Sunday, September 25, 2016

PBLA with Literacy Learners

Do you teach at a school that uses Portfolio Based Language Assessment (PBLA)? At my school, we have been ramping up for it for quite some time. We've had lots of training, have attended workshops and webinars, and have implemented many parts of PBLA to some extent. But this winter we are expected to have it all up and running. It is both exciting and overwhelming! My colleagues and I are happy to see that there are still more PBLA workshops and webinars being offered through Tutela.

To make things easier on myself, I am going to have to find ways to be more efficient. First and foremost, I have to get well organized.  One thing I did on Friday was start a new section in my file cabinet for blank rubrics, blank inventory sheets, etc. This way when a new student enrols, I can send him/her out with the teaching assistant and one of each of the portfolio pages that the student needs catching up on, such as the "My Story" page, an inventory sheet at the beginning of each section, and so on.

Meanwhile, I continue to build the FREE RESOURCES areas of my website. I've made some progress over the past couple of weeks beginning to build a separate LITERACY area where my free worksheets and activity packs are arranged thematically. There are still many more themes for me to upload, but it's a start.  Take a peek and tell me what you think. It is my hope that the layout makes it easy for you to quickly find what you're looking for.

This brings me to the main reason for today's blog post. In getting ready for PBLA for literacy, I have been developing my own very simplified rubrics that literacy learners can understand. Svetlana Lupasco gave me the idea to use graphics of a growing seedling to represent the concepts of initial, developing and adequate competency on a task. I am considering uploading rubrics such as this one as I develop them and including them either in the activity pack or with other resources on that thematic page.

What do you think? Would that be useful to you?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Give Them Something to Touch

In ESL literacy instruction, it is so very important to make learning as physical as possible. ESL literacy classes tend to be comprised of at least three kinds of students who direly need learning to be made as hands-on as possible: refugees, whose recent trauma can make focusing on dry lessons impossible; learners with interrupted formal education, as they are unaccustomed to sitting for long periods at a desk; students with learning disabilities, especially ADD/ADHD, who may be desperate for any excuse to get up out of their seats.

I was reminded of this 'best practice' this week as I was passing by the new literacy classroom that is currently blooming in a former childcare space next door to my classroom. Every time I pass by the door, something different draws me into the space. First there was the welcome sign, then the tea kettle with a collection of herbal and black teas, next the little alcove with a carpet that has already been used by our newly arrived Syrians seeking a safe space to pray.

This week's eye candy was a collage of student work covering one wall. Maria had led the learners through a colour lesson involving leaves and fall colours. One thing she noticed about the lesson was that everyone was so calm afterward. Even the men got into carefully colouring around their leaves.

From role plays to realia, anything that allows them to manipulate objects, move, stretch, sing, drum or dance is going to help create an effective and enjoyable language learning experience for this very special clientele.

What's your favourite way of giving your learners a hands-on learning experience?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Technical Difficulties

The new school year is off to an amazing start, and I had truly been looking forward to posting about it here today.  However, my beloved laptop is in the shop for trackpad replacement (spilled coffee, ahem), and I am left with a borrowed iPad or the option of a 20-minute drive back downtown to compose this on a work PC.

Since I spent over three extra hours there on Friday (PBLA) and another three doing prep yesterday, I choose to postpone this blog post until I get my laptop back on Tuesday. I really prefer working from the comfort of my home when possible since the places where I can access a computer at work cut me off from both sunshine and fresh air.

In the meantime, I leave you with a few questions.

How do you feel about September?  Do you like fall weather? Is it exciting to be back in the classroom (assuming you are)?

What goals have you set for yourself for the new term?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

How Should I Organize My Free Literacy Materials?

With school starting back up and a new literacy teacher joining our team, I am feeling motivated to go through and edit / improve all the activity packs that I have created both for the ESL Literacy Network Readers and for the Talk of the Block short and long vowel series of books. I did have some of these activity kits housed on Bow Valley College's teacher showcase area, but they discontinued that feature in their transition from ESL Literacy Network to Centre of Excellence in Foundational Learning.

As I go through and ensure that my materials follow best practices for literacy materials and contain only images that can be freely shared without copyright infringement, I will be posting them on my website.

Here's my question for you.

Where / how should I organize these materials?  Is there a teaching resource website whose layout and organization you find especially user friendly? Do you find the current layout of my website easy to navigate? If not, why not? What would you have me do differently?

I am currently planning to put the activity kits in their own section at the top or bottom of the existing thematic pages. These pages follow the settlement themes (housing, commercial services, banking and money, etc.)  Do you think this is a good plan?

Alternately, I suppose I could create separate page or pages containing ONLY literacy worksheets, links, ideas, etc.

Please let me know in the comments section below which plan appeals more to you as a user of my website.

Thank you so much!