Jim Tripp On Planning

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13 thoughts on “Jim Tripp On Planning”

  1. Hi Jim. Can you tell us about your experience teaching Spanish with EL REY? What went wrong? Not trying find any egg on any face here. Just looking for what works or not.
    Here in our lab, we’re going less for Comprehensible and more for Compelling. How? Ask the learner to own the learning. How do you make these new words yours? How can you see/be yourself using these new words?
    EL REY. OK so who cares? Well, it’s like the unofficial National Anthem here in Mexico. 100 million people know this song. Why? What does it say? What’s the big deal?
    “con dinero y sin dinero, hago siempre lo que quiero”
    What structures make these words Comprehensible?
    * con/sin
    * quiere/no
    * siempre/nunca
    So what’s the plan? Should we PQA these structures? Hammer all around them until they are acquired by learners? Or is there a way to dial direct straight to the message?
    “with money and without money, i always do what i want”
    What structures makes this message Compelling?
    * have/not
    * important/not
    * happy/not
    Personally, if I wanted to have a meaningful or interesting or compelling conversation about a message in a song, I’d focus less on the words and more on what they say. I’d especially zero in on any true feelings within the song.
    In EL REY, is the singer happy or not? Does he have money or not? Is money important or not?
    Blaine taps into this message in Pobre Ana. It’s so common for Gringos to visit Mexico and see people here having less stuff but more happiness. For me, this message is so compelling. It makes me want to learn more Spanish and live in Mexico.
    “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
    If language learning makes us happy, then how do we get it? By teaching words and structures that we feel like we need to teach? Or by asking about messages that learners care about?

  2. Good final question Duke. Personally, that’s what I try to do in class, but in my experience, doing it at a beginner stage of language with REAL issues doesn’t go anywhere. For me, it is too hard to really discuss without going to English, or having everyone just get frustrated and really want to just go to English. When we (my students and I) start talking about non-fiction (in less-motivated, beginner classes) it dies out. Show me how to do it, without getting too real with them (which is unfortunate?), in a way they can understand and respond to, without getting bored.
    With El Rey, I wouldn’t say that anything “went wrong.” The kids learned the song, the message, the feelings of good ole’ Vicente (who couldn’t after watching his live performance), the language in it, they just didn’t like the song. When I talked to a senior who I gave a cd with 20 of the songs we listened to over the last couple years, her joking-on-the-square comment was “you could have left EL REY off of it.” I know that the other kids feel this way about it. BUT, if I said a word in Spanish they weren’t real familiar with yet, they didn’t know it, and then I sung a snippet of the song that contained that word, the light would go off. They simply didn’t get into the song, even after I told them that everyone in Mexico love it. It was more of a joke with them.
    I also want to lead them to the sea (desire to learn Spanish), and it is a struggle to do that in our school setting, but I honestly don’t think talking about how the singer is feeling or what the singer wants/doesn’t want is going to create a paradigm shift in their attitude or make them acquire more language.

  3. I think this is an interesting point. There is an obvious imbalance between cultures and how they are perceived from each side. Mexican students often idealize (is that the right word?) American music and artists. They are very interested in knowing the meaning of lyrics and all sorts of things about the songs and who sings them. Look at their t-shirts, clothing, hairstyles. This has been true for generations.
    This same scenario (al revés) is a much more rare phenomenon among American teenagers. Few (yes, there are some) think it was the height of cool to know songs in Spanish. They may like the music and learn the songs willingly (albeit at our behest), but they usually are not seeking them out, begging strangers to help them with the lyrics, mimicking the artists’ voices (with pride), trying to look like the artists, etc. as we often see South to North.
    Thank you, colonization and NAFTA. My two cents.

  4. oops =) i wish i could take that silly post back. What I imagined from what you described to me with EL REY was maybe the kids got bored doing 3 weeks of activities on one song (which they hated to start with). I, too, have tried drilling deep down into one song and ended up sunk: too many words, not enough context to keep up interest.
    I’m not sure if this is applicable to your context, but what we’re doing now is talking about one or two songs per hour: drilling into the message, getting comfort talking about the most basic story. We’re not after wide vocab, but rather some minimal conversational fluency within very narrow bounds. Hence, our focus on problems, wants and feelings. Simple.
    No epic paradigm shift, we’re just trying to see how listening to songs and talking about them can help us learn language. What I’ve learned so far from the twext part is that input made comprehensible goes only so far. Circling Q/A within a tiny playing field really helps the key messages stick. If the playing field centers on feelings, then people can relate. Easy.
    Again, I have zero context in public education classrooms; so far I’m dealing with small classes which include, for the most part, motivated students. Dealing with students who don’t wanna learn is something I don’t really have to deal with at all, so I’ll shut up now. Except to say thanks to all you real great teachers who make the formerly dull subjects rock. You rule!

  5. Duke, I really appreciated your explaining your approach to songs–it’s very beneficial. The process of creating compelling input is one of the key pieces of TPRS and one of the elusive ones at that. Every little bit helps. Plus the cultural info and the song are helpful. Those bits about El Rey and the heart of Mexico are valuable to this culturally deprived Spanish teacher. (I learned Spanish in OH and PA–not many cultural connections there…)

  6. No worried Duke. I might have said that the kids were getting bored of the “song”, because they were. They didn’t like it, as I said. But I don’t think they were getting bored with the activities (or any more than can be expected after 1.5 hours every day), which was basically different forms of CI. Most of the “activities” we did weren’t even based on the song, except for when we’d listen/cloze, listen/gesture, or translate lyrics. Most of it was PQA and stories, using the language from the song, so that they could hear/read it in one context and hear/read it in the song. I think I was going for more “comprehensible” than was necessary. In the future, I think I will focus on just a couple main structures from the song to use during other CI (stories/pqa) and spend less time with the song, maybe a week. But I do like to spend at least a week, for now anyways, because it lets us get into the artist/song and not rush the correlating CI. That’s why I like the idea of twexting the lyrics… less time on the translating in class as a group, more time with auditory CI, therefore less opportunity for downtime English in the classroom. All that should mean more L2 acquisition. But it’s all a work in progress…

  7. Glad you still wanna check out twexting Jim. Hopefully it’ll help y’all get gists, save time and cut to chase. I’ll have a printable quick intro to a bunch of songs en Español linked to a youtube playlist pretty soon. Here’s one cheezy song I just love: http://escuelaschool.com/doc/LO.PASADO%2C.PASADO .
    Jody, you’re right. It’s weird how powerful Hollywood is. Sooner than later though, there’ll be more and more disintermediated dialog between kids across borders, so possibly maybe hopefully it may be that USA kids will start getting to know and like and identify with musical expressions in other cultures. They’re rich.

  8. Jody and Duke, after a conversation with Duke last year, I put aside my favorite Russian folk songs–all the ones that Russians sing when they get together–and gave the kids an assignment to find great Russian songs on line, put the lyrics through a translator to make sure there wasn’t anything obviously bad for class, then do their best to clean up the translation, and finally send me the link to the video and both sets of words. We got some great songs, and there was high attention every time I pulled out a new song. Many of the kids started collecting Russian songs on their ipods and even their phones, and it’s become cool, at least in my classes, to be able to say they’re listening to Russian music. I never would have thought it possible–and indeed, it wouldn’t have been if not for the Internet. Now I’m newly inspired to have more conversations about the songs, given the ideas above.

  9. Interesting topic…. I’ve resorted to using the refrains from songs since they hit structures that can be more compelling and the melody helps them stick in their heads because we can sing it together too.
    Apply the refrain to a personal situation and draw a picture for it, make a story about it. More advanced students can sometimes do a stanza or two as well depending on the complexity of the language.
    I also, for example, used the video clip by Kelly Clarkson where she trashes her ex’s place, without the music first and we talked about why she was doing it, what had happened to make her so mad and then looked at the lyrics and finally the music. I also had a little reading about her as well.

  10. Michelle, how great to hear the kids get into finding their own tunes and songs. And that plenty of those songs are safe for the classroom. Like you say, thanks to the Internet.
    Speaking of which, did your students connect with L1 Russian native peers learning English? If so, how did that go?
    Another question: did students show any interest in twexting the songs they like? It sounds like now you have a nice collection of songs, lyrics and translations. Great! Aligning the translations by the chunk (twext) is so very simply easy now.
    Theory: Get peers online exchanging songs they like, twexting lyrics, explaining them to each other, emoting and bonding, then step back and watch what happens.
    Practice: Jim aims to test this in the Fall. Thanks, Jim =) I’m quite committed to support any such test, and wanna work with anyone who’s into this. Here are the steps:
    * learn how to twext (20 minute skype w/ me)
    * get a sister class (L1L2 online exchange)
    * choose A) student-wanted B) class-safe songs
    * twext the lyrics (students can easy easy)
    * fix each others’ twexts
    * talk about liked/unliked songs, themes, artist
    * what are they saying? problems, advice etc.
    skype: dukecrawford
    Carol, how cool you show the video first, establishing a whole dramatic visual non-verbal context. Talk about front-loading, wow =) I too am finding that kids wanna know gossip about the artist singing the song. Sounds like Jim puts artist faces up on the wall and kids like that. Andy Warhol says a perfect picture needs two things: 1) be of somebody famous and 2) be in focus.

  11. I like Carol’s approach too.
    Duke, we’re working on the class exchange thing, but Internet access for our partner school is not ideal, for a variety of reasons. So that might not work just yet. But I’ll be really interested in how Jim’s experiment goes, because I think it will be really strong. Last year, we had exchange students who carried out that role, and the only problem was the arguments that kids got into as they figured out the subtleties of both languages…I would have preferred that those arguments happen out of class.

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