¿Que? When Language Barriers Get Funny

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home.

worldlanguagesThis post is a break in discussing classroom lesson plans, one of my classic jokes in language teaching. Scott was a wild 4th grader. He was the first out the door at recess and the last one in. He was also extremely funny to a first year teacher. While other teachers had given up on the hispanic lightning bolt, I was ready for the challenge. It was the stuff that esl lessons online are made of only computers weren’t much then.

Scott had developed a shocking trend of “mooning” people on the playground. It was first brought to my attention by the noon-duty aides and then later by other students. Each time I gave him a detention and he missed his recess . . . but the mooning continued so I wrote a note home. Normally, this would amount to humor but to a teacher it means some creative discipline.

Being a new teacher, I was not as savvy as I am now after almost 10 years. It didn’t occur to me that his parents might not be able to read a note in English. Scott accepted the note and I told him the customary warning that if he did not bring it back the next day signed, he would have no recess and there would be a call home.

When he brought the note back, I assumed the issue was resolved . . . but then recess came. Yup, he did it again. This time I had to schedule a parent conference. I spoke timid Spanish then but I did speak with his mother over the phone and she verbosely apologized in her native tongue. We made an appointment to meet about it and I made sure I had a bilingual aide on site available to clearly translate the meeting. What followed might be considered the best of interactive esl lessons, for me anyway.

In the meeting Scott sat next to his mother and I began to explain how ashamed I was to be Scott’s teacher when he did this at recess. The mother listened to the translator and then replied in Spanish to the effect of: “I know, we hate it when we do it at home and at the store, but everybody slips sometimes you know?”

After hearing the exact translation I was astonished. I said with the clearest Spanish I knew: “le permiten removar sus pantalones en publico a veces?” If you don’t speak Spanish, I said “You allow him to take off his pants in public?” If you do speak Spanish, you can see I need some tutoring. Then she said:

“QUE?”

The woman flushed immediately and looked at her son with a furor I rarely see in moms. She babbled something quick and angry at her son, slapped him on the head and then said in broken English:

“He told us you were mad at heem ’cause he deen’t tuck hees shirt een.”

And after that, Scott behaved and I went back to focusing on writing lesson plans.

Discovering Type with Teens (Book Review)

If your school is like mine, you are struggling to keep classroom control at this stage in the year. We have just finished our state testing and the kids are thinking about Summer vacation every day. I am integrating Science more into the curriculum which is helping a lot. Weaving many different objectives into the day can help when the kids are “done” with their year, mentally anyway. We need a special ingredient to keep our lessons effective.

As with objectives and subject matter, psychological type is an important thing to weave into your plans. A new book just released, Discovering Type with Teens, is an amazing resource when looking into the different ways your students process information. Mollie Allen, Claire Hayman, and Kay Abella are the authors. They offer excelling assessment guides on learning exactly what “type” of kids you are teaching. Knowing this information can help through all parts of the year but certainly the last few weeks.

Higher Order Thinking

Psychology is about critical thinking, evaluating situations and conducting mental experiments whose results can then be translated to written communication in the form of research papers, journal articles and reports. Students who do not succeed in one or more of these aspects of psychology may not have been instructed in higher order thinking.

Higher order thinking helps students think more creatively when solving problems. In addition, students who are provided higher order thinking tools are more critical and make better decisions than those who do not. Independent consulting providers provide assistance to educators to help them create explanatory modeling activities that help students develop reasoning activity, often through an online source. Psychology instructors who visit this website can obtain exercises and activities designed to teach students higher order thinking.

Activities and Exercises

The types of activities and exercises found on the websites include those that help students:

Justify the decisions or course of action taken by thoroughly explaining those actions;
Generate, invent and design new ideas and products while also explaining their plan and the circumstances that triggered the idea;
Divide information into parts in order to understand all aspects of the problem;
Compare and organize those parts in order to develop solutions;
Implement, carry out or execute solutions;
Develop the ability to recall information, recognize similarities and apply solutions.

