Pringle Man – 1

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63 thoughts on “Pringle Man – 1”

  1. Ben, do you think the Pringles Man lesson would work if you didn’t allow the blurting out and enforced the only one person speaks at a time rule? Also, that seems like a small class. Have you done a Pringles Man-type lesson with a class of 25? I’m thinking of my Year 7 classes and if they got that excited and were blurting out at random I would have a hard time keeping the train on the tracks. I’m just trying to work out how to make this Invisibles idea work for me and my students.

    1. Ian asked two big questions of super importance:

      …do you think the Pringles Man lesson would work if you didn’t allow the blurting out and enforced the only one person speaks at a time rule?…

      and that question roped in the real question:

      …have you done a Pringles Man-type lesson with a class of 25?….

      This class has 18, so I don’t know. I think so. It’s not about class size but ahout the measure of our resolve to enforce the Classroom Rules. I plan to videotape lots of classes this spring. I don’t have time to transcribe them all but perhaps we can find some classes that aren’t so silly as Pringles Man. I personally had zero problem with the chatter because as they chattered their focus/eyes/feeling in the room was 100% on the message.

      I think you can make it work with your 7th graders. The last thing I want to have people think when they see this video is that CI can’t work with larger groups. We are the adults in the room and we must enforce the rules. I could have gotten a more bitchy edge going in this class, but I didn’t feel like it. Pringles Man just made us all feel kind of silly. Less interesting invisible creatures (is there such a thing?…these kids can CREATE!) might bring a flatter class.

      What matters? Focus on the input? Then I’m good. They were into the class.

      My advice if your 7th graders go off the rails? Stop class. Teach them some grammar. Every time. Even if you are one minute into a story. Do it the next day. See what happens after a few weeks of that. They will be hushing and shushing each other.

      1. “It’s not about class size but about the measure of our resolve to enforce the Classroom Rules.”

        I just started co-creating stories. I have a 35 student Level 1 class. I let them do the work in L1 for about 5 minutes then I have them raise their hands for the cute answers. Still hard to contain them.

        I’m going to try the grammar thing. Coping some tables with ER,IR, RE verbs should fix them. Plus I have some eighth graders who will go to the high school… I’m not concerned about that though.

      2. I’m curious if anyone has run into a group of students who just don’t care, as in stories or grammar, they don’t care because it’s all the same to them. That’s when an “alternative” just doesn’t hold any weight.

        That attitude of “this is school, so we don’t want to do anything even if we might enjoy it. We’re gonna sit here and mess with class because nothing matters, so go ahead and fail us for ___ language class because we don’t need it anyway.”

        I’m afraid to say that I don’t see a way around that kind of attitude. Anyone?

        1. We are dealing with a depressed nation, Lance, and those kids you are talking about are depressed. If somehow we are to reach them, it will be through our changing, not them. We can’t take their pain away, but we can offer something interesting and that is why so many people so fervently search all the internet TPRS sites for clues.

          They don’t do that because TPRS is trending but because they want, must have now, a way as teachers out of their own pain because if they work through stories and laughter (fake at first but real later) and lightheartedness, then, as Krashen says, it doesn’t matter if they are motivated or not. Those little shits will pay attention in spite of themselves because humans cannot resist stories well told.

          I’ve got a story going right now – annoyingly interrupted by the bell yesterday, in my 8th grade class about Whalermelon (a whale who is a watermelon) and I CAN’T WAIT to see what happens tomorrow with it. Stories will pull in the most jaded kids. That’s why Stolz and a few others keep saying stories, stories, stories. Have a boring class? Make them think they created a story. Problem solved.

    2. Another thing Ian that really hits home for me. I have come to realize that the feeling of happiness that the kids have is far more important than me perfectly enforcing my Classroom Rules. They are not being rude. They are focused and learning. They are not aware of any rudeness but are happily focusing on meaning. A couple of times I heard the kids chattering happily as they left the room, all excited about Pringles Man. So my need to be in control (I think of Lance’s video here) is just far less important to me than a little focused chattering. It’s an 85 minute class and they are in classes that long four times a day. And they are 11 and 12 years old. If an observer wants to come in and bitch about it in my evaluation, then I would play the Paul Kirschling card about being true to ourselves (this from a recent comment from Paul):

      1. “I would play the Paul Kirschling card about being true to ourselves”

        Exactly. I had my dept. chair chew me out for not having objectives, not teaching straight form the book and having tests every week etc…..

