Report from the Field – Lori Belinsky

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17 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Lori Belinsky”

  1. 1. A math teacher’s classroom was across from my own years ago (in a middle school) and we used to talk in between classes. She saw me gesturing in my class all the time. I talked her into attending a week long Fluency Fast workshop with Jason and Karen in Denver both to learn Spanish and study gesturing as it might apply to teaching math. In just one year she ended up with vastly improved scores in her low achieving math classes. I think gesturing and math has been studied enough in the general literature that your math teachers could have a field day with this. It’s something to mention to them, anyway, if they don’t already do it. It is very whole brain, if you think about, which is what we do.

    2. Last year I spoke to the Abraham Lincoln faculty specifically about my Classroom Rules. I’ve never had a more interested audience – they sat up with clear eyes, squared shoulders and they listened with the intent to understand. Those rules had first caught the attention of administrators who then asked me to speak to the faculty. Some of the teachers you work with in your school may want to adapt the poster on this site that many of us use. I would definitely have it on the wall when you present. I predict that the biggest response in your presentation will be in this area. I think it is your strongest point in terms of overlapping what we do with what might help them.

    3. You could share what we do in reading with all their language arts and ELA people. I think they really might be interested in how we limit early reading to simple texts that get them focused on meaning so we can get multiple camouflaged reps of target vocabulary. I don’t think that they do this – camouflaging reps in simple texts. As you indicate, they don’t handle lower tier vocabulary very well. I think that the texts they read are all too hard. I would look at Carol Gaab’s website and find all you can about reading there and share it with those language people in your building. Admins are the key here. They can bring more pressure on lang arts and ELA teachers if they themselves have a more thorough undestsanding of Krashen. In my opinion Krashen is not only the world expert on second language acquisition but also on reading, and most schools (textbooks obcure Krashen) don’t sufficiently bring Krashen’s ideas into their general reading programs, to their immense loss.

    4. Yes on the relationships part. This is so key. Here is a passage from p. 56 of PQA in a Wink!

    The teachers of the future will bring to the foreign language classroom peaceful, slow, heartfelt, reciprocal, and spontaneous human interaction. They will have authentic respect for the students and will want to show it. They will help prevent their students from “disappearing into themselves” all day. They will draw students into class activities without force.

    Students will look forward to entering such a classroom. And why not? The teacher thinks it a grand thing that they read and like strawberries!

    Whenever you end the personalization phases described in this book, at the end of the fall or at the end of the year, you will have achieved at that point:

    1. great gains in many basic target language verbs and nouns,
    2. much more comprehension by your students than you could have ever thought possible,
    3. a sense of loyalty from the students in the classroom,
    4. a sense of fun in every class period, and
    5. a genuine interest in your job as a foreign language teacher.

    I will send you an ecopy of that book and please share it with anyone who wants to read it, even though it is written for language teachers. They might get some specific ideas on the personal relationships part from it. The more specific you are with them, the better, on all these topics.

    I would also refer them to some of the Jeanne Gibbes Tribes books which describe new ways of learning and being together in classrooms.

    There is so much in this area but, again, the teachers are going to need specifics and that is what I hope the group provides you with as we develop this thread. Hopefully by the end of the weekend you have lots of stuff to go through.

    Yes, it is very exciting. I remember when you first started out. Weren’t you faced with a project based/output focused format three years ago and were dealing with that? I think I remember that. You have obviously done much during those three years and are to be congratulated!

    I really hope that the group floods you in good information so that you can feel confident in this task. How wonderful!

  2. This is a great opportunity, Lori. Congratulations!

    Just a couple of comments from me.

    Ben has made some excellent points, especially about Classroom Rules and relationships.

    If any of the teachers are former scouts or have done any sailing, ask them if they remember how to tie a bowline knot and how they remember. I learned to tie a bowline a l-o-n-g time ago and I still remember: “Make a rabbit hole. The rabbit comes out of his hole, goes right around the tree, and pops back into the hole.” That translates as: “Make a loop in the standing end of the rope. The working end of the rope goes through the loop, around the standing end from right to left and back through the loop.” When you pull the knot tight, you have a loop at the end of your rope secured with a knot that won’t slip or change the size of the loop. But I remember how to do this because of a story – admittedly a very short story but a story nonetheless.

