Friday, August 25, 2017

2nd week of School

Still plugging along...  We had Monday off so we could go catch a total solar eclipse.  It was pretty dang amazing, and if you ever get the chance to see one, it is worth the time and drive.  We drove about 45 minutes away to try and avoid clouds and rain and it was breathtaking.

Came back to school Tuesday and this is what we did:

French 1: Still plugging along with Special Person.  We added the Alain Le Lait song Bonjour as a break from the Special Person.  I'm struggling with French 1 because they are very slow processors but they get very easily bored with repetition.  I'm trying!  I had them get out a piece of paper for every student in class and we started writing "notes" on the kids we already interviewed.

French 2: Song bellringer. Talked about the weekend for about 10 minutes and continued with Special person.

French 3: Song bellringer. Talked about the weekend for about 10 minutes and then used Madame Shepard's Edpuzzle over an eclipse video.  My original plan was for the students to do this as an individual activity, but the wifi wasn't working for a bunch of students, so we did it as a group.  Then, we read part of an article about the eclipse.  The students said that it felt less difficult because of the background experience they had of just seeing an eclipse the day before.

French 4/5: song bellringer. Talked about the weekend and then did the eclipse activities from French 3.


French 1: Another day of special person.  Threw in Bonjour a few times, took notes, and took a True/False exit quiz.

French 2: Bellringer. FVR. Continued with special person and they started taking "notes" on their classmates.

French 3: Bellringer. FVR. We started talking about who wants coffee as I was trying to blend PQA, TPR, and a story together like I saw Alina do this summer.  We found out who liked coffee, what kind of cream they liked, and where to find the best coffee in LS.

French 4/5: Bellringer. FVR. We talked about coffee too, but it was 6th hour, so it fell a little short.  New plan for the week!


French 1: Because I've been on the struggle bus, I started class by asking them how they are and we talked a little bit about the weather.  All of this was extremely simplified with pictures and quick translations.  Then, back to special person, notes, and a quiz.

French 2: Bellringer. FVR. Continued special person.

French 3: Bellringer. FVR. Continued talking about coffee.  In my 1st hour class, there were actually kids who really wanted coffee and we had a great discussion about a teacher in the building who provides coffee, sugar, creamer, etc to his kids for only 50 cents a week!!  In my 5th hour class, the kids don't want coffee anymore, so we switched gears and found out that one student wanted dark chocolate and a different student had some in his backpack.  Boom!  Actors up and we started a story.
French 4/5: Bellringer. FVR. We started a "unit" on education by discussing after high school plans.  Then, we talked about favorite teachers and I had students write an adjective describing their favorite teacher on a Post-It note.


French 1: Talked about how kids are doing and found out that one student was doing well because it's Friday, so we had to watch the French version of Friday.  Then, I had them do a reading assessment where I had statements in French about the kids in class and they had to answer oui or non.  Then, more special person.  We finally got to the question about what the student likes to do.  Then, the kids did a 5-minute free-write to show what they've learned this week.

French 2: Bellringer. I had them do a reading quiz where I had statements on the board in French and they had to write who would say that (ex: I come from Indianapolis).  Then, another special person and a free write.

French 3: Bellringer.  I took the very first story from the latest edition of LICT and made it into an embedded reading.  Kids read the simplest version to themselves and then I asked them comprehension questions.  Easy, they said (well, i hope so since it's from French 1 curriculum!!).  Then, I gave them version two to read with a partner.  Finally, I gave them 3rd version, which is the original version in the curriculum.  They highlighted the new phrases.  They said it was easy.  Hopefully it will give them confidence for future readings so I don't hear so much groaning.  Finished with a free write.

French 4/5: Bellringer.  (I'm so proud of how this turned out today!!!)  I took the Post-It notes and we put them on the board with like words next to like words (sympathique and gentil were on the same line).  Then, we talked about which were essential for a good teacher.  They had to debate their POV and I threw in counterpoints when needed (when they said energy was absolutely necessary, I asked which students had had our English teacher while she was going through chemo and then I asked those students if they learned from her despite her lethargy...).  At the end, we voted on the essential, and the class decided that intelligence was the only truly necessary attribute of a good teacher.  Then, we watched a video of kids talking about their favorite teachers (the second video here).  Finished with a free write.

That was this week.  Still channeling my inner Alina and using a lot of her attention grabbers and breaks in the lesson.

Friday, August 18, 2017

First three days

As I wait for my contract time to end on this Friday ;), I thought I'd blog about how the first three days of school have gone for me, and what I've done so far.

