Saturday, February 23, 2008


I've been reading Woody's blog, edumorphing, for a little while now. A little more than a month ago I wrote about his decision to eliminate worksheets from his classroom, and I have been reading him ever since.

He had a post the other day about change and our role in creating it. He said:
We love to make everything look like it's alright, even though it's not. I think its time that we start calling a spade a spade. Do something about it.
I commented there about my situation at work. And it got me thinking.

That same day I was talking with my husband about work, and he told me that I had to speak up more directly and more forcefully than I had. So I did. I don't know how it went over. It isn't always easy to tell. But at least I said what I felt.

We are having a meeting next week where all this will come up in front of everyone. It will be a real pivotal meeting for me. I don't know how it will end up, but I cannot sit quietly, hating the way things are but unwilling to take a public stand.

I have to try to create positive change on an institutional level, not just a personal one. This is what Will was talking about a couple weeks ago and what I wrote about after reading his post. I am not sure, of course, how this will turn out, but I am ready to try.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

HipBone Game - roommate prewrite

roommate prewrite1
Originally uploaded by namckeand.
We would regularly do TOEFL writing practice. I wanted students to put more thought into their essays than they usually did, so I started doing whole class prewrites. Often we used a HipBone board. The main reason I did tht was to force them to think of more than 3 possible ideas to discuss in their essays.

Another time I used a more complex board with 12 places, I believe. We talked about ideas related to the topic: Why movies are popular. After we filled the board, we looked at it for some possible ways to structure the essay. This extended the value of the game.

Day of the Dead HipBone Game

Day of the Dead HipBone Game
Originally uploaded by namckeand.
This is a game that was just to provide structure to a discussion of the Day of the Dead. All the words were in some way connected to the topic. The discussion was wonderful.

HipBone game - sentence combining

sentence combining
Originally uploaded by namckeand.
This is one game board I did that first year with my students. Without giving them any clue as to what we were doing, I had students give me simple sentences. I wrote them on the board in the order they were given to me. They could combine any two sentences that were connected to each other on the board. We ended up with some crazy sentences, but they had a lot of fun.

This isn't really much different from any other sentence combining activity. Students got good practice with combining sentences. But it seemed much less like work and more like fun. These were adult students I was working with, but the game approach really appealed to them.

HipBone Games

Bee also asked about my use of HipBone games with my classes. I first heard about HipBone games in 2001. I was teaching in Mexico at the time. A colleague told me about them. I couldn't quite see what I could do with them, but I loved them!

The next year I went to Louisiana to start a new ESL program at a small college. I had the same 5 students in the same small room for 25 hours a week. We needed stuff to break up the monotony, and I decided HipBone games were going to be part of how I did that.

I started with simple vocabulary games, where students posted words we had been studying and made sentences with them. Of course, they had to incorporate other people's words into their sentences as the board filled up. I was surprised how well students were able to do this.

We played many other kinds of games, too. We did grammar-based games where students combined sentences or practiced a particular verb tense. I used the games as discussion starters and as prewrite activities and as a story-mapping activity. Students always enjoyed the games, no matter what we did.

I used a game as a vocabulary review activity at a Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project workshop. This activity, which was just supposed to be a demonstration of the potential of the games, ended up being a defining moment in the summer workshop.

I have played a couple games with my adult immigrant students recently. The first one was a vocabulary game that I have written about previously. The last one, though, was more like what I used to consider a "real" HipBone game. I explained that we were going to be talking about our memories, and that one person would have to keep talking about his or her memory until it made someone else go "That reminds me..." I wanted to introduce the past progressive tense to my students, so I started by telling them about what happened to me when I was learning to ride a bike. I told the story in some detail, but I wrote it on the game board as a one sentence entry:
When I was learning to ride I bike, I fell down a lot and cut my knees.
That prompted another bike-riding memory and another. We branched out from bike riding to other memories, but each time I wrote it as a sentence on the game board using past continuous and simple past. At the end of the game, we talked about the grammar of it. The students were intermediate level, and almost all of them had naturally used the past continuous. This was more of a question of drawing their attention to it. And it worked.

I have uploaded a few game boards to flickr, and I will post some of them here.

SMiELT and Blogging

Bee asked if SMiELT had kept me from blogging. I realized that I didn't make myself clear. I would not ever say SMiELT kept me from posting to this blog or to Moving Along. I may have used it as an excuse on occasion, but that isn't really what happened.

The big division of loyalties that I wanted to comment on in my previous post was between my two blogs. I have been posting slightly more regularly on Moving Along than I have been here. I don't use Moving Along much except during EVO sessions, for some reason or another. But during EVO, I use it more than I do this blog because most of what I am thinking about and writing about is related to the EVO session.

When I am exploring different tools for a session like SMiELT, I don't spend as much time reading other blogs as I normally do. And when I do read them, I read more superficially. I seldom reflect on them the way I try to otherwise because I am usually in more of a hurry. In that way, I guess maybe SMiELT did affect the amount of blogging I have done these last 6 weeks.

SMiELT, like all the other EVO sessions I have participated in, has been a great experience. I have learned about tools I would never really have looked at on my own. I have tried them out and attempted, at least, to give them a chance. If I haven't kept up my every-day blogging here the way I wanted to, oh well... There's always the other 46 weeks out of the year!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Divided loyalties

Well, I haven't been here much lately, have I? We are entering Week 6 of Social Media in English Language Teaching. It has been interesting for me to participate as a co-moderator, to see it from the inside. Right now we are playing a HipBone game. I have been playing HipBone games with my students for years, and this is the first time I have seen one played online. The board we are playing on at the moment looks like this:

It is really interesting to see how this plays out online. It is a lot like the way it plays out in person except there is a lot more time between moves. And, since I volunteered to update the board after each move, I have learned more about actually doing something in Drupal.

And then, of course, there is the fact that I really like wordpress better than Blogger. Even though I am not posting there much more than I am here, I find that it just works better for me. I year or so ago, I copied everything here over into Moving Along, but I haven't been able to bring myself to close this blog. Somebody asked me not too ling ago why I was reluctant to give up this blog, and I didn't have a real good answer. I guess it is force of habit more than anything else.

Once the SMiELT session is over, I hope to be back here full-time again. Let's see how good I am at actually doing that!

Sunday, February 10, 2008


As you know if you have been reading here, I am involved with a TESOL EVO session on social media. It has been a very interesting experience. I am learning that I am a decidedly unsocial person. Actually, I knew that before, but I am being reminded every day now. But that is another post...

When we started the session we had many participants and, as you would expect, we have lost a good number of them. Or at least they are not actively participating anymore. I am especially aware of this today because one of the remaining participants contacted me to ask me what was going on, why there were so few of us left.

I have the same problem with my face-to-face adult ESL classes. People have great intentions. Sometimes their life situations become more complicated or a work schedule change makes a class impossible. Sometimes, too, they just discover that the class isn't right for them.

Most programs know that this is going to happen. But what I am starting to realize is the extent to which other students/participants feel deserted by those who no longer attend. While we may understand on an intellectual level, I am seeing that it does have effects on an emotional level. Classrooms, virtual or traditional, are about community for many of us, and it hurts when that community loses members.

This is a new way for me to think about attrition. Am I overreacting?

Friday, February 08, 2008

What I've been doing, when I have been doing anything

While I have been feeling so bad for almost a week now, I haven't been doing much online. I come home from work and go to bed. But on occasion I have gone online and played around a little, mostly in connection with the EVO2008 session I am supposed to be co-moderating on Social Media in English Language Teaching.

We are looking at uses of blogs, wikis, Twitter, the 43 Trio, and other tools in language classes of different kinds. It is interesting.

I have also been posting a bit more on my other blog, Moving Along, as part of the session. I haven't been doing as much there as I should be, but there have been some posts.

I am also, at the moment, trying to help my daughter figure out a good alternative to iTunes, now that she is running Linux on her computer. The front runner seems to be Amazon, actually. Of course, that might not work for the real serious user, but I think it might work for her. We'll see.

So, I hope to eventually get back to reading and posting like I should be here. Maybe this is even that start of that. I would like to think so, but...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Good intentions come and go

Well, in spite of my good intentions, I have not written here in five days. I have been fighting a cold and coming home from work and going straight to bed.

I don't know what more to say.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Some creativity

I started reading edumorphing only a couple weeks ago when Jo wrote about him eliminating worksheets from his teaching. Woody commented on my post that he had, indeed, done that and that he was excited by the prospect. Now he is sharing with us some of what he does instead of worksheets.

He writes:
These students are not used to sharing their voice. It takes many months of explaining to them that their voice counts when it comes to school.
and he closes the post by saying:
Expect creativity and you will get it. Expect the minimum and you will get it.
The same could be said of teachers, couldn't it?