All three of my Russian classes were in the lab today.
In the beginning class, the level 2 and superstar 1’s were paired up to read a bunch of stories from last year. The rest of the class got divided into apples and oranges, and they each had half the period reading our stories from the beginning of the year and working with me. I decided it was time for a come-to-god meeting with that group, who haven’t been responding much. We practiced focus and we practiced making really silly stories and being sure that the small groups understood their role in making the class work. By the end of each half, each group was giving me the kind of response I wanted, and I had figured out that I am often losing about a third of the class. I think we’re back on track now. (How many times have I said that this year? I need to go slower, repeat more, and be more relaxed…be willing to wait for them to come up with cute ideas.) I think that I really should give the TPRS talk about a month into the year, rather than trying to do it early on. They’re too bombarded with information in the beginning about how each class is going to go. It’s no wonder that they don’t remember.
The intermediate class was taxed with looking over our two most recent songs, pulling out five words they think the song has taught them, and then commenting on the one or two lines they had the most reaction to from the song. Wow. Talk about heart-striking. I always forget that these kids have lives outside class. That sounds weird, but it’s true. One wrote that the song about childhood running away is bittersweet because she’s about to turn 18 and childhood will be essentially over. She will have many more responsibilities in the coming year. Another wrote how he misses the snowdrifts that he played in when he lived in his village. I never thought about how he’d been transplanted into a big city. Then there was the line about how the statement of water having no end seemed to one kid to be an allusion to death. It fit the line and the song, but whoa.
I had been meaning to do poetry discussion circles with this group a la Amy Wright. Amy gave us great ways to discuss poetry and songs with kids, and their responses never cease to amaze me. They are really thinking while we’re singing and reading. They just don’t often get the chance to express those thoughts in our crazy little classroom. Now I’m sorry that we didn’t do this out loud, but on the other hand, all the kids seemed to be reading everyone else’s responses to the songs, so the results were similar to an oral response circle. I think I’m going to print them out and post them on my bulletin board.
In the advanced group, we continued working on our novel(s). We have the one going with Peter the Great’s childhood and the kid who keeps falling into his life from the present day, and the other one developing about a kid who likes a girl but just can’t do things right. I loved hearing my advanced kids explaining grammar points to one another (when to use infinitives, for example) IN RUSSIAN!!! They were typing in teams. That isn’t to say that their explanations were always correct or that the explanations were comprehensible, but I thought it was adorable. Now we have a third group writing children’s stories for a Ukrainian colleague who teaches 2-5th grade Russian.
I’m not sure any of these activities other than the poetry one (where they had to go from the class site to the wiki and back to the class site) were totally driven by technology. We just did our usual thing and the technology assisted. It was a brain break.