Bummer

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31 thoughts on “Bummer”

  1. Just a quick hello to Ben and the rest of the blog followers! I went silent all of a sudden here on the blog, focusing on work in the CI trenches of my classroom for the past few months…don’t mark me absent Ben! I’m here.

      1. Thanks Ben for the encouragement. I got sucked into that deep-think on scales and assessment, and then found (or, now still find) myself floundering a bit as I continue to try to tweak how I deliver CI during 95-minute long block periods (my right-now thought on this: Ug. I would love to have it broken up a bit more..16 year-old humans do not focus that long that well)…Ive been experimenting with a more freestyle delivery of CI: not focused on stories, just good off the cuff discussions…but I miss the forward drive that stories bring to the weekly plan…found myself assigning written translations of Pobre Ana, slipping a bit from oral CI delivery…
        I’d sum up my silent period here on the blog as follows: hooked on CI+P for good (there can be no other way), looking for ways to get students to better show me what they can read (translation?), and…dealing with the completely less-than-ideal situation that I seem to be teaching in: fluent speakers mixed with know-nothings, the motivated minority and the hormone-driven, never-able-to-focus majority…all in a way-too-long 95 minute block…not to mention all the illogical and unreasonable demands that the one county-level foreign language person is putting on all of us FL teachers now…

        looking for a routine…always. never seem to find it. never satisfied. want stories back. still thinking though that i can develop a good freestyle CI session during each class. hate grading. hate how students dont get the opportunity before them. cell phone much more important to them.

        i love teaching. i do not love teaching the 27 out of 30 that all show different degree of non-interest.

        1. Brian have you checked out:

          https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/12/05/block-class-suggestions/

          The part in blue may help some with the blocks.

          And give yourself a little time. Conceptualizing all of this and then actually putting it into place as a teacher standing on your feet in a classroom is not done quickly.

          Also this may help those block classes:

          https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/10/30/water-wings/

          And, of course, the ultimate block period time sucker of all time and a dang fine activity because it involves listening, reading, writing and grammar all in one fine thing, our friend when we are in need in class – dictation.

          Find dictée described on the resources page here (outside the blog – click on workshop handouts and scroll to the section on dictée). It is my favorite response to those shitty moments when I find that my CI car has taken a detour to Funkadelphia, PA.

          …I miss the forward drive that stories bring to the weekly plan….

          Right on. Stories are the best. The three steps are absolute gold. But there are things lacking in what you are doing now (just my opinion and I hope that I am not reading too much into what you wrote here).

          I grok that enough personalization is lacking in your classroom and so you are right to play the PQA card right now as you said above. Of course, PQA, much more than stories, provide the best platform for teaching solid discipline as well.

          Proper, very firm but loving, enforcement of the rules is lacking. How do I know this? Because EVERYONE in this community struggles constantly with personalization and classroom discipline. Just remember, they come first in the overall schema, but I would still get some degree of story mojo going as well. We can keep talking to find the balance that you need right now.

          All right now let’s get a little more specific. First:

          …fluent speakers mixed with know-nothings, the motivated minority and the hormone-driven, never-able-to-focus majority….

          Get rid of the fluent speakers! They have no business in your room. I would not allow Paul Krugman into my Econ 101 class, and yet that is what counselors do. No comment. Those native speakers only serve to mess things up. If you have to, set up an independent study and, if they don’t know how to write in their language, teach them by sending them to the library each class to do that. Get them out of your classroom.

          Re:

          ……i do not love teaching the 27 out of 30 that all show different degree of non-interest….

          So clamp down on the unfocused majority. They don’t have to pay attention (this will take you some time but you will get it, the paying attention part) but the one thing that they absolutely must do is follow the rules, especially rule #4. I will try to demo that in my classes here and put that here for you to see how my number one professional priority has nothing, zero, to do with teaching French and everything to do with making a kid who is unfocused appear to be focused in my class, no matter what. Making/insisting/forcing that the kid appear focused is a precursor to them actually focusing.

