Start From The Heart: Solving Problems-Comprehension Checks

by lclarcq on August 16th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Engagement, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Personalizing Instruction, Problem Solving, Questioning Techniques, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

Warning: Some of you may find this controversial. But…I still believe that this is an important skill for teachers to look at, and to use: Comprehension Checks.

Like any skill, it can be overused or used without thought and reflection, and in those cases, Comprehension Checks can be poorly received. But….with a little thought, practice and reflection, using Comprehension Checks can be, an amazing problem solver for us.

What is a Comprehension Check?

It’s when we find a way to determine whether or not, or to what degree, a student understands what s/he is hearing and saying.

It might look like this:

The teacher says to the students:

Tengo un problema. Quiero usar la computadora, pero me falta la contraseña. ¿La sabes?
(I have a problem. I want to use the computer, but I’m missing the password. Do you know it?

The teacher asks a student or students one or more of the following as needed:

In English:(expecting answers in English)
Do I need a password or a photo?
Do I want to use the ATM or the computer?
What did I just say?
What is my problem?
What do I need?
What do I want from you?
What is a “contraseña”
?

In Spanish: (expecting answers in English or Spanish as indicated by the teacher)
¿Necesito usar la computadora o el telêfono? (Do I need to use the computer or the phone?)
¿Quê necesito …el número de teléfono o la contraseña? (What do I need, the phone number or the password?)
¿Cuál es mi problema? ( What is my problem?)
¿Quê quiero hacer/usar? (What do I want to do/use?)
¿Quê me falta? (What am I missing?)
¿Quê necesito? (What do I need?)

The teacher could also ask students to identify the meanings of words or questions by pointing to pictures or making a gesture.

First, let’s look at why a teacher may want to incorporate Comprehension Checks into his/her daily interactions with students. Later we’ll look at why it’s helpful to do so from the very beginning of the year/semester.

First and foremost, there is a SECRET goal behind the use of Comprehension Checks….
Shhh…..
they actually provide additional processing time for some students!!

We rarely address this gift, but Comprehension Checks buy those students just a little
extra time to let the meaning of the sound/text sink in. This is incredibly helpful in a
class with students who have a variety of processing speeds.

2. The most obvious goal of Comprehension Checks is to make sure that the input we
provide is COMPREHENDED, not just comprehensible. I can always hope, as the
teacher, that students have understood what I said, and that, in time, it will be totally
comprehensible, and closer to being acquired. Or, I can assure that the correct
meaning is assigned to what students have heard/read and move them closer to
acquisition.

3. Comprehension Checks provide a way to differentiate. By isolating different pieces of
the input, and asking a variety of students for meaning, we “spread” the wealth. We can
provide opportunity for students who need find meaning a shorter or more familiar chunk
of language to find success. We can challenge our faster processors or more advanced
students while helping others to match meaning

4. Comprehension Checks bridge the gap for students who have been absent for class. It’s
a situation we all deal with. When a student has missed the introduction of a new words
or phrase, Comprehension Checks allow us “pop’ in meaning so that those students can
hear the meaning of language that they need to understand.

5. And……….a way to provide more repetitions if the teacher wants to do that. Now…they
aren’t exactly useful repetitions if the students haven’t already matched meaning to the
sound and the text…but once they have….BOOM…extra reps.

It is very helpful to build in our use of Comprehension Checks from the first few days of classroom interaction in the target language. When they are a natural part of our language pattern, they become less “stilted” and “forced”. Here are a few of the advantages to “training” the class to listen for and respond to Comprehension Checks:

By building these types of questions into our classroom interactions, we naturally create the expectation that we will be checking in….because it is important to us that all students get the chance to work meaning out for themselves.

If Rule # 1 is Listen to Understand, then Comprehension Checks support the message that we absolutely, really and truly want students to listen AND understand….not just look as if they are listening and understanding. Students believe what we do…..not what we say.

By starting the year/semester this way, we can get a better handle on exactly where our students receptive skills are. It gives us nearly instant feedback that we can use to monitor and adjust the input we provide.

