Monday, December 17, 2018

Winter Break for Literacy Class

My literacy class this semester is pretty high. Usually they can handle an ESL Literacy Reader in the range of levels C and D from the School of Global Access. It takes us five days to get from vocabulary introduction to fluent reading of a book. But this teaching week has only four days, one of which will be eaten up by special activities on the last day before winter break.

I asked students if they would like to tackle a very low level book and practice that language for three days. They agreed, so I printed out the newer version of my Winter Break book, which can be downloaded from

Today we did warm-up activities to activate schemata and prior knowledge. Basically, that means we had a big chat and wrote words on the board, pulled up images from the internet, and got oriented to the concepts. We talked about the fact that there is free outdoor public skating downtown and that one can borrow skates at the church across from the skating rink. With that discussion as a springboard, I segued into projection of the images in this book. We talked about each picture and began to formulate sentences about each one. Finally, I gave each student a copy of the 8-page book (it requires only two sheets of paper) and started to print our co-written sentences on the projected version on the board for them to copy. I guess most students are ready for that break, as they did not opt to create long sentences or anything extra.

I'm glad that I left some images without colour. By passing out boxes of pencil crayons, I provided fast finishers with something to do while they waited for slower classmates to finish copying the sentences.

A tool I could not teach without is SpellingCity. At the start of the week, I load our 10-12 new words and customize the sentences so that learners encounter the same words and sentences in all the games. They are the words and sentences from our reader of the week. Once I've invested that time in loading the sentences, I can pull up games in the classroom, assign spelling tests and games to be done in the lab on lab day, and print a variety of worksheets all week long--such as word unscramble, sentence unscramble, missing letter, and a worksheet for matching sentences with missing words.

Tuesday we will conduct a peer survey to find out how everyone plans to spend the 17-day break. Here is the peer survey template in case you would like to have it on your own Google Drive to print or edit.

Our usual routine is to follow a peer survey by making oral sentences about each other. This is when we get practice with third person singular and plural, negative and positive statements. Finally, students turn their peer survey forms over to find that I've provided them with a page of blank lines on which to write sentences. Together we come up with sentences that summarize our peer survey results, always making sure we have at least one example for third person singular positive and negative, and at least one for a plural subject, positive and negative. Language is so much easier for the brain to retain when we personalize and talk about ourselves, not about Kim and Ben in some far-off place called Hill Street (though I do appreciate those books, too).

For the rest of the short week, we will continue to read our little book in a variety of ways. Sometimes we'll read chorally or repeat after the teacher. At other times we will read silently or in a small peer reading circle. By the end of the week, most students will be ready to volunteer to read entire pages aloud for the class. Nobody is ever forced to. It's always okay to pass.

In years past, I have been very ambitious. Once the class even made gingerbread! Not this year.

How is your class gearing up for winter break?

1 comment:

  1. How lovely! I feel like my blood pressure has dropped 10 points in just reading this. This is what my class used to be like, too. Personal stories are so important to learning and retention. I still sneak them in whenever I can. PBLA be damned.


Thank you for participating in this forum. Anonymous commenting is available, but is not intended to shield those taking pot shots at those of us challenging PBLA. If you are here to do that, please use your name.