Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Learning to Introduce Culture in a CI Classroom

I have always enjoyed teaching Roman culture to students, because it is such a rich topic. In the past, I have had students who have absolutely hated reading Latin but when it came to culture, they enjoyed every moment of the discussion. Many Latin textbooks try to tie in their readings to a particular cultural topic, such as the baths, gladiatorial games, life in different parts of the Roman empire, etc. The problem though has been that so many times, the actual teaching of culture is relegated to an English section. While this does provide lots of useful information, as a language teacher, I want my students to learn about culture in the language itself, so that culture is not viewed as outside of the language but rather as part of the language. The other side of it though is that one can go overboard with too much vocabulary in a creating a culture-based reading in Latin so that it ends up becoming too incomprehensible and overwhelming for students to read.

At my former school, when I made the decision to do a hybrid textbook/CI approach, I loved the freedom to be able to teach the textbook in whatever way I wanted and in whatever order I wanted. The problem, though, was that I still had to cover the culture sections from the textbook, as that was on my instructional team's final exam. To teach the depth of the cultural material in a level-appropriate target language manner did not seem possible, so I would always have to take a full-day to cover the culture material in English through a lecture so that I could get it out of the way. 

At my new school, however, where I am one of five CI Latin teachers and where we all have completely "untextbooked," culture is introduced and taught through a level-appropriate reading. In other words, like any other reading passage, the cultural reading involves pre-reading, reading, and post-reading. Bob Patrick and I teach all of the Latin 1 sections (we have nine!), so last week, we decided that we wanted to introduce the Roman domus vs. insulae. As a result, Bob wrote up a reading passage in a level-appropriate, Latin 1 language which explained life in the Roman insula vs. domus, which also included an adapted version of Horace's "City Mouse and Country Mouse" story. While Bob wrote the passage, I was in charge of creating the lesson plans. For some reason, when given this task, I found myself struggling to do this, because it meant introducing lots of topic-specific words about the house - how could I introduce these words in a compelling way?

The following is my lesson plan for how Bob and I "taught" the Roman insula for Latin 1 (we just finished this yesterday!). The goal is to use the Horace story as a transition for another reading about the Roman house (this will be a later blog posting):


UBI ROMANI HABITAVERUNT

In Romā antiquā (ancient), multī hōminēs (people) in insulīs (apartment buildings) habitaverunt.  Frequenter, familia in unō conclavi (room) habitavit.  Aqua non in insulīs erat (there was). Latrina non in insulīs erat. Aqua publica erat. Latrina publica erat.  Culina non in insulīs erat. Cubiculum non in insulīs erat. unum conclave (room) erat (there was), et tota (entire) familia in conclavi (room)  habitavit. difficile erat (it was) in insulīs habitāre.

Day 1
  1. Target vocabulary - culina, cubiculum, tablinum, latrina, coquit, dormit, scribit, dentes fricat. Preview target vocabulary by writing them on the board with their English meanings. Go over each word and their meaning. Ask English derivatives as a way for students to connect words with known vocabulary.
  2. Rooms of the house PowerPoint with circling and PQAs - if you are familiar with stage 1 of CLC, you will recognize these types of sentences! Some great PQAs for this are "cui Kanye coquit? cur?", "cui Praeses Obama scribit? Donald Trumpo? Justin Biebero?", "mavis dormire in cubiculo an in culina?" "mavis dentes fricare in latrina an in culina? in cubiculo?"
  3. Movie Talk - iPad vs. Paper
Day 2
  1. Review rooms of the house ppt
  2. Target vocabulary for Movie Talk - vir, cubiculum, latrina, intrat, abit, horologium, per scalas descendit, culina, domum, iterum. Preview target vocabulary by writing them on the board with their English meanings. Go over each word and their meaning. Ask English derivatives as a way for students to connect words with known vocabulary.
  3. Movie Talk - Destiny
Day 3
  1. mavis habitare ppt - this activity actually took MUCH longer than I thought it would, as students really wanted to discuss this!
  2. Hand out reading for students to read silently
  3. Review reading in order to establish meaning. 
  4. Discuss culture in English to "fill in the gaps."
Day 4
  1. Review reading if needed
  2. Verum/Falsum de Insulis ppt - students wanted to use whiteboards to show me their answers
  3. Products, Practices, and Perspectives handout - this helps students better understand the three P's but still use the passage. I was surprised at how QUICKLY students were able to complete this after only having gone through the reading the day before!
Observations
  1. Although I felt like I struggled to create a lesson plan which surrounded a culture-based reading, I was pleased with the results.
  2. Though the idea of a CI-based reading to introduce culture did not feel natural to me, students did not seem to think that it was any different from what we had been doing before. 
  3. I love this approach! It is still going to take me time to learn how to do it better, but I am definitely on board with doing it this way!
I will blog in the future about how the rest of the culture-based reading on the Roman house and the adapted Horace story goes, as that is currently a work in progress - not ready for public viewing yet.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Movie Talk Script - Bear Story

