Guest Blog Post: A little Creativity goes a Long Way

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Our first guest blogger of the year is Mark Yu, a Kindergarten Teacher  at Korea International School – Seoul Campus. Mark is an amazing teacher whose ideas I am constantly stealing from Instagram. I am absolutely thrilled that he was willing to write-up a guest post for Two Apples A Day. More guest posts in the future? Yes, please!

Sometimes repetition is necessary. Especially in a  Kindergarten classroom.

To add more flavor to my literacy centers, I sometimes come up with games to help my kiddos have more fun with the  activity. Where do I come up with these ideas? I really have no idea; my ideas come up at random!
So instead of this:




Which is a game, but it’s just taking turns rolling the two cubes and then reading and writing the word on a dry erase board… not too exciting.

I came up with a game called, “Jewel King,” which looks something like this:


As you can see, just by changing and adding a few things (including the name) it makes the activity seem much more exciting than it really is.

I let my students use my “special” colored pens and choose one color to be the “king” or “queen” of. So if a student chose light blue, for example, he would choose to be the “King of Light Blue.” They will be using their pens to write the words they roll on their kingdom’s “scrolls.”


After they decide which pen color they want, they can start the game. The point of the game is to get as many jewels as you can for your “kingdom.”

Now, to earn jewels, you have to make a correct prediction of which word you are going to get. So the student has to pick letters to make a CVC word, and hope to actually roll that word. For example, let’s say before I roll I choose “d” and “ot” to make the word, “dot.” If I roll and actually get that word, I get a jewel for my kingdom. It may sound complicated, but just modeling it a few times helps the children to catch on pretty quick.

This game actually gives all the students more practice in decoding and reading CVC words because they must choose a word they want before they roll, and then they have to read the word they actually roll, as well as write it down on their scroll.

Not to mention this game allows the practice of social skills in learning to cooperate with others and following game rules as well as taking turns!

I also did the same thing with a sight word graphing activity. Before “Jewel King,” it looked like this:


Just rolling and graphing the word.

Then after making a few changes… and voilá!


Same concept as the other game, the student picks a word on the cube and says it out loud, and if they get the word, they get a jewel for their kingdom! Whatever word they get, they fill out their graph.

And you can differentiate with your students.


I have some of my center groups simply graph by making Xs over the words they roll, and I have other students practice writing the sight word in the graph. And others, I have them write a few sentences on the back about which word they rolled the most and which word they rolled the least!

And you can always change it to “Catch the Dolphins” and use little dolphins instead of jewels or with whatever you would like to use! And it really didn’t take much time at all to make these changes to my centers, but it made a world of difference to my kiddos. Who doesn’t love pretending to be a king or a queen? ^_^

How can you add some flavor to your centers?


Follow Mark


class flicker site:


Guest Blog Post: Blogging in the Classroom

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This week’s guest post comes from Mr. Mat Wachtor, who has had the pleasure of working with both myself and Jee Young. He is currently the lead Middle and High School English teacher at an international school in Seoul. Mat is passionate and dedicated to the teaching profession and seems to be leading a seminar every other day (according to my facebook newsfeed)! He was kind enough to give us a post on how he integrates student blogs into his teaching.

“This semester we are getting rid of paper journals, and moving online.”  This is how I started my high school English language arts classes on the first day of the Spring 2012 semester.  When I came to my current international school, I instituted a journal writing program into all of the high school classes (easy to do since I was the only high school ELA teacher at the time).  My rationale was to get students writing and engaging with various topics: creative, personal, school, and classroom topics.  However, after having piles and piles of student notebooks each Friday I quickly desired change.  Thus, the idea to get students’ blogging was born.

Personally, I have gone through quite a few of the blogging phases: Xanga, Myspace, Facebook Notes, Blogspot, and now Tumblr.  One day as I was searching the education hashtag on Tumblr, I came across an article about how the benefits of student blogging.  I began imagining what it would look like if I implemented a student blogging into my course.  It would simplify collecting journals, and would also allow for greater student responsibility on their part to do their homework.

