Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays, Especially to the Behind the Scenes Folks!

"What makes me happy is the appreciation of people around me."
-- Nadia Comaneci

Every day when I go to the school where I’m volunteering, I have to sign in and out in the main office.  Well, next to the sign in book, I noticed something really interesting this past week and the other day I got permission to blog about it.

You know how, during the December holiday season, there are all sorts of fun activities for students and teachers?  Like: gift exchanges, bringing in special holiday treats to share with colleagues, handing out cards to staff members, wishing everyone Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Chanukah, and so on? 

I always gave tins of Danish Butter Cookies to the custodial staff, to thank them for all the work they did cleaning my room and the school in general.  I figured that was something all the custodians could enjoy and a large tin would last a more than just one day.
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
Thank you, Custodians, for all that you do! source: The ESL Nexus
But I never saw a thank you like the one at this school in Arizona: On the counter where I have to sign in, there was a large pail with food inside and a sign stuck into it.  Taking a closer look, I discovered it was a bucket of goodies for the people who deliver mail to the school.  What a fantastic idea!
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
Thanking the UPS, FedEx, and USPS people; source: The ESL Nexus
The men and women who bring the mail, pick up outgoing mail, and deliver packages certainly deserve the thanks of the entire school staff.  Day in and day out they work the entire year and I think this is a wonderful way to show the school’s appreciation.  And…I did notice that in the four days between my first sight of it and yesterday, there were definitely fewer items in the bucket.  So I guess the people for whom it was intended liked it, too.
How to show appreciation for support staff and mail people during the holiday season | The ESL Connection
What a thoughtful idea! source: The ESL Nexus
I’ll be taking a break from blogging next week and will return in January with new posts.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Education Around the World: Australia

"In a world as competitive as ours, the child who does not get a decent education
is condemned to the fringes of society.  I think all Australians agree that this is
intolerable.  Se we must demand as much of our schools as we do of out sports
teams -- and ensure that they keep the Australian dream alive for every child."
-- Rupert Murdoch, 1931 - 
Australian - American media mogul

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
 Map of Australia; The CIA World Factbook
It’s been a while since I featured a guest blogger writing about education in another country but maybe we can just pretend it’s taken so long since today’s post is about Australia!  I’d like to introduce Jade from TpT store Priceless in Prep, who teaches Prep, aka Foundation, which is for children who are 4-6 years old.  She works at a PreK – 12 Christian College which has their own preschool attached to the school.  Please journey with me to find out more about teaching and learning in Australia, in Jade’s own words:

Structure of Australian Schools
Education in Australia begins with Prep or Foundation (what the US calls Kinder) for children 4-6 years old, depending what half of the year they were born. Students usually graduate in Year 12 at age 17-18. There are options to leave school at the end of Year 10.

We are just now starting to have some schools transition into a “middle school” type format, however there are currently no specific schools just for these grades. We have either P-12 schools, or P-7 and then 8-12 for high school, with some high schools now starting to incorporate Year 7 as part of the middle school transition.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Jade's classroom; source: Priceless in Prep
We have a few different sectors -- public schools run by the government, private schools that are mainly run by the Catholic Diocese, and then independent schools, which are mainly Christian/Anglican.

The School Calendar
My particular school starts the day at 8.20am, we have morning tea and a lunch break, and finish at 2.50pm. We generally tend to have our Christmas holiday a little earlier than the public schools because of our longer school day.

Our school year starts at the end of January, and runs through to the first week of December. More specifically, it typically runs from around 25 Jan (the 26th is a public holiday) to Easter, then from the beginning of April to June, from July to September, and then from October to the first week of December.  We have a two-week break for Easter, and also have two week breaks between terms in June and September.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
View of Queensland, Australia; source: Priceless in Prep
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding grading systems in the past year. Our Primary school runs on a five-point grading system: Emerging, Developing, Demonstrating, Advancing and Extending. Demonstrating is equivalent to a C standard, but it is also the overall aim for the year -- meaning that the students don’t just scrape by with a ‘C’, but rather they have solidly achieved the expected standard for the year. It can be a bit confusing. Other schools have different language, but all must follow the 5 scale rating. Our high schools use a 15 point rating (E- through to A+).

Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
To be a teacher in Australia, you need to spend 4 years at university and obtain a Bachelor degree.  You can do a 3 year Bachelor degree in a totally unrelated area, like business, and then do a 1 year bridging course to gain teaching qualifications. To teach ESL you can do a certificate online or through a university. I have a Masters Degree in Education (TESOL). When working solely in this capacity, we are called ESL Teachers.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Jade's classroom; source: Priceless in Prep
Learning English
English is the language of instruction. As I teach Prep, and am also an ESL teacher and qualified Dyslexic therapist, I teach all children the same, whether the come in speaking English or not. We start with phonemic awareness activities- listening for sound, rhyming, identifying beginning, medial and ending sounds, manipulating sounds, blending and segmenting sounds.... all before a single letter of the alphabet is taught.  Here is an example of the kinds of resources I use with students:
Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info about this FREE resource
We then systematically teach phonics, covering three sounds a week. We use Jolly Phonics. After the first group of sounds is taught, we introduce a few tricky words, aka sight words. We also start formal writing activities, and comprehension strategies. We move through our phonics to teach alternative spelling patterns.

Our school uses the Words Their Way program to focus on spelling. We tend not to follow the book so much in Prep because it is very text heavy and doesn't fit the Jolly Phonics order, so we make up a lot of our own picture sorts, write the room sorts and eventually spelling pattern sorts and cloze sentence write the room activities. We focus on the structure of sentences -- in Prep we look at every sentence containing a who and a what (noun and verb). We also use Fountas and Pinnell's books and their 20 Days of Reading program, with a specific focus on prediction, inferring, making connections, schema, and big ideas.

Curriculum
We are in the process of implementing a national curriculum, which is currently in its 8th version and still changing. Not all of our states have undertaken to follow the National Curriculum and it’s still largely a grey area. Our public schools are using the National Curriculum, and the Government has written a whole suite of units to support teaching the curriculum (C2C -- Curriculum to Classroom).

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
View of Queensland, Australia; source: Priceless in Prep
It covers English, Mathematics, Science, Health and Physical Education, The Arts (which may soon be split into 5 separate areas), Design and Technology, Languages, and HaSS (Humanities and Social Sciences)- this is a new term for SOSE (Study of Society and Environment). I believe this includes civics and economics for older grades, but only has history and geography at my year level. 

My understanding of the C2C from discussions with other teachers is that it is quite prescriptive and a bit restricting.  You can read about the Australian Curriculum HERE.  These posters in the Priceless in Prep TpT store complement the Australian Curriculum.

Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Click HERE for more info
Testing
In Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 we have NAPLAN, which is a national test.  It’s very strict and stressful for the students. It is undertaken as 3 separate tests and over a few days. Year 12 students would normally undertake a standardised test -- in my state, it is called QCS (Queensland Core Skills) and lasts for three days. This test gives students an OP score (overall position) which is used as a ranking to obtain entry to university. This system is rumoured to be changing soon.

Final Thoughts
No matter where you are, we all are wanting to achieve the same thing and have the same challenges. Teaching is a hard job and it takes a special kind of person to do it!
Learn about the Australian education system in this guest blog post & grab a freebie, too! | The ESL Connection
Flag of Australia; The CIA World Factbook
Thank you very much, Jade, for sharing your knowledge of education in Australia with us!  I had no idea what the education system in Australia was like so I really appreciate learning about it from you.  You can read more about Jade’s teaching on her blog, also called Priceless in Prep, and you can find all her resources in her Priceless in Prep TeachersPayTeachers store.

Check out previous blog posts in this series here: South Africa, Canada (Quebec), Scotland, United Arab Emirates, England, Sweden, and Morocco.

