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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Have Students Write Letters

The picture is from Danny's FaceBook page DannysWarriors
One morning I was skimming my Facebook newsfeed before I went to work when I a picture of a smiling little boy! Danny Nickerson looks just like so many five year olds I know. He has sarge twinkling eyes and a goofy smiling grin. Unfortunately, Danny isn't just any five year old. He has an inoperable brain tumor.

Like so many other children, his family is trying to due all they can do to keep him happy He doesn't want to go to an amusement park, pet a lion, or be a super hero. He wants to get birthday mail. When someone wants something this small, it seems ridiculous not to help out!

At the start of my class on Wednesday I told the students about Danny and asked if they wanted to take a few minutes to make him some cards. If you have a stricter schedule, and need to keep this relevant to a grammar point you could easily do relative clauses, "I hope that you enjoy dogs. They're the only animal that I can draw." modal verbs, "You should have fun," or superlatives, "You are the strongest person I know!" etc. I let my students write whatever they wanted, and some of them folded origami. 

Now, Danny's birthday was July 25th. I am sure belated cards will also be accepted, but there are other alternatives as well!

You can always contact a local hospital and try to find an address that would work best, but here are some addresses I have collected for you:

Write a Letter of Gratitude to a Veteran thanking them for all they did for our country.Thank a Veteran
c/o Penny Alfonso
1970 Rangeview Drive
Glendale, CA 91201

If you would like to send letters specifically for our Wounded Heroes, please send them in a separate envelope marked: Wounded Warriors.
Operation Gratitude
17330 Victory Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91406

Girls Love Mail sends letters to women going through breast cancer treatment. All letters must fit in the Girls Love Mail envelope (4.75" x 6.5").They also have a kit for teachers

They ask that you include your full name and return address on the mailing envelope. They send thank you emails to acknowledge that they received letters.
 
Girls Love Mail
2330 E. Bidwell Street, Suite 200
Folsom, California 95630

St Judes Hopsital is a research hospital where you can send cards to the children. You may send them to: 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105

Find Pals has you sort through many patients to find a specific one to send letters.

Send Kids the World works well and they have lesson plans

Depending on whom you choose to write to and how old your students are, you may want to go over brief etiquette.  For example, "Get better soon!," while a nice sentiment, is not the best thing to say to a child suffering from  cancer. Have your students brainstorm phrases that they can use and should avoid before hand.

These aren't always penpal services... in fact usually you won't get messages back. However, that's  a good lesson too! After all, only doing something when you expect something in return isn't the best lesson to teach our students.





Wednesday, August 6, 2014

41st ELT Blog Carnival: Teaching with Humor

Humor is more than just a funny face!
Welcome to the 41st ELT Blog Carnival! For quite some time I have had an obsession with using humor in the class. I find the more my students laugh, the more they learn! It seems I am not alone as this carnival has ten other teachers eager to share how they use humor in the classroom.

My hope is that you go through these blog posts and the descriptions intrigue you enough to click on the blog posts and get inspiration on how to get your students to laugh a little and relax enough to really learn.

Enjoy :-)


 1. Nick has an amazing collection of comedic sketches on YouTube. His contribution to the blog carnival is a list of DOs and DON'Ts when using these clips in the classroom. He uses several examples on different occasions these clips fit well in class and I am sure you'll be excited about using some of them in your classroom. Read more: Using "COMEDY FOR ELT" clips

2. David has a great blog to get you laughing that comes from his lessons in a can series of blog posts. It contains several links with jokes you can use including a slide with 22 jokes! You can have your students listen to these be read, or you can use them as reading activities. As David says, "it can be very funny and it is a good way to lighten up the day/lesson!"  Read more of the jokes for yourself at his blog post with: Funny Jokes


3. Alina has created a super cute blog filled with comics. Each of these comics contains a joke that uses the grammar form her students are learning. What a great way to use visuals to help students really comprehend jokes! I love how she was able to find so many jokes that fit her grammar needs perfectly. Interested? You can read it for yourself at her blog: Grammar With Comix


