Discussion with Leigh Anne

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23 thoughts on “Discussion with Leigh Anne”

  1. So Leigh Anne if you read my “No Class Novels” post from yesterday you can see why I don’t have any suggestions for your levels 3 and 4 classes. Ben Lev might. Anyone here who teaches upper levels and keeps up with TPRS might know, because they still believe in reading novels as a group. I’m sure there are lots of new titles, as the TPRS book industry has become quite lucrative, which is an understatement. I’m not saying it’s bad, just that for me it doesn’t work. That’s why this group is small and private and open about what we think – had this been a public forum I would get a backlash, and I don’t want that anymore.

  2. Novels? I find that it’s only my heritage students that can read, with interest, any of the TPRS novels. My non-heritage students will pick up some of the low level novels, but they’re not reading because they want to. They read because I’m asking them to. After some time, they lose interest. This year I think I’ll keep 10 min of SSR at the beginning of class but allow for students to read in English. Anything. Just read!

  3. Sean I used to call those first ten minutes “FVR” but then I realized that the reading from the kids’ perspective was neither free nor voluntary. Then I started using “SSR” but that didn’t seem right either. Most kids can only “sustain” interaction with a phone, not a book, and “silent” reading for many of them means spacing out about what just happened during the class change. So then Tina invented this awesome term, Free Choice Reading (FCR) and that is the term that I feel is most descriptive and most in tune with the research, when applied to school settings. When you tell them to read anything, and in some school settings in any language, that is real free choice reading. It’s the way to go. The biggest question I have about when Krashen gave his stamp of approval to TPRS in 2008 here in Denver remains centered around the reading piece. Of course, I haven’t talked to him about that topic, so I don’t know if it’s just me. If any readers (Greg?) know about what Krashen says about class reading of novels, I would like to know.

    1. My very extroverted but fast processors love your system Ben. Add to that the Matava scripts and I got a whole year’s worth of CI experiences. When they were “given permission” to read novels on their own during FCR, they refused the novels and continued to read about our OWIs into a story (which is actually what you did a while back in Don Read’s class in Moraga with our Snail). They preferred reading about each other in the personal interviews– which I do with volunteers. No need to force participation–as seen in other systems.

  4. I helped host the Storylistening conference in Chicago. Krashen is all about Storylistening and Free Voluntary Reading. He did not say anything against class reading of novels, but it was clear from Krashen and Mason’s workshop that they advocate ONLY Storylistening and self-selected pleasure reading.
    The conference advocated Storylistening from day one. No checks for understanding other than the optional write a summary in L1, no personalization (teach only folk tales), and only other assessments as required by the school. Tell one folk tale per class. Create a “prompter” to guide the story and drawn on the board.
    I’m intrigued by Storylistening and will be trying it out this year probably next semester, but some aspects I struggle with (the no checking for understanding with a group of 30 freshman I kind of doubt will end up in anything other than disaster).

    1. While that sounds interesting, I actually like personalization with students. I think it has helped develop a sense of community in my classroom and the students like being able to communicate their interests as well. Getting the buy in on folk tales from teenagers who by their nature are very self absorbed seems like a Herculean task, TBH.
      I’ve done class reading of novels in short bits, particularly of Pauvre Anne because she seems to be the teenager that my students love to hate, I’m not a fan of class novel reading and never really embraced it.
      If there’s anything I’ve learned from Ben, Tina, and teaching comprehensible is that as teachers we need to be who we are authentically and if we can jump out of our comfort zones for a bit and we are successful, then it will help us to feel more confident.

  5. When Beniko Mason first learned of the Invisibles (and subsequently sent the original version of A Natural Approach to Stories to Krashen who read the entire thing and said it was “important” and “clever”), she was very enthusiastic about them and the whole NT thing as it existed at that point in summer 2016, fresh from India. We talked on the phone about it. I asked her what she thought a good blend of SL and Invisibles would be, suggesting to her 80% SL and 20% Inv. (Such was my own thinking then.) She said, “No, it should be 50% SL and 50% Invisibles”.
    What happened? Politics.

