S. T. Fleming

Language. Education. Literacy. Creation.

Archive for the tag “Education”


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.

The World’s Largest Lesson

Please be aware of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.  You can find more information here: https://www.tes.com/worldslargestlesson/ and you can choose your language in the upper right hand corner.  This is important!!

La lección más grande del mundo

Now in Peru!

Last Thursday night we arrived in Lima, Peru!  This will be home for the foreseeable future.

We have been enjoying the company of family and friends; we have been searching out places to live; we have been learning from and working with some amazing people; we have been looking for and creating work, ways to share what we know while continuing to grow in knowledge.

There are amazing possibilities in this city of 10 million!  If you are looking for a literacy/ language teacher and coach please let me know; I would love to talk to you about the possibilities.

Listen, Watch then Teach

When working with my students in language and literacy I am always looking for data.  I don’t, however, rely much on standardized scores and summative assessments.  While helpful in a very small way, those types of assessments give me information more about me, the teacher, than about the student.  I look for data that I can use.

Every time I have a conversation with students I make notes about their learning, sometimes mental notes and sometimes written notes.  I try to keep track of their use of language and their thinking.  Every time I read student writing I make notes about their use of language, their ability to express themselves and their accuracy.  This is the data that I use.

This is the real-time data that shows me what students know and can do right now.  That data is then turned into large group, small group and individual instruction as needed to move all students forward.  I encourage students to make mistakes, use big words, enter into debates and not be afraid.  It is through making mistakes, I tell them, that I can know what the next steps are in their learning.  All done in a supportive environment.

Give it a try; it’s not rocket science.  When we pay attention to the students they will show us what they need.  When we listen and watch, we will know what to teach.

Literacy in Minnesota

Literacy @ RiverviewIf you are interested in how Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop works in one school in Minnesota, check out the site Literacy @ Riverview.  The site gives an outline of expectations for reading and writing education.  It is a great site for new teachers who want a window into elementary literacy or experienced teachers who want a refresher.  There is also a section of resources in Spanish.

Check it out and see what you think:

Strategies for Learning and Engagement

Here is a list of the strategies we are learning with the NUA cohort this year.  The work has been wonderful and I always love learning!  I am pretty sure that any one of them can be “googled” if you are looking for more information.

  • Bubble Map- Describing
  • Circle Map- Defining in Context
  • Double Bubble Map- Compare
  • Flow Map- Sequence  
  • Tree Map
  • Vocabulary Development- Pronoun Boxes Comprehension
  • Vocabulary Development- Synonym Triplets
  • Vocabulary Development- Taxonomy
  • Vocabulary Development- Vocabulary Tri-Fold
  • Vocabulary Development – Dancing Definitions
  • Community Builders- I Am, I Love, I Always
  • Equity Sticks/Voice Avatar
  • NUA Notebook
  • NUA Explicit Strategy Instruction Protocol
  • Touching the Spirit
  • Punctuate Your Thoughts
  • Speech Bubbles with Imaginary Teachers’ Comments on Race/Ethnicity Related Issues
  • Comprehension – Key Word Notes
  • Composing with Keywords- Writing
  • Good and Better- Vocabulary
  • Decoding–Phonic Pattern Word Lists
  • Comprehension – Essential Summaries
  • Choral Reading Repetition (The girl on the train)
  • Panel Books

Just to name a few! :)

Sites for Spanish Literacy Games

I have been gathering websites for early literacy learning in Spanish; here they are… so far.  clearly I need to annotate the list and add more.

If you have any other suggestions please let me know; I am sure there are many, many more.

Writer’s Workshop Ideas- Fun, Engaging

A colleague in my K- 5 school asked for a few ideas about making writer’s workshop fun and engaging.  I love those questions because it allows me to be creative and gather ideas.  Here are a few ideas to get started… (If you have more please add them!)

  • Be passionate- write in front of the students and let them see you write and talk out loud about your process, about spelling, …
  • Draw pictures to go with the writing
  • Write stories to go with the pictures
  • Make comic books
  • Re-write comic books (the one you just made or one that was professionally made) into story format with dialogue and description
  • Let students write what they want- lists, stories, opinions, how-to, all I know about…, non-fiction or fiction, poems, … play with words
  • Find a real audience- another classroom, the hallway, a classroom in another school or another city, country, a blog, …
  • Design/ diagram something invented and explain how it works
  • Read/ tell the beginning of a story and have the students continue/ finish it
  • Act out a story and then have the students write the script
  • Write a script and then have the students act it out, or with puppets, or as a podcast or …
  • Writing prompts
  • Connect writing closely with reading or science or social studies
  • Shared writing
  • Do you have a class mascot (stuffed animal, live animal, …)?  Write the stories of the mascot- where from, past adventures, include pictures,
  • Class blog on kidblog.org
  • Add podcasts of students reading their writing on your page of the school’s website
  • Check out blog posts such as: http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com/2014/08/engaging-writing-activities.html
  • Stick with the standards but let your mind wander and your creativity soar

The Tooth Fairy: A True Story

Last Friday I read a story with a first grade student during his independent reading time. Actually, he read to me a story of the Tooth Fairy.  His ancestors of a few generations back came from Mexico (that will matter towards the end of this commentary).

Here is our conversation after he finished reading the story:

Student: I know that the Tooth Fairy is not real.
Me: No?  (I know that this student has older siblings and I wondered what they had told him.)
Student: No.  It’s not real.
Me:  What more can you tell me?
Student: No, it’s not a fairy.  It’s a ratoncito. This is true!  In parts of Latin America it is not a fairy that leaves coins for a tooth it is a Ratoncito Pérez.

Writing Poem for Year’s End

Writing for year’s end
On paper thinking, today reflecting
Aimless thoughts a wander.
Judging not the honesty of this day,
The moment,
Tomorrow’s truth might morph.

But today I write
and today I know
I know

Post Navigation


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 149 other followers

%d bloggers like this: