Teacher Vulnerablity Archived Post 12.13.10

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Encouragment, Relationships, Teacher Training, The Teaching Profession, TPRS techniques

Originally posted 12/13/10 For more insight on Vulnerability consider watching this :

The second idea that has been following me today is this: We are all insecure. All of us. We generally choose to handle it one of two ways:
a) Active, decisive, “strong” behaviors designed to give us the power to create an image that hides our insecurity from others.
b) Passive, indecisive, “weak” behaviors designed to give us the power to avoid other so that they cannot see our insecurity.

Wow.

Talk about insight. Talk about a smack in the face. Apparently we are usually one or the other….the one that we learned in childhood got us the most bang for our buck when it comes to protection of the heart and soul.

Now I’m sure that volumes could be written (and probably have been) about who chooses which protection mode and how those choices create the lives they lead. But I have been pondering the simpler side of things:

We are all insecure.

All of us. All the time. About something.

Our Money, our Friendships ,our Height, our Weight, our Skin color, our Families, our Work, our Relationships, our To Do Lists, our Faith, our Future, our Profession, our Job, our Health, our Vehicles, our Skills, our Possessions, Love….

And what we would do ( or how can we continue to survive) without these things…..

Some folks are worriers…their way of taking control of the insecurities. Others are worry-less…their way of taking control. Some are planners. Others just let everyone else make the plans and follow their lead.
Do we consciously know that we are insecure? I think we do…but we have long-used well-ingrained habits in place to “work” with it….so we don’t have to think about it all the time.

Nor do we actually face it.

Vulnerability is highly underrated.
Think of the real power that could be generated by educators if, for a few minutes per day, students’ vulnerabilities were actually seen as their strong points, as their gifts. Of course we would have to be willing to do that for ourselves first.

It is one of the things that attracts me to the TPRS teaching community. There is a common understanding that we are all vulnerable because we are always examining our weakest areas and trying to strengthen them. Then we communicate that with each other and even with our students so that we can really face our weak points, accept them, embrace them, learn from them and be better people and teachers because of them.

It is at the heart of what those who teach from the heart do.

We uncover it so that it can open.

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.

Planning for A Structure Archived Post 12.27.10

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Musings, Personalizing Instruction, Teacher Training, TPRS techniques

Originally posted as For Chabe on 12/27/10

Chabe wrote and asked how to find ideas to teach a particular structure and here is my response:

Here are some things that you might be able to try….
The first thing that came to mind when I read “se siente sola” (feels alone) was the English phrase…feels alone in a crowd. Because teaching a language is really teaching kids to put meaning to sound, we want them to be able to visualize or feel what the meaning is. So I Google-imaged (new verb! ) “alone in a crowd” and found these:

Se Siente Sola

Se Siente Sola2

Se Siente Sola3

My guess is that you have several artistic kids who could, themselves, create incredible images for this.

Some questions that you could start with:

Where are people when they are not alone, but feel alone?
(a party, an airport, a train station, school, at home, the mall, the doctor’s office)

This is a good question to start with because they don’t have to talk about situations that they have been in personally…it is about places where, although there are lots of people, we might not know anyone, or we might not be understood. Which leads to the next question….

Do people feel alone in a ___________________ because they do not know anyone?

Next, offer them a series of reasons why people might feel alone…..
• They have a problem that no one knows about.
• They are missing someone special.
• They want to be somewhere else.
• They do not like what other people like.
• They do not usually go anywhere alone.
• No one is talking to them.
• They look different than other people.
• Everyone else has someone to talk to.
• They are treated badly.
• They learn something new and very surprising about themselves.

Next, give them a list of movies that they may have seen: (I Googled “movies in 2010”, thought about movies we have talked about, and used my own, very limited!!!!, knowledge to pick this list)

The Lovely Bones
Harry Potter
Dear John
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Twilight
Charlie St. Cloud

A great movie for this that many of them have seen (and if they haven’t it is easy to describe and imagine) is I Am Legend with Will Smith (2007) where he is the last human survivor in NYC.

