Saturday, March 31, 2012

Choose An English School In Auckland For A Great Student Lifestyle

Auckland waterfront at nightAuckland waterfront at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Kris-Helena Ngau Chun

It makes a lot of sense to learn English in a city where it's the first language of the people living there.

One of the cities where you can study at an English school is Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. It is a small country with a population of just over four million. Students travel to New Zealand from around the world because of the beautiful scenery, great leisure time opportunities and friendly people.

Auckland is a large and busy city which is still very close to beaches, parks and plenty of leisure time activities. It's a great place for students and many international students love living and learning in this exciting and beautiful harbour city.

New Zealand is a friendly country and Auckland is its largest city. Many cultures are represented and everyone gets along pretty well. There are many tertiary study centres in the city from the university, the polytechnic and several international language schools. It is the home to students from all over New Zealand and from all over the world.

Accommodation options right in the centre of the city mean you can keep your transport costs down while you attend an English school in Auckland. You will also be close to all the fun and leisure activities that your friends are doing when class is out. The stunning beaches and gorgeous green areas in and around Auckland mean you can study outdoors and enjoy lots of fresh air when you are relaxing.

Auckland has a huge range of movie theatres, lots of shopping malls such as St Lukes and plenty of weekend markets such as Victoria Park Market in downtown Auckland. Students also enjoy the many lively bars and restaurants which are a big attraction for young people who like to relax after a busy day of study.

It's very easy to make friends in Auckland because it's a multicultural city with lots of young people who are all making the most of life. Public transport in Auckland ranges from great train and bus services to well built roads for those who prefer to drive or cycle. Of course if you live in the inner city, close to your English school in Auckland, you will save a lot of time and money by walking to your classes.

The weather in this coastal city is warm and mild. There a lots of beaches nearby, including Mission Bay and Takapuna Beach where you can participate in a wide range of water sports including swimming, water skiing and surfing. Many students enjoy taking boat trips out to see dolphins.

For those students who enjoy culture and history and want to learn about the country they are staying in, Auckland has some excellent museums, art galleries and tourist attractions including the impressive Sky Tower. If you like adventure, you can try bungy jumping, horse riding, jet boating, mountain biking and many other adventure sports.

Students who learn at an English school in Auckland are grateful for the chance to study in a busy inner city location where all the facilities are close at hand. It's clear that students who feel comfortable, happy and safe will do better at their studies.

Learn English in Auckland NZ with Eurocentres. Find out English Language courses here.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Girl Sent Home From School - Skirt Too Long

by Clea Caulcutt (, The Local:

A secondary school student near Paris was accused of wearing provocative clothing and sent back home. The school thought her skirt was too long, and conveyed religious values.

"Other students come dressed up as hippies or goths and nobody says anything," the girl, Khadija, told the French daily Le Parisien, "but I’m not even allowed to wear a gypsy skirt."

"If I had come to school wearing a veil I would have understood their reaction," says Khadija, who is a student at the Edmond-Rostand secondary school at Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône near Paris.

On Monday, Khadija was sent home from school for wearing a long skirt that, according to the school, conveyed religious values.

"It was a beautiful day, I wore a long skirt," says Khadija, "the headmistress told me I was being provocative and sent me home."

An official belonging to the local academic authority however denies Khadija was expelled from the school and says the skirt had only been "commented on".

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Irlen Syndrome - What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Simulation of dyslexic visionSimulation of dyslexic vision (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Diana Vogel

Irlen Syndrome is defined as a visual processing disorder that can mimic what people consider to be dyslexia and/or ADD/ADHD.

Discovered by Helen Irlen some 30+ years ago, Irlen Syndrome can be the leading cause of many learning difficulties.

People with Irlen Syndrome have a light sensitivity in the Visual Cortex - the part of the brain responsible for interpreting the light waves which make up the images we see.

For these people, certain parts of the light spectrum cause problems. When those colours are absent, reading and writing can occur easily. When the colours are present, the individual with Irlen experiences discomfort, fatigue, and a general feeling of 'this is all too hard'.

Basically, what happens is the images sent via the eyes to the brain travel through 2 nerves (4 in total - 2 from each eye). Normally, these 2 nerves fire at the same time sending an image which is in sync; crisp and clear for the brain to interpret. In Irlen Syndrome, one of these nerves fires at a slower rate causing the resulting images to be blurry and fuzzy - similar to looking at a 3 D TV screen without the 3 D glasses on.

This can create the sensation of words moving on the page (jumping up and down, moving left to right, swirling, fading in and out, etc) which in turn creates headaches, nausea and avoidance of reading and writing activities. For the child with Irlen Syndrome, learning to read and write can be a painful, sickening experience.

Who Has Irlen Syndrome?

By some estimates, Irlen Syndrome is present in up to 40% of the population to some degree. For some people, Irlen only shows up when they need to work with computers - the fluorescent back lighting of the screen causes eye strain, fatigue, headaches, irritability and/or nausea.

For others it is so pronounced that even a trip to the local shopping mall is fraught with danger. Driving to the mall, road signs move and swirl, depth perception disappears as cars seem to be either closer or further away than they really are, and traffic lights can be missed altogether. At the mall, the writing on shop windows swirl, dance, fade in and out and create the sensation of nausea, vertigo and in some cases sea sickness.

Irlen Syndrome tends to run in families. So if a child has Irlen at least one of the parents will also have Irlen.

Diana Vogel

Diana Vogel is a sought after tutor, educator and author who is passionate about teaching parents and their dyslexic children the life skills that they need to maximise their chances of success. The mother of 2 wonderful boys, one of which is dyslexic, Diana has seen both the positive and negative sides of the dyslexia coin.

To learn more about Diana and the work that she does go to

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finding The Right Home School Program

Homeschooling - Gustoff family in Des Moines 018Homeschooling - Gustoff family in Des Moines 018 (Photo credit: Maria Berry

There's no turning back now! We joined the ranks of the home school movement! We actually left behind the traditional brick and mortar school system. We did? Yikes! How the heck did I do this alone AND find the right path or "home school program" that was perfect for our family?

