I’ve been asked to be part of a trip to China to help support teachers there. I’m looking forward to the trip. I thought that I would share some experiences here.


The group that has been selected is varied and includes some wonderful educators. Each of us has added tips and strategies to the overall experience. We used Google Docs to collaborate. There are actually two sessions of the training. Each session will last about 2 weeks. Because of a previously scheduled trip (a vacation to Italy), I am only able to be part of the second session.


Here are some of the things that I’ve packed:

  • Lots of clothes
  • Some Pod Laundry Detergent Packs
  • Electrical Converters – US to China (Since I only need to power Apple devices, I don’t have to worry about voltage. Apple power bricks are dual converters.)
  • Laptop
  • iPhone
  • iPad 2 Air
  • Wireless keyboard
  • Printed Business Cards (these were a wonderful gift from our organizer)
  • Copy of textbook
  • Printed copy of Google Docs
  • NutriGrain bars
  • Bookmarks as gifts
  • Spork
  • Mini-Display port to HDMI (2 of these)
  • Mini-Display port to VGA (2 of these)
  • Extra long HDMI cable
  • Chocolate (I give out Treasures Hershey chocolate whenever a participant shares a “Treasure”)
  • Colored Pencils
  • 3 x 5 cards
  • Books to read on the flight (some through Hoopla, some on the iPad that I’ve download, one physical)
  • Extra music on the iPod (added Parker Milsap recently)
  • Fountain Pens (2 – both are TWSBI 580 Clear – one with China Blue, one with Forest Green).
  • Blue Snowball Microphone
  • Yuan

July 17th – Arrival

The plane trip was in two sections. The first was a flight from Detroit to Boston. There was a long layover in Boston. A five hour layover that gave us time to chat and have lunch. The flight was over 13 hours long. I had a middle seat, so sleeping was very difficult . The airline provided warm towels, which really felt good.

We made it through the passport lane, picked up our luggage and then went to Customs. We were waved through Customs, so that was one concern that was unwarranted. I had heard tales of things being confiscated in Customs.

There was a nice young lady waiting with a sign for us. She was also waiting for another person (who turned out to be on our plane as well). After lots of chatting with a taxi driver, Andy and I were put into a Taxi and sent on our way. We got just a little bit nervous when the driver seemed to stop and ask for directions, but ultimately we ended up in the correct place.

July 18th – Sight Seeing Day 1

Today we had a sight seeing day. We went to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Pearl Market and an acrobatic show.

The day started with a breakfast buffet. The buffet was very different than an American breakfast, but the food was good. There were hard boiled eggs, which was a positive, along with lots of dumpling type items. There was juice, but no coffee. Bummer for me since I usually have cup of coffee in the morning.

Next we were off to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Forbidden Citywas previously the Emperor’s Palace. Tiananmen Square is massive. It is nearly impossible to convey the scale of the Tiananmen Square. Forbidden City was beautiful. There are three rings in the Forbidden City. The common area, the outer ring and the inner ring. The outer area was where the Emperor would meet visitors. The inner area was where the Emperor lived and worked. The beauty of this area is tough to relate. We learned that the court area of the inner ring has no trees in it due to the idea that there should be nothing above the head of the Emperor.

Forbidden City

Next we went over to the Pearl Market. This is essentially an indoor shopping mall. Instead of being filled with large name brand stores, the entire building is populated with booths of various sellers. We started on the fourth floor. First up was a view of a Taoist Temple. Next, the stores on the fourth floor. These are the most authentic. These include stores to buy real ocean pearls (which are apparently very expensive). We were free to roam after that. It was explained to us that the third floor was more pearls, but a lot less expensive (thus, lower quality). The second floor was filled with watches, handbags and wallets. It is very widely acknowledged that the materials aren’t genuine. The first floor is filled with electronics and toys.

Lastely, we headed over to see an acrobatic show. The show was incredible. The amount of power, balance and movement was extremely impressive. I lost count of the number of times the audience audibly gasped. The show was so good that it kept me awake even though I was sitting in a comfortable chair in a dark room.

July 19th – Sight Seeing Day 2 & Planning

Today we had our second sight seeing day. We headed off to the see the Great Wall. There are three sections of the Great Wall still in tact. It is a common myth that the Great Wall is the only man made object that can been seen from space with the naked eye. The parts that we were on were very impressive (especially for their time), but the road ways that we build now are wider. Thus, the new roadways would be easier to see from space.

China- Great Wall - Coming back down

Great Wall on my way back down.

Great Wall of China

View of one section of the Great Wall of China.

We went to the section that is closest to Beijing. This was an impressive experience. After we arrived, we were given a couple of hours to explore the Wall. Some of us decided to climb the Wall. The steps are step and very inconsistent in height. This made walking up the Wall quite a challenge. The first section was very crowded (like all of Beijing). The higher were climbed, the less crowded the Wall became. A group of us went to the highest point of the Wall. It was quite the climb. We didn’t have time to circle around the other side (just in front of the highest point, Beacon Tower 13, is a fork in the Wall. This allows one to continue on the Wall around the mountain.

After that, we had a quick visit to the Olympic Stadium area. I didn’t spend much time there as I was hungry and ate lunch. We did walk down to see the Bird’s Nest. Interestingly, we have had to run our bags through a scanner when entering certain national monument areas, but they’ve never checked our pockets or had us walk through a scanner.


Next up was the transition to the new hotel and planning. Using the knowledge of the first round of training in another area, the group has made some adjustments to the schedule. We got the daily schedule set. One of the decisions was to interview the participants and ask some basic questions in order to group them efficiently. The idea is largely to group them based on what they are teaching next year.

I had the opportunity to interview six teachers. This was a terrific experience. It seems to be pretty universal that teachers are some of the best people in the world. There was a mix of students with varied English abilities. The group consisted of teachers of third grade up to the teachers of high school. Unfortunately, not all of the participants showed up for the interviews. Thus, we pulled back together for a planning session again. We made some quick adjustments as to how we would conduct the interviews. We tweaked the daily schedule (from lessons learned from the first group) and worked out our nightly teaching schedule.

I was completely exhausted by the time. I headed off to sleep.

China Teaching Day One

The day started off with a large group presentation. The students were welcomed and provided with an overview of the program. This was all done in Chinese. Thus, I’m not sure exactly what was said, but I did spend time reading the body language of the teachers. I would propose that if you recorded just about any opening of Professional Development, and turned off the sound, they would all look the same. The vast majority of teachers were paying attention and focused on the presentation. A few of the teachers appeared to be off task (I use appeared very deliberately). There was plenty of laughter and body language indicated that the teachers were engaged.

Due to the number of rooms available and the number of teachers, most of us are now paired up to teach. I’m paired with the wonderful Mr. Shawn McGirr. Shawn has been in China for the previous session as well as this one. This is a big advantage as he has the structure for working with the Chinese teachers. However, unsurprisingly, these teachers are very different than the previous teachers.

We started out with an ice breaker activity. We had the teachers line up in alphabetical order based their English name. They needed to accomplish this without talking. We had them complete the task again using their birthday, then by using the last four numbers of their ID. They are a good group who completed the tasks well. They processed the idea of different ways of communicating well. They also observed the different roles that participants take on.

We talked about the professional role of teachers as well. Their schedule is very different than the schedule that Americans traditional teach. For example, they teach two classes a day. However, they have lots of other meetings and duties to which to attend. The students have about seven classes a day. Also, the students stay in the same room. The teachers rotate rooms to go to the students.

We had the teachers work on an Insight Inventory. Here they identified their own learning styles. Once they had done so, they also imagined a student and identified the characteristics of that student on the Insight Inventory. They shared their story with each other.

We had the teachers complete a KWL activity revolving around their learning throughout the day. This was their Exit slip for the day.

At several points today, we had the teachers work on Table Talk. This was a new concept for most of them. We had them talk to the person across from them, talk to the person on their right, etc.

Our Homeroom

China Teaching Day Two

Breakfast is from the Western Cuisine Center. Thus, we had eggs, bacon, and hash browns.

Starting off as a whole group. There was an announcement from a Principal that I didn’t understand at all. The teachers have been told that they are only to use English.

One of the American teachers presented their story of creating a relationship with a student. This is important to help establish the professionalism Next up was Myths and Legends. Myths and Legends were introduced. The Myth of the Oaken Mead was projected onto the screen for the students. The idea of foreshadowing and predicting was shared. After the story, the students drew pictures of the main characters. The pictures were shared with the entire group via a wireless camera.

An icebreaker was next up. The Human Knot was the subject. The Human Knot is where the students are group into 2 groups of ten. One group of guys, one of women. Each forms a circle and grabs the hand of two other people in the middle of the circle.

Next up was sharing vocabulary and reading strategies using music. The song chosen was “Hear Me Roar” by Katie Perry. The strategy followed up the Talk to The Text strategy taught last night. The teachers were instructed to use their talking to the text strategy of identifying the new words in the song. The teachers then stood and had movements that went with the vocabulary words identified.

Our Homeroom is filled with terrific teachers. It is amazing how quickly they have become active participants in the class.

We built off the previous day’s lessons by having them work through the Name Game. They lined up in height order, without talking, and then had to say their name. Well, the first person did. The second person then states the name of the previous person and their name. The third person had to say the first person’s name, the second person’s name and then their name. And so on. As we were getting to the end of the line, they pulled Shawn and me into the line so that we would have to participate as well. They definitely would not have done that yesterday.

