Saturday, April 16, 2016

La corrida

After viewing a blog post from Profe Tauchman, Running Dictation, I wanted to replicate the game with my students. We had to review another chapter from our book. This seemed like a great way to get in more reps in an active way so that students couldn't be complacent and take a back seat. It was also a game that I had not played with them yet.

The desks were arranged in pods of 4. As students entered the room, they were instructed to choose a seat with students they could work with productively. One we got started, students were explained the jobs of each person and they could choose which job they wanted. Each pod had one individual marker board and a marker.

El corredor - this person runs to me at the front of class to see the sentence. He can return to see the sentence as many times as necessary to get it correct.
El secretario - has the marker and board, writing exactly what the corredor tells her. She can ask questions, ask for clarification, or for the corredor to return to the front to see the sentence again.
El dibujante - takes the marker and board from the secretario to draw an obvious picture of the sentence. All parts should be included and clear visualization of the sentence.
El maestro - is in charge of being sure that everything is spelled correctly, and eventually raises the board for affirmation of answer.

Once a board was raised, I would indicate to each group if they had a typo or needed a clearer picture. No specifics were given about where the typo was or what needed to be added or changed about the picture. The first correct answer was awarded a point for their team.

Once a team won a point, we discussed additional information about the sentence, including as many structures as possible.

El camino

What a beautiful day we had last week! It was time for a walking lesson.

I first heard about doing this about 15 years ago when I attended a conference that I don't remember or even where it was. However, the underlying theme of the session was wellness: students need to move to get their blood pumping so that the brain is active and responds more quickly. Yeah, that made sense to me and I love being outside and not cooped up in a room for an extended period of time. I can only imagine what our students go through as well. They definitely need a change of environment, too.

We have been reading a novel (only into the second chapter), so I thought this would be a great way to review the events and structures that they have been struggling with in the reading. I usually retype the novels and add links to cultural topics, translate some FYI words, and add comprehension questions and ancillary activities at the end. The students can also take their own notes directly in their book, too.

Using the comprehension questions already created, I copied them onto a new document and labeled two identical lists with "A" and "B". Before school I drive the route that I will be taking the students on and use sidewalk chalk to mark numbers randomly. For example, if I have 8 questions, I randomly write the numbers 1-8 along the route on the sidewalk.

Students need to have the expectations set out ahead of time to be sure this activity runs smoothly. Most of these are intact in the physical classroom, but once the classroom becomes mobile, kids tends to throw out the rules.
1) Respect
        -respect the community - stay on the sidewalk, don't run through yards, pet dogs or other animals. This gives us good relations within the community.
        -respect each other - we have a social contract in our classroom and they need to be reminded that this is still in effect even though we are not in the physical classroom; when we are together, it is our classroom and the contract is still in place with our group.
        -respect other classes - students get very excited for this activity and are very chatty as we head out the door and through the hallways to get outside. Reminding them that this is a privilege that they have earned to do this activity and we need to respect the other classes that are still "back home". There should be silence in the hallways, just as if they were going to the restroom.
2) All in target language: Again, although we are not in the classroom, the expectation that we are still practicing our skills. The best way to do that? Use it!
3) Observe the silence: Sometimes we get so involved in pushing the language, but honestly, just listening to nature can go a long way to igniting energy and excitement. Introverts love this rule! Also, it is very rare that no one is talking so they do get some additional listening practice as they are observing silence. 
4) Stay as a group - 1/2 block: Although we are on a walk, it is important to stay together, within a half block between the first person and the last person. I usually don't have a problem with students escaping or taking a longer or different route than planned, but it is important to stay as a group to keep a head count. Also, if they are all together, additional listening practice is built in and there is collaboration if they forget how to say something.

Before heading out the door, I draw a simple map on the board so that they know the route. They also need to know that the questions will be along the route in random order. Once they pass over a number, it corresponds to a number on their list and should be discussing it with their partner until they get to the next number. It may be that they are not able to discuss the entire question before getting to the next one - they can continue it later when they get to a question that is shorter and run out of something to say.

