• Home
  • Category: Curriculum and Planning

How Do I Plan? Archived Post 4.2.11

(Originally posted 4/2/11)

Darn good question. I look for/try to create activities. I’ll base them on previous successes, find them on other people’s blogs and posts, borrow from a colleague’s brilliance, get an idea in the shower and I a constantly utilizing the Internet for interesting tidbits of stories, songs, headlines etc. I try to keep the majority of the activities geared toward the focus topic (like food for next marking period), but I’m not married to that. I keep this checklist in my head and review it to verify four things:

a) Is this activity GOOD CI or unavoidable output?

b) Is this activity going to connect with my students?

c) Is this activity connected to a function or too powerful to ignore?

d) Is this activity helping my students to develop/work on a variety of these functions/skills?

If so, then it is probably a worthwhile way to spend classroom time. Then I get feedback from the students. Sometimes it is feedback that I just observe; although I have learned to give an activity two or three tries before abandoning it. Some ideas just need to catch on. :o) However many times, because the students have gotten used to how I work, they speak right up. How long are we going to do this? Can we do more tomorrow? We’re not done with this are we? Can we do this again? And yes…I do get constructive criticism as well!!Is it standards-based? Yes….look at the functions…they hit all of the standards. But the functions work better for the way my mind works.

How do I plan long-term? Well…the same way anyone does. I put my plans on the computer.

Then I have the privilege of deciding whether what I planned five months ago has any bearing on where my students are now and what they need. If it does…proceed! If not…adapt!! Planning long-term gets my goals in order. Teaching short-term gets my students connected to the language. I need a little of the former and a lot of the latter.

How do I evaluate? Like I’ve always evaluated. By skills. Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking.

How do I fit in all of the topical vocabulary? I don’t. No one does. If they say that they do ,then they are doing one of more of the following:

a) Providing lists and asking students to work with them outside of class in some way.

b) Using too many of them too quickly for any significant long-term retention to occur.

Hence the never-ending frustration of “teaching” students who never remember anything that you have “taught”.

So I choose a core list of words that will help them to be understood and focus on those as production tools first. (another post….)

The truth is (I seem to be writing that phrase a lot this week!!) that IN REAL LIFE a variety of vocabulary occurs. So believe it or not, the organic nature of language provides what they need.

It really does. I am beginning to see this more and more. I am also able, in the level 2/3 to play a little bit with language. For example in this last marking period we did several activities using a huge list of cognates that end in -ion. Short activities that affirmed their ability to recognize and use cognates. It really was a confidence booster for them and I have seen these words appear over and over again in the students’ work.

Hope that helps a little bit…

With love,
Laurie

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

A Theme Emerges Archived Post 4.1.11

(Originally posted 4/1/11)

My goal this year was to incorporate aspects of the U.N. document of Human Rights. What emerged was an unexpected theme. When “planning” this year, I have tried to think in terms of 10 week marking periods instead of units. It has really helped me to pull things together and yet provides some latitude for playing with the language. At this point, nearly three-quarters of the way through the year, I am looking back to see where we have been, and where I would like us to go:

The first marking period my student teacher (¡Hola Famoso!) and I centered on the theme of work. We started with what they knew how to discuss: school work, sports practice, music practice, play practice. This helped us to get to know what the students were involved with this fall. Here are a few of the structures that we worked on: had to, had the desire to, forgot to, will, planned to, therefore, Because this group is old enough to have had summer jobs, we then carried over the structures and dove into the work world.

We did this using stories in class and using the book El Trabajo de Roberto. I liked the fact that Roberto’s story also dealt with family relationships which a) is always a part of what we deal with and b) made the story more than one-dimensional. It will be a couple of years before I really like what I am doing with that book, but so far, so good.

In the midst of the marking period we got caught up in the story of the Chilean miners. It gave us so much to work with!!!! We could touch on types of work, worker safety, co-workers, working conditions and so much more. I actually had songs on tap, readings on tap, articles on tap….all of which got set aside because of the amount of great stuff available!! What emerged this marking period was an idea about working hard and never giving up. (cue the Luis Fonsi music please: Yo

No Me Doy Por Vencido)Early in the fall I found the Discovery Channel Amazing Race. ..perfect for the Travel focus I was hoping for for the second marking period. Truthfully, I could have easily built and entire year on that piece….the segments had my students riveted!! Little by little they got hooked on the adventure and most of all the couples and their relationships. The father and son team of Edison y Edison was the favorite and we all practically went into mourning and refused to watch the rest when they were eliminated!!! From a teaching perspective, everything you could ever want was available to talk about: losing passports, planes, trains and automobiles (taxis, trams and metros), hotels and tourist attractions.

