Max, and a request

It’s been a crazy week getting back from the holiday. We have had visitors, extra lunch time rehearsals for an assembly, and a long fire drill in the cold when a pipe burst in a construction area today.

For anyone who needs a (very) long story to ask/tell with your kids, I would recommend the one embedded in last week’s NPR’s Car Talk re-run about Max and the Schnauzer.

Spoiler Alert: if you want to hear it for yourself, find a way to download it and listen, then you can come back here. Reading what I’ve written will destroy it for you.

A car dealer calls in to tell a story about how a recent buyer knocks his salesman off his bike when the salesman leaves for lunch but doesn’t look before riding off. The dealer calms the driver and offers to fix her mangled bumper for free (he knows, but she doesn’t, that it’s the salesman’s fault). She goes off to shop during the repair, and comes back after the garage is locked up for the day. In a panic, she shrieks that her dog is in the car. The dealer goes to get the car and finds a dead dog. He tells the woman that the car is blocked in and he’ll need to get surrounding cars moved. Meanwhile, he calls a friend who sells Schnauzers and goes off to get a replacement dog. He puts the new dog into the cage and brings out the car for the owner. When she gets in the car, she starts shrieking again. “That’s not my dog!”

The dealer asks what the problem is. “My dog was dead!”

She was taking the dog to a taxidermist when she hit the biker.

We’re telling this at great length, even in my most advanced class. I had thought I was going to be absent for several days, so I got the story ready with many activities to follow after the asking piece. The class story does not include the denouement. I was going to leave the sub with the recording cued up, even though it’s not in Russian…now I am not going anywhere, and I am having fun! I plan to play the recording in the first minutes before class begins on a day when we have all classes and swear the first two classes to secrecy. I highly recommend listening to the podcast, even if you don’t use it in class.

Then we’ll start our usual Russian New Year events. (Happy Russian New Year coming up, everyone!)

Now for the shameless request: if this site or I have been a help to you at some point, could you say so in the comments? I got the Alaska ToY award and now have much of a 50-page portfolio to fill for regional Teacher of the Year. Part of what I must demonstrate is professional outreach and collegial support.


19 responses to “Max, and a request

  1. I am a Spanish teacher in the midst of my second year teaching. I have found your site and blog to be incredibly helpful. Whether it’s activities that inspire me to try something similar with my students, classroom management tips, reassurance that even veteran teachers occasionally have a lesson flop, encouragement to experiment, or tons of valuable resources, I always find something valuable. Thank you for all you do to give us a window into your classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great story! I always find good stuff on your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michelle, I have been following you every post for years! I love every post from you! I’m also very interested in all the activities you have planed. Do you think it would be possible that one day you could Skype with me so I could learn about all the activities you have planed?



    • Haiyun, of course!

      But since I’m in the middle of a procrastinatory moment, here are some of the activities I had planned:
      Ask the story (in pieces, so activities follow after each part)
      Artist draws the story on the projector
      Dependable actors act out the story (in front of the class)
      Start writing the story as a group on the projector (this allows me to send my version to a Russian overnight to check for accuracy)
      Students draw four scenes from the story in their notebooks that they can retell.
      Students ask questions they would like answered (usually names of the characters, types of dogs, cars, ages etc)
      Embellish the current written version (like an embedded reading, only the class is creating it)
      Students copy captions from the (projected) reading to illustrate their own drawings
      Students act out story in multiple small groups as teacher tells it
      Students retell a piece (one-two sentences) of the story that uses a particular structure (in whole class, in groups, in pairs)
      Student pairs are assigned one sentence in secret from the current writing version and create a tableau: a frozen picture of that sentence so that the rest of the class has to look at the story script and read the exact sentence. (My favorite from the week: two kids are acting out the sentence about the old woman driving her car down the road. One student was a bush on the side of the road…it was not the easiest tableau to do in a pair.)
      Students create QAR questions about the story
      Students answer QAR (see Martina) questions and do Martina-style activities
      Students read the embellished version of the story from another class
      Class gestures story for teacher to tell with her back to the written version, correcting as need be (Betsy’s system)
      Partners gesture story for each other in “blind reading” (Betsy’s system still)
      Fast write with pictures on the projector
      Read fast write in pairs, and highlight the parts that both partners wrote
      Move on.

      In between pieces, we do brain breaks: the “hanky panky (?)” clapping game, Russian version because there are uses of dative case that I’m trying to emphasize in this story; also, we read pieces of a blog about how a Russian woman learned to drive when she moved to Amsterdam (because of similar structures in our story). We were singing “Katiusha,” too, but that’s only because we have an assembly coming up in which we’ll sing it and I want them ready.


      • I forgot: take pictures of the tableaux (does that make it plural?) for the next day so that kids will enjoy looking at them and try to retell that part of the story again. And maybe I can use that as part of a quiz later, if I haven’t forgotten about the pictures by then.


      • How do you manage to do so much with a story and still keep the children engaged? We had a real homerun story on Friday, and I would love to try some of these strategies. But usually when I bring up a story on day 2 it has become boring. Is there a hint you have? I think adding to the story should be helpful, but it doesn’t usually help me that much. I am missing something?

        Oh, and , yes I have been reading your blog for about a year now. Your experiences are inspiring and encourage me to “stay the course” in my CI classroom. When I am discouraged, often your success motivates me to keep moving forward and learning.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a Spanish teacher in Maine. I have been following your blog for a long time. I find many, many valuable resources and ideas to incorporate and try out in my classes. What comes across clearly to me in what you share is your positive and cheerful approach to life, that you are a truly committed CI teacher, and that everything you do is geared for increasing student acquisition. Many of your posts are thought provoking, helping me to stop and reflect on my own practice.
    You are generous with your creativity, and with your ups and downs, and this has always helped me to have more confidence in myself and in my teaching.
    My immense thanks to you

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laura, Haiyun, Alessandra and Mary…Thank you so much! That helps a lot!


    • Diane, I don’t usually do so much with a story as with these plans. This time, I was ready for a sub, and had a bunch of these lined out to be possible for student leadership. This week, when I’m not gone for the next three days, we’re going to be pretending that I’m gone, and different kids will do all the activities that they’d have to lead if I weren’t there. It’s the opposite of a busman’s holiday…and it’s good training in case I do have an unexpected sub sometime. (But don’t think it’s easy for me to sit on my hands and not jump up to correct what’s going on when I am actually present.)

      It helps when different classes see what other groups have done. It’s especially good when the first-year class has great ideas that the upper levels want to outdo.


  6. I am a Spanish teacher in Massachusetts in my fourth year of teaching. I have been following your blog for two years, and it is delivered to my inbox at work. I always appreciate pausing for a moment to read your thoughts and lesson plans. I began incorporating MovieTalk this year, in large part due to the encouragement and ideas on your blog. My students love when I plan a movie talk lesson, and I find I can use so much comprehensible input. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michele
    You were a major influence for me to change from grammar and textbook based teaching to Teaching with Comprehensible Input. Your blog has been extremely helpful, as well as your emails to me in which you specifically addressed the various questions I had.
    It was a great experience for me in September 2013 to be able to observe you teaching your students in your classroom modular. Thank you for welcoming me into your classroom and being a solid supporter for me in the last several years.
    Cindy H.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Michele–
    I cannot sing your praises in Russian, but I can sing them as a World Language teacher. I not only learned about teaching from your blog and our talks with one another. I gathered more resources that I have been able to use from other teachers involved in your blog. I don’t think I would have taken the time to google them as they don’t teach the same language as I do.
    One thing I learned that has been critical is how to transfer teaching styles to my adult classes. Your work there is equally as important as your high school classroom. I’ve learned a great deal about respect for the student at any age and engaging them where they are rather than where I think they should be.
    I’ve also learned a great deal as a Floridian about another region with an entirely different cultural view–Alaska, as well as Russian.
    I am so glad your school and your state have this opportunity to recognize your extra time spent as an educator daily seeking to help all your students reach their personal best. Your innovations in technology as well as your feet on the ground in the classroom have been a true inspiration to me as I move forward in my own classroom.
    Thank you for being the kind of mentor teacher that truly makes a difference in my life! The past 5 years of watching your work and trying many of your ideas and the other World Language teachers from your Friday meetings has helped me immensely in bringing our indigenous language back to my tribal community.
    Kate Taluga

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate Taluga! How are you? I am happy to see your name here and to know that you continue to do your amazing work with your Muskoke tribal community. Will you make it to NTPRS in Washington this year? I’d love to see you again. And yes, Michele Whaley rocks! More on that below.


