Chris Roberts

The usual daily flow of ideas here is now almost eight years old. Each year we go through the cycle of returning to our classrooms and supporting each other by sharing ideas about our teaching and our emotional relationship to what is really a very difficult profession.

After not hearing from Chris Roberts for some time and missing his voice here, I got an email from him last night – I see that Sabrina mentioned it too – and I was happy to get what I thought was an update on what he has been doing lately. Instead, the email provided a link to a recently published article in Plunderbund about Chris.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Report from the Field – Ben Slavic

Yesterday I saw a former student in a coffee shop. She is now at Pepperdine. I taught her six years ago in middle school before I went to Denver Public Schools. She went on to a traditional French program in high school. The background is that in eighth grade she was a gifted listener, a true superstar who absorbed stories like I was speaking English. She gave me a lot of confidence in my teaching.

I tried to speak French with her. It shocked me. She couldn’t understand me. She seemed to know even less French than when I taught her before, in spite of the full four year program in high school. I saw her eyes flicker in defeat. It wasn’t her fault. Now she is off to Switzerland this year and maybe she will learn some French. She certainly didn’t learn any in high school.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Another CWB Video Link

Training Video 2 – CWB 2

Here is the second part of that CWB video:

Training Video 1 – CWB 1

Here is a video on Circling with Balls if you happen to be doing that tomorrow. Steve Johnson, a new member here, reminded me about it, and thank you Steve:

Also, Vimeo is back up so you can access those DPS videos at:

Conversation About Starting the Year

Here is a conversation from 2012 with a PLC member who was completely new to comprehension based instruction. It will help us to review these basics about PQA as we crank up the engines again.

Hi Ben,

Two weeks into the new year and I’d say on a scale of  1-10 I’m at about a 5 or 6. I think the key is going to be my pressing in through that period when it seems like nothing is happening. I’m doing my lesson plans for this week. I planned to start off (after the bell ringer and the pledge) PQAing about the students’ weekend (10-15 minutes).

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Big Pep Talk for 2014-2015

This is an update of an older post:

If you are new to all this, before you get too nervous about the changes that you wish to implement this year, I offer one important idea to hold on to – just take an expression and work with it and stay with it and don’t go into any other stuff too fast. What does that mean?

It means that many people who are to new to how comprehensible input works its magic in the classroom pollute the simplicity of the process by thinking in terms of the old model. What is the old model?

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Report from the Field – Louisa Walker

Louisa reports from San Diego:

Hola Ben,

Glad to see the blog is going strong with great posts! I am writing to report on my first few weeks of classes. I have had 12 classes with my first year Spanish students and I am happy to report that we did our very first Read n’ Discuss on Friday. I typed up their stories that we had created from CWBs and “he/she wants” and they were amazed by how “easy it is to read Spanish”! They loved it!

Plus, an Assistant Principal was observing my last period class on Friday (usually a squirrely bunch anyway, but this group has two students with autism, one with ODD, and 3 others with IEPs identifying ADHD…) of 38 students who were ALL engaged in reading and listening actively to “their” story! It was AWESOME!

[Click To Continue Reading...]

SLA Videos

Scott Grapin shares some important video with us:

Hey Ben,

It was so great meeting you and the other PLC members in Chicago. Hope you are doing well and enjoying some time off. I want to share with the PLC some SLA primer videos I’ve put together for my own district. The primers currently on the site are excellent, but I just felt that many of my colleagues would be much more inclined to learn about SLA through videos. I used YouTube clips from Krashen, Bill VanPatten (Michigan State University), and John DeMado. They really serve to bring the theory and research to life. For my own purposes, I tried to create a “flipped PD” experience through which teachers would be able to reflect on and discuss the ideas while viewing. Therefore, questions are raised throughout the videos, and time is provided for discussion. If this does not serve your purposes, I’d recommend just skipping these parts. I’ve included below the link to the videos, but if you plan on using them in the future, please download them and save them to your computer. I am going to have to remove them soon from my DropBox in order to conserve space. Keep in mind that I am most likely guilty of copyright infringement with this videos, but I justify it by saying that it’s for the good of the cause – Krashen is all about free sharing.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Address Behaviors First When They Happen; You Won’t Get Another Chance.

Greg posted this comment about three days ago. I was thinking about it this morning and realizing that no matter how we prepare in terms of how we teach, the classroom management piece that Greg addresses here must be at the forefront of our attention now in August. I should post this article here every single day until the danger period (of losing our classes for the year) passes. In short, Greg talks about addressing behavior infraction immediately when they happen using the Classroom Rules and a laser pointer and doing so with good will. Read this again,. Then read again tomorrow until it sinks in. You will be glad you did:

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Eric Herman on the Future of Reading in TPRS

Eric has written a tour de force comment-turned-article on reading this morning. It is because he is both a classroom teacher and a scholar/research based person. That is a powerful combination and so we ought to read what Eric has written here with special attention. He has shined flashlights on what has been over the years in my own opinion a somewhat murky and confusing reading road that we have all been traveling on over recent years, trying to find the right balance between reading and stories in our CI classes.

[Click To Continue Reading...]


I remember how Jason Fritze used to assign one person in the class to say, “How disgusting!” in Spanish whenever he pointed at the person during class. It is really quite amusing and a good way to both lighten up the class and teach the phrase.

Paul asks:

I read a blog post by Michael Peto [ed. note: you are going to want to bookmark Michael's blog - it is excellent, with links to 40 other blogs(!) and you are going to want to take the excellent tour of his classroom as well] about placing exclamations on the back of of chairs to allow students the opportunity to use them during stories, “Inspired by something I once read about Bryce Hedstrom’s classes: the back of the seats of the front row all have exclamations that I encourage them to use in class, so that not only do I get the ohhhhh’s but also a ¡Claro que sí!. Sometimes this can be really amusing.”

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Goals for 2014-2015 – 5

PLC Goal #5 for this 2014-2015 academic year: Share more video.

The success of the War Rooms this summer lead to this comment from James Hosler:

…I am feeling more comfortable with the idea of sharing videos of my classes now that I know so many people from the War Room. Maybe others are, too, and we can all start the year with the goal of sharing more video…..

This is a significant thing to say, and very much in line with my original intent with this PLC. So all who are willing and share the vision, we can make the idea of sharing more video in the spirit of (online) war room style coaching into a fifth goal for this year.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Video Access

SchoolTube is temporarily down for repairs and there is nothing we can do in DPS. What is on SchoolTube are the videos from 2011, filmed in six DPS classrooms. We will be putting the (2013) San Diego iFLT videos on Vimeo but they are still being compressed and edited. The Denver 2014 iFLT videos will not be ready for a couple of months since they still need to be edited. If anybody who has asked about what is going on with SchoolTube, could you keep checking the Video hard link above and then let us all know when those videos are back? I will attach the links to the San Diego videos and the new ones from Denver as soon as I get them from Diana. Thank you.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Request for Help

One of our PLC members – Brian Peck - living in a deeply stressed American town, Detroit, with no classroom budget to speak of, wants some financial help in getting the things he needs to fully put into practice in his classroom some of the things he learned this summer.

My position is that it shouldn’t all be about suburban white kids, so open up your wallets here. A dollar donated by each of us would do it. Those of us who had the good fortune to meet Brian this summer and watch him teach know exactly what I mean when I say that this would be money well spent.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

They Can’t Read in Level 1

Our first goal this is year is to challenge unconscious teaching assumptions. I was thinking there about how we keep teaching to their conscious minds, involving them consciously against all the best research and what we have proven in our classrooms to be true about the supreme and majestic role of the unconscious mind in learning languages.

But here is another unconscious teaching assumption to look at: we think that they can read when they can’t. Let me challenge that one in this post.

The back story is housed in this question today from Melissa:

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Latin King Picture

Here is John telling us in Latin about Putin in the tent a few weeks ago in Denver. That’s Carly being the left half of the tent. James Hosler is Putin, who is the right half of the bridge? Who is standing on the right? That guy with his back to the camera is David Sceggel I think, who is quiet until he stands up to teach and then it’s Nellie bar the door for CI style points. He’s been a member here for years and years, out of Chicagoland. That’s Brian on the far right observing:

[Click To Continue Reading...]

John on Beginning the Year

Hi Ben,

Not sure if I posted this to the PLC already (it’s from last year), but I think it’s a good reminder, and connects the dots with what does not seem like a FL activity at first glance.