After my post on Movie Talk and EdPuzzle, I received a number of requests for Movie Talk scripts which I have used in class. I am by no means an expert on doing Movie Talks, but today my colleague Bob Patrick and I recently did a Movie Talk which I think went extremely well with our Latin 1 students. As a result, I thought that I would share it with folks. 

I was wanting to do a Movie Talk which I could use to introduce family words, such as mother, father, son, etc., so I consulted Jason Fritze's Movie Talk database. If you have not seen this, then I highly suggest that you take a look at it and bookmark it! This summer, Jason Fritze began to create a list of Movie Talks using Google Docs, and then he shared it publicly for others to add additional Movie Talks. The database is sorted by possible target nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so I did a search for the terms mother and father, and I found this absolute gem of a movie short. 

The movie short is called Bear Story, and it recently won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. This Chilean short movie (made with help from Pixar) is incredibly powerful and absolutely emotional yet heartwarming - when I first saw Bear Story, I found myself so vested in the storyline emotionally. Watch it on your own, and see what you think - Link to Bear Story (note - I cannot guarantee how long this link will remain active before it is removed for copyright violations). Katya Paukova says that the best movie shorts are those which appeal to the emotions, because then students will be more engaged in them. Wow, Bear Story definitely had me engaged!  

Anyhow, Bob and I used this movie short today to introduce the words mother, father, and son, as well as some other target words. I am providing two different Movie Talk scripts: one in Latin, and one in English so that it can be adapted to your target language. NOTE - any movie short can be adapted to your own target words/structures if you watch a movie short closely enough.


Movie Talk script English

Observations
  1. Do NOT show the full movie short prior to the Movie Talk. Students will not be as engaged in the Movie Talk if they know the ending! You do not want to spoil the ending.
  2. Many of my students were on the verge of tears as they watched Bear Story.
  3. Due to the massive amount of repetitions and to the emotional engagement, I was surprised by how many of the target words students had acquired in this Movie Talk.
  4. The ending may seem ambiguous to students - the big question which many had was "Did the bear actually return to his family? or did he create his own fantasy ending in his picture box show?" My take: the bear does indeed return to his family. Although the bear is alone in the beginning of the movie short, it appears that his wife and son are not home. Pause it at 1:23, and you will see an imprint of both bears' bodies in the bed, and they are holding hands! Plus at the end of the movie, the father bear smiles, as looks at the picture of his family. Again, this is my take on it. 
  5. Explain the story behind the making of Bear Story to your students after you view it. It makes the animated short all the more powerful. 
I hope that you will be able to use this Movie Talk with your students!

