August 2013

How do we deal with students with behavioral disorder in class?

Recently I studied a case of a student with behavioral disorder. Let’s call him “Jason”. Jason is a student with behavioral disorder. As a learner, first, Jason cannot concentrate on the class, he does not follow the teachers' directions, he either use this way to draw attention to himself, distract others or he could not understand the instructions at all. Second, he doesn't participate in classroom activities, or he is a passive participant. That is to say, he does not contribute much to group work. Personally I think his parents' divorce affects his interaction with others, because he does not trust communication among family members which makes him unsure of his communication with others. Third, Jason has a low level of math skills and written skills. Meanwhile, reading is difficult for him. Fourth, Jason is a student who likes to be praised and encouraged because he responses better to an environment that gives frequent feedback, especially with the use of positive and negative consequences. This is a way for him to build his self-esteem.

If I were his teacher, I would build on his strength that he likes positive reinforcement. I would praise him for any appropriate behavior that he shows in my classroom, even if it is just following a very simple instruction. In this way, I can encourage him to have better behavior in each class. And he would try his best to win these praises to build upon his self-esteem.

Meanwhile, I would have my specific concerns for his not participating in group activities. On the one hand, it prevents him from going any further in academic progress. On the other hand, it is a distraction for other students.

Since he has good computer skills, I would like to ask him to help me with any computer hardware or software problems in my classroom, sometimes maybe very trivial things that others can deal with too. But I will give the chance to Jason, if it can help him find the class interesting, moreover, it can help him feel responsible for this class as well as for his classmates. In this way, he will feel more confident while interacting with his classmates during group activities. Finally, it will help him have appropriate behaviors in classroom and push him forward for academic success.

In summary, as teachers, we should always try to praise and reinforce the students’ strength in class to make them more interested and would like to change their improper behavior by themselves.

2013 September

What should we learn from “Duncan”

Duncan is an eleventh-grade student who has a learning disability. His special education teacher is Griffin. Meanwhile, he was employed in a fast food restaurant as a part-time worker by Patricia, who is very committed to the program to help students with learning disabilities.

During a monthly transition conference, Patricia talked with Griffin about Duncan’s inappropriate behavior at the workplace, then the next day, they together sat down with Duncan and talked with him. They explained their concerns about his behavior and how it could be thought of as disrespectful of others. They told him they desire to help him fit in and be accepted by the other workers. They also explained the social skills training program, which they would like him to participate in. however, Duncan sat very quietly and appeared angry. Two hours after the meeting, Patricia got one email message from Duncan, which expressed his deep disapproval and even anger to Patricia for talking with his teacher behind his back.

In this case, both the employer and the teacher have good intention and desire to help Duncan, however, it does not happen as they have expected. In our daily teaching, we may have this kind of problem too. So what should we do facing this problem and how do we avoid this kind of misunderstanding between teachers and students? This is a big issue to talk about.

In my opinion, Griffin Nagel should talk with Duncan directly right now. He should point out to Duncan that what Patricia talked with him is for his own good. She did not talk about this to disrespect him or for any other reasons to get him in trouble in school. Far from that, they would rather find a way to help him master more important social skills. After Duncan calms down a little bit, Griffin can talk about the social skills group or his friend Kirsten Bruce who run the program to attract his attention, hopefully, he would like to participate in this program willingly.

Patricia, on the other hand, should not talk directly with Griffin, to avoid more conflict. On the contrary, she should email him back, explain the situation, more importantly, apologize for what she talked with Griffin about his behavior in the restaurant. Then, maybe she can also suggest that they talk about it some other time, to make Duncan realize that she is only trying to help rather than get him in trouble.

Patricia should have talked with Duncan before this meeting with Griffin, like Duncan said, she could point his behaviors or flaws out to him so he can fix this early. Maybe she can also talk with his mom, so they together can talk with him, make it easier for Duncan to accept his inadequacy at work and be eager to make some changes both at work and in school, even at home.

As far as I am concerned, Duncan is most upset that Patricia talked about his problems behind his back, meanwhile, he is concerned that he would make a bad impression on his teacher as well as his classmates. Consequently, he is afraid that he might be looked down upon by his classmates and teachers.

To resolve the present situation, both Griffin and Patricia can talk with Duncan separately to give him the impression that they do care about him and would like to help in any possible way. They also should confirm that they would not treat him differently because of what they have talked. They value him just as before, they still love him as the way he is. But if there is any way that he could improve some of his behaviors at work, it would be awesome, which makes them even more proud of him.

