Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Research with Karen Lichtman

This is, I think, the 3rd or 4th session by Karen that I've been to.  There wasn't a whole lot of new research to share, beyond Barb Cartford's new study about the increase in writing fluency over time, but there was one nugget that I adored!  One of the "negative" studies about TPRS showed that TPRS students did worse on listening and Karen supposed that this was because oftentimes, we do not expose our students to authentic speech, so they struggle when they listen to native speakers.  So, the moral of the story is to expose your students early and often.  Karen suggested finding a native friend to record stories from the very first year so that your students can hear what that sounds like.  LOVE THIS!!  If you decide to do this in French, please share your sound files so we can all benefit!

Immersion dinners

This will just be a quick plug for the immersion dinners that they have at NTPRS each year.  They are such a great opportunity to be with like-languaged people and the French teachers are a HOOT!  We had a blast eating at a Cajun restaurant, speaking French, and singing traditional French songs for the entire restaurant.  In fact, the restaurant was so happy that we were entertaining the other guests that they brought over several rounds of shots for the entire table.  Such a fun evening.  If you go to NTPRS in the future, I can't recommend the immersion dinners enough.  Super fun night!!

Finding the Story with Jim Wooldridge aka Senor Wooly

Full disclosure: after last year's presentation in Dallas, I have a bit of a happily-married-woman crush on Senor Wooly.  So I decided to take a break from cramming information into my brain to geek out for a while and watch Senor Wooly talk.

Here are two things I grabbed from my second time seeing this presentation:

  1. Use Subtext cards to give students a "secret" before any dialogue or acting.  For example: you have just found out that your partner has a third head, or You have decided that today is the day you are going to tell your partner that you love him/her.  This adds interest to an otherwise boring dialogue (what time is it?  What is the weather like?  Do you like cookies?  etc.)
  2. Set up a police investigation where you grill two "partners" in crime who supposedly robbed a bank.  So you are asking questions like "Where were you at 2:00??"  "What is your friend's name?"  "What were you doing?" etc.
Anyway, that's just two things I took away from the session.  If I were a Spanish teacher, I'm sure I would have much more to add, but I just love Senor's story (and, as I said before, he's not too shabby to look at!)

Reading with Carol Gaab

I had a lot of fun in this meeting just messing with Carol...I tweeted a pic of her as my woman crush Wednesday (#wcw) and just laughed at how awesome she is.

I took a ton of notes!  Carol linked most things right back to the 5Cs of the national standards.

The first point that Carol made was to be as authentic as possible.  Speak with the same intonations as a native speaker.  Use the same hand gestures.  This fits under Comparisons as students start to notice the difference in your normal persona and the persona for the target language.  She also said that we must speak in a normal pace, but use pauses to allow students to catch up.  This way we are already training our kids to listen to the speed of native speech.  I really liked this idea because I know that I speak really slowly and my kids have a hard time making the leap to natural speech.

Carol uses 4 types of questions when checking comprehension for a story or a reading.  This really adds some interest and variety and NOVELTY to our circling and questioning.

  1. Ask comprehension/pop-ups like we normally do
  2. PQA: these don't have to be specifically about the students but could be about what interests them instead.  Either way, you are connecting to the students.
  3. Cultural questions: what is the difference between what we just read and what we experience here?
  4. Inference: Carol uses a wonderful thing called "Probable or Possible"  In this way, we are training kids how to infer, one of the main purposes of Common Core literacy strategies.
Using these 4 types of questions, we looked at the same reading for over an hour, and it was not even the least bit boring.  Could be just Carol's personality, but I can't wait to try this out in the classroom.

Carol suggests taking the text, breaking it into smaller pieces and putting those pieces on a PowerPoint (or something similar).  She then makes symbols for each type of question she is going to ask and then she puts those symbols in the presentation.  

