Since 2018 I’ve been writing a book on classroom management in the CI classroom. I threw it in the trash in my computer today. Why? Because it’s a waste of time to write and to read a book about classroom management. How can we possibly remember everything in the book and apply it in the right circumstance at the right time? It’s a fool’s errand, when one thinks about all the other things we have to think of when teaching a CI class. In fact, in general, the entire CI movement has turned into a big cacophony of competing ideas that are confusing and driving away a lot more teachers than are being successfully attracted and integrated into the CI movement. So here is my new take on how to keep order in your classroom when teaching a CI class, including online instruction:
I got this today – thought I’d share it with the group. My responses in italics:
Q. Today in my Spanish 2 class, I had a student name his ICI “Mike Hawk”. I didn’t get the nasty joke until I read it in front of the class and everyone snickered and laughed. I realized what happened and panicked inside. I wanted to yell at the student for humiliating me. I was very upset, but I kept face. This is also one of my best students in class, so that was even more disheartening. Teenage boys are teenage boys, I suppose.
This is a lengthy post, but worth the read in my opinion:
The goal is to use how we assess to build a positive response in class from our students, to build them up for trying and not necessarily for achieving. What things can we do? We can ask for little rounds of applause for kids who are trying to listen well, just stopping class when we see the kids honoring the Classroom Rules and saying “Applaudissez, classe! Arnold is listening so well right now that I wanted to stop class just to say that, because that means that he paid attention in the first week when I stopped you guys all those times and pointed at rule #2, right? And you thought this class was weird bc you didn’t have to memorize stuff, and just give me your full attention and follow those rules over there and Arnold is doing that right now so congratulations Arnold you’re doing it right and it will show up as 65% of your grade at the next marking term so keep doing it! It’s how people learn languages! In fact, I’m going to my desk right now to write myself a note to email your parents after class to tell them how well you pay attention in class! It’s not easy to do this kind of thing if you’ve never had a class like this before. Everybody needs to know that you think you are looking at me but I am looking at you too and you are being graded right now when I am talking in French! We’ve looked at the rubric together already so where would you put yourself on this rubric right now? Get in groups of two and talk about that. Do you see how your effort determines your grade in this class, and not how you do on some test? We don’t memorize in this class and we don’t have big tests. And any big tests we have, we just do what we do on that Star every day, so if you pay attention you will get the grade you want. And Arnold I have noticed that you are really listening and trying to understand and that is done silently, right? Because you’re not ready to speak yet, right? And that silence and focus is the sound of your grade going up! Oh and don’t just start staring at me, because I can tell if you are trying to understand me in class. When you stare it’s a different look in your eyes and plus when you fail the quizzes, that tells me what is really going on because they are so easy if you just listen. (Ed. note: formative grades in the first month of the year are only quick quizzes, which are essential to give, if you can, on a daily basis, along w rating your students on the rubric every day to effectively train ALL the students in your classroom. The other formative grades like free writes, FCR, dictées, will start to populate the grade book later.) I’ll know that I was right about how much you were understanding with the quizzes. The quizzes and the interpersonal skills rubric work together, as you can see. Don’t worry! It’s my job to make myself understood so the quizzes are easy and I will do that I promise (ed. note: via WBYT). And since I am grading you daily here at the beginning of the year, you better know that if I see a cell phone out, I won’t say anything but I will go over to my desk and write down a 0 on your daily IPS grade and those add up, since it’s 65% of the grade! So, if you see me making notes on my desk during class it’s either to remind myself to call a parent about good interpersonal skills or the phone problem. Yes, you may have heard that I call parents during class, but not very often. So, there are about four people right now who are failing the class due to phones but I won’t talk about it. We’ll talk later when the first grades come out. I know it’s weird being graded like this, on how you listen in class instead of on memorizing something for a test, but that’s how I’m supposed to do it, so we’ll see if any grades go up now. Let me show you what I mean”. (Walk over to an empty desk and model the behavior physically that you want to see.) Congratulate Arnold again and get back into class. Of course, you wouldn’t say all of those things, just one or two each time you stop to congratulate the kid and ask for a round of applause on their behalf, but that is the gist of a form of classroom management that really works. Once we realize that the best way to improve our students’ behavior is not by “managing” their behavior at all, but by complimenting them, we will have the kind of classroom environment we want.
