Return to Core Strategies – The Big Ideas

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77 thoughts on “Return to Core Strategies – The Big Ideas”

  1. In that last paragraph Ben when you talk about word lists, I think the main difference between the two is if they are expected to memorize them or not. That right there makes the whole endeavor of making a list of words a different ball game. Also, whether they are thematic or not, that also makes it worse, because it implies (explicitly or not) that they only have a short window to memorize them, before moving on to the next thematic unit.

    Re the distraction from the core concepts, I can’t really say. I took a while off from the blog this year, and any time I came back I was kind of flooded with new acronyms that I still can’t really keep up with. It doesn’t demotivate me to come back by any means, it just means that I try to not read and comprehend everything that is posted. That’s ok with me.

    But, to play on your point a bit, where did R&D go? I mean, that was a pretty solid acronym with a pretty well understood meaning. Now there are several types of R&D, but with different acronyms and titles (i.e. RAT, cRD). Sometimes more is less. We can do R&D in many different ways, but it’s still R&D right? That would be easier for me to keep up with, and to articulate to other teachers. Narrow and deep right?

    1. …the main difference between the two is if they are expected to memorize them or not. That right there makes the whole endeavor of making a list of words a different ball game. Also, whether they are thematic or not, that also makes it worse, because it implies (explicitly or not) that they only have a short window to memorize them, before moving on to the next thematic unit. …

      Thank you Jim. I feel the same way. What you wrote there should be plastered on the hallway walls of every WL department in the country. It is a truly accurate statement about what we know about how people learn languages. Memorizing lists is a true sink hole in the ground we till.

      To your point about R & D I heartily agree. Now tell my right brain self that and all will be well. What do we do about the acronym mosh pit?

  2. I think we had a very rich writing discussion going on last year. We have so many tools at our disposal that it tends to paralyze me at times. Every time my teaching gets muddy or blurry, I really hammer the two week schedule which has saved my life. We need to keep blinders on sometimes.

    1. I am wanting some blinders as well Carol. What you wrote there has helped me in my recent struggle to figure out why I am not feeling balanced with this site lately. I miss the days when we knew what to do, when things were simple.

    1. Thank you Chill, I think that was me. I am going to start with this list. As a very new member, I want to give back in a meaning-full way, but lack the experience. Please keep this blog going! I am reading more, going back to Ben’s books that I have (TPRS in a year) and feel inspired. Which tab should I read as it pertains to “keeping the administrators happy”?

      I wholeheartedly agree that kids don’t learn from lists of words!! and talk about stressed-out!

      In two weeks I am required to give a mid-term review and in three-weeks a mid-term!! I found on the blog a tab discussing giving a mid-term by telling a story then doing the T/F questions at the end of the 90 minute block, with a reading as the review…Loved this idea! I Even thought I could incorporate the jgr( is that right?) the interpersonal communication rubric? As part of the mid-term grade with the t/f… Well, I found out the test is going to be administered by someone else!!! What? I am going to be walking the halls if anyone has questions.. Well, that idea is out.

      So… This type of question.. For the forum? Or posted here? (probably not)

      I personally would like a mentor. Someone to be my guide or teacher. Just as Ben talks about fist bumping, or greeting the students with touch, I too feel like I a personal connection to someone.

      Is there a tab listing of people who would be interested in coaching? Assigning weekly things to read, guiding where to start, checking in on weekly challenges? Ohh!…Maybe weekly challenges incorporating the key idea on the blog for newbies and we could report back?

      Thats my input for what it’s worth. You all are my idols!!!

      Melissa

        1. Chill do you think she can be coached like that online? I have doubts about how possible that is. We need to find someone for her nearby where she lives. This is where the true work is done. Had not Susan Gross spent a lot of time in my classroom, and had I not been able to meet her for a few hours each weekend when I was learning back in 2001- 2002, I’d have quit this insanity a long time ago.

          1. Thank you for validating that for me Ben. I had a dream that you came to my house this morning and followed me to school. Blaine was there too. Weird. Anyway, what you had with Susie sounds great. I hope you know someone in the Nashville area.
            Also, Where are you doing any training this summer? I want to come.
            Thanks so much for being a strong advocate for teachers.
            Melissa

          2. I live in Denver and we are doing iFLT in Denver this summer. I’ll be available 18 hours a day if necessary that week. Tripp, Grant, Diana Noonan, Hosler, lots of us will be here. One of the things that disturbs me about national conferences is that people go out and socialize in the evening when we should be doing small group training every possible moment when we are not in sessions. This means taking the evenings to teach each other. It means leaving our egos at the door and doing the real work. Even 30 minutes like this can be worth a ton. This is what I intend to do next summer. I don’t know if I’ll be at NTPRS in Chicago. Still thinking about it.

            Yeah that was a weird dream. I am very much a devotee of Carl Jung, and what that dream says to me is very simple and is expressed in the rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb. Everywhere that Mary went her lamb was sure to go. Mary loved her lamb and wanted to bring it to school each day but that was against the rules. It means that you have bought this stuff hook line and sinker and don’t want your lamb (your true creative self as a teacher) to have to wait for you outside your building each day. You want this stuff in your classroom now. What the dream says is that you won’t be stopped with this work. Nothing will get in your way. It’s a strong dream from a strong person who is fast becoming a strong teacher. Who will benefit? Children will benefit.

