Resources for EFL Small Groups

I recently led a small PD session for beginning educators working with EFL (English as a Foreign Language) small groups, and I wanted to share the resource document I wrote. It’s a collection of activities, organised by learning objective, written with Israeli students ages seven through twelve in mind, but most are adaptable for beginning English students of all ages around the world. Please feel free to share by linking back to this pageand let me know what activities you use and how they go. Please contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions to add or change by commenting below or at madeleinebella [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you! Here’s the doc: EFL Small Group Resources

Topics: 
Blends and Digraphs
Prepositions
Present Progressive
“To Be” and Other Irregular Conjugations
Pronouns
Contractions
WH- Questions
Past Simple
Comparatives
Spelling
Classroom Management
Additional Resources

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FunEnglishGames.com

I love this website for both ELLs and native English speaking students, with resources for the classroom as well as home. Here’s a game to practice close reading of poetry: http://www.funenglishgames.com/readinggames/poem.html

And here is a page full of reading, writing, grammar, spelling, and vocab games for all levels: http://www.funenglishgames.com/games.html

Exploring English idioms and oxymorons could be a fun stimulus for a philosophy discussion on language! http://www.funenglishgames.com/funstuff.html

Have fun and have a great day!

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Activity: Make Your Own Bingo

Hi friends! Just wanted to share a fun activity I love to do with students. It’s easily adaptable for small groups of three or more students or a large class. Note: I generally have kids do this in pairs to encourage cooperative learning (at least two students per bingo board). It adds another layer of skill building because they have to talk everything out and agree.

1. Have each student draw a Bingo board on a blank piece of paper, or use my pre-made ones available for free on TPT 🙂 3×3 Bingo Board or 4×4 Bingo Board

2. Write a list of terms on the whiteboard (or a large piece of paper/poster if you don’t have a whiteboard).  This works for almost any set of vocab or ideas that you want to help your students review.  Students must write the words or draw a picture to represent the word in each box. Everyone’s bingo board should look different but have more or less the same words. If you’re including drawings, remind the kids to draw quick sketches, just enough info so that they understand the picture – it’s not an art contest! When the bingo boards are complete, erase the whiteboard (or turn over the poster).

3. Call out the terms in a random order. Children either put a light line through the word when they hear it or use markers if you’d like to re-use the boards. Small pieces of cardstock, small coins, dried broadbeans or lima beans, or even stickers with the backings still on work well (stickers can double as a fun reward when they are finished).

4. 3 in a row/4 in a row wins BUT in order to get credit, the student needs to read each word and define it/spell it/use it. For example, below are some boards my kids created to practice prepositions and WH questions. They had to show me something that was (e.g.) on something else and ask a WH question that made sense. Bonus: Get the rest of the students involved by having them answer the questions and discuss.

Have fun and let me know how you go with your boards! I’d love to see some of the things your students create. 
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Violet Vegan Comics

So pleased to find this blog of vegan-message-themed comics and poems for all audiences! Here’s a page devoted to comics especially written For Little Ones.

One of my favourites is“Where Are You Going, Deirdre?” It is based on the true story of a brave mother who risked her life to hide her calf in order to keep him from the farmer. Through colourful illustrations and kid-friendly dialogue, we see a young human learn the sad truth of what happens to the infants dairy cows are forced to birth. The story ends happily, with the girl helping the farmer understand that the baby belongs with his mum, and deciding to turn his farm into a sanctuary. Children wonder:

  • Is it sometimes okay to take something that doesn’t belong to you if you think you need it? Why or why not? [If children say yes, explore the difference between taking something without hurting anyone very badly – e.g. a mother who steals bread to feed her children – vs. physically harming someone, killing, or separating families.]
  • What is the difference between want and need? [Younger children could make contrast posters or pages in their Philosophy Journals with pictures or words showing Want on one side and Need on the other.]
  • Is it possible to love animals and hurt them at the same time? What does it mean to love?
  • Many people do things they know are wrong because everyone they know does it too, and this makes it even harder to stop. Why is it so difficult to break habits? If lots of people do something harmful together, does it make it less bad? Why or why not?
  • Do we have a responsibility to help others/our friends make compassionate decisions? Why or why not?

The poem“Nature Returns” envisions Earth after humanity. Through beautiful personification and vivid imagery of the Earth “stretching” to recover from what people have done to her, the poem opens important questions about our impact on and responsibility to the Earth:

  • Does the Earth belong to people? Explain your answer.
  • What does it mean to take care of the Earth?
  • Have you ever wondered if plants have an awareness of what is happening to them?
  • If a forest doesn’t know what is happening to it, does it make it okay to destroy it? Why or why not?
  • Does nature have inherent value [for itself, not for someone else]? Why or why not/explain.

When you finish reading a comic or poem, check out Violet’s section on Things to Make And Do to get creative or get out of the house.

Let me know what your favourite poem or story is and how you discussed it in the comments below!

“Māra,” by Moira Wairama

During the last week of term, I introduced many of my E.S.O.L. students to “Māra,” a poem published in Issue 52 of the New Zealand Junior Journal, a journal of writing geared towards students working in level 2 of The New Zealand Curriculum. The full journals, with illustrations and audio recordings, are available here at no charge: http://literacyonline.tki.org.nz/Literacy-Online/Planning-for-my-students-needs/Instructional-Series/Junior-Journal.

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A pēpepe I met in the Auckland Domain

 

In a smooth blend of English and Māori, the speaker invites us into her māra (garden) to meet all of the insects she meets there. The (free) audio recording available on the educators’ resource site highlights the poem’s magical, musical quality, capturing students’ attention in a way that simply handing them the poem as a silent reading assignment could not.

Though the poem is a great example of how students can use imagery, rhyme, and meter in their poems, I find one of the most important things this poem does is highlight the bilingualism and biculturalism that is so important to New Zealand. While I am an American citizen teaching English to non-native speakers, I feel a responsiblity to honour and lift up Te Reo wherever feasible in my teaching as well, and to set a norm in my classroom that all languages are equally precious. Of course, though the poem incorporates both languages, I don’t know if it actually tells us anything particular about Māori culture, so I should be on the lookout for more poems that do this. Learning English is never about replacing what one has grown up with but about adding something new. This is a topic for a future post, but does anyone have suggestions of other poems appropriate for young children that incorporate multiple languages fluently? I’d love to start a solid collection. Thank you!

Most of the articles in the journal come with teacher guides, but the poem does not, so I’ve written up some activities and prepared a vocab sheet for pre-teaching the Māori words and some of the Tier 2 English words that non-native English speakers would need support with. I included some questions to prompt a discussion about the concept of being “special” and what it means to consider something or someone special. My sessions with these students are each quite short, so we don’t have the opportunity for full on CoI, but as always, I’d love to hear of your students’ responses – just hit “reply” below! Adjusting for your students’ needs, I would discuss the unfamiliar words first, so that they have context. Then listen to the poem, giving each student a copy of the poem (from the journal) to have in front of them. Then proceed with the discussion and writing activity.

The guide is available here: http://tinyurl.com/maraguide

After a few drafts, I publish the students’ poems on the wall and give them a chance to read their poetry to each other. It gives each student a chance to showcase their own work and be publicly proud, to review what they have done vs. just turning in an assignment and never seeing it again, to recognize their own work as publish-worthy art, and to learn from and about their peers. I’d love to hear your experiences, successes, and challenges of young students writing and sharing their work!

Muffins, Maths – and Poetry?

This week one of my students baked carrot-apple muffins as part of his maths lesson. Finding the recipe, discussing each ingredient, sounding out the words and copying down the ingredient list was all part of English study. The project doubled as practical maths as he developed literacy around fractions and figured out how much we’d have to make in order to have enough for each child in his class plus staff. “You do baking for maths?” a classmate exclaimed. “Baking is also science!” another teacher pointed out. I wish we had the resources to have every lesson for every student have a practical component! Unfortunately our kitchen isn’t big enough for more than a couple of people at a time, and it makes me think about how privileged we are to have kitchen access at the school at all.
The whole class is working on cinquains and other poetry this week. They are tying this into their unit on the Olympics, and some wonderful imagery around sport is coming out of this study. They began by looking at photographs of athletes and brainstorming words they would use to describe the image. Does anyone have suggestions of some fun baking poems to connect it all together? They should be short and straightforward enough for a kindergarten student to make sense of and read most of the words with help within a few minutes, and fun enough that it will keep their interest (think Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky-esque). Thanks!

For any bakers out there, here is the recipe we used! A gem from The Minimalist Baker, one of my standby recipe blogs. Vegan, of course. It is also gluten-free, but if you have only wheat flour on hand and no one you’re serving is gluten-intolerant, that works just as well. Pretty customisable. We didn’t have any walnuts and just left them off, no harm. Easy to do with a group of kids and/or in a small space because there are lots of little things to prep (the flax egg, grating the carrot) but only requires one large mixing bowl.

Community of Inquiry Code of Conduct: Language Arts “Lesson”

I recently finished a five-week unit on My Side of the Mountain in my grade four classroom, in which I incorporated philosophical inquiry into each week of study. My Side of the Mountain, for those who don’t know, is Jean Craighead George’s 1959 novel about a boy (we never find out for certain his age, a subject of much contention among my students!) who runs away from home to live in the Catskill Mountains. All the lessons I teach this semester are aligned to the United States Common Core Standards. Happily, the skills practiced in Community of Inquiry fit neatly into the English Language Arts standards. Below is my lesson plan for day two of the unit, the day I introduced philosophy. My first observation was during this lesson, and it went quite well. There is an emphasis on student autonomy and inquiry. Students are held to high standards and expected to participate fully. There are multiple ways to participate, and students are encouraged to help each other feel safe sharing half-formed thoughts as part of the learning process for everyone. I’d love constructive feedback on my work and would love other educators to share their experiences supporting Community of Inquiry in ELA. 