P.S. Quite ironically, Anabelle Allen (who is my current IFLT heroine) today posted in her blog about doing Movie Talks - I highly recommend that you read her post here! I always learn so much from her!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pacing Yourself

With the beginning of the school year already in swing for some and soon to be for others, there is always a sense of excitement for CI/TPRS teachers, both experienced and beginners. I love returning from CI conferences like IFLT and NTPRS, because they are always right before I report back to work (we here in GA usually begin the 1st or 2nd week of August). As a result, my mind is full of ideas, and my enthusiasm and "CI high" have not worn off yet when the school year starts. These conferences energize me to return back to the classroom with a mindset that all students can learn a language both when understandable and compelling messages are delivered, and trust has been established between students and teacher.

From my own experience though, I also know that there will be a honeymoon period where everything I do in my classroom will seem to be going well. Students are somewhat excited to be back, and the novelty of returning back to school has not worn off yet for them (and for me). My attitude is, "Wow, CI is going great! My students love it, and I cannot think of teaching Latin any other way."

And then the honeymoon ends. Students begin to become overwhelmed with work in other classes, and the novelty of school wears off. Enthusiasm among students (and me as the teacher) begins to wane, and it becomes more of an effort to teach using CI, as the "CI high," which I once had, dissipates. Suddenly, I realize that I really have no idea where I am going with CI implementation - essentially I feel like I have hit a wall.

Too many times, I see teachers new to CI start off strongly with CI at the beginning of the school year and then suddenly drop it after a month or so when things become difficult or overwhelming. In their dismissal of CI, they blame the pedagogy methods as the reason and return to their former ways of teaching. So many times, I want to tell them, "Just because things become difficult does not mean that the method itself is the problem. It may have a number of things, such as you trying to take on too much too soon, having an unrealistic expectation of CI as a panacea, lacking collegial and collaborative support, etc." 

Why is that I can say that? Because that scenario is me. When I first began to implement TPRS years ago, I only lasted six weeks and returned back to the textbook. Each year after that, however, I returned to TPRS and lasted a little longer each time. When I fully committed to implementing CI back in the fall of 2013, though I had somewhat of a CI foundation due to TPRS, I slowly began to introduce a number of new strategies and techniques into my regimen.

So what are some ways one can pace themselves with facilitating CI, especially those teachers starting out with CI or experimenting with it?

1) Don't feel like you have to do EVERYTHING right away. When it comes to facilitating CI after a conference like IFLT or NTPRS, I have come to the realization that if I try to implement too many of these new ideas too quickly, then I will burn out or lose focus, because I am trying to take on too much without the proper foundation. For the past few years, I have made a list of CI goals for the school year (see here for 2014-2015's and 2015-2016's goals), and I actually have to laugh at my list for 2016-2017, because of how short it is. In past years, I have listed between 7-11 goals, while for this year, I have only written three. In some ways, some of those past goals have now become part of my teaching routine so I do not need to list them any longer, but honestly, I also now know that it is more realistic to focus on a few in order to do those well.

2) Continue to receive some type of formal CI training, such as at a 2-day Blaine Ray workshop, an area CI meeting such as CI Midwest, or at a summer weeklong conference like IFLT or NTPRS. Although there is nothing wrong with reading CI blogs for ideas and encouragement, solely relying on social media for one's CI knowledge can result in misinterpretation. As I have said before, there is nothing like learning another language via CI, because as a student, you get the chance to experience it firsthand like one of your students. Although I thoroughly enjoy seeing CI demonstrations done in Latin, they are actually limiting for me, because I am simply observing CI in action, not experiencing it firsthand. 

3) Join a TCI support group either in person or online. Many areas have physical TCI groups which meet for support, coaching, and collaboration -  I am trying to organize one for the metro Atlanta area. I love the fact that even in Alaska, a group of CI teachers meet throughout the school year on a Friday evening to share ideas (that group includes Betsy Paskvan, Martina Bex, and Michele Whaley - I need to be a part of that one). If your area does not have a physical TCI group, then create an online group of CI users from across the country through Skype or Google Hangout. 


4) Attend a CI webinar. TPRS Publishing has some great webinars, as does Fluency Fast.

