greg’s Great Questions – gGQ

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48 thoughts on “greg’s Great Questions – gGQ”

  1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

    Ditto what Chill said and :

    “À l’impossible nul n’est tenu.” ( No one is bound to the impossible)

    You deserve all the praise in the world !

      1. And I want to be clear here Greg that your struggles to get them out of that mode cannot happen overnite. It’s just impossible. It’s kind of like a gardener planting seeds and wondering why nothing is growing and it’s only a month later. It takes time.

        Those kids, our kids in America, have become cyborg like. The more they interact with a screen, the more like the screen they become. We become what we focus on. When we focus on each other in CI classes, we become more like each other. We become more humam.

        When we focus on machines, we become more like machines. Becoming fully human, as we are meant to be, is no easy process. What we are doing is not just a method for teaching languages, it is a process of becoming. Those kids have every reason to resist, bc it is so much harder to be real than to be a machine.

        We fight daily for this. It’s a good fight. It’s Star Wars and MLK and the Velveteen Rabbit and the Little Prince and Cannery Row and Le Neveu de Rameau and Blake and Jung and John of the Cross and Saint Theresa and Sylvia Plath and Gabriel García Márquez and Cervantes all rolled into one*. I’ll fight for that!

        What is unique about your reaction is that you seem to know that. Many people just don’t see anything growing after their initial efforts and conclude that the seeds don’t work. It takes careful tuning and long hard work, but we can do it. I am very proud of you. You are very important to this group.

        *But it only seems like One Hundred Years of Solitude.

        1. “And I want to be clear here Greg that your struggles to get them out of that mode cannot happen overnite. It’s just impossible. It’s kind of like a gardener planting seeds and wondering why nothing is growing and it’s only a month later. It takes time.”

          Thanks, Ben -I needed to hear that analogy and that encouragement.

          Also, your words below are the EXACT words I’m going to use to defend my teaching methods to my principal or anyone else who happens to wonder about what’s going on in my classroom:

          “We fight daily for this. It’s a good fight. It’s Star Wars and MLK and the Velveteen Rabbit and the Little Prince and Cannery Row and Le Neveu de Rameau and Blake and Jung and John of the Cross and Saint Theresa and Sylvia Plath and Gabriel García Márquez and Cervantes all rolled into one…”

  2. Yay Greg!!! Youpi! 🙂

    “Nobody I know has ever done this, heard about CI on a weekend, started it Monday, and successfully used it all week without looking back.”

    btw…I did this in April 2011 🙂 I remember it so clearly bc it was the weekend I was supposed to be writing up my grade reports and I was so tired of BSing my way through. So instead of working on my grades I spent the weekend on this blog and on writing up “Extreme Makeover 2011” to present to the kids the following Monday!

    Like Greg, and like everyone else on here, I found that this practice and that you all are truly a lifeline that enabled me to breathe life into my “school life” and to have it not seem so separate from “real life!”

  3. “I found that this practice and that you all are truly a lifeline that enabled me to breathe life into my “school life” and to have it not seem so separate from “real life!”

    I agree, jen…thanks! Good to meet another (semi-) newbie TPRSer on here!

  4. I think this category could more aptly be called gGC (greg’s Great Chaos). That might reflect more accurately reflect what’s going on within the confines of my classroom. But I imagine that as me and my kids find all the pieces, we’ll mangage to put together some semblance of a puzzle by the end of the year.

    Now that I’ve discovered CI/TPRS and read on here about all the people doing it successfully year after year, and after reading all about Krashen and i + 1, compelling input, etc, I know that this is the only way that makes sense to teach a language in a classroom setting. Nobody should be allowed to graduate from a language education program without learning this stuff, in my opinion.

  5. I have a question about jGR grades. I think this has been dealt with recently on here, but I don’t remember where. Progress reports at my school are due to the kids this Friday, which means my kids will be getting their first grades under their new TPRS regime.

    By the time prog. reports go out Friday, I’ll have Quick Quiz grades for every single day except one for my French 1 class (less for my upper levels). I plan on putting them on the progress reports so the kids can see how they’re doing with the quizzes (probably 95% have a 90% average or higher on the quizes because I’m making them as easy as possible).

    The only other grades I plan on having the rest of the year, at least for French 1, are the jGR grades (It seems like a few other people also only enter grades for Quizes and jGR). But, I’m not sure how to best deal with jGR grades. Do you all give a jGR grade every day? Or do you just average the kids’ jGR performance on a weekly, grading period, etc. basis?

    Right now in French 1, I have a star student noting things on my roster every day what lower jGR grades (phone, talking, other work, sleeping, etc.) Her marks have been very accurate so far (she shows no bias and is relentless with reporting rule infractions). So, I could theoretically give a daily jGR grade in that class. I am leaning towards that becuase I need to get that group in line and have them realize that their behavior really will dramatically influence their grade for better or worse (I plan on weighing jGR at 40%).

    These are my questions:
    1) How do you factor in fluctuations in a kid’s jGR performace? (i.e., A kid is sleeping for 20 minutes, then paying attention for 40 minutes, then doing work for other class for 30 minutes. Do they get any credit for the 40 minutes of attention or is that cancelled out by the fact that they weren’t present for 50 minutes, bringing them to an F?)
    2) If you give a grade for a longer time frame, do you assign a grade for their end result or actually average the daily grades? (i.e., at the end of the week a kid is totally engaged and into the CI game, but at the beginning of the week, they were mostly tuned out. Do you try to keep them motivated by awarding their good end-result with a high jGR grade for the week?)

    I love the nature of jGR in that it’s connected to behaviors and life-skills that actually matter beyond the classroom, but how in the world do you keep track of EVERY kid’s performace and fluctuations in EVERY kid’s daily or minute-by-minute performance? I’m trying to make my grading very simple. I don’t want to spend more than an hour a day TOTAL dealing with grades. Ideally, I’d spend less than 30 minutes a day on grading and entering grades but I suppose I have to be realistic. Actually, ideally I would just not give grades at all. Grades are one of the stupidest things in existence.

    1. Rebekah Gambrell

      I am very new at this too so I will share what I have found to work. I too have a student keep track of the other students. It has worked out for me too. I sit down after every class and make my own notes along with the sheet that the student gives me. I then give them a daily grade in my notes… not in the grade book. I then take those daily grades and look at them to see how the student it doing over all in a two week period. Some days they might have a bad day and I don’t think we should penalize them for that. I have bad days sometimes and I should get a failing grade. I think that weighing it at 40% is a great idea. I think the one thing I have learned this year is you can’t be perfect at this. It is a work in progress.

      1. Thanks, Rebekah! I like the idea of doing a two week period for the jGR grades…I will probably adopt that. I wonder if that’s how most people on the PLC do it. I also agree that they shouldn’t be penalized for having a bad day. Geez, I would have been fired a LONG time ago if that’s how I was evaluated.

      2. Excellent points Rebekah and it certainly will always be a work in progress. So everybody has their way of doing it. And it’ll never be perfect. I admire that you take the time to think about what each kid did that day. I just don’t give a rat’s ass. Oops, sorry, I should have said something a little more dignified – I care not enougheth.

  6. Your questions are excellent. Everybody in the group claiming to use jGR needs to answer them, as in how they do them. I can only answer for myself. Here is the first question you ask:

    …do you all give a jGR grade every day? Or do you just average the kids’ jGR performance on a weekly, grading period, etc. basis?….

    I think David Talone gives daily grades. I don’t. I am too lazy. I just give like one general grade every few weeks without any data collected, just an overall feel for what the kid is doing. It’s not such a bad idea bc I can’t imagine putting in daily grades. I can barely call roll in each class. I want my teaching life to be simple. But the idea of doing those assessments maybe three times a week is something I should look into. Because they forget when I don’t bring the jGR heat daily that it’s 50% (I’ve raised it again bc they are getting nuts the week before standardized testing) of their grade. So a 2 is a 40% for half their grade. jGR really does have to be used certainly more often than I use it. Good gracious, y’all, here we have this monster of a discipline tool and we should use it! I need to use it more, anyway. Why did we work so hard to build it if we don’t use it? It took at least ten people talking about it for about 8 months before jen found the prize in the cereal box.

    Your second question is about fluctuations in their behavior. What you describe in (1) above is WAY too much to keep up with. I would never do that. I’m thinking like every two or three days max we go in and post a grade. If like me it is 50%, then they have an F if they have a 2, like a I said above. Might change what they do in class the next day. Ya’ think?

    On the other question, I never average the grades. Who’s got time? I have to read Huffington Post during my planning! So I just give them the upswing grade. If they went from a 2 to a 3 and their latest grade before posting them is a 3 they get that grade.

  7. Ha…and I have to have a coffee break during my planning! Thanks for the input Ben. I think what’s coalescing in my brain from all this is to just sort of wing it with the jGR grades. I’m still going to have my superstar in French 1 tally jGR infractions just so I can have something concrete to base my hunches on when grading (and for proof if need be, i.e., “It looks like Jonny was on his phone on March 5th and 6th, and sleeping on March 3rd, so that brough his grade down a little). But, I think I’ll just give a general grade maybe every two weeks for where I’ve observed a kid to fall OVERALL on the rubric. And if I can chip away and pull in a kid who has F behaviors every day and bring him/her up to A/B behaviors, I’ll just give them an A overall and forget the F’s. Basically, I’ll have grace on 10 weeks of F behaviors if a kid ultimately matures and lands in A/B behaviors for a while.