I simply ask them to match the movie with the situation…or situations.

Take Harry Potter for example:

Harry has a problem that his human family doesn’t know about, he looks different because of his lightning-shaped scar, he is forced to live under a staircase at his uncle’s home, he is an orphan, he just found out that he is a wizard, he has to go to a new school…it goes on and on!

Another good connection would be books that students may be reading or may have read as part of the English curriculum….or historical figures This is a great way to connect curriculum.

Our students read Alas, Babylon, To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men and several others that have characters that lend themselves to this discussion.

How about Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King? Abraham Lincoln? Anne Frank? Helen Keller? Albert Einstein? That list could go on and on…..

Even “famous” people who have “fallen”: Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Ben Rothlisberger….folks who may have felt quite alone when they had moments in which the world no longer saw them as idols.

These activities or discussions do not have to take a long time. They could simply be the topic for a quick discussion….or a longer activity….whatever works best with your students and your program.

Once students are comfortable with the topic, it is easier to switch into a more personal mode with them. Brainstorm with the kids things that people do when they feel alone.

This is a list that they truly already have the vocabulary for:
Cry, sleep, read, listen to music, get on the computer, call someone, draw, write, run, make plans.

Some of them lead into good discussion:

Do you listen to sad music or happy music? Which singer/band is good when you feel alone? Why do some people read and other people run? Why do some people like to be alone? Who do some people hate it?

Create characters for students to identify with:

George would pay $200 to be alone for an entire day.

Let them create a life that would make George want to be alone. They will draw from their own experiences, I guarantee it!

Angus has to stay at his grandmother’s house and dog-sit on Halloween night. She lives in the woods, the weather is horrible, and the electricity often goes out. Who does he ask to hang out with him and how does he convince them to go?

Googling “se siente solo” and “me siento solo” I found these songs:

Me siento solo http://www.metrolyrics.com/me-siento-solo-lyrics-frankie-j.html

Hoy Me Siento Sola http://mis5sentidos.blogspot.com/2008/08/hoy-me-siento-sola-cancin-de-mariana-de.html

This one came with this: Una canción que describe como nos sentimos aveces cuando estamos tristes, realmente una linda canción que lo escuchabamos en la escena que Mariana se sentía trizte de la telenovela “Mariana”.
And a video…
And these comments as well:
me siento sola es verdad lo k aveces sucede en los adolecentes
ps la knción me identifik cuando sty deprimida..
esta muy linda…..
es lo sentimos muchos nos los adolescentes
esta canciòn esta super chida te puedes identificar con ella por que hay veces que nuestra vida se vuelve un tormento.
if you would like to mention how teens write on line in Spanish :o)

When I get into these conversations with kids I want them to understand the following:
• These feelings are universal. Every human, be they adult or child, male or female, rich or poor, from any kind of family will experience these emotions.
• There are positive outcomes from negative feelings. (learning to relate to others, having time to think/feel/process, trying new things, meeting new people, finding new strengths in ourselves..)
• We can take an active role in improving our situation.

I hope that this post helps a bit!

With love,
Laurie

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

Big Questions Archived Post 12.13.10

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days

(Originally posted 12/13/10)

My brain has been churning all day. I heard several things in church/Sunday school that spoke so strongly to me of my students and I have been trying to piece them together. I’ll try writing and see if that helps…

First was the idea that all of our lives we will struggle with three things:

1. Who am I?
2. Where do I belong?
3. What should I do?

As we go through different stages and different ages the answers will change, but our need to seek the answers will not. From our youngest cognitive moments to our oldest, we will carry these questions in our hearts.

What does this mean in our classrooms?

First, my guess is that the majority of our actions come from whether we have the answers to these questions at any given moment, our feelings about our answers (or lack thereof), and how we got those answers (or why we don’t have them).
Can I help my students with those answers for the time that they are in my classroom? I hope so. If they are comfortable with who they are (or with not having to know while they are in my room…), if they feel that they belong in my room, and I have made it clear what they should do while they are in my room ( or created an environment where they can find out without fear of humiliation or punishment) I can seriously reduce the stress level for my students.

Second, I can remember that the behaviors that I might find annoying and inexplicable actually serve a purpose…for that student. I can use that knowledge to understand, to be patient, to open doors of communication.

Third, I can keep utilizing those themes in my stories, songs, and other lesson details. These questions are part of our hearts, minds and souls. We all can connect with these issues and the struggles, mistakes and victories that stem from seeking the answers.
With love,
Laurie
P.S. These questions came from a study, “Romans 12” by Chip Ingram.

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.

The “Uninterested” Archived Post 11.7.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships, Tough Students

(Originally posted 11/7/10)

Marc has started an amazing forum for TPSRers in Japan. His thoughtful questions generate a lot of discussion. I responded to one of his posts on that list and wanted to share that answer here because we all have those “uninterested” students.

Dear Marc,

I wonder if it might be worthwhile to look at a couple of other options. It may be that your lower-level students are not skilled at using their imagination or visualization skills. So not only are things that aren’t about them not interesting….they don’t exist literally…they can’t “see” anything that you are talking about and so they definitely get bored with that information.

Students who are very literal often display some or many of the following characteristics:

* they answer in one or two word utterances even in L1

* they don’t ask questions/display curiosity

* they like activities which result in a concrete result ie a game w/ a score

* they value personal privacy

* they see information of any kind on a “need to know” continuum…if they don’t have a concrete reason to need to know/share, they don’t.

* they are often very good at mechanical skills: fixing an engine, building etc.

* they do not enjoy reading

* they prefer action films to romance/comedy etc.

These students actually need storytelling, but are missing a key skill: imagination. They are the students who need, in increments, illustrations and the opportunity to add details to stories so that they can “see” what the story is about. They need to start with short stories and build as the year progresses to longer pieces. They need immediate feedback.

Another possibility is that these are students who have no idea that they can be successful. They have been labeled for years as “low-achieving”. They don’t even see themselves as students and here you are expecting them to pay attention and answer as students. It may take a while for them to begin to see that this IS something that they can do. Then, even when they do begin to see themselves as successful, they may freak out and react to that as well. It may always feel like you are pulling teeth with these kids because you will be. They stopped giving willingly in the classroom shortly after their first days of school when they realized that the system was not for them and didn’t like them. (even if the Japanese system doesn’t “fit” that concept, human beings do.

Regardless of the culture that we grew up in, we all have a need to be recognized and appreciated. )

These students will not respond as predictably as your higher-achievers, but their progress will be incredibly powerful and rewarding….and they willl progress!!!! The difference is that high-achieving students tend to progress predictably and in a linear fashion. This group will lay “dormant” for periods of time and then make leaps when you least expect it. That is how they grow. But they are the students for whom TPRS can be life-changing. Teaching them can be career-changing. Keep us posted!

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.

Homework…The Journey Archived Post 11.15.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Homework, Starting The Year, Teacher Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even without homework.

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

with love,
Laurie

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

Shelter Vocab Not Grammar Archived Post 10.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Grammar, Music and Songs, Musings, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

One of the challenges we face as teachers is finding ways to help students use their language to express themselves fluently. The best thing that we can do for them is to show them how to communicate with fluency with the language that THEY have acquired…to model for them what it might look and sound like. Susie Gross has often said….Shelter vocabulary, not grammar.

But what does that mean? In the past few years I have really practiced this…and I wish that I had “gotten it” earlier because it is an incredibly powerful change in my teaching. But what is it that I have been practicing? Let me try to explain….

In the book that we are working on in, the phrases “brings him/brings her/brings them” show up repeatedly. What I would like to do is to create opportunities to use these phrases over and over and over and over and over again.

It will work because these are high-frequency. It will work if I keep them in front of me…cognitively and physically. It will work if, every time I use them with students, they are comprehensible AND contribute to some sort of interesting interaction. Some opportunities…

Daily Routines:

1. We start the class with a message on the Smartboard. Here are some ideas …..phrases I could put on the opening message:

The teacher is ready to accept your homework. Bring it to her.

The miners brought rocks home from the mine. Why should, or shouldn’t, they bring them?

The students from France are arriving tomorrow! Our students will be bringing them to school.

2. We use signals to integrate vocabulary and structures and to refocus students on activities. Here are some phrases we could use:

I’m bringing them….to the party!
Bring them…with you

3. Instead of collecting papers from the first person in each row I can ask them to “bring them to my desk.’

Personalized Conversations (aka PQA)/Writing Prompts

I frequently start a conversation with students (or ask them to write a paragraph) that uses a particular structure…with this one I might try…

1. I just received an email from The New York Yankees. They want to come to watch their biggest fan (Dan) play soccer this Thursday. They will need a ride from the train station in Syracuse…..who in class can (will, would, should) bring them to school?

2. Our French visitors have a free afternoon on Friday and we are taking them around the area. They can leave school at noon and must be back for the football game at 7pm. You get to decide where we go….where should we bring them?

3. Silly Bandz is sponsoring a local contest. You can win $500 if you can write a letter that convinces our principal to put on 500 Silly Bandz and wear them to school every day for a week. What would you write in your letter?

4. Start a campaign to convince parents that they should no longer bring their children with them to every family function. What is a function that teens do NOT want to attend and why shouldn’t parents bring them?

5. School policy says “no coffee, no soda” in classes. Should students be allowed to bring them to class? Why or why not?

Culture

1. Day of the Dead….a great opportunity to talk about the ofrendas, the people who are honored and what families bring to the ofrenda.

2. Three Kings’ Day…another great opportunity to talk about a Hispanic holiday, who the Kings were/are and what children hope that they bring …

Reading

1. Headlines…a quick “Google”ing of the phrase “brings (or brought or will bring etc) them” in
Spanish brought me these headlines:

· Alejandro les lleva al paraíso (Alejandro Sanz concert…)

· Ronald McDonald visita a niños cusqueños y les lleva alegría (RM visits kids in Cusco, Peru and brings them happiness)

· The Cranberries, reunión y gira mundial que los llevará a España (The Cranberries reunion and world tour that will bring them to Spain)

And my favorite….

· ¿Es necesario que los escolares lleven el celular al colegio? (Do students really have to bring cell phones to school? …..)

2. Matching…I like to create short matching activities to use in little contests, extra credit opportunities etc…they are always easy, interesting, structure-focused. Here’s a sample:

1. My cat threw up three times. ____A. Bring them to a recycling container!

2. My Mountain Dew cans are empty. ____B. Bring them to school!

3. My clothes are dirty. ____C. Don’t bring them to your mother!

4. My Mercedes Benz needs a new owner. ____D. Bring it to the vet!!

5. My cousins are the Jonas brothers. ____E. Bring it to me!

Listening Songs….Again….I googled lleva+letra (Spanish for lyrics) and found….

Llevan por Raphael http://www.letras.com/r/raphael/hacia_el_exito/llevan.html

Mil Calles Llevan Hacia Ti por La Guardia http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti-bajar-89218/disco-vamonos/la-guardia-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti.html

Me Llevaras en Ti por Alejandro Fernandez http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-me-llevaras-en-ti-bajar-44250/disco-muy-dentro-de-mi-corazon/alejandro-fernandez-me-llevaras-en-ti.html

Imagine how powerful this kind of repetition could be with idiomatic expressions that just don’t “click” easily? It takes some practice to start “thinking” this way, but I promise you…once you get started it is a little like playing around with puns…you start to see them everywhere!!!

With love,
Laurie

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

Connections and Planning Archived Post 9.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Starting The Year

(Originally posted 9/20/10)
Hmmm….Carol and Michele and Carla got me thinking about how the connection of activities can make a difference in our instruction. A higher level skill? I’m not sure. I think to some extent it is a skill, but it is more a way of thinking that takes practice. I think that sometimes, in the classroom as in life, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

How did we end up in this place where what happens in class is focused around a focused series of structures? I think because I have a student teacher, I wanted to keep the focus narrow. This way he would have a better idea of what vocabulary was “in bounds.” We started with a series of goals: a) get to know the students b) use the present, past and future in a natural way in conversation/instruction c) connect topics with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights d) connect the curriculum with the students’ lives.

I looked at the topics on the NYS Syllabus that my students needed to work with in order to be prepared for the NYS Regents exam and decided to begin with Work/Professions because I saw a way to connect it with each goal: a) we could find out about our students’ skills, interests and dreams b) we could discuss past, present and future jobs c) we could discuss the right to work, the rights of workers and the responsibilities of workers and employers d) every student is connected somehow to the world of work.

Next, we need a structure for the classroom….for organizing each period so that the student and the teachers were working within a routine. A routine helps us to rotate in activities and topics so that we can reach all of our students. It provides us with an avenue to drive down with the structures that we use to introduce class, make transitions in class, recognize students for their efforts, interact with students and include the language patterns inherent in the “niceties” of daily interaction.

We created a template for the month of September that included some pieces that are fairly typical of language classrooms and some that might not be. Class begins with a message on the SmartBoard about the first activity of class and what materials the students will need, including the formation of desks. (see Desk Drills) We have a quick review of the information that was on the morning announcements, taking special note of students who have been recognized. We ask for any other announcements (birthdays, driver’s tests etc.) We review upcoming, activities, competitions, meetings and deadlines. (lots of future tense)

Transitions in class are made with the use of Signals and the signals have been chosen with cultural,structural and emotional impact in mind (We will never forget, Viva Mexico, Here I Am etc) Thursday is quiz day…the first quiz was a reading quiz…using a letter written by my student teacher.

The second quiz was a writing quiz….my students introduced themselves to him in a 5-10 minute write. After the quiz they grab books for Free Voluntary Reading.

We notice that the students have a hard time remembering the word “son” they are.

Mondays we have been asking the question, “Where did you go this weekend? “ And throughout the week asked…”Where did you go last night?” (builds beautifully from the discussion of upcoming events) This week we added the question: “Who did you go with?” My student teacher created a short reading about his weekend…staying focused on “I went” I went with, I went to, I went for, I went because….When we ask students where they went, a ton of them respond with “I went to work”…a perfect connection for where we are headed.

When they talk about their friends, their teammates, their co-workers, they don’t use the word “son” either.

We’ve been looking at international news. Our focus? The miners trapped in Chile. How did we tie this in? What structures are connected? They went to work. They to the mine. They went to a refuge under the ground. The families went to sit vigil. The president of Chile went to the mine. He went to talk with the families. He went to see the messages from the miners.

Engineers went to the mine. They went with ideas. The engineers will meet. They will meet and make plans. They will meet and share ideas. They will organize a rescue. The miners will watch a soccer game. They will exercise to keep in shape.

We decide that we need to create a reading with a lot of reps of the word “son”…but that that word might be a “teach for June” goal.

We need to talk about danger and dangerous jobs. We revisit a song from last year “Aqui Estoy Yo” . All kinds of great lines. Don’t be afraid. Here I am. I’ll take care of you. Please accept. We use these phrases to write letters to the miners and their families.

We will talk about why the girl the songwriter talks about thinks that love is dangerous. We are going to talk about the four singers in the video and make sure that we are going to get a bazillion reps of the word “son.”

Another phrase that keeps coming up over and over again? The same. Going to the same meeting. Went to the same game. Ate the same number of pancakes at the pancake breakfast. Bought the same lunch. Scored the same number of goals. Both meetings are on the same day. In love with the same girl. Hoping for the same thing. Three plans for the same goal. Six weeks in the same place. Thirty three families with the same prayer.

We didn’t plan for that. We didn’t see that pattern ahead of time. But we put it up on the board when it came up and now it is popping up organically all over the place.

