Transitioning to CI in Mid-Year

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42 thoughts on “Transitioning to CI in Mid-Year”

  1. In my opinion, don’t do it. Don’t change kids from one method to another even between years. They can’t handle it and they don’t like it. They often think that there is only one way to do something and they cling to that one way. It can also give them the sense that you don’t know what you are doing and lose confidence in you. Of course, you know what you are doing and there are many ways to do something. Some ways are better than others, but as we know a great teacher is one who continually tries to get better.

    Last year, I got hammered really hard for changing. The kids couldn’t do it and it filtered down to my younger classes. Thankfully, that hatefulness is gone now, but it was brutal. I can only recommend starting fresh with Level I. This will keep you sane and safe.


  2. I am a newish teacher and new to CI. I had my current 8th graders as 7th graders last year. I told them that this year we were going to do things differently and I definitely got push back. I should have done it subtly as Ben says in this post.

    What I think did help me is that I have a small handful of students in each of my 8th grade classes who I seem to really connect with and who have really connected with French. I kept checking in with them about how the new methods were going because I knew I would get positive feedback, which helped me feel confident pushing forward. With them on my side, even though there were students who were reluctant, I was able to do the techniques without them falling totally flat, and little by little we are winning over the class together. It is better now than it was in September for sure, but it is because the students who are going with it are winning over the ones who are reluctant. So I guess my advice would be to try to get some student ambassadors on your side!

    1. I agree with Ben that we have to get experience and as much of it as we possibly can. Don’t tell them that you are making changes. Just do it. When you tell them, that is like saying that they should be on the look out because you are changing the rules. Kids don’t care about learning. They care about grades. It’s not their fault. It is the system. Start doing some CI and increase it over the rest of the year. Keep it on the DL. I can tell you that if you announce changes, everyone resists. Take it slow. Keyword is SLOW!

      This can get quite vicious because parents and kids will come after you. I had parents calling, poorly timed evaluations by admins trying to find things wrong. It was a living hell. I still have these same kids and they are still a pain in the butt.

      Be careful! Protect yourself and your mental health!

    2. I would like to say one other thing. I was so proud to be the teacher of the Month at that time. Thank you so much. It meant the world to me! Many of you recognized my efforts and applauded me for them. Thank you! I needed it desperately and I continue to forge ahead today because of the support and like-mindedness that I find here.

  3. After going to a Blaine Ray conference over the summer I changed over to CI with a Spanish 2 the following Fall. They had had me for Spanish 1 so I just explained to them (and let my excitement for the method spill out) my first passion for teaching Spanish was to help students be able to communicate in Spanish but I’ve tried the “grammar, grammar, vocab, vocab” way and it just doesn’t work. I explained to them how the class was going to work and they bought into it. They were mostly excited that they didn’t have to take anymore notes, vocab list would be shorter, etc. I LOOOOVE grammar so my notes were always detailed.

    I may be the fish going against the crowd here but I say go for it, just set it up and explain to them your reasoning for changing and explain how the whole process will work. I think if they see your passion those who also want to learn to communicate will adopt it and those who are just there because they have to be will like it because it means less work (notes, vocab lists, etc.) for them. Just make sure you remind those students all they have to do is follow the jGR every day.

    That first year I really stank at using the CI method (I feel like I still lack A LOT of skills in teaching it) but my students were really supportive. Again, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it meant they didn’t have to take any more notes and the vocabulary “list” were shorter and the stories were personalized and partly because through the whole process I was honest with them, “Gosh, I really messed up yesterday. I got so into it that I just gave you way too many vocabulary words. I’m so sorry but wow you guys were keeping up and giving great suggestions.”

    Hope that helps!

  4. At this point, I might even pitch it as… “The purpose of the first quarter of the year was to build a strong foundation. Now, the emphasis will be on (Insert: explanation of jGR, listening/reading with intent to understand, etc.).” We know, of course, that this is not the right way of doing things – in a purely CI class, that “foundation” would not be established beforehand, but rather it would form part of the process of acquisition and creating an implicit system. However, if presented in this way, it makes it look like you had it planned this way all along, which I think makes a big difference for both you and the students. The LAST thing I would do is say, “We’re going to try something new!” I would just act as if this is the normal progression. I know there are some PLC members believe strongly in the importance of explaining the acquisition process to students, but I have never been successful with this (maybe I’m not explaining in kid-friendly terms?). When I try, it frustrates me…and then I say to myself, “If my own colleagues can’t understand it, how will these kids!?”

  5. If you change horses midstream, do it subtly as others have mentioned. Embed CI lessons in with other activities. Do you normally use a textbook that has an accompanying video series or readings? Those would be perfect for CI. Turn the video into a MovieTalk. Turn the reading into a translate/discuss. If your series has a TPRS supplement, even better. Throw in one of the more interesting stories or readings as an activity to shake things up. There are even ways to make storytelling more worksheet-y for students who are used to that: Think fill-in the blanks, word choices, scrambled sentences, sequencing activities. Try what you think they’ll be comfortable with, knowing that you can always bail out to the textbook style as needed.

    As far as explaining acquisition, I think that depends on your population. I have a stock speech at the beginning of every year asking students to show me their English textbook from when they were a baby. If they don’t have one, how did they learn to talk? Then I tell them that it is my job to speak Spanish in a way that they can understand, and it is their job to listen and take whatever notes they want to keep, but that I do not use a book. It’s acquisition theory couched in terms of the classroom norms, and it works for my kids. But I would avoid that discussion in the middle of the year if I were changing things up.

    1. Latrina, the main skill from a nuts-and-bolts perspective to develop right now is slow circling. Do you know what circling is? If not, be sure to ask questions here or on the forum.

      If you are familiar with circling, you’ll know you can get plenty of practice circling on class readings. There is no need to begin stories or anything like that if the group of kids you have this year won’t take the transition. All you need is the readings from your textbook to being developing your skills with circling and then next year you can dive in with more personalization and all that.

      “Reading Option A” is a huge player in my classroom when we do readings together. Check out the most recent version here:

      Keep us updated! 🙂

  6. My experience was transitioning, now that I realize what I was doing in retrospect (!):

    – 2 years from first TPRS conference where I tried out methods in bits: personalization, involving student ideas, speaking more in L2 & checking for comprehension, more look & discuss-like things, more stories.
    – 1 year starting a level 1 class entirely CI, and partially CI at all other (returning student) levels. LOVED CI, very successful students, and I wanted to go full-in.
    – Following year, all CI in all classes. Felt like a first-year teacher all over again. Did not explain to students until pushback from oldest 2 classes. Oldest class won over after a few weeks. Second-oldest class, which had a few strong personalities anyway, taught me how little they could retain from anything but CI so I had to learn to simplify & go slower. They are now on board with CI methods at least 80% (so isn’t that the rule of thumb for continuing, haha?).

    To me, I was the one unwilling to teach in the old way anymore. And I had a HORRIBLE textbook with my second-oldest class. No way I wanted to do that for a period a day. So in my case, mental health for me meant finding CI methods that those unhappy, complaining children would accept. This PLC made that possible and then some!

    This year has been the best so far.

  7. I can’t say one way or the other. I started off fresh with TPRS at the beginning of the year 5 years ago. The only students I’ve had to pull teeth with were any students who had a non-CI class the year before. It is important to keep them “happy” if they are used to doing it one way, or you will lose cred with the younger kids who listen to the older kids. Unless you think you have the relationship trust with a core group of students who you know will allow you to do it differently, I say take it real slow, let it be an exploratory type thing for you and your students, don’t call note to it, and remember there are political sacrifices one must make in our game. CI will prevail in short time, if we don’t get too hurried about it.

    1. Yes, Jim, the kids who never seem to get it are the ones who come in as freshmen and usually get into level 2. They have been traditionally trained and are usually the high achievers. Some never buy in, but the ones who are honest will say that they have learned far more in our CI classroom than they ever learned in the traditional / worksheet classroom. The Spanish 3 teacher comes in my room 8th period. He is pulling his hair out with that group and they are openly critical and hostile. I often wait with them until he arrives and it is a difficult few minutes since I always have to ask them to not criticize. It’s really sad.

