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10 thoughts on “Honesty”

  1. On a similar note, my school is on a literacy campaign, and they want to take pictures of different departments actively involved in literacy, not just sitting there reading books. Since we are soooo focused on reading and literacy, I was wondering if anybody had good photo op ideas. I was kind of thinking of a reader’s theatre a la Jason Fritze… .
    And, like Ben, I’m hoping for ideas out of these doldrums. A photo op is all well and good, but… not if I’m not really doing that stuff in my classroom. What are some active things we can be doing in our classes that will reinforce literacy, and that I can do even with so-so behavior.

  2. Ben,
    I have another entry that I will send later, but I had just read this post. Sometimes it can be “KISS” (you know the old acronym).
    Since your workshop, I really have tried to “look around” to see how I can talk with the students. I have discussed this in some previous posts, but just this week I had a nice two days of discussions (block scheduling). For well over a decade, I have always put up a “Quote of the Day”. It is in English. I get the “Writer’s Almanac” and “Word of the Day” (by Anu Garg):
    I enjoy seeing all the English words I didn’t even know existed (of course there are many that I do). But, on this site there is always a quote. One summer I decided to begin collecting the quotes and writing a thoughtful (and sometimes witty) one for every class cycle. I had this idea because I increasingly saw kids who didn’t seem to want to think or process things ( I think this was a few years after many people got the internet installed at home and technology began to take off). I have tried to choose some good quotes.
    Kids would ask: “What does that quote mean?”…My answer: “What do YOU think it means?” (I became famous in my classes for asking that question, to which kids increasingly would say, “I knew you would say that!”) Then I would wait, and still do. Finally some student would venture an answer. We might take a few minutes to discuss the quote. Some wrote/write every one down. Many kids have used one of the quotes under their senior picture.
    Another good source is Quote of the Day:
    Anyway, on Thursday/Friday I wrote this quote:
    “A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.
    Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)
    In the different levels I asked different things. I put up vocabulary for to trust, to depend on, “true” as in a true friend (in German I put “echt”, “wahr”, treu”). For the upper levels I included phrases “to get along with”, acquaintance, ” to depend on”, etc. It was interesting to see what they said. After discussing maybe what a “friend” is, I asked: How many true friends do (would you say) you have?
    Every class really reflected. You could see kids thinking. In the upper levels, it was a nice discussion about Friendship, because most kids have been burned by a “friend”, but all have friends in whom they can confide. Most of teh students said between 2-6 good,true friends…They asked me the same question. This discussion could have been fleshed out much more, but it began impromptu (I had other things I wanted to accomplish), but because it is good to think, i asked every class the question.
    That is one thing. With the first snow, I asked “What did you do in the snow?… What can one do”. If it rains, you can ask the same question. Add in the season: What do you do in the summer when it rains? Who jumped in puddles as a kid? Do you now? Why or why not? A kid asks, “What’s for lunch?” A topic for a quick talk: What do you eat for lunch? Who brings his/her own lunch? Who makes it? What do you eat for lunch on the weekends?
    Do you have a curfew? What time?…How many texts do you send in a month?
    The list can be endless. They can lead to impromptu stories or maybe good discussions. (I will address this a bit further in the other post, which will deal with my Department Head’s observation this week).
    Other things: I have some good story books based on themes, one by Robert Williams, the other are graded short story TPRS stories for levels One, Two and Three/Four by Gerhard Maroscher. From these stories and vocabulary come many questions. I can often create a story based on words or phrases. Then the kids have the stories for reading, literacy activities, etc. That obviates the need to write up all the class stories, which can suck the energy from you, especially when you type as slowly as I do (However, for a great story, I type it up because I will have it forever).
    I use readings, dialogues, paragraphs, from national tests or Regent’s exams. I use a provocative picture. Maybe a music video. With song lyrics, create a story with the lyrics. View the video. Talk about what you see. Ask questions with vocabulary that they have learned. What are the people in the video wearing? What do rappers wear? What do country-western singers wear, etc?
    Finally, Ben, I have wondered: Is it possible to have a collection of our ideas and stories on this site? (I wouldn’t want this to be a huge task for you). You have many links to the right of this blog: If we sent in a discussion topic that has worked for us in a class, we could send it in to be posted with a collection of other topics. Ee would click on a link: Discussion topics. It opens. There would simply be a list of all the discussion topics/questions of the day listed. Teachers could pick what might be a spark for them on that day.
    Is there any expedient way to do this? if yes, then maybe:
    Level One stories. Anne has sent in many scripts. Is it possible to send a script or story for that level that we have written and has gone well? I imagine that with all of your readers, suddenly we would have a few dozen level one stories (they should be original!) Do the same for Level Two, maybe Three/Four.
    If the story “tab’ idea is too unwieldy, could it be words or phrases that could be used at any level?
    I hope it doesn’t open a “can of worms”, but it may help people who feel stuck, especially if they have a textbook and want something with a bit more “oompf” to it.
    What makes your website/blog the best is your “honesty”. You are still in the trenches with us.

  3. Grant Boulanger

    A few literacy focused activities I do:
    Students create taxonomies (alphabetized lists of words that are connected by a common theme) that students use and refer to in their free writing when necessary. Lists include: animals, rejoinders, verbs of locomotion (getting from point A to point B), verbs of vocalization, verbs of the mind (amar, pensar, gustar), and others.
    I’ve adapted Ben’s word chunk team activity by giving each team a selection of words from past stories printed at 40 pt font or so and cut out. I say the phrase or sentence and the students assemble the words in the right order.
    At times I alter the Dictation activity. I say a word. They try to spell it. I find someone who spelled it wrong and is willing to share that (I actually celebrate that it’s spelled wrong). I write the WRONG spelling on the board/projector and pronounce it as it would be pronounced by a native speaker and compare it to the word I gave them. For example: I say “TIENE”. A kid writes “TENE” so I pronounce it like this and ask if this is the right word. Kids make incremental changes by changing a letter at a time until my pronunciation of the student word matches the pronunciation of the given word. All students write the progression of changes in their LiPes (their notebooks, which I call LiPe – from LIbreta PErsonal).
    It seems a lot of my underachieving urban kids are serious auditory learners and they LOVE this adaptation to the dictation activity.

  4. I’m sorry that what I’m going to mention is not exactly personalized, but I can think of ways that I might personalize by asking kids to answer regarding parallel experiences. Anyway, something I love doing every once in a while is bringing in two or three narrative songs. Knowing what I now know about tprs and asking a story, I might make up a mini-story from the song before listening. This would allow time and repetitions for kids to digest and recognize the most important vocabulary.
    I now, unlike previous years, would take time to establish meaning for all new vocabulary and structures, once again , in mini-stories if necessary. When finally presenting the song, I like the listening activity best where I scramble the lines, often on cut strips of paper, so that kids can try to put the lines in order as they listen. This usually means we will listen to the song three or more times–the more ear contact the better.
    I would then question our way through the song–with each kid having a copy before her. I would ask parallel questions to personalize.
    I could also see adapting Laurie’s expanded readings to a song, the song being the final reading. I repeat here, it’s important that the song be a narrative; I think narratives are easier to understand than other categories.
    Although my Spanish song list is older, if anyone wants to know of a few good narrative songs, just write me at bbarabe@aol.com.

  5. Have you tried Tumblebooks? Audio books the highlight the sentence being said. Some of them are even animated. They make them at all levels. Some site will charge you for them; the New York Public Library does not. Here’s your link for French: http://www.tumblebooks.com/library/asp/book_details.asp?category=Language&subcategory=French
    I also show songs on YouTube at this time of year. I often don’t do anything more than explain what the song is about. They’re just to expose the kids to the idea that there’s so much cool stuff out there in Spanish (or any language, of course). I encourage them to explore for themselves. If they find a song that they like that they think will be appropriate for class, they tell me what it is and I check it out.

  6. This probably departs a little bit from what Ben is asking, but . . .
    For final exam day students were telling about what they did on their trip to Vienna. (This goes along with my “The City” = “The Realm” project – which is still very much a work in progress.) A couple of days in advance we arranged who would bring what: cups, plates, coffee, hot water maker, tea, cocoa, etc. I went to COSCO and got Apfelstrudel pretty cheaply. Then on final exam day we had a “Vienna Coffeehouse” experience. It made the 90-minute block go by very quickly, and the virtual setting of a Viennese coffeehouse helped hold English at bay. The discussions of where people had gone and what they had done were great, even if I did hear a few things that told me I hadn’t given enough repetitions on certain structures. (I don’t know if my students fully believe that these exams are as much an assessment for me as they are for them.)

  7. Amy Wright came down to Anchorage (from Fairbanks) to share literacy techniques for upper-level classes with us yesterday. They dovetailed a lot with TPRS philosophy. One activity was that she took three sentence starters of the ideas out of a text (we) the students would read later and we responded to those in short writing “sprints.” Then we shared around a circle of students, having known in advance that we would share. There’s a lot of group-building that occurs in this activity. Then the students read the text, line by line, out loud (stopping on line breaks, rather than having each student read a sentence). The next activity is that each person underlines the phrases that jump out, and the group reads just those phrases in a group “bursting” that makes the text change into poetry. Then the students do a fast write on just one of those phrases they liked, and then either the teacher or a student in the group reads the original text, but whenever the reader gets to the part where someone has written, that person interrupts to read what they’ve written. It was really interesting, because in our group several people had picked the same phrase, so we got to hear why it jumped out to others.
    Jason Fritze recommends “You Gotta Be the Book,” and in some ways the activity above is similar to ideas there–by sharing your responses, you are developing stronger group literacy techniques. Students will get to be better readers because there are more responses to a text than they might ever have expected.
    Practicing these activities and talking about how they related to TPRS principals took us two hours, and then most of us went on to talk for two more hours over pizza, so you could use such ideas for just a few minutes or many more to give yourself a change at this time of the year.
    We decided that, like TPRS, these literacy activities allow each student to personalize the text (we were reading from “House on Mango Street”) and the input is all comprehensible. It isn’t all teacher-talk. There’s a lot more output than we are usually wanting with TPRS.
    I don’t know whether it’s possible to get an inkling of an idea of the experience, but maybe you’ll think of a way to shake things up a little by reading this.
    The only frustrating thing was that something about our sound transmission kept cutting out, and so the Flash Meeting I was going to offer you all to go watch just didn’t come out. I’m bummed. All I can say is that the number of genius teachers I know in Alaska just went up by one. If you ever have a chance to hear Amy Wright present, grab it.

  8. An activity that I did on Friday and requires some prep work was a different approach to teaching a song. I tend to teach my level 2s a song a week but it is so hard to find a song appropriate for level 1 students.
    I found one with a lot of words that they were able to recognize. So I translated the lyrics into English, printed them up, cut them out, mixed em up, and put them in an envelope. The kids had the lyrics in Spanish and we listened to the song twice. Then each group had to rip open their envelope and read the Spanish lyrics to find the correct English translation. They had to do a lot of reading in Spanish and English. They were occupied for 40 minutes with the lyrics. Pretty good stuff. We are going to revisit the song on Monday and hopefully spin it into a story with the same vocab and structures.

  9. One day, to my absolute delight, a group of girls was in my class singing this camp song about a moose. the tune was catchy and i had them sing it for me a couple of times, rewrote the lyrics (hope i don’t end up in jail) and here it is. the kids love it. we talk about moose hunting in Quebec (i’ve seen the heads used as hood ornaments, which is an odd sight indeed in a parking lot in the gloaming) and we talk about cheese…and the French…and I make a fuss over my cleverness with the choice of the moose’s name. and Mayo, well, of course the French prefer Mayo to ketsup…woo hoo. and we talk about how a moose is a bit of a beast and beasts are kinda stupid…bête
    if anyone comes up with some more verses let us know. it’s a hoot
    the kids love this song…i hear them singing it in the halls sometimes…and they complain, with a smile, that the tune sticks in their heads.
    i found the url for youtube blip in case you don’t know the tune
    Il y a un orignal
    qui boit son jus dans un bocal
    Il y a un orignal
    qui boit son jus dans un bocal
    Chantez: mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo may
    L’orignal s’appelle Brie
    Il boit son jus dans son gros lit
    L’orignal s’appelle Brie
    Il boit son jus dans son gros lit
    Chantez: mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo may
    L’orignal n’est pas bête
    mais son jus tombe sur sa tête
    L’orignal n’est pas bête
    mais son jus tombe sur sa tête
    Chantez: mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo mayo
    mayo mayo mayo mayo

  10. Radio Plays are sweet for breaking up the routine, give plenty of opportunity for laughter and allow wonderful questions for Personalizing, and are loads and loads of CI. I have no idea, unfortunately, if there is anything like Reisefieber or Romea and Julian available for French. Radio Plays are so much better than any CD listening activity because they are more bizzare and a real adventure.

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