Guest Blog Post: Resources for the Teacher

Jane is a talented, creative, and experienced fourth grade teacher from Chicago. Among her many talents we are amazed by her font like perfect teacher handwriting!  It would make any teacher jealous. It’s been a privilege to work with her at our school here in Seoul as she has become one of my closest friends. 

Ever since I started teaching I have always been attracted to the many teacher resource books you could find at teacher stores and bookstores.  I always wondered how it was possible that teachers could have so many great ideas to make learning so much fun.  I now realize that teachers probably have the most resources in books and now unlimitedly on the Internet (and each other of course).  Over the past few years I have been teaching in Korea I have not passed up the opportunity to pick up a few new teacher resource books while being at home during break.  It’s usually hard to determine in the few minutes you have whether the book will be really helpful to you until you actually start using the activities.  Here is one book and one Internet resource that I can genuinely say have been useful to me.

The Creative Teacher: An Encyclopedia of Ideas to Energize your Curriculum
This is a book that has something for every subject in short and long term project form for book reports, social studies reports, major math concepts, a random variety of science experiments, writing prompts, and even art projects.  What I particularly appreciate is that the templates can be copied directly from the book.  Although not everything that you will be teaching is included in this book, there are still a lot of creative and useful ideas.  Personally, I like to use the “Submarine Sandwich Book Report” and assign it for students to do over a longer break.  I also think these ideas can be used for a variety of grade levels and are a nice way to change up formats of reports and projects.

The Internet is also the home to an unending supply of resources, but I will share with you the one math website that I am always going to: Math Drills–http://www.math-drills.com  The math textbook we have been using is limited when it comes to reviewing or more practice with students which is why I find myself returning to this site.  It is very easy to print out these pre-made worksheets that are organized by the major math concept.  There are sites out there that can help you customize your worksheet, but I find I haven’t had any trouble finding the concepts I want my students to continue practicing with or review on.  The answers are also all available so no need for doing calculations!

Guest Blog Post: Competing to Learn

Carolyn has taught all over the world, including Hong Kong and Switzerland.  Currently, she is teaching at a large international school here in Seoul. In addition to teaching high school classes in publications, newspapers and communications, she is the head of their school newspaper. I’m so thankful to have met her at my church here where we both serve on the Hub, our church’s newsletter.

Korean kids love competition. This can be a bad thing when it leads to pressure and cheating, but it can be a good thing if you, say, have two classes with the same learning objectives and want them to compete to demonstrate an understanding of those objectives and win a contest.

I tried this a few weeks ago when I had my two Introduction to Publications classes compete to attend the events and “cover” our annual High School English Week. They interviewed teachers, students and administrators about their participation in the English week activities, such as Poetry with the Principal and performances by the Drama 1 & 2 classes. At the same time, by attending and writing the story or taking photos, they participated in English Week themselves! At the end of the week, the editors, copy editors and layout artists met and planned their two-page newsletter, and the following Monday, they stayed after school to finalize, print and submit their papers, with a little help from their advanced peers on the school newspaper, Tiger Times. The “A+ Report” ended up “beating” the “EW Herald.” While the EW (English Week) Herald was judged by the English Department Chair, the principal and me to have had better quality stories and photos, the A+ Report (Period A Intro to Pub.—they named their own publications too!) had better overall coverage with an optional info-graphic, two cartoons and an article that “covered” the whole week.

The prize was not an A+, something that most kids aspire to, but a pizza party. Since this was a first period class, I brought doughnuts and pastries instead, but they mostly just enjoyed the prestige of winning. Everyone deserved a congratulations, though, as they all participated, worked hard and finalized their own original publication, which is what I personally enjoyed the most. The croissants were pretty good, though, too.

Editor-in-chief helps to finish the layout of the A+ Herald with their copy editors and layout artist.

The editor-in-chief & copy writer work to finalize the EW Report.

Guest Blog Post: Tips for a First Year Teacher

We are so thankful for this newbie teacher Janice. Not only is she young, enthusiastic and talented, but she is willing to run races and watch movies with us! Many would be surprised to find out that she originally wanted to teach in the elementary classroom. Currently she teaches high school chemistry, AP chemistry and creative writing at our school. 

Tips for a First Year Teacher

1. Take Deep Breaths

Let’s face it: there are days when all teachers think to themselves, “am I cut out for this?” The answer: YES!

The teaching profession comes with many challenges, all of which I am convinced happen in your first year. Whatever your frustration may be, do yourself (and your students) a favor and take a deep breath (or two).

Then, ask yourself this question:Why do I want to be a teacher? I always think back to a quote my grandfather once wrote me on a restaurant napkin. I’m sure you have one too; if you don’t, you can borrow mine:

“Teachers work in the most noble profession, as they are the engineers of the human spirit.”

2. Set Small Goals

Develop small, achievable goals for yourself on a weekly or monthly basis. My goals usually focus on improving classroom management, establishing classroom routines, and incorporating differentiation strategies.

Here are some of my goals from this year:

  • Having students ready when the class bell rings
  • Taking time to focus on literacy
  • Using the 2 Buddy Rule (encourage students to ask 2 classmates for help before asking you)
  • Using tiered problems – I structure my practice problems in 4 categories (knowledge, comprehension, analysis and application). I encourage students to start at the tier that is most suitable to their understanding level. This gives your lower-level students more time to focus on the basics, while still challenging your higher-level students.

3. It’s About Equity, Not Equality

We think that each student must complete the same assignment and take the same test. Not true.

Think about how each student is going to use the concepts you are teaching them in the future. Create different options for assignments and projects – have some that focus on the more advanced abstract theory and others that center on the everyday applications of that concept.

