Out of This World Literacy : December 2013
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Teacher Training in Uganda: Preparing for the Next Generation of Learners

Hello again friends!  I am back from my trip to Africa and can't wait to share my experiences training these wonderful teachers with you all!!

This was one of the BEST groups of teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with!


In case you are unfamiliar with how I ended up traveling to Africa to train teachers, you can click on the image below to find out how this journey all began.  

So much happened during the week of training that it's impossible for me to write about it all in one blog post.  What I'm going to do is make a list of the main goals I had.  Then I will share how we accomplished each goal throughout the week.  Here we go...

5 Main Goals of the Conference:

1. To empower teachers

2. To open teachers' minds to a different way of teaching that will promote active learning in all students.  (To move from a traditional style of teaching to a more inquiry-based style)
     * In Uganda, all teachers use a traditional style of teaching that involves mostly lecture and memorization.   There is no real critical thinking involved and no real way for teachers to assess if students are really  
  understanding objectives.

     * Many teachers believe: 'it is my job to present the information, and it is the students' jobs to understand.    Once I have taught the lesson (via lecture, memorizing definitions from a text, or restating facts) then my
   work is done.'

     * Teachers use this traditional approach because that is all they know.  They were taught with the same
   rote memorization approach, and were trained only in this style at their teacher colleges.

3. To show teachers the importance of making connections between what is known (backgrounnd knowledge) and new information (what is being taught).

4. To show teachers how language and the written word are the keys to all other learning.

    * In Uganda, there are over 50 different mother tongue languages, but the national language is English. That means that every...single...student is learning English as a second language.  They require, but are not currently receiving, a bilingual education curriculum.  Everything is taught in English only.

     * The new curriculum we are writing for Uganda will be bilingual.  Students will learn in their mother tongue the first week.  The second week, they will receive the same instruction in both their mother tongue and English.  The third week they will receive very similar instruction, but in English only.  In this way, students will be able to make connections across the two languages and connect their second language (English) to their mother tongue.

5. To learn just as much from the teachers (if not more) than I could ever teach them.

How I Accomplished the 5 Main Goals:

What is Teaching?

Goal One: Empower Teachers

1. We brainstormed what teaching means in groups.  Here are some of the definitions the teachers came up with:

2. We also brainstormed the character traits of great teachers.  Here are some charts that teachers made in small groups:


What is Learning?

Goal Two: To open teachers' minds to a different way of teaching that will promote active learning in all students.

1. We first looked at the differences in the teaching styles of traditional versus inquiry approaches.

2. I modeled the think-aloud approach several times.  I wanted to show teachers that there is more to teaching than just reading a book, or parts of a textbook and memorizing definitions.  I used the think-aloud strategy to show them how we should be modeling our thinking before, during, and after we read anything to our students.

* After several times of modeling the think-aloud strategy, teachers got into groups and wrote down everything they were thinking about the think-aloud strategy.  Here they are working hard!

Learning is About Making Connections!

Goal Three: To show teachers the importance of making connections between what is known (backgrounnd knowledge) and new information (what is being taught).

Here are some of the slides I used to show teachers how important their presentation of the objectives is in students' understanding the new learning.  And also how they must find out what it is their students already know so that they can use that background understanding to attach new learning.  We talked about Lev Vgotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development.

Teachers are the bridge responsible for connecting what students already know to what they are expected to learn

Language is the key to all other learning

Goal Four: To show teachers how language and the written word are the keys to all other learning.

Learning from the Teachers

Goal Five: To learn just as much from the teachers (if not more) than I could ever teach them.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I was absolutely blown away by this exceptional group of teachers. 
Not only were they actively involved in learning all week, they were so excited to be there!

They never complained that they were giving up a week of their summer vacation to attend a conference without any pay.

They stayed focused and didn't have laptops up and open the entire conference.

They were insightful, collaborative, and on task all week.

I loved listening-in during small group work, and learned so much from several teachers as they shared their new understandings with the entire group all week.  

Teachers trying out some inquiry lessons that they wrote together!

AND...the BEST part of the conference for me was...

...on Friday afternoon.  Teachers put on a drama: 

The drama was about a bus driver who lets all kinds of negative influences onto his bus while he keeps pushing Jesus to the back.  It was such a great message!!

Sang Songs:

And Presented Me With a Gift!

They had decided the night before, as a group, that they should get me a gift to show their appreciation for my time with them in Africa.  They bought me a beautiful basket from the market, wrapped it, and presented it to me on Friday afternoon.  

I was beyond humbled.  I was there for them and never expected anything in return.  And for them to go out of their way to present the basket to me was so emotional.  

I have a new family of teacher friends that I will cherish forever!  

I can NOT wait to go again and continue supporting these teachers as they boldly and bravely step up to change the education of the children in Uganda.  

Thank you all for reading my story.  I wish all my teacher friends many, many blessings in the new year and for all the years to come!

Jen Bengel

I'm in Africa Working with Teachers!! Find Out Why!

Hello friends!

I wanted to let you all know that I will be in Uganda from December 6- December 18.  I will not be available to answer any questions during this time.

You may be asking yourself, so why in the world are you going to Africa!?  Over the past few months, I have begun writing curriculum for the schools in Uganda and South Sudan.

None of this would even be possible if it were not for Teachers pay Teachers.  Because of TpT, I was able to stay home this year and focus on my family.  Little did I know at the time that God had bigger plans for me.  I never dreamed I would be going to Africa!!

Teachers pay Teachers got the ball rolling.  And here is how the rest of events happened that led me to the other side of the world...

Major Events that Have Led to Me Writing Curriculum for Africa:

1.  My family moved from WI to AL this summer

2.  Within the first month of being in AL our pastor announced to the church that we would be supporting a missionary couple in Uganda.  He said that if anyone was an educational author, teacher, or knew publishers to contact the church.  I felt like he was talking right to me!

3.  I contacted the church and began talking with Lisa, the missionary in Uganda.

4.  The mission of her and her husband was to create a curriculum for the children of Uganda and South Sudan.

5.  After just a few weeks of communication, Lisa felt strongly that she should come to America and work on beginning to write the curriculum with me.

6.  Lisa arrived in the United States at the beginning of October.

7.  We have been working together almost daily since then.  So far, we have created a framework for the curriculum and have written some early year lessons.

8.  We began discussing the importance of training the teachers on the new curriculum.  We knew that if the teachers were not on board, the education would never reach the millions of children we are trying to teach.

9.  So, we decided I would travel to Uganda and host a week-long training session for teachers on the new curriculum.  Most teachers in Uganda have the equivalent cognitive levels of a freshman in high school.  So, the curriculum needs to be very scripted.  They do not know how to comprehend text or think critically.  These are of course major skills that will be included in the curriculum.  So, in order for teachers to be able to teach reading comprehension and critical thinking, they need to learn it themselves.

10. The training will take place the week of December 6-13, with approximately 60 teachers present and some government officials.

The Major Challenges With Writing Curriculum for Uganda and South Sudan:

1. It needs to be bilingual.  English is the national language in both South Sudan and Uganda.  But, in both countries there are over 50 different mother tongue languages spoken at home.  So, kids come to school with no English.

2. It needs to be taught with little to no resources.  In most schools, the only available resources are pencils
and thin paper.  That's it.  No crayons, markers, posters, math manipulatives, scissors, glue, etc, etc, etc.  There is no ability to make copies or purchase workbooks.

3. Teachers with a 9th grade educational level need to be able to understand and effectively teach the lessons.

4. All the curriculum needs to maintain and African perspective.  Our goal is not to 'Americanize' the next generation of Ugandan children.  We want to build a generation of critical thinkers, who value the written word, are able to reason, and can develop morals and beliefs that will positively affect every aspect of their lives.

If you would like to know more about the work we are doing, you can view this informational video featuring my friend Lisa and her school in Uganda.

Again, thank you all for your patience while I am out of the country.  I will be sure to update you with pictures, video, and all the amazing adventures when I return to the United States.

Best wishes to you all!

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Cyber Monday SALE and Linky Party!

Hello Friends!

Well, it's that time of year again for another BIG sale!  This Monday AND Tuesday (December 2-3) you can enjoy 28% savings on everything in my store.  Visit my store by clicking on the image below!

There are so many other amazing teachers having sales in their stores as well.  Find some of their great work by hopping around this fun linky party!  Click the image below to get started.

Let's have some fun with these creative Christmas song titles for teachers!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Reading!

Here are just a few of the great reading reading and writing resources available for sale in my store.  Click on the links below to find out more about each resource!  




The 12 Days of Common Core!

Check out these great Interactive Notebooks that cover EVERY...SINGLE...Common Core State Standard for Reading Informational and Reading Literature Standard!  

Click on the images to find out more!



I'm Dreaming of a Holiday Product!

I have lots of great Holiday resources available.  Click on the images of these few to see more!!


Have fun shopping during this amazing sale!  I know I will be emptying out my wishlist on Monday too!!

Best wishes!