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R and E: Compass vs GPS Archived Post 3.19.12

Originally posted 3/19/12

Transitions are tough for all human beings. Each one of us transitions differently. It’s no wonder that transitions in the classroom are a struggle.

As a teacher, it helps us to actively DECIDE whether a compass or a GPS is needed in our classrooms.

Every class has students that walk in every day asking the age-old question: What are we going to do today? They are not trying to be obtuse.

They need to know. They handle transition with preparation. If you have a lot of those students, you are one of those students or your administrators want evidence that you know about those students, the GPS system is for you.

G.P.S. Get a Plan. Post a Plan. Show the Plan as needed.

Keep the plan simple. Date, Period, Plan of Activities. Label the activities anything you want, in either or both languages depending on your goals.

Keep the details of the plan in your head. You need to know how many minutes,how many structures, where to PQA more and where to gesture less. All they want to know is what is next.

Put the “voice” of the Plan up for the students. “Turn right now.”

Get their attention. Point to the next step on the plan. Give them instructions and go.

But…teach the students and remind them that the plan is subject to change with just a little notice. ‘Recalculating…..”

I am a not a natural plan person. I love to make them, but can’t follow one happily. I’m always aching to go after a teachable moment, a great response from a student or a spontaneous road trip with the language. But

I have students who occasionally need to know the plan. I also became a much more skilled TPRSer by beginning with a plan and following it as closely as I could in order to improve my skills. Sometimes an activity is new to my students and they need to see the steps in writing. So…I try to teach my students that from time to time I’ll put up a plan and we will follow it. For a reason.

But most of the time I am a “compass” teacher. I know in which direction I want to go. I have enough knowledge to stay on a safe road or get off of a dangerous one. I’ve had enough experiences with flat lessons and overheated discussions to avoid them or fix them. If I’m tired, emotionally-drained, overextended, had too little sleep or need to rely on caffeine then I’d better pull out the GPS.

If we constantly remind ourselves and our students about the interactive quality of our classroom, then we can decide with each class if we are going to follow a GPS or a compass that day. Only three things are needed: a goal,a class that knows how to interact, and a routine at the beginning of every single period that requires them to find out from us what is happening first.

At the beginning of each class it is important that 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.

It really doesn’t matter if you post a “do-now/bellringer”, greet them at the door with instructions, have a starting routine (FVR, a song, PQA, calendar, etc.)or simply start with an attention-getting signal. What matters is that you use that moment to hold hold up the Maestro baton and give them clear direction. By starting each class with that moment, you make each class member feel welcome and important and safe.

with love,

All content of this website ©Hearts for Teaching 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.

Rules and Expectations During a Lesson 3.18.12

(Originally posted 3/18/12)

Here are some interactions that you will see being used in TPRS. I’ll list them in “script” format..the way that we might say them to students.

For students who are NEW TO THE TL and/or NEW TO TPRS, the first explanations will probably be in L1. ONLY IF WE ARE POSITIVE THAT OUR

EXPLANATIONS WILL BE TOTALLY COMPREHENSIBLE IN L2 should we be explaining the expectations in L2. This will keep you sane, your students cooperative, and leave you time for acquisition activities in the classroom.

* “When I say CLASS, I expect that all of you will respond by (doing X or answering the question)”

* “I’m going to have my fist in the air, when my had opens, it’s time to respond.”

* “When I say one student’s name, that student will respond and everyone else will watch and listen.”

* “I am going to ask the same question, or a similar question several times…listen for it.”

* “I pause after statements so that you can hear the new information and picture it in your head.”

* “I may go too fast sometimes, or use a phrase you don’t know, stop me with the signal.”

* “This is fascinating information. When I give you the signal, you will respond by saying _______”etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Each of these is a new skill for your students to acquire. They should be taught ONE AT A TIME. Then practiced. Then incorporated into lessons. Then retaught and re-practiced as needed and with love.

These are the BASIC statements. As teachers get more skilled, many add other components/ideas, all of which require the same teaching/explanation – practice – incorporation cycle.

