Report from the Field – Greg Schwab

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16 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Greg Schwab”

  1. Only the most brilliant innovation ever – Please tell me the subject gets to keep the poster of him/herself at the end of the year.
    Best of all the newly minted but about to go viral (on this PLC) term, Slavic-ification.
    Look out.

    1. Good suggestion, however, I think I am going to keep the art. If I stay at my same school long term (and I will if they continue being awesome with supporting CI and letting me spend money on CI trainings and get release days to go visit TPRS schools) then I really need to keep the drawings. I have been at this school 6 years and I frequently teach older and younger siblings years apart. It’s a close-knit community and everyone knows each other.

      I think I’ll just let these kids become legends by keeping the drawing. Then I have content for upcoming years for days when I just need to phone it in and just do reading activities.

  2. I also do Personal Especial but I never instructed the artist to do it. It is important to have a good artist. I have had much success with it. I use write and discuss occasionally but usually I move on. They do like to read the interviews on their own during FVR.

    Slavic-ification! YES! I have been able to apply the invisible question sequence to PQA type of stories. I start with a compelling questions, get a few answers then we are off. One twist: I make the individual student Profe 2 and pick from everyone else’s suggestions. We had a student fight crime with batman and we ended with “To be continued!”

  3. Steven this is the kind of jewel idea that we sometimes overlook in the comment fields here. Can you write it up for a post? Honestly, if what you describe here is what I think it is, it is very high carat gold:

    … I start with a compelling questions, get a few answers then we are off. One twist: I make the individual student Profe 2 and pick from everyone else’s suggestions. We had a student fight crime with batman and we ended with “To be continued!”….

  4. I’m going to try this tomorrow, Greg. I need something different before we get to Spring Break.

    I like the idea of going through some of the standard Persona Especial questions, adding Slavic-ification, invisibles questions, and then asking the targeted student what they’d like to have as a superpower. With a superpower, I’m sure I could spin a fun mini-story. I’m hoping that getting a superpower and then creating a mini-story from that imaginary piece will make the Persona Especial experience fun. Otherwise, it’s usually been a dry activity for me.

    Oh, and I love the idea of having our artist do a collage like you have above!

    1. I did Persona Especial in this way last semester this year. Last school year I had some amazing artists (as you can see above). This year the artists are so-so.

      Oh, Sean, if you want something to really get you to the end of the school year try
      You can import from Quizlet.

      Kids are addicted to it.

  5. Honestly Sean I’ve not had success with interviews and I finally stopped doing them. Super powers are a good example. There is just too much vocabulary needed to go there and make it work. That’s why if your curriculum is based on various and sundry “activities” that don’t tie together, it’s harder to make those activities work. It’s what I’ve been working on with the star sequence. I promote interviews in a supplement to the new book on the Invisibles because the star sequence sets up and provides multiple conversational iterations of the same vocabulary. Then interviews could work, or such is my own experience w interviews. I’m so glad you brought this up. I think the original article by Greg could make a good point in the new book. I’ll ask him if I can adapt it for that supplement on interviews.

  6. It is possible to expand the basic interview process past anything you are doing in class and further and further into imagination. An entire story can spring out of such an interview. The concept here is that you are moving from an image – any image at any point on the star – into unforced natural speech that is only possible because the vocabulary is already there because of the way the star is structured.

    With the star, interviews are less “forced” and you have the requisite vocabulary to assure the kids’ understanding when you spend time on the various nodes of the star. You get a “churning of repetitions” kind of thing going that you don’t get when you just do the interview.

    Moreover, it’s not the kind of reps you get when circling, which brings such an awkward and artificial feeling, and so can be boring. Rather, the reps are embedded in ways that the kids don’t notice, so that their focus is kept purely on meaning, with no activation of their conscious mind, which is our main task in this work.

  7. I did this Personal Especial interview today. We went through about 8 questions until I got to the one asking about a superpower. The student said she’d like to have the power to be invisible. We then went into story mode, assigning jobs, etc. I made a quick, little story with her being invisible.

    A couple of problems: 1) the class wanted to know way more about the interviewee than we were capable of discussing in Spanish (L2), so lots of English was used. I struggled to contain it. 2) The students were creating storylines based on what they previously knew about the interviewee, all in English, as they were wrapped up in the fun of creating variations of this story. Again, all in English or Yoruba, since most of them come from Nigeria. And again, I couldn’t contain it. 3) I couldn’t get any good artwork from anyone. But that’s a common problem. I have one good artist and she was gone today. 4) Today was the first day back from SAT/PSAT testing and one day away from Spring Break. Students have let loose.

    The experience reminds me of why I don’t do personal interviews. The stories are much more contained, like you say, Ben. At the same time, it was a nice break from stories. Students love to interact and find out about each other. I wonder if there’s a way I can do this again, but containing it more. Having a script, sort of speak. I’m going to think of specific interview questions to ask that let us get to know the interviewee well but also are manageable in that the language in the questions is manageable.

