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

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

Cho Co La Te!!

by lclarcq on February 15th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Games, Good Days

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

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

A little rhyme:

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

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

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

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

Someone

by lclarcq on April 5th, 2015

filed under Archived Posts 2015, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days

(This post, like many others, is one that I am writing to myself…and posting in case someone else needs to hear it.)

Tomorrow, when you get back to school…

Someone will be grateful that you came to work and you won’t even know who that is.

Someone will make you laugh when you least expect it and you will smile about it the rest of the day.

Someone has been looking forward to being in your room and can’t wait to get there.

Someone will give you strength and someone else will ask for it.

Someone did something amazing this weekend and cannot wait to talk about it.

Someone did something regretful and needs to feel forgivable.

Someone needs an adult who acts like an adult…and that will be you.

Someone will remind you that children still dream and remind you to do the same.

Someone needs to be reminded that they matter and yes, that might be you.

Someone will step up in a way you have never seen before and you will be impressed.

Someone will see you make a mistake and learn that adults can be fallible.

Someone will hear you apologize and learn that adults can be humble.

Someone will forgive you and remind you that it is okay to be human.

Someone will be there to remind you that this is really what teaching is and you will be grateful.

Someone is there every day to be there for you, with you, because of you.

That is why you are there.

with love,
Laurie

Why We Teach Archived Post 1.22.12

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, The Teaching Profession

Originally posted 1/22/12

Hello Profe! How are you? I hope you are well. I wanted to share a great story with you. I am in Potsdam finishing my masters in teaching. I start student teaching in Earth Science tomorrow!

Last night a few of my friends and I were out on the town and I ran into two Mexican immigrants at a local pizza shop. One was shivering and did not have a coat, and they were looking for a cab. It was 2 AM. Long story short their phone was not working. They had a cab card, but could not find someone who spoke Spanish. I was the only one in the whole place!

To be honest, I haven’t taken Spanish in three years. I took the required course in college and received an A. I also worked with a few Mexican gentlemen at Lakeview Landscape, Hansen Farms, and Fox Run. (in our local area-Laurie) But I was out of practice. I went off of clear memory, and eventually hailed them a cab in the freezing weather.

I had to figure out if they had problems with the police, where they worked, and how long they had been in the states. All in Spanish. All from memory! They had been here for only 2 months, but worked at a dairy farm. The one gentleman who was shivering has a wife and a family in Mexico, and my heart just felt for them. I am always amazed at how they come here so far from their families to support their lives.

My friends were amazed, but most importantly I looked back at the instruction we had in your classes. It was all still in my head! I will feel good about what I did for the rest of my life, because they were 20 minutes away from “home” and had their Wal-Mart bags and other items outside on the street curb when the cab came. They needed groceries but their boss must not have been able or didn’t want to take them into town.

I can’t explain their expressions when they hopped into their cab, but they kept saying “Gracias amigo” and “Buenas Noches” and I reminded them it made me feel good to help them out!

As teachers we never know how far our instruction and mentoring will go to help others, and yours reached very far last night! Have a wonderful week!

Adam

Yes…this is why we teach!!

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.

When They Blow You Away! Archived Post 4.25.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Encouragment, Good Days

(Originally posted 4/25/13)

There is a student sitting in your class who is ready to impress the heck out of you. You don’t suspect a thing. You think that s/he is plodding along at his/her usual pace. Maybe this kid has an Ipod wired to his ear. Maybe s/he doesn’t even bring a folder to class. It’s possible that s/he hasn’t even made eye contact. But it’s that time of year……

And out of no where this student is going to blow your socks off. S/he’ll turn in a piece of writing that is insightful…and legible.S/he’ll be the only one to catch the irony of a situation and nod at you when everyone else is clueless. S/he’ll make a connection to something that was done months ago in class when s/he could barely keep from falling asleep.

I’ve been watching it happen all week and I’ll bet it’s happening where you are too. A student who apologizes for the first time, ever. Someone who stays after class to ask a question that shows depth and perception.The child that wouldn’t open a book can’t put one down.

Really. Keep your eyes open. It’s that time of year. We teach children. They are growing and changing in miniscule amounts each and every moment of the day. When we are so close to them for so many hours we sometimes miss the changes that gradually carve out new insight and responsibility in a young person.

Take a few minutes and drink in all that they have survived, overcome, and struggled to become this year. Resist the urge to compare them to others or to what you think they should be. Open up to the idea that, for whatever reason, they are who and where they are supposed to be in this universe. In your room. As your student. Because they won’t be there, or those students much longer……

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.

Flipping the Switch 2 Archived Post 4.22.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Curriculum and Planning, Engagement, Good Days, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Musings, Output, Participation

(Originally posted 4/22/13)

The second time I saw the light bulb go on was with my juniors. Let me give you a littlebackground. We teach with TPRS, an approach that focuses heavily on providing large amounts of Comprehensible Input in the target language. From this input comes interaction, verbal and written….but production is the result, not the goal.