I got this from Jake. It’s a fairly tense situation. Below I suggest one option for him. I had sent him this reminder about his right as a teacher (see the article here from about a week ago about A Teacher’s Bill of Rights) that he has the “right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems, especially students”, which implies that the student must change, not us.
We need to contact parents, counselors and admins and if any of them are really acting like adults (few adults are these days) they will help us, because they must. And find just one, any, positive solution that you and the student can try to implement together.
I have thought about Jerry’s (not his real name) behavior a lot lately. I have worked with Jerry in a positive way to the absolute limit I am capable, and am now formally recommending that he be removed from the class. He is destroying it. I can prove that. Just come to Jerry’s class in 8th period and then to my other two classes after that. In my other classes, you will see kids laughing and happily learning French, but in Jerry’s class, you will see a dark energy that I attribute largely to Jerry’s presence. It’s strong talk but I mean it. I might add that we must keep this private. Were I to confront Jerry with this, he would not understand it. This situation is way beyond the “discuss it with the student” phase. (In this case the parents were immune to meetings with teachers and had no effect on this child). I am not sure Jerry has even yet been confronted in this way in his other classes. Maybe this is because, in my class, children must sit up and participate in a positive way with no options. I can be more specific about how Jerry games this class in private conversation with you in case you need more information about how Jerry operates to make your decision. Jerry is very rare among students, extremely hard to even identify as he is expert in flying under the radar with his destructive behavior, but this in no way changes the impact he is having on my teaching at ALHS.
1. The student seems to be not at all interested in learning the language I am teaching in my classroom.
2. The student seems very interested in contacting other students in the classroom who can be groomed to support his position of not being interested in class.
3. By “adopting a position of not being interested in my class”, we can say that the student has then adopted a position of being interested in something else. What is that interest? It is in taking control of the classroom.
4. But since this student cannot do that, being met with countless (every five minutes or so) corrections on behavior from the teacher, the student is forced to become passive with his desire to control the classroom. The teacher, meanwhile, looks like an idiot who can’t stop the behavior and the wheel goes ’round and ’round every day.
5. This becomes a big problem for the student, because how can one control a group of people when someone else, an adult no less, won’t allow him his behavior and confronts and talks to him daily about how what he is doing won’t work. But are the continuous redirections from the teacher shooting the teacher in the foot? Shouldn’t something HAPPEN so that the other students can believe in the teacher?
6. The teacher even talks to other adults, to his parents and school administrators, about this one kid in the hopes that he will give it up and just be a regular student for the good of all. But, being incapable of giving up his need to disrupt and hopefully take over the class some day (this is called narcissism) he persists in spite of the opposition he faces in the form of the teacher and whatever other fully conscious adults are there to support him so that he understands how to behave in a group. He’s gotten away with it in other classes, so why not in this one?
5. When the student senses weakness in the teacher, who usually requires about a month into the school year to even figure out that the student is monstrous, and if the teacher fails to get help from other adults, then that teacher is in for a long year. The kid won’t change any more than pigs can fly.
6. What about the other students who are being recruited by the misbehaving student? They play a crucial role in what happens. The teacher must separate the students in the “cell” by seating charts. They should not be able to see each other in the classroom.
The ones who are oppositionally defiant passive aggressive demons must be stopped. These are rare. Some of us might get through an entire career without having to teach one.
I know that the terminology there is extreme, and many might object to the flippant use of such serious psychological terms without a diagnosis, but the teachers who read this blog, who are the only people I care about in this discussion, perfectly appreciate what I am saying. Only teachers can appreciate the seriousness of the discussion here about pigs.
The students who want to succeed and show up for class because the class is set up for their success are left with cold stares from the oppositionally defiant kid. I have seen, on a daily basis, one of these students stare down kids who try to succeed.
As those who have followed this thread know, this student and his henchman are gone now, at my insistence, but when this was happening it was rough, rough, rough. It didn’t help that this kid was a junior in a class of largely ninth graders and a few tenth graders. Such students have a devasting effect on the students who want to succeed because there is a threat in the eyes of an upperclassmen that is visible to the younger kids.
Other ways that kids like this behave at great harm to the group manifest in excessive, almost daily, trips to the bathroom, which disrupt class, not to mention fidgeting with anything available like coins, pencils, other small objects, the desk itself.
We know that our success with comprehensible input depends on how well we enforce the nothing on desks rule. Since in level 1 we write much less than we talk we have that rule of prime importance that says nothing on the desk (including students who put their heads on the desk as part of their passive aggression).
People are just beginning to notice them and use the Three Modes. Since the teacher is also required by the new standards “to speak in the target langauge 90% of the time” when teaching the language, the student who refuses to do that is put int0 an even more difficult position. All language teachers and students in the U.S. right now are required by the aforementioned ACTFL guidelines to actually interact with students in a human way.
The old way gave the oppositionally defiant student a lo of legroom in which to work in the classroom environment because he wasn’t required to interact with the teacher in the learning process, which he is now. By being forced by the new standards to “show up” for class by the new standards, the defiant student is forced to make a decision.
Showing up, being human, actually communicating in class is not his modus operandi. He would rather lurk and hide away from the humanizing process of verbal and visual give and take with the teacher. But, in view of the new standards and recommendations mentioned above, there will inevitably be a conflict betweent the teacher and the student.
The more the teacher asks the oppositional student to interact in the daily classroom process, the more the student would be inclined to resist, often retreating behind a kind of wall of misbehavior. If his misguided parents support him in this, and clamor for the teacher to offer verb conjugation activities memorization activities which are devoid of the quid pro quo involved in real language acquisition, they will harm their child and do nothing to make our country better.
Such parents can thus be called unpatriotic. This also applies to administrators. Today, my prayers were answered. The two boys who were ruining my 8th period class were removed today for the rest of the year. A strong and brave AP did it with the help of my equally strong department chair Jane Little. Can you believe, an honorable AP and department chair in the same building? Thank you both for doing the right thing. This was the first time in my career that I had ever asked for a kid to be removed from a class, by the way. I knew my limits. The kids felt the difference. We all did. Today’s was a great class. I am very happy.
I am dealing with such a situation right now with two boys in one class. It is the worst situation of my career. Below is a copy of a recent email sent by my department chair to our administration, published here with her permission. This the kind of support we SHOULD be getting from a department chair. As you can see below, my department chair is not afraid of anyone.
To all concerned:
I had [this student] in my class last year for a few days. He sat by the window and one day opened the window. I asked him to close it and he immediately was defiant, then complied but only after a few minutes. His first reaction was “Why? I’m hot.” After this incident, I then looked up his Summary on IC and discovered that he had been misplaced. I let the counselors know and he was placed into Mr. Slavic’s class. When [this student] was in my room I was nervous and red flags were going up. I did not feel safe and I felt that this child would be a detriment to the learning of others in the classroom. I was relieved that he was placed in another class. He since has sometimes visited friends in my Period 9 and one day said: “Miss, I miss this class…NOT”…. in a real loud voice, 2 feet away from me. He did this to call attention to himself.
Mr. Slavic and I have taught for more than 25 years. We are professionals and if you calculate the span of the 25 years, we can estimate that we have taught more than 5,000 students each (this is a conservative number). When a teacher such as Mr. Slavic says that a child is unable or unwilling to respect the educational process, he must be supported unconditonally.
Since World Languages is not a DPS requirement to graduate, I strongly urge that these children be placed in another elective in order for Mr. Slavic to proceed into second semester without interruption to the learning process and that the benefit of other students be considered. In this way we can support the school-wide goals of college readiness for the majority of the students in Mr. Slavic’s class. It would be a shame, a moral disgrace to the other children if we continue to hold [this student and another one] in Mr. Slavic’s classes to the detriment of the education of the others.
http://www.safeschools.state.co.us/docs/Safe.School.Act_2008.pdf, Colorado Revised Statutes CRS 22-32-109.1 (2)(a)(II)
I certainly don’t mean the term as it is used as in the term “little monsters” to describe students in a playful way. To compound the problem, these monsters work cleverly under skillful passive defiance learned over years.