        I checked in with my ‘pal. He said that it wasn’t necessary because I know that learning comes in stages and I’ve done my research. He said “You have no parent calls and the kids are having fun… We don’t want to lose you.” He also added that what matters is on my eval form — it’s actually a google doc where we converse about the lesson. My comments were well received (this reminds of Ben’s idea “California” — where things are relaxed and hippy) I’m grateful that I am supported doing this work.

        I’m totally relieved and I will continue rocking the CI.

        “I have come to realize that the feeling of happiness that the kids have is far more important than me perfectly enforcing my Classroom Rules.”

        I had a training yesterday about social-emotional climate in the classroom. One take away: Have students know how you feel when they 1) do good 2) blurt after being taught not to.

        This totally changed my class when I told them that during my training I said “I am proud of working at this school. I tell other teachers that students are able to write stories upwards to 100 words in ten minutes without any assistance IN FRENCH”. One student asked “You mean, not every class does it?” They are definitely in a nice CI bubble but here the seeds are sown.

    3. I keep thinking about your question Ian. We must allow for class size. But it really is about whether the class has any jerks in it. There is not a single one in the Pringles Man class. That has SO much to do with it!

      Really, Ian, this question is at the hard of so much of this work. Can we, indeed, allow our students to comment loosely, bending but not breaking the rules. I don’t want to say that it is a good idea. I just keep thinking about it.

      I remember the raised affective filter in ME for all my years in the 35 student classes I had in Denver Public Schools and really all through all the buildings I taught in. I taught with a lot more control. The stories kind of sucked and I felt more tired at the end of the day. I got here and found heaven. Is it realizable in larger classes?

      I just don’t know. It is something that we are going to have to continue to communicate about here. Let’s make it our business to not forget this question as we move now into spring.

      (Winter is over in Delhi. It’s warmer already. The sun is shining. Here comes the sun.)


    4. Ian in point of fact we need to let go of the idea that a classroom is a place where a studious and obedient group of submissive learners hangs on our every word. That is old thinking. It is not what a TPRS classroom is really about. If happiness is the goal (happiness naturally generates gains in all facets of life) then we need to allow for a new kind of TPRS classroom, where, as long as the kids are focused on the language, it doesn’t have to be all studious and everything. The magnitude of this change continues to impress and amaze me.

      1. Ben I’m following the logic of what you are saying. It’s going to take me some time to think through this issue of order and control. Your comment about happiness suggests, I hope I got this right, that the kids are happiest when they are not made to be obedient etc through enforcing rules/ behaviour expectations. I find the opposite in my classes – I feel they are happiest and comforted when they are in the company of a teacher who has high expectations for behaviour and insists on it. I know this by the looks on their faces, by the way they sit on the edge of their seats with their hands up trying to get me to pick them to answer a question I just asked. And the image I have of my Year 7s is of about 50-80% of them doing this with big wide eyes and smiles. They are happy. I overhear them saying how Chinese is the best class they have. I took this approach when I started TPRS primarily based on what you had written about blurting and speaking in L1. What you are saying now is probably the next step along the path for someone who feels confident in what they are doing and has dropped the fear that many of us probably have when we walk in to a classroom.

        I just found this from page 245 of The Big CI Book – it’s what has underpinned my thinking to this point. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts at this point in your TPRS teaching life about the effect of blurting/ L1 chatting on the unconscious acquisition process that you wrote about …

        Side talking, blurting in L1, etc. simply cannot occur in our comprehension based classroom because of the complete interference with the unconscious acquisition process that occurs when side talking or blurting occurs. It sounds perhaps odd to say that few CI teachers grasp that fact, but it is true. Most CI teachers don’t fully appreciate that when they are talking to their students in the target language, they must direct that speech directly into the unconscious minds of the students. When they don’t do that, and when the rules about blurting are allowed to slide, they completely compromise their instruction. It is because of the way languages are acquired.

        1. Ian very important point here. You said:

          …what you are saying now is probably the next step….

          I would respond that it’s the next step for me. I wouldn’t begin to try to raise and support the point that what I’m doing is the right step for everyone doing this work. We are all trying to make sense of this for ourselves.

          I learned so much from you yesterday here. You got me thinking all day. I finally figured it out when I was brushing my teeth last night before going to bed. (The part about whether we can use the Invisibles in a bigger classroom. I know we can. Tina has graciously agreed to test it this spring in her large classes in Portland.

          It’s like in the Ted Talks video posted here last night. We can’t teach kids in packs of 20 or 30 by organizing them by age and we can’t teach using TPRS all in the same way because we are all different.

          So I don’t think there is a next step. The direction I am going with all of this for myself is outlined in my last post here. I feel very strongly about the role of intuition in this work now. It is a plateau, a very scenic one, in my own journey up CI mountain. But we all have different paths up the mountain, where Krashen sits in deep meditation. (Sorry, had to throw that in….)

          1. And Ian, to continue that thought, when I use the Invisibles I am up a level from any CI I have ever done you can see that in the Pringles Man videos which represent a true and major breakthrough in my own teaching.

            Now we are getting to the point of all our discussion here yesterday: When kids are really acquiring they are a little more chatty. This is the real thing your questions taught me, forced me to uncover yesterday as I thought about them all day.

            Chattiness is a good thing and we want lots of it when we teach using CI. I am suspicious of kids that are too quiet. It’s not whether they are chatty but whether they are on task with their chattiness. Again, chattiness means that the kids are learning. Watch the vids again and you will see no child left behind, no child ignored, no child not involved.

            George Bush would be proud of me. He would discover a hippy patriot and give me a medal. I would tell him where to put that medal!

          2. Ben, to just take this a little bit further, and Diane I think might back me on this one, could the success you have with chattiness have something to do with the fact that you are using French. What I mean is I don’t know any French but I can follow what you are saying and the kids I assume can as well. If I was in your class I would feel a little bit empowered to say something because I kind of get the drift. But if I tried what you are doing in Chinese it would just fall flat because there is no way the kids can follow my banter in Chinese because of the lack of cognates. My kids can’t interact with me in open discussions like you are having in French until they have acquired most of the language I am using. So, maybe what you are moving towards is language-dependent. I don’t know. I just want to put it out there. Diane?

          3. Hi Ian, I understand Ben’s French, but I had 6 years of French. I think you understand partly b/c he’s being comprehensible, not only b/c it’s French — based on a Spanish colleague’s comment about not understanding French hardly at all. (I have tried to speak French, it comes out in Chinese, and I feel ridiculous. But it’s really fun to understand.)

            I also think this isn’t a total beginner class we’re seeing in the videos, right? Seventh grade is at least in their 2nd year. Some of my level one class banters with me in Chinese in this way. Not so often first semester, but now, some of them quite often. An occasional English word, but a lot of Chinese.

            I think it’s about the teacher speaking in ways the students can understand, regardless of the language. If you have students who understand when you speak Chinese, this will happen over time.

        2. “Chattiness is a good thing and we want lots of it when we teach using CI.”

          Thank you for posting this video and making this statement.
          I always felt a twinge of guilt when I read posts about NEVER allowing blurting, because I have taught groups of 8, 10, 12 for years (some classes are much smaller), and this is my first time teaching a “big” class of 16. All of my classes look like yours in the video: blurting, but on topic, enthusiastic L2 blurting. We don’t do the “raise your hand” thing when our classes are this small. I feel better to know I’m not the only one.

          There is a point where there are too many voices at once: but two or three kids shouting out brief silly suggestions in L2 builds excitement for when you retell (writing has to be quieter) later.

    5. Tomorrow we will continue talking about the invisible cat and dog and the invisible baby who was born in Spanish class. Plus I’m trying to capture the essence of Mr. Benwich. I’m planning to start this at the beginning of next year. Probably this and circling with balls and the calendar and TPR.

      1. Tina, I am interested in hearing how you planted the seeds of invisibility. I’m off this week, and would love to try this starting next week. I’ll have a brand new batch of 8th grade exploratory. 4 week sessions, 4 rotations. I am going to use each bunch as a learning lab for myself.

        Plus I think this will be fun in the HS level 1. Maybe level 3 too. It is worth trying.

        1. It’s been an exercise in mindfulness. Watching for teeny weeny seeds of an idea. The first ones came from a class where a girl was meowing to herself during reading time. I was on the absolute lookout for an idea. So I said in Spanish do I hear a cat? And kinda gave her a sparkly look like “oh hell yeah I hear a cat”. The rest of that day we discussed the cat and the kids were quick to give Gabe an invisible dog too. Then Monday we discussed the animals’ weekends instead of the kids’. The animals had a crazy weekend in Vegas it appears. Today I’m on the train on the way to work and I’m hoping my hair looks ok cause I’m videoing the story today. Gulp. I hate videos.
          So that’s first period and they’re further down the path.
          In second period it’s French one. There’s this guy Benwich who we’ve kind of imagined together over the months. Today I’m gonna wrestle him into service somehow. He’s a favorite of the kids. So I’m conscripting him. Today is his day. Watch out kids.
          In fourth. Agh fourth period. Monday during our weekly weekend discussion turns out that a kid watched a lot of SpongeBob with another kid from class. I’m going to try to get something out of that. Monday the fartist (he’s bad at art so that’s what we call him. El Fartista.) drew a husband for this ugly character from the show. He is HIDEOUS and I love him. So he’s going on an adventure today.
          In sixth period a guy was clutches my his shirt one day a court or weeks ago and I asked in Soanish hey does your tummy hurt you? He’s a joker so he said I’m pregnant! He actually “delivered” a baby right there in class. We talked a bit about him. The father is John Cena and this baby grows up a year every five school days so he’s four now. And Monday it turns out two girls were at IKEA and saw Hashimotito in the playground there. So today Hashimotito is going places.
          I’m not to the spot Ben is but I can see this transforming my classes in a big way.

          1. Gotta say that I’m running on the steam of creating a “todo es posible” atmosphere since August and clapping for kids who do rule three. Suggest cute answers. The kids know I love the weird stuff that pops up. They also know I’m their jukebox. Pick the song pay your quarter and I’ll sing what get it is you want to hear. So that’s step one in my experience. Building that.

          2. Tina I hope you’ll share your video!! All of this sounds amazing. I’m finding the same thing…that if I’m really on the lookout for what’s happening with the students, it can spin into a story. If someone bursts out laughing, I try to find out why. If someone is eating something, or passing gum to a friend, etc, etc., it can become a story. I never even heard of John Cena but he seems to be a favorite of everyone. “walk like John Cena” is now a standard for TPR, and I recommend it for a laugh.

          3. AHAHAHA JOHN CENA! I had no clue until Christmas when a kid (grumpy boy) asks due if he could put John Cena on our door (Christmas door decorating contest) A control freak girl freaked out “what does that have to do with christmas?” Which of course made it even better “of course we should have John Cena on our door!” Grumpy boy conceded to control freak girl by putting hi in a sled! Yay World peace 🙂

  2. What I love the most is that the kids are blurting in the language, are interested in being there, are still young enough to be silly and that you are so chill! That is one of my favorite things about you. You just allow the pauses to happen and try to work with the energy in the classroom. This is what makes the class successful. It is when you try to take the class in a certain direction that it fails. But if you wait and listen to the students they will generally guide you right where you need to go.

    Thanks for sharing these videos. I learn so much from them! Most of all how to have fun with the students and allow them to have one class a day where they actually want to be there!

  3. This really reminds me of teaching middle schoolers. My students talked a lot – both English and Chinese, and often about what we made up. I always used to feel like that wasn’t really how it “should” be, but it was that or be boring and lose them, it felt like. For that matter, it’s somewhat like my high school students, who are mostly not so jaded that they can’t play.

    I like the video. I noted the comment at the bottom about when you, Ben, noticed the energy had moved from the details of the character into the storyline, and I felt it, too, at the same time. Ready to move on to the next piece, and indeed, the energy came back. Were you aware of that at the time, or just going on feel at the time, noticing it while transcripting? I wonder because there’s so much going on in class, and I don’t think there’s always time to be aware of one’s reasoning in the moment.

  4. Diane said:

    …were you aware of that at the time, or just going on feel at the time, noticing it while transcripting? I wonder because there’s so much going on in class, and I don’t think there’s always time to be aware of one’s reasoning in the moment….

    This is such a great question that goes to the core of this work and, if I may be allowed the editorial comment, contains the powder in the dynamite that is CI instruction.

    My answer is I was not aware of it. I was going on pure intuition. I actually went back and watched the video to make sure that I don’t misrepresent my answer to you here.

    What I mean by powder is that intuition is what drives this work. It is what causes the CI dynamite to explode into what TPRS really is. Nothing that is new and exciting in a story can be planned. When we rely too heavily on lesson plans, not really getting into the game but doing lay-ups all day, we won’t ever experience the boom. We all plan way too much.

    Now we always get back to the thing about maybe many new teachers aren’t ready to trust their intuition and that they need the training wheels. Fine, but at some point a person has to jump in and trust. Do we really have to talk so much about how we train people? Can’t we just get in a room and work and see what happens? We’re adults. The teachers we train are adults. They either want to come to a conference and feel the burn of intuitive TPRS teaching or they don’t. We can’t coddle them so much with endless boring sessions on circling.

    I like the Pringles Man videos because I rely on intuition the whole time all the way through. It kept it interesting for me. Life is too short for it not to be interesting. Vive l’intuition.

