General Update – 3

So why not start thinking about next year already? Because some of us are barely able to drag our resistant asses into our classrooms these days? All the more reason to do it! My firm belief is that with a new focus on NT starting on this site now, we will arrive in May next year running across the parking lot to get to our cherubs because our instruction will have changed so much! (OK Slavic chill on the hyperbole but we get your point.)

So, while talking about how to survive May – and maybe Tina will come in here and give us a few ideas on how to end the year and maybe write that bite size book for us – I will, along with the general discussion, start sharing ideas here for next year since it is never to late to start thinking about the fall. (Although I firmly realize, having been exactly there myself almost 40 times, that right now that is perhaps – and should be – the very last thing on most people’s minds).

Three topics that come to mind for next year, three battle-proven ideas from this site that are used in a tremendous number of CI classrooms, are: (1) Questioning with Balls (formerly Circling with Balls) which is an activity that has stood the test of time as a start-the-year activity, (2) the all-important Classroom Rules, which, when we don’t teach them right in the first week of class we might as well forget we ever heard of comprehensible input, and (3) using One Word Images to start the Year, which compared to the other warhorses above is a relative newcomer to the starting the year scene.

I would think that anything we talk about to get the Invisibles even partially up and running in our classrooms next year (the Invisibles being the best version of NT I have yet seen) would be the best move we could do here on the PLC for next year.

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31 thoughts on “General Update – 3”

  1. At what point of the year do you think we could start working with Story Listening with a beginner’s class? I’m just curious if you have any insight into that. Merci !

    1. Bryan I would start in with SL as soon as I had them whipped into shape with the Classroom Rules, the Questioning with Balls, and the One Word Images. Probably about week three.

    2. I also think you could do a super simple SL on day one to prove to them that they can understand “language X.’ Also to prove to them a lot of things like “language is not isolated words” and “you can understand messages even if you do not know all the words.” Stuff like that.

      I am thinking of doing this along with the other beginning of year strategies / norming. Like do a simple Goldilocks version all in Spanish. Easy peasy. I believe this will also reinforce the importance of “listening with intent to understand.”

  2. Like many others are now (or will be in the next couple weeks), I am in “wrap it up” mode. State tests are done, classroom projects are due today and we are electing Invisible Hall of Fame next week. I’ve also been thinking how my classroom will look next year, especially considering I will have dominantly Spanish 2, 95% of those students being the ones I’ve had this year. I’ve already started to think how my first weeks will look like and this is what I’m thinking:

    TPR with high frequency verbs that are CRUCIAL to story telling, specifically movement/travel verbs like: walks, runs, flies, hurries, crawls, jumps, etc.

    Questions with balls will also be critical, albeit a bit elementary for some of my more advanced students, because we will have a new “classroom family” to establish.

    I’d imagine that would get me through the first 4-5 weeks, then jump into OWI shortly followed by Invisibles, emphasizing past tense.

    @Bryan, I bet you could do Story Listening immediately after your first couple weeks of TPR or whatever introductory vocab you emphasize. Just keeping it slow with lots of visual aids should get you through it.

    1. For French 2 I start with a Questions with Balls type activity in which they create a drawing of what they did this summer, and then we talk about those. It gives a little variety if you don’t want to just talk about their favorites (which I do in French 1).

    2. Scotty, my HF verbs of motion have been limited now that i think of it. However, it is my move to NT that has given me different verbs though i cant recall. I have used “ran, flies and steals” but everything else this year has been suggestions from students. Examples include ” had a panic attack”, “called arnold Schwarzenegger”, “trained at a boot camp” “rolled” … these were tied to the specific characters

      1. After reading carefully, i noticed you tpr’ed the verbs. This yeat, i have not read many freewrite but the ones i have, have used vocabulary from the stories. I think its 2 reasons 1) during my kind of tpr, i never have written the words on the board. 2) students have been reading the NT stories in class and during fvr.

  3. I love the month of May though it’s stressful and very busy because of that dreaming that we start to do about the next school year. I just want to say that the way I plan to start my school year next year is probably similar to how I started this year except I will do a couple of days of orientation to language acquisition because this year I didn’t do that until October and some of the kids were complaining I guess to my principal who passed it on to me that they were expecting flashcards and word lists and they weren’t getting that so they were disappointed. I think next year I’ll do that the first couple days of school just in English maybe I’ll do one day or two days of input just to have fun with them and then probably Thursday and Friday of that first week I will do two days of English introduction to language acquisition. Probably the fun things that I’ll do with them will be questioning with the cards and the calendar and the weather which I think is lots of fun the first few months of school. Then probably the next Monday I’ll start doing one word images with them and I’ll probably do a story listening That first week probably like on a Thursday. I think you if you start with a simple story like the three little pigs or the three beers or something they already know then you could do story listening from the get go

  4. Scotty,
    Could you explain a little bit about the Invisible Hall of Fame? It sounds like a really neat idea!

    Also, next year I plan on using the questionnaires more. I used to use the information from these when I did targeted TPRS stories when I wrote up my own stories about the kids. Since I’m not doing that any more (yay, less planning!), I plan on taking 1-2 interesting facts per class from these questions and talk about them with the kids.

