I’m Losing Them Archived Post 1.13.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Tough Students

(Originally posted 1/13/13)

Many of my colleagues, whom I love as a family (who doesn’t after 25+ years in the same building?) have a very traditional view of education. They may have brought some of the activities into the 21st century with technology,but the philosophy is the same:

a. Some people are smart and some aren’t.
b. Schools are for, and should reward, the smart people.
c. Teachers are the smartest people of all.
d. Students who agree with a,b, and c will be the best students.
e. Every one else is not going to be successful in life.

This is enhanced by the fact that I teach in a small community with a very distinct social hierarchy. A hierarchy that is repeated generation after generation, because most people stay in the area. It is not unusual for students to be living on the same land that was farmed by their great-grandparents.

They teach in a way , and assign work, that they like. They are so convinced that they know best, that they cannot be challenged, and will not engage in discussion about other options. Frankly, I myself was like that in many ways myself. I was always considered smart and a good student. I considered myself a good teacher. It was humbling, and difficult, when I began to realize that I was only a good teacher for certain students. It was a principal who pointed that out to me. Why? Because I was teaching his son, who was not a “good” students. I am grateful that he showed me how I was mistreating and mis-teaching his son….because at the time I really had no idea that I was.

My son, as many of you know, deals with anxiety and depression. In high school,when he was not in control of those challenges, he was considered disengaged, lazy, etc., etc. In reality, he was barely functional because it took all of the energy he had to simply be present. Even after his diagnosis was explained to his teachers (my colleagues), they continued not only to view him that way, but to ask him why he was so lazy, and discuss his “laziness” with other students on a regular basis. Since then, I have tried very hard to see my own students with more accurate eyes. What I have found over and over again, is that students who don’t work have reasons. Many times, as an adult, I wouldn’t see things the way that they do. However, the majority of the time, I am blown away by what they are dealing with.

As I have expended more time and energy into getting to know students, I have also come to see that my goals, and their goals are sometimes miles apart. THIS is what creates the greatest gap with my students.

In some ways, this gap is necessary. I’m an adult. I have knowledge and understanding and perspective that they do not yet have. I’m supposed to use that knowledge to help them to become adults themselves. My mistake, too often, is to forget that they are not yet adults.

They are adolescents and adolescents are wired to have a cynical view of adults. It is one way in which they separate themselves from the adults in their lives and begin to develop their own thoughts and views. We have to accept that if we work with teens. But this group of adolescents is coming of age in a world that is different from any world that mankind has ever known. I suppose that all generations have a unique quality that makes them different from the previous ones, but this group? This group has two distinct new realities:

1. They have all of the known knowledge, and emerging knowledge, of the world at their fingertips. In 5 seconds or less and getting faster every minute. Past generations (back to the beginning of mankind) have always relied on the older generation for knowledge. This generation doesn’t have to. They are teaching themselves and learning on their own all the time. It will change how the young perceive the old. It has to.

2. At the same time, they have knowledge and skills (in the realm of technology) that the previous generation does not. It is, in many ways, flipping our generational reality upside-down. This generation has a sense, if not a full-blown knowledge of this new reality. It changes how they relate to adults. I believe that it is going to change society. It has to.

So, instead of growing up on a society that revers and respects adults for their knowledge, they are growing up, with cynical adolescent minds, knowing that they have as much, IF NOT MORE, access to knowledge as the adults that are attempting to educate them.

In addition, they KNOW that they will be adults in a world that doesn’t need to look to anyone for knowledge and information. This changes our roles, as adults and and teachers, and we need to figure out what our new role is. Why? Because we cannot teach if we don’t have students….and bit by bit, our students do not see themselves as students. Or at least students of something that we have to offer.

At the same time that this is occurring, the educational world is requiring us to be even more “information-driven”!!! What we are supposed to be giving them is the one thing that they least want and need!!!!

So now we get to the dilemma. This kids have tuned out and what do we do?

Truthfully, all of my philosophical rambling may not be Kevin’s dilemma. They may just be under-rested, under-caffeinated and under-motivated.

Either way, getting to know them and their goals for the course and for life never hurts. At the very least, when we understand where kids are coming from we tend to take their disengagement less personally. We can say, quite honestly, “Well then, you are making a personal choice to not participate. The consequences of that will be ______________” If we know their goals, we can have conversation with them about the benefits of having different goals…and why we think that different goals are possible and worthwhile for them. Many students think that teachers care more about themselves than about their students. This era of grading teachers based on students’ results is not going to help that any. Honest conversation about our own goals in life and our goals for our students may appear to fall on deaf ears, but they will hear us. We just may never see the results of that.