Students match up, using the A questions and the B questions. They do figure out pretty quickly that they are the same, but this helps it be a little more random. Some walks I will create different questions between A and B lists. I make the students stand at the door next to their partner and I quickly glance that there is an A with a B. This becomes their conversation partner on the walk. A quick reminder to be respectful in the hallways and we are off!

As we are walking, I moving forward and back, listening to students. I also engage them in random conversation when they are done answering the question, sometimes before they even start the question. The real goal: conversation, right? Who cares what they say as long as it's in the target language!

When we get back, we process the walk. First, we analyze the rules and how well we did with the expectations. I call out the rules, one-by-one and the students rate themselves 1-5 with their fingers. For example, one class had an overall rating of 5 fingers (max) for respect and staying together, but next time we will have to work on staying in the target language (2 fingers) and observing silence (1 finger, contributing to lack of TL).

Then, as a group we went through the questions again. Yes, it was another way to get in more reps! It also clarified the chapter content for the students.

In the end, they really enjoyed it and wanted to do this at least weekly. Hmmm, I think I'll keep that tucked in my back pocket for novelty. :)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Shhhh, we're secretly adding more reps

One of the main premises of TPRS/CI is that the students hear the structures multiple times. How does this happen? Using as many repetitions (reps) as possible in novel ways, circling the structures. While we can all improve our trade, I always felt this was one area that I needed to focus on...until last week. It dawned on me that students receive reps in ways that I didn't think about before, using strategies that I knew worked. In reflection, I see that there are numerous reps they hear each class period.

Last week we started a new book, El viaje perdido by Lisa Ray Turner and Blaine Ray. The vocabulary structures we focused on were:

El vocabulario útil:
le encanta(n) - s/he loves (likes a lot)
mareada - seasick; dizzy
ni siquiera - not even
tenían vergüenza - they were ashamed
se dio cuenta que - he realized
a pesar de - despite
prodrido - spoiled
una bruja - witch
una broma - joke

Gramática importante:
había robado - he had robbed
había leído - he had read

We took no more than 2 structures a day, and slowly reading the chapter, circling content that was important and using the vocabulary. I chose a couple vocabulary words that we would be using in the reading that day. Here's how this played out:

Opportunity #1
Bellringer When students enter the room, they see these super mini stories with their picture that I find on the Internet and pasted onto situational pictures also pulled from the Internet, like this one using some of our structures. Some are old, most are recent. Some are words that they struggled with the day before. Either way, they can't wait to get into class to see who is next on the big screen. Once attendance is taken, and other book keeping activities we do as teachers, we translate the story as a class. They see the vocabulary used again in a  different context and we circle the information and elaborate the story using additional reps. I have also been known to use parallel characters (a flipped idea of a parallel character to the actual story) that uses the characters in the novel we are reading. Sometimes I will stretch their problem-solving skills by adding in a new word to see if they can understand it through context. Usually they can!

Opportunity #2

1, 2, 3, ¡YA! Using the vocabulary structures from the previous day and adding additional vocab from the part of the novel we read the day before, or any previous structures. I call out a word from the list and say, "1, 2, 3, ¡YA!" On ¡Ya!, students hold the corresponding number of fingers to "post their answer". There are always 5 words to correspond to their 5 fingers so they don't need both hands. It's a quick check of their language acquisition, based on our previous learning.

Opportunity #3

New vocab & PQA To introduce new vocabulary, a few at a time, students repeat the vocab with me as I repeat it at least 3 times, more if they are struggling with the pronunciation. This means they hear it up to 6 times between me and the student repeating it. Then we enter into PQA conversation using the given structures. I try to give them possible other vocabulary that may come into conversation as we begin discussing. I am always amazed how kids will retain even this  FYI vocabulary later and use in their retells and writing (output), even the traditionally "low" students. Pull out grammar is vital in this stage as they need to be aware of está podrido/a/os/as using the different foods mentioned. Lately, I've been able to even keep this in the target language. Now that we are in the middle of the chapter of the novel, the students are familiar with the characters and basically what's happening in the storyline, we can start to make predictions about what the characters will be doing based on the new vocabulary. 

