This post is long overdue! I mean this workshop was in...November of 2017!
Last July, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Martina Bex, and for one day this past November, I trekked out to North Carolina from my home in Welcome, MD to hang out with a person whose blog I would scour for hours and hours on the daily (and still do)...the remarkable and influential Mike Peto—with the added bonus of meeting Brett Chonko.
The workshop was called, My Perfect Year Live Demo. It was full of tons of informative insights, two of which I will share with you (at least to the best of my understanding): OWIs and how "weighing the pig does not mean the pig weighs less."
Disclaimer: To reiterate, these are my “notes” from the information provided as I understood them.
there's a new kid in town
The new "kids" in town are OWIs, also know as one word images. Developed by Ben Slavic, the use of OWIs are a great personalized comprehensible input activity that can lead into building concentrated characters, mini-situations, and possibly full-fledged stories. In his book, A Natural Approach to Stories, co-authored with Tina Hargaden, Ben offers an in-depth approach to his method of creating OWIs or invisibles. In the workshop, Mike demonstrated his way of tackling this fun and versatile activity.
First, it was timed. The creation of the character and the story were to take only 20 minutes—5 minutes on each section. The sections were:
There was an artist who drew up our character, which happened to be a sad sushi roll. Then, after the creation of the character and story, we ended the activity with a write and discuss. During the creation of the story, and definitely during the write and discuss, Mike discussed the importance of using the sweet 16 verbs (which should be posted on your classroom walls) in the write and discuss.
By having the story written down, a lot of other activities are then possible to carry out, such as an oral translation, formative or possible summative assessment, copying the story from the board and then translating (if you're tired), and writing the story from different perspectives (great for verb tense changes) just to name a few.
Brett demonstrated an awesome OWI named Teddy the TP. It was hilarious. Read all about it by visiting the link to Teddy. Brett's archive of invisibles is definitely worth checking out!
the weighing of the pig
Coming from a TPRS background, it is said that one should shelter vocabulary but not grammar. Now, due to Dr. Beniko Mason's story listening technique, sheltering vocabulary may not be that necessary as long as what the teacher is teaching is staying comprehensible to her students. As linked, Judith Dubois (the TPRS Witch) goes into great detail on the criticism of Story Listening with its lack of targeting. I will not reiterate her points here (please read those for yourself), but I will add that I personally have felt more comfortable going the "non-targeted" route in the sense of not holding back vocabulary if I know I can make it comprehensible to my students and that it adds a layer of detail that is compelling. I have to say my interest is peaked with the Story Listening technique, and after watching Dr. Beniko Mason and Tina Hargaden videos, I am gravitating more towards utilizing this style of CI delivery along with my own methods (influenced by Mike Peto) of working with telenovelas.
Overall, it was a great day. Another workshop that delivered new insights and required much processing. Thank you, Mike Peto, for enriching my CI journey. I'm truly grateful.
prepping for a great year!
Oh Anne Matava and Amy Catania, how I love you both! As I’m getting ready for start of the new school year (9 more days, but who’s counting), I’m going through some of the resources that I have on hand to help me not only begin the year strong but ensure great story-asking scenarios— making my job fun and effective and the kids’ job to acquire language stress free! Lower those affective filters, people!
I find that as I’m reading through Amy’s scripts, I am literally laughing out loud. My husband has no idea what’s going on, but when I tell him, he laughs along too. The old lady with the dog on her head (posing as a wig) is great! Anne’s stories are also just as fun. If you are unfamiliar with Anne’s scripts or how to use them effectively, here is a fantastic “how-to” resource from Martina Bex.
What I have been having the most difficulty with is finding a strategy to cover all the topics that I need to cover (based off the Maryland state curriculum and the “¡Qué chévere!” textbook that my school uses). Terry Waltz has a great post that shares some ways to make the pairing of the two work (TPRS + textbook). Martina Bex also shares how you can infuse her curriculum with Realidades and ¡Avancemos!
What tprs is and isn't
Now I know TPRS is meant to be more organic, focused on high frequency structures instead of superfluous vocabulary and stringent grammar exercises. Thematic units also don’t bode well. However, as a new (to the school) teacher and department chair, I need to make sure that I am covering all my bases. And sometimes I fear that I can’t do that with without some major planning and some sort of thematic structure.
In an interview for Startalk, Terry Waltz was asked, “What does a good TPRS teacher do?” Her response was, “…we keep a lot of small balls in the air at the same time. It’s like juggling ping pong balls in a way.” I wholeheartedly believe this! There is so much that TPRS teachers need to do effectively at any given time to make sure enough repetition is provided with 100% comprehensibility. And this takes a lot of planning and practice.
Since I have been out of the game for some time (I taught special ed last year) and have not taught Spanish I for over two years, I need some sound pedagogical support. While I get my TPRS feet wet again, I know that I need some help along the way. And that’s why I love Anne Matava scripts and Amy Catania’s curriculum. Anne’s scripts make it possible to feel comfortable story-asking again, and Amy’s curriculum gives me reassurance that I will be able to cover the curriculum in an enjoyable and novel way. I’m also planning on getting Terry Waltz’s “Circle Up!” cards to practice my circling game.
Although at first seemingly counterintuitive, Amy’s “Cuentos Fantásticos” are designed around vocabulary themes. Be that as it may, she explains that while using TPRS materials in the past that she has “…often wished for a connection between vocabulary themes and the stories.” She goes on to say that giving students this sense of structure provides and important “anchor,” meaning “students see a continuity in their learning.” She later offers reassurance in her introductory comments that with TPRS and “Cuentos Fantásticos” students will be better prepared than ever.
so, what's missing? a key element
The only thing missing is culture. And who does culture better than Martina Bex? While reviewing the ““¡Qué chévere!” textbook, I realized that almost all of the readings about culture were in English (gasp!). It is completely doable and beneficial to teach culture in the target language. This is another reason why textbooks boggle my mind. Why wouldn’t they want culture readings to be in the target language— oh it might be the same reason they focus on memorized dialogues (OK be nice, Arelle!).
So the plan is to have culture, movietalks, and CI games and activities seamlessly dispersed throughout the themes in class. (Speaking of movietalks, have you explored Elena Lopez’s site?!) My goal this year is to give my students a great foundation (inclusive of the sweet 16 verbs) so that in the second semester we can begin to use a telenovela, fingers crossed it will be El Internado.
As you can see, there is A LOT of work to be done and only 9 more days to get in shape!
How do you plan your year?
This past week and a half I was on vacation, hanging out with the cutest and coolest girl ever! It was glorious! It was thrilling! It was relaxing! It was hot, humid, and sometimes rainy, but it didn't matter. I was on vacation in Florida! No twitter. No email. No work...well that's a stretch, I always work—but, I worked less! And now, it's OVER! I've realized that I have exactly 13 more weekdays until my first day of school! OMG!
I'm freaking out!
Guys, I am scared! I have a genuine fear of what is coming this school year. Trying to get myself in order has been incredibly stressful. I'm feeling the heat! This school year I will be teaching Spanish I at a different high school and will also lead the world languages team as their department chair. Since I'm new to the school and teaching Spanish I, I know I need to set up and create a strong foundation for my students. Being the only CI and TPRS teacher at the school makes me feel like I have to prove myself even more! I know what is necessary for language acquisition. I've been teaching this way for 6 years, so what's the problem? Well I'm stuck! How do I make sure my students are where they need to be next year because I've covered all bases? Do I follow Bex's curriculum? Do I follow Jalen Waltman's curriculum (which is more aligned to Spanish textbooks? Do I meld the two together? Do I follow Señor Wooly's curriculum (I mean Billy is so cute!)? Do I use Amy Bachman Catania's resources? Oh, how about using Blaine Ray's "Look I can Talk" curriculum? Or maybe I should use Carol Gaab's, "¡Cuéntame más!" curriculum? Do I *gasp* (I haven't used one in the entire time I have been teaching Spanish) try to follow a textbook and complement it using CI methods and strategies? I don't know what to do! My head is spinning around and around, and it's really slowing me down in terms of preparing myself for the new school year. As I am the only CI and TPRS teacher at the high school, will using these methods and strategies ensure that the kids will be ready to move on to Spanish II? What if I don't cover things I am supposed to cover? What if... What if...What if... I feel like I am in limbo, and I'm not sure how to get moving. What direction do I choose? Being out of the game for a whole year (I taught special ed last year) is really doing a number on me.
the problem with too many choices
All the choices above are really good ones, but now there are so many choices and so many resources that it's hard to pick the "best" one (for me). Do you know about the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz? Here's a TEDtalk about it.
overcoming my fears
Overthinking everything feels like I am dragging my feet in the sand, getting nowhere quick! As it should. I need to trust in my instincts, be flexible, and have courage. I need to believe in myself and sometimes that's hard. But, if I am ever going to fight my fears— and win, it must be done.
what needs to happen?
First and foremost, I need to make a choice. OK. Choice made (I'll blog about it later ;) ).Now that I have finally made the choice, I am exhausted. My mind needs to take a break. So, while not focused on resources and curriculum, I also made the choice to start thinking about my classroom decor, which makes me super happy, and for the most part stress free. My husband and I have set aside a budget and I've started using it on these awesome resources below: