First Days of School
I have been back to work since the 12th, but I’ve only seen the kids for 5 days’ worth of classes, so it’s like it’s been a full week. I’ve been spending my time getting back into the swing of teaching after being home with my 2 sons for the whole summer. I’ve been adjusting to my new schedule and exploring all the great options I have for decorating my new classroom (I still share, but I don’t have to travel any more!). I have also been brushing the dust off my Spanish and my storytelling skills for a new year. The first lessons were rusty and didn’t have any stories, but it’s been slowly coming back to the point where I feel pretty confident in my circling and circumlocution skills.
The students, of course, are doing great, they have been awesome. Even the new students who have not had TPRS instruction before are picking up a lot and excited to try to get into the fun of the lessons.
Management and Procedures and #TL90plus
As I wrote before, I have added a focus on management and procedures in the classroom.
I have also been doing some research for my next Musicuentos Black Box Podcast (look out for a new episode by Karen Tharrington on or around 9/1 and my next episode on 9/15!) on using the TL 90% of the time. The article I will be reviewing in the video has all sorts of strategies and rationales for using TL as much as possible and I will wait for that video to discuss those things, but it is germane to this post because one of the best ways to get to using the TL 90% or more of the class period is the same as one of the best ways to manage the classroom: Set up and stick to procedures.
If you start the year with procedures in the TL and keep them up throughout the year, then the kids will learn what they mean and will be able to do them. The teacher will not have to resort to translating instructions for tasks or managing inappropriate behaviors. My separate focuses on procedures and TL use have sort of fused into one focus. With one (good procedures), I will be able to do the other (stay in the TL)!
More on that as the year goes on.
The Youngest Grades
In the lowest grades (k,1,2), I started with procedures in English. In kindergarten especially, I want them to know exactly what I will do when I arrive and what they can expect throughout a class period. I know a lot of people who read this probably start their year off with TL activities to send the message to the kids that they will be needing to listen to and understand TL in every class. I have done this in the past, but after the management presentation with Harry Wong that I went to a few weeks ago, I decided to start with procedures first and save the Spanish for later. The first day with procedures was great (they could all understand what I was saying!). The second, I fell back into using English even though I came in with the goal of using none. The third class, though (Tuesday of this week), I finally powered through and stayed in the TL the whole time. The kids had a little trouble at first, but it seems promising because by the end of the class, they were understanding and performing the TPR actions that I was asking of them without me having to do them at the same time. That was a big win for me and a lot more than I was expecting.
I had the same itinerary for the 1st and 2nd grade: first day rules and procedures, then start with Spanish instruction. These grades are a little bit easier because I have had them all in class before (except for the new kids). I was a little worried about how I would transition to getting back to using the TL with the students. In past years I have found that once I start to use English heavily, the kids start to expect it and I start to do it more because it “makes things easier” to explain vocab or concepts in English rather than Spanish. Additionally, because they know that I can go back to English, they will beg me to translate or to not use Spanish at all.
My solution this year was unorthodox, but it has been great so far. I decided to make my first story about myself. I used my circling skills to tell the story of how a meteor came from Saturn and fell on my head and knocked all the English out of my brain. I can still understand, I told them, but I can’t talk. They thought that was really funny. It gave me an opportunity to act out getting bonked in the head and act out crying and saying “ow!!!!” (and what 5-7 year old doesn’t think it’s funny for a teacher to get bonked on the head?). It also gave me an opportunity to circle “me duele la cabeza” (my head hurts), “estaba en casa” (I was in my house), and a few other structures that can be useful in later stories and conversations as well as everyday classroom interactions.
The older students know that I speak Spanish and they’re not young enough to enjoy a story like the “Meteor from Saturn.” (Ugh, that’s lame). Even without a complicated backstory, though, the older kids are responding well when I use only the TL. I warn them that I will not speak any more English in the class and they have responded well. It takes a lot of discipline for me to not switch back to English to make a joke or explain a phrase, but my perseverance has paid off because they are responding to me in Spanish more now than at this time last year (even the new kids who are just starting with Spanish classes and TPRS).
Excitement for the year
It’s going to be an exciting year, that’s for sure. With my new procedures in place, I won’t have to resort to using English nearly as much as I have in the past. I am looking forward to getting a little bit closer to the teacher that I want to be.
I love reading your blog about teaching junior primary (junior elementary) with TCI as there is so little information about TCI with this age group!! I teach elementary students too, although not kindergarten. What age are your kindergarten students? Do you break up your lessons with brain breaks or other activities? Our lessons last 50 minutes, so I find lots of activity helps to keep them focused., yet I am running out of ideas! Do you have some suggestions that would work with other languages?