The biggest question was can I do this? Eek! I realized I was about to embark on a colossal voyage; full-time employment, full-time teacher, full-time mom! I'm so glad I didn't think how massive this thing was at the time (risking I'd chicken out once I realized the scope of this task all by my lonesome).

I just decided to move forward and wing it. I had a "Mom the Builder" attitude. Once I made my mind up, I declared "I CAN do this ... yes I CAN!" I was determined to move forward full speed and damn the torpedoes! I was resolved to stick with this as long as we were achieving positive results. We'd give it a year and make an assessment after that as to whether to continue.

Logistics and Research

A big factor we didn't consider, were the people in our life and whether they would support or interfere with this decision. We had to keep those who were unsupportive at bay. I was wise enough to understand, if we failed, we would have learned a valuable lesson and would be stronger from the experience. If we succeeded ... all the better!

The next thing I needed to address were the "physical logistics." Where to set up the "classroom" and a comfortable workspace, while keeping "distractions" to a minimum. We opted to convert the master bedroom into a home office/classroom. It was spacious enough for both our needs. I could set up daily lessons and continue on my own work. Plus, I would be right there to give guidance and aid when it was needed. A perfect fit!

With the initial concerns tackled, next was finding the right program. I conducted extensive research to see what was available. Wow! I had no idea there was so much information out there on home schooling and home school programs. So much so, that it was a bit overwhelming.

I didn't know which direction to head! I didn't know anyone PERSONALLY that home schooled their children. In fact, many of my friends and family thought I was insane! Their valid concerns were about "socializing". But it didn't stop us, because it felt right and I was open to implementing extra curricular activities to cover the "social" aspect.

I also contacted other families who had home school experience to get the pros and cons from their own journey. My internet research yielded all sorts of home school programs, including free and tuition programs, as well as Christian based curriculum programs. I had no idea there would be so much to choose from. I certainly had my work cut out for me!

After I concluded my research, we decided to try out the K12 program to see if it was the right one for us. It is an "accredited" chartered public school that provides all the tools found in a traditional brick and mortar public school arena. Over the years, they provided us (since the first grade) with a computer, printer, textbooks and the tools for each subject (science, math, literature, spelling, history, art and yes even music!).

When we received our first shipment, it was like Christmas! The support we continue to receive from the school is commendable AND because we had to relocate from Arizona to Nevada (for employment reasons) we did not have to change curriculum. K12 is available tuition free in both states!

Needless to say ... this was a great choice for us ... big time! My child excels in school, is a grade ahead of her peers and an honor roll student at the top of her class!

If home school is not the path for your family, but your child is struggling with school, you may wish to look into a tool that can help achieve better grades with the least amount of effort. For more information visit:

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

US Student Loan Debt Reaches $1 Trillion

dump the debtDump the debt (Photo credit: Friends of the Earth International)by Brian Koenig, The New American:

Constitutionalists and free-market economists claim that the idea that every high school graduate is entitled to a government-subsidized loan to attend a $30,000-a-year university is fiscally maniacal.

But unfortunately, it’s also a fiscal reality that has propelled college graduates into financial Armageddon.

Indeed, U.S. student-debt outstanding exceeded $1 trillion last year - according to new estimates released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) - potentially leading to further delays in home-buying and, in turn, an extended impasse on the housing recovery.

CFPB student loan ombudsman Rohit Chopra, for instance, asserts that "first-time home-buyers are a substantial part of the housing market," and "instead of saving for a down payment, these borrowers are sending big payments every month."

Bankruptcy attorneys are observing firsthand the calamitous rise in student loan debt, as a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys found that 81 percent of bankruptcy lawyers disclosed that the number of prospective clients holding such debt has inflated "significantly" or "somewhat" in the last three to four years.

The student debt debacle, which some experts are labeling the "next debt bomb," involves a coterie of malefactors. On the surface, the culprits entail a stale economy, rising interest rates, and persistently high unemployment.

Moreover, CFPB officials contend that such debt is rising because young Americans are returning to college simply to avoid the anemic labor market. These seem to be the logical - and more politically safe - explanations.

But despite what Washington’s entitlement-touting bureaucrats attest, that’s not the end of the story. It encompasses a much more complex plotline.

Predictably, government deserves much of the blame, as its intervention in the higher-education market has spawned a seemingly irreversible distortion that has led to increased tuition costs, and consequently, a monumental rise in student loan debt.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Common Errors in English for Non-Native Speakers: Countable and Uncountable Nouns

Possessive Nouns.Another Mistake Made When Using Nouns (Photo credit: elvis_payne)By Sarah Short

When speaking or writing English, we as native English speakers, automatically make our nouns countable or uncountable.

This division of nouns seems to occur only in English, which makes using nouns properly for non-native speakers rather difficult. The good news is that most nouns are countable so follow the normal rules. These are as follows:

Countable nouns can be counted, so can be used after the indefinite article a or an if singular or after some, any or the if plural. When asking about the quantity, the question words how many are used, and of course, the verb has to agree. So if you are talking in the present tense, you need to use the third person singular if you are talking about one of anything, e.g. There is a shower in the bathroom, but it doesn't work. On the other hand, if you are talking about more than one of anything, the noun would be plural and the verb would have to agree, e.g. There are some books on the table, but they don't belong to me.

When asking about quantity and the noun is countable, then you would always ask in the plural, even though you don't know what the quantity is and it might be one. For example, How many children do you have? I only have one child.

If we are talking about a general quantity, we can use few with countable nouns, e.g. There are a few cars in the car park. This means there are some cars in the car park.

