I have retired from the classic classroom but not from teaching. So I am in the process of reinventing myself as an online and social media ELL teacher.
I use different resources to help me kick-start into my new role. But more about that in future posts.
Over the years, Michael, one of our school’s tech experts, has helped me with my social media projects. The first one was this blog, Teach Well Tomorrow. After retiring, he suggested I morph the blog.
Finally, after a year and a half of searching for purpose and relevance, the ‘ah ha’ moment came to me this morning. I finished reading Pamela Paul’s wonderful article in the New York Times about allowing kids to be bored. Raising my eyes to the top of the page, I noticed Roger Cohen’s opinion piece: The harm in hustle culture on the homogenization of our lives. In Carol Jago’s teaching terminology, these articles would be ‘paired’ texts. I smiled.
As my grandson would say: “I got it!”
It was fitting that my final ELL Reading lesson should be taken from What’s the Big Idea by my long distance mentor, Jim Burke.
I followed Burke’s discussion plan. We held a lively ‘Conversational Roundtable’ on the relationships in Romeo and Juliet as a review for the final exam. The students could easily relate to the relationships: parent-child, romantic, friends and mentor-child. We looked for what rules were common to all the relationships. We discussed the differences. However, the harder question was how these relationships shape our identity. By then the students were getting a little tired, looking forward to their summer break.
I also used question prompts such as:
Does X have a right to …?
Why did Y behave as she/he did?
I decided to end my final year of teaching with a challenge for me as well as my ELLs. I hoped Shakespeare’s play with its eternal themes of relationships would act as a bridge for entering regular English 10.
It was fun. I taught out of my comfort zone, knowing the students would have to spend most of the time acting. The students rapped one of Juliet’s soliloquies, mimed cooking , ironing and folding laundry while acting. They certainly got into the rhythm of the play.
I invited Gadi for our second drama workshop to help my ELLs review the big ideas of the play for their final.
Students made a list of their favorite scenes, got into groups , rehearsed their scenes using the original text, and finally acted them out.
The directions were that when the students acted the scenes in chronological order, they would create a summary of the big ideas of the play. They had only 20 minutes to prepare.
Gadi asked them one guiding question:
What do the characters want?
As we were finishing Ishmael Beah’s powerful memoir A Long Way Gone; I remembered Picasso’s Guernica.
So I decided to guide our discussion of one of the final chapters (2nd draft reading (Kelly Gallagher) by using visible thinking prompts in order to analyze the painting:
What do you see, think and wonder?
Students worked in groups as they thoughtfully studied the painting, and responded to each other’s comments.
This was a different, rich pairing of texts.
I wish I’d had this Ted lesson to enrich and deepen the students’ understanding of the painting.
During an ELL Writers’ Workshop, we answered the following questions:
Who are we and what do we believe in?
I followed Larry Ferlazzo’s lesson plan and the results were revealing.
Some students found it frustrating to ‘arrive’ at their word by completing the 3 part Venn diagram. However, those who persevered were surprised that ‘visible thinking’ helped them identify their word.
The students then went on to come up with a sentence that encapsulates what they’d like people to say about them. Once again, I followed Ferlazzo’s lesson design. Students commented that they are too young, don’t yet know what they want to do, and don’t see themselves as having accomplished much in their lives. After a discussion, gentle prodding and encouragement; they realized that they have passions and beliefs.
One student came to her ‘ah ha’ moment only after her friends reminded her that, although she is now in 9th grade, she still regales them with stories from 6th grade. She laughed and willingly agreed to their/her one sentence:
I find it amusing that her one word is ‘journey’.
In recognition of CNN’s Freedom project, our ELLs think about what freedom means to them.
Many years ago, I heard a talk given by Heidi Jacobs at a NESA Conference in Bangkok. Before she began, Heidi introduced us to 2 empty cream colored padded dining room chairs behind her on the stage. Heidi went on to explain that those chairs were there to remind us that our target audience is always our students. (Today I’d put out a row of them.)
I was reminded of Heidi when I viewed Daniel Pink’s Pinkast on the empty chair. He explains that the empty chair represents the “most important person in the room who is not in the room.” In Heidi’s case it was the student, of course. Pink then goes on to explain that an empty chair can be useful in our work, especially when we write.
I was intrigued.
So I went online and ordered a box of plastic miniature chairs.
The next writing class, I viewed the video with my ELLs but paused it after Pink talks about the empty chair in meetings. It did not take long for my ELls to understand that the empty chair represented their reader.
Next, they eagerly and energetically chose a chair and got back to work.
So now, when conferencing, all I need to do is point to a chair if I am confused or need clarification.
By the way, pease notice one student’s reader, rubber duck , strategically perched on his chair.
Our librarian, Ms Ilana, helped us celebrate World Read Aloud Day. As we are reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Ilana chose to read us Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. My high school ELLs often think they are too cool for a story. However, they sat quietly and heard the uplifting story of a young boy from Ghana who overcomes his deformity, realizes his dream and fights for the rights of the disabled in his country.
I had begun our lesson by showing the moving Nike ad: ‘RE2SPECT’, in celebration of Derek Jeter’s career.
I wonder if my students got the connection?
I was always very proud of my hanging files of laminated images of clothing, climate, and food which I used when I taught French as a foreign language. Back in the day. I never thought twice about showing a print of a Matisse painting to practice creating dialogues on hobbies.
However, although I decorate my class room with various prints, postcards and original student art and photographs; I hardly ever use them as a springboard to discussion in my intermediate to advanced ELL courses.
Until I read the following:
By the way, over the years Jeff Wilhelm’s ideas have greatly inspired my teaching which, of course, benefit my students’ learning.
We are currently reading American Born Chinese by G.L.Yang, and Wilhelm’s lesson plan on visuals and identity seemed taylor-made for our discussions on growing up. The students completed a see, think, wonder chart, and I was surprised at how much guidance they needed in ‘close’ reading of an image even though we’d already practiced noticing detail in photographs.
My takeaway was obvious. There is a need for more analysis of visuals. I have chosen several images to promote thinking and writing on how culture shapes who we are. I am looking forward to a lively discussion. My students from countries such as France, Spain, Angola, Russia and South Korea are well aware of the small changes they have had to make in order to fit in to an American international school.