Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slow Down!

Over the long weekend, I found a new ESL teacher blog I'm enjoying reading.  It's called Raki's Rad Resources.  The author, Heidi Raki, is a primary school teacher from the United States who has moved to Morocco with her family.  She blogs about her experiences adapting to a new country and culture as well as her new position as a teacher in a private school.  I'm especially enjoying her Tuesday TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Tip. 

Here is TESOL Tip #2 from Heidi Raki:

ELL Teaching Tip #2: Speak Slowly
If you’ve ever tried to speak or understand another language, the first thing you notice is how fast every seems to speak. Actually, most native speakers of any language speak at about the same rate, anywhere between 150 and 200 words per minute, (give or take some, depending on dialect and whose doing the counting). However, when you are learning a language, and you don’t know all the words, your brain processes what you are hearing at a slower pace... 

She gives some great video examples and goes on to remind teachers to slow down AND allow for processing or "wait" time before calling on students.  Go and read her TESOL Tip #2...right now!!! 

Thanks, Heidi, for a great tip!  I believe I will share it with my regular classroom colleagues this week. 

Mrs. Gumby practicing "wait time"!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble, gobble, gobble

Last week we had a "visitor" in our ESL classroom.  We had a 30 pound mounted (stuffed) wild tom turkey borrowed from a local taxidermist.  My room is rather small (think...glorified closet), so Tom took up quite a bit of room on my round table.   My students were surprised and awestruck by the turkey.  They carefully circled the table and examined the bird closely.  I was surprised myself at how intricate the turkey's feathers were.  Some of the feathers were small and others larger.  Some were soft and others very stiff.  Still others were white and mottled with tan while others were all shades of brown and iridescent.  And, surprisingly, the beard feathers feel like stiff hairs...not like feathers at all!

I found a very nice simple non-fiction book about turkeys at the school library and read the book with my students.  We learned about wattles, spurs, snoods, hens, toms, poults and caruncles!  I also found some great YouTube videos showing how wild tom turkeys make their gobbling noise and how tom turkeys   show off to female hens by puffing up their feathers.  By the time we were finished, my students were turkey experts.  I heard other students asking them questions about the turkey and my ELL's were proudly answering.

Too often all students see are cartoony clip art depictions of turkeys.  It was worth every moment of putting up with Tom and his glassy "stare" for a few days in order to provide a memorable experience for my students!  Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Recently, Mrs. Pokey spearheaded a wonderful service learning project funded by the King Arthur Flour Company.  It is called the Life Skills Bread Baking Program.  Last year our school participated and this year Mrs. Pokey did it with her other school.  

According to the King Arthur website,  "the FREE Life Skills Bread Baking Program has reached more than 155,000 students nationwide since it began in 1992, providing kids with a fun, real-world application for skills they’re already learning in school – math, science, reading, planning, problem solving, and more. And they get to use their new skill to help people in their community."

The King Arthur folks send out a person to demonstrate how to make bread and then provide all the ingredients (including flour, yeast, a dough scraper and a handy little cookbook) for the students to take home to make bread for themselves and for others. 

The whole goal of the project is to teach children (grades 4-7) how to help others in a very concrete way.  Each participant takes home the ingredients and directions.  They make two loaves of bread at home and bring one back to school the next day.  The bread is donated to a local charity such as a food pantry.


On Friday, Mrs. Pokey and the fourth and fifth grade leadership students took over 240 loaves of bread to our local food pantry.  The bread will be frozen and then distributed to families for Thanksgiving.  Of course, as the outstanding educator she is, Mrs. Pokey involved the leadership students in delivering the bread to the pantry, weighing it, helping to freeze it and in reporting back to the other students.  She also had the leadership students make a powerpoint they will use when talking to the other fourth and fifth graders. 

Brava, Mrs. Pokey!  Brava!