Saturday, November 21, 2015

Focus on conversation

I've always tried to focus my classes on communicative language rather than grammar. I want my students to speak the language not learn about the language but I've always been the one doing the 90% target language and not my students. So how to change that? Or at least increase my students' TL usage in class?

The answer came from French teacher and KWLA president Sara Merideth. She mentioned keeping key phrases right above the board and focusing on those until students knew them and then replacing them with new ones, constantly building the students' conversational skills.

Sounded good to me so I tried it. I moved my question word wall from the side to right up front - literally right over the white board where I keep the schedule for the day, our I can statements, and WBT scoreboard. Guess what happened? My students are asking more questions! They shout out things like ¿Por qué? ¿Qué? ¿Dónde? While watching a video 2 fifth graders asked me ¿La cámara...hmmmm....dónde? A great example of novice learners using questions!

So I took it a little further. I have a bulletin board just behind where I sit with my white board where I added additional useful phrases. I move one or two to the white board and give students incentives for using them (a ticket that they write their name on and put in a box - once a month I pull out several students names and they win a piece of chocolate.)  We started with ¿Cómo se dice ___ en español? in September and added ¿En serio? for October.

Our useful phrases are written on sentence strips and are stapled on my bulletin board.

But my kiddos noticed that a lot of the phrases are great when playing games - like calling each other out for being a tramposo or Me rindo/No te rindas or  yelling ¡Toma! or ¡Te gané! when they win. Or Tranquilo when we´re getting too loud. My fourth grade classes had me cracking up because several kids in the front were craning their necks to see what phrase they could use next while one kid in the back raised his hand and asked ¿Cómo se dice I'm confused en español? because he couldn't see the board. I've since added the phrases where the back of the class can see them easily as well. We also added them to their folders.

Students glued the phrases to their folders so they're always handy.

When we played Diego Dice (Simon says) they were telling each other to sit down in Spanish and I had to teach them "I didn't do it" on the fly so they could defend themselves against accusations of being out of the game.

We sit on the carpet during class but I know one of my high school teacher friends has a list of useful phrases taped to each desk in her room. Or you could keep them on tables or taped to folders so students can access them easily. Combined with some incentives or competition for using the most target language can really get them talking.

Get a copy of the useful phrases here.

How do you get your students talking in the target language? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chocolate Clapping Game

Kids of every culture love clapping games.  They're not hard to learn, it helps with pronunciation, and ties in kids' culture. Since we already sing about chocolate when doing my likes and dislikes chapter it was a perfect opportunity to add the clapping game Chocolate.

Choco choco la la
Choco choco te te
Choco la choco te
Choco choco la te

I used this video to introduce the game. I like it because it shows two girls around the same age as my students. 

Then we practiced for a couple minutes at the end of each class. This also makes for a great brain break if you have longer classes. My students LOVE it! Even my boys. I have morning duty in the cafeteria and I usually end up having to clap with at least 3-4 students each morning. Some of them have gotten really really fast!

Here's a video of one of my classes. (Thermal filter so their faces are obscured.)

Do you use any clapping games in your classes? Or other culturally authentic games? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Cinco monitos saltando en la cama

Our animal for Chapter Two is el mono with an emphasis on the verbs comer (eat) and saltar (jump). This year I have been experimenting with more TPRSish storytelling techniques. I´ve used 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed before but this year I wanted to make sure that the students were not just learning that monkey is mono but also learning some high frequency phrases.

I started with this basic video that focuses on the structure There is _____. Some kids got frustrated at how slow it went but I knew it was working when a fifth grade boy told me in the car rider line one afternoon, Hay un mono. ¿Dónde? I asked him. Then he pointed to himself and said it again.

After watching this video I showed them another video - this time with real monkeys. With this video I turn off the sound and together we describe what we see. Hay un mono. Hay dos monos. El mono come. El mono salta. One student told me, "Estoy triste" when the monkey steals and eats a bird egg. The students generally react with excitement when watching the real animals. I've used similar videos when talking about other animals.  (One thing I will do better next time is make sure that the students know these monkeys live in Costa Rica. We can find it on the map and ask if Hay monos en Kentucky? for a quick comparison.)

In the next class I told them the story of the Cinco Monitos using the storytelling props from I start out by pulling out one monkey and questioning students about how many monkeys there are. At some point I tell them NO, no hay un mono. Hay dos monos and I pull out the second monkey. Then repeat until I surprise them with the third. And so forth up to five. Some classes get smart and will say the next number before I can while other classes wait for me to spring it on them. Below is how I ask the questions during the story. I have the two sentences. Hay ___ monos, Los monos saltan en la cama, and No más monos saltando en la cama up on the board so students can easily answer my questions. I ask them to answer chorally and also individually, mixing it up so they have to pay attention.

¿Cuántos monos hay? Hay cinco monos. ¿Hay 2 monos? No no hay 2 monos. Hay cinco monos. 

Los monos saltan. Los monos saltan en la cama. ¿Los monos bailan el flamenco? No, los monos saltan en la cama. ¿Los monos comen las bananas? No, los monos saltan en la cama. 

Mamá mono llama al doctor. El doctor dice, "¡No más monos saltando en la cama!"

¿Hay cinco monos? No, no hay cinco monos. Hay cuatro monos. ¿Cuántos monos hay? etc. etc. 

Even my fifth graders are enjoying listening to this story. I've had several classes groan when I said it was time to go. They especially like to yell the answers when I say the wrong thing. There's something about correcting the teacher that gets them no matter what age they are.

High frequency phrases to focus on:

Hay ____.
El doctor dice _____.
No más ______.

After finishing the story we watched the video and sing along. The way I tell the story doesn't match the song exactly but it´s close enough that the students understand and can sing along to almost all of it. If you have a rowdy class that needs to get some energy out, I highly recommend jumping around to 5 Monitos. It works wonders

So that's what we've been doing in Spanish class! What have you been up to? How do you teach high frequency phrases? Do you use storytelling or TPRS? I'd love to compare notes. Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang