Archive for September 2012

ELL Writer’s Workshop Celebration

We have just finished our first writing unit, “Small Moments”.  The students spent the first five weeks writing true stories about their lives.  Last week, they had to choose one of the stories to publish.  We had a special in-class celebration with chocolate brownies and ice cream, and they got to share their story with the rest of the class.




This past couple of weeks, we have been working a lot with wordless picture books.  There are MANY great titles out there.

These books have NO words, only pictures, and are wonderful for English language learners.

I have been using them for describing the pictures, sequencing the story, talking about what is happening in the story, and predicting what the students think will happen in the story.  They have enjoyed being able to talk freely about what they are reading, and have shown some wonderful reactions to the pictures.

Here’s what four students have to say about them :

After reading Barbara Lehman’s wonderful book, The Red Book

 I asked the students to choose a picture in the book and add words.  They collectively decided that they didn’t want to do that.  They wanted to do the entire book.

Look at the fantastic book they made:

[issuu width=420 height=297 embedBackground=%23000000 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120927105635-b29fe162db364f058e9c79bb81e0b3aa name=ylast-onecccol009 username=misserika tag=book unit=px v=2]





Rotating Stations in the Classroom

Once every six days, I have my beginner and intermediate EAL students together for 50 minutes.  One way to differentiate instruction and provide a variety of activities is to set up different stations in the classroom.  Each station has a different task and the students are able to rotate through all stations by providing time limits of 15 minutes per station.  If they are not finished, they have the choice of finishing or moving on.  This way there is no pressure on the slower students.

Our Unit of Inquiry right now is Healthy Living.  I chose three activities centered around healthy living.

Station 1: A Basket Full of Exercises.

Students had to fill the basketball net with different exercises and label them.  I provided sports flashcards to provide support for the beginner EAL students.

Station 2: Staying Healthy

There was a worksheet on Staying Healthy where students had to match the person with the appropriate ‘healthy living’ picture.  For example, the person on the left with the cold would be matched with the box of tissues.  In addition, they could create a ‘Staying Healthy’ poster, focusing on one way to stay healthy in terms of personal hygiene.

Station 3: Packing a Picnic

This was a cut and piece together picnic puzzle, which the students could then color.  In addition, they had to label the different items of the picnic in terms of food groups.

Overall, these lessons with rotating stations always go really quickly.  The students stay focused and work hard, knowing that they are on a time limit and have something else exciting to move on to.  It is important for the students to be able to work fairly independently at each station, otherwise it provides too difficult to manage for the teacher.  The only time consuming part is the preparation, but once you have the materials made, you can always use them again.

Building Language in the Classroom

In my beginner class, we always start the lesson with a question.  Feelings and emotions are usually taught the first week of school, in order for the children to be able to express themselves appropriately, so How are you? is typically one of the first questions.

We go through the various emotions: happy, sad, fine, okay, tired, angry, sick, hot and cold on the first day, and then I start adding in the more complicated emotions: worried, surprised, confused…etc.  This year, I wanted to make it more hands on for the kids, so we used the iPads to take photos of ourselves showing the various emotions.  I printed them and the following lesson they had to sort the pictures to match the words.  It was really fun for them and has enabled them to have varying responses, other than ‘happy’.

Reading at Home

Parents always want to know what they can do to help their child with English, at home.  When the child is a complete beginner, my EAL colleagues and I are strongly against any sort of English tutoring at home, or at the weekend.  When the language of instruction is English, the child is exposed to English for 8 hours a day.  His or her brain is completely exhausted by the end of it, and no extra English lessons are going to help that.  If anything, it may spur a hatred for the language.  Instead, we recommend English speaking playmates and any of the English ‘game’ websites I have listed under Links for Students or Useful websites and Resources.

Reading, however, is a must!  We encourage reading in the Mother Tongue language, or in English, for at least 30 minutes every day.  Reading is one of the strongest indicators of success today in school, and children must have exposure on a daily basis.  They must, however, be reading the ‘just right’ books.  If they stumble over five or more words while reading the first couple of pages, it is not a ‘just right’ book.  In this case, it would be more beneficial for someone to read that book to the child and talk about what is being read during and after reading.

Talking about what your child reads is very important.  It gives the reader the chance to vocalize favorite parts and funny pages, ask questions if needed, and also clarifies whether they have understood what they have read.

Here are some questions to get them talking about what they have read:

Did you like this story?”  “Did you have a favorite part?” “I liked the way that…..  Did you like that bit?”  “Where do you think this story is happening?”  “Did you feel…about…?”  “Why do you think…happened?”  “Did the character change at all?”  “Does this remind you of anything?

The beginner EAL kids usually start with the “I like….because…” or “….made me feel…because…”.  Feelings and likes are usually quite tangible.  It’s harder for them to discuss the why and the how, but giving them sentence starters may help.  I use a Reading Bookmark in the class to help them talk about their reading.

 It would be a good idea to use this in the home as well.

Creating a Spider Concept Map using Popplet lite

Lesson Two: Create a digital spider concept map for ‘Healthy Living’

Our Primary Years Program (PYP) unit in grade 2 right now is: Healthy Living.  The students are learning what the body needs to be well-balanced and how to make informed nutritional choices for maintaining good health.

For my large beginner and intermediate EAL class, I wanted them to create a concept map for the words, ‘Healthy Living’ using either pictures or text.

We started with a hardcopy first.  The task was to draw a box in the middle of plain paper and write the words, ‘Healthy Living’.  The students had to link up to five boxes with either pictures or words representing what ‘Healthy Living’ meant to them.  We generated ideas as a group and I wrote those on the whiteboard for the beginner EAL students.

The students then learned how to create this digitally using the iPads.  I choose a mapping application called Popplet Lite   as a platform for the students’ ideas.  They started with the center box and then joined five additional boxes.

I showed them how to type text, use the pencil to draw, change the size of the boxes and link the boxes to each other.  Several of the students figured out on their own how to change the color of the boxes and change the size of the text in each box.



Here are some of the finished spider maps:


This was a very successful 90 minute lesson.  Once the students understood the basics and were able to create boxes, link them to the central box and edit their work, they were extremely focused.  I liked the fact that the beginner EAL students could draw their ideas and others could add text.  It really showed those students who are only thinking of healthy living in terms of nutrition or exercise.

Welcome 2012-2013 teaching year!

It’s another year in the 2nd grade EAL classroom at the American International School of Bucharest.  New students, new home languages and injection of new ideas from having three months of summer.

The 10 iPads are now being used throughout the grade levels 1-5 for many interesting projects.  The first lesson introduced the various grade level classes to the rules and responsibilities when using the iPad, and each student was involved in creating the agreement and signing it.

The 2nd grade iPad agreement read something like this:

  • We will always have clean hands when using the iPad.
  • We will only use the iPad with permission from the teacher.
  • We will only use the iPad for school purposes.
  • We will hold the iPad with two hands and keep it on the desk unless instructed otherwise.
  • We will not change the settings on the iPad.
  • We will ask for help from a teacher when we have a problem with the iPad.
  • We will not add or delete anything on the iPad.
Many of the students have iPads at home.  When asked what they used them for, 90% of the students responded with, ‘play games’.  My main objective is to show them all the other tasks and activities that can be accomplished using the iPad.
Lesson one: Taking a photo and manipulating it.
The students used the Camera app, to take self-portraits and photos of each other.  
We then used PS Express, Adobe Photoshop Express to manipulate the photos.  The students were able to change the size, colors, brightness, add a border and other effects.  
Check out some of the examples below:











The students were very motivated by the lesson and I found the free PS Express app easy to use with all grade levels. The upper grades were more adventurous with their poses:









Even though there was lots of variety in what the students could do with their photos, many chose the rainbow effect, or the vivid effect.

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