Six Things to Remember …

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9 thoughts on “Six Things to Remember …”

  1. phoebe abrahamsen

    The Six Things to Remember are spot on! I’ve written them down for myself.
    I am still trying to figure out the following: If you are using story scripts from say Anne Lambert on your story days and reading Pauvre Anne on the other days – how do you handle the unfamiliar vocab. in the novel?
    I ask because I have been using the upcoming unfamiliar vocab. from the novel on my story days because I didn’t know how to actually handle the unfamiliar vocab. while reading the novel. Hope I expressed my question and would love to get your response.
    Thank you, Phoebe

  2. Phoebe I am a believer that vocabulary exposition in language classes cannot be legislated, even in schools. It has taken me many years to be able to “come out” on that particular point, because there is this kind of fear that the kids won’t know words as they move into the reading classes if they are not “aligned” with the stories, and so we need to align stories with readings, etc. etc.

    I ain’t gonna do it. I haven’t been doing it this year. Guess what? The kids, so far at least (just getting into Pauvre Anne for real now in October) handle this novel with ease. Why? Three reasons:

    1. They have heard so much structure in class, of a rather sophisticated level, that, simply put, they are comfortable with reading because of the RICH AUDITORY CONTENT they have experienced on Mondays and Tuesdays so far this year. I know, I know, it’s suspect. But not for me so far! It is freeing to be able to say that.

    2. Blaine’s novels are written with such compact repetition and an eye to simplicity that the combination of all of the Anne Lambert stories, with all of their rich vocabulary (she teaches high school) that my middle school students read Blaine’s Pauvre Anne with ease.

    3. Who can pen language inside of something? It’s like herding cats. Imagine a million cats running around the Kansas prairie. Now, are we going to pick out certain cats and get them into a big pen that we built just for that purpose. Why try? Even nobody agrees with me on this I am going to teach this way. Of course, if I FEEL like writing a reading based on the story, and personalizing its content, I will. But what teacher has such time?

    Now, I understand that there is a jump in difficulty with Fama, Blaine’s second level 1 novel, but I’m just not worried about it. I may go to Mira Canon’s pirate novel next before Fama, because I understand it fills a gap there between Anne and Fama. And then I want to read three or four more of Blaine’s novels by June. At which point I would put my kids up against any in the nation in listening and reading, which I enjoy.

    But I ain’t worried. If it happens that my kids can’t read because the stories they are doing aren’t aligned, you will see that mea culpability loud and clear on this blog. But so far, so good!

    Apres tout, the general idea of how we plan lists and align with books is just so old and wearisome. Good God, why don’t we all just chill, and go in with some ripping stories, take a big fat breath of air, and just do stories and love our kids and read the best pre-prepared reading stuff out there that Blaine wrote?

    We all need to be let out of the sick can that the last century of pain has caused. I am working hard at that, so aligning vocabulary with reading classes is just not a high priority item for me to do. I know, it’s heresy. But, as I said, you will be the first to know if my current plan flops. But it ain’t gonna flop, because Blaine’s books are just too well written. They represent level-appropriate vocabulary so accurately that whatever I say in a story is going to align naturally with his novels.

    I ain’t gonna write stories for reading classes. I used to, and it sucks, and the kids don’t benefit all that much. Of course, implicit in my point here is the need to fully understand Blaine’s read and discuss technique for reading (searchable on this site but you already do it probably).

  3. I like your story about the package. I find it very hard to choose the 3 structures on ANY story. In your story, for example, I saw “afraid of”, “called”, and “refused to help”. But none of these were repeated in the story except for “really afraid”. So I don’t see what the structures could be, and I don’t see how they are repeated.

  4. I have experimented with scripting stories to go with Blaine’s novels. The process is essentially the same as with the random stories. I don’t like them as much because I lose the spontaneity that results in things like people being afraid of packages, for example. But if anyone out there is interested in seeing a hand out on how to script stories from Blaine’s novels, send me an e-mail and I’ll send you the hand-out.

  5. Ben,

    I’m probably dipping into too many sources. For one, I really like to sing in class, so I’m using a new song at least every other week. So the kids get that vocabulary. I’m not doing a whole lot to assess it, because I’m so new to this that I am not covering all my bases.

    Then we’re reading interesting articles from Russian Newsweek, just because it’s fun. Before that, we were reading short stories in Russian. Now we’re also on a Poor Anna track, though our stories sure don’t reflect it. And at the same time, my “benchmark” vocabulary comes from a textbook in Russian 1 and the frequency lists in the other levels.

    So what’s happening? It’s all converging. Funny thing…the same structures get used, over and over again. And the high-frequency words get used over and over. The word for “dancefloor” today was a combination of “dance” and “field” and EVERY kid got it instantly in a song today. So I’m beginning to think that, aside from occasionally copying whatever you’re doing with days of the week and throwing in foods, etcetera, I don’t need to worry about what the vocabulary is.

  6. Wow… such an old post. A great reminder though. I definitely need to check myself on going slow, especially with remote learning where it’s easy to slip into faster speech since, you know, it’s hard to see students’ eyes. So very few of them have their eyes on me. But yeah, I need to slow it down.

  7. What are your thoughts on this now?

    “Of coures, this is not a formula – a story without three locations can work just fine. Even one location works – it is not the amount of locations, it is the amount of comprehensible input, but I do find that when I follow through three locations in a story, the kids seem to understand more because, as mentioned, of the repeated structures that tend to occur more frequently in that format.”

    I do your OWI’s all the time, but I do notice that the language rolls off my tongue with much greater ease and flow when I do a script that has repetition, like Anna Matava’s Refrigerator story, where a character is walking home from school and 1) gets hungry so goes into a house, opens up the refrigerator and gets something to eat, then 2) gets thirsty so goes into another house, opens the frig and gets something to drink, and then 3) gets tired so goes into house number 3 and falls asleep.

    Maybe the OWIs work well because we are, in a way, following a script. The same script every time, well, to a large extent. We ask about the color of the thing, the size, how it feels, what it does for work, what it’s favorite activity is, etc.

    I have to be careful: I notice that I often rush through a problem and resolution because I don’t want to spend another day developing a OWI. I don’t want students to feel it being tedious, onerous. And when I rush through I end up speaking fast and introducing new vocabulary without the needed visual support. I think I need to be more open to spending another 30 minutes on developing the full story. I could just talk through the problem and attempt to resolve the problem but fail to do so. Failing to resolve problem and then trying again could easily be 30 minutes.

    Going back to the three locations idea, or the repetition of structures, I think there are a few golden stories by Matava, or other mini stories that we’ve vetted out here on the blog, that are really nice additions to sprinkle in from time to time throughout the year. The Afraid of the Package is one. The Refrigerator Story is another. I also like the The Neighbor Saw Everything Matava story. A mini story I’ve used for a few years now for beginner students is:

    Person A has (something)
    Person B wants (that something)
    Person A gives/doesn’t give (that something) to Person B

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