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17 thoughts on “Update”

  1. I am finding myself conforming a bit to student expectations in my upper level class because I am so brand new (first month teaching, new school to me) and the mutiny has been so taxing on me emotionally. I am doing “conversation activities” (structured output activities so they feel like they’re speaking the language and so they can interact in pairs with each other, something they have fiercely demanded) and worksheets and written output of various kinds so they feel smart and have the opportunity to check out for part of the block, but I’m still doing stories and reading for about half of the class. Is this the “worst possible thing” that Susan Gross talked about? The culture shift is such a burden, and as a new teacher the disciplinary realities are like standing in a hurricane, for me anyway. I’m looking forward to meeting some of you in Maine in a couple of weeks. I am still trying to figure out if I am making a big mistake in trying to do this without sufficient training, but honestly I don’t think I’d have the heart to do it the textbook way. Thanks to Ben and all of you for all the ideas, I find something useful here every single day. Also, what’s LSI?

    1. Angie,

      You say : “I am still trying to figure out if I am making a big mistake in trying to do this without sufficient training”. Most of us didn’t get any training. I personally got no training whatsoever. In terms of training, there were coaching sessions at NTPRS this year, and they were teaching the mechanics of TPRS, the steps and the ways with circling etc… But you can teach yourself that watching Ben’s and other teachers’ videos. Keep on reading whatever you can find and get ideas and try them out. That is trial and error for you. That is the only way to learn, and it sure is painful. Don’t be discouraged , we’ve all been there, done that and still doing it (talking for myself here).
      Don’t beat yourself over the head! You are way too hard on yourself. Remember that little or poor CI is better than none.
      I went into CI/TPRS after falling in love with Susie Gross in 2006, loved her and read and reread about this way of teaching and jumped into it. I went right into doing stories and it was terrible, but I didn’t know any better and did NOT give up. YOU WILL SEE, it WILL get better, you WILL learn from your mistakes.
      They say you should go back on a horse right after you fall from it, b/c if you wait you won’t want to ride it again. It is soo true. I fell from a horse when I was younger and didn’t go back on it right away, and I can never go back on one again. So learn to fall and go right back to doing what you are doing. You will know what feels off , and you will know when things start feeling right. It WILL get better, and you WILL improve. You just need to give yourself the TIME and PRACTICE you need to get more confident. There will always be off days, there always are, for all of us.
      If you want we will help you practice when we are in Maine.
      Have faith and courage, you will succeed!

  2. LSI = Learning Styles Inventory

    I think that your situation is far from ideal (the kids demanding something that doesn’t work best as we know). Therefore, I don’t think you are doing the worst possible thing for them. When you get a group of newbies to language instruction, things will be different. Plus, you’re getting practice on the skills of teaching with CI and that will allow you to do it better in the future with your more CI classes (given that you have the liberty to do that in the future). Sounds like a compromise was made, they are stuck in their ways and you are holding to your own guns as much as you can, I don’t see how you can improve much on that situation. That’s my take on this Angie.

    1. Thanks, Jim! That’s how I feel about it right now. The 8th graders I have are loving the stories and it’s all they know…I’m amazed at their comprehension already, even with my discipline struggles. They have so much more joy than the older ones.

      1. I agree with Jim. You must compromise in this situation. You could even compromise more with a daily dictee. That makes them really feel like they are learning.

        See benslavic.com resources/workshop handouts for a detailed description of dictee. It eats up minutes.

        You’re like in a football game. It’s the end of the game for them, their last year, and they are enjoying the big lead that they built up by controlling their earlier non-CI teachers (easy to do – it’s what smart kids do to get through high school without actually working), and now they don’t want to relinquish that lead in the fourth quarter.

        So in the past two weeks, from what I gather, you have put up two quick scores and they see you only two points down. So they are insisting on pair/share output bullshit to show you who’s in charge. But you keep the ball on the ground, slowly working your way into field goal position (you only need three points and the field goal for the win) and you do that with dictee, bc it runs out the clock of a class so well.

        That’s my weird ass take on it anyway. I love the tone of how you compromised. It was a strong move and very well done. You may have to compromise even more. Just know that you will never really get these kids to any acquisition. They won’t play. So be it. If they trash you, think of all the kids that you will not be able to affect for their good in future years. Get through these jerks with your sanity in tact. Enjoy the kids who haven’t been ruined.

  3. Ben,
    Thank you for your humility in thanking people on this blog!
    Honestly, I think WE need to thank YOU for everything you do for us, day in and day out , relentlessly!!!! All the hours you put in this PLC, and I am sure it comes at some personal expense (family, health). You are teaching us from your experiences, your successes and failures, patiently repeating and rehashing things out over and over again, always spinning them in a new light hoping for paradigm shifts. You treat us as equal although you are the master at this, having done it for so many years now. If it wasn’t for you, this blog and the wonderful people that contribute to it, I would have quit teaching ( I know I have said it before).
    I know that if I have a bad day, or if I have a question, I can ALWAYS count on this blog to cheer me up and I ALWAYS find answers to my questions. You are ALL truly amazing dedicated teachers and it is wonderful to know I can count on you all to help. And when it’s time to talk about the inherent anxieties that come with teaching, I don’t need a therapist, I can just sign in, vent or listen to all of you experience the same stuff. There is no price for this! And for that I thank you Ben and everyone here from the bottom of my heart.

      1. Robert,
        you put a smile on my face, and that was FREE!!!!
        Although my economics teacher told us nothing on this earth is free, not even the air we inhale (especially the air we inhale) . And he proved it, but I won’t bore you with the details…..

  4. I had some resistance with my Advanced class at first. One of my top students in my old output based classes last week muttered, “I can’t take this anymore,” and put his head down. I kept him after class and asked him what he meant. He said he was just tired. I needed to call him out on that comment and not just let it slip by. Now he is my class scribe which works well because it keeps him busy during stories. Yesterday, he did the first story retell and he had it down perfect. Everyone gave him a big hand and he was so proud. Then they had to tell the story to a partner and I saw how he was helping another kid get it right. All this is to say, my potential troublemaker finally bought into the new way of learning once he could see his own progress. I believe that the jGR also helped enormously because he knows what is expected of him and wants to get a good grade.

    I think understanding the routine is also helping to improve students’ attitudes toward the change in method. First we work on learning the new terms, then we create a story, then we review/ discuss/retell, then read in pinyin, work on characters, then read in characters (the original story then parallel story). Now that they get the routine and are starting to see their progress, they are coming around.

    1. Hi Tamula,
      I’ve had one of my sharpest students – a girl very able to focus – grab her head and call out “Agh! My brain hurts!” in class twice over the past few weeks. She’s 11, mind you, and so there’s an age-related type of expression! But it did make me realize how deeply she was concentrated in the language and re-affirmed the need for breaks (more frequently than I get tired – they aren’t for me!). Could your student have just needed a couple minutes silence/pause from focused concentration?

      Also, your routine sounds like a wonderful progression. Is that process over one class period or more than one? I’m trying to figure out how to boost students’ character reading in class, and have been showing stories with characters with pinyin first and then just characters with the same story as a review. I read it aloud, pointing to each character as I say it, and reminding them that watching where I’m pointing is part of their Interpersonal Communication grade. And it’s a free, didn’t-have-to-study-on-their-own way to become better character readers. I think it could be improved on though so I’m interested in how you do this.

      1. The kid in this video (on the right in the black sweater and black glasses):


        was a top ten finisher in the National French Contest in CO (along with the guy with the hair who was second). She says in the video that her brain hurt a lot in my classes. I know exactly why and no doubt on this. I went out of bounds a lot with that class. There were many superstars in there, and they got me going. That is my explanation for brain overload – we go out of bounds.

      2. Hi Diane,
        I meant to answer your question earlier and then forgot where it was! My progression of lessons takes about a week and a half with the character reading and writing. If it was just aural/ oral and pinyin reading, I could do it in a week like in Ben’s weekly schedule. One thing that is evolving is when I teach the character writing. Before I started using CI, I used to work on character recognition and do the writing last. Now I am spending less time on flash cards and character recognition games and have the students write as a way to help them learn the characters. With Chinese 1 & 2 classes, we spend a class period learning to write the characters, recognizing radicals and phonetic components, and working on stroke order. Most college teachers don’t teach them these skills so I work at giving them these tools early so they can use them forever. The next day, we practice reading our story first briefly in pinyin and then in characters. Then we read a parallel story in characters. Finally, the next day we do dictation ala Ben. I am finding this is a great tool for helping them learn pinyin and practice characters. At the end of the dictation, there is a little time for a free-write. The next day they have a reading and writing quiz. That might even be more than a week and a half depending on how everything goes. If you want my format and procedures for the dictation, just let me know here and I’ll post it.

  5. I’ve learned so much over this month. After my THREE YEAR break from teaching language and TPRS (although I was in no way an expert) I have been able to re-start. The ONE thing that I have done is GO SLOWLY like Ben has suggested over and over again. I have also tried to limit the messy board (OK, I was trained by Blaine Ray – so that’s a work in progress) BUT I CANNOT BELIEVE the results. The results from my students – and from myself about not stressing out about where we are going, but just letting it develop organically and slowly. It is beautiful and wonderful, and I owe it all to the GO SLOWLY mantra. I am using the jGR too. I am teaching 4 preps (ESOL, English Pre-AP, and Spanish 1 and 2) so I don’t have the rules on the wall. Instead I’ve printed up the jGR and they have it on their desks on a card everyday. I refer to it and continually reinforce it.

    3 years ago, I used to go for the laugh. I wanted it to be hilarious everyday. I think the 3 year break and 3 years of teaching with high stakes testing pressure taught me that the language class needs to be a class where the stress is OFF. Off of ME and off of THEM. They simply have to listen and negotiate meaning. With saftey nets (ME). It’s a break in the day from the high demand, critical thinking, craziness that although I love my Pre-AP English classes, NO ONE can do all day long. It’s too much to ask of a teenager of anyone. I’ve taken to likening my class to therapy during the day. So, I also want to add my word of thanks to Ben and this group. I was able to let go for three years and find my safety net again (although moved and when I first couldn’t find the blog, I totally freaked out! Ha) If anyone is struggling with trying to make it work. Stop and go slow. Slow works. Slow is the key to all of this. Just my 2 cents.

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