Conjuguno

My new teaching position has introduced me to a lot of new challenges in finding harmony between CI-based methodology and a textbook-based pacing guide. Our French 2 textbook is especially heavy on irregular verbs, and although my students are working their hardest — engaging actively in CI practice during class and completing a wide variety of practices at home — we’re still struggling to the meet the goal of mastering all these verbs forms. As usual, the textbook considers a set of verbs like dormir, partir and sortir to be one “rule” because all the verbs have similar irregularities. The reality is that acquiring all the present- and past-tense forms of these three verbs solidly enough for confident production is far beyond the scope of one week’s learning, and that doesn’t even take into account the twenty or more additional lexical items to be covered in the week. It’s also far more than can be sensibly addressed totally through CI activities.

Enter Conjuguno. I developed this activity to give students some kind of purpose for using all these verb forms that’s hopefully enjoyable enough to at least trigger a few good neurochemicals and boost their retention.Read More »

Tapout!

Tapout is a quick and easy way to keep extended TPR commands from getting too tedious. I’ve been there plenty of times: you get caught up in the process of challenging students with extended commands like Walk to the table, pick up the book, and hit the door three times with the book — and suddenly you realize it’s a snooze fest. Even the goofiest commands can lose their appeal if you’re trying to work with a large group of students.

I like Tapout because it contains two important elements: it keeps students watching, and it encourages novelty in vocabulary. Here’s the way it works. First, you give a set of extended or chain commands to Student A, who then goes through all the actions and freezes at the last moment. Then you’ll call on Student B and give him or her a new set of commands that begin where Student A left off. Touching your head might become scratching your head. Hitting the door with your foot might become touching the door with your hand. The game requires students to pay attention because they need to jump right into place when you call on them. It encourages novelty in vocabulary because the tapout moment will require a variation on the same command.

For an extra challenge, let students take over the commands. When Student A taps out, he or she sits down and gives commands to Student B, who has taken his or her place. I like this variation because it downplays the speaking role since students are focused on the process of tapping out and do the actions.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

TPRS and the Textbook

One of the biggest challenges in teaching through TPR and TPRS is finding harmony between an existing curriculum and TPRS methodology. The few textbook sets that come with TPRS materials will bombard you with low-quality TPRS experiences, so you’re often left to do the work on your own. There’s a process to the madness, though, and once you get the hang of it, you can transform nearly any textbook unit or chapter into a series of TPR and TPRS lessons.Read More »

The Post I Keep Putting Off

“Mr. Simpson, do you have any popsicle sticks?”

“Uh, yeah, you know I have a million popsicle sticks in the drawer over there, every size and color. Knock yourself out.”

A few days later, after being sidetracked by my colleagues for nearly an hour, I walked into my classroom to find it full of current and former students, teachers, and even a few parents. It was a going-away party. For me.Read More »

Boosting Memory the Hard Way

I’ve been reading Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, et al., and I’ve gotten far enough along to extract four fundamental factors in boosting memory: recall, interleaving, spacing and elaboration. In fact, I woke up this morning to find that my never-sleeping brain had organized those factors in a tidy little acronym: RISE. I could hardly resist the urge to head straight for the computer and put this epiphany in writing. After all, I now had the answer to every memory-related question and didn’t want to forget any of it.

Wait, what? How could I forget any of it? I had read and reflected. I had recalled.

I had an acronym.Read More »