Thursday, September 29, 2011


I enjoy listening to children and their malapropisms.

Just the other day, Miss Tiara shared a funny story about one of our shared students.  She had become quite angry with Humming Boy.  Instead of working on a writing assignment, he had been goofing off.  She rarely gets angry, but Humming Boy had annoyed her greatly.  At the end of the class, he finally realized she was angry with him and blurted out, "But next time, Miss Tiara, I promise to write in my very best KERCHIEF!"

Yes, he meant cursive. 

Miss Tiara  managed to make it out of the classroom before she laughed. 

Humming Boy will be happy to know that our state department of education is considering eliminating cursive handwriting instruction.  I'm not sure how I feel about it, frankly.  I know it's important to be able to communicate thoughts effectively in written form, but for English Language Learners cursive handwriting is more difficult to decipher than printing.  Hmmmmmm.  I'm still on the fence.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love Powerpoint!

I love powerpoint!  It’s an exceptionally useful tool for teachers.  I use it for all sorts of presentations (including the Phonics Dance alphabet and the Phonics Dance Hunks and Chunks I wrote about in an earlier post), but as an English as a Second Language teacher I find it great for creating take-home study helps for my students. 

Recently, one of my second grade students was struggling to learn sight words.  Her teacher, Ms. Writer, requires all of the students in her class to work on increasing the number of sight words they can read.  As a good educator should do, Ms. Writer assessed her students at the beginning of the school year and set an individual goal for each second grader.  My student, Happy Girl, was working hard, but was progressing slowly. 

Ms. Writer expects the students to study their sight words at home for homework.  That’s fine for most students, but it’s more problematic for parents who do not speak or read English.  Happy Girl’s parents are wonderful and caring folks who will do anything they can to help their children succeed in school.  However, they can’t help Happy Girl with most homework.  Happy Girl could “study” her sight words at home, but if she wasn’t practicing them correctly, it wouldn’t do her any good.   

I thought about it for a while and talked it over with Ms. Writer.  She agreed with me and we came up with some ways to help Happy Girl.  We found a kind fifth grade girl willing to come to the second grade classroom for ten minutes each day to review sight words with Happy Girl.  Ms. Writer also has some parent helpers who review with Happy Girl a few days a week.

Finally, I came home and created a powerpoint with audio for Happy Girl.  I found a powerpoint of the Fry first 100 words online and then added my own voice reading each word.  Through a district interpreter, I made an appointment to make a home visit to Happy Girl’s house.  I knew she had a computer at home, so I was hoping to figure out a way to get the sight word powerpoint to work on her computer.  The interpreter and I went to Happy Girl’s home, met with her parents and I finally got the powerpoint to work on the computer.  Father and Mother were thrilled to be able to help Happy Girl!

Two days ago, I asked Happy Girl to read through the sight word list with me.  She zoomed through the list with lots of confidence.  The number of sight words she knows increased dramatically in just a few weeks.  She and I looked at each other when she finished and then I gave her a jubilant “high five”!!  I asked her, “Have you been practicing your sight words at home with Mom and Dad?”.  She flashed me a huge grin and said, “Yes!”

It’s times like this when I know why I love teaching English Language Learners.  Every day is a new challenge, but the rewards are great.  Now, I’m off to work on adding audio to the next powerpoint for the Fry second hundred words.   Happy Girl is almost ready for a new set of words!  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Nest Fills Back Up

The nest was empty for only a short while before it filled back up again.  Younger Son is away at college, but Older Son is b-a-c-k!  He graduated from Mega Gigantic State University and promptly obtained a job in his field of study.  However, it is a contract position and not a permanent one.  He’s working at a well respected company and the experience will increase his knowledge and look good on a future resume.  However, it doesn’t pay as well as he had hoped. 

So, Father and I asked him if he wanted to move back home for a few months.   He reluctantly agreed after he worked through his finances and discovered that the free room and board offered at the Gumby house would enable him to save a lot of money in order to pay off some student loans. 
When his campus apartment lease ran out, he moved home.  After five years of college, the kid has a huge collection of “stuff”.  He’s moved some into the basement, some into the larger bedroom upstairs and there is still a bunch of junk in my living room!  It looks like a scene from the TV show about hoarders.  Ugh.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Hooray, hooray!  Mr. Pokey has been offered a permanent full time job with benefits!   I am SO happy for Mrs. Pokey and her family.  I know this will be a big burden of worry off of both Mr. and Mrs. Pokey. 

So, let the dancing and celebration begin!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Football Weekend

Mr. Gumby and I traveled this weekend to see Younger Son march at his first college football game.  Call me an excited parent!!  Woooo-hooo!  I love to see my kid in a marching band! 

We arrived at Middle Sized Private College's stadium in time to find our seats and to see the pre-game festivities.  Mr. Gumby and I played "Find the Son in the Band" and spotted him several times throughout the pre-game and later in the halftime show.  We are very proud parents, to say the least.

At the end of the game, we waited while the band, cheerleaders and football team sang the school's alma mater together and then we headed out of the stadium to meet Younger Son.  I found him and gave him a hug.  I think he was glad to see us and asked if we had brought along more shampoo and bodywash for him.  (He lost the other bottles of bodywash and shampoo in the showers in the dorm.)  I said, "Yes, we did."  Then, Father Gumby spoke up and said, "Well, do you want us to take you out for dinner?"  Younger Son looked at us and said, "Ummmm.  I have plans tonight." 


So, Mr. Gumby walked to the car and got the bodywash and shampoo, while I waited for Younger Son to put away his band instrument and take off his uniform.  We gave him his bag of supplies, hugged him again and then headed back to the car to go home.

In the car, Mr. Gumby and I looked at each other and then started to laugh.  We decided that although we were a little disappointed Younger Son didn't want to go to dinner with us, we are happy he is enjoying college life and making new friends. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are You Listening?

In our ESL classes, we work on reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I know I plan a lot of instruction for my students covering the first three areas, but I need to increase the opportunities I provide for students to become better listeners.  I found an excellent article from Larry Ferlazzo at Education Week Teacher.  The article, "Response: Several Ways To Help Students Become Better Listeners" has some ideas I want to present to my students' classroom teachers AND some other ideas I am going to implement in my classroom.

We are fortunate to have many good teachers in our school, but I need to remember to gently remind some about providing verbal and written instructions for our English Language Learners.  In Ferlazzo's article he mentions,

Verbal/Written Instructions & Modeling
A major mistake many of us make is not providing verbal instructions before an activity. Extensive research emphasizes the importance of providing verbal and written instructions to English Language Learners, and this classroom practice works well for all learners. This will not only reduce the number of repetitive student questions, but it is also far easier for a teacher to point to the board in response to that inevitable repeated question, "What are we supposed to do?"

Teacher modeling is also an important instructional strategy that is often shortchanged in the classroom. After you give instructions, teachers actually demonstrating them can go a long way towards students understanding of what they are supposed to do. In addition, researchers have found that modeling has a major impact on increasing student self-confidence that they can replicate the task. Robert Marzano also recommends teacher modeling as a way to "deepen" student comprehension.

One of his readers, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, suggested an idea for listening practice.  She said,

If you're looking for a cool listening lesson, however, visual note-taking is a great activity to build up those listening muscles. Read them a passage, excerpt, etc...then time them as they sketch every detail they recall. When time is up, slowly remind them of the itemized list of details they may or may not have heard. If they sketched it, they get points. The goal is to get the most points, and the teacher decides what details the students should have absorbed with only one reading.

I think I might try this and see if it makes a difference with my students!