S. T. Fleming

Language. Education. Literacy. Creation.

A Song for Christmas (just add music!)

Working 2 part times, ‘round minimum wage
I pay all my debts but I can’t turn the page
So during the year I put coins in a jar
To make Christmas special and point to the star

In our simple home it’s just me and my son
His mother was taken when he was just one
Though strong till the end the disease was still stronger
It’s seven years later, some nights still feel longer

Chorus:
The best part of Christmas right here in this part
Is the time spent together, it’s here in the heart
The star of great wonder that shines from above
Is not about presents, it’s all about love

There’s one gift to cuddle and something to wear
One gift for learning and a fun-thing we’ll share
Most were bought used, now cleaned and with bows
I imagine him smiling from head to his toes

The four little presents wrapped, under the tree
There’s a gingerbread cookie for him and for me
The night before Christmas he sits in my lap
Together we read, together we nap

Chorus

I heard him start coughing and quickly awoke
The house wasn’t burning but filled up with smoke
The candle that flickered to brighten the night
Burned into the table and gave us a fright

“It could have been worse,” the firemen said in my ear.
“Insurance can fix it, there’s nothing to fear.”
I cried as I listened, still hugging my boy
Who whispered, “Merry Christmas, Dad” with tears and some joy.

Chorus

Staggered Start Guided Reading

You are right- I never explained this!

In a guided reading group one of the goals is to have students read text while supported by you, the teacher.  Remember the idea of gradual release of responsibility:

  • I do, you watch
  • I do, you help
  • You do, I help
  • You do, I watch

Using staggered-start can be both of the last two bullets; the key is that the student is ‘doing’ while you watch or help:

  • When you stagger the start, each student has a copy of the text;
  • One student student begins with the first paragraph (first page, first part,…);
  • When the first student gets to the second paragraph (second page, second part, …)  student number two begins with the first paragraph while the second student continues on;
  • When student number two gets to the second paragraph, student number three begins with the first paragraph while the previous students continue reading;
  • While students are reading you are monitoring, taking notes and coaching.
  • When a student finishes s/he goes to the beginning and starts again and all students stop at the same time.

Did that make sense?  The idea is that each student starts and continues reading through to the end.  Because each student begins at a different time, each one has to appropriately-struggle with the whole text.  No one is getting nervous about everyone listening; no one is counting ahead and pre-reading his or her paragraph.  This is not round-robin reading!

As coach, you cue students as they are reading and take notes about their struggles.  I always ask students to use their finger or a ruler while they are stagger reading so that I, the teacher, know where they are on the page and I can match the text with their speech as I quickly check in with each student.

Remember, this is one step in a whole process; it is one way to have students practice their reading in a guided reading group.  Staggered reading will mean nothing if students do not understand what they are reading.  Reading= comprehension.

Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).

Here is a group of teachers practicing staggered reading:

Modified Guided Reading

Thank you for the question about Modified Guided Reading.  Let me start with the link to the original article and a link to an article that explains the original article.

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Now that you have read those, I have a copy of my Modified Guided Reading-Plan for you to look at and use.

The results are amazing when done carefully.  In order for this to work, though, we have to think about our students and what they know and what they need to learn.  When I use this format I pre-teach the aspects that my students will struggle with (you need to know your students!) and work on building oral language around those ideas.  By the time they get to the text they will be in that wonderful Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) and understand most of what they are reading.  I try to leave appropriate challenges along the way so that their reading is in the Goldilocks-Zone.

Try it and let me know what you think.  If you want some additional coaching please let me know.  Remember: Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).

WIDA- ACCESS 2.0 Speaking Test

In a conversation with a friend last month I learned that WIDA has a new way of assessing speaking for their ACCESS test. I have been certified as an ACCESS tester since 2010- 2011 when I was working in SPPS and I wondered how the test had changed. So, I logged in and learned about ACCESS 2.0.

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A few changes I noticed right away:

  • They changed the grade level clusters by adding 1st grade as its own cluster for the on-line test and 1st, 2nd and 3rd are each their own cluster for the paper–based test (on- line);
  • they reduced the number of tiers from 3 to 2;
  • they changed the names of the levels: Exemplary, Strong, Adequate, Attempted
  • they added Nina!

Nina is a wonderful addition because she gives students a model from which they can base their own language and she gives the test proctor an example of the expected academic language.  I also liked the clarity around what to do if students did not answer the question but still used English (Off topic= Adequate; Off task= Attempted).

I remember training teachers in St. Paul and we had some wonderful discussions as we worked toward inter-rater reliability on the speaking assessment. ACCESS 2.0 makes things more clear with the addition of Nina and the three bullet points for each level. Yes, there is still room for subjectivity but the guidelines and model make the rating easier, simpler and clearer. (They probably had some great conversations this year, too.)

What I like most about WIDA is the Can Do Descriptors. Yes, every student “can-do” something at every level and in every domain. Our job as teachers is to scaffold the instruction so they can grow in their use of language, language that is used for social and academic situations.

I am still wondering, though, where did the tall-hat people go?

