My Final Lesson: What’s The Big Idea for Romeo and Juliet?

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?

 

 

 

Using ‘Guernica’ to Promote Visible Thinking and Discussion

As we were finishing Ishmael Beah’s powerful memoir A Long Way Gone; I remembered Picasso’s Guernica.

IMG_8107

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.

IMG_8121

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.

 

 

Your One Word and One Sentence

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.

IMG_8008

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

IMG_8003

I find it amusing that her one word is ‘journey’.

 

 

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.

img_7839

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.

img_7847

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.

matisse-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:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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

img_7727

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.

Thanksgiving: a celebration of gratitude

Thanksgiving is full of rich learning experiences. This year my high school ELL class sat in the cozy, colorful elementary school section of the library.  Some even dared to relax on the carpet.

“Are you sitting comfortably”? asked Ms Ilana as she showed us the cover of The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper.  I , meanwhile, experienced a flashback to the welcoming, warm opening of the BBC’s ‘Listen With Mother’…

img_7405

The students settled into a quiet, listening mode as our narrator told of the grandfather who explained to his grandson the universal meaning of kindness.  We did not discuss the message, but held on to our thoughts as we completed thanksgiving cutouts on what we are thankful for.

On our way out, we stapled our gratitude to the thankful  tree.

img_7414

The idea for the next part of the lesson  came from McGill’s timely post ‘An Open Mind’

I asked each student where she or he is from and as  I teach in an international school the replies were diverse.  While viewing  ‘The DNA Journey’, the students jotted down ideas on an index card to help them articulate ideas for the discussion and written response.

My ELLs were shocked and intrigued; pointing out that we are so quick to define our differences rather than our similarities.

As one student responded:

“Just by spiting in a tube you can know where you are REALLY from.”

 

Ready Steady Write #2

The final resource to help me upgrade my ELL Writer’s Workshop has arrived

img_7142

The first quarter has been spent on short, personal narratives and poems.  We will now focus on the more formal persuasive writing,  and I noticed that Chapter 4 (p.97) is devoted to those writing moves.

I look forward to providing feedback other than “How can you develop this idea?”

Chat Stations

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.

3 Activities for the begining of the Year: setting the tone, building confidence

IMG_6772

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than hand out rubrics for expected student behaviors, the students themselves create a list of habits that make a good class.

Activity #1 Setting the tone of the class.

A few years ago I came across a handout with an important purpose question:  What makes a good class?  (Unfortunately,  I have no idea where I got this from).  The students complete this from two perspectives: theirs and the teacher’s. In order to help the students clarify their ideas they list  3-5 things a teacher and student must be, say or do to create a safe environment for students to succeed.  They worked in pairs and then in groups of four.  One student from each group reported out.  After listing the behaviors, we analyzed what habits a teacher and student share.

This is the anchor paper that is strategically placed in my class.

IMG_6882

The final step of this activity  is to complete the analogy:

A good class is like …

Here are some of the answers.

IMG_6883

I love the idea of a good class is like

a restaurant: you enter hungry and leave full or

a tree with many branches that grow of the teacher.

 

Activity #2 What the learners can expect to be doing in class.

Although I am obliged to read through and discuss the course guidelines with the students, they are not engaged.  However, I simplify a lesson plan created by Jim Burke  which gets them thinking, generating questions and discussing.

We look at the image of Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich.

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

The students note where he is, what he is doing, and the details/objects in the image.  We then discuss how the wanderer reflects the beginning of their 9th grade journey; their hopes and fears.

Activity #3 What is success?  What does it look like?  Does it matter?

Each student drew the symbols of success on small whiteboards.  Then they read  (a jigsaw activity) an article on the habits of champions,  identified the big ideas and created a slide show.

Finally, as an exit note, they created a frozen statue of success.

This was as far as I was willing to let them go.

IMG_6773

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology and Teaching

Technology should be an “agent of change in our teaching.” (N. Chatzopoulos).  Each time I choose a tech tool (what?) , I question my rationale (how? and why)?  I even keep a notebook with ideas on how to incorporate technology into my lessons,  so that my ELLs are creating and producing rather than simply consuming.

IMG_6556

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this in mind, I purchased The Teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez.  I needed a reminder of the great tools that are out there, as well as to learn about some new, intriguing tech possibilities for teaching and learning.  I am familiar with Jennifer’s engaging blog so I was not disappointed with the guide.  It is clearly designed and Gonzalez gives you a comprehensive list of tools divided into categories with easy explanations and links on how to use them.

I often use TodaysMeet and Quizlet, and will continue to do so.  However, while scrolling through the guide, I learnt about so many other great tools students can use such as:

collaborating on the big ideas of an article with Padlet,

engaging in literary discussions on Skype,

and  creating multimedia PSA posters with Glogster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought The Teacher’s Guide to Tech by Jennifer Gonzalez.