Day 2: 20 Day Blogging Challenge

Share an organizational tip from your classroom. What is one thing that you do that works for you?

While there are many things that I do to keep myself organized, when I enter the classroom, the most effective organizational tool I use on a daily basis providing a basic outline of our daily tasks for students.

While planning my week, I keep a lesson plan on Google Drive that I can easily share with other instructors for collaboration purposes. In addition, I create “functional” lesson plans for myself each day so I can keep track of what I want to cover during class as well as reflections on successes and challenges of individual activities. This functional lesson plan is for myself, but when I arrive in the classroom each day, I like to write the lesson plan on the board for students.

While this is a simple way of maintaining organization, I think it goes a long way in including students in their own education. Since I work with students at the university level, I like to include them in the day-to-day organization of our class. We typically go over the plan for the day at the beginning of the class, and we sometimes reflect on what we’ve accomplished at the end of class. Actually, I would like to do this reflection more as there is often not enough time to recap at the end of class. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve considered conducting exit interviews periodically via Socrative (an online response tool), since most of my students typically bring devices to class.

Has anyone used Socrative or another tool in this manner? My intuition is that using a tool like this could give students a sense of ownership over their class as well as providing feedback to the instructor as the semester goes on.

Day 1: 20 Day Blog Challenge

I’ve decided to participate in this 20 Day Blog Challenge from Kelly Hines. Today is day 1.

Blogging Challenge

Day 1: Favorite book to share or teach.

I’m not sure if this prompt is meant to be about a textbook, a professional development book, or a book for students to read, but I’m going to approach it as if it is the latter. I teach students at the university level, so most of them are preparing to study at an American university after their time in our program. As such, the program implements a book club in its reading and writing classes starting at the intermediate level. The purpose of this semester-long assignment is to get students to read in English while practicing discussion, organization, and other important skills.

Last semester, my students seemed to enjoy the book “The Runaway Twin” by Peg Kehret. The book is fairly short, so students were able to get through the whole thing by the end of the assignment. The book includes themes about family, forgiveness, and identity. The students seemed to enjoy discussing these themes, and it was easy enough to make connections between the themes in the book and their own lives. The students also seemed to enjoy making alternative endings to the book and presenting them in their speaking and listening course.

Some other books we’ve used for book club include:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang

The book club semester-long project is something that most students seem to get behind. They have extended reading assignments throughout the week, but they only meet in “book clubs” once a week (usually) to discuss what they’ve read and share what their own assignments about the readings. For example, each student is assigned a role (discussion leader, word whiz, etc.). The word whiz’s job is to identify new or interesting vocabulary and bring definitions and example sentences for the rest of the group on the day they meet. By dividing the work load, each student is responsible for their portion of the assignment, and everyone becomes engaged with the text in a different way.

Remaining relevant: Skills for the 21st century student (and

Wowzers! It’s been quite a while since I’ve taken the time to create a post. While my brain is constantly reflecting on my own teaching and different aspects of education, I have been preoccupied with specific educational endeavors, namely: my final Plan B paper and teaching portfolio to finish my degree. I still have some revisions to work on, but I hope to defend near the end of January. :) I’m also between semesters right now, and I’ve kind of taken up non-teaching activities to relax and enjoy my time off. I started making a quilt, and it seems to be shaping up quite nicely!

Now, down to business. I came across this post by Tom Whitby in my RSS feed the other day, and I think he raises some interesting and salient points about the use of technology in education. Tom suggests:

It may be time to shift the discussions to what we need our kids to learn and how they will implement that learning in our culture, and continue to learn, as the life long learners, which we, as educators, supposedly strive to make them to be.

The discussion about whether instructors should use technology in their teaching has been happening as long as technology has been around. I imagine educators and administrators discussed whether it would be beneficial to use individual chalkboards with students when that was the cutting-edge of technology, and the discussion will undoubtedly continue as new technologies that can impact they way students learn is developed. However, Tom explains:

The skills that educators are emphasizing more and more are skills of: curating information, analyzing information, understanding information, communicating information in various forms, collaborating on information both locally and globally, ultimately, creating information for the purpose of publishing and sharing. These are the goals of 21st Century educators. These are also the today’s needs of industry, business, and banking. Many of these skills are also needs of artists, writers, and musicians. Even politicians could use these skills, which are apparently lacking in a majority of our current leaders.

Now that we have seen how the needs of society have structured the needs of skills for students, and now that we have seen how the needs of education have structured the changes in methodology to address those skills, we now need to consider the best way to deliver access to information for curation, analysis, understanding, communicating and creating.

This might be debatable, but it is my perspective that the role of teachers, in any discipline, to prepare students for the world they will be part of and communities they will live within after leaving our classrooms. It’s important to remember that students leaving our classrooms are not necessarily entering the same world that we entered when we left the classroom so many years ago. Which leads me to believe that instructors also need to remain connected to the outside world for themselves as well. How can instructors adequately prepare students for a world that they themselves do not understand or participate in? That’s not to say that teachers need to be experts in every field or realm of society, but to have a basic understanding of social and professional communities as they exist can only benefit instructors and students.

I think Tom sums it up nicely when he says:

If we are educating our children to live and thrive in their world, we cannot limit them to what we were limited to in our world. As things change and evolve, so must education. As educators we have a professional obligation to change as well.

This is also true for adult learners. It is my opinion that remaining relevant for our students (and ourselves!) should be a primary professional objective. Since our students will most likely be required to effectively employ skills related to technology (the abilities to curate, collaborate, communicate, critically think, and create), instructors should practice these skills as well. When considering the use of technology in your classroom, it could be useful to integrate these essential skills into the learning objectives and consider whether or not your lesson adequately prepares students to use these skills after they leave your classroom. Both teachers and students should be lifelong learners who critically evaluate new technologies and aren’t fearful of employing them to be more effective learners or members of professional or educational communities.

MinneTESOL Conference

pcw logo



It’s that time of year again! The MinneTESOL fall conference is quickly approaching. If you’re in Minnesota (or the surrounding states) on November 8th and 9th, you should consider attending! The conference and pre-conference events will change venues this year to the DoubleTree Hilton in Bloomington, MN. Parking is free!

The pre-conference workshops and a special movie event will be going on Friday evening (see flyer below). Saturday will be full of excellent ESL/EFL-related talks and sessions. Registration is open, and you can register for both the Friday and Saturday events all at once!

Spread the word!

Pre-Conference Workshop Flyer


If the link for registration above isn’t working, copy and paste this into your browser:

Ed Jam Twin Cities

Here is a great professional development opportunity if you’re in the Twin Cities area (or will be for these days).

According to their website (and a personal contact involved in the event coordinating), Ed Jam (Education Jam) is a 48 hour event where people from various fields come together and basically have a giant brainstorming session that will take ideas from conception to prototype. The goal of the event is to address the achievement gap in education in Minnesota.

Basically, it’s a non-partisan, design jam in which participants will develop specific action for closing the achievement gap for students in the Twin Cities.

I feel like I can’t really do it justice. Just visit their site and register if you’re at all interested in participating, sponsoring, or just seeing what it’s really all about. It’s the first of its kind, and it should be a pretty cool experience.



Thoughts on: Using Facebook in an ESL Class

As part of my degree-qualifying research, I have decided to implement instruction in my ESL class this summer that uses Facebook as a means of facilitating discussion outside of the classroom as well as promoting English as in International Language and hopefully allowing my learners to gain a sense of autonomy and agency when it comes to their English learning.

I’m interested in exploring what my learners perceive as the value and challenges to using Facebook in their English education. I’m also interested in learning whether using Facebook in an ESL class can promote learner-to-learner communication outside of class as well as values associated with the English as an International Language paradigm (EIL) that seem to be associated with learner goals in an Intensive English Program.

So far, we have discussed how people use Facebook (and other social networking sites) in various contexts. We have also examined language samples from various Facebook posts and discussed the nature of language on Facebook. In addition, we have had a couple class discussions revolving around the issues of privacy, appropriate social language, and using social networking sites in education. While it’s been interesting to hear the perspectives of my learners, I have come to realize that conducting research is much more difficult than I had originally expected it to be. At the very least, it doesn’t seem to come naturally to me.

That being said, I feel optimistic that I will be able to glean some useful information from this endeavor, and my work will serve as a learning experience for myself and perhaps, someday, others.