It Ain't Stickin'

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7 thoughts on “It Ain't Stickin'”

  1. Go on. It’s not like you are going to stop using those phrases. They will get their bazillion reps. Instead of teaching for June, you are teaching for December with this group. Keep offering them opportunities for success. Every moment that you can. If necessary, adjust requirements (write 3 sentences instead of 10, use notes during a quiz) but keep them in the game as long as they are interested in playing. Having them in your class will be a gift for you all…you’ll see.
    with love,
    Laurie

  2. I wonder if maybe they understand, but are not yet ready to produce something that shows you that they understand. Could you try a completely different way of testing their comprehension? If you say the sentence and they demonstrate some kind of recognition, that should be enough.
    And once the rest of the class has mastered the structure, could you play a song that has the same structure, to give the ones that need it additional reps? And move on with the class. Just thinking out loud here.
    Judy

    1. …I wonder if maybe they understand, but are not yet ready to produce something that shows you that they understand. Could you try a completely different way of testing their comprehension…?
      Kevin when you come over to Lincoln soon we can talk about this. I feel that is has to do with what Judy says here. How are you testing them?
      Now, if in fact what you said here is true:
      …we have done the building-block phrases “le gusta” and “quiere tener” a gazillion bazillion times in class, both orally and in print, and it’s just not sticking. I can’t in good conscience slow things down any further….
      then we are in an entirely different scenario. I have had kids like that. This opens up an entirely new discussion. I’ll ramble on that right here before Tim Tebow Time vs. Miami:
      So you are referring to a few kids who, no matter what you do in class, can’t seem to grasp what is going on. The question immediately becomes, “At what point does the kid who can’t learn need to be invited out of that learning environment?
      Kevin, you could try making deposits of positive energy as per Susie Gross. You could try that all day, but if the kid can’t learn, the kid can’t learn. It doesn’t matter if the reason the kid can’t learn has roots in their emotional life or if the kid just doesn’t have the wiring. The fact is that some kids can’t keep up with the comprehensible input in our classrooms when others can.
      Personally, Kevin, I don’t think that it’s about a lack of proper intellectual wiring. I really do believe that we are all wired to learn languages easily. I think your kids can’t learn because of some other kind of interference, possibly interference of an emotional nature.
      Imagine a jar filled with ping pong balls. Each ball represents a deposit of love and positive energy from you to these few kids in the class who simply can’t keep up with the comprehensible input no matter how slow you go. Here you are, being as positive as you can with these kids, but, whoops, the kid’s own jar of ping pong balls is not made of positively charged ping pong balls so there is nothing reciprocated. Rather the ping pong balls in the kid’s far are made out of school fear, resentment, anger at others, feelings of being stupid from experiences in other classes over years, too many video games, sugar shock etc.
      Plus, the lid on the jar is sealed shut so that Kevin can’t even see all that stuff messing up the free pathways of acquistion that happen with kids who seem to have a more stable emotional/home life. It is interesting, isn’t it, that our best students in CI classes are rarely the smartest, they are always the ones with the highest levels of emotional trust with us, the highest emotional security. That is because what we do is reciprocal and participatory and all of our successes will depend on that back and forth aspect of learning, that back and forth kindness, which is a quality that is supremely important in language classrooms.
      So Kevin, as this ramble picks up speed, I am just suggesting that we can’t reach all our kids. I say that we have to convince the support teams in the school (administration, counseling) to actually do their jobs, which is to place kids in the best settings for them to learn, and to protect the overall learning environment in each classroom.
      I am not taking those kids’ inventory in your class here. I don’t know why they can’t learn. But the image of them not being able to learn at all, like it is some mystery because the method we use is so strong – it really is – could have something to do with that sealed jar. As stated above, I believe that with your kids, Kevin, it is emotional and that emotions are mysterious and somebody should write a PhD thesis on the role of emotions in preventing kids from learning.
      Again, if emotions trump the ability of a kid to learn in our CI settings, then we don’t need to know why. We see it happening, and we get the kids out of our classrooms. Yes, we should try to reach them. We try because, in my view, reaching them, loving those whom we cannot love, is a sacred oath that we have taken as teachers.
      But we also need to know when it’s not going to work. It’s o.k. to push for removing those kids from your classroom. In my view, as stated above, something emotional is going on that is going to keep that jar sealed all year. We reach some, we don’t reach others. There is just too much going on beyond what we can know, to reach them and teach them a language. And we also need to let go of the idea that we can force ourselves to be all things to all people. We are just language instructors.

