Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween in our ESOL Class

We only have 50 minutes from bell to bell.  By the time we take care of attendance and other housekeeping chores, we are down to 45 minutes.  We had time for two journal entries.  

The first was a video prompt.  We showed the students the commercial of the Headless Horseman, maybe it was the Horseless Headsman.  We found it on YouTube.  We took the opportunity to teach the students the suffix "-less" and give some background knowledge on American legends and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving.    Many students knew the story because they had already read it in their own language.  We showed the video 3 times.  The first viewing gave them an overall view of the message.  After the second viewing students wrote in their journals what they saw and what they heard.  After the third viewing, students wrote in their journals the message they felt the video was trying to convey.  After students reflected on the video, we had volunteers share out their written reflections.  Next year we''ll plan for a two-day lesson to read excerpts from the legend before we show the video.  This will  help students who have never heard the story before. 

The next activity was in reference to the American expression "Skeleton Crew".  Each student had a picture of a skeleton and the definition of a skeleton crew.  We discussed what "skeleton" and "crew" mean.  Next, we discussed the expression and how it is used.  Students gave examples of "skeleton crews" and the difficulty of being "short-handed" in their journals.  We also gave opportunities for students to share out.  

Students seemed to enjoy both activities and they learned tons of new words and phrases.  
Good Day! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Website Shout Out:

I found this amazing website for ELL teachers, administrators, librarians, parents and students.  Teachers can find teaching resources, as well as professional development and webcasts dedicated to second language learning.  There's material for all grade levels.  There's a glossary for parents with all the common acronyms associated with academic programs and resources for ELL's.  I was able to find charts on cognates and false cognates for my Spanish/English speakers.  I will be sharing these with them next week in small group.  I bookmarked this site because I know I'll be referencing it frequently.   Check it out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just Write Journals

I use Just Write Journals mostly every day in our ESOL class.  On our agenda board the J.W.J. prompt is written.  Students immediately begin writing in their journals while I take attendance and take care of other housekeeping duties.  I collect the journals every 2 weeks.  Each journal is worth 20 points.  I mostly check for completion, however I do leave comments and feedback.  

The heading for each journal consists of the date, the entry number and the topic.  Entry numbers are assigned according to nine weeks.  For example, we are now beginning the second nine weeks.  Mondays entry number will be 2.1.  By the end of the nine weeks, I know how many journal entries each student should have.  Bonus points are given to students who put in extra effort.  This might be a descriptive graphic, an extraordinary response or just demonstrating more effort than usual.  Credit is always given.  The only prompts that don't receive credit are the ones that aren't there.  

This writing strategy and practice has proven to be very effective in my ESOL class.  We can see the progression of their writing throughout the year.  It provides for many samples of their writing.  It gives them a place to practice using new words and newly learned writing skills.  We encourage students to use their best English.  Bilingual entries are certainly encouraged for beginners.  If a bilingual entry is too difficult, students are encouraged to write in their first language.  Prompts are translated through online translators.  

 We try to keep the journals light and fun so that students will not grow weary of writing.  Sometimes we surprise students with a stapled air head or book mark just to show how much I appreciate their effort.  

We use composition books.  I've used spiral notebooks before, but they don't endure well.  I've also used pre-printed sheets for students to put in their binders.  I loved it, however it's way too expensive.  And, obviously, takes time to copy.  One year we created our own journals by stapling folded copy paper together.  We had a homemade journal for each nine weeks.  This worked fine except I had to provide the paper.  Again, costly.  The composition books seemed to work the best for us.  At the end of each nine weeks we fold our next page into a triangle to mark the beginning of a new quarter.  This provides for dividers.  Students who write in the front and back of each page usually don't have to purchase a new composition book the entire year.  

Grading is not time consuming for me because I don't have as many students as a non-ESOL teacher would have.  However, all our 8th grade team uses this strategy.  One teacher checks the journals each day.  She reads them as students are writing, and checks them simultaneously.  Another teacher collects journals every two weeks and gives students 10 points for each finished entry.  One more idea is to randomly choose an entry to use for a grade.  

Here are some journal ideas we use in our class: 

J.W.J = Just Write Journal
* This acronym goes on the agenda board on journal writing days.

C.Y.O.T.  = Choose Your Own Topic ("Coyote Day")
* Students are allowed to write about any topic of their choice.  Usually we brainstorm topics and fill the board with possible ideas.

W.W. = Word Write 
* This is a vocabulary strategy.  We choose one word a day from our vocabulary list.  Students have choices to write a narrative or a persuasive argument using the vocabulary word as their topic.  

A.A. = All About _________ 
*At the beginning of a unit or workshop, we use this prompt as our introduction.  Students write all they know about the specific topic or skill we are about to study.  If students don't have any background knowledge, they need to build it by either interviewing someone or doing a quick search online.  Usually we have a quick class discussion to get their juices flowing.

N.I.K.  = Now I Know ____________ (skill)  ("Nick Day")
* At the end of a unit, we use this prompt as a "reflection".  Students write about all that they have learned concerning the specific skill they learned.

C.E. = Current Events
*Students may choose topics from the news or just their own life.

* I found this idea in many blogs I've followed.  (Take a look at my blog list.)  Students write the word CURRENTLY on the top of their paper.  Then, I project a list of sentence starters that includes the pronoun "I" and a verb on our screen.  Students then finish the sentences using ideas from experiences, feelings or activities they are currently involved in.  This is a great strategy for English Language Learners.

* We use the journal at the end of a unit of study to reflect on lessons learned, activities we've worked on, and student-ratings of the activities.

Visual Prompts
* Students receive a 3 by 5 black and white picture in their mailbox on the given day.  Students then glue-stick the picture into their journal entry and write a narrative, informational or argumentative response referencing the picture.

* Students are asked to react to certain articles, stories or facts we are currently reading about in class based on personal opinion and bias.

Paragraph Frames
* Students are given a cloze paragraph referring to a certain topic or vocabulary word.  Students write the entire paragraph in their journals including their responses to the blanks.

*Students share their journal entries with a buddy.  This provides students with the opportunity to practice reading their own writing and finding their own errors.

Class Journal
Last year we kept a Class Journal.  Each week students were given a poll question to answer.  I had a student do the math and create the statistics for the class according to the responses.  Then, in our class journal students would share the reason for their poll choice.  This year we haven't had the opportunity to continue the Class Journal idea.  Maybe we'll pick it up during the second semester.

Happy Journaling!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

First Nine Weeks Reflection

It's almost mind blowing to think 9-week exams begin on Wednesday.  This year continues to speed on.  Here are some reflections of my year so far...

1) Many students reached their reading goal for the first nine weeks.  Also, some took me at my word and earned bonus reading points.  I love when my students earn extra points.

2) Many students are receiving passing scores on the Reading Counts quizzes.  When they get so excited and proud of their accomplishment, it makes my day.

3) Returning students are keeping up with their portfolios and new students are catching on.  Many of my students have never had to keep a learning notebook.  Some students find this to be a great challenge, but others have completely embraced the idea.  This week we'll be taking a class period to organize and update them before the 9 week exams.  

4) I'm so pleased to see the growth of some of my returning students.  They arrived a year or two ago at "hello" and now their reading lexiles are showing great progress, their writing includes many new words we've learned over the years, and their grades have improved from other classes. One major trait we can all agree is necessary in the teaching of English to second language learners is patience.  Progress is never over night, but when it begins to reveal itself it is sweet!  

5)  New students are getting the gist of our classroom culture and procedures.  Things have settled and we are in the process of learning.  Returning students have stepped up to the plate to become student leaders. When we have a brand new student come, they are able and willing to show them the ropes.  I love when my students take positive leadership!  

6)  The first nine weeks has not been easy, it never is.  However, we continue to move forward knowing that learning is a process, teaching is an adventure, and tomorrow we'll do better.