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

The Heart of the Matter

by lclarcq on August 12th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Planning, Starting The Year

I’ve been thinking….

What’s the one thing I really need to communicate to my students? The thing that everything else stands on and revolves around. The thing I can always go back to whether I am planning, evaluating, reacting or even treading water.

My students are important to me.

More important than the curriculum, the grading system, the behavior point system, the school’s reputation, the department’s success record, than anything else I can think of in the educational venue.

Because of that, my classes are important to me.

Each student is part of a class. Each class has its own chemistry and behaviors that not only affect the students in it, but also is created by the students in it.

So I put a great deal of importance on how we interact in each class.

I want to set up each class so that it is clear what we are doing, and why.

What are we doing?
We are interacting, using the Spanish language whenever possible, so that we can know and understand the world better, starting with each other.

Why?
Language acquisition happens when the language is comprehensible, the message has value, and the people involved know that they matter.

Oh wait. That isn’t in the right order.

I want my students to know that they matter, that the world they live in matters, and that we can use more than one language to explore and appreciate those things.

And I only have a few precious minutes every day to do that.

with love,
Laurie

The Classroom of My Dreams

by lclarcq on August 11th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Curriculum and Planning, Starting The Year, Uncategorized

doesn’t exist.

Sigh.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamt of working in the perfect room. I’ve seen them on Pinterest. They must exist somewhere. But the truth is, they don’t exist in my world.

Perhaps your world is different. Perhaps you have unlimited time and unlimited funding. Perhaps you have no other distractions. Perhaps.

Or….your world is much like mine. The ideas all exist….in my head. The potential exists….in another reality. The desire exists…..every year.

But the reality does not.

What does?

This:

That’s my classroom right now. It might be my classroom for the next few days actually. (and classes start on Thursday!!)

Clearly there is a lot to do. In the past I would have been committed to all-nighters (or nearly) full of drawing, cutting, decorating and hanging. I would have done nearly anything to make sure that my students walked into a “classroom paradise.”

But almost a decade ago I gave that up.

I didn’t really have a choice at the time. You know, building construction, Xerox breakdown, no paycheck for July and August, two sons to get ready for school, moving to a new house, etc. etc. etc.

A few students asked me, “Where’s all your stuff?”. But not many. In fact, a few students actually told me that they liked the new “quiet” look. That was eye-opening.

And we started the year. And as things were needed, we made them and we put them up. The kids made most of the posters and decorations and they really preferred it that way. I still have dreams of the prepared and laminated loveliness of my early days. I’d love to have a gorgeous little Pinterest page-worthy environment.

But this way I get a few extra perks:

I don’t have to live up to my First Day decorating prowess.
I have more money in my bank account.
I have students who love to hang out in the room and create materials and decorations.
The students, their needs, and their work has become the focus of the classroom.

and I can still spend hours day-dreaming on Pinterest if I want to. 🙂
with love,
Laurie

Administrative Track-NTPRS17

by lclarcq on July 17th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, For Administrators, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Personalizing Instruction, Questioning Techniques

Welcome to NTPRS17 in San Antonio, Texas!! This post has been created for administrators and will contain the documents and information shared with you on Monday, July 17, 2017.

First, the Danielson Rubric Adaptation:

danielson-rubric-adaptationPDF

Then, informal observation sheets

Observation sheet for Personalization, Setting Classroom Expectations/Protocols
Observations_ – Google Docs

Observation for Informal Assessment:
ObservationsB

Skilled Questioning (i.e. Circling) Explanations and Examples:
CirclingStrategies

Here is Bryce Hedstrom’s outstanding Observation Checklist:
http://www.brycehedstrom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Checklist-for-Observing-a-FL-Classroom.pdf

And now, the type of assessment sheets that you will see teachers using with students:

Possible Assessment Activities for the Comprehensible Input Classroom:
PossibleAssessmentsBySkill

Thank you for being part of our week at NTPRS! You are incredibly valuable to us, to your teachers, your students and your communities!!

with love,
Laurie

Being The Space

by lclarcq on March 10th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Musings, Not So Good Days

It’s a tough week here. It is the end of the trimester and sadly, even middle school students feel the stress. We are also two weeks into an eight-week stretch without a break. With 10 more students per class than I’m accustomed to, I’ve also learned that I’m absorbing more stress from them as well. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the room in the center of a house fire when the room is full. And it is about to ex/implode at any moment.

That’s not what kids deserve. And frankly, I’ve feel like I’m not what the kids deserve this week either. But I’m what they have. So I’ve been looking for a way to stay calm.

I have tried to see myself as a tennis racket this week. Weird I know, but bear with me.

The tennis racket doesn’t get to sit still during a practice or a game. Even when the other player is dealing with the ball….the racket is poised and just slightly in motion…ready to return the play.

I realized that I did not have to be the entire racket…and that I could chose, at any, or every moment, which part of the racket I could be.

