Monday, May 8, 2017

Return from the depths SALE



It has been a while for a post, lots of reasons but here is the good news:

TpT has a sale tomorrow May 9. My whole store will be on sale as well. I also have $10 gift card to give away! For a chance to win, comment on Twitter @SraFinneseth, on FB, or on this post. Drawing will be at 6:30 AM on May 9th. No better way to start the day!

-Sam

Saturday, October 8, 2016

IWLA 2016: Poster Session



Yesterday was a GREAT day at the all amazing IWLA conference. While I await anxiously for today's festivities to begin, I thought I would share my poster session since I have had a few emails asking me to do so.

2016: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle- Planning for multiple levels
Here is the link to my Google Drive with all my presentations. In here you will find the booklet handout (pictured above) and the short sample PowerPoint I showed.

For another recycling lessons example, here is my blog post about how I killed Bob in class.


Why contribute?
Every year there are so many people with wonderful offerings at IWLA that I feel like all I do is suck-up everyone else's knowledge. I become inspired, I become exited to go back to school on Monday, and I keep their information in my head forever (hopefully). This is the point of a well-run conference, right? Well, I still feel bad so I try to offer something in return. It may not be earth-shattering, but it might help someone somewhere!

You have something to offer too (and I want to know about it). If you aren't in Iowa, find your local world language association and join. Present, even if it is something small, do it. Many conferences have poster sessions which are 10 minute talks (like what I did this year), or do a whole 50 minutes. Just keep the knowledge sharing karma going!



Speaking of that, here is the link to the IWLA website where they create links of everyone who is willing to share their presentations! They have a great Pinterest page that stores links to frequent presenters' websites, presentations, and all sorts of goodies.

Stay tuned for a review of my take-aways from IWLA16. Look it up on Twitter, you will not be disappointed! #iwla16

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Story asking 101: getting student "buy in" from day 1

Before I knew that CI/TPRS was a thing, I tried to teach my class in a similar way. I saw through my own small children at home that direct correction hardly ever changed my son's usage of "runded", no matter how badly I wanted him to use "ran". My kids would stay with me for an entire Walmart or Target trip if we made-up stories about the things we saw in the store. They would talk to me if I added sound effects to their stories. *Bing*, "Maybe I should teach Spanish this way. It's a whole lot more fun and my son's speech is improving by leaps and bounds."

That said, I had a HUGE amount of learning to do (and still do!) to really help my students. Trying to get random stories to flow in a way that promoted grammar intuition, that met my district's vocabulary standards was really hard. Thank you IWLA for having a conference to make my world complete.

Story Asking

In TPRS, we often "tell" stories, out loud, to our language students. We find tons of cognates, slowly introduce new vocabulary (that is clearly defined by writing on the whiteboard), and repeat ourselves until we are blue in the face. This can be very difficult to do on a whim and it can be difficult to "stay the course" and not let our enthusiasm take us astray.

Instead of truly telling a story, we actually make statements (There was a girl). Then we ask our students to confirm, deny/change, or add to the story.There lots of great resources, including the Green Bible, that explains this in detail.

My Struggle

I knew this wasn't going to go as well as I wanted the first few times. I didn't know how to circle "correctly" and I wasn't sure I was going to remember to hit the key grammar points like I needed to.

Spanish 1 was easy, describe a person, short interactions, problem, resolution. They had limited vocab so it was easier to manage.

Then I bought the "Look, I can talk" series from Blaine Ray and realized that scripting wasn't really for me. I LOVED the student workbook for reading and organizing my focus for the day.

What I did about it

I told my students what I was doing

I teach high school now, so my kids are old enough to have a good conversation. I told them about my textbook Spanish class in high school. They looked at me in horror. I told them:

"So here is my idea. I think it would be fun to make-up stories in class. I will be the crazy charades lady, and you will participate... and be patient. We are all new at this and I think it is going to be a ton of fun, but I am learning too. So if you promise to give it your all, to listen to me repeat myself a bajillion times, I promise not to give you grammar worksheets. If you stay focused, roll with me when I need to regroup, I promise not to give you a textbook. Deal?"  (They all agreed enthusiastically every time.)

