Without a doubt, attending conferences makes me a better teacher. This weekend, I got a few strategies that I’m going to merge together to make one SUPER-LESSON to try out this week. Mira Canion presented about using a “lower” level question, ¿Cómo soy? (“What am I like?”) to be compelling for any level of learner. She modeled this sweeeeet activity that included writing, movement and sharing in partners (AND we only had to share two words which I love because I am the student who HATES to share about myself out loud), a PQA session with one student which led us to another student, and then we made connections between those two students!!! It was amazing and mind blowing! I use PQA everyday, all the time, but I’ve never thought of starting it with the words that the students used to describe themselves rather than target structures (verbs)!!!!! What a great spin on a strategy that I use daily! Over the course of the weekend, Annabelle and I discussed concept of untargeted/non-targeted input (more or less not having a plan for what your “target verb/vocab structures” are for the day), and and while I am not ready to jump off the deep end into completely untargeted teaching, I love the idea of branching out my PQA into concepts rather than verb structures. In this way, I can allow the words that the students used to describe themselves be the basis for the PQA! MIND BLOWN!
Similarly, Carol Gaab described the use of an image (in her example a picture of a baseball injury) as the jumping off point for PQA. She talked about the need for the COMPREHENSIBLE messages that we present to be compelling and engaging at all times. I use images all the time for PQA, but again, I start with my 2-3 target structures and fit my images to those structures. What an incredible idea to START with the image and go from there! MIND BLOWN AGAIN! Isn’t it crazy that the simplest change makes it all novel for me, the teacher! Allowing the image to dictate where the flow of comprehensible conversation goes and what vocabulary is used is a 180 from what I’ve been doing. What an awesome way to change things up in February and re-engage my students with a NEW spin on a strategy I already use!
Sooooo…how am I going to practice what I preach and take a strategy from the weekend to implement on Monday? Well, I’ll tell you. I found a super cute “Soy Milk” milk-carton image (ask your friendly, neighborhood Spanish teacher to explain the joke if you’re not familiar with it) to use with my 6th grade babies. I put this on my Do Now slide (thanks Connie Navarro for the idea of incorporating cultural images on slides!), and I’m going to try SOMEWHAT untargeted conversation with my kids using this image. I plan to start a conversation related to milk and the verb “soy” and see what happens. This should be a sufficient challenge because in the class I’m going to try it with, there are a handful of students from dual-language schools mixed in (stay tuned for later posts about dual-language schools because I have tons of observations, theories, and unofficial research that I would love to put out into the world). After this “soy”/milk conversation, I’m going to follow up with Mira’s activity of “Who am I?” Also, in talking with Mira about this, she gave me the BRILLIANT idea of allowing the kids to do “give one, get one” (a.k.a. steal your neighbor’s word if you like it) to make their own word banks. I love this plan especially since my dual kids can help out the rest of the class, and I don’t have to pre-prepare a word break. Thanks Mira!!
I am so lucky to have access to incredible teachers like Mira and Carol, and I can’t wait to try out these strategies with my kids. Stay tuned for future updates on this new PQA twist!!!