Ongoing Reflections

25 Aug 2016

I started this teacher reflection blog last school year and now here I am at the beginning of a new school year.  Year 25 for me.  The way the blog evolved over the year had me posting blog entries, rather than adding new reflections to one page.

I prefer that method.  So unless I find another use for this reflections page, my discoveries and ‘aha’ moments will be documented as individual posts.

Bonne Rentrée!  Happy back to school.

11 Nov 2015

I felt that I had conducted a more forced 6th grade class yesterday. Normally I would have felt discouraged, but this time I let that experience guide me to something more creative I could do the next day.  And today was a success.

The new phrase that I had worked in a totally left-brained fashion was : Jimmy sait lire (Jimmy knows HOW to read).

Today, I brought Jimmy, aka Cougar, back up and then picked 3 students to play the roles of the pinguins.  Gave each a prop to represent the kind of book each knows how to read.  And I interacted with Jimmy and the class, going back and forth.  Jimmy seemed much to display much more confidence.  I also got in about 30 reps of ‘il sait _____(an activity)” and that helped.

What was different for me this time, was NOT to let my blah performance impact my identity.  I’ve often done that and then felt wounded.  How I teach is not who I am.

9 Nov 2015

Another observation about teaching.  Today I introduced a new project to the 8th graders.  In doing so, I also shared what we were going to be doing over the next 8-9 weeks.  I mentioned that once they had completed reading the Brandon book, I would replace that on-going HW assignment with a verb worksheet to complete with concomitant Friday quiz.  I explained that we were going to be doing some grammar, but I wasn’t dedicating teaching time to it.  I shared the two reasons they need basic practice in present tense verbs:  to get them ready for high school French and also to prep for National French Exam in March.  I then took the time to reenforce my teaching philosophy, that students like infants need to hear and learn to speak the language before they start learning the grammar rules that underlie the language.   Both are important, but one is more foundational.  I think it’s important to know how I am approaching my career.  And I also stressed that I am always searching for new and better ways to present French. AND that even thought this is my 24th year of teaching French, I am still learning new French vocab every day in my own personal reading, that THAT is how I stay fresh.

5 Nov 2015

Today was the last one for the French 8 presentations.  And the spectrum was wide.  But that is okay, because this methodology of TPRS allows for all students to grow!  James Pearsall spoke with such fluency when he presented the Fedya story and displayed an excellent accent (he’s musical).  Mary Scott who is new to French this year (in the 8th grade class) clearly displayed good prep.  The results of good listening skills were evident.

And then there was L.  She is vacant/gone in her mind half the time and her presentation showed.  It was poor with many gaps. She was missing much vocabulary (has not been acquired!) and her prep was minimal.  Sigh.

4 Nov 2015

Worldchangers Club is giving me access to students I don’t teach.  And as I run into parents, I take the opportunity to share what I am seeing in their child.  I did this with Marcelino’s mom and Allie’s mom.  They are showing a depth that is unusual in 7th graders.   So I am grateful to do this kind of work outside of my French classes.

3 Nov 2015

The one parent-student-teacher conference I was dreading turned out WAY better than I thought.  I was hard-pressed to say anything positive about M.  But I managed to say something neutral to luke-warm TO M and he beamed and felt encouraged.  From there, everything flowed. What surprised me was that his mom brought up the ‘atta-boy’ postcard I had sent home TO M.  I had forgotten.  But she said SHE had been impressed and used the occasion to point out to M how much Madame C must really care.  Whew!

2 Nov 2015

I was so encouraged by one of my student’s successes.  Zach Green struggles because he is not able, yet, to focus in class and he also feels like and plays the ‘rube’ of the class. So today when I called on him to present his French story with clip art, I wasn’t expecting much.  But he surprised me.  He started the story and looked to me for assurance and some works (asking in French – “Comment dit-on X en français?”  And he made it through the ENTIRE story without giving up.  He endured! And I was so proud of him!  I pointed out to the class how well he did and they agreed.  I wrote his Dad the next day.  This was a highlight!

20 Oct 2015

We had a ‘vertical’ meeting, that is all the WL teachers across the grades met.  We shared and brainstormed and stimulated one another by talking about assessments.  We had to write on the board in pairs and then discuss with each other what current evaluation tools we were using and then sort them into:

  • presentational
  • interpersonal
  • interpretive

I find that my FIRST reaction when I get around other language teachers is to FEEL that I am not nearly as creative as they and I start to feel bad.  I recognize that as an old ‘fixed mindset’ pattern.  So what I did to counteract that was to issue myself a ‘baby-step’ challenge.  It went like this:

  • Maria, pick ONE activity that you could adapt and implement in your classes this fall.  Drop the comparisons and cull the ideas for some treasures.

So with that idea, I immediately gravitated toward Whitney’s tool of creating a cartoon panel story and having the students come out in to the hall way one at a time and recount a story in the target language.  They obviously would make use of structures and vocab we had been working on in previous weeks.  Can assess on comprehensibility to listener (me); sufficiency and quantity of language; richness and diversity of language.

I’m thinking I’ll do that in 8th grade French after they do my planned presentational assessment on the Fedya story.

The other idea that might be fun is to have kids create and film a movie trailer for a book we read or story we create.  I’ll have to think about that!

19 Oct 2015

I was very pleased how my 7th grade activity went.  I wanted to start a review for an oral presentation the students are doing for Thursday.  They will draw names of one major character and one minor character from the 6 chapters we have read so far in the Brandon novelette.  So I had them write in their cahiers 5 facts in French about the story.  These were to be from what they had within them, using their knowledge of the story and their French.

Then I put on the board in French:

Who  Where   the Problem      Actions/events

Then as they read a sentence, I reformatted it in correct French under the correct heading.  I stressed the talking AROUND skill – that is, using French you know to explain something you don’t know.  If you can’t say:  The dog barks, then say rather….the dog makes a lot of noise.

I shared with them Wes’ experience as a first year law student, where he has NOTHING to turn in during the semester and just one exam at the end, in December and his entire grade for each course is dependent on the one exam in each course.  The point is, a lot of work is study and prep.  And hence, I’m getting them ready to move onward in their scholastic journey by having to do prep work that they don’t turn in for this presentation.

15 Oct 2015

Back to the classroom after the 8th grade class trip where we were gone for 3 days.  I was so heartened by my 5th-graders response as they walked in to music playing and my smiling face at the door greeting them. Several said they missed me!  I do love these kids and hope many sign up for French next year so that I get to ‘keep’ them for 3 years.

9 Oct 2015

3 of the 5 trios in 8th grade presented today.   This project was new for me – it included a story book to turn in and then a narrated live version for the class.  In walking through a project with the students and seeing the final results,  I always learn how to improve my instructions to them.  I assumed they would know that they would not be reading any script to act out the story.  Next time, I need to make that clear.  Even though I said explicitly that they were to have a narrator and then 2 people act out the story to include speaking lines, one group did not have a narrator role.    Two students were absent yesterday and that hurt the final prep of those groups.  I need to have them establish a way they can contact each other if that happens (text each other; need to exchange numbers).  One group was actually handicapped by the ‘smart’ guy’s need to use complicated French and create a script 3 times longer than feasible.   Their performance was poor because of that.  SIMPLE is best and I need to stress that more.

8 Oct 2015

Being a MS teacher means we have to adjust to the changing reality of weekly life and conflict.  I have scheduled a French 8 project where the students work in groups of 3 to create a scenario about a character with demanding parents who enforce one main rule.  And the character has to try to get around the onerous rule 3 different ways, with the 3rd being ‘the charm’. The project requires both a little booklet and an acting out.  I scheduled time in class and let them know that GL as well as HW time (only assignment week 2 of the project). Well the 8th grade musical has taken away the GL time this week, so I had to divert 2 class periods (that I had previously planned for other activities) to the project.  Pas de problème!  You learn to roll with reality.

6 Oct 2015 –

Zut!  Rats – I had written 4 reflections since 22 Sep….and I don’t see them!  The Tech Demons have struck.

22 September 2015

  • I had prepared some crazy mixed up fun sentences based on the input from the class about each students. I gave the sheet to them to translate out loud with a partner, in prep for tomorrow’s oral quiz.   I could hear the chuckles as they went along and that was gratifying.  Everyone likes to be mentioned and feel important.  Then we went over each by translating out loud chorally and those who had missed some of the meaning got the jokes.  Nice way to finish the class.

21 September 2015

  • For a Monday, a rich class in 8th grade French and that was 1st period, too!  I didn’t let their tired expressions or body language bother me.
  • Fifth graders came in and we continued with developing what we know about Dumbo and moved on to  Snoopy.  I’m finding that lots of questions and repetition and candy rewards is paying off!  Both classes are delightful!

18 September 2015

  • Had planned my first Kindergarden day where I bring in milk and cookies and talk through/read through/dialogue about aa children’s book in French.  I did this with the 7th graders and then the 6th graders.  The book was Pete the Cat and his buttons.  I had ordered the French version from Amazon in Canada.  The activity went VERY well, partly because of the milk and cookies and it was a welcome surprise.  But I got the 6th graders to intone with me the refrains in French that ‘Pat le Chat’ says.  Seventh graders are a little too cool to show their excitement.  Overall, a good activity for an occasional Friday.  And I had some cookies left over, so when the 8th graders came in and I had noticed that EVERYONE of the 15 had turned in their week’s HW on time, I distributed ‘un biscuit’ to them as well.  Happy students!

16 September 2015

  • Reading over the self-evaluations I had all my classes do yesterday.  One 6th grader definitely feels that I am ‘babying’ the class in the way I treat them and he feels insulted and that is hindering his learning.  What’s curious is that this boy is the ‘baby’ of the 6th grade, very immature.  I’ll have to talk with him and get some clarification about what turns him off that I do.  Then maybe I can share with him my reasons. After all, they ARE ‘babes’  in the way they are learning!
  • Did speak to this young boy after class.  I had explained to the entire group the WHY of my methodology, that I teach adults the same way!  So I asked him what he meant.  He said he didn’t want to be made to look stupid in front of his classmates and that he felt insulted by the activities.  I asked him to give me a specific example.  He brought up a numbers video clip I showed the class last year in Fifth grade!!!!  I asked him how that singled him out.  He couldn’t respond.  We left it at this: that he is to let me know when I do something that draws specific attention to him that makes him feel ridiculed.

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