Tuesday, February 21, 2012

WAYK - branching out and reaching out Part 2


The Monday after Evan sat down with Rachel, Keith, and I (see my previous post), he came and viewed one of my Latin II classes. I had warned the students of a few things, but the most important (in my mind) was "Do not try to be perfect, just be you." Since this technique is so new and since I've practically turned my students' world upside down (in a good way apparently), I wanted, and still do want, as much feedback as possible. If my students were trying to be perfect, they would get nervous and shut down. That I did not want! I spent some time thinking about how to write this post and what message I wanted to get across. Evan had so many great ideas and such useful feedback, my head is still spinning, but I think I'm starting to get a grasp on things.

After he left, I sat down with my students and we had a discussion. It was an expanded plus delta session where everything and anything was game, down to the shoes I wear (interestingly, it was noted that when I am barefoot or wear my clogs/sandals, I am much more comfortable and it shows in my teaching than when I wear heels). We talked about our textbook, the requirements of our course, and the techniques I was using. I shared with them things I'd learned from Evan and the suggestions he'd had and they responded. In this post, I hope to share those suggestions with you and how I have adapted them for classroom work. I hope to share with you my students' thoughts and reactions to these changes and what's it has meant for us as a class.

One of the essential pieces to Where Are Your Keys is the meadow. One of the things Evan pointed out was that maps are a great thing to have in a meadow. I'll be honest, I was surprised and a little skeptical of this,  so I put it to the test. I watched students who were in my makeshift meadow and saw how many of them stared at a map of the city of Rome I had up. I then polled the students. They agreed that maps were calming. So, I took down all the maps in my room.... and moved them to the meadow. Now students can see not only a map of the empire, but a map of trade routes, the city, and the stars. I've put them at varying levels. Some are slightly above my head, for taller students. Some are right at arm level. I put some near the floor for students who wanted to sit. What was, originally, a dark corner has turned into a welcoming place with magazines, books, samples of student work, and maps. Since I've moved the meadow and livened it up a bit, I've noticed students don't just go and sit. They go and explore. They open Latin books, look through Latin magazines, check out student work from other classes, and come back faster. Just today, I saw one student flipping through an old Latin book I have sitting out. Even though he wasn't actively participating in the class, he needed a break and he found it, in my room, in a Latin environment. I'd managed to create a calming place without removing a student from the context. 

One of the issues Rachel and I had asked Evan about was how to work within the confines of a textbook and curriculum while making use of Where Are Your Keys. One of the great things about the game is that you can go where it takes you. Go as fast or as slow as you need to go. Unfortunately this is not always an option in the classroom. Evan suggested that we work within these confines by freeing ourselves a little. His suggestion was to make a large wall posting of all the vocab and grammar topics needed to pass a particular chapter. Mark the date when classes get to those things and keep track for next time. By doing this, you will find a natural progression within the confines which will make learning the language easier and put less pressure on students and teachers. My students thought this idea was great, and I promptly made mini posters that read "Primus Annus", "Secundus Annus", and so on. I also wrote which colour books were used for each class. Then I took two colours of butcher paper. One large one, with all the vocab for two chapters written down, and one with examples of the grammar. As we hit each one, I tick it off  with a check mark. We are still working through our first two chapters using this, but students enjoy seeing the ticks appear every few days and it gives them a real sense of their progress. It is a bit time consuming creating the posters, but it is worth it.

My version of Rachel's Discussion Board with student drawn characters
One of the other suggestions Evan had for me was to switch it up: leaders that is. Allow students to take over their own learning and lead sessions. I must admit that, much like a mother elephant, I was nervous about letting the kids go. What if they got confused? What if they gave up? Evan was quick to show me that it works. I was sick last week and left instructions for students to lead the class and then for them to take volunteers who wanted to lead. I got great feedback from the sub and the students who said it went smoothly. I heard about students, who I was not expecting to take the giant lead, go up and lead the entire class of 30 students.  I was, and am thrilled. It is extremely pleasing and I am so proud of my students for taking control of their own language learning. As a foreign language teacher, that is my goal: to teach students to take ownership of their own learning and use it to find what they want to know. Where Are Your Keys is a great way to do that, which leads me into my next post... oh goodness, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The vocabulary Wall!
Questions words: Quis? Quid? etc.
Evan had many great suggestions for my classroom and teaching. Ultimately he helped me find the tools that I already had to help my students go where they want and need to go. I've reorganised my room, and it took some time, but I included the students and we took a moment each day to appreciate the changes as that were made. Each wall has a name, of sorts, and its made for easier learning. I think one of the most important things that Evan's visit and the change to WAYK has done is it has opened the door for even more dialogue between me and my students. It helped me remember some things I'd wished my foreign language teachers did in high school and college. I revisited those ideas and updated them. Here are some other changes we've made: a wall of vocabulary, both visual and otherwise, a wall of visual derivatives, a wall of grammar hints and reminders, question words always visible to students (not a change, but something I'd had since day 1 based on my father's *Bob Patrick* work), and visual vocabulary lists (one column has the word, the second has a visual, the third uses it in sentence and lists previous vocabulary related to the word). I hope to address each of these in separate posts, but some pictures are posted throughout. I do promise, though, to come back and link to the posts as I write them! Keep an eye out for part III -- My plus deltas of WAYK! Be Sure to check out Part I: My Weekend with Evan Gardner

The Derivatives wall: Students create pictures of vocabulary words using derivatives as the outline.