Oops, I faced a fear.

Let me tell you about the time I accidentally did the instructional strategy that most intimidates me: MovieTalk. I was initially put off from this strategy because I worried about juggling the timing of pausing the videos, along with the language, and monitoring student behavior. It sounded like too much of a juggling act for me. Then I saw a version of it presented at Ed-Camp in Virginia Beach this past June, it was so cool! But then there was all the “in-fighting” surrounding the name. I’m just starting out, there is so much out there to learn – and as great as Facebook groups are for getting real advice and opinions, I couldn’t find anything about this technique that was free from the drama about what it actually means to “MovieTalk”. That’s fine, I’m not involved in that, my skills and analytical skill of my practice aren’t there yet. Alternately I benefit from those gurus who hone and perfect techniques in this way. But, this fervent discussion about what it is or isn’t only increased my fear. It was at the point where I thought my kids would know whether or not I was doing it right and would call me out if I did it wrong. I’m in all new schools this year, I am back to having to prove myself, I was not risking it. If I wanted to talk about a movie then I screen-shot the scenes I wanted to talk about and we went through it using a slide show, then they could see the video afterwards. You can call that whatever you want, I’m pretty sure it’s not MovieTalk. Regardless, on to the story:

I teach four different grade levels a day, each grouped together so I teach all of one grade then move on to a different grade. Before I started that last set of grade levels for the day, I thought through what I had planned, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t have the energy for it, I didn’t feel inspired by it, I was honestly considering faking sick just to get out of walking through that door. (I’ve never actually done that, but I was tempted, and half of my problem was that I didn’t feel 100% either.) I scanned my memory for what else might be on my jump drive with the daily lesson and settled on an animated fairy tale video. I did my standard opening with the group (day, date, weather, how are you) then started the movie. I paused the movie a few seconds in, because we were ahead of schedule and if I didn’t find some reason to stop the movie occasionally then I would have to come up with another activity for the class to do. Seriously, I was struggling to make it through the end of the day. I asked how the characters were feeling, it was easy for them because we had just reviewed all of this. A little bit of story line passed and I paused again, asked about emotions again, asked the kids if they were feeling the same emotion as the first character? No? Maybe you are feeling the same as the other character? Then I played the movie again. Then I paused it again. Halfway through class it strikes me that this is a form of MovieTalk. It’s not perfect, and perhaps it isn’t exactly what anyone else would have called MovieTalk, but here is this group of kids watching a video in a language they don’t speak yet. They are enraptured with trying to figure out how the characters are feeling so they can answer the next time I ask the question. I started all of my remaining classes at that level early for the rest of the week, so I could do the same lesson with them. By the end, I think the last class must have had 200 repetitions of “how is __ feeling?” which is more than I would have ever expected possible with 20 5-year-olds over 30 minutes. Bonus: One class has a substitute, who (I was told) went straight to the principal after school to tell her how great my lesson was and how much she learned. The substitute also came to me and said some very nice things.

This was a major win from a day that I just couldn’t do. And, it summarizes nicely how I feel about teaching with CEI. I have only been actively educating myself on these methods since about December 2017. I have been aware of many CEI techniques for years, but never devoted much time to figuring out how to integrate them into my classes. Now that I have, I’m never going back! I’m so lucky to be in an environment this year, which allows me the freedom to try absolutely anything with two of my grade levels with full support of my administration and my student’s parents. They are fully vested in what I’m doing and are pushing me to learn more, do better, get there faster. If you had told me in August that I would have spontaneously used a video to increase conversation before December, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

CEI is making my job easier and my teaching more effective. Is it doing the same for you? Have you ever been in a situation like mine? Better yet, what strategies intimidate you? Let’s conquer those fears together!

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