Begin the Year with the Name Game: a reflection on the first weeks of school.

For those of you who are just beginning your year (as I am, having just finished day two with my students), I wanted to make a few connections that I somewhat stumbled upon, and have found to be very helpful during these first days. I have realized that you can easily integrate the explicit metacognition work into your first week curriculum as long as you are working hard to lay the foundation for a good year, rather than jumping into the “content” right away. I put “content” in quotes because I am more and more coming to realize that the true content of our classes is genuine compassionate human interaction, the language being simply a means to the cultivation and development of a classroom community—talk about relevance, talk about life skills!

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Goals for 2014-2015 – 4

Goal #4 for this 2014-2015 academic year: Address the bad apples right away.

Paul brought up the idea of how we all seem to have such a hard time clearing our classrooms of the kids who, if not cleared out, can then go ahead and ruin our classes for the entire year. I addressed this point in a comment a few days ago in the rant below, which is just a long rant about how we need to get rid of the bad apples early on so no need to read it. Just know that it is our fourth group goal of the year, for those few of us who lack really supportive counselors and admins in our buildings.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 6

Here are the names of some interactive whiteboards that are currently on the market:

Explain Everything ($2.99)*
Doceri ($4.99)
ShowMe (free)
Whiteboard HD ($4.99)
Syncpace ($8.49)
Jot! (free)
BaiBoard (free)
Groupboard (free for 5 students)
Educreations (free)

*David Talone says about this app:

…Explain Everything allows you to narrate over each individual slide, and you can also edit the narration, which is impossible in some of the other apps. I had success exporting the movies as mp4s and sharing them with the kids on Google Docs and projecting them for the class….

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 5

When students watch the projected image of a student-created story that was created on an interactive whiteboard, and (1) see the changing comic strip panels, and (2) read it, and (3) listen to it, and (4) hear any emotion in the reader’s voice (without probably even noticing it), we at that point are approximating for our students something akin to normal speech. The high amount of repetitions that occur in the rest of our lesson lead to excellent gains in reading, greater gains than those that occur in the reading of novels.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 4

I have always favored delaying the reading of novels as long as possible so that there is no struggle for our slower students when they do start novels. There is nothing as defeating as not understanding what you are reading in the novels. Factored into this is that we sometimes are guilty of asking students to read in another language when they have not yet developed the ability to read effectively in their first language.

But if our students do enough stories and readings from stories (Reading Option A is explained in Appendix D later in this book) in the first two years, with lots of readings in interactive whiteboard drawings thrown in, we know what will happen in the upper levels: our students will pick up a chapter book and read it with ease, precisely because they did so many readings based on stories first, since the stories – helped along by the interactive whiteboards – were so interesting to them.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 3

In the little stories made on interactive whiteboards that review the stories created in class we have:

1. changing images
2. printed words
3. spoken words
4. emotions

When we learn from a textbook or a chapter book/novel, we don’t have all those things. We have no or very few static images, and therefore little or no emotion. So, without the changing images, without the emotions and without the teacher’s narrated words, with only the printed words in the book to hold the interest of our students, overall interest in our classes stays flat unless we feel inspired. Who gets inspired teaching chapter books?

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 2

For those of us who are pressured by administrators to use technology, these apps are absolute jewels. They will almost certainly in the future become a standard part of how we use our instructional minutes in our TPRS/CI classrooms. It almost seems as if interactive whiteboards were designed specifically for what we do!

It is probable, however, that getting through the three steps of TPRS will now require at least two days, possibly three or even more, depending on how interesting the story is and how extensive the artist’s work with the interactive whiteboard is.

[Click To Continue Reading...]

Interactive Whiteboards – 1

Interactive whiteboards electronically capture your voice and handwriting to bring to life just-completed stories in your comprehensible input classes. Students can use the iPad to visually recreate stories in much the same way that the classroom artists currently do. If a class has access to an iPad, the artist will certainly want to use it to draw the story.

Once the panels of the drawing are complete, the student working with the iPad hands it to the teacher who then records her voice throughout what is really an electronic comic strip to produce a narrated story that is then shared with the students at the end of class. A written story line can be added onto each panel as well.

[Click To Continue Reading...]