I am all too willing to ask my friends for help with classes, and now, increasingly, to get great resources from FB. (There are a couple of TPRS pages on FB now.)
Today was a good example. In my five-level class (Russian 2, 3, 4, 5, and AP), we had two guests. One was a former student who had studied in Vladimir with the NSLI-Y program for a summer years ago, and one was a student from the immersion program who wants to apply, but who has been thinking that she doesn’t speak well enough. I asked the former student to lead a discussion with the immersion student, one of the AP students, and the three kids who had done NSLI-Y programs this summer. They sat and chatted at the back of the room. The rest were with me. My intention was originally to have them talk, then to gather them for a little bit of MovieTalk.
In my group, we started by reading a little from the second-grade social studies book about Anchorage. The book is wonderful it’s colorful, and full of pictures that are familiar. And…it’s translated from the English version (written by a local teacher) by a Russian, for Russian speakers! It was very challenging for my students, and I hadn’t done my homework to make the reading fit the lowest level of kids in the room. I had a reminder from a valuable reader that it’s important to change the task, not the text, and while I didn’t do that on our first reading (and in fact was thinking that it’s probably not my best choice right now with second-year kids in the advanced group), I was inspired to think of ways to make it work better for them.
I want to discuss the contention in the beginning that “Humans change the existing natural landscape in order to improve their lives.” I’d love to have them talk about that with the Russian kids in our Edmodo class.
The other group had obviously not finished their discussion, so I trotted out a “What’s your psychological age?” FB test. It used a lot of high frequency vocabulary: prefer, choose, like, and so on, and I challenged the kids to guess their classmates’ ages. The first one was 42. On the next one, we tried to get a young age, and succeeded in making it 25.
These little quizzes are great for challenges, and they have lots of language that is possible to discuss. The kids are able to use their Russian, and I feel as though these are truly communicative activities, the type for which they must comprehend reading, have a little discussion in the group, and then explain their answers if they differ. Meanwhile, the language is not so dense that they get overwhelmed. Instead, they seem to be able to make educated guesses, or to “negotiate meaning, using the resources at their disposal.”
Toward the end of class, I gave up on the conversation group’s ability to join us, and started talking about who in the room had ever been late to a class (because that’s how the film is set up). Suddenly, the back corner focused on us and wanted to join the conversation. It was lovely to gather the entire class briefly for a little bit of teasing and conjecture. Now they’ll be ready to watch the next piece of the film. They get a three-day weekend. We had parent-teacher conference night last night, so we have a half-day inservice. I’d rather teach.