Starting Over

by lclarcq on November 28th, 2016

filed under Classroom Management, Encouragment, Musings, Relationships, Starting The Year

Hello from California!! I managed to be retired for all of six weeks before I moved cross country and sign on for a new job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was a good one!

For the past 30+ years I have worked in small districts in rural, upstate (seriously upstate) New York. For some of those years I taught grades K-8 but the majority of them were teaching high school students. My new job is teaching 6th-8th graders in a suburban, well-populated section of Northern California!

The students had another teacher for over 10 weeks and now we are all starting over.

I had met a few times with the sixth graders and today was our second real day together. They have been out of school for two weeks between Science Camp and Thanksgiving Vacation!!! So yes…we are really, really starting over.

The 8th graders and I got started the week before Thanksgiving. So today was day 6 for us.

I forgot how much there is to accomplish at the beginning…….

These students, all of them, are brand-new to me. Our very first accomplishment will be working together. Seriously. They are used to a different set up in class and mine requires a great deal of self-control…..or at least more than they have had to use. ūüôā I know they are capable. They know they are capable. Now…I have to get them to agree to do it.

The first day I worked with them (class sizes about 30), they were sitting with friends in groups of four. I tried to speak. I tried to get their attention. No one stopped talking. Not one student.

My pulse was racing, my face was flushed, my smile was frozen and my heart was pounding. I did not know the name of one single student. For the first time in nearly 30 years I also did not know their parents, their siblings, or even their other teachers.

I don’t know how long I stood in front of the room before I tried again. It was probably seconds…it felt like hours. I was being completely ignored.

So I tried again. I used a ‘signal’ that their former teacher had used. A few students noticed and responded half-heartedly…then kept right on talking. This was not going the way I had hoped!!!

Try number three….in a slightly louder, more authoritative voice. This time more than half of the class looked at me, shifted in their seats and mumbled a response. AND….made eye contact.

This was the most crucial moment for me. It happened in all three classes. I had to maintain eye contact with the 15 or so students spread across the room. With a smile on my face, I held my ground….for maybe 15 seconds. A small girl near me whispered to me, “I think it’s working!” I tried to just keep breathing!! One by one the rest of the group settled down and then turned around….finally realizing that something was happening. When everyone was quiet I smiled at stared at them while I (painfully!) counted to 5 in my head. Then I finally introduced myself. I think that was the most challenging 30 seconds of my teaching career.

I am dead serious.

I have no history at this school. No reputation precedes me. I felt completely naked and alone in front of those kids waiting for the silence, and for their attention. My head said…wait, wait, wait it out. My heart said…this isn’t going to work…they are going to ignore you forever.

I’d like to say that after that one encounter in each class, that I was able to establish order in a heartbeat with a look. Or at least using our signal.

Um, no. The 8th graders and I have found a direction in the week we have had together…but daily reminders, and those 30 second wait times, while not nearly so heart-pounding, still happen once during every class. The 6th graders? Well….we didn’t get much done today academically. There were maybe 10 “usable” minutes out of 35. i’m still learning names, getting them into a routine, helping them adjust to transitions and working to get them to function with a new seating system (where they all face forward and don’t sit with their friends.)

BUT…in one class 5 of those 10 usable minutes were truly beautiful. Students were asked if their vacation was “excelente” or ‘terrible” or somewhere in between. Only one girl said terrible. I asked her if the reason was a secret, she said no, she wanted to share. (Thankfully the class was quiet and listening….and this, of course, is why we needed it…) She shared in a whisper to me that her aunt had cancer. I told the class in Spanish. Then I asked, in Spanish, ‘Who has a friend, or someone in their family, with cancer?” Over half of the class raised their hands. Even though these kids had only a few weeks of Spanish, I could say to her…The class is with you. They are your friends. You are not alone.

I could tell the class that in 2013 I had cancer. And we learned the word hope.

She needed that. So did I. So did I.

with love,
Laurie

When They Blow You Away! Archived Post 4.25.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Encouragment, Good Days

(Originally posted 4/25/13)

There is a student sitting in your class who is ready to impress the heck out of you. You don’t suspect a thing. You think that s/he is plodding along at his/her usual pace. Maybe this kid has an Ipod wired to his ear. Maybe s/he doesn’t even bring a folder to class. It’s possible that s/he hasn’t even made eye contact. But it’s that time of year……

And out of no where this student is going to blow your socks off. S/he’ll turn in a piece of writing that is insightful…and legible.S/he’ll be the only one to catch the irony of a situation and nod at you when everyone else is clueless. S/he’ll make a connection to something that was done months ago in class when s/he could barely keep from falling asleep.

