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R and E: An Atmosphere of Trust Archived Post 3.20.12

(Originally posted 3/20/12)

In the last piece I wrote, “It is important we connect with the class for at least a moment to them know that we are here, we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.”

If I make a few changes, I can summarize what I believe about discipline:

“We must connect with the class in order to let each student know that we are here, that we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.”

When all three of those are present, we are on the right path. When even one of those is missing in a given moment, we are on a dangerous detour. It is when we have been juggling one or two of those instead of all three that we see our individual students and entire classes slipping away. With some groups it is the only way to keep everyone safe ( I have several of these groups this year!!!!!!). At this time of year it becomes very important. (I know that many of us are feeling it.)

As Susie has often told us, “Discipline proceeds instruction.”

At the beginning of the year, the beginning of the period, the beginning of the activity, the beginning of the conversation.

Connect first, then communicate: I’m here. I’m glad that you’re here. I’m making the final decisions.

Of course there are many, many other things implied: I’m here because I care. I’m here because I’m knowledgeable. I’m here because you matter.

I’m here because I want to be. I’m glad that you are in my world. I’m glad that you came to class today. I’m glad that you’re trying. I’m glad that you trust me. I’m glad that you exist. I will listen to you. I will take your thoughts and feelings into consideration. I will pay attention to you. I will see the good things about you. I will forgive the difficult things about you.

I have faith in you. I have faith in the adult you will be come. I will honor the child inside of you. I can see great things in you. I will not let you hurt yourself. I will not let you hurt others. I will not let others hurt you. I will help you to learn to deal with problems. We all have struggles.

We all have feelings. Everyone matters. I am the adult and will do my best to act like one at all times. I will remember that I may be the adult, but I am not always right. I will try to model all of the behaviors that I expect from you…especially forgiveness. I will be in charge. I will take the responsibility. I will walk the walk.

But only three need to be said on a regular basis…and with our actions as well as our words:

I’m here. I’m glad that you are here. I’m making the final decisions about what is best for this class.

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.

R and E: Compass vs GPS Archived Post 3.19.12

Originally posted 3/19/12

Transitions are tough for all human beings. Each one of us transitions differently. It’s no wonder that transitions in the classroom are a struggle.

As a teacher, it helps us to actively DECIDE whether a compass or a GPS is needed in our classrooms.

Every class has students that walk in every day asking the age-old question: What are we going to do today? They are not trying to be obtuse.

They need to know. They handle transition with preparation. If you have a lot of those students, you are one of those students or your administrators want evidence that you know about those students, the GPS system is for you.

G.P.S. Get a Plan. Post a Plan. Show the Plan as needed.

Keep the plan simple. Date, Period, Plan of Activities. Label the activities anything you want, in either or both languages depending on your goals.

Keep the details of the plan in your head. You need to know how many minutes,how many structures, where to PQA more and where to gesture less. All they want to know is what is next.

Put the “voice” of the Plan up for the students. “Turn right now.”

Get their attention. Point to the next step on the plan. Give them instructions and go.

But…teach the students and remind them that the plan is subject to change with just a little notice. ‘Recalculating…..”

I am a not a natural plan person. I love to make them, but can’t follow one happily. I’m always aching to go after a teachable moment, a great response from a student or a spontaneous road trip with the language. But

I have students who occasionally need to know the plan. I also became a much more skilled TPRSer by beginning with a plan and following it as closely as I could in order to improve my skills. Sometimes an activity is new to my students and they need to see the steps in writing. So…I try to teach my students that from time to time I’ll put up a plan and we will follow it. For a reason.

But most of the time I am a “compass” teacher. I know in which direction I want to go. I have enough knowledge to stay on a safe road or get off of a dangerous one. I’ve had enough experiences with flat lessons and overheated discussions to avoid them or fix them. If I’m tired, emotionally-drained, overextended, had too little sleep or need to rely on caffeine then I’d better pull out the GPS.

If we constantly remind ourselves and our students about the interactive quality of our classroom, then we can decide with each class if we are going to follow a GPS or a compass that day. Only three things are needed: a goal,a class that knows how to interact, and a routine at the beginning of every single period that requires them to find out from us what is happening first.

At the beginning of each class it is important that we connect with the class for at least a moment to them know that we are here, we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.

