Monday, September 19, 2016

Jigsaw Kahoot for Collaboration

As an ESL teacher I've always been a HUGE fan of making students talk to each other. It could be about their day, what we've read, or working on questions together. In my opinion we cannot teach English to be just writing and formal presentations, they need to speak and collaborate with one another.

Now, I teach a lot more literature, though many of my students are still ESL students, and I still find that they should be talking to one another!

A long loved activity of teachers to encourage collaboration has been the jigsaw (no puzzle required). This blog will discuss the traditional jigsaw and throw in a more modern endings by adding Kahoot. As always there are other low tech or no tech ways to achieve this that will be discussed.

The next lesson I teach is Oedipus Rex, so that's where well start.

Prep Work
Readings. I am very fortunate to have small class sizes (under twenty students). You'll essentially be creating two different sets of groups. I do this with colors and shapes. For the sake of simplicity, pretend you have a class of nine students. I would group them into: Star, Circle, Triangle, Star, Circle, Triangle, Circle, Star, Triangle.

That means each student is in two different groups: color and shape. These groups don't need to be exactly the same, but it is helpful (so in a class of 15, you could have 3 shapes and 5 colors). Keep in mind that how ever many colors you have, that's how big the groups will be at the end. I don't like having them much bigger than 5, and some teachers may want it smaller than that.

For this class, I did it by column and note cards.

Each row has shared readings (and the same color note card) and the columns can easily get together when the groups need to be composed of different colors.

Each text is labeled with a different color. You can differentiate a bit here.  In this class seating arrangements are actually purposefully arranged so I can do activities like this and have similar students across. If I want students working with someone similar to them, then they face left or right. If I want a more mixed group they look forward or back.

Some things to consider are to give a slightly more difficult text to the students at higher reading levels, and a slightly easier text to students who struggle more with reading. Sometimes I have one group watch a video, one group listen to a song, and one group read a short news article.

To start, each student listens / reads / watches their assignment and answers the questions given. This is usually done on their own.

This can also be done in more of a literary circles fashion. All students are reading the same text, but different colors are focusing on different sections (vocabulary, plot, character development, etc.)

In this case I gave students ten minutes to read their article and take the best notes they could take on their note card.

Small Group Check
Once done, students move into a small group with everyone who has the same color as them. As they all had the same assignment they have the chance to share out here. Did they not understand something? Do they need more guidance? Did someone see something no one else did?

Mixed Groups Share
This is where it gets fun. Students move to another group that has the same shape, but DIFFERENT colors. They leave their worksheets behind, but get to bring their note cards with them. That means all of these students are joining the group with new information. They are the resident experts, and where the jigsaw activity gets its name. Each student has a piece of the puzzle and everyone needs to pitch in to make the puzzle complete.

In many cases they simply share with one another to complete a worksheet or let other students add to their notes. I've seen some teachers pass out a "Group test" and the group is graded based on the answers they come up with together. However, to add some fun to it this is a GREAT time to play Team Kahoot.

Many of you know I love Kahoot. I've blogged about making Kahoots as a teacher, and having your students make them. Team Kahoot, was a new function brought up this Spring. It's great for classrooms with limited tech as more than one student can sign on as part of the same team.

In this case it's great because the questions are made based on ALL of the colors, so one student can't dominate and take over for everyone else. Instead all of the students need to work together. You can see the Kahoot here in all its glory.

I did this today with my class of 15. It took us a solid 45 minutes which included reading, note-taking, making groups, Kahooting, and me explaining while we Kahooted. Students LOVED it and it was a great way to prepare them for Oedipus Rex next class.

Any questions or comments let me know below or tweet me at mELTingTeacher. I'd love to know if you plan on using something like this as is or adapting it to your class.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dollar Store Books

On Instagram I recently shared a picture of a book I'd bought.

The caption read, "Just grabbed this book at the #TheDollarTree! So perfect for my journalism class! This has so many great articles!! One after Lincoln's assassination, one after the San Francisco earthquake, one after Watergate... And so many more. There are serious articles, comedic articles and ones that strike the balance. Really great resource." (wow...I use a LOT of exclamation marks)

I was surprised to read so many comments from teachers who never buy books from the dollar store. The vast majority of the time I leave the dollar store, I have purchased at least one book (many times I leave having purchased only books). My personal and classroom libraries are filled with books I have snagged from dollar store shelves.

So, this post will look over ten books I bought this week at the dollar store. This is meant to show that you can get GREAT books at super affordable prices. This is by no means a complete list, but it will hopefully show you the variety and quality found. Shopping dollar stores is like shopping at a thrift store. You probably won't have the same titles in your store that I have in mine. So, if you fall in love with one of these books, I have inserted affiliate links to Amazon (that means that if you click through and purchase I will make a very small percentage which will probably end up going towards me buying more books)

Below I include the name of the book, a brief summary of the book, why I bought it and the stars on Amazon. If the book is particularly amazing, I'll write a full blog post on using it in the classroom later (and link below).

1. News Articles for all Occasions
The second I saw Deadline Artists--Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs:: More of America's Greatest Newspaper Columns I grabbed it.

I just began teaching Journalism this year. I was a high school journalism nerd, and freelanced a bit while working abroad, but other than having students enter writing contests online I don't have many materials for teaching journalism.

This is GREAT. It is basically a collection of amazing articles. Some are pure news, some opinion, others are feature stories. These are great as mentor tasks (and I'd imagine history or social studies teachers would love it too as it covers big events).

Amazon reviewers seem to be fans too with an average of 4.8 / 5 stars.

2. As Seen on TV
OK, I am cheating here and putting in two books because I grabbed both for exactly the same reason.

I picked up these for my classroom library because students LOVE books that are related to movies or television shows. I also love having discussions about which was better (they almost always love the book more than the movie). This time I grabbed: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (confession, I already bought one of these at the dollar store, so now my class library has two) and a book from the Pretty Little Liars series: Wanted (Book 8) (another confession, I already bought a few of these for my class library, so it will compliment other books on the class bookcase quite nicely).

Abraham Lincoln is 4.2/5 stars and Wanted is 4.7/5 stars by Amazon reviewers.

3. Sports and Journalism
I felt really lucky when I found The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports, and Friendship in my dollar store. Remember I mentioned earlier how I am taking over the journalism department? This is a GREAT book for all my sports announcers in training!

The book follows JT the Brick's career as a sports broadcaster and his relationship with his mentor Andrew as he stays by his side as Andrew goes through cancer.

This book kills three birds with one stone. Students get an introduction to the world of radio journalism, football references for my sports lovers, and a reminder that empathy and compassion are not barred from those who enjoy sports.

Amazon reviewers give it 4.8/5 stars

4. Celebrity Endorsement
I'll be totally shallow and admit that I mainly got this book because: a. I LOVE the title: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President and  b. Jon Stewart's review on the cover, "If War and Peace had a baby with The Breakfast Club and then left that baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it."

Josh Lieb (A New York Times Bestseller) writes about Oliver Watson, who lives a double life. While he is a rich supergenius, he convinces everyone else that he is a normal (below average) student.  In an effort to win his dad's approval he runs for class president.

This story is filled with pictures and photo essays making this great for weaker readers. Perfect for my class library.

Amazon reviewers say 4.2/5 stars

5. Please be Nonfiction
So many times I read the back of a book and wonder if it is fiction, nonfiction or "based on a true story." When I read the back of this book, I was SOLD. In 1986 two fathers got together and created a basketball team that mixed black kids from an inner city school with white players from an elite private school.  

With a little research I confirmed that yes, The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White is based on a true story! The author was on the team in the 90s and wrote the story after meeting up with past teammates. The story will discuss the lives of his ten teammates and will look at the way that race, money, and opportunity mold lives.  

I look forward to reading this one and think it's a topic my students will love.

Amazon reviewers give it 4.7/5 stars.

6. Digital Citizenship Anyone?
I am an America's Next Top Model binger. I like watching entire seasons in a day while organizing my garage or going through a closet. Nonetheless, when I read that the author was an America's Next Top Model contestant, I'll admit it meant very little to me. What struck me as interesting is that Unfriending My Ex: Confessions of a Social Media Addict is about digital overload in today's society.

