Scheduling Question

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23 thoughts on “Scheduling Question”

  1. Jeremy this is a vast question with a vast amount of possible answers depending on your individual preferences. I have put together this list of links to schedules I have used over recent years. Carol likes the two week schedule (indicated below with an asterisk) and I have to admit it is pretty nifty because it allows some breathing room to expand on lots of different activities as we go along and so go more with the flow of things and not have to be constantly sticking to some kind of lesson plan, which stifles flow and creativity. Perhaps you could read through some of them and pull some ideas about how you may want to schedule your classes:


    And Jeremy I might add that one of the most pleasant surprises you will encounter as you get deeper into this way of teaching is how you always have to choose between too many activities and not enough. I remember when I was trapped – and that is the word, trapped – in the old way of teaching how sometimes I would stand in my classroom and wonder how 50 minutes could seem like a 5 hour stretch of torture. I remember those painful days of wondering what in the name of all things good and reasonable I was going to do to get through the last 25 minutes of class. It’s just the opposite now – there are too many choices and they are why I have gone to such great pains in suggesting the above schedules for this group over the years. I am one of those people who need to follow a schedule through a class or I get confused and just go all over the place, which is fine but there were some years when I would do like 90% stories and then no reading or writing all year, which now I am able to do much more of with the schedules suggested above.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to post help work through answering my question. I guess my main concerns are:

      Is the Circling With Balls (getting to know you) activity something that I should maintain for the entire class period of 90 minutes those first weeks or should I talk about one person, the. A break. TPR or something. Then talk about another person. Or is there something else input driven and basic enough that I could throw it into a level 1 class without going in too many different directions in the beginning?

      Some people for example, suggested telling stories from ay one with block scheduling. But I have found this amazing gem in the beginning PQA activity. It has helped me get to know my students. Talk about so many different things and help establish the pace of class. I would hate to scrap the whole activity when stories for me have worked better after this activity.

      Any thoughts?


  2. I think Ben’s links will provide ample ideas of how to fill the block but I wanted to comment on what you said about

    “I also wanted to point out that in Spanish, the “s” they were hearing at the end of the action just means “you”.”

    I stumbled upon another student job early in the year last year. I call it the Tú job… After we have established that a Tommy “sings in the car” I can ask “Class, does Sam sing in the car?” After they say “I don’t know” I turn to my “Tú student” and ask, Does Sam sing in the car? My Tù student then says “I don’t know” and I say, pues ask him! The tú student then asks Sam ¿Do you sing in the car”?

    What I HAVE NOT DONE (and i would welcome thoughts here) is have the student that the tú student asks answer in a complete sentence (Yes I sing in the car/no I don’t sing in the car) I just have them say “yes” or “no”.

    It has worked quite well…. and it give LOTS of reps on the second person…..

    works for me!


  3. Cool idea Skip! And welcome to the PLC Jeremy. I loved the videos, and might be using some of them in a flipped-classroom type of deal where I have to teach some explicit grammar.

    At NTPRS one of the sessions that I went to was with Blaine, about verifying details with actors in the present, while telling the story in the past.

    ex. Class, Billy had a pitbull
    Billy, did you have a pitbull
    (student response)
    Of course you had a pitbull, Billy.
    Billy had a pitbull, class.

    The idea is that the actor should be able to verify the detail using the “I form” of the verb. At the beginning, that means putting it up on the board for them. (and maybe putting the “you” form as well). From what I understand the benefit isn’t really for the actor saying the line, but rather for the whole class who is hearing it. Lots more reps of 1st and 2nd person.

    Does this have any place in the circling with balls? I would really like to have the kids hearing the “I” forms from the beginning of the year, but not be talking about me but rather the students. I know that I can do the whole “Billy said “I have a dog”” but that seems even more forced and unnatural to me, and is not clearly the 1st person because it could be easily interpreted as “Billy said that he has/had a dog”.

    At the same time, I don’t want to put the kids on the spot, and I know forced production is not the way to go. Is it still forced production if I give them the forms on the board? Anyone else have thoughts on this?

    Jeremy in terms of organizing a class on block schedule, I feel your pain. When I taught in Colombia I had 6th graders for 90 minute blocks 3 times a week. I wasn’t using TPRS, but I think it would be tough no matter what. Have various activities planned – TPR is great. In the first few weeks don’t be afraid to take the time to slowly walk through class procedures in English as well. I also do an icebreaker or two in English which could be a nice break. Brain breaks of a couple of minutes are super important in 90 minute classes because no one can focus that long. You might also look at Bryce’s PAT (preferred activity time) activities either as brain breaks or as rewards for a good class.

    best of luck,


    1. Dave,

      Here’re my two cents about asking the student you’re talking about to respond in complete sentences…

      For me, as long as I’m pointing, pausing and going slow, I don’t see why a student can’t respond in a complete sentence if we’re talking one-on-one. Basically I want to ensure success, so as long as you go slow enough, point, and help them if they need it, they should be able to do it. Whenever I write the structures on the board for the day I’ll always put the yo and tú forms up as well.

