Report from the Field – Erica McCurry

Our relatively new PLC member Erica McCurry reports from the field about a change she is contemplating to work with CI and younger kids – she currently teaches high school. Here is Erica’s report:

Ben,

Good news! I have a very supportive principal who asked my opinion on schedule (our superintendent put pressure on all principals to change from block). I told him that 50 minutes period classes are more reasonable than block classes for Foreign Language so next year I will be teaching 50 minute period classes. YAY! I just have such a hard time getting great CI the whole block class.

BUT now I’m kind of wondering if I even want to teach high school anymore. My daughter will be starting Pre-K next year and I’ve always dreamed of homeschooling her. If I do decide to homeschool her I will try and get a part-time job teaching Spanish to homeschool students through small group classes or private one-on-one classes.

BUT I have noooo training in teaching small children (one of the fears I have with teaching my own daughter actually- what if I mess up?!?) Do you know of anyone from the blog who teaches small group FL or one-on-one private classes that would have some great video examples? Or do you have any suggestions about how to teach small group or private classes specifically to smaller children?

Erica

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15 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Erica McCurry”

  1. Here is my response to Erica:

    Erica I have been wanting to get more elementary/small kid discussion going here. A thread got started over on the forum but as you can see I asked Trevor to add an entire Elementary section onto the forum.

    It was mentioned on the Forum last week that we in Denver have gifted elementary/young kid teachers and yes we do but they are not at all organized – Erin is leaving to go to graduate school, the people in the mountains, Liz and Leslie (Summit County) aren’t heard from – Leslie just got back from a year in Thailand.

    Isn’t there an elementary TPRS group online? Anybody know about that group?

    But here in Denver there is no elementary leadership and currently Diana has her hands too full with all the secondary stuff she is always working with (we are now writing the level 3/4 post-test for the DPS district assessment which is taking all of Diana’s time).

    Maybe we can get something going in elementary TPRS/CI here. You will absolutely need support in this change. I have a feeling that you are not the only one thinking this way. Smaller kids can be more fun and high schools are falling apart at the seams and schools in general just aren’t working. There will be more and more private language schools happening but the only ones that are going to succeed are the ones that the kids enjoy.

    1. Isn’t there an elementary TPRS group online? Anybody know about that group?

      Yes, there is. I joined and I get the Daily Digest, but I would say that the group is not very active and very few posts have hit a need for me. Many people there assume that you are a Spanish teacher (using Spanish in their posts, referring to something general in the topic but then writing specifically about a Spanish video or song, etc.). For me that’s frustrating. I haven’t taken myself off that list because the Digest comes so rarely! It’s “daily” but really like every 4 days perhaps?

        1. There is another elementary list serv Ñanduti that is more active. The information is not that helpful to TPRS teachers, although Jason Fritze recently gave a great answer to what materials he uses in the class. I wish Jason would run that forum. Helena Curtain contributes often and it is interesting to see how she just won’t get on board with TCI. I find that her ideas force output with the little ones.

  2. Erica, I wouldn’t worry about messing up. One of the benefits of teaching as a career is if that we make mistakes they are rarely so critical that they can not be recovered from. However, I hope those who work with small children have more to offer you. Also, I am surprised you don’t like teaching with CI on block as I actually like Block 4 quite a bit. Did you have block 4 or block 8?

    1. Well maybe I’m the only one but I start losing students after a certain point and I just don’t feel like I can get great successful CI in a whole hour and 1/2. It’s a struggle for me. Some days (very rare) I can almost (that’s a stretch) get there but I am still weak as a CI teacher and I personally don’t feel like I can keep it going or I can think of things on the spot to help boost the conversation. I just feel like if I only have 50 minutes in a class I wouldn’t be wasting time. Maybe the question I should be asking is how in the world can I get great CI without losing students in a whole hour and 1/2?!? I’m I the only one that can’t?

      1. Believe me, I need to find things to keep us goign to sometimes. Brain breaks are a great transition or just a reset button. And switching between a reading based and a PQA or story is also good. I have my days where they stick with better and worse as well. Hope you find some things that help. I do think that it has come easier with time and will hopefully continue to get easier with time.

  3. I also work on a block and really prefer it. Reasons: 1. I prefer having students coming in and out of my room for 18 weeks versus 36 (we wear on each other less this way) 2. I only have 3 groups in and out during the day (not counting elementary groups), making prep time and personalization an easier prospect, 3. It seems to take the edge off for me.

    Re #3, I also move between reading and PQA/story often, as a way to change up the focus. Also, break breaks are huge as Eric says. I can justify reading aloud (in English) to my students for 5 minutes during a 90 minute block. Reading in L1 not only is enjoyable (for me and students) and encourages pleasure reading [we all have school-wide goals to increase literacy right?], but we know that higher reading skills in L1 directly transfer to more acquisition in L2. I don’t do it everyday, but I would if I needed/wanted to.

    And don’t forget about TPR. You could have a timer that goes off every 15 minutes and that is your cue to do 5 minutes of TPR. (I personally can never do 5 minutes straight of TPR after a while though, because it always, always leads me into unexpected PQA, which I think is a good “problem” to have).

    But can be daunting, and with certain groups can be downright dreadful.

    1. I’ve never thought about reading in L1 but it makes complete sense! What do you read to your students and do they have a copy to follow along? I love the idea of TPR! Thank you so much for the ideas!

      1. No, I just pick something from my bookshelf and ask them to listen and relax. We have something at our school called D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read). This is 3 times a week, rotating schedule so that it is never at the exact same time any given week, for 15 minutes at a time. So, i have a bunch of English books that I have collected that may or may not apply to spanish/traveling. A couple good options for read-alouds about traveling: Peace Corps has a publication of short essays from volunteers about their experiences; Lonely Planet publishes a book of travel journals, I think annually. Or maybe I’ll read something from a book I’m reading. It doesn’t matter really, as long as it is mildly interesting.

        Re TPR, there is a book called Live Action Spanish, which has a bunch of TPR scenarios. Many are kind of advanced/non-frequent verbs, and I only use a couple of the scenarios in my classes, but you can get an idea of what that looks like from the book. But of course, TPR with novel commands on the fly can be great. Check out “Instructors’s Manual: TPR” (not exact name, but close) by Ramiro Garcia for more ideas on how to execute TPR.

        1. Thank you Jim! I’ll have to look for those TPR books. A cool thing happened this past weekend at a conference. After reading what you wrote before about reading a book to your class I decided to go to a session about Teaching the Americas Awards Books and I won a book! It’s call the Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis and it is a book about Pablo Neruda’s childhood written in a fictional tone. It is written in green ink just like he used to submit his poetry. Thank you again for the advice!

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