Maybe God wants more of Her humanity in our classrooms, and that is why we do PQA, and try, as best we can, to talk to the kids about themselves.
It doesn’t matter how bad or embarrassing it is for us. We try anyway, because it is finally time for that – we have reached the tipping point. It is time for teachers to take a rock solid genuine interest in their students and to let go of the GPA chokehold in favor of the PQA handshake. The kids were turning blue!
We can’t keep Krashen’s research in the pipeline forever! It has to eventually find a garden to water. What good is great information if it isn’t applied? Blaine and Susan Gross found a way to connect Krashen’s water to our classroom gardens, and it all has to do with talking to the kids about themselves so that they will take an interest in our classes.
So we just need to keep asking the kids about themselves. We need to find ways to do that. If things stall, we just bring in another kid and compare the two – that always works. Or we compare them favorably to a movie star or a rock star or a great athlete. We stay present with them. We don’t panic and run away. We make them great.
The language is the medium is the subject matter, so there is nothing to teach. Just by communicating with them in the language we are doing our jobs. So why not talk about them? Our skills at doing that will determine how much they learn.
Ours is a method that requires trust in the classroom. Don’t try to bullshit them anymore – it won’t work. They’ll just fold themselves up in their seats and wait for class to be over. Be there with them. Let things emerge in the fullness of genuine human interaction.
The slightest whisper of “The North Pole?” from the back of the room in response to your question about where this happened can become a symphony of CI. Language self-blossoms, but we have to water the roots of the discussion with good questioning and good listening. It really is a garden, isn’t it?
So we let things emerge. We try to really hear what the kids tell us. We trust that what they tell us is interesting to them. We let go the choke hold. Gnarls says “Do you really think you’re in control?” and then he laughs.
Let them be. When you stall, get out of the way for a moment and look at what is really happening between you and your kids. Hear them. Bring that into class. Talk about that. Did the kid who told you he had “a troll” in his closet really mean that? If he did, go there. Forget your silly story script, which is just the banks of the river, and not the river itself.
Kids who have learned to play the system by telling their teachers what they think you want to hear quickly figure out that they need to tell you something real instead in the storytelling classroom, and so the rules change in favor of much greater interest.
The kid who is labeled stupid in his other classes tells you something real and you realize that it is the institution that makes him appear stupid. You make the stupid kid into the smart kid by unfolding him from his chair with good questioning. He’s not left behind anymore.
Finding the really gifted ones is an art form – they are rarely the ones you used to think were talented before you found TPRS. Give those kids space and importance. This emergence of previously folded up kids is one of the big secrets that we get to learn as we go deeper into the method.
If you stall again, and you will, and nothing is happening, just don’t react by choking them anymore (“now turn to page 43 in the book …”). Just take a deep breath and find some shred of a fact and develop that. When you do that you are proclaiming the victory of things human over the textbook, which is coming in fast now.
This method is so unique in that it allows us take a single word and turn it into a complex image jsut by asking a few questions. It’s just about asking questions. We must learn to ask questions for real. I try to do that in my little 16′ One Word Image on Vimeo. I am able to communicate in the target language with a bunch of 13 year old kids for 16 minutes on only their fifth day of class. That is Krashen.
If something works, extend it further – don’ t stop! Do not abandon emerging language because you think you have a story to get to. It is all a story. Don’t stop PQA that is working just because it goes off in another direction from the three phrases. The entire purpose of the three structures is to get something going in L2. If we can get that flow of L2, we can then naturally extend it into a story.
Develop some trust. Stop inflicting knowledge on them. They deserve not to be choked. They are tired of being choked in school. Stop that. They have been so very uncomfortable in those desks for so very long! Let them unfold themselves! Bring them back to life.