Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ekeko - Day 19

Today is the last day before spring break, and the last day we spend with El Ekeko. I wish I had one more week to spend on Bolivian culture, but that will have to be a schedule adjustment I make next year. There's never enough time for everything!

Because it was the last day before a vacation, the kids were very, very distracted. I tried a different order of events each class period until I got it right. 8th period was the best, so you get to see 8th period's order of things. First, we briefly reviewed Chapter 11 and some of the previous chapters with circling questions. I wanted it to be fresh in their minds before I had them evaluate the novel and communicate what they learned about Bolivia.

Next, they filled out said evaluations, answering the following questions. I'll post their answers once I sort through them.
1. What are some things you learned about Bolivian culture?
2. What was the most interesting part of the book to you?
3. What was the most difficult part about reading this book?
4. What do you wish we would learn about next?
5. Any other comments about the novel?

As our last activity of the day, students created their own Ekekos and decorated them with gifts for their friends and family. Using the template from the teacher's guide, students colored an Ekeko and drew miniature items that represented what they would like to give to their families. The problem was, they couldn't remember multi-step directions today, so I broke it up into steps. Step one: draw 3 or more mini-gifts you would give your family or friends (5 min). Step two: label the gifts in Spanish (5 min). Step three: color and decorate (10 min).

Last weekend John Oliver had a funny segment about the Bolivian zebras, the young people who wear zebra costumes and help teach citizens about traffic laws. It is a really positive segment that doesn't make fun of Bolivian culture or swear at all, so I decided to show it in class.  There IS one mildly inappropriate moment around 2:40, so I downloaded the video and clipped it in Movie Maker before showing it to my middle-schoolers. We watched this five-minute video while the students finished up coloring their Ekekos.

Last, students presented their Ekekos to each other, using the phrase "Me gustaria ____________ para ________." I don't have art-loving kids this year, so a lot of them were honestly pretty terrible, but the writing and speaking part was fine, and it was a fun activity to keep them engaged the day before a break. Here's a sampling of some of the better ones:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ekeko - Day 18

Well, we made it through the novel! I wasn't actually planning for the students to get all the way through Chapter 11 today, but they were so motivated that it was easy breezy.

Students worked in pairs to read Chapter 11. They were supposed to pause and discuss each page with the provided comprehension questions in Spanish. Because there was no new vocabulary and really no new concepts, they had a much easier time managing this chapter and really seemed to enjoy it.

Next, I passed out the brief play from the teacher's guide and we did Reader's Theatre. In a couple of classes, I had two groups willing to go, so we had a contest to see which group was more dramatic. They really hammed it up!

We still had some leftover time, so students finished writing their note summaries and turned them in. I guess we'll have time for a fun day tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ekeko - Day 17

Today was a bit of a downer, because we read Chapter 10 of Ekeko, which reveals that Nicolas is cruel and mean because his father is cruel and mean.

I didn't want to do anything "fun" - no games or acting that might cheapen the serious issues and emotions of the story. So, today I just read aloud while the students listened and followed along. We did pause fairly often to circle the text with comprehension questions, and this chapter provided an excellent springboard for PQA. Our focus was "¿Qué puedes hacer?" and the students brainstormed what you can do for someone who is having a tough time, like Nicolas.

One or two students came up with jokey answers, but for the most part the kids took it seriously and suggested kind things, like "Puedes invitarle a la casa" and "Puedes dar los regalos a la persona." Several kids suggested that Paco should find the Ekeko and give it to Nicolas.

Although the chapter was a downer, the kids were really engaged today. I think some of them enjoyed the more serious tone (and they're middle-schoolers, so they love drama).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ekeko - Day 16

Today was assessment day. I wanted to assess the students' reading skills without testing their plot detail memory too much, so I gave them the text of Chapter 9 (which they had never read) printed along with 10 questions in English. They were a mixture of comprehension questions and SBAC style questions asking for inferences, context clues and text evidence. If you would like to use them, they can be found here: Chapter 9 SBAC questions.

The test only took the students about 20 minutes (some finished in like 8), so afterward we played a fun review game. I wrote many vocabulary words from the text on the board in different colors. I divided the students into two groups and gave each one a flyswatter. Then, to give just a bit more input, I described the vocabulary terms in Spanish and/or gave clues from the text. Students had to race to think of the correct term and hit it with the flyswatter.

For example:
Piensa - formar ideas en tu cabeza
Pelota - es una cosa que necesitas para jugar los deportes
Mochila - es una cosa que usas para llevar los libros a la escuela
Nuevo - no es viejo
Alasitas - el festival de cosas miniaturas en Bolivia

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ekeko - Day 14

We tackled Chapter 8 of the text today. Since it was the first day of Alasitas in the novel, I played this song as an introduction. We did a little bit of Movie Talk with the video, but I didn't pause as often as I typically do because I wanted the students to enjoy the song as well. I gave them permission to giggle at the guy's over-the-top enthusiasm and 70's hair, as long as they didn't make fun of the festival itself.

Next, we looked at the picture at the beginning of Chapter 8 and used it to review what Paco drew in Chapter 7 and to predict what would happen in the morning.

Then, students were allowed to work in partners or alone to read the text of Chapter 8 and to write a comic strip of the events in Chapter 8. I used the comic strip provided in the Teacher's Guide with a couple of small changes. Students had to write two sentences per picture instead of one, and I replaced one of the Chapter 8 pictures with the picture of Paco and Pepe from Chapter 7. Some students copied sentences right out of the text, and I feel like that's fine - it actually makes writing into more of an input activity than an output activity. What do you guys think?

Today I noticed numerous kids reading more actively than before. I have a group of reluctant readers this year, and typically they read only what is required. However, today I had several groups ask if they were allowed to read ahead to find out what's going to happen next (um, of course), one kid tell me that this is "a really cool book" and lots and lots of students getting involved in the plot. They thought the idea of a magical, wish-granting statue was great. "This kid (Paco)'s a genius!" a student informed me. "He's going to get a sweet gaming system!" "I wonder if Paco could use the Ekeko to make more Ekekos," another wondered. "I would just make tons of bacon," a third commented to his friend. One girl wasn't so sure. "I don't think everything will keep going right for Paco," she said. "It feels too easy. I think something bad is going to happen, I'm just not sure what."

I have a sneaking suspicion she's right. :-)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ekeko - Day 13

After a couple of days outside reading, we came back in to review.

Because Chapter 7 mentions food a few times, I decided it would be a good day to learn about some Bolivian cuisine. I used the slide show provided in the Teacher's Guide, but you could definitely find photos on Google Images or Flickr. My class did a food unit a while ago, so this was the perfect opportunity to review. I showed a photo of a particular food and asked "¿Qué hay en la foto?" or "¿Qué tiene la comida?" and students called out ingredients they saw. After naming all the ingredients, I would give a brief description of the food (such as Pique a lo Macho being "un poco picante") or an interesting fact (like Anticuchos being made from "el corazón de una vaca"). At the end, we briefly compared Bolivian food to Mexican food and Bolivian food to U.S. cuisine. The students started out telling me that Bolivian food was more like Mexican food, until they realized they had no evidence to back that up. Brains are strange.

After viewing foods, we played a review game. I wanted to try "El juego del botón" from the TG, but the students begged to play "Silla caliente" again, so that's what we did. The first round of questions was about the text, and the second round of questions was about the foods from the slideshow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ekeko - Day 12

Today was another absolutely gorgeous day, and the kids begged to go back outside to read, so we did.

We started out inside, where I read aloud the first two pages of Chapter 7, where Paco finds his new shoes. I circled these pages with comprehension questions and also asked about the connection to Chapter 6. We briefly "acted out" this section with TPR (Dibuja los zapatos, duerme, levanta la cabeza, ve los zapatos, toca los zapatos, salta emocionadamente).

Next, I passed out the scripts for the Chapter 7 Reader's Theatre provided in the Teacher's Guide and we practiced the pronunciation of some of the longer words:
 We also guessed what the first three might mean, based on our knowledge of verbs.

After that, we trooped outside. Students read and acted out the play in groups of 4 a few times, and then read the now-familiar Chapter 7 in groups of 2 or 4.

I worked with a group that frequently struggles with reading, and came to a realization I should have made before - cognates are HARD for students that struggle with reading in English. This is a lesson I've learned previously, but it surprises me every time when I find out that 8th graders don't know the meaning of the words: sufficient, divide (outside of math class), encounter, and preoccupied. I will be on the lookout for these in the coming chapters and will make a special effort to pre-teach them. At least I can feel good about helping to build their English vocabularies!

Another lesson learned: I wish I had seen Martina Bex's Bolivia curriculum before! This would be a great introduction to the region and companion to the book: Un Escape con Abuela (a Breakout EDU activity about Bolivia) and Possessive Adjectives and Bolivia. I will try to work those in BEFORE we start reading next year, but I might go ahead and do the Breakout activity after spring break even though we'll be done with the novel.