The Hole In Their Hearts 1

Jim said:
I’m curious to know what you all think is most hurting kids in our buildings (I can think of many things), or shall I say where we should focus in order to help nurture a capable generation of young adults into our society. The food? The grades? The compulsive nature of school? Class periods? Nature deficit? Chalk dust?
I said:
Jim in my opinion the hole in their hearts is what is hurting them most. The being ignored as people in favor of government/corporate run testing programs that measure gains about which they could personally not give a rat’s tutu because those gains don’t really lead to fluency.
What is hurting them most is the absolute denial of who they are as human beings in their language classrooms. They are stung daily by being made to feel stupid because they can’t conjugate a verb or keep up with a story.
Stories and PQA are light years better than the old stuff, but can they reach the hearts of all the kids in the room? We know that they cannot. (We blame it on our own inexperience with CI, but is it that?)
Comprehensible input in the form of stories and PQA can reach some of their hearts, but it is still a teacher centered thing, and god awful hard work. Why not explore comprehensible input in the form of music? Since music reaches their hearts – and our own – where nothing else does, why not aim our instruction at their hearts, and not always at their funny bones? Why not find a strong pedagogical interface between CI and music?
Jim I hear in your question a desire to know why we who claim how wonderful stories and PQA are don’t reach more kids with them. I may be reading that into what you wrote above, and if so I apologize. But, to say it again – stories and PQA have shown that they can teach a ton of language but do they address the holes in kids’ hearts?
The CI that we are delivering now is still a mental thing except for the laughter, and it doesn’t reach all the kids. Maybe we can reach more kids and do a better job with the CI if we create a way of delivering CI that addresses more emotions than just that of laughter. If Krashen is right, shouldn’t we be developing ways of delivering comprehensible input that reaches ALL human emotions? Is twenty years of experimentation with stories by the best teachers in the world long enough before we go looking for other ways of making Krashen’s ideas work, not by leaving stories and PQA behind, but by expanding the field, the possibilities of CI?
Duke will be here in Denver this week. I’m going to wring his brain out, and learn what he already knows and has been working on now for years – how lucky we all are – how to teach and reach the holes in their hearts with music, so that they pay attention for real, not because I tell them to sit up with squared shoulders and clear eyes and focus on the CI.
Using technology to bring music to them that is fully comprehensible and, because it is music, begins to fill the holes in their hearts with the multifaceted emotions of life, the kind of life that happens in the world beyond school buildings – that is where my ship is going.
Again. No – technology is not bad. Yes, it is misused by teachers who don’t know how to use it in the service of the generation of meaningful and interesting comprehensible input.)
Maybe I can just generate CI from the twexted songs – those four ass-kicking songs – I have just begun to use, and you also, Jim. And Andrea. Maybe I don’t need to do uniquely stories and PQA. Maybe I have songs.



7 thoughts on “The Hole In Their Hearts 1”

  1. Aim at their hearts – i like that.
    I use a film called “Monsieur Batignole” around Remembrance day. It’s about the hero (human being) in all of us, and the wicked path we choose (all of us) sometimes, and why we choose either path. It’s aimed, spot on, at their hearts. Admittedly, I use too much English when I teach it. I teach it all the same. It’s just that important to me, to us, to them as far as I’m concerned.

  2. It seems like if we present to them the things we see as important or valuable in the world of art and music and literature from the target language they will pick up on our enthusiasm. If language is indeed acquired subconsciously then they will “get” what matters to us because we have exposed them to something funny or wonderful. I cannot explain this too well right now. I have just seen it happen with certain songs and movie clips and things that I share with them in the past 10 years of teaching.
    The song “Una Palabra” by Carlos Varela comes to mind this year. I play it for them and sing it to them in a really bad voice and they remember it. They know what it means.
    But I also have the word “palabra” on the wall on a sign that says “two word answers” and they NEVER EVER remember it from that exposure.
    One is a joyful, funny version of the word and one is a rule.
    They remember the joyful, funny thing. Big shock.

  3. I just want to quickly say thanks for the heartfelt and heart-centered response to my question Ben. And Lynn and Dirk for your take on what Ben said.
    I was meaning to respond to your comment in the original post it came up in, I’ve just not been able to organize my thoughts enough to really say anything. But, since I’ll be away for a few days, I wanted to express my appreciation for bringing this topic up again. You comment Ben has really had me thinking.
    BTW, the chalk dust was mentioned tongue in cheek, after listing my serious condemnations of modern schooling. I think they all contribute to the “hole in their hearts”…

  4. Jim you and Duke and I could talk for a long time. Duke is of the (in my opinion faulty – read comment by Anonymous this morning that doesn’t make sense in a real world classroom) opinion that kids, left to their own devices in a school classroom, will get into learning a language by just being left alone and given some technology and hearing words like palabra in authentic settings like music. I say that chaos will ensue because many of the kids we teach don’t really want to be in our classrooms and won’t get the word palabra even in a song because they’ll be too busy hitting on the girl next to them. What’s the answer?

  5. I think that Dirk’s take that what we do joyfully is what fills that hole. Yesterday in my third week of a seventh grade exploratory class, I typed up a story that we had asked from questionairres on Monday. You could see in their eyes the wonder that came from “Hey this is in German and I get it.” When the girl who I turned into the hero of the story punched the teacher (me) in the nose to save the big football player (who is afraid of me), she sat up a lot straighter in her chair, as did he. Kids need interest; they need praise. But most of all they need success. If that success comes from songs, great. If it comes from reading, great. After I gushed about how much they have learned in the past weeks and they could see for themselves that I wasn’t blowing smoke, they got it.
    But–like Ben– I don’t think they know how to get there on their own. Students left to themselves will try and get the biggest piece of the pie they can–whatever pie (praise, attention, grades, etc.) it may be. Students on their own don’t know how to grow the pie so that there is enough for everybody. Heck, we’re still learning how to do that.

  6. I’m reminded of a parable I heard. Take it for what it’s worth.
    A man dreamed that he was taken on a trip to the afterlife. First, he went to hell. There he saw a lot of people gathered around a large kettle. A delicious smell emanated from the kettle, it was full of a delectable stew. But everyone was starving and unhappy. You see, each person had a spoon attached to his hand, but the handle of the spoon was too long, and no one could put the spoon to his mouth. So everyone was moaning and complaining and unable to get anything to eat. It was sheer torture.
    Then the man went to heaven. He saw exactly the same situation with the kettle and the spoons, but this time everyone was happy and obviously well fed. The man asked one of the people how they could be happy when they couldn’t put the spoon to their mouths. The person replied, “It’s easy. You see, we feed each other.”
    I would say the participants on this blog have learned the secret of feeding each other. We need to help our students (and colleagues!) learn it, too.
    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

  7. I think some movies are also a way to reach hearts. Like songs, they’re something that we have not really explored. But I was showing Shawshank Redemption to a class yesterday (I teach English to French speakers) and realized that every single student was completely wrapped up in the scene and there was complete silence. I was using the English subtitles, so they were hearing it and reading it at the same time. They are not exceptional students and many of them have difficulties, but at that moment they were 100% involved.

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