Observation Secret Weapon

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6 thoughts on “Observation Secret Weapon”

  1. Yes! On Friday one of our assistant principals stopped by and joined in. We were talking about the weather and noting that it was hot. We found out that this AP’s office is cold, so one of the first-year students wanted to go to her office. (We had just learned “wants” and “goes” for a story – yes, we were reading a class-created story on the fourth day of school. Homework was to read the story in English to parents and get a signature.) Later, when we talked*, I noted that by participating in the class, the AP helped my students see her as a person, not just an administrator.
    *I always make a point of going to a site administrator personally to thank them for observing my class. If it’s a district administrator, I send an e-mail. It gives me an opportunity to naturally tell them about what I do in class and why.
    Just as teachers sense the power of TPRS/TCI when they experience as a student, administrators also sense the power of what we do when they experience it, even if it is just from the perspective of seeing what students can do that they cannot. It’s even better when they see a first-year class that enjoys speaking the target language after only four days of school.

    1. …we were reading a class-created story on the fourth day of school….
      Ain’t it great? They can read it because they are basing it on sound, tagging meaning with sounds that they heard during the story that are now banging around in their unconscious minds. That’s how they read. They are not thinking about it or trying to remember a memorized word from a word list. Bam!

    2. …I always make a point of going to a site administrator personally to thank them for observing my class….
      Those administrators don’t get paid enough. They deserve to be treated nice by a teacher. Besides, it sends a message. That we know what we’re doing and invite collaboration and visitors. Most teachers act like it’s some kind of judgment fair but the truth is that most observers have no idea what they are looking at in a CI class.
      For visitors that are actually serious and would like to know what is really happening I have a document that is – along with the checklist – a kind of guide for them to refer to during the class:
      Observation Notes for Visitors – Some Tips:
      1. We are teaching structures, not a story. Each statement/question we make should contain one of the target structures. Otherwise, the students have trouble following because you are going shallow and wide.
      2. Just as the three structures guide the story, so also do the three locations. Really, the story takes place entirely in only one location. The other two locations are repeats of the first, but the changing of the underlined variables tricks the kids into thinking it is one long story.
      3. We rarely get “home run” stories. Our job is to use the three steps of TPRS to deliver comprehensible input to our students. That’s plenty! The home run story is pretty much a myth and is the result of serendipity more than talent on the part of the teacher.
      4. We can leave the script at any time if something cool happens but we need to keep the structures the same.
      5. The story starts, and PQA ends, when an actor stands up. That is when the story writer and artist start their work of recording events.
      6. The big goal of Steps 1 and 2 is the reading, Step 3. It all is geared toward the work we do using Reading Option A after the story is finished. The greatest gains come from reading. Reading Option A is a symphony of possibilities for a CI teacher once a story has been created.
      7. This job posting from the ACL jobs website is worth noting. To know that this is a job posting for a (previously assumed dead) LATIN position means that things in foreign languages are changing at light speed right now:
      “Ability to speak Latin is not required but highly desirable. Current Latin teachers use Comprehensible Input methods in the classroom and align with current research for foreign language teaching and proficiency guidelines according to best practices. Experience in Comprehensible Input methods not required, but highly desirable. Successful candidates must be willing to learn and grow and to nurture collaborative relationships that improve and refine best practices.”
      A comment by John Bracey on the above:
      “The big Massachusetts private schools have spent centuries resisting even the most modest advances in Latin pedagogy. This is a game changer. Dana Hall is very well respected private school in one of the most affluent communities in Mass. I teach in the town right next to it, and we often lose students to such schools. My two Latin colleagues are both products of these ultra conservative Mass private schools. If they see that the even the elite private schools are embracing CI, this might go a long way.”

    3. Hi Robert,
      I apologize to everyone for “shamelessly” contacting Robert in this way!! I was just looking at Michael Miller’s Resources and am about to teach chapter 9 for the first time. There is a broken link to an apparently great PPT that you have with visuals of all of the places that Michael visits in Vienna. Is there any way you could send this to me?
      thanks when you have a minute,

  2. If the administrator or other observers are willing to sit in front of the class, I get the translator to sit behind them, and we start a story or an interview. First we ask who this person is. The class makes suggestions. One kid will make a realistic guess, and others will make story-telling guesses. I ask the visitors who they are, offering realistic options and story-telling ones. We branch from there.
    Thus, on Friday a student teacher turned out to be the witch Baba Yaga, who wanted magic soup, and the only place to get it was on top of Denali, but she was afraid of heights. I thought it was cute that the entire conversation was based on the “Star of the Day” discussions that we’ve been having lately.
    When the admins are less approachable because they’re now required to take notes on how I’m reaching Danielson requirements, the translators still offer their services. I don’t want anyone to think I’m talking about them out of turn. That’s one of the most important jobs when a visitor walks in.
    But now, I’m going to include talking about the weather. Wow. Ben is right. The old posts are full of good stuff.

  3. Thanks Michele for the idea of providing the observer with a translator. Great idea!
    And Julie not to apologize for thus using the comment fields. I have no problem with that and I doubt if anyone does. We do have a list of current blog members as well with their emails but either way is fine! Esp. when it’s Robert, from whom we all learn all the time no matter what the subject.

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