The Ten Minute Deal 1

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10 thoughts on “The Ten Minute Deal 1”

  1. Nice to hear even the veterans have this problem!

    Actually, I don’t believe it’s a “problem,” as much as a part of reality we have to come to grips with. Our demands on the kids are of a rigor that they don’t see in any other area of their lives. I often tell them: you can get by in AP Chemistry with minimal focus because, even though the concepts are quite intricate and complex, the medium of delivery, English, is a non-issue for your brain.

    For those of us who don’t have the theatrical pizazz and wit to make a scenario compelling for 20, 25, 30 minutes at a time, brain breaks are key.

    Ideally they are in the TL. (Especially involving TL commands and TPR! I’m starting to play with these for the first time now and having a lot of positive results.) But if there is a little English from time to time, I’ve found that it works too. Problem is, for me at least, reeling the class back in to TL again.

    The TL-minute counter job could go a long way. At the end of 10-12 TL minutes, take a break for some English to, if not get some thorough comprehension checks in, then just relax. Then jump back into TL, otherwise no break next time.

    Actually, I’m thinking of something else as I write. I’ve got a couple of barometer students who themselves seem to be having some October collapse. The other kids in Level I are already starting to spread their wings, even speaking in long Chinese chunks. But those barometers are still trying to put together some of those essential verbs, pronouns and question words that they first saw in early September. In this scenario, it’s getting more socially uncomfortable for them to signal their confusion…they are confused for too long…because of this they are checking out…getting more confused, acquiring less and less: a potentially deadly cycle. I wonder if doing some very thorough comprehension checks with 2-3 minutes of English a couple of times a period would be exactly what they need right now. jGR grades might go up again, too.

  2. Liam, I was in a heavy duty grad class a few years back. It was high level, sometimes technical French – a four hour class. If she would pause and say a word or two in English, my brain almost felt like it was deflating. It was a very real feeling, so a pause every now and then in English could be just what the doctor ordered!
    Bon week-end,

  3. Teaching beginners, I need the English in order to build my relationship with the kids and in order to make instructions clear. Sometimes I make silly/comedic side comments in English about what is happening in the TL. I think the side comments help make me more human, while also allowing quick brain breaks.

    I am trying to rein in the English and hope that as we get more CI, there will be less of a need for English. One job I just started (the idea came from this blog, but I adapted it) is to have an “English Referee.” At a Dollar Store, I recently bought one of those yellow flags that refs use in football. If I speak English for more than 4 seconds, the student gets to throw the flag at me. I make it clear that they can’t throw it at a student. Actually, they are so eager to throw it, that it is usually less than 4 seconds. That just became the most popular student job. Go figure. I think this is doing wonders for my relationship with the kids. I don’t want a pedestal. I want you to throw something at me if I speak English. Before I got the yellow flag, I used to have a student squeeze a chicken, which made a funny sound, whenever I spoke English for more than 4 secs.

    I use the jGR/Interpersonal Communication Rubric to keep students in the TL. I have 10 “I statements” that double as classroom rules, and one says: “I only speak English to suggest 2-word cute answers or to answer a question asked in English.” The kids can then self-evaluate. I’ve started handing out little papers at the start of class and having students write their names and the numbers 1-10, and putting the papers in front of them. Then, when a rule is broken, I go to that students paper and draw an “x” on that number. Since using this procedure, I have only had to give one “x.” I was also thinking that instead of doing the individual paper thing, that I would use laminated seating charts or seating charts on a small, portable whiteboard. My kids sit alphabetically. When there is an infraction, I could write the students initials and the number of the rule they broke. Then, I would enter the results into the gradebook at the end of class/start of next class. Actually, I have enough of those little whiteboards to use one per class and then enter the grades whenever convenient, instead of having to erase in between classes.

  4. And just thinking out loud here: What if the timer records the times on a sheet that I hang in the room? Like a long list of times (and the dates on which they were earned) all from different classes? When one fills up, we just start a new one and stick the whole stack to wall at the end of each day. Talk about accountability. Show that to an administrator and ask to see something similar from a more traditional colleague.

    1. Eric and James… great ideas with the yellow flag. I like having a job that doesn’t require making noise. There is too much noise going on in my classes. And I like the chart documenting the times throughout. I really feel like, most of the time, my speaking in English is a result of the whole class loosing focus. So, the chart indirectly reflects the focus of the entire class even though the teacher’s name is in the title. I think students would get that.

  5. Teaching English in France, I was confronted with students who were paralyzed at the idea that they would never understand a native speaker. So using a bit of French was a way of lowering that barrier. But it soon became very tempting to use way too much French (see, i’m really a good guy) so I disciplined myself by forcing myself to use French only when I stopped and said, “I’ll say this in French.” The rule eliminated a lot of unnecessary L1 because it made me stop and think about whether or not it was really necessary.

    I’ve found that I’m much less tempted to use French since I’ve adopted TPRS. Perhaps much of the temptation came from feeling that they were not understanding me. Today I probably use it a bit too much for pop-ups, because I do love that grammar, but when I’m on a roll, there is almost no French at all and it feels good.

    1. I have done something similar to that. My words in L2 were “I need to say this in English. I’m sorry.” I don’t remember how I started that, whether it popped into my head one day or if I read/heard it from someone else. But I had totally forgotten about it this year until I read your post. Thanks for the reminder. I have been using again since I started to push against the October collapse (the kids were starting to collapse into L1. The kids seem to respect the fact that I am making it an issue that I am apologizing for.

  6. It’s a problem depending on what kind of English it is that we’re speaking. If Ben is like me, then it is random things being said in English, not related to the lesson, almost in a Tourette’s-like manner. That is my problem. It’s partially being ADD, partially just my personality and the random way my brain works, and how impulsive I am. I’ll just randomly say funny, weird, random things in English which then turn into 1-2 minute random rants or conversations in English that I then have to get away from and get back into Spanish mode. I honestly think that foreign language teachers are the most easily distracted people on earth. I remember back in high school, just to get our Spanish teacher off task, we would, at least 3 times a week, ask him “what does -tonto- mean?” Because he would then go off on a tirade walking about how it means “a fool” and it comes from the verb ‘atontar’ which means to smack somebody so hard you make them dumb.

  7. I’m trying something new. It’s simple. And it’s actually stolen from the Helena Curtain demo I watched. She would flip over a sign that said “English” on one side and “Spanish” on the other. It makes it very clear (visual) to students when it’s okay to use each. The teacher has to honor it too, except for the occasional “What does ___ mean?” and for clarifying whenever a student signals.

    I’ve written “Spanish” and “English” on the board and I turn an arrow. (I’m so happy to get use of my spinning arrow, the one that I had purchased to help with “conjugation games,” but then found TPRS and it’s been in my closet ever since.

    I’ve only just started doing this, but so far me likey.

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