I chose Tumblr because of its features: following blogs, news feeds, comments, and customization.  Students would be able to see my post in their blog feed when they logged in, and then write their own responses for me to see.  I customized my Tumblr page to have various sections for keeping up with homework, Youtube resources, and school announcements.  I tried to make it as much of an all in one stop for a student as possible.

wachtor's blog

Students were also able to customize their blogs as well, and follow each other.  This allowed for students to comment positively (yes, I monitored the comments) on each others journal posts.  This also helped with EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students as it gave them samples for how to respond to the questions.

studnet custom blog 1student custom blog 2

Each Monday I would start off class by explaining the journal topic for the week, which I actually posted on Sunday mornings for those who were eager to do their homework.  Students would then have until Friday 5pm to post their responses.  Responses were assessed based on the length and how accurately they responded to the question.  In order for students to know that I graded their journal assignment I “liked” their post, and would occasionally post feedback by commenting.  This system also helped keep my records in order!


Since the nature of blogs are social, I encouraged various extra credit assignments that required photos or videos.  My goal was not only to educate students on how to use the internet as a form of communication, but also to have them understand how to positively use social networks.  One of these extra credit assignments was to post pictures from your spring break.  Before leaving for break I announced that I would be traveling to Chicago to visit family, and the could follow different parts of my trip on my blog.  Thus, they would receive extra credit for posting a picture with a quick thirty word explanation.

spring break wachtor

spring break student

Blogging as a class can be very exciting and fun!  Remember to set rules for the students to follow so that the community is safe and free to express themselves.  Happy blogging^^

Guest Blog Post: The Science in Making Mistakes

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I am excited to share a guest post by Chris this week, whom I first met a couple of years ago at New Philadelphia Church here in Seoul. And now we are co-workers! Chris is a passionate and well-connected educator with a blog titled Teach Science Right. I think Chris is our first high school international teacher to be featured on our blog, so check out his site, you won’t be disappointed.

As a science teacher my younger students often look at me in fear at the beginning of the year. The first things they tend to notice is my buzz cut, facial hair & low voice and immediately assume that I’m an intimidating, hard-grading type of science teacher.

But that doesn’t last long!

I’ve learned that many students have these views of my classroom and me because often their previous teachers have filled their heads with this impression. I also know that it’s usually not me that they are intimidated by; rather it’s the content. Science is given a bad rap in many classrooms (not all, but many). It’s often seen as a subject that only the socially awkward students tend to enjoy, or only the really, really intelligent kids enjoy.

It doesn’t take long for me to right these wrongs…

I’m beginning to lose count of all the parents that have personally thanked me during PTCs. Many of them express that their child grew up with a love for science, nature and experiments but quickly lost that love as they grew into adolescence and the pressures of content, tests and memorization squeezed the joy out of it for them. They express to me that their son or daughter finally enjoys science again.

What music to my ears!

And now I want to share my biggest teaching secret….

Room for Mistakes.

Now I realize many readers may teach younger students in which mistakes happen all the time and are common-place, and rightly so are seen as vital to the learning process. But somewhere between lower elementary school and middle & high school teachers have unlearned that mistakes are such a part of the learning process.

Now if a student forgets their homework at home or misses a deadline… well too bad. If a student forgot to answer a question on the practice worksheet (I repeat… the practice) we take points away that can never be made up (because we are calculating their grade based on how many points they got correct out of how many points they could have gotten correct and then wonder why they always ask for extra credit).

And I want to ask, where is the room for mistakes?

I put a lot of effort into creating a class atmosphere that is safe – safe from ridicule of mistakes, safe from rewards for not making mistakes, and safe from a grade being lowered for making mistakes.

Does everyone get an A in my class? – Nope. Not even close. Does everyone have a chance to earn an A? You betcha!

“Forgot your homework? That’s alright, get it to me tomorrow.”

“Forgot to do that problem on the practice? Well show me now that you know how to complete it and I’ll give you credit.”

“What?! You did the wrong page in the textbook?! Oh well, while we work on Activity D why don’t you complete the correct problems and then show me?”

My methods aren’t popular. Many arguments I receive are along the lines of “Not adequately preparing our young people for the future workforce”, and “You are making it too easy on them.”

To which I ask, What made you decide to teach? Did you want to prepare students for jobs? Be a tough, hard-nose teacher?

Or did you simply want to inspire?

Think about your hobbies – i.e. the things that you really enjoy doing and get energy from doing. Most likely they are activities in which you are no expert and you make mistakes.  And most likely they are activities in which you had freedom to learn, freedom to experiment, freedom to mess-up without somebody punishing you for it.

That’s all I’m doing. I’m teaching my kids to not only learn science, but to enjoy science – by taking the fear out of it.


For more information, be sure to search Google for “Standards-based grading and reporting” to see where many of my methods were derived from.