Monday, September 26, 2016

Education Around the World: Morocco

 "Traveling -- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."
-- Ibn Battuta

I think every teacher, especially ESL teachers, should spend some time working in a foreign country, although I don’t think it’s necessary to follow Ibn Battuta’s example and travel around the world for 29 years.  Teaching internationally offers many professional and personal benefits, not least of which is that the stories and pictures you can show your students upon return to your home country exposes students to new ideas and broadens their world view.

Heidi Raki from TpT store Raki's Rad Resources is one such teacher and she is today’s guest blogger.  Heidi is an American who taught Grades 1 – 5 at an international school in Morocco for 3 years.  She has an interesting perspective on education in Morocco because not only did she teach there, she is married to a Moroccan who went through the Moroccan school system and her children went to school in Morocco for a few years as well.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Map of Morocco; source: The CIA World Factbook
I am very pleased to have Heidi share her knowledge about education in Morocco.  In her own words:

Structure of Moroccan Schools
The school system in Morocco comes in many tiers. Each tier is based on language, as is much of the culture of Morocco. The official language of Morocco is Arabic, but the language of business in Morocco is French. Both French and Arabic are required to be taught in all schools, but the amount and quality of this instruction varies greatly from one type of school to another. Once students are in one “tier” of the Moroccan school system, it is very hard to switch them to another. The bottom tier of schools in Morocco are public schools. These schools are free, taught in Arabic with French taught once or twice a week as a foreign language. Class sizes in these schools is generally over 30 kids per class. Most people who can afford to do not send their children to public schools.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
The Medina in Agadir, Morocco; source: Heidi Raki
The next tier of schools in Morocco are private bilingual schools. There is a wide range of these schools and tuition varies with the range. However, these schools are generally affordable to working class families. In these schools, students spend half of their day in French and half of their day in Arabic. Many of these schools offer an additional hour a week of English. My sons attended a school like this for three years. They spent three years at this school and walked away fluent in both French and Arabic. My oldest son was 8 when we arrived and due to start second grade. They allowed us to enroll him in first grade, but were very clear that they do not take any students who do not speak the languages after first grade. My husband graduated from this type of a school.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
1st grade classroom; source: Heidi Raki
Once you reach high school, which is called lycée, you are required to choose a track, the science track or the humanities track. This will dictate the classes you take. At the end of high school, students are required to take a test called the baccalaureate. If they do not pass this test, they do not receive a high school diploma. However if you do pass your baccalaureate test, you can attend the public universities for free.

The top tier of schools in Morocco are international schools. There are French International Schools, Spanish International Schools and English Speaking (American and British) International Schools. These schools have high tuitions and cater to expats and wealthy Moroccans. The schools I taught at were English Speaking International schools. Students receive all of their instruction in English, but take an Arabic class and a French class every day. The teachers at these schools are almost always expats, or people living in Morocco from other countries. Most international schools require you to be a native speaker in order to teach there.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
1st grade classroom; source: Heidi Raki
Preschool in Morocco is all private and almost always taught in French, even for students whose home language is Arabic. Preschool is broken into three sections – petite section (3 year olds), moyenne section (4 year olds) and grande section (5 year olds).

The School Calendar
Schools start in the middle of September and run through June. Students in public and private Moroccan schools generally have Wednesday afternoon off, based on the French system. Students in public school also have Friday afternoon off, but attend school all day on Saturday. These schools close on Friday afternoon so that students may attend Mosque with their families, as Friday is the important day to attend mosque, like Sunday and church in the US. In many Middle Eastern countries, Thursday and Friday is the “weekend,” but Morocco has a western calendar because of its history of French colonization.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Mosque in Casablanca; source: Pixabay
Student holidays, however are based around Islamic holidays which are based on a lunar calendar. Because of this, holidays change from year to year. Students in all schools learn about these holidays. When I taught first grade, I created a center packet to teach them about the three most important Muslim holidays: Eid al Adha, Eid al F’tour and Ramadan.  You can download it for free here.
Learn about the education system in Morocco: Guest post written by an American teacher who worked there | The ESL Connection
Free resource about 3 Muslim holidays; source: Raki's Rad Resources
International schools will honor traditional holiday breaks in the winter and spring, as well as the Islamic holidays. Since Islamic holidays are based on the moon, sometimes the specific date of the holiday is not announced until a few days before the holiday.

