Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Writing a 5 paragraph essay

First step:  direct instruction in how to write a five paragraph essay.  I used a modified Four Square Writing lesson plan.  This included my writing topics on the white board (i.e. foods, capitals, animals, fruits) and asking the monks to give three examples. 

Next step....guided practice:  here I'd written topics on the white board, and randomly called on four monks to give the details for each topic.
Monitoring the process and providing assitance.

Providing immediate feedback.

Observing the guided practice on the whiteboard.

Grade four monks, providing three details for each of the topics I'd written on the whiteboard.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fun way to practice English!

After having practiced on their own, each group of three monks presented the "University Chat" to the whole class.

The monks had lots of fun with this role play!

"Holiday" and "Holy" Day....

My beginning activity for the day is on the blackboard.  The monks were having trouble with the words "holiday" and "holy." Once a week, monks do not attend school, because it is a Buddhist "holy" day. Since this is lunar based, the day changes every week.

 A quick mini-lesson on pronunciation lead into the daily activities of monks. I wanted the monks to explain to me, how their normal daily activities changed for the "holy" day.  Great way to engage student in conversation through the use of their background knowledge.

University Chat - Group Presentations to the whole class

After having practiced the script I'd written, in groups of thee, each group then read the script in front of the class.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More activities using stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul!

This week I tried something a little different as I read the monks stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

First I read the story to the class.  Next I gave each of the monks their own copy of the story.  The monks were able to follow along as I read the story to them another time.

When I finished reading the story of Wisdom to the class for the second time, I then asked them to "circle" the Who; draw a "rectangle" around the what; "underline" when the story happened; "star" where the story took place; and put "parentheses" around the why part of the story.

This twist gave a productive "hands-on" component to the activity which the monks enjoyed.  Once the monks had completed this activity, I then randomly called on monks to respond to each of the questions.  

My reading the stories to the monks builds their listening skills.  The addition of the hands-on element extends the activity into reading, writing and speaking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Script - chat with friends

One of the ways I've found to help my students with English, is to give them a three part script to read. I write these scripts with my student's needs and language skills in mind. Since the monks wanted to learn American idioms, I try to include them as well in the scripts.  In the short clip of a video below, three friends talk about university life.

Students take turns reading each of the three parts of the script.  Not only does reading from a script help the students work on their pronunciation, but it also helps them with fluency.

Prior to having the monks practice in groups of three, I read this script to the whole class several times.  Next step after this group practice, will be to have the groups read the script to the whole class.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Compare - Contrast Graphic Organizer

"Once upon a time there were two boys, born on exactly the same day, but in different countries."

Thus began my Think-Pair-Share activity that in addition to having the students practice their auditory and speaking skills, would move into a compare-contrast theme.

Story telling, and allowing my students to repeat the story has proven a very good interactive instructional strategy.  This week's lesson began with the story I wrote about "Bomb" who was born in Thailand on March 31st, and "Bob" who was born in the U.S.A. also on the 31st of March. 

The story then went on to talk about how they were the same and different:  Bomb was the youngest of five children, Bill was the oldest of five children;  Bomb grew up in a rural area, whereas Bill grew up in an urban area.  And so on and so forth the story continued....

One-on-one instruction, works best!

As I told the story of Bomb and Bill, the students were then asked to retell the story to each other.  I moved throughout the classroom, monitoring the conversations.

Think-Pair-Share gives each student the opportunity to not only hear the story twice, once by me and once by one monk in the pair, and to tell the story once.  Excellent method that provides a great structure to encourage students to talk with each other.  It also provided them with a great way to understand how Bomb and Bill were alike, as well as how they were different.

The next step was to allow groups of three students to independently develop a "Compare-Contrast Graphic Organizer" based on topics I gave each group.  Examples included to compare-contrast:  a dog and a cat; an elephant and a pig; a chicken and a parrot.

Each group presented their "Compare-Contrast" graphic organizer to the whole class.  One student read the way their two items were alike, then the other two monks read how their two items were different.
Providing some one-on-one assistance to a monk.  Directly behind me is the white board, with part of the graphic organizer visible for the Compare-Contrast activity.
Listening intently........

Providing immediate feedback to the students is key to my helping them improve their English language skills.

The Compare-Contrast concept has been the theme for the whole week.  Plan to conclude  the week with having my students guess what two items I compare and contrast, by explaining how the two are alike and how they are different.  Examples I'll use might include a book and a T.V., a river and a swimming pool.  This will be challenging for the monks, but I'm sure they will enjoy it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Joys of Teaching Monks!

"How are you today?" I asked a monk.  "I'm unhappy," he answered, "but I'm happy inside."

I gave the monk one of my best, you've got to be kidding me looks, at which both he and the other monks started laughing.  How can one be both happy and unhappy at the sametime?  The general agreement was that to hold both these thoughts at the sametime, was not possible.

However........ this discussion launched us into another topic for classroom discussion..... where I played with the monks' minds..... well, just a little!

Having fun should be a big part of teaching... as well as learning!

"How many precepts  do monks follow?" I asked the class.
"227" came responses from around the classroom.
"You know all of them?" I asked.

Nodding of heads.... some hesitant.
"So what is precept number 151?" I asked, with my most serious voice and questioning teacher face.

The monks looked at me with startled expressions on their faces.  No one could give me the answer.  Actually the monks looked at me as if I was crazy!

"What's the first precept then?  Or number 227?" I asked.
One monk looked at me and noted, "The precepts don't work that way.  They are grouped so that one is not more important than another."

"Okay.... your homework for tomorrow," I noted, "is to write out all 227 precepts." 

Now the monks looked at me as if I'd truly lost it..... and then after a long period of classroom silence, as I tried to wear my serious teacher face,  the monks  started to laugh, realizing I was joking with them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teaching Tools!

The first day of class at the university, I gave each of the monks, a notebook with butterflies on the cover that I'd bought for them in the Chiang Mai market.

On the back page of each notebook, I had written a number from 1 to 35.  With the concept of student equity in mind, I wanted a way I could randomly call on my students to respond to my questions. What I came up with worked beautifully!

Number 3 boat means the monk with number 3 written on the back page of the blue butterfly notebook gets to answer my question.  The timer helps me pace my lesson and give students equal talking time.

What to use, so that I could call on the monks randomly?  This turned into a shopping adventure!

I needed something with numbers 1 through 35.  After finding nothing.... I decided to buy these little plastic boats and tape numbers on the bottom.  The monks loved this system, of my pulling a boat out of a bag and calling on that number!

First I ask the question, so I have everyone's attention.... and only then do I pull out a boat and call on the number!

The timer is invaluable to my lessons!

Since for most activities I have the monks in pairs, taking turns talking to each other, the timer allows each monk equal time to talk.  This is especially true of the Think-Pair-Share activity.  When the timer goes off and I hear a groan from my students, I know I need to give them more time to complete the activity.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Same Same - But Different

Teaching University monks .....

Always the exact same colors.....

Just the day is different!

Chicken Soup for the (monks') Soul!

I have found this to be a fantastic book to use each day as I teach the Buddhist monks. Excellent for auditory skill development as well as comprehension skills. 

I first used it 15 years ago, when I started teaching with Rialto Unifed School District, where I found it a great way to connect with my students. 

Since the monks are all English Language Learners, I usually read the story to them at least twice. 

First, however, I frontload the story by explaining to the monks any new vocabulary words they may not understand. 

After reading the story, I randomly call on a monk to answer the, Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why questions I have written on the writeboard. Sometimes the monks struggle with answering these questions.

After all of the questions has been answered, I then again, randomly call on monks to retell the whole story.  In other words, repetion, repetion, repetion.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Power lesson leading to indepentdent practice

 My basic lesson plan.... review.... anticipatory set.... direct instruction... guided practice.... independent practice.... wrap up. 

My motto..... "Whoever talks learns!"  So I talk only a little, and let my students do the talking!

Direct instruction, using auditory (to develop listening skills)  combined with drawings (to help the visual learners).

Checking for understanding, a critical component of direct instruction, to make sure all the students are learning.

Proximity works well to connect with the monks, to make sure I understand any questions or concerns they may have.

Small group work, allows students to practice their English skills based on my direct instruction, and allows me to monitor the student's speaking skills.

Independent practice..... it's good for the student who is speaking and is also good for the other students who are listening.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Big Dream

Here is a short story I wrote, to use in my classes at the Buddhist University.  I built into the story a great deal of repetition, since this is a way to assist my ELL learners with their listening comprehension skills, as well as their speaking skills.  The repetion of key words will help my students when I ask them retell the story to each other.

The Big Dream

Once upon a time, there was a little elephant. The little elephant's home was next to a slow moving river deep in the jungles of northern Thailand. The little elephant lived with his mother and four other elephants.

The little elephant had:
  • a long trunk like all the other elephants
  • two little eyes like all the other elephants
  • four legs like all the other elephants
  • a short tail like all the other elephants

But the little elephant was different from all the other elephants in two ways.

First the little elephant had very, very, very big ears! Bigger than any of the other elephants.

Second, the little elephant had a very, very, very big dream! Bigger than any of the other elephants.

You know what the little elephant's dream was? It wanted to fly!

Every day, the little elephant would look up to see butterflies and birds flying in the sky. The little elephant wanted to fly high in the sky like a bird. The little elephant wanted to fly around flowers like a butterfly. The little elephant wanted to to be able to fly! That was the little elephant's big dream.

“Who can help me learn how to fly? Who can I talk with?” The little elephant asked.

First the little elephant went into the jungle in search of the long green snake. The little elephant walked and walked untl he saw the long green snake hanging from a tree.

“Hello little elephant,” hissed the long green snake. “ How are those big ears?” The little elephant hated it when any of the animals commented on his big ears. “I am fine,” answered the little elephant, “and my ears are fine too!”

“Why little elephant, are you walking all alone in my jungle?” hissed the long green snake. “My dream is to fly like a bird or a butterfly. Can you tell me how I can fly like a bird or butterfly?” asked the little elephant. “ Oh yes!” hissed the long green snake. “Just follow me to my home in the jungle and I will show you how you can fly like a bird or a butterfly!”

The long green snake spoke so sweetly. So nicely. So convincingly. But... the little elephant did not trust the long green snake. In fact, the little elephant was afraid of the long green snake. The little elephant did not like the long green snake.

“Oh,” cried the little elephant, “I can not possibly come to your home today. Maybe  tomorrow!” As the little elephant ran off, the long green snake hissed to himself...  “Oh my, the little elephant would have made such a nice dinner!”

Next the elephant decided to talk with the brown faced monkey. The little elephant knew the brown faced monkey  lived in tall trees. The little elephant liked the brown faced monkey because the long tailed monkey was always smiling or laughing. The little elephant liked to spend his afternoons playing with the brown faced monkey. They were good friends.

Swing his head back and forth, the little elephant searched the trees for the brown faced monkey. It did not take long before the little elephant saw the brown faced monkey sitting in a tree, eating bananas.

“Hi my friend,” chattered the brown faced  monkey. “Would you like a banana?” “No thank you,” replied the little elephant. “Do you want to run through the trees and frighten the other animals like we did yesterday?” chattered the brown faced monkey? “No” replied the little elephant. The little elephant was not interesting in scaring anyone today.  The little elephant only wanted his friend to help with his big dream.

Sometimes his friend, the brown faced monkey chattered too much and did not listen to his friend the little elephant.  All that chatter made the little elephant's big ears hurt!

“I want to fly,” said the little elephant. “I want to fly like a bird or butterfly. Can you tell me how I can fly?” The brown faced monkey looked at his friend and started to laugh! The brown faced  monkey laughed and laughed and laughed until he fell out of the tree. When the brown faced  monkey landed on the jungle floor he grabbed his belly and kept on laughing. The little elephant slowly walked away from his friend. The brown faced  monkey was still laughing when the little monkey reached his home near the river.

