Twice lately, students have yanked me back into the world of better teaching. One group, as I may have mentioned, nailed me on trying to start a project. They patiently explained that they learn more from listening to and reading comprehensible Russian, or from reading and listening to authentic sources with support than they ever do from projects. “Look how many words we’ve learned just from your friends’ FB posts,” said one, embarrassing me only slightly. “We do projects in other classes.” (Irina, Tanya, Dasha, and Olya, you know who you are! Thanks for posting!)
Another yank came the other day, when I was reveling in having brought two amazing speakers into the room in one week. I was trying to follow up those presentations with something cultural, and after class, two kids came up to find out whether I realized they’d been “…sitting a lot lately. We need to do stories!” Oh. So we added a bunch of movement to the next day, and the hour went by way too fast. What is fascinating to me may be interesting to them, but it isn’t necessarily personalizing. Got it. Next up: stories.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working so hard during my off hours on the project of selling myself (thank you very much for all your kind responses) that I have neglected our monthly PLC meetings. A speaker fell through, and then I did. A mixed gathering of friends the other night (that is, not all WL teachers!) showed me that we miss these: first one teacher was explaining to another how to teach private TPRS lessons over Skype, and then another couple of teachers were sharing how they used Betsy’s blind reading. I couldn’t help joining in to share my latest fun idea, and but remembered in time that I had other guests who might not want to be at a teacher-share meeting. Then I realized we haven’t had a PLC in too long. We all need feeding and sharing to keep out of ruts. (PLC meeting, coming right up!)
Since I mentioned it…I did think of one twist for reading practice. It is an adaptation of a Susie Gross technique. Hers was that a class of kids draw storyboards for a story they can tell with specific structures. They meet in pairs and help a partner retell the story. When the partners can both tell the stories correctly, they switch pictures and go to the front of the room until a new person needs a partner.
I hadn’t done the Susie plan in a while, but while visiting a text on Pushkin the other day, I decided that kids needed to be re-reading. I gave them all small blank rectangles of plain paper (about double the length of a standard Post-it). They folded those in half and wrote out one sentence from the text on the inside, then drew a picture on the outside to represent the sentence. (I differentiated by allowing level 2 kids to choose their sentences and assigning the level 3-4 kids more complex ones.) Then they stood in pairs and showed their pictures. The partners had to try to say the sentence that the picture showed. They could refer to the reading if they wanted to. (Most did, part of my nefarious plan to make them skim and re-read the piece about 20 times.) Once both partners got the sentences completely right, they switched drawings and went off to find new partners. Sometimes they would be paired up with another student who had the same sentence. That was funny, as at first they’d assume it couldn’t be the same.
I forgot to mention that Susie offered the storyboard idea as a homework assignment. She said that when kids got to class, those who hadn’t done the homework weren’t allowed to participate, but they would beg to do some drawings and take part as soon as they saw how much fun the others were having. No problem, just a little delay–and what a great example of natural consequences!
The other difference with the Susie plan is that the stories morphed over time, so when a student was presented with her own storyboard, she would sometimes have to learn it with new details.
That’s all for now. Gotta go plan that PLC!