Classroom Management – 16

I’m posting this information on the Classroom Rules here for Diane :

Supplement 4 – The Classroom Rules

The biggest chore we have at the beginning of each academic year is to get a handle on classroom management. We must have that piece under control before even thinking about our instruction. Indeed, why even begin a program of instruction with a new group of students unless you know that you can first control their behavior in your classroom?

The good thing is that when we work from images in this new curriculum the levels of student engagement are so high that we start each class with a big advantage over what we’ve had in recent years.

Al the same time, heightened levels of student engagement are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee you a classroom management package that gives you full control of your classroom.

The classroom rules provided below are the result of trying out hundreds of rules, many of which failed. These are the survivors of 15 years of daily testing. You will learn how to use them in this supplement.

Here they are:

1. Listen with the intent to understand.
2. One person speaks and the others listen.
3. Support the flow of conversation.
4. Do your 50%.
5. Actors and artists – synchronize your actions with my words. 6. Nothing on desks unless told otherwise.

We write the rules in L1 so that there is absolutely no question in the students’ minds about what we are conveying to the class when we point to these rules.

We cannot expect children to know how to behave. We must show them what we want, often to the point of sitting down from time to time in a desk and modeling for them the desired behaviors. This is especially true with ninth and tenth graders, whose view of acceptable behaviors may have been distorted in their middle school classrooms, where they may have learned to act in ways that don’t work in comprehension-based classrooms.

If, in the first few weeks of school we use these rules constantly, at every turn, in response to every single infraction that we notice as we teach, we will rarely if ever have to use them again.

Whenever you notice an infraction of the rule, each time, do not let it go. Just do the following:

Step 1: Stop teaching.

Step 2: Look in a friendly way in the general direction of the student. 

Step 3: Walk to the poster and put your hand on the rule they just broke. 

Step 4: Read the rule – it’s usually Rule 2 – out loud.

Step 5: If necessary, explain in English what the rule means (see below). 

Enforcing the Rules

Don’t go over the rules on the first day of class. The kids are bombarded with rules on that day. Just start in with Category A.

The steps above, where you learn to stop teaching and go through them, represent a positive confrontation process that you initiate to keep the good will flowing. Stay friendly but firm. I used to suggest that we actually smile at the offending student in steps 2 and 5, but I don’t anymore. A smile can be misinterpreted. The main thing is to keep some semblance of ease in your demeanor.

I am not friends with my students. By stopping on a dime at the first sign of misbehavior and constantly walking to the rules poster in those first two weeks, I teach them that I am not their friend and that my main job is to set limits with any children who don’t behave with respect in my class.

If we don’t set clear limits about what behavior is acceptable by stopping at each offense early on, we will lose the class by October. I’ve called that the October Collapse. At the beginning of each year, I promise myself that I will respect myself enough to immediately crush the least bit of misbehavior by stopping my teaching and going through the steps above whenever necessary, without enmity, whenever necessary.

Kids are perceptive and deceptive, and “friendly” kids in the first weeks of school often become our biggest enemies later on after they win us over. That is narcissism. They set you up by appearing trustworthy and nice and then when they have you in their pocket, they turn on you and if you are an overly empathic teacher you will pay the price. So, enforce the rules at every turn in every instance or pay later.

Again, we act each single time a rule is broken. There is no option involved here, no skipping over a single offensive behavior. You will know that you are doing it successfully when you find yourself stopping class and explaining the rules constantly in the first weeks of classes with all of your classes, maybe hundreds of times a day. Then and only then will they get the message.

If the rules are not the main subject of the first weeks of class, you may as well do a silly walk on out of your classroom and stay gone, because nothing significant, except lots of headaches and heartaches by you, will happen in that classroom that year.

If the rules don’t work with certain kids, and that happens a lot at the start (perhaps as much as one or even two students per class) then get on the phone. Call anyone, first the parents, record notes from each conversation, and then if nothing happens go to the administration. You know the drill. Use the phone or email or even text messaging.

Enforcing these rules is really a question of accessing your personal power. The students want to know in each of their classes, “Is this teacher going to exhibit enough personal power to stop, from the very beginning of the year, each little side conversation or ill-timed comment from me during class?”

Such side conversations and comments can grow like brush fires. The students are watching. I4s2 the teacher going to grab the fire extinguisher (the appropriate rule) in the instant that it happens, extinguishing the first flames when it is easy to do so, or not?

Don’t take such behaviors personally. Just respond to each spark with a bigger spark of your own in the form of walking to the rules poster every single time.

