More On Planning

In talking about planning classes, Jim said:
“You have to use those assigned structures in CI that will be interesting enough for the student to listen to you, and be able to change things up enough to not lose their attention…the less we plan…perhaps the better we will become at the art of CI.”
This is truly an art form – to not be so prepared that we squelch the interest out of our lessons because we make no room for personalization and spontaneity – both of which, in my view, are required for true acquisition to occur. We really do lose our kids when we are too prepared.
But we can’t be too loose, either. There has to be balance. In that interest, I have committed to memory a loose but not too loose order of events that I will follow each week next year. I will know what to do first, and then what to do next, without flailing. There will be a flow to my week next year, and I won’t have to think once about what to do next. It will all happen naturally, but it will have a form to it.
It will be flexible. If I get “into” any one thing in class, as happens a lot when we are using a TPRS story, it allows me to stay right there and milk it for all I can get out of it without feeling the need to go on to “the next thing”. The next thing is there waiting for a lack of energy to occur, so that the language/reading is always at least somewhat interesting to the kids.
The formula is, of course, primarily devoted to CI in the form of listening and reading – which alone in the first few years of study bring true acquisition. The flow of the week will have the qualities of a yoga flow of asanas. It will be a Salute to the Sun kind of week. Hopefully. Not having tried it out, there are no guarantees, but it needs to be tried out. I think it will work out pretty well. I will keep it in the loose spirit that Jim has identified in the previous blog entry, yet there will be structure.
Many of us, perhaps because all of this teaching using CI is so new and immense for us, tend to get too many ideas – the opposite of before – and we can get overwhelmed by all of them.
As Thomas Merton said:
To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone with everything is to succumb to violence.  The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace.  It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
And make no mistake about it – we are activists, and, as such, we need to keep things in our classrooms simple and flowing and interesting if not compelling, and not frenetic, as per Merton. We must not destroy the fruitfulness of our own work. We mustn’t flail around – there is too much to lose right now in these very early years of the change.



2 thoughts on “More On Planning”

  1. Ben, there’s another revolution at work when we move toward CI: the need for content competence. This may subconsciously be the cause of much of the resistance to TPRS/CI. Under the old paradigm I can teach foreign language like I teach math or history. If my skills are uncertain, I need only stay “one chapter ahead” of my students. Under the new paradigm of CI teaching (personalized, pursuing class interests, planned in broad outlines), I have to know my subject (the language, not linguistics) well enough to deal with basically anything that arises. I also have to be confident enough to admit when I don’t know something.
    I think a great deal of resistance comes from people who don’t have the content-area skills necessary for CI and are unwilling to do what it takes to get them. (There is no sin in being ignorant, just in deciding to remain so.)

  2. Well said, Robert, and, to extend the point a bit further, we see teachers with great language skills resist what we do as well. On those folks, I think it is the predictability you refer to:
    …under the old paradigm I can teach foreign language like I teach math or history…”.
    that keeps them from diving off the board. How easy! It just doesn’t work, is the problem. They’ll get that one day, when too many kids trained with Krashen based methods start running circles (what a great expression) around their kids. It’ll be one of those tipping point moments, and then everyone will be not just talking about speaking the target language in the classroom, they’ll be trying to do it!

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