Report from the Field – Liam O’Neill

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8 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Liam O’Neill”

  1. Liam,

    I love your demeanor in this video. You seem very relaxed and it’s like you are drawing the kids in with that presence. I can’t understand a word of what’s being said, but I know the kids must be getting it because they do the quick quiz with such confidence and calm at the end. Nice demo of the quick quiz, by the way.

    Also, I really appreciated how you made that kid be quiet. Did everyone see how deftly he handled that situation? It was all wrapped up after about 1 minute of the kid acting inappropriately, probably after the kid had tried only two or three times to speak out of turn. All it took was a look and the pause sign and the shaking of the head. And he shut up for the rest of class, at least as I could tell. Awesome.

    Yeah, I had to watch it again to see how thoroughly you owned him. You try around 3:30 to correct the behavior using the “he’s ugly” thing. When that didn’t work, you simply stopped and showed him the pause. At 4:14. It’s not a game, son: Be quiet. And he was.

    You did the perfect thing at the perfect time. If you had waited a minute longer, it would have been late, right? That one act by you at that precise moment made the class work for that day. Simply epic.

    1. I concur on the behavior correction James and am so glad you pointed that out. No words a teacher can say can match the importance of the teacher’s demeanor in dealing with kids like that. What we see here is a higher form of classroom management. Those who are having issues with blurting should watch and rewatch this video. I know that we all have our own teaching styles and ways of approaching discipline, but it is nonetheless true that we all need to move closer and closer to the model we see in this video and thank you Liam. We can’t reason with kids whose frontal lobes are not fully formed. So we become the adults in the room.

    2. Behavior modification is really my biggest leap in TPRS in over a year.

      I’ve had a great rapport with the kids for some time (even before TPRS) that served me very, very well in terms of classroom management. A kind of, “I’m cool and funny enough most of the time but when I look at you ‘that way’ you better fix it.”

      **But as I developed as a TPRSr I outgrew my old style of discipline.** Realizing this is elevating the value of better classroom management from intellectual to visceral. It’s becoming something that I can feel and just do. This is a huge shift.

      Just today, we had a great breakthrough in a very chatty morning class.

      I had already told two guys to stand in corners of the rooms because they were either zoning or chatting. (Additionally, they are getting bad interpersonal marks for the day, of course.) The pqa wasn’t hitting its potential yet. Cute answers weren’t coming. Some of the other kids were starting to zone. But then, the hair on my back stood up, (figuratively,) and I once again pointed to my classroom rules, this time glaring in a way that really gave an impact. I bore on with the pqa, **acknowledging NO connection between the kids’ not doing their part and it not producing cute.**

      And then the cute came: Michael was sleeping in the park because it’s a national park and the national government is shut-down!

      We immediately went into high gear story/situation building mode, got tons of rapid reps and had every kid riveted. Compelling.

      I couldn’t have produced such a nice twist and such results by myself. That’s for sure.

      But kids couldn’t have either, had I listened to any one of these voices that as a less experienced TPRSr I would have produced:
      “I need to be more entertaining,”
      “let’s move on to more exciting structures,”
      “I’m feeling bored with this”
      “the kids are too bored with this”
      “I’ll make it funny for a moment by saying something in English.”

  2. Thank you for sharing your video, Liam. It makes me think of several things:
    1. With beginners, I do the same thing as you with some English words mixed into their known Chinese. I aim for 100% Chinese during instruction (apart from proper nouns and classroom management). We have the joke about meiyou mayo too – my 5th grade said it before I did.
    2. High school classroom management looks so effortless compared to middle school & to some degree, elementary (both of which I teach). It makes me think about teaching high school again, though this year I am happy at my school. How typical is that class? I mean, that was relaxing compared to any of my classes, even my really good ones. (I don’t mean to suggest high school teaching is easy! I’m envying the difference.)
    3. High school kids can get so much more. I’ve seen other high school videos but it came home to me watching another Chinese teacher. I have to plan movement and a lot of apparent activities for the 9- to 14-year-olds I teach or they get stir-crazy and act out. I now do a several minute brain break that always involves getting out of their seats. It buys a lot of good will from my students and reminds me that I don’t need to feel stressed to be a good teacher. But if they could, I would just keep going. I feel like so little happens each day because of management and motion needs of these kiddos. I don’t feel it’s me, really, anymore. It’s part of their ages.
    4. Question about your target words: were nan2kan4 and hao3kan4 targets? I was trying to tell which were the targets that day and wasn’t sure. Thanks!