  8. A question regarding discipline:

    My French 1 class has pretty much been chaos as far as talking. Today I attempted my first story with them (“A Fight”). It went okay in the sense that we got one scene established and there was a lot of laugther. When my girl actor didn’t fake hit my guy actor REALLY hard, which was exactly how hard the class decided she hit him, we made her hit him until she hit REALLY hard and everyone had a dandy time with that. So in the sense of “good times” and lowering the affective filter, I suppose my French 1 class was actually a raging success today. We’ll continue our first story with 2 more scenes tomorrow and then do whatever seems right after that.

    The part I wonder about though is the talking. I stopped about 500 times during the 90 minute class to wait for silence. I also reminded a few times that a cute answer is 2 or 3 words. I also tried hand-raising for answer suggestions. But, the talking was really hindering how much circling I was able to get in. I stopped for a very short, serious, but calm, talk about how I needed their 50% for this to work. Didn’t really help. Through all of this I didn’t lose it or get worked up because I don’t want that vibe in my room and I look dumb when I’m mad. I just sat and waited for silence and had a sip or two of coffee. They got quiet every time, so I know they can do it. But then 5 seconds later they’re back to talking.

    I’ll stop blabbing and ask my question(s): Should I just continue doing this? Will the focus improve little by little if they realize that I’m going to stop every single time until the room is dead silent? Am I just furthering the talking by being too patient and waiting every time? The dilemma is that it’s a large group of kids…if it was one or two I could throw them out, but I can’t throw out 10 kids at once. Do I just need to somehow make my expectations more clear about what’s acceptable for talking? Does anyone else have this problem?

    1. We all look dumb when we act mad. Of course we’ll feel mad, but we shouldn’t show it in that big huffy yelling way. Never works.

      Do you have a “clacker guy”? His job is to clack, or make a big sound with a noise-maker, whenever there’s too much English from me or anyone else in the room.

      Do you have in mind the 2 or 3 biggest offenders? Can you notice those ring leaders?

    2. I also remind them that talking in English and talking over others lowers their grade on the Interpersonal Communication rubric. They, being teenagers, probably feel no consequences of their actions until something hits them, so you have to follow up with letting them know their grade. I have them fill out a slip of paper and check (beside A, B, C, or D/F ranges) their communication behavior in class. I check it, too, and hand it back the next day. Occasionally I’ve had a short talk at the beginning of class about it as I hand them back, especially if kids said they were A’s and I saw behaviors in the C range.

      It helps. But it also takes consistency. I get caught up in the Chinese and sometimes forget to make time for that self-evaluation before class ends. I need to get better at allowing time before the end of class for a quizlet or Interpersonal Communication check.

    3. Rebekah Gambrell

      Yes I have this problem but I think we have to address it every time. I found that calling them by name helps and quiets people around them.

    4. You must be TRANSPARENTLY CLEAR about your expectations. You have taught them that when you are quiet, they should get quiet. Now you have to teach them that they should STAY quiet. They need to learn that they do not talk when you are talking, not just when you are silent. You already have control. You simply need to use it. Yes….wait until they are quiet….EVERY TIME. Then, when you are all sitting there in silence, count to 5 in your head (let the silence hang in the air) and quietly and clearly say, “Thank you for your attention. Please do not talk while I am talking to the class.”. You are already sooooo close! Will they never talk while you are? No, they’re kids. But it can get much better!!!

      with love,

      1. Before next week me and you are going to have a phone pow wow and when we BOTH go in on Monday, we are going to be straight about jGR. Before then, read all the articles on it by clicking on the category. I will write a new one this weekend called jGR Must Be Enforced. I will say specifically how I’ve been screwing up in my own use of jGR and how I can change. Today I told all my classes something you should tell all your classes. That the culture of the class has gotten out of control* but that that it is going to change and you are going to change it or see precipitous and immediate drops in their grade if they don’t follow the rubric that will be posted so big in your classroom next to where you teach. When we speak I will be specific about the changes I have put in place today. My classes had gone to Sucktown and they WILL RETURN to Normal City. Not because of some idea but bc they’re going to hate their grades in a few weeks if they don’t SHUT THE F/// UP IN MY CLASSROOM. As Laurie has pointed out many times, we are their teachers and not their buddies. Boy I’m flaming tonite. Say anything and I’ll go off on it. Ain’t it great? It’s called free speech. I’m all for it. Think I’ll go out and buy a Harley tomorrow. Orange.

