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192 thoughts on “Blurting”

  1. When you get a chance Ben, can you talk with these teachers and flesh out how that developed? How were blurters handled from day one? What were the consequences? How did administration support this? These answers will be so helpful to teachers attempting to recreate this in their classrooms. (and it may not be possible this year)
    with love,

  2. In all of these issues of classroom management there is an underlying, invisible but tacit agreement with the teacher. I don’t believe it can be imposed with a poster on the wall, as a matter of fact, I don’t believe it can be imposed at all. It sometimes comes with years of experience and some teachers seem to have it naturally. I’ve thought of this a lot, because I was not a natural in the classroom. I wanted to be liked, and couldn’t understand why kids would act up when I was so Nice.
    Now I realize that what people sometimes call my “natural authority” in the classroom comes from knowing that I am a competent and highly qualified teacher (something that it took me many years to understand) and respecting my students as competent, highly qualified human beings. Again it took me many years to see them as wonderful bundles of dreams and energy and hopes and potential, able to teach me as much as I could teach them. When I can look beyond the often awkward way that they express their frustrations and disappointments and see the inner being that is looking for a friend, a mentor, someone to respect, someone that respects them, then the only rule is working together to reach our goals. It helps to have rules on the wall and timers and student jobs, as symbolic walls that represent the limits, but the only true authority comes from mutual respect. If a teacher respects herself and respects her students, they will know it, feel it, and return it.
    Blurting in class? I stopped whatever I was doing and looked at the offender, without any trace of anger, trying to understand, patient, waiting for them to decide that maybe that wasn’t what they wanted to do, and when they fell silent and quiet, I said, “Thank you” as sincerely as possible, without the slightest touch of irony. Thank you for respecting my need to teach in this way at this moment. Blurting is often a demand for attention. My “Thank you” gave them my attention and, I hope, let them know that they could have it when they really needed it without disrupting the class.
    If this tactic is difficult for some young teachers to use, it may be because they lack confidence in their own authority. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never fool your students. Once again, this is something that horse-riding has taught me. A horse trusts a rider who is confident and sure of his skills and will act up and test a rider who is insecure. Not because the horse is naturally naughty, but because he senses the rider’s fears and begins to worry that there’s monsters everywhere. The main difference between a class full of teen-agers and a horse is that the horse never really realizes that he is what the rider is so worried about, whereas the kids figure it out immediately.

  3. Eloquently said, Judy. Yet, with some kids, merely treating kids with respect and dignity isn’t enough. Sure, it took me years as a young teacher to appreciate how treating kids with dignity and respect, and responding to interruptions with grace, authority, and some humor, can go a long way with students.
    But here is a reality: many of our students do not have experience relating with their teacher as we want them to relate with us. In other words, many of our students do not have the experience of knowing what it is like to surrender to the loving conversation that we direct; surrendering and submersing themselves for extended periods of time into the depths of messages being communicated in a foreign language to them.
    I do hope that soon I can exhibit the kind of natural authority that you exhibit with your students, Judy. I realize that won’t happen this year, since I started at a new school last month and kids were not held accountable much for anything before I came. And I gather that so many of us have similar experiences either because their are beginning using TCI or because they are working with kids that come from the traditional way of teaching L2.
    For us, we have to implement more than kindness, restorative redirections, and dignity. We have to find ways to get support.
    I hate to admit that after some draining weeks of redirecting kids with kindness when they blurt, I eased up. I tolerated and simply talked over kids that were talking over me. I was defeated. Occasionally I stopped and lectured to kids, sternly, about expectations and possibilities and dreams. I’ve put in tons of hours outside of class time to write referrals and call parents.
    I have been gradually understanding how support staff (deans and security guards) can assist me with managing students’ disruptions. Each school is different in this regard and it takes time to understand what support from them we can get. On Friday, I talked with one of my deans who, after some run-around, I got him to admit that he thought I was being too lenient with kids. I was so relieved to hear him say that. It is now very clear to me that I can dig in harder on students (if this sounds harsh to you, I apologize, but my reality working with students of poverty in the inner-city is probably different than yours). I can and I must. Everyday. I have to not tolerate the blurting and follow up, with consistency.
    Ben, I changed my “Classroom Rules”, which I label as “Interpersonal Communication Skills” on my board, a few weeks ago exactly as you just had. “Avoid English” has its own #.
    I discovered in my conversation with my dean that he has no tolerance for students that don’t sit in their assigned seats. Awesome to know! So, on Monday, we have a new seating arrangement. If a student refuses to sit in their assigned seat and I give them a moment to have a dignified chat with me but they continue to refuse, I will put them out to see the dean. I’m very hopeful that the strategic seating will help tremendously, especially now that I know that I have support from my dean in enforcing the seating assignments.

    1. Sean, I totally hear you. It took me a long time to be able to walk into a classroom with the confidence of knowing I was the professional, highly qualified person who was there to help students learn a language, and one of the things that got me there was feedback from students and colleagues and administration who thought that was what I was. At first I thought it was funny they imagined that. I thought how disappointed they’d be if they ever saw one of my classes and almost felt dishonest about putting up a front. But little by little I was able to build my own confidence. I worked so hard at putting up a good front when I was with my students that I eventually became the person I was trying to be.

      1. What I am learning from this thread and from Maria’s DPS class last Friday is that I am now no longer going to be able to use English in my classroom. I cannot be as Judy describes and use in English in my classroom as I have in the past. Color me changed on this big topic. Judy’s comments here are of key interest to me, because they go way beyond technique all the way to what we think of ourselves in the classroom. If we think highly enough of ourselves, we won’t use English. If we still need their approval, we will use English. Is that a fair statement? Perhaps not, but it is true and fair for me. That is my own takeaway from Judy’s points. There the French go again, re-educating the rest of the world. Et puis, enfin, alors… excuse me while I go rewrite the points about use of English in all my books.

        1. Exactly, Ben. “If we think highly enough of ourselves in the classroom, we won’t use English.” Because we often use English to be nice, to score points, to show them that we’re clever. I think there are moments when using English is valid – to establish meaning, while reading, etc. But we shouldn’t be using it to prove that underneath it all we’re really a good guy.

          1. That is a very precise and frank way to cut right at the issue.
            I use English when we aren’t in the TL for a ten/fifteen/twenty minute deal. I like talking with the kids in the moments and asking them how life is going. I also like to spend the first few minutes of class chatting in English to set the tone for the day. I don’t find this hurts our time in TL. I have actually found this year–maybe it’s my classes, lots of boys this year–that those moments in English make the times in TL possible and feel so much better and real.
            Basically, I talk in English with the kids sometimes because 1) it feels right, 2) I don’t think I could go all day, every day with a requirement on myself NEVER to speak English, and 3) it makes the times in TL better.

          2. I also start class every day in English for a few minutes sharing what is going on in our lives. I keep this in English because I want kids to know that I care about their lives whether or not they’re able to say it in Spanish. I don’t only want to hear from the rock stars. I like to think that this 3 minutes in English at the beginning of class builds trust and buy-in for the other 92 minutes of class. But maybe I will rethink this for next year.

          3. Sabrina did that last week as part of a school initiative to just talk with their kids about life. I asked her to write it up for us, because it profoundly affected her. I’ll share it later this week. Right now I’m interested in this no L1 thread. I think it’s earthshaking and hope to hear from others on this. It certainly shook my world. My take on use of L1 is that we are mostly all lying to ourselves.

      2. I get what you’re saying here, Judy. Thank you for writing it! For me, there certainly is an element of feeling less, or fearing what reactions I’ll have to deal with, or fearing enrollment issues, if I keep after the kids regarding use of English or anything else. It’s improving; it’ll continue to improve.
        But I hear what James is saying and that makes sense to me, too. Before class begins with the 1’s and 2’s especially, I sometimes talk to them in Chinese but also in English. I join their casual discussion at times. I have a small classroom: we all hear each other. It feels like I’m recognizing them as people; I’m entering their world a bit as I ask them to enter my Chinese world throughout class time. Sometimes those points can be used in Chinese discussion later, too.
        Teaching is a great job. I like thinking about things that matter. I’m glad this discussion is going on.

        1. Diane, you wrote, “It feels like I’m recognizing them as people; I’m entering their world a bit as I ask them to enter my Chinese world throughout class time. Sometimes those points can be used in Chinese discussion later, too.”
          I do that too. It’s important. I like the way you describe it as a sharing of worlds. We ease from one to the other. And sometimes it can give us good things to talk about for a bit in French. This discussion about No English just got me really thinking and reflecting on how I can do better with that, but I don’t want to take away what you describe here.

          1. Yeah. I think my tentative conclusion from this discussion is: don’t stress over it. I’m going to have to prioritize my mental health and students’ comprehension and let the % of English fall into place after that.
            For Chinese 3 & 4, that is maybe 95%. For Chinese 1 & 2, it’s less. With middle school & younger, it was even less, or it felt like it anyway. So, I’ll keep my current practice leaning in on as much use of Chinese as possible for all purposes, and less & less English. (One area to improve is classroom management issues without resort to English — last period Chinese 2 today was disappointing; we were all tired too.) Recently a Chinese 4 student heard me on the phone talking in English, and he said it was weird to hear me in English. So I think good enough!
            If I were currently to try to do 100% Chinese, I’d stress out, be unhappy, and would force something that didn’t grow organically from who I am but would be like an attempt to follow a law. I know b/c I’ve tried in the past, briefly, and I became like that. Yuck. I’m seeking to work from rest, and without fear, and so this is where I am for now. More power to those who can do it without losing their peace or their students! I’d like to see it!

          2. Your implication that 95% to 98% TL with just a little wiggle room makes sense, Diane. My only problem, and why I am so interested in this 99%+ idea, is that for me 95% may as well be 50%, the way I get going talking about sports and stuff in class. And I do know that 100% is not going to happen. But 99% can, 98% on a bad day. Still thinking about what it all means. I know it sounds nuts, but 97-98% may be too little and 100% too much. There has to be a sweet spot somewhere there in the very highest 90% area. And I know I am not alone – many of us talk a good ball game at 95% but never even come close. That’s the lie I can’t do any more.

          3. I think you’re starting from a different place, then. My starting place with target language use was pre-CI, hearing ACTFL say we needed to use 90% or more TL throughout all levels of class. It freaked me out. Back then, I was probably around 50% because that’s what I was used to experiencing as a student, and I had to explain lots of complex directions for textbook exercises and activities, so that was in English. My department talked about the 90% idea and my French colleague was going to do 100% French in her class (which lasted a long time, but she said she couldn’t do it with the following year’s students).
            So my 4th year teaching was a little CI based around a textbook and a lot of forced output. I became a TL use Nazi for a few months and graded the 8th grade kids on not using English, & aimed to speak only in Chinese myself. It was often not comprehensible because I hadn’t trained them up in TL.
            My relationship with the kids was not so fun during that period of enforced no-English, and they were actually one of my easiest groups to work with and quite a fun group (I still miss them). We debriefed about it after a while; one girl said it made her afraid to speak at all, and I could see that. I think I dropped the spoken Chinese grading after a couple months. I was also learning more about CI at the time so I was starting to appreciate and notice my students’ actual comprehension, not what “they ought to” understand or “ought to” be able to say.

          4. Another aspect to this that may or may not have been addressed above is the possibility, and I’m just exploring this, that L1 is used as a power tool in some classrooms. Kids who are extroverted, used to playing teachers for high grades, standout athletes and school leaders, use L1 to establish a kind of subtle dominance. L1 is their tool to do that. Next time you have a discussion in L1 with the class, observe who speaks. And yet, often, the leaders of today are the followers of tomorrow and some really quiet kid may be just in a cocoon waiting. Makes me put another check in the “No L1” column.

          5. I too really agree with James and Diane and Ruth that there are sometimes very valid reasons for the teacher to decide to use L1 rather than the target language. This started as a discussion of blurting out by students which is their way of hijacking a lesson. I use French with my students when I think it helps, but I want that to remain my decision. Since I’m now doing a lot of individual tutoring, I find that I adapt any and all rules to the student, their personality and their level. I have lessons that are 100% L2, others less though I always aim at 95-100% unless we are reading.
            And I understand Ben’s temptation, that if he lets in a little bit, he’ll get carried away. For many years I trained myself to say “I’m going to say this in French” before using the students’ L1. It was a way to discipline myself and to be sure that it was a conscious decision, not just a reflex. I no longer do that, but I still automatically make a time-out sign when I stop using the target language.

        2. “fearing enrollment issues”
          To me this is the heart of the unique management predicament that language teachers face across the country. We are the only discipline in a public school that can go extinct based on our approval rating with our students. Even if our kids acquire HUGE amounts of language, if they don’t consciously enjoy their time with us, they can jump ship to another language when they get the chance. Even worse, they can tell their siblings that you are “mean” or “boring” and your career and program are over.
          I work in a district that is very small and offers 4 languages from middle school on. Whether a teacher is full time or part time often comes down the decisions of two or three students. This has been my biggest obstacle to reaching that zen state of management.
          Liked + Respected = Strong Enrollment
          Disliked + Respected = Weak Enrollment
          Disliked + Not Respected = Career Threatening Enrollment
          Liked + Not Respected = ????

          1. Perfectly expressed. (By HS few, if any students really like a teacher they don’t respect. What they like is the freedom to do what they want and say what they want in his/her class without repercussions. )
            with love,

  4. What Judy said. That’s the book on blurting issues. I read it three times and can’t think of anything to add.
    I heard this from Judy:
    1. The Classroom Rules are not enough. No poster is enough.
    2. The teacher will not fool or coerce students into not blurting.
    3. If the teacher respects herself, the issue is done. If not, blurting will remain a problem.
    4. Wanting to be liked is a problem in a classroom.
    5. The horse thing.
    Laurie honestly it varied from teacher to teacher in my recent DPS observations and I apologize if I implied that all those I observed had the blurting piece down. Maria McGovern, to the extent that I consider necessary now, which is no blurting, did stay in the TL from the time her students walked into her classroom to the time they left it.
    Like Judy, I have also always naturally just stopped and looked at the kid, curious about the interruption, without a trace of anger or displeasure. My problem was that if what they blurted was interesting to me, I would respond in English and that was the end of that class. Only now after watching Maria’s class a few days ago do I see this for what it is – COLLOSAL.
    It’s about personal power here, to cut to the chase on blurting. Judy clearly expects complete respect for what she is doing. We don’t all do that. I never did. I do now. Which is why I keep walking back the “two words” of English rule and the “avoiding English” rule (now removed from the Classroom Rules poster). Both of those things convey to the students that:
    1. I don’t have the personal strength to insist that both parties, me and my students, stay in the TL.
    2. I don’t believe that it is necessary to stay in the TL language (it is).
    3. I don’t really take the no English rule seriously. (In doing that, so is ACTFL so I don’t feel too bad. Allowing 10% English in WL classrooms is interpreted by most teachers as “50% is the new 90%” – they are the same in lots and lots of CI/TPRS classes.)
    Laurie the two DPS teachers who stayed completely in the TL and whose students did the same were the two who were the most determined to do so, and whose sense of self was clearly not littered by doubt, or none that I could sense. They were determined to make their careers work. I know this because my own career was littered by doubt and English. But what better job is there than teaching to improve our own relationship with ourselves? What other professions forces us to help us believe in ourselves and that what we say to others has value and meaning?
    In that sense, for self-discovery, there is no profession like teaching. We either control blurting through self-respect, following Judy’s points above, or we might as well do a nice silly walk out of our classrooms and explain to our bosses that we won’t be teaching anymore, or at least not until we can find a way to lovingly maintain the blurting in our classrooms, which leads over time to much less happy classes. The kids don’t deserve the floor in our classrooms. Do lawyers ask for unasked for comments when pleading a case? It’s the same thing.

  5. Did Maria Mc Govern check for comprehension from TL into English? Or did she point and pause to the translation (without saying it) to stay entirely in TL? Or did Maria assess that her students understood in other ways? It sounds like an excellent idea to stay in L2 to keep the kids from blurting. No ambivalence.
    I find that I confuse my students by expecting “zero English” then ask them to translate into Emglish when I check their understanding. They give me that puzzled look like “make up your mind, English or no English?”
    Starting this week I will reset that button. And see what happens.
    Thank you. I needed to read this.

  6. Catharina how are you resetting the button? By not asking them to translate into English? I think that is the best. You can assess instantly/formatively in other ways. But what do I know, if I had to teach kids of the age you teach, I would start running as fast as I could towards the nearest exit. You are the saint among us with those four and five year olds.
    No Maria did not check for understanding by asking for English. She didn’t need to, as this was a 7th grade class in their second year with her and they clearly understood everything she was saying. She stayed on “quedarse” for 80 minutes with the aid of pics as Julie did in what we have labeled Visual PQA, or as Diana and I call it, Mega PQA.
    In the debrief I asked her about a moment during a shift in activities when a kid came up to ask her in English if she could go to the bathroom, after which she looked quizzically at the kid and walked away. Pressed for more information, she said, “I almost broke on that one, but I was determined not to break.”
    When the kid asked in Spanish, she was allowed to leave. THAT is determination. THAT is what I am suggesting here that, if we don’t have that mental strength, we should start practicing our silly walks out of our buildings, so that we can get some style points when we leave. Because if we allow in English in our classrooms, we are not going to get any style points from anyone.
    All this is just my opinion, or course, and I remind the reader that I have indeed been out of the classroom since May. It could be that I am dreaming on this one. “Sounds good to Ben but he clearly has forgotten what teaching is like” maybe an accurate assessment of how extreme this position is. Could be, but it’s my new CI/TPRS bottom line truth, that’s for sure.