  3. Thanks for the advice so far, everyone.
    Both of the students that I’m concerned with are absolutely delightful young people, and I have a great relationship with both of them. I would kind of doubt that the issue is emotional (although there might be some things going on that I’m unaware of). I think that it’s mostly a wiring issue–i.e. very short working memories.
    I had one girl come in after school so that I could see how capable she was of reading one of the simplest Blaine Ray stories we had been working with in class. She would read something and then two sentences later it was as if she was seeing the same phrase for the first time. As she encountered the phrase repeatedly as the story went on, she got slightly better (but only very slightly). I knew, however, that even that slight gain would disappear five minutes after she walked out of the room.
    I know that mnemonic devices and other linking vocabulary tricks can help the brain to capture words more easily, and I may suggest using some of these for her, but if other people have more suggestions of what I can do to help these kids out, I’d really appreciate it. We’re about to read a mini-novel, and I’m going to give both of them the book ahead of time so that they can have some reps with it before they come to class and have to interact with their peers. I’m also going to meet with them soon to see if they can understand things better than my assessment devices can measure. And thanks for the reminder, Laurie, to teach for June!
    Kevin

  4. You know that the girl you speak about has exactly the same short-term memory problems in English reading and may have been a late acquirer of her first language, English. I often find that if I listen very carefully to my low kids when they are speaking/reading English, I notice some pretty large deficits in vocabulary size and advanced syntax and structure in their language.
    One thing to remember, of course, is that reading in a foreign language is a huge burden on memory. As our brains try to extract meaning from the text, they must also remember it in order to make sense of the whole. I have taught Spanish to college-educated, successful, teachers who report to me that they had never noticed how difficult this skill was until THEY had to do it themselves while reading in Spanish. They were much more patient with their students after this experience. However, if this student is very far below the norm, you should definitely check it out with those staff who have specialized knowledge about the subject.
    If you work at a private school, there is probably extensive special education testing that has been done on this child, and she is likely receiving extra services from a spec ed teacher. It would be worth a long talk with that person about the strategies that are being used in her “regular” classes to help her retain information. If they haven’t tested her, share what you are noticing in your class.
    I have taught the kind of kids you describe every year that I’ve taught (30+ now). From my experience, meeting with them outside of class and reading one-on-one with them, if only for ten minutes every few days for awhile, will make a tremendous difference . Also, if they know you will be doing public comprehension checks (What did I just say?, Can you tell me what “x” means?, etc. And if they don’t know, How about if I repeat that. Which part is causing you trouble?, etc.) with them in class, about every five minutes, you will see big changes. (Arrange this in your private meetings.) It is my experience that these are not the kids raising their hands and calling out the answers. :-/
    One thing I have had to accept is that kids, with these particular profiles, are not at the top of their other classes either. It’s not likely that they will be at the top of your class either–BUT they are acquiring language–albeit more slowly than others in your classes. It is frustrating, at times, but you can be assured that they are acquiring more in your class than they ever would in a traditional class where learning is based upon memory tasks. Just imagine!

  5. I also ask that you review with them that the function of language is to put a picture in the hearts and minds of another person. Make sure that you have activities which encourage, especially at this level, their ability to PICTURE what is being said, not simply to translate in words. It will tap into completely different part of the brain!!
    with love,
    Laurie

  6. For the rest of the group who may not know Jody and Laurie, they are two of the doyennes/masters of the approach we use. Jody is in California and Laurie in New York. Jody went right to the reading thing, and Laurie to the idea of creating a picture in the kid’s mind. Before my harangue about dropping kids above, I should have asked if they WANT to succeed. That kind of has a role in the discussion. I personally have had so many students like this who showed no desire and almost tried to guilt me into thinking that they weren’t succeeding because of my instruction. Anybody have any experience with that one? But Kevin since you say it is more a wiring thing, I think that we should pursue this thread. Hopefully we do. It’s huge. Any kid who wants to succeed in our classes should succeed, with no exceptions.

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