Class #30

11 May 2016

I am really glad that this is not my last class, even though it is the last journal entry I’ll submit to my professor for my internship. Not only will it just be a little sad once it’s over, but also, I had only two students tonight. I don’t want to go out like that.

So here’s the scoop: I waited over 40 minutes for my first student to arrive tonight. No kidding. Forty minutes. Dan popped his head in, just like last Wednesday, and asked me what was going on. I didn’t know and I was hoping I hadn’t driven over an hour just to have an empty classroom. It’s not like I didn’t have lots of end-of-semester homework to get done. No time to waste. I spent my unexpected free time looking up videos I could use for both my final week of class and my thematic materials project.

Jaime walked in at about 6:12, and Flor was less than two minutes behind. Finally. I told Jaime he was the first one to arrive for once. Ha. He laughed. Both students looked a little puzzled to walk in so late to an empty room.

Just like last Wednesday, I pulled a chair up to one of the tables and the three of us worked together. We went over the homework (Flor had done it, but Jaime had not) and there was still confusion about when to use the superlative and when to use the comparative. I explained that if there are two things, it’s going to be comparative, and if there are more (Of all airports in the US, Altanta’s airport is the oldest), or only one (This is the best day ever), the superlative is needed. We worked on that for a while. Why not? No one else was coming, anyway. They needed the practice and I’d rather not start out the last week with the rest of the class too far behind these two.

We finished up the unit with a reading. It was a latter from one from to another inviting her to come visit her country, giving many reasons and descriptions of its charms. We talked informally about what Jaime and Flor would recommend in Mexico, what the best places are to visit and most interesting features. Flor mentioned the museums and I agreed that the museums are great, at least the ones I had visited in Mexico City. Jaime just kind of shrugged and smiled at first, and then mentioned the beaches in Cancun. Flor and Jaime are two of my quietest students, so on one hand, it was a challenge to have them be the only talkers in class, but on the other, I’m sure it was good for them to have to talk more and to have more of my attention.

We took a quick bathroom break once I decided to put the unit to bed, and then started our last unit for the semester, the theme of which is moving. It was actually a nice transition from one unit to the next, because we were working in order. We had ended with talking about reasons the students would give to visit their native country, and then we started the next unit talking about how many times they moved in their native country, when they moved to the US, how long they’ve been here, and how many times they moved once they came here. The theme is “Moving.” We had a good discussion using the questionnaire from the first page of the unit. Jaime said he didn’t know if he’d ever go back to Mexico, but Flor said she’d like to eventually move back to Veracruz, her hometown. I asked her why she moved here and she said that she was having problems with her family and she just had to get out. She says her children were born here and they don’t speak Spanish very well. They understand, but they would rather speak English. That led to a discussion about heritage languages and we all agreed it is important not to lose them. Flor said that she only speaks to her kids in Spanish, but they often answer in English. She is frustrated and doesn’t know what to do about that. They had started off in a bilingual school, but then when they moved to a suburb, that environment wasn’t available anymore.

Well, anyway, by the time we were done talking, it was almost 8pm. I didn’t assign homework, because I figured it would be best to just do that stuff in class, since only two people would have to opportunity to do it, and Jaime almost never does the homework (Flor is about 50/50). I’m going to continue with things I have planned from my materials project on Monday!

I really hope the last two classes are well-attended!


Class #29

09 May 2016


I had another smallish class tonight, but I think we got some good work done. Flor arrived early, followed by Verónica. Verónica had missed the previous class, so I decided to wait to go over the homework until more students showed up. We did a quick review of how comparatives and superlatives are formed. I wrote examples on the board for one-syllable words, two-syllable words ending in -y, three-plus syllable words (and two-syllable words not ending in -y, which follow the same rules), and irregular words, plus one-syllable examples that have minor spelling changes when the suffixes are added to the roots. Sofía, Magdalena, and Jaime arrived a bit later, so we went over the homework answers then.

My aim was to get through the rest of the current unit so that we’d have a chance finish the next one before the semester ended, but that did not quite happen. Comparatives and superlatives have not been easy for them to grasp. The “Around the World” theme is still pretty fun.

We did a reading (read aloud by the class, taking turns) about the three largest and busiest airports in the United States and then filled out a chart using details from the reading. Students had to scan through it to find what they needed for each category. That took a while. They worked in pairs. Then we did comparisons based upon the information we gathered. We also discussed airports each one of us had been to. None of us had been to all three of the airports described in the reading (Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles). Me, I’ve been to O’Hare and LAX, but I’ve never been to Georgia at all (and I haven’t really been to LA, either, only the airport, for about a half hour).

After break, I started off with a video of Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer Than” with the lyrics, just to kind of ease us back into the work we were doing. I chose it because there are several comparative adjectives in it. We followed that with a bit of dictation, and then an exercise in which I projected different collections of objects or pictures on the screen and asked the class to formulate a sentence about them, using either comparative or superlative structures. They did okay, but needed a lot of hints and prompting. I think this is going to be something that students will need to come back to again and again, and unfortunately, our time is running out. For now, anyway.

We finished the class with several short exercises from the text, which were all intended to give students more practice using comparative and superlative structures, as well as forms like “as (adjective) as” and “not as (adjective) as.” I hope it helped. We still have a few pages left in the book, and I’d like to at least do the last reading activity yet before I move on. I could say that we should stay with something until I’m sure they’ve all got it, but it’s hard to know who’s going to show up on a given day, and it seems like overkill would just bore them. I try to sneak in a nod to a past lesson here and there. That’s easy to do because real communication needs all those things. They just happen. I try to point things out when they pop up again.

Anyway, I gave to small sections in the workbook for homework, just fill-in-the-blank stuff, and they all said goodbye and that they’d see me Wednesday, except Magdalena, who had told me during break that she was scheduled to work, but that she’d be back for the last week of class.

We’re in the home stretch here. I hope they all feel they’ve learned something in my class.

Class #28

04 May 2016

It was kind of a strange night.

I got to my classroom with plenty of time to spare (thanks to some lighter traffic), so I actually was able to get all the equipment set up before 5:30, including queuing up a video I wanted to play. At 5:37, Dan, the young second shift janitor at the school, popped his head in and asked me what time my class was supposed to start. “About seven minutes ago,” I replied. He observed that usually I’ve got at least a couple of students by 5:35 or so. Yup. I just shrugged and auditioned another video that I might want to use in class.

Three or four minutes later, Sofía arrived. I played a couple of short, silly cartoons for her that illustrated comparatives and superlatives in an English-only format, then said we might as well go over the homework. It seemed ridiculous to stand in the front of the room using the document camera for only one student, so I pulled a chair up to her table and worked with her one on one. The homework had required only comparatives as answers, but Sofía had answered some questions with superlatives, so I tried to explain the difference as gently as I could. She still called herself “estúpida,” so I reassured her that she was doing a good job and it just takes time. She is one of my sharpest students.

We continued with some book work and then, shortly before 6:00, Félix arrived, followed by Flor a few minutes later. I decided to stay at the table, since I was already there, so Flor and Félix settled in there as well. It felt more like a small study group, and I kind of liked that. I got everyone on the same page, and then we worked more on how to create superlatives out of plain adjectives. The topic of the unit is, as I’ve mentioned, “Around the World,” so we were dealing with attributes of certain cities and countries.

Jamie sauntered in at about 6:30, looking sheepish, as he usually does when he arrives late (which is nearly always). I tried to catch him up as best I could, but he’d missed Monday’s class when I introduced the topic.

We worked as a group for another half hour, then I called a break, because at least Sofía and I deserved a chance to visit the restroom. I told Jaime I wanted him to watch the Alejo Lopera videos I showed the class on Monday so he would understand what we were doing a little better. He said he needed to go to the bathroom first, so I let him. Ha. I had the videos queued up, and when he returned, I started the first one and dashed off to the facilities.

Once the videos were done, we started class back up again. There was a quick fill-in-the-blank section that I had the students do individually. While they worked on that, I pulled up pictures and maps to go with the next exercise, which involved matching a place or landmark with an attribute, and then writing a sentence with the superlative of that attribute. I thought some of the places might not be known to the class, plus it’s more fun to look at pictures than just work with text.

Anyway, after we went over the first exercise, we looked at the pictures and maps of each place and talked about them. This led to the students asking me to pull up pictures of different landmarks in their native countries, as well as this one (mostly mountains and waterfalls). I humored them for several minutes before we went through the activity as a group.

With twenty minutes left to go, I introduced using “as ___ as” and “not as ___ as” as another way to compare things. We got though a couple short activities on that subject, one of which was a dictation exercise. I assigned a couple more short sections from the book as homework.

After class, I asked Sofía if she’d heard from Raquel, since after tonight, Raquel had missed two full weeks without notifying anyone. She said that Raquel told her she wasn’t going to come to class anymore. That made me sad because she had been one of my more consistent students, and although she seemed to lack confidence, her written work was really pretty good. I don’t know if it’s me or just her life getting in the way. I wish she hadn’t quit with only a month left to go. She’s really sweet and I’ve missed her. She and Sofía are about my age, maybe a few years younger.

Ah, well. Maybe I’ll email her. It could be too little, too late, though. I have told my students many times to contact me if they have questions or concerns, but they don’t. I only have Raquel’s email address because she wrote me that one time to explain she had to miss class for an event at her church.

Four more classes to go. I didn’t get as far as I’d have liked this week, but I’m still hoping to start the final unit next Wednesday. The topic is “Moving,” which I don’t find especially riveting. It’s the last one, though, so that’s what I’m trying to base my materials project off of for my internship. In hindsight, it would have been easier and more fun to do that with the “Around the World” unit.

It’s crazy that this semester is pretty much over. I can write about only two of the four classes I have left before my last batch of journal entries is due (I still plan to write about my final week of classes, to post in my blog). Next week, aside from teaching on Monday and Wednesday, I have a test Monday, a test and an assignment due Tuesday, an exam Thursday (and an extra credit packet due, if I’ve got time), and my journals and materials project due Friday. Beyond that, I’ve got a reflective paper to write using my journal entries, which is due the following Sunday (but I hope to have it done by Friday night!). A challenging last week of school, but I’ve had worse!

Ooh, enough of this babbling. I have lots more work to do, including a phonology assignment due tomorrow!


Here are the videos I showed Sofía at the beginning of class:

Class #27

02 May 2016

It feels like my classes are getting smaller and smaller. Again. Tonight, there were five students in my class: Magdalena, Flor, Félix, Verónica, and Sofía. Félix, Flor, and Verónica were late, but hey, they showed up. I always prefer that they come, even if they’re late. It would be great if attendance was nearly perfect and hardly anyone was ever late, but I have been told that that isn’t likely in this sort of setting.

This is the second class in a row that Zacarías has missed, and the third for Raquel. I wonder about that. They’ve been with me since January and I’d hate to lose them now. Zacarías did ask me about morning classes because he was going to apply for a second shift job, so maybe that’s what’s up with him. Muna has missed more classes than probably anyone still enrolled, but she always comes back (I try to help her when she does, but she’s too inconsistent to really make much progress).

Anyway, we started a new unit tonight; its topic is “All Around the World.” Grammar-wise, we’re working with comparisons, so we are basically comparing different aspects of a range of countries, cities, landmarks, and cultures. The book starts with comparative adjectives, so I queued up a YouTube video on the subject by our friend, Alejo Lopera. His video on superlatives came right after, so I played that, too, since they’re related structures and we’ll be working with both. That took about ten minutes. Félix and Verónica arrived during the first video and Flor actually arrived just as we were finishing up. The videos explained the process nicely, and dovetailed well with the book’s explanation in English. I was hoping that going over it in both languages would help to reinforce the concept.

We spent the next half hour separating adjectives into groups according to number of syllables (and in the case of two-syllable words, separating the ones that end in –y from the ones that don’t) and then applying the corresponding rules to turn them into comparatives. After practicing that, we did a couple exercises from the book which asked the students to compare their native countries and cities with others, then we talked about those comparisons as a class. They always seem a little uncertain when I say a certain set of problems has more than one right answer for each. I explained that because they are all from different places, the relations between their homes and the other places mentioned in the book will be unique. We went over the last group of exercises at just before 7, so I let them take a break after that.

