Breakthroughs

Spring Semester has been a time of many, many breakthroughs for me as an educator. I honestly think that I was in a place of treading water last semester. What I mean by that is, I did not look forward to going to work each day and work felt like work. Now, I have finally come to the place where I am looking forward to going to work each day. Wooowho! (it doesn’t make teaching or managing my classroom any easier at times, but it does make me feel 10x better!)

As I mentioned earlier I have experienced many breakthroughs with my students. We have gotten incredibly close, and some of them call me ‘MA’ – which I equate with Freedom Writers. We have read some Holocaust literature and my students were very empathetic and dove deep into their reading. I was able to get some AMAZING writing from them.

Since spring break (the second week of March) we have been reading The Freedom Writers Diary and each student is required to keep a journal. I thought that this would only be another of my failures to add to my list. Surprisingly my students love their journals. We write about topics we are reading about and they can add their own writing at any time.  The main thing that I keep in mind with journal prompts are the themes we are reading about and how relate-able it is to my students.

A week or so ago we had a journal topic about labels. What labels did people place on Ms. Gruwell and her students? What labels have people placed on you? During our discussion my students were not completely understanding the labels aspect of themselves. So I offered myself up as a guinea pig. I asked them what labels they could place on me. They started listing some personality traits and so forth. I redirected and said, “Okay, I walk into a room and you have never met me.” Silence. “Come on guys, I’m White!” Then one of the most amazing and profound thing happened. A student raised her hand and said, “Nuh-uh, Ms. Caldwell – You’re our color!”

I was and still am speechless. I have went through so much with my students just trying to give them a little taste of my passion for learning. It is nice to see how far we have journeyed! I am looking forward to our final moments of the year as bittersweet as they may be! Until next time…

Language Arts Games

One of my professors used to say “make everything into a game.” She absolutely loved using games in order to jazz up lessons, especially in Language Arts. I just created two new language arts games. Just in time for BACK-TO-SCHOOL and the sales in my TpT and Teachers Notebook Stores.

Game One: The Five Second Rule 

Students have five seconds to name three items in a given category. I use this with my ELL’s, because it helps them to think quickly and recall vocabulary that we have covered in class.

Game Two: Versus

I got the idea for this game after reading the book Shark vs. Train by: Chris Barton.This game is made up of flash cards with different characters, animals and people. You can use these cards in a variety of ways as a whole class or in groups.
For example, if you pull one card that says samurai and one card that says chicken you would then say, “samurai versus chicken.” You will then be able to complete one of the following activities with the students using the cards as the focus.
1. A quick discussion with the class.
2. A writing prompt— tell who would win and why
3. A class debate— students choose sides and debate which would win in a fight.
There are endless possibilities. My students really enjoy these cards and they have lead to many heated discussions in my class.

You can click on the images above to find my versions of both games mentioned. Don’t forget about the incredible sales going on on both TpT and Teachers Notebook this weekend!

It’s August!!

Lots of things are happening at this time of year. Teachers and students are busy preparing for back-to-school (perhaps teachers more than students). I wanted to take this time to share with you several things happening online this month.

A few months ago I was asked to give feedback on a devotional for Christian Educators. The devotional book has recently been released. It is truly amazing and really changed the way act and think in not only the classroom, but daily life. I highly recommend this book for both experienced and first year teachers! (Click the image below to find out more)

The Awakened Devotional Study Guide for Christian Educators

I have a new post on Global Teacher Connect entitled Authentic Assessment in China. This post shares some simple steps for how to create an authentic assessment. GTC is also hosting a new series called Classrooms Around the World. Teachers from around the globe will be contributing pictures of thier classrooms. This is a great opportunity for students to see how alike and different schools are in different parts of the world (click the icon below for more info about this wonderful project)!

Last but not least TpT will be having their BACK TO SCHOOL Sale on August 12-13th! You can save an extra 10% on all your purchases by using the code in the icon below. My store will be having a 20% off sale which gives you spectacular saving for those last minute Back to School items!

BTS 12 250x125

Wow – so much is going on! I am also in the midst of moving and starting a new school. I hopefully will have updates as that progresses! Happy Tuesday!!

Body Biography

We finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I had my students complete body biographies for their characters. I wanted to share with you some pictures. This project required students to use symbolism in completing their characters representation. They also had to look up quotes from the novel that told something about their character.

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I will add photos of the finished posters as soon as I return to school. We are on Spring Break!!!!

3 Tips for Teaching ELL’s

I have taught ELL students for the past eight months. I have had my ups and downs, epic failures and moments of awesomeness. Here are some quick tips that I have gathered on my journey teaching so far:

1. Speak Slowly – Lets face it we all have our own unique way of speaking -At the beginning of a class or when you get new ELL students train yourself to speak slowly. This will help students learn the pattern of your voice and your mannerisms. It may seem like a hassle at first, but it will help you tremendously in the long run.

2. Mistakes are Okay – The class erupting into laughter as a student sounds out a word is the last thing I want to happen in my class. I try to create a classroom atmosphere where it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn. I would not have learned half as much if I were a perfect person/teacher. Students need to understand that. I would suggest pushing this at the beginning of the year as it is much harder, though not impossible, to do this later.

3. Know Your Grammar – I cannot tell you how often students come up to me with grammar questions. It is very important to know grammar in my school so that I can help students as they study English Language Arts and ESL. Chances are if you don’t know your grammar your students will (just food for thought).

***Another Tip for Grammar – Choose your top ten grammar rules to focus on this year. There are hundreds of grammar rules and everyone has their pet peeves. Sometimes students get bogged down by all the rules. Make it easier for them and focus on your top ten. It will be better for students in the long run to know ten grammar rules well, than to not understand any.

So there you have it three tips for the ELL classroom. I hope that they do not seem redundant and that they help you in your classroom! Do you have any tips for teaching ELL students? Please share them in the comments section below!

If you would like more great ideas from other teachers visit The Organized Classroom Blog!

A Bit about Teaching in China

Let me tell you about my experience here in China. I work at an American international school. What that means is that we teach entirely in English and we use American curriculum. I use the same books that a lot of people use in America.

We also still have standardized testing, but we do not have the stress that comes with those in the U.S. I have felt so free after training to be a public school teacher. Our school really is student based. Which simply means we want to do what is best for our students first and foremost. I feel like that is something that we have gotten away from in the states with all of the laws and restrictions.

All of my students are ELL’s, but most have been in the school(learning and speaking English) since they were in kindergarten. I am truly amazed daily at their language skills and acquisition. I teach three science classes and one English class. In the states I am certified to teach English. The certification process as I understand is different for each country. For China all you need is a Bachelors in Education.

I have very small classes at my school. I teach a total of 53 students from 6-10th grade each day. Of those 53 students 50 of them are Korean, 2 are Russian and 1 is Chinese.

I hope that this makes sense and helps you to understand my life and teaching process here in China. Below are some pictures from my first six months in China. Some of them are from personal travels and others are from school trips. Our school takes two big trips with the secondary students, one each semester.

My Husband at the Ocean near our Apartment
Our First Panda in China
Pavillion - Hiking Fall Trip 2011
The Great Wall - Jan. 2012