Monday, May 30, 2016

6 Things You Should Know About Memorial Day

"For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts,
and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."
-- James A. Garfield, future US president,
speaking at the first
Memorial Day ceremony in 1868
6 facts about Memorial Day and a linky party for vacation and summer slide prevention resources | The ESL Connection
James A. Garfield, 1831 - 1881; source: Wikipedia
Today is Memorial Day in the United States.  Below are some facts about the holiday that you might not already know.  For more information about Memorial Day, please visit my Pinterest board Holidays Around the World.

6 facts about Memorial Day and a linky party for vacation and summer slide prevention resources | The ESL Connection
Collage created by The ESL Nexus
1) It was originally called Decoration Day because one activity was to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War with flowers and flags.
2) Ceremonies honoring fallen soldiers were held in various cities between 1864 and 1866, including Charleston, South Carolina, where freed slaves decorated the graves of Union soldiers in 1865.
3) In 1868, General Jon Logan, as head of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans organization, declared May 30th to be the day for celebrating soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
4) Although celebrated in many states, Memorial Day became a Federal holiday only in 1971 and the day was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May to give government workers a three-day weekend.
5) Arlington National Cemetery, where the Tomb of the Unknowns is located, is on land that used to belong to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general in the Civil War.
6) In 2000, Congress passed a law declaring a moment of silence at 3:00pm local time as a way for Americans to show their respect on Memorial Day.

Add 1-3 resources or blog posts to help ELLS and other students maintain the gains they made during the year and prevent summer slide.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Education Around the World: England

"For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain."
-- Dorothy L. Sayers

For two countries who share the same language, more or less, the differences between the education systems in the U.S. and the U.K. are striking.  To find out more, this month’s guest blogger is Rebekah Humphrey-Bullen from TpT store LittleStreams.  I am very pleased that she will provide us with some information about what it’s like to attend school in England.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
The United Kingdom; source: The CIA World Factbook
In her own words:


I am currently a private tutor, so I work one to one with students who find maths and English hard. Therefore I tutor all ages from 7 to 16. I started making resources for my students, and below is an example of the types of materials I use with my students.
This 4-part worksheet pack is aimed at both USA and UK Teachers and Tutors, and has been quality assured against both US Core Standards and UK National Curriculum requirements.
You can find this resource HERE
I was secondary trained, though, and I taught maths to years 7-11 (ages 11-16). I now am a school governor, which is like a leader, of a primary school. It’s not the same as being the principal (called a head teacher in the UK), instead we are similar to a board of trustees, or shareholders of a company. All schools have to be governed by a board of volunteers, called governors, who oversee the strategic leadership of the school, such as finance, policy decisions and setting the school’s vision. We also appoint the headteacher, and act as a board for them to be accountable to.

Structure of U.K. Schools
School starts in year 1 at the age of 5, though many start in reception at age 4. They attend primary school, which is split into Infants for years 1 and 2 and junior for years 3-6. These are called Key Stages 1 and 2.

Then they go to secondary school. Some counties have a different system and use middle school, but that's dying out now. From the age of 11-16 they attend secondary school. Year 7-9 are Key Stage 3, and years 10 and 11 are Key Stage 4. At this point they do their GCSE's (General Certificate in Education). These are very important qualifications. Most students do about 12 GCSE’s. They have to take English, mathematics and science. You normally have to get at least 5 GCSE grade C’s, including maths and English, to be able to progress on to most courses or get jobs. If you don’t get these, you must retake. The GCSE’s are currently going through a huge change. This year is the last year where students will receive a letter grade. From 2017 exams students will receive a number grade from 1-9 (9 being the top grade), and the exams will be much harder with new content taught.

Students have to stay in some form of education until 18, but they can either do 6th form at their secondary school or local college (college is different from University) and study A Levels, or BTECs, or NVQs--so many choices--or they can go to become an apprentice. There are state schools, called comprehensives, academies and free schools, and Grammar Schools etc., and there are private schools. (Public school is another word for private schools in the UK). Most students attend academies, which are run by companies rather than the government.
Guest blog post about education in England | The ESL Connection
To get your copy of this chart, click HERE; source: The ESL Nexus & LittleStreams
The School Calendar
School starts in the beginning of September and runs until the end of July. The school year is split into three, with Autumn term ending at Christmas, Spring term ending at Easter and Summer term ending in July. Students also get half term in October, February and May, which is a week off school. Some private schools give two weeks off, but then students have to attend school on Saturdays.

Christmas and Easter are a two-week holiday. May Day is a national public holiday. We used to dance around the may pole on May Day, which is where children dance with ribbons attached to a pole so the ribbons plat around the pole. The 5th November is Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night. This is the day we celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament in 1605.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
Plaque commemorating Guy Fawkes' birthplace; source: Flickr, CC by 4.0
We have the National Curriculum, which states what has to be taught in all subjects. This is a vague list of what students should know by a certain time, rather than any steadfast rules, although key subjects such as maths, English and science are a lot more structured.  The content for mathematics is similar to the U.S. Common Core State Standards, though many of the high school topics are part of the A level maths, which is not a compulsory subject in 6th form.

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
The most popular way to become a teacher in the UK is to do a course called a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) once you have a degree. It's an intensive year long course with practical experience of teaching. During this time you are a student teacher, and closely monitored. Then you have your newly qualified year, where you are a newly qualified teacher (NQT). This is like an induction period and it is still possible to fail this year. If this happens, you are not permitted to work as a teacher ever again, and you don’t get a second chance to repeat this year.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
Rebekah and one of her students; source: LittleStreams
There are other ways in, such as a degree in teaching, which takes a year longer than most other degrees, which is a popular route for primary school teachers, or a schools direct approach where a school hires you as an unqualified teacher and you work in the school to gain your qualification. But however you get in, you have to complete 150 hours teaching. Which ever route you choose, you still have to complete your Newly Qualified Teacher year.

No special additional training is required to teach English; English teachers teach both English Literature and English Language. However, to teach English as a foreign language, there are a variety of different courses you can do. If you teach adults, you don't even need a PGCE, you can do a different course. Then they are called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TESL or TEAL (Teaching English as Second Language/Additional Language).

Teaching English
In the UK, English is the native language, so we study English Literature and English language. Part of the curriculum is to look at Middle English, which is surprisingly difficult to read.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
Arundel Castle, West Sussex; source: PublicDomainPictures
For students for whom English is not their first language (EAL), there are lots of supportive measures put in place, but the general guidelines are the importance of immersive language. I had a boy in my maths class once. He had just come to England from Poland and didn't speak a word of English. The school got him a teaching assistant who spoke his language. She was able to help him understand what the task was, but it was crucial that he stayed in the main classes as that was the best way to learn the language and to include him. As he had a translator, this meant that in many subjects, such as mathematics, he was able to write in his native language, which proved that he was an exceptionally smart lad.

To teach English as a Foreign Language, you can do a course called TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). If you teach it in a college or an adult learning centre, this qualification is enough. You don’t need to then get a PGCE.

There is something called SATS (Standard Assessment Tests). These are done at the end of Key Stage 1 (Year 2, aged 6/7) though it is not compulsory at this age, and again at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6, ages 10/11) where it is compulsory. Then when they start secondary school, many students are given the CAT test, which tests their ability to reason etc. This is also not compulsory, though many do it.

In years 10 and 11, ages 14-16, students take their most important exams, the GCSE's. These are recently going through a shake up -- until this year, students are graded from U (ungraded) then G-A*, where C is the expected level most students should achieve. From next year, students will be graded from 1-9, with 9 being considered the absolute top grade. In addition, all levels of education, from reception through to A levels (Advanced levels), have just gotten a lot harder.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
Logo for A Levels; source: Wikipedia
At the moment, the UK is going through some major changes in the way education works. A lot of teachers, parents and students are unsure of exactly how these will affect students' GCSEs.

After GCSEs, students can continue the academic route and study A levels where they pick three or four subjects to focus on. This is a two-year program with exams at the end of the course. Or they can study more vocational subjects such as BTEC National Diplomas or NVQs. BTEC stands for Business and Technology Education Council, and NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification. These tend to be one subject in a lot of detail. For example, I have studied a BTEC National Diploma in Drama and another one in Media. They are also continually assessed via coursework rather than exams. Although these are taught in 6th Form at schools, they are also taught in colleges (which are not the same as universities in the UK), and are not exclusively for students aged 16-19. Many adults also go to college to study these subjects. On the whole, though, BTECs are seen as worth slightly less than A levels, especially if you want to go to University.

Rebekah has many more math resources in her LittleStreams TpT store.  Several are card games that teach about various math topics.  Check out her free Simplification Switch sampler for Algebra.
Guest blogger Rebekah from LittleStreams describes the education system in England, including the school calendar, the structure of schools, curriculum, how to become a teacher, testing, and the teaching of English.
The Union Jack--Flag of the United Kingdom; source: The World Factbook
Thank you, Rebekah, for describing some aspects of the education system in England.  Becoming a teacher and being a student is certainly very different in the U.K, even though the language of instruction is English!

You can read more guest posts about education around the world by clicking on the country names: United Arab Emirates; Scotland; Quebec, Canada; South Africa.

