of Poems and Postcards

Life is good. I love kids. And having resolutions to follow is very helpful.

The kids LOVED reading their postcards. I had them up on individual notebook pages. I read each one out loud and the kid who wrote it got to translate.

Progress on Essential Questions: I have written them on the board each period. It’s pretty funny when the kids notice whether we got to the answers. Today, we never got to the second verse of a poem in one class, but they all did know the vocabulary. I’m thinking that I need to do Betsy’s “standing exit ticket” again to have a demonstration of the knowledge. That makes the question and the answer(s) come full circle.

Progress on teaching poems through TPRS: a no-brainer. I just do the same thing as I do with a song: introduce structures, use gestures if possible, and then circle the information. We did two lines of a Pushkin poem today with four kids who were on their very first day of Russian. Awesome. I should start mid-year at the beginning of every year!! Couldn’t believe it. By slowing down to a s n a i l ‘ s pace (really, that’s how it felt), not only did we get a lot more in, but the second-year kid who then told the story and recited the poem sounded like she was a native speaker. It’s hard for me to believe that.

I also remembered to have the whole class tell the story to their hands today, and I walked around and listened. There’s a lot of information coming at the teacher when everyone is telling a story at once.

Progress on the “25 words for the quarter” is also good (so far, I know, I know). The kids are totally relieved to realize that I truly expect them to get only 25 words a quarter. I explained to them that it’s a matter of gathering forms and cases.

Last night I was practicing with my early music group, and I had an ah-hah moment about that. We were practicing music that we’d played for our Christmas concert, getting it ready for an upcoming event. All of a sudden, this part that I’d just been playing revealed a whole bunch of connections with what others in the group were playing. I realized that even though I’d played the music adequately back in December, now I am able to get it on a whole new level. We all thought we were playing better suddenly.

I shared that with the kids, and explained again that there are all the levels of understanding this new language–I think I started to understand first from Jody:
recognition of having heard a particular word/structure before
hearing and understanding
understanding in different contexts
being able to spit out the structure as an answer
being able to use that structure in a whole phrase
being able to use it naturally in a story
being able to use it correctly in several forms (usually third-fourth year)
being able to use it correctly in all forms (usually fourth-seventh! year

It takes time, even for the teachers: I’m beginning to understand some of these pieces better in my fourth year.

(I’m updating this to tag it to the speaking and assessment categories because of the great ideas in the comments that follow.)


8 responses to “of Poems and Postcards

  1. Michele,
    Happy New Year! It sounds like things are going so well for you! You always inspire me, you know!

    I am doing oral evaluations starting tomorrow. I’m using your rubric. The kids were quick to comment today about the fact that “meets expectations” and “exceeds expectations” were reversed in order of competency. They are so used the the system. I know they panic a bit. I am just wondering if you or anyone else has any words of advice on evaluating their speaking. We will be using pictures they have drawn (without words) and they will be speaking about a random picture and telling the best story they can. They will have a minute or two while waiting to work with me to look over the pictures and pick one they want to talk about. The other students will be reading books they wrote to each other so there will be lots going on.

    I can hear as we practice that the “the” and the “a/an” are either missing or misplaced (often using “a” instead of “the” after a character is introduced. I think this is an order of acquisition problem and not the fault of not hearing it enough. (¿I hope?) Also I do notice some subject verb agreement issues and some adverb/adjective issues. I don’t want to expect too much or grade them too harshly and conversely I don’t want to go too easy. I am just as nervous as they are I guess!

    Any words of wisdom from this wonderful family?
    Thanks for any comments or advice. I appreciate this community so much,


    • Ruth-
      I often have that problem about grammer usage being wrong when I speak with my Elder and patiently she corrects me by saying the senctance correctly. It is helpful because when I hear her I can then ask about the grammer differences and she can help me understand.
      As for being nervous with the students about their work. Share that. Tell them that when they make an error, you know what they need and what you yourself may not have taught well enough with the whole class (especially when a lot of them make the same mistake). Let them know that your evaluation of their work is as much for your own evaluation of your teaching as about what they may have learned. They are helping you when they take the tests to know where you need to improve in your teaching as much as helping them assess what they may have missed. That brings it back full circle to you are a classroom community helping each other learn.


  2. Ruth, one evaluation fact that I keep getting beat over the head on during oral evaluations is that it is super tough to listen to a presentation and then evaluate it on a rubric. It works pretty well once you are used to the rubric, but it takes the first few tries to get an idea for yourself just what your cutoff points will be for each category. I tell my students that the first few people to go get graded easier while I am getting my act together. Once you do it a few times, though, you get a pretty quick routine down where you can ignore the process and focus on the language you are hearing.

