Report from the Field – James Hosler

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11 thoughts on “Report from the Field – James Hosler”

  1. For those new to the group, over the past few years we had agreed that a good plan for a year would be in general to spend the first few months doing simple personalization and rule setting work using various strategies like Circling with Balls, then move hard into stories in about October and stay there until March or so, and then begin heavy reading of novels.

    The reason to move into the novels was because many of us have noticed that the kids get tired of stories by March. So we are faced with a conundrum – the kids get tired of stories and then report back later that they like them the best and attribute their best learning to them. (This is a statement that I fully agree with – there is nothing like properly done stories – i.e. stories that closely follow the Three Steps process – to get maximum gains in comprehension based instruction.)

    So what do we do, especially at those upper levels, when it is hard to keep playing the story card to kids who are tired of the same old routine and many of whom are taking AP classes and are generally plowed under with school?

    One thought might be Movie Talk. When kids are tired, we could show a movie and stop it every now and then generate some CI from it and then return to the movie. There is also a link below on “April Bailout Moves” that may shed some more light on this topic of getting optional teaching ideas for the spring.

    Of course, we don’t have to have a specific plan to answer this question, as we all practice our craft in different ways, but what is the best response to the point James’ students raised? My inclination is to keep reading, really, with breaks of lots of Look and Discuss, which I personally have been getting mega-mileage out of this past few months. I myself find it extremely difficult to keep the story culture going more than five months each year. It just kind of wanes.

    Related: https://benslavic.com/blog/category/april-bail-out/

  2. I have somewhat related questions about upper levels, too. I’m beginning to prepare for next school year (newly teaching high school, Chinese 1-4, looking forward to it!). Advice? Suggestions? They are classes that were semi-CI and rather textbook-based to this point. I have thought that perhaps beginning with MovieTalk would help them transition with me into fully CI methods. Yet, I have the impression that these are kids who will take it CI and enjoy it. Ex: they spoke rather longingly of getting to read books, like the Spanish & French classes do.

    I suppose I will not have the problem of over-familiarity with CI options with these 3 & 4 classes, which is a positive. It’ll be different. I am still thinking about how much to give bits of info on SLA so they know why I teach as I do. Will they miss those grammar explanations in the book and all that too-early production with new structures? Will it feel “too repetitive” at least at first? Will they feel initially “held back” if they are expected to listen more and speak less? Don’t know yet.

    I’ve done transitioning students before, as those of you in the PLC who recall from my mega-challenging group of then-7th graders. But that time, it was my own class formerly taught with a textbook being transitioned by me, and they were a class with a culture of competition and pushback in general.

    1. The upper level kids who have never had CI before may take well to stories and normal first and second year type stuff. Mine did and I could basically do the same thing in every level the first year I did CI.

    2. I taught Spanish III this past fall for the first time at a school where some students have been taking Spanish since kindergarten. My colleague who teaches Spanish II and III is more of a traditional teacher, and I was worried about my advanced students feeling babied. I tried to mirror what she was doing with her Spanish III class, and I wound up starting out waaaay too hard, with articles and discussions about the history of Spain. I shifted back into stories, and finished with a novel that I thought went pretty well. If I teach that class again, I am going to start with CWB and L&D like I would with any other class.

      I had some very academically-driven students in that class, and no one ever questioned me about the rigor of my course. I think to the contrary, they were relieved to feel successful in the language. The nice thing about juniors and seniors is that they are growing out of the black/white good/bad way of thinking that can sometimes cause younger teens to tune us out.

    3. One of my toughest classes, by far, was three years ago. I was in a new district, just staring TPRS instruction, and it was a mixed Chinese 4/5 class of 24 or so kids. Really, really difficult. Basically I threw in the towel half way through the year and just focussed on the 4-5 kids who still wanted to learn. (Senioritis, acceptance into college, etc. just made the class deteriorate even further…)

      The one thing I found that worked well that year was embedded traditional short stories. (A couple of Chinese “ghost stories” (Claudia Ross), and a few chengyu stories. I might be able to dig out some of the iterations if you’re interested – lemme know).

      Class-grown stories were out of the question because the rapport was never appropriate. Straight PQA wasn’t successful, either.

      But 3-4 versions of the stories and plenty of q&a in between made noticeable gains.

      Had I known about movie talk then, I think results would have been similar.

      Consider not killing yourself for the upper levels at the expense of the younger levels. My supervisor that year was very sweet and understanding and basically said those same words to me. She further cited how the American system of college acceptance half-way through senior year is so ridiculous, and unfair to teachers of seniors!

      But hopefully that last part is moot and you’ll have a GREAT experience!! 😉

  3. I am redoing TPRS next year and willgo directly into stories. Zero cwb etc. Story on first day. If I can do it with a German story in demos I can do it with kids. I’m doing this because I have too much trouble staying in bounds when I am freewheelin’ and I cannot keep track of what I have taught. Also, the only stuff that shows up in output is the stuff they see in writing, and the best TPRS results I have ever seen– Adriana Ramírez’s– are doing it pure Blaine.

    I am gonna *reverse* the order: stories for first 1/4 of course (supplemented with R&D and movietalk), THEN more freewheelin’ stuff– cwb, owi etc– introduced at the same time as novels. (I do Berto and Pobre Ana with my 1s). Novels will be interspersed with more stories.

    1. Chris, I’ve been the same way. Stories first. Then they peter out, and I fill in with movie-talk, pic-tells, extended pqa scenarios (half-stories), R&D, old stories + extensions, etc.

    2. The caution would be for newer people to avoid starting the year with stories. SLOW circling has to be under our command before we start stories and new people generally require time to master those two things, hence CWB, OWI, etc.

      Plus, I like CWB and OWI and a third, brand new, idea to start the year (it is waiting in the queue for publication) because those techniques allow me to set the Classroom Rules in place and personalize with less effort because the focus of those techniques is in fact on establishing discipline and personalizing at the beginning of the year.

      But yeah stories to start the year works once the skills are under your belt. It all works, as long as we have those basic skills and the rules and JGR working for us by the end of the first two weeks.

  4. Annemarie Orth

    When I start reading novels with my students I usually take a break about half way through and do a story, like a parallel story with some new structures or an “evil twin” story. I think it’s important to pace oneself on the stories…my students always ask to them but truthfully they exhaust me. I’m sure there’s probably something I’m doing wrong because I get so tired out…But I find they are the most helpful way for students to acquire the target language.

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