They have lots of good questions about teaching strategies. We had them pair up by picking a partner. Then, they had complete an assignment that involves two people walking at different paces and when their left foot would strike the ground in unison. Next we processed how they completed the assignment. The answer wasn’t the important part of the assignment, the process was. We had them review how they solved the puzzle. Some of them had worked it out as a Math problem. Some of the them had walked the hallway together to figure it out. Some of them had drawn lines on paper to figure it out. The students shared how they solved the problem while we wrote those out on the board. We also noted learning spaces (on paper and physical space – hallway). The physical space is important because allowing students to use the hallway as an appropriate learning space is unusual for them.

Next we had the teachers complete a Multiple Intelligences survey. They scored their surveys and then moved to appropriate space in the room (we posted a paper with each heading around the room). The interaction with teachers was phenomenal. The teachers are asking questions about implementing the strategies in their classroom already. We are trying to be extremely cognizant about pointing why we are doing each activity.

We’ve decided to start the afternoon out with a “Bell Ringer” activity every day. We introduced the activity of Story Cubes to the students. Story cubes have various pictures on the die. The dice are rolled (there are six of them) and whichever pictures come up are used to develop a story. Although six cubes were rolled, we selected four of the cubes to use. These four cubes were then projected onto the board using a document camera. The four die came up as a wand, an apple, an eye and a clock. We explained that different people would use different words to identify the pictures. The teachers wrote the words down that signified the images for them. Next, they developed and a story with those words. We discussed why and how we use “Bell Ringer” activities with students. We also discussed how this develops over time; how students get faster and better with practice.

Next, we returned to the Multiple Intelligence work. The teachers have a list of activities that align with seven of the multiple intelligences. We had each table review all of the activities for two of the identified intelligences (there are no activities for the Naturalist intelligence). Next, we had each table design a skit, demonstration or other way to describe one of the activities. Given that they have very little context for this, and that they have few models from which to pull, they did an assume job. As they acted out each strategy, the audience had to see if they could identify the strategy.

The evening session was mine tonight. (These are rotated amongst the American teachers with all of the Chinese teachers attending.) I had planned on doing Graphic Organizers. However, working through the Frayer model took long than I had anticipated. I had the student complete a couple of Frayer models and discuss how they would use the them in their class. I believe that it was very successful. The Chinese teachers were excited and demonstrated that it can work in their classroom. The teachers had lots of good questions. Although I had prepared for lots of graphic organizers, we only made it through Frayer Models tonight. Thus, we still plan on teaching the other models, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

As a side note, the Chinese teachers are literally locked into this professional development. They are not allowed to leave the campus at all. I’m allowed to leave, but I walk through a guarded locked gate.

Finally, I had a student asked when we doing the book? There were explicit directions given to all of the Chinese teachers that we would NOT be teaching them “the book”, but rather teaching strategies that could be applied to the book. This is not unexpected. I’ve been asked the same question no matter where I’ve done training.

China – Teaching Day 3

Please excuse some of the writing. I’m trying to post as much as possible, but I’m writing in small chunks. I’m also incredibly tired at this point. I may go back at some point and correct grammar and structure, but I think that it is more important to share what is happening.

The large group instruction began with recognizing two students from each homeroom with a trinket. There was lots of applause and praise.

One of the American teachers shared their story of why she is a teacher.

The ice breaker was the shoe in the middle activity. Thirty students were selected to form a circle. They threw one shoe in the middle of the circle. They then have 2 seconds to grab a shoe. Once they grab a shoe and return to the circle, they have to find the owner of the shoe. Once they find the owner, they interview the owner to learn about them. The teachers had a terrific time completing the activity.

A Myth/Legend was shared. Today was “Jason and the Argonauts”. The story was projected onto a very large screen and read by one of the American teachers. The teachers then followed directions to create a life jacket that retells the story.

Music in the classroom was next. The lesson revolved around Walking on Sunshine by Christina and the Waves. An action was associated with a couple of different terms. The teachers acted this out. Then the tie in with Multiple Intelligences was made. Next we reviewed the song from the previous day.

Off to Homeroom.

I started out with a bad joke. “What did Snow White say when her photos did not come back from the lab?”. I had to review the idea of having pictures printed (not a cultural issue, but a generational one). Then I shared the punchline with them – “She said, ‘That’s OK. Some day my prints will come'”. On the board I wrote out the punchline with (prince) underneath the word prints. Then I explained that many jokes in English work because of words that sound the same. I had the teachers complete two Frayer Models using the words prints and prince. This was to practice the skills from last night.

