Next Vista Project: Winners and Reflections

BGL‘s 8th grade students from Tsai Hsing School recently participated in the international Next Vista Competition. Next Vista inspires students to become teachers by creating informational how-to videos. Below, students reflect on the process and the media-development skills they refined through their Classroom Live experience. 

But first, let’s take a look at the video by Andria and Justin which won the competition! (And, you can see why.)

 

Here is Andria’s reflection on the process:

A few months ago, our teacher announced that all of us THSH DL students were going to participate in a global competition. The context, simply put, was to compete to see who could make the best “How to” video.

I remember when the teacher was explaining the rules to us. I could feel the cogs in my mind running, searching for what type of interesting thing I could do this time, searching for what idea could leave my classmates in awe. Such events always excited me; I liked to do my very best to see if I could surpass even more people than before when it comes to using my artistic talent. Seeing amazed, smiling, even shocked expressions always brought me unexplainable joy.

However, the grouping bothered me. I thought about being in a group alone, since I”d already decided on what I was going to do— an art tutorial— and it wasn’t easy to do it with others. In other words, I’d end up doing all the work if I was grouped.

By the end of the period, I was grouped with Justin, a boy with quite fluent English. He asked me if he could join me since he was sick of doing all the work during past projects, since he’s also the type to carry his teammates’ burdens on his shoulders. Not giving much thought, I accepted, letting him do part of the speaking in our video. Perhaps his voice could help our video, I thought.

This project contained three important steps, all of which I was confident of: drawing artwork, speaking English, and digital editing.

-Filming-

It took some pondering to find out where I could set my camera, or rather, my phone. Professional setup didn’t exist in our small home. My solution? Tape! Tape fixes everything and is the solution to everything. Yep, that’s right; I taped my phone onto my lamp, setting the camera to time lapse. My phone was on fire by the time I finished filming all my 40 minute art progress.

-Script-

While I did that at home, I wrote the script for the video at school. The teacher had opened a “Next Vista Storyboard.” I made sure that it was simple and easy to understand, so that people of all ages could understand, even the students in my class that hadn’t been learning English for long. I assigned Justin some lines to read, while I read the others, and the both of us spoke together during the opening and closing. We recorded in the Voice Memos app in the hallway to make sure there were to disturbances. Of course, earphones were required, and there was still a bit of background noises, but it got covered once I added the background music.

-Editing-

Next was the editing. I’ve edited videos for computer class, other competitions, PowerPoint homework that actually didn’t require so much work but I did so anyways, and just for plain fun, such as my sister’s birthday, so I was also confident in these abilities. I used Corel Video Studio, a software my sister downloaded in her computer long ago.

This software was professional but not too complicated, easy to understand and not hard to use. I’ve learned to use most of the abilities by clicking around myself and asking my sister for help in the past. After this event, I’ve gotten even more familiar with this software!

My account has multiple failed uploads I didn’t get to delete after submitting. One has misspelled captions. One has a missing credit. One has cut audio. It took a while to get a version I was content with, and it’s still imperfect. But of course, there’s no such thing as perfection, so I’m not worried! If perfection existed, we wouldn’t be able to improve after reaching the highest point. What fun would there be in that?

Thanks to all my free time, my strong determination, Google Drive, and the plug that was placed conveniently next to my computer (my phone kept running low in battery), it didn’t take long for my video to be finished.

I think a very crucial part of my success is how I loved what I was doing. I literally sat in front of my computer for a whole day with no rest, only editing the video, not being able to move, since I didn’t want to end my progress.

Of course, along the way, most of my classmates gave me funny looks when they noticed how hard I was working. They saw this assignment as “another one of those things” while I saw this as “an important opportunity.” Just this fact made me surpass all others. People just don’t understand the pride of gaining a new achievement. Until now, as I type this article nonstop, my classmates are playfully judging me as they take their break time.

I do not regret doing so though. Winning this contest made me very happy, and even until this day I think it’s one of my biggest achievements. I’m happy that one day, I’ll look back to this day, and I’ll think to myself, “Oh, I’m so glad I worked so hard on the contest during eighth grade.”

To the people who are working hard or going through a hard time, don’t stop just yet. I’m sure your hard work will pay off soon! What other people think isn’t important, your ambitions are far more important!

I will never forget this moment of my life.

