Thursday, December 17, 2015

The days before a holiday...

When I first started teaching I totally ignored the holidays.  Part of that is because of my personal beliefs: I don't celebrate Christmas and I think it's fundamentally a Christian celebration, and in a public school, I don't think it has a place.  I feel deeply sensitive to students of other religious backgrounds who are forced to sing about Jesus. I certainly don't begrudge anyone's beliefs or spirituality, I just don't want to feel forced to celebrate it, nor do I want to force it on others.  I don't mind taking a stand.  I feel the same way about most holidays, but for different reasons.   I also completely ignored the fact that the kids are wound up and unfocused.  I tried to just go on with class.

Guess what? It didn't work.  At all.  I got a lot of negativity from kids, from families, and the work the kids produced was a waste.

Luckily, I started getting smarter.  My first year teaching elementary school, I had a read-in the last day before break, where the kids brought sleeping bags, pillows, and stuffed animals, and we read.  ALL DAY.  Parents donated and served tea and healthy snacks, and it was truly one of the greatest days of my teaching career.  I think it worked because a) It was in line with my values as a teacher, b) Who doesn't love to read with tea and stuffed animals?  c) Because it acknowledged the holiday without impinging on anyone else's values.

As a middle school teacher in a school that is culturally and ethically Jewish, Christmas is not an issue.  It's great.  However, there is still the issue of kids being wound up and it not being a great time to do assessments or present new information.  I'm trying this year to be more responsive and aware, so in my planning I decided to do some activities that are still CI but maybe not aligned exactly with what I'm doing in each class.  One lesson worked out particularly well because I had a sub and the kids could work on the activity without any language support from me.

Activity 1¡Yo Soy Original!
Novice learners- This is a follow up for ¿Qué te gusta? mini-unit from Martina Bex:
(This activity has been adapted from this blog post and Pinterest.)

Students (as homework or with a sub) made drawings of their bodies out of things that they like.  They had to label them in Spanish.

In class, we reviewed me gusta(n) and a él/ella le gusta(n) using our notes from a prior lesson and my beloved stuffed animals.  Students first told me what they like and got to hold that stuffed animal, then in order to keep it for the rest of class they had to give me one correct sentence about someone else.  To scaffold, they got to use their notes, try several times, and there was LOTS of repetition.  AWESOME!

To follow up, I took their "original" drawings and put them on the document camera and discussed a few.  Students wrote sentences using the examples on the document camera that we did together, then I put up all the drawings around the room and students had to write 8 original sentences about their classmates, guessing whose paper belonged to whom.  I told them that if they couldn't guess, to just use él/ella (he/she).
Here are the directions for the activity:  (click on image to download)


 For an editable word version with rubrics (6 directions to a page), click here.


Here are the directions I gave the students for the writing/follow-up activity:

Directions: Write at least 8 GREAT sentences about your classmates and what they like. 
Example:                                                 A Juan le gusta esquiar.
A Julia le gustan gatos.
Challenge: (Do these in addition to the previous 8.)
Write about two people:                                 A Juan y a Julia les gusta esquiar. 

Write about you and someone else:               A Juan y a mí nos gustan gatos. 

Click here for an editable word doc.  

Activity 2- Strip bingo about Hanukah  
(I have only done this with my more advanced classes, but I'm going to try it with my 1Bs.)

I found this great free story on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I created a document to project and had kids choose six words to write down on their strips.  See here for an explanation of Strip Bingo from The Comprehensible Classroom.  The kids LOVE this game but the best part for my level 2s is that they try to trick me into saying the words before I get to them (so they can win).  This generates a ton of language and laughter, and sometimes they even succeed.  By the way, I used it with my 1Bs and it worked!
Click below for the projectable document and "strips".  (But really...use recycled paper from the paper cutter, please!)


Activity 3- Un sapo de otro pozo
This is another of Martina's great games.  I do not know how well it would work in a novice classroom, but my level 2s ate it up and had a blast.  Please follow this link for more information.

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