Exploring Culture Numerically

Nellie Hughes is a genius! She is also a truly lovely person and I know this because as an ‘apprentice’ coach at the 2018 iFLT conference, I was fortuntate to work with both her and Gary DiBianca! A truly memorable experience.

Nelly Hughes is also generous. Not only has she developed a highly engaging game based around cultural number facts, she has also generously permitted me to share my experience using it in the Indonesian classroom. I initially read about this game on Martina Bex’s website. I immediately knew it had potential for our Indonesian context and her tab remained opened on my laptop as I considered it. Then I picked up a horrible bug and suddenly Nelly’s game became a viable option for two relief lessons conducted, as usual, by a monolingual relief teacher. My first quiz was based on Indonesian geography and the second on agricultural animals in Indonesia. I received little specific feedback about the games beyond that the students enjoyed it and that playing it was confusing the first time. So last week, I decided to give it a go myself. Not only was this game suitable for a TRT, but it is also be a great idea for end of term!!

Here is how I went about it:

The first thing to do is choose a topic. The topic can be directly taken from ACARA e.g. Ramadan, Hari Raya Nyepi (ACARA Yr. 7/8), leisure activities e.g. takraw, bulu tangkis or environment e.g. hutan, gunung api (ACARA Yr. 5/6). The topic I chose was orangutan.

Once the topic is established, the next task is to create a bank of berapa (how many/how much) questions. My questions and answers were:

  • How many species of orangutan are there? 3
  • In the wild, how many years do orangutan live for? 50
  • Fully grown female orangutan stand how tall (in cm)? 100cm
  • Baby orangutan stay with their mother for how many years on average? 10 years
  • How many orangutan are left in Sumatra? 13,846
  • How many orangutan are left in Borneo? 104,700
  • How many Tapanuli orangutan are left? 800
  • In what year were the Tapanuli species identified? (different to the orangutan from North Sumatra and Borneo) 2017
  • How long is the gestation period for orangutan? 8.5 months
  • How many babies on average does a female orangutan have in her lifetime? 3
  • How many orangutan are killed every year? 2,500
  • When is Puspa’s birthday (the female orangutan at the Adelaide zoo)? 30 April (1975)

I sourced these facts from various websites and where numbers differed, I chose the one that seemed to be the most up to date. As you can guess, the answers to each fact invited discussion and inevitably there was at least one student who initiated it.

Creating the questions and answers is the hardest part of this game! From there, it gets so much easier!

Students firstly need to be put into groups. The number of groups depends on an important factor; the number of different coloured white board markers you have. Ideally groups of 4 students work the best as then everyone has a job, but it’s not a deal breaker if you can’t. I recommend using class dojo for creating groups as there is a feature that allows you to specify which students not to group together! To find it, follow these steps: Open Toolkit (bottom left), Open Group Maker then open the blue link “Don’t group together’. (See below). Here you can create multiple groups of students who are not to be in the same group. For me, this really helps with behaviour management because I can guarantee certain ratbags are separated which helps balance their leverage within group decisions.

Once the groups are in the EEKK position (sitting in a circle – eye to eye and knee to knee) explain there are 4 student jobs within their groups. I explained the jobs as we played the first round and left it up to groups to assign the jobs.

The first job is writer. Once allocated, I invited the writer to come to the front of the room and take one small white board, a white board marker and a mini duster.

Then the game begins….

Explain that the answers to all of the questions are numbers and that teams work together to decide on their answer which the writer will write on the white board in large numbers. When the number is written, the writer will hand the board to the walker, the second job holder. At this point, I asked the first question. It is important that groups decide quickly on the answer – thirty seconds is more than enough. All the boards are then placed side by side in front of a whiteboard. The boards simply need to be standing up side by side where all students can see them.

The writer next gives the marker to the ‘tukang simbol’ (the student who is confident drawing a triangle and an asterix) who after discussing with their group, will draw a triangle above the number that represents the groups best guess of the right answer and an asterix above the board that is their groups second guess. If supremely confident, teams can put both symbols above the same board.

When all teams are seated and listening, read out the question again and its answer.

Finally is the awarding of points and introducing the final job. Before announcing team points, the tukang simbol hands the tukang skor -scorer – (final job) the marker who will add the team points to the score board as the teacher announces them. For this, I allocated team names based on the colour of their marker to save time but choosing team names could also be built into future games! It is in the awarding of points that you will recognise the genius of different coloured markers!

Here is how I awarded points:

3 points to the teams who guessed the exact answer
1 point to the teams who guessed closest to the correct answer without going over.
1 point to each team with an asterix above the correct answer
2 points to each team with a triangle above the correct answer.

Board showing symbols and scores after two rounds with the year 2/3 class.

Reflections

I played this entirely in English. This was deliberate to ensure the game worked and allowed me to consolidate the rules and equipment for students so that if I set it for another relief day, students can support the relief teacher. I began experimenting with creating a powerpoint to support the game and to explore the Indonesian vocabulary necessary to play it. The beauty of this is that images and info can be included to supplement discussions about aspects of the topic. For example, the first slide for the orangutan topic could include images of the three different species of orangutan to illustrate their similarities ad differences.

The game itself took quite a bit more time than I expected to explain the roles and the rules. This meant that classes rarely moved beyond two rounds. Thus I recommend making it the main part of your lesson the first time you introduce this to classes. It would be a fabulous lesson for week 10!!

I trialled it with year 2/3’s to year 8’s and all classes thoroughly enjoyed it.

Formative Assessment Task Idea

This Friday, our site is having a student free day (SFD) – meaning all staff will be attending a full day of professional development. Working this year at an R-12 area school, there will be a secondary program and a primary program running concurrently. The primary team is focusing on the grammar scope and sequence while the secondary is focusing on differentiation. Its novel having the opportunity to join other specialist subject teachers after years of primary PD, which ironically lacked in inclusivity and differentiation.

As the SFD backs onto a long weekend, I loose two days of lessons. Last Wednesday I had a brain wave. Why not create an assessment task for the Thursday/Tuesday lessons and hold over my planned lessons till next week thus reducing my planning load over the long weekend! I also wanted to address the appalling student behaviour in upper primary/secondary as experienced on Tuesday. There was no point continuing to story ask with so many students being disruptive.  And on top of this, reports are due soon, so the idea of creating an assessment task to finalise grades which requires quiet independent work was extremely appealing. The task I created worked brilliantly and I am keen to share the idea with you.

Before students arrived, I arranged the chairs around the room evenly spaced apart – making sure that comfortable chairs were separated by plastic chairs to separate friendship groups that have preferences for one or the other. On each chair, I put a clipboard. As students entered the room, I informed them not to move the chairs unless they preferred the idea of sitting at the front of the room on the floor!

The tukang kertas (paper distributor) and the tukang pensil (pencil distributor) were asked to distribute lead pencils and blank sheets of blank A4 paper. Students were next instructed to lipat (fold) the paper tiga kali (three times) and I demonstrated several times as I repeated ‘lipat’. I gave my folded demo sheets to the tukang kertas & tukang pensil or anyone who walked in late.

This task is based on the Hadiah (The Present) film clip year 6-8’s have been working on this term, I created 8 sentences that represented the structures and gist of the story so far and then arranged them in length order.

Here are my sentences (Note the characters’ name as chosen by the 4 different classes!):

  1. Di dus ada anjing.
  2. Anjing punya tiga setengah kaki!
  3. Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike buka dus.
  4. Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike lempar anjing.
  5. Ibu kasih Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike hadiah.
  6. Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike bermain gem di TV.
  7. Tiba-tiba, Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike lihat kaki anjing.
  8. Ibu berkata, “Damo/Peppa Pig/Bruce/Fat Mike, ada hadiah di dus!”

Students were asked to listen to me say each sentence and then translate it into English, writing each one into one of the 8 squares. I repeated each sentence many times very slowly and only moved to the following sentence when I noticed that everyone had stopped writing.

Year 8

When all sentences had been translated, I asked students to turn their sheet over. Depending on the amount of time left in the lesson, I asked for a number of the English sentences to be translated back into Indonesian and again one sentence per square. The choice of the sentences was entirely up to each individual student. Finally, students had to number their Indonesian sentences to indicate the order they appear in the storyline. This high achiever translated all sentences back into Indonesian!!

Year 7 Graded = A

Some students struggled with both tasks and after looking at their work, I believe their struggle is closely linked to poor literacy skills and the low confidence this creates. I did emphasize before and during the task for students not to worry about spelling as you can see by the images above. I hoped that this would help lower anxiety and increase output and for some this really made a difference! For those who did struggle, I asked that they purely translated the single words/phrases they comprehended. Here is an example of work that I gave a D for:

Year 8

Upon completion of the task, students were asked to choose between sitting silently or illustrating the sentences quietly. I did not want students wandering around the class or disrupting those still working.

Reflections:

  1. Next Tuesday, I will not state the number of translations back into Indonesian. Instead I will give students 5 minutes to do as many as possible in that time frame. This way everyone will finish together.
  2. This task beautifully clarified how much of the language we have been focusing on this term has been comprehended and acquired. Asking for an English translation was a more precise formative assessment task than doing a listen and draw would have been.
  3. After marking the two classes who did this task, I was blown away with the overall result. Unfortunately I did have to give a few D’s for work that was incomplete &/or incorrect. On the other hand, the number of students who received an A for the task was so heartening. Without a doubt though, the best moment was discovering that a year 8 student had transferred grammatical knowledge (noun adjective word order) covered last term into her translation. She also edited her code switching and removed the third person possessive ‘s’!! Woo-hoo!
Year 8 Graded = A+

Colleagial Sharing

Last week, I was again delighted to have a colleague travel all the way to my new school location for observations and sharing. Now that I live in a small rural community two and a half hours from Adelaide, collegial visits are even more appreciated. Fortunately within the school district are three Indonesian CI teachers, two of whom are teaching and one enjoying maternity leave, however the distances between us range from 5 mins to two and a half hours!!

Bu Heather spent Friday in my classroom last week. Friday is a great day for visitors as I teach a full day of Receptions  to year 7’s however it is also the one day in my working week that I have no non-contact, two yard duties and my year 2/3 lesson is held in an adjacent classroom to allow the online instrumental music program access to the required hardware currently situated in the Indonesian language room.

During the day, Bu Heather kindly offered to share a couple of her favourite activities; one a brain break and the other a post story activity.

The brain break is called Ayam Karet and is based on a choir warm up. This link shows you a very conservative version and I am truly regretting not recording Bu Heather’s version which is significantly more engaging. The voice she demonstrated was a squeaky one with a specific mouth formation which the students adored echoing! The finale of the brain break involves everyone together saying ‘ayam karet’ while wiggling low to the ground before making chook wings with arms and then clucking like a chicken to the standing position. As Heather pointed out (and students later demonstrated) this brain break is awesome but needs a prearranged signal to bring everyone back to their seats quietly. For getting students warmed up with a smile on their faces, this brain break is a winner!

The post story activity that Bu Heather demonstrated is called ‘diatas kepala’ (on top of your head). It involves students drawing/illustrating either a structure or sentence on a whiteboard placed on top of their head. My students absolutely loved the challenge of this activity and enjoyed sharing their efforts with friends. It truly was extremely engaging and has heaps of potential. It has been blogged about before by Cynthia Hitz and Martina Bex!!

I was truly grateful for the breaks Bu Heather gave me as I was struggling to find my mojo all day. I discovered the reason for this early the following day when I was hit with a sledgehammer of a bug targeting my throat.  I hope I don’t lose my voice! Fingers crossed Bu Heather didn’t take it home with her!

Planning idea for the TRT….

First day of term 2 and I am sick! So disappointed to be missing out on a day of the honeymoon week that is always the first week back. At my current site, we are required to write up notes for our TRT (subsitute teacher) which is often harder than just turning up. However in these COVID times, soldiering on is no longer an option. Mostly writing for a TRT is hard but doable, however sometimes, like now, my brain feels like glue and concentrating on anything for longer than 30 minutes is impossible. I texted my DP to let her know all of this and she kindly offered to find a few activities for me if I hit the wall. I was so grateful for this! I then fell back into bed where an idea suddenly popped into my brain. What if the students each created a story using their own likes and dislikes eg food, people, places?

Here is what I created:

The story then begins likes this:

I have tried to keep the language as simple as possible because my TRT usually know no Indonesian so students will be relying on their own acquisition and the word wall. My lessons are 50 mins long, so after filling in the missing words, I have asked the students to create a comic strip using only Indonesian with the reminder that names of people, places and brand names do not change in Indonesian. I added this to remind students that characters speaking in ‘Indonesian’ comics will speak in Indonesian!!

The layout could be clearer, eg putting brackets around the numbers for starters, but I still have my fingers crossed that this idea is successful for my year 6,7 and 8’s today and the TRT.

I would love your feedback on this idea and am especially keen to hear of any suggestions for improvement.
Stay tuned for an update after I return to work hopefully on Thursday.

Starting Anew

This year I have moved to a new school in a small country town to teach Indonesian. It has been extremely challenging adapting after such a long time at my previous site, but I have absolutely no regrets about the move. As I look back over the term, there are several points I’d like to explore and hopefully in this, they will help others who may be considering moving sites or have already done so.

The biggest challenge for me moving to a small town by myself was that the only person I knew here was the person I was replacing! Chatting on the phone to the wonderful Senora Anna/ Ibu Anne about my feelings of loneliness made me realise that this was the first time I had moved schools by myself! With all my previous moves, there was always someone with me; someone who was also adapting to a new place and who was also navigating unfamiliar streets, shops and people. Let me tell you, it’s super tough by yourself! I felt so conspicuous everywhere; just walking around my neighbourhood felt awkward and uncomfortable.

So, if there is anyone new at your site, please reach out to them as soon as possible. I wasn’t expecting meal invitations! I just wanted people to say hello and ask how I was going! The fact that the staff at my new site didn’t do this is not a reflection on them personally, it actually speaks volumes about their workload. They hit the ground running! So today; please take the time to smile and say hello to anyone new on your staff. It will honestly make their day!

On top of loneliness, another huge challenge has been two hundred and fifty new students. After almost eighteen years at the previous site where I knew every student as well as their families extremely well, it has been a steep learning curve for me starting again. A kind and thoughtful colleague from the previous site gave me a notebook as a farewell gift which has been invaluable. Every day it sits open on my desk and in it I jot down any thoughts I have during and post lessons. The most frequent comment I wrote to myself was; get to know the students. It was super difficult to build connections with students at first when I knew nothing about them; not even their names!! Without connections, students push back on everything. This in turn necessitated strong behaviour management routines however there are only so many students you can have in classroom timeout at any one time!! Without a doubt, the best strategies that have helped with behaviour management have been incorporating nakal/pandai points (Ibu Sharon), phoning home (Ben Slavic) and classroom jobs (Bryce Hedstrom).

Nakal/Pandai

I have blogged about this technique several times. Read here and here. As you will quickly notice, in the past I only used pandai/nakal points with junior primary students. Sharon and Hannah though, use it successfully with all ages and it has also become one of their classroom jobs. A student tallies the points as they are accrued and then at the end of the lesson, they tell the teacher the total for each in the target. language. Another aspect of how Sharon and Hannah implement this is that at the beginning of each year, they hand out a small paper rectangle to students who then each write their name on one before decorating it. These then are placed in a class envelope for a random student to be selected from if the nakal points are less than the pandai. This lucky student then has a dip in the treasure box while their name is added to the paper clip in the envelope of all those who have already had a turn! I highly recommend this as it allows you to surreptitiously ensure your ‘selection’ is appropriate. Unfortunately some classes suggested using the random option on class dojo to which I agreed before remembering the benefits of the envelope! To get around this, I have instigated a rule that any student on a step is ineligible for a dip in the treasure box for that lesson. A special mention to Sharon who raided her local shops for prizes for my treasusre box and I recieved in the courier a parcel full of goodies that have been very popular. Thank you so much Sharon!

Phoning Home

Overall my new students are great kids however in most classes there are a small group of disrespectful ones who constantly challenged and sabotaged the lesson. As a new teacher, I was treated like a TRT. This on top of managing some tricky students with special needs, was extremely disheartening. So I dug out my TCI/TPRS books for ideas on behaviour management.

