I wanted to share with you and the PLC that I had a wonderful visit from Lance Piantaggini yesterday. He spent the morning with me in my classroom, observing and participating in 2 block-length classes, then we went out for lunch and talked shop. It was SO MUCH FUN! I recommend to all blogsters that we should go hang out with each other in our classrooms whenever possible! And a big thank you to Lance for making the trip and for being so supportive.
11 thoughts on “Lance And Angie In Vermont”
And Angie this line describes for me pretty much the ideal workshop environment:
…we should go hang out with each other in our classrooms….
The learning curve in such settings can be off the chart. It’s how I got going, with Susan Gross coming up I-25 to Denver often and me going down to Colorado Springs over a two year period a long time ago. That’s where the gains are!
Yea Angie! Yea Lance! Why window shop when you can go in the window?
Angie’s kids have huge buy-in. There’s a massive amount of comprehension, though Angie has her doubts about whether everyone is self-advocating when they don’t know something. If they’re letting some stuff go by it’s OK because of hat else is going on. Angie spent ample time just hanging out in the target language. They’ve built trust and camaraderie. They have inside jokes (e.g. a girl’s phone is called “Bebe Rosado?”).
Angie relentlessly remains in the target language. Her students comprehend questions and often instantly respond in English. This would have freaked us out last year, but I think we agree that allowing that English as long as they’re comprehending is key. A few students showed signs of spontaneous output, and some genuinely made an effort to stay in Spanish. The kids can understand natural speech speed (I.e. Not ULTRA slow), and I was amazed to find that these were combined first and second year Spanish. It’s a regional school, though, which means some kids could’ve had traditional Spanish for like 8 years, others it’s truly their first.
Angie has a ton of novellas…Blaine’s, Carol’s, Karen’s, Mike’s etc. the department ditched textbooks years ago, and there’s CI support. The Latin teacher is still in the dark ages. She has second year students students choose read a novella for homework the second semester. They should get through 3 of them she says.
Angie was able to use me as a prop. This is what co-teaching would look like in a CI classroom. One interesting thing to note was that in the first class I made a comment about some girl’s coffee. It was pale, and I asked Angie if it was coffee or milk. After Angie began asking who liked strong coffee, or who needs sugar, she told me someone was Greek so I rattled off some ellenika (Greek in Greek but Roman alphabet…we don’t have a fancy word like “pinyin”) with the student.
BOOM! This was all the class needed to make a connection with me and then later care about what kind of band I was in (prompted by Angie asking me and the students what we were going to do this weekend).
Afterwards, Angie asking if we could bring that up again in the next class (= planning), so we did. The result? It flopped, felt forced, no one cared, and Angie instead moved onto some other things to do. We talked about how it didn’t work because I had not established that connection with the second class that I did in the first.
OK, so who am I hanging out with next?
Love reading this!!!
Thanks for the description, Angie and Lance! That whole thing about trying to force a conversation that was amazing in a previous period is so true!
Me! Come to Franklin NH 🙂 Oh how epic that would be! email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to set that up!
And…Angie, I would love to visit. We are not far, and I keep thinking about this. Let’s make it happen!
I would love that, Jen. Will be in touch.
Sounds like a perfect day!
Jen, I loved it when you visited me one day last year! I agree, that it’s a great thing for everyone to do if you can.
Also, Lance just said here:
“Her students comprehend questions and often instantly respond in English. This would have freaked us out last year, but I think we agree that allowing that English as long as they’re comprehending is key.”
This is a very interesting comment to me. I have such a lack of clarity around this. It’s been really bugging me lately and causing confusion in my mind and so it must be confusing to the students as I flounder around trying to figure out what I think and what works.
I am trying to stay in French as much as possible. I know that is key. But I’m just not so clear about how to deal with students and English. I know the idea of 1-2 words during story asking, but there are other things we do, too, that don’t fit that model.
There are times we aim for 100% French, with or without a timer. Other times I usually play by ear, but I know that too easygoing with English responses can be a slippery slope, even if they do represent engagement and comprehension. Then I push the French again.
I teach middle school novices, by the way.
Angie reached a “critical mass” of how much chatter there was, and then instituted an “English ONLY” for 5min. The kids groaned, but obeyed, and then continued in Spanish after her timer went off.
I think we have to feel the room. The connections she was making and how comfortable the students were to be in her class is 10x more important than some kind of No ENGLISH rule.
Thank you, I had the same question. So, if my kids are learning English but get too chatty in L1 (mostly Spanish) I say No Spanish for 5 minutes. After that, they can use L1 if they must, as long as it doesn’t get out of control again. Is that it?
Also, can you elaborate on the “natural speech speed” ?
This is of particular interest for me because I teach varying ability levels (my French classes are also levels 1&2, but my ESL classes are seriously all abilities).
I would love to know how this works: I assume you vary your pace. Do you point always or only sometimes? Are you kids able to “glaze over” what they don’t understand or do you speak faster because they do understand you?
I try to vary my pace because my class is expressly multi-level and I want to make sure the Level 2s are challenged. But actually I’m not too aware of it most of the time. I slow down when people look confused or don’t give me responses. I have been letting my stress level diminish during all of their English chatter this semester because they are engaged and participating in a relaxed way, and I’m able to get off my anxiety meds, and I’m seeing results. Sometimes I push them when I KNOW that they just said something in English that they could easily have said in Spanish. Sometimes I do this thing where we all say the Spanish response together, and I lead them. If acquisition happens this way, then I am golden, because I don’t think I’ll ever be the kind of teacher who enforces super strict discipline. I’d rather have the easy-going, free-flowing whole-class interactions that I had on Friday. I come down on them for not being kind or supportive or for not showing up for the work/play. It’s not a free-for-all. But it is kind of messy. But if the acquisition is not happening, then I’ll have to up my game and get more strict.
I think Lance meant I did a 5 min. Spanish only, not English only!!! And you could have knocked me over with a feather when they honored it, because I did not offer any reward (couldn’t think of one in time…we were so close to the end of classs!)