Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Other strategies with Lance P

Due to a schedule mix-up, I only got to see the last part of this session too.  Dang!  I missed out on soooo much!

Lance was talking about ways to infuse stories into the classroom in innovative ways.  He talked about using Rory's Story Cubes.  Either roll and brainstorm about a die (what does this make you think of?), then you can add dice or use the dice as a prompt for a timed writing.

Lance said that as teachers, we always worry about "but my kids don't know the word for ___"  Students will be creative to use the language they already know, especially if we teach circumlocution.  I found this in Alina's class.  I was trying my best to find clever ways to put the language I knew into the story.  If we can train our kids away from saying "But how do you say match stick/vacuum cleaner/badger?" we will be soooo much better off in our classes.

Lance created a Clue game in Latin and uses it to teach the common house in the Roman Empire, but you could adapt it for use in many ways.  In order to play you need

  • 1 location (rooms of a house, school, places in a city, etc)
  • 1 victim (could also be cultural like Marie Antoinette)
  • 9 rooms/areas in the location
  • 6 suspects (could be cultural or could be careers)
  • 6 weapons
You can have kids play in two teams as a whole class.  They choose a room they want to go to and you say "If you get above a 3, you're there, if not, you can't accuse"

He also showed us a magic trick using 25 words, but I was lost during that...  I think you can look up Story Card Magic on Youtube?  Anyone out there who could fill in this blank?

Keynote with BVP

I have listened to all of the episodes of Tea with BVP, have asked two questions, and have met Angelika, Walter and the rest of the crew.  I'm not as big a superfan as some others, I'm looking at you, Eric H, Lance, Lizette, and Mikey...  but I am a fan.  I tried to take notes as quickly as I could during his speech, but it might not make a ton of sense to those new to the ideas of BVP.  Here are the notes I wrote down (and then presented to my department today):


CI is the language that learners hear or see in a communicative context intended for native or 2nd language learners AND can be understood, even if they miss some details.


Our brains are wired to learn languages through input.  Think of a grocery scanner and bar code. If you take a can of soup, you can try to scan the Campbell's, the picture, the ingredients...but nothing happens until you scan the bar code. Our brains are like that. You can try to feed it conjugation charts and grammar rules, but it will only process when you provide it with input.


“Rules” are not rules.  They all have exceptions:  If you think that there is one TRUE grammar, answer this: which is correct, I ain’t got none or I ain’t have any.


The kids are not learning rules in input, they are just understanding and, as they hear more language, it evolves in the learner’s mind.


Communication is the expression, interpretation and sometimes negotiation of meaning with purpose in a given context. I think it's important here to point out that, at the novice level, communication can be a gesture or one word, as long as it is furthering the conversation.

Thus, in a communicative learning classroom, meaning is CENTRAL, and teachers and students are engaged in the expression and interpretation of language.

The three purposes of communication:

  1. Psycho-social: niceties (how are you today?)
  2. Cognitive-informational: used to learn something
  3. Entertainment: to have fun (stories, jokes, movies, etc)
As teachers, we are not talking at our students, we are talking with our students. He also said that there is nothing more interactive than co-constructing a story.

We shouldn't try to intellectualize language learning because that is the job for linguists.
Bill's website is inputandmore.com and his podcast (with Angelika and Walter) is Tea with BVP.


I am so glad that Dr. Krashen and BVP have chosen to spend their time supporting teachers in the classroom by breaking down the science and research to help us make acquisition happen in our classrooms.

My colleague, Julie Begnaud, is working her way through the podcast and made the following helpful synthesis of BVP's 6 Principles of language learning.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

NTPRS was a couple of weeks ago...

What's taking you so long, Bess?

-Summer vacations.  But I'm trying!!

PS-my husband took this picture and told me to post in on my blog.  I said "Isn't it kinda vulgar?" and he said "absolutely not, it's beautiful."  *sigh*

Advanced with Jason and Blaine Ray

Full disclosure: I missed almost all of this day :(  So here are the VERY few notes that I took.

Morning session: Jason talked about teaching kids how to read and how to use good reading strategies.

