Here is the first installment of my “Card Talk” video series. I am excited to bring you along this journey with me !! Let me know if you have questions or ideas.
There have been a lot of questions and conversations around Card Talk in recent days. I start the year with Card Talk with my fourth graders and, when I taught third grade, I did it with them, too (though different topics). I thought I'd do a series of video posts about how I structure it, what my goals are, what happens with input and output, and what "stretching" activities I do. ("Stretching activities"... Is that a real expression? If it isn't, I think it should be. I have a tendency to make phrases up, or rename something that already has an established term!)
Anyway, I just wanted to give y'all a heads up and a teaser for what's to come. (PLUS, if I put it out in the Interwebs, I HAVE to do it, right?!) I plan on recording my first video this weekend to set the stage.
In the meantime, check out this video from two years ago, the first year I did my "Hungry Planet" unit (outlined in this post). It's sort of mid-unit, and short, but it will least give you a preview of things to come.
Talk to you soon!
There are no words to express how unbelievably excited and honored I am to be part of an incredible community of teachers and coaches this year. Join me, my friend and colleague Tina Hargaden, and a host of other top-notch teachers in the CI Liftoff Curriculum Club! Use this special link to sign up; registration ends on Sunday, 8 September.
Tina is the author of A Natural Approach to the Year and the owner of the CI Liftoff Facebook Group. Her latest brain child, this Curriculum Club, has lesson plans, a curriculum framework, weekly office hours, and webinars with special guests including Justin Slocum Bailey and Annabelle Williamson, AKA La Maestra Loca. Added bonus-earn PD credit!! The support that you will receive through this group will help you feel confident about your teaching. PLUS, you'll be less stressed, and what's better than that?!?!
Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. I ran my first office hours yesterday; I learned so much from the participants and it was an inspiring and educational experience for all involved. It truly is an incredible program, so please consider joining us.
Here is what some fellow New England teachers are saying about CI Liftoff and the Curriculum Club:
"I am 100% obsessed with Stepping Stones. I'm LOLing as I read this incredible book. Last year, I followed ANATTY with my students K-8, but this fall I'll be teaching Spanish 1 and 2 to HIGH SCHOOLERS! I am so humbled to have achieved this personal goal so early in my career as a language teacher. I have you and this group to thank! Your ideas, encouragement, and positivity were essential during my first year as a teacher last year. I would have gone nuts without you all!"
"Can I just say that ... today, [I am] actually sitting here watching my daughter swim and NOT stressing about what I’m going to do with my students next week? Because I’m totally not stressing! Finally! I’m brand new to all of this CI and I feel like I could cry at how awesome this Curriculum Club is. I signed up yesterday and there it was—daily, scripted out, “say this and then do that” step by step. To feel such support is beyond anything I could have hoped for. Here’s also hoping that my lack of stress will be an advertisement to the rest of my WL to give this new stuff a try too!"
The Hartford Area Career and Technical Center connected to Hartford High School here in White River Junction, VT, opened its doors and welcomed us. The classrooms were perfect, we had a fantastic place for lunch, and the staff was accommodating and incredibly helpful. We are grateful to Charlie and Doug and the whole crew over there.
Additionally, I was lucky to work with an incredible crew. Elissa Maclean choreographed the week, and I was honored to be on a list of teachers that included Justin Slocum Bailey, Joey Dziedzic, Tina Hargaden, and Linda Li. And shoutouts to Jen Schongalla, Jason Tamez, and Becca Rice for all they did behind the scenes; we couldn't have done it without them.
In case you don't have the desire or time to read the entire post, here’s the Cliff Notes list of what I learned/was reminded of this week (though I do hope you will read the whole thing!):
This was my first experience teaching a language lab: 14 4-11 year olds for 2 1/2 hours for four mornings. I had been wondering for months leading up to the first class what this experience would be like with long classes, short duration, and a wide range of ages and experiences. Four of the students in the class were either past or current students of mine. Five were kids in families that had just moved to Norwich and will be at Marion Cross in the fall. Two were the children of a colleague who spent two days in the teacher training. The other three were kids from the community. Five boys, nine girls; two bilingual English/Spanish speakers; four students with past French experience, two who had had Spanish at their previous school. Talk about a motley crew! But we all came together as a community by the end of the class.
One of my biggest challenges (as I noted last year after iFLT) is going S-L-O-W-L-Y and man, did that slap me in the face after the first day! I realized at the end of the class that I had given the kids WAAAAAY too much! The moment that really made this stick for me was when one of the students said as he was leaving, “I don’t want to come back tomorrow. This is too long!” Needless to say, I was crushed.
