Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Rootin' Tootin' Time

A couple of days ago I was giving the mid-year writing assessment to two of my fourth grade students.  I know it's a difficult assessment, but Mrs. Pokey and I believe strongly that it's important to assess the writing of our English Language Learners at least three times during the school year.  We do a beginning of the year assessment, another at mid-year and the third at the end of the school year.  We use the grade level tests from the Write Source writing series and also use a rubric from Writing A-Z.

I set up my small room with the appropriate materials including tabletop cardboard privacy shields (corrugated cardboard trifold boards). By small room, I mean that my room is about the size of a large closet.  There's enough room for a small round table, four chairs and a very small floor space in front of my tiny meter wide SmartBoard. It's quite "cozy" at times.

My fourth graders entered the room and sighed when they saw the set up.  They knew the privacy shields meant serious business.  My fourth graders are Taxi Boy (of the "America's Got Talons fame") and California Kid.  California Kid was new to our school at the beginning of the year and has some serious gaps in his education.  We're working on filling those gaps as quickly as we can, but he'll need lot of intervention to catch up to his classmates.

We started the test and I began to read it aloud to the two boys.  (It's intended to be a writing test, not a reading test.  Therefore, I chose to use read-aloud as an accommodation.)  After about the third question in the first "bubble-the-correct-answer" section, California Kid let loose a loud flatulent blast.  Taxi Boy looked up from his test to see California Kid's embarrassed face.  California Kid flopped his head down on the table and started to giggle.

Taxi Boy looked at California Kid for a moment and then calmly said, "Dude!"  California Kid continued to giggle. ( I thought Taxi Boy showed a lot of restraint because the "toot" in question was quite loud.)

I said something teacher-ly like, "We all pass gas now and then. It happens. Let's keep going with the test."

We continued the test and a minute or so later, California Kid snuck out another little toot.  He started giggling again.  I continued reading the test aloud.  This pattern continued for a few minutes until finally California Kid ripped out another loud flatulent emission. Taxi Boy couldn't take it any more!  He sat up straight in his chair and then leaned over the privacy shields between them and said,

"D-U-U-U-D-E!!!   SERIOUSLY??????!!!???"

I thought I was going to lose it!  I wanted to laugh so much, but I knew I needed to maintain professional decorum.

Who knew that you could have such a ROOTIN' TOOTIN' time in ESL class??

I definitely need to stock up on some air freshener this weekend when I head to the grocery!  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Pie and Tamales

Sorry I haven't posted for a while.  I've been busier than a one-armed paper hanger, as my dear sweet Granny used to say!

Recently, I've been reading some Thanksgiving themed books from Reading A-Z.  The books, Maria's Thanksgiving and Carlos's First Thanksgiving are a great pair for building vocabulary and background knowledge about the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  Plus, they're perfect for practicing the skills of comparing and contrasting.

In one of the books (I believe it's the Maria book) they mention eating tamales as a part of the Thanksgiving feast.  One of my students is of Mexican heritage, so she was thrilled to describe to us  the delicious tamales her mother makes.  The other student arrived from Ghana about three months ago, so he had no idea about Thanksgiving nor tamales.  I found a You Tube video to use to describe how to make tamales.   (By the way, remember to ALWAYS preview any video clip before using it in class!  I found one video that did a great job describing how to make tamales when suddenly, in the middle of the clip, the hostess/chef picked up a piece of corn husk from a pot filled with hot water and clearly said, "SH*T!!"   Oops.  I'm not using THAT video!)

After our tamale discussions, we went on to pumpkin pie.  Moonwalk Boy, my Ghanaian student, couldn't imagine what a pumpkin pie would be like.  He didn't think it sounded good to eat at all!  So, I stopped at the grocery after school and purchased a small pumpkin pie and a can of whipped cream.  I brought them in to school on Friday.  When class started, I took out the pie, cut it into slices and I talked about how not every American likes pumpkin pie.  (I used my own husband as an example.  Mr. Gumby does NOT like pumpkin pie, but our sons do.  Therefore, we always have pumpkin pie and apple pie at our house for Thanksgiving. I always try to give kids an out if they don't like the taste of something. I tell them it won't hurt my feelings if they don't like a food.)  I placed small slices of pumpkin pie on paper plates and squirted some whipped cream on top of each piece. Whoosh!  Moonwalk Boy jerked back in his seat at the sound of the whipped cream coming out of the aerosol can!!  I guess I scared him? (Mrs. Gumby...scaring English Language Learners with aerosol whipped cream since 2012!!!)    After explaining how the cream comes out of the can, I distributed the plates and we began our taste test.  Happy Girl delightedly ate her pumpkin pie and whipped cream.  However, Moonwalk Boy gently poked his piece of pie and cautiously tried a teeny tiny bit of pumpkin filling.  He decided it wasn't something he liked, but he did enjoy the whipped cream.   I could just see the look in his eyes, though.

 "Those crazy Americans and their weird traditions!  Who wants to eat that nasty orange pie?"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Malapropism Strikes Again

Yes, the English language is complicated.  I see my students struggle every day to conquer the twists, turns and peculiarities inherent in the language.  They work hard, but sometimes the results are inadvertently funny to listen to.  I try hard not to laugh but to model correct usage/pronunciation instead.  

Here is an example of an inadvertent malapropism from one of my students.  It was shared with me last week by my neighbor, Mrs. Cheerleader.  She and I share a student, Taxi Boy.  Taxi Boy LOVES to talk and talk and talk.  Mrs. Cheerleader had Taxi Boy and a girl, Quiet Mouse, in a reading group.  They read a non-fiction book about eagles and were discussing the information found in the book.  The text in the book was about how eagles catch their prey with their sharp talons.  Next to the word "talons" was the word "claws" in parenthesis.  Mrs. Cheerleader asked Taxi Boy and Quiet Mouse what talons meant.  Quiet Mouse wouldn't respond, but after some thought, Taxi Boy piped up.

"Talons!  I 'America's Got Talons'!!!"   

Mrs. Cheerleader had the hardest time keeping a straight face as she explained the difference between "talons" and "talents"!  When she told me the story after school, she and I laughed so hard we nearly fell over.   

Yes, indeed...America's Got Talons!  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

If It's October, It Must Be Pumpkin Time

This past week, I've been working on the nursery rhyme, "Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" with my first graders. They LOVE this rhyme!   I brought in a couple of small pie pumpkins and we cut them open.  I cut while they watched (of course!) and then we scooped out the pulpy strings and seeds.  I purposely did not make the pumpkins into jack o'lanterns because I wanted the kids to see what a pumpkin "shell" looked like.  I left the hollowed out pumpkins in my room for three days and let the students lift off the lids and peek inside the pumpkins.  We all decided that living in a pumpkin shell would not keep one "very well" at all!  We thought it would be very stinky and messy.

Last week, I found a few interesting activities to add to my Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater lesson.  I like the Itsy Bitsy book from Kidzone. ( Note:  If you haven't put together one of the Itsy Bitsy books, read the directions first.  It takes a little manipulation, but it gets easier once you've made a few.)
Thematic Itsy Bitsy Books

I thought the Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater puppets from First School were fun, too.  Puppets are always great activity to do with English Language Learners. 

Finally, I found some great graphic sequence cards on a blog called Montessori for Everyone.  I definitely will use the Pumpkin Life Cycle cards, but I see a lot more useful materials for future sequencing lessons. 

Have a great October!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Expanding Expression Tool (EET)

Continuing on the theme of teaching writing to children, I'd like to tell you about a great tool I love to use with my students!  It's called the Expanding Expression Tool or EET, for short.

The Expanding Expression Tool is a hands-on way for students to think about things they want to write about and how to describe them.  Each bead on the strand stands for a different way of looking at the item.  For example, the Green bead (with the smiling face) represents "Green - Group" or what group the item belongs to.  The Blue bead is for "Blue - Do."  It stands for "what does this item do OR what would you do with the item".  The White bead with the eyeball on it represents "what does it look like" while the brown wooden bead means "what is made of".  The Pink bead is for "Pink - Parts" (what it is a part of OR what are its parts).  The plain White bead represents "White - Where" for where would you find it or where does it reside.  Finally, the Orange bead with the question mark stands for "What else do I know".

