Report From Brian

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5 thoughts on “Report From Brian”

  1. Brian,

    Your situation is not so far from what I encountered here in France, with students who had, over four years and more of English instruction before they came to me, acquired a good, even excellent level in some cases. Some had parents who spoke English well and took them on trips, etc. Others had had only two years of classes, had at some point given up on being able to understand, had decided that they were “nul” in English, etc. The way I found to get them working together in class was to focus on a film, carefully chosen to interest them all. I described this recently on the moretprs list and am willing to go into as much detail as possible, if anyone is interested. Basically, the film was our textbook. In your case, you would want to choose a Spanish language film (making your heritage speakers proud of what their culture has produced) with Spanish subtitles. With the subtitles on screen you’re getting the oral and written input at the same time.
    The question is how to make it comprehensible. By going sloooooooooooooowly, duh. I tell my students right off the bat that we are not going to “watch” it, but study it. We work on one scene at a time. First we read the subtitles, translating them just as you would if you were reading a novel projected on the screen. And you can do everything you would do with a novel, circling structures that you want to work on, comparing with the students, creating a parallel story, etc. You’ll have the heritage speakers who can translate what is difficult and ask the others to translate simple sentences. Once you have made the dialog in the scene comprehensible, then you can have a discussion in Spanish, 100% CI about what is happening, who the characters are, what their problem is, etc.
    You can use embedded readings to summarize the action. You can ask your students to retell a scene. The film becomes your story. If you choose your film wisely, you’ll have a ball, and your students too.

  2. Ben,
    I know its the weekend, but you’ve got to cry foul on this ‘Report From Brian’ post – they must see your reponse that you wrote in the email back to me.  To clear it up for blog members: The BIG issue (it can’t possibly be that unique to me) is: CAN CI WORK IN A CLASS WITH STUDENTS OF BOTH HIGH AND LOW LANGUAGE ABILITY TOGETHER?

    or: CAN NEAR NATIVES (who at least understand the language) be with NON-NATIVES and have CI work for all somehow?

    or, as my former AP would love say (or bark) at me: can I successfully DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION for these two student groups in  the same class?

    Thank you Judy for your ideas about using videos! Motivation/Interest is a big factor in this, in my opinion, fundamental question to the feasibility of CI for all situations. Videos of course are a winner with students – though its one slice of my time with them – it can’t be any more than that, unless I somehow approach the whole year with videos/subtitles as their input. This is unfeasible and away from the key variable of (P)ERSONALIZATION that is key in our revolutionary CI+P formula. I want true human interaction AS we learn language – like taking what happens when we WILLINGLY help out a visiting foreigner with little English skill and encapsulating and developing the success of that type of interaction in my class between non and near natives.

    Now I’m rambling and getting away from the force that I started this post with (Ben, jump in! You are the best feather-ruffler on important issues that we have!), but I believe I even remember discussion here on the blog last year revolving around the idea of classes with level 1, 2, 3, and/or 4 students mixed together and how when we take away the old-school “vocab and grammar scope and sequence” and vertical alignment stuff and insert CI/TPRS we can bring different levels together. Well?

  3. Here is the email I sent back to Brian:

    Brian, I am crying foul on:

    “I’ve got to teach my HL (heritage learners) to be able to deliver CI as well – not just me. I’ve got to teach my NN (non-natives) to embrace CI when it comes and shoot for just getting the gist when we fly a bit high. I’ve got to balance both wings: the goals of listening to understand/learn new words for my NN & the goal to develop skilled speakers and writers/learn new words for my HL.”

    I don’t think it can be done.

    I’ll post it into the queue and get this there asap. I think it will help to get comments from the group.

    also re:

    “…In THEORY, teaching ANYONE to be able to deliver CI to ANY OTHER should be possible in the classroom.”

    And I responded:

    I think that there is a genuine cultural rift on an emotional level from young Hispanic boys that would make this very very difficult if not impossible on a PRACTICAL level. As long as you can handle the emotional part, how difficult and challenging that is, it can work, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to try it.

    Ideas from the group? This is kind of intense since Brian starts with this on Monday. Is he aiming too high? Can he get CI going with those drastically different populations in the same classroom? I really like what Judy said about finding a common ground between the two groups in the form of a film, working from different angles into the middle.

    Perhaps the heritage kids could work on their writing skills, as well. Whenever I had a French kid in my classes I always made them focus on grammar and reading, since those were the areas they needed work in for full mastery of their L1.

    Just to restate the problem – Brian has non-natives and heritage learners (understand Spanish with no problem because they grew up around it here in the States) in the same Spanish II class.

  4. I have this same problem all the time in CA and I am not sure what to do with it especially in really small classes with 2 natives and 2 novices. One of the natives constantly blurting out stuff till I want to muzzle him.

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