Update on the Forum

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6 thoughts on “Update on the Forum”

  1. Well, you’ve motivated me with this Ben.. to write again. Thank you for encouraging those of us just beginning our journey. This week I attended my first TPRS conference. I wanted to go to yours but was told “this is one closer” so I got sent to Baltimore for Blaine’s 2 day workshop. I realize it is geared toward middle and high school but I want to be able to apply a lot of what I learn to my elementary school classes. And there was a lot of really interesting things to learn. However, I came back feeling totally overwhelmed by all of the information out there.. I must now have 10 books on TPRS including 5 of yours, several of Blaine’s, Jim Tripp’s scripts, and stories off Teachers Pay Teachers, not to mention many great Elementary School CI Teachers’ websites and blogs and countless documents on my desktop with amazing ideas. But I don’t know whether to start with a sentence or a word, a picture or a story, props or variables. I’m all over the place. Organization is not a great skill of mine; enthusiasm is though and I have sticky notes ALL OVER MY HOUSE and OFFICE! I need help planning my lessons. School is 2 months in and I’m trying to figure all this out. I don’t even know what question to ask. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled getting this started. I would love suggestions as to how I can get some consistency going. Thank you!

    1. Yes Mindee there is too much information. I can’t speak for the other materials you mention above. I don’t use them anymore. Of my five books, the first ten or so of the strategies in the Big CI Book are heavy hitter activities. The new book, TPRS – The Easy Way, which this is year is getting a big re-write for the spring, is my best book. So among my books I would focus on those two books.

      I consider the early days of TPRS and those conferences, some of which are still going on just as if nothing has changed in twenty years, to be confusing and frustrating. I compare it to PCs vs. Macs. The work is becoming more and more intuitive and it is in that idea that, in my opinion, the answer to your question lies. Find a way to become intuitive in this work. Find a way to swim to the open waters of this work, where the debris of over-thinking and intellectualization cannot mar the soft beauty of this work.

      Don’t think too much about the use of novels and targets and circling and counting reps and all those other things, those things associated with the old TPRS, because they are really confusing, just as you say. You are not crazy, all the information is. The less we fret about all the details about TPRS and CI that are splattered all over the internet, the better we can teach.

      Thinking too much about this work prevents stories from getting high off the ground, precisely because the instructor has to think about too many things. Just learn to communicate with your kids about stuff that they care about and that comes up naturally in class. To respond directly to your point about not knowing where to start, I suggest you start from images created by the kids. Then I suggest you use the ten jobs I suggest in my newest book, and ask the questions according to the template offered in that book (TPRS – The Easy Way). The less we tie our instruction to word lists and curricular objectives and semantic sets and those totally frustrating thematic units, and the more we tie what we do to the natural interests of the kids, the higher our CI planes get off the ground.

      Simplicity. What is it in this work? I think there is a category here on that word. Also read some of the articles in the category on flow.

      The fact that you articulate the issue so well above, and your statement that organization is not a great skill of yours, those two things that you said make me feel that, once you let go of all the TPRS baggage, you will be able to feel much more confident about this work because your teaching will be much simpler. You will start from an image created by your students and you will see something.

      Have heart. The less organized you are in this work, the less “teaching” that you put on the kids, the less that the kids feel that their teacher is trying to stuff knowledge into their heads, the more neat things you will see about this work. When you embrace the extreme gentle simplicity that lies at the core of this work, then, like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, you will see the kids’ beauty and then you will be moving past where TPRS used to be, stuck in thinking about how proficient the kids are on some scale of proficiency when they can’t get to any real level of proficiency unless their hearts are open and and they trust you and feel as if they are not being taught in the old way of testing and data collection and all that old stuff we used to do. It doesn’t work with languages and that is why I say we need to get rid of targets and, if we can by the grace of God, all testing as well.

      On the point of testing, the kids will pay attention in class because they want to, not because they have to for a test. And why try to measure their proficiency when we don’t do that with younger kids when they learn their first language and the kids learn it just fine anyway?

      There are many who tell me not to say these things to newer people. If I were to put this post on FB I would get “concerned” replies explaining to me that not everyone can teach in this simple way. I disagree.

      How to describe the voyage away from the mind and into the heart? Let’s not even try. This work is a practice, a meditation, as jen has said here for years and years. So maybe if you did a search on the word yoga some more things would come up. I would say that of the 7000 posts and 47000 comments here over the past ten years, a good 25% of them address this topic of how to simplify this work.

      So feel happy. That is the single most important quality we can have as language teachers. And if you are caught up in trying to figure out all the information there is out there on TPRS/CI, you can’t be happy. Your mind short circuits your heart when there is too much information.

