Monday, October 13, 2014

What's Working

I made it through my first six weeks of teaching with TPRS. I'm loving it! It is definitely a learning experience. I've struggled with my lower elementary classes. We have good days and I have had many lessons I've had to change, but the students and I will figure it out eventually. Upper elementary is going great! Many of the students are more engaged and I am much closer to 90% TL than I ever was in the past. In this post, I wanted to share what is working and some areas that I could use suggestions.

What's Working

  • Rules: For lower elementary, I borrowed my rules from Kristel Saxon (@KristelSaxon). We say the in English, then in Spanish. Eventually I will take away the English. I have noticed better behavior now that we say the rules ever class. I never did that in the past. I'm trying to be better about consistency and procedures this year. The rules are:
    • Speak in Spanish.
    • Raise your hand.
    • No touching.
    • Be respectful.
    • Listen.
  • Partner Talk: I taught all grades a few greetings and to ask, "How are you?" I have them greet 3-5 people in the beginning of class. Eventually, when they know more structures, I am going to ask them to have more conversations. I using greetings so they get used to the routine.
  • Oso: I played Oso (Bear) with upper elementary to practice "se llama". A student holds a teddy bear and stands in the middle of a circle of students. I start the game by saying, "Se llama _____." Oso tries to tag that student before he/she can say, "Se llama _____." If the student is tagged, he/she is the next oso. I learned how to play Oso at the NTPRS conference from Leslie  Davison (@lesliedavison). You can play with any vocabulary.
  • Circling: Circling is going really well with upper elementary. The three structures we are practicing are se llama, le gusta, and tiene. I let students choose character names. After the story, we create story boards together. I haven't had students do retells yet, but we have played games like the flyswatter game and students can very easily pick out each picture when described in Spanish. Retells will begin during my next rotation. Here is the story I used:
    • La chica se llama ______. El chico se llama ________. La chica le gusta pastel. El chico le gusta lechuga. Hay un problema. La chica tiene lechuga. No le gusta lechuga. El chico tiene pastel. No le gusta paste. El chico le da el pastel a la chica. La chica no le da la lechuga al chico. El chico llora.

Help please!

  • Circling with Kindergarten: I've been searching Blogs and Twitter and it seems like this is a common problem. I try to use puppets or have lots of students involved. I keep the vocabulary very simple. I don't add any words we have not already practiced. I have them use hand signals and movements to answer questions instead of shouting out. I only circle for five minutes at a time, some times less if they're really antsy. They just don't seem engaged.
  • Reluctant Students: While most of the students are engaged, I have a few that choose not to participate. I try different activities and I usually have the same response. I can't force them to learn. The is especially a problem in upper elementary.
  • Games: I have a few games that the students really like, but I could use more ideas. Many games I find in blogs are for high school or for students with more vocabulary. My students only have three structures right now and not much extra vocabulary.

I hope you find something useful and I appreciate any suggestions you can offer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Classroom Set Up

I am not using tables this year! I am still getting used to it, but I think students enjoyed sitting on the floor in groups while they made their name tags. The cards on the chairs were made by Martin Bex. I split my class into two teams, Barcelona and Madrid, then put two colors of cards in each team in case I want small groups. The pictures on the cards help split students into groups of two or three. I also call cards when I need someone to do a job. Students choose different seats each class so I am not always calling on the same volunteers.

This picture shows my Barcelona bulletin board. It has a map of Spain and a road map of Barcelona. It also includes pictures of tourist attractions and food. On the board, I have my question word posters and the sticky chart paper that I'm using to write our structures. These will end up on our word wall which also has a picture in this post. The pointers are for students who get to be the teacher. So far we have used these to review the rules. A student reads them and calls on others to explain them.

I have my calendar and Madrid bulletin board. The Madrid board to set up like the Barcelona board. In the green boarder, I have a weekly challenge from the book, Spanish Cultural Challenge which I ordered from Teacher Discovery.

Here is the word wall. I'll keep this here even when I rotate to different schools. I'm hoping the kids will continue to practice while I'm gone :-)

I use the giant Ziloc bags to store my props. The hand prints are a self-assessment. The students high five one before they leave. Some examples are "I learned something new" and "I was an AMAZING listener".

I have my bright colored circling posters in the back of the room. Very helpful!

Thanks for checking out my classroom!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Day Ideas

One of the goals that I stated in my last post was to spend more time getting to know my students. I've decided to make my first two months dedicated to structures that will allow students to introduce themselves. Here are my plans for the first day. I have split them up by grade level.

Kindergarten: After a couple rules and introductions, I start off the first day with the book, Say Hola to Spanish by Susan Middleton Elya. This book is not all in the TL, but it introduces some basic Spanish words that students can often figure out by the pictures. I have students say what the new words mean or have them point to objects. It also includes a few words that English speakers have borrowed. My kindergarteners the last two years have been surprised that they already know a few Spanish words. This book has really hooked them the last two years. After the story, I pass out the name tags from the book, Music that Teaches Spanish! by Patti Lozano. I fill in their names and they draw themselves on the blank person. We use these all year. While the students are completing their name tags, I am going to move around the room and complete their pre-test. I will have a mat with pictures. I'll say a list of words and have the students point to each one. I'll check off every correct choice. I am hoping to finish these within two class periods. Cross your fingers for me, please! I got this per-test idea from Leslie Davison at the NTPRS conference this summer. After name tags are finished, we'll play a name game from Music that Teaches Spanish! I say a rhyme in Spanish that asks the child's name. The child taking his/her turn gets to hold the big blue microphone. To keep it interesting, I have them do different motions during the rhyme and have them use different voices for the rhyme or when they say their names.

First and Second Grade: I am going to start both classes by playing a name game. This will be my second of third year with most of these students, but I'm still working on all of the names. I'm going to pre-test them using the same words as kindergarten, but I will have them write what they think each word means. Some first graders might use pictures. After they finish the pretest, they will make a name tag similar to what third thru fifth will make, but I'll have them draw or write three of their favorite things on the back. After name tags, I will do some TPR practice in their teams. They heard some of these verbs last year. I am splitting each class into two teams, Barcelona and Madrid. I got this idea from Jason Fritze at the NTPRS conferences. If there is time, I'll turn it into a competition, maybe Simon Says, so I can start to encourage the students to work together in their teams.

Third-Fifth Grade: On the first day of school, I'll introduce some rules and procedures. I'm trying to split these up through out the week; introducing them as needed. I don't want to put the class to sleep day one.  I will also get my pre-assessment out of the way. This will be a three question vocabulary quiz. The students will write the English translation of the three structures we'll practice for the first two months. After I give my pre-assessment, I am going to have the students create two name tags. One will just include the student's first name. They will hold onto this during class so I can practice names. The second is for me to use when planning for PQA and stories. On the front, they will write first and last name in their favorite color. This saves me space on the back of the card. On the back, I will have them split the card into six boxes. They can draw or write these six items on the back:
1. Age
2. A like
3. A dislike
4.A want
5. Something he/she has (pet, sibling, favorite toy, etc.)
6. Interesting fact
While students are working, I am going to pass around the iPads and have students take "selfies" for a a game we are playing to practice se llama. All of the pictures will be put on a PowerPoint for the game. We'll be using it to play Ten Ball. After making name tags, they will practice some TPR verbs in teams.

There isn't a lot of TL used for the first day, but we're starting from scratch. That will changer very soon!

If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know! I hope you found something useful here :-)

What do you do for the first day of school?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Committing to TPRS/CI

"Bad TPRS is better than any textbook." This was a  popular quote during this week's NTPRS conference. I think I am going to hang this quote near my desk as I jump into using TPRS next year. I am extremely nervous but I have a new motivation that I feel like I had lost last year.

I have posted before about how I want to increase my target language use and how I think TPRS would be such a useful tool in the classroom. I tried it a couple times, and in my opinion it did not go well, so I stopped using it. Big mistake! I went back to doing what I was doing before: list of vocabulary, games to memorize the list, and maybe teach a phrase or two. I was bored and frustrated in my classroom and I know my students were too. I had a lot of behavior issues, and I don't really blame my students. If they had been engaged, class would not have been such a fight. The last day of school could not come fast enough. I was in survival mode.


After NTPRS, I feel ready to start tackling my plans for next year. I am setting 3 goals for next year.

1. Be clear and consistent with my rules and procedures.

I feel like classroom management is an area where I struggle. I'm still trying to find a system that works for me. I think part of the problem is that I do not spend enough time on procedures. I was explaining something on the first day, and then I was shocked when the students did not remember or did not choose to do what was expected. I rushed through these procedures because I have such a short time with my students, I felt like spending too much time on management was a waste. It was the wrong choice because instead of spending a little extra time in the beginning, I was dealing with issues all year. This is also a goal because it was very clear in all of the example lessons this week that TPRS will only work in a well managed classroom.

2. Focus more time getting to know my students.

Community is important in any classroom, but it is crucial in a foreign language classroom for students to feel comfortable to take risks with the language. I am very embarrassed to say this is another area rushed through. I think this played a roll in my classroom management issues. I never built a mutual respect and my students probably didn't feel like I was interested in them. I think PQA will be very helpful in establishing these relationships. I am looking forward to thinking of my students by their likes and hobbies instead of their behavior in my classroom.

3. Create lessons focused on input and stories.

No more vocabulary lists! No more out of context language! This goal I pretty self explanatory. Now that I am more comfortable with best practices, I am going to teach with TPRS, even if it doesn't go well in the beginning. I am armed with ¡Cuéntame! and Hola Niños as guides and ready to jump in! Hopefully my students will be more engaged and begin to enjoy learning a new language as much as I do.

I will be reflecting about my experiences through the year and posting what is working and what is not. Hopefully I will come up with some ideas that others will be interested in. Any suggestions are welcome! Thank you again to everyone at NTPRS 14. You really inspired me.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

90% in the Target Language? Help!

Last week I attended the Michigan World Language Association Conference. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from many talented teachers. Of all the sessions, one was an eye-opener. Part of the presentation was sharing the importance of keeping 90% of the class in the target language. I have heard this statistic before. I'll be honest, I already knew I was not reaching that number in my classroom. The presenter passed out a check list to give everyone an idea what percentage they were using the target language. I was embarrassed by my result, 40%! As soon as I saw that number, I set a goal for myself. Increase the target language use in my classroom. My goal is not to reach 90% by the end of the school year. I am trying to keep my goal realistic. I plan to add one new activity or routine to each unit so that the target language use will increase consistently and in a way that isn't overwhelming for my students or myself.

With my new goal in mind, I spent the second day of the conference trying to find activities or suggestions to use in my classroom. Most sessions were focusing on middle school and high school, but I was able to find activities that I can adapt to my young students.
Conversation Switchers: I learned about this activity from two teachers who work in L'Anse Creuse Public Schools. Students all receive a card. Some cards have a question, other cards have possible answers. Students walk around the room and have mini conversations. A student reads a question and the partner reads the answer on his card. Then, students trade cards and find other students to talk to. Question and answer cards are two different colors so students know who they can talk to.
Birthday Game: This activity is also from the LCPS teachers. There are two cards for each day of the year. For example, a card can say, "el 10 de octubre." There are two of each in case more than one student in a class has the same birthday. First, students find the card that matches their birthday. Once they find the correct cards, they hand them to the teacher. The teacher passes the cards out randomly. Students should not have their own birthday. When the game starts, students walk around telling other students their birthdays. If the person they are talking to has that date, they switch cards and the person who found his birthday is finished with the game.
Word Lists: This activity is from two teachers at a Country Day school in Michigan. Students receive a couple vocabulary words and they have to have a conversation and incorporate those words.
Dice and Pictures: This activaty is from the same two teachers. Questions are put into pocket dice. A picture is shown to the students. Students take turns rolling and they answer the question on the dice about the picture. Older students can create questions themselves.

These next suggestions are routines for the classroom. These are some suggestions on the checklist.
Celebrate: Use a variety of positive, celebratory phrases in the target language. Teach these phrases to the students and encourage them to praise each other.
Instructions in Target Language: Use written directions in English, but explain using the target language.
Language Sign: Display a sign in the room so students know which language is being used. Students cannot used the language that isn't displayed.

These are the activities I plan to add. I think they will work well with my third thru fifth graders. I'm still trying to think of how increase my language with kindergarten through second grade.I know TPRS would be one way to solve my problem. I have attended a workshop and still plan to use it, but I want to have some variety. Also, my students really enjoy playing games in class so I want to continue using a variety of activities which will eventually include TPRS.

How do you keep your elementary students 90% in the target language?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Look Inside

I want to share how I set up my classroom for this school year. I found many of these ideas on Pinterest. I have the students sitting in groups to encourage centers and small group activities. The pictures below show how I decorate my classroom. Enjoy!

Bulletin Boards

 This board shows the flags of the 21 Spanish speaking countries. Near each flag, I give the country's name, capital, population, a famous person from history, and a tourist attraction.

 On this bulletin board, I'll hang Spanish students find outside the classroom. Food labels, directions, etc.

These bulletin boards show the vocabulary for our first unit. I'm going to change these for every rotation.

