Category Archives: KG

Finding Story-writing Motivation in KG – Part 1

I’ve just done a lot of front-loaded learning and reading about academic literacies…and spent a lot of time linking it to Kindergarten and what I value with in my students’ writing. I hoped I’d have an epiphany about academic language (aside from my ‘language of gratitude’ idea) but I didn’t…I just thought  about a big fail in my teaching recently.

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Thanks for inspiring us to take more risks and make more mistakes, Ms. Rachel!

Now, inspired by @rjacks27 and her F.A.I.L. acronym share last Friday (‘a first attempt at learning’), I figured I would share this teaching fail…

Recently, my class created ‘Earth Superheroes’ who were going to save the Earth from some sort of problem. Most students got it – a few were too linked on the super hero and bad guy idea and one drew randomness and scribbles…but explained it so well! This part of the activity was a success because students enjoyed it, they put effort into it, they had knowledge and informed ideas, they were inspired by previous learning AND I got to check in with all of the about their creations.

What's success to you?
What’s success to you?

But I pushed it one step further and that’s where the fail lies.
I had my class write stories about their superheroes…something not everyone was ready to do or try…even though we did do it once or twice  before and I thought they were ready to do it.
I was missing the joint construction bit!
I had that on the superhero drawings and inspirations (when they were explaining them to me AND when they were creating them) but the story bit was wayyyyy too advanced for the Rainbow Fish’s confidence and independence in writing.
i quit
We spent one and a half lessons on it and some rushed through and made horrible efforts while others were still drawing pictures before coming up with words or vice versa. It was a disaster. Not enough teacher-power in the room made it difficult for me to get around and check-in with everyone and any rich or valuable conversations about their writing and any sort of experience for them to base it on, was absent. They have tools and what not…but there was not enough scaffolding.

This graphic REALLY made me do some thinking about my lessons and expectations for my students!
This graphic REALLY made me do some thinking about my lessons and expectations for my students!

I took the books off of them and they sit on the corner of my desk awaiting a time…a time like now…when we know MORE writing strategies to help us be more confident and independent. Tomorrow, we’re going to write some descriptions of an imaginary character who will visit our class to talk to us about story writing. I’ll update on how THIS writing lesson goes and how the students’ enthusiasm changes for this story writing activity – the biggest fail of all, was that they hated the last one.

…TO BE CONTINUED…

The Language of Gratitude as an Academic Language in Kindergarten

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but kept putting it on the back burner. Finally, I’m putting pen to paper!

As part of my inquiry group, I’ve investigated multilingualism and what it looks like in different environments around ISPP. I’ve come to believe that multilingualism comes in many different forms and academic language is one of its dimensions.

What is academic language?
Hrmmm…? Math and other Language specific subjects – physics, chemistry, genre related writing, subject specific text, etc.
There’s a lot of academic language…but…

What is academic language in Kindergarten?
Well, I believe it’s very student-constructed…but I also believe there’s a hidden academic for Kindergarten students…but also for EVERYONE! The language of gratitude.

Yes, the idea of gratitude (and simple manners, really) as a language is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about as we inquire into academic language as part of Course 4.

The language of gratitude:
Is it a language? Well, no, but it shouldn’t it be a taught part of any language/curriculum? I feel it is often forgotten or overlooked. This is why I’ve been putting so much thought into it…I’ve been SHOCKED on numerous occasions about how many students (and parents and even staff) lack manners when speaking to and with other community members. Below, you’ll see a series of photos from our own cafeteria in this video:

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Perhaps the video is misleading of the general community’s lack of gratitude, but I fear it’s not. There doesn’t appear to be ANY exchange of words here…certainly not a thank you! I’m not trying to call out this particular student, either! Maybe she usually says thank you but was nervous on camera or was having a bad day – it happens. But when I’m in the café, and in monitoring my students at lunch, the lack of manners is consistent. It’s definitely a source of frustration for me.

What’s next?
I need to further analyze what academic language looks like in Kindergarten, but I will also continue to teach and enforce respect and manners in my classroom. But I want to do more to make this common practice at home for my students, across Kindergarten and hopefully beyond.

I want to design an orientation program – in conjunction with epicure, the cleaning companies and our Khmer teaching  and office staff – to implement a please and thank you program within Kindergarten. If, culturally, these manners are not expected in Cambodia by Khmer people, it’s our duty to prepare our students for future situations where they are expected. A little respect and appreciation goes a long way…and it can be done with a simple please and thank you.

Post SPELTAC inquiry group presentations, I will update with my action plan to educate and implement a manners expectation for our community. #schoolgoals #teachinggoals #whatgoesaroundcomesaround #respect

Talk about engaging…a reflection on ‘Course 3’ :)

As a Kindergarten teacher, it’s essential that I am engaging…but I’m also talking a lot and expecting my students to talk a lot too. To help you understand the dynamics, I thought I’d draw a visual. 🙂

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My one, very beginner EAL student, has all the confidence in the world to speak…but he still struggles with the language and substitutes with actions OR drawings (something he did just yesterday) when he can’t find the words. The fact that he puts himself out there so willingly, to communicate verbally, has helped him to grow his vocabulary AND relationships with his classmates! How can I help him build his vocabulary to extend him beyond his passion for Lego, Star Wars and modes of transport?

I have another EAL student who is just a reluctant speaker. Just yesterday, he shared more than I think I’ve ever heard him share, but we were in an isolated situation with me and three other students in our reading tent. In whole class situations, he may say yes or no, but he is very disengaged in conversations. How do I determine if his reluctance is actually a lack of knowledge rather than lack of confidence without intimidating him? How do I up the ante on his comprehensible input…maybe he’s just not getting it?

Classroom Talk: What the Research tells us” explains the importance of being a verbally confident individual in school and in society in many ways/by many people. What better way for a child to practice these skills, than through non-conforming play? Of course the research on this topic is extensive, but I took some time to read from these sites:

One mom’s take on and promotion of play including a break-down of play’s role language development with lots of links on the topic –  http://www.playingwithwords365.com/2013/06/the-importance-of-play-for-speech-and-language-development/

F.P. Hughes discusses finding meaning in play through verbal expression here – http://www.education.com/reference/article/language-play-development/

This Scholastic article lists strategies to promote language-rich play – http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/building-language-literacy-through-play

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This site is loaded with play ideas that will surely get any child talking – at home or in the classroom! A super useful new resource! –  http://www.sunscholars.com/p/100-days-of-play.html

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In an effort to get my students to be more open-minded, I created a ‘discussion map’ to show them a visual of their talking relationships during morning free play (thanks, Sandrine). I told them I’ll do it again on Monday; I wonder if the web will become more intertwined if students know what I’m doing!?

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Neil Mercer’s video really got me focused on all my past visits to museums/galleries. As I make my way around an exhibition, there’s so much that I’m taking in…so much information…and I can vividly remember dialogues I have in my head as I soak in the informational experience that surrounds me. I’m fully immersed in ‘inner speech’ (Vygotsky, 1986). Good museums should do that!

…And good reflection has me thinking about the talking points, jig-saws, exit cards, ‘Guess Who‘ game and other talk-promoting strategies can benefit my students and their talking!

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Thanks for the perspective, mindful reflection time and motivation to get me exploring ideas to enhance oral language in my classroom! 🙂

How do our ‘environments’ support multilingualism?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent some time thinking about how my classroom (learning environment) lends itself to or helps my students…no matter what their level of English understanding may be. On top of that, I’ve been having a bit of a creep on my students’ single subject lessons to see how these teaching and learning environments (“classrooms”…?) accommodate for our language learning student. Through doing all of this, I hope to gain a better understanding of:
A) what an ‘environment’ is.
B) what multilingualism looks like in different learning environments.

The single subject lessons that my students attend are very movement oriented and provide kinesthetic outlets for students to express their understandings from the lessons/units; I consider this a pretty big positive for a student who may not be able to communicate confidently verbally. Art, Music, PE and Swimming lessons are all pretty active and the students always seem enthusiastic about attending…with the exception of a child who all of a sudden hates swimming now.

In my wanderings, I wondered how these photos might elicit conversation about multilingualism in our teaching and learning environments…
I think these photos say a LOT and I still want to know more so I made a point of asking my students about them and what they mean. What might they mean to you, multi-linguistically speaking?

art music peThanks to @msdana, @leigh, @andymunn and @annenewman for letting me observe you, for welcoming my feedback and most of all, for engaging all of the Rainbow Fish in your lessons! 🙂

Celebrating Successes in Communication

Sometimes, it’s easy to let the little wins be clouded by the (‘what-you-think are’) fails so I needed to celebrate two communication successes by two of my students these past two weeks.

