Tuesday, May 22, 2012

End of the year wrap-up

Whew! What a trying year. I had more students, more preps, more classes, and more responsibilities. Oh yeah, and I'm 9 months pregnant!! But I've survived and I think I've made a difference in my students' lives. I say "I think" because I just handed out my end-of-year survey to my students and it's always uplifting and bums me out as well. Is it too much to want to be everything to every student?? As usual, there were a couple of kids who felt that I didn't care about them. That breaks my heart. My husband and I were talking about this last night: give any student a year or two and all the "bad" feelings a teacher may have had about them disappears. I can forgive every student everything after a year of maturity because I know that none of my students is evil. Every student has their reasons for acting up in class (whether that be home problems, immaturity, etc), and I love them anyways (even as I am pushed to the edge of my reason). But here is what I got from my surveys this year: 1. I am doing a better job of greeting every student and making them feel that I care; I still have more room to grow, but most of my students did feel that I care!! 2. My kids feel cared about when I smile, ask them about their day, say hello, show them their grades often, and allow them to re-take tests. 3. My level 2 kids (advanced) were really ticked off that they "couldn't take notes." I put that in quotes because I have never forbidden notes in class except for during story time. At that time, I ask that the desks are cleared to avoid the temptation for distraction. Next year, I will do a better job of explaining this and carve out a couple of minutes at the end of each day for those note-takers to take notes. 4. My level 2 kids were also very upset that my assessments were unannounced. However, almost every single block day had an assessment of some sort. A TPRS class is very hard for those grade-grubbers to adjust to. I'm hoping that my French 2 kids next year, who will have no experience with any other French teacher, will not be so upset by this. We'll see... 5. My level 2 kids were also super upset that I didn't allow them to go to the bathroom without taking off PAT time. I don't think I will be changing this any time soon... The students who complain about it are so few that it makes it worth it to me because I don't have to deal with the constant pass writing every hour of every day. Instead, I have maybe one or two students per week who choose to take advantage of my bathroom policy. That's all I can think of for now. I'm still kicking myself that some students think I "hated them" or "played favorites." One thing that is clear over the years that I've done the survey: EVERY student wants to be validated and wants attention. Even the ones with the super long bangs who cower in the corner and you think they would shrivel up and die if you talked to them. I hope your years are ending just as well. Feel free to share any lessons you have learned this year!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reading Lickety-Split (Thanks Susie Gross!)

As the school year winds down, I had to decide if I wanted to try and do more stories with my classes or read a second book for the year. I decided to do a second book after seeing the recent moreTPRS posts from Susie about reading lickety-split (reading quickly for meaning and not necessarily for increase vocabulary, testing, etc). Susie's idea was so freeing that I decided to try it. I have to say that my previous experiences with reading have been good, but not great. It takes sooooo long and some kids get the new vocabulary through the repetition, but I ended up losing quite a few students who were pretending to play the game while secretly daydreaming. I was so mad at myself after reading Pirates first semester because I actually had a couple of students who regressed in their French instead of growing. I thought, "What was this Krashen guy thinking??" Okay, I really didn't think that because, since meeting him this summer, I think the guy is an amazing genius fighter for public education and the poor. But I was very confused and sad. Flash forward to today. We've been reading Pauvre Anne with my 1s and Fama with my 2s. We read it super fast. Sometimes we read/translate it chorally, sometimes I ask for volunteers to read/translate an individual sentence, and sometimes they read a paragraph with a partner. We are over halfway done and we just started. Another thing that I have tried this time (thanks to Carol Gaab for the idea) is having a secret word for each chapter or section. I skim the section and find a word that comes up quite a few times. The students are supposed to yell that word whenever it comes up that day. Keeps kids engaged and keeps the less-than-engaged kids from falling asleep. Is it working? Well, we are having great discussions about racism in my 2 classes and the 1 classes are talking about lower-level things like family and dancing. IN FRENCH. I have asked my classes if they prefer this book or Pirates, and I've gotten mixed results. Amazing considering that my 1s from last year still talk about burning Pauvre Anne...I'm not getting that kind of hate this year at all. But here's the magic part...I have some students who have struggled all year, and they are BLOSSOMING with this book. They are raising their hands and sticking their necks out to try to read a sentence for the class! They are learning! And, if I needed further proof that Krashen is a genius, I only need to look at their latest writing samples. IT IS TRUE THAT READING INCREASES ACCURACY IN WRITING!! (for most students) I'm so happy with my results...I might even brag and post this to moreTPRS...