Category Archives: Professional development

Third Friday in March

I’m happy as always after meeting some colleagues for our monthly CI/TPRS meeting. We had some stories to share and then we watched videos. The first was part of the 2010 Beginner’s Track at NTPRS in Chicago with Donna Tatum-Johns. It may seem strange, but all of us can use the careful explanation of the basics, and Donna is a master. After about half an hour, we discussed what we’d been leaving out of our classrooms. She had managed to cover brain theory, the elements of TPRS, and methods of classroom management in the first 30 minutes of a three-disk video! We agreed that we needed to return to slow speech when introducing new structures. A “structure” can be an entire sentence long, by the way…something I’d forgotten. My structures are more often one or two words, and I’ve been defining those as structures if they translate into two or three words in English. The other part that we’d been losing, as a group, was the laughter. We got reminded that language lessons must include the happy emotions. At this time of the year, those can fade.

(We also remembered that it’s time to sign up for the two big conferences: NTPRS and IFLT!)

Then we did a MovieTalk demo, followed by ideas on how to work MT into the usual classroom. We watched several of the cute videos on different lists. I’d never seen Chicken or the Eggs; that got us all laughing. None of us have time to watch a bunch of little films, but we could see how it would work to MT a short video at the end of a class period, especially if we know one that will work with the area we’re emphasizing.

I love hanging out with other teachers crazy enough to meet on a Friday afternoon. I get so much energy from them! Maybe some of that energy comes from Yan’s wonderful noodles. Whatever the case may be, I highly recommend getting together with colleagues and enjoying the sparks that come back into our classrooms after meeting.


I’ve been working on an assignment for the class I’m taking lately. The instructor doesn’t believe in non-authentic resources or TPRS, but she works to make input comprehensible to a certain extent.

My unit is St. Petersburg, for novice-high students. The students and I came up with the summative assessment together. They are to pick places that they would like to visit in St. Petersburg and we will all hear about them and vote on them.

As part of my planning, I was to come up with two lists students would need to complete the task: knowledge and skills.

On the knowledge side, I had the following vocabulary and culture: types of buildings/landmarks in a city, names of specific landmarks, transport forms, how to say where things are located, knowledge of historical figures connected to sites, adjectives for describing the places, ability to express opinions about sites, ability to tell where you’d like to visit, “I’d rather,” and to ask questions: who built, who founded, when, how much does it cost, why do you want to visit.

Under skills, I put in listening, comparing, researching, responding politely, reading/skimming for facts, creating google maps, reading maps of metro and bus lines, using google presentations, computing exchange rates.

Wow! That’s a lot! And every time I turn around, I end up adding to that list.

I started creating some vocabulary lists and some games on Quizlet and ClassTools, set up a demo of what I want out of the kids, and slowly realized that the students know much of the vocabulary already because of our looking at pictures and telling stories. Mostly they know how to use google, but because of creating these lists, I can tell what I need to do to get them to the summative project.

I’m going to do a bit of “flipping” of the classroom by asking them to do the Quizlet games on their own time, because most of the vocabulary is familiar. If they review it, they’ll feel empowered. Once back in the classroom, we’ll use stories to acquire the structures that they’ll need to get around a city (Hurrah!). I’ll give extra points to teams who manage to get the vocabulary from the Quizlet lists into our stories. Probably I’ll need to print out the lists for them or hang them on the wall.

That’s all for now. The big ah-hah is that I am figuring out additional ways to combine what I know to be the best practice for my kids (giving them comprehensible input and control over the classroom direction) with the need to demonstrate a lesson and teach specific content. Usually I do one or the other, and the second turns into a forced march, during which the kids beg for stories.

I’m off now. I’m obsessively watching the news in Ukraine and Russia.

Improved reading with “Stand and Deliver”

Yesterday my advanced class was returning to part of our Pushkin story. We’ve read the whole thing, and now I want to do a variety of activities to think about it.

Having listened to a Paul Sandrock keynote about using authentic assessments, I wanted kids to make comments about the story that they might say if they were having a real talk about it with their friends. It’s a little above their heads though, so I scaffolded the discussion. First we recalled all the ways to express an opinion. Then we would look at one page at a time together. We took a limited time to jot down as many comments as possible about the characters and their motivation or what they thought of the characters’ behavior. Then we all stood (I did take part), and read what we’d written to the whole class, unless someone else had already said virtually the same thing, as I’d learned in last week’s class with Sarah (the “Stand and Deliver” technique).

The first time, almost everyone but me wrote only one sentence. I had two. Then the sentences and their length, as well as their complexity, started growing. I couldn’t believe all the different ideas kids had. It was a bit humbling to work with them; after the first time, I was never standing for long, because my ideas were always used before the circle got to me. In fact, once I didn’t get to say a thing. I started the readers at different points so that everyone got a chance to be near the beginning of the group. I enjoyed the activity on many levels: the re-reading was a natural process, the discussion required some true analysis, and the students had to listen to one another so as not to repeat.

Now I’m working to figure out what activity I can do tomorrow that requires re-reading and thinking at the same level. I’d love to do the same activity, but think it might be better to come back later.

Yesterday we had our second methods class. Sarah started us with ciphers–an interesting way to get kids thinking in the language. I’m hopeless at those, so I might never have thought about them. Then we started in on essential and focus questions for a unit. As we’re in the middle of learning about famous characters right now in Russian, I asked the kids to each write  one question they’d like answered about the famous figures today. I was able to answer at least one set before the next class started. Sarah says that her students seem to acquire the question words faster by using this technique in the early part of thematic units. She said that it also pushes her to answer questions from students, rather than always pursuing her own interests on a topic.

I talked with another TPRS teacher about how to combine the thematic approach with TPRS/CI methodology, and her idea was that we use TPRS/CI to teach the necessary structures for the unit, and then follow the kids’ interests as we delve into the content.

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!!

ACTFL Conference part 1: class outcome

I went to the ACTFL Conference in Orlando, Florida, this weekend. Needless to say (I hope), I’m a bit wiped out, even though I attended only four sessions. (The rest of the time I was having a blast teaching Russian.)

I can’t remember the exact title of the session I’d like to talk about, but I think it was something like “Student-Led Language Classes.” We got examples of lessons from two levels of courses taught in the PDL method. They were strange enough that many people actually walked out of the session. Still, I was fascinated, especially by the sample exercise for a level 2 class. I was pretty sure that I had not retained anything out of the level 1 class.

When I woke up this morning spouting some German phrases that I understood, I had to share the experience with my kids. I told them the setup would be unusual. We did the warm-ups I’d seen from the level 1 class, and then set up for a role play. I put out three chairs as our presenter had done, and the students suggested situations. Their voting led to our using “couple therapy.” Our St. Petersburg couple (the only couple) sat down next to each other and another student offered to be the counselor.

The presenter had told us that first he would ask general questions of the players in the drama: how old they were, where they lived, and so on. I asked the “counselor” how long she had been working in the clinic, and where the clinic was. She explained she’d been working there two years, and that the clinic was in a small house in a park. Then I asked the other two students questions.

The rest of the class was divided into support groups for the students in the role play. They sat behind the person they were supporting. If I asked a question that the players couldn’t answer or couldn’t think of an answer to give, the support groups helped. These kids, raised on a diet of TPRS, were ready to play the game, and it developed at about the same rate as a story and pretty much in the same way, except that the individuals in the game had to keep thinking and listening so as to adapt their own answers. (At one point, two of the support members literally ran across the room to grab books in which they’d seen useful retorts. I might have to outlaw that practice to make them use words they have acquired.)

We ran out of time before the counselor could ask more than one question. She came up afterward and said that she didn’t know many questions that she could ask. We agreed that the questions she’d like to be able to ask are questions that friends also often ask one another, and that they would be helpful for real connections with Russians. I started to see how this method is student-driven.

I wrote up a report of the situation to date for the class to read tomorrow. I think that’s what the presenter said they do. He had also said something about keeping a list of the vocabulary for students.

The next phase, once we play out the questions just a little more, is to turn the three groups into strategy sessions. The students are to plan out more what they will say (and how to say it). I am supposed to wander around the groups and help them as needed. Then I will write the whole thing up again for them to read.

