Two Questions – 3

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27 thoughts on “Two Questions – 3”

  1. Thank you, Ben, so much for taking the time to comment in as much depth as you have! It feels so good to finally have feedback from someone who actually knows TPRS!!! My administrators are always happy with the lessons they see, but I know that they don’t really know what’s going on and why!
    Yes, you are right about that student, Mario. I wasn’t crazy about the way he was retelling the story either when I watched the video. I think he was doing it intentionally since he was being recorded. I must say, however, he is not afraid to talk. He has acquired so much and really is one of the students that allow our stories and PQA conversations to become very interesting and funny at times. However, I don’t think he’d be too successful in a traditional language classroom!

    “Timer: You had a timer going the whole time and it has been perfect. Comments for us on that? (Did the video influence their staying in the TL?)”

    No, I can honestly say that it definitely is not the video! This actually happens all the time in all my classes. However, I think I owe it to the timer and how I use it. Each day in each class my “timer student” times how long we stay in the TL all class. At the end of class, s/he puts the time on a chart I have in the classroom. The minutes get added daily. At the end of the month, the class with the most minutes in the TL gets donuts! Yes, I spend about $20/month on donuts for a class but it’s worth it.

    Quick story: Since I will only be buying donuts for a class one more time, the classes are more competitive than ever!! Actually, just Friday in my Spanish III class, they didn’t even want to “start class” meaning do whatever it was I had planned (review a recent story, etc.). Instead, they just wanted to “talk”. However, we NEVER went into English unless I had to give them a word or two. But they know the rule…no more than two English words at a time. Anyway, that particular class, we spent 84 in TL…just hanging out and talking about anything and everything. And they were all so interested because we were talking about what they wanted to. Even though it went extremely well, I wonder if I could have / should have spun any of that talk into a story…I don’t know. Oh…and in the beginning of that class, a student came in a little late and I used Robert Harrell’s suggestion. I asked him why in Spanish and he answered me “Yo hablaba con etc….”. He finished the explanation in Spanish but when he came out with “hablaba” for “I was talking”, I was thrilled. Anyway, this classes was a great end to the week.

    1. Keri,

      You are an excellent teacher! Thank you for sharing your video. It helps me in my assessment of my own successes and failures in the classroom this year.

    2. Who woulda thunk that our answer to blurting lay in donuts?

      I will add that story to the Primer. It’s awesome. Anything for a donut.

      So you know a few years ago I stopped allowing two word L1 answers and went to no English. Now I am going back based on what you say above. I also took the No English rule off the Classroom Rules. The history on this is that we had a big “99% – crazy! – L2 only” thing going here a few years ago. Then I got my senses and realized it is more important to just enjoy the kids so I suggested that we allow periods of NON-MIXED L1/L2 time during class. Now I see that with the donuts the kids are happy to stay in the TL with the “two words” rule in place.

      Thank you Keri! I’ve taken some heat on that two word thing and you show it can work.

    3. Thank you so much for posting the video. I learned so much! I loved the limit of two English words at a time and loved how you and the kids stayed in the TL. Would the timer have stopped the clock for the day if the only-two-English-words rule were broken?

      1. Yes, I stop the timer when that rule is broken. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. However, I am trying to think of a better way than to just stop the timer because by the time I say “stop timer” the blurting is already over. Therefore, I’m thinking that next year we will have to reset the time if blurting happens. Therefore there is a greater consequence than just a couple seconds off the clock.

        1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

          I have a plastic clown’s hammer – maybe the hammer could come down on the table or someone’s head (it makes a very funny sound) – my kids line up to get their heads hammered…but then again they’re like 9…any loud sound effect would do…how about a honk? I have a mini-sound effects machine – any of those buttons would be fun – there are such apps for the iPad – you could preload and have at the ready…

        2. I’ll be interested in hearing how that works for you. What I found if the clock resets after a blurt: sometimes that meant students stopped trying because they knew they’d “lost” to other classes already. For a few days, it was fun and helped, and I suppose it showed the class with the least self-control about this that other classes didn’t have such an issue.