We must grow to be different teachers if we have students that fall into this most extreme category (we have also referred to them as jackals in earlier posts on this subject). We need a plan and we have to follow up on it with parents and administrators and, most importantly, with ourselves.
Bryce’s “Alternate Plan” is excellent. I don’t care how hard it is to get rid of these kids. The way we teach, the kindness and the humor factor and the humanness of it all, require that we move forcefully against these kids who can ruin classes and careers. How many of us are being totally yet unnecessarily handcuffed right now by such kids because we didn’t act early enough this fall?
I would even suggest that it is possible that it is the use of comprehensible input that causes the problems, because, in theory at least, the new standards and current research now require that we work with kids in a completely different way in language acquisition, a way that requires a kind of human interaction in the classroom that has simply not been required up to now.
Because of the change in standards, we have to stop kids whose behavior poisons the new reciprocal and participatory way of teaching that we are required to do as per ACTFL’s Three Modes of Communication. The cost is way too high. When we can’t do our jobs, or if the quality of our instruction is compromised, because of one student who poisons the room, then that student must leave.
Most administrators jsut don’t get that. They don’t grasp the depth and breadth of the change. They think we are there to deliver an instructional product. They especially don’t understand the research. They don’t understand what learning a language requires. They leave those poisonous kids in the class, telling us that it is our responsibility to teach all the kids in the class, and it is devasting to all concerned.
Is there a “cell of defiance” led by one single kid, a group leader of a few other kids, being built in your classroom right now or already in place? Do such uniquely and intentially troublesome kids really exist? Are the other kids victims because the teacher didn’t stop the defiance in time by seating charts, phone calls and other means? Do those other kids get pulled into the vortex of this oppositionally defiant student? To what extent is it true that this kid must be stopped or the entire class will be lost for the year? Can we actually solve problems like this one? Should the kid be allowed to stay in class? Under what conditions? Once they have stopped acting out, to what extent does their negative energy poison, in silence, the classroom? Do such kids want to learn? What are they doing in our classrooms?
Further complicating things is the idea that, in comprehensible input, we are bringing to our class a higher vibration with increased human energy. This represents a problem to the kid who needs choas in order to feel stable. What do we do with those kids, the pigs we might never get to fly?
There is a thing that I call the October Collapse, where the reality of the year sets in and a lot of new CI teachers begin to collapse under the weight of what they are trying to do, and the students often collapse too.
The teachers often think it’s them. We can’t let that happen. It may be a lack of training in the basics of CI instruction, that is true. No matter, what we have to do, another mental health focus for October, is make sure that teachers new to his kind of teaching don’t give up. For some, the goal is just making it through the month, or the week, or the day….
How to do it? More to the point, how to keep it from feeling like it’s some kind of personal failing on the part of the teacher, when new things are always hard?
I would bet that more teachers – at least thousands of them over the past 20 years – have abandoned this way of instruction in the period of time from late September to late October than in any other month, for these reasons: (1) lack of early Classroom Rule setting (especially includes the students’ use of English) and follow up as described above, (2) failure to build community via Card Talk, (3) not using WBYT in an effective manner.
I have come to the conclusion that teachers who use comprehensible input are in a much more dangerous position than regular teachers. They are in a dangerous position because the work of making a class human, that is to say one in which human values of back and forth communication and give and take, which are required if language is to happen, are directed at kids who may not have been trained in the art of real human communication.
Such kids, when told by us in our classrooms that they have to show up as human beings, often refuse and push back, sometimes enlisting the help of either other students or parents. Our own reaction to these oppositional kids will directly determine how well we are able to make comprehension based methods work in our classrooms.
It is true that possibly the most important work that we are doing together is the videos. However, the work that Robert initiated here last May, the study of the Three Modes, part of the national position statement in the ACTFL documents, is not far behind in importance.
We must make all the layers of people we work with understand that we can’t align our teaching of languages according to national indicators and the new state standards without the good will of our students. I direct this comment directly to Allison, who in a blog comment last week wondered how much we should mitigate our use of CI by blending it with the old ways of teaching languages.
