Sunday, September 25, 2016

Persona Especial - Observer

So the other day (I want to say it was two weeks ago), the teacher next to me has resource lab with students that have special needs in certain areas. They're given time to work on certain classes and homework.

And as my students are telling me the password of the week, I have that teacher tell me, "One of my students wants to observe your class today."  To which I responded, "Is that ok with you?" And she said it was fine. I told her that if he or she didn't cause problems, they were completely welcome.

So a student comes in, sits down and works on homework.  It's one of my rowdier classes (30 or so students). They have a great energy but need a lot of redirection.

And we go through normal class. The students applaud for the things we usually do. We went over the day, date, how they were doing and we interviewed someone.  We laughed, we joked, we stayed in Spanish most of the time.

After the class, I asked if the student got any of his homework done or what he thought of class.

He responded with, "That was awesome!"

I heard from the teacher next door that he just hears our class through the wall and it must sound so exciting that he just needed to experience it for himself.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Persona especial - happenings

I've been at the "la persona especial" activity for the last 4 weeks in my classes. I have been using it in Spanish 2 (more on that later) and Spanish 1.

I figured I would blog on it in a few days, once the weekend hits and I can reflect.

So far it's going ok. It's definitely a change of pace for me from just the Circling with Balls activity that I used to use in Spanish 1 for the first 5+ weeks to get to know the kids and teach some basic concepts.

Nevertheless, if you saw my previous entry, you probably saw the Powerpoint I adapted from Bryce's script of questions.  I haven't decided to go ALL in and teach all of the questions he has been doing. I'm just baby stepping. But it has still been an interesting experiment.

It is similar to something I started last year when I used stories even from the first day (in conjunction with TPR and the Circling with Balls activity). That was thanks to 90 minute classes.

This year at my new school I am back to 50'ish minute classes and so I am sticking to one activity + warm up + quiz (and song/brain break if needed).

Back to what is similar. Last year when I used the stories first thing, I noticed the kids were exposed to the I, you, and he/she forms more than ever because I was really doing my best to interview my actors and coach them through answering questions and helping them out.

So I am now trying this out with the personal interviews. If a person doesn't know how to answer the question, I'll just ask the class if they know how that person could say "I ___". And usually at least one person knows and I have the class applaud them and praise their awesome Spanish and ask my actor (interviewee) if they want to try to answer the question again to which they pretty much always say, "yes". Then when they get it right, we applaud them too.

Anyways, so I have done pop-ups here and there and point out that the "o" on the end of the action means "I".  So I also talk about myself pretty much with that form instead of the 3rd person stuff I used to do about me.

What has this done?  It seems to have really helped them grasp the ending of the "o" on the end a lot better to use it with more accuracy when we are talking. Writing is another issue entirely. ;-)

Baby steps.

I'm bringing this up today because in a Spanish 1 class, I noticed the class didn't seem to want to talk and so I asked (gesturing), "¿No quieren hablar?" ("Do you all not want to talk?") and they gestured that they didn't understand so I went to write it on their butcher paper and then a student said, "Oh.  So is "I want" "quiero"?"

I praised his awesome Spanish and had the class applaud him and it was just magical.

I love when their brains make those connections because they've been exposed to the rich language so much.

It reminds me of what Dr Farley who taught my methods course in college told us. He said that when we teach, we should explore the language with the students and allow them to slowly peel away the wrapping paper of the present (that is the language).  If we just teach them via grammar and as if they were getting a minor in linguistics, we spoil those fun surprises for the kids to enjoy.

Today was one of those days that really rang true for me and my students!

But anyways, more on how I've been doing La persona especial later!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trying something new - La Persona Especial

So for years I have done the following to start my year in Spanish 1.
See PQA day 1 post.
See PQA after day 1 post.

In Spanish 2 a few years back I experimented with something else that was a bit of a flop.

But many have probably heard of Bryce Hedstrom's activity called, "La Persona Especial".

I've been really interested in this activity since I first heard about it. And I got to be in a private professional development session with Bryce on the plane as luck would have it where I could pick his brain about the activity. And he inspired me.

It also didn't hurt that the amazing French Teacher: Bess Hayles was going to be using the activity in her classes this year too. So if I needed to pick someone's brain about it, I will have a great resource in my own building!

But I have to admit, I am out of my comfort zone.  The idea that I thought I would try in my Spanish 1 & 2 classes is the following:

I will go over a basic set of questions about them, their name, where they are from, etc and then when I get to "what do you like to do", I will teach "likes" as well as then go into the third person form of the verb and let it segway into my previous experience with PQA. That will be the meat and potatoes of the activity, but I will also introduce new questions.