Uncountable nouns cannot be counted so we have to use some or any, we cannot use a or an or a number. For example. Would you like some water? We also use how much if we are asking about the quantity. e.g. How much water do you want? A large glass full please. Uncountable nouns are always treated as singular, so the verbs have to agree. For example, This water is very good, where does it come from?

If we are talking about a general quantity with uncountable nouns, we can use little to mean some. e.g. There is a little wine left in the bottle.

Although there is no logic to whether nouns are countable or uncountable, for example, while vegetables are countable - how many vegetables shall we have with the chicken? fruit is uncountable - how much fruit would you like for dessert? However, there are some rules. In general all materials: glass, wood, metal, silk etc. are uncountable, as are all liquids and solids that are not normally counted: salt, sugar, rice, pasta etc. and meat, when it is being served is uncountable. How much beef would you like, one slice or two?

The difficult uncountable nouns have to be remembered, and there are many, but the most common ones are - advice, news, luggage, bread and information.

My advice is to note down in your vocabulary book any nouns which are uncountable and learn them.

If you want to learn English in England Tudor Hall, on the south coast, could be the perfect place for you. Tudor Hall School of English is a small, professional school that specialises in just three things; exam preparation, English for the real world and summer programmes for younger students (14 - 17). Our passion is our students' success.

To find out about our courses, visit Tudor Hall

Sarah Short
Tudor Hall School of English

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Technology In The Classroom

picture of an e-learning classroompicture of an e-learning classroom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Jason Gaya

In the field of technology, the word disruptive is used for a technology or innovation that brings about a radical change in the way a sector functions by introducing efficiency, affordability and convenience.

The technology revolution in the business sector is represented by the extensive use of smarter phones or web conferencing in American offices.

However, the impact of disruptive technology on the education sector is much higher. A wave of smart classes and e-learning has transformed the way education is delivered and pursued, today.

The presence of technology in classrooms makes the student an active learner instead of a passive one. The education system becomes more student-centric. The student can choose, manipulate and generate what he wants to study and how. The student himself creates the learning environment and the mode of obtaining lessons.

E-learning has made the education system more convenient and flexible. The student can learn through his own choice of platform. The role of the teacher also changes as he is no more the sole source of knowledge. He transforms into a mentor and is responsible for providing guidelines and resources to the students.

This system increases the self esteem and motivation levels of a student as he becomes an active participator in the whole learning process. It is known that a student learns more by hearing and visualizing than merely reading. The use of activity based audio visuals in the classrooms generates more interest in the lesson being taught.

E-learning portals make education available to those students who did not have access to it before. Different courses and methods are being accessed by students of all age groups at their own choice of time and place. It makes the whole education system more dynamic and learner friendly.

One of the challenges the system is facing is that its standard testing model is not adaptive to children's varied speed and ways of learning. Some students respond to the audio visual faster while for others the response time is comparatively slow.

However, the challenge can be transformed into an opportunity by the teachers. The teachers can use the traditional ways of teaching for regular teaching. The K-12 e-classroom methods can be brought into use simultaneously, depending on the different learning capacity of the students for example, to improve the performance of the weaker students.

The use of technology in classroom encourages creative and out of the box thinking in students, as it presents the monotonous lessons in a very interesting and innovative manner. The process intrigues and stimulates the students. Activity and project based learning is appreciated and encouraged.

American Universities were once considered the best in the world but are now striving to catch up on cost effectiveness with their global peers while delivering through the K-12 system.

The concept of smart class and elearning is a revolution in itself, making the education system of the country dynamic, efficient, student-centric and flexible. There are certain challenges, which are being dealt with and would soon be overcome with the introduction of newer technology, techniques and processes.

Media Contact (emPower)
Jason Gaya
12806 Townepark Way
Louisville, KY 40243-2311
Ph: 502-400-9374

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teaching Overseas: Understanding Benefits And Compensation

This is a photo of a public space in the cente...Public space in the center of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Chris A. Harmen

Teaching overseas is always an adventure, particularly if you're going to travel to a country where the culture and lifestyle is different than what you're used to.

In nearly all cases, you'll also be working for a government, education system or private company that isn't based on the American dollar and doesn't offer the same kind of benefits and compensation you may be familiar with in the United States.

In order to prevent unfortunate misunderstandings and be properly prepared to teach abroad, be sure to ask plenty of questions once the employer has extended an offer for you to become a part of their educational team.

Understanding Salaries

At first glance, many salaries seem incredibly generous even for overseas teaching positions, but look at the offer and be sure you've converted it to U.S. dollars to get a real feel for what your take home pay will be like. Ask the employer if there will be taxes and other required deductions from your salary before you receive your paycheck.

Your pay schedule is also crucial. Will you be paid weekly, biweekly or monthly? If you don't get your first paycheck until you've taught for a month, you will need to arrive in your host country with enough money to live comfortably for a month or more, depending on the lag between teaching dates and when an employer processes and mails out salaries.

In some countries, you will also be offered either company or government owned housing or a housing allowance. If you get an allowance for a rental, ask about any furniture allowance that might come with it.

Do some online research to determine if you'll be able to find safe, secure housing and appropriate furniture with the stipend you're offered. If your housing will be fully provided, it's likely to be safe, secure and comfortable and is one less item to take care of while you soak up the culture and teach your students.

Benefits Of Teaching Overseas

Most foreign countries hiring educators from the United States offer very good health insurance coverage that is equal or superior to typical employee benefits at home. Don't be afraid to ask questions, particularly if you're going to be relocating your family. Does the health care coverage include spouses and children? Is there a cap on the coverage for life-changing illnesses or accidents?

Review Your Teaching Contract Carefully

If you've been planning to teach abroad for a while now, it's tempting to sign on the dotted line when offered a contract, but don't do it without first reading through the fine print. Does your employer have to give you any notice before terminating your position? Is there a probationary period? If so, what is it?

Also read through any information regarding sick days, vacation days and other benefits. You'll find some countries have very different, and often generous, sick day allowances, some with full or half pay. It's always best to ask questions if something is unclear so that you know and understand any restrictions.

