Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welcome to the ESL Cafe! Part II/ Celebration of Ramadan

It is truly amazing how every year, the eve of the first day of school, those butterflies in my stomach keeps me excited and awake! I love that feeling, though and wouldn't change it for anything at all. Our dear ESL CAFE is ready! I have received so many sincere compliments that it truly made my heart so big. The phrase I heard the most was, "it makes you want to be here all day long!" Mission accomplished. Earlier this year when I read the book Teaching with Intention by Debbie Diller, one of the things she asked is for teachers to reflect on the classroom environment. In other words, is it a reflection of the things that are happening in your teaching, is it a reflection of your teaching beliefs? I definitely feel very strong about how the environment plays an influential role in our daily learning. A clutter, noisy, disorganized space is not conducive to learning, that's for sure. Like I explained in my first post about the idea behind the ESL CAFE, this concept stem from the Literary Cafe back home, a place where I got lost in books, and one that helped my journey as a reader tremendously. I see the children's and parents enthusiasm in their faces when they see the room, so now, let the learning journey begins.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen Asma Mobin-Uddin talk about her latest book A Party in Ramadan. She gave an insightful presentation and book talk at our dear local bookstore Cover to Cover.

A Party in Ramadan is the story about this little girl Leena who gets invited to a party during Ramadan. Leena decides to attend the party anyways, but she will continue her fast. Her determination and strength is admirable. I enjoyed seeing how Leena's observation of Ramadan gives an opportunity for friends and neighbors to learn more about her faith.

After the booktalk, Asma Mobin-Uddin gave a presentation about Ramadan so that people would have a better understanding about this Muslim holiday. One of the challenges the author herself faced growing up was the fact that she was the only Muslim child in her school. Students, teachers, and friends didn't know much about this Muslim holiday and the importance of fasting during this time. Thus, she was asked a lot of questions and found herself explaining about it all the time. As she stated, "It would make things so much easier if people have a understanding about Ramadan." She is right, as teachers of children from diverse background it is our responsibility and personal journey to invest the time in learning more about our students.

Here are the things I learned about Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim year:

* Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar.
*The fast of Ramadan lasts the entire month. All those who reached the age of puberty are expected to fast during this month. Younger children are not expected to fast, but they are welcomed to fast as well if they would like to join.
*During the fast, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours, but they may eat after sunset.
*Ramadan is a time for Muslims to concentrate on the practice of their faith. They spend time praying, practicing and observing their religion. They are encouraged to practice patience, being kind and generous, avoid fighting or losing temper.
*Muslims believe that God reveal the Koran to people during Ramadan. Ramadan is a time to remember the poor and practice self-control. Ramadan teaches Muslims to be thankful for their blessings.

What are some implications for us educators? It is important for us as educators to...

*know who are our students that are observing Ramadan.
*find a place where they can go during lunch time like the library, help a teacher in a classroom.
* understand that gym class might be hard for Muslim students since they can't drink water. It would be wise to avoid or restrict some physical activities at school during this time.
* help other students and teachers understand and learn about Ramadan.

Friends, I hope this is helpful. I do believe it is our own personal journey to learn more about our students not only as learners but also as individuals. I wish you an extraordinary school year with many positive memories to hold.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Zoo I Drew

The Zoo I DrewI'm super excited about my latest purchase: The Zoo I Drew by Todd H. Doodler. Let me just first mentioned a couple of things that grabbed my attention toward this book when I first saw it. The cover of the book is made out of corrugated cardstock which I must say makes it very attractive. The simple yet colorful drawings on the front cover also caught my attention. And when you open the book, the fun begins. This is an ABC book in which the author and illustrator Todd H. Doodler chose the zoo animals as the animals for each letter of the alphabet. So it starts with the alphabet, the animal that starts with that letter, and a huge drawing. Each letter takes both pages when you open the book flat. Besides, the author included a small description of each zoo animals mentioned in the book. I love the HUGE illustrations, the facts mentioned under each animal, the colors he chose for each page, the big letters, and the glossy pages makes you want to read the book over and over. I am expecting this book to be a favorite of my Kindergarten and 1st grade students. What a terrific way to learn vocabulary and some animal facts before their annual trip to the zoo!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to the ESL Cafe! Part I

This summer 2009, I went to the beach for vacation with my 2 long time friends, rode roller coaster rides, rode fair rides and enjoyed tons of funnel cakes! I also did a lot of pool time and bonding time with my girls here in Columbus. I enjoyed late nights, indie movies, summer reading with bowls of popcorn! :) I shopped at farmer markets, did tons of scrapbooking and journaling. Did a lot of Dance Jam at Lifetime Fitness, and went on long, inspirational walks. I feel a very positive balance and feel very thankful and blessed for these restful weeks.

Now, after a restful vacation, I'm starting to think about the school year ahead of me. The way my mind works, I figured out, is that I am always constantly on search for "something". Sometimes I am looking for inspiration and ideas.Other times, I am completely immersed in the world of books and thinking of its endless potential in my classroom. Other times, I need visual stimulation in order for my creative mind to emerge, I go on walks to Short North and visit boutiques, bookstores, cafes to "see" how things are displayed, portrayed, organized. That is just how my mind works. And honestly, I love it. One lazy afternoon this summer I was telling a friend about this special place in Asuncion, Paraguay called Cafe Literario, which means, Literary Cafe. That place holds special memories for me. I spent lots of mornings, evening, or nights totally diving into books. I finished tons of books there while sipping my cafecito. One thing you ought to know is that sadly, in Paraguay books are very expensive and teachers don't really make that much money. I couldn't really afford to buy books as often as I would like. As a matter of fact, I came to the United States with three books in my suitcase. The idea of Cafe Literario was for people to go and read books in there. You could order a cup of coffee, a soda, or juice. The place was inexpensive so I spent numerous days of my years in Paraguay reading there.

After I explained to my friend about Cafe Literario, I realized that I would LOVE to recreate the concept of that place in my classroom. A place where children go to read for fun, relax, disconnect, and be themselves. So, inspired on my favorite place in Asuncion, Cafe Literario, I am turning my classroom into the International ESL Cafe at Beechwood Elementary. I'm seriously very excited about this and what the concept could represent not only for my students but for the families as well. The changes are not HUGE changes but rather small and subtle but
that I'm hoping it would have some impact. Here is what the International ESL Cafe will be all about..

1. an inviting place to do some quiet reading (and other great learning!) where parents, teachers and students are welcome.
2. a place where you will find lots of books in Spanish and in English
3. a place where families can check out family fun board games for 2 or 3 nights.
4. a place that will hold seasonal poetry nights
5. a cozy, environment where memories are being created everyday

Now, in order to recreate that fond memory I have o
f my dear Cafe Literario in Asuncion these are the little changes I made in the classroom:
1. inviting cafe tables..
2. lamps and a couple of cozy friends for the little ones
3. plants...lots of green inside
4. lights (lamps in different corners)
5. A "Weekly Special" display right at the entrance of my classroom featuring the book recommendation for the book

So what do you think? Like I said, there are not HUGE changes in my classroom environment but rather little ones to recreate that cafe environment. Now, I would love to work on growin
g my selection of books for adults in Spanish so our dear ESL families can check out book as well. Any suggestions of how to go about it? Remember, we are teachers, our budgets are limited! But I love bargains and donations too, of course. :)

The classroom is a work in progress right now but I'll give you a sneak peak of what I am working on and was able to get accomplished in the last couple of days.

I am using a lot of chalk writing around the room because I notice lots of coffee shops has chalk writing displays. I used that fabulous chalkboard paint to paint those little wooden tags and just used chalk to labels some of those baskets of books.

I had fun playing with the "tablecloth look" for the room and the checkered ones are definitely my favorite.
Yes, those are candles. But don't worry I found these little flameless candles at Target in the clearance section. Loved them. I would mainly used those for our seasonal poetry reading evenings.

Like I have said before, this is still a work in progress. You'll see more in the upcoming weeks as I put the ESL Cafe together. I can't wait for our journey to begin.