And the unexpected theme persisted: Face your obstacles and never give up!

This marking period we have been focusing on the environment. There is just so much information out there for us to read and use that it has been hard to narrow it down. Because I work better with an organizational structure of some kind, I chose to bring in a project. Now projects are tricky. Projects tend to be output-motivated. So my challenge was to pour as much input to the output as I could. The project has been to create a book about an environmental Superhéroe.

I’ve tied in a series of stories about our Science department and their secret identities (the League of SuperScientists), several songs (El Progreso by Roberto Carlos is my favorite), articles from Econoticias.com and have danced around field trips, assemblies and the like. One level watched

The Tale of Desperaux (the hero theme AND the upcoming food theme) and the other group is about to see Fern Gully. The creation of the book has been a input then output activity (but that is another post…) So now we have a bulletin board full of books to read about a Superhero, a Supervillian and an adventure. And the theme continues: Earth matters….so treat it right andnever give up!!

Now here comes marking period number four. My original plan was for Food!! I figured that this was a topic sure to hold their attention even as the sun appeared. And it will…it would…but let’s see what develops…nothing has really played out as I originally planned so far…so I know that there are still unexpected and wonderful things ahead for the last few weeks.

And then there is that underlying and every-emerging theme: Never Give Up. I’m not seeing the food connection right now but I’m sure that it will come. Now how has that theme become a planning tool?

1. Vocab and structures:

a. Verb phrases like these: try to_______, should________, must_________, has to_______, refuse to _______________, plan to_____________, realize that___________,stop ___________ing, ___________again, able to overcome, has just survived, etc..

b. Adverbial phrases like this: without stopping, without a doubt, with courage, with hope, carefully, Un/fortunately, without knowing the reason, upon arriving at the scene, according to the victim, etc.

c. Key vocabulary like this: challenge, goal, decision, development, leader, partner, skill, ability, achievement/accomplishment, support, let go, change, surrender, vanquish, conquer, etc..

2. Material choice:

When I see a video, hear a song, read an article, choose a book etc. I keep the Never Give Up theme in mind. How does this connect? What lessons does it hold for students?

3. History and Culture:

There is so much out there to choose from. Having a theme has really helped me to narrow in on pieces that fit the theme. It makes the art/music/event more memorable for the students. The bishop did not believe at first that Juan Diego had actually spoken with The Virgen. Why would Frida Kahlo paint so many self-portraits? Why did Justo pursue a career singing to students? How can immigrants overcome prejudice? How many different tunnels did the Chileans try to drill?

4. Grammar goals:

Depending on your needs, there are many, many ways to go here (if you need to do that for your district, yourself, your students): I’ve spent a lot of time this year working with the past tenses….we have used so many stories! There have been repeated opportunities to use the future and conditional tenses…and it naturally leads to use of the subjunctive as well. Many of the“focus” verbs have reflexive forms so students have gotten a lot of practice in that regard as well.

Now I just have to keep the theme in mind as we roll towards the end of the year!!! Never Give Up!!

With love,
Laurie

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.

Homework…The Journey Archived Post 11.15.10

(Originally posted 11/15/10)
This is a response I posted on moretprs about my own personal journey with assigning homework.

Several people asked if I could put it here so….here it is. ;o)

1st year teaching: I thought that students loved me and loved my class so much that they would do the homework before class ended!

5th year teaching: I thought that although not everyone loved me or my class, at least they all wanted good grades so they would do the homework by the due date.

10th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about their grades, that their parents did and would MAKE THEM do the homework and hand it in on time.

15th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about grades that their parents might and COULD make them do the homework and hand it in if they wanted to.

20th year teaching: My own children were getting so much (ludicrous and unnecessary) homework that a) I didn’t have time to correct my students’ homework and b) I began to wonder if it accomplished anything anyway….

25th year teaching: My own children didn’t like some teachers, saw little purpose in homework assignments and I had already tried (and failed) to get them to do homework by grounding, punishing and several other measures. I saw that they did do homework under two different scenarios: a) the teacher publicly taunted them or humiliated them when work was not done b) the work was interesting, engaging and actually helped them to learn/understand something about the topic. I stopped giving work that was only done at home. Instead I began to collect the work that students did IN CLASS.

28th year teaching: Both sons are in very good colleges and receiving scholarships. I continue to give assignments that are done in class. NOTHING I EVER GAVE FOR HOMEWORK INCREASED LONG-TERM MEMORY OF TERMS OR STRUCTURES. It also never taught one single student to be more accountable or responsible….that was a myth that I attempted to perpetuate for two decades.

