Thursday, July 28, 2016

CI Goals for 2016-2017

Alas, my summer vacation has come to an end. I had a great but very full summer. After a little over 1 1/2 years of grad school, I finally completed my Ed.S degree in Instructional Technology this summer, while also attending and presenting at the ACL Summer Institute and IFLT. One of the best things about attending IFLT (click here for my blog post on it) was that it kickstarted me to thinking about the school year. As I have done before on this blog at the beginning of each school year, here is my list of CI goals for the year. This year's list is short - only three goals:
  1. Personalize the class for students. I have always made stories about students in my classes and elicited their suggestions when asking a story. I have tried my hand at implementing Circling with Balls, facilitating PQAs (Personalized Questions and Answers), and incorporating Social Emotional Learning with success. At the same time, I really have not used the language to learn more about students as my goal - in the past, personalization was just a way to keep things novel and to engage students' interests in class. When students feel like they belong in the class, realize that they are valued, and feel part of the classroom community, they are more likely to be engaged and to want to be there in the classroom. This year, I really want to implement Bryce Hedstrom's Special Person Interview.
  2. Utilize more processing time when asking questions. When observing Anabelle Allen during a lab at IFLT, one of the great strategies which I noticed (and believe me, she did SO MANY wonderful things during that lab which I want to implement) was giving her students time to process their answers whenever she asked questions. After asking a question, Annabelle simply said, "uno, dos, tres," and then students responded. I thought that this was great, because it was a way to level the playing field for all. Normally, when asking a question in class, I do receive a choral response from students, but is it just from the fast-processors? How about the slower-processors who wish to respond but need that extra second or two? Anabelle's strategy is such a simple way to ensure that possibility for all  
  3. Incorporate brain breaks daily. Although I have facilitated brain breaks in my classes, I never have done them on a daily basis. I will usually implement at least 2-3 different activities in a class period, since "the brain CRAVES novelty" - in my mind, switching to a different activity every 15 minutes or so is the same thing as a brain break, right? According to Diana Noonan, one of the IFLT facilitators, it is not the same thing. A brain break is exactly what it sounds like: a break for the brain, but even more, Diana stated that brain breaks allow for the break to "reset" and to store what has been acquired. She also advocated that a brain break be given every minute for the age of the students, e.g., 8-year olds should have a brain break every eight minutes or so. Again, this is something which I saw Anabelle demonstrate with her elementary school aged students, as every ten minutes or so, she gave them a brain break, and she did SO many different kinds: various versions of rock, paper, scissors; and doing a dance to a video. As the class progressed later in the day, Anabelle did a brain break every 5 minutes or so, since the students were getting tired. 
Some resources for brain breaks:
  • Martina Bex - a great writeup about brain breaks
  • Cynthia Hitz - how one can use balloons to give students a choice in brain breaks
  • Michele Whaley - another great writeup with some quotes from Karen Rowan and Carol Gaab
Below is a short video clip of Anabelle Allen teaching elementary school students at IFLT. Thanks to Martina Bex for uploading this to YouTube. In fact, please read her writeup on Anabelle at IFLT.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

IFLT 2016

I have returned from my first IFLT, a CI/TPRS conference sponsored by TPRS Publishing, and wow, what an incredible experience I had. Quite honestly, the words "wow" and "incredible" seem like understatements, because IFLT absolutely blew my mind! Carol Gaab, Teri Weichart, and the planning committee put on a superb conference!

Now I had attended two NTPRS conferences prior to this, so I was a bit unsure about what to expect at IFLT, other than wonderful presentations by master CI practitioners! Although both conferences address teaching world language teachers about CI/TPRS, there are a number of major differences between NTPRS & IFLT: 
  1. NTPRS is held in a hotel, while IFLT is held on a high school campus.
  2. Because of this, NTPRS has more of a "conferencey" feel to it, while IFLT is more casual and intimate.
  3. IFLT is a 4-day conference, while NTPRS is five days. 
  4. IFLT has learning labs, where participants observe master CI teachers actually teaching students using CI, so folks can see it in action. 
  5. NTPRS has language classes where participants can learn other languages just like students via CI and get to experience sequencing/scaffolding of lessons in a language which they do not know first hand.
I can honestly say that one is not better than the other, as both have their differences, but both offer OUTSTANDING experiences for those wanting to learn more about CI/TPRS.

My dear friend Edie, whenever she asks folks to tell her about their vacations or an experience, will ask two simple questions: What was most as expected about _________? What was least as expected about ________? I will follow her lead and use those two questions to guide my reflection (plus Justin Slocum Bailey, who also attended IFLT, and I just asked each other these questions, as he is in town before heading off to NTPRS in Reno, so these answers are still fresh in my mind).

1) What was MOST as expected about IFLT? Hands down - the incredible sessions! Looking over the list of sessions on the program, I knew that it was going to be difficult to choose. Like NTPRS, IFLT was a watering hole for those CI teachers whom I greatly admire, and I got the chance to learn from them!

2) What was LEAST as expected about IFLT? I have two answers for this question.
  • The language labs. To get the chance to observe master CI instructors teaching students in a real-life classroom environment is always great for me, because I learn a new strategy or I see ways in which I can refine what I am already doing; I was excited that I was going to get the chance to see this at IFLT. However, what I was not expecting to witness was the relationships which these teachers had with these students in these labs. The students in these labs were elementary and middle-school age students whose parents had signed them up for it, much like a weeklong summer camp, so these teachers only had 4 days to "work their magic." On day 2, I saw French teacher Donna Tatum-Johns personalize the stories which she was telling in French by involving the students in the class and how much they loved being characters in the story. When in a story where the character was being described as smart and Donna asked the middle school aged girl playing the character if she were smart (as part of circling) and she replied, "No, I am not smart," I saw Donna stop what she was doing, go up to her, place her arms on her shoulders, look her in the eye, and say with a motherly tone, "You are always smart in this class." On the last day, I observed Annabelle Allen's Spanish class for elementary school aged students, and I absolutely teared up seeing her students RUN to her class with absolute joy to see her and how she greeted each student individually with a hug and a kind word. I stayed for two lab periods on that day, because I could not get enough of what she was doing with these kids. At the end of the lab, when Annabelle asked the kids what she did to make the lessons understandable, one of the students replied, "Your voice is happy." 
  • My own knowledge of CI. Yes, I know that I write this blog which is dedicated to implementing Comprehensible Input in the Latin classroom, but quite honestly, for some reason I still view myself as having a novice level user knowledge of CI facilitation. At IFLT, I was serving in the role as an apprentice coach, so I was involved in the coaching aspect of the conference, but quite honestly, prior to arriving, I felt like a fraud going in. I remember thinking going into the conference, "Wow, if the IFLT folks only knew how little I know about CI compared to the rest of these coaches." However, during the week, I cannot tell you how many lengthy one-on-one talks I had with beginner teachers in the Teacher Talk area who had questions about CI implementation, assessing with CI, how to plan a lesson, etc., and I was able to answer their questions. Somehow unbeknownst to me deep inside me I had that experiential knowledge, and that came out of me during these conversations. Maybe it was because I knew exactly where they were in terms of doubts and of concerns. Maybe it was because they just wanted to hear someone say that it was going to be okay. Regardless, I am finally beginning to think, "Wow, maybe I do know some stuff about CI..."  

Anyhow, IFLT was an absolutely incredible experience, and I would recommend it to anyone (in the same way, I would recommend NTPRS to anyone). If you are interested in next year's IFLT, it will be in Denver from July 11-14, 2017. I have already decided that I am going to be there! Hope you will join me!