First, for the Germanists and all the rest of us:
Michael Miller sent me links to a series of videos he has made to help out German teachers on sub days. He knows there are some mistakes, so will run scripts by Germans from now on. Still, these are AWESOME! I wish he taught Russian (not the first time I wished that). Michael is thinking of taking a sabbatical to create a bunch of these that would fill gaps in German education. These are fun for sub days in the meantime, and I learned a lot of German and teaching by watching them.
If you like the videos, please post in the comments on the YouTube pages. Support from teachers might help Michael get a boost for funds for equipment and website funding. He wants to make a huge collection for free!
In completely unrelated news, I have been prepping kids for our final. In Russian 1, I noticed that in other TPRS years, my kids sometimes surprised me with what they didn’t know in reading, so this time I provided them with flashcards for the main structures I’ve focused on in these eighteen weeks. I told them one part of their final is just reading the words as quickly as they can. Well, wow! They’re doing great reading Cyrillic, and their pronunciation is even better. I’m limiting them to one minute. I used to do this with flashcards in my old days. I know it isn’t particularly CI-friendly, but what happens with TPRS is that kids get so good at talking that if they can’t read, they can sometimes hide that fact, and I need them to be able to read Cyrillic. So I’m happy to say that the ones who have been reading very slowly are picking up speed (because it’s timed, for a grade), and the others are helping out their compatriots, making their own reading even better.
This way, I will be able to be sure that kids aren’t just guessing on the real reading part of their final (answering questions that are in English about a text).
And in another completely unrelated bit of spontaneous combustion, I have to report that the PDL trick in my advanced class has taught me how to do discussion circles much better. On top of that, the advice to keep recirculating the activity is helping my kids chat. For the kids’ St. Petersburg project, they had to go to a restaurant (virtually) and report about it using specific vocabulary. We read a couple of restaurant reviews and blogs to get the vocabulary going, and then they got into their families and had to have an argument about where they were going to go for dinner. They had to use their “restaurant experience” as support for where they were going to go. (I told them that they were practicing living in functional family units: “functional” families can have arguments and still come to an agreement.) They were talking up a storm! I was so happy as I walked around the room. It felt like they had jumped up a level. Then I switched them out to different groups, and they had to have a similar discussion about going out to eat locally with the set of friends in the new circle. I got drawn into a couple of the discussions, hearing about where they all go after dances and games.
There’s truly something in this role-playing that I hadn’t quite ever mastered before. I hope it’s not just this wonderful set of kids. Now we’ve gone through a cycle of role-play/read/discussion/re-set a couple of times, and I am beginning to agree with the claims of the PDL that it’s much more student-centered. By wandering around as they have their short conversations on real topics, I can hear what they want and need, reflect it back in the reading and discussion that follow, and then come up with another way to practice it, or just have them do the same conversation again, with a tweak.
I tried PDL in my adult Russian class, and there they decided that three were on a bus to our local ski resort: one was a young unattached man, another a girl who had a boyfriend, and the third was a very unhappy grandmother whose son had brought her over from Russia, and she felt badly treated. We laughed so hard! It turns out that knowing how to play the TPRS game helps in PDL too. Like the high school kids, the adults were deeply satisfied to find out how to express some specific interests and ideas, and it seemed as though the vocabulary was so high-interest to them that it “stuck.”
I wish that I knew more about PDL or that there were some folks who knew Russian observing me. I would really like coaching! I think more drama experience would help too, but part of it is just being open to “flow,” meanwhile thinking about how to write up the story with enough reps for them to get the new stuff nailed down.
Time to go home!!