Friday, July 21, 2017

Step Forward, Step Backward

More than a month remains until my classroom will be filled with students, but I am already creating plans for those first few days (not on paper yet, but certainly have ideas in my head that I'll eventually transfer to paper). 

One activity that I will do with my students in the first week that is a get-to-know each other type of activity, but not the usual such as "find someone that..." fill in the type bingo grid. This activity is more student and class friendly in that all the students are reacting to what the teacher says and simultaneously learning about their classmates.

It's called Step Forward, Step Backward (or as I used to call it Forward/Backward). It can be used at the beginning of the school year, after a new semester, after a weekend or special event at school, before a holiday when the students find it harder to sit still, or anytime you want to provide input and build class community. The small prep work done by the teacher is contrasted by the high engagement level by the students. Step Forward, Step Backward is an activity that can be done with any level of language students as long as the teacher carefully chooses the vocabulary to keep it comprehensible for students' language abilities. This activity can also work as a Brain Break.

Overview: Students listen to a statement read by the teacher and step forward or step backward according to the directions. The teacher uses PQA (personalized questions and answers) to connect to the students and to provide additional comprehensible input.

Prep work:
1. The teacher writes several statements in the target language. 

2. The teacher assigns the number of steps that students will take forward or backward if the statement is true about them.

In class:
1. There are several ways to set up the activity depending on your room space. I have a desk-less classroom so students only need to push their chairs out of the way to do the activity. If you have desks in your classroom, it may be easier to go to the cafeteria or to an area in your school that has a lot of space, or...take the students outside. Another option if you have a lot of room in your class is for students to form a circle facing inward.

2. Students line up, shoulder to shoulder, facing the front of the room.

3. The teacher reads a statement and the students move forward or backward as instructed by the teacher.

Here are a few examples: (remember, it should be the target language)

a. Statements about pets:
   - If you have a cat, take one step forward.
   - If you have two or more cats, take an additional step forward.
   - If you have a dog, take one step backward.
   - If your dog is white, take one step backward.
   - If you don't have any pets, take two steps forward.
   - If you have a turtle, snake, or hamster as a pet, take 3 steps forward.

b. Statements about food:
   - If you like pizza take one step forward.
   - If you like broccoli, take two steps forward.
   - If you like Chinese food better than Mexican food, take one step forwards.
   - If you eat cereal for breakfast one or more days each week take one step

c. Statements about sports:
   - If you play soccer...
   - If you like to run...
   - If you play golf more often than you swim...
   - If you like to watch sports more than you like to play sports...

d. Statements about restaurants:
   - If you prefer Burger King over McDonald's...
   - If you have eaten at In-and-Out in the last 2 years...
   - If you work at a restaurant...

e. Statements about school:
   - If you have biology before this class...
   - If you don't have physical education this semester...
   - If you have an art class this year...
   - If you are a senior, step...
   - If you have a quiz or test today...

f. Statements about clothes:
   - If you are wearing sneakers today...
   - If you are wearing the color red today...
   - If you are not wearing socks today...
   - If you wore a hat this morning before school...
   - If you work at a clothing store...

As you become more acquainted with the students throughout the school year, you can make the statements more interesting by writing statements that relate to your specific students and school culture. 

After each statement, the teacher has an opportunity to expand on the information that was revealed by the students' movements.  As students move in response to the statements, they immediately see what they have in common with their classmates and interesting information about their classmates that they did not know.

- Every statement tells students to step forward.
- All the statements tell the students to step forward, BUT roll a dice and if it lands on 4, then every 4 questions the students will step backward if the statement is true for them. If it is a 3, every 3rd question the students step backward if the statement is true for them.
- Say the statement and ask the students to raise their hand if it is true for them. Then flip a coin to determine if the students step forward one step or if the students step backward one step.   
- and other variations that will keep the activity new

There doesn't have to be a "winner", but if your students will like that variation, go for it, and adjust the directions accordingly.

Have fun!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Resources and Links for Movie Talks Resources

For those attending the iFLT 2017 conference that were at my presentation, Movie Talk, Beyond the Basics, I have attached the link below to a document that has the links to the movies I discussed and to resources of where you can find videos for Movie Talk.

 Resource Document

Pre-conference Professional Development at iFLT2017

It's July and you know what that means: it's time for meaningful professional development at iFLT! I'm writing this from Denver, Colorado, where 500+ language teachers will converge on Tuesday to kick off the first official day of iFLT. 

My first day of iFLT started on Monday because I am serving as a coach this year.    

Coaching 4 Coaches workshop
Teri Weichart conducted a Coaches 4 Coaches session on Monday to train the coaches and
attendees that signed up for an extra session on coaching, before the start of the conference. After hugs and greetings to other members of our Coaching Tribe, we got down to business. 
Teri put 5 white poster sheets around the room and we wrote a skill on each of the posters. Later, in small groups, we discussed each poster. Below are several answers that stood out to my group that are beyond what you may normally think one would answer. 

1. Comprehensibility
Students may not recognize cognates they hear until they see them written. Don't assume the students understand you when you are using cognates.

2. Keeping Things Interesting
- vary energy and voice level
- go "off rails" to follow student interest
- pause to add suspense
- always give students a choice (Ex: Do you want to discuss in groups of 2 or as a whole class?)

3. Storytelling Skills
- "If it doesn't flow, let it go" - if you are telling a story and you realize it isn't interesting and not working with the students, drop it and move on. Give yourself permission to "let it go".

4. Connecting to Students
- Recognize what each individual student's engagement looks like. One student is engaged when they look directly at you, while another may be as engaged but he is looking down. Student engagement looks different for different students.

5. Other
- incorporate music, brain breaks, and CI games
- Be present in the present (show up to class in the present, not focused on the past)
- Encourage students and build up their confidence
- Accept that students' skills are where they are, not where you want them to be

Coaching Teacher SkillsLaurie Clarcq played the role of coach when Kirstin Plante taught the teacher "students" Dutch. Both of them were amazing: Kirstin on making the language comprehensible by going slowly, using gestures, writing the words in both languages in two different colors, engaging the "students", pausing and pointing at the words, expressive, etc; and Laurie with her gentle and encouraging method of providing feedback to Kirstin. (Btw, if you see Kirstin, ask her to demonstrate her version of a giraffe walking to the store.)

Then we returned to our small groups and took turns playing the roles of teacher, coach, student, and observer in the coaching format. Each role is a powerful learning experience and helped prepare us as coaches for the attendees that will visit the coaching rooms in the next few days.

Stephen Krashen talked to participants in the Fluency Fast classes and others about the power of reading and its role in language acquisition.

After the training and the Krashen talk, I'm ready for iFLT to officially start!!!

Personalizing experiences before and after conference hours

I've attended many conferences throughout the last few years in which I failed to schedule time to actually see the city and surrounding area in which the conference was held. But this year, I arrived in Denver before 9:00 am on Sunday, and spent the day with the talented Nelly Hughes (Spanish teacher from Ohio) and her family hiking at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. The park is beautiful with spectacular views. Of course, my conversations with Nelly were often related to teaching. 

At the end of the day, I bumped into friends from Pinellas School District in Florida and we went to a local restaurant, Casa Bonita, where the food was ok but the conversation was GREAT!

Suggestion: If you are able to extend your stay at a conference a day or two before or after the actual conference, DO IT.  You never know when you'll be in that city again so make the most of your time and financial of attending the conference by setting aside time to explore the area.