I told my principal what I was doing

I told my principal that I was trying something new and would like a few days to practice it. He asked if I wanted him to stay out of my room. I almost said yes, I'm glad I didn't. I gave him a "this has research, this is best for my kids- promise, and I need you to come in and tally mark my questions, please". So he did. It was great. He saw me learning, he saw students learning, and the most important part: he saw a community of learners supporting in each other in a committed and focused manner.

 I found a flow that worked for me

I do not follow the "script" 100% and I deviate a little from the "core principals" on occasion, but it works for me. I am happy, my students are happy, and it flows. I would rather be a bit off-center and still be on the path than on the path filled with pain, self-doubt, and crabbiness.

Especially in my upper levels, I circle a lot less. They really want the story line to move along and see the character development. I still ask for them to change the story around, but not as repetitive. **I do some direct grammar instruction with my levels 3 and 4 (dual credit) so they develop not only an "intuition" but also a deeper knowledge of the "why".

How story asking looks now

It is my second full year into TPRS (with knowing it exists). I had my first day of classes today with my B day students. I have a large Spanish 2 class (for our school size) and was worried with going semi-deskless and full into flex seating that it would crash and burn. It was great.

I did my required syllabus stuff and then said, "Let's do a story". They cheered and adjusted to look front and center. I front loaded the vocab, gave a note sheet (this class is odd in that they want to write everything down, it works for them and I'm glad they know themselves well enough to communicate that), and then paused to review expectations.

Me: "Clase, what are my expectations of you during this story?"
Collective group: "Focus, no English, answers- the weirder the better!"
Me: "Prefecto mis estudiantes inteligentes. Una mas cosita. You need to tell me to slow down if you are sinking. Be clear about it (giving samples of hand signals) so I know you are confused and not simply gassy."
Collective group: *Giggles* "Deal."
Me: "Clase. I am trying a new story today so I have my paper out. You may need to remind me where we are at in the story at any moment. Clase, listos?"
Collective group: "Si, estamos listos."

It doesn't get better than a male-dominated class, filled with "too cool" football players, getting excited for story time. Not just excited, but active.

When it bombs

What happens when a story flops. You get nothing from the kids, you feel it not going well, you get a quiz back showing no growth, what then?

I try to stop when the class disengages. There are three options that work: when the kids are tired, there is either 1) pause for continuation next class, 2) the story quickly ends, normally very tragically, or 3) I stop and ask the kids.

Sometimes you just feel that today really isn't the day for story telling, for whatever reason. Listen to your gut and flat out ask why they aren't into it (kindly and inquisitive, never attacking). Sometimes you learn the home game ran real late and they are tired, and sometimes you learn you accidentally skipped ahead in your lessons and they are lost.

Ask, reflect, plan better next time. Use a back-up activity or lesson plan to fill your time with valuable input.

Major Take-Away

Be authentic with your class. Communicate with them the way you want them to communicate with you. It builds community, an understanding of the learning process, highlights that they aren't the only learners in the room, and you will be amazed how empathetic and kind they can be!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

CI/TPRS Lessons and Ideas

I will continuously update this page with new units that were very successful for me in all my Spanish classes. Here will be pictures, general highlights, and things I would change for next time. Most of the rubrics and assignment sheet will be posted on TpT since my school does not do Google Drive and I have no desire to try to figure it out right now (when life slows down I will... life does slow down, right?!).

Fast Finishers

The Pobre Ana Apples to Apples listed below is still a favorite for all my students at all levels.

UNO, Phase 10, Skip Bo- I keep all these card games in my closet. I typed out key words and phrases in Spanish so they can play 100% in Spanish. I even started including "trash talk" on the cards (rapido nino, ya lo tengo, tomalo). **Storage Solution: I bought the pencil bags with a clear view window and three-hole punched "rings". I put the cards and the instructions in the bag to keep the boxed from being destroyed. I hang them up on the door of my closet on Command hooks so they don't get shoved to the back of the door.

Sub plans


Non-level specific

Dia de los muertos-  Students create an ofrenda before Dia de los muertos. This link is to the project, two editable rubrics, and what I do in my class, with pictures. It does not include the Dia de los muertos lesson. I have used the TeachersDiscovery DVD, YouTube videos, and story asking in class to really help students understand (comparing Memorial Day, etc).

