So today I bit the bullet and decided to try to start a story in every class. I told myself (and them) that it didn’t matter how far we got with the story. I said that we would just get started. I told them that it wasn’t easy, at first, to just starting creating stories together. I told them that we would deal with the story-building skills as we went along. (and said a little prayer….)
One of the things that I have told my classes is that I work very hard so that Spanish class will be interesting and that acquiring Spanish can “feel” easy. However, none of the work I do with make any difference if the students against me rather than with me. I need this group to work with me….and they aren’t there yet. (and they sometimes look at me like I’m from another planet for wanting that!)
Over the years, many teachers have crafted a list of “behavior rules” for their classes as a way to get classes to work together. I knew that I needed to outline something similar for my new students but inside I was cringing at the idea that students with between 7 and 9 years of schooling needed “behavior rules.” I mean, I know that kids don’t always “behave” but it isn’t because they don’t know, by now, what appropriate school behavior is!!
So I tried this week to put out the expectation that every day we would be using four sets of skills. The first one is Listening Well. I didn’t want to make it too complicated (as a teacher I love doing that lol) , so I left it at this:
Listening Well means paying attention to what is said and what it means. I figured that that could cover a lot of bases!
Listening Well is Skill #1 because nothing else in acquisition happens without it…especially for Novices. I can check in with my beginners by simply asking them what I said and what it means.
In reality, Listening Well is NOT an easy skill, for anyone, in any language. We can all improve at it. (I know that I can!!)
What Listening Well looks like needed to be clarified for them.
For instance, Listening Well doesn’t happen if you are speaking at the same time. :o)
Listening Well to the teacher doesn’t happen if you are listening to a classmate. :o)
Listening Well doesn’t happen if you have earbuds in your ears. :o)
(I’m also pretty sure that I’ll be clarifying and re-clarifying those points on a regular basis!)
It is why I needed them to be able to focus on me and be silent at my signal. ( For more on signals…Check out this post!)
The idea is, I told them, that if the class can hear me, they will know when and how to add interesting pieces to the story.
And for a while in every single class, they were able to demonstrate that skill!! For the 8th graders ‘a while” was between 15 and 20 minutes. For the 6th graders it was between 10 and 15 minutes!!
I made it clear that when the skill got too difficult, we would change activities…so once I had to refocus any class for the second story I paused the story-asking and told them how we would continue next. (See the post-script at the bottom!) And then we moved on to another activity. They didn’t want to end it (yay!) but I did. I wanted to pause each story before it fell apart (or I did!).
Next post: Skill #2: Responding Well.
FYI….I still did a LOT of waiting until they were quiet, staring at whisperers (with a smile of steel), and walking over and standing next to the easily distracted!! I was not as patient with one group as I would have wanted!!!! It’s a fine line between calling a student out on behavior and publicly embarrassing him/her. In Middle School it’s even more delicate…I’m learning and re-learning!
PS. Our progress:
8th grade class A: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem, attempted to the solve the problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down one reason in English the character will not solve the problem and tell me before class. (i.e. doesn’t have $, asked the wrong person, etc.)
8th grade classes B and C: Identified a character and setting, identified a problem. Final activity: In Spanish, write down where (location) the character goes to solve the problem and why. Hand in before leaving.
6th grade classes: Identified a character and setting. Given a problem: The character needs ____________. Final Activity: Write down in Spanish two things the character might need.