Remember the Reader: a note to our student writers

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.

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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.

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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.

World Read Aloud Day

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.

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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?

 

Homework Poster Presentations

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.

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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.

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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.

Using Art to Teach Theme

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.

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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:

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By the way, over the years Jeff Wilhelm’s ideas have greatly inspired my teaching which, of course, benefit my students’ learning.

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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.

Developing a Toolkit for Retirement

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.

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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.

Visible Thinking in Metaphors

I read about metaphorical graphic organizers in Kelly Gallagher’s thought provoking Deeper Reading.

We have finally come to the end of The Call of the Wild and before the students respond to the novel with group discussions and Teaching Channels’ interactive stations, I handed them a recipe template for Buck.

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The students looked up their favorite recipes including lasagne, souffle and muffins. It seems we have some serious bakers in our midst. They noted cooking terms such as whisk, knead, mix, add, beat etc.  They then referred to Buck’s attribute list: tenacious, survivor, confident, leader and defiant.  Finally,  the students listed Buck’s ingredients, wrote directions and put him in the oven.

I am in awe (no exaggeration) and so proud of my ELLs’ creativity:

3 cups of menacing environment

1 liter of love

a pinch of shyness

whisk like you’ve never whisked before

2 full cups of tenacity

1 cup of frugal

and I could go on.

My French speaking student ended his recipe with ‘la cerise sur le gateau’.

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This activity demonstrated how well they understood the choices and decisions Buck had to make in order to survive.

And they had fun!