Bring CI to ACTFL Next Year?

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36 thoughts on “Bring CI to ACTFL Next Year?”

  1. Ben, you’re right that now is the time to discuss this and decide. Proposals for San Diego are due in January.

    COACH will be at ACTFL, and I plan to submit at least one proposal.

    I suggest looking at it this way: the people who don’t want to hear about CI will for the most part self select not to attend, so it won’t be quite the same as on the thread. At a conference like this it would be the height of unprofessional conduct for either side to disrupt a presenter’s session. In San Antonio I attended one session on CI, and when it became clear what the presentation was about, a woman walked out. She may well have left for other reasons, but it looked to me like she left because the session was not going to be what she expected. That is far better than asking antagonistic questions during or at the end of the session. I did the same thing at a different session: when I realized that I wasn’t going to get something useful out of the session, I left. (Fortunately I was sitting at the back, so it wasn’t as obvious.) So, I think the good of providing large numbers of classroom teachers with what they are looking for outweighs the negative of knowing that we are presenting alongside those who tout the wonders of a grammar syllabus.

  2. Robert it was Alisa’s idea on getting this hashed out now because of the January deadlines. I think we should go for it. But I only changed my mind because of your point above about the good outweighing the bad. Before I read your comment I was thinking it just wasn’t worth it.

    A problem is definitely that many of us are reeling from the first semester soldiering, preparing for exams, and generally looking for a break in the grind. So we have to realize that requesting the group to submit proposals to ACTFL to present next year, and by January (Submission Deadline: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 @ 5 PM ET), is asking a lot.

    Nevertheless, I feel it should be done. If for no other reason than if we and other CI teachers around the world in their different groups don’t do it, who will? That would amount to a kind of sin by omission, and allow the old same old same old sessions, so fricking boring, to happen in yet another ACTFL conference. (How much longer can that go on?)

    Here is a link to the submission guidelines:

    The focus areas are:

    1. Planning for the Learner
    2. Learning and Teaching
    3. Assessment
    4. Collaboration

    I know that if I had been teaching a few years and was looking at my salary relative to the amount of work I was doing on grading, for example, I would be happy to hear some CI dude tell me that she spends five minutes a day entering quick quizzes into her grade book and I would really want to hear about jGR as a means to control my CI classroom, so I would go to a session on Assessment in the CI Classroom.

    Your reasoning is sound, Robert. It would be too easy to walk away from this challenge, just because so many of us are so emotionally tired right now. In fact, just doing this work in the classroom is hard enough, and thinking about submitting a formal proposal into our daily work right now is just so much. Most of us still haven’t done our Christmas shopping!

    But look who we have in our group. When I think about it, I get emotional. We have heroes in our group. I nominate Anne Matava to propose something for ACTFL. Think of what Jim Tripp could do. What if Eric Herman had a ten hours session with those interested in an honest discussion about the research? (Well, that wouldn’t scratch the surface in any session Eric would do. And if anybody didn’t like what he said, he could just beat the hell out of them physically.) The names of people who really should propose papers by Jan. 14 just keep coming into my mind. I like it. Eric said something briefly to me about this idea a few months ago, and I think he talked to Alisa. Now you, Robert, give a kind of green light to the idea.

    The big question is who in the group will respond? Before you decide, just think about all the teachers at ACTFL next year who will be looking around for something new and unique and fun and different to add to their tired and worn out textbook driven (read “boring”) careers. Who might do it? Respond below, please, so we can not make this just talk, but act. In this world, right now, in this country, we must act. You know why.

  3. I agree with Robert. I really had a lot of fun at ACTFL and I think my presentation was very well received. Bob Patrick had the idea before to have a variety of languages taught to beginners, which I still think is a very good idea. Perhaps billing sessions as an opportunity to get a sense of that other language as well as strategies to stay in the TL from the first moment…? That was a theme in several presentations.

    However, I’m not going to pay the cost to be there next year. It was a special occasion to get reimbursement from my school this fall. It’s not worth it to me (now at least) to pay my own way to ACTFL. (Probably will be worth it for iFLT or NTPRS though.)

