Confronting Kids in Class

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31 thoughts on “Confronting Kids in Class”

  1. I’m really glad that you DID post this… helps me to think about and process all the problems that I have been having with a given class this year!
    OK – Re: the “69” kid. I don’t know what led up to him giving that as answer, but hypothetically I would have asked him “Really? there’s 69 of them? WOW! that’s all? that’s not nearly enough/or too little etc. etc.” (again I do not know what the story was about) ….giving an opportunity to show him that you ‘didn’t get’ his off-color humor — then you zing him with something later that comes from left field!!! hahaha!!!(sorry, you’re from Scotland; that was a baseball analogy meaning ‘out of no where’ I keep forgetting we’re an international forum!!!) If he persists on making the sexual innuendo, then you put your foot down with the “not school-appropriate” hammer, and phone home.
    HOWEVER, that being said, parents are not always in your corner. (that’s why I HATE making calls home! it usually worsens the situation!!! like for me this past week. — I’m seriously considering quitting teaching. I hate the fact that kids can be rude and disrespectful and the parents are OK with it!!!)
    But I would also document it by an office referral, and I love that you are going to make them just be “page turners” for the next couple of weeks. Give the other kids videos to watch and games on the computer to play — let them go to the library to research and make the PITAs (pain in the asses) stay in the room and fill in worksheet after worksheet after worksheet and grade each one. All with a great big smile, basically saying, “I am giving you what you want. You clearly did not want to acquire the language, because you do not want to interact with others in the language, so this is the best way for YOU to learn. Give the PITAs a paper and pencil final; give the kids who want to learn a performance based conversational-type of final. Speak to your admin and see if the other kids, who have already proven to you that they KNOW the material can be exempted from attending the final even. I don’t know if any of this even made sense! What language do you teach? And….I am very happy that you get a reprieve after Christmas!!! It sounds like you deserve it. This year we are on the semester schedule – next year we will be doing full year, every-other-day. But, I think that will help because I am struggling with a certain class (Level 2) that has such a wide spread of abilities that were put into it. Because of a change in WL programming – for ONLY this year!!! – I have a class that has kids who should be in Level 3 all the way down to kids who should be STARTING Level 1 over. I tried teaching with CI, and holding my ground, but it is such a ROWDY bunch that I couldn’t even keep it tolerable!!!! (and I say “even I” because I am usually pretty good with classroom management, but I have so many passive-aggressive students in the class, that they infused such a level of toxicity it was unbelievable — they were just being SO incredibly selfish – not caring about the other kids who needed extra time. They would not care (or believe) that they will still get what they NEED if they just listened all the time — instead they would just zone out and look around the room, put their head down to sleep, etc. etc. And this is because of the teacher they had before me who was so anti TPRS and I think she was constantly telling them that what I was doing was not going to help them learn. (I say this because one of these kids just told me the other day that I should “try” what the other teacher did — make them do pronunciation drills and quizzes – because that “REALLY helped her with her pronunciation!” ARGHHHHH.

    1. Wow, mb. Toxicity created from a colleague strikes nuclear in comparison to the toxicity from students that strike like paint-ball guns. So sorry. I am so grateful for my colleagues who all try to gather in the teacher’s lounge during lunch everyday to share crazy stories and ham it up! (Yesterday one student threw a calculator at a teacher’s head. We gotta laugh about that one, ultimately because we know that student will be back in the classroom soon. We are not one of those schools that kick out students so easily. Plus, one of our math teachers has a night job as a stand-up comedian. He certainly wouldn’t have any stage material if he quit his day job.)

