Trying Hard on the Videos

Catherina said that she got confused with the voiceover and I agree that it is too much to absorb. It’s very similar to asking our students to understand when we go too fast and provide too much information and the class is not comprehensible. So we need to address that.
One thing that we can do is to go through our footage and pull shorter clips and focus on just one thing, and then either:
1. write out our comments in the email you send me with the link to your clip so everybody can see what your intent is or address any questions you raise about it.
2. voiceover to explain same.
I think that Skip and others were thinking in the above direction when they suggested a set of criteria to frame out our work in looking at the videos. This ties in, as well, with what Brian said when he suggested that we to try to make connections between our video clips and the skills mentioned in TPRS in a Year!
The shorter clips with less commentary may be the way to go. We have to make it so that we can learn from each other. As we iron out the details of how we are going to use video here, we must keep fully in mind that we all suck to some degree, and that we can, and must if our program is going to work, embrace that.
We absolutely must get rid of the very concept of comparing our work to others and then feeling like we come up short. We live in a culture that shames. Schools work basically on shaming people, on shaming msny kids at the expense of a few.
But we can change that. We can get into a win-win with our kids. We can get into a win-win with ourselves regarding posting these video clips. Drew and Angela started it off and we can get it rolling and showed a lot of courage in doing that. They took a big risk and I am taking a big risk too.
It is virtually impossible to put our best work up here, or anywhere near it. I have had to work through this. The video I have is not representative in any way of my best work, and I am having a hard time with that. But we have to accept the limitations of the medium of video and put the shit that we do get up her by clicking the mouse and letting it go. We can’t wait for that “magical class”.
All we have to do is accept ourselves where we are in this process. Can we do that? Can we love ourselves even though we aren’t perfect teachers? We have to, unless you want to be like me and take eleven years to get to the point I am at with all this, which is nowhere near where I feel like I can be in my teaching some day, a point I will never get to without your input.
So, let’s see if shorter clips with minimal (targeted to one skill) comments that we either describe by write out or voice over our thoguhts  in the links that you all send to me. By posting only shorter segments of our classes, and by trying to isolate a featured skill and say, “O.K. now I can see that I am going too fast here, or here is an example of parking, here I am confronting a kid in a loving way, or here I am bringing some out of bounds words inbounds”, etc. we can grow.
Below are two short clips. One is from Monday’s three hour workshop I did with the DPS teachers. It will take weeks if not months to share al of that workshop here. In this clip, I am trying to model Circling with Balls:

The other video is from a reading class that I did yesterday with the class that created the Pan story. It is not a good example of a reading class, but, in the spirit of what is written above, it gives the general feel of what a reading classs is.
I want to make three points about reading classes:
1. They are best when there is a lot of pure translation work being done by the students. That is modeled in the clip below. This is what Krashen says is best. You can read his book The Power of Reading on this, or, if you haven’t read it, you can just take my word for it. If you want your students to learn the language you are teaching them, then do this kind of translation/reading work at least a full 50% of your instructional time.
2. The second thing to do in a reading class, which I don’t do enough of in this clip, is to spin out and ask simple yes/no questions to the kids about the text. Don’t do too much spinning, but do some. Why not too much spinning? Because reading is a more powerful form of comprehensible input than speaking to our kids in the target language. The catch-22 is that our kids can’t read without the auditory input first.
3, The third thing is teach grammar. In these moments you can become the grammar teacher that lurks inside of you. Go for it! This is the time to do it! But don’t go crazy and above all don’t use any grammar terms. Just point stuff out to your students in kid friendly terms. Most of the kids don’t care about those terms, only 4% of your students do. Just say things like “this means this” or “look how the word ‘it’ comes in front of that other word that describes an action in French – we don’t do that in English, do we?” – and stuff like that.
Below the link provided here to the reading class I have copied the process of how I do a reading classe. I copied and pasted it from the workshop handouts I did on Monday. As always, I must say that this in only how I do it, and I offer it here in that spirit. Here is the link:

Part C – The Reading Class is done according to the following sequence of activities:
a. Silent reading of the first page of the prepared text (usually a generic version of five classes’ stories).
b. Pair work. Students work in pairs to try to read the text.
c. Choral translation and discussion of text in L2. This includes discussion in L2 on spinouts from the text, but this is also when we teach grammar. I prefer going paragraph by paragraph through the sequence.
d. French choral and individual work on accent – this can be a very special time as we finally are able to hear, after constant input and relatively little verbal output, how our students’ brains have organized the language in this newly emergent output. We notice how well they pronounce the language (as long as there wasn’t any forced output too early.)
e. Sacred reading of the text – this is a particularly fine thing. Toward the end of the reading class, I take the opportunity to read the text to the kids without their being able to see it. But I don’t read it like a teacher. I read it like it is a secret that I want to share with them. I read it to them in a dramatic tone. I try to lend a kind of sacred feel to the words. They are as people attending a play, the dramatic moment of a play. One DPS teacher told me that she recently did this sacred reading and that the kids were blown away that the understood it. That’s the point. The kids told her that she should have been an actress.
f. Translation quiz (optional) – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade.
Note: we use the Embedded Reading technique when creating reading texts based on stories. I embed readings based on stories with about 30% new vocabulary and grammar added in to the reading to build students’ vocabulary, teach more grammar, and create more unpredictable and personalized stories to heighten interest. So in the link above about 30% of the text that I wrote up of the Pan story is new vocabulary.