  4. I agree about the cost to attend ACTFL. This is a huge obstacle for most of us. If we can’t get funding, who has an extra $2,000 laying around for it? But we could propose a session to ACTFL by the deadline, then take that to our schools and say that we were accepted, which might put a little pressure on them to fund our trips. But yours is a real point, Diane.

    1. I actually managed to get to & from ACTFL for about $830 total by:
      – only staying overnight 2 nights (which meant I missed Friday morning events though)
      – finding a roommate for the hotel
      – buying a ticket for the airport shuttle instead of a taxi
      – eating really cheap – only one meal was a sit-down restaurant thing

      Good to know about iFLT!

      1. OK my bad. That St. Paul conference by Carol IS iFLT next year. That is the one Catharina mentioned below. I misunderstood because Diana had just told me there would be none. It looks like Diana is not involved and will take a break to return to organizing it in 2016. I apologize for the confusion.

        1. Got it – Carol’s running iFLT this coming summer, July 14-17, in St. Paul, MN.

          And NTPRS is in Washington, D.C. July ??-??

          I think I have someone to stay with in the Minneapolis area, so that makes it more appealing.

    2. TPRS publishing (Carol Gaab) has a conference next summer in St Paul MN July 14-17.
      Just was announced.

      At national conferences with so many choices it seems as if some presenters draw big crowds. In St Louis I was lucky to get a ticket (rare commodity) to go listen to Ben. I could’ve sold it on eBay and payed my whole trip. I was too kind, gave it to a friend, and regretted it. Fortunately so many teachers wanted to hear Ben talk, that they got a bigger room to accomodate everyone, ticket or no ticket. Ben Slavic has become a brand, symbolic of the TCI movement.

      Like you’ve said on this thread: teachers tend to flock together. I am guilty of the same. I only go to TPRS/TCI presenters to hear it again and again and again. I need the reps and always hear something I’ve missed before. I wish we could call it TPRS for the sake of clarity when labeling the various workshops. Whatever…

      Last thought goes to scheduling. Carol used to have a TPRS conference at the end of June. The timing was a lot better for expatriate teachers, who spend the summers back home.

      1. I sure didn’t know that about me, Catharina, but my ego thanks you for the kind words. I think I suck at presenting, honestly. There is always fear and randomness in presenting for me. I leave that to the experts like Carol, and we also have some new ones right in this PLC coming up who are set for the national stage and will do great things in future years. My truth in this work lies in two areas: joyful coaching, and in keeping things from spinning into something new and unrecognizable.

        For that we need this PLC. Here, we can and must keep the focus on strategies that are proven to work, and we cannot allow them to morph into forms which don’t work, which is kind of happening in the TPRS community right now, as even the name itself morphs into new things. (Like you, I wish we could just use TPRS as a term and avoid all the current confusion – what we do is really Blaine’s idea, but I fully understand and agree why we can’t do that.)

        A critical issue is if someone new is drawn to this work but is faced with too much new and confusing information, because of the morphing of our original powerful strategies into something else, that they give up on it. We need less politics and less focus on research and more sharing of information on a daily basis about specific strategies and also more support of each other’s mental health.

        What I feel is happening is that Carol is so much about reading that we are losing the storytelling piece. By that I mean all the various forms of auditory input that we have created (L and D and MT and all the other strategies in the Big Ideas category (which are so dear to many of us – like old friends that we can trust to use in the classroom and know they will work. I feel as if those blockbuster strategies are losing their shape with time.

        It’s natural for things to change and evolve, and lots of people see that as a good thing, but I see it as a bad thing, if we lose the fundamental core of this work, the Three Steps, in the process.

        So all I care about now is working with teachers in coaching settings and in protecting the gold we have mined over the past ten years or so. I felt we got so much more done in those war room settings in Denver and Chicago than we could have in any formal presentation setting because we all got to work.

        In those war rooms, the participants didn’t have to listen (read intellectualize) this work but were able to watch colleagues teach for hours on end, picking up tips, enjoying learning another language, absorbing other teachers’ styles, laughing and drinking wine thanks to Louisa making sure it didn’t walk out the back of the room all nite.

