To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



35 thoughts on “Halloween”

  1. I am going to stop my other story temporarily in favor of this one. I can do the other one next week. So since I did the PQA yesterday (Monday) for “He Talks Too Much” so what? CI is CI. With only three days left this week with Friday off (dang it!), I guess I’ll see where the PQA on this goes. Doing the hat thing Jim suggests above could take all three days I have just on that, but if I can get to the story I will. A reading sounds improbable but I can always do that next week. My point in thinking aloud here is that we must dump rigid thinking about lesson plans and schedules, which shouldn’t be allowed to drive our instruction. We must allow neither lesson plans nor (as we said earlier in talking about Jennifer’s grading requirements in her school) assessments drive what we teach. Comprehensible input that is the most interesting and meaningful to the kids should always drive our instruction. Things that are interesting to kids should be given highest priority when we plan, not things that they “should know”. Content that kids “should know” is a bunch of crap that has been dumped on kids for decades by teachers who bow down to a curriculum instead of the l’Art de la Conversation, which alone brings the joy of language sharing into our classrooms, as per:
    Laurie and Clarice supported this idea in their comments yesterday:
    …no wonder many people cannot speak the language after years of “scripted instruction”. Conversation is not a scripted dialogue. As long as the conversation is (as Susie always says) Comprehensible and Personalized, as long as everyone is engaged, as long as we, as directors of the conversations bring in new structures to be used and re-used and re re-used until they are part of the acquired structure and vocabulary of the group…we are giving our students EXACTLY what they need….
    …to paraphrase what Porky would say, “Th-th-th-that’s right folks”….
    To restate: we are not robots delivering a curriculum. Our kids are not robots who can be programmed with a curriculum that focuses on grammar modules, word list modules, chapters in a book, some dumb ass game, etc. Our kids are humans who can only be reached with the art of language as described in the “L’art de la Conversation” link above. This is a huge hurdle for many of us to overcome, having taught while bowing down to curriculae for so long and having been taught in the same way. The fact is that when some of us address and repeat over and over and over the three target structures in Jim’s story tomorrow so that they appear in interesting and meaningful syntax patterns over and over and over, the kids will actually acquire the language because they will be focused on the meaning of what is being said and not on curricular objectives. That is what is so radical about what we do – we are actually fully aligning with Krashen when we do this. The conscious mind is literally cut out of the equation when we teach this way, which is Blaine Ray’s most brilliant contribution to the field of language teaching. By focusing on the three structures in Jim’s story and not going out of bounds on Tuesday, each of us will be making a radical statement and injecting a radical change into the staid and boring classrooms that typify the past. We will think we will just be going to work on another day, one of many as in the brilliant movie Groundhog Day, but we won’t be – we will be doing much more than that. By not saying a single sentence to the kids that does not include in it at least one, and maybe even two of the following target structures, we will be creating powerful waves in the stagnated ponds of the way things used to be done in foreign language classrooms. By focusing only on:
    ____ years ago
    I want to be
    you should be
    this year

    we will be doing real PQA, in all of its blockbuster potential. The key here is best expressed in the following series of blogs, which I apologize for not mentioning more often because they are the key to good PQA, in my opinion. We refuse to teach in the old way. This stuff is so “out there” that we could get arrested. It is a kind of “Occupy the Textbook” movement of our own:

    1. Hey Ben,
      I always perk up with each mention of the Art of Conversation! The desire to push the envelope and be in the present moment and not in the distantly planned moment (textbook equals planned LONG ago by those who don’t even know us or our students)…this is what gets me thinking every time. My best TPRS moments this year so far have all been VERY minimally planned – planning just a general topic or one certain structure or one piece of art or, better yet, something a student has brought up in the midst of my more planned idea (ditching mine for theirs)…
      I’ve been thinking lately about an analogy – ben, you have a way for words: I’ve been thinking that other subject area teachers bring ideas/content to their students in a box, where our every moment is about not what is in a box, but by bringing them a NEW box in which to carry and therefore share their ideas (another language!). Maybe goofy, but when I think that many language teachers are convinced that they too need to bring boxed goods to their students (grammar points, vocab. packaged together in themes, endless cultural superficialities…), then I think its not off point. I almost want to commission Ben to write up this analogy in the great spirit of his Termite Tower post…. 🙂 Oh well, just another little passing thought.