          3. I am trying to go to Peru with our Union to teach them how to do TPRS, but if that fails and I can make it to iFLT Ben prepare to drink some beer. I propose a pub teaching session. Every time Ben says “Classe, il y’avait un garcon,” everybody takes a sip…

            I just came back from a Blaine workshop in Portland– fascinating to watch the Man Himself in action. One thing super clear: the man is the method, and the method the man. However one does TPRS, or C.I. (a term I sometimes have prblems with), it’s GOTTA be one’s own version. Not everybody can be Blaine. Holy crap what an innovator…did you guys know that he was fired from his first teaching job? And then, well, you know…he reinvented how languages are taught.

          4. I also feel that somewhere in Blaine is a desire to help others feel happy. That language is just a vehicle for that. I think he learned to love himself through all this as well. Can you imagine how he felt after he got fired and didn’t have any options, however long that period of time was? I know that he consciously tried to bring Krashen’s work to life in stories. It was not luck but a conscious decision born, I am sure, from much pain. This work, indeed, is about learning to love ourselves and our students. And our administrators, bless their hearts, as they say in South Carolina. The Core Values/Big Ideas are only vehicles to that goal and we need to keep that in mind at the beginning of each class we teach. I can say after all these years that my first objective in teaching should have been (it wasn’t) to just relax with my students and convey to them that life is good today, that I am happy today (even if I’m not) and that happiness is an unending, uncontainable thing easily spread around, and that they are safe. Then, the techniques and strategies I choose from all that we have created together here will work in a way that is different, much more powerful, than if I use them without conveying to them that I am happy. Like if I am upset about some administrator or some bully in my class or something in my personal life. The Big Ideas don’t work unless they are delivered on the truck that says We Can Be Happy. Such a responsibility! I don’t always feel happy! I once heard it said that a saint is someone who does what they don’t want to do and doesn’t do what they want to do. Hell, we’re all going to receive some form of canonization when we’re done anyway. Right? We’re teachers!

          5. Yup, very clear that Blaine has happiness as both method and goal. If you are happy and chill, and you understand, you learn, is what the main message seems to be. Even his “pagame” system is hilarious…it’s all about the positive love.

            I had a TPRS-conscious sub while I was at Blaine (Aimee Stewart, you rock) and today for reviewing the story it took her 2 days to ask, we managed, in 75 min, to review nothing more than background info for the characters. Echoing Blaine, who said “my goal is to never finish a story.”

          6. Ben, you’re a distance cyclist and a borderline (or full on?) workaholic. We can’t all keep up that kind of mental endurance. Sometimes after a full day of intense learning, an evening of shooting the shit so to speak and engaging with colleagues non-technique-wise is important. It is for me anyways. That being said, count me in for evening small-group training… maybe.

          7. I think we can coach each other regionally. Didn’t we set up a list of people who were interested in mentoring? Was it at iFLT or NTPRS? Teri are you out there??

          1. I don’t know but I think we need someone to make a map like Carol has on her site, or at least the last time I looked, that shows who in the group is teaching where and you click on your state and there is a list of people there and their city. But one for this group. Ideas on that?

          2. I think that would be a great idea, Ben! Every time I click on Carol’s map, I’m still the only one in West Virginia. 🙁

          3. This map that you speak of on Carol’s site, that shows who in the group is teaching where… interesting. I’d love a link. Does anyone have the link? It’s something I’d be willing to help create.

          4. Sean tell me what I have to do to get you in on creating this map. I think that on Carol’s site it is somewhat nebulous in the sense that there are probably thousands of people who would call themselves TPRS teachers. But a map of those in our PLC, one not just specific to a certain state but to a certain town, would be something that might actually have value. It might do wonders in getting periodic regional meetings going, if but only with two people.

          5. Could you link to a specific Google Map? That can show multiple push pins for locations. We could use our schools for the addresses. Ther may be a better way, but I don’t know one.

          6. Eric, from the little research I just did this afternoon, it seems that using Google Maps is the way to go. I told Ben I’d like to help make this map. Any interest in helping, Eric?

          7. Sure. We’ll just need to get addresses that we can put down for the members. It will show the exact address, so I expect we will need to gather the school or work addresses from those on the list.

      1. That was me who does stories for tests. Melissa why is the test going to be administered by someone else? And I would ask the group to immediately come up with test ideas for Melissa. What level and what language, Melissa? When is the test?

        By the way, is there a way you can give some traditional test but not count it, instead doing a story the day before the test and counting that? That’s what my scheming self would do.

        Why? Because if we have been doing CI all semester why give a test from the 1970s? Do we really have to lick the traditional teachers boots to that extent when it is they who are not up with the current research?

        1. Thank you Ben! Ok~ I am new to this school this year. I think they administer the test by subject. So, Every foreign language student is taking the test at the same time. Maybe to get it done faster? I don’t know. I asked the department head today what the exact requirements were. (I was thinking of making it really easy with a picture series and reading) I’m just not into being mean to my students! I want them to like language learning! Like you say Ben, nothing motivates like success!
          All that to say, the response was that the only requirement is that it take the kids and hour and a half to take the test. WTHeck?
          What if I tell a story leading up to the mid-term, then have a reading but with M.C. questions in English? Then the study guide could be the reading?
          I am open to any ideas.
          Thank you for caring! I feel like I have you guys in my corner.
          Melissa

          1. I forgot to comment on your idea of giving a “fake” test on the actual day.. I like it, but worry about getting in trouble. I suppose I could ask. Or keep it a secret. I feel like the students might leak. I could make my exam something I administer in class and maybe the “test” could be a “grammar exercise”
            Hmm..