4. Here is a great oldie by Ivan Sokolov! It was originally published by the Bulgarian English Teachers' Association IAFTEL in 2001! It is a really well researched article on how and why humor is effective in the class. Be sure to read it to get a better idea of how and more importantly why to use Humor in the EFL Classroom

5. Vicki Hollet has created some lovely and informative videos for English Language Learners. This video is a short and humorous example of how to handle a phone call if you are busy. If you are looking for an example to use in class this is perfect! The grammar is simple, the humor is obvious, and the pronunciation is clear. Be sure to watch the video How to Handle Calls When You're Busy


6. I am a huge fan of using short videos in class! The Alltac blog has a great lesson using a funny video about students taking a make-up exam. In addition to the video being funny there are two pages of teachers notes. One page gives you ideas of how to incorporate the lesson, and the other page gives you materials for an activity. See the video and read more at the Alltac Blog.

7. Emily Richardson 's blog covers a plethora of ways to get students laughing in class. From fake mustaches, jokes, stories or just general vocabulary Emily has plenty of ways you can get your students giggling. You can read the rest of her blog post titled "Laughter is the best medicine." (Be sure you check out the cheer-leading video at the bottom of her post! It makes me smile every time!)

8. Roberta wrote a great post for World Laughter day back in May. She goes through the reasons humor is great in class (I agree with every single one of them!), as well as some sites that you can use to find jokes. Finally she goes through a simple way to use jokes in the class that could be adapted to work with so many different levels. World Laughter Day 

9. Raquel has a FANTASTIC lesson that's funny and practical! She uses clips from Friends as a starting point for discussing stress and other medical symptoms. In addition to clips, she also has QR codes set up for infographics. Raquel assures me that this lesson went over really well with her students, and I can see why! See for yourself: Explaining Symptoms

10. How does summarizing a movie make students laugh? When they do it in 5 seconds! It wouldn't be a blog carnival without a contribution from Larry Ferlazzo. I get a lot of my English game ideas from Ellen; Larry seems to get a lot of his from Jimmy Fallon! This is a quick post where he points out that one of the more recent games Jimmy Fallon played with his guests could be used in class. Read his post (and see a video) and I am sure you'll find a way to get your students laughing over this game:  Jimmy Fallon's Game

11. Finally, originally I was going to make a post on some jokes I use for reading comprehension. However, my summer became much busier than I expected. Instead I offer a fantastic doodling activity to do with students. It is a great way to practice adjectives, relative clauses, complex sentences etc. The exciting part about this game is students are ALWAYS interested. They are usually laughing half the class! I love when they have fun and learn! See for yourself: Doodling for Complex Sentences

I hope you enjoyed reading this carnival as much as I enjoyed putting it together. As always I encourage you to share the carnival with other teachers you feel may interested. As a special incentive we have FOUR funny items that the carnival contributors have put up for raffle:
  • There are THREE Digital Prizes to be won
    • From Emily you have the chance to receive a copy of her Pirate Joke book! 
    • David's goodie is a PowerPoint with audio filled with Funny Stories, the printables that go with it, worksheets that go with the lesson and a Joke of The Day PowerPoint.
    • Vicki has offered the worksheets that go with the amusing video on how to handle phone calls when you're busy.
  • In addition to these great digital prizes, to show everyone you appreciate the humor found in English, I will send this, "You've cat to be kitten be right meow" iPhone 4 case you can proudly display. (Note as this will be mailed, only people with U.S. addresses can win. If the winner of the three digital prizes does NOT have a U.S. address, another winner for the phone case will be selected).
The contest will run for one week and then the winner will be announced. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Teacher Fashion- Back to School Earrings




In July I posted about my obsession with DexFlex shoes. This post is about my other obsession... one that isn't as sophisticated as my flats.

Here are some pencil earrings you can buy
 I've always been one to embrace a Ms. Frizzle attitude. I like my students to do things rather than just read about them. Thus, is is any surprise that I also like mimicking her sense of style? I wear my skeleton earrings when my students are learning about writing outlines (because an outline is like the skeleton of an essay).

