Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Include Interactive Technology in the Classroom

There are examples of technology all around us, and the ways we approach tasks are constantly changing. The classroom should be a place in which students can explore and embrace these new developments; advances in technology can be used as a way to supplement curriculum and enrich the learning environment. My students have always loved to try the newest gadgets and online educational resources. With so many technological advances, but finite resources to access them, it is important to know about the best free resources and classroom applications.

Creating Interactive Stories

With the advent of computers and the Internet, a whole new world of reading has opened up for students. Books are no longer their only choices for reading activities; they can tap into computer and website-related reading resources, like hybrid-interactive stories. These can be accessed easily online and have a range of fun features. Some stories include features to help students read, like highlighting words as they progress through the story. Other resources give students the chance to create and read their own tales. 

Virtual Learning Experiences

When time or money don't allow for a real journey, why not take your students on a virtual trip? They can view monuments, museums, and much more from the comfort of your classroom. Virtual field trips or tours are provided by many organizations, museums, and major companies. While teaching in Arizona, I used to love using the Monterey Bay Aquarium's webcam as a way to augment our explorations of ocean life.

Online Interactive Manipulatives

When resources are limited, do not worry! You can always look on the Internet for free online manipulatives. You can find virtual scales, rulers, and blocks for your students to use. These tools can be utilized by students while completing a group lesson, or for practice during their free time.

Music From Online Sources

Music has the power to grab students’ attention. It can be used to inspire creativity, to set the atmosphere in the classroom, and as a supplement to the content being taught. There are many ways to access free songs or lyrics to share with all grade levels. There are programs to help students create their own songs as well.

Interactive Videos Can Augment Curriculum

Movies have gotten a bad reputation as the lazy way to access content. Although movies can certainly be used incorrectly, as a time waster or as a substitute for curriculum, there are a wealth of amazing multimedia videos that can support and promote learning. One of the main attractions of interactive videos is the fact that they include an element or feature that pulls in the viewer. Students might be asked to stop and share, or to respond to an onscreen prompt. These types of activities can be used with the whole class or at a learning center. It makes learning more interesting and personalized.
What follows are more technology lessons and activities.

Innovative Technology Lessons:

Technology that Makes Phonics Fun
This lesson shares a number of activities involving different free phonics software programs available online. Students are able to do everything from creating mind maps to reading along with favorite storybook characters.
Hyperlinking Partnership 
This lesson explores how to set up a virtual partnership between high school students and professionals in the world of architecture. Students build problem-solving and life skills while working with varied technology resources.
Personal Timeline
Students use the software Timeliner to create a personal timeline, including seven important events from their life. The lesson includes samples of students work, and the software program can be downloaded for free online.

Source: Lesson Planet (a great online resource for teachers)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shone vs. Shined, Lit vs. Lighted

A Canadian reader asks,
Has it become okay to change irregular past verbs like lit and shone to lighted and shined?
The answer to the first part of the question is that irregular verbs have been in a state of flux for centuries, so I suppose that it’s always “okay” to change them. 

The dominant tendency in English has been for irregular past tense forms to be replaced by the “regular” -ed past tense ending. For example, the past participle of help used to be holpen:
Now, when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help… –KJV, Daniel 11:34
As only about 300 strong verbs (what we call “irregular” verbs) existed in the Old English spoken and written a thousand years ago, I think it’s amazing that any of them have survived into modern English.
The reader who posed the question implied that writing lighted and shined for lit and shone must have something to do with American spelling habits:
I’m from Canada and we often struggle between American and British rules.
A persistent misconception is that when American usage differs from British usage, the American version must be a corruption. I’ve received many a comment comparing American English to “real English,” as if Standard American English (SAE) were a usurper of the “real thing.” The fact is, King Alfred would have as much difficulty in understanding Queen Elizabeth II as he would President Obama. Both SAE and BrE flow from the same source, but both have traveled a long way from it. 

