Auditory Focus

This is a repost:

I had mentioned a term in a recent comment here, connecting it to a CI teaching skill in which we don’t leave a structure until we feel that the class has brought it into a certain kind of focus that we can sense/feel/be aware of. Here is the comment:

…don’t leave a structure until you feel that the class has brought it into “auditory focus”. You can see it in their eyes. It’s almost as if you say a word chunk, it goes whisping into their ears, and, instead of going on, you wait until the sound goes all the way into their brains and then shows up visible in their eyes. Once you see that recognition, you know you can go on. It’s a lot slower process than when we teach without being aware of auditory recognition…..

James responded:

The concept of “auditory focus” fascinates me. I have been lucky to experience my students “getting it” in this way a few times now. Totally and radically and almost scandalously different than what it felt like teaching with grammar-based methods. It’s one of those things I could read a whole book about, even though I know it all comes down to a “gut feeling” and getting those structures to go “ka-thunk.”

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19 thoughts on “Auditory Focus”

  1. I experienced this concept of auditory focus in a particularly powerful way today. I saw kids who normally stare and who fail to indicate when they don’t understand (the 1/2 on jGR) shaking their heads up and down with eyes that comprehend, which counts for a yes/no answer in my book.

    Did this long sought-after response occur bc I was going properly slowly? No, it was about the same pace as always. Did it occur bc I was staying in bounds? Yes, but I have that skill down now so that is not the reason. Why were these kids so much more focused today?

    The answer is that I was working with images.

    I know that we base our CI instruction mostly on stories/PQA/reading, etc. And that is great. But when we were talking about a picture today in class, going slowly, staying in bounds, etc., things change. They just change.

    Try it for ten minutes. Go to The Big Picture – Boston.com, or somewhere like that. Work with a picture and be happy if you only get three sentences done in ten minutes of slow circling. You will see something.

    1. Here are the steps involved in the above if you want to try this for the entire class period. Really, this strategy, which I call Listen and Discuss (L and D), is very much targeted to writing:

      1. Go to The Big Picture – Boston.com, Google Images, or somewhere like that. Pick out an image that contains some vocabulary that you would like to teach your kids.
      2. Frontload the coming CI discussion with that vocabulary, establishing meaning in the usual way. Offer no more than four new terms. Too many terms and you lose the kids. We always limit vocabulary and offer tons of properly spoken language (grammar) to our kids.
      3. Discuss the picture in the TL, using the Punch List from the categories list here to guide you along through the class.
      4. Be happy if you only get five sentences all built around the few words you started with done in twenty minutes of slow circling. You will see something happen – there will be crystal clear comprehensible input happening all over the classroom.
      5. With ten or fifteen minutes left in class, ask the kids to write what they can remember from the L and D discussion. They can refer to the words on the board and the other posters you may have up in your classroom to help them write.
      6. If time allows, put a few writing samples up on the doc camera for general classroom discussion using R and D. Do not correct the grammar. Why waste time?
      7. Collect what the kids wrote. Use them as a grade if you want. But if you are under stress, toss them. Remember that you don’t have to grade everything that you collect.

  2. I am not sure that I am so good at this. I am not even sure I know what the”I got it” look is. I may be going a little fast. I have a hard time though because I have about six or seven students that are awesome and really want to learn Spanish and a bunch of kids that do not give two shits as to whether they adquire anything. It is frustrating. However, I feel like I need to get all kids to get it and I am just at a loss.

    1. I am in the same boat as you Karen. Especially in my upper levels. This semester I have a French II class of 22 kids (plus 4 level III kids and 1 AP kid). I have about 8 kids in there who would be motivated to learn no matter how I was teaching. My only hope is that as I continue doing CI with them the sense of learning and enthusiasm will somehow spread to them. I’m not going to stress over it though, because 98% of them aren’t continuing to the next level. So, I’m focusing on my French 1 class and getting them on the CI train boogying down the tracks into next year (maybe you can focus on investing your energy more with your lower levels?) My French I is pretty much the only class I have any motivation to teach this semester.

