Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ten Dogs in the Window

Most teachers I know find getting ready for a sub one of the dreaded activities of the school year due to the added time it takes to prepare. I am certainly no exception. Over the years, I have an assortment of books that are my go-to resources every time I find myself with little time to get ready for a substitute teacher to visit my classroom.

So I thought to share with you one of my very favorites: Ten Dogs in the Window by Clarie Masurel and Pamela Paparone. The text is very basic with a nice repetitive and rhythmic pattern, so you can use it even with beginner students. The book is about 10 dogs in a pet shop window display that leave one by one with different people. The fun thing is to guess or predict which dog each person will choose. In one page, you see a person approaching the window, in the next page the same person is leaving with one of the dogs as the next customer approaches the store. It really is for small children but, the older students enjoy guessing and explaining their reasoning behind their prediction. It is also good for making a arguments. The sentence frame I use is:

"I predict this person will choose the _________ ________ dog because ________."
"I don't think he/she would choose the ______ _______ dog because ___________________.

A way to add complexity is counting -- subtracting the dogs; reviewing Math vocabulary using questions like "How many dogs will this person take away?" and "How many dogs are left?" etc.

Another way to use it is as an informal assessment for describing by having the students make their own guesses or predictions to the question: Which dog do you think he/she will choose? The students describe without a scaffold in order to identify those still struggling with the adjective-s+noun pattern. When a guest teacher is given an assessment task that is easy to do and record, they really appreciate it. Nothing like "fresh ears" to help you make sure students reach mastery in this basic skill. I just have them mark in the student's list, next to their names a - or or for every time a student had a turn to describe using a complete sentence. "-" means struggling; "+" means experienced. Hesitations count as "struggling". For me, this skill should come automatic to count it as experienced.

What a fun book for a 30 minute session pull-out group! I find it ideal for K to 2nd grades, however 3rd and even 4th graders enjoy the guessing game too. I love reading this book, but I resist using it throughout the year, so whenever I find  myself short with time preparing for a substitute teacher it is a go!.

What are your go-to books for subs?


Monday, July 16, 2012

Energy island : how one community harnessed the wind and changed their world

Looking for a fresh book to read for Earth Day? Need a text to teach Persuation? I have a great suggestion: Energy Island : how one community harnessed the wind and changed their world; by Allan Drummond. This is a non-fiction book I absolutely love because it "kills two birds with one stone". The first bird is that it deals with very relevant environmental issues. In addition, it tells the story of a teacher: Søren Hermansen and the process of persuading. 

Energy Island is an amazing story told by children for children about a life changing lesson. Their teacher asked his students what can they do different to better use their natural resources. The children came up with several good ideas. This unraveled a process where Mr. Hermansen, the teacher, talked to different members of their community and told them his idea. The members of the community answered their concerns. Some believed they could change. Most of the people didn't. Eventually, the benefits the changes and innovation of the few, made the many think this through. Now, Samsø is known internationally for their Energy Academy and all the fruits it has bore not only in Denmark, but throughout the world.  

The exchange of ideas presented in the text, is an excellent example about how persuasion works. One page shows the teacher bringing up an idea and listening to the objections of his audience. A few pages later, he comes up with arguments that defend his position and hopefully persuades his interlocutors. The subject of course, is the environment!

I used this book for the first time early Spring this year with my groups from 2nd to 5th grade in Intermediate and Early Advanced levels. It was very successful to help me introduce a new function: Persuading. Simultaneously, tapping into the students' schema. The illustrations work wonderfully and the subject is presented in  simple manner for the ELL students to be able to focus and don't get confused. Both elements; the environment and persuasion are very well outlined and isolated in the text. 

In addition, I am including a youtube link where Søren Hermansen  himself talks about his project and his homeland. The title of the video is: Samsø: Energy Academy. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Apple Trees

From Learner Publications, there is a life cycles series on their First Step Nonfiction books. It is a wonderful series that has all I love in books for English Language Learners. The pictures are beautiful uncluttered and specific. This series is great for all Levels. I like to use it for levels 1and 2 students in the 4th and 5th grades. It is a great way to give them rich content in a simple and straight forward way. The Glossary is very well explained but, most of all, I love the facts page that help the students research further. Also, the cycle pictures are excellent for them to practice re-telling and sequencing words. We just finished studying the Apple Life Cycle and the students had a blast! We've practiced simple present tense/third person as well as past tense verbs in particular. Sequencing, Verb Tenses and Literary Skills - nonfiction. Three birds with one stone!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Valentine's Day: Candy, Love and Hearts by Elaine Landau

Valentine's is my favorite holiday! I don't know why but, ever since I was in Kindergarten I have asked my mother to buy candy and Valentine's for me to give to my friends and teachers. Now, I do make a big deal about it with my students. So far, I haven't had any complaints. This book is one of eight books from a series called Finding Out About Holidays. All the books are great but I like the Valentine's Day one in particular. It is very complete because it gives you a couple of versions about the origins of this Holiday. Particularly cool for the ELL students is that it includes a chapter of "Valentine's Day Weddings" with pictures from couples from different countries and faiths. It also explains the typical Valentine's staples -- candy, hearts, valentine cards. It even includes a craft. The one thing that I love though, is the list of "I love you" in different languages. It 's a great opportunity to have students share their native languages and talk about a splendorous thing! If you use it, I'd love to hear how you like it.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Except the Color Gray by Arlene Alda

The color gray is a hard one to practice. This book gave me the idea to have students find something they like that is gray in color or has some gray in it. So simple, isn't it? It is great for Kindergarten students at the Beginner/Early Advanced levels but, the pictures are so good it really is a great book for anyone who loves to read about colors.
Another great thing about using this book is teaching the meaning of the word "except". This story clearly explains what "except" means. I am sure your students will love it!
On an interesting note, the author is the wife of the actor: Alan Alda :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012