Saturday, November 30, 2013

Celebration of Word Sounds

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Words have so much power. I love teaching vocabulary that connects to students' lives, and sounds different--makes it easier to remember. So today, I celebrate words and their sounds!

  1. perpendicular--two lines which meet at right angle. I love how this word sounds. There is a rhythm to the sounds; you have to move your mouth and lips to say the sounds correctly.
  2. ostentatious--showy. Which one really would sound better in your writing: showy or ostentatious?
  3. peculiar--strangle or odd. The sound of that words make just stays with me. I can remember the way that you write them and how they sound. I think this word--peculiar--even sounds a little mysterious, don't you.
  4. ambivalent--uncertain or unsure (having mixed feelings). Again, there is the sound that a word makes that just sticks with me. I am wondering if there is a direct correlation with our lip movement with the part of our brain that stores words in a long term memory?
  5. preposterous--contrary to reason or common sense. I love when my students take these words and use them in their writing. I know that they "got it" when I see one of these challenge words used in essays, journals or other writings.
  6. ubiquitous--being everywhere (omnipresent). Perhaps it is the /b/ and /p/ sounds that attract me with these words. Those two sounds are also the hardest for my ELLs to differentiate as Arabic does not have those sounds. Come to think of it, Finnish does not have the exact same sounds either.
  7. obnoxious--very offensive. Doesn't the pronunciation of this word already tell you how offensive something is?
  8. plethora--abundance. There really are a plethora of words that I could use, but perhaps today, I will focus on words that stay with me because of their sounds.  
Maybe next time, I will celebrate words that have meaning beyond their sounds.

I hope that you have a plethora of wonderful Thanksgiving memories to share and treasure!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Books, books and some more books at the Corner Booskhop

November is one of my favorite months. Thanksgiving is coming, and with it, my mind turns to thinking about all the things that I am thankful for. Today, I am thankful for books! 

As an ELL teacher for grades K-12 , and at least five different proficiency levels, I need  a large selection of books for my students. Many years ago I heard Stephen Krashen speak on the importance of books in the hands of ELL students. If students do not have books that they enjoy reading, how can we expect them to improve their proficiency and fluency? From that time on, I have collected books for my classroom (and a few others as well).

This above photo is taken at our local Friends of the Library bookstore. It shows part of the YOUTH collection that we have for sale at the Corner Bookshop. All the regular youth paperbacks are just 25Ȼ each. Hardcover youth books are 50Ȼ each. My friend Kathy, is in charge of organizing the youth section and keeping it stocked. I love walking in on Thursdays after work as I get to see all the new books that she is putting on the shelves. Many Thursdays I go home with a bagful of books for my classroom, but knowing that I only paid $2-5 dollars for that bag, makes me rejoice (and not feel guilty).

Later on Thursdays, Cristian often comes to stock up his section of the bookstore: history and politics. I love looking at the books that he brings to the store. There are always a few gems that I MUST look at--even if I don;t want to buy them. These gems also also just $1! If you are a bargain shopper, you would love our Corner Bookshop prices!

There are also a few regular customer that know when their favorite sections are being stocked. One Chinese young mother often comes with her daughter to check out the youth section. A few minutes before we close, a gentleman walks in on most Thursdays. His direction is the history and politics sections that hopefully Cristian has just refreshed with new material.

Through volunteering at the Corner Bookstore for many years, I have been able to build my classroom library as well. My students have books that they can checkout or use for in class reading. When parents come, I am also able to show them examples of the books that are at their child's level.

There are also times when it is my turn to escape this world and its responsibilities for a few minutes. That is best done with a book! I can have a book in the car, a book to read when my students are reading independently, and of course, a book to read by my bedside. I like a good mystery with some action mixed in.

Murder as a Second Language: A Claire Malloy MysteryThis caught my attention when I was looking at our library website for some new upcoming books. The title was intriguing. It is now on my list of books to read .
Then there is John Green's "Fault in Our Stars" that I am reading in small doses. But that might really turn into a different post later on.