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Earth Alphabet

NASA Earth AlphabetThis is worth looking at- “NASA’s Earth Observatory has tracked down images resembling all 26 letters of the English alphabet using only NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photography.”

Here is the link on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/_5QLUVIaHq/

Here is the link to the whole alphabet: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ABC/

Wonder at the marvels of the earth as we near the new year!

It’s a Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas!

Here is a link to my favorite Christmas movie- It’s a Wonderful Life…Enjoy!

https://archive.org/details/FilmeAFelicidadeNoSeCompra-ItsAWonderfulLife1946

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Language Through Content

Language and content go together.  We cannot learn language first and then learn content; nor can we learn content if we do not have the language.  Learning to teach in this way is truly worth your while.  I have compiled some resources for your continuing education.

How do we best teach language through content? We

  • show the movie first
  • pre-teach the vocabulary
  • use visuals
  • make timelines
  • use graphic organizers
  • act it out
  • create podcasts and videos
  • interact using the content and the vocabulary
  • use realia

Here is a link to many more resources for learning language through content from CAL: http://www.cal.org/twi/rgos/content.html

This link is to a chapter on Teaching Content Through a Second Language that is on the CARLA website and don’t forget about CoBaLTT.

If you or your program need assistance in the area of content instruction in a second (or third…) language please let me know.

Almost

I almost had a new student last week. Almost.

Here in Lima I am beginning my own business as a teacher of English. I would like it to expand to reading and writing instruction as well but what Peruvians want most is to be able to hold conversations in English and pass standardized tests such as the TOEFL. OK, I can help with that.

With business cards printed I began to advertise in local shops by pinning my card to bulletin boards and talking to some of the shop owners. I don’t want to advertise too far away because traffic here is a bear!

Later that afternoon the phone rang. An unknown number on my new cell phone! It must be a new student; wow, that was quick! I just put the cards up.

“Where are you? I am here in Calle 10. Can I come over now?” the voice on the other end asked rather urgently.

Because I am on 10th street too I answered, “Sure, let’s meet by the flag poles out front in the park.”

A few minutes later we were sitting on the park bench out front discussing English. “Tell me a bit about yourself,” I began.

“I am originally from the Dominican Republic and I am here in Peru with a construction company. The bosses at the company want me to learn English; it is the only way I can rise to the next level. Right now I know hardly any English so I want to start as soon as possible.”

We discussed how best to get started and decided on one hour a day every day Monday through Friday. Then he pulled out his wallet. He wanted to pay me in advance for next week’s classes. I felt uncomfortable with that. When I lived in Chile and began my English teaching business there I found that there were students with whom I could not work so I wanted to have at least one class before any money exchanged hands. As I listened, I also wondered if he were really a Dominican. I lived with a Dominican for three years and this voice sounded different.

The Dominican was rather insistent. He opened his wallet showing two hundred dollar bills saying, “If I pay now I will be more committed to the work of learning English.”

“Sir, I won’t take any money today and I don’t have change.” I was more insistent. “Let’s meet on Monday and see how things go.”

“OK.” We shook hands and he continued on his way.

On Monday evening I showed up at the appointed time and place. No one was there. I called the number he had given me. Wrong number. I almost had a new student. Almost.

What happened, you ask? After many conversations with family and friends here in Lima we came to the conclusion that the Dominican wanted to pay me with counterfeit bills and receive the change in real Peruvian money. I was on the wrong end of a scam. Almost.

Lima Sky: Panza de Burro

Speaking with someone here in Lima, Peru I asked about the weather.  You see, my experience of Lima has generally been in the winter months (June, July, August).  During that time the sky is usually gray and the sun is rarely seen.  Now it is spring and the sky is still mostly gray.

When I asked about the summer months and the presence or absence of the sun I was told, “No, el cielo panza de burro se cambia en el verano.  En el verano hay sol y hace calor.”  That means, ‘No, the sky that looks like the belly of a burro changes in the summer.  In the summer there is sun and it is hot.”

I was so glad to hear that I will see more sun and I loved the description of the sky: panza de burro/ belly of a burro (also known as a donkey).

Travel Article 2

Part 1: Introduction

What is the goal of the introduction?                            http://goo.gl/QJmVUU

How do I start?

1 more way to begin…

Let’s Get Started

1. Name of the place you will be writing about (e.g. Minnesota)

2. 1st introduction: You know/ You don’t know

Minnesota, located in the United States along its northern border with Canada, is known for cold, bone chilling cold and -40ºF wind chills.  As a matter of fact, International Falls, Minnesota is called The Nation’s Icebox!  Did you know, though, that Minnesota is also the land of 10,000 lakes for fishing, swimming and water skiing? (And water skiing was actually invented in Minnesota!)  Here are some beautiful summer places to explore Minnesota.

3. 2nd introduction: In the middle of it all

As I ride my bike around Lake Harriet in the heart of Minneapolis I hear the sounds of Jazz coming from the bandshell and the ropes clanging against the sailboat masts.  A group of runners pass me going in the opposite direction making way for the older couple out for an evening stroll.  This is summer in Minneapolis and I have only begun to taste what summer in Minnesota has to offer.

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