What surprised me most is that Duncan had so strong a reaction to the fact that Patricia talked with his teacher about his behavior behind him, which made him even mad. It shows that he has a strong self-consciousness, which makes him care much about what others think of him. Meanwhile, he is eager to leave a good impression on his teacher at school.

From this case, as teachers, we should learn to be open to our students. In other words, we should always communicate directly with students about their strength as well as their shortcomings. As time goes, students will realize that we do have deep concern for them. Consequently, they will not be as mad as Duncan when we want to talk about their misbehavior in class. They will also be glad to accept our opinion as teachers as well as friends.

2013 October

Observation of a Spanish Class in a High School

In order to know more about Language teaching in high schools in America, I observed a Spanish class in a high School.

The class I observed is a very active class. Students are full of energy. They are eager to learn and want to show off what they know. However, it turned out to be a little imbalanced sometimes because some tried to answer questions all the time while others choose to be silent.

There are 6 rows in the class and each row has about 4 students. This class was well organized and most students are doing a good job. From what I observed, Students can learn a lot in this environment.

The teacher started the class by greeting students in Spanish.  Then she explained what they would do for the class. Apparently, this is the routine for the starting part.

In the class, the teacher asked the students to play a card game. First she used projector to show students how to arrange the groups, then she asked each group to send a person to grab the cards. After finishing the card game, the very student should be responsible to hand in the cards. They also had a quiz in the class. Students know exactly how to hand in their quiz. Those who were done with the quiz just stood up and went to the front desk and put their quiz there automatically. No students were talking during the quiz time.  I assume that they were trained to distribute and collect materials.

At the end of the class they did another assessment questions about how to express time in Spanish. I guess it’s the routine for each class to close the class or consolidate the knowledge they just acquired or reviewed.

I don’t know Spanish, so I asked a student sitting beside me what are the posted stuff in the classroom. She told me that they were the procedures for getting a kind of “check”. So I think probably, it's a kind of rewarding system for learning just as I am doing in my class. My students can get one Yuan if they answer my questions correctly. They will get bonus points for holding enough fake RMB at the end of the semester.

I also found it interesting how the teacher discipline the class. When students talked a lot while the teacher was speaking, the teacher just stopped speaking for a little while before they were quiet again. Of course, it worked well.

From the observation, I got the idea that we should always develop a routine for students in class so they know well what they would do for each step. It helps save time and make students enjoy the class better.

2013 November

Interview with a Spanish teacher who has 2 students with special need in class

Recently I found it hard to deal with my student with learning disabilities. So I observed and interviewed a Spanish teacher. The teacher I interviewed has been teaching Spanish for 20 years. She teaches level 1-4 and has about 25 students in a normal class. The class I observed is level 1   with 24 students. Most of the students are in grade nine and ten.

There are 2 at risk students in her class: one boy and one girl. She knows the girl’s mental illness from her mother. The girl has multiple disabilities and she is on medication and struggling to get correct. She was not totally sure about the boy’s diagnosis. The boy has an IEP manager and resource class. So the teacher can send him the materials he needs. But neither of them is passing the class and probably will not pass this semester.

The teacher thinks it’s hard for anyone, especially so for special education students in a language class and the major challenge is to know how much repetition and practicing they need to do. But everyone can do this except it takes time and efforts.

When asked about the procedure for referring a student to SAT, she said: “Parents can ask for it. I have never written a particular referral to SAT. But if I am concerned about a student who really need anything special like special education or social issues, I would usually email a student counselor or a student administrator. We are encouraged to talk to students’ parents and so I will call and just say I am having low achievement and I am having a hard time to get your child to participate, what is going on? If I think a student needs special education, I will give parents some ideas and names of people to call. ”

She also told me that she goes to IEP meeting to share and gain information about some special education student. She likes to go to the IEP meeting and enjoy meeting students’ parents because she can learn a lot about the students and learn what the big picture is.

What is more, she mentioned that she has students with learning disability, speech language impairment and autism. In her opinion, the struggle for most of the students is just putting in the time that it takes to learn Spanish. Throughout her career, she had an IEP student who has very significant learning disabilities but the student was one of her top students. The student was a hard worker and she was always willing to try anything, she did a good job in Spanish 2. That’s why she emphasizes that they need to put more time in.

When asked about the accommodation of the class for special education students, she said what she keeps on watching is whether they need extended time. For students with autism, she would ask them to work alone, for they are uncomfortable when interacting with other people.  She also likes to break instructions down and confirm with another person to see whether they understand the instructions in the same way. Sometimes she found the things needed to do with special education students are applied to any student in the classroom.

She also tried to give them good structures for studying. What she did on the quiz was trying to give students models. “If I model something, you can do things the way I did it.” She thinks that modeling is very useful for special education students too.

She recommended that I needed to be organized.  She said she was super organized. “I’d like to have my notebook; I’d like to have copies done; I think that organization helps all students. Because if you know there is a handout you are going to give in class and you have it done. For any of your students with IEP or without, if you say I know you need a little bit more time to think about it before we start to talk about it, take the handout two days early.

I always tell my students: Focus on what you can do, because they tend to think way too big for their level of language, they want to speak in paragraphs instead of three-word sentences. I think breaking things down is always good! I always start with pieces and try out to work out to make it clear.

I like to give handout and have clear notes because then people can come back to it.  I found people think differently about using books or not and how much we speak the language. I always like to come back to something in the book, so a Special education student or teacher, parents may ask us what we did in this class. So we can say we did a lot of activities, we played a card game but the numbers are written on this page of the book. So they can go back to something concrete.”








Outside the window

Bo Liu

Leaves are becoming yellow,

Coldness is felt outside the window.

Where to go the snowflake does not know,

Prepared is the grass to yearly grow.


Dress for the position
Bo Liu

“Bo, your shirt is so neat! Where did you buy it?” Ms. Shi asked. She gave me some suggestions that teacher should dress up for the students when teaching. Otherwise they will look down upon us! If that happens, the teacher will not teach much in his/her class.

After one year of teaching in the “heart land” of United States, I can feel how true that is!

I still remember that when I first came here. I did not know the dressing code here. So I just dressed in casual clothes as I did in China. But one day in my class, a girl said to me: “ Mr. Liu, how to say ‘I am homeless’ in Chinese”. Instinct told me that this was not a funny thing! I knew something must have been wrong! Of course, I turned down the question by saying “we will learn that soon!”

Later, when I came home, I thought about it and got the conclusion: I need to dress up! I was brought up in the Northern Chinese countryside, so I did not have the habit of dressing up everyday due to a kind of poverty. But I do have a habit of wearing the same clothes for several days, which is absolutely a very bad habit in American Culture! I believe “ Do as romans do when in Rome” is the reason why my former foreign teacher told me that being clean is very important in America last year when I visited him in Chicago. Now I understand that in a deeper sense.

We Chinese Old Hundred Names, always cook by using much oil, onion, ginger and green onion. So you can imagine what kind of impression we will leave on students when we wear very casual clothes with a kind of Chinese “taste” of smell.

The book the First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong tells us that we are treated as we are dressed and we are a walking and talking advertisement! I totally agree with that.

After reading that, I searched how to dress in America in line. I got some professional codes like wearing your tie when you have your shirt on! After I followed these codes. I found things have been changed. I could feel the respect from the eyes of my colleagues as well as my students! That was because I dressed up to show respect to them first.

People may argue that we should not judge people by their appearances! I totally agree with that too! However, research showed that nicely dressed person always gets more help! This is the reality! We need to respect facts. Of course, the real noble characters should dwell in a teacher’s heart, not only on clothes! But dressing up for your job can show how much you care about it! It also illustrate that you respect your “customers” and colleagues! It’s one reflection of our characters!  Who would feel safe to put their child to a teacher’s class if the teacher doesn’t know how to dress up to be professional?


How to Manage My Class
Bo Liu

I am reading a book called The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. So many things struck my heart that I had no idea before.

Teacher is the only determining factor for students’ academic achievement. The book says “Decade after decade of educational innovation and fads have not increased student achievement. The only factor that increases student achievement is the significance of an effective teacher. ” (page 11) We actually have a similar saying in Chinese educational circle. It goes like this: There are no students who can’t learn; there are only teachers who are not capable to teach! Now I begin to think deeply how to teach and how to be an effective teacher.

First I need to be positive about my students, colleagues and administers. So I would be away from those who always complain about them. Complaining about students, colleagues or administrators will get us nowhere. If I keep on getting negative information, how can I trust my students and build a good relationship between us.

