cCWB – compact Circling with Balls

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24 thoughts on “cCWB – compact Circling with Balls”

  1. I might add that those who have followed the development of jGR here over the past years can see that those of us who even partially embrace cCWB will not have to work so hard implementing jGR in our classrooms. Obviously, jGR is no longer necessary to use as a hammer when we use cCWB because the kids understand.

    1. Yeah, then jGR becomes a positive boost to their grades. That could be powerful too. I now introduce the classroom rules as “what you can do to enjoy and progress in your Chinese more” and so jGR becomes a reward for that in-class work.

      1. I just had that thought a second before I read it Diane. jGR will indeed emerge as a completely positive assessment tool to show alignment with ACTFL standards, and would only be used occasionally with kids on the classroom management piece.

        1. It was just accepted by my colleague who is apprehensive to TPRS.. she also said today that she told her students that they are striving for 90%!!!!! She also agreed today that we should stay away from projects bc they increase the use of English.
          Now hopefully the district will pay for everyone to go to the october conference!

  2. I am having a hard time remembering everyone’s “story” from CWB. What do you think about using Jame’s OWI picture page that he used and having students draw a picture that represents each student and what they do (their story) and include the sentence at the end? Title could be student’s name? That way students have a book about their classmates?!? If this is a completely dumb idea then what are some ways to remember all the details?

    1. I went ahead and tried it today because I have to give my students a benchmark test this Friday. I’m going to make my test questions from their stories. I taught “Que hace?” and you are right, David, they remember even though I forgot. I had my students do James’s OWI picture page and after we came up with a sentence together I took a separate paper and wrote down the sentences for my own records. Once we finished, I told students to draw a picture that represents each sentence and to use it as a refresher before their Benchmark.

      Thank you for the encouragement and pointers!

  3. Erica, I forget all the time too. The best remedy is teach “hace” and go around and ask kids what each one does. You can stay in L2. They always remember.

  4. To me, cCWB is a great concept. I want to get there. I want to just bathe in the warm waters of French CI. My problem is that (in second year) I want to get to everyone’s card and talk about each student AND I would also like to get to stories during the first semester. This makes me want to move faster through the students. I’m three weeks into school and have done 15 or so students in most classes, about 1 kid per day.
    An issue that compounds this problem is that I have finished everyone’s cards in one class of Year 2 and the other class is only about half done. (They are completely unbalanced classes – 18 in 4th period, 28 in 7th period.)
    Any comments/ideas?

  5. How about if you stop and do one a week or so from now on–almost as a “special” activity (when you have/or make time for it). It’s almost a brain break and one to which they will really look forward. The truth is that those, who go from now on, will have the benefit of the class creating a much more complex picture of them –as the class will have much more acquired language to use. Don’t feel pressured to finish now.

  6. Hey Erik. Tonite at a parents night thing I spoke to the kids in detail in front of their parents, those kids who played sports inside whales.

    The parents couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I spoke really fast and the kids didn’t bat an eye. They answered with one word answers in French. After four days of class. I have never seen that before – not even close.

    It is because I went so narrow and deep this week – the CI in my classroom resembled a narrow mine shaft.

    So I’m now wed to cCWB.

    Now to address your question – I don’t have to go into huge depth with all the kids. That allows me to do stories, YT and D and read novels later this year.

    It’s a kind of balancing act. We may talk about one kid’s card for three days and another for five minutes. As far as keeping the level 2 classes going at the same rate, I would just spend less time on the kids in the bigger class to synch them with the other class in that way.

    cCWB doesn’t have a set of hard rules, certainly. We can’t go into super detail with all the kids. My rule is to follow the energy. There’s no right way.

    Enjoyed working with you in Las Vegas. Your French is impeccable and you did such good work when being coached. Your classroom presence and delivery of CI is awesome. I’m calling you the Commander.

    This answer is only what I would do, so let me know.

    1. Woah! Thanks for all the kudos, Ben. Coming from you, those are compliments indeed.

      To me, following the energy makes sense. It takes great skill to be able to do that deftly, though. Often when energy lags, I try to inject my own energy to take the class down a path I think we need to take rather than suss out where the class wants to go.

      1. I agree that “follow the energy” is the best and most basic guideline for CWB, or any CI activity with students. This keeps the input both comprehensible and as compelling as possible. I keep going back in my mind to Ben’s comment at NTPRS in Vegas, when a skeptical teacher asked what he’s going for here, and he looked right at her and simply said “mind meld.” It all sounds a bit sci-fi, but if we “follow the energy in constant search of the all-class mind meld,” that is, when they follow our verbal and non verbal cues as to what is happening in class, and when inside jokes start to develop, that giddy sense that they are all in on something funny and unique to that class, then we know things are going right, and that is when the language just flows into their long term memory.

        1. Yes, inside jokes and stuff we share in class! This is one of the things I love about this year’s 7th graders. We all know that so-and-so loves the classroom mascot dragon & hates the snake, that so-and-so always will put “lobster” into his writing somehow, that so-and-so loves One Direction but the boys groan about it, and so on.

  7. This all seems to boil down to one thing: less is more. It reminds me of Go proverbs– rice eaten in haste chokes; to attack, run away; do not wrestle with a pig.

    My colleague Leanda started TPRS today with her gr10 (3rd year) French kids and spent an hour with “voulait faire___” and “aimerait avoir un(e)__” and said the kids were really into it. She said she got more French spoken– and listened to– than she’s ever had in a class, with less “stuff” being covered. Narrow and deep it is.

    1. And Chris my aha moment in what you wrote is that it all boils down – all of it, the whole soup – boils down to:

      do not wrestle with a pig

      To me, it means that when we wrestle with the pig, the tar baby that TPRS is for many people, we forget to walk away from the complexity and embrace the simplicity.

      In my thirteen years at this I’ve pulled away a lot of layers of the TPRS onion and as I got deeper I found that it’s really a CI onion and now I’m starting to see at the core of it lies the idea of being happy with our students. Just being happy and hanging out and making ourselves comprehensible to our kids.

      Linda Li knew it all the time and has modeled it at conferences for many years and we would observe and say, “Yes, that’s the way to do it. Look at how slow she goes. Look at how light and happy she is. Look how she responds with genuine smiles to what we suggest!” And then we would return from the conference and go into our classrooms with a need for speed.

      Oh well. But who woulda thunk that something that looks so complex could be so simple? Didn’t some of those Greek dudes think that way, say those things? I can’t remember which ones. Wasn’t there some guy who said that LAUGHTER is at the core of our time here on this big round ball? I think he was Greek. I can’t imagine a Roman saying that.

      Anyway, I get more laughter and softness in my teaching with cCWB than I did before with CWB and PQA. PQA always gave me a skin rash. Because the kids now understand, they laugh more and we play more, which I remember starting TPRS in a Year! out with in the first few pages talking about that guy Plato*.

      Laughter. Taking things lightly. Talking to the kids in a way that they fully understand (cCWB) and not always having to push the marble just out of their reach. We can’t do that in a class of 30 kids because they all process at different speeds. So we either go at the speed of the slowest kid who wants to learn (cCWB) or we start losing people.

      [An aside: Erik do you see how you can just skip over certain kids on the cCWB and just be brief about them? That’s the only answer I can think of.]

      Well, enough metaphors for one morning. We’ve got soup, pigs, onions and tar. That should be enough for breakfast. Just leave out the pigs and the tar. Don’t wrestle with any tar babies nor with any pigs (i.e. don’t make TPRS more complex than it is. Below TPRS is just simple CI and below that is laughter and that is nourishment enough.

      Just remember, this work we do with such intensity (no one can deny that!) is very freeing work. It leads to happiness in our classrooms – I am sure of that now after not being sure of it for so long. I have just found that out this year. All I needed to do was stop stressing and speak more slowly. All I had to do was click my heels.

      And to extend the metaphor without permission, the onion, though bitter on the outside, is more than sweet on the inside, once you pass through the CI layers. The sweetness is a result of all the hard work we do to get to simplicity (cCWB). That’s another theme in all the great literature, too – the idea that hard work done with faith against huge odds is worth it.

      *Here is that passage from TPRS in a Year!

      “TPRS requires work on the part of the teacher. It requires an emotional as well as an intellectual commitment. Breaking old habits is never easy. It takes courage. Yet the rewards for those who make the effort are considerable. Teaching well with TPRS makes teaching the rewarding experience it is meant to be.

      “TPRS brings a sense of play into the classroom. Chris Mercogliano, writing in “Paths of Learning” (Issue #17, p. 12, 2004), states that there is considerable evidence for “a classical link between education and play.” He points out that the ancient Greek words for education/culture (paideia), play (paidia), and children (paides) all have the same root.

      “Chris asks us to consider the following remarkable conversation in Plato’s Republic between Socrates and Plato’s brother, Glaucon:

      “Well, then,” Socrates begins, “the study of calculation and
      geometry, and all the preparatory education required for dialectic,
      must be put before them as children and the instruction must not be
      given the aspect of a compulsion to learn.”

      “Why not?” asks Glaucon.

      “Because the free man ought not to learn any study slavishly. Forced
      labors performed by the body don’t make the body any worse, but no
      forced study abides in the soul.”


      “Therefore, you best of men, don’t use force in training the children
      in the subjects, but rather play. In that way can you better discern
      toward what each is naturally directed.”

      “Some teachers don’t see themselves as playful. Yet TPRS is so strong and supple that it easily accommodates individual teacher preferences. It can be adapted to anyone and anything, even the textbook. The waters of TPRS are so deep that individuals will always “land the fish” they want. When applied to traditional methods, TPRS always strengthens them.”

      1. Let’s not forget to really own the word “rigor” this year. We are RIGOROUS in our application of basic standards of conduct and comprehensible use of TL. This rigor is academic, because it is the necessary condition for any acquisition to take place. In addition, it furthers the social-emotional and differentiation goals that schools and districts increasingly include in their mission statements.

        So our use of rigor is age appropriate, as Plato recommended so many centuries ago. My school’s mission statement lays this out in plain language, and it may be useful to others, especially for those who teach the lower grades:
        “We affirm the integrity of childhood and the elementary curriculum, and do not try to replicate secondary school studies.”

          1. It is a lovely statement. I’m not sure that high schools my graduating students enter get that. It’s not supposed to be a year of high school when they’re in middle school.

  8. “Do not wrestle with a pig” (in Go) means something like “taking on the wrong battle will make you messy/dirty like a pig” which I think is perfect for CI: don’t waste your time with things that do not deliver varied, interesting and repetitive C.I.

    And yea, brilliant mission statement…who would haev imagined you ahd to dare to let kids be kids?

    A parallel between learning a language, brewing beer, gardening, and baking: you cannot rush these things. Yeasts, vegetables and the acquisitive brain are on THEIR schedule, not yours, and rushing only makes the end product worse.

  9. In the Progressive Education tradition, we say simply, “Respect childhood.”
    So much of the sorting and winnowing, weighing and measuring flies in the face of what we (want to) do.
    So long as we have the permission – because we’ve stated our research-backed case and admin has witnessed the magic in our classrooms – we can play, play, play. In so doing, we create group memories – that bind us together as friends in community. This has fallen away from so many settings as downward pressure rushes kids thru the curriculum and mastery test, and onto the next thing.
    Sometimes when I feel overworked, I reflect and thank my stars for the privilege to teach children, according to my beliefs and principles.

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