Embedded Readings Question

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35 thoughts on “Embedded Readings Question”

  1. I recently discovered Textivate. It’s very easy to get more mileage out of your embedded readings without your student feeling like they’re reading the same thing over and over.

    1. Yes Marc, Textivate has the ability to eat up large amounts of class time with variations on the Step 3 readings that we create from stories. It is part of that big ROA Step 3 barrage. I think when they went to charging $40 for it people started using it less but in my view it is well worth it. I had let it slide but am going to go sign up for it right now. Thanks for the reminder.

      1. I think of Textivate in this way: I want my kids to be interested in the readings. I want easy and fast ways of getting them to experience the readings in different “puzzle” formats. If I do 40 stories per year, and thus get 40 readings, I can plug those 40 readings into Textivate program (just cut and paste it in from a Word file) 40 times. If each Textivate session is at least 20 minutes long, that is a minimum of 800 minutes of time well spent with the kids each year – 10 full class periods if added together over the year, which is a big chunk of minutes for us to have easy instructional minutes. I confess to one thing to my colleagues who can relate – I am less interested in teaching my kids a ton of French than I am of just making it through my day. It’s all about me. I am lazy. So I value Textivate in that it helps me get through classes more easily. For many of us, certainly me, our careers have been about survival. It is not easy to survive as a teacher in American public schools – there is so much ignorance from well-intentioned individuals in those buildings that just making it through one year of teaching requires from some of us weaker/more sensitive types Herculean efforts. So Textivate along with dictee and other things like FVR and all those “easy” CI activities that nevertheless bring good gains in our students is a winner for me. There I said it. I am afraid to be a teacher and everything I have done for the past 15 years with TPRS has in large part been driven by that fact of wondering how on earth I could even be a teacher in schools. I’m too right brained or something. I have had private conversations with certain group members here that have revealed to me that I am not alone. That has helped a lot, the honesty. The need to survive, to earn a paycheck in an economy that is against the middle class, and yet the need to have meaningful work, have all directed me towards TPRS, which allows me to do those things. I’m sure that not everyone knows what I am even talking about here, but I love honesty and what I am saying here is honest. This work is so hard! God bless us all for what we do every day. Sorry, got into mini-rant mode there. How’d I get from Textivate to saying how scary teaching has always been for me? Alors, c’est moi. C’est qui je suis.

        1. You are not alone and it sounds like I am not either! I’ve always felt that there was more “meat” in the embedded readings that was hard to get to without boring the students by having them read it over and over again.

        2. Ben, I appreciate the honesty, in the midst of a political climate and school culture which looks down upon us, and at the same time expects us to be super teachers. Thankfully, I am healthy and relatively unburdened by life’s trials (for now). That said, it takes everything I’ve got, and things happen. We can’t be expected to bring it 100% of the time 25 times per week. The strategies you mention make teaching sustainable, and maybe even joyful. It’s just frustrating and insulting when admins, parents, and even students, mistake slow and deep for lazy. Even when we arm ourselves with the research, it’s still an uphill battle, because the teachers who bombard kids with stuff tend to be taken more seriously. As with those late night War Room sessions at IFLT in Denver, the big challenge is parking, that is, not moving on right away, in spite of our own and our students’ anxiety.

          1. …the big challenge is parking, that is, not moving on right away, in spite of our own and our students’ anxiety….
            and John also in spite of those pesky fast processors who have learned that in schools as in society it is about giving the power to the few, or having it taken. In that sense, our teaching supports democratic values of equal opportunity for all, the values on which our country was founded. Susan Gross talks about the value of widespread language expertise as a patriotic element, as a way to make our country stronger. With each day we spend tapped out, trying to make language learning, as you say above, “joyful”, we prove our patriotism. And each day in some traditional class that a kid leaves that class feeling less capable and smaller at learning languages, well, I don’t know what to call those teachers. Elitists?

          2. I have to honestly say, today I am feeling like it’s impossible for me to make it joyful in some classes and to get into a rhythm that serves everyone, to park long enough without feeling the pressure, to relax and enjoy what I am doing so I can do my best. It’s because of negative energy that comes from some students, whether they are fast processors or just those who don’t like how I teach and want worksheets that they can get a 100 on or group work where they can talk to their friends or they think they aren’t learning anything or get pissy when I move them because they won’t quit chatting with their friends or they sit there and look like stones with dead eyes and suck the energy out of the class and the wind out of my sails. Sometimes when one particular kid is absent, the whole vibe changes, but usually they are there, sending out their noxious fumes, infecting others. It’s wearing me down.
            And there are the kids who are not getting what they need who give me no grief and say au revoir, merci when they leave. I try to focus on those kids and remind myself that they are the ones I am teaching. It is my goal to remember that every day. They are so good at disappearing. I have to keep them in view.

          3. Ruth, so many of your comments could be written by me. I agree that can be so easy to sense the negativity even when you don’t intend to, and even when you are seeking to go with the positive kids who are with you.
            Laurie has pointed out wisely that even with the kids giving off negativity of whatever kind, we don’t really know all that’s getting through to them. And even if no one ever realizes, what we’re doing while teaching in a human way is worthwhile and valuable.

          4. I don’t agree that we can allow any negativity. I have seen this so much. Teachers “teaching through” some kid’s rudeness. I think it is not the response to give. We need to address it in the moments of class. Lovingly. I know I know. We should have all become professional athletes. But hey, we signed up for it, so now we have to deal with it, not stick our heads in the sand.

          5. Sometimes there is subtle negativity that you can’t really address openly, or at least I don’t know how to do it. So I know what you mean, Diane. I don’t imagine you ever ignoring and teaching over or through blatant rudeness or whatever.

          6. So Ruth there is this really low grade, hard to notice, antipathy coming from one or two students, or maybe a small group. This is the issue, right? But under the radar and impossible to address? In my other comment, Ruth, I tried to address the importance of addressing it but you sound as if you ARE addressing it and the vibe, that lightly pulsating negative vibe that we all know so well, remains in the classroom like a low grade stink. Oh boy! What to do? I don’t see where we need to change who we are or what we are doing, as you suggest. Has it really reached the point now where teachers like you, really strong and passionate teachers, are being worn down by this phenomonem which is all to common in teaching? This is a fire alarm! Changing schools seems to me the best option. I know that I have experienced lots of varying levels of this snide invisible oppositional snottiness in my career. Some teachers can just let it roll off and some like me and you let it get to us to the point where you sound as if things are really bad right now, which is of greatest concern to all of us who know and love and value every word you say here. The “stink”, shall we call it, has been almost zero in the two middle schools I have worked in. It has been by far the worst in high school. And that is of course where the kids are in the most pain. Some might say to keep teaching in spite of the vibe. I cannot do that.

          7. …I don’t imagine you ever ignoring and teaching over or through blatant rudeness or whatever….
            This is a touchy subject. I have actually observed TPRS classes where the teacher does that. Kids talk and they keep on teaching.

          8. Confront those few kids. In class. Whenever you feel like it. State your case at all times. These are children and need to be reminded. Whenever you feel that vibe, just stop class and look at the kid with zero anger or hostility. Point to a rule. 1000 times if necessary. When you stop teaching these will be dramatic moments, because the kids will see from you a different response to what everybody knows what is going on but nobody including the teacher is bringing up. In this dramatic moment of stopping and looking, calling the offending kid out with one look, and with any choice words of honesty about how you are feeling right then, and how you are feeling that way (defeated) because of the kid’s attitude in class. Get into discussing the kid’s attitude and how it effects the class. Keep each hit to a ten to fifteen second hit and right back to class, before the kid can recover. Then when it happens again, and it will, because now a power game has been started where you are slowly wrestling back full power in the classroom (which you had maybe 80% of when you allowed those few kids to be negative). Stop again. Make the call home every day. Go to the kids house in the evening if necessary. This kid thinks that he owns you and he does. Change that. Now I don’t know the situation, Ruth, and that is just one way to deal with it and I apologize if this is off, but as I look back now I wish I had done this in countless situations in my first 30 years of teaching. It took so long for me to get that, for me, the only way to deal with those emotionally unkempt little shits is to stop the class often when you become aware of being emotionally abused (let’s call it what it is), contact anyone in the school who actually has enough courage to help you, send the kid down the hall to a colleague to read, call parents every day and rid yourself of this problem! I wonder how jen is doing with that one class…. Got an update jen? Does anyone agree with me that this problem is about regaining our own personal power? Would we let someone emotionally abuse us out on the street? It’s time to get up, stand up, stand up for our rights.
            Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuMlHdxiIZ8

          9. I don’t try to teach through or over rudeness or lack of engagement. I do stop and address it. I do contact parents and other teachers. I do find it hard sometimes to be loving and smiling as I do it. Yes, they are children but they know exactly what they are doing. Even after I address something, there is a residual vibe.
            What I was thinking about in my comment above was more how this constant type of management can wear on me (because it is constant with some kids), and how I need to change my focus to keep that from happening. What I want to be able to do is address what isn’t going well without having it suck the spirit out of me and make me just get through the period. I need to keep the other kids at the forefront of my mind. I need to not lose the flow, to make sure I park long enough despite the anxiety or impatience of some (the comments about parking are what got me going on this), to keep my faith in what I am doing. Maybe I just need to be a different person.

          10. Ruth & Ben, I hear you both. I’m in the same case as Ruth, Ben: I do not allow talking over me, I stop class and wait, etc. But likewise, I am sensitive and it is fatiguing, not energizing, to have to confront people. I also don’t do the smile thing very well when I’m irritated by that kind of behavior.
            So, I look for ways to reduce the likelihood of students’ giving me that kind of stink. I adapt activities to the personality & cognitive development of the class and that helps. Did this with middle schoolers, who were more challenging for me to manage than high schoolers, and I do it with high schoolers, too. Ex: my level 3 group loves to act & get lots of attention — almost all of them. So they do more silent acting “re-enactments” of something they’ve read than any group ever. They also attend way more to input if there is some kind of individual response tied to competition on teams. So they more of it. I would never once do a competitive thing in class if not for so many students really, really liking it. (Ex: asked questions about class discussion or prior reading in written form yesterday, and they each wrote an answer on a small whiteboard. I tallied points in teams.)
            It’s been suggested to me that that isn’t really dealing with the problem of student disrespect or blurting or whatever, but I say yes it is. I’m averting bigger battles & saving my energy for when I need it — for those activities that really require their attention and engagement, like PQA-type things and reading along with new words. I need them all in on those, but neither would be a number of kids’ favorite thing to do. I need all my power ready for making those things work well.
            I’ve also been reading back up on my Meyers-Briggs personality type this fall (INFP) — strengths and weaknesses — because of the disciplinary thing with that one student, and because I feel so dang misunderstood at school this fall. I’m almost certain Ruth is also an INFP based on your comments, Ruth. (Maybe INFJ.) We’re idea people who write well & think deeply about principles and application of them, very idealistic, dislike being controlled or controlling others (or conflict), improvise and adapt quickly but don’t compromise when a core value is perceived as attacked, need alone time to recharge, and are very often seen as aloof or otherwise misunderstood by extroverts. I need not to have to be a big extrovert to teach well. I am soooo not a “coach” in personality I can’t express how opposite that is from me. I need to work with how I’m made, while acknowledging that personality isn’t a box that restricts me nor an excuse to avoid doing things I don’t like. But it is a good reason to teach in ways that work best for me. I say we don’t need to be different people. We need to use our strengths & compensate for our weaknesses. Anyone needs that.
            Earlier this fall, somewhere in the PLC I said something about being on a kick to pursue my own style of classroom management… that’s been good. I think each teacher needs to find their own style of teaching (what really flows for them using CI) and I am extending that idea to classroom management style, too. Very freeing.

          11. You’re right, Diane! INFP
            I appreciate your thoughts and do share a lot of what you say here. I need to chew on this for a while, and I need to get outside! More later?

          12. I am an INFP, I think. The “out there” idealist. The students I clash with are those who want everything laid out like a worksheet.
            I wish I had read some of these brilliant insights years ago. Thanks Diane, for these in particular:
            … I need not to have to be a big extrovert to teach well….
            …I need to work with how I’m made….
            And also the part about each of us developing our own style of classroom management. We think that there is one way to do it and there can’t be.

          13. I think you are, Ben, especially because of your preference for & great clarity in writing (so “I” not “E”). Another possible INFP from this group: Sabrina. Have I actually thought about pretty much everyone I know and how they might fit? Um, almost yes. It’s like a hobby for me… I know it bugs some people, so I don’t speak up about it too much, hopefully.

        3. Thank you so much for this. Your honesty is so helpful. I would say that I am lazy but making myself sick. I wrote earlier this year about the class sizes and the amount of level 1 classes I have this year. I listened to everything that was said by everyone on the forum and tried to limit my amount of CI, but it’s hard for me. I love it, but I literally make myself sick by expending so much energy. I am realizing that my health is way more important than the amount of CI that I can give the kids. Trying to find easy CI is hard for me. I finally feel like I know what I am doing in class and I am now needing to find other ways to get similar results. Textivate is an awesome tool for easy CI. Thanks for saying the things that so many people won’t.

          1. Yes Paul in my view there are two keys to make CI effortless relative to the size of the classes: 1. lots of reading and 2. getting their little pencils going via dictee and free writes. Reading is going to be the key for you, and Textivate a big help in that. They write from what they have heard and read.
            What percentage of the time do you deliver auditory CI? I would hope it’s down around 20% vs. up to 50% for the rest of us who have classes of, say, under 25 students.
            And it’s not just class size, right? It’s the number of classes. Only James Hosler in our group has done 8 classes in one year, a victim of his own success with Latin in his Kansas City area high school. How many classes do you teach right now?
            CI is not by nature exhausting. Only when a teacher is put in a group that is too big does that happen. In general, the bigger the class or the more classes you have, the less auditory CI you want to do, although the Californians Harrell and David Maust (Latin) seem to hang ok with those big CA classes. I couldn’t do it.
            (I’m at the point where one little word of English, so much more easily controlled in smaller middle school classes I am finding out, would get the kid kicked out of the classroom. That is only during the auditory CI part of class.)
            Now that I have small classes again, I am thinking that 18-20 is an ideal number (not below 12 at the smallest). Once you get over 30, it goes progressively down in quality of the class. These are just my opinions based on my own experience.
            Good that you learned to give from your reserves and not deplete yourself. It’s a lesson all teacher have to learn at some point in their career. Thanks for the report and keep us posted. After reading your story, I feel that there are a lot of us here in the group who want you in another school next year, with some people being slapped with shoes for putting you in that situation in the first place.

  2. Textivate works for non-alphabet scripts, too, but you will not be able to use the “spelling” game features. Also, you’ll need to add a space between words (or the program can’t figure out where the words are, and just think it’s one long, long word). At least that was the case when I tried it out — think it’s still so.

    1. Maybe 4 syllables long, which means 4 characters long, unless you count maybe formal names for organizations or countries which can be longer. “Normal” Chinese words are one, two, or three syllables at most (therefore one, two, or three characters).
      (Textivate would think a whole paragraph entered in Chinese was one word, unless you add spaces between each word. Same with any language that doesn’t normally put spaces between words.)

      1. Some of the things I do are:
        1) Read a version, write down key words, and then use the key words to retell to a partner.
        2) Read to a partner sentence by sentence.
        3) Go through the readings and circle certain kinds of words (such as verbs, nouns, etc.).
        4) If the embedded reading is from a Movietalk, then I don’t show the ending of the video (and do not add it to the end of the reading). Instead, I have students continue the story.
        5) I have the students read the story to a partner, but they have to change the story from present to past (or vice versa).
        6) I have students write up comprehension questions to ask their partner.
        Any other ideas?

  3. I was trying to blitz through a series of ERs last week, and one of my kids pointed out that I hadn’t varied the activities in between.
    I’m sure Laurie’s post will fill you in, so all I can say is that I went back to the original way that she started writing Embedded Readings. I took the fast writes my kids had done on a movie, typed the shortest one, then progressively embedded pieces from what others wrote so that it became a (six-version) complete review of what they’d seen. They read through the versions at high speed, all looking for their contributions, even as I tried to remind them that we do one version at a time.

  4. What a coincidence that Textivate is coming up today. I have been goofing around with it all day. Reading is about the only homework I think is beneficial for acquiring but I find it hard to get kids to read just for the sake for reading.
    Textivate can do a lot of little things that allows students to engage in reading in a novel way. I was thinking that at the least… a lot of “NOTICING” is happening for even the slow processors with Textivate.
    In another way it ensures that students are actually reading…

    1. Just an interesting tidbit about using Textivate today. I used an activity so that students would interact with a MovieTalk story that we have been working on….linking aural input to literacy….
      Anyways…when creating an activity from Textivate there is no human decision making at play about the words that are targeted, sheltered, or focused on from your text. The program cuts out fill in the blank activities without any particular reason. I liked this because there were many things in the story that I did not “focus on” that require comprehension…I mean to say that Textivate help me teach language better because it was not focusing…

      1. How interesting. I like that you used something simple and low-prep (plugging a story into Textivate) to do something profound: honoring incidental vocabulary acquisition. Your comments tied into our lengthy discussion on sheltering & targeting–but you made it so simple for us newbies. Just another example that TPRS isn’t harder, but it is smarter. Thank you for sharing.

  5. An idea I got from Jeremy (Jordan?): You can make the last version you do a little fun step-up. Like re-writing it in the first person. I had the idea, too, that if your original story is third person, like most of mine are, when you re-write it in the first person you can change a few details. Like imagine the first-person character wanting to change some details about being afraid or stupid or whatever.

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