          2. OK so we have to fill an hour and a half. No problem. Here is one idea, based on your excellent suggestion of getting the actual story out of the way before the exam period and then filling the exam period with things like this:

            1. They translate the story you just created. Make sure they really know it. It will be a confidence builder to start the exam. Give them 20 minutes to translate the story and give them 20 points for their translation. Don’t count any words or anything – that is what they used to do in the last century. Just eyeball it. If they kid nails it, write the 20/20 there. If it seems that they have about 80% of it correctly translated, write 17/20. It need not be exact. Parents and students and admins and other teachers will just want to see the 17/20 and they will be happy. We are giving them what they want on this test, but really we are making our kids feel confident that they learned something in the class. Which is why you need to really make certain that they know the entire story backwards and forwards, taking 3 or 4 days to create the story before the test. 20 minutes.

            2. They do a 20 question (yes/no questions) Quick Quiz, but one that is written. Of course, you have already gone over the answers in class in the days before the test. Then score that. 20 minutes.

            (Now you have 40 points and 40 minutes gone).

            3. Tell them to find any ten verbs from the story and write them on the ten blanks below. Again, you have already done this in class. Score them out of 10. Put that little 10/10 thing next to that section so people can see that you are a serious teacher. (5 minutes)

            (Now you have 50 points and 45 minutes gone).

            4. Have them do a freewrite based on the three original structures. So, say something like this: “Here are the three original structures we used to make our story together: ______, ______, ______. Taking these structures and using the verbs in section 3 above, try to write whatever you can in French with them. You will be given points for writing anything. Of course, you will have done a sample free write in class in those three or four days where you are basically giving them every answer to the exam (and let them know that the exam is going to be “very similar” to what you all do in class those days before the exam.) 30 points. I would give them 30 points for writing anything decent, and twenty for trying. I wouldn’t give below a twenty on this. Why is this section in here if it is output they are not ready for? Because you have to eat up time and this section does it. 20 minutes.

            (Now you have 80 points and 65 minutes gone).

            To end the test, for the last 25 minutes, pull 15 or 20 or so words from the reading that you gave them to start the test. Say:

            5. Choosing from the following words (you don’t have to use them all, they are merely suggestions), write another possible ending to the story. Any effort will be rewarded with points. Just try it. Write for 25 minutes. Use the information on the walls of the classroom as well as the words in the list below. No English words except for names. Use words you already know. Get your story idea ahead of time. Use lots of adjectives to give substance and interest to your story. Add another character when you get stuck. Illogical stories are o.k. Here is the list of suggested words: etc. etc.

            This is much like the freewrite. So what?

            (Now you have 100 points and 90 minutes gone).

            Or another option, if you don’t want them writing that much, to end the test is to give them a page out of any novel you may have read and have them translate that page.

            Big thing is to not count any points. Just eyeball what they did and assign points. Who is going to care or check? They can’t read that language.

            This is merely a suggestion off the top of my head. It beast the 100 point multiple choice horror option.

          3. Melissa,

            My favorite way to do the reading part of a final exam is to give them a big reading full of structures from the entire past semester. I make these up at the end of each semester for each level I teach, which takes a bit of time but not much. (Then it also gives me good readings for the future that I can use for whatever purpose, and generally reflect the structures I use most in my classes.) Then, I make up a bunch of questions, up to 50, about the reading, but the questions are in English, and usually chronological to the reading.

            All of Ben’s ideas sound great too.

          4. One thing to add to Ben’s very good suggestions: Have them do an “essential sentences” activity over the reading you’ve created for the exam. There is more info on this activity on this blog: https://benslavic.com/blog/category/essential-sentences/

            You can also check out this write up I did on a similar activity a long time ago, back when I called it “cartoons with captions”: http://www.jameshosler.com/2012/03/cartoons-with-captions.html

            My experience is that this can take up a good 20-30 minutes if the kids really know the story.

          5. Here’s a revised suggestion for you, incorporating what Ben and James and Jim wrote:

            Before you test:
            1. Work through a story with your students or review previous stories.
            2. Create an “extended reading” based on all of the things you have done this year
            3. Do an Embedded Reading with the class, starting with the most bare bones version of the story possible (i.e. not much more than the target structures)
            3. Work through the SQ3R in the target language; this will satisfy anyone keen on Common Core because you are obviously “going deeper”. This consists of answering the following questions [Sample replies from “Arme Anna”):
            a. Who or what is it about? (Students write a short description of the main character based on what is in the text.) It is about [a sixteen-year-old girl named Anna who thinks that her life is horrible and her parents are unjust, but she gets a new perspective after going on a home stay in Switzerland]
            b. When and where does it take place? The story takes place in [Poquoson Virginia; Zurich, Switzerland; and Aarau, Switzerland] during [the end of the school year and summer of Anna’s sophomore year]
            c. What is the main problem? The main problem is [that Anna mistakenly believes her life is horrible, her parents are unjust, and her family is poor]
            d. How is the main problem resolved? The main problem is resolved [by Anna’s realizing her life isn’t horrible but normal and that there are people who have lives far worse than hers]
            Give students the “sentence frames” that start the answer as well as the question.

