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Teaching with Novels

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Resources

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Meet Sra. Wienhold

Wading in the CI pool

This year I am very fortunate that even though I am a #deptof1 (department of one), I get to meet with other Spanish teachers once per month. Five tiny schools have come together to create the Cedar Valley Northeast group for specials teachers. Once a month during early out PD, we meet at one school in our content group: Spanish, band, industrial tech, etc. If you teach at a small school, I would highly recommend advocating for meeting with a group like this. The goal we have been given is to bring lesson or activity sample for revision with the group, but the real value has been just getting together with teachers of my content area. Those of you who actually have departments do not understand how nice it is to talk with someone in person who is actually a language teacher, more than just at a yearly conference. 

Even though I am the only teacher of the group who uses comprehensible input methods, there is so much to be learned from experienced teachers. As Carrie Toth so perfectly stated recently, "We should help and support teachers taking risks and even those afraid to take risks without judgement". See her full post about language teacher bullying here. So far I have been doing my best to share what I do in my classroom, without coming off as overbearing or condescending (& if I am please let me know group!). Many have expressed interest in comprehensible input, coming to visit, or have started looking into the possibility of purchasing novels. 

But, before anyone can even think about changing their methods or trying something new, their basic needs as a teacher have to be met,  including administrator support, student respect, belonging at school, and a purpose for teaching. We spent a good portion of our meeting this week working on getting these essential needs met for a teacher, who is on the brink of wanting to leave the profession. Sometimes it is not about moving forward, but rather just staying afloat. Department of one teachers have 3-5 preps a day, which is close to preparing around 100 different lessons per month. With this extreme preparation load, the idea of major change is not only scary but exhausting, especially when you are going at it alone. 

Recently, I have been asked a few times, I want to move away from traditional textbook teaching, but where do you start? 
  • My 1st baby steps away from the textbook came from the Creative Language Class. They have so many ideas how to take the textbook chapter you need to cover and add in communicative, proficiency centered activities, focusing on function and showing what you know. 
  • If you are interested in moving into comprehensible input and storytelling, Martina Bex has an awesome series for tprs 101, as well as the mother load of both free activities, and wonderful entire units for purchase. 
Wading in the CI pool - image source

As I have mentioned before, nothing happens overnight. To give you an idea, here is a very basic breakdown of my teaching journey so far:

  • Year 1 - Traditional textbook and workbook. 
    • Crammed vocab, quizzed, crammed grammar, quizzed, every night a page from the workbook to practice, textbook test, repeat with some new ideas sprinkled in from Creative Language Class and other online sources.
  • Year 2  - New textbook & pregnant/maternity leave/sleep deprived new mom
    • I tried to incorporate unit topic as a whole with proficiency based assessments and started FVR with a grant. I used more blog, Pinterest and Twitter ideas, and started this blog in May of that school year. 
  • Year 3  -  Baby steps into comprehensible input methods
  • Year 4 - New school with (attempting) full on comprehensible input 

The only way I was able to move so fast from one style of teaching to another is from the AMAZING novel teachers guides and detailed storytelling unit instruction from Martina, as well as professional development in person. Also, I have had unlimited freedom (both a blessing and a curse), which is not the case for many people. So if your basic needs as a teacher are being met and you would like to take a dip in the CI pool, start wading on in! I am not an expert by any means, but I will gladly help share what I have learned so far on my personal journey. 
Have a great weekend! - Allison 

2 comments

  1. Allison, I am so grateful for your clarity and willingness to speak about your experiences. We are in the midst of undergoing a major overhaul in our dept to CI. I have had tprs training and have several colleagues willing to take some steps with me. However, we have have some hold outs. What would you do in such a situation? Do you think it is possible to create a solid program in our school when teachers perhaps teaching the same level would differ so much (traditional textbook curriculum alongside others embracing a CI classroom?)
    I very much appreciate all of my colleagues and feel that we are alienating them, but at the same time we are very thrilled with the results we are having. Mike Peto seems to suggest that the results will speak for themselves. I don't know though...it is hard winning a few over.

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    Replies
    1. Anne,
      While I do not have a department to convince, I agree with Mike to patiently wait it out and have the results and student feedback speak for themselves. If it is a forced change, the method will be resented. You can always provide ready made CI activities with great instructions for others to try out. They may be hesitant because they already have things ready to go that they know "work for them" and all new stuff is TON of time and effort.
      Let me know if you have questions and keep fighting the good fight!
      Allison

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