Dr. Beniko Mason is a professor at Shitennoji University in Osaka, Japan. She has known and worked with Dr. Krashen for over fifteen years and fully embraces his Comprehensible Input Hypothesis. I was honored that she visited my classroom last week. Here is a short email she sent back to me, which is then followed by the text of an email she wrote to Dr. Krashen describing what she saw in my classroom:
Dear Professor Ben Slavic, Mr. Comprehensible Input! –
Thank you so much for letting me come to your classes and sit and observe your wonderful comprehension based French classes! I wrote to Steve Krashen right away and he is pleased that I had met you and saw your classes. He told me that he respects you.
When I went to class to teach this morning, I thought about you and your classes. You have taught me something very very valuable about classroom discipline.
Now, this is what I sent to Steve:
“I met Diana Noonan, World Languages Coordinator in Curriculum and Instruction Department for Denver Public Schools. She is one of the organizers for the first international conference of the International Forum on Language Teaching (July 27 – 31, 2010. Los Alamitos, CA). She took me to Ben Slavic’s French classes for me to observe.
“As I had been to one TPRS workshop about 10 years ago and recently experienced a TPRS Spanish workshop led by a Japanese teacher in Japan, I was expecting to see something similar in Ben’s class. But it was quite different.
“Ben is a French teacher. There were twenty-five or thirty ninth graders in class. It was entirely done in French except when he had to quickly explain something to make the input more comprehensible, only then English was used.
“Students were fully engaged in the listening activity. Those who were chosen to act out on the floor and those who were in chairs responding to Ben’s yes/no/who/etc. questions were perfectly well behaved and enjoying and responding promptly.
“Ben’s French never stopped. French was spoken continuously for the entire class time. There was no conscious skill-based repetition, or drilling, and although there was some form-focused noticing activity, it was done to help input or questions more comprehensible.
“Students responded promptly with yes or no with friendly laughter, and eventually with a word or a sentence voluntarily.
“When unexpected learning was observed, Ben would have the students applaud and I saw one student smirk with satisfaction. Such a thing would not have happened unless the student was listening all the time, paying attention to what the teacher was saying in French.
“Ben has a set of rules for students to obey and one of them was that students must do their 50%. A lot of care was taken to make students comfortable by the way Ben talked to them, and the way he treated them, and he created just enough tension not by scolding them in a loud voice, but instead speaking quietly to maintain students’ preferable classroom behavior. They were wonderful classes!”
Beniko Mason, Ed. D.
Shitennoji University Junior College
3-2-1 Gakuenmae, Habikino-shi, Osaka, JAPAN
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
6 thoughts on “Dr. Beniko Mason”
As they would say in Argentina, “Sos un groso, che.” What an awesome account of her experience with you!
Reading this, and then reading some of Beniko Mason’s website has me smiling, almost giggling. I am going to send the blog and the link to our local Board of Ed. who were very supportive in trying to bring Susie here last year. Though Susie wasn’t able to come at the time, we are hoping to get her here in the next year, and this just gave me the energy to want to get it rolling again. Thank you!
See you in LA!
I think it was Heisenberg whose science implies that the observor impacts what they observe. Dr. Mason was positive and kind in her class observations. It made all the difference. Of course I was nervous because she has been researching for a long time (check her website listed above). But the kids kind of stepped up and belted home runs. It is not easy – never easy – to be observed doing CI, because we are talking about a teaching method that is not entirely purely mental, but somehow more human – much more human – and therefore more fragile, something requiring much more trust than teaching the old way, not just trust in the questioning process, but in the students (and vice versa) as well as trust in the observor. I have always been hypersensitive to the people observing me. Over the years, I have come to be totally convinced that the quality of the class is directly related to the level of open mindedness – and of open heart – of the kids and the observor. It’s strikingly true, actually. It makes me think of Laurie Clarcq. It really helped that Diana Noonan was there coaching me along through the classes – she kept reminding me to not go too wide and all over the place with the questioning as per that very important blog here of a few weeks ago about keeping the CI narrow and deep (End Of Year Reflections/April 19th) and it really helped. But back to Heisenberg – this is not the objective reality of Newtonian physics where the thing observed is static. Rather, the invisible world energy of the observor can mean so much. Yes, I know that Heisenberg was talking about quantum mechanics, but I believe that it applies to anything invisible. If you have ever been observed and had a shitty class, look at the person who observed you. Were they there to judge or to celebrate the CI with you? It’s a real thing, y’all. Be careful about who observes you, if possible. If some AP has observed you lately, remember that if they were there to judge you, then they contributed to the overall quality of your observation. Dr. Mason is the real deal. One bad observation can make you want to quit with narrative methods like TPRS. But don’t. Just hang in there. We have to hang in there, y’all. Too much is riding on this.
I am so uplifted by this post! She is a savvy viewer and she SAW what you were doing. I am happy that she understood that the affective/management piece of your work was as important as the academic/technical side of it (if not more so). In fact, if they are not well integrated with each other, the work never reaches its true potential. SHE GOT IT! That had to feel good.
I agree with you about the observer. I had never thought of that before. The many teachers who have come to observe Diane and I are often thirsting for knowledge and walk in with notebooks and open hearts. They always leave us feeling really good about our work with the kids. We hope we have given them the impetus to continue on their “narrative walk” or to learn more about teaching this way.
In contrast, I never feel that way when a certain administrator visits my classes. Never has “bad” things to say, but the heart is not open. I can feel it.
Thank you for also saying that it’s real Jody. I was presenting to 200 people in San Antonio last year, and a bunch of French teachers got right in front of me and so naturally I sped up as I demonstrated a One Word Image. Then, because I was nervous, I forgot any hand comprehension checks until twenty minutes of CI. The result was that the non-French speakers got nothing. I don’t see well out of my right eye, and one guy sitting to my right, I’ll never forget this – I never looked at that part of the group because I didn’t even know that they were there until I turned my whole body toward that newly opened part of the room – put up one finger – at least not the middle one – but the look of disdain on his face for what I was trying to do was like being hit by a truck. He may have been telling me to go flog myself with all of this CI crap that clearly wasn’t working. At least Joey, whose heart is wonderfully kind – he embodies that developed Southern kindness – from Atlanta was up there with me, pretending he was a car, and I remember literally physically leaning on him for moral support. So, if we keep this in mind, maybe we can at least know that there is more at work when we teach than the fact that we suck at this. We don’t suck at this, in point of fact, we are all merely evolving, walking that path you called the “narrative walk”. How great is that? The Narrative Walk. It’s a novel by Tony Hillerman about how we can become whole by sticking with Krashen. I’m joking about the novel, of course, but I’m not joking about sticking with Krashen. I don’t joke about things that affect my sanity.
Wow! Martha wrote me that you had written about Beniko Mason. And tonight I finally got around to reading it!!! Hip Hip Hooray for you, Ben! This is fantastic and amazing.
What a wonderful day you must have had. I am so thrilled for you!