Since January

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25 thoughts on “Since January”

  1. My continuing frustration seems to be the constraints of the forty minute period. PQA, story invention, discussion of a drawing followed by a comprehension quiz is a big problem when our mantra is “slow”. There has to be a way where the story is not truncated from class to class. I find the energy is gone on day two. Routine and pacing, in my opinion, can facilitate slow. In addition, when classes begin to experience story fatigue, there has to be a time for PAT type activities which the kids can enjoy and still be getting CI. Just a few of my conundrums!

    1. Annemarie Orth

      I, too, have 40 minute classes (6 every day) and I never fit it all in one class period. I end up spending a class helping students learn the three structures through PQA and then we might start the story. The next day we either get into the story, or I type up some of the PQA conversation from the day before and do an embedded reading with the students. Sometimes the stories are lame and flat-this probably has to do more with my lack of energy and excitement on a particular day . I feel like I lose particular students when I go very slow (like my native speakers.) I would love some help with this!

      1. Annemarie someone in administration has made a questionable decision – there should be no native speakers in that class. On that assumption, we place the adult Einstein in a beginning science class.

      2. On losing students, Annemarie, it is my strong opinion that we lose students because we go too fast. Always. FAST is the biggest ingredient in lame stories. You are not going too slowly. First, get those native speakers down into the library to work on their reading and writing skills. Next, understand that we are not magicians and our job is to speak in the target language to our students, not to make them laugh. Lame and flat stories are the norm. When happiness and fun emerges, they emerge from the organic process going on – happiness and fun can’t be planned. But we can create an atmosphere in which serendipity can occur more easily. We do this by going slowly enough and inviting our kids to play the game. Here is what Blaine says about that:
        I believe people who are the most effective at TPRS don’t tell stories. They ask questions, pause, and listen for cute answers from the students. The magic is in the interaction between the student and teacher. TPRS is searching for something interesting to talk about. That is done by questioning. Interesting comprehensible input is the goal of every class. If we are there to tell a story, we will probably not make the class interesting. We will be so focused on getting the story out that we won’t let the input from the kids happen.

  2. Melanie Bruyers

    On my mind for the rest of the year is trying to include more plurals forms. My students are familiar with the singular forms, but need more work on the plural forms, even of the most common verbs and all the pronouns in all the cases and this in German 2 and 3. I have failed in this respect: my PQA and my stories have been singular with very rare plural forms. I have started to add multiple characters and will start adding more questions about friends and families of the students, not just about the individual students. I haven’t seen much discussion about this, except that Blaine recently said on moretprs that if the students don’t know all the forms of the most common verbs, you should stop and teach them, so that is what I am doing.

    1. Melanie getting plural forms is not that easy. It sounds easy but it’s not. Do the math. The plural forms represent half of all possible verb forms in the language. That’s a lot. How many hours of direct CI in German have your level 2’s had? If you have been speaking German in class 95% of the time, they have heard about 300 hours of German, which is about 2% of the 18,000 hours needed to learn a language. I don’t know if that is the exact number, but it makes the point, which is that it is a very impressive achievement that your students have gained some degree of command over the singular forms! Honestly, in my opinion, the plural forms are best taught in reading classes. Any grammar can be taught in reading classes. For the first time this year, I am devoting between 40% and 50%of my available instructional time to reading. So, even if one of your stories was mostly in the singular, you can then write it up for the reading class in the plural. The kids would decode it easily because, at least in French, the singular and plural forms usually resemble each other enough for that to happen. Possessive pronouns are another example. They are much more rare than plurals in stories. So I consciously embed them into reading classes. Since at a certain point in all my reading classes after the explanation of the grammar, there is a discussion of the text in L2 (Blaine’s Read and Discuss technique), I can then get some direct auditory practice on possessives when we read and discuss. So it can be the same way with plural forms. We can teach any grammar we want in readings. When they read, they learn it all.

  3. Chill,
    I hear you! We have 55 min periods. It is a short time to get everything we want to do done. Not only do we want to do all of the steps but we also want variety and movement! I have been LOVING my songs this year and we have been doing one, sometimes two, a week. I have let go of the idea of “Monday PQA, Tuesday Story, etc” I take as long as it seems vital to do PQA and take as long as we want on a story. On day two I do a quick review with lots of questions, movement/gesture and acting all parts but it’s when my kids come up to resume their roles that I see the smiles and the interest on the faces of the class. (I have lots of costumes and they love it!)
    When you mentioned PAT, I don’t do that per se but I do try to include a variety of activities (for me and for them) that I think have value and CI. This week we played Charades and we loved it! I had chosen important phrases from our two stories using current structures. (I have them read stories from the other class so we have two stories at the same level in each language I teach). One person from each team came up, read the sentence and then went back to their team to act out the sentence. It was so cool to see them doing gestures we had practiced and the team excitedly saying the words in Spanish/French. The team then had to write out the sentence correctly to win the round. I like this because they help each other with spelling and grammar issues. I try to give points to encourage all (3 for the first team correct, 2 for the second, 1 for the third, but sometimes I give 1 point to every team that gets it correct) It’s funny because they really want the points but no one seems to notice that they don’t total them up at the end and there is no real winner.
    I feel that I have to find ways to let go and relax about everything. I am trying to make myself, my health and a life outside of school a priority right now.
    I am happy to see the focus of this discussion moving to ways we can support and inspire each other and away from worrying about people who just don’t get this yet. Bravo!

    1. I am happy to see the focus of this discussion moving to ways we can support and inspire each other and away from worrying about people who just don’t get this yet.
      Right on Carol! We needed to talk for a bit – for a little over a week now – about why the blog went idle these past months, but that time is over and that discussion is over. We enjoyed over three years of talking here with that kind of bitchy edge , but now we have to work at getting better at our craft. To me that means working together at every opportunity mainly via peer observations and the use of videotape to dance the dance. No experts. That’s what I meant by walk the walk in that last post. I’ll never forget sitting in a bar with Diana and Joe Dziedzic (GWHS) and Mark Mallaney (TJHS) about a year ago. Those two young superstar teachers both said to me that evening that they didn’t give a fig about whose politics were this or that. They just wanted one thing – information about this way of teaching.

  4. Perhaps one way to get the most out of the structures is to script some of it. I trying to script some PQA possibilities for my activity words. About a month ago, I tried this with “plays an instrument.” I wrote up a whole bunch of different possibilities. That ended up being a hugely successful class, I think because it helped me to stay focused on the structures and to be creative (It’s much easier to be creative when 30 kids aren’t looking at me). We found out who liked to play guitar, and who liked to play French horn, who liked to eat guitar (and who with chocolate vs. salt and pepper, and whose guitars they would like to eat), who would never eat guitar. The planning really helped me to focus on reps of plays an instrument (even though it doesn’t look like it in this summary).

  5. I realize I misunderstood you. When you said scripting, I thought you were talking about all writing down all of the questions you could think of to ask them. What you really said was “scripting possible responses” (do I understand you?)–a way to prime your own pump and imagination as it were. Now, I get it. I guess it could actually be the same thing.

    1. I meant thinking of all the questions I could think of to ask them using reps of “play (an instrument).” For me this also did help when the students got stuck for answers, it gave me somewhere else to go so that I didn’t lose confidence and the discussion didn’t lose energy. I was able to use my notes as needed to help me keep repeating target phrases in interesting ways.
      I think I’m going to make a vocab wiki of possible questions as part of my prep for the beginning of next year. Anybody want to join me?

  6. “gave me somewhere else to go so that I didn’t lose confidence and the discussion didn’t lose energy” = very important (IMHO).
    Sometimes, even though I am listening carefully to kids answers, things (pqa/story) are just not going anywhere. I can get off kilter, lose the thread and the momentum–so I know what you’re talking about.
    I often pre-script circling options and more open-ended questions for structures I am using. I don’t always use all my notes, but I like being able to refer to them. They often let me know where I am: staying with the structures OR (heaven forbid, quite common) straying far from the structures and creating too much demand on their brains with too much stuff.
    Unfortunately, my notes are often scribbled on a piece of paper that I carry around as I teach. Having that kind of stuff on a wiki (not that I actually know how wikis really work) sounds cool! Thanks for explaining your process, Carla.

  7. Jody the PQA was dragging a bit last hour today and I thought of your chair idea and it really helped. My marker became a microphone and I just interviewed a kid with superior skills in kindness who was willing to come up and play the game by responding with cute answers and we rolled from there. That is a really good idea for PQA and I know you use it a lot in stories.