I also buy a lot of a lot of teacher related earrings. For example, I have a pair of earrings that look like little books (complete with the title Dracula!). I also have two pairs of pencil earrings that I wear when my students are doing a lot of writing.

For the record, no. I do not normally wear two rather loud earrings at the same time. I tend to do just one, or one and a small stud, but for the pictures I decided to go all out and show the earrings matched. That way you can see two earrings in just one photo. What a time saver!



Grab your own dinosaur earrings!
Do you teach any dinosaur stories? If you have your students learning about fossils, or reading something like A Sound of Thunder then these dinosaur earrings are right up your alley.  I bought these back when I was in college, but I still wear them today. Often students overlook my earrings, but never when I wear the dinosaurs. These guys always hog the spotlight. 


Perhaps more subtle than my big red apples!
To be more traditional (but not too  boring) I have two earrings that are apples. Perfect for the first week of classes when I want to ease students into my odd fashion sense. Alternatively, these are cute earrings for parent teacher night, teacher appreciation day and all those other random days when accessorizing with teacher apples are appropriate!

Curiosity gets the best of my sometimes I admit. I wonder if I am the only Ms. Frizzle out there? Do you plan your outfits or accessories to match what you are teaching? I know this is a small thing, but I hope it sends a message to my students that I really do plan their lessons and it isn't just, all last minute sporadic ideas.

To make this blog relevant to teaching, here is my favorite pirate joke which mentions earrings! Plus, it is a great example of connected speech!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Graffiti Parties

Here one of my students is decorating my t-shirt
Do you ever have a chance to throw a celebration in your classes?

In the summer I teach a temporary job where students from all over the world come to San Diego to visit the city and practice their English.

Saturday my Italian students left, so we had a small party at the end of class on Friday to send them off! Students were encouraged to bring an old t-shirt or buy an SDSU t-shirt at the college gift store. Those who did not bring a shirt participated by making, "memory books."

Students were given easy rules, "Write in English only unless you want to add your name or a brief phrase in your native language." I normally keep it to English only, but Italian students like having Japanese and Taiwanese words on their shirts, and I consider it sharing cultures!

My finished t-shirt!
That's pretty much it! Students can wear the shirt and have other students write on them, or the shirts can be placed on desks. I find sharpies work best to keep the writing permanent. If students have problems writing on the shirts you can tape them down or put sandpaper under them to make them stick. They are easier to write on if someone is wearing them, but with older students you need to be sure they are only writing in appropriate places.

For 15-30 minutes students go around class asking, "Will you write on my shirt," and "Teacher, how do you spell enough?" I have never had problems with students writing inappropriate things, but if this did happen I would simply remove the student from the party and give them a worksheet to finish.

Students enjoy this, and I usually keep the radio on for background noise.

Our beautiful blackboard that doubled as a backdrop
If a few students finish early I normally ask them if they would like to decorate a board that we can use as a backdrop for pictures.

In this case one of my students created a red, white and blue background which stated the name of the University where the classes took and the year. I think she made it look quite nice given the fact that she was dealing with a chalkboard!

I won't embarrass my students by posting pictures of them online, but here's a corny picture of me posing in front of the blackboard.

If I wanted to make it look better, I could crop out the tables, but I kept them in to let you see we were dealing with your normal crowded classroom!

I know this seems like a pointless activity, but students practiced their English, listened to some English music, took thousands of pictures, and have a memento to make sure they never forget their time at SDSU. Plus, I get a memento of them!

You can see the t-shirt that they made for me (above) is a lot of "thank you" along with some personalized messages that will always make me smile when I wear it.

Do you do anything special the last day of school?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Doodling for Complex Sentences

Are your students struggling with making sentences more complex?

Many students can write simple sentences, and run-on sentences, but they struggle with writing solid complex sentences.

This written activity is a fun way to get students to sculpt more complex sentences using relative clauses and transition words.

Before ANY of this, my students have learned different transition words, how to use them where to use them relative pronouns, etc.

