Friday, June 26, 2015

Reading Strategies

I have organized all of my posts on reading strategies and have put them onto a separate page. They are arranged by the following: prereading (anything which prepares students for the reading in terms of vocabulary and language structures); reading (the actual act of reading); and post-reading (anything which consolidates the reading for students).
Hope this can be of help to you!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

CI/TPRS Professional Development

Many times, I am asked about what workshops should people attend to learn about CI/TPRS. Below is a list of workshops/conference which I recommend:

A 2-day Blaine Ray TPRS workshop - although one can attend a CI/TPRS presentation at a conference, personally I think to learn truly about CI/TPRS, one needs to attend a 2-day Blaine Ray TPRS workshop. During these two days, you will experience learning another language as a student using CI/TPRS and will learn about TPRS (the basics of Comprehensible Input, circling, asking a story, etc), as well as spend time practicing TPRS, while being coached. In the summer of 2008, I attended a 2-day TPRS workshop led by Blaine Ray himself, where he demonstrated TPRS in German. I was amazed at how much i was comprehending when Blaine was teaching the lesson (and I was not even aware what he was deliberately doing) and how at the end I was able to produce a bit of German based purely on that one lesson from just hearing and interacting with the language. It was at that point I knew that Comprehensible Input worked!

NTPRS - the National TPRS Conference is a weeklong, summer conference dedicated to CI/TPRS. I attended my first NTPRS conference last summer, and it was incredible! You can read my blog post here. In fact, this summer, I will be giving two presentations at NTPRS! 

IFLT - the International Forum on Language Teaching (IFLT) conference is hosted by TPRS Publishing and is much like NTPRS in that it is also dedicated to CI/TPRS. The major difference though is that much of the time is devoted to observing master CI/TPRS teachers actually teaching students, so you will get to see it in action!  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to observe Karen Rowan teach a Spanish class, and it was absolutely amazing. My goal is to attend my first IFLT in the summer of 2016.

TCI Maine, New England and Beyond - This is a 2-day workshop hdedicated to teaching CI/TPRS held in the fall in the New England area.

As I said before, one can learn about CI/TPRS through blogs,Twitter chats, listservs, and videos, but I would recommend experiencing it truly as if you were a student with a language which you do not know. Once you see first hand how it works, you will want to learn more!  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Circling - The Art of Questioning

When folks ask me about how to incorporate CI into their classrooms, the first skill which I say that they should learn is how to circle, because that is a basic CI skill which can go a long ways. Circling allows for students to interact with the language through a series of questions, while at the same time, to hear multiple comprehensible repetitions of the target vocabulary/structures in a meaningful context.

The basics of circling is to ask a formulaic series of questions about a sentence which will result in a scaffolded, limited student output of the language. One begins with a statement (such as "the dog is happy") and then:
  1. restates the sentence as a question, which will result in a YES answer - "is the dog happy?" and then
  2. asks a question about the sentence which has an OR in it - "is the dog happy or sad?" and then
  3. using the above OR question, asks a question which will result in a NO answer - "is the dog sad?"
You can get a lot of mileage out of circling, and it is a great way to get students to interact with the language. There is one problem though. To quote Carol Gaab, "Circling gets REALLY old, REALLY fast for students." 

To quote Carol Gaab once again, "The brain CRAVES novelty," so even in asking questions, one needs to change it up so that it does not get boring. Her advice is to change it up every 4th or 5th question. Based on an example which I learned from Carol last summer at NTPRS, here is a formula which I use for asking questions:
  • 1st and 2nd sentences - basic circling
  • 3rd sentence - basic circling and W questions (who is happy? the dog is what?)
  • 4th sentence- basic circling in English as a comprehension check
  • 5th sentence - either basic circling or W questions AND Personal Question/Answer (PQAs), where I may incorporate basic circling and W questions based on the PQA (do you have a dog? what is the name of your dog?)
  • 6th sentence - I may skip questioning to give a break or do another set of PQAs
  • 7th sentence - repeat any of the above but use your discretion when questioning - students may be tired of it by this point!
Not that questioning can be reduced to a formula, but this definitely allows for variety and keeps things novel (although you as the teacher are being incredibly deliberate in what you are asking and for what you are wanting as a response). The more one uses circling, the easier it becomes. You will also learn how to vary up the questions themselves too, because circling can be very predictable for students once they catch onto the pattern. In fact, when circling, I have to remind myself to be in the moment, because usually I am already thinking three questions ahead!  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wordle Word Cloud

This is a pre-reading activity which I learned from a language arts teacher at my school and then saw Carol Gaab demonstrate at NTPRS last summer.  For this, you will need the Wordle website and a reading which you plan to introduce .

If you are not familiar with Wordle, it is a website which will take a reading passage and then based on word frequency,  it will create a word cloud, showing which words are used more often than others - the bigger the size of the word, the more frequently the word is used. 

This particular activity is something which you will want to do just prior to reading a story for the first time, because students will be predicting what they think the story will be about based on the words which they see. As a result, you as the teacher will have needed to preview any new vocabulary/language structures through other prereading activities.

  1. Cut/paste a 5-6 sentences from the reading onto the Wordle website.
  2. Create a word cloud using Wordle.
  3. Save the image and paste onto a document
  4. Project the word cloud onto the board and based on the words in the word cloud, ask students to predict what they think the story is going to be about. I ask students to create sentences in Latin. This is why students need to know already the vocabulary/language structures in the story.
An example:

  1. Students really do like to predict what they think they the story will be about.
  2. Because students have predicted the plot of the story, they have a more vested interest in what they are reading, as they are mentally comparing their version with the actual story
  3. After reading the story, I have actually had students say, "I like my version so much better than the real one." Many times, I will make a mental note of what they thought the plot to be and will write an alternate version of the story which incorporates their plot for them to read later.