        *I have wandered from stories exploring writing lately and it didn’t work.

        1. An orange Harley sounds nice…I might buy one myself as that would be just the thing to peel out of the parking lot with after closing my door on the last day in June. And yes, I could definitely use some help getting straightened out about jGR/mangagment in general. I’ll go through all the jGR articles at some point tonight or tomorrow.

          I was hopeful my serious aside in my French I class yesterday about 50% and focus would bring improvement today. It didn’t. So today when things got out of control I sat down, drank some coffee, and waited for quiet. When the room was dead quiet, I very clearly said “Please do not talk over me when I’m talking to the class.” That sort of helped, but not enough. So, I need to be even more specific starting Monday about what it means to not talk over me, and exactly when I expect that to not happen, and when they CAN talk, and whether to talk in English or French, etc., etc. I know it’s not their fault. They’re kids. I trained them the wrong way at the beginning of the semester. Now I just have to train them the new way. If they can learn chaos, I know they can learn order. I’m just keeping in my head what you said before, Ben: “discipline precedes instruction.”

          Well, it’s about gettin’ time in Durham and the kids are gone. In the spirit of Ben’s recent mentions of brews, I believe I’ll go have one myself. Why in the world am I still at school?

          P.S. Since I didn’t teach at all in my 1st or 2nd periods today (I just couldn’t bring myself to do it because those are my “upper” levels and just aren’t feeling much of anything having to do with learning French…I take all the blame), I had a little worksheet-trashing party with one of my students in the back of the room at the recycling bin. I went through two huge stack of extra worksheet/grammar quiz copies I had, took off the paper clips to save, and tossed them. Those were hours of work and copying, but it felt so liberating to get rid of them. I’ve only been attemtping CI for two weeks now, but already those worksheets seemed so assininely STUPID and useless for learning a language. It felt so good to toss that junk, I even sang a little. Thank everyone for stopping the CI train in Durham and picking me up.

          Anyway, very honored to be part of this PLC. Happy weekend, ya’ll.

    5. I used to advocate the one or two word cute answers in English. I don’t now. Blaine is right. No English from them. Ever. We’ll talk Greg. Biggest thing, the clapper doesn’t work either. I am telling you no English cute answers, and no clapper. Instead, enforce jGR like a madman. We’ll have to talk about it this weekend. Sorry you are getting conflicting information. Forgive us. Sometimes the soup has to boil and splatter all over the place before we can sit down to a nice bowl of soup. That is happening now. I have made some serious errors with not using jGR right. I fixed it all today. Until the next time I don’t use it properly. I’m back on track. We just have to talk. Maybe Monday. I want you to have a total break this weekend. jGR. Don’t leave home without it.

      1. I’m okay with the soup splattering all over. It’s been splattering all over since day one of my teaching career, so it’s not new to me. I’ve never know anything besides chaos in my own classroom, so for me it can only get better from here (which is very exciting to me). At least this CI soup smells good while it’s splattering all over. The conscious learning soup I was trying to understand and implement with “fun” activities up until two weeks ago smelled like a bunch of random, rotten mess.

  9. Unfortunately I left my computer charger at school Friday afternoon, so had a dead computer all weekend. Looks like I’ve missed some great discussion. However, it was nice to have two completely computer-free days!

    A quick question on targeting structures/vocab:

    From what I’ve been reading on here and elsewhere about CI, I know that our goal is to shelter vocab, not grammar. Makes perfect sense and now that I know about TCI I can’t imagine teaching otherwise. I’m starting to wonder about the idea of “covering” stuff, though. “Covering” grammar and certain vocab seems very artificial to me, since that’s not how people learn a language. But, should I be worried about leaving gaps in my students acquisition?

    For example, are there any goals at all to aim for certain forms of certain verbs being acquired within a certain time frame? (i.e., all forms of the verb “to be” in present and past tense before the end of French 1?). I know that we use whatever grammar is necessary as it comes up, but are there limits to this? Do you all try to focus on certain tenses methodically? (Do you do a story in present tense, then retell it in past tense? How do you incorportate future tense? What about conditional, past conditional, etc.?).

    I feel like this could get really tricky for me as I continue in TCI. If I’m doing a story with my kids and something comes up in past conditional, first person singular, I have no problem using that. But, do I try to bring that back in to the CI over the semester to make sure its fully acquired? If so, how do I keep track of what needs to be reentered, especially if I have 100 different tenses/persons going on?

