Not a good day

It’s freezing in my little classroom. There’s a cracked window, so that plus the fact that the wind is howling makes it chilly in this under-insulated relocatable. I moved my first class to the library, where things didn’t go as well as I’d like, and the next class to be in here was cold and not too forthcoming.

What I ended up doing was sharing the story that the first year kids had done, and asked the advanced class to finish it. They did. Maybe I’m just getting used to their talking ability. Need to switch it up a bit for my sake, if not for theirs.

(They loved the Valentine’s Day vocab: as per Nathan, they were pickup lines: Could I have your phone number, What are you doing tonight, and the one that our exchange student said she heard last summer: does your mother need a son-in-law?)

Last night I ran across a video we’d done when Susie skyped with our group. One of her suggestions (planning for a sub day) was to have kids in pairs draw stories (the drawings will help them remember the story line), then choose actors to act out the story as they tell it. That’s what we’ll do the next time they do a speaking assessment. Tomorrow they’re going to get to write this one up, and I’ll do a write-up using as many of their suggestions as possible.

7 responses to “Not a good day

  1. Ouch. I’m sorry about the cold day; that would really stink. It’s enough fighting the morning blahs to have to deal with the elements as well. On really cold days I pull up a YouTube video of a fireplace and just leave it running in the background as students come into class and for the first few minutes. It doesn’t make it any warmer, but at least helps me visualize where I want to be.

    Out of curiosity, about how often do you do speaking assessments? I’m going to roll some out this next week, but I haven’t decided yet about how often to make them.

    I was thinking that speaking assessments would be valuable every so often as a way of recycling target vocabulary for a given time period period, as a way of seeing what actually made it to the acquisition hard drive as opposed just understood to get through a given day. But I don’t want to blow my lower level students out either. (I probably don’t want to overtax the upper level students either, but I’m pretty comfortable telling them to just suck it up and go for it, which they generally do).


  2. I have been sticking pretty well to two speaking (and everything else) a month. Any longer and my brain can’t handle the down time, though I’m possibly going to string it out to include a separate week for listening and structures, so that the cycle would be a six-week one (two a week: speaking and vocabulary one week, reading and writing the next, and listening and structures the third). I’ve been trying to cram listening and reading together and vocabulary and structures. The latter pair works pretty well, but the first means too much work for me! I think that might be a better gauge of how they’re actually processing stuff too. Today I learned that almost all of my level 1 kids have acquired the reflexive verb “broke (itself),” a verb I didn’t learn until I was teaching. They also know the irregular third-person singular form of “to beat,” but I guess that what I’m demonstrating here is boy-heavy classes! I think there are two lists of high-frequency (or high-interest) vocabulary, depending partly on age and partly on gender. Wouldn’t that be an interesting study, now!!


  3. Oh…and I did try the Susie method of assessment later with my level 1 class of MS kids. They LOVED it. Eminem and Justin Bieber got in a fight over a girl…well…it looked pretty bad when my volunteer from the university walked in at that moment!


    • Great stuff! My assessment regimen isn’t nearly that extensive–mostly vocab, spot quizzes, speaking and free writes; time to diversify.

      Well, as long as you keep sharing useful things, I’m going to keep pumping you for information. 🙂 How do you differentiate between vocabulary and structures for assessment purposes? What’s the Susie method of assessment?


  4. I have figured out a GREAT little 2-column record-keeping thing for vocab/structure quizzes. Imagine a list of five words down the page, space to write the meaning, and then a little 2×5 chart next to it titled “vocab” and “structure” at the top. First word is the verb that signals “he played.” If a student writes any version of “play,” s/he gets a point in the vocab line. “He” gets one point under structure, and “ed” gets another. I can tweak to make the amount correct for a B different for each level, so that way I can quiz four different levels in one swoop. And…we grade in class, so I get to do lots of grammar pop-ups as we go through the quiz. I’m still aiming for Laurie’s sliding scale, so there’s a few the level 2’s should get easily, a few for the level 3’s, and so on. The only “challenge” ones that I write specifically are for the AP kids.

    Susie’s sub idea is how I assessed the kids in the second group yesterday–they figure out a story, tell it, directing actors, and I take notes on the holistic rubric. It was pretty swift, except that I got caught up in the action a bit and forgot to take notes. It’s really the same-old, same-old, but because of adding the actors, the kids are all excited.


  5. Michele,
    Is this one your speaking assessments? I had my kids do a little one on one with me after reading books that other students had written. My biggest problem was that it was really time consuming. They did pretty well overall but the rubric for grading was very subjective (Were they able to express themselves without a lot of hesitation? Were they able to use there is/there are? Did they use a variety of vocab?)

    I would love to hear about your speaking assessment ideas and those of anyone else who wants to share.

    Thanks, and so glad your portable (that’s what we call them at our school, and that’s where I live when at school too!) is warmer! Spring is just around the corner!


  6. I follow Scott’s guidelines for speaking assessments (his webinar is very helpful on this matter). He doesn’t give the kids long to plan–about ten minutes is plenty, and they get up and do their thing.

    I use his holistic grading rubric (I’ll share it with you on google docs in just a moment) and I underline the parts that the kids do, and write comments on the side for the stuff they do really well–usually a plus sign with what they did well, and if I feel the need, a checkmark with something that they could improve on.

    For this idea of Susie’s, what would work in the future would be to have the kids tell what their skit is called, and say in the target language that “Bryce is playing the roll of Justin Beiber, and . . . ” because that was the part that took a long time. Ordinarily, the groups gather, do their prep, and then they have to line up in order of speech so that I can grade them easily.


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