Pre-Activity:  
I usually start by drawing a few random doodles on the board. describe what a doodle is. If students guess scribble, I also accept this word as appropriate.Then, I ask what they see in the doodles. Once they see how doodles can be changed into different forms, we are ready to start!

Activity: This can be arranged in many ways, but I like to have students sit in circles.
Step One Doodle on different pieces of paper and 
STEP ONE Each student gets a paper with a doodle drawn (Note: To make this a no prep activity, students may make the first doodle, but I find giving them a doodle tends to work out better.)

STEP TWO Each student expands on the picture. I know the picture below vague, but notice how the student turned the doodle into a rabbit!

STEP THREE (optional) Have the students write one or two words describing their picture. Again looking at the picture to the below, the student could write something like, "An animal," or, "A rabbit,"

Have a box of transition words and relative prnounouns
STEP FOUR The students pass the paper to another student. The student will form a sentence describing the picture: "The rabbit is tall"

STEP FIVE Pass the paper again. This time students also take (or are given) a piece of paper with a random connecting word.  They are told to find a way to make the sentence longer using that word, "The rabbit is tall; however, he is fat."

STEP FIVE  There are multiple ways to do this. I like having students pass the doodling paper to the right, and their connecting word to the left. The students then needed to add another word to the sentence, "The rabbit, who is furry, is tall; however, he is fat."

STEP SIX At this point you can continue having the students pass connecting words to the left and doodles to the right, or you can give out new connecting words.

STEP SEVEN Continue step six until students become bored you you have had them make at least four rotations.

STEP EIGHT Finally, the last time students don't add to the sentence. Their job is to read through the sentence, which at this point can be quite complex, and make it coherent.

STEP NINE Students present the final pictures to the class as well as the final description of the picture.

 Why it Works 
Students could get bored by this, but because the pictures are so random almost every time it goes like this:
Teacher: OK pass the paper to the next student please.
Student 1: What is that?
Student 2: What did you draw?
Student 3: Oh my god this sentence is ridiculous.

They are ALWAYS entertained!

This is also a great activity to use with adjectives or any other clauses. Basically, anything where students add onto a basic sentence. If you want students to practice speaking you can have them do this in partners.

This activity isn't directly humorous, but I PROMISE you that your students will laugh at some of the doodles created and sentences written.  On August 2nd the deadline for submitting your blog to be part of the ELT Blog Carnival on Humor will CLOSE! Don't miss out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Giggle Poetry: Book Review

I am a huge fan of humor in the classroom (reminder there's still 5 days to submit your blog for the ELT Blog Carnival on humor). I think that getting students to laugh lowers their inhibitions and makes them feel more comfortable. In addition to making class a happier place to be it also allows students to participate more.

I am also a fan of poetry. I like the dream flag project because it encourages students to participate in more figurative thinking, not worry so much about rules, and get interested in other parts of English (other than just short stories and novels).

Giggle Poetry Reading Lessons is a great book for teachers of hesitant learners (especially readers). It introduces new vocabulary in a fun way, and encourages fluency by having students present their poems in front of the class. Many of the poems also encourage motions and movement, making this a TPR expereince.

Approximately the first 10% of the book is helping teachers (or parents) learn how to navigate the book. It goes over studies (why they developed the book), methods (how they encourage the book to be used in class) and examples. You can (clearly) ignore this part if you just want the poems, but the content is pretty solid and helps you understand how you may best use the poems in your class.
Keep them smiling while reading!

Then, we have thirty-four different poems. Quite a few of these I like enough to use with my high school students! Several I didn't like at all (but I can see how students would), and the vast majority I found perfect for middle school or elementary students.

To give you an idea of the topics of poems here are some of the titles: Dirty Socks, What I found in my Desk, Bad Hair Day Rap, Ish!, Someone's Toes Are in My Nose, and How to Torture your Teacher.

The poems are usually 1-2 pages and divided into stanzas. Next to the poem there is often direction as to the desired motions or intonations (e.g. "Act stern. Wage your finger.") While the poems are fairly basic in terms of vocabulary there are some cases where rather advanced words are used. If you are dealing with EFL students, you may like to scaffold more than the book does. An alternative is to substitute advanced words with cognates or more basic synonyms. Most of the poems are written with a rhyme or meter that makes memorizing and reading them easier than a standard text.

