Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's working - Mistake Monitor

So what's working in my classes this week?

This week and last I've had a lot of success with appointing a mistake monitor. I don't usually do a lot of error correction in my classes.  As long as I can make out what they are saying I'm good. I'll model back to them the right way to say it, then say "muy bien," and move on to the next person. The main reason I do this is to make sure that we all maintain a low affective filter. I want them speaking without fear. If they are worried about making mistakes then they will speak less.

However, that all being said, I'm also trying to get my students up to Novice High. That means that they need to be able to ask questions.  So far we can ask the questions but then when they go to answer them they like to parrot back the question word in the sentence - "Qué necesito un lápiz."

I've modeled it. They've repeated after me. They've practiced questions and answers in pairs and with an interpersonal game. And they still do it wrong. I can't in good conscious let this error go but neither do I want to harp on them about it.

The solution? 

The mistake monitor! This was an idea I got from a professor in grad school. I pick one student that I've caught making the mistake, I teach them correct way to answer and then I appoint them the monitor. If they hear someone else making the same mistake then they have to point at them and say "No qué!" (or whatever the mistake happens to be.)

And you know what? They love it! In one class I picked a student who sometimes has problems paying attention. Now that he knows he can point at people if they make a mistake he is listening intently to every word said. The only downside is that some students are making the mistake on purpose just so they can have the monitor point at them but overall the error rate is going down and everybody's happy.

Things to remember - this isn't for small mistakes made by one person but something a larger group is consistently struggling with. I would also be careful who you appoint as the monitor and make sure that they know they should always be kind and respectful to their classmates.

How do you correct errors in class? Share below!

Monday, October 28, 2013


So I'm diving back into the blogverse. It seems I can't stay away for long, although my interests certainly have changed. (Check out my now defunct blog that reviewed Japanese Kit Kats - Jen Ken's Kit Kat Blog.) This time I'm focusing on teaching - specifically teaching world languages, teaching on the go and teaching the 'lil ones.

Who am I?

I wasn't trained as a teacher. In fact my bachelor's degree is in History. But after graduating I spent a year in France teaching English in two junior high schools. After a few years as a cubicle monkey at a Fortune 500 I escaped to Japan where I taught English for 3 years in 2 junior highs and 3 elementary schools as an ALT.  It was there playing janken with my elementary school students I realized I was kind of good at this teaching thing and I would be happy to do it for awhile longer (but closer to home.)  So I came home, got my alternate certification and was offered a job teaching elementary Spanish. (I should mention here that I've studied Spanish since I was in the 8th grade, minored in it in college and took an additional 15 hours of undergrad credit before I did my alternate certification program. I also speak a little French and Japanese.)

So that's my strange and wonderful journey that has led me here. I'm in my second year teaching here in the US and my 6th year overall.  Here in Kentucky, I have 680+ students in kindergarten to 5th grade. I see my students for 25 minutes twice every six days (not enough but I'm working on getting more time.)  I'm a lone ranger - my team members are the art, PE, music and science lab teachers. I'm also the third Spanish teacher in 4 years so even though there was Spanish being taught when I got there I'm the one responsible for building our program. I teach on my spiffy cart, Sra. Speedy. She and I roll around the school teaching up to 11 classes a day. Oh and I don't have a curriculum, so I have challenges, lots and lots of challenges.  All of which I will be documenting here as I work through them.