Sunday, September 26, 2010

Being Creative on a Shoestring Budget:)

As I mentioned in previous postings, money is scarce in education nowadays, but teachers must still deliver quality instruction to their students (and no teacher would argue against that). For me, due to lower enrollments, I am teaching two English proficiency levels in the same room. Though the numbers are low, the wide range of abilities makes the task a bit challenging. I have a couple of students who have very little formal education and they are 16 and 17 years old. At the other end of the spectrum, I have three students who are moving through the materials quickly because they have no gaps in their education and, in fact, were outstanding students in their native lands. Finally, there are those scattered throughout the middle with varying skills.

Well, they are here with me for a year so I need some "out-of-the-box" ideas to make the class challenging for all without frustrating any of them. Several teachers mentioned creating learning centers (areas within a classroom designed to allow small groups of students to expand their knowledge on a given topic such as math using a host of tiered instructional approaches to help each student access the content at his/her level), but those are actually more geared to elementary school classrooms than high school. Those learning centers are highly creative and kids love them, but remember that elementary school teachers have the same students all day long so such set ups really allow teachers imaginative assessment centers to monitor student access through a host of differentiated instructional set-ups. That being said though, there are strategies there that could be tweaked to work at the higher grade levels.

My idea is to create activity boxes (one box for beginners and one for intermediates) in which there will be color-coded activities addressing writing, reading, vocabulary, grammar, and fun (yes, there must be some fun though it will be based on the content/skills the student worked on in his/her assigned folders). Violet paper will be Vocabulary, Green paper will be Grammar, White paper will be for Writing, Rose will be for reading, and Yellow paper will stand for YIPPEE (fun activities for students who have done a minimum of 1 activity for each color with a score of 75 +---less than 75 means that they will have to review errors and try other activities until a score of 75 is reached). All activities will be offered at three levels EASY, MEDIUM, and ADVANCED. Advanced beginners will be encouraged to go to the Intermediate level box to try activities there. Extra work at a 75 or higher would strengthen my argument to move them up in January to the next level.

Now, what types of activities will I have here? I will include engaging reading materials from Scholastic (ACTION for beginners, SCOPE for intermediates, and UPFRONT for the very advanced---these magazines that students really like reading). One plus for me as a teacher in using this material is that it comes with lesson plans and activities for every issue. Having used them in the past, I know that they work and work well. I will also order New Reader's Press newspaper again. This is a newspaper written for adults learning English. One outstanding component is that there is an audio component. Students go to a computer with internet, access the site and input the password. Then as they read the article, they will also hear it read to them. Once again, this publisher also provides easy to implement activities and lessons. In both items, I will be able to separate out READING, VOCABULARY, GRAMMAR, and WRITING mini-activities. Nothing will be in isolation so that should also prep them for state assessments. Students will able to earn points for every assignment completed with a score of 75 or higher until they have enough to earn time on the computers in my classroom. The websites that they will be allowed to access are posted just above the computer. Every site is game friendly, but academic in nature. I have pulled them from my website www.ellteacherpros.com. Every site listed there (by subject) is teacher approved:) For those not into the internet, I may weave in some language, math, or geography board games. With furlough week fast approaching, I will have a few days to scout around shopping malls for some ideas.

If anyone out there has ideas to share, please feel free to post.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, I forgot to mention that we are also blogging. It is an non-traditional approach to try to turn non-writers into writers. I will keep you posted on the results:)

    If your would like to bring blogging into your classroom as well, try the safe free site below:


    Students don't need an email to access it. You just give out the URL and they just enter it and type away. You have the opportunity to screen all comments before they appear on the blog.