Next we had the teachers employ a Box and Summarize strategy with a piece of text that is in their book. The teachers read the material and boxed each paragraph. Next each table of students were assigned a specific section of the text. They were to become the “experts” of that section. The experts would then go off to the other tables to be the envoys of that section. The tables selected their four experts per table (and the three who would go to other tables). After time to process, the teachers mixed into the tables appropriately. This is one assignment that reminded me of the power of collaboration. As I originally designed the assignment, the teachers would’ve presented to the entire class. One teacher from each group would’ve been talking. This would’ve taken more time and resulted in fewer teachers leading/talking/explaining. By having each table become a talking point, many more teachers were leading/talking/explaining and participating. This also led to the idea of the feat of being wrong. One of the teachers said “But we don’t know what to do…”. He meant that this was something new for them.

The teachers provided valuable feedback as we asked them to reflect on their role as a student learning the material and a teacher who would present the material. They had lots of questions. They found the material difficult and asked about students doing this level of material. This led us to a terrific discussion about leveling work. We discussed the ideas of Zone of Proximal Development (though we didn’t use the term). Our discussion focused on the example of children learning to walk. During this class, explosions were heard outside the classroom. The explosions did NOT interrupt the class at all. It turns out that there was a wedding and the explosions were the fireworks from the wedding. One of the questions that came up was the difficulty of the text. The teachers wanted to know about the whether we would assign something like this to our students. They mostly assign stories to their students. We talked about using informational text with students. This also led to the discussion about leveled reading. We shared the idea of differentiating ideas. We also shared the Lesson Writer site. My teaching partner has an account and showed how you can create different lessons by adjusting parts of the lesson. For example, vocabulary can be adjusted based on student need. We also shared Newsela. We showed how the same story could be presented at different levels automatically.

It is interesting the number of pictures that the teachers are taking. Almost all of them obviously have a cell phone with them. They frequently take pictures of the screen as we are presenting, pictures of examples, and even videos. The cell phones are also used for looking up words that they are unfamiliar with.

We did our Story Cubes Bell Ringer activity. This time we did 5 words instead of just 4. We talked about why we upped the number of words with them. They wrote and shared their writing with each other.

We had a rich discussion about learning styles and how long it takes to develop these. Thus, my teaching partner came up with homework for teachers. It took less than ten minutes to present the lesson and provide them with the rules and examples. We talked about moving the work from teachers to students.


  1. Choose a children’s song.
  2. Remove the words and replace with the 23 non-action verbs (listed below).
  3. Include movement.
  4. Groups of 1-4.
  5. You perform in 3 days.

23 non-action verbs.

  • am
  • is
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • be
  • being
  • been
  • do
  • does
  • did
  • have
  • has
  • had
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • can
  • could
  • shall
  • should
  • will
  • would

Interestingly, many of the students stayed after Homeroom was over and we could hear children’s songs playing. There was lots of positive noise and discussion. Plenty of laughter.

China Teaching Day 4

Scavenger Hunt

Today I want you to think in pictures. The story is that of the Trojan Horse. Draw it out.


Bad joke. I did two bad jokes. I explained both of them. One of the neat things that happened

In order to lay the ground work for the lesson plan format, we had the teachers review a wonderful pamphlet called: Curriculum & Project Planner by Incentive Publications (World Book, written by Sandra Schurr. Specifically, we reviewed both Bloom’s Taxonomy and William’s Creativity Taxonomy. We also reviewed the Suggested Student Products and Performances. The teachers were very interested in this resource. We reviewed several of the options and had the teachers talk about how they would design these projects too. Next, we talked briefly about the optional Assessment Formats. Finally, there is a chart of Sample Learning Tasks. These are organized by subject area.

We shared a lesson plan format with the teachers. My teaching partner modeled a lesson that we then presented to the teachers. The lesson plan format was filled out using the document camera. Next, we presented the lesson. The lesson has two teachers compete using a remote control car. The students compete in how fast they can maneuver the car around. The goal is for the teachers to then describe the car. Those descriptions identify the prepositions.

Shawn Car Activity

We had a long conversation and had to provide several examples of why Fast is slow; Slow is fast. This is something that the teachers are very concerned about – just like most teachers with whom I worked.

We also had students select Clock Buddies. We explained how Clock Buddies work and had them identify a buddy for each hour. We shared how this is used to pair kids up quickly. This was another example of Fast is slow;Slow is fast since it is slow the first time, but after that is very quick. Everyone found their 10 o’clock buddy. We pointed out how fast the pairing occurred.

We also had the teachers create a shared story to demonstrate prepositions. The story started with selecting a location. A teacher was selected to do the cover page. Another teacher was selected to do the Word page at the end. Then the first student started the story by saying a sentence out loud. after the teacher contributed their sentence with a preposition in it, that teacher was handed a blank piece of paper to write down their sentence and add a picture. The next student continues the story. The teacher doing the word page writes down each preposition as it is read out loud. At the end of the process, the papers are collected in order and form a complete shared story.