  7. One good thing about early year blurting is that when we are norming the class against any use of English in our classes (that is my new truth on this topic of the use of English in the classroom) is that I can use it to get reps on the imperative mood.
    Instead of the rather rude “Pas d’anglais!/No English!” warning, I would use “Reste(z) en français!/Stay in French!” This gives the kids rep on singular and plural second person commands.
    I could even just say “Classe, restez……!” and in the blank in a call and response format respond crisply and loudly together with “……en français!” I like that idea.
    One other point here on the blurting thing. I don’t think it’s too late too change. I think a class and a teacher can change in mid-year. It goes back to the point about self-respect. If a class cannot change when a teacher imposes the no English thing, the class is in charge. When it can change, it is because the teacher has the guts, complete with unfading smile, to do it. It would be a little rough for a week or two, but I know it can be done if the teacher is willing to work for it. I would. If my class is loud now, I would hate to think about what’s coming down the pike in April and May.

  8. Haha. Come March, I debate endlessly to renew my contract or go teach older kids. And next year our school is adding 3 year olds to the preK class. Oh boy.
    Ok so zero English. No translations. Got it. I’ve had a very hard time lately getting some kids to stop commenting in English. Thanks Ben.

  9. Well it’s just my truth and it took me 15 years to get here. Others may not agree. (Go teach older kids. Your employers cannot possibly appreciate the level of your work and I would bet that you would be more appreciated with older kids. Just my opinion here. I mean, if what you are doing over there in NJ was easy to do, more people than just the handful of gems we have here would be doing it. I’m talking about the really young ones. Why isn’t there more language instruction with those really young ones in our nation’s schools? It’s simple. It’s too difficult to do. Few have your gifts.)
    One additional point in this discussion is that (with older kids because you don’t do any reading with those little ones, right?) in any reading class the bell to bell no English rule obviously cannot work. We translate in reading, although not all of what we do in a reading class is translation (because as per Susan Gross we want the reading to be “like a movie” in their minds). One additional point in this discussion is that (with older kids because you don’t do any reading with those little ones, right?) in any reading class the bell to bell no English rule obviously cannot work. We translate in reading, although not all of what we do in a reading class is translation (because as per Susan Gross we want the reading to be “like a movie” in their minds). But on days when the input is auditory, I’m saying go pedal to the metal on the use of the TL.

    1. Just to chime in about reading with the young ones, I have a three year old and a class of four year olds and I read with all of them ( read to them of course) I use very very simple one sentence a page books and they don’t need translation because the picture and the language is so simple it is easy for them to understand. They are dying to speak and are totally focused , I hesitate a second after a line they chime back repeating the line and following my finger with the words, though I have never asked them to speak or repeat.
      I too have trouble getting them to stop blurting Japanese during other activities, but it clues me into how suited the language is for them. If I can mange to keep it simple enough then they can have that same kind of focus they have with reading, as soon as it moves into something they don’t understand they start blurting, ( they have so much to say!)
      This is good, I am going to try even harder now with my older kids. I love the example of how much will power it took Maria to not answer in English.

      1. Martha just to repeat what I said to Catharina – I think early canonization in the Order of CI Teachers of Very Little Ones is appropriate for you and Catharina and whoever else in our group does this elite kind of teaching.

        1. That’s why I chimed in, I was hoping to be canonized!
          They are amazing teachers. I held off for years accepting kids that young , but I am soooo glad I did, they are full of love and pure joy. It really helps me with other levels, and is teaching me patience and slow and simple.

      2. Martha, It is interesting how kids stay focused and quiet when we read out loud.
        The same thing happens when I retell a story. Pin drop quiet.
        As soon as I start to ask questions, PQA, hand out jobs, turn on/off the lights, draw on the board, get the kids lined up… it sets off the “chit-chat” mode. Not all kids talk. And it’s most often the same kids that will comment out loud. I’ve thought about this lengthily. I’ve carefully watched classroom teachers and sat through meetings listening to veteran teachers. In early elementary it seems to be a lack of self-regulation for some children. They haven’t yet mastered the skills to regulate their emotions, bodies, feelings, stuff like that. Helping kids develop these essential skills are a huge part of what classroom teachers do (through the language they use, specific wording, tone of voice, body language, consequences). They constantly -model- proper behavior to the kids and coach them. Often there is no point in punishing these children, they cannot do yet what is expected from them. They need more time.
        Anyhow, I will think of Maria this week. The rule has to be clear and fair. Only French.

        1. One more thing. Sort of unrelated. My young students are trained day in day out to raise their hand for permission to speak. I break that rule systematically when I ask for choral responses. The line must be set in stone or little kids take advantage. Starting today I will try to direct my questions to individual kids not the whole class and see if that helps with “blurting”. Choral responses is a kind of “blurting” in the mind of a 6 year old. Yesterday I enforced the zero English rule ruthlessly. It felt like starting a diet. The hardest part was not checking for comprehension and only laser-pointing to the English word. I used Leslie Davison’s gimmick and drew googly eyes on 2 ping-pong balls. I must train the little eyes to look at the board rather than rely on English translations.

          1. “Choral responses is a kind of “blurting” in the mind of a 6 year old.”
            Catharina, this is a really good point. I think choral responses and blurting get confused with older kids, too, if you let them. At least I think that is the case with my middle schoolers. I start to feel a little blurry myself sometimes, so what do I expect from them? Maybe I’m my own worst enemy 🙂
            I finally observed (in person) some other language classes the other week for the first time, a fantastic CI elementary teacher K-3rd. He was so good about using a gesture for raising hands and a different one for choral responses. Such a simple routine that a lot of people use, I’m sure, but which I never thought enough about, much less managed to master, not yet anyway! I’m slowly putting some important pieces together.
            For me, it’s not only about personally struggling with routines, which I do seriously struggle with, but it also ties into that idea of being clear, confident and feeling strong in who I am as a teacher.

          2. This idea of a gesture to indicate “everyone answers” or “I’ll call on one person to answer” is nice. I’ve thought about it but haven’t done it… when to give choral responses is made very plain.

          3. I mean to say – if you have a gesture for it, it’s very plain! What I do doesn’t seem to be plain to everyone. Then I have to enforce the whole class response, and that’s a pain at times.

          4. Catherine I noticed in Maria McGovern’s class and also in Julie Soldner’s that they did quite a bit more calling on raised hands than using general choral responses. This is a significant point, Catharina. Please keep this daily reporting going on for those of us who are also exploring whether to make this transition to full-on CI.
            The fact that you and Ruth are doing this gives me confidence. Let’s keep this thread going and try to draw up some guidelines. At first I thought I was going to have to completely rewrite Stepping Stones but I think if I just add this idea of 99%-100% CI (as opposed to the vastly different 90%-95%) as an option, I won’t have to do that. We just need to get some things hammered out for those who want to swim in this particular ocean.
            I think it is like going on a diet. Lots of restrictions. Painful at first, but you feel better later. I personally need to go on an an L1 diet because in my own classroom kids have become adept at finding a thousand ways to get me out of L2 and I just can’t do that anymore. And a few of the established TPRS skills that we share with each other at conferences needs, in my opinion, to be dumped.
            Can’t wait to hear how it went today, specifically what you did differently, any new observations, etc. I really want to know if it is true that what we consider a light sprinkling of L1 in our classrooms isn’t really a blizzard that buries and completely compromises our L2 efforts, and we just don’t see that.
            I never believed in choral responses anyway – too easy to fake, or just follow the class. I mean they are kind of cool, but really, what do they tell us?

          5. Choral responses maintain momentum.
            Remember, nothing really tells us what he kids know for real. We can’t dig up the plant to look at the roots.
            Why ditch choral responses if they make the class feel good and the kids like doing them and they help me get meaningful reps?

          6. I think a mix of choral, group, and individual responses is probably best.
            When it’s a 1-word answer, then choral can work and they know that’s what you want if you said “Clase” before the question. If you want to get them chorally responding at the same instant, then have a cue to hold off responses, until you want them. E.g. arm out for “wait” and swipe arm down (like a race flag) for “respond.” That’s harder to fake and gives slower processors more time.
            To cue individual responses, just name call or ask the question with your hand up.

          7. I like the idea of the arm raised like a racer flag. I must keep “training” myself and the kids, and remember to do it. Like Ruth suggested above, some amazing elementary CI teachers use signals to indicate ind./group/wait time. They’ve trained their kids well.
            After 2 days of zero spoken English in all my classes I’ve observed a few things.
            The kids *heared* a lot more French.
            The kids spontaneously *spoke* a lot more French.
            The rule was easier to enforce: No spoken English. Basta.
            I had to train the children to look for cues (look for English on the board)
            The habitual blurters still struggled.
            It forced some output as they wanted to ask me something.
            Some kids asked loudly: what’s that mean? and a class mate immediately echoed the answer in English (must teach them to use the “write on the board signal”)
            I will have to rely on even more pictures/stuff and sometimes draw what I say
            I used Elissa’s suggestion for MovieTalk (Google Doodle St Valentine). A perfect 1 minute clip for my 2nd,3rd grade group. Kept them totally engaged and no one blurted. I kept asking for choral responses, forgetting all about -not- doing that.
            It had to come to this eventually in my class. The kids were hearing 95% of French from me, but way too much English from their class mates.

          8. I’m not giving up on choral responses. They are great for momentum, I agree James, and I think they pull the quiet kids along, maybe even the slackers. I’m just trying to clean them up a bit.
            I’m trying “put your finger on your nose if you know, but don’t say anything until I raise my hand up.” I put my finger on my nose too, and then swoop it up for the choral response. Yup, even the 8th graders are doing it. Even the high school student who is “interning” in one of my classes is doing it. I don’t know if it will work in all situations.
            I may have to fine tune this, but I am hoping it will make things clearer for them and me (the key person to train), and provide wait time, super important, that. Clarity, clarity, simplicity, simplicity, and remembering what’s important – speaking slowly to the kids in the target language, no one getting stressed out, even me, and having as much fun as we can, not crazy just nice.

          9. Ben says above “..making the transition to full-on CI.” Hmm. In my case “full-on French” – the CI remains to be seen. I’ll do my very best to keep it comprehensible, but without comprehension checks I will not know -for sure-. I could of course have my little kids write in English what I say in French. But some still struggle to write, and it would take too much time. I’ve tried “choose and circle the correct answer” (written in L1). Also time consuming.
            Anyhow I feel good about this. Really good. And I am sticking to it.

          10. Last thing for now (!) If you missed it: “Google St Valentine Doodle” (suggested by Elissa) is a wonderful MovieTalk clip right before St Valentine. Short and sweet.

          11. Ben, I’m dedicated to speaking a lot less English in my classes, but I don’t know if I can go 100% French. I’m playing this by ear.
            What I Want to Keep:
            – connection to my students
            – comprehensibility
            – comfort, low stress for all of us
            What I Want to Get Rid Of:
            – unnecessary spoken English by me when I could rephrase, gesture, write, or point instead
            – kids commenting and chatting in English
            – kids responding, adding details, etc. in English
            – kids confusing choral responses with blurting
            – confusion about what I want them to do
            What I Want to Do More Of:
            – posing questions in ways that allow them to answer in French
            – giving directions in French*
            – checking for comprehension in French (with gestures, pointing, choices, whatever makes it work)
            – slowing down and thinking ahead enough so I can do the above
            – celebrating(sometimes subtly) their efforts and attempts even more
            *I may have to play catch up with some directions vocabulary and other basic vocabulary that I could’ve done at the beginning of the year but didn’t.

          12. “catch up with some directions vocabulary and other basic vocabulary”
            Yep. That’s what I did this week per the conversation we had somewhere recently. I did TPR with just 9 words: pick up, stop, notebook, pencil, return, wait, desk, eraser, hand in. I make this last 40+ minutes and we do a little review and Simon Says in the following class.
            We play with the words in groups of 3 and after a chunk of time with each they close their eyes and gesture when I say the words, so I can check their comprehension. For 40+ minutes 1 or more of those 9 words was in every utterance from my mouth. Amazing how some kids still couldn’t remember all of the words when we did the final close-your-eyes-and-gesture. Reminds me how slow we really do need to go! Easy to identify your slow processors.
            I was reminded how great TPR is as a TCI tool. Once we have the gesture for the word, I spend the rest of the time making up silly mini-stories or individual/group commands. Some of my favorites were hiding the pencil, creating a classroom with students as props, and waiting to get on the bus (the bus and driver were students of course!). Tons of laughs.

  10. Maybe not the best place for this, but while we need the stamp of ACTFL to make the point with some people, Blaine had already written the 90% L2 use rule (at the same time being accused of too much English in the class):
    1. ACTFL’s Use of the Target Language in the Classroom (90% plus at all levels of instruction during instructional time), was approved by the board of directors on Saturday, May 22, 2010.
    2. Blaine Ray had written “the class must be conducted at least 90 percent of the time in the target language. Students must by some means be prevented from speaking another language except in specified circumstances in which they ask for permission” in Fluency Through TPR Storytelling, p 20, by the 4th ed., Nov 2004.

  11. Thank you Nathaniel. The credit thing again. Blaine emerges as a hero yet again in this struggle. THANK YOU for tracking this information down. It’s like that student of mine who showed me stuff in Krashen from 1963 (see article by that name). There are always people whom we must at least try to credit properly in this work. Excellent. It’s hard to keep up with who did what, but I am seeing different versions of Jody’s Special Chair in Colorado and no credit given. Whenever we plop a kid down in a chair in front of a room and start asking questions, that’s Jody who did that first, years and years before what I am seeing now. All we can do is try our best to properly credit this big mix of ideas that we are all swimming around in all the time. We shouldn’t just say we made some of this stuff up without due diligence.

  12. I really want to understand this.
    The super star teacher spoke Spanish exclusively from the first minute of class to the last. How did she establish meaning? Did she have English translations to point to? I’m assuming the class did not do any choral translating. I guess we don’t know what they were doing, maybe nothing was new. What does she do to establish meaning? Does she ever use choral translating of a reading? Sorry if I missed something that has been mentioned already.
    I agree with what Catharina says, if we say No English in the rules and then have the exceptions (establishing meaning, choral translation, checking for understanding, 1-2 word suggestions when they don’t have the vocab), kids get confused. I get confused.
    I need to make this all clear to myself first and then to the kids.
    Ben, maybe what you said about this pertaining only to the however-many-minutes strictly in the TL is key. But having No English be a rule makes it sound like something more than that. I can’t live up to it, so how can they?
    Maybe I’ll try telling them when they CAN speak English instead of that they can’t.
    – choral translation
    -if I ask you a question in English you answer in English (Then I can wean myself away from doing that)
    – 1 or 2 word suggestions
    -if you or someone near you is about to throw up or faint or…
    How does that sound? I really want to get a handle on this. I feel like I have been a real yo-yo about this, never clear, trying this and that.

    1. Establishing meaning, choral translation, checking for understanding, 1-2 word suggestions, Ten Minute Deal, etc. all are out for me. I would rather stay in L2 than use those things with the accompanying L1 in the room. Now, of course, I am out of the classroom right now and have been for over six months. It might be pie in the sky. But my intuition is screaming at me that the benefits of giving up that English FAR OUTWEIGH the benefits that those old TPRS skills bring.
      Rugh I could never figure out why my CI motor didn’t work in my classroom the way I wanted it to. I did everything, but the motor cut out a lot. It was the English. This is, for me:
      …le fruit d’un problème longtemps médité en silence…
      …the fruit of a problem that has been thought about for a long time in silence…
      (Le Petit Prince)
      So I”m just exploring this. I’m not saying anything about what others should do, but rather stating how Judy’s connecting use of L2 with self confidence and self respect has really resonated with me.
      I do want to say for me that this is probably the end of the Ten Minute Deal, which has now been replaced in my own pedagogy by the However-Long-Class-Is-rule.
      Before I didn’t think could do it. I thought Reuben Vyn could and I couldn’t. But I can. And I will.
      The operative principle here is like when you open the door of a darkened room just a very little bit. The light floods in. Same slippery slope thing here. I can’t do it anymore.
      How to get to know the kids? Well, not in my classroom during class! Hallways are good. Parent conferences. But the thing is, we have created a world where kids are so starved for meaningful and genuine adult attention that I am sure that, just to get the three claps of applause, etc. in class, they want that attention so much, that they will find out how much we love them in the TL.

    2. I don’t think that that plan (last paragraph) would work, Ruth. They can’t keep it all straight to know when to use L1 and maybe add in a blurt and when not to. Hence, no L1. Simple is good. It’s the door cracked open a millimeter letting in tons of light. Better to just not let them have any L1.
      You asked, with my answers in brackets:
      How did she establish meaning? [Power Point, visually]. Did she have English translations to point to? [Yes, I have her Power Point and will send it to you.] I’m assuming the class did not do any choral translating. [This is correct.] I guess we don’t know what they were doing, maybe nothing was new. [She did what Julie did. I think lots of them do. They meet a lot and share ideas and this year all those young stars have come up with what you called Visual PQA, what I told Diana was a kind of “Mega PQA”. Julie is not the only one doing this classroom sequence that we now call Visual PQA. I am still trying to write all that up, what Julie did. I have four pages of notes on Maria. Too much stuff. It may just go in the new Stepping Stones because otherwise it would be a 30 part series of articles here. What does she do to establish meaning? [Power Point] Does she ever use choral translating of a reading? [She didn’t do any reading that period. Just 80 min. of rock-a-thon PQA with lots of images like Julie. BUT if she did reading the 100% TL rule would not apply. It can’t apply to reading, because translation is a big player in reading, where it is not that at all in auditory CI.]

