End Of Year Reflections

This year I got too much into Point and Pause and not enough into Circling. I did that consciously, thinking that Point and Pause was faster and taught more vocabulary. That is not necessarily true.
A word, any new word introduced into a story, cannot be acquired unless it is circled enough. If a new word comes up in the CI, we can’t just write it on the whiteboard, give its translation, and then expect the kids to retain it, to acquire it.
In fact, my entire attitude towards introducing new terms during CI is changed. Instead of letting in a lot new words, I need to be diligent in what I allow into the flow of the CI, remembering that circling and lots of it is necessary for acquisition.
I suppose if we had classes of kids with fly paper memories, I wouldn’t have to retool into more judicious choice of new words in CI, but we don’t. Most people need a ton of repetition. I know I do. So why wouldn’t my students?
No, it won’t make for boring stories. In fact, the interest will go up – it always does when we make SLOW Circling our highest priority. The increased level of decoding by the kids will lead to better suggestions and more fun.
Conclusion for next year – more Circling, less Point and Pause, and a little narrower feel to the content of the CI than this year. This may require more classes based on story scripts, where success is assured if the script is good, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.
[Credit: Diana Noonan]



8 thoughts on “End Of Year Reflections”

  1. I think I am incapable of this level of introspection Ben, but I love reading your musings because it makes me stop and think, “Yup, me too.”

  2. Ben, does this mean that you absolutely no longer permit 2-word answers in English, even if only written and held up for you to copy & translate on the board?

  3. I’m still letting in everything. They aren’t obliged to take all the new stuff, but I value the input and the affective benefit of letting all the ideas in. Then again, I circle the bejesus out of stuff, so I’m okay there. But we riff. I’ll circle on more than just the target phrases, if its something valuable. Makes it hard to keep track, but it satisfies my and some of my kids’ capricious spirits.

  4. I was thinking a lot about circling today. And stuck with it. I’ve been starting class with a short dictado, stuff that students come up with, and then circling it. When it works, we go with it. When it doesn’t take, I drop it (thanks Ben). Today the one that took off was the phrase “he’s bothering me.” We ended up spending the whole class period with that word. It was rich. I used all kinds of forms (he was bothering her, that bothers me, you’re bothering the class…) and even though I know the word for “bother” is not up there in frequency, it was very high interest. While we were circling and as it developed into a high power argument/skit, all the other very high frequency stuff was coming up in context. It was enough.
    Makes me think that staying with a single new structure/vocab item is a good way for me to limit what comes in. Otherwise our stories end up sprawling out like a badly planned city with strip malls everywhere.

  5. Thank you! I knew I was missing something, and circling is it. I just started taking the 100% spoken target language plunge (we’re using white boards for suggestions) and it’s made a huge impact as far as classroom management and a rich TL environment, but with them speaking less, I conversely started circling less (why is that?). Starting tomorrow, I’ll just grab a whiteboard suggestion I like, balance the selected whiteboard on my large whiteboard tray and circle that. For me circling was always such an oral thing that it dropped way down the more we wrote (such as with embedded stories created on the overhead). Thanks for the reminder!

  6. I’ve built my share of strip malls as well Jennie. I’m excited to see how this works as described above. Frank, I am allowing written suggestions in L1, written large enough sideways in their composition books during the CI. Strangely, however, few students take that option, which makes me wonder if – back when I allowed two words of English – those verbal suggestions were not a little on the disingenuous side. I think that the real experts at this are able to navigate through a story with only vocabulary they know the kids know, and that the two words in L1 just confuse things. Now I just need the rest of the year to practice this out and get it fine tuned for next year.

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