Every day the teachers write in their reflective notebook. This was originally called a Reflective Journal, however, a journal is like a diary in China. Thus, some of the students were hesitant to write in it. Name change to Reflective Notebook solves that issue. These notebooks will be collected.

A couple of observations about the classroom that we are in. The room has a presentation stand, a chalkboard that has two sections, _one slides over the chalkboard or the interactive whiteboard. There is a raised stage in the front of the room as well. There is no teacher desk.

China Day 5

Today we started the large group presentation with the music portion. This is a chance to reinforce the music lyrics and association between music and words. The teachers are very excited and willing to participate with the music.

Award presentations. As a group, we acknowledge a couple of students from each homeroom. This helps emotionally bind the teachers. It recognizes the teachers. This is an important feature that is all too frequently forgotten.

Leaf on a tree. Each member of our team has taken a leaf and used it to describe themselves. These were projected on onto the screen and explained. This is a powerful process that really helps us connect with each other.

Music was used again to have teachers to identify words and note them on a graphic organizer.


Once again, I started off the class with a bad joke (Why were the ink spots sad? – Their father was in the pen.) I explained how the pen is used as slang for jail. Interestingly, one of the students also told a bad joke.

We had the teachers replicate the Leaf activity that the American teachers modeled. The Chinese teachers created a leaf with things that described them.

We also introduced an Adjective Name poem. The teachers created a poem using their name and adjectives.

We introduced the Think/Pair/Share activity to them. We described the process and why we do that process. Then we had the teachers Think about how they could create a welcoming atmosphere in their classroom, Pair up using their 8 o’clock partner, and Share their ideas.

After lunch, we had a teacher lead the Story Cube process. The teachers wrote out their paragraphs. Then they shared with their 2 o’clock partners. At the end, we processed just how long it took them to partner up. They were very pleased that they were able to partner up so quickly.

We also completed the Place Mat activity. This is designed to get kids talking and sharing ideas in an organized manner. The idea is to have a placemat for 4 students. The central circle has the main idea/central question. The placemat is divided into 4 squares. Each of the students respond to the main idea/central question for 1-2 minutes. At that time, the placemat is rotated and the students respond (in writing) to another student’s thoughts/writing. The placemat is turned again, and the students read and respond to another students thoughts. This is completed until the writing comes back to the originator. Then, the group discusses the main idea and comes to a consensus about how they want to respond. One student is selected as a spokesperson and shares with the whole class.

Placemat Activity

We also discussed a couple of other teacher concerns today. We discussed how to provide adequate wait time (we have a teacher who is also immediately raising her hand when a question is asked). We talked about how to deal with those overactive students. We also discussed how to engage and motivate students.

Everyday ends with the teachers responding in a Reflective Notebook to a specific question. Then they complete an Exit card to a specific question. Both of these are determine by the team of American teachers and is consistent across all homerooms.

Overall, the teachers are asking terrific, challenging questions. Their concerns center around having “time” to switch to student centered instruction. Their biggest concern is about the testing that is used to sort the students.

China – Teaching Day 6

The American teachers shared a couple more leaf stories. These are really neat and fun to share. It helps us learn about each other while the Chinese teachers are learning about us. It also helps them understand American culture and the teaching process. Every teacher has addressed their professional life and what teaching means to them. This activity really helps address so many things. Not only is this activity good for here, but this is a great activity to really get staff to know each other.

Today’s icebreaker was the telephone game. As expected the story changed drastically through the transmission. We talked about why and how to do this with students. Specifically, we focused on rumors and being clear.

Music was used to pump up the whole group.


Bad Joke. Why did the Baker rob a bank? He needed the dough. We discussed the double meaning of dough. I added the additional joke of I was going to tell you a joke about a broken pencil, but there is no point.

Next, we had them compete in groups of four to make a ping pong ball cross a table. We processed why we did this with them. We asked the teachers why they thought we did this activity. They answered with team building, working together and building community. We also added focus. We asked them where their mood and thoughts were. Then we pointed out that this is an activity that will get kids to forget about things happening outside school (or in the hallways) and focused on schools.

Next we did an activity with a beachball. The beachball has a variety of words and questions written on it. Whoever catches the beachball has to answer the question or use the word in a sentence. Wherever the thumb lands determines the question/word. Thus, the student gets to determine which question/word that will be chosen.

Break ran over a bit as both of us were having rich conversations with different groups of students.

We introduced the idea of writing lessons using the Objective first and then writing the summative evaluation.