      I do feel that the single most demanding thing that we can do as teachers is to try to be happy in our classrooms. And we must try to do that against all odds, because most secondary school classrooms are dark and scary places these days. I just spent four decades in fear in my seven buildings in South Carolina and in Colorado. God helped me or I would never have made it. Not even close. In fact, I find my discovery of a happier way to teach extremely bizarre. Like, how the hell did that happen? I used to hate teaching!

      But one day,and I think that this is the promise of CI, we wake up and find that we ARE happy in our classrooms. The sooner we learn how to apply the great truth that Susan Gross first said around the year 2000 that in this work that all we have to do is “just talk to the kids”, the more we will plummet into the real gold mine that this work can become if we don’t yammer so much about it (yammering is of the mind) and just start our classes trying to really hear what the kids want to say to us that period (listening to others is of the heart).

      It just doesn’t happen fast, is all, so you have to factor that in when you read this response. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

      1. I second what Ben said about organization, and basically everything he said there, that is a beautiful post.

        I am not really organized either. I hate planning. I like hanging out in the library with my pal, the library assistant, Jules, and being on Ben’s site during my planning period lots more than I like making plans, which I tend to change at the last minute anyway.

        That is why I left ELA/SS and worked so hard to get a job just teaching languages. Cause now I plan not at all. I talk to the kids and make sure they understand. Using images they create is so easy. All I do is go look at the chart paper on the easel. If there is a story on there, we retell it and write and do reading options. If there is no story for that class period, it is story day. We vary it sometimes if the mood strikes, with the Word Chunk team Game or student writing (just started that) or a bail out move, but generally planning is ZERO.

        I have been a very avid student of TPRS and CI for about twelve years, and I assure you that the only thing I would start with now would be Ben’s new book he mentioned above. Not just because I helped with it. Because I **wish** I had started CI this way in 2004. I **DO NOT** believe that needed to go through the 11 years of old-style TPRS to “get” the new way. I have seen new folks take up this new approach FAST and strong.

        Ben’s new approach to crafting stories based on images and not pre-selected words and structures is also a way to make our CI classrooms more and more about the kids and helped me respond to criticism of my program, that my classroom is too teacher-centered. In fact strangely, I was just writing about it on my videos blog.

        Here’s the part about the student-centered nature of this new work from Ben’s new book:

        In a meeting with my vice-principal this morning, who has just completed my second formal observation, she expressed grave concerns about the teacher-centered nature of my teaching. This is a common administrator complaint for CI teachers, and I have heard from many others who struggle with it as well. The Danielson framework for evaluation has made “student-directed learning” de rigeur, so many CI teachers are finding it hard to fit their practices onto that Procrustean bed.

        Of course in a CI classroom there is a lot of teacher input. I am the only one who speaks the language, and I am a human who can interact with the kids (as opposed to a recording that is frozen on a screen), and I have loads of training on making myself understood, so why would I *NOT* speak to my classes? Ben Slavic, my dear friend and mentor, has invented so many ways to make the CI classroom less and less teacher-driven with every passing year. He will have my eternal admiration for his endless innovation, and tinkering, right up to the end of his 38-year career when he forged a strong new system of CI delivery in the 116-degree heat of New Delhi, India.

        I explained to her that the kids’ images and ideas are the basis of the instruction, that this new way of working from images that I was fortunate to have learned about directly from Ben, its inventor/discoverer, and using the language that is needed to forward the story using Ben’s other recent genius invention of a simple story mountain to chug over in our happy little story train, that this new way is so much more student-facing than what I used to do. star-trek-communicator-launched-1

        What I used to do – faithfully, for twelve years, and with great verve, zest, fidelity, belief, and passion – I loved it at the time, I did – was much more teacher-driven, as we started with structures/words that I chose, a script or story idea that I selected or invented, and it was more like CI Mad Libs.

        Ben’s new way of crafting stories has made me feel more like a conduit for their ideas, a translation machine with a heart, soul, and brain of my own. Their very own class Communicator who not only puts their ideas into L2 but also builds class cohesion and community. Beam me up, Scotty.

        1. Tina and Ben – what an inspiration your words are. I will reread them many times. Not only are they helpful for WL teachers but I believe all teachers can find tremendous wisdom in them. One question I have is this: Do you know of Elementary School Teachers who are using Invisibles? Can you point me their way? Certainly more questions will come but for now.. onward to TPRS The Easy Way. And Thank you!

          1. Catharina Greenberg in NJ and Alisa Shapiro in Chicago and some others are all members of this PLC. We have an elementary thread on the Forum. Also I think you can search the word Elementary here. In the Primers (across the top of this page) you can find some things that Catharina has written about elementary. Clearly, it is a different beast than the middle and high school versions of CI.

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