Finishing books

I was writing to Ben and included what I’m about to post. I’m hoping none of my period 4 kids will read this before Tuesday. I’ll post my rubric for meeting/exceeding/progressing later on (I’m exceeding my time-on-line limit!!)

About multi-level: I have a level one MS class with a few level two kids, and a HS level one group with a formerly mute native speaker who is now reading everything he can get his hands on and a few kids who’ve had two to eight years of Russian elsewhere. Any of them could be in my other two classes.

My “level two” class has a lot of level 2’s, a group of level 3 kids, a couple level 4, and a couple of native speakers.

My “advanced” class has a level 2, a bunch of level 3, several level 4, a quartet of AP, and four level 5 kids. (One is in her sixth year, but she was AP last year, so it’s level 5 designation…she also won a spot in the State Department summer intensive last year, so she’s really astronomical level.)

Without TPRS, I don’t know what I’d be doing other than going mad, but I am having a bit of trouble with assessing comprehension in reading. It’s just not fair to give everyone the same quiz. So here’s an example of this week’s open-book quizzes for this week for the most advanced group, since I think I have to jettison my ideas of having them write the quizzes. (My “level 2” class has been reading three other selections too.)

For the two advanced kids who’ve been reading with the level 2/3 groups (questions are still in English; answers in Russian):

1. Japanese readers of Cheburashka comment that they love him because of his naivete (наивность/он наивный/его простота). What are two incidents in the story that might lead this characterization?

2. What are two cultural references or behaviors make this Russian story different from an American one?

3. Compare Cheburashka or Gena to one of your childhood “heroes.”

For the level 2/3 group, on the same reading:

1. What did Cheburashka ask Gena to bring when he invited him to tea? (literal level question)

2. Why did Gena take the part of the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood”? (literal level question)

3. What were two changes that Gena made in the script of “Little Red Riding Hood”? (literal level question, but requires reading two sections)

4. Why didn’t Cheburashka take Tobik home? (literal level question, but requires reading two sections)

5. Whom would you like to have more as a friend, Gena or Cheburashka, and why? (synthesis)

For the level 5’s, on the same reading:

1. What were two changes that Gena made in the script of “Little Red Riding Hood”?

2. Why didn’t Cheburashka take Tobik home?

3. Whom would you like to have more as a friend, Gena or Cheburashka, and why?

4. What are two cultural references and behaviors that make this Russian story different from an American one?

For the AP group, who have been reading another children’s classic:

1. Readers of Chuk and Gek say that the mother is idealized. Do you agree? Is she too perfect, or is she a normal mother?

2. Whom do you like better, Chuk or Gek, and why?

3. What cultural issues in this story would not have come up in an American story?

My hope is that this will be fairly quick–I’ll tell them that on the first run-through they should answer in no more than two sentences per question. That will let me know what they understand (I hope). Then I’ll let them discuss their answers in the reading groups. After that, they will get a separate fast-write on one topic of their choice. (All this is going to be spread out over several days per our usual schedule).

Now I see that the over-arching theme could be that though there are cultural differences, stories for children stress how we must help one another through difficult times and how helping others makes us happier ourselves. So maybe for our final, instead of just having the kids do the “ten years from now” reunion, they will all get to return as philanthropists who are making the world a better place and explain what they’ve done.

I’m hanging my soul out here… Figuring out fair assessment in comprehension is for me one of the challenges of teaching a mixed-level TPRS class. I wish I were like Laurie, having figured out my plan at the beginning of the year, but that’s something that just never jelled this year.


3 responses to “Finishing books

  1. Ah go easy on yourself my friend!! I did NOT have my plan mapped out. :o) I had a goal of incorporating a focus from the Bill of Children’s Rights…..but as it turned out…I did what you did….chose a few things in advance, latched on to things that came up, changed things as I felt moved to do so. The “Never Give Up” theme simply evolved. As did the Power (to make decisions, to make changes, to make a difference) theme in Level 1.

    Truth is…as nice as a theme sounds….it doesn’t change how you teach. :o) Or that you are very good at it.

    with love,


  2. I really like the idea of setting a theme for each year though…in my case, keeping it the same for level one each year, so I’m going to want to talk with you about that more later, and then maybe picking a theme each year to focus on with the upper levels. As I’ve found in teaching English classes, it’s pretty easy to find any theme in most literature, as long as it’s an abiding one. Obviously some will stand out, but it’s almost like looking at the HF vocabulary in any piece of writing. Almost any piece of literature can support the benefit in doing for others, that it’s important to find a place for oneself, that life is a journey, that unexpected challenges offer us an opportunity to grow, and so on. On the micro level, we find the same linguistic structures in any piece of writing, and those are the ones we emphasize.

    Thanks for the reality AND your amazing self, Laurie!


    • Oh my, Michele–I can’t believe how complicated this is!! With multi-multi levels,I don’t know how you COULD plan ahead for the whole year. I’d have to imagine that the dynamic is ever-changing. Kudos to you for taking the time and mental effort needed to reach and assess the kids at their level.


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