It’s only been one week since the MittenCI conference in Saline, Michigan, but WOW! I have already used so much of what I’ve learned in my classroom!
Here are my BIG takeaways from the conference:
1. SLOW is KEY.
Holy moly, when the amazing Carol Gaab was teaching us Hebrew at the pre-conference, all I wanted was for her to go S-L-O-W! (She was great at that, btw!) I craved the repetition and familiar phrases because I knew what they meant. When she’d add a new word into our working vocabulary, it took me a bunch of repetitions IN CONTEXT to remember what the word meant.
What this means for my classroom: Sometimes teachers (ahem, me, a lot) don’t realize how fast they’re going, and that even if their fastest processors are nodding along and understanding everything, there are always going to be some strugglers who are mentally shutting down when they don’t understand that first sentence. It is SO IMPORTANT to go slow! And repeat! Don’t “ratz” (run in Hebrew – see, I acquired some because Carol went SLOW!) through your lesson! Allow ALL students time to process. And please speak slow, even when you think they know all the words. A bunch of familiar words in the TL slurred together might sound like Greek to students if they’re not slowly articulated.
2. Brain breaks are super important.
Everyone needs a brain break!! Even your AP kids! ESPECIALLY your AP kids! Students have to sit all day long and LISTEN most of the time. That can be incredibly draining, especially when their brain has to be “on” the whole time. Even a 30-second break can help. A quick “stand up, touch your nose, touch your head, touch your feet, okay sit back down!” can do the trick and wake students’ brains back up. Thank you Annabelle Allen for helping me remember this, and for giving me so many ideas on how to do brain breaks in the target language.
What this means for my classroom: I’m going to start implementing brain breaks next year and practicing routines/transitions starting on the first day of school. I might even put a brain breaks poster in the back of the room to 1. remind me to do them and 2. give me a list of the brain breaks we can do. Brain breaks are also a great way to build classroom community – I’m so excited to start them!
3. Intermediate learners are messy – but that’s OKAY.
Kristy Placido‘s session on intermediate learners reminded me how large, messy, and sometimes frustrating the intermediate level can be. ACTFL’s standards for intermediates do NOT say that they should have accurate grammar. They’re expected to make mistakes!
What this means for my classroom: Teachers of intermediates should not mark every grammar mistake wrong on a students’ writing sample. They’ll acquire the grammar when they’re ready and once they’ve been exposed to enough comprehensible input revolving around that grammar point. Don’t worry too much about your intermediate learners’ accuracy because they will get it, given time.
Here are my messy notes from that session!
4. A song/video can contain as much comprehensible input as you want it to.
I was soooooo so so excited for the one and only Señor Wooly‘s session (and my students were excited for me to meet him too!). My biggest takeaway from his session was that you can do whatever you want with a video or song. Really. ANYTHING you want! You can MovieTalk it, use screenshots and pretend there’s not a video (surprise them later!), do a verbal cloze singing activity, create parallel stories, PQA it, use the lyrics, not use the lyrics and just use the video, play games like flyswatter or fishbowl, and so. much. more.
What this means for my classroom: I need to extend my song units. Sometimes I’ll use the last two days before a break to do a Señor Wooly song – that’s not enough time though!! I want to milk the songs for all they are worth, which is a LOT! I want my students to really internalize the language and acquire the structures from the song that I want them to, not just know the tune (no more students singing “Soy guapo, soy muy muy guapo, tengo na na nana y nana na nana”).
5. Students can (and should) learn culture and history in the target language.
Tina Hargeden‘s CALP session was GREAT! CALP stands for Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency and is the language students use academically in other subjects (science, math, history, etc), but not usually in regular conversation. You can get in so much great academic language early on, even in Spanish 1, by talking about the target culture in simple language – only adding a few words at a time. Tina’s example lesson was in French about immigration. She easily taught the word “pays” (country) by pointing to a map and giving asking questions like “Espagne est un pays? Oui. Afrique est un pays? Non! Afrique n’est pas un pays, c’est un continent.” She used simple “Super 7” verbs and lots of cognates to facilitate the discussion of someone at the session’s immigration from Spain to the U.S., and led that discussion into the different waves of immigration to France.
What this means for my classroom: I love teaching culture and history in the TL, but Tina showed me how to start with something personalized in the class (a student’s actual story about moving) and then move to the target information I want to teach (immigration waves to France). I’m so excited to teach more target language culture in class and make it as comprehensible as possible – and PERSONALIZE it to my students!
WOW! That was a lot. This conference really rejuvenated me and fueled me up for the rest of the school year! It taught me new strategies that I actually brought to my classroom this week (thank you Carol for the amazing literacy strategies you shared!). It was great to meet other like-minded teachers and remember that I am not alone in this CI journey. I’m so excited for next year’s conference, and even more excited now for iFLT this summer!
And lastly, here are three more of my favorite pictures from the trip! Meeting THE Señor Wooly, meeting the awesome Sarah Breckley (a.k.a. Feona from Sr. Wooly’s Feo video), and crossing the border to visit Pelee National Park for a few hours with Billy la Bufanda and Gorro!
Happy teaching and STAY INSPIRED!