A Blow To His Confidence 21

K continues with her description of what she does as a French teacher/French 2 student in her school, with a teacher who is open to these [Krashen based] ideas. Below she describes, in a bit greater detail, the lunch scene that we have been reading about in previous blogs:
Lunch stories:
This schedule depends on what we would like to do. Lots of stories that are taught by other kids, culture discussions and TONS of writing. They really like to write. I am truly friends with these kids and this group started as more of a social thing until we discovered that we really didn’t like the way French was going and decided to speak French by ourselves. We have made it our goal to try to speak French as often as possible, which is way cool. Lots of these kids started writing to me in journals about their lives which gave me the idea to do an “About me” story which I decided to call a biography. These kids tell their own stories. It’s hard to describe because I think that you have to see it to believe it. All I will say is that there are days when I feel like they could take a picture of us for a diversity poster . We are all very different but we all love to speak and learn French. It’s pretty amazing.
Yes, this story thing is really something. A middle school friend saw me the other day and asked what had happened to me. I was always so quiet and now I am questioning the way things are and so far the outcome has been great! I responded that I didn’t really know, however I think it may have something to do with the few funerals for kids that I’ve gone to in the past year. Life is too short to follow the rules all the time especially if the rules prevent you from doing what you like. I wanted to learn French , so, I broke a few rules and the result has been wonderful. In fact, I was called to the principal’s office today and was told “Thank you”. Apparently, one of the kids who does stories at lunch used to get in fights with other kids and didn’t go to class a lot. Now, this year, he has not been suspended once. He goes to class everyday and is passing every class. The principal told him congratulations and then asked what had changed. He said that he started having fun telling funny stories at lunch and that I had told him like you told me and everyone else in my class last year that this method works best if the individual wants to learn and wants it to work. So, he said he thought that fighting and not going to class didn’t show he wanted to learn, even though he could see that certain things in school were worth learning, so he showed that he wanted to learn and here we are.
K

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11 thoughts on “A Blow To His Confidence 21”

  1. Wow! What I have been reading from K. over the past weeks has been amazing enough, but this entry just blows me away. The revolution is here!

  2. K blows me away. I am always excited to see a new post about her. She reminds me of an educational Robin Hood, putting the power of learning in the hands of students, where it belongs.

  3. Call me skeptical, but every time I read one of these amazing entries from “K” I am waiting for the next one telling us that it is one of those fictional blogs you do every once in a while to keep people on their toes and to also show what is possible even if it isn’t necessarily true. I’m really glad that hasn’t happened yet!

  4. Dude you are from Ioway and I respect that. But K is for real. I first taught her in a 7th grade GT/Theory of Knowledge/Socratic Seminar class, then in a 12 week Cultures class that same year, and then in an eighth grade TPRS French 1 class the next year (last year).
    The stuff we talked about in the GT class (what does it mean to learn?) mixed with great parents and her own qualities of stepping up to the plate of life and swinging hard, then being in an IB school this year with a teacher who, in a district closed to TPRS, clearly has an open mind and a balanced ego, and it all adds up to this.
    Ironically, for my part, K has made me wonder if an actual language classroom is the place to learn a language. Duke has beat this drum for years. I am now actively exploring the idea of a Language Studio in Denver where I teach teachers how to do TPRS and then take the best of them to work for me in my studio and teach real languages to people in the community who want to actually learn the language. All on a sliding scale so they pay what they can.
    I mean, if K can teach French using TPRS in her second full year of French, and if she can teach her teacher how to do TPRS, then there is a lot more flex and potential in all of this than I thought. Why should we gnash our teeth and fight so hard, keeping our gold in institutions that, in many cases, stifle the mojo of the method? Why should we keep fighting our colleagues like this? So K is shaking things up on many levels.
    Jim are you going to Los Angeles?

  5. The language studio idea must be in the air, Ben. I am doing something like that now in my Tuesday evening class up here in Loveland–teaching language learners AND teachers teachers how to teach TPRS at the same time. The learners are a differentiated lot and they are learning a ton over the 7 weeks we have met so far. the teachers get to see it unfold before their eyes. We still have 6 weeks to go and they are already asking when we can do it again.I also have a sliding scale.
    It’s time. Do it.

  6. Wow. You could write a book about this girl! Or, maybe she could write it. Required reading for future language teachers perhaps.
    I am not going to CA this summer, unfortunately. You said it Ben, I’m from Ioway, which is way far from LA, especially up here in the NE corner. I am going to NTPRS though, my school is helping me out with that one.
    The language studio idea sure is a timely one, and I’m eager to hear how it goes. I will most likely only be employed one semester next year, so I am looking for ways I can teach Spanish outside of the school system during that other semester. Bryce, if you have any “notes to self” of things you learned that you’d be willing to share, I’d love to see/hear them. Any advice would be very appreciated.

