A Few Details About Circling with Balls

Here are a few things that may help when you do the Circling with Balls activity:
1. When you come to a card in class and you aren’t exactly sure how to say what the kid does, put it aside and, during your next planning period, go to wordreference.com to check on it. It’s o.k. for us not to know everything. We don’t have to be perfect with the language we teach. Many of us learn terms like cheerleading and sky diving by looking them up. In this way – using this particular method – we move towards mastery of the language over years. It was false, what they taught us, that we had to be perfect. We have computers now. Not that we had to be perfect before computers. Even during class, I ask kids sometimes to look up stuff on line in the moment it happens. We don’t have to be perfect at TPRS/CI/the language we teach.
2. When doing the Circling with Balls activity, it might be a good idea to follow what was written in the Today 2 blog post about using questioning:
…John plays football (circle that)/does the teacher play football/yes but there is a problem the teacher plays football worse than John…
and then maybe add only one more question to that for level 1 classes – where? – into the circling. That’s enough. Of course, if we are extending the image to see how far it will go, then this suggestion doesn’t apply. But I am learning that even just saying that
…John plays football…
and then only asking
…Class, where does John play football?…
and getting a silly response like
…John plays football in a hole…
What does this addition of adding a silly place do for the kids? It significantly raises the ability of kids in the room, as well as the instructor, to easily IDENTIFY that person. The place cements the name in the mind of the class. And that is what Circling with Balls is all about, besides being the time when we norm the classroom with whatever rules we use.
3. Don’t ignore a kid too long. Try to get to everybody. After too much time, a kid may feel that you are just not interested in him or her, when in fact you are just so busy trying to create CI with the other ones’ cards. That’s not how the kids see it. I have waited too long and sometimes never even got to some cards because I wanted to start stories. Not a good idea.
4. They won’t care about our class until they know that we care about them. These cards are our way of showing that we care about them. We have to take that seriously. We can’t just announce that that so and so sky dives. We have to make a big deal about it. That is a true key to the success of the Circling with Balls activity.
5. Get off the pity pot if you feel that the kids aren’t into responding to you, as happened with me today. We are paid to deliver comprehensible language to the kids, not win a popularity contest. It doesn’t have to be funny, as in:
6. This is new information about CWB and OWI as of August, 2013. It discusses the importance of simplicity in the first few weeks of any school year. For a review of the basics of CWB and OWI, go to the TPRS Resources page on this site and click on Workshop Handouts.
Most of us try to add too much information to CWB and OWI in the first weeks of the year. Remember what the real purpose of CWB and OWE are in the first two weeks – establish discipline and personalize. In order to do that in the best way, we must limit new sounds and get as many reps as we can instead of going shallow and wide on each kid.
If Johnny likes to skate, it is enough to just find out what color his board is, where he skates and with whom. Same with the one word images – what color is the bird, what is its name, where is it? That’s plenty. More and the kids get badly confused and then you are tempted to go to your pity pot and sit and think how shitty you are at CI, when what is really going on is nothing more than you are giving them too much information, far more than their brains can handle as novice language learners. They aren’t loving it because they are confused, and that is the only reason.
Many of us get so excited when we start the year with these super powerful personalization activities that we forget that they are being used not to teach the language but to set up classroom discipline via jGR and the Classroom Rules and to personalize.
Therefore, when we limit the questions to three, four at the most, per kid, we can go around the entire room and get to every kid within the first two weeks, and then, with the discipline and personalization pieces – the real purpose of these two activities – in place, we can recycle, start adding new things to each kid’s “verbal portfolio”, start in(importantly) with Extended PQA, start making little scenes involving different kids, even seeing stories develop, etc.
I want to be really clear here about which questions hold the most power, as well. Don’t ask the wrong questions at this point in the year in CWB and OWI. What are the right questions? 1. WHERE, 2. WITH WHOM. Those are the right questions.
Of course, you refuse boring answers. Once the skateboarding kid is on the moon boarding with Justin Bieber, you leave that kid doing that activity and go to the next kid.
Over those few weeks to start the year, as you learn each kid’s name, what they do, where they do it, and with whom only on CWB, you leave the kid skating with Justin in the moon, and never forget he is up there so that you can get him back into some extended PQA or a story whenever you want all year.
Hold off on the details in the first two weeks. Start they year with your main focus on what counts – discipline first, personalization second, limited bizarre facts about each kid third.



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