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45 thoughts on “Image”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    If it’s not allowed then I spent my entire childhood as an outlaw – almost every report card said that I was nice but spent my time daydreaming…the Shapiro legend goes that once there was a small kitchen fire at my house and the fire dept came w/sirens and the works, but even though I was there, I ‘missed it’ cuz I was daydreaming…

    1. And look at the result of all that dreaming. If there is not a more practical force in education these days than you, Alisa, I wouldn’t know who it is. You are changing lives with your open ended vision, which ironically may just be the result of all that dreaming. It’s funny how the world works….

  2. Well yeah. The fear of this image often results in teaching making students make products like projects, reports, models, partner to partner talk, games, unrealistic output etc…

    I have had students who are bored from doing the same thing over and over. Some of these students were super engaged in the beginning of the year then… boredom. Where is the line to be drawn between entertainment and doing stories or the other menu items? I rather have an ocasional off day of them interacting in L1 than to force a story or an MT or an SL etc… Suggestions? My students are dropping out of French and doing traditional Spanish.

    1. I’d have a pocketful of activities in hand ready to go – SL, special chair, OWI, picture talk, verb slam, three ring circus, write and discuss, dictée, stories, nonfiction lectures on culture, Le Petit Journal Francophone to read and discuss. Then after whatever activity have them summarize in L1. My French class that thinks we never learn anything likes to summarize. Shows them hey I understood a lot. Maybe give kids time at the very end to keep a metacognitive dictionary. Words and other things I learned about the language.

      1. Full disclosure again. Never did a metacognitive dictionary in world language. Just in ELA and SS. But I had so many ELLs it was like a language class too.

    2. …my students are dropping out of French and doing traditional Spanish….

      Well what do you expect when you take a human being who has been allowed to become a robot and then you challenge them to be a human being again? It’s not so easy for them. Why work (read: be human) in a classroom when you can avoid having to look your teacher in the eye?

      We need to talk about this in Portland. It is more important to keep your job. So then we have to look at your options. You are a talent. Time to move to a place where they want what you offer?

    3. Steven,
      Are you sure they are switching from CI to “traditional”? Are they possibly switching from perceived irrelevance (who speaks French?) to perceived relevance (everybody speaks Spanish)?

      1. Steven,

        Groups change. Just when you think you are on a roll with how to do CI another group comes along that thinks it has to have worksheets, rules, and lists. They claim they have not learned anything. I cannot do fill-ins. For me grammar is meaning. I call preterite “complete past” and give a quiz on “she went, she ate, she drove, she made, etc.” Ten is a good number. Enough to make them tired of grammar. Enough so that people think they are learning grammar. They are being measured by people outside of the class: What are you learning? The people outside of the class have a different system of measurements. We are measuring depth. They are measuring velocity. So if we give them some gems they can point to, they may be perceived to be mile markers and everybody can feel like the students are learning something: the administrators, guidance, their other teachers, their parents, and their friends. So from the feedback around them (What? You don’t even know -o, -as, -a, -amos, -an?) they think have learned nothing. There is nobody to ask, Do you know any stories? Have you done any OWIs? Are you reading five-sentence stories? How are your timed- writings? What stood out to you on your dictado? etc. What is your favorite movie-talk? Have you learned to tell your teacher when he is not clear? Can you say it in Spanish or do you use signals?

        As I wrote these questions just now I felt I was developing an auto-assessment…a CI approach to the much-lauded Can-Do. My principal’s only suggestion from the observation was to consider “essential questions” and these might be a comfortable step (for me) in the direction he is thinking. Thanks.

        1. Nathaniel you wtote, “They are being measured by people outside of the class: What are you learning? The people outside of the class have a different system of measurements. We are measuring depth. They are measuring velocity. So if we give them some gems they can point to, they may be perceived to be mile markers and everybody can feel like the students are learning something: the administrators, guidance, their other teachers, their parents, and their friends.” This is it!

          Then in your post below are you saying that we should throw them a bone or two to feel good? My principal suggested the same thibg because they are “grade mongers”… gifted kids

          1. “Throwing a bone to make them feel good.?”

            Either enough to make them happy about it, enough to feel like they are getting whatever world about them says they should be getting, or enough to make them tired of it, depending on the personality of the student.

            In an anonymous student survey, two (of 24) asked for more worksheets. Others asked for Kahoots. So I asked if anyone would prepare a Kahoots. One student did. So we honored her by playing Kahoots. I asked if someone could prepare a worksheet for use…no takers for that one yet.

          2. I had a group of very high intelligence 8th graders who had rolled up verb charts and smoked them for class and when they met me they kept saying, “We learn better with worksheets.” By the end of the year the sixth graders in “beginning” level French were noticeably better than the 8th graders. It’s because the latter group took my mojo away. We can’t fight it. I like what you are doing, Nathaniel. Anyone want to prepare a Kahoots class? No? OK, but if you want to you can. We can’t fight them. We can only work with our first year students and try to stay with them as long as we can, like in Waldorf education.

    4. Steven,
      It seems like the best experiences can be with students who signed up for language and got “traditional.” So I gave them language, readings, songs, proverbs, chatting, limited/frequent chunks of meaning for vocab, expressions to use in class. They went from not understanding spoken/written language to understanding. They had fun. They appreciated what they had because they had experienced language poverty and preferred language richness. I wonder if some of those who know nothing but CI, might could use a good shot of grammar to help them appreciate what they have.

  3. Robert Harrell

    Lovely piece of passive-aggressive writing, Ben. (And I will call you out on that one. I grew up with one very passive-aggressive parent, and I know the drill.)

    1. Explain that comment. I’m interested and probably others are as well. So let’s air it out. It’s why this blog is private. I hope we go back far enough to fight this out fair and square here. If I need to apologize to you I will, but if not I won’t.

      1. Robert Harrell

        Okay, but it’s necessary to list the steps.
        1. You posted a cartoon without comment.
        2. Neal objected to the cartoon.
        3. I supported his objection but also explained that the PLC does not deal this way with the members.
        4. You replied that this is your blog and you can post what you want – which is entirely true.
        5. You posted the image with the question “Is this allowed?”

        Since you had already established that this is your blog, and you can post what you want, asking this question comes across as another dig at Neal and me, It’s passive-aggressive because on the surface it seems to be asking what is allowed, but we already know that you determine what is allowed. You aren’t really asking if the picture is allowed – a picture that it would be hard to object to in the first place (non-political, no objectionable words, no re-purposing of a beloved childhood character); you are “putting Neal and me in our place” but masking it under “a simple question”. That is classic passive-aggressive behavior.

        You can apologize or not as you see fit. I have always been and remain your friend.

        1. No need for me to aplogogize. I went through some old emails early this morning and found this image. One of my boys sent it to me. I never once associated that “image” post, not for a second, with what you or Neal said. That is the truth.

          So you read something in there that wasn’t there. So no apologies needed for you or Neal. However, now, not connected to the “image” email, I offer my apologies to you both for lecturing you as I did. I shouldn’t have done that.

          You guys were just making a point. Honestly, I took offense because I question Trump. I mean, when one thinks about some of the things he has said, and then I get the cartoon adminishment” from you, that’s a bit whack. The thing is, why are you calling me out and why am I calling you out?

          1. I guess in the end there are two ways to look at life. We either love and accept each other entirely, or we don’t. The latter option is characterized by judging each other. It’s the “L’enfer, c’est les autres” of Sartre. So sad. For me it’s “Le Parads, c’est nous autres.” We help each other get through it, the hardest profession of all. Nice to argue once in a while. But openly.

  4. So, in my school, we are starting Dual Credit next year through a major university. The syllabus has been imposed on us. The curriculum is basically thematic units with a grmmar syllabus that is basically Spanish 1-4 in one year.

    My colleague (she transitioned to teaching with CI the same time I did) has been tasked with teaching this class because she is the only one in our department with an MA in Spanish. We were looking at the syllabus again together today and it’s super-restrictive. It’s also disappointing because some of her underclassmen in Spanish 4 are looking forward to Dual Credit thinking that it’s going to be CI.

    Is there a way to make it work with CI?

    What I’m thinking is: 1) limit vocab 2) Let kids do grammar at home if the university requires us to do that. 3) Do tons of PQA 3) Do embedded readings based on the authentic resources 4) Work advanced structures from the textbook (i.e. subjunctive) into Matava and Tripp scripts. 5) Do Bill VanPatten style structured input activities
    6) Find MovieTalk-able videos based on the thematic units 7) Use Martina Bex resources 8) Work in persona especial to the curriculum and slightly change the questions to reflect the vocab of the thematic unit we are required to be in at that given time.

    This is possibly a heresy to even ask this but….do you think things like One Word Image and Storylistening COULD work within a thematic unit? I know the whole point of these activities is that they are NT. What I’m saying though is that……is there some way to work the thematic vocab into them just for the CYA factor?

    We are in contact with another TPRS school which does Dual Credit through this same university and they have made it work, only thing is the university wanted to see more grammar from them.

    I have basically all of Ben’s books now and am going to go hardcore on reading them this summer. Which book would be most applicable? The Big CI book?

    1. Greg wrote:

      …is there some way to work the thematic vocab into them just for the CYA factor?…

      Not in my experience.

      We are covering our asses quite well with NT. We’re just not doing it the way the admins (most of whom know nothing about how languages are acquired) think it should be done. If this is true, and it is, then other people in the system in our districts and buildings need to take a long look at what the research says and stop this abomination of thematic units, which do not work except in memorization settings and I think we have enough years (at least 100) in that domain to know that kids who study languages wearing semantic set strait jackets never really come close to learning the language because they forget the words.

      It is not our problem, and yet we accept that it is our problem and that we are the ones who need to change. But we are the ones trying to change it and we are simply not getting any help from the people who are supposed to be helping us. Greg, you and Jeff right there are both department chairs. What is your role in this? Sorry, getting snarky but man I am so tired of classroom teachers having to learn this new and very elegant way of teaching and at the same time convince the very people who are supposed to be FACILITATING REFORM in our schools about what we are doing just so we can keep our jobs!

          1. Something tells me that my colleagues are split on whether or not they would want me to be.

          2. Yes, but in my particular school a department chair is not a dictator. I came to CI 1.5 years ago. We have others in the department who although they are not the chair, have seniority. We MIGHT have a job opening but getting a good CI candidate is hit or miss.

            The Dual Credit program opened by my school in various disciplines is a partnership between our school and the university. Unfortunately we follow their rules for this course. It’s more restrictive to AP in this case. They have a cooperating professor that comes in a few times per semester to oversee the course.

          3. Sean M Lawler

            So, this Dual Credit course is more restrictive to AP? If so, then it’s like an accelerated course for students to perform well on the AP? We’ve had some discussions here about how CI best prepares kids for the AP tests. Robert has lots of experience and success with his kids taking the AP test. I forget who else.

            Ultimately, it sounds like the conflict lies in the disconnect the Dual Credit foreign language auditors (I’d love to be able to call them educators) have in regards to second language acquisition knowledge. You really don’t know how they are going evaluate your instruction, right?

          4. This is so true, the term “auditors” as Sean uses it below. I see no snark in it. It’s very accurate:

            … the Dual Credit foreign language auditors (I’d love to be able to call them educators)….

          5. Hi Sean,

            All Dual Credit means is you take this course during your senior year of high school. You are enrolled in the high school AND in the university. If you pass the course, you get the college credit (equal to a 104 level class). No AP test, you are guaranteed the credit.

            A teacher who is no longer at our school was originally going to teach this course and the syllabus that was approved is based on a textbook.

            We will find a way to make it work. If anything we will be gathering good data about how to go about this. We might try to work an advanced novel from TPRS publishing in there. The kids in the class are the highest processors in the school so it will probably look at bit more NT than other levels. That’s what I envision anyway.

            We will test the waters with the professors that come into visit as to how open to SLA they are. Hopefully, when BVP’s book comes out in the summer we can share that with them since it will have the ACTFL stamp on it.

          6. …they have a cooperating professor that comes in a few times per semester to oversee the course….

            One day someone will write somewhere that the university has “a cooperating classroom teacher who comes in to the university a few times per semester to oversee the re-training of the university professors” and it won’t be so odd-sounding as it is now.

          7. Sean M Lawler

            Wow. What a study! Good luck, Greg, on trying to squeeze in some CI during your Dual Credit curriculum. Hopefully it doesn’t drain your energy. Please don’t let it drain your energy 🙂

    2. Yes Greg and I apologize for my purist views on who is responsible to change the curriculum (not us!). But you are in a very difficult position and I should respect that. You have to lead your teachers in one direction and another at the same time. Denver Public Schools and Poudre Schools as well here in Northern CO use the Big CI Book to train their teachers. Emeka just told me that they are using it in her district in Kalamazoo, MI as well. It is because it comes closest to bridging the gap. Teacher whose hands are tied report to me and Teacher’s Discovery that that book allows them to meet curricular demands and use CI. So I am happy to hear that. I wouldn’t want to try using the Big CI Book in combination with meeting the demands of the curriculum, but I am glad it is working for some people.

      Pls. keep us posted on how this all pans out next year. I hope you are getting paid the big bucks as dep’t. chair and I am not kidding, because your work is going to be challenging. How big is your department? That could really be a factor, and another question I have is if there is “that one person” who in true dinosaur fashion doesn’t even want to hear the first word about CI. THOSE people could cause a person to grab their coat and run out of the building to find a watermelon farm where they could do some seed spitting and not have to work so hard….

      1. Ben. I am trying to organize a meetip with local teachers. I see myself recommending the big CI book because really they are very eclectic and like to add and add… no true CI dedication but i hope that will change by demoing in French.

  5. Greg,
    1) Notice that the 13 questions used to build the one word image cover the concepts of a lot of book curricula. They are packaged in nice, easy to forget chapters. I have a section in Sp3 Avancemos which deals with professions. Ben has “jobs.” So everyone has a profession/job for their invisible. Professions words are either similar to the NT job choice or they are different. So they can be contrasted and compared. So-and-so is a seed-spitter at a watermelon farm. But his guidance counselor thought he should be a (fireman). These are kids with more language, so they can have their creative job and the traditional profession that the personality test recommended for them. So you have a combination of NT and T1. (T1 in the sense that it comes from the curriculum and they have to choose from one of those.)

    So what are the thematic units? Btw, are these really thematic units, like a paella party (in which all vocab and grammar is chosen to support the production and consumption of paella)? Or are they topical lists of vocabulary (36 professions, 17 fruits and 13 vegetables, 12 types of stores, etc)? I am guessing the latter, although it may have a combination.

    So design the description of you OWI /invisibles to include a word from each of the topics. That way you bring the topic vocab item into the real communicative contexts. Choose a favorite vegetable, pet, etc.

    Since they are doing this for college credit, you might have them be responsible for the vocab lists on their own. Ben did that years ago.

    2 More grammar meaning…? Does this mean they want the students to know the verb forms?
    What are they looking for and how would they know that the students had more grammar?
    Verb forms are vocab items. The brain extracts the grammar info it needs. Verb are not naked verbs. They are dressed up in complements. E.g., “conozco” (I meet=get to know) is an incomplete thought. I cannot just meet/get to know. I meet/get to know someone. So “Lo conozco” is the simplest chunk of meaning.

    I am not saying that I understand fully or am expressing accurately where Ben is leading here. I am just throwing a few thoughts out there for consideration.

    1. Greg, you have a good plan. Its going to take work but the CI will be compromised with yoir restrictions. The issue is having to balance how much of the vocab you will put into your activities. It can go from subtle to “oh crap he’s putting way too many words, i cant understand and i wont say i dont because u can handle this.” So slow and steady is still key. I would have students aware of grammar type lingo AFTER the CI. SL can definitely help but its all about the content being compelling.

      1. Thanks for the ideas! I’m not actually teaching this course, my colleague is, but I’m the department chair. Luckily for the courses I am teaching I have complete freedom.

        In regards to the grammar for this course. Yes, the university (or at least I’ve heard) wants the drill and kill to be part of the course- take the infinitive, take off the -ar, add appropriate ending. Also preterite vs. imperfect subj vs. indicative. All of that usesless crap.

        1. Hey Greg,
          I know this is not the place for this, but…
          Our dept. chair position just yesterday became available at my school. I’m going to interview. Maybe we could talk about it via email?? If so my email is


          1. This is definitely the place for this Jeff – we can use it to network all day. Greg is department chair in Mundelein so you are very close.

    2. …I am not saying that I understand fully or am expressing accurately where Ben is leading here. I am just throwing a few thoughts out there for consideration….

      I don’t understand either Nathaniel. I just know it works and I have always been one to look for raised energy and engagement and that is where I have always gone. The images and jobs and the questions do that so I do it. Never thought it all out, just developed it each day in the direction of fun and glow and light and smiles, which I think should be our true indicators of success, vs. tests, in this work.

      I do think that in the above comment you touch on something that has great potential and that is how we can perhaps – in Venn diagram fashion – “hit” some of the thematic unit (nice point on them by the way) vocabulary to make it look like we are structured and covering the words but really not. I don’t even know if that makes sense but I can’t think about it too much because while you all are in there slaving away I need to get out on a clear Colorado day in the 70’s on my road bike. (Retirement is worth it, y’all, if you can survive to get there.)

      Tina is putting together a section of our summer workshops on “Cycles of Instruction and Assessment” (to make what we do with the Invisibles look like a curriculum). If she pulls it off it will be a coup. Can you imaging, laying to rest the war between the sheep and the flowers (the school honchos and our work). How cool would that be?

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