Creating a Community

by lclarcq on October 13th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Creating Stories, Engagement, Relationships

I had planned this as a listening activity….but it took on a life of its own! We had asked a story the day before using some phrases from the song Hoy Es Domingo sung by Diego Torres and Ruben Blades. (Check it out if you aren’t familiar with it!)

Phrases I wanted to include were:

It was Sunday.
S/he was in bed.
S/he wanted to sleep.

Each of the three Level 2 had co-created a great story the Thursday before and I wanted to go back and review the story on Monday.

My classes are good-sized: 30-34 students and I often feel like I am herding cats trying to keep us all together going the same direction at the same time. This was a total experiment, but I loved the result!

I divided the class into four groups. Each group had 1/2 of a large white board (I have two large boards, on opposite sides of the room) They arranged their chairs (we are deskless) in a semi-circle around their particular white board section.

I had drawn a grid of 16 squares on each white board and numbered them. One student went to the board in each group. I read the first sentence from the story out loud, in Spanish, and the author had THIRTY seconds to sketch that sentence in box #1. ONLY 30 SECONDS! The group was allowed to help with meaning and ideas for the sketch. ( Rules: No criticism of artwork or interpretation allowed. Suggestions welcome. English allowed…these were middle schoolers at the beginning of level 2) )We all applauded the artists and the next student went to the board.

My plan was to go until it fell apart. (Did you ever do that with a new activity?!!) But it never did! It just kept building momentum!

What I observed:

BONDING BONDING and more BONDING! These classes are a mixture of 7th and 8th graders with a 6th grader or two mixed in. The school has nearly 1000 students. They just don’t know each other outside of my class and they really got a chance to work with new people and connect. The rules kept great artists from getting frustrated and instead made them the expert with helpful suggestions and ideas. The students that weren’t as comfortable with the language had the support of the stronger students in the group. The kids who had no confidence in their artwork had the support of their group’s ideas.

GREATER COMPREHENSION! We revisited the story with the drawing and then, we used the drawings for several follow up activities! Each time my slower processing students understood the story with more detail and my faster processors were not bored in the least. Their own artwork was intriguing!

LAUGHTER! The fact that they only had 30 seconds to draw created just enough tension to lessen the pressure for perfection. In each group (without prompting from me1) one artist added a funny detail to the picture. It might have been a funny haircut on a stick figure or a facial expression etc. Then every artist afterwards continued to use it. It started a series of laughter among students who really hadn’t known each other well.

OWNERSHIP! Each group was very proud of their ‘creation” and posed for pictures with their artwork. (These are on the school device and I’ll upload them soon!)

I’ll follow up in the next post with our follow up activities!
with love,
Laurie

Power: Reflections on CIMidwest 17

by lclarcq on October 12th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Relationships, Workshop Reflections

I’m a little behind schedule, but with a few minutes this morning in Maine, I want to share my thoughts on the CIMidwest 17 conference.

It was powerful.

Power was core of this conference.

Now, technically, the theme of the conference was Equity. But by the time the weekend was over, for me, it was about Power.

Bob Patrick was the keynote speaker and his speech may have been the best keynote I’ve heard. Bob is a great thinker, a thoughtful writer, and a gifted speaker. His speech felt like a close personal story. He spoke about his journey as an individual and as a teacher (they really aren’t separate journeys.) I took fervent notes and here are a few of Bob’s “quotes” that truly spoke to me:

“Building human relationships is the most important work that we do.”

“The most important element of any hour that we teach, is the people in the room.”

“Comprehensible, Compelling, Caring”

“Noticing matters.”

“Who is NOT in your room…and why not?”

“Use your students’ questions as a portal to make meaning.”

“What if my last nerve is really my next best opportunity to connect?”

And it all came down to the Power we each have to change lives.
And if we acknowledge that Power.
And how we understand that Power.
And how that Power becomes a lens through which we see the world….and our students.
And how we use that Power.
And how that affects the Power that our students do, or do not, have.

Because in the end, the type of Power and amount of Power an individual has impacts his/her ability to be “equal” to others. No Power = No equality. More Power = More privilege.

It was meant to make us ask ourselves questions and to reflect on how our thoughts, our feelings and our actions affect our students and their ability to harness and use Power.

It did.

And we carried those questions and continued those reflections throughout the day, with each session that we attended.

The organizers had invited presenters and had scheduled presentations knowing that each had something to offer that would help teachers to continue their questioning and thinking WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, acquiring skills and developing strategies.

Beautifully done.

Next year’s CI Midwest Conference will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 29. Theme to be announced, but it promises to be another well-organized, thoughtful AND useful opportunity!

with love,
Laurie

Leaving A Little Room for Hope

by lclarcq on September 18th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Encouragment, Engagement, Good Days, Musings

It’s been a little busy in my world, and I bet it has been in your world too. Once the year gets going, it just seems to pick up speed! It’s easy, when things get crazy, to get caught up in what isn’t done and what isn’t going right. At least it is for me! I can get all discombobulated about the kid who is often late, the parent who thinks I don’t answer emails quickly enough or the online training I was supposed to have done yesterday. In the past week or so though I have run a few moments that caught me by surprise….and I wanted to share them with you.

As some of you know, last year a group of 6th graders and I struggled our way through the year. We had a rocky start and a lot was expected of them and I’m sure that they felt that they never quite measured up. I’m lucky enough to have about 1/3 of them back again this year and they are SO impressive. ‘It’s just clicking into place!” one girl said and another stopped by after class to say that this year is SO easy. And I was worried that they would carry that rocky start with them for their entire language career. It’s let me relax a little and not fret so much about kids being “behind”. I am seeing that if we all hang in there, and they get enough comprehensible input, the sky really is the limit!

A week or so ago, I told my classes that before school started (and with not a few winks) I went to the registrar and made it quite clear that I would only teach students who were clearly very bright, extremely easy to love and kind to others, not to mention wonderful to look at every day. A girl came in late today, having run the mile in PE, and whispered to the boy next to her. “I’m the sweatiest, ugliest girl on campus. Sorry you have to sit next to me.” He whispered back, “Not in Ms. Clarcq’s class you aren’t, don’t worry about it.” Totally serious. She just smiled and said thanks. (Isn’t it funny that kids don’t think you can hear them?!) My words may have been (somewhat) in jest, but the sentiment behind them was not….and he knew that. (and I wasn’t even sure he was listening!)

I have a group of boys who always pitch a little fit on the days we do SSR. They don’t get a book on their way in. They moan (quietly at least) when I remind them to get a book and they draaaaaaag themselves over to the shelves and reluctantly open the book. Sometimes they try to read it upside down …just to see if I am paying attention. Or whisper behind the open book as if I can’t tell it’s them. :0) My strategy is to wait them out. I don’t actually start the reading timer until they settle down. On Friday I was sorely tempted to just give up and send everyone to turn their books back in when FINALLY they got quiet. Seven minutes later, when it was time to put the books away, they were the last ones to do it!! And I had to move them along a little. One of them actually turned to a friend to tell him what was happening in the book!! Who’d a thunk it?

I bet these moments happen way more often than I notice. I think I need to start looking for them more. Waiting for them more. And making a little more room for Hope to take root.

with love,
Laurie

It’s Time To Slow Down

by lclarcq on September 3rd, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Engagement, Pacing, Starting The Year, Uncategorized

Hello!! It’s good to have the “real” blog up and running again back here at www.heartsforteaching.com .

My kids and are will be starting our third full week on Tuesday (wow! so quickly?) and if you have been reading many of the posts on various Facebook pages (IFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching, CI Liftoff etc.), you’ll notice a common theme: It’s time to slow down.

I AM THERE!!

We finally have a stable schedule, so students are not moving from class to class or teacher to teacher. I have had time to establish my expectations for behavior, model how I deal with “issues”, and begin to create relationships with, and among, students.

I’m crazy to do more with the language!! But…I also just gave a quiz and got feedback from parents at Back To School Night…so I know that this is the perfect time to slow down, no matter how counterintuitive it might be.

I’m going to reference a post from earlier this year: When Students Are “Lost”

Luckily, my students are “lost” yet! But, I know, if I don’t slow down now they will be soon. I just don’t want that to happen! Especially this early in the year! So I’m going back to this post, and these ideas this week to be proactive for my students.

