New Idea for the PLC

Anne Matava told me recently that my explanation of the Invisibles this past summer at the Maine workshop made a difference in her understanding of how they work in the classroom. She had read the book A Natural Approach to Stories (Teacher’s Discovery) but not fully understood it until I modeled it in a one day full-on the Invisibles workshop in Maine. Then she wrote this to me:

Ben –

LOVE LOVE LOVE the Invisibles. The workshop brought it all into focus.

Now here is a great question to add to the list of OWI questions: Is his mother/father also a __________________(pretzel, tin can, whatever)? For some reason that one is wildly funny. We had a dinosaur with a casserole for a mother. In one class we are building a pictorial family tree, as each character ends up being related somehow to the previous ones. In the mix is the one human being–the superintendent of schools!

So thanks! I love this so much. Thank you.

This set me thinking. What if I were to do a video group study of the Invisibles, for those interested, here on the PLC? I could just share the same information that I presented to the Maine group last summer that helped Anne understand what was going on – that helped her get a clearer view of what the Invisibles and one word images, the jobs, individually created images, the seven questioning levels, etc. are. We could throw in discussions of non-targeted theory, but they would have to be very limited since it is clear by now after almost two years of testing by lots of teachers that the Invisibles work, so why have all the theoretical discussion?

The only problem is that such a study group would have to be small. I cannot see putting videos that I make about the Invisibles on FB, for example. There would just be way too many people. The discussion would make the talk in the Tower of Babel sound like nap time in a nursery school.

There is a problem. It is hard for me – a big hassle – to post video here in our PLC. It’s just the mechanics of it, and if, as I plan, we do about a ten minute study video/discussion on the Invisibles every day, I would want a simpler format to upload the video. My solution is to just put it on my FB page and make that page private so we can keep the group small.

This is all preliminary brainstorming and I write these ideas here hoping for a response from the group on the viability of the idea. Ideas/comments are welcome from those in our group who are working with OWI/Invisibles.



29 thoughts on “New Idea for the PLC”

  1. You know how Tina shares her videos, without the use of Facebook?

    Can you do that? Make it a link that can only be accessed from this PLC…..???

    I am the non-techie person in my world….

    [I don’t use Facebook and I don’t think that I want to use Facebook ever again.]

    I, like Anne, am finding my own path through the Non Targeted Forest, and am doing better than I thought that I would….


    Thanks, Ben and Tina!

    1. The Non Targeted Forest. Lions and Tigers and Bears…! OH MY! Hee hee….

      For me, Leigh Anne – and I think you can relate bc at your core, from what I have seen from your using as your core curriculum Anne’s scripts for almost ten years now, right? – you are an NT person. Just saying’. Those Matava scripts are far more non-targeted in nature than targeted. Each of those three “targets” at the top of each script is not a target at all, but a ruse to get the TPRS people to think they are. Have you noticed? The targets were never connected to a curriculum or a list of any kind.

      Anyway, I will ask my tech guy how we can make this work for non-FB users. I hear you loud and clear on that point. I just pissed some people off last week on there, without really meaning to, key word being “really”.

      Just trying to see if we can use the powerful medium of video to take those teachers who are interested deeper into OWI’s and the Invisibles.

    1. sorry… meaning, uploading a video to Youtube and sharing a link here is the same as uploading a video to Facebook, in my opinion.

  2. I agree with Anne that being at the workshop put a lot of things in perspective. Including the OWI which I learned that I did not understand. I have done 1-2 OWIs in each class and see a lot of buy-in. Thanks for getting out here this summer, Tina and Ben.

    And a video series for this group would be ideal.

  3. I needed to hear that so thanks, Nathaniel.

    Leigh Anne – my tech guy Trevor said this:

    …when it’s on FB it’s easy for them to access your training on any device. It’s also easier for them because they don’t have to go to your website to login….

    He also said:

    …anyone using FB can protect themselves and make their privacy as strong as they want by changing their account settings….

    So I’m leaning toward FB bc of the simplicity. YouTube has limits on how many minutes a video can be, and Vimeo is a bit klutzy. Both require that if I wanted to put a link to a video here on the PLC I would have to embed some code to do that, whereas one click on FB would get us right to the link.

    Still trying to figure it out.

    1. Youtube does not limit how long videos can be if you verifiy your account. I have videos that are 1hr 30 minutes.

      What about just making a tab on this blog where you post the OWI and Invisibles videos?