Monday, May 16, 2016

3 Reasons Why Mistakes Are Actually Good

"Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom."
-- William George Jordan

Yesterday, there was a mix up about the #ELLEdTEch Twitter chat.  I thought it was scheduled for May 15th but my co-host Laurah had it down for May 22nd.  The month of May started on Sunday the 1st so the third Sunday came sooner than expected.  I sincerely apologize for the confusion.  The chat has been rescheduled for next Sunday, May 22nd.  You can read more about it in my previous post, which is where the topic and questions are posted.

I’d like to devote the rest of today’s blog post to mistakes and what we can learn from making them.  English Language Learners are often anxious in class because they are afraid of making a mistake and possibly being laughed at as a result.  But I always told my students that mistakes are good.  Here’s why:
A scheduling mix-up prompts the author to reflect on why students shouldn't be embarrassed about making a mistake.
One road to success; source: The ESL Nexus
1) Mistakes show that you are trying new things.
If you make a mistake, chances are you are doing something that is new for you.  You may be trying to use a new word or solve a problem using a new method or build something for the first time.  If you never try to do something new, you will never learn anything new.

2) Making a mistake means you want to learn and develop your skills.
The adage practice makes perfect applies perfectly here.  When you try something new and it doesn’t work out, you can analyze what went wrong and then apply that knowledge the next time you attempt to do whatever it is you want to do.  The more you do something, the better you will be at doing it.

3) Mistakes develop "grit."
I am getting a little tired of seeing this new buzzword everywhere but there is definitely more than a grain of truth to the concept.  If you make a mistake and figure out why it went wrong, then you have a choice: Try it again and see if you do it right the second time or give up and forget about it.  If you try again and persevere until you get it right, you are developing your analytical skills, your ability to problem-solve, and your capacity to engage with a task for an extended period of time.  You also get the satisfaction of knowing you were able to ultimately overcome something that had previously given you difficulty.

So what did I learn from our scheduling mistake?  Well, facilitating a Twitter chat is something new for me and I learned that I need to communicate better with my co-host to avoid mistakes like this in the future.  Am I going to stop co-hosting the chat because something went wrong yesterday?  Of course not!  I’m embarrassed but I tweeted my apologies and I hope my followers and others who wanted to participate will understand.  I will continue to co-host the chat—next week and the 3rd Sunday in the months to come—because I enjoy the interaction with other educators and I learn a lot from the chats about using technology with ELLs.
Use hashtag #ELLEdTech to discuss using tech tools for assessment with ELLs
New date, same time!
I hope you’ll join us next Sunday!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Using Technology to Assess ELLs: March's #ELLEdTech Twitter Chat

"Learners need endless feedback more than they need endless teaching."
-- Grant Wiggins

Wow, it’s already the third Sunday of the month tomorrow!  Please join co-host Laurah from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J and me for May’s #ELLEdTech Twitter chat. The topic is Tools for Assessment.  Below are the details:
Join the April #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on 5/15/16 to discuss using technology tools for assessing ELLs
Join us on Sunday!
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introductions: Tell us your name, location, level and subject taught #ELLEdTEch
7:05 = Q1: How do you use technology for assessment of ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: What are your favorite tech tools for ELL assessment? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What benefits do you see from using technology for assessment? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Have you noticed any drawbacks from using tech for assessment? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers on getting started with using technology for assessment? #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 can't wait to chat with you on tomorrow evening!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Are You Starting to Sing Alice Cooper's Song?

"School's out for summer..."
-- Alice Cooper

I was certainly aware when I was a classroom teacher that districts in other parts of the U.S. as well as other countries followed different school calendars.  I marveled at the fact that many states in the southern U.S. started in early August and ended in May, which was different from my New England and Mid-Atlantic schedule that I followed as a teacher and student.
End of year dates around the world & a linky party | The ESL Connection
School calendars for my former district in MA and local district in AZ; source: The ESL Nexus
And I knew that other countries followed different schedules.  When I visited Japan and stayed with the family of the high school exchange student who lived with my family in New Jersey for a year, I learned about the Japanese school calendar and their trimester system.  On a Fulbright program to India in July, I had the pleasure of visiting many schools in session and observing their teaching methods.  As a teacherpreneur now, and interacting with educators from all over the world, I have learned about even more differences between U.S. American and other countries’ schedules.

Last December, I wrote a post about countries that start school in January and February.  Today, as a follow up, I’m going to list the ending dates for 15 countries.  I think it’s really interesting to see the different schedules!  (If you find an error or would like to add your own country's last day of school, please leave a note in the Comments section below.)
End of school year dates around the world and linky party | The ESL Connection
Chart showing the last day of school in selected countries; source: The ESL Nexus
However, since I am based in the U.S., I am taking the liberty of making the theme of this month’s linky party end of year resources.  Even if your school year is not ending soon, I hope you can find some useful ideas below.

Excelerating ELL Education's May linky party: End of Year Resources