Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mi Piace Le Lingue

My last Language Week post a little late. I've wanted to write this week but have been so busy.

Mi piace molto le lingue. Mi piace imparare lingue e ascoltare diverse lingue. Mi piace vedere film in lingue straniere e mi piace viaggiare in paese dove parlono lingue altre che l'Inglese. Sono molto interessata in bilinguismo e i diversi metodi per crescere i bambini a parlare due lingue.

Non direi que imparo le lingue facilmente me mi piace imparare le lingue. Voglio imparare tanto lingue quanto possibile. Ho gia detto che ho studiato un po' di Spagnolo e ovviamente l'Italiano. Ho anche studiato un po' di Francese e un po di Arabo.

Ho studiato il Francese quando ho abitato a Firenze. (Strano, lo so.) Ho frequentato l'Universita' degli Studi di Firenze e hanno un centro linguistico. Corsi di lingue non costava molto e potevo prendere crediti per "related fields" di che avevo bisogno per prendere la laurea a Arizona State. Era molto interesate imparare Francese in Italiano. La maestra ha traducco in Italiano da il Francese e spiegazione grammaticale era sempre in Italiano. Sembrava che era molto piu facile per gli Italiani imparare il Francese (una lingua romanza) che io. Pero era interessante che c'erano certe cose che io ho capito piu facilmente che loro perche era piu simile a Inglese che Italiano. Poi quando ho abitato in Sardegna ho lavorato a una scuola di lingue, Inlingua, e ho frequentato un altro corso di Francese (gratuito). Non parlo bene il Francese ancora. Devo abitare in un paese dove parlono il Francese se voglio impararlo per bene.

L'Arabo, ho studiato per diversi raggione. Quando ho abitato a Firenze ho conosciuto tanti Arabi. Ho sentito l'Arabo parlato spesso e ho piaciuto come sentire. Un giorno, scerzando con un amico Arabo, ho detto "Io posso imparare l'Arabo. E' un corso che offrono a l'Universita che frequento in Arizona." Mi ha risposta, "No, non puoi imparare l'Arabo. E' troppo difficile!" Lui stava scherzando ma non ho mai dimenticato cosa ha detto. Due anni dopo, stavo per registrare per l'ultima semestra a l'Universita. Ho visto un annuncio per un nuovo corso di Arabo. La mia programma era gia piena ma ho deciso di inscrivermi nel corso. Era molto divertente. Era interesante imparare come funzione una lingua che sembra impossibile imparare. Si e' un po' difficile ma non impossibile. Sentivo rimorso che non ho deciso di studiare la lingue prima (adesso era l'ultima semestra a l'universita' e non avro' l'opportunita' di studiare di piu.) Pero, non era completamente vero. Ho frequentato in altro corso di Arabo a (community college) e poi quando ho abitato in Sardegna ho assisisto ad un corso di Arabo. Come Francese non parlo molto Arabo ma adesso capisco come funzione la lingua. La prossima lingua che voglio imparare per bene e l'Arabo. Per fare questo voglio abitare in Egitto o Libano. Ho projetti di insegnare a una scuola internazione l'anno prossimo o l'anno dopo. Ma questo e per un altro posto.

I love languages. I like learning languages and listening to different languages. I like watching foreign language films and I like traveling to countries where they speak languages other than English. I’m very interested in bilingualism and the different methods for raising children to speak two languages.

I wouldn’t say that I learn languages easily but I like learning them. I want to learn as many languages as possible. I already said that I studied some Spanish and obviously Italian. I’ve also studied some French and some Arabic.

I studied French when I lived in Florence. (Strange, I know.) I attended the University of Florence and they had a language center. Language courses didn’t cost much and I could earn credits in “related fields” that I needed for my degree at Arizona State. It was very interesting leaning French in Italian. The teacher translated in Italian form French and grammatical explanations were always in Italian. Then, when I lived in Sardegna I worked in a language school, Inlingua, and I attended another French course (for free). I still don’t speak French well. I have to live in a country where they speak French if I want to learn it well.

