Thoughts on Circling

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34 thoughts on “Thoughts on Circling”

  1. Yes in a big way! I have done that kind of circling at a conference with Susie and I felt terrible at it… meanwhile I didn’t think I was “that bad” with what I was actually doing in class with my students. Trying to create the “right” questions at the “right” time was awful.

    Thank you for understanding this. I feel pretty good about my circling now, but I am much more thinking about “how can I use these key words more” and “do they act like they understand or not” as the main determiners, not the circling template. I still don’t really get what is meant by 3-for-1.

  2. Robert Harrell

    3-for-1 is a cute name used to indicate that you can get three repetitions from a single questions rather than the normal two.

    Examples (structure – “likes to”):
    -Do teachers at conferences like to circle?
    -No, teachers at conferences do not like to circle.

    -Do teachers at conferences like to circle?
    -No, teachers at conferences do not like to circle; teachers at conferences like to learn a new language

    The 3-for-1 arises most naturally from a negative question:
    question + negative statement + positive statement = 3 repetitions of the structure for 1 question

  3. So Robert do I have it right below? I was told by Susie or Diana (can’t remember which one) that my definition as given in this example was wrong:

    Statement: “Class, there is a boy.” (ohh!)
    Question: “Class, is there a boy?” (yes)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, there is a boy.”]
    Either/Or: “Class, is there a boy or a girl?” (boy)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, there is a boy.”]
    Negative: “Is there a girl?” (no)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, there is not a girl. There is a boy.]
    3/1: “Is there a monkey? (no)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, there is not a monkey. There is a boy.”]
    What: “Class, what is there?” (boy)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, there is a boy.”]
    Who: Class, what is the boy’s name? (Howard Ino)
    [You add: That’s correct, class, the boy’s name is Howard Ino.”]

  4. Robert Harrell

    I was giving my understanding of 3-for-1, which lines up pretty well with yours, Ben. Apparently, though, my understanding is also faulty. Perhaps we need for Susie or Diana to write down the definition for us.

  5. I’ll ask Diana right now and get back to you. I do remember how much I like this definition as naturally arising from a negative question. It flows. You just add in some other subject/verb/object to squeeze one more rep in there.

  6. See, now you’re showing exactly why I don’t get 3-for-1. It confuses me as an abbreviation and I do not know if I am using it or not, even with your examples. Those acronyms/abbreviations for circling questions don’t feel intuitive to me.

  7. Just say the words/phrase as many times as possible in the most natural way possible. As if it is the most natural thing in the world to repeat oneself that way. It pains me to read these things about coaching. It doesn’t need to be that way. A number of us are getting together at the end of June ….a coaches get-together. I’ll be listening for those things that seem to cause pain to participants and looking for ways for coaches to be helpful rather than critical. I’ll be coaching beginners in San Diego and hopefully finding some time to do coaching in Dallas, but I often don’t have a lot of time at Nat’l to coach.

    It’s about looking for what is already good and solid, kind and unique in a teacher’s interaction with students and building on that.

    with love,

    1. If it helps, Laurie, I don’t really blame Susie for how I felt. I think she was trying to make us feel comfortable about it. It is very difficult to be introduced to skills and then perform them with an audience of other teachers, some of whom have much more experience, and at least one of whom is considered an expert, while teaching a few children a language they’ve never heard. I think it’s like language output in that way. I wasn’t really naturally ready for output but that’s all the time we had.

      1. I think your point is a very interesting one, Diane. I do believe there is an assumption made that anyone in a coaching workshop or clustered in a coaching circle is “ready” to perform. That may be true for some personality types and some levels of readiness. What I really believe is NO beginning CI/TPRS teacher has seen very much “good circling” done for the purpose of “coaching”. Many people have watched the “pros” do their thing in a workshop and even have participated in the feedback and questioning loop afterward. Not enough for beginners.

        Do any coaches do an intentional personalized circling demo where there is a meta-dialogue going on at the same time by the person doing the demo or by another coach on the team? By that, I mean deconstructing the thinking process of circling while it’s happening–how the circler is moving from one question to another–what that thinking process is of the circler–how they are picking up cues from their students–how they choose the details that trigger the next question/series of questions/direction of the circling.

        A template is a good endpoint. As a student of circling, I need to believe that my mind can become a “circling mind” by actually watching how that mind works. Many teachers give up because they “stall” in the middle of doing circling, bore themselves or their students to death, feel disconnected from the process, can’t hold all of the variables in their heads, or feel the class is getting out of their control.

        So, your point, Diane, about not being ready for “output” during coaching really resonates with me. Maybe “coaching entities” need to really advertise the “input phase” of the “being coached experience”. Watching master teachers at iflt or nationals has its place, but I don’t believe it fulfills the need I’m stating here. Everything goes too fast. It may be in a language I’m trying to acquire which puts another layer of difficulty on it. Watching a pro do it slowly, intentionally, and with the meta-cognitive part really explained might help people. (Maybe that is already being done, and I just don’t know about it.) Your comment made me think a lot about this, Diane.

        1. It took me years to learn how to circle randomly. And I think that term random circling is the goal. Otherwise, with the mechanical circling, it shreds the delicate fabric of the conversation being built with the class, which requires that the teacher listen to what the kids are really saying, and only secondarily pay attention to the “order” of any circling, since we know that doesn’t matter.

          I feel that there has been an overemphasis on teaching the mechanical aspects of circling at workshops. When I was learning I put the mechanical order poster on the back of my classroom. When I felt stuck I just looked back there and grabbed the first question off the chart and brought it into the conversation. I think we can only learn to achieve this balance between having a circling agenda and paying attention to what our kids – who are probably shocked to find that a teacher wants to know what they think – in our own classrooms over time.

  8. Discomfort is almost always a precursor to growth….and I think that this is very true in this case. Some thoughts:

    Coaching, and particularly for circling, was developed because the leap from being a participant in a workshop, and being in front of students was too great a leap. Presenters, in order to be good presenters, are GOOD. But we know that incorporating these changes in the classroom is not the same as bringing home a game from a conference and playing it on Fridays. There is a powerful moment of “uh oh, this isn’t as easy as I thought it was” that occurs. That is important to experience before a teacher gets in the classroom or it becomes one of a number of reasons that workshop participants do not become TPRS/CI teachers.

    There is this interesting paradigm with many new participants. They are good teachers, watching a good teacher, and it seems like it will be easy to do. Many teachers assume that they will simply be able to jump up and do it as well as the presenter. However, we all know that it never works that way. I can tell you from experience (as a presenter and as one of those participants!) that those people will not believe you when you tell them that. They have to experience it for themselves. It’s mind-blowing and humbling and they need some love to work through it.

    Other participants get right away that it is a completely new animal. They need to, as Judy described, observe, observe and observe. Then, when they are ready, they will, step by step, begin to work it in.

    Here’s the real deal: In presentations WE MUST DIFFERENTIATE for our participants. That is so hard to do. Much harder than differentiating for students. I’ve said it before but teaching this method is the most difficult thing I have ever done professionally and it never gets any easier. It’s about changing people from the inside out. That makes it a very personal journey for each participant. Yet….our time together will always be limited and my desire for them to experience this joy with their students often overrides my patience for each participants personal journey. The discussions here are so helpful.

    The second idea behind coaching was that teachers would connect with other teachers during coaching times and find “like spirits” who would stay in touch during their journey. In a three day conference situation, where folks come from a particular area, this is a great way to create a support network. Number one example??? ALASKA Where I believe the real coaching occurs.

    There are striking differences between a two day conference for beginners and National… the differences for a two dayer and National have led to some of the pain. In the coaching room, “drop-in” coaching takes place. Folks drop in when they have time. There is so much going on at Nat’l that people need that flexibility. BUT…..drop in coaching makes the emotional safety of the participants harder to create. It is basically coaching with strangers…..and that is very threatening. It’s a bit of a crap shoot depending on who is coaching and who happens to be in the group. Just like a classroom, the personalities of each person in the coaching circle totally control the scenario.

    A lot of time and energy has been put into the cognitive and physical aspects of coaching. Small groups, Going over the rules and expectations, Steps of coaching, etc. When people are uncomfortable, it is because of the emotional aspects of the situation.

    We cannot change [the fact that] that enormous amounts of information and change are going to part of the conference experience (local or national). That is exhausting, but inevitable. Hopefully we can make some changes that emphasize the community aspect of the coaching experience.

    Ben’s coaching groups that he organizes outside of the “official” experience work so well for the people in them because he either a) knows them beforehand and/or b) the coaching lasts for several hours so that c) the group now has the luxury of creating a passionate, small group that bonds. The participants often retain that bond long after the coaching ends. It’s a wonderful gift.

    “Official” coaches do not have those luxuries and must find other ways to improve the emotional piece. Finding ways to do that during the very important and necessary “drop in “coaching times is only one of the challenges. When coaching is a part of a session, the coaches are nearly always at the mercy of the presenters, who are expert presenters, but who actually have very little experience with coaching. It has taken several years, but bit by bit the coaches and presenters are learning and growing with the process, but the stress can spill over and affect participants, no doubt about it.

    So here is my first question for the group: I know what has NOT worked in coaching. What HAS worked? Specific names of specific people is not the answer. What did that individual say/do/facilitate that made that particular experience fabulous? If we continue to build on what IS working we can build our coaching scenarios on those moments.

    with love,

    1. Hi Laurie, just some random thoughts here.

      I think you have a size barrier for anything other than lecture. As great as iFLT at Los Alamitos was, I think the sessions with Linda Li and Carol Gaab were too big. The sheer number of people in the room made it more impersonal, less flexible, and harder for the people in the back to truly participate; they were mere spectators. (For some of them, that may have been what they wanted, but I don’t believe that this was optimal.)

      This past year Jason Fritze and I presented some “Master Classes” in the same format with me teaching German and Jason commenting, suggesting and correcting. I am not as good as Linda, so there were places where Jason could say, “Why don’t you go back and try this?” Sometimes he would ask me why I did a certain thing – not to put me on the spot, but to get me to articulate what was behind the action and voice the thinking process. Sometimes he would point out something that was particularly good and perhaps have me repeat it so that everyone could see it again, often with an added twist the third time. We were working with a classroom of teachers rather than a lecture hall full of teachers. I genuinely believe the difference in size was a significant element in the success of what we were doing. Perhaps part of the solution is to have multiple people doing this in smaller groups rather than a “plenary session”. You might even have a plenary session for greetings, interaction and presentation of the theoretical/philosophical basis, then divide into self-selected smaller groups based on the participants’ level: true beginner, novice, mid-level, advanced.

      I also think that “drop-in coaching” is more beneficial to mid-level and higher practitioners of TPRS. By the time you are at this level, you can hone in on specific things to work on. As a beginner, you are trying to juggle all of these new things. The longer sessions in which you build that group trust are more beneficial for new(er) practitioners as well as being helpful to more experienced practitioners, in my not-so-expert opinion.

      As with our students, the interpersonal component is important. The less I trust the people I am with, the harder it is to become vulnerable. Perhaps more time spent at the beginning of a conference (and sessions) on trust building or “ice breakers” would be helpful. I am not a particularly touchy-feely person, but I see the great value in these activities for the group dynamic, openness, and cohesiveness. This is something that COACH (the group I work with) has done well over the years. The difficulty with drop-in coaching, of course, is that the group is always changing, thus the need for trust building prior to those sessions. At the TPRS conference in Punta Cana last summer (2012), I went to a drop-in coaching session and practiced. I felt comfortable because I knew the people who were coaching (Jason and Donna); some of the other people in the session were more hesitant because they didn’t have the same level of trust.

      At a conference, there are things that you can do to encourage the interaction that builds the relationships: arrange for food to be provided onsite rather than sending people off to various food establishments; have “leaders” (not necessarily the conference staff) agree to “host” discussion groups at meal and other designated times. Each group is self selected based on the topic, e.g. language alike, exploring circling, interacting with administrators, “justifying” what we do, relating to antagonistic colleagues (pursuing causes of the antagonism and how to deal with it), class management in a CI/TPRS classroom, get acquainted without as specific topic or agenda. Probably not everyone will participate, but it opens another avenue of interpersonal interaction. Ben mentioned in another thread that he doesn’t understand why people go off and do their own thing at iFLT and National. While there are numerous reasons, I think a key element is the perception that this is what we do at conferences: attend sessions and then go off in the evening and have fun. At a regular conference, this is expected and the conference organizers let everyone know about the fun local things to do, but at a regular conference there is usually a great deal more fragmentation, so people don’t feel like they are missing anything by doing this. In fact, some people attend conferences based on where they are located and spend most of their time doing things outside the conference. (I know this because I have talked to people who were quite open about doing it.) The CI/TPRS community and experience are different, so going off on your own means that you genuinely miss something; then it becomes a matter of determining what is more important. Some people need the down time because they are introverts and have to re-charge their batteries as well as process everything they have learned; adding more information or another experience would be overwhelming and not helpful.

      Okay, as I said, just some random thoughts.

      1. Robert and Laurie,

        Thanks as always for your great thoughts. Reading you, one can appreciate the value of your experience and thank you for sharing it in this conversation. Some of your ideas resonate with me . I totally agree that size matters when dealing with coaching. A room with more than 30 people is too big and would become more of a lecture session than a coaching one, for some of the people anyway.

        I really like Ben’s idea for his coaching PM sessions this year in SD: to split up people in groups of 5, so they get to practice in a more intimate setting what they have observed or what they’d like to practice if they already have some experience.

        I remember Ben coaching David Maust in last Vegas last summer in a very small setting (there were 4 of us including David). We were sitting on the floor in a random hallway b/c all the rooms were locked and it was very late at night. I remember very vividly how energizing it was for him, as well as for us despite our late night and fatigue from a long day at NTPRS.

        I’m sure David remembers this also. All I can think of right now is the growth he has experienced this year compared to the teacher he was back then. Not to say that this is the only thing that informed him on where he was with his skills, but I am sure it helped him a lot. I remember his face as he was discovering things he was or wasn’t doing in the process that he wasn’t aware of before. He looked like a little Buddha!

        I also agree that the trust element is absolutely necessary, which both you and Laurie talk about. So yes, trust /community building ice breakers help bridge that gap. Perhaps just spending time together, hanging out and getting to know the people with whom you will work with in the coaching session is a great asset. It is, like you clearly articulated a matter of interpersonal skills that need to be practiced. Just like the kids, the affective filter must be at the right place, at the right time: not too low, not too high for coaching to do its magic. Diane’s earlier post reminded me of that fact. Her affective filter was obviously way high for anything good to happen.

        Talking about Diane, she and some other teachers in the Great Chicago area, as well as Illinois are getting together in late June to bring collaboration a step further, and coaching will definitely be a big part of that. I think the reason we can do that and want to do that is because we have built that sense of trust and community through this blog all year. I am very grateful for that.

        Going back to the coaching idea, my experience with coaching last year as I coached my student teacher for 3 months in teaching with CI taught me so much about teaching in general, and a lot about myself in particular. So I think that coaching is not only great for the person being coached, but also for the person coaching.

        We all have different voices, different styles but we often lack an awareness of it all. The job of a coach I think is to help discover those strengths and bring them front and center. It is not always an easy task but with time and patience it will happen.

        Another very important prerequisite for effective coaching I believe is listening skills. A good coach in my opinion must be able to listen with the” intent to understand” (sounds familiar?) how the teacher who is being coached feels, without which coaching will be ineffective. Robert, those sessions with Jason seem like they were doing just that.

        Sorry for the long post.

    2. I seemed to have missed this entire post….

      Laurie, I would like to answer your questions about what has worked for me …..

      1. Last year during lunch when Sabrina was “practicing” and you were commenting on what she was doing…. This was one of the few times that it actually “clicked” for me…. This was pretty powerful…

      2. This past spring at our peer coaching session in Maine. Dennis Gallagher demonstrated “movie talk” in French. As he went we commented, asked questions etc. This was the 2nd time we had met as a peer coaching group and I think we were starting to feel comfortable with each other.

