The advantages of WBYT as a CI teaching skill (over the batch of skills we used to have to remember) are great. Instead of having to consciously remember to do all of things listed below in class, which I found impossible given all the other things I have to remember, WBYT allows us to do them automatically. It forces us to:
This profound report from Craig reveals exactly what WBYT can bring to your instruction. It reminds us that engaging kids, actually commanding their attention in the TL, doesn’t happen as nearly as much as we think:
Hey Ben –
Thinking about the Invisibles has helped me realize that language is ALL about what we see, feel, hear,etc. It’s all about making observations and expressing those observations in new ways. Today we read again the description of character we created yesterday. The image was the perfect subject. Then after that we discussed a single image from a movie talk that in past years I’ve just kind of blown through. For the first time I went SLOW, walked before I talked and wrote everything down. For the first time I felt like I was bringing students along. It was really enjoyable to see that the kids that actually need the language instruction were starting to understand things. Here’s the image we discussed.I think what I found most fulfilling was that there was no phoniness in our interaction. I’m not trying to “make” them do what I want. We’re merely making observations together.
If you read my older books from 10-15 years ago, they are filled w details about how to make TPRS work. Each year from 1997 or so to 2015, when I finally jumped the TPRS ship, the skills and strategies got more and more complex until they were a real burden.
I attribute this to a cadre of the same people who each year would organize the summer conferences and their ideas – each year the same – put a kind of stranglehold on people. The message was that you had to keep going back to the conferences if you wanted to master it. Nothing really changed in those years.
My classes are small so the day after Card Talk they all remembered the information from each other (and said it in French!). Even the French 2 class with 9 kids. So I was wondering if I should do a Write and Discuss about their cards next class but if you think I can go straight to OWI then I can do that.
Yes, I have read about the Walk Before You Talk technique. It is really helpful! I “see” their brains working as I walk 😀 They look like they are thinking hard.
Your rules on the wall work perfectly. They barely blink in class and they participate. Amazing focus and discipline so far. Thankful for the Bite-Sized Book of Classroom Management which I love so much. It has been helping me immensely as I feel prepared to act properly when needed, thank you!
Walk Before You Talk (WBYT)
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
The Walk Before You Talk process is complex in the sense that learning to ride a bicycle is complex but, once learned, is natural and easy. It describes the body mechanics of good comprehension-based instruction. For the authors, it is a core mantra in this work, a cornerstone practice.
Most CI teachers have trained themselves to speak in terms of words or word chunks, short little packets of meaning that we feed to the class with silences in between them, silences that are of immense value to our students because they allow them the time they need to process what they are hearing.
But what we do when we use Walk Before You Talk takes the process up a notch. What we do is to say the next word or word chunk that we want to say only after we have walked to a visual representation of it.
In the moments of communicating with the class, in those moments of providing silences between our words, before we move on to the next word or word chunk in our message, we learn to walk to a visually concrete representation of what we are saying to our students. How?
In every moment of our instruction, before we speak the next words, we become aware of what our feet are doing. This may sound strange, but if we don’t become aware of our feet we will never learn the art involved here.
Before we talk, we simply walk in an unhurried way over to the board, and then, only after arriving at whatever visual aid we are walking to, we put our hand on it. Just randomly pointing at the word or image from where we are standing is not enough; we must walk to it and put our hand physically on it.
What do we walk to and put our hand on? It could be any one or more of these things:
– an already-created one word image in the Gallery
– an already-created individually created image in the Gallery
– another drawing or image somewhere in the classroom
– something we write in L1 and L2 when arriving at the board
– something on the board that is already written in L1 and L2
– a chart or visual aid
– an imaginary space in front of the students (used primarily in building one word images)
– a piece of realia such as a piece of paper or a red marker, etc.
– anything that we can find in our classroom that helps us to be better understood
(TPR gesturing is another example of a visual aid.)
The theoretical premise of putting our hand on a visual aid before we speak is grounded in the idea that our students need as many kinds of input as we can possibly provide them with in order for them to understand. Many CI teachers assume to a fault that their students understand the message, but when we use Walk Before You Talk we avoid that pitfall. We use WBYT to guarantee that our students understand, because there is nothing more important than that in comprehensible input based instruction.
Walking with awareness to a visual aid before we speak is such a boon for our students! In effect, we are providing brain breaks during our instruction at every turn when we do Walk Before You Talk, in every class, during stories and not separate from them, all year long.
Giving the students the processing time that they need, making the meaning of our speech concrete, has the additional effect of slowing us down. We milk the silences that are generated by our remembering to walk to the visual aid. We do not let the silences make us want to fill them. Each second of silence at this point in our students’ careers as language learners is a gift to them, as they process and learn how to take in the new language.
When we walk, we learn to breathe. Doing this reduces our cortisol levels and should not feel awkward to us. It does not feel awkward to our students, who are basking in the silences, savoring the extra processing time. Knowing that they will be able to see what we are saying before hearing it greatly reduces the affective filter, as everything has a chance to go “kathunk” in their minds before we hit them with a totally new string of sounds.
