Looking Back on 2014-2015

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.



15 thoughts on “Looking Back on 2014-2015”

  1. I think the 2013 iFLT videos were extremely helpful, have the ones from 2014 been posted?
    As far as the amount of TL in the classroom goes, I would love to be able to stay at 99%. I believe it’s the way to go. I try as much as I can, but like you said in the other post it’s mostly about growing a spine.

    1. I am glad you said that. I did a workshop in Raleigh a month ago and as I was doing demos of various things I found that I could not get out of 15 years of habit of using English where I didn’t need to. I am convinced that if we get to a point where we want to use L1, we have to stop ourselves and if it really must be explained then we explain it in the TL and pick up where we left off later, no matter how long it takes us to clarify whatever it was. The thinking is so new and different. I never heard it stressed or even discussed at conferences (“it” being the received vague idea of 90% which is really 70% vs. 99% staying in the TL). I am very concerned because either we are going to agree on this or not. I mean, I will try anyway but it would be nice if we could agree on the overall point instead of letting it fade out like it did last time.

    2. They are still not edited. It takes a long time. I agree they are useful. This site was originally intended to feature videos of us doing good, bad, in-between teaching. People stopped sending in video petty much. I do get that it is really a lot to ask, to get the courage up, set up the camera, get the releases, get a decent class on film and then upload some of it so we can click on the link here. We do have some good video overall in the Videos hardlink, at least, from some brave souls, collected over the years.

      1. On the topic of videos, Ben — you were collecting blog URLs. Maybe also collect YouTube and/or Vimeo channels by those in the group? I’ve found a few and I bet there are a lot more out there I don’t know yet.

  2. Bryan Whitney

    For me, most of the time I do stay at 99% target language, but the really hard part for me is keeping students in the target language (particularly for the 1st and 2nd year students). The way that I keep in the target language is:
    1. Plan, plan, plan- I usually have instructions and key vocabulary that I know I’m going to need to use on Powerpoints (along with visuals when possible)
    2. Use gestures (I really like the AIM gestures because it’s systematized)
    3. Use visuals and/or props
    4. Act it out and/or have students act it out
    5. Write target language with translations on board
    6. Circle, circle, circle (I’m still working on this…)
    7. Make posters for language you use all the time for instructions and such (I think this could be done for: “What did I just say?” and “What does such and such mean?”) Then you just laser point it or point at it when you need to.
    These are just some thoughts. It’s definitely a battle!

    1. …It’s definitely a battle!….
      Sometimes I wonder if it can be done. But based on what I know about how people learn languages, I see no option. It’s like school is just such an awkward and stilted and maddeningly messed up place to try to deliver comprehensible input to the unconscious minds of our often disinterested students who have been made that way by the buildings they are in. We definitely are swimming uphill. But it’s so cool when we see what this approach can do!

  3. I am still trying to figure out how to deal with the reality that whenever I get onto a discussion topic that is engaging, there is an immediate rash of L1 throughout the classroom. Usually I wait for it to die down and then re-initiate L2, but within a couple of sentences, there’s the L1 again. It’s a huge culture shift for kids, when they’re talking about the best place in town to get ice cream or whether they like to wear shorts in the winter or where they ate on Saturday night and with whom, to not break into a hundred separate commentaries in L1. But I am taking the long view on this. the first steps are my own self-discipline, constant reminders about the rules, and also, no matter how perfect a discussion topic their L1 blurt might have been, I have to let it go by because if I jump on it and go with it, then the message to them is that it’s okay to blurt in L1. I think maybe if I put those gems in a notebook then I can bring them back in L2 down the road.

    1. It’s a problem for us all and involves our own resolve not to allow the blurting. We have two categories to read in here on the PLC:
      I would also suggest that we look into the possibility of simply not allowing them to speak during the time the light is on or you are doing the Ten Minute Deal or however you do that. It can’t be an option for them. If indeed they blurt like that, then maybe we should consider allowing them neither language. You have described what in my mind is the #1 issue that we need to get control over in this work. There are no less important topics because when a kid blurts, it just rips the mind out of the place it needs to be to learn. We have to solve this one. There is no option. If the blurting piece is not addressed, we can’t make proper use of this wonderful tool that we have.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    One great way to aim for 99% is have a T/CI friend observe and write down only the English you use. Some of it is easy to address – like a repeated class instruction, i.e., “Show me juega [plays]” – clearly you have to teach/have a poster for “Show me.”
    Other sets of instructions can be internalized by thinking through the sequences at the beginning of the year, or before the 1st time you need them, and circling the instructions, and training the Ss. So on writing/drawing days, I pass out boards, markers and erasers. That’s 3 jobs right there, and I need to teach ‘pass out’/ ‘distribute’ as well as ‘collect and ‘put.’ Furthermore all the lil rules that go along with my activity need to be pre-circled and practiced. I think we have the idea that instructions in English is fastest, but sometimes they can be replaced in the TL:
    Divide your board into 6 sections, like this (model it on overhead)
    Number the parts, like this.
    Draw a small dragon painting a big unicorn at Starbuck’s in section 3.
    Next time you do a drawing activity, use less modeling…see if they get it…
    Hire an English Police boy/girl.
    The displayed time on task stopwatch/timer is effective and can reappear when the 10 or X-minute deal wanes…
    I hope to really hit these hard at the opening of the school year!

  5. I agree with maximizing L2 use. But since I’m skeptical that student L2 output leads to acquisition or skill, what is most important to me is getting the kids lots of L2 from the teacher. My opinion is that a kid mixing L1 and L2 does not do a kid any harm – language is about the message, not language as object, and any language can further that message, that is, if the kid is focused on the meaning in the message. So, I may be looking at this from a different perspective, but in practice, I want the same thing. By reducing student L1 blurting the teacher talks more in beginner classes and there is less temptation for a teacher to revert to L1. This will definitely depend on the student population in the class (age, level, etc.), which is why I prefer to say “aim for 90%+ L2.” And this stance requires the teacher be (“be” is subjunctive in English, right?!) already highly competent at making him/herself comprehensible in L2 and competent at creating ways for students to express themselves (a need we must satisfy if we want this to work), since I don’t want to merely silence kids for the class period.

    1. …language is about the message, not language as object, and any language can further that message, that is, if the kid is focused on the meaning in the message….
      Sounds like Krashen right there. My thing about that is that we don’t have enough minutes to lounge around in two languages, and most teachers lie when they say they are at 90% because they aren’t. They are 50% to 70% loungers and thus I press so hard here in our group for 99%.
      Another point: I do not think that going back and forth between languages necessarily harms anything (did Krashen say that?) but when you look at available instructional minutes we kind of need to stay in L2 if for no other reason than that one.
      I also think it is difficult to stay focused on the meaning when the learner’s brain is not sure which language is going to be used next. It kind of dilutes the interest, as it were, weakens the building.

  6. On the avoiding English/maximum TL use issue, I blogged about it back in February. I’m curious about the fact that’s the least-visited blog entry except for the most recent 2 posts. Apparently it’s not an issue felt as a need by as many people as (for example) a writing rubric or brain breaks which both have hundreds more hits. I just re-read the blog entry and I still like it: http://tprsforchinese.blogspot.com/2015/02/avoiding-english-use-with-classes.html
    Whatever I do to manage student use of L1/L2, I need to have joy about it, or I’ll get into a failure mindset that makes me stressed and unhappy. I also think the students know if I’m anxious and irritated about it, and it then becomes something they challenge even more. Like acquiring language, I think we can’t “need” the students to speak only TL or that “need” allows students to hold control over the teacher.
    But I will be using the Interpersonal Communication Skills rubric again as the heavier hitter, with parent follow-up early on, next fall. I’ve been given permission to count it 50% instead of the weak 30% that wasn’t enough yet. We’ll see. The culture of the school (as at my previous school) is one of students who know each other well, and are chatty and almost sibling-like with each other.

  7. So much of this goes back to two things:
    1. We teach children. They are verbal, social and impulsive. It is challenging to get this work in our favor, but thanks to all the sharing that teachers do, we are finding better and better ways to do it!
    2. Our students have been raised in a non-listening culture. We do not communicate/converse well. It is common practice to interrupt, argue, over-express, over-share etc.
    It is NOT part of their upbringing to share (even time and space), and certainly not to listen and to observe without jumping in to the situation/conversation. These are skills that we not only have to teach, but to help them to find ways in which they are important in life…not just to get a better grade in our rooms.
    with love,

  8. Great points about the social nature of children, Laurie. I like the way Hosler treats it. He hangs out with them in English, fine, everybody socializes, etc. but when he goes to L2 it’s all business. There was confusion about this point in mid-year and I think it is James who brought it up. Mea culpa for not being perfectly clear – when I say 99% I don’t mean 99% of instructional minutes in the TL – that is unattainable. I mean 99% of L2 time expressly spent in L2 with absolutely no L1, as per the Ten Minute Deal, minus very limited time spent socializing in L1.

  9. Diane, I look forward to reading what you wrote!
    Perhaps another reason we don’t see a lot of conversation on this point is simple an opportunity cost issue. Just getting to the 90% use, the radical-crazy notion suggested by ACTFL, can be difficult. Like you said Ben, we may say we’re doing 90, but that may be more like 75 or less even.
    That being said, I personally like the idea of shooting for 99% during explicit L2 time.
    I also like the freedom to use 5-10 minutes of my 90 min classes to do a read-aloud if I feel the need. This happens once every week or two, usually when the kids are wiggly-giggly-need-to-come-down-a-bit OR if something heavy has just happened in the school/community/world that makes business-as-usual hard to begin. I prefer an English read-aloud in moments like these. It makes the subsequent L2 so much easier for them to take in because it brings them to a more focused state, or in the case of heavy emotion moments, it lowers the affective filters. Plus, I almost always read related content (travel/culture/geography/linguistics/etc), like an essay from a Lonely Planet anthology, a chapter from a book like Inka Cola or Mother Tongue, or a magazine article. Plus plus, I really enjoy reading-aloud and my students always enjoy being read to.

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