    I’m very happy to be leaving the artificial curriculum of my textbook and being free sheltering grammar. Just wondering how to conceptualize what I’m doing in class so my kids are fully acquiring the structure of the language, not just present tense, etc. I’m not interested at all in “covering” certain grammar points or tenses in the traditional sense, but I’m just wondering how you all approach this issue.

    P.s., has this already been covered elsewhere?

  10. Greg,

    That is a great question and yes it has been adressed here a lot in different places.

    I d recommend you read Krashen and Terrel s book ” The Natural Approach” in which Krashen’s 5 hypothesis on language acquisition ( there are 6 now) are nicely explained.

    Here is a brief summary if you have no time to read the book yet:

    The Natural Order Hypothesis posits that we acquire certain grammatical structures in a certain chronological order, and we can’t change that order, which BTW is different for different languages. For example the s at the end of 3rd person singular present tense in English is a late acquired item.

    Understanding that Hypothesis helped me have a paradigm shift. I no longer teach a curriculum but I teach for communication and proficiency.

    So I talk to my students in whatever tense make sense. I couldn’t do it any other way b/c I don’t control how I communicate and don’t decide in advance what tense I will use. That being said , I also do all the other things we are supposed to do : to water down the language, stay in bounds, and speak slowly and all the other techniques we talk here ad nauseum.

    So I have used the passé simple and subjunctive with my fr 1 b/c the story I was doing lent itself to me using it. As long as the kids understand then I know I am doing what I am supposed to .

    Paradoxically what I observe anecdotally is that my kids end up knowing more than what gets covered typically in the book ,at least auditorily. And since Comprehension trumps and precedes production, I am a happy teacher!

    Greg , you are a sponge and a extremely fast learner. Wow, you are truly amazing. Your questions are so advanced!

    Hope that helps , I m sure everyone will give you more input. Sorry I m in between classes and my message may seem rushed.

    Good luck and have a great week

    1. Thanks so much Sabrina -that summary helped and I plan on ordering Krashen and Terrel’s book on amazon.

      P.S. I just watched about 5 of your videos on vimeo. You are 100% positivity and good vibes! Your kids surely must feel great in your class every day -you create so much positive energy. That’s obvious just from your videos. THANK YOU for sharing those!

      I noticed a few times in one video you would ask the class a question about the actor using imparfait, but then ask the actor the same questions, to confirm details, using present tense. That seems like a nice natural way to bring in two tenses at once. Do you always try to use multiple tenses during class, even if that means digressing from the tenses your target structures are in? Do you actively try to do that in order to give input on multiple tenses? Or do you only bring in other tenses in doing so seems natural for the task at hand?

      1. Sabrina are you holding back on us? Can we get links to the other vimeos you have up there? We only have that one class with Pauvre Romin in there flirting with the other dude. I’ll put the links up here. And I have to remember to put Drew’s up on the hard link for videos also. So little time, so much to do! I am SO GLAD Greg is taking this thing and running with it. Ain’t it amazin’?

        1. You can get to her other videos from the original link. I just discovered that today. I went to watch “Le Coureur” and then noticed a link at the top, click on her name, and there are several other videos! C’est super!

          I will be posting some soon too. Eeek!

          I also have a question related to tenses, etc.

          It is almost 4th quarter. I don’t keep track of “which structures I cover” or whatever. If someone asks me, I just look up all the class stories and I can figure it out. I tend not to get twitchy about level 1 classes, but this year I have a couple of kids that asked me specifically how this class would “measure up” (so to speak) with “school X” because they will be attending that school next year. I think they have a traditional program. A few kids from our school who were in level 1 had to retake level 1 at “school X,” because our programs don’t align. How much responsibility do I have in getting these kids into “level 2?” Personally and deep down truth in my mind is that I do not feel responsible for this. I don’t want to water down the CI to cover a bunch of memorize-y stuff for a program in another school. I will give these students a workbook that they can use on their own. Probably should have done it before but oh well.

          Since I don’t really believe in “levels” I think that if they have a placement test, the students will end up in the correct level. But I am sure parents and students will be annoyed that they “had to take level 1 again because they didn’t learn anything.” Can I just let that go? Am I way off base?

      2. Greg,

        Thank you so much.

        WOW! I had no idea that people could watch my videos. I thought you could only watch the ones I sent you the link for!!!!
        I started putting the videos on vimeo b/c I have no room on my computer anymore and Todd ( my husband ) told me that online storage is the way to go . I am so inept when it comes to technology .
        I m freaked out now. I didn’t want everyone to see those, they were just for me so I can watch them and learn from them.
        Too late now, I guess.

        1. Sabrina, il faut respirer!
          Your videos are fantastic! But I know what you mean. I would be hyperventilating, except that If I were actually you I would be proud and thrilled about my students and my teaching. In the videos one can see/feel clearly the connection you have created with your groups. So…again…breathe!

          1. Jen ,

            I am hyperventilating, where is the brown paper bag?


      3. Greg,

        Sorry I forgot to answer your question.

        I speak to the kids the way I would speak to anyone, using everyday language as it occurs in real life . The only thing I focus on is the target structures I am using (staying in bounds) and I shelter vocabulary so I am always focused on conveying messages using structures and vocab they already know (I recycle a lot) .

        The beauty of it is that the kids are producing speech now in full sentences and I can hear what they’ve acquired. For instance today I was asking a question to the class : “pourquoi elle sèche son cours de Chimie” (why does she cut her chemistry class?) and one of the kids answered : “parce qu’elle s’en fiche” (because she doesn’t care) which is a structure that he’s acquired through another story a couple of week ago. So in a sense they do the recycling for you. You know what they’ve acquired or not from their speech.

        Switching from passé simple or imparfait to present is something that I learned from Blaine, and it actually makes sense to switch from past to present when adressing your actor.

        I can tell you that I have used pretty much all the tenses with all my classes including French 1. Since I don’t know what is late or early aquired , it does not matter to me. It will come to those who wait……

        1. …since I don’t know what is late or early aquired, it does not matter to me….

          See, finally a statement from a teacher that shows that she gets the Natural Order of Acquisition. Most teachers STILL REFUSE to give that up by trying to control when a certain verb tense comes in or whatever. That conflicts with Krashen. We are not in charge of when a certain structure is acquired. It is a natural process involving decisions made by the mind that we have no business messing with. Sabrina gets that, but how many of us will try to hit certain structures tomorrow bc we think our students “need” to learn them? They need nothing from us. All we have to do is spit out the CI slowly in ways that are interesting to them, insisting on strong group one word responses, and then they’ll rearrange it, guaranteed. Good job, Sabrina.

  11. If you are questioned, the reality is that we are “targeting” high-frequency structures….and using language as it naturally occurs ensures that high-frequency vocab and structures will always be a naturally-occurring part of our curriculum.

    That is the problem with textbooks…so much of the vocab is esoteric that unless one plans meticulously, things will never get covered. Same with the artificially-ordered structures.

    with love,

  12. Is there a section on here for celebrations? I don’t know…I’ll post here. If you’d like to skip, the best part is at the very end. Before I state my celebration, I will say I’m still studying Ben’s post on “We Connect Grades to Behavior Using jGR Becuase it is the Right Thing to Do.” I have it printed out to read through multiple times this week so I can hone in on a concise explanation of TCI if asked. However, regardless of how good I am thus far at explaining the standards-based idea of jGR or implementing it effecively, I’m already reaping some rewards of teaching through CI. Whence my cause for celebration today:

    After my first two weeks of nothing but Word Associations and OWI with lots of circling and PQA, I could tell my kids were getting bored (we never did get to CWB). So, I decided to jump right into a story. Is only two weeks of CI enough prep to do a story? I don’t know…I’m just winging everything and making it up as I go along with ya’ll and the resources on here to guide me. Anyhow, I found what seemed to be a good starting script last week (A Fight) right before my French 1 kids came in the room. Thus began our first story.

    With Thursday and Friday of last week and Monday of this week spent on the story, we finally came up with the conclusion by the end of class Monday. I typed the story up Monday after school and I tried some translating with them yesterday working from an old school overhead. While we translated, my artist was busy illustrating the story on an overhead transparency. We only got through translations of two scenes because I kept stopping to either do PQA or to maintain silence, so I was somewhat frustrated by that.

    TODAY, though was a different story (but with the same story). I started class by having my kids gesture likes/liked, wants to be with /wanted to be with, and hits/hit (In the TL). About 90% of them totally nailed the gestures and English translations for each one when I asked and we had a great time. There was an unprecedented level of focus in class for the 3 minutes or so we were reestablishing meanings).

    After that, we went right to translating. I decided we would start back at the beginning and translate each sentence line by line since we didn’t finish translating the whole story the day before. First I read the entire story dramatically and enforced no talking during this like a madman. I stopped twice to clarify what “no talking” means and reinforced that they were to have their eyes on the board following along with me, then went all the way back to the beginning of the story to start over (conveniently we had already learned “eyes” and “board” a few weeks ago). Besides a few death stares from me during the reading when I heard some whispers starting, they were TOTALLY into it. There were even a few laughs and I saw some miming of the action out of the corner of my eye from a couple kids.

    Next, I told them they had to raise their hands if they wanted to translate a line after I read it first in French. This is when awesomeness started going off like fireworks all over my room:

    1) Each kid that translated was pretty much dead accurate, except for a few present/past issues which I didn’t really care about but they fixed right away when I repeated their translations with stress on the mistake word. The story I typed up used passé composé and imparfait, people! And they get it! In French 1! I hear that happens with this stuff, but I’m experiencing it myself now.

    Next, I took the script off the overhead and put up the illustration by the artist and I took volunteers to retell the story scene by scene.

    2) although I’m already sold on CI and will NEVER go back to the old way, this was a real selling point for me today: two kids who I thought were out to lunch every day in class VOLUNTEERED to translate AND gave accurate retells in GREAT sounding French and complete sentences. And I’m not even asking them for complete sentences. Sorry for all the CAPS, but c’mon people! One kid is a girl I have in French 1 who is very sweet, but barely even says hello when I say hi to her every day -I see her lips move ever so slightly, but nothing comes out -no prob, I know she feels good to get a hello so I keep greeting. But today, her hand shot up for a particular scence and you better believe I felt like a million dollars right then and called on her right away. She was all smiles -beaming!- and PERFECTLY, in a very confident voice, retold the scene. (I praised her just enough to acknowledge her courage and not embarass her, but in my head I was genuinely in a state of disbelief of how this timid girl had just transformed before my eyes into a confident young woman).

    The other kid is one that I’ve confronted twice this week because he was talking to a friend in the back or on his phone -I just stopped class twice and we waited and looked at him while he moved where I asked him (while he gave me the “aw c’mon man” line with quite an amusing smirk on his face). He and I get along fine, but the “focus” thing has not worked for him a single day yet this semester. But, same thing with him -his hand shot up and he retold a scene (he did stumble a little and needed help from the class for “hit”, but I was all praise for him and he seemed really happy to have the chance to contribute in a positive way and be acknowledged for it). Not to mention several other kids who are completely engaged in the story and gestures and whatever else we’ve been doing the past few days. We took a huge turn today in that class today and are hopefully close to letting all the sails down and picking up some major wind to carry us to the end of the year. I had FUN with them today!

    I’m probably going to post a lot on here about that class the rest of the year -please excuse my excess words, but applaud for the French 1 students of Northern High School!

    P.S. I did wear jeans to work the past two days, spring has arrived in Durham, and I removed all textbooks from my room yesterday, so my good feelings might not be COMPLETELY student-centered. But, I would say 95% of them are.

    1. This is awesome. I am sitting here waiting for some parents for conferences and reading and man, this is awesome. I think re-tells are what most justify our method of TCI. I have heard a few great ones over the past week and yes, you really do feel all golden inside.

    2. You opened up a nice new can of Whoppass on the classroom. Spring is here in more than one way. I am so proud of you. Now, I am not clear on process. I’m not sure that level of translation is wanted. You clarify using translation, small chunks of things that are actually best translated on the board and not spoken. I am not clear about how the reading happened either. I’m not objecting to anything bc when something works as wonderfully as this we don’t want to get picky. But just to say what I think is the great order for a class is PQA, then the story, no translation, they the Story Writer gives you in English what happened. You write it up and the next day follow a protocol that we have set up for reading classes based on story classes. Just saying that. Not saying to stop doing what worked! And yes it is possible to do a story in the first few weeks bc you did one! We’ll just have to keep talking about the actual process as things go along. And try some CWB. It’ll be great!

      1. Greg,

        Congratulations. I’ve been trying to congratulate and respond to your post but I’ ve been getting a weird answer from the software and Ben says it happens at times, so this is not really my answer , just a test.

        1. Ok now I see it is working , I’ll try to rewrite my thoughts it using a different combination of words so it does not give me that weird answer (Ben says it s the software that doesn’t like a certain combination of words. But really it’ s b/c the software is a robot that cannot talk and communicate on a human level and rejects words of love cause it does not understand them)

          What I wanted to tell you is that I think that what you are seeing/ experiencing is a result of your direct emotional involvement with your kids. This is what this method does. When you interact with your students on a human level, showing them they are cared for, acknowledged and valued , they respond in a human way , by communicating back to you. Language is a vehicle for communication but it only works when the human element is embedded within it.

          Wow ( that is acronym for is that Wonderful Or What?)!
          Tonight we celebrate your happiness and feelings of success with.

          And I agree with Laurie: put that wonderful feeling somewhere in your emotional bank so that when there are days when it seems like mission impossible you can tap on those feelings from your emotional memory bank.

          And there will be those days, as you have seen already. But overall, for me anyway, all the hard work we do is worth every drop of sweat we get.

          At the end of the day I can look back and say I have never been as happy professionally as I m now and that began when I started to teach this way (and join this PLC with all the wonderful people in it) .

          I love my kids and I think they love me too. I have one kid who comes and asks me to hug him almost daily, and I don’t know how I will manage when he returns to Paraguay next year as he is an exchange student.
          I know it s all b/c of CI.

          Greg, je te tire mon chapeau et te fais une belle révérence car tu la mérites!

  13. Bottle that!!!! Keep it somewhere safe to remind yourself what you are working towards when you come across a frustrating stretch. Isn’t it amazing?!!

    with love,

  14. This IS so exciting! I’m so excited for you Greg :). Big smiles here! Keep it up! (I had a similar day with one of my classes and it IS just beautiful and amazing and awesome and I love it.)

  15. …. and during March madness, no less! Congrats, Greg, you da man!!! We are all so incredibly proud of you. You are a great inspiration and your enthusiasm is contagious. I will refer to your post every time I feel things are hitting a bit of slump. Isn’t it wonderful to be a happy teacher?!!!

  16. Hello everyone! A brief intro follwed by a quick question: The only problem with this PLC is that I have to report to work and can’t just sit and read it all day with a nice cup o’ joe. Sorry for my lack of participation the past few days -I’ve been taking time after school the past few days to finish reclaiming my life from the last few tentacles of the Conscious Language Learning Beast, who I unceremoniously buried on a neglected shelf in my school’s bookroom last week to wither in dust and darkness. If I by chance haven’t replied to a comment of your’s, I will soon!

    The question I’ve been wondering has to do with the effect of acquisition and how you all have seen it play out with your students. Specifically, I’m wondering about acquiring the concept of “verb endings” (for my lack of knowing a better term). N.B.: I could not care less anymore about “covering” all the endings/conjugations of every verb under the sun, especially since I’m the only French teacher in my school -I’m wondering this simply out of curiousity for how this works according to y’all’s experience in the classroom.

    So, this week I have the structure “il/elle mange” (he/she eats/is eating) in two of my classes. Let’s say I do things right and my kids in these two classes actually acquire this structure. Then let’s say in a week or so we’re doing a story and the structure “nous dansons” (we dance/are dancing) comes up for some reason and the kids acquire that too. Then, let’s say a few weeks even later, we’re doing a story and some kid gets an urge to comment with “HE’s dancing” or “SHE’s dancing” (which will not have been introduced for the sake of this example).

    Since the kids have all (hopefully) acquired the structure “he/she is eating” and have also acquired “we dance/are dancing,” would a kid in these two classes automatically and correctly apply the right ending sound in their output even though the first person singular of the verb “to dance” was never introduced? Would they unconciously know to leave off the “ons” sound they acquired in “nous dansons” in order to say “il/elle danse”, which would sound more similar to “il/elle mange” (which they DID acquire)?

    In other words, when learning a language do people acquire “concepts” at all and, if so, unconsciously apply those concepts to unacquired structures? I don’t know if I ever heard the structure “he texts” (something I wouldn’t have acquired as a little kid), but whenver I was in a position to use that for the first time I knew to say “he texts” instead of “he text”, although I probably had to think for a millisecond before it came out of my mouth, or at least my brain did it for me.

    I’m guessing Krashen talks about this in detail in his book (which I’ll read very soon hopefully per Sabrina’s recommendation). I’ve just been curious how you all have seen this play out with your kids during the limited time frame a kid has to acquire a language in school. Again, I have zero interest in trying to interfere with the natural order of acquisition -just one of the things I’ve been thinking about whilst picking up broken pencils and potato chip bags from my classroom floor (I don’t enforce cleanup all the time because it becomes my afternoon meditation. You might tell me I need to find a new afternoon meditation, which I will agree with!). I wish everyone a great close of the week and beginning of Spring!

  17. Thes short answer is that Krashen has shown that all of that subject/verb agreement happens in a wiring system that is far, very far, from the incapable conscious mind to produce it.

    If we are to actually and truly accept the idea that language output is a divine unconscious organized super process that the conscious mind cannot match any more than a microbe can think like a human, then we have to keep the input going for thousands of hours (remember we only have 500 max possible CI hours in a four year program so we need to give up the idea that we can teach output).

    If this is true, that thousands of hours of input are needed before authentic output can occur, then we need best give up our pipedreams of getting kids to write and speak authentically in high school – they can’t any more than a two year old can use the word phenomenological in speech, but could one day twenty years later with enough input.

    What we don’t get is the time needed. We just don’t get that part. And so we cause ourselves to doubt our abilities as teachers. It’s like saying to a miler in track – what’s wrong with you, you are 13 years old and you can’t even run a 3:50 mile yet. We are crazy to think about output at all in high school.

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