Jobs – 4

Our discussion of the very most important jobs in our comprehension based classrooms continues. Without the three listed below, my anchors, I wouldn’t even want to start a story:

Story Writer – Along with the Quiz Writer, this is the most important job of all. This student has to be a superstar. Their job is simple – all they have to do is take notes in English on what is said during class. Generally, they don’t take notes during PQA, only stories. The reason for that is that PQA can go all over the place and be kind of confusing, but stories are more closely followed by students. The Story Writer doesn’t have to write all the details that occur in class, just the basic story line. At the end of class they hand it to you and all you have to do is write out the story in the TL, with maybe 10% embedding, and have it ready for the TPRS Step 3 reading class the next day.

Quiz Writer – During class, just like the Story Writer, the Quiz Writer creates the powerful classroom tool called the Quick Quiz. This quiz can be on PQA, the story, Look and Discuss, or anything else discussed in class, but it is most often written only about the story. When the class knows that a quiz is being prepared for them and that it will probably be given at the end of class, or earlier, they pay more attention. During class, as with the PQA Counters, I just check in with them in English by asking them how they are doing, how many questions they have ready at that point. Though a seemingly casual question, it reminds everyone in the classroom that a quiz is on its way. Since everything I do in my classroom is based on a scale of ten points, I generally keep teaching until twelve questions (in case I have to throw out a few questions) are ready and then give the quiz. In that way, the Quiz Writer working together with me gives a certain pacing feel to the class – we are always working towards a goal.

Story Artist – This is the coolest job. Instead of giving this job to a superstar, I give it (it is earned by) one of those quiet listeners who knows what is going on in the story and can draw well. But it can be stick figures as well, as long as the student pays attention as they draw to convey accuracy in their work. I have enjoyed the work of the story artist for years. Processing her drawing is usually the brightest spot in class. Like the students writing the story and the quiz, and the pitch counters, the artist serves to glue the class together toward a common goal during the classroom process. There is something really assuring knowing that a student is diligently capturing everything going on in the story. I have seen real works of art in comic strip form. The artist can make a four or six panel drawing. It can be done at their desks or, as I have done, on the back of the big rolling whiteboard that I personally prefer, because it is more simple, far simpler and far less distracting than a smart board. When the student is right behind the board drawing away, out of site but just behind me, peeping their head around the corner of the whiteboard to ask questions and clarify things, in proximity with the actors, there is a kind of magic “we are working together here on something special” feeling. Class takes on more meaning when the artist is at work. When even more students are busy at their jobs, the classroom takes on a whole new dimension. It’s like a little factory. Just remember to leave time to process in the target language whatever the artist has created during class – don’t forget her. At the right moment I wheel the board around (or put the drawing up on the document camera) and proudly marvel at the “unveiling” of the artist’s work just before the quiz. Usually about fifteen minutes are required to end class talking about the artist’s work and give the quiz, so this is perfect for block classes to help us get to the end of class. A bonus is that the drawing can be used for student retells, which would extend the time even more. The job of the artist can be kept all year. It is a special job.

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2 thoughts on “Jobs – 4”

  1. Ahhh. Somehow I had missed that point, that the Story Artist writes in L1. I have never had a Story Artist in my elementary school classes, thinking it was supposed to be done in L2.

    I’m lucky to have a white board mounted on the back wall of the classroom, so much like Ben, my student spends time drawing with his/her back to the class.

    I’ve taken pictures with a camera of the Student Art and used them for retells in any future class and as a way to get retells after a reading class.

  2. The idea of these specific 3 jobs for students (along with “profesor”) was the key take away for me from the conference in Denver. Watching these in action in the War Room was such an ahha moment for me. Thanks to you, Ben, and to all who participated there. It was a lot of fun and a different kind of learning curve.

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