What’s Our Focus?

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15 thoughts on “What’s Our Focus?”

  1. -The cognate guy (always a guy in my classes for some reason) who says or yells “amigo” any time I say a new cognate. Often if he doesn’t hear the cognate, I’ll just give him a nod and he knows that’s his cue. He’s very busy at the beginning of the year, obviously.

    -Calendar Master, the person who keeps the calendar up to date and all that.

    -ASL expert, person who holds the ASL dictionary and whom we refer to if we don’t know a sign

    -Secretary, the person who writes down words that I write on the board into a notebook so that others can refer to it when they miss class, or if they want to borrow it to make copies (so that they are not taking notes or feel the need to), or in case I want to use it for Word Chunk Activity or whatever.

  2. I just introduced the concept of jobs to my classes last week. I showed them a list of possible roles (which worked well, actually – it was a new idea for them and they needed examples). I said they are optional, and asked them to tell me which, if any, they liked.
    So their jobs just got started yesterday and today. But the feel of the room was lightened and enlivened from the day I introduced the concept!
    I needed a cooler word that “New Structure Counter” so we’re calling it “Word Census Taker”. Well, it was student-suggested. That makes it cooler.
    One a student thought up, which I think will work well for him: Choreographer. He stands silently at the back of the room when we have actors up, and they follow his cues (if they need guidance on their role). Worked great: that kid is super-fidgety but also very bright. He knows what’s going on and needs to move.

  3. Census Takers! I love that. Gotta put that in in place of the PQA counters. Nice on the Choreographer. I think we are missing the boat on this whole jobs thing. It’s big. I tend to let the jobs emerge organically, but then sometimes the year is over and a lot of awesome jobs go unclaimed. So I think I might take some time in English to describe some of the other jobs. (So far each class only has about 8 or 9 positions filled.) Then, if I don’t include them in the story bc I forgot their job, I have no doubt that they will remind me.

    1. I just made a document with all the information available to my students. They have laptops. I made the file available and they sent me emails with their ideas. So I didn’t have to explain too much in English after the idea got across. A lot of their emails had other nice comments: “I like the idea of jobs.” “Any job would be great!” “Chinese rocks!” “Thank you for these ideas. I love our class and these jobs will make it even better.” etc. so it was nice for me, too.

  4. I must admit, it took me a minute to figure out what “jobs” meant! This is huge, as my attempts to have jobs this year have failed. Maybe my kids are too young…I had a kid jump up and say (in whatever tone he wanted) “how many” when I said the French equivalent. It fell flat. I tried engaging another student who always seemed to be in a fog in a similar way, and once again, very little response. It all seemed so forced. Is this “trial and error?” Recommendations?

    1. Yeah – I have a 4th grade class that isn’t ready. I think for them, jobs would be the logistical, helper jobs, like distributor/collector, fire marshall, eraser wrangler, plus maybe a greeter. Not the kinds of jobs that happen during instructional times.

  5. That’s why I try to let them emerge organically when needed. So I am caught between waiting and letting them emerge and doing all the hiring now. Hmmm.

    You’ll see how the jobs emerge in time. And make up your own. Get them involved, if not just in passing out quiz scantrons, simple stuff first. Soon they’ll be fighting for jobs.

    This is really too big a topic. Let the jobs slide a bit, is my advice, put have a list nearby on your desk or something. When the job is needed you will know. Just keep doing the CI. It’ll happen. This is a long path as we all know. But worth it.

  6. The jobs have been working very well for me, especially since I don’t have my own classroom and it always takes away time at the beginning of class to get set up. In one class it has been so nice to have a kid erase the board and another get the projector turned on while I get my materials read. I have bigger jobs as well but even the kids with small jobs take them seriously.
    That said, I want to share a terrible mistake I made last week with a kid and a job. Please understand that I really debated sharing this but since Ben posted the topic again, I thought it might be a sign that this story might be helpful in preventing others from repeating my mistake.
    Last week in one of my Chinese 1 classes, the students were cutting out Chinese character flash cards and there were lots of paper scraps so I asked if anyone would volunteer to take the recycle box around. A tiny quiet little African American kid raised his hand and took the job and I titled it Environmental Protection Agent to make it sound important. Then that night we had “curriculum night” where the parents come to class for seven minutes. At the end of my quick talk I met his mom and stupidly thinking I was sharing something about how great her kid is, I mentioned the job (you can see the train wreck coming but I didn’t at the time). The next day, the kid looked terrible with bags under his eyes. He was sullen the whole class where normally he was cheerful and engaged. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was fine. The following day the same thing. It took a whole weekend of thinking to realize what I had done. Basically, I had made the only African-American kid in the class the garbage collector in his mom’s eyes. I was aghast at my own insensitivity. So I figured if he was still sullen in class on Monday, that the mistake would be confirmed and he was. We had a team game in class that day and he really got into it so I could see he wanted to enjoy learning in this class. I kept him after class and made the next class wait outside. I told him that I had been thinking about it and that I was wondering if he would be willing to switch to another job, the class scribe. I explained the job to him and said that this was one of the most important jobs in the class and that I needed someone intelligent and responsible to take it on. Would he be willing to do it? He immediately accepted and left with a big smile on his face. I also told him he could talk to me anytime he needed to. Today, it seemed all was well again and he was back to being the interested and engaged kid he was before.
    I don’t know if mom was unhappy with me or unhappy with him for volunteering or both. I will probably never know. I just pray that the damage has been repaired.
    Being married to a Chinese husband and having experienced some occasionally nasty prejudice because of this and having lived and worked in racially and ethnically diverse settings for most of my life, I never imagined I would make such a stupid mistake but I did. I share this story so that it will be instructive and I’m glad this list is a private group.