Generally speaking, shone and lit are preferred in British English and shined and lighted in American English. Both the OED and Merriam-Webster show the inflected forms lighted/lit and alighted/alit. In both dictionaries, the -ed form is listed first. 

Generalities aside, both weak (regular) and strong (irregular) past tense forms are in use on both sides of the Atlantic. I grew up in the American South and was quite comfortable saying “Mother lit the birthday candles,” and “The sun shone all day long.” 

The verb shine is used with two meanings:
shine: of a heavenly body or an object that is alight; to shed beams of bright light
shine: to cause to shine, put a polish on
According to some authorities, context determines whether an American speaker will use shone or shined. when speaking of the sun or some other object that emits light:
The transitive form of the verb “shine” is ”shined.” If the context describes something shining on something else, use “shined”: “He shined his flashlight on the skunk eating from the dog dish.” You can remember this because another sense of the word meaning “polished” obviously requires “shined”: “I shined your shoes for you.” –Paul Brians, professor emeritus, Washington State University.
As for shine in the sense of “to polish,” British speakers would say neither “I shined your shoes for you,” nor “I shone your shoes for you.” For a statement in the past, they would probably use the verb polish: “I polished your shoes for you.”

Now for the really interesting bit: The OED tells us that irregular shone is unrecorded in Old English and appears only once in Middle English. The form shined was in common use from 1300-1800. The form shone first appeared as a past participle in the second half of the 16th century.

As for the forms lighted and alighted (to descend from a horse or conveyance), these -ed forms were in use before the 16th century. 

Shakespeare uses lighted in the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” solioquy in Macbeth:
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
My conclusion is that shined and lighted are no less “okay” than shone or lit. But then, my dialect is American English.

Note: British speakers pronounce shone to rhyme with gone; for Americans, shone rhymes with bone.

Source: Daily writing tips:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Picture Books for Young Adult Readers

As my class was doing historical research in the library, I pointed out to my students that they should study the pictures in the books to help them understand their topics. I was met with some blank stares, and one boy raised his hand and said, "But, I thought we were too old to look at pictures in books. I didn't think we should." 

Many other students murmured their agreement. It was sad that they were denying themselves an important aspect of their research and more particularly of their reading. As I looked at the ones who felt this way about picture books, I realized they were also poor readers. Knowing some of their backgrounds, I believed they probably had never been read to as children. It was sad that they were still denying themselves the pleasure of enjoying picture books.

Picture books are a great asset to reading and a useful tool for teachers. An important trend in publishing and marketing is picture books for young adult readers. "Dramatic changes in children's and YA publishing over the last decade have blurred the lines between children's and adult books. The fact that a book has 32 pages, full-color illustrations, and a 9-by-13 inch trim size no longer automatically means it's "for children only" . . . Although it is difficult to define an exact age limit for picture books, some criteria for picture books for older readers are that they use:

·         Mature themes
·         More complex illustrations than those that would be easily appreciated or understood by younger readers
·         More text or difficult text than would be appropriate for the short attention spans of younger readers
·         Subtle meanings beyond the understanding of younger readers
·         Two levels of meaning - one for younger readers and one for older readers
·         Fiction or non-fiction

Picture books for young adults have mature themes that would be neither understood by nor appropriate for younger readers. For example, I Never Knew Your Name is told by a boy who is troubled because he didn't reach out to another teen who committed suicide. Just One Flick of a Finger is the story of a boy who brings a gun to school, and of the disaster that results. The theme of drugs is illustrated in The House That Crack Built. These are all topics of concern to young adults, but inappropriate for most younger readers.

Today's picture books contain beautiful artwork. However, the tastes of many young children are not developed enough to fully appreciate the meaning or effect of some more sophisticated picture books. 

"Although young children can enjoy the pictures in Ammo's USA, the visual references in the book are subtle and beyond their grasp. Readers must have a solid background in American history, literature and folklore to truly appreciate the breadth of Anno's celebration of America" . 

The contemporary paintings of Wayne Theibaud, in O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, are beyond the understanding of most children. Some of the potential to make meaning when encountering a picture book would be lost if the reader did not understand the complexity of the illustrations. "A picture book uses both text and illustration to create meaning; one is not as powerful alone as it is with the other".

Picture books for young adults are often boring to younger readers because of the longer, more complex texts. However, older readers would find these texts and pictures entertaining and engaging.

Younger children are unlikely to grasp the subtleties in young adult picture books. Although much of the humor, allusions, and situations would have little meaning for them, young adults pick up on these elements and find enjoyment in them. 

For example, Snow White in New York  has the wicked step-mother looking in the newspaper the New York Mirror to get her information instead of in a looking-glass mirror. This is appreciated by older readers not children. In the book A Little Pigeon Toad  the humor is based on puns that are delightful to older readers but might be meaningless to children.

Many picture books can be enjoyed by both older and younger readers. My Great Aunt Arizona , The Rag Coat , and Dandelions are examples of stories that have strong themes and enjoyable stories for young and old alike.

Young adult picture books are written in fiction as well as non-fiction formats. Enjoyable stories in all genres and information texts on all subjects abound. Young adult readers would have no trouble finding picture books to match their tastes in literature of any kind. Picture books increase their understanding and pleasure no matter what mode they select to read.

Implications for Teachers of Young Adults

Young adult picture books are valuable tools for teachers. These books lend themselves to all content areas. Picture books help students be more strategic readers. Readers use many of the same skills to interpret pictures as they do to interpret print, such as determining their purpose for reading; drawing upon their background knowledge, experience, and attitudes; asking and answering questions; inferring; and visualizing. Putting these skills together through both illustrations and text enhances comprehension and the creation of meaning.

There are several types of pictures books that a teacher may consider:

·         Wordless books: The story is told completely through pictures. No text is included.
·         Picture books with minimal text: There is a small amount of text, but the illustrations reveal most of the story.
·         Picture storybooks: Pictures and text have about the same presence and interact to tell the story.
·         Books with illustrations: There are more words than illustrations, but the illustrations give enlightenment and clarification to the story or informational text. 

Each type of picture book could be used by teachers to teach comprehension strategies as well as to increase reading comprehension itself.

Janet Allen, an expert in reading strategies, explains the importance of picture books. "Creating images of scenes or events is an expression of a mental model . I think that's one reason children's picture books were such a hit in my classroom. The beautiful illustrations gave my [secondary] students a mental model they were often unable to create for themselves because they were struggling with the words".

In You Gotta Be the Book, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm tells how picture books helped his struggling readers. "Once students were introduced to picture books and encouraged to read them, they did so vigorously. I wrote in my journal that 'I just have to wonder if school conveys a very limited view of literature that does not include picture books and comics, and if this limited view of literature contributes to how bummed out and distanced many of my student readers become from literature and the literary experience,'".

Picture books support readers by helping build schema. Letting students read books with pictures and text can help them understand concepts and facts that would be difficult without such support. Picture books are on students' independent reading level, while literary "classics" and content textbooks are on their instructional or often on their frustrational level. Picture books can bridge the gap in students' understanding.

Picture books are available in any content area. Some useful, educational and interesting content area picture books are:

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table Math Curse 
One Giant Leap Your Amazing Senses
Across the Wide Dark Sea, The Mayflower Journey. 
Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp The Gettysburg Address. )
Charles Dickens, The Man Who Had Great Expectations.
A Picture Book of Helen Keller. 

Picture books may be used to awaken interest and tie new learning to old. For instance the book, Postcards from Pluto  would be an interesting way to begin a unit on astronomy. The double meanings on the postcards are amusing as well as informative. The Jolly Postman with its varied types of mail can be used to introduce a unit on letter writing.

These books provide springboards to discussions. For instance, the books The Wall  and A Picture Book of Anne Frank would be good discussion starters on war and prejudices. A Day's Work  could evoke a discussion on integrity. They may be used as models for literary development, as well. I Hate to Read introduces the idea of reading and literacy, what reading does for the reader, and what makes a good story.

Picture books are also great for sparking ideas for writing. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (intro by  is a sure way to inspire the imagination, with its mysterious pictures, captions, but no text. To go along with writing, there are picture books on the parts of speech by Ruth Heller - definitely a more interesting way to introduce grammar to young adult readers. Picture Books, An Annotated Bibliography for Use with the 6-Trait Analytic Model of Writing Assessment and Instruction  suggests picture books that may be used to teach the six writing traits.

A plus for using picture books in the classroom is their length. "An important reason for reading a picture book aloud is that the story can be shared in one class sitting, an ideal situation in secondary schools, where class periods are often brief and reading and response to picture books is possible within a single period. Of course, the book can be reread time and again, but the impact will be lost if the story is carried out over several days." 

Some of the very best writing may be found in picture books and should not be missed by young adults. Mem Fox, a picture book author, makes this point very well: "In my experience, the best-loved picture books are so well written that they leave a lasting impression on the reader . . . They have a passionate quality. By passionate, I mean a constant undercurrent of tension combined with compassion, which makes readers care desperately about the fate of the main characters. It's not easy to achieve, but I am convinced that writing without passion is writing for oblivion . . . If we don't laugh, gasp, block our ears, sigh, vomit, giggle, curl our toes, empathize, sympathize, feel pain, weep or shiver during the reading of a picture book, then surely the writer has wasted our time, our money, and our precious, precious trees." 

Young adult picture books are useful and effective tools for teachers. The trend of publishing and marketing young adult picture books is a positive one. It provides enjoyment and education for the young adult reader. Pictures and text together can leave a profound and lasting impression on this age group.

Author: Sunya Osborn
Sunya Osborn is the Chair of the English Department at Payson Junior High School, Payson, Utah.

Biographical references have not been shown here but may be found in the source article shown below.
Source: The Alan Review

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

George Orwell on the English Language

In "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell famously derides writers of modern English prose for their alleged bad habits. Words with Greek and Latin roots come under heavy fire. At best they are pretentious, Orwell argues, and at worst complicit with vagueness, propaganda, and the euphemisms of war: "Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics...".   

Orwell admired the apparent simplicity in the Saxon vernacular, as compared to the more abstract concepts smuggled into English by Greek and Latinate imports. Where the Saxons "ask" the Latins "inquire"; when "help" is wanted, the Latins "assist"; when Saxons "build" and "speak," Latins "construct" and "converse"; "old" things "rot" for the Saxons; in the Roman world, "ancient" things would "putrefy." To Orwell's mind, brevity, precision and sincerity were not only necessary for good prose style, but the essence of clear thinking.

Despite Orwell's distaste for Latinate polysyllables and foreign hand-me-downs, English speakers have generated thousands of new words and phrases by drawing on root words and borrowed terms from different languages. The roots "duc/duct" (meaning "to lead" or "to pull"), for example, have given us: produce, abduct, product, transducer, viaduct, aqueduct, induct, deduct, reduce, induce. A common pairing like "Man/manu" (signifying "hand," "make") generates a similar list of useful words: manual, manage, manufacture, manacle, manicure, manifest, maneuver, emancipate, management (see Resources).

The addition of thousands of such roots, borrowed words, neologisms, and foreign phrases has simultaneously deepened but encumbered a lexicon with well over half a million words in circulation.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Latest Overseas Teaching Jobs – Jan 13, 2014

There are thousands of jobs available overseas to people who are either native English speakers or who have a good knowledge of the language and who want to teach English to children or adults , and - you don't have to already be a teacher!

Below are some of the thousands of current jobs. These are from one source. There are many such sources. When you register for our TESOL course, we will show you where to find teaching positions in many countries:

Here are the latest teaching jobs from around the world as of January 13, 2014. Bear in mind that this represents only a small portion of all the jobs out there.

