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:
jam-packed sessions full of valuable information to over 140 participants from all over the US (and even from Switzerland). She was extremely gracious and kind and humorous too (bonus!).
I didn’t want to come off as a creepy stalker so I limited my interactions with her to an introduction and a selfie, which turned out quite wonderful if I do say so myself. I hope that if she ever reads this post, or my blog in general, she will know how influential she has been in regards to my teaching career and making the switch to TPRS® and CI.
So, after my initial, “OMG that’s really her and OMG I’m really here!” moment, I got down to the business of trying to soak up every bit of information that came my way. Since my head is still processing all the information (yes, 5 days later!), I’m going to list 5 main takeaways of information that stood out to me to be essential and relevant when it comes to comprehensible input as I understood it.
Disclaimer: To reiterate, these are my “notes” from the information provided as I understood them.
Ultimately, if you ever have a chance to see Martina Bex at a workshop, Do It! The amount of information, tips and tricks to create impactful CI units, and experience that she encompasses are invaluable. For her to impart such knowledge is a genuine treat. I can say I am well-prepared to continue my CI journey, and I feel pumped about it. No matter where any teacher is on his or her CI journey, there is always something new to learn. I was happy that I walked away with tons of new perspectives.
In a nutshell, I am grateful and blessed that I could attend this workshop. And after two days of cramming my brain full of great information and fresh ideas, it was time to leave. You know there’s just no place like home!
Important Note: The hashtag for the workshop was #CIwizards. Search this hashtag if you want to see what others have posted via twitter.