words, don't get so caught up in the little things that you forget or ignore the bigger picture.  It could also mean: Don't get caught up in all the reasons why something can't be done -- think about how you can do it instead.  If you have a different idea about the meaning of the proverb, please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.  You could also have students research other African proverbs and create mini-books or bulletin boards displays about them.
Find clip art and writing prompts in an African Studies freebie sampler by The ESL Nexus
Teaching manual used by The ESL Nexus; ISBN 0-943804-83-3
The book the proverb comes from is a manual for teachers with several interesting and fun activities that teach students in Grades 6 - 12 about what it's like to live in Sierra Leone.  I used it when teaching about West Africa in my world geography course but it may be hard to find now.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Why I Gave Myself an Extension

"Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
-- William Shakespeare

Shakespeare was wrong!  At least, in terms of being late.  I had so hoped to have a freebie ready for you today to use for Black History Month but it just isn't gonna happen.  I'm sorry!  I've been working on some resources about Africa and although one is done, the other two are not yet completed.  They are a collection of clip art images based on photographs of artifacts from Sierra Leone and a set of writing prompts about those artifacts.  The freebie will be a sampler that offers a piece from each of those products.
Why it's okay to give work extensions | The ESL Connection
One of the African Studies products--more to come!  Source: The ESL Nexus
Rather than put together something of questionable quality, I will take my time and do it right.  Something I used to tell my students a lot: Don't rush!  Because here's the proverb that says it all: Haste makes waste.  If my students asked me for more time, I almost always said yes if it meant the quality of their work would be better.

So I will be a day or two late but as soon as the freebie is ready, I will blog about it so you know it's available.  I know it's not the end of the world but I wish I could have met my deadline.  However, since I often gave my students extensions on their work, I have decided it's okay to give me one, too.  Thanks for your patience!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Only One Week Until #ELLEdTech!

"We need to prepare students for their future, not our past."
-- Ian Jukes

Info about new Twitter chat #ELLEdTech | The ESL Connection
Join us for the chat! Source: Tools for Teachers by Laurah J
Educational technology and English Language Learners can be a match made in heaven or it might seem an unfathomable chasm for students and their teachers.  There are lots and lots of apps and software available for teaching ELLs but there are also lots of ELLs who don’t have access to computers or tablets -- not regularly in school and not at home.  To discuss issues surrounding the use of technology by students learning English as an additional language and how their teachers can support them as they do so, Laurah from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J has invited me to co-host a new Twitter chat, Bridging the Tech Gap for ELLs, with the hashtag #ELLEdTech.  An important topic in the 21st century, I'm thrilled to co-host and we hope you will join us!  The first chat begins Sunday, February 21, 2016, at 7:00pm Eastern time and future chats will be on the third Sunday of the month at the same time.

Questions and Schedule for the Chat
7:00: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #EllEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What technology do you have available at school or in your classroom? #EllEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How many of your ELLs have technology at home? What kind? #EllEdTech
7:21 = Q3: Do you feel ELL students have enough exposure to technology? Why? #EllEdTech
7:29 = Q4: How often do your ELLs get to use technology? #EllEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers of ELLs when it comes to technology and ELLs? #EllEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.

2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”

3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.

4. Starting at 7:05 @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.

6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.

7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, or to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet . If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.

New to Twitter chats?  So was I a while ago!  They go quickly and that can be intimidating at first.  Don’t worry – it’s okay to feel like the chat passed you by.  That’s why it’s helpful to write responses to the questions and schedule them ahead of time. Doing that ensures your ideas get posted at the relevant time during the chat.  We also have some general rules to ensure the chat goes smoothly:

Is this your first Twitter chat?  Here are our rules:

1. Please stay on topic.

2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked. 

3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.

4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!

5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.

6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.)
Info about new Twitter chat #ELLEdTech | The ESL Connection
Feel free to share this announcement with interested colleagues; source: Tools for Teachers by Laurah J
Lurking is fine for the first chat; that’s what I did until I felt comfortable enough to jump in and tweet.  I realized that I was feeling like my beginning-proficiency level ELLs probably felt: A newcomer who didn’t speak the language so I just sat back in my silent period until I’d learned enough vocab and my affective filter was lowered.  But I encourage you, as I encouraged my students, to go out of your comfort zone and participate at least once in this first Twitter chat.  Think how confident it’ll make you feel if you do.  And for those of you who are advanced Twitter users, fluent in the use of hashtags and retweets, my expectations are that you will have lots to say about bridging the tech gap with ELLs!

You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well know about it. We can't wait to chat with you on Sunday evening!

P.S.  If you would like to read more about working with English Language Learners beforehand, my Pinterest board Articles about Teaching ELLs may be of interest.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bridging the Tech Gap for ELLs with #ELLEdTech

"Each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time
share a general responsibility for all humanity."
-- Marie Curie

English Language Learners and technology: A natural fit or a bridge too far?  Some would say using technology to teach English makes perfect sense.  With all the websites and programs available, there’s bound to be something that meets every student’s needs.  Others might say that ELLs don’t have the same level of access to technology due, in part, to economic constraints which are only widening the gap between them and other students.
First Twitter chat on 2/21/16 #ELLEdTech | The ESL Connection
Join us on Sunday, February 21st for the 1st chat!  Source: Tools for Teachers by Laurah J
To discuss this issue--Bridging the Tech Gap for ELLs--I am excited to share with you that Laurah from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J and I will be hosting a Twitter chat on Sunday, February 21st, at 7:00pm Eastern time.  Laurah had the great idea to host a monthly Twitter chat focused around ELLs and technology so every month, on the third Sunday, we invite you to join us as we share ideas and info about how teachers use technology with ELLs.  I am honored that Laurah asked me to co-host and I hope you will join us.  So mark your calendars for a new and informative way to spend 30 – 45 minutes on a Sunday afternoon or evening!

We are using the hashtag #ELLEdTech.  Next week, I’ll post the questions we’ve generated for the chat so you can see them before Sunday the 21st if you’d like to prepare your responses in advance. Twitter chats go very quickly so I encourage you to look at the questions ahead of time.  If you’ve never participated in a Twitter chat before, here’s a chance to check one out from the very beginning!  And if you have done them before, please come and add your ideas as this Twitter chat is not just for ESL teachers -- everyone is welcome!

In the meantime, tomorrow is the start of Spring Festival, aka Chinese New Year.
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Which means Happy New Year in Mandarin.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Going Back to My Roots for Black History Month

"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin
and culture is like a tree without roots."

What is the message that is given to students when a Social Studies course on world geography has textbooks for Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and North America but not for Africa or Latin America?  That was the situation I found myself in when I had to teach that subject at my former school.

I was able to draw on my Peace Corps Volunteer work in Sierra Leone and create lessons based on my experience there.  But what was a teacher who’d never been to Africa supposed to do?  Nowadays, you can just Google “Africa” and get 1,520,000,000 hits (as of Sunday evening) but before that?  You were kind of stuck.  Maybe there were some books that weren’t too out-of-date in the library that you could use.
African continent made from a coconut husk, carved by a Sierra Leonean craftsman; source: The ESL Nexus
I’ve always enjoyed listening to music from other countries and when I was in Sierra Leone—way before Ebola and long before the civil war—I got tape cassettes made of my favorite music.  So one thing I did in my 6th and 7th grade world geography classes was play music as an activator when students were coming into my classroom and also when they were working on class assignments.  I have a lot of tape cassettes as well as CDs so it was easy to play in the background because there were no accompanying videos to watch. Even if the kids didn’t particularly like the music—because it wasn’t what they were used to—I wanted to expose them to it.

Interestingly but ironically, much of the music I heard in Sierra Leone was not actually by Sierra Leonean musicians or bands.  One of the songs I liked was Going Back to My Roots by Odyssey, which turned out to be an American group.  I guess you could say it’s a small world after all!  Music from England, Jamaica, Australia, and the US as well as other African countries was very popular.

The most famous group nowadays from Sierra Leone is Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars.  They have performed in the U.S. and you can watch a video of them playing a few of their songs for NPR here.  In addition, a documentary about how they got together in a refugee camp during the civil war in the 1990s is available on Netflix and at Amazon, which I highly recommend, and it could even be shown to students if you provide some background information beforehand.

Another Sierra Leonean musician is Sorie Kondi.  Actually, kondi is the name of the instrument he plays; it's a thumb piano.  Sorie Kondi is blind and self-taught.  He has toured in the U.S. and you can hear one of his songs here.  His music is more traditional than Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars.

African music selections for Black History Month
Pan-African flag--for more info, click HERE; source: Wikimedia Commons
Here is a list of five other famous African musicians and bands whose music you can play in your own classes during Black History Month or whenever you are teaching about Africa.  All of them have music for sale in the iTunes music store and some are also available on other music streaming sites as well as on YouTube.  Just click on the names to go to websites where you can hear some of their music.

Youssou N'Dour, from Senegal: Singing Wake Up (It's Africa Calling), performed with Nenah Cherry as a benefit for a health organization.

Fela Kuti, from Nigeria: Songs and videos on his official website but some of the content may not be suitable for younger students.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from South Africa: Selections of some of their songs on their official website; they are 4-time Grammy award winners.

Sonny Okosun, from Nigeria: Singing Fire in Soweto, a big hit in 1977.

Johnny Clegg, from South Africa: Song selections on his official website; he was the leader of a multi-racial band in the 1970s and 1980s.

Africa and China resources link up | The ESL Connection