Here is an example of two descriptions of a football.  One is written by a group before using the EET and the other description is by the same group after they used the tool.

Mrs. Pokey and I have had success using the Expanding Expression Tool.  In fact, we're going to be working with a fifth grade class tomorrow.  We have four English Language Learners in the class, so Mrs. Pokey and I will be pushing-in to the classroom tomorrow and working with the whole class along with their teacher, Mrs. Cookie.  (Yes, she makes marvelous cookies!)   Mrs. Cookie has a whole bag full of Mexican   jumping beans.  I can't wait to work with the students tomorrow afternoon on how to describe their jumping beans!  (I was in the classroom this morning talking with Mrs. Cookie.  The whole time I was in there, the beans were jumping in their little clear plastic boxes.  Click, click, click, click, click, click, click!)

To find out more about the Expanding Expression Tool, please go to their website at   I also found few good YouTube links to share with you.  

The first one is from a school district in Ohio:

The second is from Expanding Expression: 

I also found some good PDF's about EET online.  They're worth downloading and reading.  I hope you'll give EET a try with your students, too.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Writing A-Z

At the beginning of last school year, Mrs. Pokey and I sat down and looked at the scores of our students on our annual "Really Big Important State Tests For English Language Learners".   The "Really Big State Tests" look at the progress of our English Language Learners in four areas.  The areas are reading, speaking, listening and writing.  The students receive scores from 1-5 in each of the four areas.  The area scores are weighted and combined to make a composite score.

We use the composite scores to decide where the students will be placed in our program.  I am the ESL unit teacher and I work with the emergent and beginning students (composite scores of 1 and 2).  Mrs. Pokey is our ESL paraprofessional and she works with the intermediate and advanced students (composite scores of 3 and 4).  Under current state rules, a student who receives composite 4's two years in a row or a composite 5 after 3rd grade is exited from the ESL program.   Our goal is to keep our students advancing and eventually exiting the program.

After looking at the data, we realized that writing is the "make or break" score for our children.  It is weighted more heavily and affects the composite score.  The writing score makes the difference between a student working with me versus Mrs. Pokey AND determines whether or not they can exit our program.

Therefore, Mrs. Pokey and I decided we really needed to place a high priority on working on writing with our students.  We looked at what was available to us from the district and what was available from other sources.  Finally, we decided to try Writing A-Z, an online program from the Learning A-Z folks.

We've used Reading A-Z and Raz-Kids from the same company for several years.  We like both programs and feel they've been beneficial for our kids.  So, we piloted Writing A-Z for the school year to see how we liked it.

Well...our test results came in just before the school year ended in May.  Our students ROCKED the "Really Big Important State Tests for English Language Learners"!!!   Mrs. Pokey and I were so excited we nearly expired from happiness!   Yipppeeeeeeee!!  We were able to exit several students while others advanced up from unit level services to tutor level (working with Mrs. Pokey).  Moreover, we even had a few students who advanced TWO levels in writing.  Hallelujah!

Mrs. Pokey and I are convinced that trying Writing A-Z last year made a difference for our students.   We especially liked the way it tied in so well to Reading A-Z and Raz-Kids that we already use.  We're excited to keep moving forward with it this year as well.  Now that we've had a "shake down" year with it, we have more ideas to try.

And...the best part of all this??  The district bigwigs noticed our test scores and agreed to provide Writing A-Z to all our elementary ESL programs.  (Thank goodness I don't have to buy it myself this year! <grin>)
Stay tuned throughout the school year and I'll share some more writing tips with you.

If you'd like to check out Writing A-Z for yourself, here's a link.  They will email some free samples to you and periodically they have free trial subscription days.

Writing A-Z link

 Here's what they say on their website about Writing A-Z:  

Writing A–Z is a website offering a comprehensive collection of downloadable lessons and materials. The core lessons are grouped under five main writing genres: expository, narrative, persuasive, procedural, and transactional. Each genre category is further divided into a subset of text types with accompanying resources to teach each type. Lessons and materials are provided at four developmental levels to meet the needs of students at different writing stages, from beginning to fluent. In addition to the specific text type writing lessons and materials, the website houses a collection of mini-lessons on writing skills such as sentence and paragraph writing. There is also a collection of support resources to aid writing instruction, including writing prompts, wordless books, read-aloud books, rubrics, and writing samples.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rest in Peace

Sorry if it appeared as if I dropped off the face of the Earth, but I have been caring for my father.  He passed away on the evening of July 2.  He fought a valiant and painful battle against pancreatic cancer, but in the won. 

Rest in peace, Dad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Play Dough

Another kinesthetic learning activity I enjoy using with students is working with play dough.  Sometimes I buy the premade commercial version. (I admit it.  I like the smell!  It takes me back to my own childhood.)  Other times, I make my own.  Here are a some great recipes from a blog called Pre Kinders. 

I've taught students to roll the dough into "snakes"and then make letters, numbers and shapes.  They've made their names in dough and let them dry.  I have a set of alphabet "stampers" students can use to write words in slabs of play dough.  Other times, we've done life cycle representations, rock layers and other science concepts.  The possibilities are endless AND lots of fun, too!!

Finally, I wanted to share a great website with a wonderful play dough theme section.  I've used the emergent reader book and many of the activities with my kindergarten students with great success.  The website is Making Learning Fun

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oh...Wikki Sticks!

As you may know, I work with elementary age English Language Learners.  One very cool product I enjoy using with my students are Wikki Stix!  Wikki Stixs are colorful pieces of yarn dipped in paraffin wax.  They are sticky, bendable, flexible and lots of fun to use! 

I bought a set of alphabet cards that use Wikki Stix to form the letters.  My kindergarten students especially enjoy making upper and lower case letters with them.  And, once the yarn is pressed firmly to the pattern, the letters stick to the tagboard!  I can hang them up on my white board or tuck them into a sentence strip chart to display the completed letters.

According to their web site,
Wikki Stix Craft and Teaching ToolsWikki Stix are made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline food-grade, non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. They do not contain latex, gluten, nor peanut or other nut oils or byproducts which makes them an ideal creative activity toy for children with allergies.

Simply stated…they stick! No glue, no paste, no mess. Just press them down with light fingertip pressure and they will adhere to almost any smooth surface. They are also easy to peel up and reposition so“mistakes” virtually disappear, which helps build self-confidence. There is no preparation, no clean-up, no mess. Press ‘em down, peel ‘em off… it’s that simple!

I use Wikki Stix to form alphabet letters, but after looking at the website, I can see lots of other uses for these incredibly addictive kinesthetic waxy sticks of fun!!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Home Visits

I recently was a guest blogger on Raki's Rad Resources. I posted this entry there.  If you haven't checked out her blog, please do so...right now! 

Raki's Rad Resources

Home Visits:  Making Connections with Students and Their Families

            One of the most powerful strategies a teacher can use to make connections with students and their families is by making home visits. Over my past few years as an English as a Second Language teacher, I have made several home visits.   I have found that they take extra time and effort, but the eventual results are worthwhile.  In fact, I believe the “payoffs” are huge!

            One of my students was struggling to access an online student reading program.  After trying several notes back and forth with the child’s mother, I offered to make a home visit to see what I could do to help.  When I arrived, Mother and the three children welcomed me to their home.  They offered me a tray of traditional sweets and pistachios along with a cold can of Pepsi.  I sat and chatted with Mother for about 20 minutes before I began to work on their home computer.  It took me more than an hour of tinkering with several possible solutions to figure out why they couldn’t access the online reading program, but finally, it worked!  Hurrah!  We celebrated and then I waited while my student completed one of the online lessons.  I wanted to make sure she was successful before I left.  Mother observed how the online lesson was supposed to work so she could help her daughter in the future.  While we were waiting on my student finish her lesson, Father called on his cell phone.  He couldn’t be there in person to meet me, but he wanted to talk with me and to thank me for visiting his home and helping his child. 

            Another time I visited a family who lived in an apartment complex housing many families from the same country and culture.  As a teacher colleague and I along with our school district interpreter walked between buildings, a cry arose of “Teachers are here!”  Suddenly, doors opened and children streamed out.  They were excitedly yelling at each other in their first language while interspersing their conversation with the English words, “Teacher, Teacher!”  We were quickly engulfed by a crowd of children hugging us and saying our names. As we made our way to the apartment, we must have looked like a small parade to any onlookers!  The children of the family we were scheduled to visit thrust themselves importantly to the head of the group and led us to their home.  They escorted us into their apartment and sat down cross-legged on the floor.  We greeted Mother and Auntie and started our meeting.  During the visit, other children kept peeking in the open door of the apartment.  They giggled, whispered and waved to us as we talked with the adults of the family. 

            I’ve met many families and found that every one of them appreciated the time I’ve taken to visit their homes.  I’ve eaten a variety of food such as Latin American candy,  Middle Eastern pastries and cookies, spicy Asian hot wings and Somali sambusis (triangular shaped fried pastries filled with a spicy ground meat, onion and peppers mixture).  I’ve sipped hot tea, spiced chai, assorted soft drinks and unfamiliar fruit juices.  It seems to be a universal gesture from all of the families I’ve visited to offer the teacher a treat or drink.   I always try to accept graciously even if I don’t care for something because I know it’s important to my students. 

            Home visits have made a difference for me in how I relate to my students and their families.  Parents are always more comfortable communicating with me after they have hosted me in their homes.  I find now that mothers, fathers, “aunties” and others make the time to stop in my classroom when they come to school for Open House nights or when they come to pick up their children during the school day.  I see them at district meetings and cultural events and, yes, sometimes even at the grocery store, hardware store or the mall!  Without fail, they greet me with a smile, a handshake or even a hug (from the women).  If you have not tried home visits with your students, I suggest you try.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the positive results.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

School Sparks

I enjoy finding new websites to help me with my teaching.  This week, I've had a great time discovering School Sparks.

It's a wonderful resource for preschool and kindergarten readiness skills.  I know several of my students will love using some of her worksheets and activities.  The deeper I get into the School Sparks website, the more treasures I find!

Go now and check it out!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Egg Drop...Hold the Soup!

Thursday was an exciting day for the second graders at Cheerful School.  Yes, it was the day for the Egg Drop!  An egg drop in case you aren't familiar with it is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project.  For our egg drop project, the second grade students had to design a container to hold and protect a raw chicken's egg from breaking.  The containers were tossed off the roof of our one story school and on to the asphalt playground by a very brave guidance counselor, a courageous instructional coach and a hard working parent volunteer.  (Note:  Mrs. Gumby was NOT on the roof.  I am afraid of heights!  Ugh, ugh, ugh!)  Other parent volunteers opened the containers after the toss to see if the egg inside was unbroken, cracked but still intact or "scrambled" while another volunteer recorded the data. 

Here's a Teacher Tube video clip of a similar egg drop at a school.  This is not my school. However, it is a great way to demonstrate an egg drop.

Egg Drop Video on Teacher Tube  

The students were required to make their egg drop container at home with their families. The containers could be no larger than one foot wide by one foot tall.  Plus, the containers had to be disposable after the conclusion of the egg drop.

However, it's difficult for our ESL parents to understand long or involved directions in English, especially when they're written in idiomatic language.  After talking it over with my student Happy Girl, I decided to make the egg drop container an in-school ESL class project.  Happy Girl and I read over the directions and highlighted important words.  We talked about raw eggs and what we could use for the container.  We brainstormed ideas on how to cushion the egg.  I also rummaged around in my cabinets and found a small box, styrofoam and felt.  I knew I had some air cushion packing pillows from a recent shipment of hockey safety equipment at home and promised to bring the pillows in to school.

Knowing Mrs. Pokey's two tutor level students might need help as well, I emailed her at her other school and updated her on the project.  She thought it was a great idea and promised to look through her craft items at home for additional materials.  On Monday, we combined our materials and students and started to work.  At the end of the period, all three students had a student designed container for the egg drop.  As we worked, we encouraged our students to talk about their designs and containers.  It was a great way to facilitate authentic conversation and vocabulary! 

Finally, the great day arrived!  On Thursday afternoon, all of the second graders had to announce to the others how they designed their egg drop container.  After the explanation, one of the brave folks on the roof of the school tossed the child's container from the roof!  Some containers shattered, others exploded on impact while still others floated down gently via parachute or bounced. 

However, I am happy to report that all three of our English Language Learners were sucessful with their egg drop containers.  Three unbroken eggs!  Three unbroken eggs and three very very very proud young "engineers"!  Hurrah!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Popping with Sounds

Pop, Pop, Pop!!

Our Kindergarten teacher shared a super game/activity kit from Lakeshore Learning with me this week.  I tried the Pop and Match beginning sounds and ending sounds kits with my Kindergarteners and first grade students.  They absolutely loved these game kits.  I found the kits to be a great way to talk about basic vocabulary words as well as practicing beginning and ending sounds in simple CVC and CVCC words. 

However, by far the BEST part of the activities (in my students' opinions) was getting to use the really cool dome shaped  die "poppers" that come with the kits!!  (The "poppers" remind me of the die rolling device found in the board game, Trouble.)  As students take turns playing the games, they get to press down on the dome of the "popper" to roll the die inside.  It's definitely a sensory and kinesthetic buzz for some kids.  I can't wait to try the next set (medial sounds kit game) after Spring Break!

Pop, Pop, Pop!!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Skip-Bo Junior

As I said in my previous post, I really love using games with my English Language Learners!  This week we tried a new game called Skip-Bo Junior.  Wow!  My kids had a blast with the game and much laughter was heard in the room.  My older students (upper elementary) especially got into the game.  You would have thought we were in Las Vegas or something! 

Skip-Bo Junior is wonderful game for teaching the concept of sequence, especially numerical sequence.  We discussed "sequence" before the game and we came up with examples (alphabetical order, months of the year, days of the week and numerical sequence of one through 10).


But, I had to laugh at the comment of one of my older students!  After we had talked about the rules of the game and reinforced the idea of numerical sequence of 1-10, Pretty Nails Girl looked at me and piped up.

"Mrs. Gumby!  Are we learning vocabulary words???"

Oh yes, my dear...Mrs. Gumby is sneaky that way!  Heh, heh, heh!

In Skip-Bo Junior, each player is dealt a stockpile of cards and then attempts to win by playing all the cards on building piles in numerical sequence from #1 through #10. The first player to get rid of all of their stockpile cards first wins! Skip-Bo Junior is great fun for ages 5 and up, and comes with simplified game rules and appealing, kid-themed graphics.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sequence for Kids

There are so many wonderful board games available for children to play.  I like including games in my lesson planning because I can incorporate a lot of enjoyable practice for my students in speaking, reading and listening in English.  Some of the games I use are Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, Scrabble Junior, Monopoly Junior and Guess Who. 

Recently, I heard about Sequence for Kids.  I found a set at school and borrowed it from a colleague.  Wow!  What a great game!  I "test drove" it with two third graders last week. 

First, I copied the instructions.  I gave each student a copy and a highlighter.  We took turns reading the instructions and highlighting important text.  As we read the rules, I placed the board, the cards and the game chips on the table.  We spent time examinining the items and discussing the rules.  We also talked about strategies on how to win the game. 

The next day, I had the game spread out on the table and ready to go.  We briefly discussed the rules and started playing the game.  It was fun to watch the students as we played.  They were quite the strategists, even though they hadn't played the game before.  I know that next week, they'll be begging to play the game again on Friday Fun day! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Make a Coke Float (Writing Activity)

Before the holidays I came across a great writing activity called "How to Make a Coke Float." I found it on the teacher blog, Ginger Snaps.  (By the way, she has a lot of other great ideas, too.  Be sure to check out her other posts.)

My third and fourth grade students LOVED this writing unit!  I've never seen them so excited about writing.  They also thought the YouTube clip describing how to make an ice cream float was hilarious!! We watched it several times in order to make sure the students understood all the words and the concepts.

A direct link to the video
Finally, making and consuming Coke floats (made with vanilla ice cream and Coca-Cola) in ESL class was a very popular (although somewhat messy) activity!  Even after the Winter Break and several weeks of school, my students are still hinting that they'd like to make floats again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Greetings...You've Been Chosen For Jury Duty

On Saturday, my husband brought the mail in from the box and waved an envelope in the air.

"Lucky you!," he smirked as he tossed the envelope towards me. 

Emblazoned on the front of the envelope were the words, "IMPORTANT--DO NOT DISCARD,  Official Jury Summons Enclosed."  Hmmmm.  It's been about 12 years since the last time I was called to jury duty, so I wasn't terribly surprised.  I figured my turn would be coming again one of these days. 

However, when I opened the envelope, I noticed the report date was February 13th.  What???  That won't work at all.  I'm supposed to be administering our Super Duper Hold-The-Phone Really Important State Tests for English Language Learners that week and part of the next.  As the only ESL teacher in the building, there is no way I can be out of school those weeks.  Ugh!!  Double Ugh!!  Triple Ugh!!! <sigh.>

As I started scanning the forms I noticed didn't meet any of the non-eligibility requirements.  I reside in the county; I've not been convicted of a felony; I am able to communicate in the English language; I am a citizen of the U.S. and I am over the age of 18.

Moving on the second section, "Requests for Excuse", I see eight approved excuses.  They are:  Medical Reasons; Age; Caregiver to an ill or disabled family member; Sole Proprietor of a Business; Financial Hardship; Childcare Hardship; Students; and Active Duty Military Personnel.  Hmmm.  None of those apply either. 

Nuts!  What am I going to do???  Finally, I notice a third section, "Requests for Postponement".  (This is new.  There was no section like this a decade ago.)  Hurrah!  Our county now allows a potential juror to postpone their jury commitment for up to three months from the original summons date. I breathed a sigh of relief.  I filled out the form and asked to be postponed until May. 

You can bet I faxed the form with my postponement request to the Common Pleas Court Jury Commisioner  first thing this morning!  I will be happy to do my civic duty, but not during Super Duper Hold-The-Phone Really Important State Tests for English Language Learners weeks.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Of Pigs and Prepositions

Last week, I started a unit on positional words with some of my students.  I found a deck of cards in my cabinet and decided to try them out.  The cards are called Pigs and Pals Preposition Fun Deck from Super Duper Publications.

Wow!  My kids LOVED these cards.  They thought the pictures on the cards were extremely funny.  My students and I giggled as we played Go Fish and Memory/Concentration with the cards.  There was a lot of laughing and fun in the ESL room this week!

Next week, I'm going to bring in my digital camera.  My students and I are going to take pictures of a stuffed animal.  We'll be traveling around the school taking photos of the animal under a table, on the water fountain, etc.  I'm interested in seeing how creative the students can be with their photography skills.  I'll print out the photos at home and bring them back to school.  (Our district is in a severe budget crunch.  There's no way I can print color copies at school. Ugh.)  

Later, each primary group will make a poster sized foldable with the photos and labels.  Here's an example I found on the internet on the Get in the Fold! blog.

We'll see how our foldables turn out!  I think the kids will have a great time.  Watch out for the intrepid photographers in the hallways of Cheerful School.  Say "cheese"!!  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Clothing and ELF Learning Videos

I like using videos when I teach.  With English Language Learners it helps to show students pictures, especially with vocabulary work.  Recently, I discovered ELF Learning.  They have some great videos posted on their ELFTube and also YouTube.

(Additional note on Jan. 11, 2012:  If you want to join the ELF website "community", you need to use a different web browser than Internet Explorer.  I used Google Chrome at home.  Internet Explorer would NOT work for me at home last week nor for Mrs. Pokey at school today. If you don't care about joining the "community",  just access the  ELF videos through YouTube.)

This week, I started a clothing vocabulary unit with my Kindergarten and first grade students.  I created an assessment using photographs from the Internet.  (Google Images is a useful tool for finding appropriate pictures.) Then, I pre-assessed the students' knowledge of 23 clothing words and will post-test them with the same assessment at the end of the unit.

ELF Learning has three very nice videos on Clothing.  Here is the first one.

The first one is a simple flash card type presentation of 24 clothing words. (The only one I didn't use in my assessment was "rain boots".  It seemed redundant to me to talk about "boots" and "rain boots".)  The other two videos use the same vocabulary words but add sentences and phrases.

Clothing flashcards, words are repeated

My Clothes 1 with sentences and phrases

My Clothes 2 with sentences and phrases

Good luck!  My students really are enjoying these videos.  I hope your students do, too.