Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tuesday morning Advanced with Jason and Alina

We started the day talking about FVR libraries.  Alina puts her books out on the table from easiest to hardest and then puts a NOW sticker on the novel that she feels the students should be comfortable with.  Students are able to pick out any book they choose, but this gives them an idea of what the teacher's expectations are.  When a student has finished a novel, they put a sticky note with their names, number of stars, and a quick word (like facile or difficile).  Alina also doesn't put children't lit in her library...something I'm going to think about doing next year.  I found that my students would pick things and just look at them, not trying to understand, since the books were too hard for them.  I might let kids check those kids' books out, but I'm going to try and stick to the TPRS novels for levels 1 and 2.

Alina also keeps a log of which books kids are reading and when they finish them or check them out.  I'll have to think about this idea because it seems like a lot of paperwork...

This year, I may hold off on FVR with my level 1s and really focus on teaching my kids how to pick a just right book.  Alina used a powerpoint she found online that shows what it looks like if you understand 98% of the text, 95%, 90% and 85%.  Powerful.

Then, we went back to storytime and we continued learning Romanian.  Some things that I noticed this time is that when we got to the problem, Alina just asked "What was Lance's problem?"  She then asked us to turn to our partner and whisper the problem to our partner.  This gives process time and allows shyer students to contribute because the people around them hear the good ideas and volunteer them.  AND!  It takes the pressure off the teacher to think of all the good ideas.  She also listened to several different ideas and then chose the one she liked the best.  Or, let the kids vote on it.  I loved the way that this allowed every student to contribute and takes pressure off me.

Also, Jason and Alina used their "remote control" to rewind and replay fun moments...make it go in slow motion...and the kids are still gesturing and getting those brain breaks.

As the actors were acting it out, they are a visual representation and NOT participating students in the class.  I loved that Alina got extra students involved by using dialogue bubbles (here's me acting as Lance's dialogue as he says "I want...")

I saw again how important it is to coach our actors to do what we want them to do and that they can be replaced at any time.  Jason replaces his actors by saying "And then Johnny fell and he died" and then finds a new Johnny.

We finished our story by brainstorming possible endings for the story.  MORE REPS and it validates our students and their ideas.  Loved it!

And that was our morning!

Afternoon Advanced track with Jason and Alina

We started the afternoon by looking at pictures of Jason's classroom.  He recommended keeping the word walls for different levels on different walls (French 1 on the right side of the room, French 4 in the back or something like that).  He also keeps his recent vocabulary on papers underneath the question words they go with (under where: beach, church, mall, etc, how many: numbers, who: professor, student)  I think that would help me remember to use more of those type words because we tend to get stuck on proper nouns and never get to the general location terms.

Jason has a WONDERFUL idea for quickly changing your word walls for different classes/levels.  He takes thick presentation board and cuts it in half.  He glues a hair band to the top of it and then hangs that from a nail.  Use butcher paper and tape a sheet on both sides and then you can easily Vanna White the words to change a word wall in five seconds!

While Alina leans forward to show that she wants an answer, Jason snaps to signal that he's ready for everyone to answer.

We did a lot of small group work in the afternoon, so my notes aren't as long...sorry!

Jason talked about some of his conversations that he uses to ignite learning in upper levels.  I NEED THESE ideas!!!!  An example of what Jason uses: What memories do you have that you want to forget?  What memory do you never want to forget?  I think I could find good ideas for this by looking up conversation starters online.  Any other ideas??

Jason left us with this thought: Who is the real story in our classroom?  The movie talk, the novel, our silly characters?  NO!  The students are the real story...  We need to be asking them to share.

Who has a younger brother?
Who has been on vacation?
Who has a pet dragon?
Who wants a pet dragon?
How many of you would like to be an attorney?
Would you like to earn more money?

And you can see that all of these questions lend themselves to follow-up questions.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Advanced track with Jason Fritze and Alina Filipescu

Jason and Alina set this up that Alina taught us in Romanian and Jason would stop her every so often to de-brief what we had just witnessed.

Jason started class with an upbeat awesome song with beach balls bouncing through the room.  It really set the mood for our week and was welcome in the early morning.

One thing that Jason would do throughout is ask "How much time do we need?" before breaking us out into groups or breaks.  Then, he would GONG us back to whole group instruction.  It was a great attention grabber (I bought the most obnoxious noise maker at the Mercado in San Antonio...Mira Canion literally begged the saleswoman not to sell it to me) and I will be using this more in class.

The purpose of our track was to show how to seamlessly weave TPR, PQA, Storyasking, re-tells, and reading together so that it seems absolutely effortless.  Alina does a fabulous job of embedding TPR.  She uses the word a few times in context (with PQA) before she asks us to gesture.  Then, she has the room divided into Transylvania and Moldova for TPR purposes (ie Transylvania drinks.  Moldova wants.  Romania laughs.)  It's a great way to break up the room, make sure kids are listening and teach a bit of geography at the same time.  Also, it leads to kids guiding the story to take place in one of those places, allowing for more in depth culture discussions in a way that seems very natural.

