Parent talk

I haven’t been posting here much. I’m involved in a competitive rowing challenge this month, and it’s taking up all my time, but it will be over and then I’ll be back to normal levels of craziness.

Today a bunch of my advanced kids left the room to go advertise our program to the nearby junior high, and I decided to reward the ones who were left by doing some MovieTalk with the same cartoon I use with my beginners. I was wondering how it would go, since obviously the advanced kids aren’t beginners. The last movie I worked on with them was very different!

It turned out that I could talk on a way different level, and what I was talking about had a much richer vocabulary, but they were tuned in almost as strongly as the beginners are. There’s the sound, and then there’s the visual, and I’m providing a river of Russian as we look at individual slides, because I almost don’t let it play freely at all.

What I found was that it’s just like parents with their children: I changed my language level based on their eyes. They understood, so I talked a little faster. They looked a bit confused, so I re-explained with different words. Some of the kids heard variations in synonyms and asked about them. I explained. I LOVED it!! I should just use the same stuff with every class, all day long!

Another interesting thing: because I’ve been showing these particular cartoons to my beginners all year, there are specific vocabulary structures that they understand. It didn’t even occur to me that my advanced kids might not understand some of them. I was blown away when I realized what I’d taught the beginners, and that it seemed so strange I hadn’t taught the more advanced kids. Sometimes “high frequency” does depend on the context. Most of the time, it doesn’t, and I can’t even tell you what it was that the advanced kids didn’t have in their repertoire. It had something to do with being awakened and being disturbed, sleeping until the sun came out, and putting clothes on in the morning. We just haven’t ever discussed those things in the advanced class, while the beginners are always talking about what they wear and having things go bump in the night. In fact, their structures this week are: “at night,” “is afraid of,” and “s/he meets.” Aren’t those a great set of structures for stories??

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3 responses to “Parent talk

  1. hello! just a quick question. i’ve been reading up on movie talk after reading your posts. it sounds like i’m supposed to narrate, without asking any questions. is that correct? how do you check for comprehension besides the eyes? do you ask circling questions? do you ask more discussion-based questions? thanks for any clarification!

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  2. Lea, how great that you’re going to try this! As I see it, a teacher has to narrate and then ask comprehension questions. I ask circling questions, and I ask easily-answered discussion questions. “Is the bear going to get mad? would you be mad? I know I would be! When do you get mad? Now the little girl is stealing all the chocolates. Is she stealing the flowers? No, she isn’t stealing the flowers. What’s she stealing? That’s right, the chocolates. Does she like the chocolate or the flowers? Right, she likes the chocolates.” I do it as long as it seems sort of natural, and I occasionally remind the kids that they’re supposed to be listening to a flood of language that they can 90% or more understand.

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