      1. Well, Brian, bringing an empty box, as it were, is not such a crazy idea and I am happy to see it met with such a fine welcome. This does not happen very often. Everybody thinks it’s a method. It has been an idea for years and years within the TPRS community, but is still not in any way mature. Most teachers who use comprehensible input want something in the box. But you don’t, and Laurie Clarcq certainly doesn’t. Neither does Thomas Young, or Jim Tripp or Carol Hill or Drew, and I could go on and on. When we walk into our classrooms and put an empty box down and, smiling, point to it and invite the kids to play with us at filling up the box with meaning, well, hell, that’s just cool.

    2. “We must allow neither lesson plans nor assessments drive what we teach. Comprehensible input that is the most interesting and meaningful to the kids should always drive our instruction. Things that are interesting to kids should be given highest priority when we plan, not things that they ‘should know’”.
      Thanks Ben. I just felt that needed repeating.

      1. I have said this to a few teachers lately. They tell me “that’s great but I can’t do it… My school tells me what I have to teach. I have to teach certain vocab and tenses”
        How Should I respond to them?

        1. It’s not an either or question. Students learning with CI are getting More vocabulary and More tenses than those who are blindly following the book. What is the best way to teach vocabulary about the weather? By doing a unit in the book for two weeks? Or by commenting on the day’s weather every day and including weather in stories? And students who learn tenses in context use them with more accuracy than those who have memorized conjugaisons and don’t know what to do with them.

  2. Thank you. Just what I need. Ditto what Ben said re: ditching the “plan”( in my case a reading blitz) in favor of where the real current of energy is!
    I am having a hard time lately because I made a bad choice of novels for my Susie Gross “plow through.” Ugh! May end up ditching it altogether or at the very least condensing it into the very basics and moving on :0
    But this is perfect timing for a reset!

  3. What novel was the bad choice? We need to do something about the novels. Nobody else in the TPRS community is. For one thing, they’re all about white kids or white pirates. I am currently talking to Nicole Weaver, a children’s book author who has published four really good books, one of which recently made it to the top ten list of children’s books on Amazon and which are now going to appear on the newly opened Amazon – France site. I am trying to get Nicole to write books about Latino and African American kids. If I were one of those kids, I don’t think I would want to read some book about Not Really Poor Anne or Rich Richard Sullivan and how he wants and will get a car from his rich parents if he just sucks it up and spends some time in Haiti helping those downtrodden people as a good representative of all that is best about America. I don’t think that it would be such a bad thing for the kids in Highlands Ranch, Colorado or Cheyenne Mountain, an affluent suburb of Colorado Springs, to read about life as genuinely experienced by minority kids. As in, they read about minority kids, who in 2006 became the majority, instead of the minority kids reading about them. What a concept! The teacher of classes reading books like that would actually have a chance to teach some things about American culture to their kids as well as the target culture. Hmmm. Hopefully Nicole comes through with some books by next summer.

    1. This sounds fantastic!
      My issue is not really with the quality of the book, but with my “rationale” for the choice and the fact that I hadn’t read the entire thing before choosing it. So, totally my bad. It’s too hard for the group. I chose it because at the very beginning of the year (this is a level 2 Spanish class but with no CI experiece) the kids chose various novels for “free reading books.” I chose this one for the whole class based on the fact that the barometer student was reading it during free reading time, so I reasoned that it would be good to support him and read it as a group. BUT I didn’t finish it before ordering it. So it’s not really working out as a “plow through.” That said the kids are involved in the basic plot and want to know what happens, so if I just condense it it should work out ok. I just don’t want to belabor it.
      I will read Michelle’s blog for pointers. My instinct as of now is to just write up a skeletal version to finish quickly in class and then move on.