I have to point out here that most of my notes from these sessions has been about Alina, and for very good reason.  Alina was the model for the strategies and Jason coached her and pointed out what she was doing to help us learn Romanian.  Jason is incredible and has been teaching with TPRS for much longer than I have.  He has a lot to show all of us, and if you want to read me gush about Jason, check out this blog post where I sat in awe of Jason and his vibe.

Jason, I think, posted this list of things to think about when picking out something to read.  I think I should project it every time before FVR.



He suggested that we teach kids what to do when they encounter a word that they don't know: skip it, guess, or look it up.

In the afternoon, Blaine was teaching how to take the principals of TPRS and adapt them for the upper levels.  It's still a conversation between us and the students.  Again, I came in late, so I was a bit lost about exactly what was going on, but Blaine was talking about how his parents wanted him to be a..., but he always wanted to be a...  Some structures that I wrote down to remember to use in the classroom: My mom wanted me to be....  My dad wanted me to be...  How would I feel if...  If you were my mom, would you make me...  Do you think I should have been...  Would I have been a good...?  Reinforcement that I need to work on coming up with this type of conversation starter.  I actually saw a set of Family Conversation Starter cards this weekend, but they wanted $26 for the set!  So I figured I'd just try to do a better job googling conversation starters.

Then, we watched a Movie Talk (Feel the Punch) with the directive "Think of something you want to know at the end" and after the movie, we talked about all the questions we had.  Then, we can come up with a prequel or sequel together as our "story" for the day.

That's it!  If you went to these sessions and have something to add, let me know or link to your blog post!

Tuesday Afternoon Advanced with Alina and Jason

I missed the first part of this because I was prepping for the TPRS books booth.  So I came at the end of a post-story re-tell.  Jason had a blank comic strip on the document camera and was writing as Alina re-told (with the class) our story.  She would let him know when she wanted him to write a sentence (very skeleton version of the story...I think like 9-12 sentences?) and then EVERY student wrote that sentence (I think Alina said she would never ask a student to do this because accuracy is so important in this step...if the kids are copying, that is) and sketched a little visual of the sentence.  She could still do PQA, comprehension checks, and look at papers to make sure that everyone was on the same page.  I love this idea because the kids are reading and writing and thinking and listening all at the same time.  Sometimes, to add novelty, Alina will add in details or change the ending of the story during this time.

Then, when everyone has their paper finished, you can project a few for REPETITION, but the kids don't realize how much repetition they're getting because they are focused on the work of their classmates and friends.  LOVE IT!  At this point, Alina will take pictures of a couple of them and post them to the class website for students who were absent.

Then, kids read a fuller version of their story.  Alina has a trick for this so that she's not typing up 6 versions of the story to go with each class.  Type up your skeleton story, but use a random name and object to fill in the skeleton.  For example, for our story (Lance wants to drink vodka at the castle with Dracula), she would type up "Johnny wants to drink water at the beach with Stephanie."  She can then change the story easily by using Find and Replace to substitute Lance for each time Johnny is used in the story.  She can change the rest of the details to reflect the class story or leave the differences and have students "spot the differences".  She says that she always prints off a copy for each student to give them ownership of the story.  I like this idea...

The purpose of this afternoon session was to get us away from choral translation or volleyball reading and into activities that make reading more pleasurable for kids.

I have a note for Active Inspire....but I honestly don't remember what that means.  Feel free to fill in my blank if you know what that is...

Alina said that she uses Gesture Reading (and has even before TPRS).  Here's a video of Alina doing this in class.

The key to getting kids to pay attention is to make sure that they always know your expectations.  In my class, I do this by saying EVERY TIME "As I read aloud, I want you to follow along with your eyes like you did back in kindergarten.  That way, your brain is making the connection between the way the words sound and the way they work, which is important for French."  Alina has a poster with 3 visual representations of her expectations.  1. (an eye) LOOK 2. (a pointer finger) FOLLOW 3. (a question mark) RESPOND

Some options for reading (students should do more than one per reading, IMO, and I think that's what Alina and Jason would recommend as well): read it alone silently, read it aloud with a partner, popcorn reading (students pick on each other to read the next sentence), read silently and draw two pictures (one true, one false) and then it becomes a game to pick which one is true and false.

And then I was off again!  I'm bummed I missed a lot of these sessions, but I got so much from what I did see.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tuesday morning Advanced with Jason and Alina

We started the day talking about FVR libraries.  Alina puts her books out on the table from easiest to hardest and then puts a NOW sticker on the novel that she feels the students should be comfortable with.  Students are able to pick out any book they choose, but this gives them an idea of what the teacher's expectations are.  When a student has finished a novel, they put a sticky note with their names, number of stars, and a quick word (like facile or difficile).  Alina also doesn't put children't lit in her library...something I'm going to think about doing next year.  I found that my students would pick things and just look at them, not trying to understand, since the books were too hard for them.  I might let kids check those kids' books out, but I'm going to try and stick to the TPRS novels for levels 1 and 2.

Alina also keeps a log of which books kids are reading and when they finish them or check them out.  I'll have to think about this idea because it seems like a lot of paperwork...

This year, I may hold off on FVR with my level 1s and really focus on teaching my kids how to pick a just right book.  Alina used a powerpoint she found online that shows what it looks like if you understand 98% of the text, 95%, 90% and 85%.  Powerful.

Then, we went back to storytime and we continued learning Romanian.  Some things that I noticed this time is that when we got to the problem, Alina just asked "What was Lance's problem?"  She then asked us to turn to our partner and whisper the problem to our partner.  This gives process time and allows shyer students to contribute because the people around them hear the good ideas and volunteer them.  AND!  It takes the pressure off the teacher to think of all the good ideas.  She also listened to several different ideas and then chose the one she liked the best.  Or, let the kids vote on it.  I loved the way that this allowed every student to contribute and takes pressure off me.

Also, Jason and Alina used their "remote control" to rewind and replay fun moments...make it go in slow motion...and the kids are still gesturing and getting those brain breaks.

As the actors were acting it out, they are a visual representation and NOT participating students in the class.  I loved that Alina got extra students involved by using dialogue bubbles (here's me acting as Lance's dialogue as he says "I want...")

I saw again how important it is to coach our actors to do what we want them to do and that they can be replaced at any time.  Jason replaces his actors by saying "And then Johnny fell and he died" and then finds a new Johnny.

We finished our story by brainstorming possible endings for the story.  MORE REPS and it validates our students and their ideas.  Loved it!

And that was our morning!

Afternoon Advanced track with Jason and Alina

We started the afternoon by looking at pictures of Jason's classroom.  He recommended keeping the word walls for different levels on different walls (French 1 on the right side of the room, French 4 in the back or something like that).  He also keeps his recent vocabulary on papers underneath the question words they go with (under where: beach, church, mall, etc, how many: numbers, who: professor, student)  I think that would help me remember to use more of those type words because we tend to get stuck on proper nouns and never get to the general location terms.

Jason has a WONDERFUL idea for quickly changing your word walls for different classes/levels.  He takes thick presentation board and cuts it in half.  He glues a hair band to the top of it and then hangs that from a nail.  Use butcher paper and tape a sheet on both sides and then you can easily Vanna White the words to change a word wall in five seconds!

While Alina leans forward to show that she wants an answer, Jason snaps to signal that he's ready for everyone to answer.

We did a lot of small group work in the afternoon, so my notes aren't as long...sorry!

Jason talked about some of his conversations that he uses to ignite learning in upper levels.  I NEED THESE ideas!!!!  An example of what Jason uses: What memories do you have that you want to forget?  What memory do you never want to forget?  I think I could find good ideas for this by looking up conversation starters online.  Any other ideas??

Jason left us with this thought: Who is the real story in our classroom?  The movie talk, the novel, our silly characters?  NO!  The students are the real story...  We need to be asking them to share.

Who has a younger brother?
Who has been on vacation?
Who has a pet dragon?
Who wants a pet dragon?
How many of you would like to be an attorney?
Would you like to earn more money?

And you can see that all of these questions lend themselves to follow-up questions.  Good stuff.