 

And, here are some more reflections from the class:

Ring:

This time is our second time to participate this contest. This contest is about making a teaching video. We make a video of cheesecake. It is really happy that we can make a food video. Although it takes a long time to make it. But we learn that make dessert needs more patient. Making a cheesecake also spent a lot of money of ingredients and models. It is also needs focus of measuring the ingredients. But when you eat it in the very end you will get a sense of accomplishment. It’s really fun to make, but you should think about your budget is high or low.

 

Ryan:

What is the Next Vista competition? This contest is mainly about showing people videos that can teach you things. People could choose the article whatever they want. Example like, teaching people how to shoot a basketball. I have done a video about how to do push-ups. My teammate did many push-ups and I just recorded him. I thought it was a really easy job, but in fact it wasn’t. We had to make a credit and add words in the videos. The audio and volume need to make sure it’s clear and perfect. Although we didn’t get any reward, I am still happy with our video because we finally did it!

 

Sophia:

Next Vista competition is a competition of teaching videos. We can post any video that teach the watchers how to do something. My partners and I decided to make a video that is about how to make a bow.

First, we decided on what we will say, and what are our scenes about. I think this was the most difficult part, because it was hard for me to create something like a play. After we finished the script for the video, we started filming. Luckily, everything went well. My partner and I filmed quickly. Next, We added some subtitles, music and credits to make the movie more clear. Then we finished. During the filming, I think the challenge was that I deleted one section of the video! I decided to use the screenshot to film it again.

I am happy about my video, because I think it was clear. This video made me learn that being a teacher isn’t easy.

Field Trips Live: Holiday Round Robin

Flashing back to the holiday season, the following is a highlight reel of reflections from BGL’s junior high superstars at Tsai Hsing School. This special event was a multi-point Holiday Field Trip Live that connected the students live to teachers in North Carolina, Portland, OR, Los Angeles and Taipei simultaneously. In a brand new round-robin format, students moved digitally from room to room to hear personal reflections on December holiday traditions. 

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A critical component of BGL’s FTL model is to facilitate thoughtful activities after the trip so that students can synthesize and apply whatever they learn during the trip. The students chosen to share their work here showed great attention to detail, thoughtful word choice and a true showcase of their refined English skills!

Chadwick:

Christmas is an especially important holiday for Christians. There are lots of different kinds of ways to celebrate Christmas. Some people wear a Christmas hat and dress up. On the other hand, some people prefer to decorate a Christmas tree or even have a great big meal. Americans have some fascinating ways to celebrate Christmas.

First of all, some people in America get together and do special things. Some make cookies and others make a gingerbread. Some people even make a very big cake for their relatives. Others go out and have a big meal. Same as always, they have a long break and people go out.

Second, Americans help others. Sometimes if they have cookies or some small snacks that they cannot finish eating it, they give poor people their cookies. Some people even invite poor people to their house and celebrate with them.

Last, people decorate lots of things. People usually decorate their house to make their house bright and shiny. Most famous landmarks, such as Venice Canals, put some fantastic decorations to make people feel warm and delighted.

Christmas is a really big day you can spend time with your relatives or friends. You just finished my article. Why not go home and spend time with your favorite people from anywhere in the world and say “Merry Christmas” to them!

Vanessa:

On Christmas, Americans spend time having fun with their family. They have a Christmas tree, stockings, and lots of fun things to do together. They put lots of gifts under the tree for their children. The children think the gifts are from Santa and are excited about the gifts. Children put their stockings on their bedroom door for Santa to put gifts in. People sing Christmas songs with family to spread Christmas cheer. Some people bake cookies and make gingerbread houses with friends and family. Christmas sounds like it is so much fun, I would like to celebrate Christmas, too!

Henry:

Christmas is a well-known holiday in many countries. Today, there are many different ways to celebrate Christmas, not only sending presents. The Christmas tree is always a must on Christmas. Now, people buy artificial trees to replace real trees that were cut down. It is more eco-friendly and more convenient. You don’t need to go to the forest to cut down trees every year just use the same tree is appropriate. If you got the tree, the next step is to decorate it. Ornaments now are more choices not only balls and strings. You can put up your photos from young to old around the tree or write some wishes on a paper hang it up.

Some gingerbread on a cold day is a great enjoyment. Roll the dough and cut the shape you want with cutters. Caroling is also important on Christmas Day. Singing the traditional songs for Christmas is making the day better and more fun. Now, more people don’t send gifts to family members but homeless shelters. They don’t have a home or a family so it kind of you to send them some blankets or hot tea and cookies.

