Saturday, February 16, 2019

The February #ELLEdTech Chat is Cancelled

"The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.
Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed."
-- Eminem

Due to unforeseen circumstances, neither Laurah nor I are able to host the #ELLEdTech chat that is scheduled for tomorrow.  As a result, the February chat is cancelled. We hope to be back next month!

The 2019 February #ELLEdTech chat is cancelled, due to unforeseen circumstances |The ESL Nexus
There is no #ELLEdTech chat this month; source: The ESL Nexus


Monday, February 4, 2019

13 Ways Learning to Use an Instant Pot is Like Learning English

"If you're cooking and not making mistakes, you're not
playing outside your safety zone."
-- Guy Fieri

If you're cooking and not making mistakes, you're not playing outside your safety zone.
Read more at: you're cooking and not making mistakes, you're not playing outside your safety zone
Me learning to use an Instant Pot is like my students learning to use English.  I bought an Instant Pot during the cyber sale over Thanksgiving weekend last year and as I went through the process of figuring out how to use it, I was reminded of the stages of language acquisition that English Language Learners go through as they develop fluency in English.

How learning to use an Instant Pot is like learning to speak English | The ESL Nexus
My new Instant Pot; source: The ESL Nexus
* I was scared to try it because I didn’t want to do anything wrong and inadvertently break it — Just as newcomers are often scared to say anything in English for fear of saying something incorrectly.
* So I held off for a couple weeks and let it sit in the box it came in, silently reminding me every time I looked at it that I needed to take it out of the box and make sure it functioned properly — Just like the Silent Period often experienced by ELLs.

Early Production
* Eventually I opened the box and found a place for my Instant Pot on my kitchen counter — After a while, ELLs gather up their courage and say a few words in English.
* But I was busy and put off reading the instruction manual for several more days because when I first glanced at it, it seemed too technical — ELLs who are not proficient in English get easily frustrated when they try to read texts that are beyond their comprehension level.
* When I did read the manual, it was very confusing and I didn’t understand it — The English language is confusing to ELLs when they first encounter it because they don’t yet have the social language, let alone the technical or domain-specific vocabulary needed to succeed in school.

Speech Emergent
* I decided to take a risk and invited my parents and aunt over for a dinner in which the main dish would be made in my Instant Pot — At some point, ELLs decide they have to start using English, often because they want to socialize with their classmates.
* I searched online for a recipe that looked easy to make — ELLs try out simple language first, using common words and phrases.
* But I didn’t take into account the time needed to heat up the device, so we ended up eating much later than I'd planned – ELLs make lots of errors when speaking and still don’t understand grade-level texts at this point.
* I wasn’t sure how to clean it afterwards and asked friends what to do — ELLs rely on their friends and other people to help them communicate in their new language.

Intermediate Fluency
* I used it a few more times, cooking different types of dishes, but I still miscalculated how long it’d take to cook them — ELLs start using more complex features of the English language as they begin to feel more comfortable with it, though they still make some mistakes.
* I took a risk and cooked dry garbanzo beans in it, because one of the main reasons I wanted an Instant Pot was to be able to cook beans quickly, and they turned out really well — As ELLs become more proficient, they experiment and try out new language structures.

Advanced Fluency
* I invited my aunt and parents over again to celebrate my aunt’s birthday and made a more complicated dish using the high pressure setting, and everyone thought it was delicious — ELLs are able to communicate well with others, making minimal errors and using higher level vocabulary and grammar structures.
* I now feel reasonably confident in using my Instant Pot — As ELLs develop more proficiency and improve their skills, they, too, develop more confidence in using the English language for various purposes and it often becomes almost second nature to speak, listen, read, and write in English.

Now, I am excited about using my Instant Pot and will branch out from just sautéing and following recipes to the letter to using the other functions and cooking more complicated dishes.  I have become fluent in the language of the Instant Pot and understand how the recipes are written so now I can create original meals of my own.

Likewise, ELLs in the last stage of language acquisition are able to use complex grammar structures and high level academic vocabulary when speaking and writing, they can comprehend the grade-level texts that they read, they are able to play with the language and make and understand jokes, they understand what they hear without first translating it into their native language, and they understand the songs and dialog they hear in movies, TV shows and podcasts.  In other words, ELLs have become fluent in their use of the English language.


Monday, January 21, 2019

7 African Musicians and Bands You Need to Know

"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin
and culture is like a tree without roots."
-- Marcus Garvey

(This post was originally published on February 1, 2016 and has been updated with more links.)

What is the message that is given to students when a Social Studies course on World Geography has textbooks for Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and North America but not for Africa or Latin America?  That was the situation I found myself in when I had to teach that subject at my former school.

I was able to draw on my Peace Corps Volunteer work in Sierra Leone and create lessons based on my experience there.  But what was a teacher who’d never been to Africa supposed to do?  Nowadays, you can just Google “Africa” and get 3,570,000,000 hits.  But before that?  You were kind of stuck.  Maybe there were some books that weren’t too out-of-date in the library that you could use.

Going Back to My Roots for Black History Month--7 Musicians & Bands from Africa | The ESL Nexus
Pan-African flag -- for more info about its history, click HERE; source: Wikimedia Commons
I’ve always enjoyed listening to music from other countries and when I was in Sierra Leone — way before Ebola and long before the civil war — I got tape cassettes made of my favorite music.  So one thing I did in my 6th and 7th grade World Geography classes was play music as an activator when students were coming into my classroom.  I also played songs in the background when they were working on class assignments during our Africa unit.  Even though the kids didn’t particularly like the music — because it wasn’t what they were used to hearing — I wanted to expose them to it.

