Starting the Year – Level 2

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53 thoughts on “Starting the Year – Level 2”

  1. Golly! I have the same situation — I’m looping about 40 kids from my last year’s French I group of 150 into a French 2, 3, 4-AP combo. They are voluntarily staying in my classroom instead of moving to the ‘fun, film, and food’ teacher’s French II and III course.

    At the beginning of this year, I was just going to go over the classroom jobs and my overall goals for the combo course, answer their questions about what we’ll be doing during the year, read some news items from the internet that I found interesting, and maybe a short story about back to school or summer.

    Then, stories from Anne Matava Mondays and Tuesdays, with news items, e-mail writing and short stories mixed in with dictees in the second half of the week. I figure the students that have chosen to stay with me will get to know one another slowly, and since they are more serious and mature, that this will be ok. But, I really don’t know.

    Last year, I spent time with my French APs trying to be casual and ‘get acquainted’ and they were goofy. They already knew my schtick, so they were immediately bored. And they were great students! So this year I’m thinking about a different start.

    I may get into September and change everything — at least the kids trust me a bit to act in their best interest!

    Good luck and let me know how you decide to run things.

    1. That goofy/bored thing is what I’m concerned about. I feel like I have to do something because I loved that community feeling last year, but I don’t want to start the year off with them being disappointed or feeling like the class is just a repeat of the same thing from last year! Good luck with your looping too!

      1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

        Hi Kelly,

        Just remind yourself that you are not there to entertain your students. You are there to provide them with Comprehensible Input.

        Granted, you also have to make the input compelling enough that they forget they are in a classroom learning another language so they focus on the message and acquire unconsciously.

        I remember having a discussion in San Diego with Ben, Grant, and Bryce. We were talking about the Pygmalion effect in which there is a direct correlation between students’ performance and expectation placed upon them. So the greater the expectation you place on your kids, the better they will perform and its corollary in which students’ performance will decrease as your expectations of them are lower.

        So make sure you tell all your kids, as well as convince yourself that they will ALL acquire the language and see if that Pygmalion dude was right.

        I know it’s easier said than done… Good luck, we’re all in the same boat.

        1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

          One more thing I want to add.
          In his latest article titled “Should we teach strategies” Krashen writes:

          “If this “compelling input” hypothesis is correct, it implies that second language acquirers should not listen to or read things just because they are in a language they want to acquire. Rather, they should try to listen to and read things that are genuinely interesting or compelling. Similarly, making friends with somebody just because they speak a language you are interested in generally doesn’t work.
          There is a simple test to determine if input in a second language is genuinely compelling: If you find yourself noticing interesting expressions, ways of saying things that you previously were-n’t familiar with, and making mental or written notes to try to remember them, the input is not compelling enough.”

          I’m starting to think that delivering Comprehensible Input is a piece of cake compared to delivering Comprehensible COMPELLING Input. Something may be compelling to a student and totally boring to another and/or vice-versa.

          Oh la la, the problems we face are not an easy walk in the park!

          1. One of my goals for this year is to purposefully listen to what my kids want to say – the structures they need to talk about their world. “I had fun” comes to mind as an example. Nathan Black wrote once that he makes little notes on his board when those structures come up and tries to work them into his CI.

          2. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

            Awesome idea, thank you Carol for bringing that up and thank you Nathan for inventing it!

            If there was a Krashen spectrum, I would be on the far left side, as I believe no set structures in a formal and chronological order are needed to teach a language. I agree it may seem radical or too liberal for some and I understand it can be unsettling. Therefore, to me this idea is cool b/c as I see it it’s backplanning from the perspective of students’ interest and personalization ( thank you Nathan !)

          3. Right, formal order is not needed to learn a language. But needed for this teacher to have a more peaceful life! Perhaps personality has more to do with it? (But also school expectations… easier to fulfill with a plan.)

  2. With my level 1s I always do the Circling with Balls.

    With level 2s/3s I do “fears” ¿De qué tienes miedo? Same idea as circling with balls, but instead of drawing a sport, they draw something they are afraid of.

  3. Kelly, you beat me to running some ideas about Circling with Balls/Props that I am considering this year.

    I have done this activity for 3-4 years now and have found that when all student in the level draw the same prompt,
    level 1 – draw what you do
    level 2 – draw what you are afraid of
    level 3 – draw what you would do if you had a $million
    level 4 – draw who/what you would be if you could be anyone/thing
    it tends to get a bit tedious after doing 20-25 of the same prompt.

    So this year I am considering letting students in each level pick from a list of 3-4 prompts ONE that they would draw on their card. Here are the options I am thinking of:

    a. level 1: Draw an activity you ( love to) do
    your pet (a picture pasted on the card)
    Your favorite possession

    b. level 2: Draw what you are afraid of (tiene mideo de….)
    what embarrasses you (tiene verguenza cuando….)
    What you feel like doing…..(tiene ganas de…)

    c. level 3/4: (These levels alternate every two years so I have a few more
    prompts.
    Draw: If I were a famous person I would be
    If I could go anywhere where would I go,
    If I were an animal I would be…..)
    If I could have anything I wanted i would have…..
    If I had a million $ I would…..
    If I could be anywhere I wanted to be right now I would be…..

    This way I could mix it up a bit. I sure would value any suggestions/thoughts you have. Can you think of better prompts than the ones I came up with for each level?
    Thanks so much

    Skip

    1. Thank you for these skip and for your idea Drew about the fear thing. It’s not the quality of the prompts (these of course are excellent), it’s the intent to spend the first weeks on the kids and the kids alone. That is what I hear Kelly going for here. It’s the way to go. I will definitely be looking at this list when school starts with my level 3’s who are taking the AP exam this year. I already find myself really and genuinely wanting to know what certain kids would do with $1M. Of course we will learn the imperfect with if si clauses and the conditional as well, but hey, that is a byproduct of getting to know what my kids think. Grammar in the service of the Three Modes. Who would’ve guessed? Love these ideas. Yes we can make our jobs fun and lighthearted.

    2. Great ideas! I love the level 1 & 2 ideas that are here so far. My students spend their level 1 course memorizing vocabulary and are only able to speak using me gusta (I like) in very controlled q & a and state their name when they get to me in the high school, so I start from scratch with my 2’s and consider them to be like a level 1 instead. I like the favorite possession idea for my 2’s. It might be the perfect twist to start with – a little bit comfortable but something new. I also like the fear prompt for my 3’s – it seems like a popular idea around here too! Hmm…lots to think about. Thanks!

      1. The favorite possession idea is especially good because they bring the object in. This is something Jim Tripp and others do a lot of – slow circling around actual objects. Probably best at level 2. Very sweet. Very personalized. Very acknowledging of the individual. Very team building.

        1. What I did last year and worked better than the actual souvenir or object from the summer (though I still like to get real objects in the room as much as possible) is Nathan Black’s idea of the summer postcard. What did you do over and over or one time this summer that was memorable. Then, I go through my scripts and choose for appropriateness based on language and theme, or I alter one of those scripts so that it works better, or i write a new one. I spend about one week generally on any one student or group of students and their story, and that’s block schedule time. For example, one girl drew a picture of her and her friend at the beach. So I used the “handsome boy at the beach” story of Matava’s. I also used my script “Long Hair” for a girl who drew her super long hair being cut off, and another script “Nappy Nap” right after Thanksgiving (the only thing I related it to from the summer postcard was the guest who came to the dinner, a stuffed animal the kid had won at the state fair he actually went to. But that was just a sidebar to the made up story we created, all based on this one surprise guest.)

          I think it is easier to take a drawing from a kid, based on one fact from their real life, and just go in the fiction direction, using a story script. It is the easiest way to personalize a script, in my opinion, because you have your main character/actor already chosen ahead of time. None of that nervous searching-for-the-person kind of feeling we can get when we start a story with nobody in mind.

          1. …it is easier to take a drawing from a kid, based on one fact from their real life, and just go in the fiction direction, using a story script….

            Wow. I have been trying to decide whether to start my upper level class with one of the ideas from skip or with a story and now you have shown me I can do both!

            Thanks, Jim!

