Friday, December 10, 2010

An Unwarranted Thank-you

Not sure what I did to deserve this thanks, but then again, what kind of "thanks" asks you to pay money to receive your thank-you? Not sure if I should feel honored or offended?!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A New Job

We had our baby! Thanksgiving Day 2010 Corban James Steele graced the world with his presence. 6 lbs. 11 oz., 20 inches, and gorgeous red hair. He absolutely is our pride and joy and a "gift devoted to God" (Mark 7:11). I'm starting to feel the pangs of postponing the work I love and watching my students grow to be with my son and growing him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We love you, Corban!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Misunderstanding Skits 5th

Sooo Coooool!

Remember Levi, "my new favorite zero"? Well, we finished a project we'd been working on to give his parents. I had him create a book from the sentence stem, "This is my family member." We had read a book together about family and drew a picture of our families (although his family looked an awful lot like mine, which worried Mom when he showed it to her at home...she's not pregnant nor trying!). So in order to help differentiate between my family and his and to become familiar with a useful phrase ("This is..."), we created said book with computer paper for the inside and construction paper for the cover. We finally finished yesterday (I wanted to make sure he was able to take it home before Thanksgiving Break), so I laminated, punched, and spiral bound it and pulled him out of his classroom to give it to him. 

His reaction?  Biiiig eyes. "Oh. My. Gosh!" His tiny fingers caressed the shiny pages. "Wow! Soooo cool!" I handed it to him. 
"This is for you, Levi," I said. "Read it to your Mom and Dad, okay?"
"No, now," he replied. So we stood right there in the hallway and read My Family by Levi
"Again," he whispered. So we read it again. 

As I took him back to class, he did nothing but look at his precious creation, and as soon as we arrived in his classroom, he marched right up to his teacher and handed it to her. And the coolest thing that she did? "Will you read it to me?" So he did. And then he proceeded to read it to the rest of the class. They oohed and aahed over the beautiful book, and several students were heard remarking about how very much they would like to make a book about their families. Levi went from being the new curiosity to the coolest kid in school that day.

And I just know his mom loved it.

The Brick Wall of ESL

At a recent ESL training led by Katie Brooks & Susan Adams from Butler University, we practiced an activity called Barriers or Bridges. We tweaked it a little for use in our classroom. I wanted to take some time one of these odd three days before Thanksgiving Break to remind students of the purpose of ESL, no matter what teacher is guiding them. We wrote down any and everything that came to mind of things that we've done in the ESL room that have helped us connect to our mainstream classrooms. We put the completed wall in the hallway outside our room. Check it out!

We have some 5th graders coming in today to draw three things--on one side of the wall, we'll have some pics/graphics that represent ESL; going across the top of the wall will be footprints; and on the other side, we'll have some pics/graphics that represent our regular classrooms. Genius, eh? But really, I hope even moreso that they'll remember that ESL is not just a bunch of fun random activities where we read cool articles and meet new people, but that what we do in that classroom is actually beneficial in making them successful matter the environment. (*sigh* It's hard to talk about this like it's over, but for me, it almost is. :( )

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's What I Said!

A student came rushing into my room during homework time today.

"Mrs. Steele, I need help with disability!"

Normally, she and I work on math concepts--multiplication, division, fractions, factoring, etc. Disability was a new one for me. She wrote the word on a whiteboard. "D-i-s-a-b-i-l-i-t-y." I realize I've been out of 6th grade math for a while, but I wasn't sure I'd even heard of this new concept!

"Could you start it for me? What does it look like to do 'disability'?"

She wrote the following: "15: 3, 5. 20: 2, 5, 10."

"Ohhhh!" I exclaimed. "Divisibility!"

"Yeah, that's what I said, 'disability.'"

'Member when I wrote about misunderstandings in one of my recent posts? I think we found a real-life example! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010


One of my students forged his mom's signature today.

He spelled her name wrong.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Misunderstandings in 3rd Grade

In 3rd grade, we've been studying the idea of misunderstanding things and what you should do when you think that's happened to you. We culminated this mini-unit by creating our own skits to show what kinds of misunderstandings could anyone! 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Content-Area Word Walls

Found these gems in some 5th grade classrooms. Look what these teachers are giving ALL students!
Writing teacher, Linda Moore, includes verbal (provided by her) and pictorial
(provided by the students) descriptions of each of the five steps in the writing process.

Math teacher, Sarah Ashton, displays examples of essential math components.

