Monday, January 4, 2021

Happy New Year: A Freebie & and a Sale Announcement

Here's to a Happy & Healthy 2021 and what I hope will be a much better year for all!

View of the Sonoran Desert near my home in Tucson, AZ; source: The ESL Nexus

As a thank you for supporting my store this past challenging year, I've created a free resource for you. It's 4 images you can use as backgrounds if you are teaching remotely with Zoom or Google. It may work on other platforms, too, but I'm not completely sure. If you're not teaching remotely, you can just download them, print out the images, and use them as posters in your classroom. Click HERE for the link to get the resource; you'll be asked to make a copy for yourself and then you can access it. You can also click on the image below to get the freebie.

Click HERE to get your copy of the freebie; source: The ESL Nexus

In other news, I am almost finished creating Boom Cards decks for all my holiday puzzle resources. I recently uploaded decks for Martin Luther King Day Vocabulary, Valentine's Day Vocabulary, and Presidents Day Vocabulary. I'm working on the last one, which is for St. Patrick's Day, and plan to finish it in the next week or so.

Find all 3 resources in my Boom Cards Custom Category; source: The ESL Nexus

And I am pleased to announce that these 3 resources will be on sale Tuesday and Wednesday, January 5th and 6th, 2021, for the #BoomInto2021 Sale! Normally they cost $2.00 each but during the sale, they'll be discounted to $1.00 each. Each resource has definitions of 20 words related to the holiday and students have to find the correct word that matches the definitions. The first card in every deck provides instructions that tell students what to do and includes a list of the target vocabulary words. All the definitions on the cards have audio so students with lower levels of reading proficiency can listen to them instead of or in addition to reading the definitions.

Click Boom Cards Custom Category to find my resources on sale; source: The ESL Nexus

You can also find Boom resources on sale in other stores by using the #BoomInto2021 hashtag.

Happy Teaching!


Monday, December 7, 2020

These Charity Holiday Gifts Can Also Teach Your Students Social Studies

"The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others."

-- Homer

Every December, I had fun shopping for holiday gifts for my students.  I searched for small, fun things they could use in school.  I shopped at the school store and also at Target and Michael’s.  But it’s not a good idea to shop like that now during the pandemic, wandering up and down the aisles searching for that just right gift.

Fortunately, there is something else you can do!  In addition to buying tangible gifts, I also purchased something from international aid organizations’ gift catalogs, in the name of my students.  I chose something from the catalog, filled out the form and paid for it online, and in the space where it asked if the purchase was in honor of someone, I typed in the name of my class.  I didn't involve my students in selecting the item because I didn't want them to know how much I was spending but if you wanted them to have a say in it, you could.  Soon after, I got a card thanking my class for their donation.  I'll give you links to the gift catalogs I used below.

Use ideas from aid organizations' gift catalogs that help people in need, then teach your students about the country their gift came from.
Charitable donations on behalf of your students make great holiday gifts; source: The ESL Nexus

After getting the card, I told my students what I had done on their behalf and passed the card around so they could read it.  The cards were colorful and gave the kids a glimpse of life in other countries.  I put the card on a bulletin board at the front of my room and left it there for several months.  If you are teaching remotely, you can show the card to your students by sharing your screen, then place it somewhere where it’s visible in the background when you’re teaching.  My students were always intrigued and thought it was really cool when they found out what I'd done.

I did this for my middle school ESL Social Studies classes but you can do it with any grade level or class.  Because I was already teaching world geography and world history, I didn’t spend much time discussing the countries or cultures of the people whose gift the class supported.  But here are a few suggestions you can do with students if you’d like (not all may be appropriate for every grade level):
* Ask students to find the country of their donation on a map or give them a blank map of the continent in which the country is located and have them label the countries
* Draw a picture of the country’s flag and find out and then explain what the colors and any symbols on it represent
* Do some basic research about the country and write a research paper or composition about it, or pick one aspect about the culture of the country and write about it
* Create a multimedia presentation about the country, including info about population, natural resources, religion, history, economics, literacy rates, etc. (or focus on just one aspect and go into greater detail)
* Teach students some words in a language spoken in the country and/or find a few proverbs from the country and ask students what they think they mean

You may be asking yourself: Why should I donate to an organization that helps people overseas when there is so much need at home?  It’s an excellent question.  My answer is that doing this can be a great teachable moment for your students.  It exposes them to people and issues in other parts of the world that they probably know little about.  By donating to an organization that works abroad, you avoid answering any potential questions about why you’re not donating to a charity in your own community.  Of course, you can always do that on a personal level and I have some favorite charities I contribute to every December.

The first organization I did this with was Heifer International, because I knew someone who had worked there and I was therefore familiar with it.  In later years, I used the gift catalog from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), again because I had a friend who worked there and knew that they did good aid work.  I recommend both these organizations highly.  To see the Heifer Project gift catalog, click HERE.  To see the CRS gift catalog, click HERE.

Another option is to follow the recommendations by Nick Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times who writes about world affairs and has a special interest in the education of the girl child.  For the past several years, he has published a column listing lesser-known but very worthy organizations that make positive change in the world.  Last year, I donated to several of the groups mentioned and I will do so again this year.  You can find his list for this year HERE.