Arabic, I learned for different reasons. When I lived in Florence I knew a lot of Arabs. I heard Arabic spoken often and I loved the way it sounded. One day, joking with an Arab friend, I said “I could learn Arabic. It is offered as a course at my university in Arizona.” He replied, “No, you can’t learn Arabic. It’s too difficult.” He was just joking but I never forgot what he said. Fast forward two years later. I was registering for my last semester at ASU and I saw a flyer for a new Arabic course. My schedule was already full but I decided to enroll in the course. It was so much fun. It was interesting to learn how a language works that seems so impossible to learn. Yes, it is a little difficult, but not impossible. I regretted that I hadn’t decided to study Arabic sooner as that was my last semester at University and I wouldn’t have the chance to study the language again. But that wasn’t entirely true. I took another course at the community college after graduating and when I lived in Sardegna I audited another course. Like French, I still don’t speak Arabic very well but now I understand how the language works. The next language that I want to lean well is Arabic. To accomplish this I want to live in Egypt or Lebanon. I have plans to teach in an international school next year or the year after. But that is for a different post.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Guided Reading Lending Library

In the last two days I've spent ten hours working to get my idea for a guided reading lending library off the ground. I am actually amazed at the amount of work that I got done (with the help of some other teachers) in just two days. I wanted to take a picture of the work in progress but I forgot to bring my camera.

Thursday I started by laying out all of the books that I had sets of (5-8 books). There was another teacher who had quite a few sets too so I added those to the piles. I then went around to every teacher's room (there were quite a few working) and asked them for what ever they had and added them to the stacks around my room. By the end of the day every desk and table surface was covered in sets of books.

Today when I came into my room I was overwhelmed at all the work there was left to do. Luckily I had three great teachers there to help me. Leveling the books was the biggest and most important part of the whole project. Two teachers worked on leveling the K-3 books (by using the Fountas and Pinnell book as well as by comparing them to anchor books and descriptions). I used the F&P 3-6 book to look up the other titles. Anything I couldn't find in the book was given to a third teacher who used a binder with level descriptions to figure out each book. By 1:00 we had leveled ALL of the books! I had had serious doubts about completing the job but we did it. Next came the task of organizing the books in groups by level A, B, C, etc. and the recording on a list to see what we had. As it turned out we had a pretty good assortment of books for each level. For levels P-Z, however, we were really lacking in books, just one or two titles per level. We'll have to order those books for next year. Finally we worked on coming up with a system for loaning out the books. Each set will be stored in a magazine file with a library card on the front. When a teacher wants to take books they just take the books and the book info card (with teaching points, vocab, etc.) out of the file, sign the card, and go.

Now we just need to organize them into the room/closet that will be their home (TBD at the moment). We want them to be in a place where all teachers can get to them any time they want without having to ask permission or hunt someone down for the key. If it's not accessible and easy to use, teachers won't use it. We'll probably get another day or two to work on the project next week (for some reason our school has lots of extra money to spend before we loose it). This is great news because I'd love to have the room ready to go by the start of the school year and September is just such a busy time for something like this.

When everything gets set up I will definitely share pictures.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Non Parlo Spagnolo, Ma Sarebbe Utile

Dico sepmpre, per ogni parola che ho imparato in Italiano, ho perso quella parola in Spagnolo. E credo che sia la verita'. E siccome ho studiato l'Italiano per cinque anni e ho abitato in Italia per tre anni ma ho studiato Spagnolo per solo tre anni nella scula superiore, si puo' capire perche ho detto, "Non posso dire neanche una frase in Spagnolo." Pero, penso che tutte le parole Spagnole che ho imparato sono sotto chiave e posso farle riuscire.

Il 18 Luglio, vado in Guatemala per un mese. Frequentero' un corso di Spagnolo per i primi cinque giorni (solo) ma spero di fare uscire tutte le parole e frasi che ho gia imparato. Sembra necessario parlare un po' di Spagnolo perche l'Inglese non e' molto parlato in Guatemala. Pero, sono un po' apprensivo di imparare (di nuovo) perche non voglio perdere l'Italiano che ho lavorato molto di imparare. Sarebbe molto utile parlare Spagnolo pero. Quasi tutti i genitori dei miei studenti parlono Spagnolo. Adesso no parlo con loro perche non posso.

E' strano che ho deciso di studiare Spagnolo nella scuola superiore perche sarebbe praticale ma adesso, cuando mi serve, no posso dire niente.

I always say that for every word I learned in Italian, I forgot that word in Spanish. I believe that that's true. And since I studied Italian for five years and lived in Italy for three years, but only studied Spanish for three years in high school, you can see why I say, "I can't even say a phrase in Spanish." But I also think that those words are just locked up and that I can unlock them.

June 18th I'm going to Guatemala for a month. The first five days I'm taking a course in Spanish. I hope to be able to unlock all of the words and phrases that I've learned during those five days. It seems necessary to speak a little bit of Spanish because English isn't widely spoken in Guatemala. But I'm also a little apprehensive about learning Spanish (again) and "messing up" the Italian that I've worked so hard on. It would be very useful for me to learn Spanish, however. Almost all of the parents of my students speak Spanish. Now I don't speak with them because I can't.

It's strange that I decided to learn Spanish because it would be useful but now that I need it I can't say anything.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Last Day of School Wednesday (Sort Of)

So the last day of school is Wednesday and I couldn't be more excited. Soon I'll be off to Guatemala for a month and just before that a good friend of mine from high school is coming to visit for a week. But even though the kids' last day is Wednesday, I'll be at school on Thursday and Friday too.

Ages ago I had this idea to start a "guided reading lending library" (I just made up that name) at my school. I saw it at a school that I went to visit and thought it was fabulous because I never have enough books on every level to use for guided reading and my AP doesn't like it when I use the paper books printed online from readinga-z (because "we have PLENTY of books at this school"). Basically the "lending library" is a book room that has guided reading sets of about eight books each, and several titles for each Fountas and Pinnell level A-Z. When teachers want to plan guided reading all they have to do is go and grab their class sets for the levels that are needed. Everything is organized and waiting to be checked out.

After seeing this storage room at the school I visited I thought We have to have this at my school! I tried to get around to telling the AP of my idea but you know how they are always running around and it's hard to get them to stop and listen for a minute. Well, I finally told her about this idea on Friday and she LOVED it. And it makes sense that she would because we'll be making good use of the books already in our school and it solves my problem of needing to use the paper books (which are a pain to get copies of at school). I just didn't expect her to love it so much as to say "I want to start this right now! Can you work Thursday and Friday?" I did a quick mental calculation in my mind and came to the realization that that was the start of my summer break. She added that there would be per session pay and I agreed. Not only for the money (though I would NOT spend my first two vacation days working for free) but I am really excited about this project. Teachers can't do guided reading without sets of books and it is impossible to run around trying to round up the books you need each week. And contrary to what some at my school think, you can't do guided reading from a basal reader. I hope that I can get a lot accomplished in the two days. I also hope that teachers are appreciative of everything once it is done. If they're not, they probably aren't doing guided reading like they should be.

Imparare a Parlare L'Italiano

Since I'm going to be writing in Italian I thought I'd write about how I started learning it and other things related to speaking Italian. It could be kind of like a theme for the week, although I'll admit I don't know exactly where I'm going with this. It's good practice for me in any case. It's been two years now since I lived in Italy so I'm sure my Italian's a little rusty. Apologies in advance for any major errors.

Non mi ricordo quando ho pensato per la prima volta di imparare l'Italiano. Mi ricordo pero, che quando ho cominciato la scuola superiore volevo inscrivermi nel primo corso di Italiano. Io pensavo che la scuola superiore avesse tutto. Ma non era il caso. Ha offerto solo Francese, Tedesco, e Spagnolo. Mia amica, che voleva studiare Italiano anche, ha scelto Francese invece ed id ho scelto Spagnolo (perche sembrava piu praticale). Ho studiato Spagnolo per tre anni.