More skilled components may include getting students to be actors, having students add sound effects, dialoguing with actors, retelling a story with errors that students identify, etc. etc. etc. Any time that a new skilled component is added, we must give our students the courtesy of teaching them what is expected, practicing the new behavior and repeatedly incorporating it into our lesson.

Some teachers will slide easily into being a TPRS lesson planner/instructor. Others will need to take it slowly, one step at a time. Being a fast or slow processor of this new approach is NOT an indication of how successful you and your students will be. Every single one of us who embraces this approach is working every day to be better at it. There is never a moment when we say “Whoooo hoooo!!!! I am THERE!!!! I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and I’m good.” Nope…every single one of us is continually on the journey…learning from each other and even more from our students. Don’t worry about “getting there”. Just settle in where you are…and be aware that there is always another beautiful place to get to tomorrow.

with love,

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.

Rules and Expectations: Part 1 3.7.12

(Originally posted 3/7/12)

What you see here is a compilation of comments from the MORETPRS listserv, TPRStalks, Ben Slavic’s blog, observations of other teachers and my own thoughts. I cannot stress enough how timely and important Sara’s question is for us as individual teachers this time of year AND in this season of language education as more and more teachers become interested in using

Comprehensible Input with their students. Teri has mentioned that we are getting closer to a critical mass of CI teachers and she is right. This issue of rules/expectations is crucial if we are to help teachers become CI teachers.

It is crucial if we are to convince departments to become CI departments.

Several of you expressed this so well: We need rules and we need expectations for our students in order to create an atmosphere that does the following:

a. allows and encourages each student to feel physically and emotionally safe, as a student and as a person.

b. allows the teacher to conduct the class and accomplish whatever leadership duties are important to the running of a safe school.

c. provides the maximum possible amount of Comprehensible Input each time the class meets.

d. facilitates both spontaneous and controlled interaction as often as possible.

When a teacher is first exploring the use of TPRS in the classroom, the conditions above are extremely beneficial, in fact nearly requisite, in order for successful CI based lessons to occur. The problem is that presenters are so often naturally gifted or extraordinarily experienced at creating these conditions. Not to mention the fact that the class during a presentation is made up of attentive language teachers!! (well…not always, but that is another story!)

There is also so much to see and take in, that when we first are starting out that we often only focus on what we the teachers should do in order to make a CI lesson happen. We have to figure out what story-asking looks like, how to make circling really happen, how to elicit responses, what to do with them when we get them, how to PQA, what to do with reading, how to work it in with what we already do…etc. etc. etc.

A piece has been missing and Sara has just pointed it out quite clearly.


a. They need to understand that a CI lesson is an INTERACTIVE lesson.

Many of them have never seen one…or haven’t since kindergarten….Here is a sample script:

“I am going to do or say something that will encourage your brain to acquire (insert L2 here). I will make it clear if one or all of you will respond, and what you should do in response.”

And then we have to live up to that promise. It will take a little time, but when it is clearly outlined, and clearly executed, with love and patience, it is nearly flawless.

Many of you know that I use the analogy of an orchestra with my students. The class is the orchestra. I am the Maestro. I will indicate if the entire orchestra is responding, one section, or if there is a soloist. If I don’t, there will be mess of noise. The students will attempt to play with insufficient guidance until one by one the give up drift into their own little conversations and activities.

You can follow Carol Gaab’s model on this. She clearly gestures exactly when she wants the response to happen so that wait/think time occurs. She may use a prop or a hand signal. Her entire body is poised and alert and frozen signalling “Wait for it, wait for it…NOW!” and the class responds.

You can follow Blaine’s model on this as well. Blaine’s signal is verbal…”Clase”….precedes the question and the entire class responds. “Princesa”…precedes the question and the class knows that Princesa will be responding. He inserts one individual response in sea of class responses and they know that they need to pay attention. If he doesn’t get the response that he wants, he lovingly chides them by saying, “Claaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase” with the occasional “Es obvio” and the class/orchestra is brought back in to play.



Reteach as necessary.

