Thursday, March 5, 2015

ELL Strategy: Sentence Builders

This quick ELL strategy is effective at helping students use academic language in context while reinforcing their understanding of content concepts. This strategy assists students in linking related content words to construct sentences that are complete and correct content-wise.

How to:
1. Write 4-9 content-related words on sticky notes and create a grid (2X2 for four words; 3X3 for nine words)
2. Have students work in pairs to select three words across, down, or diagonally and construct a sentence.
3. Remind students to check that the sentence is complete, the information is factually correct, and if writing, have used conventions correctly.

See the examples below:

I would love to hear how you use this in your classroom!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Haiku Deck

I'm so excited to have a guest blogger for today's Tech Tip Tuesday! Susan is a talented ESL teacher with many years of experience working with ELLs, and today she's bringing you a great tip for meaningful technology integration.

This is Susan from The ESL Connection and I am honored to be a guest blogger for The ESOL Odyssey this week.  I recently came across a cool app that I am excited to share with you. Haiku Deck works on computers, iPads, and iPhones and lets people create online presentations in the form of slides.  Haiku Deck calls the presentations "decks," maybe because the final product is like a deck of cards with each card having an image and simple text on it.  You get to decide the design and where the text will appear on the slides, as well as what the background will be for each slide—solid colors or photos from either Haiku Deck’s curated gallery or your own computer.  It’s also possible to create charts.  This free app has three privacy settings and it is easy to share the decks with others.  The end result is similar to an old-fashioned slideshow but Haiku Deck is very much 21st century!

Here's an example of a deck I created:

SPRING - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

How it can be used:
* To write non-fiction reports
* To write book reports
* To write short personal narratives
* For persuasive writing
* To write cause-and-effect statements
* To write main ideas and their supporting details
* To create charts for various subjects
* For collaborative writing projects

Why it is great for ELLs:
The instructions are easy to comprehend and there is little text on the site itself to confuse ELLs when they use Haiku Deck.  The amount of text that can be included on each slide is limited, so students at lower proficiency levels won’t feel overwhelmed by writing.  Using photos for the backgrounds complements the written text and helps ELLs whose knowledge of English vocabulary is limited to get their ideas across. Students who are not fluent speakers won’t feel nervous or put on the spot because Haiku Deck does not include a speaking component.  ELLs can be paired with native English speakers to work together on the writing tasks, which not only supports their writing but also helps ELLs develop their speaking skills since they have to discuss and agree on the images and text they will use in their presentations.

Many thanks to Susan for sharing this awesome tech tip and being a fabulous guest blogger. Please check out her blog, The ESL Connection and find The ESL Nexus on TpT!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Scoop 3-1-15

Wow, I can't believe it is March already! My last few months have been so full of conference presentations, ACCESS testing for ELLs, and attending FETC. Hopefully this month will slow down a little.

Things I have to do...
So, this week I have to figure out what to do about my car- a less-than-fun prospect. I'd been saving up money to replace the '95 Maxima I've been driving since college. I had planned to save for another year, then sell the Maxima and use that money in addition to what I'd saved to buy a new car, and cover inspections, taxes, tag/title, etc. Well, the universe had other plans, and I had an accident on the ice Thursday night. My Maxima is totaled. Since the car was so old, carrying full coverage cost more than 2x the car's value in a year, so I couldn't afford that and only carried liability. Which means, insurance isn't going to help replace my car. I started a great GoFundMe campaign where you can get items from my TPT store or a hand-crocheted item in exchange for a donation.  

And of course, it is down to Sunday and I need groceries, but there was a thick layer of ice on the ground when I woke up, so it looks like I'll be taking a hike to the local grocery this afternoon and getting what I can carry home with me, supplementing when the roads are better.

I'm also trying to choose a Seuss book (I have so many favorites) to read to the children at one of our elementary schools tomorrow morning (if we have school) for Read Across America Day. I'm really looking forward to this since my work is mostly centered around teacher training these days.