    Also, to finish class I did an unscramble the sentences activity. I haven’t done it before as a closure activity. I’m going to do it again. Adding it to my repertoire of pencil-to-paper calming, closure activities. Next time I’ll do it dictation style, though. Meaning, I’ll ask them to copy the lines scrambled, giving spaces between each one, as I write them on the board. Give them a few minutes to unscramble. Then we unscramble together. I can do this in the middle of class too, after, say, 20 minutes of conversation.

    Thanks Greg and Ben for responding here.

    1. Another favorite for me probably from Sabrinas questions is “If you could be any form of a potato what would you be?”

      Many students pick curly fries but some are clever and say a raw potato so they can be anything.

  8. It’s great whenever kids are into the class, English or target language. So I wouldn’t consider it a loss, Sean. My belief is that we are there to serve the kids in making them feel a valued part of a group first, teaching them that they count more than the subject matter, and language gains are nice but secondary.

    That said, if you want to get the language gains, interviews that aren’t contained in a narrow and deep questioning process can’t work. They go too wide. So we need to keep it all very narrow and deep.

    I remember watching Sabrina – the best at interviews along w Jody Noble – in her classroom at Thomas Jefferson HS in Denver some years ago. I could see with my spidey sense that half her kids were not following because of a lack of sufficient background vocabulary. Circling doesn’t work either as I suggested in another comment today.

  9. Hi Sean,

    Perhaps it has more to do with the time of the school year? Kids are acting crazy all around. Our seniors are already doing pranks and stuff.

    Maybe try the interviews as write and discuss with the kids writing in their notebooks.

    I’m finding pencil to paper activities are essential in April and May

  10. I fully agree with Greg on the pencils. Dictee in particular eats up huge chunks of time. You can fill 20 minutes w/o effort w dictee and when they don’t take it seriously call it an assessment.

    (I didn’t say you have to put it in the grade book, just tell them it’s for a grade – they never check. OK – one kids checks but he doesn’t count. I get rid of him when he says he can’t find the grade in the book by saying something he can’t understand about assessment and then turning to another kid, of which there are no shortages).

    This brings up another topic for another day. I feel that in a nine-week grading period we should be grading heavily in the first 4 and 1/2 weeks and practically not at all after that. We need to always remember our mental health and have strategies to put it as #1 in our teaching day. Otherwise, if we put “teaching them the language” first and foremost, we are fools….

    Honestly I would have just taken that day, after testing and right before a vacation and almost May, and just hung out with them in English, or played some kind of game. There are not too many days when we can justify with any admins – many of whom don’t know what it means to be in a classroom with kids in the spring – that kind of stuff, but that was certainly one such day.

    One thing, however, and I believe that this goes to the root of your comment Sean about not being able to engage them in an interview (such was my experience as well) is that TPRS never really freed itself from the idea that we can talk to kids about their personal lives while at the same time speaking in a foreign language to them. They called it personalization and it one of the worst mistakes in my career – and I even wrote a book about it (PQA in a Wink!).

    Think about it – we were trying to personalize in an actual personal way to get to “know them better” AND speak to them in the TL. That’s goofy! That gives new meaning to the term failure by going too shallow and too wide.

    I now don’t believe that it is possible to get to know them and what they think (I really don’t care) and also speak to them in a foreign language. It would be like trying to play football on a field the size of an airport. There are just too many random words they need.

    I mentioned yesterday that some teachers of unusual skill CAN do that, but not most of us, who forget that our only job is to communicate with them in a foreign language.

    So over the years I have gone to severely limiting how much discussion I get going when talking to my kids (interviews are out – I use other strategies) but I don’t limit the playing field to the size of a postage stamp, either.

    I can finally say after fifteen years of public and private blogging here in this space that I’m “feelin” it in terms of what to talk about and how with teenagers down to the age of 12. Below that, fuggedaboutit.

  11. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    As an elementary teacher dealing with the narrowest & most concrete ‘here & now’ language, I like asking Qs that can be used with images. So for example, bring in a pic of your family and/or pet – then we can ask Qs while those are up on the screen. A vacation pic; a favorite place (in/out of the house); a favorite book, movie, play, TV show, song, etc. Super concrete and can be represented by an image.
    If you’re doing a more classic Special Person interview, you can set up a hmwk assignment like a 5-slide presentation:
    A pic of me with my family (member) and/or pet;
    A vacay pic or from an outing;
    3 pics of 3 favorite things – from the list above or other – say some kid is really into fast cars, fancy manicures; or a certain YouTuber.
    It just has to be appropriate. So then the T receives the kid’s slide show and the kid sits up there while they cycle through the slides.
    By starting with an image and limiting the content to, say, people, places and favorites, not as much random stuff comes up, yet there’s still lots of ‘get-to-know-you’ info being shared, and the kid provides the images so there’s some investment/ownership…
    This would not be in place of Greg’s artist idea; it would be in addition. So during the interview you scroll thru the slides; and then afterwards there’s the artwork keepsake.

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