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!
Adriana Ramirez shared videos of her and her students doing Picture Talk on Facebook. I apologize if you can’t see them, but the reality is that most of my professional groups have now migrated to FB, which is becoming THE way to remain current in the field, apparently.
Adriana used old family photos for Picture Talk topics of conversation (keeping in mind “conversations” with Novice language learners are interactive, yet require just a few words from students. The teacher—to the dismay of evaluators in the dark—SHOULD be doing most of the talking, here). Once her students developed a higher proficiency level by the end of the second year, she had them bring in their own pictures to talk about. I find it amazing that Adriana continued to provide input, and encourage interaction all throughout the “presentation” of the main student by engaging the class with questions, and checking back in with the main student—basically using Storyasking actor questioning techniques. In a more conventional rule-based language classroom, the teacher would be hands-off, and other students likely bored after 5 or 6 presentations. Not in Adriana’s class.
I instantly thought of how this could follow up Discipulus Illustris (one of 7 language versions of La Persona Especial). Although Adriana had second year students do the presenting, you could do this early on with students of lower proficiency—just be the one providing input and encouraging interaction. To do this, a student emails you a pic to use as a prop. Yes, students are great props, but something novel to look at should grab the attention of others just because it’s different, and fools the mind into thinking the activity is completely different while you could be asking the very same Discipulus Illustris questions about the picture!
I love how it’s no-prep. Actually, it’s can’t-prep, which is exciting on its own. Sure, you could preview the pic (especially if you have students engaging in tomfoolery often), but part of the fun is keeping it lively with unexpected, compelling diversions from what is likely a boring school day. Teachers need to feel energized as well, so try something new.