      1. This brings up a separate question: What role does choral translation play?
        I’ve understood it as establishing meaning for an entire text, making the subsequent time spent discussing the text in L1 more comprehensible. But don’t we assume the students are comprehending us by the time we do reading of the class story? Then, what is the purpose of translating? If there is still the need to clarify by step 3, then shouldn’t we have also been doing a lot more clarifying (e.g. “What did I just say?”) in steps 1 & 2? Can we just read the text in L2 and have students signal when they don’t the know the meaning of a word?

        1. This is what I’ve been doing as of late Eric. When we read Pobre Ana this year, it was almost exclusively me reading in L2 and kids following along and signaling when they were lost. I kept them honest by asking for pop-up translation of single words or sentences. I even asked my (level 1) class, “What do you prefer, me reading in Spanish or me translating to English?” They chose the former every time, saying that it helped to be able to hear it at the same time. I never really liked choral reading for novels anyways so I didn’t even give that option.
          Choral reading for stories Eric, as you point out, shouldn’t be necessary, but could serve one of the following purposes: 1. Showing off (i.e. celebrating) 2. Further clarify meaning (for minimal items and minimal students, otherwise steps 1 and 2 were not done sufficiently) 3. Assessment (Where do they hesitate/fade out/mess up?… to instruct future targeting)

  13. Ruth, What I may try this week to stay 100% in TL is to deliberately and purposefully point to the target structure + translation. Over and over again. It’s still English, but written not spoken. My Kindergartners know how to read English by now, so it should work. The blurting in English was getting out of control lately.
    If the rule is clear, it is easier for -me- to hold the kids accountable.
    To avoid the 1-2 word suggestion, I offer the kids choices.
    We don’t read so I don’t have the issue of choral translation.
    I will demo activities until they get it. And demo how not to do it.
    In another recent post Diana Noonan shared some observations made by a supervisor about staying in the TL with a group of 7th graders in a Colorado Language Lab and how that can be done. Interesting and helpful. And in French.

    1. Let us know how it goes Catharina.
      “It’s still English, but written not spoken.” The difference between spoken and written is immense. Written is visual and based on light. Spoken is auditory and based on sound. Sound creates a physical movement in the airwaves and in our bodies and especially the eardrums. It is felt. According to the Wizard of Ads (a marketing author), sound stays longer in the memory than visual. We can close our eyes to the English on the board, but we cannot close our ears to the sounds in the air.
      The advantage of visual English is that it is always there for reference, but it is constantly being overpowered by the auditory. The sound can be slowed down or sped up, it can be increased in volume or decreased. It can be saddened or gladdened. It can be distorted and repeated. As it is constantly repeated, it becomes a palpable memory. The visual, symbolic, English version lies there, waiting to be referred to, a lifeless reminder of the meaning of the lively, spoken L2 sound. The lifeless, written L2 version is lying beside it. But we bring it to life by pronouncing and interpreting it, repeatedly, strategically, and interactively. We point to the L2’s lifeless, former English self to remind us of the meaning conveyed, but continue to keep the L2 word alive through living, dynamic sound.

  14. What is needed for optimal acquisition?
    Comprehensible, compelling, contextualized input.
    Preferably concentrated (massed reps) and cumulative (spaced reps) and varied contexts.
    What is needed for optimal community & relationship building?
    How does a teacher’s use of L1 affect these optimal conditions?
    How does a student’s use of L1 affect these optimal conditions?
    The answer is probably not black-and-white. It’s going to depend on the proficiency level, student experience with TCI and traditional, and dynamic of the class, as well as many more factors.

        1. I agree. I can see a visible change in the eyes of some of my most motivated students when they are getting tired. At the least, they need a break from processing L2 — maybe just getting to move and stretch instead of anything L1, ok, but I don’t think they should be continuing to be asked to think in L2 to make it really a break.

  15. I have two first-year students – fortunately in two different classes – who have extreme difficulty not rambling on in English. Since the beginning of the year, I have had to work ceaselessly on these two students, even to the point of asking them to step out of the room until they are ready to exercise sufficient self control. Needless to say, these two students are also slow processors and have difficulty with both comprehension and the most basic of utterances.
    Today, though, the student in my third-period class answered a question with a perfectly formed and beautifully articulated German sentence. While that was wonderful in and of itself, what really crowned the entire experience was that the class spontaneously applauded him for a job well done.

    1. To each his own. We have to keep the big picture in mind: more CI = more acquisition
      Kids have a natural need for expression, some more than others. Asking for only L2 takes that away from every beginner. I don’t think even immersion programs require kids to be quiet until they can speak in L2.
      Whereas trying to keep L2 to 99-100% may keep us away from the slippery L1 slope, it also leads us into onto another slippery slope of incomprehensibility.

      1. Eric, in A Child’s Guide to Language video, I loved those scenes of immersion classes where the teacher was speaking only in French and some kids were responding in French back and some in English, and you just knew they were all understanding her, and you could imagine them all just moving into French at their own pace.
        I also know that when I am hanging out with francophone friends from Montreal, we speak a mixture. Someone gets tired or whatever and switches. And we all just keep learning and getting better. For what it’s worth.
        James, don’t worry! This is not a black or white / yes or no / right or wrong situation. It’s very personal and there are so many different pieces to the puzzle. If saying “no L1 ever” stirs great fear inside you, don’t say it. Be happy! They’re learning Latin, right?
        I’m playing it all by ear, figuring out what I can do and doing the best I can. I know that if I get stressed out, things don’t go well.

        1. I had a friend whose French was very good whose neighbor was French and his English was very good. They ate meals together and their conversations evolved so that each spoke his native language all the time. She would ask a question in English and he would answer it in French. When I saw her after six months, her French was absolutely brilliant and his English was flawless. I hadn’t heard of Comprehensible Input then, Krashen hadn’t even published anything yet, but obviously it worked for them.
          I’m not saying that this can or should be done in a classroom, but let’s be open to the idea that some L1 can be useful and is not pure evil.

  16. James I am just trying to figure it out for me. I think Ruth and those who say we have to figure it our for ourselves are right. I have really had time to think about the beauty of the classes I saw in L2 only and I want that for myself. I know how much I struggle with kids when they are allowed to blurt – because they will. My search for the Pure Land continues. I can’t get that into any classes I teach in the future unless I fully explore this topic of how much L1 to allow in. It makes me nervous as well. It was Judy’s original comment about self-respect that started this. I just don’t want my classes to be like, “OK let’s do this L2 thing because we have to, but when we get bored let’s shut it down and hang out in English, and the kids can like me and I can like them and they can find out how cool and hip I am.” What? Still figuring it out dude. Of all the observations I did in the last month in DPS, Maria and Julie were the only ones who stayed totally in L2 and both didn’t seem to care much if their kids liked them and their classes were GOOD. L1 wasn’t on the top of their lists. They were there to teach language and they did, and they did noticeably more than those other classes I saw where it was a mix. I will say that there was less of a feeling of personalized vibes between them and individual kids – the class was very much a kind of a big group and I can see that as a drawback to those kids who really need to pop up out of their desks and be acknowledged, but is our classroom even a place to do that? So yeah lots and lots of angles to this one. It’s really very unsettling to me as well. It mixes up what I say in my books. Stepping Stones will need an additional three months on the current rewrite because of this. That sucks. Somehow I’ve got to represent both points of view, include the Ten Minute Deal, etc. and yet describe how the L2 only thing can work as sort of a 90 minute Ten Minute Deal.

    1. We know speaking, L1 or L2, doesn’t develop acquired competence. So, does student L1 talk diminish the amount of teacher L2 CI? If we’re saying “aim for 100% L2, because by setting that as the target you’ll hit 90-95%” then that’s different from saying we need 100% L2.
      I want to think in terms of MY rough numbers.
      50 minute period. 3 days per week. 35 weeks of classes.
      90% L2 = 78 hours 45 minutes
      95% L2 = 83 hours 7.5 minutes
      99% L2 = 86 hours 37.5 minutes
      100% L2 = 87 hours 30 minutes
      90% and 100% is the difference of about 9 hours. Every 1% gives me 52.5 minutes more of L2.
      Multiply by 2 (1 hour 45 minutes for every 1%) if I have the same kids in 7th and 8th grade. Assuming I can maintain the same comprehensibility and the same relationships with the kids, are these time differences worth stressing?

      1. It’s very important to me here in this discussion that people (James) don’t think that I am trying to mash this thing into all TL. Not possible. But I am seeing now the possibility (for me it is a truth) that most CI/TPRS teacher say they are doing 90% or more when they are not even close to that percentage. They lie to themselves. This is happening everywhere, I feel, except where Diana has been cracking the whip here in DPS with the Young Stars and probably in a few other isolated places around the country. I’ll say it again. We lie to ourselves when we say 90% or even 95%. So for me this discussion is finding a way I can get to 98%-99% so I don’t get washed off the rock.

    2. When I started doing the Ten Minute Deal with students who had blurting problems, it soon became a Fifteen minute deal and then a Twenty Minute Deal. And when the student timer signaled that we had gone the full time with no L1, I simply acknowledged that and we went straight on with what we were doing, so we sometimes were able to go a full hour with little or no L1. It wasn’t, okay, our ten minutes are up, now we can fool around.

      1. This is where I am now with Chinese 2, my group with the most blurting problems. We began with 10 minutes and have improved.
        We had a key student absent yesterday and easily went for 20 minutes before anyone noticed. I hadn’t realized just how “key” that student has been in wrecking the no-English rule; I will have a private talk with him as soon as possible and see if he will turn around. I think there’s hope; he’s improved.

        1. Staying in the TL changed the atmosphere of our classroom. For the better. It must be comprehensible, no question about that. And that will be challenging when introducing brand new structures. Sometimes Point and Pause isn’t enough to convey meaning.

          1. “It must be comprehensible…and that will be challenging when introducing brand new structures.”
            The textbook approach, as has been said here many times, is to hop out of a chapter just when it is starting to make sense and to introduce brand new stuff with no regard for the previous stuff.
            The three structures go light years toward rectifying that. As I moved from textbooks to three structures there still that tendency to want to hurry on to the next triad. That was a major mindset to break.
            Maybe three structure is two too many. It is often said and written that someone did only one structure for a class. Maybe no one goes for three structures. Maybe there is only one structure and a structure on deck in case the structure at bat strikes out. (And that is one of my biggest lessons I have learned from everybody on the PLC–have a backup.)
            So the image I got as I read your comments, Catharina, was one structure. Instead of thinking in terms of triads or multiples, think in terms of one thing to introduce. Perhaps limiting to “one thing” could be is the key to keeping it comprehensible and less challenging to to stay in TL with a brand new structure. Just wondering.

          2. So Nathaniel in Maria McGovern’s class she introduced five structures and I nervously leaned over and asked Diana why so many for that class, which only had 80 minutes available. Diana whispered back, “Those are for the week.” And indeed, Maria did one verb the entire class. I will address that elsewhere. You are right – one is a good number. Two is a good number. Three is looking more and more like too much for one class period, even a block.

          3. Love your input Nathaniel. I always learn something interesting from reading your comments. Why can’t my own children be taught by Nathaniels and Erics and Alisas and…?
            You are right about adding just 1 new structure. I must remember to do that.
            I am sticking to “no English”. For now. Love it.

          4. One structure with little kids and only 30 minutes — sounds smart to me!
            I’ve found different structures to have different levels of ‘difficulty’ so I spend a week with sometimes 2, sometimes 3 or even 4 (if there is recycling of previous words in them… that happens a lot in Chinese).

          5. I see now the beauty in Blaine’s curriculum. It’s the same storyline told every class, but embedded versions. And storyasking makes it feel new. This is truly the model for a cumulative (daily recycling) design. Not to mention, the curriculum is hyper-focused on high-frequency language.
            This is why I suggested on the forum we choose a small handful of story lines we really enjoy and just keep coming back to them throughout the year, re-asking new stories or adding new scenes to old stories.
            I was guilty of over-emphasizing high-interest by trying every 3-6 classes to move to a new story with 3 new structures and with little opportunity to recycle previous structures.
            How far we have come from traditional classrooms!!! A traditional classroom is so far out of touch with what kids can comprehend.

      2. This is a really good point. The Ten Minute Deal is a tool for getting more L2 into the classroom. We can think about it as an exercise regimen. First 3 sets of this weight, then three sets at a slightly higher weight. And so on. Nice point!

        1. James I keep thinking of things to say to you. Here’s one:
          What if you were watching a pro basketball game and all of a sudden the pros ran off the court and a bunch of high school players ran on and played for awhile. Then they ran off and the pros came back and picked up where they were before. Back and forth like that. I’d rather just watch one game or the other. Same thing if I’m watching a movie and someone splices in another movie and back and forth. Maybe that’s just me.

          1. If the L1 and L2 are about the same story, then we’re still watching the same movie.
            We gotta be honest with ourselves – whether we are really getting 90%+ L2 when we think we are. We gotta also be honest about how comprehensible we really are.
            It is impossible to keep a class of kids accountable for comprehending every statement we make. We sure do a lot to maximize this probability, but in the end we can’t be sure what all those kids are processing in their heads.

          2. One thing Susie Gross said time after time at her workshops to underscore some point or another:
            …they get a lot less than we think….
            I never forgot that.

          3. Agreed! . . . another reason I don’t want to give up asking “What did I just say?”
            When asked that question, a couple of elementary-age kids will on occasion give me something totally off base or give me something illogical or something untied to the structures previously established. I feel like these kids aren’t really listening and are trying to get their understanding elsewhere. It makes me wonder: if these kids are so bad at inferring the meaning, how the hell did they figure out their L1 when a toddler?

  17. I’m reading this thread (let’s face it; all the threads I’ve read on this rockin’ PLC space!) with great interest. I too am trying to up my game and weed out unnecessary English. One thing I’ve noticed with all my Ss (again, grades 1-4/Elementary) is that sometimes in the heat of the story/scene moment, a kid’s English response and/or blurt is because…s/he has forgotten it’s an all Spanish environment, so engaged is s/he and mesmerized by the story, the sounds, the props, the humor, the novelty, the love, the fun! Since the Ss don’t really have the output ability yet to comment, respond or blurt in Spanish, I sometimes stop and help them re-state the English blurt into Spanish (w/circumlocution that uses acquired language, of course, or rejoinders where applicable). My most impulsive lil Ss have taught me that some Ss CANNOT contain the excitement/emotion and must verbally express – and a choral response just doesn’t satisfy that impulse!
    I have explained (when I did the RULES) that interruptions to the FLOW prevent others from making connections in their brains… but now I’m gonna point to a sign that says, “¡No interrumpe!” and add it to my rules.
    I guess my point is that I HAD thought that blurting/interruptions came solely from a lack of will or discipline to norm the class; but now I see them as a need for emotional response – an outlet for all the joy – and I will insure we have an array of rejoinders /add more as needed – to soak up the excess energy. I’ll still seek the Holy Grail of no interruptions, but I’ll try to be tolerant when it happens as it’s often a symptom of high engagement, and getting lost in the excitement of the story.

    1. Oh yeah! Alisa you brought up probably the most common type of blurting–the unbridled joy or excitement kind! Even at middle school / high school level this happens a lot. Yes…rejoinders rejoinders rejoinders. I am saying this for my own benefit. Also I know that some of this is not completely preventable. Us being humans and all 🙂

      1. Alisa jen is right and I totally apologize for not being more clear about the “blurting from joy” point. Of course this is allowed. I have always allowed it. One day years ago when I was teaching middle school a kid blurted the work “zit” in English and it was so perfect a response that I still remember it and the expression on her face (one of incredulity that she herself had found the best cute answer). I did not correct her, but on the other hand immediately started running around the room in joy myself – something I don’t allow myself much – because she had found the totally right cute answer. After my lap around the room, I returned to her and said probably in English how baddass that answer was. I should have not done the English praise, obviously, but rather gone straight to the word zit in French – bouton – wrote it on the board, launched into a recycling of what we had so far, and no one would have noticed that she had said it in English. So for me on my quest yeah, I allow that kind of English.

  18. Wow. Big stuff for sure. I’ve been in that weird place too, like Diane described, where I was just going to hammer L2.Period. But for whatever reason that just did not come naturally to me as a class flow. It created more of a wall between me and the students, and probably more than one student felt anxiety or fear or dread. I’m sure it was all due to my artificial “drill sergeant” persona that I created around this. Fear- and frustration-based too, which is never a good place to act from.
    Obviously each of us is committed to optimizing the time we have with our kids. It is not going to look / sound the same in any two classes. Everyone in this group, by definition is consciously reflecting on and refining the practice and art and science and mysticism (ok maybe not) of teaching languages to kids who mostly are a captive audience and did not choose freely to be in our classes. And, I am also pretty sure that we all know deep down, the language part is almost a secondary “by-product” of the first and foremost intention of creating space for kids to be themselves, to be honored for who they are, and for everyone to learn to honor each other. I guess this is just a long-winded way to state that wherever we are on the percentage spectrum is where we are at any given point. Can we amp up our L2 use? Absolutely. None of us are complacent.
    I vote for framing the intention positively, “max out the Spanish” or “let’s go for 98% “sounds fun and challenging and expansive whereas “no english” sounds punitive and constricting. Maybe just a semantic difference. Maybe not. Only the teacher can decide what is best for the group, for individual kids, for the particular moment. I don’t think the point of this discussion is to shame ourselves for what we do, or get too involved in comparison with others. The mental health piece has to be prioritized. Diane said something like “working from rest” which is so important.
    For me, some L1 helps to bond the group, and sometimes is what’s needed in certain situations where you don’t want to dismiss a student’s emotional state. Yes, it is a slippery slope, and as Eric said, the strength of the community can be enhanced by small amounts of L1, which can in turn bolster their commitment and engagement.

    1. Such great clarification on the blurting topic, jen. The erstwhile AP teacher in me is a bit of a drill sergeant and this way of teaching has made him uncomfortable. But he is no longer in charge, but honoring students is. For me this means:
      a) staying in the TL so they don’t have to watch a tennis match in my classroom between L1 and L2
      b) preventing them from blurting, which messes everything up in a grand way.
      I do NOT imply that I never want to take time off to hang out with the kids from time to time in L1. Maybe James is reading me wrong on that.
      Perhaps the way to say it is that I want to move in the direction of really long versions of the Ten Minute Deal, lasting, in most classes, the entire period, even if it’s a block, with certain days when we just hang out in L1 for up to 30 minutes when we are tired of all the L2. That’s part of the community building piece of this work, for sure.
      Had you seen the classes by Maria and Julie you would know what I mean. There is just a kind of dignity in a teacher going from bell to bell in the target language. There is no suck zone there. It’s like, I’m captain and you are the passengers and I am flying the plane and so you might as well get into it because you ain’t going anywhere until we land back in L1 at the end of the period.
      It is the MIXING of blurting and L1 and L2 in each class that I decry.

  19. ooh the inter web goblin gobbled up my post 🙁
    poof! impermanence!
    basically just chiming in to echo the point that each of us is in our own unique situation with our students. no two groups are the same. we need to bend in different ways for different kids and groups. L2 percentage is not a measure of our personal worth. we each struggle with different things. this thread is not intended to induce fear or shame, but instead maybe to poke a bit and see where we might be able to tweak what we do to amp up L2. i am a firm believer in setting positive intentions, i.e. affirmative rather than negative, so i vote for “max out the Spanish” or “let’s go for 98%” which sound fun, challenging and expansive rather than “no english” which sounds punitive and constricting.
    i need a bit of L1 for the personal and community connection. but that is just me. lately when i feel myself lapsing, i slow WAY down and imagine “what if these students each spoke a different language? ” like in an ELL setting. this helps me to not automatically resort to english. that said there are times when you need L1, usually when someone is in emotional crisis. it is a very slippery slope. awareness is key. and not beating yourself up when you slide down the slope! just start over in the next moment.
    mental health! remember that? Diane said something very cool: “working from rest.” yes!
    I also like to remind myself that “it’s not really about the language.” It is, of course, but more fundamentally what we do is hold space for kids to be themselves and to be honored for who they are. it’s very cool that the language acquisition happens because we prepare the soil so well that when the seeds are planted, they actually grow!

  20. Ben, you said: “I just don’t want my classes to be like, “OK let’s do this L2 thing because we have to, but when we get bored let’s shut it down and hang out in English, and the kids can like me and I can like them and they can find out how cool and hip I am.” What?”
    That is really good. It’s about perspective. If we are doing a Ten/Fifteen/Twenty Minute Deal, we need to make sure it is for the right reasons. It’s a means, not an end, and ultimately we need to keep in the back of our minds that it isn’t enough. It’s really never enough, because we aren’t perfect.
    But I worry about the tendency to swing too far in the direction of “I don’t care what my students think about me.” Of course I care. It’s impossible for me not to care. Not because I need their approval, but because I need their hearts. How else can I really teach them anything? A few minutes given to L1 each day seems like a small price to pay.

    1. And remember James that I am currently out of the classroom. It’s easy for me to say these things. But one point you make about needing their hearts makes me wonder – can we not earn their hearts in the L2? Do we need to use L1 words to capture their hearts? Can we accomplish that via the beauty of the flow of the language in our class, and through looks, and via happiness conveyed through our L2 instruction? I don’t know the answer to that one. We do lose time when we get washed off the rock. I really don’t know and it is refreshing to know that we each get to respond to this issue each in our own way.

  21. Since first reading this article, I have rethought my L1 use in my classrooms and have made conscious efforts to stay in the TL throughout the entire class period in all of my classes. I teach level 1 French to 7th and 8th graders (7th is a semester long intro course, so I just got a group of newbies), and they are each their own animal. This is my 1st year at this school and first year using CI, and I replaced a legacy teacher. I hear she actually got up and walked out after the 1st 15 minutes of a Blaine Ray workshop when the county brought him here a couple of years ago. One group of 8th graders has completely embraced this method and they have blossomed beyond belief! They are so happy to be out of a textbook, away from worksheets, and to be immersed in fun, comprehensible French. They stay in the TL without reminders, even entering class gossiping in French. The rare English blurt is a joyous one when they are overcome with excitement and interest in a story, as Alisa and others described. It’s beautiful!
    Another 8th grade group is coming around. There are a few who still feel that they aren’t learning without diagramming sentences and creating posterboards of pictures with French words that they found on google translate. They have resisted staying in the language for long periods of time, so for a while I was doing the 10 minute deal and gradually increasing the time. The majority has come around once they realized how much fun they were having and that I wouldn’t leave them behind and would stay with them until they were ready for the next bit. The resisters in this class are several kids who should be roommates with Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. They are sweet, intelligent, knowledge hungry kids who unfortunately, do not pick up on humor (I live for a laugh and take every opportunity to interject one in class), like to stop the class and explain grammar rules at nauseum whenever pop up grammar enters a lesson, and need constant explanations of pop culture. Changing to TL only in class this past week with these kids has made a huge difference in the flow of the class. The rest of the class is more engaged and we have been able to dig deeper with our structures without the frustration of this constant derailing from these few kids. My question though is, am I doing this at the expense of these kids? They seem very frustrated that I have put a stop to their rambles in English, which I am only concerned about in so far as their understanding of what is going on. I have asked them to keep a pen and paper out so that they can write down their thoughts in English and share them with me at the end of class. I take opportunities to check in with them individually and catch them up on anything that they didn’t understand. I thought it was working, but I’m not too sure. We have been talking about love, boyfriends, girlfriends etc. and 8th graders are a little shy on this subject. I pretended to have a “secret boyfriend” (made a huge deal out of the secret part- made them lean in to hear me as spoke in hushed tones) and his name is Chris Hemsworth. I spun a little story out of it and then one kid said his girlfriend was Jennifer Lawrence and he face-times her in the bathroom at school during lunch, etc. etc. It took off from there and I spun it back around to the kids and the structures. One kid came to me at the end of class, very upset, and asked if I was really cheating on my husband with Chris Hemsworth. This kid is really into comics, so I had made a point of mentioning that he is an actor and I watch Thor all the time to support his job. Did I really lose him by not clarifying, or was he just looking for attention at the end of class? Probably more the latter, but it makes me wonder if 100% TL is the best thing for this particular group. I guess I’ll play it by ear and adjust as needed.
    I am also definitely putting up Blaine’s rules that Nathaniel posted!

  22. So much is in the grey area for kids that age that I would not say anything personal. Rather, make the crazy stuff about them and keep myself out of it. That’s just my own opinion. Re: the secret boyfriend thing, I saw a DPS high school teacher say something in the TL about his own life that was supposed to get a laugh – any adult would have gotten the joke, but the problem was that it wasn’t a joke as our nation starts to heal in the area that this teacher went to and so no one laughed. This guy was trying way too hard to get them to like him. I don’t like that kind of theatrical PQA designed to get laughs. All we have to do is make ourselves comprehensible. We tell them and make it really clear that all we have to do as their teacher is speak to them in the TL and anything beyond that is up to them.

    1. Well crap…I completely see your point about leaving me out of it. I should have made the statement about one of stars who would have rolled with it and gone from there. Sometimes when those 7th and 8th graders stare at me with those vacant looks, I panic.
      Since my FL colleagues were asked to start using TPRS in their classes, I’ve been frozen out and getting the cold shoulder. I’m grateful for this resource to point in the right direction when I make a wrong turn and give my ideas for improvement. So much to learn! In the words of Oprah, “When you know better, you do better”. Merci!

      1. Using yourself is a good move, but stick to storyasking. Let the kids decide your details. The teacher can be the “actor” in the story. 2 weeks ago I was Honey Boo Boo working at Hooters. Yeah, 8th graders were pushing the limits. This almost certainly requires a good relationship with your kids and boundaries. Also a way to get some first person input.

  23. Cherie you said this about that little group of boys:
    …am I doing this [not letting them blurt] at the expense of these kids? They seem very frustrated that I have put a stop to their rambles in English, which I am only concerned about in so far as their understanding of what is going on. I have asked them to keep a pen and paper out so that they can write down their thoughts in English and share them with me at the end of class….
    My question is do they employ the pen and paper option and ask you their questions at the end of class? No, because they don’t care. They have no question. They had control over you and you put a stop to it and now they have been exposed for the little interrupters they are and so of course they will be frustrated. They had control over you, and now they don’t. I wouldn’t give them the time of day. I would grade them honestly every day. The rest of the class doesn’t have to get a jGR grade every day, but they do. I would be all over them on the quizzes, and I would make a note of every blurt to share with parents on the phone if they can’t get it that you mean business about staying in the TL. I would have my sword on them for about three weeks at the end of which the group, since I sat them apart from each other in the four corners of the room, will have evaporated. So much of this discussion about L1 use is about ego. More than we think. It’s about these kids’ egos. Boo hoo! They can’t be the center of attention anymore.

  24. James we may need a few more days to just reflect on this L1 thing. [Warning, my message to James became a rant so if you’re not totally into the L1/L2 discussion don’t read it.] For me, it is very intuitive and, like you, goes very deep into my ongoing efforts to define exactly what my role even is as a language instructor. I mean, isn’t that my job? I’m not hired to be friends with kids, right? Just teach the language? Or has the self-ingratiating aspect of teaching really progressed so far in our country that teachers think it is necessary to be friends with the kids to be effective? I am not saying that that is what you are doing because anyone at iFLT Denver knows you have a certain bearing that is natural and effective in a teacher. I mean, I think of Robert, who attends sporting events in his school, but I don’t see him doing that to get kids to like him. Rather, he is just interested in their lives because he teaches them and that enriches his classes with them. It’s called a community. But does he bring anything but solid CI instruction into his German classroom? Is there an element of wanting to be liked there, using some extra doses of L1 so that the kids will pay attention? In all the classrooms I observed in DPS this past month, and I have three days with teachers in the next few weeks, it was Julie Soldner and Maria McGovern who were the only two who had that wall of L2 only up with their students and neither seemed to have one ounce of NEED for their kids to like them. All the other teachers I observed had some small degree of neediness hidden in their teaching. I’m probably way off here but hey it’s a ramble and sometimes rambles help us figure things out. Yes, the individual banter in Julie’s and Maria’s classroom was far less, and the petri dish thing was going on with me and Diana Noonan and others sitting over in the corner of the classroom, but the L2 instruction was a lot more focused. They didn’t go all over the place like me, so that their instruction was not skating around like a Zamboni out of control on the ice. I don’t know, just yammering here, but I feel that our instruction needs to be more professional, that we need to stay in L2 more. Yes, we need to get to know the kids, but no we don’t need them to like us. I would like to observe Judy’s classes on this point but probably won’t get a chance. Oh well. Just more yammering on this topic. I just think that we don’t owe these kids so much on an emotional level. We are teachers, after all, and our job is to speak the language in our classes. I think of Columbine HS, which I have lots of dealings with over the years. You go in there and it’s one big blur where you can’t tell who the students are and who the teachers are. It’s like a TV show. They are one big “family” of cheerleaders and football players and the reject cutters cower in the hallways or outside the building, looking for places to hide. Is that what high school is? Is that what we want our classes to be, popularity contests? OK ranting now. But maybe there is something in Columbine’s culture of cool kids and teachers wearing grey and navy blue and getting ready for the football game that can help us understand our own motivation as teachers. Maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to personalize our classrooms to get to know every kid in the class. How much frickin’ work on how many levels do we have to frickin’ do? We teach language. We use stories and PQA to teach language. The more L2 we use the more language we teach. So what’s up with the L1 slipping in there all the time. Why do we do that? Am I off the mark here?

    1. I get what you’re sayin’, Ben, and I appreciate your attention in this. I think I do need a few days for this to sink in. It’s clearer now than it was a few days ago, but I still feel it all settling. I don’t want to say something now when I don’t know the words yet and regret it later. Let me stay silent for a while and maybe the words will come.

      1. James I remember one comment you made a few months ago. It stayed with me because I noted to myself that I feel exactly the same way. I don’t have it in front of me but it was to the effect that you needed absolute simplicity in what is daily becoming an increasingly complex field, all this stuff with CI. I am with you on that. I feel that if we can’t have things simple, then why teach? So now, applying that idea to the funk this L1/L2 discussion has got you into, make a simple decision about the L1/L2 issue. If what you were doing with the Ten Minute Deal and all the other things that we have generated together here as a group over the years were working, don’t change it. I brought up the blurting L2 only language thing because I need to understand it for myself. But honestly both ways work, right?

    2. I will add this one detail before I go meditate: My problem is not staying in TL during a Ten/Fifteen/Twenty minute deal. I make my kids respect that time and if there are blurts, they get dealt with. I get my time in the TL.
      My worry is that I am not getting to enough Ten/Fifteen/Twenty minute deals each class and that I a mis-using brain breaks and that I have created an atmosphere that you described earlier, Ben, that we do the TL thing for however long we can stand and then we enjoy the brain break.
      I don’t know how much I need to change in my daily set up, practically speaking; I just think my perspective on my job has gotten a little dark recently.
      I’m just a little lost on this thing. I am having a hard time filling up EIGHTY MINUTES of class time. Maybe two rock solid ten-fifteen minute deals, each with a quick quiz, and then some reading/writing type stuff. I’ve just been feeling an emptiness at the end of each period that is starting to feel like downright laziness on my part. This, of course, along with a few minutes at the beginning of each period–because of course I know I have time because I wasn’t able to put together a full lesson–has been our English time, where I enjoy chatting with them and grading and keeping everything current paper-work-wise. I do feel like this English has really helped my to get to know the kids on a very personal level. A lot less English could have achieved the same thing, though. But I don’t think it would be the same if I had insisted strictly on only ever using L2 and never chatted with them during class in English.
      My problem, though, is that I really don’t know what I would have them do, or even what else I personally could STOMACH putting them through. You see? Here is the darkness.
      But this is also coming from someone who is planning on homeschooling his kids. I have never been able to buy into the “teach bell-to-bell” thing. I just can’t take the whole system that seriously. That feeling of “suck” you describe, would be me if I had this hard-nose, only TL attitude for which any English was a failure.
      And now I am rambling. Sorry, y’all. I am still trying to find the words.

      1. It’s the idea of “teaching bell-to-bell” that I think we are really talking about here. Of course 100% CI from bell-to-bell is best. I have actually gotten close to this on some really good days. And I do think we can have “bell-to-bell” days that are not 100% CI.
        When I say I can’t buy in to “bell-to-bell” teaching, I don’t mean that I don’t shoot to fill up the period. Of course I do. I think I mean that I cannot go into the classroom thinking to myself, “I am a failure if this doesn’t go bell-to-bell.” If I do, I am likely going to give the students stupid, time-wasting assignments just for the sake of filling up the class. That really gets that “suck” smell you have described, Ben.
        Here’s where CI is a unique beast. In a math class, the teacher just gives more problems and viola! the teacher can walk about and answer questions until the bell rings. Bell-to-bell without even trying! But with CI, the teacher needs to be “on” to keep the CI flowing. Maybe they can read, but probably they don’t know enough vocabulary to make it CI unless I have massaged the text before hand. And students get tired of hearing our voices, even if we had the stomach to talk all class, every class. At that point we are just wasting our time and energy.
        I want to fill the class, but if I don’t, I try not to kill myself about it. I talk in English with the kids, do some grading, talk about make-up stuff, whatever. If I had in my back pocket a bunch of “filler” activities just to keep them quiet and “engaged,” well, I don’t think I would think very highly of myself. And they would probably start tuning me out more and respecting the process less and less.
        Sorry, again, I am still trying to find these words. Gotta run. Sorry about any typos.

        1. Good points have been made on all sides.
          I would bet anyone following these posts has been tightening up the L1 use in the classroom. I bet some feel defensive (me) of what they are doing if it’s not the “all L2 approach.”
          Here’s the thing: if we like the vibe we have going on right now in our room, whatever the relative L1-L2, then we should not feel pressure to change or feeling of inadequacy if it doesn’t match what the teachers in Denver are doing. We don’t teach those kids in that school, so we don’t know how generalizable we can be of those practices to other classrooms. And we don’t officially know if their language gains are any better, if they are reaching all their students, nor how the non-language pieces (social emotional) compare.
          Here’s some more reasons pro-L1 use:
          1) Making it “rule” to only use L2 in class gives me a similar sensation to the feeling of having to “cover” or “teach” something. There are students who would smell the “suck.”
          2) We also must be true to our roles – like VanPatten says: the teacher is not a waiter and the students are not ordering at a restaurant. Pretending to only know L2 feels like role-playing a monolingual speaker. Getting students to do the same will also feel like that.
          3) If you’re on the Krashen ship, then acquisition is input-only, which means it doesn’t matter what language the students use. (Communication management skills are separate and probably do need to be practiced in only L2).
          4) Whether it’s spoken or not, the students’ minds are still thinking in L1 and translating to L1. That will happen until the students have received loads of CI. And that’s a good thing. The L1 is an advantage, not a handicap. We can use the L1 to establish meaning in a much clearer way. We can use the L1 to give the word-for-word literal equivalent as our way of teaching grammar by meaning. We can use the L1 to build background knowledge. In essence, the L1 is a tool to help us make input comprehensible.
          5) The best insight you can get into what a student is understanding is to ask for translation. If you ban the “What did I just say?” then you are missing out on the best way to make input comprehensible and to check comprehension. I know, because I did too little of this, preferring never to interrupt the L2 flow, and I am certain that I was assuming kids were comprehending more than they were really getting. What I have now are large gaps in student levels I believe partly do to my insistence on avoiding L1. Meanwhile, an observer of those classes thinks: “Wow! The teacher and students only used L2” and the choral responses will give the observer the sense that the students understood more than they truly were. The observer (and teacher) thinks all L2 is better, because of an ingrained (false) belief that a FL classroom should not use any L1.
          6) Prohibiting student L1 restricts conversation and limits personalization. “Real communication” and “no L1” are conflicting. It’s those words the students ask for to add to the story or to talk about themselves – organic & meaningful – which are the ones that are going to stick with many fewer repetitions.
          7) Prohibiting student L1 may be such a battle and/or require such self-control that it drains the teacher and part of the reason so many classes end up spending more time in the L1.
          8) What does prohibiting L1 use do to the affective filter? We know that speaking L1 is reported the most anxiety-raising element of a FL classroom!
          9) Rather than base our approach on the model of L1 acquisition, look at natural L2 acquisition (e.g. bilingual homes) – the L1 and L2 support each other! I think in bilingual schools, students can respond in L1 until they are comfortable in L2.
          Conclusion: The more CI, the more acquisition. Be judicious about L1 use. Have some self-discipline. And a little L1 will make for more CI and make it easier to spend more time in the FL.
          Check this out:

          1. Well Catharina now has to weigh in on the above points Eric, which rock the house and thank you. I mention Catharina because she has said that she LIKES the L2 only thing and if she likes it I like it.
            Re: the overall point you make on behalf of more L1 (I am assuming you are talking about 95% there Eric) vs. less L2 (again I assume you are interpreting what I am suggesting to be around 99% use of L2), I can see the wisdom of every point you make (and would especially love to hear what the group says about your point #5) but like I said earlier this past week, my 95% is more like somewhere between 50% and 75% use of L2 depending on the day of the week because I basically suck at staying in L2 (esp. with directions and redirecting class, etc.). There I said it. I suck at staying in L2.
            So I am certainly not trying to derail anyone else, those who DON’T suck at staying in L2, but rather, since it’s all about me, am trying to find my own place relative to what I am capable of doing myself.
            Certainly in my last building at Abraham Lincoln HS, I enjoyed the students there so much that we could have spent entire weeks talking about stuff like the World Cup in English. I even asked one of my superstar Latino kids to do a story in Spanish for the all-Spanish-speaking class. (It frickin’ ROCKED, by the way.) But I need to grow up now (Oh man! Oh man! What if I get OBSERVED? Oh MAN!), grow up and make a plan, and that starts (does not end) with defining what that best L1/L2 best % is for moi.
            After that, I need to make TCI lesson plans that kick butt, like the Visual PQA option from Julie and old stuff like the Two Week Plan. I know what will happen when I have those all done – James will use them and keep rocking the house, because on that point I do totally agree with Alisa that whatever James does, his Latin classes will be excellent.
            Well that was a fun little rant.

          2. The title of this thread is “Blurting”. An ongoing struggle with some of my kids.
            Basic, dreadful classroom management. The 95% had been watered down by frequent unneccessary interruptions by kids highjacking the flow of language.
            The “no spoken English” rule is now clear. I used to say “no sugar kids” then ask what they wanted for dessert.
            I would think that immersing the kids in comprehensible language would help them start to -think- in L2. We can still personalize, keep the affective filter low, and giggle. We just do it in L2. For 30 minutes tops in early elementary.
            I was also in desperate need for some inspiration. Everyone staying in L2 was what I was searching for. Right in front of my face.

          3. There has been conversation about L1 use on different articles. I was addressing L1 use as it affects language acquisition.
            No L1 may be one solution to a blurting problem, if you see that as a “problem.” Is it okay to impulsively blurt in L2? Saying “no L1” to a beginner is another way of saying “shut up and only listen.” How does a classroom teacher handle blurting?
            99-100% L2 and 99-100% CI do not agree IMO. “Comprehensible” is a continuum. Depends where on that continuum you want your input to be.

          4. Some discussion about L1 use is being had on moreTPRS. The context of the discussion: establishing meaning in L1.
            Terry points out that it’s not how much L2 use that counts, but what percentage of L2 use that is comprehensible.
            Robert Patrick said this: “When I meet otherwise really well intending teachers who refuse to use any English, it makes me sad (sometimes mad) that they are becoming an obstacle to the very thing they want to happen.”

          5. 30 minute class:
            99% L2 = 18 seconds of L1
            95% L2 = 1.5 minutes of L1
            90% L2 = 3 minutes of L1
            60 minute class:
            99% L2 = 36 seconds of L1
            95% L2 = 3 minutes of L1
            90% L2 = 6 minutes of L1
            *I teach 53 minute classes and am happy with 90%-95% L2.
            *A brain break in L1 and a brain break in silence are equivalent in terms of language acquisition gains.
            *A student’s L1 and L2 use are equivalent in terms of language acquisition gains (so goes Krashen’s line of thinking).
            *L1 use has an important role to play in balancing language acquisition, classroom management, classroom community and relationships, and setting up a FL atmosphere.

          6. I read Bob Patrick’s comment also, but he -might- have been thinking of teachers who use no English -what so ever-. In TPRS all the words are in L1 on the board. We stay inbounds as much as possible, scaffold, recycle, repeat in a variety of contexts etc and point to the English. It is bluff, not real immersion. Does it matter whether we say the L1 or read it? I don’t know. Terry Waltz does not see a difference, yet Nathaniel wrote a post recently about the subtle differences in processing through the ears versus the eyes if I remember correctly.
            What I am testing in my classes is -no spoken L1-. I will do my best not to drown the kids. I am aware of that. It should all be comprehensible to all the kids. Close to 100%.
            As an early elementary FL teacher I have the luxury to be able to close the door and test stuff out. I am curious to see if it makes a difference in blurting. I did notice more L2 spontaneous talking. Also some frustration not being able to formulate a question.I must work on that. Help the kids not translate from English, but use simple L2.
            Overall it was a positive experience.The kids heard a lot more L2. They were not distracted by L1 comments. I did my very best to immerse the children for 30 minutes in comprehensible engaging personalized language. My students are beginners, but have a receptive word bank of 50-200 words by now. Enough for us to chit chat and give directions in L2. The only kids I worry about are the ones who are new to our school and have had zero previous L2. I must be diligent to write up words on the board and point and pause while making eye contact with my brand new students.
            We shall see. Why not give it a try?

          7. Catharina I think you said somewhere in this discussion that you are noticing more L2 production from the kids and less L1 from them with this change. Did I read that right? If so, then that aligns with what I saw in those two DPS classes where Maria and Julie didn’t allow or use any L1 and the result was a classroom where kids spoke only in L2.
            It makes me think of a highway. There are few entrances and exits on the big (L2) highway so fewer chances to have L1 on that road. But, if you look at some of those (L1) service roads that parallel the highway, people can just pull over and walk into a 7-11 or grab am L1 burger somewhere, pulling over and going in and out of the stores to consume some L1.
            Do they need the L1 soft drink or L1 burger? Does the teacher really need to stop class and explain what an accent grave is? Do little kids in their L1 care? Don’t they learn it as they go along? How much of what we say in L1 in a class is necessary? I really am starting to doubt a lot of what we have been using over the years like “What did I just say?” and that entire clarification/checking for meaning thing that started out when it was just TPRS. Can’t we tell?
            If real communication is going on, can’t we tell if they know what we just said? Are students that bored in school that they have become cardboard cutouts of human beings and how does that effect what language we use in our classrooms?

          8. Well I’ve only tested staying in L2 for 1 week. I definitely heard more spontaneous L2 from the kids. Heart warming.
            The major offenders couldn’t get on board. They need more time. We ended up with 1-2 kids interrupting occasionnally compared to 4-5.
            A 5 year old boy stuck his hands on his hips firmly and announced “I am an American. I speak English”. Priceless. He did that with a huge smile on his face, immediately felt guilty and ran over to hug me. He happens to be a little language sponge, and picks it up effortlessly. Go figure.
            It’s definitely a work in progress. I must train myself to train the kids.
            Blabla..I don’t make much sense this morning do I? We are on February break here. My close relatives are visiting from Finland and I am going to pick their brain on education, multi-lingual upbringing, the Finnish education system, how English is taught in schools etc
            Also, Carly Robinson, Brigitte Kahn, Angie, and maybe a few more are getting together in NYC over coffee tomorrow Wednesday 2/18 around noon. Anybody wants to join?

          9. The cute kid who proclaimed that he is an American makes me wonder where he heard it. Or the blurters. Why do they do that? When we teach we immediately get involved with the parenting that led to the creation of the kids at that point in their development. One thing I am certain about is that I refuse to allow a child to bring a neediness agenda into my classroom. Isn’t that what blurting is? Neediness? Then it all shifts to that kid and the teacher internally scowls and and makes a comment about use of English, in English, and then wonders on the drive home why there is so much English used in his class. There is something messed up about a teacher being interrupted by a student and a student getting to control micro portions of the class. I won’t allow that. If that means only L2, then that’s it.

          10. We have to accept the kids as they come…needy or not. We cannot change them. WE HAVE OUR OWN NEEDINESS which often dominates our teaching. Our job is to travel down the road (acquisition) together, as efficiently and as pleasantly as we can. It requires our skills to keep neediness (theirs and ours) from getting us “off track” so to speak. I cannot punish students for their natural inclination to use L1 if I am just as guilty. If I am so un-self-disciplined that I cannot use L1 with any control, is it really fair for me to remove all L1 from the classroom? I have to ask myself: What does removing the L1 do to my kids????? If I don’t find ways to accomodate the needs that using L1 fills, then I am just as selfish as if I am teaching only grammar because I feel more comfortable.
            There is no defined, one-size-fits all answer to this dilemma. We can only strive to get a little farther down the road in a better way each day.
            with love,

          11. “I really am starting to doubt a lot of what we have been using over the years like ‘What did I just say?’ and that entire clarification/checking for meaning thing that started out when it was just TPRS. Can’t we tell?”
            My answer: Nope. I can’t. I thought I did. I was wrong. I have been doing without this, like you are suggesting, Ben, and when I tested my kids with a summative CI-Friendly Exam, I saw a large range of abilities. So, I started checking comprehension more, and what do you know: there are kids who are NOT getting the precise meaning and some kids who are good at faking the choral response who aren’t really listening. I still don’t know if re-establishing meaning in L1 more regularly will do any better, but that’s what I’m thinking now.
            On the flip side, Krashen would tell you that this is HOW acquisition is supposed to happen: partial knowledge building up gradually. Krashen would view us giving the kids the L1 meaning as “learning” and not a substitute for natural acquisition of the meaning. BUT, I’ve since seen Krashen give in on moreTPRS to Terry Waltz’s attitude that if you can give a clearly established meaning (i.e. use translation), then you should, rather than settle for “kinda-sorta-comprehensible-input.” That’s because we should do what we can to maximize comprehensibility.
            It’s similar to the non-targeted input argument. Sure, it would work, if you had enough hours of CI.

          12. Laurie said:
            I cannot punish students for their natural inclination to use L1 if I am just as guilty. If I am so un-self-disciplined that I cannot use L1 with any control, is it really fair for me to remove all L1 from the classroom? I have to ask myself: What does removing the L1 do to my kids????? ….
            This is so much at the core of this argument, Laurie. What is the answer to that last question with all the question marks? I would love to know.
            In first raising the question 137 comments ago, my need was to know if I could prevent blurting by not using L2 at all, because blurting in a CI classroom in my view is just ugly. I happen to be one of those undisciplined teachers and my tennis match back-and-forth use of L1 with L2 led to all kinds of backsliding out of the L2, and it just messed up what I have come to believe is possible in this work.
            As you say, it really must be a two way street on the L2. I think I can do that. Catherine’s daily reports over the past ten days have encouraged me. If I can do it, then I think my kids can. And my gut feeling on this charged question is that doing so would result in much higher gains for my students than I have seen in the past.
            I will see some Learning Labs this week, Sabrina and Julie. I can keep reflecting on this question as I observe those two great teachers. And here is something that is really cool – Mary Beth is in town to watch DPS teachers all week, and work with Diana on writing and also to see Bryce up the road. Now that is cool. I’ll see her tomorrow. Those Maine folks get around! Or maybe it’s just that MB wants some of the balmy Rocky Mountain weather we’ve been having of late!

          13. This is such a great question from Laurie:
            …I have to ask myself: What does removing the L1 do to my kids?????….
            In my view it sets limits. It sends the message that in this class they won’t be speaking English, for the reason that they are there to learn another language. It sets limits. I know that setting limits with kids is not something they allow us to do these days. For example, when we tell them to put away their phones many of them have them back out five minutes later. Or if we don’t sugarcoat an instruction they may take offense and there we are with a parent conference we really don’t need or want.
            So this discussion as I said earlier, for me, goes beyond the L1/L2 thread all the way down to what a teacher is.
            Now I know that that is just one possible answer, Laurie, and that other answers would take into consideration the overall experience of the class for the child. However, when it comes down to it, and this is the new part for me and why I am so interested to know if it can work, as I have seen in DPS Learning Labs, the question comes to mind, “What is the best possible thing for a child to be doing in my class?” And the answer is “listening and reading in the form of pure and steady input in the TL.” It’s only 50 or 90 minutes out of the day and I will give them ample and frequent – as often as every five or ten minutes and never more than every twenty minutes – chances to cross the hemispheres and drop information into the hard drive via physical movement so it’s not like it’s torture to ask them to not blurt in my class.
            (This discussion has revealed to me three kinds of English. Unsolicited blurting, solicited blurting, and no blurting in L1, but that is another discussion.)
            The idea of students not being allowed to speak English is the part I always return to in my own journey with this stuff. Is Stephen Krashen saying that SLA is really an unconscious process characterized by Flow and the Din or is he not? Is the deeper mind, the LAD of Chomsky, all the stuff that happens when a language is really acquired, capable of resisting little blurts or big blurts of English in the classroom or not?
            My answer to that fundamental and pivotal question is no and so now I feel as if I need to grow up and run a class so that the LAD and the Din and Flow can really happen in my students’ minds in the real way so they get the kinds of results Reuben did at GWHS a few years ago, which astounded everyone on a very deep level, including those IB kids in the other building whose whiteness and privilege weren’t enough to even remotely compete with the urban kids of poverty. So removing the L1 from my kids’ experience of my instruction seems to be not an option but a requirement, in this light that we don’t mix languages when we learn our first one, so why should we mix languages when we learn our second and third languages?
            What I need now in my own wrestling match with this question is for someone to tell me how L1 use by the kids (not the 1% explanatory L1 by the teacher) helps them learn the language.

          14. The BIG picture answer: HOWEVER YOU WANT TO MAXIMIZE COMPREHENDED L2.
            Some of these are reworded from my 9 points:
            -Once you have an L1, you naturally relate your L2 to L1 (translate). And that’s good! The L1 is the link to the concept. (L2 -> L1 -> concept or L2 -> concept -> L1). Telling a kid to not speak L1 doesn’t change what he does in his head. And what’s the difference?
            -Do not compare to L1 acquisition. Compare to natural L2 acquisition in which kids DO use the L1 to establish meaning for the new L2. Furthermore, if you mix 2 languages when kids are young they can acquire BOTH! One doesn’t impede the other.
            -Does not some of the L1 blurts make for more personalized and compelling input once brought into bounds in the L2? Won’t those words be the ones the kids remember and likely want to use again? The 2-word suggested answers works great when kids don’t have enough L2 to suggest answers. Just like the old idea that there is L1 interference, when in fact it may be there’s just been a lack of CI. In a similar way, the L1 use happens because there has been a lack of CI. With more CI, there will be less need for L1 use. Doesn’t some output help keep the conversation/story meaningful and relevant to the students’ lives?
            -What does it feel like to not be able to express yourself? Our students literally will NOT be heard (because we’re sending them the message that we don’t want them talking). Is that a necessary feeling for acquisition? Can’t we structure the activities so as to increase the teacher L2 and decrease opportunities for teacher L1 use?
            -What does L1 student use do to their L2 acquisition? Doesn’t directly help nor hurt. Output of either (L1 or L2) may not do anything directly to the L2 linguistic system in our heads.
            -Are we using “no L1” as a substitute for a lack of other classroom management strategies or because it’s best for acquisition?
            -Does checking comprehension with translation help make subsequent input more comprehensible?
            I’m totally cool with 3-6 minutes of L1 every 60 minute class (90-95% L2). 99% would restrict me to 36 seconds of L1. I don’t think my input is going to be as comprehensible if I only spend 36 seconds in L1 every 60 minutes.
            The only chance 99% L2 could ever make for more comprehended L2 will be with an advanced TCI instructor. Even then, I think there are responsible uses for L1 that support acquisition. And since when did this become only about language acquisition?

