Thursday, August 26, 2010


For those of you who are not familiar with blurters, they are students that you pick to help you out by shouting out the English when you say a particular word in the TL. Usually, these are tough words that need a TON of repetition to stick.

So yesterday, I had a kid who was falling asleep in class. I noticed that my kids were having a really hard time with where, so I asked him to shout it out everytime I said Ou. He did, stayed awake, and wrote on his evaluation that he enjoyed being part of the class that day. What a boost for that kid! My colleague said that she wondered what life was for him in other classes, where teachers don't engage him to be part of the class?

Today, I used this technique again with a kid with severe ADHD and Asperger's. I had him shout out "has" every time I said a. It helped him focus and I think it helped the rest of the class remember what a means. AND, at the end of the class, I was able to thank him for helping me out today.

I think I've said it before on here, but it is such a different experience teaching when I'm more interested in my kids and their understanding than I am about curriculum. I've picked out what's important. If a single student doesn't get it, we'll keep working on it. No big deal. I won't "move on" (which is silly in TPRS, where everything recycles all the time) until we're all understanding!!

First block days

Sooooo, ninety minutes is a little much for storytelling this early in the year. Even with interesting details, lots of comprehension checks, and individual questioning, my kids are getting bored. So I threw in some TPR commands and singing to break up the class and then went back to it. It seemed to work, but I think I'll work in some reading on block days in the future.

Today and yesterday, I asked my kids to do a written comprehension check of the 12 or 14 words we'd been working on at the beginning of the year. After only 3 days, all my kids got two words right and only one or two missed a couple more. Everyone was pretty successful, even though I'm not grading it or anything. I feel good! I've never had this many SPED kids, and they are doing great as well. It is so rewarding.

At the bottom of my comprehension check, I had the students write what was working and what could be better. Amazing to me that most of the students said that I could go slower. I know that I need to go slow...even slower. I get it! Now I just have to train myself to do it. All the time, not just the first time through a structure. It was also an ego boost because the kids said that they really enjoyed the class, even the kid who sits in the back and "dares" me with his eyes to make him do something. He likes the class because he can just sit (even though I check in with him every so often to make sure he's paying attention).

Woo hoo! Is it perfect? Of course not! But I'm improving so much!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Actual TPRS

So far, I've only blogged about my experiences with classroom management this year, which is still going swimmingly! But on Friday, I started circling with balls (or guitar, in this case), with my students.

In first hour, I picked a student who drew a rock band, knowing that I had a toy guitar for a prop. We talked about how he plays guitar (not baseball!) with his feet (never his hands!) better than Jimi Hendrix. That's all we got to on Friday, so today I picked up where we left off, fully intending to review the story and move on to someone else. It was not to be, because it turns out that little Johnny plays guitar at the library. And there is a girl there! What was her name? Well, of course, it was Betty White. (The kids went wild with this detail...they were very worried that Robbie was going to fall in love with Betty) Betty is Johnny's g-ma and she plays the accordian. Anyway, the story went on until 5 minutes before the bell, when I stopped it to do a quick comprehension quiz. It's amazing to me what I learned through osmosis at NTPRS. I think that once your brain starts going, those funky details emerge naturally. Last year, I struggled so much with trying to think of funny details and trying to figure out where the story was going. This year, after watching Blaine and Von and everyone else, it just pops into my head and I think, "Of COURSE that's what happened!"

This continued with other crazy kids in my other two hours. We are still on the first student! The other students really want a chance to get in there and talk about themselves, but I have my stars for right now! I'm so excited to see what happens with Betty and Johnny tomorrow...

Another bonus for me and TPRS: today, I asked my second year students what they did this weekend and they remembered how to answer, using "Je suis alle" (excuse the lack of accent) and J'ai regarde! Woo hoo!!!

I am having more discipline issues with my second year students. I have one class that is really pushing it because they aren't used to me cracking down. It will take a little while for them to calm down, I think. But, I have decided that they will not ruin my class for the other students. If it comes to an issue where they are losing PAT time consistently...I will take those talkers and give them a textbook and a nice quiet room to do the book work.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First day/second half

Well, my second year students were a little surprised when I said that they couldn't socialize in the classroom. But I think they figured it out pretty quick. I only really had one or two students who couldn't control themselves. I'll have to see how the year progresses with them.

I was really excited to see my students again this year. It's surprising to me what a difference it makes teaching from a loving spot instead of a curriculum spot. I smiled a lot more and joked a lot more and touched a lot more (not in a gross way). I really feel like I connected with the kids. I hope that I can continue down that path and not get bogged down with what I "have to teach."

I used Dale's hand signal and counting down from 5 with my loudest class when they got crazy talking about their summers. We hadn't practiced it and I spoke quietly, and it worked! I felt like doing a cheer, but of course I just acted like I would accept/expect nothing less.

I think the main difference in my feelings on classroom management is that my expectations are so much higher. And I am going to respect myself and the other students in my class enough to not lower those standards for one or two loudmouths. I can't wait to see what this year brings! And I can't wait until NTPRS 2011 to learn more!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First day!!

I just finished the first half of my first day back at school, and I really think that all the reflection over the summer has made me a better teacher this year. I read Fred Jones: Tools for Teaching and saw Dale Crum at NTPRS, so I had my desks labelled with numbers and handed each student a card with a number on it. My "assignment" was on the board, so they could get right to work if they wanted to. If they wanted to chat, I asked them to go out into the hall and told them how much time was left in the passing period. I had a class of 30 (my largest class ever), and they tried to chat a little bit, but I gave them "the look" and moved worked!

I was amazed at how hesitant the students were to shake my hand at the door. I had to chase some down...

After class, I took the index cards, made my seating chart, and jotted down anything I could remember about the student on the back of the card. I feel like I'm coming from such a strong, caring place this year. Starting off in English was great because I could joke and be myself right off the bat.

Now I'm preparing for my last two classes...and I had them last year. It will be a little different because I had these kids last year when I was a weenie...BE STRONG, BESS!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Culture in the classroom-Phrase of the week

One of the things that I am going to make darn sure I do this year is be consistent with my phrase of the week. Last year, it was something that worked really well. I spent maybe a minute once a week on it, and it magically appeared in my students' vocabularies.

My sister is home from a year abroad to renew her Visa, so I was asking her for some common phrases that are being used in France right now. Here are some phrases that she told me that you might want to use in your classroom (if you teach French, that is) I don't have accents on this computer, so you'll have to add your own...

fais gaffe: watch yourself
tu pues comme un ours: you smell like a bear (my kids LOVE this one)
Ca m'est egal: I don't care
fais attention: pay attention
franchement/vachement: frankly/really really
c'est chaud: that's rough, that sucks
tant pis: too bad
et alors...: so?
Ca tue/c'est mortelle: that's killer, that rocks
Tu es tres charmant(e): a compliment for the opposite sex, usually used for the ladies
supercanon: hot lady/bombshell
je suis a fond: I'm excited
j'ai le beguin pour: I have a crush on
degun: personne
se bouffer: to eat
un gar/un mec: dude
une nana: a chick
ca craint: that sucks
t'es nul: you suck (of course, you would use this with caution...)
a plus dans le bus: see you later alligator
a la prochaine dans le train: after a while crocodile
il est a fond la caisse: he's into that
cingle (accent aigu) d'elle: crazy about her
fetard: partyer
bosseur: worker

I'm also going to try to come up with some natural subjunctive phrases to use in my stories. So far, I have (of course I can change the subject):

Il faut qu'on fasse
Il faut que j'aille

If you have any that you think are pretty common, let me know! I haven't taught subjunctive ever and haven't really used it since college, since I only teach first year. Help a sister out!

The week before school

I have been getting ready in my head. I'm planning out what the first day of school is going to look like. I am reading Tools For Teaching and figuring out what systems I will need to have ready in order to change the atmosphere in my classroom. My second year students are going to be in for a rude awakening...

First, I am going to change the setup of my classroom at one school (where I have my own classroom) to make life easiest. Then , each desk will have a number taped to it to facilitate seating charts.

I want to make a large, color sign for my door that says something like "Caution: Entering Work Area" to create a distinction between the social hallway and my quiet classroom.

I need to check on my question signs and see if I need to change/add any questions there.

I want to take some white bulletin board paper and tape it up around my room for writing structures. One of the things I learned by being a student in Blaine's classroom is how important these visuals are. I knew exactly where to look if a word/structure hadn't stuck in my head yet. And even now, when I think back to our story, my mind visualizes the word paper and I can remember what the structures mean...

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll be adding once I read more of Tools for Teaching and actually get into my classroom

Day 5-Classroom management-Motivation

Must have classroom arrangement and meaning business first! You can not rely on motivation if you have no control over your class to begin with. You have to have control and then use motivation to encourage responsibility

Build cooperation
· Teachers need cooperation from students

Rules that work:
o Show up on time
o Walk as they enter the classroom
o Bring materials
o Be in their seats when the bell rings
o Be working when the bell rings

· Cooperation is voluntary-Why should I?
Creating motivation
· Incentive system must accomplish multiple objectives simultaneously, be cheap, represent a reduction of the teacher’s workload

Time allowance
· Students tend to waste time
· Students can’t learn to manage time until they have time to manage
· We have no intention of losing learning time as the price of supplying the students with incentives
· We are supplying time as an incentive in order to increase instructional time

Regaining time loss through PAT:
· An allowance of time (say 3 minutes per day)
· Teacher is giver of PAT (time, structure, bonus) and timekeeper
· Student choice (as a class) is to squander, be selfish or save and share
Nuts and bolts:
· Basic allowance (3 minutes a day per day so the week equals 15 minutes for a standard week)
· Bonus PAT:
o Automatic (if every kid is meeting your expectations-be in seat when bell rings, be quiet first 5 minutes of class, have materials, they get an extra minute for each for an opportunity for another 3 minutes per day)
o Hurry-up (for transitions-I expect that this should take 2 minutes, if you take less time than that, I will give you the extra time as PAT)
o Helping (for erasing board, picking up trash
o PAT contest (how can we get as many minutes as 1st hour??) set-up a goal (keep class all in French for 20 minutes and you’ll get an extra minute of PAT)
o Layering (kids can “earn” parts of your curriculum like movies)
o Time loss (when students take longer than allotted for an activity, if they are still talking when you reach zero on your hand gesture, when a student wants to tell a story. Kids don’t lose PAT time, they use PAT time)
· Spending PAT: Do activities you would do anyway (games, videos, reading time)
o Bingo
o Basketball
o Double diamond baseball-baseball with both teams playing at the same time
o Hollywood squares
o Concentration
o Cut throat-4 different boards, put up a picture that represents a story (1000 for first done, 900 for second, 800 for third…etc. Every mistake costs them 50 points and the students point out the mistakes)
o Around the world
o Musical chairs
o Give them candy or stickers for winning the game, not for good behavior

· Need a stopwatch

· Ways to destroy your system
o Take time off randomly for various offenses
o Change the rules to your advantage
o Use time to manage a behavior that you could have managed with your body
o Use PAT for something like a quiz: announce a quiz a week in advance and then “run out of time” for the quiz on Friday because it’s PAT time. This idea is something that proves to the kids that they are truly in charge of their PAT and that you will not mess with the time that they have earned.
o Only use PAT when stopping behavior doesn’t work
o Neglect to make PAT a priority
o Start with a certain amount of time and deduct for each offense-this is a punishment instead of a reward
o Fail to structure enjoyable PAT activities
· Beware of PAT abuse:
o When time loss becomes excessive, students become resentful and cooperation ceases.
o Give time in minutes and take off in seconds

My question is: how do you manage crazy behaviors during PAT? Do the kids automatically behave because it has become the norm in the classroom?

Day 5-The Power of Music with Lisa Reyes and Barb Watson

· Listening: natural speed, native accents
· Effortless reps on enriched phrasing-“I had that song stuck in my head all night long!”
· Full engagement for all students
· Confidence-concrete evidence over time
· Flexibility of mind: grammar and vocab
· Customized to your class-Beyoncé in Spanish for a black kid who said he couldn’t learn Spanish because he’s black
· iPods: I downloaded that last night!

