How To Have A Carefree Summer Even If You Are New To This Stuff

If you are new to this stuff, there is not that much to worry about over the summer, besides keeping things simple for you and the kids! The three things I want to remember in the fall really are simple. (Simplicity is required at the beginning of the year, when kids are being bombarded with so much information in their other classes.)
I tell my first year kids that all they have to do is kick back and listen in my class as we start the year. I will be speaking to them in French and they will be trying to understand. If they are trying to get what I am saying but can’t, I tell them that that is my fault, and that I need to go slower so that they can understand.
What is their role first? To learn my rules. But I don’t explain them. They are written in English, of course, on the wall, but I get them into our classroom routine them while I am speaking to them in French, pointing out each and every infraction when it occurs.
So, while they are decoding everything I say – I look into their eyes, every one of them (well, two eyes at a time) – and I make sure that all kids are on board with the approach. I reinforce the rules whenever they are needed – intensely for the first two or three weeks – and then as needed, which, if done properly in those first weeks, is hardly at all during the year.
So they have to listen and obey the rules. What do I have to concentrate on myself? These three things:
The Rules
With some Point and Pause in there as well. I teach the rules by circling and going slowly. That guarantees my success in reaching the kids with personally designed classes and keeping them in line all year.
I use the Circling with Balls activity primarily in those first weeks (described here on my site under resources/workshop handouts), but any form of comprehensible input will get the job done. It doesn’t matter. Pictures are great, as per Scott Benedict.
It all works. The main thing I try to do in keeping things simple there in the first few weeks leads to amazing things later! But, especially if the kids are coming from, as in my case, some pretty wild middle school experiences, and they are ninth graders, I really have to put that foot down there in the beginning of the year, but lovingly.
So, and I am thinking now of the teachers Liz trained in Columbia this past week, instead of getting all emotional about trying to get all that information into your classes next year, take it slowly. Go down to the banks of the Congaree and hang out. Go to the beaches. Enjoy that great state with some of the finest people I’ve ever met in it. Don’t worry so much.
Say something to the kids, teach them how to use the fist-in-open-hand move – credit Jason Fritze – speak to them about themselves in the simplest, slowest, most circled speach you have ever done or could ever imagine doing, then go even slower as per the Amy Teran Principle, throw in the rules as they are needed, and that’s it!
So now we get to all have a relaxing, carefree summer because we know that, really, starting the year off with comprehensible input methods is cake!



2 thoughts on “How To Have A Carefree Summer Even If You Are New To This Stuff”

  1. If teaching using the old way (grammar translation, frequent use of English) is of the mind, then teaching using Krashen’s ideas about comprehensible input is of the heart.
    Therefore, when we prepare for the year now by resting our circuits, perhaps it would be best for us and our students next year if we got closer to our heart center. In that way could we become the most effective, because CI is about human things, not just brain things.
    One of the reasons for the sadness is the little cutting some kid out of our heart because we mistakenly perceive that he or she can’t learn what we teach them. That is only true as our reality – it is not true in fact.
    All of them can learn a language, let it be clear. But it needs that heart piece, that reciprocality, that human playfulness. Then, only then, can Krashen’s ideas move into the hearts of both instructor and student, and real gains occur.

  2. Dear Ben,
    I am pretty new to this stuff, and since accepting a position at a K-8 school here in Maine in mid-June (teaching French to all 9 grades) for the upcoming year, I have been feeling overwhelmed. I will have a tremendous amount of teaching freedom in this school and I know that TPRS is the way to go, not only for the kids at this particular school, but for all kids I will have the honor to teach in years to come (let me mention that I am not a new language teacher either – 14 years teaching ESL, French and Spanish with a recent 3-year hiatus to raise a child). I have done so much reading on TPRS and so much thinking about it (so much so that I have had many sleepless nights!) and am presently watching your DVDs and reading your blog nightly. It is starting to gel for me, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am beginning to feel very excited and just so happy about teaching French again and about truly becoming a teacher of French as I have never been before! I had a “No way!” moment this evening when, after reading through Anne Lambert’s scripts, I did a search and discovered that she teaches two towns away from where I live! No way!
    I find myself being inspired daily and I thank you mille fois! The remainder of my summer is shaping up to be a lot more carefree.
    From the bottom of my teacher heart,

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