Looking Back Archived Post 9.6.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Pacing, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques

(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.

Teachers Must Model Behaviors Archived Post 8.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships

(Originally posted 8/20/10)

The kids really need to be able to trust each other in our rooms. Getting to know each other really makes that easier when that process is guided by a trusted, caring and thoughtful teacher. Again…as in most of what we do, it’s not WHAT we do, but HOW we do it that makes the difference. Letting other kids “in” to their world creates an enormous minefield for many students…and some will not just balk, they will just shut down completely.Some thoughts…after reading these, knowing many of you and having worked very hard at this in my own room for long time….

a) The teacher needs to model EVERYTHING. We cannot take for granted that kids know how to get to know other people. The fact is ….they have little experience in this..very little. What do we need to model?

* the appropriate kind of information to share (short, detailed, but nothing that will make other people uncomfortable to know!!)

* the appropriate way to share it (w/o innuendos, sarcasm, self-deprecation)

*when to share it (in an activity or in order to connect w/someone else)

*how to listen w/caring and genuine interest when other people share

*how to respond to other people when they share

*how NOT to gossip about what has been shared (it may seem advantageous to share tidbits about students with other classes but it’s a trust-buster…)

*how to gently step in when the sharing is going the wrong direction

*how to ‘hook into” the information/feelings that have been shared so that it becomes part of the relationship within the class.The other thing that I think is really important here goes back to a post that Ben put up a few days ago. Students need to believe that it is safe enough in your room to create a “Spanish class” Persona in order to participate. Not all kids need one. Some kids wear one around every day.

Some kids are naturally too “transparent” to even know what one is. But you will have at least one, and probably several students, in each class that will need some support in making this happen.

A student who is struggling w/his or her sexual identity or preferences will be very cautious about sharing anything. These students have learned that the slightest reveal can set off feelings in themselves, or reactions in others that are hard to deal with.

A student who is dealing with being the object of abuse: emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual has been “trained” for a long time to not reveal, anything.

A shy student may be totally overwhelmed by receiving that much attention, even for a few minutes.

A new student, very aware of how quickly first impressions can carve out a social existence, may need to welcomed with great love and care.

A student with a “I don’t give a crap” persona (which of course we know is usually hiding a “I care too much or I can’t afford to care” attitude) needs to be given the leeway to share without totally surrendering that carefully crafted “I don’t give a crap” masterpiece.

I’ll be honest…I teach in a district where everyone “knows” everyone (at least they think that they do). It’s a fishbowl kind of a world and attitudes are set pretty early on. Every year, but particularly senior year, I begin the year with a clearly-stated goal of each student working with, accepting and hopefully getting to know the other kids in the class (not liking, this is not required)

I work, every day, in every activity, in every interaction towards this goal. And there are some groups that fight me all the way to the end because their need to control their world is so strong.Don’t give up. Every moment is another opportunity to build those bridges. If no one crosses them, so be it. Not only did you give them the opportunity to cross bridges, you gave them the opportunity to see them being built.

There will come a time in their lives when they need to build a bridge. It may not come in the time that you have them in class….in fact, it probably won’t. Just as our students “unconsciously” learn language, they “unconsciously” remember the doors you have opened and the bridges that you have built in front of them. If the need is strong enough, and other factors fall into place, every single thing that you did in class will have made a difference.

The easiest thing to do when trying to get a class to bond…is to try to get a class to bond. No can do. So when it doesn’t happen the way, or in the time frame, that you would like, try not to take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s about a bigger picture. Our job as teachers rarely allows us to step back and see the piece created. It is our job to get in there with the brush and to keep painting…hue after hue, layer by layer….so that the piece will indeed exist.

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.

Output for a Purpose (not Acquisition) Archived Post 5.18.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Good Days, Output, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships

(originally posted 5/18/10)

It was a lot of fun.  :o)  A little background…this is the week that our seniors finish a year-long endeavor known as THE SENIOR PROJECT.  It culminates in all 120+ kids arranged with display boards explaining their research and results to the general public.  They are “on” for six hours, talking to strangers about their research and conclusions.  There are a lot of steps involved in being prepared and they are all about to tear their hair out before it’s done.