The food staff is made up of students. It is absolutely wonderful to see the change in them since the first day. They are much more talkative and expressive now. In one case, I had stopped into the teacher’s office area. I ended up giving a piece of chocolate to each of the kids. One of the kids asked for another piece. It was a great moment. Our translator/TA, who is an exceptionally wonderful college kid, asked me to excuse the kid because “he is young”. He went on to say that asking for more is generally considered rude. I told him that that was pretty much a universal thing. However, it was fine. The kids have been doing a good job and wanted to let them know that I appreciate what they are doing for us.

One of the other teacher’s classes appreciates my bad jokes. They want her to let them know what the bad joke of the day is. Humor is a great way to establish relationships.

Story Cubes. We had a teacher lead the group through the process. She did a wonderful job even though we had to switch the story cubes to action verbs instead of the nouns that they had been using.

Lesson Plans. Next we reviewed the lesson plan format with the teachers. Our focus was having them identify the objectives, standards and then summative assessment.

We also went to Old Beijing. This was a fun outing. We had a large group of several American teachers, some Chinese teachers and some of our Teaching Assistants. We rode the subway to the Old Beijing area. This was about a 40 minute ride. A large percentage of subway riders spent their ride engrossed in their phones. China also has video ads running outside the subway on the tunnel walls. Some of these were hilarious. We arrived and walked a short way to the popular area. This was filled with lots of lights and restaurants. Many of the restaurants had musicians playing in them. I later learned that this is kind of a proving ground for many musicians. The music was very good. We went to a couple of the small shops (we knew that there was one in particular that we wanted to go to). I picked up some leather bound journals. These are very neat and very affordable. We also went to a roof top bar for drinks and to listen to music. Unfortunately, by the time that we got back to the subway, we were too late. We were able to hail a cab and ride back to the hotel.

China Day 7

The day started out with “Roar” by Katie Perry. We use this everyday for consistency. It also provides a lot of energy. These teachers are working incredibly hard. Their day is a long day. They start promptly at 8 a.m. The last session ends at 8 p.m. They are truly working incredibly hard. They are learning lots of different strategies, different processes and procedures. They are doing difficult brain work. Starting with something that energizes them is crucial.

You next consist song is “We Are Family”. This time, we had everyone in the auditorium form a huge circle around the room. They could dance, clap along, sing, do whatever. The important part is that they were participating.

I’m a teacher rap – (to Ridin’ Solo by Jason Derilo).

Candy ice breaker. Several students selected between 1-3 pieces of candy. Based upon the candy, they had to answer that many questions. Starbursts were used. The color of the candy dictated the question.

The presentation of Myths and Legends continued. A Story was presented and a graphic organizer was completed.


Bad Joke. What do you call a belt that has a timepiece in it? (A waist of time). I gave them a couple of other jokes, including “Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7,8,9” I wrote this one out on the board both ways. We talked about it.

Next, we gave them time to finish working on lesson plans. They worked very hard on these. One table chose to work together on producing a single lesson plan. A couple of other teachers worked together in pairs. However, most of them worked individually. I’m impressed by the questions that they asked and the work that they did.

Once the teachers seemed to be set with creating their first lesson plans, we introduced them to the Gallery Walk strategy. We posted their lesson plans around the room and gave them post it notes. We had them find their 2 o’clock buddy and visit each lesson plan. On each one they were to discuss the lesson plan. Then each teacher would write out a post it note with either a question or a positive comment.

Once this was complete, we had them gather up their lesson plans and review the comments that they were provided. Then we talked about the Gallery Walk process. We noted that when they first arrived, they said that they wanted to practice their English, learn about lesson planning and learn strategies. This lesson allowed all of them to talk, (instead of one person presenting at a time, all of the teachers were talking and evaluating as they went), create lesson plans, critique lesson plans and see and use a variety of lesson plans.

Presentation of the Homework.

WOW. What a terrific exercise! The teachers did such a wonderful job of the presenting the 23 non-action verbs combined with a children’s song. They sang, they laughed, they clapped along. Almost all of them nailed it. One group didn’t have every member singing (they all participated) and we noted that. Several of the groups were very creative.

Then, we processed why we did it this way. Could we have just told them to memorize the 23 non-action verbs? Sure. We noted the amount of work that they put in. We talked about the joy, the excitement and the energy in the room. We asked them how they felt about the assignment. Then we asked them to compare how they would’ve felt if they were just told to memorize them.

Next we started the process of Collins Writing with them. We gave them their three FCA’s and a formatted paper. They are to take one of their Story Cube stories and expand upon the story. The story must be 125 words. It must use the words appropriately.

Finally, we had them complete their Reflective Notebook. This was a day packed with information and learning.

At the very end, I wrote two rules on the board:

  1. No working on PD tomorrow.
  2. See rule #1.

They got at kick out of the joke. We really want them to relax and take a break tomorrow. They have been working extremely hard. It is time for them to relax and let some of the learning soak in.

