Week 3 Reflections

Week 2 is always a disappointing week for me. Students are usually amazing in week 1 when they are so thrilled and excited to be back at school which is always delightful. However I then plan lesson plans for those enthusiastic students only to discover that by week 2 they did a ‘Jekyl and Hyde’ over the weekend and my lessons do not turn out quite the way I had envisaged. 

Week 3, thus is a great week by comparison! I am prepared, in fact usually over prepared, but at least this time it is strategic over planning unlike week 2 where it was head in the clouds over planning. I can’t believe I tried to do a movie talk last week with the combined year 6/7 left overs that focused on entirely unfamiliar structures! What was I thinking?? Not surprisingly it was a huge flop. Still, I learned a huge lesson from it – doesn’t matter how engaging the video  is, if it’s not comprehensible, it will not be engaging.

This week with another group of year 6/7 left overs, I showed Laskar Pelangi which was far more successful for several reasons.  

 Firstly, it was purely an English culture break and considering the film went for 3 lessons and students were engrossed right up to the end, I was happy with that. I also have to confess that it was my first time watching the movie so maybe in future years I may consider using it as a MT now that I can see the potential. The lessons progressed well in that we began with a single lesson and then 2 days later had a double. I said very little before the movie started yet before continuing with the movie in the double lesson, I talked about several aspects including a little Belitong history and providing a bit more information about the main characters. Yet it was the discussion about the symbolism that students enjoyed the most and then commented on during the movie. I spoke about the symbolism of fences (dividing communities), crocodiles (obstructions) and rainbows (happiness, togetherness and positive hopes for the future).  

This term with the other classes (ie all but the year 6/7’s), we are looking at the kancil & Buaya story. At the end of term 3, our hub group met and we simplified the story to ensure the story only incorporated a few unfamiliar structures as well as revised many of our known structures. Last week I introduced the word ‘kancil’ and largely in English we talked about their body shape, their diet and where they are found globally. Naturally it was only their diet that lent itself to circling! Kancil makan apa? This week I introduced the word ‘buaya’ using both a picture of a buaya, a soft teddy buaya and a hilarious crocodile hat I found at Savers last Sunday. As usual, using Annie’s voices, I introduced the word encouraging the students to repeat buaya over and over in a variety of ways including singing, syllablising, weird voices and generally having fun. I then held up the buaya soft teddy and circled buaya.  


Buaya? Ya buaya. 


Bukan. Buaya. 

Kancil atau buaya? Buaya.

I then opened a bag of soft teddy animals including the crocodile hat. I held the buaya soft teddy in one hand and with the other dug into the bag. I pulled out random animals and asked, ‘Buaya?’ The students loved the suspense of not knowing what was coming out of the bag and all screamed with delight when I finally pulled out the crocodile hat!  

 The hat is great because of its large mouth and which allowed me to revise makan. Buaya makan sepatu? I walked around amongst the students stating sentences like that and then having the crocodile mouth the shoe. Or I would point at my nose and say a couple of times ‘hidung’ before saying buaya mau makan hidung Joey. They just loved it and were all begging to be eaten!! It was chaotic and loud with lots of laughing. I actually had a parent looking for their child, knock and put their head in the door while I was bent over a student ‘makan sepatu’ and I’d love to know what she made of what she saw! Hopefully she asks her son! It was strange though because I felt guilty that I was having too much fun! That I should have been more serious! Oh well…. 

I did a ‘kindergarten reading’ with the story with the year 4’s where I had them sitting on the floor in front of me and I read a big book version with large colourful pictures. They were totally engrossed yet when I asked afterwards whether they preferred acting out the story or listening to it, the majority said they much preferred acting it out!! Didn’t see that coming. 

This story incorporates the numbers 1 – 10 which has been a great. Early in the week I suddenly remembered a counting song from Languages Online. Unfortunately it goes way too quickly for my younger classes, but then I had a brain wave! Instead of singing satu, dua, tiga bunga (not a familiar word), I changed it to satu, dua, tiga buaya!! Then I got even more creative and sang about kancils, penguins, orangutans and finished with murid murid! The more repetitions I can get with this song the better to cement number acquisition. 

And speaking of songs, I also ‘wrote’ this song on the weekend for later in the term:

Kancil, kancil di hutan

Tidak bisa berenang

Datang banyak buaya

Hap! Tidak ditangkap!

