Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween with the Kiddos 2014 (萬聖節跟孩子們 2014)

This week the kindergarteners had their big Halloween activity. The assistant teachers had helped to decorate one of the rooms as a haunted house (with a tent, jack-o-lanterns, Halloween posters, tombstones, and skeletons) that over the course of the past week different kindergarten, CELA, and CE classes have visited, mainly to listen to or read stories.

Some of my K3 students after listening to "Where is My Broom?"
Yesterday Whitney and I decided to have a relaxed day where we combined our classes and talked about Halloween and had a fun day. For the first part of class, we shared a brief history of Halloween as a holiday and then we had a fun activity sheet that the students could work on using Halloween themed vocabulary. Towards the middle of class we headed down to the Haunted House. The lights were off as the students sat down to listen to "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe. Some of the assistant teachers had dressed up and hidden around the room before our students came down, so randomly throughout the story they'd come out. Maybe they'd just sit next to a student, maybe they'd tap one on the shoulder, and they even tried grabbing one! We talked about the story before returning to the classroom. Our final Halloween themed activity of the day was watching an episode of Scooby Doo centered around Halloween and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Before the kids left, Whitney handed out lollipops.

The E6 students down in the Haunted House talking about "The Fall of the House of Usher."

"Happy Halloween! Have a lollipop."

This morning the kindergarten students had a chance to show off their costumes in a parade and then go trick or treating around campus.

Lining up for the costume parade. This little car could actually transform!

Some of last year's students showing off their cool costumes.

Iron Man!

An Egyptian prince

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Running the Race, Salting the Earth, and Acting as a Light

Whew! The past three days have been a whirlwind of activity. There was track and field day on Friday. Along with the team retreat up in Taipei being this weekend as well.

Friday morning was kick started by running a 400 meter teacher relay for track and field day at the middle school. We were the only girls team who showed up, so we got first by default and ran with the boys. Before the race I was talking to some of last year's E6 students. One of the boys exclaimed, "Teacher! Why would you want to do that [run the relay]?! Don't!" I laughed and replied, "Because it's fun." But, they all came out to the sidelines to cheer for me which was nice. One of the girls took some pictures for me. It's a short run, only 100 meters per person with four people on the team. And even though there was no chance of us beating the boys (and honestly, that's probably a good thing), it was still fun to get out there and do our best.

American teacher group photo after the race
Although the middle school teachers had the day off from teaching to watch (and help time) the races and different events, those of us at CELA still had class. Friday's are one of my busy class days with two kindergarten classes in the morning and then E1 Bible and E6 in the afternoon. Classes went well though, and the day flew by in spite of the fact that I was tired (I hadn't been able to fall asleep the night before). After classes ended, we had a quick dinner of chicken rice (雞肉飯) before loading up the van and starting our drive up to Taipei. Most of the guys had taken the train up earlier in the day, so we'd meet up with them once we arrived. It's about a 3-3.5 hour drive from Chaiyi to Taipei depending on traffic. We lucked out that most people leave Taipei for the weekend and head south, so traffic wasn't too bad. We stayed at Greenhouse Hostel in Taipei. It was conveniently located near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial and within walking distance of Taipei 101. It was clean, comfortable, and the staff were friendly and helpful. Once we had stashed our luggage in our rooms we had a quick debriefing about plans for the next couple days and then it was chill/bed time.