Concept of Higher Order Thinking

Simple thinking skills involve learning simple facts and recall, but in a 1956 publication entitled “Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,” the concept of higher order thinking skills was introduced. Since that time, many forms of education reform have used higher order thinking methods, including standards-based mathematics and whole language. Many standard based assessments now use open-response questions that require a student to use higher order analysis and writing. Some have eliminated multiple choice questions as these do not require a student to use critical thinking skills to respond, but simply demonstrate they have memorized information.

Although there is a place for traditional learning methods, including a focus on the facts and simple memorization, especially among students who are behind academically, there is growing evidence that higher order thinking puts students at an advantage, especially those who are working in the field of psychology, as those who enter psychological based professions must use higher order thinking to address the needs of those for which they are providing services.

Team Tables Configuration

IMG_2544.JPGI’ve made a few significant changes to the way I run my classroom teams. I’ve added an element that is quite innovative, shared with me by teacher and Adelanto board candidate Carlos Mendoza. We had a great visit sipping Starbucks and telling teacher war stories when he suggested something unique with the help of a pencil and napkin. I started implementing it today. My classroom runs on the concept of competition. I have the kids seated at u shaped tables instead of desks. This is in hopes they will be more collaborative.

Continue reading “Team Tables Configuration”

Guided Practice

Guided practice is showing and releasing the students to do the task or standard at hand. It is probably the most important step of a dynamite lesson plan.

Guided practice is showing and releasing the students to do the task or standard at hand. It is probably the most important step of math lessons especially but of any subject you can teach.  You model the way a problem comes to a solution.  In some ways, it’s the easiest part of the lesson because you are doing the learning objective.  If you are teaching about fractions, you would show the way to do the learning objective only later to release them (independent practice) to do it on their own. Incidentally, there are an increasing number of sites for teachers that can help you with guided practice.   An important part of this step is “checking for understanding” (CFU).  I use playing cards and number off kids.  Then I randomly call on them. Using “random non volunteers” in your CFU is crucial to seeing if they get it.  Your goal is to have them master the learning objective with 80% proficiency prior to closure.  After closure comes “independent practice.” Here are some guided practice lessons.

This brings up an interesting topic on homework.  Homework is not guided practice because no one is guiding the student. In my experience, worksheets are bad homework because the students often do them wrong repeatedly and then they learn it wrong.  It has been said “practice make perfect.” That is not true.  It is true instead to say “practice makes permanent.” Students should only do homework that they have 100% mastered.  This should be determined by the teacher based on assessment during the lesson. Apart from that, silent reading for comprehension is an excellent form of independent practice.  Teachers must remember the difference between guided and independent practice and when each is the appropriate step in the lesson. Educational websites should always promote guided practice as a foundation.

Trophies in the Classroom

I recognize students in the classroom year after year with 7 trophies I only needed to buy once.

Student recognition
I recognize students in the classroom year after year with 7 trophies I only needed to buy once.

Recognition is powerful in motivating students. The question is “How should we do it?” There are many ways teachers and employers do this every day. Plaques and awards are among them. Some ways present less of a challenge than others. Material rewards can be costly to replace and simple verbal rewards can seem canned. I thought I’d found a happy medium when I discovered one teacher in Santa Ana Unified who had been using a recycled trophy to recognize students. I saw a unique idea and wanted to try it with multiple trophies. Continue reading “Trophies in the Classroom”

Backward Map Review – A Great Way to do Test Prep

If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold.

With about 20 days left to the California Standards Test (CST), it is challenging how to spend your teaching tie. Of course, the free mind of a teacher can analyze similar tests and divine what to reteach. This is only a little useful. The best way to do test prep is to analyze the data of your assessments and then “backward map” reteaching the questions that 50% or less missed. This is when an item analysis report comes in handy.

I have my data and it’s magneted up on my white board. Every day for the past week and now into the next days before the standards test I have been teaching test prep and reteaching the concepts where it appears only less than 50% understood. When direct lessons are happening it feels like the best way to teach. Of course you can’s always teach this way. You need to apply yourself to solid, direct instruction and doing backward mapping will help your teaching be more relevant and of more value on the CST. If you want your kids to feel comfortable with all the material, you need to get them familiar with it now. Using the past test to go over and review with the kids is like gold. (It works!)

