Wednesday, November 15, 2017

10 Gift Ideas for the Middle School Social Studies Teacher

"Verily, great grace may go with a little gift;
and precious are all things that come from a friend."
-- Theocritus

My family stopped exchanging Chanukah gifts because after so many years of giving presents to each other, we ran out of ideas.  That wasn't my choice and I was kind of disappointed because I always enjoyed looking for fun presents and seeing people's reactions when they opened them.  Fortunately, we still do birthdays!

If you know teachers who teach Social Studies to middle school students and you would like to give them a gift -- for Christmas or Chanukah, for their birthday, for Valentine's Day, or just because -- I've put together a gift guide with items they may like.  Or, you might like to get something for yourself.  Each item is either something I have used with my students or is something I would have liked to have.  I hope this gift guide lets you avoid the problem of not knowing what to get for that special Social Studies teacher in your life!

Find 10 great ideas for your favorite middle school social studies teacher in this gift guide | The ESL Nexus
Find some great ideas in this gift guide! Source: The ESL Nexus
(This post contains affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission if you make a purchase but it's at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!)

I’ve organized the items into 4 categories: Maps, Books & DVDs, Teaching Supplies, and Cultural Items.  Below each image, I explain why I’ve chosen it item for this gift guide.

MAPS
World Map

I had a Peters Projection world map in my classroom but it was very large and took up a lot of space.  This map is just 24" x 36" in size and besides the country names, it includes the names of major cities (not just capitals) as well.  Plus, it's also a relief map, which lets you show the difference between political and relief maps to your students.

USA Map

I had a boring old map of the United States that had lots of highways and cities on it.  This map is easier to read because it just shows the state capitals.  I also like the fun font and the images that are in most of the states.  They would be great sentence starters for your ELLs; for example: Why is there a picture of a car in Michigan?  This dry-erase map measures 24" x 36" and comes with a marker.

BOOKS & DVDS
The History Book Box: Step Into the Ancient World

I love this series!  It contains 8 books about the following ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Japan, the Aztec & Maya, the Inca, and the Celtic World.  I wish it also included China but you can't have everything.  :-)  This collection is great because each book contains historical information, including timelines, that you can use as a reference for yourself and it also has crafts/projects that students can make.  And the instructions are clear enough that even ELLs at intermediate levels of language proficiency can follow them.  I especially like the project for making a Mesopotamian ziggurat -- my students had lots of fun with that.

Liberty's Kids -- the Complete Series -- Education Edition

If, on the other hand, you are teaching American history, you won't go wrong with these DVDs.  Liberty's Kids was an animated TV show about the Revolutionary War and I videotaped as many episodes as I could when it was broadcast.  Yes, it's old, but it's timeless!  I used the episodes as activators with my students.  What's great about this boxed set is that it has the extra features from the TV show; you can find the episodes online for free but they don't include the fun educational segments such as comparing life then and now, or the vocabulary games.

Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary

I wish I'd had this book when I was still a classroom teacher!  Learning academic vocabulary was one of the biggest needs of my students and my repertoire of techniques to teach it was not very large.  Then I read this book and was amazed at all the different ways there are to teach vocabulary.  There are about 20 different techniques presented in this book, which also includes background info about vocabulary instruction.  The only thing I don't like is that it's a flip book and spiral bound on top, which took me a bit of time to get used to.

Big Book of Social Studies (Elementary)

Don't let the title fool you -- I used the materials in this book with my 7th and 8th graders without any problem.  If you are already familiar with Dina Zike's materials, this book has 150+ pages of background info and her folded paper templates that students can use to demonstrate their Social Studies learning.  They are a great way to integrate art with an academic subject as students can draw and color their work.  What's also nice about this book is that it's cross-referenced in all sorts of ways so it's easy to find a template that's appropriate for whatever you are teaching.

TEACHING SUPPLIES
AmazonBasics Ruled Index Cards

I prefer the colored index cards because I could separate them out by Social Studies topic or the purpose they'd be used for.  I often made vocabulary memory-matching games for students to play: Words go on cards of one color, definitions on cards of another color.  I like index cards with lines on them because that made it easier to write the definitions on them.  I also used colored index cards to write vocab words for playing Charades; each unit had the same colored cards.  I didn't use this specific brand of index cards but I'm including them in this gift guide because I think they're a good deal.