It really doesn’t matter if you post a “do-now/bellringer”, greet them at the door with instructions, have a starting routine (FVR, a song, PQA, calendar, etc.)or simply start with an attention-getting signal. What matters is that you use that moment to hold hold up the Maestro baton and give them clear direction. By starting each class with that moment, you make each class member feel welcome and important and safe.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website ©Hearts for Teaching 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.

R and E: Transitions and Signals 3.19.12

(Originally posted 3/19/12)

Smooth transitions are a key piece to successful classroom management. But getting a class to make smooth transitions is a bit like grocery shopping with a hungry toddler!

Most of us do not start out using TPRS in the classroom for an entire class period. Even when we get to that point on some days, we rarely do just one CI-based activity (ie PQA or storyasking) for an entire class period..especially if our students are young, novices or we teach on the block!!!!!

We can make our world, and our students, much happier if we delineate when an activity, and the expected behaviors that go with it, start and end.

To do that, we first need a clearly taught, practiced and incorporated way to get out students’ attention. The truth is…we all have one. Maybe we didn’t mean to teach it or are even aware that we did, but our behavior did.

Kids do have instincts..very good ones. If we haven’t taught them a specific signal and response to get attention, then they will just do what they want to until they sense that we are on the edge of ____(insert yelling, screaming, throwing something, using the evil eye etc. here) and then they will listen up. If we never get to that point and just teach on whether or not they are listening, then we have taught them that what we want and what we say shouldn’t matter to them. The question is…

Question #3: What is an EFFECTIVE way to get the attention of an entire group?

Choose/create a signal and response. Teach it, practice it, use it. Repeat.

Many of you know that I am a huge proponent of the signal. Just as Blaine utilized Págames, I could not teach without a signal. If you don’t know what I mean then here is an explanation.

The only way that you can truly run a classroom is to have a way to get students to be silent, stop all activities and listen to what you have to say.

You don’t have to use my idea of a signal. But you need something and you need to teach it, practice it, use it and never let your students forget how important it is. Not only for a lesson, but for safety, security and sanity.

Anything can happen in a classroom.

On any given day with a class of freshmen I can use a signal as many as 15 times in 40 minute period. Sometimes it is to refocus/make a transition. Sometimes it is to add humor. Sometimes it is just a brain break. Sometimes it is to restore order. The more mature/experience the students, the less often I need a signal…but I always need one.

The most powerful thing about teaching, practicing and utilizing a signal is that it is the CLEAREST example we can give of what INTERACTION should look like…..and our entire teaching method/approach/whatever is based on interaction. Teach/practice/use an attention signal and you have the basis of the classroom that you want.

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.

Rules and Expectations During a Lesson 3.18.12

(Originally posted 3/18/12)

Here are some interactions that you will see being used in TPRS. I’ll list them in “script” format..the way that we might say them to students.

For students who are NEW TO THE TL and/or NEW TO TPRS, the first explanations will probably be in L1. ONLY IF WE ARE POSITIVE THAT OUR

EXPLANATIONS WILL BE TOTALLY COMPREHENSIBLE IN L2 should we be explaining the expectations in L2. This will keep you sane, your students cooperative, and leave you time for acquisition activities in the classroom.

* “When I say CLASS, I expect that all of you will respond by (doing X or answering the question)”

* “I’m going to have my fist in the air, when my had opens, it’s time to respond.”

* “When I say one student’s name, that student will respond and everyone else will watch and listen.”

* “I am going to ask the same question, or a similar question several times…listen for it.”

* “I pause after statements so that you can hear the new information and picture it in your head.”

* “I may go too fast sometimes, or use a phrase you don’t know, stop me with the signal.”

* “This is fascinating information. When I give you the signal, you will respond by saying _______”etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Each of these is a new skill for your students to acquire. They should be taught ONE AT A TIME. Then practiced. Then incorporated into lessons. Then retaught and re-practiced as needed and with love.

These are the BASIC statements. As teachers get more skilled, many add other components/ideas, all of which require the same teaching/explanation – practice – incorporation cycle.

More skilled components may include getting students to be actors, having students add sound effects, dialoguing with actors, retelling a story with errors that students identify, etc. etc. etc. Any time that a new skilled component is added, we must give our students the courtesy of teaching them what is expected, practicing the new behavior and repeatedly incorporating it into our lesson.

Some teachers will slide easily into being a TPRS lesson planner/instructor. Others will need to take it slowly, one step at a time. Being a fast or slow processor of this new approach is NOT an indication of how successful you and your students will be. Every single one of us who embraces this approach is working every day to be better at it. There is never a moment when we say “Whoooo hoooo!!!! I am THERE!!!! I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and I’m good.” Nope…every single one of us is continually on the journey…learning from each other and even more from our students. Don’t worry about “getting there”. Just settle in where you are…and be aware that there is always another beautiful place to get to tomorrow.

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.

Rules and Expectations Part 2 3.18.12

(Originally posted 3/18/12)

Question #2: What is required?

Required of the student:

* Eyes, ears and brain on where the teacher has directed attention (the teacher, actors, a picture, a phrase, a reading)

* A signal when the student does not understand what is being communicated.

* A response when and how the teacher has indicated. This may be verbal or physical.

Required of the teacher:

* A clear explanation of the above and repeated reminders as necessary in a clear but kind manner.

* Honoring and celebrating when individuals or classes do the above.

* Clear, comprehensible TL during the lesson.

* Clear preparation of what responses are required and when.

* Consistent use of the gestures/indicators that have been taught as the lesson is orchestrated. (yes..pun intended)

A number of folks have great rules posted in their classrooms for students.These teachers teach the rules and use the rules. These work best when the teachers think about the needs of their own students and adjust/add rules as necessary. Some of these include (wording may vary):

Clear eyes on the teacher.

Listen and respond.

No language that isn’t part of the interaction.

Try to stay in (insert TL here)

The expectations are simple to state ….but involve scaffolded training and practice to use. The behavior of students according to these rules will also DIFFER from class to class, level to level and teacher to teacher.
Dialogue with teachers will help each of us to create the best wording and usage with our own students.

Now…these are the rules/expectations for the LESSON.

Rules/expectations for other classroom activities may differ.

(see the next post…if you’ve made it this far…)

What we, as teachers, need to think about, and add, bit by bit, step by step as we continue on down the road as CI teachers is what responses are needed from the class, how to teach them, how to elicit them and how to celebrate them. So much to think about…

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.

Rules and Expectations: Part 1 3.7.12

(Originally posted 3/7/12)

What you see here is a compilation of comments from the MORETPRS listserv, TPRStalks, Ben Slavic’s blog, observations of other teachers and my own thoughts. I cannot stress enough how timely and important Sara’s question is for us as individual teachers this time of year AND in this season of language education as more and more teachers become interested in using

Comprehensible Input with their students. Teri has mentioned that we are getting closer to a critical mass of CI teachers and she is right. This issue of rules/expectations is crucial if we are to help teachers become CI teachers.

It is crucial if we are to convince departments to become CI departments.

Several of you expressed this so well: We need rules and we need expectations for our students in order to create an atmosphere that does the following:

a. allows and encourages each student to feel physically and emotionally safe, as a student and as a person.

b. allows the teacher to conduct the class and accomplish whatever leadership duties are important to the running of a safe school.

c. provides the maximum possible amount of Comprehensible Input each time the class meets.

d. facilitates both spontaneous and controlled interaction as often as possible.

When a teacher is first exploring the use of TPRS in the classroom, the conditions above are extremely beneficial, in fact nearly requisite, in order for successful CI based lessons to occur. The problem is that presenters are so often naturally gifted or extraordinarily experienced at creating these conditions. Not to mention the fact that the class during a presentation is made up of attentive language teachers!! (well…not always, but that is another story!)

There is also so much to see and take in, that when we first are starting out that we often only focus on what we the teachers should do in order to make a CI lesson happen. We have to figure out what story-asking looks like, how to make circling really happen, how to elicit responses, what to do with them when we get them, how to PQA, what to do with reading, how to work it in with what we already do…etc. etc. etc.

A piece has been missing and Sara has just pointed it out quite clearly.

Question #1: HOW DO WE TRAIN OUR STUDENTS TO BE TPRS STUDENTS?

a. They need to understand that a CI lesson is an INTERACTIVE lesson.

Many of them have never seen one…or haven’t since kindergarten….Here is a sample script:

“I am going to do or say something that will encourage your brain to acquire (insert L2 here). I will make it clear if one or all of you will respond, and what you should do in response.”

And then we have to live up to that promise. It will take a little time, but when it is clearly outlined, and clearly executed, with love and patience, it is nearly flawless.

Many of you know that I use the analogy of an orchestra with my students. The class is the orchestra. I am the Maestro. I will indicate if the entire orchestra is responding, one section, or if there is a soloist. If I don’t, there will be mess of noise. The students will attempt to play with insufficient guidance until one by one the give up drift into their own little conversations and activities.

You can follow Carol Gaab’s model on this. She clearly gestures exactly when she wants the response to happen so that wait/think time occurs. She may use a prop or a hand signal. Her entire body is poised and alert and frozen signalling “Wait for it, wait for it…NOW!” and the class responds.

You can follow Blaine’s model on this as well. Blaine’s signal is verbal…”Clase”….precedes the question and the entire class responds. “Princesa”…precedes the question and the class knows that Princesa will be responding. He inserts one individual response in sea of class responses and they know that they need to pay attention. If he doesn’t get the response that he wants, he lovingly chides them by saying, “Claaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase” with the occasional “Es obvio” and the class/orchestra is brought back in to play.

Teach.

Practice.

Reteach as necessary.

Not language: expectations and behavior.

In a CI classroom, language is acquired and behavior is learned.

The good news is that many of us have had years of experience in how to get kids to learn. All of the skills that we thought we helping them w/ language we can now use in order to help them learn the behaviors that they need in our rooms in order to be able to interact with us and with the language in order to acquire it.

So, for a CI-based lesson, whether it centers around PQA,discussion, story-asking or reading, our students must learn how to interact. We must teach them what is required, require what is required, and reteach when they are not giving us what is required.

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.

We Only Get Students That We Have Archived Post 3.10.12

(Originally posted 3/10/12)

It’s that time of year where the end is almost in sight, but the road ahead can seem impossibly long.

It gets tough.

Since the “entities” aren’t in our classroom, our frustration sometimes ends up falling on our students. I wish that it didn’t. I know that we try not to let it. Truth is, it often ends up there anyway.

I know that it is happening to me when I look out at my kids and these strange thoughts start sneaking up on me….

Why can’t they pay attention?

Why can’t they see how much I care?

Why do they fight me all the time?

Why do they think that everyone else’s class more important than mine?

Why are they so angry?

and then I realize that I’m talking about me and my feelings not about my students.

Sigh.

I know I’ve said it before, but I need to hear it again: We don’t get the students we want, nor the
students we think that we deserve. We only get the students that we have.

On Ben Slavic’s blog, folks are revisiting the beginning of the year rules. There is a feeling that we need to re-establish the rules….and a wish that we could start over again. I think that I know why.

We are not teaching the students that we had in September. Those kids are gone. We have a new group now, it’s March. Oh maybe they inhabit the same bodies, but the person inside is different.

I know that I have days when I wish that some of them were the same as they were in September: more refreshed, more open, a little less jaded. There are other days when I wish that they would be a few months older: more responsible, more mature, less restless.

But they aren’t. And I have moments when I just want to scream.

I think it is time for me to go back and get to know the kids again. Time for me to stop demanding, stop wishing, stop what-iffing.

I have 100+ really cool human beings in my room. At this time of year I find myself with only my flaw-glasses on. Time for new lenses.

For me, new lenses sometimes means a new routine…or at least a bit of a change. It’s as good a time as any!!

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.

Relationships Not Candy Archived Post 10.25.11

(Originally posted 10/25/11)

This was written in response to request from a teacher who had written her with classroom management struggles. The teacher felt that her best day had been when she brought in candy as a reward. She didn’t want to continue that practice, but was desperate to find something that works.

My heart goes out to anyone struggling with classroom management. At one time we have all had a group or groups that made us want to tear our hair out…..and praying for the magic formula to make a group ‘work”….or at least not be the stuff our nightmares are made of. We try any number of approaches…..including attempts to win them, or at least their behavior, with rewards like candy. If you haven’t been there, at least once, you’ve lived a blessed teaching life.

There is no magic bullet, no simple answer, but this teacher and I can tell you that candy is not the answer. Candy works only when it makes a rare occurrence…..and it is presented as a gift. “I thought about you today and brought this to show you my appreciation of your spirit and willingness to be a part of this class.” This is love. This has nothing to do with classroom management.

