Tag Team Retells

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9 thoughts on “Tag Team Retells”

  1. When you have a good class and a simple story, you can use a chain retell. The first student gives the beginning in one sentence, the second student repeats that and adds a sentence, the third student repeats the first two sentences and adds one, etc. Lots of repetitions and it becomes a kind of game with students filling in to help out when someone falters.

    1. Bob, thanks for sharing. I noticed a similar phenomenon a week ago. I found that when I have students doing the tasks that I have traditionally done, the class pays better attention!

      For example, I’ve been having my Latin I classes do choral translations with two student leaders. One student leads the choral translation up in front of the class and the other does the laser pointer. I remember Ben mentioning this earlier, that he had kids do these jobs and I took notice because usually I had always done these jobs myself.

      And this year I did them myself for a few weeks to model how to do it, but I recently gave up my jobs to the kids. And wow, the kids really love volunteering for these jobs, especially the hallowed laserpointer job. One kid the other day held the pointer up in his hand (after getting chosen among several that had their hands up for the job) and said, “Yes… I feel so much AUTHORITY!”

      Last year I had a lot of kids checking out during choral translations, especially pretty sharp, 4 percenter type kids. I wish I would have thought of giving them the jobs of doing the laser pointer and choral translation leader – or now as Bob has shared – story re-teller.

      All in all, I truly believe that assigning jobs in general has been my biggest improvement in being a better disciplinarian in the classroom this year – and it’s funny because assigning jobs and giving kids responsibilities in class really doesn’t feel like what I usually think of as “discipline.”

      But I do believe this is a form of classroom management and discipline, and one of the most powerful kinds. And the best part is that this sort of proactive discipline feels much better than reactive discipline (telling kids what not to do). Of course I still have to do both, but thankfully much less reactive discipline in the classes that have the proactive, established norm of student jobs as part of their classroom culture.

  2. What we are doing is creating a community. In a community, there is a role for everyone. In an effective community, there is a positive role for everyone. People share their skills, offer their knowledge and turn to each other for support. When students are allowed and encouraged to be part of the community, they thrive. We no longer need to manage a classroom, we are overseeing a community.

    with love,
    and knowing that Kate Taluga could say that so much better,

    1. Laurie, I so agree with the community idea. I tell my students repeatedly that we do things differently in Spanish class than all their other classes because we are doing something different here: we are creating a Spanish-speaking community. I have told them that no one is allowed to fail–those not earning passing grades have to make up quizzes once they’ve mastered the material, for example–because we need each individual to be a functioning part of our Spanish-speaking community. I think this has made a huge impression on my students–I try to relate many aspects of what we do to the well-being of this community, not just to see them as my arbitrary rules.

      1. Warning – this comment is too long to read:

        Rita another scene that stuck with me from Here Comes the Boom was when Kevin James’ character walked across the desks to make certain that a Latino kid who was drawing a big dragon on his desk stayed in contact with the class. That scene was full of symbolism. The main point was that this Latino kid was part of the classroom community and he wasn’t going to be allowed to not participate.

        This is what I see in your point, Rita, that when we work with these kids we have the power of personality as adults to insure that children act with respect in accordance with our rules (Classroom Rules) and codes of conduct (jGR for those of us who use it). We can’t afford to do otherwise, and yet we do and then we falsely think we are the only ones who “can’t get TPRS to work” for us.

        Look, we are in an epidemic. Our department met yesterday and Barb Vallejos, who rocks the house and has with this method since 1996 (I heard uncontrollable laughter from her class yesterday during my planning period – she had achieved lift off) but in this meeting she expressed concern that she “couldn’t find a way to teach advanced and very limited readers in the same class.”

        I told her to step back and think about that. All this talk of differentiation is in my view just crap – you can’t do two things at one time. I’m so tired of that word. They stick these kids in our rooms and then tell us to differentiate their instruction, effectively doing two things at one time, and we, being suckers and some of us grossly in need of the approval of others, believe that if we can’t do it then we are not good teachers.

        That is so far from the truth. And so Karen about what you wrote – here are all these kids with so many unmet needs emotionally and some who lack the basic human needs like food and who live in grinding poverty and the deep sadness that it brings and we think that we are supposed to do the equivalent of driving two taxis around New York City at the same time when there is just one of us with only two hands for one steering wheel – which is a weird image I know but the only one that came to mind.

        Anyway, we can’t do as much as we think we otter, and since many of us were 4% superstars with issues around a need for people to approve of us, we accept these burdens and in some cases we do this head banging mea culpa I’m-not-good-enough kind of behavior for entire careers, like in my case, when now so late in the game I am just figuring this shit out, and how important it is to just be happy and not care so much about reaching a bunch of unbalanced kids – bc they come from an unbalanced society – whose list of needs go far beyond a need to learn a foreign langauge.

        Yesterday I had three boys who are smart, three of them, three smart fellas who felt smart, put their heads down at the same time – it was like a signal between them to show me that I was going too slow for them with the PQA for Brrr! which I was quite enjoying as were the other kids, nice and slow. Those kids were just plain rude but not enough to know it and, of course, my inner teacher alarm went off and I tossed them across the hallway to sit with with three teachers on planning, which we do in our department – we help each other.

        I used to think hard about what I could do to differentiate their instruction, get them writing, whatever, with the core thought that I am not a good enough teacher bc I can’t come up with a good differentiation scheme, but now with JGR I see what is happening – the kids are being rude and that is about how complicated this issue is. Input is input and they benefit from it so deeply, even when they fully understand it. They don’t even sit together, but the signal was there between them, those amazing signals that they send each other, like some kind of developed species who are trapped in a place where their capturers won’t let them communicate but they do it anyway.

        So these three kids see themselves wrongly as three smart boys with full English whom the teacher can’t reach bc of the other kids who have such barriers to their own full self expression as human beings bc of the non-documented status and L1 thing that is everywhere in my school. The point is that I am actually losing sleep over these three kids right now. It’s 3:18 a.m. and 32 degrees right now in Denver and I am in my 36th year of teaching losing sleep over students bc I can’t let go of my need to fix things right and have the most wonderfullest classroom of all.

        Hell, I’m trying to save the world for TPRS, to have all my kids pass the AP exam next year in level 3 now that I have a method that can do that easily, and to generally be the butt kicking teacher that I know I am. Except with these three kids, right? So it becomes a big problem for me, like you said above, Karen, “Boo Hoo for me!” My self image is being affected by these kids and I must react.

        I must react? No, actually I don’t have to do that, I just have to let jGR react for me, and move the kids back further in the room or something, split them apart even further and get on with my teaching in a more dispassionate way and stop getting so emotionally involved in trying to control what is at its base a simple move of one time rudeness on the day of a full moon. I will also tell them today that some kids aren’t as smart as they are, not as loaded up with English, and to behave with respect toward those kids’ learning needs.

        That is what is so crazy about teaching – we have to come up with the right solution to a million different situations involving the supremely complex emotional lives of children who, lest we forget, don’t have that full pre-frontal cortex development that we usually expect in humans of that size.

        So Karen as I said, yesterday I brought those three kids across the hall into a room with three teachers on their planning period. I had said to you about a month ago here (I think) that removing kids from a room, which I think you had said you did, wasn’t a great thing.

        What the hell do I know? Somebody who reads this blog took something I said mistakenly here about reading a few weeks ago and shared it others at ACTFL and an untrue thing found its way to Diana who called to yell at me. (We can do that in Denver and we just love and respect and value each other more.)

        Trust me, dear readers – I have no idea what I am talking about and will never know what I am talking about. I just talk and it seems to help, and I read what y’all write, and when I am in stress (all the time in our jobs, right?) I wake up at night and rant on like this literally until all hours of the night. It’s 3:27 a.m. now and still 32 degrees but I’m riding my bike in tomorrow anyway bc the Denver sun makes it feel like 60 degrees as long as the wind is down.

        The wind is up in this comment, which is becoming not only very long but also very windy (not me – the comment). This is turning out to be a very disjointed comment, almost stream of consciousness, but the point is that when I started this comment I was reacting to what Rita said about keeping kids in community, like the dragon drawer in the film, and then I just said I threw those three rude heads down kids out. Hmmm. Some community builder, right?

        But in that dichotomy of teacher behaviors – where we never know quite what is the best thing to do in any one situation – there is a constant truth – there is no one way to do this. It is a constant battle to react in the right way in the right situation, and each situation is really a kind of psychic battle, and no less. It’s the little insults that have the potential to destroy our mental health in teaching. Often we fail to respond well to those little insults. That’s o.k.

        We must never fail to remember how human we are, and how the system that Jim and Robert and others have described in a few of their comments here this week is a broken one. Now, what do we do if we are in a failed system that cannot possibly work the way it is set up now, with too many kids in our classes and too may people in charge who don’t even know first thing about the work we are trying to do here?

        I think that we had better stop bashing our heads against the wall and forgive ourselves if we can’t react in the right way all the time to the hundreds of weird ass little insults that we have to face every day in this strange world with such strange and rude people in it who are everywhere. We just have to forgive ourselves for not being perfect. That is where I am going to start anyway with this thing with these three rude boys.

        I’m turning this thing over to jGR and if had any sense about me I would turn it over to a Power who is much greater than myself so I could just relax for five minutes and finally get in my mind that this is not all about me and that I don’t have to drive myself nuts* with work.

        All I have to do is look at the headlines to remind me that this is not even a sane place anymore and that some really weird shit is going on in our country right now. These are the Yahoo! homepage headlines right now, at 3:39 a.m. on the day of a full moon on November 28, 2012, and by the way if you think that there is some kind of point in this comment, there isn’t. There’s just a country and a barnyard full of language teachers in great stress, as per these Yahoo! headlines at this hour:

        Petraeus scandal: Tampa socialite fighting back
        Study finds most pork contaminated
        Senate Dems rally for Rice against GOP opposition
        Disney, Sears used factory in deadly Bangladesh fire
        Man says prayer group leader told him to kill wife

        *A pirate walked into a bar and the bartender said, “Hey, you’ve got a steering wheel in your pocket!” and the pirate said, “Arghh! It’s driving me nuts!”

        1. Ben, we want so badly to be perfect so our classes can be perfect, even though if another teacher said that to us, we could give wise counsel about how futile that is. We would compassionately tell another teacher to take time for himself, so not be so unrealistically intense, to sleep at night.

          But somehow we think WE are the exceptions to the grace we willingly show to others. Somewhere scripture says “God remembers that we are but dust.” We should remember that, too.

  3. David commented on how the jobs are his best addition this year in terms of classroom discipline and community building, which is quite a statement when one thinks of the awesomeness of jGR as the new kid on the block for classroom discipline this year. But I may have to agree, based on the great human energy and joking at no one’s expense in a class today where checking in with kids from time to time to make sure I understood who was counting, drawing, distributing, annotating, writing quizzes, etc. took on a level of fun beyond what I could have expected or hoped for.

    For more on the jobs:


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