by lclarcq on April 17th, 2016
The following was a response to a dialogue on Ben Slavic’s blog and several folks suggested that I share it here. The conversation centered around the challenges of teaching students towards the end of the year!
Part of the reason that April/May are tough is that the kids that we have now are not the same students that we have in August/September. They have different interests, different skills and sometimes different friends and even family.
This is a great time of year to acknowledge that! Get to know them all over again. Reconnect.
It is also a good time to “step up the game” and introduce new activities that are more in line with their level of acquisition and maturity.
There is no standard way to outline this because each school is so very different.
If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 7th graders I might start using topics like part-time summer jobs (babysitting, lawn mowing, etc.) that kids have in this area. I might start creating stories about 8th grade and all of the advantages they will have next year. I might start to introduce any kind of real person connection to the language that their squirrellier 7th grade selves might have dismissed.
If I were teaching a Level 1 class of 9th graders I would definitely start incorporating summer jobs, summer concerts, and summer clothes…..which would lead into a story about the dress code, which will soon be a big issue for our freshmen because it is a big deal at our school I would ask about what next year’s freshmen will need to know, and create a BB, or PP or letter for the incoming freshmen.
At any level, if you haven’t started an FVR (Free Voluntary Reading) time, this is a great time to do that….if you have the materials. In my level 3 and 4/5 classes they get 20 minutes 2-3x per week to choose their own activity: read novels, children’s books, cloze activities with lyrics to songs that we have done, write a story, take a practice quiz (similar to one section of the final and check with a key), read articles that I have ripped out of People in Spanish, or whatever else I can come up with. They start each 20 minutes with a grade of 100. Every time that I see that they are NOT engaged in the activity at hand, I subtract 10 points from their grade. Even my rowdiest can keep it together for 20 minutes IF they are choosing their own activity (and are not sitting near a friend!!) I play music quietly in the background and it is a nice, well-earned change of pace.
Music, music, music, music, music. It’s a great time to have a “dance-off” like my friend MB did using “Five A Day” in your language….if you don’t teach French/Spanish, just print off the expressions, and yell them out over the voice of the video. My Spanish kids actually prefer to do the French one. 🙂 If you don’t teach language at all…any 3-5 minute dance off would really wake up your students! (Would love to teach American history and use the Hamilton soundtrack!)
The skills that are most needed are the ones that you use in your class to complete transitions and to refocus. Reteach and practice those. Allow 3 minutes here and there for just heads down and silence. Life is crazy for us all this time of year.
Hang in there!!!
by lclarcq on February 25th, 2016
Many of you know that I teach in a small, rural district in upstate New York. A few weeks ago our department began to build a display entitled “Whitman Wanders The World”….and it has been such a joy to work on!
After posting the picture on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve had a few questions about how we put it together so….here goes:
1. We made a list of all of the students that we could remember who had studied abroad, volunteered for the Peace Corps, been stationed overseas, etc.
2. We put out a call on Facebook for former students to share where they had been.
3. After collecting all of the information that we could, we created a card for each graduate. On the card we wrote:
the graduate’s name
year of graduation
college(s) attended if applicable
military service if applicable
We labeled each card with a sticker that identified how the graduate had travelled: a flag for military service, a star for study abroad, a blue dot for working, a peace sign for Peace Corps, a red dot for Rotary etc.
4. We used a laminated world map and put a smiley face on each country/territory that a Whitman grad had set foot on.
5. Then we simply arranged the cards around the map. It isn’t high tech and it is all hand done…not a fancy project, but definitely a heart-felt one.
Since the pictures have been posted we have had folks send us even more information so now we have more cards to add!!
Our next step is to add blue cards for where staff have studied/ worked/ etc.
It has been so fun to watch the students’ and staff’s reactions to the board. Because so many people stay in the immediate area, and the folks who leave often stay gone, it is really eye-opening to see who has been where!!
I hope that helps any of you interested in this project for your school.
by lclarcq on February 22nd, 2016
Richard asked, “Aren’t there ‘predictable obstacles’ or challenges that most of us are likely to encounter along our way toward using TPRS primarily in class?”
This (again) is a wonderful question…and this post is just a compilation of my thoughts and observations. What are the challenges/obstacles for teachers who begin to teach with TPRS?
1. Fear of the unknown.
Will it work? What will work? How do I know it’s working? What do I do if..? What do I do when…? The list of worries is …well, unending. Without experience we are walking on faith (or hope) alone. That is not easy to do. It takes courage.
The best way to handle this is to watch other teachers whenever possible: conferences, demos, in person, via Skype, on Youtube. And watch the students. Watch them closely. When we are teaching this way, we are constantly reacting to our students….so pay attention to the students when you observe, not just the teacher.
This will give us more of an idea of what to expect from our own students…and what to ask for from them as well.
2. Not knowing how to prepare students to be successful.
Trainers and presenters have SO much to share about preparing to teach with TPRS, and usually not nearly enough time to do it. Unfortunately, we often do not show teachers how to prepare the students for this new approach. Here are some past posts that might help teachers to do that:
3. Trying to be someone else (and forgetting all of the wonderful things we already bring to the classroom)
When teachers want to change their actions in the classroom, they often want to emulate the teachers/presenters they have seen. This is a GREAT way to start, but please don’t forget that you are your students’ already amazing educator. When we try to “be” ___________ (insert your favorite presenter here) we set ourselves up for failure.
Your students don’t want Blaine, Jason, Carol, or anyone else to be their teacher. They want you. They know you. You will be there every day for them. Bring yourself first. Then add the actions, expressions, motions, ideas of your mentors.
If you aren’t sure how to incorporate your teaching personality, ask someone in your TPRS/TCI community about the teachers/presenters that they have seen. There is no “perfect” personality for this job. You can be loud or soft-spoken, high energy or completely chill, left-brained or right-brained, organized or impetuous, stand-up-comedy funny or steady and serious. Really. I promise!! The steps will be the same…and you get to be you!!
4. Biting off more than we can chew.
There are many teachers who ‘jumped in with both feet” to this way of teaching. “I threw out all of the textbooks!” “I decided never to go back to my old ways again!” “I ordered class sets of all of the novels and started the next day!” Teachers tell me this all the time.
But I meet just as many teachers who say: “I tried it but it was too overwhelming.” “I spent hours scripting stories.’ “It was so exhausting.’ “I have 5 preps, I just couldn’t do it.” “I was great for a week, but then the kids and I lost interest. I didn’t know what to do next.”
My suggestion is to start small and start slowly. We set our students up for success. We need to set ourselves up for success as well. Some ways to start slowly:
a. Only incorporate circling. Practice using a variety of questions and responding to students’ answers.
b. Have a conversation with students about a picture. Ask a lot of questions using the circling techniques and practice getting choral responses and individual responses.
c. Ask a story that they already know well in English (but ask in the Target Language!) Does Cinderella or Goldilocks dance with the Prince?
d. Use a story script. ‘Ask” a story for 5-10 minutes and then stop. Don’t worry if the story isn’t finished!
e. Try a Movie Talk. The video clip will provide instant structure, comprehensiblity, and interest!
5. Trying to do it all alone.
It’s not hard to do, but it is hard to do alone. I really meant what I said about connecting with a colleague or a community of support. Talk with other people. Let them share with you. Share with them.
6. Not being able to let things go.
There is a lot to let go of. Along the way we will begin to let go of our fears and insecurities, our old lessons, our imperfections, our former expectations, our need to control stories, our desire to wax poetic over grammar topics, our beloved projects, our bell-curve practices, so much of our former teaching selves. When we hold on too tight to these things, we fail to make room for our newer selves and a new, exciting experience for our students.
How do we learn to let go? We practice embracing the unknown. We prepare our students for their new role (and ours). We remember that we are not letting go of our true selves. We let go a little at a time, and we let in new experiences a little at a time. We share our worries and our successes with others. And we relax. And it happens.
by lclarcq on February 21st, 2016
Richard asked several great questions in a comment from Saturday’s workshop post. Here is what he wrote:
“The whole day was great, and the night before. Excellent! I was hoping that she would tell us more of HER story, of her own personal journey with TPRS, to include problems met, coped with, and how. I also have a question regarding the A-Z. She said people don’t go from A to Z, but they are where they are, but aren’t there ‘predictable obstacles’ or challenges that most of us are likely to encounter along our way toward using TPRS primarily in class? Does she mean that we don’t all encounter them in the same order? I need clarification on the A to Z statement she made. What did she mean?”
I’ll leave my own personal journey for another day…and go straight to your questions about the journey for now. It will probably take me several posts. :o)
For those who were not at the conference, I spoke about how the journey of growth as a Comprehensible Input-based teacher does not follow a clearly defined map. Teachers do not start at Point A and follow a straight line to Point Z. It would certainly be easier for teachers (and for trainers) if it were, but it would also definitely NOT be as beautiful, personal, and powerful. The truth is that each teacher’s CI (Comprehensible Input) journey begins differently.
We each “find” TPRS or CI teaching at different points in our career. So……
1. We each come with an individual “education” background, based on our childhoods, college studies, professional development histories and personal reading/research experiences. As we grow, our new experiences sometimes mesh with, and sometimes challenge our background knowledge.
2. We each begin the journey with a different level of understanding of how language acquisition works…and a different level of faith that it does. Some folks believe completely and totally that acquisition can happen in a classroom. Others believe in acquisition, but don’t yet believe that it happens in a classroom. Others are just becoming convinced that acquisition, rather than learning, actually exists and occurs. Depending on what we “believe”, our “AH HA!” moments are different as we begin to see acquisition occurs in our classrooms.
3. We each “begin” our growth as TPRS/CI teachers with different skills. Some are innate “people” skills that we use to manage the class, create relationships with our students etc. Others are deliberate “teaching” skills that we have developed; “tricks of the trade” so to speak.
4. The environment we are teaching in when we begin our journey will be different for each teacher. Some are the only teacher in the department, others work in a department of 80 or more. Some have colleagues in the same building or district who are also interested in, or at least supportive of, this teaching approach. Others are the “lone wolf” in their educational community. Some have districts that help to fund and to provide opportunities for training. Others must carve out these opportunities from their own finances.
5. We are each “introduced” to this journey in a different way. Some people first become informed by reading articles and blogs and such via the internet. Some first see it via Youtube. Some are introduced to it when a colleague begins using it in the classroom. Some see it first at an hour-long demo at a state conference. Others are immersed in a 5 day week long summer conference. Even the people we read, or see, or hear when we first begin shape our understanding as they open a door.
What do we have in common then?
Are there commonalities among “novices? I think that there are common needs:
A. A need to share our new or renewed “fire in the belly” about teaching. We find a growing level of excitement about the possibility of students who really are excited to be in class and who are successful with the language. We are blown away by what we see our students being able to do. We want to tell people about it!
B. A need for colleagues and mentors. We have questions!! Our questions are not all the same, but we have a lot of them!! We also need the support and reassurance that supportive colleagues and mentors offer.
C. Input, Input, and more Input. At any stage in the journey, but most importantly at the beginning, we need to see, hear and read about TPRS/TCI. A teacher who is going to progress on the journey is a teacher who, at some point, develops an attraction to, if not a minor addiction to, all things TPRS/TCI-related.
I believe that the best way to feed these needs is to find a TPRS/TCI community (or communities!!) to belong to. Whether we join the Yahoo group mortars (often referred to as the moretprs listserv), one of the Facebook pages, Ben Slavic’s blog community, or begin to attend the regional groups that are growing around the country doesn’t really matter. Being part of the community is one of the best parts of this journey …personally and professionally.
I once read a very insightful piece about the Camino de Santiago where the writer, who went on the pilgrimage alone, without friends or family, described the Camino as something he did alone, but never really on his own.
I think that the TPRS/TCI journey is very much like that. In our classrooms, it is our own personal pilgrimage, but we never, ever have to travel the road alone.
Thank you Richard for the questions…very, very much.
PS If you are looking to connect with other TPRS/TCI teachers, check here for some options.
by lclarcq on February 19th, 2016
filed under Teacher Training
Welcome to Your CI Journey! I’ve uploaded the documents that we will be referring to during the Saturday, February 20th workshop here. I will also upload a version of the PowerPoint presentations that we’ll see.
We are meeting in the incredibly beautiful library at Penn Charter Upper School. Feel free to bring your computers with you and we will share outlets!
If you would like to refer to printed documents, please try to print them and bring them with you.
We will be starting at 9:00 am sharp so coffee will be available at 8:30 am!!
So looking forward to seeing/meeting you all!
PS I will be updating this throughout the day as I find different venues for the internet
by lclarcq on February 7th, 2016
I am so excited to be able to present a day-long workshop via Tri-State TCI/TPRS Teachers (Check Facebook for their page!). If you are interested, there is still space available!!
The workshop is Your CI Journey and is designed for teachers who have had some training and experience with TPRS/CI and are looking to do/understand even more. The day will be broken up into several segments:
* Examining the Details: Teachers follow detailed and interactive observation templates to identify and track CI teaching skills during a Vietnamese demo, followed by discussion and planning for personal growth.
* Increasing the Input: At every level, teachers are trying to increase not only the percentage of Target Language use, but COMPREHENSIBLE Target Language use. This segment will build on the first piece on skills and offer a number of ways to increase that percentage.
*Ramping Up Reading: Ways to increase and vary activities that build reading comprehension skills while keeping students engaged! This will include ways to use Embedded Readings and utilizing activities that are level-appropriate.
*Meeting the Needs: Looking at the particular needs of attendees and their students.
Here is the flyer:
Laurie Clarcq flier2-3
It’s not too late to sign up!! Please contact Anny Ewing for questions or details at AnnyEwing@Altamira.org
We would love to see you there!!!
by lclarcq on November 16th, 2015
(posted by request from a piece on Ben Slavic’s blog)
I spoke with all of my classes today. In English and in Spanish. I primarily teach juniors and seniors this year, with about 20 sophomores thrown in. I was saddened to find out that most of the students had not heard anything about it in any classes.
Earlier this year we had done a series of things re: Charlie Hebdo and half of my students now were my students then.
It isn’t always easy to do. But a number of students had wonderful questions, astute observations, and several spoke to me afterwards about their own concerns. I think that it was important to do.
I have several points that I want them to consider:
a. Read, investigate and think. Media is more about money than information right now and sensationalism makes money. Read more than the headlines. Ask questions.
b. Be grateful if you live in a place of “safe harbor” (phrase from Bob Patrick). Many people in this world, in this country, and in our own community do not.
c. Fear is the weapon of choice here and that we can fight.
d. The power-hungry rarely do their own dirty work. The people who are “on the ground” committing these crimes have been recruited because they are empty, angry or powerless. The power-hungry tap into that, manipulate that, seek it out wherever they can. When we hurt, insult, shame, embarrass or bully others (or allow it to happen), we help create the people that the power-hungry need to carry out their goals. Each one of us can prevent that from happening to someone.
Having just finished In the Time of the Butterflies with one group, and looking at Franco’s rule in Spain with another, these are timely messages.
My hope is that helping them to become aware of the abuse of power on the larger scale will not only help them to become better global citizens, but also to be aware of it in their own personal lives….and to become happier, better people.
by lclarcq on November 1st, 2015
Thank you so much to everyone who attended the workshops in Saratoga Springs! (Don’t forget to pencil in Oct 13-14 2016 in Syracuse, N.Y.!!)
The first workshop offered on Friday afternoon was entitled: On Your Feet! Powerful Practice and Positive Feedback for the Comprehensible Input Classroom (note to self: shorter title next time!!)
