Already in America?

Conversation from last night:

Me – Honey, I feel like I am on autopilot and just coasting through this semester. Is that bad?

My husband – Sweetheart, that is because your mind is already in America.

~ ~ ~ ~

Ever since I got accepted in TFA (Teach for America), I have been working on pre-work and trying to soak in as much information as possible about my placement region. Unfortunately, that has led to a sort of nonchalant attitude toward teaching the students that I have right now. I feel like I have been on auto-pilot. This is not easy to admit. My students deserve to have a great teacher right now.

I guess I am in my comfort zone (more so than I was last year at this time). I am teaching classes that I have already taught and I have a good idea of projects and activities that work. My goal for the rest of the year is to take the stuff that I am learning and apply it to my classroom right now. I started looking at some online resources from Achievement First and they have some excellent ideas about how to keep students engaged (which is my biggest problem with the different levels I have in each class).  I plan to read up on their strategies and start implementing them into my classes. I am also planning to re-read some books from college – The First Days of School and The Cornerstone for Teachers. Both are awesome books about classroom management.

I don’t think that I am doing a terrible job, but I am sticking to what I know works. So I just want to shake things up and have a more engaging class.

What are some ways that you shake up your instruction when it seems to become stagnant?

 

Wow for Writers Workshop

This semester in one of my classes I have started using Writers Workshop. So far it has worked out great. My students are excited to have a few minutes each day set aside to just write. This class is the last class of the day and I think the students find relief in just writing for a few minutes. I have used the following ideas in formatting my Writers Workshop:

Mini-Lessons – Each week I teach two mini-lessons pertaining to problems that students have in their writing. So far this has included subject/predicate agreement, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments. After our break we are going to complete mini-lessons on formatting an essay and narrative writing. These mini-lessons do not last the entire class period (only 15-20 minutes), but include practice for the students to do in class or for homework. I also ask for student recommendations for mini-lessons. Usually they can pinpoint ideas that they need help with and we can complete a mini-lesson to review in class.

Conferencing – I also have conferences with students each week to talk about their writing. Before they come to conference they must pick out one thing they are finding difficult and one thing that they really like about their writing. We then discuss these two items and attempt to make their writing better.

Peer Review –  Students are required to complete a peer review for their writing each week. This is something we have talked about a lot. Especially how to complete a helpful peer review.

Sharing – One day a week we all share what we have been working on. Everyone reads their writing and we give polite feedback.

Modeling – During this part of the day I write with the students, unless I am conferencing or teaching a mini-lesson. I work on my own writing and share with the students. It is important that they see me writing so that they see it is important to me as an adult.

Music – I have started to play music during writers workshop. It is strictly instrumental, but I heard from another teacher about a really neat group. Vitamin String Quartet actually transposes modern music into instrumentals. My students love it!

Eraser and Pencil

Maybe these few ideas will spark some inspiration for your class as well. I hope to add some of my mini-lessons to TpT soon, so be on the lookout!

Valentines Day 2013

Love is in the air! I have always loved Valentines Day. My mom and granny always worked very hard to make it a special day for me. However, one thing I have realized is Valentines day is one of those holidays that many of my friends don’t appreciate. Keeping that in mind I try to add humor into my classroom on Valentines day. I use cheesy pick-up lines to play a game or to create writing prompts. They work really well with my ESL kids, because they have an opportunity to understand different figures of speech.

Here are a few ideas for using them in your classroom:

Option 1: Cut apart these cheesy pick-up lines and put them in a bowl. Students should draw one line and try to act it out with a partner. You can choose whether students should look at the line before the scene starts or not.

Option 2: Charades. Have students act out the line without using words. This could be really tricky!

Option 3: Have students choose one of the lines for a writing prompt. They could invent the history of this cheesy line or write a letter to a special someone.

Be sure to stop by my store and pick up my Valentines Day Freebie!

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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!

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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!!

Adventures in Time Travel

It has been a whirl-wind of a summer. I have been to the states and back again. I have also had the joys of having a 48 hour day and losing a day. It honestly feels like we have been time-travelers this summer.

I am normally a workaholic according to my husband, but I think it is because I love what I do. I really enjoy writing lesson plans, teaching and coming up with a new way to explain a concept. However, this summer I gave my brain a break. I think it was a much needed break after my first year teaching overseas.

As soon as I got back to China, my brain break was over. My husband and I both taught at an English Camp. It is a two week camp that Chinese and Korean students come to in order to practice and learn English. It lasts for 8 hours Monday-Friday. As an English Education major I had so much fun teaching the kids English. Since most of them were elementary school aged kids, I also got to incorporate some fun songs that would have been quite cheesy to older students.

We are currently in the process of moving. That has been crazy in and of itself. Our schools company (the company operates two schools in China) provides our housing. Since we are moving to the other school another couple needed our apartment. The big problem was that we are not supposed to go our new city until August 15th. So we prepared our stuff and our currently staying at a hotel in the area. In another turn of events, today was a whirlwind. We thought the couple was coming in on Sunday and it turns out they are getting here tomorrow. Which meant I had to get everything together and move in less than 5 hours today. STRESS!

I am very thankful to now be sitting at my computer and relaxing. Although my friend just called and said that a tropical storm was headed our way. Looks like we will be stuck inside this weekend. All in all it looks like we are in for another adventurous year in China. And I am so glad that our time traveling is over at least for another 9 months!

~ Jessi

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!