12 thoughts on “Trying Hard on the Videos”

  1. It seems as if in our world of TPRS, translating is A-Okay. I was taught in my undergrad methods classes that translating is a no-no, but I’m not sure why. I see the importance because how do we know students comprehend if they can’t translate it? But still…….maybe the universities should stop telling us that translating is evil, it creates too high of expectations in new teachers who eventually have to go back to the textbook because this false idea of a “good FL teacher” was instilled into their brain that they can never live up to. My 2 cents

  2. Can you clarify Ben – do you cycle through silent reading, pair work, and choral translation for each paragraph? That is, with each new paragraph do the students go back to silent reading again for a little bit, then pair work, etc.?
    Also, in the video you pretty much keep a slow paced, steady momentum during the choral translating – translating WITH them…do you always do it that way, or do you ever go silent and see if they can translate it on their own? Is it just better to translate with them in order to not lose the class with students translating in all different directions?

  3. …with each new paragraph do the students go back to silent reading again for a little bit, then pair work, etc.?….
    Ideally, they would do so. But we get rolling along after their initial look at the text and forget the sequence. Also, the pairs work is largely a waste. It is a new idea that I have only tested for a week. The kids start talking within 30 seconds of the pair work. So that’s out. So the way it looks this week is that the silent reading is done for a few minutes only at the beginning of the sequence, the pair work is now out, and the big deal of the day is the third part (C), where we chorally translate, spin in L2 at a simple and limited kind of yes/no level, and discuss grammar. That’s the meat of it.
    On whether I translate with them – I think it is best to translate with them, but this kind of thing depends on how we feel. There are no rules, as we constantly say. I knew that they could read it. I could feel their confidence and that video was the first French text that they had ever read.
    One trick from Susan Gross that I always forget to do that you might like is to tell the kids to put their finger on each word being read and then you stop unexpectedly in the translation and single out a kid and say, “Joel what word is your finger on right now?” But I don’t do that because kids forget to put their fingers on the words.

    1. I have used the Susan Gross trick, and it really is helpful in keeping students focused on the text. If I am trying to get the sound of the language into their ears I will have them put their finger on the text and follow along as I read. When I stop, either the class as a whole or a small group or an individual must tell me the very next word in German. I always stop on a word I know that they know well and can pronounce and that has appeared at least once in the text immediately before I stop. It’s simply an “on-task check”. It helps to go through the text beforehand and highlight the word(s) that you want to stop on.

  4. Of course, since my rule is nothing on the desk, I project the image onto a screen via an LCD or a document reader, as used in the video. So they don’t even have a text to put a finger on. I do that because I can just look at the group and see if a kid is not focused, and I am a bit of a taskmaster on my rules. I read very little to them, therefore. We read together. But again, we all have our different styles. Comprehensible input is flexible enough to fit our different styles in many ways. We all don’t have to be Jason or Blaine. We are who we are.

  5. Thanks for posting these, Ben. I had a few unexpected free periods because of student/class photos, and it really helped me to watch a few clips, especially the choral translation and your Pan story work. I launched into my Latin 1 class ready to stick to my 4 new words/phrases, nothing more, and it was awesome! Then, a helicopter was flying overhead, and I decided to talk about the helicopter (in Latin that’s helicopterum, really, there’s an inscription at the Vatican’s helicopter landing pad to prove it!) and soon we were arguing over how many seats were in the chopper and where it was, using no new words other than helicopterum. Chris’s comments cause me to remember that I am just coming out of the “immersion backlash” against the old grammar-translation method, wanting everything to be in the TL. Trouble is, you waste a lot of time trying to establish meaning with drawings, acting, paraphrase, etc. thinking that simply giving them the meaning is somehow cheating. But this is to fall back into an intellectualist approach, treating communication as a puzzle or challenge rather than just being human together. But the teacher I was 5 years ago is still in there saying: you can’t just tell them what it means! but that’s because I used to think arriving at a translation was the end point rather than the beginning. Also, I know what you mean about pairing and group work, how it almost immediately degenerates into visiting in English. I’m not doing any of it, and my class is way more student-centered now compared to when I had them do group work. I am trying to see what my school’s policy on videos of classrooms exactly is, but I’m not hopeful, unless I could convince them that the videos could be posted on a super-restricted access site, available only to us professionals.

  6. Ben, could you give a few more details on your procedure during the French choral and individual accent work time?…in particular, how do you work the individual accents? Take volunteers to read out loud? Or…?

  7. John I look forward to your videos. The Latin push you are giving, even though you are doing it with less support than anybody in the history of the world has ever had in trying to do anything, is something that I am very interested in.
    Brian I don’t want to get too California (with apologies to Le Chevalier de l’Ouest) on you, but I really don’t follow a plan on that. Usually they just appreciate the chance to open their mouths and taste the language. I am like a baker saying “Hey kids, try this donut, try that donut…”. We just play around with the sound and it happens naturally. If there is a formula we do the choral accent repetition first and then one kid will be really into reading it by herself (the 4%er) and she reads and I tell her that hers is a wonderful French accent and does anyone else want to try and they really get into it. It can last about ten minutes or more, but the problem is that you have to leave room for the sacred reading and the quiz later, if you are giving a quiz. Look what happens with the sacred reading – I get to do what I love most, read French and try to do my best to imitate real native speakers because I love it so much, so very much because it is so beautiful. And then they get to read because they love it too – everybody loves French! And life is good in those moments.

  8. Thank you Ben – I appreciate the ‘wing it with passion’ approach! It’s how I work most of the times as well. Thank you – I was just wondering if there was any more to it – I am in major ‘sponge mode’ right now, trying to learn everything I can.

  9. And the best thing to do the sponge thing is for as many of us to put up as much video as possible and just watcch it knowing that it is probably not going to be the best class in the world. It’s the seeing of the method, of the technique for getting into and staying in L2, that counts.

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