    I’m thinking of doing Circling with balls and Questionnaire topics for the first couple of weeks. Also, in order to get them used to reading, I’ll probably type up a paragraph or two from those activities if the conversations are interesting enough and kids can read that the following class. This will give me a lot more to do since there are so many good reading activities and games.

    Oh, also this year I did a lot of TPR the first month which I had never done in the past! The kids LOVED it! I had all level 3’s but they all came in and literally didn’t know any of the verb/actions I introduced: runs, steals, looks at, jumps, etc…. The list goes on but I broke the verbs up a week or so at a time. So, I actually did do some mini-targeted stories with these TPR actions but it worked very well since they were so engaged and acquired these actions so quickly. I feel that the time spent with these laid the groundwork I needed in order for kids to be more creative in our Non-targeted stories. I think this is similar to what you are saying, Scotty, right?

    1. For those interested in the Questionnaires – somewhere on this site there is information from Anne on how to use them. Not sure where. Also, I want to announce that Anne has a new book of scripts coming out soon. I hope. I think so. I’ll ask her.

    2. Well I think Ben and Tina mentioned it in their book. I’m actually not 100% what I’m going to do yet but something like taking a day or two to bring out all of the Invisibles and their respective story arts. Spend some time reminiscing, maybe pull up some of the videos of the stories from my Google Drive. Then vote on two (I think we’ve done about 8-9 per class in the last 2 months I started using them) of the Invisible characters for the Hall of Fame that will get taped up on the wall for everyone next year to see and admire. I also always take a class picture at the end of the year so we will probably include those Invisibles in the class picture too!

      And as for your last paragraph, yea that sounds pretty similar to what I do! I incorporate a lot of commands because most of them are the same as their 3rd person singular form. Also a great ice breaker to let them know this class is going to be (and has to be!) FUN!

    3. Keri here is the section from the book on the Invisibles Hall of Fame. This is the last of about fifteen jobs I have in four “hubs”. The Curator is in the “tech” hub:

      The Curator

      At the end of the year, classes enjoy voting on the three best invisible characters of the year, as well as on the best story of the year. The competition is intense and is decided by majority vote.

      Campaigns on behalf of certain characters and stories happen. The students choose (1) the cutest, (2) the kindest, (3) the meanest characters of the year, and (4) the best story.

      But where are those results collected? That is the job of the class Curator, who organizes them in the Class Hall of Fame, which can be collected on the class website on a special hard link that is never taken down from year to year, only added to. What is the process?

      The Class Archivist, having collected images of all the characters from the year, sends the images of the winning characters to the curator. So it is the archivist who runs the competition within the class in May to decide on the best things listed above.

      The Curator also receives the panel drawing of the winning story from the archivist, and the written copy of the winning story from the book publisher. They are all placed at the end of the year on the Hall of Fame hard link, which is part of the teacher’s home page.

      The language program in your school will thus have a sense of history to it, and people will be connected from year to year by more than just a table of contents in a textbook, but by characters and stories and videos and images. Thus, memories of the real students who moved through your life are captured through the years.

      1. The four “hubs” and the fourteen student jobs are kind of a like a piece of structural steel in a building. Along with the images of characters and the seven level questioning sequence, they make the Invisibles into a kind of no-planning daily automatic lesson plan which is a system (right brained me loves that word bc for so long TPRS made me feel out to see on a raft w/o a paddle – read: nervousness). So the system here is greatly defined by the hubs. It brings stability to CI instruction, not to mention strong student involvement. I am making a video on it all to be sold with the Bite Size Books on teachable.com. Good luck getting that done Ben! Oh well, we try. Maybe in the fall. But yeah the Invisibles gives me a CI SYSTEM! It is my view that there is far more (natural, healthy) structure in NT than there is (unnatural, unhealthy, forced) structure in targeted CI. Hey, when Annabelle Allen supports NT, that is all I need to know, as in:

        https://lamaestralocablog.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/the-when-how-what-and-why-of-non-targeted-ci-in-my-classroom/comment-page-1/#comment-199

  5. I know it’s heresy but I don’t enjoy TPR so I don’t do it, relying rather on strong Questioning w Balls* cards and ministories and then later in the year strong Invisibles stories to teach the verbs. Don’t tell anyone. It just shows that we all do it differently. Kids can learn verbs in any way. All we have to do is keep sayin’ ’em! There is no one way to do CI and there are no experts. Just us!

    *new people are invited to search “Circling with Balls” here for more information on how to do it. Or look on p. 54 of this book:

    https://benslavic.com/blog/link-5/

    1. I hear you on the TPR thing, Ben. I always find it draining when I try to get the whole class to do some sort of TPR sequence. On the other hand, it can be a blast when we get going with a couple or a handful of kids who really like to move and get attention. I’d rather not make the party-poopers spoil the TPR fun by waiting for them to get involved.

      1. At elementary level I always have buy-in from my students with TPR but in middle school it’s a different story. They enjoy some gesturing but getting them off their seats draws groans.

        1. I can’t remember being that age, but middle school kids have a right to not be told to perform. They have a right not to follow orders to learn verbs. They have a right not to have to supply cute answers. They have a right not to read books that they don’t care much about. They have a right not to listen to heavy circling, which can be quite boring. They have a right to not have their attention focused on certain words when they can just listen to the real curriculum of any language class, the unfettered language itself. They have a right not to gesture if they don’t want to. They have a right to know how the story ends before they leave class that day. They have a right to have fun. They have a right to talk about and share and enjoy THEIR ideas first, since their ideas are more interesting to them than the pathetic histrionic attempts of egocentric teachers to be “all that” with storytelling. I defend those rights. I fight for them. I could give a rat’s ass about the curriculum, because it is not the real curriculum. The language is the real curriculum, and teachers need to teach it, not pieces of it.

          1. Ben, I hope you didn’t get me wrong bc part of me feels like being told off. I’ve for some time stopped trying to make them do what I think is good practise bc I realized it was not about them but about my fear of loosing control and maybe not considered doing a good job.
            I can’t say I’ve shaken these kind of fears completely but I’m working on it.
            And I didn’t feel bad when we talked in grade 5 last Friday the whole period about breaking one’s arm (I can’t for the world remember how we got there.). They in German me in English.
            And when at the end of the lesson one of my superstars said with a broad grin that we had been talking German all the time, I thought by myself “YES, and I’ve stayed in L2 almost all the time and all of you just wanted to understand what I was saying, so you had lots of CI. Actually I felt like the winner!

    2. I use tpr in 2 ways: 1) as a brain break of simon says using “touch x part of your body” “clap your hands” “say hello” “turn right” etc… or “change seats” “give a high five to 3 people” 2) embedd it when using actors.

      Does creating gestures count as tpr for example when introducing new words like “went” ” did” etc…

      1. Steven, as you will know, Asher’s TPR started with whole-body movements like “Jump. Turn around …” where the words/sentences lign up with the movements but like all good stuff it developed and so I would definitely say that gestures count as TPR bc there is movement and not just language.

  6. Ben I am glad you reminded me of this. With all the planning for Cascadia and the summer Tour des États-Unis, I forget things all the time.

    Here it is, off the top of my head.

    1. Story Book project which is eating up UNTOLD days of class for me and the kids are really into it, PLUS it is cresting stories for next year’s SSR time.
    (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Lwj-kYxrTq_r63imBj9PxEnEHwjNUc8uBX6JqHqMKQo/edit?usp=sharing)

    2. Read and Write. Have them read for ten minutes in their SSR materials. Then have them list five new words they learned. Have them teach them to a partner. Then have them read ten more minutes. List five new words. Then work with a partner to write a story using those words. If time permits, illustrate it.

    3. Watch Extr@. My kids love this series. I told them that we would watch Extr@ and Sr. Wooly every Monday till June 10. If you are feeling punchy, watch ten minutes then stop to Write and Discuss, and create a class summary of the main points.

    4. Play the Word Chunk Team Game or a new game I invented called Pass the Paper Not the Crayon.

    Kids are in groups of four. One kid has a paper with eight boxes. I have a paper with eight lists of ten words each. Thematic vocab with titles like “Things in a house” and “People in the Family”.
    Kid Two has the pencil. They listen and can’t write. I say the list in one of the boxes three times. They try to remember as many words as they can in L1 or L2. Then after three times hearing the list they get together as a group and the paper kid gets the pencil and takes down the ten words. They pass the paper but not the pencil so Kid Two can be the scribe for the next round. Then we moved on to box two. At the end the groups traded papers and we corrected together. Since several groups had perfect scores we did a spelling bee type “French Off” (or “Spanish Off”) with one kid from each group competing for the ultimate prize. A Jolly Rancher for each group member.

