Net Hypothesis 2

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23 thoughts on “Net Hypothesis 2”

  1. The counter argument to the above, of course, and one that I consider bogus, is that we need to teach those hard-t0-acquire structures as part of our responsibilities. The reasoning is that, since we have so little time, we have to cram the subjunctive and all those odd things into our lessons. It’s so unnatural to do that. Who says we have to do it? ACTFL? I don’t see that in what they say. They don’t specify structures that we have to teach. They just talk about proficiency.

  2. I want to clarify my question a bit.
    Although the structure I’m using as an example can be translated with the subjunctive, it’s common in English, and is acquired fairly early by native speakers. I perceive it as a tool that my students need in their language kits to get beyond an elementary level of expression. Of course, my situation is much different than yours. My students are in their fifth year of studying English, but they have (miraculously?) escaped the Net and are failing. A placement test would put them at the beginners’ level. I have three hours a week to convince them that they know more than they think they know and that they can understand and enjoy English. I do this with TPRS stories and English language films with English subtitles. Right now I’m using The Mighty, because they all can identify with two boys who are called Freaks and have no friends. In general, I choose structures to work on by seeing what’s missing in their fluency writing or when they try to say something in class. My first stories targeted “doesn’t have” because they had not learned to say this. That is, I’m not following a grammatical syllabus, but am trying to figure out what frequently used structures will help them the most in the limited time I’ll have with them, what will give the most dividends in making them proficient. If I was certain that I’d have the same students year after year, I could trust that The Net would get them all they needed, but next year these students will be with a different teacher with very different expectations. I’m not sure how the metaphor applies, but I’m plugging holes in leaky boats as fast as I can. I’m not explaining any grammar to them, but I am trying to be sure that they get enough repetitions of “he wants him to …” so that one day it’ll fall out of their mouths.

  3. since this is a protected space, I feel i am a bit freer to speak my mind. It seems to me that you are getting a bit too far out into Theory Land, Ben. Sometimes we have to give our kids the illusion of competence with certain structures. That is because we work within a system. Our students are expected to know certain structures like the subjunctive or they feel stupid and get placed lower than they should in the next level. And then they quit.

    Native children get 1,000’s of reps with subjunctive and subjunctive-like structures when their mamas tell them: “I want you to come over here”, “I want you to eat your mush,” “Don’t touch that”, “Don’t eat that” and on and on. Every day for years. We do not have that kind of time. We cannot get in that many reps. since I use the subjunctive a lot and I have focused on it with stories, it rolls out of the mouths of my level III students–even the low cognitive ones. It seems to me they got the reps and the CI because they heard it in the focused stories.

    I love the struggle of applying the theory in real life in real time with my real students.

    1. I’m glad to see some honest confrontational discussion, Bryce. I just don’t think that the subjunctive can be taught like that. To focus on the subjunctive in that way conflicts with what I have learned from Dr. Krashen in the quotes below in particular, picked from a recent post by Dr. Krashen on the moretprs list and sent over here from Robert this morning:

      “The Net Hypothesis says: Don’t worry about the subjunctive. Don’t try to include more than is natural and don’t avoid it. Students can tolerate a little “noise” (incomprehensible input) if the message is compelling. (They only need the ILLUSION of 100% transparency, that everything is clear and understandable) ..

      “Blaine focuses on transparent input for beginners and for very good reason. My friendly amendment: We want the illusion of complete transparency, the feeling that you understand everything.”

  4. Bryce that last statement was spot on! I am going to put that on my clipboard for roll this afternoon. I have been forgetting how to LOVE what I actually do. That LOVE comes from real connection with real students. I’ve been faking lately and I need to bring myself home to myself. Sometimes I just want to give up mid-struggle. Thank you!

  5. I don’t know if the following is going to be very clear or not but I am going to try.

    Could be that the net captures those little jewels of subjunctive that are used over and over again, but students don’t own the entire treasure chest? One of my sons had “If I were you…” in his repertoire at a very early age, but he didn’t have “If she were to go…” etc. My younger son didn’t get “if I were you..” until he was a lot older. Does each speaker/listener have the same mesh in their net or do some have finer and stronger mesh that keeps more in?

  6. Just taking some notes in a DPS learning lab with Annick Chen. She is doing a story for Diana and about 7 of us DPS teachers (we do this all the time in DPS – the best training by far is live):

    1. less than 2% English in the story (she had set this up with a day of PQA yesterday)
    2. since it’s Mandarin, she just plain goes slower. She goes at the speed we all need to adopt. I’m guessing a full second at least and sometimes three between utterances.
    3. She has her story writer, quiz writer, artist, and actors in place right now. Still in first location.
    4. Nice use of “What did I just say?” and “What does ____ mean?”
    5. Kids fully engaged. Seem to be having fun. Definitely not focused on the vehicle (Chinese language) and fully focused on the message. One kid just said, “Oh my God!” in English – it slipped out – because of something that happened in the story.
    6. Lots of emotional playing with the sounds of the words. This is her trademark, and Linda’s, if you have ever seen either of them teach.
    7. Some kid just put out about a five word answer to a question. This is a level 1 class. This stuff must work bc I have no idea what she is saying – Diana proudly does sitting in front of me. This entire class of tough urban Latino kids is having fun wanting to know what happens next.
    8. A kid in the back with his hair in the eyes just got it pinned back . He doesn’t like the clips so he is holding his hair up over his forehead with his hands. Annick said, “The eyes are the most important thing!” in a very positive way.
    9. I note here how absolutely positive she is the entire time. The kids are being brought to her high level of cheerfulness. These are kids whose parents work three jobs and who encounter things like gang activity in this part of town. She is modeling that, when we teach this way, with this just plain GIVING of unstopping positive energy (which is the reason IT’S NOT TIRING, we function in society not just as language teachers but as much more.
    10. I just heard the mais/but bleater person in Chinese. She actually didn’t bleat it out real loudly bc she was probably shy with all the teachers in here.
    11. Annick just repeats one structure like eight times and then asks a question including that structure – unique to her style.
    12. It’s interesting – her pacing reveals a kind of emotional building up, and speeding up, as the kids get more and more capable with all the repetitions of each new structure, then, when she introduces a new structure, she slows way back down. Interesting.*
    13. First recycling just occurred 20 min. it. (recyclings are during the story, retells are at the end of the story, at the end of class).
    14. I lik the green laser. I want one.
    15. Nestor (the kid with the hair), has not taken his hand off his hair. He respects his teacher.
    16. First ten finger comprehension check just occurred 20 min. in.
    17. Now she is having the class support the action of an actor by making them make the same sound that she is asking the actor to make. This is as per Jason Fritze, as we this a lot when he does Reader’s Theatre.
    18. She missed a chance at some applause for a kid who just output a sentence, but there is a lot going on. We all go through this. We run out of time. She has like one minute left in class and is just getting to the quiz. So she make it a big group quiz.
    19. Seeing this class has reinforced my recent position expressed in very recent blogs here about how, if you just do comprehensible input, the kids will swim in it, no matter where it goes (it doesn’t really matter) and the kids, by swimming in it, acquire it. It’s so simple and we make it so complicated.

    * When I asked her about this way of pacing after class, she said that she does it consciously. What an artist!

    Now the next class has come in – a level 3 class. She has a native speaker in here who stays quiet but occasionally throws in helpful translations. Other observations:

    1. Class starts with Bach as the kids do FRV. God I love Bach. We all freak out about our jobs and all we have to do is kick back for the first ten minutes of each class with a book in the language we teach as our students do FVR and listen to classical music. Reading and classical music in the barrio. Why don’t we do that every day? Oh, I forgot, we are teachers. Teachers have too much to do to actually think about relaxing in their classrooms. (We are our own worst enemies in that way.)
    2. The native speaker is sitting next to me. He is reading a book in English.
    3. Missed another chance at applause for a child who answered a question in real nice Chinese.
    4. A kid came in just now very late. She made him bow to the class and apologize in Chinese.
    5. I just noticed that Annick is kind of like the Italian/Spanish/German teacher in VA, Johnna Little, the CI master of dance, in that she does the gestures all the time when speaking. I want to learn how to do that.
    6. The story is based on a real story from Yahoo! News about a girl who stole a candy bar a few days ago in a store in Alabama and as a punishment was made to run for three hours. The thing that I am seeing is how this story has touched Annick so much. She feels the story and the pathos is being conveyed. Not all stories have to be funny, they have to be compelling.
    7. On this topic of compelling, we don’t really do that either, do we? We don’t make our stories compelling. As long as my bitchy edge is out and visible on this site this week, I may as well just say it. We don’t make our stories compelling. Why not? I know why. Because we don’t keep it unconscious. We don’t keep our instruction unconscious. How can such a story about this real little girl being punished for shoplifting in Alabama just this week in our country be made compelling to others if we are going back and forth between L1 and L2? It can’t.
    8. This is a reading class. I note that Annick doesn’t project the entire story onto the screen. She reads it to them and each word appears as she says it. A twist worth exploring! Then she leaves the reading of each paragraph, as I do, to discuss the just read paragraph.
    9. As we near the end of this class, Annick is this time very aware of the time. She checked in with the quiz writer a full fifteen minutes now before the end of class. The writer lacks two questions for the five point quiz and so she goes back to a retell, using the reading for that, until the kid gets the two needed questions. This is an artful use of using the reading and pulling aural CI out of it to set up the quiz.

    In general, these two class have been an artful display of non-stop comprehensible input in listening and reading and these level 3 Mandarin kids are doing wonderfully. Why? Because Annick is strongly keeping their minds on the message and not the medium for its delivery. She is keeping the entire process in the unconscious minds of her students. She has made the input pretty much compelling. Wonderful!

    In ge

    1. Wow Ben…you were able to script everything that Annick did in her class which demonstrated the best CI strategies we know. She is truly amazing and as a learner of Mandarin, I only wanted to sit and listen. In the level 1 class I could script a bit but I really wanted to just listen. In level 3, a lot of it was incomprehensible and I experienced the frustration that many students must feel when their teacher doesn’t do the necessary comprehension checks, recycling of vocabulary, and endless repetition of basic structures. Those of us who teach languages which are easier to speakers of English NEED to attend the classes of languages which are the most difficult: Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian; as a result, we feel the language acquisition experience which in turn will change the way in which we teach. More repetition of structures within compelling messages.

      1. …repetition of structures within compelling messages….

        That’s pretty much all of it, right there. I like your use of the word compelling. It’s a word that we will be using more and more in our discussions as we continue to learn and grow. We get the kids focused on the meaning, something compelling happens right there in front of them, they become totally unaware of the language as vehicle to comprehension, focusing on the comprehending itself, all the repetitions drive home the structure, then they go to sleep that night, and some of the language heard that day is accepted into their deeper minds (acquired), some is not, and we do it again the next day. The result, over time, is fluency. And all Annick has to do is stay in the TL and work towards finding compelling input for each class. I saw so much today!

  7. This is just a note to myself to say that my kids have voted down the two hands on the desk rule that Jason uses. We all agree that it is physically uncomfortable. What I do is call roll half way through class which gives them a brain break and they can text then. They like that and told me it is fair to them. So maybe it will work.

  8. Now we are processing the classes, what we call our de-brief (we always have a pre-brief for new teachers and a de-brief afterwards):

    Jane Little says that she as a level 3 teacher, after seeing these classes, doesn’t really need to present more advanced structures to her advanced classes. She said that because Annick was using essentially the same structures for her level 1 class – the first class that we saw – and her level 3 – the second. Strange but true. No need to bitch about having three or four preps with this method.

    Then we started talking about the classical music she played during FVR. We noticed how relaxed everybody got. Since I cut my teeth in language teaching using Suggestopedia back in the day, I was able to share that music slows down the normal heart rate (72 bpm) which is slowed by the music (second movement of Bach concertos are at 60 bpm) down which slows brain waves down to 14 from 22 cps. This is huge. It effects the entire feeling in the classroom. I really think that I am foolish to not do FVR with second movement (60 bpm) Bach every single day. This provides an antidote to the sounds invading our youth on a daily basis to the detriment of their and consequently our own sanity.

    Is there a way I can send the clip to the posters page of my site so that y’all could donwload it and use it? Probably.

    1. Another thing I didn’t get in on the report from Annick’s class was her effective use of a poster:

      Please Speak Chinese

      There are three Please Speak Chinese posters. Under the words is the universal red circle with the slanted bar across and the word English under it, all of that in Chinese characters.

      I watched how Annick referred to it occasionally in class. Very effective. She would just look at an offender and laser point to the nearest poster and that was it. She gets a lot of reps on please that way, as well.

      Judy for my room would I use

      Prière de vous exprimer en français? I don’t like the sound of

      S’il vous plaît, parlez français….

      1. Parlez français, s’il vous plaît sounds more French. First you give the order, then you sweeten it with s’il vous plaît. If you start with S’il vous plaît, it sounds like you’re prepared for non-compliance. I like the slanted bar with English under it. and I like the idea of having a poster that you can just glance at and the kid gets the message without having to deliver a sermon.

  9. Yikes, there’s a lo lot digest here.

    First, I’d like to say that I was just wondering about the FVR every day. There must be a common unconsciousness in the universe. Or, great minds think alike-I’ve been thinking about starting class that way (Sorry, I have been yelled at by too many people today-kids and adults. I must self-affirm).

    Second, r.e. Net Hypothesis, couldn’t we say that we could try to ‘cast our nets’ in an area that we know, from experience or other reports, has been producing more fish lately? A fisher person certainly takes into account the fishing conditions when casting nets. It’s a bit like the term, ‘modified random’ when putting students together in groups. It may help to produce optimal conditions for intended results.

    Third, compelling, compelling, compelling. It works. Today, Todd spoke more Spanish. Nicole looked up a word in order to speak Spanish. Eben has the ultimate imagination. I am laughing more this year than in the past ten, combined, other than today. I tallied registration numbers/lists for next year and a full 78% of my students are going on to Spanish III next year. Usually, it’s 50%, tops. Those kids have a true chance to become proficient in the language. They will be one year away from earning 10 University of Minnesota credits while still in high school and producing a college transcript with the notation, ‘Proficient in Spanish at the Intermediate Level.’

    Fourth, thanks to you all for this blog. I had a tough day. It’s been a tough week. It’s time to dig down and stay the course. I am most curious to see the Listening and Reading Proficiency data in April/May.

  10. This stuff is coming at us at 100 miles per hour. I wish it would slow down. It’s unnerving and scary. All we can do is stay the course, like you say, Shannon.

    1. Ben, I’ve wanted to say to you to slow down, but I had no idea that you felt your head spinning too! If I don’t check the blog at least twice a day, I feel like I just got lapped in a two lap race. I’m often half reading half skimming to keep up with it all. It all just goes to show how much we’re on the razor sharp cutting edge when our guru Jedi master isn’t floating peacefully in the lotus position!

  11. I wish I were a Jedi master but I am far from that. I resent doing this sometimes, bc it is so intense. The blog and all. The people who read here, given the privacy to speak honestly, have combined to move things along much faster than before, and it is all I can do to keep up.

    But keep up I must, bc the growth going on right now in this most intense part of the year, when we can try out all these new ideas in our classrooms often the day after they are posted, is our goal. Growth into the method.

    My goal here has been met. We have only the dogs who want to run the entire course aboard, they have fangs and want it, and the growth is much faster than before, if not very noticeable (it never is).

    Even after even less than one year together, we are making positive, very positive indeed, impacts on each other’s professional lives, and that’s what a PLC is supposed to do. I wanted this blog space to be a kind of year long conference and so it has become.

    I’m very happy to be learning from the best – y’all.

    1. I am so glad to have this blog. It keeps me on the path, reminds me to stay in the flow, refines my practice, and helps me to feel part of a larger community. Thank you all.

  12. what is amazing to me about this blog is all the different levels of learning that is taking place. The pros as well as the newbies all realize that we are just inching forward through our own stuff. But, here we have support to move faster and SLOW-LI. We feed one another hope, courage, and real strength (as well as great retorts to admin. bull).
    Thank you all for becoming a huge number of vm mvhayvlke–my teachers.

  13. For me too, this blog is an anchor, a lifeline to a wonderful supportive community. I come here because I know that I can safely be honest about my experience, and can expect honest caring responses and comments from you all. The past few weeks I have been out of the loop because of break, and now I am back, but sick, and fighting a whole lot of apathy on the part of students who will do anything rather than be present in the room with me. But this community helps me to stay the course, and not give up on the method, or on my students. Gratitas maximas omnibus magistris optimis! (many thanks to all you excellent teachers)

  14. I am sorry you are sick John. I hope you can somehow find some time to rest some more even though break is over. I am finding that rest is what helps break these winter to spring onslaughts. Treat yourself well.
    I came in this week with the concept of seeing what is the best of my “issue” children. What can I capitalize on rather than looking at their worst. It has helped some. At least I am still smiling on Thurs.

  15. Kate if you’re smiling on March 1st after two brutal months in the trenches (I know we are all pretty much drained), you are doing something right. I am embracing the idea of simplicity more and more. We ride Simplicity Airlines to the goal in June. And then we get frequent flyer miles through the rest of our careers.

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