When an opportunity to teach in a foreign country is presented to you, being prepared and asking plenty of questions will help ensure you're accepting a teaching position that is a great fit for you and your employer.

AIDC has been instrumental in broadening the horizons of teachers through overseas opportunities for twenty years. Educators can teach in Abu Dhabi with great benefits. For more information on teaching in Abu Dhabi, visit their website.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Empowering Students: Add Choice to Assignments

Cinematographer Soumendu Ray teaching the studentsCinematographer Soumendu Ray teaching the students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Phil Tabernacle

Should students have a choice in what they learn and what work they do? The question reminds me of sitting in the doctor's office when I was a little kid.

Whenever I went to receive school shots as a child, I remember the doctor would always have me select from one of her two hands she held behind her back. In these hands held the fate of my morale, and somehow I had the amazing gift of consistently choosing the hand which held a square of bubble gum (I must mention that this was around the same time that I thought I had magical powers because I could fall asleep anywhere in the house and wake up in my bed the next morning).

The pain seemed to weaken with the promise of a thrilling Bazooka Joe comic. I bravely faced measles, mumps and rubella with the help of my impervious (delusional) sense of power at having just chosen the correct hand.

Reflecting on how I was given this special opportunity to choose as a child has made me think about the influence choice has on my students when brought into the classroom.

In today's world, "choice" as a positive is contested. Even when speaking in educational terms, choice can quickly divide a room. With this said, I'm going to suggest something that I feel is a bit less controversial, although I can already imagine objections similar to my own when my parents tried to tell me they had just been carrying me to bed.

Bringing Choice into the Classroom

Over years of creating projects and assigning essays to students, I've noticed that when given a choice, students tend to respond more positively. I started slow - students could choose a character in Of Mice and Men and decide if they were round or flat. I started loosening my grip on the gum and allowed students to choose a creative writing project over an essay.

This year, I've added multiple creative writing options, an essay, or a graphic organizer presentation which must be delivered to the class at the end of the unit. I'm not surprised that more students have completed this final assessment than in any year previous.

So let's break down the "gum" and "shots" in providing choice in assessments:

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Student Choice

The Gum

1. Students take ownership over a project (they can't complain that it's too difficult or too boring because they chose it)
2. They can demonstrate their knowledge in a way they feel they can succeed in. You also get to know your student's strengths by observing their choices
3. As a teacher, grading diverse projects is more interesting
4. Students are exposed to a variety of mini-lessons to support the work of the various projects

The Shots

1. Projects, while different, have to be equally rigorous and meet the goals set out at the beginning of the unit - this takes careful thought
2. Guidelines, supports and lessons must allow students to complete any or all of the projects which takes more time
3. Students won't choose to stretch themselves to practice and develop new skills. Everyone practices all the skills, but each chooses one to further develop

Despite the potential drawbacks, I find myself choosing choice more often these days, improving past projects and creating new ones. In order to make your students feel they have a say in the classroom, I suggest always having something they want in that hand behind your back.

Phil is a teacher and writes for Established by teachers, for teachers, offers educators recommended classroom tools, professional development, daily lesson plans, and education news. The website is dedicated to improving the quality of education and invests in the opinions of teachers when providing resources and support for both inside and outside the classroom.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Homework: Whose Problem Is This?

Computers are often used to complete homework ...Computers are often used to complete homework assignments. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Dr Patricia Porter

Parents who are stressed and exhausted by helping with homework feel that way because they make their child's homework their problem rather than their child's. And it needn't be that way!

Here are three things that you can stop doing right now so that the stress and exhaustion disappears.

Stop trying to 'teach' your child

You know the situation. Your child can't do the work that has been set so you try to show him or her how to do it. You end up 'teaching' your child - and this is so not your job! No wonder you get stressed.

Stop doing your child's work

Many parents are so hurried and anxious that they do their child's homework for them! Parents have stayed up late to get a child's project finished for a school deadline! Whose homework is this?

Stop nagging your child to do their homework

How many times do you remind your child that she has homework to do? Does she resent your nagging? I bet she does! You get stressed over something that is not your problem.

So what can you do to avoid the stress and to stop your child's homework being your problem?

* If you try to teach your child how to do the work chances are that you are not using the same method as the teacher - result - confusion. Tell the teacher. If your child is struggling to do his homework his teacher needs to know. For one reason or another your child has not learned how to do the work. It is his teacher's responsibility to make sure that he knows what to do. A good teacher will welcome being told that your child has a problem and will either reteach the lesson or give you some tips about how to help your child.

* If you are doing your child's work for him you are stopping your child learning. Homework is set so that your child practices or demonstrates what he has learned. If you do your child's homework the teacher is going to know how well YOU can do the work, not your child. Now, if you want to show how clever you are go ahead - just don't expect your child to get anything out of it! Discover why your child does not get their work finished. Is it too hard? Too boring? Takes too long? Once you know the reason you can do something about it.

* If you nag your child to get homework done you are stopping your child taking responsibility for their own learning, as well as risking your relationship with your child. Stop nagging! The more you nag the more you take away your child's sense of responsibility about their work. Your child stops thinking about when he has to do the work because he knows that you will remind him - again, and again, and again! Set up reasonable expectations around doing homework such as homework will be done straight after dinner or before anyone watches TV. Make sure that your child agrees to them, then expect your child to take the responsibility of keeping to them.

Remember, homework is not your problem. You have other things to worry about and to do. If you spend your time worrying about your child's homework these will not get done and your child will miss the learning opportunities only you can give him.

Homework is for your child to do - not you! Stop making it your problem and start doing things that will really make a difference to your child's school success.

If you want tips on how to do this sign up for my free CD and you will also get my newsletter full of tips on the right way to help your child succeed in school.

