Yesterday my advanced class was returning to part of our Pushkin story. We’ve read the whole thing, and now I want to do a variety of activities to think about it.
Having listened to a Paul Sandrock keynote about using authentic assessments, I wanted kids to make comments about the story that they might say if they were having a real talk about it with their friends. It’s a little above their heads though, so I scaffolded the discussion. First we recalled all the ways to express an opinion. Then we would look at one page at a time together. We took a limited time to jot down as many comments as possible about the characters and their motivation or what they thought of the characters’ behavior. Then we all stood (I did take part), and read what we’d written to the whole class, unless someone else had already said virtually the same thing, as I’d learned in last week’s class with Sarah (the “Stand and Deliver” technique).
The first time, almost everyone but me wrote only one sentence. I had two. Then the sentences and their length, as well as their complexity, started growing. I couldn’t believe all the different ideas kids had. It was a bit humbling to work with them; after the first time, I was never standing for long, because my ideas were always used before the circle got to me. In fact, once I didn’t get to say a thing. I started the readers at different points so that everyone got a chance to be near the beginning of the group. I enjoyed the activity on many levels: the re-reading was a natural process, the discussion required some true analysis, and the students had to listen to one another so as not to repeat.
Now I’m working to figure out what activity I can do tomorrow that requires re-reading and thinking at the same level. I’d love to do the same activity, but think it might be better to come back later.
Yesterday we had our second methods class. Sarah started us with ciphers–an interesting way to get kids thinking in the language. I’m hopeless at those, so I might never have thought about them. Then we started in on essential and focus questions for a unit. As we’re in the middle of learning about famous characters right now in Russian, I asked the kids to each write one question they’d like answered about the famous figures today. I was able to answer at least one set before the next class started. Sarah says that her students seem to acquire the question words faster by using this technique in the early part of thematic units. She said that it also pushes her to answer questions from students, rather than always pursuing her own interests on a topic.
I talked with another TPRS teacher about how to combine the thematic approach with TPRS/CI methodology, and her idea was that we use TPRS/CI to teach the necessary structures for the unit, and then follow the kids’ interests as we delve into the content.