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.