September 28, 2016

Writing and Reading and the Power of Bizarre and Hard-to-Spell Names or Why I Do not “Teach” the Alphabet

First, here is a short video of the Reading from the Back of the Room strategy from Ben Slavic’s Reading Options.  This is a Spanish One class reading a class-created text on a One Word Image of Eminem, an M&M who is a very wealthy rapper with a long gold necklace.  This was the last five minutes of seventh period.  We had spent the period reviewing the artists’ work of a gorgeous drawing of the OWI character, then doing Write and Discuss, then a choral translation.  In my estimation, this class is pretty darn engaged for seventh graders about to go get on the bus in five minutes.  Why would they not be engaged?  We are discussing a creation they made, a character we have all come to love, using language that they are proud to understand.  Reading from the Back of the Room is the icing on the cake so far for these kids.  (To see the creation of Eminem, yesterday, watch this video.)

In these two videos (Part One and Part Two) we are writing up the story of Srta. Yummy, the french fry.  You will notice that there is a lot of spelling of the complicated, bizarre names that the kids suggested for the characters.  I welcome this as a chance to work with the alphabet in context.  In my experience, the letters and numerals in other languages are very hard to acquire.  I still struggle with them myself.  I think it has something to do with the fact that we learn the names for the symbols – the letters and the numerals – early on in ur L1 education and then when we see the same symbol in another language, our brains balk at recalling the L2 name for the exact same symbol.  Therefore, we need lots of practice with the L2 names of the numerals and letters, in context not in a list.  I do not want my students to have to start with A or 1 and work their way up to the letter or numeral they need.

In these videos you will also hear me praise and thank kids for asking for clarification.  I am working to embed new vocabulary (desagradable and sale) and so I expect them to not know the words.

You will also hear me remind the kids that their job is to listen and read and understand, and I tell them that we will have to copy the writing individually if we cannot help the class maintain its focus.


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