So yesterday, the day before the BIG EVENT, we had a Whiner Day to kick off Whiner Week.     I put about twenty-five “whining/complaining expressions” on the SmartBoard.  They each had about five minutes to create a mini-graffiti wall about the topic of their choice.   As seniors, they had a number of topics to choose from!    (I played some edgy rock in the background while they created)

Round one:

Each senior found a partner and stood face to face.  They showed their Whiner Wall to their partner.  Each student got sixty seconds to whine.    The partner had to respond to each complaint in Spanish with an “I know”  “Oh yeah”  “I agree”  “What a shame” etc.

Round two:  (you can change partners but my kids were just warming up so I let them keep their original partner)

Each senior took one giant step backwards.   They held up their Whiner Walls and had 45 seconds to whine again.  (of course, it had to be louder since now they were farther apart!)  They alternated with their partner using responses.

Round three:

Each senior took another giant step backwards.  This time they had 30 seconds to whine/complain…again…upping the volume.They alternated with their partner using responses.

Round four:

Each senior took another giant step backwards and AT THE SAME TIME whined and complained. for twenty seconds.  By this time, they were really comfortable and pretending to be really mad/upset…it got very very funny!

Round five:

Each senior chose a new partner and sat at at desk…face to face with the partner.   They alternated complaints……First one partner would whine one statement and the partner would respond.  Then the partner would whine one complaint and get a response.    They each complained 7 times.

Round six:

We repeated round five….except…..each time a student complained s/he would pound the desk with both fists.   Five complaints each.

Round seven:

We repeated round six…except…each time a student complained AND each time his/her partner responded, they would pound the desk with both hands.

By the end we were hysterical!  It was a great tension reliever for all of us.  :o)

Output?  Oh yes.  But sometimes you just have to let it out!!

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.

Adding Emotion Archived Post 2010

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Engagement, Output, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted in 2010)

Interjections are great structures to introduce into stories.    They are phrases that can be used by the narrator of the story or by characters in the story with great effect.     Because they are not always easy to use as a focus structure in PQA, reading and story-asking are the perfect venue for these babies.

Joe Nielson is an expert at interjections, and if you have ever had the privilege to see him in action you know what I mean!!!    Pick the interjection of your choice and think about how you would like to use your voice to enhance it.    Have you ever seen the old Flintstones cartoons?   Yabadabadooo!!!  Same word, same inflection, every time.  It was Fred’s signature interjection!   Think along those lines when picking a way to “deliver” the interjection.   If that is not your strong point, let your students play with it!!

Some classic interjections…the English version:

It’s obvious!   ;o)                                                             All of a sudden!

I don’t believe it!!                                                           Day after day after day!

Of course (not)!!                                                             No way!!

Interjections are also delightfully colloquial.  It’s the perfect way to inject idiomatic expressions into our students’ lexicon.   Think about which expressions are unique and amazing to the language that you teach.

With love,  of course!!!
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.

They Really Need Us…Archived Post 3.13.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Tough Students, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/13/10)

Warning:  My personal opinion only.  I know that some people will see this differently.   That’s ok with me.  :o)  (I sent a version of this to the moretprs listserv in addition to posting it here.)

This is the time of year when some kids just push us over the edge.  Maybe they are mouthy.   Maybe they are combative.  Maybe they are passive-aggressive.  Maybe they try to be solid lumps of stone covered by a hoodie.    On the listserv, in emails, on Facebook, in the faculty room….teachers are letting out their frustrations.  I know that sometimes these kids seem incomprehensible….especially since many of us really enjoyed classes in high school. There may be a lot of reasons why they are in our classrooms and why it appears that they have no good reason to be there. Here are some possibilities…(warning…maybe too many of them!!):

* They did not choose their schedules. A parent, counselor, former teacher, administrator thought they should be in there…or even more likely has no idea that they are, much less whether or not they should be.

* Students often “get” that they have to “take” a class. They don’t always “get” that that means participating in and passing a class. Oh yes, I”m serious. What they are told is: You have to take such and such. Imagine that you have a very literal mind. What would that mean to you?

* Many of them have experienced classes where they COULD sit, not participate, and pass. Who knows how or why…but I’ve seen it happen. If they got through one, they may be fairly certain that they cdan do it in your room.

* Many of them are very very bright. They are used to absorbing enough material to get by without doing much else.

* They really don’t care if they get anything out of it. School is a place to escape home. That’s all that matters.

* They are suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Just being there takes all the effort they have. Participating is, truly, too much to expect.