Spanish 1

Pobre Ana Apples to Apples- Being a CI/TPRS teacher can seem a little challenging when you need the lower levels to... self propel for while. Whether it's because you lost your voice, you need to 1:1 conference with students about their progress, or you need to support some of your slower processors with small group focus; it is hard to not just handover a worksheet to keep others busy. My solution was to make a CI friendly game. It has key phrases, characters, and locations from the book and high frequency vocab. I also threw in some school teachers and local places the kids know about. The document is editable to add your own and change it to your local stuff. The best part is that I keep these in a zip-up pencil bag with a clear view window and my fast finishers LOVE playing this at all levels. (Print the cards with apples- more red than green- on cardstock and then run them the other way through the copier again to print words and phrases.)

Spanish 2

MadLibs en espanol- I bought some cheap MadLibs books on clearance and make them comprehensible and in Spanish. I sometimes change nouns to fit with my units and structures. I rotate them out every quarter. Kids love them and enjoy making comic strips to show their comprehension. 

Spanish 3


Spanish 4

Presidential candidate tracker- It's election season, in case no one told you. This long-term project is in English is designed to have your students engage with an election many of them can vote in. They pick a Spanish class-related topic (immigration is the easiest), and follow voting records, public released statements, and news stories to draw their conclusion on what they consider "the candidate to vote for". This is not in TL but it engages deeper thinking skills and real-life application in a way we can't do in the TL at this level.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bob and Fred died while in my CI/TPRS classroom

If your CI/TPRS class is like mine, students seems to always want to name our characters/monsters "Bob" or "Fred". My Spanish 1's (first exposure to Spanish, period) just seem to get stuck. I don't want to discourage them from providing answers, but sometimes we need to mix it up. My solution: accept if for a month, then kill Bob and/or Fred. Slightly morbid but all in good fun... and to maintain my sanity. PS- it also plays beautifully into a lesson plan the kids won't forget.

Encouraging creativity without squashing participation

This is a key concept if you have "routine" characters that keep making appearances in your class stories. During the last couple of years, I have noticed that Spanish 1 students try to stay within a very routine and predictable story telling pattern. I believe this is due to their middle school English composition classes; not sure if this is it, but it makes sense to me. For the first month or two I let this continue without much pushing for several reasons:
  • If I know what they are going to add to the story, and I want something a little different, I either 1) tell them something different or 2) ask a dichotomous question with "strange" answers
  • They are yelling out what is comfortable because it helps move the story along= evidence of comprehension and engagement
  • They are still young and in the mindset of a "right answer" instead of exploration and risk-taking behavior
  • They are new and have limited exposure to Spanish culture and norms, they really may be at a loss to throw out "abnormal" names (compared to classmate's names, etc.)
Example (in English)
 After asking about and circling day of the week and location:

"Class, it is Tuesday in the cafeteria at High School Name Here. AND, there is a boy."
class response: oooOOOoooh
"Class, is the boy's name Oscar or Antonio Banderas?"
class response: Antonio Banderas!
"Yes! Of course! It is obvious that Antonio Banderas is in our cafeteria on Tuesdays."

Then I circle what Antonio Banderas looks like (with a handy pre-printed picture of Antonio Banderas... because everyone should have a picture of Antonio Banderas in their desks and planners and cars, and family tree). Then we continue on with why he is there. Again, trying to direct the story and hit key structures:

"Antonio is in the cafeteria at High School on Tuesday because he is hungry or because he has blue shoes?"
class response: He has blue shoes!
"Oh no, Class! Because he is hungry. Antonio is in the cafeteria on Tuesdays in High School because he is hungry." *Start circling "is hungry".

Bob and/or Fred show up unwanted... and stay too long

Sometimes when I plan the story to go as mentioned above, and I have a fast processor and/or a very linguistically gifted student, I will say "The boy is Antonio." Then, out of no where it happens: the unsolicited blurt of perfect Spanish from a student that is super-invested in the story.

"Oh no, Profe! Es obvio. Se llama Bob!" (Oh no, teacher. It's obvious. His name is Bob.)

How do you squash that!?!? I don't, I let it ride, I often high-five the kid to reward the risk taking behavior in order to show other students this is not only okay, but expected.

Bob and Fred show up everywhere, if not a main character, it's a pet. If not a pet, a street name... and so on. Also, it isn't just one of your Spanish 1 classes... it's in all of them. Sigh.

It's time for Bob to leave and never return.

I lost it last year. I couldn't take it any more. Every. Single. Class. had Bob in their stories, in their drawings... it was a "thing". So, I plotted the death of Bob. Then successfully carried it out in public without anyone protesting. Here is how I got away with murder (and made students learn at the same time).

Hint for success: Get a stuffed animal (ours was a pig last year) and use that stuffed animal to represent "Bob" every time he shows-up in story asking, story telling, movie talks, etc. Students should see that stuffed animal just laying around and make a comment like, "There's Bob" when they see it. "Bob" becomes real.

Materials Needed
I labeled left and right on the scene so kids weren't trying to figure out
"his left or my left?" Also, yes, that is a fake knife in the back of Bob.
  • Dollar store magnifying glasses
  • Pre-organized note sheet to keep students focused (I will try to remember to post what my kids use... If October shows up and it's not up, someone tell me!)
  • Space in the classroom to "tape off"
  • Caution tape or you can use masking tape on the floor
  • A sheet or tarp
  • An assortment of classroom objects
  • Plastic knife
  • Red construction paper (as fake blood)
  • "Bob" 

Most people have seen Pinterest-worthy classroom crime scene pictures. This is what my lesson was the week before Halloween. Not only did this help Spanish 1 get over using "Bob" in class, but I recycled it between all 4 levels of students.

Spanish 1 used the crime scene to work on 1) identifying vocabulary, 2) using "is" and prepositions to describe the scene, 3) descriptions of objects and the victim (Bob), and 4) investigative skills to look for clues, I give my students magnifying classes to really sell the set-up. They need to focus on reporting the facts. They work in detective pairs to fill out the "crime report" with as many facts and descriptors as possible.

Spanish 2 used the crime scene and Spanish 1 notes to evaluate the scene. Then they focused on working on 1) logically sequencing events and 2) describing the who the victim was, my advanced kids will write Bob's obituary and then plan a funeral service.

Spanish 3 used all of the above information to draw a reasonable conclusion on their top three suspects. They are using interviewing skills, synthesis skills, logic and reasoning. This is more of a student-generated story at this point. I am really looking at their habitual grammar errors to know what to focus on moving forward.

Spanish 4 draws the conclusion of who the murder was and they review all materials. Then they write how they would have committed the murder to get away with it based on the scene. A little dark but it is great to see their usage of the conditional, subjunctive, and the past progressive during this activity.

Services for Bob

Normally the students leave it alone and move on, without Bob. Sometimes they reflect back and see exactly was I was doing and refer to the first quarter of the school as the WB (With Bob) time and then second quarter as PB (Post Bob) time.

Occasionally one student tries to resurrect Bob and I remind them that Bob is dead.


Two or three years ago the students insisted we have a memorial service and burial for Bob. Bob's casket was a shoe box, we buried him in my cupboard, and all the students shared their favorite thing about Bob or something they liked about him. (using "gustar" and "favorit@" at this point).

Take aways

Help students get out of a rut and teach them to think outside the box. Some kids don't even know they are in a box. Show them the path, bury the past, and lead them to a great adventure of exploring language and new things. Help students be risk-takers.



Sam

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reaching All Students: accommodations in the world Ianguage classroom

All teachers know that we like a good alphabet soup: IEP, 504's, ELL, ESL, TAG... and the list goes on. While each student has their own learning needs, some students require additional help and receive help navigating school and preparing for adulthood. These students can receive help for anything from fine motor skills, to dyslexia, to brain injury. Additionally, students may only be eligible to receive these services in a math goal, or only a reading accommodation. While many core subject teachers receive help from a Special Education department, it seems that word language teachers either lack these students in the classroom or do not receive the same support as core subjects.

My experiences

Having worked in a variety of district sizes, this is what I experienced:

Large district 1

In this district I taught high school with block scheduling teaching Spanish 1. I had large classes in an urban setting. My most notable class was a class of 29, I had 4 students that were very gifted and left the last 20 minutes of every class to attend the local high school for only gifted students (they attend for the classes they need to and then are bused back to their regular high schools, they can take 1 or all 8 classes there based on performance, teacher recommendations, and testing scores). Depending on lectures and guest speakers, they would also come in late by half an hour. These students always made-up missed work and were never a problem, just early finishers (read my post about fast finishers here). This school did a nice job of not placing advanced native speakers in the lower levels unless needed for spelling, reading, grammar help. In this same class I also had two students with ankle tracking devices and 17 special education students with IEPs.

