Seating Question

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18 thoughts on “Seating Question”

  1. Man are we taking hits this week from people who know less about our field than we do!

    I use rows. They work best for me. Groups of four would be a disaster. There is nobody in the group who can provide anything to the others, so why have them sit together? It would be like grouping four people who know nothing but their native languages together – I am pretty sure not much would get done. I suggest that you re-educate the Kagan person. Any person who is truly an expert would listen to you and hear you and recant her position in this case.

    1. But Ben… students are not empty vessels to be filled! Students are capable of creating their own wonderful account of the world and all its creatures and peoples. That includes, of course, giving themselves CI in a language they have never before heard. Why should they have to listen to an authority figure? The teacher is not a sage on a stage, but a guide on the side! IT RHYMES, BEN! For the love of all things holy, it rhymes!

      Okay, end sarcasm now. Amy, I would try to do as Ben says, talk with the Kagan person and get approval from him/her for your specific case. Bring up all the research Krashen and others have done for to support CI, and the fact that the CI must come from a fluent speaker. There just isn’t any other way. If you need to, you can always talk about how these wonderful children have an innate ability TO CREATE THEIR OWN GRAMMAR, that is, to acquire the language naturally, and that your method of TPRS/CI lets students do that.

      If that doesn’t work, you might be able to get away with “grouping” the students in groups of 4, but somehow make the desks so that they still all face you? Maybe by creating a big aisle down the middle of the room down which you and the actors can walk, and then along the sides of the room you could make little pods of 4 desks in little semi-circles, like little half-moons that all still face the center stage. I dunno… does that make sense?

      1. Effective use of humor, James. Nice.

        Just today I was speaking with another teacher about the whole “guide on the side” approach to school. Not only in foreign language, but also in other disciplines, this approach tends toward 1) the sharing and compounding of ignorance and 2) a belief that all utterances have equal value and therefore should not be censored.

        As far as the first is concerned, I have seen this tendency displayed in native-language activities. Students are given a text, asked to read it and then told to share “how you feel” about it. Little or no time is given to analysis and consideration of the Sitz im Leben (sorry, just had to use an apropos German term), the historical and cultural context. As a result students share whatever pops into their mind, most of which has little or nothing to do with the actual intent of the author. I actually saw this happen at a demonstration of Socratic Seminar/Philosophical Chairs. A group of teachers was given a text to read. The younger teachers then formed the inner circle and began discussing their interpretation of the text. (I think it was Don Maclean’s “American Pie”) The interpretations were sheer flights of fantasy and ultimately implausible because none of them had been around in 1959 when the Music died or 1969 when the song was written. Some of us “more experienced” teachers wanted to jump in and fill in the historical background, which would have led to at least a more plausible interpretation. All too often we are asking our students to “read between the lines” before showing that they are able to read the lines with understanding (to paraphrase CS Lewis).

        As far as the second is concerned, this results in students’ sharing totally unrelated information as if it were pertinent and of utmost importance. During a discussion of Shakespeare in an English class, a student simply blurted out, “Oh, I watched ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with Leonardo di Caprio last night. I really like it.” and was genuinely surprised that the teacher did not welcome this outburst enthusiastically – even though the discussion was not about “Romeo and Juliet”.

        The problems only grow worse when the approach is applied to foreign language. The advocates ignore the entire body of evidence that the single most important element in acquisition of a language is comprehensible input because they have a pet “strategy” to push.

        1. Every school has their theorist du jour: Wong, Marzano, Schlecty, Dufour, etc. And the admins think that everything these guys say is gospel and every teacher, regardless of content area, has to follow what these guys say.

          I was just asked today about the idea of “flipping” the classroom. I just read the other day, either on here or another TPRS blog, something about flipping. I’m hoping to find that so that I can eloquently discuss this matter.

          1. To put it crudely, flipping = “lectures at home and homework at school”

            That’s the easiest way to frame it anyway. There are also a lot of “students don’t just learn in school”-type phrases thrown in, too. And even though experts say they disagree with the idea of just watching videos of lectures at home, that’s what normally ends up happening.

            But the magic of TPRS is that a student gets the meaning from the social construct of class. A student wouldn’t be able to watch a video of the teacher speaking L2 and get much CI because it wouldn’t be tailored for that student or that student’s group.

            And what exactly would the “homework” be that could the be done in school under the guidance (at the side-ance) of the teacher? In math maybe it’s easier to see working. The students could watch a 5 minute video at home about fractions, try some practice problems, and then come to school with questions and the opportunity for more problems, more advanced problems, and teamwork. It DOES make sense for some content.

            Just not foreign language. The “work” we do really is just as simple as having the students listen and read. But those things must be done in class so that it is personalized and monitored always by the teacher. Students wouldn’t be able to prepare to do the listening and reading in any meaningful way at home, so “flipping” the FL class doesn’t really make sense.

        2. …because they have a pet “strategy” to push….

          Hence Helena Curtain opposes TPRS/CI which exists in as many forms as there are teachers who then, once they truly grasp what CI really is, how universal it is and how it can be done anytime and anywhere in any way, don’t need her strategies anymore. Great point Robert.

  2. My situation is the same in one of my classrooms. Even if I wanted to make rows, I couldn’t because the room is equipped with 6 hexagon-shaped tables. So, six kids at each table. I hate it sooo much. I can’t even push the tables back and just use the chairs because the chairs are ATTACHED to the tables. I am already nervous what this is going to do in terms of providing CI – half the class will be facing away from me. Maybe I could have them sitting on the floor? I don’t know, either way it’s a less than ideal situation.

    1. I had a clear space at the front of the room near the board for “floor sitting.” Anyone, who wanted to sit there, could. The rest of the kids had to move up to the closest seats so that everyone was as close to the front as possible. I made sure this was not used as an opportunity for “besties” to sit together. Since no one was permitted to have anything on their desks anyway, there was no pilfering or bothering of stuff when other kids sat in someone else’s seat.

      Offering a choice (sit on the floor or sit where I tell you) worked pretty well. If kids got tired of sitting on the floor, they could return to “another seat”. When they got the hang of it, it worked quite well–the choice and comfort things being key to its success.

  3. It really depends on how you FACE those clusters of four. When I had to do this (and YES, I had to do it), I figured out a pretty good way to deal with it (a la Hosler). I will not be able to explain it very well, but here is a sideways drawing of it:

  4. I have my kids in groups of four because of the size of the room. I tell them that they all must be watching me and they do, no problems. I like groups.

  5. I have no time to worry about the shape of my rooms as I have 3 classrooms. Man, if I only had my own classroom, the things I could do!
    I always use seating charts, and inevitably the teacher changes the seating without telling me and so I just tell the kids to sit wherever that day. I actually so like a “U” shaped classroom because there’s the nice stage in the center.

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