In one of Ben Slavic’s I discovered his main tip for behaviour management with new students. He strongly recommends phoning parents as early as possible as this, he promises, will stop misbehaviour instantly. He also suggested offering to phone students’ parents as a reward option! I really like the idea of offering to phone home to say how well a student is progressing in Indonesian! I understand the value of phoning home but the idea of phoning new parents in a new community really pushed me out of my comfort zone! I was terrified. I imagined several scenarios where the phone call was not successful. So, in the end I do what I am very good at, I put my head in the sand, procrastinated and soldiered on.

I am so grateful to a bunch of colleagues who in week 5, travelled long distances to spend a day observing me for a day. Their support, encouragement and feedback at that time was invaluable. I will be eternally grateful for their positive comments and constructive feedback at a time when I was feeling so alone. They also reminded me again that it takes a while to settle into a new school! A very important fact that I keep overlooking!

Then in week 8, I had the ‘Week From Hell’! Everything that could go wrong did. Student behaviour dropped to an all-time low and consequently I became severely sleep deprived directly caused by the stress. A truly vicious cycle. I took Thursday off to recharge my batteries and mentally regroup but Friday was no better. In fact I burst into tears when a friend came into my room after school to commiserate on the terrible day.  I wanted to retire then and there. I shuffled dispiritedly home and spent the weekend resting and trying to regroup ready for Monday. By Monday, I was resigned to the fact that I just had to be super tough and consistently put students through the steps regardless of any consequences.

On opening my email, I discovered that parent student conferences were scheduled fot the following week. Perfect!! This was the final impetus to finally make a few phone calls. I rang one parent to ask if she was free during the week of conferences to come in and chat with me. I then rang another. The first parent returned my call and arranged a time. The second parent has yet to return my call, however her son has been significantly better behaved, so obviously the call in itself was worthwhile. As a result of just two calls and a meeting, there has been a noticeable improvement in behaviour.

In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I should have made the calls earlier. So if you too are procrastinating about ringing parents, I highly recommend making a list of the key students and then approaching other staff you trust to ask about the benefits of making the call. Best too to get a heads up on volatile parents which may have worrying repercussions for the student.

Classroom Jobs

I blogged about classroom jobs in 2015. As can be seen in the post, I first heard about classroom jobs from Ben Slavic. Bryce Hedstrom is now the go to person for thoughts and tips on student jobs.

Classroom jobs are a great example of why getting to know your students is a priority at a new site. I prefer to incorporate student jobs early in each school year and it has always been hugely successful. Until this year! In week two, I began by introducing three jobs and only got as far as choosing a secretaris and a tukang foto; both essential for Kursi Luar Biasa. I had intended to also hold auditions for the ketua kelas position as well but only did so with one class. I learned very quickly that in order for students to be invested in auditioning for jobs, they had to trust me on not only the importance and value of the job and also the selection of the ‘winner’. Thus I recommend starting with just a sekretaris and tukang foto with new students and ensure that there is an aspect of the job that makes it desirable. In my classes, it was that these two people were the only ones who could sit on the sofa! The ketua kelas will instead be introduced in other classes next term!

Once students start to ask about replacing the sekretaris and/or tukang foto, I know they finally value jobs and can see the benefits! This then leads me nicely to explaining that job holders hold their jobs for as long as they want it. I used to change job holders regularly (every 5 weeks) but doing this used to take a whole lesson!! I prefer to encourage students to think of a new and different job that supports the teaching and learning of Indonesian and they would are happy to do. I illustrate this by pointing out that while cleaning up after lessons is a useful thing to do, it does not help teaching and learning. It’s fascinating what ideas students come up with. I also make the jobs desirable by offering job holders special seating options. In past classrooms, they had first pick of the limited chairs available and this year they are the only students who enjoy a comfy chair to sit on. The comfy chairs (old staff chairs rescued from the furniture shed covered in a piece of batik) are placed at the back of the room and while not intentional, their placement has meant that students are easier to manage now that the class has three separate seating options! Comfy chairs are currently along the back wall, plastic chairs are arranged in semi-circle facing the interactive tv and the third seating option is on the floor in front of the plastic chairs.

Since my 2015 post, I have tweaked the student jobs several times in several ways; both in what they are called and what they are. I am a huge believer in using multifunctional language in the primary classroom. This language is based on the language I believe my students would find useful if/when they visit Indonesia or talk to an Indonesian/Malay person. Just so happens that there are at least two Malaysian families each owning a Malay take away food shop in two nearby towns! Woohoo! I spoke Indonesian while ordering my food and everyone I spoke to was incredibly friendly and happy for me to use Indonesian. (Note: Please be respectful and aware of the current political animosity between Indonesia and Malaysia.) A couple of weeks ago (prior to phone calls home) several of my students asked about the value of learning Indonesian. They were absolutely amazed to learn that they could use Indonesian so close to home.

So, the language I use for my jobs is simple and centres on the word ‘tukang’ (skilled expert). Last week the number of job holders started to increase significantly as interest in them grew. Not every class has the full range of these jobs yet, but it won’t take long before word gets around!