Cuatro anni dopo, quando e stato tempo per scegliere un'universita', ne ho scelto una con una facolta' di Italiano abastanza grande, cosi potevo frequentare tutti i corsi di Italiano che volevo. Ho studiato Italiano per cinque anni e adesso non posso dire neache una frase in Spagnolo. Ma parlero' piu' di questo la prossima volta.

Translation (not word for word, but slightly more eloquent being that English is my native language and all):
I don't know exactly when I first knew that I wanted to learn to speak Italian. I do remember starting high school and being so excited to start taking Italian. High school was this big amazing place that had everything. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. The school only offered Spanish,French,and German. My friend who had also really wanted to take Italian decided to take French and I chose Spanish (thinking it was more practical). I studied Spanish for three years in high school.

Four years later, when it was time to choose a university, I made sure to choose one that had a big Italian department so that I could take as much Italian as I wanted. After studying Italian for five years, I can't even speak a sentence in Spanish. I'll write more about that the next time.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

According to Srah Blah Blah tomorrow starts "Language Week." In observation I'll try to blog a little in Italian. Hopefully with the last week of school I'll be able to keep up with the postings. Here are the "rules."

Anyone else? Kelly some posts in Turkish? Julie, a little French?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Start of Something Big?

I think a lot of us will be watching D.C. to see what happens next.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Taking a Trip is not Cheap!

I got my plane ticket to Guatemala City for just $306. I couldn't believe I could go somewhere so cool for so cheap. But when I got to thinking about what I would pack I realized that I needed so much. I went shopping today and got a lot of what I needed. I'm trying not to have buyers remorse because I know that I need all of this stuff.


I seriously didn't have any shoes suitable for hiking around lakes and ruins and cobblestone streets. These sandals are unbelievable comfortable and I think they'll go with a lot of different types of clothing. On the other hand the light colors might not be the best for traveling but I'll just have to wash them when I get home. There was a buy one get one half off sale so I got both pairs for $120.

Day pack:

I don't own a backpack so I had to get this for carrying around daily stuff. Only $20 at some random store near Union Square.

Guide Book:

Rough Guides are my favorite. I also picked up a Spanish phrase book. I'm thinking about taking a five day Spanish class when I first get there but I figured this book will come in handy as my Spanish is beyond rusty. This was the best buy of the day because somehow the guide book rang up as $6.99 instead of $18.99. The cashier didn't seem to mind. Both books for just $13.99. Score!

Digital Camera:

My biggest purchase of the day. I desperately needed a new camera. My old one was about four years old. It only had 3.2 megapixels, was extremely slow, had a small display, and was completely unreliable as the AA batteries it took never stayed charged no matter what kind I bought. This Cannon Power Shot is beautiful and I can't wait to start using it. Of course I also had to buy a 2Gig card, a case, and an extra battery just to be safe. (I don't want to be at the top of a Mayan ruin and have my battery die on me). Camera with all accessories: $420.

And I'm not done! I still need some rain gear, a few items of clothing, and backpacking essentials like chamois, travel lock, etc. It's a good thing I found a cheap ticket.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summer Travels Ahead

I just bought a plane ticket. I'm off to Guatemala on July 18th! I'm still in shock that I actually bought the ticket.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Well, the organization sheet is in and it looks like I'll be teaching ESL again next year. There really wasn't much movement in the teachers of the lower grades so no spot for me.

There are a few things that am looking forward to about sticking with ESL.
1) Hopefully in my third year teaching it I'll sort of know what I'm doing and be able to improve upon the last two years. In fact, I just had my "End of the Year Conversation" with my program director for TFA and I outlined a few things I want to work on next year including phonics instruction and making connections between quality children's literature and writing, grammar, vocabulary, and listening/speaking.
2) I've spent about 15 hours of June Planning working to prepare for doing just what I described so it will be nice to actually get to use it.
3) This will be my first time teaching the same kids for a second year. Apart from a few kids who test out of ESL and a few kids who test in, my roster is essentially the same. I'm excited to think of starting the year off knowing all of my kids and what they need. For example Brandley, Marco and Fernando need systematic phonics instruction from day one if they are going to improve their reading levels. Heidy made 1.5 years reading growth this year and is now at a mid-first grade level (she is a second grader). She's being held back and I know that if we work just as hard next year as we did this year she'll make another 1.5 years of growth and start the third grade on grade level.

I'm starting to get excited about next year already though I am definitely looking forward to the summer. There might be a trip to Central America in my near future. I haven't been abroad in two years now so a trip is definitely long overdue!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

One step closer to certification

I finally finished the last of my certification exams. Eight hours of being at the testing sight on a Saturday was not my idea of a relaxing weekend but at least I am finished. I took the ATS (assessment of teaching skills) and the content specialty test (CST) for ESL. The ESL test I didn't even know that I had to take until a few months ago. Before I started teaching I had to take the multi-subject CST and I thought I was done. Then a few months ago Pace, my masters program, sent out an email saying ESL people had an additional test to take. Now I thought that there was just one CST per license area but I could be wrong. Either that or Pace made us take the wrong test two years ago and now they are having us take this test without telling us that we wasted our time and $88 by taking the other test.

Now I think all I need for my certification is to complete one more year of teaching.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Come On!

I got a really good workout today. I spent 50 minutes on the treadmill and elliptical machines today while watching the Republican Presidential Debate. So many things infuriated me that I think it got my feet moving faster than usual. Now, I'm not one who usually blogs about politics (others can word their opinions much more concisely and eloquently than I can) but there was one topic that does pertain to this blog that actually caused me to say aloud (under my breath) 'fuck you' to the T.V. while I was running.

Now, I'll say right away that I wish I could quote this more accurately but I couldn't find it in my Google search and I didn't catch the candidate's name during the debate (he wasn't one of the top 3 or 4 candidates). Anyway . . . in debating the new immigration reform that is currently being considered, he said that the real issue with that wasn't people overcrowding schools, the health care system, etc., but protecting English as the dominate language in this country (again I'm paraphrasing as I don't remember the exact words). He said that the country is moving towards being bilingual and that is "not good." (That part I do remember.) He was in favor of making English the official language of the U.S. Especially as an ESL teacher it is so frustrating to me that people think like this!

Wake up! Bilingualism does not threaten the status of English in this country, nor is it a handicap to be overcome. Bilingualism is a great resource that contributes to national productivity, diplomacy, competitiveness in the world economy, and (as a Republican should not overlook) and national security. As a teacher and a lover of languages, I strongly believe that knowledge of another language is enriching and fosters understanding of other cultures and can even help in perfecting a first language.

With these sorts of negative attitudes towards bilingualism, I can only imagine what that would mean for education policy. Already states such as Arizona have outlawed bilingual education while NCLB now requires students in the country one year and one day to take the the English Language Arts exam along with native speakers.

I believe that rather than try to eliminate bilingualism we should be trying to promote it. Early on in elementary school students should begin learning a second language. Classes should be offered to help students improve their home languages. (Most of my students speak a broken Spanish and can not read or write in the language although they speak it at home with their parents. They could greatly benefit for a "Spanish for Spanish speakers" class.) Literacy skills are transferable and what is learned in one language can be applied to another. More ESL classes should be offered for parents of students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). Everyone should remember that the goal of bilingual education is to become proficient in TWO languages, not to quickly learn English and then discard the first language. (In NYC this type of program is called "Dual Language" while bilingual education is meant as a transitional stage until students become proficient in English).

While I am on this rant, here are some myths about language learning that really get me going.

*Bilingualism confuses students and handicaps their cognitive growth.
*Young English learners will "pick up" English quickly if they are "totally immersed in it"
*Bilingual education sends the message to immigrants that they can get by in the U.S. without learning English.
*And the worst . . . "My great-grandfather came to this country without a word of English and he succeeded without bilingual education."