  4. The skeletal idea is a good way to go. I’m working through a Brothers Grimm story in the original German that is perfect for my German III/IV class, but just a bit too hard for everybody in my German II classes (who also want to read it, so they need adaptations). I’m doing occasional sections out of the story “Iron Hans” in the original with the IIs, but for other sections just writing up a summary, skeletal style.
    As Michele has been mentioning lately (and I wholeheartedly agree with), the point is doing something that can be repeated somehow; how can I get more reps on a given chapter/section of the story. We’re doing it with having one class illustrate the story and another class write captions for the illustrations. This forces them to re-read the original to check how well the pictures/captions match the original story.
    So for my German IIs who are a little overwhelmed, we’re just doing a skeletal description together with the pictures. They’re happy, and today were actually more interested in talking about the pictures than reading. That’s where they’re at, so I’m just keeping it comprehensible and the interest follows.

  5. I started working with this story script last week (thanks, Jim!) I took Jim’s suggestion and had the kids write down what they want to be for halloween and then circled and added details to that info. We did the story today, with each scenario being a different kid with a different parent. In each case the parents told the kid they should be something else- (a NORMAL Tinkerbell, not Emo devil Tinkerbell, etc…) but each time it ended up that the kid didn’t listen to their parents and then the parents cry/faint/etc… Maybe this teaches disrespect to parents, but seemed a lot more fun to have these middle schoolers be able to go ahead and be the crazy thing they want to be.
    Another thing that could be fun is have the class guess who wants to be what for Halloween after they hand in their paper with want they want to be. I did this recently when they each wrote a list of 10 things they like (after listening to the song “Me Gustas Tú”. I played a game called “Quien dijo eso?” (Who said that?) and read a line written by a kid. The kids had to guess who said it. I got a lot of reps on “did you say—–?” and “did s/he say…….” etc… and it was really fun. Everyone instantly knew who it was who wrote “Me gusta Juicy Juice” and no one guessed that the quiet girl was the one who wrote “me gustan los partidos de fútbol americano” (I like football games). I plan to play a couple of rounds of this every now and then as a brain break type of thing.

  6. Elissa-fabulous ideas! I love “Quién dijo eso?
    I have also thought about the “teaching disrespect” dilemma. My classes can get pretty raw sometimes. The loudest voices always go that direction and it’s a whole lot of fun. However, from my experience, there are always some quiet kids who won’t say that they are a bit (sometimes, a lot) uncomfortable with these scenarios. I’ve actually had kids say it out loud or to me privately.
    Something I have done occasionally, after a spate of those kind of stories, is to take the parents’/principal’s/teacher’s side with my “compassionate tongue just a tad in my cheek”. I tell them that, being a geezer of the parental, teacher variety, I am a little uncomfortable with how the story turned out, and I’m wondering if there is any possible way to make it turn out a little bit better for the adult and still be a funny story.
    Some kids immediately say it’s not possible. Others (who now feel supported by the teacher) say, “OK, let’s try it.” Amazingly, the alternate version often turns out to be as funny and even more creative than the original. I like the idea of being really crazy, going against all societal conventions and, also, using some energy to extend their thinking on the subject. The obvious by-product, of course, is more reps–my sneaky teacher agenda.

    1. A rule I have, that I’ve only had to really state verbatim twice, is ” we will not make statements that are offensive or disrespectful to anyone we know or who anyone we know knows”. I know, lots of “knows” but it usually stops any rude comments about parents or folks in the community. But what you are saying Elissa doesn’t sound like disrespect. It sounds like teenage disapproval. And it must be difficult to stifle that.
      Glad you’re using the story. I will send Ben a reading I wrote from one of my class stories, and then a video/audio accompaniment. I hope everyone shares their readings with each other, compare and contrast, that’s the key.

      1. Yes, Jim. It’s more like when they end the story with “and then, the kid threw the principal out the window” or “the dad fell off the bus and we never saw him again” or something like that. Nothing exactly disrespectful in the usual sense, but edgy, always a little violent, and a sad ending for the adult.

        1. “…edgy, always a little violent, and a sad ending for the adult”
          That about sums it up Jody! 🙂
          I sometimes wish they were angels, but that might be weirder.

