Teacher Appreciation Week

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
One of my favorite teachers just retired!  Actually, she retired for the second time.  Almost 20 years ago I was a student teacher in her 2nd grade classroom.  She was my mentor teacher!  I had the pleasure of working with her for several years toward the end of her career.  She retired, but subbed for me for years.  As of March she let her license expire!  I miss you Martha, thank you for all you taught me!

Education has such an impact on ourselves and our little ones. Educents is here to help you pay it forward. In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, Educents & Peekapak have teamed up to provide your favorite educators with a gift basket worth over $40, which includes a FREE $10 Educents Gift Card & 3 months of Peekapak lesson plans (3 digital storybooks, 12 in-class lessons & 12 at-home activities) that teach Character Education and Language Arts.
So, whether it’s your mom, your classroom teacher, your neighbors, or another special human being who taught you important lessons, thank them by giving them a FREE gift basket, on Educents!

Happy Teaching!

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Playing With Pronunciation

In many intermediate and advanced ESL classes, it’s common to assign a novel for students to read for class.  Less common is the assignment of a work of nonfiction. And rare indeed, in my experience, is the assignment of a theatrical play.

Yet, as I discovered this semester in a multilevel fluency workshop, plays are exciting to students. Plays are all dialogue and, needless to say, offer endless opportunities for students to showcase their dramatic skills and practice their pronunciation at the same time. The challenge was finding a play that was suitable for a mixed-level class.

I found the answer in a short, 10-minute play entitled Sure Thing (Ives, 1994) by the contemporary playwright David Ives. I first saw it performed at a local high school and quickly realized that this play, about two strangers who meet by accident in a coffee shop, was perfect for an ESL class. Repetition is built into the very structure of the drama, as the two strangers continually stop and restart their conversation each time they say something awkward or embarrassing.

The lines of dialogue are punctuated by a bell that rings at the end of each failed attempt to connect and signals a second chance at getting the conversation right.  As the play opens, Betty is reading a book at a café table, with an empty chair opposite her. Bill enters, and the play begins:

Bill: Excuse me. Is this chair taken?
Betty: Excuse me?
Bill: Is this taken?
Betty: Yes it is.
Bill: Oh, sorry.
Betty: Sure thing (A bell rings softly).
Bill: Excuse me. Is this chair taken?
Betty: Excuse me?
Bill: Is this taken?
Betty: No, but I’m expecting somebody in a minute.
Bill: Oh. Thanks anyway.
Betty: Sure thing. (A bell rings softly.)
Bill: Excuse me. Is this chair taken?
Betty: No, but I’m expecting somebody very shortly.
Bill: Would you mind if I sit here till he or she or it comes?
Betty: (glances at her watch): They seem to be pretty late …
Bill: You never know who you might be turning down.
Betty: Sorry. Nice try, though.
Bill: Sure thing (Bell.) Is this seat taken?
Betty: No, it’s not.
Bill: Would you mind if I sit here?
Betty: No. Go ahead.

I introduced the play, which evolves by fits and starts from this awkward introduction, by asking students to discuss how they first met their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend. We then watched a performance of the play on YouTube. The play is so short that there was plenty of time to watch it twice in the course of one class session: first without a script as a listening activity and then with a copy of the four-page script in hand. Even though students couldn’t catch all of the cultural references, they were uniformly enthusiastic about this romantic comedy and could relate to the struggle of the two characters to find common ground.

Then it was show time. I put students in pairs. Armed with the script of the play, I asked them to practice just the first page. I had them change partners multiple times, so they could gain confidence in their pronunciation and showcase their dramatic skills.

As the semester progresses, you can gradually lengthen the amount of the script the students practice acting out.  The play can be used to illustrate patterns of syllable stress, word stress, and sentence intonation.  For writing practice, you can invite students to alter the dialogue, adding their own personal touches to the play. And, of course, the play offers ample scope for additional discussions: What is the best way to find a romantic partner? What kinds of conversations have you had with strangers? How do men and women interact in public in your country?

Have you used plays in your English language teaching? Which have you found to be successful?


Ives, D. (1994). Sure thing. In All in the timing: Six one-act comedies (pp. 9–22). New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service.

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Academic Word List

Hi everyone,

Since Phrasal Verbs are very common in oral English, their understanding is essential for communication and reading comprehension. However, when writing formally there are two reasons we strive to use the academic or formal equivalents of Phrasal Verbs. First, Phrasal Verbs are highly idiomatic. Formal writing uses Standard English and avoids figurative language and slang. Secondly, when writing formally in English precise vocabulary is expected. Since Phrasal Verbs often have multiple meanings they can be difficult to understand and impede the meaning. Teaching your students the Academic vocabulary for Phrasal Verbs will enlarge their vocabulary and improve their formal English writing!
Informal and Formal Vocabulary – Phrasal Verbs the corresponding Academic Vocabulary

You say put off,
We say postpone,
You say call up,
We say phone.

