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What Do I Want? Archived Post 9.1.10

(Originally 9/1/10)

I was talking with my colleagues and trying to explain what I wanted my classroom to look like. Not the walls/decorations classroom….the real stuff happening in the classroom part.

I want it to be in a state of quality interaction.Not constant chaos…although if you don’t know Spanish it might look that way…

Not constant action…sometimes we need to give the brain time to process….

Not constant lecture….it’s too easy for students to “leave” the room…..

Not constant production….besides being poor pedagogical practice, I simply cannot monitor everyone at the same time…

Not constant input….I need to know how much is going in and how much is just flowing over their heads or around their bodies…

Not even constant interaction…..we have all seen areas in our lives where more effort more does not always mean more results.

Instead…I am hoping to create quality interaction.

Much of the time the interaction will be between me and the class….sometimes between classmates and sometimes between the students’ brains and the language….but it should be visible, if not measurable.

I think that the two main differences between acquiring a first language as an infant, and acquiring a second language later on are these:

● The ability to communicate is greater. The older the student is the greater the ability he/she has, not only to communicate, but to see the purpose of communication.

● The ability to reason. The older the student is, the greater the ability he/she has to think, to plan, to anticipate, to wonder, to put the mind, not just the brain, to work.

● The ability to read. It provides not only another mode of input, but also another mode of interaction.And what both “acquisition groups” have in common is that both, when acquiring a language,interact using the language.

Now certainly there are students who will acquire without quality interaction…..but frankly, those students don’t need me for much anyway. :o) Academically at least. But in order to create a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, an appropriate place for my students to acquire language and to experience life, I need to focus on the quality of interactions in my classroom.

Discussions that are choreographed so that each student is part of the conversation.

Conversations that are modulated for speed, clarity, accent, rhythm and direction for each member of the class.

Class activities that flow in and around every corner….not just from the front (or the screen) towards the back so that by the time they reach the back corners only the foam is left behind.

Behind every interaction, a purpose: connect, connect, connect, connect.

Connect student with material, material with instruction, instruction with language, language with love.

Love, grace, honor, power, responsibility in every interaction.

Interaction. Quality interaction. That is what I am striving for……

With love,

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

(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,

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.

Trustbuster #4 Archived Post 8.12.10

(Originally posted 8/12/10)

It has become a stock phrase in many American classrooms: “Do you want to end up flipping burgers for a living?!!” Used at just the right time, in the right place, with the right kids it seems very funny. It’s not. Ever.

Sarcasm is the tool of the weak folks. I can get away with saying this because, personally I am really good at sarcasm. I used it frequently, in my younger days, as a classroom management tool . It shuts kids up. It also gave me a way to be popular with kids who appreciated my witty ability to make other people look and feel like losers. Bottom line is….sarcasm produces shame.

That is why it works. I had to train myself to stop using it.Just because I think I am intelligent does NOT give me the right to make other people feel stupid.

Stopping sarcasm opened up many amazing doors for me with my students. Most importantly, I try to become a role model for other ways of handling frustration, communication problems, and basically BEING OUT OF CONTROL OF A SITUATION. You see, Sarcasm is a bright person’s way of taking control of a possible out-of-control situation. But that is another blog….

The reality of the Fast Food Future is that it isn’t the worst thing that can happen to folks. In many families, an adult working in fast food is what puts food on the table and health insurance within reach. Do we really have the right to insult that?

In some families, working in fast food is a far better alternative to what is presently going on….especially in this economy. Let’s face it: working in fast food is WORKING. It’s showing up every day, leaving smelling like French fries, putting up with uppity know-it-all fast food eaters, and getting a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with doing a day’s work. Anywhere.I know, I know….that isn’t what you mean when you say it. You want kids to realize their potential.

You want kids to aspire to wearing a necktie or a stethoscope or at the very least, not smelling like French fries at the end of a long day. But frankly, what you mean when you say it doesn’t really matter. It’s what THEY HEAR when we say it that matters.

