Teaching Classroom Objects

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23 thoughts on “Teaching Classroom Objects”

  1. Yeah. The best answer is not to worry about teaching the thematic word lists. And those of us who have to teach them, try to sneak those words into our stories throughout the year. There is the option of doing “CI Reports” (e.g. The weather in _p_l_a_c_e_ is _h_o_t_ . . . or . . . _c_e_l_e_b_r_i_t_y_ is wearing _h_e_e_l_s_). I do this from time to time, projecting pictures and target language labels of thematic word lists and then I ask the details.

    Classroom objects are definitely boring. So not sure how to CI them and make it compelling. Maybe a story about a School Superhero / Villain who uses classroom objects as weapons. Tripp’s scripts has a story about hunting, in which one suggested answer is to hunt with the lead of a pencil, but you create various situations. Or maybe do Look & Discuss with a picture of classrooms from other parts of the world and teach some culture while you’re at it.

  2. I mostly just start using the words to give kids directions about what we’re doing in class. Ex: I want them to get a piece of paper and a pencil out. I slowly say in Chinese, “You need 1 piece of paper (holding up an example) and a pencil (holding one up).” Often a child will say in English, “We need paper?” and I say correct in Chinese. This way I can get in words like paper, pencil, computer, turn on/off lights, book, bookshelf, over there, on top, “put it in the trashcan”, and so on. Over time there are a lot of reps on all of those. I don’t really find stapler, pencil sharpener, hole puncher, that kind of specialized tool important enough to say in Chinese, even though the words are really cool to me (stapler is literally “arranging/ordering document machine”).

    With some ages of children, I bet putting these objects in funny places would make it work. The pencil is on his head (in his ear, up her nose, under the elephant). Or, someone doing something ridiculous with school supplies as Eric said.

    I think this gets into the fact that while it is possible to teach anything with Comprehensible Input, the beauty of TPRS is to remind us to make it as interesting as possible for their greater acquisition, not to mention happier times in class.

  3. Before I had ever heard about TPRS I used Kim’s Game to teach the names of objects. I just put everything in a bag, pulled the objects out one by one asking if anyone knew its name and giving the name, until I had emptied the bag, then put the objects back in, naming them again, then asked the kids what was in the bag. They quickly got into it. With primary students, I’d hand the object to the kid who had been able to name it. I found it was a good way for them to acquire the order of adjectives, they learned to say “little pink monkey” and “big black monkey”. I tried to have big and little objects, and different colors. If you have to teach those horrible lists, Kim’s Game can make it fun for the kids.

  4. I have been reminded a couple of times recently how common it is to try to use CI to TEACH the language – vocab, present tense, imperfect etc. I am re-posting something that Ben posted during our 2013 Maine conference. It made SUCH an impression on me. I have really been trying to live by that quote this year. I really think the quote describes TRUE CI teaching…

    Here is the quote again:

    “We must stop stop stop trying to teach content. See what content happens. Dance in CI with the kids. Grab a target structure and saunter on down to the river, the Lazy River, and just float down where the water goes naturally and quit trying to push the water upriver in the direction you want. Follow the flow of the conversation. Let the CI flow…. see where it goes…. ¨

    Thank you Ben

    1. Thanks for that quote, Skip. It is powerful. (I see that Ben replied to it as well but had to start a new thread.) Though, I find that this flow doesn’t pick up so easily at the beginning of a term with a new set of students. As I reflect on how to get students to float with me down that lazy river in my new Spanish 1 classes that started at the beginning of semester 2, I think about how many verb structures I need to introduce using Circling with Balls/ Cards and other PQA before heading into Asking-A-Story sessions.

      It has been informative reading on the PQA vs. Stories thread how, as members here are realizing, both fall in the same place in the 3 step acquisition process – as Laurie outlined for us – step 2, or the story-line step.

      Perhaps the flow that you work for in the first couple of weeks in level one require some jumping around from student to student, knowing what cognates you can use with each verb structure (i.e., for plays: basketball, football, etc.; for eats: hamburger, tacos, sandwich, pizza, etc.; for listens: music, radio, etc.), knowing when to get choral responses verses individual responses, knowing when to pause for a quick quiz or a dictation, knowing how to use kinesthetic activities, knowing when to pull up a student to the front and focusing attention on her/him, etc.

      I also wonder if it would be a good idea to work towards getting something like 100 reps of a verb structure with a class, pause, shake it off, and start a new verb structure. Get 100 reps of that verb structure with the class, pause, shake it off, and start a third. Do this until we get, I don’t know, 6 or 7 high frequency verbs before we start a story-asking session and, consequently, a reading session. The difficulty would be in knowing that each of my level 1 classes would be at different places in how many reps they’ve accumulated before the start of the next class. Lesson planning would not coincide so exact.

      [I guess this post has me more thinking aloud than anything, but I won’t apologize for it because I love it when other members open up and think aloud.]

  5. Love this term: The “Asking-A-Story” session. Thank you Sean.

    I would add that we have never really formally said this (perhaps we have) but Eric’s idea of focusing on the power verbs is just so key in any work with new groups. We dance around the point but I am not sure that it is clear (I wish I had known this years ago) that we start with new people in focusing on verbs verbs and more verbs. Just wanted to say that again.

    In that sense, I told Diana yesterday that I feel that TPR is useless unless the number of reps is much higher than we normally get, because of the quick onset of boredom with TPR.

    So I am beginning to see that TPR, unless repeated hundreds of time more per verb than we actually do, is relatively worthless. The idea of sowing verb seeds all over the fields of August and September cannot be overemphasized is my point here.

    So, if doing CWB or using Anne’s questionnaires or just hanging out with the kids in the language, instead of focusing on the CWB process, the information in the questionnaires, or whatever PQA we are doing, we need to focus on the verbs in those activities, and not so much on the activities themselves. Just like we do in stories, really.

    1. Ben, Are you saying that if you use a verb in a story you don’t have to repeat it as much as if you just do TPR with it because it’s in a meaningful context? I’m trying to understand what you said up there and am a little confused.

      1. I believe that TPR is no longer needed because, although amusing for a few moments, when the boredom of doing robotic movements sets in, we may have as few as five reps when we really need 5000. TPR doesn’t come close to getting much of anything done. In my opinion, what we need is to get up to thousands of reps in whatever contexts we can. It is my firm belief that stories provides the best opportunity for that to happen, but we must be willing to extend the reps on the two or three targets over a long time, much longer than most people do, for as long as two weeks (see the “Two Week Plan” category for more on that plan). When we do stories we get to start out with plenty (hundreds) of reps during PQA, then in the story we get hundreds more, then in the reading and the spin out R and D generated from that we can maybe approach seven or eight hundred, barely enough. I’m talking serious narrow and deep here, obviously. The parking on the same few structures for days and days builds a deeper mind language beast, and the turbines begin to run at a very very high rate of production, cutting into neurological areas and building a web of language that we can only begin to dream to understand, since we are merely human. Clearly, my conception of teaching for acquisition is changing fast these days. I just don’t think a few hundred reps is enough; we need far more than that amount – many many more hundreds of reps in varied and interesting contexts than I used to think were sufficient. Does that address your question properly, Annemarie?

        1. Yes it does. But I know that I don’t come close to getting “hundreds” of reps for structures (Are you exaggerating?) I go very slow with my spanish 1 kiddos, I’d definitely get 60-70 reps of structures but not hundreds. Perhaps I need to spend more time on a story? I usually spend 2 days on a story and then a day to read it. If I see that students haven’t gotten a structures well enough, I incorporate it into the next story.

          1. …if I see that students haven’t gotten a structures well enough, I incorporate it into the next story….

            A very good move but I have trouble inserting structures into comprehensible input. It’s just right brain dominant me. But no I’m not exaggerating, I try for hundreds now. I just park and park and keep parking. Two days for a story is good. One in my opinion is not enough. The hundreds come from PQA and the reading as well. It all adds up. I guess it just kind of depends on how we feel about the amount of reps we get. The more I do this, the more I see that a fantastical amount of reps is required. But again, that’s probably just me.

          2. Wow, I think I may need to get a counter for my structures as a job to check in on my reps. I know that it’s hard to get reps on words like “still” and “also” but I guess these words can just keep coming up in stories? How many new structures do you incorporate into a story? I find myself doing 3-4, and one of them is often one from a previous story.

          3. I don’t even use the counters anymore because I am so determined to get a rep in each circled question of either or both of the two most significant structures (I aim for two structures now, like Laurie) that I just know I’m getting mega reps so I don’t need to know how many.


            …I know that it’s hard to get reps on words like “still” and “also” but I guess these words can just keep coming up in stories?…

            Yeah, they keep coming up. Can’t really consciously teach words like that. Destroys the flow when you try to insert them.

    2. Of course: Eric’s power verbs idea! Sorry I neglected to refer to that. So, I’m now seeing the need, as Eric shared with us before, to hammer down on those essential high-frequency verbs that are great for the Asking-A-Story sessions in the very beginning of the term for the level 1 class. I’m thinking that we don’t need to spend as much time hammering down on these essential 6 – 7 high frequency verbs as we would when we introduce new verb phrases later in the term.

      1. I think the early chapters in LICT do a great job of giving multiple reps on the Super7*/StorytellingVerbs

        existence: there is/are
        preference: likes
        motion: goes
        possession: has
        volition: wants
        location: is (estar)
        identity: is (ser)

        *credit = Terry Waltz

        I would add “says” and “gives” to the list of Storytelling Verbs.

