Friday, May 18, 2018

Can Tech Tools Develop Critical Thinking Skills in ELLs?

"Kids need time for problem solving, critical thinking, applying knowledge through project-based instruction, working in teams, falling down and getting right back up to figure out what they didn't understand and why."
-- Randi Weingarten

Teaching English Language Learners means, obviously, teaching them the English language.  But it also means much more.  It includes teaching these students content area subject matter in ways they can understand the material so they can stay on grade level with their English-speaking peers.  It’s also important to teach ELLs 21st century skills that will enable them to thrive in the workplace after they finish their education.

To that end, Laurah from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J and I are beginning a series of Twitter chats about the 4 Cs: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and Innovation.  Our first topic will be Critical Thinking and will take place on Sunday, May 20th, at 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific time.

Come and discuss using tech tools to develop ELLs' critical thinking skills in the next #ELLEdTech Twitter chat on May 20, 2018 | The ESL Nexus
You're invited to participate in the May 2018 Twitter chat! source: The ESL Nexus
If you’d like to read up on the concepts beforehand, this is a useful article.  Pages 8 – 13 specifically discuss the concept of Critical Thinking.  Come join us and discuss how you develop this skill with ELLs!  Details are below:

Schedule and Questions
7:00 = Introduction: Tell us your name, location, level/grade and subject taught. #ELLEdTech
7:05 = Q1: Which tech tools do you use to help your students engage in Critical Thinking? #ELLEdTech
7:13 = Q2: How do these tools help teachers facilitate Critical Thinking for ELLs at all proficiency levels? #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 who want to use technology to support Critical Thinking with 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, @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, 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. We look forward to chatting with you on Sunday!


Monday, May 14, 2018

What Do You Know about Islam and Ramadan?

"I like to read about different religions -- Judaism, Islam,
Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism."
-- Wesley Snipes

I have lived in the Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia and Sierra Leone and visited and worked in other countries with significant Muslim populations as well: Turkey, India, China, and Mali.  In addition, Muslims comprise about 1% of the population of the United States, according to a 2016 Pew Forum estimate.  Many of the ELLs I taught over the years in the U.S. were Muslim and came from Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and the Central Asian republics.

Did you know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world?  As of 2015, there were 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.  Christianity has more adherents but because Muslim women have more children and the overall population of Muslims skews younger, Islam is growing faster than any other religion.

Learn some facts about Islam, just in time for Ramadan 2018! | The ESL Nexus
Mosques the author has visited; clockwise from top left: Turkey, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, India;
source: The ESL Nexus
Did you know that Indonesia has more Muslims than Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam?  Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world by population (after China, India, and the U.S.) with around 261 million people, and has the largest Muslim population in the world.  I traveled around Indonesia for several weeks in 1992 and then worked there the following year in the city of Banjarmasin on the island of Borneo.  Banjarmasin was very religiously conservative, with most women wearing a hijab and dressing modestly.  But when I went to Jakarta to visit my uncle, his Muslim wife and their 2 kids who lived in the capital, most women didn’t cover their hair and I saw plenty of women wearing mini-skirts.  In fact, nowhere in the Qu'ran does it explicitly say that Muslim women must cover their hair.

Did you know that Islam is split into 2 main branches, Sunni and Shia, and the primary reason was caused by a dispute over the rightful successor to Mohammad, the prophet who founded the religion?  There are far more Sunni Muslims than Shia Muslims around the world.  Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon have the largest Shia populations.  Within Islam, there are dimensions of practice, such as fundamentalist Wahabis and mystical Sufis, just as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism include different denominations.

Did you know that at one time, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, had the same number of minarets as the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia?  But another minaret was added to the mosque in Mecca because of its importance as the birthplace of Islam.  Only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca so I will never be able to visit the city.  But I feel fortunate that I have been able to see the wide range of architectural styles of mosques in Asia, Africa, and in the U.S.  There was even a mosque in the small Massachusetts city where I taught ESL for many years because many Turkish families lived there.

Learn some facts about Islam, just in time for Ramadan 2018! | The ESL Nexus
Special foods are eaten to break the fast; source: The ESL Nexus
Did you know that fasting during Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam; that is, one of the basic tenets of the faith?  It was near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, in 1975, where I saw a man butchering a sheep to provide food for the poor during Ramadan.  Giving charity, or zakat, is another Pillar of Islam.  Years later, when I was working in Banjarmasin, Indonesia, there were street stalls surrounding the Great Mosque selling sweets for iftar, to break the fast each day during Ramadan.  Even though I didn't fast, I often bought one because they were so delicious.

