November 9-10, 2016

Conferences!

I hardly slept a wink Tuesday night then headed into conferences Wednesday and Thursday for 12 hour shifts each day. We prepared portfolios on November 1-4 and I was eager for the kids to share their abilities with their families.

In the folders we had:

1. Reading Assessment – I wrote a story for them and read it to them aloud in L2 and they wrote to summarize it in L1.
2. Listening Assessment – We told them a tale one day in class, à la Story Listening style, then the next day retold it in L2 in the library with no extra-linguistic supports, just retelling, and they wrote to summarize in L1.
3. Quickwrites – We wrote for ten minutes three times and kids shared their best one out of the three we have done this year.
4. No speaking data, I explained to them the rationale for not assessing speaking and freaking the kids out. Parents and kids were grateful and relieved, and many said that speaking in language class was so stressful for them in their education that they are happy to have their kids spared that anxiety.

About 50% of the families came and all of them had extremely positive feedback on their kids’ learning. Many told me that they left Back to School Night (where I did a quick OWI with the parents) feeling jealous that they were not in the class. Many shared stories of my current students’ older siblings’ experiences in languages at the middle and high school. Many said they saw a big difference in the kids’ experiences with comprehensible inout compared to their own or their older children’s experiences with the traditional approach.

Some said that their students were apprehensive about taking languages and now it is their favorite class. Some said that their kid is speaking, reading, and watching L2 at home. Some said that the first-year kids have more skills after one term than their older siblings after two to three years. Some said that my current students have more proficiency than they themselves did after years of taking grammar-based lessons in France. Some said that this class was all their child talked about from the whole school day, that this class was the only thing their child loves in school. One said that a group of moms was talking in the parking lot – like 20 moms, she said, and they were talking about the class,  and all agreed that their kids loved class and are learning a ton!

Seeing kids share their work with their parents was beautiful, too. The shy ones, the ones who just sit there and listen and watch with wide eyes and little careful smiles, they sat there and shared their writing and their ability to read and understand and listen and understand, and their faces shone with pride and their parents were visibly moved by their children’s abilities. One girl shared how she invented a job for herself (tidy points tallier). The “hoy boy” who is now called the “Joy Hoy Boy” because of the absolute verve with which he chirps out, “hoy hoy!” when I say “today”. Jota Jota I Griega, or JJY, who branched out from just “hoy hoy” to (of her own volition) also repeating “estoy estoy” and “soy soy” and “voy voy” (hence the addition of Y to her name) These kids are PROUD of class. They love the stories. They were cracking up retelling them to their families. I realized that the levity that stories bring is rare indeed in this life.

I asked each and every family to write a reflection on their child’s abilities and their thoughts on the program. I was up front with them about the recent offer I received from the administration to bring the textbooks down to class. People gasped as if someone had asked to have a study session at a birthday party.

The feeling I had coming home last night at 8:30 was of incredible support, love, and gratitude for the families and kids.

Recently there has been some questioning of my teaching by my administration which, for me, has been super uncomfortable and stressful and honestly has driven me slightly crazy. But, there is a silver lining.  Because of the questioning, I decided to have the kids make those reading, writing, and listening portfolios…and watching their parents so happy with what their kids can do after ten short weeks was well worth it!

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About Lanny Ball

For more than 23 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy and reading consultant in Northwestern Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on Twitter @LannyBall, as well as his literacy blog: lannyball.com or lannyball.blog.

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