After each poem the book provides a lesson plan. As with all prefabricated lesson plans, I suggest you make many adaptations to best suit your class. These ideas area great start! The objective for each poem;s lesson plan is more or less the same, "Objective: The student will read text fluenty, with attention to pace and expression and with a high level of accuracy, as a means of comprehending the text."

Then it walks you through the five steps they suggest you follow:
  1. First activate background knowledge. The book provides sample questions to ask students to get them thinking of the topic. In an EFL environment some visuals would probably be helpful too!
  2. Skim/Scan. Usually they advise students to underline any words they may don-t know without looking at the context or situation. There are other great skimming and scanning activities you could use here.
  3. Modeled Reading. Usually this is set up for the teacher to read (and it gives guidance on how it should be read), but you could do this in many other ways as well.
  4. Guided Reading. Students are given the chance to look at vocabulary, inference,  and practice reading as a class (echo reading and choral reading) or in pairs (buddy reading)
  5. Finally students are given time to read on their own during Independent Reading.
  6. The last step is to have a student present (the book emphasizes to encourage them heavilily and focus on their successes rather than failures).
Personally, I feel that after the third poem this lesson plan structure is BORING! It has a great structure, but repeating it again and again isn't very fun to read. Don't be afraid to vary it for your class. Use the skeleton but adapt the activities, or do your own thing!

After the poems, at the end of the book, there are rubrics and suggested assessment methods. Again, feel free to adapt these as needed to keep your class interesting and best suit your students needs. This is by far the best book I have read all year, and I suggest you look into purchasing it yourself. To read more about Giggle Poetry you can check out their website.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Teacher Fashion- Back to School Shoes

Try wearing the same color in public
This isn't my normal type of post, but I am starting a new job in August. Therefore, I've been thinking a lot about what to wear on my first day, and what teachers tend to wear day to day. Thus here's a post about my favorite footwear to wear when teaching. For the next few weeks on Friday I'll post a quick post about my opinion on teacher fashion. These will probably stop after August, but who knows I may feel inspired :)

I think everyone knows teachers spend a lot of time on their feet! We move around the class, run from classroom to classroom and don't spend a whole lot of time sitting down.

Usually when I teach I am in flats. I wear heels the first day of class because I find that helps students take me more seriously. After that, I am usually in flats.

I think my ankle looks weird here.
I discovered these shoes when I was home for the holidays. I had forgotten to pack a pair of black shoes and borrowed a pair of my mothers. It was just a boring black flat and I didn't really think it looked that cute. However, once I tried it on, I felt like Cinderella.

Since then I've been doing my best to brag about these shoes to every teacher I meet. I am pretty excited. These, "dexflex comfort" shoes are amazing. The company line is that they are, "happiness for your feet," and I couldn't agree more! Normally they run for $30 at your local Payless. While this isn't a lot, I try to hold out until I can find them for less. Payless often has BOGO (buy one get one free) sales making the shoes only $22.50 each. You can also normally find them on sale. I just picked up three pairs for $15 each!

FatWallet Coupons and DealsFor those without a Payless near you, you can always shop online! If you do shop online, I have an easy way for you to get 6% of your bill back! Just join FatWallet.

FatWallet is an easy site to join, and I've been a member for a while. Before you shop at a website just stop by FatWallet to see if they offer CashBack. If they do click through their link and shop as usual. At the end you'll get your goodies (as usual) and cash back from FatWallet!

A different shoe each school day!

If you shop as much as I do (check out my shoe collection on the right), you'll be getting significant savings!

Basically, I feel these shoes are worth the investment. They look professional (my conservative father tells me they look nice which is a win!), come in many different colors (so you can find a match for any ensemble), and are pretty affordable (especially when combined with sales and FatWallet).
 
The dexflex shoes do come in other styles (like the sandal to the left), but I prefer the simple ballet shoe.

So that's my all time favorite teaching shoe... what's yours?
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