Friday, October 24, 2014

The Power of a Pencil and Eraser

Despite all the efforts to standardize and align curriculum, we all will inevitably bring our personalities, hobbies and interests into our instructional delivery.  While I really don't have any hobbies per se, there is an interest that I most certainly bring into my lessons, and quite explicitly, and that is inspirational and motivational quotes.  I openly tell my English learners that they will face challenges and obstacles that most of their native English speaking peers will never encounter.  In many cases, they will have to prove themselves much more than if they spoke English fluently and with no accent.  However, I will always tell them that inspite of these challenges, they can expect a bright future if they are willing to work hard and stay motivated.  Attitude will be as important as aptitude.  Therefore, I use motivational and inspirational quotes in ESL to cover many language standards and hopefully add a little bit of motivation and inspiration to help them pick up some momentum. 

Idioms and figurative language are very challenging to an ELL.  Beginners struggle to learn language period and long term ELLs, while socially proficient,  struggle just as much with figurative language.  They can't seem to move past the concrete and into the abstract.  Motivational quotes and sayings can help English Language Learners learn idioms, grammar and vocabulary, but there are many literary lessons that can be taught using inspirational and motivational quotes and they will benefit the general population not just ELLs.  Here are just a few:
  • Figurative Language
  • Connotative Language
  • Inferencing
  • Symbolism
  • Imagery
  • Alliteration
  • Interpretation
  • Personification
  • Metaphors/Similes
I give them a quote a week and upload it to the announcements section of the learning system (we use Angel).  At the middle school, all teachers list homework assignments in the announcements section.  At the high school, they list all sort of items in there so this is a section they all will look at often. Therefore in the midst of all their work, they will find that motivational quote.  It's usually done as a warm up on Mondays or Tuesday, but I leave it up for the entire week and refer to it everyday, usually as I launch them.  

This week's quote was "The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser-in case you thought optimism is dead" (Robert Brault).  Before reading the quote and interpreting its meaning, I review/teach key vocabulary. For this quote, they learned the meaning of optimism first (as well as all the related words) and then I went on to the quote.  It took all groups a little thinking, but they enjoyed it and most found it very inspiring.  I encouraged them to have a positive outlook and reminded them that when they fail, they can usually get a chance to erase and make a correction.  While in real life we don't always get a do-over, sometimes second chances come in the form of taking another route.  After they all got the quote, I issued them a pencil to serve as a reminder to remain optimistic.

I have to say that while these quotes present some great teachable moments, they inspire me just as much, if not more.  This week's quote is one of my favorites and I hope that it will motivate you as much as it motivate my students and me.


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