Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing with English Language Learners

This school year, Mrs. Pokey and I are going to concentrate on writing skills with our students.  In our state, all ELL's are required to take state tests in Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.  Our students typically do fairly well on the tests, but they all struggle with the writing test.  Writing is the "make or break" score on whether or not the students are deemed "proficient" and graduate from the ESL program. 

I found these articles on writing on the Colorin Colorado website.  I think Mrs. Pokey and I will have to try some of the strategies.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pretty Nails

We've been in school for a week and a half now.  One of my favorite students, Pretty Nails Girl, is back this school year.  She and her family travel to their home country each summer to see their extended family and return by the time school starts.  Pretty Nails Girl is a real sweetie, but sonetimes she fixates on something and just won't let it go.  Last year, she started noticing the finger nails and toenails of several teachers.  If one of us had polish on our nails, Pretty Nails Girl would examine the color closely and ask us what the name of the color was.  Then, she would ask us to write down the name of the nail polish on a post-it note.  She really liked going online and looking up the colors. 

One day, she asked Mrs. Cheerleader what nail polish color she liked.  Mrs. Cheerleader was in a bit of a hurry that day and quickly replied, "Anything O.P.I."

Now if you've ever looked at the OPI nail colors, you'll know they have some pretty hilarious names.  I like "Coney Island Cotton Candy", for example, and Mrs. Reading recently went for "Tutti Frutti Tonga".  If you check out the OPI website and click on the "Try On This Color" tab at the top, you'll see lots of very creative names for polish colors.

Pretty Nails Girl dutifully noted Mrs. Cheerleader's answer, went home and spent a long time looking  for "Anything O.P.I." on the OPI nails website.   (Unfortunately, there IS no color called "Anything O.P.I.")   When Pretty Nails Girl came back to school the next day, she told Mrs. Cheerleader that she couldn't find the color.   Mrs. Cheerleader felt a little sheepish when she realized what had happened.  She had to explain further that she meant she liked any color of nail polish that OPI makes.  Ooops!!

Now that I know Pretty Nails Girl is back from her vacation, I need to schedule a manicure and a pedicure.  It will make her day if I come in with polished nails.  Of course, I will have to pay attention to the name of the color of the polish!  And, I might as well write down the name on a post-it note before she comes to my room for ESL class.  That way, I'll be ready to go before she walks in the door!! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Phonics Dance

Last year, Mrs. Sunshine and I used the Phonics Dance to help our students learn the alphabet and its sounds.  After our students mastered the alphabet portion, we started in on the "Hunks and Chunks".  The children really enjoyed learning and reciting the hunks and chunks.  It took a while for them to learn all of the "Hunks and Chunks", but it was worthwhile.  It really seemed to help our ESL students with their learning how to read.  Mrs. Sunshine made a powerpoint of each hunk/chunk and we used it with the large Smartboard in our shared classroom several times daily.  By the end of the year, Mrs. Sunshine, Mrs. Foil and I were all top-notch "Hunk and Chunkers".  Who needs aerobics when you do the "Hunk and Chunk" portion of the Phonics Dance four to five times per day???  It's a great TPR (Total Physical Response) activity, too. 

Here's a fun YouTube video of a second grade class doing the "Hunks and Chunks".  It's not our students, of course, but you'll get a good idea of how it works. 

The Phonics Dance and its accompanying Hunks and Chunks were designed by Virginia Dowd.  Her website is The Phonics Dance.  Take a look at it and give The Phonics Dance a try.  Mrs. Sunshine and I were thrilled with how much it helped our students last year. 

Below are some examples of some of the powerpoint slides Mrs. Sunshine used.  You can buy the precolored cards from Virginia Dowd's website or you can copy the black and white ones from the book and have a willing helper color them for you.  Mrs. Sunshine's daughter colored a set of Hunks and Chunks and a set of the Phonics Dance alphabet for each of us.  She is such a sweetie!  Thanks, D. Sunshine, for the help.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Whirlwind and a Crash

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students.  I helped students find their classrooms when the school doors opened in the morning, went around and checked on some of my ESL students and worked on scheduling with Mrs. Pokey.   The whole day was a whirlwind from start to finish.  I felt as if I should have been wearing roller skates instead of shoes.  The school is not that large, but I zoomed around all day.  Whew! 

