Sunday, May 31, 2015

Building Oral Skills with Daily Reflection Time

Just check out this kiddo's confidence!  He's rocking the mic and excited to share his learning. This can happen in your classroom too.  Daily reflection time is a powerful tool that needs to be in your toolbox.

What It Is

At my school (100% English Language Learners or ELLs), daily reflection time is 15 minutes at the end of every day where selected students share their learning for that day.  Students are given a toy microphone and asked to stand at the front of the class.  They will either reflect on written work (holding up their paper and discussing what they did) or talk about a picture of themselves taken during centers that day.  This time is very scaffolded and all students know what to expect when it is their time to share shine.

Getting Started

You may already be doing some daily reflection in your classroom - better known as Author's Chair or Sharing Time.  Which is great but if you have ELL students like I do there is a way to make this time even more engaging and meaningful.

First, reflect about your class.  What oral skills are they still developing?  What do they need support with?  What can you scaffold for them?  What questions will be asked and answered during this time? 

When thinking about your reflection time, remember consistency is the key for your ELL students. They need to know exactly what will happen and what they need to say.  In my experience, these students are often very shy and intimidated to participate at first.  But continuous modeling and practice will pay off.

My Classroom Example

Throughout the day myself or my co-teacher will take pictures of the students working (especially for the activities that have no paper product).  Depending on the time, we will pick about 5 students to share their work.  Because we are a Pre-K classroom, our reflection time is structured to build basic English skills.  I would ask a different set of questions if this was a first grade classroom or if my students had already mastered these sentences.

We start by announcing it is Reflection Time. Next, we chose a student's work or picture to show. Ask, "Who is this?"

The student who's work it is will answer, "This is me."

Class:  "What's your name?"

Student: "My name is _____."

Class:  "What are you learning?"

Student: "I am learning to______."  (count shapes, name living things, etc)

My classroom is a bilingual room (English and Arabic) so each question is asked and answered in both languages.  

Sharing his picture with the class during daily reflection

Materials Needed

None :)  except for a camera if you do not have paper products to show.  For example, if you do lots of center activities without recording sheets you would simply view the picture of the students completing the center.

I promise, you will see lots of engagement and English skill improvement by adding a daily reflection time.  Students need to be able to articulate their learning and work on their speaking and listening skills.  This accomplishes it all!  

I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to leave a comment or question below.  Happy reflecting!
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Around the World: KG Style

The last three weeks my class has been hard at work comparing and contrasting their country with Egypt.  We've been learning to build pyramids from construction blocks, drawing Pharaohs, making gold bangles from toilet paper rolls, tracing maps, and playing with Egyptian food for preparation of our end of unit celebration.  Our unit was called "We Are Responsible World Citizens."  Try teaching that concept to four year olds with limited English vocabulary.

Yesterday each class in the school set up all their hard work in the gym.  Ten students stayed at the table in front of their displays to be passport control and give sticker stamps and talk about their country to the visitors.  The rest of the class toured around the gym visiting the other countries, sampling food, and "stamping" their passports.  I forgot to get passport pictures so I will try to get those after the weekend.

Here's a video I made of the country displays.  Enjoy!

If you would like a longer look at any of the pictures I will be posting them to my Instagram account. Find me by clicking the icon at the top of my blog header.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Peek At My Day - Teaching Abroad in KG1

The school year is beginning to wind down although we are not out until July but the kiddos are finishing in June.  Those lucky ducks!  I follow several Facebook groups for teachers who are coming abroad to teach in the UAE and who are already here in the trenches.  A common trend I've seen this last week is that everyone wants to know what a typical classroom day looks like.  Well, no day is typical and EVERY day is completely different and full of surprises.  But I'll do my best to give you a snapshot.

Kindergarten is made of two grade levels - KG1 and KG2.  I consider KG1 to be the equivalent of preschool back home and KG2 would be like regular kindergarten.  Only in KG do EMTs (what I'm called - an English Medium Teacher) co-teach in the same room with an AMT (Arabic Medium Teacher).

Here's my daily schedule:

Morning Assembly (Tabore)

Teachers arrive at 7:30 am and the students arrive around then and begin gathering in the gym.  The whole school meets and goes over announcements, sings the national anthem, and rotates through each class (two a day) for a short performance.


Students arrive in the classroom and perform the usual duties...putting backpacks in the cabinet, jackets in the basket (in cooler weather), turn their attendance card to show they are here, and put snack money in the pocket chart.

Free Choice Centers

Students are given time to just play and practice the previous day's skills.  They are allowed to choose any activity throughout the classroom.


Islam is a big part of the culture here and is the main religion practiced in the country.  Time is given every day in the public schools to study the religion.  During this time (since I do not speak Arabic or read the Quran) is to monitor student behaviors and assist my co-teacher as needed.


Students either bring a small snack/lunch (looks more like lunch to me) or can buy a small sandwich, cucumber or banana, and a drink (juice, liquid yogurt called laban, milk, or water).  Choices vary and some items are not always available.  Snack time is shared between myself and my co-teacher.  I might do one day and she does the next.  This allows one of us to have almost 20 minutes of prep time which usually goes towards setting up the centers for after snack.

Literacy Direct Instruction

This is our circle time. We have a 10 minute lesson based on the school-wide theme (a theme can last for several weeks), followed by a brain break, then 10 more minutes of instruction (preferably shared writing).  Some days I lead the instruction and my Arabic co-teacher translates and adds more information.  Other times, my Arabic co-teacher begins and I do my best to translate into English the gist of the lesson.

Literacy Centers

Each week we try to have at least five literacy centers. These usually include an art center (drawing and labeling a picture using vocabulary cards), play dough, construction (theme related), writing, and reading. Some students also work on computers during this time.  Either my co-teacher or myself will hold a small guided reading group during centers. The teacher not holding the group is responsible for managing the students at centers and taking anecdotal notes and/or assessment.

Numeracy Direct Instruction

This is our second circle time.  It is formatted very similar to the literacy direct instruction.  We try to follow the gradual release model for instruction (I do, we do, you do).  Just like during literacy time my co-teacher and I will alternate instruction so it is delivered in Arabic and English.  I try to always plan a hands-on activity for the students based on the concept we are learning before releasing them to centers. Since they are ELL kiddos I feel this is very important to understanding their learning.  You can read all about an example numeracy/math lesson in my blog post here.

Numeracy Centers

Our numeracy centers are usually the same center names as our literacy centers but with different activities.  We change our center activities weekly but usually have art center, writing, play dough, construction, computers, and numeracy.  Art center might be to create a picture of the week's math concept like draw a heavy and a light object.  We will also encourage students to use the vocabulary cards to label their pictures.  The writing center might be set up to write their numerals and draw objects to match.  Construction they could be making numbers, making long and short lines with the blocks, experimenting to create a balance for weighing items.  Play dough usually stays the same and will be making their numbers using play dough mats with ten frames which can be found here.  The numeracy center is really just a designated table which we will put a variety of activities to work on number sense. Students will often choose a tub to take to another location or work at the table.

Again, during center time one teacher will hold small groups while the other rotates among the centers collecting assessment data and informational notes.


At our school we have P.E. (usually called sport or riada), music, and library.  For music and P.E. we have a true prep period and can use the time for the usual teacher things:  checking email, entering grades, preparing the next lessons.  During library one of us must stay with the class the entire time. There is a librarian who will provide lessons to fulfill her own outcomes but once the lesson is finished, the teacher is responsible for keeping the students engaged and on-task.

Daily Reflection Time

I love this time of day!  Every day at the end of the day we try to have students reflect on what they have learned.  I truly believe this is an integral part of their learning and is so beneficial to these students to practice and speak in English.  I have witnessed some amazing growth from this reflection time.  A more detailed blog post about daily reflection time is in the works - just in time for you to see about incorporating it into your day next year.


Most students ride the bus home as you can see by our chart above.  Only one student is picked up from school each day.  All teachers are required to be on bus duty and escort their assigned bus kiddos onto the bus each day.  Once the students leave, most teachers use this time to finally eat something. Twice a week we have one hour of professional development/meetings.  On a non-meeting day (provided lesson plans for the following week are finished) I can go home at 1 pm.  On meeting days, we leave school at 2:30 pm.  Definitely a nice change from back home!  However, all schools tend to be a little different. While what you've read above is typical for my day it may not be typical for another teacher at a different KG school.  

If you have any questions or I forgot to cover something, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Currently May

It's a new month which must mean it's time for another Currently linky party with Farley over there at Oh, Boy Fourth Grade.


Right now I'm working on the computer (of course!) and half watching Breaking Bad on Netflix.  I can't decide if I like it but I can't seem to stop watching episode after episode.  I'm up to Season 3 now.


I am getting some products finished and posted on TpT and instead of spending a ton at the sale this week I found some great freebies a few days ago.


It's after midnight and its been a looooong week so I should be sleeping.


I would love more time with my family.  Fun time.  Free time.  Time not taken over by entering grades, writing lesson plans, working on school things.  But aside from that I would love more time to see Mr. Doodlette.  Poor guy works really long hours and we get to see each other less than 3 hours a day. When we're lucky.  Makes me super sad just thinking about it. 


A relaxing vacation on the beach.  My sister in-laws are in the Maldives right now and the pictures! I really wish I was there with a big old daiquiri in my hand and a great book on the kindle.

Summer, Yes, Hope, Dream

This summer I'm going back to America for my annual visit.  I skipped last year though because I was pregnant.  I always fly into Vegas and I'm pretty bummed I'm coming the day after the big hoopa with all the teachers.  I got to go the year before last and it was an amazing trip.  I'm still hoping I can swing getting out of school a day or two early but I think that's just a dream.

What's your Currently?  Come and join up at Farley's.

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