Halloween in China: Kindergarten Ghostbusters Dance Off

The teachers, students and parents at our kindergarten in Kunshan, China celebrated Halloween by dressing in costume and dancing in unison the famous Ghostbusters theme from the 1980s. Of course they did!

BGL Teachers Mike, Heather and Lucas led the groups not only with excellent dance skills but also superior costume-ability.
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And here’s a shot of Teacher Ashley celebrating the holiday with Batman himself at our kindergarten in Taiwan:

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How did your students celebrate the holiday abroad? Leave a comment below! And, Happy Halloween!

BGL’s 7th Graders Write Travel Fiction in English

BGL is very sad to say goodbye to one of our best DL teachers, Teacher Christal. She has worked with us for the past six years and has been an invaluable member of our team. This blog post is not only her farewell but an illustration of her talent in the classroom and the passion with which she approaches her craft. She will be missed, and we wish her well!

The following is a report from her:

Here at BGL we love assessments that aren’t spelled t-e-s-t. We believe that creative projects can most often better show what a student has learned than any single high-stakes exam. Along those lines, many of our final projects – like this one at the end of a unit on modern countries of the world – take the form of presentations. Many of the students in test-obsessed Taiwan might find an exam to be an easier endeavor, but speaking in front of group is a great way to improve an acquired language.

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Our first writing project in 7th grade at Tsai Hsing this year was to create a PowerPoint presentation using the fantasy genre.  I read them a fantasy story called, “My Father’s Dragon.”  This story allowed them to learn the different components that a fantasy story must contain.  After we read the story, the students worked in class to create their own fantasy stories. They worked independently and in collaborative settings. I then had video conferences with my students to go over their writing projects.

bgl4Students presented their PowerPoints to the class. They also added dialogue and voice to make their stories come alive. The results were awesome!

The next writing project involved writing a travel book.  We first read a travel book created by our BGL staff about a Tsai Hsing student traveling through the United States. This allowed students to see the structure of a travel book. Students then selected a location and wrote a fiction, non-fiction, or informational travel book. They included five components in their presentations: introduction, history, culture, personal thoughts and conclusion. This project was also research-based, so students had to provide the websites where they obtained their information.
bgl6Students also presented their travel books to the class. Their stories were from places such as the Republic of the Congo, California, Australia, Transylvania, and Paris.  Some students shared personal family trips and were excited to share their adventures!

Writing can be a challenge for most students; the key is to make it engaging. My students were able to work together to create some beautiful writing projects this past year. Please take a look at some of the best ones here:

LegoLand Travel Book-Non-fiction

The food apocalypse-Fiction Fantasy Story

Travel Book-Paris

Travel Book-Fiction

Travel Book-Non-Fiction

Travel Book The Cloud Island- Fiction

Table Top Mandarin with Teacher Mike

My name is Brittany Michael and I’m euphoric to be a new employee of BGL this year. I am part of the team in Kunshan, China and moved here a little over two weeks ago.
Teacher Brittany, about town.

Teacher Brittany, about town.

Throughout the time I’ve been here, I’ve had the privilege of diving right into Mandarin under the tutelage of our very patient manager, Mike Maraghy.
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On Day 1 in China, Teacher Mike eagerly began teaching us all Mandarin. This was in addition to Mike’s heading up the English department at Xing Kong, the first school to be operated in China by BGL and Tsai Hsing. Mike works with and constantly translates for Xing Kong local teachers and administrators and  prepares the American teachers to teach the BGL curriculum. He also manages the myriad details of our transition from America to living in China. My colleagues – Lucas, Courtney, Heather – and I marvel at how well Mike utilizes his Mandarin skills to communicate with school faculty and deal with the unexpected issues that arise when moving halfway around the world. We couldn’t be more grateful for his patience, perseverance and selflessness as we embark on this journey with him.
Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

Teacher Mike translates for Brittany and her local partner teachers.

When we began learning Mandarin, we had our first lesson on a legitimate blackboard within one of the classrooms of our school building. We discussed basic sounds, touched on vowels and went over a few vocabulary words.

Our second lesson took place in Mike and Lucas’s apartment as they have a beautiful, floor-to-ceiling window in their living room with a gorgeous view overlooking one of the many lakes and parks of Kunshan. Mike creatively used dry-erase markers to write all over the window as we reviewed the vowels we’ve learned and important phonemes that differ from English and then touched on a few new vocabulary words and useful phrases.

9229094_origIn between lessons, Mike checks our retention in real life contexts and points out Chinese characters when we see them. We make Mandarin lessons out of every opportunity: during our trips to nearby Shanghai, by interacting with locals, speaking to administrators and teachers at the school and recognizing characters on signs we pass when walking/biking around Kunshan. Our third Mandarin lesson took place at a local shop called Forrest Coffee. The place is quaintly filled with a variety of little succulents and one of the main workers, Yoku, is working on his English and enjoys practicing with us. Mike used the coffee table to write out our lesson for the day and, during our bike ride to the gym right after our lesson, we continued our Mandarin practice by shouting sentences, requests, vocabulary words and phrases back and forth (much to the delight of the locals walking or zooming past us on scooters; as if five Westerners on bikes was not already a spectacle!).
9008654_origOur fourth Mandarin lesson was written back at Mike and Lucas’s glorious window during the day of the angry Kunshan storm. The wind was incredibly vicious this day and the sky poured down rain as we munched on baozi and cha ye dan inside. With more days like this to come, we hope to continue to pick Mike’s brain as we enhance our abilities to truly connect with the local culture.
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First Day of School in Asia: Where Teaching Meets ComiCon

Never has it been so professional to wear a cape and a crown to your first day on the job.

In Asia, English teachers often dress up in costume to welcome students on their first day of school. The practice may seem silly to Westerners, but ironically the silliness is seen as a sign of respect on the part of Chinese and Taiwanese parents.

Along those lines, here are some pix from our first days in Taipei, Taiwan and Kunshan, China:

Elementary teachers in Taipei dressed like Minions... and took pictures with each student as they arrived!

Elementary teachers in Taipei dressed like Minions… and took pictures with each student as they arrived!

Kindergarten teachers on the first day of school in at BGL/Tsai Hsing's new campus in Kunshan, China.

Kindergarten teachers went with a regal theme for the first day of school in at BGL/Tsai Hsing’s new campus in Kunshan, China. They also gave out stuffed bears with golden capes filled with lollipops.

Kindergarten teachers at Tsai Hsing in Taipei, Taiwan.

Kindergarten teachers at Tsai Hsing in Taipei, Taiwan went for a superhero / princess vibe.

10 Ways for Time-Strapped Teachers to Keep Up with EdTech

Teachers who love technology (like we do!) always want to learn about the next best—and most useful—thing. Whether it be a burgeoning LMS, a free game site with built-in analytics, or an app students can use for creative projects, within the booming edtech world it can be difficult to wade through the tedium to get to the truly fantastic. So, we’ve developed some tips for keeping up with edtech without tearing your hair out in the process.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

1. SCHEDULE – 2-3 professional development events each school year to attend where you think you can get the most information and learn the most. (Great resources here and here.)

2. Keep an ongoing LIST of new apps, programs and resources you hear about.  Give some description after each listing so you can remember, generally, the purpose it serves. (Some of our favorites are: Zaption, Zeal, Formative, BrainRush, DragonBox, NOVA Elements App, GoodReader, Duolingo, and ClassDojo to name a few.) Make the list in Googledoc for collaborative input.

3. KEEP your entire team WORKING on research and testing new technology that is available. Organize a task list and be systematic about testing for maximum efficiency.

4. CONNECT WITH OTHERS – Keep an open dialogue with your team and with your personal learning network. What’s working and what is not? Some top hashtags to follow on Twitter are: #edtech, #edchat, #elearning, #ipadchat, #flipclass, #flippedclassroom, #iPadEd, #EdApps, #iPadClassroom and #mlearning.

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Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

5. Go with the “DOES IT STICK?” approach.  After your team starts testing something, ask yourself: “does it stick”?  If it stays on your radar, it’s probably worth keeping. If not, dump it and move on.

6. COMPARE AND CONTRAST… given there are so many apps and services now that serve similar purposes, choose the top two or three and test those against one another.  Have one of your employees try one and another employee try the other.  Have them take notes and then at the end, collect your team, compare the two and decide which to go with for the time being (A great general resource is the EdSurge EdTech Index which offers a multitude of categories and suggestions).

7. DON’T MIX testing and what your company is currently using at the time.  Implement after testing and decisions are made.

8. BE OPEN TO CHANGE – keep your eyes and ears open to what may be new, better, etc. If you stick with a given piece of tech for too long, you may find yourself quickly outdated and unfamiliar with new stuff that’s out there.

9. STEP BY STEP is the way to work through all the new ed tech options otherwise you could just feel completely overwhelmed and do nothing.

10. ENJOY THE PROCESS – Remember to enjoy the process! This should be fun, right??  Don’t get bogged down feeling it’s tedious work.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

So… how do you keep up? Write a comment below!

York, PA’s Weary Arts Group – A 4G Field Trip for Students of Shakespeare

There is perhaps no better way for students to dive into the art of theatrical performance than by studying the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare. While reading an adaptation of the comedy Much Ado about Nothing, BGL‘s 8th grade distance learning students explored the themes of the story while learning how to add expressiveness to their acting of the play’s scenes. This 4G Field Trip with the Weary Arts Group in York, PA brought the concept home for these students in a fun and informative way. Our gracious and dynamic hosts, Calvin and Dante, mesmerized the class with their performances, and the students were grateful to learn from some experts.
Thanks to Teacher Jackie for facilitating the trip and for creating short and long versions of the field trip video. See them below!
SHORT VERSION:
LONG VERSION: