So here is my plan for the spring. As stated, its first priority is my own mental balance and not the delivery of as much CI into my classroom as possible, which I see now was a serious mistake that I have made with TPRS for the past fifteen years, because it caused me to put my job over my general sense of well-being. (It didn’t help that CI was so interesting, so game changing, as the game has played out for many of us!)
This is just an initial testing phase, of course, and is not intended for anyone else’s use but my own, since there is no “one way” to do TPRS. It is offered in the spirit of shared inquiry and welcome healthy dispute that marks all of our discussion here.
This plan is geared to an 85 minute block class but of course can be adapted to fit classes of any length:
First part of class/ Part A:
1. We start class as many of us do with SSR of our current novel. (I just don’t believe that FVR works in schools, except in certain fairly uncommon conditions. Teachers who are new to TPRS can search SSR/Silent Sustained Reading in the search bar for details.) The usual rules apply but as we have decided here in recent months a ridiculously easy text should be chosen. Each class starts with ten minutes of silence, after we have quickly settled them in and together decided using English on what passage to read. (The fast readers can read ahead as far as they like during this period but are still responsible for discussion and quiz on the decided upon passage – which can vary from a few paragraphs to several pages – to be given at the end of the silent reading period.) The pages chosen should easily allow the slowest readers in the class plenty of time to prepare for the next two steps of this first section of class. We do not teach for the few. While the kids are reading I settle in over at my desk to rest a bit, check the blog, and write a ten question yes/no quiz to give after the 5 – 10 min. (or longer if I want) discussion.
2. Next, we have our 5 to 10 min. of discussion of the text in the TL, with no use of English translation at all. (New readers here please search “Read and Discuss” and “Reading Option A” for some articles on how to discuss a reading passage using comprehensible input.) Since we have chosen a novel and a passage that is almost effortless for all of our students, we don’t need to do any translation. (Translating passages is ok as a part of ROA, even though it is not CI and therefore has little actual pedagogical value, but these days I don’t ever translate during SSR and I only translate when I use ROA – after the creation of a story – because it eats up minutes and gives the kids a bit of confidence for the Read and Discuss/Teaching from the Back of the Room part of ROA.)
3. Give the quick quiz. (New readers here please search “Quick Quiz” in the search bar for what has become for many of us THE best formative assessment tool we have.)
In my view the above three simple SSR steps are a GREAT way to start any CI class. Class can start slowly with little effort on my part (“it’s all about me”) and everyone, students and teacher alike, can enjoy the quietude. And the time is not lost at all – if we do SSR for ten minutes five times a day, we pare our own instructional day down immediately by 50 minutes, which over the course of a year is 150 hours! Not to mention that those minutes are all in the form of what we all know is the best form of CI out there – reading!
Sometimes we need to learn how to just shut up and let them read. What is more important, my CI plan or my students reading authentically in silence? Very often students who are clearly deeply engaged in reading complain, sometimes bitterly, when I tell them it’s time to get back to class, so I don’t stop them anymore when they are on a reading roll. We all have had classes where they even read silently until the end of the period, but that only happens with the right SSR books.
Sometimes I play classical music during this time, to slow the kids’ brainwaves down, as per:
Or sometimes I play one of those “Three Hour Meditation” music selections from YouTube while the kids read. One that I find particularly relaxing for me and the students is this one:
Observations about doing the first part of my CI classes using SSR in the above way:
When the kids’ minds are fresh and they are listening to wonderfully relaxing music and when they are reading at a level well below their abilities to start class off, many good things happen. Confidence is there. They are reading for meaning (the purpose of all CI) and not to be “challenged” to consciously decipher and decode the words in front of them. (The first – reading for meaning – is an unconscious activity and fully in keeping with Dr. Krashen’s research; the second – studying the words on the page to try to understand what they say – is a conscious activity that doesn’t align with comprehensible input theory at all.) After the reading, the L2 discussion with no translation part of class keeps the flow of the TL going. Ending this part of class with a quick quiz keeps the kids honest.
Before you know it, your CI classes are almost (or more than!) half over and all you did up to this point was have them read silently, then talk with them about what they read in the TL for awhile, then give a quiz. The kids feel confident because of how easy it is for them to read the text, and then during the discussion, since you are such an expert at SLOW, no fast processors can hijack the class, and then the quiz eats up more minutes and requires kids when they come into class the next day to take the SSR reading and discussion seriously.
All we have to do to add to the above is make sure we are frequently using the classroom rules:
So that is what I would like to do everyday to start class for this second semester. It’s a plan anyway. I think it should test out pretty well in the next few weeks. SSR has been tested so successfully here over so many years anyway, and so we know that, no matter what, starting class with SSR as described above is probably going to be a good strong start to our offering excellent CI instruction with minimal hassle for us and therefore will keep us close to the cherished idea that our mental health should always come before trying to be the best CI teacher in the world.