I’m going to wind this up with something that you have heard me say before: Teaching is a prayer. We offer our lessons up to the greater good, hoping, because we have no other choice, that good will come of it….even if we never see it.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Challenges of Poverty Archived Post 8.7.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Musings, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Students and Tragedy

(Originally posted 8/7/12)

You are not an isolated example but you are a rare one. I’ve taught high school students for 30 years in a rural area. The students whose families are above the poverty line are the ones who, overwhelmingly, hear messages of hope and support for a financially stable future via education. Those whose families live at or below rarely see outside of their own reality. In many cases, in today’s world, they have more financial aid available to them..many could go to college for little or nothing…but they and their families see little value in education. They do not even consider future careers that require education. That is clear by the time they enter ninth grade.

First of all, school is a different world than it was. While wealth has always helped, my observation is that more and more, a family’s financial background comes into play. Because so much emphasis is put on the data, more and more rewards are given to students who do well, STARTING IN KINDERGARTEN. Students who do well often come from families who read to them from an early age, can afford a good preschool program, ate well and exercised well and slept well the first five years of life. Kindergarten teachers are remarkably accurate in their ability to predict who will graduate from high school and who will not. Some of that may be from experience. Some of that may be because, in kindergarten, we have already identified who will be successful, who will not, and treat them that way (whether we realize it or not). Families with means will encourage students to play sports, take music lessons, have art supplies at home, provide computers and computer access from an early age. They will travel. They will encourage behaviors that will be encouraged at school from infancy…whereas families from lower-income social groups will not…without even realizing it.

It is not just the availability of money that makes the difference (although I promise you that a third grader who uses a computer and can afford a trip to the nearest arts and crafts store for his Solar System project will receive a much higher grade than the kid who did his on the back of a letter from Social Services.) It is the MINDSET of possibility (my own term) that money brings that is the biggest difference.

I am sure that Pat Barrett could explain it far better than I, but what I see is that these families require each member (in the family and it also often includes people in their “community” to be HIGHLY interdependent. These students have emotional, financial and social commitments early on in life. They are EXPECTED to stay home from school whenever a baby sitter is needed, or some stressful situation arises and a family member needs support. They frequently have adult responsibilities by ninth grade: paying bills, child care, negotiating disagreements between adults, visiting family in jail, arranging doctor’s appointments etc. It is very very difficult for them to even imagine taking enough personal time away from their families to put homework first, give up work time for classes, or even worse, leave home to go to college.

The other issue is harder for some of us to understand, but I assure you that it is very real. There is a cultural understanding in these families, that going to school and doing better than one’s parents is an insult to them. That a student would think himself better than a parent, and to act on it, is in many cases, unforgivable and therefore, unthinkable. The family is not going to ‘move up” with the student. In order to do better, the student would, eventually, have to leave the social environment in which s/he lives. In this kind of “closed” community, that rarely crosses their mind. They simply would never think of it.

The third issue is that doing well academically routinely requires delayed gratification…and that is simply NOT part of their reality either. But that is a deeply rooted, psycho-social phenomenon that I;m sure is dissertation-worthy, so I’ll leave it at that.

There are students who do it. And we encourage every single child to become what God would have him or her become. But, teachers are one tiny OUTSIDE voice among many closer and louder voices that they hear every day.

For me, that is the attitude of the home and surrounding environment, and my experience is that it is closely tied to families without financial resources. Can addressing poverty help that? In the sense that students might then NOT have to take on so many adult responsibilities..yes.

In addition, I believe that it would surprise many to know how many students ONLY eat at school. 1. There isn’t food at home. Either there isn’t money or the money is used elsewhere and that is beyond the student’s control. 2. High school students from these families often work evenings and do not use their money to buy dinner. It goes for gas to get to work. 3. Believe it or not, many of these homes actually LOCK up their food. For some, it is a way of controlling their children. For others, it is a way of protecting the food, many of these folks live in “communal” family situations (3-4 “families” in a household) and this is simply how they protect their resources. Also, parents who are addicts often have paranoid behaviors that lead to this…as do many parents with untreated mental health issues. (two situations which are prevalent in my area in this income bracket)

The last piece that adds to the challenges that these children face is the fact that they rarely get a good night’s sleep. They may not know where they are sleeping. They may be avoiding sexual contact from someone in the house. They may have family members up all night playing loud video games, or drinking/using drugs, arguing, etc. They often have younger siblings to take care of at night if mom works overnights. They don’t get the medical attention and medications they need when they are ill and sleep very poorly due to a number of ongoing physical ailments. They often live in crowded houses/apartments with little personal sleeping space available.

One might think that given all that they face, that they would love to get the heck out of Dodge and take advantage of a good education to do it. Well…not if they have never seen that happen. Not if, from kindergarten on, only the “rich” kids do well in school. Not if they have been an integral part of a system that requires them to put today in front of tomorrow.

Exceptions exist, they truly do, but not as often as we’d like. All human beings have their challenges, each child, regardless of his/her background can become far more than his/her childhood has dictated. But before that can happen, the possibility of such a thing must exist in his/her mind. Your family may have given you that. Let’s hope that we can find the resources to help those who weren’t so blessed.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Rant About Assessment Archived Post 8.6.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Musings

(Originally posted 8/6/12)
I tried to stay silent, but this morning’s coffee (Costa Rica..Pura Vida!) put me over the edge.

Assessment is one thing. Grading is another. There is no validity in grading. At least not in the assessment that districts want us to impose on our children.

a. Students have been trained for years to respond to assessment in ways that make a natural assessment impossible.

b. We don’t have time to create nor utilize the results of useful assessment…no matter how proud we are of our lovely exams.

c. Grading is simply a way to do many things that have little to do with honest teaching goals….create an unnecessarily competitive environment, motivate via an invalid rewards system, create a false sense of superiority (in students, teachers, parents and the school itself), etc. etc.

I could go on and on, but I’ll go back to enjoying my coffee!! I applaud Scott and others for attempting to make sense of a senseless, but required, system. Truth is, nothing will be accurate, nothing will be fair, and nothing will make everyone who wants to be happy, happy.

Limit the time you agonize over it. Pick something that seems adequate.

Then devote your time to getting to know your students and providing them comprehensible and compelling language. Develop an honest and loving relationship towards them. Encourage their curiosity. Reward their tenacity, sense of humor, humanity and individuality. Provide them with frequent moments of success in the form of interesting and comprehensible language. Make eye contact and send the message that each student matters. Smile from the heart. Show compassion. Encourage excellence. Eschew perfection. Model humility. Enjoy every moment possible.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

CI Challenges Archived Post 6.12.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Coaching, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

How do we deal with using CI when some days it is so challenging?!!

Those of you who know me, are aware that getting to, and maintaining a healthy body weight are a challenge for me. I keep seeing all of these parallels between my challenges and the difficulties that exist when a teacher attempts to incorporate a Comprehensible Input approach to his or her teaching.

Several people have mentioned that no one really knows EXACTLY how humans acquire, maintain and develop language, but at this time, we believe that certain things do contribute: sheltering vocabulary, a variety of high-frequency structures,interaction with that language, repeated comprehensible input,encouragement of one form or another,and success in conjunction the brain’s natural “wiring”. Yet, each human being may develop language and language skills in a unique fashion based on his/her brain, body and life experiences.

Isn’t that the same with getting to and maintaining a healthy weight? Obviously there is no “magic pill” or no one would have this struggle. There are, however, a collection of things that we believe contribute to a healthy weight: limiting calories, a variety of nutrient-dense foods eaten in small frequent meals, a constant intake of water, steady activity, encouragement and success in conjunction with the body’s natural functions.

The challenge to “do what works” in both circumstances can be extreme, EVEN WHEN WE ARE KNOWLEDGEABLE, MOTIVATED AND WELL-INFORMED. Pat may have a much better read on this, but this is what I see….

Challenge #1: Dealing with discomfort

Human beings are not good with this. We do everything possible to avoid it. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of little tricks in our repertoire to make sure that we avoid and/or eliminate discomfort. Changing from the comfortable is even more uncomfortable!! And scary. People who are physically or emotionally sensitive find discomfort even more difficult.

Things that we do to avoid/eliminate discomfort get in the way of our change and growth. Why? We have well-developed skills and entire skill sets of unhealthy ways to deal with discomfort. We call them habits. :o)

Challenge #2: Measuring our self-worth instead of believing in our self-worth

People who believe that they are inherently valuable because they live and breathe don’t get as uncomfortable as those who don’t. People who don’t believe that they have intrinsic value have, as I said before, a highly-developed set of skills that they use to a) determine value and b) measure their own value. Because we don’t like to be uncomfortable, from childhood we hone those skills that make us ‘measure up” well on our own scales. (pun intended) Because of the insecurities that haunt and stalk us, we measure everyone and everything. Because not measuring up is exhausting and painful, we stick to the things that we are good at and give them a much higher value than other skills.

Challenge #3: Lack of Trust

Changing a paradigm requires a leap of faith. It might be taken in baby steps or one giant bungee jump, but it requires rejecting the known for the unknown. That takes trust. Both improving TPRS skills and losing weight are easier and more enjoyable with caring support team. However, people who have been burned in the past by friends and colleagues who should have encouraged them but didn’t will find it hard to reach out and share this journey. When a journey gets tough, it helps so much to turn to someone for help. Without that support, it’s easy to turn around and go back. If our sense of self-worth is measured on our ability to work independently and/or if it is new and uncomfortable for us to rely on the assistance of others, these changes are going to be difficult.

Challenge #4: Not Putting First Things First

This is about being able to take the “long view” and see ourselves, our actions and our choices with a judicious eye. Over and over and over again, for any number of reasons, we put other things in front of what is truly important.

In the case of weight loss, my list is a mile long and I have conveniently convinced myself that other things should come first. I’m dead wrong, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking this way.

In the case of using Comprehensible Input, the same darn thing occurs. Any teacher who isn’t using it has a list of “good” reasons that they are convinced are more important.

Some people can overcome all of these issues lickety-split (thanks Susie!) They jump in feet first without worrying, overthinking, balking or obsessing. Others take things cautiously, carefully, one step at a time. They analyze and adapt. Neither approach is better or worse than the other. In the areas of weight-loss and TPRS I’ve met both kinds of folks who have been successful.

I’ve also met people who follow a strict regimen. So follow the guidelines and never stray because they believe so strongly in “what works”. Others do so because they have a hard time “marrying” diverse trains of thought. Whatever the reason, the strict regimen works for them.

I’ve met others who would lose their mind without forays outside of the box. People who need a dictation, a project or a double-circle activity the way some folks need an occasional pizza, beer and chocolate chip cookie in order to keep their lives in balance. These steps off of the path do not actually add to language acquisition nor to weight loss, but they have other positive effects that make them valuable, at the right time in the right amounts.

Can “anyone” be a CI teacher? Yes. Can “anyone” get to and maintain a healthy weight? Yes. But there will always be challenges. It will never be simple. It may never be easy. Some people will find the challenges greater than others. Some will be able to do it quickly and others will take a lifetime to get there. It can NOT be done in total isolation, without the ability to self-soothe, without a belief in the inherent value of the human soul nor without the ability to let go of the old and make room for the new. But, when we look at the gifts we receive in return (as well as our students, families,etc.)both changes are inherently and unarguably valuable.

If we have already “crossed over” on the journey, we need to remember to honor the journey of others rather than judge it, or our own journey loses it’s validity.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

TPRS for IB? Archived Post 6.16.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment

(Originally posted 6/16/12)

I’m not as familiar with the IB exam as others, but I can tell you about the kinds of reading,speaking and writing that you referred to.

Embedding reading has been our number one ally in the transition from reading totally comprehensible stories to deciphering articles and literature beyond their comfort zone. I hope to get out a number of posts about that on my blog during August.

PQA is the key to conversational ability about a number of topics. By carefully choosing topics, questions and focus structures,and incorporating regular PQA provides them with the skills and practice to hold their own in any situation.

We have a debate element in the Level 4 program where we start by defending “favorite things”. (thanks to an idea from another TPRSer!!) We build skills and then utilize them to have debates on a variety of topics. Building debates or arguments into conversations in stories is an easy thing to do as well.

Our juniors and seniors do very little “story “writing compared to our 8th-10th graders. Here are examples of what they have done this last marking period:

* Read this article about “the monolith on Mars” and summarize. Then add a paragraph stating your opinion. Is it natural or manmade? Substantiate your belief.

* Now that we have seen the movie Vantage Point, and you have read the accompanying Embedded Reading, tell me which character was the most naive and how his/her behavior reflected that.

* In the movie, the Secret Service used a body double for the president. Do you think that in real life body doubles are used? What are your thoughts/opinions on this?

As for writing using a variety of documents, it is not a problem. They have been writing DBQ’s in Social Studies for years. Spend some time with a SS teacher reviewing how they teach students to do that. Then, what the students need, is the vocabulary necessary to write. This vocabulary is usually an active part of a TPRS curriculum ( while, since, although, according to, despite, next,etc.) These can be developed via storytelling.

Storytelling does NOT have to be silly or goofy all of the time. The silly and goofy obviously has educational benefits for the brain to help build acquisition, however, it is important at the upper levels to have stories that appeal to their growing maturity and natural cynicism. Incorporate characters that don’t believe anything and always need to be convinced. Characters that learn a valuable lesson. Use fables and fairy tales with a moral for reading or as a basis for storyasking.

The ability to think critically was so obvious to me this year in their final exam writing. The juniors had two pieces to write about: The Perfect Vacation and a “story” from a picture. I anticipated that many of them would write “fluffy” pieces, but I was very wrong. The vacation pieces were very personal, describing a past vacation that was important to them. They nearly all wrote about WHY the vacation meant a lot: the connection with family/friends, the break from stress, the appreciation of a new place, etc. A number of them compared a good vacation with a bad one. The interesting thing? I gave them no prompts…just the title.

The pictures were even more interesting. The pictures were faces of people expressing different emotions. I read about recovering from a death in the family, achieving goals, being lonely, learning how to lose a friend, being afraid to be a senior, a family’s reaction to a gay marriage. Very eye-opening.

Lastly, a junior brought in the movie “The Way” and asked if we could watch it. It is in English so I really hesitated. But this student rarely offers this kind of input, the setting is real, the background and history are compelling, and the message is powerful. So we watched it in English with Spanish subtitles.

As a culminating assignment I gave the students the lyrics to four songs that we had done and asked them to pick two that had lyrics that connected to the things that characters in the movie might say or do. Then they had to choose one of the four main characters and write a letter,in Spanish, as if they were that character. (see the PS if you are familiar with the movie) I WAS BLOWN AWAY by the insight of these pieces. The students incorporated many details from the film, and were deeply perceptive. Imagine a letter from a dead son to his father (and vice versa)….I needed a box of kleenex to get through them.

Finally, several of our highest achieving students wrote fictional pieces that are highly publishable. These are students who obviously read a lot in English on their own time. They also take full advantage of free reading opportunities in Spanish class, and are very creative souls. But their level of skill was mind-blowing. and their writing was BEAUTIFUL. Publishable, really.

I’ll let you know one other thing…we didn’t have time to give them to go back and edit anything. This was writing that they just sat down, thought for a minute, put pen to paper and let it spill out. Because we had to give our final during class time, they only had 20 minutes to write per piece…and still, the quality was astounding.

I haven’t yet sat down to analyze exactly what might have helped these kids get to this point, but, since the ONLY WAY they have ever been taught is through TPRS, I can tell you that yes, by all means, TPRS will prepare students for the types of tasks you are talking about.

with love,
Laurie

P.S. Students wrote letters from the following perspectives to the following recipients (on their own, I made no suggestions)

Joost to Tom
Joost to Sarah
Joost to his wife
Sarah to Tom
Jack to Tom
Jack to his publisher
Tom to Sarah
Tom to Joost
Tom to Daniel
Daniel to Tom

If I get to it, I will post a few to my blog this summer, they were so beautiful….

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

INcomprehensible Input Archived Post 3.11.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/11/12)
We all use incomprehensible language in class. I do it all the time. Sometimes because what I think is comprehensible and what is comprehensible to my students are two different things. Sometimes because, as Susie pointed out, I am thinking like a teacher rather than like a student. Sometimes because I just so love a word, phrase, song, story that I ignore that little “voice” in my head and turn it into a lesson. Sometimes, and yes, I admit it, I am thinking only of myself and I want to be a little tougher or a little bit more impressive (“Wow” my ego says to me,” Look at the level of language that you can teach!”)Sometimes I just end up wanting to hang out with the 4%ers for a moment and roll around in a little grammar ecstasy. Sometimes the 11 years that I was in a student and the 14 years that I was a teacher in a non-CI classroom suck me back in.

Here is what I have observed in the 15 years that I have tried to wrap my mind around the CI based classroom:

1. Language acquisition occurs in the brain of the student.
2. I cannot control the brain of the student. Ever.
3. I can do my best to control the environment that the student is in, and therefore the environment in which the language is delivered to the student.
4. The best environment that I know of is:
a. focused on a storyline (a story, a reading, a conversation, a compelling visual etc.)
b. encourages every student to participate.
c. clearly allows every student to feel welcome and capable.
d. filled with repeated, interesting, comprehensible, heart-connected, compelling input in the T.L.
e. eliminates ever other distraction possible.
f. relies on continues student -teacher feedback and response.

Each level, each class will require different things to make 1-4 happen. It is an incredible challenge some days to make that happen. But teachers who love teaching and who love students and who love languages love that challenge. And there is a very strong, supportive group of colleagues out there to help. COLLEAGUES…not ancillary materials. :o) Wonderful, capable,caring people who have been more help than an materials I’ve ever come across.

Lastly…(if you’ve made it this far) is a story that,for me, brings this point about comprehensibility home. Over 10 years ago, at my first Susan Gross workshop, Susie taught over 50 teachers French. A room full of interested, motivated, language-skilled, language-experienced teachers. After TWO DAYS of instruction, the group could not yet recall the phrase “a glass of water” We could recognize “glass”. We could recognize “water”. But we could not recognize “glass of water.” She did not get angry. She did not get frustrated. She spent over AN HOUR interacting with us, and “a glass of water”. At the end of the hour, we could clearly hear, and recognize the phrase. We went on. Then, about an hour later, she asked us to produce it. Silence. Nothing. We got as far as the initial “l” sound. (and she had used the phrase intermittently) in that hour! As a group, we were depressed at our lack of ability. Then she pointed out to us that if we, a group of motivated, talented professionals needed HOURS more of CI with this phrase, that our students would certainly benefit from the same. She told us that the fact that we didn’t yet “own’ this phrase did not make her a terrible teacher, or make us horrible learners. She said that it was now clear indicator that our brains needed more clear, comprehensible input and time with this phrase before it was ACQUIRED. THEN ,she said that it was her job to remember that AND to make that exposure as stress-free as possible, because if she freaked out about it and hyper-focused on it that our affective filter would go up and it would take us even longer to acquire it. THEN, she purposely involved us in a story w/conversations that was hysterically funny. By the end of day three we had, as a group, a much better hold on the phrase and a much better perspective on how TPRS works.

And I don’t know about the others, but I still can produce the phrase with ease. :o)

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Pop-Up Grammar SWIFTLY Archived Post 8.13.11

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Grammar

Originally posted 8/13/11)

Think of the acronym SWIFTLY for identifying the different kinds of “pop-up” grammar statements/questions we can use with our students:

S
See/Hear Pop-ups

These are the first pop-ups I heard….and in the early stages storytelling. the most frequent.

(do you) See the English word in the French word?
(do you) See the “r” on the end of bailar? That makes it “to dance”.
(do you) Hear the English word in that?
(do you) Hear the “o” on the end?

These “pop-up-points” that will help students better comprehend what they see and hear as well as introduce them to, and give them practice in identifying and understanding cognates.
============
W
What if ? Pop-ups

This was the second group I noticed. These were based on the fact that the students were “getting” the See/Hear pop-up questions right.

What if I added an “r” to baila? What would it mean?
What if I wanted to say he dances instead of I dance?

These moved the students up “Bloom’s taxonomy”, required students to be familiar with a “pop-up-point” and required them to manipulate the language in order to change the meaning of the word/phrase.
==============
I
Individual Pop-ups

This is when we ask an individual a pop-up question rather than the group. This is ideal for checking in with barometers, pulling in a daydreamer, challenging a “superstar” or giving a little extra love to anyone.
==============
F
Find the word/phrase that says…..in French

I identified these when Susie was reading with the students. Susie read a sentence or two aloud in French and then asked them to
Find a certain word/phrase.
Sometimes it is a familiar word/structure….but often this was aimed at the “superstars”….chose a phrase that they are able to find using their upper level abilities or more expansive vocabularies. The barometers can not always identify it on their own, but they are able to recognize once it is pointed out.
===============
T
Timing Pop-Ups

Obviously when and how often to do pop-ups is a tough skill to master….and if you are a master…please share your pointers with us!!

This is what I have observed/experimented with that seem to work:

*no more than one pop-up per sentence when reading
*no fewer than every 5 sentences when reading
*more frequently when a “pop-up point” is being introduced.
*fewer when we are reading a story for the joy and excitement of it (like the choking scene in casi se muere!)
*focus on only one or two “pop-up-points” per class period for best results …especially with beginners!
================
L
Love Pop-ups

These are done purely to connect with a student. If a barometer suddenly “gets it”…and you see the eyes light up…it is time for a Love pop-up.
Hey Martin….I saw that sentence show right up on your face …tell us what it means!

A student comes in after school for help and you work ahead on the next day’s phrase. Call on him early on in class for a pop-up!
A student “owns” a particular word or phrase…
================
Y
You Still Got It Baby!! Pop-ups

These are when we go back and pop up a point we know.,…or we hope…that they have already mastered…just for the confirmation (hey…maybe they still need it!!) or the sheer joy (ours and theirs!) of it.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Grading Notebooks Yes or No? Archived Post 8,5.11

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Curriculum and Planning, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Homework, Musings, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

(Originally posted 8/5/11)
Ay….the debate over notebooks and binders is about as long-winded as the debate over grading participation!!

In the last (almost) 30 years, I have tried it all..from detailed checks, grades and checklists, to nothing. My observation is this:

1. Think of your instruction first. What do students need to have their hands on IN CLASS and how do they get access to it?

Truth is…in most TPRS classrooms, there is very little need to refer to a notebook for most of the class.

2. Think of homework next. What do students need to have their hands on in order to do the homework and how do they get access to it?

That will depend on how you approach homework.

Other than those two questions, the binder has nothing to do with language acquisition.

Now….if you believe that is a teacher’s responsibility to help them with organization etc…then you have the professional freedom to incorporate that into your program!

What I am learning is this: It’s easy to be out of touch with how kids organize these days if you are not of the techie generation. (You are!! I’m not!!) Students keep track of things on Iphones and Blackberries, not the little books schools have been handing out for decades. Students and parents are always checking online to find out what assignments are and looking for papers that the kids didn’t bring home.

It might be a better use of teacher time (depending on your students) to post papers and assignments on line than to check and grade binders.

Truth be told…very little is kept in a “hard copy” anywhere these days so it’s possible that the keeping and grading of binders will soon be (if it isn’t already) ridiculously obsolete.

As teachers (and former star students) we LOVE binders and notebooks and collecting lists and stories and keeping them for years and years. Because we love that, we mistakenly believe that that helped us to be language learners.

So in my long-winded way….here is my suggestion:

Before school really kicks off, ask yourself how important is it FOR ACQUISITION for your students to keep a beautiful (or not) binder? And follow that answer to it’s logical conclusion.

If you believe that it is important, but the kids rarely seem to pull it off…then maybe some out-of-the-box solutions are required:

*smaller composition books for “Do Nows”, Vocab, Freewrites etc. kept in plastic dishpans from the dollar store in the back of the room.

*a shelf set aside for binder storage for students who would be better off with a copy at home and at school.

* Buddy binders where students share. (I have kids every year who ask someone else to carry the important things for them)

Whew…ok…that got long but there it is! Enjoy the days you have left and I wish you a great beginning of the year!!!

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Thoughts On Sharing Archived Post 7.27.1..

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Musings, Sharing CI/TPRs, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 7/27/11 )

I am always gobsmacked by the willingness of TPRS/CI teachers to share information, ideas and materials. I’m thankful to all of you. The Pay It Forward principle is part of the success of this methodology. Ideas get put out there for others to chew on, digest and utilize….and in doing so we are constantly improving, not only our own techniques, but the “method” as well.

However, there are a number of teachers out there who react almost violently to this method. MANY of us have been accosted personally and professionally because we use Comprehensible Input methods in our teaching. Sometimes the reaction is simply disbelief and rejection…but other times it is confrontation, insults, nasty emails and more. Sad, but true.

OUR presentation of the concept, the method and the materials matters. Teachers can be proud and protective. We need to be especially gentle now, when all teachers are being attacked for things beyond their control and are feeling (justifiably) defensive.

Perspective is reality. What they hear affects their perspective. What we say affects what they hear.

When we say “This way is better”, they hear “Your way is bad.”
When we say “This method makes you a better teacher”, they hear “You are a bad teacher.”
When we say “Output activities don’t work”, they hear “Your lessons are useless.”

It really doesn’t matter what we think…we will never open eyes and hearts to a different way of seeing language and students if that is what they hear.

THE BEST WAY for teachers to believe in the power of CI is to experience success as a CI student. Barring that, we need to offer them changes that they can make in their program that are manageable. Once teachers have ‘flipped the banana”, so to speak, there is no stopping them…they are hungry for all there is to know about CI. But before they’ve actually bought in to the idea, we need to let them have the time they need to make the paradigm shift.

Others may have more advice for those of you overflowing with CI love and needing to share. Here are a few things that have helped me:

NUMBER ONE!!!! A quote from somewhere that I keep on my desk: “People can change. You can’t change people. People can only change themselves, when they want to or need to. Be willing to let them do it.”

#2: Show off your students, not yourself. Statements like “I’m so happy with what they have accomplished.”, “I’m blown away by the caliber of their writing.” , “It’s so exciting to see their confidence when watching a movie in the TL” “She was able to express the most beautiful thought in class today.”

#3: Invite people to observe. Seeing is believing.

#4: Offer the information as a gift, a way to use the talents and strengths that the teachers already have. Pop-up grammar is FUN! A knowledge of the culture can be incorporated in a beautiful way. A sense of humor is a gift.

#5: Roll out the numbers. Not yours first, but be ready to put your money where your mouth is. I’d like us to consider a place to collectively post results on AP (ie Michele Whaley’s third year students scoring 4s on the AP Russian test!!!) so we can show people the data that schools demand these days.

#6: Roll out the supporting research. Ask on the list if you need it. Get the names you need to throw around so that people see that this is legitimate.

#7. Learn to speak Krashen. Read Krashen. Visit his website. He’s got the research.

#8. Keep in touch with anyone who shows interest. Let them know that TPRS is a collaborative approach rather than competitive by your actions.

#9. Don’t take disbelief or rejection personally. Or at least try not to. If you have presented in a clear, kind manner, then the reaction is not about you at all.

10. ENJOY THE SHARING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been fed and filled by every conversation I’ve ever had about TPRS.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Thinking About Themes Archived Post 1.1.5.11

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Curriculum and Planning

(Originally posted 1/15/11)

So glad that this topic of discussion came up on the moretprs list !!!! First…I think what we are talking about (organizing by “Themes” such as Family, Work, Childhood etc.) is really TOPICAL teaching, rather than thematic.and I agree with several things already posted:

1. It provides a logical organizational sequence for whoever needs it (teacher, parent, student, district, state, etc.)
2. It provides a memory “link” for individual vocab…for people who are good learners (ie memorizers, “students”, left-brainers etc.)
3. It requires diligent recycling of vocabulary and…
4. Creativity and opportunity to do so.

For the last 5 years my freshmen classes drifted farther and farther away from the “traditional” NYS syllabus-directed topics (Personal ID, Family, Weather, Shopping, Sports, etc.) This year, for the first time in my 28 years of teaching, I am not teaching the freshmen…and I have been trying to explain to my wonderful new colleague, exactly how the curriculum we ended up with is organized!

What I have found out is this: We are organized by FUNCTION. We can use topics to provide a situation in which to use that function. Our Intro course is arranged in this way. The functions are:

Requesting/providing :

information
personal opinions/feelings
observations
items
behaviors
assistance

descriptions of or details about the above

This boils down to a fairly discrete number of phrases that students must be able to utilize. Our Intro teacher incorporates a limited number of typical “topics” in order to provide her students with opportunities to develop their abilities to function in Spanish in these ways. (Holidays, Family, Sports, Beach) Then…she utilizes fictional, actual, and personal stories (via story”asking” and reading) to put it all together. Pobre Ana is a pivotal part of the curriculum.

In our high school Level 1 (freshmen, second year of study) we have organized the entire year around a theme: POWER. Everything in that year comes back, in some way, to that idea.

The functions above still apply. To that we add:

Comparing and Contrasting
Starting and building relationships
Observing and responding to needs
Collecting and interpreting background information
Recognizing strengths and weaknesses
Choosing and implementing a course of action

Again…these functions lend themselves to a repeated “list” of functional structures. The curriculum itself revolves around several short readings, Casi Se Muere, several identified songs and movies that allow us to work with these functional skills and still incorporate the topical vocab required by NYS ( Food, Shopping, School, Daily activites etc.)

This year I am working on the Spanish 2/3 curriculum. I am creating a two-year cycle so that, ideally, students can be in a Spanish 2 or 3 class (this really helps with scheduling in a small school) and still get the instruction/practice needed to continue to acquire language and be successful on the NYS Regent exam. It is very much a work in progress…but so far so good. Our “theme” or organizational structure is the UN Declaration of Human Rights…and this actually also includes my Sp. 4 class.

Functions for 2/3:

Investigating a community
Investing (time, money, energy, emotion)
Evaluating risk
Initiating change
Exploring locations and opportunities
Getting others to adopt a course of action
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle/environment
Problem-solving
Making choices
Getting others to adopt a course of action
Planning for the future
Reflecting on the past

So far we have read El Trabajo de Roberto and I’ll be picking a second book for this semester. The Amazing Race on Discovery Channel has provided an incredible number of amazing opportunities as well. I frequently peruse the Regents exams on line to make sure that I am including vocabulary that is Regents “high frequency”..which luckily ..is pretty real-life high-frequency as well.

What has happened is that I have seen vocabulary recycle itself. For example lets take a simple word: tree. Without even trying we end up talking/reading about trees in so many situations: discussing people’s homes, favorite vacation spots, making plans for trips/picnics, discussing the weather, describing people (tall as, strong as), reading poetry,in songs, getting directions, discussing art/photos,talking about yard work and part-time jobs, reading about endangered species, sharing opinions about global warming.

And it works like that for more items than you can imagine!!

If you have gotten this far, I’ll share this with you….

When we ONLY organize by lists of items we deprive our students of the opportunity to develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. That is why using TPRS is so powerful. It is as if barriers begin to melt away. Things happen in the brains of our students that allow them to make almost unpredictable LEAPS in language acquisition. Their abilities do not follow a (test-friendly) linear progression….and this makes their language-growth and language-use incredibly gratifying to see.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.