• Home
  • Tag: Starting The Year

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.

Climbing the PQA Mountain Archived Post 3.2.10

(Originally posted 3/2/10)

I have to confess…..I really had trouble with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers).    The idea behind PQA is to use a targeted, high-frequency phrase in conversation with students so that they hear (and comprehend it) many, many times.

At first, I didn’t spend a lot of time nor energy analyzing my PQA resistance….I just avoided it whenever possible.   (Fortunately now there is Ben Slavic’s PQA in a Wink!! …but pre-Ben all I could do was marvel at how Susie and others wove wonderful questions in workshops and wish that I could do the same.)

Then one day I had an epiphany!   PQA is NOT about the focus structure.  IT’S ABOUT THE STUDENTS!   So…..instead of asking myself, what questions can I create using this phrase, I began to ask myself…

Can I get to know my students better using this phrase?  If so, how?

This cleared away many of the thoughts and emotions that were holding me back.   First…I realized that not all phrases are good PQA material.    I was able to find other ways to get repetitions with those phrases.  (Work smarter not harder Laurie Ann!!)

Second…when I started to think of questions in light of getting to know my students better, the questions became more interesting!!!  I was more interested, the questions were more interesting, and so, of course, the students became more interested!!

The third piece that really helped me was incorporating other TPRS skills into my PQA forays.  Combining PQA with teaching to the eyes, using signals, choral responses, and circling helped me to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses.

More later…

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.

Stopping For Signals…Archived Post 9.10.09

(This was originally posted 9/10/2009)

Today was the third day of classes.  This is the day that classroom management starts to kick into gear.  This is the day we start with the signal.  The first few weeks of class are designed with several purposes in mind:

  1. Interact with the students so that I can get to know them better as people and as students.
  2. Interact with the students in the target language so that they can acclimate to my voice and delivery of the language.
  3. Create a set of classroom routines that will make the entire year go more smoothly.
  4.  Model a number of behaviors so that the students will understand my expectations and begin to use those behaviors in class
  5.  Have students interact with each other in a variety of situations and activities so that they begin to be comfortable together as a group.
  6.  Incorporate as much of the target language into all of the above as possible!!!!!

The signal helps me with so many things, I cannot remember teaching without it!  The signal is basically an attention-getting device.  I use the term “signal” which I learned as part of a Madelaine Hunter training over 25 years ago!!  Elementary teachers, camp counselors, coaches, and scout troup leaders all use signals with their groups.  The key to a really effective signal is to make it interactive.

I start by teaching my students that when I (fake) sneeze that they need to say “Salud” AND THEN stop what they are doing and turn to face me in silence because I have something important to say.  We practice once and then I make sure that we use the signal several times that period.

It seems so simple.  You would be surprised how many students don’t get it at first.   High school students live in their own little bubbles of reality.  Sometimes it is hard to penetrate that bubble!  An entire class of 30 students can be sitting quietly, watching me, waiting for one student to realize that he/she is the only student talking (loudly!) in the room.  Even the friends he/she is talking to are ignoring him/her and looking at me and STILL the student remains oblivious.

The reality is that this particular group of students is not yet “tuned in” to my voice.  After a week, they are usually very responsive, but it takes the human brain some time to learn to connect with certain sounds, pitches and tones.    Developmentally I believe that adolescents are programmed to TUNE OUT ADULT VOICES.   I often think of the classic example of the voice of the teacher in the Charlie Brown movies.  No matter what is being said, all that the kids hear is WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH.

Using a signal to get students’ attention allows me to provide my students with a) a way to control sound and activity in the classroom b) interesting and useful phrases in the target language and c) extra opportunities to get “tuned in” to my voice.

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

(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.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter