BGL’s LingoLoop Partners with IRC to Give Free English Lessons to Refugees

BGL has been using technology to deliver quality English instruction to Asian classrooms since 2007. Last year we started a new consumer-facing venture – LingoLoop – that provides online English tutoring. Our small-group classes are based on the Socratic method; as students answer questions, the tutor transcribes their responses, fixes grammar and syntax, and introduces relevant vocabulary. This method captures very well the concept of learning by doing.

An unexpected byproduct of this method is an authentic and sometimes profound human connection. The questions we ask are fairly simple, but in today’s increasingly partitioned society, they are questions that do not often get asked. Who decides which music plays in the car while you’re driving? How is your life different now than it was five years ago? In your home country, what are the easiest jobs to get? What about the hardest? The cultural exchange is fascinating because learners in LingoLoop classes tend to be from different countries.

LingoLoop learners feel motivated to learn partially because of this human connection. The progress that they make helps them in all facets of their lives as they adjust to living in a new country. It is in this light that we are proud to announce our partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the launch of our pilot program to offer free online English lessons to refugees. 17309122_1916219465275804_2239278047516257832_n.jpg

The IRC is the leading humanitarian organization dedicated to the cause of refugees. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.

In cooperation with the IRC’s Los Angeles office (IRC-LA), we are offering free online English classes to refugees who are in the process of resettling in Southern California. Refugees will have an opportunity to learn English from LingoLoop’s expert tutors and interact with other LingoLoop customers in our small-group classes.

As a company dedicated to empowering people through education, we are extremely proud to help realize the dreams of those greatest in need. Aspiring to become a double-bottom-line enterprise, we hope that this pilot will evolve into a core part of our business over the long term.

#RefugeesWelcome

 

 

 

 

8th Grade Students Meet Rocket Scientist; Use Physics and Economics to Design Cars

The following was published in Tsai Hsing School’s bimonthly magazine as written by BGL:

Just a few years ago, self-driving cars seemed like science fiction. Now, Uber provides self-driving cars for public use in cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Google just announced their new fully-automated car company called Waymo. Given this recent progress, we can only imagine what cars of the future will be able to do.

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That’s exactly what Tsai Hsing’s 8th Grade Bilingual Program students did in the Car Design Project for their Distance Learning class. Students explored physics concepts while letting their imaginations run free to design automobiles with innovative features. Concepts that the students explored include acceleration, friction, traction, and aerodynamics. For each element of the car – from materials to fuel sources to shape – students worked in groups to apply what they learned to a design they felt would compete for automobile sales in a free market.

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At the start of the project, students interviewed a real-life aerospace engineer, John Morelli. As a Structural Analysis Engineer, Mr. Morelli tests other engineers’ designs to determine if they will be successful or not. Specifically, his team determines if a design will blow up! He explained how large teams of people work for a long time to engineer things like airplanes, missiles and rockets. Students were surprised to learn that his current project would take up to five years to complete, even with over 200 people working together!

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Students then designed their cars. Every student had a role in the group: Leader, Engineer, Writer and Artist. These roles are similar to what is required to design a product in the real world. The Leader made sure everyone else did their jobs. The Engineer became an expert in science and led the application of physics concepts to the design. Meanwhile, the Writer took notes and wrote the team’s plan. Finally, the Artist drew the car according to the Engineer’s design and created a model that would entice consumers to buy the car. Everyone then worked together on create a “Sales Pitch,” which is a presentation that salesmen give when they are trying to sell a product.

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Teams accounted for motor & fuel, frame materials, body type, and tires when making their design. Each car was rated in four areas: speed, safety, green (environmental impact), and cost. Like in real life, teams needed to prioritize one of these factors over others. For example, if students wanted a very fast car, they had to either choose an inexpensive conventional motor with bad environmental impact or an expensive electric or hybrid motor like the ones used by Tesla. If they wanted a green car, they needed to choose between slow, inexpensive engines and fast, expensive ones. If they wanted a safe car, the needed to choose between inexpensive but slow and heavy materials or one that are expensive but fast and light. And, they needed to make these decisions using their knowledge of science.

