Stepping Back and Taking Stock

This week has been rough. Very rough. The students are far past comfortable with me and the class – now, they are pushing boundaries and limits to see where the line is drawn. If I’m honest with myself, they’ve gotten away with a bit of chaos. I haven’t been 100% on script with the whole pause, point, and wait for recognition of transgressions before just speaking louder and plowing forward. Nor, have I been great at checking comprehension with my students as we go. Turns out, I’ve lost more than a few along the way and others have just plain checked out (“school is boring and hard!”). So, this week, every class has had “the talk” about how things should be and, if pushed, what class will turn back into – drill and kill with a textbook.

Now, its my turn to admit my 50% hasn’t been all that great either. I thought I had already done this – right around the end of the last nine weeks and beginning of this new nine weeks – but, as it seems, I didn’t think long enough or hard enough.

Having a student stop me today, in the middle of a story, to say, “I’m really confused” really hit home. This was not what I had been reading on all my students’ faces. They seemed interested, engaged, and completely in tune with me – minus the student trying to fix her zipper in the back… she, I knew, wasn’t even on the same planet as the rest of us. Her focus was completely on that broken zipper.

Thus, I’m here, recording for others and my own posterity, some of my thoughts: How can I make my 50% better?

  • I need to let go of the vocabulary lists. I’m trying too hard to get the students to memorize through overuse alone between 10-11 words every five days (we have a block A/B schedule). It is too much for them, too fast. They’ve already given up. I need to find a better way to integrate the themes of a nine weeks throughout the nine weeks.
  • I need to start planning much further ahead – which, I should have been doing all along… I know. I need to find organic ways of integrating the themes – more stories, in class, questioning, thinking aloud, taking a walk as we talk – for students to learn and follow in context. Perhaps, I need to use more presentations or something to support their language learning.
  • I need to use more TPR gesturing and drill those gestures to word comprehension. It works, if I stick to it. Or, rather, if I don’t give in to the students and their laziness.
  • I need to stop and ask students questions more often. I need to rely less on their facial expressions – I’m horrible at reading most students – and more on what they can actually tell me.
  • Write & Discuss is not the best “calm down” and “quiet” tool I use – I need to do far more Dictatio with my students. It works better to calm them down and focus them than Write & Discuss does.
  • I need to utilize more drawing as comprehension, but hold the students accountable for “illustrating” enough for me to be able, without a doubt, know that they are understanding. I have too many students who use drawing as a cop-out. All their pictures look  the same. I don’t know if they get it or not.
  • Finally, I need to review vocabulary more in context instead of as single words. This, I also knew, but somehow forgot. When I’ve given them Quizlet and Gimkit with context/phrases alongside single words, they learn, understand, and remember far more than I realize.

Onto something positive, I have found and now reference fairly often a few new posts by some old and new blogs which, when I use one of these activities, I’m absolutely loving. So far these activities have worked best with my Latin IV students… those who have never done any CI before this year, but so far, are the most eager to play with the language in new and exciting ways. This class gives me hope.

WOWATS & Other Collaborative Storytelling Options by Magister P.

15 Ways to Play with a Story You’ve Told in Class by The Comprehensible Classroom

Weekend Talk: 6 Ways to Mix Up Weekend Chat by Mis Clases Locas


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