I did have a bright spot when a student handed this little card to me after class. (Translation: Bonjour Maîtresse.)
I knew going into this week that I didn’t want to prepare too much because I was going to want to see what the kids were like and, more importantly, who they were. I planned to base what I did on the students: their lives, their interests, their identities. And I managed to do that. We talked about their hobbies. I took pictures of them and we Picture Talk-ed them. I talked about what they were wearing every single day. I validated their opinions and honored their thoughts.
The young man who had expressed distress on Tuesday was smiley and engaged on Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday. What do I think caused the change? I gave him a nickname. He was wearing all blue on the second day, so he became Monsieur Bleu. I connected with him on a personal level and made him feel special and unique, and that gave us a bond that grew each day. (On the last day he wasn’t wearing all blue, but all gray. I asked him if he wanted to change his name to Monsieur Gris, but he opted to keep his original identity. It was very sweet. He's the one hugging my neck in the class photo above.)
When I write up what I did each day, I will post it. I need to do that sooner rather than later, before I forget and get wrapped in preparations for this coming week’s proficiency workshop with Tina Hargaden in Maine.
In addition to the language lab, I presented on reading in the elementary language classroom and Movie Talk (or Video Chat). You can find those presentations here. I delight in talking about both of these topics and I especially love sharing knowledge (and resources!) with other teachers.
All in all I feel really good about how the week turned out. My observers gave me positive and encouraging feedback, and the number of hugs I received as the students left on the last day made me feel great. And one little girl gave me this note on her way out.
Have you ever observed a language lab? What have been your big take-aways?
Photo credits: Dahiana Castro, Karen Rowan, Jason Tamez.
When I came back from iFLT in St. Petersburg, FL, one week ago, I wrote about how I don't always have a positive relationship with summer. As I lounge in my sweet Airbnb in Pau with a glass of rosé, I happily sit with the realization that this summer is turning out to be pretty amazing. The Agen Workshop wrapped up yesterday and while I’m so excited to have a few days of relaxation and hiking, I will readily admit that I’m both exhausted and energized from the past week.
Last year after iFLT in Cincinnati I reflected on my phenomenal apprentice teaching experience. I had the pleasure of working with the calm, cool, and collected Paul Kirschling and the genuine, generous, and gentle Blair Richards. All three of us have extremely different teacher personae but we enhanced each other’s lessons and everyone benefitted. The adult students in our French class noted in the debrief on the final day that they appreciated and enjoyed our three different personalities and what we each brought to the class.
This year I was honored to teach alongside Sabrina Sebban-Janczak. She and I complemented each other with seamless transitions between our lessons, additions to each other’s ideas, strong collaboration, and similar energy and delivery. I gained so much from working with her, from new techniques (Readers’ Theater with simultaneous drawing during a Story Listening-type activity) to reminders of some strategies that I know work but may have let fall to the wayside (student/class jobs of responding to certain words with individual/choral responses). It was extraordinarily reaffirming to hear her reassure me that part of a class I taught that I thought had been a total flop was engaging and rewarding for the students and she considered it a true success. Merci, Sabrina.
I did not (regrettably) attend any of the evening coaching sessions, but one morning I heard about the amazing demos that had happened the night before. The last night, a group of us ended up in the evening coaching room as they were wrapping up. The room was packed, and it was clear that it had been a productive two hours for everyone involved, and the energy was palpable. I have had the opportunity to coach several times this summer and it never ceases to amaze me how beneficial it is for all parties involved: the demo teacher, the “students,” the observers, and the coach. I look forward to more opportunities to help teachers see their strengths and feel positive and empowered.
There are so many people I want to thank for helping to make this such a special experience, but I especially want to extend my appreciation to Sabrina, Karen Rowan, Jason Tamez, Justin Slocum Bailey, Dahiana Castro, Teri Wiechart, Alina Filipescu, and Reed Riggs. And of course, the largest thanks goes to Judith Dubois for organising such a unique and powerful conference in a very special location.
For those of you headed back to school soon, all the best for a strong start to the year. There are some of you who still have some summer left and I send you wishes of relaxation and restoration. If you went to a conference this summer and have anything to share, please comment on this post!
This is the second draft of this post; the CyberMonster ate the first, but maybe my frustration and poor memory yielded a better post. Thanks to Justin Slocum Bailey for showing me the Panda cheese commercials to make me laugh!
Allison Litten teaches French at the Marion Cross School, a public K-6 school in Norwich, Vermont. This year she is teaching kindergarten and grades 1, 2, 4, and 6.