Card Talk

Many of us are doing the storybook projects now (among others) as a way to get to the end of the year in a calm manner. We can therefore now start slowly turning our attention to next year*, when Card Talk is how many of us start out our first classes.
Just a suggestion – keep Card Talk simple because it is not an activity I designed for maximum engagement but rather only to (a) teach the kids at the beginning of the year that the class will be about THEM and that it will involve laughter and lightheartedness, and (b) use Card Talk to set the rules in place with a big hammer. For 20 years with Card Talk now I never try to make an “activity” out of it. Instead, I have them only put one thing down (sports or pets are the best), develop about 5-8 sentences of CI about that one kid only, using that time to constantly shut down their breaking Rule #2 by always walking over to it on the Classroom Rules poster as we have talked about, and then after only 3-5 minutes I go to another activity. In a big class, using the activity in this way, it takes all year to get to all the cards.
*The idea that we are all exhausted in our profession at this time of year is no longer an issue. It is possible now, using the overall approach we have discussed here over the past three years, to end the year in peace and live normal lives w/o all the teacher drama. Those crazy days are over and now we can focus on enjoying the fruits of our labor to make this work A LOT EASIER than it ever was.



10 thoughts on “Card Talk”

  1. Ben, I’d like to ask how others are implementing storybook projects. I like that claymation idea posted up here a little while ago. (Who was that? Dana?) Getting my hands on some clay would be a good idea. Or I could use paper stick figures. Some kind of 3D, crafted thingy. What else are people doing with end of the year independent projects?

  2. Sean most people are doing storybook projects, which build the class library and take up many days/weeks of the end of the year at precisely the time when we need to rest and ready ourselves for next year. Other projects are spelled out in detail in the book A Natural Approach to the Year which I think you already have.

  3. Hello Amigos! This is my first post and it is a cry for help. I have been a teacher for 12 years and a CI teacher for 9 of those. I would not be teaching if it were not for the CI approach. I live it and believe it religiously. Here is the CRUX: My admin is unwavering on that all teachers will put their entire curriculum on an online platform called Canvas by the end of next school year. He is determined to make our school a “blended learning” school by the 2019/20 school year. He has heard me out and respects that students learn language best through being in an CI classroom. He is willing to let me have class “More than other teachers”. I tried to get another job teaching Spanish, but nothing panned out. I am trying to look at it positively, as an opportunity to develop my teaching in the digital age. However I am procrastinating as I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THIS! I have no idea how to translate the CI techniques that I have curated into classroom culture and routine into files on a Canvas platform. I have looked around a bit to see if anything already exists and have come up empty handed. I have just sold my house and I have some money to invest in a curriculum that I could use over and over, but I nor my district have the money to pay per student per course. Honestly our alternative students wouldn’t thrive in that scenario anyway. I am already using Sr. Wooly and am going to use his resources even more now, however that doesn’t replace the classroom interaction. I know the universe has kept me here to make sure these kids still get the love and joy that a CI class offers, but I am just at my wits end as to what to do. Any helpful links or names would be so appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Danielle! Your procrastination is telling you something! Please, please save yourself and your time that you could be spending with your loved ones or reading a lovely novel or hiking in the forest by not fabricating some frenetically frivolous curriculum for this Canvas platform. Try giving your admin what he wants with very minimal effort.
      ClassZone, from McDougall Littel, comes to mind. It’s an online replica of their Avancemos textbook. Students email you their progress. Go to this site: and then click on “Home Tutor”
      Or, have them log onto Duolingo for Schools. You can track students work on Duolingo very easily.
      Perhaps with ClassZone you can copy and paste from the Avancemos textbook to fill in any curriculum docs you need to fill out.
      Good luck to you! That is, good luck to submitting this curriculum without pain and getting on with what you enjoy doing.

  4. Hey Danielle I know that the group, which is small anyway, is in major rest mode these days, so I hope you get more responses than just mine. Let’s look at this sentence you wrote:
    …my admin is unwavering on that all teachers will put their entire curriculum on an online platform….
    Then you do it. It’s simple. What we all have learned to do with hard line admin teams is give them what they want and then do what we want in the classroom. It sounds sketchy to do that but it is not, because of the power of CI to train kids up to the level of any test, even one they are not specifically preparing for.
    Keep in mind that this admin is in super performance mode. Like us, he has bosses to answer to in meetings and this thing by 2019 is what he is selling to them to make himself look good. In that sense, he could really care less what you do, he just wants you looking like you are one of the good ducks lined up in line and not attracting attention to yourself and your odd ways. Do not be a bad duck. That’s all he wants – good obedient ducks. What is great about our profession is that there is no other profession in which we can get away with lying about what we do so easily. In that light, can you see how easy it is to give him what he wants? Just submit whatever he wants and then go do what you know is right in your classroom. I had it down to where my students knew that in the instant an admin walked into the room, I would go into a different mode of teaching, teaching individual words from a shared curriculum list, for example, to get ready for a common assessment, and the kids were so cool about it. I explained it all to them, how they would be looked at in their own jobs one day, and they got the game and we were actually very good at immediately shifting into being whatever kind of class the admin wanted at the instant the admin walked in. It was a point of pride for the whole class. I miss those days of collusion and stealth with us vs. the visitor, showing off, looking good, knowing it was all a sham. As soon as the admin walked out we would discuss our performance and laugh.

  5. Also this Danielle –
    …I have no idea how to translate the CI techniques that I have curated into classroom culture and routine into files on a Canvas platform…..
    Of course you don’t! It’s because it can’t be done. You can’t use a thermometer to make a cake, either. Expecting yourself to succeed at squeezing the square peg into the round hole really is impossible, even though we have such a book by our resident genius in Japan, Cameron Taylor, which I will send to you along with some other books to give you some ideas about how to get out of this jam.
    BUT my advice is very simple. Lie. Use another teacher’s work, or do whatever you need to please the beasts but at the same time don’t waste time trying to do the impossible. If you can use the square peg book do, but understand that it’s all smoke and mirrors to whip into shape the very fools who should NOT EVEN BE IN CHARGE OF MAKING US FULFILL SUCH INSANE REQUESTS. Why insane? Because the request you describe above has little to do with how people actually acquire languages and is dead stuff from the past century, and is thankfully on its way out in schools where there are (more and more each year) enlightened admins. Such a request also has nothing to do with the COMMUNICATION standard.
    I know you are looking around. I can only offer what I think is best, and it is the overall approach in the three books I am going to send you. It’s the very best I can offer after forty years of intense searching myself. Frankly, what I am sending you ROCKS THE HOUSE and is a curriculum for the 21st century that brings this rather odd but true image to my mind: your admin runs up to a rocket ship and just before blastoff ties a washing machine to the rocket and explains to you that as the rocket blasts off he wants you to take readings of what is happening with the washing machine. You can’t cut it loose, but you can realize that with enough blastoffs in your classroom (the CI Liftoff power rocket) the stupid washing machine will just disintegrate, and eventually your admin will wake up one day and actually look at the research and admit to you that he realizes now that you are teaching your kids with 21st year ideas and he will apologize. Bless his heart….

  6. Thank you Ben for you kindness and humor. In a way, that is what I have always done, I think I just needed to hear from others that CYA and do it your way is the best approach in this situation as well. I so appreciate the books you are sending me.

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