I’ve been watching it happen all week and I’ll bet it’s happening where you are too. A student who apologizes for the first time, ever. Someone who stays after class to ask a question that shows depth and perception.The child that wouldn’t open a book can’t put one down.

Really. Keep your eyes open. It’s that time of year. We teach children. They are growing and changing in miniscule amounts each and every moment of the day. When we are so close to them for so many hours we sometimes miss the changes that gradually carve out new insight and responsibility in a young person.

Take a few minutes and drink in all that they have survived, overcome, and struggled to become this year. Resist the urge to compare them to others or to what you think they should be. Open up to the idea that, for whatever reason, they are who and where they are supposed to be in this universe. In your room. As your student. Because they won’t be there, or those students much longer……

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.

Flipping the Switch 2 Archived Post 4.22.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Curriculum and Planning, Engagement, Good Days, Grading/Evaluation/Assessment, Musings, Output, Participation

(Originally posted 4/22/13)

The second time I saw the light bulb go on was with my juniors. Let me give you a littlebackground. We teach with TPRS, an approach that focuses heavily on providing large amounts of Comprehensible Input in the target language. From this input comes interaction, verbal and written….but production is the result, not the goal.

It is a leap of faith in many ways to take this approach, but the results have been undeniable! Our program has expanded to include so many more students and students of all academic “ability” levels are able to communicate clearly in the language. As a result of the changes in the program and several changes in staff, we have not had this group in a formal speaking test situation…..ever.

It’s not the first year that this has happened. This year’s seniors had not ever had a formal speaking performance assessment either. BUT, when I gave them the assessment last year, using the NYS Regents Speaking Assessment format, they did a fantastic job. What is the difference? That group had been my students for three straight years….and I administered and scored the assessment.

This year NYS Dep’t of Ed. has issued a series of conflicting statements about who will/can administer these assessments and how they will be graded. (I will not be allowed to.) So this year’s group needs to be confident. I need them to know two things:

1. They already have all of the language and skills that they need in order to do this, and do it well.

2. They need to know the rules of the game so they can get the scores that they deserve.

The challenge was, I thought, that they have never been forced to speak in unnaturally long sentences, which is what a high score requires. Well, apparently that is not a challenge in their minds. I explained that the answer to Where do you live ? could be a one word answer: Rushville.

But that wouldn’t be worth much. The more they could say in addition to that the higher their scores would be. I asked for a volunteer. Where do you live? “I live in the little town of Rushville in the state of New York.” Ka-ching!! “With my family and my dog, so the house is too small.” Another student pipes up before I can ask for another volunteer. “So I want to buy a bigger house” student # 3 “but I prefer one in the country because I like having a lot of space for my animals.” and student #4.

Okaaaayyyyy. I guess they get it. Over the last two days I’ve spoken to each student as part of a greeting at the door, a class activity/game etc. and each one can easily perform the task. I even gave them situations where I knew that they hadn’t had the vocabulary. It really didn’t matter.

They can circumlocute like nobody’s business.

Dang……all those years spending all of that energy to get kids to learn how to “perform” well on a speaking assessment and this group acts as if it is as easy as pie. They think it sounds weird to speak in full sentences when one or two words will do, but they are happy to do it and it is easy for them.One class even thought it was hysterically funny and highly entertaining to try to top each others’ sentences.

Here’s the difference: These kids already had acquired all of the language they needed to speak in longer, more complex, high-scoring (although stilted and unnatural) phrases. All I had to do was model how to use them to get the higher grade. Before TPRS I was teaching phrases AND teaching strategy AND teaching topical vocabulary AND grammatical concepts and it never, ever came together much less click for the long term…even for my most gifted students.

Will they all get high scores on the speaking assessment? Probably not. Some will get nervous, some will overthink it and some will pick those really weird questions that no student can ever do well on. But they CAN do it….I know that and they do too. That knowledge lit up our faces and our
hearts.

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.

Flipping The Switch 1 Archived Post 4.21.13

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2013, Engagement, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Output, Participation, Relationships

(Originally posted 4/21/13)

Twice last week I had the chance to see the light bulb go off over (or is that in?!) my students’
heads. I love that.

The first time was with my seniors. A young woman from a nearby college is working in my classroom twice a week with this group. She has worked with them individually and in small groups.

This was the first time that she had led a lesson with the entire class. She had a great PowerPoint for them and was asking them questions to get them engaged in discussion about the slides. They stared at her like deer in the headlights. Who had never heard Spanish before. When she called on them individually, they asked if they could answer her in English because they couldn’t think of the Spanish. What?

I knew that they knew exactly what she was saying and how to answer her. But they wouldn’t. So we hit the pause button and had a little discussion in English about what was going on. What was happening? They were comfortable in front of her individually, or in a very small group, but they were very worried about embarrassing themselves in front of this very lovely young woman AND the rest of the class. They weren’t as worried about that with me because, well, to them I am not a lovely, young woman. :o) And…they knew that I would put a stop to anything that might be said that was negative. If they made a mistake in front of her it would be much more embarrassing and they weren’t sure if she could smooth it over. So they completely shut down.

This was a very important discussion. This group is going on next year to another world. Some will
be in college classes and others will be in the work world….all will be out of my room when they get the opportunity to use the language. It’s time that they understand, and be truly confident in, their own abilities. It was time for them to realize that being embarrassed or worried is going to keep them from too many great things in life.

So we talked about the Affective Filter, what it is and how it works. We talked about how “an object in motions stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest” (Thank you Uncle Ted for teaching me high school Physics!!) We talked about getting started, mistakes and all, is the only way to get past the fear. Our lovely young college student shared her stories about her feelings when she first arrived for study in Argentina and some of the mistakes that she made.

Then we went back to the lesson……and it was as if someone had opened the floodgates. The conversations began and it was amazing. Light bulbs!! Not just for them, not just for my trainee, but for me as well. It takes very little for the Affective Filter to kick in. The relationships our students have with us and with each other are extremely important. And a little bit of encouragement, honesty, conversation and faith can go a long way.

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.

A Light in The Darkness Archived Post 9.30.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days, Relationships

(Originally posted 9/30/14)

These past few weeks have been difficult. We are struggling with how the new pre-assessments required by our district have affected our relationships with our students. It has been soul-sucking to say the least. We work so hard in the first few weeks in our department to create and maintain an environment of welcoming, trust, companionship and caring. Then we have to take an entire week to test our students, with a test that we had not seen, on material we, and they, knew that they did not know using skills that we, and they, knew that they had not yet developed.

Our students rose to the occasion beautifully. But it was still heart-breaking. I would say more, but I still don’t trust my emotions enough to put it on the blog.

Our goal this week was to disregard whatever “curriculum” plans we had in mind, and focus the entire week on activities and interactions that re-established an environment of success and trust. (my colleagues are amazing, by the way) Then I was out sick for two days! I feel like it has been an uphill road to get (back) to where I wanted to be three weeks ago.

As always, it is the students that lift us up. I’ll share “Brian”‘s story with you this morning. Brian is a senior and this is his second year as my student. I know his family very well professionally and personally, but I didn’t feel that Brian and I had much of a connection. He is extremely bright, and extremely quiet. It has always been hard to get a response from Brian, in or out of class. I have never really known if he is shy, withdrawn, non-communicative, anxious, socially awkward or if I just don’t register on his scale of “things important enough for a 16 year old to get involved with.”

(I don’t take that personally, many times I was so involved in my own world at 16 that I couldn’t have cared LESS about my high school teachers!!!) If I asked Brian a question, I would get, after a long pause, a one or two word answer at best.

One day last spring, after class had ended, Brian walked over to my desk and said, “I’d like to know more about colleges that teach languages. I think that I would like to become an interpreter. I really like this class.” From a student who rarely smiled, much less answered. He left the room so quickly that I didn’t even put together a response!! And that was the end of our communication for the year.

On Friday, Brian came to my room at the beginning of one of my planning periods and asked for a pass to come in. He said that he had no friends in his Sr. Lounge that period and that he got bored.I gave him a pass, he came back, started talking and didn’t stop for 35 minutes!!!!!!!

The conversation started when he asked if I had ever heard of “vocaloids”. (I hadn’t) and asked if he could show me an example of some songs that he really liked on youtube. (like this one)

He said that this song really put into words how he had been feeling about the world for a long time and that it taught him that he had created a very small, protected, but unhappy world of his own to live in. It was a dark place and he thought about leaving the world to escape it. He realized that if were strong enough mentally and emotionally to do that then he also had the strength to step out of it and look for happiness and purpose.

How does one respond to that?

What an incredible young man. What a gift on a dark day, in a dark week.

His message to me was that he didn’t give up. And he wanted me to know that. Having been there myself at his age, and numerous times after that, I was humbled and honored.

That is what four years of departmental support and safety can bring to a child. I am his third Spanish teacher. The two that he had before me had created a safe path for him to be on. He trusted me as he trusted them. Some people need years before the feeling of safety allow them to step out verbally into the world. Input before output. Not just of language, but of trust, confidence and self-acceptance.

Before he left for his next class Brian said to me, ” I appreciate that I can be myself and that you are interested. It feels good to know that. We can talk about what matters in this class and you will listen.” From a boy who only two days ago started to speak….

There are Brians in every class. Just know this. Because you many not see the connection does not mean that language acquisition and personal development are not occurring. Trust me, it’s happening.

I was just lucky enough this week that Brian shared his light with me.

with love,
Laurie

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A “Reflection” As A Character!! 9.15.12

by lclarcq on December 6th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Creating Stories, Curriculum and Planning, Engagement, Good Days, Participation, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Using student actors, Using Student Ideas

(Originally posted 9/15/12)

I am so excited about the new students that I have!! This week they came up with a great idea…

I was just beginning to ask a story and we had a character, Mia, who was putting on makeup in the mirror in the bathroom on the second floor of her house. The class had decided that it was a full-length mirror. The actress was up in front putting on makeup and it was going fairly well.

In order to get to know the kids better, and for them to connect with me and each other, I have been trying to get as many students involved in as many ways as possible. So, I asked a girl who was similar in height, build and hair color to come up and be the reflection.

She was PHENOMENAL!! It was so funny to watch!! Then the class decided to name her Pia!!!! And now there were double reps! Mia puts on lipstick like Angelina Jolie and Pia puts on lipstick the same way. They put on lipstick like Angelina. (and with sing/plural!!) I thought it just couldn’t get any better than that! And then…..

At one point, Pia, the reflection, wasn’t paying close attention and missed doing something. I said to her in Spanish, “Pia, you are a reflection, when Mia does something you have to do it too.” I was just trying to get in a little more Spanish, but it backfired on me. I could see that she was embarrassed and felt that I had yelled at her. Suddenly one of her friends called out in Spanish, “She wants to be different!”

OH MY!!! A huge smile lit up her face and she said “Yes…I want to be different! I don’t want to be a reflection!” So it was decided, that when Mia was looking in the mirror, Pia did the exact same thing, but when Mia wasn’t looking at the mirror, Pia would do something different.

Oh the fun and the reps we got out of that one!!!! I am definitely bringing Pia back into stories again!!! (hint: at one point in the story, have the actor/actress get very close to the mirror…the actors/actresses end up nose to nose…hysterical!!!!)

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: An Atmosphere of Trust Archived Post 3.20.12

by lclarcq on December 3rd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Good Days, Not So Good Days, Participation, Relationships, Starting The Year, Teacher Training, Tough Students

(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.

Start A Ripple..Or At Least Get Out Of The Way Archived Post 3.9.12

by lclarcq on December 2nd, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2012, Encouragment, Good Days, Musings, Not So Good Days

(Originally posted 3/9/12)

It has been a typically hectic school week. You know what I mean: Five week grades were due, the juniors and seniors have big deadlines to meet for English papers, Spring sports started, the musical is just around the corner, two grades had class meetings, everyone is sick (I was out for two days myself), requisitions were due, there was a Dept. Chair meeting, etc. etc.On Tuesday, just before I left early to go home ill, I was reminded that there was a Color Guard show in the building and that one of the visiting schools would be in my room. When I came back on Friday I was trying to recoup from having been out and figure out how to visitor-proof my complete and total disaster of a classroom.

First period there was no time. I had to teach and help a student who was on home-tutoring re-enter. Second period there was no time. I had to negotiate a disciplinary issue that had occurred with the substitute. Third period I had to check on the re-entering student and meet with another who was in crisis.

By the time 4th period class got started finishing an activity they had started earlier in the week , I was looking around the room, completely overwhelmed by the idea of making my room usable. A student asked me what I was looking at. A student who is often off in his own world and not very sensitive to what is going on around him. I told him that I was trying to figure out how to get ready for the room to be used. He offered to start the process for me. I thanked him but said, “No, this is my mess, this is my job, I’ll do it after school.” That was true, but I also figured that he wasn’t in the mood to work on his assignment. :o)

He looked at me for a second and said, “You know, just let me move a few things to that back corner and then you can block it off with a table.” and he got up, moved a few things and the entire picture changed. “See…it’s not that big of a deal…and it will be easy.” He was thrilled to have pointed that out for me, and I was thrilled to let him keep going.” On the way out, after spending over 20 minutes cleaning MY room, he said “Thanks, Profe.”

OH MY. Thank you estudiante mío. Not just for moving piles of books and papers. For making a difference in my day. For reminding me that my agenda is often selfish. For wanting to be part of the classroom in your own way. For starting a ripple, and reminding me to get out of the way.

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

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Good Days, Output, Personalizing Instruction, Relationships

(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.

Personalization and Star Wars … Archived Post 3.12.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Creating Stories, Good Days, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques, Using Student Ideas

(Originally posted 3/12/10)

One of the things that we try to do is to get to know our students.  Ben Slavic has been posting some great pieces written by Bryce Hedstrom.    Bryce writes about talking with kids in the TL in class.

He says: ¬†“One important point here is that we are NOT talking about intimate secrets concerning the actual lives of our students. We are not intruding into their personal space. We are ‚Äúpersonalizing.‚ÄĚ”One important point here is that we are NOT talking about intimate secrets concerning the actual lives of our students. We are not intruding into their personal space. We are ‚Äúpersonalizing.‚ÄĚ ¬†He says more, so when you get a chance, check it out. ¬†It’s extremely well-written and very important.

Getting to know our students allows us to personalize stories and connect the language to our students.    And vice versa!

Today we were working with a skeleton story written by students earlier in the day. ¬†The focus structures were: ¬†had the desire to, just about to start, and without rest ( the last two from songs we have been using this week….the first because it is a high, high, high frequency structure in Spanish). ¬†The skeleton story was this:

Two characters had the desire to win a race.  They practiced for a long time without rest.  Suddenly they realized that the race was just about to start.  Oh no!  Would they get there in time?

We had just finished an activity that had gone really well with the other two level one classes this morning…but not with this one. ¬†¬†It went…..but not well. ¬†¬†When we started with the skeleton story, I wasn’t really expecting bells and whistles. ¬†Oh my was I wrong!!

Our skeleton stories often use “characters” so that each class can choose their own.¬†¬†¬† I took suggestions….Pee Wee Herman (how do freshmen even know who he is?!!), ¬†Barney, ¬†Terrell Owens (we aren’t far from Buffalo)…nothing seemed to click. ¬†Then someone suggested Obi Wan Kenobi.

BAM!!!!! The class popped out of their seats!! ¬†¬†All of a sudden they were suggesting names for the second character….each one calling out their favorite Star Wars character and ¬†using Spanish to explain why that character was a better choice for the story. ¬†Three boys who rarely get fired up were falling all over themselves to get involved.

Then one girl raised her hand and said, “Nunca miro Star Wars”. ¬†A very quiet kid YELLED, “En serio?” (sorry…I’m on the laptop and cannot do the upside-down interrogative!) Now they wanted to start to tell the story of all seven (?) movies in Spanish lol.

I had absolutely no idea that so many of the kids in this group were Star Wars fans. ¬†¬†Had we not started this story, I’m not sure if I would have ever found that out. ¬†¬†Now I have a topic that has united about 10 students who have been stubbornly resisting any kind of unification.

Self-proclaimed geeks, jocks, troublemakers, and three Twilight groupies are now uniting to make sure that the rest of the class learns to appreciate the Star Wars saga in all its glory.

So far Obi Wan and Yoda are training without rest on Tatooine, so strong is their desire to participate in and win this race.    When they realize that the race is just about to start, and that it is on Coruscant they must use the Death Star 2 to get there in time.

But look at what else we were able to do with those phrases via Star Wars…..

Has the desire to….be a Jedi, help Luke, find his father, join the dark side ( I knew we’d find a good use for “lo mas oscuro” this week!!!!), kiss Leia, etc., etc,

without rest….train to be a Jedi, fight the dark side, protect Leia, etc. ¬†etc.

was just about to start…..the war, the search, the battle,

And that was just in the last 10 minutes of class!!!!

I started the activity thinking that they would want to talk about themselves as runners, or their favorite athletes….hoping to use personalization to “hook’ them into the story. ¬†Well…it did…just not in the way I anticipated. ¬†¬†¬† Personalization leads to great stories….and vice versa!!

with love,
Laurie

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