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Watching other teachers in class

Bring more CI voices into your classroom

I love watching other teachers teach. An absolutely-no-prep end-of-the-year activity that I enjoy is finding videos of other teachers and spending ten minutes watching and commenting on it with my students. I was telling my students, “es como el Matrix donde podemos entrar en (mimic opening a door) otra realidad“. One corrected me, saying, “actually Mr Peto it is more like Inception where 20 seconds of their time stretches into 10 minutes in our world”. I love how everyone gets a little punchy in the last month of school.

It all started one day with a video of Eric Herman doing a movie talk of a Volkswagen commercial. Unfortunately I cannot find the clip, but we got hung up on a portion in which Eric is asking one of his students if she has pets and she says no, so he starts listing the pets that she might want but does not have. I found this hilarious and, since only a few of my students agreed, I decided to pull one up to act out the ludicrous scene with dramatic relish.

Thus was born a segment that I call, “¡¿Qué está pasando en otras clases?!“.

Click on photo to see Alina’s video
At the beginning of the year my students are assigned seats which are placed within taped boxes, but by the end of the year kids are grabbing pillows and sprawling out on the floor. As long as they are paying attention, they own the classroom. So I thought it would be fun to watch one of Alina Filipescu’s videos that highlight her amazing classroom management skills. It took us seven minutes to watch about 30 seconds of video as I described the various gestos that her students were making, all in unison. The interesting thing for me was that I do not normally ask students to do gestures… okay, I never ask for gestures. Bringing Alina in through video taught my class the entonces gesture. Nice!

Click on photo to see the video of Jason
A few days later I pulled up a clip of Jason Fritze teaching younger kids using TPR. This was fun because not only did my students have to adjust to hearing a different voice, but they had to react quickly to the video. I told my students, “es un baile moderno…un baile supermoderno… y el coreógrafo es el señor Fritze… tenemos que hacerlo perfectamente“. Half of my late-May-fried-teaching-brain was freed up as I sat in the back with my students and simply obeyed his instructions, raising my hand whenever I observed students off-track. One of my students sitting at the computer rewound the video (at times cruelly to the beginning) so that we could perfect our performance.

Click on the photo to visit Pablo’s Youtube channel

A few days later we watched a video made by Pablo Pankun Román on his youtube channel “Dreaming Spanish”. This is a great end of the year activity because it moves students in the direction of finding their own comprehensible input. It is very much scaffolded by a native speaker, but it was almost entirely comprehensible to my students.

Cameron Taylor
I have also released several videos of myself doing story listening lessons. Last January on Tea with BVP Bill Van Patten suggested that hearing good comprehensible input on video can be as effective as live interaction. Cynthia Hitz wrote a blog post detailing how she uses these videos for substitute lesson plans (which in fact was the reason that I made several of those videos). Ironically, while I was absent, I had lunch with Cameron Taylor in Tokyo, one of the other teachers that Cynthia highlights in her blog post. It is a very small CI world! I definitely recommend that you check out both Cynthia´s blog as well as Cameron´s youtube channel and his blog where he explores teaching Spanish and also his experiences acquiring Japanese.

Here are links to several videos of me telling stories that I have on my vimeo site. There are also more, including longer ones when I am teaching with a class. Click on any of the images and you will be brought to the video:

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Book review: Speed readings for Spanish Learners by Eric Herman

eric hermanThe day that Eric Herman sent a message out to everyone on the moretprs listserve I happened to be online and I rushed to place my order. Today I received my copy and I have to say, I really like what I am reading.

Speed reading is a concept that is new to me. Briefly, the idea is to encourage students to read for comprehension, not decode. They have a 400 word reading and try to read it as quickly as possible (maximum six minutes). The vocabulary is high-frequency so that students should not be encountering new words in these readings. Afterwards they complete a multiple choice quiz to measure their comprehension and they mark their results on a chart marking both speed and grade. Over a suggested ten week span the students take three quizzes per week and try to read faster while maintaining at least a 70% comprehension grade. Like fluency writing, this activity trains students to avoid inefficient approaches such as translating everything.

Eric has done a great job putting together these stories. They are amusing and feature a variety of recognizable characters that add interest. Now for the heart-breaking part: in order to use this book as intended you need to buy a class set. For me, with California-size classes, that would be almost $400. Happy you if you can afford that.

I did not realize that when I bought it, but now that I have the book I am brainstorming how to make the best of it. I can see that this would be especially useful for the one or two students I have every year who have demonstrated thorough acquisition in class yet still insist on translating stories word for word. That actually happens, so now I have another feather in my differentiation cap.

Outside of the original purpose of the book, I may use the stories for read-alouds. If you can afford a class set, you may be very excited about this purchase. If you cannot afford a class set, this might be worth purchasing just to see how Eric has put this together. I am already planning on developing my own set of speed readings suited to my curriculum.

By the way, it follows the LICT curriculum. As I read the stories there are occasional words that I would not have taught my level 1 kids (desilusionado, construir, toboganes), but apparently if you use LICT then the vocabulary is 100% transparent. Follow this link to Eric Herman´s website for a much more detailed description of this speed reading program.