What are your favorite books to read to relax or escape for a few minutes?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Temperature is plummeting--Soup is rising

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I love my love Corner Bookshop at our public library. When I walk in there on Thursdays after work, see my friend Kathy and browse the books, I can relax! Today, I celebrate treasures found inside cookbooks!

I love looking at cookbooks! I love the pictures that show what the dish is supposed to look like. I do NOT like cookbooks with only the words. I NEED to see photos as they get my imagination moving. Creative cooking comes with imagining the dish on my table or on my bowl.
Today's menu includes soup. I grew up on lots of soup. Broth soups with good rye bread. Fish soup with salmon, summer soup (that we only ate during winter), sausage soup etc. Maybe that is why I love Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden?

Today I came home with thin books about soups and one thicker cookbook because it had a recipe for salad that was so colorful I could not resist. Guess how much I paid? Three dollars even!! And I will not even feel bad when I take the books back after cooking the recipes that I like. So, I think this weekend's menu will include: soup, rice porridge and a colorful salad.

What are you planning to cook this weekend?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Turning signal, texting and punctuation rules

Are you familiar with the turn signal that is installed in your car? Are you accustomed to using it or ignoring it? Do you use it when the rules state that you should use it or are you a last minute user--you know the moment you need to change lanes and the other driver is not being helpful?

Did you see the photo above? I like to see the orange lights light up when the car in front of me wants to turn. But too often THIS DOES NOT happen! It greatly annoys me! Is there a reason that the manufactures have not found a way to make the turning signal light up immediately when you the driver tries to turn? They have managed to lower the emissions, install CD players and blue-tooth inside the car; they have even managed to increase the amount of miles we get on a gallon of gas. Why not improve the function of the turning signal?

In a very similar fashion, all my students can tell me that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, or another end punctuation mark. But in practice, very few of them are consistently using capital letters and end punctuation. Many of them believe that commas work just as well as the signal that the sentence has ended. It is like driving on the two lane highway, you want to get over to the right lane in order to exit a little while later. You don't feel the need to turn on the turning signal because the other drivers should realize that when you start moving towards right, that is the signal that you are changing lanes. No need to bother reaching the turn signal; after all, that would mean moving your hand an inch or two. When you starting driving towards the other lane it is obvious what you are trying to do, right?

Some experts are saying that forgetting to signal when turning could be as dangerous as texting. Are my students learning from texting that punctuation is no longer a necessary? Are students using punctuation as randomly as they use it when texting? Is this a problem only with the older students or are you seeing this with younger ones as well?

How do we counteract the culture that does not use punctuation according to rules? What are you doing in your classroom to help students continue to follow the rules of mechanics when writing? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ladies Tea

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Last night I had a joy of attending a Ladies Tea at my sister-in-law's church. Festive atmosphere, beautiful decorations, smiling people, and a wonderful speaker. It was a great way to begin the holiday season.

Every table was decorated by a different person

Table decorators brought dishes from home
 in order to make every table look unique.

This was a perfect way to end a hectic week of many meetings on top of regular school work. So, today I celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. Yes, i might be bit early and my home is not ready, but I am in the spirit. Just might play a few Christmas carols while I work today.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thoughts about Conferences with ESL Parents

Last week Thursday we had parent-teacher conferences. My student teacher and I were sitting at our table in the gym. Signing sheet ready, pens ready, mentally prepared, elementary conference times next to us; we were ready for parents.

My first elementary parent did not arrive. I was just walking back to the gym when another mother in her very broken English asked me, "I miss my son bus. Where he now?"  Another father sitting nearby was able to interpret and help us communicate with the mother. Our bus coordinator came and I was free to get back to the gym again.

A few moments to relax, chat about test scores, and then we saw the smiles coming our way. Five children with their foster father approached. They were so happy! And I was so happy to tell their foster father how hard the children are all working to learn English. These are the children that break my heart (because they have lost so much in their young lives), but also restore my faith in the goodness of people.

Time to run (actually walk fast) to the elementary building again. I walk to the end of the building, no parents yet. I walk to the other end to see if another set of parents has arrived. They haven't, but I find a mother who needs an interpreter. Some more walking for me as I locate the right person to assist her. My step counter really rejoiced on conference day.

Finally everything starts working, and I am able to attend a few conferences in a row. I am amazed with one of our elementary teachers; she's so good at talking with ESL parents.She can say enough with a few simple words. We talked about practicing how to write letters or how to help with simple addition at home. Few parents left with additional work that their children could/should be doing at home--work that parents can supervise even if they don't speak English.

At the end of the evening, one of my 5th grade parents came to see me. I saw her coming, and knew right away this was going to be interesting. Her son, A., came last year from Iraq. He made so much progress last year. Now A's mother wants to know if I could give him extra work in math and English so that he could learn even faster. (Inside I am thinking, couldn't this mother give some advice for my high school parents??? You know what I mean?) We talked for a long time as she was my last parent. I was right, the conversation was so interesting that we decided we need to continue it at another time.  I could only wish that all my parents would be like her: doing everything they can to make sure that their child is learning regardless of their own English proficiency level.

All in all, great evening spent in the company of wonderful people! I am so proud of every parent who came as it takes courage to come when you are not sure if the teachers will understand you or are willing to take the time to speak with you in a way that you will understand.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Celebrating Young ESL Students

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My struggling third and fourth grade ESL students are getting their vowel sounds right!! This is a milestone and definitely worth celebrating! It was not long ago when M. could not even imagine putting two different sounds together. Now, look at his pile of words that he reads fluently!

Here is another pile of words. A. has been really improving fast. In the last couple of months, a new light is shining in his eyes when he is reading. There is new interest in words and reading. He is becoming more fluent!

Another A. has big issues when it comes to learning. He had never attended school before coming to America in 3rd grade. The fact that he is finally able to rad this many words, and with the correct vowel sounds, feels like a miracle!

So today, I celebrate my young ESL students. They have have shown stamina and persistence in their learning. They are determined to learn! They are determined to become fluent in every aspect of English language!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mental movement vs. physical movement

Last spring one of my coworkers found a small gym--The Pocket Gym. Val would leave right after work, and go exercise. She had more energy, and she was singing the owner's praises. I started thinking, could I start going to gym again? I mean, mentally I knew that it would be a great idea. I also knew I would benefit both mentally and physically. My mental self was eager, but my physical one could not make my legs move towards the gym.

Summer vacation started. I knew I had time. Still, my legs kept moving me in every other direction except the gym. In about middle of July, it hit me: my summer vacation was half over, and I had done nothing regarding my legs' aversion of northwest direction. I guess I would have to make the decision regardless of my legs' preferences.

I arrived at the gym. I huffed and puffed my first hour. My knee was hurting. I was sweating. I was thirsty. I was not mentally prepared for this. Did I mention, I was really hot? There was no miracle weight loss or marathon running in my near future. But, there was laughing, puffing and huffing, little less knee pain every week, more energy, sweating, strange looking workout clothes that came out of the closet, and new friends.

I am no longer sweating that much. Well, the fact that it is cold outside just might have something to do with that. Nevertheless, I can bike, walk on the treadmill, jump (or walk) on the trampoline, and do strength training without any pain! I am excited! I feel that finally, my mental and physical self are walking on the same road. Why did it take me so long??

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Student Teacher Observations

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I have had a wonderful student teacher with me this fall. Amanda is getting her ESL endorsement added to her existing certificate. I have learned so much, and hopefully Amanda has learned from me as well.

Friday was an important day: Amanda's supervisor from the university was coming to observe her. She was nervous, but she had a solid plan for the two hours that he would be observing her. Of course, one student had to leave just before the class started thus leaving one student without a partner. Looking back, this student leaving might just have been a blessing in disguise.

Everything went so WELL! Amanda was so excited! After talking with the professor, she came back and said: "I am so excited, I need to high five somebody!"  Her joy was contagious! 

So, today, I am celebrating Amanda! She has worked hard to be where she is today. She will be a great teacher in her own classroom! I am just sorry that it will no longer be with me. Amanda will be an asset to any school that will hire her!

Thank you, Amanda!