Something to Work For

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14 thoughts on “Something to Work For”

  1. I really like this post, and I’ve done a lot of thinking about this topic. It is so easy to get wrapped up in competition. If we think about it, competition is all around us. My students are trying to outcompete each other to get into that prestigious private high school. Parents want to do whatever they can to give their students an edge over their peers. And even us. This is my seventh year in teaching and I have been wrapped up in competition as well. I have always been nervous that if others outcompete me, my job could be on the line. It’s incredible how fear can drive competition. But I agree, if we focus on cooperation we’ll be happier and a whole group will improve rather than just an individual. Thanks for the post!

  2. …and even us….

    Yes Ray, and we could write a book about teacher competition within buildings. Look at what happened to John. And I remember when I was teaching middle school and there was this high school we fed, Dakota Ridge, which had nine of ten teachers who just didn’t have a clue about what Lupe Garcia and I were doing at the middle school. This is what Laurie and I talked about in Denver and Chicago. In the old days with TPRS there was a feeling of, as Laurie once put it years ago on the moretprs list, being campers at summer camp and just playing. Then we would go beat our heads in through the year, take our hits from those unconscious kids and parents and admins, never giving up our faith in this approach, and grow and suffer and laugh and get better at it with each passing year, and the next summer we would see each other and at the end of “summer camp” we would be ready to go again. That has changed somewhat, although the feeling is still there (Louisa Walker and company was the coolest ever such feeling of closeness I have experienced shoulder to shoulder with colleagues – that was in the Denver War Room but thanks to Sean and Craig and Sandra and Anu and others we had it going on in Chicago too) but this sense of who is better at TPRS/CI is yet another reason we are now a private group. This group is the closest thing I could create to a year long summer camp experience. By the way, those annoying bot posts should not occur anymore. We figured something out and the site is totally secure now. We lost a portion of our security every time Word Press updated, is what happened. So now we have it locked.

  3. Hello all! I just joined Ben’s PLC, and am very excited to be here. I teach k-5th grade Spanish at a truly amazing school. We’re all about community and cooperation, so this post really resonates with me. Unlike Ben, I have never been a competitive person, so being in a cooperative environment works well for me.

    Our school goes through 8th grade. Each semester, the students receive extensive reports from their teachers about their strengths and challenges, but there are NO grades. My students come to my class excited and ready to learn. They are not here to earn a grade. It’s a beautiful thing. Ben when I read your posts, I often think you would love teaching here.

    I’ve been teaching with TPRS/CI for the past 8 years, and improve my skills bit by bit, year after year. I have been doing my version of Ben’s Circling with Balls activity the last couple of weeks. (I only see my students 70 minutes a week.) They certainly LOVE to hear about themselves. One student asked last week, “Can you talk about each one of us?” Of course, I will.

    I have also been doing TPR commands with them, and would like to spin the verbs into our first story, but seem to have a complete creativity block with these verbs. We are playing Simón dice with: stand up, sit down, run(fast and slowly), walk, open, close, come, go, jump, touch, smile, laugh. They know other basic verbs from previous years(to be, to have, to want, to need). I’m hoping that someone here can come up with a humorous plot line for me. Any ideas?????

    1. Aya, I teach the same age group preK-3rd grade (60mn/week).

      Any of those verbs you’ve worked on can be turned into a short story.

      At one of the conferences a presenter suggested something as simple as:
      “The dog is thirsty. The dog drinks a lot. The dog runs to the bathroom.”
      Does not have to be 3 locations necessarily or particularly humorous or loaded with details.
      Took me years to understand that!!

      And if you’ve had home run stories in the past, do them again. Kids don’t seem to mind.

    2. Hi Aya!

      “Can you talk about each one of us?” Of course, I will.

      … awesome!

      Sounds like your students know more than my students did when I did a story at the beginning of this year. I used the verbs wants, has, and gives, and the script was something like…

      La’Deja is in the cafeteria. La’Deja has a coffee with chocolate. Elique doesn’t have a coffee with chocolate. Elique wants a coffee with chocolate. Elique says to La’Deja, “Will you give me the coffee with chocolate.” La’Deja doesn’t give the coffee with chocolate to Elique. (Pause) Elique says to La’Deja, “Will you give me the coffee with chocolate, please?” La’Deja gives the coffee with chocolate.

      Writing this over reminds me of how I’ve started to go too fast with my Spanish students these past couple of weeks. I need to slow down like I did for this story above.

  4. What about colleagues who shut down or freeze you out from cooperation? The ones who say the TPRS teacher doesn’t give homework, makes the language to easy, the kids don’t know vocabulary, they don’t know grammar. There is so much that I would be willing to share with my colleagues, but they make it very difficult – they watch what I do and try to fit pieces of what I do into their routine. Of course they don’t ask, they do what they think I am doing. At the end of the day, it’s the heart piece (Laurie!) that’s missing. They function in a world where grades are weapons, and IQ or the ability to memorize is the great predictor of success. How often do I have to hear that the wrong kids are sitting in front of me, they cannot possibly learn German, Latin, or AP Spanish. It’s hard to be magnanimous which makes it difficult to not fall into the competition trap. Is my enrollment holding its own, is the admin really on board, what are they saying behind my back? The only thing that erases all of these negatives is being able to shut the door of my classroom and speak French to the kiddos.

    The other teachers are people I work beside, but they are colleagues in name only. My true tribe exists here, on the more list, on all the blogs, and during those magic weeks in the summer, and now with the Tri-State Teaching with Comprehensible Input group (follow us on FB). It is in these places that I re-charge my TCI battery in the company of people who I consider my colleagues and friends.

    1. I’m experiencing my first bout of what chill refered to as “colleagues”. I was called into a collaboration meeting and then bullied about how my teaching and assessments are not functional and I don’t follow the curriculum map. I tried to present them with some Krashen literature and a great handout from Bryce but they didn’t want to read it. They went a step further and met with admin behind my back and came up with a plan to get me back in line. This little saga has only just started. I’ll have my time in front of admin and I will bring with me a great case for teaching CI. Thanks to this community I was able to read up on this matter and find support. Thanks for everything and I will keep you guys up to date.

      1. I’m gearing up for the same battle. Here’s what I’m going to say:

        The essence of language is meaning. We don’t talk to each other to transmit forms, but to transmit messages. Likewise, we should be assessing ability to make meaning. If teaching form or formS is how you want to try and get a kid to process meaning, then that’s a teacher’s professional decision, not one that should be made for us by others.

        Grammar is but one, old hypothesis (with weak support of affecting communicative ability).

        I’m leaning towards thinking we should be promoting that the content of a curriculum should simply be vocabulary-based in order to accommodate all teaching methods. That vocabulary should be high-frequency + flexible enough to personalize. E.g. 100 HF words productive, 300 HF words receptive by end of level 1.

        (I got a response from Paul Nation and he told me that 1,000 word families per year should be our aim, but we can adopt more conservative goals of 500 word families acquired per year – I’m pretty sure he’s crazy – haha – no, he is most likely referring to receptive vocabulary knowledge, although that still seems crazy high for listening fluency in 1 year of FL. I’ve asked for further clarification and will report back).

        Assessments should be ONLY meaning-based (like ACTFL promotes) and derived from this HF vocabulary content, with simplified sentence structure, though not sheltering grammar – much like a graded reader. And there should be no curricular sequence – vertical instruction is but 1 hypothesis and we prefer horizontal instruction (because we’ve read research and/or have common sense).

        In other words, we should be fighting for a high-frequency vocabulary, grammar-free, sequence-free curriculum + meaning-based fluency assessments. A level 1 course should be looking to develop “level 1 fluency/proficiency.” A test of linguistic knowledge can tell us nothing for sure about fluency, proficiency, and communicative ability.

      2. Hayne are you still in Summerville, SC? I can’t believe that those people are still doing that. My years in Charleston so long ago were populated with so many of those kinds of colleagues. Doesn’t anything ever change? Hey, you coach football, right? That’s a start.

        It sounds like battle zones are being laid out in more than one place. Keep us in the loop about what is happening down there.

        1. Sorry but I’ve been in the mountains on a school trip. I’m still in Summerville. Do you have links to any data that supports CI. My admin is data cracy(imagine that!). Thanks and I’ll keep you guys in the loop.

  5. Hayne there has been a lot of discussion on data supporting CI over the years here, but that discussion has been all over the place. We have those second year kid genius stories of 4s on the AP exam in second year. We have the national exam running of the tables at the state level. But we don’t have hard data because we are too busy teaching and the tests don’t exist yet. And Eric made a key point yesterday. That since we are all about listening and reading input in the first two years, most of the considerable amount that the kids know is below the tip of the iceberg, below the surface. Tests don’t exist to measure below the water in the unconscious minds of the students even though there are miles and miles of (immeasurable because unconscious) synaptic pathways being built. The information is there but the pathways between them, the roads between the little cities, aren’t built yet. I’m not a scientist but that is what I feel happens. It’s an incomplete city. Or something that’s not done yet. So maybe Eric will add to this because it is clearly overwhelming to me. My opinion is that your data crazy admin team, like so many in so many other places, is asking for something that they can’t really have, unless they want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars like we have in Denver over the past six years and even after that we just don’t feel that the tests are that good at all, with all kinds of flaws. It’s because of the nature of our work. Such data crazy people make my teeth itch. They need to go take a powder. It’s like they want to look at the buds on the apple tree and see if they are indeed going to become apples. Yeah, they will if you would just quit staring at them long enough to allow them to relax so they can grow. Like the Man with the Green Apple said, “Nothing happens fast.” Who can grow when everyone is looking at you all the time? Screw that.

    1. There’s tons of studies supporting “acquisition” as Krashen defines it (or “incidental learning”) and it can be argued that CI was the reason for the positive language gains.

      Do they ask non-CI teachers for the data that what they are doing works?!
      Works = develops fluency

      I don’t hear this argument often enough, but how come people don’t apply Occam’s Razor? – choose the hypothesis with fewer assumptions (simple).

      If we start with L1 acquisition, it’s pretty obvious it wasn’t form-focused instruction, nor output, nor correction. It was CI. Now, it violates Occam’s Razor to suggest that L2 acquisition would employ a different process. You’d have to have really good reason for hypothesizing 2 distinct processes for language development.

      The most peculiar thing to me is that “acquisition” has barely ever been given a chance.

      This is also why we are truly the “traditional teachers.” Before grammar instruction, there was only acquisition.

  6. Thanks guys! I have asked the others for their research and of course they have none. I remember reading some Krashen that examined how the brain works as far as understanding traditional grammar instruction and how there are problems. I plan on getting all my info together this weekend. I know that things will probably not change. I want the admin to know that I have preparation and research behind what I do and that I don’t just shoot from the hip. I know there is another issue. We are up for SACS accreditation next year and the admin is starting to line everything up for the visit. I guess that is why everything keeps coming back to the curriculum map. I’ve been through these visits and no one ever asked me about maps or pacing. I know the visiting team goes through and checks all the paperwork, interviews some groups and leaves. I can work with the map and do CI. Of course I’m not going to say that and give them an out. It will be fun!

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