Posts tagged ‘ESOL’

Yodio

A year or so ago Michelle blogged about alternatives to gcast. One of the websites that she mentioned was yodio.com/. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with the site a little bit. It is an easy, quick, and free way to create slideshows that include not only your pictures, but your voice. It combines podcasting and digital photography.

I have had teachers make a yodio of their autistic students that was used to provide information about that student to staff members. Another teacher is using yodio to showcase her student’s alliteration book. After each child creates their image and sentence, they are recording themselves reading their page. Yet another teacher has used yodio as a way for students to narrate how to solve a math problem. This example is available below:

Teachers can use yodio as a way to track student’s ability to read a piece of text – another fluency check. It can be a great way to showcase a students development not only for yourself, but for students and parents.

A note: if you add your phone number from school and that number doesn’t show up on a caller I.D., then it won’t automatically tie into your account. There is a way to add a password when you use that number so that you can access that podcast on your account.

For ease of use, this is a great way for students to begin creating personalized products.

Fluency

During this summer, I really started thinking about my students’ fluency. As a teacher of LEP and FEP students, increasing their fluency is an important part of moving them toward grade level comprehension. As I always do, I wanted to make the practice of fluency as real world as possible. Luckily, I work in a K-8 building and had developed a relationship with one of the 1st grade teachers. While it probably should have occurred to me earlier, it finally dawned on me that my students could prepare a short book and read it to his class.

After discussing it with the 1st grade teacher and ironing out some details, it looked like it was going to happen. I had decided to piggy back on the concepts and content that he was teaching in class to help us determine which books to read. For example, when his class studied family relationships, my students checked out picture books on that subject to read. This was another way that this project could help build some background knowledge and experiences for his students. In this manner, both groups of kids would benefit. For some topics, my students selected from nonfiction texts, especially when it came to science topics. I feel that it is important for my students to learn how to read both fiction and nonfiction as they require different tones and expressions.

After our first trip, I decided to step things up a notch, and talked to my students about engaging the 1st graders that they were reading to. We talked about asking questions (both comprehension and connecting questions) as we read the book. In this way, the 1st graders would be even more engaged. It also provided a challenge for my students to come up with interesting, relevant questions for the group that they were reading to.

Since my purpose was to focus on fluency, I have videotaped each student read for about 20 seconds each time we visit the 1st grade class. I can then create a video of their clips and track their progress over time. It also allows me to assess how they are reading fiction vs. nonfiction texts.

I must say, my students have really enjoyed this experience. They are becoming more and more proficient and one of the benefits is their progress with not only reading out loud, but the level that they must understand the book and its concepts before they read to the 1st graders. While it is helping the 1st graders build their background knowledge, it is also doing the same for my students.

During the course of the week, my students select a book to read, practice reading it out loud to themselves, practice reading it out loud to their classmates, read it to me, and write down some questions that they can ask. In this manner, by the time we visit the 1st graders, most are proficient at reading their books.

I must say that this project has turned out better than I had hoped. It is an experience that my students look forward to. They do not complain about practicing because they know that a real audience awaits them. At this point, they know that the 1st graders will lose interest really quickly if they don’t perform well, so they always strive to keep it engaging. The first graders love it as well, stopping me during lunch to ask when my class will be visiting them.

Middle school student reading "Anamalia" to 1st graders.

Reading a nonfiction text to 1st graders.

Interactive News Websites

A couple of weeks ago my cousin passed away, and I traveled to Georgia to be with my family for the funeral. My cousin’s death was published in the local and state news papers and online. I was previously aware of the interactive side of news (being able to comment on an article) but had never commented on any articles or been on the receiving end of those comments. People who new my cousin or our family left notes of sympathy, love, and encouragement after the obituary. I thought this was a wonderful use of the interactive web. However, there were also comments left from readers of the news story (separate from the obituary). Some of the comments and opinions left were uncensored as far as how they may impact and affect the family of the deceased. I saw this as the less attractive side of the interactive web. 

Since then, I have been pondering how to blog about my new experience with the interactive web and what I learned from it. First, I think the ability to comment on the news can be thought provoking and beneficial. The comments of sympathy, love, and encouragement were overwhelming and brought joy and warmth to our family. However, I don’t think that it is a place where the random reader should write whatever they want just because they can. Maybe this falls under web etiquette.  

So, why did I blog about this and what does it have to do with English language learners? I think that this is another form of authentic writing that can be used with our students. Standard 2 of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) standards for the 21st-Century Learner states that “Learners use skills, resources, and tools to draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.” As members of a democratic society, it is essential that our students know how to think critically and make informed decisions. It is also important to teach them how to participate ethnically and productively (AASL standard 3). The interactive news websites can be a tool we use to facilitate the teaching of these skills.

Amazon Book Review – 1st Post

After my classes created a book review rubric, it was really important to begin writing their first review. One of my criteria was that they must finish a book before they review it.  While that might not always be necessary, a lot of my students struggle to really describe why they aren’t liking a book.  I get a lot of “It’s boring.”  I am working to try and get them to really understand why they don’t like it, but they aren’t all totally there yet, but that is another problem.

They had to use the rubric to write their rough draft.  We talked about what elements they should include in the review and in what order.  Descriptive words, we decided, needed to be added after the rough draft was completed.  It was a polishing area as opposed to a component of the review.  After they finished their rough draft, they edited it for content and word choice.  I then edited it once more.  I had my students write out the review because they are not able to draft on the computer and polish their writing in the 20 minutes that I have in the computer lab.  There is also no way to save the review to complete at a different time.  

After they had created the review and edited it, we headed into the computer lab.  In order to post on Amazon, you must have a customer account.  Additionally, you must purchase something on the account.  If you purchase a book, you can then delete the payment information and still use the account to post reviews.  I had created screen shots to help students log in.  It is quite a process to login to the account, so there were many steps that they needed to follow.  You can see the login sheets here:  Logging in to Amazon.  

I was very glad that I had the screen shots for my students to use and that they had written their reviews ahead of time.  It took them the full 20 minutes (at least) to get the review entered and edited before publishing.  They were very excited about publishing it to the internet – I was as well.

We posted our first reviews in December and have since posted one more round.  They were able to access the account much faster which meant that they had time to edit their typos.  I am now having them post one review a month.

Note:  You might check your Amazon profile to make sure that is shows the reviews you have posted (or find your review under the book’s information).  I have run into a problem with my account.  None of my reviews had posted after my first test.  I have contacted customer service, but the problem hasn’t been totally fixed yet.  You might not have any issues with this, but it is something to keep an eye on.

2nd Note: 4/1/09 – I figured out the posting issue. When your students enter their review, have them select that they are over 13. This will allow the book review to be posted. This was not a privacy issue as the account they were posting under was Mrs. Duarte’s class, so their names don’t appear anywhere. I have also discovered that if one person writes a book review on The 13th Reality, no one else can post a review on it. That means that each student will have to create a review on a different book. This might be a problem depending on how many students you teach, then again, you can always create multiple accounts.

Holiday Letter

 

As part of my continuing attempt to create authentic writing experiences for my students, I had my students write a holiday letter and mail it to a person of their choice.  There were many benefits and lessons to be learned here – friendly-letter format, summarization (milestones of their year), what a full address is, addressing an envelope, and the purpose of a holiday letter.

Here is what I discovered.  Even though my students are in middle school, most of them don’t know what constitutes a full address, they don’t know how to address an envelope, they have difficulties coming up with things to write about, and they were completely amazed that I was going to mail their letters.

We started by creating a foldable for friendly letters.  They needed to know the format before they could write an appropriate letter.  I created a powerpoint that broke the letter into three parts.  You can view and download the powerpoint here:  http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/36868/Friendly-Letter

This is what their foldable looked like:

 

Outside of foldable

Outside of foldable

Inside the foldable

Inside the foldable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stapled these into their spirals so that they could reference them, both for the holiday letter and their epals e-mails.

After they made their foldable, we started talking specifically about holiday letters and their purpose.  I brought several examples for them to peruse.  I prepared a powerpoint that shared topics, mood, and overall purpose for the letter.  This seemed to help several of my students decide on topics and the type of letter that they wanted to write.  You can view and download the powerpoint here:  http://www.slideboom.com/presentations/36907/Holiday-Letter

They finally started writing their letters.  I created a basic letter format that they would copy their final draft onto.  It had some generic pictures and text boxes on it.  It wasn’t that big, so they didn’t have to write a lot of information.  This was actually a good thing, because some of them really struggled with things to write about.

Here is what I would change next time:  I would give them more time to work on the project.  Some students struggled getting all of their information written, edited, and their envelop addressed.  I also need to work further on editing skills.  It is something that they are not proficient at.  I do feel, however, that this was a very worthwhile project and will probably expand it a little and repeat it next year.

Amazon Book Reviews – Rubric Creation

Before my students started writing their own book reviews, I wanted to make sure that they knew the target that they needed to aim for – that is what I call a rubric.  We used the same four sections from the book review highlight activity:  who should read this book?, descriptive words, plot, and opinions.  We added three optional categories:  characters, genre, and rating.  After we had each of the topics that they needed to include, we started filling out a rubric together on the overhead.  Since we had created a booktalk rubric together earlier in the year and they had been assessed on the rubric, they were familiar with the possible scores they could receive in each area:  advanced, proficient, partially proficient, unsatisfactory, or no attempt.  We usually fill out the advanced first, then work our way down the scale.  We listen to everyone’s ideas and come to a consensus.  After we create the rough draft, I type up the information, create an overhead and have my classes review the information.  I want to make sure that they agree to everything on the rubric, because that is what they are going to be required to do.

Each of the rubrics look a little different, based on the decisions of each class.  Here is an example that my class came up with:

book-review-rubric1

So, after the creation of the rubric, it was time for them to write their own book review…to be continued.

Social Studies Stations

I had the opportunity to team teach a lesson in a 6th grade Social Studies class today.  The teacher and I decided to use stations for the structure.  The material was not new (ancient Egypt) so we didn’t have to worry about presenting new information.  We wanted to give the students the opportunity to “play” with the content and review what they knew.

We developed three different station activities with four actual stations.  One of the activities was longer and needed a little more time to complete.

The activities were a 9 square game, decoding hieroglyphs, and creating a foldable using Egyptian cartoons.  Each group would have about 11 minutes to complete a station based on the amount of time in the class.

9 square answer key and student copy

9 square answer key and student copy

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the students came into the classroom, I had four steps written on the board.  The teacher wanted them to copy down the lesson objective and I wanted them to get out a blank sheet of paper.  I learned a couple of new brain based strategies at the NMSA conference this past week.  One of them that struck me was that we can hold about 10 things in our short term memory at a time.  The speaker (Dr. Kagan) suggested that instead of a warm-up we have students write down everything that is going on in their brain when they first come into class (all the things that are bothering them, what they just learned, what they need to do after school, what they need to remember, ect).  Sort of clear out the short term memory.  I explained to the students why we were doing this and how I would not want the paper.  I gave them one minute to write, but had to extend it as they kept making their list for over two minutes.  I was amazed about how serious they took this activity.  When they finished, I began explaining the stations and they seemed more focused.  I will definitely use this activity again.  I am thinking about having my students do this every day before class.

I then began explaining the various stations.  When I am explaining various activities, I explicitly state what they will and will not do.  I show them the actual materials that they will use to complete the activities.  I make sure that I have an example for them to follow at each station.  I then took them out to their table in the pod area.

Pod area set up for stations

Pod area set up for stations

They immediately began working.  We made sure that we checked in with each station at the beginning of each rotation to make sure that they understood exactly what they needed to do.  The level of engaged conversation was really incredible.  The 9 square game was by far the most difficult activity, but students also had to work hard to find the information from the cartoons and decode the hieroglyphs.  Out of two classes and almost 50 students, I had one student in one class that was not engaged.  It turned out he just didn’t understand exactly what he needed to do and hadn’t asked another group member or a teacher.

Students working in stations.

Students working in stations.

Another view

Another view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the class period, I had students return to the classroom and write one thing they learned and one question that they still had on the back of their foldable and turn it in.  This was an exit card and a way for us to assess what they knew and what they were still struggling with.  The foldable can also be used as a review for an assessment.

As an additional exit ticket, I asked each student as they left to tell me one thing they learned.

Overall, we were really pleased with the activity.  The students were engaged in meaningful dialog about the topic and were focused for the entire 45 minutes.  This activity just reminded me how much I like stations.  There is a lot of prep work, but when that is finished, you just facilitate during class periods.  It is a great way to teach.