It is a leap of faith in many ways to take this approach, but the results have been undeniable! Our program has expanded to include so many more students and students of all academic “ability” levels are able to communicate clearly in the language. As a result of the changes in the program and several changes in staff, we have not had this group in a formal speaking test situation…..ever.

It’s not the first year that this has happened. This year’s seniors had not ever had a formal speaking performance assessment either. BUT, when I gave them the assessment last year, using the NYS Regents Speaking Assessment format, they did a fantastic job. What is the difference? That group had been my students for three straight years….and I administered and scored the assessment.

This year NYS Dep’t of Ed. has issued a series of conflicting statements about who will/can administer these assessments and how they will be graded. (I will not be allowed to.) So this year’s group needs to be confident. I need them to know two things:

1. They already have all of the language and skills that they need in order to do this, and do it well.

2. They need to know the rules of the game so they can get the scores that they deserve.

The challenge was, I thought, that they have never been forced to speak in unnaturally long sentences, which is what a high score requires. Well, apparently that is not a challenge in their minds. I explained that the answer to Where do you live ? could be a one word answer: Rushville.

But that wouldn’t be worth much. The more they could say in addition to that the higher their scores would be. I asked for a volunteer. Where do you live? “I live in the little town of Rushville in the state of New York.” Ka-ching!! “With my family and my dog, so the house is too small.” Another student pipes up before I can ask for another volunteer. “So I want to buy a bigger house” student # 3 “but I prefer one in the country because I like having a lot of space for my animals.” and student #4.

Okaaaayyyyy. I guess they get it. Over the last two days I’ve spoken to each student as part of a greeting at the door, a class activity/game etc. and each one can easily perform the task. I even gave them situations where I knew that they hadn’t had the vocabulary. It really didn’t matter.

They can circumlocute like nobody’s business.

Dang……all those years spending all of that energy to get kids to learn how to “perform” well on a speaking assessment and this group acts as if it is as easy as pie. They think it sounds weird to speak in full sentences when one or two words will do, but they are happy to do it and it is easy for them.One class even thought it was hysterically funny and highly entertaining to try to top each others’ sentences.

Here’s the difference: These kids already had acquired all of the language they needed to speak in longer, more complex, high-scoring (although stilted and unnatural) phrases. All I had to do was model how to use them to get the higher grade. Before TPRS I was teaching phrases AND teaching strategy AND teaching topical vocabulary AND grammatical concepts and it never, ever came together much less click for the long term…even for my most gifted students.

Will they all get high scores on the speaking assessment? Probably not. Some will get nervous, some will overthink it and some will pick those really weird questions that no student can ever do well on. But they CAN do it….I know that and they do too. That knowledge lit up our faces and our
hearts.

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.

Flipping The Switch 1 Archived Post 4.21.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Engagement, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Output, Participation, Relationships

(Originally posted 4/21/13)

Twice last week I had the chance to see the light bulb go off over (or is that in?!) my students’
heads. I love that.

The first time was with my seniors. A young woman from a nearby college is working in my classroom twice a week with this group. She has worked with them individually and in small groups.

This was the first time that she had led a lesson with the entire class. She had a great PowerPoint for them and was asking them questions to get them engaged in discussion about the slides. They stared at her like deer in the headlights. Who had never heard Spanish before. When she called on them individually, they asked if they could answer her in English because they couldn’t think of the Spanish. What?

I knew that they knew exactly what she was saying and how to answer her. But they wouldn’t. So we hit the pause button and had a little discussion in English about what was going on. What was happening? They were comfortable in front of her individually, or in a very small group, but they were very worried about embarrassing themselves in front of this very lovely young woman AND the rest of the class. They weren’t as worried about that with me because, well, to them I am not a lovely, young woman. :o) And…they knew that I would put a stop to anything that might be said that was negative. If they made a mistake in front of her it would be much more embarrassing and they weren’t sure if she could smooth it over. So they completely shut down.

This was a very important discussion. This group is going on next year to another world. Some will
be in college classes and others will be in the work world….all will be out of my room when they get the opportunity to use the language. It’s time that they understand, and be truly confident in, their own abilities. It was time for them to realize that being embarrassed or worried is going to keep them from too many great things in life.

So we talked about the Affective Filter, what it is and how it works. We talked about how “an object in motions stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest” (Thank you Uncle Ted for teaching me high school Physics!!) We talked about getting started, mistakes and all, is the only way to get past the fear. Our lovely young college student shared her stories about her feelings when she first arrived for study in Argentina and some of the mistakes that she made.

Then we went back to the lesson……and it was as if someone had opened the floodgates. The conversations began and it was amazing. Light bulbs!! Not just for them, not just for my trainee, but for me as well. It takes very little for the Affective Filter to kick in. The relationships our students have with us and with each other are extremely important. And a little bit of encouragement, honesty, conversation and faith can go a long way.

