Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 2

It is great to hear from Greg Stout. It wasn’t so long ago last spring when he was standing in a chaotic classroom in Charlotte staring out of his classroom window à la Grand Meaulnes knowing that soon he would never have to teach that class again. Now he is in France working at his craft with some older post bac French kids.

So this is a very lengthy answer to a series of questions Greg asked me in a comment here yesterday relative to work I am now doing on reading authentic texts. I put his entire comment with questions here first, and then my lengthy response below it, because I think it is important enough to make it into an article.

First, here is a link to the original article:

https://benslavic.com/blog/reading-authentic-texts-using-crd

This is Greg’s comment:

Thanks so much for sharing all about what’s happening with these kids in your class. I wish every kid in a language class could experience the success and happiness they must be feeling in your room. Is there any way you could video the Petit Prince portion of your class very soon? I would absolutely LOVE to see this in action to better feel the flow of how it works.

I have a few questions, which might be cleared up if you’re able/willing to share a video of this:

1) When you’re ready to move on to a new sentence do you read the new sentence at a normal pace and then go back and translate?

2) How does “translating” work when you’re doing this? Do you just translate the sentence slowly in English while your kids read the sentence in French? How do they follow along, knowing which word they should be reading in French to correspond to the one you’re saying in English?

3) In your original post you said that your steps are translate, then reps until you feel the students are comfy with the sentence, then you go nuts on circling. How does the reps portion of this cycle look different from the circling part?

I think I might try something like this with two groups of students I have here in France. I teach them in a high-school, but they’re students who already have their Bac and are doing a two-year program in management before university or work. I did CWB with them on our first day together, and it quickly spun into a strange mega-detailed “story” about a student in the class, except it wasn’t a story because it had no plot line. There was too much detail because they are sort of conversational in English, so I couldn’t circle one idea for too long. But, their English is far from fluent (whatever fluent means) when they try to output, mostly with out of place tenses and incorrect pronunciation, but with lots of vocab nonetheless. So, I’m thinking what you’re doing with Le Petit Prince might be my key with those two groups. Something that has an underlying theme beyond what’s possible with CWB or a story, but that would still allow me to circle with them and provide us with lots of compelling input. I just have to find something in English that would fulfill that task. What’s the English “equivalent” (forgive me) of Le Petit Prince?

Looking forward to following how this develops with your kids. Also looking forward to your answers to my questions about it, although I’m really just crossing my fingers that you’ll treat us to a video…

Here my response to Greg:

Greg I need to check releases and lug my video stuff over there so it may take a bit of time. Plus, if indeed I get some decent video showing this process I will need lots of time for editing in a translation track for those who don’t have French. I want you to see how big fast chunks of meaning are being understood with zero attention to the words. That is to say, now that I have my first group of kids with CI since the beginning now in level 3, I am finding that this Little Prince class is really about chunking sound even more that when those kids were sophomores. It’s really amazing and I never would have thought those kids could ever do that. It shows what a few years of intense CI can do and I should add that no test could be designed to measure what those kids can do. In my opinion. It’s an exciting time as many of us are working with upper level authentic CI kids for the first time and seeing some pretty funky stuff. But let’s not go there now.

I also wish I could have like three cameras, with two trained on the kids. They are the ones who give me the largely visual feedback through their eyes. Have you ever noticed how the word yes is in the word eyes? It’s like that what those kids do, they say yes and it is an honest and strong yes and it is all in their eyes. (We have had over two years to build trust so it is completely different than a beginning class.) It is so nice to be able to send a big chunk of sound over to them and see them catch it, almost athletically, in the invisible worlds of their minds, then process it correctly, and nod back with a yes in their eyes – a wonderful feeling of yes, they understand, now go on – so I know I can go on because they just gave me that permission.

Really, this is all new to me, the way this class processes. The kids are the ones who have made it to level 3, who have all along wanted to learn French for real, and they represent a smaller portion of kids than I think most of us here who have grown our own from level 1 to level 3 or 4 probably have. That is probably because of our school population, most of whom are ELL kids – I am just beginning to see how bad it is when they don’t have English and I don’t really have Spanish and so we lack a common linguistic ground. Plus, failure is built into some of their minds in ways we don’t see in white suburbia in Denver. It’s poverty again. There is an article here somewhere on that topic, which those of us who are teaching in a setting where poverty is grinding our students down can’t push away or separate from our instruction.

Your questions:

1) When you’re ready to move on to a new sentence do you read the new sentence at a normal pace and then go back and translate?

I don’t read it first I just start translating. Most of the time I write it on the board first and do a lot of the steps in Reading Option A (ROA) here:

www.benslavic.com/blog/reading-option-a-latest-update-2013

If you go study that ROA sequence, you will see that it is a very good way to read. I have never used it with novels, preferring R & D, always using it with Step 3 reading of stories. But it helps here. So I usually write each sentence from Le Petit Prince on the board and I use the asterisked steps from the above article – that is where the power is – with the sentence.

I am ready, when that sentence is on the board, to go so narrow and deep with it that I have no intention to do any thing else the whole class – just that sentence – until June if I need to.

Here are two examples of Reading Option A from a class I did three years ago at East High School:

www.schooltube.com/video/261b4062782dc52df5e2/Ben%20Slavic%20Teacher%20Commentary%20Reading%20Part%201-4

www.schooltube.com/video/d64f29ef5330c2c406ec/Ben%20Slavic%20Teacher%20Commentary%20Reading%20Part%205-7

2) How does “translating” work when you’re doing this? Do you just translate the sentence slowly in English while your kids read the sentence in French? How do they follow along, knowing which word they should be reading in French to correspond to the one you’re saying in English?

That’s why I write it down. If not, you only get the superstars to stay with you. This way, if you look at one of those Reading Option A videos, you can see that I like to put my hands on the words and look at them. When I look at all of them and I am not standing too far away (I allow no empty seats between me and any single kid). This is why I like my rolling backboard – it can be placed CLOSER to the kids. I can roll it right up to where I usually stand for a story. Often a Smart Board is too far away for this kind of intimate reading and close contact with them. Also, I get to have my artist drawing on the back of it when we create the story as per:

https://benslavic.com/blog/videos/bubhakemeier-3/ (fast forward to 2:12 to see how we interpret what the artist drew while we were making the story)

So if you look at the Reading Option A videos above that answers your question I think. Let me know if not. I do have to add here that all of this works for me. It may not work for someone else and I am not saying that this is some kind of right way to do it. There is no right way in this work we are doing.

I do find it interesting how I used to do this ROA technique for stories we created in the TPRS format only but now am using it, mixing it with cRD, as I continue to experiment with the reading of authentic texts.

3) In your original post you said that your steps are to translate, then get reps until you feel the students are comfy with the sentence, then you go nuts on circling. How does the reps portion of this cycle look different from the circling part?

In the reps part I go from left to right getting reps on the particular words, reps that are accurate to the text (no PQA) with each one. So the first part is just a bunch of yes/no questions. I stretch it out like I have forever on that one sentence, and I of course I worship at the alter of SLOW while I do this. As each word or word chunk occurs on the sentence on the board I treat exactly like a target structure as if I were trying to establish meaning. So English is used here. Then, the circling part is the PQA, so no more English. So when I PQA the sentence it brings the questions up a level on the taxonomy. So the first part of this questioning technique is text-specific, and the second is just PQA.

And since each sentence is different, I have to figure out when to leave, which is always an intuitive thing where I have to feel when the interest fades or when I start to make up another story up or go too far away from the original sentence. (But if it is a good story, I should make it, and come back to the sentence in the novel later. Oops, I didn’t mean that. I know that I am supposed to follow my objectives for the day and not deviate in case my foreman walks in to check to see if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing as per my announced objectives for that day. Sorry. I forgot for a second.)

I would like to comment on what you said here Greg:

…I did CWB with them on our first day together, and it quickly spun into a strange mega-detailed “story” about a student in the class, except it wasn’t a story because it had no plot line. There was too much detail because they are sort of conversational in English, so I couldn’t circle one idea for too long….

I think you may be going too wide, going out of bounds, with those kids. You may be forgetting to stay on the same word and get one word choral answers and make sure you have the same target in absolutely each and every sentence you ask until you sense it has been kind of acquired and only then can you go on to something else. Doing that is key in this work. I am not sure on this, of course, but if you are going out of bounds with them too much it very well could be because they lead you that way, trying to get their fractured English (fractured because they were not in the only classroom I know of in France where TPRS/CI is done – Judy’s.) Don’t let them do that. Jut tell them in French and hire out some jobs and try to get them to buy into the fact that they are pushing the output too much (won’t be easy) so that when they do speak in your class it is because they are relaxed and responding (unconscious output) and not forcing it (conscious output – i.e. ugly output). It’s not really helping them to force their own speech until they get another couple thousand hours of English input from you.

The last question you had was:

…I’m thinking what you’re doing with Le Petit Prince might be my key with those two groups. Something that has an underlying theme beyond what’s possible with CWB or a story, but that would still allow me to circle with them and provide us with lots of compelling input. I just have to find something in English that would fulfill that task. What’s the English “equivalent” (forgive me) of Le Petit Prince?…

There is no equivalent of that book, or there are a thousand. What appeals to you? The reason Le Petit Prince works for me is that I am deeply in love with that book. Maybe the group has some ideas of masterpieces in English. I know there has been discussion on finding one in Spanish. Latin? Chinese? I can’t imagine Chinese not having some masterpieces that will just jump off the page and pull the kids right in. Latin I don’t know. Did they live in their hearts?

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5 thoughts on “Reading Authentic Texts Using cRD – 2”

  1. Ben, thanks for your response complete with detailed explanations about the mechanics of your Little Prince cRD. I’ve been processing your explanations all week, just haven’t been able to get on here and write back until now. Also, thanks SO MUCH for your critique of my CWBing. And you’re right…I have been allowing that class to “detail me out” of bounds. It’s just that I’m so easily amused by their funny ideas (especially with their French accents…I just can’t resist). I’m going to share a video with everyone here of me doing CWB (or something) as soon as I can get my hands on a camera…I’m ready for a proper evaluation.

    Any luck yet with video of one of your Little Prince sessions? I attempted “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (which I had forgotten is also written by a pilot) today in the advanced class I wrote about. The seagull was not a pretty sight. The seagull didn’t even get off the ground, even though I tried for 30 minutes, just on the first sentence, with lots of questions and circling and translations and checking for understanding. But the boredom in the room was palpable. I definitely should have moved on sooner, but I was fighting my urge to rush into something more “fun”. It’s just that I got a little carried away and decided to REALLY resist the urge to rush on and instead bored them for 30 minutes. Oops! Lessons learned. Luckily I had CWB to fall back on to rescue the last 20 minutes of class, and CWB shined brilliantly, and les français were happy, and all was good. All of that to say, I can’t wait to see some video of what you’re doing with Le Petit Prince.

  2. I have made friends with boredom when I teach. I don’t try to will it out of the room when it appears. It is going to be there. Home run stories, great reading classes, are rare. The people we teach are not paying for our services. This fact will increase the level of boredom in ANY class, even in a fun CWB or story class. The students never stop to think that it is they who might be the boring ones, the lead weights.

    Natural human conversation is going to always be interesting. It is only the unnatural human conversation (where the teacher “needs them to pay attention” and so immediately becomes needy, and where the kids stink up the place with the bland expressionless faces) and so then we lose the chance for natural happy interaction with the kids because one side is needy and the other is boring and that is not what makes for good conversation. Sigh.

    It seems like no one is willing to wait for some good stuff to emerge in a conversation. It’s always got to be funny and wonderful all the time. Hey, I am still needy with those advanced CI kids. I was needy for decades and that isn’t easy to let go of. I want my level 3 class to take off with the reading of the Petit Prince. I would like to tell you Greg and Leigh Anne that yes, my level 3 classes are always movin’ and groovin’ and my kids always respond to my RAT idea with great interest because I am able to:

    a. make myself undertood via absurdly slow circling
    b. spin sentences, once they know what they mean, into magical and mirthful discussion in the target language for long periods of time before we go back to the text for another helping of art.

    Alas, nine of ten videos I sent you would not show those things, unless we were able to catch one of those rare classes where we get the plane off the ground. There is this expectation with CI that there are people who can really get great classes going almost at will. I don’t believe that. I’m not saying I won’t do a video, but getting real good samples of an idea is hard to do. Sometimes I go too fast. Other times I let too much English in, like today, Or the kids are crabby because their scholarship essays are due today and they don’t want to be in French class because they haven’t done them yet and I won’t let them write them in class. Or all manner of things happen. As we all well know.

    My point is that it doesn’t have to be all wonderful. We can be crappy at this and still teach them our language. So I take an authentic text, translate it, circle it to an insane degree, try to keep the kids with me, and then PQA the sentence and just keep it going for as long as I can, like spinning plates. Ain’t no magic formula. Ain’t no experts. It’s just us. And a bunch of kids who are professionally licensed to do anything required of them, but who by the time they get to be seniors in high school, have lost something of their real authentic selves, having left them behind somewhere in sixth grade.

    1. Ben — I see what you are saying. Just to explain — the way you dealt with your students in your video made a huge impact on me. My PQA went into overdrive after I saw ‘Brrrrrr 1.’ The video was a career-changer for me.

      I just need to see the manner of working with the students and the text, nothing else. Whatever you can produce, if it helps me teach Le Petit Prince next spring, I’ll be ever so grateful.

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