After break, I decided to revisit the Alejo Lopera videos because half the class hadn’t seen all the content, and because several of the students still seemed a little lost. I asked if they’d like to see the videos again, and they said yes. In the videos, Lopera mentions that with some one-syllable words, you have to double the final consonant of the word when adding the suffixes. The example he gave was “big,” which becomes “bigger” in its comparative form and “biggest” in its superlative form. He only gave the one example in each video, and I had to rack my brain a little to think of a few more. I did a quick search and found a worksheet with several, so I went through each word with the class and typed in the comparative and superlative forms (which they could see on the connected TV screen, which is how they see anything else from the computer or document camera), also going over some of the irregular ones. I said I’d make copies for everyone after I added some more words. Magdalena asked if I could email it to her, and that led to me taking down four emails (Flor doesn’t have email) so I could send it to them. I don’t know when I’ll get it done. I do spend time planning my classes, but I only have so much time to do so with three linguistics classes and my full-time job to contend with. Anyway, if nothing else, I’ll get that to them during the last week I have with them because my grad school semester will be done and I’ll have the time. I am also compiling a list of English phrasal verbs translated into Spanish, with English example sentences. I want to get that to them, too, so they can use it as a reference.

Anyway, we did a bit more book work (same topic) and ended just before the superlative exercises began. I gave them a page to do in the workbook for homework and that was that. They all said some form of, “Thank you, Teacher. See you Wednesday!” as they left. I do hope I will see them all on Wednesday!

Here are the videos we watched:

Class #26

27 April 2016

First of all, it kind of blows my mind that April is almost over. Ye gods.

Second, I was almost late to my ESL class today. I was finishing up a lab assignment (measuring and comparing the VOT – voice-onset time – of stop consonants in the speech of two-year-olds and their mothers, using Praat) and stayed in class an extra three or four minutes before I walked back to my car. That should not have cost me fifteen minutes, so I doubt that is why I got stuck in traffic the way I did. That was most likely an unhappy coincidence.

I did arrive at almost exactly 5:30, when class is supposed to start, but none of my students had arrived yet, so I had time to run to the bathroom and get a drink before Magdalena and Verónica showed up. It was just the three of us for a bit, so I asked them if it would be all right if we had a quick conversation in Spanish and recorded it, because I have to analyze a speech recording of a native speaker for my Hispanic Linguistics course (the topics we were given are very broad, and I think I’ll just focus on phonetics, so I didn’t need any specific prompts). Both ladies graciously agreed to let me record, but the conversation was mostly between Magdalena and me. I don’t recall that Verónica did anything other than listen to us. I took this opportunity because, although I did have an acquaintance lined up to meet me over the weekend, she hadn’t given me a specific time yet and I was getting a little nervous that she’d let me down.

A few minutes later, Sofía and Félix arrived and got a few words in, too, before I stopped the recording (Félix spoke in English, ha). Jaime came in just as I was putting my laptop away, and so we started class with the homework I’d assigned. Verónica had done the wrong pages, poor thing. Flor came in while we were still going over the answers, and then we did a reading about childhood asthma.

The class chose to take turns reading sentences aloud (over reading silently or having me read it aloud to them), then we reviewed the new vocabulary displayed in bold print within the text. A few of the students had experience with asthma, either because they themselves had it or one of their children did. We connected that life experience with the vocabulary and text. Then we went through several related exercises in the text, and once we’d finished that, it was time to take a break.

After break, we continued on to the last section of the unit, which was focused on emergencies and when to call 911. There was another passage to read (they chose to read it loud again, taking turns), and several exercises. I had planned to finish the unit in this class period, and we accomplished that goal twenty minutes before the end of class.

I gave them a couple workbook pages for homework, just for additional practice over the weekend, and we ended the night with a couple of Alejo Lopera videos, one dealing with “will” and “be going to” to express future tense (we’d already watched it once, on Monday), and one that explains the many ways English speakers use the word “so.”

I don’t recall precisely what led up to it, but at once point, Magdalena asked me if I could go over the pronunciation of English vowels. Oh man. I did my best, but it’s complicated, not only does each written vowel represent several different sounds in the language, nearly every vowel sound can be written in more than one way. Coming from a language like Spanish, which only has five vowels that are consistently written, that’s got to be confusing. I’m going to see if I can find some sort of guide online. I don’t know if there’s anything that can help other than exposure and practice.

