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Ebaby! Teachers

A Small Part of a Book… By Me!

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

by zoha_nI am being published! I will have to give you more details as they come. But as luck would have it, about six months ago an educational researcher and professor at Columbia University, Lori Langer de Ramirez, Ed. D., found my students’ wiki and loved it. She asked me to write a narrative about how I used the wiki in my ESL class and why. Well, it is getting published in her book about Web 2.0 in language classrooms. I am so excited. My little teaching narrative will compliment the more theoretical, research-based chapter on wikis in her book.

This achievement inspires me in a few different ways. First, as a fairly new teacher, I feel empowered by the Internet’s ability to level the playing field. What are the chances that the author would have found me and been able to peek into my classroom like that without the Internet? Second, it inspires me to try more new things because people notice! They noticed me! Not like being noticed really matters. (But we all know it does.) Anyway, I will keep you posted about when and where to buy the book.

And P.S. thanks for all the encouragement you guys gave me to teach abroad. I am excited about that too.

Image:  Zoha Navehebrahim

Teacher on the Move: What Would You Bring Abroad?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

So you might remember that I went to the TESOL Convention. But you might have forgotten that I had a job interview while I was there.  Turns out I got a job offer! So the Ebaby! teacher might go abroad. The job is on the beautiful coast of Turkey at a university with small class sizes and motivated students.

I am super excited about the opportunity, but as I was cleaning my house it hit me: where is all my stuff going to go? And what will I do without the fifty teaching books that I regularly reference like Zero Prep and my huge file cabinet of lessons (which of course I only have paper copies of)? I have heard EFL teachers talk about bringing one boo abroad (usually Azar).  But I just can’t imagine it.

And then I start to think about my other stuff: My poor furniture, clothes and colorful dishes that I’ll have to leave behind.  I know that is silly. I have lived aboard before and it is actually surprisingly easy to pack a years worth of stuff in two bags. I know that is really the least of my worries.

But truth be told, I am so excited about the opportunity and not really worried. I know it will be perfect. I still have a few weeks before I have to sign the contract, but I think my mind is made up.

TESOL Convention Tidbits– Free Writing

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I am writing today’s TESOL Convention Tidbit from the Denver airport. After a “flash blizzard” yesterday, flights are delayed. So I’m typing as I sit in an uncomfortable chair outside gate A30, waiting for my flight.

karindalzielLuckily, the snow didn’t affect the conference. I was a busy bee… buzzing around to six different sessions.  The tidbit comes from Ruelaine Stokes, Andrew McCullough, and Nigel Caplan’s session titled “Beyond ‘Help!’ Diagnosing the L2 Writer’s  Essay: A Strategies-Based Approach.” Their session was delightful and full of witty metaphors. (For fear of ruining the humor, this post is metaphor free.)

Anyway, this panel had a great way to get students writing by using a free writing activity. They called the activity “Pick a Sentence and Go!” Students chose a sentence from a list to begin their story. They were instructed to write non-stop for ten minutes (in typical free write fashion), but they were also instructed to use the words “suddenly” and “murky” and the phrase, “rich beyond my wildest dreams.” Giving students words (especially words like “suddenly” that allow students to change the direction of their writing) help them sustain the freewriting. Other freewriting ideas including having students keep track of how many words they are able to write each time. Over a term, students will be able to see their progress in writing fluently. For other great tidbits from this session go to their webpage and download all the handouts.

TESOL Convention Tidbits– Writing the Main Idea

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

tesolEven though today was another busy at the TESOL Convention, I wish I could have done more. I didn’t go to a lot of sessions, instead I went to a few longer sessions, presented my poster and had a job interview. Still my favorite tidbit comes from the first session of my day titled: “Serving Adolescent ELLs and Struggling Readers: Similarities and Differences.” David Moore, one of the presenters, gave a quick three step process to help students find and write the main idea.

  1. Find the most important word in the passage–write the topic. (ex. Facebook)
  2. Expand on the topic by adding “and.” He calls this a comment. (ex. Facebook and how teens communicate)
  3. Write the comment in a nice sentence. This is the main idea. (ex. Facebook has changed how teens communicate.)

By giving students this process, David Moore says it is much easier for students to find and write the main idea of a reading passage. I know I am going to give it a try.

TESOL Convention Tidbits– Creating a Book Club

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

by KaiChanVongEnglish teachers from all over the world have congregated in the mile high city, Denver, Colorado. This week is the national TESOL convention (all part of March Madness). And, as tribute to my trip here, I am going to post my favorite tidbits from the conference each day.

Today, my favorite tidbit comes from Ji Hyun Byun and Min-Jung Jee at the University of Texas Austin. They gave some great advice on creating a student-centered “Book Club.” During a three week process, students selected a book to read. They were given selection criteria from the instructor. Then, each student found interesting books. They interviewed friends about book suggestions and then presented their suggestions to the class which voted for the ones they liked best.

Then the students split into groups of four to read the chosen books. Each group member had a specific role each week in the book club (create a timeline, describe characters, find a favorite passage, develop discussion questions). Research after the fact showed that students enjoyed the book club.

Sounds like a plan to me! Look for more inspiring ideas from the TESOL Convention tomorrow.

Computer Assisted Language Learning: Good Decision Making

Friday, March 13th, 2009

When we create materials for our ESL classes, we might use bubbl.us, comic strips  or Read, Write, Think (like I discussed here). And the decision is pretty simple. If we like the program and the product, we use it. The story gets quite a bit more complicated when we start having students use computer assisted language learning (CALL) products. It’s about more than fun colors and flashy end-products. The process of using the technology should be helpful to students. The use of technology should be tied to learning outcomes. But there is even more to think about than learning outcomes.  Well, I have developed a nice process to help you/me decide when and how to use CALL in your/my ESL classes.

Let me explain since you can’t read the chart to the left (view a larger/readable copy here). First, you need to consider the learning objectives of the ESL lesson. Then, identify appropriate CALL materials. Determine what is feasible in your setting and fully consider the benefits of the technology. Finally, decide.  There are a lot more details on the chart which will hopefully help you decide if and when to use CALL.

Using American Libraries

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Last week, I was in meetings with librarians and adult educators from around the country. I realized how little I know about libraries. Libraries in the US are community centers, lifelong learning schools, and places to find books. Mistakenly, I have only used the library to check out books.

stewart I have recommended that my students go there to read and also to use the free computers. What I didn’t know was that libraries have some great computer programs and subscription services. Libraries have the tools to improve students’ reading, writing, and other skills. They offer free tutoring service (online and in person). They have English conversation groups. But more than offering traditional educational opportunities, they provide other great free services: art clubs, museum passes, and knitting groups.

Since I last moved, I haven’t gotten a new library card. Now, I know I need one. I also made an appointment with my local library, which is one of the highest ranked in the nation. The woman I’ll be meeting with is going to tell me about (even more) library services that will help me and my students. If you live in the US, I recommend you go see your local librarian. Librarians have a lot to teach students, teachers, and everyone, really.

March Madness: ESL Conferences

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

March Madness usually refers to basketball, I know. But this March is full of conferences for ESL teachers like me. And doesn’t that conference logo to the left kind of look like a basketball tournament logo? It’s pretty intense.

I am gonna give you my top three conferences in March. You might not be able to go to them all. (I certainly can’t.) Hopefully, though, you’ll be able to go to one. So here they are:

  1. TESOL Convention– March 26-28 in Denver, Colorado. Learn teaching tricks and tips. Hear about the latest research. And bonus, there is a large job fair at the conference.
  2. American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL)- This conference is more research based, but it is the same week as TESOL (March 21-24) and in Denver. So you could do both maybe!
  3. Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO)-At this conference, you will find out how people are using technology in their classes and how that benefits students. It will be on March 10-14 in Arizona.

I am going to the TESOL Convention. I’ll be presenting a little something about why ESL students report using Facebook. If you happen to go to one of the other conferences on my top three list, please tell me all about them. You can learn so much at a conference. I am excited!!

Inspiring Teachers

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This week’s blog comes a little late because I spent most of last week in Washington, DC. I was training people from the University of DC to use instructional technology. UDC is very lucky that many of their teachers and administrators are extremely passionate about their work. One of the GED teachers, in particular,  touched my heart. (He is so humble, so I am going to leave his name out of this. I don’t want to embarrass him.) But hopefully, you will also be inspired by his dedication and creativity.

Here are three inspiring things that he does:

  • He continues to teach classes over break, so that students don’t get out of the groove.
  • He works (informally) with companies in town to get his GED students jobs. He even hires some of them to help him with his house projects.
  • He does everything he can to get students (and keep them) in class. Including picking them up at the bus stop.

I was so impressed by him. He goes above and beyond to make sure students get what they need (from jobs to rides to school). He was the same way at my training. So I guess, I just want to put this out there. Some of us are great teachers. But others of us are so much more than great teachers! After meeting him, I hold myself to a new standard of teaching and caring for students.

Read-Write-Think Online Student Materials

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

We want our ESL students to read, write, and think. But how do we help them do that? With Read-Write-Think curriculum and online materials, of course. The site has great materials that students can work on by themselves, but it also has examples of how teachers can integrate Read-Write-Think tools into lessons.

The Essay Map is one example of materials available for learners. It walks students through the process of making an outline for an essay. There are a bunch of writing lessons on the site that use the Essay Map. I have used it in class and students liked it. It makes essay writing a lot easier. Bonus: after making the Map, students can print it out in a nice format. (Alternatively, teachers can leave the Essay Map blank and print the blank Map to use as handout for class.)

If your writers are more advanced, they might not need the Essay Map. But the site has other things to offer too. Here are my favorite Read-Write-Think online activities for students:

They have materials for all students of all ages. Some are more appropriate than other for adult ESL students. Anyway, I like Read-Write-Think. Hope you do too.