Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Give them what they want so you can give them what they need" Dr. Drew, Celebrity Rehab

Okay, so what does Dr. Drew have to do with language teaching? Pretty much nothing. but, Noah Geisler, an ACTFL workshop presenter used the quote to bring home this idea: personalizing language learning (what they need from us) is best done by tapping into their everyday interests (what they want).

Senor G. put it this way: teachers are competing for the currency of students' attention with the shiny things all around them (their friends, their outfits, the person randomly walking by, etc.). If we make our lessons 'shinier' we stand a chance at buying their attention to give them what they need. I mean, who DOESN'T like shiny?

This workshop got me thinking a lot about my warm-up strategies. I've come a long from the first-year "Just sit in your desk and be quiet and translate! Ahhh! Classroom management!" mentality this year, but I got even more ideas today to make my warm-ups more personal and engaging. For continuity Senor G. reccommended a weekly plan so that the material varies, but the activity is more or less the same (ex: On Mondays we watch a commercial, but each monday it's a different commercial).

Here's a weekly plan:

Monday: Advertisement of the Week

Select an advertisement (print or commercial) to use (Senor G. didn't mention this, but it was clear that the commercials he chose were picked because of their visual clarity and comprehensible target language speech). Before playing the commercial prepare students to answer questions, making sure to differentiate so that each level feels successful ('How many?' questions for struggling students and 'Why'? questions for advanced students). Stop the commercial at key points and ask questions (key question: what is this commercial advertising?).

For teachers of Spanish:
For teachers of French:

Tuesday: What are the 'twitterers' saying in French?

First, join twitter and follow French-speaking artists, musicians, authors, politicians and general 'famous' people. Print screen a selection and have students respond to the twitterers in a variety of ways (back channel, google voice, edmodo posts, orally with partners). Discuss any cultural idiosyncrasies present in the twitter feed (acronyms, syntax, viewpoints).

Here's the link:

Wednesday: Joke of the week

Find a child's joke online and act it out so that the students understand what's going on. Use props (or THEM as props) and gradually let the joke unfold. Even better, project the joke on your smartboard and let it visually unfold to create suspense for the punchline!

Joke site for teachers of French:

Thursday: Idiomatic expression of the week

Find an idiomatic expression and have students try to figure out the meaning or draw what it actually means versus what it literally means--there would be some funny pictures! You could also have contests to see who could use the expression (authentically!) the most in one week (or cycle, for us EHSers).

2000 idiomatic expressions for teachers of French:

An AWESOME site for teachers of French by TV5Monde. Includes speakers from all parts of la francophonie (including la Louisiane!) and their take on why a certain expression exists. At the end they always tell you why--it's often funny even for French speakers to find out!

Friday: Art work of the week

Choose a piece of art from the language culture, making sure to choose a piece that provides action/talking points and staying away from abstract works. Have students talk about different parts of the painting and what's happening. On a smartboard you can zoom in on a specific piece of the work of art to have them talk about what's happening in one certain scene. You could even have students describe a part of the painting and have another student guess which part he or she is describing. I love the idea of this activity because there is so much room for differentiation. More advanced students could describe in sentence or multi-sentence level what someone in the painting just got done doing, what he will do, what he is thinking while a lower-level student could give the number of women, the number of men, what each person is wearing, etc.

I got lots of other technology tips and ideas from new resources I had never even heard of (and coming from a pretty technologically interested school, this is refreshing) that will be so useful, let me know if you want me to share these with you and I'll be glad to pass along the knowledge.

Feet on the ground, ready for more. #actfl!


  1. Good weekly plan! Wish they made LATIN commercials...darn.

  2. Great ideas, thanks. Does anyone know of a site for Spanish jokes?