Time to Step Up for Chris

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30 thoughts on “Time to Step Up for Chris”

  1. Dear Chris,

    I have a somewhat similar challenge coming up. An American who taught French in the States using TPRS is now living in France and teaching English. She has encountered quite a bit of opposition on the part of parents who are afraid their children won’t get enough grammar. Her administration is open minded and she has a colleague who teaches German and has her son in the English class who is very interested to know what she did to get her son to speak so much English at home. So I’m going to do a presentation of TPRS to her colleagues and some parents. I’m considering showing them the opening Prologue to LORD OF THE RINGS and then start circling. How many rings were given to the elves? How many rings were given to the dwarfs? Where was the master ring made? etc., etc., and then, when I have them answering easily, explain that they are now able to use the passive voice and that that is how structures are taught with comprehensible input. I think it’s important to engage them and demonstrate before you start explaining things.

  2. Judy can you describe what posters you have up in your classroom, and what posters you bring to your presentations. Obviously the question words, to make the above CI work with this teacher’s colleagues and parents, but I’m just curious what other posters you have a) in your classroom and b) when you go around presenting on TPRS/CI.

    I think this is a tremendous idea but one needing to be practiced on people who have never seen CI. I’m thinking of Chris and wanting him to know before Central States that this kind of idea is going to work for him in that setting that he’ll be in. Really, it’s a super idea, because the people already know the answers to those questions, I imagine.

    1. Do we have any posts on exactly what posters people are using? I feel like this is something that I am missing out on a lot. I don’t have a ton of room, I have to share a classroom with another teacher, and I teach 2 different languages.

      The only posters I have:

      1) Question words – I use all the time

      2) Interpersonal expectations (JGR more or less) – use in some classes

      3) Word walls – I rarely use them at all.

      What other posters are people using on a regular basis? I feel like this could help me a lot.

      1. You’ve listed most of what I currently have, or wish I had. I would like also eventually to get somewhat comprehensive lists of “prepositions” and “conjunctions” posted for my students to use during freewrites. Beyond that, I’ve been using my numbers posters quite a bit recently, along with posters for my six safety words (how is it said?, in English, in Latin, do you understand?, I understand, I don’t understand).

      2. Dave I speak from experience when I say that I used to have up to thirty posters on the walls. They are like rules. Too many and they are useless. I am now down to the posters you mentioned plus a list of connecting words and prepositions for writing, as I am focusing more on writing this semester. Any other stuff is just not necessary. I could do just fine with jGR only. The question words are needed in a level one class but not after that, really. The less posters the better.

        1. But Chris might also have to keep in mind that some of us can’t have posters up because we rotate to other teachers’ rooms. Don ‘t drop the posters idea but be prepared in case someone asks what to do in that situation. I write the question words on the board in one corner as they come up which is not a great solution but does help me to slow down. Then I use the laser pointer to point to them when they come up again.

          1. When I was teaching from a cart, I used 8X10 inch posters and kept them on the cart. I chose the ones that I thought I would need that day and give them to students in the class. When we used that word, it was their job to hold them up. It was an easy job and they enjoyed it. (ie fought over it) If one came up unexpectedly, I just pulled it off of the cart and gave it to someone.

            Depending on the level that you teach, these question words can be a lifeline. With other levels, it isn’t such a big deal.

            Hint: if you are presenting and someone throws you a ‘what if”, you don’t have to answer it right away if you don’t have a personal answer. Ask them to talk with you afterward, or tell them…wait for it…

            that you are connected to a wonderful professional learning group that would be happy about to problem solve. Let them know that joining in this adventure means a community of support.

            with love,

  3. I agree, posters. Also the technique of slow with pause & point (I mean when asking circling questions) are huge. Teaching to the eyes (to make sure kids are comprehending). Showing how that all comes together would be as compelling as I can imagine. (It’s what sold me at least!)