(yes…Alfie Kohn uses the term “myth” and I think he has it right…I’ve kept data on my students to “prove” it for administrators)

Are my students responsible? I think so…although you can ask the folks who have come in to observe me in the past five years if you would like a less-biased approach. They show up, get to work, work for as long as I ask them to and work well. They don’t bad-mouth each other, keep the room cleaner than I do and I rarely ever have a student skip class.

Are they scoring well on state tests? So far…very well. I have shifted levels this year so I can give you a better idea of that at the end of June.

Are they “life-long” learners? Are they staying in the program? Without a doubt. Since beginning with TPRS and stopping routine daily homework assignments we have maintained a 20 -25 % retention rate through level 4 (which would be higher if we could get scheduling issues worked out…) and have launched a half dozen Peace Corp participants and an equal number of language teachers…surprising considering our size. More importantly..to me anyway…is the number of students who have gone on to study language in college and participate in study abroad programs.

Even without homework.

Now..having said all of that…each of us should feel free to run our classrooms as we deem appropriate given the knowledge and experience that we have. We should be free to challenge our OWN policies at any time. The world is changing nanosecond by nanosecond. It’s hard to keep up.
We are all doing our best.

with love,
Laurie

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

Shelter Vocab Not Grammar Archived Post 10.20.10

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?

Culture

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 …

Reading

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,
Laurie

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

Connections and Planning Archived Post 9.20.10

(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,
Laurie

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.

Day 5 and Where Are We? Archived Post 9.15.10

(Originally posted 9/15/10)

So it’s Day 5 in my room. This year I am teaching Levels 2,3 and 4. (The nomenclature is a bit deceiving; Level 2 students are in HS Level 2, which is actually their 3rd full year of study) My student teacher and I feel like we should be “going somewhere.” You see, we had a weekly plan.

Then that weekly plan was broken down into daily plans.

Every single day we have had to move things (that didn’t get done) to another day. The “things we haven’t gotten to yet” list seems to be getting longer …and longer…and longer…. So I really had to sit down this afternoon to see where we are…and where we ARE going. Normally this doesn’t bother me much. But this is a new curriculum for me (Levels 2/3) so I don’t have my bearings yet.

Besides, my student teacher has a supervisor to report to who does not have a lot of experience with CI-based classes…so I want to be able to “translate” our curriculum to him.

It’s a bit ironic…only 5 days in and it feels like we should have gone farther. :o) At best we’ve only had 3 1⁄2 hours of contact time. From that we can deduct time for attendance, transitions, setting up the seating chart, discussion the course expectations, a fire drill, phone calls from the office, morning announcements etc. etc. etc. An optimistic estimate would be that we’ve had 2 1⁄2 hours of instructional time. From that we can deduct time to give directions, pass out and return papers, give a short “quiz”, clarify answers, check for materials, etc. etc. etc. Now we are down to about 2 hours of interaction in the TL. Total.

When I went back over our weekly plan, I looked carefully at what we have been doing. In that time we have discussed the situation of the miners in Chile, explored what students did over the weekend, read an “email’ from a “former student” who went to the VMAs in LA, sang a goofy song with IR in the past tense, started to dig deeply into the song Aqui Estoy Yo (Luis Fonsi, David Bisbal, Neil Sedaris and Alex Syntek), revisited a few of our favorites from Sr. Wooly, and spent some time getting to know each other via introduction letters and conversation.

Wow.

Why on earth then does it feel like we haven’t “gone” anywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think, and I could be wrong, so I’ll be paying attention to this as the year goes on……that it doesn’t “feel” like a lot because we have worked hard to connect all of the activities. The structures used to discuss the weekend were the same ones that we used to understand and talk about the Video Music Awards. Several of them came from the song, and we used other phrases from the song to take attendance (Aqui estoy yo..es obvio!) Structures connect activities to each other and allow students to connect their thoughts and emotions to the activities themselves. When the students connect with the activities, they begin to connect with each other. Time flies. It “feels” like we haven’t “done” anything.

We have physical evidence that a lot has been done: papers, powerpoints, stories, letters, even a couple of grades in the gradebook. Yet, apparently, none of it felt like “work.” If it did, we’d feel more productive. I’m glad I sat down to take a look at it. I feel much better now.

with love,
Laurie

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

I’m Not Adding That Archived Post 9.12.10

(Originally posted 9/12/10)

Last night I got very wound up over a post on Ben Slavic’s blog (http://www.benslavic.com/blog/ sorry…my hyper link feature is a bit off today…) . Anne Matava, an incredible teacher, received a letter from a former student and shared it. It was the kind of thing that I have heard before from my own students and it hit hard. Our students leave our rooms, head off to college, score well on placement tests, end up in upper-level language classes and feel completely unprepared for the grammar-based instruction and texts that they now face. Here is my response this morning…

This post has been in my head all night. Why? Well…I’ve been in the same place as Anne with this…and my students in the same place as hers. So in level 4 I have built in additional time devoted only to strategies on how to attack these grammar assignments. Even with additional exposure and explanation, my students still struggle. Here’s why:

These exercises make no sense.

I know, I’m talking heresy here..but go ahead and get out the stake. Have you looked at them lately? They are completely out of context. Try translating a few to English. What native speaker of English do you know is capable of answering this: Mark_____________(to find/3rd person singular future tense) the book. ??? And what would a native speaker of English learn about his/her own language by filling that in correctly. There are better ways to identify and work with language structures.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the lessons are taught so that students focus on the rules. And then at least one third of the work/test is focused on the exceptions to the rules. It is simply poor pedagogy.

The first four semesters of college study are marketed for students who will go no farther in their language studies…yet…they are designed for students who will major in the study of the language. Native speakers who “test” into the upper levels of these classes face the same struggles as our students. Why? Because they are designed for someone else. For someone who speaks “linguistics” as well as the language of study. The type of practice demonstrated above has no bearing on level of fluency….nor does it even promote a deeper understanding of the structure and beauty of a language.

So, frankly, I’m tired of hearing that /feeling like TPRS is to blame for students’ inability to do well on these types of assignments. The truth is that very few students will do well. That is how they are designed. Even fewer will enjoy any of it.

What hurts our kids the most is that they are not familiar with the feeling that language class is supposed to be painful. When they write to us and let us know that they wish that we had “done more grammar” they don’t understand that that would mean “cause more discomfort and pain” in high school language classes.

Because we DO “do grammar”. From the very first day, in level 1. But it is so much a natural and logical part of the instruction that it is comfortable, logical and supportive. What we don’t do is give them practice in feeling stupid. That is what other kids are used to that our kids aren’t. And I’m not about to add that to my curriculum.

Not sure if I feel better or if I’m even more fired up now. :o)

with love,
Laurie

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 he site and original authors is clearly established.

Looking Back Archived Post 9.6.10

(Originally posted 9/6/10)

Last fall I made a commitment to myself, and to my students, to honor Time. I’ve tried to look back and see if I really did that…and if I did….how did that affect my classroom.

It’s difficult to do, because Time truly flew last year. It was my oldest son’s first year at a community college and my youngest son’s senior year in high school. We sold our house and moved. Both sons searched for, applied to, were accepted by, and made plans to go out of state for college this fall. My “adopted” daughter graduated from college. And that was my world outside of school. :o)

It was a year full of exciting events, memorable moments and stressful situations. I hope that, looking back, my recollections of the classroom are accurate.

The clearest thing to me, about last year, was the much more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.

Not relaxed in a “we are not doing anything today” way, but rather, relaxed in a “there isn’t going to be any pain in this classroom today” sort of way. Students who routinely “blew up” in other classrooms actually were relieved to come in and to calm down. I did not “gear up’ emotionally to face any of my classes…I didn’t need to.

Going slowly worked. This was a group that wasn’t going to get it if I went quickly…that much I knew. But the only way I could know if going slowly would work, was to try it. So I did.

Now, I do have an advantage….we are a small district and I knew that I would be the teacher that would get these kids in Level 2. So I used that advantage and took the opportunity to do what I believed what was best for this group.

What do I mean by going slowly?

I let go of the “schedule.” I went through our curriculum as the students were ready….not when the schedule said to. When students needed to, or wanted to, linger on a topic, we did. When the earthquake in Chile occurred, we let go of the scripted curriculum and followed the story. When students found a song that was classroom-appropriate, we spent time with it. When I got a new idea for a new activity, we went with it. When I discovered the movie Real, we added it. When students needed three days to read a chapter in Casi Se Muere instead of one…we took three days.

Where did we end up? Right where we should have. We may not have addressed reflexive verbs the way I have before. We may not have had as many quizzes as we have had other years. We may not have written as many original pieces as other classes have. I’m pretty sure that we didn’t get as detailed with vocabulary as I might have a few years ago.

But they were all with me. It may not have been their favorite subject nor their favorite class….but they were with me. And this was a group with a number of kids that, in other years, I would have lost. Not numerically…they would have slid by with a 66 or a 67…but they would have played the game to get through…not really acquiring language. Yet, by going slowly, I was able to see them continue to grow and acquire through the very last week of school.They were interested.

They were willing to show concern about victims in Chile.

They were willing to listen to nearly any song that was presented to them and frequently came to me with songs that they had scouted out on Youtube or Itunes.

They came in with questions….things that they had seen, or heard, or thought about overnight or over the weekend and wanted to know more about…or wanted to understand.

They encouraged each other. They really developed, and utilized, a sense of humor using the language. And the students who, if I had gone more quickly, would have kept up with me?

They still rocked the house with their insights, their skills, their applications and their level of acquisition.

Going slowly allowed me the time and the freedom to do more differentiation than ever before. By letting go of the idea of getting more done, I was able to do better. What is differentiation if not a form of academic personalization?

I hope that I make the time this year to not only honor Time…but to record in more detail what I was doing and how so that I can continue this…and to share it with you all in more detail.

With love,
Laurie

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.

What Do I Want? Archived Post 9.1.10

(Originally 9/1/10)

I was talking with my colleagues and trying to explain what I wanted my classroom to look like. Not the walls/decorations classroom….the real stuff happening in the classroom part.

I want it to be in a state of quality interaction.Not constant chaos…although if you don’t know Spanish it might look that way…

Not constant action…sometimes we need to give the brain time to process….

Not constant lecture….it’s too easy for students to “leave” the room…..

Not constant production….besides being poor pedagogical practice, I simply cannot monitor everyone at the same time…

Not constant input….I need to know how much is going in and how much is just flowing over their heads or around their bodies…

Not even constant interaction…..we have all seen areas in our lives where more effort more does not always mean more results.

Instead…I am hoping to create quality interaction.

Much of the time the interaction will be between me and the class….sometimes between classmates and sometimes between the students’ brains and the language….but it should be visible, if not measurable.

I think that the two main differences between acquiring a first language as an infant, and acquiring a second language later on are these:

● The ability to communicate is greater. The older the student is the greater the ability he/she has, not only to communicate, but to see the purpose of communication.

● The ability to reason. The older the student is, the greater the ability he/she has to think, to plan, to anticipate, to wonder, to put the mind, not just the brain, to work.

● The ability to read. It provides not only another mode of input, but also another mode of interaction.And what both “acquisition groups” have in common is that both, when acquiring a language,interact using the language.

Now certainly there are students who will acquire without quality interaction…..but frankly, those students don’t need me for much anyway. :o) Academically at least. But in order to create a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, an appropriate place for my students to acquire language and to experience life, I need to focus on the quality of interactions in my classroom.

Discussions that are choreographed so that each student is part of the conversation.

Conversations that are modulated for speed, clarity, accent, rhythm and direction for each member of the class.

Class activities that flow in and around every corner….not just from the front (or the screen) towards the back so that by the time they reach the back corners only the foam is left behind.

Behind every interaction, a purpose: connect, connect, connect, connect.

Connect student with material, material with instruction, instruction with language, language with love.

Love, grace, honor, power, responsibility in every interaction.

Interaction. Quality interaction. That is what I am striving for……

With love,
Laurie

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.

Year 28 Archived Post 8.9.10

(Originally posted 8/9/10)

This will be my twenty-eighth year in the classroom, and I still look forward to September with a mixture of joy and trepidation. (Oh yes…the school nightmares have started lol) The conferences that I attended this summer fired me up….but how do I bring that to my students, my colleagues, my student teacher? How do I plan for this year?!!

My focus has changed over the years and while I may have once arranged my classroom activities around a curriculum, I now arrange my curriculum around one theme: Building Strong Relationships.

So here I sit, pondering my plans, aware of this significant paradigm shift. What do I want to do in my classroom/program this year?

Build strong relationships………….using the language whenever possible.

Create a safe and trusting environment…….. using the language whenever possible.

Define roles and expectations ………..using the language whenever possible.

Establish routines…………… using the language whenever possible.

Interact with each student…………. using the language whenever possible.

Plan for success for each student………….. using the language whenever possible.

Recognize and honor the needs, emotions, wants, hopes, dreams, struggles, strengths, thoughts,weaknesses, fears, and accomplishments of others…… using the language whenever possible.

Model desired behaviors.…… using the language whenever possible.

Create shared experiences……… using the language whenever possible.

I’m going to start with this framework and choose high-frequency language structures for my classes that will allow me to reach these goals AND promote language acquisition and increased levels of fluency in my students. I’ll let you know what I come up with!!

with love,
Laurie

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

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter