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2010-2011 School Year September 2, 2010

Posted by mrsmerritt in Lessons Learned, Other random stuff.
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When the school year started I had 20 native speakers throughout the day. This was the most I had ever had. I was very overwhelmed at the prospect. While I probably had enough books, I didn’t have enough books on tape which is my bridge activity. There is that gap between reading and speaking. I believe that having them follow along with a book on tape for a week or so will bridge the gap faster.

I went to my principal with my various concerns, the leading one was that native speakers were taking over the classes that were designed for monolingual students. In an unprecedented move, she agreed with me and transferred every bilingual student out!

I do have another Junie B packet to add to the collection here. However, given that I have no students using this curriculum this year I will not be actively adding anything else. To anyone who may be using these packets, good luck! I hope you have a great year! You can contact me directly from this site and I’ll help in anyway I can.


Student Conferences October 15, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in 1.
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In October of 2009 I felt like some of my students weren’t reading where they should be. I had observed and talked to them and had come to some conclusions. I believed that some were just low readers (hence the introduction of the audio libros) while others weren’t putting the required effort into it.

 I didn’t know what to do. I planned to do student conferences with them. I planned to show a movie to the rest of class. It just so happens that this year swine flu has had lots of kids out for days. Many people had make up work to do so the movie served a dual purpose. It would free me up for the student conferences and give the recently recovered students a chance to catch up.

 I typed up an agenda (for my use only) for the student conference.

First, I gave them a normal bell ringer activity. I call it bell work. I had them do it while I watched the clock. Interestingly, all of my native speakers could complete this activity in less than two minutes.

 Second I had them read an entire page from their current book to me. Again, I had a stop watch. I assured them that I wasn’t going to grade them on their reading I just wanted to see something. Again, each student, regardless of the difficulty of the book, read the complete page in less than two minutes.

 Third I took out the reading logs. We looked just at the past two weeks worth. I was willing to forgive the sins of the previous grading period. As gently and delicately as I could, I pointed out that class was 60 minutes long. It took them less than two minutes to do the bellwork. It took them less than two minutes to read a page. Based on that information I either was satisfied with their current pace in reading, or I expected improvement.

 I was terrified of this part. I am not a confrontational person. While it wasn’t a confrontation, I was just very nervous. I would have preferred leaving them sticky notes. However, I sucked it up and did the hard stuff.

 Then I told them what my semester goal was for them. This goal is based on the reading of last year’s students. Last year I felt like my students generally worked well for me. I relied once again upon Renaissance reading. I looked up the value of each book my students read during the year. I calculated the totals and then calculated the total for the semester. I averaged it. The range was 18-23 points at the semester end. I gave them that goal.

 I explained what I would be expecting in the way of a book review. I explained what skills I thought the book reviews would help them develop. I am requiring 50 words (in Spanish) talking about how they felt about the book. Spelling doesn’t count. I will make notes and corrections on spelling. They will recopy the text incorporating the corrections. Ya.

 Well, to my astonishment they didn’t get huffy, roll their eyes, call me a nazi or anything else. All along I explained how I truly believed that being bi-literate would make them more valuable employees and more competitive in the job market. I told them they didn’t have to read books they didn’t like.  I praised what they were doing. In the end they were cooperative and agreed to the goals.

Slow & Low Readers October 3, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started, Lessons Learned.
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 Well, this year I have two girls who are slow readers. They are both low readers in English and very low readers in Spanish. One of the girls is extremely low. After 4 weeks she hasn’t finished Ana bailó Tango. So, it’s time for a new strategy.

            Years ago I purchased the book Ciudad de las Bestias on tape.

            Last year as a break from the routine, I let my students listen and follow along (following along essential) with the book. As they did this I realized the benefit. This activity really bridges the gap between the language they understand when they hear but don’t recognize when they see.

I felt the potential to jump start kids reading using an audio book was huge. However, there are not many unabridged Spanish audio books available that are high interest.

            These are my newest strategies which I am just starting.

            After the slow reader finished Ana bailó tango (took her three weeks) I put her in a private spot, gave her Cuidad de las Bestias (for which I do not yet have a packet) and the audiocassette. I am hopeful that after following along while someone pronounces all those words for her she will be better able to read in Spanish.

            The extremely low reader presented another problem. First, since Ciudad is on cassette not mp3 I can’t really have two students listening at a time. Plus, I just wasn’t sure she would be able to follow along with the book yet.

            As always when I am desperate, I grabbed a Blaine reader. This time I grabbed Pobre Ana. The girl couldn’t read Ana bailó tango. But I have a CD for Pobre Ana. Last Monday I gave her the book, the CD, a CD player and a packet.  She finished before the week was over.

            I am just going to move her through the readers that I have audio for. Then reassess. Since I have audio for 4 readers, I have about 4 weeks to prepare my next move.

            I am going to take some of my budget money and purchase an inexpensive mp3 player. Then I can load all the audio books on it.

            My vision for this is to ultimately get 1-2 mp3 players, pick up some additional audio books and load them up. This will not replace reading. If I get enough resources I will let students start the year listening, following along and doing a packet. Then move into independent reading.

Sept 16 2009 new book releases September 16, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Finding Books, Other random stuff.
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Every time I go to Amazon to check on new releases I find more books that will interest my students. You really can get a better deal with borders.com, but you will pay in aggravation. Breaking Dawn/amanecer the last of the Twilight series is out. The first book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones/cuidad de hueso by Cassandra Clare is coming out. You can pre-order it. There are 5 Clique books out in Spanish. They include: Clique, los duendes de la camarella, la venganza de las pretenciosas, la invasion de las robachicos. It just makes me want to put on pajama pants, get a spiral notebook for packets and read.

I think back on last year at this time when I was digging every where to find high interest books for middle school students in Spanish. Now, they are practically falling from the sky! The babysitter’s club is still expensive and not readily available. It would be a nice alternative to Goosebumps. But not.

The mania is, my students don’t need this many books. I could stop now and my students would have enough to read for the year. For two years! Plus, I already have a stack 12″ high of Spanish books to make packets for!

Where do my students start? September 16, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started.
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Where do my students start? This is the question I am most frequently asked. Do I give them some kind of test? I don’t want it to be too easy or too hard. How do I match up the right book with the right kid?

I make all my students start with Pobre Ana Bailó Tango. Initially this was because I had the Blaine Ray readers available with comprehension packets. Now, however, I could have them start anywhere but choose to start them with Bailó Tango.

For every student I have had, this is the first book in Spanish they have read. For most of them, it is the first reading of any type at all in Spanish. They are overwhelmed and convinced that they can’t read in Spanish. I guess they think it takes a long to learn to read in Spanish as it does in English.

I want them to see that reading is reading. If you can read in English, and you speak Spanish, you can quickly become literate in Spanish. Since I am swamped at the beginning of the year with my conversational kids, I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to them. I know that there won’t be any unknown words in Bailó Tango. I know the sentence structures will be comprehensible. I KNOW they can read this book without instruction or supervision from me.

And remember, that is a key factor in the program. It has to be independent.

So, the first week my native speakers do what the class does. It takes me a week to identify them. They don’t come with labels telling me that they are native speakers. I have to dig them out.

This also helps when I give them their first book and packet. I tell them, “you have worked with the class for a week, you can see that you aren’t going to learn anything in this conversational Spanish class are you?” They nod in agreement.

It takes a normal students 2 weeks to get through Bailó Tango.

I do require that my students read the first Magic Treehouse book. I just need to know that they can read at that level and I want them to know that they can.

After that we begin negotiating. They can choose to continue through the magic treehouse or move to a different series. I check their list of unknown words. There will be some from the first Magic Treehouse. I just want to make sure that it isn’t a long list. I also look at the reading log to see how long it took them.

This year I had two girls who finished their first magic treehouse book and packet in 2 days. They both wanted to read Crepúsculo. I let them. At the time of this posting one is half way done. I don’t know about the other.

Some students will elect to read Magic Tree House all year. The question I ask myself is, ‘What is my real objective here?’ I want them to learn to read and write in Spanish. Can they accomplish that by reading Magic Tree House? Yes they can. I know that their vocabulary will grow from Magic Treehouse. It has a lot of technical vocab.

I have learned that students won’t stick with a book that is above their level. They lose interest if it isn’t comprehensible. I always allow students to quit a book if it isn’t interesting. Remember, my objective is for them to learn to read and write not to develop a great love of classic literature or anything.

Last year only one elected to read Tree house all year. Most read some goosebumps. Two read Twilight. I wish more of them would be brave and read some other books. But, if they are reading I am happy.

Sept 2009 Reading Log September 13, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started, Tracking.
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Reading Log new

Based on the feedback I have gotten from other teachers implementing this program I have updated the reading log I use. There is a link above to an uploaded log. I hope it helps. Sometimes I have to click on the link several times because I get error messages.

Whining Reader September 13, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Lessons Learned, Other random stuff.
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On Wednesday Vicky called to me “Mrs. Merritt, can I not read today and watch and laugh at the class instead?” Vicky is one of my native speakers. She was waving the first of the Magic Treehouse books in Spanish in her hand.

I turned and answered dramatically “noooooooo”. By the time I was done dragging out the word we had the attention of the whole class.

“But reading is hard” she whined.

“I know” and I actually was sympathetic. “So is learning Spanish for my other students.”

At this point the discussion involved everyone in the room and they were on the edge of their seats waiting to see how this conversation played out.

“You don’t understand. That was the very first book I ever read in Spanish.” She pleaded, referring to one of the Blaine readers.

“I know” I answered. And I really did know. I continued very gently. “But what were you thinking, and I really want to know, when you elected a class that said ‘Conversational Spanish. Not appropriate for native speakers. I know that is what it says in the catalog, because I wrote it. You speak Spanish in your home so when you read that, and selected it on the computer, what was running through your head?”

Her eyes were darting around as she looked for some reasonable answer. Coming up short she offered “I don’t know.”

Scooter, an out spoken 8th grade boy sitting in the cheap seats piped up “You picked this class because you thought it would be a blow off class.”

Finally someone articulated what everyone in the room knew was true.

Vicky weakly tried to defend herself with a shake of her head.

Then my teacher’s assistant chimed in with a laugh “That’s why I picked the class last year, I’ll admit it. I thought it would be an easy A.” My teacher’s assistant this year was one of my heritage readers last year.

Vicky completely deflated at this point and murmured “I’ll just read now” as she thumbed open her book.

I turned to the class and began, “Bueno clase, comenzamos.”

Always a surprise September 10, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Other random stuff.
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I am frequently lulled into thinking I can’t be surprised anymore. I mean, I have been shocked out of my mind so many times as a teacher that I think eventually there won’t be anything new and surprising. But there always is.

Today one of my native speakers told me she was through with her first Magic Treehouse book. I checked her log and her packet and she had blown through both in less than an hour. I asked her about the book and she had in fact read it. What that told me was that her reading level was at least at 3rd grade. She looked longingly at Crepusculo (Twilight), and rightly so. That was the book she wanted to choose next. It is as big as all 20 Magic Treehouses combined. I suggested she try maybe a Goosebumps book first. But she just looked hungrily at Twilight. I figured, it is about them reading and improving their literacy. If she can’t understand it she’ll lose interest soon enough.

I gave her the book and a packet. At the end of class, clutching the book to her chest, she asked if she could please borrow and take the book home to read. Sadly, since it is my only class copy I had to decline. The surprise was how badly she wanted to read that book this early in the year. The surprise was that she could read as well as she could. The surprise was that I am constantly being surprised by my students, and sometimes it is in a good way.

Suzanne Collins book releases September 10, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Finding Books.
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Suzanne Collins wrote the Gregor, Underland series and is currently 2/3 done publishing the Hunger Games Trilogy. While I didn’t really care for Gregor, lots of my English speaking boys liked the series. Book One, Gregor de las Tierras Altas has been available for a while. This month I found both Los Juegos del Hambre (book 1 of the Hunger Games) and La Profecia de la destruccion (book 2 of the Gregor series) available.  All three can be found at http://www.borders.com/online/store/SearchResults?contrib=Suzanne+Collins&type=1&fromHeader=3

As soon as I get them read I’ll post the packets.

Changes to Borders.com September 10, 2009

Posted by mrsmerritt in Finding Books.
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Most of the time you go through life feeling like you can’t change anything. Then, once in a blue moon something happens and you make a difference. That happened with Borders. I buy juvenile Spanish books. Lots of them. I almost always buy them from amazon.com because it is so easy to search for them there. Even when I wanted to use Borders because of the teacher discount and free shipping if it ships to their store, it was so much more effort it was rarely worth it.

A few days ago I sat down and drafted a comment to Borders. I explained that in order to find a Spanish novel on their webpage I had to know the name of the novel. Word for word. Normally I only know the author.

In short, they replied the next day and told me to check out their new website. Now, you can search by author and it will pull up not just the English books, but the Spanish translations as well.