Circling with Balls Questions – 4

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6 thoughts on “Circling with Balls Questions – 4”

  1. This was also a worry of mine. When I made up a funny thing about the student playing soccer in the bathroom, I turned to him and asked if he plays soccer in the bathroom. He said no and I honored his answer and dramatically told the class that NO, he didn’t play soccer in the bathroom. I think once they find out that it is ok to play, they will play along but I have been asking the student each time. Another class came up with the idea that the student plays basketball with her mom. I asked her “Do you play basketball with your mom?” and let her decide.

  2. Melissa,
    Thanks for all of your great thoughts and examples. I had written a long response and lost it when I hit post for some reason.

    I hope your year goes well as you continue with CWB and TPRS. I was wondering if you use a textbook as well. We use Realidades – but I can see from just two days of CWB that the students will acquire the vocab much better than they could ever learn it from the book. I’m hoping to mostly use the book to test for vocab recognition from each chapter, maybe a little culture, and use TPRS to target the main structures included in each chapter.

    I can’t remember the rest of what I typed a few minutes ago – it all disappeared into cyberspace. I know I wanted to end by just saying that I’ve really enjoyed reading so many thoughtful responses to various posts (I’ve been reading from this PLC like crazy for most of the summer and I’ve learned so much!) It’s obvious that you are a great group of educators. Blessings to you as all of you begin this school year! (and to those who are retired but still very involved in education) 🙂


    1. Robyn,
      I don’t have to use a textbook at all! If I did, I would do exactly what you just said and choose main structures from each chapter. Or perhaps make a list of all the main structures and mix them up throughout the year but if your students can transfer at semester to another teacher that doesn’t use CI, this could be a problem.

      One problem that I am having is thinking too much. I have a long way to go to become adept at circling and asking stories but I have found that if I just focus on one structure and let the rest just come up naturally, I do much better. Last year Eric came up with an idea of the 5 minute Power Verb Activity. It helped me learn to use the structure in every sentence that I said for 5 minutes. I believe that he even has a video of himself doing this technique.

      I totally agree with your last paragraph. Without this community, I couldn’t do it. The gems that are in this PLC and the people keep me going. On really hard days the first thing that I do is come here. I read and slowly fill back up for the next day.

  3. Yes, it’s a hangup that you need to let go of. Does the author of a novel keep reminding the reader that it’s a work of fiction, or does the author just tell the story? At the beginning of the year, you give the class the parameters that in your class, anything is possible (remembering school appropriate, etc.). Then just enjoy creating that class’s novel for the rest of the year.

    Personally, I think one of the things we need to do is encourage imagination and creativity. There are a number of education leaders (e.g. Sir Ken Robinson) who remind us that we need to teach students to be creative because we cannot imagine the world that they will inhabit in 5-10 years (let alone 20-30). By the time we see them in high school, most students have abandoned creativity within the school setting, if not within their life in general. With the current emphasis on “informational texts” and “college and career readiness”, the life of the spirit receives short shrift in our educational system. (L’essentiel est invisible pour les jeux. “The essential is invisible to the eyes.” While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.)

    I start the first year class talking about how I play organ in the Aquarium of the Pacific (yes, in the aquarium) as an example of how we play the game before I move on to the Circling With Balls. Otherwise it is difficult to get students to move beyond playing sports for the school; whenever I fail to insist on the creative, unexpected answers from the very start, that class is always less imaginative than the others because they are so used to having to base all of their answers in mundane (“practical, transitory and ordinary”; “commonplace”) reality; they have to be reminded that it’s okay to allow their imaginations to soar beyond the stars.

    Some day I will have to write down a few of my thoughts about the process of “sub-creation”.

  4. I teach five sections of year one Spanish. In four of these sections, once I encouraged them to use their imaginations, we had incredible scenes acted out of Mike playing soccer with Barney the purple dinosaur, Nick dunking over Michael Jordan and Taylor Swift, and Jim playing football with Obama, Champ Bailey, and Kim Kardashian. The last class just wasn’t providing anything interesting. At all. So I made the executive decision and told them that John plays football with Lady Gaga. I brought out the toughest guy in the class, put a woman’s wig on him, and announced that “her name is Lady Gaga. She plays football with Mike. Does Lady Gaga play football well? No!” And suddenly even this class forgot that we were speaking Spanish and had basically been saying the exact same sentence over and over for the last half hour. We just cared about watching Mike stiff-arm Lady Gaga on the way to the end-zone.

    I love Robert’s response. As humans, we are born to use our imaginations. It makes us come alive. Most classes and schools and standards and tests work to kill that most basic part of our humanity, but kids are just waiting for us to bring it back to life. Don’t give up on the cute answers.

  5. Below is a passage from PQA in a Wink! that supports your point, Robert. It also addresses the question above, in that it discusses how we let things emerge in the questioning process. Letting things emerge instead of trying to get a student to agree to something as being true or not brings a different kind of focus to our classes.

    When we work side by side with our students, facing in the same direction (St. Exupéry’s definition of love) to try to solve a problem, then the oppositional nature of teaching a class disappears and we’re just hanging out together. To me, that is real teaching, where they don’t even notice that they are being taught anything. They are so focused on the message that they are not aware of learning the language.

    We must strive to get them focused on the message and not the language. That is the entire secret, all of it, to comprehensible input instruction. Matthew got about three feet of air in that class that he described about the football player and Lady Gaga:

    …and suddenly even this class forgot that we were speaking Spanish and had basically been saying the exact same sentence over and over for the last half hour….

    Here is the passage that addresses the question:

    When you circle during extended PQA, you accept and reject answers just like you do in stories. You listen enough to get a fact or a detail and then you move on. The class hangs on your decision making. You are in charge of the class.

    Obviously, you reject a lot more suggestions than you accept, but, when you finally accept one, it is fun to act as if that was the one you had in mind the entire time! Your intention in the above mini-dialogue was to get repetitions of the term “stares”. When you began class that day, however, you did not plan on teaching any specific sentences like “Michael stares out the window”.

    So, when learning various ways to extend PQA, you don’t extend it to where you want it to go, you just move it along to where it goes. You can still be in charge and listen to the student’s answers.

    Extending PQA is a just a dance, a game, where the CI moves forward because you listen to each other – they to your questions, you to their answers. Interesting CI cannot help but emerge from such reciprocal trust, from this wonderful process of making collaborative decision with others in what is, for your students, a new and exciting language!

    Extending PQA, with its high degree of imaginative work and no story line to speak of, is an activity of the heart, of trust. You trust the CI to unfold, but you do not require that it unfold.

    Soren Kierkegaard put it this way:

    “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the
    sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”

    This is the eye that we must employ when we do PQA.

    If there is a girl named Lexie who rides horses, start circling that sentence – Lexie rides horses – into extended PQA, trusting that it will go somewhere. Just start the circling:

    Class, there is girl.… Class, her name is Lexie…

    Remember always to circle only when there is the need to circle. There is no need to circle information that they already know, as per the above two sentences…

    Class, Lexie rides horses! (Ohh!)

    Here you can circle: does she ride fast or slowly, often or rarely, etc.….

    Class, Lexie is riding!…(circle circle, where are they riding, etc.)… Class, Lexie is
    riding (point triumphantly with the baton) in the forest!….. (Ohh!…circle circle)

    If you “stall out” with questions, which happens, just look to your circling chart in the back of the room. Your eyes may land on the word “when.” Use it!

    Class, when is Lexie riding through the forest?

    In a few minutes you have gone from a boring sentence (Lexie rides horses) to a potentially interesting scene in which Lexie is riding fast through the forest at midnight.

    Where will it go from here? You win either way. If it fades you have gotten some decent CI in, and if it continues to go forward you get to extend the PQA further, sculpting away waste rock (rejected questions) and letting the image in the rock (accepted questions) drive the story forward.

    The extended PQA continues to develop in a funny way at the end of your pointer. You are teacher/maestro/magician. Lots of imagined possibilities are set afloat for the consideration of the class at the end of your pointer. Lots of funny comments arise. Best of all, there is lots of laughter!

    Circling eventually takes Lexie, after an eleven hour ride, to a local restaurant – Red Robin – where she has lunch with a boy named Jeff. A classmate friend of Lexie volunteered the name Jeff as Lexie’s boyfriends’ name. Lexie falls in love – it’s obvious!

    Interestingly, Lexie never left her seat (the CI occurred at the end of the pointer), and there never was a problem that needed to be solved, so this wouldn’t be called a story. It matters little what we call it, as long as interesting and personalized comprehensible input occurs.

    Once the discussion loses energy, you congratulate Lexie on her wonderful adventure and then you simply look around the room for another fact, and the process of creating personalized comprehensible input by using circling begins again. At this point you can also do retells, assess, get some writing in the form of a dictée or a ten minute free write, or any one of a number of things.

    As the PQA develops more and more into extended PQA, the kids make their suggestions one student at a time, sitting up with clear eyes and providing cute answers. The instructor has no preconceived line of thinking, just an open mind. The kids, with their straight backs, squared shoulders, clear eyes, and growing confidence in “playing the TPRS game,” make it all happen. I succeed in extending PQA because I know that the next moment in the discussion will follow naturally from the one before it.

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