Tuesday, September 13, 2016

La Personne Spéciale

This year, I went full-hog into Bryce Hedstrom's Persona Especiale with all levels of my classes, with the understanding that the language we use in the upper levels will obviously be more complicated than the language I use with my lower levels.

I decided to start recording myself teaching so that my TPRS buddies *cough* you guys *cough* can give me constructive feedback.  Please don't destroy my soul, but if you have a few minutes (or 30) to watch and let me know what you saw that you liked or that confused you, please let me know!  I am always striving to be the best French teacher I can be!!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Pencil Grab

Reading through my blogs that I subscribe to, I came across a blog by Martina Bex where she talked about Movie Talk.  I was kind of scanning through it and looking for target vocabulary that I could use for the movie clip she references when I stumbled across an amazing "game" that Martina took from Kristin Duncan who took it from Carmen Andrew-Sanchez.  And I tried it yesterday!

So, instead of using a new reading (which would be ideal), I typed up some of the facts we had learned about a student in class through La Personne Spéciale (Bryce Hedstrom's first unit of teaching) and we read through them.  Then, students sat in pairs with a pencil between them.  I would say a true or false statement about that student (only those facts that were typed up because I wanted them to look and re-read if they got confused).  If the statement was true, students raced to grab the pencil and the student with the pencil earned a point.  If the statement was false and the student touched the pencil, they lost a point.  I had so much fun tricking my students with this.  For example, I have a student who can imitate Barry Gibbs (how old are these kids?!).  So for one of her phrases, I said, Suzie can imitate Barrrrrrrrack Obama!  The groans and investment from the kids was awesome.
Here is a short video I took of one of my classes playing.  It wasn't as exciting because I didn't trick them, but you can see how it works.  The kids were very happy to be filmed, as you can see :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day 4 French 1 samples

Here are three completely random writing samples.  They had very little visual support to write these because, teaching 5 levels, I have very little room in my room to post everything...  I'd love to have posters with these structures like Bryce...

Monday, August 22, 2016

First 3 days

I feel like I made a lot of changes this year.  First, I changed my grading philosophy, as discussed in this blog post.  Then, I added flexible seating to my classroom, thanks to a funded project on donorschoose.org.  So now my classroom looks like this:
I've also decided that this is the year that I kick butt at classroom management.  Since coming to the high school and abandoning P.A.T., I've relied on my relationship with kids to do my managing for me.  Which works for most kids, but I was WORN OUT at the end of last year because of poor classroom management.  So I have Bryce's "How to Participate" on my wall, I'm wearing professional skirts and heels, and I'm taking no crap.  French only except during the first 5 minutes if I have announcements to make and the last 5 minutes when we wrap up the day.  Other than that, "Pas d'anglais dans la classe de français."

And it's going well so far!  I have a few kids that I had last year who are trying to take me back to the loose rules of last year, but I'm not going to let them!!

I also decided to change my classroom jobs a bit (which I'll blog about later) and implemented the secret password.  We practiced Friday in preparation for the real deal this week and the kids really got into it, whispering into my ear and acting like it was a big deal.  I loved it!

One last thing that went well last week: we had back to school night, where parents come to meet the teachers and find out about class.  In past years, I've introduced myself and talked about my philosophy and grading practices and blah blah blah blah.  But then I had to go to back to school night last year at my daughters' school and it was HORRIBLE!!  So boring being read to from the syllabus hour after hour after hour.  So I pretended like the parents were my French 1 class and taught them exactly as I had been teaching their kids.  The feedback was extraordinary!  They loved it, they were laughing and I doubt they will complain about my class in the future.  It was a really great way to start to build relationships with the parents.

Last thing and I'll go for now:  Jeremy Jordan (aka Senor Jordan) is now in my building.  While we don't see each other much during the day, having him here has been a huge blessing because I have someone that I can talk to and he immediately gets it when I say Circling with Balls or Special Person, etc.  Also, we've started Skyping with Andrea Schweitzer, roommate extraordinaire, once a week to check in and see how things are going.  If you're ever interested in joining us, please let me know!  We'd love to have special guests!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Comprehension to the MAX, community for the WIN by Justin Slocum Bailey

After hearing glowing reviews for Justin's earlier sessions and getting a personal recommendation from Michele Whaley, I was super excited to finish my week in this session.

This session was all about creating a secret language in the classroom using gestures and ASL to create a sense of community and fun.  Apparently there is an online dictionary showing videos of how to do these.  Here are some of the signs that we learned

  • Again: to get something repeated, either for clarification or for fun
  • Copycat: used by the teacher to tell kids that they need to do what I do
  • Play: used to show that we're about to have fun
  • Slow down: used to adjust the speed of the teacher
  • Word: used when a new word is going to be introduced or used by students when a word is used that they don't understand
  • Rise above: is the Usain Bolt gesture and is used when the situation is stinky, but we are going to rise above it.
  • Make lemonade: used when a situation is stinky and we are going to use the situation to teach the language
  • Distraction: used when there is something (a noise, an action) that is distracting from the leaerning
  • Start sign: used when the teacher is going to repeat or start a re-tell
I am big on precise language and what teachers say, so here are some quotes I got from Justin that I really like
  • "You control the language that is coming at you."
  • "There is no such thing as 'We already had that word'"
  • "How many of you want to know more?" -when a student said that she had 30 bicycles
  • "Am I saying that right? Names are so important." -when learning a student's name
  • "Students aren't used to understanding in their classes."
We spent the rest of the hour talking about the normal distractions that happen in our classroom and how we can use them to #makelemonade  For example, if a cell phone goes off, we can use that in our story.  If there is an announcement, maybe it becomes a message from the aliens.  We need to be better about using our imaginations in the classroom to use the things that would normally be an annoyance.