PAUSE: I have to tell you here that I am ONLY blogging what hit me as new information this year.  I have blogged about Jason and Alina before, so I will not talk to you about how amazing Alina's classroom management is...because you can just go here to read my post from last year.

RESUME: Alina also conducted the class to laugh louder, longer, faster, etc by changing the way she said the command and by gesturing as a conductor of a symphony would.  It was great...and she only sprinkled it throughout the day when we needed something more.

Something that I really noticed this year is how Alina sprinkles numbers throughout the day.  One way she does that is when she is happy with a student.  She says (in Spanish) "Give me five # times" and then everyone in the class claps their hands as she gives that student their high fives (and she makes sure that everyone does it in unison to ensure that everyone is paying attention).  So much of what Alina does it to make sure that it feels like we are all in this (class) together and that it requires ALL of us to make class work.  I would come back from the bathroom or from tweeting and feel like I had to "catch up" so I didn't let anyone down.  Brilliant.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...I want to be Alina when I grow up.

I'm sure that this was in my last blog post, but I forgot to do it last year, so I'll blog it again.  Alina will ask a question for the whole class and then hold up her hands to indicate that she wants you to wait before answering.  When she's ready for a choral answer, she will lean forward and listen to the answers.  What a great way to allow for processing time and make sure that EVERYONE understands and not just the quickest or loudest students.

I also love how she uses her students to create dialogue with the class.  That's not a great explanation, so I'll offer an example.  Throughout the day, Alina would be on one side of the class and a student would blurt something out in Romanian.  She would then laugh and turn to the whole class and say "Class, Andrea says How Romantic!"  And how did Andrea know how to say How romantic in Romanian???? Because they are on little posters that Alina gives to students to hold up throughout the class.  Love it!  (Some ideas for posters are: It's ridiculous, I can't believe it, How sad, How romantic, Of course)

And now is when I come to the part in my notes where I remind myself of the power of gestures.  I haven't used gestured because I am not "good" at the traditional TPR commands (Stand up, jump, sit down, throw, laugh...and on and on until I and my kids are bored to death).  But Alina is truly a master.  As I said before, she doesn't give you the gesture until you have already heard the word in context, she's pointed and paused several times, and THEN she asks you to do the gesture with her.  The next time she says the word, she finds a kid that is gesturing and she says "Thank you so much, Eric, for doing the gestures with me.  It really shows me that you understand and that makes me a better teacher."  The student who wasn't gesturing (usually me) jumps to attention and next time, makes sure to gesture.  But this NEVER becomes a classroom management issue because if a kid chooses not to do the gesture, it is not a do or die event.  I really liked that because I can see myself forcing every student to gesture and having conflict in the classroom.

Alina asks her comprehension checks so that her kids answer in English (if necessary) and she stays in the TL by asking "How do you say _ in English?"  It just prevents the teacher from getting used to speaking in English in the classroom.

I noted that I need to use butcher paper in class instead of the white board so that I will be able to have the same structures up day after day.  Jason uses King Markers from Sharpie because they are THICK and easy to see.  He underlines the TL to make it easier to focus on when kids are bouncing around the posters finding meaning.

Jason uses a document camera to allow him to show kids' work, use books, etc without typing or writing things on the board.  LOVE IT

Some brain breaks we used this morning:
tap your breastbone because there is a gland behind your breastbone that will give you energy
Put your thumb in front of you and watch it as you move it in an infinity symbol for creativity
Hold your ear with the opposite hand and then do # squats (another way to practice numbers)

LOVED IT!  Four hours flew by and I did not zone out.

Day 1 NTPRS 2017 (Sunday arrival)

I always blog every session I go to at NTPRS...just to help me synthesize the information for myself and also hopefully to have something to look back to during the year when I get tired (of course, at that point in the year, I'm in survival mode and I forget to do that-HELP ME REMEMBER TO DO THIS IN JANUARY).

This year, I was not able to go to as many sessions as normal because I was helping out in the TPRS Books booth, answering questions about novels and ringing people up.

Anyway, I got to the hotel and checked into my room that I shared with Andrea Schweitzer (I think this was our 4th time rooming together...she's the yin to my yang...the wind beneath my wings....and an awesome Spanish teacher from Dallas, TX) and Cecilia, another Dallas Spanish teacher who agreed to join in on our insanity.  I felt really bad for Cecilia because I could NOT stop singing Simon and Garfunkel to her the entire week.

L-R (Emma?, Cecilia, me, Andrea)

For those of you who have never been to NTPRS, I offer you the following story to give you a sense of the atmosphere.  We (the roomies) walked to dinner at a Cuban restaurant with a German teacher, Eric Spindler.  We sat, ordered, and as we were waiting for our food, Anna Gilcher and Rachelle Adams Jackson came in and joined our table.  Then, Jason Fritze and Alina Filipescu came and ate at the table next to us.  A few minutes later, Lance P. came in and sat for a while.  It is just people coming and going and sharing and laughing and talking and hugging and loving and...  bliss.  It's bliss.