A Blow To His Confidence 15

[I got this from K a few days ago. Installment 15 of A Blow To His Confidence. If you remember, in installment 14 K told us that she was going to tell a story to her class. I thought to myself, “Sure. As bright as K is, she certainly could never do TPRS with a class full of kids! She IS a kid.”
She sent two emails. I’ll just put them here exactly as she wrote them to me.]
Here is the first:
“Aujourd’hui, j’étais très excitée de raconter une histoire. Je suis donc allé à la salle de français. Il n’y avait personne. Alors je suis allé à ma salle de classe pour demander à mon professeur pourquoi il n’y avait personne. Mais il n’y avait personne dans ma classe, soit. [Ed. note: I see evidence of an Anne Matava story in that last word, soit. It is so cute when they make such mistakes. In Anne’s story the structure was either/or and I had taught soit/soit as a conjunction, and, in her mind, K naturally thought that soit meant either. For the French speakers reading this, isnt’ that just cute? Such grammatical innocence!] Puis j’ai entendu mon nom sur l’interphone. On m’a dit d’aller à la salle donc je n’ai. Je suis entré dans l’auditorium Il y avait des enseignants dix-neuf. J’était très nerveuse. Les deux ont été phrses: Il/Elle veux et Il y a.
“Notre Histoire:
Il y a une fille. Elle s’appelle Lindsey Vonn. Elle veut un chien. Son ami, Shaun White ne l’entendait pas. Il dit Que veux-tu? Je veux un chien dit Lindsey. Quel type de chien? Un chien petit et noir. Alors, Ils vont à Pet’s Mart. Il y a beaucoup de chiens à  Pet’s Mart. Mais, Il y a un problem. Les chiens sont de grands et Il n’existe pas de chiens noirs. Lindsey est triste. Nous pourrions continuer la planche à neige, dit Shaun. Je ne veux pas aller planche à neige! Je veux un chien! Alors, Ils vont à Pet Co. Un femme voit Lindsy. Lindsey Vonn! dit- Elle. Je veux un chien Lindsey dit. Vous ne voulez pas aller faire du ski? dit la femme qui s’appelle Lisa Simpson. Ils arrivent à Pet Co. Il y a un chien noir et petit. Le chien s’appelle Paprika. Tout le monde est content parce que Lindsey obtenu ce qu’elle voulait. Fin.”
Here is the second email, again just as she sent it to me. The second paragraph below describes – in English – a scene that is really unbelievable involving 19 teachers and a lot of kids:
“Ok, wow- i just sent you an e-mail in French. My mom asked me a question just now and I answered in French. She stopped me and said “English please” . Then I realized that I sent you an e-mail in French. It probably won’t make sense because, even though I’m getting better, writing is still the hardest thing for me in French. I guess I understand what you meant last year when you said your brain functions in one language after you have been using it for a while, because I didn’t know I was writing French. Here’s the English version of my e-mail:
“I was very excited to tell a story today. So, during French, I went to the other IB teacher’s room. There was no one there, so I went to my French class to see what was going on. There was no one there either. Then, I heard my name being called on the intercom. I went to the auditorium like I was told on the intercom and to my surprise, there were 19 teacher’s there wanting to hear my story. The 2 phrases were There is / there are and He/ she wants.
“Our story:
There is a girl named Lindsey Vonn. [Ed. note: I’m a bit puzzled by K’s use of the present tense here – it seems to have stuck in K’s mind as the tense for stories. I changed to the past – which now I clearly know must be the tense for stories, with readings in the present – about four years ago under pressure from Susie (now I get it!) – anyway, kind of weird…] She wants a dog. Her friend, Shaun White didn’t hear want she said. What do you want? asks Shaun. I want a dog says Lindsey. What type of Dog? asks Shaun. A small black dog. So, they go to Pet’s Mart. There are lots of dogs at Pet’s Mart. But, there is a problem. What problem? All of the dogs are large and there are no black dogs. Lindsey is sad. We could go snowboarding says Shaun. I don’t want to go snowboarding. I want a dog! says Lindsey. So, they go to Pet Co. Along the way, a woman named Lisa Simpson  sees Lindsey . Lindsey Vonn! I want a dog says Lindsey. You don’t want to go skiing? No, I want a dog! They arrive at Pet Co. There is a small black dog. Everyone is happy because Lindsey got what she wanted. The End.
“By the end of our story, everyone was smiling- most of them said they would be back for my reading lesson. YEAH!!!!!
“On another note, I’m glad you enjoyed the two songs. They are great!!!” (K had sent me a few songs for my classes, one by Carla Bruni – L’Amoureuse, the other by Tiken Jah Fakoly called An African In Paris. Both really are great songs!
[The comment I won’t make here – because it is a dig at teachers who get upset when verbs don’t agree with subjects – is that K wrote il veux as a structure above. It should be il veut. But, given that K got voulez with vous and a ton of other verbs correct in various tenses above WHILE COMMUNICATING IN FRENCH kind of makes the subject verb agreement point minor. Honestly, is it about spelling verbs right or about communicating ideas in the target language? So I won’t’ say that. My only comment on all of this, then, is that here is a kid I taught in 8th grade now asking stories in front of large groups in French. Yet last year she probably said maybe 20 words in French all year. That just supports the idea that output comes later. I know how much French K heard last year and it was a lot. I did less reading than I probably should have – I never get my kids to read enough, and last year it was mainly stories. What an interesting story this one is! I hope that K keeps sending us updates on what all started out with her running down a hallway in her high school, just steps to her, even falling, in an effort to prove a point to a friend, but what are turning to be monster steps that are actually shaking up the concrete of entire buildings! K I am so proud of you!]



5 thoughts on “A Blow To His Confidence 15”

  1. Unrelated comment but want to make it anyway. I just walked out of my fourth year class, where a kid after class said to me that I am the only of their four teachers who ever spoke to them in French.
    I had just done a backward design set up class for Friday’s song “L’Amoureuse” by Carla Bruni, and I shared with this student, “Don’t think you’re not learning grammar!” And then I explained to her in clear terms how we had done a lot of grammar in the class just then. Below are two examples that I told her about:
    (Remember my goal was to get at least forty, preferably seventy or eighty, circled repetitions on each of about twenty target structures in the song that I have identified as new to them so that when they hear the song on Friday it sounds like English to them).
    My first targeted L2 in the song was the chorus:
    Et je chante pour toi la seule de toutes les choses
    Qui vaillent d’être là, qui vaillent d’être là./
    And I am singing for you the only thing, among everything,
    That is worth being here, that is worth being here.
    Now all of that was obviously way too complex to establish meaning for, or circle, all at once. So I had to break down, pull out, the structures in palatable chunks that made sense and were shorter and, as it were, manipulable, digestable, in terms of sound.
    So the first thing that I pulled was:
    Je chante pour toi…/
    I sing for you…
    I circled this 76 times according to the very efficient student who agreed to count how many repetitions I got on each targeted structure.
    I knew that they were familiar with I sing, but less so with for you, which involves emphatic pronouns, which I know they had only seen in books and on worksheets. I could just tell that the sound “pour toi” was a little awkward for them even though they were level4 students.
    So I did lots of circling around the various forms of the disjunctive pronouns, questions involving I sing for you, I sing for you (formal vous), I sing for him, I sing for them, for her, etc. It was a clinic in the sound of disjunctive pronouns. Mega grammar.
    Next, I did the same – 30 minutes worth – of circling around la seule de toutes les choses…/the only thing of all the things… This was a bit more difficult but I really wanted to set up the subjunctive to follow, and I had fun getting reps using sentences like:
    Class, is this the only one of all the markers in French class? Are these the only ones of all the markers in East High School? Is money the only thing of all the things that count? Is intelligence the only thing of all the things that count? What is the only thing of all the things that count? etc. On that one, I ended up using a lot of c’est, ce sont, ce feutre vs. ces feutres, etc. tous les feutres, toutes les choses, so I was teaching the difference between c’est and ce sont, ce and ces as demonstrative adjectives, and tous vs. toutes as adjectives as well.
    By saying all that grammar out loud in the context of speech that made sense to my students, I was teaching grammar, pure and simple. What I was doing was flying the airplane instead of drawing a plane on a piece of paper and pretending to fly it and hope nobody called me on it. I did not specifically have the students parrot nonsense, things like mon ma mes ton ta tes son sa ses votre votre vos etc. – such reps do no good, none at all.
    So I was able to convince this bright student that not only was she learning French by hearing it spoken in class, she was also learning a lot of grammar! She seemed very happy when she left the room. I was happy too. Because never would I have believed, earlier in my career before I met Susan Gross, that I could teach French grammar without using English. I can’t wait until class on Friday, when they will have gotten fifty or so reps on all the words of the song.

  2. I should add to the above by saying that all of those reps/grammar lessons were housed in some kind of interesting CI. One time on this blog I blastedMiriam Met for going around in a workshop saying “shoes” without making herself clear. I just heard shoes a bunch of times in the middle of a bunch of non comprehensible input. So I don’t want to send the message that I just started repeating the above structures from the song. I created PQA and did different things relating to us as a class, as people. For example, I sing for the kids a lot, because I am an incredibly gifted singer, and so the “Je chante pour toi” sing was easy to relate in an interesting way to my class as we went around on the PQA on that idea.

  3. First time in four years? Wow. Today I heard a student being tutored in “another” language. Question (in English) What is today? Students answers in TL. Good, what is tomorrow? Student answers in TL. Good. Drum roll…If today is…and tomorrow is … what is the day after tomorrow? Student answers in TL. Good. The quiz is tomorrow, study blah, blah. The only TL spoken was the one word answers of the student. I am so glad we are working toward a better way. I may not have come close to mastering TPRS, but I know my guys hear more comprehensible language and yours do too.

  4. The term “never heard the language before this year” by that fourth year student was surely not perfectly accurate. I am sure that they heard French over those three years at least ten per cent of the time.

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