Not language: expectations and behavior.

In a CI classroom, language is acquired and behavior is learned.

The good news is that many of us have had years of experience in how to get kids to learn. All of the skills that we thought we helping them w/ language we can now use in order to help them learn the behaviors that they need in our rooms in order to be able to interact with us and with the language in order to acquire it.

So, for a CI-based lesson, whether it centers around PQA,discussion, story-asking or reading, our students must learn how to interact. We must teach them what is required, require what is required, and reteach when they are not giving us what is required.

with love,

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.

Relationships Not Candy Archived Post 10.25.11

(Originally posted 10/25/11)

This was written in response to request from a teacher who had written her with classroom management struggles. The teacher felt that her best day had been when she brought in candy as a reward. She didn’t want to continue that practice, but was desperate to find something that works.

My heart goes out to anyone struggling with classroom management. At one time we have all had a group or groups that made us want to tear our hair out…..and praying for the magic formula to make a group ‘work”….or at least not be the stuff our nightmares are made of. We try any number of approaches…..including attempts to win them, or at least their behavior, with rewards like candy. If you haven’t been there, at least once, you’ve lived a blessed teaching life.

There is no magic bullet, no simple answer, but this teacher and I can tell you that candy is not the answer. Candy works only when it makes a rare occurrence…..and it is presented as a gift. “I thought about you today and brought this to show you my appreciation of your spirit and willingness to be a part of this class.” This is love. This has nothing to do with classroom management.

When candy is a reward it can lead to an ever-escalating “Me me !!” situation. What happens when a teacher can not afford candy, when the principal says no candy, when students start to get angry because it isn’t their favorite candy, etc.? In my case it turned into bitter and angry and resentful feelings IN ME!!! because they were ungrateful….when in reality I had set them, and myself, up for it by bribing.

Classroom management is so hard. It once was governed by clear rules and boundaries, parental and administrative support, and a general respect for the institution and adults.

None of those things are guaranteed today and it truly is about the relationships in the classroom.

THE most influential relationship is the relationship that each student has with him/herself. If the student values himself enough to want to have self-control (even if it is hard to attain) the student has the most valuable tool in the toolbox.

The most important relationship in our classroom is our relationship with our students. Whenever possible treat them with love, with love, with love. When we do that, and make our decisions because of that, everything else comes much more easily. When students know that a teacher cares about them, more than anything else, they are willing to collect and use tools in the toolbox. Caring about our students will not, however, eliminate our challenges.

The next most powerful relationship is between the student and the language. When that is strong and positive, discipline problems virtually disappear. But that takes time, and the erasing, for many students, of many years of negative conditioning about school and language “study.” That is why, as Susie so often says, “Success is the best motivator.” They need to know, and to see, that their tools, and skills work!

The next most powerful is the relationship between the students themselves.

Again, they come to us with their own histories and we must handle what already exists. We could try to make them “behave” a certain way because they like us as teachers, but in middle school and high school, the opinion of peers FAR FAR FAR outweighs the opinion of any adult. What we can do is to establish very clear boundaries about the language, facial expressions, gestures and interactions that we believe will help to create a positive relationship among our students.

The least important relationship is the one between the teacher and the language. Sadly, in many rooms around the world this is the strongest relationship in the classroom. Our passion for the languages and cultures so dear to our hearts is a lovely thing….but it is OURS. Not our students’.

It should be our tool that we use to help strengthen the relationships above.

How does this help with classroom management? Make a list of what you do as a teacher to “manage” your classes. Which category do they fall into? The most energy and effort should go into the first two categories….finding ways to connect students with the language (using CI +P) and helping students to be safe with each other. By conducting ourselves in the most caring, professional way possible in the relationship with have with our students, and by not letting our own interests in a topic erase our efforts to connect kids with language, with each other and with us …we can really improve our classes.

In time. In our own way. In small steps. In a way that allows for dignity.

With patience. With optimism. With appropriate boundaries. With consequences.

By being honest. By being appreciative. By being kind. By being responsive.

and never, ever giving up,

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 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.