I wish there was more information on the website than the brief examples that they give. As a program, PDL level 2 seems to be heavily based on output, but my advanced class had a lot of fun with my understanding of it today. I did do a lot of supporting during my questioning time, and I did some reporting back to the class as well as rephrasing. The time flew by, because all the kids were completely engaged in the developing story.

If anyone out there knows more about PDL, or has sites that explain it (for free!), I’d love to have the information.

Martina on using Authentic Resources

Martina Bex is one of the reasons I’m lucky to live in Anchorage. At yesterday’s First Friday TPRS/CI monthly meeting, she practiced the presentation she will make at ACTFL in just a couple of weeks. We were glued to her for over an hour, and would have been for any amount of time because her ideas about how to use authentic resources were creative, while she nailed down the teaching practices that we all need to remember.

Here are two:

-If it’s worth using, it’s worth talking about.

-If the Authentic Resource is for pushing acquisition, the teacher must talk about it in the TL and make the whole process comprehensible. (If the teacher is using the AR for assessment, the questions should be in English to stop false positives and to make sure that the kids understand the assignment.)

Martina shared five different ways to approach Authentic Resources with five different ways to do pre- and post-planning. I was thinking that was plenty to assure staying out of ruts. When Martina demonstrated creating a parallel story, we all came alive. She reminded me why those work in our classrooms. And, just like my kids, I was surprised when her parallel story matched the song that she moved into.

Martina’s handout is up on our AFLA 2013 conference page.

Anyone who wasn’t there…well, sorry. We had great food for our brains AND our stomachs: two kinds of Chinese noodles, halibut chowder, raspberry bread…

I shared a couple of brain break games from a site that I found because of Ben Slavic’s blog. You have to scroll through the entries that sell the book, but there are still plenty of activities. 

First Friday TPRS

Karen C presented for us on Friday, and what a gold mine her time was for us! She laid out how she gets first-year kids writing in Spanish from the first day of class, using the cognates that they know with the structures that they are learning. She inspired me to find a cognate list again for my first year kids. I’ve had them off and on, but now I understand how I can put them to use better.

Karen taught creative writing for years, and she is a former graphic artist, so it makes sense that she would use these talents, but she admitted that it’s really easier to find pictures quickly on line than to draw them. She demonstrated how she puts up a picture on the board and then circles that picture with the structures, adding pieces (like a pirate hat) to add information.

The students write their first paragraph in class. They have to write about the protagonist using 40 words (with a word count page like the one Scott Benedict shares). Karen sits down with the reluctant ones at that time, proving to them that they can really write 40 words. They keep adding, a paragraph at a time, and at the end, they put each paragraph onto one page of a little booklet and illustrate it.

This project is definitely output, but it is the kind of thing that parents love and kids can be proud of. Karen’s kids really know their stuff. She has them write about 15 of these little stories each of their first two years, following an underlying form that she creates with them in class, using the chance to emphasize the structures and the required curriculum as part of their stories.

I’ll see whether Karen will let me post her forms. Anne has already sent me a version of Scott’s free write form. Here’s a link to that form. Both said that using those forms made free writes much easier to read, as well as to proof, if that’s necessary for some reason.

Probably the best part of the day was watching how Karen built from incredibly simple to more complex through circling the Susie Gross way: nail down a couple facts, then ask another question, circle that again, do a parallel character and ask another question…it was so skillful that I didn’t notice the repetitions at all. I was interested in what would happen next. These demos help us all add to our repertoire.

What probably seemed to Karen to be a simple practice kept us all asking questions. She didn’t have time to share her novel project, but now we know we want to have it.

Friday TPRS meeting

We had our last monthly TPRS meeting for the year today here in Anchorage, and it was a good one! I’m going to be writing for the next hour here, breaking my ten-minute rule, but that’s because Allison had to leave early, and I want her to know everything I can remember.

While I write, I am going to mention the fact that Julia (student teacher extraordinaire) agreed to let us videotape her doing a MovieTalk demo. I’m uploading the video I took of her using a laptop to teach us as I write. There are five sections, including parts of our discussion after she finished. I got to feeling a little guilty, though, because I didn’t exactly ask permission to include the discussion.