My current jobs:

  •  tukang foto – Photographer
  • tukang menulis– writes information on the board
  • tukang diam – shusher:  at a gesture from me, they stand and loudly say DIAM, 1,2,3 by which time the class must be quiet. Repeated as often as required!
  • sekretaris – secretary
  • tukang proxy – proxy (must be prepared to do any job when needed)
  • tukang kertas – hands out paper
  • tukang pensil – hands out, counts, sharpens pencils
  • tukang klipboard – hands out clipboard (great opportunity to discuss c/k
  • polisi – keeps track of behaviour – good and bad – with details
  • tukang hp – answers the class phone during lessons
  • Ketua kelas – welcomes adults to the Indonesian classroom
  • Tukang pandai/nakal – records points as they are accrued

Last week was tough with students being super excited about the Easter long weekend. However I was so relieved to see that with a few stategic nakal/pandai points, I was able to settle classes quickly and teach with minimal interruptions. I didn’t realise just how improved the students were for me until during a hand over discussion with a TRT for the second lesson, I was warned that her class had been extremely disrespectful during lesson 1. The behaviour she described sounded all too familiar, small stuff but so disruptive. I was therefore amazed when they settled almost immediately after entering the Indonesian classroom and I had no problems with anyone. Next time she is in, I will enourage her to send to me any ratbags and I will deal with them appropriately!! GRRR

Fingers crossed though that students continue being settled and respectful in my lessons next week after a long weekend feasting on sugar!! Most classes will be illustrating book pages as I anticipate that this will be all that they are capable of doing!!

If you are also new at your site, what has been helpful for you? Did you also face some of the issues I have struggled with this term? I really hope you too are starting to feel a sense of belonging and familiarity.

Cognitive Load Theory

Have you heard of this term? I first heard about it while studying my Masters in Education (shout out to Flinders Uni) and it is a theory that resonates beautifully with TCI/TPRS. The reason this is on my mind at the moment is due to an amazing presentation by David Morkunas that primary staff watched yesterday for PD. Hard to believe that at that point David had taught for almost 4 years!! Loved how he used established education research to underpin his teaching practice. He states that the site he works at “prides itself on delivering evidence-based instruction” (ref: http://pamelasnow.blogspot.com/2020/08/i-now-understand-that-for-many.html). There is no way I was familiar with education research in my third (almost fourth) year of teaching and can only do so now as a result of postgraduate study! While his presentation is aimed at classroom teachers, the underlying message is extremely pertinent for all teachers. It focuses on the understanding that learning is solely about transfering knowledge to long term memory. For language teachers, this sums up our job succinctly. Our students arrive in our classroom with generally zero L2 (the language we teach) and our job becomes linking their prior knowledge (L1), to building up a solid mental representation of the L2 in ways that transfer it to long term memory (acquisition) without overloading working memory. As David states, this can only be done effectively when cognitive overload (overloading working memory) is avoided otherwise there becomes an increased potential for poor student learning outcomes. The most important message of this post!!

David in this video outlines spaced practice, the idea of regular repetition as opposed to cramming, interleave practice, varying the learning topics rather than a single focus, and finally retrieval practice, the practice of retrieving knowledge from long term memory and working with it in working memory. How beautifully does this sum up why TCI is such a successful approach for language learning! David, through Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, illustrates how moving knowledge from long term memory to working memory strengthens memory. Look at how the vertical gradient lifts with each repetition!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgetting_curve

During his presentation, I tried to remember (long term memory to working memory: smiley face) how I incoporate the three types of practice within my teaching. Here are some of the strategies I use:

Spaced Memory
Limiting target structures is the fundamental key to this step. Once a story has been selected/written, it is VITAL that it is tweaked to ensure it contains no more than three new structures. Wherever possible, replace unfamiliar language with cognates or familiar vocabulary/phrases. More than three new structures and the possibility for cognitive overload increases and the chances for successful knowledge transfer to long term memory decreases.
VPQA (visual personalised questions and answers): I love finding quirky pictures that deliver opportunities for circling and personalisation. For example, when introducing the structure topi (hat) for Judy Dubois’ story ‘Jaket Terlalu Besar’ (The too big Jacket), I found hilarious pics on google images of hamburger hats, hotdog hats, donut hats, etc. which worked perfectly for JP Indonesian students as it gave reps on the structure topi through cognates of food items that are easy to personalise using retrieval practice for familiar language (mau, makan {want,eat})!

Mata-mata (spy): The credit for this technique goes to Ibu Sharon Mann. Again like most TCI strategies, we all do them differently (and that’s totally ok) so inevitably my version differs to the way in which Sharon did this years ago when I was observing her. (Side note: I can’t recommend observations highly enough!) On a PowerPoint slide, I write a small number (10 – 12ish) of structures that we’ve covered or are covering. This slide is purely for me. I ask the students to turn around so their back is to the slide  and I move so that the class is between me and the slide. Firstly I say each L2 word and accompany it with its gesture and ask students to echo me in L2. Secondly I go through the L2 words one at a time and gesture yet students echo me in L1 with each gesture. Standing next to me are two students whose sole jobs is to watch the class to choose an amazing student to whom they will give a sticker. I can glance up at the slide behind them when I need to. For me, this prompt is essential as I am so forgetful. The words are strategically added during planning as they cover a mini list of words to review; either because they will come up during the lesson or because I’ve noticed that a particular word needs more repetition to strengthen its transfer to student long term memory.

Calling the Roll – I use class dojo to call the roll. First term, this is about establishing routines, vocabulary structures and cultural norms. Gradually I introduce aspects of challenge for older students including class time challenges (who can call the roll the fastest) and by term 4 we are making up hilarious stories about why a student is absent which is then repeated to the student when they next turn up to class!