          Let’s also address this:

          …looking for ways to get students to better show me what they can read (translation?)….

          Dude, reading comes after listening in language acquisition. Have you given them, this year, enough auditory input to set up their success with Pobre Ana? I don’t really get reading going until now, honestly.

          Also your thoughts in November and December on standards based grading, what you call your

          …deep-think on scales and assessment….

          are possibly best put aside now as you pull on your slogging boots for this very hard part of the year. I can tell this is going to be a long conversation with you through the snow months. Good.

          Now set aside the grading piece. Robert says:

          5 = Advanced
          4 = Proficient
          3 = Basic
          2 = Below basic
          1 + Far below basic

          Let’s use that or some numerical variation of it for now and get to the real work. What is the real work? Getting out of our heads on this stuff and into the dance with language in our classrooms. That is the realm of the heart, of trust, where this stuff actually lives, as in

          http://blog.heartsforteaching.com.

          Keep doing the PQA, but start back with some stories. Let’s leave it here for now. You have re-appeared, we are happy, and we will continue this discussion. As I understand, you are in your first year of this. Think about that. Your strides are long and fast. You are Strider. But the journey is long. We are not learning a method here, but a way of being in a classroom. For me, what I am learning on a personal level in my classroom is the same as what I want to do in life: go slowly, laugh, have fun, enjoy others, and learn grammar. (Just kidding on that last one.) Those wonderful things can’t be had for a song. We have to earn them. Have you finished strapping the boots on? Good. It’s going to be rough road into spring.

        2. Brian have you checked out:

          https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/12/05/block-class-suggestions/

          The part in blue may help some.

          And give yourself a little time. Conceptualizing all of this and then actually putting it into place as a teacher standing on your feet in a classroom is not done quickly.

          Also this may help those block classes:

          https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/10/30/water-wings/

          And, of course, the ultimate block period time sucker of all time, dictée, which you can find described on the resources page here (outside the blog – click on workshop handouts and scroll to the section on dictée), is my favorite response to those shitty moments when I find that my CI car has taken a detour to Funkadelphia, PA.

          …I miss the forward drive that stories bring to the weekly plan….

          Right on. Stories are the best. The three steps are absolute gold. But there are things lacking in what you are doing now (just my opinion and I hope that I am not reading too much into what your wrote here).

          I grok that enough personalization is lacking and so you are right to play the PQA card right now as you said above. Proper, very firm, enforcement of the rules is lacking. How do I know this? Because EVERYONE in this community struggles constantly with personalization and classroom discipline. Just remember, they come first in the overall schema, but I would still get some story mojo going as well. We can keep talking to find the balance that you need right now.

          All right now let’s get a little more specific. First:

          …fluent speakers mixed with know-nothings, the motivated minority and the hormone-driven, never-able-to-focus majority….

          Get rid of the fluence speakers! They have no business in your room. I would not allow Paul Krugman into my Econ 101 class, and yet that is what counselors do. No comment. Those native speakers only serve to mess things up. If you have to, set up an independent study and, if they don’t know how to write in their language, teach them by sending them to the library each class to do that. Get them out of your classroom.

          Re:

          ……i do not love teaching the 27 out of 30 that all show different degree of non-interest….

          So clamp down on the unfocused majority. They don’t have to pay attention (this will take you some time but you will get it, the paying attention part) but the one thing that they absolutely must do is follow the rules. I will try to demo that in my classes here and put that here for you to see how my number one professional priority has nothing, zero, to do with teaching French and everything to do with making a kid who is unfocused appear to be focused in my class, no matter what.

          Let’s also address this:

          …looking for ways to get students to better show me what they can read (translation?),…

          Dude, reading comes after listening in language acquisition. Have you given them, this year, enough auditory input to set up their success with Pobre Ana? I don’t really get reading going until now, honestly.

          Also your thoughts in November and December on standards based grading, what you call your

          …deep-think on scales and assessment….

          are to be put aside now as you pull on your slogging boots for this very hard part of the year. I can tell this is going to be a long conversation with you through the snow months. Good.

          Now set aside the grading piece. Robert says:

          5 = Advanced
          4 = Proficient
          3 = Basic
          2 = Below basic
          1 = Far below basic

          Let’s use that or some numerical variation on it for now and get to the real work. What is the real work? Getting out of our heads on this stuff and into the dance with language in the classroom. That is the realm of the heart, as in

          http://blog.heartsforteaching.com.

          Keep doing the PQA, but start back with some stories. Let’s leave it here for now. You have re-appeared, we are happy, and we will continue this discussion. As I understand, you are in your first year of this. Think about that. Your strides are long and fast. You are Strider. But the journey is long. We are not learning a method here, but a way of being in a classroom. For me, what I am learning on a personal level in my classroom is the same as what I want to do in life: go slowly, laugh, have fun, enjoy others, and learn grammar. (Just kidding on that last one.) Those wonderful things can’t be had for a song. We have to earn them. Have you finished strapping the boots on? It’s going to be rough road into spring.

          1. And Brian when they don’t look involved, as long as the room is quiet and the discipline piece is there, because of your efforts, those quiet kids inwardly thank you for the order, for the focused atmosphere that you assure them, and guess what? They acquire a TON more than you think. It just wouldn’t be cool to admit it.

            Moreover, they come up years later and ask you if you remember things. Just today, I had completely forgotten the name of a quiet girl from Mexico with very little English (she is awesome in my comprehension based class and it gives her much confidence in her otherwise linguistically challenged days. In a very uncharacteristic moment back in September, this girl slammed her fist down on her desk as part of some kind of extended PQA we were doing. It shocked everybody. But she was just following rule #6 and I had just asked the question, “Does she slam her fist on the desk class?” or something like that. Anyway, I had forgotten her name today because she has been so quiet, and often just plain bored looking. Then, today, we got her involved in what we were doing and I asked the class her name and they all yelled out, five months later, that she is Iron Fist! So don’t assume that they aren’t involved. The way most teens stay involved is to listen with a bored look on their faces. It’s a protective device. Stand in. Feel the heat. Feel the burn. Feel the fear. Explore it. Things will happen.

          2. Brian I also want to call your attention to the prime role of the structures in PQA and stories.They are everything. The PQA and the stories are merely delivery devices for the target structures. All other words in the comprehensible input are as mere rocks and gravel, concrete, to the rebar rods that hold the story together. The students, of course, learn the concrete, are able to stand up on it and such, but the real hero is the rebar. So if you were to learn something from your class in response to a circled question using a certain target structure and then fail to include that same target structure in what you say next, and next, and next, and next, you would be missing the entire point of how we have come to believe comprehensible input should be done. I know you know that, but it has been a thread here recently, and I feel that it is helping us and worth a reminder. It certainly has been helping me. We should give this idea a name. Most of us are too young to remember phonograph records, but they used to get scratched and then they would get stuck and the same few words would be heard over and over – just those few words. So let’s call this the Broken Record technique of doing CI – including the same target structure in every utterance no matter what.

          3. Sabrina Janczak

            Ben,

            How do you make a kid who is unfocused look focused? I had a hard time myself today with classroom discipline : kids laughing too hard and making side comments which kept on distracting me . I had a student teacher during the first semester, and now that I am back in the classroom I find that the kids are way too loud for my taste. How long can laughter (from PQA/story) last, and how do you differentiate between laughter and kids who use that as an excuse to bring the attention towards them?
            Wishing you a fun observation day tomorrow.

          4. I have directly answered that question about kids who continuously try to draw the attention to themselves. I just don’t know where.

            The thing is, you are allowing it. In the very second that a kid ripples the smooth surface of the CI with that kind of disruptive behavior, YOU STOP AND DEAL WITH IT.

            Teachers who don’t ACT IN THE MOMENT OF THE INFRACTION are sending this message:

            “It’s o.k. for you make jokes to your neighbors and play around, because what I am doing here is not that important.” And the people who don’t want to hear you don’t matter that much. They may want to learn French, but, really, you are more important than they are, and you are more important than me, too”.

            I will try to get this on vid tomorrow, the only problem being that when we get observed the kids dare not misbehave. We all know the drill on that one.

          5. Sabrina Janczak

            Thank you Ben and Robert. Nobody had warned me when I went into teaching that I’d have to be a disciplinarian before I can be a teacher. That is the hardest part of the job I guess! I ‘d love to see the video whenever it’s ready. I agree that the kids behave differently when we are being observed though. I am not sure why…

          6. I haven’t even looked at the video yet but we may get a few feet of snow tomorrow and maybe I can check it out and try to put some of it here. Maybe just Vimeo it and forget the editing. We had a lot of fun with Anne’s “He Brought a Girl Home”. The kids forgot that they were being observed, I think, because the story was compelling. Krashen had fun – I could see it.

          7. How do you make a kid who is unfocused look focused?
            “Sit up . . . squared shoulders . . . clear/focused eyes”

            I changed the “clear eyes” to “focused eyes” because it makes more sense to my students: it means they are looking at me or the person who is speaking to the whole class. It means they are not looking somewhere else in the room; they are not slouching or putting heads on the table; they are not leaning back in their chairs.

            The next two days are final exams for us. On Monday when we start the new semester, I need to go back over the requirements and start enforcing the rules better. I, too, have allowed some things to slide. Correcting the behavior will be harder than not having allowed it to develop in the first place – and I’m sure that is part of the problem you’re facing, Sabrina.

            I have changed Ben’s “Rules” to “Interpersonal Communication Rubric” and made a couple of changes of my own. At the moment I don’t have the document in front of me; when I get to school tomorrow I will look it up and post it here. The first item on the rubric is
            “The student . . . engages in ONE conversation – with the entire class – in German:
            No ‘talking under’ / No ‘talking over’
            No private conversation / No random blurting”

            My students, unfortunately, hear the German version of that statement a lot. Why unfortunately? Because it shows that they have not yet accepted the importance of that stricture. Each class is at a different place with this. The constant repetition also reveals attitudes. I had one girl who was talking. When I reminded her of the rule, she quoted it to me – with attitude, obviously intending to ridicule it. I then said, “You’ve just shown me that you know the rule. That means you are deliberately breaking it. That’s insubordination. You have the choice of stopping right now or getting a referral for insubordination. It’s your choice, and your actions not your words will tell me your choice.”

            Something very important to remember is that the “no private conversation” applies to the teacher, too. I have to work on making sure students include the rest of the class in comments they want to make to me and not allow myself to have a private conversation.

  2. Interesting that you should reference LOTR, Ben. I watched “Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers” over the weekend – which leads me to report that my fourth period class didn’t want to read today, so they very cleverly sidetracked things by asking me how my weekend was and what I did. As a result we spent all but the last ten minutes of class talking about LOTR, The Grey (a new film), two girls who have applied to go to Cambodia this summer, a Lionel train set and other real-life items. I guess that class really tricked me. 🙂 The last ten minutes we took a look at the Bundesliga because that’s what we do on Mondays.

    1. I should, of course, qualify the above by reporting that the entire discussion was in German. My students were coming up with the questions in German on their own. Oh, and one of the students is going ghost hunting with his father in a couple of weeks.

    2. This is one of the things that convinced me that TPRS was the way I wanted to go. I had been able to organize an exchange with Macomb High School in Illinois (and Jeff Moore was the first person who ever mentioned TPRS to me). Some of my students sat in on one of his French classes. I asked them what the class was like. They said it was cool! All the American students did was sit around and chat in French.

  3. “When we plan a week around three structures…”

    Yes, that’s how I will look at it from now on. Not focusing on them for the story and the reading, but the whole damn week. Or why not two weeks? All the good stuff that will incidentally come about because of our unpressured approach is the stuff that will stick anyways (if it’s not too much and gets appropriate attention of course). It’s funny, I have to turn in lesson plans for every week at the end of the week. I complete mine now at the end, because I never know what I will have had taught them (now Robert, dissect that verb usage for us please!)

    And re the dark profiteers (my description), isn’t it funny (not really!) how much freakin money schools will spend on computers and other tech, but I can’t get a couple hundred to rent a bus and go to a bilingual drama performance in the city!!

    1. I hear ya Jim. Our district’s community is in a huge uproar because the supa wants IB real bad and the community does NOT want it due to cost and they have some weird conspiracy theories about IB being a tool to bring in a New World Order/one-world government. Well, anyways…they just sent some teachers to some training that they flew them to, paid for hotels and lavish meals, equalling thousands of dollars and I can’t get them to pay $125 for me to go the Ohio Foreign Language Association’s conference and Susan Gross’s workshop at the conference. hmph!

      1. International Baccalaureate?

        Krashen has commented on computers being used for testing purposes, to streamline things so that all students are set up to take multiple tests per year, at the major benefit (presumably) of the computer companies and the testing companies (and the textbook software companies, etc, etc). I think it’s a racket. One world govn’t? Not sure I’d go that far, but I’d hear the argument.

        That being said, my district with the help of the local telecom company just bought computers for every student 8-12. It is pretty nice, I must say. I would probably want my own computer if I were a h.s. student in today’s world.

    2. Perhaps Jim it is because the “profiteers” do not own the busses, but they are willing to throw REAL educations under it. I say follow the money on those tech ed businesses. You will be surprised how well placed their stockholders are in our governments.

  4. Thanks for the Diana quote/reminder. I just wrote on an index card in big red letters: WHAT ARE THE STRUCTURES? and tacked it up in front of my desk. It is too easy to lose sight of the simplicity of our goals, to get buried in the details of a story, or of a long list of words we’re trying to “chip away” at. I need constant reminders to scale back. Time to get off-line and read a book before bed.

  5. Great reminder about the three structures. We are creating a class story/music video from the Juan Gabriel song “No tengo dinero” and now I’ve picked out three structures and changed them into the 3rd person singular to PQA, etc.

    I took a cue from John and also wrote “What are the structures” on a large notecard. How easy it is to lose sight of the simple things. I need constant reminders…

  6. Ben wrote, Yes, I’m glad you asked, actually. I do believe that the Tolkein trilogy is the perfect metaphor for the days we are in right now. I also believe that the work of delivering the ring to Mordor is on schedule and that there is absolutely nothing to fear if we just keep the faith and keep going to work every day.

    Just another thought on the LOTR reference:
    As I was watching the film, I found the scenes with the “great ones” (Gandalf, Aragorn, Theoden) very exciting, and they grabbed all the attention, but the real work was being done quietly and humbly by two very ordinary people who simply walked ever further into enemy territory. When Barad-dur falls the “great ones” will have played their part, but the most crucial work will have been done by ordinary people. And so, my dear Hobbits, don’t lose heart.

  7. Daniel Coyle is often on the same track as the TPRS community. In this post about great coaches, he talks about how it’s not the big flashy things that win games, but the little ones. In our case, what wins hearts and minds is that normal kids can suddenly manipulate the basic vocabulary and communicate.

    http://thetalentcode.com/2012/01/24/how-great-coaches-think/

    I think that those basics are the three structures for the week. If we use them comprehensibly over and over, asking for kids to play around them, we are giving them what they need to succeed in the big game (a conversation in the target language).

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