        2. Katya and Donna opened their beginner strand with the following. If you had twenty-four hours to do anything you wanted with no restrictions, obligations, or consequences, what would you do? They very quickly broke the ice, identified their actors, and got ideas for their story. So smooth!

          1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

            Carol,

            Can you describe how Katya and Donna did that in more details if you remember? Which session was that?

    3. Thanks Skip! And thanks Kelly for asking about variation on CWB. I was feeling the same need, to have some bonding for my 2, 3, and 4 level classes but not exactly duplicate CWB.

      I used to do “what did you do over the summer,” but I like the idea of having a choice of several prompts, because, like Skip says, it does get boring doing the same thing for 30 plus students. Especially since most of my kids draw a picture of the beach. With these prompts I’m looking forward more to starting the year already.

    4. I am going to #steal this. We start school on Wednesday, and this is just what I need.

      I love the idea of having a card tent made with four boxes that they draw things in. If we get bored of tiene miedo we can go over to the next box.

      1. I couldn´t find the “four boxes” idea but just to clarify… I am going to have students choose one of the 3-4 options and draw only one….

        Skip

    5. Skip, this is a really great idea and helps with the brain block I was feeling. I start school on Wednesday and I’m gonna give this a try! Thanks!

  4. What if you’re getting a level 4 class full of kids you’ve never had before (I got a new job!) and they had 3 years of traditional/eclectic teaching?

    1. My answer: It depends.

      Is it AP? IB? regular?

      What are their academic/personal goals for taking the class and what is your school climate?

      What if they didn’t like any of their previous teachers? Then, maybe, you’ve got a chance to do something a little different with them.

      What if they liked some of their previous teachers? Then, it’s a mixed bag.

      What if they loved all of their previous teachers and think rote memorization rules the world? Then, I agree with Ben, you’ve got no wiggle room. You’ll have to teach the way they’re used to.

      Just my .02. Let us know how it goes!

  5. Teach them traditionally. I speak from deep experience. They will never change. There are articles on this all over the place on this exact question – it is a heartache but that answer of not trying to change them is the correct response. I just need to think where those articles are.

    1. I disagree with Ben on this one.

      When I began tprs/ci for the first time, my level 2s had had traditional teaching from me the year before. I told them flat-out:

      “We have a new way to learn Spanish. It is based on research [brief explanation of Krashen in kid-friendly terms] and it is going to be easier than last year. You will learn more, with no homework [except for what you’re too slow/off task to get done in class], and all you have to do is be here and be focused [short spiel about Ben’s “rigour”].”

      I also had a frank discussion with them about trad bullshit and my own errors as a teacher: I said that I no longer thought grammar homework sheets, forced dialogues etc etc were useful, and that the litmus test of acquisition was what you could do in Spanish without thinking about it.

      While I did have a couple of slacker boys whom it was work to keep focused, they bought it. The five-percenters had a few shit fits along the way (“but our FRENCH teacher showed us how to conjugate ALL the verbs in the pluperfect preterite conditional subjunctive vocative bla bla bla tense!”) but these guys were told “geek out on your own” and they did, printing out their own verb charts yadda yadda. (Which of course were useless to them– the only verbs that ever showed up in their writing were those we’d used in class)

      The other thing I did was to start actual lessons with something like CWB and get weird/funny right away. They made their namecards, and were told to draw something they wanted but didn’t have, that we could “pretend” with. One kid– the in-the-closet gay boy, who was a brilliant actor– put a baby on his. CWB went with this (“Class, _______ has a baby!”) and when one of his friends said “who’s the father?” (in Spanish) we were off. We spent 40 min riffing on “tiene un hijo” and “sabe quien es el padre.” This was all spontaneous.

      That set the tone– focus and have fun– and the rest of the year went about as well as it could have considering I was a rookie.

      So: rationale, fun, light workload and expectations, plus good intro classes = worked for me.

      1. Chris, I think you will have to be flexible / prepared to go either way on this, and you won’t know until you get in the classroom. Like Leigh Anne said, it depends on the kids you have in front of you. If they are 3 years in with traditional teaching and expect to do things like take the SAT Spanish then they may just want/expect lists to memorize and practice tests, etc. Of course, they don’t know anything different, so you could try what Chris S did, explain the research, etc. Feel them out a bit the first couple weeks as you get to know them and do some community building. You don’t want to offer a smorgasbord or let the class vote or anything like that. You are in charge. Either way, reading will give you the best bang for your buck, so you can still start off with one of the CWB type prompts–tons of choices form everyone, yay! Beginning of the year is beginning of the year, and you are new, so an orientation is totally appropriate. Just be sure to write up whatever you discuss and get them reading immediately so they “feel like they are learning.” Use all the tenses and complexity, and everything. Once you get underway with that you will learn quickly where they are and go from there. I think it is totally legit to plan into your syllabus something that assesses where the students are, and you can title it with some edu-speak so it sounds “official” to the kids. But really it will just be CWB and fun. They won’t know the difference bc you are new!

        Definitely be prepared to shift seamlessly (“that was the plan”) into traditional mode if you are getting lots of resistance / negativity. Mostly for your own peace of mind and to save your creative energy for your level 1 classes. I think 3 years of trad. is different than 1 or 2, not just because of the # of years in the language but also developmentally they can be more difficult to retrain. Not impossible, by any stretch. I was successful with one group like this, but another group totally bombed, so it really depends. Go in w/ positive attitude & lots of fun reading up your sleeve.

        You can always write your syllabus thematically so that way you can have the freedom to focus on grammar if you need to but you are not tied to a grammar based syllabus.

    2. You will have to judge from the students who are in front of you. Try adding little doses of circling 5-10 minutes per class and see what happens. When I started TPRS I switched all my levels 1-4 in March of the school year. It was easy with the lower levels, French 3 was so relieved to be out of the grammar book, they were thrilled and became my best French 4 group ever. I just tried to give the level fours as much circling as I could. They were already in exit mode and could have cared less for the most part. If I had a chance to do over, I would start with the level ones with hardcore TPRS and circle with the others as much as possible. It would have been less stressful for me.

  6. Annemarie Orth

    Hi Kelly, although I teach middle school and it’s supposedly “Spanish 1” for 3 years, I loop with 6,7 and 8th, so I do have them from year to year. I’ve done circling with balls for the last 2 years and it has carried me happily into December with the 6th graders. Last year, there were so many new kids in my 7th grade classes that I did CWB with the new kids to bring them up to speed and they caught on fast. With my 8th graders, I had them draw a little postcard of what they did over the summer, and they could make it up. That went ok, not great. I would draw a postcard randomly, put it under the document camera, and talk about it with my class.
    This year I’m trying to figure out what to do with my 8th graders-I have some very advanced kids in that group, including one girl who went to an immersion Spanish camp over the summer and is going to be so far ahead of my students (and probably ahead of me!) For some reason I was telling my 6 year old daughter about her and my daughter suggests that I have this student be my “helper.” See what common sense little ones have!
    I thought of doing something with Movie Talk with them-it would be totally new, but it wouldn’t be about them. Has anyone else had success with Movie Talk?
    I do like the idea of “what’s your favorite possession” with my 8th graders-kind of like a show and share.
    I am grateful for this thread since I didn’t attend any of the conferences this summer and I feel a bit out of it-too much beach time and thinking about nothing in particular!

        1. Unless I am missing something, the teacher needs to preview the clip and pre-teach/clarify any vocabulary needed. Decide on a few structures you want to introduce and do some Circling/PQA and watch the clip and circle some more, compare and contrast. It almost as if the clip becomes your parallel story. As they gain control over more structures, the conversation about each clip becomes richer and richer. Just scaffold, scaffold, scaffold! I am trying to remember the name of a Buster Keaton clip that I love – great for showing runs, jumps, is afraid, hides, etc. Buster is trying to get to his wedding. He is running down a long hill and a huge rock is chasing him. Hilarity ensues, but I cannot remember the name!

    1. Hi Annemarie,

      I’ve done short video clips with beginning kids (which for me is Grade 4 or 5) and up to a full movie with Grade 8. I really enjoy it and so do the vast majority of my students. One of my troublemakers last year said it was the best thing we’d ever done in class. Finding a compelling movie or video is helpful. But it’s a great listening comprehension opportunity. It’s an interesting idea to think about advanced students in an earlier level class and MovieTalk. Using movies and video in the target language might really be appealing to kids like that. They’d get more from the original soundtrack.

  7. I do CWB (sports, favorite activity) with level 1 and for level 2 I have the kids draw something they did or someplace they went during the summer. (By the way, always provide crayons or markers–HS kids walk into class and say with excitement, “Alright, crayons!”) Talking about their summer activities also gives you an authentic way to review the interrogatives (with whom, where did you…) that doesn´t feel like review.

    I don´t go on too many weeks, to avoid the boredom factor. Plus, I want the students to do something with the information. Some stories we talk about only briefly, but others we go into full-fledged story asking. Once we´ve talked about everyone´s summer, I give drawings out and have them do a timed writing about someone else. Remembering the story isn´t important, since we probably didn´t telling the truth to begin with. Later they read what their classmate wrote about them. That´s compelling reading. (And of course, insist on keeping it positive.)

    I like doing this, because I really am interested in what people did and because it gives us a chance to put a heroic twist on mundane things like working at Burger King. I still remember what a lot of students did a year ago, even what movies they went to see. So I guess it must have been an interesting conversation.

    1. I love the idea of the timed writing about someone else’s summer vacation! You’re right – it would be very compelling reading! I definitely want to include that!

  8. This doesn’t relate exactly to this thread, but it’s something that came to my mind as I was thinking of story and scene creation in general.

    For the past couple years I’ve considered using the concept of role playing games to help create stories with the class within particular historical contexts. My hope is that I could create an ongoing storyline with interesting characters that can continue to develop throughout the year. But I’ve hesitated to try this because I’m not sure exactly how I will structure it or even if it will work.

    I got the idea initially from a post from Robert Harrell a year ago about his units that he does with upper levels – mentioning that the students have characters that they develop and have to negotiate things like getting around a city, interacting with others, etc.

    My feeling that has been developing over the years is that something that kids consistently connect with are characters, whether themselves in class and how they act and interact in TPRS stories, or characters in the reading material we have. Having characters that appear throughout the year and have complexity and depth to them lends to better discussions in the target language and makes the stories more believable and compelling.

    I have had fun experiences playing Role Playing Games and feel it is a way that could be used in some form in class to develop characters and stories, especially in the context of the upper levels when I want to have characters interact in various historical settings that relate to the Latin literature we are reading. I want something in the upper levels that can develop a character beyond the standard 3 location stand-alone story, and something that has potential to connect to the historical and cultural context of the literature that we read (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance contexts for Latin for my class in particular).

    My main question for the group is:

    I’m curious if anyone out there has experimented with something like this and whether you had success or not with it. I know Ben has done “The Realm” and had difficulties with that because things didn’t really go anywhere, and that is not what I’m trying to duplicate. What I’m thinking of would be a set up for creating stories together with a set of 3 or 4 protagonists/characters that go through a series of adventures that I would direct (like a Game Master, for those acquainted with Role Playing Games).

    I can explain in greater detail what I am envisioning, but don’t want to go too long on this initial post. Any thoughts on this?

  9. I’m thinking about this here’s my 2 cents’ worth:

    A) RPG stuff– it seems to me– might detract from the spontaneity of story creation.

    B) we didn’t do “in the realm,” but what I did do– basically on a whim– was to recycle elements from past stories. Naming the kids were had a pregnant guy, a kid who had the massive, celebrity-filled party at his house last night, a girl with 17 cats etc. So when I did a new story, I could ask a question built around a new structure (e.g. “iba a venir a…” was going to come to…) and get reps out of stuff from older stories.

    So for example when we did “the elephant with no weight-room buddies” story (where one target was “iba a venir a…”), I could say something like “Class, when the elephant went to the weight room in Afghanistan, was Kalvin (the kid who’d had the celebrity party in an earlier story) there?” When I told them “no,” I could then circle “Kalvin iba a venir, pero había una fiesta en su casa, y no podía venir porque estuvo ocupado.”

    So I didn’t have a master plan/story, but with each story we added 1 new kid with one detail, and that made it easier to weave a kind of tapestry of references for reps into new stories.

