Michele On Student Generated Stories

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2 thoughts on “Michele On Student Generated Stories”

  1. I forgot to say, Michele, that I give the groups of kids more specific instructions than “just write a skeleton story”. I tell them to start with a character or characters who then want or try or need something to happen and first fail, but then they try again and succeed. I tell them to try to cram their story idea into three or four sentences.
    Jennie and I are in Bryce’s class right now, the AP class. So relaxed! The kids talking like 75% of the time. It is a logical result of them not talking much in the first years. This class is proof that input precedes output. In fact, Brian Barabe recently asked me a question about what AP TPRS classes would look like at upper levels (that question will be posted here later this week as the queue opens up). This particular AP class hasn’t been with Bryce over the years so I can’t tell you what that would look like from being here today. And I have no idea yet myself. We’ll have to depend on those few AP teachers who can address that later, or anyone else with any ideas. I can see in this class today, however, even though most of the students are book trained over past years, that the idea of just speaking, in the form of a story or PQA or discussing a piece of non-fiction or whatever, in a relaxed way, just speaking in a relaxed way, about what comes up, is the way to go at upper levels. It is very relaxed in here, all in Spanish – it doesn’t even feel like a class in a way, just a bunch of people sitting around making up weird stuff in Spanish. The SLOW thing is in full force in this classroom. A guy fell out of a boat just now and now he can only speak “Feesh.” Maybe when I grow up I can teach this way with my upper level kids, the ones I’m raising now. So my two observations about this class, quickly here, are the 75% L2 production by the kids and the feeling of peacefulness and freedom to just kind of sit back and absorb the language and suggest things and hang out. I like Bryce’s classroom.
    Now the class just left and we are debriefing. Jennie has great observations. This is when we learn. We agreed just now that it is not about performing, being good at this, but just being at the level we are with CI based instruction, and letting the kids be at the level they are. So much to say about this. Bryce just said that most kids leave years of classes feeling bad about their Spanish and how happy he is that his kids feel confident and happy about their Spanish. That is the bottom line for me.
    We are also discussing my participation grade 70% thing. One last thought about this little spat about assessment that I’m having with Bryce is that he indeed coats his teaching with a layer of love, so that his students clearly feel valued. If we assess heavily or if we don’t may not really matter, really. Do our kids feel judged or not may be the real question. Those of you who know Bryce personally know how he honors you when talking to you. I am going to keep exploring this low intensity assessment deal I’m into now, because it is important to the continuous unfolding and expansion that I personally have always experienced with this method, but, in the end, the truth is that, as long as the kids feel honored by us, the assessment piece will all be o.k. For me in my own world, summative assessment lowers the feeling of confidence of more than half the students in my classes, while it raises the affective filter, so I am now feeling like I want to do less of that. We’ll see where it goes. It is always changing. I clarified with Jennie and Bryce that I assess my students’ participation once or twice or even three times a week on a written rubric as a quiz that goes into the gradebook, not in the form of one generalized participation grade at the end of a fixed period of time. These are actual quiz grades. And Jennie just said that a better term is an Active Listening Grade. What a good term and I will use it. An Active Listening Grade. She said that Participation Grade is not the best term, because the term participation is not “meaty” enough, and that “what counts” should be something measurable, and that there must be something more tangible to measure. I agree with Jennie’s point. I think that, as long as we define “active listening” in certain terms, as on the rubric that I use for those quiz grades, all will be o.k. – and the term participation can be axed out of the discussion. (Bryce just said that in his class you have to “act like you are paying attention” – “if someone took a picture of you in class, what would you look like?” I like that.
    Anyway, we are now using Susie’s “Checklist for Observing a Foreign Language Classroom” (available on the posters page of this site or at susangrosstprs.com) to evaluate Bryce’s classes, so gotta go for that and then gotta get back to Denver before I-25 clogs up. That’s all for today from Roosevelt H.S on a beautiful day in the Rockies. Jennie said she will add some more stuff here later, and I apologize for any editing errors or lack of clarity above.

  2. Ben’s theme is honoring students. Honoring who they are, their personal stories and histories, honoring ourselves by being genuine with them. When assessments feel like judgment, we’re giving the assessments too much power.
    I am seeing this loving respect of students in Bryce’s classes and in Ben’s, and in the interactions of the three other teachers whose classes I’ve observed today. It feels like coming home. All the discussions and details I’ve been processing return to the genuine awareness of each person’s true spark. See that spark and protect and nurture it, avoid smothering it with too much of our egos or our righteousness, and they will thrive.

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