    2. This re-tell from a different direction dovetails with something I was listening to tonight on our public radio. They were discussing creativity for high-school kids and adults and play therapy for incarcerated kids. One of the practitioners mentioned that, in group sessions, they play out whatever activity it was that got kids into trouble, including what happened next and what happened just before the specific activity. While playing out what happened before the activity took place, the group stops and discusses options. Evidently kids don’t always know that they have options, and exploring them helps them figure out what they’d want to do in the future.
      While listening to this program, which focused on the dearth of practice in creativity in our lives, I was on the one hand applauding the CI crowd, and on the other thinking about how we could do a Nathan-like “Choose Your Own Adventure” with stories every so often. What I have in mind is that at a critical juncture in any story, we can “hold that thought,” finish the story, and then return to that place and re-do it with other endings, exactly like what Jody reports above (and allow lots of reps!). And if we just once or twice mention that there are always options in life, we could be not only spurring creativity, but potentially helping kids see that they don’t have to follow a particular route that seems to be laid out for them by their peer group, their family, or even by school or society. We can make our lessons in creativity serve a bigger purpose.
      Jody rocks.
      If you didn’t see her pre-quiz activity on her blog, let me strongly recommend it.

  7. Thanks Jody, Jim, and Michele. You all rock!
    I really like this idea of looking for alternate endings…
    “And if we just once or twice mention that there are always options in life, we could be not only spurring creativity, but potentially helping kids see that they don’t have to follow a particular route that seems to be laid out for them by their peer group, their family, or even by school or society. We can make our lessons in creativity serve a bigger purpose.”– Beautifully said!

  8. Did this story today for the first time (well, started it) and it went over alright but not amazingly with high school French students. I have a wide range of abilities so maybe that is why, although I added in “wanted her to be” to get some subjunctive for the higher level kids. May have also gone through it too fast or something. I am finding that I have really been struggling with my stories lately – I can’t keep their interest and I end up rushing through the circling. I just introduced Michele’s exit ticket version of jGR today, so hopefully that will help!
    On another note, I’ve been slowly introducing jobs into my classes (including English and Social 9, which I also teach) and it is amazing! The kids with jobs can’t wait to help out, whether it’s closing the blinds, passing out papers, or whatever) and the kids who don’t have a job are dying for one! It amazes me how much they really want to be part of the community that is our class, and how much the class has come together as a result of simply giving kids these jobs.

    1. So…I have a class where the majority of students have lately been making a seemingly conscious choice to NOT respond. They stare at me even while I wait them out. I ask an individual kid a question and s/he gives an answer. I go back to the group for more detail….NOTHING.
      So today, I figure I’m going to give them a listening quiz with 15 minutes to spare (in the old-teacher catch ’em-messing-up style; to prove a point). Get this: the majority of students pass with flying colors. So, they are listening but not responding. I give them the low ball score on jGR. But other than that, what do I do to get out of this semi-Hell?

      1. Give them either a 1 or 2 for today’s class and announce that to them tomorrow. Make it bite into their grade if they were to go into the computer and check it. This is why I don’t advocate grading a lot. Many of us think that a gradebook full of numbers is good. It is bad. It is bad for us because we are always giving them another chance. It is bad for them bc they always think that they can “pull their grade up” later in the term. It is also bad for us because we are always grading papers and not living a simple life. What I do to combat that is, in a six week grading period, I give about four story quizzes of reading translation quizzes in the first three weeks and then nothing, or maybe one more quiz over those past three weeks. Thus, they begin to grasp that the first part of a grading period is important, since they can’t come in and improve their grade later. And I stick it to them in classes like that. This is exactly what jGR does, and you are about to learn its power when you stick it to them with those 1s and 2s. That is what they are earning, right? And aren’t you forced by standards to evaluate their interpersonal abilities according to that rubric? Yes you are so you can tell that to any administrator. Then, with a new story (bc that one is now stale) go in and have fun with it, even if you are the only one in the room having fun. I have done that with surly teenagers and it is almost a spiritual practice, being cheerful in the midst of such negativity (my idea of a spiritual practice is being cheerful in the midst of darkness, and being happy and not worrying). Now, another thing is that you must wait them out. There is a post on that – it’s called Feel the Burn (link below). And go slowly enough. There is a Jim Tripp story called Wake Up! – Jim if you read this please send it to me so that I can share it here. I think it is on page 24 of your book but the book is at school and Jen if you have it use it soon. That story has expressions like “Wake up!” and “wakes up” and you can PQA that all day. And you can say that to the zombies during the story for fun. Wake their sorry asses up during class. Have fun. Realize that the main reason they act like that in a CI classroom is usually bc they don’t understand, but not in this case so it goes directly into the lap of the jGR function. This does happen – they are trying to be assholes while understanding everything – which truly is a version of hell and don’t we all know how much it hurts us emotionally when some smug smart kid just sits there in defiance and let’s us hang out like Mr. Bojangles. But we can turn it around on them in three ways:
        1. STICK the low jGR grade to them. No waffling!
        2. Keep having fun with the story. If no one acts, you do the acting. Enjoy!
        3. And FEEL THE BURN and wait their miserable sorry asses out for responses. Here is that link:
        The thing is, Jen, this is about your being safe and happy in your own chosen profession. We are not superstars, and yet the system somehow implies that we have to be that way, and the kids sense that and, being teenagers, they want to test us and see what we’re made of. If we break down under their gaze – which we all have done and those moments are pure hell (luckily there are angels always coming in to help us if we can see them or not) – then they win. But if you really sock it to them with jGR they will come around. Many of us are seeing that right now but the only ones seeing it are the ones who are STICKING it to them with truthful 1s and 2s.
        There is even a fourth thing to do, and I highly recommend it. Do R and D. Comprehension based instruction is not all about the story – it’s a ton about reading too. I am doing that with a class right now and every few weeks I give them a story and boy do they respond. Then two more weeks of R and D. See the articles on how to use R and D to make your teaching ten times easier than when you do stories. Deny them stories and when they ask for them tell them that they suck at stories so this year will be about reading. Then read.
        And a fifth option is to get out the grammar book. Make them appreciate you and your work. It is good work that you do, even though we are all still learning and we will always be learning. But we are just fine, as per:

        1. A quick thought before I process everything else you’ve said: I get the feeling with this class that I’ve shown them I will wait and they LIKE IT. They know it and like so much that they have silently executed a plan to force me to wait them out until the period bell rings and they can leave without having had a class….
          How bout that?

          1. Oh man. Total suckfest. Those little @#$*-ers need to get their asses kicked. I don’t know. I guess no class=0 ? That is clearly sabotage / insubordination. I don’t know what your school policy is on that but I think it would kick in at an administrative level.
            Sooooo sorry to hear this. I suppose when they get their grades of 0 averaged in with 0 (since you can’t possibly have a quiz on the material that has not been generated?) they might be forced to snap out of it. Gosh, Jen I am stumped by this one.