  9. Michele

    A few years ago we decided to offer a lesser taught language and you took the time to give us valuable advice, both to me as a department chair who knows nothing about Russian as well as to our new Russian teacher who was just beginning her adventure with TPRS.

    I came to understand movie talk as a thorough, research-based technique through your blog. I really appreciate how intellectually engaged you are, in this case delving into the work of Dr Hastings and providing the direction for the rest of us to properly adapt the technique to our classrooms.

    You have mentored some of the most generous and creative teachers that I have met on the internet. Your work has inspired me and so many other people to share their work online. Thank you!

    Michael Peto
    Lake Elsinore, CA

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anna, Diane, Michael, Kate, Cindy…I’m deeply appreciative, and thank you very much for the support. It means a great deal.


  11. Michele,
    What can I say? I feel like you are one of the super stars of our CI world. I have been reading your blog since it started, I think. It is a a part of my life and I can’t begin to tell you how much it has meant to me in terms of support, inspiration, amazement, and camaraderie. I am always awed by the amount of energy you put into your work and by your passion for teaching using this most meaningful methodology. You have been so generous with everyone. You are always reaching for new goals and exploring new paths. You are never afraid to innovate and to share your new ideas with our community.

    I have worked in a small rural town for 15 years and until this year was the only teacher in our district using CI methodology. This year I have been helping two teachers in our district to begin teaching with CI methodology. Having your blog and our community has been, and continues to be, a lifeline for me.

    You are someone I admire so much and who I am proud to call my friend. Thanks so much for all you do and I am glad that you are being recognized for your work.

    With much respect and love,

    Ruth Keener
    Olympia, WA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth, you warm my heart. It’s the CI community that reaches out in a way that I’ve never experienced anywhere. So many have helped me and are willing to help me at the drop of a hat (Laurie, Cara, Martina, Bryce, Donna, Kristi, Carol, and those who’ve responded here, just to mention the latest) that I’m ever more amazed by this group of teachers. Until I started investigating TPRS, I’d never known a group of teacher-colleagues who were both as excited about examining methods and as willing to share, respond, and reach out. In the words of one of the Anchorage teachers, “It’s remarkable, really!” I feel very blessed to have stumbled into this place.


  12. Michele, you model all that is best in teaching: collegiality, generosity, scholarliness, and love for your students. I continue to learn from your example, not only about specific CI strategies and how to implement them in the classroom, but also how to build connection with and among administrators, parents, peers (in-house and at a distance, like-minded and not), and students. I have learned from you about sharing what we do as CI teachers with the wider community (through open-houses, parent classes, student trips, workshops) to increase understanding and buy-in. I have learned from you and others like Mira Canion that teachers can address externally-imposed standards, rather than criticizing or resisting them, by finding points of common value and developing– then sharing–ways to make those work within a CI framework. You share those bridge-building strategies with all of us at national conferences, through your blog, and by responding to inquiries in email or on the moretprs list. I have learned from you and others like Laurie Clarcq, Martina Bex, Cynthia Hitz, Betsy Techman, to be open to new ways of providing CI to our students and assess their proficiency, though Embedded Reading, MovieTalk, and a growing repertoire of other engaging and effective techniques. Local teachers and I have learned from you as we model our fledgling TriState TCI Peer Network on your thriving Alaska group. Your energy and drive have always astonished me, but now we’re discovering how energizing it is to share our knowledge and experience, even on a Friday afternoon at the end of an exhausting week of teaching. Thanks for lighting the way!
    PK-Adult Story-Based Language Teacher
    Chester Springs, PA

    Liked by 1 person

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