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Showing posts from May, 2013

ESL Ruminations, Take #2

On May 7th, I wrote a post detailing concerns I was having about the activities that my ESL students were engaged in during our class time. I surveyed the class and got some interesting responses about what was going well and what changes we could make to improve these assignments.

What follows are some of their comments and suggestions:

My students asked for the opportunity to have conversations with each other, or with me, about a variety of topics. So, we initiated what I call, "conversation partners". We've done this a few times and  they have been working really well. The first time we did this, we brainstormed some possible topics so that the students would have an idea of what they could talk about with each other; we only had to do this one time. They have approximately 10 minutes for a conversation. We do pairs or trios but no more than that. At the end of the conversation time I ask each of them what they learned about their partner.Almost unanimously, my studen…

Books, books, books!

Ever since I can remember I have loved to read, and I still do. I have fond childhood memories of visiting my neighborhood library in Brooklyn, on the corner of Ocean Ave and Kings Highway, many times as I was growing up. On a recent visit to NY, I was saddened to see how rundown it has gotten over the years; it was always airy, light and clean when I was growing up but no more. But that's a topic for another post.

The point I am trying to make is that I read a lot. When I was younger, I would  read under the covers with a flashlight, presumably so my mother wouldn't notice that I hadn't gone to sleep yet. I don't think I ever got caught so that tells you that my mother never checked or she simply ignored the late-night-under-the-covers reading.  Either way, I'm glad because it helped me develop a love of reading that continues to this day. I am never far away from a book. In fact, I usually carry around a book with me for those just-in-case moments at the doctor&#…

Boston Commencent 2013

I am currently in Boston for my daughter's graduation from BU. As I searched for an image about Boston to embed into this post, I discovered that just about all of the images I came across on google were of the destruction caused by the Boston Marathon bombings. So, just for the record, Boston is a beautiful city that has harbored my daughter for the past four years. I am grateful for her time here and am confident she will do great things in the world.

Unfortunately, the commencement speaker, TfA founder Wendy Kopp, was uninspiring although she had clearly prepared her speech. Kopp introduced herself as "the person responsible for those persistent Teach for America recruiters who have been after you all year," Yet, those same recruiters when challenged about TfA and its mission by the very students they are trying to recruit, don't bother to respond demonstrating an unwillingness to engage in dialogue about the ultimate purpose and premises of TfA. But, back to Kopp…

Email Junky

OK, I am beginning to realize that I am an email junky. Extreme, you say? Hmmm...

How do I know I'm addicted? Well, I check my messages numerous times a day, too many to count, on my iPhone and on my personal and work laptops as if the email coming through on each of these devices is going to be significantly different and better. Hah! 

The curious thing is that when I don't check my email for hours at a time, there's nothing there that couldn't have waited anyway. There is rarely anything that required an immediate reply. 

I check my email several times a day because it seems like I'm always expecting something important - personal or work-related emails, it doesn't matter. (Oh, and did I mention that I manage three email accounts??)
The point is that I'm always waiting. And, that's not any fun. In fact, it's pathetic and mentally exhausting. So, I've decided to limit email to between two to three times a day: in the morning, mid-day (if I must), …

ESL Class Ruminations

I have been using the Daily5 with my beginner to intermediate middle school students and have been fairly happy with the results: children who like to read and write. They are finding authors and series they enjoy and are discovering that writing can be a powerful way to communicate with others. I work with my students in a pull out situation.

Recently, though, I've been feeling pressure, mostly from myself and a little bit from observing my students, to change up some of what goes on in class so that there are authentic assignments that stretch my students as language learners. More specifically, I'm trying to determine which tasks are useful because they extend and enrich students' English language development, and which are just busy work and students are finding a chore to complete. The four standard weekly assignments are:

Dialogue Journals - running conversation twice/week between my students and myself.Storytelling - about a personally significant event. This also in…

Mystery Skype!

On Thursday of this week, my 5th and 6th grade beginner ESL students and I participated in a Mystery Skype session with a class in Connecticut, USA. This was my first Mystery Skype and I was nervous. In fact, the day before our scheduled session, I emailed my partner teacher to say that I was getting cold feet. Although, she was very understanding of my hesitation as a first time Mystery Skyper, she encouraged me to stick to our schedule and reassured me that everything would turn out great. And, guess what? It did!

My partner teacher and I emailed several times and Skyped ourselves in preparation for our Mystery Skype.

Even though we had a holiday on Wednesday and I couldn't adequately prep my kids for the Mystery Skype, I still had enough time Thursday morning to get them ready. They caught on immediately, which speaks to the power of keeping things simple and not belabouring a point, and we were ready to go on time. Each group correctly guessed the other's location. My stude…

Full Writing Disclosure

I have decided, yet again - but this time I will come through, I promise - to write every day. Pinky swear!
I may not publish what I write as a blog post every day but I will write as if I were. That's a big proposition and, to be honest, it scares me. But, I have decided that I need to stop being scared of putting myself out there and just do it.

So, this means that I have to listen carefully for possible writing topics.
I need to be open to writing about unfinished ideas rather than blogging about things I am certain about.
I must be true to the title of my blog, A Teacher's Ruminations, and allow myself the freedom to be tentative, to be wrong, to question myself and others.

I look forward to this new covenant with myself. I hope you will join me on my journey.