Thematic Units

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41 thoughts on “Thematic Units”

  1. I went back in Oct to the teaching place I abandoned one year ago. I couldn’t speak the language, or find my way around, or figure out where to go, or explain what I was doing. There were some nice lists, and some nice pictures of people in foreign countries, in colourful clothing, with words to describe them, and lots of hlepful hints for how to remember things, and how to organise things. Also lots of writing with blanks that I!Could!Fill!In!To!Find!Out!What!Happens!To! Somebody!

    As Iggy sings, “things have been tough without the Dum-Dum boys…I can’t seem to speak the language.” This post– and these lists– clearly articulate the insanity of breaking that warm living thing Language into cold dead pieces.

  2. Ben,
    This is extremely practical and helpful for my situation! Thank you! I would love a copy of the Spanish CD. Also, with the story scripts like Tripp’s scripts..How many extra/ words will I need to keep the story going? Could I put those words/high frequency words on a cd? I could base my “units” on 2-3 story scripts…

    Thanks again!!!

    1. Melissa, fortunately I work in a district which respects its teachers as competent professionals, and therefore I am not required to submit unit/lesson plans. Otherwise I’d share freely with you.

      As far as using my Scripts book, and Matava’s or anyone else’s for that matter, remember that the idea of the script is more important than the structures laid out by the author. If you look in the appendix of my book, you’ll find a part about Adapting Story Scripts. So, if you have certain structures you want to change for example, to fit your own needs, you can easily do that. One thing I did not express in that appendix is the ability to really simplify beyond what I’ve tried to do. For example, I recently did the story Brrrrr! with my first year students who have had just over a month of Spanish (block classes). I did not feel comfortable using “put it on” or even “put on” with them yet, so I just left that part of the story out and still did a couple different locations. Of course the “put it on” part is a great addition, but it’s not necessary to get a good thing going. And this time doing the story, I completely changed approach and instead of having people give the kids clothing items, he was given a “mechanical pencil” and “hot water” which was actually thrown on him. It still did the job of teaching “is cold” “I’m cold” and “gives”. So, use my scripts however you see fit, no need to preserve anything as is.

      On another note re using scripts as part of a unit, I like the idea of doing 2-3 per unit (one month for a unit?), and really getting all you can from each story. Ask it, then read it, then read another version (let me know if you could use some Spanish alternative stories, I’m starting to get a nice collection), then look at the illustration of one of them and talk about it, then add some details (a la embedded version, I call it “extended version” in my book but it’s really embedded not extended), and then do some more stuff with that story until the structures are so easy for them that they start to think you’re babying them, which we kind of should be doing.

      Good luck Melissa with all this crap you’re being forced to do. May it all lead to brighter and easier days. You’re going to get pushback… hold the frame!

  3. Could you expand on this idea of basing a unit on a script? I know that Leigh Anne has just made the Matava script books into her curriculum, and no one has challenged her. What I am wary of is that targeting more words/structures than two or three doesn’t work. We need to be clear about this idea. In general, mixing a traditional approach in terms of lesson plan design with what we do can’t work, because of the way people learn languages. That’s just my opinion. Hope that is at least kind of clear. What we do is simple, and what these colleagues are requiring you to do is making it very complex. Don’t give them too much.

    1. Last year I sent home lists to memorize. This year they don’t remember them. What they do know is the 2 to 3 structures that we used in stories. I think that was one of my most difficult things to get, and my students that I had taught traditionally, more vocab is not more language.

    2. I was thinking of making a “unit” 6 weeks and doing the 2 week lesson plan template 3 times. That is for stories at least. With some kind of test at the end. Lots of copy and paste on the online curriculum map. Your suggestion of breaking the year into three segments: normalizing, story scripts, novels. Thoughts?

