I’ll categorize this post as a bail out move, but it’s more than that. It’s an attempt to describe the free and loose spirit of what we do and how we can go anywhere at anytime with anything and have a great time doing it. It’s an attempt to point out that this work with CI is about not letting fear rule our lives in our classrooms. That has been the case in CI classrooms for a long time. How does fear get into and rule our CI classrooms? It does so by riding in on the old, false and petrified idea in language instruction that we have to teach something specific. Teaching a language is a glorious (reflecting its Creator) process and the sooner we can start teaching in an unfettered and free way, the better will be our CI instruction.
Today I found myself with ten minutes to fill at the end of class. I filled it in the following way and highly recommend this as a way to fill up time fast:
Pick a sentence. Any sentence. Start getting reps on it. That’s it. In my situation today of having those ten minutes at the end of class and having to fill them, as I looked around the room, my eyes rested on a reading that we had just done in that class. It was actually still projected on the board. I let my eyes travel to this sentence in the reading:
“When Anoushka is afraid she gets nervous.”
In the past when I was less experienced I would have missed what a gold mine that sentence is. It is not just potentially full of fun CI that could gobble up those ten minutes and make them feel as if they are only ten seconds; it could also be expanded into a mountain of CI if I had more time.
THIS IS WHAT WE DO IN CI. We work from the small to the large, from the specific to the general. We take something small, a few words, a single word, anything with a little life in it, and, like cotton candy in those machines at the county fair, we spin sweetness out of the granules of sugar and feast on it in class. THAT IS WHAT WE DO.
We go from the specific to the general. We spin lots of language from a little language. We do this because we want to communicate with our students. When we build a story we lift the heavy yoke from our shoulders, the yoke that is the false belief that “we are the teacher” and “we are in charge” and “it’s all up to us”, and instead we now see the possibility that we can bow humbly to the magical process, a process that sometimes feels as if it is being guided along by angelic beings somewhere in the room that we can’t see, a process that happens when we GIVE UP CONTROL in order to CREATE SOMETHING NEW with our students.
When we GIVE UP THAT CONTROL, giving up that heavy yoke that says, “I have to teach this class!” written on it in big letters, and when we take a simple sentence that the kids already know and we JUST TALK ABOUT IT TO THE KIDS, expanding it, and we just start using it, we find out things like:
When Oliver is afraid, he doesn’t get nervous.
When Mikayla is afraid, she gets a little nervous, but not much.
When Ana is afraid, she doesn’t get nervous at all.
When Daniel is afraid, he gets nervous.
Each of these bits of information that I got by extending a sentence from the reading is ABOUT MY KIDS AND THEREFORE INTERESTING AND WORTHWHILE TO KNOW, because the business of human communication which as language teachers is our business is WHAT WE DO.
We FIND THINGS OUT ABOUT OUR KIDS. This is called communication and Eric is right to make it clearly what is becoming one of the signature threads on our PLC for 2015-2016.
Did I even know that I was going to pick that sentence to fill the last ten minutes of class. No. Did it matter which sentence I chose? No. This is because as we grow deeper and deeper into maturity with this great human participatory and creative process that we call TPRS or CI or whatever, we are starting to figure out that the nuts and bolts and mechanical aspects of it JUST DON’T MATTER.