A Teacher Has to Entertain Herself

Well, it’s finals week at my university. It’s hard on the students, but it’s also tough on the teachers. We’re all busy; we’re all stressed. Therefore, I have to think of ways to entertain myself and keep myself sane this week.

In my college composition course, our final exam ended up adding up to 99 points. Normally, I would just give my students the 1 point. However, this time, I made them earn it. They were instructed to draw a picture of me to earn that last point.

It was hilarious to watch them when they read that last question. The tense shoulders loosened. The giggles began. And then, as they seriously began their artistic work, they all started staring at me in order to really capture my likeness.

The results made my day.

image

I suppose she thinks more of me than her poor drawing skills will allow her to express.

image

This is the Asian me.

image

That is some curly hair, and those are some big ol’ eyes!

image

In the running for my favorite. I am a queen! *flips hair dramatically*

image

I think I look like another race in this one. Like my ever-present podium?

image

Good ol’ “no nose Ashley”

image

Apart from the football player shoulders, this it’s pretty good! (I’m going to have a complex now…)

image

I had a LOT of stick figures like this one.

image

No arms and no nose, but I love this one.

image

This one is probably my favorite. One question though- do I have a tail??

Oh man. I love my college freshmen. Now I think I can survive the rest of finals week.
Be sure and tell me which one is your favorite!

Salut and Ahoj Infographics!

I’m pretty sure I’m obsessed with infographics. I mean, what could be better than learning something in an easy-to-understand, visually-pleasing format? I’ve done a post with some before, which became quite popular. And now, I’ve found a site that has tons of them- http://visual.ly/.

Here’s a sample. How to say hi in 21 languages. Useful for all us travelers and all us language nerds!

Image

 

How many of these did you know? I knew 6. Do you have any really interesting infographics that you think I’d love? Please share the link in the comments section below.

And The Mountains Echoed

 

reading and traveling

 

I truly believe this about reading. It’s been about 1 year since I’ve had an overseas trip. I’m starting to get that itch. But, alas, work is standing in my way. So I’ve been escaping via books.

I just finished reading the book “And The Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. This novel allowed me to visit Afghanistan, when I don’t think I’d normally ever go there. I learned more about the Afghan culture, just like I did with Hosseini’s previous books “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.

The title of this novel struck me as being so beautifully poetic. I had that thought every time I opened the book. In the acknowledgments, the author mentioned that the title was inspired by a William Blake poem, so now I understand its poetry.

I really do relish going somewhere by reading. I’ve been to India several times, Italy, Mexico, Hawaii, and so many other amazing places I’ve yet to visit. Where have you traveled via a book? What book was it? I’d love some recommendations.

I’ll Take One Order of Mice Please!

For  the ESL courses at our school, we generally use textbooks that are specifically made for English language learners. However, there is one exception- our reading textbook, and it has proven to be hilarious on some days for us.

In reading class yesterday, we were doing an activity in which we needed to understand how topics are related so that we can better comprehend how paragraphs are organized. The activity asked us to mark out the word that does not belong in the group and then to say a very specific topic in which all the words could belong.

The words were cows, sheep, pigs, mice, goats, and chickens. The students should have marked out the word mice and the topic was “farm animals that are kept for meat.” My Chinese student thought this was a very poor question, because, in fact, some Chinese people do eat mice, especially in Guangzhou province. We probably laughed for ten minutes about this. So, all textbooks are not created equal. 😉 

Helping ELLs in the Mainstream College Classroom

Let’s face it. Most college professors have no  training in working with English language learners. So in order to help my colleagues better support the ELLs in their classroom, I sent an e-mail to all the faculty and adjuncts with the just a few ways in which they can help these students.

Give extra time to take a quiz or a test.

>For these students, it takes much longer for them to read and comprehend what the questions are asking. If you feel comfortable, please give them extra time.

Do not write in cursive.

> I have had several international students come in and ask me to read the feedback from their teachers at the end of their papers. Most people who learn English only learn print letters, not cursive, so cursive is usually unreadable to them.

Use visual aids, gestures, and write on the board as often as possible.

>Writing key words and even homework assignments on the board is so helpful for these students. Showing instead of only telling can really assist these students as well.

Simplify your language and slow your speed.

>This does not mean you have to “dumb down” your language. Try to use less slang and idioms, which hinder comprehension for these students. Try to watch the speed of your speech. I know I am guilty of speed talking sometimes when I get going in a lecture!

Offer supplementary materials.

>This might be offering an outline of the lecture of a copy of the PowerPoint. Listening comprehension is often most difficult for these students, so they may have trouble catching all the details of your lectures. Introduce them to a top student in the class who would be willing to share their class notes.

Get to know your international students.

>Take a minute to talk one-on-one with these students, so you can gauge their English ability and their comprehension of class material. You may think they are understanding and keeping up, but most of the time, to be polite, they will just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that in some cultures, especially Asian cultures, it’s rude to tell the teacher you don’t understand, because you are basically accusing the teacher of not teaching well?

These were just a few quick and dirty tips I wanted the faculty to know. I hope you can make use of a few of them too if you have ELLs in your mainstream classroom. Are there any you would add? Please share with others that might find this helpful.

 

Foreign Students, ESL

Russian Police Officers Are Trying to “Get Lucky”

Like many people, I was interested to watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony for the winter Olympics is usually not as grand as the one for the summer Olympics, but Russia really wanted to try and outdo its buddy, China. I think they put on a high-quality performance, which highlighted Russia’s contribution to dance, literature, and music. It was strange at times, but I think, overall, it stayed pretty classy with the ballet and the opera. However, they didn’t show one very, um, interesting performance on television here in the US. There was a choir of Russian police officers who sang Daft Punk featuring Pharrell’s hit from the summer “Get Lucky”. Not only is the performance very awkward, but the song choice is very awkward, in my opinion. And as an ESL teacher, I have a theory on it. They chose an upbeat song to try and show Russia’s fun, carefree side. However, they really have no idea what the song is about! Most non-native English speakers know the word “lucky”. In fact, luck is often talked more about in countries outside the US, because people strongly believe in luck.So, perhaps the Russians were thinking this was a fun song about luck. Maybe they thought this song would bring luck to their Olympic athletes. Here are the lyrics to the chorus of the song:

We’re up all night ’til the sun
We’re up all night to get some
We’re up all night for good fun
We’re up all night to get lucky

This song is talking about a hook-up, about sex! I am almost completely sure that the Russians don’t realize this. They don’t know that “getting some” and “getting lucky” are synonymous with casual sex. How could you know these idioms unless you’ve learned them before? I highly doubt that the Russians would want their country to be known for police officers singing about having sex as they present themselves to the world during the opening ceremony. It also surprised me because the Russians are so conservative about many things, sex and homosexuality being just a few of them. Maybe this is something only an ESL teacher would think of; I don’t know.

Here is the video:

It’s strange to watch. Some members of the choir look like they were forced at gunpoint to sing this song. And there are some parts that I can’t quite understand what they’re saying. What are your thoughts on the performance? Are you a non-native English speaker who didn’t know what “get lucky” or “get some” really meant? If you’re an ESL teacher, do you think your students would know?I don’t think most of mine would. Oh well, I hope those police officers get lucky from being so famous for their performance! Share this post with those who you’d like to see this fun performance!

The Great Language Game

A travel site I follow on Facebook shared a link to a great game. It plays someone speaking in a certain language, and you choose what language it is from 3 or 4 choices. While I wouldn’t say I’m good at learning languages, I definitely have an ear for languages. I can usually tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. I can tell if a language is from Eastern rather than Western Europe. I can figure out that a language being spoken is Middle Eastern. It’s actually kind of strange. Anyway, if you like languages, culture, or travel, give this game a try by

clicking here.

I got a score of 900 on my first try! I’m kinda proud of myself if I do say so. Play the game, and comment with your score. Share this post with others who you want to challenge to this game.

20140208-185905.jpg

Chinese New Year

I am sponsoring a diversity club here on campus. It’s a new club we’re starting up this semester. To kick it off, we did a presentation today about the Chinese New Year, since today is, in fact, Chinese New Year. It went really well! I wrote it and a student from Taiwan delivered the speech. I think most Americans know nothing about the holiday. Here is the presentation; I hope you learn a thing or two.

Today is Chinese New Year. You didn’t even realize today was a holiday, did you?

Over 1.4 BILLION people around the world celebrate it. It is called Chinese New Year because one of the main places it’s celebrated is in China, but it’s also celebrated in Australia, the U.S, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Malaysia, and anywhere else that has a large Chinese population.

Have you heard of the Chinese Zodiac? Perhaps you’ve been in a Chinese restaurant and seen a placemat that lists years and animals. This is similar to Western astrology, like being a Gemini or Virgo. There is also a Zodiac sign given to each year. This new year is the year of the horse, or,ma, in Chinese.

Here’s a short video about the legend of the animals in the zodiac.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5aY11MpvsI

There are many traditions that people keep as they celebrate the Chinese New Year, which is also called Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. The Festival lasts 15 days. Most people have about 1 full week off work and 1 full month off school. How nice!

During this time, everyone travels home to be with their families, just like at Christmas in the US. In mainland China, the population is over 1 billion people, so the trains and buses are so crowded!

Red is the lucky color of the New Year and everything is decorated with red and gold. We decorate with paper lanterns. In fact, the last day of the New Year celebration ends with something called the Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the lunar calendar, you can go around town and see huge lanterns or light displays. These huge light displays can also be found at temples.

Fireworks are a huge part of the celebration. Did you know that fireworks were invented in China and have been around for over 1,000 years? It is said that we began using them to drive away evil spirits from our New Year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, you will see and hear so many fireworks.

Hong bao, or red envelope, is used to give gifts of money. This is always done for Chinese New Year. Again, the color red is lucky and also wards off evil spirits. Mostly the hong bao are given to children. This is probably pretty similar to giving Christmas gifts.

 Of course a huge part of any holiday is the food. There are many traditional foods that we eat for Chinese New Year. One of the main ones is fish. The Chinese word for fish is yu. It sounds similar to the word for riches. So, on New Years we eat fish so that our wishes will come true in the year to come. Many sweets are also eaten because they symbolize a sweet and rich life. Can you see that the Chinese really love symbolism? The luck might come from the name, as I already stated or it might even be considered lucky based on what the food looks like.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Chinese New Year.

 

Photo I took in Xi'an, China for New Year 2011

Photo I took in Xi’an, China for New Year 2011

International Literacy Day

September 8th  is International Literacy Day, and the month of September is  International Literacy Month.  Nearly 1/5 of adults in the world don’t know how to read or write. That’s about 775 million people that don’t posses these basic skills that are essential in being successful in today’s world. Sub-Saharan Africa and south and west Asia have the worst literacy rates- 50% of the people in these areas can not read or write.  Literacy affects one’s income, health, and even relationships. UNESCO says that “literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community.” Illiteracy can help  breed hate, violence, and ignorance.  Literacy can help reduce poverty and lead to further learning.  Have you ever thought of literacy as a right? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlighted  the right to education.

literacy

Source: UN Human Development Report

While we typically think of the United States as a well-educated nation, in actuality, about 14 % of the population is illiterate.  The proceeding infographic says that 160 million people in rich countries struggle with literacy.

literacy around the world

Source: UNESCO

What are some causes of illiteracy? Fees for schooling prevent many from being literate. The need to work instead of attending school is an issue for many. Families and communities not seeing education as important can decrease literacy. Additionally, poverty is a huge factor in illiteracy. When you are worrying about having clothes to wear and food to eat, you aren’t as concerned about learning to read.

Why are more women than men illiterate? 2/3 of the illiterate are women. The cause for this is that women are not encouraged, as men are, to be educated in many parts of the world. In some countries, they are even discouraged. The education of women is often discouraged, because if women are educated, they may become a threat. Educated women may not stick to the traditional roles for women in their country.  Let’s get rid of this discrepancy!

What can we do to help solve the world’s literacy problem? The biggest thing that can be done is simply this: literacy and education must be promoted. It must be promoted by governments, by communities, and by families. All of these entities must stress the importance of being able to read and write. Do what you can this month to promote literacy.

College is a Wonderful Place Full of Candy Around Every Corner (or Advice to College Freshmen)

I teach a first year experience course, and at the end of the course, the students write a paper giving advice to next year’s freshmen. As college freshmen begin to move on campus and start the next phase of their lives, I’d like to share some of this (hilarious) advice.

– “Do not fall in love with the first guy or girl that you meet. That was harder than I thought!”

– “In high school, freshmen get picked on all the time and are thought of as the scum of the earth. However, in college, I have found that the only difference between a senior and a freshman guy is facial hair.”

– “…through a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, actual tears, racism, stares, breaking down, doubt, a car crash, and one concussion later, I have learned to persevere.”

– “You can get a job at the school, like making sure people don’t steal stuff from the library.”

– “The good drink machines are on the second floor. It has all the good drinks and always works.”

– “I still remember the look on my face when my parents left, and I was lost. Now I look back with a smile on my face, because now I have no fears.”

– “…sometimes it was interesting, and I liked it, but other times it was boring and I fell asleep.”

-“Most kids are used to being spoon-fed their whole life, and they really do not know how hard it is to be on their own.”

-“You never think you would miss beating up on your little brother every day until you can’t anymore.”

-“When you’re sitting in bed debating on whether or not to go to class, get up and just go,”

-” I thought if I could go here and become a better wrestler, get big muscles, and possibly a girlfriend in the process, then why not?”

-“It’s nice to have a little brotherly brotherhood.”

-“After extensive private lessons in American Sign Language, I now know how to sign bacon.”

-“Being away from home is hard. Especially 2,355 miles away.”

-“College is a wonderful place full of wonderment, surprises, and candy around every corner. Ok, I lied about that last part.”

You just can’t make this stuff up!