Monday, February 3, 2020

8 Photographs of Wuhan, China: A Free Resource

"Wuhan jiayou! -- Stay strong, Wuhan!"
-- Slogan used by people in Wuhan, China

I wasn’t planning on writing another blog post about China but I’ve been obsessively reading and watching the news about the coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China.  Because, you see, I used to live and work in Wuhan – in the early 1990s, I spent 2 years teaching at a university there. 

It was a fantastic experience and I fell in love with China as a result.  My original contract was just for 1 year but I extended it because I wasn’t ready to leave.  A Chinese family kind of adopted me: They often invited me over for dinner or to play mahjongg, and really helped me adjust to living in a radically different culture.  I also became very friendly with a Chinese couple who were close to me in age; the wife was an English teacher and was my first Chinese-language teacher.  They moved to the United Kingdom and I lost touch with them for a time but in an amazing coincidence, we all live in Arizona now and reconnected when I moved to that state.

When I was in Wuhan, I explored the city on my own, which gave me the chance to speak Chinese because with my students, I felt obligated to speak English so they could practice their English.  Every Saturday morning, the university provided a mini-bus for its foreign teachers because going to the downtown shopping district on public transportation was time-consuming and not particularly easy.  After a few months, when I felt a little more confident with my Chinese language skills, I gathered up my courage and took a solo trip to a small town called Yueyang that was famous for a certain type of tea.  I also explored Wuhan on my own, visiting Buddhist and Daoist temples as well as other places of historical significance such as the site, now a museum, where in 1911, soldiers rose up and were the catalyst for the end of the Qing Dynasty.  The university also organized excursions for us foreign teachers to places of interest in Hubei Province.  As a result, I got to take a boat trip down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges and visited the Daoist temple complex at Wudang Mountain. 

I give all this background because what is happening now in Wuhan is truly heart-breaking.  To see the city and its people in a lockdown, fearing for their lives because of a new and deadly disease, is terrible.

Download a free resource of photographs of Wuhan and Hubei Province in China & find links to resources by The ESL Nexus for a TpT Sale | The ESL Nexus
Find this free resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
There isn’t anything I can do from the U.S. to help.  But I decided that I could share my memories of a happier time in Wuhan and Hubei Province so I created a free resource of some photographs that I took when I was working there.  You can use the photos if you are discussing the coronavirus with your students or if you are teaching about China for Chinese New Year.  The photos were digitized from the original slides last summer so the quality may not be quite what you are used to.  On the product description page, there are some suggestions for how you can use the photos with your students. 

Anyway, I greatly enjoyed my time in Wuhan and I wanted to offer some positive images to counteract the negative picture people now have of the city.  I hope you like my resource and find it useful.

If you need resources for Chinese New Year or China in general, please click HERE.  You might also like my Gift Guide for Chinese New Year, which recommends products you can buy for your students and yourself.


Friday, January 24, 2020

How to Make Glutinous Rice Balls for Chinese New Year

Gong Xi Fa Cai -- May you be happy and prosperous!
-- Traditional greeting for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it's known in China, starts on Saturday so I'd like to wish you Xin Nian Kuai Le -- Happy New Year!  (In Mandarin, that's pronounced: sheen nee-en kwhy luh.)  This year, Spring Festival ushers in the Year of the Rat.  The picture below shows a rat that is part of a set of Chinese zodiac animals I bought in Xi'an, China, and is in a style of folk art that’s famous in that region. 

Learn how to make a special dish for Chinese New Year and find links to more resources about the holiday | The ESL Nexus
You can purchase my clipart set of these 12 Chinese zodiac animals HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
There are many customs associated with Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Lunar New Year in other Asian countries.  Cleaning house, giving money in red envelopes to children, traveling to be with your family, setting off firecrackers, and displaying lanterns are some of the ways people celebrate the holiday.  Cooking special foods is also part of Chinese New Year and making glutinous rice balls is one of them.  You may be interested in my Chinese New Year Gift Guide, which gives you ideas to help you celebrate Spring Festival with your students.

How Cooking Chinese Rice Balls Helps ELLs Learn English

This is an activity I did for several years with my ELLs in Grades 4 - 8.  The content and language objectives were to teach them about Chinese New Year and to give them practice with how-to writing.  What we did was make tang yuan (pronounced: tahng you-en), which are glutinous rice balls with sweet fillings.  Typical fillings are black sesame paste, red bean (adzuki bean) paste, and peanut butter.  Traditionally, tang yuan are eaten at the end of Spring Festival.  I learned how to make them from a Chinese family I was very friendly with and who kind of adopted me into their family when I was working in China.

In addition to sharing an aspect of Chinese culture and doing a fun activity with my students, they also had to do a writing task, which was just as important.  As I explained and showed my students how to make the rice balls, and they followed my instructions to make some themselves, the students had to write down what they were doing.  After we finished, the students then had to write a paragraph that explained how to make tang yuan.  Their closing sentence stated whether or not they liked the food.  Some students did and wanted seconds and some students didn't and spit it out!  To evaluate their work, I used one of my regular writing rubrics.  (For a selection of rubrics, please see this resource.)  I was able to complete all the prep and cooking in a 45-minute class period.

Learn how to make a special dish for Chinese New Year and find links to more resources about the holiday | The ESL Nexus
Delicious tang yuan with black sesame paste filling; source: DepositPhotos
What You Need for the Activity

(This post contains affiliate links; they're the links in green.  This means that as an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases but it's at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!)

To make tang yuan, you will need: a package of glutinous rice flour, sugar, sesame paste or peanut butter (if you are allowed to have peanuts in your school), and water.  You will also need an electrical hot pot, a medium-sized mixing bowl, a cutting board, a measuring cup, plus enough spoons and bowls for your students and yourself.  You can find glutinous rice flour at any Asian grocery store and it may even be available in the Asian section of your local supermarket.  But don't use regular flour in this recipe as that won't work at all!

How to Make the Rice Balls

Below are the directions for making the rice balls.  You can also use them to check that your students have written the steps in their how-to compositions in chronological order and included all the required steps.

1) Measure 1 cup of glutinous rice flour and put it into a mixing bowl. 
2) Add enough water, around 1/2 cup, to make dough that has the consistency of bread dough or is like the dough for drop cookies -- it should not be watery.  (Keep in mind that when I learned how to make this, my Chinese hosts did not use measuring cups.)  If the dough is too thin, just add more flour; if it is too thick and doesn't stick together, add a little more water. 
3) Divide the dough into little pieces that are about 1 inch in diameter.  Try not to make the balls larger because they won't cook well if they are too big.  Roll each piece into a ball.  This is something your students can do!  Make enough balls so each student in your class, and you, can try one.
4) Make an indentation in the middle of one ball and put a dab of sesame paste, peanut butter, or whatever you are using as a filling, there. 
5) Work the dough over the filling so it is completely covered by the dough. 
6) Roll the ball into a round sphere again. Put all the rice balls on the cutting board to keep them in one place for when they are ready to be cooked. 
7) Repeat this process for all the rice balls.  You might want to keep each type of filled rice ball separate, just so you know which is which when it comes time to eat them. 
8) Fill the hot pot with water and let it come to a boil.  While you are waiting, your students can be working on writing up their notes. 
9) Add a little sugar, to taste, to the water in the hot pot.  This is to make a sweet broth that accompanies the rice balls when they are eaten. 
10) When the water is boiling, carefully drop some of the rice balls into the boiling water.  They will sink to the bottom.  Do not put all the rice balls in the pot at once; they need space to cook properly. 
11) When the rice balls float to the top, and stay there, they are ready to eat.  This will probably take around 5 minutes. 
12) Scoop out the rice balls and put them bowls, one per bowl, along with a little broth.  Give the rice ball and broth to students and tell them to try it.  Tell the students to write down their reaction. 
13) Cook the remaining rice balls the same way and give them to the other students so everyone has a chance to try one.  Keep the water level high enough so the rice balls have room to float to the top of the hot pot.  If you are adding more water, you may want to also add more sugar. 
14) If there are rice balls left over, you can give them to anyone who wants another.  Make sure to try one yourself, too! 
15) For homework, you can have the students write a paragraph that gives instructions on how to make rice balls.

Additional Notes
I always enjoyed doing this activity and even my students who didn't like the rice balls enjoyed cooking them.  If you want to try using red bean paste and can’t find it in a local store, my Japanese brother-in-law recommends this brand.  This is the "fine" version and he uses the "coarse" version but I think this one is better because you won't have to mash up the beans like he does so you'll save time if using it in your class. 

As a substitute for peanut butter, you can probably use your favorite brand of tahini instead.  I’ve never tried making tang yuan with tahini but it should be okay.  However, since tahini is less thick than peanut butter, you’ll have to roll the balls quickly to make sure it doesn’t leak out.