      Next week we are meeting again. I REALLY want to try what Dave Talone did at National… take one structure and get as many reps as possible (he got nearly 200) while still keeping it compelling…. I will have to tell you though that the prospect does make me nervous…. It is just SO different do reps with students than it is with adults. I will let you know on how it goes….

  9. Great post. To answer the question of what HAS worked, my mind immediately goes to two or three of those Alaskans in Los Alimotos two years ago. The thing that I noticed, and this may have been Michele’s influence, was how rabid they were. They had been prepared to go to get some training and they were not going to be stopped in their growth by fear of getting up and looking foolish or anything. They just wanted to work.

    I remember when I coached David Maust, Liam O’Neill and Erik Olsen in Las Vegas last year, and some others, it was the same thing. There was a certain fearlessness in them – they just got up and said, “I’m learning this stuff.” And they were AMAZING at it, and the really beautiful part, not possible in the old way, is that each of their personalities were so strongly reflected in their own teaching styles.

    So I think that, like any big changes in life, you have to want to do it. You have to want it, and in my case I was desperate because when I met Susan Gross I was about ten months away from leaving the profession altogether – that grammar shit can wear you down. I think Susie kind of saved my life.

    So my point Laurie is that you guys who organize coaching can only do so much. You have worked with Susie and others as much as you could to assure the quality of those national coaching sessions, which were so much about circling, over the past years, but at some point the participant has to leave their analysis of what is going on in the conference, take off their fear hat, and leap into their bodies and start the real work, which you describe wonderfully above – it does indeed involve “turning oneself inside out.”

    Growth in this work is about embracing vulnerability, as you infer above. So those who organize conferences must set their minds to creating safe spaces to work in, and I think you have done that. Is there anyone safer to work with than Teri Wiechart?

    In the same way that we ask, invite, cojole, threaten, beg the kids in our classes to become real with us, we also must leave the safety of our own teaching minds and enter our hearts. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. Good teaching is about loving kids. We didn’t have a way to do it before, but now we do.

    It’s time now. We must now set our sails on the Sea of Simplicity and allow this method to work for us. It really is a simple process, which we, perhaps because we are teachers, try to make complex. It is not complex to circle. It is not complex to learn a few skills and get them going in our classroom. We can do it.

    People are moving into their hearts in all professions right now because there is nowhere left to go. It is no more complicated or simple than that.

  10. Thanks for your thoughts on this issue! As Laurie mentioned, making this internal switch is a big reason teachers don’t make it with CI instruction. It’s a different angle on how teaching works and I believe it’s an aspect of the shift to the unconscious instead of conscious learning. I was convinced, however, it was the right thing to do for me and for my students. I am also an introvert. Never delighted to feel the center of attention, much less the center of judging attention. I felt stripped and unsupported and asked to do something very hard for others to watch and judge. I was SO happy to sit down afterwards. It was hard to concentrate on what others were doing before or after me.

    Some of that is because of me and my fears of failure or of others’ opinions of me. I usually feel under scrutiny at teacher conferences because Chinese is my 2nd language. There are Chinese teachers who switch to English if I walk up and that is super insulting. So there’s that dynamic in the mix. One of the attending teachers mistook me as not understanding something she said in a basic sentence in Chinese earlier that day – and there she was sitting there watching me coach two hours later. Fun and supportive, right?

    I wonder if a frank mention of these emotional factors would help. Something like: in coaching, we’re looking for what’s going well and seeking ways to add to what is going well. We are not here to judge and pronounce someone inferior, wrong, or a failure. We already accept you. You’ve made the best choice as a teacher to want to teach this way. We are here to add to the positives.

    In the situation I mentioned above, I think it would also have helped if the situation were a little different: we took turns teaching the same 3 children for about an hour. Each of us circled and asked a story for 5-10 minutes. Each change of teacher meant an introduction, a change of style, a hard break in the flow, etc. We had run out of time to practice before the kids arrived. While we had very cooperative kids, it felt high stakes to me. And yet we were all experienced with TPRS at least to some degree; I had done circling in class for months with some degree of success.

    I feel like I needed (need?) a pep talk. I will give myself that pep talk now that I’ve completed my first year as a real live CI teacher. Here I go: “You’ve seen and experienced the results of TPRS methods in class for enjoyable, real language acquisition. You know it’s how you want to teach. That is great! Teachers find it to be an on-going process of growth to move into this kind of teaching. Like Chinese, teaching this way is not acquired overnight. Yet keep at it and you will improve. The process is exciting, stimulating, and yet emotional and challenging as well. Expect to feel frustrated, fearful, unsure, and yet know that you are doing the right thing and you will grow more comfortable and automatic over time, just like your Chinese did over the years. Pushback, if there is some, from students or colleagues is not a sign that you are wrong or not good enough at this. Doing CI instruction “wrong” still blesses you and your students. It is still far superior to grammar methods or speaking drills. Yay! The toughest year, year 1, is done!”

  11. I strongly agree with this point Diane:

    …teaching this way is not acquired overnight….

    What has amazed me is how this year you have made hundreds of insightful comments here about your classes and teaching that I honestly couldn’t have made after my first six or seven years at this. You seem like a seasoned CI expert to me. It shows me that however gnarly the training process was for you last summer, it worked! It’s surely a combination of your determination and the coaching you got last summer. My hat is off to you.

    Also, this:

    …some of that [inability to concentrate at national sessions] is because of me and my fears of failure or of others’ opinions of me….

    This rings so true with me and I’m sure with a lot of others in this group. But we have to persevere. What has fueled me is essentially a severe disdain for teaching which, however unknowingly, inflicts the false belief on a child that they can be stupid at a language. That’s what causes my talons to come out and makes me want to shred all this nonsense about conjugating verbs and all that rot.

    1. Thanks very much, Ben. I started using some CI techniques 3-4 years ago after a conference where Katya Paukova demonstrated, and I used some TPR from the beginning of teaching 6 years ago. I was eclectic. I started seeing what caused kids to understand and kept moving that direction.

      I’m on a campaign to have all kinds of kids succeed with Chinese. They still (or more often, their PARENTS and other teachers) think it’s “too hard” because there are characters and people don’t understand how they work. Then they start asking how many characters there are. That’s usually a bad question. It takes time but is not necessarily the same thing as “difficult.”

      1. Diane N. wrote: It takes time but is not necessarily the same thing as “difficult.”

        It is, however, rigorous. Referencing the Department of State’s website (again): there are several elements of rigor; two of them are deep inquiry and sustained focus.

        1. Yep, I’ve been using that site with people at my school, Robert. Thanks for sharing it. I shared it with an administrator who was developing our school’s definition of “rigor” and with a parent who said her son liked games but found it challenging to hear and understand stories. I told her that was part of the rigor of my class.

  12. The other piece about this approach to teaching is that what we do in the classroom directly effects students in a very real way. If I am more focused on the TL, the students are too. If I slow down, they immediately comprehend more. If I bring them into the classroom community, they respond quickly to being part of that community. There is a relationship aspect to “interactive” classes that does not exist in “activity-based” classrooms.

    with love,

    1. Absolutely. For me at first, teaching to the eyes was awkward because I really didn’t have that level of connection to the kids before. It had definitely been about the content first and the kids second; that order is now reversed, but not all of them can handle it. Because of this relational aspect, some kids respond with warmth and others put up walls.

    2. The SLOW challenge is right here:

      …if I slow down, they immediately comprehend more….

      I notice this all the time. It’s really amazing how what we think is slow is not slow for them. I was doing a presentation for DPS teachers once and Amy Teran told me later that I went too fast, even though I felt like it was really slow, so she said the now famous Teran Principle, roughly paraphrased here:

      “There’s SLOW and then there’s SLOWER and then there’s SLOWEST and when you get there you need to slow down a little bit more and then that’s the right speed.”


  13. Somebody on the blog sent this to Teri and she gave us this reply, which nicely reflects her own experience with coaching at NTPRS over the past years:

    Hi Ben,

    I’ve been working all spring on getting ready for my coaching gigs this summer. This morning someone shared with me some of your thoughts from your blog, and I felt like you read my mind.

    teaching others how to “do” tprs/ci is just plain difficult. And just watching it, isn’t enough. I think that when you go and watch any presentation, many then need some guided practice with a mentor in order for it to work once you get back home, especially for those who really don’t get it. Certainly your blog and the moreTPRS list are a couple of good ways to help with the mentoring. I’ve also had coaching groups come to my house for Saturday morning coffee and coaching. The question is how to reach more people and in personal ways to guide their journey.

    As for the big sessions, like the beginning sessions at iFLT and NTPRS, it is really crucial that they get some personal time with an “expert”. The question is how to schedule it. The coaching team is working on the issue of how to develop a relationship and give the personalized help that they need.

    In Vegas last summer, I experimented with another format. (I have to say it was based on something you did in Denver, I think, and at Los Alamitos, and St. Louis, and . . . where you took a group off and worked half the night. I must say, I was jealous!) I thought having a smaller group that would talk their way through what was happening, stopping and starting and working through it. It was successful (not perfect by any means, however). And it worked with all levels of experience of tprs, even beginners. But I only worked with 10 people that day. There were so many others who needed help too. We truly need one coach per 10 participants–not likely to happen soon.

    And we work so hard at making coaching “safe”, but it’s hard. I appreciate your observations and insights as to the difficulty and necessity.

    Another difficulty is creating a practice scenario that is realistic. Formulaic questioning (aka circling) is so artificial. It works for about a day and a half in a real classroom before there is mutiny, either your own or your students. The team will be working on this too.

    This team is so serious about improving coaching and the impression, most of us are getting together for 3 days to discuss and prepare. I hope the difference is noticeable. I appreciated Laurie’s query about what has worked and I hope there is some good discussion, so we can build on it.

    thanks so much for the positive “shout-out”. And thanks for your passion!


  14. So–I am reading Stepping Stones to Stories and have been to Blaine conference and reading everywhere about starting the year. I love the CWB and personalization but …here the the dumb newbie question—If the card with their name and something the kid does is on one side–and the questionnaire is on the back then how do I see it to ask about those things—its folded—what am I missing? Do I pick it up and look? Do I collect them after class and pick something for the next day? I’m sure there is something I’m not seeing. Thanks for helping a newcomer.

    1. No it’s a good question. I am one of those people who can only function if things are simple and by putting the questionnaire on the back I have all the information I want on each kid on one sheet of card stock.

      In fact I never mix the information from the questionnaires with the CWB cards – I use them separately. I find it awkward to even use the questionnaires, honestly, because things are too free wheeling and it is difficult to establish meaning and therefore stay in bounds.

  15. I have students write their name in bold on one side of the card and draw on the other side. I have had them fill out the questionnaire, but I never seem to get to using them…so I don’t use them. Perhaps I should? However, I don’t seem to have a shortage of good material coming from the students.

      1. Leigh Anne Munoz

        What a great idea, Diane!!

        If we don’t have time to discuss all the details on a questionnaire, we could use it some other way!!

        Question: Does anybody type up the CWB info?

        1. No although it could be done. I don’t do that because as I have stated elsewhere my main purpose with CWB is to establish classroom discipline and to personalize.

          The closest I come to creating anything to read from CWB is writing the information I learn from them during class on the whiteboard. When we do that, we are doing the early steps of teaching reading, of course.

        2. I’m hoping to have a native speaker who’ll be in my grade 4 class part of the year do this for me. If she & her parents agree, she’ll become a helper in the classroom.

      2. I have had this nagging feeling ever since I started having the students fill out the questionnaires because I too seldom do anything with the information…

        I do read through them all though and feel like I know the students better after reading through them. I have benefited in the past from know their favorite color etc….

        I think I will have them complete them for one more year and reflect some more about ways that I could make better use of the information…


  16. I usually use the questionnaire when it’s a kid’s birthday. I photoshop their headshots into whatever scene I find on the internet that depicts their hobby/interest/celebrity crush/whatever. The kids get such a kick out of it and we use it as a springboard for PQA on that day.

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