Michael and repeating

It’s been a while since I made a “daily report.” I’m not doing anything exceptionally new or unusually exciting, but I’m getting into the new year. Days like this make me think I could teach forever, because when I find a way to move organically from one discussion and activity into the next, it feels fluid and right.

Yesterday I used “he/she received” and “gave a present to” for all four Russian classes. I followed Michael’s lead, writing vocabulary on the board, asking for spelling, and showing other forms, including the future perfective, which even some beginner kids actually remembered today. Then we did PQA (personalized questions and answers) until I got some interesting places to go. Since kids in the first class were really interesting, having received such presents as dinosaurs and fancy cars, I shared their information with every class to follow. In the third hour, there was a kid who “hadn’t received anything b/c he was on a hockey trip to Canada.”  I made much of that, asking who paid for it (Mom), and what he bought her. “She wasn’t there!” He bought himself a sweatshirt though. I suggested he buy her some flowers and write a nice card thanking her. “But I don’t write.” And on and on. He’s such a sweet boy that it turns out he did go buy his mom roses yesterday afternoon. That became another part of the discussion today. In the meantime, I collected pictures on a PowerPoint of everything everyone had given or received, and we talked about them all.

In each class, we then did a mini fast-write, with the pictures up and the extra vocabulary on the board. I am anxious to find out how it went with the first-years. This is the first time they’ve had to write anything other than short responses.

In the intermediate class, the nature of the questions we were asking meant that I had to give the kids a really “advanced” question-asking structure, but it didn’t feel so advanced with them. It was just something that they needed to be able to at least understand.

In the advanced class, we were going to be dealing with a Pushkin short story. We did the same thing with three structures from the story, writing and practicing asking and talking. I guess that what is happening is that we are spending a lot more time than I have been just for nailing down those structures. Then we did a pre-parallel story with the vocabulary. There were three matching characters, in a time different from the real story, in a place different from the real story, and the ages of the characters were different, as were the topics that they raised. But the kids had fun with the story, and then we did the fast write on their pre-parallel story. I’ve become less strict about them asking for individual words if they need them, thanks to playing with PDL. Sometimes they really do need an isolated word, and they end up often remembering it because it’s their word.

(Re-reading this, I realize how much teaching from scripts like the ones from Anne Matava and Jim Tripp has taught me about how to develop a parallel story to go along with a novel or a short story. Blaine Ray always said to do “parallel stories,” but I never really understood how they might be set up. There’s no one right way, but it helps to have a model.)

We went on to reading the first part of the real story and comparing it to the story we had started creating in class. It was fun! The kids caught the story a lot faster than they might have, and yet it’s a “classic” that I’d never have tried to read in the old days. Again, skills transferred: I think that learning how to interact with the characters in a story for PDL is helping me “do” stories better. (And maybe it’s just that I’m all relaxed coming in from the holiday break.)

If I had access to the story in printed form, I might do an embedded first version of it and ask them to fill in details that they remember. I might type one up anyway, as their next fast write. I didn’t feel the need to use an embedded reading with this first part, mostly because it is relatively easy once we’ve played with the new structures and used them in a story. It would probably not hurt us to do some re-telling, maybe compare/contrast, before moving on to the next part, if I want to stick to my guns about repetition.

Isn’t teaching language the best thing there is? I suppose I could think of all the ways I could have done this better, but instead I am thinking of how much fun it is to create a structure for teaching and yet go free-wheeling inside it.

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