Interestingly but ironically, much of the music I heard in Sierra Leone was not actually by Sierra Leonean musicians or bands.  One of the songs I liked was Going Back to My Roots by Odyssey, which I found out later was an American group.  Music from England, Jamaica, Australia, and the U.S. as well as other African countries was very popular.

The most famous band nowadays from Sierra Leone is Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, whose most well-known song is Living Like a Refugee.  They have performed in the U.S. and you can watch a video of them playing a few of their songs for NPR here.  In addition, a documentary about how they got together in a refugee camp during the Sierra Leonean civil war in the 1990s is available at Amazon and on Netflix (DVD only, though) which I highly recommend.  The video could even be shown to students if you provide some background information beforehand.  You can find their music on iTunes and Spotify(The Amazon link is an affiliate link, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase but it's at no additional cost to you -- thanks for your support!)

Another Sierra Leonean musician is Sorie Kondi.  Actually, kondi is the name of the instrument he plays -- a thumb piano.  Sorie Kondi is blind and self-taught.  He has toured in the U.S. and you can hear one of his songs here.  You can find more of his music on iTunes and Spotify.  His music is more traditional than Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars.

Going Back to My Roots for Black History Month--7 Musicians & Bands from Africa | The ESL Nexus
African continent carved out of a coconut husk by a Sierra Leonean craftsman; source: The ESL Nexus
Below is a list of 5 other famous African musicians and bands whose music you can play in your own classes during Black History Month or whenever you are teaching about Africa.  All of them have music for sale in the iTunes music store and some are also available on other music streaming sites as well as on YouTube.  Click on their names to go to websites to hear some of their music.  Click on the Spotify links if you'd like to hear more music by these musicians.

Youssou N'Dour, from Senegal: Singing Wake Up (It's Africa Calling), performed with Nenah Cherry as a benefit for a health organization.  Find more of his music on Spotify.

Fela Kuti, from Nigeria: Songs and videos on his official website but some of the content may not be suitable for younger students.  Find more of his music on Spotify.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, from South Africa: Selections of some of their songs on their official website; they are 4-time Grammy award winners.  Find more of their music on Spotify

Sonny Okosun, from Nigeria: Singing Fire in Soweto, a big hit in 1977.  Find more of his music on Spotify.

Johnny Clegg, from South Africa: Song selections on his official website; he was the leader of a multi-racial band in the 1970s and 1980s.  Find more music by him and his band on Spotify.

You can use these artists' music to jump start teaching about Africa in your own classes.  Just play some of the songs and, if you have the time, show some of the videos as well.  The more students learn about what Africa is really like the better, and music is a great way to do that!


Monday, January 14, 2019

How to Prepare for Classroom and Standardized Tests: An #ELLEdTech Chat

"I was the guy that would cram for everything, so I guess I was a bit of a slacker.
I was a procrastinator. I spent a lot of all-nighters getting ready for tests."
-- Chuck Liddell

I know I’m not alone in saying I hated taking standardized tests.  The pressure of having to finish within a proscribed time period combined with not knowing precisely what would be on the test generated a high level of anxiety.  And to top it off, it often took weeks before I found out the results.  Taking tests for classroom subjects in high school and college were easier because the teachers and professors reviewed what exactly would be on them and I usually found out fairly quickly what my grade was, which alleviated the anxiety of waiting and wondering how I’d done.

English Language Learners, who have to respond not only to content-area questions but must also do it in a language they are not proficient in, have it doubly hard.  But there are lots of things teachers can do to help ELLs succeed on the tests they have to take.  I taught my students strategies for taking tests that I myself had successfully used when studying for a foreign language placement exam for a French program and for the Massachusetts test to become certified in teaching Social Studies.  I created a resource based on those strategies and additional research and while I can’t guarantee your students will ace all the tests they take, implementing them should give them confidence and help them better prepare for their exams.  I also have a Pinterest board about assessment that you might find helpful.
For more info, click HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
In addition to test preparation strategies, there are also test-taking strategies that can be taught as well as various websites for reviewing specific types of content material.  For the content subject tests I gave my students, I always announced them several days in advance and reminded them every subsequent day about it, and spent the day before a scheduled test reviewing the material with them.  I did various kinds of reviews so they wouldn’t get bored.  When I had to administer the WIDA ACCESS test to my students, and the LAS test before that, I spent the week beforehand giving students practice tests to acclimate them to the test formats.

Since the time for administering the WIDA ACCESS test has begun, I thought it’d be useful to spend the next #ELLEdTech chat discussing Tech Tools for Teaching Test Prep and Test-Taking Strategies.  Laurah, my co-host, isn’t able to join us so I’ll be solo hosting this month.  Please join in so I’m not talking to myself! 

The chat is on Sunday, January 20, 2019, at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific and Midnight UTC (sorry about that!).  Below are the details.

Join the January #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on Sunday, 1/20/19 to discuss test prep & test-taking strategies for ELLs | The ESL Nexus
All are welcome -- please join us!  Source: The ESL Nexus
Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction:  Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught. #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: How do you prepare ELLs for classroom tests &/or standardized testing? #ELLEdTech?
7:13 = Q2:  What is your favorite tech tool for teaching test prep or test-taking skills to ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:21 =  Q3:  Why do you like that tool for teaching test prep or test-taking skills to ELLs? #ELLEdTech
7:29 = Q4:  What do teachers or ELLs need to know in order to use your favorite tool successfully? #ELLEdTech
7:37 = Q5: What other tools would you recommend for teaching test prep or test-taking skills to ELLs? #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, @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, or 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.  And remember to check out my Pinterest board on Assessment and ELLs, which posts resources, articles and ideas about this topic.