I left work about 5 o'clock and was ready to see Mr. Gumby.  I thought we could have some grilled pork chops, a nice salad and some fresh green beans from our garden for supper.  I started on my trip home and drove about a mile before C-R-A-S-H!!!  An elderly man rear-ended my car as I was waiting for a pickup truck to turn right at a stoplight!  I was driving Younger Son's car.  (Hey, it's better on gas than my usual Mom Mobile minivan!)   As it would happen, I was right in front of the car dealership where we bought his vehicle a few years ago. 

After the police came and issued the man a citation for crashing the front end of his car into the back end of my car, Mr. Gumby (my Knight in Shining Armor who came to pick me up and listen to my tearful tale of woe) slowly drove the wounded car into the dealership's body shop.  We left the poor thing there. 

I don't have the guts/courage/heart to call Younger Son at college and let him know his car is damaged.  I think we'll wait until it's fixed and THEN tell him.  Yes, I am a chicken. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

No Vacancy

Wow!  Every time I check my school email it seems Mrs. Pokey and I are getting more and more students!  We'll have to sit down the first thing on Wednesday morning and try to figure out what we're going to do. Scheduling ourselves is going to be interesting, to say the least.

The past two years I have been half time at this school and half time at another school.  This year, they moved a lot of teachers around and I ended up here full time. ( Although I miss Mrs. Sunshine and Mrs. Foil at the other school, I'm thrilled to be at one school all day long. Traveling every day in the middle of the day was a drag.) 

While I'm glad our school has enough ESL students to warrant a full time teacher (Me!),  I'm becoming a little concerned about the avalanche of additional students.  I suggested to Principal that we post a "No Vacancy" sign out in the front of the school.  He just laughed and said, "Aren't you glad you're full time here now?"   Hmmm. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Empty Nest

The nest is empty. 

Yes, Mr. Gumby and I spent the day moving Younger Son to college.  I know he'll be fine, but it's hard to let him go.   Our Older Son did just fine at Mega Gigantic State University, but we knew it wouldn't be the right fit for Younger Son.  He's now at Middle Sized Private College. 

He went back a week early because he's going to participate in the marching band.  After paying the fees for band, we waited for him while he filled out paperwork, tried on uniforms and chose his school owned instrument.  Then an upperclass band mentor helped us move him into his dorm room.  I have to say...it was VERY well organized. 

I helped Younger Son make his bed, put away his clothes and organize his desk area while Dad took care of making sure his computer connected to the network and to the printer we brought.  Younger Son is on his own for figuring how to connect the PS3 and the television.  We ate lunch (provided by the band) with him and then headed out when it was time.  I waited to cry until Mr. Gumby and I were alone in the van on our way out of the parking lot.

When we got home, the house seemed so empty and quiet without Younger Son.  However, as I walked into the house, I found a text message waiting for me on my cell phone.  It was from my friend, Mrs. Pokey.  She said, "Remember, you gave him the wings.  Now it is time for him to fly." 

Thanks, Mrs. Pokey, for your wise words.  I needed them today.


Friday, August 12, 2011


Today, Mrs. Pokey and I met with the Principal.  We went through our student lists and made sure we hadn't missed any students.  Sometimes kids "fall through the cracks" and don't get identified in a timely fashion. 

Mrs. Pokey is going to have to move rooms for this school year, so we checked out the alternative space today.  It's not perfect, but we can make it work.  Looks like the custodian, the principal and Mrs. Pokey's kids and husband will be assisting her with the moving since Mrs. Pokey has a hurt knee right now.  God bless Mr. Pokey and the Pokey kids for helping!!! 

I may need to get Mrs. Pokey a jeep so she can zoom around the school.   Wonder if Principal would go for that??  Hmmmmm. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Toddlers and Tiaras

Today I read a post on Diane Laney Fitzpatrick's blog, "Just Humor Me."  I laughed so hard that my dog looked at me as if he was unsure if I was all right or not.

Diane comments about the show "Toddlers and Tiaras".  I've watched the show a few times and just been aghast at the parents of these children!  Dear God, what are they thinking??  It's an awful train wreck!   She says it so much better than I ever could, so please visit her blog and read it for yourself.  Be sure to watch the YouTube clip at the bottom.  It's a clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show where Tom Hanks parodies the whole "Toddler and Tiaras" phenomenon. 


Monday, August 8, 2011

Rhyme a Week - Building Phonological Awareness

Last school year my good friend and colleague, Mrs. Sunshine, and I tried Rhyme a Week with our Kindergarten ESL students.  We did some research about rhyming and phonological awareness with English Language Learners and decided to try Rhyme a Week.  Mrs. Sunshine and I substituted a few of the rhymes/poems and didn't do every activity, but used almost all of the rhyming/word family words. 

