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Personalization and Star Wars … Archived Post 3.12.10

(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 “personalizing.””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 “personalizing.”  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,

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Laughter and Tears…or When Games Work Archived Post 1.29.10

(This post was originally published 1/29/10)

Many of you know that Karen Moretti  and I have a series of workshops on games in the classroom.   I so wish that I could have shared a “fly-on-the-wall” clip of my class this morning with you to show you when, how and why games can be such a powerful part of the classroom.

This morning I divided (actually, they self-divided, I directed as needed) the class into several groups.  Each group had a different game to play.  The groups played for about 10 minutes and then we rotated so that each group got to play several games.

Below is an explanation of how I set things up….but that is not what I want to share.

First, there was the laughter.   Tons of it.  What a wonderful thing to hear first thing in the morning.   Not laughing at….laughing with.    They were relaxed and happy, enjoying the simple games and comaraderie of their classmates.    After a stress-filled midterm week, it was a refreshing change for all of us.

The tears were mine….and kept to myself until the class left the room.   Why?   Well…..first there is the student whose mother is very ill.    He is so exhausted that he nearly always falls asleep in class.   He likes to “hoodie up” and hunker down.   By himself.   He rarely speaks.   Today he was laughing and smiling for thirty minutes.

Second, there was the eighth grader, who is often set apart from the 9th and 10th graders in the class.  He comes up from the middle school and today he was totally in his element, laughing and silly and part of a group having a great time.

Third, the student who tries very hard NOT to participate was calling the Bingo game.  In Spanish.  Why?   Because, as he stated, he has the best pronunciation of all of the guys in the group.  (Did I mention that this is a class of 18 boys and 3 girls??)

Fourth, the student who likes to come in late, hide in the very back of the room, and dream about hunting and fishing was in the front of the room blasting his team through a Who Wants to Be A Millionaire game on the Smart Board.  Totally involved.   Having a great time.

Fifth, on the way out one of the girls said to me…”You know, inside, we are all still kids.”

Yes we are.

And who better to realize it than the heart of a child?

Ok…now if you want the “details” of game set-up, here is a little information:

The logistics of creating games that work is another post.  Actually it’s a book we are working on :o).  The quick story of this morning is this:

*We had played all of the games before as a class so they knew the games and the rules.

*They were short, simple and involved structures/vocabulary/information that was familiar.

* I let them, for the most part, choose their own groups….because they are at a point in the year where I knew that they understood the rules of the class and would PLAY the games without my having to be in charge.

* They switched games after 10 minutes….not enough time to get bored.

*I did not get all crazy about English as long as they were playing the games which were in and about Spanish.  (I’ll save that for later…this was the first time that they had played in independent game groups)

Creating the right atmosphere for games is the key element…..and I’ll try to get back to that another time.

with love,