      Jason, I was sharing yesterday on another thread how difficult it is to balance our efforts in listening to students’ responses while maintaining order so that all students are attentive to the one person who ‘has the floor’ to speak. I often do a call and response:

      me: When I say, “Listen to”, you say, “Ta’tiara”… Listen to!
      Students: Ta’tiara
      me: Listen to!
      students: Ta’tiara


      me: When say, “Listen to,” you say, “Mr. Lawler.” … Listen to!
      students: Mr. Lawler
      me: Listen to!
      students: Mr. Lawler

      I highly recommend the book, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen” or “How to Talk so Teens Will Listen” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s a canonical book for parents, educators, psychologists, and the like. I picked it up about 8 years ago and found it invaluable. I really struggled teaching my first couple of years because I didn’t know how to talk to kids. They walked all over me. One message that came across from that book was the importance of simply acknowledging what a student says. We don’t have to negate what they say. In fact, negating what they say can be hurtful. They realize what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. They realize what is ridiculous and what isn’t. Here’s a light example of a conversation with a student I had yesterday:

      Porsha: “Mr. Lawler, if I don’t get an acceptance letter from Spelman College, I’m going to drop out.”
      Me: “Hummm.”
      (a moment of pause. Porsha sticks out her bottom lip. I nod.)
      Porsha: “I’m kidding. I’m not going to drop out.”
      Me. “That’s good to hear.”

      I could have responded by saying, “That’s silly. Don’t do that.” But Porsha might have reacted by saying, “Nope. I’m going to drop out. That’s that.” Because that’s what teenagers do. They rebel and disagree with adults. It’s in their blood. That’s how they grow to be independent.

      The authors of this book also suggest that adults should hop on that fantasy train that teens imagine and give that fantasy some fire. For example, let’s say you have your teenager doing chores at home. Mopping the floor. Let’s say that teenager says, “I wish I didn’t have to mop this floor.” Instead of replying, “Too bad. This is your job,” we could say, “Yeah, like maybe we could hire a maid service to do all the cleaning for us and we could all just sit back on the sofa and watch sports.” Now, this is a genuine comment. I’m not expressing sarcasm here because the teen will pick up on that. I would genuinely like to have a maid service clean for us. But the reality is that we can’t afford it. I know that, and so does my teen. It’s a fantasy. And it’s nice to think about.

      It’s so important to keep things positive and joyous, and you’re doing that, Jason, by highlighting the positive responses from those particular students. Keep it up! At the same time, you can’t let those negative students drag you down. I tell myself this almost every morning, because I’m often stressing out about some of the students that disrupt constantly, “Think about what kinds of positive reactions I’m going to get from my kids today.” When we expect and anticipate the positive, I kinda think it’s more likely to happen.

      Another suggestion: pull up the disruptive kid to the front of the room. Circle any target structures you can from what the student said or did. Then give a quick quiz. Do this especially if this disruptive kid got the attention of the class. An example with the student that chose to make faces through your classroom door window:

      teacher: “Come back inside the room, please. Just for a second. Would you?”
      (ideally the student would come back in and sits or stands next to you in the front of the room)
      teacher: “Class. Mary (or whatever name she has) is a comical or a serious person?”
      class: “Comical”
      teacher: “That’s right, class. Mary is a comical person. Class, does Mary ‘want to go’ (possible target structure) to detention?”
      student A: Yes.
      student B: No.
      teacher: “Interesting. Does Mary want to go to detention or does she want to go to her seat?student A: She wants to go to detention
      student B: She wants to go to her seat.
      teacher: “Very interesting, class. Let’s vote. Do we want Mary to go to detention or do we want Mary to go to her seat? Raise your if you want her to go to detention… (pause and count hands). Raise your hand if you want her to go to her seat…” (pause and count hands)

      If class voted for her to have a seat, I’d have Mary sit down. Same with detention. The direction of the class happens through the input from the class. Hopefully, more buy-in will result.

      Then give a quick quiz.

      Eventually, students will check each other on negative and disruptive actions or speech. I see this happening with my students, even though at the same time I can’t let down my guard. They know what is right and wrong, we as adults just have to give them adequate time and a safe space to make those decisions and reflect upon them. Don’t you think?

  2. ….one of these kids just told me the other day that I should “try” what the other teacher did — make them do pronunciation drills and quizzes – because that “REALLY helped her with her pronunciation!”….

    Triple AARGHH!

    Jason – Mary Beth nails it above, and yes you made the correct decision to go to the book. I would not make a big deal out of it. Just go back to the old way and wait them out. When stories comes up, say that you tried and failed at it and speak no more of it. If you are lucky many will drop and you can keep preparing that notebook about “next year” and think that way, instead of trying to push that big rock up that steep hill for another five months. Good advice from Mary Beth, really the only option. Those kids sound really rude.