What a great group of enthusiastic and passionate teachers!!
The participants worked in groups of 6-10 as we went through a series of exercises. There was a lot of laughter and a great deal of insight. I asked each group to make a list of what they observed/learned from each other during this first segment. I’m sharing these below…just remember that the lists will make much more sense to the list writers than they will to those who were not there. :o)
(I know that they appear to be going all different directions but if you click on them individually they show up correctly!!)
In the next segment of the workshop, we practiced with an individual sentence in each group, showing how to circle (ask a large number of questions) and to personalize (connecting the statement and the questions to others in the group) Then we added details.
Along with this segment, we added illustrations…and I want to make sure that I show some samples of how illustration helps with visualization which increases engagement and comprehension:
Along with an illustration of how what we think we are drawing doesn’t always quite turn out the way we thought it would….tee hee
I must apologize to the group that created an amazing poster/sentence for our president Francesco Fratto who makes World Languages SEXY !!! I didn’t get a picture of his poster before we gave it to him as a gift!! If one of you has it, please email it to me and I’ll include it here!
In the third segment we watched as Nora and Birgitte each taught a short lesson and received feedback from students and observers. What amazing teachers! Students and observers were able to see, experience and appreciate all of the positive attributes they had been practicing…and much more. We used the Coaching from the Heart format and there were so many insightful reflections and observations.
I’ll add the PowerPoint that outlines what we did ASAP! Thank you so much for being part of a giving and sharing community!
May you all have a wonderful week with your students!!
by lclarcq on October 28th, 2015
filed under Uncategorized
Sorry that it has been so long since I last posted! It’s been a busy few months! I’ve added a new page to the Hearts for Teaching website that I wanted to tell you about. It is a page where I have specifically posted information that I shared at this year’s TCI Maine, New England and Beyond! conference. You can find that page here:
or…if you look at the top of this page, you will find it there!
I’ll try to add things from past Maine workshops sometime this winter.
Don’t forget to check above for additional TPRS and TCI trainings available !!
by lclarcq on August 18th, 2015
Originally posted as a response in a post on Ben Slavic’s blog and posted here by request:
About 10 years ago I stopped freaking out about arranging my room for the perfect look the first day of school. I did it for the following reasons:
1. I was too burnt out to do it.
2. I was tired of putting in work to “look good” to others.
3. I was tired of the competition that takes place every September over who has the nicest bulletin boards, doors, etc. People walk around pretending to compliment each other when they are really trying to outdo each other. Over a door. Nope. Not happening.
4. I didn’t want my students to think that little elves showed up overnight to do the work that teachers do every day. I wanted them to understand that these things take time and effort and do not just magically appear when they aren’t looking.
5. It was time to let the room creation be part of the community-building aspect of the room.
6. I wanted the room to evolve with the interests and needs of the students in it. I can’t do that before they show up.
I still resist the urge every year to go hog-wild-teacher-crazy on the room decorating. (yes…..I dreamed of teaching kindergarten and this hasn’t gone away…) I fight little voices of guilt when I haven’t hung matching curtains and placed color-coordinated authentic decorations just so.
But……I have found HOURS of peace in which I can do other, more fruitful , things with my time. There was a time when I thought that it couldn’t be done, nor should it be done….but now I enjoy putting out one or two carefully chosen items in order to start the year. And now I never get angry because someone misplaced / broke a treasured item or wrote I <3 Ramon on the corner of my bulletin board. As the weeks unfold, the students decorate the bulletin boards, the door etc. They coordinate all of the colored paper and markers and scissors in a system in the room from the box in the back where I packed them up in June. (and they get mad at the kids who don't put things back right) They point out when something needs to come down and something else needs to go up. They volunteer to create a birthday calendar and follow it closely so that no one gets missed. I've come to love it this way….and I think they do too. It's not that the color-coded, coordinated, poster-plastered walls and award-winning bulletin boards were a bad thing…..but I've found so much more to enjoy….and so much less pressure…in this approach. with love, Laurie