Greg Schwab on the Invisibles

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25 thoughts on “Greg Schwab on the Invisibles”

  1. Nice work, Greg. The thing that I always found puzzling was how so many teachers just could not even grasp the basic underpinnings of CI – that it is an unconscious process of input first and output only much later, and something you cannot think about. Many such teachers would want to wrestle with those research facts in order to keep the process of language acquisition conscious in nature, all in the realm of thinking and reasoning. I guess there is a reason for it – they were trained that way. We probably won’t find our profession changing until enough CI-trained kids get in the classroom as teachers themselves, because they will “get it”.

  2. I found it interesting to see the reaction of different teachers in the room to what Greg was saying. Some seemed to be open to the idea of just playing around with the language in the classroom, but there was one at 20:12 who seemed very uncomfortable with the concept and ended up dipping. No blame. We’re all different. But bringing the idea of play and random speech into a foreign language classrooms is for real. Traditional language instruction is dying a slow death, but it’s definitely out of here.

  3. At 21:50 we see some pretty mastery level questioning from Greg. He is not completely taking over the process of establishing facts, but he is not being too loosey-goosey with it either. The students are just going along in a nice relaxing flow of language. People are enjoying accepting jobs as actors, etc. in a relaxed and pleasant way. At 22:30, as I have called it, the “power question” of “with whom” in fact brings an uptick in the fun. At 23:30, the story made from the originally chosen Invisible is off the ground and Greg is at that sweet spot where anything he asks is going to bring pleasant flow to the story.

  4. Notice, for those who don’t do it, how when we start each new question by saying the word “Class…” in front of it, it gives Greg a certain kind of power over the proceedings. I have always done that when questioning in stories and it always works. Try it!

  5. At around 24:00 we get to Questioning Level 5 – the problem. Greg clearly explains what our options are when we get to that point in the seven level questioning process. At 25:00 the problem is suggested by the actor and it all connects to the character in a natural way. So what if we haven’t thought it all out beforehand? This example proves that that is not necessary, if we but trust the process.

  6. Two good things that can help us get better at this happen at 27:00.
    First, Greg settles on a solution (Questioning Level 6) in a very efficient manner. He does not get all like it’s gotta be the perfect solution, worthy of being called brilliant, he shuns the role of teacher as entertainer, and just says what the solution is based on what someone suggested.
    Second, Greg at roughly 27:00 not only says the word but uses TPR (physical gesture) to show it, and then makes the class show him – by saying the verbs and then saying, “Class, show me….”. All very solid skills here.

  7. I like the way the relaxed nature of the questioning is not a result of any planning, any targeting, any need that Greg has of “teaching something” specific. Instead, we see non-targeted questions where Greg just asks the next logical question. What does this do?
    It creates a feeling of relaxation in the classroom and also a nice sense of community. That lady who left would have definitely left by now. Why? It is because she was likely uncomfortable withy the concept of stories from the beginning. (This is just conjecture on my part – I could be way off and just plain wrong on this point.)
    But the increased change from not knowing his audience at the beginning of this presentation to this high level of trust in less than 30 minutes that he has with them is something that, had Greg been trying to “hit certain targets” with, would never have happened.

  8. At 29:30 Greg explains something very important, something I had not thought about with the Invisibles. He suggests that even in this non-targeted format, it is possible for any teachers who are bound to teach specific structures to just use the body of the story to add them in to it, which would be easy because the kids, normally not interested in specific structures, would learn them anyway if they were embedded in a story in which they already have ownership.

  9. The teacher (who is the Profe 2) at the 30:30 mark got her wheels turning when she said that she could embed any necessary vocabulary into the story on her own. An excellent suggestion and one that demonstrates how NT can work in harmony with more traditional Ci programs.

    1. If you just Google it, it will come up.
      I see the Sweet 16 verbs as complimentary to and not against NT necessarily. They are useful for “aligning” your curriculum with traditional colleagues. They come up anyway in the OWI and Invisibles process.
      I think my own teaching is kind of along the lines of Mike Peto- rotating between NT and Emergent targets (which happen to usually be the Sweet 16).
      I see the targets and things like the Sweet 16 Verbs as a transition from traditional teaching to CI, especially for those teachers that can’t just let go of “control” of the process.

  10. Jonathan just to be clear that in my opinion (esp. if you are on the cart), you don’t need those. Tina and I have received emails about how we are “leading people astray” by saying publicly that we don’t need to target anything, ever. The Sweet 16 have been elevated to sainthood status, but that is in traditional CI hallways, and I strongly feel that if a verb is high frequency, it will be taught.
    It’s not whether we target them or not, but how we teach them, as to whether they will be retained or not. I’ve taught them, then I went to India and came up with the Invisibles approach, and dropped them, and I think that, having been taught with the Invisibles, the kids knew those verbs much better at the end of the year than when I worried and fretted about “teaching” certain verbs in the old way, with all that TPR. I’m not a big fan of TPR. Just fluid, flowing, fun stories and readings. TPR is overrated.

    1. Speaking of TPR… I’ve learned not to fret about planning to infuse some TPR in the lesson. That’s just caused headaches. Rather, I keep my eye open to opportunities where I can have students parallel actions that come up in the conversation or story. Like when a hunter used his bow and arrow to strike down a bear. I just had to have students act that out. Also, if I notice a student’s eyelids are getting heavy, I’ll try to perk him up with movement.
      But yeah. Doing a TPR exercise for the whole class just ends up killing the mojo. At least in my high school classrooms.

      1. This is a very important sentence in my opinion”:
        …I’ve learned not to fret about planning to infuse some TPR in the lesson….
        Also this, which is the way I think we should do TPR, as it emerges:
        …rrather, I keep my eye open to opportunities….