Just before the Pchum Ben break, we started our new unit all about ‘Communities’. The unit was provocated (or provoked I guess) with a few rounds of charades where students blindly chose community action figures out of a mystery box and then acted like that person – like charades! One student was acting out ‘businessman’ and after some incorrect guesses, another student (a beginner EAL student) put up his hand for a second time and thought hard about how to explain the role of his father – who is a businessman! The student’s actions in the video below show you how he feels about his communication success! 🙂

On Friday, I had a student who speaks two languages at home and additionally English at school,  wanting to have an item that she couldn’t name. I asked her what the item was in French but she was unable to say after a lot of thought. She was asked to draw the item and this is what she gave to Ms. Nearÿ and I.

Pretty abstract, eh? Becoming somewhat frustrated, she then looked at us and mimed the shape and purpose of the item and we were able to determine it was a serving tray; we had three new ones given to us from Ms. Helen just the day before!

How obvious does this drawing look before and after you know it’s a tray? Persistence paid off in the case of this student as she got the item she wanted. Does this lend itself to a lesson on ensuring we keep pushing for information? And what would have happened if we just disregarded this one child’s want because she couldn’t say a word? What does this say about a child’s ability to communicate verbally? About the importance of noticing the important non-verbal cues when language is absent?

Both of these situations, of course, made me wish I could speak these students’ mother tongue languages, as per my previous post, but they’ve shown examples of communication success without ‘the right words’ 🙂

What about the Z’s?!

Ok, this is something I’ve been concerned about for a while. And it boils down to this…

images-1HOW DOES THE LETTER ‘Z’ FEEL?

So, you’re in the alphabet. Wayyyyyyyyy back at the end. Like the kid with the ‘z’ last name always being called last, Z hangs out waiting for everyone else to come first…it really is no wonder we use it to show ‘snoring’! “Zzzzzzzz” says Z.  To make matters worse, we go and create this incredible vocabulary across multiple languages that just doesn’t showcase many begins with ‘z’ words. It’s an alphabetic tragedy. …or maybe it’s what makes Z so special.

When I grew up, I obviously learned Canadian English. To me at that time, that meant British English because we spelled things colour, favourite, neighbour, grey and centre as opposed to American English (color, favorite, neighbor, gray, center). However, as I interact with (and operate within) British English systems, I realize Canadian English is just somewhere inbetween British and American English. The reason? Our relationship with ‘z’!….though we do say it ‘zed’ and not ‘zee’.
We spell organize, realize, accessorize and characterize with ‘z’s. British English uses ‘s’ in place of ‘z’ in these instances. This minimizes the use of ‘z’ even further in the entirety of the English language…but…is it worth it for the ‘z’? Would it make you feel special? Would you feel unique in only being used every so often?

Aside from these guilty feelings I have about ‘z’ being left out, phonetically, ‘z’ vs. ‘s’ poses a tricky problem! When I investigated further into the ‘z’ and ‘s’ usage, this video came up:
(I’ve tried to embed it but it won’t work so click on the photo below to be redirected! 🙂

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If you’re still reading, did you practice making the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sound?
Now, using this rule, say, “This is ridiculous.”
Now, say, “This iz ridiculous.”
Hrmmmmm. I see a contradiction to the rules here.
I’m a native (Canadian) English speaker and I am stumped. I definitely don’t ever say “is” without activating my vocal chords!

HOW DOES AN EAL LEARNER FEEL?

Now, I’m an EAL learner that has to try and write English for the first time. I’d imagine I’d be hella confused! I’d probably be busting out ‘z’s more often than I’m supposed to.

My investigation into ‘z’ really has been something I’ve always thought about and I don’t know what possessed me to inquire more into it today. I have given it a lot of thought – how might this letter pertain to differentiation that happens in my classroom? – And I’ve come to this conclusion…

THOSE EAL LEARNERS IN OUR CLASSES ARE THE ‘Z’S!

