Any Focus on Form

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8 thoughts on “Any Focus on Form”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Master circlers will recommend that newbies learn same mastery.

    NT doesn’t have as concrete a tool to confirm comprehension, but then again sometimes the choral answers in circling are faked by the kids (they echo their neighbor or the smarty pants).

    But the above Dr. K quote is so helpful. When I think about how awful and painful it is to observe newbies circling…asking all those self-evident and mechanical Qs. I think my own learning to circle period was no less brutal. Having Carol G’s Cuéntame curriculum to rely on helped me see the variety and leeway in the scaffolded questioning, and moved me along the continuum.

    All those questions. I still find it hard to give ’em up, and have to stop myself when I get into a circling flow, and see if I can just tell, not ask, and ascertain comprehension…

    1. My position on Circling is simple. We don’t need it, except with beginners for awhile, until that magical point in the first month or two of the year when we turn the key so that we see them coming into class wanting sincerely to find out what happens because the content of the class was created from their artwork. Once we get that to that level, I honestly believe that one question from us, or just one sentence during a story listening session, has the same weight in bringing acquisition as 100 or even 200 circled questions on content that the kids don’t care about. This is my big criticism of circling: we ask them repeated questions on content that they don’t care about . That is why I predict that the CI teachers of the future will be thoroughly trained in how to get their kids wrapped up in the story to a level that we could call compelling. Then you don’t need to circle so much because (a) circling really alienates the fast processors and destroys the positive chemistry of the class and (b) you just don’t need to because they find it interesting. Krashen didn’t do his research on Circling but rather on Compelling. There are just so many summer trainers who convey the idea that circling is more important than creating compelling discussion. They convey that as long as you circle, you will succeed. Then people attend a national workshop and stand around nervously wondering what the hell they are doing in those circling circles – like learning to ride a bike – and of course they fall and nobody mentions how important the compelling piece is, and that goes on summer after summer. Tina and I aim to change that kind of training in Cascadia. We intend to grab the problem of making our CI instruction compelling by the throat and not let go and then coach coach and coach some more, so that, as Tina told me on the phone this a.m., every participant goes home not “wondering” if it will work in their classrooms, but certain that it will work because they got so much practice standing on their feet in Portland/Rivendell. Sorry about the rant.

      1. Is it possible to be compelling all the time? For me, pistachio ice cream is very compelling, but one time I bough two big cartons of delicious pistachio ice cream and after three days I was done. I had to wait a while before my next encounter with that flavor. I think ‘compellingess’ is limited in time or maybe I am wrong. In that case, how to be compelling?
        Maybe the compellingness factor in the input is a matter of distribution.
        One time it could be the content, another time, the setting, still another time, the teacher’s way of delivering the language or a combination of some of them or all of them.Thinking out loud here.

        1. It’s a great question Carmen. No we cannot be compelling all the time. But we can create, as the adult facilitator of language in the classroom, a culture of lighthearted invitation to the dance. It is not so much that we create “compelling” in the room (impossible even part of the the time) but rather we create, through our smiles, an openness to fun that always has the kids kind of looking for fun, compelling stuff. We are always on the lookout for things that they create that can launch CI lift off at any moment. We get them creating it by our invitation to talk about stuff that they want to talk about. They begin to see that we really like them and that we don’t get our kicks in the grade book. We send them a message of curiosity that their character, so well drawn, could have done such a thing, could really have a nose that big, could really have hair that color. Don’t know if that makes sense….

          1. Of course it makes complete sense. The things you are describing were pretty much what I observed last week in Alisa’s classroom. Thank you, Ben, for making that meeting possible.

  2. In a natural conversation we sometimes are not sure we have understood and check our comprehension by ….. a circling question. I could ask my husband, “Did you put the dog out? Did you put the dog out or did you put the cat out? Who did you put out?” I find that beginners often appreciate a little circling, because it’s like giving them another chance to be sure they have understood. The whole thing is to keep it feeling natural, like conversation and not drill. It’s better to do too little and do a little more later, than to do too much.

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yes! And this is anathema to lots of the existing training!
    One thing circling does is fill the airwaves with lots of reps of repeated contextualized chunks, like an echo chamber. By minimizing all the questioning, we open a processing space (silence!) for beginners. Instead of just circling with slow-pause/point, we ask/tell naturally with slow, p/p, and we allow time for the chunk to settle in. I used to think that the time was better spent with the reps (cuz I didn’t know any better, and my classes were way better than pre-T/CI). Now I appreciate the naturalistic Less Is More philosophy with minimal but natural circling when it comes up.

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