Monday, December 12, 2016

8 Assumptions about English Language Learners

"The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages."
-- Roger Bacon

There are lots of myths and assumptions about working with English Language Learners.  How much do you really know?  Let’s take a quiz and find out!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Assumptions-about-English-Language-Learners-Video-with-Worksheets-2919666

Decide whether each of the 8 common assumptions in the list below is True or False.
1) Using English all the time at home helps ELLs learn English faster.
2) ELLs should learn to read first in English instead of in their native language so they don’t get confused.
3) ELL parents don't come to school conferences because they don't value education as much as other parents.
4) Most ELLs come from low-income backgrounds with low-educated parents.
5) ELLs will learn enough English in one year to do well in school.
6) When ELLs make grammar mistakes when speaking, it's best to correct them right away so they don’t make the same mistake again.
7) ELLs who don't know much English benefit from being retained a year because that lets them catch up language-wise.
8) Good teaching is all that’s needed to help ELLs succeed in school.

How’d you do?  Let’s find out!  The answers are given after each statement and then more information is provided so you can learn why the assumptions are True or False.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Esl-Nexus

1) Using English all the time at home helps ELLs learn English faster.  This is…False.
* The parents or guardians of ELLs, and any other relatives living in the household, should use the language they are most comfortable with, so all family members can easily communicate with the child.
* If their native language is stronger than English, the adults will model correct language patterns for their children instead of potentially using English with grammatical mistakes that the children will learn.
* When adults use their native language, the children absorb sophisticated language patterns and vocabulary and this will transfer over to learning English.
* Although there may appear to be a delay in learning English when a student is learning 2 or more languages simultaneously, the brain can distinguish between the different languages and the student’s language skills are ultimately stronger when he or she is bilingual.

2) ELLs should learn to read first in English instead of in their native language so they don’t get confused.  This is…False.
* When young students learn to read in their native language first, they can use their knowledge of reading in their first language as a foundation for learning to read in English.
* Understanding the grammatical structures, narrative and literary elements and styles in English texts is easier for students who first encounter them in their stronger, native language.
* When students who are learning how to read learn how to do that in their second (or third) language, they have to not only learn literacy skills in a foreign language, they also have to process their learning in their second language, which slows down how fast they learn to read.
* Students are more likely to enjoy reading if it is easy for them, which is more likely when they first learn to read in their native language.

3) ELL parents/guardians don't come to school conferences because they don't value education as much as other parents.  This is…False.
* Many parents/guardians of ELLs don’t attend conferences because they are intimidated by American schools and don’t feel comfortable there.
* In many cultures, teachers are seen as the authority who knows what’s best for the child and not being involved is actually a sign of respect by the parents.
* Many ELL parents/guardians are nervous or embarrassed about their proficiency in English and don’t attend school functions because of that or because they don’t understand what the teachers say or what the activities are all about.
* Many ELL parents/guardians would like to be more involved but they work 2nd or 3rd shift and can’t attend evening or afternoon functions, or they would forfeit pay if they left work during the day.

4) Most ELLs come from low-income backgrounds with low-educated parents. 
This is…False.
* It is impossible to generalize about the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of ELLs because of the wide range of their circumstances.
* While many ELLs do come from a low-income background, that is not the case for all ELL families.  For example, the parents of some ELLs may be visiting professors at universities who brought their families with them for the duration of their stay in the U.S.
* The adults in some ELL families may be highly educated but unable to get an equivalent job in the U.S.  Perhaps their English language proficiency is not high enough, perhaps they are not able to pass the qualifying exams for their profession, or maybe they are just unable to find a job in their field.

5) ELLs will learn enough English in one year to do well in school.  This is…False.
* It's true that many ELLs can learn enough English in one year to communicate reasonably well in social and interpersonal contexts, such as at lunch, at recess, and on the bus going to and from school.
* But learning academic language, such as the language used in social studies, math, and science often takes 5 - 7 years because of the specific and technical vocabulary involved, the content-specific styles of writing, and the more advanced grammar structures used in textbooks and writing.
* ELLs may appear to be fluent in English after one year because they speak fluently, may not have an accent when speaking (especially if they are not yet teenagers), and seem to understand everything they hear.  However, a close look at their academic work often reveals that they are not making the same kind of progress as their native-English speaking classmates.