EL Statewide Conference

I had the honor of a lifetime when Susan Adams asked if I would present with her at Wednesday's EL Statewide Conference in Indianapolis. Wow. We even had mini bios printed about us! (Not a big deal for you big-timers, perhaps, but huge to me!) :)
We had a great presentation about writing in the ESL classroom and outstanding feedback from our participants. Susan and I made a great secondary-elementary team. I only hope this won't be the last time that we present together!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teacher Spotlight

We've shared with our teachers the importance of allowing students the opportunity to use their native language to better understand new concepts. Here are some quotes we shared with them:

Why Native Language Support Works
“Learning most effectively occurs in the language that the learner knows best. The skills and understanding acquired in the first language are accessible to a learner in the second language.”
When Should They Use Each Language?
“If your focus is higher order thinking skills or prior knowledge connections, EL students should probably work together in their native languages. If you want EL students to practice using some of their new English language structures and vocabulary, you should pair them with native English speakers.”
Brooks, Kathryn, & Karathanos, Katya. (2009). Building on the cultural and linguistic capital of English learner (EL) students. Multicultural Education, 46-50.

One 3rd grade teacher (Sara Hawblitzel) really took it to heart.

 Her students were learning about classifying creatures according to whatever different features they could come up with. Then they would be learning about specific classifications within the animal kingdom. Here's the list that some of our shared students came up with:

Needless to say, I was so proud, as were the students to be allowed to use their strength (Spanish) to understand something new! Thanks, Mrs. Hawblitzel!

Always Good for a Laugh

MELISSA: My mom just started laughing last night on the way home.
ME: *strange conversation starter* Why's that?
MELISSA: She said she just kept thinking about how big your belly is!

Glad somebody somewhere's getting joy from this... :-P

Friday, October 22, 2010

Translating Blooper

TEACHER: Have you seen this paper before?
ME: ¿Ha visto este papel?
PARENT: No, nunca.
ME: No.
TEACHER: He should bring it home every day in his backpack.
ME: Lo debe traer cada dia en su cuchillo.
PARENT: incredulous look ¿Que?
ME: ¡O! ¡En su mochila!
un cuchillo

una mochila

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

Student reading from textbook: "Protein builds muscle, skin, and international organs."

Only in the ESL room do students have "international organs!"


In the world of ESL, we talk about L1 and L2, first language and second language, but for our newest Husky, we're using the term L4. (Preface: His dad is a consultant for the orthopedic industry; very smart guy!) Born in India, he learned to speak Hindi, but because he left during first grade, he can't read much in that language. Next came Switzerland, where (if I'm understanding correctly) he learned to speak/read German in school and Swiss-German on the streets. Now he's here as a third grader in the USA catching up on his English (although he's studied it in every country he's lived in). L4, my friends, will soon become L5 for him as their next planned move is this summer for Brazil.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My New Favorite Zero

Top left: He drew (and yes, I do mean drew--beautifully!) his Chinese name. Note to self: Asking if that spells "Levi" in Chinese is a dumb question; the name "Levi" doesn't exist in Chinese! I practiced saying his former name, but...don't ask me to say it now w/o his help!

Middle: We practiced saying and writing his letters.

Top right: His face after he heard himself saying "My name is Levi" on the digital audio recorder. It wasn't perfect like he heard me saying it. I crossed off that face and drew the silly big smiley face.

Bottom left: He felt better by the end and drew his own face. I pointed to his face, said "This is Levi," and pushed his little lips into a smile. Then I pointed to my face, said "This is Mrs. Steele," and gave myself a big grin. He then decided to add the nose and proudly declared "nose!"

Can't wait to work with this motivated little kindergartner again! :)

Quote of the Day

Miss Keers was discussing the Holocaust with her 5th graders. Apparently, the whole "blond hair, blue eyes" thing really hit home with some of the ELLs, who do NOT have such physical features. A nervous Brayan asked, "Miss Keers, am I a Jew?"

Oh dear. How to explain that one to Mom and Dad!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ESL Family Literacy Nights: Round 1

While I was at Butler University for a class on writing this summer, I decided to drop in on a graduate student's presentation on Family Literacy Nights. She totally sold me on the idea, and last night, several months (and tears) later, we held our very first one! Three Wednesdays this month, we will be hosting these classes for parents AND kids to come together, learn a new technique, and take home some tools AND books! We have classroom teachers leading the first two lessons to help make that connection between ESL and the mainstream classroom. Below is the outline for the month.

 Oct 6: Making Connections (Aynsley Small: 1st grade teacher)
    - send home magnets with the 3 types of connections and illustrations of them all
    - one culturally-relevant bilingual book per child
Oct 13: Asking Questions (Sarah Ashton: 5th grade teacher)
    - send home bookmarks with brief notes on when/how to ask questions
    - one bilingual English classic per child
Oct 27: Reading in a Foreign Language (Sarah Steele: ESL teacher)
    - send home something with elements of a story on it
    - one English-only book per child
    - give each family photo of them happily reading together

Here's what each night looks like within itself:
  1. Explain focus literacy skill and procedures.
  2. Have parents observe a teacher modeling that skill to their children.
  3. Split into family groups and practice the skill.
  4. Regroup to review the process and discuss any remaining questions.
  5. Pass out tool.
  6. Give one book per child to practice this skill at home (each of the 3 nights!).
  7. (The following week, we would start with a recap of the previous skill and what parents noticed as they practiced that skill with their children.)
Now that I've bored you to tears with all the gory details, how about some photos (almost 50 ppl last night!)?