Less Homework, More Participation Archived Post 8.14.11

(Originally posted 8/14/11)

In the last 5 years I have required less and less homework…and instead grade all in-class assigments.

Inspired by research and exhausted by the battles which always seem to accompany homework, I have chosen to actively and clearly offer as little as possible. When I give homework (usually one day per week if it is a 5 day week) I make sure that it is accessible from the Internet and easy to do without help.

My students have NOT learned nor acquired any less. In fact, they spend MORE time outside of class using Spanish. They actively listen to music and watch programs in Spanish or read online in Spanish because it interests them. Yes…even in my little rural district. Parents often report siblings speaking to each other in Spanish at home.

By de-emphasizing homework I have eliminated several things:

a) an ENORMOUS battleground where no one ever won a battle nor a war.

b) frustration over who did it and who didn’t.

d) students entering class a failure before class even starts.

I can also frequently remind students that when we use class time well, I can continue to keep homework to a minimum.

Now, before TPRS, this really didn’t seem possible. What progress students made, they made because of the ‘memorization’ that took place via those assignments. Homework really appeared to make the biggest difference in gains.

With TPRS, those output activities are just a little decorative icing on the cake. A little goes a long way. It may go “against’ the “traditional” approach….but it has been working for my students for over a decade, so I’m sticking with it!

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 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.

Think.Feel.Say.Do Archived Post 8.3.11

(Originally posted 8/3/11)

Here is a key element in our program: Creating readings/stories/conversations around THINK/FEEL/SAY/DO.

In a story characters will THINK, FEEL, SAY AND DO things. The first structure is something that Earl SAYS, “I need to tell you something.” The beauty of it is that it immediately implies a feeling. Earl NEEDS to. AND a future action: TELL. This is a seriously powerful structure.Not all structures are this powerful…especially in the lower levels. For example, I choose the structure “wants to eat”. That is what Earl FEELS. It will help things flow if my next structure is not about feeling. So I could choose….

Earl wants to eat.

If I need to park on “wants to” I can stay there for a long long time…but if I want to move on (for any number of reasons) I need to pick another structure.

THINK Earl thinks about his favorite food………….or

FEEL Earl is really hungry………..or

DO Earl goes to SuperWalmart……….

ALL of which are now connected to the first structure and make sense. Truthfully, teaching beginning students is such a challenge. Their language pool is pretty shallow…it’s hard to dive in deep!! Using the THINK, FEEL, SAY, DO model really helps.

with love,

All content of this website ©Hearts For Teaching 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.

Homework…The Journey Archived Post 11.15.10

(Originally posted 11/15/10)
This is a response I posted on moretprs about my own personal journey with assigning homework.

Several people asked if I could put it here so….here it is. ;o)

1st year teaching: I thought that students loved me and loved my class so much that they would do the homework before class ended!

5th year teaching: I thought that although not everyone loved me or my class, at least they all wanted good grades so they would do the homework by the due date.

10th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about their grades, that their parents did and would MAKE THEM do the homework and hand it in on time.

15th year teaching: I thought that although they might not like me nor my class, nor care about grades that their parents might and COULD make them do the homework and hand it in if they wanted to.

20th year teaching: My own children were getting so much (ludicrous and unnecessary) homework that a) I didn’t have time to correct my students’ homework and b) I began to wonder if it accomplished anything anyway….

25th year teaching: My own children didn’t like some teachers, saw little purpose in homework assignments and I had already tried (and failed) to get them to do homework by grounding, punishing and several other measures. I saw that they did do homework under two different scenarios: a) the teacher publicly taunted them or humiliated them when work was not done b) the work was interesting, engaging and actually helped them to learn/understand something about the topic. I stopped giving work that was only done at home. Instead I began to collect the work that students did IN CLASS.

28th year teaching: Both sons are in very good colleges and receiving scholarships. I continue to give assignments that are done in class. NOTHING I EVER GAVE FOR HOMEWORK INCREASED LONG-TERM MEMORY OF TERMS OR STRUCTURES. It also never taught one single student to be more accountable or responsible….that was a myth that I attempted to perpetuate for two decades.

