I am just home from AFLA 2015. I can honestly say that you should have been here. We had impressive local speakers and incredible guests. For the first of my tweeting sessions for the year, I jockeyed with Martina Bex to share key points on the conference (if you have Twitter, check out #afla15). And on top of that, our weather cleared up for gorgeous fall colors and a fresh coat of snow on the mountains, followed by the best display of northern lights anyone can remember.
I had to take myself off Twitter since the day that six hours went by in about ten minutes, but when I’m at a conference, it’s just too much fun not to share, and there were some truly mind-blowing moments.
Scott Benedict (teachforjune.com) and Bill Van Patten honored us with their presence. I have been to Scott’s Power Grading workshop three times already, not counting watching his videos with our PLC. I always get something new, and this time was no exception (except there was even more). I’m going to rearrange my grading system tomorrow, basing it not on my divisions of Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational but Scott’s Speaking, Reading, Writing, Listening, and College Readiness Skills. (The last one will be weighted very low but is for all the participation, homework, pair work kinds of points that I would put into a Citizenship grade if only we had one.) And I’m going to copy some rubles to hand out for every positive behavior so that the kids can buy such things as a good phone call home, the right to eat or drink, a bathroom pass, etc. Scott’s kids have a list of these options. He says that some kids time their “good phone call home” so that it will have a positive benefit on something they want: permission to go to a concert, to buy something special, or just to get off detention at home.
Bill Van Patten blew all of us away. First, he explained the underlying phrase structure of languages, and started to prove his contention that language is too complex to teach. Instead we have to flood students with input that they understand within the classroom context. I almost thought I heard wrong when he said that TPRS is an appropriate methodology for the context of the classroom. Believe me, Martina and I were tweeting as fast as we could. After the lecture, I asked Bill whether he’d seen any TPRS classrooms, and he said that while he hadn’t, he has a colleague who uses the method, and he’s been to several demo workshops. He knows what he’s talking about.
Honestly, I could have gone home happy after the opening keynote with Bill Van Patten. Indeed, I feel I have been drunk on positive input all weekend. From Betsy Paskvan’s Godzilla story in Japanese and her effortless weaving of CI techniques with beautiful classroom management (I was unintentionally being a bad kid, working on a presentation for the next session, but she saved face for me), to the giddiness of those exiting Victoria Gellert and Martina Bex’s impromptu intro to TPRS, to the awesome perfection of working with songs in Victoria’s session and the ongoing “ah hah” with Scott’s workshop, it was just a float from one high to another. I still missed about nine sessions (creating mini circuits for storytelling, for instance, and learning to dance in German from Matt Spence), and I’m hoping to bring some to our PLC Fridays. Luckily anyone reading this is also going to be as geeky as I am about this stuff, and you understand why it’s okay to spend a year putting a conference together and to spend an entire weekend with colleagues.
I want to thank the crazy conference team who arranged the food, the great setting, the signups, and every other little detail that made this weekend perfect.
I strongly recommend attending the AFLA 2016 conference. Some of you have heard of our incoming president: Martina Bex.