    Be sure you address with English/ELA the fact that simplicity of vocabulary and language do not equate to simplicity of thought. My favorite example for this is the following passage:
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things that were made were made by him, and without him not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp hold of it.

    In the original Greek, as in the English translation, this passage is composed primarily of one and two-syllable words. The Greek has four four-syllable words (one used twice), and the rest are one and two syllables long. On a lexical scale, this would rank very low (easy reader), yet it has kept theologians busy for centuries trying to explore the meaning of all that is there.

    BTW, this helps me be aware of the creative tension in teaching foreign language to teenagers that I need to engage the brain of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year olds on that level while providing them with simple language.

    I would also point out that learning in all subject areas is not linear. We learn much more slowly when we are first introduced to a subject, but at a certain point there is sufficient foundation for the learning/acquisition to pick up speed. On a graph this would not be a straight line but an exponential curve. However, if we try to go too fast at the beginning, the foundation is not solid, so we will waste time later having to go back and try to fix the weaknesses in the foundation, and this will ultimately result in slower learning/acquisition than if we had taken our time at the outset. As our Latinists would remind us: Festina lent or “Make haste slowly”.

    In the area of history/social science the newer standards emphasize understanding concepts and movements of history rather than just dates, names, and places. What is the best way to learn that? Personalization and stories. When the names become real people, students care enough to remember them and their ideas. When places, dates, and concepts are embedded in stories, they become memorable. It’s one thing to read that there was resistance to the Nazis in Germany; it’s something quite different to read the story of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their involvement with The White Rose. Interestingly, by personalizing names we get to places, dates and concepts and thus the meat of history far more readily than just memorizing lists.

  3. Robert – after all these long years of my life, and you just very succinctly summed up why I love history and historical fiction is my genre of choice! I have always told people that I prefer historical fiction, because I am learning about history at the same time as reading an engrossing novel.
    And now I better understand what we do!! 🙂 thanks!

    ~~MB

  4. Lori –
    Congratulations! That is a wonderful turnaround – especially if it’s true that you turned it around from a project-based/thematic unit type of atmosphere! I am struggling with this. Please email me privately so I can learn from you! (after your presentation — when you have time! mbt719@yahoo.com)

  5. I went into our new Latin/English teacher’s room yesterday. She was using word walls for her Lit classes. She said it was more a reminder for her that for the kids…to keep going back to important terms. So that might be another possibility.

    (She also has Latin words around the room as she is experimenting with spoken Latin. I have sent her links by James Hosler and David Maust. After watching David, she said, “I could do that, because I could speak slowly.”)

    Our social studies coordinator was interested as I was explaining what I am trying to do with CI. He asked it would apply to other subjects. I suggested that the kids may miss key terms because they do not hear the teacher say the terms enough and interact using those terms.

  6. My Assistant Superintendent saw my Acquisition Model hanging at the front of my room and asked me to explain it, to which he then responded: “That really applies to every subject.”
    (the model is on page 4 of my TCI presentation amongst the primers here)

    The model shows that for input to become acquisition, it must be comprehensible, compelling, and the student confident, with low-anxiety – if we break our work down into principles, which I call the 7C’s then they apply to every subject.

    1. Comprehensible
    2. Compelling
    3. Contextualized
    4. Concentrated (reps)
    5. Core (high-frequency)
    6. Cumulative (recycle)
    7. Changing contexts (multiple meaningful contexts)

    Student jobs is another one you could introduce to all teachers in the building.

  7. From what I’m gathering from Robert’s and Ben’s comments on this thread, it sounds like teachers of other subjects, like history, would do well in writing their own stories for their students to hammer on certain vocab. I think that would be a hard sell. It takes time to write stories. But, then again, if they can just do it once in a while… and they can devote an entire class period to that one story, like we do with ROA.

  8. I had a kid in my 6th-grade Spanish class who spontaneously began to do this on his own in his science class to help him do better on tests. He wrote “bizarre/funny” stories with the information he was supposed to remember and then drew the story like a map–with labels, phrases, dialogue–just like we did in class with our stories. He even liked to have three locations. Wonder where he got that?

    I had nothing to do with it. Some other kid brought the stories/drawings to my attention. When I asked the student in question how this process worked for him, he said he’d noticed a big improvement in his ability to retain the information and have a deeper understanding of it. Just anecdotal, but interesting. Of course, who was this kid? He was a very bright and able child who did well in school–could have passed these tests anyway. He just thought this was much more interesting and useful. Me, too.

  9. My school started AVID classes last year. They are encouraging all of us to incorporate cornell notes. I am looking for any advice on how to do these with stories.

    1. Melissa, if I remember students write the notes and then go back and write the questions along the side, correct? If that is the case, maybe you could use them with a dictation to get down the core information and then use a circling question or two on it? I hope that can help make it useful to you.

      1. Thanks, Eric. That’s the kind of thing that I was thinking but on the form that the whole high school uses now it asks for teacher objective and essential question. My objective is that they understand written and spoken Spanish every day. The essential question part is where I am having trouble. We are supposed to fill this part out first but I go in with just one structure, sometimes 2, and we go with the story. Maybe I could use the structure as the essential question. I like the dictation and having students make 2 circling questions. BTW not all of my students are in the AVID classes but those students have to turn in so many cornell notes each week. I believe this will become more common though so I am trying to get information on it before we have to incorporate these in our classes.

  10. So much of what we do is just teaching to the eyes (i.e., forming a relationship) and going going slowly enough for everyone to understand (i.e., serving every student). Every discipline should do those two things.

  11. Hi All,

    I am working hard on this presentation and I will update after the November 4th PD day. Here are some thoughts I had on Ben’s comments. Hopefully some others find them useful as well.

    (Ben) 1. 1. ….. I think gesturing and math has been studied enough in the general literature that your math teachers could have a field day with this. It’s something to mention to them, anyway, if they don’t already do it. It is very whole brain, if you think about, which is what we do.
    (Me) Yes! I thought I had heard this. A Math/French teacher responded on the morelist as well with some great insight. She just sent me a testimonial to share. Her biggest points were: “Acquiring the language of Math”, circling, limiting the amount of terms and going slow. She even gave an example of having students act out “powers” (base/exponent/multiplier) with a step ladder. She spoke about the links between Common Core and TPRS. Which strangely I agree with. I do not agree with the testing connected to CC. (I know firsthand, we had to take a sample smarter-balance test) However I do like, as the math/French teacher stated, the focus on deep “conceptual understand” versus the broad ‘cover the curriculum’ mentality.

    (Ben) 2. Last year I spoke to the Abraham Lincoln faculty specifically about my Classroom Rules. I’ve never had a more interested audience…. Those rules had first caught the attention of administrators who then asked me to speak to the faculty. Some of the teachers you work with in your school may want to adapt the poster on this site that many of us use… I predict that the biggest response in your presentation will be in this area. I think it is your strongest point in terms of overlapping what we do with what might help them.

    (Me) I have combined your rules, jGR and the rigor poster into a weekly “Rigor Rubric” grade. The world language department in another high school in my district (we are three high schools and 4 middle schools) has copied and posted my “Rigor Rubric” in their classrooms. I have also created a positive reinforcement system, where students earn points towards a reward. I call it the “You Rock Campaign”; I have a physical representation of reaching 200 points in the classroom. ( a big sparkly Eiffel Tour of course!) The class moves up the scale and towards the reward. Most days a student goes over with the class the specific categories where they can earn points. The categories currently are: all on time, ready in 1 minute, respectful language, every 5 minutes we stay in French they earn a point, productive reading, and doing a reflection. I am considering adding no heads down and no cell phone use. Those are currently represented in the “Rigor Rubric” only. I also got rid of my desks in September. Now putting your head down is only for the diehards.

    (Ben) 3. You could share what we do in reading with all their language arts and ELA people…

    (Me) The First thing I thought of for ELA when planning this presentation was embedded reading. This seems like a great way to start with those tier one vocabulary words and work the way up to the academic tier. Unfortunately I think teachers will find this overwhelming considering how much they are supposed to “cover”. Secondly, I will definitely share Krashen’s research, particularly FVR.

    (Ben) 4. Yes on the relationships part. This is so key. Here is a passage from p. 56 of PQA in a Wink! –

    The teachers of the future will bring to the foreign language classroom peaceful, slow, heartfelt, reciprocal, and spontaneous human interaction. They will have authentic respect for the students and will want to show it. They will help prevent their students from “disappearing into themselves” all day. They will draw students into class activities without force.
    I love this so much! I will definitely incorporating this quote into the presentation.
    I will send you an ecopy of that book and please share it with anyone who wants to read it, even though it is written for language teachers. They might get some specific ideas on the personal relationships part from it. The more specific you are with them, the better, on all these topics.
    Thank you for being so generous! I have the paper copy and will comb through it to find specifics.
    I would also refer them to some of the Jeanne Gibbes Tribes books which describe new ways of learning and being together in classrooms.

    (Me) This book looks great (just ordered it), I honestly think I do well creating relationships with my students. I have found it incredibly easy to relate and connect to my kids. I feel like I was always meant to be a teacher. However, our district (not just the school) could use some help here. We are currently under a mandatory professional development series run by the Office of Civil Rights. This program is actually called “Whole Child” which is a term listed in the synopsis of the “tribes” book. My principal, maybe even higher-ups will find this book interesting.

    (Ben) Yes, it is very exciting. I remember when you first started out. Weren’t you faced with a project based/output focused format three years ago and were dealing with that? I think I remember that. You have obviously done much during those three years and are to be congratulated!

    (Me) My beginnings:
    When I started there was nearly no structure or curriculum. I was given textbooks and midterm/finals from a grammar/vocab traditional teacher who left two years before I started. I was also physically separated from the other language teachers as part of a “vision” for a more inclusive school. I dove right in with CI/TPRS. I inundated myself with CI literature and strategy books. I’ve never looked back.

    Where the district stands now:
    I guess you could say the school district at that time would have preferred project based/output focus curriculum. Now the buzz word is “proficiency based” and people are still concerned with output, but I am now world language content co-chair for the district and have more influence. My biggest road blocks are themed-based curriculum and output centered assessments. I am LOVING the discussion on the ACTFL forum about themes and authentic resources. I thank you and Eric Herman so much for this!! We need to keep influencing ACTFL. Only then will most if not all language students reach true proficiency rates all language teachers strive for!

    2 year requirement in DE:
    Because of the two year world language requirement in Delaware, WL programs are on admin’s radar more than ever. However not for good reasons. When I started the level 1 failure rate was well over 50%. TPRS has ASTRONOMICALLY improved the passing rate. Not only is the passing rate sky-rocketing but I have level 2 students who failed Spanish 1 two years ago who are now speaking French and loving it. Admin has been taking notice hence the invitation to present. I also have a fabulous WL colleague who is now 100% TPRS/CI. She was always a great teacher and naturally used some CI strategies. Now she is fully educated and GETS it.

    Thank you all for your support and suggestions! I will keep you posted on the presentation

    -Lori B.

    1. Lori, that “positive reinforcement system” is intriguing. I’d like to hear how that goes. My school has positive reinforcement money that students can earn and use to purchase things at the school store. I’m going to push for students to be able to use this money to purchase a “out-of-uniform day.”

      This also reminds me to put up charts of how long each class stays in the L2 before someone blurts out. Classes can look at how long they stayed in the L2 in comparison with other classes as well as with previous days of class. (I forget who presented this idea here… was it James Hosler?)

  12. Lori,

    I’m happy to check in and find your post. I wish you all the best on your presentation.
    This is another wonderful opportunity for you and all of us really.
    I know you will knock their socks out and I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

    Hugs and lots of wonderful thoughts going your way dear…

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