Category Archives: Language

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! 🙂

But how can we communicate #perspective?

I just watched a video that inspired me to want to write about a word – a topic – a state of being (or have been): perspective. I think about perspective a lot. I wonder is it possible to have perspective if you’ve not experienced something first hand? I mean, I can’t truly know what it’s like to be a learner of English as an additional language, so how can I have true perspective about what it’s like to be one of my students who is? I really ponder this a lot and tend to lean more towards that perspective IS linked to life experiences…

HOWEVER…

Every once in a while, I’ll see a video that just…gives me perspective. Somehow, seeing a special video that was made by someone (or involves someone/something) that has experienced something I’ve not,  can just give me a solid feeling of understanding; I feel like it shows me success in perspective-giving. And that’s a powerful thing.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-moving-short-film-explores-what-its-really-like-to-live-with-adhd?c=reccon3

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Now, while being an English as an additional language learner is not the same as having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (or another learning ‘disability’), it is another thing I didn’t really feel I had ‘perspective’ of…until watching this video.

Now, the wheels are turning.

IF a video can portray such powerful perspective for me, what can I be doing to get that same powerful perspective of my students and what it’s like to be them?

If we could all have more perspective about what it’s like to be our students, wouldn’t we be better teachers?

Added as an after thought:
There’s an ABC television show called “Switched at Birth” that is based on just what the title states and it just so happens that one of the children switched at birth is deaf. A great deal of the show is done in silence with only ASL and subtitles to show communication. It’s a weird watch for someone, I suppose, but I appreciate the show because it gives me a perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise have into a world of silence.

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’ 🙂

Language… ‘Outside of the Box’

Since beginning our individual (and now group) inquiries into language, I’ve always had it on the back of my mind. What is language? What is language?

Yes, I can tell you that language is verbal and non-verbal and I can tell you that at ISPP,  we’re all ELL learners and teachers, but beyond that, what are the languages that we speak? What classifies a language as a language? How many are there? Who rights or wrongs a language? And so on and so forth.

From the moment we’re born, we’re predisposed to factors which will inform the languages we’ll learn for the purpose of communication. That’s a mouthful. But it’s true. We may not think about some of the factors as being influential because of our privileges of being able to communicate how we do, but for many, verbal communication might never be an option for language learning.

Now, let me introduce you to this wonderful human being. Trust me, it’s worth the few minutes to watch:
(Click on the link below to be redirected…the embed and photo hyperlink options aren’t working!:)

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-9-07-15-pmhttp://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/article/2016/09/24/brain-changed-walking-kokoda-trail-cerebral-palsy

“I speak three languages: English, German and spastic, which is my native tongue.” – Andrew Short

Pretty incredible, right? And perhaps not something we think about when we think about language in the traditional sense. Aside from being an inspiration in overcoming something so many thought he wouldn’t be able to do, Andrew has blown our conceptions of ‘language’ out the door as well.

How many other languages are spoken that we perhaps don’t recognize as a ‘real’ language?

Just some food for thought!

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

It’s not just our students we’ve got to differentiate for!

…We’ve also got to differentiate for our parents!

One of my favourite blogs that I subscribe to, “Making Good Humans”, shed light on the subject of differentiating for our parents this week. Thank you! 🙂

Immediately when I think about differentiation for our parents, I think about it in terms of language – which is totally tricky when you have eight non-English languages being spoken amongst your parent community! But this article talks about differentiating our expectations for parents. What do we expect from them? Are our ISPP guidelines for communication adequate? Existent and consistent across the board? How do we moderate how much is the right amount of communication?

Check out this article for some perspective on this less-thought about audience for differentiation! 🙂

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https://makinggoodhumans.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/differentiation-not-just-for-students/