Done carefully, differentiating with Comprehension Checks establishes and reinforces these ideas:

All students matter.
The core/main idea of an utterance is of primary importance.
Details add to interest and understanding.
Miscommunication happens, and can (should!) be addressed with grace.

With love,
Laurie

Taking Care of Problems: Comprehension

by lclarcq on August 15th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Engagement, Problem Solving, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

I don’t understand.

THIS phrase is the first, and most powerful, and practical, place to start taking care of problems!!! Teachers committed to Comprehension-based Instruction often use a “signal” for students to use when the teacher has delivered a message in the Target Language that is confusing or incomprehensible. This is really TAKING CARE OF PROBLEMS!!!

It’s preventing behavioral problems that stem from not being able to follow what is happening in class. It also sidesteps behaviors that arise when a student feels incompetent, unimportant, or incapable in any way. Allowing, actually encouraging, students to communicate in a safe way that the language or the message is confusing creates a safe space that accepts students where they are….instead of pointing out where they “should be.”

It’s giving students power over their own environment and their own input and it is very important. Even if they don’t use it as often as we might like, the fact that we encourage it, accept it and respond to it is incredibly important!

What does having a signal for confusion do? It also allows students, who sit all day long, to communicate that they may have, quite naturally, lost focus for a few moments. It allows us to address that and bring them back into the action.

Wondering who decides the signal and what signal to use? Sometimes the teacher decides what it will be and sometimes the students decide. These signals might be:

A hand over the head.
The “time-out” sign
One fist to the palm of the other hand
Hands crossed over the chest
Stomping on the floor with both feet until the teacher notices.

All of these can be effective, especially if we encourage everyone to use the signal if they see another student expressing concern about comprehension. It’s easy, as the teacher, to miss the sign!

When observing teachers I’ve seen the teacher use the signal when s/he is confused…I love that!!

Some teachers also create a sign for “Slow Down” or “Please Repeat”. After students are comfortable with those, it is easy to make the transition to using the phrases in the TL as well!

Another problem-solver is providing students with a way to ask what something means in the target language or how to say it in the target language. One of the first things that I note when I teach a level 2 class is if the students are “trained” to say “What does _____mean in English?”…and they ask me in Spanish!! Or ….”How do you say _____ in Spanish?” and ask me in Spanish!

Those are not just handy phrases. They are problem-solvers. They give students permission to not understand, and to ask for clarification. When our students have those phrases available to them, they know that we don’t expect them to know everything and that we encourage them to ask!

I know that not all students are comfortable communicating that the language is not comprehensible. That really is okay. I don’t expect they will, but I will invite them to, and often. I will also be thankful and express my gratitude every time they do. It helps us all. It takes frequent reminders; it really does. I have had to actually put it on the board, in a PowerPoint or my lesson plans or I forget to remind them. We’ve been trained NOT to communicate confusion. This will be new. But it is incredibly valuable.

This may sound incredibly simple. But it is incredibly powerful.

What do you and your students use to communicate that the language or the message is confusing?

With love,
Laurie

Start From the Heart: Problem Solving-Test Anxiety

by lclarcq on August 14th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Encouragment, Engagement, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Problem Solving, Relationships, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year

Today’s post is a little out of order, but something caught my eye and I wanted to share it with you!!

One of the things we all deal with in the classroom is test anxiety. No matter how much “safety” we have built in, the moment the word “quiz” or “test” pops up (see what I did there? 🙂 ) some of our students just freeze up or freak out.

These ideas won’t necessarily solve the problem, but they will help! Not everyone can do all of these, but if you feel you can’t, ask yourself why. Is it that you really cannot, or is it that it is just outside of what you are accustomed to? Our own “beliefs” about assessment are based on experience, rather than reality….and it’s good to examine them!

So take these ideas seriously, but remember, not all ideas are for everyone!!

