Just another manic Monday

Just another manic Monday. Or el lunes loco, if you’re a Spanish teacher. I really don’t care for Mondays, and it’s not that typical “ugh, Monday, I hate going to work” trope. I don’t work a job; I have a career that I love and I enjoy it all days of the week. However, I’d be a liar if I said that Mondays weren’t the hardest day of the week. There’s just something about student behavior on Mondays that is harder for me to deal with – I don’t know if it’s the excitement of the weekend, trying to get back in the school routine after a whole two days off, or what. At my school, I much prefer Friday behavior to Monday behavior. (Tuesdays are my favorite, for the record.)

That being said, I am someone who believes in working smarter, not harder. I have always tried to align my teaching with the reality of students. For example, no assessments on Mondays. That’s just a great way to make sure everyone forgets (including me, honestly) and there’s a big panic – not worth it. This year, my big focus has been taking into consideration the student needs to walk and talk. Mixing what I’ve learned through CI trainings (the brain craving novelty) and Kagan (humans wanting to be mobile and socialize), I’ve tried to find some activities that I can especially use on Mondays that will keep learning happening without making me crazy with constantly trying to get student attention.

**Side note: my Spanish 1s this year are… a bit more squirrelly than my last few bunches. This means that my last few years of ‘here is a story, let us do it’ is NOT working. They can’t get through even a paragraph without me having to stop and regroup them. PQA tends to be a disaster. I am having to mentally adapt all my activities because as reflective teachers know, what works for one group of students does not necessarily work for the next, and we always need to adjust to that. Upon further reflection, (this post has been sitting in my draft queue for a long time) of my 17 students, I have at least 5 in this class who have been formally diagnosed with ADHD. On top of normal student silliness. Some of them are wonderful about taking their medication, if prescribed, others are not. Some days are a really rough go.

Anyway, if you are having the same issue with your students, here are some things that are working and some things that are NOT working for me.

Working well:

  • quiz-quiz-trade
  • numbered heads together
  • mix-pair-share
  • round-robin (depending on the task)
  • Señor Wooly puzzles
  • fan-n-pick

These activities all have a few key ideas in common. If you’re not familiar with the terms, just google them (most of them are Kagan structures). Number one and most importantly, these activities allow students to mostly work at their own pace or with a timer. This keeps students on task without making me, the teacher, go crazy by trying to keep a group together. Number two, these tasks are completed in pairs or small groups. Again, trying to keep a large group together on Mondays seems nearly impossible for me, so letting students work in much smaller groupings is easier on my ears and my patience. Finally, these activities also promote positive interdependence – the students have to work together to complete the task, which creates all sorts of warm fuzzy feelings like lowering the affective filter and strengthening relationships.

Not working:

  • Four corners
  • MovieTalks, PictureTalks, pretty much anything that introduces new vocab where I stand in the front and give input for more than 12 seconds
  • OWI

To reiterate, these activities are terrible for me on Mondays. Every other day, they’re fine – the squirreliness of students is just too much on Mondays. I’m not sure what causes these activities to break down. Four corners ends up with too much side chatter. MovieTalks, PictureTalks, OWIs, stories… any of those that require the whole group’s attention and circling, introduction of new vocabulary, etc. do not go well for me. These activities are easier with my upper level classes who have a higher level of focus, but I still find it easier on myself just to pick an activity from the first list. My second period would be comatose if I let them, so picking an activity that forces them to interact with each other and/or walk around keeps them from falling asleep on me.

As we head into the end of 2017, hopefully these ideas will help you have happier, more productive Mondays in 2018!

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6 thoughts on “Just another manic Monday

    • My beloved long term boyfriend has ADHD, inattentive type, so I am the most sympathetic of teachers to students who have it and I pretty much disagree with everything that Mr. Rosemond proposes in his article. By his criteria, everything in the DSM-IV is a construct since it is not verifiable with physical evidence and we can only verify with diagnostic tools such as surveys or observations of behavior. But if we go with such an argument, there is also no such thing as depression, anxiety, autism, narcissistic personality disorder, or any other variety of diseases that are commonly accepted as existing.

      That being said, again, as the partner of an adult with ADHD, I am quite sure that it exists and that it causes difficulties for those who have it. I am also a huge proponent of medication because ADHD can frequently be adequately controlled, and the other difficulties that are exacerbated by low executive function – the low-self esteem, the poor planning skills, the defensiveness, the lying, etc – can be overcome if students are taught how to manage their ADHD with patience from a young age rather than just called stupid and lazy and why can’t they just get it like everybody else?

      **side note: said boyfriend is studying to become a licensed mental health practitioner and I intend to pursue a master’s degree in school counseling, so many of our conversations for entertainment involve talking about the latest research and diagnostic tools relating to the DSM-IV. Boyfriend’s mom has her doctorate in psychology and was a school psych for about 45 years. We know our stuff. 🙂 I looked at his credentials and I am concerned that a practicing psychologist would not trust his own field’s diagnostic manual.

      • That’s the other side of the argument, yes. Dr. Rosemond’s name came up at lunch the other day so I’ve been reading up on him and trying to get to the bottom of his argument. I’m not quite sure who to believe. He is right about a lot of things, in my opinion, re: adults should be in charge and we give children too much leeway. Aside from that, the jury is out on the ADHD issue. I too acknowledge that currently, ADHD and other behavioral disorders (if I am using the correct clinical terms…??) are accepted things.

      • On another note, if your boyfriend would like to comment, I’d really enjoy reading his perspective first-hand. I don’t ever plan on pursuing further studies into psychology or counseling, so I stand to learn a lot from you both.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I too have a very squirrelly bunch this year and many of the strategies that have worked well for me in the past in Spanish 1A are not working this year. My biggest struggle is the wide range of levels in Spanish 1. I have mostly freshman and sophomores but also a few juniors and seniors. There is much more than ADHD happening in some of my kiddos. There is a lot of other types of mental health issues. It is too the point that in one class the school had to assign a para professional because of some of the things a kid was saying was happening in the class. Anyway, I was curious about a term I saw you posted here- OWI. I have recently seen it in a few blog posts that I follow. Is this similar to Organic Whole Language? I attended a week long training this summer on OWL and was curious if this is what is being referred to.

    • I also have a lot of mental health issues going on in this particular class. It’s… a rough bunch. I love ’em, but some days I do more counseling than Spanish teaching. I worry for next year when I don’t have half of them in my study hall. Not that a whole lot of studying goes on some days (again, counseling sessions) but it is a point of pride for me that the students feel comfortable enough to come to me with their problems. A lot of their problems. Some really heavy problems. Phew.

      That being said, OWI = one word image. It’s basically the techniques of storytelling (asking questions, circling, etc.) without having to keep a thread of telling stories. You take an idea, and create a mental image of it (and physical, with a class artist) then add details through asking questions and giving students options. When I started TPRS, I think this would’ve been a way easier way to dip my toes into the techniques before fully jumping in. It’s also a good way to grow early novice vocabulary without overwhelming them with all the stuff they have to do in reading/listening to a story. Here’s Ben Slavic’s description of it: https://www.benslavic.com/Posters/one-word-image-instructions.pdf

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