    1. Perhaps you and Mary Beth are right. I do think you are right if Jason is finding it hard to bring a feeling of peace and joy to the classroom. I think, though, that despite what we say about the difficulties in turning a class around after starting off with them on a bad note, I think it is still possible. I’ve had to climb out of this whole multiple times, partially because of bouncing around from school to school over the years (Chicago Public School turn-arounds and closings suck!).

      James Hosler posted recently that he’d rather teach CI despite being the only one doing so in his school, district, town, and region because if he didn’t he wouldn’t be able to look at himself in the mirror. I’ve had the same attitude about difficult classes. Believe me, I’ve had my share. We have to continue working with these difficult classes, trying what we can, going back a few steps before going forward. And I believe that our students gain a valuable lesson about perseverance, determination, love (yeup, I said it), and GRIT. I can’t think of a better characteristic than grit. If someday, by chance, a student tells me, “Mr. Lawler, you sure have grit!” I would have to invite that student to sit down with me for a whiskey and a cigar.

      Then again, there’s the issue of mental health which supersedes all other conversations. Jason, please do what you think will best help you stay healthy and know that it will only get easier down the road.

  3. I just call bad language. If a kid says “69” I ask “oh what do you mean?” and if I get no answer, or giggle, I say “oh, are you referring to something sexual? If so, that’s not appropriate. OK, I will need to talk to you and your mother/father after school.” If they can’t deal with it, the kid goes to admin and doesn’t come back to class until there’s a plan in place.

    You have to call what you see. You have to let the kids know what is and is not acceptable.

    I have zero tolerance for that kind of shit.

  4. I ride horses and the first thing you have to learn about riding is that you can’t Make a horse do anything it doesn’t want to do. And it’s the same with kids. We talk about management and control, but at the end of the day the kids do what they want to do. Have you seen those incredible horses at the Olympics doing the dressage routine? They’re doing that because they want to and they’re enjoying themselves. Which is why it’s called the equestrian art. And teaching kids is an art. I think if the teacher comes across “hard as nails” and determined to make the kids “sit up straight” before he starts, he’s asking for opposition, just as a rider that uses too much force on a horse is going to have problems. Push a horse and he’ll push back with a lot more strength than you could ever have. I don’t have a magic formula, but I know that I’ve been able to work with some tough customers because they came to believe that I actually wanted to see them succeed, that it wasn’t about me being a great teacher but about them being a great class.

    I use jGR, I explain what I hope to see and why it will help them succeed. If the kids just sit up a little straighter, that may be all they can do that day. You don’t expect a horse to be perfect the first day, you reward him for trying, even just a little bit. These kids live in a world where their standing with the other kids is far more important to them than what you or any other teacher thinks of them. If you challenge them and they have to choose between their accustomed role with their peers and your ideal student, you are going to lose them.

    I know this isn’t what many people say, but as the French say, “on n’attrape pas de mouches avec du vinaigre.” A lot depends upon your administration and how you’re allowed to handle kids that revolt, as the lot you describe seem to have decided to sabotage your class. If it comes down to “me against them” there’s no way the teacher can win. The point is to avoid ever getting there. You need to choose your battles carefully. If they’re just going through the motions at first, you might consider that a victory as opposed to outright rebellion and insolence.

    1. I love the analogy to the riding horses, Judy!

      Also what you say about the accomplishment in students sitting up a little straighter one day makes me think about how much my jGR assessing is so relative. It’s relative to how others in the class perform. It’s relative to how that student did on previous days. It’s relative to my biased expectations of particular kids. And I don’t know if this is a good thing. It’s very interesting, though, how students will often give themselves lower marks than I would. Funny how they complain about their grades in Spanish class all the while giving themselves low scores on jGR!

    2. I agree with Judith here. I’m not forceful about the sitting up straight rule. Really, as long as they’re not a disruptful pain in my ass, or texting, I don’t care about their posture. I choose my battles in order to stay sane and avoid confrontations that we ultimately lose

  5. Great topic! I can relate as well. I have 6 classes this year and all except one have 40 students. Not all students are on board with the freedom TPRS allows nor the discipline required to acquire the language. One of my classes has been relegated back to the textbook and worksheets but is slowly inching its way back to the “right” to be taught using TPRS. I am the only teacher using it in my department and my 2nd and 3rd year classes are all on board cuz they know they don’t want to go back to the textbook or to the other teachers 🙂
    I am willing to wait them out…and the 4%ers are happy with having some “analytical” type stuff to do (you know those kids will pick up some grammar rules by using the text and then will soar when we return to TPRS).
    I appreciate what Sean said about learning to talk to kids. I will check out that book. And, Judy, the horse analogy is great! I am always learning something I can use on this blog. It is what keeps the “hope alive” that this way of teaching will get easier. I am never going back to the old ways for long. BUT, using the textbook is a nice reprieve for those awful classes…teacher just walks around and makes sure everyone is copying everything down. No wonder some teachers “teach” that way. And it amazes me how compliant kids are to do the copying…no push back there. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

  6. Like we’ve said on here many many times….kids who have had the textbook LOVE it because it’s EASY…they don’t have to think, they don’t have to work, they can just zone out and fill in blanks. They won’t acquire anything. BUT…they “think” they are acquiring because they are “doing” something….filling in blanks, practicing pronunciation drills, etc etc.
    this is unlike TPRS/CI because we make them THINK. They have gotten good grades before because they are good at looking up the answers and filling in the blanks (can you tell I hate “filling in the blanks”? hahaha)
    These snarky seniors (which I have spoken of already on here this year) are giving me a tough time. I have some VERY VERY low students in this particular class, and am trying to accommodate everyone so the low kids do not become lost and give up. In the process the seniors feel like they aren’t doing anything so they are zoning out, without realizing that I am interjecting a little extra for them to pick up on.
    This week I decided to have them “teach” a group of students. We are doing “Piratas”, so I broke the class up into 5 teams, with each of these “advanced” students as team leaders. I told them to read the book — chapter by chapter – helping to translate the book with “their” students, and writing down words/verbs that they find their group gets stuck on. To help them with pronunciation (since they did so well last year!!! -snarkiness on my part!)
    So, the “know-it-alls” are getting their ego stroked, they are getting a taste of how difficult it is to teach a foreign language; but the other students are getting more one-on-one attention, and I am getting more detailed accounts of what kids are struggling with, I am able to walk around and observe and have time to “process” what they are having a hard time with and formulate other strategies while watching them interact with another student. It will also pay off big time training them to do this, so I can plan on it when being observed — since Admin always wants to see kids collaborating!!!! (being observed Monday, so now I have this ornery class trained! HA!)

  7. Over the years here we have constantly talked about the need to get the kids shoulder to shoulder with us so that we are walking together in the same direction.

    The teacher in the front of the line leading the students in the right direction, that image from so many Truffault films which I guess they are still doing in Europe, is over and can’t work with stories. The kids have to want to create. Judy and others addressed this above.

    So that is why we tell them what we are doing. We don’t get into theory, we just tell them what we are doing and that we need their participation to create a story and Jason it looks like you have made that clear to your kids – that part of you all creating together.

    We especially tell them that if they don’t understand then it is our fault, not theirs. That is new thinking to them. Kids can’t feel as if they are wrong when they don’t understand. I repeatedly tell my kids that all they have to do is listen and tell me via the signal when they don’t understand.

    The jobs play such a key roll in this. There are the distilled elements Ruth spoke of like Slow and Staying in Bounds, the skills addressed here:

    James has written a few times here about the necessity that all the techniques come together at the same time in the classroom for the method to work and that is the art of it.

    Above all, the kids must understand. In that idea that we must be transparent (Krashen’s word) is the key to all of it. So perhaps SLOW really is the key to all of this. So I apologize Jason for leaving this out in my first response to you above. I guess we can confront them only after we have created a class culture of trust. There are many articles on this, I suppose in the Classroom Management category, that go back years.

    But if I had to say one skill was above all the others in importance, it would be SLOW, so that at least they understand. We’re baking quite a cake here, what?

  8. I am curious about how things play out in US schools re tprs vs grammar grind.

    With the whole totalitarian testing regime(s) thing you guys have down there in the US, would it not seem obvious to all to use TPRS, because the results are so amazingly good? When the kids do tests, don’t the TPRSers whump the grammar grinders? Or do the powers that be design tests specifically FOR the grammar grinders?

    I did a test the other day. My top beginner kid wrote 150 words– in 3 tenses– with 5 errors (all minor). 2nd kid wrote 255 with 15 minor errors, also in 3 tenses. My colleague Leanda, who is using TPRS for the first time with her level 3 French kids, is getting results that would score in the top 20% of level 4 French. They’ll be even better in 4 weeks when semester ends. Ppl at other schools here seem to find kids acquiring language at double the rate of other methods…e.g. Adriana’s beginners who do summer school generally go from her level 1 class directly to level 3 when they opt for summer school.

    If I were a marks-grubber kid, I’d totally vote for TPRS classes: more fun, less work, and better results. Do kids down there not know how good (and easy) proper language teaching can be? Curious.

    1. ” Or do the powers that be design tests specifically FOR the grammar grinders?”
      Unfortunately, for Latin programs, the answer is an overwhelming “yes,” insofar as the Latin AP was designed by the Old Guard. Now, many HS teachers feel beholden to the AP, and many teachers of earlier grades feel the pressure to prepare kids for that kind of assessment. This means that for Latin, CI methods simply do not address the skills that are necessary for success on the Latin AP. Rather, Bob, myself and others are working to change the culture of Latin programs, so that AP does not dominate, and encourage Latin teachers to fight for all their students, against a system that is rigged for the select few. Embedded reading is the most promising strategy for having it both ways, (i.e using CI methods AND preparing students to do philological analysis of a Latin text in English). But this is only a temporary measure, until either AP is altered or done away with.

      1. John,

        I have thought the very words that you are saying. I too see myself as a member of the army you guys are leading to change the rigged system. While embedded readings does make it possible to reach those goals, I agree that people are not truly reaching those goals. The embedded readings give the illusion that kids understand the text. I dare say that the students end up only knowing what is happening in the particular passage and can do those readings because of that knowledge. We must demand that Latin be treated like all the other languages. Without leveling the playing field, Latin is doomed to fail forever. How can we expect students to read Caesar and Vergil after 3 or 4 years while other languages are not expected to read a text as sophisticated as these. Even Ben talks about reading The Little Prince with his kids and trying to use that text which has sizable challenges. I am fairly confident that The Aeneid and Caesar’s De Bello Gallico are much more intense and difficult, not to mention all the necessary knowledge of grammar and philology. It is quite sad.

        Unfortunately, even the most elite kids perpetuate this myth because they want to have something to lord over their fellow student. This is what Latin has been about for decades, lording ourselves over the lesser or at least lesser in our opinion. So terribly sad! Then, we are demonized and accused of “dumbing” down because we ask for equity. It is quite shameful that we continue to do this as a language with our head held high. Despicable.

  9. Unfortunately the marks-grubber kid believes that if he can eventually come up with an answer, he “knows” it and doesn’t have to do it over again (and again and again and again). The other day I had a new student sit in on a class that was working on a scene from Lord of the Rings. We asked questions about who was who and what they wanted and why, etc. It was discussion. He participated and generally understood, but was making lots of mistakes that my regular students no longer make. After the class he told me that he “knew the film” and thought it was too easy for him. I put him in a different group with a girl who is two years older than him, so he’s convinced that this is more his level. Actually we’re reviewing the very basics that he “knows” but has not yet “acquired”. I guess it’s all about the wrapping you put on the product.

    another horse analogy. I had trouble getting my French Trotter to maintain a canter – It’s me, not her, because she will do it with a more skillful rider. So the instructor has had me going back to the basics, lots of walk and trot and transitions and circles and more walk and trot. My seat has improved at the slower paces, so now we can canter! That’s so hard for students to grasp, that you have to do those very simple things that they were “taught” in first year. They think they know them, but only when they do them automatically, without even thinking about it, can they be considered “advanced”. I always explain that when I judge a student’s level, I don’t consider what they do with complex grammatical structures. I consider how easily, correctly and spontaneously they use the very basic structures.

    1. Judy,
      Thanks for yet another good analogy. This time though, I really appreciate your last 4 lines. I copied/pasted them to an email to myself so that I can explain why I am using CI in my classes. My colleagues are concerned that students are not able to use all of the complex grammar points from the 3rd year textbook even after they “cover” the material. I am not sure how I will use your words, but they truly sum up what it is I have been trying to articulate. Again, thank you.

      1. Ditto! I LOVE it, Judy!

        And Louisa, do we have the same colleagues? haha. We (elementary Spanish) recently met with high school Spanish teachers and there were comments that the students have zero motivation, that they still can’t conjugate the irregulars in the present tense when they get to the high school, and that the students were not retaining so they need more summer work. Aarrghhhh!

        I sent my colleagues a table with the results of multiple Natural Order studies and the frequencies of many of the thematic words they are teaching. No teacher responded to me, but I apparently got their attention. Yesterday, the high school principal called my principal to silence me. Bring it on! Get out of my kitchen! There is going to be a reckoning. haha. I don’t tolerate teaching without regard to research and without regard to student well-being!

        1. Eric wrote: Yesterday, the high school principal called my principal to silence me.

          And this is one of the things that is wrong with American education in general: it is more important to maintain “peace” and not rock the boat than it is to do what is right and best for kids. Yesterday I had a meeting with a teacher from another school in my district, and she is facing the same pressure to be quiet because the worksheet-wielding, grammar-spewing old guard doesn’t want to change. As a department chair, I am going to be looking for opportunities to address this with other department chairs. My advantage is that my district has chosen to work with Michael Fullan, and he is a proponent of “productive conflict”. I can only hope that the conflict will be productive.

          1. I was silenced in two schools over a period of about seven years. It was horrible. I thought in a very cavalier way that I could just go into the arena and be met with civil conflict and instead I got a severe backlash that caused me to leave two schools and want to quit, with insomnia and lots of emotional debris that still bother me. I feel hate towards one of the principals I worked for and I need to work on that. The only thing that kept me in teaching was coming to DPS and ending up at Lincoln, where Annick Chen and Barbara Vallejos had won the battle there with resounding success just by teaching well (i.e. with happiness in spite of the darkness they faced) over a number of years and with the strong support of Diana Noonan from the district and with Paul Kirschling and Joseph Dzietzic and Nina Barber and a number of others working through the pain in their schools over years and years. Diana literally has been going around Denver Public Schools since 2004 educating principals from her position as WL Coordinator for the district. If a new uneducated principal came in, she had them through private meetings thinking in terms of current research within a year or so, even if the faculty in that school didn’t change, as has happened at South High School. But even the teachers at South in all their conservative pomp are starting to change after ten years of clinging to the book. Diana was too much for even them, it turns out. It’s just a long grueling process. Eric you seem to be in a much better space mentally and emotionally than I was for this brewing storm and for that every kid in your area will one day be thankful, and their kids. Just don’t underestimate these people. The PLC is going to want to follow this one closely, by the way, so keep us posted with many reports from the field.

            Thank you Robert for mentioning Fullan. Here is one link:


  10. The horse analogies are great. There’s climbing ones too: you better know how to tie in, belay, and just move in the vertical world (skills best learned in the gym, or outside on easy toprope) before you head up a multipitch route on trad gear. No basics, no big walls.

    I don’t get why standardised testing can’t be “holistic.” Shouldn’t sensible assessment just include reading and listening (if tech is available to do that) comprehension and writing output? (oral output tested in class). You’re never gonna fill in the blanks in real life.

  11. Yes, go to the book. I’d be able to look myself in the mirror just fine going to the textbook if the class was full of jerks like that. If anybody in the class asks why the change, I’d say “We tried that but you guys were terrible at it. Now let’s take some grammar tests and see how many people fail.” Make those tests super hard and basically impossible. Lecture with PowerPoint. Stop waking kids up if they sleep. Just let them fail. Only one rule: No distracting others.

    That brings me to something else: I am not a fan at all of the “three strikes” thing. I think I may have read about this in a parenting book sometime. Basically, it lets children do whatever they want twice. And it turns you into a bean counter, constantly worrying about what kids have how many strikes. I think it can turn out how that class has turned out: Every students has 2.5 strikes. What to do then? I say forget the strikes. If somebody talks during your grammar lectures or the practice sentences or the practice exam just send them out. Immediately to the office and give them work to do by themselves some place.

