Monday, January 26, 2015

Lunar New Year 2015

As an ESOL specialist, I always enjoyed teaching students about the different cultural holidays around the world. One of our favorites to study was the Lunar New Year. Did you know that each Asian country that celebrates Lunar New Year based on the ancient Chinese lunisolar calendar has their own special traditions for this holiday?

This year the Lunar New Year falls on February 19, though many countries have celebrations for days before and after.

The traditions across Asia are varied and interesting. Explore the map below to find out more about the countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year and how they celebrate! This map also makes a great station for helping your students explore the traditions of each celebration!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Padlet

Happy Tech Tip Tuesday! I hope your week is off to a great start! Mine certainly is....I'm in sunny Orlando, Florida attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC). I'm super excited about all of the awesome things I'm learning and hope to come back with many great tech tips to share in the future.

Today's tip is for a fun, web-based tool called Padlet. This great tool functions as an online bulletin board that you can add text, images, videos, links or text to. You can change the look and the background, and really customize it to fit your personality or topic.

Students post their thoughts and it is visible to everyone on the Padlet. I like to use this during group discussion and project to the board so everyone can see questions and comments as they are posted. You can go back to your padlet months, days or years later to refer to what was shared.

A padlet I recently used during a PD

Padlet can also be used to:

  • Activate background knowledge on a topic
  • Post-assessment on what students learned about a topic
  • Share resources relevant to a topic (and resources in L1 for newcomers)
  • Reading/video response
  • Showcase student work
  • Address questions that come up without having to stop the flow of the lesson
  • Keep a record of questions asked during a lesson
Why this is good for ELLs:
Incorporating Padlet automatically adds another language modality to your lesson, and provides opportunities for students at different proficiency levels to respond. Sometimes during a discussion, students with lower proficiency have trouble following along, or don't feel comfortable piping up during a discussion. Padlet can be a great tool to help them keep up with what is going on since they can see it on the screen and read at their own pace. They can also ask for clarification or add their own ideas in a lower-pressure way. 

I hope you find ways to incorporate this awesome tool into your instruction!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Story Behind the Logo

I recently came across Jenny K.'s link-up about "The Story Behind the Logo". It looked like a fun little link-up, so I decided to get in on the fun! Read on to find out.....

Way back in 2011, I was working for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, NC. At that time, there were a lot of shady things going on in that district, and teachers in general were starting to be treated really poorly by the state of North Carolina. I was looking to leave, and also looking for an outlet to debunk many of the injustices I was seeing happen to teachers all over the county.

That's when I started this blog. It was originally less focused on ESOL, and more focused on the teaching profession as a whole. After a few months, I started focusing my posts more on ESOL, and renamed the blog "The ESOL Odyssey".

Soon after, I got a job offer in Maryland and we packed up and left North Carolina. When we first arrived in Maryland, my hubby was unemployed and we were paying rent on our apartment here in addition to mortgage on our house in Carolina. I was thinking about ways to supplement our income almost constantly.

My first job here in my current district was as the only ESOL teacher at a K-6 school. One day I was searching for lesson ideas and materials when I came across Teachers Pay Teachers. On a whim, I decided to sign up. At first, I signed up just using my name.

As I began to grow my store, I started to think a lot about branding. I knew a lot of the sellers on TpT were using their blog name as their store name, but that didn't feel right to me. I loved the name "The ESOL Odyssey", but I didn't want to limit myself by giving the impression that my items were ONLY for ESOL teachers. I wanted to convey the idea that while they were created with ESOL students in mind, they were really great for developing academic language in all students.

I settled on "Tools for Teachers by Laurah J." At that time, my logo was a photo of me that incorporated my logo from The ESOL Odyssey so that people could still make the association between my store and my blog. Here's what my first logo looked like:

Then, during the last site redesign, TpT went to round logos. I don't like my photo inside a round border because I felt that it made ME look round, too (Vanity! Laurah is thy name!). So, I decided to use an avatar that had been created previously for another purpose. The avatar did a great job of capturing my quirky personality. I decided I wanted to continue incorporating my little world symbol as well, so I added that next to the avatar and wrapped the name of my store around the top and bottom, to get my current logo:

Hop on by to learn the story behind the logo for these other great teacher-authors!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Scoop

Here's this week's Sunday Scoop!

As always, stop by Teaching Trio to see what other teachers are up to this week!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

To a police officer, from a teacher

Dear Officer,

In recent times, there has been a backlash on social media and mainstream media for people who wear the uniform. When you are one of those dedicated individuals who pour your heart and soul into your profession, I know how much it hurts to see that profession denigrated by the public.

You see, I'm a teacher. Just like you, I am far more likely to see the negative examples of those who've chosen my profession exhibited as the "typical" in the media, even if that is far from the truth. Like you, I've often put my own wants, needs, and desires to the back burner in order to meet my calling- serving those I've pledged to serve. For me, that's children. For you, public safety.

Even if that means working late hours when my family wants to see me, or missing family holidays because I have to "catch up"- something that never truly happens because there's always something to do- even when I'm "off". Like you, there's always someone my heart laments over because, despite my best efforts, they "fell through the cracks".

Like you, I've laid awake at night, wondering if I've made the right choices and asked the right questions of those who depend on me. People depend on us for different reasons, that's true, but they depend on us nonetheless.

Like you, I've questioned whether I'd have the courage to be the person I think I am when it comes down to it. I know we both have fears of facing an armed gunman. For you, its the decision of when to pull the trigger. For me, it's the choice of the lives of 30 children over mine- a no brainer until you're looking down the barrel of a gun.

Though our decisions and lives differ in many aspects, they converge in many too- the desire to make a better tomorrow from a crappy today. I want you to know that I see you- and I see the good examples. You are the officer who takes groceries to the single mom you caught stealing milk- instead of arresting her. You are the officer who resuscitates a kitten because it is a living being. You are the officer who asks questions before pulling the trigger. You are the officer who comforts a grieving widow.

You are appreciated.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Thinglink

This week's tech tip is so much fun- and you can use it on your blog as well as in your classroom! Back in my early days of teaching when I didn't get an LCD projector (too low on the totem pole), I had a trusty overhead projector (yeah, the one with the lightbulbs, mirrors, transparencies and markers) . I frequently would show students a picture related to something we were about to study (a picture of Japanese architecture before reading Sadako, for example). Students would call out words and phrases that came to mind related to the picture.

Now, the digital age is in full force. Thinglink is a tech tool that has both a web-based platform and an app for devices. Thinglink allows you to upload any photo and have students (or blog readers) comment. Comments can be links, images, videos or text. And- it's free! You can embed it into a website or blog, add it to a group that students can join and access on devices, or share via a link. You can go back to your thinglink image days, months or years later for reference.

This tool is great for:

  • Building and activating background knowledge
  • Making predictions
  • Reading response
  • Pre- and post-assessment
  • Exit ticket
  • Warm-up activity

Check out the thinglink below and feel free to comment:

Why this tool is great for ELLs:
Visuals are very powerful for making and sustaining connections for English language learners. Giving students a variety of ways to respond ensures that each student can find a way to respond despite his or her English level. In my experience, many ELLs do not have computers at home, so the fact they can access a thinglink on a device like a smartphone is a bonus.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Scoop

What are you up to this week? Here's my Sunday Scoop!

Check out what other teachers are up to over at Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop Link-up.

Don't forget to tune in Tuesday for another Tech Tip Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: StormBoard

One of my professional goals for this academic year has been to help teachers find meaningful ways to incorporate technology into instruction- particularly for ELLs. And, I love sharing what I learn, so I've decided to start a weekly "Tech Tip Tuesday".

To kick things off, this week's tip is a web-based tool called Stormboard. Stormboard started as a business collaboration platform. But you know teachers- we're always repurposing innovative ideas for our own needs in the classroom. As a result, StormBoad now offers several great educational templates for storming. Right now, it is free for educators until July 31, 2015, and you can create unlimited storms! 

Students create a "sticky" to share their ideas. You can color code the stickies in your storm for different purposes. A "sticky" can contain text, images, videos, links, even drawings! Even better, you can refer back to your storms days, weeks, or months later!

StormBoard is a great brainstorming tool that can be used to:
  • Brainstorm ideas for writing
  • Pre-assess student knowledge on a topic
  • Reading response
  • Build and activate background knowledge
  • Post-assessment
  • Exit slip
  • Collaborative planning with colleagues
  • Staff development
Why this tool is great for ELLs:
ELLs need opportunities to write down their ideas and refer back to them. With StormBoard, ELLs can refer back to their responses and their classmates' responses from school or home. The opportunity to see the responses of classmates can provide language models and ideas that ELLs can build off of to create their own response. The variety of response types makes it possible for even students with limited English to participate and respond.

Have a great week!

Monday, January 5, 2015

January Recipe Roundup!

So one thing I've decided to do this year is to widen the array of recipes that I make regularly. I love sharing and trying new recipes, so I thought I'd start a monthly themed recipe round-up for teachers to share their favorite dishes fitting the theme.

 Since it's winter, and cold where I live, I've been starting with the crockpot. I've been using my crockpot almost every week day. With a liner, clean up is absolutely minimal. My vacuum sealer makes storing leftovers for lunch later (or freezing) super easy.

So, this month's round-up is.....

Laurah's Crockpot Chicken All-in-One
Serves 2

  • 1 lb. chicken tenders
  • your favorite marinade
  • 2 small corncobs, frozen
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained (I like the whole wheat)
  • 2 2/3 cups evaporated milk (I use skim)
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray or use slow cooker liner.
  2. Toss cooked pasta with 2 tbsp. butter and place in slow cooker.
  3. Stir in evaporated milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Cook on low 3 hours.
  4. Wrap chicken tenders in foil with marinade. Place on top of macaroni in slow cooker.
  5. Wrap corn in foil with 1 tbsp butter. Place next to chicken on top of macaroni. Cook 1 hour longer.
  6. Remove chicken and corn from foil and plate. Add a scoop of mac and cheese to each plate. ENJOY!

So now for the "round-up" part!
1. Blog your favorite slow cooker recipe.
2. Add the picture above and the badge below to your post, both linking back here.
3. Add your post to the link-up.
4. Show some love to the two bloggers above you!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Scoop

Well folks, it's back to the grind! Can you believe winter break is already coming to a close? Seems like just yesterday I was counting down the days. While I was thinking about all the things that need to get done, I came across Teaching Trio's Sunday Scoop, so I decided to link up.

There's nothing like marking things off a list to make you feel like you've accomplished something. In fact, I'm guilty of making a list after I complete a series of tasks just so I can have the satisfaction of marking things off so I can feel accomplished. Shh! Don't tell anyone!

So, here's my Sunday Scoop. If you're so inclined, head on over to Teaching Trio via the button below and link up or see what other teachers are hoping to accomplish this week.

Here's my Sunday Scoop! Hope you enjoy!