Cho Co La Te!!

by lclarcq on February 15th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Games, Good Days

Valentine’s Day is….well…highly stressful. For middle schoolers (who see every holiday as a good reason to eat all candy in a 5 mile radius) it can be hundreds of ups and downs in one day. There are a ton of wonderful love songs out there (even some G-rated ones I can use at the MS level) and cute videos and sweet stories…and well…you get the idea.

Today I wasn’t brave enough to do any of those things. At least not with my 6th graders. So I went back to basics, back to simple, back to fun.

A little rhyme:

Choco Choco La La
Choco Choco Te Te
Choco La
Choco Te
Cho co la te!

We practiced the rhyme…we practiced the motions. We slapped the rhythm on the desks, we played in pairs like they did when they were younger (and they are still so young!) and we played in a giant circle.

So much fun to watch!! The 8th graders loved it too…although we also did Jesse and Joy’s song Chocolate at that level!!

Learning what my middle schoolers can handle, or want to handle, on any given day..
with love,
Laurie
PS I still haven’t heard from the folks who give permission to share the two videos I also used today for a few minutes each…but if you go to www.youtube.com and search for Chocolate by Jesse y Joy and Cho co la te Juego de Manos you will find what we watched!!

What Works For One…

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction

I have three 6th grade/Level 1 classes and like most teachers, I’d like to think that I can have one basic plan for that level. I know better, but I don’t really KNOW better!! I’m trying to get to know not only individual students better, but also the makeup of each class better. It would really help me with my planning. :o)

All three classes need a lot of work with the basics. The first class was able to arrange itself in a circle without too much fuss and I led a series of questions/directed a conversation around several of the students.

There is a boy in the class. His name is ________. He is very, very famous in Spanish class. He has a lot of friends. One of them is also in Spanish class. His name is ___________. He is very, very intelligent. ___________is another student in class. He is very athletic. He likes football. Many students in the class like football. ____________ has a football jersey. Her favorite team is __________.

and then one of the kids ran to his backpack, pulled out a Seattle Seahawks jersey and put it on!! Great class. We are still pausing (often) so they can settle down, focus, stop talking, etc….but it was progress.

We transitioned into a conversation (with pictures) about Prince Royce. They understood, they were interested, and although we are still working on behaving like a class….I was pretty happy. We watched a 3 minute video about Prince Royce in English. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBHdga54kik) I could follow with a number of questions in Spanish using the “Super Seven” verbs. (Google Dr.Terry Waltz and Super 7…tons of great stuff!). They had some questions in English about Prince Royce that were interesting to hear. Questions about what he was wearing and how he wore his hair. I was able to use their emerging Spanish to talk about Prince Royce the person and Prince Royce the singer. (and to remind myself how important it is to FIT IN in middle school!)

Then we watched a clip from La Voz Kids where Prince Royce is a judge and a young man sings one of Prince Royce’s songs and talked about that using the same basic questions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buIs7yqT5jE)

I felt pretty good about how that went!

The next class? Ummm. Different story. They could not handle a change in the seating arrangement. When I tried to start the conversation about the class, we could barely get started. The social make up of this group is a study in middle school insecurity. Everyone is trying to be cool and the socially acceptable way to be cool is to make sure that everyone in the class knows that you are cooler than they are. Cliques, sarcasm, eye-rolling, snorts…you get the idea. Lovely individuals on their own. Toxic when together.

So…..back to the drawing board. In the middle of class. Ok…twenty minutes into a 90 minute block. Desks in rows. Take out a sheet of paper. I write a sentence about Prince Royce (on the computer, projected onto the screen). The students write the sentence in Spanish. I ask individual students comprehension questions. No one else is allowed to speak. On the outside I am neutral, calm, maybe even cold. On the inside I am frustrated and fired up!!!! This is BORING. SUPER, SUPER BORING.

But….the class itself was under control. The individuals in the class could each employ self-control. The language was comprehensible.

When we transitioned to the interview they couldn’t contain their reactions. After calming the storm of remarks, followed by the smiling stare of death for 45 seconds, I had to state in English that

a) Prince Royce is an actual human being and I wouldn’t let them mock him, or anyone else, in my presence.

b) Prince Royce is a professional. He has a job. He might be told what to wear and how to cut his hair, etc. etc. It is not our job to do either of those things.

And then we went back to the video. What color is his shirt? What color are his shoes? Do the shoes cost a lot of money? Do his fans like his shoes? Using the same, one student at a time, no one else is answering, and we write the answer on the screen and they write it in their notebooks scenario.

The same material. Completely different lessons.

The hard part? Not putting my own personal label on either one. I was totally miserable during the second lesson….but truthfully…it was probably the right lesson for that group. If I had tried to keep pushing 5th period’s lesson on 7th period, it would have gotten very, very ugly.

Tomorrow I meet with the third 6th grade class. It’s the most challenging one!!!! I’ll keep you posted. Right now I know the material, but I haven’t yet nailed down the lesson plan….

with love,
Laurie

Tricky Tuesdays

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement

On Monday I can actually get pretty fired up. I haven’t seen my students for a few days and I’m excited to get going with some new things for the week.

But Tuesdays….ah…that is an entirely different day. It’s the day to dig in and make some progress. Friday seems a mile away. The kids are starting to feel pressure from other teachers and other classes. We are all a little grumpy.

Today was an eye-opener. I gave a quiz to the Level 1 students and got a very clear look at what they can, and cannot do. Let’s just say we have our work cut out for us. It feels like a a lot of pressure….and I’m an adult with a lot of experience behind me.

No one left feeling upbeat. We refocused, got serious, cleared the decks, dug in and started over. It doesn’t feel good to start over 17 weeks in.

This is where I have to really get to know my students. The more we can work together, the more we will get done. I have to work to create situations where we can successfully trust each other. Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. It’s always the little things that matter.

It’s too early to see many changes, but I’m trying to lay the groundwork by doing the following:

We are making a birthday calendar and talking about birthdays. We celebrate birthdays together.

We are talking about pets. Pets are a powerful magnet for interest and caring about pets a socially aceptable way to show emotion and affection.

I’m using the school’s character ed “points” to recognize kids who are patient and supportive as well as cooperative….in addition to those who are showing improvement. My opinion doesn’t matter enough to them yet to accept genuine compliments as rewards of any kind. They need a concrete reward. (Not my thing if you know me, but it is a school-wide program with noble goals so I can live with it!! 😉 )

We have about 10 classroom jobs…and those are helping us to feel more like a team. Little by little by little by little by little.

We’ve been able to be a little silly. Five-a-day in Spanish, Sr. Wooly, one silly story. Those too will add up.

In time…it’s only Tuesday.

with love,
Laurie

At The Beginning….Baby Steps

by lclarcq on December 1st, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Creating Stories, Encouragment, Engagement, Relationships, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

If you are just starting out with TPRS, and you feel as if you are not doing enough with your students fast enough….take heart….you have an enormous advantage!!!

WE HAVE TO START SLOWLY. I put TPRS+slow into Google just for fun and discovered HUNDREDS of pieces that address how important it is to start off slowly with students who are new to language and/or new to being in a TPRS classroom.

I am choosing only one skill/concept as a goal for my students per week. The only goal I am really focusing on this week is Listening Well. I have to be honest….it’s killing me to do it. I can think of DOZENS of things that I could add to class right now that would make it more interesting, but I know that if I want them to listen WELL, I’d better stick with that.

Now, I am sneaking in opportunities for next week’s goal which is RESPOND WELL. We all know that no skill really works in isolation. But I don’t expect to see any progress in anything other than the LISTENING WELL.

I’m trying to remember to:
Point out what it looks like. (See here for more info.)
Thank students when they do it. (individually or as a group)
Be patient when they get too excited about what we are doing to only listen.
Remind them that listening and talking should not be done simultaneously.
Wait, and wait, and wait, until they are listening.
Ask any student who responds to or asks a question to wait until their peers are quiet before they speak.

It is so hard to move in baby steps when there is so much ground to cover. But this kind of teaching is about the journey not the destination. I have to be where my students are, NOT try to get them to where I want to be. It’s the only way we will ever be together.

I realized today that part of my ‘inner stress” comes from thinking that I am not in control if I meet them where they are. My perspective was skewed. I cannot change where they are right this minute. I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IN CONTROL OF THAT. I can only be in control of where I am and how I interact with them. If I chose to meet them where they are, we will be together and I can help them on the journey. If I stand at the finish line, impatiently waiting for them to show up, expecting them to arrive in a place they cannot get to on their own, I am choosing stress for all of us.

The dear and brilliant Brian Barabe told me once that TPRS is like yoga…and to use the mantra “You are where you are supposed to be.” I need to remember that more often.

with love,
Laurie

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,
Laurie
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.

Whitman Wanders The World

by lclarcq on February 25th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Encouragment, Musings

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!

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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
areas visited
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.

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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.

with love,
Laurie

Is The Journey Predictable?: The Beginning

by lclarcq on February 21st, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Encouragment, Musings, Teacher Training

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?”

Dear Richard,
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.

with love,
Laurie
PS If you are looking to connect with other TPRS/TCI teachers, check here for some options.

Your CI Journey: Philadelphia February 20!

by lclarcq on February 7th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Teacher Training

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!!!
with love,
Laurie