Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sorry No Blog Post

Update: I never thought I would be out of commission this long! Teacher Kelly is never sick. She is never absent. I hope you are able to avoid the viral enteritis that has been going around this city and our schools. It is not a fun one.  Wash your hands a lot.  Remind students of the importance of good hand hygiene.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

PBLA with Literacy and Seniors

PBLA with Seniors
Day One: Seniors did a warm-up activity to gently get them back into English after the two-week break; it was not related to PBLA.

Day two: I discussed with seniors my plans to continue restructuring our course to better meet their stated needs (e.g., more listening practice). I will be testing out some different types of activities on them, such as Dictogloss, which I think will really help them focus on capturing meaning, not every word verbatim. They are keen to help me field test techniques and give feedback.

Seniors explored the Language Companions in more depth than before. We did some poking around in them, some reading in the introduction. After break they got their requisite student talk time in the form of some small group discussion questions. During the last 15 minutes of class, I surveyed the groups for the results of their discussions. They pleasantly surprised me.

Discussion questions:
  1. Is the LC useful to you? Overwhelming majority said yes.
  2. Have you ever taken it home? Majority said yes, at least once. All but one student limits this home use to holidays and breaks. One student keeps his at home and TRIES to remember to bring it on Tuesdays (the day T passes back marked work).
  3. What is the most useful part? Students were most excited about the Helpful English section, followed by My Canada.   CLB and Where I Live tied for third place.
  4. If it were lighter / more slender, would you take it home daily? All said yes and had many suggestions regarding how this could be achieved. Some suggested the LC (all content except their dossiers) be bound into one volume, others thought each section should be bound separately to allow for convenient portability. 
  5. Do you like learning about PBLA? Why or why not? At least 50% said yes, they want me to teach them about portfolio-based language assessment and do some teaching from the Language Companion. This contradicts what they had conveyed to me during previous needs assessments. (They normally vote for health, health, and health, in that order.)
Day three: We read Jan's New Binder and did the associated activities as a way of warming up with material that is not in the least intimidating. After break is always less teacher-centred with opportunities for group work or discussions. Seniors like to take things VERY slowly, breaking everything into baby steps. We don't always have a complete PPP pattern in every 2.5-hour session. Do you?
Our lexis for the module is on an easel pad.
Day four: With a true dictation the day before for comparison, we attempted our first Dictogloss using a paragraph about PBLA. Well, we didn't do it exactly right, but we will learn from our mistakes. I am always honest with them when I'm trying something out and ask them to give it three or four tries before we decide if we want to stop or continue.  Personally, I really liked it and hope we are able to hone our method.
After note taking, Ss collaborate to reconstruct the dictated passage.
I dragged a poster out of dormancy to make the CLB concept less abstract.

PBLA with CLB 1L
Day One: Not everyone showed up to an already small class, which was awkward. Did a gentle warm-up activity before break; after the break we started familiarizing ourselves with the four skill sections of the portfolios. We decorated and colour coded the dividers so that in the future we might not continue to confuse "reading" and "writing," which sound a lot alike.  This idea came from Jean Campbell's webinar on PBLA with Adult Literacy Learners (ALL).

Students' drawing for his reading divider

Our easel chart

Student's illustration for her writing divider
Day two: We took pictures to illustrate a reader that we will co-create about our Language Companions and associated routines and the purpose of them. Used TPR to help Ss get familiar with sections (put your pencil under the binder, in the back of listening, at the front of speaking, close your binder, give your pencil to Farhia, open the rings, close the rings, etc.) One key to successful TPR is to keep them on their toes; don't let the next command be easy to anticipate. You have to mix in crazy commands like "put your binder on your head." This ensures they truly listen to the words. I have to fight to keep my eyes and hands from giving away the meaning since I normally use a lot of pantomime and gesture for their benefit. In TPR, it's counterproductive to do that.
Picture taken to illustrate student and teacher reviewing artefacts

cover page of our book

a page from the book
Day Three: We worked on hard C and hard G using the book This Really Works (possibly out of print). I usually give them about 90 minutes of explicit phonemic awareness / decoding lessons each week. I especially appreciate Starfall.com when we are learning vowel sounds in CVC words and later vowel teams.

We also working on reading our new book, "My Big White Binder" and did some activities with the component lexis, such as hangman, flashcards, and more TPR. NB: Ss LOVE reading a book that is about THEM with pictures of THEM doing stuff. It makes the language come to life.