Can you pick the tune? Lifted from cicak cicak di dinding!

Hope you had a great week too.

Learning how To Circle

At our (Indonesian Teachers Hub Group) last meeting, Annie mentioned that she is focusing on the skill of circling at the moment. Circling is an integral skill in TCI and I suddenly realized that it had not been a focus lately in my recent lessons. I then decided that I too needed to hone my circling skills and so determined to incorporate more circling into my lesson plans.

I refreshed my understanding of it by reading various sites and as always, I started with Martina Bex’s website. There she has a link to a pdf she created about circling. Here are 2 great sentences from the pdf to clarify the definition and purpose of circling:

Circling is the instructional practice of asking a series of prescribed questions in the target language about a statement in the target language.

Circling is used to provide students with contextualized repetitions of target structures.

Circling has a recommended format yet it is not set in stone. It must be driven by the students so that teacher input is compelling (i.e. truly interesting) and thus relevant to the students. Here is a recent moretprs post from Dr Krashen about ‘compelling’ and ‘relevance’:
krashen pic

Circling is a powerful TCI strategy which ensures students are engaged and acquire language totally without realising!

The circling format includes the following:
3 for 1
Ask a detail
[Optional are:
Who, What, When, Where, Why]


courtesy Martina Bex’s Website

Using this format, I wrote circling questions into my lesson plans focusing on each of the above steps to prompt my memory and help develop my circling proficiency. I tend to find that when I am in front of a class, my mind goes blank whenever improvisation is needed!! Hopefully this is something that will reduce as I gain confidence and experience with TCI methodology.
I initially had the above poster up on the back wall but it didn’t help. For example I would see the word ‘interrogative’ and just freeze like a rabbit in the spotlight! So instead I incorporated a circling mini block into each lesson:

Circling # 1 –

Junior Primary

a) Indie perempuan. (statement)
b) Indie pakai sepatu? (ya) Ya, Indie pakai sepatu.
c) Indie pakai sepatu atau Indie pakai jaket? (either/or) Indie pakai sepatu.
d) Indie pakai topi? (ya/tidak) Bukan. Indie pakai sepatu.
e) Indie minum/makan sepatu? (3 for 1) Bukan! Indie pakai sepatu, Indie tidak minum sepatu!

Middle Primary & Upper Primary
1. Flick berkata. (statement)
2. Flick berkata? (ya) Ya, Flick berkata.
3. Flick berkata kepada Ella. (ya/tidak) Ya. Flick berkata kepada Ella.
4. Flick berkata kepada Ella atau Flick berkata kepada Thomas? (either/or) Flick berkata kepada Ella.
5. Kenapa Flick berkata kepada Ella? (extra detail) Flick berkata kepada Ella karena ? (mau ke McD, dingin,)
6. Circle new detail.
This amount of detail was so helpful. I could refer to my notes at any point to ensure I covered all aspects when/if necessary. Writing it too helped clarify in my mind so that my response should always be either the initial sentence or include the initial sentence!
I felt that at last I was getting a handle on circling! Then with brilliant timing, several TCI teachers wrote blogs posts specifically about circling. Keith Toda posted on his blog, Todally Comprehensible Latin, Circling – The Art of Questioning and Chris Stoltz posted on TPRS Q & A his post  ‘What is Circling and How Do I Do it?’ Both are great and I highly recommend you read them to grasp the finer details of circling.
After reading Chris Stoltz’s post I asked him a question and he replied:

tprs q a

When I first read his reply, I was taken aback by its brevity and once I had recovered,  I started to think about his point. If I was to circle only what students didn’t understand, then I was going about “circling” the wrong way.
The next thing that happened was again by coincidence. I had emailed Ben Slavic about micro stories suitable for primary (elementary) students. He replied with an attachment of his draft chapter called Super Mini Stories. In this chapter, Ben focuses in great detail on the skills needed to tell a story. Reading this with my trusty highlighter was illuminating. Chris’ statement ‘Circle what the students don’t understand” suddenly gelled.
Circling has to be done in context and more importantly, stories must have input from students. This is what makes TCI compelling.

Last week I trialed it and discovered the truth of the above statement. This is how I did it:

With the classes 3-7, I arranged the chairs into a circle and in the middle of the circle I put a pile of clothes for this story: (underlined words signify where I asked for student input.)

Bobby dingin. Bobby berkata kepada Ibu,”Saya dingin.”
Ibu kasih Bobby satu jaket.
Bobby pakai jaket di kaki.

Bobby masih dingin. Bobby berkata kepada Bapak, “Saya dingin.”
Bapak kasih Bobby satu baju.
Bobby pakai baju di kepala.

Bobby masih dingin. Bobby berkata kepada Kakek, “Saya dingin.”
Kakek kasih Bobby dua sepatu.
Bobby pakai sepatu di tangan.
Bobby tidak dingin lagi.

Prior to last week, I’d told the story with actors and the other students just watched and listened. However, this week, I used circling to ask for student input and it was highly compelling. Here is why:
I began with:
Siapa mau menjadi assistan Bu Cathy? (Who wants to be Bu Cathy’s assistant?)
I looked around the circle and chose someone who would be a good actor, someone who could be a ham if necessary and not get embarrassed. I then asked them to ‘berdiri’ (stand.)
Next I asked the class, “Caden perempuan atau Caden laki laki?” The class invariably answered “Caden perempuan.” To which I checked in with my actor, “Caden laki laki atau Liam perempuan?” If he answered, “Caden perempuan”, I would then confirm, “Caden perempuan!” Next I asked students, “Siapa nama Caden? ‘Caden’ nama laki laki!” Sometime, classes came up with a hilarious female version of the name (Luke became Lukette, Kody became Kodella) and sometimes they would come up with a name that has been bandied around lately. For some reason Jeff and Bob are hilarious names!! Go figure!
I then began the story:
Ada perempuan. Nama perempuan Delilah.(students decided that Caden would become his twin sister!)  Delilah dingin. Delilah berkata kepada???? Delilah berkata kepada siapa? (laser pointer to ‘siapa’ poster up above the whiteboard) If students suggested the name of a fellow student, I would answer, “Bukan nama murid di kelas ini.” Because I wanted them to come up with some quirky suggestions. I would settle on the suggestion that got the most catcalls!! Justin Bieber and Tony Abbott were up there!! I next asked, “Siapa mau….. Justin Bieber?” That actor was also asked to ‘berdiri’.
I would then recommence my story from the start to throw in some sneaky repetitions.
Ada perempuan. Nama perempuan Delilah. Delilah dingin. Delilah berkata kepada… Delilah berkata kepada Justin Bieber, “Saya dingin.” Justin Bieber kasi Delilah???? At this point I rummaged through the pile of clothes on the floor and repeated the sentence several times adding the word for the article of clothing I held up, looking at ‘Justin Bieber’ to gauge both his/her reaction and the class’. “Justin Bieber kasi Delilah jaket? Justin Bieber kasi Delilah sarong? Justin Bieber kasi Delilah topi? Justin Bieber kasi Delilah jilbab?” OOnce the class agreed on the item of clothing (majority rules), I then handed the item of clothing to “Justin Bieber” and then turned to the class and asked, “Justin Bieber kasi Delilah satu jilbab atau Justin Bieber kasi Delilah dua jilbab?” Depending on their collective answer (if too noisy, I asked ‘Angkat tangan kalau Justin Bieber kasi Delilah dua jilbab”, repeated sentence again or satu jilbab, while counting in Indonesian the number of hands) then we continued the story:
Justin Bieber kasi Delilah satu jilbab.
I then stopped the acting, asked Justin Bieber to ‘duduk’ then turned around to face the class again and asked, “Delilah pakai jilbab di kaki (pointing to my foot)? Delilah pakai jilbab di tangan (pointing to my hand)? Delilah pakai jilbab di leher (pointing to my neck)?” etc until I got a popular consensus. I then repeated the sentence and the actor acted out the story. In this case it was:
Delilah pakai jilbab di kepala. Delilah masih dingin.
We continued till the end of the story this way. It was hilarious and totally compelling!! I love that TCI provides me with ways in which I can laugh with my students while teaching!!
During the day on Monday, I wrote a few notes in my notebook that I keep handy to record my reflections and this is what I wrote:
1. Circle what they don’t know!!
2. Don’t forget to ask quantity of clothing! E.g. dua sepatu!!
3. Go SLOW!! Don’t rush!! Slow and steady is how students comprehend and acquire the target structures. Make the most of each repeititon.
4. Try to make circling sound like natural speech using familiar vocabulary while incorporating all the facets of circling. E.g. negative, either/or, 3 for 1, asking for extra detail.