Second, keep on learning as long as I live. As the book mentioned, research improve student achievement.  Effective teachers talk more about the research they constantly look for to improve the achievement of their students.(page 31). I remember I did not know so many old research results until I was trained in the star talk program. For example, the most effective time of the class is the first four and half minutes.

Third, I have to have a draft classroom management plan for the class to discuss in the first class of the semester, no matter where I work. Effective teachers always have the clear classroom procedures in the beginning. However, we can discuss it with the class so that students can have a kind of feeling of ownership.

Last but not the least, I need to remember that students will always meet my expectation. If I believe this student will succeed, he will. If I believe the student will fail, and he will too. As Henry Ford says, whether you think you can or you think you can’t ---you are right!


Be Prepared for Our Classes
Bo Liu

I read an article called “Waiting in the wings: Cicadas!” from USA today.

A big brood of 17-year cicadas will emerge this spring from the south to New York metropolitan area. These special critters bid their time underground for 17 years just for 2-4 weeks of live on earth. Some people will say they had a pretty dismal life, but I don’t think so.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.

There is a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. For these insects, long time of preparation underground is just for the decent 2-4 weeks. That makes me think more about our own life especially in teaching.

When we see skillful teachers on the platform making his/her class so interesting and making his students so eager to learn, we should think about how they prepared the lesson. I heard a kind of saying, for a teacher, a good lesson should be prepared by using his/her lifetime. I totally agree with that! The actual main work for a class lies in the outside of the class, not inside the class. Teacher’s role in class is only a conductor and monitor of students’ learning. I think, as a teacher we should always be a learner in how to better our classes. Reading books and observing our peers’ class are always our ways of preparing a beautiful class in our lifetime.

For an excellent class, let’s read more and observe more!


Be Prepared to Teach English Language Learners in Our Class
Bo Liu

Recently I read the article The Missing Piece in Teacher Education:

The Preparation of Linguistically Responsive Teachers
, written by TAMARA LUCAS and ANA MARÍA VILLEGAS, I found several points interesting.

The author argued that the increasing inclusion of ELLs in mainstream classrooms necessitates the preparation of all teachers to teach ELLs. Before reading this article, I have never imagined that all teachers from content areas need to be prepared to teach ELLs. In my hometown, there is only one language spoken which is called Mandarin. Even though we speak the language in a dialect tone in our daily conversation, we use the same vocabulary and grammar when we speak the dialect. What’s more, most teachers speak the standard predominated language—Mandarin in class. So there is no need for teachers from content areas to think about modifying our class instructions in an easier way.  Moreover, the language teachers from content areas are using, standard or not, will probably not affect the students’ understanding of the class.  Furthermore, we think that the language matter is the responsibilities of Mandarin teachers. But in United States, the culturally and linguistically diverse society, we have to consider the growing number of ELLs, which makes me think in a completely new way about the instruction language we use in classes.

“Language is the medium through which humans make meaning (Halliday, 1977; Vygotsky, 1978)”; “schooling is primarily a linguistic process, and language serves as an often-unconscious means of evaluating and differentiating students (Schleppegrell, 2004, p. 2)” and “almost all the activities of importance in schools involve some language use (Trumbull & Farr, 2005)” quoted by the author gave me more insight about the language teachers are using. Currently, I am teaching Chinese in 2 high schools in LPS.  I noticed that sometimes my activity instructions didn’t make sense to some Vietnamese students, for whom English is their second language. Now I realized that how important the modification of the language is.

When I was an undergraduate in China, I realized that I needed to communicate with my former foreign teachers frequently if I want to speak English fluently to get a decent job. That did work out when I got my job as a high school English teacher beating hundreds of competitors because of my fluency in English. But my fluency of English was just based on conversations about daily life. So when I arrived in United States, I found it hard to express myself and understand reading materials. So a language learner needs to interact directly and frequently with people who are fluent in the language. However, being academically proficient in the language is quite another issue. So I need to read more and learn more to be prepared for the accommodated instructions.

November 2012

A Special Gift

In class she was still absent-minded.

“It’s time for you to retake Unit 6 quiz.”

“I don’t want to retake it…”

“No! You have to retake it. Otherwise you will fail at last.”

15 minutes later, she sat opposite of me. I spoke Chinese phrases and she wrote Chinese characters.

I found out that she was cheating. She can see through the writing page, and see the answers on the next page.

“What is this?”

“Write a sentence here.”

She couldn’t write the sentence in the same characters as she wrote.

“Didn’t you write the same characters just now? ”

 It’s about the time to dismiss.