(yes…Alfie Kohn uses the term “myth” and I think he has it right…I’ve kept data on my students to “prove” it for administrators)

Are my students responsible? I think so…although you can ask the folks who have come in to observe me in the past five years if you would like a less-biased approach. They show up, get to work, work for as long as I ask them to and work well. They don’t bad-mouth each other, keep the room cleaner than I do and I rarely ever have a student skip class.

Are they scoring well on state tests? So far…very well. I have shifted levels this year so I can give you a better idea of that at the end of June.

Are they “life-long” learners? Are they staying in the program? Without a doubt. Since beginning with TPRS and stopping routine daily homework assignments we have maintained a 20 -25 % retention rate through level 4 (which would be higher if we could get scheduling issues worked out…) and have launched a half dozen Peace Corp participants and an equal number of language teachers…surprising considering our size. More importantly..to me anyway…is the number of students who have gone on to study language in college and participate in study abroad programs.

Even without homework.

Now..having said all of that…each of us should feel free to run our classrooms as we deem appropriate given the knowledge and experience that we have. We should be free to challenge our OWN policies at any time. The world is changing nanosecond by nanosecond. It’s hard to keep up.
We are all doing our best.

with love,

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.

Shelter Vocab Not Grammar Archived Post 10.20.10

One of the challenges we face as teachers is finding ways to help students use their language to express themselves fluently. The best thing that we can do for them is to show them how to communicate with fluency with the language that THEY have acquired…to model for them what it might look and sound like. Susie Gross has often said….Shelter vocabulary, not grammar.

But what does that mean? In the past few years I have really practiced this…and I wish that I had “gotten it” earlier because it is an incredibly powerful change in my teaching. But what is it that I have been practicing? Let me try to explain….

In the book that we are working on in, the phrases “brings him/brings her/brings them” show up repeatedly. What I would like to do is to create opportunities to use these phrases over and over and over and over and over again.

It will work because these are high-frequency. It will work if I keep them in front of me…cognitively and physically. It will work if, every time I use them with students, they are comprehensible AND contribute to some sort of interesting interaction. Some opportunities…

Daily Routines:

1. We start the class with a message on the Smartboard. Here are some ideas …..phrases I could put on the opening message:

The teacher is ready to accept your homework. Bring it to her.

The miners brought rocks home from the mine. Why should, or shouldn’t, they bring them?

The students from France are arriving tomorrow! Our students will be bringing them to school.

2. We use signals to integrate vocabulary and structures and to refocus students on activities. Here are some phrases we could use:

I’m bringing them….to the party!
Bring them…with you

3. Instead of collecting papers from the first person in each row I can ask them to “bring them to my desk.’

Personalized Conversations (aka PQA)/Writing Prompts

I frequently start a conversation with students (or ask them to write a paragraph) that uses a particular structure…with this one I might try…

1. I just received an email from The New York Yankees. They want to come to watch their biggest fan (Dan) play soccer this Thursday. They will need a ride from the train station in Syracuse…..who in class can (will, would, should) bring them to school?

2. Our French visitors have a free afternoon on Friday and we are taking them around the area. They can leave school at noon and must be back for the football game at 7pm. You get to decide where we go….where should we bring them?

3. Silly Bandz is sponsoring a local contest. You can win $500 if you can write a letter that convinces our principal to put on 500 Silly Bandz and wear them to school every day for a week. What would you write in your letter?

4. Start a campaign to convince parents that they should no longer bring their children with them to every family function. What is a function that teens do NOT want to attend and why shouldn’t parents bring them?

5. School policy says “no coffee, no soda” in classes. Should students be allowed to bring them to class? Why or why not?


1. Day of the Dead….a great opportunity to talk about the ofrendas, the people who are honored and what families bring to the ofrenda.

