Request from Michele

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13 thoughts on “Request from Michele”

  1. Hi Michele,
    I teach those ages now. I’ve found that they need more breaks after the intensity of listening and responding in the target language, and of course their pace of processing is slower. Even in English, clarifying directions must be one step at a time, and then one of them needs to repeat the instructions back most of the time for things to be clear to everyone. They also tend to ask random, unrelated questions at any time in grade 5 & 6. Not so much in grade 7.

    I also think these ages really need, not just benefit from but need, visuals and cues to tie to what they hear. Just a student actor doesn’t seem enough in the case of my students – unless for a short scene, when it works really, really well. But I never do long, actor-based stories with these ages. I’ve just not had it work well. I don’t find they can sustain the train of thought so long so well. But lots of short scenes really go well! My repetitions with target structures come not from 3 locations, but from 3 actors and 3 parallel scenes.

    I think anything that made use of Russian totally understandable and involved them would be captivating to them after their experience. Hope it goes beautifully for you.

  2. In speaking of grades 5 though 7, Diana said:


    … a student actor doesn’t seem enough in the case of my students ….


    …these ages really need, not just benefit from but need, visuals and cues….


    …lots of short scenes really go well….

    I hope we hear from other teachers of kids those ages. I don’t know anything about those ages, except I did teach seventh graders for a number of years and couldn’t do much with them. They were way too squirrely for me.

    I don’t know how teachers who teach below 8th grade (the ideal age for stories in my opinion) are able to do it. I had a bunch of 12 year olds – most were girls – at Breckenridge at iFLT three years ago and couldn’t get any mojo going, very little imagination was there for us. They were a 12 year old memorizers and I had four days to make magic happen and all they wanted was to be perfect memorizers. Chill was there. So was David Sceggel.

    So we need to hear asap from those teachers in this group who teach kids those ages. We need concrete ideas. I got nothing except am intrigued by what Diane said here:

    …my repetitions with target structures come not from 3 locations, but from 3 actors and 3 parallel scenes…

    So Diane if you could help Michele visualize that please let us know.

    My only thought is slow and simple. OK ideas needed before Thursday here for Michele….

    1. Here’s an example from much earlier in the year with grade 8, who act more like grade 6. I always call this “Special Chair” these days. (Thanks Jody in San Fran!)

      Targets: in the summer, at the beach, sings

      5 to 10 minute scene with first actor in a chair up front. Seated HELPS. Really what I’m aiming for is a 1-sentence scene: “So-and-so sings something at some beach (or not) in the summer” built through story-asking. Usually the first scene takes longer because it’s all newer. I have the targets on screen the whole time, and pause & point to them. I also do comprehension checks esp. if there are silent or quiet answers to the questions.

      I ask questions: Who is she? Is she so-and-so or such-and-such? Ah, she’s so-and-so. It’s the summer. Oh! Yes, it’s the summer. Is so-and-so at the beach? Yes, she’s at the beach in the summer. In the summer, the beach is great. What beach is it? A beach in Jamaica or in California? (restating the “facts” as I receive them from the kids in a sentence.) So-and-so sings at the beach in Jamaica in the summer. Does she sing at home in the summer? No! At the beach, right! In summer or winter? Not winter. (Could’ve done throwaway gag for advanced kids: In winter she sings in the bathroom.) In the summer, she sings at the beach. Does she sing in the spring at the beach? No. What does she sing at the beach in Jamaica in the summer? Chief Keef. Ah, yes, of course the quietest girl in the whole class sings Chief Keef in the summer at the beach in Jamaica. Let’s see you sing Chief Keef at the Jamaican beach in the summer, actress. Very good, that sounds great! Thank you, actress!

      Next actor, same targets, new answers. Then you can compare the second actor to the first student, too. I have a story artist, quiz writer, and recorder of deeds going if they are willing to take those jobs.

      I want to film one of these this month.

        1. I think you could think of it that way. At first, I thought of it like a one-word image with Chinese characteristics (avoiding almost anything but target structures in the questions — almost zero cognates Chinese-English makes that more necessary). Then, I thought of it as Special Chair. Your description works too!

          I do this instead of PQA sometimes, too, but usually do some PQA & gesturing first. This is often what I do on day 1 or 2 with new structures.

  3. Just like my program, grades 3-8, kids are placed with their grade, regardless of whether they’ve had 5 previous years of Spanish or none. TCI should be especially appealing, since it can work well with multi-levels.

    Stories work well for me with this age group, but in 1 period, I usually only get the background info established and maybe the first scene. I work with Matava scripts even for middle school kids, but I’ll adapt the structures and storyline. But, it would be hard to do a Matava script without having first done some stories exclusively with the Super 7 verbs: plots like Bob has x, but wants y.

    The Tripp script “Mucho Gusto” is what I imagine Diane is talking about when she says 3 actors/3 parallel scenes – 1 scene repeats itself, each time with different actors. A script like that may be great, since the kids in a traditional class are already going to know “My name is” and “nice to meet you.” In order for such a demo to work, I imagine it’s like reading: 95% of the text needs to be already comprehensible. It’s gotta feel easy and familiar.

    For me, I’ve had varying success with PQA. It has worked when I time it and keep it short and very focused (1 verb), accompanied with visuals, and/or started with sentence frames.

    That’s gotta be hard to demo and norm a class in 1 short demo. Can you CWB? OWI? TPR with novel commands? I find that age group sits more still for MovieTalk. A lot of blurting and zoning out can happen in stories. But then again, you’ll be “novel” to the group.

  4. Thanks to you all for the ideas. This is what the teacher just sent me:

    “The students can all write their names in Russian. We have been working with the following verbs:
    is sad
    and big/little, tall/short.”

    Here’s my current plan: start with a little TPR (and then a little bit of three-ring circus so as to establish players for later) to see whether the kids can connect the sound of these verbs to gestures. I asked the teacher whether she has pictures or whether I should bring some. She doesn’t have question words, but will create them for me.

    I will have kids write name tags with something they want, pick just a couple (unless someone out in the room has something another kid might want), and talk about some of those. Maybe I’ll take some chocolate or a fake pizza or something. (I don’t know whether they have “has,” “wants,” “gives,” and others, all basics to my first three weeks.)

    If I can, we’ll start a story with one of the kids going to places where the person who has the thing is thinking, reading, or sleeping. In the last case, the kid will take the desired item.

    If we don’t get there, we’ll do some sort of quick quiz or retell. I’m sure the first class will go too fast and then I’ll have a better sense for the second one…as Eric said, it’s not a lot of time for norming and CWB and a story.

  5. Michele, best of luck with your demo on Thursday! I have one on Thursday myself, also for middle school (8th grade French).

    I love your streamlined idea above and think it has the potential to sparkle for a demo because of a lot of different “activities” going on, plus the playfulness factor for middle schoolers with the TPR and 3-ring circus. I might have to steal you plan for my own demo! Here’s what I’ve understood as your rough-draft plan, which could maybe be THE plan for anyone doing a demo, since it’s so flexible for any kind of curricular material the observer(s) might have asked to see covered:

    1. Start with a little TPR
    2. Morph TPR into a little 3-ring circus
    3. Start talking about the kid’s name tags (supposing they made them at the beg. of the lesson). This could be either be classic CWB or just talking about things the students want, which they put on their cards (like you said above).
    4. [optional, time permitting] Start a mini “story” about an object one of the kids wants, have this kid go to the kid who has that object. The kid who has the object is doing X, etc. etc.
    5. Quick Quiz or some kind of retell about what happened during the class (retell the story or just restating things that happened during the class in the TL).

    I just emailed Ben to see if he’s able to post a request for help I sent him for my own demo, so hopefully with both our posts we’ll get some solid tips and ace our demos on Thursday.

    1. I would love to hear how people do a three-ring circus. I have never gotten that to be anything but very dead. I have wondered if it, like CWB, doesn’t go well with Chinese. No tenses or changes to verbs of any kind in Chinese, and I have a feeling that might be one aspect that makes 3-ring circus work.

      1. In my video demos, there’s one of 3-ring circus.
        I use it to introduce different tenses (What will Jon do? What is he doing? What was he doing?). In my opinion, 3-ring circus is best done in short spurts (5 minutes). I have always thought that it is one of those “teacher-y” activities and can start looking like a grammar lesson. I usually introduce 1 tense per class with 3-ring circus and slowly build to adding more tenses. Also, I’ll start with just a 1-ring circus. No requirement that it be 3 people. Having 3 rings can be distracting and it can be hard to get choral responses. Maybe, for that reason, it could be used to question about future and past without simultaneous actors, and the circus happens between discussions. . . It could certainly be used as a way to spice up some TPR and not used to deliver tense-based input.

        1. I just watched that 3-Ring Circus of yours, Eric. I see! A great way to teach the verb tenses. I definitely have to put this on my “rotating activities” list.

  6. I used it practicing with my first-year kids for the junior high class. I picked out three activities that would answer different questions. Sasha was sleeping at school (not at home). Eric was singing quietly. Jaycie was going to Kenny’s house quickly. They have to keep doing the action and doing it and doing it while I ask. The whole class has to answer. I try to keep it moving. “Who is sleeping? How is Jaycie walking? Where is Sasha sleeping? Who is singing quietly? Is Jaycie walking slowly? Is Sasha sleeping at home? Is Eric singing loudly?”

    Today this was so that there would be a reason that the various students would not be able to give Cameron the skates he wanted so much. And even though he did steal them from the sleeping girl, it turned out that they were too little after all. He was laughing at first, but then he was sad.

    We’ll see what tomorrow’s kids want. Good luck to Greg! I’m not under pressure (except that I suspect I’ll have more than the teacher watching me).

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