Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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. 

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