          1. Yes, I do. They are allowed to ask in the TL if they may speak in English. Sometimes I allow them to and sometimes not…depending on what we are doing but I will never allow them to during a story as to not interrupt the flow. If the timer is off than they are allowed more than two words. It doesn’t happen too often though as they are very competitive with the other classes.

          2. And it’s not just the timer. Keri is somewhat rare among TPRS teachers in that when she tells them to shut their mouths during a story she means it. The key, very subtle, very important, is that SHE HERSELF doesn’t allow herself any English. That is what derails the train. The teacher.

            So Keri has things going for her that – since tomorrow is the last day of my career (again) – I will never get command over. I just couldn’t resist breaking into English all these years. I was too enamored with my own thoughts. Too impressed with my own jokes too many times.

            It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my TPRS classroom and I made it every day. And probably will tomorrow to top it off as I do a “farewell story” with my sixth graders. They are almost physically fighting to get their characters into this last one.

            When the last kid walks out tomorrow I’m done. Stick a fork in me. God is truly great to have pulled off what He pulled off with this old boy right cheer.

          1. I spent the first couple months of school this year assigning jobs. When I felt the kids were ready, I explained to them briefly what the job entailed and how they would be competing against the other classes’ times. Then I offer the job.

            The kids learned quickly right from day 1 that we will not be using English. This year I used an example of a first day lesson in one of Ben’s books and it went very well. I spent 90% or more of the class in the TL…even in Italian One! So, that is just the expectation. They get used to it quickly when they don’t hear you, the teacher, speaking English.

            I must add that I also use Blaine’s “Pagame” system as well. It works great!

  2. Alisa Shapiro

    I LOVED the Italian video – I don’t really have more to add to what Ben critiqued other than the tremendous mental and physical attention and energy it takes for us to do this work day in and day out!
    It’s obvious you trained your students first at the beginning of the year, allowing for seamless transitions and strong choral responses! They are there to have a great time together with you.
    ¡Bravo y APLAUSO!

  3. Thank you Alisa and Laura!

    Ben, I’ve been thinking of what you said you and nailed it…

    “But we are working our way up to 20 minutes in the story and we’ve only established the problem. I have changed to where I try to get the problem established earlier and the failed attempt going a lot sooner. If you think about it, the best action happens AFTER the problem is established not before and during”

    I tend to spend some time on unimportant details (the introduction) to get the story going (names, ages, etc.) I think it’s because I feel “safe”. Sometimes I personally fear that the problem may not be interesting or maybe, on the other hand, it will be so interesting that the kids just want to speed up to the actions. This second scenario is not a bad thing. However, sometimes they get so excited that I feel that I can’t or shouldn’t get a lot of reps because I don’t want to bore them. What’s the right answer? Get on with the story and use lets reps…even if I know they need it, or slow down and get reps even though I can read their faces saying “Ok, that’s enough”?
    This is something I’ve been struggling with.

    1. I thought no we need to start teaching like our kids are launching into a vast sea of comprehensible input that’s much larger than just our classes. We need to stop thinking that reps are the goal. Maybe hearing more variety of language is better. Maybe students make a better schema if they hear and understand a wider range. Does anyone know if this had been studied?

      1. 1:46 of the following highlight from Tea with BVP Episode 27:

        Here’s an excerpt from my takeaway:

        As Bill noted, certain learners will acquire a word after only a few utterances, while others need thousands of repetitions. Thus, frequently using phrases for the sake of frequently using phrases might be overkill for one kid, and nowhere near what another needs. Since there’s no way to know for sure, the logical solution is to not worry about that, and instead focus on meaning.

