Question for the Group

Ben Lev in CA has been a member of the group for at least the past ten years. He is making a job change and needs some feedback from us:

Hi Ben, hope you’re well –

I need some support – I just quit my high school job to get out of a toxic environment and will start a new one in a week. Old job: six great years of CI + two recent years of crappy admin, department moving toward grammar emphasis, helicopter parents like crazy…. Wonderful students – I’ll miss them. New job: part-time, working class school, textbook dept, three sections of level 1. I will have some freedom to teach as long as I give the same semester final exam. 

Big change for me one month into the year. I just couldn’t tolerate being in the old school any more… I’m 60 now and will teach 1-2 more years. Need the income and health insurance for my family.

So I’m nervous and looking for support and solid ideas for picking up these three classes that have had a long term sub. Going to start with Card Talk and go from there. Any thoughts or encouragement from you or the PLC would be appreciated right now!




9 thoughts on “Question for the Group”

  1. This question happens a lot. What indeed do we do when we are in a new situation with level 1 kids and, like Ben, are CI ninjas but with traditional people around us?

    My answer, only recently formed after thinking about this a lot over the years, is to simple teach the material for the common exam, but as fast as I can to start class (and still have the kids understand), and then move forthwith into CI tableaux and stories.

    So like 20 min. of exam prep and then 30 min. of CI. Or half and half or whatever.

    The kids will start complaining but you just tell them you have to teach them that stuff.

    The premise of keeping CI separate from traditional (lists of things to learn) is grounded in the research. We can’t mix CI and transitional – doesn’t work. I tried as a TPRS teacher for 15 years. No luck there. Just frustration.

    That’s why I have the 47 reasons category at the top of the “Categories” list on the right side of this page.

    1. I also agree that the 20 minutes of traditional bookwork (which, while not super interesting, is what students and fellow teachers usually expect- and is really pretty easy on the teacher, other than the boredome…) and then having your CI time afterwards to build community, connect with students, and show them more of what the language is really like is the way to go.

  2. So Ben I will send you the two new Invisibles books and I want you to read over Category A and maybe implement it for a week or so (it’s based on Card Talk), and then go right to Category B. Maybe do Cat. C (one word images) much later.

    Of course, the new books take the use of drawings, one word images, etc. to a much more refined level than what most people think OWIs are. Carly knows this and a few others here.

    Cat. B are based on individually created drawings and the simply ROCK the house. I think just it alone is enough to get you on very firm footing in the new school. The use of one word images will just be gravy later on. Nothing else in my opinion can match the effectiveness and ease of implementation that Cat. B offers.

    There is an Invisibles FB page called “Ben Slavic’s Invisibles” FB page. Unlike here on the PLC, we limit all discussion to the new books and that is where I post videos about the Invisibles.

    Ben are you still riding that recumbent?

  3. I agree with Ben about starting class with whatever they need to memorize for the exam and then doing CI stuff the rest of the period! And I agree that starting with card talk is the way to go! These kids will probably eat it up after so much subwork from a textbook. Enjoy the moments where you get to know them and start building that classroom community. Call it a listening activity and use the rubric for a grade. Praise them for remembering things about their peers.
    I have had more fun with card talk this year than I ever have before, it is pure gold. Good luck!!

      1. I agree with “call it a listening activity”. I have been experimenting with explaining nearly everything I do with SKILL BUILDING terminology and have been finding that it works great for avoiding problems with students and helicopter parents.

        “We are going to practice writing” is what I say before “Write and Discuss”. “We are going to practice the story” is what I say before reading a class story. “We are going to do some reading work today.” is another one I use.

        Sometimes if you try to explain theory too much they think that you are just a hippie teacher that doesn’t want to grade things.

        1. Set things up with routines and activities that look traditional and you will save yourself a lot of stress. You will also end up being able to provide more CI as well.

  4. It all depends on how they structure those assessments. I believe if the assessments are more open ended (short spoken exams and essays) there is a way that we can “keep aligned” with the traditional teachers in our department.

    So the assessment is the same, content is different. Then of course we know that grading is always subjective so we grade in an equitable, acquisition-friendly way.

  5. The oddest thing is that the students of traditional teachers when tested summatively are getting whatever scores they get based almost entirely on memorization. If they haven’t HEARD the TL in class then how else would they “pass” (very arbitrary) the summative exam?

    And then there is the fact that the research shows that a word may have been heard 50 times in a CI class and STILL not be available for conscious recall just bc that is how the mind works. I feel like writing a book in favor of the research, which TPRS has each year strayed further from in favor of the old ways of teaching a language, but I won’t write it bc who would read it? It’s like the score in the game is:

    Traditional: 1
    Research: 0

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben