I am about to embark, for the rest of the year, on using much more reading and songs to generate CI. I think that the focus on stories may have kept us from innovating more than we have into these two vital areas – vital because they are more interesting to teenagers who may not want to actually be in the class.
Of course, stories would work wonderfully with paying students who are highly motivated. And they work wonderfully in most settings. But I have just spent over a year in an urban setting with huge classes, with at least five and up to ten kids in the room who pull energy from the larger group and thus lower the quality of the CI. To quote a recent email from a colleague:
…and you’re right – a few little asswipes in the class can poison the atmosphere. Blatant violations can be dealt with, it’s the insidious pissy little attitudes that creep in and undermine what we are trying so hard to do….
I don’t know why this group of clueless kids (no blame – they are unconscious) in our classes hasn’t received more press over the years in the different TPRS discussion groups. These few kids, after all, have ruined CI for many classes, and many teachers have quit the method precisely because of these few unconscious kids. Teachers agonize daily about how to reach these kids, when it is fair to ask if they can be reached at all.
Maybe the fact that, over the past twenty years, TPRS has failed in making strong inroads into the existing curricula not just because of the resistant power of the grammar wolves guarding the hen houses, and not just because it is perceived as difficult by too many people, but really because of these kids who wouldn’t be reached by anything because they are in rebellion mode. Those kids may be the real culprit in the failing of TPRS to be more universally used by now in our nation’s classrooms.
That is why I am going to spend the rest of this academic year seeing if more reading and a lot more twexted songs can generate more interest in the CI discussion than stories and PQA, because they reach deeper into those pissy kids’ hearts. Especially songs, right?
Maybe by the end of this year I can say that, for me, CI now consists of four, not two, things:
I have been so taken by the power of PQA and stories these past ten years that I have lost the obvious – reading and music are more powerful than PQA and stories to catch the interest of the entire class, including in particular those five or ten students who disrupt the chemistry of our classes by sucking on the positive energy generated by the others.
Michele told me about Victoria’s recent successes with using music almost uniquely in her classes and we should hear about that here soon. It’s not like the focus of the blog will change, but it will shift, at least my own entries will shift a bit, more towards reading and music. It’s not like we don’t have around four thousand texts in the form of blog entries and comments on the subject of PQA and stories here over the past three years anyway.
*I know that reading has always been an important part of using contextualized comprehensible input as this thing has developed, but I just never did it enough, not nearly enough, so I kind of have to add it as a new thing to my list.