        The TPRS community advocates for what I’ve seen mentioned as “dense CI via repetition.” I agree with this. What I don’t agree with is stressing over those repetitions, or forgoing genuine communication in pursuit of “getting reps.” There are tactful ways to expose students to phrases without overdoing it, or to avoid repeating phrases so artificially that it becomes transparent to the students what you’re doing (re: consciously learning, and getting bored quickly). Some would argue that our limited classroom time calls for a hyper awareness of massive numbers of reps, or “optimization,” as I’ve seen it put. It might, but it also might not. Eric Herman gets amazing results from teaching with “less massed repetitions in favor of more spaced repetitions.”

        1. Steven Ordiano

          I got extra tired going hyper rep style and the kids would get bored! Now with un targeted stories, im getting reps without even knowing it. This is because I use extensive “what does that mean” and im looking at kids faces. One person may answer and so I reword into HF or introduce this new word on the board.

          1. Steven Ordiano

            And it just dawned on me, my class has let me know when im going out of bounds this whole time.

        2. Thank you, Lance. I think this was something I needed to hear and what I struggle with sometimes. I truly feel that I am boring the kids and that everything seems so fake when I purposely force reps. For targeted stories, I personally don’t feel that I need to circle and repeat so much because we’ve been practicing the targets in other ways.

          However, just yesterday I attempted to do untargeted stories in three different classes. The interest skyrocketed! However, since there were unexpected new targets, I definitely don’t feel that I circled them enough. In fact, I know I didn’t. In that respect, I don’t feel as if it was so successful. However, if I had circled more, I think this would have led to boredom. What bothers me is that I’m not sure if any student will acquire the new structures we brought into the story since they only saw/heard them a couple of times!!

          Any suggestions???

          1. Keri said:

            …I’m not sure if any student will acquire the new structures we brought into the story since they only saw/heard them a couple of times!!….

            Keri they don’t need to acquire it. We never know what they acquire. It could be that in a targeted story we target three structures and that night in sleep their deeper mind allows three OTHER structures into the growing language system. We are far too filled with hubris when it comes to targeting structures for acquisition.

            Krashen refers to noise. He says it’s good. The brain will sort it out in sleep later. As long as it has something to sort. So not to fret. As long as they are into it. Krashen has talked for so long now about how the input needs to be more than interesting – compelling. This is his favorite song and he will probably sing it for us again in Chattanooga, along with, if we are lucky, a nice Cali rendition of Chattanooga Choo Choo.

            We just present the CI. They figure out what to do with it in ways that would make the angels jealous. Which really kicks sand on that sad word curriculum word, a word that unlike assessment is based in pride. Assessment is based on loving concern for the child. As I see it.

  4. Yes, I was working with a script that I found on Martina Bex’s site. The structures were originally “lives alone”, “needs”, and “works with” but I changed them to the past for the oral story. We only got to one location though…

    I have accidentally done some untargeted stories. They come out of PQA. Never intentional.

  5. And, yes, the untargeted stories are far more interesting but I think I’d still be afraid to attempt them right now…but I will be reading your book about that this week!

    1. Steven Ordiano

      Keri, Your multiple reps is amazing for this first year teacher. I used to do alot of reps in the beginning, as the year progressed I did less and less. I noticed less gains.

      Once again, Kudos for training your kids with the donuts. It makes our work much easier. I reset the timer but alas no donuts for them this year.

      I also notice that you have about 15 students in your class. I’m floating and staying alive with 34.

      Lastly, because I am a first year teacher, I felt the need to use untargeted stories early. I did not want to plan and plan lessons and units for multiple observations. Being scared, I planned these lessons and my students felt the nervous energy in my class. I would not go slow.

      After, discussing with my principal about the work I do, I decided to do an untargeted story for my observation. If I can do it, you CERTAINLY can!

      I always had trouble with scripts or how to execute. I would have the script projected on the screen but the students were engaged but NOT excited because of the predictable nature of the story. Please explain how you execute scripts.

      1. Yes predictability is just deadly in storytelling. Maybe we could practice storytelling in L1 at the national conferences. To hone our skills at the well-chosen detail. At suspense.

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