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?
I plan to teach new material in the final couple of months of my career as an ELL classroom teacher. To this end I ordered 2 books.
1. So much has been written lately on learning how to learn and how to revise: the myth of the ubiquitous yellow highlighter and simply rereading the texts. I will present my ELLs as well as my 9th grade Skills class with a compilation of revision suggestions. In order to create a list of all lists, I have begun reading make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning.
2. My ELL Writing Workshop includes assignments such as composing a rambling autobiography, a poem to a friend, the perfect focused paragraph, as well as creating a compelling P.S.A. I decided that both my students and I need a new challenge – to write an essay. To help me with this I bought The Journey is Everything – Teaching Essays that Students Want to Write for People who want to Read Them. I look forward to our journey.
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?
A lot is being written about the value of assigning homework.
I explain the assignment (usually a first draft reading), and make sure my ELLs have everything they need in order to successfully complete it. I often tell them how much time they should set aside in order to compete the task. Next lesson, the students deepen their understanding by sharing their ideas in the form of chat stations, guided discussions or answer an open question using a backchannel such as TodaysMeet.
We are going to read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah; and in order to give the students background knowledge, I assigned an Upfront article on child soldiers. The goal of the reading was to notice big ideas and confusions.
This time I tried one of Larry Ferlazzo’s TOK homework presentations. In class I grouped the students, and each group had to clarify one section of the text by designing a thought-provoking poster using each other’s notes.
Then each student in the group was responsible for deepening their peers’ understanding by presenting her/his poster. The goal of the presenter was to infer, question, and add to their “first draft” knowledge.
The students collaborated well, produced interesting posters and some insight. The audience, for their part, had to generate high level questions.
Needless to say, this was a great way for me to check their understanding as well as their ability to go beyond the text. However, we need to continue practicing crafting high level questions.
I will be using more of Ferlazzo’s homework presentations and hope they will engage my students as much as this one.
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.
Retirement. How I loathe that word. It is so passé. It is not even fashionably retro.
Anyway, my PD this year has 2 paths: my professional development as a teacher and my personal navigation towards becoming a productive, creative retiree.
I am beginning this new journey with Tim Ferriss’ latest book: Tools of Titans.
Having read the first couple of pages, I already identify with something Arnold Schwarzenegger writes towards the end of his foreword:
“I’ve always treated the world as my classroom, soaking up lessons and stories to fuel my path forward. I hope you do the same”.
As teachers we are always encouraging our students to be life long learners.
As teachers we know we have to model our mantras as much as possible.
I think this quotation is a perfect bridge between my two paths. The answers will come from many sources as I continue to fill one toolbox and begin a new one.
I thank the many contributors I will be consulting and writing about in advance.
We know that learners make effective teachers. However, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised when my 9th grade ELLs created a compelling introductory lesson to the plight of the refugees. This was part of our broader unit based on the purpose question of ‘Why do some people survive?’
I gave the students some relevant links as well as guidelines for designing an effective lesson such as a hook and engaging activities. They divided themselves into groups with each one taking responsibility for one part of the lesson.
They introduced the topic with a TED ED video, and continued with a slide show.
They concluded the lesson with a handout of a Venn Diagram to check whether we understood the differences and similarities between refugees and migrants.
The students exceeded my expectations, and I told them so.
I will close our long unit by reading aloud the powerful The Journey, by Francesca Sanna,
and the stunning, award winning book hiding behind it, Shackleton’s Journey. Actually, it has occurred to me as I finish this post that this book will make a powerful paired text to London’s The Call of the Wild which we have read as a class novel: dog/man against nature.
This is a gallery walk of chat; a great activity to deepen understanding of a text, or as Kelly Gallagher would say, ‘2nd draft reading’. In addition, this task promotes group discussions
I got the idea from Jennifer Gonzalez from the Cult of Pegadogy, a direct approach to student engagement.
My ELLs are in the midst of our ‘text tour’ of a unit on survival. One of the texts is on the survival skills of the cockroach (an idea I got from Jeff Wilhelm). To deepen their understanding of this complex article, I generated a few questions. By the way, I copied several questions from this excellent blog post.
We then reviewed the protocols for respectful group discussions. (I have written about this in more detail in a previous post).
I then simply followed Gonzalez’ clear directions.
Next time, after learning about generating high level questions, the students will come up with their own questions.