There’s one more organization I want to mention.  I read about it a few years ago and then just the other day saw an article in The Washington Post about it.  It’s called Postcards from Timbuktu.  Having taught my students about medieval African Kingdoms, it caught my attention.  Basically, you choose from a selection of postcards on their website, type a message you want written on it, pay in advance, and then wait to receive the postcard.  What’s special is that it really does come from Timbuktu.  One of the postcards gives you the option to have a Malian student in a local school draw a picture on the postcard, with part of the proceeds going to the school.  You can also buy a few other items from Mali through the website.  You can find out all the details HERE.  I’m going to order a postcard drawn by a student as well as a couple other things.

Even if you don’t get these before your holiday vacation begins, your students will still be excited when they hear what you have done in their honor.  Mine sure were!



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Thank You for Your Service: Honoring Veterans

"Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day."

-- Charles B. Rangel

My great uncle Nat was a veteran of World War II.  He was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne and served in Europe.  Many years later, I made a documentary about his life; most of it is an interview with him about his service during the war.  Like so many others of that generation, Uncle Nat has passed away.  This post is written to honor him and all veterans.

Have you heard of the Navajo Code Talkers?  They were a group of DinĂ© (Navajo) Marine Corps soldiers recruited in World War II who created a code based on their language.  The code was used to transmit messages throughout the Pacific theater.  The code was never broken by the Japanese and contributed greatly to the Allied victory.

Sign for Navajo Code Talkers Museum in Kayenta, AZ
Visiting the former location of the museum; source: The ESL Nexus

In 2004, when I was visiting the Navajo Nation in Arizona with my parents, we stopped for lunch at a fast-food restaurant in Kayenta.  It wasn’t a planned stop but when I saw a sign advertising a museum about the Navajo code talkers, I just had to see it.  Although it was weird to see a museum in a Burger King, the exhibit itself was fascinating.  Since my visit, the museum has moved to a larger, stand-alone building in Tuba city, Arizona.

But the DinĂ© weren’t the only indigenous people who created codes based on their language.  Many others did as well, including First Nations Cree soldiers from Canada who were sent to the U.S. to develop a code based on their language.  Not as much has been written about the work of soldiers from other indigenous groups but just the other day, I came across a short movie about a Cree soldier who helped develop the Cree code.  It’s an interview with his surviving brothers and is interspersed with period images from the wartime effort.  It's a great resource for teaching about Veterans Day.

Image showing title of Cree Code Talker movie
Available on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase; source: National Geographic

If you’re looking for materials to help teach your ELLs about Veterans Day, these resources that present 20 vocabulary words about Veterans Day in fun and engaging ways may be of interest.

Use this resource to help teach about Veterans Day
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

Use this resource to help teach about Veterans Day
Click HERE for more info; source: The ESL Nexus

Many thanks to all veterans -- we very much appreciate your service!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Halloween Is Not Just About the Candy

"UNICEF is working for the survival of children worldwide.  What can we do
to get more Americans committed to the cause?"
-- Clay Aiken

(This post has been updated for Halloween 2020.)

When I was a kid, every year on Halloween I carried a little cardboard orange box with me when I went trick-or-treating.  So did most of the other kids I went around the neighborhood with or saw walking along the streets.  Collecting money for UNICEF was as much a part of Halloween as wearing a costume and getting candy.

Bring Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to your students with their collection boxes & classroom resources.  Help kids participate in a worthy cause this Halloween!
Official logo; source: Wikimedia Commons

After I got home and dumped all my loot on the floor in the family room, I opened that little orange box and counted how much money I’d gotten in donations.  Whatever the amount was, it always made me happy that I would be able to help some less fortunate kids elsewhere in the world.

The great thing about candy is that it can't be spoiled by the adult world. Candy is innocent. And all Halloween candy pales next to candy corn, if only because candy corn used to appear, like the Great Pumpkin, solely on Halloween.
Graphic created by: The ESL Nexus

Looking back, I’m sure that carrying that small container in my left hand, the hand that didn’t hold the bag I hoped to fill with candy, played an important role in inspiring me to work overseas in development, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer helping people in West Africa grow more food and then in Asia teaching English so university students and professors could speak English with foreigners and read the journals that would help them help their communities improve their standards of living.

Halloween has changed a lot over the years.  Lots of cities and towns in the U.S. proscribe which day and what time kids can go out trick or treating.  Giving unwrapped food such as fruit is no longer an option.  Many costumes are bought, not hand-made.

Celebrate Halloween with a virtual Trick or Treat box from UNICEF
You can still celebrate Halloween! Source: UNICEF

And now, of course, with the coronavirus pandemic, celebrating Halloween will be even more different this year.  Most kids probably won't be going house-to-house asking for candy nor will people be attending Halloween parties.

But one thing is still the same: You can still go trick or treating for UNICEF!  However, in 2020, it will be completely virtual.  Instead of using the well-known little orange boxes to collect donations, this year UNICEF is collecting money virtually.  The way it works is teachers, parents, or groups sign up on the UNICEF website to get a digital collection box.  You can also sign up as an individual and get a digital box.  Then, you follow their instructions to ask for donations.  In 2020, the collection period runs from October 1st to November 15th.

Celebrate Halloween with a virtual Trick or Treat box from UNICEF.
Source: UNICEF

In addition, the UNICEF website has various activities that kids can do to learn about UNICEF and how its Trick-or-Treat program supports children around the world.  You'll also be able to choose where you'd like to send the funds you collect from a select list of organizations.  In addition, participants will receive a certificate acknowledging their participation at the end of the program period.

And if you'd like to do something in class on the actual day of Halloween, October 31st, your students might enjoy these Halloween resources from my Boom Learning store.

Find Halloween resources for students in The ESL Nexus Boom Learning store.
You can find them HERE and HERE