The October Collapse

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72 thoughts on “The October Collapse”

  1. the first paragraph of this caught me, as I came on here for some “friendship” — It’s already hitting me today …..feeling the loneliness in my dept, as two colleagues share ideas together and do not include me – like they used to. Granted, they were talking about “forced output” (not what they would call it), so I have a different way of doing things now, but the people I used to chat with and hang out with and discuss “best” practices with avoid those discussions with me now. :-/
    Please don’t think that I am complaining, or crying….I know in my heart what I am doing now “works” – even though it takes TIME and PATIENCE – but it IS a lonely existence. Anyone else feel this way today??? (thanks for listening and THANKS for this PLC!!!….not so lonely anymore! )

    1. thanks, MB. I have had people in the past week give me advice on what I “should” do. Our curriculum director–a former French teacher–showed me a vocabulary strategy for English that she recommended (“I’ve never seen this word” I’ve seen it, but don’t know it, “I could use it..”) She said she knows TPR teachers who have used this strategy. sigh. Too much English and analysis for me. I don’t think I was as tactful as I should have been to a very important person. I’ll try to be extra nice the next time I see her.

      An English teacher who is learning Italian on her own showed me a quiz-yourself iPad app for vocabulary and again said “you should be having your students do this.” Both women were nice about it, but it just amazes me how far off the beaten path we are–the way we are teaching languages is just plain…ah “foreign”….to many of our colleagues!

      1. What I’ve found with vocab strategies for English is that they’re just that, for English. Every word, every instruction reinforces English, but for us, we need to reinforce TL with TL vocabulary and TL words and compelling input.

        In ELA, the whole time is spent negotiating meaning and having discussions. We’re trying to do the same thing in second language classes, but it can’t be as complex for kids who are literally just learning the language.

        Learning discrete vocab won’t help our kids, and I explained that to my students and I think they get it for the most part. I’m seeing much better results this year going with the flow than trying to shove dozens of words down their throats like I did last year and getting angry that they couldn’t remember all of them.

        I’d love to share my ideas and successes (and failures) with the other language teachers at my school, but they are in a traditional bubble focused on teaching vocab basics and building up from their with grammar, grammar, grammar and exercises meant to analyze language.

        I think October Collapse for me, too, is about this certain kind of loneliness in my building but the community here certainly helps!

  2. Ben, thanks for the words of support (and the A). I think it is about the students and what they need. My students NEED this, and now, finally, they are starting to connect the dots, and coalescing as a class. As for Ethan, he has had a really rough time, and is trying to act out even more as I deal with him in a consistent way. But what is happening, is that the kids now understand that they can be with me or they can be with him, and pretty much all of the students are syncing their responses with me, leaving him to flail on his own, and they are really frustrated when he does choose to act out. So he is coming to a turning point where he can continue to rebel, and further isolate himself, and end up working silently, or he can become more a part of the group to which he really wants to belong, but doesn’t quite know how to. If I hadn’t been hammering them with the rules all this time, Ethan would surely have found a few allies. For Ethan’s sake, I wish I could have somehow gone into CWB sooner, because it would have provided him with a positive identity in the class, but I really felt that I couldn’t even let them have pieces of paper in front of them until the norms had been established.

    As for the second year classes, they have done great because last year they got a bunch of CI from me, even if I wasn’t as strict with the routines. We’ve been doing the rules and CWB past/present comparing their sheets from last year with this year’s sheets, and we’re almost ready to move into a few Matava scripts. But silly stories are already emerging from the CWB discussion.

    October is definitely a time to make a transition, and move more into the language itself. But I think that making too abrupt of a transition can cause the train to derail, so I’m going very gently into new territory, and try hard not to fall back into bad habits.

    Another benefit of the rules work: I had to miss two of my classes this morning, and I had prepped them for doing some team worksheets on Latin-English word roots, and a scavenger hunt in a picture book about ancient Roman life. When I arrived at school, I found a note in my classroom from the sub, a colleague, that simply said “awesome classes!”

  3. I can definitely relate to this post. I’m feeling the October collapse and I’m not even there yet. This is my first year teaching TPRS and my second year overall. I am only using TPRS in my Spanish 1 classes. It seems to be going ok in my second block class in terms of enthusiasm and engagement for the most part, but I still feel like I’m really not reaching some of my barometer kids. My first block class is a different story. The attitude is a lot more negative toward the stories. I get lots of blank stares and awkward silences. Also, I have one kid who thinks it’s fun to answer questions with “sure.” That is sending a message to the others that it is cool to act like they don’t know what I’m saying and no one wants to offer up cute answers anymore. I’m following the LICT series but as the structures become more complex, I’m finding it really hard to circle. For instance, how do you get lots of repetitions out of “saben que necesitan hacer algo para comprarle una casa elegante.”? I also have the issue of trying to keep myself in line with what they need to know for the district midterm and final I have to give. Would it be wise to take a step back and use more simplified structures so they get the basics that they need to know for their exams? I find myself just translating all the time and they aren’t getting enough repetitions of the more complex sentences. It all seemed so easy at the beginning with “El cuento del gato.” I’m determined to keep doing this because last year really sucked when I taught out of a textbook. Spanish 3 continues to suck for this reason. I really feel like I can’t use stories with them. They haven’t really heard any Spanish during their first 2 years so they have no idea what I’m saying most of the time but they recognize the structures enough that they convince themselves they know it and don’t need to listen. I can almost hear them thinking “shut up and give me a worksheet!”