· Success breed success
· Listening as CI-teach specific phrases. Not necessary to understand every word…just focus on your target structure
· Differentiation
· Full-engagement

Basic elements
· Daily listening
· Cloze challenge
· Daily sentence puzzle

Choosing music
· Pace/speed
· Popularity
· Timing (holidays, novels)
· Curriculum/culture
· Grammar
o Chosen by curriculum
o Obvious in lyrics
o High-frequency phrases
· Students’ requests

My (Lisa's) song prep
1. Prepare cloze activity with word bank
2. Select 10-15 familiar phrases (high frequency!)-context helps them to acquire the phrase (ex. En mi casa me dicen v. en mi casa)
3. Create 5 puzzle sentences (ex. En mi casa me dicen….In my house, they tell you) Puzzle sentences are sentences with blank spaces to help students focus on grammar points without getting drilled

Weekly plan
· Day 1-Translate high frequency phrases, listen one time each day(cloze)
· Day 2-6-Listen (cloze), 1 sentence puzzle per day-go over as a class
· Day 3-6-star easy phrases (set goals)-the quiz is to translate the high frequency phrases “Pick 4 that are easy and you know and star them)
· Day 6-show video
o Give participation grade (both sides)-Go around while the song is playing
o 2 minutes for review
o Quiz is 15 sentences…count out of 10 and allow for extra credit
o Correct together; be generous
o Collect for grade (# correct)

· Strong students fill in everything and can’t wait to share-You could also encourage stronger students to fill it out without looking at the word bank later in the semester.
· Regular students fill in some of the words and wait
· Weak students fill in a few, and wait to write in most answers with you-Make sure that they aren't just waiting by walking around and encouraging them. Also, there is a word bank, broken up by stanza to help the weaker students.

Madame, I’m done with my song! This is what you can have students do after the song is filled.
· The cloze activity
· Read and follow along
· Sing along
· Sing without looking
· Completion of all steps is not required

· I can’t get that song out of my head!
· I put it on my iPod!
· Can I pick a song for class?
· We get a new song today, right?
· What’s the next song?
· Can I burn a CD of our songs?
· YouTube, with caution, of course
· Quiet time for teacher to check homework. Start the music and they happily settle down

I love this idea!! I usually try to use music in the classroom, but this is a great classroom routine that allows me to use music every day. If you want to share songs that have worked well in your classroom, please post!

I have used Chanson pour Marie during domestic abuse awareness week. It's really cheesy, but I had a group of boys who LOVED it and begged for it every Friday.

Of course, Sympathique by Pink Martini is AMAZING. It goes so slowly that I could use it in the first couple of weeks with my beginners.

Parlez-vous Freezepop by Freezepop offers great practice for "Nous Sommes..." and is a really catchy dance number

Any additions??

Day 4-Classroom management with Dale Crum

This was a quicky version of a 3-day workshop on Fred Jones Tools for Teaching. I went home and bought the book, so I might add some further thoughts here, or in a future blog...

Book recommendation: Reluctant Disciplinarian by Gary Rubinstein: Advice on classroom management from a softy who became a disciplinarian

Teaching is harder than parenting because you have other people’s kids and there is a variation of personality types.

3 pieces of classroom mgt:
1. Discipline
2. Instruction-TPRS
3. Motivation

This first post deals with the discipline portion of the 3 pieces:

There are 2 things you can do with behavior: increase and decrease. You need to consistently increase behaviors you want and decrease behaviors you don’t want. Must STOP bad behavior and START doing what they should be doing.

Classroom setup
· Room arrangement: 3 zones of proximity surrounding teacher’s body in concentric circles. Red (closest-students don’t act up), yellow (middle-kids check to see if teacher is paying attention), green (farthest-will act out)
· Classroom management expert works the room-walking around and looking at kids
o Walk the room to constantly change the zones of proximity
o Allows camouflage when you have to correct a misbehaving student. Simply walk over and prompt the student for what you want them to do…
o The natural enemy of working the crowd is the helpless hand-raiser (I don’t get it!): TPRS helps us with this kid because he is usually our barometer student. If it’s something complicated, model it and put directions on the board that are clear. Check in with your students when you are walking around and keep them on task, pointing to the direction that they should be working on.

· Try to create an inner loop that you can walk in order to keep the proximity changing
· When you ignore an issue, the other students assume that it is okay to exhibit that behavior
· The first assignment is I want you to talk! I’m not just going to cut you off, but I’ll count slowly to let you finish up. Count down with fingers from 5 to 0. Then stand there for about 5-10 seconds to allow the silence to settle. If anyone is still talking, move in and make eye contact. Nothing mean, no glares…

Reality is law: The standards in any classroom are defined by whatever the kids can get away with
· Succeeding from day one
o Rearrange your room to make it the best you can
o Desk creep: make marks on the floor where the front of the desk goes. Have students make sure that their desks lined up correctly
o Decide how you want students to enter the classroom
o Greet them and put them to work
§ Stand in the doorway
§ Give them something to do
§ If someone is talking, walk over and say “This is a no talking time, go ahead and get to the assignment”
§ By doing so, you define the entrance to your classroom as a doorway between two different worlds. This defines the classroom as a work environment.
§ Bell work (On y va!) continues until 5 minutes after the bell rings. Useful learning activity while you look after those organizational chores.
§ Grade bell work for the first couple of weeks, make marks and give it back. After that, you don’t have to…just collect it on Fridays and then throw them away.

o Introduce yourself-students don’t do well in an impersonal environment
o Establish rules-general rules are the wish list, specific procedures and spell out exactly “how to do this and that”
o Routines:
§ Practice quieting down
§ Partner work
§ Moving desks
§ Storytelling
§ Etc

o Go over few rules on the first day, make sure they are rules you are willing to enforce at any time, simple and clear, post rules
o Teach specific procedures and routines
§ Practice until it gets under 1 minute and there is no wasted time
§ Jokesters get old after a while.
§ Spend the first 2 weeks teaching the rules and procedures and practice them
§ Pay me now or pay me later. Do it right first and do it well all year long
§ Harry Wong

o Book suggestion: Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert J. MacKenzie
§ Soft limits are rules in theory, not in practice
§ They invite testing because they carry a mixed message
§ The verbal message seems to say stop, but the action message says that stopping is neither expected nor required.
o Being Clear with your words
§ Keep the focus of your message on behavior.
§ Be direct and specific
§ Use your normal voice
§ Specify the consequences for noncompliance
§ Support your words with effective actions.
§ If student refuses your punishment, there are steps in Fred Jones for how to handle it
§ In the final analysis, the price you pay for inconsistency is a lesser ability to nurture.
§ No has to mean no every time
o Calm is strength, upset is weakness: when you get upset, you start losing part of your brain (The Triune Brain Theory)
o Learning to relax is an indispensable survival skill for anyone who works in a stressful environment
o Emotions are contagious
· Body language alone can keep the class in line
o Our actions: the turn (the slower the better to show them that it’s worth it to you to deal with the behavior), never use your mouth to take care of what proximity should take care of
· Backtalk is students trying to get out of something-blame it on anything or anyone to get out of discipline

Day 4-Last day of Intermediate with Von Ray

This session was for working with a written story.

Steps for Reading and Discussing a Story
1. Teacher reads a sentence in TL
2. Class chorally translates the sentence.
3. Translate one paragraph (or less) at a time. This should not take very long
4. Ask the facts. Circle structures that are high frequency, still to be acquired, or new structures.
5. The facts can’t change.
6. Students respond as a chorus
7. Add details to the reading by asking additional questions about the paragraph, remembering that the facts can't change.
8. Students guess the answers and you're off with adding to the story!
9. Parallel story about one of the students: similar story with details about your student using the student as actor with props.
10. PQA works well also. “BS” is something I have done with the readings (read my session with Michael Miller to learn more about BS)
11. Continue on once interest wanes or once the parallel problem is resolved.

Remember that the focus is to offer CI, not to get to the end of the story or to the end of a chapter or page. This could take a LONG time.

After some peer coaching, we returned to the large group to see some peer teaching. This was done by Liesje (pronounced Leesha) Konyndyk from Kalazmazoo, Michigan:

Her structures were:
Il devait apprendre à: he had to learn how to and il savait: he knew

Ideas I picked up from this session:
Tell story in the past and then have One day…to integrate imparfait and PC
Story idea: Lindsey Lohan needs to learn to do 3 things for a movie role

This worked really well and had a lot of interaction and interest from the "students." Imagine how much fun you can have with students acting how to dance well and dance poorly. We also had Von Ray teaching Lindsay (aka me) to speak Keebler Elf. Hilarity!