All in all, Christmas is a day of joy and love. Presents or gifts aren’t as important as you think if you do something more than you do normally. Try to celebrate your Christmas a different and fun way.

Amber:

Americans celebrate Christmas in different ways. Many Americans celebrate Christmas with their families or friends. They exchange gifts and eat dinner together. They put their gifts under Christmas trees or in socks on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas, they will happily open their presents. Some Americans will buy Christmas trees and decorate it. The decorations are warm and often have a big star on the top of it.

Some Americans make Christmas snacks, like gingerbread houses and candy canes. Christmas is a warm holiday to celebrate. Every American’s celebration is unique and can’t be replaced. All Americans have their own traditions, we should respect all of them.

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.

Staying Connected While Teaching Abroad: One Teacher’s Perspective

“…well, I guess you must have a touch of crazy in you to move to and live in China. But I think for some, that craziness comes in the form of strength and creativity; and in such cases, you flourish.”

During a recent semester-culminating professional development session at Xing Kong in Kunshan, China, I was asked to share with the group what I deemed to be my “happy place,” or the one time or place that I have felt “complete bliss.” Such a heartfelt question was a bit tricky for my notoriously restless soul, however my answer drew itself quite clearly: my place of happiness is not just one place at all, it is actually a feeling, an all-encompassing overwhelming that is so specific and so poignant that when it comes I get physical goosebumps. For me, nirvana is waking up and venturing out in a place that I have yet to explore, whether it be a city, village, campsite, or beach. Bliss is knowing that a truly unique moment is entirely mine and that in it, I am completely free. Euphoria is the temporary ownership of time and space to explore, get lost and indulge in all before me.

Personally, the sparkling manifestation of what my life was “supposed to look like” has evolved with changing hemispheres, nationalities and languages. I am now overtly aware that in order to balance unavoidable adulthood while simultaneously nourishing my gypsy-soul, I must have a career that allows both travel and financial stability.  This has become a reality for me while living in both Taiwan (previously) and now in China, both of which were with Banyan Global Learning schools. However, being disconnected from your everything at home while living abroad – and, more specifically, teaching abroad – is not always easy and  is even less glamorous. There are days of small triumphs and beautiful glimpses of the traceable footprint you leave behind in a culture that you will never fully understand… but there is also a creeping sense of isolation that comes with living a world away or “in the future” (as my friends in the States lovingly refer to it).

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Pudong, Shanghai Skyline

Yet, through my personal experiences I have found that much of that which is left behind stays constant as it is me who grows, changes, expands and blooms. It’s impossible to write of the excitement that ensues when you are able to plan a weekend get-away to Hong Kong or Macau, or a four-day excursion to South Korea or Singapore. In order to find honest contentment with your path and lose yourself in the adventure and constant wonderment of living abroad, it takes wrapping your mind around the fact that you won’t be gone forever (that is, if you don’t want to be).

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Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Thailand

One way to do this is by connecting with other expats, both at your place of work and while traveling throughout the region. Through my travels I have met some truly incredible people: explorers from all over the globe that wholeheartedly believe in and embrace the challenge of life outside of the norm; People that live and see life through a uniquely scoped lens; individuals that I admire, trust and love deeply.  The greatest gift has been meeting and loving this select group of wanderers.  They have taught me to believe in the truth and sanctity of every moment that surrounds me.  Through these relationships and the rare mirrors that they provide, I recognize the my undisguised vulnerability along with my softness to new experiences, rare cultures and unique souls. In a world where vulnerability is so quickly coupled with weakness, I choose to wear mine on my sleeve and to allow myself to be unrelinquishingly real. This, in turn, allows me to connect more genuinely with the people with whom I share these experiences.

So, as I sit here, in this lovely cafe in Xintiandi, a small pocket tucked away in the bustle of Shanghai, surrounded by locals and fellow nomads alike, I think back on and embrace the past five months of my life in China and the past 4 years working with BGL. I leave in the morning for Thailand – an adventure I have hoped for since I was a child – and then will be reunited with friends and family in the States for a few short weeks. Very few jobs that I know of offer such a substantial mid-year perk with time off to travel the globe and have your adventure-dreams come to fruition.

In retrospect, I now realize that the ultimate fortune in my adult-life came four years ago when I faithfully took a chance on a young Los Angeles-based company called Banyan Global Learning . I was promised an opportunity to teach internationally but did not realize the extent to which the experience would be defined by my connections to fellow travelers. It has indefinitely changed my life and how I see the world.
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Adorable K1 Students

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.

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: