Starting off the Year


"Si al comienzo no muestras quién eres, nunca podrás después, cuando quisieres."  "If at first you do not show who you are, you will never be able to afterwards when you want to." From El Conde Lucanor, Cuento XXXV, by Don Juan Manuel (Medieval Castilian writer, 1282-1348). The first week of school is a magical and vitally important time. This is the honeymoon period, those brief few days when it seems like every single one of your students like you, like the class and like each other. Almost every year the honeymoon phase will trick you into thinking you don't [...]


These are the results of Special Person Quiz #2, the second full week of school. This week we interviewed just three students. Since the verb "tiene" (has) had been added there were many more opportunities for questions, answers, comments, clarifications and follow up than with the meager vocabulary student had last week. Students were to write at least 15 sentences with no notes, and I told them  not to hold themselves back. They were to "show what they know" and impress me by writing as many sentences based on what had been shared in class by the three interviewees. Students [...]


We just finished the fifth week of school. This year in my level one Spanish classes I am focusing on "Special Person" interviews. I am not teaching to an overt grammar syllabus. I have not done any units. I have not even told any stories yet. I am focusing on high frequency verbs. We have done a few songs and games, and students are doing free reading both in and outside of class, but the main focus is on personal interviews. The students are the curriculum. And, at least for now, it is working well. Class becomes compelling when it is about them. [...]


I have been grateful to have publisher and author Contee Seely observe my classes two times so far this year. Being watched by someone that literally wrote the book on TPRS (Fluency through TPR Storytelling, with Blaine Ray) could have been an intimidating experience, but Contee is so gracious that he made me feel at ease and this allowed me to teach my plan without feeling self-conscious. He speaks Spanish so he was able to understand everything that was said in each class, and with his wealth of knowledge and experience he was also able to simultaneously see and process [...]


The gains from personal interviews continue to amaze me. In the last six days we have been doing only two activities: establishing procedures and conducting personal interviews. Drilling procedures is crucial for classroom management and the time invested now pays off hugely in the weeks ahead, but the gains really come from the interviews. Student interviews are the definition of compelling input in my book. As we spend more time, students grow in their language ability and just as importantly, they grow in their trust. With that trust comes more and deeper revelations about who they are. Real personalities (versus [...]


In the previous post I showed the latest version of the participation poster. The question now will be how is participation measured.  Many teacher try a daily points system but find it is just too hard to keep up with. They don't always have time after class to mark scores for all students, and by the end of the day don't remember well.So the question becomes "How do you make this system manageable and easy to use?" Here is what I do. I hand out a Participation Grading Scale sheet to every student at the beginning of the period on Monday. Students evaluate their [...]