Freestyle CI

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8 thoughts on “Freestyle CI”

  1. Ben,
    Your freestyle rambles are what I look forward to the most here on the blog. At the very heart of your thought process is a deep, philosophical reflection on the true role of a teacher in today’s society. I first realized this when I understood the ‘personalization’ component of your conception of TPRS as presented in your books. I look forward to your future posts on the Krashen, dyslexia, and “beyond science and measurement” comments above. Please write them soon 🙂

    1. Oh yeah, Brian, that thing about dyslexia. I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder. It is so raw, so core to what this language thing is all about. And we all thought that language acquisition was something that we could do in a classroom. I’ll get that written – it’s been folded in a little wad of the NY Times now on my desk for about two months. If I forget again and never write it, which is possible these days, know at least that the article is on p.8 of the Sunday New York Times, Sept. 4, 2011 and the title of the article is “Words Failed Me, Then Saved Me” by Philip Shultz. Schultz is also a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the author of a forthcoming memoir “My Dyslexia.”

      And the “beyond science and measurement” post is just so ready to be written by any one of us on this blog. I mean, when a prinipal spends an entire year and countless dollars on the one goal of getting a 1 or 2% increase in test scores, all that energy, all those meetings, to that purpose, then we are seriously missing the point. Like Einstein said: “”It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.” Or like Pascal said one time: “Le coeur a ses raisons que la tête ne connaît point./The heart has its reasons that the head doesn’t know about.” The point being that when we talk about freestyling the CI (I love Grant’s term), we are enlisting a much larger plan in our instruction than just the one we wrote on the lesson plan we lied about. When we freestyle we trust that there is a different, much more effective, much more powerful, much more in synch with invisible loving forces, much more overarching, much more inclusive, much more random and hence krashenesque, much more like flying, process in place than the sad little ones that we can muster up with a mediocre story like the ones I’ve been posting here on video. The new template possible for our instruction that you suggest may happen one day, Brian, really is described in that post about L’Art de la Conversation. As per this quote from our friend Dr. Krashen: “Robots don’t converse”.

      The data heads don’t want us freestyling. They want us datafying. Because if they let us freestyle, and it works, and our kids start smiling again, then their desire to turn the world into a robotic one would fail. If we succeed at what we are doing, then they fail, and they have had the field of foreign language education all to themselves for so long now that they don’t want to give it up. That is not crazy talk and I am not going to budge one inch on that position because, for me in my own experience, it is not just true but profoundly true. How’s that for a reason to keep this blog private? How’s that for a reason to remind myself to ask all members to not share shit from this blog with others esp. out of context? Not that I give a shit what people think of me, but I don’t want this blog community to get a label in the larger TPRS community. It could easily happen. We don’t want that.

  2. Grant Boulanger

    “Lesson plans, goals to achieve in that class period, are the worst. The kids sense the internal needs of the teacher to get to them, and the teachers’ list of goals for the class are about as interesting to them as a laundry list. They lose interest because rarely is it about them.”

    This is one of the main reasons I’m drawn to “freestyling”. My epiphany with CI coincided with my own children entering public education. I saw my daughter who excelled in pre-school montessori being forced to color in coloring sheets in Kindergarten. To sit and follow rules. She complained to me about how bored she was. She was able to verbalize, as a kindergartner, the difference between her previous Montessori experience and that of Kinder. I told her to turn the paper over and draw freely on the blank side of the paper. Her response was genuine fear of being reprimanded by the teacher. I see the system squeezing the creativity out of my child like the way they mold watermelons in Japan to fit into a particular size and shaped shipping/gift box.
    If I can’t really get to know the kids, if I don’t have the freedom to build a genuine and positive relationship with my students, I don’t want to teach. We are so lucky that we are not in a high stakes content area…

    Going in with “drinks/drank” or another high-powered verb gives me the chance to identify which kid/s really need attention today. I can relax and look into the kids eyes without having to remember what’s next on my plan, what page that activity was on, what steps I omitted last period and so should omit this period too, which steps have to be followed to get the damn video player to work properly… Instead of teacher chatter in my subconscious, its: Which kid/s have I not spoken to/about in a while? Which kid/s will propel the CI with this particular verb? What information came through on the announcements this morning about students succeeding on the football field, the tennis court, the soccer pitch, etc and how can I use that information to draw in more student athletes who so often drop languages after the second year? Being in the moment allows me to be genuine with the kids like I’ve never experienced in years of teaching and, after a while of relationship building, allows them to be genuine with me. That is essential – that trust – rapport is essential for any relationship. And relationships, positive adult relationships is what middle school kids consistently say they lack but desperately want.

    Another side benefit is of course that the details that emerge when there’s no agenda often seem to be acquired more readily – perhaps because these are driven by the kids, perhaps because there is more genuine interest in these words? Which of Krashen’s theories would account for that?

    1. “If I can’t really get to know the kids, if I don’t have the freedom to build a genuine and positive relationship with my students, I don’t want to teach.”

      I second what Grant said back in 2011. If I can’t treat my kids as wee people in a system that claims to have their best interests as a focus, then I’m sure I can find something better to do with my desire to connect with young people and share joy with them.

  3. So lucky not to be in a high stakes content area but in this day and age our skills should be highly sought after! I used to feel such pressure to get to the third structure – 40 minute period. Whew.

  4. Ben, I think you articulated this sentiment best in a blog post entitled “party pooper” or something like that. About the other 2 structures sitting there wanting to spoil the fun of the first structure that is having a blast and not giving any indication of exhaustion.

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