 Classroom Management

I plan on using centers during most of my classes this year. Each student will know their group color and we will use this chart to keep track of the rotation. The name of the activity will be next to the group.

My elementary schools are adopting the Leader in Me philosophy. This is my leader board. I have nine jobs that I will rotate everyday.

The picture of the lemonade and the pumpkin is what I use as an attention grabber.

The star boarder underneath is where I will keep track of the classes' points. I'm using a bingo classroom management. I'll give points for good choices. At the end of class, a student will color in the matching number on a bingo board. When the class has a bingo, they choose a reward coupon. They can receive extra recess, a movie day, a piece of candy, or to sit by a friend.

Part of my class schedule is also in this location. The students always ask right away what we are doing that day so now they know where to look.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Making Changes

This summer, I'm spending a lot of time on Pinterest and Twitter looking for ideas to use in my classroom. I have found some amazing ideas that I can't wait to use. It has been a real motivator to get back into school mode. Here are some ideas that I have. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures at the moment but hopefully my explanations will be enough. I just want to add a little note...many of these ideas are not mine. I found most of them on Pinterest. I don't want to take credit for anyone else's hard work and creativity.

   Lesson Ideas

                     Pulling sticks for TPRS: I came up with this idea as I was attempting to put stories together for some TPRS lessons. Since I teach elementary school, I'm worried that my students may struggle to think of names or places for the characters. I plan on using student names but young kids enjoy pretending and I want to give them that chance. I have two cups of sticks: one with names and one with places. Many of the places are Spanish speaking countries. I am hoping to tie in some pop-up geography/culture along with the pop-up grammar. I'm not sure how this will work, but I'm hoping it keeps the stories a little more interesting.

                     Centers: Towards the end of the year, I noticed my students worked better in small groups. My plans these year include more small group/center days than whole group lessons. I'm going to run one station so that I can see how students are progressing. Also, I'm going to introduce TPRS in small groups. When they are comfortable, I am going to begin using it in whole group lessons. I want to do more projects and I think this make work time more productive because the students will know they have a limited amount of time plus they'll already be in a group. ***I'm still looking for center ideas if anyone has any. ***


                     Hanging File Folders (found on Pinterest): At each school, I see 15-16 different classes. I always had piles on my desk and I would set down a class list or seating chart and it would instantly disappear. I'm hoping these folders will eliminate this problem. I found the directions for this online. I glued eight file folders together then duct-taped the edges (pretty tape of course (-:). I labeled each folder with a teacher's name. I made two sets of hanging file folders for each school. Hopefully I won't lose anymore important lists because they should all be in these folders, hanging from the board.

                     Copy Drawers (Pinterest): I know many teachers have folders labeled Monday-Friday to keep copies organized. I wanted to do that last year, but with so many classes, I didn't have the space. I found someone who uses plastic drawers to do this. I think they're pretty cheap at Sam's Club or Walmart. They have a lot more space and keeps everything looking much more organized. I'm definitely trying that this year.

                     Theme Bulletin Boards: Last year, I had a word wall in my room, but I didn't refer to it much and the kids never used it. This year, I'm going to create a bulletin board to go with each unit and I'll let the students use the vocabulary and pictures on the board for games and projects. I might have to change this plan when I start teaching more than two units and one time. I'm running out of wall space and that's a lot to take apart and put together every month.

   Classroom Management

                     Bingo (Pinterest): Last year, I tried a five point system. Every class could earn five points during Spanish if they did five things that I had posted on a bulletin board. I'm not happy with the results. I think part of the problem was if they lost a point in the beginning of class, most of them didn't try to earn the rest because they knew there was no reward. This bingo plan I found will hopefully work much better. The class earns a point for doing something positive. The bingo board has numbers 1-100 (I think I'm going to change this because that is a lot of points for 35 minutes). At the end of class, we count the points and fill in the number. Once the class has a bingo, they earn a reward. Hopefully this works better since it gives them more opportunities.

                     Jobs (Teachers Pay Teachers): I know most teachers give students classroom jobs. I tried this at the end of the year but I wasn't happy with how I organized it. I was giving cards to kids that had the job printed on it. It was too hard to keep track of who had which job. This year I'm actually making a board and assigning jobs based on student numbers. I noticed jobs did improve behavior. Students lost their jobs for the day if I had to talk to them too many times.

These are the main changes I'm working on for now. I would love to hear what you do or if you have tried any of these.