Monday, April 30, 2012

Tutoring: TESOL Certification

This is just a quick post about self-education.  I have recently started a TESOL course from Global Leadership College.  TESOL certification, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, should help me in my English language tutoring.  I have a master's in linguistics, so much of the information in my course is not new, but second language learning was not my focus, so I hope to learn something.  This course is primarily geared to teaching English abroad, but I expect the certification to nonetheless come in handy stateside.

I have also been thinking lately about supplementing my English teaching skills with knowledge of Spanish, so TESOL certification could help me spend an extended amount of time in a Spanish-speaking country to reach that goal in a fun and productive way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preschool: Number Lessons

Early literacy is my forte, but I have done a few number lessons that have worked out well.  I was inspired by this lesson on Pinterest: 

Here is my version:

In my version, the opposite side of the clothespins has the numeral written in the color that corresponds to the colored dots on the board.  Since my class is pretty good, but not expert, at identifying numerals, I thought a built-in cheat would increase success.

The class loves this lesson, but I often find its clothespins mixed in with the clothespins for this lesson:

In this lesson, the children pin the corresponding number of clothespins (always working on those fine motor muscles!) to each numeral.  They love to shout out to me "zero doesn't get any pins!"

Someday I'd love to switch it out with this lesson I recently discovered on Pinterest:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest
Here's today's Kid Quote:
Four-year-old: "If my name was Potato, then my nickname would be Pear! . . . And my nickest name would be Apple!"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preschool: Planting Truffula Trees

In honor of Spring and Earth Day, we are doing a planting unit in our classroom.  Because I love The Lorax, especially the positive "the seeds are in your hands now" message at the end, I thought the class would get a kick out of growing their own Truffula Trees.

The closest real-world matches I could think of were marigolds and zinnias, so I picked up some seeds on sale at the grocery:

A pretty close match, I think!  I told the class that we were planting Truffula Trees, but in retrospect I wish I had said miniature Truffula Trees; they are probably expecting tree-sized plants.  We did some outdoor exploring recently to discuss trees and their features (wide or narrow, needles or leaves, short or tall, branches, bark, etc.), and luckily we did make a stop at some very short gardenia trees.  When our marigolds and zinnias come up, I plan to explain that they are also called marigolds and zinnias and that they are not really full-sized Truffula Trees.  We can continue the magic though and call them mini Truffulas.

For growing the seeds, I was inspired by this tutorial for sprouting seedings in recycled materials:  

Source: via Frances on Pinterest

I had some cardboard egg cartons on hand, so we put those to use.  

I am hopeful that, when the time comes to put them in the ground, the cardboard will degrade under the seedlings and not impede their growth; I think it would be a good lesson in composting.

We now have some little green shoots coming from our Trees.  Today we read The Lorax again and went outside to inspect our new growth.

I also applied this Pinterest inspiration for watering our plants:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest

The water pitcher I had been using was flooding the soil out of the shallow little egg cartons, so this was a welcome suggestion.  My version, of course, is not as elegant as this one, but that is life in a classroom: done with a pair of scissors on the fly.

Maybe when our Truffula Trees come up, we can make some pompom trees to take home:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest

Here is a Kid Quote from the classroom today: 

3-year-old:" I went to see the Titantic and guess what!  It sank!  And it hid behind a bush and the bush made the Titantic sank and one person died."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tutoring: Preposition Simon Says

This week in tutoring I worked on prepositions.  None of my students have learned this part of speech in school yet, but some of them have already learned it with me.  I wanted to introduce the concept and see which prepositions they have in their lexicons anyway.  We played a preposition drawing game that I got from this Pinterest post:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest
We worked on basic prepositions of place.  I asked my students to draw a house, garden, fence, in front of, beside, beneath, etc.  The only preposition that proved a challenge was 'between.'  There were a few vocabulary words we could talk about too, such as gravel and wreath.

Next time I'd like to use more complex prepositions like the ones on this list, and expand into adjectives.

I'm also really excited to use this Pinboard of adjective prompts to work on that part of speech:

Source: via PediaStaff on Pinterest
Unfortunately I haven't been able to convince myself to lug my laptop to a tutoring session in a while.  It's enough to make a girl buy an iPad!

A Kid Quote from this evening's session:

Six-year-old: "Who wrote this poem?"

Me: Well, do you know what 'Anonymous' means?

Six-year-old: "Oh I thought that was Annoying Mouse."

Preschool: Letter Lessons

Early literacy is one of my favorite things to work on with my little friends.  Since our current class ranges in ages from 2-and-a-half to 4-and-a-half, we have an equally wide range of alphabet comprehension and early reading/writing.  I was inspired to do an alphabet matching wheel by this blog posted on Pinterest:

I love that in this lesson the children identify the picture, sound out the first letter, and match it with the corresponding clothespin.  That was a little ambitious for most of my friends, however, so I modified it a little:
My version is a cardboard scrap with the capital letters on one side and the lower cases on the other.
My friends are generally well-versed in capital letters, so the most basic version of the lesson consists of simply matching the capital letters on the clothespins to the capital letter side of the board.  However, this version can be made more challenging by focusing on the lowercase side of the board or mismatching the upper and lower cases to show how capitals correspond with their lower cases.  

Since the lower case letters do not often appear with their upper case counterparts, I originally made this letter lesson for matching them up:
I was particularly proud of this lesson, as it was the first original lesson I made for this class.  I attached the cards to clothespins to work on fine motor muscle development.  Originally, the cards were pinned to a big cardboard piece, not unlike the smaller scale alphabet lesson above, except that I only put out a few letter pairs at a time since they are index card-sized, which is a little large.  This became unwieldy, and the lesson was too difficult for most of the children to complete on their own, so I'm working on a modification of the lesson presentation.  I'll repost this lesson when I've worked out the modification.  
Inspired by this post on Pinterest, I also made a huge die for letter recognition practice.  We roll the die, identify the letter and its sound, and do another practice such as think of a word that starts with the letter and act out the word, write the letter on the chalkboard, or find something in the room that starts with the letter. 

I love that link, because it allows you to make your own customized die like the sight-words die I made below:

Also pictured is a sensory break cube inspired by this one from (where else?) Pinterest:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest

The sight word die is for working with my older friends; you can see how well loved it is.  We haven't done as much work with this as I'd like; I need to introduce sight words in a format other than the die first and come back to it.  The sensory break cube is a popular one at Circle Time, though it is not directly related to teaching literacy.

We also work on a lot of fine motor muscle development to get our fingers ready for writing, but that's another post for another day!

Here's a nonsensical Kid Quote for you today:
Three-year-old, on her week-long beach trip: "I'm never going to come back but I'm coming back soon!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tutoring: Second Session with New Students, and a Guess Who? Update

This week I got to conduct my second session with my new English Language students.  Last time, they were both a little quiet, so this time I got a better idea of their English skills.

We read several library books and played checkers-style games for reading comprehension of the directions and for conversation.  We also played with a picture frame I made:
 I got this idea from this Non Sequitur cartoon strip:
I thought if we had a picture frame, we could focus our attention on something interesting in the environment and work on vocabulary (especially adjectives) that way.  It turned out to be quite successful with both girls; I'll probably repeat the exercise with my other students.

With my four-year-old tutee, I read Press Here, which is an interactive book of colored dots.  It was a great test of her comprehension; I especially appreciated being able to see that she hadn't mastered the difference between "press" and "rub," for example.

I recently brought Guess Who? back to my established tutoring students, to see how they are progressing with their question formation. We also got to review some good vocabulary, such as blond, brunette, bald, and facial hair.  Guess Who? is a little red-head- and male-heavy for my taste (since it's just not terribly representational; I have nothing against either demographic), so I was thrilled to find this set of free printable Guess Who? cards that are more diverse and kid-friendly.