How to start the year with TPRS (part 2) - PQA - after day 1

Ok, so as I mentioned in this previous post, for the last 5 years, I have started with PQA on the first day. Naturally, in my 3rd school, with block scheduling I experimented with:
  •  PQA / TPR / PQA again
  •  PQA / TPR / Story
But I found that Ben Slavic's Circling with Balls activity that I touched on in the previous entry was essential in establishing:
  • classroom routines
  • the importance of the class
  • interest in class
  • excitement for the class
  • basic understanding of sentence structure, question words, prepositions, 3rd person forms of verbs interesting to kids, etc
  • and much more
As I talked about the first day, I would establish what I do (very slowly) and then maybe move onto another student. I would circle around the information about myself.

Here's an example:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How to start the year with TPRS (part 2) - PQA - day 1

*I meant to post this a long time ago. It is part two of this post*

So if you saw my part one post with TPR, then you should have an idea of what TPRS originally suggested teachers do to get the students familiar with action verbs and commands that could later be worked seamlessly into stories and help students to express themselves a little bit more in the storytelling phase.

Something I had the opportunity to play around with in my 8th grade exploratory classes the past two years was the idea of PQA.

PQA stands for Personalized Questions and Answers.  If you get a chance, I think Ben Slavic explains this the best in his blog or in any of his books!

This is how I do it:

The first day of class, I have my students draw a picture of what they like to do and then write their name in the top corner. They can write what it is in English underneath if they think I won't know what it is.

After I get attendance figured out, I start walking around and looking around.  I am developing ideas of where I can go that day in Spanish.  If I have two basketball players, I could talk about them on the same day and compare and contrast them.  Or I could talk about one on one day and the other on a different day to review the structures: "s/he plays" and "basketball".

Once I'm ready to start, I go over to the board and I write (Spanish in black and English in blue):
    el profesor toca la guitarra.
      the teacher plays the guitar.

Then I say this slowly while pointing to each word.  I move my arms down from above my head to down to my sides (this is my signal for new information).

Once my students look at me like I am crazy I tell them in English:
Me: Oh, right.  This is your first day.  Whenever I say something like this new in Spanish, you are going to pretend like it's the most interesting thing in your whole life.  To do that you'll say, "Ooooooh."
Let's try that again.  El profesor toca la guitarra.  
Class: OOOOOOH.


Then I keep talking about myself by circling the information until students get it easily and we can add more information.  Usually at that point I start talking about another student.  Maybe another student plays an instrument.  Maybe they play a sport.  I will write on the board what they do in black and the English translation underneath in blue/green.

Then I compare/contrast myself with someone else. The first day I stick to a lot of yes/no questions and occasionally a who/what question.

The first day or two I don't do a whole lot with multiple verb forms. As I go with the PQA, I might slowly let it trickle in that if a person wants to say "I [..]", that the action will end in an "o" instead.

It has only gotten better and sweeter each year. I have found more ways to get the kids exposed to the "you" and "i" forms. I should still try to add in the "they" forms a little when more than one does something. But it's really about the kids and not about the grammar, or else it wouldn't be successful.  Sometimes though, it can be hard when the kids almost have to be trained to be interested in each other's lives.

NTPRS - my own private conference with Bryce Hedstrom!

So I lucked out in leaving the hotel super early that morning.  Some strange antics ensued at the airport as my socially awkward self tried to get through security:


And it turned out Bryce Hedstrom and I were on the same flight!  

I had missed all of his sessions unfortunately, since I was on the beginner’s track. 

But I’ve been implementing some of his stuff for years and really had wanted a chance to talk to him and pick his brain. We had already met earlier in the week when we ate BBQ with Señor Wooly and Mike Coxon.  And we had also corresponded via email once in awhile over the years.  But while emailing back and forth can be great, I find that I also prefer face-to-face interaction and to hear something.

So here’s my conclusion about Bryce: he is an awesome listener and I can see how he is so successful in his teaching. He radiates positivity, thoughtfulness, compassion, empathy, & of course Spanish.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NTPRS - day 5 - Embedded Reading, Closing Ceremony, Tahoe, In & Out, & Videogames,

*this is my attempt to keep track of what happened while I was at my very first NTPRS in Reno, Nevada 

Embedded reading presentation
In the morning I went to Michele Whaley's presentation on "Embedded reading: A Literacy Tool".

It was really neat to see! I have been using embedded reading now (or trying) for three years.

If you aren't familiar with it, it's simply creating a simple version of a text and then a harder (bottom-up) or using a hard version of a reading and making it more accessible in different versions (top-down).

Michele Whaley did a good job breaking it down and I could see how important it really can be to help kids be successful. So thankfully it reinforced what I did for my classes.