* They are hurting. Bruised inside by someone’s abuse or a situation beyond their control. Their coping mechanism is an ugly whiplash response to anyone and anything.

* They feel inadequate. (even, well…especially…if they are very smart) This is a new venue, or one in which they feel smart enough in. They feel lost and respond by striking out or hiding.

* They are very intuitive. They recognize when we need to be liked and find it distasteful. (perhaps because that need is so great within themselves) So they throw it back in our faces by rejecting us and our class.

* They are over-exercising their newly-developed skills of analysis don’t know it. They have analyzed us and found us lacking. it’s a natural part of growing up and yes…it can be annoying and irritating and frankly, rude.

* They don’t know how to deal with us. We may be too loud or too silly or too whatever for their taste and comfort level. Language teachers are NOT like other teachers and while they have had many math and English teachers over the years, they haven’t had many of us to deal with….and especially not CI based language folks. We don’t stand up in the front and speak at them while they sit there and absorb it. Remember, kids are HIGHLY REWARDED for being silent in other classes.

* We are women. Sorry to say it, but it is true of many teachers in the profession. Many teens are reworking their relationships with the opposite sex. Or the same sex. Or someone who is parent-like.

* They trust us enough to not behave well. They know that we are not going to swear at them, write them up every day, call  their parents and rant, be sarcastic in front of the entire class.

* They have an undiagnosed, or unaddressed learning issue. Many times they have learned how to fade into the background in other subjects. They haven’t figured out how to do it in a language. Every year we seem to uncover students with unrecognized issues.

It is probably very complicated. That is why we can rarely solve it. We can only do what we can. The hardest thing to do is to not take it personally. As I said before, when we were students, most of us would have done anything and everything necessary to do well and to learn the material.

THEY ARE NOT US. We cannot try to understand them from our own perspective. If we really want to understand them, we have to look at their world from their perspective.

If we want them to be us, well, frankly that ain’t gonna happen.

If we want to survive them, then we need to register them on our radar, but refrain from locking in on them as a target.

If we want to help them, then we need to first accept them as they are. We don’t have to like all of their behaviors, or even tolerate those behaviors in our classroom. But we do have to accept that they are their own quirky, complicated, adolescent beings. And that they have the right to be a student in our classroom….even if they don’t always act that way.

We will also have to bring in a support system. For us as much as for them.

This may seem very difficult. But I promise you…this is REAL teaching. The kids that smile and do all of their work and raise their hands and try really hard. They don’t need you. They will flourish with any teacher. But the tough nuts? They need you the most.

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.

Personalization and Star Wars … Archived Post 3.12.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Using Student Ideas

(Originally posted 3/12/10)

One of the things that we try to do is to get to know our students.  Ben Slavic has been posting some great pieces written by Bryce Hedstrom.    Bryce writes about talking with kids in the TL in class.

He says:  “One important point here is that we are NOT talking about intimate secrets concerning the actual lives of our students. We are not intruding into their personal space. We are “personalizing.””One important point here is that we are NOT talking about intimate secrets concerning the actual lives of our students. We are not intruding into their personal space. We are “personalizing.”  He says more, so when you get a chance, check it out.  It’s extremely well-written and very important.

Getting to know our students allows us to personalize stories and connect the language to our students.    And vice versa!

Today we were working with a skeleton story written by students earlier in the day.  The focus structures were:  had the desire to, just about to start, and without rest ( the last two from songs we have been using this week….the first because it is a high, high, high frequency structure in Spanish).  The skeleton story was this:

Two characters had the desire to win a race.  They practiced for a long time without rest.  Suddenly they realized that the race was just about to start.  Oh no!  Would they get there in time?

We had just finished an activity that had gone really well with the other two level one classes this morning…but not with this one.   It went…..but not well.   When we started with the skeleton story, I wasn’t really expecting bells and whistles.  Oh my was I wrong!!

Our skeleton stories often use “characters” so that each class can choose their own.    I took suggestions….Pee Wee Herman (how do freshmen even know who he is?!!),  Barney,  Terrell Owens (we aren’t far from Buffalo)…nothing seemed to click.  Then someone suggested Obi Wan Kenobi.

BAM!!!!! The class popped out of their seats!!   All of a sudden they were suggesting names for the second character….each one calling out their favorite Star Wars character and  using Spanish to explain why that character was a better choice for the story.  Three boys who rarely get fired up were falling all over themselves to get involved.

Then one girl raised her hand and said, “Nunca miro Star Wars”.  A very quiet kid YELLED, “En serio?” (sorry…I’m on the laptop and cannot do the upside-down interrogative!) Now they wanted to start to tell the story of all seven (?) movies in Spanish lol.

I had absolutely no idea that so many of the kids in this group were Star Wars fans.   Had we not started this story, I’m not sure if I would have ever found that out.   Now I have a topic that has united about 10 students who have been stubbornly resisting any kind of unification.

Self-proclaimed geeks, jocks, troublemakers, and three Twilight groupies are now uniting to make sure that the rest of the class learns to appreciate the Star Wars saga in all its glory.

So far Obi Wan and Yoda are training without rest on Tatooine, so strong is their desire to participate in and win this race.    When they realize that the race is just about to start, and that it is on Coruscant they must use the Death Star 2 to get there in time.

But look at what else we were able to do with those phrases via Star Wars…..

Has the desire to….be a Jedi, help Luke, find his father, join the dark side ( I knew we’d find a good use for “lo mas oscuro” this week!!!!), kiss Leia, etc., etc,

without rest….train to be a Jedi, fight the dark side, protect Leia, etc.  etc.

was just about to start…..the war, the search, the battle,

And that was just in the last 10 minutes of class!!!!

I started the activity thinking that they would want to talk about themselves as runners, or their favorite athletes….hoping to use personalization to “hook’ them into the story.  Well…it did…just not in the way I anticipated.     Personalization leads to great stories….and vice versa!!

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.

Climbing the PQA Mountain Archived Post 3.2.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Personalizing Instruction, Questioning Techniques, Relationships, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 3/2/10)

I have to confess…..I really had trouble with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers).    The idea behind PQA is to use a targeted, high-frequency phrase in conversation with students so that they hear (and comprehend it) many, many times.

At first, I didn’t spend a lot of time nor energy analyzing my PQA resistance….I just avoided it whenever possible.   (Fortunately now there is Ben Slavic’s PQA in a Wink!! …but pre-Ben all I could do was marvel at how Susie and others wove wonderful questions in workshops and wish that I could do the same.)

Then one day I had an epiphany!   PQA is NOT about the focus structure.  IT’S ABOUT THE STUDENTS!   So…..instead of asking myself, what questions can I create using this phrase, I began to ask myself…

Can I get to know my students better using this phrase?  If so, how?

This cleared away many of the thoughts and emotions that were holding me back.   First…I realized that not all phrases are good PQA material.    I was able to find other ways to get repetitions with those phrases.  (Work smarter not harder Laurie Ann!!)

Second…when I started to think of questions in light of getting to know my students better, the questions became more interesting!!!  I was more interested, the questions were more interesting, and so, of course, the students became more interested!!

The third piece that really helped me was incorporating other TPRS skills into my PQA forays.  Combining PQA with teaching to the eyes, using signals, choral responses, and circling helped me to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses.

More later…

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 We Are In It Together Archived Post 2.10.10

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Working with Novels

It Ain’t Easy…Bein’ Sick  (this post originally posted 2/10/10)

For the last week and a half I’ve been fighting mano a mano with a sinus/double ear infection.   Between the two days with subs and the fact that talking sends me into long-lasting coughing spasms, my students and I switched from our usual dose of verbal interaction to activities that are more reading-centered and group/pair-oriented.

I like all of the activities.  I think that they are educationally sound.  I think that my students are getting a lot of good, quality, written Comprehensible Input.  But I am astounded at the difference in the classes.

First of all, discipline is off.  I have to employ signals and silences more often.  I really don’t enjoy that.  Neither do the students.   It isn’t a lot of extra tension…but it is enough to change the classroom atmosphere.

What is REALLY missing, however, is the strong sense of “being in this together.”  When they work in pairs or groups, when they work at an individual pace, there is no sense of collegiality.  There are no group “inside” jokes.   The class feels very different without that!!!

When I am “conducting” the class, and everyone is working on the same story/idea/conversation/topic, it is like being on a family car trip.  Sure, there is a little bickering.  Yeah, it’s annoying when someone has to stop and go to the restroom.   No, everyone does not like the radio station.   But….. there are  shared moments of hilarity and common experience that create an atmosphere like no other I’ve taught in.

