I got this in an email from a group member today:
…love the kids but harder to steer the CI ship with older kids traditionally trained under a different teacher each year of Spanish….
I think that this statement is very true. We talk about this from time to time here in our discussions, but over the years that sentence has just grown and grown in veracity in my own mind. Sometimes I think that there is nothing ruder than a kid who has somehow gotten it into their minds that the way to learn a language is through verb conjugation charts. It’s just so gnarly when a class puts out that vibe. I want to take all the boxes of donuts, those big flat boxes with the window in them so you can see what kind of donuts are in there, and instead of offering them to those kids as a peace offering if they would only consider stories, scurrying into the closet with them and eating them all myself, ruing the day I first ever heard about Blaine Ray!
I have to remember what Paul Kirschling, my best and most admired colleague at East High School in Denver, says in situations like this. This is a keeper and I will put it up in the Primers area as well if you ever want to refer to it:
…one of my classes the other day asked about learning grammar. I told them it is a separate skill and unrelated to communicating at this stage in their learning. The puzzled look on their faces begged for an example. I said, “You are all fluent speakers of English, some from birth, yes? Please, can someone conjugate the verb “to be” for me?” I have a room full of smart sophisticated kids. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. “So, you guys just told me that you that you were fluent speakers of English, and yet you cannot conjugate the verb “to be”. I guess I am mistaken. Apparently your ability to communicate in English is not what I thought it was.” They laughed. Of course, they wanted me to conjugate the verb. I did so. I could’ve gone on at length about how “be” is a copula verb and not a pseudo-copular verb like become, get, feel or seem. To their good fortune I refrained from impressing them with the gleanings of my graduate level generative grammar class. They said “Ohhh.” “So class, is it possible to speak the language without knowing how to conjugate verbs?” When it is all said and done, lawyers, doctors, scientists and artists all live their lives without being able to recite grammar rules….