    2. I get that accessing Facebook is easier, like, on my phone. But if I’m on my phone accessing Facebook it’s usually because I at the playground with my 2 year old and have some time to kill. Or I’m waiting in line for something. I don’t make thoughtful comments on Facebook unless I’m on my computer.

      Also to consider: I can not access Facebook at my school as of last week. My district just blocked Facebook. And I’m sure my district is the only one. Most of my participation here or on Facebook had been during or after school, in my classroom. Now it looks like I’ll be spending more time here!

      There are 2 Facebook groups I’m focusing my time on: Teachers of Spanish Heritage Speakers, and TCI Chicagoland.

      1. Thanks Sean. I think we’ll keep it here for those reasons and also because FB is just too big – the discussion couldn’t be focused and would go on forever, plus the emotional and professional safety factor (we should be able to say what we want w/o fear of reprisal). And Greg’s idea of a tab for the vids is good. We will try that. I invite any footage anybody wants to send in for discussion. I just did some video coaching with Fernanda Brown on her first story of the year and it was really good. She was following the exact order of the questioning levels and it was so clear and made me happy to see that her first story looked like one done by a seasoned veteran. I will get that video here soon.

      2. Again Sean thank you for your thoughts re: FB. Tina told me the same thing just this morning: Ppl. access it on their phones for short snips of discussion. I didn’t know that. Less time there, more time here. Now I just have to finish figuring out the deal with the Invisibles training online study group. I’ll figure it out.

  4. Sounds like YouTube is the best. Here, nothing on FB. Too big and too much vulnerability. We could use the comment fields to communicate ideas about what we see in the videos. We could see how many comments we could get on on post. I think the record, back in 2012 or something, is 187 comments. I remember that. I think it was back when the PLC was more focused on theory and research than on strategies and mental health.

  5. Great idea!

    Ben, is there any chance that you might come over to Germany for a workshop in the near future. (I believe the German language teaching world is in dire need of change and haven’t almost all significant developments in history started as a root-movement?)
    I would travel any distance to get your Invisibles in a “live-format”. I’m experimenting with SL at the moment bc I haven’t yet had the courage to introduce them in one of my classes.

    1. Udo I think our plans are to do a few institutes in the U.S next summer and that’s it. We learned the hard way about trying to visit too many cities this past summer. We aren’t ready to announce anything right now for next summer but I don’t think it will include Europe. In answer to your question Julie about Toronto, or anywhere else, Tina and/or I would rather visit for one or two days during the winter and avoid the intense summer-busting output of energy. And Udo, honestly, if I may be frank and I am happy this is a safe space, Europe is a long long time away from resetting their mind in favor of the research and this work. You are there, and of course Martin and others, and Judy is doing such great work in France, but my feeling, just my opinion, is that the centuries old traditions in place over there are going to be hanging on awhile longer. C’est comme ça la vie….

  6. Ben, I would love to see these videos. I too don’t have Facebook but would love to be able to access them.

    And how about a Toronto conference? I’m feeling like a bit of a maverick in my region, but there may be more local fsl teachers than I’m aware of adopting this (Natural lol) approach. this Friday we have a PD day and we’ll be discussing how the CEFR can be linked to the Ontario FSL curriculum. Not sure how I will fit in there!

    As an aside…Just noticed your books in a Teacher’s Discovery Canada guide…something more to show my principal as we start having conversations about my approach this year (plus, I’m being assessed this year).

  7. First of all, I am just now seeing this thread about a private video group for the Invisibles. I would love to join that.

    I visited the PLC tonight with a question about the Invisibles that, like my previous questions, is probably addressed somewhere else here (though I did look). Here it is: I have been doing stories two ways: working with Blaine Ray’s Look, I Can Talk!, and creating stories through OWI. The vocabulary and grammar in the non-targeted stories are more advanced, varied, and less repetitive than the Blaine Ray stories, but I fear that they might sometimes border on too complex. At least with the Blaine Ray stories, there is so much recycling going on and few new structures introduced that they are more accessible. Of course, they aren’t nearly as interesting as the stories we create ourselves. Any ideas on how to simplify a story if the plot requires too many new structures and vocabulary? Or is this exactly what non-targeted input is supposed to look like?

