Zōdiacī & Weekly Routines

After writing about the first weeks of routines, it’s clear that Total Physical Response (TPR) is now only effective as a brain break. After all, moving about and gesturing isn’t as compelling now that we can hold actual class discussions. When it comes to compelling topics, though, Discipulus Illustris is taking off with zodiac qualities right now in first place in terms of holding interest. As such, I’ve updated the 2019-20 PPT with links to two qualities for each sign:

The follow up question is something like “do you have similar, or different qualities?” This has been awesome. Otherwise, next week introduces MovieTalk, and new Card Talk prompts beyond the four like/like to do drawings we got from the very first class. Talk about a lot of mileage out of that one; it’s been 4 weeks! With these new daily routines comes new planning needs and changes. One change is reading the Tuesday/Thursday Write & Discuss as a whole class (instead of a Do Now). Also, the second half of class on Wednesday/Friday will be devoted to reading; independently, as a whole-class, and then in pairs/groups. Here’s the updated schedule for the next 4-5 weeks, and Do Now/Daily Prep below that:

  • Mondays:
    Do Now – Draw what you did/something you saw over the weekend
    Prep – Determine Tuesday’s Do Now drawing prompt
  • Tuesdays:
    Do Now – [Drawing prompt]
    Prep – 1) Wednesday’s MovieTalk screenshot
    2) Type up text based on Do Now drawings, for Thursday
  • Wednesdays:
    Do Now – See|Think|Wonder (screenshot)
  • Thursdays:
    Do Now – In 1-2 sentences, summarize text (from Tuesday’s drawings)
    Prep – Determine Friday’s Card Talk prompt
  • Fridays:
    Do Now – [Card Talk prompt]
    Prep – Type up & print text based on Card Talk

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Here…We…GO!

For all my tips, tricks, and sneaky systems, I do a LOT of scripting and detailed planning the first weeks of school in order to feel prepared. Last year, I wrote about “annual amnesia,” and this year is no different. Granted, I’m reaaaaally on top of certain things, like creating a giant colored-coded poster with class END times near the clock to reference while teaching, and other odds ‘n ends. But then there’s Monday…

“What the HELL am I actually going to DO in class?!”

OK OK, it’s not that bad. However, I did need to set aside time to think things through, all outlined in this post…

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Communication Breaks: Air Spelling, Two Second Turn & Talk, and Cloze

At iFLT 2019, Grant Boulanger paused to have had students close their eyes and spell a word in the air, syllable-by-syllable as he repeated it slowly. Students opened their eyes, and Grant wrote the word on the board, and continued with class.

But why?

Quite simply, this gets students to focus on listening, which Grant mentioned is important since most of what goes on in school makes use of other senses. Also, once the word is written on the board, any “mistakes” literally disappear into thin air. It’s like a fleeting dictātiō!

Consider using air spelling before establishing meaning of a new word/phrase when the class flow could use a short break from the input. In fact, this strategy is part of what I’ve been thinking of as Communication Breaks. These breaks pause or reduce input, allowing students either to think, or briefly interact in ways that lack a communicative purpose. Between these breaks and Brain Breaks, class should be over before students even know it!

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2018-19: Timed Write Stats

For years, my go-to teacher eval goal has been for students to increase their timed write word counts by X% (like 20%, which always happens), which includes selecting one or two practices to improve that allow CI to be provided, and contribute to the goal (e.g. establishing rules & routines, consistently using brain breaks, writing more embedded readings, etc.). In my experience, it’s not necessarily the results that lead to good evaluations, it’s how everything is analyzed. That is, a thorough analysis is more important than every student meeting the eval goal. Thus, this post. Hey Principal HD, #shoutout!

Next year, I’m looking forward to a new goal of increasing the input I’m providing, but to wrap up this year’s analysis, here are some stats and insights…

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Bountiful Brain Breaks & Bursts

I’ve seen pictures of brain breaks & bursts written on Popsicle sticks for students to draw at random. This, or some other system of randomly selecting one, is an excellent idea…

No Popsicle sticks?
Just write on folded paper!

At a certain point, we don’t ever need to plan a break/burst, or specify what kind on our agenda. How? It’s simple. Once a brain break makes its way into the rotation, write it on a stick, or tiny piece of paper to put in a hat (or drum, Corinthian helmet, etc.). When students begin to lose steam, have someone choose the next break, or burst. That’s it. This especially helps for brain bursts when I’m not feeling creative in the moment. In fact, why not do the same for all TPR, pre-writing funny chain commands ready-to-go? You could also use separate hats/drums/helmets for the bursts (e.g. the one pictured that lasts just seconds), and other breaks that might take longer (e.g. draw/color for 2 minutes).

Recently, I took inventory of my breaks & bursts, making note of the ones I no longer use at the end of the list. Some of those were helpful when I first began comprehension-based communicative language teaching (CCLT), and couldn’t really sustain an hour-long class in the target language. Others just weren’t that fun. However, give them a try and see how they work in your context.

Comprehensible Online 2018 Takeaways

In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!

Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:

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Card Talk: What was good?

While Card Talk (formerly Circling with Balls) is great for establishing MGMT expectations by having students literally play ball on the first day of school, don’t forget about it the rest of the year! Write/project a prompt (as bell ringer/Do Now?), then talk about what students drew on their cards. This is no-prep, which sounds like juuuuuuuust the right thing to begin class once back from the holiday break, especially to reinforce class routines after being away for a bit. Aside from my new Brain Bursts, this is what I’ll do tomorrow, and it might even last the entire class!

Given the nature of holidays, instead of making things difficult for the less-privileged, or assuming who celebrates what, I’ll keep mine to a simple and global prompt:

Quid bonum erat? (What was good?)

Oh, and the student who draws nihil (nothing) actually helps us out. The “nothing” response makes it all the easier to launch into some non-examples, either/or questions, and Personalized Questions & Answers (PQA) comparisons, as well as “I don’t believe you” and “liar” rejoinders that are instant hits that extend the conversation every time!