Meet Common Core standards and raise the academic vocabulary level of your students with this 102-page unit on Informal and Formal Academic Vocabulary – Phrasal Verbs and the corresponding Academic Vocabulary.
This academic Vocabulary grammar unit covers 32 different Phrasal Verbs and the Academic vocabulary that corresponds with each one. Phrasal verbs are verbs that contain more than one word and there are hundreds of English Phrasal Verbs such as: think over (consider), set up (establish), and put up with (tolerate).

Click here to see  Academic Vocabulary – Informal – Formal Vocabulary – Phrasal Verbs

I came across this list of Academic Words at Vocabulary.com.  Click on over and see how the site has tabs for definitions, notes and examples and words only.  They also have tabs for practice and spelling bees.   
This is a great list for Vocabulary expansion to help students see the relationship between words.
create (verb)
creation (noun)
creative (adjective)
creatively (adverb)

Their list of words include:


  1. analysis
  2. approach
  3. area
  4. assessment
  5. assume
  6. authority
  7. available
  8. benefit
  9. concept
  10. consistent
  11. constitutional
  12. context
  13. contract
  14. create
  15. data
  16. definition
  17. derived
  18. distribution
  19. economic
  20. environment
  21. established
  22. estimate
  23. evidence
  24. export
  25. factor
  26. financial
  27. formula
  28. function
  29. identified
  30. income
  31. indicate
  32. individual
  33. interpretation
  34. involved
  35. issue
  36. labour
  37. legal
  38. legislation
  39. major
  40. method
  41. occur
  42. percent
  43. period
  44. policy
  45. principle
  46. procedure
  47. process
  48. required
  49. research
  50. response
  51. role
  52. section
  53. sector
  54. significant
  55. similar
  56. source
  57. specific
  58. structure
  59. theory
  60. variable

Happy Teaching!

from Fun To Teach ESL – Teaching English as a Second Language http://ift.tt/1EQnzT9

An Online Game for Fun With Music in ELT

Although it seems to have been around for a number of years, I just recently stumbled upon Lyrics Training, a fun site that uses music to get students listening, reading, writing, and even speaking—well, singing. I am excited to share it with you and actually enjoyed the site so much that I spent quite a bit more time than anticipated testing it out. The same thing might happen to you.

Lyrics Training does not require any sort of registration, however, you may want to sign up and have your students sign up in order to track scores. Students may be more motivated to compete with others, challenge classmates, or even just have a record of their scores, but you can easily test the site out with students before determining if accounts are a good fit for you and your class. Registration is simple and can also be done using your Facebook account, which may also appeal to students.

The site is designed for learners of many languages, so make sure you choose English before selecting or searching for a video. When you choose a video, you get to choose a level, and I highly recommend beginner, at least to start off with. After that, look just above the video to the right. You have a choice of “write mode” or “choice mode.” For write mode, you have to listen and type the missing words, whereas for choice mode, you listen and choose the correct word that is missing from four choices. I recommend choice mode for students, especially in the beginning. As a native English speaker familiar with the songs I tested out, it was a challenge at most levels to type quickly enough to keep up with the pace of songs.

During play, the site tracks your hits or correct answers and calculates a score at the end. If you cannot answer quickly enough or answer incorrectly, a red bar at the top of the video begins to disappear. You can relisten to that segment of the song to stop the timer as many times as you want, but you cannot move forward without getting it correct or admitting defeat and skipping it. If you skip it, the site will fill in the word you missed and replay that section so that you can hear it once more. If that timer runs out, though, the game is over and you have to start from the very beginning.

That is all there is to it. If used in class, I suggest carefully selecting the songs students use for the activity to ensure that the content is appropriate for the classroom and the age of your students. If you have all the students work on the same song initially, you may also want to end with “karaoke mode” where students sing along with the video. Finally, because of the engaging nature of music and this type of game, students may want to continue practicing at home and absolutely should be encouraged to do so.

What do you think of Lyrics Training? How will you use it with your students? What will/do they think of it?

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21 things about ELPA21

Hello everyone! 
Today I would like to welcome April Bryant from Cedar Falls, Iowa…our guest blogger today. 

April has been a classroom teacher since 1997. She has experience K-12 in Bilingual Education, ESL, and Spanish. She is part of the group that field tested ELPA21 across the country and here are her thoughts on the new ELPA21:

 Good afternoon colleagues,
 We were able to successfully administer the pilot ELPA21 to 23 students in 6-8th grades at Central.

We have been using the IELDA proficiency exam for many years.  Therefore, when you see a reference to the ELDA in this post, know that I am comparing the two exams. For more information about the IELDA visit:

Here are my reflections on the administration of the test and its future implications for ELL instruction:
We did not have any hardware issues whatsoever in our lab.  Three of the district techs were present to help with any glitches.  In that regard, this pilot exam was well supported.  Thank you Tech Department for your help!
I highly recommend the USB connected headset/mic combos for anyone giving this test.  They worked well.

2.  Software:
The software opened and functioned as predicted.  Students were able to successfully pause the exam, use the restroom and resume the exam by re-entering login data.  I was also able to use the proctor password to successfully re-enter an exam that had frozen.  So, those facets of the software performed as promised.

3.  One recommendation I would make to the software writers is to consider changing the format of the dual panel displays.  When students had two screens in one… they were confused about how to navigate between views.  If this remains the interface for the exam, we will have to teach this concept to the students before testing next spring.

4.  Listening Exam:
I found the listening exam to be bright and engaging.  I especially like the option to repeat the audio as needed for success.  The questions are well scaffolded so that students are asked to listen for a specific detail.

5.  Writing Exam:
The writing exam is more demanding in comparison to the requirements posed in the ELDA prompts.  However, the prompts are written in a way that really help students with sentence structure.  The required writing is also lengthy.  One of the prompts asked for 3 paragraphs.  Of course, many students were asking how many sentences equal one paragraph….

6. Reading Exam:
The reading exam was the most confusing in terms of use.  This is the section with the dual panel display mentioned earlier in the software section.  I don’t think the reading tasks and questions were an issue; navigating the software in this section was frustrating for students.

7.  Speaking Exam:
The speaking prompts are well done.  They are supported by graphics or video.  Students have the option to record their answers a second time if they do not wish to submit their first attempt.  However, once the choice is made to attempt a second time, the first answer is no longer an option to submit.  So… if you choose to do a second recording… that’s the one that counts.

8.  Administration:
The exam instructions and testing tools are very easy to follow.  There is nothing to read as a proctor.  Once students log in, they are self-sufficient.

9.  Set-up took about 30 minutes.  I logged in to each station, opened the login screen to the exam, and plugged the headsets in at each station prior to students’ arrival.

10.  Once students arrived, they picked up their username and password and went right to work.  Since they had seen the demo it was easy for them to get started on their own. 

11.  I am glad I did the setup ahead of time, some of the students struggled to finish in the 2 hours of allotted time.  (Granted the test won’t be timed, but I had only requested that they miss 2 sections of class)

Instructional Considerations:

12.  Reading:
In my opinion, the reading instruction that is taking place is adequate for success on the test.  However, I did get a few vocabulary questions, so our work with Rule of 3 and our focus on vocabulary will be right on target.

13.  Listening:
In my opinion, students who do not currently have an ELD component in their school day will not be as successful on this part as those who do.  It is one thing to listen to content instruction and complete coursework.  It is another to critically listen for specific details in order to answer comprehension questions.  It would be my recommendation to provide listening comprehension practice matching the test format for ELLs prior to the exam. 

14.  Writing:
The prompts are very specific on the exam.  They require a specified number of details, a certain format and specific lengths.  Students will need practice critically reading these prompts and reflecting on whether or not their writing sample meets the requirements.
Additionally, many of our students are hunt-and-peck typists.  So, additional practice with writing in electronic formats will be crucial to their success on the writing exam.

15.  Speaking:
This part of the exam concerns me most.  The hardware was not an issue.  All of the students were able to record and listen back with no problem.  My reservations come from recorded speech being scored by an outside source.  Many of my students have accents which are understood best by those who spend the most time with them.

I am concerned that these scores will decrease as a result of the new format.  Usually, speaking is a high score for our students helping their composite scores.  However, this new format may change that trend.

In my opinion, my current instructional practice is missing two components that will be crucial to their success on this type of exam.  First, students must have more interaction with recording and critiquing their own voices.  They must be able to play back their responses and reflect on whether or not their response meets the requirements of the prompt.
I believe this will be a strong addition to our instructional routines.  Arrangements will have to be made so that the hardware and software are in place for said instructional practice to occur. 

16.   Additionally,  it is my opinion that we must introduce a pronunciation / phonics component into the ELD instruction in the upper grades.  If we do not provide guided practice and constructive feedback in this area, I fear that student scores will decrease as a result.

17.  I will be looking into best practice for secondary pronunciation/ phonics instruction, but my first thought is Words Their Way for ELLs.  It is a wonderful program for vocabulary, spelling and phonics.  I’d have to come up with a way to work pronunciation drills into it, but I am sure my years as a foreign language teacher will help with that.

18.  Whew, that was a ton of information!  I would welcome the opportunity to read feedback of this nature from some of the other schools as well.

19.  Thanks for the opportunity to participate in the ELPA21 pilot.  I know this experience will have a positive effect on the daily instruction and practice exams in my room for 2015-2016.

20.  What’s new on ELPA21?
Here are some of my observations…
Listening selections similar to ELDA / TELPA
The color graphics add to the experience.

Reading selections:
There are questions on interpreting graphs.
I have not seen this on ELDA / TELPA

There is a cloze activity with a pull down menu of choices… similar to the DAZE exam if you are familiar with it. 

21.  Bells and Whistles!
The test includes the following tools for student success…
highlighter for text 
notepad for tagging text
Students can relisten… relisten… relisten!
X-out tool to visually eliminate answers
full color graphics!

Best Wishes as you and your students prepare to take the ELPA21 next spring! 

April Bryant 
Click on over to April’s TPT Store!
Check out April’s Blog 
Teacher See Teacher Do

from Fun To Teach ESL – Teaching English as a Second Language http://ift.tt/1ECoczz