    1. I would simplify it as much as possible. Split up that long phrase.

      Also – to get some more repetitions and reinforce discipline, do a dictation or two with them. Tell them that if they want to not participate or make the class fun, they will get what they want and that that is what it will look like.

      Before doing a story with my students, I always remind them that the story will only be as entertaining as they make it. Try that old carrot and stick with the jGR, and letting them have fun. Also NEVER try to ask a new story on a Friday if your students are anything like mine – best to do a word chunk game or something similar based on a previous reading.

  4. 1. the kid who says “sure” -that is a very serious thing. I’d call on this. Such disrespect. makes me feel angry just reading it.
    2. …saben que necesitan hacer” – isn’t that the structure? do you really need the rest as your primary base for the circling? i’m bad at Spanish so I don’t know, but I’ve never tried to present any structure that complex.
    3. … keep myself in line with what they need to know for the district midterm and final I have to give…. Fine. Do that. Align with what your employers want. Throw all the CI you can also, but not at the same time. Don’t mix the methods. But know that you need to turn this adventure into a slower thing. Don’t get the train going too fast.
    4. Look here recently for comments on the best way to bring this new stuff to kids who want worksheets at upper level – those lost upper level kids. If you can’t find those comments, I’ll make it simple – give them the worksheets. Lean back and relax. Save your energy for the younger ones. I am of the very firm opinion that those kids cannot and will not, no matter how many jumping jack you do, get this work.

  5. I agree. For some students and some classes, the worksheets can be the reward for a few days of positive CI. This gives you a break, gives them what they want, and lets them prepare for tests that are out of your control.

    BTW, for in-class work on worksheets, culture projects, any of those non-CI things, I just created a rubric, and have really had success with it. Basically, I don’t grade the content of what the students are doing in class (I check that while they are working, and let them know if they need to do more or better). I tell them that their grade for the day (worth a quiz score) is based entirely on how productively they work. Then I post this rubric on the board and leave it up pretty much the whole time:

    In-class productivity rubric

    A–level work
    –Student uses the entire class time to complete the work to the best of his abilities.
    –Student works productively in groups or on his own, asking for help if necessary.
    –If he finishes early, student continues to be productive and does not distract others.

    B-level work
    –Student engages in some unproductive talk during the class, but stops when warned.
    –Some chatting when he has finished or is waiting for help.
    –Does not make an honest effort to complete work, but completes it before the next class.

    C-level work
    –Chatting and unproductive conversation, even when not fininshed with work.
    –Does not make honest effort to complete work.
    –Does not complete the work before next class when asked to.
    –Distracts group members and members of other groups.

    D-level work
    –Student makes minimal effort to work together or complete the assignment
    –Student distracts group members and members of other groups.
    –Most or all of his work is copied from other group members.

    I see this as an extension of my classroom CI rules, and I tell them so. Already, students have begun telling each other that they’re not doing A-level work. It’s partly tongue in cheek, but it shows me that they now know EXACTLY what I expect of them during “student centered” activities such as I give from time to time. Also, for the first time in my six years of failing at managing group work, I can approach a kid who is messing around and say something more specific than “get back to work.” In fact, I don’t have to say anything, just point to the rubric.

    Conventional teaching wisdom about the effectiveness of group-work (at least what I was taught in an excellent credential program in 2004) relies on micromanaging the groups, assigning jobs for each member, etc. But this is the same faulty reasoning as the argument for keeping the kids busy with lots of material in order to keep them out of trouble. It puts all the burden on the teacher, and doesn’t hold the kids responsible for handling themselves. The problem is not that they aren’t challenged, it’s that they aren’t held responsible for exercising restraint. As if, just because they finish early, or have a question, or can’t continue on their own, that gives them the right to disrupt the rest of the class. But no one specifically describes and grades them on these behaviorS (not behavior).

    This is just another example of how the work we are doing with our students around discipline and human interaction can spill over positively into all disciplines and skills. It’s common sense, but kids need to be taught what common sense it. In our society, there are no cultural norms to take for granted. It just means we need to spell things out. But that’s our job.

  6. Oh wow! John, this is fantastic. The missing link! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! The piece most people, including myself, sometimes miss / neglect to think about is the effect on the other students. Just because superstar blazing fast processor dude slammed through the project does not give him the right to “pollute the atmosphere” by distracting others!

