The April Bail Out

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78 thoughts on “The April Bail Out”

  1. PQA is really only effective in the beginning of the year. At least the pure personality building kind you mean. Early in the year is the only real time to get the the spotlight on the kids and build trust and humor and teach rules and all of that. PQA at this time of year is just too hard on the teacher, except for using it to prepare a story by focusing on three structures. Way too hard. That initial sense of wonder and spontaneity is gone and the kids sit back and watch us sweat. Not good.

    Stories can be effective at this time of year, but as per the two weeks schedule that gives us lots of options for two weeks with things to do far beyond the story alone. That link:

    It’s good bc it can be stretched to three weeks. Lots of different activities to do as each new day arrives, but based on one story. Very effective. A CI fest.

    Two other ideas before leaving this to the group for their ideas:

    1. I don’t do that flowing thing from PQA into a story much anymore. I have different students. But again, too much pressure on the teacher to be creative. Too much chance, when a script is not there to save you, of having the PQA never get off the ground.

    2. I think you’re working too hard and not putting the responsibility on them. That is what we need from the group here. We need the group to share what they do to “turn the tables” on the kids in the spring. Right now you are doing stuff that works great in the first six months but is washed up. So now make THEM do stuff. The group will tell you what, when and how on that.

    You need to turn it around on them. I repeat, you are working too hard here in April. Paul Kirschling is a great TCI teacher in DPS. He ends the year in April and May with projects. Lots of kids talking English working in groups thinking that they are learning French. He walks around with a smile on his face making comments in English on how wonderful that report on Marie Antoinette is. No harm in that. None at all. Not in April.

    Then in the fall you come back with jGR and Classroom Rules blazing so that they don’t end up quite so bad as this next April. But yeah, we always have, if we want or need it, the “April Bailout”. Now it is up to the group to define what this new term we just made up (some of may need it tomorrow) means.

  2. I am also a proponent of projects in the spring. It satisfies the output-minded administration; students feel like they are finally “doing something” with the language; it takes the burden off of the teacher. As long as we recognize that this is not furthering acquisition, except peripherally at best, it’s something we can move to. These are the projects I have students do:
    Level 1: an “All About Me” booklet
    Level 2: a video about health and fitness with storyboard and script
    Level 3/4/AP: Depending on the cycle . . .
    a. a fairy tale video and either a children’s book or fairy tale book
    b. a “first-person” project, a “Medieval Life” group project (some groups have even been known to build a working trebuchet and bring it in) and a set of “workstations” about different aspects of the Middle Ages

    At levels 1 and 2, this is pseudo-output because of the scaffolding that is necessary for students to produce. The level 3/4/AP projects do actually get students into true output; level 4/AP more than level 3.

    BTW, at SWCOLT I attended a session presented by a teacher who was very proud of the output her students could do in level 1 and showed us video clips. It was not in the least spontaneous; students either memorized or read from a script; the intonation was the typical flat recitation by students who either don’t know or don’t care about what they are reciting. It was pure pseudo-output, but the presenter was extremely proud of what her students could do (rather than admitting this is a spring bail-out move).

    OT: I think one of the reasons that “sacred reading” of a text is important is that it models for students both the proper way to read a text (with emotion, variety of tone and stress, etc.) and the sounds of the language as they relate to the squiggles on the page. My level 3 students prefer to work through a book with me reading aloud than on their own; they say that they understand it far more easily when I read it. Of course, I’m using pacing, intonation, stress, emotion, gestures, pictures, etc. to negotiate meaning – but they find it easier to follow with that scaffolding than on their own. I believe many of them are not yet able to “see the movie” in their minds in English, let alone German, without help.

  3. For Spanish teacher: I stumbled upon a really awesome website designed for teachers, students and non-students with desire to learn about Spanish language, music and culture. It is When you get to the main page, click on “About” and scroll down where you are given options to search the site either thematically or grammatically. I used a song (Te Veo) by a group called Lasso found under the Love and Relationship theme. I used it for MovieTalk and it went really well. It’s approx. 3 min long so the kids were totally engaged.
    The site provides a lot of free downloadable PDFs of worksheets OR the option to buy an e-book. I used the free worksheet for the Te Veo song and the kids were really into it. Yesterday, after one class had already had the MovieTalk and PQA sessions, I reviewed the video by briefly telling the story again. It took about 10 min. One girl raised her hand afterward and said, “Wow. The whole time you were talking, I understood everything you said. I forgot I was listening to Spanish.” A couple of other students agreed. It was a great moment.

  4. I’ve been thinking about some kind of project to do here in spring. I’m in need of a spring bailout, PLUS I’m almost finished in my level one as far as having everything I need to “cover” done. But I’m really in need of a bailout, I’ve been pretty burned out with everything on my plate. It’s been a busy few months: teaching, grad class, Master’s Paper, preparing for the Central States Conference, and MOVING.

    -Speaking of the CSC, my session has been designated as a 2013 All Star Session and I’ve been invited to present at the 2014 conference in St. Louis. But there’s no way I’ll be able to afford to fly out there (no way in hell I”m driving that), pay for the conference and hotel, etc. But I feel honored to be given that designation.