File Folders

I couldn't live without file folders! I bought them in bulk every year before school started and often had to buy more as the year progressed.  These aren't the exact folders I used because I bought mine at a brick-and-mortar store but they are the same style.  Students in each grade -- I taught at least 4 grade levels every year -- had the same color for writing assignments, so it was easy for me to identify and shelve the folders of my students.  They put finished work in one pocket and unfinished work in the other pocket.  I also gave each of my students a folder to keep their homework organized; I let them choose that color and they could decorate their folder however they wished.  And I used folders to organize my own stuff: administrative papers, handouts for each class, weekly progress forms I sent home to keep families informed, ESL paperwork, and so on.

CULTURAL ITEMS
ILANET Museum Reproductions

I have been fortunate enough to travel to several countries and wherever I go, I like to buy jewelry that is representative of those countries.  Then, when I taught about those cultures, I shared the jewelry (and other artifacts I bought) with my students.  Sometimes I used it as an activator and sometimes I used it as a writing task, where students had to write a description of the item or explain what they thought it was and what it was made of.  However, not everyone is able to go to the countries they are teaching about.  So I found this company that sells jewelry based on museum reproductions.  To be perfectly honest, I haven't bought anything from them so I can't personally vouch for the quality but the items look real nice and they come in a range of prices.  The item above shows a pair of Egyptian Scarab Engraved Carnelian Earrings.  There are 20 pages of items, including a collection of cuff links for your male teacher colleagues.

Talisman -- Single Evil Eye Protection

Last but definitely not least, you can hang this Evil Eye pendant in your classroom to ward off negative vibes.  I had an Evil Eye magnet of about the same size that I bought in Turkey and I put it on the white board at the front of my classroom.  I wouldn't say that nothing bad never happened...but who's to say things wouldn't have been worse if I hadn't had my Evil Eye magnet in my room!?

I hope this helps you find some gifts for your middle school Social Studies-teaching friends, colleagues, relatives, and of course, yourself.  Enjoy!

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Using Technology to Teach Holidays in a Culturally Sensitive Way

"This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!"
-- David Dellinger

When you have students from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds in your classes, it is super important to be aware of the impact your teaching during the holiday season can have.  Many schools put up displays for Christmas and Chanukah in administrators' offices and many teachers like to decorate their classrooms for the holidays.

But what if your students are English Language Learners who are refugees fleeing religious persecution?  Or are immigrants who follow a little-known religion in the U.S. or other Western countries?  Or are students who don't believe in celebrating holidays at all?  How can teachers be culturally sensitive to these concerns while still acknowledging the desire to partake in the spirit of the holiday season?  Are there any technology tools that can help teachers navigate this fraught topic?

Please join Laurah from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J and me when we delve into this topic in our next #ELLEdTech chat on Sunday, November 19, 2017.  We'll be discussing Using Tech Tools to Teach Holidays in a Culturally Sensitive Way. We'd love to hear your ideas so please come and participate in the chat at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific time.  Details are below.

Come & join the discussion about using tech tools to teach about holidays in a culturally sensitive way in the #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on 11/19/17 | The ESL Nexus
Join the #ELLEdTech chat on November 19, 2017; source: The ESL Nexus
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction: Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What does it mean to teach holidays in a "culturally sensitive" way? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do you make sure to address holidays in a culturally sensitive way with your students? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: How can tech tools help with a culturally sensitive approach to holidays? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: What tech tools would you recommend for teaching holidays in a culturally sensitive way? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers who want to use tech to teach holidays in a culturally sensitive manner? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.
4. Starting at 7:05, @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.
7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

Come & join the discussion about using tech tools to teach about holidays in a culturally sensitive way in the #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on 11/19/17 | The ESL Nexus
Your participation is welcome! Source: The ESL Nexus
You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet. If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.



Is this your first Twitter chat? Here are our rules:
1. Please stay on topic.
2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked.
3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!
5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.)

You are welcome to let your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday!

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Monday, October 16, 2017

What is the Silent Period and Why is It Important?

"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together."
-- Thomas Carlyle

When I was still teaching lower elementary English Language Learners, one of my students was a Chinese-American girl whose native language was Mandarin.  She didn’t know any English when she started school -- her father told me the family wanted their daughter to maintain her Chinese language skills so they only used Chinese at home.  At school, the girl barely spoke the entire day. 

That concerned her teacher, who wondered if there might be a special education issue that was the reason for the student's silence.  I was asked to observe the child in her pre-school class.  What I saw was a little girl who was alert and doing her best to follow along with what was going on.  When the teacher called on her for something (so I could see how she reacted), she spoke so softly it was almost impossible to hear what she said. 

Learn what the Silent Period is in English language learning, the characteristics that influence how long an ELL remains in the Silent Period, and the teaching implications for students who are in the Silent Period. | The ESL Nexus
Silence is an important part of learning for ELLs; source: The ESL Nexus
But I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary that indicated a learning disability, just a child who didn’t know English who was doing her best to keep up with her class.  To get a better sense of things, I chatted with her in Mandarin, which I’d learned when I worked in China, and that reinforced my view that this English Language Learner was just going through the Silent Period.  (For information on identifying learning disabilities in English Language Learners, please see my resource, Is it an ESL Issue or a Special Ed Issue?)

The Silent Period is a concept developed by Stephen Krashen, a noted linguist who has written prolifically about second language acquisition.  All teachers should know about the Silent Period because it’s a stage in the process of learning English that all ELLs go through, regardless of age.  Simply put, it means that before an ELL starts speaking in English, he or she spends time watching and listening to people use the language.  During this time, it might appear that the ELL is just passively sitting in the classroom.  In fact, although the student is not orally participating in class or rarely does so, she or he is absorbing the structures and vocabulary of the English language.  Learning is definitely occurring!  This stage of second language learning is also called the pre-production stage.

Learn what the Silent Period is in English language learning, the characteristics that influence how long an ELL remains in the Silent Period, and the teaching implications for students who are in the Silent Period. | The ESL Nexus
Just because an ELL isn't talking, that doesn't mean an ELL isn't learning; source: The ESL Nexus
The length of time an ELL spends in the Silent Period depends on several characteristics.  Personality is one factor; if an ELL is naturally out-going and an extrovert, that student is likely to emerge from the Silent Period more quickly than shy, introverted students.  ELLs who come from cultures where active learning and participation is not emphasized, such as some Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, will probably spend more time in the Silent Period.  How closely the ELL’s native language is related to English also influences the length of time a student spends in the Silent Period; the less closely related, the longer the time will be.  Age is also a factor.  Younger ELLs tend to spend more time in the Silent Period than older ones.  According to the American-Speech-Language-Hearing-Association, “Older children may remain in the silent period for a few weeks or a few months, whereas preschoolers may be relatively silent for a year or more.” 

What are the teaching implications of the Silent Period?  First of all, it’s imperative that regular ed teachers do not force ELLs to speak in class if they are just beginning to learn English.  That is counter-productive; a major reason ELLs go through the Silent Period is because they don’t want to make a mistake when speaking English and risk being ridiculed by their classmates.  Instead, teachers need to use other ways to involve their pre-emergent ELLs in their classes.  Activities that involve movement, such as using commands to do things; letting ELLs draw about topics instead of talking about them; using lots of visuals and realia to explain meaning; working with a partner where the ELL need only speak to one person instead of the whole class, which minimizes embarrassment if errors are made; and letting students use their native language to communicate, will all support the language learning of ELLs in the Silent Period.

Learn what the Silent Period is in English language learning, the characteristics that influence how long an ELL remains in the Silent Period, and the teaching implications for students who are in the Silent Period. | The ESL Nexus
The duration of the Silent Period varies among ELLs; source: The ESL Nexus
When an ELL is ready to speak, that’s when the Silent Period for that student will end.  At this point, the student will have the confidence to participate orally in class but will still make mistakes when speaking.  To encourage continued participation, teachers should not focus on the errors, although a little gentle modeling of correct language may be done so the ELL hears the correct form.  Learning English is a process and when an ELL emerges from the Silent Period, she or he is ready to begin the next stage of acquiring the English language.

In the case of my Chinese-American student, she was very quiet in my kindergarten ESL class and rarely spoke above a whisper.  I had her again the next year in my 1st grade ESL class and she was much more talkative then.  In fact, when she spoke, her grammar was excellent.  She was obviously the kind of student who didn’t want to speak English until she was able to do so without making major mistakes.  At the end of 1st grade, she exited the ESL program -- which was highly unusual since virtually all of my students needed at least a third year of language support -- because she was doing so well.  Her time in the Silent Period clearly was beneficial and she was very successful in her classes in the years that followed.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to Build Background Knowledge: October 2107 #ELLEdTech Chat

"Many of the gaps in my knowledge and understanding were simply limits of class and cultural background, not lack of aptitude or application as I feared."
-- Sonya Sotomayor

My professors in grad school emphasized the importance of developing schema among English Language Learners.  Schema is the fancy word for background knowledge.  (And schemata is the plural.)  ELLs who are immigrants or who grow up in the U.S. immersed in cultures that are not the dominant American culture often come to school lacking essential information that would help them be successful. 

For example, ELLs may not be familiar with the traditions of American holidays such as Halloween or Thanksgiving.  They might not have the same reaction to hearing the names George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as kids who’ve grown up hearing about them and celebrating these iconic presidents.  They probably have never heard various proverbs, like An apple a day keeps the doctor away.   ELLs are at a disadvantage when they are in classes with other students who already have this cultural foundation if their teachers do not provide the background knowledge they need in order to fully understand lessons that build on these concepts.

You are invited to the October #ELLEdTech chat on 10/15/17, where we'll discuss using technology tools to build background knowledge | The ESL Nexus
This is why building schema for ELLs is essential; source: The ESL Nexus
It’s not just holidays and history, though, where building background knowledge is essential.  Culture permeates learning!  When students read fiction or information texts in language arts, when they do word problems in math, when they read about discoveries in science – there’s often an underlying assumption that people will recognize and understand the unstated cultural aspects in those subjects.  When ELLs don’t understand those references, their learning can suffer.

This is even more important when it comes to taking tests.  That’s why there are committees who analyze every test item on standardized tests to ensure there is no cultural bias in them.  I served on one such committee in Massachusetts and it was fascinating to see how the process worked.  We spent a lot of time doing our best to ensure that students did not need any prior background knowledge in order to answer questions correctly.

If you are interested in finding out how you can help build schema in your ELLs, please join us this Sunday, October 15, 2017, for this month’s #ELLEdTech chat.  We’ll discuss what technology tools can help build background knowledge, what their pros and cons are, and offer some advice for teachers who would like to use these tools.

You are invited to the October #ELLEdTech chat on 10/15/17, where we'll discuss using technology tools to build background knowledge | The ESL Nexus
All are welcome! source: Tools for Teachers by Laurah J
Here are the details:

Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction: Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: What tools do you recommend to help ELLs with background knowledge? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do these tools help teachers facilitate ELLs’ learning? #ELLEdTech
7:21 = Q3: What are the advantages & benefits of using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4: Are there any cons or drawbacks teachers or students might have when using these tools? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What advice do you have for teachers on using technology to build background knowledge? #ELLEdTech

Directions for Joining the Chat
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday; the chat runs from 7:00 - 7:45pm Eastern.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #ELLEdTech in the search bar.  Make sure to click “All tweets.”
3. The first five minutes will be spent introducing ourselves.
4. Starting at 7:05, @ESOL_Odyssey or @The_ESL_Nexus will post questions every 8 minutes using Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. to identify the questions and the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
5.  Answer the questions by prefacing them with A1, A2, A3, etc. and use the hashtag #ELLEdTech.
6.  Follow any teachers who respond and are also using #ELLEdTech.
7.  Like (click the heart icon) and post responses to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your answers to the questions in advance by using an online scheduler such as TweetDeck or HootSuite (and remember to use A1, A2, etc. and #ELLEdTech).  Links are encouraged, but use tinyurl, bitly, goo.gl or ow.ly to shorten your link so it can be included in your tweet.  Just click one of those links, paste the longer link in the app's box to shorten it for Twitter, then paste the shortened link into your tweet. If you have relevant images, we encourage you to post them, too.



Is this your first Twitter chat? Here are our rules:
1. Please stay on topic.
2. Please do not post about paid products unless explicitly asked.
3. If you arrive after the chat has started, please try to read the previous tweets before joining in.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet if you prefer -- we know the first time can be a little overwhelming!
5. Always use the hashtag #ELLEdTech when tweeting.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to "public." (And do remember that Twitter is completely public; that means anyone--students, parents, administrators--may see what you tweet.)

You are welcome to let your teacher friends who might be interested in joining us know about this Twitter chat. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday!

SHARE:
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