Monday, November 7, 2011

Teaching and Honoring

I want to talk about two things today, and I will keep it brief because I am a busy busy girl!

First I want to talk about using games in ESOL tutoring.  For my third week, I decided to try a couple of games with the students.  To shake it up a bit.  I created a bingo game using pictures and words for grocery store vocabulary.  I used a great website that has a bingo card generator on it:

Here is an example of one of the cards:
I gave them pennies and buttons to use as their markers.

Observation 1: Normally when you play bingo you only have to get a whole row across, down, or diagonal to win; but when the cards only use 16 pictures, the game ends too soon.  I suggest using the rule that you have to fill the entire card to win.  We played about 5 games of bingo, in about 10 minutes, too fast!

Then I played a response game with them, to try and teach them the words under, over, beside, etc.  I gave each student a piece of paper with these two pictures on it:

Then I told them to put an X on the table, put a check under the table, put a circle in the box, and put a plus sign beside the box.  Then I showed them my sheet of paper and told them it should look the same:

 Most of them understood, and those who didn't would ask their neighbor to help them, so they all got them right.  I wanted to do this game because my partner N and I noticed that they were getting confused with the words on, in, and at.  N told me that in the Spanish language they say "on top of" as in "Put the X on top of the table."  English speakers say this also, but most people say the shortened version "put the X on the table" and I want my students to understand what that means.

This brings up a good point.  There are many idiosyncrasies in the English language that can not really be translated well to other languages.  Whenever possible it is good to try to explain and teach these to ESOL students, the more they use the "real" American language, the more they will feel at home.  In my opinion anyway.

So we did those two games, which took me about 4 hours to prepare, and in class they took about 20 minutes to finish.  That left 40 minutes of open non prepared time.  I sort of panicked and looked helplessly at N when I realized I had nothing to do for the next 40 minutes.  She suggested we go over some emergency words, so we talked about the different times you would call 911 or go to the ER versus calling a doctor.  Like I have said before, the students are all so easygoing and they never missed a beat.  This is why I love teaching this class!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

ESOL tutoring week two

So being an ESOL tutor is tons of work and reaps tons of benefits, it is the ultimate in satisfying deeds.  This past week, our second class, I had help, a student teacher named N who is minoring in Spanish.  We divided the class up into two small groups and worked on grocery store vocabulary and questions and phrases you might use while in the grocery store.

There were less students this week, only about 10.

First I had the students go over their introductions.  I had them first introduce themselves: "Hi my name is Carlos, I have 3 children, this is my friend Maria, she has 4 children."  I had created a chart from the information I gathered in the first class.  Name, how many children, children's ages.  I hung the chart up and pointed to each name as they went around.  

Observation 1:  I noticed that the students tend to want to say the phrase backwards which makes sense since in Spanish most sentences are reverse.  They also shortened the phrases, for instance they often said "This my friend", or "she my friend."  I am not sure if this is right, but I corrected them and had them say the phrase as a complete sentence.

Next we went over grocery store vocabulary.  I created large pictures that I found on google and put the word in English on top.

The words we started with were:
Frozen Foods

Observation 2:  Many of the pronunciations of words and phrases are completely new to the students, and some of the digraphs and blends are new also because they are not used in the Spanish language.  For instance, the sh.  The students pronounced it ch.   Or the letter j.   In the Spanish language this letter is pronounced like a y as in you, but in English it is pronounced as a g as in giraffe.  I took the time to help them try to sound the words out the right way.  Not sure if that is correct either, it just felt right.

Here is a list of sounds not found in the Spanish language that I found on a fabulous website called  ¡Colorin´, colorado!  This is "A bilingual site for families and educators of English language learners."

This is such a great website!

Next we split into small groups and worked on questions and answers they might use in the grocery store using TPR and Response Drills.  "Where is the juice?" "The juice is on aisle four."

Observation 3: I had them practicing these phrases and questions for a few minutes and then I realized they seemed to be repeating them fine, but I sensed they didn't really understand them.  I asked them if they understood what they were saying and one woman asked "What is aisle?"  So when we had gone over the vocabulary it had not clicked with her exactly what an aisle was.  So I got up, went between the desks and showed using my arms that the whole space was an aisle, then they understood.  I knew they understood because they started saying what the word was in Spanish.

Then another woman asked, "What is shelf?"  So I went to a bookshelf in the room and pointed to one of the shelves and said this is a shelf, the book is on the shelf.  They nodded and said the word to each other in Spanish.

I am starting to question the whole process of using pictures to explain things.  Especially with grocery store terms.

Observation 4:  Ever wonder why in the English language we say, at the back of the store, or in the back of the store and they mean the same things.  Or, "Can you help me in produce",  and "How many packets are in this box?"  Or what about the word ON.  "The juice is on the third shelf", and "The pharmacy is on your left."  To us it makes sense, to ESOL students it is very confusing.  I had a hard time trying to make them understand, so basically I said, "The English language is tricky, one word can have many meanings."  Which is true but doesn't make it any easier for them to understand.  Unfortunately they are going to have to figure it out as they go along.

