Report from the Field – Angie Dodd

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11 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Angie Dodd”

  1. Let’s take these questions one by one:

    1. Is my focus the question words, or is it those high-frequency verbs that Anne Matava mentions? Or is it Novice Word list stuff? Or is it certain structures?

    A. Your focus in Circling with Balls is the structure “Bill plays football” or “Sally knits” or whatever the kids does. This personalizes and teaches rules. Whenever you are doing this kind of free form PQA, just hanging out and talking to them, in this case using CWB, with your real focus on getting the discipline going and personalizing, that is what you focus on.

    It is not the verbs and it is not the word list words. It CAN be, bc there are no rules in what we do. I think it would be perfectly fine, and I do it from time to time, to just grab a verb or noun off of a list and start circling it. If a kid doesn’t want to play, make her. That is, if you grab the word “swims” off the wall and ask Natalie if she swims and when she says no you don’t back away in defeat.

    This is what so many new teachers don’t do. What does it mean to counter a child’s no answer? It means that you tell Natalie that in fact she does swim and then you ask the class is she (who is now a bit bewildered but liking the attention), swimming fast or slowly, laser pointing to those words in the list, and they say fast and you ask where and one kid says that she swims in the Black Sea and you say no but thank you for playing and then another kid says in the school pool and you say correct and soon you are rolling with an extended scene in exactly the way David described here with those three fine examples of Extended PQA here in a comment by him a few days ago.

    This extending out from the verb you chose through countering Natalie and creating a little scene with the class via circling is not, please note, a story. It is an extended scene in PQA. A story must have three structures and be pre-written, like Anne’s, and be set up that way with the three locations. The three structures and the three locations dovetail together to bring the great power that only stories can give.

    You can write your own stories but I am too lazy so I use Anne’s and Jim’s bc they get into kids’ minds better than I can. I don’t care if the structures in those stories are not pretargeted and religiously planned and put in my (bogus) Pacing Guide bc I believe that Krashen is right when he says that there is a natural order of acquisition that we can’t mess with, and so using structures arbitrarily is not such a crime. So the answer to the last question is you focus on the stories when you have structures right there in front of you in a story script. Hope all that is clear.

    And when you pull a noun from a word wall you are in a OWI. Go for it. Oh, you didn’t have the noun all planned out and it kind of jumped from the Word Wall into class? Who cares? Either we accept Krashen that it is all natural and that as long as the input is comprehensible the kids will learn, or we don’t. Sorry about the jab to the pacing guide people and those in the TPRS world who love to choose structures before the year starts. I just ain’t in that crowd. Now, backwards planning from a novel, that is different. Ok end of rant on targeting structures.

    2. Nice job on getting all those reps on just a few structures. You may have called me out on the where thing. I know I tout it as a great springboard in extending PQA and in stories, but if the class is just new, maybe it isn’t the best question to ask. I think you went out of bounds way fast bc of that. Thank you for pointing that out. I will push the use of the where question maybe in the second month, not the first week.

    3. Trust me, the 8th graders have more imagination. Each year that they get older, they get duller, when they are in schools, unless they have had CI based instruction since the first year. The fact that you are getting cute answers out of upperclassroom who have never had CI before kind of blows my mind and I am sure the minds of other teachers who have inherited upper class traditionally trained kids. Great job on that!

    4. Discipline. I wrote a comment in response to May Lee today. Check that out. Go read some of the posts in the Classroom Discipline category here. And keep reporting in with specific questions about discipline. Even stop class and write it down and send it to me during breaks between classes or write them as comments.

    Right now, each of us in this PLC has about three weeks to either screw it up with discipline FOR THE YEAR or get it right. So I would be perfectly happy addressing only that for the next month. Maybe it is time for you to start stories. I am the opposite of skip on that. I am happier with stories and have already started them, but don’t tell skip, who revels in PQA until the snow is blowing hard up in the Maine woods.

    Yes, your first year is surreal. Congrats on that, too! We are very proud of you! Keep reporting in. I have never seen so many new teachers kicking ass in this way. It is a happy thing!

  2. Ben is right. You have a lot of balls in the air at once. Breath, relax, assume the mantel of expertise in a kind way. Just reading “The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st-Century Schools. Hardiman’s brain-target number one is the establishment of the emotional climate of the room. “…setting the emotional climate for learning may be the the most important task a teacher embarks on each day.” That to me includes trust (PQA), discipline (Take the time to teach them how to “be” in a classroom – someone said it’s like inviting them into our homes!), routines (they need to know what to expect and within that framework, they need novelty – birthdays a la Michele Whaley, chants, songs) and team building (jobs, jobs and more jobs!). Matava’s stories work better for me when my kids have had some TPRS experience. Re your structures, I know others may disagree, but sometimes a new CI teacher can get some ideas about structure choice from the TPRS textbooks. The French would call it “le point de depart”. As you get more comfortable and confident, it’s easier to cut the cord because your body will feel the process better. I think very few people would say that their transition into CI teaching was seamless. Plus it keeps evolving. I think I finally got it that more is never better in a CI classroom – narrow and deep as opposed to covering curriculum by moving too quickly or as Hardiman says “the inch deep mile wide approach.” Listen to your inner teacher voice and be yourself. I am rambling, sorry. Gotta get some shuteye. Off to school tomorrow. Hope I can fall asleep! You are on a fascinating path. You have a very supportive community here – Ben has provided quite a safety net for all of us. It’s a process and I applaud you for beginning your TPRS/CI journey.