“It’s your gift.”

"I haven’t got money for a long time…”

She began to cry…

“You know my problem…”

She cried even harder…

Her tears flowed in to my heart.

A week ago, some student told me that they want to play “secret Santa”

I said: Good!

I drew the lot, and it was Y.

I went to Walmart twice, but I didn’t find a suitable gift for the maximum of the 5 dollars.

Finally I noticed a notebook that is more than 4 dollars. I think that will encourage her to study harder.

When I went to the counter, I found out that the notebook is only a little bit more than 2 dollars. Someone just put it in a wrong place.

But I want to make full use of the 5 dollars, for she told me one day that her parents divorced long time ago. And what’s more, the school has also forwarded her mother’s concern about her.

I put the notebook in the classroom.

Several days later, I felt that I should not give her the 2-dollar notebook, for she needs more than that…

This afternoon, on my way to school, I still wanted to go to Walmart to see whether I could get a better gift for her. But I cancelled the visit to Walmart due to the limited time.

Why not just give her 5 dollars so that she can buy whatever she likes within the 5-dollar value? This idea came to me on my way to Walmart. And I think It’s good.

Her mother gave birth to a boy and a girl in her second marriage. She sometimes complained about her stepfather and her mother, and sometimes she complained about baby-sitting her younger brother and sister, and sometimes she complained about having no time to study.

What’s behind all this?

I stopped talking about her cheating, and gave her 80 points.

I told her that God loves her, and hope she could study harder.

She nodded her head and went out of the classroom with tears in her eyes…
















“I haven’t got money for a long  time好久没人给我钱了⋯⋯”


“You know my problem你知道我的境况⋯⋯”




一周前,学生要玩“Secret Santa秘密圣诞”的游戏。(一种礼物交换游戏。首先抽签决定送给谁礼物,只有自己知道。然后自己去准备礼物,择日给这个人一个惊喜)

















November 2012

My student’s play: Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals’ Legend


In order to lead the students to understand more about the Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals’ Legend, I decided to direct a play about the 12 animals.


During the first stage, I told my students that we are going to put on a play called The Story of Twelve Animals. We are going through these stages:

  • Stage 1 Learn about Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals’ Legend
  • Stage 2 Study the characters, phrases and the text in the play
  • Stage 3 Discuss and choose roles and write in students’ own words (5 sentences at least)
  • Stage 4 Memorize sentences after being corrected by the teacher
  • Stage 5 Rehearsal
  • Stage 6 Put on the play on November 28


During these stages I found my students eager to learn and excited about the play. I was amazed by their creative ideas! They prepared their own costumes simply using paper, crayons, markers, scissors, pencils and tapes.  They did a good job when we put it on.


They are enthusiastic about telling people about the Chinese story! I heard them explaining what they were saying and why they said so to their friends, and I also heard some of their friends said they want to join my class next semester. So I am sure they will remember the Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals forever! That’s just what I want!





在接下来的一个月里我们要演一出戏: 十二生肖的表白。我们要经过六个阶段











October 9, 2012

On October 9, C.I. held its second Chinese cooking class on making dumplings.

Class participants are getting ready to learn!

C.I. Executive Associate Director Rachel Zeng shows the class how to make the fillings.

C.I. Associate Director Pingan Huang demonstrates how to make dumplings.

The participants enjoy their homemade dumplings!

C.I. Executive Associate Director Rachel Zeng

Instructor, Mrs. Hao

Instructor Wenjuan Li

Instructor Ying Li

Instructor Bo Liu

September 28, 2012

On September 28, during Chinese cultural week, C.I. displayed the picture gallery China impression, and works of Chinese Instructors and students of Nebraska.

Xi'an Mayor meets Nebraska Delegation--June 2012

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and wife Judy cutting wedding anniversary cake in Xi'an.

Student Art Work on display during the 2012 Culture Festival

Student Art Work on display during the 2012 Culture Festival

Lincoln Public School students visit the Art & Photography Exhibitions during the 2012 Culture Festival

Lincoln Public School students discuss what they liked the best at the Art & Photography Exhibitions

September 2, 2012

On September 2, C.I. leaders and teachers had a picnic in Holmes Park. This event was held to welcome visiting Chair and Professor of Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Professor Jiao and Mrs. Hao. What’s more, C.I. staff welcomed the two new Chinese Instructors: Ying Li and Bo Liu.

Professor Jiao singing Beijing Opera:

C.I. Directors are ready to start the party: