Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day 4 French 1 samples

Here are three completely random writing samples.  They had very little visual support to write these because, teaching 5 levels, I have very little room in my room to post everything...  I'd love to have posters with these structures like Bryce...

Monday, August 22, 2016

First 3 days

I feel like I made a lot of changes this year.  First, I changed my grading philosophy, as discussed in this blog post.  Then, I added flexible seating to my classroom, thanks to a funded project on donorschoose.org.  So now my classroom looks like this:
I've also decided that this is the year that I kick butt at classroom management.  Since coming to the high school and abandoning P.A.T., I've relied on my relationship with kids to do my managing for me.  Which works for most kids, but I was WORN OUT at the end of last year because of poor classroom management.  So I have Bryce's "How to Participate" on my wall, I'm wearing professional skirts and heels, and I'm taking no crap.  French only except during the first 5 minutes if I have announcements to make and the last 5 minutes when we wrap up the day.  Other than that, "Pas d'anglais dans la classe de français."

And it's going well so far!  I have a few kids that I had last year who are trying to take me back to the loose rules of last year, but I'm not going to let them!!

I also decided to change my classroom jobs a bit (which I'll blog about later) and implemented the secret password.  We practiced Friday in preparation for the real deal this week and the kids really got into it, whispering into my ear and acting like it was a big deal.  I loved it!

One last thing that went well last week: we had back to school night, where parents come to meet the teachers and find out about class.  In past years, I've introduced myself and talked about my philosophy and grading practices and blah blah blah blah.  But then I had to go to back to school night last year at my daughters' school and it was HORRIBLE!!  So boring being read to from the syllabus hour after hour after hour.  So I pretended like the parents were my French 1 class and taught them exactly as I had been teaching their kids.  The feedback was extraordinary!  They loved it, they were laughing and I doubt they will complain about my class in the future.  It was a really great way to start to build relationships with the parents.

Last thing and I'll go for now:  Jeremy Jordan (aka Senor Jordan) is now in my building.  While we don't see each other much during the day, having him here has been a huge blessing because I have someone that I can talk to and he immediately gets it when I say Circling with Balls or Special Person, etc.  Also, we've started Skyping with Andrea Schweitzer, roommate extraordinaire, once a week to check in and see how things are going.  If you're ever interested in joining us, please let me know!  We'd love to have special guests!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Comprehension to the MAX, community for the WIN by Justin Slocum Bailey

After hearing glowing reviews for Justin's earlier sessions and getting a personal recommendation from Michele Whaley, I was super excited to finish my week in this session.

This session was all about creating a secret language in the classroom using gestures and ASL to create a sense of community and fun.  Apparently there is an online dictionary showing videos of how to do these.  Here are some of the signs that we learned

  • Again: to get something repeated, either for clarification or for fun
  • Copycat: used by the teacher to tell kids that they need to do what I do
  • Play: used to show that we're about to have fun
  • Slow down: used to adjust the speed of the teacher
  • Word: used when a new word is going to be introduced or used by students when a word is used that they don't understand
  • Rise above: is the Usain Bolt gesture and is used when the situation is stinky, but we are going to rise above it.
  • Make lemonade: used when a situation is stinky and we are going to use the situation to teach the language
  • Distraction: used when there is something (a noise, an action) that is distracting from the leaerning
  • Start sign: used when the teacher is going to repeat or start a re-tell
I am big on precise language and what teachers say, so here are some quotes I got from Justin that I really like
  • "You control the language that is coming at you."
  • "There is no such thing as 'We already had that word'"
  • "How many of you want to know more?" -when a student said that she had 30 bicycles
  • "Am I saying that right? Names are so important." -when learning a student's name
  • "Students aren't used to understanding in their classes."
We spent the rest of the hour talking about the normal distractions that happen in our classroom and how we can use them to #makelemonade  For example, if a cell phone goes off, we can use that in our story.  If there is an announcement, maybe it becomes a message from the aliens.  We need to be better about using our imaginations in the classroom to use the things that would normally be an annoyance.

So....right after this session, we went to our farewell luncheon.  Right as Blaine Ray was giving his speech, the room next to us starting jamming out to some sweet jams.  I looked at Justin, who was behind me, and made the sign for Distraction.  He nodded and I turned back around.  Then, he tapped on my shoulder and gave me the Rise Above sign.  It made me chuckle and made me feel like Justin and I had this secret language and I felt special.  I can't wait to do this in my classroom!

Last thing: I've always shied away from using gestures because it just doesn't seem natural to me and I didn't want to force all of my students to do it if they didn't want to.  Justin made it kind of optional.  He encouraged us all to do them, but if we didn't, no biggie.  As a student, I really enjoyed the signs and I imagine that my more fidgety students will like them to.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Using Literature Circles with Michelle Kindt

After reading Carrie Toth's blog post about what she did with independent novel reading this year, I was interested to see how Michelle makes it work in her French classroom.  First off, you want to make sure that you use this with upper grades who can handle reading on their own.  They need lots of practice reading with you before you let them loose.

The original lit circle idea is that students break into groups of about 4 and every person is given a role.  What Michelle did with this idea was to help us, as teachers, keep track of multiple groups to keep them on task.  She starts with four jobs: vocabulary curator (chooses a short list of vocabulary needed to understand the story or useful in other situations), discussion question generator, summarizer, and culture connector (makes connections to our culture or things they know about other cultures).

Students read together for about 20 minutes a day and switch roles every day.  When there are 5-7 minutes left, allow students to get technology out and record their vocabulary, summary, questions, and culture connection, color-coding who adds what.  While students are reading in groups, Michelle leads a discussion with a group, using their discussion questions and adding her own (thus modeling a good discussion question).

After class, Michelle looks at the google docs and makes comments about which vocabulary they chose, sometimes correcting errors, or making a discussion.

If the students get behind, Michelle might work with that group to help them catch up.  If one group gets done early, she might give them suggestions of ways to spice up their google doc (adding pictures or doing a little research to add background knowledge to the story).  Students were also tasked with faking a Twitter or Instagram feed to re-tell the story from a character's perspective.

The coolest thing is that Michelle used the common thread of the novels she chose (all took place in French-speaking countries with rainforests) to create a unit on the rain forests.  Students read articles, debated, wrote emails, and studied geography and culture.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Building Diversity-Positive Characters in the TPRS classroom with Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams

Holy cow!  I have to admit, I went to this class originally because my friend Anna was leading it.  And also because I am always wanting to honor the diversity I see in my classroom.

We started by creating a Circle of Love, an activity to replace a family tree.

I have gone away from having the typical family discussion by asking kids who they live with instead of "What's your mom's name?"  I get the same vocabulary, but it is individual for each kid.  

Next, we thought about one of our heroes and had to come up with an adjective to describe that person.  I thought of Stromae because he is influential.  We created a poster with all of those adjectives: 
We talked about these adjectives as possible replacements for the typical TPRS adjectives of beautiful, rich, tall...  

Next, they had the room in tears by showing an Ad Council video about Love has no Labels.  I had not seen the video, and after spending a week with like-minded love-filled people, I was done.  I'm just glad I didn't start sobbing and snarfing... 

Some quotes that I thought were powerful:
  • Students deserve to see positive representations of themselves and those they love, both as they are now and in the future.
  • We are not asked to change our personal belief systems, but to honor those in front of us. (I love this because it makes sense...we don't have to agree with...say...the hostile takeover of Palestinian lands to honor and love a person of Jewish descent.)
Next, we talked about the differences between diversity, multiculturalism, equality and equity.

Moving on to the Big 8 Social Identifiers:
  1. Ability-physical or mental capacities
  2. Age
  3. Ethnicity-a large group of people who share language, location, etc
  4. Gender
  5. Race-physical criteria (skin color)
  6. Religion/Spirituality
  7. Sexual Orientation
  8. S.E.S.
And the little 4:
  1. Appearance/body image
  2. Family structure
  3. Geographic region
  4. Military status (more important in some regions than others)
We talked about "jokes" that a lot of our teenagers think are hilarious.  Instead of yelling or getting them in trouble, we should guide them to understanding by asking "What do you mean by that?" and "Why is that funny?"

We talked about our gestures: think about how you gesture a man vs. a woman...(scary, isn't it??)

Now that we had all of the background, we talked about how we can co-create more inclusive TPRS stories.
  • adjectives-think back to the poster of the adjectives we used to describe our heroes...
  • names and characters and places: does it always have to be Kim Kardashian?
  • professions/responsibilities: woman can be doctors and men can be secretaries
  • locations (think of how powerful it is to use locally owned places that the kids actually go to!)
  • humor 
  • relationships: instead of a boy always looking for a girlfriend, maybe he is just looking for a friend
  • problems: try to move beyond to come up with meaningful problems (ex: Joe wants to take his mom to the Louvre...how much insight does that give us about Joe vs a story where Joe wants an iPhone?)  Instead of going to three locations and asking strangers for help, maybe the character works together with a friend to solve the problem.
  • solutions: try to come up with out-of-the-box solutions...kids will come up with great ones, but we may need to train them in the beginning.
We have great stories, but we can either re-write them to make them more inclusive or have our students do so.  As Alina said in her wonderful session, "We have to help them become the human beings we want in our society."

I can't say how important I think this session was.  I am always searching out ways to validate my students and their lives...and some of these things (like the gesture for woman) are so natural to me...it's so nice to see it for what it is (sexist) and be able to change it in the future.  

Anna and Rachelle were amazing presenters and I hope they will present this same exact session next year (longer!) because it was cathartic and eye opening and wonderful.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Grafted Writing with Eric Richards

First off, shout out to my Missouri boy Eric Richards.  We've met at previous NTPRS conferences, but this was my first time sitting in on one of his sessions.  This session was about writing strategies and I came in a little hesitant because I have been thinking of comparing two of my classes: one where we continue to do free writes once a week and the other where I hold off on writing until the end of second semester.  But after going to this session, I realized that this is actually way less about writing and more about getting kids to re-read...like Betsy's Blind Readings, where she has students do a blind re-tell, with others in the classroom helping him/her (while sneakily re-reading the story).