Ramadan in 2018 begins on May 15th in the U.S.  If you would like to learn more about this important holiday or teach your students about it, check out my Ramadan Activities resource in my TpT store.  It includes reading, speaking, and writing resources plus posters you can use for a bulletin board display.

Find 5 activities for Ramadan in this resource | The ESL Nexus
For more info, click HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
If you work with Muslim students, you might also be interested in this blog post.  It discusses what you can do to help your students navigate the school cafeteria during Ramadan and the rest of the year.

Ramadan Mubarak!


Monday, May 7, 2018

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week With These Deals!

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops."
-- Henry Adams

(This post has been updated for 2018.)

It's that time of year again: Teacher Appreciation Week!  Personally, I think people should thank teachers all year long for what they do but it's also real nice when companies give educators a special shout out.

For flyers, certificates, and social media images to promote Teacher Appreciation Week in your school or community, check out the National PTA materials on their website.

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with These Deals & a TpT Sale! | The ESL Nexus
Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with these special offers! source: The ESL Nexus
The places listed below are offering special deals this May.  Some of them are nationwide and others are only in certain regions but the deals looked good so I included them.  Many other businesses offer discounts to educators throughout the year but I did not include them in this round up.  Just click on the names to go to their websites for more information.

Food and Restaurants
Chipotle Mexican Grill
What: All educators can take advantage of their BOGO free Burritos, Bowls, Salads, or orders of Tacos
When: Tuesday, May 8th from 3:00pm – Closing
How: Show a valid faculty ID; for in-restaurant orders only

What: 1 free Adult Buffet (drink not included)
When: Tuesday, May 8th
How: Show a valid school ID; at participating locations only

What: Teachers and nurses get 50% off their entire order
When: Tuesday, May 8th; all day long
How: Show a valid school ID

Einstein Bros. Bagels
What: 20% off any order for delivery or pickup (may be limited to breakfast and lunch -- it's not entirely clear)
When: Between May 7th - May 11th
How: Use promo code 9053 when ordering

Breugger's Bagels
What: 20% off any breakfast or lunch catering order for pickup or delivery
When: Between May 7th - May 11th
How: It's not entirely clear; perhaps just mention the ad on their website

Uberrito (Houston and Phoenix locations)
What: Teachers, faculty, and staff can get a free entree (burrito, bowl, salad or nachos) during regular store hoursWhen: Tuesday, May 8th during regular store hours
How: Show a valid school ID 

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grill (East Coast chain)
What: Teachers receive a free meal or $12 off the cost of a meal of their choice
When: Tuesday, May 8th
How: Show a valid school ID; at participating locations only

Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar (East Coast chain)
What: 1 free shake to teachers and administrators, in-store only
When: Tuesday, May 8th
How: Not specified but you probably need to show a valid school ID

Lindt Chocolates
What: Almost $6.00 off a 31.7 ounce bag of Milk Lindor Truffles (it's not exclusively for teachers but it's chocolate so I have to include it!)
When: No deadline given but probably until they run out
How: Click on the link (i.e. the green title)

Educational Activity
Kennedy Space Center
What: Free admission for one educator to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and $5 off tickets for accompanying family and friends
When: Between now and May13th
How: Download the coupon on their website and bring it and a valid school ID to the ticket window

For Arizona Educators
Teacher Appreciation Night at the Heard Museum
What: A free after-hours evening at the museum, with appetizers and drinks provided for you and a guest
When: Tuesday, May 8th; 4:00 - 8:00pm
How: Reserve a place by sending an email to the address on the website

Business Discounts in Douglas, Flagstaff, Mesa, Prescott & Other Deals
What: Some businesses in various cities are offering discounts to teachers
When: During Teacher Appreciation Week; days vary for each business

How: Varies according to the business; check out the links on this website for info 

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week with These Deals & a TpT Sale! | The ESL Nexus
Enjoy great savings during the TpT Sale! source: The ESL Nexus
Resources for Teachers
What: Annual Teacher Appreciation Sitewide Sale -- All resources in my store, The ESL Nexus, will be 20% off and many other stores will also offer discounts
When: Tuesday, May 8th and Wednesday, May 9th
How: Use promo code THANKYOU18
for an additional 5% off to save 25% in my TpT store (discounts in other stores may vary)

What: A contest to qualify for a $1,000 donation from GoFundMe
When: Complete the requirements by May 18th.
How: 1) Create a campaign between May 1 – May 18th
         2) Include the hashtag #WeLoveTeachers in the description
         3) Raise at least $500 by May 18th

Blue Mountain Cards
What: 7 free cards with teacher themes (great to give to colleagues or if you are a parent, to your children's teachers)
When: No timeframe is given
How: Download them from the website

We Are Teachers
What: 12 free printable thank you cards for students to give their teachers
When: Anytime
How: Click the link at the bottom of the webpage to download the cards

We Are Teachers
What: 12 ideas for thanking classroom volunteers
When: Anytime
How: Click on the links on the webpage for details about each ide

What: Current and retired educators get 10% off & free shipping on Hanes, Champion, OneHanesPlace, and JustMySize products
When: No time frame is given
How: Get a promo code and order from their website

Bored Teachers
What: 30% off products in their store
When: No time frame is given
How: Order from their website

If you know of other special Teacher Appreciation Week offers, please add them in the Comments section below.  Wishing you a wonderful week!

Monday, April 23, 2018

3 Ways for Teaching with National Parks Websites

"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
-- Wallace Stegner

To celebrate Earth Day, this past Saturday I visited Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.  Located in southern Arizona, it is an archeological site with ruins from the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People culture.  Also known as the Hohokam, although their descendants today prefer the former designation, you can see parts of the structures they built and learn how they survived in a harsh desert climate around 700 years ago.

Since this is National Parks Week, I thought I’d share a few of my photos and suggest a couple ways to use them with your students.  Not every U.S. state has an actual national park but there are 417 sites that fall under the National Park Service system, such as national monuments, national battlefields, and national scenic trails.  So there should be something in your state!
3 ideas for using National Parks websites with ELLs: Writing, reading, speaking, vocabulary & grammar activities for ELLs at a range of proficiency levels. | The ESL Nexus
Views of Casa Grande Ruins in Arizona; source: The ESL Nexus
To see 5 of my photographs of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument that you can use in the activities described below, just click HERE.    You’ll be prompted to make a copy for yourself, then you’ll be able to see each photo individually and project it on a whiteboard if you wish.  Besides the 4 photos shown in the image above, there's another view from the front of the monument.

Below are 3 activities you can do with your students that involve using National Parks websites.  To find a park (or national monument, river, trail, battleground, etc.) by state, use the National Park Service website.  To find a location by type of site, use the National Park Foundation website.

Idea #1: Writing, Vocabulary
Write a sentences or a paragraph that compares and contrasts your selected site with Casa Grande.  Show my photos of Casa Grande and elicit details about what students see in each picture.  Then tell students to look at photos of a place in their state and write about what they see in the photos. They can write about details such as:
    * The flora and fauna
    * If the sites are still in use, or if they are ruins
    * If they are in a rural or urban area
    * Anything else they notice that can be compared or contrasted
You can choose some photos from one place in advance and project them on a whiteboard so everyone sees the same images, if you are limited in the number of devices you have that connect to the Internet.  Students can work in individually, in small groups, or you can do this as a whole class activity and model how to write a good paragraph.  To help your students do this kind of writing, check out my Beyond the Venn Diagram resource, which offers 2 formats for compare and contrast writing.  This would work well for ELLs at lower language proficiency levels. Students at beginning proficiency levels can make lists of words in a T-chart instead of writing sentences.

Idea #2: Reading, Writing
First, go to the website for Casa Grande and with the whole class, read about it out loud.  I recommend reading about its history and culture if such a section is available.  Then, tell your students to select a site, read about it, and write a description of it.  Students can work in small groups if there aren’t enough devices for each student.  This activity is more appropriate for students at intermediate and higher levels of language proficiency.  Descriptions can be 3 paragraphs if students are at an intermediate level of proficiency, longer if they are at more advanced levels. 

Idea #3: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Grammar, Vocabulary
Write 5 questions about things you see in the photos of Casa Grande.  They can be very simple, such as What color are the walls of the buildings? or more difficult like What are the walls made of?  Also write answers to your questions.  Ask the class the questions and elicit answers from student volunteers.  After that, tell your students to select a site in their state and read about it, then write 5 questions, with answers, about the place.  Students can work in pairs or small groups.  When they’ve finished devising their questions and answers, they can ask and answer them for speaking practice.
Option 1: For beginning and low-intermediate proficiency level students, you can give sentence frames to students; for example:
     When was _____ built?
     Where is _____ located?
     Who used _____?
     What was _____ used for?
     Why is _____ a national _____?
Option 2: For fun, you can assign just one site to everyone.  Collect the questions and answers when students have finished writing them.  Then play a game by dividing the class into 2 teams and alternate asking questions to each team.  Give a point for each correct answer -- the team with the most points wins.

If you’re not able to visit a national park in person this week, I hope you can use these ideas to visit one virtually! 

And please check out my Gift Guide for Environmentally Aware Teachers, where you can find some great ideas for how you can protect and preserve our Earth.