  5. I agree that funding is an issue. I attended this year for several reasons, including meeting some of the people who were presenting. In order to make it work, I stayed at a different hotel that I was able to get through rewards points on one of my credit cards. It was a 15-minute walk from the convention. Actually, I enjoyed that quite a bit. The walk gave me exercise and time to either think or just enjoy the weather. I also ate breakfast and dinner at a Denny’s on the way, so I wasn’t paying the expensive hotel fees for room and food. I was also able to get a good deal on a flight from Long Beach to San Antonio. The other thing that I did was spread out the costs. Rather than doing everything at once, I registered for the conference, reserved my hotel, and booked my flights at different times.

    The “staying in the target language” sessions were all well attended, so I think anything with that as content is a good idea. Common Core is a reality for all of us, and sessions revolving around Common Core tend to get participants.

    I am planning to submit at least one proposal. It will probably be something by which I can promote my books, perhaps Reader’s Theatre. The other one may be a “stay in the target language” session using German as the demonstration language. Both of them would focus on “Planning for the Learner” and “Learning and Teaching”.

    Another possibility for a session is a group presentation of “papers” in which three people present for about 20 minutes each on what they do with the topic. Perhaps Eric and a couple of others could address organizing a curriculum (i.e. Planning for the Learner) in various ways: student interest surveys, stories, etc. Just an idea.

  6. Hi you guys! I am one of those people Ben mentioned above…. being up to my eyeballs with trying to keep the CI going in a department that has become even less supportive than before…and one who is counting down the days to winter break!

    I love the idea of all of you coming to San Diego in Nov. 2015 – what if we had a PLC day of some kind (war room anyone?). Especially if there is no iFLT next year and NTPRS is on the east coast?

    Just a thought πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Louisa. Perhaps you can share with us a reason or two as to why your department is becoming less supportive of CI. I’d be curious to know your take on it.

      1. Sean,
        It seems that the more Adminz like what they see/hear in my classroom the more my colleagues push back…one even went to the Principal and told her I was being rude and a bully in the department meeting. It seems that now when I voice a disagreement with someone, ie. “I do not see the need to have a quiz on indirect object pronouns” I am called rude and uncooperative. One woman who has a “wish-bone” in the place where her back bone should be started to cry in the meeting and said she just wanted us all to get along! Good grief!! (That’s where the bully remark came from).


        1. A “wish-bone” instead of a back bone. Good one.

          This teaching gig is certainly not an easy one. I don’t see how I could get through my job without a strong backbone AND assuming good intent of others.

          I imagine you’re balancing how much to speak out, Louisa. We’re rooting for you!

          1. Gosh, I wish you all worked in my department! I have pretty much kept quiet until lately…because I know how much they disagree with me. I only spoke out about the pronouns quiz cuz they were heading in the same direction for the common final exam.
            In the end I did not change my final exam and neither did they.

            Thanks for your positive support. It means a lot πŸ™‚

        2. Louisa, I can’t imagine you ever being a bully. The person who went to your Principal, however, is a bully. She is trying to shut you up because she doesn’t like what you are saying but has neither the backbone to engage you directly nor the ability to support her own position with facts and logical reasoning. So, she must try to persuade someone else to silence you. (BTW, anyone else in your department have a doctorate?)

          For your own benefit, I recommend “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. It’s a very good analysis of five reasons why “teams” do not accomplish anything useful. Your colleague La Llorona is manifesting one of those dysfunctions.

          We are definitely rooting for you!

          1. Thanks, Robert. I will check out that book. Sounds like a good read. La Llorona is our “dept. chair” who was self-appointed when no one else wanted the job. She really has no say in anything but did run to the Principal. I think the Principal knows that she is the problem…but I feel this woman is so unpredictable that who knows what she may do.
            5 more days until winter break. Can’t get here quick enough.
            I will see about getting that book.

            Your support is very heart-warming.


  7. I’m 99% sure I will not be going out East this summer for NTPRS, and so I am going to entertain the idea of San Diego for the next couple days. My school’s PD record has been really good for me so far…

    I’d probably only make the effort to go if it were a concerted effort on our part.

  8. correction Ben, I didn’t start any of those ACTFL threads, though it’s hard to not want to take credit for them because they were all right on! What were they all (Thematic Units, What does it mean to TCI?, Exams, other?) I think those were all started by [H]er(i)cules Hermanator.

  9. I’m open to any War Rooms anywhere, as long as they are free to everyone. I could see coming down to SD (like my Broncos are doing today) and doing that. I could see some Chicago war rooms as well, just because they are so active there. Each day I go back and forth on the ACTFL thing. I think what will end up happening is that those who feel comfortable and have access to the funds will do it. It may not be a lot of us, but those who do it like Robert will make their impression, for sure. Maybe that is what will happen with ACTFL next year. And it goes along with my deeper wish to just do war rooms whenever I can and stay with the conference setting we have happening here in the PLC all year long.

    1. I like this thinking about ACTFL – go if you have funding. Really, I had a great time. There were more CI people floating around that what it was like in your descriptions of years past, Ben, and there were people wanting to grow there. Case in point: the CI presentations I attended were full or nearly full rooms, and I had some really great conversations and questions from people who attended mine. One of them kept in touch because she wanted to get started with CI and stories and needed guidance. She’s begun now and is learning more. So I say, let’s not give up on ACTFL.

      One other issue about ACTFL: I think that’s all that a lot of teachers even know about so that’s where they attend.

      Also, I was surprised by how many university people were there. And we know that universities currently have almost no idea about training future teachers in CI approaches. So where else will there even be opportunity to meet these people? If we meet them and form some kind of professional connection, will they be more open to discussion in the future?

      (Plus, I had a blast on a late dinner with a group of Chinese teachers, some I knew already, some I met there, or like Reed, I had heard of but not yet met. That was great, too. I wish I had more Chinese teacher friends locally!)

      I’m still feeling like the teaching world can be changed, one person at a time, and it was my experience at ACTFL that did that for me. NTPRS and iFLT are for people who already get it. But ACTFL is anybody. It’s also a huge gathering of marketers for textbooks & materials. If they had 200 people say, “Oh, sorry, this textbook doesn’t align with principles of SLA and implicit learning” (and try to speak the lingo they know of to talk about it) or “These long semantic sets of low-frequency words and English grammar instruction make it impossible for me to use”… would some of them start getting a little nervous? Maybe? I’m an idealist and I think anything is possible.

      So to sum up my ramble, I think being at ACTFL might allow at least a few inroads among:
      – the majority of language teachers who don’t know anything else
      – the university people whose stronghold so deeply affects teacher training
      – the publishers and marketers who aren’t publishing anything we can really use for CI
      – and it’s a chance to meet really cool people at the same time.

      If someone gives me $850 I’ll go next year.

  10. One thing about our idea to flood ACTFL next year with sessions on CI is this reminder from what David Sceggel said here last week from Chicago:

    …[Krashen] made all of us who teach with TPRS keep our hands up so that people could ask us about it later. (When he asked those who actually teach with TPRS to keep our hands up, the number dropped to under 10.)

    It’s been an hour, and no one has asked me about TPRS….

    10 TPRS practitioners in a group of 200. 20 had heard about it. Nobdoy seemed particularly interested. They want to do thematic activities in English, it appears. The idea of CI is just foreign to them, it seems.

    That kind of seals the deal on a big ACTFL push for next November, in my own opinion. They’re not interested. I know, I know – they are looking for something. But I’m not sure they would recognize it if we busted our butts to propose sessions and then get the funds and then get down there en masse. My conclusion for those interested, and I would like to hear how others feel at this point in the discussion, is that those who can afford it and who want to do it should do it, but those who may have been on the fence should perhaps stay home.

    To be honest, ACTFL in the past, for me and I think I speak for Jason Fritze on this, is nothing but one big depressing event where it honestly feels like there are thousands of emotionally closed off robots walking around. Jason said this to me one year – we were sitting in the lobby of the hotel and I asked him what sessions he was going to and he said none, that nothing interested him. So then I asked him why he wasn’t presenting and he said that his proposal that year was not accepted by ACTFL. Although he was the Southwest Conference Teacher of the Year that year. That tells you where ACTFL is at.

    And then there is the story of Bryce Hedstrom and me at the convention in Denver whenever that was – four or five years ago. We would run into a session, sit in the back, and run out the minute the boredom set in in the first few minutes, and we ended up one evening never attending one session. OK, I think I am clear on ACTFL for myself next year. How does that sit with others? Do we have closure?

    1. yeah, it’s hard to justify spending the money to go to ACTFL when it seems like one big downer. I get it that we are trying to influence people. But since it looks like TPRS Publishing and Carol Gaab is running a conference in St. Paul in July, 2015, as Catharina said, perhaps we should focus on supporting that and pumping people up for that.

      St. Paul in July sounds great for me. My wife and I have friends to stay with in St. Paul and in Washington D.C., so either the TPRS Publishing or the NTPRS conference sounds good to me.

  11. This is the first time for me hearing about St Paul!! This is great! 2.5 hours for me, and the Caballero del Norte aka The Potter rules up there. I’m sure he’ll have ideas for us.

    1. Away from my computer for 10 hours and already missed 100 interesting posts…or so it feels.
      Somehow I get emails directly from TPRS publishing, and that’s how I found out about Carol’s conference in St Paul. It will be $389 early bird for 4 days July 14-17. That’s what it says.
      No mention of iFLT.

  12. That’s weird. Apparently it is in the beginning stages of planning bc Diana told me that she said it would be ok for Carol to use the iFLT name IF she based the conference on the learning labs. Personally , I don’t want to do any of those again. There is just too much pressure on the teacher to get a class off the ground with just one day before being observed. Diana and I have always disagreed on that. If the class works, it’s great, but when we get new kids and usually they are much younger than the ones we are used to, it can get gnarly. I’m a war room guy. We each have our own stuff, and that’s just fine, but I won’t be doing either iFLT or NTPRS next year. Hey, retirement is looking more real every day!

  13. I just saw this review of a #langchat discussion of …. the use of textbooks! Figuring out the time difference for those discussions is too complicated for me, but Laurie was there and I think the review shows that there’s a lot of teachers, not only CI people, who are tired of being slaves to books. I’m posting the link so that those of you who are getting pressured to use the books can show your colleagues and your administration that the general tendancy is away from textbooks, for lots of good reasons.

    1. Props to Laurie, Darcy Pippins, and Carol Gaab for weighing in on that and plugging reading and TPRS/CI… Carol’s opinion is interesting too given that she sells her own textbooks. She gives the textbook 5% credit for a WL classroom’s success if used.

  14. I had an addition to the idea of presenting one’s own target language as a beginner class at ACTFL. I have heard about presentations where one teacher taught as normal (as normal as can be in a presentation anyway), and another teacher periodically gave explanation in English about what was happening and why. That seems like it would make for a more presentation-friendly format and lighten the burden on the one teaching.

    In case there are people still considering that sort of presentation, I offer it here. ACTFL presentation proposals are due Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 5pm Eastern.

  15. I love this format. Ben and Laurie did this in St. Louis. Bryce and Linda Li did it also. Skip and I sort of did this in Maine. Also in the “beginner track” in St. Louis this is exactly what Donna and Katya did.

    I found it extremely helpful, because you get the intensity of being the student for a good chunk, then it is kind of a brain break to stop the lesson and put your teacher hat on. It is particularly effective in my opinion because it hits so many levels of this work in a way that is impossible to “present” in a normal way (i.e., explanation, powerpoint, etc).

    Its power lies in the experiential nature of 1) being the student and 2) observing what the teacher does (more or less in real time). It’s super important to delineate the two roles so that they are as separate as possible.

    I vote yes on this! If anyone needs a partner I’d happily consider doing this.

    1. I hope you get a partner, jen! I’d love to see this presentation, or a video recording of it.

      Our next Chicagoland TPRS/ TCI quarterly meeting is coming up in February and I’m encouraging our Chicagoland team to do more War Room like coaching. Hopefully it fleshes out.

    2. Hi jen,

      I just drafted a proposal along these lines. 2 Chinese teacher friends agreed to present with me and haven’t yet reviewed it before I submit. I think I described in ACTFL language. If you want a copy to use as reference for a similar proposal, let me know: questyn @

      1. Can you send it to me in case others can use it Diane? Presenting in groups of two or three is powerful. I remember working with Laurie in Las Vegas. I would teach and then she would do the teacher talk. I could tell it was very beneficial to the teachers.

  16. For those of you in New England – we are having a peer coaching session (led by Laurie!!!) up here in Maine January 17.

    Let Skip know if you would like to attend.

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