What are your goals for the year?

My numero uno goal is to embed culture into every ounce of my lessons: namely, creating cultural readings to get reps of the target vocabulary and using authentic resources whenever possible. When I really began to focus on this throughout the second half of last year, I discovered that not only were my lessons much more enriching, but my students were more engaged in them as well. They like to create stories about imaginary, silly things, but they like to see that they can actually use their growing language skills to learn about the real world. I also want to continue to practice my questioning skills to develop my students’ critical thinking ability.

I want to hear from you! I know you’re reading this, so please do me the great favor of leaving a comment. I’m curious 🙂


9 replies on “A question for my readers

  1. I posted once to your site last year, saying this was my “struggle” class-created stories versus using authentic texts (books, web pages, videos, music, etc.). This continues to be my struggle. My goal is to try to develop one extended lesson that uses authentic materials each trimester. I have 3 different level French classes and 1 Spanish class, so we are talking about 12 lessons over the course of the year. Since our French classes have different cultural areas each trimester (Québec, French-speaking Africa, French-speaking Europe), the authentic texts will be related to those cultural areas. Searching for the materials is time consuming. Right now, these are some of the considerations I have been thinking about in selecting the authentic texts:

    1. How interested will the students be in the topic? Does it relate in some way to what they already know/experience in their lives?

    2. Can I develop activities related to the text which are appropriate to the students’ skill level? (Change the task, not the text).

    3. How difficult will it be to develop some kind of story using the textual information? Or, can I use PQA to personalize the topic so the students will want to comprehend, talk and be engaged?

    That is what I am thinking right now…

    1. Lots to think about!! I am right with you, though–trying to slowly build my repertoire of quality, culturally rich, engaging lessons. What I’ve ended up doing is telling a story with high frequency vocabulary, thinking about those words and figuring out which cultural topic I could talk about with those terms, writing some high-rep readings related to the topic, and then using authentic video and audio clips to fill out the plan. With my low level classes, I don’t usually use authentic readings without editing them or creating several embedded versions to create a scaffolding.

  2. Martina–
    I too want to get more cultural oompf from our lessons. Unfortunately there is not much written in Mvskoke (Creek) that will reach an emergent reader. I am working on taking stories that I know and writing them in an embedded reading (ala-Michele Whaley and Laurie clareq style).

    I have recently been reading Teach Like a Champion by doug LeMov (our book study this year). I found many of his deeper level questions helpful. They built off soliciting more info from the students. One technique I liked of his (the book is less theory and more technique than Marzano) is No Opt Out. This has a student who may have given the wrong answer or no answer an opportunity to hear the answer from someone else and THEN THEY HAVE TO REPEAT the correct answer. This is great for reps of all kinds I think in the TPRS classroom. And though we don’t force output, this is a way of saying that everyone in the community of our classes counts and is recognized as a contributor. I think that is huge!

    We go back in two weeks. I am grateful for your postings. We have a new Spanish teacher beginning this year and I’ve given her your blog site. Have a great year!

    1. I love that NO OPT OUT idea!! I think that when students get an answer wrong, they are often too frazzled to catch the correct answer that is exposed quickly thereafter, so having him/her repeat it would be helpful. Although I wonder…does it make the student feel dumb if s/he has to repeat the answer from another student? How do you manipulate the situation so that doesn’t happen?

  3. Martina,
    First I would like to say that your blog inspires me. Your lessons and story ideas are some of the best I have seen. I find it amazing that our goals for the upcoming year are for the most part exact. I have been working to embed culture in all the class stories and readings that my students do. Unfortunately, that means writing a great deal of our own materials. If only there were an actual curriculum out there for TPRS that helped with this. Well for now, it is nice to know that someone else is working as hard as I am to achieve these goals. Good luck.

    1. The good news is that Carol Gaab is working very hard to write curriculum and curriculum supplements that are culturally rich!! And the teacher’s guides for her novels are incredibly thorough, so novels like Felipe Alou and Esperanza really give you a culturally complete package. But the resources are still very limited and so, here we are 🙂 If you ever write plans and would like to guest post them on here, just let me know!

  4. I think that teaching culture, current events, etc. adds a great deal to the whole experience. It is not enough to merely know words and structures if you want to truly communicate; you have to know what resonates with people. You have to know where they are coming from, what they are struggling with, and what they hope for in the future. Otherwise, we are just “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

    I’d like to hear practical suggestions for implementing these ideas in TPR, in stories, in other CI activities.

    Thanks for the discussion! 🙂

    1. I agree! I often think that we need to re-think what we present to our students as “culture”, because how important is it really that students know about different celebrations that happen around the world versus (like you said) how people live, work, think, etc. I did a weather unit on the Caribbean last year that worked with my students’ weather unit in science classes and, I thought that it was neat because weather really does affect every aspect of our lives. I mean, we live in Alaska so we know weather!

  5. I’m in no way a “master teacher” yet so my goals this year are more basic (survival). I need to streamline my assessments, and grade less “stuff.” I’ve revamped my grading to have weighted categories of speaking, writing, listening, reading, and practice/participation like I know many of the East side schools have been doing. I’m doing this with the hope that I will have more time to plan more wonderful things rather than live a life of punching numbers into Zangle and scrambling around 24/7. That will probably still happen, but I’m trying to be more organized, plan with “big picture” ideas and focus more on the language. I threw up my hands at class story aspect TPRSing last year due to my enormous classes in my shoebox of a room. Kids couldn’t see me or the board, I couldn’t walk around to keep kids engaged, and the mob-sized classes of freshmen were not conducive to direct instruction. I’d love to include more culture as well, but my main goal is ORGANIZATION of the planning and assessment. Any wonderful ideas you have for organizing your resources, planning styles, easy on teacher assessments, weekly teacher routines, would be wonderful to see. I’ve never been an organized person but I’m hoping to make it a habit! A pie-in-the-sky goal is to make a wonderful website like yours where I can get feedback on some of creations and store my resources.

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