I can’t wait to get back after a week of vacation (next week).  Hopefully the coughing etc. will have subsided and we can get to work on using as much Spanish as possible hanging out together.   The story of Ana and her adventures in Casi Se Muere are just more interesting when we read it, and talk about it,  together.   Not just at the same time in the same room.   But really together.   It goes from being Ana’s story to our story that we read about Ana.

Oh we’ll still do activities that allow students to work ‘out of the group”……but not as often.   We need that together time.   It’s who we are.  We all miss it.

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.

What Happens in the Brain Archived Post 1.1.10

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Engagement, Pacing, Personalizing Instruction, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

(This post originally appeared first on 1/1/10)

When I tell my students about language, I point out to them that much of what happens in our brains is “automatic”, that we are not conscious of what actually happens in L1 and so it feels strange or difficult in L2.

I point out that there are the following steps:

1:  Hear/See the language element (sound/word/phrase/sentence).

2:  Recognize the language element.

3:  Comprehend the language element.

That is why on listening quizzes, with fairly “new” language elements, I give them 2/3 credit if they hear “La casa” or “Quisiera comprarlo’ and can write or say it back to me.  The remaining 1/3 credit is the meaning.  This is often confusing to them because they think that the meaning carries the most importance.  I try to remind them that unless they can hear/see and recognize it, they will never get to the meaning portion!!!

 

It is also practical.  Being able to hear/see an element and write/pronounce it allows them to then ask someone…what does “X” mean.   Very useful.  

Step #3 can be fairly complex for the brain.  The brain may run through several process, simultaneously, to arrive at meaning and I am sure that some of you out there can offer research to back me up on this.  From a layman’s perspective, at the very least, the students’ brains may use context clues, in comparison to L1 (which relies heavily on the level of development in that language!!!),  and/or reach into stored memory for the meaning.    

All of this takes time.   The input speed, IF I AM TEACHING FOR ACQUISITION, can make or break the students’ ability to attach meaning.  When teaching for acquisition…I already knew…and try to remember to frequently point out to my students (colleagues, parents, administrators as necessary) that slower is better.

SOMETHING THAT I HADN’T YET FIGURED OUT  is that there is (at least) a FOURTH AND FIFTH STEP!!!!!

Step 4:  “Picture” the meaning.    Holding on to the meaning of an element (again, sound, word, phrase, sentence) means being able to “picture” , “imagine”, or “feel” the  meaning.    Step 4 is CRUCIAL.  Without it, there is no acquisition, no long-term memory.   That is why nouns and actions are so much ‘easier” for the brain to hang on to.  It is why the “little’ words are the hardest, and take the most time to get.   The meaning of the word “while” cannot be pictured, nor even easily described.  It has little “weight”, it is more of a feeling or situation where meaning is concerned and is frequently harder to remember.   It takes longer for the brain to assign, hang on to, dig up the meaning of the word.  

Step 5:  Connecting the meaning to the “story in the brain.”  A random set of words that creates no pattern or picture is very hard to remember.  Memory and comprehension occur when meaning is connected to a pattern.  

Memory and comprehension occur when meaning is connected to a pattern.    

On a very simple level, when we do TPR with students and ask them to “Jump three times” their minds must connect the meaning of all three elements in order to  know what is required of them and THEN they need time to make their bodies move.  Just knowing the meaning of all three elements is not enough.  The mind must connect the meanings to comprehend the phrase.  Their brains and bodies need TIME to do that.

In conversation or in a story, every meaning-carrying utterance is added to the ones before it in the students’ minds in order to add to the conversation or story.  That is how comprehension is built.  That is why humor works.  

When our students laugh at the idea of our principal feeding doughnuts to a Chihuahua he has hidden under his desk, it is because they got to Step 4: visualizing the situation….and to Step 5:  comparing that image to the image of what is expected of a principal and finding humor in the absurdity of it.  

IF WE ARE TEACHING FOR ACQUISITION, then we must slow down to allow their minds to go there.

Therefore….following the sage advice of my 9th grade Geometry teacher….I reversed that and was stunned and humbled by the (now obvious, at least to me) truth:

IF WE SLOW DOWN AND LET THEIR MINDS GO THERE, then, and only then, are we teaching for acquisition.

with love,

Laurie

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