Monthly Archives: September 2012

Je suis étudiant

So, I’m taking French classes again (partly so that I can communicate with a certain attractive someone in Brazil…), and it’s given me a chance to experience student life again.  So amazing.  My teacher speaks only in French the entire class (3 hours, twice a week).  It was a bit daunting at first, but it brought to mind my students who have difficulties in math class.  Hearing me talk about math with such ease when they struggle to understand the basic vocabulary must be overwhelming for them.  I’m sure some of my students have had days that felt like they were in a classroom where a different language was being spoken.

One of the guys in my class is a bit out of his league.  (He thought he could start in a higher level class because he already speaks Spanish fluently.)  He completely shuts down at moments in class.  He does not want to participate in most of the oral exercises, and I can already see from his attitude he does not plan to take any more classes…How many students have felt this way in my class?

I do have to credit my instructor for her patience and teaching skill.  She seems to have done this plenty of times before.  She insists on only speaking in French.  However, she uses a bunch of simple but effective teacher skills to help increase clarity and decrease anxiety…such as:

  • Speaking slowly – over-enunciating each word, one at a time
  • Repetition – most important phrases are repeated at least twice, listening exercises are played two or three times before being discussed
  • Hand gestures – like a good charades player, she helps us understand phrases without direct translation through her actions
  • Exaggerated tone – using a wide range of emotion in her voice for both understanding/translation as well as emphasis
  • Writing – not only are phrases repeated several times orally, but they are also usually written on the board
  • Patience and a Smile – she never seems to mind repeating or slowing down, always smiling and happy for any student effort/attempts

These are simple things many of us do, but I wanted to point out explicitly what I’ve been noticing. 🙂


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Learning Cultures?

Is anyone out there doing the “Learning Cultures” model?   Two new math teachers I know have to use this style in their (separate) schools.  From my quick glancing at it, it just seems like fancy edu-speak for well-planned group work lessons, but I’m VERY uneducated on it.  I’m just starting to read the site on it at

Any feedback any of you have would be appreciated, especially if you are using/used it!  My new teacher friends have lots of questions/struggles with it, and I don’t know enough to be that helpful yet.

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The Year Begins!

Just had to say: I met my advisory for two days of orientation (9th graders).  This is my first year having an advisory, and I’m in love!  My 14 advisees are adorable, nerdy and we are already addicted to each other.  🙂

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StoryCorps U

So this year I am teaching an advisory for the first time.  Six years in, teaching math only, and now I am learning how to work with student social-emotional growth…and I’m so excited!

Advisory for my school means 30mins, 4 times a week, with your 12-14 advisees.  Mine are all 9th graders.

My school decided to fully adopt the StoryCorpsU curriculum for all freshmen advisories. (Which meant I had to go in early for two full days of training…)  We had a very thorough training, but I have to say, I think it’s genius.  The lessons are already planned out for me.  Students get to listen to clips of actual NPR StoryCorps interviews, ones chosen specifically for high school kids.  The students will also interview each other, interview me (yikes!), and finally record their own StoryCorps clip.

I think listening to and sharing stories is so simple but exactly what the students need.

Side note: A year ago the great Sam Shah and I recorded our own StoryCorps interview.  I’ll have to dig that out and upload a clip or two on here…I think I might need help with this fancy technology…


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