Friday, January 30, 2015

Winter Camp - Three Days Down; Five Days to Go

As the regular part of first semester winded down, I found myself more and more excited for winter camp. A little surprising, since mostly everyone is ready just to be on break (myself included), but the thing is, with winter camp it's a different schedule with different material, and you could tell on Wednesday. It just had that "first day" vibe. I am blessed to have a great winter camp schedule; I only teach E6, which is three hours of teaching every morning. But for me, it's perfect. The students are split into two groups, and they get to spend an hour and twenty-five minutes each morning with Whitney and an hour and twenty-five minutes with me. Whitney is teaching a lot of grammar and J1 entrance test prep stuff. My part of the class focuses on practicing and utilizing different reading skills, so every day is different.

As I prepared their lessons for the eight days of winter camp I wanted to try to find a little something for everyone and fill it with as much variety as possible. My goal was for it to be fun and educational while still giving them a chance to practice their reading skills. As a result, I ended up pulling a variety of different articles from a kids web magazine/paper and using them as the basis for each day's lesson. Not only would students have a chance to practice reading, but they'd also be forced to try to figure out new words that they hadn't seen before and didn't just know. Then we would take the topic of the article and look at it in a larger context. Lastly, if there was time, there was some sort of writing prompt or project.

Topics this week included: floating schools in Bangladesh (and sustainable resources), "Wizard Chambers" at a hotel in London (and film tourism), and Penguins in Sweaters in Australia (and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation).

The first day everything was new and as a result it took a little longer, but by yesterday we were starting to get into a groove.

I was surprised at how few of my students had read or seen Harry Potter in either Chinese or English (Apparently, that's a phenomena from my generation. I'm getting old!), but they still were engaged with the concept of film tourism. I showed clips from Universal Studios Diagon Alley, Warner Bros. Studio in London, and then, just as something different, Hobbiton from "The Hobbit." For the last ten minutes or so of class I had the students work on writing a letter to one of the places (or some other film tourism destination that they were familiar with) talking about how to improve the experience there. I'm paraphrasing, but my favorite letter that I read after class was,

To Whom It May Concern, 
My teacher says that I need to write you a letter. I don't know what I'm doing. Happy New Year! I think your hotel is awesome! 

Not exactly the assignment, but entertaining none the less. Many of the students wrote about including food from the Harry Potter books/movies, removing electricity from the rooms to make them scarier (and more authentic?), and adding some sort of tricks so it looked like there was magic happening in the rooms. Overall, I was pleased.
Today's article was about Little penguins in Australia and their sweaters which I then flushed out into wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. The kids all thought that the penguins were very cute, and they were. It was also entertaining to have to identify racoons, opossums, and skunks for the students, since those aren't common wildlife animals here in Taiwan. Today's project then was creating a poster to help animals or raise wildlife rescue/rehabilitation awareness. Here were some of the posters that I received. Again, good work!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas at Concordia: Part Two

After Christmas at Concordia part one earlier this week, here's part two. What can I say? Christmas is a big deal at this school. :)

My last post left off with the Junior and Senior high school students' trees at night and then caroling. The next morning (Wednesday) was when the classes gave their presentations and had their trees judged in the day light. Judging is based on several things, including: how well the trees tell the story, the students' presentations, and use of recycled materials. The C.M.S. students and teachers had Wednesday afternoon off, but the trees were still all decorated, so I used them for the Bible portion of both of my C.E. classes and took my students out to see the them. We stopped and talked about some of the trees that told stories we had learned in class. While we were out admiring the trees, several other classes passed us. It was beautiful day for a little outdoor excursion. :)

This Jonah tree was cool because if you walked around to the other side of the whale, you could see Jonah praying inside. :)

One of my C.E. 5 students said that this was his favorite tree we saw all day.

Because of our four day weekend next week, for New Year, we had to work this Saturday. Instead of holding regular class at C.E.L.A. and the kindergarten though, we decided to have all our Christmas activities today. So it's been another day of Christmas!

This morning we held the kindergarten Christmas. It started with a skit by the teachers and then the singing of "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The kids have been practicing for weeks, and you could tell. They did an amazing job! Then the various classes cycled through different stations: story, songs, and games. The kindergarten festivities culminated in cookie decorating in the different classes' classrooms.

Singing during song time.

Decorating cookies!

Then this afternoon were the two C.E.L.A. Christmas celebrations. I had the activity center for E5 and E6. We watched winter themed cartoons with Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Chip and Dale while doing Christmas themed word searches. With other teachers, the kids also were able to decorate and assemble cookie houses and hear the Christmas story.

It's been a crazy, good but crazy, week! And now, I'm ready for my short work week this coming week and a four day weekend. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas at Concordia (A Predominantly Picture Post)

Yesterday was the big Christmas celebration at Concordia Middle School. It was so big, in fact, that it spilled over into this morning. And now that it's afternoon, the middle and senior high students have the afternoon off and the campus is quiet (well, except for the kindergarten and elementary school students who are still here).

Yesterday morning started early. I was out the door by 6:30am, biking to campus for our last run through of The Pirates of Sin before we would perform it for two groups of students later that morning. Practice started at 7am, and after a single run through in the chapel, Emily and I dashed off to the gym to get decked out for the dance performance we were taking part in with a bunch of the Taiwanese teachers.

Emily and I dressed and ready for the dance.