          15. All that said, I certainly have more of a problem with L1 blurting and neighbor chatter in my youngest grades. Less self-control, less acquired, infrequent classes, no pressure from grading, talkative kids, need for attention, time of day, and fatigue could all be causes. It’s only a problem if it significantly decreases the comprehended L2 I can deliver. When I do feel that the student is a distraction and the L1 is not contributing to our community or story, then I ask that student to temporarily push his chair back (kids are sitting in a semi-circle). There are probably turn-taking routines used by the classroom teacher that can be adopted.

          16. What did I just say?
            I feel the same as Eric on point number 5. I stopped asking that question and have found that when I do ask it now some are off on what is going on. Some learn to fake the game especially during this time of year. It is hard when there are large classes. The other day I had this happen and the student was lost. It gave me a chance to slow down and restate the story and became a positive point in the class. I think it also helps students use the hand over their head when they are lost because there is a chance that I will call on them. I have found recently less use of this sign than earlier in the year. I don’t think that this question should be used as a “got you” but in a way to show that their understanding is vital to acquisition.

          17. We should definitely give it a try before we declare it as a guiding principle.
            100% L2 and 80% comprehended
            = 80% L2 and 100% comprehended
            = 90% L2 and 90% comprehended
            I feel rather than stating an arbitrary percentage as the goal, (which then becomes speaking L2 for the sake of reaching the goal), we should make educated decisions about when L1 and L2 are okay to use and let the percentages be a result of those educated decisions.
            I feel that establishing meaning (for me written and spoken form is the same thing) and checking comprehension are 2 MUSTS in our comprehensibility toolbox. And checking comprehension with “What did I just say?” is even more important in younger learners, since I feel their cognitive abilities (logic) are less, and thus younger learners do a poorer job of making form-meaning links, i.e. “some are off on what is going on.”
            Then again, I teach adults that also don’t always precisely get the form-meaning links. Asking the question re-establishes meaning and hopefully makes for more future comprehended input. And like Melissa says, knowing they could be called on for a comprehension check leads to more signaling.

          18. My young learners do signal when they don’t understand. They use the finger signal, or blurt out “what’s that mean?”. When I use words unknown to the whole class the kids freeze, literally. It’s not a perfect measure for comprehension. Far from.
            I most often differentiate my questions to make the kids feel successful, to the point of -giving- the slower processor the answer, and rarely get a wrong translation. So that doesn’t tell me much either. When I ask the whole class, the fast processors shout the loudest and always get it right.
            I don’t do any formal assessments, mini quizzes, written translation tests, reading or writing (besides the words on the board). It’s all oral-aural input. I must rely on subjective observations, and accept that it’s not perfect.After all 60 mn/week isn’t even considered FLES. I’m putting much too much effort into it.
            I agree Eric that it is essential that we establish meaning, use massive amounts of gestures, pictures and stuff, even more so with little kids, but I want to see with my very own eyes if it can be done without the English. Every class, teacher, language taught, etc like you’ve said so well Eric, differs from school to school, even day to day. I do my best. Which looks different every day. (as says our lovely “kitchen lady”).
            Yes, I agree with Judy (below) that translating is like a whole other skill. I can read my little kids’ puzzled faces when they must put into English what they clealy understood in L2.
            (I am losing my train of thoughts, as my husband needs a ride to the train…)

          19. Echoing what others have said, I would stress the idea of a spectrum / continuum. Not just for “blurting” per se, but for the whole enchilada. We’re all on a continuum, just like our students. We intend to maximize comprehensible L2 and we do it in the way that is best for us, for our group and for the particular moment we’re in. We each do it in our own way, i.e….knowing our own patterns and such we can frame it as “trying for 100%, 95%, or whatever. It’s kind of like my pattern of being late…I have to tell myself “I will leave the house at 9:30, if I really need to leave by 10.” We all have the same goal, which is to create a rich, inviting and encouraging compelling comprehensible L2 atmosphere for our students. Many paths up the mountain, right?
            It’s so cool to hear about everyone’s experimentation with all of this. That is the juice! Testing out stuff in real life with real students. Noticing the response, adaptation, etc. That is evolution! 😀
            I would definitely remind us all to frame the intention affirmatively, rather than as a “prohibition.” Mental health-wise, for us and for our students, approaching each day in a positive way, over time, will make a huge difference even though we may not notice it physically / concretely at the time. It’s a practice, after all, so each day we get a fresh start. It seems that many of our students (most? who knows?) are likely proceeding through their days dodging or reacting to negativity rather than acting or functioning from possibility…”don’t do this; you can’t do that, don’t be this, etc…). It’s constricting and suffocating and deepens the already carved ruts. Anything we can do to shift toward possibility will help, even if it is a very subtle shift.
            Try this to test it out: close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Then say with conviction, “I will NOT speak ENglish today in class.” Notice any sensations in your body / activity or quality of the mind. Then take a few breaths, re center. Now say with conviction “I will speak (GErman, Mandarin, Spanish, French, etc..) for x minutes today (or X percent of class time). Notice sensations in the body, activity / quality of the mind. What is the difference in “energetic quality” of each intention.? How does the conviction feel in each instance…the conviction of “not” vs the conviction of “will”????
            Ok…end of “out there” comments. For now 🙂

          20. We need to do exactly that internal centering work jen and it is not “out there” at all. The old mind-centered ways of teaching with the book didn’t require much of us. We could just go teach. But this new work is body/mind/heart centered and thus requires that we make a shift from one dimensional teaching to three dimensional full bodied robust teaching, where our jobs actually feel connected to the great potential in life, where before, for me anyway, it was a miserable eight hours waiting to get to the end of the day so I could finally breathe and relax from the building fear that was all around me. We have talked about the fear here for years, the fear of being judged, making mistakes, not being good enough at this new work, etc. Now we are not talking about how to teach object pronouns but rather how we experience our own lives in the classroom (not that’s a big deal!), and it is a completely different way of being a teacher, where cheerfulness and happiness enter in, and so we need to be reminded to return to balance, and how this work really is a practice of internal preparedness and balance and being present as real human beings in the best way that we can be for us and not compared to others who may or not be at a certain % in the TL all day. This entire discussion is only on the surface about use of L1 vs. L2 in the classroom. It’s about how we experience our jobs. Like you say, some will experience success and fulfillment through a combination of L1 and L2, others like me think that only L1 will work, and so we do this hard internal work every day and yes it is a practice and no there is no final answer and no one way to do it. That is why few people become teachers, and even fewer among those stay with this difficult, grinding down work that schools put on us. Few can be teachers. Read those names in that list of people who have commented on this thread. That is a list of heroes. Those people are in my eyes champions.

          21. That last paragraph of your, jen, puts clearly the kind of daily affirmation I started giving myself a few weeks ago. When I stopped being so hard on myself for not staying in the L2 and for fighting with students to stay in the L2, I noticeably relaxed. My students are getting more relaxed and finding the classroom experience more enjoyable.
            “Today I’m going to speak as much as I can in Spanish. At this point in the year, having started at my new school a month ago, if I can stay in the L2 80% of the time, that will be wonderful. If a student disrupts, that is not because I am a poor teacher. But I will follow up with that student by contacting support staff or parents.”
            Last week, before I left on my brief paternity leave, my school principal happened to be in the hallway while I was struggle with some unruly behavior from a couple of students in my room. I was standing at the doorway calling for a security guard to come by. The principal was right there. She proceeded to come into my room and made an announcement to all the students that if Mr. Lawler so happens to have to put a student out, they will be sent home. This is a bold statement of support from her. For the rest of the day, the security guard came in to all of my classes and reiterated those very words of my principal. I think my principal is starting to hear about the goods things I’m doing with CI from students and other staff.
            I go back tomorrow looking forward to maximizing the possibilities all the while letting the negativity dissipate into nothingness. I go back knowing that I am a skilled teacher who can help my students with their social, emotional, and academic growth.

          22. I just observed Sabrina (great to reconnect with Mary Beth, who told the learning lab group a touching story about how human this work can be, how it can help us in our daily lives), and in her (Sabrina’s) two classes (combined 1/2 and combined 3/4) she used What Did I Just Say two times. Neither time did they disrupt the flow of L2. So interpret that as you wish. She didn’t use the question fifteen times, there was no feeling of playing Gotcha with the kid, and it was fine.
            Sabrina did Star of the Week – for which we thank Jody who invented the almost identical Special Chair over ten years ago – and it showed how truly engaged kids are when the subject is them. Sabrina did a masterful job of not letting anyone off the hook in answering questions, getting in their grills in the best and most positive way possible but still requiring their engagement, and doing that is definitely on the War Room menu for MN. (Grant wants to know if he can answer any questions about iFLT by the way; email him at

          23. I also think that the question “What did I just say” should only be used once or twice a day. I don’t want them to be translating the story but just to make sure that they understand.

          24. I agree that the use of L1 is actually very important in our classrooms. Before this school year, I never knew what TPRS / CI was but one thing I did do was stay in the L2 for the entire period…84 minutes. The kids responded the best they could in the L2 as well. I didn’t have any special rules but the kids knew what I expected of them and it worked… However, now that I am aware of Comprehensible Input I see that even though I was refraining from speaking English and kids were responding in Spanish, the “weaker” kids were left behind and probably lost. I never thought of the importance of them knowing every single word and just thought they would “figure it out” by trying to get the overall message. Of course, I use gestures all the time which helped. But now I see that many of my students over the past 12 years were probably just tuning me out most of the time since they really didn’t understand…and probably didn’t care much since conjugating verbs wasn’t interesting to them.
            So, getting back to this year and the use of was said up above, just the simple phrase “What did I just say?” is so powerful!! They either understand or they don’t but if I don’t ask, then I’ll never know. The L1 doesn’t have to interrupt the flow of the class as long as you keep it as brief as possible…I don’t have L1 last more than 2 seconds at a time. A simple translation is fine and then we move on.
            There are other times during class when English is used for a good 5-10 minutes. For example, when doing R& D… one of the things we do to be sure that written TPRS stories are clear to everyone is to read it aloud in English even though the text is in Spanish. I think this is powerful as well and it is something that I never would have done prior to this year.
            So, ironically I am using more English than I ever had before (although not too much), but my students are learning Spanish better! So I strongly believe that it has a place in the L2 classroom.

          25. I said “it worked when I was speaking in L2” prior to this year…but what I meant to say was that “I thought it worked”. Also, not only were the weaker kids left behind, but even those that seemed to understand were probably not understanding like they should. (Just wanted to make that clear! Thanks!)

          26. We will all find the sweet spot for our use of L1. What I have learned so far for me is that I want to:
            1. use What did I just say and What does that mean in limited ways during class.
            2. make eye contact with all of them all the time.
            3. repeat much more than I want to.
            4. speak more slowly than I want.
            5. try to “cover” less content and spend the entire period on one sentence if necessary to not lose anyone.
            6. never mix the two languages except in (1) above. This last point is the big one for me. I have no problem with small talk to get to know them as people and to build trust, but that must be limited and never mixed with instructional content. James says he does it at the beginning and the end of the period most of the time. How can that hurt? It can’t hurt. We need so much time overall anyway. It’s fine. But DURING the time we are supposed to be uniquely in L2 what are we then doing with a 90 second blurt from US in L1? That is the problem. Somebody suggested a little light on the desk for L2 use only and I would love to try that. It’s the mixing of the two languages during instructional minutes that I find the critical error that leads to their blurting.
            This will always be a work in progress. Each of us will do it differently. But I am convinced now that blurting initiated by the teacher as it occurs in a large number of classrooms is the big problem. And failure to control kid blurting. The only way to stop them is to not model it ourselves.

  25. It’s good stuff James. We are all trying to figure it out. And don’t forget you are teaching eight classes for the price of five. That can’t be helping.
    If you didn’t nail it with the bell to bell thing, you sure came close. The L1/L2 discussion, which got over 100 comments in a week (it may be a record), may in fact go beyond that emotionally charged topic of blurting (the bane of all CI teachers’ existences), all the way down to the bedrock of what the hell a teacher even is.
    I would say that well over 80% of the CI teachers in our PLC are of the super teacher variety that needs to fill up every second of class because that is what they perceive their jobs to be. CI merely fuels that need, giving the teacher an excuse to keep pecking at providing CI, more and more CI!
    Then I go and suggest last week what I did about blurting. It challenges anyone thinking deeply about their choice of professions now in the middle of winter, smack dab in the middle of February and, as is typical around this time of year, there is a lot of soul searching going on.
    I bet many of us on this blog are thinking of quitting. Maybe I’m wrong but judging from some of the emails I have been getting lately I conclude that many of us are needing to put on our running shoes and sprint out of our buildings as fast as our feet will take us, as per:
    So let’s look at this. What do we do? Change the world for CI like Maria and Julie by using only L2 all but a few seconds in each class, and thus be perceived by everyone including ourselves as “doing a good job”?
    Or do we go with what you describe as close to your heart above – the “less L2” plan that we have developed here over many years of hard work, which is described by many brilliant PLC strategies, and thus keep on keepin’ on with a more laid back attitude that one might describe as healthier in the long run?
    If I had to vote right now, I’d vote for (b). You must remember, I am not in a classroom right now, and my year has been filled with reading what ya’ll are experiencing, dreaming about teaching, about what could be. That’s not necessarily a good thing in the current educational scene, which right now is so much darker than anything you as the brilliant Latin teacher you are could ever come up with.

  26. James and all,
    Why do we torture ourselves and question our self-worth like this? We allow ourselves to be led around by the nose by our feelings of euphoria and inadequacy from class period to class period, and it is absurd! The kids (IMO) are ‘over’ school right now! Behavior is all over the place in the school house! In our weather zone, outdoor recess has been frequently cancelled, which means all bets are off for the afternoon 1st grade classes – those kids have been holding it together indoors all day! Please remember:
    1. Even ‘bad’ T/CI is better than anything the old way.
    2. We are forging real human relationships with our Ss – with a range of human emotions including joy!
    3. We are working their brains (behind the curtain), and they are acquiring.
    4. Coming to our class is a positive experience.
    (Do I sound like Stuart Smalley from SNL?)
    The only way you’d know if bell-to-bell was any ‘better’ than what you’re doing now is if you did some kind of measurable study. Really? So let it go.
    I have always wanted to print out a list of back pocket bail out moves of different lengths and sorts to change things up on the spot. Perhaps if you had a list/templates if necessary at the ready you could throw something down – a dictation, some math problem/s, a build the mister potato head onscreen, some Pinterest puns or tongue twisters in the TL – whatever, to satisfy YOURSELF and give yourself a break.
    So much of what we do is improvisational – one moment’s reading of the energy in the room leads to the next moment’s action/plan…after 70+ minutes of it, you must be fried. Maybe you go for an hour long class with 10 minutes on each side of TL related activities that you cull from this blog or other ones? You break up the remaining 60 minutes too – maybe not the same every day, but maybe the same every Monday…
    I am not a good “operationalizer” but maybe you are just plain old exhausted by your kooky schedule. This summer I want to sit down with an academic year calendar and lay in some curricular pieces to ensure I experiment with them. I’m not talking about detailed lesson plans; I’m talking about when I’d extend and use Textivate, or a plot diagram, or 3 ring circus, or a particular song… I want to make sure I’m not just talking all the time.
    Yes, a fan and pick assortment of bail outs might help you too, I think, as well as giving yourself a giant break.

  27. I don’t see how this is a discussion about self-worth. And lesson plans matter, as I see it now. They are different in that they should not imitate the almost completely absurd old concept of what a lesson plan is of tracking and covering things in a book and checking them off one by one as having been “taught” or “covered”. The new CI lesson plan follows the heartbeat of the Three Steps and ties in with specific planned strategies, those we choose from the treasure pile that we have built here. I further believe that we can’t get away with improvisation in this work. I used to, but now I am completely with James that how we organize our classes and how much L2 we use – 95% vs. 99% is HUGE in my opinion – is a big deal. (This does NOT mean we don’t stay with PQA or a story that keeps building on itself – that’s following energy, not improvising – there is a difference.) So what James is experiencing is not easily dropped, in my opinion. I relate to it on a very deep level and I completely understand what he is saying and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. There’s a lot at stake. I don’t know about others, but this L1/L2 thing could determine deep changes in what James does over the next few years. We are at a crossroads on this PLC. We have gotten so many ideas going that I feel they are tipping the excellent pro-classroom balance we’ve had over recent years. We need clarity of vision, and equipoise in designing our instruction as we go forward. It can’t be haphazard. Details must be attended to. We can’t go into class without a plan, and right now we have too many ideas all over the place that prevent us from having an uncluttered set of simple plans like we did before. I’m concerned. It’s in our best interests to re-define what we are about here from time to time anyway. I’ll write an article to that effect and maybe we can knock some ideas around. Sorry for the rant. Not really. I’m never sorry for my rants, if the truth be known.

  28. There is another, related question which we haven’t touched on, but I’ve often wondered about. I am fairly bilingual, but make a very poor interpreter because I find it difficult to switch between French and English. My brain seems to get stuck in one or the other. (Asked to interpret a dinner speech for rugby players once, I listened to the French captain, then repeated more or less what he had said, in French. ) I first learned French with the immersion method, the teacher spoke French all the time in class. I’ve wondered if she had done comprehension checks, pop-up grammar, etc. in English, if I would be more flexible today.

  29. Maybe this isn’t a numbers game. Maybe it isn’t about “reducing the % of L1”. Maybe it is about 1. what L1 we are using and 2. what we are using it for
    Maybe being more deliberate and judicious about our use of L1 is what is needed.
    Now for some people, any L1 is a gateway…leading to more L1. If that is the case then as a teacher we have some options: a. just don’t use L1 b. look for strategies to limit L1 and commit to finding/using the ones that work best.
    For others L1 is a necessary component to connecting w/ students. If that is the case, then scheduling/limiting/targeting the use of L1 can help.
    The questions then are:
    When do my students need to hear/express themselves in L1?
    How can I honor that ?
    How do I then refocus the group in / in order to use L2?
    Each of us will have different answers/approaches to this….even though we have the same goals: to connect with students and provide as much compelling, comprehensible input as possible in a supportive setting.
    with love,

  30. I’m a newbie so I’ve been following this discussion on L1/L2 use keenly.
    Could someone who uses only L2 or 99% L2 please explain how they manage not going out of bounds. In Stepping Stones Ben was quite definite about the need to stay in bounds with any new L2 – I can’t see how it is possible, particularly with beginners, to use that much L2. Or when you refer to 99% are you just referring to specific parts of the lesson (eg PQA, stories) and not the entirety of it (eg getting the kids into the room, settling them down, connecting with them in a social way – OMG that is so important for me for many reasons, not the least being I love hearing about what’s happening in their lives and having a few jokes).
    Also, do you gradually build up your use of L2 or is it full on from the start? I can use L2 100% of the time in my beginner classes, and it will probably nuke the attempts to blurt out and quick sidetalks with friends etc, but it will also nuke a lot of the connection my kids have with me and I suspect a lot of the fun and enjoyment they have when they come to my class.
    This is a great discussion – thanks everyone for your ideas – it’s given me lots to think about.

    1. My situation where I started at a new school in the middle of the year, and my students were playing poker — multiple games of poker going on at once — with the previous teacher, I found it necessary to use L1 to be firm with students, talk about my expectations with them, lecture to them sometimes about behavior, and talk about potential and possibilities that come from learning in my class. I have to really watch L1 small talk because of the need to practice general classroom discipline. When the L2 is flowing, after some time, I may connect with them in L1. It’s kind of like a reward we can all enjoy, but only after some L2 flow.

    2. …that is so important for me for many reasons, not the least being I love hearing about what’s happening in their lives….
      Ian I just spoke with Diana Noonan about this very thing. She put it very succinctly: we want to stay in the TL as much as we can. We are all where we are in this work.
      Some teachers can do so more than others. The idea of connecting with kids in L1 at the start of class is something I have always done. Up to fifteen minutes or more. I have chosen not to do that in future as a result of what I have been observing lately in DPS.
      So the response from Diana, who observes CI teachers every day of the year almost, is that it depends on the teacher. I am loquacious with my kids and it impedes my instruction, lowers the amount of language my kids learn, and in general sets a mood that allows blurting later after I try to start class. So that is my own answer to your first question and again it will vary per teacher, as is true in ALL aspects of this particular way of teaching languages.
      Your second question:
      …that is so important for me for many reasons, not the least being I love hearing about what’s happening in their lives….
      All I can tell you is that I just observed one of our DPS rock stars use the L2 from bell to bell with her kids, beginners included. There was a lot of personal connection, based on previously established trust built with various strategies like CWB in the first semeseter, and I only heard English twice in response to the What did I just say question. Twice. And yet good will and trust were all over the room. They just had that joy of being together in the TL. Because they understood.
      It is a good question to ask: “Can’t we build rapport and enjoy our kids in the TL?” Again, maybe if it is a new teacher to this work the answer is no, and that is fine. But I am seeing it now for the third time in observing DPS teachers over the past months – kids laughing and having fun, but never blurting – for the simple reason that English is not allowed – and yet the joy of being together with their teacher and each other, talking about each others’ interests, dreams and struggles – only in the TL – is there.

  31. I should have also pointed out that I teach Chinese so I am not able to rely on students being able to work out/guess meaning of what I’ve saying, or at least capture the meaning of what I say because there are almost no cognates/similarities between Chinese and English as there are with European languages. Is that how meaning is established in the 100% L2 environment – through students “prior knowledge”?
    Maybe Dianne could chip in a thought here as she is in the same boat as me?

    1. Diane is the expert on this. My answer is simple. If the class knows English, we write but do not say the word. They see it in English but don’t hear any English. We then gesture it and use it in PQA over and over to get the meaning firmly into their minds.
      If the class is a group of mixed ELL kids, and this is Judy Dubois’ idea, they look on their phones for what the word means in their language. Since the class is one massive set of reps on the targets for that day in L2, and since they know what the Rebar* means, no one is confused.
      *there are articles on this important concept in CI instruction in the categories on the right side of this page.

    2. When I read your first comment, Ian, I thought – he’s a Chinese teacher. That means all that much more challenge b/c we build up student vocabulary more slowly (because no cognates, and few loanwords). Then you wrote that yourself!
      I agree with Ben: limit the new language, and pause and point all the time when you use it, & show them the English meaning.
      Couple of thoughts since, yay!!!, a Chinese teacher to talk with: I find myself aware I’m using three levels of language with classes. First level: the real targeted new language and the focus of class, which will be worked with through the 3 steps leading to reading comprehension with them. Second level: some classroom useful phrases, verbs, colors, and classroom directions & requests – those are posted on the wall on posters, and are pointed to as needed. These won’t be tested but I expect students eventually to understand without my pointing to the poster. Third level: a few oral additions that are drawn out by/for the superstars (only introduced orally without expectation they’ll maybe ever read the word; if these get noticed & understood by the whole class, then get treated to reading as well).
      Today I covered a Spanish 1 class. They were reading a book (Piratas). Amazing how much language was in that book. Boat, cannon, pirate, all kinds of stuff I never include in Chinese, or not until much, much later. They could sound out words even if they didn’t understand them. All of them could read aloud that unfamiliar chapter pretty comfortably. Very different from Chinese; I never give students independent reading with any new word in it until level 3 or 4, maybe ONE word on a whole page, and then I put pinyin over it. We read together, and together again, and then they read with the same words and support, and again more on their own… and then most of them read it quite well after that. And then we review. I think Chinese has to be more planned in its approach because of our reading needs. But… easy verbs. We can teach verbs and using them in different time frames much more easily. No conjugation, oh, I love that. But we have more limited vocabulary and have to proceed carefully. I think it’s a really satisfying kind of challenge.

      1. Diane would you suggest that Ian -maybe- could have his students fill in a personal questionnaire (written in English)? It could be used as background information/springboard for conversation without having to rely on English? A questionnaire might be a quick way to get some personal details? A variation on CWB.

        1. I’ve tried & never ending up using questionnaire info when I tried. Perhaps because really I think your Chinese 1 first week questionnaire needs maybe 2 or 3 questions: You are…? You like…? You don’t like…? and then leave all the answers in proper names. I use “is” and “likes” (all forms of the verbs are the same) for the first week in Chinese 1. So, since it’s so few questions that I feel I could practically touch on any time soon, we just find out in PQA more spontaneously.
          I have never gotten Circling with Balls (etc.) to work. Too complicated or something. But only one verb, “is/am/are”, works for me as a first day of class with the students’ names. It’s practical and can be made fun by mixing up names intentionally, pictures of celebrities & cartoon characters, etc. It also shows that I want to know them by name right away; I think that’s good, too, as they walk out the first day I can say goodbye to each student by name. Adding “likes” is compelling, and then “a little bit” and “a lot.” “She is Beyonce. He is (student’s name). Beyonce likes (my student’s name) a lot, but student likes Beyonce a little bit. Beyonce is not good (ie, feels bad)!” That’s a first week or two storyline for me, story-asking the Beyonce part.
          Then again, I still haven’t done TPR stuff in such a way that it really soars, either. But I think you have to limit the new sounds in Chinese. There’s plenty of new stuff within that.

          1. I like it, Diane!
            I’ve tried more than once to get the Personal Questionnaires to work with the Special Person, but I always give it up, because it takes me out of bounds so easily. My other problem – I’m sure the special person of the day loves the attention, but I’ve noticed less attention from the group as a whole.

          2. Yep, I haven’t done Special Person. But I loooove Special Chair. Then the whole class gets to make up things about the person in the chair (though nothing that they would be upset by, of course – they have veto power though I don’t tell them that directly).
            Special Chair keeps the majority of the class’ attention quite well.

          3. You can stay in bounds and keep everyone involved with Special Person, Eric. I just saw Sabrina do it in two classes on Wednesday, both combined (1/2 and 3/4) classes. She used cold calling, and on the screen are the questions, which keep things in bounds. There are some other details to this, but it can be done.
            Let’s clarify again, though, Special Person IS Jody’s Special Chair. It’s the same thing.

  32. Just to throw in an advertisement for Circling With Balls/Cards (CWB). We really can start off the year in 100% TL, and at the same time build strong relationships with students. My Spanish 4’s can still remember what their mini-story was that came out of CWB.
    If I’m honest, the first week of school in Spanish 1 is probably my best percentage of TL. I even had to get special permission from admin because they have a rule that you must go over your syllabus the first day. It’s so powerful for me when I do it right.
    I have had success with Bryce’s special person as well, but for level 1’s there is no better way to start your year.

    1. I request that we credit Jody for the Special Person. Once on a bike ride Bryce said he thought he got it from me but I told him it was Jody. Special Person is really Special Chair. It’s important to me and others that we credit things properly.

      1. Wow, read this after I just commented above. I think of those as two very different directions to take with the class. But maybe Special Person is more imaginative than I think it is? I thought that was more about the real student’s actual life, to the degree that he or she wants to share it. I think of the Special Chair as going into story-asking land.

    2. David,
      I have had the same thoughts about the beginning of the year classes. They seem to be so much easier to stay in high percentages of the TL. I was thinking it has to do with the behavior of students. In the beginning they play the game very well. They don’t test the boundaries of the teacher or the routines (yet).
      I think as the year goes on, we have students that try to get away with blurting out and as the year continues it is a one person battle that takes a toll on the teacher. Thanks for adding your opinion.

      1. I know the Blurting L1/L2 discussion is over, but I just want to add kind of a final thought for me, like a concluding statement.
        There are two kinds of blurting. The first is when we initiate the use of English with clarification statements like:
        1. What did I just say?
        2. What does ____ mean?”
        We can ask those two questions to individual students, as long as we don’t use them more than three or four times in a class period, in my opinion. Sparingly used, the don’t effect the class at all. They blip by in a few seconds. But once we start asking those two questions t0o much in class, it shreds the flow of L2. That is what I really wanted to say.
        In the classrooms that I observed almost unique use of L2 in the DPS classrooms – Mark’s, Sabrina’s, Julie’s and Maria’s – I saw magic. I didn’t see it in the classrooms where English kept coming up. I saw a beautiful flow of language. I saw elegance. I saw Krashen’s ideas in full bloom. This very limited use of L2 to quickly clarify had the effect of not allowing the students English, and the entire feel of the class was just great.
        The other kind of blurting is unsolicited blurting from kids, not clarification L1 from the teacher. Some kid just blurts something out in English. In those four classrooms where the teacher only used L2, there were blurts, yes, but not too many and the ones that did happen stood out like a sore thumb, and were completely waved away by the teacher and the rest of the class in an instant. In classes where English was an accepted part of the class culture, however, blurting was common and became ugly and the class lost its sparkle and the teacher didn’t have as much dignity. Maybe they had more friends in the class, but I never really got the part about wanting students to be my friends, even when I was a grammar teacher.

        1. The whole discussion about use of L1/L2 and blurting keeps passing through my mind. Now I am thinking of allowing English until Sept. 1 of any given academic year in order to:
          1. save time
          2. establish classroom procedures
          3. norm the class according to the Classroom Rules
          4. build rapport
          After that date, except in a few instances of using What Did I Just Say? or What does____mean? I won’t use English with a level one class. I will make a big deal out of the arrival of that date. the preliminaries will have been addressed, the trust built, and then in September we can let the L2 horses out of the gate.
          I keep wanting to say here, although most people are done with the discussion, how I think that 99% use of L2 in a classroom slays lots of egos in the room, of the teacher and of the students. Having seen four teachers in DPS teach much more elegantly than I really have seen before and they happened to be the ones using only L2 in their classrooms, I think that my intuition is correct.

          1. I personally would like a reminder about once a month as this is something that I need to keep in the forefront of my mind. I think that I will make a poster so that I have to see it every day. Especially at this time of year.

          2. Melissa I think that if you keep this idea of L2 dominance in your heart and body, your mind will follow. Indeed, it is the mind that wants to use the English. The kids don’t need it, and you don’t need it. It just gets in the way of elegant teaching as I saw it practiced in DPS over this past month.
            This is to say that how we feel when we teach is something we really need to get in touch with. It’s not touchy-feely hippy stuff. It’s real pedagogical insight that this way of teaching requires an entirely different awareness of ourselves as teachers in our classrooms.
            John Piazza is all over this even though he doesn’t comment much abut it. And jen and others. If we actually take the trouble (exercise self care) to feel how our bodies and hearts feel when we teach, and not just our minds, we will be able to notice when we are not in synch with ourselves. The mind will get back in control and we will wonder why our classes suck.
            When the mind is in control, we begin to resemble our brothers and sisters who teach from a textbook. We don’t want that, at least I certainly don’t. I want to be happy when I teach, and in order to accomplish that, I need for my mind/heart/body to be in balance. Only then can I realize the true value of comprehensible input as a way of teaching.

          3. Good point, Melissa. We are not done. We will need to revisit it again and again, as we encounter new circumstances in the class.

        2. Ben, I don’t allow blurting of the second type in my room. I never have. I doubt many on here do. When we are working with oral/aural CI, I fight random English blurts from the kids from day one, and I try to control them in myself. I think were we will differ isn’t over the issue of blurting. I speak in English with my kids a little before and after class and a little during our brain breaks. Also when we are reading–and we do a type of reading in Latin which isn’t always comprehensible because of reason beyond my control–we often need recourse to English to make stuff make sense. This is not blurting as you have defined it.
          I don’t allow blurting, But I do allow myself a bit of that “friendly” English here and there–but we all know that when we have L2 flowing that we don’t act stupid and interrupt with English.

          1. I think here’s the rub: You would probably say that I don’t teach bell-to-bell, that I am wasting time that could be spent in L2 with some get-to-know-you, I-care English. I would respond that I don’t know what truly bell-to-bell teaching really is besides unfair torture for the kids which is ultimately unsustainable across an entire career.

          2. It’s interesting how detailed this L1/L2 discussion is getting, as per:
            ….I speak in English with my kids a little before and after class and a little during our brain breaks. Also when we are reading….
            James I don’t think of that as English. I made the mistake of not being clear on this. I’m talking about English when it crowbars into L2. Huge difference. And reading requires L1 use, since it involves translation and explication, etc. So I don’t even consider reading part of the blurting discussion. I’m talking about when we are teaching auditory content. Sorry about not being clear.
            My big takeaway from this discussion was how I actually encouraged blurting in my students by blurting, sabotaging my own L2 instruction with stuff that looked attractive and worth saying in L1 but now I realize was just ego-fueled junk, lecturing for example on the pluperfect subjunctive when they don’t even know what one is. All the thousands of those kinds of blurts, or blurts about who won the game last night, over my career are things I wish I could get a retry on. They were fueled, perhaps, by my wanting the approval of my students.
            It took me observing some bell to bell L2 classes to get into this. Now I see L1 as ego driven much of the time. We isolated times when L2 blurts are ok like “What did I just say?” and “What does ____ mean?” when not overused. What I got out of the entire thread was how much I don’t ever want to use but very very mini-minimal amounts of English, and how I see now how my inner quest for elegance of the Linda Li variety has been seriously hammered down by my forays into English. This thread has changed my entire concept of what CI instruction is. I know it tested you as well, you with the eight classes and don’t ever do that again. Five. Five for James. I’m going to put up billboards between here and Kansas City. FIVE FOR JAMES. SUPPORT KANSAS TEACHERS – NOT JUST THE ROYALS.
            I-care English is a great term. It is needed. Maybe the Learning Lab team didn’t see any English in Sabrina’s or Julie’s classes because it was a formal observation. That might be it. But there is a major detail to emerge in this discussion. I thought that the classes where the teacher didn’t use I-care English had an elegance that no others did.
            Maybe I’m trying too much for the ideal. I bet that we are in near complete agreement on this really, James and the cyberspace monkeys are having fun with all this talk, since it’s all we have. Over the years no one in this community has been such a twin teaching soul to me as you. I think we think almost exactly alike on everything.
            So I-care English is great and I probably couldn’t NOT use it, since kids need so much emotional support in buildings. This is like a surgical maneuver – trying to figure out when to use the knife on English. When? Where? Nobody can say we’re not into it.

          3. Yeah I feel ya Ben. I think at the end of the day we agree on this, even though it has felt like we don’t. I do think I have been letting myself off easy of the L2 thing, and not pushing the Ten Minute into a Fifteen or Twenty Minute deal out of laziness of my part. This thread has shown me that.
            But the I-care English is important to me as a teacher and I felt this thread was challenging that. I absolutely agree that we need to stay in L2 when it’s L2 time, and I totally see now how I can get more L2 time while still getting enough of the I-care stuff in for me and for them. Thanks, all, for that.

          4. I really do think it was because the big boss, Diana Noonan was in there with a bunch of us DPS teachers and bingo, the class is all in L2. I certainly don’t think even those awesome teachers don’t use I-care English at the appropriate times. Julie and I walked out of her classroom on Friday and every little stray kid in the building glommed onto her like she was a magnet. She must do some I-care English!

          5. Thanks for clarifying, Ben. Had you said that, that the before/during/after “I-care English” doesn’t count towards the 99% L1 sum, then I would not have been so adamant about 90-95% bell-to-bell (and we don’t always need that much I-care English). We were talking about different things.
            To take a line from Laurie’s Heart Playbook: this isn’t really about language acquisition. It’s about something much more important. It’s about honoring our kids and building their self-worth. That is the true work that needs to be done to get kids “college and career ready” and everyone should do what is necessary to achieve that. (Plus, some L1 for a teacher’s mental health if needed).
            Just watched “When the Game Stands Tall” and that is what the movie is all about: it wasn’t about football, football is just the medium to help kids grow up and be part of a team. My dad is the high school football coach in our district and he’d also tell you that he puts that growth and brotherhood over all else. He’s also done a pretty good job at winning 😉

          6. And James after Sabrina’s Learning Lab, which was conducted entirely in French with zero blurts from Sabrina (I guess being French helps) and with two strong English blurts from her students, which were both swiped away Dr. Evil style when he shushes Scott, I found myself using French with Diana after the classes. This is what intrigues me. Diana and I usually speak English to each other. But we were blabbering away in French after Sabrina’s class. You see, this is why I constantly push for the no L1 thing. I don’t know, maybe Eric can help us with the research on this, if it exists (I doubt it) – what in happens the language acquisition system at the deeper levels when even a wee tiny bit of another language crowbars into the language being learned? I think it is far more deleterious than we think. So after Sabrina’s classes with only those two blurts, Diana and I just stayed in French to process stuff after the all L2 class. I really think there is something there. That is why the 90% statement to me is way under what is needed.

          7. Makes sense to me, Ben, about your experience naturally switching to French after the class.
            Similar concept: I went on a 6-week program for non-native Chinese teachers in 2012. We were asked to maintain Chinese-only throughout events as a group. Some of us stayed in Chinese beyond that, myself included, except when I talking to my husband by Skype in the evening. I had like 2 partially English conversations in those 5-6 weeks besides that. In class, I always felt like someone talking in English at the wrong time was interfering with my ability to think in Chinese. Even when it was a classmate explaining the meaning of a new word in class — we all had enough Chinese to work around that with a Chinese explanation and that’s what I preferred. The Chinese teachers and language partners were very strictly told never to speak to us in English or they’d be dismissed! We personally used online dictionaries that referred to English, and the textbooks they had us use had English in them, but no English was written in class.

          8. Ben, maybe your hunch is right. I don’t think we know. I think it depends on the situation. To me, it comes back to CI driving acquisition. Will speaking L1 lessen the comprehensibility of the L2? I don’t think so. Used appropriately, could make it more comprehensible. We can utilize our first language to help us access others.
            Just thinking about kids who are acquiring an L2 at home (maybe only mom speaks the L2 to the kid) or as part of an immersion program or as a second language experience (not foreign), I think people naturally check the meaning in their L1 with themselves and with others. Maybe student L1 to clarify meaning is okay.
            To me, if language acquisition is unconscious and comes from focusing on the meaning, not the form, then there can be a L1/L2 mix that keeps the focus on meaning. The psychological state of flow is about losing oneself in the moment, being lost in the meaning, forgetting what language is being used, and is hypothesized best facilitated when CI is compelling. In that case, it’s said that students don’t know what language is being used. They’re focused on the meaning!!! Use of L1 to further the L2 message/meaning may not even be noticed. If L1 OR L2 blurting is irrelevant to the discussion, then it may take away and distract from the meaning being created in L2. That kind of blurting or side talk, regardless of language would be discouraged in any class.
            L1 use of students only takes away from Krashen’s acquisition if it takes away from L2 CI. Unless we are straying from Krashen and posit that L2 output is also necessary. I have some of those kids who hear only L2 from mom at home and they can comprehend L2 seemingly perfectly, but they don’t produce it fluently or accurately like a native speaker. Krashen would say that has to do with the affective filter (social pressures and roles). . .
            What makes people speak L2 also has a social piece – to be part of the community of L2 speakers and has a lot to do with WHO you are interacting with. This could be a delicate line. Creating L2 speakers may be best facilitated with encouragement for a L2-only environment, but not obligation.
            In the Peace Corps, volunteers never willingly spoke to each other in L2. It felt false. It felt uncool – that the person was being “nerdy.” We all spoke English and could be so much clearer with each other in English.
            When all the Spanish teachers get together from my district we speak English. I think it would feel like our language ability were being judged were we to speak in L2. Our anxiety and monitors would be up.
            Then, here’s a case that supports your argument, Ben: My wife’s L2 is English and I wish I spoke more English to her, but when she speaks to me in Spanish I usually cave. My Spanish proficiency is better than her English, so we can better communicate in Spanish. I tell her that she needs to speak English in order to get me to speak more consistently in English with her. So in a FL class, you could explain that to the kids, if you are a teacher who will cave to student L1 use.

  33. Eric said:
    …people naturally check the meaning in their L1 with themselves and with others….
    I think this has been shown to be true, though I can’t cite the research. But I see that as a surface finding. If you go into the really deep waters, in the silence, nothing is checked, just absorbed into the language system or not depending on the amount of reps, level of interest, etc. This is what I am interested in right now in this thread – how what Diane was talking about in her Chinese work was happening. And that thought leads to thoughts about time available for CI and motivation of the students. It’s a big mess to try to think about. Nor could those who tried to quantify the workings of the unconscious mind in depth psychology come up with anything meaningful. They were poking around where they didn’t belong, in the area where language lives, trying to draw up into consciousness that which can’t be so drawn. So much pride in what humans think they can do – to manufacture language – it can’t be done by humans. People listen, they imperceptibly begin to understand it, they start reading it, speech starts to emerge, then they write it from a natural blameless place, and there is no conscious arranging of anything and no credit can be given to those who try to manufacture language. There are no great teachers of language, just those who deliver speech that is comprehensible to their students. That’s all there is in a minor rant there.

  34. Eric said:

    …if L1 OR L2 blurting is irrelevant to the discussion, then it may take away and distract from the meaning being created in L2. That kind of blurting or side talk, regardless of language would be discouraged in any class….

    But it’s not discouraged, but almost encouraged by all those teachers like me until this year who don’t think a little ego driven code switching is “all that bad”. Paul and I and Diana were just discussing it a few hours ago. My take is that when you change languages on a kid it is far more deleterious than we have any idea. Far more. I think that when you say that kind of blurting would be discouraged in class, maybe it would be but the reality is that it’s not. There is a symphony of back and forth mixing of languages in our schools. And those are the TPRS teachers, and it’s not sweet music. Just my opinion. We need to change how we define CI/TPRS. I say the new definition should be 90% for newer teachers, 95% for teachers with a few years of CI under their belts, 99% as discussed here recently for teachers who have done lots of CI.
    Want to talk to your students in English? Fine. Just don’t do so when you are acting like you are talking in the target language. That time in the TL should be uniquely at 99%. The shifts back and forth are really rough on their brains. I wish we had some research on that.

    1. …if L1 OR L2 blurting is irrelevant to the discussion, then it may take away and distract from the meaning being created in L2….
      And often more than that. When I was at East High School yesterday I stopped in a few classrooms just to hang out and I noticed something very disturbing. You have to know the student population. Imagine the best and worst of the USA micropacked into one room.
      So what I saw was there were always one or two kids in each classroom who thought that they could dart in and out with well hidden dark comments. We haven’t addressed this yet in this blurting L1/L2 discussion and I want to bring it up here.
      In one class, a girl in a big (35) class packed into a small room threw out two rude comments that were perfectly camouflaged and packaged to look inoffensive. You had to think about them to realize that this girl was not really there to learn French as much as to exert her will on the class. Very very subtle but it got me thinking.
      If we don’t have a no blurting rule (an L2 only rule) then kids like that can play us like violins. The teacher even told me in French so that the class couldn’t understand that this girl was known to be rude pretty much at a constant, though below the radar levels, pace throughout the class. It seemed like an accepted behavior. The other kids didn’t need that.
      I don’t know about anyone else, but since I never thought this L1/L2 thing through deeply enough, certainly not to the level we have in this discussion, I now see that I just spent an entire career opening myself up to comments from kids that should have never been made.
      The effect of those comments, passive aggressive masterpieces, left a dull thud in my psyche as I tried to smile through them all those years. There is such a thing as an invisible world in a classroom and darkness is on the rampage these days in some of these kids’ lives. Why didn’t I just have a rule that when we are in French we don’t use English?
      At the crux of this discussion, for me, is the idea that it is time for adults to return to the classrooms of America. They have been gone too long.

      1. I’m really glad this thread got refreshed. It answers the questions I posted in the “Krashen on L1 Use”. Now the answer is clear to me: English use is good and maybe even crucial if it is “I-care” English. My class should still be about 98% in the TL though. English use (from me or a student) is bad – very, very bad – if happens in the middle of TL time.
        The only exceptions are choral translating of readings and judicious use of “What did I just say?”.

        1. Greg the last two sentences you wrote to clarify this are right on. I want them etched into my mind:
          …English use (from me or a student) is bad – very, very bad – if happens in the middle of TL time….
          …the only exceptions are choral translating of readings and judicious use of “What did I just say?”….
          I would say it has taken me 15 years of struggle to get to a full understanding of the truths contained in those two sentences. I’m sure we will further refine it, but I also am glad this thread is still alive because it is just so totally important to everything we do. I would suggest that we may as well not learn all the other stuff in this work unless we can keep ourselves and our students from blurting during our L2 instruction. And I don’t say that because I think it is a cool idea, but because I believe there is neurological research that hasn’t been done yet that will prove this to be true one day. Unless it’s tattooed on the Jackal’s armpit.

          1. Jeffery Brickler

            I’m really slow here and I could use some clearly defined suggestions. Our class should be 99% L2. This means in a 50 minute class, we are in l2 49 minutes.
            TL time..
            How much time of my 50 minute class is TL time? This is what I don’t understand. I speak too much English and they speak too much English. I struggle with this concept having never seen an entire class.

          2. There is no right way. I personally see now that when I am in the TL with the class, I don’t want to leave it more than 1% of the time and that is only to clarify and check for understanding. That is my wish for me. Now, if I want to talk about the basketball game for ten minutes in L1 to start class, or for five minutes at the end to celebrate that Jose won the Golden Gloves match over the weekend, then fine. Not a good use of time, but hey we’re just trying to get through the class, right? I don’t count that as L1. It’s when I am actually teaching the language using CI that I can only use What did I just say? and even that sparingly. But that’s just me. It’s the mixing of the two in class that I can’t justify anymore. I would say that before the light bulb went on for me on this topic I probably was responsible for over 95% of the English blurting over the past fifteen years of teaching this way. My constant blurting was like me holding up a big sign that said, “Blurt away, everyone! I’m doing it and I’m the teacher!”

          3. Right, I do not allow any L1 when we are creating stories or doing PQA unless I feel that a student may not understand and I’ll quickly ask “What did I say”, or just simply ask in the L2 “In English?” while pointing to the expression if I had written it on the board. This is where the light has helped me a lot (that I had talked about somewhere else). In the beginning of the year I had some blurters. Even though they meant well and many blurts were due to excitement from the conversation / story, it interrupted the flow of the L2. So now with the light on in front of the room and the “pay me” system that I have in place that I talked about earlier, kids have an immediate consequence for speaking English during that time. I can honestly say that in the past three month I’ve had maybe 3 blurts and that is considering over 120 students in 5 classes.
            That being said, there are some days where a good amount of English is used if we’re not doing a story or PQA conversation. These days don’t happen often but I’ll briefly explain an 84 minute lesson from a couple days ago. The purpose of the lesson was to review the TPRS reading that we spent the prior class on.
            Class opener: quick conversation (Spanish)
            Quick review of TPRS reading : Who was in story, Where did story take place, Problem(s) in story (Spanish)
            “Hit me” activity: All students stand up and I randomly say their name and then say “hit me”. They then “hit me” with a “detail” from the story that they remember. Then they can sit down. (Spanish)…By the way, I found this activity recently on Martina Bex’s website.
            Acting out story: Students volunteer to be actors and coordinate their actions to my words as I read story in L2. (Spanish)
            Game…So, this is where it gets tricky. I did a game where I divided class into two teams, assigned each student a number on each team. Then I asked a question in L2 related to the story we just reviewed. After the question I yelled out a number. The students on each team that were given that number had to run to the board, write the answer in L2, and then sit down. The student who sat down first and correctly answered the question in L2 got the point.
            So, in my opinion, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to require the class to speak in L2 during this time. Kids are competitive and blurt a lot…even if it’s nothing more than to cheer on their classmate. Of course, I quickly translate their cheer to L2 if it’s something simple like “Come on!” or “You can do it!” but that doesn’t happen all the time. So this would be a time where I would not require L2 and allow English. This game lasted for 20 minutes so that was 20 minutes of a lot of English used by the students. I think this is ok…at least for me.
            Quick quiz on story
            Quick drawing activity: Kids in groups of 2 drew out 5-6 scenes from story and then wrote captions for each. Kids spoke in English during this time as well. (If we had time, I would have put one or two under the document camera, and talked and circled some in L2 but we didn’t. However, now I have a class opener for next time!)
            I limit these type of partner activities and have them last for only about 10 minutes since they are not receiving CI but I think it’s important for them to have short activities like this now and then.
            I explained my lesson because the game was a decent chunk of class time…it lasted over 20 minutes. (I had 30 questions…and the class was enjoying it). So, even though there was a lot of English during the game, it was not intended to be an “acquisition activity” so English was allowed.
            Sorry for the long post…but one other think came to mind. The previous class when kids were first introduced to this story, there was also a good chunk of time (20 minutes) when I had story up on screen and I was asking them questions about grammar in the story while they interjected now and then to ask what a word or phrase meant in English. I have to do this all in English. It would take too long in L2 and would not make sense to them. Many really do not care anyway about the grammar, they just want to know what things mean.
            I used to do this as two separate parts…they asked me questions on meanings of words, and then when we finished, I went back to the beginning of story to ask them all my grammar questions. Kids don’t want to go through the story twice…once is enough. So, even though I do the same thing (ask them grammar questions and they ask me what something means) we do it simultaneously and I think it works out better. So this requires A LOT of English but, again, it is okay because it is not an acquisition activity (story telling, PQA, etc.)
            So, in my classroom…
            Light on = No English (We are doing CI in some way and a student needs to “pay me” if they use English)
            Light off = English allowed, but Spanish encouraged and many times still used depending on activity. However, there is no penalty with the “pay me” system if a student speaks English.

          4. In case you’re wondering, the light may be on anywhere from ten to thirty minutes at a time depending on how good the conversation/ story is. Out of curiosity, what do some of you do to reinforce the “no blurting” rule?
            The “pay me” system is working very well, but it would be interesting to know what others do since taking away a “pay me card” from a student is, in fact, a negative consequence. I was contemplating other ideas before this one but this is the only thing that has really worked for me.
            Thank you!

          5. Keri, I’m taking note of your “Hit me” and “Run to the Board” activities. As much as I dislike competitive activities, activities like these can be fun and playful and a good way to mix up the CI.
            I used to do something like this “Run to the Board” activity a lot before I became a CI teacher. I would write a sentence in English on the board and one student at a time from each group (the “group” could be a row of desks from the front to the back of the room) would have to come up to their section of the board to translate one word at a time to English. I always had a hard time sticking to the rules when implementing this activity because of students wanting to participate but not knowing how. I remember I would call time at some point after most teams were done, make all students sit down and run through each sentence to select the most accurate, giving that team praise. Yet, there’s another problem… other teams shut down when they feel like they can’t compete. For this reason, I found it not good to let the activity run for very long.
            Anyways, no CI there but, I think, a valuable kinesthetic, playful activity if done well by adjusting to be as inclusive as possible. And it can be a quick 10 min break in the middle of class, needed especially in the block classes. I’ll have to try your version where you have two teams and you call a number.

          6. Oh, and the “Hit me” activity sounds a lot like the Pepper activity Doug Lemov writes about in Teach Like a Champion and adapted by Skip Crosby a year ago here for the CI classroom. It’s interesting to hear your version of it, Keri!

          7. Keri what percentage of your success with blurting would you estimate is due to the “pay me” system and what to the light being there? Would you care to venture a guess? I personally don’t know too many people who have made pagames work and it goes against my own nature. I am wondering if the light would be effective enough when used alone, along with my own vigilance during L2 instructional time as well, of course.

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