What I Will Do This Week In An Attempt To Get Out Of A Funk

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11 thoughts on “What I Will Do This Week In An Attempt To Get Out Of A Funk”

  1. Another Friday option that takes the stress off you, preps them for a sub one day, and gives you a speaking grade is Susie’s sub plan.
    Give the kids white boards or just bigger-than-usual pieces of paper. They divide the blank slate into a four or six-panel storyboard.
    Tell the kids they have ten minutes to come up with a story, draw it, and practice it in small groups. Each student needs to tell about at least one panel.
    When the ten minutes are over, each group comes to the front to present their stories. If a sub is there, I tell them to give a B to any kid who says what sounds like a complete sentence or two, an A if it sounds like more than that, a C if there’s a bit of English other than place names, and a D if there’s no effort. Everyone always gets an A or a B.
    The kids applaud each other, shout “good job” in TL, and the next group goes up. If there’s time left, the class repeats the whole process.
    Here’s a page where I collected good ideas last year:
    If you click on “15 repetitions” at the top, right underneath the 15 repetitions will be Vera’s list of activities for the week. Somewhere on the same page is Anne Matava’s weekly schedule too.
    Looking at other people’s weekly ideas–like yours above–is very helpful.

  2. Last week was my first week (your inspiration) of speaking no English, and it got really positive response. The kids that I was really speaking for – the ones who have trouble and who I wanted to make sure were understanding the assignments, etc – weren’t listening to me when I droned in English either. They pay a whole lot more attention when I speak Spanish. The English thing is huge. It’s so easy to fall back on, because there are so many things that we as teachers can’t talk about in the TL if we want the kids to understand (interesting anecdotes are my personal downfall). I’m working on trying to figure out just how much I need, and how much I can let go.

  3. Grant Boulanger

    Ben, two questions:
    1. When do your kids document vocab that has come up during CI? In the moment or at the end of class?
    2. Do you know of anyone using art – culturally representative paintings and such – instead of the ‘big book’ activity of Bryce’s? I’m thinking I’ll try spinning some CI from a Picasso this week.

  4. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for thinking out loud. I really appreciate hearing your thought processes.
    Re increasing the daily dose of CI: I notice you introduce the vocab in English. I wonder if you have tried doing that in French?
    I find the related teacher talk when introducing new story vocab provides a lot of CI that is very contextualized and easy to follow. Example monologue below from my Intro class (Chinese):
    “OK, let’s look at the first word. Does anyone know it?
    No? Then, what question do you ask me? (Ss say, “What does X mean?” in TL)
    Right! Good question! OK, I’ll tell you. This means X.
    OK, now listen to this. What tone is it? Right. Great! Wow, your pronunciation today is terrific!
    So, what does X mean?
    And how do we say X in English? Right!
    OK, let’s look at next word.
    This word is r-e-a-l-l-y interesting. Look! There are two third tones in a row! So, what happens to the first one? Right! It turns into a second tone! You guys are so smart! The teacher is VERY happy today! High five everybody!”
    (The part about tones could be replaced by accents, are spelling, silent letters, etc.)
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  5. The Meadows Museum in Dallas has a curriculum for talking about art with limited vocabulary. I haven’t had a chance to look at it in depth but it sure looked useful at first glance.

  6. Diane I just finished teaching my first two Monday a.m. classes and it went well with the no English thing. On about four occasions over both classes I was tempted to tell an anecdote (also my achilles heel) and resisted twice. So I’m 2 and 2 today so far. It sounds so OCD to be into how many times I resist speaking English during CI but it’s not. Speaking in L2 is my goal and I will do it no matter what. I feel that I can be in good relationship with my kids and still stay in L2. I would say to Little Joey Krashen, tagging on our discussion of last week, that I can do both – build relationship and stay in L2. It’s like, for me personally, I just get weaker when in English. I am not very interesting when I speak English because the frame of reference for what I am saying is so nebulous to them. The kids hear English all day. Staying in L2 is the key to TPRS and a more important skill by far than all the rest of the skills combined.
    Grant – love the Picasso idea. But I would go Renoir. We could just talk about the person in the painting. No structures or locations. I would just ask questions, increasingly high taxonomy questions. I would ask the questions with my love of the beauty of the language in my heart and I would speak that way consciously. I would focus more on the language’s beauty and less on myself and the skills and processes and all of that mental junk that I put into writing above this weekend, as I stressed about the coming week. I would remember Laurie’s supremely important admonition that we at least try to teach from our heart and with beauty, avoiding trying to get “through the material” but rather simpy letting things flow where they would go. If that got too weird, then I have my Matava story book, or a one word image, or word chunking, my go-to safety activities. I would remember that I don’t need to be a good teacher, that I don’t need to “get them to learn”, that I don’t want to be in the school building in the fear that I am not doing it right. I just want to walk in beauty, as the native Americans out here say. Life is way too short not to walk in beauty.
    Grant – my kids document new words in their brains, but I have to repeat them enough for that to happen. N0tebooks don’t do as good a job as their minds in registering new words, and they have the added detriment of being thrown away at the end of the year. My students remember words by hearing them in different contexts over long periods of time. I know the counter argument here and don’t agree with it and don’t want to get into that discussion. My kids document shit all day in all their classes and what do they get from all that work? Bored.
    Caryn yes. I don’t know if I can do that, but I get what you are saying. Very nice. You are describing some pretty high art there.

  7. Thanks for sharing your “raw” plan, it is so helpful to hear the thought processes!
    My students are all jazzed up for the Carnaval and then are too tired from partying, OR sick (we have a massive epidemic of dengue and tons of kids are absent, teachers too). So, with that in mind, I have an idea to try to change things a bit but for recycling and reusing since they’re not “all there” Obviously this is not meant to introduce new CI (it could …) but they’re in no shape to think right now.
    Ask a whole series of “seemingly random” personal questions but where the answers can later be fused into a story, a weird version of the old mad libs if you like.
    Ask three people where they want to spend their vacation.
    Ask two people each what they love/hate to eat
    Ditto for what they love/hate to do
    Ask three people what scares them
    Ask three people what mode of transportation they think is cool.. (I always say spaceship)
    Get three names of their favorite tv characters
    Get five action verbs (favorite sports or games are good)
    The list can go on and on and the questions can vary according to class and level. Then when everyone has contributed something, use the ideas to create an off the wall story.
    I don’t know if this would work…. but what can you do when those with dengue are going to miss one whole week of class or more?? Any other ideas for this type of situation? I’ve already tried free writes, silent reading, kindergarten day (mine stay at their seats) and songs.

  8. No shit. This seems to be an especially long month in teaching and when one adds up the collective wisdom of all the things that suck energy like parents, administrators, and co-workers, there is often little left for the CI + P. I find when I am struggling with stories and trying to figure out my drawing-inspired story idea, I make them read more Pobre Ana than other weeks – I feel bad – but then I also realize that reading is the best thing they can be doing and at THE WORST THIS IS BETTER THAN WORKSHEETS OR TEXTBOOKS. Imagine that. At it’s worst , it’s most shitty moment of awkward , when I am convinced I am a total failure, they are probably still acquiring more Spanish than at the best moment in a worksheet / textbook class. That is something to think about.
    This doesn’t change the fact that my two co-workers – both native speakers – want to spend at least 6-9 hours drafting a “scope and sequence” document for grades 8-12 at our small startup school. The idea of this task kills me. I would rather pull my own teeth out than be asked to do this. In our previous meetings always hold up the state and district benchmarks loaded with ACTFL language and standards and tell them that there is research to support an emphasis on input-based instruction in the first two years. I tell them that scope and sequence is done. They tell me what kids “should” know includes being forced to order a salad in the first trimester of the first year. I would kill for some actual like-minded colleagues in this endeavor.
    I often ask for drawings as exit tickets. It is a good non-stressful way to ask them to show that they acquired something. I make them draw an event from the story or reading that they read or heard in L2 and hand me the drawing at the door. I can put on Spanish music for the last 7-10 minutes, put up the story or reading and then let them draw.
    I dunno.
    In 1st year I do the weekend PQA Mondays, make a story or read Pobre Ana Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday, and then chunk words for basketball and candy on Fridays. 2-3 listening quizzes each week and one freewrite. Anything else is too complicated and cuts into CI + P.

  9. WOW! I am BLOWN out of the water. And here is why: I never, in my wildest dreams, never EVER thought that experienced TPRS teachers/mentors/coaches who are also brilliant minds still fall into the FebFunk. I am still a newbie, 5 years into this shtick, and I always hope and think that next year will be easier to digest and to motivate myself, and it’s not really happening. Merci mille fois, Ben, for being honest and open (particularly about the part where you give it straight to us/yourself: for some things you are too lazy and cannot see the worth of it) and asking for input, CI so to speak. I feel so much better about myself, and while I have no great ideas to share, I am so relieved that I’m not alone feeling and being this way in the dark of winter.

  10. Ben,
    In my re-reading of the Green Book, I stumbled across a fun idea. The 6 panel story with the middle four squares left blank. So, each student begins with and ends with the same information, but the rest of the story is their own creation.
    I, personally, am going back to basics. I realize now that I have not been going slowly enough. I rush through the stories, trying to keep the students’ attention. When really, slowing down and adding only one detail at a time will get much better results. (Thank goodness for the thesis, I may never have sat down to reread something so “basic”)

  11. I just read this post today when doing some research about free-writes. I did my first one with 6th grade today: 3 minutes. I had students writing coherent stories that were upwards of 40 words! It was really cool to see. But this post is important to me because English is really become a frequent visitor to my classes and I am frustrated. There are those 2-3 kids in each class who can derail the others. I am hoping that I can develop a plan to help me get back on track. Major work to do on that in the coming weeks.

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