    In fact, I believe so strongly in intuition that I liken it to the jump humans made when they went from instinct to intelligence. Now they are making the jump from intellect to intuition. We are in an unprecedented time in human history. We are finally moving from mind to heart-mind balance.

    God bless us is all I can say. We deserve it. We have suffered so much at the merciless hands of the mind which has by now all but choked the life out of schools, especially lately with all the robotic information gatherers walking around the building, observing, gathering data, calling meetings that make TPRS teachers who rely so much on intuition nervous.

    Why do I do TPRS so intently? Because I know that in it lies, for hippy me, a shot at real happiness in this life.

    1. “My answer is I was not aware of it. I was going on pure intuition.”

      That’s what I thought! I think one has to get to the point of trust with oneself and the class to be open to that. This is where I can really agree on no lesson plans — not in the sense that someone would stifle the activity of the people in the room just to move to the next item on a plan. Perhaps teachers are concerned (legitimately at times) about doing things “right” and getting a good evaluation which can kill that instinct.

      I did that myself when Lynnette observed me earlier this year. I extended a reading thing past my students’ interest, and I knew it, but I felt I needed to show her that my students could read & understand, and that I could ask questions well. She’s only seen me teach for about 20 minutes before that time, and that was on Halloween in the afternoon with a rowdy class – not ideal. In fact it was too much Chinese for her to really follow everything anyway, and she asked me later about if the students were bored. So, my attempt at being careful to show my teaching ability backfired. She doesn’t know I think that unless she happens upon this comment.

    2. “Fine, but at some point a person has to jump in and trust.”

      I feel that I will be ready when my gut says it… I predict somewhere around spring break time… Kids are going to have spring fever, vacations, leaving middle school etc….

      I first have to make more strides with trust-building. Thank you for including that comment in the vid.

  5. I would like to beg the indulgence of the group by asking if I can maybe get away with just posting the videos from my classes without commentary and without transcription, maybe just a voiceover commentary. I just don’t have the time. I’m glad I translated for Pringles Man but my computer won’t hold too many videos and so I need to video a class and load it up to YouTube that night. To what extend do people need the translation if you are not a French teacher (if you are a Zulu or Indonesian or Gallic teacher how cool is that?). Let me know if you want a voice track commentary with each video I post or how should I do this?

    And let’s not have Ben be the only one filming. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, so what is a video worth? C’mon y’all. Feel the burn. Fly your you-know-what flag. So what if we are all freaks and fools and jokers? We are still capable of great courage.


  6. This is a huge statement:

    “They are not being rude. They are focused and learning. They are not aware of any rudeness but are happily focusing on meaning. ”

    I’m so happy Ian brought this up. It’s been a stumbling block for me. Reading this thread has helped me achieve some clarity. In my own practice I am more of an intention vs “letter of the law” person. For me to adhere 100% to the letter of my classroom rules is impossible because it requires a level of policing that I can’t/ don’t want to do AND it destroys the atmosphere that we are trying to create. It is indeed a tightrope walk.

    The procedures vary according to the group. I have one group now that is similar in spirit to Ben’s group. They get excited and suggest fun things, sometimes in English, but not run-on long rambles. These blurts are within the intention of the interaction, so I feel like they are ok because like Ben said, they are happily focused on the meaning, and the short sound bytes do not interfere with the flow of the conversation which is, on the whole, in Spanish. Groups like this are fun and easy to guide back onto the rails when they fall off.

    Another group needs policing, and I am more police-like with them. this is unfortunate, but necessary bc they choose over and over to talk amongst themselves, ignoring me and ignoring the group activity unless I am literally up front barking orders. That class is not organically interactive. Bummer. But I am not going to beat myself up. They are juniors and seniors. They will react to one thing only, which is their grades. IT is a shock to their systems that they can’t just chat amongst themselves, then go home and memorize some stuff and “write compositions” and “do projects” by typing in English into Google translate, and then get an A. Nope. I digress, but his group does not blurt. They just don’t engage in the first place.

    I know that there are others who are more successful than I at getting a legit 100% din going. I will always strive for that. I think it is possible, but only after much trust has been built and there is a safe and steady level of relaxed playfulness. And only if I do not cling to the singular outcome of 100% L2 at the expense of the possibilities on any given day. I know now that these things are achieved by stopping the action when there is any shred of unsafe / negative behavior. The tightrope is real. Kids get confused between “fun and playful” and “free for all.” I need to draw a clear line in the sand on this. Over and over.

    Re: translations etc. in the video: I am happy to get to see more vids even if they have no commentary. I will be recording myself after break, and I know I will not be translating or anything bc it will be a tech miracle for me even to get footage uploaded. I love watching everyone regardless of whether there are subtitles.

    1. Reminds me of my different feelings about chatter in 2 classes (when it’s in good will almost all the time — though I shut down side conversations) and that in a third group (where it feels like they treat me like a TV sitcom and make commentary at will if I am not constantly on them about it).

      1. What about — pick a favorite video clip now & then to subtitle, but don’t do them all? It does take time. Those who can understand more French can catch more of what’s happening in the videos. Perhaps comments about videos by French understanders will fill in gaps, or can point out noteworthy things at (ex) minute 5:54 or things like that.

        (I can understand your French at least 95%. If it were Spanish, totally different story.)

          1. Yes, maybe. Ex: if it were Spanish, I’d need subtitles, or I’d miss most of what happened because I’d be distracted and bothered by not understanding. I’m guessing there are people who feel that way about French, who might get lost in the incomprehensible language and miss the teaching aspects.

        1. I would rather not translate, obviously, because of the massive amount of time needed to do that. I COULD do a nice fast voice over track explaining what I am doing, but that would mute out the French and the viewer would not know what is going on because there would be no subtitles.

          This is what I am asking the group to provide me with feedback on. I don’t want to do all that translation but if it is necessary for the novice to learn from then I will do it. I’ll just get a really big external drive and slowly do the translations of the vids I get this spring over the next few years.

          BUT I don’t want to if it isn’t needed that much to convey the method. So I really need this feedback. Thanks Diane and Lance. What do others think about this really important question? Are the translations necessary? Be honest.

          1. I don’t think they’re necessary, but if you ARE going to do it, it’d be nice to have a distinction between your thoughts and the translation.

          2. I don’t think they are necessary. We can ask questions here. I am only saying that because for me there is more value in watching more videos. The process of sharing a video can be simple or complicated. I say keep it simple. I get so much out of these. I understand French so that makes it easier, but I also watch Diane’s videos and get a ton from that without understanding Mandarin.

          3. Hi Ben,

            My opinion: do whatever is easiest in order to make more videos. If the translation part slows down the video production, skip it.

            1. You jumped from story development on Pringle Man 2 to reviewing art on Pringle Man 3. There must have been a day in there that you weren´t able to videotape.
            2. I like how your art is now permanent because it is on paper and not on a large whiteboard. I am going to figure out a way to implement that.
            3. There was a brief shot in Pringle Man 2 of your posters above the whiteboard in the front of the room. I know one of the Posters is Sabrina´s responses to the ¨how are you today¨ question, but I would like to see a photo of all the posters you now have up in your room.

          4. Whatever is less work for you Ben. The method is what is important. I enjoy voice over commentary but whatever works for you.

            I will be following the PLC much more and thus can make comments about the French.

      2. I think they help a lot. I speak French but I think it’s important to have them. I kind of hate to say it cause of all the work. Can someone help you? I’d like to learn. I think I’ll take video today in class and I have no clue about it. I can’t even begin to imagine how to get subtitles to pop up. Also I don’t know how to get the kid who’s filming to make sure it’s just me in the pic.

  7. I think it was watching video of Ben teach 3 years ago that I first saw how calm and cool our instruction can be. A huge influence on my style. Thank you so much, Ben, for being so fearless and sharing with us such high quality CI instruction videos!

    Now, I can’t help but point out discrepancies between what TPRS prescribes or what Ben sometimes prescribes on the blog and what actually happens in the classroom. And I point these out because if you observed my classroom you would see much of the same! We need to get real with what actually happens in our classrooms. I’m on board with breaking every one of these “rules” . . . IF they are broken (as has been pointed out) because the kids are focusing on the message and truly collaborating to advance the story.

    – Choral responses
    – One person speaks
    – Only L2
    – No blurting
    – No lesson plans

    Ben is INVITING students to join in on the storytelling fun. Coercion and strict response and turn-taking rules conflict with the type of communication we want (more symmetrical teacher-student relationships) and the type of buy-in/motivation (intrinsic) and sense of community (cooperative) it engenders. Ben pauses (gives them space) and lets some of the student chatter happen. He observes. Then, he continues in L2. Ironically, if we try to force participation and force a focus on the message, it occurs less than when we leave it to student CHOICE.

    I use Ben’s 2-words of English rule. How else will beginners get to freely express their ideas? Where else will the words come from?

    And there is a lesson plan in the form of an activity selected (collaborative storytelling) and 6 steps. The messages/story content is not predetermined – the linguistic content is organic. So our lesson plans aren’t built around what language bits we are teaching, but we may still have a plan and a process. In other words, we have a “communicative” lesson plan, not a “linguistic” lesson plan.

    Now, I have this year identified 3 types of challenges to the way I would like to communicate.

    1) Two 8th graders who talk too much, often in L2, and talk over others or else dominate too much of the discussion. (Note: They are notorious for doing this in every class).

    2) A boy who is a lazy, school-is-not-cool, superstar. The vibe he sends off keeps others from feeling comfortable and participating.

    3) Fourth graders who are way more interested in the attention of their peers than they are invested in the L2 message.

    In all cases, what has helped included: having open reflection discussion time in L1 with the classes, hanging out in L1, private meetings with students, and in the case of #3, I have had to resort to L2 timing with no interruptions. . .

    For #3, I started keeping track of minutes of L2 with no distractions and those minutes are points. The fourth grade classes get competitive and they exert positive peer pressure to participate appropriately. Once earning “x” number of points, I will reward the classes with a CI activity they like (Sr. Wooly, magic trick, etc.). This has only been necessary to do with fourth grade, but it has so far made a HUGE difference.

      1. Ben’s ‘Brrrrr 1’ video had a huge influence on me. We even watched it in my classes, because it was so awesome and we had just finished talking about temperatures.

      2. – Slow speech*

        I go slow whenever I see students signaling. I repeat and go slower. Then I pick a student who didnt get it at first… then I continue.

    1. Eric the Socratic idea that John Piazza brought up a month ago and that Sean commented on has drawn rewards. I will post on it in the next few days. I’m thinking it may be of help with those 8th graders you have.

    2. Thanks for sharing Eric. Can you load a vid? My principal volunteered to tape me and said that students already signed parent release forms. I might have to double check. So, my vid is coming soon! I teach LV1 and LV2 French.

  8. It occurs to me that Ben is illustrating for us not only Dr. Krashen’s ‘focus on meaning, not on the language vehicle’ but also the ‘pain vs. pleasure’ principle. Ben’s role as teacher recedes into the background, and here he looks really more like an MC or a stand-up comic in a small club, kibbitzing with his audience, inviting ideas, laughing and smiling joyfully in the moment. In order for the magic trick to work and the kooky details to flow, it can’t feel like there’s an enforcer up there; it has to be an invitation from your funny uncle…whom you adore so much and want to be tickled by that you behave the way he likes…
    If the class were double the size/blurting, I think communication would break down, so perhaps one would need tighter reigns, +- more practicing how to respond. Maybe the T could reduce noise/mayhem by asking for detail ideas by row, or color of your shoes? Maybe Ss could write down & flash suggestions on a dry erase board? Just top-o-m’head options…

    1. here he looks really more like an MC or a stand-up comic in a small club, kibbitzing with his audience, inviting ideas, laughing and smiling joyfully in the moment.

      Good analogy!

      If the class were double the size/blurting…

      Good suggestions. I need them. I got a 38 student class I have been working on. We did stories in the beginning without much rules and expectations and reminders…. whoa.

      However because they never had a caring French teacher long term (the longest probably 3 months). Making my own emotions transparent with them has brought them back in. it has built trust.

      I use the following in L1. L2 will come soon.

      1) I feel happy that you two (two chatty, disobedient students) are reading and on task.
      2) I feel proud to be working here.
      3) I feel disrespected when you are talking across the room about something off-topic while I am trying to read to you.

      Whereas before I had 85% blurters (in a 38 student class), today I had about 1-3 students off-task or having side conversations while they should have been reading silently.

  9. Like Eric, I am struck by how much Ben has influenced my style in front of a classroom. Watching Pringles Man, I was brought back three years to a time when I had a flu of some kind and lay on the couch for a few days watching a series of DVDs of Ben teaching hour after hour. It felt good to be back in your classroom, Ben! The chattiness and L1 blurting is super familiar from my own experiences, and I believe that it can be perfectly functional in a small group as we see in the third video where it all comes together in a tight, focused, L2 retell. Judge by the results.

  10. Along the lines of having fun and doing free-wheeling CI, I took some chances during a recent observation by my principal. This is what he wrote on my report:
    “Used great humor with the students. Nice job acting things out. Nice job asking students to act things out. Outstanding job drawing in the students’ opinions and stories. Great variety of activities. Love the horseshoe desk arrangement. Nice job including all the students in retelling the story. You did have to remind the students to stay in the target language. Great job ckecking in with each student. Nice job having a student lead the class and you sit with the other students. The lesson went well with a variety of activities and positive student engagement throughout.”
    Here was his one Recommendation: “Students could have notebooks out and take notes as you go over things.”
    I’d say this is a reflection of a fun day of CI in the classroom!! Yay!!

      1. I agree Diane. That guy was very won over by Angie’s work. But he had to check off the “area for growth comment” box on his sheet for his superior in the food chain. Good point.

        We have to remember when reading our own evaluations that someone is pulling down big dollars reading reports like that at the admin level somewhere in the district offices in order to justify their pretty useless jobs, when those tax dollars could be in use in classrooms trying to help a kid grow up in this confusing world.

        Honestly, I believe that most admins are actually road blocks to professional growth. They keep everything and everyone in their own world and so many don’t get CI, creating (vertical alignments kinds of meetings), keeping the system gummed up at the expense of real teacher communication – the messy kind. They want smooth waters and smooth waters hide the turmoil instead of bringing it to the surface where it can become powerful change. With CI at least in WL, we could get more done just by getting together in a room and hashing pedagogy out rather than have all those nervous evals and observations and scope and sequence requests by people who don’t fully get it.

        If an admin were to read that above paragraph, they would take offense and get all huffy and STILL not dig far enough down into what is truly needed for their WL programs to change, so a change in a WL department that might take a year ends up taking a decade or never even happens because of the foxes guarding the hen house. I think they need to look at that, their role in slowing down reform when they are ironically the ones calling for reform. They want “nice” reform. They can’t flip the mirror and see how they are slowing things down.

        But this guy who evaluated our Angie gets it. I want to go give him a hug because those who have been here over the years know about the unprecedented professional growth she has pulled up from her gut, at times heroically, over the past five years. It’s been a fantastic thing to see. Angie has of course been a Teacher of the Month here and should be Teacher of the Year in her district. She probably will be some day, because she is real and brings the right stuff to her classroom.

        Sorry a bit of a rant there.

  11. I agree on the calmness in the classroom thing observed by Eric & Angie. The first people I watched teach were Katya Paukova and then Ben by video. No arm waving, nothing frantic. So I never even heard the stereotype of TPRS teachers as being super-high action for a while. I’ve seen a lot of people teach now, with various personalities, but even the high-energy extroverts don’t come off as the stereotype. I really wonder where it came from! People use it as a reason they “can’t” do TPRS.

    1. Angie, very wonderful story you shared. Those comments were amazing!

      Regarding the high energy thing…It is a bit of an overstatement to say arm waving and moving around the room is too much. I think the situation dictates what needs to be done to create optimal acquisition.

      If moving around the room is the way to teach to the eyes of 38 students then it must be done. If dramatizing a story means becoming and actor and moving your arms, falling to the floor, or shouting across the room it must be done.

      I am hugely uncomfortable as the teacher standing in front of the room at the board for 60 minutes. To me that represents an older model of teaching…not to say anything about Ben as the stand-up comic on open mic night style…it works in his current setting.

      We also have to say that there is a certain element of showmanship that those wonderful presenters must feel during summer conferences too. They are not up in front of hundreds to show the ordinary…right?

      1. I was thinking of a description I recently read here about TPRS teachers: “TPRS teachers animate their stories. They move around, gesture wildly, raise their voices or bring their voices down to a whisper. They ask students to act out the scenes. They move in different places in the classroom to go to the different locations in the plot.”

        “Gesture wildly” is the one that bothers me. We’re not frantic. I haven’t seen “gesturing wildly” ever. I should probably let it go, eh? It’s an article written with a very positive opinion of TPRS, so I don’t think the writer meant it as a slam the way that phrasing feels to me.

  12. …no arm waving, nothing frantic….

    Maybe [that early stereotype of a TPRS teacher] came from Susan Gross and Jason Fritze. Susan’s style is to really get in the kids’ faces and teach to the eyes in a very energetic way. Jason is an actor, a really good one, so his truth with a story was to live it and feel it in his body while creating it.

  13. Regarding whether time intensive video translations are necessary, I don’t think that they are. You must consider your audience when you ask us that kind of a question. If we want to use your videos to train newbies, then I think hearing the back and forth in French may be more instructive. I glean the most from watching AND reading your reflections (I don’t really need to hear the French banter). Then again I can appreciate your ‘soft skills’ -to the eyes, slow, pause & point, smile, keep the filter low and enjoy the ride….
    The most amazing thing to me over and over when I watch you pros at your art is that the kids totally get what you’re saying and engage in convo w/you in the TL. Amazing every time!

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