    So if anybody has some good level 1 projects for the spring that they want to share that would be great. My email is if you have any cool projects and rubrics you can share.

      1. Is “cool project” teacher-speak for, “the students will be able to seem engaged for a while without bothering the teacher too much because they are on computers and can just go on YouTube and keep their heads down but it’s okay because the teacher can do the same thing”?

        1. That is exactly what it is code for and it is spring, 30-something days left of school and I basically went through the “curriculum” (chapters 1-6) of textbook) via novels and stories. So I’m ok with permitting myself to do this

      2. Yeah Chris,

        Thanks for your honesty. I can’t believe you said it either.

        Sorry to disrepectfully disagree here but I think projects are a complete waste of precious class time and I think we should focus on this blog on finding good CI alternatives rather than forced output or projects which mean code for speaking English.

        THERE I SAID IT! Sorry if I offend anyone.

        1. I agree that they’re a waste of time but I’ve accomplished more through CI this year than probably most of the other department teaching level 1 so I need a springtime bailout. I look at the stuff that needs “covered” from the book in level 1 and I’m practically done. That means I have no clue what we’re going to do in May.

    1. But we get more accomplished, I think, in our CI classes. Right now, all over the country there are page turners scrambling to get through all of their material. Meanwhile us CI folks (at least me) are now trying to come up with fluff to fill the rest of the year with

  5. Hello guys

    Just to say thank you to Jennifer for the Zachary Jones link. what a great site. I’m going to use that for my own Spanish.

    On the project front though it seems a shame what James says about losing out on input. So I wondered is it possible to design the project so either the students have to listen to or read a lot of input in order to do their output (eg could they read output from the kids in the level2 class – stories etc and review them – choose which one is their favourite and why?

    Or what about the penpal project someone suggested on a different thread – that way the students receive letters / emails in L2 but only have to write in L1?

    1. I like the idea of keeping the projects as input-based as possible. Things like “read these stories, rank them, then explain why you chose those rankings” at least get them reading, even if all the ranking and explanation is in L1.

      My gut is to avoid projects like: “Imagine you are a tourist and need to find a bathroom after visiting the Forum Romanum. Write a script of what you say, what others say to you, and draw a map to accompany it. And be sure to include at least thee locations in your story!” (Wow, that was really easy to come up with that project idea.) A project like that seems to have too much fake output, would be a pain to grade, and doesn’t really have any CI going on.

    2. …is it possible to design the project so either the students have to listen to or read a lot of input in order to do their output….

      That’s really what Lori wants to know I think – how to keep instruction more around reading and away from writing, which is really what it should be all the time until maybe level 3, as we have agreed here many times.

      Look at Lori, in total command of the language but not yet fully the writing part. That is what we want. She’ll get the other part with time. She has the only part necessary to be a great language teacher.

      I didn’t mean to take this into a discussion about avoiding CI in the spring. I meant simply to say that we should not feel as if we are doing something wrong if here in the spring some of us go to useless projects. This point comes under the heading that we need to keep our mental health first and so some of us, even Paul who is a great CI teacher in our district, choose to do that. I don’t but some do. I couldn’t be in a classroom with a project going on if I had to.

      The point Lori wants answered is being answered here. Keep offering ideas. Good discussion. Our purpose here is to be efficient in answering each other’s questions in precise and meaningful ways so that we can take what we learn right into the classroom.

      This is a problem-solving group. We wax philosophic at times, a lot, and that is fine, but we are here to solve problems in the daily process of teaching. That is why we call teaching a practice.

  6. Jim Tripp did a very cool workshop in Breckenridge on using Garageband. I have not done this (yet) but it is definitely CI and “project.” He recorded his voice reading a story. The kids then used that soundtrack and came up with visuals, sound effects, etc. MEGA REPS bc it is basically an editing process so you need to hear it over and over.

    Those of you who are way more techy than I probably already know about this or some similar software. Another more basic “project” would be to have kids read some old stories and choose one to illustrate. I would not do this one in groups. I think the Garageband idea was in groups though.

    I bet Laurie has tons of ideas. I am thinking of stuff like, give an embedded text (or part of a story or scene in a chapter book) and have the kids make a prezi or powerpoint with illustrations. They would use the text as their captions. Hey, project AND technology! For some groups you might be able to have kids do “music videos” or lip-synch videos of a favorite song.

    Right now I am “bailing” to silent reading and various combinations of “dual journal entries” and dictado and essential sentences because shit got out of control last week so I needed to rein it in AND do a pre-emptive strike to battle 4th quarter total chaos.

      1. I would LOOOVE to hear more about this type of project as well. My school is moving to all ipads in 2 years (all 9th graders next year), and I will have to demonstrate that I am using technology doing stuff like this.

        How complex is this to setup?

        1. I think it is pretty simple. I will try to find the notes and handouts. But basically you record your voice reading the story, and then the kids do visuals and sound effects. Like I said, I have not tried it yet. I don’t know if you need multiple computers or if you can record that & then give it to kids on a flash drive to work on.

