Little Language Learners- What I have learned

I have college students who come to teach in my classroom who struggle with teaching young kids so I have collected some tips I shared with them over the years. I would love to hear from some other “veteran teachers” (Yes, those college students call me “ma’am” and it breaks my heart a little every time.)

***DISCLAIMER***- I am not a child development expert. So I am not claiming that these tips work in every situation or are backed with research I have done. I give these tips based on the 9 years of experience teaching Kindergarten through 8th grade. (And having two almost 5 year olds myself.)

TIP #1- ATTENTION SPAN

So this one is pretty obvious. The younger the child the shorter the attention span. I once heard a teacher describe it like this. “The activity should last the same minutes as their age.” So, if your students are 5 years old, then shoot for activities that are 5 minutes long. Does this ALWAYS apply? No, but it is a good reminder.  Naturally you are going to have to plan more activities for a Kindergarten class compared to a 6th grade class. However, the activities are not as long.

Sometimes we don’t always have a good idea of how long 5 minutes can be. I tried an experiment where I turned on my timer for 5 minutes and started teaching my Kindergarteners. Every time the timer went off, I changed the activity. It is not something I would do more than one day because the timer is there to remind me what 5 minutes “feels like.”

The beauty of having engaging and compelling input is that 5 minutes can be extended as long as you be keeping an eye out for when their brains start to wonder. I can get 10-15 minutes sometimes if they are SUPER engaged with what I am doing.

TIP #2- MY UP/DOWN RULE

I like to plan the order of activities based on what my students are going to be doing. Thanks to Annabelle Allen, I start class with a quick “follow the leader” dance party for a minute or 2 (not a full song). This is an UP activity because they are up and moving. I will follow it with a DOWN activity like listening to a story or ¿Qué hay en la bolsa? (Carol Gaab style). I try to plan a lesson that has my students alternating getting up and moving followed by sitting “still” and listening. I plan Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down etc.

FAVORITE “UP” Activities

  • Songs (with motions),
  • Follow the Leader – Dance Party
  • TPR (I break my TPR goals into short sessions to sprinkle between DOWN activities)
  • “All the World’s a Stage” (Group retells of a story where all the students are acting out the story)

TIP #3- FRONT LOAD YOUR LESSON

I find that in my older classes I am leading each lesson to a final point. My main objective for the lesson is farther into the lesson. However, I have learned that even though the 5 minute activity for the 5 year old is helpful, getting their attention at the beginning of the lesson is MUCH easier than at the end even when you have followed that rule. So, I put my most important activity as close to the beginning as I can. We spend it telling a story or PQA.

**Secret (confession time)- I don’t start my class with the calendar because I don’t teach calendar outside of what is needed for a story.** We used to sing a song about which day it was and the date but not anymore. If I felt like I HAD to teach calendar, I would put it at the end because it is not the most important part of my lesson.

Why don’t I teach calendar? – It is not high-frequency language. It would be better taught in context with a story or PQA questions separated from sequencing. It is too abstract for some kids. Children 5-7 years old still struggle with the abstract idea of time. (My Pre-K almost 5 year olds ask every other week if they are going to Kindergarten this week even though I explain that is next year.)

TIP #4- IT IS ALL ABOUT THEM

At the age of Kindergarten-2nd grade, we spend LOTS of time on their lives, their favorites, and their stories. It is all about them. They want to tell me everything. So in Kindergarten we spend lots of time talking about our favorite ice cream, our favorite movie, or our favorite restaurant. Their lives become our stories.

TIP #5- LET THEM SHOUT OUT

My Kindergarten students LOVE to add in expressions as we talk about their lives. (rejoinders) This is a way for them to express their opinion, show off their Spanish skills and participate in a conversation with their limited language and a one person story can involve the whole class. As soon as one student says it, then I repeat what made them say it, and then we all do it together. (Hello repetitions!!) My students get points for shouting out rejoinders throughout class as long as it makes sense and doesn’t interrupt me.

Some of my FAVORITES- ¡Qué ridículo!, ¡Qué asco! Yuck!, ¡OH NO, OH NO, OH NO! ¡Qué lastima! ¡No me digas!

TIP #6 COMPREHENSION CHECKS!!!

If you have ever been lucky enough to be in an elementary workshop with Leslie Davison, then you have probably seen this video.

In the video the lady is singing “Ken Lee” instead of “Can’t live.” Leslie’s point is that a student, especially a younger student,  will memorize the sounds of a song because it might be fun to sing, or is pretty (or it is required of them), but they don’t know the meaning of the words. This is why it is SO important to check for comprehension…often. Not just once. Check until they look at you and sigh “Señora, we know that. It means __ .”

Personal example-

On the way home…

Twins: (singing) I’m in the Lord’s army (yes, sir) I’m in the Lord’s army (yes sir) I may never march in the “impatree”, ride in the “calorie”…

Twin 1: Wait, wait! Mommy, what is a “impatree”?

Twin 2: I know. I know. It is a tree that has all the fruit on it and it makes all your dreams come true…if you dream of fruit.

Twin 1: I don’t think that’s right. And you march in it??

Twin 2: Yup

(silence)

Both continue singing -I may never march in the “impatree” ride in the “calorie” shoot the “artillerme” I may never zoom over the enemy. But I’m in the Lord’s army. YES SIR!

Moral of that story- Check for comprehension! Check often!

TIP #7- DOUBLE UP THE LISTENING

A major step in any language classroom should be the READING step. But what do you do with pre-literate or emerging readers? First, you don’t hide the words. Show the words! Write them on the board. Point to them. Project your story and have them illustrate it.

BUT…. know that your students are not ready to rely on written word for their meaning. They need to be exposed to it but not expected to use it alone for meaning. (Kinda like my 7 month old needs to eat solids but is not relying on them for his main nutrition.)

So, do you just skip that last Reading step? NO! You replace it with MORE listening!! You need to DOUBLE UP THE LISTENING step. This is why I love a game like ¡PARA! that gives me more repetitions while staying engaged.

Other ideas 

  • Character Descriptions- You give them pictures/drawings of characters from a class story and then the teacher describes the character. What did they do? Where did they go? What did they say? How did they feel? Students raise the picture in the air when they figure out which character you are describing. **Lisa Timmerman Schauer and Megan Hattersley Hayes at iFLT 2016 suggested taking this activity outside. They can have drawings, a chalk line or chalk names on the ground that they jump to when they hear the description.
  • All the world’s a stage- Karen Rowen– Where you have all the students act out the character as you retell, or you divide the class into different characters.
  • Retell the story with different student actors.
  • Retell the story but change the speed (super fast or super slow), you sing it and they sing their lines, they are now penguins instead of humans… etc.
  • LE DA game
  • Retell the same story but make it a “new story” because now it is about Sebastian not Annie. (ex. STORY 1- Annie goes to Sweet Frog to eat vanilla ice cream. STORY 2 Sebastian goes to Jandy’s to eat chocolate chip mint ice cream.)

The list goes on and on…

So now “veteran teachers” what are your tips to those young “whipper snapper” teachers who are teaching a foreign language to little language learners?

¡Pokémon Go! What I am doing in my classroom?

I learned at iFLT 2016 that using the interests of your students goes a LONG way to providing compelling input and building community. So I knew I wanted to do something with Pokémon Go. Here is what I have been doing in class and my future plans.

  • After the first few days of asking ¿Adónde fuiste? (Where did you go?) I went digging for Pokémon Go fanatics. Honestly it came up pretty naturally when I asked about their weekend. I found those who went Pokémon hunting.
  • I introduced vocabulary using Martina Bex’s dictionary page (I make one change by only having one box instead of two because I have my younger students just draw a picture)
    • busca- he/she looks for
    • ve- he/she sees
  • Then I projected some of their pictures from the dictionary page and ask questions. For example, one girl drew herself looking for her iPod but her little sister took it. Then I asked about other brothers and sisters that take things. Do you take things? I had a student that took their parent’s cellphone to play Pokémon Go. (HELLO! Brandon Brown dice la verdad!!)
  • I introduced MI AVENTURA- a PowerPoint of my adventure looking for Pokémon around the school (Circling and personalizing throughout the presentation). I told the story as if I didn’t know that Pokémon weren’t living in the real world and went looking for REAL Pokémon. I took pictures with me going into their classrooms and other rooms in the school. I used the PAST tense version for my older students and the PRESENT tense version for my little kids. Below are some slides I used. (If you are interested in the full PowerPoint then email me.) amitchell@berry.edu

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • The next class time we went hunting for Pokémon with my iPad. I gave the students a map of the school and the grounds. They had a green and red color pencil to mark where we would find Pokémon. I realized pretty soon we needed to mark Poké Stops and Gyms too. As we walked around we watched Pokémon Go and marked when we found something and whether or not we caught Pokémon. Some students wanted to write the names of the Pokémon and others wanted to draw them. Some just wanted to mark a green check mark or a red X. See below my hunt with 4th grade.

  • So now students have a map that is marked with Pokémon, Poké Stops and Gyms. We  will project the map and talk about it. (I plan to use buscamos- we looked for, vimos- we saw and  había- there was/were but you could use encontrar or capturar) We will talk about where we saw different things, how many and describe the different Pokémon.
  • I haven’t gotten to this yet but my next plan is to write up a summary of the events that we read and possibly draw pictures. In the older classes we might write the summary together then illustrate.
  • Lastly I plan to use a Pokémon Go infographic to look for words we know and discuss the game.
  • I would also like students to log in to their Pokémon Go accounts on my iPad to show off their Pokémon collections. (Our school secretary is OBSESSED. So I would love for her to come show off her collection.)

What are you doing in your class? Here is a post by  SraSpanglish with her great ideas. Kristy Placido has a FREE reading for older students.

 

 

 

¡PARA!- review game

I got this idea from Keith Toda when he wrote about a post reading activity called Stultus. He got the idea from James Hosler, a fellow CI Latin teacher in Ohio.

I took his idea and changed it to fit my K-8 Spanish classroom. There are two versions.

REVIEWING A STORY (Listening)

  • After telling a story in class, the teacher retells the story with actors (same kids or different) BUT……
  • As the teacher tells the story he/she purposely makes mistakes and changes the story.
  • As soon as the students hear the wrong information, they yell “¡PARA!” (he/she stops) or ¡PARE! (Stop!) Throwing up their hands with the motion to STOP!
  • Then students raise their hands to “fix” the mistake.
  • The teacher restates the correct sentence and then continues.
  • Sometimes I keep points. One point for the class for catching my mistake, and one point for me and the actors for getting a mistake by without them noticing.

** This is an AWESOME “game” to play after you have retold the story but want more repetitions.  ESPECIALLY if you are working with pre-literate or emerging readers because they depend on the oral story more. (My 2nd graders LOVED yelling at me!)

** I like to ask the actors to help me so if they hear me say the wrong information they just do the wrong action to “throw off” the class. This makes them listen extra hard too. (ex. I say the character dances with the pizza instead of eating it.)

REVIEWING A STORY (Reading)

  • After reading the story in class, the teacher retells the story as it is projected or the students have the story in front of them.
  • As the teacher reads the story he/she purposely makes mistakes and changes the story.
  • As soon as the students hear the wrong information, they yell “¡PARA!” (he/she stops) or ¡PARE! (Stop!) Throwing up their hands with the motion to STOP!
  • Then students raise their hands to “fix” the mistake.
  • The teacher restates the correct sentence and then continues.

 

The Story of Art

I came across this idea from a blog. (I think…) I cannot for the life of me remember where I saw this so if you are the creator or know who had the idea PLEASE email me or put in comments below so I can give them credit. Also I am doing this for the first time this year so I will probably alter this after I try it.

  1. Choose 4-5 famous paintings- (can be from one country, one person or just random) I am choosing Spanish artist because I want to talk about where they are from. (Picasso’s Don Quixote, Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, 
  2. Choose 1 painting to project to the class and lead a discussion about the painting in the target language. (What do you see? Where is this? How does the person feel? Why do they feel this way? etc.)
  3. (Optional) Create a story with your class about the painting using all the information the students can gain from looking at the picture WITHOUT telling them the actually story or history behind it.
  4. Divide class into groups- each group gets a different painting. Now they have to list what they see. There are options to scaffold this for a novice class
    1. Give them the out-of-bounds vocabulary they may need on a separate sheet.
    2. Give them a cloze passage with very basic sentences describing what is in the picture with the blanks being words they know.
  5. Groups create story about their painting.- you can put a minimum on this, make it an assessment or give them only a certain amount of time. That’s your call.
  6. Create a PowerPoint with student’s stories and the art- Each group shows their art and then reads their story. (The other students have to use their “You confused me” gesture for when they don’t understand a word.)
    1. You could project the story for the group to read, or make it a listening activity, and students just see the art and listen to the story.
    2. You could have a listening activity for the students like they have to write so many sentences about the story or they have to write three questions about the story, or they have to draw a part of the story. Or they just listen and enjoy.
  7. After each group presents show a short reading in target language about the creator and the real story behind the painting- This is were you get to read and personalize the information about the creator (Where are they from? Are they dead? Interesting facts etc.) and the real story about the painting (Who are they? Is it a political statement? Interesting facts about the painting.)
  8. Optional: A Gallery Walk where students get to read at their own pace the stories and the facts about the creator.
  9. Optional: Create sentence strips from each story and students have to match it to the correct painting. (This could even be a relay race.)

Have another idea to extend this activity or to make it better. LIST IT BELOW!! I can’t wait to try this. Let me know if you try it and how it goes!!

COMMENT BELOW- If you can think of a painting that would work well with this activity.

BIG ideas from iFLT 2016

I’m struggling to come down from the mountain of 450 people who will talk second language acquisition till you fall over from exhaustion.

There were so many GREAT presenters and SuperStars at iFLT 2016!! I am still working up my notes from Martina Bex, Jason Fritz, Leslie Davison and Linda Lee. If you are not following these people on their blog or twitter YOU ARE MISSING OUT!!!

Take-away #1- Take time to reflect on your teaching.

OK, so you may not be able to go to a conference. I was able to go this year because it was an hour and a half away. I also have an AMAZING support system at home to take care of my three little boys. I also work at an AMAZING school that will cover costs for me to go and provide lots of resources every year.

But even if you can’t do that, take some time to reflect. You know that blog you have been wanting to read or article that interests you. You know that podcast (TEA with BVP) or a webinar (TPRS publishing has a FREE webinar coming up this week on how to teach novels) DO IT! I know I get into a rush to get the next thing done. I need to work on lesson plans or my classroom, but taking time to get some Professional Development can not only change your teaching, it can change your whole attitude about your profession.

We all know those teachers that get stuck in a rut. I have heard many teachers say “What if it is just another trend?” “My school won’t let me teach that way anyways, so why bother?” But lots of times teaching is being brave enough to try something when you don’t know it will work. Being willing to be wrong or to not do something as well the first few times. Being willing to have a bad lesson. Also OK your school won’t let you do it all this way. What will they let you do? Have to teach with a textbook you don’t like? OK be the best teacher of that textbook you can be. Scott Benedict has a great webinar called “Textbook to TPRS” that is FREE right now. It can help you change a chapter in a traditional textbook to be more like the way we know to teach. Get out there and find some help in what it is you need to make yourself a better teacher.

Take-away #2- Take time to savor the lesson you planned

Sometimes we get so bogged down by the GREAT lesson we made we forget to actually slow down long enough for kids to savor the lesson. I do this all the time, and I had a student teacher a few years ago that would teach with one eye on her notes and one on the clock. Neither of those things were the most important thing in the room. Then she would be frustrated because she didn’t get everything in that she wanted and the kids did terrible on the assessment. After watching her a few times I tried to explain it like this:

A good lesson plan is like a good recipe. You can prepare all the equipment you are going to need and buy all the right ingredients. But if at the end you serve it to your audience you tell them they only have 30 seconds to eat,

THEY CAN’T SAVOR THE MEAL (and end up with a tummy ache).

So this year I want to stop looking at the clock. Stop checking the boxes off on my lesson plan, and think about the activity I am trying to do with my kids. If I have to rush through it then maybe I need to save it for later. If I don’t have time then maybe I need to reduce the time I spend on multiple activities and really SAVOR one/two activities. I don’t want to give the excuse that I didn’t teach the way I know is best because I didn’t have time. What am I there for if not to take the time to teach the way I know I should?

I am a multitasker. I think you have to multitask to some degree to be a teacher or a parent. But so many times I am so busy making all the plates spin that I forget to be in the moment with my students. I am so preoccupied with the next activity or the next class that I forget to help the people right in front of me. It is like the boy in “The Three Questions” story.-

What is the right time to begin everything?

The most important time is NOW. The present is the only time over which we have power.

Who are the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid?

The most important person is the person you are with.

What is the most important thing to do?

The most important thing is to do good to the person you are with.

Take-away #3 – FEAR is paralyzing

I have a secret. I am not a native speaker, and I have always had a fear of not being enough for my students. It has paralyzed me to not try and put myself out there for people to see. It has paralyzed me to not even pursue improving my Spanish because I might need help and then what would people think. I am the Spanish teacher. I should be perfectly fluent. I can’t help anyone. But NO MORE! I am going put myself out there. I am going to make mistakes. I am going to ask for HELP. If that person disapproves of me then I find someone else. It is no fun being afraid so I might as well strive for something different.

Take-away #4

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Sometimes I spend more time on the things I am not than the things I am. If you didn’t get a chance to hear Stephen Krashen Monday night at the end of the Fluency Fast classes then check it out on their Facebook page HERE. (you will have to scroll down a bit, there are two parts, but it is SO GOOD!!)

Leslie Davison told us at the end of the conference, “When you go back to your classroom, the only teacher that you have to compare yourself to is YOU before Chattanooga.” I am not those rockstars that I observed. I am not the awesome teacher down the hall. I am not the calm and quiet teacher that has kids doing amazing things without all the noise. I  am loud, dramatic, and goofy. I don’t plan out my lessons 3 weeks in advance like that great teacher next door. I am me. I want to be the best me. And I want to tell myself the same thing that I want to tell the new students next year walking into my classes with no Spanish experience- “Don’t compare yourself to those around you. Compare yourself to who YOU were yesterday, last week, or last year.”

Language Lab- Observations – Annabelle Allen (iFLT 2016)

Elementary Spanish – Annabelle Allen

Classroom environment and technology

DOCERI (technology to project from iPad and laptop at same time)

Deck less- turn and use your seat for a desk

Pre-planning- general order of a unit

  • 2/3 target structures
  • establishing- TPR, photos, PQA
  • Story
  • Reading
  • Alternative reading using same structures
  • Writing

STORIES

Student draws the story instead of actors (novelty)- checking with them and whispering to them in english if needed- then student shows drawing to review the story

Designated sounds to certain kids. One kid always cries. One always does the car sounds etc. (**Jason Fritz idea-“try-outs” during TPR to see which kid does the sound well)

When asking a question- Ask questions and say ESPAÑOL ESPAÑOL ESPAÑOL (pointing to your brain to remind them to respond in español) then ask question again

Using current culture in story to engage students Example- Pokemon Go – la pelota de Pokemon

Tell in present tense and review in past but with the same pictures. (only list the structures with translation to prompt oral review, not the whole narrative)

Slides of places for the characters to go in story- use local location pictures

Slides- use .gif for action then have students mimic

lots of brain breaks (see below)

“va a”- use the maps to ask where the character goes

Use KIDDLE to google information during a story to show kids real pictures. (It is a kid friendly Google search)

Reading

Reading chorally- using laser pointer to read together. when you get to a word you want to focus on then repeat them over and over. El gato tiene…el gato tiene…

Sentence strips- “Carlos” messed up our story and now we have to put it in order again with a partner- (drops the sentence strips “accidentally”) Change a detail and then in review you ask about the change.

Comprehension Checks- Example: Teacher says “¿Cómo se dice ‘tiene’ en ingles? 1,2,3” Students say  – he or she has (with gesture) The counting allows for think time for students.

Classroom Management

  • REGLAS (15 minute explanation/discussion on the first day in English but review other days in Spanish) Talk about processing speeds, you make mistakes and I make mistakes
  • Story-asking- Freeze, no audience interruptions
  • If you have a funny slide then pause to laugh at first then move on to the language
  • Spend the time training your kids
  • Training- build community letting them know it is safe, run off of relationships (know their stuff)
    • Told them about me
  • Picking groups- “Without words put yourself in a line in order of birthday month” Students use fingers then go down the line to check in Spanish. Then pair up the students by 2s down the line
  • On-going tally PUNTOS for good response to directions. Class vs. Teacher (puntos)- then change – points don’t really count for anything
    • Speaking Spanish (points to students)
    • Speaking English (points to teacher)
    • Not responding to questions or call & response (points to teacher)
    • Following her directions correctly (points to students)
  • Change up your classroom management point system to create novelty (Dojo.com, Puntos etc.)

FRASES de Annabelle

  • Teacher “pero”- students -“buuuut”
  • 30% of Spanish is cognados
  • “se me olvidó” – I forgot
  • Gestures- tiene (cross body) tenía (cross body then thumb back to indicate past)
  • Teacher – Yo Yo Yo when the verb ends in O it means “yo” What does Yo mean? Students – I, I,  I
  • “Se sienta normal” (desk less)
  • “¿en serio?” – Really?
  • “I need 100% for a class response.”
  • Primero (writes “1st”) Segundo (writes “2nd”)

Brain Breaks 

  • Follow the leader dancing to a song clip (starts class with a dance)
  • Evolution Rock Paper Scissors (egg, chicken, dragon) 1, 2, 3, DALE- when a dragon beats a dragon then that student wins (María ganó)
  • MIX- They dance around to song and then do Rock paper scissors with the person next to them when the music stops
  • Rock Paper Scissors- if you lose then you go behind the winner and create a “conga line” as the winner finds someone else. If they win again the other person’s “chain” joins them until there are only 2 lines. Winner of that wins or pays the teacher.
  • TPR- (in 3rd person) OR “Simon dice”

There is a revenge video – Check out the YouTube channel

Establishing Meaning

Project structure with translation on screen for whole class, student draws on her iPad and class tries to guess (“QUIERE-WANTS” students draws a dog.) Then PQA around the picture. Erase the picture on iPad and have another student draw something else using the same structure.

Cheat Sheet (vocabulary sheet) Name in Spanish for the word “cheat sheet” from certain region (POP-UP Culture)-

  • Dictionary page with the structure and English translation. Then at the bottom students add a picture and out-of-bounds vocabulary from the board. They can only add 3/4 of the words from the board.

PQA

¿Cuántos?- Ask students to come up and have students show on hand then bring up to front to cover

Activities

Practice OUTPUT (Not to introduce vocabulary)  – Yo quiero ______ . Practice saying. Each student gets a card with an animal. Practice again. Ball up and snowball fight when you hear music. Pick one up and find a partner. Say the phrase (Yo quiero ______), high-five then wait for music to snowball fight again. Rinse and Repeat.

Little POMPOM game- Student throws pompoms into the cup their partner is holding for each Spanish phrase (starting with the same structure). Example: “Yo quiero un carro. throw pompom Yo quiero un perro. throw pompom” with language that they have heard and understand MULTIPLE TIMES. (not new language) **My idea- Maybe groups of three- 2 students throw to the other holding the cup but they have to agree before they throw saying the nosotros form. Example “Queremos un perro”

After story listening/writing the story in simple sentences with drawings- “Do I care about your spelling??” NO NO NO

  • Students write the sentence as the teacher says the sentence of the story multiple times. Then the teacher writes it on board so kids can check their work. Then on to the next sentence of the story. (There is a box next to or above the sentence for students to draw the sentence)
  • GREAT opportunities for pop-up grammar

TRUE/FALSE quiz “This quiz is for me not for you. It is to see how well I did today.”

  • Teacher says Spanish sentence from the story. Students write if it is true or false.

MOVIETALK

 

(All her activities up till now were about Mickey.)

VERY SIMPLE SENTENCES – corre rápidamente, llevan/tienen ropa rojo, ¡Qué chistoso!

Ask questions: ¿Es un animal pequeño? Es un ____ toro (draws a picture on the board with Spanish word)

¿Al toro le gusta rojo?

Stopped and paused for the first 3 minutes then just let the video run.

Reading activities for the cultural parts of the video- La Tomatina, Running of the Bulls

DEBRIEF

Kids said about Annabelle Allen “You are much more fun” “Exciting” “You are the best teacher of my life” “It is different because you have energy” “Best teacher in the universe” “You are funny””We don’t fall asleep because you aren’t boring” “You have happiness in your voice” “There was a lot more Spanish than English” “We do a lot more acting” “They (stories) are fun to act out”

**Check out Annabelle’s blog- She is planning to post her resources from this week on her blog.

If you see any typos, feel free to email me. Typed up quickly.