Monday, April 23, 2012

Teaching Online and a Great WebTool

So, I started going through the hiring process at (check it out!). I'm not so sure it's going to be a great experience but it will be at least an experience, and a paid one at that. They're specifically looking for people with Portuguese right now since they cannot provide enough teachers for the demand. It pays USD$9/hr for the first three months then you start getting raises after that up to USD$12 after 2 years. Not too bad of a gig for someone living overseas and looking for some extra cash deposited into a US bank account in US currency. I've observed a few classes and it seems pretty simple, just exhausting probably, but I'm up for getting exhausted every now and then if it pays in greenbacks.

Anyhow, upon going through this process I found quite possibly the coolest webtool ever for language teachers. It's an online voice recorder which saves the file (small) on their cloud and then students can email, tweet, or whatever. I'm looking forward to incorporating this into my English courses.

Check out my recording: Click here chicas.

Anyhow, if you've got free time and you feel like sitting around in your PJs making 9 bucks an hour is worth it, take a look at OpenEnglish, too. I'm not so sure it's the BEST out there (I've talked to a friend who has done it who wasn't too impressed) but from my point of view it's teaching experience at best, and I need it. A lot. This girl got the wrong college degree.

Bangs head against the wall.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I Love Lucy Lesson Plan

Hello all! So, I put together a lesson plan from the I Love Lucy link I had shared last week. Feel free to check it out here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cultural Lessons--The Amish

My English Classes tend to focus on Pennsylvania as a point of reference for everything. Since I am Pennsylvanian, and forever proud of it, I make sure to present issues about my state's history and culture every chance I get. I usually spend a few lessons describing Erie (using simple present to talk about what it is like and the simple past to talk about a trip someone took to my city.) Typical homework assignments after these texts are for the students to present their city and then to talk about one of their last vacations and what they did.

Tomorrow marks my first attempt at teaching about the Amish. I think this will prove to be very interesting as the text I chose (which I grabbed from VOA News, except I cut out TONS and TONS of stuff) uses both the simple present and past and has a few simple comprehension questions, as well as a few open ended questions. Example: Why do the Amish traditionally have so many children? I'm using this article as an example of how to put together a presentation about a specific topic since next week I am having my students give 5 minute presentations in front of the class about a topic of their choice! They are already petrified, but I am going to be giving them a big pep talk today about how to handle presentations in another language.

Click here for a copy of my pdf!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ideas for Working with Small Children and Absolute Beginners

As an elementary Spanish teacher I have lots of experience working with little kids. In the last year I've begun to embrace the idea of making pattern books, which can be based off of real books or one you've written. To set them up, you read them the original book (if there is one) and then your version, which is just like the ones they will make. Next, instruct them how to fill in the blanks to customize their own version. Sometimes you have to walk them through a lot of it so that they understand; other times they can work pretty independently. Age and familiarity with the subject/verbs/grammar/concept will affect the amount of scaffolding you will have to provide. When the children are done, you will have a story that the children are immensely proud of. The realization that they can "write" a book and understand most of it is incredibly motivating for them. Below I am posting two sample books from second and third grade students. 

The first one is based off of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The students were first exposed to the indefinite articles un and una in this book, as well as how to pluralize nouns. In my very brief curriculum, this is not addressed anywhere. It wasn't a formal learning goal, but it was an opportunity to expand their minds in that direction so that they can better understand it years down the road. Some kids got it, and others were rather confused. Cognitive development and linguistic readiness are at play there, and I am 100% okay with that in my curriculum. If I were to work with a student one on one or in a small group for tutoring, I would probably choose to highlight those language structures a little more so that they could use them better.

The second video is my third grader's version of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, also by Eric Carle. I used this in our zoo animal unit, and this was the first time students had seen (or at least directly noticed) that adjectives are placed after the noun in Spanish. Most students got it, because I walked around and caught them in class if they did it the English way. Some students also didn't get the whole concept of the book, which could have been due to an incomplete explanation in that class or due to a lack of attention. In general, inguistic errors in this book version were fewer and far between. All they had to manage was animal color, animal color. Again, the kids are so proud of these books. It was actually very little work/learning, but it helped kick their motivation to learn a notch or two, as well as their self efficacy. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Beautiful Music and Beautiful Men

Well, it's been an incredible few weeks. In mid-February, I started my "Inglês na ULBRA" PR Campaign and I successfully had 24 students sign up. (Two are scholarship students for good reasons... one is my newly hired web-designer and the other is the professor who did all of the ground work for me setting up meetings and helping me develop the entire program!) So, all in all, I have 22, paying, students! That's a whole bunch for my small cowboy town. This university has about 2500 students, so I'd say that's a great success for my first attempt!

Things are going really well and I am feeling more confident every day. We spend a week/topic (very brief, I know!) but I make an extreme effort to continue to review past topics and incorporate them into the topics of the day. Language builds upon itself, right?

Today we did our last review of the present simple tense and I closed the reading activity with a singing of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight".

This song uses ALLLLLLLLLLL of the verbs in the Present Simple and uses various versions and even question forms! I was going to use "Lucky" by Britney Spears, but they use the tricky "Isn't she lucky?" question form, which I wanted to avoid at all costs....I also had an overwhelmingly NOOOO reaction from some of my friends after I posted this idea on my Facebook. My students were at least able to sing and understand the first strophe of the song and they seemed to get what I wanted them to get out of the activity.

One student raised his hand and said "Well, teacher, the problem is that all the words in English are all glued together in the songs." I responded, "But of course! It's the same in Portuguese! I had to listen to my first song in Portuguese a million times before it made total sense to me. This is only your third listen of this strophe... you have about 999,996 left before it makes total sense!"

This was it. Barboletas by Victor e Leo. 

The chorus says "Não sei dizer o que mudou, mas nada está igual. Numa noite estranha a gente se estranha e fica mal. Você tenta provar que tudo em nós morreu. Barboletas sempre voltam e o seu jardim sou eu." I don't know what to say, or what changed, but nothing is the same. On a strange night, we didn't get along like before and things weren't right between us. You try to prove to me that everything in us died. Butterflies always return and I am your garden. (sorry, translations of songs suck almost 100% of the time...but you get the idea)

The song was perfectly perfect for me at that moment in my life as I was going through huge transitions, closing old chapters and beginning new ones. And yes, I listened to it on repeat until I was able to correctly (or at least as close as I could get considering the não, and any other word with a tilde, for that matter, drove me insane) pronounce and understand the song in its entirety.

However, this all made me remember back in high school how I struggled (and hated) Spanish. I just couldn't understand this whole "conjugate verbs" idea and it made my head spin. I also failed more than one exam, started skipping class and not doing homework and of course, found myself in detention. Yep. my only detention in my 13 years in school was for my performance in Spanish class. Who woulda thought I'd end up majoring in it! Anyhow, even though my teacher always brought songs into class I continued to struggle until I had Spanish with Dr. Glisan in college. The first song that I ever learned (and understood) in Spanish was "Si Tu Te Vas" by Ricky Martin.

Remember this, girls??

I feel that as language learners and now language teachers we are forced to reflect upon our own struggles and victories as see the same frustration and elation in the eyes of our students. We know exactly what they are going through and we want to get them from point A to point B as quickly and painlessly as possible.

When my students successfully sung with me "It's late in the evening....she's wondering what clothes to wear..." I began to see the light turn on as they worked through the pronunciations and I think they were on the right track. Some even smiled. Their homework is to fill in the blanks that I had put in the lyrics of the song and to practice singing it, as we are going to sing it all together next class. Let's see how that goes.

However, looking back on my song selection for today....maybe I should have chosen a song in English sung by a someone who is more attractive. That might help at least the women study a bit more...I mean, just look at those ABS ladies ;)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Google Art Project

"The Google Art Project allows visitors to take virtual tours of some of the world's most famous art museums, slecting works of art and navigating through interactive floor plans. The artwork view feature facilitates viewing featured works of art at high resolution, and using the custom viewer zooms in on paintings. Expanding the info panel allows visitors to read more about a work of art, or find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos. There is even a "Create an Artwork Collection" feature for saving specific views of any of the artworks and building your own collection." 

Can we say, AWESOME?!