So....right after this session, we went to our farewell luncheon.  Right as Blaine Ray was giving his speech, the room next to us starting jamming out to some sweet jams.  I looked at Justin, who was behind me, and made the sign for Distraction.  He nodded and I turned back around.  Then, he tapped on my shoulder and gave me the Rise Above sign.  It made me chuckle and made me feel like Justin and I had this secret language and I felt special.  I can't wait to do this in my classroom!

Last thing: I've always shied away from using gestures because it just doesn't seem natural to me and I didn't want to force all of my students to do it if they didn't want to.  Justin made it kind of optional.  He encouraged us all to do them, but if we didn't, no biggie.  As a student, I really enjoyed the signs and I imagine that my more fidgety students will like them to.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Using Literature Circles with Michelle Kindt

After reading Carrie Toth's blog post about what she did with independent novel reading this year, I was interested to see how Michelle makes it work in her French classroom.  First off, you want to make sure that you use this with upper grades who can handle reading on their own.  They need lots of practice reading with you before you let them loose.

The original lit circle idea is that students break into groups of about 4 and every person is given a role.  What Michelle did with this idea was to help us, as teachers, keep track of multiple groups to keep them on task.  She starts with four jobs: vocabulary curator (chooses a short list of vocabulary needed to understand the story or useful in other situations), discussion question generator, summarizer, and culture connector (makes connections to our culture or things they know about other cultures).

Students read together for about 20 minutes a day and switch roles every day.  When there are 5-7 minutes left, allow students to get technology out and record their vocabulary, summary, questions, and culture connection, color-coding who adds what.  While students are reading in groups, Michelle leads a discussion with a group, using their discussion questions and adding her own (thus modeling a good discussion question).

After class, Michelle looks at the google docs and makes comments about which vocabulary they chose, sometimes correcting errors, or making a discussion.

If the students get behind, Michelle might work with that group to help them catch up.  If one group gets done early, she might give them suggestions of ways to spice up their google doc (adding pictures or doing a little research to add background knowledge to the story).  Students were also tasked with faking a Twitter or Instagram feed to re-tell the story from a character's perspective.

The coolest thing is that Michelle used the common thread of the novels she chose (all took place in French-speaking countries with rainforests) to create a unit on the rain forests.  Students read articles, debated, wrote emails, and studied geography and culture.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Building Diversity-Positive Characters in the TPRS classroom with Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams

Holy cow!  I have to admit, I went to this class originally because my friend Anna was leading it.  And also because I am always wanting to honor the diversity I see in my classroom.

We started by creating a Circle of Love, an activity to replace a family tree.

I have gone away from having the typical family discussion by asking kids who they live with instead of "What's your mom's name?"  I get the same vocabulary, but it is individual for each kid.  

Next, we thought about one of our heroes and had to come up with an adjective to describe that person.  I thought of Stromae because he is influential.  We created a poster with all of those adjectives: 
We talked about these adjectives as possible replacements for the typical TPRS adjectives of beautiful, rich, tall...  

Next, they had the room in tears by showing an Ad Council video about Love has no Labels.  I had not seen the video, and after spending a week with like-minded love-filled people, I was done.  I'm just glad I didn't start sobbing and snarfing... 

Some quotes that I thought were powerful:
  • Students deserve to see positive representations of themselves and those they love, both as they are now and in the future.
  • We are not asked to change our personal belief systems, but to honor those in front of us. (I love this because it makes sense...we don't have to agree with...say...the hostile takeover of Palestinian lands to honor and love a person of Jewish descent.)
Next, we talked about the differences between diversity, multiculturalism, equality and equity.

Moving on to the Big 8 Social Identifiers:
  1. Ability-physical or mental capacities
  2. Age
  3. Ethnicity-a large group of people who share language, location, etc
  4. Gender
  5. Race-physical criteria (skin color)
  6. Religion/Spirituality
  7. Sexual Orientation
  8. S.E.S.
And the little 4:
  1. Appearance/body image
  2. Family structure
  3. Geographic region
  4. Military status (more important in some regions than others)
We talked about "jokes" that a lot of our teenagers think are hilarious.  Instead of yelling or getting them in trouble, we should guide them to understanding by asking "What do you mean by that?" and "Why is that funny?"

We talked about our gestures: think about how you gesture a man vs. a woman...(scary, isn't it??)

Now that we had all of the background, we talked about how we can co-create more inclusive TPRS stories.
  • adjectives-think back to the poster of the adjectives we used to describe our heroes...
  • names and characters and places: does it always have to be Kim Kardashian?
  • professions/responsibilities: woman can be doctors and men can be secretaries
  • locations (think of how powerful it is to use locally owned places that the kids actually go to!)
  • humor 
  • relationships: instead of a boy always looking for a girlfriend, maybe he is just looking for a friend
  • problems: try to move beyond to come up with meaningful problems (ex: Joe wants to take his mom to the Louvre...how much insight does that give us about Joe vs a story where Joe wants an iPhone?)  Instead of going to three locations and asking strangers for help, maybe the character works together with a friend to solve the problem.
  • solutions: try to come up with out-of-the-box solutions...kids will come up with great ones, but we may need to train them in the beginning.
We have great stories, but we can either re-write them to make them more inclusive or have our students do so.  As Alina said in her wonderful session, "We have to help them become the human beings we want in our society."

I can't say how important I think this session was.  I am always searching out ways to validate my students and their lives...and some of these things (like the gesture for woman) are so natural to me...it's so nice to see it for what it is (sexist) and be able to change it in the future.  

Anna and Rachelle were amazing presenters and I hope they will present this same exact session next year (longer!) because it was cathartic and eye opening and wonderful.