    I think it’s also a help if you can use a language that few participants know well for your demonstration… otherwise they underestimate the power of what you’re doing. Or like Judy suggested – demonstrate something “difficult” using CI in a language they do know.

  4. Just for demonstration, what about the thing that we do using drawings of activities? (Ben, you may explain this better than I; I remember you doing it in Maine once. It was the “Hey, I can do this!” activity for me.) You start with folded papers and markers. Give one direction: “draw a pictionary-simple image of something that you do” You have yours ready, and start with what you do (best if you can demonstrate–I sing, like Ben)

    This has the advantage of being highly personalized, you get a base of a few verbs, well, badly, who, and maybe where. It is a favorite for my fifth grade mini class, because it’s about them –and everyone does something better than I do.:)

      1. So use CWB as a demo?

        Now here’s a dumb question, should I do a PQA demo using some stuff from a typical textbook unit? Provide ideas to bridge the gap between CI and textbook or will that only feed the textbook users’ reasons to use the book because they now have ways to use the TL 90% of the time with the textbook?

        1. The gap between the book and what we do is not bridgeable. There is no book company in the world that can build a bridge that long. I heard – not sure so don’t quote me – that Karen Rowan years ago got something like $80K from Realidades to do those little TPRS capsule things in their book. I don’t think they work. And this is important right here – as I was having dinner with Diana last night, she told me to actually put this on the blog:

          Nobody teaches the language, or very few of us. She and Carol have talked about this. Now, what does it mean to teach the language? It means NOT JUST TELL THE CLASS WHAT A STRUCTURE MEANS BUT TO TEACH IT, USE IT, PQA IT, USE IT IN A STORY, DRAW IT, WORK WITH IT, GET REPS ON IT. Diana said that nobody does that. They just say what it means and of course the kids never get it because we as human beings need thousands or repetitions to get language. LANGUAGE TEACHERS ARE NOT TEACHING THE LANGUAGE*.

          Anyway, Chris, don’t do it. It won’t work. CWB is always a winner? Why? Because the teachers in your workshop, most of them, will be trying to find flaws in what you are saying. Their minds will be doing that. They can’t help it. Most people in our profession mistrust TPRS people. And the term is now so misunderstand by misuse we need to stop using it as well.

          Anyway, so you SHIFT THEM OUT OF THEIR CRITICAL FACULTY by focusing on them in the TL and you start talking about how totally cool it is that they race go carts with their kid on Saturdays, because on their CWB cards they wrote their name and drew a picture of a go cart and you started circling that with your question words up on the walls in this session.

          Only you make it that they are racing go carts with Ronald MacDonald and you get the two most closed hearted people in the room and in ultra simple language get a little COMPREHENSIBLE scene going with those two in go carts and you never let them analyze you bc they are having so much fun understanding and being the center of attention.

          *Related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X00XdLhFLSg

        2. Important question: Will you be doing the demo in a language few, if any, understand? If they already know the language, the demonstration will not present them with new perspectives. They will just say “Pfft, I already knew that, so of course it works.”

          Do I remember correctly that you teach German? If so, that should work as your demonstration language because very few will probably understand it – unless you’re in Pennsylvania or Ohio or other place with a large German-heritage population. (That’s one of the reasons Jason did the demonstration / Master class with me – almost no one in the room understood it. He said the other reason was that I “get it” when it comes to TCI; high praise indeed.)

          I can only reinforce Ben’s statement that the book and what we do have an unbridgeable gap between them. I tried do “adapt” the two for a couple of years, but it was ultimately unworkable. My analogy is that it is like yoking an ox and a mule together. Because the two animals are so different and have such different gaits, you will ultimately kill one of the two. In my case the yoking killed the textbook; for far to many people it is TCI that gets killed.