I had no Para Educators in my room, I didn't know any of them were identified as having IEP's until I noticed patterns in their work and behavior (3 weeks!!), and went over lunch to track down the head Special Education teacher and force him to tell me their accommodations. He then realized I had 17 students in one class and asked me why I was wasting his lunch if I could just ask the Para... I told him I didn't have on in my room and his response was "Yeah, I guess none of our Paras speak Spanish anyway."


Large district 2

I worked in a middle school in an affluent neighborhood (a stark contract from the last district). I taught Spanish Exploratory and Spanish 1. My classes were around 25 kids. At this age, I had a few TAG (talented and gifted) students stand out in each class but for the most part I did not have any Special Education students in my classes since they would have many more opportunities to take a world language at high school for four years, these students were often in reading skills or math skills classes instead of WL classes (I actually agreed with this). However, I did have several students in the same class that received Special Education services with 1:1 Para Educators as the students were either nonverbal or had other severely limiting needs. I loved these kiddos, and I made accommodations for them so they felt included and valued (one girl even started to say "hola" to me in the halls and would give me a high five; best high five's ever).

Medium district 1

I was with levels 2-4 and in all my classes about 50%, or more, of my students were native speakers. Most all could not write in Spanish, some could read, so we gave them a super informal placement test to determine where their needs were so the were either placed in Spanish 2 or 3 (4 was for college credit and they have to have a high school credit course completed before taking the college credit).

Medium district 2 and current small district

Students with accommodations are placed on whether or not it fits in their schedule or encouraged not to take a WL.

Making accommodations in a TPRS/CI class

Spanish 1

I truly believe that Spanish 1 is a special class that is pretty much an equal opportunity employer. Because the language is so basic, the playing field is equalized to some extent for student with specific IEP goals (math, language, etc).

If you teach in a traditional classroom with a textbook and workbook, I would suggest you keep any eye on student with both language and math goals. Many texts treat grammar as "formulas" and where students can apply these as a basic level and "plug and chug" with familiar vocabulary. This formulaic approach to language is very easy for some students to excel (they also tend to excel at math from my experience) and can let other struggle.

In the TPRS classroom and the traditional classroom, it is hard to go a day without reading. Most students with language goals struggle with reading comprehension and/or writing. Especially thinking about quizzes, some students struggle reading questions in English, making it difficult to answer without knowing what the question is asking for. Now asking comprehension questions in Spanish, where the word order is different and key helping questions words don't exist; "Do you have a hat?" "Tienes un gorro?". Spanish 1 students, especially in TPRS classroom, learn sentence by sentence which is helpful but can still be overwhelming.

I suggest asking for a para educator (special ed helper) if you have more than 3 students with IEPs and a large class. It is easier to work with them and support them in a smaller class. Either way, ask their special education teacher for accommodations that help the students in their English and math courses. Apply them in the same way or alter them to fit your class. At one school I had 17 kids with IEPs and the school wouldn't give me a para educator because they don't speak Spanish: it is not their job to teach, it is their job to support the student.

Native speakers in a Spanish 1 class, in a class with a majority of non-speakers, can make it feel like they are not going to benefit from class, and depending on their personalities it can become a classroom distraction. First, give a short written placement test (see mine here). You can see their reading comprehension and their spelling. Then I would recommend moving them to Spanish 2 or 3 depending on their literacy level. Spanish 1 is basically vocab building, if they have the vocab they can start right away on grammar and reading help in level 2 and fine-tune existing skills in Spanish 3.

If your school says no, I talk to my Spanish-speakers before or after school or during lunch. I ask them what they want to gain from this class besides the easy A. Sometime my speakers wanted grouped together and they did lots of novel/story reading and writing. I did much more traditional grammar work with them. I had one girl who wanted to be a teacher so she became my teacher aid and loved helping with acting, clarifying vocabulary, etc.

Spanish 2-4

If you were fortunate enough to have your students at the lower levels, you likely know their needs by the time they get to upper level classes. If not, ask the previous teacher what work and be cognizant that their scores may be reflecting a learning need, rather than their proficiency. The same suggestions I listed above apply at this level. BE EXTRA CAREFUL that you are meeting needs of all your learners.

