Thursday, April 14, 2016

Getting Through The Hard Days

If you read my recent post, So You Use a Textbook...Stop Judging Yourself, you know that I feel strongly that we have to be forgiving of ourselves. We all have rough days in which survival is the goal.   There are those days where there just is not enough coffee, and looking at the day's classes feels insurmountable. In my school, there are no subs for Spanish. So, no teacher =no Spanish class.  On the rough days, I hike up my big girl panties and face the day.

But am I always my best, well-planned, game-face-on self?  NO WAY.

 This time of year, I find myself having more of those days than during the rest of the year, with special events, field trips, you name it interruptions to the schedule.

When I made the switch to teaching for proficiency,  I tossed out my old textbooks and worksheets.(Nuts! I miss them on days like these.) Since I've recently switched over to thematic units, I'm also low on 'stock activities' I can pull from when the going gets tough.  Facing the last couple of months of school, and a bumpy re-entry from spring break,  here are a couple of things I did in class that took little set up or creative energy on my part.(Plus it put more responsibility on the the children!)

5th grade survival class:
  • We're talking about biomes and conservation.  I put up cards that were used in previous lessons that list animals in each biome(picture/TL label) and show a picture of the biome, with its name.   The children made bingo cards with the name of a biome or animal in each square.   To play, I described the biomes and animals, and the children had to identify them to mark the bingo card. (If they were more familiar with the biomes, I would have had them say something about the biome or animal when they read off their cards.) Even though I was feeling off, we still maintained 90+% TL and worked some vocabulary in context of descriptions with photos. In the past, I would have simply shown the picture and had children identify the vocabulary word--now they're having to listen and glean meaning from the description.
6th grade survival class:
  • 6th graders are exploring the essential question "Where does the world live?" Children came in and started class with a silent writing time, describing this photo: 

Afterward, they shared their descriptions with a partner. After reading to a friend, they returned to writing. I asked them to answer the question "QuiĆ©n vive en esta casa?"(Who lives in this house?). The children then wrote some very funny descriptions of the people who live in this house and what they do.  What I did: posted a photo and asked two questions. What the children did: All the work. Something else I could have done is to have the children write three questions they could ask the people who live in this house.   I have also used, in a similar way,  the photographs from The Material World by Peter Menzel, which provides a rich cultural context.

One change I made this year that facilitates activities like these, is explicitly teaching transaction and transition phrases, like--Please pass me....(pencils, markers), I don't understand, Can you help me?  How do you say...?, Can I go to the bathroom, water fountain...? What do you think? What are we doing? My turn? Your turn?

Now, I notice that during something like bingo card preparation, or making a poster about something, the children speak in the TL and the process of setting up the activities becomes an opportunity for them to interact with each other.
Going forward, I'd like to empower the children to take charge of some of these activities, too, especially since they've gotten a sense of working toward proficiency and know it's about TL and communicating in it.  I'd also like to build a cache of meaningful activities so that on rough days, I can grab and go, and feel good about my survival tactics.

Are there days coming up when Banagrams in Spanish are coming out?  Definitely. It's about survival in these last 35 days.(Am I counting?) 

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