Monthly Archives: April 2008

Teaching from the Heart

I have been reading a lot from Ben Slavic lately. One theme that I get from a lot of his readings is the idea of teaching from the heart. At first I wasn’t so sure what he meant, but I think that I understood a little more today.

It means making a personal connection with the students and basicing your class off of this personal relationship. This doesn’t mean that the teacher is the students best friend. There is still a level of respect there. It does mean that the teacher is concerned more about the students than the subject you are covering on a particular day. The teacher is aware of what the students are feeling. There is also a level of care that the teacher possesses about the students that, right now, is hard for me to define.

Once the teacher and the students are connected by the heart, just about anything can happen. But if there is no connection, than the students will not learn as much or reach their potential. It takes me back to the quote that says, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is so true.


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What did I miss?

I had a student come up to me and ask me what she missed on Thursday and Friday of last week. I was happy that she came in because so many students just don’t do anything. The more I talked to her, the more the feeling that I got that she wasn’t serious about the questions. Yes, she wanted to know what she missed, but there was this attitude that she had that she was just asking because it was a routine. In other words, Spanish to her was not a serious subject and it was okay if she missed two days because we didn’t do anything. Now, she is an A student and fairly bright, but it opened my eyes to something.

I want my students to feel that it is impossible to miss Spanish because they are learning so much. If they were to miss one day, they would be sunk. I don’t think that assigning more homework is the way to accomplish this, but I do feel that elements of TPRS would help.

For example, if a student misses a story they will not have the same experience as another student. They will not get the repetition and without it, Spanish class returns to dull and boring superfluous information. Another element is the personalization. TPRS helps to create a community of learning stories that makes the student want to belong. If they miss a story it is like they are missing out on what the community is doing.

Someone once said, “You have time for what is important to you.” I feel that the same is true of the students. If the class is important to them then they will be there. If not, then maybe that is an indication that they do not feel class is necessary.

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Just talking

I was reading some of Susan Gross’s articles and she mentioned that one year she just decided to throw the book out and just talk to the kids. I really liked this approach and it made me want to try this more.Imagine just talking with the class the whole entire time in comprehensible input so that they could acquire the language with topics that are of interest to them would promote fluency a lot more than units about the grammar elements. Students love just talking, they try to get me to do it all the time. Why do I always have to be thinking of all these creative activities to try and distract the students so they will learn Spanish. It is like they just do it because it is better than doing nothing. I realize that part of the time that I talk to the students they are really just trying to get me off task, but the problem is that we are talking in L1. If we were talking in L2 and they understood most of what I was saying, I really think that they would love it. More importantly, they would acquire the language.

I am in the search for something real. I want my time in class to be real and not a facade of me teaching. I want the students to enjoy what they are doing and actually learn Spanish. It is really as simple as that.

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Filed under Storytelling tips

The goal for stories is to reach the kids

This came from Ben Slavic’s blog about using the ideas of Krashen to reach kids. At the end he made a great closing point that is good to keep in mind when telling the stories.

Maybe we should spend less time wrestling with learning how to create stories and just use a few storytelling techniques to just talk with the kids.

The technical aspects of asking stories are not unimportant, but they sometimes cloud our vision of what is truly important – reaching the kids. If a teacher were to use any simple combination of circling, slow, pausing and pointing, and teaching to the eyes, using just those TPRS techniques to engage the students in simple conversations about their interests, they might get unexpectedly fine results.

As we discover more and more ways to connect with our students, without worrying too much about how to create home run stories, we will give more and more life and energy to Krashen’s ideas, and thus become better teachers of fluency.

I have really felt lately that things are best when they are kept simple and whole. Food, for example, has most of it’s benefit when it is whole and it has not been messed with. Men’s shaving is another thing that is made better when sticking to the basics of a shaving brush and single-track razor. It seems that in TPRS that it is more successful when you seek to reach the kids and keep the story simple. I guess we will see.

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Keeping Records

I was reminded today that it is so important to keep good records. It takes a little extra time, but it makes life so much easier in the end when you need it. Keeping good records helps me as a teacher to keep my brain available for other tasks. It also is a visual representation of grades, bathroom passes, detentions, or any thing that you may need for later reference.

As a general rule, I find that it is best to keep these as simple as possible. I print out a class roster and designate it as a records page for things like bathrooms breaks or other information that I may need to record. It is also good for parent teacher conferences to have records of what their child has done.

I wonder how it will change as I shift into TPRS? I am sure that some things will be the same, like the bathroom passes, but I know that somethings will change. I want to add the pagame that Blain has implemented to see it works.

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Filed under Classroom Management, Teaching Discoveries

Encouraging parent calls

I decided to make a couple of phone calls the other day to some parents. Two of the calls were to let the parents know that their child was doing well and had been improving. The other call was to let a parent know that their child had done poor on the last unit and to encourage them to do better on this upcoming unit.

Overall, it was such a rewarding experience. The parents were glad that I called, even though I am a student teacher. One parent said that this was the first time that a teacher called just to say that their child was doing well.

The phone call that was about the struggling student was also very encouraging. She was grateful that I let her know and would talk to her child. It is nice to know that these types of phone calls can be a good thing. It was a reminder that encouraging phone calls make more of a difference than I thought.

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Stories make lasting memories

Here is a comment from Laura Lane. I got it from Ben Slavic’s blog.

I am convinced, more and more, that teaching students to develop an ear for the language, within a caring environment in which language is acquired through stories, rather than through the memorizing of rules, is the key to success in WL classrooms. Grammar rules will soon be forgotten; stories create memories that last a lifetime.

I especially like the last sentence where she talks about the power of stories making a lasting impact. How true it is! I hope that I can develop this skill. I know that it is what is best for the students.

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Filed under teaching grammar