  7. Ben, I want dibs on a chance to work at your studio when the time comes.
    And I have made tentative plans to come to LA. I hope to fly out there as soon as I finish at Concordia. You know, I just took a look at the website for the conference (http://www.iflt.org/conference) and noticed it refers to Story-Asking ™. Is that new? I’ve never seen it before, but it certainly makes sense.
    – Stephen

  8. Sounds good Stephen. The failure of the schools to teach languages, their abject failure, in fact, has been interpreted by the community at large as meaning that languages are not attainable, and along the lines of everybody becoming an astronaut or great musician – usually not possible. But that is so far from the truth. I think that this is going to be fun and prove to folks that if they want a language they can have it. I know Bryce is very excited about his students up in Loveland. The Story-Asking thing – to quote my buddy Beaumarchais, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

  9. Ben, that’s really cool news; a Lab for learners. I wish I was documenting my lab more. Still chicken, I guess. It is definitely a classroom, though. Big chalkboard. Laser pointer. Question words on top of all, constantly Pointed to. Paused. Slow. What’s different is we can use real language. That helps a little more Truth get in. One phrase up on the chalkboard today is “no bullshit zone”.
    No claim to be TPRS here, though. There’s lotsa mimicry and output solicited. We have a loud downtown space where there’s no fear to make noise. Zero. Sometimes I make everyone close their eyes, plug their ears, put their feet on the floor and feel the sound through the ground. Get that English into the body. All the way through.
    Lotsa times I gotta ask’em to forget the meaning of the word. Just mimic the sound. Today we mimicked the “th” from “the” 80 times in under a minute. The other day it was “you” (not “jew” as it’s so commonly pronounced here).
    I’m doing this because I don’t believe they can really hear a sound Input unless they can make the sound, robustly so. If they can’t hear what I’m saying or what a song is saying, then we’re sunk. Fun Output helps Input in.
    Today I asked ’em if English is “yours”. I made’em say English is “mine”. I didn’t believe ’em. At all. Say it like you mean it. Convince me. Say it with a lung full of air. It’s loud. It’s hilarious.
    Another word on up the board today, and there often, is “fear”. We make a lot of fun of weak little scaredy-cat mexican accents, then fat obnoxious gringo accents that sound like the mouth is stuffed full of a gluttonous sun crusher hamburguesa. Marco, who started out as Mr. Uptight, is now sailing with this. Amazing results in 6 weeks. We’re communicating 80% in English. He’s already rephrasing answers and totally “Kicking Ass”.
    “Fight” is a key word. The enemy is fear. We fight it. Consciously. Feeling free to make silly exaggerations of sounds helps immensely. We don’t care about getting it one way perfect. More useful is to have the flexibility to say words like way wrong, in both directions. Way too much mexico or way too much gringo. It’s like stoopid joy.
    “We are the Champions”, great song. Songs, some of them, have deep roots in War. There’s bloody victory and triumph in some songs. These kinda songs, Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” is another, are total ass kickers. They rally the forces in a holy hell-fire war to make English m-i-n-e mine.
    My learners choose all the songs. This helps tons. “Want” is such a keyword. It’s up on top with the questions, up above all below listed action words (formerly known as verbs). Learner chosen songs is working great; they’re teaching me many great songs I didn’t know of. And since they already want (like) the songs, they listen at home and on their phones. Keep that Input coming In. Make it meaningful. Make it mine.
    Twexts are proving useful. Learners use them average 20-30 minutes per day before they get bored. Marco’s up to 60 minutes, peppered in 10 minute little sessions throughout the day. Exactly. Paper folds up easy in pocket. Easy to use. All Free and Voluntary. Words they get introduced to from the twexts get applied in class and even some out on street with each other. Jackpot.
    No stories, aside from from those in the song. Who’s singing? What do they want? Do they get it? How does it feel? What to do about it? We’re just asking questions and our class rules.
    Finally, K. You’re awesome. Your ongoing story is exhilarating. Thank you.

  10. Duke wrote: Feeling free to make silly exaggerations of sounds helps immensely.
    That reminded me of something we did not long ago. In level 3 we were reading poetry, and one of the poems was “ottos mops”. It is written so that the only vowel is “o”. After we had read it and discussed it, we had fun with it. Anyone ever sing the old camp song “I want to eat apples and bananas”? You sing it several times, each time with a different vowel: “EE weent tee eet ee-eeples eend beeneenees”, etc. Well we did that with “ottos mops” – including the umlauts. Somehow, “üttüs müps” is hilarious. I need to introduce this poem in level 1, not level 3.

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