Report from the Field – Kevin Clemens

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17 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Kevin Clemens”

  1. Sphomores are just hard. They just are. I think that’s it. I don’t know what to day. Others may have some ideas.

    I know what I would say to the mom who doesn’t feel as if her kid is being challenged, but I can’t say it here (or to the mom).

  2. Kevin

    I am also trying to transition a group of 2nd year (MS) students from the more traditional work we did last year. I have a bunch of really bright kids but a couple who struggle to keep up. One of the bright girls (an 8th grader!) went to my dept. head and asked to change to a different level. In a month of classes we haven’t touched the book (Cambridge) yet either.

    My thought is to start giving the fast processors jobs in the class. One super-smart girl is already my story writer, I will also make someone a quiz writer, another an artist to draw the story, some work with baseball pitch-counters (the little clicking ones) to count my number of reps. I also have been giving weekly free-writes, and I think will be asking these super-stars to try to do minute retells of the stories.

    I also teach 2 spanish classes, and those kids had a year of traditional spanish already. In general they have adapted pretty well to the “new rules of the game”. I have tried to follow Ben’s lead in almost all of this, and it has worked out well for me. For the kids who don’t give a crap 1) personalize and talk about them, and 2) hold their feet to the fire with a daily interpersonal “participation” grade. That’s the carrot and the stick, right? In terms of improving group morale – my kids have really responded well to inter-class competition. Every class we time how long we go without English, and put the record up on the board – they boys especially love to win, and it helps create class unity as well as cut down on English. We also have been keeping class records of reps. though that hasn’t caught on quite as much.

    I’m a newbie myself, so take all that with a giant grano salis.

    1. …some work with baseball pitch-counters (the little clicking ones) to count my number of reps….

      This is beyond brilliant. I want three baseball pitch counters. I will order tham today.

      Now, could you refresh on the interclass competition? Boys vs. Girls and how exactly does that work? This is another brilliant idea where staying in the TL becomes much more meaningful to them and could help what we do immensely. What about that?

      1. The class competition that I use is between different classes, not within a class – i wanted to encourage class unity and have them crack down on the english speaking. So up in a corner of the board, I have the record time for each class, and I also keep track of the day’s best time

        Latin A – 44:32
        Latin B – 44:51
        Spanish B2 – 46:09
        Spanish B3 – 46:22 – RECORD

        They get a kick out of it for now, and I am sure that it will wear off, but hopefully by that point, they will be in the habit of not using English in class.

  3. Bios or no, I am absolutely amazed (not surprised because I see it again and again) by the openness and honesty of the reflection. Thank you to all those who have shared “reports from the field.’ They are just SO helpful….

    I wanted to share some evidence of the power of the CWB/props activity… I have an Ed Tech in my room for the first time ever. After third day sharing my card (I watch TV, I watch the Red Sox, Patriots, I don’t watch the Yankees, OR the Giants.. I then proceeded to what I play, ONLY GOLF and I play malísimo! 🙂

    For the watching TV I found a T-shirt that shows a guy in his recliner with a clicker watching tv (matches the card I drew perfectly) The second day I wore my Medias Rojas (red sox) shirt and the 3rd day I word my AA Red Sox afdliliate Sea Dogs shirt in Spanish (Los Perros del Mar de Portland)
    Okay, now the punchline…. The ED. Tech. is a huge baseball fan (who knew?) and after the 4th he approached me and gushed about the power of what I was doing…. He then proceeded to tell me all about how in October he was going to play in a “men’s world Series” tournament at the Jet Blue Park/Fenway south in Florida….

    I have gotten reaction from students but I was not expecting the Ed. Tech’s reaction…. That this guy (early to mid 40’s) would “buy in like a kid” surprised me…. He prepared a card…. We are going to do his card a few days before he leaves for Jet Blue Park.

    The level of personalization that leads to compelling input is unmatchable. I would really encourage those tempted to “bail on balls” to hang in there, practice, try different things, and figure out how to make it work….

    Tomorrow I will be ending my card (after 5 forty minute class days) on how badly I play golf. The other kiddo in the class that plays golf and I will be putting with my putter and he will play MUY BIEN and I will play MUY MAL…. That should be fun….

    Thank you Kevin for the great reflection (I am struggling with my second year’s too a bit) and thank you Ben, again, for the CWB/P activity….:)

    1. …I would really encourage those tempted to “bail on balls” to hang in there, practice, try different things, and figure out how to make it work….

      But don’t you end up going out of bounds too often? That’s what happens to me. So in stories I find it so much easier to stay in bounds with the three structures (I really only do two of them now) and so I do that.

      But now that you bring it up, I do remember staying in the TL with CWB for months, like three years ago. So I just don’t do the cards near as much as I used to and that is costing me on the personalization development that is so rich in your classroom. I think it is a wise thing you’re doing to stay on the cards.

      By the way, here we are talking on the weekend. OK – NEXT weekend we enforce our rule of resting on the weekend so people can go back into the archives.

      Question: should I post any articles like Kevin’s on the weekend or wait until Mondays?

  4. Kevin, thanks for that great report. It is amazing how many of us, especially newbies, have the exact same problems with the exact same groups. I’ve posted about my sophomores and Ben gave me great advice.

    I have two students in my Advanced Chinese class who joined the class after an intensive summer program. One keeps giving me suggestions on adding things like “word of the day” which I find annoying (I told him I don’t like to teach words without context). The two have asked about when we are going to start using the book so I finally had them stay after class and I showed them the three books that we have. I pulled out the one that I am loosely pulling material from at the moment and told them they can work out of the book in their spare time if they like. There is even a CD to go with it. They borrowed the books and then on Friday apologized to me that they hadn’t had time to work on it. So this is my new thing. If you are bored and need material, I’ll give it to you because that puts the responsibility back on the student to cure his own boredom. Only the most motivated student is going to do the extra work. And there are always more materials out there, especially for extra reading. Then maybe mom will feel like you are giving her kid extra help. Hope that helps a little.

    1. …only the most motivated student is going to do the extra work….

      Exactly. Now, would we hold them responsible for not working with those additional materials? I kind of like the idea. Just to show them that we get their game.

  5. Just finished my 3rd week as well. Funny how, for me, it’s also the 2nd year learners who are causing me a bit of heartache. However, a few days ago, I sacrificed a few minutes of L2 and gave them “the talk” again with the rules chart. This time, I connected it to jGR – and, boy, what a difference! That same period, we started with Ben’s “retell glove” and scored a major home run. I have never seen so much energy and enthusiasm in this classroom before. They were on such a roll, that I decided to go with it and continue it the next day for my scheduled first observation. My chairman loved it and said that he wants one of the administrators to come in and watch to make sure they know what to look for when they observe a LOTE classroom in our school. This year, two more teachers converted (one a veteran of over 30 years teaching with traditional methods) and the district is even giving us in-service credits to form a collegial circle.
    I firmly believe that once the “decision-makers” actually see with their own eyes what is going on in our classrooms they can’t help but become believers. Maybe those of us who still struggle could invite the administrators in to show them what it is all about rather than wait to have their minds poisoned by those who oppose what we are doing.

  6. It’s awesome – you can find it in Ben’s “TPRS in a Year” book. In case you don’t have the book, here it is in a nutshell:
    Thumb –> represents the characters in the story (more details about their age, looks, hobbies, etc.)
    Thumb and forefinger –> the setting of the story (location, season, weather, etc.)
    Thumb, forefinger, middlefinger –> deeper discussion of the story plot
    Thumb, forefinger, middlefinger, ringfinger –> further exploration of the individual events (what did or did not contribute to the solution)
    All five fingers –> restating of the solution

    Essentially, it’s a reminder about the who, what, when, where, how……. of a story and a good way to get in more reps and details. I usually draw the five gestures on the board with the respective question words (more as a guide for myself than the kids). I hope this makes sense.

    1. Ok. So there is no physical glove? It’s more that if I hold up my thumb they (or a single student?) has to tell me just that information, and so on. So that I would start by holding up just my thumb, and progressively raise more fingers until they are all up?

  7. Yes, that would be the idea, except I have all the gestures on a slide and just point to the one we are focusing on. I am really bad at explaining things, if you want I can e-mail you copy of my slide so you have a better idea of what it looks like.

  8. Oh, and I don’t use it so much for the students to retell what happened but more to add further details and make the characters/story richer and more interesting (as if they weren’t interesting enough already).

    1. Sorry you guys I was out all day. Thanks Brigitte. I will just copy and paste from my book:

      Skill #44: The Retell Glove

      Two kinds of retells are possible. Most commonly, the instructor or a student simply repeats the events of the story. There is another, more complex, way to retell, one that is widely used in elementary school L1 reading classes.

      The instructor makes a fist, holding only the thumb up in the air. This indicates to the students that the discussion will be a restatement about the characters in the story – who they are, what they look like, their age, etc.

      Next, with the thumb and first finger in the air, the setting of the story is discussed. Where and when did the story take place? What season was it? What was the weather like? If there was more than one location, give those details, etc.

      With the third finger joining the index finger and the thumb, the instructor then discusses the problem, or plot of the story. What was the problem that needed to be solved?

      Next, with the ring finger joining the others, the instructor discusses exactly what events occurred in the story in reaction to the problem. What happened that didn’t result in a solution?

      Finally, with all five fingers in the air, the solution to the problem, with details, is restated.

      Using the retell glove requires higher order thinking skills in the target language because the facts are rearranged as per above, and therefore must be kept simple in beginning classes. In more advanced classes, it offers the students excellent opportunities to speak at length in the target language with the instructor, providing excellent practice for the speaking portion of the AP exams.

  9. Kevin,

    To echo Ben’s first sentence, sophomores are just hard. That’s why I love them. They are quite honestly sort of losing their minds to the hormones and the place they are in the food chain. They will come back as fairly adorable juniors.

    I am teaching mostly sophomores this year. Two things I have to offer: one is a principle and one is a practice.

    The principle is to serve up to them, routinely (once a week or once every 10 days) something outrageously easy and fun in Latin. It feels so good to do something that is so fun. LLPSI has a story line that goes dull every so often. For example: Go back to one of those dull spots (which means it will be easy because you are going back) and tell them that this story needs some pizazz. Then, ask a crazy story with them. Make sure you have a scribe who writes it all down. Maybe two scribes, and then you take what they write down and re-do it so that it’s something to read the next day, something to illustrate, something to act out, etc.

    Practice: my sophomores LOVE Word Chunking. It’s in Ben’s workshop handouts. I’ve modified it to go along with new vocab (only 4 per day) and asking stories. If you want, email me and I’ll send you my adaptation. I don’t do that every week, but parcel it out every other week. They LOVE it. They BEG for it. And so, I serve it up, every other week. BTW, this week’s the week! I’m so excited. Bob (

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