Elizabeth Claire's E-News

September 2012 E-News from Elizabeth Claire

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Contents of the September E-News:

Activities for the first day of class

What's coming up in September's Easy English NEWS?

My books on Kindle, now Big Savings!

Easy English NEWS wins Awards

Activities for the first day of class

Many teachers new to ESL look for answers to that nerve wracking question: What to do on the first day of class? How to have an amusing, relationship-building, and productive first day that builds class spirit and establishes your "credentials" as someone they can trust to facilitate their learning?

That was always my challenge the first day of class How to get the paper work out of the way, and begin relating and supporting ASAP. I usually began class way before the paper work of testing began...gathering those newcomers who were plainly fresh off the plane, and in need of the therapy and support that an ESL class and teacher can provide.

I know that I am being judged through cultural filters, so I dress as students might expect a teacher to dress: formally, in a dress or suit. After a week or so, I dress more comfortably. I introduce myself as Ms. Claire, not as Elizabeth. I don't think students straight off the plane are comfortable calling their teacher by her or his first name which they would never dare do back in the home country. I'm aware of many of the cultural taboos that can throw new students for a loop...handing out papers with the left hand is a big no-no for Arabic students; touching the head or cap of a Vietnamese is strictly taboo; licking one's thumb to moisten it to speed up the passing out of handouts is a big turn off to germ-aware cultures; sitting on the teacher's desk seems disrespectful to Japanese (he teacher's desk is a sacred piece of furniture, and one should not put one's least sacred body part on it).

Yes, I want to learn their names quickly. I also want them to learn each others' names, and develop a sense of "This class is going to be meaningful, humane, fast moving, and well-regulated." The challenge is to have a lesson that covers everyone in the class from the lowest level to the highest level with everyone going home with something learned at their level...but of course, I don't know their levels yet.

A single monolithic lesson won't do the trick, as some students will be left behind, and others will be bored if it is too easy. So I prepare a multi-level lesson, with several "strands" to challenge all in some way and assure success in some way for each of them. I want to present lessons that are short and so memorable they will be learning English while they sleep.

I have students write their names with large markers on a folded 5 x 7 card so their name fills the card so I can see them at a distance from the front of the room. (Or I make the name cards myself if I am so lucky as to have a class roster before students show up, which is not always the case)

For the first strand, we do five minutes of total physical response activities so students can see that they only need listen, watch, and copy the movements, and will learn a lot of English. The first day's TPR lesson includes commands and modeling for stand up, sit down, raise your hand, put your hand down. Open your mouth, close your mouth, close your eyes, open your eyes, open your hand, close your hand, open your book, close your book. Students are usually enchanted with how well they are learning when they are not experiencing any anxiety, and how relevant the concepts are. The second day will review the first, and add walk, don't walk, run, don't run, talk, don't talk, laugh, don't laugh. With a few more classroom commands, there will soon be no need for translations of classroom instructions and discipline. With a more advanced class, I'd do more advanced TPR, but always letting the lessons be listen, watch, and do. Speaking, writing, and reading of the TPR commands can come at a much later date.

Strand Two: I read out the names of students from their nametags, and invite the students to correct my pronunciation. I quickly sketch a simple seating chart at my desk. I say the names out loud in the order they are seated in in this way so I can memorize them: Thus: Laslo, Jane; Laslo, Jane, Pablo; Laslo, Jane, Pablo, Ricardo; Laslo, Jane, Pablo, Ricardo, Renata; and so forth. Later, I will come back to this and test myself for their amusement that I am willing to get an embarrassingly poor score. It's my intention to know all their names within the first two days. Students who feel known, want to shine. I ask them to sit in the same seats tomorrow.

Strand Three: A conversational set up with puppets. For beginners, it might be: Hello, hi; good bye; so long. Students can listen and repeat as puppets come together, greet each other, and turn around and leave each other.

Strand Four: A vocabulary/request form strand. I teach two to seven vocabulary items, based on students' level. For beginners, the words might be book, notebook, paper, pen, marker. I teach the vocabulary for recognition first, then for incorporation in a request form: May I have the book please? I use techniques from Shoebox English in ESL Teacher's Activities Kit

Strand Five I might introduce the sounds of the letters of the alphabet...but slowly: ABCDE is sufficient.

Strand Six: The first writing lesson could be something as simple as the word Hi. This works so well with analphabetics. No curly letters; all straight lines, and a very meaningful word.

Review strand Two: Then I count the students out loud, to introduce or review numbers. On the board, I divide 100 by the number of students. I write the math problem on the board: (20) into 100 = 5 points per name for example.

I say "TEST!" I ask the students to turn their name tags away from me. I go around and attempt to name the students correctly. I encourage the students to count how many names I know. I write my test score on the board. If it is embarrassing, they laugh. I try again and up my score. Still under 100. I write the score on the board. I try again. Then I ask for volunteers to name each of the other students. They do worse at first, but soon some students can name all of the other students. When done at a deliberate pace, with all working well, these five strands or mini lessons take up about 45 minutes.

Before leaving: Review the Total Physical Response activity.

No one has failed, been embarrassed, or gotten a wrong answer. Almost all will have their attitude be: "I can do this." My motto is "Students who feel smart learn faster."

We review it all the next day, and add new TPR directions, new pieces of conversation, five more letters of the alphabet, more of the request form (thank you and you're welcome) and might even introduce a song and read a story.

Coming up in September's Easy English NEWS

Contents of Easy English NEWS for September 2012

What does a president do? With the election coming, it's time to learn a bit of civics...The U.S. president has roles different from prime ministers or presidents or dictators in students' home countries, so to understand the election, it's good to know that most Americans can take part in it. (In parliamentary governments, the majority political party chooses the prime minister.)

Life in the U.S.A. When an Earthquake Hits I hope they won't need this, but earthquakes, unlike hurricanes or floods, strike without warning. So it can save lives. This is an important article if you live in an earthquake prone area.

Events in September covered in Easy English NEWS:
    • Labor Day
    • Grandparents Day
    • Patriot Day
    • Back to School
    • Hispanic American Heritage Month
    • Rosh Hashana
    • Yom Kippur
    • Constitution Day
    • First Day of Autumn
Does the U.S. Need Better Gun Control Laws? The big debate. Not enough room in the actual paper, so see my website for essays pro and con gun control. Click Here

America the Beautiful: Washington, DC

Heroes and History: The San Francisco Earthquake. Read in conjunction with the page one safety article.

Is It the Hottest Year Ever? Effects of the heat and drought on health, crops, storms, food prices, insect populations.

Does the U.S. Need Better Gun Control Laws?
How can events such as the shootings in the Aurora, Colorado theater, and the Sikh temple be prevented?

The 2012 Olympics Action photos for conversation starters: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Oscar Pistorios, Gabby Douglas.

The Race for President Two top candidates, the convention, and the campaign.

Plus our regular features: This Is Your Page (readers' stories),  Funny Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word Help.

To make room for the extra news items, we moved Ask a Speech Coach, and Dr. Ali's Your Health to next month. The Practice for the Idiom Corner is also gone, maybe permanently, unless there is a demand to have it back.

Next month's focus will be the election: the candidates, third parties, the issues, the voting process. Stay tuned!

Remember there are now many support exercises at my website: The Teacher's guide if you didn't get it with your mailing; Cloze exercises; an Odd-Man-Out exercise, and seven Short Answer quizzes. Also the 24-page generic "How To" with 9 reproducible graphic organizers.

My books on Kindle, now Big Savings!

Low budget? Take advantage of the introductory prices for my books on Kindle! Starting at 99 cents!

No kindle? No problem! Amazon will give you a free Kindle App to install on your computer. 

Click on the link below to see details about my Kindle books. 
Then if you decide to buy one, click buy now. 

That will take you to where you'll get the opportunity to download the free Kindle App if you don't already have a Kindle.

If you have never bought anything from before, you will be asked to register with your credit card. 

It's simple to download the app so you can read the book.

The book will get downloaded lickety split to your computer.

View my Kindle books

Am I crazy to sell my books that sell in printed copies for $35, $15, $12 etc for just 99 cents?

May be!

But I want you to have them! There's no printing at my end, no shipping, no trees cut down, no storage costs, no billing costs to me, only the (not inconsiderable) effort to convert text from paper to text in electronic form, and Amazon's cut of 70%. I'm hoping that volume will one day pay me for my effort, and I'll keep the prices low for as long as that works. Please pass this information on to your colleagues and students.
  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part One ($0.99)
  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part Two ($0.99)
  • ESL Teacher's Activities Kit Part Three ($0.99)
The original paper edition sells for $35, so at $3 for the three parts, this is truly a bargain. It doesn't have reproducible game pages, but it has the games, songs, chants, quizzes, total physical response activities, Shoebox English activities, classroom organizing tips, curriculum needs, Quiz Show Questions and much more.
  • Kristina, 1904, the Greenhorn Girl ($4)
The paper edition of Kristina sells for $12. The kindle edition is without the illustrations. However, students will love the fact that you can hover the cursor over an unknown word and see a dictionary definition. If or when your classroom and students are in possession of computers or Kindles, this makes a good novel for advanced ESL students fifth grade to adult.
  • Voices of Our New Neighbors Volume One ($0.99)
These wonderful short stories are taken from This Is Your Page in past editions of Easy English NEWS. So if the readers' stories are your students' favorite part of our newspaper, tell your students they can enjoy hundreds of them. They'll be inspired by writers just like themselves who came to the U.S. in great anticipation, some fear and confusion, and have gone through the mistakes and embarrassments common to all newcomers to the language and culture.
  • Voices of our New Neighbors Volume Two ($0.99)
  • Voices of our new Neighbors Volume Three ($0.99)
  • English Language Learners in the Mainstream Class (from Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Guide) ($3.99)

English Language Learners in the Mainstream Class is a 75-page excerpt from Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kit # 1, by Elizabeth Claire and Judie Haynes. If you have that Kit, you won't need this kindle unless you want a portable reminder. But if you don't have the Kit, and want to understand the newcomer's culture shock, challenges, and learning styles, this is a must read.

What's So Funny? An International Student's Introduction to American Humor. ($0.99) The print version of this book ($13) is not yet back in print, so grab this Kindle version for 200 great jokes to tell your ESL students (high intermediate to advanced) while you help them understand the stereotypes, the butts, the social tensions that underlie our humor.

Phonics for English Language Learners? What the ESL Teacher Needs to Know ($0.99) This outlines the many linguistic challenges of learning to read in a new language. You'll find abundant reasons not to use a phonics series intended for native English speakers, as well as the criteria for judging a series designed for ESL students (such as my ESL Phonics for All Ages)

Click here to view my Kindle books

More titles soon available...My novel??? Autobiography? My half-baked poetry? My children's stories? Tell me what you'd like...

Easy English NEWS and I win Awards

On May 30, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, NJTESOL's Judie Haynes awarded me the President's Award for "Years of Dedication to English Language Learners." I am truly honored, pleased, and proud. It's been 44 years of caring, and it's been rewarding all the way. I think I have a few more years left in me, too.

One week later, I was informed I am to be the recipient of MENSA's prestigious Education and Research Foundation Award for Intellectual Benefit to Society for the creation, writing, publishing and distribution of Easy English NEWS for the past 18 years. I am blown away again. I am immensely grateful to these two organizations for their acknowledgement and honors, and as we all know, ESL teachers do it not for the awards or the money, but because our students energize us with their needs and with their learning and their appreciation. So this is your award, too.

It's still hurricane season, so if you live on the Atlantic or the Gulf Coast, and you haven't gotten it yet, download:

Hurricane Safety in Simple English, an illustrated booklet that can save lives. Print copies for your September classes.

Click here to go to my website:

(If you can't locate what you are looking for by checking the tabs, please use the search function.)

Carry on your good work!

Elizabeth Claire

© Elizabeth Claire 2012.

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