China Day 8

The Chinese teachers had the day off today. Thus, the American teachers did as well. We decided to head out to Tian’anmen Square for the flag raising ceremony. Unfortunately for me, this occurs at sunrise. That meant a 3 a.m. alarm. That translated to a very short night.

The ceremony was somewhat underwhelming. There wasn’t a lot of pomp or circumstance. Pretty much, it was a flag that was raised. However, there was a pretty big crowd. It was interesting to watch the crowd. The crowd quickly became a sea of technology raised in the air to record the moment. I watched as a very young child, I’m going to guess about two years old, was handed a phone whilst the child was on the shoulders of a man. The child aimed the phone and clicked the record button.

We had to wait around for a while for a restaurant to open so that we could have breakfast. Then our tour guide met us. We were taken on a tour of Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City. Our tour guide seemed to be very knowledgable about the concubines. We got lots of information about them. The Forbidden City is very pretty and impressive, but very touristy at this point. There are lots of things that you can’t actually see. Still, it was impressive to experience. It was nice to share an experience with the other American teachers.

Next we went to Pearl Market to do some shopping. Haggling takes a lot out of me. I know that that is the way that the game is played, but I personally find it tiring.

China Day 9

We have been provided with an opportunity to visit the Beijing Zoo. The Chinese teachers do not have any more time off. Since the American teachers have teamed up, we split up into three groups. The groups are spread over three days to have a day off. This way, the American teachers can cover for each other. I’ll be covering someone else’s class tomorrow.

This allows the American teachers an extra day to explore Beijing.

Today was my day. I went with two other teachers. We scheduled going to the Beijing Zoo, the Summer Palace, and Silk Market.

Our plans were a success. We went to the the Zoo first thing in the morning. We checked out the Pandas. Next, we wandered around many exhibits and found the lions and tigers. We also found the Elephants, but that was sad. The Elephants were in a caged area that barely allowed them to take a couple of steps. We asked about the Ferry to the Summer Palace, but were told to take the subway. So we were off on the subway to the Summer Palace.

The Summer Palace was a real treat. The beauty is incredible. There is so much to see that we probably could’ve spent a couple of days there. However, we did get a good taste of what was there. At one point, we saw a group of soldiers talking to a man sitting with a sign. It was obvious that he was protesting something. I decided to take a picture. I got just a little nervous when a soldier turned and looked straight at me. However, he neither said nor did anything. In just a moment afterward, the soldiers moved along.

We walked around the Summer Palace for a couple hours. I’m sure that we saw about 20% of what is there. However, the theater area was absolutely gorgeous. The theater is a three story theater with booths on the side for viewing. The colors were beautiful. You could envision a production being performed.

We walked back to a garden area. It was very refreshing to see and smell fresh trees. We also looked at some of the artifacts that date back to 11th century B.C.

Then it was a subway ride to the Silk Market. We did some shopping, then headed out to eat. Silk Market is very much like Pearl Market. However, Silk Market is a bit more like a shopping mall in that each store has walls. Pearl Market is more like a flea market. Both involve lots of bargaining (even though there are signs in Silk Market about not bargaining). I actually preferred Pearl Market as it seems more like what it really is.

The subway ride back was insane. The line (queue is the British term) to enter one of the subway cars was nuts. Basically, one had to push one’s way onto the subway. The expression packed in like sardines is appropriate. However, we made it onto the subway and back to the Hotel.

I got back in time to stop into the evening session and say “Hello” to some of my students. I did lots of walking, over 25,000 steps, and had a good time.

China Day 10

Starting off with lots of music. A couple of family members of one of the teachers have joined us for the last few days. The Chinese teachers got a kick out of one of the American teachers dancing with her husband.

Next up was an ice breaker. This was men versus the women. Each group had to stand butts on knees of the person behind them. The had to walk as far as possible.

I shared a couple of relational situations with the Chinese teachers. I shared the story of student who was in a lock up facility due to stealing a monkey. I also shared the story of an immigrant who is just starting medical school.

The story of Ichabod Crane was shared via the screen and reading.


Today I covered another Homeroom. The other teacher had the day to explore Beijing as I did yesterday. Her class was very different from mine. I think that mine have a slightly higher level of English proficiency. However, I had a good time with them. We had some technical difficulties with the projector, but worked through that.

I had them review the strategies that they had learned over the past couple of weeks. Then I introduced the Banner to them. The American teachers are having each Homeroom create a banner that explains what that class has learned. These will be posted up in the large meeting room during the ending celebration.

Next, I introduced the lesson plan format to them. We worked through the idea of a student objective. We also talked about summative assessments. I want them to focus on creating those first. Then we will create the actual lesson. They completed their objectives and their summative assessment. Next, the Chinese teachers finished creating their lesson plans by adding in the details of their lesson. Specifically, they added their introduction, the student activity and their closing.

