A repost from 2011:
We want to be like pitching machines, which, being robotic, do not overly concern themselves with the ideas part/where the story goes. It’s like a director deciding to develop the dialogue for a film around the personality of an actor (the class) and not on a script connected to targets (the “curriculum”). There is no curriculum. Or, the curriculum is the language. Pick one.
Developing a story line should therefore be in part in the domain of the kids. We need only deliver the ball in the form of slow pitches that they can hit, and asking questions that reflect what they want to talk about (what I have called emergent language and what Tina and I call non-targeted language) and not on what we want them to learn (target structures), because the latter bores them and inhibits the great potential of comprehensible input.
In our concern to make the method work, we often take away from our students, the batters in our daily game, the only thing that they can control in the room – their own answers. We control too much, often listening to the same few kids to the exclusion of others. This causes those others to feel ignored and the class begins to feel like an exclusive club. The images – Invisibles and One Word Images – halt all that because when they have drawn the characters all the kids can hit the ball.
Here we are discussing the equity piece again – The ignoring of the many in favor of a few. We pitch to the class in such a way that only the fast processors – the fast ball hitters – can hit it and the class gets taken over by the superstars. Hmmm.
Has that ever happened to you, where a kid comes up after class and says, “I really had a good answer on that one Mr. Slavic but you didn’t look at me.” And then they justifiably try to guilt us a little before walking out of the room, like in Le Petit Prince (Ch. 8):
…elle avait toussé deux ou trois fois, pour mettre le petit prince dans son tort/she had coughed a few times to make the little prince feel like he was the one who had made the mistake:
– Ce paravent?/the windscreen?…
– J’allais le chercher mais vous me parliez!/I was going to get it but you were speaking to me!
Alors elle avait forcé sa toux pour lui infliger quand même des remords/So she coughed a bit harder just to make him feel a little more guilty.
In our defense, it is an almost impossible thing to read one shy adolescent’s mind hiding in a group of 35 kids, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try.
When we focus on trying to be some kind of master of ceremonies, some besotten clown-like entertainer, we forget what our main focus should be in class of simply pitching baseballs that they can hit. We don’t overpitch, because then we wear out our voices/arms and the kids can’t hit those pitches anyway and we all lose.
Just watch Blaine – his delivery is relaxed, unanxious, over the plate, and easy to hit. Everybody who wants to play gets their turn at bat when Blaine is the pitcher.