A repost from 2011:
There is a ton of merit to starting a class with one good verb and staying there. Let’s take the verb “to drink”. So you start off class and you can go into all sorts of highly personal discussion right away. You can ask kids what they drink. You can do that in the past, present and future, and a host of other tenses if you want to. You can compare what one kid drinks with what another drinks. The list of your options in the moments of that kind of “One Word PQA”, if you will, goes on and on. It’s a One Word Image but using a verb.
It is precisely in the freedom one word that you can “freestyle” the CI. Ironically and counter intuitively, you have more freedom with just one word than you do when you have a lesson plan. It is because working from one word out is expansive.
Lesson plans, goals to achieve in that class period, are not expansive. They limit your options. They are the worst. The kids sense the internal needs of the teacher to get to them, and the teachers’ list of goals for the class are about as interesting to them as a laundry list. They lose interest because rarely is it about them.
Teachers who teach with any kind of agenda in mind very often succeed in confusing kids with too much information during a class. So much more can be achieved in a class period of CI in which the teacher goes narrow and deep with one, maybe two structures instead of having a whole list of stuff to cover.
This is of course true because of the nature of language acquisition. It takes so many repetitions to get the word acquired. Moreover, the idea of less and less structures aligns more and more with Krashen, who, pointing to the wall behind Linda Li in a Mandarin session one summer, told me that “those words up there are not necessary for acquisition”.
I bristled at the time, thinking that Krashen is not a high school teacher and I even thought that way until a few weeks ago, but now I don’t think that we have heard the last on this point about totally non-targeted CI.
Everybody thinks we’re so tight with Krashen, but do we really hear what he is truly saying and do we really apply those ideas in our classrooms? We do not, in too many ways to list here.
I will pursue those ideas in another blog post here one day. Right now I am too busy exploring the riches I have found with non-targeted CI. I found an article in the New York Times that is pretty radical about how dyslexia can be beaten as long as teachers aren’t involved. Hmmm. The kids just listen. The teacher doesn’t teach. Sounds like Beniko and Tina to me.
So I really like this idea of just going with one good verb and hammering it all period long. All I have to do when being observed is take the one verb and invite the kids to feed me outrageous stuff that we can use to really show off the free approach we use. It is the simplicity of this idea that we can really show off the method, show off the kids. Why not show visiting colleagues the freestyling non-targeted way to do CI? Are we that stuck in our ways?