Five to Seven Kids Can Ruin a Class

All lack of comprehension in our classes by our students is entirely our responsibility. If we ask too many questions, the sounds overwhelm them and they bog down. If we speak too fast, the speed overwhelms them. We are the only ones in the classroom who can control these things.

A few fast-processing kids will falsely make us think that all of the kids in the room are getting it. This is a disaster for the other kids in the class. Learn to deny the faster processors something they have very often done in all of their classes: ruin the class for the other students. 

Do not teach your CI classes in ways that exclude any students. The StarChart™ works to that end, toward full inclusion of every child in the group, so that the primacy of the community is what defines your instruction, because when community is the focus in a language class, only good things happen.



13 thoughts on “Five to Seven Kids Can Ruin a Class”

  1. I do advocate, however, initiating and sustaining deliberate eye contact with all of our students during the entire class period. This will insure that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about what is going on. The skills of teaching to the eyes (Susan Gross) along with speaking slowly enough and limiting the number of questions we ask remain our best option for staying in touch with our students for the entire class period.

    1. “limiting the number of questions we ask”… that’s a big shift in the TPRS world. Makes a lot of sense to me though! I’m looking forward to doing Invisibles and storytelling after break.

  2. …”the barometers themselves, for the very reason that they have never been taught to interact with their teachers…” What are procedures to have students unlearn? I did cwb with students and when there was some steam on an image that a student drew, I coached the students to suggest details for a story. I read your metacognitive posters and I quoted them Einstein…. that imagination is more powerful than knowledge because knowledge is limited… well I know that some students especially the introverted, scared of a new school (7th graders) continue to be quiet but occasionally suggest answers. One student always has the best answers and he is not a fast processor. He bought in the idea that his suggestions were important and he is proud of it.

    Actually, when I think about it, I rarely use the story driver. I cut off the suggestions now but in the beginning of the year, I had about 15 suggestions for every detail. I felt that it was important to listen to every student who attempted to say something in class.

    As for teaching to the eyes, two words: story listening.

  3. This year I’m finally realizing that my expectations are WAY too high-and it’s because I’m basing them on my faster processors from the past. I have been having tremendous difficult this year with my 6th graders-the classes are big (for me) and because we cut our reading teacher last year, I have students in my class who are reading at a very low level in English. It almost feels like I’m in my first year of teaching. I’ve gone so far as to literally sit right next to a difficult student for the entire class-he can’t stop talking. It’s unbelievable.
    I found that what helps me go the slowest is when I have to tell and retell a story over and over in order for the writer to get it all down.

    1. Ohhh. I feel this Anne-Marie!

      ” I’ve gone so far as to literally sit right next to a difficult student for the entire class-he can’t stop talking. It’s unbelievable.”

      Last week I did the same thing, sat right next to a chatterer. It didn’t even really work. I literally nudged him in the elbow and did my “look” and “listen” gesture right there next to him. Every 3-5 seconds. Nothing.

      Confession: this past week nearly broke me and I pretty much gave up. Can’t wait for this semester to be over. I will wind up the next month in as gentle (for me) way as I can, given the current situation. Jan. 31 I get to start fresh with all new groups. I am working out a schedule and structure for that right now.

      The high expectations you refer to Anne-Marie…I have this too. Mine are based not on my previous fast processors, but on my reaction to all the other CI teachers’ videos and FB posts. It’s a fine line for me between watching someone teach to get a sense of the process, and full-on comparing myself to them and letting myself go down the well-trodden path of self-flagellation because my classes don’t look and act like theirs. OY!

      When you say this: “I found that what helps me go the slowest is when I have to tell and retell a story over and over in order for the writer to get it all down.” How do you get the other kids (not the writer) to stay focused for multiple repetitions? I would lose mine on the second retell I think.

      Thanks so much for this post, as it reminds me of a lot of stuff I need to change.

      1. Hey jen. I think we have to remember that some schools have a culture more conducive to TCI than others.

        BTW, my school is going 86 minute block schedule classes after winter break due to changes in our union contract. I’d like to pick your brain on what’s worked for you. Also to mention is that our admin is encouraging all teachers of all subjects to spend 20 minutes each class period on FVR! That news made me so happy and feeling good about starting at this new school. So, it should be pretty easy for me to implement a full FVR program in my classes without student push-back.

        1. Yes Sean, school-wide policies and procedures can affect, for the better or worse, how students embrace our work. So much right-brained thinking and “higher-level” analysis and projects at my school have made some students feel lost in my class. They expect to memorize, note-take etc… While others who would flounder in engineering, math and science classes are superstars in my classes. They can show up as human beings.

          1. Sean said, “I think we have to remember that some schools have a culture more conducive to TCI than others.”

            Very true. In the school I teach at, other teachers don’t have a problem with kids being on their phones while they’re teaching. As you can imagine, this has destroyed both our school’s culture and our students’ attention spans. The conditions that we know are necessary for language acquisition aren’t always found in other classes and some kids have a very hard time transitioning from a free-for-all to a structured CI environment.

          2. Marc, it’s sad how I see so many new, young teachers dishing out laptops to their students at the beginning of their class periods. It’s like they’re saying, “I fear you. I fear feeling vulnerable in front of you.”

            I have to remember this when I get an apathetic look from a student. I have to remember that this student has probably not had an adult connect with them through the eyes all day.

          3. Exactly. They are in front of a Chromebook the majority of their time in other classes. They’re often working in small groups on their computers out in open areas, but they are seldom expected to simply be present and engage in old-fashioned face-to-face communication.

          4. “I fear you. I fear feeling vulnerable in front of you.” -Sean

            So well put. It is the mantra of teaching these days. And the mantra of students these days. And the mantra of pretty much everyone these days. Our walls are so high, and it is not by accident that we are scared witless of testing and administrators’ rubrics and such. Krashen says we are in a war for public education. We had a good chat about that in Agen. We are in a war for the very institution of public education. Not comprehensible input. Not emergent language. Not union versus non-union states. PUBLIC EDUCATION. The very foundation of our democracy.

            Fear is where they start to win the war. Every day we show up as a full-on human being, every time we help a child show up as a full human being, or at least take a step in that direction, every time we do that we out a flower in the guns of the assault on public education. It just so happens for me, that I have found a lot more flowers in the field of comprehension-based teaching, a lot more flowers in student-driven language, a lot more flowers in using the language the kids need to express their ideas. But at the base, we are fighting a war in which the opposing side’s ammunition is fear and control. Mind control.

            Man Sean, that what you wrote above, it really hit me. Proud to be fighting alongside you, from afar but hand in hand across the miles. Does it matter if we have a word wall, in the long run? Does it matter, really, what we do aside from bringing love, acceptance, and as much joy and laughter and community as we can conjure, in the face of fear and control by corporate interests?

          5. Marc said:

            …some kids have a very hard time transitioning from a free-for-all to a structured CI environment….

            I love that. It is a complete reversal of what people used to say about CI, where IT was the free-for-all environment. It is because kids can focus in a CI classroom because there is actually something to focus on other than pure 100% full blast boredom.

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