Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rubric for your final project

I hope you are looking forward to these projects as much as I am! Of course, in order to give you a grade, you have to know what I'm looking for.

Here is our rubric for this project. Let me know if you have any questions.
Read this document on Scribd: Rubric

Final Project Details: Print this, too!

More details: be sure to print this out!

Day 1:
We will talk about the election and I want you to tell me what you know so far! Show off! What do you want to learn about?

Next, I will assign you to a group (4 members total.) Each group has a great mix of abilities, so please be sure to use your group members to help you: they will learn from you too! You will be graded on your collaboration and cooperation with your group members.

Next, your group will have to decide which campaign issue you want to explore more. There are many great campaign issues to research and you’ve already checked them out here:

In order to be fair, your group will choose a number out of a hat. That is the order in which your group will choose your topic. Your group will then go to the computers and start researching (with my guidance to make sure you're on appropriate sites). Remember, we use the Cornell note-taking method here at MS 319, and I will provide some paper for you.

Day 2:
Your group will continue to research your campaign issue. Do you understand John McCain’s position on the issue? Do you understand Barack Obama’s position? What do you think about the issue?

Now, you have all the information on your issue, now what? You’re going to tell us all about it by way of a newscast. And you’re going to make a video! Sounds fun, right? As a group, you will create a news broadcast detailing the issue and both candidates’ positions. Each video will give an overview of the election process and will delve into one campaign issue.

So think about the newscasts you have seen. What does the newscaster wear? Does s/he speak formally or informally? Does the newscaster tell you his/her opinion? Think about these things as you work on your script. We will be editing the videos using Windows MovieMaker.

The format for the video is:
I. Introduction of group members
II. Introduction to Election 2008---why is it important?
III. Quick overview of the electoral process in the US.
IV. Explain your campaign issue: ______________
a. Barack Obama’s stance (position)
b. John McCain’s stance (position)
V. Conclusion

You will most definitely need to meet with your group and work on these outside of class. Please be sure to get your group members' phone numbers.

***You can present McCain first and Obama second, too: whichever your group prefers!***

Day 3:

Group by group, you will record your videos in class. Please be sure to dress professionally and have your script completely done and practiced. You will be editing your videos later in case you make any mistakes or want to add in more creative elements. You will edit your video using Windows MovieMaker.

As you do your research, think about which soundbites (parts of a speech) or which images you would like to edit into your newscast.This is an intro to Windows MovieMaker: and here are some examples of projects you can do with it. You can get very creative!

Day 4:

Presentations! Each group will show their video and will briefly describe (1-3 minutes) how they made the video and their reflections. Your classmates will ask you questions so each member of your group must be prepared! You will be required to take notes on your classmates' presentations too. Later, you'll be asked about the other campaign topics too, so pay attention!

After the presentations:
You’re not quite finished! After completing and presenting your video, you will be required to write a reflective essay, sharing your own personal opinion and understanding of the issue.

In your essay, summarize the main points of your issue and what you think about it. You will be the expert, so you have to examine, evaluate, and synthesize (put together) all aspects of the topic.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Final Project Lesson Plan, Note to Administrators

Below I have detailed the steps and processes for my 6th grade Social Studies class's final project, in which I will ask students to explore various election issues and to evaluate and synthesize information to present to their classmates. The reason is two-fold: we will teach students the skills necessary to research online and also to create a video. In addition, we want to make our students better citizens. Hope they have fun with this and are truly engaged.

Aim/ Objective:
SWBAT research various social issues and the stances by the two presidential candidates. Students will also create a script and a newsvideo synthesizing and reflecting on these findings.

NYS Learning Standards addressed:
Standard 1: Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for information and understanding.

Standard 2: Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment, and expression.

Standard 3: Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for critical analysis and evaluation.

Standard 4: Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for classroom and social interaction.

Standard 5: Students will demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.

Prior Knowledge/Motivation:
Students have discussed relevant social issues, responsibilities as a citizen, and the election to some extent previously.

Materials/technology used:
computers with Internet access
Windows MovieMaker
video camera
rubric (located at

Procedure: This unit will take three class sessions, but students will be expected to work collaboratively outside of class in order to complete the activity.

Session 1: Introduction

In preparing the students for the final project, I will assign students to a group of four students, ensuring each group is balanced in terms of English language proficiency and project-related abilities. I will ask students about the election and about what they understand the important campaign issues to be. Through informal discussion (brainstorming exercise), we will elicit students' background knowledge.

Once a list of topics has been generated, I will introduce the assignment, in which each student group will focus on one campaign issue (of their choosing, however each group will have a different issue). Groups will have a few minutes of classtime to explore the website and choose the issue they would like to examine for their project.

This predetermined and comprehensive list of choices includes:

Budget & Spending
Civil Rights
Crime & Punishment
Energy Policy
Family Values
Foreign Policy
Gun Control
Health Care
Iraq & "War on Terror"
Jobs & Unemployment
LGBT Rights
National Security
Social Security
Trade & Globalization
Welfare & Poverty

Session 2: Continued research, introduction to script-writing and MovieMaker.

The day's mini-lesson will introduce script-writing and I will show a clip of a newscast, in order to set the tone for students to create a newscast on their issue. Students will be introduced to the rubric for the project at this point, which reminds the students that they must use the professional tone and attire of a true newscast.

As groups continue to research and begin creating their scripts and newscasts, I will conference with each group to answer any questions and to make sure students are on-task and cooperative! These individual conferences will allow me to gauge if groups need directions repeated, for example, or an additional mini-lesson. They will most likely need time outside of class to finish their script and practice, and I must be flexible to giving the students more time in order to do their best work (three sessions is rather rushed for the quality of work I would expect).

Session 3:

In class, each group of 4 students will come up (one group at a time) and I will record their newscast. We will not do re-takes, because the students will be editing their videos later with Windows MovieMaker.

After all groups record, I will give a mini-lesson on Windows MovieMaker, showing this video:

After each group has edited their video, each group will present their completed video to the class. The group will then field questions about their campaign issue and how they made the video. The rubric requires them to be prepared for these questions. This should be a fun class period seeing everyone's work:)

Publishing and Assessment:
I will embed each group's finished video on this blog for evaluation. Although students will have paid attention to their classmates' videos, they will be able to access all the videos in order to evaluate eachother (using Surveymonkey or something similar.) These peer-ratings will be considered when I give the final grades for the project.

Further steps:
This discussion of the election will continue throughout Election Day. I will bring in relevant articles and will also require students to bring in an election-related article to share every two weeks. I look forward to engaging students in this important election-related dialogue.

Final Project: Exploring the Election

Get a Voki now!

Hi, and I hope you all are doing well. It's been a while since I posted on here, but I've been preparing for your final projects. So please print out this post and read it very carefully. We will discuss the project in class this week and then you will work in your groups. Ask me questions at any time, and I will guide you in this project, but you must do your part. Let's have fun with it, too!

Who: Your group (4 members)

What: FINAL PROJECT exploring the 2008 election. You will work together to research and reflect on the upcoming election and key issues. You will write a news report and will create a video as a group. You will also create a presentation (PowerPoint for example) to explain the election to your classmates.

When: Next week (September 9-13): Monday-Wednesday. Finishing up Thursday-Sunday (outside of class). Presentations start Monday, September 16th.

Why: The upcoming election (on November 4, 2008) is one of the most important elections in history. You should know about the candidates and the issues that affect you and your future.

What to do now:
Before next Monday, you must:

1. print out this email
2. Visit this website: Which issue is interesting to you? Why?
3. Watch this video:

4. Visit this website:
5. Read and summarize one newspaper article related to the election. You have to bring it in on Monday and maybe I'll ask you to talk about it. What is the article about? What did Obama say? What did McCain say? What do you think?

That's it for now! Get excited:)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Idiom Ideas

Every language has idioms, or phrases that do not mean exactly what the words mean, and these idioms can make it a little difficult for you to understand what is being said. In English, we have many idioms related to body parts, for example, and I came across (found) a wonderful game to help you practice them. What leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Do you want to get together tomorrow afternoon or play it by ear?

Check out the game at
Concentration is a memory and matching game, and it's lots of fun! These idioms will be old hat (very familiar to you) after you play. Have fun! Please leave a comment to let me know which idiom you liked the most, and why.

Also, check out this site for pictures of some more idioms (by kids, so cute!)

ESL Videos

The website is quite an exciting (overwhelming) resource: videos, podcasts, and games, oh my! You can probably tell that I like American politics and Social Studies in general: here's a great video about Barack Obama, and there are thousands more.

Welcome to my blog

Konnichiwa! Hola! Hello! I haven't had a chance to welcome you to my new blog, where we can explore English and interesting topics together. Enjoy your visit here! (^_^)/

Excellent Podcasts for learning REAL English

There are thousands of ESL podcasts out there to help you learn English. The following Podcasts I've found are great for learning real English in a clear, easy-to-understand, and natural way. Enjoy them and explore yourself!

Podcast title: “Dining at a Restaurant”
Produced by, a group of ESL teachers and professors based in Southern California:

This Podcast was 12 minutes long for a 3 minute conversation using standard (American) English conversation and idioms for a restaurant visit. I especially liked the introduction in slow, clear English, to allow you (English language learners) to prepare for the actual conversation. In addition, at the end of the conversation, the narrator discusses the important vocabulary and idioms so that you can use them correctly. This is real vocabulary you’ll hear in a restaurant. You might know these words but they have a different meaning in a restaurant. (I’ll treat myself; party of two; show you to; a lover of Italian food; big drinkers; get started with; my favorite dish; are a must). The best part of this Podcast is that there is a transcript right there: the words are written and you can follow along.

Podcast title: “Saying Goodbye” also by,

This 9 minute podcast shows us how two people say goodbye to eachother in the US. The words and phrases in the dialogue are very realistic and will help you become a better English speaker and listener. This dialogue is “short and sweet:” it is not too long but it contains many useful phrases. The vocabulary is described in detail after the dialogue, so you can learn how to use it yourself. (I’d better be going; See you later; Might be awhile; run into each other; it’s a shame; catch up; it’s too bad; give her my best; I’d better get going; I’d like that.)

Podcast title: “English Cafe 53” (Discussion about Elections in the United States):

We’ve all been hearing a lot about the presidential election, which is in November. But how does the United States choose a president? Well, this is a 25-minute conversation about the US Election process, including a discussion of primary elections, midterm elections, casting ballots, etc. The narrator describes the election process to you, and introduces (and spells out) important vocabulary. At 25 minutes, the podcast is rather long and might be overwhelming, but don’t stress out. Listen the first time to the description of the process: it’s easy to understand. Later, you can impress your friends with your insider’s knowledge of the election process, too. A current newspaper article would complement this podcast well and would give you some reading practice.