We had our local TPRS meeting today.
The plan was to discuss out how to work teaching poetry into a TPRS classroom. It ended up being more about some of the nuts and bolts of teaching poems to kids who need to memorize them for a purpose. I Flip-videod our speaker, a former TPR textbook writer and current university mentor for student teachers in world language, not to mention a TPRS and CI supporter (and school-board member hopeful), as she gave us a great demo of introducing a poem through gestures. The links to the videos are in comments below. She asked why we like to teach poems; her main two of three ideas were culture, and confidence: kids like having something that can roll off their lips, and it doesn’t take too long to teach them.
She taught us the first couplet of a French poem very quickly through TPR. It was fun to see how easy that made the learning, even on a Friday afternoon.
We talked briefly about how gestures seem to really nail in meaning, but that the best thing is to use every possible way to assure comprehension and recall: pictures, gestures, stories, questions, jokes, general silliness. Nick mentioned how use of gestures goes down as fluency goes up.
I was planning to talk about adding the TPRS twist to poem instruction, but then others started adding truly awesome ideas. Kristin shared a Laurie-inspired drawing-fill-in. Kids listen to the poem being read, and fill in the blanks with pictures. They could also go through the initial stages of learning the poem and do this exercise later. There is a word/picture bank on the left side of the page. Laurie had shown that to us two AFLA conferences ago; part of what she demonstrated was playing a song and having kids fill in the blanks as they listened to it. It’s very powerful. As usual, Kristin jumps on these ideas and makes them her own. I’m glad for the reminder.
Kristin's poem fill-in
Then Sophie (or Virginie…someone can correct me; I’m depending on Betsy’s retelling of this because I was sitting too far away) shared how she creates a four-column page (landscape view) with the poem in the middle two columns, and with rows marked off by couplet. In the outer two columns, kids draw pictures so that they can use them to tell the poem, having folded the paper so that they can’t see the poem if they’re ready to use just pictures as support, but they can then still open and get a sneak peek at the poem as needed. I think that we could use that technique with critical structures on the inside and drawings on the outside for any story as well!
I must break in here and say that Karen’s little boy was getting passed from person to person as well so everyone could get a baby fix. He put up with it admirably! He only started to cry when she told us that she had to leave. What, you want your son to lose time with language input???
Tam then shared how, when kids have learned a poem through gestures but haven’t seen it yet, she puts all the words for a poem randomly on a grid to project onto her screen. The kids have heard that the class is going to be completely silent. She starts by pointing at the first word in the poem somewhere in the grid, then the next one, and keeps going until she’s pointed out the first line. Then she holds out the pointer to the kids, some of whom are already wanting to do the next line. Pretty soon the entire class has helped point out the poem and she can hand them a copy of the grid and they can “write” the poem. Tam says it’s a terrific way to fool the brain so that the brain thinks the activity is to put the poem in order, when really it’s a reading activity.
It was great to see everyone. I wish I could have been able to hear what the ideas were for assessment, since a couple of people were oohing and aahing on the other side of the table, but maybe someone will send me a summary of the ideas. I love our little community.
K. leaned way across the table to explain that I still hadn’t answered her question in the following letter. I left my explanations, thinking they might help someone, but it turned out that she was talking about what to do once having asked kids to draw pictures after a weekend, for example. I said that we would talk about them, circle information on the drawings, work them into a story, use them for later assessments, and so on. Maybe other people have more specific answers for her.
Here’s her original note:
A quick question. When you have students draw pictures, how do you use the pictures?
I am feeling very uninspired right now, or rather a failure at this TPRS thing this year. Good thing there is a lot of year left for improvement :o)
I use pictures in a number of ways.
I like to quote Laurie Clarcq: she says that the purpose of language is to form a picture in someone’s mind. Drawing pictures helps remind kids that they should have a mental picture whenever they hear or read something.
That being said, sometimes pictures are a way that I get to repeat the information more often. After we’ve done a story, I might have one kid draw at the board, and everyone else draws at their seat while I repeat the story. We might number four-six pictures and then retell the story out of order; they have to say which picture represents each part of the story. Then I might start pieces of the story and have kids finish or embellish a given picture. I might do a dictation with short sentences from the story and then have them identify which pictures went with which sentence.
Once the language is falling out of their mouths, they can get into groups and retell the story: if there are four kids, they retell it once with each one telling about one picture. Then they switch and a different kid starts, or they all try to add as much as they can to picture #2.
Sometimes I hand out a reading and ask them to do a mural with all the pieces there.
If someone has a phone, they take pictures for me and send them so that I can post them on our website (here’s an example, if it works.)
If you do embedded readings, here’s a post about another idea for using drawings
Don’t feel discouraged. You’re awesome for trying it! New stuff is always hard to implement, especially when we’ve taught and learned for so many years in other ways, and the kids have too.
(Note: I’m tagging this under “songs” because that way people can find it if they want to use the idea for teaching songs. Usually we don’t talk so much about teaching poetry in TPRS.)