Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kindergarten Day!

This year, I've decided to start reading to my kids once a week.  On Wednesdays, we have a shortened schedule, so I've set aside about 15 minutes per week to read to my kids.  I asked my neighbors if anyone was getting new carpet soon, and got a big chunk of carpet to put down for kids to sit on. 

The first week, I chose a very simple "I Can Read!"-type book about playing in the snow.  VERY little plot.  Afterwards, I apologized to the students and said that as their knowledge increases, the interest of the books will increase also.  Then, I read a harder book to them for a few minutes.  The students told me that they preferred the easier, boring book to the interesting difficult one!  I was amazed!  I thought that the books had to be interesting in order for them to pay attention, but NO!  They were just excited that they understood.

Since then, we've done several other books and, since I'm choosing books in French or English and then "writing" my own words, I can vary the difficulty depending on the level of the class.  For my French 1s, for example, we read Rainbow fish and we talked about the colors, swimming, sad, happy, etc, but for my French 4/5 class, I read the book as it was written to give them authentic input. 

It's working very well!  We've had a couple of crazy weeks, schedule wise, and my kids are asking where my rug is...they can't wait to get back to our routine.

I'm having a hard time picking the perfect books to go with each class, so I've been winging it.  I've created a "database" on my google drive to kind of help me remember what I was teaching them as I was reading the books.  If you use Kindergarten Day and would like to add to my list, please do!

Just click here and add anything you wish.  Just be careful because if you change it, it changes my copy too (and anyone else will be able to see it also).

Monday, August 19, 2013

What I did with my new (to me) 4/5s

I had a question about what I did with my upper levels this week, since I have NO CLUE what they learned/remember from past levels of French.  Here was my response:

First off, I had them do a 5-minute free-write the first day.  They didn't do so well on that.  So, for better or worse, I am adapting the circling with balls activity for my 4/5s.  They haven't ever had me before, so we are starting with that.  The first two days, we talked about one student who played baseball at Kauffman Stadium at midnight because he was playing against the Australians.  Luckily, Scarlett Johansen (his choice) was in the stands and fell madly in love with him because he was the best baseball player in the world.  After the game (which he won, of course), Scarlett waited for him outside the stadium while he showered....and on and on.  They were loving it and it was super awesome for me to hear them spontaneously give dialogue for the characters.  Imagine how fun it was when the SRO entered the classroom to see three students standing together, with one male student wearing a blue wig and "flirting" with the baseball player.  It was awesome!

Friday, August 16, 2013

First days excitement!

Well, after an exceptional time at NTPRS this summer, I am back at school and more enthusiastic than ever! 

As you know if you read my blog regularly, I recently changed positions and am now working closer to home with a much larger work load.  I moved to a high school and am the ONLY French teacher, so I teach levels 1-5 and IB.  I was a little scared to take the job for fear of the unknown, but I now know that I made the right choice.  My students, parents, and colleagues are outstanding, and the increased work load hasn't killed me (yet). 

This year, I am doing some new things in my classroom.  I took Bryce Hedstrom's ideas (outlined in my blog entry here) and started FVR in the class.  I was afraid that I wouldn't have enough books for it to be successful, but found a treasure trove left behind by the French teacher before me.  They might not be the newest books, but they are filling their purpose until I can get some money to get some new books.  So, I did just what Bryce outlined.  I printed off the reading quotes, hung them in my room, divided books by level and talked it up!  Then, we went over the process of picking a book, I sat in the front of the room, set the timer, and we read.  It was silent.  It worked wonderfully.  I really like Bryce's assertion that we have to start from the beginning.  I even had my level one's complete this five minute read, but I told them that they would be doing more of a picture walk like they did in kindergarten than they would be really reading for comprehension.  Fantastic!  Thank you SOOOOO much Bryce.

Another thing that I did this year is to add a desk calendar outside my room.  I call this my "invite me" calendar.  I'm pretty sure I got this idea from Twitter, during a Teach Like a Pirate chat.  I explained to kids that if they ever had an event that they needed a cheerleader for, they could put the time on the calendar and I would try to make it.  So far, no one has taken me up on it, but I have a feeling they will.  I'll let you know how it goes.

So happy!!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Show Me the Data by Karen Lichtman and Stephen Krashen

I just gravitate towards Stephen Krashen.  He is a genius and I love hearing him talk because he gives me the numbers behind my ideas of why TPRS works.  Here's the fact: TPRS's been proven, but we need to continue to prove it.

In this session, Karen Lichtman, a professor at Northern Illinois University, talked about all the research that exists for the effectiveness of TPRS.  It exists and the results show that TPRS is better than anything else out there, even when the tests are grammar-heavy.  There is no current research to show that TPRS does worst in all skills.  And this isn't a small number when you add up the numbers.  TPRS research encapsulates 14 studies in 25 schools in 134 classes with 2294 students.  But we need more!!

There is an article with summaries of all the research.  Karen said that it is all reproducible and should be widely shared.

After showing us the research, Karen and Stephen really encouraged us to conduct research in our classroom.  They have ideas for us:

  1. Replicate a research project that has already been done to see if you get similar results.
  2. Check for retention over time (try to keep in touch with students to see how they do on the exam 1, 2, 10 years down the road)
  3. Enrollment-does TPRS increase enrollment in the higher levels as compared to traditional classrooms?
  4. New groups: elementary, college, non-Spanish
But, when we do research, we have to PUBLISH it.  Karen and Stephen said that they would help us get published, write our articles, and crunch our numbers.  Stephen did say that all articles must be shorter than 5 pages for him to read it.  He also said that we need to publish our failures as well as our successes or we risk not being taken seriously.  We also need to put TPRS or Storytelling in the title so that Karen (and others) can find it quickly.

A research article has 4 parts: introduction, procedure, results, and conclusion.  Dr. Krashen suggests writing the results section first, then writing the procedure, then the conclusion, and finish with the introduction.  For brevity's sake, Dr. Krashen reminds us that those reading our article understand the lingo, so we don't need to spend a long time explaining the history of TPRS or the history of language learning: assume that those reading our article have a strong prior knowledge of language learning.

I am going to try and find a grammar-centric classroom to compare to and start researching this year!!


Edmodo with Leslie Davison

This session was very hands-on.  We all created a classroom, joined the NTPRS group, and learned to post, edit comments, and create a poll.

