Five ways I still use my workshop videos

Almost two years have passed since I recorded every mini-lesson for the whole year in my Grade 6 English class. Here is how I use still use them:

  1. Teacher support – I’ve shared the channel and unit playlists on a variety of platforms and many teachers have responded positively saying that the videos have helped them. I also share them with teachers on my team as refreshers for upcoming units.
  2. Reading Intervention prep – I teach reading intervention groups using LLI each day. I constantly refer to my videos so I know exactly what is happening each day of the unit. LLI provides opportunities to teach a large number of skills and referring back to my own teaching helps me choose something appropriate. It’s like having a script of what I said for a whole year that’s very neatly organized.
  3. Professional Growth – I often look at the playlist and think about why some of the lessons were so damn long. I’ll watch parts of the lesson and talk with English teachers about where I screwed up so that they can avoid the same mistakes. I think about what I could have done differently, what makes me cringe, and what makes me proud. Conveniently, YouTube playlists show the time of the video in the thumbnail.
  4. Reminiscence – The videos capture two quarters of school prior to COVID. They are like the book Tommy discovers is “The Fun They Had.” Like the book in the story, the videos are a window into the past when students and teachers didn’t wear masks, could sit shoulder to shoulder, and hi-five each other. It was a time when we could see each other smile, and I am fortunate to have captured it.
  5. Adjustment & Growth – No one was prepared for virtual school. Being able to look at my early virtual workshop lessons and compare them to the end of the year is interesting for me because I can see how we evolved as virtual students and teachers, as departments, and as teams of teachers.

These aren’t the only reasons to record yourself teaching. These are on my mind right now because the unit that just started in English is Social Issues Book Clubs, the last in-person unit of the 2019-2020 school year. It’s hard to believe two years have passed.

I feel fortunate to have these recordings and suggest everyone try it.

Word Wall Card Template

Creating a word wall that is a living and breathing part of the classroom can be a challenge for teachers. Unfortunately, if words are simply put on the wall, they don’t do much to promote acquisition. Word learning requires repeated exposure to words in different ways; word walls need to be interactive to be effective. Here is a way that we are trying this year:

Click HERE for a copy of the slides

This template can be used in a variety of ways to promote repeated exposure and thinking about words on the wall.

Suggested Use:

  1. Teacher starts the class with a word on each student’s desk, or a word per group of students.
  2. Teacher asks students to discuss the word and add the Korean translation, English synonym, or an English example.
  3. Students pass the cards to another student or table and repeat step 2.
  4. New groups or a new student reads the card and fills in the missing piece(s) of information.
  5. Students put the words back on the wall.
  6. The same thing happens in a later class.

Ideally, the students are thinking about three different ways to interact with the target word. Discussions can happen about pronunciation, nuances, and real world examples. While the words are on the wall, it’s important that teachers are constantly referring to them when they come up in teacher talk.

This is one of the many ways the cards can be used. What is important is that students are:

  1. Sharing ideas with others about words.
  2. Considering more than only a definition of the word.
  3. repeatedly interacting with the words.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to know if this is something you are interested in trying and how it works.

NoRedInk and ReadTheory in Grade 6 Reading/Writing Workshop


This post will present preliminary data on the effect of NoRedInk and ReadTheory on Korean international school grade six students. Grade six English teachers gave students 10 minutes in the beginning of every English class to work on NoRedInk (NRI) and Readtheory (RT). Based on MAP growth in Reading and Language Use, NoRedInk has a stronger effect on student performance.


I am a grade six ELL teacher at Korea International School Jeju. We use a co-teaching model in the MS, so I am in every English class with the English teacher, Paul Boland. We started using the Teacher’s College Reading/Writing Workshop this year in the MS, continuing its rollout that began the year before in the ES. Our student population is mostly Korean, and while they are high-performing students, many need English language support.

As we started developing our lessons, we realized there weren’t many opportunities to practice language during the class. Our instinctual need to provide opportunities for student output set us up to struggle with the 10-12 minute mini-lesson time limit. Both Paul and I have been in Korea for a long time (longer than our students), and we know that students – and their parents – want opportunities to practice language. Long story short, we wanted an easy way to practice in class and at home, so as soon as workshop started, so did NRI and RT.

We see four groups of students for 80 minutes every other day on a 4-day schedule (A, B, C, D). Students begin every class with 10 minutes of NRI or RT, depending on the day. Students were also encouraged to use these programs at home. Every report or email home reminded students and parents that they should be practicing at home.

No Red Ink

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 9.33.43 AMNo Red Ink is an interactive website where students can practice their grammar and writing skills. We really like how NRI differentiates and provides tutorials that teach students when they’re wrong. We also like that sentence subjects come from movies, books, sports, and a variety of other topics the kids are interested in. There is even a way to put your friend’s names in the system so that they show up in your practice sentences.


readtheory logoRead Theory is an interactive website focusing on the skill of reading comprehension.  To start, students must read several pieces and answer comprehension on each one. The texts are organized into Grades 1 to 12 reading levels.  Once a beginning level is determined by the program, the student must read texts that at the determined level. When the student continues to get all the questions correct, the program bumps them up to the next grade level of reading text.  Likewise, if the student makes several mistakes while reading the text, the program bumps them down to a lower grade level. This program does not show the students why their answers were correct or incorrect.


Data Organization

At the end of the year, we had data for 60 students; 60 students that had an equal amount of instruction and had taken the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests in the Fall and Spring. All 60 students also had an equal amount of time to use NRI and RT.

To organize the data, we split the students into groups of 15 and labeled them A, B, C, and D. To measure their growth, we used the Conditional Growth Percentile (CGP). The CGP is a percentile that compares students growth with other students in the same grade beginning the year at the same achievement level and receiving the same amount of instruction. The CGP is useful because it levels the playing field in terms of how much growth is expected each year.


Here is an example of what the data looks like:

Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 6.12.53 PM

To see the effect of RT and NRI on growth, we sorted each column numerically and divided the list into four groups. As you can see above, the number of topics mastered increases as you would scroll down the page. The 60 students, as mentioned before, are split into four groups. The example above shows group A. The CGP of group A was then averaged and compared to the other groups. To compare groups, we averaged the CGP of each group.



RT and NRI collect different data. For the NRI analysis, we used the number of topics mastered; for RT, we used number of quizzes taken and number of quizzes passed.  

We also asked students if the program helped them grow as a reader (RT) or learn about English (NRI).

Results & Discussion

Quizzes Taken and Average CGP .                 Quizzes Passed and Average CGP

The above charts show CGP growth in the four groups. Keep in mind that a 0.50 CGP (50th percentile) means that the group as a whole grew just as much, or better, than half of the students who started the year at the same achievement level, received the same amount of instruction, and were in the same grade.

What sticks out to us is that the difference among groups is small. When comparing the data, there is a slight upward trend in Chart #2. What this suggests is that passing tests requires more engagement. It is likely that some of the students simply clicked through questions for 10 minutes. 

Topics Mastered and CGP (1)Within NoRedInk, students master a topic once they’ve answered a number of questions successfully. The data here clearly shows that the more topics a student covered, the more they grew. We’re excited to see these results because direct language instruction is something that we find difficult to include in the workshop model. A strength of NRI is that it tells students what they are doing wrong. When a student provides an incorrect answer, NRI gives tips and clues, and the student can try again.

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 4.29.42 PM

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 4.29.27 PM

It’s clear that student feel the programs are helping them learn about English and grow as readers. So far, our data show that NRI is doing a better job at that. What we find curious is that about 80% of all students feel that the programs help them, yet the amount of time students spend working through the programs varies greatly. If most of them feel that it’s helping them, why aren’t more of the students reading more articles and mastering more topics? If 80% of people agreed that drinking eight glasses of water a day kept them healthy, but less than half of them drank eight glasses a day, what questions would we ask? These are the same questions we need to ask our students.

Looking ahead

We hope to continue using these programs during the 2018-19 school year and move from 60 to several hundred students. Keeping in mind that students will need to be taught how to use the programs effectively, in and out of school, we hope to increase the amount of time they spend meaningfully working through the material.

