Breakdown

According to some CI experts, “breakdown” is a concern. Breakdown is when a student answers a question but shows hesitation and the teacher, upon seeing this in the student, says to herself, “we need to practice the sentence more”. But students are there to listen and absorb what they can, not to be taught a certain sentence. It is in their ongoing flow that we learn languages, not in the focusing on any specific parts of the flow. We do ask yes/no questions in NTCI but we don’t continually monitor their responses, preferring rather to let the Din happen as per Krashen. Do we break contextual messages down when learning our first language? Looking for breakdown is like hammering the input in one nail at a time when no nails are needed. In NTCI, it’s just waves and waves of pleasant comprehensible input (easy on the student and the teacher both) and some goes in and some doesn’t and then when the students sleep the process of parsing out some words as “ready to be accepted” (acquired) into the growing language system or not happens. The process is under our unconscious command and so why “practice” it? Why look for things that the kids can’t yet do? Doing that activates conscious thinking and awareness of the possibility of being wrong and the affective filter kicks in and that is not how the research says it happens. In fact, it is exactly the activation of the affective filter that causes the student to lock up, to “breakdown”.

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2 thoughts on “Breakdown”

  1. This talk of student “breakdown” makes me think of a student of mine that often puts her head down in class. When I talk to her about it, she is very pleasant and apologetic. This 16 year old is very secretive when I ask about if she is getting enough sleep and how to come to class more awake. Sometimes I wonder if she gets quickly drained by waiting for her peers to settle down (I admit, it can be a lively, off-topic chatter with they boys in that class), and I feel guilty for not controlling the class. But, then again, when we’re in the middle of a good story flow, she’s put her head down then as well.

    I have a couple other students that, too often, put their heads down during our co-narration story sessions. Anyways, it’s like these students that experience “breakdown”. If they’re not attending to the story, they’re not going to answer the t/f question correctly. Repeating the question for that one student might come off as condescending and it risks losing the interest of the rest of the room.

    Breakdown in the sense you describe above isn’t the struggle so much as kids being awake and in a good mood in class. Too many are playing video games or SnapChatting until 2am. Their brains are boiling with a confusing kaleidoscope of lights and sounds and disturbing images. Then they come to class where they’re expected to listen to one calm, pleasant voice talking, and they fall asleep. This is the student breakdown of 2019.

    Boy, we face a very tall wall of youth culture to climb.

    1. When children are so tired bc of their electronic lives, the only thing that can reach them is a good story, so if we’re trying to do that, really that’s about all we can do. We’re not superhuman. And we’re not stand-up comedians.

      The term breakdown was actually coined by Blaine and brought into a summer conference a few years ago. Blaine was talking not about breakdown in the capacity of children to listen, but to speak.

      His point as I understand it is that kids who couldn’t say it right, upon coaxing from the teacher to do so, were breaking down and needed more reps. Somehow Blaine started going for forced output.

      To me this is an unbelievable thing, and I may have misunderstood.

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