5) Realize that it is okay to "fail" at CI; the real sign of success is how you handle it afterwards. Good CI teachers did not just come out of a box as good CI teachers - they all had their shares of success and of failures. At IFLT this past summer, I loved hearing the lab teachers talk about their first experiences implementing CI/TPRS: when a field trip got cancelled and Donna Tatum-Johns found herself without a lesson plan, she decided to do a TPRS story, saying dismissively "Really how hard can this be?"; Jason Fritze talked about how he thought it would be too easy to introduce just 3 vocabulary words/structures in a TPRS story, so instead he introduced 12 and found out the hard way that 3 is much better! I love stories like those, because they always give me hope - if these CI/TPRS teachers whom I hold in such respect struggled with it in the beginning, then it is okay (and par for the course) to struggle and to fail.

I wish all of you the best of luck as you progress through the school year!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Seeing Your Students

One of the aspects of CI/TPRS which I have loved the most has been creating stories with my students as the main characters. Quite honestly, it has been for selfish reasons, because when I was learning Latin in high school back in the 80's, my textbook had no stories but rather very stilted sentences like "On the island, the farmer carries water to the daughter of the sailor" (which if the sentence were part of a story would actually be rather compelling). For me, using students as characters in a story is what makes the reading interesting and compelling for them. How I wish that my Latin teacher would have made Latin stories about my classmates and me!

From my students' perspective though, I now realize that when I create stories about them, they are not thinking, "Wow, this story is really compelling because we are in it. I am so glad Mr. Toda did that, because now the reading is so much more interesting." No, my students rather are thinking, "Wow, this story is about ME. Mr. Toda actually wrote a story in Latin about ME!"

Bryce Hedstrom, in his "Feeling Like a Citizen" presentation, quotes Matthew Lieberman:
Food, water, and shelter are not the most basic needs...Instead, being socially connected and cared for is paramount… our need for connection is the bedrock upon which the others are built.”  
                                                        - Matthew Lieberman, Social, p. 43
Mother Teresa says it best:
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.
Just recently, my colleague Rachel Ash was writing an article on Comprehensible Input for submission to an online classical journal. When I asked her what she was going to include, Rachel said, "The main three parts of CI - comprehensibility, compelling, and caring." I was a little taken aback by her answer, because although I knew that it was important to deliver comprehensible, compelling messages, I had never heard about the "caring" aspect. Rachel continued, "Caring is what lowers the affective filter for students." I had never thought about it that way, but she is so right. When we as teachers "see" students for who they are and gain their trust, then they feel connected, thus their affective filter (and walls) lowers.

When I first started TPRS years ago, I lasted only 6 weeks before I gave it up and returned back to the textbook due to not knowing what I was doing. I only returned back to TPRS, because students were asking me, "When are you going to tell those stories again about US?" I have come to the realization that personalization of stories is one way to tell students "I see you." In the beginning of the school year, I am very selective of which students I make characters in my story, because I do not want to embarrass anyone or to bring unwanted attention. What I love though is over the course of the year hearing students gradually say, "When am I going to be in one of your stories?" In other words, they want to be part of the community now.

In a CI classroom, there are many ways to personalize the curriculum for students:
  1. Creating stories about students 
  2. Asking students for suggestions as to where the story should go (Asking a Story/TPRS)
  3. Personalized Questions and Answers (PQAs)
  4. Student jobs, such as the light monitor, grammar experts, word counter.
  5. Special Person Interview
  6. Social Emotional Learning
However, there are many other simple ways you can let your students know you "see" them outside of CI/TPRS.
  1. Greet every students by name when they enter the room. This actually sounds so basic, but if you really think about it, I wonder how many students' teachers actually greet them at the door BY NAME (I wonder how many teachers actually greet their students at the door). One's name is so personal to a person. To me, a basic greeting without a name can be blown off, but it is difficult to ignore when someone greets you by name. I always make it a point to stand outside my classroom every period and welcome each student individually with a smile by saying "Good morning/afternoon, _________" in English. I suppose that I should say it in Latin, but greeting them in English is important to me and a non-negotiable. It is even all the more important for me to greet students who have given me "trouble" in class or with whom I have had to talk after class the day before. I need for them to know that I am not mad at them and that I still value them as part of the community. Just recently, I was not able to greet a number of my students, because I had to reply to some emails. A girl who has been rather reserved with both me and the class came to me before the bell rang, saying, "You weren't at the door to say 'Hello' to me this morning." I was absolutely floored, and believe me, I was there the next day to greet her!
  2. Find out your students' interests and talk to them about it. I have a student who loves Pokemon Go. I have a basic idea of the app but have no clue what a Pokemon is (I thought that Snorlax was a nighttime, sleep aid), let alone would I try to catch one. However, at the end of class when there are a few minutes left, this student loves to come to my desk and to talk with me about the new Pokemon Go characters which he has caught, which ones he has yet to get, etc. Why, when he knows that I know nothing about Pokemon and have no real interest in Pokemon Go? Simply put: Because I enjoy listening to him tell me about it. Believe me, I am always asking him questions, and he gladly answers, even though he knows that I do not have a clue what he is talking about. However, because Pokemon Go is important to him, it is important to me, and I want to support him in this. 
  3. Talk WITH your students in class (in the target language or in English). I cannot tell you how many students have told me, "You're the only teacher who talks with us. Most teachers talk AT us." Students want a dialogue in the classroom between them and the teacher. Ask the class about their weekend, if they went to the school football game, who saw a particular movie, etc. Even better, tell them what YOU did over the weekend, what movie you saw, etc. Tell your students a story about yourself from when you were in school. Believe me, it both personalizes and humanizes you as a person in their eyes.
By no means am I an expert on this topic. Check out the following people such as Laurie Clarcq, Bob Patrick, Grant Boulanger, and Bryce Hedstrom who all know so much more about this, and I certainly know that they could state what I just wrote so much more expansively and eloquently.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

EDPuzzle and MovieTalk

The following is taken from my presentation "Technology in the Comprehensible Input Classroom," which I gave this summer at both the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT conference.

I love doing MovieTalk in my classes, and quite honestly, I do not know why it took me so long to implement this CI strategy (actually I do - read my recent blog post about Movie Talks). This past summer at IFLT, I got the chance to observe both Annabelle Allen facilitate a Movie Talk in Spanish, and Katya Paukova demonstrate one in Russian. As I know neither languages well, the Movie Talks kept me engaged in the language acquisition process. 

However, whenever I have done a Movie Talk, although I was able to use the movie itself as a pre-reading activity to teach vocabulary and language structures, I never really did anything with the movie afterwards or implemented any type of formative assessment with students to determine the Movie Talk's efficacy.  

During my graduate courses in Instructional Technology, I learned about EDPuzzle, an online tool which allows students to interact with videos as they view them (N.B. Zaption is no longer around but if you have already created lessons with Zaption, you can import them into EDPuzzle. Click here to find out how). While EDPuzzle is promoted as way to implement a flipped classroom, when I saw this tool, immediately I thought, "I could use this after a Movie Talk! I can actually pause the movie in the same exact places where I had paused during the Movie Talk and now see what students acquired (if anything) as a result."

Below is an example of an EdPuzzle formative assessment which I created for a Movie Talk demo this summer at the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT. Because it was a demo, this Movie Talk only used a 24-second clip, but the target Latin vocabulary words were avis (bird), currit (runs), and cibus (food). As stated earlier, the EDPuzzle video pauses in the same exact place where I had paused the movie during Movie Talk.




Observations
  1. In the beginning, it can take awhile to create your first EdPuzzle video, because there are lots of tools which you can implement - cropping of videos, add both written and audio questions, etc. Like any tool, though, the more one uses it, the easier and quicker it becomes to create an EDPuzzle activity. 
  2. Students like being asked a formative question in an EDPuzzle video at the very same place where you asked a circling question during Movie Talk, because it seems familiar for them. 
  3. BUT there is no need to pause and to ask EVERY single question from a Movie Talk in an EdPuzzle video. Just pick the highlights.
  4. You can either use EDPuzzle as an in-class activity or as a self-paced activity for students to do on their own. 
  5. If your school is a 1:1 school, then EDPuzzle is a great tool. As I teach at a BYOD school, when using EDPuzzle as an in-class activity, I will reserve a class set of laptops for students to use. Although students can do this activity on their smartphones or tablets, as we know, a disparity of technological capabilities exists among devices. I would prefer that all students have the same access for this activity, hence, in my opinion, the need for uniformity among devices. 
  6. Because it is a formative assessment, I am only interested in what students acquired/did not acquire from the Movie Talk, i.e. what words/structures do I still need to target more and to get in more meaningful repetitions? 
  7. In order to preserve the novelty, I do not implement EDPuzzle after every Movie Talk which I do, because I do not want students to resent a Movie Talk if they feel like they have to do some type of assessment afterwards.

Friday, August 12, 2016

My CI Family Tree

A few weeks ago at NTPRS, Michelle Kindt (who by the way is an absolutely wonderful CI teacher, presenter, and coach!) posted the following on Twitter.


As a result, a number of folks began to tweet about their various CI "family trees" and who that special person was who introduced them to CI. I have decided to dedicate this blog post to honor those people who have been vital in my CI journey these past few years:

Bob Patrick - I would consider Bob to be my CI "father" for so many reasons. Bob was the first Latin teacher whom I knew that was involved in CI/TPRS. When I first started teaching Latin in the late 90's, I was all about grammar-translation, as that was how I had been taught Latin, and that was the only methodology which I knew; quite honestly, I did not know that anything else existed for Latin pedagogy. Around the early-mid 2000's, on various online listservs, the idea of active spoken Latin in the classroom began to emerge. Bob was involved in many of these discussions, speaking about the merits of CI/TPRS as a method to implement oral Latin. I was VEHEMENTLY opposed to the idea of any type of spoken Latin in the classroom, because in my opinion, why should Latin be spoken? I certainly had never experienced anything like that, so why should I do it since Latin was only meant to be a "read" language? At this point, I only knew Bob superficially through online exchanges, but soon, he became a Latin teacher in my district (and suddenly I was his children's Latin teacher!). Eventually in 2008, out of curiosity I attended my first 2-day Blaine Ray TPRS workshop in Dallas. When I told Bob that I was planning on attending this workshop, according to him, he was absolutely floored and shocked to hear that I, who was so adamantly opposed to spoken Latin at the time, would even consider this. For the next few years, I dabbled in TPRS but found it difficult to maintain the momentum. In the summer of 2013, I attended three CI workshops led by Bob, and that is where I learned specifically about CI and the various methods of implementation (of which TPRS is just one). In my opinion, that summer is where my CI journey officially began. Fast forward to this past February, where Bob asked me join him as the 5th Latin teacher at his school, and now as a result, I am working alongside Bob and three other CI Latin teachers (Rachel Ash, Miriam Patrick, and Caroline Miklosovic) at Parkview High School, where the Latin enrollment is around 700 students. Yes, I, who was once the biggest opponent of any spoken Latin and CI, am now one of its biggest advocates and am teaching with Bob!   

Although I consider Bob my CI "father," I also realize that it took a village to nurture me in those early days (and current days too). The following are those who were part of that village:

Betsy Paskvan - NTPRS 2014 was the first CI conference which I ever attended. I was the sole Latin teacher in attendance at the conference that year, and I was feeling rather lost, because not only was I "alone," but I still felt like a "newcomer to the CI party." That all changed, however, with my extended session on Day 1 with Betsy Paskvan, who was teaching Japanese. Although I struggled with Japanese in that first hour, I remember how incredibly positive Betsy was during that time and how seamlessly she was implementing CI through various activities so that four hours later, I was actually retelling a story in Japanese on my own and was able to write my own 5-6 sentence story in the language. Because I was learning another language via CI and experiencing it firsthand like a student, due to Betsy, I now knew that CI was the real thing. Whenever I hear that folks are attending NTPRS, I always make it a point to tell them to attend Betsy's Japanese sessions because of how incredible she is!

Laurie Clarcq - Laurie has one of the biggest hearts around and is also one of the positively funniest people too; she is the type of person who does not try to be funny but just is. I could repeatedly hear Laurie's story about "Justin," the student who inspired her to co-develop embedded reading, and still tear up every time. I first only knew of Laurie as one of the developers of embedded reading from an ACTFL session which I had attended in 2013. At NTPRS 2014, she was presenting a session on embedded reading, and as I entered into the room before it began, I passed by her, and upon seeing my nametag, Laurie said to me, "Keith, oh my gosh, can I get permission to include your blog post about embedded reading on my own blog?!" I was absolutely dumbstruck that: 1) although we had never met, Laurie knew who I was; 2) Laurie knew that I, some random Latin teacher, had a blog; and 3) she wanted to reference on her own blog what i had written. I think that I mumbled some type of "sure," but I cannot tell you how so valued and important I felt at that moment (I need to remember this for my own students). I have gotten to know Laurie better professionally at various conferences, and I can honestly say that she always makes me feel like a better person every time we meet. 

Carol Gaab - I feel like I cannot say enough about Carol. If you have ever attended one of Carol's presentations, you know what I am talking about. At NTPRS 2014, Carol's session on reading strategies transformed the way in which I present reading now in my classes. Carol was the first CI "guru" whom I ever heard say, "Circling gets really old really fast;" when I heard that, I wanted to run up to her and to give her a huge hug, because I had always felt that students got bored easily with circling but I thought that I had to stick with it since that was what I had first learned. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I heard her say that. Carol taught me to vary up my questions, because "the brain craves novelty." She demonstrated so many different, engaging reading strategies in the target language which not only included higher order thinking but also presented repetitions of the language in novel ways. I owe so much of my teaching style and CI strategy implementation to Carol.

I am incredibly grateful to these four people and am proud to consider them as part of my CI family tree. Who are the people whom you would consider to be part of yours? Honor them by listing their names in the comment section.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Pre-First Day of School Jitters

Tomorrow is the first day of school for students. I have been back at work for a week now for preplanning - my classroom is all arranged (I have gone deskless this year - expect an upcoming blog post about this in the future), my syllabus and beginning-of-the-school year forms have all been printed and are ready for students, and my lesson plans for this week have been written. I am all set and am now just waiting for students to arrive tomorrow. I have been teaching for almost 20 years, so the 1st day of school routine is pretty much ingrained in me. In spite of all this, I am nervous about tomorrow.

To be fair, I always experience this the Sunday before the first day of school, so this is not a new feeling. Even after almost 20 years, I still worry:
  • what will my students be like?
  • how will they view me?
  • what will each class' chemistry be like?
  • will I do a good job?
  • am I going to have any discipline issues already on the first day?
But at the same time, as I have been doing this for almost 20 years, I also know that once students arrive and I get started, I will be fine. It is the same way I feel before presentations: I am nervous 10 minutes before, but once I begin, I feel completely relaxed.

So I guess that these jitters are all part of being a teacher. I am sure that I will have difficulty getting to sleep tonight, and then once I do get to sleep, I also expect waking up every hour due to fear of sleeping through my alarm. I also know that once I get started tomorrow with students and get back into the zone of teaching, I will say to myself "Why was I so nervous?"

So to all you 1st-year teachers (and even veterans of 25 years), you are not the only one who is nervous about the first day of school!