Saturday was a blend of activities and free time. We started off enjoying breakfast at a nearby coffee house and writing letters to people - family, friends, etc. My table talked about how in this digital age we're loosing the art of writing letters. An art that many of our grandparents possessed. It's kind of sad if you think about it. We even made our own envelopes! Then we walked over to Taipei 101 where we had free time to check out shops and eat lunch if/when we were hungry. Emily and I spent most of it PageOne, an English bookstore located on the fourth floor. I treated myself to some ice cream from lunch (I was still pretty full from breakfast and knew that we'd be having a big dinner). Afterwards we had a team building activity near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial. Matt divided us up into two groups. Each group represented a "culture" and had it's own set of rules. After interacting with our own groups long enough to get familiar with the rules, the two "cultures" started mingling. We rapidly discovered that each cultures rules were VERY different from each other. After team building, we had free time. I ended up by the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, and there were young drum and bugle corps out practicing. It doesn't get much nicer than that! So I sat and listened to them warm up and practice while I journal-ed. We met up again for a pre-dinner devotional time and then headed out to Chili's for supper. We had an enjoyable evening of good food and friends.

Writing letters

Team building - getting familiar with our society's rules

Sunday (today) was fairly laid back. We had a late start with a service around 10am. We just met in one of the rooms. Carl talked about how as Christians we act as the salt of the earth. We enjoyed a lunch together (most of us went to Macho Taco), and then loaded up the vans again for the return trip to Chiayi.

Church service while we're in our bunk beds? Yes, please!
Praise God for a great weekend! And tomorrow it's off to the races again with classes...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Famous Person Project

Over the past several weeks my sixth graders have been learning about different famous people. In their text book they've been learning about question words and talking about famous actors and actresses. So for writing class, I broadened it to researching and writing about a famous person (musician, artist, athlete, scientist, humanitarian, etc.) of their choice. We talked about Vincent Van Gogh, watched biographies, and created in timelines. I used William Shakespeare as an example for the fact sheet that the students would be creating the following week, and showed pictures of Shakespeare's boyhood home and the Globe. We read about and watched an interview of J.K. Rowling as we started to discuss interviews. Through it, students have been and are inadvertently learning about and practicing using question words, creating timelines, doing research, honing their interview skills and writing biographical paragraphs. My kiddos have done some pretty fantastic work!

It's been a process. We started by talking about Van Gogh in oral class. Before showing anything other than his picture, I asked my students, "What do you know about this man?" Most of them had some idea about him - he's an artist, he painted Starry Night, he cut off his ear, he killed himself. After talking about what we already knew, we watched a short biography about him. Then I had them think, "What sort of questions would you ask him?" We wrote their questions on the board and re-watched the video to see what else we could learn once we knew what we wanted to listen for.

The following week we read a short article about Van Gogh's life and then as a class created a time line for him. I also asked my students over the course of the next week to find an article about a famous person that they were interested in, read it, print it off, and bring it to class. I showed them several websites that are specifically designed for kids so the English is a little bit easier to understand and the article isn't a 20 page Wikipedia monster. I created a sample of the work that I wanted them to complete in class the following week: a fact sheet. My example was about William Shakespeare and I used one of the websites I had told them about to demonstrate that they could complete the assignment with the tools I'd provided. Before leaving class that day, each of the students had to tell me who they wanted to find out more about (that way I could look into it too to make sure that there would be something for them to read). The kids picked different famous people for different reasons. One of my favorite reasons was, "I want to talk about Albert Einstein because his name is Albert, the same as me."

My example Fact Sheet on the famous bard William Shakespeare

In oral class (which is combined with writing class) we started watching interviews of other famous people: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling. Before watching the interviews and then afterwards we went through the same process as we did with Van Gogh and the biography. Sharpening our skills on asking good questions that are relevant by looking at the types of research and questions that had been asked by the interviewers in the videos.

The third week after viewing and talking about interviews some more, the kids started designing and putting together their own fact sheets about the people they'd picked. We had: actors, athletes, scientists, inventors, humanitarians, directors, and more. The perimeters I gave for the fact sheets were that they must include: the person's name, a time line, and three fun facts. One of my students learned that she and the director/animator that she had chosen to learn about shared the same birthday, and she used that as one of her fun facts. It took most of them anywhere from 20-30 minutes to complete them, but overall I was pleased with the results.