Our students LOVED learning and acting out the nursery rhymes.  Watching them reminded us of how much background knowledge we as middle class Americans take for granted.  Both Mrs. Sunshine and I had recited these nursery rhymes with our own children when they were young, but the rhymes were all new to our students. Some of their favorites were "Jack and Jill", "Jack Be Nimble", and "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater." (However, they did NOT want us to act out "This Little Piggy Went to Market" with their toes!  Mrs. Sunshine and I took off our shoes and socks to demonstrate how to do the toe wiggling.  We demonstrated with each other's toes and with a willing fifth grade girl helper.  But, when it came time for kindergarten volunteers, not a single one of the eleven students would participate!  Not. A. Single. One!  Go figure!   Mrs. Sunshine and I had a good laugh about it later.) 

We were pleased with the results from implementing Rhyme a Week and plan to start again in November.  If you aren't familiar with it, take a look. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tomato Explosion

It's a tomato explosion at the Gumby house!  Our itty bitty raised garden has about the dimensions of a queen sized bed, but we have tomatoes everywhere.   We planted five tomato seedlings earlier in the spring:  one cherry tomato, two Better Boys and two Celebrity plants.  All have survived and are thriving.  It's certainly not from any particular type of tender loving care, though.  We're pretty much  "plant 'em and ignore 'em"  gardeners.  We'll water occasionally when it's really dry and pull a few weeds now and then, but that's about all.

Mr. Gumby grew up on a farm, so I think puttering around in a little garden must appeal to his farm boy roots. He comes home from his high tech geeky job, takes a walk out in the yard with the dog and checks out the garden.   I knew I was in trouble when he started coming in and saying, "Wow!  There sure are a lot of green tomatoes out there."  I figured the squirrels would eat them or we'd get some sort of tomato rot, like other years.  Nope.  Not this year.  Mr. Gumby has started coming in with handfuls of tomatoes and now Younger Son has started to accompany his dad on the evening inspection.  A couple of evenings ago, Mr. G and YS came in with so many tomatoes they had to start piling them in their shirt tails!

I gave some away to teacher friends on Thursday at an inservice, ate sliced tomatoes and fried zucchini for dinner, made several batches of fresh tomato sauce (one of Younger Son's favorite recipes) and still have a kitchen counter full.  I know I can take some to the local food pantry tomorrow, too.   However, as Mr. G, Older Son and Younger Son were headed out of the house early this morning for an Indy Car race, they yelled up the stairs,  "Hey, Mom!  You'd better go out and pick more tomatoes today!  There are a bunch more ready!!" 

Sigh!  Does anybody have any good tomato recipes to share??  Help!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

State Fair

Yes, Mr. Gumby, Younger Son and I went to the State Fair.  Whee!  It was hot, hot, HOT (did I mention it was hot?)!  But you can't beat it for people watching.  What a bunch of odd people!  The old man in the glittery gold mesh see-through shirt was a "winner", for sure.  Ugh! 

We tried lots of disgustingly unhealthful but yummy fair food such as funnel cakes, pig "wings" and lemon shake-ups.  Mr. Gumby had to try this year's feature...the Donut Burger.  Yes, a hamburger patty with bacon, cheese, onion, tomato and pickles between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  I tried a bite, just to say I had, and it was surprisingly good.  There was a nice contrast between the sweetness of the doughnuts and the saltiness of the burger and bacon.  Do you what the funniest thing was about the whole thing??  Mr. Gumby's personal trainer is the one who told him how good the burgers were!!!  Yeah, Mr. Extremely Buff ate one earlier this week at the Fair and told Mr. Gumby how good they tasted!!  So, of course, Mr. Gumby needed to try one, too, since Mr. Extremely Buff suggested it. 

Yes, I am rolling my eyes at how ludicrous this all sounds!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hello and introduction

Hello, I'm Mrs. Gumby.  I teach English as a Second Language (ESL) at an elementary school.  My students are from more than ten different countries and all vary in their English language abilities.  The title of my blog, "Semper Gumby", is the informal motto I live by every day.   I never know from day to day what will drop into my lap, so I have to remain "Always Flexible"...just like Gumby!

I'm assisted by a wonderful paraprofessional, Mrs. Pokey.  I work daily with the lower level students (Emergents and Beginners) while Mrs. Pokey works two to three times per week with the upper level students (Intermediate and Advanced).  Together we make a dynamic team (or dynamite team, take your pick!).   So, pull up a chair and stay tuned for the further adventures of Mrs. Gumby.