Two Victories in Two Days!

1. EEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeee!!!!!!!
I did a circle in class yesterday and it totally worked!!! I’m too excited to even try to be clever with this post, so please bear with me, dear reader! *beams*

For those of you that don’t know, I use a Restorative Practice strategy in my classroom that involves circle work in order to promote a sense of community, encouragement and belonging. But just what is a circle, you ask? It is the  single most amazing classroom strategy since hand-raising, is what. Harry Wong’s got nothin’ on this shhhh…. short yet effective activity for getting every single kid in the classroom involved. Every. Single. One.

You begin by having students move into a circle and then explain that cultures around the world use circles as a safe way to listen, practice and learn new things in a safe space with other people. Then you ask a goofy question– kids learn to speak and share information about themselves with the class in a fun way, such as “What’s your favorite candy bar?,” “Would you choose to go backward or forward through time?,” or even as simple as, “What did you do this weekend?” Students can choose to pass, but we always return to them for their answer.

Next, you introduce a content questions, such as “How many brothers or sisters do you have?” Kids respond with “I have one sister,” or “I have two brothers,” (ect.,ect.) and practice the material they’ve been learning in front of an patient and willing audience (we are working with “I have” and family vocabulary). In a core classroom, you might ask something like “What were the causes of…,” “What do you predict…,” and so on. It gives kids ownership over the content, their learning and the classroom. I do a circle a week with my kids back home and woe befall me if I forget to schedule one by Thursday– they panic that we’re going to skip and pester non-stop for a circle. It’s great! I’ve also used it to address bullying in my classroom and have structured Student Council around this concept, too.

AND IT TOTALLY WORKED IN MY CLASSROOM HERE!!! Kids I had never heard speak to me were sharing aloud and participating in the activities! YEEEEEESSSSS!!!!!

Thank you for teaching me this, MOM!

2. I have also begun dance classes! I know! I’m just as shocked as you are, believe you me. Friday I learned how to Meringue and the basic steps of the Bachata (the two national dances of the Dominican Republic). More updates to follow, but I had an absolute blast at my first lesson!

For more information on Restorative Practices, check out this link (specifically, please scroll down to the section about circles!):   http://www.iirp.edu/what-is-restorative-practices.php

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So, What Exactly Do You Teach?

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Checking background knowledge on the first day of class

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The school has very limited resources and utilizes a text book geared for first or second graders. This is advantageous for the little ones but means the older students are often left unchallenged, so I wrote a short story to practice reading in English. Right now, we are working with the verbs “to have” and “to need.” Student volunteers read the different roles aloud for the class and we decode the sentences together, assigning Total Physical Response (TPR) motions to new words or phrases. The older kids like the challenge of reading in front of the class and practicing more advanced skills and the younger students really seem to get a kick out of the funny voices and actions we use in TPR.

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Yesterday we began learning the parts of the body. I did this monster project last year with my Spanish One students and decided to try it again here– we got to review numbers and practice both “I have” and the parts of the body. We’re not all the way there yet, but not bad progress for just a few tries!

While the little kids miss some of the coloring, the older students have really risen to the level I have been trying to encourage them to reach. A few have told me they’re glad that I’m not letting them color as much, even though it means class is a little harder– it’s really encouraging me to keep trying new strategies and activities. It’s been very surprising to see which activities are successful and which ones flop. The students love TPR, reading as a class and activities that use both writing and coloring (like the monster) but hate activities where they have to move around the classroom or practice talking to each other in English in small groups or one-on-one (which was really surprising because they love to talk and moving around the room is part of how these classrooms function).

There’s a circle strategy that I use in my classroom back home that I’d be really interested to try here (it builds the classroom as a community and helps encourage students to speak in front of the others, amongst a plethora of other things), but alas, I am too chicken to try and introduce it yet. Maybe next week?