The old model of students tuning out in our classes won’t work in classes that use the new way of learning languages, namely comprehensible input. Why? For the same reason that pigs can’t fly. Pigs can’t fly because of gravity, and yet many of us spend all year trying to teach students who can’t learn.
Now, I have clearly stated my belief on this blog that ALL students can learn when comprehensible input is used in the classroom. But what I mean by that is that they can learn intellectually. What I wish to address right now, at this crucial point of the year when most of the gift wrapping has been removed from each of our students and, although some gifts are wonderful students who want to learn, some are looking pretty scary to us – these are the kids I want to talk about here in this series of blog posts about kid pigs who can’t get off the ground with us in our classrooms – before some of us go crazy in the next month or two because we don’t know how to respond to these scary kids, who are fortunately very rare.
I was communicating with a teacher about getting the parents of kids who act out in class involved early, actually right away, at the beginning of the year.
I have not called parents early on. When I have, later in the year, quite a few have answered that there is nothing they can do, that it is my job to make them do their work, etc.
It is a disaster when parents throw their own solemn responsibilities onto teachers. You must absolutely refuse this comment. That their child is a jerk in class is to no small degree their responsibility, although you cannot say that to them, of course.
Tell them that studies show that when parents support teachers the results are better. Explain that their child needs a strong parent-teacher combination for the child’s education to work. Ask them if they really mean what they are saying, to throw the entire responsibility on the teacher.
Invite them in for a talk. You may want an administrator there in certain cases. Tell them that their child’s success in your classroom depends on how they support you. Ask them, honestly, if they are interested in their child’s success. Tell them that it is the schools that have strong parental support that succeed. Ask them if they want their child’s school to succeed.
We must ask for what we want. It is an atrocity that teachers accept the full burden of student behavior on their tired shoulders. Insist on the parental support you deserve.
What if the parent is not equipped to hear that message? What if the parent is just not going to get involved in the discussion? Then at least you have reached out in the first few weeks to let them know your concerns, you have documented that attempted communication, and you can then begin to work from there for a solution.
The point here is not to try to get the parent to suddenly change and get involved – most are in now in survival mode themselves in this imploding society. The point is to have set up clear evidence with parents and administration that their kid is big time on your radar. It sends a message to the kid and is a major CYA move. If the kid doesn’t hear you making any noise early on, she will keep making noise in your classroom all year.
I have never done this enough. There has always been too much to do. And it often has come back on me. The one thing that I know now after all these years is that we either act aggressively in the first month of school or we turn our classroom over to forces we don’t need or want for the rest of the year.
Counseling? Good luck with that. I have never seen jobs that are as impossible to do as school building counselors. If you have one with even one ear that can hear you, you are far better off than most of us.
Just start working with anyone with a sympathetic ear. Don’t put it off and don’t be defeatist. If the parent doesn’t show up, rattle cages wherever you can – with APs or the principal or anywhere you can. We have talked about this in the Pig series of articles from last year.
What about talking to the kid? It is a good question. My opinion and experience tell me that when in a new situation in which a kid must change their fundamental behaviors from what they know school to be (they must do that in our comprehension based classrooms), such talks are far less productive than we think they might be. Some kids have blown teachers’ requests off their backs for years. Why change for you?
Of course we talk to them, but we can’t make that our principle response to their acting out and fear of becoming more human because our class demands it. We can’t expect too much change without help. Most kids who act out in CI classrooms do so out of a lack of the skill set needed to actually do the class, and they just can’t change with a snap of the fingers. We have to work on teaching them how to act all year.
Act now beyond the quick conversation with any kid who exhibits failure to follow the rules or hold your peace, is the message here. If you don’t act now you won’t have the peace you need with those very few kids you need to confront NOW.
Some kids engage at the right amount. Some too much. What about the kids who withdraw?
It is my thought-out position that, generally, kids who withdraw from interacting in a CI class have a reason to do so.
We all know that kids withdraw in traditional textbook classes from pure boredom. But when things are interesting (and they always are in a properly run CI class), then there is reason to respect the withdrawal of the kids in CI classes as more serious.
If we were to videotape hundreds of CI classes vs. hundreds of grammar classes we would see much more varied observable non-verbal authentic engagement in the CI classes than in the grammar classes. One thing is certain in CI classes – kids are listening more than they appear to be.
When a class is pushing you, and Classroom Rule #2 and the “Zero Option” aren’t doing the job, you can go to two options, known as the “Mini-Elevator Speech” and the “Elevator Speech” –
(said to an offending child or group who keep talking despite your having used Rule 2 and the Zero Option on them) –
“You are sending me a message but let’s not talk about that right now. In fact I don’t want to talk to you about it at all, but I will be talking to somebody about this.”
I’ve added something new to my explanation of the Classroom Rules. It’s this little speech that I make whenever someone breaks one of the rules. If you want, you can make it into a little “elevator speech” that you should probably use AT LEAST ONCE A DAY in the first few weeks of school. The speech is used as a final flourish on the steps below, to complete a bad ass option for you in your classroom on the topic of clasroom management. Instead of memorizing it, you may wish to just print it out and refer to it when going through the steps below is not enough. Speak in a calm way, but let them hear the voice of an adult. So whenever you see or hear ANYTHING INAPPROPRIATE (usually side talking or a phone out) in the first few weeks.
We can’t have the mindset when we start the year that we are going to be merely teaching our students a language – that part is incidental. Rather, our mindset should be about looking forward to training them, which includes hiring the 17 student jobs (over months and months). We want to get to know our students as allies, to work together with them to build something far more than a dry academic environment. That is why we start with Card Talk and wait on One Word Images, which can get out of control because the kids enjoy making them so much. They shouldn’t be making OWIs and ICIs until they have been thoroughly trained via Card Talk, which is a trick activity that answers our immediate first weeks needs to build community and put the hammer down on classroom management before it’s too late. We want the community building and classroom management pieces strongly in place to start the year, with the language coming along for the ride as we focus fully on those critical two things. Besides, One Word Images are not even as fun and interesting as Individually Created Images. So we introduce them later, after we’ve done Card Talk and ICIs.
People who like to micromanage sometimes think that the Interpersonal Skill grade at 65% is too much, but it’s the most accurate grade we have. We are experts in assessing observable non-verbal behaviors and people who don’t teach a language aren’t. We see things they can’t see in kids’ eyes. If a kid isn’t able to shift (this is rare) the way they think a language class oughta be, we have to teach them and constantly redirect them with command of the classroom while we are teaching and honest use of the jGR (or whatever interpersonal skill rubric you are using) while we are assessing.
This information is taken from the first of the Invisibles trilogy books, A Natural Approach to Stories (ANATS, 2015), which preceded A Natural Approach to the Year (ANATTY, 2017), which have now led to The Invisibles/The Invisibles Supplements (2019).
If the classroom rules are not the main subject of the first weeks of class, you may as well do a silly walk out of your classroom and stay gone, because nothing significant, except lots of headaches and heartaches, will happen in that classroom for the rest of that year.
One Must Be Out of One’s Mind
If it is so important, then what are we going to do about this problem of how our classroom feels? Retain the status quo or be bold and make changes to what we are currently doing? Do we really want good classroom management or are we merely going to fret away another year wanting our kids to behave in our classes but not really doing anything concrete about it?
Why ask these questions? It is because, in my view, at least 70% or 80% of all classroom management problems are caused directly by bored and disengaged students.
Classroom Management is Based On How Our Students Feel
We must make our classes interesting if we are to plug into the CI powerhouse and make it work for us. Here is the key sentence that we must keep in mind at all times if we are to make CI work for us:
Students must be interested in the comprehensible input that they hear and the only way that can happen is if they feel good when they are in the classroom. Why would someone want to listen to something in a setting in which they don’t feel comfortable?
We are not yet arrived at the nuts and bolts of classroom management in our summer examination of what the term actually means and how we can master it in our classroom in the fall. More reflection on what we want to see from our students in our classrooms is needed before we go to the specifics.
I’ve posted the article below many times since its first appearance here in 2008 and I apologize for not posting it more. I think that any discussion of classroom management actually is is incomplete without this information.