            For the test:
            1. They translate the story you just created. Make sure they really know it. It will be a confidence builder to start the exam. Give them 20 minutes to translate the story and give them 20 points for their translation. Don’t count any words or anything – that is what they used to do in the last century. Just eyeball it. If they kid nails it, write the 20/20 there. If it seems that they have about 80% of it correctly translated, write 17/20. It need not be exact. Parents and students and admins and other teachers will just want to see the 17/20 and they will be happy. We are giving them what they want on this test, but really we are making our kids feel confident that they learned something in the class. Which is why you need to really make certain that they know the entire story backwards and forwards, taking 3 or 4 days to create the story before the test. 20 minutes. Be sure to put 20/20 to the side.

            2. They do a 20 question (yes/no questions) Quick Quiz, but one that is written. Of course, you have already gone over the answers in class in the days before the test. Then score that. 20 minutes. 20 points. 20/20 out to the side.

            (Now you have 40 points and 40 minutes gone).

            3. Tell them to find any ten verbs from the story and write them on the ten blanks below. Again, you have already done this in class. Score them out of 10. Put that little 10/10 thing next to that section so people can see that you are a serious teacher. (5 minutes)

            (Now you have 50 points and 45 minutes gone).

            4. Review the story and choose the Essential Sentences needed to tell the story. Copy these sentences onto the Flow Map* provided, giving one sentence per set of lines under a box. In the box above the Essential Sentence draw a picture that fully illustrates the Essential Sentence in context. Grading will be based on the aptness of the Essential Sentences to the task of telling the basic story, how well they highlight the main problem and its resolution, and how accurately the drawings show understanding of the Essential Sentences. Quality of artwork is not part of the grade; stick figures are wonderful. 25 minutes. 30 points. 30/30 out to the side.

            *The “Flow Map” is simply six boxes on a page with lines below each box and arrows between the boxes to show a “flow”. It’s something that people have done for years, but by calling a “Flow Map” you are showing that you are aware of current terminology. (It used to be a “flow chart” but the Thinking Maps™ people couldn’t call it that and be considered innovative, so they had to call it a “Flow Map”.)

            (Now you have 80 points and 70 minutes gone).

            To end the test, for the last 20 minutes, pull 15 or 20 or so words from the reading that you gave them to start the test. Say:

            5. Choosing from the following words (you don’t have to use them all, they are merely suggestions), write another possible ending to the story. Any effort will be rewarded with points. Just try it. Write for 25 minutes. Use the information on the walls of the classroom as well as the words in the list below. No English words except for names. Use words you already know. Get your story idea ahead of time. Use lots of adjectives to give substance and interest to your story. Add another character when you get stuck. Illogical stories are o.k. Here is the list of suggested words: etc. etc. 20 points. 20 minutes. 20/20 to the side.

            5 Alternative: Do the Freewrite for 20 points.

            Using the Essential Sentences in #4 removes the similarity of the two writing assignments.

            (Now you have 100 points and 90 minutes gone).

            Big thing is to not count any points. Just eyeball what they did and assign points. Who is going to care or check? They can’t read that language.

            This is merely a suggestion off the top of my head. It beats the 100 point multiple choice horror option.

            –As you can see, this is simply a tweaking of Ben’s excellent suggestions. Who ever thought that 100 multiple choice questions take 90 minutes to do? I usually finished them in less than half the time and sat there, bored to tears, for the remainder of the testing time unless I was allowed to read a book. Otherwise it was a colossal waste of my time; I was very happy that at the university you got to leave when you finished the exam. Teachers were fortunate I wasn’t hyperactive.

            Here’s a question for Ben, Jim and James: Would you indicate on the test how much time students should spend on each section? I think as a general guide it could be helpful for students who otherwise might spend too much time making certain that their drawings were perfect or some other distraction.

          6. Yeah, I would probably set a time frame, given that there are multiple parts. I think this test would take me well over 90 minutes as Robert summed it all up. But the freewrite (or a different section) could always be left out of the test, if time is scrunched.

          7. I would write how much time each section should take on the exam. That way the person giving the exam can pace it if they want to into several small sections and take up the whole dreaded time.

      2. “Which tab should I read as it pertains to “keeping the administrators happy”?”

        Melissa,

        There is a sidebar on the right titled “Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education”

  3. The way I keep things organized in my mind and in my planning is to think of things through the 3 Steps (from TPRS), but I have an expanded list of options within each step. I think of it like this:

    – Establish meaning, PQA, initial massive hearing & response to new words (I spend a class day at least on this)
    – Some kind of further massive hearing & contextual use of new terms (another class day) — could be a TPRS-style storyasking, but is often something else. Look & Discuss, Listen & Draw, shorter, actor-based scenes up front, video use w/ discussion, and variations on those things.
    – Reading & reading activities: one day, reading guided as a whole group, with massive repetitions of new structures. Next day, moving towards more independent reading activities (usually as a group for a while, then in partner or individual follow-up activities)
    – That leaves me with one more day that is flexible. Often games, sometimes extra time on things that aren’t sticking yet.

    I fit the things in the Big Ideas list into those 3 Steps. I keep a template for myself with short descriptions of activities (by step #) that work for me so I can plan different ideas without getting in a rut, and without having to try to remember,”what did I do with 8th grade last cycle through?”

    1. Diane, I’ve been groping for this same way of looking at things, but slowly and awkwardly, with many missteps and without your clarity, just a baffled beginner. I knew that somewhere there was a way to look at it all, but it kept eluding me. I strive for simple, but sometimes my own sense of adventure or experimentation really gets in my way. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to see it simply and clearly like this. Thank you.
      Everything fits in your flexible framework.

    2. This is like the weekly schedule but it’s cool to see flexibility here. Very cool to see all the flexibility. This is how I’ve been approaching my classes this year and I have been super sane and mostly unstressed. I work “hard” on steps 1 and 2 and then sit back and enjoy a few days of watching them read. The up and down is really nice and I think the students like it, too.

      1. ….I work “hard” on steps 1 and 2 and then sit back and enjoy a few days of watching them read. The up and down is really nice….

        I resonate with this, having experienced it in much the same way over the years.

    3. Diane, I like your method of keeping a list of these activities to fit into your 3-step framework-keeps it all connected. I have a similar list but it’s the list I look at when I don’t know what to do next…or I forget what I’m doing.
      I also like what someone said about just being happy and in the moment with the students. I’ve been more giggly this year with students, just having fun with them in the language, and not feeling like I’m wasting time.
      I have not been keeping up with this blog sadly because I have been totally overwhelmed this year (switch to standard based grading, new computer grading system, graduate class, etc), but I’m so glad to see it’s going strong. I hope to make it to Denver next summer.

  4. Another thought on this thread, for what its worth.

    For me, this site has rarely been about strategies or specific ideas to implement, although I have gleaned a fair number of great ones from you all over the years. For me, it has been about the conflicts and celebrations we face as CI teachers, with ourselves, our students, our administrators, our FL colleagues, our non-FL colleagues, and our idea of what education is and should be. Also provocative for me, discussions relating to the CI Shift, and how we articulate it and advance it in our respective buildings/districts/regions/states/countries.

    Philosophical guidance, conscious professional citizenship, and career-saving collegial relationships, above all else, have defined this site for me.

    But that is just me, one person here among many, and so all the other stuff, as great and helpful as it is for many I’m sure, strategies and ideas for schedules and all the rest, are something I usually skim over now. I seek out the nuggets of truth from master teachers and thinkers among you all, led by our main man Ben. I am stimulated to ponder our collective duty and potential as FL teachers, and how (IF!) that translates within the antiquated educational systems where most of us work.

    [And then I re-read this, and think about ALL THE AWESOME STRATEGIES AND IDEAS OF ALL SORTS I have gained from this site, and feel the need to recognize that. Sample letters to parents, posters for my walls, quotes, ways to get a kid on my side, MovieTalk, etc etc etc. It’s all been so helpful. Except the acronym overload, can’t keep up, it’s kind of like a secret language that I feel I need a dictionary to fully comprehend, but which exists here somewhere I’m sure, so I’ll stop complaining about the acronyms… 🙂 ]

    And count me in for a pub training session.

  5. Jim it’s fine to complain about the acronyms. It’s like the site has acrne. We just need to figure out how to deal with it, because in fact those acronyms keep me from forgetting the strategies. I would hate to ever forget some of them. That’s because they are so bad ass.

    1. Seriously, don’t worry about the acronyms on my account, I just needed something to complain about, because I really don’t have ANYTHING to complain about on your blog. It is the bomb. And the fact that it might seem to you like focus is dropping (which I don’t sense when I read the blog) is because it has GROWN so much, and now so many more teachers are able to get in on the good stuff. Someone once said to me “Stases is akin to dying, flux and change are good signs”. I think that applies to this site.

  6. I don’t think there is an acronym for this, but I would like to add something to the core idea list. It relates to jGR, but is more about our spirit and sense of self as we lead our classes. I want something that ties together the ideas that relate to us BEING the teacher, making it happen, not being squeamish or acting like wussies when kids are jerking our chains – all those good things people have written about to remind us to not give over the power, not give up, to remain positive, genuine, and friendly, but to remember that we need to run the show, not the details perhaps, but the main act. Or as Robert said, we are the organists. For me, at least, this is a core idea that underlies the others. It’s on my list. I’ve felt the difference between the days I’m on it and the days I’m off.

    Some of the links don’t work, so I don’t know if this is repeating something that is already on the list.

  7. And Ruth this search for our authentic selves as teacher/leaders/authentic coaches in the real way is really worth mentioning. It is at the core of all we do. We cannot talk about teaching using comprehensible input without on some level including what you describe above. Does this take years? Speaking for myself, it has taken a career.

    I will try to get those links working. It’s important. We could share with people, whenever they feel that there is too much to keep up with here, that if they just educate themselves in those 19 areas, they need not read anything else.

  8. I think the work we (primarily Ben, Jim and James) just did for melissa is an example of how the blog can seem to lose focus. We’re discussing a concern Ben has, and suddenly we’re solving a different problem.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think what happened was entirely appropriate, but these excursus(es) can make it seem like we are losing focus. Normally Ben would take the question and answers and turn them into a separate blog entry. (He may still do that.) With the forum, this would make a great thread with a title like “How do I write a semester exam I won’t administer?”

    As others have mentioned this is part of the growth and change that is happening in the PLC; it will feel uncomfortable, especially to those who have been around for a while; but as long as Ben guides the growth to keep his vision central, it will work out just fine.

  9. That is why I want to keep us all commenting here like before. That is one of the issues I was having last week with all of this, as I can now see in retrospect. I wasn’t even aware of it until now, but the forum split some of the power of the discussion. Now our goal is to KEEP COMMENTING HERE (and when a new thread like the one above about writing exams spins out of the existing thread, WE WANT THAT, and I will in fact publish such events as articles, because THEY HELP US. I mean look what Robert came up with for Melissa right there. But in the correct category (Semester Exams?) it becomes a major help to anyone who needs to give an exam that will placate those who would freak out if we did something as revolutionary as telling a story for an exam.

  10. WOW! I will add 2 or 3 cents to this. WARNING: LONG RAMBLE! Sorry I have been MIA…this fall has been heavy duty all yoga all the time kind of. Of course “yoga” means staying connected, so for me in my classroom how that has played out in the past month has been me becoming acutely aware of the “stories” I cling to about myself, about my students, about the discomfort I feel at school. Nearing my “graduation” from my 500 hr YTT has tossed me smack into a wild current. Like one of my wisest teachers ( a 19 yr old young man named Dustin) says: “This is a kick-ass class, so let it kick your ass!” Lots of stuff shifting. Anyhoo…the biggest core value that I feel in this group is that we are working in a heart space. The feeling space as opposed to the thinking space–is something I have been facing and working through in my YTT (hm….what a coincidence). And pretty much everything that keeps coming up for me in every aspect of life has to do with catching myself overthinking and overanalyzing, trying to read others’ and acting on their expectations rather than my own “gut feeling” or internal compass. Message from universe: get out of your own way! Geez…do you think this sounds at all familiar? Getting out of the way so that the “magic” can happen?

    All of the techniques and strategies keep us centered here, yet it is easy to over focus on the strategy as “the space.” Not sure if that makes sense. I know I probably sound very “woo-woo” because I spent the entire weekend in an intensive Shamanic Reiki attunement. Yeah. Just sayin’. A major shakedown for sure.

    Colossal message from universe: we are in the middle of a massive shift Oh! So all the stuff that keeps coming up here about the momentum and the energy building and all the old school stuff crumbling down and how painful it all is…um…pretty much everything Ben talks about all the time. Feel that. And feel the energy & connection of this group and let that guide our decisions. If that sounds wacky, try tuning in and observing yourself through your day. You will get really clear signals from your own body. Trust this. It is way more accurate than a double blind study about someone else. Keep coming back to the core of all of this, which is doing right by ourselves and by our kids. We have to model what we envision. It ain’t easy to walk the walk. I am stumbling ferociously. Watch your internal dialogue. Notice if it is self-judgemental. Imagine your whole self-soundtrack playing out loud, directed at a friend or a student. Would you really say these things out loud to a friend or a student? This is one of the biggest shifts we can make internally that will affect our interactions with everyone else. 🙂

    1. This gets to what I feel is going on. I completely agree. If we had some kind of magic lamp that could show us what the turmoil is about, it would look very much like what you said above jen. The fact is that we are being called to lay down our arms. What does this mean?

      It means that we can no longer play academic “gotcha” with kids. We can’t trick them and compete with them and separate them one from the other as some being good at languages and having value in the class and others not.

      This is what the work we are doing is about. It stems from Krashen, but I acknowledge that this change comes from far beyond him really, because I think God wants this change too. I think God is tired of all the shitty teaching and wants it to change.

      I know, it feels kind of woo-woo to write that, and I resonate with what you were feeling when you write the woo woo word jen, but humility demands that we state our truth about what we feel is happening to us on all levels professionally.

      We must state who we are, and I see all of this as very much about doing what God would want us to do, and I make no apologies to anyone on that point, and I feel beyond blessed to be involved with others who think of teaching as much more than merely a profession, but as a kind of work to move us to something better in life.

      We can no longer play a game of competition in the invisible world with our colleagues. We have to let that one go as well. After 13 years of doing that, I am ready to do that myself, in part because the sentiment expressed above is too true. There is too much evidence in support of our stopping the silly TPRS Wars with other teachers.

      My response to this is that we are moving very fast from fear and judgment to trust and acceptance of our students and colleagues – and of ourselves. We are going there fast. That is what pulls the interest of all the new people. They sense that they can actually have a profession worth having, with daily experiences that honor others. This has not been the case over past decades.

      Thank you for writing that, jen.

    2. Jen said, ” try tuning in and observing yourself through your day. You will get really clear signals from your own body.”…

      A case of bronchitis struck me a couple of weeks ago. I was not able to use my voice much at all for a few days, gradually coming to about 70% today. It sucked because the coughing hurt and all. But at the same time, it has been a serious time of reflection for me on how I use my voice.

      My voice is the one and only precious tool for the students. There is no substitute for my voice. It is a tool that needs care and attention. It needs to stay healthy. I need to stay healthy. I need to get sleep and eat well and do my yoga (yeah, Jen, I do yoga too, and I’m not just talking about asana practice).

