Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Things are going fairly well here in French land.  My students and I are used to the no-desks thing, but I realized that I made my hems too close to the edge of the fabric, so I need to fix that over Christmas break because they are starting to pull apart at the seams.  I also realized after a couple of weeks that I needed to number the chairs so that they could be easily put back in place after group activities.

I am still "interviewing" my French 1 students.  So far, they know how to say (without hesitation for 80% of them) My name is, I'm this age, I have a...(dog, cat, driver's license, job, or car), I live in...with my..., a multitude of activities that they do, and we're now adding I like, I want, and I can.  Not too shabby.  And obviously, they are hearing lots of 2nd and 3rd person as we discuss the kids in class.

I'm struggling a bit with my French 2 students because I started talking about what they did over the summer, but that got boring as we moved into October.  So now we are moving to creating stories about the students.  This week, I had a student who confessed that she wants a car, so we created a story about her going different places and asking for a car.  There are times when they blow me away with how much they know and then there are days when they don't know the most basic things.  I'll just keep plugging away!

With my French 3s, we are doing lots of current events and authentic activities (I love 1jour1actu).  We played Martina Bex's game Mafia and they are BEGGING to play it again.  We also did an activity yesterday that was speed dating with hypothetical questions (ie: if you won the lotto, what would you buy?, If you could be any animal for a day, what animal would you choose?).  They had one minute to discuss each question with a partner.

My French 4/5s are deep into IB curriculum.  We basically talk about what's going on in the world and try to discuss what we would do if we were in politics or how we can make a difference as ourselves.  It's going pretty well...

Anyway, I've finally figured out how to blog from my school account, so I should start blogging more frequently (fingers crossed.)

What has been your best activity this year?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First two days of French 1

I was super inspired by watching Blaine Ray use himself to really drill into the kids the difference between  you and I, so I started with Je m'appelle and Tu t'appelles this week.  It was REALLY hard for me to stay on those two structures alone for over 15 minutes....but I did it!  And then all I added was Il/elle s'appelle and we were able to go 30 more minutes!!!  Oh my gosh...  This is an example of how it went.  I picked one student to start with:  one hour I chose brilliantly (now that I look back on it) and picked a kid who was confused super easily.  It forced me to slow down and really repeat everything for that one kid (offering tons more reps for the other kids).  My other hour, I was scared to pick a beginner, so I picked someone I knew could answer easily.  Why did I do that???  It just made the other kids feel bad that they weren't as good as she is (she took a semester of French 1 last year, but didn't finish the credit, so she's back with me).  Okay, here's my "script."  I'll use what happened with my first kid to show how I tried to make him feel successful despite him feeling like he wasn't "getting it"

Me: Bonjour!
Kid: What?
Me: Bonjour!
Kid: Huh?
Me:  (at this point, everyone had told me that they understood the word I was just training him to respond to me)  Class, what does Bonjour mean again?  And if someone said hello to you, how would you respond?
Me: Bonjour!
Kid: Hello!
Big laughs
Me: (whispering) in French
Me: Bonjour!
Kid: (lightbulb) Bonjour!
Me: Bonjour!
Kid: Bonjour! (with confidence)
Me: (walking towards the board so I could point to the structures and speaking slowly) Tu t'appelles comment?  Class, let's break that down because it's kind of weird.  What am I saying exactly? (you call yourself how)  Yeah, and that's really weird.  So how would we actually say that in English?  (what's your name)  Perfect!
Me to kid: Bonjour!
Kid: Bonjour!
Me:  (again, very slowly and pointing)  Tu t'appelles comment?
Kid: Uh....John?
Me: Oui!!!  Tu t'appelles John!!  Class, what did I just say?
Okay...lots of repetition of this...and then I finally ask John to try to say I call myself John.  He does!  So we all applaud because he's the first kid to speak a complete sentence in French!!  Then, I go around and ask other students for their names, encouraging them to use a complete sentence if they don't seem completely terrified.  Lots of high fives and cheers.  Then, back to John.
Me:  Bonjour!
Kid:  (confident...he's got this) Bonjour
Me: Tu t'appelles comment?
Kid: Je m'appelle John.
Me:  Oui!  Tu t'appelles John!  Je m'appelle John? (pause and wait for him to respond)
Kid:  Je m'appelle John.
Me:  Wait...what did I just ask there (point and translate) my name John?  No!  What's my name?  Okay, John...Je m'appelle John? 
Kid: No!
Me:  Oui! Je m'appelle Madame Hayles!  Tu t'appelles Madame Hayles?
Kid:  Oui!
Me:  Pause!  John....(pointing to the structures on the board)  Tu t'appelles Madame Hayles?
Kid:  Wait...I'm confused!
Me:  Thank you for stopping me!!!  Let's break it down in English.  Tu t'appelles....(You call yourself...)  Madame Hayles?
Kid:  (lightbulb)  Oh!!   No!!!  Je m'appelle John.
Continue with this type of interaction with other kids until it seems like they are all starting to hear the difference between Tu and Je easily.
Then I added il s'appelle and we circled that.  I asked questions like "Je m'appelle John ou il s'appelle John?"
Circled the crap out of those three.  At the end of class, my word clicker person said that we had said Je m'appelle 95 times in the 20-30 minutes.  And the kids said that it didn't seem repetitive to them and they wanted to do more of "that stuff" next week because they felt like they didn't quite have it yet.

It was awesome!  Thank you so much to Blaine for modelling the Tu vs Je questions and thank you to Bryce Hedstrom for reminding me to interview my kids instead of just making up fiction about them based on one of their interests. 

Now, if only I can keep this up all year!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

First day writing

Chris Stoltz and some others have been publishing writing samples to show results when using TPRS.  So...with some anxiety, here are some samples of what my kids wrote today, before any French was spoken in class, after a summer off from language.  I will say that I do not feel like I did my best work last year and I am, as most TPRS teachers, a total work in progress.

This is an average student in my French 3 class.  Again, I am really scared to do this, because I know that my kids should be able to do more...but it is what it is...  I am happy with the complexity of the sentences...she uses "who is called" and "one day" and "so..." and "another girl"  Pretty good variety of sentence structures for a student with only 2 years of French.

This is a kid who slept through most classes last year: First day French 3.  He sprinkles in English, but he uses the word "now" and "first," which makes me happy.

But then I see something like this...a transfer student who came from another school and I feel much better.  Even if my kids aren't able to write like the better TPRS teachers, they are still writing better than the traditional teachers' students. First day French 3.

First day French 3 from a very serious student who doesn't talk much in class.  Most words are spelled perfectly, complex sentence structures with a couple of grammar mistakes.

First day French 3 from a student who struggled in my class last year but she was always willing to put herself out there and try, even if it wasn't perfect.  I like how she takes chances and just keeps writing what she knows, even if it's repetitive or incorrect.

First day French 4 from a student who struggles a lot.  She is mixing up tenses and word order.  Not great, but she is taking chances with structure and conjunctions

Probably my best French 4 student.  She is using the correct past tenses, using the correct helping verb (for the most part), using the past with third person plural correctly, and she has amazing transitions like "this summer," "during (an amount of time)", "after", and "next" 

Anyway, I hadn't had any classes of French 2 kids yet, so I don't have any pictures of my first day French 2 classes yet.  I'll take some tomorrow and post!

First day of school!

Well, today was the first day of school for me.  I prepared more this summer for today than any other year as I was making the leap voluntarily to a deskless classroom and was given the joy of working in a 1-to-1 environment this year also.

So, first step was to convince my principal to buy me new chairs and get rid of my desks.  He agreed back in April, which gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted my classroom to look like.  I decided that I was going to sew (ha!) 30 chair pockets for my chairs so that students would have easy access to things they would need throughout class.  I hadn't sewn since 8th grade, so that was quite the job!  I was so clueless, so I was lucky to find a lady a church willing to loan me a heavy-duty machine and give me a brief tutorial.

