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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eavesdropping or An Observation, You Decide

This week I got the chance to eavesdrop.  I'll admit it.  And, what's better is that I learned A LOT!

While my kids are in their Language Stars* class on Saturday, I use that time to do my "computer work."  I am very glad that there's a Starbucks right next door so I can not only hang out in a quiet place and get work done, but I can also grab a much needed second cup of coffee.  (I believe that you must have at least as many cups of coffee a day as you have children.  For me, that's 3!)  Anyway, I spent most of the time at Starbucks, then came back to LS and sat at a little table they have in the back of the center to finish the rest of my work.  

First of all, I should tell you that parents can only sit in on classes for the older students on certain days.  I completely agree with that because my children are actually more well-behaved with other people (what's up with that, anyway?).  I understand why LS has that rule.  So, imagine my delight when one of the teachers left the door to his classroom open!  Even though it's around the corner and I cannot see the class in action, I can now hear EVERYTHING going on inside. 

Being a truly unobtrusive observer rarely happens.  As a teacher, I know that when I do an observation just the act of observing changes the dynamics of the classroom, whether it is for the students, the teacher, or both.  So I recognized this right away for what it was:  A valuable opportunity to "see" exactly what the kids only classes were really like.  

I have to admit that sometimes I get discouraged.  I helped my son put on a cat tattoo the other day and he couldn't come up with the Mandarin word for cat (which I think I learned in the very first class).  Moments like this discourage me.  I know I shouldn't assume that he learns the same material I do or even in the same way or at the pace I think he should.  But, nonetheless, I get discouraged.  Then something like my unintended observation happens and I am reassured again.  Language Stars really has some solid teaching going on!  

The class I "observed" (i.e. eavesdropped in on) was in Spanish.  But, I speak more Spanish than Mandarin, so I think that was a good thing.  I could actually follow along without needing to see the props.  I heard 3 very important and specific things from this class that reminded me our 30-minute trips to class twice a week are well worth it:

1.  The teacher repeated, repeated, and repeated the material.  
                 We do this in parents and tots, but it was nice to hear that it is going on in the kids only classes, too.  He sang the song of the week over and over again, substituting different vocabulary words from the week's list.    He used the vocabulary over and over again in different ways.  

2.  He prompted the students to expand their sentences.
Once he got a correct response from a child, he would then ask another simple question and/or model an extended sentence using her answer.  Our teachers do this, too, but perhaps it was just easier for me to hear it done in Spanish.  It was more obvious to me because I was observing and not trying to learn the vocabulary myself!  

3.  He kept adding in new vocabulary.  
There were a couple of times that I was tempted to peek around the corner to see what he was talking about!  It would be "vocab I know, vocab I know, vocab I know, NEW WORD" for me.  This is perfect because it's easy for students to pick up the new word's meaning through context clues (which I was lacking due to my vantage point).   

So, in short, I was impressed and reassured by what I heard on Saturday.  I know that all of the teachers not only have backgrounds in teaching/working with children/related fields, but they also receive the same training from Language Stars.  So their approach is almost exactly the same.  Therefore, I know that what's happening in the Spanish kids only class is the same thing my children are getting in their Mandarin class.  Good to know.  Now, off to review the word for "cat" with my son!  

*We receive 50% off of our tuition for sharing our Language Stars experience.  But all opinions expressed here are my own because we really enjoy going to Language Stars!  :)

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  1. Sorry I didn't find a place to just email you, so I am using your comment block. I am loving the Halloween cvc match game you provided. Was wondering if you would add more words or give/sell us a blank page of the cards to add our own words to as well?

    1. Sure! I'll have the extra page added by tomorrow morning! Just redownload it tomorrow.