        LICT does so many stories with the same basic storyline (Character has something and wants something else, so he goes to 2-3 locations to get what he wants). I repeated this same storyline a bunch of times with my students when I first started TPRS. The character can want an object, want a girlfriend, want to speak Gorilla, want dance lessons, etc.

    3. And about TPR . . . I find my kids love it (grades 3-8 and even my adults).
      But I spend very little time practicing it as isolated vocab/gestures. The novel commands (e.g. “your nose dances”) and mini-stories that I can tell/ask with the TPR words are what lead to laughs and acquisition. I try to introduce TPR words in groups of 3 and certain words lend themselves to TPR “sets,” e.g. (laughs, cries, eats), e.g. Bob eats Jane’s foot, while Jane cries, and the class laughs.

      To build a base for mini-stories it helps to start with TPR for stands, sits, quickly, slowly, flies, like a, and a couple body parts. Then, you can have different students stand, fly to another student, do something to his/her body part, then fly back and sit down. Make them do it quickly/slowly or like a [insert animal cognate] and you are ensured laughter.

      In other words, I use the TPR words in full sentences. I can circle my sentences and also ask the story as I would in TPRS (Is Bob going to eat Jane’s head or foot?). But I’ve found that students don’t mind me just telling the story (more teacher-oriented). I find TPR great for giving input on the past and present progressives and for the “be+going to” future tense. Mix up your stories about individuals, pairs, small groups, or whole class. Easy to give reps on the various verb forms. And easy to assess students by their ease of gesturing. TPR is the ultimate “CI ice-breaker.”

  6. The French teachers (non-TPRS) at my school have their classroom stuff labeled. (I need to do this). Door, board, sharpener etc. They teach the kids the words and just point and say. Works pretty good.

    But Ben is right…I’d be willing to be there’s 4000 more-frequently-used words than “pencil sharpener” on any frequency list. I think the following most useful:

    Lights (turn on/off)
    Table & seat

    These IMHO matter because they’re gonna be used loads outside of class too.

    1. Yep, agreed on these ones being more useful. The Chinese text I used to use, however, included “CD player” (what kid uses THAT anymore) and none of your short list except table & chair. Errrggg! And my department wonders why I dislike that textbook so much. Oh, let me count the ways.

  7. Chris, I’d say more like 40,000 words more frequent than pencil sharpener. However, sometimes those kinds of words are worth teaching simply because of their more frequent morphemic make-up (saca = take out, puntas = points). Plus, they are found in the classroom, so they can be used for TPR scenarios.

    (I’ve never actually taught the word since moving to CI 6 years ago, and would never teach it as a regular part of any unit on classroom objects… 1. I fortunately don’t have to and 2. too much fuzz. I find that a few of the more common things they use each day [notebook, folder, pencil, desk] suffice. And with level one it’s even less than that, maybe pencil and paper and trash can and that’s it.)

    I was going to respond to what you said Ben about TPR, because it’s the only part that I didn’t agree with you on. Then I read what Eric said, and I am just going to say “What he said”. It’s much how Ramiro Garcia described it in his book.

    TPR is nice for students, as a break and to get some movement, and it’s also really nice for me, to fall back on after circling “tiene” for 15 minutes in different contexts. It almost always leads me somewhere else, whether straight from the TPR into some PQA, or for some helpful details in a story later (e.g. like if we learn during TPR that some kid can walk really well like a monster). TPR is very important in my classroom.

    1. And Diana Noonan just told me the same thing this weekend. She was talking about the importance of Three Ring Circus, another form of TPR, and how people should do more of it. And I think certain verbs demand it. But many don’t and if I personally don’t do it I don’t miss it. It’s just another example of how the CI sleigh is so full of goodies that we all get to pick and go with what works for us as individual teaching artists.

      1. The 3-ring circus and “TPRing of the tenses” can be effective, but has to be used sparingly, like the circling (I prefer 1-2 ring circuses). Otherwise, it sounds forced and repetitious. Something I liked reading when I read a Carol Gaab teacher manual, something along the lines of “We want to get repetitions without sounding repetitious.” This is why my best TPR sessions are when I’m just trying to be creative with the words, combining them in new and novel ways and telling nonsense/humorous stories with the TPR words.

  8. This is the first year I’ve started having my 3-students’ actions interact with each other during 3-ring circus and it has worked really well. But I never planned it ahead of time!! My 6th and 7th graders love 3-ring circus -gives the kids who want to get out of their seats a chance to move around. It only lasts for about 5 minutes though. I like incorporating adverbs during this time-we get laughing pretty hard. Ever since I saw Bertie Segel do it in Yiddish in Brekenridge, I’ve realized how much you can really do with it. I do agree with Eric above that it should be used sparingly. I also find it very tiring to facilitate!

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