I had planned to bring Guess Who? for my new students, but I left it with my established family to practice with instead.  Maybe next session I can bring the game with some newly-printed cards for us to cut out and play with!

Here's a Kid Quote from this week's session that warmed my heart:
4-year-old: "Thankyoubye!  I love you!  I love you anything!  I love you anywhere!!"

Preschool: Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Holdin' My Body Up!

We recently did a short unit on bones in our preschool classroom.  I printed off this PDF from Pinterest of a child-sized skeleton:

Source: via Frances on Pinterest 
We took turns choosing pieces to put into place, and then a couple of children got to lie down next to the paper skeleton while we decided if it looked like him or her.  The skeleton puzzle is now laminated and in our Games center in the classroom.  Occasionally someone will call me over to show me that they put it together; hands are often switched with feet, which always makes me smile.  For reference in putting together the puzzle, I included this skeleton from an earlier art project in which we drew skin and clothes on, since (as we discussed) we can't see our bones.

I also found this cool idea on Pinterest:

Instead of one glove with flour and popsicle stick bones and one with just flour, we had an empty glove and one with five pencils.  The effect was not quite the same, but it was a quicker set-up and less potentially-messy.  

We discussed what bones do: they hold our body up, they help us walk, and they make new blood in the marrow.  The last concept was a little confusing for some of my friends; this age can be a little blood- and injury-obsessed.  So we discussed new blood and old blood and how nice it is to always have new blood in your body.  The class really enjoyed acting out what it would be like to not have any bones in your body, reducing themselves to a circle of puddle-children.  

We also sang part of the Dem Bones song.  Though we did not watch the video, this is where I found the words.  I did, however, change the last line of the chorus to "Holdin' my body up!"

I'd like to do more body units, and I've already found some other cool links on Pinterest.  We did a very short heart unit in February, and I think we'd enjoy skin, muscles, and the pulmonary system.  I'd love to do the eye, or ear, but I think it might be a little abstract for right now.

Here's a Kid Quote to leave you with:
Three-year-old: "Dave and Mary Frances's boat got on lava and it sank in the Atlanta Ocean.  It sank in the Atlanta Ocean."

Me: Yeah? In the Atlantic Ocean?

Three-year-old: "Yeah it got on lava and it sank in the Atlanted Ocean."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tutoring: First Session with Two New Students

As I mentioned previously, I started working with a new family this week.  This family has two little girls: one in 3rd grade and one four-year-old rising to pre-K this fall.  We started with a short interview / planning session to decide how many hours per week, how many sessions, and how to split the time up between the two girls.  Since my schedule is already heavy, I am only working with this family one day a week, for two hours.  For the sake of the preschooler's attention span, I will work with her for half an hour, and work with the third-grader the rest of the session.

Initial assessment was a little bit of a challenge; both girls were a little shy at first.  I look forward to our next session to get a better idea of the girls' weaker areas and strengths.  I found a small stack of wordless picture books at the library to illicit some vocabulary and syntax, which is my prefered method of assessment for this age.  My 3rd-grader chose Barbara Lehman's The Secret Box

The parents requested weekly homework for the 3rd-grader, so I have been thinking about what to assign.  Since I already make vocabulary lists from words that we go over during our sessions, I've decided to have the 3rd-grader keep the list herself and define the vocabulary in her own words in between sessions.  If that plan isn't ideal, I'm always happy to reassess later, as long as we start somewhere.

For the 4-year-old, I read her A Lion Named Shirley Williamson and asked her to participate in the story to check for comprehension.  This is where my students' intial shyness made assessment difficult: my prompt of "Can I hear you roar like Shirley Williamson?" and "Who is this lion?" were initially met with head-shaking.  Not ashamed to look silly all by myself, I did a lot of solo roaring. 

All in all, our first meeting made me excited to get to know my new students better.

Here's a Kid Quote from a past session:
10-year-old: "If I keep doing Tai Kwon Do, when I go to middle school, nothing can hurt me. . . except FIRE ANTS."