Okay. Our agenda topic was to be final assessments, but when Julia showed up, we made the request for a repeat demo, since Betsy had missed the last meeting. Someone else’s comment (Martina?) after the last time we watched her was that she thought she was fluent in French with just that one lesson! So…repeat performance…it will also serve as a document in Julia’s portfolio. She’s going to get job offers from all over the country! (Okay…that one is uploaded. Next one is starting now.) I’m going to “publish” this so you can watch if you want while I type. And I’m going to get the cord to keep the iPhone juiced up.

OH. When I went to view it, I got a suggestion from YouTube that I watch Martina’s demo, called “TPRS Demo for “Cierra la puerta.” Of course all of you who flock to Martina’s blog have already seen that. I haven’t yet, but as soon as these videos are up, and this blog is typed, that’s where I’m going. And here’s Martina’s post that includes a MovieTalk demo. Here I thought we’d be the first…Martina was sitting right there, and was too sweet to mention that she already had a demo up. Shows how behind the times I am.

After the demo, we still had a million things to discuss before getting to the main topic. One of those was a tangent from Betsy’s comment that when she looks for movies for MovieTalk in Japanese, she googles “Silent Samurai movies.” And then I interrupted her to tell a story, and we never got back to the point she was going to make. But someone did mention that Kristin Duncan has a list of good YouTube videos for MT.

My tangent involved finding materials for IB curriculum, and that led to Anne’s telling how she uses a set of photos she got from (somewhere…will ask her to comment below and let us know). When she’s working on assessing output, everyone gets a picture. Students stand in concentric circles (one circle facing out, one with the same number of kids facing in, and they rotate after speaking). The kids on the inside are responsible for keeping the kids on the outside talking for whatever the time period is, so they have to ask questions about their picture that the other student can answer. At the end of the time period, Anne rings a bell and the kids rotate. Wash, rinse, repeat. Whatever the collection is of pictures, it is so engaging that the kids want to talk about them all.

That idea led nicely into our round robin discussion of ideas for finals, which are starting here in just over a month. A big theme was that at this point, we don’t want teachers to stress out; try to figure out ways to make it easier. Another theme was that we don’t want to stress out the kids; if possible, a language final should give them the chance to show off, surprise their teacher, make them feel good about themselves, but not make them add much to what can often be a period of overloaded schedules, as they study for every final, get every paper and project done, and generally try to survive the last couple of weeks.

Betsy is the one who tells them to show off, surprise her…and reminds them of the research that says the more students write for the SAT, the better their grade, because they show more of what they’ve got. The idea works well in her classes too.

The first teacher to talk said that she uses old versions of the National German Exam for her finals. That eases her stress, and the kids can’t really study for it. Fits all our situations, except some of us don’t have old exams.

Kristin said that she never uses a scantron until the final, but that’s when it comes out, since her school requires grades that day. Whatever she does has to be finished by the end of class.

An MS teacher gives kids her final, but since finals at her school can only help kids’ grades, not hurt them, she doesn’t grade them unless someone is on the edge or is really hoping to have earned a higher grade. Then she sits down with the student and goes through the final to figure out whether it really demonstrates improved ability over the rest of the semester. Since this is a teacher all of us respect, we looked at her in surprise (about not grading the finals) and got talking about the reasons for giving finals.

First of all, most of us know where kids are in the different realms by the day of the final. Their writing, listening, speaking and reading abilities are not really going to have changed that much in the last week. If a student is anxious to know about a grade, or if we suspect a final can help them, then grading it carefully is worth the effort. Otherwise…not so much.

Secondly, final grades almost never change anything. Third, as Rie at Dimond used to say, all tests are cumulative in a language class, so this one isn’t going to be any different.

Lest that sounds like I’m trying to get us out of work, I have to point out that every teacher at our meeting writes or provides a final based on the semester. Some grade the oral but not the written (with the above exceptions), some do a listening piece, some tell a story with the class. It’s all further language work, but we also all realize that it’s just one more day in 90 days’ worth of school, and should not carry half or even a quarter of the credit for the semester. If it had to, that would say that we weren’t doing our jobs the rest of the time.