China Day 11

Started with music.

Ice breaker, who is the leader. Have a 16 volunteers sit in a circle. Pick one volunteer from that circle to go out. Pick a leader from those who are left. The person who is out has to try to figure out who the leader is. (We’ve been using the document camera as our remote camera. However, we didn’t have it. Fortunately, I remember that we had an iPad ready to present. Thus, we used the iPad as our remote camera). Although there was a slight delay, this worked well.

One of the teachers shared her relational teaching story and why she became a teacher.

Another teacher shared the story of the Arched Rock. This is a myth that centers around our home state of Michigan. Specifically, this comes from Mackinac Island. He shared a map that showed where most of us are from and where Mackinac Island is. He then shared the story with the Chinese teachers.

There was an announcement in Chinese as well.


My teaching partner had the day off today. The students are working on a presentation that focuses on an article that they had to read. Then, they are going to select from a variety of alternative assessments to relate the information from the article. They needed time to work on understanding the text and creating their presentations. After the break, we had an AMA (Ask Me Anything). They had several questions about teaching and school set up. I pulled out a couple of schedules that I had so that I could share what a typical day looks like in an American school.

We discussed the teacher schedule. I pointed out that my teachers generally taught two or three different classes. My teachers also had one period of roughly an hour for “prep”. I defined prep for them as the time when teachers would prepare for their next classes, grade papers, etc. They asked about a “head teacher”. After some discussion, the “head teacher” provides discipline. I explained that this was the responsibility of the principal and/or the assistant principal. They also had questions about discipline. Specifically, what do we do to deal with discipline.

After lunch, we discussed some idioms. We defined a wide variety of idioms. I gave them additional time to work on their presentations for the phobias. I also introduced the other two major pieces that they need to accomplish – a banner for the class and a presentation for the last night.

The night session was a continuation from last night. This was all about grading. What does a point mean? What is truly the purpose of school? The presenters did a terrific job on presenting the idea of standard based grading.

China Day 12

  • Morning session I did the story


  • Time to work on their banner ideas. Posted for discussion.
  • Formed committees for presesentation and banner
  • Yea, but…to Yea,And
  • RAFT
  • Question cubes


We received several wonderful gifts from the Chinese teachers. These included a set of paper cut-outs that represent Chinese drama. The gifts were obviously from the hearts of the teachers.


  • Technology set up was interesting.
  • Toilet paper is a commodity.
  • WE are very lucky at Americans.
  • We have been treated like ROCK stars in Beijing. Out hosts have treated us extremely well.
  • Crowds become common place.
  • I won’t take fresh air for granted as much any more.
  • Nor will I take clean potable water for granted either.
  • Nor towels to dry one’s hands after washing them.
  • The emotional part of getting “students” to buy in was important.
  • Being stared at is an interesting experience.
  • Randomness of personal Gmail working but work email not working.


The trip to China was certainly a powerful experience. The Chinese teachers were wonderful. The American teachers were excellent teachers and good people. As with most experiences, I think that I learned much more than I taught.

I was absolutely struck by some of the differences between what I was used to and what I experienced in China. In America, we generally have a strong concept of “personal space”. Toilet paper and hand towels are always available. I’m accustomed to fresh air and clean water.

Some things were universal. The Chinese teachers truly care about their students. the Chinese teachers feel overwhelmed. They also don’t feel as though they are respected.

The Chinese teachers stated very emphatically that “everyone thinks that we have it easy because we teach two classes a day”. They then went on to talk about how they are working, really working, twelve hour days. I tried to get a sense of exactly what the rest of the day truly entails. It seems that the teachers are responsible for lots of other duties and mandated “busy” work. According to the PISA results, the Chinese are scoring high on tests. Yet, the teachers that we worked with (and remember, these are teachers that were chosen to be a part of this program) wanted their students to be better learners. They really wanted their students to score better on the gaokao. The gaokao is deeply ingrained into the culture. The teachers recognize that their students need to do really well on the test. Yet, the Chinese teachers also wanted more for their students (and themselves).

The power of relationships became even clearer for me. Relationships are the key to education. However, establishing an environment where people can learn to fundamentally adjust what they do in a two week period simply can’t be done without creating real relationships.

I worry about the Chinese teachers. There were no administrators at the sessions. I worry about how much support the Chinese teachers will have once they are back in their own classrooms. We experienced powerful learning while we were in China. The Chinese teachers understood what we were teaching. However, they were only truly exposed to the strategies for a couple of weeks. They will need additional time and practice to master and hone those strategies.

I’ve very glad that I went. This was an experience that pushed me in so many ways. I met some truly terrific people (both American and Chinese). I wish them all well and hope to continue a dialogue with them.


I’ve posted a Flickr feed of the pictures that I took while I was in China.