Things I hope to do...
Later this month, I'm speaking to my district's tech trainers about Aurasma and how it can be used in the classroom. I'm really looking forward to that as I am in love with Aurasma. I think it is so exciting and has so many great applications for education (maybe I should cover that in a tech tip Tuesday soon!). I have most of the presentation put together, but need to do more practice with the newer version of Aurasma studio (my account is still on the older version).

Also, later this month is the third meeting of the Technology for ELLs Focus Group I'm leading for teachers in my district. We've completed our study of the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, and we've learned a lot of great new tech items. I need to put together this meeting, where I plan to show a few new tools, teach them how to make a video using keynote, and then we'll have a discussion about app evaluation and choosing apps for the classroom. I have a plan- I just need to make the presentation!

Things I'm happy to do...
In two weeks, we're heading down to Gulfport, MS for Gulf Wars. For me, this event is historical reenactment, family reunion, and fun with friends all rolled into one. Plus, I'm pretty sure it's at least a *little* warmer there than it is here right now, so yay for that too!

Interested in what other teachers are up to this week? Hop on over to Teaching Trio to see other scoops!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Blabberize

Wow- here we are at the last week of February already! Time flies when you're super busy! Hopefully everyone has been able to dig out from last week's snowstorms and resume normal life.

This week's tech tip will get giggles and shrieks of delight from your students- guaranteed! Blabberize is just so much fun for kids! This particular tool is excellent for help students develop their oral language skills while presenting information in a fun and engaging way. Students can create a blabber to share their knowledge on a topic.

How it can be used:
  • Retell a story
  • Explain a topic
  • Describe a historic event 
  • Explain a character's point of view
  • Describe a process
Why it is great for ELLs:
ELLs, especially those still in the lower levels of English acquisition, often feel "put on the spot" when asked to speak- making it an uncomfortable experience. Even more so if they are presenting in front of a group. Blabberize is a tool that allows students to explain what they know and demonstrate knowledge in a low key, comfortable way. They can re-record until they are happy with the final result. And well, let's face it.....the final result is ALWAYS amusing!

Here's a quick video tutorial showing you how to make your own blabber:


Monday, February 23, 2015

It's a TpT Sale!

Get your wishlist ready! TpT is having a sitewide sale on Wednesday, February 25th. All items in my store will be 20% off. Use the code "HEROES" at checkout for an additional 10% off. That's a total savings of up to 28% off! You don't want to miss out on your chance to stock up on awesome classroom-tested resources at amazing prices!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop 2-22-15

Another weekend, full of ice and snow, has come and gone. Most of the weekend I spent working on a few blog and TpT-related projects, as well as put finishing touches on my powerpoint for the workshop I'm leading tomorrow.

The last few weeks, Sunday has snuck up on me and I've missed the Sunday Scoop. However, here's this weeks!

In order to even get out for work in the morning, I first have to dig my car out from the few feet of snow it is buried under. Then, I have to arrive at the office early to set up for the workshop I'm leading tomorrow (Writing WIDA Expanded MPI Strands). Mostly, it's just a matter of setting up my projector and arranging a few tables- no biggie. And....dishes. Ugh. I've let them get a little out of control in my project-tunnel vision phase this weekend.

I hope to get my lunches made for the week this evening. I've stalled a little in my weight loss and want to get back on track. That means taking a healthy lunch with me so I don't eat snack foods or fast food. I also hope to get one night of restful sleep tonight. I didn't sleep well last night (my mind was racing), so I'm hoping tonight will be better.

One thing I'm happy to spend a little time on this evening is the new "History of St. Paddy's Day" video I'm putting together for my YouTube channel. It's going to be a fun little video and I'm having a blast putting it together.

Head on over to Teaching Trio to see what other teachers are up to!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why do teachers get snow days?: A response to Gene Marks

When I read your article, "Why Do Teachers Get Snow Days?" I threw up in my mouth a little. First, because you basically just gave every teacher who helped you get where you are today a slap in the face. Secondly, because you're so far off-base it's not even funny. Have you ever personally known anyone who teaches? (I hope not, because your article was insulting to them, too!)

First, I want to be clear. Teachers are contracted and PAID a certain amount for the days of the year they work- it varies from state to state, but the average is 180 days. We do not get paid for 365 days a year (or even the 260 days an average worker working Monday-Friday is paid for). We do not get paid for a "summer off" or "winter vacation". On average, a teacher salary is based on the 180 days we work, and the 8 hours spent in school that day (6.5 with students, 30 minutes prior, 30 minutes after, and 30 minutes "planning").

When we are out of school for a snow day, we still have to work that day. It just usually comes later in the year. Any work we do outside of those contract hours or 180 days is unpaid. That means, when a teacher spends a snow day- that he or she will make up in school later in the year- working, it is unpaid. When a teacher grades a paper or plans a lesson at home in the evening, that time is unpaid. A teacher does not get paid for all of the time he or she puts in outside of contract hours.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's review the 10 things you suggest teachers "come in and do" on snow days, one by one:

  • Come in and prepare for the next day, week, month or term’s class work. You're absolutely right- that is a good use of a snow day. In fact, that's what I have spent my snow days doing, thank you very much. The truth is, I don't need to be AT school to plan- my teacher editions, student editions, curriculum and pacing guides, and state standards are all accessible to me online. In fact, I almost ALWAYS plan at home, because every moment of "planning" time allotted at school is filled with meetings and trainings. I don't get to actually "plan" during my "planning time", so it's always done at home. Why risk my safety and the safety of others to do what I can do just as well in the comfort of my home?
  • Grade papers. Yep, did that on my snow day too. Do you know how long it takes to grade and correct 30, 60 or 100 papers? I also spend time grading papers each evening after I get home. Outside my 40 contracted hours. Unpaid.
  • Join with others in the school to do things like maintenance, cleaning, repairs, trash removal, a library reorganization, computer upgrades … or even hanging new artwork in the hallways. First of all, the school district hires people whose job it is to do those things. If I'm doing their job on snow days, then what are they doing? Secondly, even though the maintenance man might be brilliant with a hammer and some power tools, doesn't mean he is qualified or should be teaching reading to my students. Similarly, though I'm brilliant at designing engaging, meaningful lessons, that doesn't mean I'm qualified or should be wielding a hammer and wrench around the school. That would cause more messes for the maintenance person to clean up in the end (my husband is a construction worker and agrees- he doesn't want me running around the house with a hammer or wrench either). As for hanging new artwork in the hallways- that is, again, something I usually stay at school after my contracted hours to complete, and I change it monthly. Plus, if I get my grading and planning done at home on a snow day, then it is even easier to complete the task of changing student work.
  • You could use the day for team-building, meetings, group plans, discussions about the kids, tactical planning or determining long range objectives. This is what the in-service days in the weeks before and after school begins and ends are for. As well as the weekly/monthly staff meetings. And the daily meetings I attend during planning. Again, this is something I am constantly doing at other times during the normal course of duty. 
  • Have a back-up list of local coaches or trainers who won’t let a little snow deter them (particularly when there’s a check waiting) and who can run last-minute leadership and other educational programs. Do you know how long a wait list is for many of these coaches or trainers (at least quality ones)? Most quality coaches and trainers are booked months, even a year or more, in advance. My last presentation outside of my district took place in February- but I was contracted in June. In addition, the budget procedures (required to ensure school districts are using their finances wisely and transparently for taxpayers) for getting a "check" for those folks can take weeks. Most presenters won't come last-minute and wait to be paid when a check clears the purchasing office. Though if you find some quality ones who do, please, let me know. Also, I usually spend my summers attending high-quality trainings and conferences on my own dime & time.
  • You could sit in on online educational forums with your colleagues and then discuss. The great thing about the internet is that I don't have to be in the same room with my colleagues to have a quality discussion (or watch webinars or educational forums together). With the advent of tools like Google Hangouts and Skype, we can do this in our PJs from the comfort of our own living rooms. Without having to set foot in a school building or tire to icy road. In fact, I often use these tools to collaborate with colleagues and learn more about my profession- on weekends and evenings. Outside of contract hours. 
  • Or you could still … teach. You could embrace technology and hold online meetings with parents or online sessions with children over a certain age. As mentioned in the last point, I've already "embraced technology" for instruction, communication and collaboration. I often take time on snow days (evenings, weekends) to communicate with parents. During extended holidays or snow closures, I often create short educational videos or activities and share them with my students. I have held online "homework chats". However, when students are out of school, they are out of school. They aren't required to- and often don't- take advantage of these additional educational activities. I still take my time to create them and make them available because I'm a dedicated professional who cares. If even one student takes advantage, my time has been well spent.
  • Maybe your school district and union would agree to allow parents to bring their children to the school (after signing an insurance waiver of course) so that you could hold informal learning sessions with those kids. Most school districts, when creating budgets, only include about 190 days worth of operating costs for school buildings. My district even switches to a 4-day, 12-hour schedule for 12 month employees in the summer. That means any day outside that in which the lights are on and everything is up and running might put the school district over budget. Additionally, even non-union school districts I've worked for had policies against teachers doing official "work" at school, during non-contract hours without pay. In every district I've worked for, supervisors can't require teachers to be at school outside of contract hours. If you're going to do this, in most places you'd have to consider it a "school day" and excuse the students whose parents can't bring them to school. If you can't do that, and still have to make it up later, you generally can't require every teacher to be there (they're not being paid for it, if they have to make it up later in the year). Then, you basically end up with free day-care for parents who have to work and can't leave kids at home being offered by a few poor teachers who aren't getting paid. Districts generally don't have the budget to pay those teachers who can show up for an additional day.
Mr. Marks, the items on your list are items that teachers either do at home or during the course of regular daily duties at school, or they are not financially/logistically sound. Not a single one is worth endangering an educator (or someone else on the road) to do in a school building on a snow day what they can do from home. Not to mention, educators wouldn't get paid for doing any of these things since they have to make up the day later in the year (the one they spend in school, in front of students, is the day they're getting paid for). 

