Talking About the Method With the Kids

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6 thoughts on “Talking About the Method With the Kids”

  1. And Robert I would add on a practical note of advice to Greg that we must absolutely develop the discipline in class to stop teaching each and every time a significant question comes up, tell the class that we need a one minute break to jot down a question, and then jot in down. They won’t mind, especially in the light of your candid conversation with them that this is all new to you and you will be learning things as you go along.

    It is important to remember to jot down the question because if you don’t then you have this vague feeling at the end of class that you missed a learning opportunity. Those moments when questions pop into your head are major moments in unfolding the method. I further advise that when the class ends, you pop on the computer and find any comment field here – it doesn’t matter – to ask the question to the group immediately. Group members are always coming and going from the discussion here during their teaching days and you are likely to get a good response from someone with an hour.

    It’s like learning how to drive. The details of learning how to drive are best learned while you are driving, and not from a driving manual. But in the moment of learning, if there is something you need to know, you need develop that capacity to stop and ask the driving instructor. We are your driving instructors.

  2. I also really liked this when I read it on a previous post. Is there/can there be some comment we make regarding the ineffectiveness of the textbook for most students WITHOUT bad mouthing colleagues that use it? Or in talking about it, would we be casting a negative light?

    It’s just that I’ve had similar research-based talks with my classes and I still have students that just want the book….although perhaps it’s not because they don’t see the truth in what I’m saying; they just want the old way back because they’re a 4%er and want what’s easiest. For example: in my 4th period class yesterday, we were going over the Bryce Hedstrom reading “Eso si que es” and the class was rolling along with student actors demonstrating everything and when we flipped to the last page he says, “Finally,” quietly but not enough since I heard it. It totally changed my mood. I was conflicted, I heard your voices telling me I should stop and tell that kid to watch his attitude BUT not all the kids had heard him and we were doing so well….. Did I make the right decision? This kid is so smart. He doesn’t care about the research unfortunately for me.

    1. I have the advantage that most of my students don’t have anyone else to compare my instruction to. However, some come to me after having failed Spanish, so I want to be careful about the way I refer to my colleagues as well. Whenever possible I try to talk about the textbook without referring to other teachers. If a student brings up another teacher, I give the same response that I give when students bring up another student over a discipline issue:

      It would not be ethical for me to talk about Mrs. Smith’s teaching because she isn’t here, and the discussion is not about her. It’s about how I do things, and I want you to know my reasons. If you are interested in why Mrs. Smith teaches the way she does, go ask her. [Of course, no one ever does.]

      My explanation contains the following points:
      1. I consider the textbook a nice resource for people who want to know a little bit more about the way the language works, but it is a poor tool for planning
      [i.e. the four percenters. If someone asks about something – and this year I have an extreme four percenter who is uberanalytical – I can say, take a look at these pages in the textbook. The book we use has also collected some nice readings in the level three text, and I will use those from time to time.]
      2. The experts say that instruction should be student centered, so I plan my lessons around things that will interest students and let students direct where the lesson will. I am ready to talk about absolutely anything during class – as long as we do it in German and with the whole class. Remember, rule number 1 is that students participate in 1 conversation – with the whole class – in German. For me a textbook isn’t student centered because the people who wrote it are writing for the “typical” or “average” student, and they don’t know you or your interests – and besides no one in this room is “average”.
      3. There are two ways that you can “get” the language. One way is to take this book, 501 German Verbs, and memorize it as well as vocabulary lists. Then, when you have a conversation your brain will do something like this:
      – I want to say ” Yesterday I went to the supermarket”.
      -In German “went” is the past tense of “gehen”; that’s on page 76 of the book, about halfway down the page. “Ich” goes with “ging”.
      – “Supermarket” is “Supermarkt”
      – “Yesterday” is “gestern”
      – “To the” is “zum”
      – The verb has to go in second position
      – OK, got it: “Gestern ging ich zum Supermarkt.”
      About four percent of the people who take a foreign language will be able to do all of that fast enough to actually carry on a conversation. They usually become language teachers. I’m one of them.

      The other way is to participate actively in the class conversation and make sure you understand everything – and I mean everything – you hear and read. Once you have heard it enough, your ears and brain put it together, and you’ll be able to have it come out right without having to think about it. After all, why do you say “I am a student” and not “I are a student”? [Wait for students to give you the “Grammar Man Answer” and then get beyond that to “Because it sounds right”.] Exactly! It sounds right. And it sounds right because you’ve heard it how many times? 10,000? 20,000? more? So, if you are actively participating in the class and following the Interpersonal Communication Rubric, I guarantee that you will understand and speak German. If you’re talking to your friends, doing homework for another class or simply zoning out, then you’ll have to use method number 1 – and it’s a whole lot harder.

      *****

      I’m sure I say other things about the textbook and acquisition, but that’s pretty much the gist of it. A few years ago I had another pure four percenter in the class. He was “teaching himself” Japanese and chafed under TCI/TPRS instruction for a long time – until the day he came to me after class and said, “You know, Herr Harrell, I know a lot more Japanese words than German words, but I can actually use the German words in a conversation.” After that he was on board, though he wished the class would move faster. I had to keep reminding him that not everyone wanted to truly acquire the language as much as he did.

  3. Jennifer,

    I would likely have stopped the class. And then, later, would have regretted it. Especially if it was only auditory to a few.

    I think an ideal response would have been to come over to the student while kids were busy with something and say to her/him (loud enough so the same kids could hear, perhaps) that s/he needs to stay after to discuss his inappropriate comment.

    However, if it’s something that all can hear, I would definitely stop the class. I did it just the other day when a student made a similar comment. I was using Bryce’s Anti-Valentine activity with the song Eres Tú. In prepping them to create their own anti-love songs I was going over some of the cognates on the list. I happened to say “incessant” and “intolerable” in that order and a lower performing kid said, “like this class!”.

    I stopped class immediately, made sure it was clear that this type of comment was ineffective in that environment, asked him to stay after and then continued with class. Those are all fine IMO, especially if you can manage to do it with a smile. But what I also did, that I shouldn’t have done, was to get hot under the collar. Liek you said, it changed my mood. That’s an area of growth for me.

    Anyway, I called his parents immediately after school and it hasn’t come up again.

  4. I had the very same conversation with a French 2 class yesterday, but the conversation was born out of a need to discuss boundaries. Two not so nice young ladies thought it would fun to name a boy from another class a player. He’s a great kid and takes the PQA thing well, but then, they wanted to up the ante and name his current girlfriend. I said I’d have to check with him and fortunately, class was over. Next morning, I mentioned it to the boy. His response was that he had no problem being the player, but he was not comfortable with his girlfriend being brought into the story. I thought that was an incredibly gentlemanly and mature response. I shared it later with period 7 and I really laid it on the class that I thought his response was incredibly mature, what a gentleman, what a stand up guy and any 15 year old girl would be lucky to have such a boyfriend – a gentleman with a good sense of humor, full of integrity, etc. The two girls who made the original suggestion sunk down a little in their seats. They got the message. All of that led me into a discussion of the necessity of everyone feeling safe in the classroom which lead me into the method conversation. It’s a good to take some time on this since they are choosing classes for next year and I have a chance to tell them what my expectations are for the class – basically the jGR, the class rules, AND an open heart. Grant, I find it hard to hide my annoyance too. Always need to re-read Funk and Faye’s “Teaching with Love and Logic”!

  5. The girlfriend boyfriend thing is a two edged sword. It really builds interest, but can quickly offend. I keep that in mind. I prefer personalization that is more based in the bizarre – taking the fact that Jenny rides horses but only horses that are white with manes that touch the ground. You handled it well chill. It’s just another aspect of the art of this work, knowing when and how to steer discussion away from the personal lives of the most sensitive people on the planet – teenagers.

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