    1. I don’t know about that video study group at this point Hillary. Mechanically and in terms of time it doesn’t look like it can work. It was a nice idea. We continue to work on making the Invisibles accessible however, as best we can, while at the same time planning the summer institutes and co-writing the Cycles of Assessment book.

      Also, you said:

      …any ideas on how to simplify a story if the plot requires too many new structures and vocabulary?….

      It is your job to keep things simple. Non-targeted stories need not require lots of new structures. That is a knock on NT work that is not true. It’s always up to the teacher to make herself comprehensible no matter what approach to CI is used.

      One of the big changes I put into the Invisible vs. the old targeted instruction was to limit the story to 25 min. using the job of the Story Driver, which Tina says is the most important job, even more than the artist.

      There is far too much to say here about your question. What I can do is post three articles here as I did on FB (but they already scrolled out there) on Baseball. Read those. It’s at least a start of a response – one that addresses the skill of staying in bounds by the teacher – to this HUGE question.

      1. In my french classes (no heritage speakers here). I start stories with OWI when they are ready… about 6-8 weeks in. They look more like mini-stories with VERY limited questions. The structure I follow is:

        1. Character in location (only 1 location)
        2. Problem.
        Optional: Fails to solve.
        3. Solves problem.

        With a good OWI, I already have the story arc in mind. I use “un secreto/un secret” then gradually release them usuing other questions. If i need more buy-in or my own ideas are no good, I recycle the story then I use “collab” time. I also remind them about the character’s flaws, feeling etc… so they attempt to fold that in as well. Students get into groups of 4 maximum and come up with a good problem of no more than 2 sentences. Then Profe 2 picks.

        1. … so they attempt to fold that in as well….

          Folding in details. That is Tina’s term and I now see how accurate it is to describe the story creation process when working from either a class-created character or an individually created character as opposed to with targets where the details about the character are less important than the targets being taught that day.

          With characters, we build stories from their personalities as envisaged by the kids (as a group or individually). It creates an entirely new kind of story. We “fold into” the story what we know about the character. It’s a great term.

    2. Non-targeted input has as its goal the building of a rich mental representation of the language, which is made through exposure to comprehensible language that is interesting. There really is no need to repeat and repeat unless your goal is to “teach” that part of the language. I make sure to always recycle back to the beginning of the story as much as I can after an interruption and then to use the video retell, then the artists’ work, then Write and Discuss, then Reading Options, then a Dictée, then the Word Chunk Team Game, then Mike’s comic books…there is a ton of non-boring repetition, not boring, in my opinion, cause it uses multimedia to present the same stuff in different student-created ways.

  8. I would also be interested in the private video group to better understand Invisibles. I am new to the group and have learned so much in the last few weeks, but have so much more to learn. I literally just started with CI last Friday (and was observed by my principal that day!) so I’m going on Day 5 tomorrow.

    1. Robyn I can’t imagine being observed on my first day of CI. That is one for the books. We need to get you a t-shirt. I think I would rather ride in an autorickshaw around Delhi this week than do that. And yet somehow I feel that it went all right!

    2. Robyn that is awesome, and so brave! I hope you will update us and let us know how we can support you in starting out with CI. If you email me at tinahargaden, a gmail, I will send you some videos from summer workshops.

      1. Robyn, I know that you are in my area (I believe we chatted at the last TPRS conference here in Chicago).
        I’m not an expert but if you would like to observe my classes some time this semester I can show you how I do the invisibles.

        Right not I’m taking a short break from the Invisibles and doing PERSONA ESPECIAL, but if you wanted to come in I could do an Invisible Story or a One Word Image.

        I would seriously watch all of Tina’s videos as they will give you the best ideas of the Invisibles process.

        1. Sí, Greg, soy yo. 🙂

          Thank you for the invitation. If I can get away, I’d love to come observe a class.

          I have been watching a LOT of videos and they are sooo helpful. This PLC is a wealth of info. Sometimes, I get hooked on PD and just can’t stop. . .

  9. It’s so cool that we all want videos. Ben and I were just talking today about how to combine some of the things we are working on into a Big Mega-Project that would include a lot of videos on the Invisibles, footage spliced in from workshops, and such.

    But, in the hoopla over the video idea, we missed the point. ANNE IS GENIUS! Asking what the family sounds like SO MUCH FUN!!!!

    Gonna need to remember to try it!

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