    I kind of want to post this permanently, because it meshes with the regular stuff too, and it will be great for subs!

    My bff here at school teaches art and she has been adapting our CI rubrics to her classes. This one is perfect for her and she will be so excited to see it!

    Thank you 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. So jen what I have been doing for the sole purpose of being able to find it quickly is take any post and make it into a category. So tell me below as a comment what you want to call this category, write a short intro explaining it to others who may wonder what it is and how it works, and I will post it as an article and assign it into a category. I don’t care if we get 500 of these, they work to easily find the big time posts. Notice that I immediately made one for jGR and there are five or so very valuable articles in there that I can find right away. I think we are doing a pretty good job of managing the information here, given that there are 3,200 articles and 14, 851 comments going back over five years. So let me know what you want to call this category.

      1. I am chuckling to myself, because I was hunting for this post and couldn’t remember where it was! I think the topics in this thread are for the most part about interpersonal communication, so what if there were a link to interpersonal skills / classroom interaction / classroom culture? Or something like that.

  7. It’s good to know that what I’m feeling is common! Thanks for posting Ben! I’m having a fantastic time with my Intro kids and I want to throttle the Spanish 1 kids. I had the same group last year and we work through thematic units, not really a textbook, but similar and lots and lots of grammar! They are very intrigued when I have something left up from the Intro classes. I hear lots of quiet (but loud enough so that I can hear) comments like, “How can they know that much?” or “Do we know how to say that?” My Spanish 1 kids have asked if they can do stories or just chat, like I do in my Intro classes. I don’t think that they can handle the freedom of it. I feel like it’s so much like freedom in my CI classes, because we do just chat…I’m laughing throughout class and we have a really great time! In my Spanish 1 classes, I am grinding my teeth and watching the clock so that maybe just maybe the class will be over sooner!!!!

    Should I just start in with CI with the Spanish 1 classes? I really did try early in the year, and they had me last year not doing CI, so maybe they can’t handle the change. They don’t really know that much, other than vocab and some grammar structures. It’s sort of the same situation that Andrew Edwards is having with his 3s, many of them just don’t seem to care!

    I’m trying so hard to keep my head above the water and just keep swimming!!!

    Thanks for your help and for your advice!!! Keep it coming!


  8. Yep, definitely feeling the October collapse too! Good timing on this post. But then I look at my students’ free writes from the beginning of the year compared to now. It’s only been a month and a half, and they have improved SO much. So I must be doing something right, even if it doesn’t always feel like it when I get blank stares and non-committal responses from the kids.

  9. Bad Ben says don’t do any CI with those level 1 kids. Good Ben says tell them that the reason they don’t do what the other class does is bc you are not confident it will work. Then tell them how jGR works and that is the big deal, just listening with respect, and can they do that? Just tell them how you feel. Maybe do ten minutes at the end of class as an experiment. If they do it for ten minutes without interruption and no English, give them 11 minutes the next day. Just thinking here.

    1. While I think that Bad Ben has the right idea, I feel like I’m not doing my job properly if I pick and choose who gets to receive CI instruction. So, as Good Ben suggests, I will try, in small chunks, to use CI with EVERYONE. If they can handle it, HOORAY! If not, Bad Ben wins!

  10. Thank you for this. I am feeling exhausted right now. I’m teaching 2 HS classes for the first time (1 level 1 and 1 level 2) and am trying to come up with my own materials. I leave the HS after 2 hours and go teach at a K-8 Catholic school everyday after that. I am the only one who uses CI, and the other teachers had a meeting (without me since I’m at the Catholic school) that they were going to order Realidades and begin to use that series. I know what can happen with CI because I’ve seen it with the Catholic school kids who only had me once a week last year. I didn’t have to review anything with them! They already knew everything! It was awesome. Sorry to whine, but when I logged on and saw this I got the same feeling I get when I go to church after not having been in a long time, and the topic seems is exactly what I am feeling. : ) Thanks!

  11. This may be a good time to pull out some of those pearls we keep tucked away. Last week on a beautiful fall Friday, I had kindergarten day outside under a lovely tree. It was a nice change for some kids who needed a change. Today, I did some silly songs with French 1 and we watched “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in French. They liked it so much that I did “Movie Talk” with it in French 2. They liked it so much, I will repeat it with French 3 and 4. I have learned to hold back on these activities and sprinkle them in as needed. I am surprised at the goodwill it engenders. For anyone looking for some topical reading, “Les Petits Citoyens” online has an article on Malala that I am working on with French 4. Malala also happens to be the topic of an essay contest sponsored by the National Organization of Women which the English Department is encouraging the kids to enter. If anyone wants a copy of the reading and comp questions I have, please email me Bon week-end!

  12. After feeling so tired and somewhat defeated this week, I checked my email to see an email from a parent of a student that I taught 2 years ago, that said this year in high school (his first year) he is taking Spanish 1, but he is so far ahead of everyone else, that they are giving him a “project” (not sure what kind) to do for the rest of the trimester! I only saw him twice a week for 3 school years. (Although, he was incredibly gifted!) Then one of my principals today told me that a parent came in and said how impressed she was that all of her children were writing, and her 8th grader has not ever written this much in any Spanish class. That was a pretty good way to end the week! : )

  13. Right on Jayme, good on you. What we do, at the end of the day, whether we taught up to its potential or not, in spite of our own self doubts, brings gains that just cannot be seen when teachers use methods from the 1950’s, even if those methods are dolled up by computers to look as if they are something “new”. Congrats.

  14. Hitting the “October Wall” is how I’ve described it. It is at this time that the newness runs out and the materials and ideas start to run thin.

    Now is the most important time for those with experience to be mentors–virtually or in person. If you can schedule a coffee hour with CI teachers in your area, or schedule a virtual chat time, like on twitter, so you can get questions answered, it will be really helpful.

    Also, anyone who has materials who is willing to share, it’s so helpful for those who have too much to do and too little time to do it. (thanks Chill for your offer to share)

    This forum is such a life-saver. CI teachers are so generous and helpful.

    Here’s my email If anyone needs some support–ask away. If you live within a couple of hours of NW Ohio, I will travel.

    We have a coaching and collaboration session coming up Jan. 4 in Bellefountaine, OH.

    Don’t let the feelings of being overwhelmed drive you back to worksheets. We are all here to help.

  15. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a student who was in my class for 2 years about ten years ago. He was not a star student, pretty much barometer, and more interested in composing his own music than anything else. He wanted to let me know that he passed his university degrees with flying colors and has a good job, so good that he’s had promotions and is starting his own company on the side. He didn’t know if I remembered him (I did) but he said that he remembered me and my classes, that he was in New York for a holiday and his English was holding up pretty well. He said he especially remembered studying Shawshank Redemption with me and while walking down the street in New York he found himself almost literally face to face with Morgan Freeman, who was shooting a scene in the middle of the crowds. So he took a picture and sent it to me.

    It’s a big perk to think that it’s not only the brilliant students who benefit from our lessons, but also those who don’t particularly shine, but who come away with a positive attitude, knowing that they can communicate in the language.

  16. @Teri and Judy – thank you for these posts! Arrived to school this morning and was hit with two sad bits of news; this was after a very long weekend. I am swimming in paperwork for our new Reading “Customized Learning Block”, and can’t seem to find the energy to plan my Spanish classes, let alone ‘grading’ dictados! and grades close for the quarter next Friday. TCI definitely works best with a “Teach for June attitude”, rather than a semester schedule. I’m sorry to say that I am so tempted to revert back to worksheets right now. 🙁
    But, on the bright side: like Judy said…you do have the ability to make terrific impacts on kids when you teach this way! I was able to pull one student aside (this is my third year with him) and tell him that I know he can do better – that he just skims by with the bare minimum. He then admitted to me that he doesn’t try too hard, because he doesn’t want his “best” to be seen as inferior!!! wow. that explains a lot about a lot of kids!

  17. Today I stopped by to touch base with a couple of WL teachers. (I’m Department Chair) The purpose was just to pop in and ask how they were doing and the year was going. One of my teachers was conferring with her student teacher, and they were talking about some issues they were having in the classroom. It was definitely October Collapse.

    We spent some time talking, and I tossed out some ideas that we have discussed in the PLC. Both of them were eager to have some ideas for coping at this point, and they are going to come in during their conference period to observe me next week.

    I’m so glad that I had suggestions for them, and the credit goes largely to the people on this PLC. By being honest about our own needs and working through issues, we create energy and synergy that reaches far beyond the membership to improve our profession. This is real collaboration, and I am extremely pleased to be part of it and be able to take the fruits of it to others. (BTW, the teacher I was helping today is committed to TCI/TPRS but admitted that there are days when she is tempted to go back to the book because of some students. We discussed the book contract a la Blaine Ray as well as other approaches to management, including jGR without using the acronym.)

    Thank you to everyone who has contributed in a variety of ways to this group and given me the ability to provide counsel to others.

  18. Here’s a link to an article that has helped me a bit with the collapse:’

    For many of us, this is a very real threat to our wellbeing.
    “It’s is the longest period of time during the school year without a significant break, leaving students and teachers exhausted and stressed. ” and “Not only is it free of significant breaks, but DEVOLSON immediately follows summer. It’s like getting up and running a marathon when you haven’t walked more than a mile in nine weeks.”

    1. That is an excellent article! Thanks for sharing it. It’s well-written and humorous, too.

      Another semi-related topic because I can’t recall the conversation was with Jen Schongalla about blurting/TL use. She was talking about timing how long her students could go in the target language without wrong use of English, and how it amazed her how well her level 1 class did with that.
      Today I had the same experience: I explained the competition to my “Advanced” class and how I’d be inviting the Intermediate and Novice classes to do the same. I even gave it as an option to the Advanced. (The 4th level class would win hands down so I didn’t include them at this time anyway.) With that class, most likely to blurt, and with most of them never really looking at posters on the wall with phrases like “how do you say __ in Chinese?” — well, they earned 35 min. 24 sec. of uninterrupted time. We took a brain break in the middle of class and paused the timer then. A student who has almost never had an English problem kept the time for us. I was seriously amazed. The mindset was different; they were trying to use Chinese, and they asked for help when they couldn’t think of something.

      Anyway, it was awesome. Class taught itself. I was so happy and I told them so.

      1. Ok, same timing approach helped the intermediate and novice classes, too. They were aware of their spoken language in a different way. It was cool. There was also a sense of togetherness, working on the same goal, that was really, really nice. This first round of timing TL use will go through next Monday & the winning class gets 15 min. of class time directed as they prefer on the next day of class. I guess that’s the idea behind “PAT” time. Well, looks like that’s going to be what I do for a while at least. It has not been a burden and has not made me feel like a nasty person, which most classroom management stuff does.

        I realize that what I’m saying is in contrast what Ben others have been saying about just being an adult and stopping at every infraction, smile, and then move on. But I think that like our CI teaching styles will be different, and yet can all be very effective, finding one’s way to cheerfully maintain classroom focus and light-heartedness is another area where each teacher may look a little different. And it’s fine. It’s better, actually. I want to feel like I’m being myself in class, and this did it for me.

        1. It’s cost : benefit. Look at no L1 use from a student’s perspective:

          Cost: not talk to friends, not express oneself in L1
          Benefit: more time for CI & acquisition, smoother management for the teacher

          Those just are not benefits that are going to motivate most kids. So, in many cases, we need external reinforcers: jGR, timing + PAT time, timeouts, calls home, textbook work, etc.

          A similar cost : benefit analysis happens for FVR – the cost for some outweighs the benefit, which is why external motivators can work. . .

          But hopefully these external reinforcers can create the environment the teacher wants, which allows the teacher to actually use CI to intrinsically motivate students. . . in other words, the external reinforcers may be used less over time and maybe eventually removed.

          1. “hopefully these external reinforcers can create the environment the teacher wants, which allows the teacher to actually use CI to intrinsically motivate students”

            Yes, totally! They have to experience it before they get how cool it can be. I really think the Advanced group had a good time – especially some who have a tendency to blurt. I think they felt smart.

          2. “But hopefully these external reinforcers can create the environment the teacher wants… which allows the teacher to actually use CI to intrinsically motivate students. . . in other words, the external reinforcers may be used less over time and maybe eventually removed.”

            My assumption based on reward psychology that I’ve read about is that this might be wishful thinking. But then, when aren’t we rewarding students extrinsically for doing what we want in schools? (e.g. grades)

            Does anyone who uses the PAT system find it pits kids against each other in not positive ways? Or do you feel it is more them working together toward a common goal?

          3. I think that im going to have to become aware of these motivators if I’m going to win against the collapse.

  19. I am so glad that I joined this forum and saw this post because I know that I am not alone!! I am the first year Mandarin CI teacher and I am having a bottleneck right now. I have been to some workshops presented by COACH Foreign Language Project in Los Angeles but I have never attended any formal TPRS conferences or workshops. I think maybe this is one of the reasons that I am struggling.

    I started a new lesson these days and did circling with new vocabulary words. But I felt like in the middle of the process, the students started getting tired. I tried to relate them to the discussion and also did some PQAs and also spoke slowly enough making sure they could understand, but they were still not very engaged. They are a group of great students I really like. They did not have this problem when we did the previous lesson. (Probably TPRS was new to them) But this time, It seemed like they didn’t buy-in. Are there any activities or variations that I can do while doing the circling and discussion so that I can keep them focused and grab their attention?

    I posted this on Facebook group but have not gotten any response yet. I really hope I can have some suggestions from you guys. Thanks a lot!!!

    1. When did you start back to school? My students were flat this week, but we were all tired. We started back on August 8. We have a 1-week break and I’m sure it’ll help the energy in the class

    2. Hi Phoebe!
      Welcome to Ben’s PLC. I’m also rather new to this community but have already profited immensely.
      As Ben says, we don’t tend to do TPRS the “traditional” way anymore. I tried TPRS just before I found this Community and the many repetitions while targeting and circling got me frustrated immediately. I felt like I had put chains round my chest although my students were fine with it – but then it was brandnew to them – I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to keep this kind of work up for many stories. Therefore I was so relieved when I found TPRS experts=this PLC, who didn’t do this any longer.
      And of course you must find out what you feel fine with. If it’s targeting and circling then go ahead with it .There seem to be many teachers who are loving it and are successful. But I for one have found my way with the NATURAL APPROACH TO STORIES (Ben’s and Tina’s way) and SL ( Storylistening, which is Beniko Mason’s way).

      All the best to you, Udo

  20. Phoebe you have joined a group of teachers who for the most part don’t do TPRS anymore. I will send you a book that explains how we are different here. To briefly address your questions (the book will answer all of them) I would say that stories based on targets often feel flat because we are trying to teach the structures instead of the language itself. That is perhaps why the story went flat – when our students know that we really want to teach them the targets and not talk about them, it can get boring. This makes us feel insecure. It makes what should be a very natural and flowing process (communicating in a language in a happy way with no chains on the process) awkward.

  21. Also Phoebe after having looked at the book I sent you, if you wish, now go have a look at the free books mentioned here on the last post today. They all talk about targeting – which you are doing now – and the one I sent earlier describes how you can do CI without targets. You will see the difference and are invited to make your own decisions, of course, as to how you wish to proceed with your CI instruction. We all do it differently.

  22. Yup, I am collapsing. What I thought was a spider bite is shingles from stress 🙁 . There just seem to be forces bigger than me at my current school working against me. Trying to “bring the hammer down” just isn’t working and I feel more frustrated, I think I’m better off doing CI-lite, or CI-as-much-as-I-can, but I am feeling so BORED with it and it’s super depressing. Wish me strength and wishing everyone else going thru a tough October strength as well! Keep up with it!

  23. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    OH NO! Meg what can we offer you that would restore the balance and confidence they are sucking out? Many teachers here have had to repackage what they do to make it look school-ish.

    1. Thanks Alisa! Pencil and paper is working well with them so I’m doing six panel comics, etc. Any recs for pencil paper activity would be good—I’ve gotta remember to have kids illustrate stories we tell like you do! That often works for them.

  24. Meg check out the Bail Out Moves in the categories. They are old and many are connected to the old TPRS stuff, but a few might work. Keep us posted. Shingles – yikes. I have eczema medically diagnosed when I was in the middle of writing books and fighting for CI intensely online in or around 2014. It’s not worth it. We have to learn to self regulate. Better to be bored than working ourselves into stress induced illness. Keep us posted.

  25. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Here are some other pencil/paper ‘activities for novices:
    1. Turn a narrative into a readers theatre. So you ask them what the character would say while the narrative is onscreen, and they offer dialogue, which you write in real time, and you ‘save as.’ Then you use the dialogue text as Dictee – or ask them to write it as Dictee before you write it onscreen, then you write it and they check for accuracy, per Ben’s Dictee protocol.

    2. With a write up to any story True/False, matching, short answer and/ or multiple choice Qs. This I know is time consuming…so…

    3. Use Carol Gaab’s Cuéntame mini-stories (embedded readings) and activities from the student book. They are universal and use all hi-freq verb chunks (do you also teach French? It comes in French, too). (Perhaps Look I can Talk would also work – dunno – don’t use it.)

    4. Read a novel and work painstakingly through the teachers’ guide. Many of the easy novels have these guides – comprehension Q’s, fill in the blank, short answer, etc.

    5. Textivate If kids have computers they can do as homework; if not you can do in class, though it wouldn’t be pencil/paper… but it is a very school-looking language dense ‘activity.’

    6. Slicing up class stories (a sentence or 2 per page) to have Ss illustrate pages. Don’t forget to number the pager and have kids write their name/section on the back. Admins dig a class-produced original book – everyone does! Pull one of those puppies out to show extended language, creativity, teamwork, language/vocab and grammar lists – B-I-N-G-O.

  26. I’m feeling it again this year. But now I know why. As soon as MAP testing hits our MS the third week of September, we don’t have a normal schedule for 6 weeks. First, MAP testing. Then a shortened week for PTCs (and prepping for those). Then we have a holiday for Gandhi’s birthday. Then we have another day off for Dussehra, an important Hindu festival. Then next week is our Week Without walls. Throw in another week off for fall break, a trip to Paris as a chaperone for a HS trip and then 10 days of working with a consultant. This translates to absolute craziness in trying to implement stories. I discovered last year that I need to have a week of 3 days on the block schedule in order to do stories justice in my mind. So, that said, I haven’t implemented stories yet. I’m trying stories with 2 of my classes, just to see. But I need to finish tomorrow in order to not lose momentum.

    I need a whole post for therapy after our consultant visit. It was simply awful.

    1. Boy, it’s gotta be hard to run class routines when everything is in such flux, Dana. And so sorry you had to go through those 10 days with that consultant. We had an outside instructional coach team observe and chat with teachers at my previous school. Believe it or not, he was the one that kept me from leaving that school (very rough place) that year. He kept using the term “cognitive activity” as he described what I was doing with students.

      “Cognitive activity”… that’s funny. Reminds me of that educational term now out of vogue, “executive functioning.” But yeah, lots of cognitive activity with CI. Subcognitive, if you will.

      I imagine your consultant was using the term executive functioning with you. Blah.

      1. I’m chuckling bc as we old timers complain about Curtain, I realize that most younger teachers never heard of her. For those people I will simply say that Helena has been flying around the world for forty years selling textbooks and being adored for her ability to get teachers and the textbook in happy harmony. At the expense in Helena’s case of millions of children. If you search either Mimi Met or Helena you will see the damage they have caused by ignoring Krashen. There is also this post from at least ten years ago about Mimi Met that is interesting:

  27. I’ve definitely felt this. I find that focusing on something that students enjoy is very helpful. Talking about Halloween, costumes, candy, things that scared you when you were a kid, mythical characters from Spanish speaking countries, etc. I’ve also felt that at this point in the year you get this “oh crap!” feeling because you compare yourself to what you think students “should know” by that time in the year.

  28. Hey Meg! Stay with it, Meg. You’ll get out of these stressful times sooner or later. It may take awhile. And your students will experience climbing out of the funk with you. Even if you never reach the mountaintop (who does, really), perhaps you’ll get out of the darkness. Your students will experience seeing the light with you. They will feel connected to you years later.

    I think the worst thing you could do is insult a student’s dignity. I don’t think you are, but it’s good advice. I’ve had to bite my tongue often as I’ve worked me way through tough teaching assignments.

    If behavior is a problem but your admin isn’t harping on you about classroom management, or whatever, keep trying the CI. You’ll figure out how to get your students to play the game with you. Maybe they have notebooks on their desks and every couple of minutes they copy the sentences you write on the board from the conversation or story you just had with them in French. A little bit of talk. A little bit of write. Maybe a sprinkle of TPR.

    If you have a couple of students complaining that they aren’t learning anything, have them be the Reader Leader of those lines you write on the board.

    Please keep us updated!

  29. Jennifer Goldszmidt

    I’ve been struggling this month too. I have students ASKING me for grammar lessons, and I do have to teach the actual curriculum in order to, you know, keep my job.

    So, I’ve added some “packets” we do together to review grammar and vocabulary they *have* to have for level 2, and I am getting ready to teach a novel in the past tense to them — with a teacher’s guide.

    However, I still want to do natural stories. So, I think I will simply divide my class into time frames — 30 minutes dedicated to producing a story, or reading a class or student story, and/or changing a story either the class or a student has produced, 20 minutes dedicated to whatever the grammar lesson has to be, and 20 minutes dedicated to reading (a novel) as a class. Finally, they will have at least 10 minutes for free choice reading and 10 minutes dedicated to Free Writes. At least, that’s my tentative plan. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jennifer. Your lesson planning sounds good in the sense that I think we have students’ attention more at the beginning of class. I do find, though, that it’s also nice to end class trying to finish up a story. There’s some urgency and everyone wants to get to the end. That said, it’s nice to give yourself some piece of mind by doing a Free Write (which I hardly do, actually) or a dictation or a fill-in-the-blank where I write sentences on the board about the story leaving a word out for students to fill in on their little answer sheets. The fill-in-the-blank is nice because I don’t have to talk, which is what I need, usually, before beginning the next class.

  30. Kids love order and if they want more grammar maybe give them more. Maybe less reading of the novel in class, since it has the effect of splitting the class and makes reading, for half of them anyway, a chore. I think 10 min. for FCR is good (which I recommend starting class with).

    To do a ten min. free write every day in my opinion is far too much. There also it can become a chore. The very act of writing is so much beyond what they can neurologically do, and shouldn’t be done at all in the first two or even three years. They simply haven’t had enough input to justify output. And worse, it engages conscious analysis which is not the way we acquire languages.

    One year in DPS my school required all departments to focus on writing. So Annick Chen and Barbera Vallejos and the rest of us did that. At the end of the year our writing scores in the (all-TPRS at the time) department went down.

    So writing is a waste of time too early. (Dictees also bring very little gains, but the kids love them and think they are learning so I used them as brain breaks for myself.)

    I really mean it could be delayed until the fourth year and nothing but good would come of it in terms of language gains. Unless, of course, you are having them write for your mental health. (Our mental health is far more important than their language gains!)

    Jennifer it’s my view that free writes should be done only once every two to three weeks. When we do that and log the amount of words and the bar graph goes way up each time, the kids’ confidence soars. (Their word counts always go up as long as you are doing L1 input that they enjoy and understand in the classes in between each free write).

    Now you wrote about having time frames. That’s great, and the kids love a schedule in a block class. I assume that the 30 min. story related frame you describe is always going to have you somewhere on the star. The star is the actual curriculum, and if you use those 30 min. to always be somewhere on some point of the star, it is great.

    I can’t wait until this happens: they get a good story going, and at 25 min. (with you somewhere on card 5 or 6) you abruptly say, ‘OK time for some grammar!). Then don’t cave. Keep stressing the grammar. Sometimes they get it then.

    (By the way, you can bet that the grammar requests are coming from a few parents whose few Fauntleroys in the class are shouting down any kids who enjoy the stories. There are always a few who yell the loudest – and interestingly they are usually the grammar freaks who don’t want the classroom to become too human.)

  31. I have found with a few classes that are unfocused (breaking classroom rule #2) that Matava scripts are working better than the Invisibles Story sequence.

    I suppose it is because the teacher has slightly more control of the story.

  32. I think that what you say Greg in that second paragraph is probably 99% the reason. I did Matava scripts almost uniquely, along with my reading program, for about 15 years before uncovering the NT gold mine. Those scripts always worked and they always kept me in control. I wouldn’t be typing this if it weren’t for those scripts. I would have quit long ago; they got me to the door of the gold mine and on top of that the ride was pleasant.

    1. It’s kinda cool to think I have a style. Thanks Greg. I guess my style would be to go with the basic hook of the Matava script and do anything that comes to mind to build the story, with student input, that can easily be supported visually with acting or drawing. Or anything thing that comes to mind that seems fun. If stuck, go to location #2, as Matava usually has in the script.

  33. Here is the key to the Sean School of using a Matava script, in Sean’s own words:

    …do anything that comes to mind to build the story, with student input….

    So when Sean feels a “moment” that he can explore on expand on whatever little idea pops up like from the beak of a creative little bird perched on his shoulder, he takes it. But as Sean says, if that little inspired moment goes nowhere, then fine, he’s got location #3 from Anne. That’s a win-win.

  34. One thing about Anne’s scripts are they do not target. They “highlight” but do not target. There’s a big difference. What’s impressive is that Teacher’s Discovery sells it. They only sell books by famous authors.

  35. I had this collapse on the last week of August, and I’m still experiencing fallout. I started out doing CI (for the first time ever) with all of my 5 of my classes. I have stopped doing CI with 2 of them because they’ve shown they can’t handle it due to behavior. One of them I pulled out the book on day 3 of the semester. Although I have told them it’s temporary, I have a feeling that at least one of the classes will be in the book all year. This class was difficult from day 1, but they revealed themselves more on day 2 when we attempted our first tableau. I’m trying to get a hold of that class, but they are making my year a huge drag already. Parents and admins are starting to get involved, and I’m hearing other teachers having problems with these same students. I, unfortunately, have many of them in the same class. Today was a particularly difficult day.

    Thankfully, CI is working in 2 of my classes, but my CI Span 2 class is starting to look “glazed over” despite having some really good tableaus and interactions thus far. They’re kind of in between. We’ve had moments of laughter and good, meaningful tableaus, but there’s something missing. I don’t know what it is. My gut feeling is that they like my class, but they don’t really know how to handle it yet. I’m concerned I’ll lose them though.

    My struggle with CI so far is introducing it as a new thing. Having had to stop CI in 2 classes, I’m concerned that if and when this “collapse” comes, I’ll just end up doing the book with all my classes. If that’s the case, then I fear my joy for teaching will evanesce. This was a timely post.

    1. Hi Jake,

      Have you tried Dictations? This is one thing that is almost in every Ben Slavic book and I’ve first only started using it this year.

      It’s magic to get a class to shut up.

      1. Hi Greg, I do dictations in my CI classes, but not in my non-CI classes as an extension activity to our tableau we create. I could try them in my difficult classes (one is extremely chatty and the other is like a bunch of bumps on a log). Thanks for the idea!

  36. Ben, when you say “rule setting (especially including the students’ use of English)” what specifically do you mean? I find that this is an area in which I am having a hard time. How do you limit their English speaking in class in a way that doesn’t handicap the flow of a conversation that a student is particularly interested in, but which might extend past their ability to communicate?

  37. It’s a very fine line. If a one word answer in English comes back to me and the purpose of communication of an idea has been thus achieved, that is fine, right? However, there are certain times when English comes out of a kid’s mouth and it doesn’t further the communication of whatever is being discussed. This is what I mean by using the rules when that happens to STOP and use WBYT instantly.

    What you said here:

    …how do you limit their English speaking in class in a way that doesn’t handicap the flow of a conversation that a student is particularly interested in, but which might extend past their ability to communicate?….

    This is a fascinating point if I understand it right. The child should know that they are not there to try to speak above their capacity. When they struggle to express themselves, we need to stop them and express our admiration for their efforts, while however making it clear to them that their goal esp. in the first two years is to listen so much that the TL eventually just falls out of their mouths, to use Susie Gross’ term to describe when speech output should emerge. Why?

    It is bc when kids are struggling to make a point that they can’t yet make, they start thinking and all aspects of CI are best kept unconscious, as we know from the ressarch.

    If you are engaged in a conversation that is interesting but causes you to write too many new words on the board by the end of class, the kids won’t take much out of class. I’ve decided that if there are more than four new words on the board at the end of class, I have taught too many new words.

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