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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An example of student work:

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For example, when examining material types, students had to apply their knowledge of chemistry to understand the difference between aluminum, steel, titanium and carbon fiber. While carbon fiber looks cool and is super strong, it’s very expensive. But some teams built it into their designs to make their cars safer, thinking that consumers would pay extra for the safety and fuel efficiency.

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To decide on a body type for the car, students learned about aerodynamics. Students understood intuitively that a sports car cuts through the air to go fast while a SUV sacrifices speed and beauty for safety (whereas a crossover tries to accomplish both!).

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Finally, while choosing tires, students considered both the materials as well as the type of traction. Although it may be fun to have the soft rubber sports tires, they wear out so quickly that they’re very expensive and bad for the environment.

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Near the end of the Car Design Projects, students went on a Field Trip Live to the California Science Center where they were able to direct Teacher Seth to exhibits that illustrate the physics concepts they used in their project. Students were able to see a comparison of types of materials, watch aerodynamics in action, and move a small solar powered car with the power of a light bulb. They used this new information to change or confirm their car designs.

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After visiting an exhibit about alternative fuel types, Teacher Seth answers Jacky’s question, “Can cars add wind power in the future?”

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Will asks David, “What is the coolest car you’ve ever seen?” David wows the class when he tells us about the exotic Pagoni car, which he once saw on the streets of Los Angeles. They can cost up to $4 million USD!

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The final step of the Car Design Project was the “Sales Pitch.” Each group prepared a presentation and had two minutes to convince their classmates that their car is the best. Each group chose an unique designed that was customized for a particular audience. In the end, Izzie, Wendy, Lauren and Tamia worked together to create the best car design. Congratulations! And a job well done to all of the hard working students in 801.

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BGL Teachers Rock “Parent Day” in Kunshan, China

Parent Day in Asia is a big deal. The endless preparation on the part of teachers and administration can almost make us lose sight of how important it is to show parents the best of what we can do. This rehearsed display can seem trite but is essential to parents developing their trust in us. In this way, there is profound satisfaction in a job well done. Seeing firsthand parents’ heartfelt pride in their children (who, we must admit, often feel like our own) can make it feel almost like the coming together of a long lost family.

Beautiful winter paintings adorn the window of Teacher Danielle's classroom and are reminiscent of the tree-lined streets of Kunshan.

Beautiful winter paintings adorn the window of Teacher Danielle’s classroom and are reminiscent of the wintry tree-lined streets of Kunshan.

Parents, teachers and students play in XingKong's plentiful play-yard.

Parents, teachers and students play in XingKong’s plentiful play-yard.

Teacher Allison plays an English game with her students while parents happily observe.

Teacher Allison plays an English game with her students while parents happily observe.

What made this Parent Day 2016 extra special at XingKong, our kindergarten in Kunshan, China, was the collaboration displayed between our BGL teachers and their local Chinese partner teachers. When you lack a common language it is very hard to establish a functional working partnership. Our teachers had already done so to varying degrees, but with the shared vision of a successful Parent Day they employed all the tricks to get it done right – Google Translate, human translators, and even good old-fashioned pantomime.

Chinese local teacher, Sienna, rallies her troops while playing a game outside.

Chinese local teacher, Sienna, rallies her troops while playing a game outside.

The result was nothing short of fantastic. Each teacher – Chinese and American – not only planned an effective and engaging lesson, but they also helped each other deliver the content in a way that laid the foundation for a smooth and supportive partnership moving forward.

Teacher Halley models a conversation with two students while parents listen in.

Teacher Halley models a conversation with two students while parents listen in.

Chinese local teachers deliver a lesson about environmental protection - partially aimed at educating parents.

Chinese local teachers deliver a kindergarten lesson about environmental protection – partially aimed at educating parents.

We even had our share of music! Teacher Will busted out his banjo, while the requisite Chinese line dancing (in one instance to Juanes’s La Camisa Negra, which is, surprisingly, a local favorite) was a predictable hit for all the parents.

Gotta love Chinese line dancing.

Gotta love kindergarteners line dancing.

Credit must be given to our team in Taipei, Taiwan as well for their expertise and hard work presenting their very best for Parent Day at Tsai Hsing, where BGL teachers work with both kindergarten and elementary school students.

Are you (or is someone you know) thinking about teaching abroad? If so, check out our available jobs in China and Taiwan – complete with immediate openings! We are an excellent network of accomplished teachers and we are always looking for like-minded talent to join our team.