Leslie does a great job using Edmodo for comprehensible input.  She puts questions on there for students to answer, links to youtube videos or articles of interest, and other items to get students excited about reading/writing in the TL.

I'm excited about the possibilities, but I wonder if the students will actually go to the page...  I used to have a blackboard page with a ton of stuff on it, but the kids didn't ever go to my blackboard page, so it was a lot of work for very little payoff.  Do you use edmodo?  Do your students use it?

Improvisation with Von Ray

This was my second time at this session.  I went the first time at NTPRS in Chicago and it was eye-opening for me personally.  I am now in an improv troupe and have performed for a paying audience!

I should point out that this session is more about personal enrichment than activities for the classroom.  The basic principles of improv fit our jobs so well.  First, you have to LISTEN very carefully in improv, just as we need to listen to our students.  Just think of a homerun story...was it successful because you had a story in mind and just re-told it or was it successful because your students added awesome details?

The second idea is the idea of "yes, and..."  First, you validate the idea (Blaine is great at this).  You say, "Absolutely!  The boy was at KFC!" and then you add a detail to that, "He was at KFC with his mother!"  This way, you further the story while telling your students how smart they are.

The third thing I have taken from improv is that it has to be a supportive environment.  When you are on stage in front an audience, you have to support your fellow improv-ers.  It has to feel like a safe place or the show would be boring because no one would go out on a limb for fear of being undermined.

The last idea is the most obvious, I think.  As TPRS teachers, we are doing improv on a daily basis.  So why not study the art to get better at it?  I really recommend that you try to find some classes where you live.  It is really really fun and helps in the classroom as well.

I know that I have a lot of other ideas about improv, but my brain has shut down for now.

You Gotta Do Light Reading with Bryce Hedstrom

I just love Bryce Hedstrom.  His notes for this session are found on the free section of his website.  I have to admit that I haven't had a chance to check the notes out, which is unfortunate because Bryce didn't get a chance to really go over his notes...too many excited teachers with too many questions.

Bryce recommended a book called "Readicide" by Kelly Gallagher to discuss the difference between light reading and academic reading.  This session was about light reading, where we allow students to read what they want to with very little accountability.  This allows the students to read for pure enjoyment.

With so much emphasis being put on non-fiction readings because of the common core, Bryce really encourages kids to read fiction because fiction can help teach kids empathy.  I love this idea!  I really think that kids should be able to read what they like.  If they are interested in a topic, I'm sure that they will read a non-fiction article about that subject...why should we cram it down their throats??

One of the big ideas from this session was that it is okay for students to flip through a magazine without really reading the the articles.  Even if they are reading the pictures, it is still reading!  If they find an interesting picture, then they will try to read the caption to find out what is going on.

I think we put too much pressure on reading, and this FVR time is a great way to take the pressure off.  I can't wait to try it in the classroom (provided I can find enough materials).

Another fantastic idea from Bryce is that he has posters up with great quotes about reading from Krashen or other literacy experts to show kids why reading is so important.  These posters are available on his website as well.

Bryce does three kinds of reading in class:  academic reading (the novels or authentic articles that are read as a class for content), kindergarten reading (just what it sounds like), and FVR.

Bryce didn't talk about the academic reading in this session.  I got some great ideas about kindergarten reading, though.  Bryce does it every Thursday at the end of class.  He has a large rug that he rolls out for students to sit on.  The students have to be on the rug or in the first row of desks behind the rug, but they must be participants in the story.  Students can volunteer to bring cookies for this time.  Here's the great thing that I learned about K-reading: you don't have to read the words!  You can use an English book or a book with no words; just describe the story in language that is appropriate for that class.  Love it!  K-reading should be about 15 minutes per week.

For FVR (light reading), Bryce has students do this 3 times a week.  They start doing this type of reading the first week of class, even when they don't have much language.  He starts out with 5 minutes and then they do 15 minutes by the end of the year.  In level 2-3, the students read between 15-30 minutes each time.  He recommends stopping them a little bit before they start getting restless to increase anticipation.  FVR needs a lot of coaching and modeling to get the students to act appropriately.  I will have to spend time looking at Bryce's complete notes to see how he sets up his classroom for success.

I am going to take the information I got from this session and start FVR this year.  I am worried about not having enough books, so I am going to try to write some grants to get more books in the classroom.  I'm also going to look for used books on bookmooch, amazon, and other sites to see if I can get some books for cheap.  My aunt suggested asking the local Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc to see if they would give me some money for my classroom.  Yet another thing to add to my to-do list for the week before school!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Verifying and Dramatizing with Blaine Ray

Any time I get a chance to be in Blaine's class, I HAVE to take it.  This man is just so inspiring and loving...even if you can't be Blaine in your classroom, I always learn so much by watching him in action.

The purpose of this class was learning to use student actors in order to get more reps, engage students, give a visual representation of the story, and expose students to natural dialogue.  I did a much better job of this last year than I have ever done before, but I still think I can do a better job.

Blaine modeled how to use student actors and taught us German in the process.  We were working with this basic story, "There is a girl.  She wants a cow.  She has a bad cat."  So, he started by choosing his actor.  Blaine actually calls it an audition and lets the students know that they get one opportunity to audition or they will never get a chance to act again.  He modeled this by whispering in my ear what he would say to a stinky actor or a distract-er.  This is what he whispered, "Hey, this is your one shot to show me that you can be a superstar actor.  So I really need you to do your best acting job or you will never get the opportunity to act again."  I need to do a better job of choosing actors and coaching them to act better.

Okay, next step: Blaine says the sentence in the past "There was a girl."  Then, he turns to me, "Bess, are you a girl?"  I have to answer in a complete sentence, which is written on the board, so I really just have to read it at first.  When I say, "Yes, I am a girl," he says "Yes, that's right, you are a girl."  Then he turns to the class and says, "Class, Bess was a girl."  In this way, he is switching between past and present, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person...  We worked for over 15 minutes on just 5 sentences.  As a student, it didn't seem like we were going to slow and I didn't get bored.  I think we tend to try to go to fast in class and forget to sit on the facts for a while.

Then, we got in groups of three and practiced this.  I got to learn Latin!  And SPEAK it!  I love that there are people who teach students to speak Latin in schools across America.  I hate the idea that most schools teach Latin as a study of root words.  Why can't we speak it??