French 1:

  • Day one, I started out by giving them a brief introduction of my class and me, then had them "write" in French for five minutes so I could see what they already know.  What a surprise, but they only knew like one or two words.  Good!  I am starting from scratch!  Then, we started by asking one student what her name was.  I was surprised because I had everything on the board and I thought I was being very slow and deliberate about pausing and pointing...but I guess not because one of my students (thank God for him!!) visibly showed his confusion and frustration, which made the rest of class much better for everyone else.  Before we started asking the girl about her name, I taught them the signs for Repeat, Slow down, I don't know that word, and Write it down.  We really only had time to talk about this one girl and her name.  
  • Day two, they started class by answering a few questions about themselves so that I can know now if there are any problems I need to be aware of.  Then, we continued on with names, adding what the first girl's preferred name is and adding a second student (my confused vocal student).  We were able to talk about both of their names, preferred names, how they are spelled and compare them to my name.  Things are starting to go more smoothly.
  • Day three, we added a third student, and another question, "Where do you live?".  Turns out, we all live in the same city!  Imagine that!  
French 2:
  • Day one, same brief introduction and same five minute free write, but we were able to go faster when it came time for the Special Person.  I was able to find out a student's name, preferred name, and grade before the bell rang.
  • Day two, we filled out the questionnaire and then we went back to that first person and added where he comes from, whether or not he has a license and car.  We were also able to talk about what he likes to do.  All about the one kiddo.
  • Day three, we started class with a song (Toi Plus Moi) activity, and then talked about reading.  I read some quotes that I got from Bryce Hedstrom's page and then we went over the PowerPoint on comprehensibility.  I narrowed down my FVR library significantly at this point and told the kids that I only wanted them to choose from the level one novels for the time being.  I had them organized easiest to hardest.  I really think that going over that PowerPoint made a HUGE difference.  Kids were able to understand how easy something had to be for it to be enjoyable.  At the end of the hour, I had seven out of 45 students who were ready to check out a book.  And I told them it was an option for level 2 and that they could check out a book if they were really interested in it!
French 3:
  • Day one, intro, free write, and then we chatted about the summer in French.
  • Day two: they fill out the questionnaire and then instead of me leading the special person (since almost all of them went over the questions with EVERY student in their class last year), I had them interview each other and they are presenting their partner, along with 3 interesting facts, to the class.  I was hesitant to ask them to do this, but they really rocked it!  There were quite a few errors (like saying il est huit ans instead of il a huit ans), but nobody stood up there and looked un-confidant.  I was very impressed.  We didn't have time to get through all of them in one day.
  • Day three: I introduced our first song (Sarah par Kyo), we did the reading presentation and read (in this level, 17 out of 34 students checked out a book...but they were encouraged to check one out more so than the level 2 kids).  
French 4/5:
  • Pretty much the same as French 3

Some things that I've changed from NTPRS: 
  1. I have word posters for each level for the words that "come up" each day.  I'm hoping that by keeping them visible, I will remember to circle the structures and not just use them once and then forget them.
  2. I am doing a pretty good job of remembering to stop and do brain breaks about every ten minutes of direct PQA, TPRS, etc.
  3. I am using more gestures and call-and-response.  I have done the Alina "mais" call and also the "Classe?" "Oui"
I think that's it so far!  I'm REALLY REALLY happy about how reading went today.

Music with Donna Tatum-Johns

I think this might be my first time seeing Donna present, because she is usually presenting the newbie track.  I love using music in the classroom, so I was excited to get some new ideas for how to use music in my class.

These activities are related to the French song: Je veux by Zaz

Before the song:

  • Donna brings a bunch of random things to class, including some bags of candy.  She starts with a bag of Hershey's Kisses and asks a student, "Tu en veux?" (Do you want some?)  The student of course says yes, so she asks how many?  Then, she'll say, Joe en veux 10 (Joe wants 10 of them).  She gives Joe the ten kisses and moves on to another kid.  She pulls out something random, like paper clips, and asks the next student, "Do you want some?"  Of course, s/he will probably say no, and Donna replies with "Tu n'en veux pas?" (You don't want any?)  This continues with most students getting good things and the Target student always getting offered random things.  
  • Then, she has students write something that they want to be happy on a post-it note.  She takes the notes and reads it "Someone in the class wants ____" and puts it on the board strategically so that monetary things are on one side and non-monetary are on the other.  During this activity, she is asking PQA and checking in for comprehension.
  • Finally, she hands out her song sheet which includes the French (maybe with cloze and maybe not) and the English translation and they listen to the song.  She tells the students they are NOT allowed to sing, only gesture at the appropriate time (could be the whole song, a single verse, or the refrain).  Of course, eventually the kids can't help it and will start singing along.

Donna talked about using a song to enhance a storyline, using a line from a song as dialogue.  I've done this before with Ne Me Quitte Pas by Jacques Brel (Don't leave me), but Donna's example was Cecelia by Simon and Garfunkle.

You can also use a song as a movie talk, particularly if the video follows a story.  I have done this with Nantes by Renan Luce and Je Suis Jalouse by Emily Loizeau.  I plan to do more of this in the future.

Donna also tries to find thematic songs to go along with the novels, for example using Comme des Enfants by Coeur de Pirate during Les Pirates by Mira Canion because not only does the singer have the word Pirate in her name, but the song is about a love triangle not unlike the love triangle in the novel.  

She loves to find the songs other places, like finding Je ne regrette rien by Edith Piaf in Madagascar 3, which she also uses at the end of Pirates.  She then has the students write an essay about which song better reflects the themes of the book and why.  LOVE THIS!!!!  Prepares students for IB-type questions without feeling overwhelming.

Great stuff here!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Other strategies with Lance P

Due to a schedule mix-up, I only got to see the last part of this session too.  Dang!  I missed out on soooo much!

Lance was talking about ways to infuse stories into the classroom in innovative ways.  He talked about using Rory's Story Cubes.  Either roll and brainstorm about a die (what does this make you think of?), then you can add dice or use the dice as a prompt for a timed writing.

Lance said that as teachers, we always worry about "but my kids don't know the word for ___"  Students will be creative to use the language they already know, especially if we teach circumlocution.  I found this in Alina's class.  I was trying my best to find clever ways to put the language I knew into the story.  If we can train our kids away from saying "But how do you say match stick/vacuum cleaner/badger?" we will be soooo much better off in our classes.

Lance created a Clue game in Latin and uses it to teach the common house in the Roman Empire, but you could adapt it for use in many ways.  In order to play you need

  • 1 location (rooms of a house, school, places in a city, etc)
  • 1 victim (could also be cultural like Marie Antoinette)
  • 9 rooms/areas in the location
  • 6 suspects (could be cultural or could be careers)
  • 6 weapons
You can have kids play in two teams as a whole class.  They choose a room they want to go to and you say "If you get above a 3, you're there, if not, you can't accuse"

He also showed us a magic trick using 25 words, but I was lost during that...  I think you can look up Story Card Magic on Youtube?  Anyone out there who could fill in this blank?

Keynote with BVP

I have listened to all of the episodes of Tea with BVP, have asked two questions, and have met Angelika, Walter and the rest of the crew.  I'm not as big a superfan as some others, I'm looking at you, Eric H, Lance, Lizette, and Mikey...  but I am a fan.  I tried to take notes as quickly as I could during his speech, but it might not make a ton of sense to those new to the ideas of BVP.  Here are the notes I wrote down (and then presented to my department today):

CI is the language that learners hear or see in a communicative context intended for native or 2nd language learners AND can be understood, even if they miss some details.

Our brains are wired to learn languages through input.  Think of a grocery scanner and bar code. If you take a can of soup, you can try to scan the Campbell's, the picture, the ingredients...but nothing happens until you scan the bar code. Our brains are like that. You can try to feed it conjugation charts and grammar rules, but it will only process when you provide it with input.

“Rules” are not rules.  They all have exceptions:  If you think that there is one TRUE grammar, answer this: which is correct, I ain’t got none or I ain’t have any.

The kids are not learning rules in input, they are just understanding and, as they hear more language, it evolves in the learner’s mind.

Communication is the expression, interpretation and sometimes negotiation of meaning with purpose in a given context. I think it's important here to point out that, at the novice level, communication can be a gesture or one word, as long as it is furthering the conversation.

Thus, in a communicative learning classroom, meaning is CENTRAL, and teachers and students are engaged in the expression and interpretation of language.

The three purposes of communication:

  1. Psycho-social: niceties (how are you today?)
  2. Cognitive-informational: used to learn something
  3. Entertainment: to have fun (stories, jokes, movies, etc)
As teachers, we are not talking at our students, we are talking with our students. He also said that there is nothing more interactive than co-constructing a story.

We shouldn't try to intellectualize language learning because that is the job for linguists.
Bill's website is and his podcast (with Angelika and Walter) is Tea with BVP.

I am so glad that Dr. Krashen and BVP have chosen to spend their time supporting teachers in the classroom by breaking down the science and research to help us make acquisition happen in our classrooms.

My colleague, Julie Begnaud, is working her way through the podcast and made the following helpful synthesis of BVP's 6 Principles of language learning.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

NTPRS was a couple of weeks ago...

What's taking you so long, Bess?

-Summer vacations.  But I'm trying!!

PS-my husband took this picture and told me to post in on my blog.  I said "Isn't it kinda vulgar?" and he said "absolutely not, it's beautiful."  *sigh*

Advanced with Jason and Blaine Ray

Full disclosure: I missed almost all of this day :(  So here are the VERY few notes that I took.

Morning session: Jason talked about teaching kids how to read and how to use good reading strategies.

I have to point out here that most of my notes from these sessions has been about Alina, and for very good reason.  Alina was the model for the strategies and Jason coached her and pointed out what she was doing to help us learn Romanian.  Jason is incredible and has been teaching with TPRS for much longer than I have.  He has a lot to show all of us, and if you want to read me gush about Jason, check out this blog post where I sat in awe of Jason and his vibe.

Jason, I think, posted this list of things to think about when picking out something to read.  I think I should project it every time before FVR.

He suggested that we teach kids what to do when they encounter a word that they don't know: skip it, guess, or look it up.

In the afternoon, Blaine was teaching how to take the principals of TPRS and adapt them for the upper levels.  It's still a conversation between us and the students.  Again, I came in late, so I was a bit lost about exactly what was going on, but Blaine was talking about how his parents wanted him to be a..., but he always wanted to be a...  Some structures that I wrote down to remember to use in the classroom: My mom wanted me to be....  My dad wanted me to be...  How would I feel if...  If you were my mom, would you make me...  Do you think I should have been...  Would I have been a good...?  Reinforcement that I need to work on coming up with this type of conversation starter.  I actually saw a set of Family Conversation Starter cards this weekend, but they wanted $26 for the set!  So I figured I'd just try to do a better job googling conversation starters.

Then, we watched a Movie Talk (Feel the Punch) with the directive "Think of something you want to know at the end" and after the movie, we talked about all the questions we had.  Then, we can come up with a prequel or sequel together as our "story" for the day.

That's it!  If you went to these sessions and have something to add, let me know or link to your blog post!

Tuesday Afternoon Advanced with Alina and Jason

I missed the first part of this because I was prepping for the TPRS books booth.  So I came at the end of a post-story re-tell.  Jason had a blank comic strip on the document camera and was writing as Alina re-told (with the class) our story.  She would let him know when she wanted him to write a sentence (very skeleton version of the story...I think like 9-12 sentences?) and then EVERY student wrote that sentence (I think Alina said she would never ask a student to do this because accuracy is so important in this step...if the kids are copying, that is) and sketched a little visual of the sentence.  She could still do PQA, comprehension checks, and look at papers to make sure that everyone was on the same page.  I love this idea because the kids are reading and writing and thinking and listening all at the same time.  Sometimes, to add novelty, Alina will add in details or change the ending of the story during this time.

Then, when everyone has their paper finished, you can project a few for REPETITION, but the kids don't realize how much repetition they're getting because they are focused on the work of their classmates and friends.  LOVE IT!  At this point, Alina will take pictures of a couple of them and post them to the class website for students who were absent.

Then, kids read a fuller version of their story.  Alina has a trick for this so that she's not typing up 6 versions of the story to go with each class.  Type up your skeleton story, but use a random name and object to fill in the skeleton.  For example, for our story (Lance wants to drink vodka at the castle with Dracula), she would type up "Johnny wants to drink water at the beach with Stephanie."  She can then change the story easily by using Find and Replace to substitute Lance for each time Johnny is used in the story.  She can change the rest of the details to reflect the class story or leave the differences and have students "spot the differences".  She says that she always prints off a copy for each student to give them ownership of the story.  I like this idea...

The purpose of this afternoon session was to get us away from choral translation or volleyball reading and into activities that make reading more pleasurable for kids.

I have a note for Active Inspire....but I honestly don't remember what that means.  Feel free to fill in my blank if you know what that is...

Alina said that she uses Gesture Reading (and has even before TPRS).  Here's a video of Alina doing this in class.

The key to getting kids to pay attention is to make sure that they always know your expectations.  In my class, I do this by saying EVERY TIME "As I read aloud, I want you to follow along with your eyes like you did back in kindergarten.  That way, your brain is making the connection between the way the words sound and the way they work, which is important for French."  Alina has a poster with 3 visual representations of her expectations.  1. (an eye) LOOK 2. (a pointer finger) FOLLOW 3. (a question mark) RESPOND

Some options for reading (students should do more than one per reading, IMO, and I think that's what Alina and Jason would recommend as well): read it alone silently, read it aloud with a partner, popcorn reading (students pick on each other to read the next sentence), read silently and draw two pictures (one true, one false) and then it becomes a game to pick which one is true and false.

And then I was off again!  I'm bummed I missed a lot of these sessions, but I got so much from what I did see.