Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Harry Potter

Yesterday I tried a story with my kids that really worked.  I am running out of things for the circling with balls (especially since we are trying to talk about one kid for an entire hour and there's only so much you can say about playing basketball at this point in the school year), so I have started inventing hobbies for my kids.  I don't think they mind (I hope not, at least!). 

Yesterday I picked one student out of each class who did not have a story yet and that person can do magic!  I wanted to introduce pouvoir while the kids are still super engaged, and since it is such a high frequency word. 

Here is an example from one of my classes (please excuse the lack of accents):

Sam peut faire de la magie. Elle utilise un pompom comme baguette.  Elle est etudiante a THS.  Harry Potter est etudiant a Hogwarts.  Harry Potter est le meilleur magicien a Hogwarts parce qu'il a tue Voldemort! (At this point I did a quick time-out to teach them that Voldemort means flight from death in French).  Harry Potter utilise la tour Eiffel (I have a small Eiffel Tower) comme baguette.  (We follow the same pattern to establish Ron and Hermione as characters...)  Un jour, Sam visite Hogwarts.  Sam regarde Ron et elle aime Ron.  Hermione est jalouse et elle crie "Ron est MON garcon"  Sam est fachee et elle crie "Avada cadavra" (or however you spell the killing curse).  Hermione tombe et elle est morte.  Ron est fache et il crie "Avada..."  Harry Potter frappe Ron avec un dragon (another prop in the classroom) et Ron tombe.  Harry Potter adore Sam. 

I'm really enjoying extending my circling with balls in this way because it feels less forced to me than last year when I tried to only use LICT for my stories.  I'm hoping that by the time I'm done with my circling, I will have already taught a large portion of the vocab from LICT and I can skip a ton!

The stress of the last month

I have been trying to think of how to compose this blog and avoiding it because it just makes me feel bad...

About a month ago, we had a district-wide meeting of all the language teachers.  We were talking about common core and how to support the ELA and math teachers in our classes.  Great stuff.  The problem came when we got together with our languages to talk about how things have been going.  My TPRS colleague and I were attacked by our non-TPRS (and upper-level) colleagues.  We were told that we aren't teaching our students anything (okay, I can kind of ignore that because I know what my kids can do), that we have to use the book (again, I can ignore that because there is nothing that says I have to use a textbook), and that the parents and students are complaining that they weren't prepared by us to continue to the next level (this is the one that stung).  They complained and attacked for around 45 minutes while my colleague and I answered their attacks.

 "Do your kids ever see a verb chart?"  "No."  "Well, I think they are a very handy tool because, once they have seen a verb chart, they can conjugate almost any verb that they find in a dictionary." 

"Can your kids count and say the alphabet?" (this one was just ridiculous)

"It's October: have your kids learned avoir?"  "They have learned how to say I have, you have, and he/she has"  "Well, if they haven't learned the other forms, what else are you teaching them in that time?"  "My kids know reads, listens to, plays, is, writes, sleeps, knows, etc etc"  "But they only know the singular forms of those..."

This went on forever.  Finally, as we were running out of time, an administrator came to check in with us and the "leader" (who has no power over us besides that she teaches the highest level) said that we needed more time to collaborate and could we have the afternoon together.

And so it continued...  Although I do have to say that the afternoon was much more productive since we actually talked about what we teach in each level and what the high school teachers consider essential and what they consider extra.  Turns out that we agree on most of it.  The difference is that the high school teachers teach songs to help them conjugate all the forms, while we teach our kids to actually use the language.  But it was actually productive and I felt good after that.

But now I don't feel good anymore.  I am constantly questioning myself.  "Am I really teaching them anything?"  "But in their free writes, they are making so many spelling and conjugation errors!"  "Man, they are supposed to learn imparfait, passe compose and conditionnel in one year?!  How am I going to make sure that they can fill out those boxes?"

I don't want to think like this.  I want to point out that Stephen Krashen sent an email to moreTPRS saying that what I'm doing in the classroom is right.  I want to print off the new ACTFL guidelines and show them how I'm meeting them.  I want them to at least spend an HOUR in my classroom before they attack me.  They have NO CLUE what I do down here!!!  But instead, I can't get out of my head.  I keep envisioning my awesome students from last year, whom I led, taught, and loved, sitting in a classroom and taking a test that they fail because I didn't teach them to fill in boxes last year.  It breaks my heart.  I feel like I can't look my students in the eyes because I know what they are going to have to do next year.  And I don't want them to blame me for failing them. 

Help.  I need help.  I'm better than this.  I am a damn good teacher.  I know it.  But the little voice in my head is confused.  Do I take a week/month at the end of the year and work through the textbook so they won't be unprepared?  I will NOT stop teaching this way because I LOVE it and my students love it.  I am reaching students every day who are failing other classes and hate school. 

Phew!  That was a lot to dump on you, dear reader (if you exist), but I had to get my thoughts out so that I can hopefully feel better.  If you have any ideas (particularly with those tricky conditional endings), let me know...