The winter months are notorious for their interruptions, such as midterms/finals, PD days, holidays, and [un]expected bad weather. We’re back from the longest break, but not in full swing, and don’t expect to be. Why? I’ve long observed how Thanksgiving vacation marks the end of the most productive time of school, and the Swiss cheese feeling we’re in from now through February leaves just a couple months left to finish out the year. That is, with April vacation and a handful of other random short weeks of teaching, the next 18 weeks of instruction are going to fly by.
So, I took a look at all the interruptions throughout the year. Surprisingly, only 75% of the weeks are a full five days. That means 1/4 of the time teaching, plans based on an entire week’s worth of activities and routines get all messed up…for the entire year! Now, anything that messes things up as often as 25% of the time is enough to lead to burnout. There are a number of ways to plan no- to low-prep, and avoid that burnout, but for the 25% of short school weeks, perhaps the best way is to treat daily routines as independent from one another, not always needing the previous day’s events (e.g. a Tuesday routine shouldn’t rely on whatever happens Monday).
This is just a reminder to plan wisely (i.e. smarter, not harder) for the second half of the year!
On any given day, it’s common for teachers to have wrenches thrown into their plans without warning. Sometimes these wrenches appear during the very class teachers are required to plan for! Other times, it feels like the whole damn tool chest is being tossed our way! This post offers tips on how to structure your planning so those wrenches have absolutely no impact, whatsoever…
Last Friday, I suddenly found myself without a document camera after a Listen & Draw with our first One Word Image (OWI). Realizing my error, I scrambled to snap a pic of just one student drawing, send it to my email, sign in, download and orient, turn on the projector, etc. all just to discuss student artwork. No bueno. Not only did I lose a few kids during the shuffle, but I avoided repeating the process, meaning we looked at just one student’s work. No bueno mas. With a document camera, we used to look at several different drawings easily, keeping interest high throughout class. That absence was obvious, and I was unhappy with how things went. Still, I was determined to use the stack of hilarious drawings somehow…
**Updated 11.20.19 with new The Septem Game rules**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**
When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!
**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**
I live by the “low-prep/no-prep” mantra. Yes, there’s life outside of school (maybe not if you teach high school ELA, sorry folks), and I enjoy sharing with others ideas on how to regain their personal life back while also being a damn fine teacher. As part of this, I pride myself on having not taken home student work for a few years now.
This first week, however, is different…
I’ve been used to starting the year with a half-day devoted to essential rules, some routines, and that school-required housekeeping stuff. Then, in next 8-10 class days over about 2 weeks, I would get into Circling with Balls (CWB), Total Physical Response (TPR), Discipulus Illustris, not to mention the No-Travel Story Script I was looking forward to trying out. Not this year. I see my students just 1 hour per week, which means those usual beginning activities would take us up through Thanksgiving! That’s simply too slow for he brain craving novelty. Expectations must be lowered. I’m just now recognizing exactly how much lower, too. This first week—one class—had to combine all that housekeeping with only a little bit of Latin…very little. You know what we did? placet (= likes). Yep, that’s it, at least as the only verb, although eī, tibi, -ne?, an, nōn, et, harpastum, minimē, and certē also made appearances. The focus was on just one student, and another parallel student to compare.
This is probably the most effective no-prep activity you should become familiar with:
1) Say or ask for one(1) word.
2) Draw it on the board (or have the Class Artist draw it).
3) Ask about it, and add details to the image.
I’m never at a loss for what to add because I rely on my Question Word Posters as reference to drive the image. Looking at the posters around my board, I usually just ask questions in order and get corresponding supporting details without planning a single thing. Here’s an example that began with a single word, fūr (thief)…
Where? = The thief is in Starbucks
From Where? = Lived in Spain
To Where? = Wants to go to Peet’s Coffee in Berkeley, not Cambridge
What? = Has a gladius (Roman sword)
Who? = The thief’s name is Tom
Whose? = The gladius is actually the Starbucks barista’s gladius
When? = It’s night time
Whom? = The thief sees someone with a better, bigger gladius
With Whom? = Donald Trump (obviously!)
To Whom? = The Starbucks barista gives a coffee to Donald Trump
How? = The thief has the gladius because he stole it from the Starbucks barista
How many? = Actually, the Tom the Thief has 7 gladiī—one from each Starbucks in Starbucksville
What sort of? = Tom is actually a bad thief…the Starbucks barista saw him steal the gladius
Why? = Donald Trump is there because he wants to buy all the Starbucks’
Note how some of the details don’t connect (e.g. there is another person with a sword but doesn’t get mentioned again), but realize that they don’t have to. We’re just creating an image, not any kind of plot. Also note, however, how easily this COULD turn into a prompt for a Timed Write, or a Storyasking session, especially given the image we’ve established as a class.