Reflections on Using CI Instruction in Schools

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5 thoughts on “Reflections on Using CI Instruction in Schools”

  1. I’ve done this Ben and sometimes I think students are just so used to the worksheets (I sometimes print out sheets from textivate to give them to work on) – which often turn out to be busy work in other classes. But they are really good at them because they’ve practiced so much. Watching, listening and engaging is really difficult for them because it is so new.
    I was so shocked that when I took the first 5-10 min of class to talk about the meaning of the words we prayed in Latin (which were up on a powerpoint) the class was silent and civilized and answering/asking as appropriate. But when I started the story again it was back to side conversations/blurting. I know some of that is from their lack of understanding but so often that lack of understanding comes, at least in my classes, from a simple lack of trying [not paying any attention] – which takes a lot of effort in our classes as compared to all the other classes.
    The point here is: the work in our classrooms are just so different and require different habits than in the other classrooms. I think it is true that a CI class is in one sense the easiest of all their classes – because there is no homework or outside work. On the other hand, it may be their hardest class because it requires the most of them interiorly – a kind of self-discipline that they just don’t need in the other classes (and perhaps the courage to signal that sometime is not clear).

  2. “The point here is: the work in our classrooms are just so different and require different habits than in the other classrooms. I think it is true that a CI class is in one sense the easiest of all their classes – because there is no homework or outside work. On the other hand, it may be their hardest class because it requires the most of them interiorly – a kind of self-discipline that they just don’t need in the other classes (and perhaps the courage to signal that sometime is not clear).”
    YES! This has been sinking in for me, deeper and deeper. Just two days ago I reminded myself of this very notion. It is SO HARD for kids to be present. They just have no prior experience with it. None at all. For me it has been a long road of not truly acknowledging my harsh judgement. It’s like I have had this wall up around all my ideas of “how it should be in a CI classroom” and my unyielding attitude and defensiveness around “what I do” and “how it is different from any other class”. Well golly! I realized (or more accurately, have been receiving many subtle and not so sublet messages from the Universe…) that it is precisely my resistance and rigid attitude that keeps fortifying the wall! OMG DUH!
    So after meltdown #35 (not kidding) on Tuesday, I’ve tried really hard to focus on meeting the students where they are right now. “Teach the students THEIR next step, not MY next step.” The last two days have felt so different with a truly palpable shift in energy.
    For me right now, this means a ton of banter and joking in English. At the beginning of class, and at other random times. It is working. I can feel the difference. A couple of the really super cranky kids were superstars yesterday. I can’t say why exactly, but they were “with me” in a way I have yet to experience.
    So yes. This is a whole different can of whoop ass.

    1. Jen, I had a similar experience while watching a bit of a Reed Riggs demo. He was teaching a sentence using one Chinese word in an English sentence. Exactly. He was circling a sentence with one Chinese word in it. And then he built from there. As Diane has informed us before, there is not much in the way of cognates. This makes sense.
      It reminds me of a few novels that (Judy, I believe) told us about. They start in French, gradually bring in English, and by the end of the novel are completely in English. The goal was for French students to end up in English. It is an Affective Filter thing.

    2. This is so very heartening to read, jen. Between you and Angie, what you two have been through emotionally with this work over recent years, Vermont emerges as a place where the real work is being done. Few have hurtled into the change heedless of their own safety like you two. It has been thrilling to read about. You are wrestling greased pigs and winning! Thank you for that heartfelt report. I am so glad that:
      …a couple of the really super cranky kids were superstars yesterday….
      THAT IS NO SMALL SHIFT IN CLASSROOM CULTURE.

  3. Three years ago I had a class in which we did SSR (Sustained Silent Reading*) using Blaine’s readers. Students started with Pobre Ana and progressed at their own rate through the books. One student’s experience is noteworthy. In the fall, she regularly groaned when I told them to get their novelas. She was not unkind, just being honest, and requested we do something more to her liking.
    In the spring, I started to realize that she wasn’t groaning about it. Eventually, she would come into class and ask, “Are we going to read today?” I said, “I thought you didn’t like to read.” She said, “I didn’t like to read before, but I do now.”
    It was not just that she did not like to read Blaine’s readers or even Spanish. She did not like to read period. She did not like to read in her spare time or in any of here other classes. But in Spanish class she learned to read due to the type of classes we try to do, despite my haphazard, stay below the radar attempts at TPRS and CI. In addition to the CI they were getting when not reading, one benefit of Blaine’s books is that they are graded and allow for students to grow into the more challenging stories.
    I have her younger sister this year. We started doing a class reading of Carl Didn’t Want to Go to Mexico (a past tense rewriting of Carl Doesn’t Want to Go to Mexico). The younger sister does not like reading Carl. In fact she does not like reading at all. Where have I seen this pattern before. They don’t just look similar. Apparently there are entire families of non-readers out there who are doing well in schooling. Will the younger sister get drawn into the magic of reading? I am less perturbed by her premature confessions of being a non-reader.
    Repeating the SSR approach last year, I witnessed similar experiences. Talking with two students at the end of the year last year, I learned how their reading experiences changed from the beginning of one year (two years ago) to the end of the following year (last year). When they first started reading on their own it was a more tedious process. They read the words in Spanish and then consciously translated them in English to ascertain the meaning. By the end of their second year of reading they were reading without translating, deriving meaning directly from Spanish.
    *I had done Free Voluntary Reading in previous years, but this was not free or voluntary since they read through the series in the sequence which Blaine wrote them.

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