Opportunity #4

Character retell When we start any novel, it is uber important to understand the characters and some background on them. This is an opportunity to Q/A characteristics of the main characters. I first allow students to volunteer any information they may know/remember about them and I will repeat the statements - yep, there's more reps! Then I will ask additional questions to engage them in focused structures through additional brief circling of content and structures. Pull out grammar is ideal here, too, to be sure they are understanding basic ideas of the language.

This book gives great physical descriptions of these characters so earlier the students drew pictures of each one, adding to their collage of drawings every time a new character was introduced. Using their pictures, they partner with another student to describe each character. This gives them good listening (additional input reps) and speaking (output reps) practice. 

After the students have an opportunity to retell all they know or can about the characters, we come back together and I ask... Clase, ¿quién es alto? ¿quién está mareada? ¿quién es una mujer hermosa? etc so that they get additional reps of current and past vocabulary.

Opportunity #5
El viaje perdido by Lisa Ray Turner and Blaine Ray 
Next part of the novel We are now able to enter the novel again. In a 90-minute class period, we are now down about about the last 30 minutes of the block. Wow, that has been a LOT of reps up to this point. This is why if they don't completely have the structures acquired during the reading I know they will get more the next day. This will give them additional, novel information to add to what we are talking about so that we can expand their conversation.

Once we start into the novel again, we first have to review what we know so far, right? Yep, more reps at this stage. 

We will continue reading where we left off the day before. As we read, I continually circle the content and vocabulary that they struggle with to better understand it. Just as proficient readers continually ask themselves questions like: 
  • Does this make sense?
  • How does this new character relate to the other characters?
  • Why is this character doing/say/acting this way?
  • Is this in check with the storyline? Is something not logical here?
  • _____?
Proficient readers also take notes, summarize, review, reread, look up words they don't understand, and discuss what they have read. This is why when we teach reading in another language we have to directly teach students to do develop these skills. This pushes teachers to ask all kinds of higher order thinking skill questions. Acquisition plus HOTS? Woah. It also allows for more reps to be included! How clever are language teachers, right? 

Opportunity #6
Quick Write At some convenient stopping point, usually 5-8 minutes before the end of class, students do a quickwrite. The goal is 100 words in 5 minutes. Again, this gives them additional reps using the language and the new vocabulary. Sometimes I allow them to use their notes, vocabulary structures, or whatever they have at their disposal (just not their book because I don't want them to copy the book onto paper!). Other times, for the challenge, I will have them put their notes away and just go from memory. It is truly amazing what they can do; some will even surprise themselves!

Opportunity #7
Acting When there is time and we have a shorter chapter with lots of action, students will help the class visualize what is happening while someone narrates the story. This could be a Reader's Theater style, a skit, based on the novel, or simply me doing Q/A while the students act. I did not do this last week, but it is definitely in my toolbox to get more reps into the class period.

The reading of the novel is what I have traditionally called the "meat" of the lesson since this is my goal is to have students read in the target language, seeing the vocabulary in context, and having impromptu conversations with the vocab and content. I was elated when my students last year no longer had formal structures "taught" because all we had to do was read and they understood the structures, using the aforementioned strategies. They just picked up the content and vocabulary because the learning was uninhibited and natural. That was some really fun teaching! I hope to get my new students to this level, too. 

Giving students as many reps of the vocabulary as possible is the surest way to give the gift of acquisition. When they have truly acquired the language, know what "sounds right", and can output the language they need, when they need it, we have accomplished our goal of language learning. It's not about the stories, it's about the learning and acquisition. OK, I'll also throw in, having fun too. 

This was just one lesson on one day, but gives a structure to how I plan my lessons. I certainly do many more activities than just these. This was meant to be a reflection on how I (we as CI teachers) naturally incorporate reps into our lessons. It wasn't until I looked outside my "meat and potatoes" that I was able to validate the quality that I did have in my lessons even though we spent so many days on one chapter. 

What are some ways you get additional reps in your lessons? Please share in the comments below.