One teacher gives everyone in a class the exam on the day the seniors take it, and then gives a lesser exam the last week of school to the kids who remain in the class. She doesn’t necessarily tell the kids that the second exam is “lesser.” And no one in our group tells the kids about final weights unless they have to by school rules.

In Betsy’s room, the kids do a two-part exam. The first part is speaking. They choose one of the eight or ten storyboards that the students have learned stories for from the semester, and go out in the hall with an intern or other upper-level speaker. They tell the story for five-fifteen minutes, and the intern grades them on a scale from one to ten. (These are first- and second- year students. I’ve heard from other teachers how amazed they are by what the kids can do on these.) Then the kids come inside, take the written story, and do an assignment for the rest of the period that Betsy has given: rewrite the whole story from a different perspective, or write a new ending, or the sequel…she says they fill pages and pages. And then…she looks at the writing briefly, compares it with the writing scores as they’ve been all semester, and grades those that merit special attention. If the speaking grade meshes well with what she knows, she adds that. She has a stress-free day (she says kids always do better and try harder when talking to people other than her), and the kids leave knowing how well they can manage Japanese. Win-win. Oh…Betsy starts the speaking grades several days in advance to fit them all in.

Wow. I knew this was going to be long, but didn’t know how long.

Karen C says that she has progressively higher-weighted units as the semester goes on, and she ends her last one about two weeks before the semester ends. That gives her two weeks to “play” with the kids, exploring topics they didn’t get to by the end of the year. In the meantime, each student must prepare a presentation for the class. She gives an overall assignment, and the students have to do a presentation that no one else has chosen.

Everyone agreed that we need to try to do the most laborious parts of our exams, if we are to grade them in time for next-day grade posting, earlier in the month.

I’m going to consider recycling a song-line writing assignment from a couple of years ago: take a line from your favorite song (or your favorite line in any Russian song) and write a story that leads up to it or uses it at a critical moment. I read those to the kids, and they ended up trying to guess the song lines. It was fun! Usually I give kids a set of vocabulary and have kids do stories in small groups. They all get graded individually on their performance, but it lowers the affective filter greatly if they’re standing with their buddies.

K D said that because of her experience at university, she has a hard time not making up a traditional rigorous final, something that will give students a feeling of accomplishment. We agreed that’s important, but discussed how hard it can be to balance “rigor” against stressing everyone out. Speaking and writing at length is rigorous, but “high stress” and “rigor” don’t necessarily correlate.

So…remember that we can tell stories with the whole class. We can have them step outside the room to tell the story to a video machine or to a volunteer (option two works to save the teacher time). We can do quizzes on Quia or Quizlet for instant grading, and we can have students re-write stories that they’ve told all semester. They can do tweaks on stories and tell them in groups to the class, showing their stuff by having to use x number of verbs or adjectives or structures, or they can creatively fix x number of minutes. They can read, translate, write, listen…

But make it easy on yourself at least! You’ve worked hard all semester. Pick something that will let them shine but not kill you that last night.

Part 2 (well, really part 15, but this is the part I chose to take notes on, because Karen A asked): How do we use songs?
Karen C: play the song as background music until they beg to learn it.
M W: learn the words first, talk about favorite phrases and the story of the song, then play the music when they beg.
Diana: do cloze exercises, but choose the easiest words, not the hard ones. They’ll feel good, and they’ll listen to the song better.
Betsy: sing them the song badly in English, really badly, and ask them to sing it back in Japanese (or your language, of course!)
Someone else: use the Señor Wooley technique of getting them to fill in the close (cloze?) exercise in English, rather than the target language.
From Amy Wright’s lessons: choral response with favorite words and phrases, look at the TL, sing, then look at the English, and sing again.

I just clicked on the “Songs” topic in the right sidebar and found some posts. The one I had hoped to find is here. (That’s for Karen A.)

While we said “Goodbye” for about half an hour, Karen C was riffing on how she picks new topics to go on whenever she feels like it. By weeks, recent topics have been: exotic animals, portrait week, famous artist week, geography week, favorite landmark week, best buildings week…she’s trying to pull recent plans together for a week on “dictators.” Wouldn’t you like to be in her room? She says TPRS makes it all possible.

That’s not all, but it’s all I can do. There were side conversations going on that I kept interrupting to find out, and I didn’t take notes on them. Sorry. You’ll just have to fly up to attend one of these meetings. We have good food, good drinks, and great people, as you’ll notice if you watch the video.

Just a word of warning: do NOT try to steal Julia (who could do Spanish, French and Russian) unless you are going to offer her an amazingly good salary and benefits. Your offer must far outweigh Anchorage’s, because we’ll all tie ourselves to her airplane and weigh it down unless she’s going to be a millionaire.

MovieTalk Demo Anchorage TPRS part one.

Demo Part 2
Demo 3/Discussion Part 1

Discussion Part 2
Discussion Part 3


Social-emotional learning was the topic of today’s in-service. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but ended up being completely re-inspired.

I may come back and add more details (have to go eat before a next meeting) but in a nutshell, here are some ideas:

First of all, make sure to greet kids or have a sincere greeter at the door to acknowledge every single student every single day. (We’ve talked several times about how kids need to know that at least three adults in their lives care about them. If we’re doing the daily greeting, they can start to know that.) I just realized…I could have students doing the set-up between classes, and keep the greeter job for myself.

Second, try the Blaine idea, discussed recently on yahoo, of giving the extra-credit point on quizzes that lets kids share something from their lives.

Third, make sure that you’re checking in on the sleepy, grumpy, loud, and quiet kids in case of issues.

Fourth, keep on doing the popsicle-stick rotation, or the reading of the classroom introductions, so that everyone gets a chance to be recognized.


Looking at the self-awareness/self-management/social-awareness/social-management pieces of our school district’s SEL graph, I thought that I could have prompts like these for students to finish (even in target language) and share:

When I’m feeling grumpy/sad/angry, I ____.

When I’m feeling scared/frustrated, the person I talk to is ___.

One way I show honesty is ____.

A good choice I made recently was ____.

I have a good working relationship with ___ because ___.

One of my current goals is ____.

I think that by sharing such ideas, we can help kids with the metacognition piece that will not only let them show what their own strengths and resources are, but get ideas for others to develop.

First Friday

Just a little report on our first TPRS/CI meeting of the year in Anchorage here! It was raining furiously, reminding us of how most meetings last year took place during huge snowstorms. But inside Betsy’s house, we happily attacked wonderful food and enjoyed great connections with one another.

I’d set out the plan of watching a Scott Benedict webinar on Power Grading, doing some coaching, and sharing Blaine’s new tweak on story-building with a student. One group sat down to watch the video, and then they had an intense conversation part-way through about grading practices. The other group learned some French with Kristin, who did a fabulous story. Betsy set her up with a bunch of ideas of the sorts of things that we can practice when we’re doing coaching. The list was pretty long, as it turned out! It included circling, personalization, embedded reading, comprehension checks, starting a story, using advanced structures, point-and-pause, and going slowly. (There were some other suggestions too, but I can’t remember them.) Kristin choose personalization.

Two beautiful babies attended the meeting, so I was a little distracted by their cuteness and didn’t pay as much attention to what was going on as I might have.

Diana and I demonstrated the new Blaine technique, which seemed to segue nicely from what Kristin was doing in personalization. Something that I hadn’t really gotten until she was moving from the student to the class was that proximity is crucial in setting up the time difference. When the teacher is talking to the individual student, it’s present tense. Then the teacher moves away from that student and toward the class and speaks in past tense. I understood about the tenses, but until I watched Diana move, I didn’t really get how that movement in effect leaves the action in the past. Very subtle, but much more clear than how I’ve been doing it.

The other thing that I didn’t “hear” until yesterday was that the teacher picks a superstar kid to be in the front of the room because that kid is going to have to be doing output. I’ve lucked out a couple of times and picked superstar kids, but I’ve also picked some barometer kids, and it’s asking too much for them to have to understand and do output at the same time.

I’m feeling very lucky as usual to have such an awesome group of fellow teachers who work together. Martina and I talked a little bit about how safe and yet inspiring it is to have this group that does positive teacher talk and shares ideas to get better. Where else can we practice teaching without fear? In fact, is there any other forum in which teachers practice teaching or share their methods when they’re not either presenting, doing student teaching, or doing an interview?

CI teachers are AWESOME!!