One final practice before students arrive.
The program in the gym, which was a Christmas program for J2-S3, was supposed to start around 7:50am. The dance was fourth in the program, followed by the Americans' skit.

Cast and crew for The Pirates of Sin
After performing the skit in the gym, we carried all our stuff over to the chapel for the second showing (one for the J1 students). It's tradition after the skit is complete to take pictures and then head to McDonald's for breakfast, seeing as we're usually done before 9am. This year I passed on McDonald's because I had grading that needed to get done, and unlike the C.M.S. teachers, we still had classes to teach as well. Come to find out my kindergarten class was cancelled for the day, but it all worked out okay. Our evening classes got out ten minutes early so that the teachers could head over to the Love Feast.

Around 7:30pm Emily and I, who were both judging Christmas trees last night, left to look at the trees.

Each of us had a different class to judge, but that was okay because we both wanted to see all the trees anyways. The students put a lot of time and effort into them and they're really cool to see!

Then it was time for caroling with the O.S.F. students. We split the students into two groups. One would be led by Mark and his guitar, and the other would have me. We'd be an a capella group, so Rachel and Emily as strong singers were drafted into my group. And we hit the streets!

Singing at Family Mart

And the Ten NT Tea Stand

And Al's Teas
After caroling at the teachers' houses on campus and sending the students off to their dorms, the Americans enjoyed a mug of eggnog before calling it a night. It was full day, but it was a good day too.

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:11
因 今 天 在 大 衛 的 城 裡 , 為 你 們 生 了 救 主 , 就 是 主 基 督 。路 加 福 音 2:11

I look forward to sharing Christmas with the C.E.L.A. students and kindergarteners on Saturday, and then with my C.E. students next Wednesday! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spreading More Christmas Cheer

It's another week a flurry with Christmas activities!

Next week is the big Christmas celebration at the Middle/High School which comes complete with a short play performed by the American teachers, and a song and dance performed by a combination of a students' choir, Taiwanese teachers, and a couple American teachers (yours truly included). The junior and senior high students are currently hard at work on creating the decorations for their Christmas trees (which will be decorated and judged on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week), along with practicing their choral pieces for the choir competition. Last night at O.S.F. the students cut out, baked, and decorated cookies, some of which will be handed out when we go caroling next week to local businesses and some of the teachers' houses on campus.

Cookie baking with the O.S.F. students is always a crazy but fun evening. We had about forty students sign up this year, a combination of cookie veterans from previous years and new faces. We set out Christmas themed cookie cutters, rolling pins, flour, and chilled cookie dough at each of the six stations. As the students poured in we had them wash their hands and find a table. There were about eight students in each group. The girls all arrived first, and we let them go to work. Then as the boys started arriving, they worked at their own stations. We had enough teachers this year that there could be at least one teacher at each table, which helped a lot. As usual, I fluttered - lining cookie sheets with wax paper, taking photos, putting cookies in the oven and taking them out, helping find this and that, etc. I'm so blessed to have a crew of talented, hard working individuals to help out with activities like this!

Rolling out the dough

Graham explaining that talking to the dough apparently makes it easier to work with and more agreeable.

The trays began filling up with bells, crosses, snowmen, doves, snowflakes and stars. Not every group rolled out their dough to the same thickness, which provided an interesting challenge when baking. Some of the boys left their dough thick and then pounded the shape thinner when they put it on the baking sheet.

As the cookies started to come out of the oven, we snagged a few students from the groups to help scoop them off the tray and set them on cooling racks. As the cookies cooled, a few of the senior high boys then helped shift the cookies from the cooling racks to a nearby table to make room for me cookies fresh out of the oven.


While this was going on, we had another small group of students mixing up icing so that the cooled cookies could be decorated. And then the decorating began!

Making the icing...

Time to decorate!

Once we they were decorated, we bagged some of the cookies to hand out next week. The remaining cookies, and there were more than enough, we let the students snack on and take back to their dorms. Much to my surprise, the one sheet we had that had "burned" so we didn't decorate them, turned out to be some of the students favorite cookies of the evening!

Bagging cookies to hand out on Tuesday

Final products

Waiting to eat!

Along with the baking that we did with the middle and high school students, and all the prep for the Christmas activities at the Middle/High School next week, we've also been getting into Christmas mode at C.E.L.A. This week I had my sixth graders, along with my C.E. 6 students make cards to be handed out to the elderly in nursing homes this weekend (the same project that many of the O.S.F. cards last week went to). I told my students that they could use Chinese to write: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, or Jesus Loves You. Some of them took a little liberty with it, but the cards turned out really well, so I don't mind. I was very pleased with the notes that some of my E6 girls wrote in their cards as well. It's been a lot of fun to see the effort that they're putting into it, and they seem to be having fun while they do it. Similarly, my E1 students are working on making Christmas cards for their parents, siblings, or a friend. One of my favorite moments from the E1 students was yesterday when one of them came up to me and said, "I drew candy canes on mine. TEN! And I left them so that she [one of the E2 students] can color them how ever she likes. And then I'll give it to her on December 25th. It'll scare her!" "I think you mean surprise her," I said. "You don't want to scare her."

C.E. 6 students working on their Christmas cards while listening to Christmas music

I love runner Santa sporting his Nike apparel! :)

E6 students working on their cards

No matter how crazy the Christmas season is, it's always a lot of fun to share with students and co-workers. :)