Report from the Field – Jake Firestine

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14 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Jake Firestine”

  1. Wow, sounds like you whipped through a lot of material this past summer, Jake! Good to hear you’re having some success.

    By the way, you mentioned wanting to share about teaching in a block period. How is that going? In a 90 minute block I’m finding the need for the last 30 minutes to be something that doesn’t require my energy. Maybe simply watching a movie, or something.

  2. I like it Sean – a movie to end a block. I used to think that was all wrong, but now that I get that I don’t have nearly enough time to get real gains, I’m good w it. Plus, a little peek at my paycheck never hurts keep things in perspective about working hard. Usually the term “hard work” means confusing kids anyway. If we are relaxed, they will understand more than if we are on a mission to save the world for CI.

  3. Jacob Firestine

    Sean, thanks for the feedback. Honestly, that makes me a little uncomfortable. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but the 90 minutes is pretty exhausting for me, and I notice that the students have trouble with it, too. I’m going to let the idea of them watching a movie stew for a while though. Honestly, I just keep playing the scene in my head of an administrator choose that day and time to pop in, haha.

  4. We can’t live in fear of admins. I know it’s easy for me to say bc I had my class trained to pop into shape in about five seconds when anyone walked in if we were not on task. There’s a technique in one of my books.

    I think the 90 min. will go by swimmingly once you get how the Star works. One step at a time, though.

    Sean just tonite sent me some video of his first day start. I’ll post it.

  5. Bryan N Whitney

    For the 90 minute block classes, which I have one per class per week at my school (3 days are 7 periods of 50 minutes) I usually have something that is more of a project for the last 30 minutes or so (create a little poster with 5 reasons for why you’re taking French with images, make a calendar of your birthday month, create a menu in French, draw a character and describe it, create a monster and label the body parts, etc.). These are then game for conversations in class (usually I pick one or two that I like and compare them). Mostly you just need some paper and markers or colored pencils. 90 minutes is just too much for me to talk almost the whole time. Even a little bookwork for the vocab/grammar lovers…

  6. Bryan, thanks for the ideas on the block. You’re making me think about using those last 30-40 minutes (I have one class that meets every other day for 100 minutes. Phew!) for students to create visuals that can then be used as a kinda Look & Discuss/ Picture Talk the next day. It could be a calendar with your birthday, a menu, draw a character, monster. I see that’s what you’re saying. If Jake is worried about admin, you could have them create posters about something “cultural” like holidays. Though I don’t think kids will want to do that. Let’s see. Definitely they could create invisible characters during this time. But I don’t want them to do that yet, in the beginning of the year. Maybe a poster on their favorite sports team, favorite soap opera, food item. I like the idea of comparing/ contrasting, Bryan. I could all ask them to create a visual of their version of something important to all of them, like a pizza. I don’t know.

  7. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Call me crazy but here’s where classic elementary could make your lives MUCH easier (and more fun). There are so many craftivities that the kids could be involved in during the last third of those HIDEOUS DEBUNKED HORRIBLE FOR EVERYONE BLOCKS. Of course illustrating a frame or a storyboard is great for the follow up mileage the next day under the doc camera, as Sean mentioned. But if after any oral activity you Google search with the words ‘free kids craft/craftivity’ – as in ‘when is your birthday free kids craft ideas’ you’ll get a zillion ideas and how-to’s. Prolly all you’d need is (colored) paper, scissors, crayons/markers, maybe glue sticks. I’m telling you, folks. It’s totally therapeutic and positive for old and young. You could movie talk the how-to video of the craft, if there is one. Same deal the next day with the fashion show of e/person’s creation. Crafty, crafty. It allows a bit more lang in if you want, or put on some brainwave relaxation music. People are thirsty to create with their hands. It gives time for that language input session to percolate, then the next class follow up you can show and/or play/manipulate the crafts.
    For buy in, the T makes one, too…

  8. These are all a great help and are getting my gears turning. Today was my first time going through the writing and reading nodes of the star. It was great! I did almost all of the reading activities and even a dictee. In one class I still had 18 minutes left at the end and the other I had 35 (class of only 4 people – Honors Span 3). In both, I just sat and talked with them, getting to know them more. It was fun! I’m thinking we had so much time because our tableaus are still fairly short, so the writing and reading is pretty short. I’m sure when stories are happening the writing and reading portions will take more time. Anyone else run into that at the beginning of the year, simpler tableaus leading to shorter activities leading to lots of extra time at the end?

    1. OH! Related to Alisas’s crafty ideas, a very fun thing I have done with HS students is to play a youtube “how to draw a horse” (or whatever animal) video in L2. Everyone draws on mini whiteboards so it’s low stakes and fun. I usually repeat the instructions and stop the video periodically to give ppl a little more time.

  9. Actually Jake that’s why there is a Phase 5 in the Star – all those extension activities can fill entire class periods. In particular, the Word Chunk Team Game is so popular with the kids that I finally had to devote all day every Friday to it.

    There’s no lack of “filler” at the end of the Star. I view just taking the last part of class to get to know them as most valuable right now, but don’t worry, you can trust the Star to keep you more than busy and it’s cyclical nature always brings you back around to Phase 1 so you can start a new journey even at the end of a class.

    I don’t think there has ever been a better foreign language curriculum ever, not, at least, in my own 42-year journey looking under rocks.

  10. Good point, Ben. My main question with the Extend activities though is how they look with 1st level students and classes brand new to CI? The dictee I’ve done with all my classes, but I believe you say to wait till later with Free Writes, WCTG, and interviews, if I’m not mistaken. I’m not sure in which book I think I read that, but I could have that wrong. I do need to reread the Extend section though.

    I agree 100% with that!

  11. Oops I forgot. You are right. It’s stated clearly in the book that we can’t really do most of the Phase 5 extension activities until the kids have at least some vocabulary. I even suggested dates when each of them should be implemented and it’s not now. So my bad on that suggestion and thanks for pointing it out. Plus, using that time to hang out and get to know the kids will come back with rich rewards thoughout the year. I would not be concerned at all if an admin walked in in the first few weeks at the end of a block and saw you just talking w the kids, individually or as a group. It’s our job! This whole change we’re in, in fact, is all about bringing real community to our instruction. Without that, we won’t get the train out of the station.

  12. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Isn’t there a schematic for slicing up a 90-min block in ANATTY or am I confused?
    Also if you Google CI on the block you’ll get some decent hits with ideas for how to carve up the block.

  13. I have 80 min blocks daily. I try to chunk it into 4 20 min segments (not scientifically, but just a ballpark). Chunk 1: chime time, silent reading ( but not level 1 until a couple months in) and general chatting leading into calendar, card talk, OWI or whatever we are doing. Then we do some sort of movement game–simple, like true false about whatever we just talked about, but they have to move to one side of the room or the other. Chunk 2: write and discuss, with reading activities. Then I give them an actual break. Like non-programmed time. 3 mins of doing whatever they want but no phones. Most get up and chat with friends or space out for a few mins. Chunk 3 and chunk 4 varies, but that is where I use music or Senor Wooly or story listening or whatever emerges from kids’ chatting during the break. I need to work on my closure routine. Sometimes I do a quick quiz or dictee or something to wrap up, but I have not made the end of class as clearly structured as the beginning. Today at our teacher meetings they were really emphasizing using the “schoolwide rubrics” for each assignment, so I might use the last 5 mins to comply with that by having students self-reflect. But that seems like it could get old if we did it every day. ???

    Since I don’t believe the block is about cramming 2 classes worth into one, I just take a leisurely pace and do the basic lesson (ie star sequence) as if I were not on a block and then add other things (based on the group) to fill out the time. I like going outside and/or taking them on little walking field trips. Haven’t started yet with kids so I’m eager to see what new adventures we’ll have.

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