Half CI/Half Grammar – 1

For well over 25 years, we in the CI movement have been grabbing onto CI like it’s some kind of special prize that if we only work hard enough to master, we can turn our teaching around and have a great career with super-engaged students and everything will be wonderful.

Now, I propose that we stop the clutching and realize that the change is being held up by the very system – schools – that is supposed to be helping it get a foothold. This is because there is a fundamental disconnect between what schools do, how they operate, and CI. They’re not compatible.

I propose a new attitude towards CI when used in schools. More grammar. I never thought I would suggest that, but I can see now that fighting the way schools are set up, their very design, has – and this is really an important point – changed the way we use CI in our classrooms.

In other words, the research has been carved up by the way schools function. The most egregious deleterious factor, of course, has been testing. But we could make a long list from circling to targeting (I have made such a list: https://benslavic.com/blog/45-reasons/) and conclude, upon proper inspection of the research, that CI and school settings are strange bedfellows indeed.



2 thoughts on “Half CI/Half Grammar – 1”

  1. My admin are blessedly hands off and parents are not fighting me for grammar so I am reluctant to focus on it too heavily. However, without even trying too hard, I feel like we do a lot of grammar. The kids I am working with, a lot of them really like thinking and talking about how the language works. When we do Read and Discuss we talk about the difference between the normal English way to say the translation and the “Bizarro” way where you translate each word and it sounds weird in English. Then I ask them what they notice about how the French language works and they really do notice things like plural vs singular verb endings or feminine vs masculine adjective agreement or adjective placement etc. As a brain break after a long stretch of conversation I might pick out a grammatical concept and explain it in English and have them write it down in their notebooks in their own words or explain it to a partner while I have a moment to put in rubric grades. I never grade them on grammar, but I sneak in a fair amount of it. It does make the class feel more like “school” but some kids really like that, and for the ones who really don’t, well it is only for short stretches at a time so they go along with it.

  2. One area where grammar has a definite practical advantage is submitting sub plans (click, click to assign “practice”) and also situations where you have a maternity leave or a new teacher.

    With the textbook it’s easy to just swap out the teacher and the industrial grammar machine keeps churning. Tell those same teachers to “just talk with the kids” or “just do stories” and you are headed for disaster.

    I’m not planning on doing grammar, but this 50/50 model is a good idea to keep in mind if I ever change schools or am in a textbook department (or I’m no longer department chair).

    For my department I already have obtained purchased sets of 30 student textbooks of Descubre 1, Descubre 2, Descubre 3. When you have an emergency HR situation it’s just too much to ask the incoming teacher to learn CI.

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