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.