Sunday, January 24, 2016

Why You Should Cut Up Magazines

 Of all the resource files I have in my file cabinet at school, possibly the most valuable one is the hanging file folder labelled "Powerful Pictures." It didn't take me very long to amass a wonderful collection of pictures--maybe 30 minutes spent sitting cross-legged on my living room floor surrounded by a stack of old magazines, scissors in my hand. As I flipped through the decorator and cooking magazines, news weeklies and my partner's trade journals, I stopped and cut out every intriguing picture that could be used to prompt language.

The advertisement in which a woman trying to give a bath to a large dog gets splattered with soapy water when the dog shakes off the foam would be perfect for a grammar lesson on tenses. What was she doing? What just happened? What do you think will happen next?

The possibilities with powerful photos are endless. Whenever I visit an art museum, I purchase three or four postcards to add to that file, as well. These make good poetry prompts and bases for descriptive essays.

Most recently, I went to the Powerful Pictures file during a module on English for common, everyday social situations. I was using The Grab Bag of Socializing Activities that week, and we were learning about interjections such as OUCH, YIKES, UH OH, OOPS, AWW, BOO, HOORAY, YUM and YUCK.

After the controlled and semi-controlled activities, I needed a way to see if the students could freely use the appropriate interjection for a variety of situations. Rifling through the file, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I already had one photo for almost every interjection and only had to print a couple from Google Images in order to have a sufficient supply for four groups of three to four students.

The picture of Tiger Woods with his finger to his lips would surely elicit, "Shh." The one of a bull charging a man might elicit "Yikes!" The photo of a pilot ejecting with parachute from a jet right before the jet crashed should bring out, "Whew!" A detergent advertisement showing a baby enjoying some chocolate ice cream with his clothes covered in the melting dessert could prompt both baby's "yum" and parents' "yuck," depending on one's perspective.

Pictures are especially valuable in a multilevel class since all students can simultaneously operate within their respective Zones of Proximal Development. The students really seem to enjoy any activity involving intriguing photos, and I get a lot of mileage out of them in both my literacy class and my class of seniors whose CLBs span two to seven.

In addition to this file of mine, I also keep a supply of old magazines in a box for students to use when we make posters for the classroom walls. The literacy learners cut up decor magazines and furniture store and appliance department flyers to make a poster of the house showing what is in each room. We are also working on a series of posters--one for each vowel sound that we study. We have our /ae/ poster with CAT, HAT, BAG, etc., another poster with BED, DRESS, EGGS, LEG, and a third with LIP, KICK, LID, FISH, SIT, and so on. This week we'll tackle CVC words with O and will be searching for pictures of a dog, a pot, and an ON/OFF switch.

How about you? Do you have a file full of pictures you've collected? How do you use them?

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Syrians are Coming

Because I am very busy these days helping to stage a political revolution (Go Bernie!) in my motherland, I am going to take a break from blogging this week and instead point you in the direction of a brilliantly written blog post on the TESL Ontario blog.

Maria Margaritis shares some well-researched insights on how trauma affects our new refugee arrivals in the classroom and how we can adapt our classroom practice to help more than we hinder their language learning and settlement experiences in light of what they've just been through.

I'm pleased to note that I am already doing a lot of what is recommended, such as fostering community in the classroom and providing a set of routines that learners can count on from day to day. But there are many other ideas I will be looking to implement in the coming weeks.

Thank you, Maria and TESL Ontario Blog!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ramping Up for PBLA


Not sure where you all are in the PBLA process, if at all, but at my school we are just getting the training and starting our pilot modules soon. I'm open to any and all tips, suggestions, links, commiseration, encouragement, etc. that you are willing to send my way as I start off with my two classes on this exciting journey!

In my morning class of eleven Chinese, three Iraqi and one Syrian senior (over 55), I am gently introducing the concepts of goal setting and reflection. This week will be our first time to write out our individual and group goals for the module. We want our goals to be SMART goals: SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC AND TIME-BOUND.

I'll let you know how it goes!

In my afternoon class, which is literacy (one Foundations learner and the rest Phase I), we have just done our needs assessment for the term via sticker voting.
learners have voted for our first four topics

For goal-setting, I am going to rely heavily on Svetlana Lupasco's resources that she was kind enough to post on her blog Teach2LearnESL. She blogged about goal-setting with literacy learners HERE, and offered up samples for free download HERE.

Many of the teachers at my centre seem to have the same challenge right now: finding really good resources to guide students through goal setting. The best I've found so far is in the PBLA Best Practices - Resources document.

How about you? For those of you further along in the PBLA journey, do you have tips for those of us just starting?