    5. Insta Scavenger Hunt. Give a list of things found outside. Kids run around and take pictures of them They send them to your Instagram teacher account as a message. They can tag the photos with the word from the list.

    6. Running Dictation. Always good for a sunny day.

    7. Assessments. Tell them it is an assessment and the pencils start moving. Tell a story then repeat it again in chunks while they write in English what they understood. Tell them you are NOT repeating for them.

    8. Invisibles Beauty Contest. Put the Invisibles you have not gotten to yet in a pile. Put one on the projector. Describe it for a while. Then describe another one. Then another. After a few, do a Write and Discuss and write a few sentences about each one. Then talk about some more, then write some more. Repeat till the attention wanes. Then vote for cutest, smartest, most intelligent, whatever. Then

    9. Who’s That Person? Have them sketch a four or six panel…well just watch it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6wsqjlNNuE
    You can also make it into a Quick Quiz.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fipr-QWGT2A

    10. Letter to Next Year’s Class: Have them write in English and explain how this class works, tips, tricks. You may or may not use these.

    11. End of the Year Reflections: If you have kept a portfolio then have them look through it and pick their bet work. Then have them write a reflection letter on what they have learned.

    12. Appreciation Letters: Have them choose a teacher or staff member who has made an impact on them. Have them write them a card in English. Maybe a sentence or two in the language. I had a Science teacher colleague at Russell who used to do this every Teacher Appreciation Week, and it was so sweet to get their letters. I still have them in my Happy File. And, yes, I do have a Happy File.

    13. Guess the Teacher: Get teachers to submit baby photos. Or answer personal questions. It is like Who’s That Person but with teachers/staff.

    14. Pig: I stumbled across this online. I liked it. It was fun. It is kind of lame but kids loved it. https://sradentlinger.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/cerdos-a-vocabulary-game/

    15. Let Go. This is a teacher game. It is an activity WE need to do in May. We need to LET GO in May and June. We have given them so much, we have given them so much language, so much input. We do not need to be superheroes every blessed day. I think of the school year as a roller coaster hill. We quickly chug up to the top, in fall. By December I am usually teaching my VERY BEST. Everyone knows what is expected, we are a group, we have inside jokes and I (usually) know everyone’s name, all 182 of them. January and February are good teaching months but I am usually pretty low on energy and glad to coast on that fall momentum. The input is pretty much still going strong like a faucet I turned on in September. March and April we are still coasting but I need to break it up a little. Assessment batteries are good for this time. They provide input while also getting pencils in their hands and they sound “official”. A good assessment battery can take up a whole week. It is good to have some “tricks” up your sleeve to pull out in spring. Movie Talk, Picture Talks, Special Chair, Running Dictation, whatever they haven’t seen before. That is why in fall and winter my highest recommendation is Keep It Simple Stupid. Let’s not think that we have to be three-ring circus entertainers in fall and winter. Listening to the language spoken slowly and clearly is enchanting enough for most people and if we enforce the Classroom Rules each and every time then we do not HAVE TO STRESS about being entertaining, until spring. March and April are the times to turn towards new and novel. May is the time to pull out all the stops. And give ourselves a freakin break people. We have taught them so much. Most of my SEVENTH GRADERS have developed more proficiency in a year than I gained in three years of French in high school. And certainly more than two years of middle school Latin where we conjugated and declined day in and day out. So, why not take it easy on ourselves, coast a little, let them do some projects? I am having SUCH FUN with my kids here at the end of the year. They are writing, illustrating, and we are just being together.

    P.S. I am sure the savvy teacher can find the hidden standards in the above activities. If you need help with that, just shout out. I am pretty good at making “taking it easy” sound like “rigorous academics”.
    P.P.S. I used to be president of my local union. I love teachers! We work too hard, for too little, with too many people, for way too little pay, with too many headaches, and far too many hoops to jump through, for us to EVER beat ourselves up about ANYTHING. Let’s all breathe, look at what we have accomplished this year, celebrate our own growth, and look forward to summer. It’s not TOO far away now. Five weeks here in Portland Public. I think I can, I think I can…

    1. Phenomenal stuff Tina! Thanks. I’ve done the class “copy/pasterino” into another google doc titled END OF THE YEAR COASTING. LOL.

      I think my favorite is “Letter to next year’s class”. Our class and classrooms are SO DIFFERENT to what the kids are used to. Maybe a letter from an unknown peer will help break the ice and prepare our new students for how much fun they are going to have, all the while learning a TON! #fistbump

    2. This is GOLDEN, Tina! Happy Mother’s Day to you! I feel like you are my teacher mom, taking care of me and my mental health so I can give my best to the kiddos.

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