Monday, August 25, 2014

What I've actually starting using from NTPRS

I am in the middle of my 4th day of the year and I'm hoping that I can verbalize what I've taken from NTPRS and started using in my classroom. 

First, I took a page from Grant Boulanger and simplified my syllabus tremendously by simplifying my classroom expectations.  I now only have three (and one of them could be linked to the other two). 
  1. NO CELL PHONES (mainly because this drove me nuts at the end of last year)
  2. Be an active learner (participate, let me know if you are lost, and pay attention)
  3. Respect me, yourself, your peers, and property.
This definitely helped cut down on the amount of English I had to speak at the beginning of the week to explain my syllabus (a building expectation) and I was able to model what I wanted by jumping into TPRS instead of talking about it.

On the first day, I used Blaine's pre/post-test to see what my students acquired last year.  While they did not do as well as I had hoped, it was great for seeing what I needed to review and what I can skip.  I'm hoping that I can also keep track from year to year to see my own growth as a TPRS practitioner. 

I took the "I can" statements and ideas from Mira and Michele's session on the ACTFL standards, cut them into level (I'm still not sure that they are appropriate for a TPRS learner...but we'll see), handed them out to each student, and am now posting daily standards on the board for each level. 
I am hoping that it will be helpful for students (and me) to focus our energies.  Looking at the writing standards, I am excited that this year I will be able to give more specific prompts to my students about what they should write during free-writes.
The other thing that I am doing is a ton more partner work.  I know that it goes against "TPRS", but I loved seeing it and experiencing it in Carol and Betsy's classes.  I find that it's a good brain break and I'm hoping that I've started a new habit of never asking for a volunteer to speak in front of the class without allowing them to first try it out with a partner.  I'm enjoying it, but I did catch myself correcting someone while in partner work and I kicked myself right afterwards.  I need to get better at using Betsy's positive attitude and no-correction policy.  It makes such a huge difference in how the students feel about volunteering or speaking in class.
Plan is almost over, so I'll sign off.  I'll keep updating as I try new things.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Using Students to Manage your Classroom by Craig Sheehy

Craig is another great presenter with great ideas.  He gives just about every student a job so that they are all super engaged in what is going on in the classroom.  Oh man...he shared a million ideas for jobs. EDIT: I forgot to mention that most of these jobs were created through the PLC at Ben Slavic's blog, but I still appreciated Craig sharing.  Here are some:

  1. Quiz writer: this person comes up with true/false questions that everyone who understood the story should be able to answer correctly.
  2. Counter: GET A CLICKER for these students to count questions, repetitions, etc
  3. King/Queen of Gestures: This person is the decider for which gesture gets used.
  4. Captain Dictionary: looks up any word that is needed for the story
  5. Cheerleader: Twice per class, this person stands up and says "Ready....okay!" and then shouts the structure/gesture with enthusiasm
  6. Timer: how long do we stay in the TL?
  7. Light/Gatekeeper: in charge of the lights and doors
  8. Mail Carriers: pass out and collect papers
  9. Notetaker: for absentees
  10. English Abuser: If the teacher speaks for more than 7 seconds in English, they bang a drum and start chanting "Shut up...shut up..."
  11. English Police: rings a bell or blows whistle if they hear a student speak in English
  12. Expert/prof: decides details of the story when multiple options are given by students
  13. Sound FX guru: makes the sounds for the story
  14. Artist: draws the story in 6-box comic form
  15. Door knocker: knocks each time someone arrives at new place "How many times did he/she knock?" to practice numbers
  16. Actors: duh
  17. English writer: translates story to English
  18. French writer: writes story in French
  19. Story ender Fairy/Wizard: when there are 5-10 minutes left in class, they stand up and wave a  wand and make a sparkly sound to alert teacher to wrap up the story
  20. Reader leader: this person uses the lazer pointer when everyone is reading along.
Great ideas!  Not sure how many I'll be able to use.  Craig also uses a point system much like PAT time, but I've kind of gotten away from that.  I might re-instate it.  He uses a 20-point=music video break system that I'm pretty sure I could use and not waste a bunch of time.  I just felt like PAT left me with little class time because each Friday was for games (which didn't really meet any of my goals for class).  Guess I have a week or two to decide what to do...

I CAN do it with Mira Canion and Michele Whaley

The ladies started off sharing the reasons why I Can statements are so important.  They showed that it gives the students confidence that they are actually learning instead of just "playing".  MIND BLOW: ACTFL has all the CAN DO statements on

So we took an example of an I CAN statement and talked through it.  Our example was: I can order a ticket.

We came up with some target phrases that someone would need to know to order a ticket.  Things like: How much does it cost?, I would like..., ticket, to Paris, train station...

Then, we wrote a quick story to teach them how to say "Give me a ticket, please."  And the dialogue is repeated with different emotions, confusion, etc...anything to get repetition.

Just knowing that the I Can statements exist helped me out tremendously.  Can't wait to put them on the board!

Advanced Embedded Reading with Michele Whaley and Laurie Clarcq

I first learned about Embedded Readings in 2011 at NTPRS in St. Louis and blogged about it here.  This session was for teachers who are already knowledgeable about what embedded reading is and goes more into how to use them in the classroom.  THIS is what I needed.

First, we talked about how to choose structures for an embedded reading:  use curriculum, novels/stories/songs, late-acquired verbs, adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases, or cause/effect phrases (like feels sick--->throws up).

For a base story, you can have students create the base using the 3 structures, but if the structures are too hard, you might want to just put one structures in the base.  A base reading should only be 3-5 sentences.

Now, you can differentiate for different classes by starting at the 2nd level for a faster class, but sticking with the base reading for your regular classes.

Michele and Laurie said that you should read the base reading as LONG as possible until EVERY student understands EVERY word.  This could take a full class or a full week.  Look to Carol Gaab or Betsy Paskvan if you need ideas for how to stretch a reading out...

The ladies recommended using variety in how you present the readings...maybe one day you give it to them on one page with lines between versions and you have them fold the paper so they can only see one version at a time...use a powerpoint...use literacy circles and give the advanced readings only to the advanced groups...

Don't forget to use spacing to give students the confidence to read.

To add variety, you can add pictures or photos of characters, just make sure not to substitute a picture for one of your focus structures.

They also suggested changing the first line somewhat to increase interest so that each version doesn't start out "There was a boy"

Now, to add length and complication, here are some ideas:

When? today, on Friday, last year, next summer
How? very, quickly, easily, on a train, nervously
Which? blue, favorite, this/that
How often? always, never, from time to time
Common phrases: all of a sudden, next, well
Dialogue: said, thought

Just make sure that new information is less than half of the new piece.  We don't want to overwhelm the students

Here are some hints to spice up embedded readings:

  • Create a hook at the end of the reading as if it was the season finale so that students can't wait for the next version
    • "But....something else happens"
    • But the character was determined/convinced/sure that...
    • But nothing in life is easy so...
    • Believe it or not...
    • The door opened and...
The goals are to learn to use context clues, use inference, and see character development.

During the embedded readings, you should stretch out the different versions with activities between.  Activities could be acting, underlining the verbs, translating, read & discuss, read & draw, read & act, predict, textivate, etc.

One thing that they suggested is to draw a mural of the first version and then add to it with each version.  

Great things to try!!

The Art of Engaging Beginners by Grant Boulanger

Here is another presenter that I had heard great things about, so I couldn't wait to see what Grant had to say.  First off, he was wearing a BAT shirt, which let me know that I like this guy!  His first few minutes were a bit feely, which didn't bother me, but I don't think it was for everyone.  Since my dad is a long-haired hippy guy, I was at home.

Here are my take-aways from this session:

Grant has only 5 rules that he has blown up poster size and placed around the room.  They are

  1. No note-taking
  2. Clear desk, lap, and mind
  3. No repeating in English
  4. Signal when you don't get it
  5. Answer when you do
I have a hard time keeping my kids to this and I really really really need to work on this.  I let my kids not answer my questions.  And then, by the end of the year, I've lost some kids.  I NEED to be better at holding my kids to these standards....

Grant also said that we need to thank our students when they do what we want them to do and let them know that we like them by TELLING THEM!  I think a lot of times we're afraid to tell our kids that we like them because we don't want to play favorites...but I think we just need to do it more often so that every student hears us say it at least once a year (hopefully a lot more!).  

A great idea that I took from Grant was to read things with "English eyes" (meaning that we read it with the worst hick accent) and then read it with the "Spanish eyes" (using your best Spanish accent).  He also uses Rejoinders as phrases of the week that can be yelled out in class to add interest.  He also uses jobs (I will have a ton more information on this when I blog about Craig Sheehy's session.

He does a great job training his students to play in the classroom in the appropriate way.  He tells the kids that they may lie only if they are speaking in Spanish.  When they speak English, they have to tell the truth.  This gets them to brainstorm creative answers.

For Grant's final exam, he writes up descriptions of each student's stories.  It could have been a story about their pet, where they went over the summer, etc and has the students match the stories to the student it is about.  Because the stories are so crazy and detailed, the students remember and can almost forget that the exam is in Spanish.

I didn't take a ton of notes in this session because a lot of Grant's purpose was to get us to love our students and validate them in the classroom.  I do a pretty decent job of this and can't wait to get back in the classroom to see if I can get even better!