Monday, April 23, 2012

Freebies Booklet

Mrs. O on has created a booklet of hundreds of links for free resources for use in the classroom. I contributed some of mine, which you will find in the high school pages. This is a great resource, and it's free, so hurry and get it!

Here's the link:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grammar Police

Yesterday morning, I decided to ask my students next quarter to be on the lookout for grammar and punctuation errors in the real world. I was considering how hard this would be and if I should assign points for the assignment.

I left the house and went through the McDonald's drive-thru (through?) on the way to work. Bingo! How easy was that? Five minutes out in the world and there was a glaring misuse of the poor, embattled apostrophe. The girl probably wondered what I was doing as she tried to hand me my drink and I was busy taking a picture with my iphone. I'm definitely going to make this an assignment, with bonus points for a photo. Unfortunately, it shouldn't be hard.

Have any of you assigned something similar? I'd love to hear how it worked out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Day Sale

I'm having a sale through tomorrow - 15 percent off everything in my store. I only do this about once every six months, so head on over if there's something you've been wanting.

I just posted my latest product - Revising Paragraphs. This is an effective way for students to self-edit using a color-coding system to make sure every sentence in a paragraph counts, and that the sentences are in a logical order. Complete lesson plan includes everything you need.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Real Hunger, No Games

I had a student this quarter, a man in his mid-fifties, who was excited (and quite nervous) to be back in school after so many years. He took scrupulous notes, participated, arrived on time and, despite difficulty with the subject matter, was always enthusiastic.

One day, he wasn't his usual self. He sat quietly in his seat, with a blank expression through the whole four-hour block. He didn't take notes or engage with any of his classmates. After class, I asked him if perhaps he wasn't feeling well. After some hemming and hawing, he admitted that he hadn't eaten anything in two days. He is on food stamps, but something went wrong with his pin number, and he hadn't been able to navigate the bureaucracy yet to get it fixed. I tried to get him to go with me to student services, who maintain a food closet for our large population of needy students to get something to tide him over, but he refused, clearly because he was embarrassed.

I sat in the staff room later, mulling over how pointless it must seem to try and write a topic sentence when you haven't eaten, and how amazing these students are who try their best despite some glaring holes in their Maslow's needs. I also wondered if there was anything I could do to help students without putting them on the spot, besides working occasional treats into lesson plans.

A fellow teacher, who always has too much stuff to carry to her classroom without the aid of a wheeled cart, bustled into the room at that moment. I'd noticed before that she always had a big basket of red apples with her stuff, but didn't think much about it. Now it took on new relevance. I asked her what was up with the apples.

You can probably guess the answer. Hungry students. She keeps the basket by the door so when students go on breaks they can take an apple if they are hungry. It's always there, and no one has to ask. Simple and brilliant. It's one of those small kindnesses that can make a world of difference.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

National Poetry Month - Write Limericks!

April is national poetry month! I wrote this unit with limerick master and picture-book writer Rick Walton. You're students will love it! Click on the picture to get it. For more poetry lesson plans (some for free), click here for ESOL Odyssey's linky party.

Letting Them Suffer

A student of mine was way behind on his research paper project. The problem? He couldn’t come up with a subject.

I usually give my students a choice of what they want to write about, within some pretty narrow parameters. This lessens the chance of plagiarism, and lessens anxiety for a lot of students who prefer a little direction. For the big research paper, though, I want them to write about something they really want to dig into. I tell them, “You’re going to be living with this topic for a while, so make it something you love.”

Some immediately know what they want to do. I’ve had students research a brother’s disease (because she wasn’t satisfied that her doctor was knowledgeable enough) or the benefits of quitting smoking (because he wanted to quit and felt this would help). Most find something pretty quickly.

When students do struggle to come up with a subject, I sit down with them and ask, “Tell me about what you do when you’re not in school. Tell me about your family. When you surf the internet, what do you look for?” Sometimes we go to a news page and I have them pick out the three most interesting headlines. We almost always have a Eureka moment.

No so with this student. I asked my usual questions, I pestered him about his hobbies, I did everything I could think of without actually assigning him a topic. I was nervous, because he was one of those students who I knew could get discouraged enough to drop the class.

I watched him suffer through an entire class period trying to come up with something and obviously having many false starts, while his peers were well into drafting. I was sorely tempted just to assign him a topic, but I resisted. Instead, I had a heart-to-heart with him about how I knew he could do it, and what a waste of time and money it would be to drop out at this point. I went home, unsure if I had done the right thing, and pretty certain I wouldn’t be seeing him again. I lost sleep that night, wondering if I should have caved in and given him a subject.

Needless to say, I was surprised when he burst through the door early the next week, paper in hand, waving it in my face. “I got it!” he said. “I finally got it!”

When I read the draft, I was impressed. This student was not a great writer, and was usually lucky to pull a low C on his papers. But this one was different, because he cared about the subject and he’d suffered for it. Even better than that, he was proud of his paper, and it showed in his work.

Boy, was I glad I kept my mouth shut and let him figure it out on his own. It's hard not to want to fix things, or make it easier, but I would have deprived him of that sense of accomplishment, that learning experience, and very possibly, that A paper.