What they hear is:

Teachers are smart and you kids are stupid. (and they all know that folks with the same degrees we have are making much more money somewhere else so they don’t quite buy that)

Teachers have the power to insult and students have to take it. (and they WILL find ways to get their power back, trust me on this….)

Teachers are completely disconnected from reality and shouldn’t be taken seriously. (ouch)

Sarcasm is allowed, accepted and encouraged when you are in charge or more educated. (and they will take advantage of that and spread their own sarcasm on the less fortunate whenever the opportunity arises.)

Teachers have a dim view of people who are lower-income and less-educated than they are. (and Teachers think that they have the right to be that way)

Now I know that many of us use those phrases with love and humor. We truly believe that the kids “get” what we mean and that they know that we aren’t putting anyone down. I’m going to challenge you on that. I think that they get the message loud and clear….no matter what kind of we put on it…and that it is the wrong message to be giving our kids.

We MAY think that fast food is a great place for teens but not a future to aspire to. There is nothing wrong with that. But using Fast Food Future sarcasm and insults to control classroom behavior or motivate our students will destroy any chance that we have to create strong relationships in our classrooms. We need to drop that line and find other ways to open doors for kids.

With love,

All content of this website ©Hearts For Teaching 2009-present 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.

Trustbuster #1 Archived Post 8.11.10

(Originally posted 8/11/10)

Carla asked me a fantastic question….What keeps trust from growing in a classroom? Wow. There are probably many things that can be “trust-stoppers” as Carla calls them….but this is the first thing that came to mind…..

One of the most powerful things that I have learned as a teacher and as a mother is that kids will take you at your word. If you can’t live up to that word, you are not only a disappointment, you are a liar. This is a heavy burden to bear. So I have learned to think carefully before saying, “I promise…” or even “I will….”.We are only human and there are times when we meant to keep a promise, we did everything we could to keep a promise and yet…were unable to see it to fruition. Truth be told, the world is not under our control. So we must be careful about the promises that we make.

Here are some promises that I have learned not to make:

I’ll have those papers corrected by ________________.

I’ll have your grades done by _____________________.

Since I rarely, if ever, get things done by the time I plan to….or if I do have them done I get distracted and forget to give them back….I have stopped making these statements. And those are easy ones…..
Other little promises slip out way too easily when I am not paying attention like….

We’ll watch a movie on Friday……

I’ll bring in cupcakes for the class…..

I’ll come watch your soccer game tomorrow….

A letter of recommendation by 8th period? Sure!

The list goes on and on…

Sometimes my promises are just “good ideas” without brakes. Other times they are my ego without brakes. Then there are the times that the kids catch me at a weak moment….

It happens to all of us.

But it destroys our credibility. Quickly.

There is nothing wrong with promises. I believe in the power of a promise….a promise kept. So before we make any promises…even what we may think are “little” ones in order to get on a kid’s good side or motivate a class to behave…we need to be very careful.

With love,

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.

Year 28 Archived Post 8.9.10

(Originally posted 8/9/10)

This will be my twenty-eighth year in the classroom, and I still look forward to September with a mixture of joy and trepidation. (Oh yes…the school nightmares have started lol) The conferences that I attended this summer fired me up….but how do I bring that to my students, my colleagues, my student teacher? How do I plan for this year?!!

My focus has changed over the years and while I may have once arranged my classroom activities around a curriculum, I now arrange my curriculum around one theme: Building Strong Relationships.

So here I sit, pondering my plans, aware of this significant paradigm shift. What do I want to do in my classroom/program this year?

Build strong relationships………….using the language whenever possible.

Create a safe and trusting environment…….. using the language whenever possible.

Define roles and expectations ………..using the language whenever possible.

Establish routines…………… using the language whenever possible.

Interact with each student…………. using the language whenever possible.

Plan for success for each student………….. using the language whenever possible.