During these presentations, she puts in a bunch of weird tangents, such as real-life facts (she managed to fit in facts about heart transplants and I can't remember the connection to the story, but it fit very well, culture (if the story was about a dog, she would give quick one-sentence facts about the Chihuahua, which gives the kids a cultural connection and a bit of non-fiction information), celebrities (if the reading is about family, she might show a picture of a well-known family and talk about it for a minute).  

I have a note and cannot remember exactly what the activity was, so if you were there and can help me (or if I read it in another blog, I will update this blog)...I have written down to give kids visuals and have them stand as you say their word and when they screw up, have them do it again so you get more reps.  Sounds pretty easy, but I don't have a visual/memory in my head of exactly what this looked like.

Carol spent the rest of the day talking about pre-reading activities.  First, she has kids make emotional connections and uses a character trait chart to decide which traits are probable or possible based on the title, the cover, and the summary of the book.  

I have another note that I remember, but I don't exactly remember when she uses it.  She has kids write down words in English on a Post-It that they need for a discussion, then they either put those on the board or she walks around as they are in partner work, writing the word in Spanish on the paper.  Very great for differentiation.  

Next, Carol showed us the Reading Action Chain: she took a quick 5-sentence story and projected it.  First, we talked about what we thought went first, then second.  Instead of picking a correct answer, the class discussed it to get more reps.  Once that had been discussed, she would hand out cards with each sentence while those students with a card took turns acting out that sentence and the rest of the class guessed which of the projected sentences it was.  This is just a ton of repetitions getting kids to say the sentences and READ them on the projection screen.  I think one of my biggest failures as a TPRS teacher in the past few years is that I have projected the whole story at a time.  I need to change my readings for next year to add NOVELTY.

The next pre-reading story we did (talking about pets) was to split into the 4 corners depending on what pet we would enjoy owning.  Once we had that, we discussed the answers and then added some inference questions.  Which group wants a pet that eats other pets?  Which group wants a pet that eats a lot?  Which pet eats the most?  Again, there were some heated discussions, especially about the last questions, but Carol never gave us the answer (in fact, she said that if the kids didn't drop the argument, she would assign as homework to find out the answer, such as "Which pet eats more: a dog or a snake).  

In discussions, Carol is always trying to insert indirect object pronouns naturally.  For example, if the reading is "Tarzan picked up Jane," she will say "So, Tarzan picked her up."  The kids don't have to think so much about what's going on because it's so comprehensible.  

Once the reading has been beaten to death with all of the tangents and PQA, etc, she adds her student actors and highlights adverbs.  How does he pick her up?  How does she answer?  As the students add these details, she types them into the reading.

Whew...we're still on pre-reading activities.  Carol took the text from chapter 1 and put it in a word cloud (wordle.net) to highlight what words were repeated the most and had kids come up with a one sentence summary for the chapter (Ours was Brandon wants a dog from Brandon Brown Wants a Dog) and a prediction for who the main character is.  She has a chart where they fill in these predictions and then re-visits them after they read chapter 1.  

Next, we talked about Comprehensible Input through Comprehension Illustrations.  Carol takes the illustrations from the chapters and the class discusses dialogue, plot, predictions, etc.  They repeat potential dialogue, changing to tone to see how they think the character said it.  (How does your mom say that?)

Once all of this is done, Carol pulls out five plot-driven sentences and we do the sequencing activity again, but this time with colored sentence strips (blank) and color-coded sentences.  Once the class has agreed on the sequencing, Carol has them write a sentence between each of those sentences to add details and fill out the story.

Next, she has students come up with a 6-word memoir for the main character, based on what they have predicted from the pre-reading activities.  For our example, I came up with "I'm a boy without a dog."  You could also take 6-word memoirs like that written by others and use them as a guessing game for the students to guess who would write that memoir.

To teach kids summarizing skills, you can summarize a few paragraphs and then have students match the summaries with the appropriate paragraphs.

We can talk about who said blank and to whom?  How did he/she say it?  We can sneak in the conditional and ask "Who would say....?"

Post reading, we can do Review Charades where the students still have the books and a student acts out a specific sentence from the reading.  Students have to guess the EXACT sentence that is being acted out.  

Carol does something called Freeze-Frame snapshots where she gives a group of 3 a sentence from the reading and they have 3 seconds (or so) to come up with a visual to go with that sentence before the camera clicks and the scene is finalized.

We can vote superlatives for the characters à la the Yearbook (Most likely to...)

And finally, Reader's Theater, which I explained in great detail last year in this blog post.

Whew!  I think that's all that I have in my notes.  That's why I LOVE a Carol Gaab session.  She has a million ideas to add NOVELTY to our classroom and keep kids on the edge of their seats.  Sorry for the long post, but there was too much good stuff to stop.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tools for Thriving by Jason Fritze

I have heard Jason's name a lot as a dynamic presenter and wonderful guy, so I really didn't want to miss out on his session Tuesday afternoon.  And he WAS dynamic.  We were all on the edge of our seats to see what he would be doing next.  He had a TON of ideas and not a lot of time, so some of these tips aren't very well fleshed out, but I'm sure that if you contact him, he would share everything he has.  He's that kind of guy :)

So, the main things that I took from this session are some things that I need to make part of my routine.  First is to get noisemakers to call attention to myself when the kids are doing group or partner work.  I've tried the silent hand in the air while counting down, but it just seems like it takes too much time and it's not really my style.  I like the idea of noisemakers better (and Carol Gaab said that we should have a bunch of different ones so the kids don't start ignoring it).

He also used a lot of gestures.  I haven't been using gestures very much because I don't really like them, but they added a quick brain break and got the kids moving.  I think I'm going to start using them.  Jason told us that we were going to all show him "says" at the same time and then he watched us and picked the most creative one and then thanked the student who came up with that and had all of us thank that student also.  In this way, he is not saying no to anyone's idea...he just picks the best one.

He also broke the audience into two sides (Mexico and Spain) and would ask each side to do different things throughout the day.

These are all kind of muddled because Jason just talked so fast and was so energetic that my notes are all scrambled...sorry!

He showed us a backward planning template that he uses.  He starts with a text/story and looks at the new vocabulary.  He breaks the high frequency words into three columns: first, the words that can be TPRd, second, the words to put into TPRS or PQA, and third, the cognates or words that will be taught during the reading.  On the far right are the low frequency words, which are pretty much ignored (translated quickly during reading and then never talked about again).  I really need to get better about backward planning...maybe this year.

Finally, he showed us these shower curtain maps that he uses for TPR (land the plane on Paris.  Sit on the Atlantic Ocean, etc)  I'm not quite sure I'm going to do this, but I love the idea of having kids see the map and work with it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Event with Blaine and Von Ray

For some dumb reason, I did not bring a notebook to NTPRS this year, so I am scrambling to find paper and bits of blank space to take my notes....dumb me!

So Tuesday morning, I got to spend the day with two of my favorite people: Blaine and Von Ray.  They were working on how to create "an event" which used to be called a bird walk.  Basically, this is the way that you take a story and then go back in time to add details that were left out of the original story.  For example: the original story says that Betty was afraid of dogs, but doesn't go into much detail.  You can then take the characters back in time to dramatize what happened to make Betty afraid of dogs.

This was a great session because we got the chance to brainstorm ways to make an event given a particular story.  I didn't take many notes because there was a lot of chance to practice, and thus not a lot of concepts that were given.  Or rather, we were SHOWN how to do it instead of just given the information.  For whatever reason, I didn't take a lot of notes to share with you.

But here's the AHA...blow-your-mind moment of the day.  As we were coming back from lunch, Blaine was sitting there talking to us about how we have been successful and what our kids can do, etc.  I said that I hoped that Diana Noonan would sell her assessments at some point so that we could all prove what our kids can do.  And Blaine said that he had a super easy assessment that we can all use in our classrooms to prove proficiency because the questions are based on the TOP MOST COMMON VERBS in the Spanish language (and I'm going to assume that they are very similar in the French language).  Anyway, Blaine would really like for us to give this test to our kids to see how many are successful.  Here is the test (translate to your own TL):
Answer in a complete sentence:
1. Do you have a book?
2. Are you a girl or a boy?
3. What do you study?
4. Do you go to school?
5. Where are you?
6. Do you want any chocolate?
7. Do you like to speak TL?
8. What is there in your house?
9. What do you do when you are not in school?
10. Can you speak TL?

When you are grading this, you are only looking for subject and verb correctness (except for do you like to speak...then each part of that gets a half of a point).  Each correct verb is one point.  Blaine wants to see what percentage gets all correct and what % gets 9/10, etc.  So if you give this exam to your students...please send Blaine the results.

He said that he would assume that most TPRS students should be able to produce 80-90 words in a 5 minute free-write by the end of French 1 and that they should be graded on a 6 point scale.  1-2 is for consistent basic errors.  3-4 is mostly right (for verbs) and 5-6 is very few errors (maybe 1 error for every 10 words or less).  He says that in order to be graded, the student must have produced at least 50 words or the rubric is invalid.

So go!  Give this as a pre-test to your Fr 1 and 2 students and then give it again at the end of the year and keep track of the data!!

PDL with Michele Whaley

This session was the buzz of the conference the first day.  Michele was a little nervous, I think, to present this topic because it is so "out there" to her.  I didn't think it was that strange and really wish she had had three more hours to share ideas with us.

What in the heck is PDL?  I don't really know what it stands for because I didn't write it down.  Something about psychodramatic language or something like that.  Apparently, a guy in England runs 60 hour classes using this method of language teaching.  I don't quite know how it is used to TEACH language, but I think that it is great for practicing language, improving confidence, and inserting some novelty into the classroom.

In these classes, they start every day with relaxation.  In the beginning, every phrase is said in TL/English/TL, making a kind of sandwich.  Students close their eyes, get comfortable and take just a couple of minutes to get to a happy place.  Another teacher who has tried some of these methods says that she even sprays lemon oil in the classroom to help with the relaxation.

Once the relaxation is done, they do some sort of warm-up exercise.  These warm-ups are designed to help the student's muscles (particularly the mouth and tongue) get ready to speak the TL and for the ears to prepare to hear the TL.  In one such warm-up, Michele had us all stand in a circle looking at an imaginary object in the middle of the room.  Michele then talked to the object in Russian and we copied everything she said.  We tried to copy the pronunciation, the inflection, the gestures, etc.  We didn't have any idea what the heck we were saying, but that wasn't the purpose of the exercise.  At the end, she would ask if anyone had any questions.  You had to remember a specific word to ask what it meant...you couldn't just say "What were we saying?  What did that mean?"  You would have to say "What does nyet mean?  I heard you say that."  Then, she would give the translation and move on.

Another warm-up was called Echo through the mountains or something like that.  We were placed into 4 groups and she said a phrase to group 1, who repeated it pretty loudly.  Group 2 repeated a bit softer, group 3 softer than that, and group 4 in an almost whisper.  Again, we had no idea what we were saying, but that wasn't the purpose of this activity.

We spent the most time on a method that I think can really only be used with upper levels.  This method is called The Chairs.  Michele placed three chairs facing each other in the middle of the room.  We took turns giving possible scenarios where those three chairs would be like that: a Dr. office, marriage counseling, support group, etc.  Once we had a good list, we voted on which scenario we wanted to see.  Then, we placed students in those roles.  For our example, it was two parents trying to have "the talk" with their child.  The rest of the class was divided into three groups to be the support for that actor.  First, the teacher interviewed the three actors: What is your name?  Why are you here?  How do you feel?  Once that was completed, they were allowed to start.  AT ANY TIME, the support group could help feed the actors lines or creative ideas.  The actor could turn to the support group AT ANY TIME for help and the teacher was also there to fill in any essential vocabulary that the whole class was lacking.

That's the basic idea, but Michele said that her class did one of these Chairs activities for like 3 months (not exclusively, of course).  Once they had the discussion on one day, she would write up the dialogue and then they would read it.  She would change the actors the next day.  She would ask them to get in their support group and strategize points for the argument.  She would have the students choose a character and write a letter, article, blog, from that actor's point of view.  She would bring the characters back and flash forward to their lives 2 months from now.

In this case, the 3 chairs was the jumping off point.  She briefly told us that another idea would be to take famous paintings from the target culture and have students imagine themselves as the people in the paintings and start acting out what happened in the scene after what we see.

I am definitely going to start using this at least with my upper levels and I like the idea of prepping the muscles for speaking in the TL.  Could be a great primer for storytime to get them in the mood.

Betsy's music strategy

I'm back and enjoying a quiet lunch break to try and get some more blogging done.  I should be downstairs talking to more people, but the introvert in me needs some quiet and processing time.  Plus, I need to get all this stuff down before I forget!

I have been using songs as bellringers since I saw Lisa Reyes's presentation on using popular music in the classroom.  You can find my initial notes from my blog entry from 2010.  I have been using this strategy ever since and have quite a list of songs built up, with more coming all the time.  So I am no stranger to using songs in class.

Betsy also uses songs in class, but she uses them with the purpose of practicing pronunciation and building appreciation for the culture.  So she takes the song, types up the Japanese on one side and then the English translation on the other.  If it's a high-frequency phrase, she will underline the phrase on both sides so that students can see what structure means what.  It might be hard to explain without pictures...

Anyway, she has the students just try to read the song first to/with a partner...practicing the way the mouth reacts to the different vowels and sounds.  Then, she plays the song with the lyrics on the board and points and sings along (the class has the option to sing along).  Then, she has students pick one phrase that they like and they practice saying it to their partner.  They just say it over and over and over.  Then, she has students volunteer to say that phrase for the class (repetition of hearing the sounds) and she repeats it.  Sometimes she will translate the phrase before she repeats it, but not always.  She is constantly encouraging students to say a little bit more and repeats the partner work and add on to their phrase.  Once the students have some practice with pronunciation, she sings the lines (without music) and we sing it back to her.  She says that she has a horrible voice (not that bad...) and so it makes the kids feel comfortable singing in front of the class.

I'm thinking of switching up some of my songs to do some of these activities with kids instead of just the cloze activity as we listen.  In this way, I would be encouraging the kids to sing along and really internalize the sounds of the language.  I'll let you know (hopefully) this year how it goes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TPRS Strategies with Betsy Paskvan

I started out my week learning some Japanese with Betsy.  I've seen Betsy present two other times, but I continue to have these AHA moments with her.  She is amazing.

The first thing that I took away is not really anything new, but still a nice reminder.  Betsy told us a story based on the Star Wars Saga, which is actually a connection to Japanese culture because George Lucas based Yoda's speech patterns on Japanese, Darth Vader's helmet on Samurai helmets, and the LightSaber on a Samarai stick.  Very interesting stuff.

The other thing that she was constantly doing was something called SEL (social emotional learning).  She didn't talk a whole lot about what this is, but rather consistently used it as we worked through the day.  We were working a lot with partners, and we would "choose" who went first by figuring out things like: who has the most siblings, who traveled the farthest, who has longer hair, etc.  In the classroom, this should begin to foster a sense of community as students work with other students and begin to learn a little more about them in a very low pressure situation.

As for the partner work, this is something that I lack because I was always under the impression that it is forced output, and bad forced output at that.  But what I realized as I was doing it, was that it is just another way for our brains to start to figure out the language.  Betsy says that this is her way to build confidence in her students because she never corrects them during partner work...she only praises.  I also noticed that my brain was picking out the errors in my partner's dialogue, so I was able to avoid those same mistakes when it was my turn to produce.  I am definitely planning on doing this more next year.  It's a great break from sitting and listening and gets the kids to feel like they are "learning".

Betsy also talked about her pacing over a week's time.  She says that she tries to vary her pace throughout the week...keeping most days at a medium pace, but allowing for one day to go REALLY SLOWLY to help pick up some of the strugglers and has one day where she goes faster to keep the high flyers excited about the language.  It's a very interesting idea and I wonder if I could make it work.  It would definitely take some conversation with my students so that they know what is going on.

One thing that I will definitely be trying in my classroom is what I call Betsy's verbal cloze activity.  I don't even think she realizes she's doing this at this point, but it was extremely beneficial.  As she was re-telling an earlier part of the story or re-phrasing, she would pause before a word that she knew we knew.  We filled in the blank, thus proving comprehension and getting a little more practice on forming the words.  I loved it!

When we came back from our break, we went to a reading, using the strategies I saw Betsy use last year and explained in this blog entry.

Some new things that I saw her use this year was a print-out of her story slides.  She projected the written story and we worked with our partners again.  One partner would read off the projected story while the other student pointed to the appropriate slide.  We must have read that story a hundred times, but because the language was so interesting, we didn't mind.  I have to admit that the story was actually very boring if you read it in English, but again, we didn't mind.  That was pretty cool to see as well.  She then did a little embedded reading of the story.  Again, it wasn't anything earth-shattering or publishable, but we enjoyed being successful.  When we came to the last version, she asked us to expand the story even farther, adding details and sentences.  Then, she had us stand in two lines facing each other and read it to the person across from us, greeting them and thanking them in the traditional Japanese manner.  One line moved down and we repeated this several times with different partners (again...SEL).

Our final activity was to use the language we had learned to write a draw a six-frame comic strip and then read it to our partner.  She had some volunteers share with the whole class, and you could see brains working to spot errors, comprehend, and support.  Every volunteer felt like a star, no matter their level of creativity or the amount of errors in their story.

That's another thing that Betsy is a rock star at: making kids feel successful and helping them spot their own errors.  She NEVER corrects a student.  NEVER.  She always says "Oh that's great!" and then repeats what they should have said.

Oh man...it's time for breakfast and I haven't even talked about what she did with songs...I'll just make that a separate post later I guess.  So come back for that and for what I learned from Michele Whaley about PDL...definitely the buzz of the conference so far.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcome back to NTPRS!

Hello you crazy readers, you!  Yes, I know it's been awhile.  I've been crazy and busy and trying to keep my sanity for the past year with my new job.  But now it's under my belt.  I have survived the year of insanity and I have KUDOS to prove it!

Now, I canNOT take credit for this, because I only had this student for one year, but he emailed me to congratulate me, so I'll copy it here:

I had a French 5/IB student who emailed me during the summer to tell me about his experiences in Paris talking with the native speakers.  He told me that they all were amazed at his accent, which he attributed to his year with me!!  Now, I am not insane enough to give his words any real credence, but it does feel good.  And, at the very least, I gave him the confidence to be able to speak to native speakers.  AND he got a 6 on the IB exam.

I've really loved my year in this high school environment...and my biggest KUDOS for the year are that I've increased the enrollment by 50% for next year!

Anyway...enough about me and the awesomeness that is teaching with TPRS.  I am in Chicago for NTPRS and surrounded by my kind of folks and sucking up all the knowledge I possibly can.

I have to admit (and don't ever tell my husband this) that I am always a little cynical when I show up to NTPRS, thinking that I've heard everything and that everything that I need to do in the classroom I know about and am just sucking at, but I am learning a TON and it's only day 1.

So, if you are interested in hearing what I'm learning this week, follow along!