      The voice is a precious tool that moves minds and turns souls in our classrooms. I’m coming out of this bronchitis episode feeling much more in tune about how I use my voice with a calm, caring, and careful deliberation. Thank God I’m healing so that I have another chance to use my voice, because without it, I wouldn’t be able to teach, and certainly not teach CI/TPRS.

  11. I found this site a year ago but did not join until a few weeks ago. I want to tell you that I wish that I would have joined right away. I went full on TPRS a year and a half ago. This site not only gives instruction to newbies but compassion to keep going even when we feel lost. This is a group of growth and support that nourishes all. But without the mentoring of all the great teachers that use CI it would be a very difficult road alone. I hope that y’all know how much it means to teachers like me to be able to come here.

  12. Not necessarily about “core values” specific to CI, but I wanted to link an interesting read I came across about a teacher who was fired by her KIPP* school. A teacher who I think would totally understand our stance on holding kids accountable for their interpersonal communication.

    I know Ben recently was invited to present to his colleagues on the ICSR (jGR) in order to inspire thought about it’s use in a non-language class (I think, right Ben?). And I think others have had the opportunity to do the same with their non-language colleagues. So I thought I’d try to find a suitable place to put a link to this article, in which a teacher actually became much stricter about student behavior when she left behind dry testing, but at the same time loosened up her curriculum to be led by student interest.

    Here are three quotes from the teacher in the article, followed by a link to the whole article:

    “Ironically, now that I’m teaching 3rd grade English at one of the few remaining traditional public schools in New Orleans, I’m much stricter than I ever was at KIPP. For example, every night my students answer an open-ended question in their journals for homework. When they come to class the next day, a few of them share what they wrote and get feedback from their peers. Their courageous honesty leads to incredible discussions about bullying, and gender roles, racism and deep dark fears of all sorts. But I recognize that my strictness makes those conversations possible. I’m super, super strict about how to listen respectfully, and about how important it is to take turns giving feedback. I’ve discovered that it’s actually very easy to be strict when you deeply believe that what you’re requiring kids to do is for their own good and for the good of the community.”

    “I also expect my students to read independently any time they have a free moment. I’ve built a library of culturally-relevant picture books and graphic novels and chapter books, and by literally making them read at the beginning of the year, have been able to create a culture of reading.”

    “This idea that my students are human beings with thoughts and feelings, and that these thoughts and feelings should be at the center of what I do in the classroom…”

    http://edushyster.com/?p=4240&utm_content=buffer08b4a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    *I am almost completely unfamiliar with the KIPP program -this post is in no way a critique on KIPP.

  13. Perhaps you want to put TPR on this list? Eric and others have made a strong case for it over the past few months. Didn’t we all kinda agree on how important TPR is at the beginning of the year?

  14. Are these the chapter titles of a great book and/or online resource/ and/or series of webinars, workshops, conference proposals, etc?
    How do we take the body of practices/strategies to the classrooms?

  15. Alisa those are strategies of my own invention, or of individual members of this PLC, or strategies that have been invented collaboratively by us. An example of the latter is jGR, the Interpersonal Skills Rubric that started out in the form of a conversation between me and Robert Harrell three years ago and then jen found a missing piece by putting our discussion into a fine rubric form and then Annick Chen put it in a better poster form than the one I first thought of. Now it’s up on the walls of quite a few classrooms. That is true of all the strategies listed above except 10 (Krashen), 17 (Hastings), 19 (Ray) and 21 (Asher).

    Many on the PLC have cut their teeth on those strategies, as new ones continue to appear like mushrooms here on our site, which I think caught your attention and prompted your question, because those are some baddass strategies.

    I feel that one of the hats I wear in moderating this site is to pick out the best ideas and make lists of them, for safekeeping and especially for simplicity (hence all the acronyms), so that new people don’t have to go back through eight years of 5,000+ articles and 35,000+ (!) comments to find the good stuff that they want to use in their classrooms.

    (I might add parenthetically that I have been in conference presentation rooms where those very ideas were presented as if they were the invention of the presenter, without credit to the author. It made me feel upset. Diana saw a thing on YouTube recently that very much upset her, as well, because she saw our work here being represented by someone who doesn’t even read this blog. I trust the people on this blog, but we are bigger than we used to be and it seems that some of the ideas – Classroom Rules chart for example – appears everywhere these days without credit. Our gold is being moved out beyond the private confines of this site. That’s fine – this is not about keeping our gold since a primary goal of life, in my opinion, is to share good things with others. But I think credit should be given, as it should be in any professional setting like the one we have.)

    What I am doing right now with those heavy hitting strategies and with all the new ones is putting them in one place, a much bigger version of Stepping Stones to Stories. I’m doing that right now these days and my tired eyes can attest to it as we speak.

    When I say that Stepping Stones to Stories is being super beefed up, I mean it. It has exploded, with all the new stuff we have come up with here since Stepping Stones came out (three editions over the last two years). Close readers here know what that means. The current version of Stepping Stones has 188 pages in one volume. The one planned for release this summer will have 350 pages in three volumes – basic steps, intermediate steps, advanced steps.

    Note that I credit everyone in this new version of Stepping Stones for every idea in there that is not mine – I am meticulous about that as I should be. There are at least 20 authors who are members of this group cited in the new big version of Stones. In each case I directly requested their permission to publish their ideas and cite them clearly in the book.

