I started out my week learning some Japanese with Betsy. I've seen Betsy present two other times, but I continue to have these AHA moments with her. She is amazing.
The first thing that I took away is not really anything new, but still a nice reminder. Betsy told us a story based on the Star Wars Saga, which is actually a connection to Japanese culture because George Lucas based Yoda's speech patterns on Japanese, Darth Vader's helmet on Samurai helmets, and the LightSaber on a Samarai stick. Very interesting stuff.
The other thing that she was constantly doing was something called SEL (social emotional learning). She didn't talk a whole lot about what this is, but rather consistently used it as we worked through the day. We were working a lot with partners, and we would "choose" who went first by figuring out things like: who has the most siblings, who traveled the farthest, who has longer hair, etc. In the classroom, this should begin to foster a sense of community as students work with other students and begin to learn a little more about them in a very low pressure situation.
As for the partner work, this is something that I lack because I was always under the impression that it is forced output, and bad forced output at that. But what I realized as I was doing it, was that it is just another way for our brains to start to figure out the language. Betsy says that this is her way to build confidence in her students because she never corrects them during partner work...she only praises. I also noticed that my brain was picking out the errors in my partner's dialogue, so I was able to avoid those same mistakes when it was my turn to produce. I am definitely planning on doing this more next year. It's a great break from sitting and listening and gets the kids to feel like they are "learning".
Betsy also talked about her pacing over a week's time. She says that she tries to vary her pace throughout the week...keeping most days at a medium pace, but allowing for one day to go REALLY SLOWLY to help pick up some of the strugglers and has one day where she goes faster to keep the high flyers excited about the language. It's a very interesting idea and I wonder if I could make it work. It would definitely take some conversation with my students so that they know what is going on.
One thing that I will definitely be trying in my classroom is what I call Betsy's verbal cloze activity. I don't even think she realizes she's doing this at this point, but it was extremely beneficial. As she was re-telling an earlier part of the story or re-phrasing, she would pause before a word that she knew we knew. We filled in the blank, thus proving comprehension and getting a little more practice on forming the words. I loved it!
When we came back from our break, we went to a reading, using the strategies I saw Betsy use last year and explained in this blog entry.
Some new things that I saw her use this year was a print-out of her story slides. She projected the written story and we worked with our partners again. One partner would read off the projected story while the other student pointed to the appropriate slide. We must have read that story a hundred times, but because the language was so interesting, we didn't mind. I have to admit that the story was actually very boring if you read it in English, but again, we didn't mind. That was pretty cool to see as well. She then did a little embedded reading of the story. Again, it wasn't anything earth-shattering or publishable, but we enjoyed being successful. When we came to the last version, she asked us to expand the story even farther, adding details and sentences. Then, she had us stand in two lines facing each other and read it to the person across from us, greeting them and thanking them in the traditional Japanese manner. One line moved down and we repeated this several times with different partners (again...SEL).
Our final activity was to use the language we had learned to write a draw a six-frame comic strip and then read it to our partner. She had some volunteers share with the whole class, and you could see brains working to spot errors, comprehend, and support. Every volunteer felt like a star, no matter their level of creativity or the amount of errors in their story.
That's another thing that Betsy is a rock star at: making kids feel successful and helping them spot their own errors. She NEVER corrects a student. NEVER. She always says "Oh that's great!" and then repeats what they should have said.
Oh man...it's time for breakfast and I haven't even talked about what she did with songs...I'll just make that a separate post later I guess. So come back for that and for what I learned from Michele Whaley about PDL...definitely the buzz of the conference so far.