• Home
  • Tag: Curriculum and Planning

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,
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.

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….

Smiles

Laughter

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,
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.

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.

Interact

In the target language

In order to

Acquire language

Period.

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.

-or-

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,
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.

Output for a Purpose (not Acquisition) Archived Post 5.18.10

(originally posted 5/18/10)

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

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

Round one:

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

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

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

Round three:

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

Round four:

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

Round five:

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

Round six:

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

Round seven:

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

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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

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.    

Therefore:

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)

and

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.

Therefore:

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

and

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

and

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,
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.

Output Myth #1 Archived Post 5.5.10

(originally posted 5/5/10)

I normally do not “attack” any kind of language program.  It’s not something I am usually comfortable with.  However….one of the enormous frustrations of teachers is their students’ inability to speak and / or write with confidence and fluency.    I do believe that traditional second-language instruction attitudes are to blame.   This conversation  on Ben’s blog got me thinking again…..I wrote a fairly long response there, but would like to rewrite and break it down here…I started with the first myth I think exist and I broke it down.  In italics are the teacher’s words/thoughts/etc. when the myth starts to disintegrate into reality….

The Output Myths  (and their implications) of a non-Comprehesion-based Program

  1.    A student learns to comprehend and to produce language at the same rate.
  • Students are given a list of targeted vocabulary and grammatical structures for each unit.  The end-of-unit-evaluations will require students to comprehend written and spoken material using this vocabulary.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will also be expected to produce, with few to no errors, in speech and in writing, in contextually-appropriate, but contrived, situations.

Why do they have to stop and think about what to say?  We wrote these in dialogues and practiced them in skits.  Why can’t they just spit it out?They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Teachers know exactly how long it should take for students to master these items.

I have 9 units to complete in 10 months.   If I subtract time for review, testing and vacations that comes down to three weeks per unit.  They’ll have to study.

  • Teachers will plan instruction, practice and evaluation according to this knowledge.

If we can’t get to everything in class, then I’ll just have to assign it for homework.  They’d better put in the time and study.

  • Students who do not succeed in mastering these items, in the alloted time frame,  are considered responsible for their failure to do so.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will be expected to be able to recognize and to produce this list of items at all times once the unit is completed (even those who were unsuccessful during the unit.)

We studied this material for almost a month in ninth grade!   They should know it by now!!

Sound familiar???????????  These italicized thoughts/comments are so much a part of the “My Kids Won’t Do Work” litany that they seem NORMAL for people to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s just not right.

For those of you who are wondering……that is why I am so drawn to CI programs.    There is no place for these complaints because the system is simply different.   And it works.

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 “Backwards” Archived Post… 3.23.10

(Originally posted 3/23/10)

For years language teachers have organized instruction by topic.  Sometimes the topic was a grammatical concept, other times a thematic vocabulary focus.    Many CI-based classrooms have moved away from that organizational structure.  For many teachers, however, the organizing question now is, where do we go?

New York State has identified four main communicative functions:   Socializing, Providing/Obtaining Information, Expressing Feelings and Getting Others To Adopt A Course Of Action.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to start a list of phrases under each category.

But when I tried to place my phrases from last week into those  categories it was a rough go.

To be honest, I’ve tried to organize phrases by at least a dozen different methods over the last ten years….and each attempt was a no go.

The CI seems to be like a slippery little creature, sliding out of my grasp and going right where it wants to go….not the way I would like it to go.

So for the last two years rather than forcing the flow of language, I’ve been tracking it.

The key to this is, without a doubt, “backward planning.”   I find a story with a great message or plot, a movie of great interest, a song with great appeal AND clear, comprehensible language AT  my students’ level.     I go over the piece phrase by phrase looking for:

  1. Repetitive phrases
  2. Idiomatic phrases
  3. High-frequency phrases
  4. Interjections
  5. Cognates
  6. Already –familiar or acquired phrases

Phrases A-D become my focus phrases.   I use those for PQA, Story-asking, Games, Embedded Readings, Powerpoint activities…..whatever my little teacher’s heart desires.

I wasn’t altogether sure that this sort of planning would work.  So I tracked the language we were addressing and the language that my students were acquiring.

Wow.

Because the “curriculum” is drawn from real language the patterns that emerge are natural and high frequency.   Because the teacher the students had last year is incredibly intuitive, hard-working and student-connected, I start from a very good base.  Because I teach in a small department I have this luxury.   Because I have a number of years of successful students behind me I have this freedom.  I realize that not everyone does.

I still have to ask myself:  What is missing?  What else do they need to be able to understand and express?  How can I incorporate those?

But for the most part, things just fall into place.  When we talk about Finding Nemo, we  talk about fish and animals,nature and families, relationships and struggles.  We talk about meeting people, making friends, having dreams and making plans.  We talk about the order in which things occur and predict what comes next.

When we talk about the video “We Are The World” we talk about what different artists look like and sound like.  We talk about favorite singers, groups, songs and concerts.  We compare and contrast. We talk about international languages such as music and sports.   We speak in metaphors. We are the World.  We are the children.  We are Love.

When we sing Eres Tu, we are singing in similes.  When we read Casi Se Muere we imagine and describe characters and emotions.   We compare our travels to Ana’s and Ana’s last trip to this one.  We talk about making new friends, being left out, being scared, being nervous and how hard it is to do the right thing sometimes.  We talk about having crushes.   We explore Chile and volcanoes.  We talk about the lake district and the wine region and how much it is like the region where we live (minus the volcano!)

We were surprised and horrified by earthquakes and felt for earthquake victims.  We compared the nations of Haiti and Chile.  We talked about the challenges facing Chile’s new president…and ours.   We talked about what kind of clothing and furniture they might need…..and what we could donate.

And all of it will come around again when we watch Selena and learn her music.  In between we create original and personalized stories.   We told some, we wrote some and we read the ones that others told and wrote.   We extended skeleton stories and created artwork for our favorite parts.

Then, just to fill in spaces and have fun, we played games, read books on kindergarten day and sang somewhat silly songs.

The biggest problem?  Not enough time to do it all…………….

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.

Start With Simple … Archived Post 3.23.10

(Originally posted 3/23/10)

Many people wonder and worry about how to choose the best structures to focus on IN STORY-ASKING OR READING.    As usual there is no one “right” answer.   I think the easiest route is to first eliminate what DOES NOT need to be a focus structure.

We DO NOT NEED TO CREATE A FOCUS STRUCTURE from:

  1.        Cognates

We want to USE a ton of cognates in our listening and reading activities….but we do not want them to be the focus phrases.   We want to build stories around other structures.

  1.        Things you have only seen in textbooks

This is just a waste of everyone’s time.   Choose  words/phrases that students are likely to come across over and over again.

  1.       Words/phrases that can be “TPRed “in a VERY clear way.

Save these words for TPR!!!

What does that leave us?  At the beginning levels we need structures that will allow for stories to take place.     If we combine the words below with other key words we can create nearly every story we need at the beginning level.   How?

Pick a phrase.   Add a word or two.   (ie  goes to the new supermarket)  Add cognates.  Add TPRables.    Add emotion (see next post) Done.

is + adjective (physical, personal, possessive…however your target language is structured.

is named                                    Lives in

Has     (to)                                  Needs (to)

Wants( to)                                 Should

Goes (to/towards)                    Leaves (from/for/towards)

Looks (for)                                  Finds

Says (to)                                     Asks (for)

Answers                                      Responds

Receives                                     Respects

Likes                                            Knows   (that/how)

Understands   (that)                 Thinks    (that)

I realize that it seems like it couldn’t be that simple.  But it is.  Start with simple.

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.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter