Too Many People Quit

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65 thoughts on “Too Many People Quit”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    So funny how our environment shapes us. Ive been here at the same elem school for 22 years. It’s a public school, but a Progressive district for the past 150 years. I feel like teaching this way is the most student-idea-generated play-based Progressive practice I’ve ever had the opportunity to be part of, so far.
    (I used to think that exposing kids to all sorts of cultures, foods, field trips, pen pals, songs etc. was the way to go – 5-C city…)
    If lower school language programs embrace T/CI, where it feels most age appropriate (playful, community, costumes, props, lower-stakes grading/testing), maybe the upper (HS) schools will have less choice/option to deliver legacy-style? We will trickle up! That’s part of my obsession with convincing Helena C to come observe, or at least attempt to educate herself about what we’re doing. She still holds sway in elementary. I believe her book is still used in WL teacher prep programs.
    While Eric and other middle school Ts (including our own) have met the transition to high school World Language obstacles – the request for grammar language and content – I am holding on to my hope (prediction) that a batch of T/CI-fed incoming freshman will force a paradigm shift. What will Spanish 1-2 Ts do with a boatload of kids who can do what our kids do? WHat about their parents? We are hosting the local HS to come take a look/listen, hoping to cause some buzz over there at the Big House.
    Hopes and dreams are free!!

  2. I find it ironic that I ask this question on a morning when John Bracey shares such a stunning victory in his own school.
    If you haven’t read his comments this a.m. do so. Apparently his school values him and his vision enough to “make changes” and do whatever they need to do to bring him back. (An aside to John: ask for a lot more than you think you can get. They want you. Don’t accept their first offer. Get what you are worth.)
    But my question still remains. Can CI work in schools? We don’t all have the strength of character and ability to put up with being surrounded by wacko teachers that John has.

  3. Julie Schonauer

    Yeah, well when the opposition to how you want to teach comes from everywhere – administrators, students, parents, and then you suck at CI on top of it, I’m right there right now – ready to quit; ready to quit teaching altogether – after 19 yrs. and 14 yrs. of TPRS. When administrators don’t have your back, the monkeys run the asylum. Good luck getting anything taught. Sorry for the hopeless sounding post, but that headline just struck a chord today.

    1. I don’t know you, but I doubt you suck at CI! As Ben said in one of his books, “even bad CI is better than everything else.” This is my first year teaching (and I didn’t even hear about CI until almost halfway through the school year), and I know I am going to be so much better with it next year. I too thought that I sucked (and I probably still do) until I realized that my colleagues’ students can neither speak nor comprehend very well. I was walking past a department member’s room today and heard her kids rehearsing their conjugation/verb endings rap songs project that they’re doing to rehearse for the…wait for it…conjugation charts on our final! Shaking my head…my worst day in my CI classroom is better than the best memorized dialogue day in a communicative or traditional classroom.

    2. Michael Coxon

      Hang in there. The finish line is right around the corner. What you do in the classroom is important and you ARE important too.
      I have not used TPRS as long as you but I know that what we do changes people. It takes a long long time to help outsiders (and doubters) to understand how this process works. Keep up the good fight because your summer break is right around the corner.
      Other than unruly children this time of year…what are you going through?
      Your support system on this blog is here for you!!!!

    3. I’m so sorry to hear that after so many years with TPRS you feel unsupported, Julie. I’ve certainly gone through some of that: hitting big-time resistance from admin. This year (I started at a new school mid-year), when admin didn’t like how some students were complaining about my teaching, I caved in and softened up. I don’t challenge kids much to listen and respond in Spanish at all now. I’m realizing more and more how it’s an entire culture on a grand scale that I’ve chosen to confront. And if I want to be successful as a CI teacher, meaning, if I want my students to acquire Spanish and not just study the grammar, then I need to first massage the egos of some key culture kingpins (principal, student leaders, vocal parents) as I work on softening their hearts and, hopefully, winning them over.
      Maybe you can work on getting one ‘key culture kingpin’ on your side and gradually go from there. Maybe someone you’ve worked closer with.
      With a vocal student, catching them in the lunch room and talking with them one-on-one has helped me.
      good luck to you Julie. Please do let us know how things pan out.

      1. “I’m realizing more and more how it’s an entire culture on a grand scale that I’ve chosen to confront.”
        Sean, you wrote the words that have been spinning around in my head. I’m encountering the exact same over here. The impression I’m getting is that Scottish teachers aren’t meant to do anything un-Scottish. My boss views and foreign research with suspicion and my French/Spanish colleague told me that “if TPRS was meant to be taught here, it would be taught in university”. It is a cultural thing but not restricted by nationality, I don’t think. It’s an elitest way of viewing kids and professionals and it’s very difficult to go up against.
        Your suggestions of winning over the ‘key culture kingpins’ is inspiring and I too have seen the power of talking to a kid one-on-one without accusation. Thank you for such ideas.
        Julie, you’re definitely not alone!

  4. Julie the very existence of this blog is exactly to address and help teachers who face that odd kind of professional despair – it weighs on us so much – that only we can know. I can relate because I suck at it too, and in a way this blog is just one Ginsberg style YELP to see if I can figure it out by writing about it all the time, for well over a decade now. I get it though. There is a point where all the things you mentioned add up to a tipping point and somehow somewhere we gotta boogie on out of town. Let us know what you end up doing. When the reality of what we are up against prompts honest statements like yours, and no apologies are needed , it is alarming to the rest of us. The only thing that comes into my mind about this is that we really are slowly tipping it over to our way of working. Look at what Bracey* did. It just sounds like you are working in a particularly dense and thick part of the jungle. God bless you and every class you ever taught and/or will teach. There are people reading here who truly get what you are saying. There is a heaviness to it, and it makes my heart cry sometimes.
    *We have two brilliant Latin teachers on each coast and both have the name John. For the purpose of clarity, I will use John for John Piazza and Bracey for John Bracey.

  5. And Julie you left out one category of those who attack us – fellow TPRS teachers who say we are wrong, who think it’s a competition. Laurie mentioned this to me last summer and I hope to finish that conversation with her in a few months so that I truly understand this new mental danger area in our work – that of finding fault with each other when everybody is trying as hard as they can. Laurie made the point to me years ago that it should be like summer camp and that image is something I will never forget and hope to bring into our group at every opportunity and certainly in summer war rooms, because she is so right on with that idea. When we start comparing Blaine to so and so and then bring in some other name and which one is right, we’re screwed.

    1. Yes – it is like our nay-sayers…..they say we are a “cult”, that we subscribe to only ONE way of teaching, when “students need many different strategies.” I think it’s true at times…I see it on the MORE list sometimes that people find fault with others who offer up various different #authres or some other thing and are then asked, “how is this comprehensible?” Well, when offering something, it is just that – an offering…..I think many of us can figure out how to MAKE something comprehensible. But I think that some people (the “old guard” in TPRS?) are purists and that can not see other ways of doing things. and they are very dogmatic, which then makes it difficult for us in our own schools. It also confuses the newbies! Does this make sense?

  6. Thank you Ben. This issue is so important that it is nearly central to what we do…yet it is rarely addressed. Back in the day…what impressed me so much about this work was the incredibly high level of cooperation that existed. Ah….I wish I could write more, but I’m behind on a million things….I’ll try to get back to this later this week….
    love you all,

  7. In 1993 or so, I was desperate to be a better Spanish teacher. I had spent 4 years creating conjugating idiots out of very bright, hardworking students. I read TPR by Asher and started trying it. I saw a conference with Blaine Ray and Asher advertised and persuaded the district to pay for it if I’d pay transportation. I was sold instantly. I knew it would work and I kept trying TPRS in my classes and got better and better. Kids who hated the idea of Spanish were volunteering to take new vocabulary and make up a story while classmates acted it out by the end of the first year. Then I stopped to have and raise my kids. While I was out, the split happened among FL teachers. Traditional teachers started hating the CI teachers and their anger caused the response that we all feel. Before it was generally up to us to determine how best to teach our students and we were judged on student and parent satisfaction. Now everyone tries to control everyone else. My daughters have had TPRS teachers who got them interested in talking and other teachers who suppressed that desire to communicate. I want CI all the time for my kids and my students and will not accept a job that asks me to teach grammatically. Pop-up grammar is good. Meaning is good. Conjugations divorced from communication are not for me or my students. I will hold out for a job that allows me to use CI or I will indulge myself volunteering to teach. I am lucky to be in the position of supplemental income instead of primary income. I love teaching because of TPRS. It saved my career and I won’t turn my back on it.

    1. It’s a huge topic. Would you consider Susan Gross old guard? If so, then I’m old guard. I am dogmatic because whenever I see the Three Steps diluted and see the results in the classroom, I see what I have always thought was going to happen, a big confusing mushroom of too much information and CI being interpreted in very loose ways, leading to full blown confusion and misrepresentation of Krashen and Ray. In my view the term TPRS is toxic but the thing itself, based on the Three Steps and their absolute power, is not toxic at all, just the term. The thing itself, as I understand it from Susie, is a rare thing of great beauty, a way of teaching that is very beautiful. Susan Gross represents and holds up that ideal to us and we are lucky to have had such a clear explanation of it.

      1. I think what needs to happen is extract all the strategies from TPRS that are used to make input comprehensible and compelling. Then, train teachers in these strategies presented as a way to just talk to kids. I think the gestures, the acting, the storytelling, and all the gimmicks (e.g. the “ohhh” and the student jobs) mislead people less informed of what we’re actually doing and can turn people off because it makes us look zany and as if the teacher has to direct a circus act. To me, the heart of TPRS is the storyasking (to further simplify, it’s the questioning) which subsumes personalization. And the 3 steps are a wonderful process for getting more reps.

        1. …I think what needs to happen is extract all the strategies from TPRS that are used to make input comprehensible and compelling. Then, train teachers in these strategies….
          I just did that in my new “Big CI Book”, Eric. I extracted all the strategies we have and they are now in one place, explained in detail with an eye toward instructing new people. Thanks for the plug!
          And I agree with your point that old TPRS gave the impression of a circus act. Like you, I have always believed that the 3 steps are the heartbeat of all of it, and are in fact within all the successful strategies that we have developed here together over the years, to wit:
          establishing meaning and getting practice on just a few targets
          creating something with the targets
          reading what we created from the targets

          1. You are right! Between all of your books, you have broken down the skills and the activities of TCI/TPRS. Now, I wish that was how it was presented in workshops. The essence of TCI. As a way to talk to kids so that everyone is engaged and understands.

          2. Matthew DuBroy

            BTW when can we look forward to that big book Ben? Not only am I looking forward to it as a helpful resource for myself but also as an easy way to share things with other teachers who might be interesting in beginning teaching this way.

  8. One of the obvious differences and a huge challenge is how to make L2 acquisition of 20-30 students (many involuntarily in our classes) work like L1 acquisition which was a class of 1 for so much of a person’s L1 development.
    Teachers literally have to learn how to just talk to their kids in comprehensible ways for a period. And then do that with every period. That’s a lot of interaction and a lot of teacher talk, both of which can sap energy from a teacher, making TCI (and TPRS as one highly interactive/teacher-demanding means of TCI) less sustainable over the long term for some (many) teachers.

    1. …that’s a lot of interaction and a lot of teacher talk, both of which can sap energy from a teacher, making TCI (and TPRS as one highly interactive/teacher-demanding means of TCI) less sustainable over the long term for some (many) teachers….
      Then Eric my first question is what do we do about that? We must have some kind of plan to address what you say there. Also doesn’t what you wrote imply a need for a stronger push for 99% L2 use, to get rid of much of the unnecessary teacher talk? Can we purify this thing and push group instruction in school buildings using CI up to a higher level (our dream) or can it only be pure and potent in a small child’s “class of 1”?

    2. I think one of the things that helps reduce this load on the teacher is reading. And quizzes – both quick ones at the end of class and long ones that are unannounced. I think next year I’m going to schedule (known only to me) quizzes at intervals when I know I’ll benefit from a pause in directing students.
      I think it’s an issue to address in training teachers (not burning out because of the load of interaction and spoken work).

      1. Brain breaks are as much or more so for the teachers! I think interaction is the source of the best CI! (kids personalize the discussion & have to attend to the input if they are going to be able to respond). In other words, the quality of the CI can be improved. If this is right, then the nature of our work will always be tiring. But means of delivering CI with less/no interaction can be less energy draining. I do read-alouds and have independent reading, which are breaks from the intense interaction in TPRS. Speedwriting is also a 5 minute break. And the interaction is not nearly as draining when you have a group of kids that buy in and are motivated. One thing teachers probably try to do in classes with low-energy students is compensate and try to provide more teacher energy, but that can burn you out.
        I have a book of 30 400 word Spanish stories with highly controlled structures and vocabulary (only 300 highest frequency words) that will be available very soon (hopefully this week!). Each story has a quiz, because it’s a speed reading course, but the stories can be used for other activities. (I have a video demo of the speed reading procedure and more info on the activity also to be made public soon). Speed reading is another 5-10 minutes of time-on-CI, but not teacher directed. And it makes for a great transition and supplement to FVR.

      2. Is it possible that the speaking work we do with the kids be relaxed? Blaine is an example. Why do we allow the speaking that we do to wear us down so much? Could it be the mixing of languages? What causes that?
        I think I know. Non-responsive kids. Kids who are for all intents and purposes incapable of giving back. So we give 100% of the energy. That’s why I made the 50% rule, perhaps the least followed of the Classroom Rules. So I ask again, can CI even work in schools if the teacher is going to be drained of all energy at the end of the day? That’s no way to live.

      3. I gotta say that Quick Quizzes haven’t worked well for me.
        1) They tell me what I already knew from class (i.e. which kids were/weren’t paying attention)
        2) They don’t tell me what hasn’t been acquired (i.e. most kids retain an hour’s worth of language)
        3) They skew grades to give a false sense of success (i.e. high frequency = many high grades even if students are forgetting language, or a few low grades that mean nothing because of low impact to grade)

        1. To a large extent, the Quick Quizzes work as a break for me and a “this CI class is really like the schooling I know” experience for students.

          1. Yep, me too. Also, I don’t mind that they tell me what I already know. They’re something that feels school-like and I have grades I can put in the gradebook. I like them.

        2. I’ve always wondered why teachers think that tests of any sort including quick quizzes are there to give feedback. We know what our students know by interacting with them, just as we don’t give quizzes at the end of a dinner date with a friend. We know if our friend heard us.
          Testing does not occur, is not a part of, the language learning process and, like homework, is bogus, part of the myth that we can teach languages to people, when all we can do is provide interesting comprehensible input. This goes for all kinds of testing in languages.
          I invented those quick quizzes about fourteen years ago and never stopped using them, and now, along with jGR/iSR, they form a significant part of how I grade, with the quizzes at 35% and the rubric at 65%. (Diane I don’t know if 50% is going to be enough for you. I think you mentioned that today. I know you bumped it up a bit with permission, if I understand that correctly, but I don’t think 50% is still enough on jGR/iSR.)
          Why did I never abandon those little quick quizzes? Because they allowed me to stay in the TL, to teach more. I am not a grader but a provider of lighthearted input. I don’t care about grades. Grades mean zero to me. I give them because I am told to. I can look at a kid and give them a far more accurate grade than any test including quizzes ever could. BUT, I have to grade, so I do.
          I disagree that grades give a false sense of success. Maybe because for the last five years I have been in an urban setting where success is measured by if your dad didn’t get deported that day or not. But even in eight years in a privileged part of town when teaching using CI, where kids were more motivated, I did not think that they cared about grades, unless the grades were low, and then I had to justify and meet with parents and then it became about grades and not joy. So screw that. I am here to have fun. Look – if the kids don’t really care about actually learning something, and they don’t, and if they only care about the grade, and they do, then let’s not allow grades to interfere with our fun. Does anybody really believe that tests give accurate information?
          And what DOES tell us what has been acquired? Nothing, because we can’t measure what is unconscious and acquisition happens there, below the ground, where it can’t be measured, until the little sprigs surface in due time, for us no earlier than level three.
          Forgive, please, the bitchy edge to this comment, but the fact is that the quick quizzes serve a great need, the need of the data machine to be fed, so we feed it, thus keeping our jobs. But if we think that we can assess kids in languages based on some kind of measuring stick, like in other subjects, then we are wrong. We plant seeds. They grow, some faster than others.
          I will never buy into the idea that any test in languages can quantify gains. It would be like saying to one smaller flower growing out there in my garden next to a larger and more robust flower that there is something wrong with that smaller one, that it doesn’t measure up to the mean of flowers that the school district spent $225,000 on that year to identify, with the help of the textbook companies and the College Board. Screw that. When I see some kid esp. those in poverty that I taught these past three years on Denver’s West (Latino) inner belt, a kid who is failing every course but getting a B or A in my own course, I sometimes sit at my desk hoping some admin or teacher down the hall comes in to challenge me on why. I will rip them a new one in defense of that child. I will bitch slap them in defense of that child’s right to feel success in my classroom due to those quick quizzes, and the rubric, and the fact that the kid has two or three jobs in my class, and gets there early to visit with me, and then in class helps me as we socialize because it is through good will and socialization that we learn languages, not through some fricking test. When is the socialization part, the self esteem part, the human part, the non-data part, the fun part, going to enter into our grading? Never? It’s a LANGUAGE. Read Vygotsky on the ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT. Mom leans in and the baby listens because it loves the sound of mommie’s close and safe and permission-giving voice and it tries to make it’s mouth do like mom’s but it takes years but, if mom keeps providing loving input without any sense of judgment (i.e. tests), which break confidence, the child eventually unexpectedly after five years of 24/7 input SPEAKS THE LANGUAGE FLUENTLY without any tests. Who woulda thunk it?
          Diane Ravitch was on PBS a month ago in a debate with the NYS Regents Chair who was justifying tests as a “snapshot” that we owe the parents. Really? We spend millions to have snapshots of kids to give their parents? Why don’t we just tell their parents how their kids are doing? If they are in the country.
          This topic pisses me off. Sorry about that. Not really. When are we going to put the kids first and tests way down on the list of important things, and stop imagining that kids’ lives are so set up that they can take school seriously? They can’t and don’t take school and learning seriously. They take GRADES seriously and so due to that single fact we immediately become compromised as teachers. We engage our students on the level of GRADES. Screw that. And those are the ones who grow up in privilege. But when one of six of them doesn’t know whether their dinner will be on the table that night, or if they are going to have to eat ramen again, I call it messed up to give grades as if they mean something. They don’t. Now, if in fact we entered this profession to grade kids and catch them in the act of not knowing what they are doing and NAIL THEM, then we should take grades seriously. But I’m not in that group. May God tonight bless every single kid who is going to bed hungry and in fear of life, and perhaps in fear of some teacher who is going to NAIL THEM in some class tomorrow. May God bless their sleep tonite, as they try, against the odds, to grow up believing in life.

          1. I love me a Ben rant!
            I also don’t care about grades. I stopped entering anything at all in my grade book. I stopped grading anything. No one in 3 years has ever asked to look at my grade book. I fly under the radar.
            I do have a test the kids take on reading, listening, and writing at the start, mid-year, and end-year. But it’s not graded. Purely to look at progress and I can use that to make comments in parent-teacher conferences and on report cards.
            When I hear teachers hung up on giving a half point or full point for an answer on a test (like I overheard yesterday), I realize how many teachers believe grades actually mean something. They don’t. It was Laurie who said to us in Maine 2 years ago that when we give a kid a grade we need to know we are giving them a judgment.

          2. I think the reality is that most teachers work under parameters and don’t come close to having the autonomy expressed by Ben and Eric.
            Perhaps that’s why more teachers aren’t teaching CI…it conflicts with certain models in education, assessment at the forefront, that admin, department leaders, and parents expect or demand.
            Assessment is my thing. I think grades CAN mean something under the right circumstances. Mixing Quick Quizzes and Performance Tasks (like I’m required to do) is a bad idea, and grades then mean nothing.
            Again, I think we all experience very, very different realities.

          3. Totally right. I have way more autonomy than others.
            But a final course grade is a number. It’s reducing all these things to a number. What does that number tell you? Bob is a 90. 90 whats? What does a grade represent? There’s no agreed upon definition – behavior, growth, achievement, work ethic, etc. ? And what does the number/letter tell a family about a students’ strengths and weaknesses?
            And then there’s SLA-specific challenges to grading. People acquire at different rates and non-native like language use is part of the process. Sometimes you have to get worse before you get better (U-shaped learning curve). There are all kinds of sequences and stages that a teacher really is not qualified, nor has the time, to analyze. It’s like giving an A to the babies who start talking first in their L1 when everyone will eventually talk and become fluent. And then to reduce it all to a number ??
            This is why I prefer a test with equivalent forms (so that different forms of the same content can be given at different points in the year) designed to spread students out and that will allow them plenty of room for improvement (without a ceiling effect, i.e. everyone scores well, so you can’t distinguish those at the upper end). This is like proficiency testing. But much more valuable than a number or letter grade are the comments on the language use – fluency, accuracy, and complexity. Being able to compare the kids (percentiles) and also measure their progress. But again, for this to even come close to being meaningful, then you need valid and reliable tests. A teacher-made test would usually fail both those criteria and I bet most teachers don’t even understand those terms nor know how to check if the test meets those criteria.

          4. These are some reasons I like the quick quizzes as part of the students’ grades… I believe a quick quiz is to some degree a measure of the students’ disposition to do those things which increase acquisition of language. (That is, that the student listens, looks, responds with short answers and requests for clarification, avoids talking off-task, gets into the content of the class instead of daydreaming, etc. Since the quiz is about what was just discussed and/or read, it seems to equalize the likelihood of a higher score even for a slower processing student who needs more reps and time for strong output to occur naturally.)
            So, if students have high scores on the quick quizzes, it (to some degree, I think,) shows that acquisition is, over time, increasing. I think it rewards those who engage in the class. (It’s still artificial, I realize, but I feel it’s more of a grade on the process, which I prefer.)

          5. My quick quizzes have a front and a back. On the front, space for 5 or 10 yes/no answers. On the back, a quick survey of their interpersonal communication:
            Listen to Understand: Always/Sometimes/Never
            Respond in Spanish: Always/Sometimes/Never (I’m thinking that next year this will change to SHOW Understanding to encompass response/clarification requests)
            Contain Urge to Speak English: Always/Sometimes/Never
            I record two grades per quiz. The Interpersonal grade is worth 15 points total (5 pts. for each Always, 3 for each Sometimes, and 1 for each Never). That coupled with a 5 point quiz means that if a student regularly is not on their game, their grade will suffer tremendously. I don’t find that quick quizzes make my class’s grades meaningless.
            I think where you see more signs of acquisition is on the free writes. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of my 8th graders’ writing on their finals this year, and will be posting some samples on my blog later today.

          6. I agree! I never realized how terrible I was until this TPRS website opened my eyes!! I used to take off points for missing accents, points for accents in the wrong place, points for misspelled words, points for this, points for that…! Who cares! As long as they are able to put down words on paper and able to communicate, who cares! It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. I see this first hand with my five year old daughter. I only speak Italian to her so she is bilingual. She can say anything she wants in Italian…BUT, she STILL doesn’t put the right ending of the verb for the first person singular, among other mistakes. However, I still understand her! She is still speaking the language! This is also proof of how long it could naturally take someone to perfect grammar…years!! So, it’s okay if our students don’t conjugate perfectly. It will all work itself out…with years and years of more CI!

  9. Susan said:
    …conjugations divorced from communication are not for me or my students. I will hold out for a job that allows me to use CI or I will indulge myself volunteering to teach. I am lucky to be in the position of supplemental income instead of primary income. I love teaching because of TPRS. It saved my career and I won’t turn my back on it….
    This is an extremely powerful and clear bell ringer of a statement.
    She implies that it is not safe mentally to go into a building where traditionalists still rule the thinking. This is a caution to anyone who due to the need for primary income must stay in buildings where, as Susan says:
    …now everyone tries to control everyone else….
    What Susan wrote is a very accurate version of what happened, and points up the dangers of rubbing shoulders in departments that have not yet moved their thinking into the 21st century. It’s dangerous being attacked and attacking. That’s why this group is private. Those people who think what we do is hogwash are dangerous to us and our mental health. I don’t even want to think about the ruined careers over all those years since the 1990’s, just because someone tried something new.

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Here we are in mid May and my Ss are sick of my dang voice. Or is it me that’s sick of my dang voice? Prolly both. Anyway, I can’t do quizzes, really, since I teach wee ones, but reading in 3rd and 4th is tremendously helpful for easing the energy drain, so I’m hoping to create more stories for my FVR shelf, and I’m hoping more age-appropriate novels like Brandon Wants a Dog come out soon. Other than Isabela (which I don’t love), there’s not much out there in terms of novels for early elementary.
    I think I need to have templates for Ben’s Bail Out moves ready to go for fall, so that I PLAN & use them more regularly & purposefully. They provide the novelty and brain reset (and input!) without the constant talking. My over-the-ear microphone has made a world of difference, too. I piloted it, and now several colleagues are using it to save their voices. It’s less tiring -not having to project your voice.
    Newsflash: The exhaustion we feel is NORMAL. It’s kinda like having a baby – we forget how we feel at this point in the year – the Ss seem disinterested and naughty; we (I) feel boring and irritable; everyone is overwhelmed as they hurtle to the finish line. Then we get excited to do it AGAIN!
    Don’t forget how much of ourselves we give in this work. It feeds our soul and our Ss, but it can take its toll.
    This PLC has been a wonderful salve for me! Thanks to all the thoughtful members, and especially to Ben.

    1. Michael Coxon

      I second that THANK YOU to Ben!!!!!
      All the work and thought that is put into this site for the benefit of the members has been GREAT!

    2. “Newsflash: The exhaustion we feel is NORMAL.”
      Ours and our students’. 180 days of the same people same class same time same (for the most part) procedure… that’s a whole lot of the same. Even as much as we make class fresh and student-driven, it is hard to overcome the monotony of school. I may not be teaching if I was doing the 180 days/year for 55 minutes. Very wearing. Perhaps more wearing to those of us who crave novelty and creativity in life.
      On this topic… I just got an email from a friend who went to visit a private Waldorf high school in Viroqua, WI, a town of about 5000. I understand private schools have freedoms public schools do not seem to have. But, here’s part of what she said.
      “We found out lots of information about how they schedule their days and divide the year into three week blocks, with breaks here and there like “theme week,” spring intensives, senior projects, and week-long camping trips and cross-country expeditions.”
      I think kids need breaks from subjects, especially if they expressly prefer the breaks. As Plato observed, forced learning does not take by the mind, or something to that affect.
      But, What would happen to kids’ language development if they had breaks thrown in their studies? I mean, long breaks, enough to regrow some intrinsic desire to be there? I don’t know, but in my experience, when my kids have Spanish 1 with me for a semester block class, and then not again for an entire calendar year (yeah, strange schedule), the losses are not even noticeable to me. Anything that may have been “lost” is regained quite rapidly. I think this has to do with the nature of acquisition vs learning. Have others had similar or opposite experiences with students who’ve had a long break in their CI diet?
      I think this would be a helpful action-research project. As Eric and I were discussing a while back, the studies (from CARLA I think) that show superior results from year-long study vs semester block study were likely using tests that measure learned competence vs acquired competence, the opposite of what we try to measure.

      1. Hey Jim – I was just thinking about this today! this is our first year on the A/B yearlong schedule. Previously we were on the every day semester block – and I would end up not seeing kids for a full calendar year too. I can’t give you anecdotal evidence of their gains because our “curriculum” and scheduling was so helter skelter for several years.
        But, it hit me today how exhausted we ALL are! Mid quarter progress grades were due in this morning, the seniors’ last day is next week, and nobody wants to be in school anymore. I practically had a mutiny on my hands today over a project that was due last week, which I introduced the beginning of april. (I hate projects!) I’ve given this project before for many years (tweaked each year) and have NEVER gotten a complaint! but that was when they started the class fresh in January/early Feb. Now I think the kids are just burned out. I’m trying to figure out how to salvage the rest of the year! Any ideas?

      2. Jim you said:
        …as Plato observed, forced learning does not take by the mind, or something to that effect….
        On that topic of NO FORCING, the ancient Greek words for education/culture (paideia), play (paidia), and children (paides) all have the same root.
        Here is a remarkable conversation in Plato’s Republic between Socrates and Plato’s brother, Glaucon:
        “Well, then,” Socrates begins, “the study of calculation and geometry, and all the preparatory education required for dialectic, must be put before them as children and the instruction must not be given the aspect of a compulsion to learn.”
        “Why not?” asks Glaucon.
        “Because the free man ought not to learn any study slavishly. Forced labors performed by the body don’t make the body any worse, but no forced study abides in the soul.”
        “Therefore, you best of men, don’t use force in training the children in the subjects, but rather play. In that way can you better discern toward what each is naturally directed.”
        (Of course, this is not true for foreign languages, if we are to listen to the Helena Curtains of the world. Boy do Alisa and I have something for this PLC on dear Helena, if we can get this queue unblocked a bit.)

  11. Diane you and Alisa easily and with no exaggeration do the work of ten teachers. Writing those novels is hard. Every word has to be chosen in advance and then presented in the correct order. But I certainly agree we need more of them. Surely someone in our group can write one. We can pilot it here and tweak it as a group and over time have some things for really young kids. I’m just full of ideas! But I also wasn’t in a classroom this year, so I forget how stinky May can get.

    1. How about story books instead? Like a series of stories based on what actually was discussed in classes which teachers might have already. Smooth them together and maybe there’s a short, elementary-level book?
      My brain is feeling the end of the school year and starting to think about things I’d rather be doing. Today is my last with classes, this is it! Exams, graduation, teacher meetings, done June 2. I really look forward to the break. But I might be one of the first back at school in August, so being done early is balanced out.

  12. Bryan Whitney

    What if we wrote a novel (or several novels) together? (Or at least shared different ideas to get them going individually that we could mix and match- it may be too difficult to do it all as a group, but it could be interesting.) We could get it going by choosing a particular level (First year beginners, elementary appropriate, for example) and then sharing ideas. We could then add ideas to the stories as they progress.
    This could at least get some brainstorming going- and it would be cooperative. If someone then wanted to run with a particular idea to create a full novel they would have permission to do so.

  13. Well send me at a sample, Bryan.
    Now how do we do this? And why? Let’s answer the why first.
    My thinking is that even Brandon Wants a Dog is too complex. We need one simpler than that. My personal thinking on novels is that those used at level 1 should really be used at level 2 and so on. Simpler, shorter novels.
    (Story books in my view, Diane, will always be easiest to create when they reflect the individual class. But that’s just my opinion.)
    But what about a novel simpler than Brandon Wants a Dog? One that has only one very simple plot with a very small group of compelling characters in each novel.
    Can we do it as a group? Probably not. Somebody just has to sit down and write it. We can use the DPS 100 word frequency list maybe:
    Pobre Ana has 300 words, far too many.
    Maybe it’s impossible. That’s what I like about our group. We talk about doing impossible things. That’s the first step in actually doing them.

    1. I might mean closer to the same thing you do, Ben, by story books — what I mean is very basic language, continuing characters, but no necessity to read the whole thing consecutively as if it were a novel. Not really publishing class stories directly – I agree those don’t transfer well to other classes.
      So instead of a 100-page novel that is one story, you have (ex) 10 10-page stories. Same lead characters for continuity, but simple, simple language is hard to use to create a 100-page story about the same people. Or… almost like a yearbook of characters with a 10-page story about each of them. 10 high school students? Hit a bunch of demographics, include several in the US and several in other countries? Overlapping, simple language but variety of details. Almost like a written version of the Star of the Week, using fictional characters. Or real ones? Photos would be cool. I’m just thinking off the top of my head.
      Teaching Chinese requires us to think about how to create something as interesting as possible with as little new language as possible. I like that kind of challenge a lot.

  14. Yes and I will share it here and if it is good we can publish it and you will make a million dollars. I once approached Blaine in Kansas City, whenever that was (2006?) and asked him how many copies of Pobre Ana, which he was holding in his hand, he had sold. He said 500,000. And that was in 2006. The reason is that nothing like those readers ever existed and so everyone bought them whether they did TPRS or not and they bought each of them in sets of 35. There is money in this.
    Here is the link (and it is on the Primers section above as well if this scrolls out before you can print it). I just printed it an hour ago. I would love to write one. I just don’t have the talent, though. It takes a certain kind of mind.
    Diana is always telling me that the one thing we need the most right now in this way of teaching is high quality simple short novels.

  15. I would like to take a shot at writing a short novel too! We can’t have too many, right? 🙂 It would be great if we had a few simple novels that we could use in level 1 in the beginning of the year! I have only taught level 3 as a CI teacher, but I may be teaching a level 1 in the fall and would love to have something! Aside from PQA and our short written stories that we read based upon our TPRS oral stories, novels have been a big part of the school year. However, in the summer when I was looking for something I didn’t feel like I had a huge selection. I am happy with the choices I made but now I am already looking ahead to next year!

  16. Alisa Shapiro

    Would we think like Carol G and consider a universal storyline (a kid wants a dog; parents say ‘no’; he sneaks one in; the fun begins); or would we look to our students’ interest cards and try to wrangle a home run that way; or would we try to set a story in a TL-speaking place, as others have done? So many options. I was thinking of something like Frog and Toad (Arnold Loebel) which are lil self contained episodes – unrelated in plot – several in any one book. Books are sold individually or in sets…by reading more stories, you get to know the characters and their setting better…these are great for grades 1-2 English. Would this format work, or would we need a plot- driven story like most of the leveled readers? Maybe any of the above would be great – because we’d bring so much to it via PQA and our other strategies!!
    BTW my son is finishing his freshman yr in HS. In Honors Spanish 2 they read Casi se Muere & Pobre Ana Bailó Tango (both by Blaine). Neither underwent any T/CI treatment – they were presented like a chapter from a textbook with long vocab lists & verb study, never read in-class, only silent worksheet time. He said they were horrendously boring. Not a lick of drama, no props, drawing, retells, NADA. Dry, dry, dry. Talk about unintended consequences!!
    Now for sophomore year he has to read Los Ojos de Carmen (Ray) and complete a 10-pg packet over the summer!! Yay!! He told me,’ I’d drop Spanish – it’s so useless and boring- and take another theater class if you weren’t a language teacher…:{‘

  17. If I did a book it would be about some compelling kid in middle school who always got into different kinds of scrapes that reflected some human foible, one in each book. That’s how Molière did it and it worked pretty well for him.

  18. Alisa Shapiro

    Have at it! Start fleshing it out right here! I’ll bet your literary creativity will inspire so many great things…AGAIN!! Who is the kid, what the scrape, and what’s his/her foible?

  19. Alisa the kid would have to be developed more than Ana, but we don’t have a wide enough vocabulary yet to just describe the kid. Like Brandon, we would have to reveal character traits only through very simple actions.
    The scrape would have to originate from one strong flaw/foible, like selfishness, and it would have to dominate every chapter. I would think four or five chapters of just one or two pages each to bring the foible to a head, and then resolution. Maybe a thirty page book, much simpler than what we have. If we could get just one book around one foible, others would follow easily.
    How old should the kid be?
    I don’t think the events should take place in a school or go near one. Schools automatically shut down kids imaginations, past a certain age. They also shut down teachers’ imaginations, which is maybe why we don’t have any books. But they can’t take place in fantasy worlds either because our text has to be ultra simple.
    Overall, simplicity must dominate. Is it possible?

  20. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    BTW Brandon…Dog (BB Dog) has ‘fewer than 140 hi-frequency words in Spanish. It contains a manageable amount of vocabulary and numerous cognates,…making it an ideal first read for beginning language students.’ (Author’s note to reader)
    If we want to pare down/simplify further for new books, how many words do we aim for?
    My elem colleagues and I decided to use the BB Dog teachers guide to rewrite our 3rd grade curricular KUDs (Knows, Understands, Does) that our district requires. The whole beginning of the year will be dedicated to those structures…we will do /write lotsa embedded readings before we get to the novel. Then we’ll use textivate and the fab T guide to sail out in Spring… It’s comforting to have the structures – however loosely- and incorporate them purposefully during other texts…and helpful as I will have 39 classes (13 groups across 4 grades) again next year.

    1. 39 classes?!! Geez.
      Below are a couple thoughts I had about novel-writing that I jotted down last night. They come from my explorations with a novel I started writing a few years back with Thomas Young, and then he switched to teaching choir and left if to me and I’ve added a couple chapters but it’s still mostly unfinished. The premise and layout is kind of figured out in my head. But the cultural/geographical/temporal details are still up in the air. I’d be happy to share for others to read to get ideas. I’ve had positive feedback from students after reading the first couple chapters. Well, here are my thoughts about novel-writing. And if I should copy the novel as well, I can do that. The more the better, and the more we have the better the novels will become! I think they’re already getting SO MUCH better.

      Illustrations on every page. Sometimes multiple illustrations on one page. And not so much text. How did Laurie say it… the white space on the page is like taking a reading breath…?
      “Choose your own adventure” would be way cool!
      Avoid the formulaic “Paco is a boy. He is a tall boy. He has two sisters. Their names are Carla and Paula….” Catch interest right away with action. Or compelling and vivid description.
      Instead of footnotes for introducing less frequent vocabulary items, have the English twexted within the page. This could be only for words above the top 100 or 200 and non-cognates, thereby minimizing twexted print while exponentially increasing the speed at which the reader is able to progress in the reading. These non-frequent (i.e. beyond top 100 or 200 or 500, possibly set by level) words eventually get phased out after an average number of reps required for sight acquisition.
      Jokes within the story. Simple funny jokes. Illustrated jokes. Something to get the dopamine rolling as much as possible during reading. 5 jokes in one novel.

      1. Robert Harrell

        Avoid the formulaic “Paco is a boy. He is a tall boy. He has two sisters. Their names are Carla and Paula….” Catch interest right away with action. Or compelling and vivid description.
        I agree with Jim on this. It is one of the weaknesses of Blaine’s books. In the classroom it isn’t – at least at first – as distracting when we use this formula to establish the character. Even then, though, it wears after a while when every story starts with describing the main character. For the first few stories it provides a lot of repetitions of these descriptors, but then we need to start doing less of it in order to get repetitions of other important words. In a book, beginning this way can be deadly. That’s why I made the conscious decision to begin my books in medias res rather than with a descriptive prologue to the action.

        1. Amen to that. I used to teach with Blaine Ray’s novels, especially “Patricia va a California” and “Mi propio auto.” And kids would eventually get into the discussibility of the evil Debbie Martin or Ben’s selfish whininess. But man, those first couple chapters are deadly boring. I’ve been replacing them over time with books from TPRS Publishing, like “Robo en la noche” and “Noches misteriosas en Granada” that have a little more humor, action, and suspense. I mean, yes, “Noches misteriosas” comes off at first like any other beginner-level novel, with the endless descriptions of how perfect the main character’s life is, but then in the first chapter, BAM! His girlfriend breaks up with him on Facebook! My kids loved that, especially since he was set up as having things so good. Those books seem less baby-ish as a result.

          1. David Sceggel

            my kids also love the break up on facebook en Noches Misteriosas. They love the age difference relationship in Robo en la Noche, they love the betrayal scene in Piratas, they love the Bob Barker/Nathaniel jokes in Los Bakers. They even love the cheap dad in Pobre Ana.
            So for future novels, they should have some relationship turmoil, and some goofy humor.

  21. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Well down here at elementary my Ss LOVE the pee and poop in Brandon. The story is so spot on for them.
    They love that he’s a nice kid like them whose lil secret (he brought home a dog without permission) snowballs into his absurd doctor’s report: “Brandon peed and pooped on the floor and makes dog noises…”
    So relatability and slapstick or potty/juvenile humor is high on my list! I need protagonists at my kids’ age level – Brandon’s about to turn 9 – just like 3rd graders…even preteen humor is too old.

    1. Robert Harrell

      I once read that the ideal protagonist is about 1 year older than the target audience. That way they can relate to the character and still have something to “aspire to”. Same age also works because students can identify with the character.

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