We Love Classcraft! A BGL Review

Here at BGL, we love Classcraft! It’s a free classroom management system a la Class Dojo but with deeper options and a fantasy-based theme that the students really enjoy.

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One great element is that a given student’s avatar can “die,” which sounds a bit violent for a classroom setting until you consider a few things:

  • Students are organized into teams and there are disincentives built in to the other team members if one of their teammates dies. In other words, students HAVE to help each other in order to avoid team-wide consequences.
  • The teacher can customize the penalty for death with creative consequences that can otherwise benefit the class.

The latter bullet point is the subject of the following video in which Teacher Travis introduces Classcraft to his 5th grade class via distance learning. Please enjoy! Our students definitely do.

 

The teacher dashboard allows multiple views of the class with varying degrees of detail. It also makes it easy to reward/punish groups of students or the entire class at one time with just a few clicks.

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Another element we enjoy with Classcraft is “Today’s Event,” a randomized act that may or may not affect multiple student accounts at one time. It’s akin to some of the squares on a Monopoly board where rewards or consequences are doled out simply for having been in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

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Almost everything in Classcraft is customizable. From a student perspective, they can customize their avatars and earn the ability to unlock special wardrobe elements and skills. The teacher, like with Class Dojo, can customize the rewards and consequences to target specific class behaviors.

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Given this level of customization, there is definitely a learning curve. It seems a bit unwieldy and user-unfriendly at first, but most tech users will find it to become second nature after using it for a short amount of time. Like with most things in teaching, consistency is key – the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.

Teacher Chad’s Top 5 Funniest Classroom Moments While Teaching in Taiwan

Teacher Chad is an astoundingly popular teacher at Tsai Hsing and recently decided to stay at the school indefinitely past his two-year contract.

(Check out his GoFundMe for his upcoming service trip to Tanzania with some of his BGL colleagues, and please give if you can!)

Perhaps one reason that Teacher Chad decided to stay on are the top five funniest things that have happened to him since he started teaching in Taipei. To boot, here is our latest blog post:

Making the decision to move to a new country alone to pursue your teaching career can be one of the scariest decisions a person can make!!! There are so many questions. My major fear was thinking about what were the kids going to be like. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them or to get my ideas across. I quickly learned that this would not be an issue and that, generally speaking, kids all over the world are pretty similar to each other. I observed them playing all the same games that kids in the States play. I also learned quickly that, much like America kids, Taiwanese kids say and do some of the funniest things. Here is my top five list of the funniest things I’ve received from students.

Number 5 – Just like in America, parents have no secrets from teachers. Students feel the need to share everything with teachers, no matter what!

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Number 4 – They understand how love and economics  sometimes can mix.

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Number 3 – even with a class of third graders, you always have the one kid who was born to have fun. IMG_1426.JPG

Number 2 – There is always that one student who is a wise guy and gets his witty jabs in wherever he can.

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Number 1 – No matter what the student does, an apology note can make it so much funnier. I had one experience where a student thought it’d be funny to punch me. The problem was his height. I received an illegal punch below the belt, but the apology note had me laughing for days.

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I’ve learned so much in my two years abroad and am so happy I took the chance to come and travel the world. I would recommend it to anyone who feels like they are missing something in their daily lives. Teaching abroad and traveling has been one of the greatest experiences in my life.

And, the kids are very sweet too.

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See Teacher Chad’s blog post from last year about Children’s Day in Taiwan. It’s one of our most popular of all time!

And, if you or someone you know wants to teach abroad, please check out our open job listings at banyangloballearning.com/employment.

Teacher Jane’s Summer in Taiwan

As summer approaches, BGL would like to share Teacher Jane’s video about her experience teaching abroad at Tsai Hsing School in Taipei, Taiwan in the summer of 2015.

 

If you or someone you know would like to teach abroad, please see our open positions at banyangloballearning.com/employment. We have elementary and kindergarten level teaching positions available at esteemed schools in both China and Taiwan. We offer a competitive salary and package that includes furnished housing (nice apartment), insurance, airfare, and a longevity bonus. Most importantly, we are a network of excellent teachers who support each other throughout the teach abroad experience.

Apply today by sending a resume and cover letter to info@banyangloballearning.com.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.