      1. Melissa that is just my own idea but if it works for you go for it. I start in with stories in October and stop them before the kids get tired of them in February and read, read, read, with a lot of reading thrown in, all in the form of R and D, until the end of the year. Of course, I break up the reading with RT, Movie Talk and plenty of my favorite, Look and Discuss – L and D. (James’ term). Since I deny stories after February, the kids clamor for them, which is a good thing. The thing that I don’t like about your plan is it is going to involve too much work from you and I haven’t seen too many suggestions beyond the Thematic Units (I sent the CD out to you today). Can you ask the group specifically for what you want from their computers that they may have already done to save you all that work?

        1. Ben,
          I have been looking around the tabs and found some good stuff you wrote that I think you called “educationese”. The stuff I need is here. I am currently trying to compile it to use as a reference as I create my Curriculum map.

          If anyone is using “Atlas” at their schools, It would be most practical and useful to me to see their map to use as a guide. Atlas is the online curriculum mapping software that my school utilizes.

          If anyone could send me documents that contain the educationese language, That would be GREAT.


          1. People have not come forward with their educationese documents, and yet I know they have them. What’s up with that, group? We can’t leave our sister from Tennessee hanging. She needs lesson plans and objectives and such, a curriculum if she can get one, and has been on a tear researching the site here for stuff she can use.

          2. Melissa, all I can send you is my weekly lesson plan document, which is pretty thorough by the way, and doesn’t change much from week to week. There is some educationese in there that might help. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about turning in unit plans since much of what is in my weekly lesson plan applies also to the longer term.

            Which reminds me, I stole Robert Harrell’s scope and sequence description for years and placed it in my syllabus. I can give you that as well, if you haven’t found it already here.


  4. My colleague Adriana has done just that. She has made what is– from what I can tell– the first TPRS-specific “textbook.” It’s in its final stages. We have to use Avancemos in our District, so she basically just threw in a couple of verbs and say 10 other words from each thematic unit in the text, but made story scripts and extended readings. The key here is this: since Avancemos presents SO MUCH vocab– like 1800 items for Spanish 1 and 2– you pick the most useful stuff, which is all the kids remember anyway, and use that, and don’t worry about the rest.

    It’s somewhat “staged” in the sense that she does have vocab lists (but these are taught through stories) and “scripts” to use ahead of the extended readings. She deals with stuff like #s, colour, days, weather and other marginalia by circling them outside the stories and by Blaine-style chucking them randomly into stories. You could however easily build your own scripts or modify hers. I’ll let people know when the thing is ready to roll.

  5. How do TPRS schools 1) come up with a curriculum throughout the four years that allows them to show prospective students what is covered each year, 2) assess incoming students and properly place them if they’ve had Spanish elsewhere, 3) assess students at the end of the year so that they can determine who goes on to Sp. III vs. Sp. III Honors, and 4) show colleges what was achieved at each level of high school Spanish so that colleges can allow students to test out of their beginning Spanish classes.

    Please let me know if this has already been discussed and I’ll look it up – I didn’t quite see it addressed in the Curriculum section.

  6. What I mean by 4) is if the kids get to Spanish V (we are starting Spanish I in 8th grade) what do we need to do to guarantee they get college credit if we are not using a standardized/recognized assessment.

    Also, my admin said we may teach however we want during the year as long as the kids can pass a standardized assessment at the end of the year that would line us up with other schools for the end of Spanish I, and we would then the same test to incoming students so that we know they are ready for Spanish II. Does that make sense?

    1. I’m also interested in answers to your questions.
      We want final assessments to be “proficiency/communicative tests.” Listening & reading would be more heavily weighed than output, esp. in lower levels.
      The closest thing to a curriculum is the high frequency words. If you aren’t sheltering grammar, then you are “covering” all the grammar. And if you do pop-up grammar, then you are doing even more to “cover.”
      We do not want to have to bend to non-CI learning standards, since it is the non-CI approach that needs an overhaul.

  7. Yes it does make sense but I have reservations about the questions. (Warning: don’t read the drivel below. It’s too long and doesn’t make much sense.)

    (Now look, in my response to these questions below I sound like I have a bitchy edge going on today. But I do not. I promise. I am just saying what I think. So Laura please keep that in mind when reading my responses below because I also pick up on a tone of bitchiness in what I wrote and it is quite unintended, I assure you.)

    I do not see the need for answers to these questions. OK so I’m a nut job. Again, I don’t think those questions need answers. I think that the first 500 hours of learning a language should be totally all about listening and reading input in massive amounts, with no set schedule of certain things being taught at a certain time, as Krashen has shown is the way we learn languages (in no particularly prescribed order), and so those four years don’t really need to be broken into parts and measured.

    Do we do those things to see how much a three year old has improved since she was a two year old? It is a graceful period in which the learner builds up huge confidence for her future as a language learner along with a desire to inhale all the language she can for as long as she can for the rest of her life, and her abilities with the language don’t need to be measured and she doesn’t need to be told what she is deficient in, nor does anyone need to do the measuring, any more than we need to go under ground, pull up bulbs in early spring, in order to measure how fast they are growing.

    To articulate “what was learned” to line up with a year-to-year protocol is something that has creeped into our brains as language teachers, but at what cost? We lost something when that happened. We lost our ability to be lighthearted. It all became very serious. But the problem is that when people learn and use languages they don’t need for everything to be so serious. Saint-Exupéry said it this way about adults who like to measure things:

    Quand vous leur parlez d’un nouvel ami, elles ne vous questionnent jamais sur l’essentiel. Elles ne vous disent jamais: “Quel est le son de sa voix? Quels sont les jeux qu’il préfère? Est-ce qu’il collectionne les papillons?” Elles vous demandent: “Quel âge a-t-il? Combien a-t-il de frères? Combien pèse-t-il? Combien gagne son père?” Alors seulement elles croient le connaître. Si vous dites aux grandes personnes: “J’ai vu une belle maison en briques roses, avec des géraniums aux fenêtres et des colombes sur le toit…” elles ne parviennent pas à s’imaginer cette maison. Il faut leur dire: “J’ai vu une maison de cent mille francs.” Alors elles s’écrient: “Comme c’est joli!”

    “When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. T hey never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him. If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $ 200,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!””

    (Le Petit Prince, Antoine de St. Exupéry, Chapter 4)

    What do assessment instruments do for the kid? Not much. What do they do for the teacher? They let them say things like, “Look, this kid didn’t get their object pronouns learned in level 2! Their teacher didn’t get the job done! Now they need summer school!” That kind of thing. It’s a subtle way of making the teacher feel important, even though it’s not the teacher that brings the language gains, but the amount of comprehensible input, from a variety of sources, that determines the gains.

    Now yes, we in DPS have painstakingly developed (at the cost of our rest each June over the past five years and at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars) a CI based assessment for all the students taking languages in Denver Public Schools. It’s a fine set of exams. But, are they even necessary? Did not the kids learn what they learned (that’s the Zen part) and is it not true that the teachers are probably not going to teach in a particularly different way next year in spite of some data dude coming up with the most complete item analysis ever done? Will doing that work, the work implied in your questions, Laura, change anything? Will it be a positive move?

    All of this language acquistion process is so natural. The kids just keep listening and then after a number of years they start to read and so on until, after years, they can output speech and writing, which output doesn’t get refined for many many years after it begins to emerge.

    Laura I know that you deserve better answers than what I am laying out here. I’m trying to think of good answers but I can’t. I’m too far gone. I’ve probably strayed far from your original questions. Forgive me. But these questions are ones that have always been asked and the answers have always been to refer to some “common assessment” (does that mean that all people learn languages according to a time table at the same rate of speed?) or to a “curriculum guide” (usually a camouflaged table of contents of a textbook). Again, I apologize for any bitchy tone here, it is unintended – it’s just what I think. I don’t know how else to say it.

    What we do in comprehension based instruction is so much different from what was done before that I just can’t see how those questions can be answered. Too much is now too different, so different that we need new questions. The old measuring sticks are broken; they can no longer can be used to measure language gains. So much occurs at the (immeasurable) level of the unconscious in real language acquisition, the real kind.

    Can the very early stages of language acquisition – only those first, early footstep thousand hours of which we have only five hundred baby steps in a four year high school program (and that is if we are doing CI all the time) – even be called times in which we “cover” anything? Are we not rather trying to get the kids to fall in love with the language and with their own ability to understand it? Can we not just be allowed to speak to our students in ways that are interesting and meaningful to them, but without that nervous feeling of having to “cover” everything or we’ll lose our jobs? Aren’t we afraid enough already these days, that we have to add on to the total fear level that we are going to lose our jobs? What does that even mean, to “cover” something? If we “cover” it in class, does it mean that our students know it? We don’t “cover” topics in our TPRS/CI classes, we flood our students in language. We inundate the land with language, and so flowers cannot help but grow in the richly watered earth.

    In the second question, if a kid comes from another school, a non-CI school, they generally haven’t heard the language in that school and so now, unfortunately, we have to put the kid in a lower level, because they haven’t heard the language enough, like that kid I mentioned from Columbine High School who came to Lincoln last week in level 3 and yet in point of fact, brutally, knew no Spanish and is going to have to be given level 4 credit next year – if we can talk counseling into it – when sitting in a level 1 or 2 class.

    In the third question, what does it mean to assess a child in terms of whether they can go on to Spanish Honors or not? What is Spanish Honors? Is that for the smart kids? Don’t I get to learn Spanish if I’m just a dumb run of the mill kid? What does that mean? Are the smart kids the ones who can conjugate verbs better than those “low achieving” kids who have to go to the non-honors classes?

    The fourth question is also a bit of a conundrum for me, about testing out of lower level classes. In my opinion, a child who has had four years of a language in high school would automatically matriculate into a very advanced class, probably a literature class, as a freshmen in college. Why wouldn’t they? And here’s the kicker – the instructor would actually have to teach that literature class in Spanish! Don’t tell anyone, but they often don’t. They use English to discuss the poetry. Because the four percenters they teach, the ones who are very often white and got into college, can’t really use the language. So they teach those literature classes in English. Colleges are not set up for CI kids. Ask Matava about that. It’s a story that is hard to listen to. Her wonderful and talented German 4 kids, so good at German that they won the top ten spots on the Maine National German Exam, went on to college and many of them were told there that, since they couldn’t conjugate verbs, they would have to go back to beginning classes. So the last question of testing out has me confused as well. Of course they would test out, because they just heard and read the language for four years. Of course, this question assumes that the shift into college from high school has been articulated, that we have communicated about objectives with our esteemed colleagues at the university level, but it has not. They get to call the shots, and the shots they are calling are grammar shots. Few college professors are on board with what we do, and when our CI trained kids arrive on campus after four years of in-your-face stories and reading, the college authorities, when they find out that our kids can’t conjugate a verb in the pluperfect subjunctive, rattle their cages and send our kids back down to a beginning level, professing that they don’t “know anything”.

    I’ll stop now. Really, no bitchy edge today. Just a little rant in a very weak attempt to give good answers to your questions. Now, someone with some real answers, answers that can actually help Laura, please answer her questions. I am incapable of it. I’m a nut job. Oh well, some things can’t be helped. Please accept my apologies Laura. I feel as if I owe you an apology.

    1. Jeffery Brickler

      Ben said

      Few college professors are on board with what we do, and when our CI trained kids arrive on campus after four years of in-your-face stories and reading, the college authorities, when they find out that our kids can’t conjugate a verb in the pluperfect subjunctive, rattle their cages and send our kids back down to a beginning level, professing that they don’t “know anything”.

      This is even more true for Latin at college. If students can’t spit back all the grammar rules and the forms correctly, they are deemed failures. The professors then lament that the students can’t translate well! What are these high school teachers doing, they will ask. They wiil blame us because students will not do want they CV want already. God forbid that they have to teach! Forget about speaking Latin! That ridiculous! All the while, Latin continues to grow albeit slowly in high schools, but shrink in colleges. One would think professors could figure out how to reach their students!

      1. …one would think professors could figure out how to reach their students!…

        In my opinion, the reason they don’t know how to do that is because they and most of their students are four percenters. So there historically has been no need to repaint the ivory tower.

        However, as more and more people become familiar with what ACTFL really is saying (and has been for decades), we who are down the walls and across the moat from the ivory tower, where kids of privilege do not dominate the landscape, have HAD to change in order to reach all the kids in our classrooms.

        Mark Knowles knows this at CU Boulder, there are a few others, Bob Patrick is there at UGA now, but the change will occur last at the university level, and the shock will be particularly rude for them, when the four percenters of the future in high school will go to college and DEMAND that they be taught using comprehensible input, just as they experienced in high school. Then, to put it mildly, the shit will hit the fan for our brothers and sisters who are still safely ensconced in the in the warm analytical towers of the present.

    2. So at high schools in which students will receive TCI instruction all 4 years and be changing teachers each year. . . what does a “curriculum” look like? Ben has said this about the DPS Scope and Sequence:

      “targeted verbs connected to the chapter books we use in the district”

      “a list of all the major structures for a certain year, divided up into six week periods to satisfy the demands of administrators and teachers new to the district to provide them with specific curricular objectives, if you will.”

      Do certain scripts get chosen for each year, e.g. Matava Vol. 1 for year 1, Vol. 2 for year 2, etc.?
      In the case of acquisition, reviewing the same vocabulary/script wouldn’t even be a problem. The student’s level, “i” would be different from the first to the second time with the same script. So long as the teacher does a good job not sheltering grammar, the student gets i+1.

      Since a TCI class is so interactive, with constant choral responses, comprehension checks, and individual output from PQA and Story Actors, it wouldn’t take long for a TCI teacher to get a sense of the level of the students. Then, just provide more grammar-unsheltered CI.

      1. Eric those last two paragraphs in that comment above are really very subtle. I’m glad you made those points because it destroys the assumption some teachers have that once they have done a story the structure has been acquired. The reps over time will bring acquisition as long as the instructor is not sheltering grammar, and all we have to do is bring the CI every day. Your comment made me appreciate, as well, the beauty of i + 1.

        Not everybody uses the Matava scripts. A lot of DPS teachers whom we have trained in the past five years are PQA freaks and do few stories, others write their own, etc. All do the novels, since we were lucky to get Bill Gates money ($400,000) four years ago to purchase class sets of many novels for every WL teacher in Denver Public Schools.

        Diana will be providing a list of supplementary materials with the new Scope and Sequence that, Diana has told me, will highlight Anne’s books, and we should put Jim’s script book in there as well, and of course Anne’s new Houdini script books, which are at the printer now and finished.

        But, aside from the list of novels (by Ray, Gaab, Rowen and Canon) that are divided up and labeled from NL to IL for the Scope and Sequence document, it is up to individual schools to plan what novels they want to teach when, and teachers who are the only CI teacher in their building just do what they want.

        1. There is a serious need for more classroom research. As said on the 2nd page of this handout:, we need more studies that replicate the positive TPRS results, that show greater retention, and show that TPRS classes have greater enrollment into upper levels (I can’t believe there is no published research on this!). An attitude survey needs to be included in the tests.

          A longitudinal study needs to be done over there at Denver or anywhere that has a 4-year high school TPRS program. We’d hope to see amazing fluency and enrollment differences between TPRS and non-CI and eclectic programs.

          Of course, the tests should be as monitor-free as possible: timed sections that elicit spontaneous, unrehearsed output. Even so, there will always be students capable of monitoring to some degree. The grade should depend on communicative competencies, rather than grammatical accuracy. Then again, monitor-free tests take care of this and looking at accuracy on monitor-free tests should favor TCI classes.

          1. The George Washington High School story is enough for me, as I tend not to be a research worshipper. A bunch of brown and black kids from the worst most beaten down middle schools in Denver go up against the white prep school trained kids on the DPS CI based exit exam and those IB kids were not anywhere near the inner city kids on this test. But I don’t need a bunch of research. I look in kids faces, visit classrooms, see either mojo or tomb-like silence. I don’t know, seems easy to me. Look in the faces of the learners. Talk to them. Ask them how they like the class.

          2. I’m with you, Ben. . . If it were only that easy. Your quote above about knowing a person by knowing their “stats” (age, weight, etc.) vs. knowing them as persons (likes, hobbies, etc.) applies here. We can literally see the difference in the students, but until you can measure student mojo/happiness. . . in this data age, we need more data. Hence, a simple attitude survey and looking at enrollment can go a long way. Although, that human quality of thinking it’s “always brighter on the other side,” may skew the attitude survey, in which case, classroom observations are more revealing. Imagine: a researcher evaluating class success by counting smiles 🙂

            One problem we will always have is time. The amount of class time is so miniscule compared to the total time to acquire a language. As you said somewhere it is the first few baby steps. We are measuring miniscule differences between CI and non-CI classes. 100 baby steps vs. 10 baby steps. Not an overwhelming difference. Just the difference of a few yards.

  8. Thank you for your concern but the apology is not necessary! I really didn’t think it was so prickly myself. I have read enough of this blog to know that your feelings are toward the “system” and not the foot soldiers!

    I do agree with what you’re saying, and I am so lucky to be at a little school where I just switched to TPRS without consulting with anyone. And they are thrilled with the results (I know I shouldn’t care, but on the 2nd trimester final I had kids covering the front and back of their papers with the retell of our movie talk) and the kids are relaxed and remembering, but even the head of the Upper School (who happens to be my sister) has these questions. I do understand where the admin’s questions come from – we are a college-prep private school trying to attract students from the public school and many charter schools in the area that have taken from our pool of students, and how attractive will it be if they have to start back at Spanish I (though practically speaking they should). I don’t know what the situation is with the Honors is – I didn’t know if other districts have that. And that was interesting hearing about how colleges handle CI students – but same problem, I suppose – how do we merge what we’re doing with the outside world, once we’ve gotten our own school on board?

    1. Thank you for your gracious response, Laura. Concerning merging what we do with the outside world, perhaps some of us, as Jeff does, should throw in a day or so a week of traditional teaching to protect our jobs. As we have discussed here today, that position represents a very intelligent compromise with the outside world.

      However, if our jobs are secure and we are enjoying our teaching, while aligning with what we professionally believe to be best for our students, then perhaps the responsibility of reaching out to people like your sister is not our responsibility at all, but rather falls on the shoulders of those in the outside world to reach out to us.

      After all, we can’t change other people, which is one of my own core ideas about life, in spite of how this blog may come across. Sabrina went up to our state conference this past weekend and won a lot of converts just by teaching a lesson in her own slow and happy inimitable way, with smiles all over the room.

      Really, it can’t be easy for people in education, both administrators and teachers who became teachers because they were four percenters in high school and college, to just “get” the enormity of this change. It is like asking an auto mechanic to understand and implement jet propulsion in their work. They need some time to learn what is really happening in our classrooms, something never done before in schools I am certain.

      So maybe it is better for us to just teach well and, if asked, give answers.

  9. I know what you are going to say before I even write my first ever post on here, but isn’t there a way to both do CI 75% of your time and teach them to conjugate verbs during the other 25%? I’ve been doing it this year, in my first year of TPRS (almost completely telling stories and reading the same stories) and my kids are scoring the same scores they did on the same standardized department tests last year.

    I’ve just taught them how to conjugate way faster, and in way less time. The difference that I’m seeing is that they can answer questions like “Why did Mark go to the store?” Last year that could never happen.

    I’m a horrible storyteller, but my kids are way better than the kids I had last year. It feels pretty good to see that. The reason I started exploring TPRS is that I heard kids telling each other that they never learned any Spanish from me and they had me for 3 years. And I knew it was true.

  10. Yes.

    It’s just that our tests tend to be multiple choice so I kind of cheat it. Yo form “o” Tú´form “s” etc.

    Then, I just look at the test, incorporate those statements/nouns/phrases into my stories as much as possible and then cover whatever I can’t do in stories during the last 25% of my time.

    I’m not saying this is the best for my kids because it’s taking away CI time. But it’s how I survive the standardized assessments.

    Does anybody else break their time up like I do?

    1. In my opinion it is legitimate to do just as you describe. If we need to split it up and do some grammar because of outside forces, we are justified in doing so.

      If we didn’t and pig-headedly insisted on 100% CI in a hostile environment, we might soon be out of a job. Two things would come from that:

      1) Our families would suffer
      2) Our replacement would only give 5% CI to the kids on his best days, so the kids would suffer, too.

      But that’s just my opinion.

      1. That’s a great answer James. Indeed, we must do as the Romans when we are in Rome. Denver is one town that no longer operates as Rome did, however, and there will be other areas where Rome will have burned, sooner or later, as time goes by. You are so right Jeff to play it safe and push hard forward at the same time. It’s a hard fence to balance on, but protecting our jobs should be first and foremost. Perhaps you will lessen that 25% over time. Certainly, your students will no longer be saying that they didn’t learn anything.

      2. As noted by others, we do what we have to do to survive. The only advice I would offer is to keep the 75% and the 25% separate. When you are doing CI, do CI; when you are conjugating, conjugate. Don’t mix them.

  11. We don’t mix CI with English, with other “stuff”, with anything, ever. That is why I now ask (demand from) my classes those ten or fifteen minutes on a timer of only CI. The entire thing about CI is that we don’t mix it with anything. When, in a dream, the deeper mind is doing the fantastic things it does on a completely unconscious level, we do not interrupt what it is doing by suddenly requiring it to make some kind of contact with the conscious mind. What would that do? It would ruin the dream. Poof. It would ruin the movie. We learn languages unconsciously, and when the conscious mind (worksheets, verb conjugations, etc.) gets involved, it not only ruins the movie, it lets a kind of stinky into the deeper mind, so best to keep the two separate, as Robert says.

      1. We addressed pop up grammar intensely here a few years ago before you joined us, Eric, and I put forward the idea you express above. I believe that pop up grammar cannot be really absorbed during a really well-done burst of CI that is totally in the target language and can even interfere, for obvious reasons as explained above. However,

        1) if the pop up is kept to under four seconds with only the word “means” used in the pop-up, and
        2) with certain classes with precocious kids

        So I do not entirely object to pop ups. It depends on the class.

        I wish that someone would do some kind of study on the effectiveness of pop up grammar. For me, it is not effective during those bursts and often I (used to) do them for the simple reason that I got to show off my knowledge of French, which is not a reason to teach, although there is no shortage of language teachers who went into teaching precisely for that reason, including me when I started out. (Yes, I went into this field because I was good at grammar.)

        Certainly, pop-ups aren’t effective during a class when you are not doing CI, because when you are doing a class that is not a CI class, you are not being effective, no matter how much of a mutual admiration society of smart people – including yourself – you have going on in the classroom.

      1. I would say pop-up grammar has no place in aural CI, that is, when the kids are listening. So it therefore has no place in stories or PQA, as you say. I think pop-ups work a lot better during reading CI. They provide almost a mini brain-break from the heavy work of reading, comprehending, and discussing in L2.

          1. Good. I always felt weird asking those questions during stories and PQA anyway. It definitely feels more comfortable when we are looking at a text.

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