Current Database Status (country/jobs):
Australia[1], Brunei[1], Burma[1], Cambodia[1], Canada[1], Chile[1], China[50], Czech Republic[4], Estonia[1], France[2], Germany[3], Honduras[1], Hong Kong[5], Indonesia[9], Italy[13], Japan[3], Kazakhstan[2], Kuwait[1], Malaysia[2], Malta[1], Mexico[2], Myanmar[1], Oman[2], Pakistan[1], Poland[3], Portugal[3], Russian Federation[8], Saudi Arabia[20], Singapore[1], South Korea[5], Spain[14], Taiwan[1], Thailand[1], Turkey[3], Ukraine[1], United Arab Emirates[2], United Kingdom[52], Vietnam[3], Worldwide[24]

Wherever you want to go, teaching jobs are likely available but it is harder to get hired in some places. Western Europe is a tough nut to crack. Eastern Europe has many opportunities as does South America. Still atop the list of areas that desperately need a huge number of English teachers is Asia.  It is tougher to get a teaching job in Hong Kong and Japan but South Korea, Thailand, China and Indonesia offer many opportunities. Be flexible and prepared to go where the jobs are to gain experience.

All it takes is a degree and a TESOL certificate . Most schools will even reimburse your airfare! WAIT! No degree? Contact us through our web site! We can help you!

There couldn't be a better time to get started than right now! You could be teaching in one of these countries within a few weeks. Some of our students are hired even before they complete their TESOL course and we are delighted to forward their certificate to their new school!

Go to our web site and get started today on a course that will change your life very quickly! Jobs are tough to get at home. Not so overseas. All you need is a willingness to accept other cultures, a degree in any discipline and our TESOL certificate. Many of our students even begin applying before they complete our course!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Value of Self-Reflection - Any Time Of Year, It's Important To Self-Reflect

Examining What Worked And What Failed In The Past Can Lead To Future Triumphs

In a profession as challenging as teaching, honest self-reflection is key. That means that we must regularly examine what has worked and what hasn't in the classroom, despite how painful it can sometimes be to look in the mirror. 

Then take your answers and turn them into positive, resolute statements that give you concrete goals on which to focus immediately. Be honest, work hard, and watch your teaching transform for the better!

Ask Yourself These Tough Questions - And Be Honest!

  • Where did I fail as a teacher in the past? Where did I succeed?
  • What is my top teaching goal for the coming year?
  • What can I do to make my teaching more fun while adding to my students' learning and enjoyment?
  • What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?
  • What resentments do I need to resolve in order to move forward more optimistically and with a fresh mind?
  • What types of students do I tend to ignore or do I need to spend more time serving?
  • Which lessons or units am I only continuing to perform out of habit or laziness?
  • Am I being a cooperative member of my grade level team?
  • Are there any aspects of the profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge? (i.e. technology)
  • How can I increase valuable parental involvement?
  • Have I done enough to foster a productive relationship with my administrator?
  • Do I still enjoy teaching? If not, what can I do to increase my enjoyment in my chosen profession?
  • Do I bring additional stress upon myself? If so, how can I decrease or eliminate it.
  • How have my beliefs about learning and pedagogy changed over the years?
  • What minor and/or major changes can I make to my academic program in order to directly increase my students' learning?

What Happens If You Refuse To Self-Reflect

Put earnest effort and pure intention into your self-reflection. You don't want to be one of those stagnant teachers that drably presents the same ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. 

The unexamined teaching career can lead to becoming just a glorified babysitter, stuck in a rut and no longer enjoying your job! Times change, perspectives change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education. 

Often it's difficult to get motivated to change when you have tenure and "can't be fired" but that's precisely why you must undertake this effort on your own. Think about it while you're driving or doing the dishes. It doesn't matter where you self-reflect, only that you do it earnestly and energetically.

Examine Your Teaching - Any Time Of Year

One of the best things about teaching is that every school year offers a fresh start. Make the most of this new beginning - any time of year! - and move ahead with the confidence that you are mindful and motivated to be the best teacher you can be! 

What else do you contemplate at the start of a new school year? How do you make sure to keep evolving and progressing as an educator? Discuss this complex issue in our Elementary Education Forum.

By Beth Lewis Education