Here is a link to an article in USA Today about kids creating images:
I’m on a new kick – the appreciation of beauty. By us. When we’re teaching. So that our students can experience something beautiful each day instead of what they experience now, with the testing in all their classes and all.
Why not? Why not make schools into places where beauty (of languages in our cases, because languages are very very beautiful) instead of places where we tell them how they don’t measure up?
There is a part of the pre-frontal cortex where MRI scans show activity in the “emotional brain”, specifically Field A1 (not the steak sauce) of the medial orbital-frontal cortex. It is the same area stimulated by moral, visual and musical beauty. It is where real language acquisition lies for our students.
I don’t care if the research says that such things are important or not. I’m saying it is true for me. Beauty – and it’s cousin, Humor – make our CI classes not just interesting but also compelling.
(I have been following the changes in Krashen’s thinking over the years. In 2009 he shifted the key word from “interesting” to “compelling”. That was a big deal to me and explains the main change/push forward in my thinking from 2009 to 20015 that led to the Invisibles.)
WE CAN’T JUST DO CI, WE’VE GOT TO DO CI THAT IS COMPELLING. AND NOW ONLINE THAT IS MORE THAN EVER TRUE. HOW ELSE TO CAPTURE AND KEEP THEIR ATTENTION ONLINE THAN WITH INPUT THAT IS COMPELLING? COVID HAS EXPOSED THE UNDERBELLY OF OUR LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION. NOW WE REALLY MUST ALIGN OUR INSTRUCTION WITH THE RESEARCH. NO MORE TEACHING WATERED- DOWN CI IN THE CLASSROOM. TIME TO BECOME BIG GIRLS AND BOYS.
Nine years ago I met Kate Taluga at a conference on saving native endangered languages in Oklahoma. She also attended a National TPRS conference around that time and presented on building community with students – I believe that conference was in Las Vegas. I remember enjoying speaking with Susan Gross and Kate after Kate presented on how to engage students in class with jobs and with the simple principle of loving kindness. Kate is a Native American teacher of Creek language in Florida. After all those long years, when so much has happened, I got this message from her just today:
What do you do if you get more than 18 students or more in your Invisibles online classes in the fall? Don’t you need to see their faces in order for the Invisibles to work online, since grading them is based on seeing their faces?
I was asked this question on a webinar with Teacher’s Discovery this week.
I mumbled an answer about faking that you could see them, but then Corinne Bourne said, “Why not ask the school for a really big screen to teach online with?”
That’s the answer.
Up until now, after twenty years of doing CI or some other form of it like TPRS, I have always thought that the two ways of teaching were mostly mutually exclusive.
But now, I see no reason why we can’t mix the two, especially in level 1 language classes. That’s where all the oppositional sparks fly when we try to put CI instruction into our language classes.
Why not wait a year to put the pedal down on the CI, and do both in the first year? It makes a lot of sense. It gives us street cred with parents, admins and with our more traditional colleagues. It shuts out all the negativity from people who don’t understand the research and the standard.
We were talking about the limitations brought by the new practitioners of TPRS/CI who have over the past twenty years led the TPRS/CI movement into a new marketplace which I call the “CI Marketplace”, where the purity of the research and the elegant simplicity of the Communication standard have been left in tattered shreds of paper on the marketplace floor.
We find this CI marketplace everywhere these days. Laura Avila, a knight in shining armor of all that is true in our profession, told me some months ago that she is tired of being targeted by CI email sales campaigns.
In the last post we suggested that there have been waves of language teachers since about 1970. The first were the traditionalists. ‘Nuff said.
The second were the Blaine Ray disciples who came in with real force in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, they sold out and Krashen and Blaine let them.
So now, their potential to really impact our profession lies in tattered pieces on the floor of what has become a powerful new internet CI marketplace, led by people who “kind of” grasp the depth and breadth of the research, but not really.
I said in a recent Teacher’s Discovery webinar – just yesterday actually – that we need to finally grow up in our profession. We need to become big girls and boys now that COVID has opened up a new and exciting highway for us to align more and more with the research.
We need to develop new and exciting cars (curriculums) that can take us down the new road in a way that reflects how wide the road is now and how easily it can accommodate the fast CI cars of the post-COVID future. Yes, they are electric in the sense that we don’t need to plan (fill the tank with gas) ever when we teach our language online.
Viktoria has read the book with particular close attention to Cat. A. She has also attended the last few weeks of Zoom instruction on Cat. A.
I am thrilled to report that we just finished a Zoom class in which Victoria demo’d Cat. A and she nailed it. She really did. What does that mean?
It means that when she said to our group that Lizzie plays tennis in a bakery in Moscow with Anna Kournakova, I understood every word. What does that mean?
It means that Viktoria, brand new to CI and the Invisibles and the Star Sequence only a few months ago, has gone from being new to being an effective CI communicator. How did that work?
If you but learn how to teach in line with the standards and research, you won’t have to complain about being bullied by children in your classroom.
Kids become bullies when they feel powerless. Give them power (i.e. knowledge of what you are saying) and – BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND – they will stop bullying you.
When kids tune you out in both online and in-class settings, that is bullying. Stop it by making sure they understand your instruction. Free yourself from the mental anguish that permeates our profession, ruining lives.
Alisa sent this:
I just don’t agree. We in the specific field of language education have the upper hand, but nobody seems to know it. I think that with (1) the 65%/35% grading system used in the Invisibles and (2) small personalized classes, it can work fine.
All we have to do is make sure that there are limited (10-14) kids in the screen (and if we have a big screen then we can handle more (14-24) – anything more than 24 being impossible on Zoom, by my estimate. Those numbers can be tested over time and decisions about class size made.
Some years ago, in a much-lauded speech to the Republican National Convention, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made “we believe in teachers” one of his central themes. This prompts the questions: What does it mean to believe in teachers? And, do we really believe in teachers?
In the frenetic hunt for ways to fix K-12 public schools, the solution that policymakers and many other education leaders currently embrace is to tell teachers what to do and how to do it.
Those in power, irrespective of their political affiliations, are standardizing curriculums, tightening licensure requirements, offering merit pay, and tying teacher evaluations to student performance.
Governors across the nation, and most recently Rahm Emanuel, the then-Democratic mayor of Chicago and President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, are taking aim at the rules established by teachers’ unions—policies governing teachers’ tenure, pay, role differentiation (what they will and will not do), and work hours.
Krashen’s enemy, the fool Arne Duncan, had a lot to do with this.
All of these efforts at improvement are things done to teachers. They are attempts to control teachers’ behavior, choices, and quality from the outside. The motto seems to be: To get accountability, we need to get tough.
This approach, on its face, doesn’t believe in teachers. Instead, it doubts teachers have the professional capacity to improve our schools themselves. It presumes that union rules have emerged from teachers’ self-interest and not from the way our policies are designed. It assumes teachers are the problem.
But what if teachers are the answer? What if trusting teachers to make the right decisions, and not controlling them, is the key to school success? Is it not true that if we want high-performing schools, then trusting teachers is a promising strategy to pursue.
Teachers—those who are closest to the students—determine should not just what happens in their classrooms, but the school’s entire approach to learning. Some even make such decisions as how to allocate the school budget, whom to hire, and whether to offer tenure.
Public schools are increasingly governed by groups of teachers. It’s like when there is no real leader capable of leading us through COVID, then the governers have had to take over. We can call these groups teacher partnerships. Some teacher partnerships manage district schools; some manage charter schools. Some are union-affiliated; others are not. Teacher partnerships have secured autonomy in urban, rural, and suburban settings, serving students from preschool to age 21.
It turns out that teacher partnerships develop the kinds of schools that many of us want. They individualize learning. They put their students in the position to be active (not passive) learners who gain academic and life skills. Teacher partnerships create school cultures that are the same as those in high-performing organizations. That is, they innovate, collaborate, accept accountability, function as learners, and make efficient use of resources, among other things.
Teacher partnerships also resolve many of today’s hot-button education issues themselves—no need for politicians to take on heated battles and for states, cities, and districts to take on so much management. Teacher partnerships that have authority to allocate their entire school budgets, for example, carefully weigh salary and wage expenditures against other spending opportunities.
“What if teachers are the answer? What if trusting teachers, and not controlling them, is the key to school success?”
In a position to call the shots, teachers have come to understand that raising salaries requires cuts in other areas of their school budgets—especially when revenues are not increasing. No teacher partnership with full budget autonomy has elected to guarantee annual salary adjustments for cost of living or years of experience. None guarantees automatic adjustments to teachers who complete continuing education.
In the same vein, some teacher partnerships, in both charter and district settings, have decided that all teachers in their schools will have just one-year, at-will contracts for work. Responsible and accountable for school success, these teachers want colleagues to continuously put forth their best effort, and they want a means of removing colleagues who do not. They also know they must reserve the right to lay off even their well-performing colleagues when the budget is tight.
Some teacher partnerships negotiate waivers from their own union rules so they can increase educators’ working hours and expand their roles. They also obtain waivers to do more (not less) teacher evaluation and to require (not avoid) coaching and mentoring in the name of improvement.
Union leaders have agreed to sign these waivers because teacher partnerships have control over professional issues—something unions have sought for their members for decades. In schools run by teacher partnerships, teachers’ employers don’t make the decisions; teachers do. So, union leaders don’t see as much need to represent these teachers’ professional interests to their employers, and these same leaders can shift their role to supporting these teachers with the work the teachers do in their partnerships.
Over and over, teachers working in partnerships said all of their decision-making, including around school design and teacher job structures, stems from their real responsibility and accountability for whole-school success. Those granting teachers autonomy (state leaders, district leaders, and charter school authorizers) hold teachers accountable for meeting clear, mutually agreed-upon objectives. But the teachers decide how to meet those objectives. And in the position to call the shots, teachers are willing to accept accountability for outcomes.
This is a far cry from the results of the “get tough” approach, which increasingly asks teachers to accept accountability for the outcomes of decisions that they do not, and cannot, make. The idea of giving teachers professional authority to run schools is an idea that builds bridges instead of anger and resistance. It is an idea that puts teachers in a position to focus on students, and not on poor job culture or what outsiders have gotten wrong about school improvement.
Are teacher-partnership arrangements meant for all teachers? No. Teacher autonomy is meant to be a parallel strategy for improvement. Others are welcome to continue working at the same time toward improvement in conventional schools and conventional working arrangements for teachers.
Are teacher partnerships foolproof? Again, no. There will be mistakes, and even flops. As more and more teachers embrace autonomy, they and others will need to seize opportunities to improve their craft. Policymakers and education leaders will need to work with teacher partnerships to identify and remove barriers to creating high-performing cultures. Union leaders could choose to evolve union roles. Teacher training institutions could support teachers’ migration to managing whole schools with autonomy and accountability.
These ideas are just a start. Teacher autonomy will evolve. Much more work will need to be done. Much work remains to be done in our profession of language teaching, since CI has now gone off the rails.
But perhaps the most important work is already taking place. Those who are pioneering teacher partnerships are confirming what many have suspected is true: To believe in teachers means to trust them. Not just with the care of our children. Not just in their classrooms. And not just with implementing what others decide. Believing in teachers means we are willing to consider that telling them what to do, and how to do it, might be the wrong policy and management prescription for increasing accountability and improving K-12.
Truly believing in teachers is to trust them with full and professional authority to call the shots, for whole-school success.
I’ve been reflecting more and more about how it’s not about how smart you are, or how fast you process languages, but about the community piece.
That’s why, even when instructing online, we can’t let that piece fall aside. We need to increase it. Indeed, everything is based on recognizing our students as people.
And I am starting to see with our Zoom group how it’s easier to do on Zoom than in a classroom. Not a lot easier – what we do is always hard. But easier.
Here is the link to today’s 5:00 p.m. Teacher’s Discovery webinar on online CI instruction:
This further explains some of the content of my webinar tomorrow:
If you are going to be successful in the fall with your online language instruction, you’re going to have to get your kids focused on the message and not on the language when you use the ZOOM platform.
Despite your frustrations this spring using Zoom to teach a language, and no one has been immune to that chaos, I am of the opinion that if you just align your instruction with the research and the Communication standard, you will succeed in the fall using the ZOOM platform .
I’m doing a Facebook webinar for Teacher’s Discovery tomorrow, at 5:00 pm Eastern Time.
Here’s the information:
Also earlier that day at 2:00 pm Eastern Time is our usual Zoom class on the Invisibles. We’re almost ready to go on to Category B! Anyone wanting in, let me know.
I will continuously fight against targeted CI instruction. It’s so sad that most CI teachers don’t even really know the difference. They think that targeting is what CI is. But it’s not. It’s an aberration and it’s costing them student engagement.
When I said in the last article here that the novels and any targeted type of CI instruction “get real boring real fast”, I am telling the truth for 80% of the students in the class, as well as for most teachers. Krashen says that his research reveals a “lessening of interest” when targets are used.
The COVID crisis may be what we need to free TPRS and the entire CI movement from its self-imposed limits. What limits?
Krashen has made it very clear that when you try to use comprehensible input to teach word lists, verb lists, thematic unit lists, semantic set lists, lists of words from chapter books (i.e. “classic” TPRS), etc. then there is a lessening of interest. Why?
Because when you try to combine CI with traditional language teaching, as described fairly efficiently in the above paragraph, the stories and all the CI instruction GET REAL BORING REAL FAST. That’s not me saying that; it’s the research.
