Connections and Planning Archived Post 9.20.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with love,
Laurie

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

Day 5 and Where Are We? Archived Post 9.15.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

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

(Originally posted 9/15/10)

So it’s Day 5 in my room. This year I am teaching Levels 2,3 and 4. (The nomenclature is a bit deceiving; Level 2 students are in HS Level 2, which is actually their 3rd full year of study) My student teacher and I feel like we should be “going somewhere.” You see, we had a weekly plan.

Then that weekly plan was broken down into daily plans.

Every single day we have had to move things (that didn’t get done) to another day. The “things we haven’t gotten to yet” list seems to be getting longer …and longer…and longer…. So I really had to sit down this afternoon to see where we are…and where we ARE going. Normally this doesn’t bother me much. But this is a new curriculum for me (Levels 2/3) so I don’t have my bearings yet.

Besides, my student teacher has a supervisor to report to who does not have a lot of experience with CI-based classes…so I want to be able to “translate” our curriculum to him.

It’s a bit ironic…only 5 days in and it feels like we should have gone farther. :o) At best we’ve only had 3 1⁄2 hours of contact time. From that we can deduct time for attendance, transitions, setting up the seating chart, discussion the course expectations, a fire drill, phone calls from the office, morning announcements etc. etc. etc. An optimistic estimate would be that we’ve had 2 1⁄2 hours of instructional time. From that we can deduct time to give directions, pass out and return papers, give a short “quiz”, clarify answers, check for materials, etc. etc. etc. Now we are down to about 2 hours of interaction in the TL. Total.

When I went back over our weekly plan, I looked carefully at what we have been doing. In that time we have discussed the situation of the miners in Chile, explored what students did over the weekend, read an “email’ from a “former student” who went to the VMAs in LA, sang a goofy song with IR in the past tense, started to dig deeply into the song Aqui Estoy Yo (Luis Fonsi, David Bisbal, Neil Sedaris and Alex Syntek), revisited a few of our favorites from Sr. Wooly, and spent some time getting to know each other via introduction letters and conversation.

Wow.

Why on earth then does it feel like we haven’t “gone” anywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think, and I could be wrong, so I’ll be paying attention to this as the year goes on……that it doesn’t “feel” like a lot because we have worked hard to connect all of the activities. The structures used to discuss the weekend were the same ones that we used to understand and talk about the Video Music Awards. Several of them came from the song, and we used other phrases from the song to take attendance (Aqui estoy yo..es obvio!) Structures connect activities to each other and allow students to connect their thoughts and emotions to the activities themselves. When the students connect with the activities, they begin to connect with each other. Time flies. It “feels” like we haven’t “done” anything.

We have physical evidence that a lot has been done: papers, powerpoints, stories, letters, even a couple of grades in the gradebook. Yet, apparently, none of it felt like “work.” If it did, we’d feel more productive. I’m glad I sat down to take a look at it. I feel much better now.

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.

Looking Back Archived Post 9.6.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Engagement, Musings, Pacing, Personalizing Instruction, TPRS techniques

(Originally posted 9/6/10)

Last fall I made a commitment to myself, and to my students, to honor Time. I’ve tried to look back and see if I really did that…and if I did….how did that affect my classroom.

It’s difficult to do, because Time truly flew last year. It was my oldest son’s first year at a community college and my youngest son’s senior year in high school. We sold our house and moved. Both sons searched for, applied to, were accepted by, and made plans to go out of state for college this fall. My “adopted” daughter graduated from college. And that was my world outside of school. :o)

It was a year full of exciting events, memorable moments and stressful situations. I hope that, looking back, my recollections of the classroom are accurate.

The clearest thing to me, about last year, was the much more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.

Not relaxed in a “we are not doing anything today” way, but rather, relaxed in a “there isn’t going to be any pain in this classroom today” sort of way. Students who routinely “blew up” in other classrooms actually were relieved to come in and to calm down. I did not “gear up’ emotionally to face any of my classes…I didn’t need to.

Going slowly worked. This was a group that wasn’t going to get it if I went quickly…that much I knew. But the only way I could know if going slowly would work, was to try it. So I did.

Now, I do have an advantage….we are a small district and I knew that I would be the teacher that would get these kids in Level 2. So I used that advantage and took the opportunity to do what I believed what was best for this group.

What do I mean by going slowly?

I let go of the “schedule.” I went through our curriculum as the students were ready….not when the schedule said to. When students needed to, or wanted to, linger on a topic, we did. When the earthquake in Chile occurred, we let go of the scripted curriculum and followed the story. When students found a song that was classroom-appropriate, we spent time with it. When I got a new idea for a new activity, we went with it. When I discovered the movie Real, we added it. When students needed three days to read a chapter in Casi Se Muere instead of one…we took three days.

Where did we end up? Right where we should have. We may not have addressed reflexive verbs the way I have before. We may not have had as many quizzes as we have had other years. We may not have written as many original pieces as other classes have. I’m pretty sure that we didn’t get as detailed with vocabulary as I might have a few years ago.

But they were all with me. It may not have been their favorite subject nor their favorite class….but they were with me. And this was a group with a number of kids that, in other years, I would have lost. Not numerically…they would have slid by with a 66 or a 67…but they would have played the game to get through…not really acquiring language. Yet, by going slowly, I was able to see them continue to grow and acquire through the very last week of school.They were interested.

They were willing to show concern about victims in Chile.

They were willing to listen to nearly any song that was presented to them and frequently came to me with songs that they had scouted out on Youtube or Itunes.

They came in with questions….things that they had seen, or heard, or thought about overnight or over the weekend and wanted to know more about…or wanted to understand.

They encouraged each other. They really developed, and utilized, a sense of humor using the language. And the students who, if I had gone more quickly, would have kept up with me?

They still rocked the house with their insights, their skills, their applications and their level of acquisition.

Going slowly allowed me the time and the freedom to do more differentiation than ever before. By letting go of the idea of getting more done, I was able to do better. What is differentiation if not a form of academic personalization?

I hope that I make the time this year to not only honor Time…but to record in more detail what I was doing and how so that I can continue this…and to share it with you all in more detail.

With love,
Laurie

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

Output Myth #1 Archived Post 5.5.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Curriculum and Planning, Encouragment, Musings, Not So Good Days, Pacing, TPRS techniques

(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.

Pumping It Up! … 3.23.10

by lclarcq on November 30th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Encouragment, Engagement, Pacing, TPRS techniques

(originally posted 3/23/10)

Now….what about going deeper into the language?

The first and most obvious approach is to play with past, present and future tense.  When you start to do this will depend on your district, your students, and your own mindset.

The truth is that any student, at any time, can learn to speak about the past, the present and the future.  What matters here is the pacing.   When our students hear the present tense, they process at one speed.  Events happen sequentially.

When we refer to the past tense, or the future tense, or a natural combination of the three, WE MUST SLOW DOWN!!   The students’ minds must travel dimensionally to “picture” what is happening.  They need us to speak slowly at first, to pause to allow them to picture, to connect what they just heard with the picture in their minds and to anticipate what may be happening next.     Once they get accustomed to all of this cognitive activity we can move closer to a more natural rate of speed ….as long as we constantly check for comprehension.     The investment of time early on is very worthwhile.     Try not to worry.  Try not to be impatient.  With yourself or with them!!

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.

What Happens in the Brain Archived Post 1.1.10

by lclarcq on November 29th, 2014

filed under Acquisition, Archived Posts 2010, Engagement, Pacing, Personalizing Instruction, Starting The Year, TPRS techniques

(This post originally appeared first on 1/1/10)

When I tell my students about language, I point out to them that much of what happens in our brains is “automatic”, that we are not conscious of what actually happens in L1 and so it feels strange or difficult in L2.

I point out that there are the following steps:

1:  Hear/See the language element (sound/word/phrase/sentence).

2:  Recognize the language element.

3:  Comprehend the language element.

That is why on listening quizzes, with fairly “new” language elements, I give them 2/3 credit if they hear “La casa” or “Quisiera comprarlo’ and can write or say it back to me.  The remaining 1/3 credit is the meaning.  This is often confusing to them because they think that the meaning carries the most importance.  I try to remind them that unless they can hear/see and recognize it, they will never get to the meaning portion!!!

 

It is also practical.  Being able to hear/see an element and write/pronounce it allows them to then ask someone…what does “X” mean.   Very useful.  

Step #3 can be fairly complex for the brain.  The brain may run through several process, simultaneously, to arrive at meaning and I am sure that some of you out there can offer research to back me up on this.  From a layman’s perspective, at the very least, the students’ brains may use context clues, in comparison to L1 (which relies heavily on the level of development in that language!!!),  and/or reach into stored memory for the meaning.    

All of this takes time.   The input speed, IF I AM TEACHING FOR ACQUISITION, can make or break the students’ ability to attach meaning.  When teaching for acquisition…I already knew…and try to remember to frequently point out to my students (colleagues, parents, administrators as necessary) that slower is better.

SOMETHING THAT I HADN’T YET FIGURED OUT  is that there is (at least) a FOURTH AND FIFTH STEP!!!!!

Step 4:  “Picture” the meaning.    Holding on to the meaning of an element (again, sound, word, phrase, sentence) means being able to “picture” , “imagine”, or “feel” the  meaning.    Step 4 is CRUCIAL.  Without it, there is no acquisition, no long-term memory.   That is why nouns and actions are so much ‘easier” for the brain to hang on to.  It is why the “little’ words are the hardest, and take the most time to get.   The meaning of the word “while” cannot be pictured, nor even easily described.  It has little “weight”, it is more of a feeling or situation where meaning is concerned and is frequently harder to remember.   It takes longer for the brain to assign, hang on to, dig up the meaning of the word.  

Step 5:  Connecting the meaning to the “story in the brain.”  A random set of words that creates no pattern or picture is very hard to remember.  Memory and comprehension occur when meaning is connected to a pattern.  

Memory and comprehension occur when meaning is connected to a pattern.    

On a very simple level, when we do TPR with students and ask them to “Jump three times” their minds must connect the meaning of all three elements in order to  know what is required of them and THEN they need time to make their bodies move.  Just knowing the meaning of all three elements is not enough.  The mind must connect the meanings to comprehend the phrase.  Their brains and bodies need TIME to do that.

In conversation or in a story, every meaning-carrying utterance is added to the ones before it in the students’ minds in order to add to the conversation or story.  That is how comprehension is built.  That is why humor works.  

When our students laugh at the idea of our principal feeding doughnuts to a Chihuahua he has hidden under his desk, it is because they got to Step 4: visualizing the situation….and to Step 5:  comparing that image to the image of what is expected of a principal and finding humor in the absurdity of it.  

IF WE ARE TEACHING FOR ACQUISITION, then we must slow down to allow their minds to go there.

Therefore….following the sage advice of my 9th grade Geometry teacher….I reversed that and was stunned and humbled by the (now obvious, at least to me) truth:

IF WE SLOW DOWN AND LET THEIR MINDS GO THERE, then, and only then, are we teaching for acquisition.

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.