Mexico EFL Teachers Rock

In November, I had the opportunity and honor to participate in the Binational Migrant Education Initiative (BMEI) for the second time.  I have so many wonderful things to say about the experience that this post only begins to describe the positives of the trip.  Hands down, the top benefit of the experience was learning from a dedicated group of educators in Mexico.

Here’s the low down of the who, what, when and where of the portion I participated in.  I went to Tulancingo, Hidalgo Mexico for one week where I provided professional development in SLA theories and strategies for 20 primary and middle school English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers.  We had beneficial conversations regarding migrant students who travel between the US and Mexico.  In addition, we explored many cross-cultural issues.   Without a doubt, I learned as much if not more from the teachers I worked with.  They graciously allowed me to observe their classrooms where I witnessed their creativity and devotion.  A personal highlight for me was going to a rural school where students learn Spanish, their indigenous language, and English.  Beyond the classroom experience, they were also hospitable and treated us to visits to local sites, amazing food (one can’t get enough pozole), and good company.

This Animoto shows some of my experience.  (It was created on the 30 second free account, so it only gives a taste of Animoto.)  Check out the Animoto for educator’s account.

I was also fortunate to travel to Guadalajara and visit Intel as part of this trip.  It just so happened that the world’s second largest international book fair was in progress.  In my book, there aren’t many better ways to spend an evening than perusing good old fashioned books at a book fair.

I went to Cuernavaca, Mexico the first time I participated in the BMEI.   Both experiences were enjoyable and memorable, yet different.   I highly recommend the program!


The Teachers Should See This: Coke and Mentos

I am ten years old and a guest blogger here.  I often find interesting sites and sometimes want to share them.  I will occasionally post things I think teachers should see.  Here's my Coke and Mentos post! 

Do you know what happens when you put Coke and Mentos together?  Watch this EepyBird.com production to see what happens.

Next, if your students liked the first video, here is a second one that has a domino effect. To show your students why it happens, show this MythBusters video. To wrap up your lesson, demonstrate video one or two for your students. Remind them not to try this at home.


Fun with Typografit, Flickr Poet, Vizlingo, and More for Jan 31st EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival

This is my “fun” contribution to the Jan. 31st EFL/ESL/ELL Blog Carnival hosted by David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0.  In deciding what to contribute, I came to the realization that so much is fun to me, particularly when it includes technology that spurs critical thinking and discussions that my students connect with.   Have fun with a few of the sites and ideas I enjoy, and consider taking my “challenge” at the end!

A.      9 Simple free web 2.0 sites

When Tech:  Type text into Typografit or Stories in Flight: Flickr Poet and create something like the image above.  It's fun!  Give Typografit a whirl here and Flickr Poet a try here. Create a word picture and share it.  

Met Ed:  In ESOL or language, students can type in sentences in Typografit and then discuss punctuation and spelling. One of my classes typed in short paragraphs that used our vocabulary.  They then discussed the pictures and how closely they reflected their writing.  Sometimes the pictures were quite different than they expected, and this led to some interesting discussion.

Flickr Poet suggests typing in poems or music to visualize them. I couldn’t resist and typed in a poem from one of my favorite poets, Since Feeling Is First by E.E. Cummings. I then captured it using Jing; it’s viewable here.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have students write poems, use Flickr Poet, and then use a screencast such as Jing to record music that captured the spirit of their poems or their voices reading their creations? Of course, they could just simply read or discuss the results if a low tech route is preferable.  Any of these are bound to be fun and lead to language acquisition. How can Typografit or Flickr Poet be used in your class?
When Tech:  Type text into Vizlingo and create something like the video I made below.  You have some choices of videos to include in your final product.  You can even upload your own videos.  Create and share a video here. It’s almost too much fun!

Met Ed:  This can help students visualize vocabulary as well.  It can lead to some interesting discussions about idioms and multiple meanings of words.  Here’s a great post by Nik Peachy that explains it.  Don’t miss Nik’s suggested activities for using it. How can Vizlingo be used in your class?

*A word of caution is that not all the pictures generated on these sites may be appropriate for younger learners.

See more suggested sites on a recent post called, Six Fun Educational Sites.  It highlights Wonderopolis, Shel Silverstein, One World, Many Stories, Geo Greetings, Draw a Stickman, and Balloons of Bhutan.  Explore more fun educational sites on our Ed Sites page.

