Saturday, March 31, 2012

National Poetry Month

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  When I was teaching 3rdpoetrywritingjournal grade, I always used my Poetry Writing Journal during the month of April.  It’s a great way for students to get creative juices running during a month that is often filled with test preparation and/or long testing sessions.  Students will brainstorm and write 10 poems, and then choose their favorite to "publish”.  We always published our poems by typing them on the computer, adding clipart and putting them together into a book that was a great keepsake for the end of the year.  Grab a copy of the poetry journal from my TPT store for just $10.00. 

If you are looking for more poetry ideas, Laurah from ESOL Odyssey is having a linky party specifically for poetry products – stop by and check it out.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

Use Playing Cards in Writing??

I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom. In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills. So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom. Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:

Playing Cards – Part 2 (Literacy)

For weeks now, we’ve been looking at board games, but this week, were looking at one of the simplest – and cheapest type of games – playing cards! My grandmother was a product of the depression and all she had growing up was a deck of cards. She taught me every card game out there (Here’s a link with rules for lots of games). These games themselves can be great for teaching strategy and critical thinking, but there are so many other ways to use playing cards in the classroom. Last week, we looked at using playing cards in your math lessons.  Here are some ways to use playing cards in your literacy lessons.

1. Code Word Spelling – For this activity, you will only need half of a cardmatcodefreebiedeck of cards.  Split the cards into a red pile and a black pile and then you can 2 students or two groups of students can share one deck of cards.  If students need to use the same letter more than once, they may need two “half” decks of cards.  Have students use the code sheet to spell their spelling and/or vocabulary words with their half of a deck of cards.  Grab the code word sheet for FREE from Google Docs.

2. Code Word Creation – For this activity, you will only need half of a deck of cards. Split the cards into a red pile and a black pile and then you can 2 students or two groups of students can share one deck of cards.  If playingcardmatmakingwordsstudents need to use the same letter more than once, they may need two “half” decks of cards.  Students will make words of different lengths.  Have students start by trying to make 3 letter words, then 4 letter words, then 5 letter words.  Students can also race to see who can make the most words – using the code with the cards they have.  Grab the code word sheet and mats for FREE from Google Docs.

3. Luck of the Draw Story Guidelines – For this activity, you will only need the number cards – remove face cards (K, Q, J) from the deck ofplayingcardmatstoriesfreebie cards and set to the side – the Ace remains and counts as 1.  Students will “draw” cards to put on one of the story maps.  These story maps will give students guidelines on what needs to be in their story (ie. 5 sentences, 1 character, 2 settings and 1 surprise).  Students will then take what the cards have determined and write a story using that criteria.  Grab 2 different story guideline mats for FREE from Google Docs.

4. Silly Number Stories - For this activity, you will only need the number cards – remove face cards (K, Q, J) from the deck of cards and set to the side – the Ace remains and counts as 1. Students will “draw” cards playingcardmatsillystoriesfreebieto put on one of the story maps. These story maps will give students guidelines on what needs to be in their story – rather than dictating length and elements, these story maps will dictate silly things they must work into their story – leading to creativity and critical thinking (ie. 5 cats, 1 grizzly bear, 2 unicorns and 1 bowl of soup). Students will then take what the cards have determined and write a story using that criteria. Grab 4 different story guideline mats for FREE from Google Docs.
I hope some of these suggestions will help you use playing cards to teach math in a new and interesting way. Click HERE for more suggestions on how to use board games in the classroom.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Connect with Teachers Around the Globe

One of the best parts of teaching at an International School is that I get to connect with GlobalTeacherConnect;teachers who have taught all around the world.  I enjoy this concept so much that I decided to start a blog that will give this experience to everyone.  This blog, called Global Teacher Connect, will have authors from around the world posting about what is going on in their classroom and what resources they are using with their students.  We will have no more than 5 authors per country, so we can keep it diverse, but we will have many, many countries represented.  Already we have authors from: South Africa, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Trinidad/Tobago, the United States, and of course – Morocco!

We are currently looking for more authors, so if you would be interested in being an author, please feel free to contact me at  Whether you are interested in writing or not, please feel free to stop by and view the discussions.  Right now, we have a very interesting discussion going on about how substitute teaching is handled in countries around the world – started by Melissa of Dilly Dabbles.  Can’t wait to see your contributions to the discussions!


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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Play with Shapes

It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!! For two years, I was the Technology Specialist at a school in Georgia. During that time, I amassed a large collection of websites that I use with my students. If you want to search through some of them, you can check out my IKeepBookmarks site. Or, you can check back here each week for the Wednesday Website suggestion.

3-dshapesMy students are currently studying 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes.  We have been using this cool website from Primary Resources to help them identify 3-dimensional shapes even when they see them from different angles or without the entire shape.  This concept can be hard for my students, but this great website that shows partially buried and angled 3-dimensional shapes really helped.  shapebook
Another way we’ve worked on this concept is with our shape booklet.  Students took the booklet home and searched for items in their house that were certain 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes.  It’s been a great way for them to see that a can of green beans is also a cylinder!  Grab a free copy of the booklet from Google Docs to use with your class if you’d like.  

Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wednesday's Website suggestion and click HERE to view previous Website suggestions.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where is Your Knee?

My class consists of 19 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French. I have 3 who speak French and not Arabic, 1 who speaks Spanish, and 1 who speaks a Philippine dialect. All of my students speak SOME English, but to varying degrees. My job is to teach them English, while also teaching them everything we normally teach in school (reading, writing, math, science, social studies etc.) Fortunately, I am certified to teach ESL and have some experience with English Language Learners. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. So, from now on, I will now be doing a Teaching Tip Tuesday geared especially towards teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL TeachingTip #19 - Appreciate and utilize student differences when teaching vocabulary. Students will remember different words based on their interests and needs. This blog post on Raki's Rad Resources will give you suggestions on how to use these differences to your advantage.

ELL Teaching Tip #19: Appreciate each child’s differences
As teachers, we know that all children are different, but often we forget how much these differences affect what children learn.  These differences can especially affect what words our English Language Learners learn.  Students will learn and remember the English words that they need or the words that mean something to them the most quickly.  Words that don’t have any meaning to them will slip through their memory and never really settle into their long term memory, or at least take longer to settle there. 

This is the reason that the girls in my class know words like dress, skirt, makeup and tiara and the boys don’t.  It’s also the reason that the boys know the words ninja, soldier and magic trick that the girls often don’t.  In imageaddition, my student often know words that help them out at school, where they use English, but not words that would help them out at home, where they don’t.  So, it’s not unusual for my students to know words like connection, punctuation mark, and cylinder, but don’t know words like knee, spoon and shovel.
Help your students increase their vocabulary by using those preferences and background knowledge.  Here are some ways to do that:

- Activate prior knowledge on EVERY lesson.  Giving kids some context to connect their new learning to will help them remember the words and concepts you are teaching.

- Teach those “home” words that can be taught and reinforced through reading and every day activities.  My differentiated vocabulary packets are a great resource for this.

- Play games that include body part and object names – like Simon Says.

  - Find out what your students are interested in and find books with good vocabulary on those subjects.  Use these books for read alouds and guided reading, as students will be more likely to remember the vocabulary that is connected with topics that they are interested in. 

Do you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Do you want to know Heidigraymore about teaching English Language Learners? I will be speaking on this topic at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo, and I’d love to have you “join” us. It is a virtual expo, which will help us connect no matter where we are! Click HERE for ticket information.

Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Do you have English Language Learners?

Teaching English Language Learners is a passion of mine.  It is part of thetchr2tchr reason that I write a weekly TESOL Tip post every Tuesday and a big part of why I am participating in the Everything’s Intermediate Expo as a presenter on English Language Learners.  So, when I was approached by two blogs to write blog posts about English Language Learners, I jumped at the opportunity.  Tchr2Tchr asked me to write an article for them on strategies for English Language Learners.  That article will be posted today – March 26th – so hop on over and check it out! 

Then, Laurah from the ESOL Odyssey asked me to write an article on the difference between teaching English as a Second Language and teaching English as a Foreign Language.  That article will be posted on Wednesday, March 28th.  Please stop by on Wednesday and check it out.


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Sunday, March 25, 2012

And the winners are…

Thank you to all who entered the contest for the Everything’s ticketsIntermediate Expo tickets.  I loved reading your comments about your English Language Learners.  As I am taping my presentation on teaching English Language Learners for you guys, I will be sure to keep your needs in mind and give some strategies that address these topics. 

Without further ado, here are the winners:

Ticket #1

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Ticket #2

expogiveaway1    expogiveaway4


Ticket #3

expogiveaway2    expogiveaway3


Congratulations to Pam Atkinson, Melissa Lawrence and Heather Temske!  They will soon be receiving their ticket via email and will all be able to attend professional development in their pj’s (if they so choose) for absolutely FREE!  If you aren’t one of my lucky winners, but you want to join us on this fun event, feel free to stop by the Everything’s Intermediate Expo page and grab a ticket for just $14.95 until the day of the event.

Also, if you have a chance, stop by the blogs of the other presenters to learn about the amazing things they have planned:

Tales of Frogs & Cupcakes


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