Compelling – 1

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14 thoughts on “Compelling – 1”

  1. It may well be that allowing (creativity) into a story during the story at the very moment when (creativity is) needed to drive the story forward will frequently, through the mere inclusion of those student-generated (creative expressions) lift the story up to a level that we could call compelling (and intellectually stimulating due to higher-order creative thinking).

    1. Yes Claire I agree – using emergent targets, for me at least, has invited much more creativity into my work. I am looking forward to starting the year next year with no targets, because I foresee much more engagement and trust from the kids. The trust comes from the facts that a) using emergent targets honors their voice, interest, and creativity and b) the new jobs hand over much of the control of the storytelling/review/literacy process to kids, so the class is more student-centered than it was without the Story Driver and Professeur 2 (especially) and 3) the kids sensed that the stories were freer and more responsive and that they would actually include a fun plot that – this is important – wrapped up! So they will, I think, be able to trust us more that we will share control with them as well as tell interesting, responsive, and satisfying stories.

      Putting people above the language is the most key aspect, to me, of untargeted work. The high frequency words will be used with high frequency whether or not we target them. That is why they are high frequency. You basically have to use them to communicate.

      I also see this as a question of distributed versus massed practice. I have found, for me and my kids, that distributed exposure (over time, in many contexts) to a word or structure/phrase/expression is best for acquisition. Massed practice (where we repeat it many times in a few sessions), for me at least, is not as effective. Using the HFW in a less-intentional way allows for a more natural, spaced-out (distributed) exposure to the words. And then too, the fact that the stories are more responsive and emerge from the actual people in the room, makes for more engagement, and of course engagement is the cornerstone, the foundation of any comprehension-based language acquisition program. If they did not attend to the input, how will they comprehend it, and thus acquire language?

      And, hey, looks like there is some research to back up my teacher/learner experience in thinking that distributed exposure to the vocab (even HFW) could very well be more effective than massing the exposures in a targeted situation. This just in from the American Federation of Teachers:

      Kristine Bloom and Thomas Shuell (1981) taught 20 new vocabulary words to high school students enrolled in a French course. Students either studied the words for one 30-minute session (massed) or for a 10-minute session on each of three consecutive days. The groups were indistinguishable on a test administered immediately after practice, with each group remembering about 16 of the 20 words. A retest administered four days later, however, showed that the distributed practice group still remembered the words (15 words correct), whereas the massed practice group forgot much more (11 words correct).

      Another study was conducted by Cornelius Rea and Vito Modigliani (1985) with third-grade students. In this experiment, one group was taught spelling words and math facts in a distributed condition and another in a massed condition. A test immediately following the training showed superior performance for the distributed group (70 percent correct) compared to the massed group (53 percent correct). These results seem to show that the spacing effect applies to school-age children and to at least some types of materials that are typically taught in school.

      – See more at:

      1. “Using the HFW in a less-intentional way allows for a more natural, spaced-out (distributed) exposure to the words.”

        This is super insightful. Thanks for sharing this research!

        1. More research from Krashen that I found in a post on Word Associations:

          “How’s this? Don’t worry about number of repetitions. Don’t worry about vocabulary. Worry only about presenting comprehensible and compelling input. The vocabulary will take care of itself. For crucial vocabulary, there will be plenty of repetitions, and they will be “distributed,” not “massed,” exactly the optimal way of presenting items for optimal retention.

          “Study ten TPRS classes – none of them with a specific focus on vocabulary. Give students a vocabulary test at the end of the semester or year. See what words they know. Compare this to lists of words that are on typical curricula. Compare to performance of students in classes that focus on vocabulary. That’s it.

          “In general, CI-based approaches (including sustained silent reading) produce superior results on VOCABULARY acquisition (as well as reading comprehension, heavily based on vocabulary knowledge) than skill-based approaches.

          “Will this be proof? No, no study ever provides proof. Research can only support or fail to support hypotheses.”

        1. Hi Laigh Anne! Here’s to a great school year! How I love those first days with the kids.

          Story Driver: A kid whose job it is to move you through the seven levels of questioning (a chapter from Ben’s new book, which guides the teacher through how to tell stories following a story arc through questioning around an image that the class created) quickly so that the story gets going, has a tight, satisfying plot, and comes to a resolution in one class period. They basically communicate with you that it is time for you to move on. I uthave them toss a trasketball at my feet in the middle of the room if I go too long (I have no desks, just chairs in a U shape) but Ben simply has the Story Driver keep in eye contact with him and silently signal nonverbally when it is time to wrap a level up.

          Professeur 2: This is a coveted, powerful job. It needs a serious, thoughtful kid who is not at=raid to speak her mind. You simply ask them to provide conflict resolution if the jury is split (the class can’t decide on the answer to a question). So you are in the level of questioning, With Whom, and they are arguing if the character is with the PE teacher or yesterday’s character, a mean leather shoe, you do not let that debate get out of hand and take too long (lest your Story Driver intervene), you simply ask the Professeur 2 if the character to decide the issue. Once they have spoken, applaud them, and move swiftly on.

          Both jobs build enormous goodwill in class. They share power. In a CI classroom it is important to share as much power and build as much goodwill as we can, since basically we are asking the kids to follow our lead and listen to our input most of the class time. I love jobs because they give kids a voice, and a role, in class. They share the power and let the kids have a way to communicate without breaking the L2 spell, when it gets rolling. (I firmly believe that we cannot always be in L2, and that it is somewhat detrimental. The goal for me is 90% or more, which is totally fine and in line with ACTFL even. I think that L1 can help classroom management a good deal as well as build relationships, but I do not use L1 to do a ton of talking ABOUT the L2, that is really not the best way of using the limited amount L1 I want in my room!)

    2. Steven Ordiano

      I see the shift of having kids forced to listen to what we have to say, to having them co-create stories with untargeted stories. There is an unlimited degree of personalization because the language is free. HFW are no longer a worry and Staying in bounds keeps us comprehensible with respect to our students level and time constraints.

      1. Steven, see you in a few hours. I just put in your sandwich order! Hope that the house made roll lives up to its reputation, LOL!
        I would say that yes, we want them to be forced to listen, their attention is the foundation of all acquisition, but I know you force that in your teaching not so much by coercion but by the compelling mature of the discussion or story at hand. They will have been tricked into listening, attentively, if we have been successful at making the messages in class about them, their ideas, their drawings, and their interests and lives. Thinking of yourself as a channel or conduit for their ideas may be helpful.
        I try to think of them pouring their ideas in and they filter through me, who speaks them out in comprehensible L2. Because that is my job and I have spent time working to have different filters available, like the circling with balls filter that has one skillset, and then the one word image filter that has another skillset, and the story creating filter, which has a third skillset. It is like I decide what filter to use during that time (based on my reading of where the class is emotionally and attention-wise and knowing that I do not ever, ever want activities to drag on) and put it in my brain and then fill it up with their ideas, and then L2 pours out for them to drink. If you can get past the image of students drinking from my brain, then this metaphor might work for you.

  2. There is something deeply satisfying about hitting upon le mot juste. It is the satisfaction of having solved a wee problem. The satisfaction of picking up the elusive puzzle piece and fitting it in place. Does le mot juste helps to create compelling in story-creation? Is “just the right moment” for the new structure a form of “le mot juste”?

    The exact L2 word may have to be teacher-provided, even those the notion that is expressed is student-generated. But perhaps I am straining your idea too much.

    1. “Satisfaction” -exactly, the kids feel clever when they provide ideas

      For my Newcomer ESL students, it’s the only time of day they get to feel clever…or understand what’s going on around them. Thank you, Blaine Ray. Thank you Ben.

  3. Steven Ordiano

    For some reason I feel that it is important to define or interpret our personal acquisition story. I learned French not in class but having a close friend talk to me in French about me and my life. This was able to happen because the university was being occupied by students for most of the semester.

  4. Question:

    Does the compellingness of language mean more intellectually stimulating? Or is this a result of the communication taking place (using bvps definition).

    I remember Ben saying that language acquisition is not occurring the same way when learning math. It is a focus on meaning rather than form and it occurs in the unconscious. While I believe it, sometimes I feel that it leaves us newbies open to attack by ignorant adminz and so called colleagues.

    I have an idea that there is complex brain activity going on when untargeted personalized language is shared in the class. If students use l2 for responses it doesnt make the class or task any less complex. have to be in l2 but the less the better.

    Admins in my district love it when students are at the center with complex tasks but most of the time it is overshadowed by creating products like projects and forced output.

    By redefining what our work is doing to the kids brains with this new interaction, there is more evidence that students are communicating in l2 by interpreting and negotiation meaning about engaging subjects like the invisibles. too often many think communication = talking and usually it is forced and about boring tasks.

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