The class did such an amazing job and again they are so accomodating and open to learning.  I love that enthusiasm for understanding.  If only we all had that desire.

Next week I am going to try a bingo game and a response lesson.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Hey ESL Teacher"

 Photo by Vanessa Jones


That was the subject in a recent email sent to me.  The ESL teacher at my daughters school started a wonderful evening program at the school.  Family Learning Nights, you can learn English, Spanish, get help with preparing for your GED, get tutoring help for your child's homework.  D, the ESL teacher is also a master trainer for LVNJ and just a really cool person, and this idea he had is so fantastic.  When he sent the word out looking for help with tutoring I immediately signed up.

I haven't had a student to tutor for about 6 months, it has been a busy time in my personal life so I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with the tutoring.  It was so difficult for me to drive almost 30 minutes to get to the tutoring sessions before and it was so inconvenient, and then my student rarely showed up, or if she did she was always late.  It clouded my experience.

But the thought of being able to tutor a student at the school which is just around the corner from my house, in the evenings when my husband can take care of the children.  And to know I am working with parents of my kids friends.  People in my community.  This idea completely appealed to me.

The thing is I had only ever done basic literacy tutoring, and the training I had for ESL tutoring was a year ago.  I told D I would tutor a student, thinking I can handle one on one.  Then I got an email from D the day before the first FLN:

Would you be interested in taking a small group of beginning ESL students?"

Umm, PANIC!  So the LVNJ training mainly focuses on one on one tutoring, but we did touch on the small group training.  But like I said that was a YEAR ago!  How could I possibly say no though?  The parents wanted to learn, and I repeated to myself that first empowering thought I learned in training "If you can speak English, you can teach someone to speak English."  So yeah!  Yes I will take that small group, and I will do the best I can, I am totally willing and able!

The day came, and I poured over my training manual, and a great manual my boss J suggested and I went online and came up with a very basic lesson plan.  I did not know the level these students were at in their English speaking skills so I had to go on the assumption that they were very beginner.

I decided to start with a grid, and use the Repetition Drills I had learned and practiced in training to have them practice saying: "Hi, my name is," "I have three children," "I have two girls and one boy."  And I would have them introduce themselves and then their neighbor using the grid to help them.

I also found pictures of different scenarios on google, Talking to your child's teacher, At the bank, At the grocery store, and At the doctor.  I would poll the students and say: "I need help speaking English when I am..." and then I would show them each picture while saying what it was and then ask them to each pick a scenario they wanted to work on.  Then we would work on things you might need to say in those scenarios, using the Repetition Drill and the Response Drill.

So I had a plan and I was scared but hopeful.

I got there and started drawing out my grid on the board and then waited.  Then the students started showing up.  And showing up.  And showing up.  I had a total of 11 students that night!  Yikes, I am sorry but that is a large group in my opinion!

 Photo by Vanessa Jones

But I never skipped a beat, and I went through my lesson plan and oh my gosh the students were so awesome!  They were eager, upbeat and totally accommodating.  LOVE teaching ESL!

As I was gathering my things at the end of the class, one of the ladies said, "Thank you teacher!"  Heart melting!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Up to?

Who me? Up to something?  Never!

No really, want to know what I have been up to lately?

1. Husband in hospital:  Yep, for four days.  He was only having testing done, but it was four days I was without another adult person around the house.  My only companions at home were small children, until bed time, then I would watch really bad television and wish I had some one to talk to.  Waah!  But really it wasn't so awful, and he is home now.  For now.  He is having surgery sometime in the next few months, and then he will be away for maybe a week or longer.

Daddy is Home!

2. Kids started school: YAY!  Seriously, I love my kids, and at the end of the school year I can't wait for them to get out of school so we can hang out and do fun stuff together.  By the end of summer I am SO ready for them to be in school so they can stop, eating all the food I buy in one day, telling me how bored they are, watching insane amounts of obnoxious tv, rolling their eyes when I tell them to turn off the tv and read or do something, just generally being around to remind me of all my shortcomings.

This year we have, Maddie in 5th grade, Katy in 1st grade, and Ally started preschool.  They were extremely precious on the first day of school, and I was extremely proud of being able to get them to school on time and with very nutritious lunches, and with their entire supply list bought.

3. ME starting school: Go me!  I am going back to school, on-line, through University of Phoenix, to get my BA in Elementary Education.  I start October 1st.  I am SO psyched!

4. I am going to start reading: The Book Thief.  I love historical fiction and saw this book recommended on a Better World Books post on FB.  I will keep you posted.

5. I need a new iPhone case: mine looks like it was gnawed on by badgers.  I downloaded a couple of iPhone games for my kids the last week of summer (see number 2 if you are wondering why).  They are actually really cool learning games that they enjoy playing, but while they were playing, the decided to also fiddle with my already delicate iPhone case.  I tried gluing the top layer back onto the hard case part, but it was all stretched out and the corners wouldn't stay and I only succeeded in getting glue all over me.  So now I need a new one.

My friend at My Life With Pie just posted about this same thing and found a really cool one with Beaker on it.  Not sure I can pull that off, but I do want something that reflects me.  Any suggestions?

6. I have been watching a few shows in Netflix and Hulu: Parks and Recreation, Glee.  Parks and Rec is so hysterical.  I love Glee also because I am a band nerd from the old school!

What are you guys up to?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Good News!

I wanted to share some excellent news about two new websites I have been following.

First, Better World Books, a non profit on-line bookstore that I am literally infatuated with, has made a big move. For every book they sell, they donate a book to someone in need! If you are familiar with TOMS Shoes, this is the same concept, except with books. Which let me just say is the coolest thing EVER!

BWB is so much more than the book for book thing though, they support so many awesome literacy programs around the world, and if I haven't said it already, I LOVE THEM! Please support them, and please spread the word!

Second, Wonderopolis, which has a blog, Wonders, that I started following and wrote about last week, has made the list of 50 best websites of 2011! Yay Wonderopolis I am so proud of you! Please check this awesome website out, you will not be sorry!

I am working on a big Back to School post, to be posted soon, so stay tuned! Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Share the Wonder!

Just started following this blog I found through the National Center for Family Literacy, Wonderopolis. The blog is called "Wonders" and they share a new wonder every day. All to promote together time between kids and their parents! Love it!

Also, I am totally excited about my upcoming guest post at Life With Pie. Should be this Thursday, I will let you know.

Check out the Wonders, and share them with your kids!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tips for Visiting the Doctor

So I was browsing through the current issue of Parenting magazine (early years), and came across an article called How to Talk to a Doc. This article offers tips, given by doctors, about how to prepare for your next Dr. visit. The article is geared toward parents and offers advice about well visits, but what I found was that the tips actually apply to anyone preparing to visit a doctor.

Presumably when you are an adult you are visiting for some sort of health problem. It isn't like when you take a baby to the doctor every month in the first year, and then every year after that for check ups. But regardless of the reason, visiting a doctor is a lesson in time management. Generally you get about 15 minutes with a doctor. Sometimes less. Their schedules are usually back to back, and your schedule is probably pretty tight too. It is important to not waste each others time. So we need to be prepared, and sometimes we need lessons on how to do that.

I know that any time I visit a doctor, whether it is for my daughters' check ups or my husbands medical problems, I have to write down questions before I go. Here are some more tips offered in the magazine about how to arrive prepared.

Number 1: "Find a go-to health care provider." So the magazine says you should create a "medical home" for your child. A place where they have records about everything to do with their health care since you started going to them. I have been taking my kids to the same practice for over 10 years now. While I don't really know them all by name and do not really have a close relationship with them, they always have my kids charts, and when we go for a visit, the chart is right there for them to look through and check on things. When my daughter was about 8 she started suffering from ear infections quite often, and the doctor warned me that because she had taken antibiotics quite a few times for them she might build a resistance to them if we kept giving them for every instance. If I had taken her to a clinic or ER, they might not have known she had been on meds so many times. They would not have had her history, and I might have forgotten to mention it in my worried state.

My youngest after getting blood taken at the doctor.

Number 2: "Know your child's medical history." The magazine suggests keeping a folder or even a smartphone app with all your child's immunizations, etc. This would be a great way for me to keep track of the number of times my daughter has been on antibiotics for something, and so if we ever do need to visit an ER you have all that information stored and don't need to remember it all. With three kids, and multiple Doctor visits it can become very confusing for me to try to remember everything. I would suggest going one step further and maybe even keeping a journal, writing down each visit and what the Dr. said each time. I am going to start doing that, it will be nice to look back even for nostalgia's sake and see how they have changed over the years.

This tip could also of course apply to adults. I know I keep a folder with all of my husbands medical information, and I keep a list of all his meds. I never know when we will need it, so I am also going to start using a smartphone app. The one that I am trying is called "My Medical". This is through iPhone and is only $1.99. The thing I like about it most is that I can keep track of the medical info for everyone in my family. This app takes down all the information, from height, weight, blood type, to allergies and medications you are currently on, and even medications you have taken in the past. I will keep you up to date on how well it does.

Screenshots from my iPhone of the My Medical app.

Number 3: "Arrive prepared." Basically, don't forget the folder with your child's (or spouse's) medical information. Be sure to bring the questions you have been thinking of with you also.

Number 4: "Take notes." Yeah, I always forget what the doctor said. I take notes all the time at the doctor, especially regarding medications. Sometimes I even have the doctor write it down, if they will, because they know the names and dosages more readily. I always write down what the doctor said about medications because the pharmacy can make mistakes. This is where the journal would come in handy. The iPhone app has a notes section for each patient you are keeping track of.

Number 5: "Don't be afraid to second-guess." This is seriously not a problem for me because I already don't completely trust doctors. Especially in Er's. But some people really find it hard to go against what a doctor tells them, even if their gut feeling is really telling them it is wrong. Trust your gut. And if you are still concerned, get a second opinion, or even a third opinion. Remember that you are your own best advocate, and when it comes to your children or your spouse, you are their best advocate also. A nurse friend of mine told me recently about my husband "you are his best nurse." That is so true, who better to provide the most personal care possible than your own mother or spouse.

Anyway I thought these tips were important, and that tutors could easily make a health literacy lesson out of these. Let me know what you think!