I am loving teaching Spanish classes. We are not moving very fast through the curriculum. In fact, we are kind of stuck on the first lesson in every class. But we are speaking Spanish, and we are having fun.
That said, one of the things I love doing is making books for classes. When I find out something new about kids, it’s hard not to rush out and use the story right away.
Luckily for my kids, who might be inundated, I make mistakes even in simple Spanish, and have to get the books corrected. (As you might guess, though, sometimes three different Spanish speakers have three different opinions. That’s the case in Russian, too.)
So – here is a kindergarten book about our animals.
Here is a book that will grow as we learn about families.
Here’s a book about what the children think a missing student might be doing.
We made up a story about my whale. I wanted them to learn my name: Señora Ballena. It didn’t work, but we had a story.
As you can see, they’re not high-quality, but the families can read them (they’re posted on a public blog site), and I print them out and bind them for the various classrooms.
We’re going to have a series of books about families as we do an interview for La Persona Especial every day in most classes.
Picture credit: https://pixabay.com/en/reading-preschool-kindergarten-2762010/
We’ve been working with the storytelling dictation/writing with pictures again, and I discovered just one more tool.
If you set up pictures with the story, you can make the transitions work so that the last click of the story makes the words disappear, so that the students can be challenged to re-tell the story!!
Take a look at our stories from today (you have to set the presentation in motion, and then just click through our first few slides). As you click, the pictures will appear and then the paragraph will disappear. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow.
I think I mentioned that I had pasted our story into a table of one column on Word so that it could be cut out neatly, sentence by sentence. I knew the kids could read it really well, in both present and past tense, so I handed pairs the sentences. First we read the sentences out loud, then everyone got scissors and cut up the sentences. They mixed them up and put them back into order. As kids got them into order, I told them to cut out the white space and cut every sentence into at least two parts. Then they had to cut them into individual words to re-write the story.
This worked really well to practice reading! Some groups were still working on the first step when others were starting the word piece, but putting the whole story back together with individual words was a challenge. They read the same story (in two tenses) over and over for half an hour–making this a worthwhile expenditure of our time!
After a wildly successful evening with adult students to whom I’d never given Cyrillic reading, I decided to mimic the lesson on Poor Anna with my first years.
I used the Scaffolding Literacy and TPRS reading ideas for the most part: I talked through the vocabulary, interviewing kids, described Anna and set up an “Anna” at the front of the room, set up a parallel figure (Anton), let them try to tell me about Anna, finally read a paragraph to them, then let them follow the reading with me, had little races to repeat to their neighbors, and repeated. I didn’t tell them that this was also an underhanded way of getting them to do first person reporting, but that was part of it. I did use the chance to bring in cultural ideas. The kid playing Anton was funny: he inserted facts about himself into the poem that we’d learned.
Maybe I used to expect too much too fast? Or didn’t make it comprehensible to everyone?
Essentially, I’ve put off reading this book until second year lately because it’s difficult in Russian, but since I have second-year kids in with upper levels, it’s hard to use it at all unless we do it in first year. Maybe because we’re having more fun with it and making fun of some of the ideas?
In other notes, I saw that Terry Thatcher Waltz gave the “Super 7” ideas that everyone needs in basic language classes. I liked her list because it’s not specific vocabulary, but concepts:
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.