Monday, March 8, 2010

Some Helpful Instructional Tips for Teaching Adult Literacy ESL

Dear ESL Volunteer Teachers,

Here are some helpful instructional strategies for teaching your adult literacy ESL Class:

1. "Too Many Words" Vocabulary is an important component of reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension skills. It's a tedious task to teach a huge chunk of words in such a short amount of time, but teaching vocabulary does not necessarily mean having to translate every English word for your students.
Instead: Try teaching vocabulary-building strategies and independent learning. You can still keep your momentum and cover the basics with good techniques.

Quick Vocabulary Building Strategies:
A. encourage your students to bring Spanish/or other native language/-English dictionaries to class. During breaks or beginning of each class, they can be working on looking up words and how they translate in their native language (this allows them ownership of their learning). You can also grab a copy from Half Price Books and bring it with you as part of your own classroom materials to share with your students, if you wish.
B. Teach Phonemic Awareness (the ability to hear and identify sounds in spoken words) by allowing students time in class to pronounce the vocabulary words in small group practices. Allow students to break away from the whole-group classroom and break them up for at least 15 to 20 minutes during your 2 hour class. This gives all students a chance to speak (especially those who are typically shy or uncomfortable speaking in a larger group). Walk around, monitor their conversations, sit with them, and practice the activities with them.

2. "Classroom Interaction - Don't Depend on the Book to Liven It Up"
In a good classroom environment, the textbook will not be the center of classroom interaction. Textbooks are typically dry, but they are designed to meet the assessment and the standards of the curriculum. They do little to help liven up the classroom, but they still remain one of the most important tools to meet the standards. Don't depend on the textbook to be creative or lively.
Instead: Adopt the principles of collaborative learning. In this type of learning, the teacher designs a learning problem or a task (this is where you as volunteer teachers can get creative outside of the book), and then assigns small groups of students to address the problem collaboratively (I can give you specific examples for each lesson if you want). The purpose of collaborative learning is to enhance learning and achievement by peer-to-peer interaction with careful guidance from the teacher.

3. "Pick Up the Pace" - Since a huge part of the Level 1 course is designed to build vocabulary to the ESL learners, the classes can be a bit redundant. Don't despair! Change the pace of the lessons by breaking things up a bit and move away from doing one activity straight after another.

Instead: Allow time for something different (pronunciation work, brainstorm sessions, creating a chart, practicing conversation, etc). Also - "wake them up" by giving them a short quiz (oral or written) on last week's vocabulary. See how well they do!

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my passion in teaching! Teaching ESL is not just about teaching a language, but more so about teaching others how to learn in a manner that is meaningful and relevant to their lives. Remember that you are all doing something that makes a lasting impact.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Quirkiest (and Most Fun) NYE Traditions I've Experienced Around The World

I've been fortunate enough to have had enough memorable New Years Eve experiences in three different continents with different people. This means I've thrown coins all over the living room while wearing red underwear and gobbling 12 grapes at the countdown, sporting my polka dotted outfit on New Year's Eve.

People are so quirky with their superstitions, you know? But when in Rome...or Manila, Barcelona, or Irving - celebrate with the people!


Traditionally, most households stage a dinner party named Media Noche in their homes. My mom used to do this and her typical dishes included pancit, lumpia, and hamon (jamon in Spanish, ham in English). If we celebrated in Manila, we would have lechon, which is roasted pig, and it is usually considered as the centerpiece of the dinner table. 

Barbecued food is also an integral part of the menu. Most Filipinos follow a set of traditions that are typically observed during New Year's Eve. 

Included among these traditions is the customary habit of wearing clothes with circular patterns like polka dots.

This signifies the belief that circles attract money and fortune or other colorful clothing to show enthusiasm for the coming year. Throwing coins at the stroke of midnight is said to increase wealth that year. Filipino children were also told to jump 12 times at the stroke of midnight to increase their height. Yeah, that never really worked out for me because I'm barely 5 ft tall.

The Filipinos always "make it rain" on New Year's Eve with coins!

Wear Polka Dots to get RICH! Totally makes sense.


It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock before midnight. After spending NYE 1999 in Barcelona with my sister and brother-in-law, I've kept this tradition with my own family. 

Additionally, the Mexicans also follow similar traditions, but Michael and his family never did this. They pretty much followed the same American traditions.

Anyway, when I asked the Spaniards why they did that, I think they were too busy drinking and partying to explain the whole history to me, so I had to look up the following information on Google:

Just gobble up the grapes in twelve seconds! GO!

This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year. Nowadays, the tradition is followed by almost every Spaniard, and the twelve grapes have become synonymous with the New Year. After the clock has finished striking twelve, people greet each other and toast with sparkling wine such as cava or champagne, or alternatively with cider.

They also wear red underwear for New Year's Eve. I was given a brand new pair as a gift when I was celebrating in Barcelona. I remember asking why they do this, but I don't remember what they said. 

Perhaps it was the vino....but anyway, once again, I looked it up and here is why: wearing red underwear dates back to the Middle Ages when it was not allowed to wear red garments. The color was associated with blood, evil, and witchcraft. 

However, people wore red anyway because in the dark 

winter, red was a symbol of life. They wore red undergarments to avoid the major punishment of wearing red – the gallows! Plus, I think red is a sexy color!


When I was ten years old, I got to spend NYE in Times Square with my whole family. It was crowded, scary, and fun! That was my first taste of the American New Year's Eve tradition! 

Now eating black eyed peas is my taste of the American New Year's Eve tradition, and it's supposed to bring good luck, too, right?I guess their shapes look like coins, which symbolized gaining wealth.

The food, not the band


Last year, I got to celebrate Chinese New Year in Manila, which included lots of percussionists on the streets wearing their Dragon costumes and just dancing and being wild on the streets. The dragon dancing was pretty cool, and the red envelopes or packets they gave contain money of even numbers, usually given from the elder to the younger. I think I remember getting a red envelope last year, but I don't remember getting any money! HA! But that was a fun experience.

You can buy these at your neighborhood Asian store! They are so much fun!!!


Tonight the Pulidos are honoring our multicultural traditions by doing a little bit of everything. We ate some black eyed peas, we got our twelve grapes prepared, we're going to throw coins, and we're wearing red or red-like undergarments. We're going to watch the ball drop and then pass out into the New Year. T

he kids will play some Nerf wars and make a zombie video, and Mommy and Daddy will drink their Mommy and Daddy juice. Let's hope 2010 brings all of us a year of peace, prosperity, blessings, and much love!

Happy New Year, Maligayang Bagong Taon, y Feliz Ano Nuevo to all ya'll!