As a teacher at a 1:1 school, this is always on my mind. Are my students being overexposed to technology? Am I hurting, or helping? This book contains references to Thoreau, and Emerson (which may make it worth it for anyone who teaches transcendentalism) which are well done. It also contains sources varying from dictionary definitions to scientific journals. While it is told mainly in a narrative, it is a nonfiction that is easy to read and on a topic that I feel many students would be interested in. 

This has some of the lowest average Amazon reviews on this list at 3.4/4 stars.

7.Not Another Sports Book
What can I say? I know my class library lacks "boy books" so if I find something sporty that seems vaguely interesting I grab it. To be honest,  Out Of My League: A Rookie's Survival in the Bigs is a book that I picked purely because the back of the book mentioned that he was a pitcher for the San Diego Padres (woot!).

However, once I got home and started researching  the author a bit more this is REALLY interesting. He was a minor league player who started a newspaper column that gained interest. His column gained popularity and he is probably better known for his journalism career than his sports career. He has been on Sportsnet Toronto, ESPN, ESPN 2, and TBS's as a sports announcer or analyst. In addition he continued his writing career! The story is about his transition from the minors to to majors and his transition from dating to marrying.

So wait a minute? I picked up this book because it mentioned the Padres, and ended up getting a great example of a professional journalist who can show students it's OK to be sensitive. #winning

I haven't had a chance to read the whole book, but Amazon reviewers average 4.5/5 stars

8. Fact and Fiction
I am a HUGE fan of historical fiction. Something about the way fiction meets fact just makes me happy.

TransAtlantic is a mix of three different historical events: In 1919 two brothers fly to Ireland for their attempt at the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1845 Frederick Douglass finds support for the abolitionist cause. In 1998 Senator George Mitchell goes to Belfast for  peace talks in Northern Ireland.  As this factual events are happening we read about three women who connect these three separate events.

The syntax is odd, which is part of the reason I picked it up. I don't see this as a read for reluctant readers, but for examples of varying sentence length or students who are into history, this may be a great book.

On Amazon reviewers rated thisan average of 4/5 stars.

9.  Make a Wish

My students and I do a lot of crowdfunding. I use it as a way for them to research, assemble data, and create persuasive texts. My students get very good at researching data, and sometimes they lose focus of the heart.

Wish Granted: 25 Stories of Strength and Resilience from America's Favorite Athletes is a great coffee table book. If I ever get a coffee table in my classroom (it's on my to do list), I'll definitely sit this on it. It's filled with short reads easy for students to digest while waiting for someone to finish a mini-conference with me, or for their parents to pick them up.

As stated before, this focuses on athletes which is great for my students. They need to realize that they are so blessed and even if they aren't famous athletes they can help make a difference.

Reading the stories is humbling and encourages students (and teachers, and parents) to help others when possible.

This doesn't have many Amazon reviews, but right now it has a 5/5 stars average!

10. Coincidence? I think not!
Do you believe in coincidences? The premise of Coincidence is that a woman feels like too many events in her life are coincidences especially those surrounding Midsummer's Day. Too many in fact. It seems as though her life, unlike others, is not random but rules by some more powerful element. She goes to a professional "debunker" who believes that her life really is as random as everyone else's.

This book felt like the type of page turner that I could finish on a beach weekend, and I am hoping it will be a fast paced book that encourages students to just keep reading. I would like to actually read it before I put it on the bookshelves, but the reviews make it seem pretty appealing thus far.
Amazon reviewers give this book an average of 4.1 / 5 stars.

There you are. For the full price of just one of these paperbacks (Coincidence is selling for 13.48 I was able to purchase 11 great books. I even had enough to get a BBQ cook book for my summer pleasure.

Are you a dollar store shopper? What's the best book you've ever bought there? If not book, what's your favorite dollar buy?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ABCs of Me a No Prep Icebreaker

Here's an easy no prep activity that students love and can be easily tailored to best fit your students' levels.

I don't know how your first day is...mine is CHAOTIC. Students are always switched out or moved in, or just added late. I really feel like I don't want to teach anything day one because I'll have to re-teach it for the following week.

Technology is usually working on the first day, so I have an Kahoot activity with my students for information on me. Students LOVE it. However, this year I taught summer school. I had no tech, no class list and had just moved into the classroom. Of course!

I wanted to get an idea of how my students were as far as writing level. This was a remedial English class, so I just wanted to know if they could write a sentence.

As such, I brought back an OLD ESL activity. "ABCs of Me" and threw it into a Snow Ball fight .

In the end this activity was such:
  1. Students write down the alphabet (one letter on each line of their paper) and try to write COMPLETE sentences with the letter. 
  2. You can adjust this according to students' levels. For more advanced classes have each sentence connect (so the entire page would read like a paragraph or story). For lower levels, just have them focus on a word per letter (adjectives or nouns).
  3. I gave my students a few ways to do this. I let them write a word that starts with the letter and then the sentence, OR have the sentence start with the letter. I tell them NOT to use their name. I also walk around and help kids who are stuck on letters (or tell them to skip a letter)
    • So, "A teacher is what I am." Good
    • "Birthday: My birthday is in January" Good
    • "Carissa is my name." Bad
    • "Dad. My dad is a basketball coach." Good 
  4. Once they’ve written as much as they can (5-10 minutes) I tell them to crumple the paper up and we have a two minute “snowball fight.”
    • Make this fun! Play "Let's Get Ready to Rumble" or "The Eye of the Tiger" Students usually don't go too crazy with this, but if you notice they are targeting someone you may need to put a stop to it.
  5. Once you stop they grab a paper uncrumple it and try to match it to the person who wrote it. 
    • I have them put their name at the bottom if they found the author, but the author should NOT write their name (yet), so you can play again!
  6. Repeat if needed / desired. 
    • I like to play a few times. The last time they play the author write their name on the top and sits down with their paper.
  7. Have students share something they read about someone else they thought was interesting OR about themselves.
This helps me because I can gauge what they think a sentence is as well as their vocabulary. I also learn a bit about the students.

Students are also eager to share because it isn't their information... they're sharing about their classmates. The pressure it way off.

It's an easy, no technology nor prep activity that students LOVE.

If you try it let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Understading Poetry by breaking down Stanzas

Understanding poetry can be tough for students. Understanding older poetry can be very difficult. The vocabulary tends to be antiquated and the examples no longer relevant to the lives students lead.

It doesn't need to be though!

Following is my four step method for helping students understand poetry, though you could also use it for other types of literature.

The examples used here are from Edward Fitzgerald's translation of "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam." You can find the worksheets I use with my class as well as detailed reactions available on Teachers Pay Teachers (or by clicking the product cover to the right.

On the other hand you can create your own. Just adapt the following to best suit the literature the needs of your students.

Step 1
Go over the first stanza in the poem. Read it out loud and highlight any words you need to look up. Look up the words and decide the definition that best fits Write that down, so you'll remember it later Now that you know all the words draw the best literal interpretation of the poem that you can. Stick figures are great!  Now that you have the literal meaning,

Step 2
Show you really understand your literal meaning by drawing out a representation of your text. Stick figures and labels are fine for the less artistically challenged. If there's a lot going on, break into into a four grid and draw it out like a comic strip.

This really helps the artistic students shine, and the less artistic still get a chance to really cement their  understanding. Plus, when this is done in groups the discussions are GREAT. Students give input to one another on making things bigger, or brighter, etc.

Step 3
Now that we've got literal in the bag, see if students can identify the big idea and theme of the story. Have students take a step back and see what the stanza is trying to tell them. In one or two sentences they write what they think the meaning is. To really drive it in, they also title their individual quatrain.

Step 4
An example using Canva and PhotosforClass
This is the fun part! Students create their own stanza embracing the meaning of the original work. They can practice mimicking the rhyme scheme of the Rubiayat and modernize the stanza.

No Tech: This can be done on paper, cardstock or anything really! Then you can post them around the classroom and see if students can identify the poem as an adaptation of the correct stanza.

Low Tech: Have students create their stanza on Paint,  PowerPoint, or online, consider using Canva. If they are cell phones and tablets they can use free apps like Canva or Phonto. If they get pictures online I STRONGLY encourage I am a big digital citizenship nerd, and this gives them pictures that are legal to use AND already cited. Students can print these and again post them around the room to other students to guess.
A not-student-made version that modernizes a stanza

High Tech: Have students create their images online (use the sites suggested in low-tech). Then post these online! I like having students use a Haiku discussion board for this. Students will need an html of their picture. They can get this if they use Canva, or they can upload it to TinyPic or PostImage. Students (in groups) can analyze the modern interpretations and try to guess which stanza it is based off of.

I usually follow this activity up with some traditional comprehension questions that students breeze through! Once they have analyzed a stanza and seen how other students modernize the other stanzas, it really makes understanding easier.

Want more to do with The Rubaiyat? One topic I really like delving into is the fact that in his time Khayyam was best known for his science not his art. Do students think art helps scientists be better? Here's a nonfiction text with multiple choice questions and a writing prompt.

Students tend to hold a bias that artists can't be scientifically smart and scientists can't be creatively skilled, so it is fun to really dive into this discussion with them and have them apply it to Khayyam's works.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Quizlet Live 101

I am a long time user of Quizlet. I adore it for independent practice, and while I have sometimes tried to play their games in class (using a white board and volunteer), it hasn't been the easiest.

Just this week I got the e-mail about Quizlet live and I was PSYCHED.

My students and I had just read Gabriel Marquez' The Handsomest Man in the World, and we had about ten minutes left of class. I told them I wanted to try out a new site and asked if they wanted to give it a shot with me. They said sure

So, with very little prep and almost no time reviewing the vocabulary words. I jumped onto Quizlet! Within minutes my students were ready to play (either on laptops or cell phones), and by the end of class (seven minutes later), they were all up and out of their desks near their team actively cheering each other on and  mastering vocabulary together. SUCH A GREAT moment.

If you're a video person, here's a video of how it works.

In short

What is it?
A game students can play in teams that helps them review vocabulary together.

What do I need?
Each student needs internet connection and their own device. Cell phones, tablets, etc all worked fine when we tried.

Is is like Kahoot? Do they need to see my board/screen?
No! Unlike Kahoot, students will be looking at their screen and their screen only, so there's no need for a projector.

How do they win?For every answer they get right they get a point. If they get an answer wrong they lose all their points and start again. The first team to answer every word correctly WINS! The risk of getting zeroed out keeps them from randomly guessing, and keeps the students who are slower still in the game until the very end.

How is this different than other online games we already play?
This is similar to many teacher games in that the students do NOT need a login (wohoo!). This game requires more teamwork than other games. I have used Kahoot and Socrative for group work before, but Quizlet Live students CANNOT play without a group. Granted, they don't need to collaborate with their group. When my students started and the game said to move and sit with their groups they declined... that seemed like a lot of work. However, minutes of the game starting, they were walking around trying to fin their group to help one another.I was (pleasantly) shocked.

Can I use it as a test?I wouldn't. However, at the end it does tell you what words students are confusing and what words students understand. So, it can be used a way for you to evaluate how your class is doing.

How do I do it?
The video will walk you through it. I threw my students in the deep end and they managed to swim, but to make things run a bit smoother I probably would have done the Quizlet demo with them the first time.

There you go! A student tested and teacher approved game that can require very little prep (similar to Kahoot you can use public Quizlets that others have created). To be the best part is that students can continue using Quizlet individually to review if they realized in class they need more practice.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

First Folio Workshop

San Diego is getting a GREAT delivery this June. In honor of Shakespeare's 400th birthday the San Diego Library (in conjunction with the San Diego Old Globe Theater) will be showing off Shakespeare's First Folio from June 4th to July 7th.

The volume will be on view in the Art Gallery at the San Diego Central Library! Most of the San Diego public programs for adults and families will be available then. However, to accommodate the fact that many schools will be finishing up in June, they are putting together some teacher professional development now!

There are more events going on, so if you are an English, Drama, History or really ANY teacher who delves in Shakespeare in the greater San Diego area I would strongly encourage you to look into this.
What would you do? 
First off this is HANDS ON. So be prepared to participate. Bring paper and such to take notes if you like, but you'll leave with quite a few activities AND you'll have actually tried these activities.

Many activities are from Shakespeare Set Free:books.
(This is an affiliate link; if purchased I get a small percentage)
Who is it for?
I am a high school English teacher. I teach students who are weaker in English. I am often labeled the ESL teacher, but this isn't quite true. While my students do receive more grammar and vocabulary than other English classes, we are still a literature class.

I walked away with quite a few resources and different ways to implement ideas in my classroom this week! If you teach drama or any of Shakespeare;s plays I am sure you'll be able to take away something useful.

OK... but like really. What did you do?

SO MUCH! I'll give you my top three.
1. Learn about the first folio. For example, did you ever have a teacher tell you that punctuation in Shakespeare is SO important. Well this will delve into the history including the fact that we don't actually know how Shakespeare wanted to punctuate his plays (say what??). You'll briefly be introduced to the folio and quartos (the bootlegged versions).  You'll also learn what plays we would have lost if we didn't have the First Folio.

2. As teacher with many struggling readers, I know that one of the best ways to help them comprehend a text is to have them read it...again...and again...and least three times. But who has time for that? This went over some easy ways to get students to read 
  • Choral- Everyone read at the same time. It's not just for repetition anymore! As a trained English Language Teacher, this is something I was encouraged to use a lot for new words, or small phrases. The advantage being everyone gets to "feel the words in their mouth" without feeling like everyone is listening to them. It also means they can hear their peers. The cons of course are that some students don't actually read, and (with longer texts) there's a fear of it sounding like the Hogwarts song (with everyone singing to their own tune and thus sending at different times). Despite my fear, it normally goes better than I would have anticipated
  • Whose line is it anyways? Have students take turns reading until the end of the line. Those who have studied Shakespeare more than I have know that the last word of each line tends to have special importance. Without emphasizing this to students have them draw their own conclusions by reading around with each student reading to the end of the tine. I will say one con to this is very nervous students may spend so much time figuring out which line is theirs and practicing in their head that they do not listen to anyone else.
  • And Breathe Read until an ending punctuation mark (! . ?) Some of his lines end mid thought and it may be difficult for students to stop. Instead read until the end of a thought and then have the next student pick up.
  • Spy Vs Spy Do one of the previous, but divide the class into groups. So half the class read the first line, the second half the second line, first half the third line. This is especially powerful for soliloquies as students may be able to see the internal argument clearer.
  • Small Groups Again, pick any of the above but have them read in small groups. This makes them a bit more accountable, and more easily lets them go straight to in group analysis.
3. Slash! 
We edited our own Shakespeare! After looking at the differences between different versions we were given the power of the red pen and in groups got together to cut down a scene. A really great activity that made us focus on what we wanted to keep and why. I know my group in particular had a discussion that included me saying "This is like the Han Shot First debacle. If we cut the line it changes motivation" While no one in my group proved to be as much of a Star Wars geek as I am... they decided if I was that passionate the line should stay. This activity was great for ANY text, and I'll be adapting it for The Great Gatsby this week!

Finally, we were given TONS of resources and handouts etc. I haven' had a chance to go through all of the links, but I am in love with
The Free Teaching Modules from Folger


There are still have a few openings for an upcoming 2-Hour Teacher workshop this Saturday, March 5th, at the San Diego Public Library from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

If you can't make that, or if it fills too quickly, check out the other great events at the First Folio San Diego website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Growth Mindset Example

I've been so busy these last few weeks, but here's a quickie for you.

I was watching Independence Day the other day and thought, "This is a GREAT example of Growth Mindset."

1-7 seconds - Oops! A mistake was made
8-12 seconds- A good-hearted laugh is given! We all make mistakes, right?
13-15 seconds- This is actually the part I don't like. He blames someone else, and his partner is NOT supportive.
16-22 seconds- Change what you did before! Learn from mistakes.
23-33 seconds- Have FUN!

So there you are, for anyone presenting on Growth Mindset or trying to find a fast and easy example, I think this is a GREAT one.

Granted, I understand there is more to it than this, but it's a great start.

What's your favorite example?
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