Circling & Scripts: Back To Them Roots (+ 59 Simple Story Starters)

Imma take a break from playing Root and get back to my teaching roots. Several recent experiences have reminded me that the most effective teaching practices are the basics, hands down. Obviously, COVID messed with us big time, but I’m afraid some of us have done a little too much adjusting that might result in lingering bad habits. Let’s face it, we pulled out all the stops on that beastly concert organ that was remote learning, and not all of what we did to make it happen could be considered even OK practices. We want good practices, and best ones whenever possible. Oh, and it’s been a while. Consider this: it will have been over two years since starting the school year with tried and true practices you’ve known to be effective. Yeah, that’s right. No one really did that in 2020, so it was August or September of 2019 when you last began the school year how you wanted. Will you remember what all those practices were? I’m not confident I will, so I’m writing this post to remind myself about them roots. Feel free to follow along…

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Word Wall (For Screen Sharing) & Class Bibliothēcae Docs

As a drummer, and former drum corps and marching band performer, coordination isn’t really a problem. However, the clickity clickness and toggling of teaching remotely via Zoom is enough to give me pause, and that’s no good. The One Doc setup has taken care of organization, sure. This latest update takes care of providing input during class with supports at-the-ready. Oh, and the class libraries are just a cool space for texts…

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One Doc, One Form, One Assignment, One Rubric, One Grade

**Any mention of Google Docs means them being used as screen share during Zoom—what was projecting in class—NOT for any student editing.**

This year, I’m pushing the boundaries of streamlining teaching. For years, my students have used one rubric to self-assess one grade at the end of a term. Google Docs have always been my in-class-go-to for organization and providing input, but a few updates have resulted in magic…

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Weekly Work & Automatic Grades

Anyone who’s looked at a cluttered gradebook at the end of the term knows the feeling of “gee, I guess we didn’t need to do all that.” The gradebook should contain evidence of learning to show growth, and result in a course grade. We really only need 10-15 pieces of evidence per quarter to do that. That is, 40-60 for the whole year is plenty. Here’s how to get evidence of what students have been doing, as well as a weekly score for each student with a process that’s completely managed by students themselves!

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If An Hour Doesn’t Get Us One to Two Classes…

…we’re doing something wrong.

If we spend an hour preparing to teach, that hour should at least result in an entire class’ worth of content, activities, etc., and bonus if it gets us a couple more. In other words, the fruit of an hour’s labor should not result in a single activity lasting just 10-15 minutes, or a quiz that lasts the same time but adds another hour for us to check/enter in gradebook/follow up with. Even spending an hour on something that lasts half as much time in the classroom—physical, virtual, live, or asynchronous—isn’t enough juice for the squeeze, and we got alotta lemons this year…

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Q1 Stats: 39% Of Input From Novellas

After sharing the strong start to the year from just the first 12 minutes of day 1, and results of a textbook comparison from the first 4 weeks, I’ve now got some stats from Quarter 1. Having arrived at the first 10 week mark of the year (36 hours), the total words read is now 6,500. But that figure isn’t really what I find most remarkable. How about the fact that 39% of the total input was read in just these last two weeks, from novellas alone…

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The Daily Lesson Plan: Talk & Read

Teachers unaccustomed to speaking the target language in class are often a bit lost when it comes to providing input. Instead, the more familiar rule-based lectures and paired speaking activities of PPP (present, practice, produce), target culture projects, and perhaps target language movies all become quite alluring, seducing teachers back to the pedagogy of yore. Here’s a way to conceptualize class in a clearer way that maximizes input:

  1. Talk about something
  2. Read something

Now, from the student perspective, this would be “listen & read,” but the “talk” portion of class is very much led by the teacher, especially in beginning years, so it’s easier to think of this in terms of what you, the teacher, must do. Don’t get fooled by anyone thinking this is the kind of “teacher-centered” lesson that’s frowned upon. The content is student-centered, it’s just that students can’t express themselves fully in the target language. They don’t have to, and this is expected. They need input. Case closed. The “read” portion could be any reading activity, either independent, led by you, in pairs, groups, or all of the above…

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