    In addition to announcing that book here, I am happy to report that Anne Matava is currently working on a third volume of her Story Scripts, but one that is more aligned with the DPS Scope and Sequence vocabulary lists. That, hopefully, will be out this summer as well.

    So my own attempt to answer your question of how to take the body of practices/ strategies listed above to the classrooms will take the form of what will certainly be my last book. This thing is kicking my ass – it’s like building a giant Lego project but having to make most of the legos yourself. In the three volumes, I incorporate the best stuff from TPRS in a Year! and PQA in a Wink! as well, and also I pull much of the best stuff from this blog, giving minute attention as I said to crediting authors. Needless to say, Robert Harrell shows up a lot in this new book.

    1. “Anne Matava is currently working on a third volume of her Story Scripts, but one that is more aligned with the DPS Scope and Sequence vocabulary lists.”

      Looking forward to it.

  16. You had me at, “…a new…version of Stepping Stones.”

    Our t/CI migrant teachers use your books like a bible, and several of us reread again n again. I find it edifying and comforting- your tone is so personable, gentle and encouraging!
    I agree with all u say about giving credit where credit is due.
    This is such an interesting grass roots movement with teachers as pioneers/ leaders. I guess I just want to make sure that the plethora of strategies and supports reaches its hungry audience.

  17. [Rant alert]…

    I just want to make sure that the plethora of strategies and supports reaches its hungry audience….

    Yes Alisa this is my concern as well. Over the years we have come to take each other’s ideas and bold steps for granted, but then I woke up to the fact, about two years ago, that together, by testing and failing and sharing and hitting home runs we have actually been building a sound pedagogy based in research, which I have tried to label using acronyms because I couldn’t think of any other way to keep each idea clear and separate from others, to avoid a method meltdown, as it were.

    So that’s when I started in with Stepping Stones and with its publication last summer I thought I was done because writing books is a pain in the ass. But I had to because otherwise I saw all these ideas scrolling out on us here. Of course, the PLC keeps coming up with new stuff and so this new version was required.

    In it I have tried to capture every single idea of value from everywhere going back 25 years. I wish I had a clear vision of Joe Neilson’s role because we know that it hasn’t all been from Blaine, and some quieter people have been forgotten in their contributions. Maybe someone will write a history that is more accurate than the one on Wikipedia.

    So this new three volume work contains lots of the best stuff from my other books, this PLC, etc. I wish I could write a book covering everything, all of it, but that would be impossible.

    I will ask Diane Neubauer if I can use her great idea of graphic box organizers for all the strategies and so at the end of each volume there will be each strategy presented like that, on a sort of menu. So when they plan, teachers can then look at the boxes and reference the page number of a certain strategy and review how it works. It will be a completion of everything I personally have ever done in TPRS that I would like to present as a legacy, and in this work I have tried to save everything great from contributing readers here. Just look what I was able to do with Robert Harrell’s Scope and Sequence articles these past few weeks. I can’t imagine that work being lost. That’s what I am trying to do in this book and yes Robert’s Scope and Sequence articles will be in there. It will be a SYSTEM, but not one that has to be rigidly followed like a textbook. Rather, it will be three menus for beginning, intermediate and advanced teachers. I feel very proud of it already and it’s not even done.

    Alisa you are so nice to say those things about new teachers benefitting from my books. It has been my fervent prayer that these ideas get handed down. I just can’t see them evaporating with time! And it has been a second prayer, just as fervent, that the ideas don’t get morphed out of shape by inaccurate interpretation of them. That has happened with TPRS in general, where I would say 90% of TPRS teachers don’t do TPRS, so we are up against A LOT. Thanks to those – Blaine, Laurie, etc. – who at great personal sacrifice are willing to put themselves out there in workshops. It’s scary as hell to put oneself out there in front of other teachers. Don’t you know it ain’t easy and is not worth the money. It’s a labour of love, certainly, and in my case I say in my deepest truth that it is all because I don’t want children to feel stupid about languages anymore. What Laurie is doing on behalf of children defies description in my view. She is a warrior because she goes out on the road without fear on behalf of others. I salute Blaine as well. Once he went to Argentina, years and years ago, and nothing visible that we know of has happened, but we can’t know the results of our work.

    Wow that was a rant, but dude, the people in this group are heavy hitting players on a very big stage to whom I bow down to in humble reverence for their work, their despair, their sadness, their waking up at night, their crushed egos, their verbal spats with those who really don’t get it, their tears and the general messiness of this work.

    The people in our our group are heroes and pioneers, and that’s all there is to it, and they have battle scars to prove it. Not content to hide away in a corner, merely thinking about this work, they go try it and fall flat but then they get up and pull out a sword and slay the dragon. That metaphor is not far from the truth. While children play video games about slaying dragons, we are living the metaphor for real, every day, all while people see us as slightly wacky teachers who are in some fringe group.

    OK I can’t shut up. I’ll go work on that book. By the way, for the first time in decades, I am not watching the Super Bowl. I have better things to do, I have finally realized, than support violence.

    Alisa thank you so much again for your kind words. It means so much to me.

    1. Hi Ben, I read the whole rant. Sure, use the chart format if it’s helpful, with the understanding that I am going to use that same kind of chart as a summary page per Step in what I’m writing. Happy writing!

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