When candy is a reward it can lead to an ever-escalating “Me me !!” situation. What happens when a teacher can not afford candy, when the principal says no candy, when students start to get angry because it isn’t their favorite candy, etc.? In my case it turned into bitter and angry and resentful feelings IN ME!!! because they were ungrateful….when in reality I had set them, and myself, up for it by bribing.

Classroom management is so hard. It once was governed by clear rules and boundaries, parental and administrative support, and a general respect for the institution and adults.

None of those things are guaranteed today and it truly is about the relationships in the classroom.

THE most influential relationship is the relationship that each student has with him/herself. If the student values himself enough to want to have self-control (even if it is hard to attain) the student has the most valuable tool in the toolbox.

The most important relationship in our classroom is our relationship with our students. Whenever possible treat them with love, with love, with love. When we do that, and make our decisions because of that, everything else comes much more easily. When students know that a teacher cares about them, more than anything else, they are willing to collect and use tools in the toolbox. Caring about our students will not, however, eliminate our challenges.

The next most powerful relationship is between the student and the language. When that is strong and positive, discipline problems virtually disappear. But that takes time, and the erasing, for many students, of many years of negative conditioning about school and language “study.” That is why, as Susie so often says, “Success is the best motivator.” They need to know, and to see, that their tools, and skills work!

The next most powerful is the relationship between the students themselves.

Again, they come to us with their own histories and we must handle what already exists. We could try to make them “behave” a certain way because they like us as teachers, but in middle school and high school, the opinion of peers FAR FAR FAR outweighs the opinion of any adult. What we can do is to establish very clear boundaries about the language, facial expressions, gestures and interactions that we believe will help to create a positive relationship among our students.

The least important relationship is the one between the teacher and the language. Sadly, in many rooms around the world this is the strongest relationship in the classroom. Our passion for the languages and cultures so dear to our hearts is a lovely thing….but it is OURS. Not our students’.

It should be our tool that we use to help strengthen the relationships above.

How does this help with classroom management? Make a list of what you do as a teacher to “manage” your classes. Which category do they fall into? The most energy and effort should go into the first two categories….finding ways to connect students with the language (using CI +P) and helping students to be safe with each other. By conducting ourselves in the most caring, professional way possible in the relationship with have with our students, and by not letting our own interests in a topic erase our efforts to connect kids with language, with each other and with us …we can really improve our classes.

In time. In our own way. In small steps. In a way that allows for dignity.

With patience. With optimism. With appropriate boundaries. With consequences.

By being honest. By being appreciative. By being kind. By being responsive.

and never, ever giving up,

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 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 Really Matters Archived Post 8.14.11

(Originally posted 8/14/11)

The final piece of the puzzle is to continually focus on my students as people who are acquiring language, not students fulfilling requirements under my watch. I do not need to know all of the personal details of their lives, but I do try to remember that they have lives. In a few short years, they will be out in the world working with my future grandchildren, helping my generation to pay for retirement, defending our country, earning a living and each of them already affects a world of folks around them.

I try to remember to ….

Treat each student as if he or she has the potential to change the world.

Because they all do.

I’m not sure that that answers all of Laura’s questions, or yours…so keep in touch.

with love,
Laurie

Less Homework, More Participation Archived Post 8.14.11

(Originally posted 8/14/11)

In the last 5 years I have required less and less homework…and instead grade all in-class assigments.

Inspired by research and exhausted by the battles which always seem to accompany homework, I have chosen to actively and clearly offer as little as possible. When I give homework (usually one day per week if it is a 5 day week) I make sure that it is accessible from the Internet and easy to do without help.

My students have NOT learned nor acquired any less. In fact, they spend MORE time outside of class using Spanish. They actively listen to music and watch programs in Spanish or read online in Spanish because it interests them. Yes…even in my little rural district. Parents often report siblings speaking to each other in Spanish at home.

By de-emphasizing homework I have eliminated several things:

a) an ENORMOUS battleground where no one ever won a battle nor a war.

b) frustration over who did it and who didn’t.

d) students entering class a failure before class even starts.

I can also frequently remind students that when we use class time well, I can continue to keep homework to a minimum.

Now, before TPRS, this really didn’t seem possible. What progress students made, they made because of the ‘memorization’ that took place via those assignments. Homework really appeared to make the biggest difference in gains.

With TPRS, those output activities are just a little decorative icing on the cake. A little goes a long way. It may go “against’ the “traditional” approach….but it has been working for my students for over a decade, so I’m sticking with it!

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 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.

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