Day Four: We finished up the hard C / hard G activities. Played Sentence Unscramble on SpellingCity.com using words and sentences I had pre-loaded from our story. We then did a sentence unscramble worksheet that matched the sentences in the game. Played the flyswatter game. Since we had an odd number of students, I volunteered to go up against a student. He happens to be about 6'2" and 200 lbs. We decided it was a fair handicap since I know all the words but he can block me from reaching the words. The others collapsed in tears watching 5'3" me and my fancy footwork as I tried to sneak under and around.
flyswatter game board
We did not manage to get to the Yes/No quiz; not sure if I'll incorporate it on Monday. Its' another four-day week.
We take up the answers to a worksheet.
Friday: No class due to PBLA training session #9.

P.S. I highly recommend Jean Campbell's series on teaching ESL literacy. The first one is over, but you can still watch the webcast on Tutela. The second one is in February, I believe. Oh, and my colleague Maria Margaritis is giving a webinar on PTSD in the classroom Sunday at 1 Eastern. Be there or be square!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What Do I Mean by Materials Light?

If you watched the video on my last post, you might be wondering about my reference to dogme.

I have not gone through extensive training nor have I immersed myself enough in the forums to be able to say that I know what dogme in English Language Teaching truly means. I can't claim ever to have fully implemented dogme in a classroom. I do own the book Teaching Unplugged by Thornbury and Meddings, and my copy is covered in coloured stickies and is has suffered the indignities felt the love of my yellow and pink highlighters. The idea is very appealing to me; as someone who has studied over ten languages and has reached fluency in one or two, I can say that I believe I would enjoy being a student in a dogme classroom.

I did stick my toe in the waters of dogme when I had a conversation class that met for one hour four times per week. There came a point when my informal 'lunch and learn' session was whittled down to about three keeners, and we felt free to be spontaneous, not text-driven. (This was a period of time when the Russian, the Ukrainian, and the Chinese student really sprang to life and thanked me profusely for focusing on the exact English they needed for what was happening in their lives that day.

Other than that, I have not felt free to take a so called vow of chastity for an entire term. Or perhaps I had the freedom but was too lazy to try it. In any case, not ever having fully implemented a dogme approach doesn't mean I don't believe in stretching a teachable moment into an impromptu lesson. I do! Those often turn out to be more effective than what I conscientiously took two hours at home to plan. Might not hardcore dogme proponents insist they always do?

The week before winter break in my morning class, a multilevel group of seniors, a 'materials light' lesson presented itself.  I had come in grumbling about two business property owners who had not yet--even after six days and TWO snowfalls--shovelled the sidewalks adjacent to their buildings / plazas. Students and I got to griping, fervently nodding, and asking one another what we should do about it.

This authentic topic pertinent to our lives in the immediate real world took precedence over what I had planned when I saw that students were also upset and grumbling about the sidewalks. So what did we do on the spot? I reminded them of the city's 311 service. We agreed we wanted to report the delinquent businesses. We brainstormed, we talked about salutations, introductions, body details, conclusions, contact information, and the format of emails and letters. We then wrote letters to the City of Windsor by-law enforcement office via 311. I collected them and put about seven of the students' sentences on the board. Two had no errors, five had errors. I gave the students the task of figuring out if there were problems with any of the grammar. The most fascinating opportunity to arise came from the sentence. "Nobody cleaned it until 12:00." I knew the student meant, "When I passed by there at 12:00, nobody had yet cleaned it." She had no idea that the sentence implied someone did come by at 12:00 and shovel. A wonderful lesson on the difference between simple past and present perfect emerged, complete with a lot of peer scaffolding.

Anyway, this did not even take us off track for our quota of portfolio artefacts, as I am able to count the letters as writing artefacts. I will be using the new rubric templates uploaded to Tutela by Conestoga College.

The best part? I emailed their concerns, and the sidewalks were cleaned within 24 hours.

How do you feel about dogme, Back to the Well, and other approaches that either reduce the need for texts and copy machines or do away with them altogether?

If you would like a copy of the controlled activity that I threw together for them at the break, you can download the MS Word document from my website, Settlement Themes - Government and Community Services.

Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year's Aspirations

This is what I'm having fun with during winter break: learning to use my new Wacom Intuos and ArtRage Lite software. The picture pinned in the upper left corner of the screen was my reference. The picture in the middle is what I created using the pastel tools. Not bad for my second tutorial!

Oh, and I made a video for you all. It's my first!  
For for information about terms and concepts I reference in the video, watch in YouTube and look in the information section under the video. (You may have to click "MORE...."
Happy new year!