When we work from lesson plans and word lists we put a blanket over precisely that part of ourselves that we are trying to uncover in our professions – the joyful part.

It is an unavoidable part of that misguided (in terms of the research) effort. Krashen calls the effect of such targeted “a constraint on interest.”

For some of us, it was love for the language that first drew us, like lovers, to the threshold of the language we now teach. I teach because I want to share my love of French with others, not to teach them the language, which is a dry and not a lovely activity.

First I loved my language, then I decided to teach it, but I want the love part in there too. If the love isn’t in our instruction, how can we bring to our students an appreciation of the incredible works of art that our languages are?

A lesson plan and a word list are parts of a language. They are “what”. But why focus on the “what” when we can focus on the “how” – the flow, the fluidity, the natural beauty of the language? Why do we have to focus so much on the facts. Just the facts, ma’am!

The what in some odd robotic way smothers the how. The how is where the style is, where the mojo is, where the heart is. Minds don’t laugh; hearts do. And don’t people sometimes say that at the end of their lives that it wasn’t really about what they did but how they did it, how much fun they had?

Lesson plans and data collection smother that which might really teach our kids the language in the real way. Can’t we just let the language take us where it will? No blankets to hide the beauty, fracture it into pieces so you can’t see the entirety of the thing?

No more blankets for me. For lots more articles on this topic, search the word FLOW and the acronym NTCI on this site.



4 thoughts on “Blankets”

  1. Love this post. Love this PLC. It takes a lot of courage to do that. Younger, less experienced CI teachers have to learn so much before they can let go. As someone new to this awesome yet terrifying world of CI, I can tell you that when the CI train is moving, it is truly beautiful. Everything about being a teacher makes sense during those moments. But sometimes, through no fault of anyone in particular, it just seems difficult to go in with no plan. I’m struggling with it but I do philosophically LOVE the idea of letting go. But it’s just easier (safer?) to have something planned, which I agree inevitably sucks the soul out of the room. Thanks for this Ben. Great post.

  2. It’s nigh impossible for Latin teachers still developing their own proficiency (having acquired SOME of the language in an a$$backwards way); also for those thrown into a modern language new to them with ample support/resources for own proficiency development.

    A noble post that should apply to everyone, nonetheless.

  3. Dude, Ben, lately you have been right on my same wavelength!

    Of course, in order to focus on the “how,” rather than the “what,” requires some knowledge of “why” (e.g. comprehension hypothesis) and developing skills to manage the “how” (question-asking, sheltering vocabulary, etc.).

    Our “lesson plan” can be a list of activities, tasks, and conversation topics. All that is really needed is an idea of something you want to talk about. And even that can come from the kids!

    We can put EVERYTHING on the kids by getting their INPUT (in L1 or L2) to guide our classes.

    If you are going to do some collaborative storytelling, then you may want some general idea of the problems and possible consequences. This can give you a Plan B in order to move the story forward when necessary.

    1. Herman, I can tell you that here in California at least in my district, they are pushing the 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

      Story asking can cover all 4. Critical thinking can take place briefly in L1 while students collaborate on filling a script. I do this for about 3 minutes then he head right into pure L2.

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