They’re important, even though they don’t speak up/out much.
They might be dead last finishing a task AND they might be used to waiting until dead last for you to be able to give them the attention they need/deserve.
They pop up with words (and insights/knowledge/ideas) when you least expect it (is should totally be iz!).
They’re so much more obvious when there’s two of ’em (so good for them!).
We must NOT let them fall asleep resulting from boredom…we need to make school especially fun and accessible for these students!

How do YOU think our EAL learners are ‘z’s in our classroom alphabets?


Credits:

To the zany and everyday ‘z’ user, Ms. Liz and Ms. ‘Z Activist’ Paula for their British insights/interviews
To my Canadian/Khmer Team for entertaining my inquiry
http://mentalfloss.com/article/62639/why-it-zed-britain-and-zee-america – Why is it “Zed” in Britain, and “Zee” in America?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5iL_pu5CNs How to Pronounce “S” vs. “Z” Sounds | English Lessons
http://cliparts.co/clipart/358267 – Letter ‘Z’ download

I sense a pattern here…

And that pattern is this…
Teaching patterns as a first mathematics concept, is brilliant…
oR… bRiLlIaNt!
WhY? wElL, iT iS aCcOmMoDaTiNg To ThE eAl LeArNeR(s) BeCaUsE iT iS sO vIsUaL aNd NoT sO rElIaNt On VeRbAl (Or EvEn WrItTeN) CoMmUnIcAtIoN sKiLlS lIkE oThEr CoNcEpTs MaY bE!

Ok, so I had to give it a rest…but you get my point! 🙂

My non-English speaker, while learning and communicating in English more and more everyday, has been able to show me their understanding of patterns since the get-go!

Teaching patterns also allows me to give feedback to all of my students in a visual way. I’ve been able to sit down and talk with them one on one about why and how things are a patterns and while some may not be able to articulate themselves verbally, like a native speaker might, students are able to show me their understandings…on paper, using manipulatives, taking photos, pointing to patterns, etc… I want to kick off my year giving the students so many opportunities to be successful and this has been an excellent math concept to be able to kick-start a year with the past two years for me…and of course my students! 🙂

Speltac patterns
Some patterns we were creating this week
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Some of our patterns from last week
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Our pattern inspired rainbow fish 🙂

I think Mathematics in general, is a subject that lends itself better to ESL learners because it is (and should be) a visual learning opportunity.

How do you prefer to kick-off your Mathematic explorations for the school year?

Next up, I’ll check out these games listed on this site – I’ll see how friendly they are for the EAL learner AND if they even exist 9 years later in 2016! For now, I’m onto Pinterest to help plan my introductory lesson to “number” on Monday! 🙂

http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2007/12/25/the-best-math-sites-for-english-language-learners-2007/
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Who we are

I really enjoy kicking off my school year with learners by investigating “Who we are” as our first unit of inquiry. Regardless of the central idea for the unit (which can have totally different, broadened focuses), it gives me a chance to explore who my students are as learners.

Immediately, and not even intentionally, I pick up on students who are unable to speak English or if they can, it’s in the very beginning stages of acquisition. Once I’ve identified my EAL students, I’ve also tagged them as #brave #risk-takers #survivors
If I’m really honest, I don’t know if I could survive being in the shoes of one of my five year old non-English speaking students. I really don’t think I could. Having never faced language barrier challenges until I was in my 20s, I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be immersed in such an environment. I can’t tell you enough how much respect and admiration I have for the students that are put in these situations.

My last post listed a couple of activities that I’m doing in my classroom that are centred around language. I posted before reading the course work so did not explicitly refer to my EAL learners and how I accommodate for their specifically. Only about five of my students use English as a mother tongue language at home and I was sure to comment on the importance of fostering a child’s mother tongue language at home during my recent ‘Hopes & Concerns’ meetings. Some students speak more than one mother tongue as well; our international students really are immersed in a world of language along with other cultural challenges.

Here are some things I’ve been trying out along with links to more information:

In Mathematics, we’ve been exploring patterns. The great thing about patterns, is that they’re visual. They don’t require verbal or written communication to assess student understanding and they’re totally hands on. A student is able to look at examples, watch a classmate and interpret this information by creating her/his own patterns. On a side note, I’m pretty ecstatic that every one of the KG Rainbow Fish seems to have a solid grasp on patterns!

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This Kindergarten teacher covers most of the pattern activities we’ve been doing in class but we’ve also been creating paper chain patterns (to work on cooperation skills too) and have been on the hunt for patterns that exist around us!
http://www.kindergartenkindergarten.com/patterns/

During Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, I’ve been trying my best to be animated in giving instructions and in ensuring I’m reading books that have some great visuals to engage my EAL learners.

For Reader’s Workshop, thus far, we’ve discussed and practised how to treat books, identifying positive reading behaviours and starting to establish routines. All of these things have been communicated with demonstrations and even in having students help me role play situations that help us identify the importance of reading. As most of my students can’t read yet anyway, I don’t deal with the struggle of having a student feel ‘behind’ because everyone else is reading…and it’s great to sometimes see those EAL beginners come flying out of the gate and catch on faster than the native speakers sometimes!

Readers
We’ve had two really successful Writer’s Workshops sessions over the past two weeks and again, have just been working on finding our groove as writers. We discussed how drawing is actually writing – it’s not just words – and how labels and colours can help us better communicate. Our first writing activity had us drawing what we’re enjoying most about Kindergarten (and then scribed by Neary, Thon or me). For our EAL learners, this just involved having them draw a picture with admiration and acknowledgements by us for their efforts.
Our second activity was our first story writing activity that kind of made my heart swell. After having the students help me to write a story, students went away having had a laugh and they were all engaged in creating their own stories. While a lot of the stories may have been a bit silly and about poop or pee, I was just pumped to see them all engaged and ENJOYING writing! EVEN my EAL students who again, joined in to draw pictures that told a story even if only she/he knew exactly what that was.* To top it all off, at the sharing part of the session, ALL of the students were keen to share or at the very least participate by yelling, “action” to help me out!
*To further accommodate my students, I’ve been using Google translate to help clarify instructions for writing tasks.

PHOTOS COMING SOON

I’ve been using Lucy Calkin’s Guides to Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops to help guide my teaching but have also used some of these sites straight off my ‘Bookmarks Bar’ as a resource to help me understand my EAL learners better:
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/childrens-writing-esl/
http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/esl/
https://writersworkshopk6.wikispaces.com/Minilessons?responseToken=2eb6e67f5e24faaa199e9fec348d098c
http://www.teachersfirst.com/lessons/writers/writer-k.cfm

We’re all language teachers!

All educators are language teachers no matter what our discipline or specialty may be.  We teach using a language conducive to the needs/desires of our students and without our use (and awareness) of language, we wouldn’t be teachers at all!

As I endeavour on my journey as a #SPELTAC teacher and learner, I thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of blogs and resources that I’ve visited to help me learn more and ultimately achieve my goals to be a more effective teacher of language. I want to be better equipped to accommodate my #EAL learners; this year, I have one very beginner English language learner so it’s essential!

To better assist this student, I first of all access Google Translate to help me translate spoken language for instructions. This works well as the student is able to hear spoken mother tongue and then communicate understand via writing/drawing. Thank goodness for Google Translate!

Larry Ferlazzo discusses the ‘Do’s & Don’ts For Teaching English-Language Leaners’ in this article. Sometimes, it’s nice to read something and have validation that you’re doing something right – this is how I felt reading this article that essentially says we need to value the mother tongue, the importance of demonstrations and checking for understanding. Thank you, sir!

This next share might be a bit of a weird one…but I took the time to read it and really enjoy idioms! In fact, this year, I’ve begun sharing quotes with my #KG class at the beginning or end of the day to try and provoke their imagination and deeper level thinking. This wouldn’t be an easy thing for an EAL learner to understand or access, but these quotes have an image/graphic that my KG non-English speaking student can hopefully access, as opposed to text; most students can’t read just yet so they still rely for me to communicate the text verbally. The idiom blurb can be found here by Judie Haynes and here, you’ll find the 20 quotes from children’s books that I am sharing with my class this year. I will have to take note of idioms and pair them with graphics that depict the idiom as a way to further differentiate once my quotes are done! 🙂

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What an important message, eh?

Watch this space, as I’ll be sure to come back and update you on what I’m trying in my classroom to ensure effective language learning for all of my #students!