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!

Flipboard Magazines with Google Docs

Two years ago, our language arts class tweeted photos explaining text-to-world connections while reading The Giver. That was an eighth grade class well versed in social media. This yescreenshot_2016-12-12-23-20-47ar I teach sixth grade and though Twitter doesn’t enforce their age requirement of 13, other social networking services like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram do enforce theirs. As a result, social media is still a few years away from most of my sixth graders – I’m not complaining!

Creating a Flipboard magazine from the student tweets was simple. All I had to do was assign a unique hashtag for the assignment, search for the hashtag in Flipboard, and flip the results – simple.

It’s not so easy this time, but I’ve found a solution that I want to share.

  1. Clean up the Google doc: Things like paragraph spacing and picture placement can make the post look odd if it’s not done right. What I’ve found is that tabbiscreen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-26-28-pmng the beginning of each paragraph and keeping pictures in line with text work best. Make sure the title of the document is the title of the article and that student last names are removed.
  2. Publish: Click ‘File’ and ‘Publish to web’. This will open a window that gives you a link to the published document. Copy and paste link to open the published document.
  3. Flip it!: To complete this step, you’ll need the Flipboard + Flip It Google Chrome extension – get it here. Once you’ve added the extension to Chrome, click the extension to add the published document to your Flipboard magazine.
  4. Enjoy: Now that your published Doc has been added to your Flipboard magazine, you can share it with your students and colleagues.

Our students wrote newspaper articles loosely based on research they had done to create a video for the worldof7billion.org student video contest. Since they submitted their articles in Schoology via Google Drive, I can make a copy of the original documents to ‘clean up’ and then publish.


Storified Twitter Chain Stories

“In the depths of New York City, on top of the Empire State Building, a creature rested.” This is the first line of @ manyvoices, a Twitter story written collaboratively by 140 elementary and middle school students across 6 countries. The story began with Mr. George Mayo, a teacher in Washington D.C., and was eventually edited and published. You can find a free pdf here.

We are using a similar model in our 8th grade language arts class to begin our unit on creative writing. the major difference between @manyvoices and our assignment is that Mayo created one twitter account for all contributors to share while we are using hashtags to collect and present the story using Storify. The hashtag and Storify make it easy to publish the finished stories, but we lose 11-12 characters.

Here are the instructions we gave to students:



Once all of the students tweet, it’s easy to search for, and individually drag them into the story.

storify main editing page

The above screenshot shows Storify’s main editing page. The menu on the right-hand side allows you to search for many different types of content. For our story, I clicked on the twitter icon, then typed in the the hashtag for the class I was working on.


Here you can see that my search grabbed all tweets containing the hashtag I had specified. Since the hashtags for each class are unique, the search doesn’t grab anything unrelated. From here, you can drag the posts into the main story. I think it’s easier to drag them individually since they show up with the most recent first, which is actually the final tweet of the story.

The next step is publishing the story. After clicking the publish button at the top of the page, you can change the way the story is displayed.


Clicking the template button brings up this menu. Here you can choose the way your story will be displayed. We chose the slideshow because it worked best with the way we wanted to read the finished story in class.

Here is what it looks like:

storify slideshow

Since most of the students hadn’t read their entire story, or the stories from other classes, reading them together was truly a fun experience, as you can see here:


Our next step is to do another story with the entire 8th grade. From there, we may ask other classes to join, as Mr. Mayo did. Another thing I really like about this is that we can use the tweets to focus on language. Eventually, we’ll use them to create editing exercises that we can do as a whole class or in small groups.





Reformulating Second Language Writing

The English proficiency level of the students at my current school varies greatly. This presents a challenge when dealing with corrective feedback on writing assignments because we don’t know exactly what each of our students knows; we know what they were taught in 7th grade (I teach 8th grade), but with new students coming in all the time, it only helps so much. Corrective feedback on structural and/or grammatical topics the student has never learned gets them nothing except more confused, as it does with oral correction. We needed a way to help the student notice their errors, provide corrective feedback, and NOT overwhelm them with a page or red ink.

The answer to our question was first presented in 1978 by Levenston. I wasn’t around then, but it was a great year – Darkness on the Edge of Town and Van Halen were released, so ‘reformulation’ is in good company. Reformulation is when a native speaker rewrites a student’s piece of writing. The native speaker writes to make the piece sound more natural, making organizational and grammatical corrections while preserving the content of the original text. For more information on the history of reformulation and present status of reformulation research, read “Reformulation, Noticing, and the Development of L2 Academic Writing” by Jackie Dannatt.

We chose to use this technique with our struggling writers because it is naturally scaffolded and student-centered (Reid, 1994, Cited by Tardy, 2006). As you can see in the example below, we ask the student to do several things. First, they have to identify the change and write the original text and reformulated text in the table. Next, they have to describe the change. What I like about this is that it allows all students to comment on the change. The student could say something like ‘moved words’ or ‘fixed fragment’, depending on how much they understand. Finally, they have to check yes or no to let us know if they understand the change. This will help us plan follow-up support for the student, in groups or individually.

wp_essay reformulateAfter getting the completed tables back from students and doing this on future writing assignments, we’ll be able to plan more appropriate practice as students pre-write and draft.

I’ll be updating this post in the next few weeks with some samples of the completed tables so please check back.


Levenston, E.A. (1978). Error analysis of free composition: The theory and the practice. Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 1–11.

Tardy, C. (2006). Appropriation, ownership, and agency: Negotiating teacher feedback in academic settings. In K. Hyland & F. Hyland (Eds.), Feedback in second language writing: Contexts and issues. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Grade 8 Language Arts, Twitter, and our First Flipboard Magazine

Setting up Twitter

In this post, I will describe how we are beginning to integrate Twitter into our 8th grade English Language Arts classroom. We introduced Twitter just last week, and it is the first time to do so for both myself and my co-teacher. Fortunately, we have tech specialist TechGirlAsia (@jena_simon) to share her expert knowledge and guide us. Thanks, Jen!!

The first thing we did was create a class account. I created a Gmail account for the class that both teachers share. I didn’t want our email accounts to blow up with Twitter interactions, and since Gmail allows us to collect mail from separate accounts, it seemed like a good idea – so far, so good. Second, we created the class twitter account and set up the twitter profile. We used fotor.com to create our header photo. I take lots of pictures during class and threw a few together on fotor and fit them into the 1500 x 500 header.

The next step was a bit more challenging to figure out. We needed a way to constantly monitor what goes up on our feed. At first, I thought it would be great to follow all of the students, but this would result in a feed full of K-pop and ‘fandom’ posts (what is fandom?) since many students are already Twitter users.



“A kingdom of fans, Mr. Bill!!!” shouts a student who has 3300 Twitter followers. It’s true. Anyway, to easily manage what shows up in our feed, we followed Techgirl’s advice and didn’t follow any of our students. Instead, we use hashtags to get student tweets on our feed. To do this, we had to use another program – Tweetdeck in Chrome and Tweetcaster for Android. What these programs allow us to do is follow a hashtag. This can’t be done in Twitter alone, which is unfortunate because I am now getting notifications from two apps. They work by saving a hashtag search in some form of a column. For example, our first Twitter assignment is shown below.

twitter1 edmodo


In this assignment, we ask students to tweet a picture of something from their lives that connects to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. All students tweet using the hashtag #ais8giver. This is a unique hashtag that we created specifically for this unit. Now, when students tweet their picture, it shows up in Tweetdeck or Tweetcaster in the saved search column. From here, all I have to do is retweet so it will show up on my feed.

giver connex


The class feed ends up looking like this:

asi8ela feed giver

Here, you can see that these were retweeted by @ais8ela. This gives us complete control over what goes on and stays on the wall. Of course, a student could still post to our feed by adding @ais8ela to their post. In that case, we have to edit, retweet, then delete.

This is where we are right now. Our first assignment is due on Monday and Tuesday. It’s working pretty well so far, and I will keep updating this post as we attempt to do more cool stuff with Twitter in the classroom. Thanks for reading!


Publishing Student Work

Students were pleasantly surprised when I shared a digital magazine I had created with Flipboard consisting of their tweets. They thought that the assignment had ended the moment they tweeted their picture. Creating the Flipboard magazine wasn’t too hard, but there were a few things I learned along the way about digital citizenship and internet safety that need to be mentioned.

As soon as TechGirlAsia opened my eyes to the possibilities of Twitter in the classroom, I was off to the races. In less than a day, I had all of my students signed up to twitter and an assignment ready to introduce. I overlooked a few things that caused some extra work later on in the process.

After creating the first magazine, I realized that each post included their full names (a no-no) and that the posts contained too many language errors. To keep the students’ identities anonymous, I had to retweet once again and delete the @student name. This puts the tweet in the class feed anonymously, as shown here:

anonymous post

Second, to deal with language errors in the post, we did two things. First, we practiced writing tweets by hand in class and had students edit each other’s tweets. Second, We analyzed and edited a few tweets as an entire class.

In addition, during the process of retweeting, I edited the tweets myself. To follow up on this, I asked students to find my edited tweet and compare it to their original tweet. Next week, they’ll bring in a short paragraph explaining the changes I made.

Now, onto Flipboad.

Creating the magazine in Flipboard is very simple for a few reasons. First, Flipboard allows the user to search for hashtags. After logging in, click on the search icon (magnifying glass) and insert the hashtag you’ve created for your assignment.


Click on ‘Tweet mentioning #______’. Flipboard will give you all of the tweets that have that hashtag. Next, look for the small + icon in the corner of one of the tweets, or long-press the tweet and click ‘flip into this…’


You will be prompted to add the post to an existing magazine, or create a new one. Keep in mind, if you have a few magazines there will be pages here, and the ‘new magazine’ option is not on the first page.


Once you click ‘new magazine’, you can add the title and subtitle for the magazine, and set the category and sharing options. Now you’re digital magazine is ready to be shared. A cool thing I figured out accidentally is that adding @Flipboard to your tweet when you share the magazine creates a link directly to Flipboard from the tweet. Awesome!

Here is our final product:


Also, long-pressing one of the articles within the magazine will bring up the options that allow you to promote one article to the cover. Our main man Jazz deserves the cover for his great tweet.






Classroom Interactions: from post-grad to middle school

My career changed direction a bit in the last year. I went from training post-grad English teachers in Korea to teaching middle school in Vietnam. Having little experience in the middle school classroom, I worried that the methodology I had spent eight years with would leave me useless in a class full of 12 and 13 year-olds.

Fortunately, I found that the methodology, which formed the foundation of my development as a teacher and the program I spent eight years in, required little modification to be effective in the middle school setting.

Here is a clip of me introducing a literature circle assignment to an 8th grade class. I’ve annotated the clip to show the thought processes related to classroom interaction that go on while I’m teaching. I welcome all feedback, both positive and negative.