          2. Do they like it because they get to have their little snippets of conversation during the wait? Would they continue to like it if every time you wait it is in utter silence?
            What I am going to describe below is an extreme measure, but it may be where this class is at. You wrote, They know it and like so much that they have silently executed a plan to force me to wait them out until the period bell rings and they can leave without having had a class…. This suggests to me that they are counting on getting away with this behavior without consequences, i.e. because you didn’t “cover it” during the class period, they won’t have to “know” it. What I describe below still makes them accountable, especially the reading and quiz part.
            If you truly think they are doing this as an act of defiance (and it sounds like it is), then prepare some referrals and hand them out – in utter silence – to any student who speaks a single word unrelated to the story during the wait time. Hand the student the referral and point to the door without a word. No matter what the student says, simply stand there with your finger pointing to the door until the student leaves. Hand out as many as necessary.
            You have to become comfortable with the silence. Embrace it. Make it your friend. Wrap it around you like a cloak. Say nothing. Do not allow tension to creep into your stance or posture. Keep your hands at your sides and allow the tension to flow out of your fingers into the floor. And say nothing. Stand upright but relaxed, balanced on both feet. Center yourself. Breathe deeply, slowly and calmly. And say nothing. Keep a calm facial expression, neither smiling nor frowning, but looking at peace. And say nothing. Squarely face the majority of the class or the place of greatest resistance. And say nothing. When you move, do so calmly and deliberately. Do not rush or fidget. Do not pace. As much as possible, simply stand enveloped in silence and aware. And say nothing.
            Then, at the end of the period, hand out the story you were heading for. Tell them to read it as a homework assignment. Then the next day give them a “pop” quiz on it. Important: do not tell them that they will be tested. You are not assessing homework, you are assessing their knowledge of the text. You are holding them accountable for what they should have “learned” in class that day. It was their choice not to learn it, not yours. If they have read the text outside of class, they will be able to pass the quiz, if not – oh well. Grade the quiz in class so that you do not have to do it on your own time. Use the grading as an opportunity to get in some language; in other words, discuss the story in the target language during the grading and assume that they have read the story. If they choose to try silence during the grading, give them another dose of jGR. Most importantly, as Ben wrote, enjoy the language and have fun. Do not become exasperated.
            At some point explain to your “little darlings” that your job is to teach them the language, and they have some choices to make. They can either learn it by participating in class, or they can learn it by reading in the language outside of class. If they want help, you have office hours and are always ready to help them understand. The choice is theirs.
            The next day, return to your normal routine and continue until the next time they meet you with stony silence. Then repeat the process with a twist. The second time you do this, don’t give the quiz the next day. Some of your students will complain, because they will think they have learned the rules of your new game and are smart enough to work through the text either on their own or with the help of Google translator. When they whine, remind them that you determine the time and frequency of testing, so they will never know when you might test them on this – just as they never know when there will be an end-of-class quiz. So, they have a choice: they can continue to fail Interpersonal Communication and learn the language through reading on their own, or they can do their job according to the ACTFL standards. It is their choice, but they have to make it; you won’t try to make it for them, you’ll simply react as necessary to the path they choose. (The element of making it their choice is very important here.)
            We used to have a history teacher at my school who would occasionally impose “monastic silence” on his classes. The entire period was conducted in absolute silence. He refused to speak and simply wrote everything on the board, and he sent students to the office as I described above on the first word out of their mouths. It was amazing how well the students participated after a day or two of utter silence and harsh repercussions for even the slightest word to their friends. “Monastic silence” with worksheets might be an alternative to what I outlined above. The most important element is that they are not allowed to speak at all. Otherwise it reverts to the typical social time with a little bit of work. In addition make certain that the work load is sufficient to keep them busy for the entire period (in fact, more than they can do in a period), then collect it at the end of the period for a grade.
            If you get calls or e-mails from parents – and I’m sure you will – invite them to come and observe the class. Go over the rubric with them and ask them to evaluate their child’s mastery of the Interpersonal Communication Standard. (Be careful with your terminology; they are not gauging “participation” but mastery of the standard according to the rubric.)
            If students come in to complain, explain to them that they are part of the problem. They can choose to participate or not; in either case there are consequences. At the moment, they are simply complaining about the consequences of their actions. To change the consequences, change the actions.
            I have done this perhaps twice in my teaching career; it was effective both times. Surprisingly (or not), I got support from the parents once I had explained the situation. Most parents remember the sheer drudgery of language classes from their generation and are appalled that their children don’t appreciate what they are getting with CI/TPRS.
            Obviously, you know your situation far better than I, so feel free to adapt and modify the suggestions above as you see fit – including discarding them altogether as the wild ravings of a curmudgeon. 🙂

  9. Every time? Or could it also be that they are just trying to undermine what you’re doing because the whole CI thing makes them uncomfortable. I’ve been suspecting this lately.

  10. Also for me most of the kids that aren’t responding are the kids that were in French immersion classes. So they are pretty fluent and I know that they understand – I think in their case they feel like they are above it all because they know “everything”.
    But I think that may be the case for a few of the quieter kids. I am starting to really push the stop signal now so that I know when they don’t understand a word.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben