Saturday, July 24, 2010

Final thoughts on NTPRS

I promise I will finish blogging on day 4 and 5, but I'm just so exhausted right now, it will have to wait a couple of days.

My final thoughts on this weekend:
Laurie and I were talking at the end of the conference (sadly, the only time we really got to talk to each other) and we were talking about goosebump moments. Laurie, who was coaching during the conference, said that her goosebump moment came with watching teachers who were petrified to teach at the beginning of the week becoming confident and seeing them teach again at the end of the week. I can only imagine what she witnessed as a coach, because I saw the same thing happen as just an attendee.
My goosebump moments came about every day, but always for the same reason. Beyond the learning…beyond the networking….beyond the fun of being around other language teachers, there was this feeling that pervaded the entire conference. It was a feeling of genuine love and concern for others. I have never been hugged or touched by so many “strangers” in my whole life. I heard grown men saying “I love you” to each other and really meaning it. It wasn’t as cheesy as it sounded, because it came so naturally to them. I don’t know if this is because we are all a part of a language revolution that we have to fight so hard for or what… But I have a feeling that it goes back to the reasons that we all decided to take the TPRS route in teaching. We love kids. We want to do what is best for them. We really believe that Beth is the most beautiful girl in the entire universe. We want to validate these students and give them the attention that they so desperately desire. And that is why we came to TPRS….it’s not that TPRS makes us all gushy lovey dovey fools, it’s that we were always like that and TPRS lets us be effective teachers without squashing that love. In fact, it allows us to develop that love and show it to the kids in a way that is not going to get us on the evening news. Powerful stuff…
One of the most magical things that happened to me this week was the chance to meet Blaine and Von (especially Blaine because he is the master and the Spanish class that he taught was small enough that we got a ton of interaction). I’ve talked a little bit about Blaine in my Spanish blogs, but I want to think a little more about what happened outside of the Spanish class. When we passed each other in the hotel lobby (Blaine or Von), they never passed me without complimenting me somehow. Blaine would say, “There’s my little mosquito…” Von would say, “Man, you were an amazing elephant. You really are a great little actress.” As their student, I got to feel how it felt to be praised by my teacher. Or even noticed by them outside of the classroom. I feel like I’m being unfair to the other teachers, because they were the same way. Barb made a point of smiling at me and connecting with me, even though she was only my teacher for a couple of hours (she even bought me Pirates for saying something nice about her on moretprs J). Dale Crum talked to me the day after I had him for classroom management and said that he appreciated how positive and enthusiastic my face was during his presentation. I’m imagining what my kids will feel like if I can remember this skill in and out of my classroom.
Today, we had our farewell luncheon, which was really sad and wonderful. We had Michael Miller singing a song that he wrote about TPRS (the best line: I’ve been Blainewashed), Bryce singing a sweet, sad song in Spanish that he sings every year to his seniors, Susie Gross sharing a poem about being a great language teacher…and then, I guess, we had me! Blaine surprised me by asking me to tell the story that I learned in Spanish class for the room. I was a little nervous because it was so spur-of-the-moment and I hadn’t had any Spanish since Wednesday, but I did it anyway. As I was telling my story, I could hear the gasps from the audience when I would say something like “le dijo” or “queria ser” I thought to myself, “Wow! I must be doing something really impressive right now!,” but I couldn’t tell you what it was or why it was so impressive. I was just telling the story. THIS STUFF WORKS. Now, to be fair, I do speak French, so some of the structures are similar and I am a very motivated learner…but I also only had 8 hours of instruction.
I’m almost done reflecting, but the funniest thing that happened this week was how every teacher started talking differently. I guess I shouldn’t say talking, because it was really the reactions that changed. There were lots of “oooooohhhhhs” in everyday conversation. Lots of “oh no oh no” crept into our lingo. Something that only we can appreciate, I guess.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 3-Parking in First Gear with Michael Miller

In this session, Michael talks about how to extend establishing meaning by creating conversation between teacher and students. Here are the notes I took:

Step one: establishing meaning
Tell the word, show a picture, give a gesture and a translation…start to BS (blabber to students)
Talks about what is in his classroom…what color, what number

Trick: have gestures for certain words and get participation points…extra for the first one For example, every time Michael says the word for man, they slap the desk for participation points.

When students insist on speaking English, say if you want to use English, let me give you this book and you can translate it to English.

Tricks for staying in step one and conversing with kids:
· Still use your vocab structures
· Break them down if they are too long
· In advance, think of typical questions you could ask about those structures
· Beginners: Who, what, when, where, how many, what color
· Advanced: how, why, did you (verb) too? (past tense), will you (verb), would you (subjunctive)
· 3-ring circus: present when they do it and past when they sit down
· Set up class for BS: I expect a reaction: Wow!, how sad! I can’t believe it! That’s not right! Obviously!
· Be interesting and interested*** Care about your kids
· Gesture with translation (un plato…un plato means plate)
· Imagine that you have a plate (subjunctive!!)
· Dirty (Who has dirty socks? Hand check! Who has dirty hands? Why are your hands dirty?)

Day 3-Intermediate with Von

Today's class was about getting away from the scripted story

Abandon the script when the class is creative enough to make a funnier story. Otherwise, keep with the script “C’est mon histoire!”

Use scripted stories for ideas and adapt to the vocabulary level of the class**

The goal is not the story, the goal is comprehension. Get every student to a 10 by circling and re-telling the story, adding details for the advanced students

Here are two things that I noticed from this week that I want to put into my stories: “How did he react?” and the students are allowed to make noises. Adds interest to the class. Blaine used “Three requirements” with a story in Spanish class. This is great because it gives us extra locations, problems and characters to expand on.

Parallel characters allow us to compare and contrast, which is a skill that students need for the AP test or in advanced classes in college.

When in doubt, turn to the actor and ask them in the second person.

Another teacher modelled this and asked us what a character wanted. We guessed and she said "no, it's obvious, he wants a wig!" And she whipped a wig out of her purse. Oh my gosh! It was like magic! I need to do more of this with wigs and fake mustaches.

Use your discipline problem students to make noises or actions for difficult words (vacuum)
When using cognates, still check for comprehension because not all students are “listening in French”
Individual comprehension checks. If they are slow, give them two options to choose from where they can’t screw up. If they do screw up, play it off as if they answered correctly.

Day 2-Musical Echoing

I attended this session because I love music and want to know how to use it more in my classroom. I personally was not interested in the method that the presenter used, but I'll post my notes in case anyone else is interested. She has books and music that you can buy...I'm assuming they are available from Teacher's Discovery?

She makes up a story of 6-8 stanzas or lines. Each stanza or line is subdivided into 3 segments of about 5-8 syllables or beats. Each segment needs a picture to represent the story.

Then she takes these and makes them into a song. She plays the song for the students one time, with the pictures and then circles the meaning.

If anyone is interested in this, I'd be happy to expand more, but I wasn't really interested, so I just stayed to get the idea of the process and then left when they started practicing.

Day 2-Spanish with Blaine

Today in Spanish class, we had some teacher questions about discipline. I agreed to be the obnoxious student so that Blaine could model discipline for us. The thing that that taught me is the dynamic pesonality that Blaine has is truly magical. I really really really didn't want him to be mad at me. I'm not sure if that's a representation of Blaine or of my people-pleasing nature... He reacted to everything with love. He turned to me when I was talking and said with a smile, "Hey kiddo, this is not going to work if you are talking. For this to work, you can't talk, write or sleep. That's a pagame" He explained that pagame are worth 5 points of participation points per grading period (100 total possible). They can earn these points back by making a nice card for him, shaking his hand to have a genuine bonding moment or writing a 100 word essay. He validated me so much during that "class period" and said at the end that those kids who are attention seekers or having a bad day are the ones that his heart goes out to. Those are the kids that he really wants to reach. People pleaser? Maybe this will work for me.

On to the notes!

Whenever there is a choral response to an info-seeking question, don’t take that answer so that they are shocked! I love this idea. As a student, it really made me sit up and take notice. I think I blogged about this already, but if I didn't...I'd be happy to re-explain in the comments section.

Add extra details that you “forgot” the first time through the story. Blaine would go to re-tell the story and then get "stuck" on some tiny bit of information that he forgot to create interest and extra reps. For example, we were continuing with a story that we had been working on for 3 hours. In this story, there was an elephant in an internet cafe in New Zealand who saw the facebook of the most beautiful girl in the world... There's a ton more to the story, but this was all basic information established very early. He came back to it. Class, there is an elephant...where is the elephant...was he alone? (new information) No! He wasn't alone! I forgot to tell you! He was there with his mom and his dad! Then we talked about them. They were divorced. The mom lived in Minneapolis and was friends with the mosquito we had been talking went on and on describing these two super-minor characters that he had "forgotten" to tell us about the first time through the story.

Basic structure of story-telling
1. Establish problem 2. Character development 3. Go somewhere and try to solve problem/doesn’t work 4. Resolution

When Blaine is "lesson planning," he starts with a couple of sentences and he knows the resolution before he begins. The middle can go anywhere.

More on discipline: We talked about rudeness rom students. He gave the example of using a student and asking: Is there a girl or an elephant? A student yells out "Elephant!" Blaine goes to the student and says: This does not work if you do that. You cannot say that she’s an elephant. She’s not, she’s a girl. What we’re doing does not work if you’re doing that. –Blaine
Take care of discipline problems in English.