    1. I like this. The devil is in the details, of course, as always. When you say each kid got one detail, that makes it work. And two or more and we can’t get the reps and we go too wide and we all know what happens then. What you describe Chris is a very free wheeling kind of CI. It keeps the kids interested and the only danger, unfortunately a common one, is that the bubble of words gets too big and too many words are floating around in the room and there aren’t enough reps on a limited number of words. Each utterance must contain a target structure, hopefully many of the same one over long periods of time. We discussed this entire idea of the need for many many more reps than we think in the sBI thread last spring. Of course, those large CI bubbles that go all over the place also contain room for lots of laughs and fun, as long as the kids don’t lie to us about their comprehension. They always get less than we think. Now there’s a term – Large Bubble CI.

      1. Off topic but…. Ben, do you still do the thumb going over the shoulder to gesture past tense?

        And do you do gestures for other verb tenses like subjunctive or is that making it way too complicated and focusing on grammar rather than CI?

      2. Ben solidly IDs issues here. The key to “the freewheelin’ C.I.” is that you bring in ONE detail per kid that you mention in your story. I found it was WAY TOO EASY to go WAY off course. One of the good things with this “refer to some detail about a kid from the past” is that it re-includes kids, so if somebody is having a bad day or is tuned out, you just throw them into the mix and they perk up: “Clase, ¡Saerun iba a venir a la fiesta de Kalvin porque iba a hablar con Ryan Gosling!”

  10. Yes.

    No. My take on that is that if there were a gesture for each tense, the kids would have to pop out of their acquisition process (i.e. not focusing on the words consciously but focusing on the meaning unconsciously) and consult the reference manual in their conscious mind for the meaning of the gesture. This is an unnecessary interruption to the flow of language that alone results in the kinds of gains we get.

    The less we interrupt to analyze, the more they stay focused on the meaning of what they are hearing, and the more they acquire. Every single thing they heard that day goes through the magical process during sleep that night where a word or chunk of words is allowed into the growing language system or not.

    Back to the thumb. For some weird reason, the thumb over the shoulder does NOT interrupt the flow of language – it is just an aid and honestly not a very important one. The thumb over the shoulder is in my view just like how we put the laser pointer on the word when we say it in class only it is not a word but a time reference.

    But multiple gestures for tenses would be pure folly. Just my opinion.

  11. I’m plugging back in as I close in on 3+ weeks until school begins, and it’s good to read everyone’s voices, and see how everyone is preparing mentally for a great year of CI. I wanted to raise a caveat about the “what I did over the summer” question. It is loaded, when you have a classroom full of students of various incomes. Some students have great adventures, and some go nowhere, and we don’t want to rub that in. I made the mistake of asking that question two years ago, and when one kid said he went to the Galapagos Island, I knew I shouldn’t have asked. So if I were to ask my students about summer, I would tell them it has to be imaginary.

    1. John, I’ve only done this with kids of a similar upbringing (rural MN), but even for them, there are kids who probably didn’t leave the county (not country), but who still had some sort of feel-good activity or job or whatever that they will draw on their summer postcard. We just take that, perhaps discuss it a bit, and add fictional elements to it, and that fictional element can be more or less awesome depending on how we steer things. Take that Galapagos kid down a notch and give him a horrible stomach bug on the boat ride to the islands (totally just kidding) That kid would be a great resource for the Spanish classroom). I think I’d be losing a lot of the personalization if I only solicited imaginary summer postcards, because so little of the story really ends up being real anyways.

      But I understand what you’re saying John, I have similar thoughts when it comes to Christmas time, I’m starting to lean in favor of fake gifts as opposed to real ones.

  12. Ben, I e-mailed you yesterday asking about what structures to use to start level 2 but you can ignore it now. I was unplugged when this thread was going on and just found it. Thanks, all. Great ideas here.

    I’ll likely go with either “fear” or “IF you had one million dollars.”

    Talk about a great way to hit ’em hard after summer. Give them the conditional subjunctive and introduce a new question type. For Latin it’s “sub qua condicione?” (“under what condition?”). Great great great.

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