What To Do?

I got this from Julie. I don’t really have an answer. Here it is:
Hi Ben,
I’m looking for some advice, probably from the whole group, (as subscribers we don’t post new topics, right?) so I’m hoping you could put this out there to everyone. [ed. note: if you want something to appear here as a separate blog post and not a comment the software requires that you send the text to me in an email and then I will just make it into a separate blog entry.]
I live near Binghamton, NY. We had our first day of school on 9/7, and then our whole area was flooded – it broke flood records in the district where I teach. Many people lost everything. I know there are students and staff who have lost their homes. We will be starting back to school again tomorrow, Tuesday 9/13. Even though many people still have weeks (months) of clean up ahead of them, it was important to return as many aspects of the students’ lives to normal as possible.
So we’re going to start school again … only, now the beginning activities of Circling with Balls to get to know the kids, and to show them that this class will be about them, seems like it might be difficult to pull off. Those severely affected by the flooding may want nothing to do with this (understandably), or else they may just want to talk about it. I’m even having a difficult time explaining my concerns. I don’t want to rub salt in anyone’s wounds; I don’t want to ignore students’ losses; I don’t want the class to be a “downer;” I don’t want to force them to pretend to be silly; and I don’t think I can just go in and do this on the fly depending on how each group of kids seems.
My response: My gut tells me to go back to traditional teaching for awhile. This is for real. I really don’t know what I would do. Not the Circling with Balls. You can sneak one kid in per day in a month or so, but not now. Then what do you do? One Word Images? I can’t see that. It requires that same element of frivolity that has been sucked out of the kids’ lives temporarily. We require such flights of fancy, and imaginative, bizarre answers from them and they just plain wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t, and not right after 9/11 on top of that. Maybe the Word Chunking will help. They get in teams and the focus is much more on each other, which is easier for them always but maybe more now. Stories? I don’t know.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m asking how & what to teach; I’m just at such a loss here. I’m concerned that personalization at this point might not be the way to go. I do agree with that. Or maybe Circling with Balls will be personal, but removed enough from the devastation that it might work?  I don’t think so. I’m wondering if it might be better to focus on some thematic stuff (maybe TPR with beginners, basic greetings, the usual/traditional stuff, etc.) just to get past the next week or two? I would SO welcome ANYONE’S thoughts or ideas about this.
My response:  I would say yes to the traditional stuff, for a few weeks or so anyway. Speak English, let the kids space out a bit and go into their own thoughts. Some may need to do that in the safe environment of your classroom. On the positive side, I think that this will be over within a month or so. Just feeling that. You lose a month of CI but you don’t have to put yourself or your kids in what looks like an untenable situation tomorrow morning.
Thanks in advance,



7 thoughts on “What To Do?”

  1. I think more traditional would also be the way to go, until things normalize a bit…but by traditional I’m picturing classic TPR with earlier students and with upper levels I’m picturing stories in the manner of LICT series or something like that…not so much traditional in the way of a text book…this may give students, and yourself, to get away from reality for a while.

  2. Thank you so much! It’s 6:22 and I’m leaving for work in 10 minutes, and checked “just in case” anyone had thoughts. It’s calming to hear your responses. Thanks.
    Julie M

  3. What I noticed here after the ice storm in 1997 is that kids were relieved to get back to a routine. We didn’t ignore the fact that no one had power and many people couldn’t get back to their homes, but we did press on with business as close to usual as possible. Children especially need to see that life goes on.
    With that said, I agree with the others that less personal is best right now. LICT is actually perfect, because there is no danger of your students identifying or comparing themselves with the talking ducks.

  4. Whew! We made it! Thank you for your helpful thoughts everyone. It was much better seeing everyone in person than I had anticipated. I will hold off for a while on the personal, but I really want to do much more of that this year. I’ll use some LICT stories until then. Thanks.

  5. I am finally succeeding at TPR this year. It has been a lot of fun. If your students seem to be in the mood for some play/escape, TPR might be really helpful. It’s not as personal as PQA (so perhaps less threatening), but I personalize with BEP. the class reads magazines. About Justin biber. Salina Gomez. Britney spears. Kobe Bryant. Etc. I ask The class what they are reading about. The class spends time with friends. The Class spends time with friends at Six Flags (amusement park). The class spends time with enemies. The class swims, the class swims badly. The class runs in*corre*ctly (which is a nice word association in Spanish). the class runs/skates/skis forward/backward. The personalization of this comes from watching the sparklers sparkle. Those images are priceless and they belong to the whole class. I wouldnt use the swimming one for the flood victims… But here in tx where we had a heat streak of 100+ for almost 40 consecutive days and no rain and trees and bushes turning brown in the heat of the sun and grass fires charring the ground black, today I had a group of 19 boys who threw their whole hearts into it and were incredibly funny.

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