Dr. Patricia Porter believes that parents make the difference between a child who succeeds in school and one who does not. If you want to know how to help your child reach his or her full learning potential and have the life of their dreams download her free 'Parent Starter Kit' at

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Trainee Teachers' Guide To Teaching Practicum

"Teacher Appreciation" featured phot...Teacher Appreciation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Richard D Boyce

During your years of teacher training, you will have teaching practice in a real classroom. Your teacher supervisor will give you advice on what to do and where you need to improve.

However, it is important for you to set goals on how to expand your teaching capabilities during each practice session.

The strategies below are ways you can develop your teaching capabilities. They are not listed in order of difficulty. Each trainee teacher will have their own strengths and weaknesses. They need to take those into account when deciding the order in which the strategies are introduced into their planning.

Obviously, you cannot pursue all these strategies at once. Initially, select the ones you feel are easiest to attempt. Include them in your preparation and work out a way to assess how you incorporated them. Perhaps, you could ask your supervisor to comment on a particular strategy, e.g. using gesture to add meaning to what you are saying.

It is also important to prioritise the strategies you use and have a time line for when you will introduce them into your teaching practice. Don't expect that you will succeed on your first attempt.

This list is, by no means, an exhaustive one. You may find others you wish to add. Your supervisor may suggest others. You may like to discuss how you might incorporate these strategies within the supervisor's plans for you.

Remember, the supervisor is there to help and direct you so make sure you do all that is asked of you and try to incorporate the advice given to you in each lesson you teach. Be ready to discuss your progress at any time and the success or otherwise of all the lessons you teach.

The strategies are:
  1. Make sure you know the content you teach perfectly.
  2. Over-plan your lessons.
  3. Aim to teach a little amount initially but plan extra if all goes well.
  4. Always check for understanding as you go. Ask questions as you proceed.
  5. Always move around the class while teaching or while the class is working to offer help or to ensure students are on task.
  6. Make sure you start simply to ensure the students understand what you are doing. Then slowly increase the difficulty of the work you are teaching.
  7. Make sure your eyes roam over the whole class so every child feels your eyes are on them.
  8. Always have everyone's attention before you start.
  9. When you use a board or a screen, move away from them often so that you do not obscure what you have written on the board or have projected on the screen.
  10. Be flexible in your approach. If it is not working, change tack. Use a different approach.
  11. Plan your questions carefully, even having a set of written ones ready to use to test for understanding as you go.
  12. Remember to spread the questions around the class to help keep students wondering who will get the next question. This helps to encourage them to stay involved in the lesson.
  13. Rephrase questions that do not elicit the response you want. Offer hints to lead students towards the answer.
  14. Practise your board work often.
  15. Make sure you use various teaching techniques during your practice teaching.
  16. Make your introductions interesting, exciting, challenging and short.
  17. Get to know the students' names quickly and use them every time you speak to a student.
  18. Talk as little as you can. Get the class working actively and quickly.
  19. Always test the class's progress at the lesson's end with questions to check what progress has been made.
  20. Practise using your voice in different ways to excite, to warn and to question.
  21. Practise using gesture and body language to elicit different responses from your class.
As you can see, I have offered you 21 strategies to use to help you gain the most out of your time in front of a class during your practice teaching sessions. Since most teacher training courses take some years to complete, you can create a timeline in which you can incorporate these strategies over the total period of your training.

Begin with the easy ones. They will quickly become automatic in your planning and your execution of your lessons in the classroom. You will soon do them subconsciously. Add new ones regularly so that by the end of your last teaching practice they have become part of your teaching personae.

For further information on this topic, go to and the eBook "The Trainee Teacher's Book". Our author, Rick Boyce, had over 45 years' experience in the classroom. During that time, he supervised the teaching practice of many trainee teachers.

As Head of Department, he often spoke to trainee teachers about his role and how Heads of Department could be of great assistance to them early in their careers. He always spent time explaining to these trainee teachers how best to use their limited time at their 'pract' school. The above mentioned eBook is a summary of the advice given to those trainee teachers.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook - A Must For Homeschoolers

Homeschooled children in the kitchenHomeschooled children in the kitchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Hope Wilbanks

Parents deciding to homeschool their children often experience some anxiety about making this important decision. This is quite understandable, considering homeschooling is life-changing - for parents and children alike.

If you have thought about homeschooling without making a commitment yet, or if you are already homeschooling with a desire for greater excellence in your children's education, Dorothy and Raymond Moore's book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A creative and stress-free approach to homeschooling may be the resource you need.

I offer this brief review of a book that offers extensive advice with foundational research to parents who are already homeschooling, and those who are considering homeschooling. The information contained within this volume offers sage wisdom lighting the path to successful homeschooling for all families.

Success or stress?

Moore and Moore start off their book by addressing the issue of stress in schooling at home. The truth is, teaching a child at any age or grade level is incredibly challenging. This is even truer when your own child becomes your student, and you their teacher.

Although the public school system may not be ideal for your family, you must give much consideration to the reality that you will become a teacher. Just as certified teachers holding a college degree are required to constantly update their skills and qualifications to teach students in the public sector, it is as equally (if not more) important that you do the same.

Reducing and eliminating stress

Homeschooling can absolutely be a success in your family. However, it can create a tremendous load of stress, too. It is important to be aware of this and be prepared to deal with it productively.

To maintain a healthy homeschool, there are a myriad of aspects, some of which have a tendency to be overlooked by homeschooling parents. This oversight or avoidance leads to stress. A few areas Moore and Moore discuss include (along with many others) standardized testing, socializing your children, and organization.

Tried and true

Moore and Moore conclude their research and insight with two final parts in their book that provide encouragement and advice from fellow homeschooling families. These two sections offer wisdom from parents who have "been there, done that" in the world of homeschooling. These personal stories show just how successful and rewarding homeschooling can be for any family.

Finally, the Moores close with their own offering of knowledge to help encourage parents, as well as additional information on the history of learning at home.

Hope Wilbanks is the author of 37 Tips for Successful Homeschooling - A Beginner's Guide To Make Homeschooling Fun & Easy for the Entire Family. Read her booklet for more tips on successful homeschooling at

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaching English in South America

English: Vicuña, one of two wild South America...Vicuna in Front of Chimborazo Volcano, Ecuador - Image via WikipediaBy Tracy Noel

So you want to teach abroad, possibly in South America; considering Ecuador, but haven't the slightest clue where to begin?

The following is an exhaustive article containing relevant information for prospective "newbie" TEFL teachers who are entertaining the idea of working abroad as an English teacher, and really haven't a clue where to begin.

Because I have worked in Asia and South America, I fully understand that it is a large, overwhelming, and intimidating field to get into - but don't be frightened! There is a plethora of information out there that offers detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to get started and eventually land a solid job.

Not unlike other big decisions one must make in life, a lot of patience and research is required both before, and after, landing your gig. Without a doubt, it will all pay off, as there could be nothing more special than the experiences you will have inside, and out of, your classroom while living and working abroad.

Due to the global economic downturn, the field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is booming. Why? Not only are more people around the world using their newly found free time (read: laid-off or unemployed) to study at language institutions, but native English speakers from around the world are also more willing (read: laid-off or unemployed) to take a risk and search for international employment.

Yes, the TEFL industry is "booming," and there are some places in the world where one can actually make good money (Asia), while in others, you are more likely to make just enough to keep afloat. Unfortunately, this is the case in most countries in South America (SA).

There are exceptions though: if you are a credentialed teacher with a lot of experience, you can land jobs in universities or international schools that offer respectable salaries. However, if you're coming into South America armed with little experience and a basic TEFL certificate of sorts, you can expect to make an average of $5/hour (U.S.).

Now keep in mind that this kind of salary (roughly $300/month) is quite survivable, but if you want to do some side-trips and dancing on the weekends, you better arrive with some savings, because your teaching salary will only cover your basic living expenses.

But you need not fret. Don't allow a low salary stop you from coming to South America! There are plenty of other ways one can supplement their salary while here. Once more acclimated to your new surroundings, you should find it quite easy to score some side-gigs as a private tutor, or working within another field you have previous skills in. And the intangible advantages of working in South America vs. Asia are abundant.

First, learning Spanish will come relatively quickly if you put some honest effort into studying in your downtime. And having a working knowledge of Spanish is obviously a great skill for your future.

Second, South American culture, while most likely having its fair share of differences than your own, is not going to be vastly different, as Asian cultures will. The acclimation process and culture shock factor, therefore, is going to be a lot less overwhelming. It is for these reasons that you will make more money in Asia: companies must offer more perks and higher salaries to actually get people to come and stay a while.

So where to begin?

1. Choosing a country

If you are choosing a country completely blindly, then all you really can do is read-up on it. There are a vast amount of blogs and websites dedicated to helping you choose your country wisely. Obviously, pay, cost of living, weather, and general safety are things to consider, but unless you're going to a politically unstable country, there aren't many countries in South America that are "unsafe."

It could be argued that Los Angeles and NYC are much more dangerous than the vast majority of South American cities. Don't let stereotypes or your parents' over-worry scare you away from a country of interest.

To put this in perspective, before coming to South America, I was warned constantly to not go to Columbia to teach, or even for travel. I quickly learned after mingling with tons of travelers that Columbia is not only very safe, but a top destination for many travelers, all who rave about their visits there.

2. Being qualified

It is important to realize that each continent, country, and sometimes city has different governmental regulations and requirements. Furthermore, different schools will require different qualifications.

It should be a red flag if a school doesn't seem to require what you'd consider "basic" or "industry standard" qualifications. Remember that some schools will hire "warm bodies" just to have a foreign face in their classroom.

Spend time researching different TEFL certifications and be assured that they are accepted world-wide. Take this seriously, as you don't want to find yourself unprepared or feeling under-qualified when you're suddenly standing in front of a group of professionals who have paid a lot of money to be taught by you.

However, not unlike any other new job, confidence in the classroom comes with time and experience. You will be nervous for your first few weeks or months, but that's completely expected. If you plan on being hireable, confident, and being in the field for a while, a CELTA certificate is highly recommended.

In general, though, you should expect to have the following qualifications before applying:

- Native speaker of English
- A four year degree (of any sort, but English or teaching related majors are preferred)
- A TEFL certificate (an in-person certification class is highly recommend, as many reputable schools these days don't simply accept a basic, online certificate. The "rock-star" of all certifications is the CELTA, which can set you back as much as 2,000 dollars)
- Teaching or tutoring experience (preferred, not a necessity)
- Have at least 2 years since you've graduated from university at the time of application (this is negotiable and varies)
- Willingness to sign a 6-month to 1-year contract (also negotiable and variable)

What about having to speak the local language? NO! Don't worry. While obviously having a basic understanding of the native language of the country your in is a plus, you will be expected to speak ONLY English in your classroom, as it is more beneficial for your students

3. Choosing a school

Aside from the obvious decisions to make about salary and environment, you want to find first-hand recommendations and insights concerning the schools credibility and functionality - this cannot be stressed enough!

Many schools are shady and will try to lure you in, promising X, Y, and Z, but because there is little regulation in the industry, there is no accountability. You do not want to find yourself contractually obliged to X-amount of time in a school that you are miserable in.

The best way to find this information out is to directly ask (demand) that whoever you are in contact with (director, recruiter, etc.) gives you email addresses of both current and past teachers. If they are not willing to do this, consider this a huge red flag. You need to have the ability to ask them their honest opinion of the school and if they are (or were) generally happy there.

Also, in the age of Facebook, many reputable schools will have a FB page. This could be a great source for you to personally attempt to contact current teachers. Lastly, there are TEFL "blacklist" blogs out there. Seek out your desired school to see if anyone has blacklisted them.