By reusing and refreshing a routine, by repeating a theme, by revisiting an ongoing story, by recycling a song, by realizing patterns, by recreating similar activities on a variety of topics, by using familiar structures WHILE AT THE SAME TIME staying within a narrow framework of new structures….we are creating a path for everyone in the class to follow throughout the forest….without getting lost among the trees.

I’m not sure that it takes any special skill. I think that it takes focus. And practice. And the ability to stay in the moment and get your bearing. The willingness to look back after the lesson and see where it went and where you should be going. And friends to remind you that it works.

Not every unit, or lesson, or moment will mesh seamlessly. But if we get out of the trees for a few minutes we can see that every tree is a part of the forest…in the great scheme of things it will all, eventually fit together. Every time we can plug into the connection, we just make it easier for our students’ brains to do what they do naturally…acquire language,

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Embedded Reading 2012-2014 or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

I’m Not Adding That Archived Post 9.12.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Grammar, Musings

(Originally posted 9/12/10)

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

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

These exercises make no sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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First Goal Archived Post 9.3.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships, Starting The Year

(Originally posted 9/3/10)

There are so many things to get done the first week!!! It is sooooo tempting to want to jump right into “Spanish” and start “teaching.” But the truth is…..that would be feeding my need and not addressing the needs of the students. I may be chomping at the bit to get them listening, reading, speaking and writing….but they could care less. About Spanish anyway.

They are excited to be back in the building. They have missed seeing their friends, their peers and, yes, even their teachers. They have missed having a routine. The building is buzzing!!! Then the bells ring, the doors close…and the silence begins.I want that excitement to continue in my room…even after class starts. That energy is the life-blood of the language classroom. If I push them right into my idea of a Spanish lesson I am setting myself up for a huge face-plant. Pow. Right onto the linoleum floor. Students have been trained to sit down, shut up, stare straight ahead, and to nod appreciatively so as to appear engaged.

The minute I go into “teacher mode”, they go into “student mode”, and I am back in the face-plant position.

Luckily for me, this year I have a student teacher. He is new to a small rural district and there are a lot of things that he will be getting used to in the seven weeks that he is here. So, our theme for the week was : Start to Get to Know Each Other.

I’m in the highly unusual position this year of knowing nearly every one of my students. It’s never happened before, and it’s not likely to happen again. The timing, however, is beautiful. I get to sit back and watch as my student teacher and my students get to know each other. I can introduce them….but they are the ones who have to do the rest. Getting to know each other is not an easy task. It cannot be rushed. All good things take time.

First, of course, is the pesky job of learning all of their names. It’s not as bad as it could be; I only have 110 students this year. But let’s face it….that’s one tough job….matching 110 names to faces….in as little time as possible…because the more quickly he learns those names, the better.

(BTW…I’m not worried, my student teacher is light-years ahead of where many experienced teachers are. He has great instincts…a most impressive young man.)

Some of the students made themselves known right away. They got to class early or hung around after everyone else had left. They wanted to come in after school and look for opportunities to ask a question or to help out. They wanted to, or needed to, be at the top of the “I know you” list.

Some of them sit in the front row during class….some sit in the back. They have a need to carve their place out right away. They aren’t as hard to get to know….and I am always grateful for their direct approach. No ice-breakers needed. HERE I AM!!!

The next-easiest group to get to know is the group of students that is most like us. They laugh at our jokes. They respond right away if we mention a favorite t.v. show or sports team. They remind us of ourselves at that age. I’m pretty sure that my student teacher has already begun to identify these kids. (like I said….he’s sharp) It will be my job to make sure that he finds ways to feel as connected to the rest of the class as he could to the ones that are already the first ones to come to mind.

What we tried to do this week was to set up the classroom, physically and emotionally so that everyone would be accessible and would be able to find a way to be accepted. Including the teachers. Although we will add a new goal for next week, this week’s goal will become this year’s goal.

Get to Know Each Other.

It’s the assignment that I gave my seniors. It’s the assignment of a lifetime.

With love,
Laurie

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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.