I have only six more classes to teach. Wow. And my university semester will be over even sooner. I feel like this semester has flown by much faster than the previous two. Maybe I’m having fun? Haha.

All I know for sure is that I’ve been very, very busy!

Losing rough drafts…

Well, I learned something tonight. I learned that WordPress won’t save my blog post drafts for even a day. Less than 24 hours ago, I dictated part of a post, focused on how I’m feeling now and what I want for my future, and I’d intended to finish it tonight. Earlier, when I finished the draft about tonight’s ESL class and published it, the other draft was still there. Now it is not. Grrr.

It’s not as if it was great literature or anything, but I was in a peculiar mood in the wee hours of the morning at work, and I wrote things that aren’t going to occur to me now in quite the same way. I’m not currently doubled over in pain due to abdominal cramps (thank goodness, now it’s down to a very dull roar), hating my third shift healthcare job because I can’t ever call in sick without finding someone else to pick up my shift (which is never likely at the last minute). I don’t know what it’s like to just be able to call in sick whenever I’m unwell, because I have to be just about half dead to justify calling my manager in to work, and it’s only happened a few times in the last decade and a half.

Anyway, I’m okay tonight. That doesn’t mean I suddenly love my job – there’s a reason I went back to school. I’m just, I dunno, I was kind of brutally poetic about it while I was in pain. Tonight I’m just…blah.

I have a little over 20 minutes until I have to do my first round. I suppose I should do some homework. Or maybe I’ll just let my mind go blank until it’s time to move…

Class #25

25 April 2016

Now starts the countdown: Only seven classes left after tonight! Yikes.

I’m not counting down because I’m waiting for it to be over – it’s just crazy that the time has gone by so quickly. My class list has changed so many times, yet there are still seven people coming to my class that have been there since the beginning, three of which were present the that first January night. We’ve been through a lot together.

Okay, I need to stop that. Ha. I’m just really going to miss these people.

Anyway, it was a small class tonight, just seven, and for over half that time it was only six. Magdalena was the first to arrive, just a little after 5:30, followed by Flor a couple minutes later, then Félix and Zacarías. Verónica and Jaime were both over 20 minutes late, and Muna arrived at nearly 6:00. It was kind of a warm, strange, sunny-yet-stormy day (complete with a rainbow over the lake), so I thought that might have something to do with the attendance. Maybe, maybe not.

I started off with the other English phrasal verb video by Daniel Manzano, which was almost half an hour long (yes, I decided to play it, after all), and very thorough. He’s not funny like Alejo Lopera, but he explains things very well and I saw everyone taking notes (Magdalena’s were so good that I asked her if I could photocopy them during break). I felt a little bad when Muna came in, since she doesn’t speak Spanish, but she said it was fine and she took some notes for the last part of the video that she was here for. She also told me she needed to leave at 6:30 to take her friend to the airport. I wondered why she showed up just to leave half an hour later. She ended up staying until 7, though.

After the video, we went over the homework. Then I explained how to express the future using “will” and did some pronunciation practice with sentences containing the contraction “I’ll.” We spent most of the rest of class on a set of exercises centered around a fictional accident. We went over a couple small sets of new vocabulary, then used a picture of the accident scene to answer questions. Then I read the story of the accident and we did a few different kinds of activities using that information: true/false, choosing between the “be going to” future and the present continuous, content questions, and dictation.

We actually had about ten minutes left after we finished what I’d planned, and the next activity would have taken too much time, so I assigned the homework for Wednesday and told them they could leave if they wanted to, or they could stay and watch the video I was going to check out by Alejo Lopera contrasting “will” and “be going to” to talk about future events. They all stayed.

Everyone did get up and leave at 8pm on the dot, except Magdalena, who stayed back a minute to ask me if I’ll be teaching over the summer or in the fall. I said definitely not the summer, because they won’t need me due to having fewer students, and in the fall it depends on if they have so many students that they’ll need a part time teacher to fill in, and also if they pick me to do it. I felt kind of sad, trying to explain that to her. I feel like I’m abandoning the class if I say I’m not going to be back. If I’m offered a position, I’ll take it as long as it fits with my course schedule at the university. I could only really teach one class again.

Once I was alone, I watched a few more videos, just auditioning them for use in class. It was a good night, I think, all in all.