Interleave Practice This practice also represents exactly how TCI is planned and taught. A TCI language lesson incorporates variety and in no way represents block teaching i.e. a solid focus on just one topic. While our subject is taught in lesson blocks, and the focus may be on a single vocabulary item (particularly in a JP context), lesson practice adapts with the age of our students. For JP students, an up/down approach is essential. This looks like 5 minutes of stationary focus followed by 5 minutes of movement for 5 year olds and increases incrementally for each age group. Movement can take the form of brain breaks, All the World’s a Stage, TPR, singing and dancing. For older students, brain breaks don’t need to last 9/10/11 minutes, a brain burst may all that is needed.
Planning a TCI lesson also incorporates a variety of ‘activities’ (not the best choice of word, but hey, it’ll do for now). Rather than plugging away to achieve the set lesson outcomes, TCI lesson plans include a blend of both targeted and focused attention to gain maximum repetitions of the target structures as well as offering students contribution opportunities through long term memory retrieval. The first is definitely teacher led however the latter is student directed following the direction of student input/output. The balance between teacher led ‘activities’ and student directed ‘activities’ is heavily weighted towards the latter. The teachers role here is to model, scaffold, restate (repeat student output correctly in a way that celebrates their contribution) and have fun!

Retrieval Practice
Almost everything we do in a TCI classroom incorporates retrieval practice. This is why language learning is so exhausting and needs constant brain breaks for successful learning. It uses a significant amount of brain energy to retrieve knowledge and then to manipulate it in working memory. I highly recommend learning a new language asap if it has been a while for you. My foray into Spanish last year with the wonderful Margarita Perez has made a huge impression on me both as a teacher and a learner. My brain is aching now just thinking about it!!
Here are a few ideas from my lessons that enhance retrieval practice:

Kursi Luar Biasa (special person interviews) – Credit for this goes entirely to Bryce Hedstrom.
I love how the questions used in KLB offer linguistic and cultural opportunities. The questions facilitate students searching long term memory for acquired structures before manipulating them within working memory to output totally original sentences. Soooo cool.

Calling The Roll – see above

Brain breaks – Love, love, love using brain breaks that require students to listen to simple comprehensible instructions using acquired structures. My favourite go to is satu kaki (one foot). it is simply asking students to stand on one leg and see who can stand for twenty seconds! I then count to twenty in Indonesian and we then celebrate those is still standing. The second time, to ramp up the challenge, students swap legs and for the third time, they close their eyes. The first time this is played, safety rules are given in English to ensure no one is hurt. The last version can have arms waving madly!! Thus there is no wobbling, no hopping, and also a remiinder that it is just a game and if you get bumped, tidak ada masalah (no problem)!

Comprehension Checks – Celebrating those students who comprehended through long term memory retrieval to working memory.

Story Asking – class created stories based on student contributions underpined by comprehension.

Circling – asking yes/no, sudah/belum, either/or questions supporting comprehension through pointing and pausing acknowledges the hard work happening in students’ working memory.

Gestures – establishing gestures with classes, for some students will help prompt their working memory and assist with acquisition. This is a great tool for differentiation.

For more discussion on retrieval practices, I highly recommend the following podcast by Liam Printer; Retrieval Practice: 11 zero-prep strategies for an engaged classroom? Also don’t forget to search for his program notes. Well worth a read to strengthen your own memory!!

Bluey Dance Mode

Yes, it’s true; I have developed an obsession for Bluey along with my reception students!! So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a Bluey Dance Mode is available through facebook! (Note; this is only available in Australia and consequently to access the mode, you must activate location settings for Facebook.) Essentially this mode superimposes a gif of Bluey dancing to the theme song onto a photo or video. It was originally designed for a competition which closed mid year however thankfully the mode is still available!

This week just gone, I spent time investigating how to operate the mode which involved a lot of silent cussing in the classroom and loud cussing at home!! Joy of joys, I have worked out what I was doing wrong and want to share with you what I discovered to ensure you bypass all the cussing!!

Here are the instructions:

  1. Open this link using a device (I use my phone) that is less than 4 years old and has access to your facebook account.
  2. Scroll down to the link to open Bluey Dance Mode on Facebook

3. This will immediately open Facebook on your device.

4. As you can see Dance Mode is now activated, however for me this was only to take a photo. To take a video, scroll to the far left to the first option:

5. Now click on video.

6. Tap the middle of the screen if Bluey has not yet made an appearance.

7. Tap on Bluey to start him dancing. Note, there is no sound at this point so the dancers must just simply dance to the music in their head (for my little students, this was easy) or you can play the music in the back ground.

8. Tap the Bluey ABC kids button. This will start the recording.

9. When the recording has finished, click the save button down the bottom of your screen. This saves your recording to your device. When you play it back, it will include the music!!

10. Click next to share on Facebook OR

11. Go to your photos and enjoy!! Here is the one I made using the above steps:

Now, all you need to do is try it for yourself and experiment with your own device. Please add comments and questions below. I’d love to hear how this works for you!

Bluey

A recent PLC conversation prompted me to create a ‘movietalk’ based on the Bluey episode “Grannies”. My young students absolutely adore this TV show (search ABC iView) and honestly, my Mum and I do too!! For background on this TV show, see here. There are many things I love about Bluey and without doubt, the top most reason is the assumptions we all make about gender; even for very young students. It certainly is an excellent show for discussing gender stereotyping.

My movietalk went incredibly smoothly! When I opened the powerpoint, my students actually cheered! The students recognised the episode and many agreed with me that it was one of their favourite episodes too. A colleague, shout out to Julie M, asks her young students to share their favourite episodes from the past week! Isn’t that a great idea as a starting point to determine which episodes will connect with your learners!!

This episode has as usual, stories within stories, and most of the plot is outside the vocabulary acquisition of my reception (preppy) students, so I just focused on the mini plot that Nanna’s can’t floss dance. Unlike my attempt at storytelling last week where students chatted constantly (mostly to comment on my hilarious lack of drawing skills), you could have heard a pin drop they were so engaged! I am still gobsmacked at how successful it was.

To create a movie talk, I watched the episode and took screenshots of the main action. I then went through them all and eliminated all that required vocabulary my students have not yet acquired. Being fourth term, it is guaranteed that this will be a messy term (swimming, bookweek, etc), so I usually plan around consolidating what students already know through unfamiliar texts. I tossed up whether to use ‘nenek’ (Grandmother) in my text and decided not to. Instead I stayed with Nanna. Next week I plan to use this to kick off a conversation about the different names we call our grandmother and link this to Indonesia where ‘grandmother/nenek’ is also not the same word grandchildren call their grandmothers and that the names Indonesian grandchildren use also varies greatly.

I identified 15 pictures that had the potential for a mini story. I worried during the planning that this would be too many and so added in a TPR break in the middle to give them wiggle time, but it was totally unnecessary!! OMG I could get used to this!! Here is a snap shot of the screenshots and text I used.

I added text to my images to help me to stay in bounds with the story telling. I also believe that including text for junior primary students adds a level of complexity for my more literate students who enjoy reading along with me. (As I have learners throughout the school with developing literacy skills, I firmly believe it is vital that we support our students through using easy to read fonts eg. century gothic.) I discovered just how many were reading the text whenever I had inadvertently included an error. In copying and pasting text from one page to another, I had forgotten to change character names!! Nothing like teacher errors to inspire more to read and check for further mistakes!! A sneaky way to increase input through reading for meaning!!

The icing on the cake for this mini story was finding colouring pictures on the Bluey website and other unofficial sites. I used several colouring pictures to create a listen and match worksheet. Students needed to listen to a sentence, colour the matching text box with a certain colour and then link it to the appropriate illustration. The lesson finished with students colouring in the illustrations which they absolutely loved doing. With my first class, the colouring in was done together to get reps on colour vocabulary, but I gave my last class time to choose their own colours. Not convinced yet of the value that a single lesson has for revising more than two colours is for young learners.

A final step I will be taking is creating a book from the powerpoint pages to add to my class library. As Amy Roe recommended, laminate all pages to make the books last longer!! It also makes them look fantastic . Make sure you use matte laminate though – glossy laminate needs to be banished from all schools and classrooms! Order through Officeworks. Orders over $55 are delivery free which is basically the cost of one packet!! Awesome for those of us in non-metro areas!! Matte laminate is more expensive but worth every cent because posters become accessible to all learners regardless of where they are in the classroom! No reflections!!

Snap Camera Magic

Thanks to Senora Anna (aka Ibu Anne ), I recently discovered the lure of Snap Camera. I absolutely love it. Not only is this a platform that has enormous potential for creating quirky videos and images; it is also the perfect place to visit if you need a laugh. I challenge you to check out a few of the unusual ways you can alter your face and not crack a smile!

I whole heartedly believe in the potential benefits of flipped learning; where student learning continues out of the classroom. Flipped learning offers bonus input for language learners as it can be accessed whenever the learner chooses and in ways that best suits their own learning. For my students, I prefer to create videos and upload them to my YouTube channel for students to watch either with their class teacher or by themselves after school. I like that videos can be stopped, replayed or slowed down by the learners. Videos also give the opportunity for input to be delivered both aurally and visually.

Creating videos is fun but also confronting for me because while I love creating videos, I find it challenging speaking facing into a camera! I understand that for my students, my familiar face and voice lowers their affective filter, however up until discovering Snap Camera, my inner critical voice generally found a reason to avoid this. If you look through my videos, you’ll quickly see that my older videos have me firmly behind the camera!

However, Snap Camera is so quirky that being in front of the camera is no longer a major hurdle. How can something so quirky and appealing to learners, not be maximised? Just opening Snap Camera and exploring some of the options will consistently put a smile on your face as it does for me because it is a platform that has many options to ‘enhance’ or totally alter our appearance and/or background. These options range from the sublime to the ridiculous and it is the latter which are the most entertaining.

If I have tempted you to experiment with Snap Camera, the first thing to do is download and install it.

Once installed, either type something into the search bar that could be either easily recognised by your learners &/or is a cognate. I have discovered all sorts of quirky characters ranging from biscuits to Spiderman!

Or choose an option from one of the following categories:

This will certainly put a smile on your dial!

An added bonus is when you have snap camera and Zoom open at the same time, your Snap Camera image will carry through to your Zoom meeting! I’ve gathered from facebook posts that Zoom isn’t the only platform that supports Snap Camera, so experiment with which ever platforms you are using. Share the quirkiness and help distract others momentarily from the craziness of 2020.

Below are two videos I made recently for my junior primary students. Both target TPR recent structures including melompat (jump), cepat (fast) and pelan (slow). They were recorded directly into Snap Camera which is super easy to access (see red box below).

I really like that you can delete or save immediately after recording as can be seen above.

Term 3 Update: R-7

I must begin by apologising profusely for the limited posting over the past 12 months. My goal this year is to try to post more regularly to share my successes and failures. Hopefully this benefits you as much as it does for me in that it provides me with the opportunity to clarify and work through what and how I am teaching as well as documenting it all. It is amazing how quickly I forget ideas and then by scrolling through past posts, rediscover them!!

This term, my reception classes are finishing off Judy Dubois’ Jacket story, my 3-5’s are starting Anna Matava’s Talks Too Much story and my one and only 6/7 class is looking at the song ‘Lupa, Lupa Ingat’. See my Scope and Sequence Stories Page for more information on these stories.

Most classes have two 50 minute lessons a week except for one 3/4 class which has three, and one 3/4 class and my 6/7 class which have only a 65 minute lesson. The difference between the ones with only a single lesson and the others is predictably vast.

I still love using PowerPoint as a teaching tool for my reception students, however I no longer use them for the older year levels. My reception PowerPoints mainly aim to support preliterate students while also providing challenge (aka differentiation) and learning opportunities for those with developing literacy. This is done through limited text with quirky illustrations or giphy/gif’s (is there a difference?) that effortlessly prompt L2 discussion and circling that ONLY requires familiar and understandable L2, i.e. Indonesian in my context. For example, at the moment I have just introduced cepat and pelan (fast and slow) through TPR (Total Physical Response). In introducing it, I found gifs of people, familiar characters (Spiderman, SpongeBob) and cats walking/dancing/jumping fast/slow. This ensured that the only unfamiliar language was pelan and cepat. Avoiding working memory overload in a language classroom is SO important for both comprehension and acquisition as this helps to keep the affective filter (e.g. anxiety levels) low. When the affective filter is high, the flight or fight response can kick in, thus severely impacting on language acquisition for most learners.

My JP PowerPoints include slides on behaviour expectations, kursi luar biasa, picture talk, VPQA (Visual personalised questions and answers), brain breaks, TPR, songs and a CI task e.g. ‘All the Worlds a Stage’, Listen and Draw. See the Preliterate TCI/TPRS CI Activities page for an explanation of these and others. See this link to view a recent JP powerpoint I used with my receptions for this story. To break up the repetition for me, I love creating video clips for the students to either listen to or sing along with. Most are uploaded to my YouTube channel and if you are interested in getting notifications each time I upload a new one, subscribe to and like my channel!! Another ‘video’ idea is to take photos of students and then create a slideshow from them. We had a dress-up day recently and I walked around the school yard before school taking photos of students in their costumes. I got many fabulous photos and the slide show was perfect to help students transition to learning Indonesian at the beginning of the lesson. It also ensured a consequence for those that dawdled and an encouragement to get to the next lesson on time when I planned to replay it!! My next project is to take photos of students skate-boarding on the basketball court tomorrow morning before school!

This week will be the last week for the Jaket story and next week, I will begin Elsa & Buaya, a story based on one of Carol Gaab’s creations. The language for this story includes lapar (hungry), berlari (run), ke (to) and revises lihat (look/see) and makan (eat). All structures can effortlessly be incorporated into TPR which will be hilarious when added to pelan/cepat!! I can feel a new slideshow idea coming on…..

My middle primary students will begin acting out the Bercakap-Cakap Terus story tomorrow. Usually I story ask the complete story using actors and student input, but tomorrow I am going to try an idea based on Laurie Clarcq’s embedded reading workshop I watched yesterday at the Agen Online Conference. I pared the story right down to the basics after identifying that the key language was bercakap-cakap terus (constantly chats), pergi ke (goes to) and keluar (go outside). Here is the skeleton of the story we will work with tomorrow:

John pergi ke Victa Cinema.
Di cinema, John bercakap-cakap terus.
Fred marah.
Fred berkata, “Keluar’.

Having a significantly reduced story skeleton will hopefully allow me to focus more on acquisition through quietening the annoying ‘teacher’ voice in my head pressuring me to go faster to beat the bell. It will also allow the class more opportunities to suggest/add more detail and personalise their class story to a greater level than is usually done! Then, I will hopefully have greater scope for creating embedded readings for the class to read post story creation. If you are interested in learning more about embedded readings, I highly recommend visiting Laurie’s comprehensive blog.

I am also planning to use an embedded reading with the 6/7 class but this one wasn’t so easy to create. The target structures are lupa (forgot), ingat (remember), kunci (key), cari (search) and ketemu (found). The best I have created so far is:

John mau pergi ke Adelaide.
Dimana kuncinya?
John cari dimana-mana.
John ketemu kuncinya di piano!

The main problem with this is the amount of unfamiliar language. We have covered lupa and ingat so far, so I just hope it isn’t expecting too much of the kids. In the embedded reading workshop, Laurie recommended pre-reading activities which gave me the idea of using the memory game to help with acquiring lupa & ingat! I have created a short PowerPoint containing a few tongue twisters Screen Shot 2020-08-12 at 11.17.46 amand memory game Screen Shot 2020-08-12 at 11.17.41 amimages from google.

Last lesson, I played the song version showing just the lyrics ( I save the band video till later to ensure the distraction of the band’s costumes and makeup doesn’t interfere with enjoying the song) and asked the students in pairs to choose a verse and then when it played, their group had to stand up and sing along. I was impressed at how well they actually did this!! In their next lesson I have planned to repeat this before again hitting ‘lupa’ & ‘ingat’ through stopping the song randomly and asking groups to sing the next line from memory! The going on a picnic concept might work too but I am still trying to come up with a phrase that will support students to stay in Indonesian. Maybe, “Saya ingat kata XXX.”

Not sure where I am heading yet with this class and this song. With previous classes,  recreating a video of the song was successfully done but it took so much work. This time I am thinking of using an app like video star (does it still exist?) where the students sing along to their verse but when it replays, they are just miming, and the original artists sound-track is all that is heard! Here is an idea of what it looks like! I think a project like this would be significantly easier to edit.

It seems odd to be posting about face to face teaching when the rest of the world is still largely teaching online. In most states of Australia, we have taught face to face through the entire pandemic. Was it stressful? Hell Yes! Still is actually; especially with the second wave now flowing through.  Please stay safe and look after yourself!

If you want to comment or share your ideas, I would truly appreciate hearing from you.