Sometimes I get really lazy. Or perhaps it’s just a normal response to a world where people work themselves like mules and then wonder why they collapse.

Whatever, below is my so-called “Fast Fourward” activity (because sometimes I want to fast forward my class and have it end when it feels like it’s just supposed to be starting). So this post describes how we can eat up minutes and make the class fly by when we don’t feel like teaching.

Some of us, just upon reading this, might feel guilty. (Been there. Don’t want to repeat that insanity. It’s the “I’m-the-best-teacher-in-the-building” sickness.) What I offer below looks like real work, though:

1. SSR 10′ plus 5-10′ of follow up translation discussion Just take any text that any student read during SSR to start the class, plop it on the doc camera, and start translating. When that gets boring, do another one. Eats up minutes.
2. Have them translate, in their composition books, a random sentence that you make up. You can stretch this out to where you are half way through class or more by the end of this second step of my Fast Fourward activity. Write the correct version on the board in the TL. They fix what they wrote, you walk around the room, faking teaching.
3.Do Sabrina’s greetings activity. Cake. Eats up even more minutes. You’re going around the room asking the same question, playing off what they say.
4. if there is more time to eat up on this day you just aren’t feeling it, just make some more cake using Dictee. It can be a paragraph of the SSR read that day. More and more cake. I just have to keep a napkin in my back pocket to wipe my face and keep the students and any observers from seeing that I am eating so much cake in class that day. You are eating instructional minutes up without actually having to think.

And they think they are learning, because in half the activities above (2 and 4), they are writing and to them and any observers writing equates to learning. (To them, not to us who know.) Do this tomorrow if you feel like enjoying some early Christmas cookies – and cake.



18 thoughts on “Cake”

    1. I still think it’s cake. There are activities that are fun but the input is disjointed, there isn’t flow. I do the following:

      1. Take roll. At the beginning of class (since I do not have a set seating chart and I just randomize seats), I call each students name and they say “presente” eats up time.

      2. I play mafia and I offer students to introduce themselves in Spanish/French, if they want but nothing forced. Then when time passes I ask “Quien es mafia”? When the mafia is found out, I ask “______ Tu eres mafia ? The chairs have to be moved to the back of the room and moved back into order. Eats time and students really only got like 4 questions asked. It’s fun from time to time.

      3. WTCG: This offers probably the best quality of input in my mind but “wastes time”. It’s easy, it’s fun and builds community but here the FLOW is compromised. And that’s OK! Don’t we want students to enjoy our class? Also, the shy,timid and those uncertain of their identity type of heritage speakers get a chance to show off.

      PS To me there are 2 main types of heritage speakers. We’ve discussed here about 1 type.

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and lesson planning and the above is amazing for that if you have good classroom management. That seems to be the key, at least from my perspective. You can do anything, “real” or “cake” and it can look and feel good to you and your students and your admin IF there is a sense of calm and order and understanding in the classroom. If not, it is not mental health at all to have them write and translate and dictee because you have to fight with them to do it and deal with unsavory behaviors. This is just my experience and struggle right now, Ben I think this is awesome and honest and true. I just know which classes I can use it on and which I can’t. Or rather in which classes I can use it but it will still take up so much of my energy because of behaviors I have to deal with.

    1. Indeed Carly,

      What behaviors are you dealing with and in what situations? How many are in your class and how many are defiant? How does your school deal with trouble students? Each situation is different and the solutions you take will vary as well. I am sure that Ben can post your request right here on the blog. We’re here to help.

      1. My situation is that this year I have three classes I only see twice a week (Thursday/Friday) and because of the way the Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving, Parent/Teacher conferences and several school assemblies lined up I have seen them SIGNIFICANTLY less than my other classes.

        One class that I am struggling with has 27 students. They are used to having two teachers in all their core subjects (ICT) but in my class it’s just me. They need lots of attention and there is lots of blurting and just immature not-fun-for-me silliness (I love silliness but not this kind – fart jokes, noise making, falling out of chairs, uproarious laughter at small funny things). There are three students who are the ringleaders of distractions and about 10 more who get easily distracted. It feels like the first day of school every time I see them. I am still working on norms and I AM TIRED!

        Another class is very small, only 12 students. Eight students have significant learning disabilities and are ELLs. One student is going through some emotional stuff and is mostly checked out. There is either way too much energy or no energy in that class and I have to be really really attentive to my pacing or I totally lose my slow processors. I have to be careful of the amount of writing I ask them to do because writing is very difficult for them in English and in Spanish, the language they speak at home.

        We are doing the work though, it is CI and it isn’t a disaster. I am very very tired at the end of the day though and I am hopeful that with some more time things will settle into routines and I will be able to eat some cake…

        1. Oh my gosh Carly! WE have the same 2 classes, I think. It’s so depleting. This week was so grueling that I bailed out altogether and stayed home on Thursday, even though I was supposed to sub for a colleague that day.

          I’m spending a lot of time these days contacting parents. Which of course should have happened earlier. So many kids are in crisis. Every day I seem to learn another backstory that is sad and disheartening. Even when I do not know the backstory, I absorb this energy unconsciously, get completely drained and turn into someone I hardly recognize.

          Holding on by a thread. I’m hopeful that we will learn to protect ourselves so we can hold space for joy with our students!

          1. Hang in there Jen! I am right there with you! Sometimes I go home or to the gym after school and while I am on the stair master or treadmill I replay the class period and mentally highlight all the moments that WERE in CI. As I sweat I and count them up and call it a success. I don’t give up on CI because a number of the those students with special needs are making progress and I KNOW they would not have been able to do textbook work at all and would have left my class feeling like they couldn’t learn French. So even when it is hard I try for them! And when class is a mess I ignore the mess and try to focus on the small successes. And then I am gentle with my self at home and treat myself to ice cream (or cake!) or an episode of something good on Netflix.

          2. Letting go of things we were taught about being perfect is hard. I really appreciate your comment Carly. In reality, even if we just do a small part of the class in the TL where we get some flow going, that is pretty damn good and thank you very much, all you “observers” who don’t even know what you are observing!

          3. It’s very important to keep yourself sane. If you have to focus on management all period then do so but not at the expense of your mental health. I would seriously through on a few MTs and have them summarize in L1 like SL does.

  2. Great ideas! I should have done this today instead of finishing our stories from last class. I would have had more energy at the end of the day. The stories turned out ok but keeping th students focused was!!!

    Could you elaborate on the So Sabrina activity?

    1. Dana, the are bail out moves. They are on the left hand side under “Categories.”

      I had a difficult class right at the start of the day. Students are basically done with school since they just had 10 days for Thanksgiving break and they still have 10 school days until Winter Break. I went right into an 8 sentence long dictation. I have my rules ready to be projected up on the screen as students get their pencils ready. They then trade papers, then correct each others. They refer to the model on the screen. I write it down as I say it to the students and I also walk around and scan the room for any cheaters. I do not let them see their paper afterwards because they already saw the CORRECT way to do it. Each word is a point except for proper nouns such as Mc Donald’s. I took 45 minutes to do this during my block period.

    2. I’ll post it here tomorrow, or in your case there in Delhi, later this evening. Hey how is the Punjab smoke now? Probably still there, right? It lasted until almost January when I was there.

  3. Carly, my lil 1st graders have an associate in the core classroom and I insist that the associate teacher accompany them to Spanish, though the core T would rather hold the adult back for other stuff. If they are needed in the core room, then certainly they are needed in yours. Any way you can make the case to the core T and principal?
    Also, some kids (autistic, etc.) have a 1:1 aide. I ask the aide to sit strategically near her charge, plus other potential rabble rousers. So she sits in that pocket and taps shoulders, gives extra eye contact/accountability, etc. Work it baby.

    I seat the defiant ones right in front of my face and give them LOTS of eye contact and proximity. I’ve never been accused of subtlety.
    Today I got snippy w/a repeat offender and asked whether he though the principal might like to hear what he was repeatedly blurting. I’m not proud, but it re-set the CI environment. (I’ve never actually sent someone to the principal – not my mojo-but if I needed to, I guess I’d call the office and have someone come retrieve a kid…)

    As for kids who have special cognitive needs and learning or behaviors that impact group learning – the case can be made for removing from your class to prioritize minutes in other deficit areas. ELL’s can be taking English during your class; these scheduling issues are prolly too late to change this yr, but maybe you can have a convo before next year? I was very clear to the SPED team and my principal that if they were going to pull a kid from Spanish to service IEP minutes, it’s was an all-or-nothing package – otherwise the neediest kid was getting only part of the Spanish minutes and would never know what the heck was going on. It’s good to be known for those “policies” that defend kids. Once, I heard the SPED team saying, “If we pull him on Monday Spanish then we gotta pull him on the other 2 days – Alisa is adamant about that!” and I was glad…

    Ben is a fan of calling home – would that work in your school culture?
    How about PAT points and other behavior mod stuff like that?
    I’m way too lazy to keep track of all that but some folks claim great success w/it…

    1. Thanks for your response Alisa. For this particular class they don’t have any other adults that can travel with them since the SpEd teachers have a full schedule of core classes and none of the the students have a 1:1 paraprofessional.

      I’m going to rework my seating chart and see if that makes a difference. And continue to call parents and hope that between Friday and the following Thursday they remember whatever talking to they get from mom or dad! I can’t keep track of PAT etiher, I’ve tried and it just makes me miserable and we never get to play.

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