Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gesturing the Vocab and Homework in First Year

I'm getting questions on gesturing and first year homework that I want to address for all interested.  

I use gestures every day for vocab introduction/retention before the story and we gesture everything on the vocab list for the lesson.  I do it because I've experimented both ways and for me their long-term vocab retention is so much better with gestures that I just can't justify skipping them.  In my experience, the gestures don't have to be "good" - there just has to be a motion that goes with each word or phrase of the day.  Even the process of thinking up gestures (get the kids to help you if you are stuck) means they are thinking about what the words mean, and every second you can get their brain on that task helps.

Also, you don't have to have different gestures for every single word or phrase over time. Thumbs up or down in my class can mean a lot of things; I just don't use it for two things on the same day.

One friend asked me specifically if it's possible to gesture the vocab in certain lessons, like Spanish 1A L13.  Here's what I would do with the story vocab chunks in Lesson 13 of 1A:

Ella escribe (motion writing or typing) un anuncio personal (hold up fingers to make shape of a little box--the "anuncio")
Me gustan los deportes (thumbs up, then swing a bat or shoot a basketball, or whatever sport they like)
No me gusta el ajedrez (thumbs down, then thoughtfully move a chess piece on your desk)
¿Cómo eres?/¿Cómo es…? (point at someone and then shrug and hold your hands up like you are wondering what they are like, and for Como es, they can also point at me and shrug, wondering what I'm like)
Quiero conocerte mañana a la una (hands clasped like you're begging (that is how I always do "quiero"), shake hands with imaginary person (that is how I always do conocer), point forward to "mañana", then hold up one finger for 1:00 or point at the clock)

Don't forget to do "eyes closed" gesturing, one time through each word or phrase, at the end of the short practice. I would say I practice each phrase 4-5 times, more if they are slow/lethargic/distracted, before eyes-closed assessment. But everyone has to do the gestures during practice so I know if they know what I'm saying, and I make it obvious I'm looking all around the room to see if everyone knows the words.  If someone stops gesturing, I ask (with a smile,) "Brian, I just need to make sure--do you know what 'resentidas' means?" If he can tell me, I say, "Good!" If he can't, I say, "Okay, it means 'resentful,' and we're folding our arms like we're mad..." For me, that fixes it at least that day. I sometimes have to ask the same kid the next day, but pretty soon they realize all they have to do to keep me off their back is do the gesture with everybody else.

Quick story on this topic: I had a kid in PreAP Spanish 3 who had to leave the room for a couple of minutes last week right after writing down the vocab on his vocab list. (BTW, I normally don't allow anyone to leave at that point if I can help it.) While he was gone we did the gesture practice for what he'd written down. He came back just as we were doing eyes closed gesturing. He had zero idea what I was saying or what the gestures were, so he kept his eyes open and was visibly shocked that everyone understood and was doing everything I said like little robots. When everybody else opened their eyes, I said, "Sean, that was weird how they knew all that complicated Spanish I was saying, wasn't it?" He said, "Yeah!" with a big grin. I told the class they just don't realize how cool it is that they can motion everything I say unless they have to leave like that and come back in a couple of minutes later and witness it.

Okay, homework. Homework in first and second year for us usually is grammar worksheets and translating stories, and I would give it once or twice a week on the A/B 90-minute block schedule.  I think Alexis has first year students take readings home and translate them to their parents, then parents sign at the bottom that they did it.  She has some cheating on this of course, but she also gets rave reviews from parents about how much their kids are learning and can demonstrate.

Hope this helps!