Sunday, November 30, 2014

Anything less...

I just love this quote. "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
What gifts do you bring to this world, and to others?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Picture Word Inductive Model with Highschool Newcomers

I last posted about using PWIM with my elementary learners, and how much fun the process always seems to be for both me and my students. PWIM has a way of drawing students in, engaging them, and maintaining that engagement while accessing and internalizing loads of vocabulary.

Now that I'm at the highschool level, working with older newcomers, I wanted to share another series of the PWIM process with my readers. Our theme for the week was the kitchen (after talking about different places in the school), home to many rich vocabulary words and concepts. For the picture, I simply took one of the student foods lab. Here's how we broke it down.

As always, I modeled writing the words on the board. (I've also used the smartboard, then just saved the screen, but really prefer using half a poster board so I can continue to use it.

Here is mine (and yes, it's in color). If you don't have access to multiple color copies, at least get yours in color to accentuate details.

Note that we also use simple sketches to add more words as we think of them. (Nothing fancy here!)

The next day, we reviewed the words. I asked simple where and what questions for the students to demonstrate their understanding and what they remembered. Some students then felt confident enough to ask their own where/ what questions modeled after mine. This is also a good time to add additional words the students have thought of.

Students then sorted their words into different categories. The sort was open, and I provided examples using a document projector. You can see that this student divided his words according to appliances, things that need water, storage, and materials. Of course, this is just one way to categorize. I like starting with closed sorts, where we choose categories together. Once they understand the concept, they enjoy the challenge of open sorts. This is always tough for them, but it does make them think about the meaning, spelling patterns, part of speech, etc.--much more thought-provoking than typical vocabulary work!

If you feel your students need it, or if you are learning new sentence patterns, provide sentence frames for them to respond to "How do these words go together?":
  • These words go together because they are both _________________
  • These words can go together because they all (have, do, make, etc.) ________________
  • I believe these words go together...
And then, as students share out, practice agreeing and disagreeing:
  • I agree that those words go together.
  • I disagree. I think those words do not go together (because....)
  • What a good idea! I didn't think of that!
The next day, students filled in a cloze passage using the vocabulary words from the labeled picture. Students first listened to me read the entire passage, filled in, then they completed it independently. Once they finished, they read their passages to me, one by one. It was now a fluency passage, and they would practice reading it for "time" the next day. There were also sentences geared toward the cafeteria aspect of "the kitchen", which required them to draw pictures to demonstrate comprehension.


The fourth day, we actually went to a project lab kitchen for students in our school, so that we could cook and use different materials and ingredients. Students had a simple recipe, and were required to determine ingredients and cooking utensils/ materials. They worked in a group to accomplish this, with the recipe and graphic organizer separating materials, ingredients and steps.

They then worked together to translate the steps of the recipe before actually using it to make their dish. Once they had determined the steps, they began to measure, mix, and cook under watchful eyes.

While the food was cooking, we re-wrote the steps together, now using the past tense, on their recipe papers. 

On the fifth day, students reviewed with another cloze passage, using vocabulary words from day one, plus the words from the ingredients and materials lists. At the bottom of the page, you can see they also drew a sketch showing what they did in the kitchen that day. Their simple requirement was to use two new vocabulary words within one sentence. This student chose to label other parts of her picture.

The following week (day six), for their final assessment, students chose 2 pictures from the ones I had taken in the kitchen and had uploaded onto their computers.  Students wrote captions for them after uploading them into their kidblogs. (which is something new I'm trying this year!)

Here are some links for you to see their work:

We Are in the Kitchen
Fruit Dessert

Although the blogging part took more time than simply having them write a paragraph like I've done in the past, the students enjoyed it, and it was challenging enough to keep them engaged, without overwhelming them.

As an extension, some students used the Quicktime audio to record themselves reading the cloze passage as well as their own sentences about the pictures. We were going to upload those into their blogs, too, but the filters prevented us from doing so.

I hope this gives you some ideas for what PWIM can look like in a highschool newcomer class. These took about 40 min/ day of a 90 minute block. Our one day of cooking lasted the entire 90 minutes, but that was a busy day--students brought their work to the kitchen so we could work while the food was cooking.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Homecoming in an American Highschool

A time-honored tradition in many high schools across America is what’s known as Homecoming. Steeped in history, this annual mid-October ritual captivates students like few other athletic events.

For those of you who have never seen it, or for those of you whose Highschool Homecoming Days are long gone, I’ve compiled some photos from Friday’s Homecoming in rural North Carolina.