Professionally, and personally, I often have to be the strings. I have to catch the boll. I have to return the ball so that the players can hit it back to me.

But this week…..I’m trying to be the spaces between the strings. The spaces don’t have to do anything. They just have to be there. They let everything go by. They let the racket move and the strings do the work when necessary.

So when the tension heated up and the ‘little things” felt like they would explode into big things I kept saying to myself…”I’m the space. I’m the space. I’m the space.” (If you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of mantras!!)

It helped me so much. There is a time to be the strings….but it was a good week to be the space. I hope it helped the kids as much as it helped me.

with love,
Laurie

Please Can We Finish This Next Week?!!

by lclarcq on February 17th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Encouragment, Good Days, Output, Writing i

I never thought I would hear that about WRITING from my 6th graders!!! For the last 10 minutes of each class (yes..on a FRIDAY even!) I had each student start writing a story…their first story of their own. It was very structured and I was worried they might balk at it….but they were so happy doing it!!

First we reviewed parts of a story (characters, setting, conflict, resolution…there are more but that is all we can handle right now!) in English ( 2 minutes tops)

Then we brainstormed, out loud, in Spanish, what we could say about Brandon Brown as the lead character in the book we are reading. I did not write anything on the board. I told them that they then had five minutes to write between 3 and 5 sentences about a character of their own making. It could be a person or an animal or an object THAT THEY KNEW HOW TO SAY IN SPANISH.

By keeping the time short, and the amount of information limited, I had just enough to time to get around the room once and help anyone who was stuck. I then went to the board, wrote the phrases and said, “This is the language I am seeing you use: (I did this in Spanish but not everyone reading this speaks Spanish so…) There is____ His/her name is______ S/he lives in_______ S/he is_________ S/he has___________ S/he likes _____________ If you would like to add any more information about the character I will give you one more minute.”

This was the time when I introduced, and didn’t give in on, using only language that we have used in class. I felt that I had to start that way immediately, in order to establish that as a skill and build on it.

Step 2: I wrote the phrases One day, One night, One afternoon on the board and asked students to help me think of others we knew how to say (One morning, One week, One month, One year) Then I added On Monday (brainstormed other days), and In January (brainstormed other months).
I gave them 2 minutes to pick a time/date when the story was taking place. They could use one phrase (One day) or a combination (One day in June) and write that on their papers.

Step 3: I wrote the phrase _________is in/at school. Then they brainstormed other places they could say (only two or three!) I gave them permission to also use proper names of cities, countries, stores, etc. And one minute to write where the character is at the start of the story.

Step 4: Turn to a partner and read what you have so far out loud. Check to see what s/he understands. (THEY LOVED THIS PART!)

Step 5: Write the sentence: ________________ has a problem. In every class, students asked if they could also write. He has a big problem. or It is an important problem. etc.. Permission granted!! Why? We know how to say it!

Step 6: I write _____ wants something. and ________ needs something. I ask them to pick one and write the sentence. Then they write the sentence and fill replace the word “something” with what the character wants….and of course, it has to be something they know how to say in Spanish. _____ wants________ and ________ needs____________. (I love that RIGHT AWAY they are learning to use the word “something””

And that is pretty much as far as we got. It took less than 10 minutes, even with classes of 30 +. Because they were ready. Because we had waited. Because now they had language they could use.

All three classes groaned when it was time to go because they hadn’t been able to finish!

I am so looking forward to next week! (I don’t remember saying that very often in February!)

with love,
Laurie

No, Every Day Is Not A Winner

by lclarcq on February 15th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Not So Good Days

and I don’t seem to be able to predict them in advance.

That morning went well. It was a block day and the second block went well too. I’m not even sure that it was going so badly when I lost it. It seemed like it at the time, but looking back, it is hard to tell.

One minute I was tolerating the minor chaos of 30 students working in 10 groups of 3. Some groups were still working and some were done. Some students were passing back papers for me. I figured those still working needed about 5 more minutes and I could round everyone up and we could end the class on a focused note. And then…it all crossed over the edge. I had mis-timed things and the ones that were done were DONE and then I was DONE and well…that was that.

It was lights out, heads down on the desk and total silence. I was able to take deep breaths (although it was a little tough not to flash back to 5th grade when my teacher did the same thing to us…..and I got yelled at because I couldn’t stop giggling)

They apologized. Some quite sincerely and one who felt righteously wronged because although she admitted that she hadn’t been doing what she was supposed to the rest of the period, at the moment I got angry she was doing what she was supposed to and how dare I ask her to put her head down and be quiet? :o) The next day I apologized. (I needed a little time…) And life went on.

I wasn’t the world’s worst teacher. They weren’t the world’s worst students. And the next day went very well. Up and down. As long as we keep coming back and starting over, it’s all good.

with love,
Laurie

To Kahoot or Not to Kahoot? That was the question…

by lclarcq on February 14th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Musings, Technology

I admit that I can be a bit old-fashioned. And for middle-schoolers, that just means old. 🙂
I’m also the age of their grandparents (or older!!!) which doesn’t help either.

