Big picture

Today I may start attending a local language class on Thematic Units. I’m not sure I really want to…time is not something I have a lot of just now…but I need “food” for teaching. Every spring I run up against teaching the whole of Russian culture in just a couple of months, and I need a better way to do it.

The main reason to take the class is that I hear the teacher walks on water.

But it’s my birthday!

She might well be the perfect gift…

Yesterday I had a great time with my adults. I used exactly my current advanced lessons from school, and was reminded for the umpteenth time how easy it is to teach folks who really want to be present and who have no grade hanging over their heads. Kids are sleep-deprived and already stuck in February.

So when I had the adults acting, then pre-reading, then reading a story, and finally watching the five minutes of a movie based on the story, they made class so alive that I came to my high school lessons with new enthusiasm this morning. One of yesterday’s kids helped me even more by commenting how much easier it is to read the story we’re working through when we act it out in advance. Usually we actually pre-ask a parallel story, then act the real thing, then compare, then read, then compare again, and so on. This time I was trying to make it take less time, but I guess it really doesn’t matter! It’s okay to take time. We can do things deep and narrow, as long as they’re acquiring language.


7 responses to “Big picture

  1. Happy Birthday! And great comment! Thanks for sharing!!


  2. That is why I keep coming back to your blog and the great resources you list. Food!
    The deep and narrow is very much what gets the job done. I am so glad you are having such great success with your adults. Are they a weekly meet? Tell me about that class? My e-mail is the same if you want to take this discussion off the blog.
    I’m struggling with my adult group (we are monthly) in that they don’t seem to do any work on their own. It’s a little disappointing in that I don’t feel like I’m making any headway.


    • I actually have two adult classes that I teach on Monday nights, about six or seven times per school quarter. I can’t imagine meeting only monthly!

      One is the beginner class. I guarantee that anyone can walk into the class any time over the course of the year, and I will make it comprehensible. That is a big offer, and it keeps me slow. Sometimes it’s a bit tricky, because of course people who’ve been there for months are ahead of the first-day folks. Still, there is a lot of language out there, and I try to stick to the ten most essential structures. We sing some songs if I feel like it, sometimes do MovieTalk, and usually either talk about people in the class, sometimes leading to a story. It really depends on who’s there and how they respond to the structures I’ve chosen. I write everything in three colors: one each for the phrase in Cyrillic, in Roman letters, and the English meaning.

      The intermediate class requires that people know the Cyrillic alphabet and have some Russian background. That way I can relax and not have to write out the Roman letters for everything. In that group, I often do a revised version of lessons from my intermediate and advanced high school classes. Sometimes the high school and adult classes get to see what the others have been doing. Sometimes everyone is using the same materials. Usually they’re different. With the adults I can tackle topics that I’d never try with the kids, but mainly I try to pick something that will give them some new language and me a chance to practice technique.

      The practice applies to both groups. I get reminded by teaching adults how to be respectful of learners. Sometimes I get going too fast in my high school classes, so teaching in a way that allows anyone to walk in any time reminds me how to keep everyone with me. Still, I have to offer something new to all, so it’s a dance.

      I don’t actually expect anyone to do anything outside class. I type up the stories that we tell in the beginner class (sometimes in the last few minutes of class), and I post a picture of the board if we get lots of structures on it in either class. I email a “class report” to the entire group so that they can then find the reading and songs or stories that we’re working on. Sometimes people work outside class, sometimes they don’t. It’s really up to them. Originally these classes were aimed only at my students’ parents and parents of kids in the immersion program. I promised them “No homework” because I know that anyone with kids is already pushing the limits by showing up to my class.


  3. Yes meeting monthly is a challenge. I began the sessions saying that they were in charge of their learning and homework would be offered. I need to remember that. The horse and water trough image looms large in my mind at the moment.

    I’ve provided them with CDs of vocabulary and some re cap sheets of what we had done. I also gave them different suggestions to access the material (ie. multiple intelligence strategies). To date, I don’t think anyone has tried any of that and I am not wasting time trying to put all that together each month. Though it was a good exercise in how to do that for me.

    I am challenged to find video that includes Mvskoke, it’s an endangered language and there is some but not much out there. And honestly some of the adults want me to facebook and put things up on the web so that they can randomly share with other folks. I am not willing to do that because as you know, I am not a fluent speaker. I don’t want to tread on someone’s toes who is.

    I’m glad to know some of your strategies. I think I would like to move to meeting more often with my group. We did a monthly because some of the folks coming are traveling an hour or more to get to classes. I will see if I can Skype with them as a group in a home weekly and perhaps have them travel to the main group once a week.

    Did you ever get your technology of teaching via Skype-like worked out? How did that go?


  4. I haven’t done much in the way of Skyping to teach, but if you’re working with adults, I bet Skyping with a group would be successful, especially if they’re then going to travel physically the next time. Even so, once a week isn’t much to learn a language. Once a day isn’t enough! But more regular meetings will probably motivate folks to work more on line than meeting just once a month would. I think you’re a star for sharing all you know with others.

    As far as your own language, many TPRS teachers have found that teaching this way improves their abilities, because they have to dig deep to be able to manipulate texts and make them comprehensible to others.


  5. I’m digging all right. My word for this year is Renew–and that means I am going to reinvigorate my own learning by stretching myself to get beyond toddler.


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