Lesson Plan: My Side of the Mountain Week One, Day Two

Objectives:

  • Students develop a working definition of philosophy and philosophical inquiry that includes heightened respect for diverse perspectives and a sense of wonder/intellectual curiosity.
  • Students work together to develop their own Community of Inquiry Code of Conduct – a set of guidelines for philosophical inquiry stressing civil discourse, respect for community members, and critical thinking.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1.B: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.1.C: Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.

Student Engagement/Timeline: 

1. Students convene in a circle on carpet. Introduce philosophy: I majored in philosophy in college largely because I think it is one of the most fun things to do. You get to think really hard about questions you care about with people you care about, and learn from each other – wow. Philosophical questions are special in four ways:

  • You can’t look up the answer in a book or encyclopaedia.  You can’t just ask a grown-up either! Philosophical questions take debate and careful reasoning to decide what we think.
  • You need to be able to disagree. There isn’t just one right answer. In this way, philosophy is a lot like poetry and literary interpretation. Different perspectives can be valid even if they come to different conclusions.
  • You can change someone’s mind using reasons. Some questions we may never agree on, like “what’s the tastiest flavour of ice cream?” If I really love chocolate, and you really love vanilla, there isn’t something you can say to convince me that I’m wrong. But if I really think that homework on the weekends is important, and you disagree, you might be able to convince me that you’re right. A philosophical question is not just a matter of opinion. 

2. Philosophy isn’t just something you study; it’s something you do. Sometimes philosophical questions come out of a story. I’ll give you an example. Who here has read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? [take hands, take one person to paraphrase for those who haven’t read] So raise your hand if you think the boy in the story did something wrong. [briefly discuss different perspectives – even people who agree that the boy went wrong at some point tend to disagree on when he went wrong. Most people agree that playing with the tree and eating just a few apples was okay.]

Post-lesson note: I had expected almost everyone in a small town, middle-class New England community school to have heard this story at some point. I was mistaken, or at least many had not heard it in years. It ended up taking a while longer than I’d planned to explain the story, so I would suggest referring to a story the class had recently read together.

These kinds of philosophical questions are ethical questions – they are questions about how we should behave. There are lots of different areas of philosophy, and we’re going to get to talk about them this semester. In our Wednesday book groups for the next few weeks, we’re going to get to do philosophy with Sam Gribley in My Side of the Mountain. In order to be successful, we’re going to create a Code of Conduct to help us.

3. Code of Conduct: What is a code? [different types, students throw out a few ideas] → here we are talking about a contract. Our Code of Conduct is an agreement about how we are going to treat each other and how we are going to do our best thinking.

What does our community want to include? Think/pair/share time here so everyone gets a chance to contribute. Stress everyone’s ideas are valuable and actually essential to community development. Then come back to large group to create final list.

{{I try to encourage some version of the following in order to have a successful CI, but all in students’ own words. Usually students come up with a variation on these themselves; if they don’t, I just ask questions – e.g. “Do you think we should have anything about what we do while someone is talking?”

  1. One person speaks at a time.
  2. Listen to the person who is speaking.
  3. When it is my turn to speak, I say whether I agree or disagree and why OR I ask a question about what has just been said.
  4. Everyone’s ideas are valuable. }}

These are some strategies my fourth graders had already been practicing before I joined their classroom that we’ve incorporated effectively into our Community of Inquiry:

    1. Agree/disagree with the idea, not the person.
    2. Everyone gets a chance to speak → “name tokens” to show everyone’s spoken already at least twice, no one dominates
    3. Use body language to communicate focus. Eyes on the speaker, body still, no side conversation.
    4. After you finish speaking, call on the next person. Look for someone who hasn’t spoken yet.

A communication tool I learned at Eurekamp that my fourth graders have made great use of: If you have a build on to what’s just been said, put in two fingers. If you have something brand new to say, put in one finger. Try to first call on people who have a “build on” so that we can go really deep into each question before we move on.

4. The role of dialogue, discourse, and collaboration – “good talk:”

  • Is dialogue teacher led?  Does it include the teacher?  How are groups structured?

Discussion occurs in circle on the floor – no one at the “front.” At first, teacher calls on students. When we move to creating Code of Conduct, students call on each other.

5. What is the (expected) range of challenges for your learners and what supports are you building in for them? This is something for each educator considers for themself.

In general, students tend to range from very talkative to very quiet, and from very confident to very wary. We build in time for students to speak in pairs in addition to the large group discussion that makes up the majority of the lesson. When asking questions to the large group, we give enough wait time to allow all students the time they need to process and decide whether or not they would like to contribute. By using talking tokens in the large group and combining large group discussion with pair/shares, we ensure that every student will have the opportunity to share ideas with peers and will feel a responsibility to do so.

6. What evidence of learning are you looking for (to guide your teaching)?

Students are practicing the skills of sharing ideas and listening to other people’s ideas.

Engaged students will…

  • listen attentively to peers.
  • contribute original thoughts of their own that connect to the questions raised.
  • provide reasons and/or evidence to back up their claims.

***

Hey check out this fun graphic I found about collaboration. It’s a Venn diagram! How philosophy-relevant!