The creativity that we see in the silent-era films of Buster Keaton is off the chart. But there is a reason for that – Keaton’s philosophy of making a film (and this in my view is an excellent philosophy for CI teachers to adapt) is that “the middle will take care of itself”. What does that expression mean?
It means in my view that, once the basics of the film are established in its first part (who the characters are, etc.) the middle – and therefore the ending – if they are allowed to happen along more intuitive lines, the story line (not planned out in advance and therefore not serving some secret purpose of teaching something under the radar) will “take care of itself”. This led to those great early films from Keaton.
…imagination drives memory, and memory drives acquisition….
Carolyn Kristjansson has written about Stevick at http://www.hltmag.co.uk/feb14/mart01.htm#C4:
In the last telephone conversation I had with Earl, the discussion turned to his poetry as it had done from time to time. Some of his poems were privately published for use in language classrooms and a few made their way into some of his books, public talks, and personal correspondence. Many, however, did not. Recently I came across one of these. While the focus is ostensibly on teacher-student interaction, I see it also as representative of interpersonal interaction in general. It is also wonderfully representative of much of what has made Earl’s life and work a living legacy.
In what we say between the lines of what we say, even and inescapably in what we never say at all, we SEND a message to our students — even when no WORD is spoken, a message. And here between the lines, between the sentences, here in our moving, in our looking, in our silences, here, it seems TO ME is hidden the most weighty, most compelling message they can ever take away with them. (Earl Stevick, no date)
Stevick, E. W. (1990). Humanism in Language Teaching, Oxford University Press.
Clearly, Stevick’s philosophy of language instruction was based on students and their needs and not about them being right or wrong.
I mention Stevick’s name here in case anyone may want to do some further research into this early hero who had such a strong effect on Krashen. His work, though I have just found it, supports what I am doing with the Invisibles, directly through Krashen. Indeed, thinking of teaching languages primarily in terms of human relationships as described above cannot possibly be something new.
So thank you for renewing our courage today, Lord. Thank you for reminding us to just put our trust in you each day and get up and brush off the wounds of the previous day and get back to work.
Trusting in you is the motto of our country, after all. Thanks for the reminder! Thanks for helping us back this COVID fear up and see it for what it is – something you are using to push us forward! Thank you for picking us up and brushing us off through the miracle of sleep, this coming night and every night, so that we can rest well each night, ready to do your work the best we can the next day!
I have noticed over the years that there are two ways that students look at me in class.
When I am using English they seem far away. They seem to be considering what I’m saying but not really caring very much about it. I guess they hear enough English.
But when I’m talking slowly in French about them in a way that they can understand (i.e. using Walk Before You Talk, going ten times slower than I think is acceptable, pausing, listening to them, looking at them and really seeing them), then their their demeanor changes.
It feels a little lighter now. Maybe we can really do it. Whether we win or not, all that is up to you, as the outcome of every battle is up to you. The outcome of every attempt is up to you. The outcome of every failure is up to you. Help us in this crisis to do our best for you. We know that that is all you are asking of us, but we just needed to be reminded of it.
It’s like the end of a sporting contest and we are down and beat up and hurting, lying in the mud, bloodied up, but not giving up hope, not giving in to despair. We can do that. But you have to help us. Maybe that’s what this prayer is about. Actually, that IS what this prayer is all about. Just help us. I know you can’t NOT help us, as that is one aspect of your divinity, that your grace and protection is with us always. But we just needed to ask you again. We forget….
[Note: I repost this article often, almost once a month, for any new readers here, and also because I keep adding to it. If you are willing to read all 52 of the reasons I oppose targeted comprehensible input, you might possibly find yourself echoing the a statement about classroom management by Fred Jones: “…open your mouth and slit your throat…” For us, referring to the increasingly useless idea that we need to plan our classes, it’s “…plan your class and kiss your ass…goodbye…”.
Some of us are lying wounded with varying degrees of injuries, the mental kind of injuries that take so long to heal. It’s hard to work when our minds don’t work as well as they used to. Help us find solace from our teaching injuries in you.
Let your will be done in this and all things. If you are going to rock us with COVID, rock us with COVID. Let us remember that you love us more than we could ever hope to love you and so to accept whatever COVID brings.
Help us remember to trust in you. Just trust in you and things will be all right? OK – we’ll do it! We have no other choice. Thanks for the reminder. We’ll just do that. We know that we can totally count on your divine grace to get us out of this, and you will, but not on our terms. On your terms. Your terms are, in the long, always the best for us.