R and E: Transitions and Signals 3.19.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Engagement, Not So Good Days, Pacing, Relationships, Signals, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

(Originally posted 3/19/12)

Smooth transitions are a key piece to successful classroom management. But getting a class to make smooth transitions is a bit like grocery shopping with a hungry toddler!

Most of us do not start out using TPRS in the classroom for an entire class period. Even when we get to that point on some days, we rarely do just one CI-based activity (ie PQA or storyasking) for an entire class period..especially if our students are young, novices or we teach on the block!!!!!

We can make our world, and our students, much happier if we delineate when an activity, and the expected behaviors that go with it, start and end.

To do that, we first need a clearly taught, practiced and incorporated way to get out students’ attention. The truth is…we all have one. Maybe we didn’t mean to teach it or are even aware that we did, but our behavior did.

Kids do have instincts..very good ones. If we haven’t taught them a specific signal and response to get attention, then they will just do what they want to until they sense that we are on the edge of ____(insert yelling, screaming, throwing something, using the evil eye etc. here) and then they will listen up. If we never get to that point and just teach on whether or not they are listening, then we have taught them that what we want and what we say shouldn’t matter to them. The question is…

Question #3: What is an EFFECTIVE way to get the attention of an entire group?

Choose/create a signal and response. Teach it, practice it, use it. Repeat.

Many of you know that I am a huge proponent of the signal. Just as Blaine utilized Págames, I could not teach without a signal. If you don’t know what I mean then here is an explanation.

The only way that you can truly run a classroom is to have a way to get students to be silent, stop all activities and listen to what you have to say.

You don’t have to use my idea of a signal. But you need something and you need to teach it, practice it, use it and never let your students forget how important it is. Not only for a lesson, but for safety, security and sanity.

Anything can happen in a classroom.

On any given day with a class of freshmen I can use a signal as many as 15 times in 40 minute period. Sometimes it is to refocus/make a transition. Sometimes it is to add humor. Sometimes it is just a brain break. Sometimes it is to restore order. The more mature/experience the students, the less often I need a signal…but I always need one.

The most powerful thing about teaching, practicing and utilizing a signal is that it is the CLEAREST example we can give of what INTERACTION should look like…..and our entire teaching method/approach/whatever is based on interaction. Teach/practice/use an attention signal and you have the basis of the classroom that you want.

with love,

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.

Stopping For Signals…Archived Post 9.10.09

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Starting The Year

(This was originally posted 9/10/2009)

Today was the third day of classes.  This is the day that classroom management starts to kick into gear.  This is the day we start with the signal.  The first few weeks of class are designed with several purposes in mind:

  1. Interact with the students so that I can get to know them better as people and as students.
  2. Interact with the students in the target language so that they can acclimate to my voice and delivery of the language.
  3. Create a set of classroom routines that will make the entire year go more smoothly.
  4.  Model a number of behaviors so that the students will understand my expectations and begin to use those behaviors in class
  5.  Have students interact with each other in a variety of situations and activities so that they begin to be comfortable together as a group.
  6.  Incorporate as much of the target language into all of the above as possible!!!!!

The signal helps me with so many things, I cannot remember teaching without it!  The signal is basically an attention-getting device.  I use the term “signal” which I learned as part of a Madelaine Hunter training over 25 years ago!!  Elementary teachers, camp counselors, coaches, and scout troup leaders all use signals with their groups.  The key to a really effective signal is to make it interactive.

I start by teaching my students that when I (fake) sneeze that they need to say “Salud” AND THEN stop what they are doing and turn to face me in silence because I have something important to say.  We practice once and then I make sure that we use the signal several times that period.

It seems so simple.  You would be surprised how many students don’t get it at first.   High school students live in their own little bubbles of reality.  Sometimes it is hard to penetrate that bubble!  An entire class of 30 students can be sitting quietly, watching me, waiting for one student to realize that he/she is the only student talking (loudly!) in the room.  Even the friends he/she is talking to are ignoring him/her and looking at me and STILL the student remains oblivious.

The reality is that this particular group of students is not yet “tuned in” to my voice.  After a week, they are usually very responsive, but it takes the human brain some time to learn to connect with certain sounds, pitches and tones.    Developmentally I believe that adolescents are programmed to TUNE OUT ADULT VOICES.   I often think of the classic example of the voice of the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies.  No matter what is being said, all that the kids hear is WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH.

Using a signal to get students’ attention allows me to provide my students with a) a way to control sound and activity in the classroom b) interesting and useful phrases in the target language and c) extra opportunities to get “tuned in” to my voice.

with love,

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.

Skill #1: Listening Well

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Creating Stories, Encouragment, Musings

So today I bit the bullet and decided to try to start a story in every class. I told myself (and them) that it didn’t matter how far we got with the story. I said that we would just get started. I told them that it wasn’t easy, at first, to just starting creating stories together. I told them that we would deal with the story-building skills as we went along. (and said a little prayer….)

One of the things that I have told my classes is that I work very hard so that Spanish class will be interesting and that acquiring Spanish can “feel” easy. However, none of the work I do with make any difference if the students against me rather than with me. I need this group to work with me….and they aren’t there yet. (and they sometimes look at me like I’m from another planet for wanting that!)

Over the years, many teachers have crafted a list of “behavior rules” for their classes as a way to get classes to work together. I knew that I needed to outline something similar for my new students but inside I was cringing at the idea that students with between 7 and 9 years of schooling needed “behavior rules.” I mean, I know that kids don’t always “behave” but it isn’t because they don’t know, by now, what appropriate school behavior is!!

So I tried this week to put out the expectation that every day we would be using four sets of skills. The first one is Listening Well. I didn’t want to make it too complicated (as a teacher I love doing that lol) , so I left it at this:

Listening Well means paying attention to what is said and what it means. I figured that that could cover a lot of bases!

Listening Well is Skill #1 because nothing else in acquisition happens without it…especially for Novices. I can check in with my beginners by simply asking them what I said and what it means.

In reality, Listening Well is NOT an easy skill, for anyone, in any language. We can all improve at it. (I know that I can!!)

What Listening Well looks like needed to be clarified for them.

For instance, Listening Well doesn’t happen if you are speaking at the same time. :o)
Listening Well to the teacher doesn’t happen if you are listening to a classmate. :o)
Listening Well doesn’t happen if you have earbuds in your ears. :o)

(I’m also pretty sure that I’ll be clarifying and re-clarifying those points on a regular basis!)

It is why I needed them to be able to focus on me and be silent at my signal. ( For more on signals…Check out this post!)

The idea is, I told them, that if the class can hear me, they will know when and how to add interesting pieces to the story.

And for a while in every single class, they were able to demonstrate that skill!! For the 8th graders ‘a while” was between 15 and 20 minutes. For the 6th graders it was between 10 and 15 minutes!!

I made it clear that when the skill got too difficult, we would change activities…so once I had to refocus any class for the second story I paused the story-asking and told them how we would continue next. (See the post-script at the bottom!) And then we moved on to another activity. They didn’t want to end it (yay!) but I did. I wanted to pause each story before it fell apart (or I did!).

Next post: Skill #2: Responding Well.

FYI….I still did a LOT of waiting until they were quiet, staring at whisperers (with a smile of steel), and walking over and standing next to the easily distracted!! I was not as patient with one group as I would have wanted!!!! It’s a fine line between calling a student out on behavior and publicly embarrassing him/her. In Middle School it’s even more delicate…I’m learning and re-learning!

with love,
PS. Our progress:

8th grade class A: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem, attempted to the solve the problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down one reason in English the character will not solve the problem and tell me before class. (i.e. doesn’t have $, asked the wrong person, etc.)

8th grade classes B and C: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down where (location) the character goes to solve the problem and why. Hand in before leaving.

6th grade classes: Identified a character and setting. Given a problem: The character needs ____________. Final Activity: Write down in Spanish two things the character might need.

Our Changing Role Archived Post 10.4.11

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Encouragment, Musings, The Teaching Profession

Thoughts on our changing role…. (Originally posted 10/4/11)

Teachers are individuals and as individuals bring their own goals, experiences and perspectives to the profession. Around the nation, more and more of us are feeling compelled to discuss our profession, and our individual roles in it.

What troubles me is that these conversations are limited to rare faculty room exchanges and blogs. These conversations should be taking place in schools on a regular basis as part of professional development.

A school environment is frequently a reflection of the present administration. For a number of reasons, teachers often are asked to, and agree to, adopt programs and attitudes that the present administration puts forward…regardless of their own knowledge of the community, the students and pedagogy. If the new principal believes in an emotionally-distant ‘professional’ approach, then the teachers are required to “perform” under these guidelines. If the new administrator is a proponent of a particular character ed program then the staff is required, without discussion and often without sufficient education and training, to “perform” under this approach. Rarely does the administration choose his or her “pet project” based on his or her knowledge of the school and community.

Teachers complain, however, this can be EXACTLY what we do, or are required to do, in the classroom. Curriculum is written years before students enter the room. Lessons are planned so that all students are literally on the same page, not so that we can meet students where they are.

I realize that some folks are tired of these articles. They perceive that teachers are whining. The truth is that we are aching to be heard. The other truth is that our students are hurting even more than we are in this regard. Now that we finally have a bit of the media’s ear, we should be also listening very closely to the signals that our students give us about school.

Ten years ago, even if all else failed, we could count on the fact that we knew more about a subject than our students…and that they had to rely on us to get that information. That is no longer true. Any information at all is at the world’s fingertips. We cannot expect to be respected as fonts of information and knowledge. We no longer have that role and it’s time to realize that.

What students need are teachers that can and do help them to find, sort, understand, assimilate and apply the incredible amount of information that is out there….in ways that they cannot do themselves.

The only way to do that is to do everything appropriately possible to know our students. It is a new role for us. It can be an uncomfortable one. There are no clear “rules” yet. It requires communication between teachers, students, parents and administration….communication we haven’t developed the skills for yet.

Truth is, if we combine our life experience and knowledge of how the brain works, with our students’ youth and drive (yes…they are driven…just maybe not about our subject areas), parents’ desire for the best for their children and administration’s desire to create effective schools, we just might have a chance.

Thank you for the chance to share my thoughts,
with love,

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.

Class Contract Archived Post 8.12.11

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2011, Classroom Management, Engagement, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

(Originally posted 8/12/11)

A reader asked a number of great questions on a post where I wrote about NOT using participation points. I will try to address some of them here.

How do you get there?
Which system do you have that replaces participation points that works?
How do you deal with discipline (attitude, absences, English)?
Which is the social contract you have with your students and parents?
How did you reach this social contract?
How do you enforce the rules that make daily living (la convivencia) possible?

Below is the contract that I created to address these issues. When I have an administration that requires a signature, I’ll collect that. Our Dean of Students and Principal have a copy. A copy is on my website and a copy is sent home to parents.

The key to this, however, is taking time the first week of school to address each point below:

Your Rights and Responsibilities

1. You have a right to be treated as an individual who interesting, capable, and important.
You have a responsibility to treat others the same way.

2. You have the right to a positive learning environment every day.
You have the responsibility to learn and accomplish something positive every day.

3. You have the right to be informed about the academic and personal goals of this course and your progress towards
those goals.
You have the responsibility to complete the class work and homework designed to help you achieve these goals and to monitor your progress.

4. You have the right to communicate with me in a respectful and appropriate manner about issues that affect you in class or in this building.
You have the responsibility to communicate with me whenever you have a problem, question, or concern about issues in this class, or your achievement in this class.
You have the responsibility to communicate if you, or anyone else, is in danger of physical or emotional harm.

These are posted in the room and referred to as necessary. We address them as “new information”, one per day the first week…IN ENGLISH…along with any number of team-building and get-to-know-you activities in Spanish.

I address infractions to the above immediately and directly…although not always publicly. A one-to-one conversation often goes a long way. The first two are the most important. As the teacher,

I have the final say if there is disagreement on what kind of behavior falls “outside of the lines”. I briefly mention and discuss “boundaries” so that students understand that there is a need to have lines drawn for appropriate/inappropriate behavior.

What we allow, we encourage.

The first few weeks with a new teacher, it is the students’ job to find out exactly what that teacher will allow. For example: talking when the teacher is talking, writing on other students and/or their belongings/desks etc., arriving late to class, not engaging in class activities, pretending to not know anything, sarcasm, mean remarks, making fun of others, inappropriate clothing, not doing homework, passing notes, texting, eating and drinking in class………………………………………..

I don’t take it personally when students test the boundaries. As adolescents, that is what they are wired to do. They want to know how I will handle trouble when it comes. They need to know that they can trust me to keep the classroom a safe place. Ironically, it is the “troublemakers” that need to know this the most. Many of them are extremely bright and knowing where the boundaries are is how they function. Many of them have learned survival skills outside of the classroom and want to know from the beginning which of those skills they will need to survive this venue. Some of them have a reputation to uphold. If I am consistent about the rules, their classmates will not look to them to act up. If I am NOT consistent, then it becomes their role to see what I’ll be like today. They learn by watching adults….and each other. Adults who are inconsistent become playthings and entertainment. I let them know up front that we have other things to do.

So…Step 1: The Rules and Responsibilities

Step 2: Identify the Boundaries and Stand Firm

Step 3: Offer the Better Option….Calmly.

Step 4: “Conduct” the Class

I tell students that this class is much like a band/chorus/orchestra and I’m the Maestro. I literally “conduct” the class. They need to follow my words, facial expressions, gesture etc. and respond appropriately. The first piece we learn is the “Signal” (check out the post below)


I take my job as Maestro seriously and choose my activities (pieces) carefully based upon the strengths, interests and abilities of the students. From Day 1, I make it clear that I have chosen everything for THEM. Not because it is next in the book, what the other classes are doing, I think it’s cool, it makes me look good or another group liked it. For THEM. I choose activities which I know that my students will enjoy and will be successful at.

Every day for the rest of the year, I keep those rules and responsibilities in mind. I know that we will need to review them regularly.

with love,

All content of this website ©Hearts For Teaching 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.

Shelter Vocab Not Grammar Archived Post 10.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Grammar, Music and Songs, Musings, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

One of the challenges we face as teachers is finding ways to help students use their language to express themselves fluently. The best thing that we can do for them is to show them how to communicate with fluency with the language that THEY have acquired…to model for them what it might look and sound like. Susie Gross has often said….Shelter vocabulary, not grammar.

But what does that mean? In the past few years I have really practiced this…and I wish that I had “gotten it” earlier because it is an incredibly powerful change in my teaching. But what is it that I have been practicing? Let me try to explain….

In the book that we are working on in, the phrases “brings him/brings her/brings them” show up repeatedly. What I would like to do is to create opportunities to use these phrases over and over and over and over and over again.

It will work because these are high-frequency. It will work if I keep them in front of me…cognitively and physically. It will work if, every time I use them with students, they are comprehensible AND contribute to some sort of interesting interaction. Some opportunities…

Daily Routines:

1. We start the class with a message on the Smartboard. Here are some ideas …..phrases I could put on the opening message:

The teacher is ready to accept your homework. Bring it to her.

The miners brought rocks home from the mine. Why should, or shouldn’t, they bring them?

The students from France are arriving tomorrow! Our students will be bringing them to school.

2. We use signals to integrate vocabulary and structures and to refocus students on activities. Here are some phrases we could use:

I’m bringing them….to the party!
Bring them…with you

3. Instead of collecting papers from the first person in each row I can ask them to “bring them to my desk.’

Personalized Conversations (aka PQA)/Writing Prompts

I frequently start a conversation with students (or ask them to write a paragraph) that uses a particular structure…with this one I might try…

1. I just received an email from The New York Yankees. They want to come to watch their biggest fan (Dan) play soccer this Thursday. They will need a ride from the train station in Syracuse…..who in class can (will, would, should) bring them to school?

2. Our French visitors have a free afternoon on Friday and we are taking them around the area. They can leave school at noon and must be back for the football game at 7pm. You get to decide where we go….where should we bring them?

3. Silly Bandz is sponsoring a local contest. You can win $500 if you can write a letter that convinces our principal to put on 500 Silly Bandz and wear them to school every day for a week. What would you write in your letter?

4. Start a campaign to convince parents that they should no longer bring their children with them to every family function. What is a function that teens do NOT want to attend and why shouldn’t parents bring them?

5. School policy says “no coffee, no soda” in classes. Should students be allowed to bring them to class? Why or why not?


1. Day of the Dead….a great opportunity to talk about the ofrendas, the people who are honored and what families bring to the ofrenda.

2. Three Kings’ Day…another great opportunity to talk about a Hispanic holiday, who the Kings were/are and what children hope that they bring …


1. Headlines…a quick “Google”ing of the phrase “brings (or brought or will bring etc) them” in
Spanish brought me these headlines:

· Alejandro les lleva al paraíso (Alejandro Sanz concert…)

· Ronald McDonald visita a niños cusqueños y les lleva alegría (RM visits kids in Cusco, Peru and brings them happiness)

· The Cranberries, reunión y gira mundial que los llevará a España (The Cranberries reunion and world tour that will bring them to Spain)

And my favorite….

· ¿Es necesario que los escolares lleven el celular al colegio? (Do students really have to bring cell phones to school? …..)

2. Matching…I like to create short matching activities to use in little contests, extra credit opportunities etc…they are always easy, interesting, structure-focused. Here’s a sample:

1. My cat threw up three times. ____A. Bring them to a recycling container!

2. My Mountain Dew cans are empty. ____B. Bring them to school!

3. My clothes are dirty. ____C. Don’t bring them to your mother!

4. My Mercedes Benz needs a new owner. ____D. Bring it to the vet!!

5. My cousins are the Jonas brothers. ____E. Bring it to me!

Listening Songs….Again….I googled lleva+letra (Spanish for lyrics) and found….

Llevan por Raphael http://www.letras.com/r/raphael/hacia_el_exito/llevan.html

Mil Calles Llevan Hacia Ti por La Guardia http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti-bajar-89218/disco-vamonos/la-guardia-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti.html

Me Llevaras en Ti por Alejandro Fernandez http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-me-llevaras-en-ti-bajar-44250/disco-muy-dentro-de-mi-corazon/alejandro-fernandez-me-llevaras-en-ti.html

Imagine how powerful this kind of repetition could be with idiomatic expressions that just don’t “click” easily? It takes some practice to start “thinking” this way, but I promise you…once you get started it is a little like playing around with puns…you start to see them everywhere!!!

With love,

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.

Connections and Planning Archived Post 9.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Starting The Year

(Originally posted 9/20/10)
Hmmm….Carol and Michele and Carla got me thinking about how the connection of activities can make a difference in our instruction. A higher level skill? I’m not sure. I think to some extent it is a skill, but it is more a way of thinking that takes practice. I think that sometimes, in the classroom as in life, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

How did we end up in this place where what happens in class is focused around a focused series of structures? I think because I have a student teacher, I wanted to keep the focus narrow. This way he would have a better idea of what vocabulary was “in bounds.” We started with a series of goals: a) get to know the students b) use the present, past and future in a natural way in conversation/instruction c) connect topics with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights d) connect the curriculum with the students’ lives.

I looked at the topics on the NYS Syllabus that my students needed to work with in order to be prepared for the NYS Regents exam and decided to begin with Work/Professions because I saw a way to connect it with each goal: a) we could find out about our students’ skills, interests and dreams b) we could discuss past, present and future jobs c) we could discuss the right to work, the rights of workers and the responsibilities of workers and employers d) every student is connected somehow to the world of work.

Next, we need a structure for the classroom….for organizing each period so that the student and the teachers were working within a routine. A routine helps us to rotate in activities and topics so that we can reach all of our students. It provides us with an avenue to drive down with the structures that we use to introduce class, make transitions in class, recognize students for their efforts, interact with students and include the language patterns inherent in the “niceties” of daily interaction.

We created a template for the month of September that included some pieces that are fairly typical of language classrooms and some that might not be. Class begins with a message on the SmartBoard about the first activity of class and what materials the students will need, including the formation of desks. (see Desk Drills) We have a quick review of the information that was on the morning announcements, taking special note of students who have been recognized. We ask for any other announcements (birthdays, driver’s tests etc.) We review upcoming, activities, competitions, meetings and deadlines. (lots of future tense)

Transitions in class are made with the use of Signals and the signals have been chosen with cultural,structural and emotional impact in mind (We will never forget, Viva Mexico, Here I Am etc) Thursday is quiz day…the first quiz was a reading quiz…using a letter written by my student teacher.

The second quiz was a writing quiz….my students introduced themselves to him in a 5-10 minute write. After the quiz they grab books for Free Voluntary Reading.

We notice that the students have a hard time remembering the word “son” they are.

Mondays we have been asking the question, “Where did you go this weekend? “ And throughout the week asked…”Where did you go last night?” (builds beautifully from the discussion of upcoming events) This week we added the question: “Who did you go with?” My student teacher created a short reading about his weekend…staying focused on “I went” I went with, I went to, I went for, I went because….When we ask students where they went, a ton of them respond with “I went to work”…a perfect connection for where we are headed.

When they talk about their friends, their teammates, their co-workers, they don’t use the word “son” either.

We’ve been looking at international news. Our focus? The miners trapped in Chile. How did we tie this in? What structures are connected? They went to work. They to the mine. They went to a refuge under the ground. The families went to sit vigil. The president of Chile went to the mine. He went to talk with the families. He went to see the messages from the miners.

Engineers went to the mine. They went with ideas. The engineers will meet. They will meet and make plans. They will meet and share ideas. They will organize a rescue. The miners will watch a soccer game. They will exercise to keep in shape.

We decide that we need to create a reading with a lot of reps of the word “son”…but that that word might be a “teach for June” goal.

We need to talk about danger and dangerous jobs. We revisit a song from last year “Aqui Estoy Yo” . All kinds of great lines. Don’t be afraid. Here I am. I’ll take care of you. Please accept. We use these phrases to write letters to the miners and their families.

We will talk about why the girl the songwriter talks about thinks that love is dangerous. We are going to talk about the four singers in the video and make sure that we are going to get a bazillion reps of the word “son.”

Another phrase that keeps coming up over and over again? The same. Going to the same meeting. Went to the same game. Ate the same number of pancakes at the pancake breakfast. Bought the same lunch. Scored the same number of goals. Both meetings are on the same day. In love with the same girl. Hoping for the same thing. Three plans for the same goal. Six weeks in the same place. Thirty three families with the same prayer.

We didn’t plan for that. We didn’t see that pattern ahead of time. But we put it up on the board when it came up and now it is popping up organically all over the place.

By reusing and refreshing a routine, by repeating a theme, by revisiting an ongoing story, by recycling a song, by realizing patterns, by recreating similar activities on a variety of topics, by using familiar structures WHILE AT THE SAME TIME staying within a narrow framework of new structures….we are creating a path for everyone in the class to follow throughout the forest….without getting lost among the trees.

I’m not sure that it takes any special skill. I think that it takes focus. And practice. And the ability to stay in the moment and get your bearing. The willingness to look back after the lesson and see where it went and where you should be going. And friends to remind you that it works.

Not every unit, or lesson, or moment will mesh seamlessly. But if we get out of the trees for a few minutes we can see that every tree is a part of the forest…in the great scheme of things it will all, eventually fit together. Every time we can plug into the connection, we just make it easier for our students’ brains to do what they do naturally…acquire language,

with love,

All content of this website © Embedded Reading 2012-2014 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.

Climbing the PQA Mountain Archived Post 3.2.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Personalizing Instruction, Questioning Techniques, Relationships, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/2/10)

I have to confess…..I really had trouble with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers).    The idea behind PQA is to use a targeted, high-frequency phrase in conversation with students so that they hear (and comprehend it) many, many times.

At first, I didn’t spend a lot of time nor energy analyzing my PQA resistance….I just avoided it whenever possible.   (Fortunately now there is Ben Slavic’s PQA in a Wink!! …but pre-Ben all I could do was marvel at how Susie and others wove wonderful questions in workshops and wish that I could do the same.)

Then one day I had an epiphany!   PQA is NOT about the focus structure.  IT’S ABOUT THE STUDENTS!   So…..instead of asking myself, what questions can I create using this phrase, I began to ask myself…

Can I get to know my students better using this phrase?  If so, how?

This cleared away many of the thoughts and emotions that were holding me back.   First…I realized that not all phrases are good PQA material.    I was able to find other ways to get repetitions with those phrases.  (Work smarter not harder Laurie Ann!!)

Second…when I started to think of questions in light of getting to know my students better, the questions became more interesting!!!  I was more interested, the questions were more interesting, and so, of course, the students became more interested!!

The third piece that really helped me was incorporating other TPRS skills into my PQA forays.  Combining PQA with teaching to the eyes, using signals, choral responses, and circling helped me to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses.

More later…

with love,

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.

When We Are In It Together Archived Post 2.10.10

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Working with Novels

It Ain’t Easy…Bein’ Sick  (this post originally posted 2/10/10)

For the last week and a half I’ve been fighting mano a mano with a sinus/double ear infection.   Between the two days with subs and the fact that talking sends me into long-lasting coughing spasms, my students and I switched from our usual dose of verbal interaction to activities that are more reading-centered and group/pair-oriented.

I like all of the activities.  I think that they are educationally sound.  I think that my students are getting a lot of good, quality, written Comprehensible Input.  But I am astounded at the difference in the classes.

First of all, discipline is off.  I have to employ signals and silences more often.  I really don’t enjoy that.  Neither do the students.   It isn’t a lot of extra tension…but it is enough to change the classroom atmosphere.

What is REALLY missing, however, is the strong sense of “being in this together.”  When they work in pairs or groups, when they work at an individual pace, there is no sense of collegiality.  There are no group “inside” jokes.   The class feels very different without that!!!

When I am “conducting” the class, and everyone is working on the same story/idea/conversation/topic, it is like being on a family car trip.  Sure, there is a little bickering.  Yeah, it’s annoying when someone has to stop and go to the restroom.   No, everyone does not like the radio station.   But….. there are  shared moments of hilarity and common experience that create an atmosphere like no other I’ve taught in.

I can’t wait to get back after a week of vacation (next week).  Hopefully the coughing etc. will have subsided and we can get to work on using as much Spanish as possible hanging out together.   The story of Ana and her adventures in Casi Se Muere are just more interesting when we read it, and talk about it,  together.   Not just at the same time in the same room.   But really together.   It goes from being Ana’s story to our story that we read about Ana.

Oh we’ll still do activities that allow students to work ‘out of the group”……but not as often.   We need that together time.   It’s who we are.  We all miss it.

with love,

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.