So, selfishly, I wanted them to play Kahoot. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t THAT old. That I knew how to use some of the fun stuff. 🙂

But I am also selfish with our time!! I really did not want to lose time because it might seem “fun”. But there was no way to know without trying….so….here is how it went:

Holy Moly they did have fun. About 90% of them. More about that in another post.

We played for several days in a row….which I didn’t want to do at all. But…my kids seem to need a few times to get used to things and so that was good.

Choosing team names quickly became more fun than anything else. By Day 2 I only accepted Team 1, Team 2 etc. I wrote the name on a Post-it and gave it to the player with the phone. Anything else became a way to make the class laugh and get away with finding a name that the teacher didn’t know the meaning of/reference to. That WAS a waste of time. So, as much as I could see how fun it was 🙂 , that was out.

I’m glad that I waited until we had really set a tone for the class. Not everyone had a phone, and sharing is not what middle schoolers are best at. So it really did take a few days for them to work how who would play with who and do it nicely. It worked out wonderfully in the end.

They felt super successful answering the questions. Really successful. It was the instant feedback, video-visual high that they have grown up with and it fed that need.

We did several types of questions. The “jumble” which puts things in order was not a hit with this group. Multiple choice was. The vocabulary ones made them feel smart. The reading ones got them reading even if they got the questions wrong. :o)

The best games were the ones I had time to make because I know my kids. But it was nice to not have to make everything.

This is not something they are ready to do only in the target language. So much energy and excitement that it all came flying out in English. We will be working on that. :o)

I do not plan on playing often. Never do too much of a good thing. :o)

If you haven’t tried it…think about it. Not everyone needs a phone/device but the more the better unless you are good at setting up teams. Also…if you are relying on the school’s internet, that can be a challenge.

I felt that I had to warn parents about the possible use of data!! The kids of course, did not.

Next time, I’m having kids help me plan questions to type of for the game!

You can find Kahoot at https://getkahoot.com

with love,
Laurie

No Longer Strangers

by lclarcq on February 13th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Personalizing Instruction

It’s been three months. Days that sometimes seemed very long but months that have been very short. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but recently there has been a change in my room. It feels like we are no longer strangers. This is so much better. I really was worried it wouldn’t happen.

I know, maybe everyone doesn’t really work this way, but I like knowing who the kids are in my room. I know their names. I know when one has new shoes. I’m learning who is always hungry and who never has anything to write with. I know whose family can afford a trip to Cozumel this spring and who wants to hang out after school and not go home. I know who will paint their face, wear feathers and paint their nails for Rally Day. I know who stays home on Rally Day because the energy level all day before the rally is too much to handle. I know who thinks they are old enough to be in high school and who still keeps a stuffed animal in their backpack every day. I know some things I am grateful to know, and other things that punch me in the gut when I think about them.

I don’t know something about everyone. But we have gotten to know each other. It’s a wonderful thing. I really didn’t enjoy working with strangers.

Middle schoolers are both a tough and a fragile bunch. Their tears are very real and they are often started by something that is only a big deal from the perspective of a middle schooler. One thing I have remembered is that middle school isn’t always fun to remember. But, the best way to connect with my middle schoolers has been to reconnect with my middle school self.

So, she and I are no longer strangers either.

She sometimes rode her bike to school…and sometimes took the bus.
On the days she rode her bike, her hair was even more of a complete disaster than usual.
On the days she took the bus, the high school boys pinched her on the butt and snapped her bra and she was mortified….but never told anyone.

She wanted very badly to be a cheerleader but just couldn’t jump. And her glasses fell off.
She thought she was smarter than the teachers some days and smarter than the other kids most days. And so she was a smart mouth sometimes. And then she cried because it felt mean.

She doesn’t have 7th grade pictures because her family of 7 were all living in a one-bedroom apartment transition housing and there probably wasn’t enough money……even if her mom did say that it was because the pictures were too ugly. That was less scary for her mom to say, but not less hard for her daughter to hear.

She fell desperately in love for minutes at a time with boys she absolutely did not know at all and totally ignored the ones she did. Or teased them unmercifully.

She daydreamed in class EVERY SINGLE DAY, often all period long.

She felt like she had to save the world and yet had absolutely no power at all.

Every, single, thing…..was changing.
Every, single, thing…..made no sense anymore.
Every, single, thing…..was desperately frightening.

On the inside.

On the outside she was a greasy-haired, four-eyed, smart-mouthed, desperately shy, passionate, closet-romance-reading, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, got-detention-for-laughing-in-class child having to deal with womanly issues and a great big world. And most of the time she didn’t do it very well. I guess that was the point. :o)

I was everything and nothing that I wanted to be. Getting to know her again has really helped me to get to know them. Loving her, for the first time, has helped me to love them too.

with love,
Laurie