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15 thoughts on “Pins”

  1. By the way Laura I am writing a book and including OWATS in it. Can I use this quote that you wrote in a comment here years ago?

    Laura Cenci says:

    “I did the OWATs activity and the kids LOVED it. Thank you so much Bob for sharing this activity! My students really want to make their own stories. Giving them the focus of the cards, plus the lists on the walls, kept them in bounds. Letting them group with their friends allowed them to use their own micro-personalized clique-styles, but they’re using vocabulary that the other groups were using too. So tomorrow when we share, everyone will understand the story and get to enjoy the uniqueness of other groups’ special stories, while getting the opportunity to show off their own.”

  2. Hey Ben – this is a different thread, and not sure where to start it, but I am trying to learn more about BVP’s “tasks.” I follow his shows and have gotten his ebook on tasks but am still not getting the hang of coming up with my own for my kids. Are you aware of other places I could look for a bank of tasks (kinda like what we did for MT), or do you think we could all pitch in and come up with some? Have BVP tasks been discussed here? I feel as though this is an angle that would be great to add to the other communication I do in class which would feel less “entertainment” oriented (not that the kids or I have a problem with that), but I think some tasks that are a good fit for my group would be fun and stimulating to add to the mix.

    1. In his model you just come up with things that you want to find out about the class and then work backward from there. His example is “Find out what time you get up and what time you go to bed and how does that compare with your classmates and the national average”. All of the lessons to get to that point would be input-based activities. He uses a lot of PQA, ordering activities, true/false, etc.

      If you get the FIRST edition of the Sabias Que? (It must be the first edition though because grammar was added in subsequent editions) Textbook you can see a lot of good Input-Based activities.

      One common one I’ve used on Mondays is do a PQA about what students did over the weekend and order from most interesting to least interesting and rank who had the most interesting weekend.

  3. Laura I am going to defer to the group on this one. I am not a big BVP fan. Maybe somebody can explain it and show its value. Sorry. I prefer to get my information from real teachers who teach in real classrooms. I’m probably way off here bc I know nothing about the tasks, but if they come from someone who teaches college kids, it’s probably not going to reach the real kids. I would love to see the group make the case and then I can apologize. But tasks? Wait! What? I thought we weren’t about engaging the conscious minds of ours students. Does anyone here do them?

    1. BVP does tasks in such a way that they are focused on input. Like TPRS uses language targets, BVP uses these “tasks” as the targets. Students are not graded on the task at the end but they just rate their confidence level on it.

      He does use highly structured pair work after the teacher has given a lot of input first.

      Here are two documents from his site:

  4. Thanks Ben I would be love to hear what the group thinks or knows about them.

    After 6 years of using CI at my tiny independent school where I teach 2 year-olds through Spanish I and the program goes through 12th grade – and now I have 8th graders at the Advanced level (I think? – they ramble on in paragraphs and circumlocute about whatever they want) I have admin wanting to “measure” and show proof that what I do is legit, and mostly driven by the idea that they should be able to test out of university language requirements, and this push is headed by the 75-year old Latin teacher head of Upper School who asks me every year “where is the grammar section” on my final.

    So….to get the acquisition research firmly planted in my head I have been listening in my car to the podcasts so I can confidently explain why the traditional, explicit teaching of language is worthless. That’s where I learned about tasks, which I guess are tied to a can-do that looks to admin as if they are learning something measurable. (Of course I KNOW that kids need to acquire the language they need to say what they want, period).

    And…as I have gotten better at “facilitating language acquisition” in my classroom, each year I have younger and younger students who are in the intermediate range which means I have to improve my own personal Spanish so that I can work more (I call them) sophisticated structures into my language and the kids’ stories.

    As I have my students for conceivably ten or twelve years straight (this is my 7th year – 1st year was Realidades then I found a Blaine Ray conference), will they find stories compelling year after year? We have English literature classes as content where students analyze readings, but they tend to be stories that require critical thinking and have content worth chewing on (hence my concern about worthwhile story problems…birds that poop po-po dulce is cute every now and then but…) I also use Persona Especial, a song if the class loves it, MT, some Sr. Wooly, we are reading Martina’s news articles on Venezuela so had a story with a bird in Venezuela looking for her family who had been hunted by the citizens…

    Sorry to ramble. I am glad to be catching back up in the PLC and reading everyone’s great comments again! Glad it is still going strong. And I would never be offended – open to all ideas!

    1. I’ve tried a few lessons with this BVP approach. It’s something to keep in your back pocket if you are ever in a situation where you have to teach alongside traditional teachers and they are in charge, but since I am not in that situation, it’s a lot more interesting to teach with the Invisibles.

      Perhaps if I taught Spanish 4 or AP some day I would re-visit this approach.

  5. Wow what a unique opportunity you have, to have them for so many years. My comments are all based on the handful of total hours a four year program offers, maybe 200 realistic hours, or 300 when they are all added up in terms of true high quality input. I’m certainly not qualified to even comment on what is possible in such a program.

    The main thing I want to say is how we all work so hard to find good stuff to use and I am just not on that planet anymore. I think it is a personal issue with me, to have literally worked myself far too intensely for far too many years to find the good pedagogy, to develop it, and now after all that effort I want one thing – simplicity and I want my balance back in my life. So that is what you are hearing in my comments.

    I see a simple demeanor and allowing what comes up in class as far more important than planning, planning and more planning thinking against thought that someday I will find the way to teach that really works. There is no way that really works except the one we develop for ourselves on our own journey bc each one of us is different.

    In my view we just need to stop thinking that at the next conference we will find the thing we are missing. It’s not there. It’s all in us already. And it takes the form FOR ME of non-targeted trust in the beauty of human interaction when the teacher is not trying to drive things forward all the time.

    I am certainly not attacking in the slightest how others perceive this work but if I could say one thing to younger teachers it would be what the Amelia Earhart character in Night at the Museum tells the Ben Stiller character as she gets in her plane to fly off: “HAVE FUN!” All the work I have done has been to create ways to do only that….

    I have such compassion for myself and all who have done really dedicated searching for
    true things to use in our classrooms only to be met by 75 year old Latin teachers asking for the grammar component on the test. Such baseness.

  6. Thanks Ben! I am definitely about simplifying. I have seen that non-targetted and non-planning works too. I will keep growing my Spanish with the kids! Gracias.

  7. Laura, I also listen to BVP and have read his book. I love the show and the book because I gain the necessary “repeated exposure” to the research, specifically on the nature of language. Although never say never, I am not likely going to seriously dig into academic papers. Getting a solid background in some of the research from the show makes me feel confident talking to anyone about why I do what I do. I’m confident pointing to Krashen, Mason and VanPatten when discussing research with students, parents, colleagues and administrators. His current series on “5 facts on the nature of language” is perfect for where I am now, about to address this specifically with my colleagues since we are in the initial stages of (yet another) school-wide initiative. I feel like it is a unique moment where I could really move the dialogue forward. I’m a department of one, actually the only language teacher in the whole district. It’s my 4th year here and I’m just getting fully on my feet. It is a great time to be the lone wolf in a very poor district. Nobody cares about Spanish. It’s not even required. I’ve been able to do as I please and enter numbers in the book. So far just keeping a low profile. So if I can make some points about how “language is different” it could help our school be on the cutting edge of letting go of any remnants of the old school mentality. I’m aiming to show why language classes must be assessed differently than all the other subjects and why teachers and the program will look and feel different than “subject” classes.

    That being said, I’m not fully jumping on the task bandwagon just yet (haha…although I do like to throw that word around a bit, as it resonates with my colleagues who teach subjects…kind of common ground we can share). I’m open to anything as long as it emerges organically from my students’ interests and/or anything we are working with in the moment…the “tangent” that we go off on, because everyone is engaged, etc. I’ve not yet found anything super engaging that I’d want to spend time preplanning. Just my experience. The tasks that I’ve read about from BVP would not be engaging to my students–the surveys about how sedentary we are, then compare to national average or whatever–just not compelling enough for me to spend extra time setting that all up.

    BUT your student population is so different from mine! Twelve years! WOW! I bet you could come up with interesting tasks by talking to your (non-language) colleagues…social studies, science, language arts, art, etc. That is what I did when I was at a tiny independent school. It was really fun to “collaborate” indirectly by tapping into what other teachers were doing. I used to literally get assignments, projects etc. from other teachers…the handout or whatever. Then tweak it /adapt to fit my needs. Or guide students through an independent project proposal…”I would love to learn about xyz.” I will explore qrs, read uvw and listen / watch abc. I will share what I learned by efgh and ijlkmnop. Then you’ll get a wide interesting array of student-generated topics. I know that is not exactly the BVP thing, but it’s a way to have students continue to take charge of their independend input.

  8. Congratulations, Laura, on how your students can circumlocute and speak at paragraph length! I know you say it’s been some 8 years in the making, but it’s just one class, at best, once a day, right!? It’s nice to know that this is possible.

    These BVP tasks that you speak of make me think about a regular activity I do. Or, rather than an activity, it’s more of a topic, I guess, with my first year and second year students. I have 100 minute block periods (I know, it’s long). I start out with 10 minutes of free choice reading. Then I jump into a personal story, a la Mason’s Story Listening. For example, today I told a story of the last time I stung myself from eating a very spicy red chili. I couldn’t breath and I had to rip off my shirt right there in the restaurant. After this mini story I’ll go into an OWI, Matava story, or Invisible.

    Now, some days I choose not to tell a personal story. Instead, I’ll try to run a discussion ranking things, ordering things, or comparing and contrasting things. I’ve enjoyed doing Venn Diagrams on the whiteboard. Last time we compared my birthday with a student’s. Once it was Ronaldo and Messi. An another day we focused on the days of the week, ran a survey, and talked about why we like those days. That went well. I could see how asking students to share one activity they did over the weekend and then ranking those activities on a scale of highly active to highly sedentary could be compelling.

    The best scenario for me has been to tell a personal story, 5-10 minutes in duration, and then do a compare contrast between something that happened, or a character, in my personal story with that of a student. In this scenario I feel like I get some more milage on story I just shared.

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