One of the greatest tips that I saw was to use the actors to verify information, using you and I… This adds a ton of interest for the students, increases reps, and introduces 1st and 2nd person.

Part of my "acting out" was begging to be in the story. When I asked to be the elephant, he came, hugged me, and said “Honey, I love you, but this is my story…we’ll get to you another time” That hug shut me up. I think I've always been afraid to touch my students because of the fear of being sued or something. I'm going to get over that. Seriously.

This is a quote from one of the teachers in our class. Her name is Jammie and she was trying to explain why you don't correct speaking when a student makes a mistake:
"When you correct a child learning a language, they are not developmentally ready for the correction. When you say “no” to form, they think you are correcting the content. No, you don’t say I goed to the store, you say I went to the store…That’s what I said! "

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 2-Intermediate class with Von Ray

Here are some notes that I took from the presentation. They don't follow a narrative, so please excuse!

Students pass through 5 phases :
1. There are slow processors who can’t produce. (These would be your focus students)
2. There are fast processors who can produce very little.
3. There are fast processors who can produce with hesitation and errors.
4. There are fast processors who produce with accuracy and hesitation.
5. There are speakers with fluency or ease of expression.
Until the students reach level 5, they need repetition and circling. More time with the structure until it becomes natural.

During a story, you only have 3 options: Go back and add novel information, circle, go forward.

The goal is to practice the language and make the story last as long as we can make it last. It is not to get to the climax!! (I think I need to focus on this more. Just parking with circling and adding more details. I think that's the biggest thing I've gotten this week)

Two reasons to circle: turn slow processors into fast processors, to practice new or difficult structures. Circling is boring when sentences are short or when the structures are not new or difficult
Faster processors: review the facts of the story, add details, start over, and keep asking known details. These students can always benefit from extra repetitions to get to ease of expression

Parallel character (this is what we focused on today): a student in the class or a celebrity who parallels the story of the main character to add more practice for the structures without getting tedious. Add details about the parallel character to extend the story. Then we talk about the problem with that parallel character and come up with the resolution. You have to decide if the parallel character is interesting enough to continue with the parallel story. If it’s not, talk about it for a minute and then continue with the main story. It can have a connection to the main story, but it doesn’t have to!

Quote from Von: We’re always looking for students who want to play by raising their hands and adding details. If no students want to play, you can pick a student or use a celebrity.

Big idea:Contradict what the students think is the correct answer to increase interest. I noticed that this really caught my attention when I was a student in the language classes. I was always really surprised and laughed at the answer. We would be following a story and the teacher would ask a question that we thought we knew the answer to through inference of the story. We would answer one way and the teacher would say, No! You're wrong, it's actually (something bizarre). AFter lots of circling, it's great to be surprised by some new bit of information that's a little shocking.

Try to stick to the same thread. Parallel story should have just one thread and one problem with a resolution. Just make sure that you keep to the main structures!! You can add details and characters as long as we’re working towards the resolution of the problem.

These are some notes from the coaching session with Michelle Kindt:

When a story crashes and burns, just abandon it. You can have them draw 6 boxes and have them draw the story as you re-tell. Or, you cannot finish it and have the students finish it as homework…

When a kid really talks a lot in the TL, give them praise, let them finish and then say “don’t be intimidated by _____, she’s special and this is coming really quickly to her.”

Michelle used index cards as circling cards for each statement. Character 1 wants to have dinner with character 2. Keep other ideas for the characters or verb written down there for circling. She has them numbered so she can go through the circling easier.

"We can get our kids to love French so much that they keep taking it or so much that they travel. This leads to world peace…" Michelle Kindt-French coach What a beautiful thought. I'm an optimist too! Wouldn't it be nice if we were making such a huge difference in our classrooms every day??

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 1-Cultural storytelling with Barb Cartford

I brought away a few things from my session with Barb. First, she loves children and she loves her languages. She also really loves all the things that make people people (art, family, values, etc). She told us that she was using the popularity of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in her adult Swedish classes and that she would be wearing a costume to become here on Tuesday. Amazing.

Okay, here's what I took away from this session, my goals for infusing culture into my class:
  • use history and biographies as stories and reading
  • use French art to teach colors, body parts, family, etc
  • use children's tales and compare them to well-known American stories (ex. Asterix v. Mickey Mouse)
  • Use costumes!!

Barb told us about her Frida unit. This is how she works the biography of Frida into her lesson plans:

  1. Establish meaning of new vocabulary the first day
  2. 2-4th day: tell about the life of Frida using actors, visuals, and props. There should be at least 3 phases in her life (childhood, young adulthood, old age)
  3. Show the works on the 5th day, using a jigsaw activity. Each student gets a questionaire about art (What jumps out to you? What is the feeling of the painting? How do you think the artist felt when he/she was painting this? etc) with a color and a number on it. The colors group the students to a particular painting. The students get together and discuss the painting to become "experts" at that particular painting. Then, they are grouped by number so that each group has one "expert" for each painting. The number groups travel around the room and the expert tells what his/her group found out about the painting...more discussion.

I LOVE this idea and can't wait to steal it. I would also like to add a day where the students mimic the style of the artist.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 1-Spanish with Blaine

This was my first time meeting Blaine or seeing him teach. AMAZING! I also have to say that Sunday night, when we were checking in, I saw this adorable blonde woman catch sight of Blaine, say hi, and then beam like she had just met the president. I certainly understand her state of mind. It is pretty cool to be in a room with the creator of something so magical.

Here are some gems I got from the mouth of the guru:
  • As he was setting up the class, he said to all of us "I can't feel that this is hard. To me, speaking Spanish is as easy as speaking English. You have to help me. If you stop me, I appreciate it." He really created a climate of encouragement for all students, in my opinion. I feel like I ask students to stop me, but I don't make them understand how important it is or how much I want them to do it.
  • He also said that when he asked a question where he wanted us to guess, it had to be a proper noun or in Spanish, because this story is a Spanish story and it doesn't have any English in it. I really liked that. I have a hard time keeping my classes in French...but he does it in such a way that is really magical.
  • Finally (for today), we had a student who wanted to know why there are two ways to say "was." His answer, instead of going into rules and long explanations, was that there are two ways, he knows how to use them correctly, and we are just supposed to listen and try to absorb until we get the feeling for which one we're supposed to use. Brilliant! It's an easy way to explain our methodology to students without going into long pedagogy discussions.

More tomorrow (hopefully if my husband doesn't keep me out too long at the Cubs game!)

Day 1-Intermediate class

Von Ray was/is the teacher for this class. He had us laughing with stories about his struggles with traditional language learning (oh, can't we all relate!). Here are some gems that I gleaned from his presentation:
  • We can infuse interest in our stories by using famous people, exaggeration, and irony
  • In the beginning of TPRS, the students don't have the language to be able to answer open why questions. We have to work up to that to ensure that students are using the TL (or proper nouns) to respond to our questions.
  • We were talking a lot about how to keep interest high. Von taught us a story using German, to try and show us how many repetitions a new learner needs before feeling comfortable in the TL. It was quite a few. He used inflection, whispering, yelling, emotions, and random noises to keep us engaged in the simple story. Then, when we had that part down, he went back to the beginning and it wasn't boring! This was an eye-opener to see just how much repetition is necessary to really get something stuck in my head (obviously the point of the exercise)
  • He did a pop-up grammar of the difference in the verbs for singular and plural subjects. The student didn't give him exactly the answer he was looking for, but he praised the student and moved on. He said that he would come back to it in about 5 minutes or so to see if he could get the answer he was looking for. If not, no big whoop!

After the brief presentation, we were broken into smaller groups for peer coaching. I was so scared of this! Especially after almost 2 months of no teaching. But I was the third volunteer to be coached on "advanced" circling (circling out of the traditional order). I got lots of praise, but was told that I need to focus energy on circling the stuff I want them to actually learn and not the stuff that they already know. That was a "Duh!" moment for me. I'm excited to go back tomorrow and see what else I can learn.

I have to say that everyone I have encountered has been so kind. I know that teachers have a special kind of heart, but I think that TPRS teachers go beyond that. We truly are a special little community of colleagues looking to better our craft and each other. And I don't think that it's too far of a stretch to say that we want to better the world too. I know that Ben Slavic talks a lot about decreasing the achievement gap among his students. I feel that power here with me in Chicago.

To go a little further on this tangent, I ate lunch today with an amazing woman named Dixie. We happened to be in the lobby together at the same time looking to eat, so we decided to go together. We talked about our experiences with TPRS (mine being pretty short and hers going back to the beginning!) in different school districts with different ages and different SES. We shared our hopes for the world and language learning. It was a great experience and I hope it was just one of many I'll have this week (which may be difficult since I have to spend some time with my husband!)

NTPRS-Initial observations

I got here last night and, I have to admit, I'm a little bummed that I brought my husband along. Yes, it's super nice to have a week's vacation with my hubby and no kids, but we've got plans in the evenings that don't always involve me getting to hang out with the other TPRSers.

I've already met Laurie sweet. She actually spotted my nametag and called me out. I'll be excited to talk to her more about loving kids and embedded readings.

I'm hoping to add all of my notes on here as the week progresses...