If you find yourself overwhelmed at the prospect of browsing the endless TEFL websites out there, another option is to sign up for a paid or free of charge recruiting agency. This can offer you the luxury of sitting back and receiving job offers.

However, be wary of these agencies, as they are essentially "head-hunters" and "middle-men" looking to score a commission from your being hired. They then, by default, are not looking out for your best interests. You should therefore take all of the previously mentioned precautions even when investigating a job offer via a recruitment agency.

4. Regulations/Visa Requirements, etc

It is important to note that each country and school (private or public) has different regulations and requirements. It should not be hard to find said info via online research. One usually has the option of taking care of almost all visa requirements before arrival (which could prove much more convenient and less stressful) or (depending on the country) you can enter the country on a tourist visa and upgrade it to a work visa upon arrival.

Your prospective employer should offer you detailed info regarding the current requirements for you to legitimately work. The key word is "legitimately," as there are still plenty of schools out there that will hire and pay you under the table, which again, should be considered a huge red flag, as it diminishes their credibility and accountability. In general, one should never sign an online contract.

Finally, some schools will offer to foot the bill on your visa costs, but usually under the guise that you will sign a one-year contract (in South America, you won't find too many schools that offer perks like "visa fee coverage", or others such as "free accommodation" or "comped return airfare").

5. Accommodation

Your school should offer you housing options, whether it is a home-stay, assistance in finding your own flat, or a shared-living situation with fellow teachers. Depending on where you are working and what accommodations are like, finding accommodation can be quite stressful at times, but it is all part of living abroad. Patience is key.

Also, you can expect "sub-par" living conditions as compared to back home, unless you have the resources to pay for more than what your wage allots you. Home-stays can be a wonderful experience and will quickly improve your Spanish, but of course, you sacrifice a certain amount of privacy. You could always do a short-term home-stay and opt for something else in the long run.

6. Why Ecuador?

While I cannot personally vouch for working and living in other South American countries, I have over one year's experience living and teaching in Ecuador - specifically in Cuenca and Quito (I recommend the former).

I highly recommend Ecuador because of its year-round beautiful weather, low cost of living, the use of the U.S. dollar (especially for Americans), vast geographical diversity (for travel and side-trips), overall safety (though one still must be vigilant and smart), warmness of its people, affordable Spanish classes, a very "neutral" form of Spanish that foreigners find easier to understand, job opportunities, lively nightlife, and cultural diversity.

With an open mind and patience, I can hardly fathom how someone could have a "bad" experience in Ecuador. I assume, however, that this could be the case with many South American countries.

To conclude, teaching in China and Ecuador are vastly different experiences (each in their own good and bad ways) rendering it nearly impossible to fairly compare the two. However, both experiences have left me with a lot of knowledge and insight into the TEFL world, and I know exactly what it is like to be diving into this field for the first time.

In retrospect, I wish I had done more research and exhausted more resources before I first dove in, so I hope these insights can offer some harm reduction and stress relief for prospective TEFL teachers out there.

Tracy Noel is a three-time expat (China, Ecuador, UK). As a writer and editor, she loves to write about living abroad, travelling, teaching, and studying. She is the co-creator of a popular website, You can also see more of Tracy and GoGo-Gringo here.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rosetta Stone for Kids: How It Helps Them Learn a New Language

Rosetta Stone (software)Image via WikipediaBy Drew Graham

Over the years a lot of people have used Rosetta Stone to help them learn a new language. A lot of parents have recently started to realize that it is a great way for their kids to learn a second language as well. Rosetta Stone offers a lot of advantages that makes it ideal for children.

The reason that the Rosetta Stone training program is so good for children when they need to learn a new language is that it teaches it in the way that they would naturally learn.

The program starts off by showing them pictures of items and then repeating the name of the item. This way they learn to identify the item with that word. This is how children learn to speak in the first place and it is much more effective than the approach used by most language courses.

The normal approach is to tell the kids what the word means in English, this forces them to translate everything to English when they are having a conversation. Needless to say that slows down the learning process.

One of the biggest problems with teaching children a new language is that they get bored and so they don't really pay attention. This is a problem that Rosetta Stone solves by turning most of the lessons into a game. This is particularly true when it comes to building up their vocabulary which is a boring part of any lesson. Making it fun makes it far more likely that the kids will pay attention and they will learn much better.

As soon as they have learned a vocabulary that is large enough to allow it the kids will start forming sentences. These will not be properly structured sentences as the rules of grammar have still not been taught. Again this is just like they would have learned to speak when they were babies, they start forming words into simple sentences. As they become more proficient with the language they will be able to create more complex sentences.

One area where Rosetta Stone may be a bit of a disappointment for some parents is that there is not a lot of attention paid to things like proper grammar. The goal of the program is to get the kids to the point where they can speak and carry on conversations in the new language. If you want them to actually become fluent it will be necessary to sign them up for more advanced lessons. That being said Rosetta Stone is a good start to learning a language.

Rosetta Stone is by far the best language training program on the market. Not only can adults benefit from the program but Rosetta Stone for Kids is the ideal way for them to learn a new language as well.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pink Slime Mandatory in US Schools

by Frank Lake, Weekly World News:

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is reportedly mandating that all American school kids eat pink slime.

The company that sells ground beef treated with ammonia proclaims their meat mixture is good for America’s schoolchildren, even though parents across the country are seriously questioning the safety of what has been dubbed “pink slime.”

Beef Products Inc. (BPI) made the declaration about its “lean finely textured beef” or LFTB over the weekend to The Daily, which broke the news that the federal government plans to buy ground beef that contains 7 million pounds of the product in the coming year. After the report, “pink slime” became the most searched topic on the internet.

The U.S. Depart of Health and the USDA stepped in and they reportedly investigated the pink slime. “We found that the pink slime is actually some of the best food we’ve every analyzed. We are recommending that all students eat pink slime every day of the school year,” said a source in the government.

