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 page, and 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
“To Be” and Other Irregular Conjugations
This month I’ve been reading Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad All Year with my advanced EFL* students in Israel. You can access a PDF of the text (with a few typos) for free here, though without images. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the original with Lobel’s sweet illustrations. PSA: The whole Storybook Treasury is available at time of this writing for under $3. I adore the Frog and Toad books for a number of reasons:
They deal with universal philosophical themes that are relavent and critical across cultures and age groups, such as friendship, altruism, fairness, time, reality, will-power, loneliness, bravery, and more.
They are collections of short stories that can generally be read within one lesson block.
They are told in relatively simple language with some repetition, making them accessible to many early readers and ELLs,** but they do not fall into the trap of being simplistic in order to be comprehensible.
I’ve been really struggling with how to be respectful of gender identity and avoid reinforcing the gender binary when speaking in a language that genders everything. Just asking “what is your name?” in Hebrew (and in most languages I’m familiar with besides English!) requires the speaker to assume the other person’s gender identity (male or female, no other options). How do you ask pronouns in a language that genders the sentence “what are your pronouns?”
Teaching primary school ESOL and EFL adds a whole second layer of complexity. Continue reading →
The other day, one of my students was stuck on a poem she was writing about herself and her family, and I suggested she include some of her Wonderings. Hardly missing a beat, she said she wonders what her next family will be like. For a moment, I was perplexed. She had just written and told me about how happy she was with her family! Why was she writing something about leaving her family? Then it clicked – “Oh! Do you mean like in a next life?” Yes. Of course. This child’s writing reminded me or helped me realise that not only does community of inquiry change our beliefs, our prior beliefs influence what we’re even able to wonder about in the first place. She wrote a beautiful, unique poem with ideas it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to include, because I don’t have the schema for reincarnation that she does. I’m up in the middle of the night now wondering about what else I might wonder about if my prior beliefs were different. #lovinglearningfrommykids
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.
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.
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!