The next step was to add a parallel character and follow the same pattern, but this time you have more facts to confirm and talk about.  Just another way to add reps.

The last thing we practiced was "forgetting" to tell the class about something that happened earlier.  In our example story, we flashed back to how the girl got her bad cat.

Michelle Kindt was our coach in the session, and she told us that we could set our phones to buzz in our pockets every minute or 5 minutes for things that we forget to do, like comprehension checks or grammar pop-ups.  I don't know how to set my phone up to do this, so if anyone knows how to get an iPhone to do this, let me know!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reader's Theater with Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, and Carrie Toth

I said that I could listen to these ladies all day, so today that's just what I did!  In this session, they were supposed to be trying to sell their books, but TPRSers aren't the best at the hard sells, so they took their books and showed us how to use reader's theater with 5 of their latest books.  Sadly, they aren't all in French...yet.

So, here is the process.

  1. Read the novel and note scenes that would be great to act out.  They suggest scenes with a lot of action, characters or confusion to help the students really understand what is going on.
  2. Write out the props needed for the scene
  3. Pick your actors and give them director's notes while the rest of the class is engaged in a partner activity.
  4. Call the attention back to the actors.  The teacher narrates the scene (reads from the book) while the actors do the actions/say the dialogue when the teacher pauses after a phrase.  The slooooower this goes, the better.  
The sections that we did were paragraphs and not much more.  I'm not sure if they would do longer sections if we weren't crunched for time...I'll have to ask.

Once the scene had been performed, you could do more with the scene.  At the end of one scene, Carol asked us to finish the scene with the actor doing a different action.  Then, we shared our sentences and the actor did those activities.  It was great because we were working on the structure "and finally she Xed".  Carol also did something she called Snapshot or FreezeFrame.  The teacher re-reads a sentence from the scene and calls on a group to run and put themselves in a position to act that sentence out so that she could take a photo of them.  Next sentence, same thing, continuing until she had a slideshow to go along with the scene.  I'm thinking that this would be great for re-tells (and while she is taking the pictures, there is MORE REPETITION, but in a sneaky way).  I love to be sneaky...

Thinking on your feet-Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido

I love watching these two together!  They are a laugh a minute!  Here's what I got:

  • Circling is like salt: great for seasoning, but it shouldn't be the whole meal.
  • Introduce each vocabulary item as excited as if you were bringing a favorite item to show and tell.  If you have to fake it, do it!  You are just trying to one-up the others.
  • Use emotions to engage your students
  • Look at twitter feeds of current events with your students (Carol's example was tweets about the winner of the Home Run Derby who was being criticized for not speaking English)
  • Do things when they are timely-doesn't have to be the day they happen, but don't wait a week!
  • Search "Just for Laughs" on youtube to get some great wordless videos to teach structures.
  • Some structures don't lend themselves to PQA, so don't try to force it if it's not happening!
  • Have kids ask questions about a story if you already have it planned.
  • Use Poll Everywhere in your class (Carol's example was "If you found a wallet, would you return it?" and students texted in Yes, definitely!, Maybe, No way!)
  • Use videos with different goals to increase novelty
    • If the video has an utterance of the target structure, pause it and ask "What did s/he just say?"  You can also then rewind and hear it again.
    • Count the number of (girls, times he misses something, objects she picks up, etc)
    • Create a narrative to go with a silent film (you can also record the dialogue and put it with the movie using Movie Maker or Garage Band)
    • Come up with one line of dialogue for the next 30 seconds of film
    • Ask me a question about what you just saw and it can't be an "is" question.
  • I need to find French mimes to bring some comedy to my class
  • Use to support students with authentic texts on websites
  • If you have a musician in a story, don't just use Justin Bieber: ask your students at the door to give you the name of their favorite musicians.
  • Respect your students and listen to them.  Even if it takes 5 minutes away from the validates them and your relationship with them.
  • Use pictures of your students as visuals to support your stories (this reminds me of Betsy's visual story...)

Round table discussion

During the exhibitors fair, I sat down at a table with my roommate Crystal (holla Crystal!) and luckily, people just started joining us!  I like to think that it's because Crystal and I look really interesting, friendly, and beautiful, but it's probably because there were only two tables in the room.  Anyway, we started talking with people like Leah from Tennessee and Joyce (?) from the Netherlands and many others (I'm sorry I can't remember more names, but my brain is mush at this point, remember?).  We found a common thread: we are the outcasts in our departments, but we are doing the right thing and it makes sense to those who aren't language teachers drilled in the art of grammar worksheets.

Leah had inspiring stories about working in a rural district where students hate language and their parents support that view because those dang im'grints should just learn to speak 'mercan by gosh!  She is in a battle with her colleagues, who spend most of their day in the copy room, making worksheets or sitting at their desks while the kids watch movies.  She has tried to collaborate, but they aren't interested in sharing ideas.  How sad.  My experience with building-level collaboration has always been fantastic.  Even though I was usually the only teacher using TPRS, we worked together on so many things!  Just because I teach differently doesn't mean that we can't learn from each other.  Every teacher (even the worst) has good ideas, right?  So we rallied around Leah and encouraged her to do what she believes is right and to share when she's comfortable without using the word TPRS.  Say it's an activity that worked and just share it.  They'll either be open to it and it might work for them or they'll ignore you.  At least you tried!

Here is something that I took from Leah that I am going to try really hard to remember for next year.  She had her students at the end of the year write letters to the new students for next year.  So the 1st years who are just winding up their first year in class write what to expect/advice for next year's first year class to receive at the beginning of the year.  Then, Leah goes through, picks the ones that are most beneficial and photocopies them for the beginning of the next school year.  How great is that?

Teacher Talk with Scott Benedict

After all of the sessions, I felt like I still had a bunch of questions that needed answers (and I was actually trying to find the beautiful Laurie Clarcq), so I headed upstairs to the coaching/teacher talk room.  It looked as if I was out of luck when Scott Benedict walked in the door and said that he was supposed to be working!  Hooray!  An expert to answer all my questions in a no-holds-barred manner.

First, we talked about how to assess my new students, since I will be walking in blind.  I have no idea what they learned/acquired last year.  I asked if he uses a test and he said "Not if I can help it!"  He does what I did last year (good to know my instincts were right) and has them do a free-write as close to the first day of school as possible.  He does this for all levels (even level one) and keeps them in a file so that the students (and parents and administrators) can SEE their progress throughout the year.

Second, Scott gave me a good reason why my students are producing accurately in writing.  He said that all French needs to be given orally and visually AT THE SAME TIME so that students make those connections.  He said that this isn't as important with other languages with phonetic spelling, but in French, there are too many silent letters.  This makes grammar pop-ups so much easier.  Thank you Scott!  I thought I was a failure or that TPRS didn't work because my kids just couldn't spell some words in French.  But now that I think about it, it was those words that I didn't keep up for them to see.  They needed more time LOOKING at the word.  So exciting.

My next question was about creating curriculum/choosing what to teach.  For next year, my new colleagues and I spent a LONG time working on curriculum for French 1 and 2 (which I already feel pretty confident teaching) and virtually no time on 3-5, except to explain the IB test and give me the basic outline and the textbook.  So I am feeling overwhelmed with these two huge textbooks, plus the novels that we are supposed to teach each year.  So I asked Scott to guide me (again) through the basics of adapting a text for TPRS.  This is what he said:

  1. Find a French frequency dictionary (luckily I have one already) and look through the vocabulary presented in the book.  If it is in the top 2000 words, the students should be expected to produce those words in speaking and writing in an upper level class.  If it is between 2001-5000, they should be able to recognize the word in context.  If it is any higher than that, it shouldn't be taught unless it is relevant to the students.  (I'm thinking of Carol Gaab teaching her students all the baseball terms.  Essential for her students, but not necessarily for mine)
  2. Look at the grammar points and decide if it is something I would use daily.  (I have to admit that I struggle with this because I have never been able to produce those higher grammar structures.  I have always tried to work around them...  So I'll have to be tricky when figuring this part out.  I'll talk to my native friends)

And that was it!  Very super helpful information and I thank Scott so much for being willing to share all of his knowledge with us.  Awesome!  He is making ripples, I can tell you that!  One of my new colleagues even asked me if I had heard of SBG and said that she had heard of this guy Scott Benedict who has given presentation on SBG with WL, have I heard of him?  Great to be able to say that I've spoken to him face-to-face!

Reading in under an hour-Betsy Paskvan

I have to admit that I was so involved in learning Japanese, that I didn't take many notes in this session.  So I'll break down the process and then I'll put in my notes...

  1. Select a culminating reading (this goes back to the idea of being intentional with what we are teaching)
  2. Pull out structures that your students don't know, that are high frequency, and that are NOT cognates
  3. Establish meaning of those structures and gesture (if you feel like it)
  4. PQA
  5. Break your story into pieces with visual support (I LOVED this idea, but I'm not sure how much time it will take...)
  6. Read as a group (this is actually read and discuss: asking questions like who, what, how, where, etc)
Everything was pretty understandable, but I loved how Betsy had her story broken up on the PowerPoint.  Our story was about Tom, Gatsby, and Daisy from the Great Gatsby and the story was basically that Tom and Gatsby liked Daisy, who was beautiful, but she didn't like them.  So the first slide was a picture of Gatsby (Leo from the movie) with the text "There was Leo" next to a picture of Daisy with "There was Daisy" next to a picture of Tom "There was Tom"  The next slide was another picture of Daisy with the text "Daisy is beautiful" next to a picture of Mia Farrow as Daisy with text "Mia is also beautiful"  You get the idea.  For me, a super novice with Japanese, it was immensely helpful.  I'm sure it will be for my students as well.

Okay, here's where the awesome thing happened.  After we read through the picture, we read the boring old text with no pictures.  She had us get with a partner.  One partner looked at the text and tried to help the other partner (with back to text) re-tell the story.  Here's the genius part:  the practice was not for the person trying to re-tell the story because they are just struggling like crazy.  The person who is actually getting the help and the repetitions is the partner helping the re-teller because they are reading the story AGAIN without realizing it!  Amazing, right?  Then, here's what little-miss-smarty-pants Betsy did next.  She asked for a volunteer partnership to model for the class.  And then the WHOLE class was reading the story AGAIN without realizing it!!!  That Betsy, she's sneaky :)

Like I said, I didn't take a ton of notes because the Japanese was just too fascinating.  Great session!

Upper level Strategies-Pt 2

Our Monday lunch presentation with Stephen Krashen was a little strange, so I'll blog about all of that later, after I get a chance to see the man in person later tonight...

So back to the upper level strategies.  I have to admit that my brain is turning to mush from so much input, so I'm hoping to get it all down here now before I have to learn more.  One day later, and I'm already having difficulties decoding my notes.

We started with Reading strategies.  The ladies recommend PQA and a story before giving students the story in print.  While you are reading your text, you are pointing out (or asking them to find) structures that have just been taught, linguistics, translations for meaning or for money (as described in the previous blog), ambiguous words that might exist in the TL (ex. to, two, and too in English), and finally, word families.  I had no idea what a word family is, but it's taking a noun, like hair (bad example), and finding the adverb, adjective, or verb that goes with that word.  If you know of a better example, please put it in the comments, because I know they exist, but I can't for the life of me think of any right now.  Mushy brain!

Next, we went back to the weekend activity to move it more into writing.  I touched on this yesterday, but here are some more ideas from Carmen and Lynnette.  First, have students write about their weekends instead of doing it as an oral task.  Lynnette says that the first time she does this with classes, she checks in with them afterwards.  "What was hard about this?  What did you want to say that you didn't know how to say?" and she answers the questions, writing needed structures on the board.  Then, she has them do the writing a second time (without looking at their first writing), with the aid of the board.  After this, she has them exchange papers with a partner and the partner finds one really good thing in the paper and corrects one mistake.  They give back the papers, teacher answers any new questions, and they do the writing a third time (still without looking at the previous writing).  After this one, Lynnette collects the papers and grades them.  I love this idea of scaffolding the writing so that the students are engaged in writing and EVERY student makes progress.  If they started with one sentence, I'm betting that they are writing more than that the third time.  It's genius because it allows each student to focus on what THEY can do better the next time.  If they aren't ready to check for agreement between subject and past participle, they don't work on that yet. (I think Bryce gave me that word on moreTPRS a few weeks ago).  Great stuff.

Now, when grading writing, both Carmen and Lynnette say that they don't usually correct for errors.  IF they do, they say to only correct 10 errors because that way each student is equal.  They start by focusing on the errors that hinder comprehension and that should be internalized and then move to smaller errors if they still "need" more errors to get to ten.

In this session, there was a lot of encouragement of metacognition by the students.  Carmen uses a reflection sheet so that each student reflects on what they are putting into class, how that is reflected by what they are learning, and what the student can do in the future to get better.  I am definitely going to be doing some sort of reflection in the future.

The last two nuggets that I got from this session don't really fit with the title, but I will put them here:

  • Lynnette had a brilliant insight.  She asks students to imagine themselves at 35 with the life they want.  Then she asks, "When you are there, what would you pay to have someone teach you?"  Think about this.  As an adult, I would never choose to learn calculus.  I would never pay for a biology class for entertainment.  But I will pay for cooking classes, language classes, and the arts classes.  It's amazing that we are the bottom of the totem pole at school when you think of things like that.
  • Also, I found out about the Badass Teacher group on facebook.  This is for teachers who don't believe that schools are failing, who don't believe that today's kids are horrible, and who don't believe that teachers are only in it for the summers off.  These are teachers with a fire in their hearts for students and who take offense to being the butts of jokes and the scapegoat for an invisible problem.  So I joined.  If you consider yourself a Badass Teacher, I invite you to join too!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Upper Level Strategies (pt 1) by Lynnette St George & Carmen (in Vegas baby!) Andrews

With my new teaching position next year, I knew that I needed some information on how to make TPRS work for the upper levels.  I have a new colleague who has told me that TPRS just does not work with high schoolers.  Now, I should say that I think she uses a lot of CI techniques and is probably using TPRS in a narrow scope to mean telling silly stories about cats.  When I say TPRS, I mean all of the exciting things that I can bring into my classroom that came to be because of Blaine’s initial spark of telling stories to teach a language.  But I digress…
The main point (as I understood it), is to start any lesson with a goal and to be intentional with what and how we teach.  It seems common sense, but we really need to look at a structure or a grammar point and decide what we want students to be able to do with that structure.  Do we want them to be able to produce it correctly in writing? Speaking?  Or do we just need them to recognize it if they hear or read it?  Depending on our answer to that question, we need to adjust our teaching.  If we want them to produce it, they will need many more repetitions and practice with the structure than if we simply need them to recognize it. 
The main example Lynnette used as a model was an essay that she has her students write on their favorite movie.  In order to complete this assessment, they need to have a good knowledge of movie vocabulary, like horror movie, director, actor and they need to know how to make comparisons (I liked Jason Sudeikis better in Horrible Bosses than I did in Hall Pass).  So, Lynnette starts a LONG time before she actually asks the students to even think about writing anything.  The first step would be the introduction of talking about movies in the Monday weekend talk.  “Who saw a movie this weekend?  Did you like it?  Where did you see it?  Do you prefer seeing movies at home or in a theatre? Etc.” 
One thing that Lynnette said that stood out in my mind was the idea of avoiding one word answers by telling students they have to start their utterance with the word “I” (or he/she if they are answering the question about a classmate).  So simple, yet soooooo effective. 
Once the students have had enough practice with that, you start asking discussion questions on the topic.  In this example, some questions were “What is the title of an exceptional film?  Who is the principle actor?  What is the genre of this movie?  What kind of music did they use in the film?” And then ask some opinion questions about the film.  You wouldn’t ask these questions one after the other, but rather sprinkle them over multiple days or even weeks.  Then, when you actually ask the students to write the essay, they are already very comfortable with the vocabulary and have a good idea of what they want to say. 
We then talked about assessing speaking and writing in a quick, dipstick assessment vs a summative assessment.  On the dipstick, Carmen uses three grades: exceeds (can independently answer the task), meets (can answer the task, but needs some guidance), or below (can’t do it, even with help).  For a summative assessment, these change to A-above instruction level, B-meets instruction level, C-sometimes meets, D-below, F-far below.  The great thing about this is that YOU decide what the instruction level is.  If you aren’t worried too much about tense at that point in the year because you haven’t focused on it enough, DON’T GRADE IT!  They also suggested having anchor samples for yourself or your department so that everyone can remember what a B or an A looks like at the end of first quarter.  I love this idea!
Here is another HUGE take-away from this workshop: make your goal intentional by asking students at the end of each class/week/unit what they’ve accomplished in the last 50 minutes, using an “I can…” statement.  This helps students with metacognition and takes away some of the “All we do in French class is sing and tell stories” because students are constantly thinking of how much they’ve learned.  You can also ask “What’s hard about this?” and “What’s going to make it easier?”  I love this idea so much and I can’t wait to use it in the classroom!
When we started talking about listening, Carmen had a great idea that I have used in the past, but that I want to really focus on for next year.  In the past, I have told my students that “Je m’appelle” means “I call myself” but I don’t force them to read it like that when we do oral translations.  I did have a class that insisted on translating it that way, and I loved it, but I didn’t force it.  I will from now on because Carmen pointed out that, in the beginning, it puts focus on the meaning in a way that prevents silly slip-ups like saying “Je m’appelle est” because that would just be ridiculous!  She calls it translating literally versus translating for pay.  If someone were paying you, you would make it sound as natural as possible, but when you are translating literally, you read each word.  LOVE IT!  I also got a great natural use of the subjunctive in a daily class way.  Carmen says “I want that you take out your books” instead of using the imperative.  I’m thinking…maybe imperative for French 1 and 2 and then switch to subjunctive in 3 and up??

NTPRS 2013 arrival!