Some fact sheet examples

Working hard

More examples
The following week for oral class, the students presented their work to the class, and then for writing class they turned their fact sheets into biographical paragraphs. It was nice that they were able to share and allowed their classmates to learn more about a person they didn't research. My favorite excerpt was when one of my girls walked up and said, "I chose Helen Keller." One of the boys from the first row interrupted and asked, "Is she a famous dancer?! Or a singer?!" Several other students from the class turned and looked at him, "No! She was a blind, deaf girl." Again, I provided them with some guidelines that came from their textbook which we'd looked at prior to them starting to write. Each paragraph (and this was just their rough draft) needed to include: a topic sentence, supporting detail sentences, and a concluding sentence. Since it's still fairly early on in the semester, I collected their paragraphs and edited them, placing a little checklist at the bottom of each paper to show them if I saw what I'd asked for. As the semester progresses, I'll introduce peer editing and we'll use more of that too. All in all, so far I've been impressed by the work they've put forth.

One of the students presenting his fact sheet. We're still working on eye contact while speaking to the class.

Rough drafts of the biographical paragraphs waiting to be handed back.

This week the students will be working on their final drafts of the paragraphs they wrote. I hung up their fact sheets on the bulletin board in the back of the classroom so that they could admire each others' hard work, and hopefully learn a little more about some other famous people who maybe they didn't pick.

I was very impressed with the work that they've done so far and am so proud of them. I'm excited to see where they can go from here!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learning from Students

I think one of the best parts of being a teacher is how much you can learn from your kids. I mean, hopefully you have something to teach them, but they can take such new and interesting approaches to what you're presenting them with. Watching them get excited about learning or having that light finally go on can be a wonderful experience!

And this year my students are constantly encouraging me in my faith through the questions they are asking, the observations they are making, and their general enthusiasm for what God can do. It's amazing to watch God work through these kids! Many of them are not Christians and do not come from Christian families. Maybe this is the first or second year that they're hearing about God and Jesus. Religion is something that is often viewed as a cultural thing here in Taiwan. If you're from America, or a Western culture, than you must be Christian, because that's a part of your culture, just like for them, they're Taiwanese and so they're Buddhist, Daoist, or some other Eastern religion. But that doesn't stop them from being interested in learning more about Jesus and asking great questions along the way.

My kindergarten students and even my E1 students are a great example of the joy that they derive from hearing about God and Jesus and His power. This past week I was teaching the story of Noah and the flood to both my K3 students and my E1 students. In K3 when the page turned and there was water over the houses and little hills and the big hills, when there was water over everything, there was an initial "OH!" and then silence as they waited to see what would happen next. In E1, even though several of the students had heard Noah before (I know, because I had them in K3 last year), they were still astounded by Noah's big boat and the amount of rain that God sent. Some of my E1 students even started clapping for Noah as he listened to God and constructed the ark. I just love their enthusiasm for a story that growing up Christian I think I just took as a fact and therefore never got very excited about.

At the beginning of the year, my E6 students had to write in their journal what they hoping to learn in E6. Several of them said that they wanted to learn more about Jesus - who He is and what He did. A couple weeks ago, they started working on a project about a famous person of their choosing. Two of my girls asked if they could research and write about Jesus. I said, "Sure. Why not?"

Two of my girls' fact sheets about Jesus.

We had a huge turnout for O.S.F. this past week as well, forty-two students! After singing a few songs, we talked about goals. What are some goals they have as students? And then we looked at what the Bible says about goals. In particular, we looked at Philippians 3 when Paul is talking about keeping your eye on the prize - Jesus Christ. At the end Mark asked for prayer requests before leading our closing prayer. One of the girls who's been coming for a couple years now said that we should say a prayer of thanksgiving for all the students who showed up for O.S.F. Many of them were new. And after class, we were joking with one of the older students that she must be really popular, because after she told the dorm teachers about O.S.F. two weeks ago we had so many students come last week. Her response, "It wasn't me. God brought them!"

O.S.F. last week

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:3-11