Anyway, here are the ideas I poached from Eric that I can't wait to try in the classroom:

  1. Condensing content: Students read the text and write down five of the most important sentences in the text to re-tell the story by copying those 5 sentences verbatim (they cannot combine).  This is SUCH an important skill to teach kids and I love the idea of having kids copy so they are writing accurate language.  Once they have their 5 sentences, they compare with a partner and collaborate to agree upon their 5 sentences.  You can continue this compare/share activity until the class agrees upon 5 sentences.  During this activity, students are tricked into re-reading the text like 10 times!
  2. What a difference a detail makes: students re-write the story word-for-word, changing one detail (character name, desire, etc).  Then, they read to a partner and share with the class.
  3. Rotating desks: Every desk has a piece of paper, teacher projects a skeleton story and each person writes that sentence based on the story that is in front of them.  Then, they swap stories and read them to each other.  You can also extend this by having students add details to the story
  4. The Space Between; This one is harder to explain...  Use a paper that is pre-numbered so that it works that, in partners, students co-create a story, leaving a sentence between what they write...so that students have to figure out what sentence goes between.  Eric has a template for this that I need to download and then upload here...  So, picture that student 1 writes sentence 1 and 3.  Student 2 writes sentence 2 and 5.  Student 1 writes sentence 4 and 7...make sense?
  5. Addjectives: Students take a text and add an adjective to each sentence.
  6. Publishing problems: Students have to insert a topic-travel, family, character description-into text as they re-write the story.  
  7. Say what?: Just like number 6, but students add dialogue.
  8. Paint a picture: Have a student illustrate a scene from the text and trade, partner writes text.
  9. What in the world: Teacher orally describes a room and kids draw it and then have to write what happened in it.  For example, there is a knife near the bed, the window is open...
  10. Please don't say vocab lists: Students must write a story using a list of vocab structures.  This works well if teachers pick the structures from an existing story because then, you can have students read the original text and compare.
  11. Fill in the blank: Have students write missing pieces to a story (beginning, middle or end)
  12. There are always 2 sides to a story: Re-write a story from the other character's point of view.
  13. Write a picture: Add setting to a story.  Example: if the story simply says "The mom gave them hot chocolate," students can add details like "There was a fire burning in the living room..."
  14. Old school texting: Basically just like passing notes in class, but you tell the kids they are texting as a particular character and they pass a paper back and forth.  
Sooooo many good ideas to help students scaffold their writing because, in the first activity, they are literally copying sentences from the text.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Interactive input with Mira Canion

The idea of this workshop was that any question is a good question.  I'm assuming that Mira is thinking of the pressure we have started to feel the last couple of years to have Higher Order questions.  She began the session by giving us an example of a simple question that could have a simple answer, but says a ton...  Ready?  Here is the question: Who are you?  Depending on how you answer, we can learn a lot about you: the first thing you say tells us what you hold in the highest regard and tells us what you are most proud of.

So, she started by telling us how she begins a book (her example was her own book, which takes place in Ecuador).  She starts with a numbered map with pictures of animals on the different countries.  Start small by saying: The cat is from Ecuador...Ecuador is number 17.  Then, you can circle and gradually add more animals/countries.  Then, you can ask questions like: What number is Ecuador? and they can start learning geography.  Then, she went into talking about the rain forest and asking us where the rain forest is and could we make any guesses about why the rain forest grows there geographically.  Continue with talks about volcanoes or earthquakes or whatever.

She talked about personalization and how it doesn't just have to be about the student him/herself.  It can also be about a student's interest.  For example, being a bit of a Pokemon go player, I could talk about where we find different types of Pokemon (being in Reno, in the desert, I have found a ton of fire and desert Pokemon that don't live in Missouri).

Then, she pre-teaches the vocabulary of the novel using a parallel story.  Instead of telling the story of Anne, we can tell a story of a boy who has a different problem.  Anything to get the vocabulary in their head.


Once they have gotten a pretty good handle on the vocab, she writes a bunch of questions on index cards and hands them out.  The students find a partner, ask the partner their question (and answer the other question), trade cards (so they have a new question) and find a new partner.  I have always avoided doing activities like this because it feels like too much forced output and I have nightmares of students doing an information gap activity from a textbook...but I realized that this activity is not really about speaking...it's more about getting more information that I can circle.  I also LOVED this activity as a student because I realized that it allows the students to go at their own pace.  If I want to start a conversation based on the card, I can because I don't have to be done with my partner right away.  It also allows slower students the chance to breath for a minute.

The next awesome thing about this is that you can then circle the structures again.  Ask your students "Who said that their mom was nice?" or other questions like that to get more repetitions on the structures.

Great stuff from Mira.  Super glad to have gotten more time to hang out this year...