Thursday, March 31, 2011

Outsourcing Learning

In a recent post, I wrote about providing the boys with foreign language instruction. This week we went for our sample TPRS Spanish class. I think we have found the perfect match for our learning needs.

TPRS, Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, is not the method for you IF you want to learn a language in the typical classroom setting. We will not be conjugating verbs or filling in worksheets. The class began with our teacher showing us a list of words and phrases she would be using in the lesson. After telling us the meanings and pronunciations of the words, she moved on to the gestures that would go with each word. Some of these were common ASL signs. Some were gestures and some were even sounds. For example, lobo (wolf) was a howl.

Now that we were armed with our gestures, she began the story. As she told the story, any time we heard a word on the list, we were to do the appropriate gesture. This quickly became a lot of fun. The boys especially liked it when they had opportunity to act out ¡Comé mucho! (eats a lot). When the story had ended, our teacher starting asking Spanish. The boys were easily able to answer using the gestures and sometimes speaking the correct words.

There was just enough silliness involved to make every word memorable. The pictures in this post come from the poster sized sheet of paper she sent home with us. Even though we were given no formal assignments, JT has been using his new vocabulary and working to construct his own sentences from what he already knows.

I'm still on the fence as to whether both boys will take the class. EM is not as interested and did cause some distraction during the lesson. We are waiting for a week or two to see if we can drum up a few more students for the class. And if you are worried about the absence of formal language instruction, remember that when you learned your primary language, you probably didn't start conjugating verbs until you were well into your elementary years. We can get to those parts of the language later.

I found something else this week that really has me excited. The Khan Academy. I think this teaching website is incredible. After watching the creator, Salman Khan, giving a TED Talk about how he got started, I couldn't wait to try it out. Originally it began as math videos Sal had made and posted on YouTube to help tutor his cousins from a distance. As more people stumbled upon these instructional movies and made positive comments, he realized he had an opportunity to help many who were struggling with math.

I had been looking into the possibility of signing JT up to use either ALEKS math or IXL next year. I started to feel that he might benefit from a more self-directed math study. In the middle of my indecision over which was the better choice, I read a message through the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum about Khan Academy. Not only does it seem more in line with what I'm looking's also FREE! The tracking tools for teachers are phenomenal. The students can earn points and 'badges' as they move through the different lessons. This particular feature really appeals to my little gamers. The only drawback I can see is that if you want to track your progress, you must log in with either a Google ID or a Facebook account. I reluctantly set my kids up with Google accounts so they can make use of this wonderful site.

I love having access to such excellent learning tools. There are just so many rich opportunities out there...I'm starting to wonder if twelve years with these boys will even be enough to scratch the surface of what we can do together.

1 comment:

Annie said...

I'm glad you've found resources that work for the boys. Khan Academy is great, although we just use it as back up when I can't seem to get something across.

I love your last remark. I often think the same thing. . . .