1. Don’t test students on things they haven’t “mastered”.

Is that possible? More or less, so let’s strive for more!! Traditionally, even if we don’t like to admit it, language tests have been all about the top students. They have been full of very specific elements and the exceptions rather than the regular. Let’s change that!

If we are teaching towards success, and for proficiency, let’s document what they KNOW and what they CAN DO. (Otherwise we should be writing Can’t Do Statements!!!) Let’s fill up our quizzes and tests with items that allow our students to demonstrate their strengths.

Now, if we need to assess a particular skill or item in order to find out if HOW the students are doing, let’s do a lot of informal assessment. Let’s use that formative assessment to adjust the input we deliver and the interactions we have in class!

EVERYONE acquires their first language without testing, I”m pretty sure that it is NOT a requirement for second language acquisition. If, and when, we are required by the powers that be to formally assess a skill, let’s do it with humor, confidence and joy. Or at the very least make it a part of a larger assessment so that the test is predominantly material they can be successful with!

2. Assess skills as well as knowledge.

This could be an entire course of information on proficiency and assessment grading! So I’ll just say that we need to look at our assessments to see if they actually assess what we think they are. Unfortunately, the easiest assessments to grade are often the least effective at actual assessment. Let’s pledge to continue to work with colleagues and explore ways to assess that don’t suck up large amounts of class time but do allow students to demonstrate what they can do, as well as what they know.

3. Don’t put every assessment in the “book.”

Like many TPRS/CI teachers, I usually only put grades in the book if approximately 80% of the students earned a score of 80% or above. If the class, as a whole, scores poorly, then clearly there was a problem with the assessment or I assessed them too early. I should not be punishing the students for those reasons.

If just a few students do poorly, then I follow the department/school policies for make up tests. And make sure they get what they need if I can!

4. Give students what they need in advance, without giving them the answers.

Giving them the answers is what they say they want, because their experience is that teachers want very specific answers. Is that what we want? I don’t think so. Not on most assessments anyway. So let’s provide our students with materials that fill that need to have “answers” to prepare for…at least just a little bit.

A. Short lists, in paper form or on sites like Quia where students can “practice” will fulfill some of that need and lessen anxiety for students, parents and colleagues. They don’t have to be required, but they can be if that fits the needs of your situation.

B. Readings, and listenings, are their best gift. Anything that you do in class that can be put on line or in print form for them to use as a resource is also a gift. Of course, we don’t always have time for that, but if you have access to upper level students (they don’t have to be yours!) or cooperative heritage speakers, take advantage of their abilities to help you to prepare these materials.

C. Show them the format in advance. Not because they need it to do well, but so that they are not stressed when they see it.

D. Give assessment “structure” they can count on. We have lots of routines in the classroom. Let’s consider “testing” routines. Here are the ones I used in my deskless classroom in the last two years:

1. An assessment every Thursday. Sometimes very short, sometimes longer. I may or may not have told them in advance what would be on it, but they did know the format. It could be reading/listening (illustrate, fill in the blank questions, English questions, Spanish questions, open-ended questions, etc.) or writing (free write, structured writing, response writing) They also knew how it would be graded.

Confession: I needed to schedule assessments or I would forget to do them. Occasionally I would just call an assessment-free week and I could, because I knew that I already had enough in the book!

2. Students arrived to find a good luck message on their seats. Check this out!

Students could, if they wanted to, take a quick picture of the message before erasing it to prepare for the quiz.

3. Students picked up a “good luck duck” if they wanted to. I had a collection of tiny plastic ducks that students could have by their side during tests and quizzes. The Patitos were very popular!

(These are from Oriental Trading company..click on pic…which is where I got mine.)

4. After our daily start routine, I would announce the assessment and ask student to find a spot to take their quiz. Because we were deskless, they were allowed, within reason, to go to a different part of the room to take assessments. During this time, students were allowed to talk quietly, make sure they had a whiteboard/marker and borrow a writing utensil if needed. (I only allowed a couple of minutes for this!)

