A Block Lesson Plan That Is Effort Free

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12 thoughts on “A Block Lesson Plan That Is Effort Free”

  1. This is a huge help, Ben. I’m going to save it for next year, for times that I just need a blueprint for the day.
    Something that helped me last week was cracking down on the basics (including slow, pause, and retell) …one kid to keep track of the quiz, one of the story, and one of phrases. That is huge, because otherwise I forget to give quizzes. I just have too much fun, and then I don’t have grades and the kids think there’s no accountability. Five little questions at the end of the hour, a list of the structures for the absentees, and kids know they have done something worth doing.

  2. And for us with forty minute classes – two days of not thinking! Good idea, Michele, keeping an extra list of structures and new vocabulary in addition to story and quiz.

  3. I just did this plan today (using the dictado to start out, just making up something new but changing names) with a couple classes using “chews with mouth open/closed” and “watches” and “becomes”. You can imagine where the PQA and the stories went from there. In one class (I allow gum chewing) kids were watching each other chew gum and other different different things and becoming nervous/grossed out/etc. because of it. Then, they start chewing stuff because they are nervous or whatever. Lots of potential for TPR with this one too. Good stuff.

  4. I don’t think this should only be for end of the year classes. This plan does what we know works for acquisition and yet satisfies those who want to see “school like” behaviors such as group / pairs work and forced language output.
    I would add that they need to include a symbol, drawing or graphic with their freewrite.
    I think next year I will distribute drawings for my “required” word lists and just give out 3 flashcards a day instead of a list each month. There is some good research presented in a book called Brain Rules by John Medina which suggests to us language teachers that almost everything we offer up should have a visual – retention is increased exponentially when a picture or drawing is matched to a word or phrase.

  5. Dirk-
    3 flashcards a day? So, you would use that as a “warm-up” each day? Intro the vocab, hand out the flashcards, and… anything else? Do you provide the flashcards for your students or do they make them? Are they flashcards for students to keep or big visuals that everyone refers to? If you’re talking about flashcards for your students to keep, there is what looks like a great resource of flashcards available from Teacher’s Discovery. Maybe you already use this? Of course, you can always find pics on Google or from clipart, but it’s nice when someone else has already done the work for you.

  6. Ben has talked about the idea of monthly lists of “required” words which are simply introduced at the beginning of each class. These are just mixed up lists of thematic vocabulary. Start class by telling them what the word means and ask for ways they might remember the words through association or some other means. I did this by scrambling up a big list of vocabulary from our district learning outcomes and requiring them to know the meaning of a certain number of words each month to pass the class. This satisfies parents and administrators who want to see homework etc.
    Next year I will reduce it to three high frequency words each day and simply draw a picture for each one as I tell them the meaning. Or have a student draw the pictures ahead of time. These are words that would be used all the time and at the end of the month students have to demonstrate that they know a sample of the words. I have the words on little strips and at the end of each list students sit at my desk and draw 10 random words from the list. The cannot cheat. They must tell me the meaning and they can re-take the test as often as they like (only once per day) as each draw produces a different sample of words. They have to study them all yet I don’t have to grade 65 words per paper.

  7. Dirk I stopped doing those in December last year (I did five words). The reason was that I wanted to get right to the CI and I didn’t like how it drained minutes from the real part of class.
    Then, go figure, more than a few kids complained that those words really helped them and they liked that part of class (kids love lists, alas). So, for next year, I don’t know yet what I’ll do.
    Maybe we can talk about this in Los Angeles. Krashen will be walking around all week and we can ask him or Jason. Jody Noble will be there too – we can ask her.
    I like your idea of the pictures with the three words to start class. We are moving more and more towards the use of pictures to generate CI, thanks in large part to Nathan’s recent excellent postings on that topic (blog is entitled “The Big Picture” from a few weeks ago by Nathan Black).
    My classjump.com website is not up to date, but, if anyone is interested, you can see how I set up the thematic/required vocabulary (for level one kids only) this year, and how I created the illusion of strict vocabulary accountability for the parents (such memorization of lists of words has no value, as we know, of course, except in the minds of parents). The site is a very important vehicle to establish online credentials in the first few weeks of the year. I also put readings online to save paper and time in the copy room.
    To access that site (you may want to use to set up your own free website on that site for next year – very user friendly!):
    united states
    east high school
    ben slavic
    French 1
    French Thematic Units

  8. Boss:
    I stopped for a month as well with the word list but until I have some other ritual in place to begin class the students seemed to need them. It provides something concrete they feel like they can study and parents can ask to see the monthly list at home.
    I stopped because I looked at the words sometimes and thought to myself “that doesn’t belong – they’ll never use that word early in their Spanish” so I think if I really edit and select the words with more care next year they will be meaningful. I’ll drop articles like you suggest and make sure each word is truly high frequency or lends itself well to a detailed expansion / pqa. The drawings will just assist retention and memory according to all these brain researchers…
    So you are going to California?

  9. Dirk, you’re giving me some ideas with the pictures together with the Vocab. I think I’ll march my group down to the computer lab at the beginning of months that I do vocab lists (I only did them about 4 months this year) and ask them to find pictures on the internet that match up with each vocab word. Then we can CI around the pictures they come up with, especially if I have multiple pictures for the same word.
    That said, every year I get some absolutely fantastic artists in class that are underutilized (particularly the quiet ones); I think I’ll pull them aside and give them specific lists of key words to illustrate that I really want to hit or are hard to find pictures of otherwise. I really liked the post a while back that talked about finding roles for different types of students in class, and this would give me some traction in that area.
    Thanks for the thread!

  10. Yeah Dirk drop the articles. They’re not needed because they will be cemented into the the kids’ heads by the roughly 160+ hours of CI you will do next year in each of your classes, so you don’t need them in the lists. Just my opinion on that.
    Well on the choice of lists, why don’t we have a list that is a nice blend of nouns and adjectives, a few adverbs, some nice verbs, that aligns with the high frequency lists? Or do we? I had to jumble the Jefferson County pacing guides all up (they were thematically set up – hello!) into the lists I currently use that are somewhere on this site. They are o.k. but I have always wanted time to build a better list, and then one for level two as well.
    I still need to get a clear picture of how you want to incorporate the presentation of images at the beginning of class with the presentation of words. Nathan and Dirk let us know how the picture thing plays out. I feel it, but not having started dancing with it, I will need some guidance in that area as this thing develops.
    Yes Dirk, I am actually going to LA as part of a group of 25 teachers who have jumped on the CI Trolley here in Denver Public Schools -it’s like our summer camp and we get to learn from Jason Fritze and other experts like that. Jody Noble will be there from SF, she of the magic chair (others listed below).
    Don’t forget the other big summer camp happening in Chicago the week before the one in LA. That is a TPRS national convention. Ours is not a TPRS convention but a CI convention, I guess you call it. Once I said on here that LA was a TPRS convention and I got called on it so I am correcting that error here with apologies.
    In Chicago will be the incomparable Susan Gross, who is the premier TPRS trainer in the world, Blaine and Von, of course, along with my soul sister Laurie Clarcq (I think – Laurie?), Linda Li, and others listed below, so the training there will be awesome as well.
    Here are the links for those two conferences, along with the Liz Hughes one in South Carolina with Michele Baker. I will also be back in Maine in October. Michele anything going on up there? I think Susan Gross is going to be in Japan soon, as well. Any other summer stuff send it to me and I will add it here.
    Los Angeles:
    Berty Segal-Cook
    Jason Fritze
    Carol Gaab
    Donna Tatum-Johns
    Diana Noonan
    Carmen Andrews-Sánchez
    Dr. Shelly Thomas
    Karen Rowan
    Kristy Placido
    Leslie Davison
    Scott Benedict
    Dr. Stephen Krashen
    Linda Li
    Teri Weichert
    Blaine Ray
    Carol Gaab
    Susan Gross
    Von Ray
    Donna Tatum-Johns
    Katya Paukova
    Bryce Hedstrom
    Mike Ross
    Scott Benedict
    Columbia, SC:

  11. Since you asked, Ben, YES! We’re having a TPRS weekend for our fall AFLA conference. I guess that’s not this summer, but any of you wanting to come and see what fall looks like on Sheep Mountain in Alaska could join us! Kristy and Susie are going to join us to lead off a troupe of new TPRS-ers and we’ll have demo lessons by Sally Samson, an immersion Yup’ik kindergarten teacher. We’ve got teachers coming from many school districts in Alaska, and it’s going to be a fabulous weekend…if you have miles, and want an excuse to hang out with some teachers talking TPRS in the fall, join us! http://www.afla-alaska.org is our site.
    By the way, if you’re looking for a TPRS-friendly place to get your MAT, you might consider the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Sabine Siekmann has overseen two Master’s degrees whose candidates did action research on TPRS. She truly thinks out of the box. Another UAF Master’s with the same focus just got published under another instructor. I believe that all three did their degrees by distance…something to think about!
    How is that for winds of change?! Our has now graduated THREE master teachers from their MAT program in languages whose theses examined and applied TPRS. Maybe we need to advertise that–there IS a university that is supporting TPRS. Sabine Siekmann is the professor who has guided two of them.
    [ed. note: stop and think about what Michele said – you can do an online advanced degree in TPRS with an actual university that embraces Krashen’s and Blaine’s work. Bam!]

  12. Ben your idea has been great! I actually was looking for something to do in class to have them recycle what we’ve been doing for the last 2 months plus give me a rest. I modified your plan just a tad. This was for my level 2s and 3s. Level 2s really got into it. I have 50 min periods three times a week. Over the course of 3 periods:
    1) They had to do a free write of sentences using important verbs already studied and basically acquired. Points for effort working quietly.
    2) I chose 10 sentences from what they had written and put them in an order to make a 10 line story. I did modify but only when necessary to make it coherent and gave the sentences as a :
    3) Dictée with student exchange of papers and corrections from board. Points given for effort working quietly.
    4) Circle the content and finish with a 10 pt quiz.
    6) Develop 10 sentence outline into a more developed story as a class.
    7) Students illustrate and act out.
    What a relief for me and for them to not have to listen so intently all the time. Thank you!

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