Next, I was off to the fabric store to find heavy duty fabric that would hold up all year with high school bodies.  I decided to choose 6 different fabrics and make 5 of each to help with grouping and create "areas" in my room.  I had to ask the employees to help me calculate how much fabric I needed.

Sewing!  I measured 17 inches across, 36 inches long...I sewed a seam along the top and the bottom, but on opposite folds...I hope this makes sense.  Then, I measured between 9 and 10 inches for the top, sewed in "inside out", folded up the other seam until it almost met the end of my seam and sewed that one "inside out" as well.  Then, I turned each side inside out and voila! 

Next, I asked for the supplies that I wanted in each chair pocket.  In my pockets, kids have: a white board to use as a white board but also as a writing surface, a spiral notebook, a pen, a highlighter, a dry erase marker and a clean sock (for erasing the white board). 

Whew!  Ready to go...but my chairs didn't show up until about 2:00 yesterday.  Thank goodness I had students ready to help!  I put the chairs in a horseshoe pattern with like fabrics together.  Then, I took the extra fabric pieces and cut out a matching swatch to go with each chair.

This morning, I was ready to go with my swatches and handed each student a piece and told them to find a chair with that matching fabric.  Of course I alternated fabrics so that kids were spaced evenly.  I think that letting my kids have some choice in where they sat really helped them not complain about having a "seating chart". 

Today, we did Chromebook work, we did writing, and we had the kids stand up and sit down during an activity.  So far, so good!  The cell phones were in bags on the tables lining my room and no one hated not writing on a desk.  A very few kids didn't like not having the desks, but reactions were super positive for the most part.  I think it sets the tone that this class will not be like other classes they have had. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Phew!  I'm done blogging about NTPRS!  I could blog about the War and Peace room, but Mike Coxon did a much better job of explaining the magic of that experience on his blog.  I could blog about the open mic night and how fun it is to see how talented we all are...  I could blog about my ongoing love affair with Blaine and Carol and Bryce and Laurie...  I could blog about the AMAZING lunch conversation I had about feminism, Islam, deodorant, etc...  But I'm tired.  I started back to in-service today, which meant 8 hours of being talked to about what we're supposed to be doing this year (none of which is super helpful to any of us).  I've spent the last two weeks sewing (with a real sewing machine!!!) chair caddies for my new chairs for my new deskless classroom (only to find out today that the chairs haven't arrived yet and that they are really hoping they'll come this week). 

So I'm going to call that THE END on my NTPRS blogging.  BUT WAIT!  I just remembered two things that I absolutely have to share:

  1. My goofy roommate Andrea and I bought Bertos y sus buenas ideas (I don't speak Spanish) in Spanish and French.  One evening, before dinner, our silly heads decided to crawl into bed and take turns reading the book to the other in the language we don't speak.  Imagine volleyball reading, only instead of translating to English, the other person translated to the language we spoke.  For example, I read the first sentence in Spanish and then Andrea read the same sentence in French, followed by the second sentence in French.  We were amazed at how much we were able to understand this way and our pronunciation improved also!  When we got stuck, we just asked a quick question in English and continued on.  Our other roommate Julia thought we were nuts, so she took a photo:
  2. On the plane ride home, I finished reading Bertos and also read Felipe Alou!  Great, fascinating stuff!  I only hope that some of us Frenchies get our creative juices flowing and write some good stuff to add to our list of awesome readers.
  1. On the wa

French lesson plans-Alike Last

Alike showed us some of her units and I was amazed at how knowledgeable she is about French culture!  She turned an Asterix comic book into a HUGE lesson complete with history, geography, realia, authentic resources, and a food tasting!

I don't have complete notes because I was so busy being wowed and trying to imagine how I could replicate this...  So, she found a local specialty called the Betises of Cambau and started researching.  She was able to talk to her kids about where Cambau is, what type of town it is (farm?, industrial?, university?), the history of the name (a cool story about a poor little boy with a mean mom who yells at him for screwing up the candy, which ends up being a best seller), and a virtual tour of the factory via the website.  She also found cartoons referencing the odd name (the mistakes of cambau) and found fans of the candy online with pictures. 

It was great if you know of any interesting product stories of a francophone product...share here!

Music in the French CI classroom-Christy Miller

I've been using songs as bellringers since I saw Lisa Reyes explain her method back at my first NTPRS.  I love it, but my kids do get a little bored with doing the same things every day, even if the song is different.  But the benefits have always greatly outweighed the complaints, so I've continued on.  I was so happy to see Christy's presentation to see how she's taken that idea and expanded it.

First, she adds blurbs about the artist and uses those to teach geography of the francophone world, math and dates (she puts their birthday and then they do the math to figure out their age) and any background information that might be needed to understand the song.  Then, every time they do a song, they put a pin in the map to show where that artist is from. 

As for the during-listening activities, she tries to mix it up by having them fill in missing words with spaces for each letter of the words.  Some spaces have a circle, and if you take all of the circled letters, it creates a secret message.  I love this because filling out the cloze activity is the thing my kids like doing the least.  She also has them do other activities, like giving them lines from the song on note cards and they put them in order as they hear them in the song.  She has an activity where she gives the kids a wordle of the lyrics and they race to highlight the words as they hear them in the song (wordle could be in French or English). 

Here are some quick ideas that I took from Christy...mainly for my own use when I'm trying to find my notes later:
  • There is a Veteran's Day Song called C'est si peu de temps
  • You can movie talk a song (I've done this with Renan Luce videos, because they have a clear plot)
  • Use sentence strips and they do a Lyric Line-Up
  • There's a great Cajun song called Que Signifie etre by Nathan Abshire
  • Danse de la Capucine is authentic and there's a cute video of cats doing it
  • Lyricstraining would be fun to have my kids do on technology days
  • Type in the name of the song and Zumba in youtube to see if a video of a Zumba routine exists for a song.
  • has the French versions of all Disney songs
  • Vent du Nord (Quebecois?)
The best thing that Christy did is to share her database with all of us.  She is a MASTER collaborator and I'm so thankful for her willingness to share everything she creates.  She only asks that we share back.  I have a ton of song sheets in the old style, and I can't wait to slowly change them to be more meaningful and varied for kids.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Classroom Management 1-3 with Bryce Hedstrom

I continued on Thursday morning with Bryce.  I was a little hesitant to go to this because I know that Bryce uses PAT (read Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones for more info or read this old blog post), which I used for years in the middle school, but dropped when I got to high school.  I'm trying to decide now if I want to try it again in my classroom.  There are a lot of really great things there, and a lot of things that I think need tweaks.  I did like that, in Bryce's class, they could not lose minutes that they earned.

Anyway, I went because I talked to Bryce before the class, and he said that PAT was only a tiny portion of his presentation.  And he was right!

First, focus on procedures.  This is something that is also talked about a lot in Fred Jones's book, but I got away from it by moving to a new school with new ideas about syllabi and trying to get to speaking French as quickly as possible.  No longer!  I will figure out the procedures that are essential for me to not go crazy in March, and I will drill the heck out of those!!  Bryce says that he really focuses on this the first week or two of class and then GIVES THEM A QUIZ over the procedures.  What a way to "prove" to the kids that it's important.  I never thought of that because I use Standards Based Grading, and I don't have a standard for behavior, but I could definitely do a quick quiz that's not for points!

You need to have an attention-getter for those times when you have kids working in groups and then need them to focus quickly.  Bryce says "Classe" and the kids respond "Si, senor."  Carol Gaab uses a noisemaker or starts a cheer where the class yells "Go team!" at the end. 

Bryce also has an end-of-class procedure.  Class is not over until he says "Thank you for learning" and the class responds "Thank you for teaching us."  I like this idea a lot. 

Another procedure is the stupid paperwork that we always seem to have.  On quizzes, free writes, whatever, they have to have First and Last name, Date in French, Class Period, and title of what it is (quiz, free write, etc).  He also gives them a quiz over this!  I think it's important for us to remember that our students have 7 different teachers with 7 different sets of expectations, so we can't expect them to hear the expectations once and internalize them.  Then, when it's time to turn in the papers, he breaks the class into 2 teams and they "race" to get all the papers to the front first.  The "loser" has to alphabetize the papers.  As s/he is ordering, s/he is also checking to make sure that each student has all four things on their paper.  If not, the paper is handed back. 

As Bryce is going over his procedures, he uses himself as a model for bad behavior and uses a student as the teacher and for good behavior.  In this way, no student gets an opportunity to get a laugh out of acting like an idiot. 

Next, Bryce talked about his procedures for FVR (if you are not doing MUST!  I started two years ago and I will never go back...but there are some things that you HAVE to do to make it work that you can find on Bryce's site or on this blog post).  He has a whole parade procedure for how kids get their books.  Only 5 students at the library at a time and move quickly.  Each student picks one book, and while this is happening, Bryce is asking those already at their seats about what they're reading or what they read last time.  He also has them sometimes write a quick exit ticket about what they read that day.  I have to say, I've been doing this and Bryce's tips for making it work in any classroom are spot on.  Sure, I still have a few kids who try to hide a cell phone behind their book and text, but the majority are involved in reading.  Yippee! 

Bryce also talked about jobs in the classroom.  I've done some of this on an as-needed basis, but I think I'm actually going to have students pick jobs this year.  So I should probably start a list of what jobs I want to have in my classroom.  Here are some that Bryce uses:  Light guy/gal: he picks an active student far from the lights to give that student a legitimate excuse to get out of his/her seat.  Hero: kills bugs (if you have never worked in an old building or the have no idea how important this job is).  Host: welcomes guests, offers them coffee (I bought a Keurig off Craig's list for this purpose), answers any questions, etc.  Interpreter:  This person is in charge if there is a new student during the year.  They sit next to the new kid, helping answer questions, teach procedures, make them coffee (new kids drink coffee for the first week to welcome them). 

With these jobs, students can change/quit at any time by writing a little note to the teacher and they can be fired by Donald Trump (another job) at any time also.  Donald also decides who gets a job if two people want the same job.

Bryce uses a participation rubric where students grade themselves on how well they've been participating every couple of weeks or so.  I've tried this in the past, but not with any regularity.

Now, if someone is acting out, we use all of our teacher tricks (eye contact, proximity, etc).  Then, if it still continues, Bryce stops, points to the rule being broken on the wall until the behavior stops.  If it happens again, Bryce has the student go to fill out a think sheet.  We had think sheets in my old school, but I didn't really like the verbage on them.  I really liked the way the think sheet was written.  It made it clear that it was a temporary snag that could easily be rectified by the student and was just a minor offense.  Bonus is that you then have a paper trail if you ever need it to show to an administrator or parent.

Bryce told us about a scientist who studied chimps to find out who had the most influence.  Turns out that the chimp who touched others most had the most influence.  It's so true!  I used to be scared to touch my students, but I can't teach like that.  I'm a person who naturally touches shoulders, gives high fives, and hugs (only if it's student initiated).  Who could possibly say no if a student asks "Can I hug you?"  A few years ago, I started giving hand shakes at the door as the kids walked in.  As the year continued, I got busy and didn't do it for a while.  I noticed that the connection between my kids and me was I started giving high fives and hand shakes again and I noticed a BIG difference.  We need to show our kids that we care and there is nothing better for that than a high five, a smile, and eye contact. 

Bryce and Alina both use the Password idea.  I'm thinking about doing this.  The kids don't get into my class until they have told me the password.  I did this a couple of times last year just as a formative assessment.  I had them count to ten or tell me their name or something else that didn't quite get enough reps in the classroom. 

Last thing that we went over and something that I always talk about, but just as an aside:  We need to teach our kids how our brains learn scientifically and quiz them on it.  It will help them in life to know that positive thinking can increase test scores and repetition is key and classical music helps and all of those other things that we know as teachers, but that they don't even think about.

By the end of my 3 hours with Bryce, we still hadn't gotten to two sections of his presentation: consequences and movement.  I'm pretty sure they are available on his website...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Increasing Student Engagement-Bryce Hedstrom

This session was about how Bryce uses personalization in the class to create an environment where kids want to be there, they want to please the teacher, and they WANT to learn! 

If you go to Bryce's website and look under Free Stuff, you will see handouts to further explain some of these ideas.  Bryce starts off the year with La Persona Especial (his version of circling with balls).  He gives the kids the words and structures they need to talk about themselves on the wall.  Kids answer questions like "What's your name?  What grade are you in? (I can't wait to use the French versions of these to get kids to start to understand the culture!)  Where do you live?  Where do you come from?"  You start off with the first few kids just focusing on maybe 5 things and you QUIZ the other kids about what they know about each other.  A quiz could be something as simple as "Tell me 5 things you know about Tammy."  Our first quiz should be on the 2nd or 3rd day of class (more about this on the classroom management sessions)

Bryce said that he does his circling with balls this way and guides it to easy, high frequency vocabulary by starting with someone who is obviously an athlete or musician (look for a student wearing a jersey or with an instrument case...)  That way, you know that your first special student won't want to talk about something with complex vocabulary (you can do low frequency vocabulary a little later, when the kids have more vocab to fall on). 

Bryce also pointed out that we have to use numbers every day in class for those numbers to be acquired.  A great way to do this is to ask athletes what their numbers are.  Other ideas for follow up questions instead of just saying "Great! You play football!  Who else plays football?"  Ask about his/her number, position, favorite team, when is the next game, how long has s/he played, how many hours of practice per day, etc.  Then, you can take that information and make it a big stinking deal by saying to the class: Class, John has a football game tonight at 6, so we're all going to look for number 18 and cheer him on.  CLASSROOM CULTURE! 

For the past few years, I have been doing circling with balls, but I was inventing crazy details to go along with the stories.  For example, if John played football, we said that he played better than Joe Montana and that Ariana Grande saw him playing and fell in love with him.  I think next year, I'll focus more on truths and save the inventiveness for our made-up stories.

Once Bryce has gotten through every kid, there's a unit test.  Each student has to write 3 things about every kid in the class, and they can't write names or grades.  In this way, we are validating EVERY student in our class and showing everyone their worth.

Bryce then shared some body language tips to show caring without a word.  Things like a quick eyebrow raise, making sure that your eyes smile when you do, NEVER pointing with one finger...  He recommends watching quick youtube videos on body language for the first few weeks of school to start your day. 

He then shared a story of how a kid from his school told her dental hygienist (Bryce's daughter) that he was her favorite teacher, and he never even had her in class!  I have had this same experience and I will say that even with my old way of doing circling with balls, I created a culture of acceptance in my classroom.  My students were discussing something during a transition period at the end of the school year, and they were all discussing that my class is the only class where they know every other student's name.  Wow.  I can't imagine what it would be like to spend 50 minutes a day/5 days a week in a classroom with strangers.  No wonder these kids are so messed up!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Putting it all together-Betsy Paksvan

I've seen Betsy many times, but I continue to go back because I just love watching her.  The story was different, but the ideas were the same, so I don't have much to add to what I wrote last year.  So read my blog post here

L-R (Me, Andrea Schweitzer, and Betsy)

Higher Order Thinking-Carol Gaab

I missed most of this session due to staying up too late in the War and Peace Room, but I had talked to other teachers about this session over breakfast and had seen it in action last summer.  Basically, Carol tries to make her comprehension questions higher order and without a hard right answer.  Here are some ways that she gets her kids to think critically:

1. Most likely:  Which character would be most likely to say/do_____________?

2. Let's Vote: Who thinks Brandon wants a big dog?  Why?  Who thinks Brandon wants a small dog?  Why?

3. Agree/disagree:  Give a statement without a correct answer and have kids agree or disagree.  Brandon's mom hates dogs.

4. What would you do if________________ (getting into conditional too!!)

5. Probable/possible:  Is it possible or probable that Brandon already has a dog?

6.  Who would say this?  I hate dogs.  Dogs are a lot of responsibility.  I will take care of the dog.

7.  Is this relevant to the story:  Brandon's grandma lives in Topeka.  Brandon's mom used to have a dog.

Anyway, I love these questions and I NEED to remember to use them more often in class!!

Circle Up-Martina Bex

This presentation was how to use literature circles in the TPRS classroom.  There are a lot of steps that I hope I can make clear, but the end product was really cool.

First, find a short text of about 1-1 1/2 pages.  It should use interesting language and be thought provoking.  The example she used was a video about the Happy Man.  He was so happy, but he wanted to be like everyone else (sad), so he tried to be sad, but everything that he did made him happy, and when he did have moments of sadness, that's what he wanted, so he became happy again.  Very complex ideas.

First, you do an intro of the vocabulary and explore the themes with PQA.  This would probably be a class period, depending on the complexity of the reading.

Next, create an embedded reading.  You can read this whole class, circle it, PQA it, ask comprehension questions, etc.  Just like you would for a normal embedded reading.  Make sure that if the ideas in the reading are complex, you should simplify to vocabulary so the kids aren't too overwhelmed.  In this part, only use the simplest reading.

Now, you're ready for your first exercise as a literature circle.  With the second reading, take turns in your circle (about 8-10 students) reading the text aloud, but only read a line of text (not a sentence that ends in a period, but where the text ends on the line.  The rationale of this is to get students to hear the story differently so as to get a different meaning (maybe).  Then, the teacher reads a second time and each student underlines the words that are striking to them.  During this process, the teacher can stop and PQA or ask comprehension questions, but it needs to be clear.  Martina said, "Let's pause...(PQA)...and now continue..."  Then, the teacher reads it a second time, and this time, when she says a word that I've underlined, I say it with her.  Because all students are doing this, some words will be read by 15 people at the same time, while others may just have one or two.  This was a pretty cool exercise, and just think of how many reps you're getting!  You can also have students write a quick summary in English of each paragraph at some point during this exercise.

Next, work with the 3rd level of the reading.  BEFORE the students read this version, the teacher reads it aloud (students are just listening) and they write down any words that jump out at them.  They then choose two of those (can be a short phrase or sentence) and edit what they wrote down so that it is perfect (exactly as it is written in the 3rd version).  Once every student has two perfect phrases, the literature circle does a "choral poem."  Go around the circle and have everyone read their first phrase, and then go around a second time and read the 2nd thing they wrote down.  This was very powerful and cool and we were able to see some patterns in what was interesting to others.

Now, we were ready to interact with the authentic resource (in this case, the video called El Hombre Feliz).  Because this was a video, you can do anything that you would normally do with a movie talk.  We had a transcript of this, making it a reading and not just a listening exercise. 

Now, we went back to the 3rd version and the two interesting ideas that we had written down.  Of those two, we chose the one that was MOST interesting to us and wrote about it for 2-5 minutes (we took 2 minutes for a time constraint).  Then, we got back into our literature circle and someone re-read the text aloud.  When we got to a word/phrase that someone had written about, they would interject and read what they had written (kind of like a meandering thought).  Students don't have to share their writing if they don't want to, and if two people wrote about the same phrase, they just start when the other finishes.  Again, very cool to experience.  The teacher would then collect the writings (students write YES or NO on the bottom to indicate whether they can be shared with the class), type them up and they would be a reading for the next day.

EXTENSION ACTIVITIES: the idea is that this could be for an authentic piece of literature.  Think Sartre or Camus or something pretty heady.  Martina said that she has used The House on Mango Street.  So you should be able to find authentic news stories, a biography of the author, interviews, etc.  Martina said that the goal is to use the one piece of literature for 1 1/2-2 weeks.  By the end of that time, students should have a very clear idea of what the piece is about and how the language shapes that message.

Really cool stuff!!

My ideas for a unit based on Carol Gaab's ideas

Okay, first you have to read my last post...and here are my brainstorms for a unit based on either Problemes au Paradis or the typical first unit of French class.  I looked at the summary of the book (which I have to admit I haven't read yet since I only have one copy that's usually checked out to a student) and thought that a theme I could pull out is family and the teenage feeling that parents suck. 

So, I could look at current events to find famous/interesting families to discuss.  Perhaps the Kardashians (yuck!) or the Royal Family with the two new babies...

Some PQA questions to start off with: Who is in your family? What are they like?  What do they like to do?  Do you like them?  Who do you like the best/least? How many people will be in your family when you grow up? etc

Maybe find an article about Baby George and his reaction to the new baby girl or the Kardashian family and the recent developments with Caitlyn...  Also, I thought that the storyline of Where the Wild Things Are would fit pretty well with the plot of Problemes au Paradis.  I still need to sign up for A to Z reading to find free leveled readings.

Then, I want to go to a human interest story.  The one that came to mind was a story I heard recently of two sets of identical twins born in the same hospital on the same day and one twin was switched, so that the boys were raised as fraternal twins instead of identical twins.  I feel like that would be a pretty high-interest story.

I didn't have a chance to really think of a movie talk, so if you have any ideas, let me know!

Next, for a human #authres, I was thinking Johnny Depp, since he is well-known to my kids, speaks French, and has a French family to discuss.

For music, I googled "paroles pere" and came up with a song from Celine Dion called Parler a mon Pere that looked good.  For older classes, I thought maybe Maudite Priere by Lynda Lemay, which is about a mom with too many kids who just found out she's pregnant again...

Thoughts?  Ideas?

Developing a flexible, personalized curriculum-Carol Gaab

Dangit!  I've been so busy with other stuff that I haven't gotten these posts out as quickly as I wanted to...  So here's hoping that I can remember all the brilliant information Carol gave during this session based on my notes...

Carol used an example of a unit she created for her baseball players and used just this year.  She specifically chose a unit that was not for sale in her curriculum programs so that we wouldn't feel like she was selling us anything (I would buy ketchup popsicles from this lady!) 

So, first step is to think of an overarching theme that is going to be relevant to your students or a "big idea" from a novel or unit that you teach to guide your planning.  In her example, she noted that she has to teach a lot of sport vocabulary, so she chose a baseball player known for stealing the most bases (I blank on his name).  So her overarching theme was Speed and Agility.  Then, she started googling for things she could use to pull structures from.  The structures that you need to make sure to specifically teach are the ones that are high frequency that aren't the top 7 that we should already be trying to mix into our daily stories (to be, to want, to have, to need, etc). 

Then, start with PQA.  If you can find/take photos of kids doing their activities, that will instantly add interest for the kids.  In her example, she had pictures of her students on the field and they talked about how fast they can run.  Who's the fastest?  Who's the most strategic?  Who's the strongest?  Why?  What do they do to be fast/strategic/strong? 

Once the PQA runs out of steam (hopefully at the end of a class period), she creates a kahoot (go to to find out more) to "quiz" the kids.  She uses a lot of these type of pop-up quizzes, not so much to assess, but to create extra, sneaky reps. 

Then, once you have a basis of the new vocab, you can start making a story.  Ask it, act it out, and then read it.  Carol used photopeach to create a quick slideshow of the story that they had created.  I couldn't remember why she preferred this over other slideshow programs, so I tried to look at it.  It doesn't seem that if you use this, can you let me know the benefits?

Okay...we've started learning our new vocab and now it's time to start adding lessons to our unit.  Carol has a planning sheet where she tries to add variety (so we're not constantly falling back on stories about a boy who wants a cat with two tails ;))  So, she looks for novels with similar themes, videos, news stories, music, or a human authentic resource (think local!) 

So for most of these authentic resources, we need to make them comprehensible for our kids.  There are 3 steps: 1.  Identify the main idea. 2. Replace unknown low frequency vocab with high frequency vocab or cognates. 3. Identify your target structures from the resource and find that same structure in 2-3 different contexts (yes, we're talking about being stronger...but it doesn't always have to be muscles or sporty...)

Then, you use a storyboard to ask the story and then, of course, follow up with the reading.  In this case, you can have kids figure out the meaning of unknown, low-frequency words by having them pick synonyms out of a word bank.  Carol used a book from about gazelles and cheetahs as her authentic resource. 

Moving on to a movie talk (a commercial for an athletic shoe that is pretending to be a nature video of a cheetah and a gazelle).  Carol said that she usually starts by giving them a transcript of the video (maybe a cloze activity here too?) and then they listen another few times without the transcript.  For something like this, you want to start with about 50 words in level 1 and about 120 words for level 2.  Don't forget all of your other strategies...describing pictures, PQA, possible or probable, etc.  Then, ALWAYS end with some sort of assessment to get extra reps! (and, of course, to gauge student learning)

Next, she chose a human authentic resource (Usain Bolt) and found a quick, easy interview of him.  She started off by PQAing the questions that he answered in the interview.  Then, they had the transcription of the interview (note that even though it seems like they're "getting the answers" by having the transcript in front of them, it's another reading opportunity).  They listen, answer questions about what they hear, do activities over the interview/reading, just like we do with any other activity.  Then, she typed up another reading with "lies" in it.  For example: one of the lie sentences was "Usain Bolt says that training is easy for him" when in the interview, he said that training is hard work.

Then, Carol used Educanon to create a quick quiz on this video.  With Educanon, you can take youtube videos and then create quiz questions that pop up at a specific time and pause the video so students have a chance to answer them.

Next lesson was with a song.  Carol says to type in lyrics and your target structures to see what comes up.  She found the Kelly Clarkson song Stronger.  For beginning levels, you can just choose one verse or just the chorus (which is what Carol did with Stronger).  She took the chorus and put it into a word cloud for the students to look at.  They tried to "write" the chorus by looking at what words come up larger than others.  They also described themselves using the words from the cloud to a partner and then shared out what their partners said (takes pressure off...or you could have them pick words to describe their partner so it doesn't feel like "bragging")  Then, you could collect these descriptions and play a guessing game, trying to match the description to the student.

Next, her students have video exchanges with other baseball players (I'm assuming she has the "kids" that are playing in the Dominican exchange with the players in AAA, but I'm not 100% sure...I'm imagining trying to get this going with another French class in the states).  This is a way for them to practice in a low-stress environment (since they are recording by themselves...send it off...and they don't actually know the person who is receiving their videos) and it's fun!

So...those are her ideas...and she didn't even get to her final reading about the famous base-stealer!  She said that each of these "units" takes about 8 weeks.

I forgot that she gave two other examples of units: she was looking at body parts and decided to use Polio to teach that vocabulary because it is a big problem in the Dominican.  She also used Civil Rights as her overarching theme when using her novel Felipe Alou, using MLK's I have a Dream speech as a text to talk about the students' future dreams, etc. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spanish class day 2-Von & Blaine Ray

So during this session, we were doing a reading, based on what Blaine and Von thought we already knew.  They overshot the mark, so we did a quick translation together of an embedded reading to get basic meaning so we could move on to what Blaine and Von would do with an embedded reading. 

There was a ton of great stuff in this class and I really saw the benefit of using myself as a parallel character in a story.  I've slept since this class and I didn't take notes since I was involved in the class as a student and not really as a teacher, so I'm sorry that I can't give you the exact structures that Blaine and Von were working on...

From what I remember, this was to go along with the LICT story of the Big Surprise.  So, we had our main character, who was hungry, and who wanted to go to a restaurant.  The aha moment came when we had what Blaine and Von call "an event".  We knew that our main character loved surprises, so we went back in time to find out why she loved them so much.  Turns out that her mom gave her a doll...her favorite doll.  Blaine didn't like surprises because his mom gave him a tennis racquet, but he preferred golf.  All of this back story to let you all know that while we were learning this, Blaine was constantly comparing himself to the girl.  In the past, in the present, first person, second person, third person.  It was magical.  He was asking everyone "Do I like surprises? No, she likes surprises."  Then, to the girl "Do you like surprises?  Yes, you do.  Do I like surprises? No, I don't"  The actors were also answering in complete sentences, so they were getting practice in using all forms as well (the structures were written on the board, so there wasn't any pressure on the actors).  In the beginning, when Blaine would ask "Do I like surprises?" the actor would respond "Yes, I like surprises."  Blaine would say, "No, I was asking about me" and the actor would self-correct.  After a few times, there were no more mistakes or hesitation and the actors were switching between POV super easily.

Then, when we were "done" with the story, we went back to the reading to see how much easier it was after all the reps we had just gotten.  Again, the reading was harder than would be used in a real classroom, where we know what our students know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Variety is the spice of routine (speaking/writing)-Craig Sheehy

These are ideas of how to get students speaking/writing the story in a low-stress manner.

10. Tell is to the Wall/Walking in a Circle:  Craig says that his kids find a spot on the wall to re-tell the story to or they walk in a circle.  He points out that some scientist says that walking 1.8 mi/hr is the optimal speed to get oxygen to the brain, which helps with learning.  We brainstormed that you could set up culture posters that the kids tell it to...maybe a poster of a monument or of a famous TL-speaking person.  Then, they switch spots every so often to get them up and moving.

9.  Talk to the Hand:  In this exercise, students draw a face on their hand and then tell the story to their hand.  You can also have them sing it to their hand in a particular style (opera, rap, country, etc)

8.  Balderdash: Retell to a partner and you try to sneak in a lie about the story.  If the partner catches you, they yell Balderdash and correct the lie.

7. I must have missed the name of this one: Start with a person and have them say the first sentence of the story.  Student number two repeats the first sentence and adds the second sentence.  Student 3 repeats the second sentence and adds the third and so on. 

6.  Unnatural selection retell: Use PowerSchool or some other randomizer to pick a person to re-tell.  If there are certain kids who will shut down, you can "choose" yourself.

5. What do you remember?:  In this exercise, students volunteer to tell the class things they remember from the story.  It could be a sentence or a detail or whatever.

4. Sing Off, Rap Off, Tell Off: Pick two volunteers to go head to head to try and out perform the other. 

3.  Harry Potter: Students are asked to add or subtract details (redux or addux).  This is a great activity to train kids to summarize information and give only the essential information.  A very high level skill that is hard to teach.

2. Retell charades: Either the kids re-tell the story and the prof acts it out or they do it in pairs.  Or both!

1. Around the world in 80 words: Kids retell the story one word at a time.  For example: S1: There S2: was S3: a S4: boy S5: who......  They have to say the punctuation marks, which count as a turn also.  Students are also allowed to add details not included in the original story.

Phew!  Soooooooo much goodness in 3 1/2 hours.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Variety is the Spice of Routine (Reading)-Craig Sheehy

Craig made sure to point out to us that all of these strategies MUST follow our normal routines of PQA, parallel characters, circling, etc.  These are ways to spice things up and get more reps.

This was probably the most helpful list to me because I always think of choral translation and volleyball reading...but that's it.  BORING!  Especially if I try to do that every week.  So I can't wait to do these things!

10.  Speed Read:  Another strategy that MUST be modeled for our kids.  Craig gives the kids one minute to read as far as they can out loud.  Some kids will just read the words and not try to understand (but remember, they should already know the story if we did our first job well), so Craig challenges them by saying "You don't have to try to understand if you're not good enough yet." and then he asks them how much they understood.  You can ask questions here about the text and get more reps too...

9. Speed translate:  Do it once or twice alone and then do it with a partner for two more reps (once as they listen to their partner and once as they read it themselves).

8. Volleyball reading:  Craig does the volleyball reading with a twist...making it a hot potato game in groups.  I love this idea too...

7. SSR w/ dictionaries:  This is to be used for longer embedded readings where most of the words are already known.  This is awesome to help kids learn how to use language dictionaries or 

6. Reader's Theater:  I like this because, unlike how I've often thought of Reader's Theater, they do this in small groups, and then they either volunteer to perform or are chosen to perform.  And each performance is an added rep!

5. Papas Calientes (Pass the buck):  In groups of 8 they do popcorn reading in TL or English (popcorn reading is where the person who just finished chooses who reads the next line).  Set a timer for a random amount of time and they "race."  Whoever is supposed to be reading when the timer goes off is either out or gets a strike.

4. FBI Decoder: use Textivate to create sentence strips of the story and put them in envelopes and the partners have to put them in order.

3. Narcolepsy/Amnesia: Teacher reads the story and "falls asleep."  The kids have to yell the next work of the story to wake the teacher up.  You could also do this once as a big group and then in small groups with a student falling asleep.

2. Silly profe: Teacher translates the story wrong and the kids yell to fix it.

1. Speed dating/airplane:  Put kids in partners and have them do volleyball reading.  The difference is that you try to re-create the travel experience.  In Craig's example, he set the partners up so that they looked like an airplane.  Then, as the kids were working together, Craig became the flight attendant and asked them if they'd like a drink, some peanuts, etc.  When it was time to change partners, they would "land" at a layover city and then "take-off" again for the next destination.  What an excellent way to teach that travel vocab that is so hard to make come naturally but is so important for our kids when traveling...

Variety is the Spice of Routine (Teacher Retells)-Craig Sheehy

First off, it's pronounced Shee-high.  Just FYI.  Craig is a super awesome, amazing dude who was in Blaine's first TPR class...the one that he uses as an example of how he moved beyond TPR to the stories because his kids got super tired second semester of just standing up and sitting down in weird ways.

I was terrified that I had lost my notes from this session (I always forget paper, so I was using the tiny hotel pads of paper and kept dropping them on the floor throughout the week).  Thankfully, I found them tonight!  This session was so awesome.  Craig said that he was only going to give us ten ideas per skill, even though he has a ton of others.  I literally groaned out loud, thinking he was holding out on us.  Trust me, ten per skill was more than enough...

Okay, so here are the ten skills that he shared to get listening reps (other ways for the teacher to re-tell the story and not bore the kids). 

10. Sleep-talker retell: Kids close their eyes while the teacher re-tells and asks questions.  We did this, and it was amazing to be able to really visualize while he was talking...also, while he was talking, he was adding details so that the kids were adding to the movie of the story in their head.  For example: the original story is There was a boy named Jim.  In the Sleep-talker version, it might become There was a handsome blonde boy named Jim.  He looked like Luke Skywalker.  Or something like that.  As long as the language stays in bounds, this is cool.  Then, he would ask questions also that the kids would answer.  I've slept since then and am trying to remember what type of questions he was asking, but I'm imagining that it was the general circling questions: Is there a boy or a girl? but the kids answer with eyes closed. 

Craig used the phrase CRI-keys (imagine Croc Dundee or Steve Irwin saying it) to determine if a retell was valid.  Comprehensible, Repetitive, and Interesting.  On some of these activities, the only interesting thing is the name....but he says his kids beg for them BECAUSE of the name.  I've got to get more creative in the classroom...

9. Dream, Dream, Dream: like the sleep-talker re-tell but without questioning the kids.  Just a re-tell and you could add some details.

8. Fact or Crap: Like an oral true/false quiz but the kids get to yell something funny in the TL if it's False (ex. Caca in French)  Then they have to chorally fix the false statements.  Another teacher in the class said they have used this same activity, but made it a game by playing it in small groups/partners with spoons or post-it notes.  (imagine the game spoons...where the students grab a spoon when they hear a false statement...the student without a spoon gets a strike against them)

7. Retell with no questions (Just the Facts Baby):  I'm thinking you could add interest to this by having students give the teacher an accent/emotion/type of song to retell the story in

6. Rewind: retell backwards.  You can ask the students questions to help with memory (it's really hard to do...even with a five sentence story), but it doesn't work to add details with this one.

5. La secretaria perfecta: this is basically a dictation.  Craig has them star every third line (because they will be correcting errors on the second line) and they write as perfectly as they can the story, while the teacher re-reads the story THREE TIMES!!  Then, at the end, have the kids read the story and correct only the words they misspelled.  The person with the fewest errors "wins".

4. Artista Magnifico: Drawing the story as it is retold with added details.  Note to myself: I've tried this before and have had a humdinger of a time because I forgot to MODEL it.  So, this next year, I will make sure that I model it before and tell my more artistic kids that I just want it sketched out so that I don't have those kids who want to spend 45 minutes on one scene. 

3.  Silly Profe (Profe Stupido)  Like Fact or Crap only the T tries to sneak in lies/false statements and the kids yell out "Profe Stupido!" when they hear a false statement and then chorally fix the false statement.

2. Charade re-tell: Kids gesture the story to remind the teacher of the sentences and the teacher re-tells.

1. Profe el Director Loco: Choose your actors and then decide a style for it to be acted out.  For example, we acted ours out as an old Western, but you could do a Kung Fu movie or an anime film or...  This requires must modelling and coaching, but the coaching can also be added reps as you tell your actors "no, the guy is ANGRY...try it again" and then you re-read the line from the story.  Then, you can say at the end "Oh shoot, I forgot...this is actually a horror movie.  Let's do it again."

Whew!  Those are only TEN of the THIRTY ideas I got from Craig.  I decided to split these up so that it's not such a long read for anyone.

Roommate musings-with Andrea Schweitzer & Julia Stutzer

My first year of NTPRS, I went with my husband and we made a week of it, taking off every evening to see the sights and meet up with friends.  My next year, I stayed with a friend in St. Louis to save on hotels.  In Dallas, I discovered the wonder of having "strangers" as roommates and really eating, breathing, and living TPRS for the week.  At this point, I think even if NTPRS is in KC, I'll get a hotel room.  I've made amazing friends by sharing a bed!

So, this year I had two awesome roommates...Andrea from Dallas and Julia from Anchorage.  After day one, we were too jazzed up to sleep, so instead we sat up talking about what we've learned, what we do in class, etc.  Even after we turned off the light, we would get an idea, and start to share it...turning the light BACK on, even though it was well after midnight.

Here are a few of our favorite games to use in class:  Andrea said that she uses a game called SOFA, which we practiced with real people in the War & Peace room the last night.  In this game, chairs are set up in a circle with one empty seat.  Four seats are labelled as the SOFA.  This works best if you have equal number boys and girls so that teams are obvious, but you could give them necklaces or hats or something to distinguish between the two teams.  Starting with the sofa and going counter clockwise, alternate team members (boy, girl, boy, girl for example) until the empty seat is to the right of the sofa.  The person to the left of the empty seat calls someone over to the empty seat.  So, in French, it would be "Pierre, viens ici" and then Pierre has to move to the empty seat and the person to the left of Pierre's old seat picks the next person.  The goal of the game is to get all of one team on the SOFA.  It really helps to see it in action so you can see the strategy of the game.  Andrea says that once the kids get that, she'll add to the dialogue so that they are always practicing new stuff.  I love this game because everyone is engaged at once and nobody ever gets "out".

Then, Julia piped up with her favorite game...The Newlywed Game.  She sets up partners and then basically plays the Newlywed Game, asking level-appropriate questions.  So, it might go like this:  Students are paired and Mike is student A and Johnny is student B.  T asks "What is student A's favorite color?"  Johnny, as student B, guesses what Mike's favorite color is.  After every B student has made their guesses, the A students (who have been in the hallway??) show their answers and points are awarded for matching answers.  I love this idea!  Just imagine the possibilities: Who would your partner say is their biggest celebrity crush?  What do you normally do on a Saturday night?  What will you be doing in 5 years?  Some of those would be hard to match, probably, but you could be kinder with the judging on those. 

I'm so glad that I got to meet these two ladies and I can't wait to see them again!!  (although the chances of me making it to Alaska are pretty slim...)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cool Stories & Techy Tools-Rodrigo deGrau

My district is going one-to-one next year, so I was excited to go to this and get ideas of CI-friendly tech tools.  This is going to be less of a blog and more of a list of tech stuff...

Wordle: This is one way to use Wordle that I just love.  Rodrigo tells his students: start typing everything you think of when I say Mexico (5 minutes) to me...  Then, he put into wordle and showed it to the kids.  At the end of a unit, re-do and compare.

Tagxedo: like a wordle, but it puts it in forms (letters, shapes, etc)

Lipdub contest: Rodrigo takes those awful days where there's too much going on to actually teach and gives the kids a project.  Every class creates a video song and lipdubs...students then vote on the winner.  If you want to see what they ended up looking like, you can go to Youtube and watch them.  He gave each class 4 days to make these films. a way to get quick responses by having kids text their answers.

Kahoot: I think everyone has used kahoot, but Rodrigo had a great idea.  Make them use their own name and “theme” like your favorite color in TL (BessBleu)

Find odd true stories and then use those as stories…  Then kids can watch the videos or answer Kahoot quizzes on the stories.  For example, the boy who doesn’t want to eat octopus.  

Have kids make PowToons (a quick online way to make animated videos) as a re-tell.

Then, we ran out of time, so these I don't know much about:

Scribblitt: Create stories, illustrate and share them.  Can print off hard cover book for $20.

Apps for phones: Charades kids, PurposeGames, Lens2, Kaizena


How to Expand a 1 Day movie talk to 1 week-Alina Filipescu

I didn't know, but this is a continuation of the story that we did in the read my post from the morning all of that...and then continue on with this, using the same structures.

All of these are ideas of how to plan an entire week off of one movie talk.  I've been very bad about using movie talk because I get lazy and I think "Oh man, my kids are getting bored with X, and I haven't done a movie talk in a let me find a movie talk."  Luckily, I have this shared database of TONS of movie talk resources, and I'm pretty comfortable flying by the seat of my pants, so I just pick one and go.  No real planning real structures that I'm planning on using...  And then AFTER I've done it with all of my classes, I figure out what I taught them and then create the extension activities.  It works, but if I'm busy or have a Dr appt or something after school, then I'm screwed for the extension activities.  Anywho....

Alina showed us another brain break/PQA again that I had forgotten to write down in my notes from the first session.  She says "I am________" and then if that sentence is true for you, you stand up and say "That's me!" in the target language.  It works as a brain break because it gets kids moving, adds some PQA, and gives kids a low-stress way to practice saying That's me! several times.  While teaching us this, Alina said that she spends at least 10 minutes a day doing some sort of PQA.  I love that idea.  I feel like I compartmentalize my teaching too much.  Like "Oh, today is a reading day, so we're going to read and translate."  I'm so dumb that I don't even remember to circle or PQA or do anything with the reading besides a "reading activity."  That's one thing that I saw over and over this week: all the skills that we are building should ALWAYS be happening.  We just flip from one to another.  There's NOTHING saying that we can't stop in the middle of asking a story and just park on something else or pop in a music video and sing.  Duh!  I'm sure I'm the last person on the planet to have this realization.

My next AHA moment came when Alina talked about how she uses her "getting to know you" surveys from the beginning of the year.  I had been using them for "circling with balls" and then throwing them away when I was "done" with a student.  Hello!  Seriously...who knew I was this dense??  She looks for interesting information and then uses fun answers for her details in stories throughout the year.  Her example was a student who had a dog named Agent Fluffybottom.  That struck her as so funny so she threw it in the next time they needed an animal name in a story. 

She also used celebrity photos as PQA to ask opinions of each student.  I need to remember to do stuff like this and then have kids move around to show their responses.  Great way to get kids moving while still getting input.  AND it will be so much easier next year as I get rid of my desks.

Alina then continued on with a 3 ring circus.  I have never been able to pull this off, but I hear from others who saw it in Linda's class and from my experience with Alina that it allows for SO MUCH repetition because it is funny to watch your classmates doing something non-stop, even when I'm not talking about that person.  So, going back...  Alina picked 3 people too act out our 3 verbs that we were working on.  But she personalized it.  So our first volunteer was acting out looked at.  So we talked to her about what she wanted to look at (circling...circling...repetition).  Then, our 2nd volunteer had fought with as his structure.  So we had to figure out who/what he was fighting with.  Continued this with the 3rd person...  Then, once we had established all that and had about a billion more reps, they did it.  The actual 3 ring circus didn't actually take that long, but Alina got so many reps just setting it up.  Awesome.

Okay....after the PQA, the 3 ring circus and all those reps, we were ready for the Movie Talk.  She showed the movie up until the "joke" without saying anything.  Then, she stopped at the spots with the target vocab and we talked about it.  She asked questions...circled...etc.  Then, you've got extension it again and have them blurt out anything they see.  I've done something like this before, but I prefer using screen shots instead of watching the movie again.  We looked at the still and they told their partner everything they could say (or we used white boards and they wrote it), while I walked around and then said things like "Oh class, I just heard someone say (I try not to call people out) THIS and it was awesome!  I hadn't thought of that..." 

Then, we did an embedded reading of the "text" of the movie talk.  Alina pointed out that for the first versions of her embedded readings, she tries to use a larger, easy to read font and centers each sentence on its own line.  Love this idea!

Other ideas that Alina said she uses in class are sentence strips of the story, dramatize it, or have them read it in different funny voices.

Anther thing that I have done as an extension activity that I stole from someone's blog:  I took my screen shots and made copies so that I made decks of cards and they played Go Fish, describing the photo to ask for the cards they wanted. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Luncheon with Dr. Stephen Krashen

As usual, Dr. Krashen is inspiring and helps me see the scientific reasons why what we do in class works.  Dr. Krahsen himself posted his version of his presentation on the moreTPRS listserv, but here are my takeaways from what I heard. 

We are awesome...  So that might not have been his exact intention, that's definitely what I took away.  What we are doing or trying to do in our classes is far and away the best method that exists for teaching a language.  So my question is: Why in the heck are more people not doing it?  (and it's what Richard Baker is currently researching)  In my opinion, there are several contributing factors.  One: It's's a skill that takes many years to be comfortable with...and one can never truly master.  Two: Lack of support from administrators or colleagues and, in some cases, outright bullying of people using the method.  Three: Lack of mentors in the area.  It's really hard to learn to do something if you don't have an easy way to ask questions, see it modelled, or be coached (someone is trying to remedy this by creating a database of teachers willing to be observed, coach, etc...but I can't remember who...maybe Karen Rowan??)  Four: Misinformation.  I think this is the reason a lot of the teachers in my district, which was once an all-TPRS district, has moved away from the method.  Most of those teachers had been trained in TPRS a long time ago or during a short 3-day training.  There is so much innovation and collaboration that you just don't get if you're not constantly learning and seeking PD.  I don't know how teachers do it without a place like Ben Slavic's PLC or the moreTPRS list...

Dr. Krashen said that he's not a big fan of the timed-writing because it is a forced output...but I feel like the benefits that I see in my class (and, as Janet Holzer said, having the data to show admins) far outweigh any affective filter that might occur.  And I could have misunderstood his meaning.  He said that he would like to see it used occasionally, but not on a regular basis.  Definitely not once a week...

What he would like to see us do and/or continue to do:

1. Try to find a research topic and try to find someone to help you get it complete/published.  I'll blog more about my dinner with Richard Baker later and our ideas for research topics.

2.  Try to avoid focusing so much on target structures and instead focus on content.  Perhaps we teach a history class in French or teach kids to do yoga in Spanish.  Or perhaps we teach a class on popular literature.  This is, of course, pie in the sky dreams because most of us have objectives that we are supposed to meet or particular vocabulary that we have to teach.  However, I did find some WONDERFUL ideas for striving for this in Carol Gaab's curriculum class that I will blog about later. 

I love Dr. Krashen because he makes me feel like an innovator in my field and like what I'm doing in my classroom and what my kids can do might be interesting to the rest of the world.  So...if you have an idea for a research topic, PLEASE try to find someone to help you do it!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Blaine & Von Ray Spanish Class-day 1

I always love being in Blaine's was a little slow because there were a LOT of true Spanish beginners...  So I didn't learn a lot of new Spanish, but I did get a couple of things to pass on:

1-The longer I was in the class, the more my Spanish class with Blaine from 6 years ago came back...  Words that we weren't using, but that just starting popping into my head because it was Spanish that I knew.

2-Blaine told the "class" that the goal was for us to all answer his questions AT THE SAME TIME!  I don't know why I've never done this.  He specifically said to the class "So you faster processors, I want you to try and BLEND IN.  Wait just a bit before you answer and don't just blurt out."  Awesome.  I've never heard that before but what a great thing to say to our students?!  It validates the quicker kids because it tells them that I know they exist, but it gets them on my side in helping the rest of the students.  Instead of trying to blurt out the answer quickly before everybody else, those students will now be trying to wait a bit (giving them more time to process as well)...  And for those slower processors, it allows them to answer without fear of looking behind the quick kids.  Great stuff.

It amazes me that I've seen some of these master teachers teach the same story a handful of times, but I always get something new from them....

Alina Filipescu-How to expand a 2 day story to 2 weeks

This was my first time seeing Alina in action and I got so much just from watching her.  The first thing she did was establish her expectations for her "class."  As a class, she expected us to react to certain phrases with words and gestures.  (I'm pretty sure I've  blogged about how bad I am at gestures...)  For example, when she said Excellent in Romanian, we would give a double thumbs up and say Excellent.  She also had gestures for How sad, ridiculous (this one took a lot of practice for us to meet her expectations), Secret, and There was a problem.  This immediately put us all on the same page as classmates, created the culture of who was in charge, and gave us things to be paying attention to during the story.

Two other things that we were required to respond to were Do you understand and Bless you (when someone sneezes).  In those cases, we were taught how to say I understand or Bless you in many different languages (Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Romanian, and "Alina" language, which was to snap twice and say click, click).  I never thought of creating a love of OTHER languages in my students....but how cool is that?  I love the idea of getting kids to appreciate the sounds of other languages. 

Once we had the classroom culture established, we began our story.  When asking the story, there were times that Alina would have us turn to our partner to guess the answer.  While we were doing that, she was walking around, listening for interesting answers, and giving us a chance to process the language that had just happened.  For the lower students, Alina gave us/them many opportunities to rest our brains and catch up with the higher students.  She would tell us to raise our hands before answering so that the quick kids weren't just blurting out the answer, leaving the slower kids behind or to disengage.  We also had brain breaks in the TL.  Alina didn't have a chance to show us her song brain break or what she would do with that, but I would imagine maybe taking 3 minutes to sing a song or watch a music video in the TL.  One brain break that we did get to do was to play Pancho Camacho.  Alina had like five cards with different objects on it from our story (ex. motorcycle, beard, extra hair, etc).  One student held each card.  An audience member would then say "P.C. wants a beard."  Whoever has BEARD on their card would then say, "No, PC does NOT want a beard.  PC wants a motorcycle (or some other object)"  And so on.  The teacher has a timer going for a weird amount of time.  (like 18 seconds or something that changes each round so that kids can't guess the amount of time)  Whoever has the spotlight when the timer goes off is out.  The last person standing then has to go against the teacher.  Compelling input for all of the audience (because we couldn't wait to see who got out and the volunteers try to speak faster and faster) and repetitive speaking practice for the volunteers. 

Then we continued on with our story.  We had parallel characters so we were getting more reps and it was a great story. 

Once our story was over, we received our reading.  In this case, Alina had a skeleton story that she was working from, so our task was to read for comprehension to the point where we could fill in the blanks to create our class story.  I LOVED this idea.  It made me as a student feel super smart because I was "writing" half the story (which was mainly names and cognates) after only about an hour of input. 

Then, we did a volleyball reading in partners before we ran out of time.

A great session that was super fun with nuggets that I will try to remember in February when I'm all out of gas and need some encouragement (would somebody please help me remember all this then??)

btw-as I write this poolside during our lunch break, Alina is directly across from me enjoying the sunshine...with no idea that I am blogging about her.  A bit strange, yes??

Also, I got a photo of the three of us (from L-R, me, my roomie Andrea, and the beautiful Alina) at the closing luncheon.  I find it helps to have a visual of who I'm reading/talking about.

Monday, July 20, 2015

NTPRS 2015

Well, I'm back at it!  As usual, I will be blogging about the sessions I attend throughout this week.  Stay tuned for gems from all the usuals, and hopefully a few new!

Speed dating

I've been awful about blogging this year...  I think it's because I feel like I do the same-old, same-old every day.  But after a month plus of absences and family illnesses, I jumped back into the classroom ready to try some new stuff.

One of the things that I tried:  I started talking to my students about something (might have been some movie or a book series or something) and really worked on I agree, I disagree, and in my opinion.  We talked like that for a whole hour, but I decided to extend the activity (something I haven't been great about in the past) by creating a speed dating activity. 

I'm not sure if I've explained this activity before, but I create concentric circles and then have a PowerPoint of discussion topics ready.  I set the timer for 1-2 minutes and let them discuss the question.  When the timer goes off, the middle circle moves over and they have a new partner.  Not life-altering, I know.  If there's an odd number of students, I join the circle, which gives me a great way to informally assess students and their speaking skills. 

For this particular speed dating, I started with basic opinion statements:  Miley Cyrus sings well, The Walking Dead is the best series on TV, Wendy's has the best fries...  and then slowly ramped it up to more controversial statements: Women are smarter than men, violence is never the answer, All Muslims are terrorists.  Ooooh, those kids were jumping out of their skin ready to answer those questions!  They were so passionate that their affective filter was almost zero as they spouted anything in French that they thought would convey their perspective.  It was wonderful!  And the best part?  It wasn't just wonderful for me, the teacher...I had parents contact me about how much their children enjoyed that lesson plan and I had a student work all weekend to draw me something based on our discussion of power of non-violence.