Tax Time!

Bill Bliss Photo 2014Bill Bliss

Here are three quotes appropriate for the month of April:
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
“Why did the colonists fight the British?  Because of high taxes – taxation without representation.”
“When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?  April 15.”

The first was penned by Benjamin Franklin in 1789. The second and third are among the 100 official questions and answers on the US citizenship exam.

Tax Tips

Filling out tax forms always seems to occupy too much time – and often it’s our evening time in April that we might otherwise be devoting to lesson preparation, correcting student homework, or other professional work. So in the spirit of helping you get through tax season, here are some tips to ease your lesson planning on those days you’re slogging through your 1040 form. I hope you find these helpful whether you are preparing students for the citizenship exam or you are incorporating civics topics into general EL/Civics instruction. Continue reading

My Favorite Teaching Tip

Stacy Hagen_NEWStacy Hagen

The best teaching tip I ever got came from a TESOL presentation long ago. A very perceptive teacher-trainer, whose name I no longer have, suggested that every time we ask a question — no matter the question — we silently count to 10 before moving on. Ten seconds sounded like a long time to me, but when I got back to class, I decided to give it a try. It didn’t take long to see the wisdom in his advice. Continue reading

Pictures of Listening

Nick_Dawsons Nick Dawson

“I prefer radio. The pictures are better.”
There are two sides to listening comprehension: recognizing the words in a stream of sound and creating the picture from the meaning of those words. Recognition is easier than production so we can start by asking students to recognize pictures.

Describing pictures
The teacher chooses a picture from the textbook which contains several people. The teacher describes one of the people in the picture. The teacher’s description starts with simple information. “This person is young.” Gradually, the teacher’s description becomes more specific. “She’s a young girl. She’s got short hair. She’s wearing a yellow blouse. She’s looking unhappy.” As the teacher adds detail to the description, students begin to target the person the teacher is describing.

If we want to go beyond describing people, we can choose a double page spread from the textbook which contains many different pictures. The teacher’s description will start with statements which may refer to three or four pictures. Gradually, as the teacher adds detail to the description, students get closer to identifying the chosen picture.

If you like, you may choose to show the students a page from a shopping catalog which contains many different items. You may choose a page showing gardening equipment. Your description will start from a general statement. Gradually, as you add details of color, material, price, etc. students will begin to target the item you are describing. If you choose a page which only contains handbags, your spoken description will need to be very detailed before students can identify the handbag you have chosen.

As you can see, the students’ level of comprehension is challenged by the complexity of the picture and your description. Continue reading