We Throw Up

The right mindset, the correct spirit, of the video work we are doing, that has been spearheaded in the past week by Angela and Drew, is letting go of the need to be perfect. We just go in and film and then maybe do some very minor editing (I don’t think Drew and Angela did any editing) and we throw that up to YouTube or wherever and we share it. That’s it. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort if our mind is right.
I really believe that this video thing that we are doing is only going to work if we adapt a kind of brand new carefree attitude about being looked at, judged, as in, we don’t care. Remember, this blog site is safe from any eyes but our own and – to say it again – we must deep six the concept that the images of our teaching that we put up must somehow be fancy or especially wonderful. If we don’t adopt this new attitude, we will have to wait a long time to get video that we would consider good enough for others to see – that doesn’t happen in our daily working lives – we are not going to get our best work on film.
In that spirit, while I am still waiting for the edited DPS video from last spring that I keep threatening to share with everyone, inspired by Drew and Angela, I just decided to go in today and video a class and throw it up here. So below are links to what I did today.
Tha background on this video is that it is a French 1 class in its fourth week. Notice that since we are doing a story we speak in the past tense. PQA is mostly in the present unless you are asking a class what they did over the weekend, and readings are in the present. I should put up some video of the reading class we get out of this. The kids are predominantly Latino and so pick up the French very quickly. You will see that I do a lot of teaching to the eyes, and I am certain that the level of comprehension that they display is authentic, even though the pace may seem way too fast. I couldn’t find my laser pointer, so that cramped my style a bit. It’s just me hanging out with the kids. About a week ago I got burned out on Circling with Balls (with only 20% of the kids discussed, so I will revisit single cards off and on over the next months between now and Christmas) and so last week I just decided to do stories. I chose Anne Matava’s Afraid of the Package. Today, when the film was taken, it was the second day of a story. Yesterday we started it, but only got to three lines of the first location. I had spent one day doing PQA on each of the three structures last week to set this up. That may explain why we appear so fast in the video today, because I had well over 100 repetitions on each of these structures before we started the story yesterday. I don’t like to short change the PQA. Below is the story and below it are the two links to the stuff that I got today. I am feeling very free and happy with this idea that we just throw up stuff when we get it. There is no perfect way to do this. It shouldn’t make us nervous. I have a long way to go even though I am very likely more experienced than most of us on the blog. So give me feedbacklet me know what you see – it will help me. And get some video together yourselves and just throw it up here and let’s get over ourselves. If we can do that, we can move mountains in our teaching. If we have to wait until we get perfect video, we won’t learn a thing.

Afraid of the Package*

receives a package
wants (doesn’t want to) open it
is afraid of

Tyler receives a package from Chuck Norris.  He doesn’t want to open it.  He is afraid of the package.  He goes to his mother and asks, “Can you open my package?”  His mother does not want to open it.  She is also afraid of the package.

Tyler goes to Jennifer Lopez.  He asks, “Can you open my package?”  Jennifer does not want to open it.  She is not afraid of the package, but she is afraid of Chuck Norris.
Tyler goes to the Hippy Policewoman.  He asks, “Can you open my package?”  The Hippy Policewoman is afraid of the package and of Chuck Norris.  But she must open the package.  It is her job.  She opens the package.

*Note very importantly that the way Anne designs her scripts is that she underlines variables – these are the words that we want to replace with cute answers supplied by our own students during the questioning process (circling). The parts of the script that are not underlined are non-negotiable. We say those words and thus align our story with the script. Thus, we see that the target structures are not underlined. That’s how stories work and how they differ from the total free form that we are allowed in PQA.

Here are the links to today’s class:



22 thoughts on “We Throw Up”

  1. I appreciate the relaxed atmosphere in your classroom. You’re visibly having fun together while being clear about the rules. You are right, there is still too much English, but it is still training time at the beginning of the year. I have to intervene a lot with my 5th and 6th graders because many young children, especially boys, have great difficulty to sit in their chair, listen, and think of the rules necessary in our classrooms. It’s much easier with my upper levels who are used to my new style of teaching.
    I would have liked to watch the PQA days preceding your story. The students in your video seem to be slightly too cool to bring forward silly ideas. Or are they still shy? Or lacking interest or not used to being asked real questions? Or does the camera make the difference?
    Thanks for sharing this video. And thanks for starting these great threads about Beginning the year. I will be able to upload something as soon as our school has bought the video equipment we wanted to have.

  2. …the students in your video seem to be slightly too cool to bring forward silly ideas. Or are they still shy? Or lacking interest or not used to being asked real questions? Or does the camera make the difference?…
    They were much more shy with the Circling with Balls. That is the main reason I went to a story, to get some energy. They were shy as well because I had my hard ass hat on during the first few weeks. I place the personalization process below the norming the class process so I was definitely the adult in those first weeks. That was hammer the jerks time. It took about a week. Diana Noonan our district WL coordinator who knows every school in the district – hundreds of them – says that the kids in this high school are by far the most quiet and reserved. She was really worried about me going there, in fact. When you see the footage that was edited from my former school, you will see the difference. So we are still getting to know each other. The kids were clearly not used to having to follow rules. I don’t think the camera was a factor. I will film some PQA for the next story we do. I just didn’t think of it last time.

  3. Ben,
    Great to see the blog members in action! I do commit to getting some video up (hold me to it!) – just gotta figure out the equipment to use and I suppose get clearance or whatever they require from us…
    I started my first story today and the energy level/participation level went way up. I was very happy about this. One thing I was a bit nervous about doing was bringing in an actor (thinking they are just not going to buy into THAT in high school (they are too cool, ya know) – BUT, your video has shown me that even just an extra body in the front – relaxed, on the stool – adds a subtle dynamic that I believe must help the attention level of the class – that’s their friend! Now I know that I do not need – not with the first story, anyways – an actor that goes all out – though all the better if that is what I get. I am pleasantly finding most of students happily playing along!…
    Too much English? I think it plays its part in the beginning, and I am sure you think that – its a way to connect with the students perhaps? I did not plan on this, but Ive been, in my informal English chats with my students, making use of a “hopping in a boat analogy” – pushing off on a journey of sorts…still some English here and there now, but more and more strict with No English as we push out further and further…Im happy to say that thanks to BS methods (Ben Slavic, of course (and others)) I have classes now so close to full L2 and so far away from the L1.1 bs that I did for way too many years…

  4. The 5 board words were from before? As targets or stray fish pulled in by the net and repeatedly served up and therby being targeted by the unfolding process rather than the teacher? Or What?
    Great vocal and gestural projection. Great emotional involvement which for you,as for me, seems to ever ever accelerating speed-up. Don’t inhibit your natural impetus, but maybe get in the habit of catching your racing immediately after the fact and then repeating the sentence super oh so slow and almost in a whisper. then gradually rev up an acceptable rate of enunciation. You won’t hold to it, but then you can yet again go through the same regulatory process. The students may be some amused. That more or less worked for me.
    Frequent statements of praise for responders and encouragement of applause from the rest of the class. !
    Great explanations to the class of the purpose of what they may at first see as mere arbitrary madness.

  5. Did you inadvertently omit some point and pause, or did you deliberately gloss over certain untaught words that didn’t require comprehension for catching overall gist?

    1. I’m not aware of any untaught words getting in there. Maybe just a few out of bounds words that I failed to bring inbounds. Where in the tape do you mean? I’m very strict about bringing out of bounds words into bounds when they occur by accident. That, by the way, is not Point and Pause, which may have a different definition of being used only on target structures (!) according to Diana Noonan. But that is the subject of another blog entry.

  6. The words – which have nothing to do with TPRS method – are up there because a) I like to start class with them – they get the kids focused easily, b) I find that during CI the kids’ eyes go up in that direction to process stuff, c) I need them for quizzes, which are bogus because we don’t learn languages from list of words but my bosses need the grades, and d) all teachers in my school have to have a word wall up.
    Where do they come from? I don’t know. I just wrote a bunch of panels (only the two are up right now early in the year here) of words that felt frequent to me. By the end of the year there will be 150, maybe even 200 words that will have been raining down on the kids during class.
    I have gotten to know where each word is. So it helps for clarification during the CI.
    Great idea of how to slow down! I’m gonna try it. And thanks for the feedback! It’s nice to get it out there that I am no expert and that we need to just realize some of the things I’ve said in blogs today and yesterday about how important it is that we chill and not try to be perfect and that there is no perfect version of this and we are who we are and that’s o.k. It’s just me and the way I do CI, no more no less.

  7. Ben,
    Your students seem relaxed and safe in your classroom; that’s awesome! To me, you were going fast, but the students seemed to really enjoy/understand French. You did lots of comprehension checks, and even small things such as voice inflection and working the room contributed to the student’s interest and understanding.

    1. They did understand it and the entire thing seems faster because 90% of them are fluent in Spanish, Angela. Thanks for the feedback. An important point is that we PQA’d target structures for three full days last week, but if you don’t understand French you wouldn’t pick them up in the discussion, so it seems more choatic than it is to the kids. There is really a lot of clarity going on here, in my opinion. I think it’s the Spanish that gives them that speed. Plus, this is where we are all going to have to deal with the limitations of video – it gives a kind of distortion that is absent in the classroom.