Well, here I am in Dallas in the hotel room that I am sharing with two strangers (at least they were strangers before last night!).  Thanks to the NTPRS website, I found two wonderful women to share a room with and to share insights into the conference and the life of a TPRSer.  I am hoping to be able to blog daily about each session and workshop, but the wifi slows down in the evenings when everyone is in their rooms working…  So we shall see!  It was so good to see familiar faces this morning and get my hug from Blaine!  LOVE these people!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Next year

In the fall, my TPRS colleague and I were attacked at a curriculum meeting by the three high school teachers.  It was a really poorly-handled situation that could have been a compromise situation if the hs teacher didn't think that 1: they were right, 2:we were wrong, and 3: they had the authority to manage what we do in our classrooms.  I was so thankful for my colleague (only in her 2nd year of teaching) for speaking so eloquently and doing a phenomenal job of defending the theories and practices behind TPRS.  She is brilliant and I'm so glad to know her!  Anywho, in the spring, there was a job opening at a school ten minutes from my house, as opposed to my current job, which is 45 minutes away.  I was very conflicted about applying, but I figured that I would put it God's hands, and I filled out the application.  I struggled: "Do I want this job?  It's a high school, and I've heard that high schools are kind of lonely and departmentalized...  I would be teaching 5 preps?!  Oh no, I'll have to go back to school and get 8 more hours of grad credit?!  What's IB?  Etc..."  I talked to everyone about it.  My sister's boyfriend told me that I should do it for the growth experience.  My husband wanted me to work closer to home.  My colleagues, who knew the situation, said that I shouldn't have to deal with the hs crap.

And then this happened: the morning of my interview, I got an email from a friend who works at the hs.  She said that the hs French teachers were conducting a "research project" to compare the abilities of TPRS students vs. non-TPRS students and they found negative results for my students.  Not very surprising since the test that I'm assuming they used for their study is the French 2 pre-test that is multiple-choice, fill in the correct form of the verb, with no context or anything beyond grammar-babble.  So God came through and sent me a VERY clear message.  I went into that interview and rocked it!  Sure enough, I was offered the job.  Hooray for me!  Oh no, there was a problem...I was excited, but my rock-star colleague looked abandoned.  I tried to be excited, but I was so sad to be leaving her in a toxic situation by herself.  But wait! What's this?!  There's ANOTHER French position at my new district?!  She got that position and now we are both going to work in a TPRS-friendly district together!

It's been a bit overwhelming so far.  From the moment we were hired, we have been in on all the curriculum emails, meetings, etc.  We just finished a 40-hour (paid) week working with our other French colleagues to write curriculum for next year.  That was drinking from the fire hose, for sure.  But I feel so hopeful for the next year!  We will be able to collaborate once a week on our classes!  One of my new colleagues (who was also my cooperating teacher when I student-taught) is so encouraging!  Because of her, we are presenting at a conference in the fall.  It is so uplifting to hear positive responses to ideas instead of, "But how do you teach verbs charts?" in an accusatory manner.

I'm so excited!!

End-of-the-year Reflections

Another year under my belt.  I wonder if I will ever feel comfortable with what I've done...I hope not!  I want to keep improving and growing as a teacher.  This year I tried a lot of new things: Movie talk, embedded writing/reading, improv games, etc.  I still feel like I need to do a better job of circling to get my structures in there.  I'm getting better at recycling those structures in later stories, but I need to practice parallel stories and really focusing on the structures instead of the plot.  But MAN, we had some good stories this year.  This year, I did a better job of using actors.  I found some great students who were quiet in their seats, but sparkled in front of the class.  It was awesome to see.  This year, I got to see what a second year student can do after two years of TPRS study.  It was pretty cool, too.  My 4%ers were conjugating verbs like crazy and not even realizing what they were doing.  The lightbulbs were going off during pop-ups.  I even had a student start taking French 3 at the high school with a grammar queen and she was successful!  It was a good year...despite being attacked by the high school teachers.  More on that later....

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Musings on second year

I think that, by the second year in the TPRS classroom, some students get really tired of the same old structure that I live by.  For those classes, I have tried to give them what they are begging me for in a couple of different ways.  First off, I do not do this every day because I am still the teacher and I know what's best for them...

I have started having them write the stories based on our target structures.  They have enough language that they are able to do this.  Then, I pick the best one and we go over it rather quickly the next day.  A lot of times, their stories are based on fairy tales or movies, so it makes it a lot more interesting for the students.

I also spend a lot more time on PQA than I do with my first years.  I don't know what it is about how I PQA, but I can't get the whole class to listen to me talk about one student in the class.  They just don't care that their neighbor woke up at 6 am.  Now, in the beginning of the year, when we are circling with balls, I can get the kids to pay attention for 45 minutes of me talking about one student.  But they just don't listen during a normal PQA.  Any thoughts on how I can spice it up?

Monday, March 4, 2013

My first Movie Talk!

I had about 10-15 minutes left in each of my French 1 classes today.  After hearing crickets with my first class as I tried to get them to tell me more about their weekends, I decided to try MT with my other 3 French 1 classes.  I used this video about a boy who kicks a can and the damage that causes (I think Laurie Clarcq first posted it).  We only made it through about 30 seconds of the video as I described the boy, we imagined what the pop in the can tasted like, we imagined what kind of music the boy listened to (because my class immediately labeled him as "emo"), etc.  We predicted what would happen next...  It was GREAT!  It was a nice break from storytelling for me because I had no control over what happened next in the video. 

I did start off by explaining that we were going to try something new and that we were going to watch a movie, but that I was going to stop the video very frequently to describe what was going on.  I promised that we would watch the whole thing without stopping once we were done with doing it my way. 

The kids seemed engaged and my superstar class was picking up the new vocabulary like nobody's business...which wasn't the point, but it was great to give those superstars something new to work with. 

I highly recommend trying this!

I have to update now that I've finished watching the movie with all of my classes:  My superstar class was able to re-tell the movie using super impressive vocabulary and my lowest class was at least engaged in the activity.  I can't wait to try it again soon...but not too soon because I don't want it to lose it's novelty!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My collaboration rock star

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to start working with a student teacher (she wasn't my student teacher...she belonged to my mentor).  She was so excited and eager to learn and eager to teach!  We hit it off right away...  Flash forward a month or two and she got hired to work with me in the district!  I convinced her to go to NTPRS with me in St. Louis and our love affair really began.  I have mentored her for the past year and half and I'm very excited to say that the student is now becoming the teacher!  We've had several snow days recently, and she's been working feverishly on curriculum FOR NEXT YEAR!  Now, I'm a real fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gal, so I'm really excited to have someone to push me to thinking beyond tomorrow.

So this is what we are going to try to do for next year: 

1.  We are thinking of doing our stories only in the present tense, but still do our weekend talks in the past.  Here's the reasoning and please speak up if you have other ideas:  we will only be teaching level one and our students will go to a non-TPRS classroom for level 2.  The high school teachers don't care too much about how much of the past tense we cover (we're supposed to teach all of the passe compose, but it's always been shoved in at the last part of the year when other jr. high teachers taught out of the book), but they really want those verb endings...  I have really enjoyed telling stories in the past and reading in the present and my level twos are just now really getting into the difference between the two.  If I was able to follow my students beyond the first level, it would be a no-brainer.  Any thoughts or experience on this?