  7. Beautiful story and a great cautionary tale for all of us. However, I am of the opinion that in a long career, if our hearts are open, we are going to get into situations like that. You know? I mean, the teachers with the scowls are largely protecting themselves bc they fear these pie-in-the-face events more than anything and so they go around protecting themselves all the time and hence the scowl. Doing full blast comprehension based instruction IS more dangerous in that sense. But we don’t have to scowl. You rock Tamula -such a wonderful addition to our group. Thank you.

  8. I haven’t “hired” anyone as of yet, because I’m in week two and spending ALL of my time and energy on the rules, enforcing, practicing, and letting the language take a back seat. This new focus just feels so right, in my gut, and the kids are really starting to understand that my rules and expectations are #1. Every day, I have to fight the urge to “get to the material” to skip over the rules, let little things go, and do content. But I just keep telling myself that if I don’t hammer this home now, I’ll be putting out fires, the same fires, in May. When I tell the kids that their cards are our textbook for the next few weeks, I see their faces brighten up, and even hear the occasional “cool” whispered. So I know that I’m on the right track with this. Screw the textbook. The real textbook is, and should be, the students’ lives, their interests, what they think is important.

    I haven’t been very active online, because I’ve really been retreating inward, in order to have the strength, clarity and focus to make the most of every minute of my class time working the mind meld with my students. It is the least amount of “prep” (=stupid busywork, preparing crap to keep them busy and for me to hide behind) ever in my career, but the actual psychological/emotional energy expended is exhausting. It’s a good kind of effort to be putting into the classes, again, it feels right in my gut, and I am connecting with these kids, slowly but surely.

    So today a secretary job (as per Jim’s post) emerged organically today. I have a new 8th grader in my Latin 2 class with no previous Latin–but he knows French and is a 4%er (and is not a jerk), so I’m not really worried. Today, I asked him to write down every word that is new to him, and I was throwing a lot at the class between CWB and word wall–all of it review. It really helped him learn (but not necessarily acquire) the vocab, because it helps him to write, and gives me and the rest of the class a record of the vocab we have reviewed, as well as the new structures, but I have only introduced one in eight class days in my year 2 classes. That structure is “but now,” and what I had them do is write a new name card (name and pictures of what they enjoy doing) and I gave them the one they filled out last year (glad I kept them!), and now we are going around talking about the difference, e.g. “last year billy played football, but now he does not play football.” Great for past tense, getting to know about the changes in students’ lives, and spending a lot of time in TL from the start.

  9. Speaking of bravery, these are brave words right here:

    …screw the textbook. The real textbook is, and should be, the students’ lives, their interests, what they think is important….

    And John I appreciate your pointing out that you are going through an exhausting period of inner fire/introspection. I think a lot of us are right about now. So what if we spend half our time on discipline and calling parents and stuff like that? (I’ve only made a few phone calls and they were students testing me on unexcused absences – the focus in the room, the absence of blurting and all of that are magical and that is all, for me, due to my Three and Done policy. But it IS an emotional effort of extreme proportion. I trust that it will pay off, like you say, in May. Just reading all these comments from Allison and Dave and Jen and all, it is clear that there is some tremendous internal work going on here in the middle of the most intense and important month of any school year. That is bravery. We are brave people.

    1. Could we ask people to share a script, if you will, that they use when calling home on a discipline problem? I know it’s not that cookie cutter but it’d help to know how to start that call and get the right MSG across. This isn’t so much a tprs related question but more that I’m still a very nervous newbie teacher when calling home and I’d hate to buckle.

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