Circling is Useless

Circling is useless without SLOW, but SLOW can be quite effective without Circling. Point and Pause can be used to do the job that Circling does if the SLOW is slow enough.*
Even if we are masters of all of the various other skills used to deliver comprehensible input, we will fail to reach all our students unless we go so slowly that our instruction is comprehensible – that means at the pace of Linda Li.
We may reach the super fast processors when we go too fast. But this is a bad thing – it causes our classes to split into the faster processors and the others. This cannot work in schools. We create so much work for ourselves “remediating” kids when they need nothing more than a slower speaking teacher!
Why make extra work for ourselves when it is all so easily avoided by simply going at a pace that includes all the kids? It doesn’t matter if that pace is agonizingly slow for us – it is not agonizing for the kids. In fact, agonizingly slow for us may still be too fast for the kids!
It is counterintuitive, but you can get a surprising amount of a story done when you go really slowly. I was very surprised at NTRS when, in one session, we were able to create together a big package and a small package, one of which Lauren was afraid of, and so placed on the floor and went on a pogo stick to her mother’s house who refused to open it and then went on the Rio Grande somewhere else to get help with it but then it exploded.
The only reason it exploded was because we ran out of time in the session. And that was with teachers who didn’t know any French. That session really proved to me that people of different ability to process languages, if you go slowly enough to include them all, can cover a lot of ground. (Just because they are teachers and fluent in their own languages in no way means that all 50 of those teachers were fast processors – I personally learned in Linda’s workshop that I am a VERY slow processor when being a language learner.)
All people can easily learn languages and should not be penalized by us and made to feel stupid simply because they happen to be slow processors. If your class splits next year and you are going too fast and you get discipline problems, it will be because you went too fast and didn’t enforce the rules – see resources/posters of this site for the rules that work for me.
The main course of the CI meals that we daily serve our kids should always be SLOW.
*these are just my opinions based on my own experiences in the classroom



2 thoughts on “Circling is Useless”

  1. Slow is not something that will happen naturally or on its own. Unless we have strategies, and practice and make a conscious effort to go SLOW we will not.
    The session on Checking for understanding helped me see this. At one point in the story I indicated that I did not understand something. Barb ( the instructor) stopped and with much excitement thanked me. She even gave candy when barometer students slowed her down. She then brought me in, made it comprehensible to me and I was there. She made me feel like I had helped her.
    I wonder if others have strategies that they use to help them go SLOW?(I am thinking of how Ben Levi shared that he puts a penny in his shoe that he can feel throughout the lesson that helps him remember to go slow) I went slower this past year than I ever have before but I know that I was still too fast for some. It is just SO easy for me and I forget how difficult to impossible it is for them. (I will say that my experiences at NTPRS in Mandarin, Russian, Swedish and Japanese will be constant reminders to me of how my students feel.) I really needed this. The rewards of going slow are SO powerful. I was so impressed that I came away with nearly all of the Mandarin that Linda presented in the basic structures. I have not reviewed my notes yet and I can still remember how to use the basic structures in sentences, ask a question and respond “yes.” All because she went slow and repeated them enough for my brain to process it. I will go SLOW this coming year. It will be one of my top 5 goals.

  2. I will be remembering SLOW too. I keep reliving two related incidents from NTPRS. The first was on Wednesday night, when I showed Katya the booklet of five embedded readings I had written for the conference. She was extremely doubtful that anyone would be able to comprehend the structures in the short time we had available. I told her that people had been seeming to understand the stories for the previous six sessions…but you can imagine how worried I was at that point.
    The next day, a teacher told me that she was sure she wouldn’t understand my class, because she was an extremely slow processor. I went slower than I ever had before during that session. I counted to three between each word, even if there were two English words in a row. The student was very happy. She told me that she understood me perfectly. And when I asked the class to be honest about whether they understood the reading, they were emphatic that they did! One woman asked me when we were going to read any of the stories that Katya said were too hard. I told her we already had, and she simply could not believe me. (Susie did say later that there is a difference between reading and acquisition, and Katya was probably thinking that I was trying for acquisition rather than sharing a way to make reading comprehensible.)
    My trick has always been to count to two in between words, but I think I’m going to try the three count this fall with my beginners.

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