My number one suggestion for upper-level teaching for students with accommodations in high school: Ask the student what they need after establishing a relationship with him/her, and continually follow-up. Many students at this level can self-reflect and tell you what does and doesn't work. Also be careful not to "cave into" giving them easier work that doesn't apply to their learning goals; that is cheating.

Students with severe delays/needs

I really only had this happen at my middle school exploratory or Spanish 1 classes. These students had their own 1:1 para educators (who were phenomenal) and there was obviously no way they could "learn Spanish". However, they brought joy to the classroom and had supportive peers, luckily for me. It broke my heart when it became obvious that there was no expectation for them to participate or enjoy class.

My number one suggestion is to ask their main teacher what skills the students are working on in the classroom and try to help out. Here is what I did:

My student with Downs Syndrome could write her name and could speak. Her goal at the end of the semester was to be able to use "hola" and "adios" correctly plus maybe recognize a few other vocab words. I took our vocab words and wrote them on the lined paper for preschoolers. The word were written with dashes so she could trace them. There were also clipart pictures to the side to color. She loved them. She was also working on counting money in her classroom so we worked on "Cuanto cuesta" and money names. At the end of the semester she mastered: hola, adios, bueno, uno, tres, cuatro, and could match a few colors. Her para educator cried when I left and thanked me.

My nonverbal student also had some physical limitations but loved music. So we started class every day with the same song so she could dance and the other kids sang along. They were working on fine motor skills in her classroom so I printed connected the dots pictures of "Mexican things" and let her para educator hep point out the next dots. I also did current vocabulary color images she could try to color in. She was able to match her head movements to "si" and "no" by the end of semester.

My students that could kind of read and write could also speak. We focused on introductions (he was working on manners and social skills in his room) and manner basics. He could memorize anything but not apply it appropriately. I focused on sequencing a conversation like a typical introduction conversation would go and he memorized that. He was able to us "por favor" and "gracias" appropriately by the end of the semester.

Key take aways

Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask for help. These student have someone assigned to help monitor progress and to help teachers make meaningful accommodations. Don't worry about bothering someone, worry about severing your students to the best of your ability!

Friday, August 12, 2016

The First Days Back in Spanish Class

The conversations are rolling about how to start the year in a CI/TPRS classroom. While I may not be perfect, this routine has worked fantastically for the last three years. I am the department of one in a high school so I know 3/4 of my students every year as they come back; I do believe this can work in middle school as well. For the elementary teachers, I offer no advice and believe you are a special breed of angel sent to work with young children. May the force be with you.

My simple answer to how to start the year is: teach your subject from day 1.

Here is how I plan it.

Steps to planning

  1. If your school says you have to introduce certain things, do that.
  2. Find out, 100%, what is your school's policy about dropping/adding/switching classes.
  3. Teach rules and expectations in English: These should never be unclear in any way or leave room for "I didn't understand that".

The have-to's

I am a person who lives on the edge of "I will do what's best for my students" and "I still want to keep my job". Luckily, for the most part, I have had supportive administrators that allow me to flirt with that line and keep me in-check.

If your school requires you to preview a syllabus, do it.
If you have to rehearse and highlight emergency procedures, do it.

While you may think, "Oh, I'll do that next week. My plan is so much better," you are lying to yourself. Your plans are always better than the routine reminders, but you will forget to overview it and it is important.

Example: At my old school we had 8 period days with 48 minute classes. I taught Spanish 1 and exploratory. Students had the first 4 days to switch classes. We were also not allowed to give homework or "significant" in-class work to accommodate late schedule changes. Day 1- Required syllabus and class materials review. Introduction activity. Day 2- Required emergency procedure review (tornado, lock-down, fire, etc). Teacher naming students activity. Day 3- Required handbook policy review as selected by principal. Webquest on Spanish speaking countries. Day 4- Required (at our choice) team-building exercises. 

School policy on class changes

This is a big one. This should determine your first week's plan. You need to offer insight to the course expectations to your students and give them a genuine taste of class. If all you get through before the end of the changing classes window is a syllabus and one fun activity you will have students in your classes that may not be ready or as committed as they need to be.

