Agree, agree, agree, agree.
Yeah but you are the only one. There are thousands of teachers who really believe that we can cast out the net and count the fishies we caught that day. It is a point of contention with Diana and me. Can’t we just talk to the kids?If we can cast nets and count fishies than look what we reduce language acquisition to – something we can do. But the process is divine and not something we set up and control. Whom are we to mess with something like that, something that God made and that we did not make? Hubris is alive and well in our profession.
I agree that we can’t know. Not really. None of it.
Because I am who I am, I like the structure of “having a structure” for teaching. Keeping things comprehensible for our students is the #1 challenge for all of us. The “lesson structure limitations” keep me aware of that challenge at all times and, also, help me to maintain comprehensibility in an orderly way. If we were dealing with only one child (our own, for example), we would be able to modify and slow down our input with ease–never needing a plan. Real life would provide it.
However, as teachers in a school, we find ourselves locked in a closed box (classroom) for 45 minutes with 30 adolescents, who really barely know us or each other, and we are asked to get them to acquire a foreign language. In my opinion, this situation requires structure in order to succeed in any way. If those kids were going to be with me for five years, perhaps not.
That is my experience and I am not advocating taking out the structures or changing the three steps in any way, since they are proven to work better than anything else, by far.
So I will continue to focus on the structures, but I won’t assume anything about what the studenst already know in terms of vocabulary. I’ll just keep using stories and choose them intuitively.
A good batch of quality stories, as per Matava/Tripp (any others I don’t know about?) where the structures are each repeated through three locations to keep the train on the tracks, is my best case scenario for next year.
Hmmm. Ben, I love the way you always give me something new to think about. I can see what you’re talking about, and I know you’re right. We can never be sure that something is acquired rock solid. But like Jody, I need some structure to plan with. (I think it’s a bit like housecleaning. I know perfectly well that the whole house will never be completely clean, but I like to make lists and tick things off. It just makes me feel that maybe someday we’ll get there, that there is some progress.)
You say you think that they’ve acquired something and you turn your back and it’s gone. True, but that happens even to native speakers. Occasionally a student will ask me for a word in English and I draw a blank. It just doesn’t come to the surface. It’s there, but I have to dig for a while before I find it. So our students may have misplaced “went”, but it’ll come back to them and be even more solid because they “forgot” it. It’s like dusting furniture. You have to keep going back and dust some more. So we have to refresh their memories and get rid of cobwebs and give them some more repetitions. But it’s a lot easier to put in a few more repetitions than it is to start from the beginning. Just as dusting is easier if you do it often.
This thread is making me feel more guilty about the amount of dust in my house and less guilty about my plan to continue to cycle through my critical word list, 25 words a quarter, even when it means that the level 4 kids will suddenly be reviewing level 1 structures at some point.
I found that some of my level 2 kids had the same problem you mentioned above, Ben, when I was sure that those words were rock solid. Admittedly, some of those kids were those who had other teachers last year. But at least one was my own. Having a few really good stories, good songs, interesting articles, one movie, and a solid frequency list that I recycle is starting to give me the kind of structure I need for feeling good about all those kids in the room. There’s something for everyone.
The last time I talked about this with Ben, I said that I would use a 300-word frequency list. I think that it’s going to be just 200 words for now. I’ll see what happens. Even if the intermediate and advanced class are recycling the words that the first-year kids just had, that means that those new second-year kids (who are in with a group of up to fifth year) will not have to concentrate on the meanings of the words, or they’ll get to learn them if they’ve been with someone else. They’ll feel much more at home.
And if that bombs (since those are the words that come up all the time anyway), I’ll institute a 300-word list. For now, we’ll see what happens. I’m out of school for the summer!! (Missing kids already, but not too much yet.)
I think 300 is too much. For me it’s more like 150-175 tops. But man those Word Walls and the games we play looking at that wall back and forth all class are going to be huge in my first four months of mega PQA games and fun and extended PQA and you name it. The wall will become a CI Wall. Things will come out of that wall like things in a Henry Potter novel. Stories will wait, and when they start in early winter, it’s going to be a lot easier. And I can do stories till May and not worry about assuaging the YDREN* guilt.
*You Didn’t Read Enough Novels
(actually if they use those FVR minutes, 10 per day, to read novels, by the end of the first 100 days of class, about mid-year, they will have had over 16 hours of quiet reading, which is about a month of classes. So, over the course of the year, my new plan of FRV out and SSR/FIR reading of novels in to start class will have given my students about two months of reading, but without all the interruptions and crazy ass stuff that happens when we are actually teaching, which sometimes is another term for getting in the way when it comes to reading.)
Point taken. My issue is with the mechanical assumption that the word is now “acquired” and now has the OSA – Official Stamp of Acquisition. We can’t control that. It’s too big. Why not relax about it and just talk to them, is really all I’m saying. Like I’m not going to do a certain Matava story bc the kids don’t have the right word set yet? I don’t care. They’re not focusing on the words anyway.
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