Finally, the little elephant thought. “I need to talk with the wise old owl. I know the wise old owl sleeps all day, so I will need to wait until the sun goes down before I can talk with him.”

The little elephant decided to talk about his dream with his big beautiful mother. “Mother,” said the little elephant, “I have a big dream. I want to fly like the birds and the butterflies. I've talked to some of the animals, but no one was able to help me.”

“Who did you talk with?” asked the little elephant's big beautiful mother. “First I talked with the long green snake, but I don't trust the long green snake. I think the long green snake wanted to eat me for dinner!”

“You were wise not to trust the long green snake,” said the little elephant's big beautiful mother.

“Next I went and talked my good friend the brown faced monkey.  But all the brown faced monkey did was laugh at me so I walked away,” said the little elephant. “You were wise to walk away from your friend, the long brown faced monkey,” said the little elephant's big beautiful mother.
“ Who will you talk with next?” asked the little elephant's big beautiful mother. “I want to talk with the wise old owl,” said the little elephant. “It will be good for you to talk with the wise old owl,” said the little elephant's big beautiful mother. “The wise old owl is a good listener and gives good advise.”

The sun was setting as the little elephant left his big beautiful mother in search of the wise old owl. Sitting on top of the temple, the wise old owl hooted.... “Hello little elephant. You look like you have a problem. Can I help you?”

“Yes,” replied the little elephant. “I have a big dream. I want to fly like the birds and the butterflies! Can you help me, wise old owl?”


“That's a big dream little elephant,” the wise old owl hooted. “But I know just how you can fly. Tonight when you go to sleep, I want you to dream about flying wherever you want! Come back tomorrow and tell me!”

The next night, the little elephant ran back to the temple to tell the wise old owl his good news. “Wise old owl,” exclaimed the little elephant, “last night in my dream, I flew like a bird all the way to Africa. Tonight when I go to sleep, I will fly like a butterfly all the way to America!

The wise old owl just nodded its head and hooted.... “very good little elephant!  You have learned that your big dream is in your dreams.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Watt Suan Dok - Next to the Buddhist University

Mahachulalongkornrajavidyala University, where I am teaching English to monks,  is located next to Watt (temple) Suan Dok.

This is one of Chiang Mai's oldest temples, with a huge, gold covered chedi or pagoda that dates back to 1371.

Ancient, gold covered chedi on the grounds of Watt Suan Dok, houses holy Buddhist relics.

On the grounds of Watt Suan Dok, is a small temple housing a magnificient Buddha figure. 

The temple is relatively small, but the Buddha figure is stunning. This temple is located right next to the classroom where I teach my English classes to the monks. Those are white live flowers in the front.  They look a little like flocked Christmas trees!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Think - Pair - Share" - An fantastic strategy to get my students talking!

Think-Pair-Share activity in action in the classroom!
An instructional strategy which has worked extremely well with the monks at the Buddhist University, is Think-Pair-Share.  The monks are divided into pairs.  I tell a story, complete with my designs/drawings on the white board.  Most stories have three parts.  After I tell each part, I stop and give the monks a chance to retell the story to each other.  This approach has me talking 1/3rd of the time, and the monks talking 2/3rds of the time. 

This strategy is great for helping the monks not only with their listening skills, but also with their speaking skills as well!  The classroom gets a little noisy with all the conversations, but that's okay!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can I ask you a question?

Before my English class started this morning at the university, one of the monks raised his hand and asked "Can I ask you a question?" 

"Yes, you can ask me a question."

"When you were young, did you have a plan for your life?"  The question caught me off guard a little, but also gave me an idea of at least one monk's English level.  A big part of this class is providing the monks with an opportunity to hear me speaking English, as well as providing them with an opportunity to speak English.  A Q & A session is a great way to provide both!