Melissa has some important questions. Let’s provide her with some great responses:
I am back to having a hard time again. I feel so all-over-the place with this stuff. I feel like the stuff my students shout out for cute answers are so all over the place… like I’ll ask where did the person go? and they’ll yell, she went to the gym to workout because she has a day job at KFC and she eats all day and so on… and I am like “hold on! one thing please” and they don’t know all that stuff and so I start trying to teach it to them and then I’ve done too much. I am just having a hard time regulating what is too much new information. I feel a little like a wing-nut right now!
Me: This is a CLASSIC error and easily fixed. The kids have tricked you. You asked for cute answers but simply failed to make it clear that their answers have to be limited to two words and they saw their opening and ran with it. Now, there are two theories on this, mine – limiting answers to two words in English – and Blaine’s – answers only in target language. I have gone back and forth but really Blaine is right and I am wrong. Kids need to be trained properly by the adult in the room. Muzzle them. Tell them NO English answers. Now this is tricky. What will happen is that they will still slip some short English answers in, over and over, especially now since it wasn’t all established in August. So you allow a little English, a little water over the top of the dam, but you don’t let the dam burst, which is what you have now. It’s a real balancing act. I will ask the group on this. You’ll get some good answers and you will get this problem solved*.
Melissa: There is probably lots of information about this on line but I just don’t have time to surf through it all right now. Can you lead me in the right direction? I don’t think my students know enough base words to do most stories yet. I’ve only done one successfully and it was very simple.
Me: Yeah well I’ll put this out about sufficient base vocabulary out to the group as well. My own first response is to simply use ultra simple story scripts. And read a lot to build their capacity to do stories. Pobre Ana has only 300 words. If you have that book. But Carol is coming out with the best books right now and simpler ones, so don’t get it if you don’t already have it. Maybe Carol will read this and respond in an airport or something. Diana also knows the deal on the best beginner books.
Melissa: I know this method works. I just feel so disorganized with what I am teaching them and I am trying to be comfortable with my mistakes as I learn the process, but that’s hard. Also, I feel like they always want to add in things that are not nice…and that’s not my personality either nor is it something we want to allow in a school environment. Granted, it’s never about a live person and they said “the books we read have stuff like that written in them about fictional characters”. Like the girl has a mustache and a uni-brow and stuff. I stopped doing portrait physique for a little bit because I couldn’t anticipate what they would say. They’d say the girl is fat and then yell out I love Twinkies! as a fitness instructor and someone that tries to help people, I don’t feel comfortable with that mentality. I know they are only 12 and they are actually nice children who are trying to be funny and impress their friends, so I tried to use it as a teaching lesson to talk about sensitivity toward that, which I did. Any advice on that would be helpful. Now I am rambling.
Me: This rude answer thing is another one that you can think about really fixing only next year with a strong start enforcing jGR on the blurting, in my opinion. I don’t know if it is too late or not now. This may be the #1 reason people have quit TPRS over the years. I’m sure it is. Somehow, you just stay in the TL, which shuts down rude comments in the most efficient way. I know I know – so easy to say but so hard to do. We just need to keep their answers in the TL (some answers will slip out into discussion in English as I said but the way it happens – which is hard to describe – is that no one notices the water over the dam and you keep on objecting to the English and keep the lid pretty much on the English. Only one teacher, Reuben Vyn, never uses English (truly) and his end of year assessments are by far and away the best in the district – way above the rest – with a very low poverty ridden student population. Ironically, there is an IB program in the building in which the children of poverty vastly outscore the IB kids in a truly bizarre twist (at George Washington High in Denver). Another thing is to say to the rude comment kids, in English, is “That’s inappropriate!” and move on quickly. They are children and it’s their job to try to stretch the boundaries of what is appropriate, as Laurie mentioned here recently. They want to know where the limits are, where the walls of the room are, and so to do that they have to push against them. But you have to stop those comments fast and hard. This is about personal power and internal change on your part. It is a major reason teachers give up on TPRS. Others in the group will surely comment on this and the other two questions you asked above. This is not an impossible mission, but the change will be emotionally uncomfortable for you. It is a change you must make, not the kids. And if you start thinking about it now and expecting yourself to actually do it in the fall, you can make this change. Do you want them to walk over you or not? Probably not. So change how you respond to their blurtings. Change what you feel you need from them. You don’t ned them to like you, you need them to shut the hell up. The good news is that this is just typical stuff we all have to go through as we learn the method. I left out a big piece of this and that is jGR. It EXISTS to handle this kind of blurting. BUT ONLY IF YOU USE IT PROPERLY. That is, if a kid blurts something inappropriate, and you let her go, then it’s all on you. There are many posts on that topic here and I see so many people who fail with jGR bc they lack the kahunas to stick the 1 grade on the blurters. They don’t MAKE jGR STICK on the kid. I fear that many more of us in our group misuse jGR than use it as jen intended it to be used. We’ll see what the group says on this. And go reread some more of those posts about jGR. And give the kids jobs too, but later when the problem is solved, and let those jobs emerge slowly and organically in class over time so that the ownership is real. The main thing is this – don’t allow them to blurt stuff in English. It is always the biggest problem. You just don’t allow that blurting in English. You just don’t. It’s a given. It is going to be a huge piece of our success with RT as we move forward. In fact, get ready for some serious discussions about how RT has a huge chance of failing without our proper use of jGR. That discussion is coming as soon as we get RT up and running, which is going to be fairly soon for some of us as these new templates get built.
Melissa: I could use some motivation and helpful hints for organization. Every time I start a story I feel like there is too much to teach them.
Me: Again, then limit what you are teaching. You may need to stop with the stories, or use simple scripts (see “first story” category here). Or go to the “TPRS Resources” page of this site and go back to the OWI and CWB basics that we usually start the year with. Do an animal wall, Charlotte’s Wall Zoo. Others will comment.
*I told Carol last week during the advanced session that I have trouble staying in the TL during class and she looked at me with a bit of incredulity and said, “What do you mean? The kids don’t speak English. That’s it. Why are we talking about this?” I felt like a biscuit. Letting in English is something I may never get mastery of. But I have to try and try**. Do you get what I mean, Melissa, about limiting the amount of water over the dam but not letting the dam burst? That’s kind of where I’m at with this. On some days I can do a full-on class in L2, but it’s just not something that I am good at.