For example, my Chemistry class just did a project on Chemical Reactions. Option 1: Should high-school athletes be allowed to drink energy drinks during games?

These students researched the chemical compounds in energy drinks, communicated their side effects, and shared their arguments in a creative presentation.

Option 2: Research and design an experiment that tests the effectiveness of different substances at neutralizing acid.

These students researched the process of neutralization reactions. After completing their research, they designed a lab to test the effectiveness of different substances. They carried out the lab, analyzed their results, and shared their conclusion with the rest of the class.

4. How Can I Make This Fun?

Sometimes, students just need to practice. One of the things I often struggle with is trying to keep students engaged and interested while still having them focused on the content and curriculum.

Here are some things I’ve tried:

  • Silly examples – believe it or not, using students names (or my own) in silly situations actually makes Practice Problems a hundred times more enjoyable
  • Cooperative learning games –Pair students; have Partner 1 complete the first part of the question and Partner 2 complete the second.
  • Demo-of-the-day / Activity-of-the-day –Even if your demonstration or activity is only 15 minutes long, students will appreciate your effort to do something hands-on and fun

5. The Only Way to Grow is to Reflect

Take some time at the end of each day (or each week) to think about your lessons. I leave a section in my lesson plans for my reflections – I note everything from an activity that took too long, to a mistake on my handout. These notes will help you tremendously in the years to come!


Guest Blog Post: Paper Mache Globes!

Deirdre and I started our international school careers at the same time four years ago here in Seoul. After two years in Seoul, she moved on to India! She is truly living the life of an international school teacher. I currently teach some of her 2nd grade students from her first year at my school, and they always tell me about the fun times they remember from her class!

In grade 4, we love creating, constructing and composing! We also enjoy getting a little messy from time to time. As part of our unit on Canada and cultures from around the world, we made paper mache globes. Students labeled and identified the seven continents and oceans. Below you will find instruction how to create your own paper mache globe …

Directions:
1. Cover all desks with newspaper.

2. Collect old newspapers and have the students tear into long pieces, about one inch thick. Have one student from each group place shredded newspaper on the groups’ desks.

3. Blow up balloons and leave balloons on the student’s desks. You may want to blow up the balloons prior to the activity for younger students. We used heart balloons because it was Valentine’s Day!

4. Create paper mache mixture:

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ white glue (think of Elmer’s glue)
  • 2 cups of water

The measurements may need to be adjusted … you will know when you have it when the mixture is slightly thick. I did this with my students and had a few measure out and add the flour, water and glue. I mixed it until it became thick enough, first with a spoon and then with my hands. Then I modeled exactly how to take the paper mache goop, cover a strip of newspaper and place it onto the balloon. We talked about what the students noticed: that I was calm, that I only placed the goop onto the strip of newspaper and balloon etc. Then I poured the mixture into four bowls (we have four groups) and asked who was ready!?

This activity is best to do on a Friday because it allows the paper mache to dry over the weekend. Then on Monday the students can paint the balloons and let dry for a day or two.

We used acrylic paint:

We used a blank print out of the continents, colored them in, labeled them, cut them out:

Finally, we hung them up in our room!

Happy paper macheing!

Guest Blog Post: A Call for Nitty Gritty Teachers

Our next guest blogger, Bradford, was one of the first friends I made when moving to Seoul, South Korea. He also happened to be with me at the fateful picnic where Jee Young and I first met (small world), meeting her at the same time that I did! After spending 2 1/2 years in Korea, Bradford went to the next logical location… rural Africa.
 

That’s me and my buddy Jack pictured above. We were canoeing on Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa when we made an impromptu landing at a small fishing village. The locals greeted us like we were rock stars. We spent a little while teaching them frisbee, doing some magic tricks, showing them how to write their names in English, and taking their pictures and watching as the kids went wild after seeing themselves on the camera display. We just got back from that trip on the unspoiled waters of Zambia and Tanzania (near where Stanley met Livingstone in 1871). Tanganyika is absolutely beautiful with perfect weather, palm trees, friendly locals, and clear waters. It was a nice way to spend a week off after my first 6 weeks of teaching at my new school. It was just one of many amazing opportunities I’ve been privileged to take advantage of since leaving home.

But the list of challenges I (and almost all international teachers) face is longer than the list of niceties: trying to teach without using paper because it doesn’t come cheap in rural Africa…teaching a winter camp in Seoul in an unheated classroom in which students can’t turn the pages of the books because they are wearing mittens…power outages so frequent you are forced to change your teaching style away from your strength of using technology…teaching in a former colony about colonialism when you look like you are from the group that colonized.

For every trip you take that looks like once in a lifetime vacation to people back home, there are so many more challenges and difficulties that must be overcome in the classroom. Teaching abroad is way more challenging than traveling, and that is why it is worth doing. This is a call for more teachers with tough, enduring love for students to teach abroad. Our reputations as international teachers are deeply linked to other teachers in our respective areas. As with any minority in any place, there is a tendency for others to judge us not as individuals but as a group. Teachers who are out here for the beaches, the nightlife, or the hammocks make us all look worse. We need more teachers who love the challenges of this job more than anything else. We need teachers with nitty gritty love for students who don’t give up when teaching gets especially difficult and the postcard moments are few and far between.

Math Stories for Newbies!

Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker. 

Let’s make Math Journals come alive…

Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson.  I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?

Turning Math Journals into Math Stories

Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.

What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?

What are Math Stories?

Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods).  For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.

Math Stories for NEWBIES!

Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand: http://childrenspicturebooks.info/articles/picture_books_for_math.htm

Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.

Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.

Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.

Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.

Benefits of Math Stories

  • Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
  • Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
  • This activity can be adapted for any grade level
  • Cooperative learning
  • Easy to prepare
  • Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts