Second story and preloading vocabulary

Well, as great as my intentions were this week, I failed. And I’ll have to do better in the future.

I think that the first problem was that I picked structures that I couldn’t convey well. We’re starting a unit on relationships in my French III class, so I wanted to talk about people who get along and people who are best friends. Best friends was an okay structure (and I thought they learned it with their previous teacher, my mistake) and about half of the students understood it. But how do you convey to get along? I tried to talk around it, modeling circumlocution, smiling, doing a handshake, but it was to no avail. I clearly need to do a better job with making input comprehensible.

The other problem? I love my French III students with all of my heart and soul. They have great intentions and great hearts, but they need to know every word. When I read Amy Lenord’s newest two posts on perfection, I imagine that she’s been teaching my students Spanish when I’m not around. Here are the two wonderful posts she wrote about perfection in the classroom: One and two 

Even today, I incorporated tweets from French people about their best friends and relationships (now that we’ve talked about the vocab I couldn’t pinpoint during my story) and there was just tons of confusion. “What does that word mean?” “What does that say?” and lots of translating for everyone else.

So count that twice that I failed to pre-load vocabulary and scaffold for my students. Well, good thing that next week is a weeklong break for me to rest, relax, and up my game on pre-loading vocabulary.

What about you? What are your favorite strategies for pre-loading vocabulary? Do you do it with synonyms? Pictures? Gestures? How do you scaffold for student comprehension? I would love feedback!


My first storytelling experience!

Whew. Today was a day of a lot of target language for me. This has me excited about the potential for storytelling in my classroom. Here are my immediate reflections:

  • I’m not very good at answering my own questions … maybe I should script fake answers?
  • Not sure on the best way to have students draw. Should they draw in frames, or on a whole sheet of paper with arrows?
  • Next time, they definitely need coloring supplies. I don’t know why I didn’t get them out today.
  • I need to review a list of cognates. Thinking of them on the spot is hard.
  • Today was a trial run, but I immediately see the need to have structures that are repetitive/new/intriguing for students.
  • How were kids STILL NOT paying attention to this?!

Okay! So the first story I told was with my French III class, who are more likely than not still novice high after two years of grammar-based instruction. We’re on a “Help Me!” unit about going to the doctor, etc. I want students to be able to narrate a story, in this case, what happened to you before you went to the doctor. So, Bob and his friend Jeff (who had no eyes or hair, btw) went to the movies with their friend Sylvestre who was a penguin. They ate tons of White Castle hamburgers, (apparently they sell those at the movie theatre in town?! GROSS!) getting sick, and throwing up, prompting a visit to the hospital. As was the pattern in most of my stories today, someone died.

In both of my novice French I classes, we’re in a “What do you like to do?!” unit. So we told a story about a guy named Pierre who didn’t like to go outside, was lazy, and only did inside activities. Then he met another girl and she loves to go outside! What should they do together?! In both stories, Pierre dies. In one story from being allergic to cats, in another for going outside to an amusement park. When he died in the second class, one of my kids who thinks my class is boring (see my last post) said “This is AWESOME.”

Things I learned from this experience:

  • I need to be clear that suggestions should be given in French
  • These kids, who think that they can’t understand anything spoken to them in French, did REALLY well.
  • Questioning is key. I don’t know what to do when there are lulls in the story, but questioning might fill those.
  • I definitely need to have a better outline in my head/drawn out before we go. It went much better with the second story that I did because I knew what should be coming next.

I’m still amazed by how many students talked to the person next to them, didn’t draw, stopped drawing and started reading, etc. How was telling a story where a guy dies STILL NOT ENGAGING for them? Is this my fault?

The last thing I’m really unsure about is how to stop extraneous talking during the story. It seems that everyone (ESPECIALLY my novices) needed to translate out loud, or say if they like that, or comment on my (terrible) drawing, or talk to their friend right now. How do I stop that? It’s probably my classroom management, working against me, once again.

Today was a scary day, but I didn’t chicken out, and my students seemed to respond well for the most part. This looks like it’s going to be the start of a great journey into storytelling. Plus, when I finalllllllllllllllllllly get my AppleTV for my classroom, I’ll be able to record my stories on an iPad app, so students that weren’t there can hear them fresh the first time, and I’ll be able to reflect and hear myself (bleck) and the things I needed to improve!

Do you have any advice for telling stories in class? What do you like to do for follow-up activities? How do you get those kids to stop commenting on everything, at least in English? I’d love to hear your input or advice … and I’ll be updating you on the storytelling process again soon.

Reasons to TCI: a reflection with resources

Whew. It’s been a rough week. I’ve been sick, and it’s definitely affected the 3/5 days that I was in school this week.

So maybe that’s why I shouldn’t be surprised that in the midst of a writing activity where my novices were giving reasons why they do or do not like to do something, one student used one of the words to tell a friend that my class was boring.

I’m still getting the hang of this teaching business. Last year was my first year, and I struggled with 4 preps. Now, I’m struggling with having a non-communcative based curriculum, and with transitioning to total comprehensible input (TCI) to better learning for my students. For background, I have about 55 novices this year in level one, and approximately half of those students didn’t choose to take my class; they were pushed into it after they were closed out of taking Latin. Many of those students wanted to take Latin because they knew there was no speaking involved.

So, I’ve been apprehensive about going full-out TCI because I don’t want these students to shut down on me. But after that comment, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to engage students every step of the way and I think that this is what will push these students to like what we’re doing. Sure, there will be an initial rebellion because a lot of my students don’t like to pay attention 100% of the time, but I know that it will be worth it and that I can’t back down.

So, last night, on a Friday night, after making myself a giant bowl full of soup, I hunkered down to look up some resources on how to better myself and my students at this whole comprehensible input thing. And I found both refuge and solace in the words and strategies of a respected colleague. I don’t know if I was looking at these articles with new eyes, or a new hunger to try something different, but I want to do ALL of them, all of the time.

Please don’t mind that all of these posts come from the same source:

How to increase your TL use in class:

How to help increase students’ TL use:

After I read those, I decided to dive deeper. I’ve been intrigued by storytelling for a while, but am apprehensive about some of the TPRS methods. So here are some good posts about storytelling:

How to create a story:

Storytelling tips and tricks:

I was also reminded about the need for authentic resources (I’ve been modifying quite a few lately)

Novice authentic resources:

And last, but not least, maybe this student wouldn’t have spoken out if I’d been changing the activities up. It was a Friday after all, the students were probably restless by 7th period.

Keeping kids engaged by changing activities:

So, these articles will be the basis of how I’m changing the way I teach from now on. What inspires you to TCI? What resources do you read to keep yourself encouraged? I’d love to hear your input.’

And a huge shout out to Sara-Elizabeth at for inspiring me after a rough week. :]