Category Archives: Discussions

Michael Miller and (separately) reading

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!!


Using the storyboards

Yesterday in the beginner class, the kids made six-square storyboards for the movie we’re in the middle of MovieTalking. They left most of them untouched, and so today we renumbered them (we count from one to six, or 11 to 16, or by tens to 60, or from 110 to 160…you get the idea) and I tried to tell what each picture represented. It was hysterical! I was trying to honor the artists, but I could simply not figure out what each drawing was, so the kids were correcting me all the time. One quietly asked me whether I was doing it on purpose to get more reps in. Nope, but it’s sure a good idea!

In the advanced group, I tried something that Ben has been discussing: setting up an outline for a summary. We’d just read a Chekhov story, so I put guide questions on the board:
Who is the story about?
Where are they?
What happened before the story began?
What is happening now?
What does everyone want?
What are the complications?
How does the story get resolved?

It turned out that there wasn’t full agreement on who had written the love letters, or what everyone wanted, as well as exactly what had happened before the story began. At first the kids said that they didn’t know what had happened before the story began. Then they realized they could make educated guesses, and the discussion took off.

I had intended to make them write this out, but due to the fact that I got my van stuck in our snowfall yesterday, I didn’t get their notebooks back to class, so they had to report orally in pairs, once we’d talked about it in the full group. It worked out really well! It was a simple way to get a good discussion going, and now we’ll have something to write tomorrow. This is really not so different from the kinds of story-asking questions “drilling down” that Blaine has always talked about, but it gives me a new perspective and more structure for that activity, especially after having done a reading.

Class discussions

This idea popped up yesterday on Yahoo groups from Tawana Patton, and it sounds like a great tweak on class discussions…maybe as much for my English class as the Russian ones.

“I sometimes use a text- based fish bowl protocol for text discussions. Half of
the students sit in the inner circle and the other half sit in the outer circle.
Each student has a copy of the discussion rubric. The students in the inner
circle participate in the timed discussion first. The students in the outer
circle are each assigned to peer evaluate a student in the inner circle using
the rubric. After the timer goes off, students switch positions (the ones in the
inner circle move to the outer circle). They then evaluate the person who
evaluated them. After the discussion, debrief the fishbowl process. In my
debriefs, students have stated that the process keeps them from checking out
because they have to evaluate someone or they know they are being evaluated.

Examples of rubric criteria:

-I can participate in a text-based discussion. I regularly refer to the text
when I share with paraphrasing and direct quotes.

-I can contribute to the discussion but I wait until at least 3 others have
commented before I share.

-I share short responses. They are focused on the most important info.

Students are rated as exceeding, meeting, developing, beginning, or no evidence
on each criteria.

The cool thing about the rubric is that you can make it contain content specific
criteria as well as behavior criteria.

I have used the above criteria for my ancillary class (Work Ethic), which is not
a world language class. I believe that it can work in upper level language
classes. I would modify the criteria for the lower level language classes.

It is also cool to stop the discussion half way thru and take 1 minute to have
the students in the outer circle give a verbal handshake (positive feedback) to
the students they are evaluating. This feedback is based on their performance of
the criteria from the rubric. “Maria, great job of waiting for your turn.” “Sam,
you are really referring to the text.”

Hope this helps.”

Tawanna Patton

Jody also added to the discussion:

I used to teach both Language Arts and History in addition to Spanish. When we
read a book or a reading for history an assignment I used to give students was
to write their own questions. I taught them Bloom’s Taxonomy and then told
them that they had to write one, or sometimes two or three questions from each
level, knowledge/recall/application/analysis/synthesis/evaluation. After that I
did a variety of things. Sometimes I took their questions and mixed them with
mine and we had a large group discussion, other times they got into small groups
and asked each other and then decided which questions to ask the class. I would
take my turn asking my questions with them as well. This created more buy
in and accountability for the students.”