      I also think it’s a nice way to gauge how well students are getting it — i.e. taking them from a slower processor to becoming a faster processor, which is important. For me it seems natural to do this because the student is usually sitting up in front of the room anyway, though I would still do it if they were sitting at their desk. Sure, it’s forced output, BUT it’s not used in any punitive way (i.e. ha! gotcha! you don’t know the language yet!), rather as a way for me to get more repetitions of 1st and 2nd verb forms AND help students become faster processors. Just have to do it in a slow, point, pause, assist if necessary kinda way :).

        1. I think, maybe, what Nathan is saying is that the student gets better at responding with the full sentence so that it comes out nearly automatically after the 5th or 99th time you have pointed and paused after having asked for a response.

          In Blaine’s presentation he said that he wouldn’t move off of a particular structure or sentence until the actor could spit out the whole sentence automatically. That was the sign that he had gotten enough reps on it.

          1. Communicating about this topic on a blog is challenging for me. I will attempt it in the hopes that we will eventually understand what we each are saying. I read “until the actor could spit out the whole sentence automatically.” Is that because Blaine had given such a barrage of input (Blaine repeating the “yo” form sentence for instance)? or because Blaine had the actor repeat the sentence a number of times?

            I see a big difference between the teacher repeating and the student repeating. I still don’t connect this activity (either way) to a student becoming a faster processor. Help me with the connection, or maybe “becoming a faster processor” is not what Nathan means.

            Pointing and pausing means that a student is reading it off the board–a good thing, a great anchor, a return to meaning. Oral repetition (by the student) of that structure/sentence does not mean acquisition has taken place. I guess you can tell I’m leery of this practice if forcing output (and, as it is described, this is forcing output) is the goal. I don’t think there is anything particularly evil about students repeating stuff, but I’d be careful about attributing “acquisition” to the activity.

            The following seems so much wiser to me: The teacher asks the question. If the kid answers, “Sí.” Teachers says, “Sí, correcto–and then says the sentence pointing and pausing/and pointing to self, using the “yo” form in a complete sentence. If the kid automatically speaks in a complete sentence and it doesn’t sound strangely cobbled together for the teacher’s benefit, I’d accept it. If the kid gives a partial phrase, I’d do the same as above: Correcto, and then say the whole sentence aloud, pointing to self, and pointing and pausing to words on board. When speech comes out slowly and awkwardly, it is because the speaker is thinking WAY too hard–consciously trying to get out the correct thing–not to communicate so much as to perform for the teacher. I am wary.

          2. Jody,

            I understand your wariness. I can´t really comment on the effectiveness of this technique because I have not used it in class. From my understanding, Blaine would say that the benefit is for the class hearing and understanding the sentence (and getting the extra reps of the 1st and 2nd person) as much as for the actor. It should never be hard for them to form it, because it is always right there on the board if they need it.

            For me, rephrasing the sentence in the 1st person after they say “si” seems very unnatural, simply because “I” am not doing anything. The other rephrase that I have heard of “Bob said, “I have a cat.” seems a little more natural, but I always forgot to do it last year when I had the chance.

            In any case, I am passing this along 2nd hand in any case, and there is the distinct possibility that something got lost in translation and I am not accurately representing it.

          3. …when speech comes out slowly and awkwardly, it is because the speaker is thinking WAY too hard….

            This is pretty much the crux of it. I agree fully with Jody’s point but would say it with more intensity.

            Also I agree with Jody on a key point above, which is that to view and use Point and Pause in any way as an aid in speech production is in my view wrong. Point and Pause should only be used with target structures in the delivery of comprehensible input and never with any other structures. Ideally, and of course none of this work exists in an ideal form, we never introduce any new words into the lesson except those targeted for that day. Therefore, to use Point and Pause as a kind of aid in helping a kid talk in the TL is something I won’t do, although there are many in our group who do and we can still love each other in spite of our differences.

  4. First of all, it’s really strange how every time I have a question and am about to throw it out there, I log onto the PLC and someone’s either asked it or Ben has posted an article about it.

    Anyway, to add to Jeremy’s question, during the first couple weeks while we are doing CWB, OWI, TPR, etc., would it be information overload to throw in some work with numbers, alphabet, days of the week, months of the year and things of that nature? I don’t know what your situation is Jeremy but I am shackled to a district curriculum based on a textbook so working in those types of things little by little may be of some use to fill up minutes in the block.

    1. Andrew,

      I think there are multiple ways you can handle this:

      – You can weave that vocabulary into your classroom discussion and readings (whatever input you’re working with that day, whether it’s a story or PQA or whatever, really). Just add more and more details to the situation, making sure to target some or as much of the vocabulary as you want / need to. Let me know if that’s too vague and I can expand. (This is what I do when I have to “cover” certain vocabulary in my Spanish 2 class.) The big idea though is, as you say, to not overload the students with vocabulary. Numbers definitely come up naturally in our conversations (always ask How many?, also do the Math Brain Break, which is awesome). I never do the alphabet as I think it’s a ridiculous thing to focus on when I have such a limited amount of time with my students to get them on the fluency tracks! Blaine says to put all that thematic vocabulary into the PQA before you get into a story.

      – Also, you could just tell the kids that you will be focusing on their fluency in class, which means they will need to do a lot of active listening and reading, and this may not completely align with what they’re doing in the textbook, but it’s still just as important (really more so!). And then you can require them to study / work on / memorize the vocabulary outside of class and then test them on it. This year I’m going to allow my Spanish 2 students to make up any quiz (different versions obviously) during the quarter so that they can show me and themselves improvement and it takes some of the sting out of making them do a brunt of the work outside of class (I would not do these quizzes if I did not have to, but that is the situation I am in with my Spanish 2 class.).

      I don’t know if any of that is helpful, so please let me know!

  5. Subtle question and we all have to deal with it. I don’t know. I do know, however, that I don’t like it when someone sprinkles salt on my ice cream. Those little tangents into district curriculum during a free wheeling CI class that has its own direction and energy cause a kind of boring stop to the fun. Like, hey kids, when did he go to the cloud? January? February? March? April? May? June? July? August? September? October? November? December? (and imagine each one of those circled as well). What were we talking about? So we lose the compelling/interesting piece of the CI quickly when we feel the heat of the district targets. I stopped trying a long time ago, preferring to teach that stuff all at once in April for the test, relying on their short term capacities. That’s probably the wrong way to do it. Funny how I know what January means now, however, and they didn’t give me no test eithur.

  6. Hi Jeremy and Welcome! I thought I recognized your name, but couldn’t figure it out until I saw your picture!!!! I always send my kids to your videos for homework if they have grammar questions!!! Thanks for making such great videos!, and again, welcome!
    ~~MB in Maine

  7. Welcome, Jeremy. I’d definitely do TPR , but I’d also add that you can add in some image work with stock images that are described into Ben’s one word image activity. It will seem different to the students.

  8. Hey all!

    I think my question could go here…. When talking about doing CWB for the first few weeks of the year, is that the ONLY thing recommended to do for an approx. hour-long class? I’m questioning because I also know there is the Word Wall/Association class starter that Ben talks about. I just wondered when Ben starts doing the Word Wall. Should CWB be the MAIN priority in the first few weeks? Thnx.

  9. In my own mind, and this is the core idea of my new book, I have five options available to me that are not stories at any given moment in the first few weeks or months. I know that I can choose the activity (they are explained in the book) depending on the energy in the room at the time.

    I love saying that. I follow the energy in my classroom, not a lesson plan. We are people not robots and we respond to what is happening between us, the people in the classroom, in a spirit of “what is the next fun thing we can do? I want to do that!”

    Language is not from the mind but the heart and body and that is why I say that.

    And so for me in my teaching world I start each class with word associations. I find that for me it gets the kids focused on something easy to start class and transitions any rebellious kids into being focused by physically putting their eyes on the Word Wall and interacting with me for a few minutes in a way that I have the power. Those sad pathetic kids can’t settle in and do their “I’m bored” thing when I point at a word on the Word Wall and then look at them directly with a smile on my face and a big ass jGR poster next to me (or maybe Emily’s new version of it which rocks the house – and demand that each and every one of them interact with me to come up with the right gesture and those other things we do almost like a daily ritual when we do word associations. There is a real psychology to this business of starting a class and Word Wall associations work well for me but they may not work for someone else.

    Then, only a few minutes later, having focused the class (all of them!), I can choose from:

    Word Chunk Team activity

    The percentages I would use each – and this is just me – in the first month are roughly:

    CWB – 70%
    OWI – 20%
    Word Chunk Team Activity – 5%
    Dictée – 5%

    I would use dictée when they are just not in an auditory CI mood but need to get quiet. That doesn’t happen very often. I would use WCTA at the end of a long week of CI on a Friday for 20-30 min. (not the entire class period). That is a reward for hanging with all the CI during the week, because no real reading happens in those first months, esp. with a first year class.

    Now, don’t forget, when I talk about CWB or OWI, those are entire worlds. They evolve as far as into stories sometimes. One kid who plays in a band gets together with another kid who plays in a band. What is the name of the group, class? Where do they give their concerts? Who is on stage with them (at least one celebrity)? All that pedagogy is described as Extended PQA in PQA in a Wink!

    So when I say I do CWB for a long time, or when skip talks about doing it until late winter, which in Maine is our springtime, we are talking about doing a lot more than basic CWB and that is one of the creative aspects of this work that allows lift off.

    My point Jennifer – and it is a well chosen question you have raised – is to create an atmosphere in my classroom that avoids making the kids respond mechanically. It is another reason we went private on the blog – I’m not laying down any laws here, just saying what works for me.

    And let me say, while I am on a roll, that what drives me as a teacher is to find within me a childlike response to the cool stuff I hear from my students. I never wanted to be a teacher. Maybe I got into teaching because I never fully worked through those stunningly intense years of life that we call high school. Maybe I had to stay in high schools for my whole life to kind of recover from it, to work through it until I got what happened to me in high school (I was expected to be a superstar runner and scholar and total winner and it really confused me badly and I still haven’t figured it out) or some sort of Adlerian shit like that. Whatever, I should get to the point, which is that I never wanted to lord it over the kids I’ve taught. I’ve wanted to become a kind of person who makes them feel that they can be right in my classroom, totally right and good and smart, every day, that’s all. Why? Because they can’t be wrong. They can’t be bad. They can’t be stupid. They are too perfect, too full of imagination and life. God made them and God doesn’t make junk. I seriously dislike and have created this website in part in an effort to take down those teachers on their high horses who act all like that and like they got it all down and the kids are imperfect and need their instruction to become better (in languages? Please!) and who reject the basic premise of Krashen which is that you can’t control anything in language acquisition and if you try you are a fool. So a lot of language teachers are fools, fools who daily inflict the idea on children that they can be stupid and can be wrong. WTF? Now we are getting into the passion that drives me in this work and speaking about being in control I am out of control in this rant. But dang it, y’all, we have no right to convey the idea to children that they can be wrong and that they can fail and that they can be judged and maybe not measure up. Double WTF.

    So back to the question, without apologies for the rant, I say follow the energy. See where it goes. And if it goes splat on CWB, then do a OWI or extend some PQA or bail to a dictée or go to Textivate or pull up something on YouTube (one of this year’s blog focal points is Movie Talk) or play a song, or pick a word, any word, and circle it because it has energy. And make those human connections and set those rules, which I have repeatedly said is the REAL REASON for CWB and OWI in the first place.

    And then gradually use those connections with your kids, all the silly stuff you learned about them from the cards, and be happy that you are able to smile and love and laugh and appreciate them so much, and work your way slowly in this soft way into stories, if you want. If we don’t have fun, what’s the point?

    My point? You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right in how you use CI. I wrote my last book – Stepping Stones to Stories! – with that in mind, how we are all different and how there is no method and how there is no one way to do this work.

    Imagine all the teachers and students living for today, and not for some future testing world. There is no test that we need to kill or die for. If we take this different stance about our jobs, we can make language learning actually, preposterously, work for kids and in doing that we can help in building a brotherhood of man. Then the world can live as one and we won’t have to hate so much.


    1. Thanks, Ben. It was actually your book Stepping Stones, which prompted me to ask the question. I overlooked the belief you have that we should all do CI in our own way just because whenever we talk about CWB in the first few weeks with kids, no one ever mentions doing anything else in that time. I’m very literal. I always say (when I’m scared and have no clue how to go about something-whether it’s teaching or a more personal hurdle) “Just tell me what to do and I will do it”. I think newbies may need that, although the thought that a CI teacher can follow their own flow is a lovely idea.

      I’m also going to be coaching my colleague from last year who took interest in this; we are sharing one of our TWO classrooms so it should make things easier. I wanted to know what I was talking about because she asked me if I had a plan for the first few weeks and I responded, “yep yep…it’s easy as pie”.

      (Note to Ben: Thanks for your email about Stepping Stones. I only checked my account recently but I DID get the hard copy of it in my mail. )

  10. Hey Jennifer,

    This is my first year using TPRS and I can relate it it cooking. When I’m making something for the first time, I almost always follow the recipe. Once I get a feel for the recipe, I make changes so that the end result works for my family. I sort of feel the same way about teaching in this new way.

    You’re not alone!!!!

    Buena suerte,

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