Worth A Chuckle

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33 thoughts on “Worth A Chuckle”

  1. Bob,

    This is amazing! Looks like headway is being made at the higher-levels. Looking forward to what the future holds for CI materials/resources. Hopefully districts can spend money on training teachers instead of buying books.


  2. I agree: This is amazing. Io! Nuntius bonus est. (Hope that was close.)

    This is also how the change will take place. As districts embrace TCI, they will start telling publishers what they have to do in order to make a sale. My dream is that some day school districts will be telling Pearson what to do rather than vice versa. (Sorry for the political dig there.)

      1. I look forward to it. One of my colleagues is presenting with me; we’ll be showing ideas for using the “crime story” our COACH group wrote in French and German, as well as my Pirate book in German, French, and Spanish. If I’m lucky, I’ll get the books back from the printer in time for the conference.

        1. Oh, I hope so! Can you tell me more about the COACH group? I attended a conference up in the LA area a few months ago where one of the members presented, “Charlemos”. Are you familiar with that technique?
          I would love to have a COACH group here in San Diego. Do you know how one becomes affiliated?

  3. Awesome!

    Of course, true understanding of how CI works leads you to understand that the best execution of this method does not revolve around a textbook. LICT, Cuentame, etc. are best for newbies, until they can fly on their own. Publishers could offer scripts, (embedded) readings, and novels.

    Question: at high schools in which CI-based instruction happens at all levels, how do teachers coordinate so as not to repeat the same scripts in different levels?

    All the talk lately on this blog about surviving as a CI teacher in a non-CI department has me thinking. . . Being a minority, many have to prove themselves to non-CI teachers and meet their assessment/standards of a good FL program. But what about getting them to live up to this century’s standards:

    1) common assessments that are free constructed responses/communicative tasks*
    2) higher student retention rates into upper levels & (correlated) more positive student attitudes**

    * Whatever the task chosen, it should be completable with high-frequency vocabulary and not favor the content of thematic lists. . . since the AP exam is communicative-based wouldn’t CI kids do better? Or is the AP exam just too advanced for CI/non-CI alike?

    ** I give a simple Student Attitude Survey (I got the survey from another teacher, but I can’t remember who) in which students rate their agreement with the statement, e.g. “I enjoyed Spanish class” and “I’m interested in continuing taking Spanish classes.” Plus, you get all kinds of positive feedback from parents who see/hear their children excited about FL class. Maybe survey the parents!

    I hate the national push for more testing and turning our nation’s students into lab rats, but if 1 & 2 above were done in a few more schools to compare pure-CI vs. mixed-bag vs. non-CI based teaching, wouldn’t the results be overwhelmingly in favor of CI?

    We need a place where anyone can go and read the Success Stories of TCI teachers. I bet there’d be a ton of stories from those teachers who received adequate training in TCI and understand the work of Krashen.

    1. It’s great to hear about the influence you have there, Bob. And I agree with Eric… I don’t see the benefit of having a textbook at all. I mean, I tried using Carol Gaab’s “Cuéntame” when I dove into TPRS last year, but by using even this “TPRS” textbook I totally lost the personalized part of teaching. And I flopped.

      So yeah, I understand how administrators like to have textbooks on hand because they offer the possibility of some kind of structured curriculum for those teachers that don’t otherwise know how to teach. But that certainly is a bigger topic to discuss.

      1. Sean,
        We have the “Williams Act” that mandates that every student have a textbook for every class. So, I just have them keep them at home and every once in awhile I tell them that if they want to review material they can look through their book at home.
        Today we had a school-wide “Learning Walk” (euphemism for informal observations) where admin types bring novice and struggling teachers into some of our classes to observe “best practices”. I was observed in every class! No books, no desks, just 100% student engagement. Go figure 🙂

        1. I have quit even doing that. I have a class set of textbooks, but they are still in the boxes that our bookstore put them in. Today one of our Assistant Principals stopped by. She was very impressed with what was going on. I had gone to geoguessr.com, and the class was trying to figure out where in the world the place was that we were looking at. It was a great variant of Look and Discuss, and since you get points according to how close you come to the actual location, there was an element of competitiveness with my other classes. We had a lot of fun just hanging out in the language and defending why we thought that a place was in Canada or Australia or Russia or …

          When we had finished I pointed out to my students that the Group is smarter than the Individual. We started out with some pretty wild guesses, but as we looked at the picture and discussed, in most cases we came very close. One class actually landed about a quarter mile from one of the locations.

          Later when I went to thank the AP for stopping by, I explained a little bit more about what we were doing and pointed out how this aligns with Common Core (I’m teaching them to do a close reading of a non-verbal text) and is a Best Practice. My students enjoyed it, and some asked to do it again. I just have to guard against overkill.

          Some day I need to get a handle on Movie Talk©.

          1. Dude all I do with Movie Talk now is make sure the clip is short and I kind of pick out one or two structures from the clip and just focus on them less than the clip, if that makes sense. Really, Robert, I don’t know that it is even possible to get a handle on MT because a full discussion with sufficient repetition of even a fifteen second clip would require too much time, with all the other cool stuff we have to do other than MT. So I have made MT into a way to teach important structures, that’s all. On the other hand, we could design an entire curriculum around even a half of a movie. I know Judy does that.

          2. I LOVE MT. My kids love it too! Discipline is great, so it’s often easy work for me, almost like a reading day. The great thing is that it changes things up. After doing a few MT’s the kids start asking for stories again 🙂

            There’s so many ways to do MT and I’ve experimented a lot. One way to conceptualize it is as a Look & Discuss with every frame or a “Picture Walk” (what we do on “Kindergarten Days.” I always combine aural MT and a reading of the MT. I’ve found the reading is best towards the end of the MT, excluding the ending, or done after the entire MT clip. One obvious difference between TPRS and MT is that MT is often less personalized/customized. You are not asking the story. Yes, you can parallel characters to students. Either way, the goal is to be compelling, which can be achieved by the right clip for your audience. I let my kids lounge in comfy chairs and on the floor during MT. I think it relaxes them, lowers affective filters, and makes my class unique to other academic subjects.

            At first, I took the nontargeted/net hypothesis to heart and I’d deliver CI, but without a focused 2-3 structures. The visual plus teacher gestures makes CI easy. This certainly allows us to “loosen up the discussion” as suggested by Krashen in the nontargeted paper. I was perhaps a little less comprehensible, except for when I translated, but as Krashen writes in his nontargeted paper, this is how vocabulary is acquired. Each time we come across a word in a new context, 5% of its meaning gets acquired. In this nontargeted approach, I was getting fewer reps in the short term, but if I were to continue this throughout the year, the reps would be received, albeit over the long term.

            Which form of CI is better:
            heavy reps of a few structures in a short period OR
            light reps of many structures spread out over a long period?

            In the latter, the total number of target structures may be equal by the end of the year, but is likely greater than in the case of the former.

            The problem I have with the nontargeted structures is the low time and frequency of instruction in a school setting. When reps are spaced out like that and there are fewer reps, then I fear there is greater retention-loss. The other thing is that this approach requires even more trust in the process, since fewer reps means kids will likely have even more delayed output. In the end, it may be better, but rather than teaching for June of the same school year, it could be like teaching for June of the school year 2+ years in advance.

            Now, I’ve started targeting input by turning my MT’s into story scripts. I choose clips with repetition and I choose 1-3 target structures and turn it into a short script only containing the structures. Then, I’ll stop on the scenes that have the repetitive scene. Thus, the MT is genuinely Step 2 of the 3-step formula.

            You can embed the MT, just like you can embed the story scripts, by adding in 1-3 more target structures on replays of the clip. That would be embedded listening and MT lends itself nicely to this, since kids don’t have a problem watching the clip again.

            When you first start MT, the kids may protest the frequent stopping of the film. Then you explain why you’re doing that. I say that I want to show them these cool, funny clips, but the point in the end is to listen to Spanish. Now, I never get that complaint. I choose really short clips, rarely longer than 2 minutes, so I can replay the clip without stop at the end. Stopping the film actually allows you to enjoy the richness of the frames, seeing things you may not notice without stopping the film.