          Not for the demonstration, but for individuals when you talk to them. We have different personalities, and each individual approaches things a bit differently. When my friend Gayle Trager learned about TPRS, after she had attended a few workshops she went back to school, chucked the textbook, and jumped in with both feet. I, on the other hand, eased my way into TCI and quickly realized that it was by far the better approach; it just took me a while to make the transition. So, when a colleagues say they would like to try it, encourage them to do so and support them in whatever way they choose to make the start. If they are open minded, they will quickly come to the conclusion that TPRS/TCI is far superior to grammar-driven instruction for achieving fluency. Don’t, however, give the close-minded deliverers of instructional services any excuse to hang onto what they are doing.

          1. Oops. Clarification on my statement “almost no one in the room understood it”: that refers to the fact that almost no one in the room spoke German. (It was mostly Spanish and French teachers.) They definitely understood the CI.

          2. I teach Spanish which will make this harder. I honestly wish I wouldn’t have submitted the proposal but I was feeling ambitious at the time.

          3. I bet that you may have several people there who do not know Spanish WELL. Find out who they are, and kindly ask if they would come sit in front to help you monitor how fast you are going. Teach something not in the present tense. Simple, but in the past…like mientras caminaba a _____________ de repente vio ___________________. or Solamente queria (sorry no accents) comer ____________. Even if you only get through a line or two, the fact that it wasn’t Hay un chico will be powerful.

            with love,

          4. Or perhaps a “more advanced” structure that incorporates something like subjunctive: querĂ­a que _______ coma ________ . (With this one you get both past and subjunctive.)

          5. I agree but we have to keep this thing simple for Chris. What is the simplest and most effective thing we have offered him so far, one that will get him past this experience with a minimum of worry and effort? That’s the question and he needs this clearly spelled out so he doesn’t get all crazy about it. Presenting, trust me I know (right Laurie?) is not easy and keeping things really simple is what it’s all about. And I can’t see doing a lot of theory with a bunch of freaked out grammar teachers. I think he needs to just model some simple stuff. Judy in her presentation in Paris a few months ago kept it simple like that, did a short demo and then just hung out with her audience and answered questions, as I remember.

  5. My meeting was the topic in “please help by Monday”. To update, nothing much happened other than some of the middle school teachers asked why TPRS was on our list of discussion topics, no supervisor was there and the district curriculum writer stayed for only the first 15 minutes. It was a wash except that eventually I confessed to being the reason for the method being on the list, I passed out some handouts on how we DO teach grammar as well as an article on teaching 90% in target language. One of my colleagues from the middle school gave me a connection because she said that her son’s teacher is actually into TPRS and he is learning a lot! That, in and of itself, was an incredible statement and I had to hold back a smile as we sat at the round table.

    Anyway, all that to say this: my colleague in my own department (also present at the meeting) asked me yesterday if I would come and demo a lesson with one of her classes because she would really like to try it! She did ask me what I thought about one of her students that was very fluent although he had only been in traditional classrooms. I reviewed the 4%er thing with her because we had spoken about it in the past and then I said the following, which may apply to Chris and may be something he can say while presenting: I am proof that a student can become fluent in a traditional world language classroom…..BUT I am a student that lived and breathed the language. My desire was strong. I always did my homework, always studied, always raised my hand to ask questions. I read from the textbook even when there wasn’t homework, listened to Spanish music, watched Spanish tv and read books in Spanish. Incredible!

    However….every once in awhile, depending on what it is that I’m trying to say, if I’m not consciously thinking of the rules of grammar I will say something that a native speaker will need to correct. I attribute that to the fact that I never really heard my teachers speak the language to me. I am living proof that the traditional method DOES work BUT even though I was a dream student, I still cannot say certain things just because it sounds right. And how many students in a class of approx 30 are “dream students” like I was? Very few. So how are we going to fix it?

    I would, perhaps, start my workshop like this if it were true, Chris.

  6. Jen, it sounds like you had some positives. Good news. You were way overdue for some recognition. We were all dream students. What you said reminds me of Robert’s description of the type of student who can function at the Defense Language School in Monterey. ONE of the attributes is “highly motivated”. I see highly motivated this way – I want an A and don’t want to engage too much to get it.

  7. Soooo…. What I’m looking at so far is:

    1. CWB/PQA
    2. Maybe hand out a circling template (it feeds the desire to “have something they can use”)
    3. Posters

    What else? Gotta fill an hour and I gotta make them happy

  8. 1. A list of blogs, websites, upcoming conferences so that if they are interested they can take it to the next step.

    2. Can you video tape part of a class or one or two students retelling a story? (with permission of course?) Seeing kids is always appealing and makes it real.

    3. But truthfully Chris, what you have will take time. It’s possible to just spend an hour on the circling!!!!!!!

    4. Please take this with love…I know that we all vent here because it is safe, but, this will be easier to prepare for AND will come across better if you can start convincing yourself (by force if necessary) that this presentation is actually an amazing gift, a wonderful experience. I know that it feels like a crappy burden right now (beeen theeeere maaaaany tiiiiimes) but I promise you that if you approach it with love and joy, that will be felt in the presentation.

    I am very excited for you to have this opportunity. I believe that God (the universe, our own subconcious, etc) puts us in these situations for a reason. Something good is coming from this…you can count on it!!

    with love,

    1. I agree with Laurie’s point about this being a great opportunity.

      Also, I was some kind of “eclectic” or “communication-based” teacher with a dash of the “grammar teacher” before I attended my first TPRS conference a few years ago. Katya Paukova presented. It was compelling, fascinating, and really, really fun! But I had little idea how to begin myself – so that took 2 more years to work through.

      So I suggest that you go into it thinking how wonderful this method is for language learning and let that show. I don’t know your audience, of course. I have to think some of them will be able to hear you despite whatever filter they go in with.

  9. Update: I’m feeling better about this, now. I do need some tips on a demo to do though. I think I’m going to do the demo in Irish Gaelic. I have extremely limited knowledge in Irish Gaelic, but more than the general population. I know a few words and I can sing most of “Preab San Ol”. But I have access to learning some phrases in order to do a demo. I’ll have Who, What and Where signs hung up but I need something to do a Demo with. We’ve discussed CWB but what should I do with it? I don’t have enough knowledge of the language to randomly come up with a structure based on something somebody writes, so should I do the LInda Li “has, wants” thing or is that too much with the limited time I would have? I think I probably just need one good structure to demonstrate circling with, something to do for 20 minutes or so, then go on with the rest of the presentation. Thanks for all of the help so far everybody!

  10. I wouldn’t go with the Linda Li thing – too time consuming. It takes her over an hours to do two simple verbs. Just keep it simple whatever you do. Exactly how much Irish Gaelic do you have? You are used to speaking Spanish in a classroom and this might flummox you a bit. Can you set aside a small group of people and teach them Spanish with CWB for fifteen minutes? Just tossing out ideas here.

    1. After thinking, I definitely don’t know enough Gaelic to in front of a group of dozens of teachers. I’ll have to stick with Spanish for the sake of easiness, the problem will be that most of the teachers in that room will probably be Spanish teachers, many of which will be native speakers. So the shorter the structure, and the shorter the demo, the better in my opinion. So should I just let a structure for CWB come to me based on something that the participants say that they like to do? Or should I plan something out?

      1. If you plan something out it won’t have any energy. I have never understood that about language teachers. Responding to things that occur in class that have energy is my preference. It’s so much easier. When you plan, you have to cobble the kids energy in with what you plan, and that takes effort. You are always begging the kids to walk up to the trough and drink the water. It’s the unending crucifixion of the teacher. Begging for them to pay attention. Screw that. Pick a card and a person in CWB and react. Be amazed that your Spanish colleague Bill rides a Harley. Roll with it. TALK ABOUT THEM. I’m talking about CWB here, not stories.

        1. Will do. I was just feeling the need to have something planned because I’ll be in front of a bunch of other teachers, some of whom will be skeptical so I don’t want any mess-ups.

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