Dirk Frewing

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7 thoughts on “Dirk Frewing”

  1. “…the kids in their heart of hearts and mind of minds really get only a tiny percentage of what we put put out there…”.
    This statement fascinates me. It makes me think right away as to whether what we are doing is a charade of comprehensible input or the real thing. Dirk challenges us – when we think we are happily cranking out the CI, is as much as we think is getting in actually getting in? A few kids, yes – they are fully getting it. They are the first ones to output. But, for the rest, charade learning, charade faces, are what they do and have learned to do in their thousands and thousands of hours of having to adjust to their restraining devices (desks) year after year after year. In order to survive school, they have become charade artistes. Yes, they get 8 of 10 on the quizzes but the quizzes are easy by design. So, Dirk’s brave comment challenges us to honestly ask ourselves if we are enablers of the charade, or if we teach in such a way that our kids can’t get away with their act. To make that happen, to really teach the kids and pop the charade bubble in the room, we would necessarily need to impose strong classroom discipline as per the rules. Secondly, we absolutely must do as Dirk says re: slow circling. If we do those two things, then the kids have no choice but to make it real. So this is not a casual comment by Dirk. I take it to mean exactly what it says. It echoes something Susan Gross told me years ago – the kids get less than we think. We must act accordingly. We must be diligent to work with every kid in the room all the time. No charades. Thanks for the reminder Dirk.

  2. This is something I am struggling with this year. My smallest class is over 30; my largest class is 43. The room set-up is the best I can get but someone is nearly always behind me. As a result I know that I am not getting to everyone as effectively as I should. I don’t play “gotcha” with my students, but I do have to make certain they are truly hearing the CI so I do ask for translations and to repeat what I just said. More often than I want, the student had zoned out. I go back and try to get the student “up to speed” on what is going on, but I know that there is another (or more) student who has zoned out while I was helping the first student.
    My sixth period class is my greatest challenge. They are primarily sophomores, and I get them at the end of the day after they have been cooped up all day long. Attention spans are at zero. If a call slip comes, I have lost them. If someone walks past the door, I have lost them. If I turn to write a word on the board, I have lost them. If someone coughs or sneezes, I have lost them. If they get excited about something we are doing, I have lost them. They can recite the classroom conduct rules (especially “No English” and “No private conversations”) without hesitation, and they try, but so far they are unable to follow through. It isn’t just one or two people that I could target, it truly is the entire class including the top A students. I have had to be out of class more often than normal, we have had more unusual schedules (assemblies, testing, etc.) than normal, and the administration has required us to address more non-instructional issues during class time than normal. Needless to say, I am frustrated as I deal with this class.
    Thanks for giving me a place to share.

  3. This hurts, but you’re right. My check on this is as follows: when I think of a certain class, what faces pop into my mind?
    Some faces I have to strain to remember, and those people I really don’t know how they are doing regularly because I haven’t trained myself to get away from my go-to students enough. If a parent were to call me and ask how they are doing I could respond intellegently enough, but if I’m not seeing them in my mind, I’m not gearing the lesson towards them either.
    And the student’s faces I do see? They get what I’m saying and try and ramp up the pace of where we are going. I’m letting that happen too much. Time to go see some new faces.

  4. If a kid doesn’t show up for the conversation (their 50%) and the class is more than around 26-28, I don’t see that there is anything we can do. We can swoop in and try but if we don’t magically reach a certain kid in a class of 43 what can we do? I would suggest, Robert, that in a class of 43 we must accept that the system is built to not work. I’m just glad that I don’t have classes around 12 or whatever like Dirk has (he has two around 30 that save his day). I can handle my (avg. 35) kids. But if we don’t have like 25 – 32 or so (in my opinion 28 is ideal for CI instruction), then we have to just let it go. We do what we can do. Why should we mea culpa ourselves when there really is nothing we can do to reach all the kids in a very populated classroom? Another topic is the social/participatory training of the child. For years, kids have been told to sit down and become invisible by teachers. They have been taught how to do that for years. Some of them, esp. if their home life is like that (so many are!), are really good at being invisible. Then, here we come with a non-robotic, very human approach to instruction, and many of our kids, bless their hearts, are not equipped to show up socially for the class. What, are we supposed to train them to be social beings in a few months? Again, we do what we can and we leave the rest. We don’t take it personally. The kid doesn’t mean it personally so why should we? They are scared. It looks like disrespect to us. We will all be canonized or receive some kind of medal when our careers are over. Nobody except teachers know what we go through in our classrooms. I’m not going to take responsibility for not reaching a certain kid. One thing, though, is that I will never allow a child to disrupt my class in even the slightest way.

  5. Charade learners… exactly! We lead kids to act like they know stuff and act like they are interested, instead of leading kids to really want that knowledge. It’s a poor system of shaping quality individuals in my opinion.
    Dirk, I stopped more today to ask what things meant than I usually do, and I was surprised a couple times by the kid not being able to tell me what the word meant. And the kid didn’t stop me, which really hits me hard. I even said the sentence 5 times in a row so as to pull out a ¨I don’t understand”, but none! Maybe it was just a bad Friday…

  6. On the other hand, I had a girl in class today who has been absent most of the week. We were starting to roll when she raised her hand and said, “I don’t understand a thing you’re saying.” I thanked her for letting me know and helping me be a better teacher. Then I went back over what we had just covered, only much more slowly and with more scaffolding. Amazingly, not a single student who had been there all week indicated annoyance or resignation or frustration. Everyone participated. I did a bunch of comprehension checks, and she indicated at least 80% comprehension on the finger checks and could answer all of my questions to her. Hurray!

  7. I didn’t write that realization that my students really get so little for any reason other than to share my own realization and epiphany. For these past 2 years I have been so obsessed with the technique of CI / TPRS and when to read and how many circling questions to ask and which words to include on a required list and then it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Slow the hell down. Use really simple, short sentences in stories. The thing that slapped me in the face with this realization was during a word chunk vocabulary game last Friday. I was floored at how many of the words they didn’t know that I thought they would get immediately.
    I feel like I need to go take a college level Swedish class to put myself in their shoes and see what it’s like to sit in a room and truly not know any of the words. I am very very curious after reading that Willis brain research book last year about why certain words stick in their minds and others do not. Is it drawing pictures? Associations? Sounds? Actions? Number of repetitions? I dunno. In the old days it was forcing output for grades and a good deal of fear. But there is something going on at that subconscious level where certain things are acquired. We just have to find out what it is and how to allow it to flourish.
    Today we were massaging the word “bebida” in a one word TPRS event. The class ended up creating a gigantic glass of soda that was half ocean water flavored and half swimming pool water flavored with hair in it. I was almost gagging myself after I finished the drawing. People had tears in their eyes from laughing. I know they will remember this word but we cannot do that for every word. Or can we?
    I also can tell when it has been a pretty good day because I am physically tired from making kids sit up straight, singing to them, running around the room, pointing, reaching, acting, etc. But I am not stressed out about planning or content or “coverage” or projects or any of the baggage that goes with non CI language teaching because I know that they will take things the way they want to go next class and all I have to do is receive and direct their input. Then give a little quiz.
    TGIF all the same, though.

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