2.  We are going to look at the textbook and actually try to fit in all of the verbs that they are "supposed" to know.  And I know that they really don't know them beyond maybe being able to put an ending on them, but we'll see...

3.  I have gotten into the habit of having no idea where a story is going before I start telling it.  I think this might be a downfall because sometimes I don't know how to wrap up a story and so it just kind of ends up falling flat.  Sometimes it works out brilliantly and I have a home run story that I NEVER would have been able to create on my own, but then there are days when story time comes to an end and I feel like we haven't accomplished anything.  So I think we are going to go back to the table and try to come up with some really good story ideas to really get back to the essence of storyasking (where only the details are decided by the students).  Obviously, if a class has a home-run idea, we would have the flexibility to go with that.

4.  I would like to do more embedded readings with authentic texts

5.  We would like to infuse more culture into our stories and readings so that we don't have to have an English day to explain things like how the Acadians got to New Orleans or who St. Nicolas was.

6.  I really want to experiment with MovieTalk, but I'm not 100% comfortable with it not being 99% comprehensible to students.  It seems like so much fun, but I'm afraid that, even with the visual cues, it might be taking a step away from CI and into the land of Rosetta Stone where students are guessing the meanings of words.  Any thoughts?  (I am not trying to say anything bad about those superstars who are using this!  It sounds amazing, but I haven't done it or seen it done, so I'm a little hesitant...)

What else is working well in your classrooms?  We have not done Kindergarten Day or FVR.  The closest thing I've done to FVR is "Lisons Lundi!" which is where students work on a novel in groups.  When they finish one novel, they can choose another one to work through.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stories this week

Today, we told this story in my French 1 class:

There was a girl.  Her name was Steve.  Steve wanted to go to Batman's party.  (we side-tracked a little and talked about "A mon avis, Spiderman est le meilleur hero..." and when I asked who was the best heroine, a superstar said "Joan of Arc" and had me laughing...AND I got to give a quick history lesson).  She wanted to go to Batman's party, so she went to Russia.  She danced the harlem shake to Russia (youtube harlem shake to get an idea of what this is.  Basically, one person dances mildly for the first 10-15 seconds of the music and then at a certain point, everyone goes crazy!  We played a clip of the 30 second song every time we repeated this sentence to add variety and interest).  In Russia, she looked for Batman's party, but she didn't find it.  She found Scotty's party (a kid in class).  Everyone in French class was invited to Scotty's party, but Steve wasn't invited.  So she went to Kazakstan.  In Kazakstan, she looked for Batman's party, but she didn't find it.  Robin was in Kazakstan and he looked at Steve romantically.  Steve looked at Robin romantically.  Robin  was invited to Batman's party, so he took her to the party with him. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gems from improv class

At my first NTPRS, I took a class with Von Ray about using the skills of improv to add excitement to your TPRS class.  Well, I was inspired, two years later, to start taking improv classes.  What a blast!  I am in love and will be performing for the first time on March 3rd.

The interesting thing to me is trying to take the "games" from the improv classroom to my TPRS classroom.  Here are some games that I think translate well.  They might be a little hard to picture without the visual, so feel free to ask questions if anything is not clear.

Patterns:  In this game, students stand in a circle.  I turn to the person to my left, look them directly in the eye, and we start a pattern by saying a word at the same time (this can be hard because the other person doesn't know what I'm going to say yet) and clapping.  Then, they turn to the person to their left and continue the pattern, and so on.  Once it gets back to me, we repeat the pattern until we can do it fairly quickly.  I would say that this works best if there is no more than 15 kids in a circle, so you might need to split up a larger class.  For my students, we start off with numbers.  I say "un" and my partner says "deux" and so on around the circle.  When it gets back to me, I turn to my left partner and say "un" again.  By this time, they should know that I am going to say "un".  Try and get it going faster and then start with the numbers a second time, so that there are two sets of counting going on at the same time.  Once kids get the hang of this, you can try a category, like colors.  I would start off with "bleu" and then my partner would say another color to his left-partner.  If you can get really good at it, you can have two categories going at once (colors and numbers).

Go!:  This is more of a brain-break, but it's kind of fun.  Again, stand in a circle.  One person points to another student and says their name (this would be good for the first weeks of school when we are trying to build community).  The person who has been called on looks at the pointer and says "Go!/Vas-y!"  The pointer can not move until the named person says Go!  Once they say Go, the pointer moves to take the named person's place and the named person becomes the pointer and picks another student.  It sounds really easy, but the brain's first reaction is to start moving as soon as the student names and points. 

Whatcha doing?:  I really like this game, but I have not yet tried it for the classroom.  Two students come to the front of the class and one student starts miming an action.  The other student says, Whatcha doing?/Qu'est-ce que tu fais?  The student doing the action says anything but what they are actually doing and the non-miming student starts mimicking that action.  For example, student A starts pretending to swim.  Student B asks "Whatcha doing?"  Student A says, "Riding a bike"  Student B starts pretending to ride a bike and Student A asks "Whatcha doing?" and student B says "playing football" and student A starts pretending to play football. 

Arm/leg/countdown:  This is one that I just thought of adapting yesterday, so I haven't had a chance to try it.  It would be great for those moments when the eyes are starting to get glassy.  Everyone stands up.  You shake your right arm and say "Arm, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8"  Then start shaking your left leg and say "Leg, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8"  Then move to the left arm and say "Arm, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8"  Then right leg "Leg, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8"  Then go back to the left arm and lose the 8 "Arm, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7"  Repeat until you are just yelling "Arm, leg, arm, leg, arm, leg" and jumping around like a goofball.  Obviously, you would translate to your language.

So that's it!  Hope these add some fun!

Friday, February 15, 2013


Laurie Clarcq has been a fountain of positivity this year.  She started off January sharing a positive message, video, or thought every day.  Just something to raise our spirits as politicians try to tell the world that we suck.  It was a breath of fresh air in the month when we are all stuck inside and fresh air is hard to come by...

This month, she has been sharing a new TPRS blog every day.  I have to admit that I haven't been looking at them...but last night I had plenty of time as I sat at my table, eagerly awaiting my Valentine's dates/parents.  I was so inspired!  I have now added links to blogs on my sidebar and will continue to do so as I find amazing resources!  If you have a blog and want to be added, let me know!  I think it is so important for us to share specifics of what we do, what works, research, etc because we need the support. 

My colleague said that my last posts were pretty much downers, and I'm so glad that I had the time and sharing last night to drag my tired booty out of the doldrums.  I also had some amazing compliments from parents.  One parent sat down and said, "It always amazes me to see you behind this desk because I always expect to see Superman, based on what my child says about you."  I had another parent who was a real stinker last year, raking me over the coals for my lack of a textbook and lack of grammar.  This parent returned last night to tell me thank you for inspiring his daughter (she is absolutely FANTASTIC!!) to eat, breathe, and live French.  Besides the parent kudos, we language teachers had an awesome time sharing funny websites and laughing.  It was a great night.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Conversation starters

Thank you so much to Michele Whaley for introducing me to this website full of interesting photos!  I have always looked for bizarre photos on flickr, but this site is so much better.  I can't wait to use it for class...

Movie talk

I'm late to the movie talk game, but I've been reading all about it on Michele Whaley's site today.  It sounds like the perfect thing to infuse some new life into my class.  I've started getting the "are we doing a story AGAIN?" question and I think this would be a perfect way to stay in the TL, keep them engaged, and still meet my objectives. 

I wish I had come across this idea before I showed the kids Le Ballon Rouge a couple of weeks ago.  I had them write out sentences or words of what they saw, but it would have been so much more effective to stop the video and discuss in French or point out what I see.

I'm wondering how to adapt a video to every level if they are missing much of the vocabulary.  Anyone using this?  What videos do you use in the French classroom?  What structures do you focus on?

A down week

It seems like I've been in a funk this year.  This is for several reasons.  First, I have little to no time due to having an infant at home and trying to provide nourishment during my free time...  Second, we are in a transition period and everything that I have known and loved will be changing next year.  And finally, my teaching strategies have been attacked this year.  I am trying to keep things positive because, like I tell my students, perception is reality.  If you think you are happy, you are happy.  If you think you are bored, you are bored.  I must be doing a good job of faking it, because many students told me today (on warm fuzzy day, a day of compliments in my school) that they enjoy my class because I am always happy and having fun.  Whew!  I don't like my bad attitude to rub off on others, and I already know that it rubs off on my co-workers from time-to-time. 

I'm also down this week because I feel like I'm a stinky teacher this week.  We have parent-teacher conferences this week, so my heart just hasn't been in the classroom.  I'm tired and worn out and really really ready for a four-day weekend (5 and a half hours left!!).  So my plans for the classroom have been to teach about Mardi Gras, the Cajuns, and the history of Le Grand Derangement.  Usually, I LOVE this time of year because I love talking about this stuff.  It's really personal to me because I love New Orleans, Quebec, and my family survived Hurricane Katrina in a hotel in the French Quarter and were shuttled out of NOLA by a local musician who just happened to stop at Zachary Richard's house (look him up, French teachers...he does GREAT things) for a quick shower. 

This year, however, it hasn't felt that great.  Instead of being excited about sharing all this great information, it feels like we're just taking a break and wasting time.  There hasn't been much CI.  There hasn't been much French at all.  I know that culture is important and I also believe that "fun" is really important if we want to continue to have a growing French program, but it felt like a cop-out for a lazy teacher this year. 

So I'm trying to think of ways to teach the students what I want them to know about Acadians/Cajuns next year without losing our CI momentum...  Thoughts?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strangers in the classroom

This year, I am blessed to have two high school students in my classroom for a portion of most days.  It is so wonderful to have an extra set of eyes to work with students and give me a new perspective on my class.  For me, it helps keep my class fresh, knowing that there is someone in the class that I can try to impress or entertain.  At this point in the school year, some students are getting "bored" with the stories, but the fresh set of eyes push me to show everyone how exciting story time can be.

I also love having high schoolers come down and visit/help because they are so encouraging of the way I am teaching French.  They go back to the high school and tell their friends how "fun" my class is.  It feels like a nice warm hug on those days when I just don't think I'm worthy. 

PT conferences...

...are always a good time to reflect (and catch up on blogging between parents).  As always, I am failing in my goal of keeping this blog updated.  But I hope that this week will give me a chance to blog about all the TPRS goodness that is bouncing around in my head. 

Parents have been very supportive of my class and tell me that their students love French class, which is good to hear.  I've also been able to share a bit of our class with the parents as I read a recent free-write to them.  The looks on their faces are priceless!  I either get some giggles or they look really uncomfortable as I read about Jimmy the cow who wants to eat a fish named Tony.  I hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot by sharing insights into our classroom environment...

But I am really enjoying showing the parents what their children can do and it gives me something to refer to when I talk to them about their children.  I highly recommend that you try this in the future, and I hope I remember to do it again next year.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day one of the new semester

Last year I spent the first day going over my expectations again.  I think I've done a better job this year of being consistent, so I am going to skip that until it needs to be handled in a "pop-up" manner. 

So tomorrow, when the kids come back, we are going to talk about what they did over vacation.  I figure this will be a great vocab review for my first year students and an easy return to school for my second year students. 

If you have any ideas of how to infuse new vocab/structures/grammar points in this past-tense activity, let me know!  My second years can do it in their sleep by now...

A new year! Phew!

I am trying to let go of my fear of failure caused by the attack of last semester... 

Here is what I know: my second year students are KICKING BUTT!  They are using the language spontaneously in and out of class to communicate with each other.  They are having AHA moments when the patterns of language are making sense to them.  They smile in class.  They smile at me in class.  They smile at each other in class.  It is a good thing.  This is the last year that I will teach the second year kids and I'm a little sad, but I also know that it is the last year that I really have to worry about preparing them for the hell that is French 3.  I say hell because they review basically every grammar point in the first month and then read the history of France in French.  It is a killer!  I should also say that I would LOVE to be able to take this class.  It sounds really interesting.  But I do worry that my non-high-flying kids will get in there and feel like I failed them.  But I'm letting go of that fear and moving on.  Focus on the positive!  And there is soooo much positive.