B.       A few past fun posts that I have done with students’ help.  The potential of fun is unlimited when tech and creativity are at play and the products are shared. 
A thank you to David Deubelbeiss at EFL Classroom 2.0 for hosting this carnival.  I highly recommend checking out his site and its many resources!   Oh, and writing this post was a blast!  
Challenge for both of us:  Either A: Use one of the sites in this post and blog about it.  Or  B.  Use one of these sites for educational purposes, drop me a link to one of your creations, and I will compile them together some fun way that I share on this blog.

Happy creating!


Six Fun Educational Sites: Wonderopolis to Balloons of Bhutan

If you want to integrate technology in a fun, low stress way, here are a few of our “recent” finds we suggest exploring.   They fit into a variety of content areas and age groups.
  • Geo Greeting  Use this as an introduction to geography or to discuss architecture.  With some creativity, it could be used in ESOL/bilingual classes at the sentence level.  Check out the one I made for you. Make your own for free in a matter of seconds.
  • Draw A Stickman  Use this with beginning ELLs.  It could be an entry to storytelling and a way to work with vocabulary.  Try it on an ipad. It’s fun.
  • Balloons of Bhutan This is a “happy” project.  It could lead to interesting discussion on the topic of happiness, success, etc.  Perhaps some math could be included in the statistics section.  It would be fun to do a spin-off of this project small scale with a class.  The Happiness Project would be an excellent follow up activity.
Explore more educational sites we suggest.   Do you have any success stories using any of these in your teaching?  

Happy exploring!


Teaching With TED Talks

I love using TED Talks as springboards into discussions or projects with my adult English language learners.  Some of my personal favorites are ones that have visuals, art, or music.  Besides being intrinsically engaging, they make differentiating easier due to the universality of the topics. 

This Ted Talks, Stories Cut from Paper by Betrice Coron, could be fun to use in class.  Watch it, read suggestions for using it, and explore some related Ted Talks links.

TED Talks lend themselves to dogme language teaching opportunities and authentic uses of language.  Another way I might use this in an adult ESOL classroom would go something like this:
  1. Watch the video together with subtitles on.  (Possibly have a list of vocabulary pre-selected that teacher pronounces before watching and class discusses what they already know about the words.)
  2. Divide the class into small groups or partners and have them separately interpret an assigned section of the video.  There could be some guidelines outlined in a checklist such as: teach us new vocabulary from your section or related to your section, interpret the art in your section, relate the art to something else you have seen, read, or experienced, etc.
  3. Small groups present, teach their sections, and facilitate discussion.  Discussion could be extended in writing on a class blog.
  4. Watch the complete talk together again as a class.
  5. Extended learning with an activity that promotes students telling their own stories in creative ways. (See Rives Tells a Story of Emoticons.) Again, I would use guidelines in a rubric or checklist and have this part of a project.  It could be possible to incorporate all modes of language—reading, writing, listening, and speaking in the process.
Below are some of my other favorite TED Talks on the arts (often integrated with science) that lend themselves to dogme language teaching or projects that allow students to bring in their voice, experiences, and make connections.   Many of them are challenging for intermediate to advanced ELLs, but in my experience if scaffolded, some interesting sometimes unexpected conversation arises.  Others lend themselves perfectly to discussion based upon the visuals or music alone.
Don't miss Huff Post the Best of TED 2011 countdown.  Feel free to explore my past posts on TED TalksWhat are some of your favorite TED Talks for classroom use?  What are some ways you use them in the class?


Robot Heart Stories and Other Global Collaborative Projects

Over the past few weeks, I have browsed global collaborative projects out of curiosity.  What ways can classrooms use technology to gain a wider global perspective, to share, to connect, to learn together?  How are these types of programs shaping education? Are there ways of allowing kids and adults who speak different languages to work together?  If there are, are they only for the privileged?  How will these types of programs shape the way those who participate in them view the world and its possibilities?

With these questions and ideas in mind, I stumbled upon a project called Robot Heart Stories.  It is an experiential learning program and is an example of how transmedia storytelling is connecting geographically separated and linguistically different classes in education.  Watch this video clip

Read the Robot stories here.  View the robot’s journal here from Montreal to LA.  Wow, even a quick scan of these materials showcases collaborative, creative learning across the content areas in French and English!

How interesting!  I’m not sure what this means, but I think it indicates the times are a changing. <3

Here are some links to other collaborative projects on our Ed Sites tab.
Happy global collaboration!