  3. I agree about getting out of bounds quickly. As I’m re-reading PQA in a Wink (which I love) I can’t help but think that there are sooo many new words in each little developed pqa, such as: Jo plays basketball 2 weeks out of the season in Europe. His average score is 80 per game. (as on p. 27 near the bottom). My CWB sounds a lot more like p. 24 – top. I was able to develop more like p. 27 with my Sp II’s.
    I need to see a pacing guide of sorts because I too feel lost without an anchor or goal, plus I’m still trying to figure out what I want to write on my lesson plans I have to submit weekly, which I really think is in case I have a sub, but I still want them to look professional. (if there’s a sub they won’t have a clue as to what my plans mean – but I take care of that with emergency sub plans (map activities, etc).
    So I’m looking for the pacing guides here – have they been posted, Ben? I know there were some lesson plan notes I need to re-find.

    1. I’ll send you mine for the start of the year and the second grading period. Too weird to format and even a little formatting challenge puts me on my butt.

      But you are so right on what you said. CWB DOES bring in too much new stuff. I guess that is the thing with the first grading term. Just use the Word Wall more NOW. Maybe by using the Word Wall more, if you do those words, then you can incorporate them into class and keep the cards in bounds by restricting the direction of the PQA to some of those words. Then when they have enough Word Wall words it will be better.

      Earlier I had said that I now do only two words from the wall, but now I remember that I START with five in the fall and then go down to two by March, bc we need the five new words each day to bolster the discussion. Hmmm. I forget stuff.

  4. Michele, you mention emergency sub-plans. This one area where I’m really struggling. We have to submit three days worth of sub-plans at the beginning of the year. I am really having a hard time coming up with good plans that a non-German speaking sub could use. For the upper levels, I prepare a bunch of stories with questions that they have to answer, that kind of thing. So, not a biggie. However, what to do with those absolute beginners? I am really at a loss as to what type of work I could leave for them that is worthwhile, somewhat challenging and – most of all – in the target language?

    1. Brigitte here is mine. The reason I like it is that it is what I would really want my kids to do if I were out for three days. It is simple, easy for the sub, is made of three short sections that are each different, allows the kids to visit a little during the group reading time but not the whole period, gets plenty of reading time in there which is the key to all of this, and helps the sub in the third part, when class can get a bit unruly for a sub, by making them write:

      Each day:

      First 15 min. of each class – the students are to read silently in the books that are located in packets under the seats. This lasts for 15 minutes. This is called Free Voluntary Reading. Let the kids choose the books to read. The sub is asked to also please choose a book, and model quiet reading.

      Second 15 min. of each class – they are to read (groups of two or three students is fine if they wish but no larger) from the current novel for the next 15 minutes of each class. The novel assigned to all classes for the period from Sept. 10 to Nov. 23 is Le Voyage de Sa Vie, but if the substitute date is in December or beyond, the students know what they are reading and where the books are located. Students working in groups are encouraged to translate and write down the words that they can’t figure out together.

      Third 15 min. of each class – the students are to write a free write. They know how to do this. The free write rules which are posted below and they are also posted on the wall in room #229.

      Again, for the first 15 minutes students are to read whatever they want quietly for fifteen minutes with no talking, and for the second 15 minutes they are to read the novel in small groups, and then for the final 15 minutes of class they are to write as per the free write poster.

      No talking is allowed during the first and third sections of class.

      Note: I have copied and pasted the reading and writing posters below. Here they are, and they can also be found on the resources/posters link on this site:


      Just enjoy reading silently.
      Look for cognates.
      Sound out the words for meaning – you may have heard them in class.
      Read from context – other words give clues.
      Use information from walls.
      If you can’t get all the words, that is fine – quizzes won’t have any trick questions or obscure words.


      Write without stopping for 15 minutes.
      When time is up, count the number of words and put in bar graph section in your composition book, with dates.
      No English words in the story except for names.
      Keep the sentences and story line simple.
      Get your story idea ahead of time.
      Use lists if you have them.
      Use words that you already know.
      If you don’t know a word, don’t use it or reword the idea.
      Use as many adjectives as possible.
      Spell as accurately as you can and then move on.
      Add another character when you get stuck.
      Use posters from the room as help.
      Illogical stories are o.k.

      (note: I don’t do the bar graphing anymore, but the kids like it)

  5. Thanks so much Ben, all that stuff is truly great and that’s what I will put in my emergency sub folder. However, I was just thinking about that surreal situation if a brick were to fall on my head tomorrow and a sub had to do something with my beginner kids who had all of 4 days of German.

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