Certain words in a sentence clamor to be treated using Walk Before You Talk (WBYT). Others don’t. For example, in the sentence “She sells sea shells,” assuming we are working with a beginning class early in the year in one of their first stories (around October), we would use the technique with the word “she” by simply walking to the actor and doing a Vanna White move to indicate “She”, in a celebratory kind of way.
There is no need to write “she” on the board because what it means is so obvious. Then, assuming that the class has not yet encountered the verb “sells”, we would need to fully use the WBYT technique by walking to the board, writing it down in both languages, then putting our hand on the L2 word, and only after we have done that do we say it aloud (with a smile) before moving on to the next word. The instructor has to decide in each moment of instruction which words need highlighting with WBYT and which do not. When you are working, you know it instantly – the words tell you.
Obviously, as the year goes on and as each new academic year begins, our students grow stronger and stronger and we see that this technique is needed less and less with each passing week. At one point, usually in April of the second year, our students – curiously – move with us exponentially into an entirely different place of command of the language. It is an amazing thing when this happens.
This exponential shift brings with it lots of output, as long as it hasn’t been forced before then. So it is important that we devote as many CI instructional minutes as we can (certainly at least 50% of uninterrupted L2 exposure for as many minutes as possible in each class) up until that curious point of exponential supercharging of comprehension in the second year, if it is to happen.
Another point to make here is that the authors see no pressing need to teach certain “super” verbs early on in the first year. Isolated language is not as powerful as language in context, and so the authors advocate less time spent on isolated TPR of words early on in the first level of study in favor of more and earlier stories. The students will learn the verbs better that way, in our opinion.
We do light TPR in stories. TPR always seemed artificial and kind of lame to me. Like circling and gesturing, it brings up that conscious learning factor in the moments of comprehension, which removes the flow of focus only on meaning. I make instructional decisions very much on intuition and process, and circling and gesturing and also TPR should be done lightly during instruction, and only lightly, so that the supremely important focus on meaning – which alone drives acquisition – can be uninterrupted and unfettered.
Another example of using WBYT: In the sentence, “Buddy is tall.”, no visual aid is necessary, except our hands and arms. We can point out Buddy in the Vanna White way, and then we can completely skip any motion for the verb “is” because it is clear what it means. (The students will learn “is” when they read the story). All we need to do is say “is” but the students will absorb its meaning when they hear and understand “Buddy” and “tall”. Then, without a visual aid again, we simply exaggerate “tall” by reaching up above the actor’s head to convey the meaning of that word.
We turn words into meaning and WBYT is very effective in helping us do that. That’s really all we do. If someone asked me what I do for a living, I would say that I “turn words in languages into meaning for anyone who wants to them”. I certainly wouldn’t say that I “teach” languages because that is impossible. All I can do is provide comprehensible input and let the students’ pleasant and effortless focus on the meaning of what I am saying provide their deeper minds with the language which, when presented in this way, makes everyone involved in the process experience something extraordinary – the power of the unconscious mind to learn a language without it being taught to them.
So when we use WBYT, we start extremely slowly at first with isolated words, and then, whenever we feel that our class has turned the “exponential corner” referred to above (each class is different), we start in with more and more word chunks and even complete sentences and by the upper levels with complete paragraphs and finally with entire stories. However, it bears repeating that if we fail to properly use as many instructional minutes in those first few years, we won’t have them moving along happily so that, if your school still invests money and energy in the AP and IB exams, your students will be ready for them.
Walk Before You Talk provides the brakes for our runaway mouths. We relish the silence and sense of focus that this kind of instruction provides our students – it helps them so much! When we walk before we talk, our speech flows naturally, and our kids tune in without effort (Krashen uses the word “effortless” a lot). When we do this, it allows us to smile more, as well. Kids need to see us smile. They learn more when we smile.
So the process is: (1) we think “Now I am going to turn sound into meaning….”, (2) we take a deep breath, (3) while breathing we walk calmly over to whatever visual aid we have chosen to represent the meaning of, writing it down if needed on the board in both languages, (4) we put our hand on the word or image that represent what we are about to say, and then, finally, (5) we say it, with our hand physically on it, scaffolding its meaning, while smiling..
The process seems to daunting, but consider the options. We could go to the faculty lounge and complain that our students that year are “stupid” or “lazy”. WTBY is only daunting in the way that learning to ride a bicycle is daunting. Once you learn the body mechanics of Walk Before You Talk, you will have it in the cells of your body, and will soon be strutting your stuff with the kind of swagger we see in Tina’s videos.
For more information on how to make your speech comprehensible, please see our Bite-Size Books for Language Teachers series (available at ci-liftoff.teachable.com). Of particular note to teachers wishing to learn about how to make their speech comprehensible are the Bite-Size Book of Non-Targeted Input and the Bite-Size Book of SLOW.