      I enjoy a lot of the kids in the other classes, but it’s a daily battle to get anything productive with them (I don’t blame them -they suffered through my first year of teaching, not knowing a thing and teaching out of the book on top of that. And they’re still suffering becuase I still don’t know a thing, but now I have a way of teaching that I believe in, so I feel I have to actually try with them too). Some days in that mixed class are sort of productive. Others seem absolutely futile -like they might learn more if I wasn’t teaching at all. Today I stopped about once every 30 seconds to wait for silence -literally. Luckily after about 15 minutes of that, a maintentance worker came in to replace some blinds, so I jumped on the opportunity to give them (actually me) a brain break and play a few funny youtube videos in French. I poured myself a cup of coffee from my thermos and had a few laughs with my kids. I figure if we’re stuck there for 90 minutes I might as well enjoy at least part of the class every day. They were just as talkative after the brain break but I pushed through after that and we finished class with a Quick Quiz on OWI stuff.

      Sorry to not be much of a help here -I’m sure others on here will have much more useful advice. Just wanted to extend a dose of sympathy. Are you new to CI as well? I’m in my second week right now.

      1. I am not new to CI but I feel like I am still a beginner. I am new to using it with Spanish 2 and I am bombing. I actually quit. I cannot invest the energy and have the kids suck so much. I also don’t want people to say I did not teach them something because we have 4 other Spanish teachers and none of them do CI. They all think that they have to be able to conjugate. That is the end all/be all. So I am using worksheets and am done caring too much. I too prefer my Spanish 1 kids because they are AWESOME but still again, I only get half the class interested. I should probably just be teaching Art. I also think this year has been rough for me because I am at a new school, one which I do not get along well in… I have put in my transfer. I would rather work with kids in gangs than kids in True Religion jeans.

  3. Nice vent. The problem is that it’s not a vent. It’s how we all feel. To some degree. On some days more than others. I had that kind of day. I was so excited about getting the Clapper Kid into place, helping me run the class by focusing on the things I just can’t seem to focus on and still provide the CI, and it really worked until 9th pd. when the kids are wasted from sitting in their restraining devices since 7:30 a.m. I got to thinking how this method cannot work without firm discipline and let’s face us, we are all not doing firm discipline. We are doing shitty half way discipline. So we get shitty half way CI, with WAY too much English, far more than we would ever admit to here. Karen your hope is in those level 1 kids. But half aren’t doing it bc of the discipline piece. I hear you and no blame. Not a single bit of blame. I get it. We are all at some degree of the frustration you express above. Greg Stout, our super new guy in Durham, is seeing how, once the kids have been indoctrinated in the old way, they ain’t gonna change. No, let’s say it for real – once the kids have been indoctrinated in the old way, they ain’t gonna change. So you’re left with the first level kids and with that issue of whole class buy-in. The school culture has to change is the deal. That’s a top down thing, right there. People always talk about change from the grass roots here, but I look at you with your traditional teachers there, and I am so sorry that you are in that situation. You are a hero. I know it doesn’t feel like it. But you are. The change ideally reflects to some degree what is happening in Minneapolis, where over the years Grant and a few others did the grass roots thing, someone at the higher levels noticed and now the change is mandated. (Grant will be presenting on that change in his district in MN at iFLT in San Diego this summer). Anyway, Karen, your honesty is refreshing. This work can REALLY REALLY SUCK.

      1. I also agree that I need to stop being a softy in the discipline area. That has always been mt weak spot– classroom management and grading papers. I just told a student today that I could teach Spanish to a chimpanzee. I just really need to stop feeling intimidated by these teenagers. How ridiculous is that? I am afraid of bitchy teenage girls. I get nervous about the snotty brat that acts like he doesn’t need to pay attention because he knows it all already. What in the hell is going on with me. A friend of mine told me to create an alter ego “Profe’ Witthoeft” for school. This Profe can be a hard ass, but kind when necessary, she doesn’t take shit from anyone and the kids behave, learn and respect her. Instead I am a pushover goofball that is afraid of mean girls, with respect from some kids and come a few that even come to with real issues, who is trying to teach Spanish using TPRS/CI because she knows with all of her heart mind and spirit that this is THE BEST WAY to teach and to learn another language.

        1. Karen,

          A thought occurred to me reading your deep-felt comments. You (and many here) clearly have a sensitivity as a teacher to what works and what doesn’t, to what your kids are feeling and how they’re thinking and all that. This sensitivity ultimately led you to the real prize of real teaching, that is, teaching with CI. The sensitivity inspired this great change for you. But at the same time, that sensitivity also leaves us vulnerable to all the negative crap kids seem to just spew at times. If you were more of a hard-ass, you might not have ever adopted a more effective pedagogy, but then again you might feel better about your “classroom management.” Talk about a two-edged sword! Man!

        2. Totally. Classroom Management is tiring! Consistency to me is always key.

          Karen, I am a first year teacher and doing CI all the way. My French II were totally short-changed — they got a bunch of long term subs, movies and parties. So I had to clean house. I repeat rules twice a class sometimes. I tell students to read them. Still, some will not learn or change but I am always treat them as if they will get it. The “old dogs” over at the high school are not going to tolerate that at all. So, it’s my way of preparing them.

          One way I have help blurters is to call on them. Remind them to pay attention. Then I ask them a question “slowly” to get back into class. That French II class is a monster — 38 students.

          At my site students care about their grades so I give them a warning by name then I mark them down. They know this because last semester they would see their grades dip because of participation. They know what it looks like to pay attention.

          Compliments go far too ( I really should do more). Applauding etc…

          Lastly, I am guilty of going too fast. However, if there are enough reps, spin out personal conversations I think that it balances out. We all need to find our style — what works for us. I like to experiment, revise, try again and either toss it out or keep it.

          1. Steven your comments are so good. They reveal a young teacher in the process of becoming great. They reveal strength of character. I am so proud of you, and have every confidence in you. Your students are most fortunate, as is the Fresno school system.

  4. I think the following is relevant to the discussion of auditory focus and I’m probably going to post some variant of what I write here to the “What is CI really?” ACTFL thread. . . If we are “CI Artists,” then we should study the possible causes for comprehension problems and make adjustments accordingly. Traditionally, kids are expected to comprehend from just knowing the word meaning and the grammar rules, which are just 2 of many more factors.

    Christine Goh (2000) did a study of listening comprehension problems.
    http://www.finchpark.com/courses/grad-dissert/articles/listening/listening-comprehension-problems.pdf

    Some factors listed by Goh in the introduction are speech rate, phonological features, background knowledge, lack of interest/motivation, cognitive demand of content. Then, her study examines 10 factors related to processing problems (see page 59).

    Perception
    1. Do not recognise words they know
    2. Neglect the next part when thinking about meaning
    3. Cannot chunk streams of speech
    4. Miss the beginning of texts
    5. Concentrate too hard or unable to concentrate

    Parsing
    6. Quickly forget what is heard
    7. Unable to form a mental representation from words heard
    8. Do not understand subsequent parts of input because of earlier problems

    Utilisation
    9. Understand words but not the intended message
    10. Confused about the key ideas in the message

    Flowerdew and Miller identified 3 problems: speed of delivery, new terminology and concepts, and difficulty concentrating.

    file:///Network/Servers/faculty.edgartownschool.org/Volumes/FacultyHD/Users/eherman/Downloads/Student%20Perceptions,%20Problems%20and%20Strategies%20in%20Second%20Language%20Lecture%20Comprehension.pdf

  5. Through this lens, one can easily see how traditional vocab and grammar-driven approaches feed these problems, esp forgetting/getting confused abt what I just heard/read cuz there’s so many new words in front of me. This to me is what leads to the affective filter skyrocketing, or at least a feeling of overwhelm/demoralization. And of course, concluding, “I’m just not good at languages.”

    1. Fran Prolman is a gifted trainer in education from the United States. She comes to the American Embassy School twice a year for a week each time for trainings. Today was the first day of her week with us. In her keynote speech, she said (in order to make some other point) exactly what you wrote above, Alisa:

      … “I’m just not good at languages.”….

      Now if someone like that deep into education – and she is good! – says it (three times) then how deep does this mindf— go? So your point here Alisa is very well taken:

      …traditional vocab and grammar-driven approaches feed these problems….

      It’s like everybody is crazy, can’t see what is so obvious. No wonder it drives some of just nuts. I was talking to Robert Patrick via email yesterday and we were talking about this very thing. I had said to Robert:

      … I think of you with a big baseball bat just knocking the shit out of all the ignorance all over the place….

      He replied:

      …no bat big enough….

      1. I maybe only speaking for myself but….

        I never knew that there was another way of teaching. That it can be:

        1) Low/no prep
        2) It can be fun
        3) Research-based

        It’s as if ALL of this TPRS/TCI/CI stuff was some hoarded secret — I don’t blame any of you if it is intentional. There is too many politics and bad energy out there that trying to kill off World Language programs.

        So, maybe that ignorance is winning out… but maybe only on the surface. How many are we? Can we do a roll call sometime?

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