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.

 

Membagi Ide Bagus – Student Free Day Links for Circling & Assessment

I would like to share with you a variety of links which we will either be covering at our PLC Student Free Day or will be useful as a follow-up afterwards. This hopefully will make it easier if all the links are together so that we can refer back to it later or pass on to others who were unable to join us.

Our schedule for the day will be:

8:30 – 9:00am meet and greet, grab a cuppa

9am  Aim (French) demo with Sarah Slee

10am Circling workshop

11am break

11:30am Strategies to assist with recording student progress

1pm Lunch

1;45pm Assessment & ACARA
– Assessment and reporting parameters and issues
– Designing assessments to reflect the AC intentions and AS
– Connections between TPRS & the AC

4pm finish

 

Links include:

Circling

1, Martina Bex has a great post entitled, What is Circling and it includes a free PDF hand out.

2. Terry Waltz has  circling cards available through her website, Mandarin Through Comprehensible Output as well as a Prezi demonstrating how to use them.

3. TPRS Q & A also has a post called What is Circling And How to do It?

4. TPRS Q & A is a great blog and this post entitles What Does the Goddess Laurie Clarq say about Circling is well worth reading.

5. A French Demo At a Blaine Ray Workshop – Carla Tarini is being coached by Blaine Ray on how to circle.

6. Circling does not always go smoothly or predictably which can be said of just about anything involving children and/animals, so they say! Keith Toda wrote a blog entitle Circling Troubleshooting which will help you identify why your circling efforts may not feel successful!

7. Here is another great video! This one is of Terry Waltz working with students for their first Chinese lesson. Here you can see Terry demonstrate a multitude of skills one of which is circling!

8. TPRS Lesson Demonstration – Great PDF which breaks down of circling

Assessment

1. Martina Bex posted recently, End of Term Assessments which although definitely aimed at high school teachers, included some great ideas & interesting clarifications.

2. Fluency Writes (Free Writes) by Judith Dubios on her fantastic blog called TPRS Witch can be read here: http://tprs-witch.com/fluency-writing-2/ This post explains both what fluency writes are and why they are so useful.

3. Bryce Hedstrom’s Blooms Taxonomy for Foreign Language Instruction

 

Looking forward to our Student Free Day!! See you there and thank-you for supporting it!

Fleurieu Hub Group Teachmeet

The members of our hub group are all implementing TPRS in their classrooms which is soo exciting! We agreed this year to meet once a term to discuss aspects of TPRS to help each other deepen our understanding of using TPRS in our classrooms. Attending our first Teachmeet were 9 teachers; 5 from local schools, one teacher on leave, one all the way from the other side of Adelaide and a teacher from Victoria via Skype! 

Our first meeting focused on assessment strategies. We had also wanted to discuss the report format but as that is something that each school decides upon and that we ran out of time, it was only touched upon briefly. Enough to realise though, that each school reports very differently and the Indonesian section of our reports varies hugely. From one school requiring just an overall grade each for effort & achievement to another school where the teacher has to write a personal comment for each student as well as a grade each for effort & achievement. One of our schools requires the Indonesian teacher to report specifically against all the ACARA achievement standards which I’m sure was not what the achievement standards were designed for.

At our previous meeting, we brainstormed for assessment strategies we’d like to share and then everyone volunteered to take one and explain it to evryone else:

1. Quick Quizzes – at the end of a lesson, ask 5 – 10 questions about the story you’ve created with your students. The answers can either be ya/tidak or benar/salah. Sharon shared how she has also uses quick quizzes to check comprehension by asking students to write down the English word for targt structures covered.

2. Plickers – Ann shared an online assessment tool called Plickers. This app uses only one ipad which is held by the teacher to scan students answers to teachers questions. 

  

Here is a pic from google to show what it looks like in a classoom: 

 
3. Ya/Tidak cards – Carmel shared her red & white laminated yes/no cards which she has yet to use because she feels that handing them out and using them would be too much of a distraction this early in the year. They looked fantastic. The idea is that the teacher askes a question and students answer using the cards. Great repetition for ya/tidak.

4. Listen & Draw – On a sheet divided into 4 or 6, students listen to the teacher and then illustrate the sentence in the specified square. While the students are drawing, the teacher repeats the sentence over and over again, getting as many repetitions  in as possible.

5. TPR  (Total Physical Response) – Teacher says a word and students do the actions. Great for introducing verbs in a fun and kinesthetic way. It is also perfect for introducing classroom phrases like duduk, berdiri, kasih hormat, kasi, pakai topi etc. Simon says is a popular TPR game to play and is loved by all primary students. TPR is a good brain break too. Asking students to close their eyes while doing TPR helps the teacher to identify which target structures need more repetitions!!

6. Dictation – As a post story activity, students write silently the sentence the teacher says. The sentence is then shown to the students via smartboard or data projector and any errors are fixed by rewriting the word/sentence on the next line. On the third line, the sentence is translated into English. A space is then left before beginning the next sentence.

We then discussed a behaviour management technique that Sharon shared with us previously. We are calling it ‘pandai/nakal’ to get repetitions of pandai (term 4 2015 kancil & Buaya story) and nakal (term 1 2016 tutup pintu story). The teacher takes a name of a student randomly (either by paper or paddle pop sticks) and puts it somewhere visible without showing anyone whose name it is. On the board is written pandai & nakal side by side and throughout the lesson, tally each time students are pandai or nakal. At the end of the lesson, if the tally marks for pandai are greater than those for nakal, theatrically announce the name of the student and present them with a reward. If the tally is the reverse, the name goes back in the pot/hat without mentioning the name. Hannah tried it this week and said it worked beautifully for her younger students!! 

We finished up by agreeing to meet again in March on our regional training and development day to ensure we have access to relevant and meaningful training. Topics to be covered include designing an open ended assessment task, how to record student progress & how to circle. I have also invited an AIM French teacher to come and do a demo lesson with us so we can experience AIM methodologies. 

Kata Sandi – Passwords

Bryce Hedstrom has been updating frequently his blog post about secret class passwords and I’m curious! Would it work in the primary school? Would it work with large classes? 

  
The idea is that the teacher meets the  students at the classroom door before each lesson and like entering a secret clubhouse, students say the class password before entering. Passwords can either just be a fun word, a phrase or a response to a set teacher question (eg siapa nama?). The password can be changed as frequently as is necessary and this would depend on how often the teacher sees each class per week. For me, I teach some classes once a week and some twice, so I would start with a weekly password.  The passwords that Bryce has used cover a huge range of words/phrases and his latest additions includes morals like ‘slow and steady wins the race’. 

  
For my students, though, I can see the benefits of this idea with:

  1. Kenalkan questions eg siapa nama, tinggal dimana, berapa umur, suka warna apa etc
  2. Slang exclamations which would be useful/cute during story asking eg NGP (gay-en-peh –  gue nggak peduli)
  3. Repetition opportunity for target structures

  
Go to Bryce’s website and read what he has written so far and then enjoy fossicking around all the other fantastic resources and suggestions he has shared. 

Reporting and Assessing to the Australian Curriculum

On Wednesday last week, the Indonesian teachers met again with Mel Jones, the Coordinator for Primary Australian Curriculum (CPAC) for our region. The purpose of our meeting was to focus on reporting and moderation. Attending included Cheryl & Sharon from VH R-7, Jemma from C.A.S., Annie from G.P.S. and myself from P.E.P.S.

The meeting was brilliant on so many levels but mostly because we were able to attend training specific to the teaching of Indonesian with other local Indonesian teacher colleagues. Non-metropolitan language teachers know how rare these opportunities are! In fact ‘rare’ doesn’t even come close to counting the times! Let’s just acknowledge that this is the second time that we have been provided by DECD Indonesian language teacher specific training in our local area!! Let’s hope there are many more!

Our meeting began with the awesome question: How can sites that provide students with less than the recommended number of minutes of Indonesian instruction per week cover the curriculum and therefore report accurately against it? We discovered that several sites within our district are way under quota for no other reason than that the program is not supported nor valued by leadership. In both cases, the staff and principals have been lobbied, both verbally and in writing, offering various solutions to rectify the issue, yet it all seems to have been conveniently swept under the carpet. To return to the burning question, do teachers who cover less than half the amount of the curriculum due to time limitations, give their students ‘D’ & ‘E’’s or do they shift the goal posts and create their own bell curve? What is your take? We all agreed it was tough to grade the students poorly because of an administrative oversight/decision.

Mel then introduced the Reporting Resource: A-E Guide (see below)

reporting resource A - E Guide

as a baseline for devising a grading system relevant for assessing Indonesian language students. We spent quite a bit of time on this as between the 5 of us, 3 teachers use TPRS methodology and the other 2 use traditional methods. This lead to some interesting discussions and ensured the guide we agreed to was inclusive of both methodologies. Yet once, we started looking at student work against our determined criteria, we discovered that it didn’t completely recognize the Achievement Standards which students had acquired. For example, one piece of work we gave a ‘C’ using this criteria yet when we looked at it against the Achievement Standards, the work sample ticked more than 50% of the points, so how could it only be given a ‘C’? So we went back to the drawing board and agreed that the reporting guide is actually quite accurate as it stands and all we had to do was remove the ‘in new contexts’ for the grades ‘A’, ‘B’ & ‘C’ and then we were all satisfied with it.

Sharon began first with her writing samples from a free write she had done with her year 2’s. We all agreed the samples were amazing. Jemma was blown away and instantly wanted to know more about TCI methodology because if this is what year 2’s are producing, TPRS/TCI must be worth investigating! We discussed the task itself (write as much as you can about this picture –a picture from the folk story we have been focusing on this term – Kancil dan Buaya) and realized that we should have given the students more detailed instructions to ensure they were clear on how they could incorporate vocabulary from previous stories into their writing and thus achieve an ‘A’ for the task. For example, students could have included colours , numbers, body parts, clothing (kancil tidak pakai sepatu) etc.

We next looked at Cheryl’s task which was based on her terms focus on the Daniel Bradbury book, “Ada Berapa?” a beautiful counting book. She had created an A3 sheet with 5 pictures taken from the book and students had to write sentences about the pictures using the language modeled in the text. Cheryl was very apprehensive sharing her results after Sharon, which is understandable, yet for me, the student work she presented demonstrates clearly that TPRS/TCI methodology assists student language acquisition far greater than traditional methodology. Cheryl also asked for more information about TPRS/TCI and is keen to look at the Ben Slavic book, “TPRS in a Year”. We suggested she develop each skill one by one, so it is less intimidating. I really hope she does because it will help both her and her students enormously. We all start with baby steps.

We all agreed it was brilliant to have time to collaborate with colleagues in preparation for the 2016 implementation of the Indonesian languages curriculum.  For me, I was especially thankful for the chance to look once again at the curriculum through reporting eyes and be involved with the creation of a grading guide which is highly compatible for all language methodologies.