For more information about traditional Chinese culture, check out these TpT resources: C is for China: An ABC book about China, Chinese New Year Writing and Reading Activities.  You might also like my Chinese New Year Word Search Puzzles

Hen Hao Chi (pronounced hun how chih) -- that is: Delicious!


Monday, January 6, 2020

Happy New Year Freebie: Goals for Students!

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is 
more important than any other.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year!  I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing vacation at the end of December and beginning of January. 

As you gear up for the new decade in 2020, I would like to offer a freebie you can use with your students.  It’s traditional to make New Year resolutions and it’s also very common to break them pretty quickly.  (Sadly, I’ve already broken my resolution to not snack after 8pm.)  But having students reflect on what they want to accomplish in the new year is a good way to help students focus on their learning after a long break.  And at the end of the year, you and your students can revisit these goals and see how well they achieved them.

I created a short, one-page resource for students to help them determine their goals for the (rest of) of the school year.  There is a printable version and a paperless version for use on a device, along with directions for teachers.  You can access it HERE.  Please note that you’ll be asked to make a copy so just click on the button and then you’ll be able to download this freebie.

Grab this freebie that helps your students determine their goals for the new year | The ESL Nexus
Get your free copy HERE; source: The ESL Nexus

I hope it helps you and your students get off to a great 2020!


Monday, December 16, 2019

Why You Should Teach Your Students About Impeachment

"No point is of more importance than that of the right of impeachment. Shall any man be above Justice…who can commit the most extensive injustice?"
-- George Mason, 1787

It is hard to escape politics these days.  Brexit in the United Kingdom, impeachment in the United States, democracy protests in Hong Kong, upcoming elections again in Israel, mass protests in Chile and India – all provide numerous opportunities for teachers to discuss current events with their students.  And all too often, students want to know what their teachers think about the political situation where they live.

But should teachers share their personal opinions with their students?  A couple years ago, before the 2016 Presidential election in the U.S., I wrote a blog post discussing this topic.  Basically, I said teachers shouldn’t divulge their opinions and I presented reasons why.  You can read my post HERE.

Why you should talk to your students about impeachment | The ESL Nexus
ELLs & other students should learn about impeachment; source: The ESL Nexus
Since then, people’s political opinions in the U.S. and elsewhere have only hardened.  I think it’s even more important for teachers to remain neutral in their classrooms; that is, I believe they should objectively explain what is going on but they should not offer their own opinion about any particular situation.  There are too many pitfalls to doing so in today’s polarized climate.

However, precisely because it is hard to escape politics, wherever you are, it is also important for teachers to guide their students and give them tools for rationally discussing current events.  I came across this article the other day and it makes a great point: When students engage in well-structured discussions about politics, they are better prepared as citizens to participate in democratic institutions.

Because impeachment is such a momentous event and because many English Language Learners are likely unfamiliar with what it entails, I have created a new resource about it. Click HERE to find out more.

Reasons why you should help your students understand what impeachment is:

* First, for immigrant and refugee ELLs, the concept may be new to them since it may not exist in the countries they come from.  Even in the countries that do have impeachment as a way of removing officials, how that is done will differ from the process in the U.S since other governments have different organizational structures.

* Second, impeachment rarely happens so this is a historic occasion.  In the history of the U.S, only 2 out of 45 presidents have ever been impeached and less than 20 judges have been impeached.

* Lastly, students may have heard others talking about impeachment, or seen something about it in the media, and if they know what impeachment means, then they can participate in those conversations as well.  That will help them develop their speaking skills as well as their civic awareness.

The reading passage & other activities will help ELLs & other students learn all about impeachment | The ESL Nexus
You can get this resource HERE; source: The ESL Nexus
In the resource, there is a reading passage that explains what impeachment is and how it works.  It’s written so ELLs at an intermediate level of language proficiency (and higher) can understand it.  Other students may also find it helpful.  A glossary is included to provide more support.  Comprehension questions are also included.  Some impeachment-related words have multiple meanings so there is a task that addresses that.  In addition, to help students learn vocabulary related to impeachment, there are 3 differentiated word search puzzles along with 1 crossword puzzle that also has an accompanying word bank.  All the student materials are available in a Google Drive version as well if you teach in an online environment.

Given the current state of affairs around the world, it's imperative that ELLs and all students understand what is going on in the communities where they live.  When I was a kid watching the Watergate hearings on TV, I didn't really know what that was all about.  I hope this resource will help you explain what impeachment is to your students so they understand the significance of what is happening now in the U.S.