Edublog Safari 2-20-15

Giraffes_at_west_midlands_safari_parkThis is my Edublog Safari series where I present other peoples’ posts I have enjoyed recently. If you like any of them, you should let them know through a comment or by sharing them on social media.

Successful Teaching: Parent Communication.

Runde’s Room: Collaborative Problem-Solving in Math.

misscalcul8: Trig Unit 3: Trig Basics.

The Teachers’ Tech Lounge » Blog Archive » PDF to Word on iPad or iPhone.

Let’s Close the Passion Gap | Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer.

Give Some Kids the Gift of Time

Telling Time - It's not Just for Kinder AnymoreThis isn’t a post about quality time. Rathet it’s a reminder that some kids need space to calm down when they’re upset. While it may seem obvious, we as teachers forget it a lot. I myself do and many of my colleagues through the years have shared the same pickle with me. People outside the classroom seem to forget, I know this from talking to them for years, that we are with the kids often more than their own parents. We see a side of them that is what you might call their “true color” side. Now, this isn’t true of every child. Some have an amazing ability to behave and adapt to new and challenging situations from the first day of school. Others struggle and it’s those we should consider giving the gift of time to let their emotions calm down.

While some kids are more of a challenge to teach than others, as a teacher I really do hold a strong affinity for all my children entrusted to me. It is in fact, a love for them. When I have one or more failing to adapt with the mainstream, I become serious about finding a solution. Sometimes kids pass through their struggle as a phase, other times you can trace it all the back to kindergarten and even at the end of the year there is no coping ability in sight. When these kids have an upsetting situation and begin to act out in actions and words, teachers are alarmed. We are charged to protect all kids in our classroom and so our mother hen mentality kicks in. There is a natural tendency to give the child a corretive consequence like taking away recess or going to a time out.

Sometimes, depending on the child, simply putting them in a safe place and telling them you are giving them time to feel better or calm down eliminates the issue. This may not always be the right approach for for several of my behavior problems through the years it has worked quite well.

What are some study hacks every student should know?

Over the years I’ve given students a lot of advice on how to get the most bang for their buck on studying. If I had to narrow it down to three of the most valuable is would be: Youtube, the theory of time spaced learning, and getting the right tools are three study hacks every student should know about.

1. Youtube/video tutorials. These are invaluable. If you just can’t recall what your math teacher said you can use Khan Academy, a free service put on Youtube and Google via a math teacher. He has received wide acclaim for these tutorials and I have used them widely with my students as well as with my own children when stumped doing their homework. Besides that, there are millions of freely shared videos on Youtube that you can access through trying a few simple combinations of keywords. There is one catch though, if you didnt pay attention in class, you have to py attention to the Youtube video. Nothing is automatic.

2. “Space it Out” The theory of time spaced learning

I wrote a longer article about this here. Whether you are learning or teaching, it’s important to not over stuff your brain. Studies have shown that the mind cannot absorb more than three things at a time. So, if you are writing, don’t make more than 3 main points or they will be wasted on over-fed minds. If you are looking to read and understand something, break it down into three or less main categories. Yellow pads are great for this. You’d do well to “space out” the time you have to study as well. The theory of time spaced learning got me through College Algebra at the junior college. I have always struggled with math and a teacher shared with the class about it. My life has been improved ever since! And this will also help you get some online jobs as well.

The theory goes like this: instead of studying to absorb new material over the course of an hour, break up your time into 15 minute increments. The data shows that memory is strongest when you start and stop a study time. Therefore, instead of having strong memories only twice in an hour, you will have them at the start and stop of each mini session. This equals more knowledge retained! Now this was great news to me, because I loved taking breaks from math!

When it comes to our brains, less is more and quality is better than quantity. Slow down and take more breaks, you’ll be amazed how much more you retain for life!

3. Take the time to get the right tools. If you’ve ever failed at a household task because you stripped a screw, you know the value of the right screwdriver. Studying is the same way, it often requires tools to be done more effectively. If you are studying a foreign language, stop on the way home and get 3×5 cards for new words to study. If you need pencils, get hundreds and a reliable sharpener. Study a few times without them and you will remember what I told you. Write down the things that you need (even if they be healthy snacks) and have them ready the next time you study.