The Kids Are Turning Blue!

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20 thoughts on “The Kids Are Turning Blue!”

  1. Ben,

    Such great thoughts! Thanks for the reminder to make class about the students and not just the language. Three days into this year…I was already worried too much about how much Spanish they were getting. I need to SLOW DOWN and focus on each of them as we talk.

    I’m just so stinkin’ anxious way too often. I guess I’ll either learn to deal with that and relax or….or nothing! I will stick with this and keep improving. I saw glimpses of great things happening in the first few days. I also heard from the mom of one of my students and she said her daughter was teaching them some Spanish already…so she must have learned something, right?

    Thanks for this PLC – I know it will be my biggest support this year. Your books are great, too, monsieur!


    1. TCI/TPRS is HUMANE.

      TCI/TPRS is syllabus-less. I don’t think we say this often enough: there is no syllabus! Certainly not a syllabus of grammar, nor a sequence for when certain grammar/vocabulary has to be taught and mastered. Think about all that time wasted teaching early-acquired grammar rules, rules that would be internalized if they’d just give the kids their first doses of CI. Think about all those late-acquired grammar rules that won’t ever be mastered that year, especially those more complex, late-acquired grammar rules that even the best monitor-user satisfying the 3 conditions for monitor-use will find a struggle. It’s what Krashen called the “Great Paradox of Language Teaching” – language is best taught when it’s not explicitly taught.

      TCI/TPRS is about attitude, not aptitude.

      A good attitude lowers the affective filter. Aptitude makes most of the difference when it comes to “learning.” Although, when we notice the “smart kids” also acquiring faster, it’s not necessarily due to aptitude, but due to their positive attitude, which has been maintained since school has given them a strong self-image as “the smart ones.”

      I also bet that those kids with better working memories acquire better/faster under less-targeted CI approaches. If so, targeted CI is more aligned with “democratization” of the foreign language classroom (giving everyone an equal opportunity for success).

      And when our teacher motors turn on and we are tempted to teach at a faster rate or less targeted, because some kids are acquiring (so we unjustly assume they all should be acquiring), we should remind ourselves of Von Ray’s multi-level study – it was the most advanced students who saw most progress. They needed more of the basics!

    2. Robyn, my motto this year is: “I will let myself be rushed by nothing.” I found that a lot of my nerves in class came from this place of needing to bounce all around the room and do lots of different things and bring lots of energy into class. This year I am just trying to relax. We get through however much we get through. Who’s gonna know the difference, anyway? I refuse to let myself be rushed by a curriculum or any negativity from within me or from the kids. I will set my face like flint.

      1. This is good, James. I’m working with two mottos for the year: Working from rest (that means being calm, trusting God to help me, not being frantic or trying to force anything in my own effort) and working without fear. I’ve said it elsewhere in the PLC, but it’s helping me each time I tell others about it, so here it is again. I need the reps!

        Working without fear means a lot of things for me – not fearing my students or their reactions, not fearing colleagues, not fearing judgment by others for being or not being a good teacher, etc. Not fearing how much we’ll accomplish (or not) is another one.

        1. Thanks James and Diane, but how do we do that? I’m getting so anxious because I keep thinking about the posts here on the PLC about losing energy in the winter and I think I’m doomed because I don’t have much right now and it’s only 4 days in. I forget which kids do what in each class and that stresses me out, too.

          That said, I do find glimpses of hope in the midst of class once in a while. I share a look with a student when I talk about their card and I can tell we connect. I stop often to talk about the “one person talks” rule and even though they don’t like it, I can see the kids responding. (most of them, anyway)

          I just want to know – will this anxious feeling go away or am I going to fight this all year long? I know a big part of this is trusting God to help me instead of just going from my own strength…I’ve “preached it” – now I have to practice it, too.

          Keep on keeping on, everyone!


          1. Robyn, the conversation here is seasonal. We discuss strategies in terms of the time of year and collectively solve problems that arise when certain things (CWB, for example) have run their course.

            Your classes will not lose energy in the winter because we do things differently then than we do now and we talk about what that means.

            To begin the year it’s about input mainly, in auditory form, but not using stories but CWB and OWI and L and D and simple things like that. Then the sprinklings of reading increase when we start stories later in the fall, and we use ROA to process readings based on stories.

            Stories carry many of us nicely through the winter and then in the spring when the kids are burned out on stories (yes, it happens) we turn to reading novels using R and D.

            Meanwhile, as the weeks go by, we write more as the students’ ability to do so increases with all of the auditory and reading input.

            So winter has its strategies. You’ll be fine. Just keep talking to your kids now and, as per that post from today about sequencing your classes in terms of moving from auditory input to expansion of same to reading, start with some simple reading/writing activities.

            There is balance in this work. When you see it, you will relax more. No one can expect you to be calm and centered now in your first week. From what I can tell you are doing fantastic work right now. Stay the course. Deep breath. It’s only a job.

            You can start getting seriously nervous when they start paying you a minimum of six figures and start exhibiting an actual interest in how students learn languages, instead of a fake interest based on establishing themselves as the seat of power in the building.

          2. Thank you for the encouragement! It helps so much to know that there are people routing for me here. I think the main thing I need to do is repeat “I can do this” hundreds of times daily instead of “I don’t think I can do this.” (Wise advice from my husband – poor guy has to listen to all of my doubts and fears every night after school)

            Maybe that type of repetition works just like TPRS – we acquire confidence and peace as we get hundreds (or thousands) of reps on that one thought. (Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)


          3. I have the same perspective as you, Robyn. It’s a moment-by-moment fight against fear very often, and remembering how much I am loved helps. I have been saying (out loud when I’m in the car, not in front of other people!) that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind. (1 Tim. 1:8? or thereabouts) All the reps are absolutely necessary.

            Ben is also right that there is a rhythm that develops over time with teaching this way, and the process of getting started is absolutely the most difficult. You’re re-learning how to approach teaching, students, and your target language, which is no small thing.

  2. An observation from today: Our most behaviorally challenging classes are often times potentially our best classes. I have one class of first year students who don’t have any bad will in their hearts but, gosh golly, they take a long time to settle down. Once we get there, though, it’s the pure land all the way. I have to fight for it, but it’s worth the fight. If their energy can be controlled, and if I can remain super-duper calm, there is no limit to how high we’ll go this year.

  3. Those who met James in Denver this summer know that he exhibits good will and patience. That is not a bad quality to have in a teacher. It beats the hair trigger kind of personality. So when James said that he “had to fight for it” (for the attention of this difficult group of kids), he fought by remaining calm, waiting, as it were, for the wave to pass.

    To start a rambunctious class I personally just say, “Class, it’s time to start….” in a calm way and repeat that a few times and they calm down. It hardly needs to be pointed out what a knee jerk reaction to their energy brings as we have all been there and hopefully only once. Remaining “super-duper calm” is a good way to put it. We have to.

    1. There’s a good topic to be discussed. How best do we start class?

      In my case, there is no bell. Kids sometimes come from multiple places. This means I can lose a lot of time waiting for everyone to enter and get settled. I need a way to get CI started for those students arriving first. I’ve tried starting with reading – something calming. And I’ve started with Señor Wooly videos – something to lower filters and hopefully incentivize them get to class sooner. I’m thinking this year I may try starting with a short read-aloud. It could be a short children’s book. I could “read the pictures,” not the words. Or I could read a chapter of a TPRS reader. I’ll just start reading once the first batch of kids enters.

  4. Do you sing or use chants Eric? When I taught elementary that is how I loved to start. It gave us a focus and if a student misses part of a song or the first song, it isn’t a big deal. I would vary the order we started (and take requests!) so the ones who always arrive last didn’t always miss the same one. Students who were really excited about them took turns being co-leaders with me and we had gestures with every song/chant.

    When it was time to move on to the next activity, I could lower the volume and the pace of the song until we were nearly whispering….and voila! We were ready to move on!

    with love,

    1. Excellent idea, Laurie! This would be great for my elementary-age students.
      Actually, songs are the gaping hole in my instruction – they’re not there.
      I’ve tried using songs before, but I never liked how incomprehensible or how little CI I was delivering. What I really need are some really basic, short kid song classics. Then, we can build up a repertoire, have gestures, and their short length means not too much new language for which to establish meaning.
      Do you have a list or suggestion for where I should go for such songs in Spanish?
      No, I don’t sing. But I’ll step outside my comfort zone, especially if I have a recording or the instrumental version of the song.

      I don’t see this working with 7th and 8th graders, maybe not even 6th graders. Too self-conscious. Too cool for school. Any suggestions for starting class with middle school?

      I just got my schedule and it’s insane. I have 13 different classes from 3rd to 8th grade. I average 5.5 classes per day. And with no passing time, I often go 2-3 classes in a row without a break. Last year, I couldn’t keep up TPRS with every class when I had a similar schedule. Burned out. I opted for some CI independent work (SSR) and some less interactive CI (storytelling and MovieTalk).

      1. No, I don’t sing. But…

        I have always used songs and have relied on recorded songs in order to sing with music. Six years ago, I went to pull out a recorded song to use for a class. I could not find it. I looked all over. I had two choices, ditch the song or sing it myself. I went back and forth with it, both in my mind and in my gut. At the last moment, I let go and bellowed it out.

        It meant a lot to the students that I had gone out on a limb for them. They did not think I sang as bad as I thought that they would think. In every day life, I believe we value the willingness of someone to sing more than their ability to attain levels of stardom. We enjoy their enjoyment of the song more than a perfect rendition. Blaine says about stories that we must believe in them no matter how bizarre. So we have to believe in the value of our song and put our belief and emotion into it. If we believe in it, we can override the bias of individual musical tastes.

        By getting away from the music, it becomes our song, ie, the class’ song. And we can increase the tempo or decrease it. We can change key or sing rounds.

        It is a powerful thing to see a high affective filter activity like singing in public become a filter-lowering activity which builds community.

        And after getting comfortable with a particular song we start noticing places to insert it, like chants.

        Simple tunes are probably best for this. One that I found recently, and am looking forward to trying is “Mi barba tiene 3 pelos,” sung to the tune of “My Bonnie lies over the ocean.”
        Mi barba tiene tres pelos,
        tres pelos tiene mi barba.
        Si no tuviera tres pelos,
        pues no sería una barba.

        (My beard has 3 hair / 3 hair my beard has. / It it did not have 3 hairs / well, it would not be a beard)

        The tune is simple, possibly familiar, and infectious. The vocabulary is simple and repetitive. The structures are not sheltered for the beginner (including a contrary to fact, if-then statement complete with imperfect subjunctive and conditional for those inclined such analysis). And, as Michele Whaley recently pointed out, It meets the “authentic materials” requirement some may be needing to fill.


    1. Fun song, Jody! Has anyone tried it with high school kids? I can see some of my Spanish I students getting into it, but for others they would probably be too embarrassed to dance in front of their friends…maybe I can just play it in class and talk about it – then give them the link so they can play it on their own and dance if they want to.


      1. Eric’s request was for easy songs with decent CI input for young kids. I can see that high school kids might worry about how they look in front of others by participating in something like this–really not meant for them. Most 9-10 year olds have fewer of those fears. 😉

  5. Thank you Jody for this song! I use songs all the time with my high school classes. We sing and make up dances with motions to go with the meanings. I know that my classes will love this and such a great way to get them up and moving. I often will have a student use a phrase and I’ll ask “How did you know that?” They reply that it was in that song that we sang.

    The song in Spanish that I am using in Spanish 1 classes has motions all through it for clarification of meaning. Here is the song: El sol se llama Lorenzo Tibitón y la luna Catalina.
    Andan siempre separados por discutos de familia. Tibi tibi tibi tibi tibi tibi tón, tibi tibi tibi tibi tibi se acabó. I learned it from an old, old textbook many years ago but it is always a favorite of my students. If I can find it on the internet, I will post it here.

  6. The truth? My high school kids can be just as addicted to the “kid” songs and the little ones. Eric, I do have a number of things but not sure where right now…I’ll try to get organized and get them to you…maybe post them on Hearts For Teaching when I get things back in order there!
    with love,

    1. Okay then! I’ll try the kid songs with all ages and see how it goes! Even if they just watch me gesture and have to suffer through my bad singing, hahaha. I’d really appreciate any of those kid songs you have 🙂

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