The only thing you've done in your article is expose yourself for the fool that you are- you clearly have no understanding of the workings of education. One of the things I teach my fourth graders is that in order to have a sound, logical argument, they must support their opinions with facts. You clearly did not learn that lesson, as I don't see a single fact to support your ill-formed opinion. Educators are highly trained professionals with a great deal of experience, training and knowledge. Stop expecting them to work for free (more than they already do). The fact is, most teachers ARE doing most of what you suggest (unpaid) on a snow day, despite the fact that they're "off". And those who aren't.....well, they're not getting paid anyway. When's the last time you worked for free?

Try shadowing an actual teacher for a month, and I'm positive your tune will change.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Powtoon

I have to tell you, Tuesday is becoming one of my favorite days because I so enjoy sharing these tech tips with y'all! I hope you're finding them useful, and I'd love to hear about how you're integrating them!

This week's tech tip is a fun, web-based tool called Powtoon! This fun tool is free, and allows you and your students to make fun, animated short videos. It includes a variety of free, pre-made templates- including several for education- that can be edited to plug in new information. The premade templates are easy to use, and all animations are already included! Users can also create their own from scratch.

Users also have the option to include voice-over that they record themselves or music in their videos, as well as add their own images. The finished videos can be shared via social media or embedded into a classroom blog- they can even be uploaded to your class YouTube channel! This makes it easy to share work with parents and administrators!

Check out this cool PowToon I made just for you!

This tool can be used in a variety of ways:
  • Explain a process
  • Describe a topic
  • Share knowledge about a topic of study
  • Create mini-lessons students can access at home
  • Book Reports
  • Presentations
Why this tool is great for ELLs:
Powtoon allows students to use writing and speaking to create their video. This allows for students to choose the most effective ways to communicate their message throughout the video. They can also use images and animations to emphasize and clarify important ideas in their video. Additionally, this is a great alternative to a traditional "class presentation" because students can have time to practice, record, and re-record until they're satisfied with the final product- putting them more at ease.