          Maybe shoot Jim an email for details from the Master!

    1. I absolutely love this as well! My fiancé is a musician/music teacher (yes getting married in June on top of all this) so we just talked about recording the stories. Now I will discuss with my techie friend across the hall what programs the school has that I can use since we don’t have GarageBand. Even if they create hand drawn storyboards while listening to a story through head phones it’s better than me trying my best to circle while controlling my wildest classes!

      Now does anyone have any daily bailout plans that do not require over planning especially someone like me, leery of giving readings with my own imperfect french? For example, I love the math bailouts. Did one today that went really well. Also like the idea of throwing the ball around and counting to see how high they can go.

      Anyone have a none number easy bailout?

      I’m going to need to buy myself the rest of the week to try and get together a “cool” CI project. 🙂

      Lori B

      1. For kinesthetic kids involving more math:

        Get one of those soft footballs and write a bunch of numbers from 0 to 99 all over it with a Sharpie. There’s no room for all of those numbers but write as many as you can and still have the numbers be easy to read. Throw the ball to a kid.

        It is almost impossible to catch a football with one hand, unless it’s a highlight reel, so when the kid catches it with both hands have them look at the two numbers closest to their thumbs.

        Then say in TL either “ADD!” “SUBTRACT!” “MULTIPLY!” or “DIVIDE!” They have to do whatever you say with those two numbers nearest their thumbs. If they get nervous saying their answer in the TL, in keeping with my own mantra of totally no forced output ever, I just let them say it in English. Then they throw it to the next kid.

        Maybe leave the higher math to the upper level kids.

      2. Senor Wooly has some great activity ideas on his website. Not sure if you have to be a subscriber, but I can share rough descriptions of ones I’ve used. My most recent favorite is ‘3 Actions’, where students stand in a circle with you in the middle and you point to a student and say something like “tu as froid” and the student needs to shiver and the two students on either side need to blow on their hands to stay warm. You work with a set of actions you’ve been teaching lately. He demos with expressions with ‘tener/avoir’ but I’ve done it with any set of verbs (e.g. You walk home: center person walks in place, side kids make a roof over head.). The trick is that at some point you change the verb to the ‘je’ form, and say “j’ai froid”. If any of the students do the actions, they’re out. If any of them do the wrong actions (e.g. I’m hungry, instead of I’m cold), they’re out. Senor Wooly includes “tu as la grippe” (you have the flu) which involves one kid puking and the others holding an imaginary trash can in front of him. My 2nd graders love it as much as his middle schoolers. I’ve also used it for different verb forms, but that might be harder in French, since you don’t always hear the differences (camina -caminan , but il marche – ils marchent.)

        For math bailouts, do you know 21 (you count around the room and each student can say up to 3 numbers but no one wants to be the one who says ’21’)? Or the one where you count around the room and have to say a special word every time you get to a multiple of 5 (or any number you choose?) I call it ‘arroz y frijoles’ and do it with two multiples (say, 5 and 7) where they have to say ‘arroz’ for every multiple of 5 and ‘frijoles for every multiple of 7, and ‘arroz y frijoles’ for multiples of both, like 35.

    1. Love all of these ideas. Surely we can make it through this year… today is April 10th already! Do any of you have issues getting their attention back after a less structured “brain break,” and how do you deal with that? I am still trying to do PQA and circling but my problem is only the student(s) I’m talking directly to are listening/paying any attention… and the choral responses to the MANY questions I ask the class every day are loud and drown out side conversations that shouldn’t be happening in English! Yes, I’m a first year teacher praying that I’ll survive… and wanting my students to have good input but feeling like I am scraping bottom and barely dragging along!

      1. I would do any auditory stuff before the brain break. Then after the break slap them in the face with some reading. The feel then is “shut up now and read this and answer these questions/create some questions/do some essential sentences/etc.” It works because you give them something to do that’s not really negotiable and “out loud wishy washy” which sounds like your problem.

  7. Hell yes. I think that some of us on this site need to try a bit to let go of our perfectionist sides. Crisply timed brain breaks. Grade everything. Have the perfect grade book and the perfect discipline. All that. I certainly need to do that. It’s just a job! They’re just kids! We’re just people! What are admins going to do, find someone better?

      1. Thanks for validating my experiences through sharing your own, and affirming the need for sanity. 🙂 Once the weather warms up in Ohio, I am just as ready as the students are to be outside in the sunshine!

  8. You guys are always talking about brain breaks but I really have no idea what exactly you mean by that. Yes, I get the literal sense – you give the brain a break, but what do you do for a brain break? Play a game? Meditate? My periods are only 41 minutes long and most of the time I feel like I’m running out of time as it is. Then again, I teach my favorite class (level 2, 9th grade) during the last period of the day and I do my best just keeping them awake (I am contemplating putting a coffee urn in the classroom).
    So, if you wouldn’t mind sharing what you all do for those famous brain breaks, I sure would appreciate it.
    Merci en avance, danke im Voraus, …….

    1. Brigitte the way I understand brain breaks and I could be way off is that the brain is like a computer in that it needs to dump stuff that has accumulated on the desk top into the hard drive for better storage every twenty minutes. It can’t do that without some kind of “crossing of the hemispheres” the ultimate example of that being the old dance they used to do in the 1920’s called the “Charleston” where their arms and legs cross with the hands on the knees. This takes information into storage by crossing it over the corpus collosum which is the switchboard system separating the two hemispheres of the brain. So it is not an option. After 20 min. the desktop fills up, esp. when it is actually being fed real knowledge as we do when we actually speak to them in the TL. It needs to take a dump, as it were. So if you watch closely you will see a greatly diminished return in class after those 20 (highly researched) minutes. So tossing a ball around causes the arms to cross, doing some yoga does it, just walking around can do it. But whenever I do a brain break I just tell the class, “Do like this.” and cross my arms at the elbows and then after that, which is enough to drop the information down into the hard drive, I say, “I’m calling roll now. Hang out.” Then we go back to class later.

      On the topic of 90 min. blocks, there are lesson plans here for that. The best is to take the new two week schedule and mash it into one week doing those activities as per:

  9. Jennifer in NJ

    Sometimes, I’ll have my class repeat everything I do. Example: I’ll clap once, they clap once. I snap fingers of right hand, stomp with left foot, clap three times. They repeat. We start slowly and quicken with time. It’s like that old game Simon where the button lights up and makes a sound and you have to remember the pattern to play back.

    Sometimes we throw a small ball around and practice counting until the ball is dropped accidentally. THen, we start over and see if we can’t count higher. We count in the L2. I tell the kids who they must throw to and we practice.

    Sometimes, I give the math formulas out loud in L2 and make them call out the answer as per Ben with his Math Break.

    Sometimes, with only one of my classes, I allow the to use their cell phones for a few minutes which I also read about here but I think next year I won’t do this because A) it’s against school rules and I’m ping enough new crap that I don’t need to make more probs for myself and B) I think the kids see it as a sign that I’m a pushover because the rule is no phones and it might seem I allow too much. I don’t know….

  10. Music has worked especially well with my sophomores for their second semester of Spanish II (not so much with last year’s group). One day a week now in April I have two songs with twexted lyrics (English under the Spanish) but with blanks for 10-15 of the words, depending on the length of the song. I have a word bank and for advanced students, they don’t get to see the English meaning underneath the blank.

    This has been a big hit and makes for a very relaxing Friday for me–I show the music video along with the song; often a live concert version as there are not the problems with school-inappropriate situations that can arise in the other videos. We did Jesse y Joy’s Corre last week along with Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and quite a few students listened again for their 30 minute homework (and listened to other music by the same artists).

  11. Brain Breaks:
    1. Bingo – have cards ready for a 10 minute game to review numbers
    2. Action songs – list them somewhere to remind you
    3. Animation clips that you can narrate and then have them narrate
    4. Simon Says with small prizes
    5. I spy
    Short Activity:
    6. Partner them up (I have a partner clock that allows me to do this in 1 minute) and have them ask their partner five questions in TL
    7. Two truths and a lie
    8. Sketching while you describe what to draw and then share their drawings if they are willing or have a gallery walk
    9. More advanced: Partners sit back to back and one describes a picture they are looking at while the other draws it. They compare their sketch with actual picture.
    10. For Spring (which has not made any appearance in this part of the world) have them play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or “red Light/green light” in TL, of course.

  12. O.k., I get it now – essentially it’s playing some type of game for a few minutes. So, I was already giving them brain breaks without realizing it. Today, we did the “silent movie” (I just read about it on Martina Bex’s website) and they totally loved it.
    Thanks so much for all the great additional ideas :-)!!!!

    1. I teach on block and those 1.5 hour classes are a bit much to sit through all in one go. I have found a lot of peace in just letting them be kids for 3, 4, 5, 6(!?) minutes or so between douses of CI. It makes for good transitions, actually, because we can all recharge and get our ducks in a row for the last part of class.

    2. That’s what I do. I give them free time. I began to wonder if I was doing the “wrong” thing too. At this time of year, however, I’m not going to sweat it too much.

      1. I just think my kids would consider any kind of game or light activity as work. I respect to no limit those who are able to pull games like that off as brain breaks. Maybe I just can’t sell it to them or can’t convince myself not to be lazy during the brain breaks. It’s nice to check e-mail and take attendance, mark tardies, get the reading ready, whatever, during that time.

        1. I’ve done that as well, just give them five minutes to talk, put their head down, go to the restroom, etc but I also didn’t really get brain breaks until now (or at least as other teachers are doing them). I REALLY like the number + ball game where they just count and throw the ball around. That doesn’t seem like work to me at all, and anyway, the brain break is really to give them a break from having to concentrate so hard on the CI, but maybe not to give them a break from education… I dunno. It’s a toss up for me, really, as I can see both types of brain breaks being beneficial. (Though I’d say the ‘games’ would be easier to defend to an administrator that walks by.)

          1. I totally get what you’re saying, Nathan, especially about the admins. I’ve just never really been able to get behind the “bell to bell” thing. It’s always driven me nuts the days I’ve tried it. And it feels like it raises those affective filters because the kids, of course, hate it. Ugh it just makes me feel so unnatural, like a slave driver. What’s 5 or so minutes off out of 80+? The kids don’t even get recess! But maybe now I’m just justifying my laziness to myself.

          2. This always cracks me up, James. How many teachers sit totally attentive for 80 minutes of a faculty meeting after working all day? That’d be something, wouldn’t it?

            In a TCI class, which requires such exquisite attention and where there is little to no time wastage doing projects, etc., it only seems humane to give them a break in the middle to get water, go to the bathroom, chit chat, and walk around the room for a few minutes. In two words–humane and respectful. Heaven forbid!

          3. James, I teach block schedule as well. 1.5 hr is…killing me! At the end of the day my brain is dead. I need more breaks that the kids! I sometimes let the brain break goes for oh….10…maybe 15 min? depends on what we were doing for “break”. I was really burning out in the beginning of the school year, my kids were too. Long story short, it involved lots of catching up as I was gone on a short trip. Things were not going great for awhile. I thought I need to teach the kids, not the “curriculum”. Now I tell kids to time me for 20 min. We will stop and do whatever we want for “5” min. So April bail out? Maybe…I don’t know. The way I see it I’ll only see them for 20 more blocks then the FINAL (I hate the word “final” it sounded so horrid somehow)

            But good luck everyone. We all need a break.

          4. I am really happy to see that so many others do these breaks during the block schedule. Hell, I sometimes give them in a reular class. Not every time, but you can just tell when “ain’t nothing gettin’ in.” I also feel like a slacker sometimes, but only because of the external pressure. In truth, I think we are doing what we need to do, within the constraints of our scheduled factory-like chopped up day. There is so much evidence in neuroscience that backs up our intuition to “just take a break.” Sheesh! I do the timer thing too. Helps keep the focus.

            Totally agree with Jody about teachers in a meeting or inservice, etc….texting, shopping online, etc. Not being present. Not judging these teachers. They are in survival mode. They have to get stuff done bc they are completely over scheduled. But still, we can’t very well expect kids to “be present” when they have no modeling of what this is or what it looks like. No wonder it is so hard to do this work!

          5. Well since we’re all being honest here, my first period has been on a brain break for about the past five weeks. As in I haven’t taught them at all and I’ve turned it into an extra planning period for myself. I usually make my way around and chat with different kids in there every day, but I haven’t taught them in 5 weeks. I keep telling myself every weekend that the following Monday is the day I’m going to start teaching them again, but I just can’t bear the thought of trying to stand in front of that class and do something productive. Most of them are “schooled-out” seniors (I don’t blame them), or are not continuing to the next level of French anyway, so I know I will never have most of them again. I’m doing this because it’s the first period of my day and I was tired of working myself to death to get something done with them and then feeling frazzled the rest of the day. So I just focus on making things good for my French 1’s who are pretty awesome and just hope no administrators happen to walk into my first period. I’ll have to figure out something to do with them soon so they have some grades for the last quarter, but definitely not this week. I’m not proud of this, especially knowing that most of you on here would probably never think of not teaching a class for 5 weeks. But I’m glad to know that the idea of doing what’s best for our sanity is embraced on here. That makes me feel a little less like a total slacker.

          6. Yep. Same here. First period level 4 with juniors who, while fine people, are just not motivated by anything. I have tried really hard to engage them bc I know the kids and their interests, etc. But they pretty much just want to complain about everything, including the things they “suggested” we do. So at some point I just stopped trying. I pretty much walk in there and something happens and we fill the time. But I totally save my energy for the level 1-2 classes so that they don’t end up like these kids who are fossilized in present tense and infinitive cave man Spanish. Eek.

            Today was actually pretty fun. I invented a new writing exercise: “the interval workout!” We have been working a lot with narration in the past (remedial work bc this group was non CI and is fossilized). So today I put up a bunch of the HF expressions on the board “was, wanted, had, had to, went, arrived, left, saw, etc…” You know, all the HF stuff we use in stories.

            Then I explained that we were going to do an interval workout…”3min on / 1 min. recovery” just like you do in a track workout or whatever. We did 4 “sets” of this. I hammed it up with the usual running / workout jargon “Yeah! Keep it going! 30 sec. left! You can do it!” Totally cheesy but kept the energy up. I assigned the topics on the first 3 based on stuff we had done in class: story, novel, etc. Then the 4th one was free choice. I said they didn’t have to do stuff from class…maybe a tv show they watch, book, movie, video game, etc. anything with a story line.

            It was a fun way to trick them into writing bc 3 mins is short enough that it removed the pressure of “finishing.” It seemed to get at those structures pretty well.

            During the “recovery” 1 min. I had them stand up, “stretch” their fingers and shoulders and legs quickly, with the cock running and then we hit it again when the minute was up.

            AFter the 4 sets (5 in some classes…I did the 4 and then a surprise 5th rep “right when you think you are done you gotta dig in again!”) We took a “recovery jog” …mock jogging down the hall w/ stretching and then we circled up and did the “obvious thing you always do at the end of a workout: count from 61-83!” Just counted around in a circle bc I have been neglecting numbers.

            Then went back to class and asked for volunteers to read. Fun!

  13. We might lose it if we didn’t give ourselves a break this month!! I am getting mileage from fairy tales. They are easy to understand , so they feel like a bit of a break, and the kids all have a good time as actors. Luckily, so many are Perrault, I can claim a cultural connection to anyone who asks:)

    1. I like this. Today I got on a Little Engine That Could tangient bc a few structures came up in class that I wanted to reinforce:

      wanted to
      was trying

      The kids being from Mexico and other Latin American countries didn’t seem to know it but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it myself. There is something really cool about just diving into the CI with a short passage in which a little train is trying to get up a hill. Very TPR friendly. Simple. But I can only do simple fairly tales and just bits of them, it seems.

  14. We did essential sentences in the lab today. Everyone had to come up with their own version of the ten essential sentences from chapter 8 of New Houdini. They had to type the sentences. Then, after I’d checked their work (not everyone finished; they were typing in Russian), they learned that they could make a power point slide to decorate each sentence. Here’s my favorite one (you’ll know which slide is “Oh, no, my grandmother just came in!”) It starts with “Finally it is Friday,” and ends with, “It was a terrible date, and Jamie didn’t kiss Brandon”:

      1. Funny…and here I am, answering you! I just found my notes on the Jason Fritze game, which involved using a cube with the question words on it in each small group. Otherwise, what I wrote back on my blog is correct, at least as we play it.

        Here are my notes on Jason’s game:
        Jason gives a cube with the question words on it to kids in small groups (I used pairs or threes). They throw it in turns, and then ask a question with that word. It’s really no different from the teacher doing it, but that means they have to re-read the section to figure out a question, and the others have to re-read to answer.

        I asked them do it in written format only…no talking…just passing papers. My kids loved it, for some odd reason. Jason said they would. He also said that this is one of the games you can only play once a semester, so as not to “use it up.” Darn!! Anyone have others?

    1. I hadn’t thought of allowing them to do Power Point slides on essential sentences; I have one coming up next week–thanks for the idea!
      Lori Fiechter

  15. One more brain break idea: A class was reading yesterday, and I had individual kids translating for the group. When kids finished their piece, we either had the whole group do virtual high fives (with my complaints that they didn’t do it in perfectly synchronicity or with the right kind of enthusiasm so that they had to do it again) or a “round of applause,” but instead of each of us clapping in a circle, the whole circle had to clap individually all the way around so that it sounded like real applause. Takes less than three seconds for an entire class, if they do it right. They generally don’t, but it wakes them up.

  16. And back to projects.

    I get Michele’s feed from her blog. Her post today just gave me an idea for an input-based project/final exam.

    We will read one more novel during fourth quarter. I will have my students answer the questions about 1) who or what it’s about, 2) when and where it occurs, 3) what the main problem is, 4) how it is resolved and then choose the 10-12 Essential Sentences from the book. This time, instead of drawing pictures to illustrate, students will create a PowerPoint. For finals we will watch the PowerPoints and discuss. I figure this will give me a “summative assessment” for all three Modes of Communication.

    For anyone interested in the summary questions, go to this link and scroll down to my comment. – I think Ben made it a separate entry, but I couldn’t find that.

    The last time I did the summary questions and the Essential Sentences in level 2, it was very revealing. We had read Die Reise seines Lebens (The Trip of His Life). Most students said that the main problem was that the protagonist witnessed a theft and didn’t know what to do about it. Then, in the Essential Sentences they put things like “The family ate in a restaurant” and never mentioned the theft of the necklace. Many failed to see the disconnect until I pointed it out.

  17. My bail out move is Look and Discuss.
    I have a growing collection of very strange/compelling photos that the students love to look at, talk about and laugh about. One collection I call “Parent of the Year” is full of photos of parents doing weird shit, like pulling a baby carriage while riding on a motor scooter.

    I have four short videos of near-misses, almost died, jumping out of the way of the train at the last moment, etc. I decide on 3-4 target structures and repeated those a ton, then we wrote a class story together, etc. That was about 2 weeks of work.

    I agree with looking for more input options this time of year. We’re just starting our last novel of the year, and then Cinco de Mayo, then a few weeks of L&D or W&D, and we’re outa there!

    1. Ben, your post reminded me.

      Last week there was an article about a German man hitchhiking. Not unusual, you may think. Well, he was hitchhiking along the railroad tracks, and a train stopped to pick him up. The police were waiting for him at the station. (He was drunk.)

      1. L & D works to the extent that we limit the vocabulary in the image or the article, if the kids are beginners. In the article about the guy flagging down the German train, we would focus on:


        etc. and go narrow and deep with lots and lots of reps on just those few but not go deep into it if we are using L & D as a bail out move.

        If, however, we are using such an article for upper level classes to get the kids reading authentic materials in the TL to prepare them for the AP or whatever, we obviously use the entire period, it is not a bail out move, and we go narrow and deep. But I just prefer those fun five minutes to start class with all those French paintings.

        For more on L & D there are three articles on it under the category of that name.

    2. Speaking of cinco de Mayo, anyone willing to share what you like to do to celebrate/take advantage of the great opportunity to talk about Mexican culture? Other than clarifying the historical significance and making “papel picado,” I’m not sure what to do. I imagine many of you have some great ideas of how to provide CI around the topic. I remember thinking of some ideas after the fact last year, but was too busy to record them in a place I can now retrieve. Any ideas?

  18. I wanted to share some of what I have been doing since I sent Ben this post…

    First I let go of the idea that I should keep telling stories and they should be as interested as they were the first few months of the year.

    Second, I did not let go of the CI based activities/projects. I cannot make sense of output projects. Truly, I don’t know how I would do them, so I know they can’t do them! (I also identify more with the 96%ers versus the 4%ers)

    Next, I decided on Y & D (actually discovered that’s what our community calls it after doing it!) I chose the youtube video iPad versus paper. I paused at ever scene, 6 to be exact. I milked the suspense for all its worth. Gave out my jobs, and got two quizzes out of just listening based CI. The kids had a good laugh when they finally saw the last scene of the commercial. (If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good one!)

    I then wrote a narrative to the commercial. I would be happy to send it to you Ben to add it to the blog where appropriate? It is very simple and basically an embedded reading as the students go along. I had them translate it and then pick the essential sentences to illustrate.

    I’m being observed tomorrow with a great, small group of French 1 students. They have seen the reading once and I gave comprehenesion questions instead of translation. I wanted to do a reading type A tomorrow and then some textivate games and even a math break for the observation. I may possible let them read out loud a bit of French. (Output oh my?) the inspiration for this came recently from some students who asked when they will get to read in French. I then said I would let them read outloud after they have heard me or a native speaker read and we have translated it as a group. If they feel comfortable then they may try a sentence or two.

    Lastly, probably one of the most important bailout moves I have learned yet. I do not have to rush the kids to finish something!!! In education, you often hear give them a time limit and stick to it. They must finish it for homework. Even if you don’t stick to the time limit give it to them anyway. Today I realized that one of my most challenging classes is just slow. Meaning they need a lot of time to get motivated, but once they did they learned. I got a lot of, “Ms. B. you urking me! But I see what you’re doing!” This was a response to me not giving them the answer but talking them through finding the answer. It was very fulfilling when the whole class got an 80% on the reading quiz and I wasn’t having an anxiety attack trying to do several small activities. The reading was long. Oops. But the students stayed fairly focused and learned a lot!

    My next endeavor is to create a CI based PowerPoint/prezi project. I would like to have two teacher friends and myself record a story with circling built in. We will then load them onto where the students would access them and listen to them as many times as they would like and create an electronic presentation based on what they were hearing.

    Love to hear your thoughts…I’m so excited for the end of the year for so many reason (getting married in June, going to the Agen, France workshop in August) but one of the main reasons is to decompress and take in all that I have accomplished in this my first year of teaching! 🙂

    -Lori B

  19. Yes pls. send that reading and the questions and I’ll find a way to get it into the Y & D category. Give us a report on the observation. Sounds like you got it going on for that class tomorrow. Got your tech part, it’s all gonna work. And thank you for the idea about slow. Nice. So true. Just being there with the kids and respecting their process and not making them move to your process all the time. I give long readings. If they stay focused, I don’t see the harm.

  20. Here are some things I recommend for the last 1/3 of the year:

    Read and Discuss chapter books. Dictation. Projects like Animal Parade for younger kids. Making of class collections of illustrated stories by students for the class library for future years. When the energy of the year wanes, and as student energy begins to waver under the tremendous undiscussed psychological burden that weighs so heavily on the shoulders of both students and teachers alike at this time of year, reading and projects, in general, are one way to go.

  21. I was recently inspired by a video from an elementary CI teacher in Iowa (Craig Klein). He explains that he put kids into groups of 3-4. Each group created their own story (staying inbounds) with cut-out illustrations. One narrated, while another filmed.It took ca 2 hours with 4th graders to finish the project. The results varied, and the best video was posted on youtube, which is quite amazing. Clearly this student is gifted, or gets input from other sources. Still, I found this video lovely, beautifully done and inspiring. May be a good end of year project in elementary? I might try it.

  22. Found a new bail-out related to listening comprehension in Chinese 2 yesterday. First day back from spring break, last period of the day.

    Instead of trying to conduct PQA through an impossible atmosphere, I gave them all whiteboards and a marker (in itself something they love). I’d say a sentence using one or another of the new phrases, pausing and pointing like I would in PQA. They made a super-quick sketch of the meaning. Actually this began to work quite well. I’d ask students if I could hold up their whiteboards to the rest of the class to brag on their comprehension and fun drawings. Not NEARLY the number of reps as PQA or normal conversation in class, but they were listening much more closely. Perhaps more got into their heads because of the level of attention that this gave. Everyone was immediately active and accountable – that was my aim. I guess it’s like Listen & Draw, one sentence at a time…

    By Thursday & Friday we will read. I’ve long been planning to put kids in much more independent reading situation in an audio lab rather than reading and discussing as a group when we use chapters from a book — all the rest of the year.

  23. Jeffery Brickler

    Auto-dictation; I did it today as a pre-reading strategy. I agree with Diane that we definitely need to use more whiteboards and drawing for accountability.

  24. “Any other, more creative segues people are using when creating stories solely from PQA (no script)?”

    I have them hide something from a volunteer and I narrate as they close their eyes, it’s hidden, they look for it, students give clues “hot”/”cold” works, and then we write and read together a play-by-play. Then, they might want revenge and they hide something from the other kid. We could spend a whole class period on this; they loved it.

    It’s kind of a script, but not really because they are actually hiding their friend’s stuff.

    1. So easy, it’s cheating (and a nice mental health break), but some Friday when we have a few minutes to kill, a Google Tour is fun.

      I reserve the laptops, but you could use projector if you want. They can click links and see a Google Map and go to street view. You can use commands and explore together using “gauche” et “droite” or just let them wander. You can write about what you see as a group if you are feeling super productive, or just narrate your little trip. (I like to do like 15 minutes, just a couple of sites, not an hour of the whole city; it gets old.)

  25. APRIL coping mechanism:

    I LOVE the ART Hub For kids website Videos of How to draw…

    It’s an artist guy with a Sharpie and a piece of paper, sitting next to his son. The dad draws, say, an elephant or other character from one of your past or current stories, part by part, as his son copies his work (echo=more reps!). You can search by animal or whatever in the ‘How to Draw’ tab. Many of my stories have animals -I’ve drawn a rabbit, dog, panda, elephant, giraffe, and cupcake this year with different groups/levels. The Art Hub site has TONS of normal and silly animals, objects and pop-culture characters (Minecraft, Harry Potter, Chewbacca, etc.) to draw.

    I’ve created a lil TL routine for distributing the materials, and everyone knows they’re not allowed to uncap the markers until I say so. You have the volume of the video clip and the lights off. It’s silent. Your Ss have a dry-erase lapboard and a marker and an eraser. You narrate the drawing in the TL – “Class, hold the board vertically like this. Draw a semicircle/triangle like that, class, then a looooong line. It’s a neck!! A very loooong neck!” Stop the video action. “Class! Please show me your boards.” Everyone holds it up. You continue on in this fashion, very slow and chill, perhaps commenting on the son’s drawing, or telling little Carlos in the back row that his line needs to be more diagonal. “The dad’s elephant has big ears but the son is drawing smaller ears.” Lots more REPS! If they want more time to perfect the tail they say, “Alto.” Stop.

    If you want to get fancy, as I did on Friday when the words ‘ears,’ ‘neck’ and ‘nose’ were in the book we were reading along with the phrase/picture book ‘(I’m) Too big,’ then at the end of the drawing you can have the Ss label parts of the drawing in the TL – you label yours under the doc cam, they copy yours. This eats up the last few minutes of class. Alternatively they can write a brief (dictated) sentence about the drawing on the board: “The giraffe’s has a very, very, very, very long neck!” There’s also a routine for erasing the boards and putting all the materials away.

    I do these ‘drawing lessons’ often with my first graders on Friday afternoons – they can take a while to complete – you could even bring in colors if you do it on paper…It’s very therapeutic for everyone – I draw and show, too. You could show everyone’s under the doc cam afterwards – or challenge them to add individual details, for more interest, though I tend to keep it simple. At the end I sometimes take a class picture of everyone holding up their creations – that keeps 7-yr-olds from scribbling too much…they like to look at these accumulating class pics sometimes….

    I have done Google searches on “How to draw a ___” and I like these the best, though when I needed a cupcake for a Movie Talk:
    (Paddy Pan:
    I found a cute/creepy cupcake with eyes at ‘Draw so cute’ on Youtube.
    BTW You don’t have to mention/focus on body parts or shapes – you decide what language to narrowly focus on and go to town!

    As the Ss are totally focussed on re-creating the visual, their affective filters are waaaaay down.
    Give it a try – the teacher associates love doing the activity alongside the kids!

  26. I just found a great video for a Movie Talk: Big Buck Bunny. It’s about a big, gentle bunny who loves flowers and butterflies. He deals with three little bullies: a squirrel, a chipmunk and a chinchila. There are lots of natural pauses and tons of opportunity to talk about smiling, laughing, throwing, bothering, running, fighting, planning, falling, flying, etc. ( Hopefully this doesn’t fall under planned structures).

    I used it for all three levels of Spanish, with more to say for the higher levels and more repetition of the basics with Spanish 1. It was fun to hear them talking about it to each other in the hallway!

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