2. Three Kings’ Day…another great opportunity to talk about a Hispanic holiday, who the Kings were/are and what children hope that they bring …


1. Headlines…a quick “Google”ing of the phrase “brings (or brought or will bring etc) them” in
Spanish brought me these headlines:

· Alejandro les lleva al paraíso (Alejandro Sanz concert…)

· Ronald McDonald visita a niños cusqueños y les lleva alegría (RM visits kids in Cusco, Peru and brings them happiness)

· The Cranberries, reunión y gira mundial que los llevará a España (The Cranberries reunion and world tour that will bring them to Spain)

And my favorite….

· ¿Es necesario que los escolares lleven el celular al colegio? (Do students really have to bring cell phones to school? …..)

2. Matching…I like to create short matching activities to use in little contests, extra credit opportunities etc…they are always easy, interesting, structure-focused. Here’s a sample:

1. My cat threw up three times. ____A. Bring them to a recycling container!

2. My Mountain Dew cans are empty. ____B. Bring them to school!

3. My clothes are dirty. ____C. Don’t bring them to your mother!

4. My Mercedes Benz needs a new owner. ____D. Bring it to the vet!!

5. My cousins are the Jonas brothers. ____E. Bring it to me!

Listening Songs….Again….I googled lleva+letra (Spanish for lyrics) and found….

Llevan por Raphael http://www.letras.com/r/raphael/hacia_el_exito/llevan.html

Mil Calles Llevan Hacia Ti por La Guardia http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti-bajar-89218/disco-vamonos/la-guardia-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti.html

Me Llevaras en Ti por Alejandro Fernandez http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-me-llevaras-en-ti-bajar-44250/disco-muy-dentro-de-mi-corazon/alejandro-fernandez-me-llevaras-en-ti.html

Imagine how powerful this kind of repetition could be with idiomatic expressions that just don’t “click” easily? It takes some practice to start “thinking” this way, but I promise you…once you get started it is a little like playing around with puns…you start to see them everywhere!!!

With love,

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

(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,

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What Do I Want? Archived Post 9.1.10

(Originally 9/1/10)

I was talking with my colleagues and trying to explain what I wanted my classroom to look like. Not the walls/decorations classroom….the real stuff happening in the classroom part.

I want it to be in a state of quality interaction.Not constant chaos…although if you don’t know Spanish it might look that way…

Not constant action…sometimes we need to give the brain time to process….

Not constant lecture….it’s too easy for students to “leave” the room…..

Not constant production….besides being poor pedagogical practice, I simply cannot monitor everyone at the same time…

Not constant input….I need to know how much is going in and how much is just flowing over their heads or around their bodies…

Not even constant interaction…..we have all seen areas in our lives where more effort more does not always mean more results.

Instead…I am hoping to create quality interaction.

Much of the time the interaction will be between me and the class….sometimes between classmates and sometimes between the students’ brains and the language….but it should be visible, if not measurable.

I think that the two main differences between acquiring a first language as an infant, and acquiring a second language later on are these:

● The ability to communicate is greater. The older the student is the greater the ability he/she has, not only to communicate, but to see the purpose of communication.

● The ability to reason. The older the student is, the greater the ability he/she has to think, to plan, to anticipate, to wonder, to put the mind, not just the brain, to work.

● The ability to read. It provides not only another mode of input, but also another mode of interaction.And what both “acquisition groups” have in common is that both, when acquiring a language,interact using the language.

Now certainly there are students who will acquire without quality interaction…..but frankly, those students don’t need me for much anyway. :o) Academically at least. But in order to create a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, an appropriate place for my students to acquire language and to experience life, I need to focus on the quality of interactions in my classroom.

Discussions that are choreographed so that each student is part of the conversation.

Conversations that are modulated for speed, clarity, accent, rhythm and direction for each member of the class.

Class activities that flow in and around every corner….not just from the front (or the screen) towards the back so that by the time they reach the back corners only the foam is left behind.

Behind every interaction, a purpose: connect, connect, connect, connect.

Connect student with material, material with instruction, instruction with language, language with love.

Love, grace, honor, power, responsibility in every interaction.

Interaction. Quality interaction. That is what I am striving for……

With love,

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.