  8. Were you going over and then finishing up a story you had started the day before? Which words had you targeted and practiced with PQA?
    Garçon was not in the story yesterday? But since it was now that word’s turn for word-wall wok, you found it quite convenient for incorporation into the story? Smart move, if so.
    You have to quiz 5 word-wall words per day plus the material quiz from the day ‘s completed story? Or what?

    1. No we were on the first location of the story. We are nowhere near done. We’re not even in the second location yet, and we didn’t advance any further today because I had to get some grades. The target structures are in the blog post where the links are given.
      No link, no smart move, on the word boy. I just needed it and it happened to be a word on the list that we have studied. I’m a net person all the way.
      That quiz thing is bogus on the wall words. But the entire grading thing is bogus. More on that in today’s post.

  9. Ben,
    First of all, thanks for sharing. It is encouraging to see a colleague in action. Hopefully I will get the guts to post video. Secondly, I need to know where I can get a “hard ass hat.” I know that at this stage in my CI instruction, discipline is my biggest issue; and I know that it’s no one’s fault but my own. I’ve tried a number of hopeful ideas (Fred Jones, Paye-mois, etc.) How do you go about creating a classroom that is both serious about the rules and fun and relaxed? I’m having a hard time balancing the two. In one of my classes I have juniors in French III that I’ve had in class every year since the seventh grade (I use to teach social studies at the middle school) – they know me and my weaknesses too well!

    1. …how do you go about creating a classroom that is both serious about the rules and fun and relaxed?….
      It’s all due to the rules and not allowing anything to get by me in the first month. I have them now and I really feel that the video doesn’t show that. First comes discipline, with some personalization but not at the cost of my hard ass personality in the first two weeks. After that, I slowly back off so that by spring we are laughing easily but the element of the hard ass is still there from the first weeks. That is the only way I know how to describe it.
      Yeah forget that class you’ve had forever. Those kinds of classes can’t be changed. Gotta start with new ones.

  10. Français 1?
    I heard il y avait. Using the past tense at them already? Will they ever hear or read the story in another tense? I’ve been throwing some past tense at my level 1s but I haven’t done a complete story with them in the past. The good thing is that there are no rules with this. As long as they understand.

    1. I actually have rules on this. PQA in the present, mostly. Stories in the past, always. Readings in the present, always. Works for me. In this method, level 1 kids end the year entirely conversant with present, past, imperfect, and I mean in total command of all three.

  11. Andrea,
    I think your hard ass hat comes when you refuse to give into them and you just stare at them. I have the “Alternative Plan for Disruptive and Underperforming Students” that Bryce made hanging on my board in a folder (you can see it in my video on the left hand side). I just point at it with my laser and then shine my laser right on the kid’s forehead. It get’s the point across well for me. Once you actually follow through with a threat I think you get your hardass hat. In college my prof said never make a threat without following through with it.

  12. Ben, you seem to have changed from abruptly ending a story in medias res when time was running out to now continuing it on the next day(s). Or is that relentless full development of this first story just for norming your students on how story is supposed to work?

  13. I can’t picture ben with a hard side in the classroom. It helps to hear that. Someone said something to me that helped me to become harder. The guy is such a sweet merciful man. But he said to me that the first two weeks are not about showing mercy. The first two weeks are about students’ discovering not just the posted rules but the actual rules of the class. In the first two weeks you are less flexible and less merciful because you have to establish that your posted rules are the actual rules. Someone else told me that laws without penalties are downgraded to the level of suggestions. So mercy early on tells them that you have made suggestions for behavior rather than rules. Once the rules are established, then you can show mercy. I went in after two weeks of class and finally started enforcing my rules with confidence and immovability and parent contacts, and have watched my toughest class (my 19 boys) begin to sparkle. I’m still working on my other classes… In some ways it’s a lot easier when the trouble is blatant because confidence is easier to come by. The class loses out while I am developing the confidence in my rules that undergirds the immovability that establishes the rules as rules. Hope and strength are growing, though, and I am expecting to find the balance with my other classes too.
    I have also adjusted my rules to a more reasonable version…adjusted my rules to match what I really believe is fair and good… I no longer try to force kids to do things that make them feel foolish in the name of following rules and letting me know that they comprehend. That way i can say walk like an elephant, dance the twist, touch your head with your foot (kind of like a dare) and then celebrate those that actually try. I try to invite play and demonstrate subtler options for the aloof ones where I do expect full participation. I watch the class response to see how far I can go and still create a fun atmosphere. This is working way better for me than my previous messed up way of interpreting the rule, because it matches my beliefs better.
    Also, before I try anything else, I try ben’s method of lavishing attention on the troublemakers (since i don’t usually catch them at the door before they make trouble). Sometimes that alone is enough to change their relationship to the rules. Then if more is needed, I move forward toward consequences with the confidence that they are necessary.

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