    Jason, you have said this is a 2nd year class and that in January you get another 2nd year class. Are you on a semester block schedule? How do you know January will be better? Did you teach all these kids last year? Is this your first with full-on CI?

    We need a category here called “BEWARE SECOND YEARS!” with all these posts about bitchy second year classes. Whenever there is a problem it seems like it’s a second year class, normally one that didn’t have CI their first year.

    1. Agreed about the three strikes! I don’t even count bathroom passes anymore. You want to go, you ask in Spanish at a moment when you are not interrupting. I do not have time to police bladders; it takes me out of the language. With behavior disruptions, I do everything I can in the moment to bring the student back to attention: proximity, eye contact while pointing at rule, waiting pointedly, asking specific questions that have already been answered by the class. If you don’t get what I’m doing, you go to the hallway where I will deal with you later. I used to have the name on the board=warning and checkmark=consequence (what was the consequence? I always told the kids I would decide later. I like them not knowing.) Even that is too onerous in a CI classroom.

        1. And, the interpersonal modality in the ACTFL standards supports us, period.

          Contributing positively to the classroom community is not a game. It’s basic, civilized human interaction, perhaps the most important skill they can learn for success in life.

          Also, the language acquisition of everyone in the room is hinging on this. Therefore, any time a student is disrupting, all acquisition stops. No strikes, no tallies. It’s just common sense, and students need to learn common sense (both the what and the how) by seeing us model it in our classes.

          When we are teaching from the standards, and from a place of compassion for ALL our students, we don’t need to justify or explain our responses in the moment. If we know that a kid is abusing bathroom privileges (and we know it if we know our students), we don’t let them go. Then we let another kid go who is not abusing those privileges. They all are watching how we will respond, and they are learning important lessons from that. If the first kid is clueless of what is going on (although they are probably playing dumb for attention/disruption), we tell them to see us after class. We deal with it, but we don’t let that stuff interrupt the flow of class.

          I feel compassion for the kids who are not aware of how disruptive and disrespectful they can be–often they are acting out because of crap at home. And it is good for them to experience being denied privileges now (by a human being rather than a rule), and then have us explain it to them, so that they aren’t baffled in their first job when their boss makes them work night shift or thanksgiving, or lays them off when one employee has to go.

          Not that all jobs are fair, but the human element makes a huge difference; interpersonal relationships trump abstract principles of fairness in the day to day decisions people make. If we can model that in a supportive way, we are really helping our students learn how to survive and thrive both in school and out of school.

    2. I’ve been mulling over your guys’ comments about the three strikes. I adopted them from an assertive discipline book and they seemed alright from the outset but things devolved exactly into what you mentioned, James: being a bean counter. Heck, I had a clipboard that I used to record strikes and boy did it ever it take me out of the CI moment. Even classdojo, which I thought would be a useful way to recognize positive behaviour, takes me out of the moment and I simply can’t keep on top of their points every day. I have to admit I’m a bit hazy on the line between corrective action and sending a kid out to the hall. Is it a repeat offender that gets the boot?

      James, I taught the other second year class last year and it was enjoyable year – there was enough trust between us that I swapped roles with one of my kids and let him call the attendance in Gaelic while I sat at his desk and pretended to be a student. There wasn’t nearly as much questioning of my authority or general disrespect from this group.

      Aye, this is my first year of CI and my second year of teaching over all – talk about a learning experience! I plan on bringing in jGR after christmas, which very well could change everything for the better. I hadn’t implemented it this term because I had no bloody idea what I was doing back in August. I had attended a few TPRS webinars and thought I could make something basic work while reading as much as humanly possible to bring myself up to speed. It wasn’t until I came across Ben’s books and the PLC that I really got off the ground. With something like jGR, I wanted to really come to grips with it for it to work as intended. I still have some reading to do but am looking forward to next term!

      1. “I have to admit I’m a bit hazy on the line between corrective action and sending a kid out to the hall. Is it a repeat offender that gets the boot?”

        I may have come off as more hardcore than I actually am. I don’t send every single infraction out to the hall, even if that’s what I said. Actually this year I have not had to kick anyone out, because “corrective action” has always been enough. Sending a kid out is a last resort, to be used only in situations like the one you described with that nightmare class. Sending a kid out is the nuclear option, basically saying, “You have removed yourself form the group by your ignorance and I cannot allow you to continue to ruin my professional life.” My first year I definitely sent my fair share into the hall. I dunno, I can almost feel you looking forward to next semester. Keep that feeling. The first year of CI is super tough except for the rare few of us who are lucky enough to be in a somewhat positive environment.

        What I meant by sending any and all infractions out was assuming the kid has a loooong history with you in that class of misbehaving. I would stop playing the counting strikes game in that circumstance and just start doling out consequences on first offenses. Not every class needs such an extreme approach, and for many classes a simple stare or just starting over after everyone has quieted down (per Robert) is enough.

        I feel like I am starting to drift, so I’ll stop. I want to continue this conversation, though! 🙂

        1. James said, “The first year of CI is super tough…” and I totally agree. I expected it would be like being a first-year teacher all over again, and it was.

          But I am finding the second year much smoother and better. Not always easier, but qualitatively better. Hang in there because it is worth it. The things that my nearly-3-years-of-CI group (current 7th graders) can do amazing things with the language, and some of them have begun to feel that and are excited. The pain of the first year with CI has been well worth it.

    3. James … hit the nail on the head, hahaha! I gave this snarky class a grammar lesson (or 2 or 3) on the infamous “boot” verbs (stem-changing verbs). I gave them worksheets to fill out, then I gave them a packet. Two days later I asked how everyone did on the packet, did anyone have any questions? No answer. So, I pulled out the quiz!!!!
      The highest grade in the class was a 67. The following week I gave them WARNING and told them that the tests were horrible, to bring in their notes the next day, and I would allow them to “fix” their tests. (harkening back to the grammar days!!) I then recorrected and averaged the two grades. They didn’t do much better — because they didn’t have their notes!!! (either they lost the worksheets and packets I gave them and/or they didn’t any notes when I was giving the grammar instruction.)
      So, today they were having a blast reading Piratas and I stopped them and asked which way of learning did they enjoy more — the grammar instruction with verb drill quizzes? or reading together as a class or literature circles, acting out the text and translating together and then taking quizzes on reading comprehension and grammar that popped up in the book?
      They all admitted they liked the reading – so that was my segue into telling them, “OK then!!! Be quiet, be cooperative, and be collaborative and we will all acquire the language and you will pass tests!!!” Only a few more weeks – but I hope that will work!
      @Ben….perfect timing re: parallel texts/stories > we were talking about how Carlos talks so much (in the novel) so I asked the class who in the class likes to talk all the time? The biggest offender raised his hand -to answer! – and it was such perfect timing, I said, “YES Ryan!!!! You’re right! it IS you!!! good job! you get a sticker!!!!” (he then said that he was trying to give me the answer, but I ‘assured’ him that he DID answer just by raising his hand! haha) The whole class was laughing! And no – I was not ‘picking on’ this student….it’s a daily adventure with him 🙂

      1. Over here no one knows about “three strikes and you’re out” so when I first started teaching in the lycée a wise old teacher told me about yellow cards (a warning) and red cards (you’re out). They’re used in both soccer and rugby (my school frequently won the national school championship in rugby) and the kids know exactly what they mean. A second yellow card is automatically a red card. And you can give a red card directly if the offense is great. It worked well, though I usually did not send red card offenders to the office, but rather told them to “see me after class”. they would stew for the rest of the hour and be too busy worrying to cause any problems. Then I had a chance to talk to them individually and try to figure out where they were coming from and give them a choice between detention or a 200 word essay on a subject that interested them, which I would read but not grade.

        1. …they would stew for the rest of the hour ….

          That’s in France, where adults run the show. Over here, we have a school system where adult children run the show, where administrators blame teachers not students, and so students learn to take it to us, instead of experiencing what you describe. France may be a hundred years from comprehensible input, but am I wrong to say that the word respect for adults still holds some meaning over there?

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