Tag Archives: modules

Please Mr. Postman: Christmas in April

Every year, we order Christmas cards. And every year, we order too many. And we have a good dozen or so that sit, undelivered, collecting dust.Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 10.25.15 PM

But this year, it’s Christmas in April.

We’ve been working at writing addresses, remembering phone numbers… And I really thought we should figure out WHY we needed to know our addresses. So I took all these cards to school and we’ve been practicing on a worksheet, getting us ready for the real thing.

And the day finally came.


All of the students were instructed to follow a model I drew on the whiteboard. They had to copy my address from the board onto the envelope, and in the addressee spot, they had to write their own address, including ZIP code.

If you never send a letter, why would you ever need a ZIP code???

I had intended to go to the post office after school and to buy stamps. I was going to take pictures of putting them on and sliding the envelopes into the slot. But another partner teacher who was observing just happened to have poinsettia Forever stamps.

What’s a letter without a stamp? You have to know where the stamp goes.

So amazing, the questions that came up, needing to know where the stamps go and which way, how high up to write their own addresses, whether or not they could use lines… So cute, the whole thing.

So they got them ready, slid the cards into their envelopes and sealed them. That was a whole thing. Do we really have to lick them??? One student tried to use his water bottle so he wouldn’t have to lick the glue!

And now we wait.

Did it work?

Will the post office be able to decipher their writing?  … anticipation!

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    • I can say hello and goodbye in a polite way
    • I can introduce myself and others
    • I can fill out a form with my name, address, phone number and birth date
    • I can complete a simple online form (job application info)
    • I am able to give personal identification information

Post-It Note Body Parts

Face, Girl, Smile, View


That’s all we’re looking for.

Joy in learning.

And it can happen.

So as part of our learning with body parts–mostly so students can have the vocabulary they need to be able to go to the nurse’s office and say what’s wrong and how much it hurts–we decided to spend a little more time teaching the names of body parts.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 10.05.27 PMWe did this recently, asking students to draw themselves and label the parts. This was all heavily scaffolded. Then we came back to the pictures a couple of days later and asked them to write the words (if they knew them) in another language. I did one in German. I learned German ages ago, when I was in high school and then became a foreign exchange student. But it’s been decades since I’ve really used it. Nice party trick, though.

But we needed something to reinforce those words. And we fell upon sticky notes. What can bring more joy, more smiles, than seeing your teacher covered in sticky notes?

Repetition = retention.

And joy.

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My Body, My Health 

    • Able to express a minimum of 8 feelings (happy, sad, angry, cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, sick…)
    • Able to express some medical situations (headache, stomachache, period, sore throat)
    • Identify major body parts

Mod 2: Introductions, part 1

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 4.27.28 PMFilling out a form seems like it’s not that big of a deal. But imagine it looked like this one (without the English cue words) or this one. Even with the English part of it, I still kind of wonder what I’m missing in the fine print.

It can be a cultural landmine. Or just something that feels really unintelligible.

Does anyone ever teach this explicitly to new English learners? It’s part of our curriculum. And we do it day after day after day.

We did it electronically, using this google form. And then we had them fill out a paper form. Like this one.

It’s not an easy task. Many students have not memorized their addresses. Some don’t even have a phone at home. And email address? Even though students are assigned one through the school, we have first-hand knowledge that HAVING an email address is totally different from USING an email address. Our first month was spent just trying to get them to log on daily to check their email.

We taught them what unread email looks like. We taught them how to check their grades online. And we taught them to fill out forms. Again and again and again.

It’s so important, the skill of filling out forms, and yet so overlooked.

Want a job? Fill out a form.

Want a library card? Fill out a form.

Want to order something online? Want cable? A loan? Credit card? Cell phone?

You get the picture.

Though I taught English 1 last year, I didn’t teach this. Because the focus is to get them to be writers in that class, not to teach life skills. All these essential pieces of knowledge that are ignored. It must have been someone else’s job to teach that.

But now, there’s a class for that!

Want to teach this too? Find the form above, and others like it, at this link.

Setting the path

From the beginning, we wanted our goals to be clearly defined, our work to be tied to the Common Core State Standards.

But we also wanted students to understand what we expected of them.

To simplify the communication of goals and to delve into proficiency based learning, we gamified our class. We created units that contained the content we wanted them to learn. We turned those units into badges to win. Once students “get” the content, they get a badge. Find out more about gamification here. And then take a look at our badges and their connectsions to the Common Core.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 3.32.14 PMOur course was based on the scope and sequence developed through USALearns.org, a site created by the US State Department to help recent immigrants develop English skills and work toward self-sufficiency. You can see our course here, on Canvas, a learning management system (LMS) that is being piloted in our district.