  11. I assume that whatever we as teacher feel fine with and when we have student buy-in, it doesn’t really matter what kind of CI-methods we prefer, all of them can work, can’t they?

    1. We all have to make decisions in our own classrooms, but what Ben and Tina are hitting on really just teaches you how to relax and not worry about “doing it wrong”- which ends up in teacher burnout or going back to the textbook.

  12. If you do too many Movietalks that gets old REALLLL fast. I have not found the OWI/Invisibles process getting old with students. I have not had any rolled eyes when I told students we are going to do an OWI or do a Seven-Step story.

  13. Being that it is Catholic Schools Week this week we have a lot of weird schedules, like for example today all the sophomores are on a retreat.
    Since these are kind of weird schedules and kids are distracted, I
    decided to do some targeting and do a MovieTalk today. 🙂
    Here’s the video:
    This class is kind of dead in geneal but I just go with it and enjoy it.
    Any comments on how I can improve would be appreciated.

  14. I hate being theoretical but wanted to chime in on lists. Having looked at lists like a 200 word HF list or the sweet 16, I realized that even as a native speaker of Spanish that I don’t even use all those words. They don’t come up naturally. What has helped me more than anything has been NT via the Invisibles to infuse new and interesting vocabulary (just today, we had to look up PTSD and Alternate dimensions). Matava scripts have also allowed me to infuse new vocabulary that I would otherwise not use in my normal speech. IThe vocab is all sticky and when the student jobs are done right there is a good flow. For myself, the lists are tools that are not meant for me. If I have to cover something then I’ll do it WHEN IT FITS into what I am already doing.

    1. Here Steven echoes Sean’s idea, one very much worth repeating:
      …if I have to cover something then I’ll do it WHEN IT FITS….
      This is the key to everything and expresses how, over the course of an entire year we end up in NT bringing stronger gains in more interesting class (based on images created by the students).
      It is our fear that the “necessary” structures for a certain level will not be “learned” by June, but the vast majority of them are in fact learned, because the students are interested in the (NT) instruction more than in what we used to do in the past.
      As long as we don’t put a timetable on when the “necessary” structures are presented, (what month, what week, etc.), things work so much better. The resultant FLOW of language, which brings with it actual and authentic interest, allows the words to stick.
      That is the argument of NT right there and the defense and illustration of non-targeted language instruction. When we work from lists, the words don’t come up naturally. That is a really big deal because in allowing that, we allow our instruction to stray from the research that says that we acquire languages naturally.

      1. I am starting with the invisibles this week after being out sick for a few days. I notice that just talking WITH the class about the image is important. Last year, I would go through the descriptions like a mandate I had to complete before the class period was done. I also compare the likes/dislikes of the characters with the students. As always, breathe and walk over to the rules.

        1. I would also put this from Steven in the Best 100 PLC Quotes:
          …as always, breathe and walk….
          Many of us, no kidding, forget to do that. We lose awareness of our bodies and we tighten up and it all goes south from there. Body awareness is and has always been one of Tina’s main focal points in teaching and I am right there with her on how we need to work on something as simple as breathing and walking if we get together in the summers.

  15. My question is…..
    Is it considered targeting to have “target” structures going in to a certain activity but at the same time not being afraid to stray from those structures? These “targets” are also not part of a greater curriculum but just to focus the direction of the movietalk or story.

  16. Very clever question Greg. Are you asking about scripts and how they “target”? Your second sentence is a perfect description of Matava scripts. (I would love to tell you the history of how they started and were not at all integrated into TPRS – so they kind of ran parallel to it but were looked upon as a kind of service road next to the highway. In fact, Carol Gaab once asked me what a story script was, only a few years ago.)
    Back to the excellent question. The answer to the first sentence is no. I went to great lengths to make this clear over the years. Anne could not fit her teaching into a curriculum if she was forced to. She is the epitome of smooth flow and grace and understatement and staying in the language.
    Like many of us here, Anne is merely faking it with those “structures”. If she NEEDS THEM, she stays close to the script and uses them to hold a story together as rebar rods hold a concrete floor together. (Search the word “rebar” here for more information.) Her scripting is great for many new people, of course, and a good way to learn, but then when the scaffolding is no longer needed we can then fly with our NT directionless piloting.
    It’s “targeting” w/o the connection to the curriculum what you are asking about. When we use the curriculum to build stories so we can “teach” certain structures, where the structures are more important than the story, then that’s when all hell breaks loose on the level of confidence in new people. So the best thing for new people might be scripts so they can have the rebar for the story to form, and then when they feel confident they can take down the scaffolding. For that I recommend the newest version of Anne’s scripts from Teacher’s Discovery, 97 Scripts.
    So with story scripts, as you describe above Greg, we fake it and faking it only means making it “look” like we are targeting – the “targets” are not connected to the curriculum. So the Matava story format was worked out as a request years ago by me to Anne to put up those fake targets, so I could survive in a TPRS world, where everything from 1998 to now has been about aligning with the textbook’s needs. This is what I did when I first started working with Anne and Jim Tripp to develop the scripts here on this blog over ten years ago. (There was an old blog before this one for four years so ten years plus four of total blogging and PLCing now.)
    Since before the NT train rolled in on the Indian Railways in 2016 the only way I fooled my TPRS boss in Denver Public Schools and all my colleagues was to put those structures up but ONLY STAY ON THEM IN THE STORY IF NOTHING BETTER OFFERED ITSELF, which is what you describe so well above. You figured out the ruse! People better get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on Greg Schwab. He didn’t just fall off of the turnip truck!

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