Chronologically sequenced, from the pep rally during the last hour of school, to the football game that evening, here’s a window into some very spirited happenings.

First was the pep rally. It was held in the gymnasium of the school during the last hour of the school day. There are many activities that take place on the basketball court. Most of the students sat in the bleachers, with their grade level. "Baby Blue" freshmen and “Sunny” sophomores sat on one side, while the “Jolly Green” juniors and “Red Hot” seniors sat on the other side. Each grade level wore a specific color or just black.
Can you tell which grade was which?
Who do you think screamed the loudest?

These students, who are class officers representing each of the 4 grade levels, are competing in relay races.  The races were silly and fun, and all of the students in the bleachers screamed loudly to cheer on their team.

Cheerleaders are girls (sometimes boys are, too) who cheer on the football team. They do a lot of dancing and acrobatic moves. You can see them flying in the air here! During the game they wear special uniforms, with skirts and tops. For this pep rally their uniform consisted of shorts and a t-shirt.

During the pep rally, the student marching band played live music in the gymnasium. One way students show their spirit is to paint their faces with the school colors. Can you tell what this school’s colors are?

In some events, staff and students were pitted against each other. Although the competition was friendly, everyone wanted to win! Musical chairs and a dance competition were the two popular ones. Do you see any teachers you know in this video or this picture?


After the relay races, the cheerleader show, and the staff-student competitions, the students stretched out their spirit chains to see who had the most spirit. Looks like the Seniors won this competition! (Can you imagine how loud they were screaming?)

At the very end of the pep rally, the football coaches introduced all of the football players. One by one, they announced each player’s name, and they lined up on the gym floor. The principal encouraged them to play well, and the pep rally was complete!

After school, there was a homecoming parade. In the parade, different clubs from school carried banners, the marching band played, and some groups rode on floats

The homecoming court consists of girls who were elected to represent a club or school group. Members of the homecoming court rode by in cars. They were excited because later in the evening, one of the girls would become the Homecoming Queen.

In the evening, after the pep rally and the parade, the football game began. This is American football, and you can see that the boys wear a lot of equipment to protect themselves. The helmet is the most important piece of equipment.

When a touchdown is made, and the team scores, the referees put both hands up in the air. How many referees do you see?

During halftime, in the middle of the game, the girls on the homecoming court were introduced. One by one, an announcer read their names and information about them. They lined up on the field with their escorts. Some escorts were friends, some escorts were boyfriends, and other escorts were fathers.

Finally, the Queen was announced. She received a crown from last year’s queen, and flowers from the principal. How do you think she felt? How do you know?

After the Homecoming Queen was announced, the football game started up again.  The home team finished the night perfectly—with a victory!

Some questions for you to answer: 
1. What was your favorite event?
2. Which event would you like to try?
3. Which picture do you like the most?

4. Describe a celebration or tradition from school in your culture.

5. Why are traditions important?

6. Did the team from this school win or lose? Which word tells you so?

7. How many phrasal verbs can you find? Phrasal verbs are verbs with two words that work together to make one verb. I found at least 8. I did number one for you, and there are hints for the others:

1.     take place
2.     something cheerleaders do
3.     the cheerleaders’ uniforms “were” t-shirts and shorts
4.     staff and students “competed” with each other
5.     to make longer
6.     get in a line
7.     go past in a vehicle

8.     began

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Adventure to Old Salem, a Living Museum

Nestled among the tree-lined and cobblestoned streets of Old Salem, North Carolina, are remnants and living examples of times gone by. As you look through the pictures, what do you see? What looks different from what you know? What looks similar, or the same?

Wooden shutters, opened wide, give glimpses into the Gunsmith shop.
This Gunsmiths LOVES his trade,
and talks about how they make rifles out of
wood and metal. 

Here you can see another craftsman producing
longrifles. We say he is producing them
"by hand".
Two examples of longrifles. The gunsmith often
engraves, or carves, a symbol that is important
to Americans. It's hard to see here, but the symbol
engraved on the right rifle is a very famous
Do you know what bird represents America?

I intended, or planned, to take this picture of a candle
in the window, but guess what else is reflected?

These are beams  in an old barn. There are no nails
holding them in place. Instead they used joints
and grooves
 to hold them together.  
The wood did not fit tightly in the holes, but
they say it helped the connections last longer
because the wood was able to expand and contract.

This is your bonus question--I couldn't find anyone to ask
what this machine was. It looks like a grain grinder, but I
wonder which of you history sleuths can discover what it is?

In colonial times, writers wrote with quill pens and ink. Sometimes
they wrote on paper, but they also wrote on parchment.  
Do you remember a very famous document that was written
on parchment paper in 1776?

This is a shoemaker at Old Salem. She makes about one pair of
shoes a month! The men who used to make shoes produced
about 6 pairs a week, but they didn't have to answer a lot
of questions from tourists!

These are examples of some of the shoes. I thought it was interesting
that shoemakers didn't make right and left shoes. Instead, they made
"straight" shoes, and as people wore their shoes, they became molded
to their right and left feet. (And by the way, the shoes are really heavy
and they don't have any cushioning!)

This is the yarn storage area. It was hard to get a
picture from the front. All of these yarns are
dyed with natural plants and herbs. You can
see a spinning wheel in the corner.

This is a potter. She is working at a kick-wheel
which spins when her foot kicks it. This lady
has been making pottery for 18 years, and
she loves what she does. You can see many of
her products on the shelves behind her. 

This is how kids got water for their homes. It's
a water pump. It's hard work! You might get sweaty
just pumping water for your bath!

Everything in here is handmade.  Can you spot a basket? A bucket?
A stool? A ladder? A wall?

This man is chopping wood. Look at the wood
behind him. Do you think he has done a lot
of work, or just a little?

This picture was taken in a garden. There is a wooden shed in the
background, and a small vehicle in the front. It has two wheels--do you
think it is a wagon or a wheelbarrow?
I hope you enjoyed the pictures from our day at Old Salem, in North Carolina. We are very fortunate, or lucky, to live so close to such a wonderful living museum. 
Did you answer all of the questions? 
Which was your favorite picture? 
Which job do you think you would have liked most to do?
What looks similar to your home or town?

Feel free to leave your comments below! If you have pictures, please send them, too!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Are you who you were a year ago?

Funny how small things like a question posed
at Abercrombie and Fitch in a mall
in Albuquerque, NM can spur your thinking. (2014)
It's been said that challenge spurs growth. New situations shake us out of our routine, and lend us new eyes to see things anew. Once in a zone of comfort, though, it can be more than a challenge to shake out of it or take that step into The Unfamiliar.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that stepping out of my comfort zone is precisely what I've done this school year. After 13 years in either an elementary or K-8 setting, I am back to my "roots" of teaching--at the highschool level. (Having K-12 TESOL licensure allows you to experience this wondrous dance.)

Change? You betcha.
Growth? In an almighty sense of the word.
A step out of the Comfort Zone? Neil Armstrong ain't got nothin' on this step.

One thing that is extraordinarily different for me this year, or at least this semester, though, is the fact that this is the very first year in 18 years of teaching that I do not have my own stand-alone class of students. I am co-teaching in all of my classes---and although they're similar thematically, it's a heavy content load for me. Not only am I learning how much content has to be covered in a single semester--Paleolithic Age through WWII in 80 days??? Wha...????---but I am also going to be uncovering and learning the ropes of co-teaching partnerships with a range of experienced and successful teachers.

Another distinctive gift is the fact that I am now working with many of my former students, ones I had taught during their elementary years. Some have changed mightily, while others are eerily reminiscent of their former selves, only bigger and with hormones. (Sigh.)

Needless to say, this semester will bring about myriad insights, so expect them to surface in this blog. Thoughts on co-teaching, differentiation strategies that can fit into well-established routines, having tough conversations, prioritizing skills and knowledge, balancing best practices in spite of testing rigors, and maintaining high expectations as part of a direct team will be on my mind. We also have several newcomers who were/ are directly involved with the immigration crisis at the border--yet another avenue of understanding. And of course, there will be thoughts and learning around opportunities for our language learners as older students preparing for their next level of life post-HS.

 I don't know about you, but I do love the opportunities brought on by change, and I'm pretty excited to be in this position. There are so many challenges, but so much to be grateful for. I didn't realize how much I needed a change in perspective, a different kind of push to my thinking, and how detrimental a comfort zone can sometimes be for one's creativity and lens.

As I filled out my self-assessment for our teacher evaluation last week, I was disheartened. Being honest with myself, I leveled my skills and abilities at "developing" (which is the lowest level) in the majority of areas. I had been increasingly successful the past few years, and had my routines down to achieve at much higher levels. I have much work to do--and while disheartened, I am also trying to be gentle with myself, remembering that we have only been in school 5 days. I have much growth ahead of me. And that also energizes me.

I will be reaching out to you, my readers, during this semester and year, and look forward to your suggestions, input, and advice. And as I do, ask yourself that question: Are you who you were a year ago? If not, good for you. :)