Don't get me wrong. I think it is incredibly important to learn English. It is essential to getting a good paying job. What I feel like people don't always understand is that making English the "official language" of the U.S. isn't just about symbolically declaring that English is our dominant language. These types of bills are usually include many policy ramifications. One such bill was proposed in 1981 which proposed to forbid government agencies--federal, state, or local--from adopting or enforcing "laws, ordinances, regulations, orders, programs, [or] policies" requiring the use of any language other than English. Similarly, the "English Language Empowerment Act" of 1996 would have limited the Federal government's ability to communicate in languages other than English and repealed bilingual voting requirements.

Back to the Republican Debate. My take is that the opposition to bilingualism is more sue to a hostility or resentment towards immigrants that being against speaking two languages in order to be a more cultured or well-rounded person. Do you think it would be such an issue if people in the U.S. were becoming increasingly bilingual in Italian and French for example?

I for one would like to learn as many languages as possible. I majored in Italian in college and have studied some French, Arabic and Spanish. When I have kids they too will become bi- or even tri-lingual either through a bilingual program at school or, if the case may be, by learning English from me and (insert language here) from my (future) husband.

Please weigh in on your thoughts. Bilingual Education? What do you think?

Also, for more info check out this site.

Ready for a Change

Today I talked to my principal about getting my own class next year (as opposed to the K-5 pull out that I do right now). I think the exact words that I used were "If there's any way possible, I desperately want my own class next year." (I think I even clasped my hands for emphasis.) I'd already mentioned this to her once and put it on my preference sheet but I wanted to really make my case for why I wanted it. Luckily she said that she wanted to know my reasoning and we sat down for a conversation on her office sofa to talk about it. I told her that while I do like ESL (the kids, the strategies, the philosophies, etc.) it wasn't my choice to teach ESL, TFA placed me there. What I've always wanted to to is have my own class of kids, particularly the lower grades, K-2. Some of the reasons for wanting to have my own class are, 1) having a group of teachers to work with as a team, plan together, etc., 2) to get to really know a group of kids (now I have 40 kids and some of them I barely know even at the end of the year), 3) to focus my instruction on one grade (right now with 6 grades I'm all over the place). I'd like to become really proficient in teaching one grade and be able to improve upon it each year. And, 4) to be able to have some routines and consistency with the kids. Now, I never know if I am going to have a coverage, not be able to pick up the kids due to a special event or trip, etc.

I also told her that I know that being a classroom teacher is not easy. There are different responsibilities like report cards, cumulative folders, testing, etc. If the kids are driving you crazy one day you are stuck with them for the entire day you can't just send them back to their class after 45 minutes. Now, I am lucky to have a lot of freedom to plan my own schedule, move around the building, to go outside the building for workshops and PD, skip a teaching period to work on the yearbook, etc. There are many teachers that would kill to have an out of the classroom position. Considering all of this I still really want my own classroom.

We had a really good conversation and the principal agreed with all of my pros and cons for each position. She said I had good reasoning for wanting to make a switch. Having said that, however, she said there were considerations such as my license area (ESL, not common branch), if there would be a vacancy, and one other thing . . . my classroom management. She said that she has seen me briefly (never for extended times) with my small groups and I am good with them but the few time she has seen me doing a coverage I'm not as good with the larger groups. I said that it's hard when you are covering and you don't know the kids and they know they're not going to see you again. She agreed but said that there was a certain (positive) aggression that a teacher needs to have. I tried to assure her that starting at the beginning of the year with a group of kids I'd have time to teach them routines and procedures so that everything would run smoothly. She also suggested that maybe I do some reading on the subject over the summer. At the end of the conversation I kind of got the feeling that she was saying, not for sure that I wouldn't be able to handle it, but maybe.

I also told her that whoever the new ESL teacher was (if I got my own class) I'd be happy to help them with things such as reports, compliance issues, testing, reports, and all of the other administrative tasks that can be so daunting when you don't know how the system works.

Overall, I think the conversation went well. I'm glad that she at least sat down to hear my thoughts on the matter. Still, I give it about a 10% chance I'll actually get my own class. In the meantime, I busy with June Planning trying to map out a long term plan for next year.