The USDA reportedly feels that the pink slime will help kids grow stronger, taller and make them smarter and more focused.

Pink slime accomplishes three important goals on behalf of millions of kids,” said a spokesperson for the pink slime industry. “It improves the nutritional profile, increases the safety of the products and meets the budget parameters that allow the school lunch program to feed kids nationwide every day.”

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Analysis of Difficult SAT Math Questions

The Grand Challenge Equations: San Diego Super...The Grand Challenge Equations: San Diego Supercomputer Center (Photo credit: dullhunk)
by Miriam Attia, Academic Advisor, Parliament Tutors

What is it about the final problems in the SAT math section? Why is it so consistently difficult for students to prepare for them adequately? How is it we always know them when we see them, yet only the best study guides can mimic them effectively? 

What makes them such a consistently neat combination of challenging and elegant - problems that look mind-bogglingly difficult at first glance, unsolvable even, and then after some work reveal themselves to be solvable in half a minute?
Consider, for example, this ingenious problem from the end of one SAT math section.
On the number line above, the tick marks are equally spaced. Which of the lettered points represents y?
A. A
B. B
C. C
D. D
E. E.
Two variables appear on a number line, but the number line has no numbers, and it seems we have to find both the value of one variable in relation to the other and that value's location on the number line. Most students would look at this question and either panic or skip it (or both) and that's not even taking into account how mentally drained they're feeling by the time they're near the end of a math section.
If they have the time to do so, most students will solve this problem slowly and methodically, as follows:
First, we suppose each tick mark is separated by 1 from the ticks next to it, such that if we add 2 to x, it takes us 2 ticks to the right, where we find (x + y). By the same reasoning, if we add 2 to (x + y), it takes us 2 more ticks to the right, where we find (x + y)/2. Thus, we can write two equations:
  1. x + 2 = (x + y).
  1. (x + y) + 2 = (x + y)/2.
The first equation shows us that y = 2. The second equation, if we're like most students, makes us pause and seriously second-guess our method - how can we add 2 to something to get half of what we started with?? - until we realize we're talking about negative numbers. We breathe a sigh of relief and rewrite the second equation, substituting 2 for y:
(x + 2) + 2 = (x + 2)/2
Simplifying, we get x + 4 = (x + 2)/2
Multiplying both sides by 2 gives 2x + 8 = x + 2
Finally, we combine like terms and discover that x = -6. So y must be 8 ticks to the right of x, because 2 - (-6) = 8. E is the correct answer, but it took us far, far too long to find it.
What some unusual students realize about this problem, if they can muster the mental agility to zoom out for a moment, is that the answer is staring us in the face. We want to know where y is. We already know where x is. We also know where (x + y)/2 is. The average of x and y, which is also the midpoint of x and y, is defined as (x + y)/2. The letter x is 4 ticks to the left of (x + y)/2, so y must be the same distance, 4 ticks, in the other direction. We count 4 ticks to the right of (x + y)/2 and find point E.
What's fascinating about this question, to me, is the combination of its utter simplicity - that number line, slightly modified, might as well be in an arithmetic textbook in the section that defines the term “average” - and the masterful degree to which that simplicity is disguised, misdirecting not only the students but easily 99% of teachers and tutors as well.
I believe this combination of a simple rule and clever disguise is what gives the most difficult SAT math questions their instant recognizability and what makes them so difficult to mimic. To test my hypothesis, let's see if we can use that method to create a new SAT-esque math question right now.
The SAT likes to ask students about circles, so I'll start with a fact about circles that I find interesting: Suppose six identical circles are arranged in a ring, each one tangent to two others. It happens that there's just enough room in the center for a seventh circle of the same size, tangent to the other six.
We can connect the centers of the circles to the centers of their neighbors and get six equilateral triangles forming a regular hexagon.
That's the kind of interesting insight we can use as a foundation for a difficult SAT math problem. So, let's pose a challenging question related to that fact. What would such a question look like? There are many possibilities. Here's one.

In the ring of circles below, each circle has a radius of 1 and is tangent to the two on either side of it.
What is the area of the white space in the center of the ring?
A. π 
B. 6√3 – 3π
C. 6√3 – 2π 
D. 24√3 – 8π 
E. 24√3 – 4π 

Just as the number line question we saw earlier doesn't require knowledge of averages but can be solved more easily using that insight, this question doesn't require us to think of a hexagon, but it can be solved more easily if we do. Here's how I would solve it.
  1. Draw a regular hexagon whose center is at the center of the ring and whose side length is 2. The center of each circle is now also a corner of the hexagon.
  1. To find the total area of the central white space, find the white space in one sixth of the hexagon and then multiply by six. Choosing any one of the six equilateral triangles to focus on (I'll choose the top triangle), find the triangle's area and then subtract the area of the blue sections.
  1. A triangle's area is the product of its base and half its height, so draw a line showing the triangle's height...and realize that the height line has divided the equilateral triangle into two right triangles with angle patterns 30-60-90. That means the side ratios must be 1-2-√3. The short leg does in fact have a length of 1, and the hypotenuse is 2, so the height is √3. Multiply half the base (1) by the height (√3) to find the triangle's area, √3.
  2. Subtract the area of the blue sectors from the area of the triangle. Each sector is a sixth of a circle, and each circle's area is π, so the sectors' areas together must be π/3. Thus, √3-π/3 is the area of blank space in each triangle.
  3. Remembering that what happens in this triangle happens a total of six times in the figure, multiply that difference by 6 to get 6√3 – 2π., which is answer C.
If you're preparing to take the SAT, remember that the test writers appreciate interesting features of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. They use what makes math elegant to build their most challenging problems. As you study math, keep an eye out for features like these. When you find one, keep it in a mental file of your own. It will give you a valuable edge on test day, and (perhaps more significantly) will enrich your understanding and appreciation of mathematics throughout your life.
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