Kindness + Love = Annabelle Allen

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One of my many amazing highlights from iFLT was the opportunity to observe Annabelle Allen teaching Spanish to elementary/primary students. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t observe her until Thursday morning and then just for the 75 minutes before our scheduled coaching cohort session. I am incredibly grateful that Anne insisted I observe Annabelle. Her actual words were: ”OMG, you have to observe Annabelle Allen! She is AMAZING!” Anne was not exaggerating one teensy, tiny bit!

While I was only in her classroom for just over an hour that Thursday, it made a enormous impact on me. I will always remember the feelings of awe as I reluctantly walked out of her room, determined to return again the following day for the entire morning, which I did. Watching Annabelle interacting with her students was transformational. I will attempt in this post to explain how and why her teaching impacted on me so deeply.

As mentioned in my first iFLT post, when coaching, the two main areas of focus are
1. comprehensibility and
2. connecting with students.
In Annabelle’s classroom, the two are so tightly intertwined that at times it became difficult to separate them. The importance she places on building community is phenomenal. It starts the minute they walk through the door and continues until she bids them goodbye with love. Her care and affection for each and every one of her students is demonstrated consistently and genuinely.

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Thursday was her 3rd morning with her students and by then she’d had around 5 hours with them. Her 20 students were a mixture of ages, ranging from year 3-5 (Australian year levels) and interestingly included 4 students who were totally new to Spanish and CI methodology. The identity of the 4 newbies was kept secret until the final debrief session and by that time, observers were totally surprised when their names were revealed! Her student group also covered the typical spectrum of student behaviours and it was so touching watching her developing rapport with the students from each end of this continuum.

The room was set up with student chairs in a horseshoe facing a large projector screen. Behind the student’s row of chairs were about 5 rows of larger chairs for the observers.

It was great idea providing observers the opportunity to chat with Annabelle prior to her students arriving during the 20 minute ‘Lab Planning’ session each morning. She happily answered questions about her teaching style and lesson content while setting up for the upcoming lesson. She seemed exhausted yet answered a variety of questions about brain breaks, classroom management and lesson content positively and enthusiastically. Her observers received identical amounts of love and respect as given to her students.

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Just before her students arrived, Annabelle requested that all observers be absolutely silent during the lesson to prevent distracting her students. It was incredible watching students so highly engaged and in the flow to the point that they were entirely oblivious of the rows and rows of observers directly behind them. Towards the end of one of her lessons, a person entered noisily and then laughed and clapped loudly along with her students. I was amazed at how this interfered with the flow and focus. It distracted everyone in the room, most noticeably her students. Yet, Annabelle continued teaching, giving no indication at all that this behaviour was disrespectful and disruptive. She is an incredibly kind and generous person.

Amongst the students in her class were 4 boys, all very good friends. They enjoyed sitting together and often distracted each other either with side comments, goofy actions or blurting. It was wonderful watching how she managed them without them even realising they were being targeted. During the first lesson I observed, Annabelle separated the students just as the lesson began by asking all students to stand up and organise themselves into a line according to their shirt colour (from dark to light) and then to sit back down in that new order. The previous day, Anne told me, she asked the class to order themselves in height order. She then told the class to sit down on the chairs in that order. How clever is that to separate students unobtrusively! Then if a couple of more tweaks became necessary, she would ask students to swap seats with someone else; but the clever thing about this is that the class had no idea who was being targeted because she moved both quiet and noisy students equally and the first student moved was never one of the students who needed to be moved! It was genius.

 

Her behaviour management was a very impressive aspect of her lessons. Considering that she was still getting to know her students and amongst them were students who needed considerably more scaffolding, as well as a couple of irrepressible ones, Annabelle remained positive the entire time. Students were never singled out publicly, instead the class as a whole was reminded with a gentle pointing to the rule being addressed. When an individual student did not respond to the gentle whole class reminders, a subtle whispered conversation in their ear kindly and successfully helped them rein in any unhelpful behaviours.

On the walls were variety of posters that helped with classroom management. The most important one stated clearly her 3 rules:

  1. Respect – you, me, everyone
  2. Spanish, Spanish, Spanish – no English
  3. Participation

She referred to these constantly, especially when students blurted in English. I loved how she reminded students that the teacher is the only person who can speak English in Spanish class; everyone else speaks Spanish.

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Another useful ‘poster’ on her wall was actually a list of percentages written up on her white board with 100% at the top down to 10% at the bottom. This ties in with both rule number 3 and her point system. In each lesson, students have to work together to reach 200 points and the main way they can earn points is when all students demonstrate 100% participation. If only a couple of students responded to a question, Annabelle pointed to the 30% and reminded them that she only gives points when there is 100% participation!

Other posters included large sheets of important vocabulary to help students stay in Spanish. These posters included one for target structures, one for out-of-bounds yet important vocabulary that had come up in class, a hundred chart, a selection of rejoinders, useful adjectives, circumlocution suggestions, colours and the inevitable question word posters. Up also amongst the posters were 8 individual rejoinder posters. They had a large emoji in the middle and underneath the Spanish phrase to represent it. She also had doubles of these posters on her desk which she handed out to individual students who demonstrated a good understanding of and/or a connection to a phrase. This then became their personal rejoinder poster for holding up whenever they felt it was appropriate during the lesson. Not only did this help build a connection with the student because as soon as they held up the poster, Annabelle looked them in the eye and smiled warmly at them, but it also is an invaluable tool for comprehensibility and SLOW.

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Everything that happened in Annabelle’s lessons centred on student relationships and comprehension. Right from the beginning when students first arrive into class. Music was playing in the background while Annabelle greeted them each at the door speaking in either Spanish or English incorporating a mixture of language covered in class and cognates.

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I also really love that she shares with students her unicorn obsession. It added a sense of light hearted quirkiness blended tightly together with non judgemental trust. Unicorns were embedded into lessons in a variety of ways. Her ‘happy unicorn sparkles’ are in a large plastic shaker container and brilliantly support student actors kindly as needed. If student actors needed a gentle prod (a reminder to freeze, to offer the actor another opportunity to enact a scenario or to rewind the acting) Annabelle sprinkles the glitter over their head while giving the instruction. (Luckily for Spanish teachers, there are so many cognates to assist with this.) On FridayAnnabelle blamed unicorn pee for changing the colour of her hair! I loved how she also asked one of the very quiet students if that was why her hair was also the same colour as Annabelle’s! Relationships, connections, rapport in spades!

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Another important way in which Annabelle developed a close sense of community was the way in which she picked her battles in regards to the ongoing blurting in English by a few of her students. She explained during one of the lesson debrief sessions held after the students had left that day, that she accepted a lot more blurting at the beginning of the school year because the main focus in the beginning is building and consolidating student relationships. Thus at this point, instead of saying anything directly to the students who were blurting, she largely either ignored it and spoke over it or restated it in Spanish. This was then followed by enthusiastically acknowledging a student who responded in Spanish with joy and positive reinforcement! Annabelle had a number of students who were so engaged in the lesson, their enthusiasm to participate constantly resulted in blurting. It was fascinating having an opportunity to watch individual students blurting from an observers perspective. As a teacher, I find blurting frustrating yet was fascinated that Annabelle did not once shut a particular student down by rebuking him for his enthusiastic contributions in English. I could clearly see that this student was literally on the edge of his seat he was so engaged and so desperately wanted to contribute that he didn’t take the time to think about how to say it in Spanish. Later when Annabelle revealed that he was one of the 4 beginner students, it all became clear! Not only was he madly processing Spanish (and doing an amazing job) but he was also grappling with fitting into the established pecking order. The big ‘aha moment’ I got from this is that I need to assess the value of rebuking students in class for disrupting the flow. It now seems to me that a public reproach not only interrupts the language flow, but is also detrimental to student self-esteem and thus destroys the important sense of community being created!

If you ever get the opportunity to observe Annabelle, I highly recommend you jump in with both feet. I guarantee you’ll be inspired by her love and kindness.

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Sound Effects Theatre

Today I tried one of the many idea’s I’ve read about on Keith Toda’s blog that I’d really love to share because it was so successful and so engaging.

Firstly I asked the class to ‘cari teman’ (find a partner/friend) and then gave each pair a copy of the current class created story. Here is the class co-created story that I used with the year 3/4 class in the video below:

Anak Nakal di Kelas 3/4 Turley

Kelas 3/4 ke Bahasa Indonesia.
Ada satu laki-laki di kelas 3/4.
Nama laki-laki Bob.
Bob nakal.
Bu Cathy berkata, “Kelas 3/4 duduk.”
Kelas 3/4 pandai dengar dan duduk.
Bob nakal. Bob tidak duduk. Bob berdansa chicken dance.
Bu Cathy heran.
Bu Cathy berkata, “Astaga!” dan menangis.

 Bu Cathy berkata, “Kelas 3/4 ambil kertas dan melipat.”
Kelas 3/4 pandai. Kelas 3/4 duduk dan ambil kertas dan melipat.
Bob nakal.
Bob tidak ambil kertas dan melipat.
Bob ambil bola dan melempar ke Bu Cathy.
Bu Cathy heran.
Bu Cathy berkata, “Astaga!” dan menangis.

Bu Cathy berkata, “Kelas 3/4 diam dan dengar Bu Cathy.”
Kelas pandai. Kelas diam dan dengar Bu Cathy.
Bob nakal.
Bob tidak diam. Bob tidak dengar Bu Cathy.
Bob berdiri di kursi dan menyanyi, “Let it Go!”
Bu Cathy heran.
Bu Cathy berkata, “Astaga!” dan menangis.

Bu Turley ke kelas Bahasa Indonesia.
Bu Turley lihat Bu Cathy menangis!
Bu Turley lihat kelas duduk dan diam.
Bu Turley lihat Bob berdiri di kursi dan menyanyi,“Let it Go!”
Bu Turley heran!
Bu Turley berkata, “Astaga! Bob nakal. Ayo Bob!
Bu Turley ambil noodle.
Bu Turley pukul Bob lima kali!

 Kelas menghitung satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima bersama-sama!

With their partner, they read through the story and together agreed on a word that they both felt comfortable doing a sound effect and or an O.T.T. short, 3 second action. I next asked the pairs to ‘duduk di lingkaran’ (sit in a circle) and I went around the circle inviting each pair to tell us the word they had chosen and the action/gesture they had planned to do. This worked out well for several reasons. Firstly it gave me a heads-up on the words I would need to pause after (to allow the pair to do their sound effect/action) and to my amazement, there was only one double up on a word, which actually was not a problem! Just seemed to ramp it up even further!! Secondly it gave me an opportunity to coach the pairs if their sound effect/action was either inappropriate or based on an incorrect understanding of the meaning. The words chosen by this class were Bob, menangis, berdansa, menyanyi, pukul, nakal, Astaga, kelas 3/4 and Bu Cathy; all terrific words.

The variety of sound effects was brilliant. The ‘berdansa’ (dance) pair jumped up and each danced through the circle, one waltzed alone and the other disco danced. The ‘menangis’ (cry) pair jumped up and cried loudly. The ‘duduk’ (sit) pair jumped up and then flopped down crossed legged. The diam (quiet) pair stood up and loudly shushed. The Astaga (OMG) team jumped up with hands on cheeks loudly saying Astaga! The Bu Cathy pair, jumped up together, grabbed my arm and swung me around in a circle  This one was hilarious because it was obvious at one point during the retelling of the story that I became quite dizzy!

I began by reading the story out aloud, pausing after each of the selected words to allow time for each pair to jump up and do their sound effect.

It went brilliantly and I can’t recommend this activity enough. It was so much fun and we all just laughed and laughed.

For the first time doing this activity, it worked very well having the students in pairs, because this gave the quieter students a greater level of confidence in performing in front of their peers. With all the classes, this activity was equally popular and I had one class pleading to do it again even though there were just 10 minutes left in the lesson!

Upon reflection, there are several ways in which this could be modified further to both increase it’s value to language learning and also to increase the engagement (is that even possible??). Next time I will give students the option to work in pairs or individually and I will also request that students say their word before doing the sound effect.

This game is a perfect activity for the end of the term when we are all tired and it is also perfect because it requires little more preparation than providing students with a copy of the story.

Here is just a tiny snippet of one of the lessons to give you an idea of how it ran:

Observing Ibu Anne’s Circus

I am here in Victoria this Easter enjoying a well earned break with Ibu Anne. Today was the last day of term here (SA has 2 more weeks) and I’ve taken heaps of notes while observing her lessons. If ever you are in Victoria and want to see TCI in a junior primary setting, I highly recommend a visit to her school. Her students impressed me constantly with their confident comprehension of Indonesian and at times it was hard to believe that her students are Prep’s – Year 3!

Here are my notes for each year level:

Prep Classes:-

With her Prep classes, Anne is trialling a system whereby each step of her lesson is prompted via a powerpoint page. I really liked how this worked. The first page incorporates an app Anne has discovered that allows you to add voice to a photo of a dog. Anne began her Prep classes with either a photo of her dog Kasper or a student’s dog singing her welcome song! The classes absolutely loved singing along with the dogs!

The second page was calling the roll and with this year level, Anne simply encouraged them to answer with ‘ada’ & ‘tidak ada’ (here/not here).  No wonder the students at her school have acquired ‘ada/ tidak ada’ so solidly! She calls the roll using class dojo, marking the absences immediately and at the end, asks, “Berapa tidak ada?” (how many students are away?) which provided her with an excellent opportunity for students to count together with her!!

After the roll, Anne turned off the smart board to focus on the retelling the harimau (tiger) & Elsa story. She began this with ‘mata-mata’ (spy), using the 2 pandai (clever) students (1 laki-laki/boy & 1 perempuan/girl) selected during the previous lesson and invited them out to the front with her to choose two new pandai students while Ibu Anne revisited all the structures from the current story. I love using ‘mata-mata’ with preliterate students as it is a terrific brain break on one hand and a useful way to observe & assess levels of acquisition. Once or twice I have assumed a class was familiar with a structure only to discover during mata-mata, they definitely hadn’t!

After mata-mata, Anne then used colourful magnetic pictures attached to the smart board to retell the story, Elsa dan Harimau that the students found highly engaging. I don’t think we utilise puppetry enough anymore! It is novel for youngsters today! She then retold the story using the magnetic pictures, encouraging the students to gesture and speak with her.  fullsizeoutput_141c.jpegNext, Ibu Anne asked for two actors to come out and help her retell the story once more. The tiger mask was a huge hit and enabled her to have several pairs act out the story, one after the other! I love the “Aduh” (Oh no!) at the end of the story because it allow the entire class to join in the finale. Ibu Anne finished by showing her video of this story on her Youtube channel which again was the same story presented slightly differently which maintained student interest! Wow – how many reps of the story did Ibu Anne manage? Amazing.

As the class had been sitting for quite a while by this time, Ibu Anne did the following brain break: she played a familiar Indonesian children’s song and asked the students to walk around the room while it played.  When the music stopped, she asked her students to freeze and listen to her say one of the following words from the story: harimau, pohon or rumah. If she said rumah (house), students had to stand and make a triangle roof over their heads with their arms, if Anne said harimau (tiger), they had to drop to their hands and knees and if she said pohon (tree), they had to stand up tall with their arms out, hanging like branches. I really enjoyed the added bonus of having an Indonesian song incorporated into this brain break because it allowed a break between the actions!

The target structure Anne revisited next with her Prep classes was “Ada apa?” (What is there?) She had a calico bag full of  objects (all cognates). She pulled each one out, one by one, stating ada truk (there is a truck), ada burger (there is a burger), ada es krim(there is an ice cream) etc, before setting each down on a table where the students could see the display. Each item provided a perfect opportunity for reps of ‘ada’ (there is)! Once the bag was empty, the class and Ibu Anne counted the total number of props together – altogether there were 15. Ibu Anne then put the items back in the bag and asked the class again, “Ada apa?” to see if they could remember them all.  Each time, a student correctly remembered an item, she drew a picture of their answer up on the board, circling each while incorporating ‘ada’, counting the total after each correct suggestion. The students thoroughly enjoyed counting the drawings together.

Ibu Anne then handed out a worksheet with pictures of a variety of cognates and students had to listen and circle only the ones that Ibu Anne pulled out of the bag. Students then coloured all the pictures that were circled. Ibu Anne recommends using pulling out exactly the same objects for each class to make marking easier.IMG_6075.JPG

Kelas 1

All year one classes are held in the Indonesian room. Class teachers bring their students to the room where Ibu Anne greets each student as they enter her room. Students then walk to the front of the room and sit quietly waiting for her to finish. Ibu Anne follows the last student into the room and with this class, she picked up her ukulele and began playing it. This immediately and beautifully focused the students however as the ukulele was out of tune, Ibu Anne quickly and surreptitiously tried to tune it but the students collapsed about with laughter. Even to their ears, the ukulele sounded strange. Once tuned, the ‘duduk diam dengar’ (sit down, be quiet, listen) song sounded gorgeous on the ukulele. It was a highly compelling way to begin a class.

Roll
I loved how Ibu Anne sings the Selamat siang song (see kelas 2 observations for details) with her older students. It begins with the usual Selamat siang, Apa kabar, baik, baik saja, lumayan, kurang baik and then included lapar sekali, sedih sekali, marah sekali. The success of this song was evident during the roll call as many students used this language.

After mata mata, Ibu Anne worked on the song, Aku Seorang Kapiten, for an upcoming competition for Victorian students. This competition isn’t compulsory for her students, but hopefully many will bravely try out and blow everyone away with their proficiency. I can’t remember what else students have to do, but if you are interested in learning more about it, ask on one of the Facebook pages!

Kursi luar biasa
Ibu Anne has created a Kursi Luar Biasa powerpoint for each year level, each one building on the language they have acquired from the previous year level. All slides provide many opportunities for the student being interviewed to shine. Students can either tell the truth when answering questions such as:
Tinggal dimana? (Where do you live?)
suka makan apa? (What do you like to eat?)
Mau apa? (What do you want?)
Siapa nama? (What is your name?)
Apa kabar? (How are you feeling?)
Punya binatang apa? (What animals {pets} do you own?)
On each page, Anne has pictures that incorporate everything a student of that age would relate to. I learned about LOL dolls, magnetic slime, 3D pens just to name a few! Also on the pages were a few quirky pictures to keep it compelling.

Brainbreak
This year level also enjoyed writing their names with their right and left hand, left/right siku (elbow), hidung (nose) & (pusar) belly button. Lots of laughter.

StoryTelling
Ibu Anne showed a PowerPoint that she had made called, “Buaya Suka Makan Donut” (The Crocodile Likes to Eat Donuts). The ingenious part of this powerpoint were the video clips embedded into each page of the naughty buaya snatching donuts from various staff members including the principal.  The students loved watching the expressions on the faces of the principal & their teachers and requested watching it again and again! I highly recommend copying her idea!!

Assessment
Anne had planned an assessment task based on this great story, but with a school wide subway lunch delivery, the class had to return to their room early. This is the task Ibu Anne had planned to do: Anne had drawn up a grid and in each box was a different pic from the Buaya (crocodile) story. Students would need to look at each one of the pics which were in no order. To demonstrate that students could retell the story in the correct order, they needed to write a number in the box by each drawing. IMG_6227.jpg

Kelas 2:-
Anne began her lesson with the Selamat Siang song that included panas sekali, capai sekali, dingin sekali, marah sekali, sakit sekali before finishing with sampai jumpa.

Here is the song – (sing to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Selamat siang
Apa Kabar
baik baik saja
lumayan
kurang baik
senang sekali
marah sekali
sakit sekali
dingin sekali
panas sekali
terima kasih/sampai jumpa

English translation: 
Good day
How are you?
Just fine
ok
not so good
very happy
very cross
very unwell/sick
very hot
thank you/goodbye

Then when Anne called the roll, the students confidently answered with a variety of answers fluently. When discovering that a student was absent, she would ask the class, “kenapa?” (Why?) If students said, family holiday, she would ask, “Liburan?” (Holiday?) If they again answered “Yes/Ya”, she would walk over to the dimana poster and point and pause before asking ‘Di mana?” (Where?) I loved this as it provided the perfect opportunity to get reps on ‘dimana’ as well as saying the names of various countries in Indonesian. It was interesting to hear the number of students who were currently holidaying in India, Queensland, Malaysia and Japan. Totally represents the multicultural population at Annes school!

Mata-Mata
It was great to see Sharon’s ‘mata-mata’ happening in Victoria slightly differently to the way Sharon and I do it (and we both do it slightly differently as well!) My students enjoy mata-mata (spy – along the lines of the Indonesian police) and it was great to see a way to keep doing it yet with a twist. Anne uses the 2 winners from the previous lesson to be the next mata-mata; a boy and a girl. The girl must choose a boy and the boy must choose a girl. I am definitely going to incorporate this into my next lesson plan. Currently my students choose their friends which are generally the same gender – so this idea would encourage them be more selective! I also loved the way Anne asked the mata-mata, “Ada laki laki/perempuan pandai? Siapa nama?” (Was there a clever boy/girl? What is their name?) Great way to sneak in a “siapa nama” rep!

Anne did a brilliant brain break with this class which she acquired from a colleague, Jodie Underwood.  All the students stood up and followed Anne’s instructions:
Tulis nama pakai tangan kanan (Write your name with your right hand)
Tulis nama pakai tangan kiri (Write your name with your left hand)
Tulis nama pakai siku kanan (Write your name with your right elbow)
Tulis nama pakai siku kiri (Write your name with your left elbow)
Tulis nama pakai hidung (Write your name with your nose)
Tulis nama pakai pusar (belly button) (Write your name with your belly button)
By the end of it, everyone was in fits of giggles and totally relaxed. It was so lovely.

Kursi Luar Biasa (The Awesome Chair)
Anne has made up power-points for each year level; each incorporating the language she needs reps with. The questions circle suka (like), nama (name), apa kabar (how are you), mau (want) and have really significantly helped her students to acquire this vocabulary. Anne has painted a chair in brilliant eye catching colours and patterns which a student sits on to answer Anne’s personalised questions.
After asking the person in the kursi luar biasa the questions, Anne then invites the other students to say one thing that they heard about that person. This is such a great opportunity for the 4%ers to shine and also to measure student acquisition. Anne accepts answers both in Indonesian and English, praising both with the English restated in Indonesian. She then adds tallies to the kurang pandai/pandai (clever/not so clever) points; 2 points for Indonesian and one for English. Separately she notes who spoke in Indonesian correctly and after the  lesson, takes a photo of her notes to add to her assessment checklists.

StoryTelling
After Kursi Luar Biasa, Anne showed the class a powerpoint she’d made about Pak Eh-Eh (Mr Pooh). The story itself was very short – perfect for this age group – and had them 100% engaged! In Anne’s story, Pak Eh-Eh went to the Western Treatment Plant (local) searching for a friend. I loved how Anne explained simply what happens at the plant while getting heaps of reps of eh-eh! It was a great story to introduce the structures teman (friend) & banyak (many)!

Anne finished this lesson by showing the class her YouTube channel (Indonesian Fun For Juniors) and encouraging students to watch the Pak Eh-Eh video and others over the holidays.

Kelas 3 –

Ibu Anne started her year 3’s with a powerpoint that had her dog, Kasper, singing her welcome song (see kelas 2 for lyrics) to the class. Her students went into raptures, but not as much as Ibu Anne did when one student shared that she too has a schnauzer – a mini salt & pepper schnauzer named Abbie. Ibu Anne then dug deep to re-channel her thoughts away from Abbie and back to the lesson! (If you ever want to see this – just casually drop the word schnauzer into your conversation with Ibu Anne and watch the dreamy transformation appear on her face!)
Ibu Anne’s roll calling procedure differs slightly for her year 3 students. Whereas with her younger students, Ibu Anne calls the roll; her year 3 students take it in turns to call the roll. I love how they use a long pointer with a pointy finger on the end to point to the names as they work through the names on class dojo. I also loved how when the student reached his/her name, the class together asked the student, ‘Apa kabar’!

The brain break Anne then did was the “buka tutup” (open/closesong. It’s super awesome observing students in another school having fun with songs my students also enjoy!

Free Write Assessment Task
I was really pleased Ibu Anne included a demo of how she does free writes with her students. My students struggle with free writes and I also struggle with presenting them in ways that don’t instantly raise up their affective filters.
Ibu Anne began by having the class watch the Buaya Makan Banyak Donut video. She then asked the students to brainstorm for words from the story and wrote them up on the board with cute pics to support comprehension. The students found this incredibly helpful for many reasons. A student I stood behind was not a risk taker with her spelling and while happy to write, baulked at writing words if she wasn’t 100% confident with the spelling! Other students appreciated it because the words became writing prompts for parts of the story they had overlooked!
Anne next showed the class her free write master sheet and explained how to use it;  write one word per line and not to miss any lines as this helps when counting the total number of words.
She further added that students were to use only the words that are in their brain; they were not allowed to ask for the translations of any unknown words and that everyone will start writing at the same time and to keep writing until the timer goes off. If students finish the retelling, they could start writing a new story or make up their own sentences using the words in the board.
Ibu Anne next explained that there are different ways to write free writes:
Level 1 – put the brainstormed words into sentences.
Level 2- retell the story.
Level 3 – retell the story with added original ideas.

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Sharing
After 10 minutes of quiet writing, Ibu Anne stopped the class and invited them all to “Duduk di lingkaran’ (sit in a circle). Students brought their writing to the floor where they sat in a sharing circle and Ibu Anne explained the ‘Ripple Effect’ ( Robyn Cotter). She invited students to each read one of their sentences out aloud into the silence. She further clarified that if it’s quiet, just start reading. Do not speak if someone else is talking and finally, you can only read once.
This was absolutely beautiful. Students took it in turns to read and listened respectfully to each other. They stopped if they heard someone speaking at the same time and waited for the next silence. Next Ibu Anne encouraged those people who hadn’t had a go yet. She explained to the others who were keen to read a 2nd sentence, that there were still people in the class who had yet to read and then encouraged the others who had not read yet to have a go. It was unbelievable the number of quiet ones who were empowered to share into the respectful silence. One of the last sentences shared was about their class teacher made us all laugh! Buaya makan Bu Kip (The crocodile ate Mrs Kip)!

As the free writes were collected, students got quite restless so Ibu Anne silently held up a sign that said: ‘please show me that you are ready to listen’. Students were instantly intrigued and focused on reading the message. They then re-settled very quickly. A terrific quiet way from ( Robyn Cotter) to engage and refocus literate students! I highly recommend it!

 

Thank you so much Ibu Anne for encouraging me to visit your school so that I could observe you once again. I’m especially grateful considering that it was the last day of term 1 for you and that you were dead on your feet. Considering all of this, I was blown away with the high level of student engagement in all year levels!  Not bad (actually it was impressive) for the last day of term 1. I love how you have incorporated student interests into Kursi Luar Biasa e.g. current popular toys, running competitions and popular hobbies e.g. naik skuter! The slide in your kursi luar biasa PowerPoint asking the awesome student if they can run fast (bisa berlari cepat?) and then challenging them to a race at the front of the classroom in front of their classmates – (allowing them to win) is ingenious!!
I learned so much from this brief visit; from both the teaching observations and from our many conversations where we shared and built on our ideas. I enjoyed implementing many of the above ideas into my teaching and it gave me the energy to get through the last 2 weeks of our term 1.

Terima kasih dan salam hangat,

Bu Cathy

PS; Acknowledgement to Ibu Anne for the title of this post!!

 

 

 

What has Changed In My Classroom Since Agen?

Anne asked me this morning this question! It’s a good one because so much has changed as a result of my week in Agen and yet it is hard to pinpoint exactly.

Spending a week in Daniel’s Breton class is one of the major reasons why I’ve adapted various changes into my teaching. Becoming a learner of a language as a beginner is something I urge all language teachers to try because if you are like me, I can’t remember what it was like anymore. Experiencing the importance of repetitions and needing EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. I no longer begrudge saying words over and over again anymore. I am no longer concerned about a repetition being boring. I know that each and every time I speak, there is someone in my room who needs to hear that word once again.

One more change I am working on is speaking slowly. I am now even more aware of the importance of this. While I really like Robbert Harrell’s tip of tapping slowly on your leg,  like a metronome, I have yet to try it in class. One day, I’ll remember! As a learner, I really needed Daniel’s slow pace. It was vital for comprehension, it kept the affective filter low and also gave me enough time to scan the word wall when necessary.  While on the topic of slow, I also would like to mention how Daniel would occasionally challenge the fast processors by speaking directly to them at a slightly faster pace and then turn to us slower processors and repeat it slowly! Repetition followed by slow! We lapped it up!

Daniel would ask students for suggestions while story asking and each one was written up on the board if necessary. This practise differentiated and valued each and every suggestion. My suggestion of a kangaroo was a cognate and did not ever need to be written up on the board but dianvasou (stranger) definitely went up! I now do this too! Through this practise, I can point and pause which is a useful tool that helps to slow my speech down! Previously, in avoiding going out of bounds, I avoided incorporating new words into our story asking/ kursi luar biasa, but now I embrace it and have started collecting words that appear frequently and/or are useful for student engagement and would be great to incorporate into future stories!

Probably the biggest area of change is that I am incredibly more relaxed about my lessons. After watching Daniel, I have more confidence now following student led directions in lessons. With my older classes, since my return, I now spend each lesson focused on kursi luar biasa. One student sits in the kursi luar biasa (the awesome chair) and I interview them. I make it clear before we start that the student may choose to tell the truth or lie! As soon as that is established, you can feel the ripple in the air of engagement and immediately the rest of the class are on board. We start off with nicknames. I ask the student seated in the kursi luar biasa if he/she has a nick name and then ask the class what they are, checking after each if it is one of their nicknames. It’s hilarious! One class came up with 12 nicknames for Shaun – one of which was Sunday! It was so left field we all collapsed on the floor laughing! It is so exhilarating teaching like this! We incorporate all sorts of things into the interviews including grammar, pronunciation, intercultural comparisons (ACARA requirements) – it is awesome. Once I’ve done a few more, I am going to create a reading using the sekretaris notes and maybe incorporate one of Laurie Clarq’s embedded reading ideas and finish with an uplifting clip from youtube. Cool hey?

Another thing that has changed for me is that in meeting such an amazing bunch of people, I know there are many people in this world who have my back. It is the most amazing feeling being in and amongst CI/TPRS colleagues and feeling that sense of support and community. I definitely felt it with our PLC and online before Agen, but to feel it in another country was truly incredible. Knowing that I am a member of such a warm global community gives me the confidence that supports me each and every day before I step into my classroom! When you are amongst TCI legends who validate and encourage, you feel invincible. This is what gives me the confidence to incorporate all of the above into my teaching.

Where Am I Going Wrong?

I had a truly tough week the week before last – one of those weeks where every day was a struggle. After nights of tossing and turning in bed, I woke each morning, dreading the day ahead feeling little motivation or excitement for what I’d planned. Each afternoon, as the final bell rang, I’d sigh with relief and head home as quickly as possible to collapse on my bed. Why? All due to a horrible combination of back pain and sleep deprivation! Incredibly debilitating.

The final straw for me was when the last class of that week (year 6/7’s) arrived into my room pleading not to ‘do any more stories’. That statement gutted me. However, I deftly avoided any discussion about it because I wasn’t in the right place to deal with it rationally and instead asked them what they would prefer to do, insisting that all suggestions had to be language orientated. It came down to a vote between grudge ball and Bop! & grudge ball won. I couldn’t find their story, so instead used another class’ story (same target structures based on the same movie talk) asking for translations of random sentences into correct English. It was still worthwhile and enjoyable, although in hindsight I should have also randomly awarded points to various groups for behaviours such as having a go, working as a team, staying positive etc. because as soon as one group appeared to be too far in the lead, several students found it difficult to remain positive!

Since that lesson, I have been self-evaluating to try to understand why stories have become boring &/or unappealing. Now that the pain and lack of sleep fog have reduced (thanks to my wonderful physio and remedial masseuse – you both rock) there are several issues that I have to address in order to get myself and my students back on the fun and enjoyable TPRS train.

 

Student Motivation

While this is the start of their 3rd year of TPRS, older students have just as much need for up/down based lessons as do the younger students. Expecting them to sit for the majority of their lesson (movie talks, story asking) has been unrealistic. I honestly believed that student performances would be sufficiently compelling and engaging to counter balance this but it just isn’t the case. My students would benefit from and appreciate a variety of frequent activities incorporating movement and unpredictability that provide more repetitions of the target structures. Whereas brain breaks provide learners with time out from heavy duty concentration, active tasks provide students with kinesthetic ways in which to consolidate language acquisition. These tasks need to become an integral part of my lessons. My aim now is to search for suitable activities that would serve this purpose and if you look back on the home page, you’ll see that I’ve added a new page titled ‘Target Structure CI Activities’ and as I find them, I’ll add new ones to the collection (any help building up this collection will be greatly appreciated).

 

Classroom Management

My classroom management system has relied up till now on students and has been in place with minimal changes for 2 years. I offer a variety of jobs that students can try out for and these include sekretaris, polisi, mendistribusi kertas, pensil dan clipboard, menghitung waktu, tukang foto, menghitung kata just to name a few. The polisi is tasked with monitoring the blurting yet this is not happening consistently across all classes. I need to incorporate a few more classroom management ideas to ramp it up. I really like Annabelle Allen’s idea of having a competition between teacher & class. I am definitely going to trial it next week. However, do I offer a reward if the students win? If so, what could it be? Or do I save this for later in the term/year in case once again, I need to ramp things up again to increase student engagement?

Another idea I have used in the past (I’m sorry that I can’t remember where I read this and thus can’t credit them) is to have an object (soft toy/prop) that is passed around the class to the person who blurted last. The idea being that whoever is holding it when the lesson finishes has a consequence. When I first used this idea, I struggled with the consequence but not anymore. I am going to bite the bullet, be tough and insist on output from that student! If that student has so much to say, then they can do a 5/10 minute free write or even better, record their voice reading/retelling the class story in their own time. Hopefully this will give me a sneaky insight into their level of acquisition in a way that also gives me the opportunity to speak to them about their behaviour and how it impacts on other students.

One further aspect that requires immediate action is ensuring that job holders understand that they play a vital role in our lessons. They are there to help us to be successful in Indonesian lessons (both teachers and students!) and if they are not able to do that, then there are plenty of others who would happily replace them. This would require me to be firmer and clearer with the expectation of those interested in filling these roles with the ultimate consequence being that students will be sacked if they are not consistently fulfilling their obligations. (By the way, how do I say in Indonesian, “You’re fired!”?)

 

Brain Breaks

I also must incorporate more brain breaks into my lessons for a variety reasons. Not only will this increase student activity but also give students a chance to relax, take a break and have fun. All students appreciate fun, regardless of their age! There is no good reason why brain breaks are an important component of my junior primary lessons and yet not for my older students. Up till now, I have tended to include a list of brain break ideas at the bottom of each lesson plan just in case students need one. The main reason (I think) that I have avoided incorporating more brain breaks into my older students lessons is that I worry about ‘wasting’ their precious lesson time. Some classes only get one 50 minute lesson per week and therefore each minute is precious. I need to turn that thinking around and acknowledge the value of frequent & short brain breaks and be prepared to relinquish class time in order for students to learn the skills necessary for seamlessly moving into and out of brain breaks. Surely the benefits in the long run outweigh the negatives. Maybe I could tie it in with Annabelle Allen’s classroom behaviour management technique? Adding tally points to me if they are too slow or for the students if they regroup quickly and quietly afterwards. I now understand her comment that brain breaks should be done before they are needed and if you wait till students need the break, you waited too long.

 

Setting Class Expectations

As usual during week one, the specialist teachers at my school all combined and addressed this as one team to students via games and activities in the gym. In week 2, I jumped straight into a movie talk, which I continued over the next few weeks, in between various absences due to my back. It was a hodgepodge start to the year. Some classes didn’t have an Indonesian lesson until week 4! While we are always wiser in hindsight, I realise now that this was a shabby start to the new school year especially considering I attended a TPRS conference during the holidays! I should have known better. One should never assume anything and as a consequence, I will need to go right back to basics starting next week. I plan to do that by reminding them of how they can become successful language learners  and then regularly asking them to show me a quick honest self-assessment using their fingers (out of 5) to show how many of the questions below were ya.  This will also include the reminder to job holders of their responsibilities and the possible consequences should they be failing this.

Student Success

I’ve just finished a webinar with Terry Waltz which for me mid-way through writing this post, was very timely! I did feel guilty at first for taking one of the very limited spots, but now I am very grateful that I did. One point she raised which fits perfectly into this post is about students feeling successful with their language acquisition. Terry suggested this could be done through exit quizzes, quick quizzes etc where the students always do well because for TPRS, its all about setting our students up for success. There is never a focus on incorrect answers, incorrect pronunciation, incorrect word order etc. It’s all about positive reinforcement and student high fives and it’s the major reason I heart TPRS. Students are never asked to revisit mistakes, never made to feel ‘dumb’ unlike in other subject areas where students are asked to walk through back their mistakes to understand where they went wrong! This is reflected in our class ‘bell curves’ when plotting data, because they are never ‘normal’. TPRS bell curves are heavily weighted towards the higher end of available grades/percentages unlike other subjects where it is more central.

 

Deconstructing Student Plea of ‘No More Stories Today!’

While spending quite a few hours trawling through fantastic TPRS blogs this morning (including those by Martina Bex & Keith Toda) looking for novel activities to get reps on target structures, it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t the story itself that the students were objecting to! It was all of the above issues that together created endless & predictable lessons with minimal spontaneity. Martina mentioned in one of her posts that all CI activities should not last more than 10 minutes, Terry Waltz also mentioned it yesterday in her webinar – I’ve heard and read this many times yet why do I feel compelled to keep going even when all the signs are telling me to STOP? It’s for a multitude of reasons yet the best thing of all is that I’ve finally realised what I believe was the unspoken message underlying my students plea.  I can now begin to address improving my effectiveness as an Indonesian teacher through incorporating more variety and movement into my lessons and thus re-engage my students.

 

NB: New goal – Overhaul lesson plans to incorporate all of the above points.

 

Wow TPRS Sounds Awesome But Where do I Start? 

Over the past 2 years that I’ve been using TPRS in my Indonesian classroom, I’ve used many different stories, most of which have been suggested by Catharina, our wonderful mentor. We are so fortunate to have been introduced to such a highly experienced Early Years TPRS mentor who has a wealth of story recommendations focusing on any given target structure! Any story recommended by Catharina is a guaranteed ‘home run’!

After all the workshops or the conference I attended or presented at, the inevitable question from interested participants was always; “Where do we start?” This was where Catharina was initially extremely helpful for us when we first began TPRS. Each time we reached a road block and became puzzled about our future direction, she would gently and positively guide and nudge us back on track with constructive feedback, sharing ideas and activities from her own classroom practise.

This post hopefully will give you an idea of where to start if you are at the beginning of your TPRS journey. I teach students from Reception (Prep/Transition) to year 7 and as most TPRS stories are written for middle years students, the cohort we initially had the greatest difficulty adapting TPRS to were the junior primary students, hence my focus in this post. However, don’t change the channel just yet, because first time learners are largely the same regardless of their age. The major difference, I’m sure you will all agree,  is their attention span! Everything else remains identical. 

My stories are in Indonesian (what a surpise) however they can easily be translated (back) into other languages using google translate. We received them in a variety of languages before translating them into Indonesian incorporating high frequency vocabulary where possible and eliminating any language we felt our students were not ready for or that did not work in Indonesian. Also, if the story is too simplified for your cohort, add detail and language to ensure it is more suitable yet remember to always keep it comprehensible with no more than 1 – 3 (unfamiliar) target structures. NO MORE THAN 3!

The first ever story we started with is Catharina’s adaptation of Jim Tripp’s, “Nice to Meet You.” This story is without doubt, in my humble opinion, the best place to begin a CI journey for either students for whom this is their first ever contact with the language you are teaching OR for a teacher who lacks confidence in his/her CI skills &/or language skills & is about to begin their first ever CI unit of work.

The original story:

Target structures: 

-meets

-My name is ______ 

-gets really nervous 

-nice to meet you 

Lindsey meets Channing Tatum. Lindsey says to him, “Hi, my name is Lindsey.” Channing Tatum says nervously, “Nice to meet you.” He gets more nervous and says, “My name is Luke Skywalker.” Lindsey says to him, “Nice to meet you Luke.”

The simplified adapted version:

Target Structures;

  • berkata,
  • nama saya,
  • siapa nama?

Other: di, dari, astaga (point & pause only)

Taylor Swift di MacDonald’s.

Bu Cathy di MacDonald’s

Tayor Swift berkata, “Nama saya Taylor Swift. Siapa nama?”

Bu Cathy berkata, “Nama saya Bu Cathy.”

Taylor Swift berkata,”Bu Cathy? Bu Cathy dari PEPS?”

Astaga!

Autograf!!

(Taylor Swift faints)

Suggested sightly more difficult version:

Kemarin, Taylor Swift di Macdonald’s.

Kemarin, Bu Cathy di Macdonald’s juga.

Tayor Swift berkata, “Nama saya Taylor Swift. Siapa nama?”

Bu Cathy berkata, “Nama saya Bu Cathy.”

Taylor Swift berkata,”Bu Cathy? Bu Cathy dari PEPS?”

Astaga!

Autograf!!

(Taylor Swift faints)

As you can see the original version is not suitable for young learners because there are significantly more than 3 target structures for students to acquire. I also like the way Catharina has tweaked it to make it more appealing. Adding a faint at the end is ingenious! I have story asked this story with staff too at a staff meeting! It is such an awesome story for beginner learners and appeals to all ages with its simple language and unexpected ending!

Once you have chosen your new story and identified the target structures, you are ready to start. At the conference, Terry began by story asking mini stories based on each of the target structures, focusing on one at a time. I personally prefer a technique I read about on Ben Slavic’s website called Visual Personalised Questions and Answers (VPQA).  This has been very engaging for my students and is also helpful for teachers new to circling and story asking because VPQA provides teachers with our own personal brain break!! It relieves some of the stress by giving a tiny breather in which we can regroup and get the TPRS juggling balls back in the air again. 

If the target structure is ‘berkata,’ I start by  creating a powerpoint. I begin with a google image search for quirky images that will appeal to my students and give me opportunities to ask my students personalised questions and answers. This upcoming week, my reception students will be revising Nama saya (my name is) & Siapa nama? (what’s your name?) while introducing ‘berkata’ (said/say/says). Using Ibu Sharon’s awesome idea, I have found pictures of characters familiar to my young students (Elsa, Pikachu, Donkey, Bob the Builder – to name a few) all of whom have a phrase that they are known for saying. E.g. Elsa berkata, “Let it go.” On each page is a picture of the character with his/her/its given phrase. This allows me to ask, “Siapa nama?” and then circle the name (Nama saya Elsa? Nama saya Bob the builder atau/or Nama saya Elsa?) I can then circle the target structure; “Dory berkata, ‘Keep on swimming” atau Elsa berkata, “Keep on swimming”? Because each picture is different, VPQA keeps them on the edge of their seat wondering what the next picture will be! While PQA & VPQA is technically personalised questions about the students, at this early stage, to keep the language in bounds it may be necessary to restrict the circling just for now to just ask about the characters on the screen. I would definitely not recommend using any new question words this early in their learning! The language used must, must, must be in bounds. To ask, “Pak Taylor berkata apa?” will immediately raise their affective filter and could potentially derail that lovely calm, comprehensible atmosphere you have created. If Pak Taylor does have a phrase that he is well known for, then ask, Pak Taylor berkata, “Let it go?” atau Pak Taylor berkata, “Howzat?” Ya, Pak Taylor berkata, “Howzat!” (Does Mr Taylor says, “Let it go” or does Mr Taylor say, “Howzat?”) Stick to the language they know!! It is too early (especially for very young learners) to toss them new and unfamiliar vocabulary. 

Once I feel that students have  largely acquired the target structures, I move to story asking. I don’t worry too much if there are students who have not fully acquired the target structures yet for several reasons. Firstly we will hit them (oops – the target structures!) repeatedly during the story asking process and secondly most target structures will be repeated over and over in future stories. This would have to be the single best factor of TPRS and is why it triumphs over the way I used to teach. The structures we target now are specifically chosen for communication in a classroom context (and hopefully useful on their next family holiday to Bali) and thus will be used often unlike previously where from term to term, my thematic vocabulary was rarely revisited.
The above stories are the skeleton and all the words underlined are the words you can ask for student input depending on their age. Usually I ask for an ‘aktor’  and then ask the class, “Laki laki atau perempuan?” before asking, “Siapa nama?” However for my young (brand new to school)  reception students, I have planned to tell their first ever  story to them using cut out pictures with magnets on the back moving them around on my mobile white board. Then, once they are more familiar with me and my teaching style, I will ask for their input — usually they’ll be ready by the next story!

When planning for young students, the best advice I ever received was to plan activities so that the students move up, down, up, down throughout the lesson. The younger they are, the more frequently the teacher changes the activity. Thus, once the story has been asked (a ‘down’ activity), it is time for the students to stand up and do an ‘up’ activity. This can either be a brain break, TPR or could be an activity based on the story. My favourite activity post story asking is called ‘all the worlds a stage”. Students get into pairs and duduk (sit). I then explain (in English for now but soon will be in Indonesian) that one of them is Pak Hudson (our school principal) and one of them is Superman (the 2 characters in our story). I will then say, “Superman berdiri. Superman duduk. Pak Hudson berdiri. Pak Hudson duduk.” This incorporates TPR and also ensures that each pair has agreed on who is each character. At this point there will inevitably be a pair who both want to be the same character. At this point I promise the whole class that we will be doing this activity twice and the second time they will be changing characters. I then allocate characters to the pair who need help, reassuring the one who compromised, their turn is coming next! Depending on their level of compliance with my decision, I distract them totally by choosing them to be my demo pair which is usually a highly successful tactic! I then say the first  line from the story and ask them to act it out, giving them pandai points for great acting, for only acting out what I said and for not going ahead or adding in their own details. All very important information that needs to be clarified right from the beginning. If my demo pair demonstrated that they understood the task, I invite all the Superman’s and Pak Hudson’s to berdiri and then we begin again right from the beginning. It will probably be chaotic the first time we do this activity, but it is well worth persevering because later in the year with practise it becomes smoother and is such an excellent ‘up’ activity while getting in heaps of repetitions of the story and with comprehension checks!

One final note: If you absolutely need to say a word students have yet to acquire, say it in English for this first story. This is how I tackle the ‘other’ word list. I need these words for the story but they are not target structures. The first time I story ask, I say the ‘other’ words in English. Then slowly introduce them in Indonesian, quickly followed by a comprehension check. If the comprehension check is met with blank confused looks, I know immediately they are not ready for it yet – the students need more repetitions of the story – and I’ll try again later. 

This is the very first TPRS story I started with and initially taught it to all year levels. It worked with all my classes. Now, though, I just use it with my reception classes. I still remain totally convinced that it is the best story to start with, regardless of the age of the students.

Do you have a favourite story you begin with? I’d love to hear it. Feel free to write it below in the comments!

Coaching Students ala Alina Filipescu

It’s a fact! I love watching Alina Filipescu’s TCI  YouTube videos. When I discover a new one, I watch it repeatedly, picking up new ideas each time. She is a true master in my eyes. I am in awe of her TCI skills and the rapport she has with her students. 

This is my latest favourite video as it clears up the mystery for me of how she coaches her students to respond to her various cues. I’ve always wondered how she did that. 

Enjoy….