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 Light in The Darkness Archived Post 9.30.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships

(Originally posted 9/30/14)

These past few weeks have been difficult. We are struggling with how the new pre-assessments required by our district have affected our relationships with our students. It has been soul-sucking to say the least. We work so hard in the first few weeks in our department to create and maintain an environment of welcoming, trust, companionship and caring. Then we have to take an entire week to test our students, with a test that we had not seen, on material we, and they, knew that they did not know using skills that we, and they, knew that they had not yet developed.

Our students rose to the occasion beautifully. But it was still heart-breaking. I would say more, but I still don’t trust my emotions enough to put it on the blog.

Our goal this week was to disregard whatever “curriculum” plans we had in mind, and focus the entire week on activities and interactions that re-established an environment of success and trust. (my colleagues are amazing, by the way) Then I was out sick for two days! I feel like it has been an uphill road to get (back) to where I wanted to be three weeks ago.

As always, it is the students that lift us up. I’ll share “Brian”‘s story with you this morning. Brian is a senior and this is his second year as my student. I know his family very well professionally and personally, but I didn’t feel that Brian and I had much of a connection. He is extremely bright, and extremely quiet. It has always been hard to get a response from Brian, in or out of class. I have never really known if he is shy, withdrawn, non-communicative, anxious, socially awkward or if I just don’t register on his scale of “things important enough for a 16 year old to get involved with.”

(I don’t take that personally, many times I was so involved in my own world at 16 that I couldn’t have cared LESS about my high school teachers!!!) If I asked Brian a question, I would get, after a long pause, a one or two word answer at best.

One day last spring, after class had ended, Brian walked over to my desk and said, “I’d like to know more about colleges that teach languages. I think that I would like to become an interpreter. I really like this class.” From a student who rarely smiled, much less answered. He left the room so quickly that I didn’t even put together a response!! And that was the end of our communication for the year.

On Friday, Brian came to my room at the beginning of one of my planning periods and asked for a pass to come in. He said that he had no friends in his Sr. Lounge that period and that he got bored.I gave him a pass, he came back, started talking and didn’t stop for 35 minutes!!!!!!!

The conversation started when he asked if I had ever heard of “vocaloids”. (I hadn’t) and asked if he could show me an example of some songs that he really liked on youtube. (like this one)

He said that this song really put into words how he had been feeling about the world for a long time and that it taught him that he had created a very small, protected, but unhappy world of his own to live in. It was a dark place and he thought about leaving the world to escape it. He realized that if were strong enough mentally and emotionally to do that then he also had the strength to step out of it and look for happiness and purpose.

How does one respond to that?

What an incredible young man. What a gift on a dark day, in a dark week.

His message to me was that he didn’t give up. And he wanted me to know that. Having been there myself at his age, and numerous times after that, I was humbled and honored.

That is what four years of departmental support and safety can bring to a child. I am his third Spanish teacher. The two that he had before me had created a safe path for him to be on. He trusted me as he trusted them. Some people need years before the feeling of safety allow them to step out verbally into the world. Input before output. Not just of language, but of trust, confidence and self-acceptance.

Before he left for his next class Brian said to me, ” I appreciate that I can be myself and that you are interested. It feels good to know that. We can talk about what matters in this class and you will listen.” From a boy who only two days ago started to speak….

There are Brians in every class. Just know this. Because you many not see the connection does not mean that language acquisition and personal development are not occurring. Trust me, it’s happening.

I was just lucky enough this week that Brian shared his light with me.

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 “Reflection” As A Character!! 9.15.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Engagement, Good Days, Participation, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Using student actors, Using Student Ideas

(Originally posted 9/15/12)

I am so excited about the new students that I have!! This week they came up with a great idea…

I was just beginning to ask a story and we had a character, Mia, who was putting on makeup in the mirror in the bathroom on the second floor of her house. The class had decided that it was a full-length mirror. The actress was up in front putting on makeup and it was going fairly well.

In order to get to know the kids better, and for them to connect with me and each other, I have been trying to get as many students involved in as many ways as possible. So, I asked a girl who was similar in height, build and hair color to come up and be the reflection.

She was PHENOMENAL!! It was so funny to watch!! Then the class decided to name her Pia!!!! And now there were double reps! Mia puts on lipstick like Angelina Jolie and Pia puts on lipstick the same way. They put on lipstick like Angelina. (and with sing/plural!!) I thought it just couldn’t get any better than that! And then…..

At one point, Pia, the reflection, wasn’t paying close attention and missed doing something. I said to her in Spanish, “Pia, you are a reflection, when Mia does something you have to do it too.” I was just trying to get in a little more Spanish, but it backfired on me. I could see that she was embarrassed and felt that I had yelled at her. Suddenly one of her friends called out in Spanish, “She wants to be different!”

OH MY!!! A huge smile lit up her face and she said “Yes…I want to be different! I don’t want to be a reflection!” So it was decided, that when Mia was looking in the mirror, Pia did the exact same thing, but when Mia wasn’t looking at the mirror, Pia would do something different.

Oh the fun and the reps we got out of that one!!!! I am definitely bringing Pia back into stories again!!! (hint: at one point in the story, have the actor/actress get very close to the mirror…the actors/actresses end up nose to nose…hysterical!!!!)

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.