An Ode to My Special English Program

As our academic year winds down, exam preparations begin and my students look forward to a month of vacation in January.  My grade 6 kids will be off to middle school soon and my grade 5 kids will be the new seniors; ruling student government and being the cool kids to all those younger than they are.

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All year I’ve been teaching an advanced English program with one of my Korean co-teachers and we have come to call it the Special English Program. We interviewed around 30 kids who were interested from 5th and 6th grade and those who passed the written and spoken entrance test were accepted as our latest gang of English elites. Last year was our first year running this program and we had some bumps in the road but we still had a good time. Below are some pics from last year’s group.

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This year has been just as rewarding with my new batch of kiddies. I don’t mean to get all mushy but I must say I’m just so darn proud of them all. Watching them grow in confidence, increase public speaking abilities and just enjoy being in a special club with me has been so much fun. During my class time we’ve been reading books together, books from the Dominoes series from Oxford University Press (in case any teacher friends would like to check them out). Dominoes books have 4 levels to choose from: Starter, level one, two and three. My kids started out with a “starter” level book and by the end of the year we’ll be reading at level 2. They can see the level increase in their books and take pride in tackling the higher levels as we go along. Here’s a look at some of the books we read.

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It’s pretty cool content! I learned a lot about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, ancient Egyptian rituals and Tutankhamun in the process. The kids especially like that some stories are true (like The Curse of the Mummy) and that others are ESL versions of legitimate classics in the English-speaking world. Below is this year’s group:

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This week we had an open class where the students and teachers could come in and watch our lesson. I had to teach while spectators watched so as an added treat, I made a video for my kids that reviewed our year of shenanigans. I’d like to share that video with you here, so please take a look and enjoy a five minute break from your day:

We have one more book to read – The Lost World, followed by watching Jurassic Park – woo hoo! – then our time will be up. I hope to make our last six weeks together as memorable as possible so bring on the dinosaurs!

My Paper World

Greetings Dear Readers,

I hope you’ve been well and are keeping warm as fall creeps up onto winter. Please forgive me for not posting last week. I must admit, I’ve been busy at work but also, I’ve been reading. A lot. Maybe it’s been the cloudy weather or the chill in the air but I’ve been tearing through books like a maniac over the last few months.

As I was pondering what to share with you this week, my nerdy heartbeat quickened its pace when I thought of sharing my favourite books of 2015. That doesn’t mean these books were published this year, just that I’ve come to know and love them this year. I’d like to humbly suggest these stories if you’re looking for a paper fort to run to. Escape between the pages of these, my top 3 (of about 15) books I’ve read in 2015.

3: The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden.

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The Orenda is written by an award-winning Canadian author who has a passion for writing historical fiction about First Nations people. This story happens in 17th century Canada and takes a look at a Huron tribe, their rivalry with an Iroquois tribe and their relationship with the Jesuit missionaries trying to “save the savages.” It’s beautifully written and equally terrifying at some points of this story. Those with a weak stomach may want to skip a few pages of vengeance but overall it’s a fascinating tale of what makes a family, a tribe and a people. (Shout-out to Sarah for the recommendation!)

2: The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay

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The Power of One is another historical fiction story (I’m starting to see a pattern here) about an unstoppable young man by the name of Peekay. This is an old book (1989) but it was new to me as my father sent it over and recommended I give it a read. This story starts off in the 1930s and walks through about 15 years of Peekay’s life in pre-apartheid South Africa. I won’t say much more other than it’s got a ton of boxing in it which makes for a lot of action and if you’ve ever seen the movie – forget about it. It’s a horrible abomination of the book and doesn’t do the story the justice it truly deserves. I haven’t been so emotionally entrenched in a pack of main characters in years. This book stayed with me long after I finished so I highly recommend it for a heavy, yet uplifting story of perseverance, self-love and survival.

1: The Dark Tower (series), by Stephen King

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To step away from my forays through history, I have recently delved into a life-long goal of reading the 7 books that comprise of  The Dark Tower series by the master of fear, Stephen King. I am currently burning through book 2, The Drawing of the Three and it is blowing my mind. The first book, The Gunslinger, is basically one giant tease that sets you up to dive into the fantasy world of the Gunslinger and all the dimensions of time and space he trudges through to get to The Tower. I’ve been up all hours since cracking the Gungslinger. Now that book 2 is underway, my fevered desire for one more chapter before sleep has only gotten worse. I may be premature on this one, but I’m pretty sure I’m on the money: This series is amazing and you should read it. Now.

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That’s it for now folks, I’d better run. Mr. King awaits me for another sleepless night :)