Communication, Not Curriculum

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9 thoughts on “Communication, Not Curriculum”

  1. Hi, Ben and all! Wishing everyone a joyous year if you’re headed back to class – my son starts high school tomorrow and the other son returns to senior year. My husband returned to high school teaching today – my daughter and I go back toward the end of August.
    I have done soooo much professional development this summer – both learning and sharing with other teachers.
    I have found, like with the title of one of your wonderful books, that many of the Hebrew teachers I’ve met crave STEPPING STONES. Whether they can – are able to- have the skills, the chutzpah, the personality, the art of conversation skills – to go into their classes and just engage is beside the point. Many believe that they need training wheels – a direction – the Golden Rails – at first.
    I am struggling with this reality in my Hebrew training. Many supplementary L2 Hebrew teachers don’t have confidence in their conversational/extemporaneous Hebrew ability. Many native speakers are used to a culture of proscribed curriculum. In order to engage them, I have met much more open willingness by showing them ‘prompts’ – pictures, artifacts, Movie Talk clips, folk tales, and then what I’m calling, “bridges and scaffolds” – bridging as in ways to create community by incorporating PQA that tailors and previews some of the language of the ‘prompt – before we even look at the prompt (kinda backwards planning:{); and then the scaffold of foundational skills (point/pause/slow; teach to the eyes, etc.).
    I know that your work over these past 2 years and more has been in the other direction, but I haven’t been able to get the buy-in by teaching the Ts to ‘cut and run’ from a canned curriculum. The divide is so vast in this subculture. They believe they need training wheels. As teachers at private institutions that may not have had any teacher training (which can be good – less to unlearn?), and many have really lousy ‘create a warm and safe classroom community’ skills. I am modeling these soft skills for them in my extended demos.
    So I am providing very concrete examples of how to work with CI, and my hope is that once they tinker a bit, they’ll be more willing to improvise with the kids, and use OWIs, Invisibles, etc.
    I wish it were otherwise, but I feel I am meeting them where they are, and responding to what they are asking for…in a CI framework…for now.
    I would so appreciate feedback.

    1. Alisa that is a mouthful of a comment and no mistake. The general idea of taking teachers along in that scaffolded way that you describe above may be the best move in the training situation you are in, certainly. I think that I have been working over the years with teachers who have drunk the Kool Aid where you have been training in schools where the change to CI has been suddenly mandated. That may explain what you describe. We all would love to work with the Kool Aid drinkers, I am sure. So yeah it sounds like a good plan, maybe the only workable one.
      The rather pessimistic reservation, sadly, is a thought that I have had in my down moments over the years with TPRS/CI, when I thought that – after nearly 30 years of trying and of national conferences – TPRS would NEVER reach the exponential upward part of the curve (long overdue possibly due to the targeting thing, which I still can’t believe Krashen hasn’t addressed in a strong way). That reservation is that the people you are working with in those trainings like the one in NY became language teachers only bc they were good at grammar and all that stuff, and, confronted with the new ideas, could no sooner do CI than trying to retrain a math or chemistry teacher to do CI. Affect must be there to some extent, right?
      Now there in that case you would have to do the things you describe above. No desire to be negative here, rather just realistic – how many grammar teachers are just in over their head with CI? I mean, human communication, affect, all of that stuff may not be within their reach if all they have ever done w the language is manipulate it like a math puzzle. Sorry, don’t mean to offend anyone. When you get old you get to say what you think, and haters aren’t going to shut me up at this point, bless their hearts.

      1. This is where I find my most difficulty. In either re-training traditional teachers because my admin wants CI in the whole department or dealing with people who were hired to teach with CI (but were not necessarily convinced of it before seeing the job posting). For me I can take the Invisibles and everything you have in the NATTY book and have more than enough for an entire school year.
        I’ve found that teachers that don’t come to CI on their own accord though don’t want to take the plunge into the Invisibles or even something like Special Chair. They won’t try a traditional TPRS story ask either. They want something that is more like do this day one, give this sheet day two, here is the quiz for the end of the week. They want to hide behind a powerpoint, a novel, a pair work activity, a group project, etc .
        It’s just so hard for teachers in this camp to understand that the students are the curriculum. With NT, it’s an infinite amount of content AND you cover all the topics you would have covered if you were targeting anyway.
        Many teachers tell me they like what I am doing and they know the kids like it, but “That’s just Greg, I couldn’t do that. I need structure.”

        1. Greg what you said about those colleagues who only feign the interest in CI bc they think it’s just the latest fad cuts deep with me. And now with each passing day, as I dig deeper and deeper into the star sequence, I realize that the star sequence is the most structured curriculum I have ever seen. Total structure. But those teachers don’t have vision. They need binoculars to look deeply into the star sequence. Dismissing it reveals their folly. What is good is that you are there. You did and continually do your due diligence and you have earned my deep admiration bc you know what is in ANATS and ANATTY bc you have dug into it, and not dismissed it at first glance. You have gone into it with a microscope. I am so happy that you are there, making CI clear to others.

  2. Ben you wrote, ” I would bet that a graph of acquisition measuring gains in non-targeted instruction would show a better upward curve, especially over time, because of the increased play among words that time allows, than a graph of acquisition measuring targeted gains, gains connected to a curriculum”
    Agreed. In addition, I am think more and more that students should be provided with natural acquisition experiences that are both personalized and compelling. NT aligns with this… more natural for lack of better words. Less pressure for the whole class and the AF is relaxed.

  3. Some confused souls in our Ed world are very afraid of a relaxed affective filter…we’ve commented on here abt that for years. (Definition of rigor, etc.)
    At my next training in NY in about 2 weeks, the adminz and a board member will be present, so I will be bold and say in front of all, in the most charming and diplomatic way I can muster, that the decision makers are INVITING the teachers to relax everyone’s filter; to create a community where real conversation happens; where people care about each others’ likes, interests, affinities, ideas…. hopefully this will relieve their tendency to hide behind ‘rigor’ and dismiss everything that’s not authentic literature for native speakers…
    As Tina has often reminded me, all I can do is plant seeds…the best I can…

  4. What you say here is more than planting seeds:
    …I will be bold and say in front of all, in the most charming and diplomatic way I can muster, that the decision makers are INVITING the teachers to relax everyone’s filter; to create a community where real conversation happens; where people care about each others’ likes, interests, affinities, ideas….
    This describes the revolution. It’s about people being happy and not living in fear any more. It is what is happening in our world today. That is the way I see all this chaos and confusion, as an ugly start to a brand new beginning for humanity.
    When I know that I am in a war next to people like you, I have great confidence in our ability to win the day for those suffering children, and show them that life and learning, at least in our classes, can be happy things.
    Children must be given hope. We have been given something that can give children hope. May we not fail in this God-given task. He has given us something great. We dare not falter now. We must prevail, on behalf of His children.

  5. Does anyone have a Curriculum Unit (UBD format) written about how you document the One Word Image and Invisibles process on a required document for admin?
    I know that Tina had that one Non-Targeted lesson plan, but that is more for lesson planning than “unit planning”
    Needing some CYA help! Thanks!

  6. Here is our Spanish 1 UBD document. The pressure is on to create a curriculum this year. We need to have something on paper. Honestly an admin will probably skim the document and check off a box.
    It’s a cut and paste o thon, folks. Any comments would be appreciated. I did cut and paste from the CI Book (this document does not go outside my school or this forum). Of course other sources (Like Tina’s Non-target can do statements are not cited! LOL)
    Just posting it here in case you want to cut and paste in your curriculum document.

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