Recognize and honor the needs, emotions, wants, hopes, dreams, struggles, strengths, thoughts,weaknesses, fears, and accomplishments of others…… using the language whenever possible.

Model desired behaviors.…… using the language whenever possible.

Create shared experiences……… using the language whenever possible.

I’m going to start with this framework and choose high-frequency language structures for my classes that will allow me to reach these goals AND promote language acquisition and increased levels of fluency in my students. I’ll let you know what I come up with!!

with love,

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.

Where’s the Power? Archived post 8.5.10

(Originally posted 8/5/10)

One of the amazing things that I observed at NTPRS 10 and IFLT 1 was how certain parts of a sentence or a story carry more power than others. Ben Slavic calls it part of the “flow” and when you are watching a lesson, and the teacher taps into it, you can actually SEE the power enter the lesson. It’s incredible.

Let me start with a sentence. As Susie Gross has pointed out to me many times, the brain goes where there is meaning and stays where there is interest.

So…..if you want students to stay focused on what you are saying long enough to get those reps in….there has to be some power added in the sentence. Let’s face it …not every phrase we teach is all that interesting!!!

Where does the power come from? Here are some things that I observed and that presenters and teachers modeled: Power words/phrases:

1. can be clearly gestured.

2. represent or are connected to movement or action.

3. represent or are connected to sound.

4. represent or are connected to emotion.

5. represent or are connected to taste, touch, scent.

6. create an immediate and powerful visual reaction in the listener.

7. tap into memory.

8. tap into a shared experience.

9. tap into humor.

10. are unique.These are all ways to offer the students a way to connect with the language!!!!

Take the target phrase: Jose sleeps. Not all that exciting except that Jose, my Chihuahua is a cute little guy…but…using the ideas above we can more interest…more POWER. If I talk with my students about Jose I can say…

1. Jose sleeps.(and throw a stuffed Chihuahua onto a pillow. I could ask a student to curl up like a dog and snore.)

2. Jose sleeps all day (make ASL sign for day) and Jose sleeps all night (make ASL sign for night)

3. Jose sleeps loudly. (SNORE!)

4. Jose sleeps like a baby. (AWWWW)

5. Jose sleeps on people. (put stuffed animal on students’ shoulders)

6. Jose sleeps on top of the tv. (or in the oven, or in front of the Principal’s office, or on the back of a motorcycle)

7. Jose sleeps with a blanky. (we all have a memory of our blanky or someone else’s…)

8. Jose sleeps during the math class. (oh how language people love math lol)

9. Jose sleeps in footie pajamas. (see how one sentence can tap into several possibilities?)

10. Jose sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps. (if the word itself isn’t unique or fun, use your voice to make it unique!)As I go through these different reps with the students I can pay attention to which sentence elicits a natural, powerful reaction. What kind of reaction? A visual, audible, or physical response to what I’ve said like….



Denial/Rejection (No!!!! Not footie pajamas!)

Interest (I want Jose to sleep on my shoulder!)

Interaction (super loud snoring)

Verbal Response (I sleep with my blanky!)

When your students “click” with something….jump on that baby and ride it. We practiced recognizing, and responding to, strong student reactions and I saw it transform the teacher, the students and the interactions.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to go with a sentence or a story. We are afraid of standing up in front of the class rambling on and on about one thing. It feels like pressure to us and that trickles immediately into a message for our students. They read us quickly and soak up every message we give them.

So this year I am going to try to think of the scripting or listing ideas (like I did above) as a way to look for solid ice. When I find a sentence or word that elicits a stronger response…I’ve found the power….and the place to go deeper. A trail to follow. How cool is that?!!

Go with it!!!

With love,

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.

Where’s The Beef? Archived Post 8.5.10

(originally posted 8/5/10)
In case you’ve never seen it….

If you weren’t watching tv in the 80’s (or if you just want a good laugh), check out the youtube link for the (in)famous “Where’s the beef?” commercial. It’s a classic.

Not only do I love the commercial…I love the message: Hey …where is the stuff that REALLY matters?

That is a great question. That is why CI-based methods rock. If you are looking to “beef” up language acquisition, right now, CI is the best way to go!!

Last week in Los Alamitos, a group of people got together to support each other and develop skills. It was not a formal session organized by the conference. It was a group that gravitated together around a desire to really dig into the ‘meat” of the issue: How can I be a better teacher?

Becoming a better CI-based teacher is so very much like becoming more fluent in a new language (or even in a first language!) We have to be surrounded by the method, immersed in the teaching moment, and gently directed by a focused structure.

When we work with students to provide an environment that supports acquisition, we MUST INTERACT with the students USING THE LANGUAGE. When we are working to acquire teaching skills we must do the same. We need to teach…with a goal in mind..to increase COMPREHENSIBLE INTERACTION with our students. This is how we a) build relationships and b) provide language acquisition opportunities.Learning ABOUT CI teaching is beautiful, fascinating, interesting. But it’s just the bun people.

Whenever possible, take the opportunity to teach, in front of a supportive friend, using the skills you will need in the classroom. That is where you will find the beef!!Yeah I know, easier said than done….but the pieces are in place:

1. Scripting. It’s long been a part of CI-based teacher prep…and you can share scripts with other teachers as a non-threatening way to get started. How does this look? Do you think that this is where the questioning should go? Can you think of other questions that I could ask? If you are already a scripter,then all you need to do is find the email address of a willing conspirator and you have begun your journey.

2. Skype. Wow. Teach in front of the camera….and your audience can be there without being there!!!! We can practice teach any skill…with or without students and get feedback.

3. Blogs/Listservs. Find a partner. Ask and ye shall receive. Folks are out there…I promise! Check out the map at www.tprstorytelling.com Pick a moment that went well or that didn’t . Write about it. Get feedback.

4. Invite someone in. Someone in your department. Someone in your area. A student from another class. A coach. Many of the folks who coached at NTPRS or IFLT are available to come to your school and work right with you in your classroom!! How cool is that?!!

5. Attend a coaching workshop. Whenever, wherever you see one. Ask for one if you don’t . Organize one. Not sure how? Contact me (lclarcq@yahoo.com) and I’ll put you in touch with all of the information that you need.

6. Watch. Sometimes it is outside our comfort zone to get up and share our teaching selves with other teachers. Wayyyyyyyyyyyyy outside. So take the opportunity to be a student or an observer in a coaching situation. There is so much to learn there.

Where’s the beef? In the teaching. In the moment. In the opportunity to stand up, get into it, talk about it, break it down, try it again. I saw it over and over and over and over again. I promise you. If you find the right people to work with…it will change your teaching…and your life.

With love,

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.

It’s the Teacher! Archived Post 7.29.10

(originally posted 7/29/10)

So…I have to constantly ask myself: What is the goal of this activity? For my STUDENTS? (and their brains of course!) I want my students to interact with me in the target language in a way that will allow them to acquire as much language as possible. Students must be doing ALL THREE of these things during an activity in order for me to reach my goal.


In the target language

In order to

Acquire language


As I listen to the ideas and suggestions about shower curtains offered by all of these passionate and experienced teachers, it is so easy for me to forget about my goal. The teacher in me gets a “pedagogical high” from thinking about all of the other exciting possibilities and I forget the goal!

My teacher brain is just a’rockin’!! It’s a game? Ooooooo!! Kids love competition! ( teacher-brain starts tracking all of the articles/presentations about involving boys in competition in the classroom…..). It’s visual? Oooooo!! It’s right-brained! It’s multi-modal!! (teacher-brain scans all previously-stored info on teaching/learning styles and brain research……). And it a micro-millisecond I am off on my own teacher-track…having totally forgotten about my REAL goal: to provide activities so that my students will INTERACT with me in the TARGET LANGUAGE so that
they will ACQUIRE LANGUAGE. So what do I REALLY have to have in an activity in order for that to happen?

A) Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language and…..
A situation where we interact using it.


1. A situation where we interact…
2. Using Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay So, what all of these teachers didn’t tell me is what I really need to know.

HOW do they interact with their students in the target language so that the language is useable enough, compelling enough, personal enough, repeated enough, understandable enough for my students to acquire language as a result of that interaction?

THAT is what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong…the activities are PHENOMENAL!!!! But as you read them, remember that it is HOW these teachers interact with student during the activities that facilitates the language acquisition….not the activities themselves.

It is why watching other teachers is so powerful. It isn’t the shower curtain that is enthralling.

It’s THE TEACHER. It is why mastering skills is so important. It is why going back to basics, taking the chance to be coached, and learning to teach in the moment are so vital. It is the relationships developed during the activity that matter. The activity is not the vehicle that carries our students to proficiency. Compelling and Comprehended language is the vehicle. Games and projects, songs and stories, conversations and TPR are the roads we can explore with that vehicle.As teachers, we sometimes think that the trip gets a little boring….so we are constantly looking for new roads to take. What we need….is to upgrade the vehicle our students are riding in. Would you rather ride to proficiency in a broken-down jalopy or in a well-tuned “luxury” vehicle?

CI-based instruction is even better than a luxury vehicle. It won’t break down. It isn’t uncomfortable. It’s energy efficient. It feels good to be in AND it does the job…very very well.

What are your best CI teaching skills? Do the activities that you use make the most of them? Do the activities that you invest your time and energy in utilize those skills? How can you adapt an activity so that your skills create a luxury vehicle that carry your students closer to proficiency?

These are the things that I invite you to think about as you peruse these suggestions. If you don’t know…ask the person who has successfully used the activity to offer suggestions, not only about the steps involved in the activity, but about the TEACHING SKILLS utilized during the activity so that ALL ROADS LEAD TO PROFICIENCY.

I do love ideas. But I have to make sure to start paying more attention to the skills required by the
teacher and the actions required by the students once these ideas become classroom activities. It can be tough when being a teacher gets in the way of well….being a teacher!!

with love,

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.

Output Myths #2 and #3 Post 5.6.10

(originally posted 5/6/10)

Output Myth #3:

The rate at which students begin to comprehend and produce a second language is totally dependent on teacher-controlled issues save three: student motivation, student work, student “ability”-level.    


If all of the students in the class are equally motivated,

(and teachers assume that they should be)

If all of the students in the class complete the same work,

(and teachers assume that they should have)


If all of the students in the class are perceived to have the same academic skill level,

(and teachers assume that students are either “teachable” or “not teachable”.)

then they will all accomplish/learn the same material at the same rate.


those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.


those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,


students who have earned A’s will know more and be able to produce better language than students who have earned F’s.

Although I thought so for many years………………none of the above is true.

Myth #3:

Saying a word or phrase over and over and over again is the surest way to learn it.

I’d like to share a story from 2000 ( I think….) when I attended my first workshop with Susie Gross.  It was the end of day two and we had been working with a select group of words for about 16 hours.   For whatever reason, the group could NOT produce the phrase le vert d’eau (the glass of water …please excuse any sp/agreement errors…I haven’t used the phrase since…).

How hard could it be???????!!!!!!!!!!!  We were ALL experienced language teachers.  We had heard Susie use it over and over and over and over again.  Someone suggested that we had not “acquired” the word because we really hadn’t had to use it.  We needed to say it. Over and over and over and over.

Susie said, “NO.”   The room got very quiet.  “I don’t believe in that any longer.   I haven’t used it often enough, comprehensibly enough for you all.  That’s all.”   I didn’t believe her.  I don’t know if anyone in the room believed her.

And she began another story…which I don’t remember at all…except that I do remember her somehow inserting “le vert d’eau” in there a bazillion times.    Finally…….it clicked.   And le vert d’eau was in our lexicon.  Just like that.  And it was still there the next morning.  And it’s still there a decade later.  And I definitely don’t go around saying it out loud.  At all.

Then there is the word “escaparate”  (shop window).   I learned it in grade 9.   I never said it out loud once in high school (although I really wanted to tee hee it’s a fun word…escaparate!  like pamplemousse!!  ).   I never used it in college.  Then, when I was in Spain for a semester….there it was..in my brain…totally ready to use!!!  Too bad I couldn’t remember a single one of the question words…..which I KNOW I had to use over and over again in high school and college.  In context.   Still couldn’t remember them….

Still….I spent many years creating activities which gave students plenty of opportunities to say things in Spanish.   Games and role-plays and projects and skits and all kinds of well-conceived, well-written, well-rubricked, totally ineffective activities…..that did not help students to acquire any kind of language for the long run.with love,

with love,

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.

Windows and Doors Archived Post 4.29.10

(originally posted 4/29/10)

At one point I considered naming this website “Wide Open Windows”.    I love the idea of flinging the windows open and changing the view, the perspective, the very air inside of a room with one movement.   In truth, there are many little steps that take place before windows, or doors, open….and we are often not aware of them at all.  So, when the light and air come peeking, or rushing, in it truly takes us by surprise…..and oh did I see that happen this week!!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog  about getting past adolescent armor.    Here is a piece from it:

“I never really know what will be the key that opens a student up.  Sometimes it is something that we do in class: a story, a poem, a movie, a song, a current event.  Other times it is casual observance of a tshirt design, a new pair of shoes, a sketch on the front of a book cover.   Occasionally it is an item in my classroom…this year the fans that I brought back from Spain have opened up many doors of conversation.  Rarely, if ever, am I the one that opens the door.  It is almost always the student who shows me, if only for a tiny instant, a glimpse beyond the armor. ”

Sure enough, since I wrote that two different students reached out and turned the handle on the door….even if just a bit.   One of them is a young man who has planned all year to drop out at age 16.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t turn 16 this year.     So, for him, this year has been one long vacuum.   He is one of those students who will literally just sit….and do absolutely nothing.   His teachers, parents and counselors have been trying to sell him the merits of at least working for a GED….but he hasn’t shown much interest…only disdain.    In Spanish 1 we have been watching Selena and for one period we did a webquest about the singer.   I was surprised to see that he had logged in to a website and was reading.   Halfway through the period he starts waving his hand wildly and called me over.  “Hey Profe!”  This in itself is unusual.  :o)  “Did you know that Selena got a GED diploma?  That’s cool.  There she was, getting rich and famous and all and she still decided to do it.”     Oh yes, very cool.

The second student shouldn’t really be in my Spanish 1 class.   He was only in the 8th grade program for a few months before he wa pulled out to prepare for the grade 8 ELA tests….so….he had about 10 weeks of Spanish while the rest of my students had 40 weeks before they started class with me this year.    One of his best friends in class is another student like the one I described above.    The other left the district about two months ago.   This kid tries very hard to be invisible in my room.   He doesn’t offer eyes to teach to, conversation to interact with or even a response some days.   He also called me over to show me something during the webquest, however, it was not anything on the monitor.    He pulled the barrel of a paintball gun out of his backpack.   (It’s a plastic tube, but I have two paintball-playing sons so I recognized it)  He wanted to show me how he had “painted” the piece with black and green Sharpies to make it look camouflaged.   We chatted about paintball for a minute, then he got to work on the webquest.

Two students who prefer not to engage.  Two students who try hard not to get involved.  Two students offering me a connection.  A few years ago I would have dismissed those moments as meaningless.   A few years ago I didn’t understand the amount of work and effort (on their part) that it took to get to that tiny first step.   A few years ago I had no idea of the power of an interaction initiated by a student.  A few years ago I thought it was attitude rather than armor.  A few years ago I would have missed two opportunities.  Open doors.  Open windows.  I’ll take them.  I’m glad that I had written about them earlier this week, or I might have missed these two moments.

with love,

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