Monday, December 14, 2015

Vacation Time!!!!!

When I was in high school, my parents pulled my sister and me out of school for nine days to go on a trip to another country.  They’d gotten a fantastic deal and didn’t want to pass it up; they also thought it would be a good opportunity for us kids to see another part of the world.  I told my teachers and they gave me homework to do while I was away.  Naturally, I didn’t do any of it until I was on the plane going home.

Thirty years later, I was one of those teachers: When my students told me they were going to miss school because they were going to a wedding in India or to the Dominican Republic because their mom had to help take care of a sick relative, and would miss weeks of school, I gave them work to do.  I made up lengthy assignments that weren’t based on the work we were doing in class since without the textbook and without the benefit of our class discussions, they wouldn’t be able to do or keep up with what we were learning.  But I felt the students should be doing something academic while they were away so I created work for them.
Vacation reading & writing resource | The ESL Connection
Travel is eye-opening but can be problematic when missing school; source: WPClipart
I also gave assignments over school vacations and long weekends.  Because that’s when students had more time to spend on them, right?!  Wrong!  Needless to say, 95% of the time the work came back uncompleted, the students somewhat apologetic (“I didn’t have time,” “I lost the paper,” I didn’t understand it”), and I, the teacher, somewhat frustrated.

Although it took thirty-five or so years, I eventually learned my lesson!  For the remainder of my classroom teaching career, I did not give my students projects to work on or tests to study for or compositions to write during their breaks from school.  However, I did emphasize the importance or reading daily to help maintain their language skills--I believe that is important for all students and especially for ELLs.

I designed my Vacation Stars product for teachers who want their students to read during school vacations and holidays.  But because it should only take 10 – 15 minutes max per day, that should encourage students to actually finish it.  There is a one-page template which is modified for different times of the year and each template has two parts, one for reading and one for writing; students can complete both or just one of these parts at your discretion.
Vacation Stars resource for reading and writing tasks during school vacations | The ESL Connection
Click HERE to find out more about this resource! Source: The ESL Nexus
In the reading section, students merely list what they have read, whether it be books or some other form of text (examples are given in the Notes to the Teacher section in the product).  In the writing section, students briefly write, list, or draw (if they are beginning proficiency level ELLs) what they have done that is social studies, math, and science related and also write about helping out at home and what they’ve read.  What makes this easy and quick to complete, though, is that the space for writing is small so students are limited in what they can write.  Optional activities that extend these reading and writing tasks are also included in the resource; they can be completed by students either at home or after they return to school. 

If I had had something like this when I was a student, I'm sure I would have enjoyed my vacations much more!

(P.S.  If you are looking for some holiday decor for your classroom or office, you might like my multilingual mini-posters that say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah in 25 and 20 languages, respectively.  You can find them HERE.)