There is a national curriculum for Morocco. It dictates that all students must learn Arabic, French and Math. It also states that all Muslim students must be provided with Islamic Studies. For older students, there are specific classes that must be taken, including a foreign language such as Spanish, German or English. Each school chooses its own textbooks and lists these books on the yearly supply list. Students supply all of their own textbooks. For elementary grades, this generally consists of a reading basal, a science book, a history book, a grammar book and a math book in both French and Arabic, as well as Islamic studies books.

Schools in Morocco start around 8:30. Most schools in Morocco allow students to go home for lunch from 11:30 – 1:30. Students then return to school from 1:30 – 4:30 or 5:00. This is becoming less common, particularly in big cities where traffic can be challenging. My sons’ school shortened their break to only an hour and allowed students to stay at school and pay for cantine (school lunch). International schools generally do not release students for a lunch break, and instead offer American style cafeterias.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Moroccan food; source: Pixabay
For bilingual primaire (elementary) schools, the morning block is done in one language and the afternoon block is done in another. Since teachers share students, they will have two different classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. For bilingual lycée (high schools) schools, the day is broken into six blocks. Classes will depend on the student’s individual schedules and can be in either French or Arabic. If students do not have class for a block, they are expected to leave campus.

The Moroccan government does not post things on the internet generally, but this link to the Algerian Government's Guide pédagogique (in French) is very close to what is taught in Morocco.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Old Town, Chefchaune; source: Pixabay
Learning English
In private Moroccan schools, English is taught as a foreign language. Students learn nouns and verbs and work from workbooks. Students generally receive about an hour a week in English. The teachers are almost always language learners themselves and so the English taught is often limited. In high school, the instruction is done by a complete immersion and is generally of a higher quality. Students in high school will take lessons every day for the last two years of their school career. In international schools, English is taught through immersion. In many schools, 70% or more of the population does not speak English at home. We teach English through immersion and directed ESL lessons where students are instructed on how English works through grammar and vocabulary lessons.

This vocabulary packet is one of a set that I made specifically for my students in Morocco.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info about this resource
I found that because they rarely used English outside of my classroom, students missed key vocabulary. Because of this, we started using these weekly vocabulary packets which helped them build up their vocabulary and their reading comprehension.

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
For all levels of school in Morocco, a college degree is required to teach.  For an English-Speaking International School, it is required that you are certified to teach in your home country.  If you are only teaching English, not in the school system at a private language school, then they must be TESOL certified.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Historic imam's house, near Agadir; source: Heidi Raki
The baccalaureate test is a very big deal for students.  All students who take the baccalaureate must take French, Arabic, history and geography tests. The other parts of the baccalaureate are dependent on the “track” that a student chooses. Students in the science track will take physics, biology, chemistry, etc.  Students in the literature track will take writing, literature, poetry, etc.  They must take the baccalaureate in order to graduate from high school. There is also a test at the end of 6th grade to enter college (middle school). The test covers Arabic, French and math. If students do not pass, they repeat their final year of primaire and do not move on to college.  Other than that, students take teacher-made tests at the end of each term.

Final Thoughts

Teaching in Morocco allowed me to see that there are pros and cons in all education systems. Morocco has a very different system than here in the US, but the students are learning. They are stronger in some areas and weaker in others. The system isn’t perfect, but it does a good job for its students.
Guest post about education in Morocco, with a link to a freebie about 3 Muslim holidays | The ESL Connection
Flag of Morocco; source: The CIA World Factbook
Thank you very much, merci beaucoup, shukraan, Heidi, for such an informative post!  It’s really interesting to see the influence of colonization on the Moroccan education system. 

You can read more about Heidi’s teaching on her blog, which is also named Raki’s Rad Resources, including posts with more information about her experience in Morocco.  And be sure to check out her TpT store for a large selection of language, math, and technology resources.

To read the previous posts in this series, please click on the links to read about education in: Sweden, England, United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Quebec (Canada), South Africa.

Monday, September 19, 2016

8 Benefits to Using Digital Resources

"It's a great thing to live in a digital age.  It's convenient; it's fast."
-- Loretta Lynch

Do you teach in a 1:1 classroom?  Do you use Google Drive or Microsoft One products with your students?  Have you ever just wanted to try a digital resource to see if your students like learning that way or if it increases their engagement with your curriculum? 

Or are you just not sure about why you should use digital resources?  In addition to Loretta Lynch’s reasons, there are many more advantages for using these types of digital products:

Benefits To Using Digital Resources:

They help develop students' 21st century technology skills
They increase students' motivation because most are digital natives and enjoy using technology.
They prevent students from losing their work because it's automatically saved and they can't accidentally forget it at home.

♥ They help students keep up with their class when they are absent because they can access materials wherever they are if they have an internet connection
They help students prepare for online standardized tests by practicing reading and typing online.

♥ They save time because teachers don't have to print out and photocopy materials for students
They enable teachers to access materials wherever they have an internet connection and across digital platforms
They help preserve the environment by going paperless.

Some TeachersPayTeachers sellers have made it super easy for you to find these kinds of products.  Just for today, September 19, 2016, you can type in the hashtag #TpTDigital in TpT’s search bar and see a multitude of resources available.  The products aren’t on sale; the hashtag is a promotion until Midnight Eastern time, September 19th, to help you find some resources you may not otherwise know about.
Find digital products like this photo-based Africa writing prompts resource with the hashtag #TpTDigital on 9/19/16
Use the hashtag #TpTDigital to find digital resources today!
I only have a few Google Drive products but will be adding more as time allows.  This resource is the digital version of another product in my store.  It's a writing resource that can be used in Language Arts as well as Social Studies classes that teaches students about aspects of West African culture.
Find digital products like this photo-based Africa writing prompts resource with the hashtag #TpTDigital on 9/19/16
Click HERE to learn more about this digital product; source: The ESL Nexus
If there is a particular product that you would like to see converted into a Google Drive resource, please let me know in the Comments section below and I’ll make that a priority.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September's #ELLEdTech Chat: Tools for Teaching Reading to ELLs

Providing reading instruction that develops students' skills without reaching their frustration level is always a challenge but at the beginning of a new school year, it may be difficult to get an accurate idea of where students are in terms of their reading skills.  This is especially true for ELLs who may be new to a school, let alone new to the English language, and who are often grouped not by proficiency level but by grade level.
Join the net #ELLEdTech Twitter chat to discuss teaching reading to ELLs; Sunday, Sept. 19, 2016 | The ESL Connection
Use the hashtag #ELLEdTech on September 19th to join us!
With the plethora of materials available to teach reading, it can be hard to find just right resources that meet the needs of most of the students in a class.  And who has time to wade through loads of reviews or spend time on free trials?  Join co-host Laurah and me this Sunday, September 19th, as we discuss Tools for ELL Reading Instruction.  I think you’ll get some great ideas that will help you provide reading instruction to your ELLS!

Schedule and Questions
Introductions: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTech
Q1: What tools do you recommend for use with ELLs during reading instruction? #ELLEdTech
Q2: How are these tools useful to support ELLs with reading? #ELLEdTech
Q3: What are the pros or benefits to using these tools? #ELLEdTech
Q4: Are there any cons or drawbacks Ts should be aware of with these tools? #ELLEdTech
Q5: What advice do you have for teachers beginning to use technology with reading instruction? #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.

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.) 

You are welcome to let any of your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well know about it. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday evening!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Quotations and Questions about Labor for Labor Day

"Labor Day is seen as a day of rest for many hard-working Americans."
-- James P. Hoffa

And in that spirit, I am going to keep this post short.  I came across some quotations about labor that were thought-provoking and it occurred to me they would make good discussion starters for students.

So I created a freebie which you can download here.  You’ll be asked if you want to make a copy; say yes and then you can download the resource.  There are three quotations about labor, at varying levels of difficulty in terms of the vocabulary used.  (Blue is easiest, red is intermediate, and silver is hardest.)  There are also three discussion questions.  Students, especially those in middle school, will probably not know who the authors of the quotes are so you can either tell students to skip that question or have students do a little research to find out whose people are.
Students can discuss the meaning of quotations about labor with this freebie! | The ESL Connection
Quotes shown here are on the same page--grab your free copy HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
Each quotation is on a different page, and the discussion questions are on their own page, too.  There is also one page that has all four quotes and questions on it, if you want to save paper when making photocopies.  The instructions below are provided on their own page.

Here is how I’d use this resource:
1) Divide the students into small groups of mixed ability.
2) Distribute the handout to each group.
3) Tell them to read the questions first, then the quotations.
4) If there are any words they don’t understand, they should ask other members of their group, look the words up in a dictionary or, lastly, ask the teacher to explain them.
5) All students should respond to the questions, taking turns in their group to do so.
6) If you wish, you can have the groups report out to the whole class about the results of their discussions.
7) As a follow up for either in-class work or homework, you could ask students to pick one of the quotations and write a paragraph about what it means to them, using the questions to help students focus their answers.
Students can discuss the meaning of quotations about labor with this freebie! | The ESL Connection
Here's another thought-provoking quotation; source: The ESL Nexus
Happy Labor Day!

For background information about Labor Day to share with students, check out my Labor Day holiday poster in acrostic poem format.