This goes under the simplicity banner. Today I:
– sent by boss my lesson plans. It took three minutes because they are the same every week.
– called Matava for a story because I do that whenever I will be observed that week.
– graded some scantron T/F tests from last week and put them in the gradebook. That took fifteen minutes.
– hung out with my department home boys and girls in our common planning.
– got the news from my AP on how he took those those two kids out of my classroom and talked to him for awhile.
– enjoyed my three French 1 classes just doing some PQA for the story tomorrow and the reading Wednesday.
I admit that I am now a half time teacher, but it doesn’t change the victory. There was no sense of hurry. Everything was simple and no tasks or activities were piled up to throw off my sense of balance. I had no fear, as I used to, of seeing certain people in the hallway. My classes were slow and fun and I focused on the kids, trying to get these victims of the pedagogy of poverty to open up and be more human in spite of their years of training to do the opposite under the blanket of false instruction.
It was a good day. It sounds so simple and it was. The astounding part is that a simple, uncluttered day happened in a school in the United States for a teacher. That is so rare these days. I remember the days when I looked and felt like I was on crystal meth for all the insane things I would do in the course of a day.
We can simplify our teaching, you guys. We can do this. Deep breath. Though the world be crazy all around us, in those psychically dangerous hallways that can be so very, very dark, we have reason to act otherwise.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
7 thoughts on “Simplicity”
I agree. To some extent, it’s our choice whether we will allow the pace of school culture to determine the pace of our classes and our lives during school hours. My pre-TPRS self would have spent today fretting about planning and cramming in many activities for each period; fretting about how few class days I have between now and christmas break to “get through” the material; fretting about trying to schedule a big test in two weeks that would not be on the same day as the other big tests that my students will be taking in their other classes during that week. Instead, I just let all that go. I had started stories last Friday, so we simply reviewed and expanded those today. I spent at least 80% of my classes in the TL, and spent my prep periods catching up on the blog, reviewing class stories, and reading over some cultural material to introduce in a few days. It was a very productive day, without the stress. It doesn’t have to be crazy all the time, we just have to make the decision not to give in to the craziness.
Right. And something that really helped in the classes today was that I PQA’d “ate” and “drank” again, because the story Anne suggested, “The Neighbors Saw Everything” – p. 36 vol. 1 – required them again. No big deal! I PQA’d them again. I never plan structures out any more. I don’t work from lists, except my word wall and that is becoming less important as well. I just asked them what they ate and drank this morning and over the weekend and what kinds of food and drink they like. Of course they took it to alcohol, and I stopped that. I don’t joke about alcohol and drugs with teens.
This notion of simplicity is fascinating. Things are simple, yes, but more complex when I think about it. I have noticed that my school life is less stressful for me when it comes to lesson planning and preparing. However, I always feel that I am one step forward and two steps back when it comes to learning about TPRS, reading PQA in a Wink!, researching. My head is barely above water, but that’s what keeps me coming back day after day, I suppose–so much to learn!
Quick question, however: I have been home sick for the past two days with a killer cough that is leaving me drained. I know there’s plenty out there about sub plans and what to do–it was pretty simple for me. FVR, read a story, work with a partner to translate. I have good students who work well in partners and we usually have good subs. But I really wanted to give my students the opportunity to free write, but there were two problems: 1-I teach elementary school and I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the best format for them to do this in and 2-I certainly didn’t want to make their first free-write experience with a sub. Any thoughts/advice? Sorry to turn the topic….
They always want to be inappropriate
Hi Allison–great sub plan, but I don’t recommend their first free-write be with a sub-too stressful for everybody.
How about doing a 4-6 panel cartoon drawing of the reading they did in class.? Have them write a descriptive phrase in each box with the drawing or write labels all over their pictures. This also helps those kids who just can’t seem to get a story into six panels (I always have kids who want to draw more or kids who don’t want to draw at all.) With elementary ones, sometimes I don’t even know what it is they drew, so the labels/phrases can be very helpful.
Here’s what I find: Kids, who are ready to write, write up a storm on these cartoons. Kids, who aren’t so ready, stick with the shorter labels. I encourage my kids use their “word cards” and, of course, the reading, to copy words or phrases. I notice that my “faster acquirers” don’t copy and easily use original language on their assignments. My lower kids use the readings/cards to help scaffold themselves to writing.
When I come back the next day, I am greeted with (by several): Read mine. Show it to the class. With their permission, I show them on Elmo and we have another review round of CI with our structures.
Thoughts and advice on elementary free-writes:
If I am smart (not always), I can ask one of the kids, whose drawings are stellar and cover the story well, to do a “blank” drawing–no words. Next we have a session of modeling:
With that drawing on the overhead, I ask the class, “How can we start this story?”. This is really important to do. Many kids actually get stuck right here, when they first begin free writes on their own, choke, and then believe–“I can’t do it. I hate this, etc.”. We come up with a beginning: “There is a girl. Her name is Tuti.” (simple, simple). I write this on another piece of paper, skipping lines (on the doc projector). After I write it, I read it aloud. Someone says what it means. Back to the drawing. More discussion about Panel #2. I write on the writing paper. I read it aloud again–from the beginning. Someone tells me what it means. Panel #3, etc.
The next time we meet, I give them a copy of the drawing. Not all kids are good at far-point observation (on screen). The constant shifts from paper to screen to paper, and back, are difficult for a number of kids, so having their own copy can help them get the task done more efficiently. Now, they just write the story from the drawings.
Interestingly enough, not everyone’s story looks the same when they turn them in. Some write much more than others. The spread is all over the map–even on the first writing. They are not permitted to ask for any help during the writing period. I encourage the “whipper snappers” to be creative, add descriptive words, change the ending, add a scene, etc–with a little whisper in the ear. I don’t time it–way too stressful for 10-11 year olds and unnecessary. I write the current structures on the board. Most don’t even look up there–but some do. I want the first several (4-5) writing events to be successful for every kid. The first couple of years (grades 5-6), all writing is done from picture prompts which reflect our target structures. I have to remember what I am assessing: their language, not their ability to make up a story.
I don’t correct their writing. I read it. The next day, each kid folds the paper in half and we paste it into a flimsy, cheapo, composition book of about 20 pages. Every writing they do goes here. It is very instructive to see their progress in this way. I can pull that book out for phone calls, conferences, team meetings, narrative grade reporting, etc. I have found it invaluable.
The last writing of the year, we count words. Then, THEY count the words from their first writing and compare. It is ALWAYS a joyous moment as you can imagine.
Elementary kids are still acquiring so many basic skills, I hesitate to use “high school” templates, like timed free-writes, with them. What I do now has evolved over the years and will probably continue to evolve.
As the kids get better at this, during the “pre-composition” writing on the doc projector, I also write augmented ideas on the skipped lines. For instance: There is a girl. (I ask for a word to describe the girl and write “intelligent” with a ^ underneath between “an” and “girl”. Of course, this is in the target language.) Her name is Tuti. (On skipped line, I write an alternate way to say this.) My higher kids will tune into these things. My lower ones can’t even remember I wrote the alternate things–so I dont’ worry about it. They will only write what they’ve acquired.
Doing pop-up grammar during this pre-writing process is PERFECT–but I don’t do too much of it. It can get overwhelming really fast for beginners. Not necessary.
I use the cartoon panels from Cuentos Fantasticos or Cuéntame and C Más to do this most of the time. Sometimes, I use student drawings.
Hope these ideas are helpful.
Wow, Jody, this is amazing! Thanks so much. It’s funny, when coming up with my sub plans for today, I had them to a drawing of the story they had to read yesterday when I was absent. Then, on the back of each panel, they had to write the sentence(s) from the story that correspond with that image. I think I can get some mileage out of this. But this is huge, thank you. They have composition books into which they put stories we have worked on so they have a record of all that we have done. It’s also where they keep vocab we have studied through the year. Since this is my first year of TPRS, I imagine I’ll just keep tweaking and perfecting this idea, but your thoughts are so helpful. My kiddos start in 4th grade, so by the time they get to 6th they have some good language under their belts. But this is a lot of food for thought.
I love that Jody!! That’s amazing. Keep it up 🙂