Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Simple Steps to Earn an A

Several years ago I decided to leave the country on business. After making this decision, I told my students I wanted to go out with a bang. I wanted them all to earn an A, and told them how to do so. That June, one class had 80% A’s, 15% B’s and 5% C’s. There were no D’s or F’s. Why did this happen in one class and not in the others? These students believed me and did as I suggested. The others didn’t.

Here is what I told them:

1.   Come to class every day well rested and fed.
-If there’s a field trip in another class, and you know you’ll be absent, ask for the work in advance. Do it before you go on the trip. If you had trouble with the work, after you get home from the field trip, call a friend from class and ask for help.
-Figure out what time you need to get up in the morning in order to arrive at school on time. Count back nine hours and go to bed at that time each night.
-Have a healthy breakfast each morning and a nutritious lunch at school, (bring your own food or buy something at school).
-If you’re sick, stay home and get well.

2.   Do every assignment.
-Write down every homework assignment. They’re usually on the board in front of the class. If your homework or class assignments are on the class website, bookmark it on your computer.
-Pay attention and complete every class and homework assignment.
-They don’t have to be perfect, but they need to be complete.

3.   If you’re confused or don’t understand something, ask a question.
-Smart people get ahead by asking questions when they don’t understand something. Raise your hand if there’s something you don’t get.
-Make sure you have the phone number of three students in each class.
-At least one of them should be better than you are in the subject.
-Call one of them if you missed class or need help on an assignment. (People are usually happy to help.)

Students who believed me did these things. Those who did them well received an A. Those who didn’t do them as well received a B, and those who messed up from time to time, but otherwise stuck to the plan, received a C. Everyone knew too much to get a D or F. Try this. What have you got to lose?

For more information, you'll want my new book, Free College. It shows how to avoid needing college loans; and is available soon to families of Pre-K through High School students.

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Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How to Stand Out When Applying for Scholarships

Only 20% of U.S. students are enrolled in foreign language classes at the present time. In four states, California, Texas, Florida and New York, more than 600K students are studying a second language. In just eight, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Georgia, between 300K and 450K are enrolled. This is alarming for many reasons.

For students who want to earn more scholarship money for college, however, it’s good news. In order to rise above the other students applying for college and/or college scholarships, applicants need to do more and become more. The following information creates a simple way to make this happen.

The first year your school allows you to take a foreign language class sign up. Pick a language that's not spoken in your home. This will show college evaluators that you are not taking the “easy way”. Continue studying this language through high school. In your sophomore year add another foreign language to your class schedule. If you speak a second language at home, this is a good time to make it official. You might even be able to test into a higher level, rather than starting at first year.

The first foreign language you study should be one that could help you in your future career. Do some research to find out which language offered by your school is most likely to be required in college for someone with your career goals. The second language (if not a home language) could be another related to your area of interest or perhaps a hobby. If you love food, then add French. If you enjoy science, study German. But remember to continue studying both languages until you have completed at least three years (at the high school level) in each.

Few students of the 66% of high school graduates who try for college do this. Most take the minimum suggested. If you take a few required classes in summer school, you’ll have plenty of room for extra language courses in your class schedule each year. This is an easy way to get noticed by scholarship committees and earn more free cash for college.

For more information, you'll want my new book, Free College, coming soon. It shows how to avoid needing college loans; and is available soon to families of Pre-K through High School students.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Valentine's Day Lesson Plan for Language Classes

The day before a holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, Easter Break, even a pseudo-holiday like Valentine’s Day, is usually just this side of insane. Students don’t want to work. There’s candy everywhere. Gifts are being given. Focus is lost. Just keeping the lid on seems overwhelming; unless you have an educationally sound, kid-approved lesson that keeps them interested, occupied and engaged. Decades ago I created such a lesson. Kids loved it. I loved it. It‘s easy, academic and fun! The bonus of this lesson, it helped with student retention in foreign language classes.

The steps to follow:

1. Completely erase the entire white board. You'll want the space.

2. Number the entire board from 1 to 35. Place holiday appropriate symbols, like hearts, around each number.

3. Put a large assortment of dry erase pens at the front of the room. The more color variety the better.

4. After school, the day before a holiday, have each student in your most advanced class go to the board and draw a culturally appropriate picture next to a number. If your class is smaller than 35, they'll need to draw more than one. Be sure to explain to the class the night before they need to come up with three or four ideas for their drawings. Most students are eager, although the shy need some encouragement. After this has become a tradition in your classes, you'll overhear students commenting they look forward to being in the class that gets to draw the pictures. Never let an underclassman participate in putting the pictures on the board.

5. Check each picture as they finish drawing. A few may need a little help so their drawings are clear, and some can be too obscure. You may need to edit, as students can be a bit gross at time. One Thanksgiving students drew a very vivid picture of a turkey being beheaded. I erased that one. Remember, all day students are going to see these pictures. You want to understand them, so you can give hints if necessary. My favorite was The Twilight Zone Marathon. It became a tradition in my program which was passed down each year from class to class.

6. Before the first class arrives the next morning, place a stack of German (French, Spanish, Chinese)/English dictionaries on the first desk of each row. I always had enough dictionaries so students could work in groups of two. Three doesn't work and working alone is tough.

7. Students should look up what they see on the board, and write the German (French, etc.) on their own papers. Don’t let them put two student names on one paper. This never works. Trust me on this.

8. They must write the definite article and the noun. If there's an adjective, like in a drawing of red roses, they must include the adjective with the correct ending. This allows you to preview grammar not yet taught. Students are very receptive to this, and ask for help. It’s a contest. They want to win.

 9. Buy a small bag of individually wrapped candy and give a piece to each member of the first team finished. Be sure to check the work. Sometimes they make errors, of course. Don’t be too picky. Perfection isn't the goal.

 10. After the first group finishes, and as each group finishes, they'll help their classmates. You’ll find they don’t give them the answers, but give them hints instead, especially in grammar.  

11. Collect work as finished and the remainder at the end of the period. Grading is subjective. First year classes typically have a few students who finish by the end of the class period. Most, however, finish about half of the pictures. Second year will complete more. The majority complete about two-thirds of the pictures. Most third year students finish them all, as do AP/IB/fourth year students.

12. There are several goals in this lesson. Students learn the correct way to use the dictionary. They learn the symbols and abbreviations. It removes the mind-numbing boredom of a typical dictionary lesson, and replaces it with fun. Students learn vocabulary that’s both meaningful, and is usually more advanced than where they are in the curriculum. This they do without complaint. You're able to foreshadow grammar, so when it arrives later in the school year, you’re able to point back to what they discovered at Halloween or Thanksgiving. Finally, it keeps students focused, doing an academic lesson without arguing at a time where students are going nuts in other classes. I had four decades of happy “day before’s” while colleagues were losing their minds.

If you don't teach a foreign language class, adapt this lesson to your subject matter. Remember to keep it relaxed and fun, but academic.

For more information, you’ll want my new book, Free College, coming soon. How to avoid needing college loans; available soon to families of Pre-K through High School students.

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Photo credit: Google Images