Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thank You New York Adult Ed!!!

I want to send a big shout out to CUNY out in New York for all of their work on their 
CUNY HSE Curriculum Framework!  My only real complaint is that they don't have all of these same resources for Adult Basic Education.  I have been borrowing and stealing from this curriculum all semester and I plan to continue.  They also have excellent professional development videos and resources.  I can't thank these folks enough for the resources they have created.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Google Forms Quizzes Now Much Easier

Over the last year I have been using a third-party add-on called Flubaroo to do autograding for quizzes.  In the last couple weeks Google made a wonderful update to Forms.  Now they have seamless tools to make quizzes that allow for quick grading, analytics and feedback options that just make sense.  I'm excited to use this for assessments and training tools going forward.  Below is a video tutorial on this new tool.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Zoom Classes at Southeastern Iowa Community College

I recently spent the afternoon learning from John Romeo at Southeastern about the ways he uses technology to teach math classes using Zoom and other tech tools.

John using via Zoom and tablets

John is using a Promethean interactive whiteboard to project a math problem onto the board.  An alternative is to use a Mimio, which is less expensive, to make any whiteboard interactive.

A Mimio close-up

He has students come up to work the problem he is projecting while he is sending different math problems to students (who are located at multiple locations) via  The teacher needs a tablet, but students are able to respond with multiple types of devices.

Zoom view on John's interactive white board (Promethean)

The laptop that is capturing video and running Zoom

Friday, June 3, 2016

Relevance Matters

By Chris Widmer, ELL Instructor

               One of the most important things that I took away from the ICLC was how to use students’ experiences and things relevant to them to teach all aspects of ESL. The main benefit is that students are more engaged in lessons that are relevant to them, but there are additional benefits that I had not considered as well. For instance, lessons that use relevant experiences show the students how to apply the lessons that they are being taught and take abstract ideas and make them more real for the student. Additionally, on a self-serving level, students that are more engaged and that see the applications of their lessons are more likely to have better attendance, to return for other classes, and to bring in new students by word of mouth.

                The prime example for this was in a lesson outlined about immigration statuses. Many adult ESL students are going through the rigors of immigration either for themselves or for family members and a lesson on that is likely to be relevant and interesting for them. The instructor started the lesson by generating discussion on what the students knew about immigration and then moved directly into a vocabulary lesson that included the words the students would need to know for the rest of the lesson. From there the instructor can move to any other category since the basic knowledge is established.  In this instance she decided to work on grammar and talk about using the modal verbs "can" and "should." The rest of the lesson detailed ways that the instructor could use the topic for listening, speaking, and reading--all which related back to the discussion generated at the beginning of the class and which included and reviewed the vocabulary and grammar the instructor started with.

                This type of lesson was designed specifically to make sure that the topic was relevant to the students and that it was consistent throughout the lesson so that the students could see clear, real world applications for the concepts they learned. Such a lesson is more likely to engage the students and also drive their interest to learn more and practice more as they can see that it is useful to them immediately. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Natural Language


By Agung Kristianto, ELL Instructor at MCC

I attended a workshop facilitated by Dr. Randi Reppen at the MIDTESOL Conference. In this workshop, she focused on the use of corpus research (research on large collection of natural language) to inform language teaching decisions and resource in the language classroom. She also proposed the use of corpora as a resource for material development and student activities. She started the workshop with providing the rationale of using corpora for vocabulary and grammar instruction. She claims that using corpora can provide insights into language use where intuition fails. In addition, she believes that corpora can serve as teaching materials by providing examples of authentic language.  Then, she continued to share some online corpus and corpus softwares. Some example of free online corpora are COCA ( , Word and Phrase (focused on academic language,, MICASE (;c=micase;cc=micase), and Wikipedia corpus ( Whereas, some example of corpus software are Monoconc, Ant Conc, and Word Smith.

Having shown some basic functions and features from some of the above corpora, she proposed that the use of corpora may also help English language learners’ vocabulary acquisition in the following areas: lexical verbs such as irregular verbs, affixes, multi word and single word verbs, and collocation. In addition, using corpora can provide a language teacher with example of patterns such as the use of preposition ‘in’ and ‘of’.

Additionally, in this workshop the facilitator showed how corpora can inform language teacher the most frequent verbs used in English that both are irregular verbs and have multiple meanings. Therefore, acquisition of these lexical verbs can be challenging for English learners. Thus, using corpora may inform teacher with some ideas and authentic language examples to deal with this particular challenge. Another example the facilitator mentioned was the use of corpora to provide advanced language learner in academic writing skills improvement. She gave an example of how corpora can serve English language learners to find better collocation. Finally, she encourages language teachers to explore and use corpora as one tool that can be useful in helping English language teachers and learners in the area of vocabulary and grammar acquisition.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Challenges & Opportunities for English Learners

By Agung Kristianto, ELL Instructor at MCC

Image result for inquiryI attended a workshop entitled “Challenges and Opportunities for English Learners (ELs) in Mathematics and Science Language” facilitated by Dr. Lia Plakans, Renka Ohta, Crissa Stephens, and Warren Merkel at the Iowa Culture and Language Conference (ICLC) pre-conference session. In this workshop, the facilitators proposed the following ideas: bridging language, math, and science for ELs; recognizing linguistic challenges; supporting language learning opportunities; and cultural considerations.
First, the facilitators suggested that language teachers should be aware of the challenges of ELs. These challenges depend on the following factors: their English language (L2) proficiency, first language (L1) and home culture, prior educational experience, literacy levels in their L1 and L2, and grade level. Having known these challenges, the facilitator argued for the following strategies to bridging the language challenges. That is, by minimizing linguistic challenges and supporting language opportunities.
Second, the facilitators encouraged math and science teachers to recognize the ELs’ linguistic challenges. Some examples of these particular challenges are unfamiliar words/ phrases, sentence complexity, and cultural knowledge. An example of unfamiliar words can be found in the use of polysemous words in math. Another example of this problem often appears in the use of prepositional phrases such as the preposition ‘by’ used in the following examples: the room is 12 ft by 16 ft; the number can be divided by 3; and by noon the temperature had risen. In addition to these word level problems, sentence complexity can also pose challenges for ELs. Some examples of this are the use of passive voice, conditional clause, and relative clause. Next, the facilitator discussed the challenge of ELs’ cultural knowledge. That is, a particular cultural knowledge that only certain cultural group of students is familiar with. An example of this is a test question that requires the knowledge of particular sport such as American football.
Third, having recognized those challenges, the facilitators proposed some strategies that could support language-learning opportunities. These strategies are, for example, activating prior knowledge before reading; introducing strategies for reading science and math texts; illustrating academic language function: describe, explain, predict, infer, conclude; teaching the use of graphic organizers: before, during, after; and using writing to support reading and analysis: using informal journal.
Finally, in the area of cultural challenges, the facilitators offer the following strategies: create a community of inquiry using discussion questions with more than one answer, recognize the complexities and multiple ways of seeing content in learners’ subject areas, use their background knowledge as a basis for introducing new material, and create an environment where diverse linguistic and cultural resources are asset to learning. At the end of the workshop, the attendees had the opportunities to apply the strategies through an activity that required the workshop attendees to modify some challenges found math and science questions.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Temptation Bundling

Without realizing it, when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts ("Freakonomics") while doing the dishes, I was doing exactly the behavior the podcast was about -- "temptation bundling."

According to the podcast, temptation bundling is, "the idea of tying together two activities — one you should do but may avoid; and one you love to do but isn’t necessarily productive."  So I started thinking about how that would apply to students in ABE classes.  An example may be that you can only eat your favorite snack when you are working on Khan Academy or Burlington English activities.  Another incentive may be that you buy an engaging novel such as The Hunger Games or Harry Potter or something by John Grisham or Stephen King, but you can only read it when you come to classes (maybe the first or last part of class).  

So, can you think of any creative ways to take willpower out of the picture by putting together something you should do with something you really want to do?  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Arms-on with Metrics

In the constant search for activities to make math more engaging for adult learners, I came upon this simple science experiment from Midwestern State University (activity two in Metric Measurement and the Scientific Method)

I began with telling everyone that I had observed that most people have a wingspan that is the same as their height.  If that is true, then perhaps there exists a proportion of arm length to total height.  From the guide above, you propose arm length as 40% of total height.  Then students have to convert their height into inches, then centimeters.  I had them measure arm length (they had to define how they would measure this) in inches and then make the conversion to centimeters.  Finally, they had to determine the deviation and the percent from the expected 40% and then use mean to determine how they would refine the hypothesis after their observations.

I found this activity gave them hands-on, engaging ways to learn metric conversions with measurements that made sense to them, and they were able to use percents, find the mean and use scientific method with data about themselves.

The full lesson plan for those who are interested:  Measurement in the Metric System

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The ELL end of year celebrations made the Muscatine Journal on January 2, 2016.  See the article at MCC ELL end of semester celebration.