  8. Count me in on the vocab Wiki Carla. That sounds like a phenomenal idea, and I know I’d benefit by making myself go through that scripting process more.

  9. We are on a 4×4 schedule, which means we have an 88 minute block every day for half a year and in January we start again with a different group of students.
    Today, I felt like I was floundering in deep water. I was trying to get the repetitions in PQA with circling, but I felt like everything was falling on deaf ears. What works first period often doesn’t work at all second period.
    The feeling of drowning was very strong. I looked around at their faces and saw overload in all of its different manifestations, then I looked at my boards and saw that information, uf. I want to learn how to put my head back and float when the drowning feeling hits. Actually, I want to get there before that feeling hits. So, I’m charging the digital/video camera and working on floating on the 3 structures tomorrow.

  10. Clarice you say this:
    …I want to learn how to put my head back and float when the drowning feeling hits….
    What I am sensing is that on this blog there is a whole lot of honesty going on, surfacing, a new level of it, less bullshit. This is a good example of it. Byron said something incredibly honest today as well, but it got removed because of the 1963 thing.
    It makes sense. There aren’t a lot of life boats around. There are more sharks than lifeboats. There’s nobody in our classrooms to come to our rescue when what you described happens. No precedent. All of us trying it out as best we can with very little actual time to be together and learn. What a time we are in.
    Clarice – the feeling of drowing is an old friend of mine. I have known it in the classroom and in the middle of the night and in the mountains on my bike and lots of places. Often. I don’t feel good enough. But I have come to see the drowning feeling as my friend and as my teacher. And it has become those things.
    Now let’s at least try to give you some water wings for tomorrow. What courage in your words! To feel like you’re drowning and instead of high tailing it to solid land you grab the videocamera and tomorrow will dive even deeper into the PQA whirlpools. It will be worth it, je t’assure.
    Look for a starter blog on PQA as a post here in a half hour. It may begin a discussion about what to do when you’re drowning. And we’re all drowning. This involves a lot of people. We, unlike you, just won’t admit it.

  11. Sometimes the thing that is weighing us down in the water is THREE structures. One that becomes an anchor, let go. Swim around a little with questions…pick the question/structure/path that has the least rip tide and go with it. Miraculously, one or more or of the other structures will naturally surface…or…a better structure…an additional lift raft will surface for you to use.
    with love,
    Laurie

    1. I like that! When I try to do three, it feels frantic or I just never get to the third one. and as you said above sometimes other structures surface.

  12. Laurie good idea. I am not seeing how three structures is even possible usually. Except that it does have the advantage of making the music into a trio and not a duet – more very valuable possibilities for riffing in the PQA with the third up there on the board.
    But I personally can’t get more than 80 reps in a class on just two. I’ve been trying. So perhaps it’s best to give up trying to get the reps on the third structure and just present it and use it to get more interest in the PQA, because it certainly does work – is immensely valuable – for that.

    1. You wrote a post somewhere a while back called “party pooper” or something like that, alluding to how the second and third structures can really kill a good CI party because of our worry to get to them, and not let the story flow where the interest lies.

  13. What I learned from my tapes.
    1. What felt like slower than a snail wasn’t quite that slow. It was super slow for me and very slow for those who understand, but not slow enough for everyone.
    2. I didn’t get in enough repetitions of the structures, but it transitioned into a story that is poised to get in many more.
    3. That while I’m worrying about getting it all in, they don’t realize I haven’t.
    4. I say some really wierd one word expressions in English.
    5. We had a lot more fun than I was able to recognize during class.
    Thank you all so much for your ideas.

  14. Nice. I like 2 especially because when you get that natural transition going out of PQA into the story it feels good. I never thought about 3 – very cool idea there. Yes on 4. I do that a lot and it is a good thing to do. Most of us aren’t perfect in the languages we teach and we don’t live in those cultures so how could we be expected to remember obscure words. I have known French people living in the States do the same thing with their French. Today I stumbled on “brains”. I knew it but couldn’t remember it. I looked at the kid on Word Reference at the computer and she confirmed what I thought. But I could have said the whole thing using the American word. So what? I also said Peruvian Mountain Village Neighbor in English. I didn’t want to take the time to write that out in French so said it in English. Big deal.

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