  8. I started CI with one class of beginners and one of level 2s who’d had The Grammar Grind the year before. It was Feb, when semester 2 started, not mid-year. (we are on semester system– kids take 4 classes sept-jan and 4 more feb-june). No probs with either– the level 2s LOVED the much less hwk, funny stories, and little demand for output, while the beginners didn’t know any better 😉 and liked it anyway (90% retention).

    My colleague Leanda started TPRS with her french 10s (level 3) in Sept, and it’s gone swimmingly. Actually it blows my mind what her kids can do.

    I am echoing Erica: go for it. BUT– explain the method, let them know, no hwk for awhile, do your 80/80 exit quizzes (should be very easy), and reassure them that although it seems weird initially, they will pick up a fair bit and it will be easy. Also be prepared to answer parental and admin questions (as my colleague Sarah-Beth has had to)– thanks Ben etc for the primers.

  9. I too began in bits, first making some embedded powerpoints with pics, then having students contribute details to a story–all based on the structures in our textbook. Just testing the waters, for myself and for the students’ responses, which was overwhelmingly positive. At the same time, I was doing my homework on the method, reading Ben’s book, talking regularly with Bob and David (all of us were implementing CI cautiously around the same time), getting that moral support. AND I was checking in regularly with my admin, telling him what I was doing and why I was doing it, making sure he had my back. That is so essential, especially if you know you might get some blowback from parents, or even from fellow language teachers who might feel threatened.

    So I say, Go for it, but make sure your support structures are in place beforehand (admin, colleagues, friends, this PLC, etc.).

  10. I started with TPRS/CI in November last year, tossing away the textbook. I knew of only Carol Gaab, and TPRSpublishing then. I worked off of Gaab’s Cuentame textbook.

    Successes: the PQA and interactions in the L2 were good experiences for me and the students.

    Problems: I threw myself into the story-asking sessions without knowing how to do it well. Many students got left behind. Then, I made the gross error of relying on Gaab’s textbook material for the readings instead of typing up my own readings based on our class stories created in class. My students struggled significantly with the textbook (Cuéntame) readings, felt like failures, and pushed back. My administration did not like what I was doing.

    Advice: be careful about how you assess/ grade students (use the Interpersonal Communication Skills Rubric (jGR)), type your own readings based on class PQA / story sessions, and as James said, implement the Reading Option A. Ben and his team of Pros on this blog have done an excellent job fine-tuning this Reading Option A.

    Good luck! I say go for it, slowly, little-by-little so you implement only what you have a good understanding of.

  11. leigh anne munoz

    Gosh — what good answers to a very complex question.

    If your students are the savvy negotiators mine are, you could try to negotiate a trial period so that they feel like they have some control, but within which you have some freedom to grow in the direction that you feel you need to go.

    If your students believe that they have low risk and that their grades won’t suffer, they may let you go for it! On the other hand, if you are new to your job, you should really be careful, regardless.

    There are many ways to change — you know your students’ vulnerabilities, as well as your own.

    We don’t know much about your situation, so if you feel like sharing, please do. Some of us have had harrowing experiences, some of us have happily been encouraged and most of us have had experiences that fall somewhere in between the two extremes.

    I can say that I fell into the middle with my transition, but that somewhere along the line I became a threat to my colleagues and at year 6 had to make a big shift in order to keep my academic freedom to use TPRS.

    Anyway, good luck! Keep yourself safe and be wise.

  12. I am perhaps coming from a different perspective–I only teach Spanish II; a different teacher teaches Spanish I (I think Jen has this same situation). If I didn’t “change horses,” I’d never get to teach via CI at all.

    Positive student word-of-mouth is what has saved me. The first year was rough, the second year was better, and now with my third year at the same school, they know what to expect. My sophomores told the Freshman that Spanish is fun and so they come in with positive attitudes. It’s not ideal–I taught middle-schoolers before who had no previous experience and that was easier–but it’s doable.

    Now, my seniors are another story all together. I’ve given up on the 90% TL with them because I just don’t have the energy to fight them all the time.

    We do what we gotta to do to stay sane.

  13. Every situation is unique. Once you accept that CI is the only way to truly acquire a language, I think you do what you need to do to TCI. Already having a positive relationship with the students surely helps any transition. But to reiterate others, and add some more, you make the transition to CI:

    – because traditional methodologies are painful for all parties vs. TCI is the path of pleasure
    – for the sake of the teacher’s mental health (your prep time diminishes drastically)
    – to start practicing the TCI skills
    – to improve engagement, discipline, attitude, success (read: improve proficiency and retention)
    – because students won’t need all the homework, worksheets, and tests (kids love less work and less studying and the teacher spends minimal time grading)
    – because TCI/TPRS is a humanistic approach
    – because your students will fall in love with TCI, i.e. they will love talking about themselves, will love coming up with silly stories, and will love MovieTalks
    – because students become the biggest advocates for TCI

    It is hard for me to imagine the majority of students preferring to continue in a grammar-book classroom, except for the fact that there is so much use of English. Reactions to transitioning may depend on the age of the student and how many years that student has been in a more traditionally taught class. I teach grades 3-8 and I transitioned mid-year last year and my students were nothing but grateful. I sent home a letter mid-year to the parents explaining how class was now going to work and how students were going to be graded. Although students, parents, and admin knew nothing about TPRS, the expectations on my program were already set so low from years of having traditional teachers that once I transitioned being praised by one or more of those aforementioned parties has become a weekly, if not daily event. At first, my kids asked to play the games and watch the videos their previous teachers used, but I think everyone realized they hadn’t acquired much Spanish. It wasn’t hard for me to put 2 and 2 together for them so the students could see that the old approach wasn’t effective. If you are pitching this to the kids, tell them under the new approach they are no longer going to study, make and memorize flashcards, and spend hours on homework. Essentially, you tell them you don’t want them to learn. You want them to acquire.

    I love how the teacher-student dynamic changes in a TCI class. I think it is very important to let kids know that you the teacher are still learning and even admitting that you have come across a better way to teach. You have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to get the kids to play on your team and part of that is asking for their help so that you can get better at teaching via TCI. I have a big, visual model of the acquisition process hanging on the front wall of the classroom (see my website for the image: and I talk about it at the beginning of the year and refer to it as needed. Remember that one of the main goals of a language classroom is to turn the students into autonomous acquirers, which means showing them HOW to acquire. An honest conversation was good for me and my classes, but again, that may depend on the relationship you have with the kids. (In my opinion, traditional methods of teaching are a big cause of any strained relationships). Even with strained relationships, an honest heart-to-heart with the kids may be a big step to improving relationships.

    I recommend MovieTalk with a corresponding reading as a way to make the transition! It would be a great way for a beginning teacher to practice circling, slow, personalization, etc.

    1. Eric is there somewhere on this site we can highlight what you have on your site? That diagram you created about how we learn languages – not to mention the other stuff on there – is something I would like our PLC members to be able to see and use. But I don’t know where exactly to put it. Ideas?

      1. Of course! 🙂 I am all for free sharing of educational resources. In fact, I think my summer project is going to be to write some “TPRS novels” and put the books and the books-on-tape online for free download. I don’t want or need to make a profit and there is a HUGE need for more beginner, high-interest novels. Of the novels we currently have, at $6 a novel and $19 for the audio, that is too much money for a school budget to put into practice Krashen’s recommendation for a “Super Library.” I hope more people will follow my example and we can truly unleash the power of reading (and listening).

        Maybe you could reference my website and anyone else’s similar websites under the “Resources” tab? You are welcome to take only parts from my website that you think are a good fit for the PLC. My videos on the website are “unlisted,” but you can share the link and embed them anywhere you’d like. Click on the embedded YouTube playlist at the top of my website and it’ll take you to this year’s playlist of TCI videos. I recently added my “Magic Flag Trick” and will be soon adding 2 more demo videos:

        -asking a story with magic
        -the MovieTalk process

  14. I had a TOC recently and when I asked how it went, the kids said “it was hard–he used a lot of words we didn’t know and he made us guess.” When I checked the class log that my superstar (Rasna Dhillon-Bieber 😉 ) keeps, the new words were plentiful and not cognates. The kids also didn’t enjoy tha class that much.