One of our middle schoolers joined her family for this night!
Somehow, I think one of these kids is not an actual member of this family!

Aynsley Small and Imelda Salyer made a dynamic presentation team!
(P.S. Can you see the screen? Hurray for doc cams!)


Practicing making connections

Choosing free books--provided by
the Warsaw Education Foundation!

The magnets they got to take home

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Formal Debate

This week's topic was Child Interpreters. Of course, we read from Jorge about his experience being a child interpreter. Then we split into two groups and played "Fact & Opinion." Both groups read an article about the topic--one stating why it's so important and the other discussing a law about barring children from interpreting for their parents (specifically in medical situations). Then we had a word war. (Boy, were the kids excited about war!) Each student read one fact from their article and then stated their opinion about that fact. It was quite the heated debate!

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Name is Jorge

Jane Medina is an author--one of my favorite bilingual authors! One of her books is written from the perspective of an elementary Mexican newcomer named Jorge. Of all the characters in all the books in all the world, Jorge is my all-time favorite.

We begin each week with some Jorge Time. I always start with "My Name is Jorge," as names are a great place to get to know kids. During that same week, Imelda and I read "T-Shirt" (they both deal with mispronouncing names). We do lots of different things involving these poems, but this year, we also decided to have kids do some recording. Here is "T-Shirt" in English and Spanish.


(Try hitting "play" first before downloading. If that doesn't work, you can download them for free; you just have to sign up. I've previously used a website that had the player right in my blog post, but I can't seem to find it right now. Any help would be greatly appreciated!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"But, Mrs. Steele, it's not on ISTEP!"

Melissa was particularly concerned that we were spending our time "drawing pictures" instead of doing "real work." She complained to me, "Mrs. Steele, why are we doing this? We have to pass ISTEP. They won't make us draw tattoos on ISTEP!" Little did she know that what we were doing was so much more than just "drawing pictures."

1. We had to listen intensely to understand the most important things another person values. 

2. We had to think critically about how to represent those ideas with pictures (and no, a boy playing baseball does not represent a boy playing baseball--it is a boy playing baseball; we had to go deeper!). 

3. We had to write a paragraph justifying why we put each individual item in the tattoo, colors and all.

4. We had to present the tattoo and our justification in front of an entire class of our peers!

No, Melissa, neither ISTEP nor LAS Links will ask you to design a tattoo. But they will ask you to listen to directions and/or oral stories, think critically about a problem, and write intelligently on a topic. Tattoos were just a tool to practice.

Board Meeting

To culminate our work on our tattoos, we held a Board Meeting, complete with clip-on ties and all! :) Only this Board Meeting, you're only allowed to talk through writing on a big piece of paper taped to the board. It always starts with an essential question.

Students then answered the question, asked more questions,
and responded to each others' new questions.

The 5th graders didn't feel like their conversation was finished by the time
class was over, so...they came back during their lunch break, put the ties back
on, and spent the next 20 minutes in absolute silence finishing their conversations!

The pictures below range from 3rd to 5th grade, as I'm sure you'll note the difference in maturity.

"Nothing." "Do you think listening is important?" "It's hard." 
"Why is it hard?" "I am stuck because I don't listen." 
One student noted his difficulty in auditory processing. I'm so glad to know this about
him and am looking forward to finding ways to help him listen better and easier. 

"I do not listen to dreckshon" "Why not?" 
"Because it takes too long."
Hey, at least he's honest!

"And when you take the Istep you won't know what to do if you don't listen."
Wow. An Istep reference?? By a 4th grader??

"if you listen well you could earn yourself a scholarship"
This student only knew the word "beca" but really wanted to
use its English counterpart to answer this question.

Loved this one; you go, girl!

Of course, silly bands came up as a point of
distraction from listening. Those darn bands!

Ha ha ha! So this was one student's use of an idiom--"clean up your ears"
but another student's total misunderstanding of it. Buddy, we don't literally mean
that your ears are dirty when we say, "Ya need to clean your ears out??" ;)

Hank's Tattoos

Welcome to Hank's Tattoo Shop!

I'm Miss Star, one of the artists here.
And this is Senorita Estrella, our other artist.

Here's our design process:

Step 1: Take notes on another person's values.

Step 2: Design a tattoo uniquely for that person.

Step 3: Write a paragraph describing how this tattoo "represents" (key word!)
your partner and present it to them in front of the class.