When I was teaching in NY, I used this scale with my students to describe what is going on in their brains during class:

Stage 1 : Attention
(student is looking at/listening to w/intent to understand)

Stage 2: Identification
(student can locate sounds/text that are recognizable)

Stage 3: Comprehension
(student can visualize/dramatize meaning of the pieces they understand)

Stage 4: Clarification
(student will seek information needed to comprehend any missing pieces)

Stage 5: Interaction
(student will respond to aural input/text to the best of ability)

I want to share this with my students now, so they can begin to appreciate not only how much work the brain is actually doing during class (hmmmm can you say “RIGOR”?), but also to remind them that this is a process, a journey, and they are farther along than they may realize.

We will work from a poster than words it this way:

Stage 1: I heard/see it but I don’t recognize it/can’t identify it.

Stage 2: I can identify/recognize it but I don’t know what it means.

Stage 3: I heard/saw it AND I recognize it AND I’m pretty sure I know what it means.

Stage 4: I checked what I think it means with the context to see if I’m right.

Stage 5: I totally get it and can respond verbally/physically to it.

and I may create a smaller version for them each to tuck in their folders. It will definitely be part of parent communication. I REALLY wish I had thought to prepare it for Back To School Night…..

Then it can begin to be part of our interactions in class; with each other and with the language.

Now the REAL benefit to this is that this poster is a HUGE visual reminder for me to slow down. Why? So that their brains have time to deal with all of the stages! It really is a lot of work! In time it will take microseconds, but right now….they need time. Thinking time. Confidence time. All of which leads to individual and community success. Which we always need!!

with love,
Laurie
PS if you haven’t read the post where I originally shared this, go for it! When Students Are “Lost.”

Part 2 An Anchor For The Storms: Hearts For Teaching Blog Post

by lclarcq on August 26th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting The Year, Using Student Ideas

This year I decided to add a second poster option for my Spanish 2 students (primarily 7th graders).  About 1/3rd had had me as a teacher last year and I didn’t want them to have to do the same poster over again! Also, it was so successful that I wanted to see if it also worked with our Goals !

In Our Class We Try To…

Respect

Include

Communicate

Understand

Think

Improve

This week we focused on Respect and Understand as we began to get to know each other and how the class would run.  Next week we’ll add Communicate.

These goals, like the statement in the previous post, serve as a touchpoint for us all year long.  I was able to use them over and over again just this week.

Check out some of their work above and below!

with love,

Laurie

PS  I’ve invited the principal and two assistant principals to come in and choose their favorite poster (from both options)  I will color copy and frame them to be hung in their offices!!

An Anchor For The Storms P

by lclarcq on August 26th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting The Year, Using Student Ideas

The first weeks of school seem “easy” to some teachers.  In their rooms, students seem to follow the rules and do what is expected.  It is sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon” period, when everything is sweet and wonderful.

I don’t usually experience that, and maybe many language teachers do not.  Our expectations are different than the expectations of other teachers.  Our rooms are set up differently than the rooms of other teachers.  Our relationships with students are often different than those of other teachers.  For those reasons, it is extremely important to set the boundaries.   What are the parameters of behavior?  What is acceptable?  What isn’t?

Because I teach using TPRS® (thank you Bryce Hedstrom for this!) my students are going to be in a highly-participatory, interactive classroom.   This is new for many of them and it takes some time for us to work it out!!   So for me, the first few weeks are very, very important and my brain is highly alert for ways to time,  orchestrate and/or take advantage of the first and best opportunities to share HOW this class will work.  Once we get things rolling, then I relax a little bit!

For the last decade or so, I have started students with the following statement (or something very similar!_:

The purpose of communication is to put a picture into the mind, and/or heart, of another person. 

It is not a quote;  it’s one of my belief statements….in the classroom and in life.  I use it to “anchor” the classroom.

What do I mean by “anchor”?   

Well, teaching can sometimes feel as if you are out on the high seas in the middle of a hurricane.   It’s hard, with all that is going on and all that is required, to keep upright and to keep going in the right direction.   Sometimes you need an anchor to keep you from blasting off in the wrong direction without meaning to.   

So I use all or parts of this statement to come back to over and over again.

It is an introduction to the concept of visualization.  I want students to visualize what they hear and read.  

It is a reminder that clarity is important.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

It is a reminder that words have power.  We should use them wisely.  

It is commitment to not only communicate with the minds, but also the hearts, of everyone in the class. 

But most of all, it gives me the starting point for checking for understanding?  Is the meaning (the picture) clear?

I ask students to create a poster (8″x10″ minimum) with that statement.  They keep them in the front of their folders and I post copies of many of them around the room.   As always….students blow me away with their work!!  (Check out samples from some of this year’s 6th graders above and below!)

with love,

Laurie







Creating Community

by lclarcq on August 24th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Engagement, Relationships, Starting The Year

Creating community is more than a series of activities…..it is a commitment to finding ways for students to support each other.  That is not always easy!  Supporting and encouraging others is not a part of every community that we teach and live in.  It isn’t always a part of our family history, nor the dynamic of our students’ home lives.  

Like everything else we do, it requires patience and a constant series of safe opportunities for student to be a part of.  Once students begin to experience what being part of a community really means, they begin to buy in and often lead the way…..but that can take some time.

My first period class (so far!) seems to be a group that is willing to step up, so I asked them to start something this morning that blossomed throughout the day.   It was the day of our first quiz.  (I try to give some sort of assessment each Thursday because it helps me to plan for the next week.)    The first period group was a little nervous, but no surprise, they felt good about their answers.  

Today’s quiz was really more about teaching them the logistics of taking a test/quiz in a deskless classroom, and to build their confidence about quizzes in the weeks to come.  After the quiz was over, I asked them to share their thoughts about how it went.  They were relieved that it wasn’t too difficult and some of them admitted that they had been pretty worried about it.

So….

I asked them to write “Good luck!” to the next class on the whiteboards that we keep under the chairs to write on.    When the next period came in, each student had a note saying ‘GOOD LUCK!” on the white board under his/her seat.   At first, they were puzzled.  Why did they wish me good luck?  Who wrote it?  Do they know me?  But after a few moments, they began to share their messages with the students nearby and several took pictures to save and send.  

Then they erased the messages and took their own quiz.   Towards the end of the period, a student asked, “Aren’t we going to make Good Luck boards too?”  Of course we were, but I was waiting to see if they would ask…..and they did!!

The last period of the day wrote “Good morning” on their boards and emphatically informed me that next Wednesday they needed to write “Good luck” for the 1st period class to see Thursday morning.

Just a quick, easy, safe way to build community….and yes…I took a quick look at each board before they left the room…..just to be sure all of the messages/drawings were appropriate. :0)  It is middle school after all!

Check out the pictures below! (I wish the one of all 31 of them had turned out!)

with love,

Laurie

Chair Guy For The Win!!

by lclarcq on August 22nd, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Engagement, Starting The Year, Tough Students

Note:  For the next two weeks, the Hearts For Teaching Blog posts will appear here on this site.  I will move them over when the Hearts For Teaching Blog is up and running well again!! (probably Sept. 1st)

I’m really focusing on my “hard to win” students these first few days.  The sooner I can get them on board, the sooner they start making progress.  Once that happens, there is no stopping them.  It’s getting them started that is the challenge!

Right now, these students fall into two categories (mostly): a. students who have been asked to repeat a level and b. students who have had more success with being obnoxious and funny than with classwork.

Some of my sweetest moments this week have come from these kids…..so I wanted to share my “chair guy” story with you.   Chair Guy started Day #1 by being the loudest, smart-mouthed and most vocal kid in Spanish 2…..and of course, all in English.  On the second day of class a new student entered just as we were about to start the first activity.   All of the chairs were full.  The student looked around for a seat, and in a split second it was obvious that no chairs were readily available.  

“Sucks to be you!”, yells out Chair Guy.  The entire class looks at him, and then at me.  Chair Guy isn’t even aware that he has said/done anything questionable.   I go over to my desk and picked up a Wildcat Way (the school’s recognition rewards that can be turned in for prizes etc.)

“Hmmmm”, I say to Chair Guy, slowly waving the Wildcat Way, “I think you meant to say–I’ll find you a chair.”   

Chair Guy looks at me for a second, puzzled, and then he gets it.   He stands up, goes to the corner of the room, picks up a chair from a few that are stacked in a corner.  “Where would you like to sit?, “he asks the girl, “I’ll put it anywhere you would like.”   She points, he puts the chair down, and I hand him the Wildcat Way with a thank you.

Not 10 seconds later ANOTHER student enters the room.  Chair Guy is on his feet in a second.  “WELCOME!!, ” he yells, “I’ll get you a seat!  Where would you like to sit?”  The student gets a personally-chosen seat and Chair Guy gets another Wildcat Way.

Now, the next day, a student comes in late.  Chair Guy jumps up and says, “Welcome!  There’s a chair for you over there!”  No kidding.  I don’t know who is happier, me or Chair Guy!!  

On the way out he says to me, “You know, I’ve never gotten any of these before.  It’s easier than I thought to do the right thing.”  

Welcome to the class Chair Guy!!!!  So glad he’s here.

with love,

Laurie

Day #2: Winning Them Over One By One!

by lclarcq on August 20th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting Class, Starting The Year, Uncategorized

So, on Day #2 the students walk in and sit down.  Four out of six classes totally forgot about the names in the back of the room until the bell rang….and then….someone said, “Oh!  Our cards!”.   But once everyone remembered, all went well.

Ok….not all.

My first and third period classes looked something like this as they brought up their cards:

Student in the front of the line hands me the card.   I smile, and say, brightly, BUENOS DIAS!.  The student looks at the floor and trudges back to his or her seat.   This repeated itself 31 times!!!!!!!!   

Once everyone had gone through the process, I looked at the class and said, “Clase, hay un problema.”  And then explained in English that having your heart broken 31 times in a row is no way to start the day.

So…..they all got up again….I greeted them with a smile, a HIGH FIVE and a BUENOS DIAS!.   In the first period class, right about the middle of the line, one boy deliberately “missed” the high five.  (Ay!)  So, when everyone was done I invited him up front.  He gladly came (if not I would have gone over to stand next to him.)   I explained to the class in Spanish (these are level 2 students) that everyone gave me a high five except for “Alberto.’  Why?  Because Alberto and I had a very special handshake that was way more complicated than a high five and he was going to teach it to them right now.  

“Albert” whispered to me, “I don’t know what to do.”  I whispered back, ‘Just miss my high five and then we’ll do a fist bump.”  So “Albert” demonstrated the more complicated and special high five and I asked 3 or 4 other students if they wanted to try it.  There was about 25 hands in the air so I let them do it with a neighbor and then we went on.  “Albert” got the message, and so did the rest of them.  

:o)

with love,

Laurie

Day #1 The Magic Attendance Poster!!

by lclarcq on August 20th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Starting Class

By the time some of you read this it will be really old news….but here goes!!

Day 1 of Year 35 completed!!!

As you saw by my earlier post….my classroom is bare bones right now.

I have added the following:

1. Posters of the Super Seven in the past/present from Scott Benedict at Teach For June.

2. A calendar with the days of the week, months of the year.

3. Posters with colors.

4. Two Sr. Wooly posters (Billy La Bufanda, Soy Guapo and Puedo Ir al Baño)

5. A world map.

Not much really!!!!

Except for this:

If you look closely, you will see cards behind each card:

It is my magic attendance poster!!!

Confession #1: I am HORRIBLE at taking and reporting attendance.

So, on Thursday, I taught all of the kids to grab their name from the poster in the back of the room as they come in and bring it up to the front and hand it to me. (If their name is NOT there then they bring me a blank card and I know to check the roster for schedule changes etc.)

This way I get to connect with every kid on their way in the room!!! (If their name is NOT there then they bring me a blank card and I know to check the roster for schedule changes etc.)

The first day, I asked students their names.  They could a) just show me the card.  b) say their name or c. Say Me llama and their name.  (Right away I could show them that they will respond in a way that is comfortable for them!) This way I didn’t have to try to figure out the pronunciation of names and I asked if they had a nickname that they preferred.   I also asked them if I had spelled it correctly.  It was quick, personal, and easy!!

It is very easy to see who is not here because each class roster uses a different color marker. Before I submit attendance, I can see if any names are left on the board in a flash!!

Confession #2: I messed it up 4/6 times on Thursday!! I forgot to hit “Submit”. So THAT was the first Student Job assigned on Friday. Friday I didn’t miss it once!! And….check out the next post for the Day #2 story!!

Other benefits: I now have the cards for each student in my hand. I can use those for “random cold-calling” for games etc. I can have a student put them back (in the back of the pile each period) or do it myself later in the day.

PS You will see numbers on the bottom of the cards. They stand for Spanish 1 or 2, the period of the day, and a count of how many students in the class. Just little helpful things for me.

This was a great way to start things off!

with love,
Laurie