    I saw this as telling me A) I am doing something right by staying in bounds and B) kids don’t like ambiguity etc. Anybody starting TPRS keep that in mind: you will have a much better time if the kids understand EVERYTHING, and you will get more done.

    If you have to explain things to Headz or Adminz or Grammar Grinderz, onenof TPRS’s selling points is that BECAUSE of the direct transaltion/no ambiguity thing that so scares some teachers, you can

    A) spend MUCH more time– as per ACTFL guidelines– in TL and

    B) kids will have MUCH more exposure to “real” language– meaningful sentences in meaningful comprehensible stories– than they would with games, worksheets, etc.

    Who could argue with that?


    1. This is of major importance:

      …kids don’t like ambiguity etc. Anybody starting TPRS keep that in mind: you will have a much better time if the kids understand EVERYTHING, and you will get more done….

      This point, along with using L2 almost exclusively, are points that we absolutely must remember if we are to be successful in this work. And those aren’t easy things to do, either one. But we have no options. We go slowly, we check for comprehension, we stay in bounds (that is what Chris is saying in the quote above) and we stay in L2, and if we do all of those things, we will know something.

  15. I agree that every situation is different. There are so many factors involved. For me it was sheer mental health that made me switch, not mid-year, but in April of 2011! I have never looked back. I did pretty much what Eric describes, heart-to heart with kids, explaining what the change was and why I was making it. It was very exciting for all of us and felt like a great adventure, and more importantly it was deeply liberating.

    I would love to say it has been smooth sailing. I teach both Spanish and French, and ironically, though Spanish is one of my native languages, I am having more success with the French students. This is because I get to have them for the first 2 years. So while I personally am much less fluent in the language, the consistency of having the group over a longer period is clearly superior than feeling more confident in the language but only having kids in a scattered pattern. For Spanish classes they have another teacher for level 1 then I get them for level 2 and they go back to her for level 3. While I do make a few inroads, it just doesn’t seem all that productive to have them for a single year sandwiched between 2 other years where they are doing something different and more output-focused. I am feeling done with this gig, though, so I am kind of marking time for a few months as I transition into …whatever the next step is for me. Shhhh…confidential 🙂

    Anyway, bottom line is weigh everything according to your mental health, since it does no good for anyone to be teaching from a suffering standpoint. I got great buy-in from my initial group, so that helped with momentum and energy and enthusiasm. Bummer is when the French students leave my class after 2 years and get to another teacher who is a lovely person and very eclectic and says stuff like “they are so bad with numbers” and “a lot of them bombed the irregular passe compose test.” It is really draining to me to know that nobody else in the building gets the unconscious nature of language acquisition. And they don’t seem to want to know about it.

    1. bad with numbers

      Hi Jen. I get students every year who have had a heavy focus on blank filling with very little of the class time using Spanish. They do not know numbers either. I know that the teacher(s) covered them, 1-31 in one lesson, multiples of 10 in another lesson, the hundreds in another lesson. But they do not seem to be integrated into three- and four-digit numbers. It is just another thing to throw into the mix.

      An organizational tool that I have employed for a long time is to assign each student a four-digit number which they put in a box in the upper-right hand corner. My purpose is twofold. It helps me keeps things in order. The first kid in alpha order has 1941, the next has 1942, etc. So the numerical order is the same order as alphabetical, but for me it is much faster to do numerical order than alphabetical order

      But I find that my kids do own and know a 4-digit number which is theirs for the year. This appears on any paper that is passed in. They also have to spell it out. (They earn a bonus point for correct spelling and can lose one for incorrect spelling. It is not very CI. But it is very “teach for June.” And it is theirs.

      At the end of the year my students have their number which is a structure (one thousand, nine hundred, forty and one). Other digit vocabulary can be plugged in to this structure.

      If a number is a structure, then we want them to know then we have to treat it like other structures. In Spanish there are radical changes which students need to hear and see them (sete/nta vs. siete, e>ie on the stressed syllable). Also, the numbers are multisyllabic and require for us to say them slowly enough for the kids to hear each of the syllables and process them.

      I wonder how well your/her students know their numbers seven months after they have “learned” them. That is the key we are not teaching for an exam.

      I have noticed that Blaine has three strategies with numbers. 1) He integrates numbers throughout his stories (teaching for June). 2) Numbers are a part of the bizarre/exaggerated interest factor (yes, there were 357 chickens in class that day). 3) As a result of being a detail the story the numbers are circled.

      In my own language learning experience, the hardest part of integrating numbers is that numbers are symbols which are not spelled out. So feeling lazy I slide over it until I get to more words. As a result, the number is registered in English. As a learner, I have to force myself to find out how native speakers express that symbol in their language.

      As a teacher, I have to lead my students through the process of assigning different words to that same symbol.

      One other trick: When I remember to, I use higher numbers for quizzes. Instead of calling out 1-10 the questions on an oral quiz, I might say “número veintiuno” (number 21).

  16. Wow! Thank you all so much for your feedback. I didn’t expect to get such a response for my question! I have read all of your comments and it has given me a lot to contemplate. There were a lot of acronyms and abbreviations used that I am not too familiar with, such as jGR and movie talk so I’ve got way more research to do. It all sounds so interesting and I want to try all of it. But after reading all the posts, I know I will have to tread carefully. The issue is that I’m going to have to do something different because the traditional way is not working for me or the students. I teach Spanish 2 at the high school level. I have over 200 students, around 37 per class. I have a mixture of students and abilities in all levels, from 9th all the way to 12th graders. Many of them hate Spanish and I feel as though I am to blame. I know this is not how we learn languages (we all do) but I still persist in doing it. I teach and reteach and reteach the material and students still are not passing the tests, and they are all multiple choice! My failure rate is over 30% and so I have to do something to make positive changes for them as well as myself. I have avoided the really nasty parents so far, but I know when grades come out in December I will be under attack. I do agree that it might be best not to tell them what I’m doing though. They are very resistant to trying new things. If anything I may just say “we are going to do another story like Billy y la Fuente de Agua.” That might work? I may just tell them the assignment, but not that it is “new”. There were many good ideas presented here. A lot of whether I can make this change has to do with teacher- student rapport. Although it’s not the best, I like to think it is better than last year. With the underclass men they are game for whatever, but the upperclassmen are the worst for me. So I may not be able to do this with them? I really liked how many suggested doing a few things while I am doing my research. I don’t want to get more overwhelmed than I already am. I really appreciate all the first hand experiences as well. It has given me perspective and courage. And I know I will need to be careful and selective about what I do. I probably won’t start this semester as it is already pretty much over, but I am going to try next semester. If it doesn’t work at least I can say I really tried. I did do a story at the beginning of the year so the idea isn’t completely foreign to them. I’m ready for a positive change and with all this support I feel confident that I’m moving in the right direction. Once again, thank you for your many responses and suggestions. Please forgive me if I rambled in this post. I’m new to blog posting. In fact this is my first post on a blog ever!



    1. Latrina,

      Do you know how to find out what the acronyms mean? There is a link called “Acronyms” in the bar along the top of the page. Here it is for your convenience:

      And do you know how to use the categories on the right hand side bar to find more information about each topic? Sorry for so many questions! I just want to make sure you know how to use all these tools to get the info you need.

      1. Hi James!

        Thanks for the link to the acronyms! I just look for the name in the table on the right hand side of the page, right? That’s what I’ve been doing so far?

    2. Hi Latrina,

      This is a great community of teachers & there is a lot of support available here! I think we’ll all appreciate hearing what you do and how things go.

      One further suggestion: don’t feel that your first step must be stories in the sense of TPRS, student actors, real-time student suggestions, unless that really was a great experience when you did it earlier in the year. Especially when I was new, what went smoothly and was yet personalizable:
      – Look & Discuss (Then add some questions about the kids’ — encouraging them to answer creatively and not necessarily with real information — to compare to what’s on screen, and you’re highly personalized.)
      – Read & Discuss (Another nice, highly structured activity, and if you again ask questions about the kids you’re personalizing again. Also, I find Read & Discuss a nice opportunity to practice circling. You can point to the answer. You can say, “I’m going to ask you a bazillion questions, hopefully, and I want to hear everyone answer together.”)
      – Listen & Draw (Great for getting SLOW because they are drawing a scene you describe. They ask for repetitions, which is wonderful. Plus, lots of potential for use of the student sketches afterwards!)
      – Read & have them pull out Essential Sentences, then illustrate in comic strip panels/Powerpoint with each sentence they selected as a caption.
      – One Word Images and short scenes with an actor seated up front. A great opportunity to practice asking for student input with the sense of a need to develop a story out of it. I always like these better than class period-long stories. I think a lot of the reason is my students are young & everyone wants to act.

      If I were recommending things to use to begin CI instruction, those would be the most foolproof from my experience. High enough structure for the teacher to feel secure, yet enough opportunity for personalizing without the sometimes uncontrolled feel of stories with actors created live.

  17. Numbers are so easy.

    A) do what Blaine does– put ’em randomly in stories. They have the effect of making weird stuff “concrete.”

    B) every day at start of class, circle the date for like 40 sec. You will by June have circled months, days and #s 1-31 a zillion times. “Is it Mon or Tues? Right, it’s Tues. Is it the 31 or the 30?” Throw in some mistakes 😉

    I’m gonna write up my start-up routine and send to Ben– amazing how well it works and how much I cover over the year.

    1. Look forward to seeing it, Chris. You reminded me that I review number based things regularly, although not daily: time/date/ birthdays and How old are you now? I am starting to circle those items more, but could use some improvement. (I originally thought it was about circling stories. I am learning that it is about circling everything.)

      My start-up routine is not exactly robust. But it is changing: About five years ago, I consciously committed myself to officially starting every class with “Good morning/afternoon. How are you all?, etc.” I guess they sensed that it wasn’t just a routine and whenever I forgot to start the class in this way they reminded me with a friendly scolding voice, “Señor, Buenos dias.” It’s a different type of SLOW. It’s a stop and smell the roses type of SLOW. It’s a let’s reconnect before we start type of SLOW.

      This year, I am noticing that as I am focusing on improving my PQA that the time we spend talking about “How are you?” is producing repetitions of structures. Two in particular are 1) Necesita dormir (s/he needs to sleep) and 2) Le duele (la cabeza) = his/her head aches. There is always somebody in my classes who is either tired or in pain, so we are starting to see results we weren’t even looking for.

      1. My students also like the “Buenos dias/Como estan Uds.” routine, Nathaniel. I’m constantly messing up with my one afternoon class and they correct my “Buenos dias” to Buenas tardes” and point to the door so that I can “reset” myself!

      2. “I originally thought it was about circling stories. I am learning that it is about circling everything.”

        Nathaniel, I could have been the one to say that. It’s true, we should circle even the random things that are part of life as well as all the story and pre-story circling. Sometimes I have circled some simple comments or requests at the beginning of class, either from before class or from our greeting time – asking to go to the bathroom, having a birthday, being tired, getting a haircut, anything. So far it’s been really off-the-cuff and random, and I don’t take full advantage even though I have always found that it feels so right. I move a little too soon to “The Story” or whatever I had in mind to do that day. Just hearing you say that has bumped it up into a more conscious part of my brain, so I’ll be doing it more now. I’m adding it to my Distilled Ideas list. It’s perfect – real, useful, natural, varied.

  18. I just wanted to update and thank everyone for their wise counsel on transitioning to TPRS mid-year. Well, really transitioning to comprehensible based input methods mid-year. The more research and reading I do the more I realize that it is about exposing the students to as much comprehensible input as possible and that TPRS is a vehicle in which to reach that goal. That is also how I have been pitching it to my co-workers and my observing administrator. Switching to comprehensible input based methods of teaching was not something that just popped into my mind. I have been thinking about it for a long time and even tried it at the beginning of the year, but didn’t feel I would receive the support that I needed to continue. I also wasn’t sure how to proceed and “cover” the curriculum as well.

    Next year we will be on a new observation tool called “TKEYS (Teacher-Keys)” and as part of our evaluation measure next year the students will have to take a district based assessment (called the SLO- Student Learning Objective). I know the teachers that made that assessment and I was told the test is made from the textbook test generator (terrible!). So needless to say I was very nervous as to how if I taught using TPRS I would expose the students to enough vocabulary and grammar to do well on that test.

    Well, you know how they say that the squeaky wheel gets the oil; In September, I spoke with my observing administrator about how I had success with my first story, but was afraid to continue with the approach because of not being able to adequately cover the curriculum (ahem, “textbook”). Well that admin went to the secondary school coordinator at the board and shared my concerns. Before Christmas break she met with my department and you won’t believe what happened! She told me that the coordinator said to not worry about the SLO and do what I believe is best for students! HA! Can you believe it?! This was in a meeting with the entire FL department. We had a very heated discussion in that meeting about the curriculum maps and the SLO in that they were solely based on a book written in the 90s and how FL instruction and research has changed and we must change along with it. She said she would take those concerns to the county board and share them with the coordinator to see if they could be revised! It was amazing! Yes, there are still teachers not willing to change because they like the ease of doing what they’ve always done, but the majority of the department is now on board as well as our observing Administrator! So now we have our administrator and our secondary coordinator at the board on our side and have received the go ahead to make the needed changes that WE feel are best for our students! I was even told by her directly to do so even if I didn’t get support from the other teachers! I am so excited! Now comes the challenge of making the changes and recording our progress to show as proof of the effectiveness of change. As my father told me, they can’t argue against what you’re doing when you have the data, research, and results to back you up.

    In Spanish 1, we will be using the “Cuentame Mas” series to get started. We will also be using the series in Spanish 2, but we are going to start out with a song and story similar to the one we started the school year with. We looked at the “Cuentame Mucho” and decided that it would be too challenging for our level 2 students and we want to learn the method as well. We didn’t think we could go cold turkey with nothing but a common structures list this first year. I think using the series will still give the stability and guidance that we are used to with the textbook and give us common vocabulary for collaborating and assessment, but we don’t have to do all the stories and recognize that we can build other activities. SO we are slowly making progress. Some still want to take time out to explicitly teach grammar at times, and I am fine with that they can do so if they please. We are not cookie cutter and don’t have to teach in the exact same way. ALL of us are very nervous to venture away from what we have always done. We are all grammarians and that is how we learned and what we know well. I am also not the most fluent speaker of the language because I haven’t used much Spanish in my classroom in over 6 years so I know it will be difficult but I am willing to try and put in the effort. I have been assigned the responsibility of taking notes on our planning and collaboration and recording the data so as to make comparison at the end of the year (and to have data for the board as well). As we move into this venture the admin wants us to be aligned well for the upper level teacher (who will be using the “Cuentame Mas” series in her level 1s by the way). So we are on our way and are moving ahead and I am determined not to let my own self doubts keep me from doing so. Thank you for all your support and the invaluable information I have found in this PLC.

    1. Latrina,
      This is exciting news! I am so happy that your colleagues and admin are apparently on board! I would love to know how it continues…I am in almost the same place. Where are you located?


    2. Very nice to hear about, Latrina. I’ve found that teaching this way has helped my second language fluency a lot – I think it will for you, too. It’s been a big bonus for me since I have a long-term goal to continue developing my ability in Chinese (which I teach).

  19. This is one of those refreshing pieces of news that we don’t get very often. Congratulations on getting the people in charge to look at change. What you wrote here is really quite significant:

    …the curriculum maps and the SLO in that they were solely based on a book written in the 90s and how FL instruction and research has changed and we must change along with it….

    Now, I am going to suggest that, although Cuentame is a good place to start, you be on the lookout for a chance to break out of it. It is limiting but kind of necessary as a beginning curriculum. But there comes a point (would like to hear from others on this) where it drags. In order to get the maximum amount of wind under your sails be ready to steer away from Cuentame. It could happen in two years or two months. Just sayin’.

    Where will this go, after Cuentame? I suggest that for that answer you read in the Big Ideas category. It discusses lots of strategies, the best ones here over past years, that have upped many of our games to the next level.

    Let us in the group help, however we can. Whatever we can do. I know that summer training would be great. Can we explore that?

    Very proud of you, very proud of your boldness.

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