Tying CI To Word Lists Was The Wrong Thing To Do

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19 thoughts on “Tying CI To Word Lists Was The Wrong Thing To Do”

  1. I think it can be human nature to shun what is ‘new’, because it somehow means what we have been doing is ‘wrong’. I still believe that anyone providing CI in their classrooms, however they do that, is doing what is right. However, it is often easier to dismiss than to grow. I think this is why we have simply added onto whatever we previously did instead of really changed our instruction. First we do grammar drills, then we hear we need to focus on ‘communication’ (read forced output), so we add that to the grammar drills. Next, someone says we need to focus on CI so we USE CI AS A TEACHING TOOL to instruct our kids to speak and focus on grammar. This is not ideal. Comprehensible input is not a tool. It is not a technique. It is the means by which the processes of language acquisition occur. I learned this from Dr. Mason’s ppt on the power of CI. If CI were not the means by which we acquire language, then the eclectic approach would be both more efficient and more effective. And if we support the research, then we know that this is not the case. I wish as professionals we would just give each other the respect we deserve to improve our craft as providers of CI in the ways we see fit. I try to deliver pure CI as much as I can in my classroom. My neighbor to the left prefers to use story scripts not to focus on targets, but for the simplicity in planning. My neighbor to the right still uses pair work so that kids feel more comfortable when engaging in a text together. Both of them use Martina Bex’s curriculum (that they adapt) to fit their teaching styles and their students. Do I criticize them? Do I preach about how I am doing right? No and no. Do I share research? Do I explain my position? Do I work toward fairly evaluating and assessing all students? Yes, yes, and YES. I am just thankful that since I have been here the last 3 and half years, I have helped build a dept. that uses best practices, understands the process of SLA, and wants all students to be successful in our classes, as all Language Educators should be.

  2. Beautifully expressed, Russ. I think I should have said “the wrong thing to do” in my own CI world, for me. We are all doing the best we can with the knowledge available to us. There are no experts and there is no one way to do CI instruction. In fact, scripts by Matava are on my “keep” list. They are just too good.

    1. Would you say that what you are teaching in this case is the Matava story, or a collaborative version of it? In order to understand and tell the story the listener has to understand all of the words. That the student picks up these words is incidental, albeit desirable, just like listening to speeches, reading literature. It is content-based, that is, focused on expressing and interpreting a message.

    2. And for myself Ben, I could never get a script going. It was always too clunky, the flow was never consistent. Maybe I needed training or memorize the general skeleton.

      Funny, Tina had sent me some completed stories from her classes with Anne’s “an important exam”. I printed them for each of my students and just had them read along with me. I would then circle or ask parallel questions. This was the best way I could make it work. Then again, I had desks and it was my first year.

      1. I am going to try telling the scripts to the class using story listening. The other day I had the thought that I can squeeze in the textbook vocab. in story listening, so I wrote a story about this kid who loved science class because the teacher was awesome and also a cute girl was in there, and had a big test, and he studied hard and was all prepared but then he showed up and the teacher said OK we are going to change seats and the kid’s new seat was beside the girl! (Oh no!) He even thought she smelled good so it was impossible to concentrate. And so he looked at the test and question one was “How many planets are there in the solar system?” and he blanked. And the next question was, “What is our planet called?” and he blanked. And got a O on the test. And the girl got an A+ because HER crush was sitting far away from her. Womp womp…
        The kids loved this reading. Someone recently sent me a message saying that story listening gives them a high like a comedian must feel, when the audience is laughing along. Anne’s scripts are such hilarity, I think I will start using them as story listening templates. And then throw in that pesky thematic vocab which will be remembered better from being learnt in context anyways.
        Here is the story in French. I made it be in Bern, Switzerland.
        Here it is in Spanish, which I made it be in Guatemala.

        OK I was kinda wondering how “sticky” the words were, but yesterday we played the WCTG and they had no trouble recalling words I had used a couple of times in the story listening activities. This could be a relatively painless way for me to “cover” the dumb words they want them to know by ninth grade…though even OPENING the book gives me a kind of grey feeling, and I am actually having to get OVER visiting Lincoln, emotionally.

        I wonder what will happen when they come visit me in December. Well, at least they will not be depressed by my classes, I hope.

