New People

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24 thoughts on “New People”

  1. What is behind this planned shift here is something else Laura wrote:

    …it is so hard to believe that I should just keep asking question words in relation to the kids’ name cards over and over, but that is what you are recommending, right?….

    The answer to her question is yes and no but that yes and no answer cannot be explained in writing. Yes that’s what we do in CWB, but no because the devil is in the details. I can really only try to explain it via video. And that would really be hard to do, but if people made enough comments on my video, even it was shitty, we could answer Laura’s question properly via a group effort.

    But I have come to the conclusion over the years that videotaping classes is just too much trouble, plus we never get the good classes on tape. So we have to come up with something else and my idea is to just put up casual video like John did – we all should do this – and then we can talk about it in the comment fields below the (Vimeo) link. That way.

    Here’s a mini-rant kind of related to the topic. Don’t read it:

    This approach to teaching is uncomfortable. I have to say that. There is so much rewiring going on. It is a very physical process to learn. The neurology is so different from old teaching in that it is much more physical and we have to take what we learned in theory and transfer those ideas into a new physical patterning of body based teaching, since language is very much located in the body/mind and not just the mind. We are not robots and as Dr. Krashen has famously said “robots don’t converse”.

    So I think that one of the reasons it takes so much concerted effort and – let’s admit it – huge stress to learn, and why so many people don’t want to do it, is because of this huge shift into the body that the method requires.

    (I really don’t like those people who dismiss our efforts, who refuse to change, by the way. I want to punch their lights out. You know that. I admit it. I need therapy but it helps to vent here. The ones in DPS I spoke to last week, peppered in the crowd, are an example. I saw them sitting there, this one guy from France who is always attacking Diana, and I couldn’t even focus on my topic, which was jGR. I could only rant about comprehensible input, like an insane stream of consciousness speech. I was trying to piss Diana’s enemies off. They cause her so much grief. I really need help. I never really made my point in my presentation. Shit.)

    It really is uncomfortable, this method, to return to the main point of the rant after that tangential rant there. It is like putting on a new pair of shoes – you have to break them in, and these shoes we are trying on right now in particular feel very tight at first – so much so that many people would rather not wear them.

    Another analogy is to ask the question how many people would like to all of a sudden be told that they have to train for gymnastics. Not everyone is flexible enough to do that, they may not want to, they may be too old (mentally), they may have been “successful” in the eyes of their employers before without doing gymnastics, so why do it?

    Those ones are the teachers who reach four percent of the kids and not the others. That is one of the big advantages of teaching using comprehensible input – we reach all the kids. The old guard reasons, quite incorrectly, that if they are reaching a few of the kids then that is acceptable. It is not. They have to learn gymnastics and they just don’t want to – it’s too much mental and emotional change for them, so they just fight back and resist this movement we have found ourselves in, many of us quite unexpectedly.

    The problem for those unwilling to change is that where five years ago there were only hundreds of really good teachers rallying together under the flag of TPRS/CI/Krashen based instruction, now there are thousands and the old guard has no such movement – they remain pedagogically constipated and – a very telling point – unaligned with each other with no movement or passion like we see in colleagues who are into CI.

    Honestly the refusal of the old guard to make the shift to gymnastics and body based teaching and CI is making them stand out in a way that is not good for their careers and livelihoods. Just sayin’.

    1. Yes, uncomfortable, especially at first. But also more satisfying in the end. You really can see comprehension on their faces and then, over time, you hear them talking freely in the target language. Those things are worth some discomfort.

      1. I’ll second that! I have a lot to learn. Sometimes I’ll sit down at the end of the day and think, “well that was un desastre.” I am a planner and still feel the need to plan something everyday. I haven’t got the hang of an organic class and I fear that if I don’t rely on my plan we are going to be twiddling our thumbs for the last 30 minutes (I teach 90 min. Block) which even happens sometimes with my plan because I’m also still learning SLOW. And I dont know why but I cant grasp OWI. But even though I feel like I suck at it I am rewarded when students talk about how they have used Spanish outside of class or by the student who took my crazy gumbled words scattered crazily throughout the board the FIRST day and made a sentence (who cares that it wasn’t grammatically correct).

        From my experience too, those who bark (attack) the most are the ones most afraid. The other FL teacher in my school tried (and failed) to throw me under the bus. She even told me on my first day in the most snotty way that I had big shoes to fill because the teacher before had taught there 40 years! In his 40 years he never taught higher than Spanish 2!! Thankfully I have a supportive principal who has seen the difference in learning between our students which is what is important…growth. I bet those meanies who attacked Diane can’t chart growth from their students hence their reason for attacking…scared dogs.

        1. Just to clarify since it’s happened before — Ben referred to Diana (Noonan), excellent World Language chair in Denver Public Schools. Diane N., at least around here, is me, Chinese teacher from Illinois. Not getting hassled by anyone around here now, not even from traditionally-minded colleagues who saw me demo Step 1 last week! I thank God for the collegiality and figure my results will speak for themselves, and if they became interested in more, I’ll be glad to help them out.

  2. Thank you, thank you! I would love more videos to watch and some CWB help. I get what I am supposed to do, but I’m terrified! I can’t figure out how you extend it so much.

    1. Leigh Anne Munoz

      Megan, have you watched ‘Brrrr 1’? It is my favorite. After watching it 3 times, everything fell into place for me last year. Really amazing.

      So fun.

  3. Thank you! I am the literal, tell-me-what-to-do-and-how-and-when-to-do-it person too. I’m in my second week of trying to teach with TPRS/CWB/WWs, and I feel like I’m not doing justice to a single thing. I can make my CWB last about 10 minutes… and I keep thinking, HOW are these people making it last 40?! Videos and more “new people” help would be MUCH appreciated!

    1. (Sorry this comment got away from me while I was writing it. Please forgive any errors and let me know if anything doesn’t make sense.)

      Amy, I’ve been feeling CWB lately. This is how my schedule has been going in the early levels the past couple of days:

      -Establish meaning, word association, derivative talk on new structures (5 min.)
      -Pick out a kid whose card lines up with what I’ve planned (let’s say it’s a kid who likes to eat and my structure is “likes to”) and start circling a basic sentence (Class! John likes to eat! Ohhhh. etc.) Remember to compare with another kid. (5 min.)
      -Ask “where?” does John like to eat? Encourage that cute answer. (My students sometimes need to be coached–literally in English–to start this, but then they get it.) Then circle around that cute answer. Remember to compare to another kid. (5-10 min.)
      -Ask “with whom?” By now hopefully they get the cute answer thing. Of course you refuse the first couple of answers in a funny way to make them work for it. Circle around “with whom” he likes to eat. Remember to compare with another kid. (5-10 min.)
      -NOTICE NOW IT’S TIME FOR A BRAIN BREAK! It has been more than 20 minutes, so give ’em a 2 minute break while you enter attendance.
      -Repeat the steps about for somebody else’s CWB activity or possession or whatever. Ask “where?” and “with whom” again. (10-20 min.)
      -After this I still have a lot of class left because I am on block. But the kids are full for the day of new structures. So I switch and do some type activities based on written versions of the sentences we just came up. I also have them draw a picture of each person doing whatever they do wherever they do it and with whomever they do it. If you need to fill up some time here you can a) unscramble the sentences all together out loud on and/or b) project a student’s picture and discuss it in L2. (10-20 min.)
      -Quick quiz (5-10 min.)

      So at the end of class each student has two pictures and two corresponding sentences unscrambled from My hope is that the piece will help transition us to some light reading and a dictation by the end of the week. And each kid has also taken a quick quiz.

        1. Go to It has changed a bit since last year. It looks like there are annoying adds every now and then now. But you can still use it to do a lot, and my projector lets me “freeze” an image so the adds won’t bother my students. Basically, you enter a text and click “textivate now” to scramble the passage, create a CLOZE version, etc. Check out a blog post I did on it a while ago here:

          1. Textivate has proven itself to be a real addition to our fluency programs. It provides a nice break when the kids need one from the constant CI. I always relate what we do on Textivate to recent, fresh CI.

        2. And let me say one more thing: I am not for every techy website. I think most (all?) here would agree that tech tools can be useful, but that we have to be careful to make sure that the tool be basically a vehicle to provide more reps of the target structures. That’s what we are in it for: Reps, reps, reps. How can I trick my kids to get some more reading/listening reps? I think textivate does a good job of getting kids some reading reps in the guise of writing. So the kids think they are writing and that they are therefore so smart, but what they are really doing is reading.

          1. Right. I understand that my efficiency in class is completely based on reps which is why I have to keep the board focused. I’m adding a counter this week. But textivate would be a great brain break kind of thing, more of which I’m going to look for on the blog right now, since as a beginner I need the break once or twice in class as much as the kids do. Thanks so much.

  4. I still have another week to go before the first day of school and my first day of TPRS…kind of freaking out here! I’ve been reading and watching videos…my goal for next Wednesday (last day before the people show up to learn) is to have at least three or four days planned out. I’m going in this week to set up the room, place the posters (question words, rules, rigor, jGR, what am I missing?), create the word wall, and decorate in general. I hope that those of you who are already teaching are having a great beginning of the year! Thanks!!!!


  5. For the new teachers, a couple of things I’ve learned about circling after a year . . .
    You go really slooooow and as you are slowing yourself down you are also giving yourself an extra split second to decide what you are doing next.
    You “point and pause” and sometimes doing it in an exaggerated way will make you slow down. I noticed while watching Ben’s videos that his “point and pause” is sometimes actually writing something on the board so don’t get nervous if it takes a second to do this because the kids are processing. Sometimes, I’ll point and look back with a goofy grin to slow myself down further and make sure the kids are actually looking.
    When you start with your statement like, “Aaron loves dogs,” do that goofy “Ohhhhhh” with the kids because, again, it slows you down and the kids think it is fun so they’ll do it.
    This year I am trying to get better at “teaching to the eyes” because I realized I wasn’t really doing that much last year. The message here is that if you don’t get every part right at first, you have every day to keep practicing and the more you practice and see the kids’ progress, the more the method becomes natural to you.

  6. This message is spot on. I’m going to read and reread it. I must remember to make a post out of it. Especially this:

    …the message here is that if you don’t get every part right at first, you have every day to keep practicing and the more you practice and see the kids’ progress, the more the method becomes natural to you…

    It took me eight years to get this approach into the cells of my body. Now, the new ones are just faster at it. But for those perfectionists and self-critical young teachers in our group, just remember that you probably became a teacher because you were a four percenter and without this approach coming on the scene you probably would have taught to only the four percenters for your entire career (although you would have been eventually let go because you don’t know CI) and excluded the rest, but now you have to change to include them all. Change of that magnitude is never easy. Thank you Tamula for this great point.

  7. Thanks to Ben and all the other kind tenured teachers who are taking the time to share on the blog. I REALLY appreciate hearing all this. I’m pumped! Laura

  8. Update on the fire wire issue. I have a Genius Bar appointment at the Apple Store in the morning to figure out how to load my video into my Mac. I think it’s a compatibility issue and I need a northern animal like a snow leopard or something to save me. I’ll post that video on CWB as soon as possible.

  9. haha — I have an appointment tomorrow at the Apple store too! also about videos! I am having a tutorial on videos. let’s see if I am able to learn and retain anything!!!

  10. I am also a new teacher getting ready to start teaching Spanish PreK to 5th grade next week. It has been wonderful to read and learn from all of you, and I appreciate the time and dedication that you have invested in promoting and improving our profession. I agree that more videos would be a huge help to the new teacher – particularly as I am trying to interpret how to use these strategies with younger children, I know it will be helpful for me to see more and more examples of the TPRS classroom in action.

  11. I want to be clear on a potentially very sticky point about elementary TPRS/CI. I have never seen anyone do comprehension based instruction in the very free form way that we talk about here and that many of us do in our classrooms. What I mean by that is that I am not aware of anyone who does NOT use some kind of curriculum to teach at those levels, and who basically goes rogue with the CI. So Emily as we continue to do our very best to use video to speed up – hopefully greatly speed up – training for new people here, maybe you can keep this in mind. Specifically, can you use CWB, OWI, Word Associations, the Word Chunk Team Game – and those other things I have suggested for secondary teachers before they try PQA and stories – to reach elementary kids? If you can, then we might have a breakthrough in elementary TPRS/CI education. Honestly, I’m just thinking out loud here. I may be missing a big piece that’s already in at the younger levels bc it is not my area, but I don’t think so. I think CWB, OWI, WA and WCTA need to be tested with those levels you teach. I think they have great potential at the elementary level. This could help folks like Trent here in DPS and others who need to exhaust all comprehension based curricular avenues before settling in on a plan for moving forward at the elementary level.

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