EARCOS Teacher’s Conference 2017

I attended my first EARCOS conference last week and it was an incredible experience. I took a massive amount of notes during the week and this post is my attempt to bring it all together in one place. For me, this will serve as a means to remember my experience; for visitors to my blog, you can compare my experience to yours or use it to preview what you’re in for next year in Bangkok.

We arrived late on Monday and spent the first two days perusing the city and surrounding islands. After a day in the sun, it was Thursday morning and time to get things started. Most of the attendees enjoyed breakfast in the hotel and then walked down to the conference. That’s great, but they missed out on something. I arrived in this fine piece of craftsmanship. It had the most blue chrome on and around the dash that I’ve ever seen and sounded like it could, with the help of that spoiler, hurl me through time and space and drop me in the Pacific Sutera lobby. In reality, I’ve been on lawnmowers with more git up than this thing; it was fun, though.

The first keynote inspired and left the audience moved. Ms. Phan Thi Kim Phuc  shared her experiences before and after a napalm attack that changed her life forever. Her story of survival, peace, and forgiveness was a great way to start the conference as it encouraged the audience of educators to surmount the challenges they face, no matter how hard they seem.

Session 1

I attended Mary Ryan’s Session I presentation titled ‘Tools and Strategies for Differentiating Mathematics Instruction‘. As an ELL specialist at the conference, I had the freedom to pick and choose the presentations I wanted to watch. The strands this year were mostly Math, Science, Counseling, and IT; this gave me some freedom. I attended sessions I found interesting personally, or presentations that would help me help my sixth grade content teachers. In Mary’s presentation I took away some ideas to help differentiate Math. The first idea was a mathcentric definition of differentiation. I like the simplicity of this model. The teacher can differentiate content, process, and/or product according to readiness, interests, and learner profile; it doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Mary also mentioned textbook ceilings. Often, students in Asia are way beyond their grade level in Math. I’ve taught English to middle school students who were starting college math. What is a Math teacher to do in that situation? While this situation is common in Korea, it’s also not unheard for students to be way behind. The topic of textbook ceilings and floors is definitely salient and is something I will be discussing with my teachers in the near future. Throwing mixed levels of English proficiency into that mix makes for a challenging classroom. Mary recommended a system of tiered instruction that consistently provides the teachers with feedback so they can adjust the course as they work towards their destination. I was delighted to hear her talk about Bloom’s taxonomy – specifically, behaviors that can be elicited through effective questioning – as it overlaps with what I focus on in my own classes. A final takeaway is a class-quieting strategy. The teachers says ‘back to me’ and students reply ‘back to you’. I look forward to giving this a try next year.

Session 2

It’s me! Get my presentation materials here.

Session 3

The next presentation was Tina Quick’s ‘International Parenting: How Global Mobility Affects Children‘. There’s nothing like getting info straight from the source; Tina Quick is just that. She’s a Third Culture Kid (TcK) who has moved 29 times in her life – 17 times before sixth grade if I remember correctly. She’s also a great presenter who gets right to the point. I knew I would enjoy her presentation when she said ‘It’s 1:45 so I’m gonna get started; they don’t call me Quick for nothing!’

Tina took us through the coining and evolution of the term, third culture kid, and made some projections about its future. For me, I was thinking about my own kids and that they are not technically TcKs, but more cross-culture kids (CCRs) – who aren’t fortunate, and were not born on the bayou…ahem… As a group made up of mostly parent teachers and counselors, we brainstormed challenges and benefits of the TcK experience. What I found most interesting were the stages of transition (leaving — transition — entering — re-involvement) she took us through. I was connecting them to the stages of cultural shock that I’m more familiar with. Her personal examples brought each stage to life. A few things that stuck with me are the RAFT. I’m familiar with RAFT as a way to contextualize writing, but her RAFT is completely different; it’s a a way to leave somewhere on a positive, fulfilled note. RAFT stands for reconciliation, affirmation, farewell, and thank and talk. As an international teacher, this is great to know since students leave for life abroad constantly. A final thing that is still in my head is her comment about the transition stage. The transition stage begins as soon as you step foot in the new country. It’s the point where ‘nobody knows how cool you are’, as Tina says. All of her points really hit home personally and professionally – now it’s time to order her book, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University TransitionMy son is 10 years away from high school graduation, but it’s never to early to start prepping.

The first day ended with a job-alike session and a welcome reception. We enjoyed the atmosphere, cultural performances, free food, adult beverages, and Dr. K’s wicked dance moves.

Day 2, Session 4

The day began with a stellar keynote by Christophe Galfard, author of The Universe in Your HandThe story and the visuals were fantastic. I remember him saying that scientists ‘find a black spot and zoom’ and that it all ends where it all begins. Needless to say, it was a lot to think about in the morning and I’m anxious to start his book. The next presentation was titled ‘My Brnasa-hs201427a-hubbleultradeepfield2014-20140603.jpgain, My Body, My Narrative: A Scientific Approach for Supporting Students in Healthy Relationships’ by Kate Dore and Rob Newberry. Kate described the approach she and her colleagues take when teaching about sex and healthy relationships. She expertly shared the processes, agreements, and routines that parents, students, and staff go through as they create a safe environment for students. A couple things that I thought were really interesting were students choosing teachers to teach them different things, student created advice/resource columns, and student/parent surveys. Kate came into teaching with a background in neuroscience so it was interesting to hear her describe some of the behaviors I see in my classes every day. Her description of the ‘invisible audience’ in adolescence struck a chord with me – and I was relieved to read that it is not only teens who have that experience. Her discussion also made me think of the role of culture in relationship education. In Korea, there is a thing called nunchi, which is described as a type of emotional intelligence, or a method of gauging the emotions of those around you, that affects your behavior. As an American married to a Korean, I’ve been told I have no nunchi hundreds of times – not better or worse, just different, is my response.  This presentation opened my eyes to the teenage brain quite a bit and highlighted the avenues I need to go do down as I strive to understand the engimatic sixth grade mind.

Session 5

Next up was Dan Long’s presentation titled ‘Cross Cultural Identity of Local Student Enrolled in Western International Schools‘. I learned a lot from this that pertains specifically to my school as it is dominated by host-country nationals, or local students. Dan’s work helped me look at the gates of my school as bridge between two worlds that is not completely Korean, or completely western. As Dan went through his work, I connected to the growth of a third ‘on-campus’ culture to the life cycle of pidgins and creoles. While parts of their own fascinating field of study, pidgins and creoles are types of languages that emerge as a result of cultural/linguistic interaction between groups of people. Pidgins are auxiliary languages made by combining pieces of both languages; creoles are the languages that the children of pidgin speakers speak as their native language. What is amazing is that the creole these children speak has its own grammar that is more closely related to other creoles than the languages the parents of the children speak. I can’t help but think that this describes the uniqueness of my school culture – not Korean, not western, something different. Perhaps, as creoles bear a stronger resemblance to other creoles than their parent languages, the culture of third culture schools resembles other third culture schools more so than the culture of students and teachers. So much to think about and so many questions after Dan’s presentation – glad I got his email.

Session 6

Next, I had to shake a leg to make it over to the Magellan in time for ‘First Steps Towards Transforming Your Classroom‘ with Kim Cofino. The presentation introduced several models used to understand the function of technology in the classroom. The first model introduced was SAMR, which stands for substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition. Reflecting on SAMR, I labelled most of my classroom tech as augmentation or modification. I haven’t reached the point yet where a tech tool allows me to create something that would be impossible to do without tech, but it is something I look forward to discovering. Actually, the use of SNS in the classroom (twitter in the classroom) would be difficult without tech. Is this redefinition? Kim’s slide helped me to visualize where I would like to be as an educator. I’d like tech to transform and redefine what my students do as much as possible, but substitution and augmentation will always be part of my class because they make the class more efficient and save paper. The TPACK visual helped me to gauge my own understanding and think about how it affects my decision making when lesson planning. Kim shared her blog during the presentation and I highly recommend visiting and bookmarking.

Day 3

I showed up to the Saturday morning keynote unsure of my plans for the day. After listening to Aaron and Kaitlin Tait’s ‘Edupreneurs: Changing the World from the Classroom’, I decided to follow them the rest of the day and attend all three of their presentations. I learned so much that it all belongs in its own post.

I’m still mentally unpacking all I’ve learned during the conference and already looking forward to next year.

Thanks for reading!