          3. And reading the text of a MT is great training in an important reading skill: visualization. Taking Susie Gross’s recommendation, “reading should be like a movie in their minds” to another level.

          4. Great explanation, Eric. I watched your MT of the Darth Vader youtube clip and then did exactly what you describe here. I wrote up the script using 3 levels of detail – like an embedded reading. My first years got the easier script, my second got that one and the more detailed one with “imperfect/preterite” tenses and the 3rd years got all of them including the “past subjunctive”. I know, I know…sounds like a grammar approach 🙂 It helps appease my department’s continued desire to focus on the textbook themes/grammar junk but they are coming around! I was able to get our PTSO to pay for the 5 of them to go to the CLTA conference here in San Diego in March and they are more than willing to go. There is hope!!

          5. …my first years got the easier script, my second got that one and the more detailed one with “imperfect/preterite” tenses and the 3rd years got all of them….

            Louisa I agree with this presentation of verb tenses. Diana thinks that my old grammar self is too active in the planning and presentation of verb tenses through the first three years, but I find that Blaine’s novels reflect that same patterning, with Le Voyage Perdu and Les Yeux de Carmen focusing heavily on future and conditional and other compound tenses. I think that the first two years should from the beginning of level 1 to the end of level 2 be full of present and past tenses, with some near future in there, as per the Three Steps of TPRS, with Steps 1 and 2 of a story being done in the past forms, and the readings in the present. This is the best way I have personally found to present fossilization of the past tense in my students’ speaking, since with ROA my kids hear a ton of present tense discussion in Step 3, which balances all the past forms they hear during the PQA and the story.

          6. Would it be possible to add Eric’s videos to our collection? Or at least the link to his playlist?

          7. Yes of course. It is listed on the Video category but not on the Video hard link at the top of this page. I also forgot to add Bob Patrick’s recent chef-d’oeuvre and also some excellent footage by David Maust. I will update the hard link with those three links and let me know if there is anything else I am missing or forgot to do. I will be a lot more on top of things after May, when I will no longer be in the classroom.

          8. Thanks for such thoughtful explanations and reflection, Eric. You’re helping me see how MovieTalk can be more than a Look & Discuss activity, and lead into reading.

            Which form of CI is better:
            heavy reps of a few structures in a short period OR
            light reps of many structures spread out over a long period?

            I’ve been thinking about this (well, vaguely… you put it in concrete terms) recently. It makes me think about how much we hammer down on those target structures during the 3 step process and how it’s possible, meanwhile, to neglect previous structures… sometimes maybe not revisiting a structure for weeks. Maybe we need a step 4 in the process? Step 4 being a day where the class explores a story that recycles previous structures taught throughout the term so that we can be sure to get those “light reps of many structures spread over a long period”. And MovieTalk can fit nicely into this Step 4.

            Well, this all certainly makes me think.

          9. Definitely, Sean! It’s easy to teach 3 structures like other teachers teach “units.” We have to deliberately try and re-use previous structures. One thing I do to “review” is often start classes with 10 minutes of ROA on a previous Story/MT. But, it would be even better to use the previously inputted structures in new contexts! When I watch Blaine’s video demos I notice that he doesn’t stick just to the week’s structures. It reminds me to try and speak more naturally and that wide is good if wide means speaking with old and new structures.

          10. Sean –

            Mark Mullany shared yesterday that a big mistake is to not recycle structures, but he was talking about doing it to start each year.

            He has done it both ways, last academic year (2012-2013) starting the year with a thorough hammering of all the previous year’s structures mainly in PQA, with, he says, clear and wonderful results for that class that year.

            Then this year (2013-2014) he didn’t do that – he just started in with new stuff and left the previous year’s structures alone. He said that the difference in performance was much bigger than he could have predicted.

            So Sean I agree – you are describing something that we should think about. Of course, what Eric does in starting classes with ten minute reviews using ROA of a previous story is just as solid teaching as you can get, and we should probably all do that, but then we would only have 40 minutes left and that is not enough for the other stuff we do so it is a problem.

            I used to think that we could avoid that kind of review, but, because we don’t have 24/7 to get reps*, so we have to do something to review previously taught structures. The new DPS Scope and Sequence, with targeted verbs connected to the chapter books we use in the district (Ray, Gaab, Rowan and Canon) will help once we get it finished later this month.

            *I was attacked online on this point recently, but the person doing the attacking was reading an article I wrote seven years ago, and I have grown a lot since then.

          11. I’m wondering if this is something else? My hit is that this “need for review” means we probably didn’t go slowly enough for the class during the year, didn’t get enough reps, didn’t recycle enough during the year, introduced too many new structures before former ones were sufficiently cemented in (it takes a long time for true acquisition, etc.) I don’t think it is a “call for review.” There are ways to do this during the year that tell a teacher “what” is still weak, that we make certain to recycle as we go along. Hopefully, we are aware of those more “late-acquired” structures that we have introduced early on and which must be recycled over and over for years. I don’t believe that “formal review” will take care of this.

            I worry about the practice of “reviewing” at the beginning of the year. Makes us sound like “legacy teachers” who MUST do this or they can’t even begin the year. Instead of formal review for the student, I would ask us to review OUR practice/instruction.

            Am I missing the point here? Of course, there are more-slowly-acquiring students who require much more input, at a slower pace, than the average student. Are we talking about these kids here?

          12. Jody what I understood from Mark, and it is certainly true in my case, is that most students just didn’t experience enough reps for acquisition during the previous year, and that is why Mark says that.

            Maybe you are right that we should review our own practice and instruction for the previous year, but I would say that, alas, since our time is so limited, most of us are guilty of slamming too much stuff and moving on to new stuff in our weekly planning. It’s because we really do not have enough time to teach for acquisition.

            I appreciate your point, though, that it sounds as if I am advocating a big “review” period to start the year, which I am not. I think that it would be up to the level 2, 3 and 4 teacher. Mark does it, I probably wouldn’t, preferring to just let the review happen naturally over the course of the year. Fortunately, language is very repetitive.

            Diana’s idea is that all DPS teachers have, in the Scope and Sequence, a list of all the major structures for a certain year, divided up into six week periods to satisfy the demands of administrators and teachers new to the district to provide them with specific curricular objectives, if you will.

            Boy is it good to hear your voice again!

          13. Why do we have target structures?
            #1: So we can stay comprehensible.
            #2: To acquire high-frequency vocabulary/phrases
            #3: Often the structures are chosen because they are compelling

            To acquire the vocabulary, it requires thousands of reps. We hope that vocabulary would be acquired/mastered, but that doesn’t happen for everyone, because we don’t get enough meaningful reps in different contexts.
            “Research in first language development suggests, in fact, that each time we encounter a word in a meaningful context we acquire about 5% of the meaning of the word (Nagy, Herman and Anderson, 1985).”
            – Krashen(2013)

            Plus, due to instruction time and frequency limits and summer break, I would still expect retention loss, albeit less than in a grammar-oriented class.

            But more importantly, we review target structures, because the structure (grammar) was DEFINITELY NOT acquired by everyone. Acquisition of vocabulary items is not the same as acquiring grammar rules/patterns. They both happen via CI, but we CANNOT force early acquisition of later-acquired grammar by including mid/late-acquired grammatical structures. (Unless CI-based instruction can alter the order of acquisition. To my knowledge, studies have only tried to alter the order via explicit instruction . . . and input frequency is recognized by some researchers as a strong factor on the acquisition order). Choosing target language structures should NOT be attempts at a grammatical syllabus. When we review structures, we are giving more reps on grammar that has most definitely not been acquired by all, and if a later-acquired structure, then maybe not acquired yet by any students. True acquisition of grammar happens in multiple, messy stages.

            So we have to recycle structures throughout the year and/or at the start of a new school year, because for some students the vocabulary wasn’t completely acquired and for many, sometimes all, the grammar of the structure was not acquired.

          14. I am like Ben, in that I like writing out my thoughts in order to come to a clearer and deeper understanding. I’m still trying to think this one through . . . A structure consists of vocabulary and grammar. When TPRS teachers say their students have acquired the structure, they are referring more to the students having acquired the vocabulary, not the grammar.

            The purpose of reviewing structures can be to further complete acquisition of vocabulary.What if we focused less on the acquisition of more vocabulary and focused more on grammar acquisition? This is what I consider to be the main purpose of “reviewing” structures. Even if vocabulary has been acquired, grammar will likely not be, so we review to give further reps of grammar. Even then, we can’t expect our review to complete the acquisition of the grammar. An alternative approach is to skip the review and present new vocabulary with the same structure (grammar). This alternative provides another context to acquire the grammar in the structure. Of course, if we were to truly not shelter grammar, then we wouldn’t have to worry about reviewing the grammar in a structure. The grammar reps are then spaced out and constantly reviewed in the vocabulary from any new structures.

            When we shelter vocabulary we are developing what Terry Waltz recently called on moretprs “micro fluency.” Students can spontaneously output with little hesitation the vocabulary from a small sample of the language. When we don’t shelter grammar, we ideally provide natural input (all tenses, all word orders, etc.) of the small language sample.

            We already limit our vocabulary, but it could be further limited to an even smaller language sample into the upper levels. (btw, I consider verb stems to function like vocabulary). This way, the vocabulary will be well-acquired and input more comprehensible. Working the full range of grammar in this small sample, we would be focusing on getting students to develop that all-important FEEL for the language. Once that feel has been well-developed, then it would be so much easier to add new vocabulary.

            Grammar is like the trunk of a tree and the vocabulary is like the leaves. TCI understands that you only have a tree if you have the trunk. TCI plants a seed and the trunk slowly grows. The TCI trunk is what allows us to feel what is right. And the trunk has to be well-grown before we see many leaves. Explicit grammar instruction does NOT plant a seed. It simply examines old trees that are quick to wither away and die in the minds of students. Traditional language teaching approaches put too much focus on the leaves (thematic lists). These leaves quickly die, since they were never attached to a tree.

          15. It’s interesting what Mark Mullany is saying about how by skipping a review period at the beginning of this academic year he sees students performing better. Maybe he also knows how to “review” old structures on a day-to-day basis (as Jody suggests we do) better this year than last.

            What I’m taking away from this discussion is an affirmation of spending 5 – 10 min to review old structures at the beginning of every class. I’ve been doing that practically everyday since the start of semester 2 by posting a family pic of a student (it was their homework assignment to email me a family pic) and doing Look and Discuss. I could certainly be more intentional about choosing a particular old structure to review. I’m also taking away how important it is to be intentional about how to use old structures as a nest to couch new structures. My last take away is how I evidently need to catch up on my Krashen reading so I can keep up with Eric!

            Last Friday I spent half of my 75 min (shortened day) class period MovieTalking an animated short called Alma. It went beautifully. MovieTalk has worked well as a way to finish off the week (mind you I’m on a block schedule where class meets everyday). As time was nearing the end of class, I spontaneously decided to scrap a quick quiz and instead play the video, Alma, again from the beginning, without stopping, and asked students to narrate by shouting out words and phrases as the video rolls along. I’m pretty sure every student shouted out something in Spanish (I have small classes of 20 kids, mind you), some at length. Perhaps it’s not the best activity, but students were feeling good. I’m sure the sense of urgency to shout out a phrase before someone else did felt energizing for students, and yet I was surprised how the lower-performing students didn’t feel discouraged but shouted out what they could too.

            You know, most of the time in class I’m trying to slow their brainwaves down, slow my pace down, calm the nerves (my yoga teacher once shared with me an ancient teaching: that we are born with only so many breaths. The slower we breath, the longer we’ll live)… must be nice, like candy, for students to wind-up a little once in a while.

          16. I understood from Ben’s post that Mark had better results when he did review at the beginning of the year. . . ??

            Sean, I once had the same idea, to have kids bring me in photos of family, friends, vacations, whatever is memorable to them and to L&D them. Great personalization! Thanks for reminding me to do that.

          17. Wait, Eric, you’re right. Ben, has Mark Mullany experience better results this year or last year? It’s not so clear.

          18. Geoguessr.com: I’m throwing into one of my rotating activities. I’m just curious, Robert, what levels have you had such discussions with… I can see how you could do it with level one but wonder if too much English would be mixed in… I don’t know about your students, but mine are te-e-e-rrible with geography.

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