Reflecting on a FABULOUS year!

Welcome to 2019!

Wow 2018 was a fantastic whirlwind in so many ways. Looking back I feel extremely blessed and proud of everything that happened in 2018. This post is dedicated to reflecting on those incredible moments as a teacher, my top 8 ‘WOW’ moments of 2018.

Disclaimer: I tried to pick just 5, but it was too hard.

This year, I have some new goals for myself in my classroom and as a teacher. As I am goal planning for 2019 with my students this week, I feel compelled to give you insight and inspiration on how I’m looking forward and where you could push yourself to do the same!

Here are my top 8 ‘WOW’ moments of 2018:

  1. Opening the Cultural CenterIMG_0577
  2. Community Support NightIMG_0896
  3. Speaking about English Language Learning and Pedagogyimg_1620 (1)
  4. Writing an article for the Alberta Teachers Association
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  5. Sharing my passion on some awesome Pod Casts, check them out!
  6.  Starting my Masters of Education!

     

  7. Classroom Makeover!
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  8. AMAZING moments with my kiddos

     

I feel like I could write a book about all of these experiences- it was a fabulous year! Obviously the challenges also existed and obstacles were not absent; however, the pay off after all the burnout was worth it.

2019 goals are to continue the momentum, to push myself but remember what is important- my students, myself, and the people I love.

What are your goals for 2019?

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

 

Culture in Second Language Learning

The last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of culture for my Ukrainian as a second language students. In all of the fun, I really reflected as a teacher of the importance of pairing cultural awareness and elements in second language learning.

I think among many second language teachers this concept is debated.

Is it really worth the time to teach students cultural elements over language structure and components? OR is it simply the worth of second language classes to teach primarily language?

I am on the side of- yes, not only is it worth it… but it is crucial.

Based on my experience, pairing cultural elements with second language acquisition is  the key to student motivation in second language learning. If students feel like they are a part of the larger picture and understand the life that people who embody that language have, they are more likely to WANT to use the language, invest in their own learning AND continue in language programs in higher grades.

Throughout the year, I use cultural holidays and religious events to embed cultural components into language curriculum, but this month I did a few extra things to make my students proud to be second language learners…pride is SO important.

  1. We hosted a Ukrainian Day on Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka Day (Ukrainian Shirt Day)

    Here are some of the awesome things that my students organized:

    -Blue and Yellow face paint (Ukraine’s flag colors) for all students.
    -Name Tags of translated names for all students.
    -Ukrainian Folk music over the intercom
    -Perogy and Ukrainian Kubasa Sausage sale at lunch. (Where all proceeds went to support Ukrainian war effort)
    -Kolomayka Dance (Circle Dance) in the gym at lunch hour
    -Ukrainian Photo booth with Props

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    All of these things were great initiatives to get students involved in promoting culture and pride for their second language learning. Many students said that they would have liked to do it more than once this year, but the important thing was that it instilled a sense of pride and accountability for their second language learning.

  2.  In their language classes, cultural elements are embedded. With my grade 8 class, we learned Ukrainian vocabulary in relation to food. We then were able to go into the home economics room and cook 2 recipes using the Ukrainian vocabulary we learned.

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    All the students love eating and cooking to it was a great success for engagement.

    Within my grade 7 class, we learned about cool facts about Ukraine. They could choose what ever topic they wanted and then they made a 2 minute vlog video about their findings.

    Just like Canadian culture, we looked at a series of vloggers that exist in Ukraine and listened to their take on different current topics happening in their lives. The students loved it because they all have their favorite ‘YouTubers’ that they follow.

    They were so excited and invested to use language to create their own vlog- it was awesome.

  3. Edmonton (our city) hosted its first ever Ukrainian festival (UFest) this past weekend because of the large community that exists here. Many of my students attended with their families and were in the festivities.

    I decided to volunteer for the event to prove our involvement in the community outside of our classroom. I believe it is so important to extend the knowledge that I am trying to instill in my students to the rest of the community.

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    The festival was a HUGE success and it was great for many of my students to see me active in the community able to support culture.

The reality is that language is culturally acquired skill. The importance of second language students understanding the culture that their language comes from and the way that people live using that language is crucial. Otherwise, there is limited engagement as the the ‘why’ it is important to continue to invest in learning.

If you’re a second language teacher, I challenge you to take on some cultural elements in your classroom! Try it out and see how it goes!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Feeling Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

My sisters and I had the chance to visit Ireland for the first time last year and since that moment my love for Irish culture, traditions, and appreciation of life has grown so much.
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My favorite part of being in Ireland was learning about their pride and experiencing the brilliance of their culture and this week I was excited to bring that culture into my classroom.

Each year, I remind my students of the greatness that St. Patrick ushered into Ireland and how we can learn from his perseverance and persistence he encompassed in working to free the Irish of oppression; however, this year I took it a step further in my class. I took a moment for gratitude.

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I find that sometimes it is important to stop for a moment and ask ‘why am I lucky’, ‘what am I grateful for’, and in the spirit of the Irish and those lucky charms that were floating in the air I tasked my students with an awesome St. Patrick’s Day Escape Room.

It was my first time facilitating an escape room for my students and I loved it and so did they. They used QR codes and their technology at each task, were engaged, working together, learning about their faith and St. Patrick and building critical thinking skills- it was awesome!

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Shout out to ‘Oh the Humanities’ for this awesome find!

I also took a minute and asked students to reflect on what they feel lucky to have! It was perfect for a quick reflection, building empathy, and a writing task to start class.

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Here is a link to my teachers pay teachers account for your FREE download of this awesome resource. 

Of course, after the students reflected on their luck, they were rewarded with the leprechaun cookie. This piece of gratitude from me was to remind them that I am lucky because I have them. My students are truly my lucky charms and they remind me of that daily.

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PS. Check out my awesome St. Patty’s outfit!

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Have a Lucky St. Patty’s Day!

Miss Rylance

Creating a Cultural Centre

In a changing world, society is shifting from a place of borders, religion, race and gender to a place of higher acceptance and unity. Although our world is slowly getting there, there is still a constant struggle to strive for that acceptance and as we fight to help usher in an understanding, in classrooms the struggle is even more real. In a world of divide, we as teachers, are very strongly faced with the reality of having to address in inequality while creating a place of acceptance in the walls of our classrooms. As youth face their own demons of coming of age, media, societal pressures, and academic pressures, they are also faced with the larger hurdles of personal difference. The question when dealing with youth is not if they will face those hurdles but when and how they will work to overcome them.

As teachers, speaking the truth, giving students multiple perspectives and opening well rounded conversations are some of the weapons we equip ourselves with to begin the battle. But, I felt that a larger space for inclusion was required.

In Canada, we pride ourselves on promoting multiculturalism and openly supporting newcomers to Canada; however, when reflecting on the practices that the schools have in upholding that pride we were falling short. To some degree, assimilation is required in order for families and students to find success in society: knowing and understanding English, having access to education, career options, and support from friends and a community are all a part of the antidote for success. However, are all those elements truly available for newcomers or are the struggles being ignored or assumed fixed? AND do newcomers feel that the culture, language or religion that they came here with is admired and celebrated or do they feel pressure to leave behind an identity that they once new?

I believe that there are many complexities to the questions I felt compelled to ask surrounding this subject and as a new teacher, I felt even more helpless knowing that policy and order above me speak larger hurdles to overcome. But, I knew that there was something within the realm I had control over and that was to begin acting as the bridge between new families, the school, the community and what I could offer as a friendly face.

My solution: create a Cultural Centre within my school.

The vision I had was to create a place where culture could be celebrated, accepted and practiced and where my students would have a safe haven to be entirely who there were without pressures of assimilation. I also wanted it to be a place of global awareness where others could learn about each other, root for each others success, and grow by knowing and loving their differences. I also wanted it to be a place where my students could learn and practice English and where it was ok to fail and try again with guidance. I also wanted a place where families could come to seek community support and know where to find it so that they entirely felt safe within their new community. All of these things were the seeds of where I saw my centre moving.

To my surprise, as I started researching how this was going to happen, many centres like this had not existed… or at least in the cyber world. I knew at that moment my vision had to be mine entirely. After a few months of planning and envisioning and researching my visions became a reality.

On January 11, 2018… my centre was complete. On January 12, 2018 I had a room full of students eager to start using the space- my vision has come true and its healing powers had started.

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In the first day of its use, I had a grade 5 student read to me a book in her first language- Tagalog. It was the first time in my time as a teacher that I opened up the idea to my students. I told her, today you have two options; you can either read in English or Tagalog. She looked at me in disbelief that I was giving her that option knowing that as she read to me I would not understand one word and she without hesitation said- Tagalog.

As we were reading, she lit up with enthusiasm and explained to me throughout the process what was happening in the story. After reading the story in her language, we read the same story in English and she explained to me the differences between the two stories and read the story in English with little problems. Without the student knowing, I had challenged her giving her a book 2 reading levels higher than where she was reading at in her class- and she crushed it! As a teacher I was glowing knowing that she felt excited sharing with me her culture and language, but also I was thrilled knowing she was learning.

The best part was after we read it she opened up to me about how she was waiting for a space where she could read the long words in a language she knew because when she reads the long words in English they are hard. She also told me that it reminded her of her home country and how the kids she knows living there would love this book because their first goal is having a good future. At lunch, the same little girl brought 2 English speaking students to the centre where she read to them in a language they did not understand because she was so excited to prove to them her individual greatness.

Although it was a lot of work, and the goals of the Cultural Centre are growing and moving it is officially happening. My hope is that this frame work can be used in other schools with similar goals.

If you have questions or want to personally check it out- let me know!

Cheers,
Miss Rylance