        Weirdly, also, my evaluator called Shawna’s principal over at Robert Gray yesterday asking him how he evaluates the three rock star CI teachers over there. She asked him did he nOt find it too teacher-centered? Now, the principal at Gray, Beth Madison, a former Spanish teacher who taught her whole career as a traditionalist and now has completely been sold on CI by the very persuasive and passionate Agar, has basically given her teachers free rein to do what they know is best. So the vice-principal came to Shawna and asked her opinion. Shawna told me that she said, Well Novices need a lot of input and who better to give it than their teacher who can tailor it to their needs and find things that interest them?

        The weirdest thing is, the teaching at Lincoln is ALSO super teacher-centered. Even the IDEAS come from the teacher. I was struck while down there that the classes were so silent. It was silent as a tomb. It’s OK though, Beth Madison has invited me to go over there and Agar, Shawna, and Alex and she and I will brainstorm a game plan. She wants to change instruction in PPS as much as I do!

        1. I was thinking the exact same thing about scripts plus storylistening. Though, i have been laggin I got a week break for thanksgiving. Im up early to input some isr grades and coming bavk i hope ti give storylistening a try. As for PPS, i say Fonce Tina! you are an inspiration and an exemplar of thinking globally and acting locally.

        2. …I was struck while down there that the classes were so silent….

          Yes those traditional classes are so silent. It is the silence of boredoem. How can they not see that? How can a person do that for 30 years, teach to kids who act like they are not even in the room mentally, like zombies confined to chairs? The only way I made it for those 24 years when I taught AP French was to almost completely ignore all but the two or three or four kids who could keep up with me on the grammar. But man I hated it. It was such a dead end job!

          Tina you also said:

          …I wonder what will happen when they come visit me in December. Well, at least they will not be depressed by my classes, I hope…..

          They will have looks on their faces that reveal how DIFFERENT what you are doing is from what they do. They won’t understand, and need to be told, that when you teach you are not even teaching to their minds, as is usually done in schools, but to their unconscious minds, with the message dominating your students perception while the language sneaks in to the part of the brain, the LAD, that actually functions in a language acquisition capacity.

          My experience when an entire department visits is that most remain totally quiet, and the one person who wanted to bring them over, usually the chair, to see a story, smiles a lot and the others try not to smile but each one sits there, you will see this, trying not to enjoy the class because they are so threatened. So of course I include them as students and start in with a snarky, “Hey, you guys from the high school who are sitting there like cardboard cutouts of human beings, loosen up! Let’s make story. Act like you are a student. Let’s have fun!” In other words, I include them in the lesson – they have nowhere to run – so that they can’t play the “I am just an observer.” card, and count the minutes until they get back into their tomb-like sanctuaries back at the high school. Make no mistake, this is intensely challenging for them emotionally and you can choose to ignore that or you could insist (without saying it) that they participate and open up to what you are doing. The danger is in their playing the “We do academic Spanish in the high school!” card on you. You can’t let them play that card. The entire thing happens without words, but in my experience you must challenge them as you enjoy the story with the kids at the same time. Don’t let them off the hook.

          I highly recommend, if you can arrange this, having a pre-class meeting for at least 15 minutes where you tell them what they are going to see and what the research is that supports why you are doing it (pull something about Krashen from a Primer article above maybe, just make a few points about CI) and then have a post-class meeting to break down what they saw.)

          Be prepared for complete rejection by the entire group.

          1. …the silence of being judged….

            We will be judged by them only if we allow it. If we give a big hug to our belief in the beauteous way we have learned to teach, if we embrace that beauty, then it will shine out from us during the lesson and their dark judging will not get out past a few feet from where they are sitting, and our kids will know that their teacher is strong and happy, and they will respond in kind, as if there was no darkness in the room at all. It is all up to us. When we are observed we learn to hug the part of us that is scared and fearful that we won’t do a good job in the observation, and to trust that good things will happen. We learn to take care of ourselves when observers are in the room, however dark their presence is, and some observers I have had in my room have been dark as hell.

            In my career, in spite of big fear that I would blow the lesson, without exception, hundreds of times over four decades, whenever I got observed, any darkness or judgment emanating from the observer was completely neutralized by a kind of light, and the story went well, every single time! Why? I think it has do with faith. And also with the light in the kids. They may be young, but emotionally they know what is going on, and so when we get observed they want us to shine and they provide their light and we shine!

          1. Yes Ben this is my support group. What would I do without you guys, so many of whom I have never met?

            Without these friends in PPS, who all just changed their teaching LAST YEAR, at the same time that I was preparing to come to PPS, which was very fortunate timing indeed, as if it were all laid out in a grand Plan for my support and happiness, I would feel so alone and embattled.

            Beth Madison, the Robert Gray principal’s inviting me over to talk strategy is a good sign. Elena is fighting the good fight over at Madison High School and Esther Viera is holding down the fort at Cleveland High School. So Lincoln is an impenetrable fortress…like you said Sean, I am not trying to get them to change their methods. (I am relying on the kids to do that. You should have seen their poor little faces when I came back Wednesday from that visit and described – in a totally neutral fashion I might add – the activities I saw at the high school (with the Lincoln principal’s son in my class, too, oops…). They looked MAD. Seems like the only way to get things done in Lincoln cluster is to fire the parents up. I am trying my best to do that.

            Yeah Sean, what would be the worst they could do, fire me? I could get another job toute de suite. I told my principal that once at a PPS meeting of bilingual educators, the director of Dual Languages said that we were in such short supply that they would do whatever it takes to keep us on the bus. They literally said that. So I told my principal, asking me to use textbooks, asking me to NOT ALIGN WITH MY NATIONAL STANDARDS OR BEST PRACTICES BASED ON RESEARCH, that is NOT going to keep me on the bus. We French-and-Spanish teachers are in short supply.

            I will make my position work out for me. I am not going anywhere. I am too much a Taurus, too stubborn, too interested in seeing this through. I am too interested in continuing to send them students that will advocate for change. I am too interested in seeing how this plays out. I am too interested in recruiting the wealthiest public school parents in the state of Oregon to fight in MY battle. I want to see the Harvard of Portland down on its knees screaming, “Hallelujah! I have seen the light!”

            No one was fighting them for so long. Now they have someone who has something to offer them. I am not afraid of their visit, I just wonder what will be happening in their minds. Yes Ben that is good advice as always, to involve them in some way in the action.

            I also have a question for the group: Should I do old-school classic targeted instruction? As I wrote above, I would have paid a million bucks (if I had it) to hear just a small dose of CI before the English grammar explanations started and the two malpractices of calling kids out and explaining the rule they broke to them, in French, began. I want to show them something they can wrap their minds around. SHOULD I create for them a story that uses grammar/vocab targets from what they are currently “covering”? Like a story with a kid who has no school supplies for his classes…

            I can see how it would go now. I mean, I happily (mostly) taught with targets on the board for YEARS. But now that I know about story listening…seriously it is the answer to targets in my mind, right now, this could change, I reserve the right to change what is in my mind…but I think it is the answer to the required vocab and maybe even structures issue. Because they seem to be retaining so easily from stories and you can

            Stationary store and “pas de” rule

            I would not write on the board beforehand, like I used to, since Beniko said that raises their affective filters. I would just tell a story with that structure in it. Maybe about a forgetful kid.

            Le garçon négligent

            Il y avait un garçon très inattentif, très négligent. Un jour dans sa classe de biologie le prof a dit, OK classe, aujourd’hui il y a un examen, alors sortez du papier, SVP. Il n’avait pas de papier. Il a regardé à gauche et à droite mais il n’y avait pas de papier. Il était nerveux. Il a décidé d’utiliser sa main gauche au lieu de papier. Il était content. Ouf!

            Le prof de bio a dit, OK classe, sortez une gomme et un crayon SVP. Le garçon a regardé à gauche et à droite, mais il n’avait pas de gomme. Il n’avait pas de crayon. Mais il avait des chaussettes. Il a décidé d’utiliser ses chaussettes comme gommes. Il a enlevé ses chaussettes et il était content. Ouf!

            Le prof de bio a dit, OK classe, il vous faut une calculatrice. Le garçon a cherché dans son sac à dos. Il a beaucoup cherché mais il n’avait pas de calculatrice dans son sac à dos. Il était nerveux. Il ne savait pas quoi utiliser comme calculatrice. Il a pensé. Il a beaucoup pensé. Il a décidé d’utiliser ses doigts et ses orteils comme calculatrice. Ouf!

            Il a écrit sur sa main, parce qu’il n’avait pas de papier, et il a utilisé ses chaussettes comme gomme, puisqu’il n’avait pas de comme, et il a compté sur des doigts et ses orteils. Il a passé l’examen.

            Le lendemain, le garçon a été choqué qu’il a réussi, et il a gagné une B+. Ouf!

            Then I think I will do some reading options with this written text. Reading from the Back of the Room should make some bells go off.

          2. …should I create for them a story that uses grammar/vocab targets from what they are currently “covering”?….

            I would not do that. Your students are used to the freedom that comes with the Invisibles and so you give them that. If they are trained in using targets (is it a level 1 or 2 class?) then you could use targets.

            Whichever, I would not do Storylistening. (These is just my opinion.)

            It is crucial that this group see you move from auditory CI to reading CI.

            So you want to create a short story and then move to the big four of the 22 strategies in the Reading Options, starting with Choral Translation/Discussion of Grammar and moving to Reading from the Back of the Room and Reader’s Theatre . You want them to see how auditory CI leads to effortless reading, all in one class period.

            But if you have only one regular class period to do this, not a block, then you have to get the kids ready to MOVE ON DOWN THE ROAD from the beginning of class, obviously no SSR that day, just get a story going starting with a snappy Town Meeting.

            I suggest that you get the story framed out the day before. I used to set up stories the day before an observation day to save time in getting the story off the ground because you want to have your guests see you get from a completed story (20-25 min.) to the four reading options and then the quick quiz as an exit ticket.

            Do not get the story too developed the day before, just get something really silly going and have it ready when you need it so the kids are a bit bubbly with excitement and, if you look in their eyes, they will have one purpose going that day – to make you look good.

            You could even prepare three stories or more the week before and use the one with the most energy. But don’t get too much into it as it will be then feel a bit flat the next day. Doing this will then make it so that the next day the story blasts off like a rocket, allowing you to finish it in ideally 20 min. and then process the artist’s work – the guests cannot help but being impressed by that part, and then the grammar instruction and the reading from the back of the room later.

            So (my suggestion only) for how to use the time is:

            1. Day before at end of class get a story going that they really want to finish the next day. 10-15 min. of just playing around with the idea they create. Tell them you are auditioning stories because you want the high school teacher guest to be impressed.
            2. Finish that story the next day (20 min. or so).
            3. Process the artist(s) drawing. (5 to 10 min.)
            4. The three reading home run strategies. (20 min.) (This is when your guests see you teach the grammar and if you want this time throw your guests a bone and use the actual grammar terms, which we would never do but it might make your guests realize that you teach grammar, just not like they do, but based on sound first. This might establish a bridge for later discussion with them.)
            5. Quick Quiz. (5 min.)

            Of course this is just one idea and not tested. Whenever I got observed, I just used a Matava story. Solid ground the whole way. But do what you feel is best.

            *Have one of the guests who teaches whatever language you are teaching that period – French or Spanish – prepare during class a written projectible version of the story to save time. Make sure the tech piece is in place from her computer onto your screen. One of the worst memories I have in teaching is when Dr. Krashen came to observe me, ironically at Denver’s Lincoln High School, and I had a reading class all set up and the tech piece failed on me. I was up there for ten minutes at least messing around with stuff while he held court in a corner of the room. Oh well….

  3. …would you say that what you are teaching in this case is the Matava story, or a collaborative version of it?…

    It’s always a collaborative version, although now Tina and Beniko are talking about Story Listening as a way to just tell the original version of a story.

    …it is content-based, that is, focused on expressing and interpreting a message….

    I would love to figure out what content-based means. This is an excellent definition. But don’t many teachers have other meanings?

    I’m not sure I understand your point, actually.

    I do agree with Russ that we can each find a way of doing CI that works for us, but Nathaniel pls. do expand a bit on what you said above.

    1. I’ll try, Ben.
      On the one hand, Anne’s stories have targets and, on the other hand, they are good stories on their own merit as stories. They are not just vehicles for get reps with the targets.

      Compare Green Eggs and Ham. It was not written to get reps on “green eggs and ham,” “I would not like them,” or “Sam I am.” It was written to be enjoyed. It has rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and interest. Our kids enjoy it and want it read again. So we read it again. It also has some life lessons about taste vs visual appeal of food, about trying something you’ve never tried, but it is just a lot of fun to read. We focus on the content of Green Eggs and Ham and pick up a lot of language. Whatever we do with it is based on the story itself.

      Anne’s scripts are the best stories of the many that she has tried. They have value in and of themselves. And yet there are targets. So there are at least two approaches that could be taken. One is that the story is to teach the targets. The other is to know the content of the story. The difference between the scripts and Green Eggs is that Green Eggs does not change. It is Story Listening. But the Matava script was written to be change. So the content that students have is a co-created content.

      If other people mean something different than basing was they do on the content of the texts, well, I am not sure what they mean.

      Whether or not I have further muddied the waters, it is time to rest up. It is early rising to get to Boston for ACTFL and meet a lot of fine folks whom I only know virtually. Wish you were there to meet you, Ben.

      1. …one is that the story is to teach the targets….

        Actually this is not true. It is very interesting how this came about. About nine years ago Anne and I started communicating. Now, at this time, I was all about no targets but everyone else was becoming firmly attached to them. So I began thinking that way. But I didn’t like it and at the same time I asked Anne, as I recognized her talent for writing scripts, to write up a volume of story scripts, since they were floating my instructional boat in wonderful waters (and have ever since). She was not really into it but I pushed her. (The same thing happened with Jim Tripp.) But there was a catch. I asked Anne to write scripts with targets, and being a script writing genius she pulled it off. Few could do that. But she shares my attitude about a general dislike of targets. By then we had been targeting for a long time and that’s what TPRS had come to be, working with targets*. The targets genie was out of the bottle. Blaine was doing it even though, as Russ has pointed out and as he himself told me last March, his original vision was not about targets and still isn’t. But by now (2008-2009) everyone was saying targets were needed. The Era of Targets has had almost a twenty year run now in 2016! But as I indicated teaching stories with targets always made my socks roll up and down and my teeth itch and without Anne’s scripts, the use of which describes at least 90% of my instruction from 2008 to 2015, I never would have remained a language teacher. So Anne and I have had this discussion, and here is the jist of it – she never targeted anything. She wrote the script and there were targets at the top (I advised her that nobody would buy her script books otherwise) and the rest is history. Anne and I and now I am finding out Tina and others just never came out of the closet about targets. We never liked them, we did them because the conferences presented this work as needing three targets – that song has been the same for one and a half decades of conferences by now – but a few of us have always considered them to be chains to the fun, and that’s that. Only now have I come out of the nontargeted closet. I am not saying all people need to do it this way, I am saying it works better for me, a lot better. Maybe Anne will add to this. In a word, I am saying that Anne isn’t into targets and only added them into her stories because I asked her to. It’s like fashion – everybody goes for the newest and coolest stuff, but really simple clothes are pretty neat as well, as I see it.

        *this adding of targets made a simple thing complex, and a lot of people including me took that to mean they could become trainers. But I never liked it, I just thought it was the way TPRS worked. I was missing the point back then, that TPRS was far simpler than people were making it out to be. (Which fact accounts for the term being almost vilified in some circles as an impossible thing to actually do – even people who were good at it kind of sucked at it in a weird hidden kind of way – and so the term morphed into its current CI version but kept the targets as gospel.) But go back to what Russ wrote today:

        …I wish as professionals we would just give each other the respect we deserve to improve our craft as providers of CI in the ways we see fit….

  4. I was thinking abt how excited I get when I’m watching a Tina video, or reading an article here about something I want to try that so aligns with my understanding of Sla + best practice. The problem with legacy observers is that what they see in our classrooms doesn’t align with their concepts/expectations…and yet…we charm them into considering our strategies, because our classes are so darn pleasant and the kids are so dang engaged. The negative feedback is so nit-picky as to be absurd. (usually based on issues of form/accuracy and premature output).

    We are getting better n better at defending and describing our position & practices. As the circle grows and the wave crests, these trifling matters will, I pray, crumble away.

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