The Introverts Control The Class

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30 thoughts on “The Introverts Control The Class”

  1. Let me tell you about my organ vs piano speech.

    When I am asking students to give me whole class answers to something I know they know (e.g. a yes/no answer to something we just established) and they want to disengage so don’t answer – or when I say “Good Morning” and don’t get much of a reply, I will ask the same question several times. What often happens is that the students who are already answering keep getting louder while the others remain disengaged.

    At that point I tell them about the difference between a piano and an organ.

    How do you make a piano louder? By pushing harder on the keys, eventually “banging” on the piano. That’s what is going on in the class: the same kids are getting louder, but there is no greater involvement.

    How do you make an organ louder? By adding voices. No matter how hard or softly I push the keys on the organ keyboard, the note will sound at the same volume as long as the voicing remains the same. If I want the note to get louder, I have to add voices (by pulling out a stop, pushing a button, pressing a lever). Each voice – from the softest flute to the loudest reed and even the Spanish trumpets – adds its own unique and distinctive quality to the overall sound. Each voice is necessary for the full organ to sound; if any voice is missing, I don’t have the full organ. “Pulling out all the stops” isn’t about making any single voice louder but about making the whole sound good together because every voice is making its own totally unique and irreplaceable contribution.

    And so, I want my classes to be loud like an organ, not like a piano.

    1. This, Robert, is so lovely. It is a beautiful part of the road that leads to the Pure Land. We can teach so beautifully if we think of this work in terms of music. We can aspire to the choral/blending of voices potential in a class. The first job of an orchestral player is to listen to the instruments around her, and then play as a part of them. I am not comparing a group of teenagers to a first and second violin section in an orchestra, but there is something here I would like to think about when I sleep.

      1. The teacher must be patient and allow the students enough time to hit upon cute details. The class is learning how to build things together in the language. The interpersonal skills they learn when doing so, the skills of listening to each other in class that you have compared to pulling out stops on the organ, will be needed later when they start building stories with the Invisibles. We teach our students and ourselves learn how to be patient and wait for merriment and soft music to emerge from the group.

  2. I don’t know if we can aspire to soft orchestral/choral blending in a classroom that is based on targets. It is similar to the conductor focusing more on the notes, interpreting the score too mechanically, and not shaping the players and singers into a whole, with all the instruments/voices listening to each other. Dropping the focus on the score, the notes, the targets, might lead to a kind of storytelling that Carmen described here last week:

    …it is like magic when you just tell them a good story with a slow pace in your speech, simplified in a way that is comprehensible for them but still compelling, and then when you ask them questions related to what they have listened to or watched they can answer accordingly. It is amazing and I am very happy but I am pretty sure I am not doing TPRS as the Green Bible recommends….

    1. Carmen said:

      …I am pretty sure I am not doing TPRS as the Green Bible recommends….

      I learned from Russ that you may be doing TPRS as Blaine intended originally, however. I think we may have just been on a 20 year long bender, and Blaine and Krashen let us. Not that there is anything wrong with that, with targets, but a few of us are curious about what else is possible.

      Again, this is not a statement against the use of target structures in storytelling classrooms. Many teachers enjoy lots of success in building stories from target structures. Citing the need to align with district curriculums, their successes reflect the very true statement that, when working with comprehensible input, there is no wrong way to do it.


  3. Tina can you expand on this magic? I am feeling the pain of the noise volume in these “interactions,” which is why I have not done any stories for awhile. Can you describe how you “don’t make them participate.” I reckon this all evolved organically and cannot be spelled out. Nevertheless, if you have any hints I would love to hear.

    1. Tina I know how busy you are but let’s not let this question from jen scroll out. When she asked how you don’t make them participate, I got a shock in my body probably because this is such a true electric kind of redefining of what teaching even is. Not making children participate is the beginning of them participating. It is the blending of sound possible on the organ and not the piano, if I properly understood what Robert said in that awesome comment earlier today. I have done this. I have worked very hard at acting like I could care less if they participate. Tina does it. It’s something worth discussion, at least. Of course, if we really want to see the qualities in a teacher in which this idea manifests in a most beautiful way, we look at Blaine.

      1. Basically I am finding this:

        With stories based on the kids’ ideas, 100% on their characters, and no “hidden agenda” or as John Piazza said “a rat” for them to smell, the target structures.

        (By the way I had another long talk with my evaluator yesterday – an hour and a half – and she asked how was I differentiating for kids with LD and TAG kids…and I was surprised at what came out of my mouth, that the TAG kids – the fast processors – are receiving more differentiation than they would have in the past because in the past I was trying to keep the reps interesting to everyone, so the slow processors could “master” the structure, and thus the faster processors had to jut kind of “hang with the story” as we drilled “Il voulait un chien” like eighty BAZILLION times. So the nontargeted work actually helped again, in responding to admin. the first time it helped was being able to say that though it LOOKS teacher-centered, the kids’ ideas form the entire base of the class. These messages are not exactly sinking in because she has a small imagination and is not willing to look at the thing that Laurie C made to show how CI can fit into the Danielson framework. She literally told me she had had a week of training and was super familiar with it and so she was not interested. Anyways, enough about that…)

        Thus with no target structures to impede our mutual enjoyment of the kids’ amazing characters, or of cool stories and tales I am bringing them for Beniko’s Story Listening, I have more mental energy and creativity. And with that, I am able to spin a moire fun yarn, I have less in my head at the moment when thinking is needed – for discipline or creating or for ensuring that they are with me and comprehending and enjoying the story, that I am using my voice to enchant them. And the kids have picked up on that. They are thus content to trust me to spun a good tale for them and sit back and enjoy, without all the dithering over the details. Hey, kids are pretty passive little beings most of the time. They love TV and media. They are actually a lot more content to be entertained than we think. the reason I think that TPRS has always said that we need to use their ideas is to put a cute outfit on the rat – the language we are trying to slip down their throats.

        Also I have to say that a the beginning of the year, we did a lot more calling out of ideas, so they did have that experience of being like my orchestra, coming together with each other in creativity. But in my years of teaching, it has always been true that in the first quarter, kids are easier to harness. They are more docile. So moving into the third week of quarter 2, we have been doing more just relaxing into listening. I have them turn and talk, I say sometimes to talk in L1 or L2, their choice, and sometimes I say try to talk just in L2 but I remind them that as Novices they will most likely be pointing to the artists’ work and just listing words, and that if they can manage a sentence or more, they are already way ahead of schedule. I do this to please my evaluator but also to give them opportunities to use their voice in class.

        1. Tina you said, “They are thus content to trust me to spun a good tale for them and sit back and enjoy, without all the dithering over the details. Hey, kids are pretty passive little beings most of the time. They love TV and media. They are actually a lot more content to be entertained than we think. the reason I think that TPRS has always said that we need to use their ideas is to put a cute outfit on the rat – the language we are trying to slip down their throats.”

          Yes! My kids are super jacked-into technology and social media. In one class I have been doing student biographies until another class started losing steam now both of my French 2 classes have been doing biographies. This a spin-off from the Special Chair. However, I projected photos of themselves or pet (their choice) then if they want they may take the comfy desk chair in front of the class as I interview them. Though it seems generic or boring, it sprang from one of our students. Then the whole class created the types of questions as a class. This helped maintain community in the class and now everyone wants to know more about each other. I still have a story writer but I continue to ask questions for more information rather than circling. This has lead to emergent targets.

          A major benefit is that the student I am interviewing is showing me that they do not get it! For so long they are not showing me that they do not get it. Now there is no escaping… there is a desire to understand what is going on. It is special chair but more spontaneous and improvised. Vive NT!

  4. I do my best every day to let whatever happens be whatever happens that day. I feel the toxicity of forcing kids to interact, or forcing a particular activity on them. It just happened in my last block. A girl was “scheduled” to be the star of the day (she volunteered yesterday), but she was having a bad day, so I said “No problem. We don’t have to do an interview today. Some kids mistook that as me being cranky, which I wasn’t. They tried to get someone else to volunteer. In fact someone said I’ll do it. But I said, not unless you are excited to. I explained to them (in English) that I want people to want to participate in things like interviews, so if they don’t then we don’t do an interview. I am not trying to drag them through something, especially when it involves the vulnerability of being “star” and sharing personal information. You gotta be up for that! Then one kid said, “let’s interview you!” So that turned the energy around and we had a fun interview even though I was “nervous and not prepared…haha!” BUT it could have easily gone in a different direction. For those times I need 60 minutes of bail out moves!

    My main question in all of this is due to my extreme tendency to be scattered and airy (yes, vata imbalance). I have real trouble sticking to routines and that is not helpful for kids (or me!). So my real question is how to have a solid routine so kids are comforted in knowing what to expect, AND allowing for all of the non-participation and such. I feel like for my groups, I can be super present and structured and deliver loving comprehensible input for the first half of the class…so maybe 40-50 mins I can keep my @#$% together. After that there is a whole half hour left where I just want to sit back and let them do something more independent. It feels really unbalanced to me to try to be in full-bore CI delivery for 80 mins. every day. I don’t have the energy for that, and neither do the kids. I’m especially aware of the introverts (myself included) who need to NOT be doing social activities the entire time. Most of the brain breaks are active, somewhat loud and potentially exacerbate the anxiety of these quiet kids. But then there are those super active kids who really need to be moving. I do silent ball, and other quieter group building activities, but even those I can see and feel the introverts just cringing. Many times they sneak out of the circle. Sometimes I let them and sometimes I make them come back in. So this waffling on my part is making everything worse. ???

    What do people do when there is a visceral feeling of resistance coming from a majority of the group?

    1. jen, I agree that we need to find independent, calming work for students to do to break up those 80-90 min block classes. Reading independently would be ideal, right? But the reality is that we don’t have reading material for them so much. Or do we? Do you have typed up narratives of previous stories and dialogues?

      Or, maybe have students write in a notebook. Just write whatever. Like, string 10 sentences together using words from the board. Or make lists. Give them options of what they can write in their notebooks. Another option could be translating a previously co-narrated story.

      Some students crave that independent time. Other students crave time to chat with a peer. So, another option could be partner-pair dictations where student A dictates and student B writes. Then switch.

      Just brainstorming here. This could also be a time to check in and conference with individual students. When we teach from the front of the room so much throughout the week, these individual conferences become a much needed time to bond, don’t you think?

      1. Yes Sean, Individual conferencing is important. I used to do this regularly at my old school. Great reminder. I’m having trouble getting one on one time with the kids who most need that!

        Thank you for the ideas. I will come up with some writing activities for sure. Maybe I will type up some Matava / Tripp scripts into simple “Mad-Lib” style mini stories, and kids can use those as writing templates.

    2. Their resistance must be met with your strength. I think if we voted here over the years you and me would get “most alike” in terms of waffling and not really caring about a lesson plan. So structure needed! One thing, I would definitely start class with 10-20 min. (however long you can get it to last) of SSR. Then alternate for the bulk of class with stories and readings. You know I could write a ton on this topic, but the fact is make a schedule that you like and stick to it and don’t let them see you sweat. If I could do it you can. I really hear the silent ball thing, with some slipping out of the circle because it is probably their millionth game of silent ball. I wouldn’t do that one anymore. Sorry not a concrete answer.

  5. As I wrote that reply above, I realize…clunk…I have a serious problem in one of the groups. Probably in all of them, but one group stands out. It feels like half the kids are clinically anxious / panic attack prone and the other half are super energetic. I know this to be true with some kids’ IEPs and/or communication from parents, guidance, etc. What one group needs seriously causes trauma to the other. I don’t know what to do with this realization.

    Story listening, of course, because that is calming and really the only way to get them to listen. But I have 80 mins.

    On a more related (to the original thread) note…I fully agree with the differentiation here, esp with story listening. By breaking free of the need to recycle certain words, and be ok with the kids understanding what they get, whether it is a gist, or some details, or all of it, everyone gets what they need at the place where they are that day.

    1. And jen get them writing. Free writes, stuff like that. We had a list here once. Getting the pencils moving is important when you are feeling the pressure of the 80 minutes. I wish we could magically find posts from years ago here bc we have definitely knocked this topic – how to fill instructional minutes – around before.

      1. Yep. Freewrites coming up. I think I have been afraid to do them because the quality of the input has been so horrible lately. But that is all the more reason to do them. I can point out that more input yields more output.

    2. I find it interesting that you say SL is the only way to get them listening. The discussion on FB on SL, which is being dominated by a few loud voices, has been very skeptical. However, especially on the Liftoff FB group, and in private communications, the majority of people I have heard from say that SL is working well for them, and they are really liking it, and I too find that it is very easy and engaging and provides a maximum amount of input thus being most efficient. Which is exactly what Beniko says. That SL is the most efficient method to deliver CI in maximal doses. Which is what Krashen says is needed – CI and that is all.

      The other way I am finding to maximize the CI and not spend class time dithering about details, as I wrote earlier in the week, is to tell them stories based on their OWIs or their Invisibles, thus basing the input upon their creations and, I am finding, enabling them to happily sit and listen and be entertained by their own creativity. For those who are worried about using NT work due to their lack of L2 vocabulary or limited proficiency (which should, in my opinion, almost be seen as a strength because personally I feel like my Spanish teaching is stronger than my French due to my much less-developed Spanish proficiency), this is a good piece of news. For if we use SL, and use L2 stories as the source of the original text (of course we modify it down to be comprehensible to the level of kids we have in front of us, but I am finding that reading the authentic story first in L2 gives me new language to introduce to them in the SL time) and know that in stories with the Invisibles knowing that we can simply TELL most of the story and thus can select a few Invisibles that we want to work with, and jot the vocab on them that we know we will be likely to need to use (or maybe even a list of some possibilities to present to the kids, if you want more dithering), then we can head into the NT waters more confidently, knowing that we have pre-planned the vocab. NT does NOT mean unplanned. This is a big realization for me. I have had many big realizations about many, many aspects of this work, the deeper I get into it, and I am grateful to have found a way into NT work last January through Ben’s work with the Invisibles, as it has opened a new playing field where creativity seems to shine. It is so satisfying to be finding ways to make NT work fit into the reality of the classroom.

  6. I am in class right now taking a much-needed happy break, watching my kids eagerly draw Invisibles for future stories. We have:

    A cucumber that is the happiest cucumber in the world because he is very popular
    A box of Kleenex that is sad because it hates germs
    A banana mustache that works at a golf course
    A lightening bolt that acts happy but she is really sad inside because she knows she can never be as hot as the sun
    A winter cap that hates summer because he knows he won’t be used
    A jar of jam that wants to propose to peanut butter
    A Party Pirate tho loves to party
    Bilberta a bubble tea missing one f her bubble babies
    A set of ketchup and bustard who are kids and they are missing their dad Mayo who is with Mustache the corn dog (and might I say much more beautifully-drawn than Howard the kid agrees)
    Ms. Hargaden’s water bottle, with the story TBD. The stickers are giving the kid a hard time.
    Ramos the Ramen Noodles who can’t stop eating himself!

    Oh the fun we will have with these stories. I have said it before and I will say it again, this sure beats telling stories about celebrities.

  7. Hang in there jen. Stick to a general routine. I’ll echo what Ben has said. I have 80 minutes classes once a week. Here is what I do.

    Free reading — I have their stories on Google Classroom. They comment and move on. You can print these out physically and keep them in a folder.

    Free Writing

    Story listening — Here I use ANOTHER class’ story. So, with level 2 I use level1 stories with the artist work. No accountability just a quick finger-check. With your students, I am sure you know whose eyes you can look into.

    Drawing invisibles – this allows for introverts to express themselves. Then you can conference with them.

    Movie-talk — I have only done 1 this year. I dont want to plan! I usually use authentic resources. Screen shots plus a caption and do a sentence by sentence. Make it a movie type day and you can have students bring a bag of popcorn.

    Story-asking with invisibles

    Kindergarden day — you can use a book in English as well. If there class is big you can use an overhead/document camera.

    Cultural research — this is for sanity. Have them research a spanish speaking country or region. Include food, traditions etc… have them do this in l1. Then you can take the fun facts and tell them in l2.

    That is what I have off the top of my head.

    1. …story listening — here I use ANOTHER class’ story. So, with level 2 I use level 1 stories with the artist work….

      This is a great idea! They will listen intently if the story was created by another class, if for no other reason than to say how their stories are better.

      1. I have a confession. Aside from (planned) observations, I have been teaching spontaneously, if I plan, I basically write a few notes like “class password: that’s incredible. Period 1: presentations [a heritage speakers class] etc…” To me NT does mean unplanned because students shouldn’t know what will come next. Sure, I wasted some time but the messages were all the more compelling. It’s something that I continue to develop because I want to minimize my planning time. The most that I have planned has been for observations and Anne’s scripts. Let’s not forget our sanity, teachers should have lives too.

      2. Yeah, I often switch up the stories between classes and use them as assessments (reading comprehension and/or listening). Now that I am more focused on story listening, I will try that with the class stories. Hm. So many possibilities. An infinite amount of material. All free of charge!


    2. Interesting combination of activities, Steven. Very helpful! Nice to have the routines, or, at least know I have a routine to fall back on when needed. Funny how we end up changing the routine so much as the year goes on, right?!

  8. Sean, for me – and this is in very general terms – my year has as its main focus:

    1. First 1/3 of the year – all the starting the year activities like OWI and putting in the Classroom Rules, trust building, etc. – teaching them how to be in a CI classroom.
    2. Second 1/3 – stories
    3. Third 1/3 – reading

    1. Ben you said, “teaching them how to be in a CI classroom.” This statement to me rings so true especially if there are students who are not trained in ci classrooms. It’s hard indeed. A new teacher has taken over a program and has in mind to go ci with her students next year. She’s planning ahead! Its a mentality, a shared vision students and teachers looking into the horizons towards the Pure Land as you put it. There is muddy paths, thorns, thickets, snakes but the vison is shared when there is trust between the two. I think i’m starting to get it.

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