    1. I personally do not think that academic writing is a topic worth teaching since students are still acquiring language. However, I will say that if students are interested in a topic, we can talk about it using common language. I have done this with themes such as “The French Lunch”, “The Multiple Political Parties of France” and even a “Website Talk” where we discussed the most famous foods of Latin america. I always have a serious group of French students but this year all they want is fun with OWI, Matava scripts and play mafia (still working on updating that).
      Now with SL…. I think that Dr. Mason’s original research of 1 per week should suffice with any class. Even though it should be a stand alone system, I would use it as a parallel system for providing rich input and compelling stories. No comp checks is scary but remember we have to pick the appropriate story for the level. Building up to 15-20 minutes would be very nice.
      I think that SL and the invisibles–and I feel safe saying this here– could have laid to rest the old classic TPRS stuff that became too analytical and inaccessible for teachers. The reason being is that it is golden NT. The “prompter” is like the golden rails of the 7 question sequence in the invisibles. The main difference is interaction which to me can make the input much more sticky. In SL we have a continuous flow of rich input but we sacrifice interaction/buy-in and losing kids if we are not intentional about story choice and language choice when communicating.

    2. Yeah…for me personally, and in my school context, OWI/Invisibles and SL are the 2 best ways to engage most students. They balance each other out, since OWI/Invisibles is interactive and SL is not. Sometimes SL can be a great soothing activity for those classes who are not yet ready to interact. As we know, interacting can be fraught with tension whose origin is unknown to us. On the other hand sometimes kids need to be active, moving, creating, so OWI/Invisibles provides that important outlet. All the while, building confidence and community, which of course are my ultimate goals. Then the language acquisition is the cherry on top 🙂

      1. OOH, also I wanted to share this Facebook post from one of my dearest friends, Gretchen!!! She has been a true friend, mentor, rabble rouser, fellow traveler, writer and peace maker for many many years. I admire her so much. She is retired from being employed by a school, but is a natural teacher and so teaching has morphed into another form.
        Her post hit me deeply, as it speaks to our core intention as teachers.
        “As my friends and colleagues begin a new school year, I send my respect, love and support. We teachers build communities within our classrooms — and the quality of those communities holds far more value for the future than any “new” curriculum or current trends. Peace.”

      2. Hey jen. Yeah and I don’t know if I wrote this here or not recently, but Beniko and Krashen have both favorably reviewed the Invisibles and in a phone call I once asked Beniko if it should be 80/20 of SL/Invisibles, she said it should be 50/50. It’s the way you described it above as meeting the two kinds of dominant needs of kids in a WL classroom, to rest or be active.
        What I love most about SL is that nothing is expected of the kids. It’s very primitive in that way and it must in some way have an effect on the primitive brain, to just listen with the intent to understand, like when kids learned languages traditionally around the tribal fire, with no assessment follow-up.
        SL reminds us that when we assess less, the kids accrue more language because the emotional load to PRODUCE is not there.
        BUT we could never give them an overly steady diet of SL. Not with the amount of sugar and now caffeine our kids eat.

  6. Steven said:
    …I personally do not think that academic writing is a topic worth teaching since students are still acquiring language….
    Bam! I mean, 80% of teachers haven’t mastered academic writing.
    This whole comment is golden from our resident CI scholar out there in Fresno.

    1. I say this given my context of teaching in a stressed out and rigorous or onerous as Robert H. has said, middle school. Also I only teach level 1 and 2. Still, students want to geek out on non-fiction topics. That said, its not the vocabulary that they can’t handle, though there is still an equity issue of access, it’s the language structures. Exams may use these but if we continue to provide common language over and over they will have a deep understanding of what sounds natural without hesitation and they will be able to circumlocute with ease when writing or speaking on a topic, possibly in their 4th or 5th year.

  7. Steven said:
    … if we continue to provide common language over and over they will have a deep understanding of what sounds natural …..
    Yes. It’s almost as if, in our desire to “teach” them more and more vocabulary, we sacrifice the very simple language that small children need 24/7 for years before, much later in time, moving on to more complex structures. The need we have in schools to show achievement flies in the face of some of the research about rates of acquisition that Krashen hasn’t even done yet.

  8. I agree that students need a broad base of language before being able to write with accuracy or depth. However, I don’t think that teaching them academic language at the upper levels is a bad idea. The way that Tina and Mike Peto did it at Comprehensible Cascadia was fantastic. They used BICS for the base and then went into more academic language afterwards. I think it’s how you do it that is so important. It needs to be highly scaffolded and gently brings the students along. If you don’t have to do it, fine. But for those students who will be taking the AP or IB exams, they will want to feel as though they’re prepared. Even if a few “non-fiction” units make them feel ready but in reality doesn’t help them much in their understanding or production, I think it’s worth it. They’ll go into that exam thinking that they’ve been thoroughly prepared, which they have been from building a broad, rich language base but they also “know how to write an essay”. If academic language is peppered into Invisibles-based instruction in the last year or two, I think it’s a good thing.
    Last year in Semester 2, I did a unit on the French Revolution with my 8th graders. They chose the topic and I built the unit based on GLAD strategies that Tina shared with us. The understanding that the students showed was incredible. They’d had Ben in 6th grade, a relapse into non-NTCI in 7th and back to the Invisibles in the first half of 8th. Plus many of them had had French before 6th grade. They were ready for it. And they were so proud to be able to talk about the French Revolution in French and write about it. Even students who I thought would struggle had a good understanding and were able to write about it.

  9. Particularly in your situation Dana with those IB teachers waiting for you across campus at the high school, teaching them academic writing is necessary. Plus, your clientele demands it. And many in those small classes (your current eighth graders especially) love to figure out how the language looks on paper. It really is a question of whom you are teaching.
    I’m not against teaching academic writing, in fact I love to decipher every aspect there ever was of the French language with like-minded learners, but I draw the line with kids who don’t have the background, since they are forced to be in the same room and sit there like they’re not important and can’t learn or fall behind during a novel reading session simply because they are newly arrived.
    I do feel that if enough secondary people had enough conversations with university people we could all agree that the university people would get to teach the bulk of the academic writing (not at all needed by kids not going to college) – those university people live in their minds and no blame – and that would give us more time for the input that we sorely need to get them ready to write.
    I repeat that if it takes between a very minimum of 5,000 hours and, as Greg mentioned here a few weeks ago, 15,000 or more hours (estimates of researchers, not us) then what are we doing in middle schools trying to get kids to write when, if we arranged the entire vertical articulation path according to the research, we could put it off until they have the entire language cars built (since the materials are all made from input)?

  10. Speaking of Story Listening, I missed an opportune chance to tell a highly compelling story the other day. My students had asked me if I ever boxed. It reminded me of a funny story of a guy from Turkey I lived with, briefly, at UW-Madison. This guy loved to fight. It’s a story of when we were walking home late one Saturday night from a small party and passed by 20+ drunk dudes (dare I say, douchebags) drinking on a porch, heckling us. They started following us. One poured his drink on me. I erupted and started swinging. I don’t remember who I hit or if I hit anyone, but I soon came to my senses and got my feet under me to run. I looked over, and there was my Turkish friend swinging at a handful of douchebags in the middle of the street. “No way,” I thought to myself, and ran. A couple blocks later. I stopped and waited. A couple of minutes later the Turkish guy came running up to me, panting, with a smile on his face. “Come on! Let’s go back there!” He was something else.
    I couldn’t help but tell this story in English (L1) to this class, mostly senior and junior boys. The memory came to me, and I remembered it almost in tears. All my students were laughing and riveted. I couldn’t help it. But next time that happens, I’m going to take advantage of the moment and tell it in L2.

  11. I had to box two golden glove champions who happened to both attend the military high school I went to in Indiana. One was from Colorado and the other from Texas. They both knocked me physically out of the ring. Good times! My favorite story to tell in my French classes was about the time I met Colonel Sanders in Venice in the Piazza San Marco. I was sitting at the base of the statue in front of the church and he and his wife, he with his white suit on, were standing under one of the porticos. Yeah they listen to that stuff. We sometimes forget the value of our own personal experience in SL. If we have emotion with it, good or bad memories, then the kids will naturally glom on to it.

  12. No it was a military school and part of our education was to go into the ring in the gymnasium once a week in winter on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. We all had to do it. Like playing on an intramural basketball team. Actually I got a lot of confidence from it, esp. when I cut the Texas boxer over the eye with a combination before he knocked me out of the ring. Which is WHY he did that.

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