6) When ELLs make grammar mistakes when speaking, it's best to correct them right away so they don’t make the same mistake again.  This is…False.
* Stopping an ELL in the middle of talking to correct a mistake interrupts the conversational flow and makes it hard to communicate effectively.
* When ELLs’ oral language is continuously corrected, they may become nervous or unwilling to speak out in class for fear of making a mistake, which won’t help them improve their oral communication skills.
* As long as the ideas being conveyed can be understood by the listener(s), it isn’t necessary to correct every single error.  But if someone doesn’t understand what an ELL is saying because of a grammar mistake, then the error should be corrected.  Or if an ELL makes a mistake in using a grammar structure that has already been taught, then pointing that out can be helpful so the ELL knows how to use that structure correctly.
* Other grammar errors that are made can be noted by the teacher and addressed in a systematic manner at a later time.

7) ELLs who don't know much English benefit from being retained a year because that lets them catch up language-wise.  This is…False.
* If an ELL is not doing well academically in school and is behind his or her classmates, the student may not be getting the amount or type of ESL support he or she needs to be successful.  Retaining the student will not change the situation if the reason is needing more ESL services.
* Just repeating one year is not going to help an ELL learn whatever grade level skills and content knowledge she or he didn’t learn the first time.  ELLs need special instruction targeted to their language needs – keeping them back a year is not the solution to that issue.
* Retaining an ELL because his or her English language skills are not on grade level is considered discrimination on the basis of language origin and is a violation of the student’s civil rights.

8) Good teaching is all that’s needed to help ELLs succeed in school.  This is…False.
* Having a good teacher is important for all students, not just ELLs, but an ELL needs more than just a good teacher to succeed in school.
* ELLs need teachers who know how to deliver academic content in ways that make it comprehensible for students who are not yet fluent in the English language.
* ELLs need teachers who know how to develop the language skills of their ELL students in age-appropriate ways without watering down the curriculum.
* ELLs need teachers who are aware of the differences between a learning disability and a language issue so they can provide the best services to their ELL students.
* ELLs need teachers who are aware of and respect the cultural and linguistic diversity of their students.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Assumptions-about-English-Language-Learners-Video-with-Worksheets-2919666
Were you surprised that every statement was false?  There are a lot of misconceptions about English Language Learners so I hope this information helps you work more effectively with your ELLs.

I’ve created a PowerPoint video with the information about these 8 common assumptions. There are 2 worksheets that you can download and use while you view it: the quiz itself and a page with a couple questions for reflection.  Just click HERE to access the video.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Use 21st Century Technology to Teach about the Holidays

"I think I'm a big kid at heart, so I get very excited about the holidays."
-- Bobby Moynihan

As someone who likes learning history and reading historical fiction, I totally enjoyed using technology to teach ancient and world history to my students.  What better way to get kids interested in learning about what happened more than 2,000 years than by using 21st century technology to keep them engaged?

Included in the Social Studies curricula for 7th and 8th grade were units on the origins of the major religions of the world.  I had a subscription to Glogster and used that a lot in my classes.  My students really liked the program because it let them be creative when designing their glogs (i.e. online posters) and they didn’t have to do a lot of writing to get their ideas across.

This made it ideal for use with English Language Learners.  They did  all the work in school since not every student had internet access at home, but that was manageable.  One type of assignment was to read about an important historical figure and then create a glog about him or her.  Each student researched a different person and then they shared their glogs with the whole class, so they got practice in giving oral presentations, too.
Some thoughts on using technology to teach about the December holidays & New Year's and a link up with holiday resources | The ESL Connection
Screenshots of 2 8th graders' glogs; source: The ESL Nexus
One thing that always puzzled me happened when we got to the Ancient Rome unit and the beginning of Christianity.  Many of my students were Hispanic, from the Caribbean, and were Catholic. They went to church and learned about their religion.  But they insisted that they were Catholic, not Christian.  For some reason, they had a hard time understanding that Catholicism was one form of Christianity.  Being Jewish, I thought it kind of weird that I was the one explaining their religion to them and I always told the kids to ask their families for more information.

Since Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s are fast approaching and I’m sure your students are looking forward to their winter vacation (or summer break, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere), I’d like to devote the December linky party to resources that use technology to teach about these holidays. 
Teaching about the December holidays and New Year's with technology -- a linky party at The ESL Connection.