    As far as the grammatical “mistakes” you are hearing, I would not even worry about them as part of the speaking evaluations unless they impede understanding. Do, however, take good notes as to what patterns of “mistakes” you hear, because that will provide you your focus for the next few days (choosing structures that model correct forms). Notice that I put “mistakes” in quotation marks because they are not really mistakes. They’re feedback to you as to what is actually being acquired, and you need that feedback as much as they need yours.

    Good luck!


  3. I so agree with Nathan here, Ruth. Mistakes are most important for you to realize what you need to keep popping up on.

    I personally like having groups present. I still grade the kids individually, but the group practices for ten minutes or so and the kids help one another get more “stuff” to say, and they have one another to hang onto up there. I don’t know who it was who tipped me off to have the weakest group go first, but that is what I do (I don’t tell them that, of course), because then no one has to follow the most amazing group. What that does is make everyone stronger the next time. I have told the strongest individual kids in the room that they are likely to be last every time, so not to feel funny about it. Then, when another group blows their previous record out of the water, I just sit there like a fish with my mouth opening and closing. I let myself laugh when kids go funny, and occasionally I will start the tick-tock alarm, to remind certain individuals that they don’t get to take all the time in the world.

    I write on the rubric the stuff that they get perfect (I’m writing really fast), and the things that they risk with, the vocabulary that impresses me, and the pieces of story that amaze me, and while the group is still standing there, I tell them what they all did well, trying for just a couple things at least for every kid. With any kid who goes after a complex bit and muffs it, but is still comprehensible for me, I report that, because especially for the strong kids, it sends a message that there’s still work to be done, but also gives kids the reminder that I am happy when they go for something out of the ordinary. If someone goes for a subjunctive or does a nice description, or explains their opinion, I’ll remind them that’s on the advanced level of OPI rating.

    I like what Nathan says about telling them they’ll get graded more gently if they’re the first ones to go, and I think that you can easily do my notetaking thing with just one kid talking at a time. I just hate to have to manage a whole class while I’m doing the individual grading. I’ve tried Susie’s way of sending them into the hall with the video running, but that means more grading time for me later and no immediate feedback.

    Wow. This question took me on a rant! Time for bed…good luck on this. Just remember that you are good at what you do. You know where the kids are and what you’ve taught them. Enjoy hearing the fruits of your labor–theirs and your own. Laugh when they’re funny. Love them.


    • I have done the group evaluation too and loved it. My best one was in the following format. The kids had done pictures to illustrate the chapter that we’ve read and worked on (a lot!). With these pictures in hands, a group of four had two minutes to take turns and say one sentence that pertained to any of the pictures. They could not repeat someone else’s sentence unless they added new information. (i.e. one kid says, “She likes to play soccer.” and another could say, “She likes to play soccer in the park with her friends.”) The kids practiced it in class for two days (no more than 3-4 min) and once with time restriction just before the evaluation. On the first day they had to establish the order and follow it every time. If they could not say anything at the moment, they had to say “pass” and be ready for their next turn. Time limit allowed me to fit in a class of 28 in about 20-25 minutes!

      Here is the best part. I did this assessment in mid-December. In one of the groups, every person said seven sentences including the girl who started French in September, unlike many others who were exposed to it in MS. That means 28 sentences in two minutes. Unbelievable!!!

      I had simple rubric in hand which I explained to the students beforehand. As they were speaking, I marked the number of sentences on the seating chart, conferred with the rubric and wrote “Advanced”, “Proficient”, etc on it. I commented on their performance right after and entered a short comment in the grade book as well the same day so I don’t forget. I worked out great!


  4. Thanks guys! I have found it pretty manageable (knock on wood here) because they are engaged in sharing the books they wrote some time ago. They have to share with each other one on one so it takes some time to visit with everybody else in class. Also they can look at someone else’s picture story and practice speaking/telling a story about it.

    I appreciate the advice and support.
    p.s. Michele you are so good. I can never seem to get to bed early and yet I have to get up at 5:15! New year resolution, walk more, go to bed earlier. Thanks again.


    • Truth is…I kept reading for another two hours…and now I’m at school only seven minutes late. I am trying hard to get to bed earlier.

      That’s a very cool activity. Writing books is something we haven’t done in a while. Were they stories?


  5. Ruth, this might be a little late, but my suggestion is to take note only of what they do right. Everything else falls into the category of what they haven’t gotten right…yet!!! It not only keeps you from worrying about the “wrong” but will actually give you a VERY accurate idea of what they have mastered.

    The hard part of this is training the teacher brain that has been conditioned to focus on what is wrong. It’s just a little, but very powerful, shift in the paradigm!!

    So glad that my computer is back home!!
    with love,


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