    1. Another difference with littler kids – visuals help them to the point of being necessary, I have found, for many of them. Whether pictures, photos, or actors, it helps them. I think it’s the concreteness of their thinking developmentally.
      I’ve been thinking a lot about these things this year. I feel like the theme of the year for me is to learn to adapt TPRS to my age of students and the particular language I teach.

      1. Diane:

        It’s a great theme to dwell on. For sure the particulars of Chinese need to find articulated in this evolving canon of TPRS knowledge. So too, do the particulars about age.

        I saw Jason Fritz over the summer teach elementary Spanish on day 4 of 4. I recall a little story involving a lot of acting and rotation of actors. But it occupied a minority of the class time.

        I had a year attempting TPRS with younger grades in my first year. Classroom stories didn’t work at all for my second graders. (But we did only meet once a week and I had over 200 kids, whose names I never even attempted to learn!) They did work for my 4/5 grade classes (we met twice a week and class sizes were a mere 5-7 students). But they were very, very simple. I tried for more witty ones that are very typical of my current hs classes, but they just didn’t fly well.

        Anyone on this blog post know of the young Spanish teacher out west who makes stories on her ipad with her elementary students? Erin Gotlieb? She would be great to bounce ideas off of in terms of hammering out the particulars of lower level TPRS. She gave a couple of tech workshops in San Diego.

        As for your other comments:

        1. Early on I have no qualms about using English anymore. As the year goes on we’ll use English for spicy but not common nouns. That will even appear in Chinese 2 sometimes. But never verbs, structure-type elements.

        2. I prefer MS and HS to ES. It fits my personality and, just as importantly, my sense of humor better. (I really can’t wait for an opportunity to teach adults.) At the ES it takes way too much emotional effort on my part to discipline a classroom through commanding attention. This is where the most effective disciplining comes from, I believe, our ability to age/development-appropriately engage the students in the content. For sure, for sure, for sure the younger we go the more TPR, visuals, song and dance is needed. Have you seen Jason Fritz teach at elementary? In San Diego, he was like a roving, one-man band of multi-sensory tricks.

        3. For sure HS can get more wit. But complexity or amount of language? That can’t be.

        I feel for you in terms of planning your little brain break activities. I could never do that. (read: plan!) I’m way too spontaneous in the classroom.

        Part of the difficulty you face is undoubtedly related to the dearth of Chinese materials out there. As Lea E and I remarked after seeing Jason Fritz in San Diego: Spanish has mountains and mountains of materials like children’s stories and songs to draw from, especially for that age – who on earth in American elementary schools really want to sing about eye-less tigers and pulling radishes?

        If you had more materials you could break up your day with readings and songs. Totally awesome at elementary but almost totally impossible (especially the former) with Chinese. (Unless you make a library of digital stories ala Erin Gottlieb).

        If I were you, this would be a big, big problem for me to solve. Maybe put up a video of yourself? We could give suggestions!

        4. Target words. I believe I didn’t introduce any new words that day. Perhaps the previous day I introduced 2-4 words but didn’t get enough reps on them. Can’t remember exactly. Especially in beginning of the year, I throw so many words at them that nearly everything is a target. (I think I had 3-4 posters on the board, right?) Hopefully, as the year goes down I can only have one poster on the board at a time. But I’m notorious for having too many. That is a problem that I need to improve on. But my sense is that at the beginning of the year its unavoidable. i think I’ve read that from others too.

        Do you have students count reps? Probably too difficult for younger grader, right? Even if they had counters? (My students just do hash marks on paper.) Come to think of it, at the younger grades you’re probably missing out on nearly all of these wonderful jobs that Ben has invented, right? (I only use three, really – counters, quizzers and story recorders, but they are so essential for me!)

        Thanks for the comments!

        1. Thanks for your thorough response, Liam! I do use some jobs, even with the quarter-long rotation of 4th graders, but it has really helped this year with my 5th graders. They complain if they don’t have a job, or argue about who gets what job. That’s much easier to resolve though! Must-haves so far are recorder and word counters.

          I definitely need to see/read/observe those who have been teaching little ones for years. I have learned TPRS and CI mainly from great high school teachers, or at least middle school teachers, not really any elementary (though I read Jody’s comments religiously when she discusses her classes).

          I have found a couple of helpful things for the younger ones with reading & Chinese specifically. Short, simple reading with lots of support and well after lots of auditory input. I’m calling them Smack! and Improv, respectively, and they’ve worked with 5th-8th really nicely. I keep aiming to make a video but haven’t gotten to it yet!

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