My Light-bulb Example 


From my required days listed above, this was great for community building, but at mid-term I had a student come up to me in tears because class was too hard and she wasn't expecting to have to use and listen to "that much Spanish" (this was a very loaded situation). After that private conversation and midterms, I polled the class; over 90% were happy with where their grades, but over half said they didn't realize how much work it was going to be since the first days were "super fun and easy".

What I do now... and will in 7 days

Currently I teach high school in a block schedule and students have three days to change classes. Because of the order they are seen, it is possible that I don't see a student until day 3 or 4 (this has happened a handful of times).


My number 1 suggestion: teach from day 1 like it is a normal class. My Spanish 1 students walk-in and I only speak in Spanish for the first half of class; they've never had Spanish exploratory. I have them line up ("haz una linea" and I point and motion like a crazy woman). They get it every time. I also have a seating chart done before they walk in the door, I can make changes as needed. I model introductions by playing two people and then write it on the board phonetically (Oh-la, may yam-oh Profe). When the students catch-on, they say it quickly and and show them their seats. Once they all sit down, I go into English and high-five all of them for being awesome Spanish speakers. **I am aware this is not 100% CI/TPRS friendly, but it easily sets expectations of behavior among themselves, between myself and the students, and that they will survive.

My English portion is handing out a welcome letter that introduces the class expectations that both the parent/guardian and the student sign and turn-into me. I don't review it with them. They can read it on their own time.

Then back into Spanish we go. I play the super catchy "buenos dias" song from YouTube and have them join in. The second class we start the exact same way and then we play a pair-dance-switch game; they LOVE it every year and sing it to me in the halls... which gets the upperclassmen singing it too. Spanish 1 goes directly into cognates and then into a "manners game" were they get a small candy by saying "por favor" and "gracias" to each other for 3 minutes straight and exchange the candies hidden in their fists.

For Spanish 2, 3, and 4, they also have to do introductions and we start right away into "real learning". Spanish 2 typically goes into story telling, then asking, then a mini "mi verano" book project, and a novel by the start of week 3 (which is class 6 for us). Spanish 3 and 4 start with review projects plus a novel (see my post here with a freebie).


Rules and Syllabus

I assume they know at this point how to behave in a classroom and they will choose to do so, because I expect it from the moment they walk in the door. I also do not have any "required" information to review with each class (we do that with our 15 minute homeroom time in the AM).

Week one: I teach my expectations as they are needed, in English.
 

Week two: I go over my serious rules (this is a judge-free zone, give it a try, ask for help or tell me to slow down) and syllabus with students in English.

I normally hand out a quick "calendar" of the quarter or semester with quiz dates and grading period deadlines. They can add things in as we get there.

Behavior expectations

I truly believe that if you start class with rules you become a dictator rather than an educator; especially at the high school level. We need to trust students that they know how to act and just expect them to do it.

My other major piece of advice is: do not let students get away with any form of poor behavior the 1st quarter when you have new students. Be tough but loving. Being firm makes them know you are keeping them accountable for being young adults. My upperclassmen will walk into one of my classes and even give younger kids the stink-eye if they are sharpening a pencil while someone else is talking or if they break into English. I never taught these rules, but they just pick-up it is part of respect.

Model the behavior and consistently expect it. Foremost, do it with love. If you don't at least tell yourself you like all your kids, it's going to be a long year with no report or respect. Always give love and respect before they've "earned it". They are humans, they deserve it.

Also, do behavior correction in English. If you need to, send the kid to the hall to remove him/her from the audience (here is a link to my behavior accountability form), I have them complete the form, and then I check-in when I'm ready, quick chat, and we walk back in with a clean slate.  

Avoid sending kids to the office (unless it is physical/verbal violence). Sending kids to the office doesn't build a report with them, and it says "you are beyond my ability and/or care". You do care, you can't "deal with" unwarranted behavior in that moment because you are teaching, not because that student isn't important. In the last 6 years I have sent 3 kids to the office (once cussed out another student, one flipped a desk into my body while I was pregnant- she was high-, and the third walked-in while I was a sub and kicked another student in the gut). Sending them to the hall and the student knowing they will be contacting their parents with me the next time they have an issue seems to deter all of it.


I hope this is helpful and you have the best year yet, or at least one coffee and donuts can comfort.

-Sam