iFLT Wrap Up

This wrap up represents about .01% of what happened this week. Much was accomplished as the trust grew by day and hourly and with each new friendship.

I apologize to the PLC members for no video from the week. In our defense, we were literally so intent on the work that we would have forgotten any cameras in the room anyway, and, really to the point, what we were doing could never have been even remotely captured on film.

We learned about educreations, a major new import from Canada (Kristin Duncan via Chris Stoltz and thank you both). I will contact Blaine on Monday about making sure it gets plenty of attention at NTPRS because it is just the very coolest new idea in the past five years, up there only with jGR. Yes, it equals or even surpasses jGR in the classroom kick ass factor.

En bref, it’s about giving an iPad to a fourth student to go with the story and quiz writers and the artist. I will meet with Chris Stoltz later tonight to talk about getting a tutorial (hardlink bar above) set up here asap on it.

We will also publish the article first chance we get so you can get started on it. If you don’t use educreations this year it would be like saying no to a large amount of free wonderfulness lying in front of you as you walk down a sidewalk. Be excited about this. It will expand the dimensions of our teaching by a factor of wow. Canada is bringing it on this one.

We also upgraded and refined our coaching model through the week and I will report in more depth on that later. This new model is a keeper. The people who worked all week, starting with Angie and Carly on Monday and ending at midnight Thursday night with Yasar, all were smooth as silk.

This paragraph is important for me:

I always have had doubts as to the overall effectiveness of this site (articles/comments and videos) as a training vehicle because it wasn’t live training which nothing can replace. So it came as a total shock to me when Angie Dodd (Vermont) and Joseph Eye (NY) and Brian Peck (Detroit) and the others did what they did and then when I asked them how they did it they said they did it mainly by watching videos, not just the ones here but others all over the internet including sites run by our own blog members.

Videos are very hard to make, since we are all so busy. To produce really refined and polished video requires much effort on our parts. And it is a testimony to our vision as a group that we are willing to even put up video of ourselves teaching because it is never our best work. (That touches on the spirit of leaving our egos at the door in the War Room work as well.)

But when Angie and Joe and Brian and everyone else who worked this week taught, it shocked me – it was like they had been doing this work for years and in Brian’s case it was only since last October.

So hot dang on that. Maybe we can get a collection of blog members’ websites here and make that list into a category or hard link. If you have a blog and want to share it with other group members, send the links below and we will find a way to publish them somewhere here. Maybe on the Primers hardline. Where do we put it?

The new coaching model that was suggested by many, as of the end of the week, allows teachers ten minutes of uninterrupted teaching and then five minutes of coaching and comments by us. I think that this model is going to change the entire face of coaching in the TPRS community. One teacher said about the process:

…I think the 10 minute coaching, 5-10 minute feedback is a good model. I was glad I was able to observe one evening and then participate the second. It was good to have seen a number of people go before me….

At the closing ceremonies earlier yesterday the DPS teachers feted my retirement and told the iFLT group stories about our time together. As I stood there in front of the group my heart melted and I realized two things: that my career counted for something (it sure didn’t seem like it at the time) and that the gold lies in our friendships. We support each other and Diana and Carol and Blaine and all the awesome presenters make it possible every summer.

I would agree to teach another 37 years right now, just tell me where to sign, not really, if I knew that at the end of it I would one day be toasted by some of the best people on the planet. My prayer is that all the teachers who attended the conference will one day, with God’s guidance and love, some day be as lucky as I have been, to be in a district where what I say has value and what I think means something.

I don’t have words to express my thanks to my colleagues and especially Diana and Susan Gross so I won’t even try. Yesterday will stay with me forever.



22 thoughts on “iFLT Wrap Up”

  1. First of all, educreations is awesome! Second, congratulations Ben! It was fun and memorable to watch you get roasted! And it was obvious that you have had a tremendously positive impact on these amazing people.

    I just finished my third year teaching Spanish 1 & 2, so I am a newer teacher. I have attended several workshops on TPR and TPRS since I became a teacher and feel comfortable with circling, PQA, TPR, and reading novels in class. This conference completely rocked my world though and made me feel like I can move more towards being the TPRS teacher that I would like to be. I have tons of ideas and strategies from all those sessions, so much reading material, and now access to this blog to try to improve my teaching. I don’t have a blog but I am going to start one soon to share these great ideas and my attempts to implement them and move more towards the TPRS classroom. I am currently in brainstorming mode for a website name but will share when I come up with one.

  2. Thank you Bethany and welcome to this group of courageous teachers. Now we have one more! On the blog that you create, I think Mark Knowles may be interested in it. One of the things he is doing these days is gathering information from this group (I’ll let him explain it) as part of his current overall research on CI that he is doing at CU Boulder.

    I would think that the experiences of a newer teacher and not just experienced ones in the implementation of comprehensible input into their fluency programs would be of great interest to him. I will ask him to jump in here from time as he ramps things up for this paper and this work he is doing.

    Mark may be asking lots of questions here from time to time over the next year or so, so we need to make sure that we give him good answers either in the comment fields below or by direct private email to him. Who knows, he may even quote us in his final paper and we can show that to our bosses and get even more boxes checked on our end of year evaluation forms! And yes, very few, as in zero papers have ever been written in academia of the nature that this one by Mark will be.

    It’s going to be a very busy year for all of us, and your starting a blog is going to be important not only for you in organizing your thoughts for yourself but also for all of us here who want to learn from you. Trust me, there is no one way learning here, there is a lot of light bouncing off a lot of prismatic surfaces here, rather.

    I would ask the group – should we make a category or a hard link as a place to find each others’ websites and blogs? And on the name for the blog, and I am just thinking out loud here, how about we keep things uniform and simple and call it Bethany’s Blog? This one is Ben’s Blog and in that way we don’t have to get confused by long names that we can’t immediately associate with the person. Just a thought.

    1. Hi Ben and company!

      Thank you very much for all the undeserved attention and compliments! Let me write that damn article first before we get too carried away! Ben is correct that in the coming months, I would be humbled if I were able to hear from you about your own “coming-to-CI” stories. I might start out by saying that I grew into teaching in the 198o’s when the Natural Approach was creating quite the stir. At the time, I felt there was a different ACTFL than the one we have today, and it seemed to me that it was fully concerned with this thing called fossilization (ever hear about that?) and appropriate correction techniques of student output. My grad program at Illinois felt like it was at the vortex of an epic battle between the major advocates of inductive versus deductive learning, or use versus usage. As you might guess, the conventional teaching favored deductive learning and usage, and if you spoke up in favor of things like Sandra Savignon’s version of the Communicative Approach or Terrell and Krashen’s Natural Approach, you could easily be labeled as an anything-goes, hippie teacher. Remember this was at the height of the Culture Wars in education led by none other than (my favorite vice-president ever) Dick Cheney’s significant other Lynne, so it could be a real career-killer to find yourself on the wrong side of that issue when going in for a job interview. I’m actually not sure those Culture Wars have really subsided. The standardized testing movement got its big liftoff back then, and, rather than slowing or falling down, they seem to be racing to the top at breakneck speed, thanks to another idol of mine, Arne Duncan.
      So here’s a form of disclosure about me and this is important. For those of you who don’t know me, I am not one to mince words and sometimes I express my opinions (which I also attempt to back up with something called evidence rather than simply faith). Since I brought up the word idol here, my biggest hometown idol is a fellow by the name of James Hansen, to whom some have credited the invention of the term “global warming.” Hansen is a NASA scientist and Columbia University professor who has been arrested more than once protesting coal-fired electrical plants because, as a grandfather, he wants his grandkids and great grandkids to inherit something other than a burned out slag heap for a planet. He is a scientist, but he is not one who embraces some image of a cool and detached white-coated technician who professes some kind of professional purity during the time that the thing which nurtures and sustains him and the rest of us wastes away before his very eyes. He speaks his mind – forcefully. Admittedly, the realm of language learning or even the educational realm might not be quite as big a deal as global warming, but I’m actually not so sure about that. I refuse to comply with a system that wears down our kids’ spirits rather than builds them up, and one of the first things that caught my attention on the Ben Slavic blog was this theme of how TPRS and CI are the language approaches for the rest of us and not just for the 4%.

      I had the good fortune of having Sandra Savignon as a member of my doctoral committee, and one of her greatest passions was to democratize language learning. If we contribute nothing other than second voices to that lifelong pursuit of hers, I think that our contributions will be more than satisfactory. A big theme of my research will therefore center around whether CI and TPRS connect to the Minority Majority world we are moving into. I know I’ve heard a lot along those lines from Diana Noonan and from Ben and Joseph Dziedzic, and I’ve also heard it from Sabrina Janczak’s adult learners at CU-Boulder. I had a very nice chat with John Piazza at the iFLT along these same lines. I would love to hear what you guys think about this point. Do CI and TPRS speak to a greater range of the overall student population than conventional language learning approaches, and if so, how and why? Would you be willing to chat with me at length about these points, either anonymously or not, and would you be willing to give me permission to include your thoughts in my study? And, of course, I just want to learn about who you are and how you came into the CI/TPRS fold.

      1. Hi Mark. My answer is YES to the question, “Do CI and TPRS speak to a greater range of the overall student population than conventional language learning approaches?” I guess it come down to how all students in the class acquire the language using CI/TPRS.

        Have you had the opportunity to talk to anyone at length like you requested? I’m happy to chat with you, if you like.

        My email is seanmichaellawlerATgmail.com

      2. YES YES YES!!! I am in Mark! This dialogue is so important to me. Everything I just read in your post resonates very strongly for me. All of it. I am a native Spanish speaker and have been “teaching” for 25 + years. I use the quotation marks because I never really felt any authenticity in what I was doing until I found CI via this group. This has been only since 2011. Truly life changing. I wish I could give you hard data, but I can give you lots of anecdotal evidence if that is helpful. I agree very strongly that CI teaching democratizes language learning. It goes way deeper than that, but that’s a whole other thread. I saw / heard / felt with my own eyes / ears / heart the shift as kids who march through their days feeling “less than” came alive in my classroom. Most were unaware of the enormity of this. I think they felt “oh this is a fun class, we don’t have to do much.” But what they could do was understand Spanish! Anyway, feel free to contact me jenschongalla@hotmail.com I would love to contribute in any way I can!

  3. I don’t know, Ben, but I think instead of creating my own blog I’d rather keep riding this big, beautiful wave of a blog you have tumbling along here.

  4. Ben- I like the idea of keeping it simple with “Bethany’s Blog.” You and I have some alliteration going on for us there. I also think it will be important in exploring these ideas and organizing my thoughts. It will require me to actively reflect on everything I learned at iFLT. I don’t expect to be 100% successful from the beginning but I believe this should be the way that all teachers teach. Many in my department are opposed to it simply because they really don’t understand it and it’s a lot of work to try to figure it out. I’m inspired every time I see a TPRS teacher and think, “I want to teach like that!” I have fun and I learn Arabic, Russian, Mayan, etc… for the time being, but then forget it later because I don’t use it. They make it look much easier than it actually is though. I hope to inspire others to study TPRS and implement it in their classrooms by publicly documenting my successes and failures as a new TPRS teacher. I have to admit that I am a little nervous as I will be in my second year at my new, big school and pursuing tenure. Other teachers in my department expect me to follow the textbook. I will have a lot to juggle like impressing my evaluator and keeping my colleagues content, but I think I can handle it.

    I think you should have a side bar that says, “Blogroll,” with links to various blogs that you would like to share. It should be accessible to all, not just those on the PLC.

    I’m going to start with a free blog service. Google and WordPress look like the two best options available. Do any of you have thoughts on which one I should choose?

    Mark- If I could help you in some way, I’d be more than happy to do so.

    1. Thanks, Bethany! Perhaps we could start by exchanging emails. I’m working on a short schedule of questions that we might chat about if you have any extra time before fall classes start up. I’m on a team that is in the middle of carrying out a major grant right now so I won’t be “free” until August 1st. But after that, I can devote more time to this important project which I do need to do a little on the side because of other obligations. Nevertheless, yesterday I got a good start on the bibliography for one of the chapters for the work.

  5. Bethany I will forward the blogroll idea to my web guy. Now it is time to make everything simple, because you don’t want to dive in too deep too fast. If you do, however, you are armed with articles from the Primer hard link above, not to mention the Forum and many articles on mental health, plus the stepping stones. Just think that you are not going into this alone, and for every teacher in your building who may oppose you there are 50 here in this group who will come to your support.

    [Note to group: I will be incommunicado on this blog for the week as the War Room in Chicago is going to occupy my single focus this week. I want to work 35 hours a day because some of us have waited a long many months to get together so let’s not waste a minute. Anybody reading this now who is in Chicago this morning – they will announce a dinner at some place tonite near the hotel. Don’t go. Find the War Room. We’re working today and tonite. See you all later today.]

  6. I love educreations! My kids absolutely lit up when we started using it.

    My blog is mjtprs.wordpress.com. Bethany, I like wordpress a lot because it’s easy. Google is also free though, and you can set up a nice site with an intro page and a blog.

    Again for Bethany, here’s my class website:
    You can click on either the “Follow your class” or the second tab from the left to get to the class blog postings, or you can click on the “announcements” tab for another blog (four blogs attached to one site might be a bit much, but I was doing assignments for a class). It’s a new site, so I will be blogging in earnest for the classes starting mid-August.

    Anyone in the War Room group who’d like to see the PDL presentation during the later hours this week, please let me know. I think there are too many excellent workshop choices here for anyone, and PDL needs to get out there (it’s called Drama for TPRS teachers, and I’m about to go teach it!).

  7. I missed this memo! If anyone sees me today (short curls, purple glasses, Heike name tag ) let me know where we’ll be tonight. Don’t want to miss it again!

  8. Hi everyone,

    I just recently joined this group; I was planning on hiding in the corner for a couple more weeks while I go through past posts, acronyms and bring myself up to speed about how this group functions, but since I do often blog my teaching experiences I think this is a good time to introduce myself.

    My name is Mike Peto and my blog is mrpeto.wordpress.com, titled My Generation of Polyglots. I am most definitely still learning my craft (and I suspect I will be until I retire), so you will occasionally find things on my blog that I have since backed away from. But that´s the beauty of the blog; it tracks my growth as a teacher, as a feeling person trying to make a connection with the world, and it has been a bridge to meeting some wonderful people. Forget about that insane blog post about nailing accents with my heritage speakers (WHAT was I thinking?!?), just squint and see the good stuff!

    I am looking forward to getting to know you all and joining the conversation this year.


      1. People seem interested, but no one has submitted anything yet. It is still early, it took me much of Spring semester to write my 3000 word novel, and that was while working with several classes who illustrated it and helped generate ideas. My fear is that teachers hold back thinking that their submitted books must be perfect. Once we get a dozen booklets featuring low-level, high-frequency vocabulary then I think the tide will turn. On the positive side Carol Gaab contacted me and covered my ACTFL conference fees so that Crystal Barragán and I can present on FVR in San Antonio this November, which was GREAT!!! 🙂

        1. This PLC is blessed to have you. I have been reading on your site as I prepare for my Spanish 3/4 class. I plan on using some of your lessons with this class so that we start the year strong. I am even thinking of altering the What is under the bed? for this class just because it is so fun.

          I love the FVR idea. In the future I would like to write one but right now I am still focusing on the basics of TPRS. I believe that the FVR share will be a huge success.

  9. I have finally written up and compiled my reflections on IFLT Denver. For convenience, I wrote it in the form of 20 strategies that can be implemented in one’s classroom. It is far from complete or exhaustive, but I hope it is of some help.

    1. Thank you so much for this list! I am printing it out and posting it to my bulletin board right away.

      Don’t know whether Annick did something that Carol Gaab did with colored strips: she didn’t put anything on them. That way, she could re-use them, mimicking something that happens on GetKahoot.com. The kids have to look up at the screen if you’re using one to put the sentences in order. She also used the colored dots (garage sale dots) for the same purpose.

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