5. I used one of our call and response signals to quiet the group.

6. Tests were passed out FACE DOWN AND KEPT FACE DOWN. If the test had two sides, they put it under their whiteboards. I reviewed and reinforced this all year!!

7. When everyone had a test, then, we all took three deep breaths together and turned them over together. Everyone put their name on the paper at the same time. Then, I went over the instructions, asked questions to make sure that they understood the instructions and let them ask questions about the instructions. (Middle school, remember?!)

8. Students began the assessment. When they were finished, they answered the quiz question (see below) that was on the paper or the screen/board. (See below)

9. When that was finished, students either handed me the paper or raised their hand for me to collect (depended on the group!!). Either way, I looked over EACH paper as it was turned in to make sure that it was complete. If not, I could have a short conversation with that student to encourage/support finishing it. I also checked to see if their name was on it! (Middle school, remember?!)

10. Students then created a good luck note for the next class on their white boards.

11. If students are still testing, those who have finished their tests found a book in our FVR collection to read.

12. When all tests are turned it, I played a favorite, upbeat song and everyone returned to their regular seats for the next activity!! (Often a brain break!)

This routine looks long on paper, but it wasn’t and it solved many, many, many potential problems!

E. Connect with a Question:

For years my colleague Karen and I have suggested the sharing space at the end of the quiz. We know that a lot of you already do it. It’s a wonderful way to catch a moment with each student. Leave a section a the end of each assessment where you can do any of the following:

1. Ask a question (L1 or L2….to be answered in any way you prefer…I usually ask for answers in L1 but encourage and celebrate all answers in L2!)

Some ideas:
What was the best part of your week?
What are you looking forward to this weekend?
What nice thing did you do for someone this week?
Name two places you want to go to in your lifetime.
Who do you look up to and why?
What makes you laugh?
Who is your favorite Youtube star?
Tell me the name of a show/song/book I need to see/hear/read.

2. Ask for a drawing. It could be something you can use to intro the next lesson, or simple a random “Draw me a picture.”

3. Ask for feedback on the test, the week, whatever!

4. Take a poll: What Friday activity do you want to work for?
Do we need a seating chart change?
Etc.

F. Assess with confidence, joy and humor!

It’s pretty difficult to change a mindset that has been years in the making, but it’s worth a try! So many of our students are “test-stressed” that anything we can do to lessen their anxiety is a gift, to them and to our entire community.

So don’t be afraid to make it fun!! Use humorous pictures for writing prompts and humorous stories for reading. Put one or two totally ridiculous, or class-related answers in the multiple choice options. (It’s a great sneaky way to check comprehension….if they laugh, they understood!)

Celebrate with words! Say OUT LOUD when you are proud of how they approached an assessment, did their best, etc. If we can remind them that it is their attitude that can make the biggest difference, it will become easier for them to believe it!!

I love to use music to “end” an assessment. Let them sing! Let them use percussion instruments (if you dare). Let them gesture! Let them dance! Go back to the joy any chance that you can! (Even if they pretend they are too sophisticated for it!)

This turned out to be a bit longer than I planned. It isn’t your typical assessment post, but I hope that it solves some problems for you!

Oh….I almost forgot! Here is what caught my eye. I would love to have kids use these, but only on tests!

(I found these on Zulily…click on pic)
with love,
Laurie

Start From The Heart: LISTEN

by lclarcq on August 11th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Engagement, Relationships, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year

1. Listen, with respect, in order to understand.

For the last several years, this has been the first “rule” in my classroom. It’s absolutely necessary for acquisition to occur and for community to build.

It’s actually a fairly simple rule….and I post it, point to it, refer to it and try to live it as often as possible. That last part, the living it, is sometimes the hardest part….for me!!

Teachers (and a lot of other human beings) tend to listen in order to reply. Not to understand. For me, that has been a hard habit to break. But when I manage to really listen, it often changes everything I thought about that moment and the student I am listening to.

More and more I am convinced that students not only acquire language from us, but also attitudes, interests, curiosity and actions. It’s what humans are wired to do. We (teachers) consciously and unconsciously project who we are and what we believe and think. Students consciously and unconsciously absorb what we think, feel, say and do. There are things that the clearly and consciously agree to accept and do…..and others that they acquire without even realizing it.

We all want to belong. When the behavioral rules of the class are clear, it is easier for students to follow the rules and be a part of the group. So Rule #1 is clearly posted. But if I want students to trust the rules and to trust me as the teacher, I have to follow the rule as often as possible.

That has not been easy for me!!!! I’m a bit of a talker!!! As with most habits, it takes a while to do it naturally. Lots longer than I would have liked. But it has made me a better teacher……and as with most things in teaching, it has also made me a better person.

There are a lot of ways to “teach” the rule, but that is another post for another day. But I do post it, I do “teach” it, I do enforce it, and I do try to model it whenever I can.

Does it work? Did my students become better listeners? More polite? More compassionate? More empathetic?

I can’t answer that. My students are a constant work in progress. I can never really know what they take away from their time in my room.

What I do know is that, in my room, while I was there, that when I was consistent with the rule, I saw them consistently listening to try to understand. To understand me, each other, a song, a video clip, a visitor. It created a calmer atmosphere and a more patient one. Some students, and some classes were clearly better at it than others. But we always tried.

Listen, with respect, in order to understand.

Listen,
Not look at a phone, a note, a book, scribble, draw, brush hair, do make up, finish homework, communicate with a neighbor or a million other options.

Listen.

With respect,

Not with impatience, frustration, anger or judgement.

With respect.

Not in order to get the response I want.
Not in order to say the response I have planned.
Not in order to “fake” being interested.
Not in order to see who “gets it” and who doesn’t.
Not because it’s someone’s turn to answer.

Only to understand.

Listen, with respect, in order to understand. As often as posslble.

With love,
Laurie

Start From The Heart: RESPECT
Start From The Heart: A Focus

Start From The Heart: A Focus

by lclarcq on August 9th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Planning, Engagement, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year

Now what? Sometimes it is so hard to get started!! That is why I think that is important to start a new chapter by creating a list or a series of short focus statements for yourself. Try creating statements using key ideas and goals for CI/TPRS instruction: Comprehension, Interest, Interaction, Success, Acquisition.

Why?

Because if we have a clear idea of what is important, it is much easier to create a classroom based on what is important. I know it seems overly simple, but with all that we are required to do, it is easy to get away from what really matters.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. Maybe something like this:

In this room, Success Looks Like:
Comprehension
Interest
Interaction
Acquisition

Or maybe….

Comprehension + Interest + Interaction + Success = Acquisition!

Need more words? Think about adopting or adapting some of these:

When we comprehend…
When we are interested…
When we follow or interact successfully…
We acquire.

All of my students can acquire language.
Comprehended Input is the basis for acquisition in this classroom.
Compelling, connected, interactive input keeps students motivated for comprehension.
Success motivates my students.

I strive to provide an environment that facilitates language acquisition.
I strive to provide an environment that facilitates successful interaction.
I strive to create/find compelling input that connects to my students’ lives and interests.
I strive to interact with students using this input in a way that honors and motivates.

We all acquire languages naturally.
We all must comprehend the language in order to acquire it.
We acquire more language when we are engaged (using the language) in an interesting topic.
When we feel that we are a successful, important part of the language community in our classroom, we grow.

Students will be able to comprehend the target language used in class.
Students will be able to explore interesting topics, ideas, and lives in the target language.
Students will frequently interact with me and other members of the class.
Students will have opportunities be successful each day in these aspects of the class.

Once you have created your “message”, post it. Post it on your wall, on your website, on a sticky note on your computer, in a message to parents, wherever it will be helpful to share your vision.

ACQUISITION-3

Now it’s clear where you are coming from, and where you want to go!!

With love,
Laurie

Start From The Heart: RESPECT

Start From The Heart: RESPECT

by lclarcq on August 8th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Engagement, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

Whether we’ve been to a one day workshop or an entire week of training, there is so much excitement about using a truly comprehension-based approach! And then reality hits…..

How do I start? What do I do first? What do I need? HELP!

It looked so seamless and easy in the demo. We had some practice at the training and overcame a few butterflies. But when the reality of 100+ students a day, IEP’s, lesson plans, unit plans, evaluation, assessment, and explaining it all to colleagues, parents and students kicks in, it’s overwhelming.

So let’s start from the heart of the matter. If we (and everyone else) has a clear idea of why we are doing what you do, it all goes much more smoothly.

I’m going to suggest a one-word start:

RESPECT

I actually started with several other ideas (see next post!!), but then realized that if we start with RESPECT, everything else will flow more successfully.

What does RESPECT, in the classroom, look like to you?

This is incredibly important. If we are clear in our own hearts and minds about what is and isn’t respectful, discipline becomes much easier. If you’ve never thought about it in such concrete terms, take 10 minutes and try it. Take a look at this list and mark which actions/reactions you consider respectful and which you do not.

Feel free to share it with colleagues or even use it as a lesson plan for interaction and discussion with students.

WHAT IS RESPECT?WHAT IS RESPECT?

Look at what you feel is respectful and what isn’t. Based on what you feel, what definition can you put together for RESPECT? Here are some ideas. Feel free to adopt/adapt or consider working with colleagues/students to create a definition for your classroom.

RESPECT is a choice.
RESPECT requires paying attention to others.
RESPECT requires being aware of self.
RESPECT is an action, or choosing to NOT engage in an action..
RESPECT does not hurt others, physically or emotionally.
RESPECT is visible.
RESPECT creates a community.
RESPECT accepts differences.
RESPECT values progress over perfection.
RESPECT brings people together.
RESPECT recognizes growth.

Post this in your classroom. Put it in English/TL. Have students create a copy for themselves. Refer to it often. Add to it when needed!!

Respect is the cornerstone and building block of a successful relationship. When we begin there, and encourage conversation and discussion about respect and communication, we begin with an open door towards success…..even if it seems rocky at first!

So how do we communicate our thoughts/beliefs to our students? We each get to decide that. There is no wrong way as long as it falls under the guidelines we have identified as RESPECTFUL.

Make a poster. Make copies for students. Have students write them for an assignment. Design a game. Lead a discussion. Poll them on their ideas or on how past teachers showed respect. Use the worksheet above. Just tell them. Anything we do that keeps them alive and in front of the class will work…again, as long as it follows your RESPECTFUL guidelines..

Ultimately, focusing on RESPECT will only work if we walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Let your students see you at your most respectful. Let them see you apologize if you are not. Let them see that it is all of those things you said that it was, BY YOUR ACTIONS.

Showing RESPECT through action is LOVE in its highest form. They know that, even if they haven’t yet experienced it.

With love,
Laurie

Start From The Heart: A Series

by lclarcq on August 8th, 2018

filed under Archived Posts 2018, Classroom Management, Engagement, Relationships, Start From The Heart, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

Hello to old and new friends!

It’s been a very busy summer and here we are…at the beginning of a new school year. This year, I will not have my own classroom, but I am grateful to all of you who are opening your classrooms to me so that I can visit and guest-teach as I travel around the U.S. and beyond! It will take a day or two, but I hope to have an updated schedule up very soon.

As this new year starts for all of us, I am going to write a series named Start From The Heart. I’ll post a number of different ideas and activities that friends, colleagues, my students and I have found helpful for those starting the year, and/or starting with Comprehension-based teaching anytime during the year.

Some posts will be just for the teacher…things to ponder on and work with. Others will contain activities that you can do with colleagues or students. I will post these on my Teacher Pay Teachers site (Hearts for Teaching) as free uploads!!

I hope that you will find something that resonates with you and supports you at this exciting time of year! Please write me and let me know if there is anything specific you would like to see addressed. I know that there are many resources out there…thank you for being part of this one!

with love,
Laurie

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

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.”