Do NOT respond with a spark of your own in the form of anger. That is just stupid, as anyone who has been teaching for more than one week knows.

If a child is not o.k. with the rules and cannot change their attitude, they can change their schedules. With certain kids, you must attempt to change their schedule. Failure to do that – get a schedule changed – has been the cause of deep emotional distress all year later on, not just for the teacher but also for the other students in the classroom, including the offending student. Students don’t want or need that kind of classroom drama, and we are the only people in the room who can protect them from it.

Confront administrators and counselors who won’t help you. Don’t give up.

When you don’t confront these bullies – that’s what students who make rude comments in your classes are – you are sending a very clear message to your other students that they aren’t important enough for you to assure their right to learn in a quiet and focused setting. That’s the wrong message to send them.

Use the Classroom Rules and some form of an interpersonal skills rubric (discussed below) to help you find your personal power and use it in your own classroom. Don’t back down to any counselors, parents or administrators in getting the schedule changed. They will tell you that it is your responsibility to teach the offending student. It is not.

Intimidation of teachers by other adults in the school when they are making professional decisions that are in the best interests of their individual classes is rampant right now in our nation’s schools. Teachers back down as well from ignorant counselors, whose own hands are tied, and chaos ensues. Do not back down with certain students!

Such irresponsible counselors and administrators must be taught to make the right decision for the overall mental health of the building and you are the only one who can educate them on this point. Find someone in the building who can help you and make the phone calls home. Document everything.

If there is no adult capable of helping you, consider leaving the school. It’s a question of your own mental health.

When must you do all this? When must you raise a ruckus with parents and administrators to get those really rough kids out of your classroom? If you don’t do it in the first few weeks of school, it is too late.

Below is a commentary on each of the Classroom Rules. You might want to have the following text handy about each one before launching into CI, so that you are ready to give those constant little explanations of the rules each and every time a student fails to comply with one of them. Children need repetition.

  1. Listen with the intent to understand. Such a foundational behavior as this one is rarely done except by students in schools. Instead, many students listen with the intent to pass the test. If your students do not cultivate this first and most important of the rules, if they think that your class is, like most others, a game built around testing, then they must be constantly reminded to listen with the intent to understand. Point at it, smile, and enforce it. If the kid can’t do it, tell them to fake the behavior until they can do it or invite them to leave the class.
  2. One person speaks and the others listen. Left unchecked, some students will take only a few weeks before they have nearly complete control over a classroom. When you see a side conversation, explain that you are going to be doing most of the talking this year because you are the only one in the classroom who speaks the language. Do not waste your time talking to the child – that doesn’t work. Go to the adults who have the power to change the student’s schedule or who can support you in disciplining the kid. This bears repeating— much damage has been done because teachers have trusted a student after a brief talk in the hallway or after class to change, when the child has, over the years, made almost a profession of lying to adults about changing their behaviors in class. Go to the adults. On the topic of seating charts, wait a few weeks at the beginning of the year, seat the students left to right in front of you in a “wide” pattern and not “deep” and away from you in the classroom and then, after two weeks when you know where your problem areas are, divide the groups that have become comfortable being together and put them as far away from each other in the classroom as possible.
  3. Support the flow of conversation. This term was invented by Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg in Chicago. Students who have never or only rarely experienced actual reciprocal back and forth human conversation in a class (this ability is formed at the dinner table) cannot be expected to be able to support the flow of the conversation in the class. They have been taught that sitting in a class requires that they only be physically present. Therefore, they must be reminded in class to support the flow of language in the classroom.
  4. Do your 50%. We have to listen to our kids and they have to listen to us—each has to do their half. Comprehensible input is a two-way street in which we both do equal work, which then adds up to 100% effort by the group. I constantly refer to this rule when I see a student not paying attention. It is because this is a completely new concept to many kids, who have been taught to think for years that their teachers do the work while they passively write things in notebooks, or not, if they choose not to. Writing things in a notebook does not constitute learning in a language classroom. Interacting with the teacher via eye contact does.
  5. Actors and artists – synchronize your actions with my words. Actors can be major distractors if not reined in. That is one reason I don’t use props, or rarely. Studies have shown that most of human communication is visual. Therefore, an actor with a prop can completely draw the class’s attention away from the language and onto the actor and prop. Be very careful in choosing actors. Avoid attention- seeking students. Quiet focused kids of good will who are kind make the best actors. You feel their strength and positive listening energy next to you as you teach. Kids who lack self-control are very hard to teach next to. Actors absolutely must be corrected or told to sit down if, during a story, they make a single move or do anything that you have not said—that is why we have this rule. So, whenever you notice an actor pretending to be a rocket flying to the moon when in the story they are still back on earth because you said nothing up to that point about sending them to the moon, stop the actor and point to this rule. With a smile, of course. Artists, as well, must have the patience to not get all creative and star4t4 adding details that have not been established by the class. It is just as important to find patient artists who work quietly and independently and who wait to see what emerges from the class’s ideas as it is to find artists who have drawing talent.
  6. Nothing on desks unless told otherwise. This is if you have desks. It is a lot easier, when a class enters the room, to remind a class about a rule than to say in a threatening way to one student, “Take that backpack off your desk!” which can immediately become confrontational. Just don’t allow anything on desks. This nothing on the desk rule especially includes coins, pencils, etc. As output, writing in a comprehensible input class is rare, so kids need to see the “unless told otherwise” part of this rule. This rule is a big one in terms of classroom management because, in many schools, backpacks on desks are code for I’m-going-to-be-on-my-cell-phone-in- class-today. Enforce this major rule before class even begins, as they sit down in their desks to start class, every day.

One most critical point about managing your classroom in the first days of the year, actually in the first ten minutes of the first class of the year:

If your voice isn’t the only focal point for all those new students in those first days of school, that is like pouring fuel on a fire. There are just too many factors going on in those first days – most having to do with students testing the teacher. Be on your guard. Teaching is not important now – pointing to the rules is.

You can never have those first days of school back. You must either get Classroom Rule 2 up and running at every turn and get your first cards discussions going in complete silence or you might as well metaphorically pour gasoline and throw a match on the floor of your classroom.



15 thoughts on “Classroom Management – 16”

  1. “The main thing is to keep some semblance of ease in your demeanor.”

    There is so much gold to be panned here in this article, Ben. Your description here, exemplified by the quote above, of how to compose yourself the first week of school is what we need, and funny enough, hard to find.

    I know that with this series of posts on classroom management, you’re trying to unravel the hard-to-put-into-words way in which we talk so that students will listen. You are leading us in this uncharted territory. Sure, psychologists and such have books about it. Teachers don’t so much. You powerfully capture your teaching experience as well as your knowledge of psychology through this exploration of how we get students to listen to us. Thank you.

    Well, I just had myself a morning binge on the PLC here. It’s good to be back. My kids went back to daycare this week after a summer full of family time. I won’t shy away from saying it’s exhausting taking care of little ones. Especially when your wife is pregnant, on the sofa or in bed, with a third. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for my lovely family and wonderful wife.

    1. That family time can be rough man! It’s non stop! I have 4 at home ages 12 down to 1 year. Summer vacation including a 2 week road trip in a minivan was like a full adventure race. Congratulations!

  2. So, I’m a CI newbie this year with middle school students. I’ve been diligently utilizing the rule poster. I’ve been using the steps in Ben and Tina’s book including the Queen’s stare (love that btw), the hallway chat script, et. al. and I’m really struggling. I keep the suggested inner monologue going to keep myself sane, but I’m spending about 30 of the 45 minute class at the rule poster. I imagine there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but when? We’re three weeks into school, and it isn’t any better than day one. I’ve been taking videos of my classes, not all, but many, and the kids aren’t even intimidated by the camera rolling. The behavior is the same. Does anyone have suggestions?

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Janet, Can you describe/analyze for us here what the main management issues are?
    Do you have your heavy hitters separated and within close proximity to you, for extra eye contact and monitoring? Do you have a predictable routine for entry, startup, transitions and exit?

    I have found that there’s about a 2-week transition for my 1st-4th graders (less for 3-4 than 1-2) where we don’t dive into much story stuff yet. The time is spent on nailing the routines and management through persona especial (which led to looking at a Spanish map of the continents today). They’re not ready/the machine isn’t well-oiled enough yet to delve into OWI and stuff.
    I still have to have some discreet activities planned for the 30 min class, but they center on nailing the class expectations and routines.

    1. It’s an interesting situation because with my PreK-3rd, I’ve always done a certain level of the various CI strategies mentioned across many sources. I also use a lot of music/songs/games with my littles. Middle school has always been textbook/workbook/drill heavy because that is what the district/colleagues/school board are pushing. Needless to say, my elementary classes have been much more enjoyable to me and the students than my middle school classes.

      So my middle school students (this year’s 6th and 7th) have had me since K and 1st respectively. They know me, and I know them quite well. Our MS is struggling with behavior management across the board, it’s not just my class, it’s not just my subject, and it’s certainly not just one grade level. The students’ general attitude is work avoidance, the “I don’t care” approach, with parents who blame the teachers for the misbehavior of their children.

      So they see me standing at the poster, we read the rule (mostly #2) and their attitude is, well if we just keep talking, we won’t have to do any work, she’ll just keep standing there. If it were just one or two, then I would pull them to the hall for the chat, but it’s at least half the class at a time, roughly 10-12 kids or so.

      Our routine thus far is simple. When we enter, they have to set up the chairs (my room is really tiny, so we’re in a horseshoe, not at tables and often my MS classes are sandwiched between elementary ones that sit on the carpet, not in chairs). Then once they settle (which takes some time) I’ll do any quick announcements that are necessary in English. I have a call/response to switch to Spanish, which they are familiar with because we’ve used it in past years (Clase, Clase: Sí, Sí). We attempt calendar. My goal is not to spend a lot of time on the calendar basics because they’ve been doing calendar since they were little and know the days/months/numbers/seasons pretty well. We’ve been spending more time on weather and diversifying their weather vocabulary instead. The regular calendar “stuff” is mostly review to them. They are so disruptive during calendar, it takes us about 20-25 minutes to get through this simple activity, when my 2nd graders do it in about 3-4 minutes.

      After calendar, we’ve been working on card talk. Unfortunately, because of the constant disruptions and stopping, we’re hardly making progress. In one of my classes we’ve gotten to class session #2, in all the rest we’re still trying to do card talk and we’ve had probably 6-7 classes. The one class that was able to do it really enjoyed it and we came up with an hilarious spin on the start of the conversation! I wish the other five classes were on board enough to have some fun with it, but it’s still a struggle in the management department.

      1. I suggest dropping the weather and card talk. I find it excessively dangerous to get a class going in the first minutes w stuff that is inherently boring. What is more boring than the weather and Card Talk is not a home run activity either – it’s just there to put in the rules and build community – that is why it is first in the categories. My thinking has been misrepresented in a few of my past books. I would go straight to Cat. B tableaux on Monday and not look back. Again, the only reason I do Card Talk first is to build a sense of community, but building classroom management is far more important and since you know all those kids you already have your community.

  4. This is serious, Janet, as you know more than anyone. Know that this situation is NOT your fault. You are doing NOTHING wrong. You would probably benefit from making some changes in what you are doing, but what you are doing now is NOT WRONG. Always remember that our schools are completely broken. You don’t have to tell me about the level of emotional suffering this is causing you. Anyone reading this knows exactly what you are living in your classroom now, and have lived it, but few are willing to admit it as you have so boldly done. I applaud you for SAYING it. You are a hero to me, and nothing less.

    Besides the points made below in the next comment field in an unpublished text, and I hope they help you, I can only say that the entire pretext behind the Invisibles (which postdates ANATTY and is in my view far better than ANATTY) is that we SOMEHOW must get ourselves squarely on the same page as our students, as per the definition given by Antoine de Saint-Exupery that love means “facing together in the same direction”. That is the challenge. Right now you are doing something that is causing them to face off against you. It is most likely bc of the “never trust a teacher bc they only want to test you not help you” mentality that rules our education system right now. That is a big topic, but maybe just by saying it, by saying that these kids are PROGRAMMED TO RESIST TEACHERS, you can find a new direction with them. I am pointing to the Invisibles and the creation of images by the kids as a way to jumpstart this new “same direction” kind of teaching in your classroom in the hopes that we can at least get our feet past the staring line and start running. I am pushing the Invisibles bc they are the best thing I have to offer, have ever had to offer.

    About these non-participatory kids, Craig West wrote the text in italics below here about a month ago and I consider it a huge victory for him and for the Invisibles, a victory brought about not by One Word Images (which are too weak to get the job done although they are good and much-in-use these days) but by Individually Created Images. The comment field below w the suggestions are “deeper levels” going past Rule #2, which clearly is not strong enough to do the job in your classroom (which happens a lot, as might be expected). So look at those deeper levels and consider enacting some of those ideas.

    Plus, I will send you the Invisibles books so that by Monday you may be ready to get something started.

    Here’s Craig:

    Ben – I have a 4th period class that has such a hard and awkward spirit about them. They don’t answer questions. They don’t really respond to anything. Today I was considering emailing the AP about getting some of them moved to another class. That was before I passed out the paper for the first invisible character and asked them to draw on the front and put the required details on the back. I could not believe the change in the energy and spirit of the group! It was like night and day! I absolutely could not believe it. None of my other “playful” activities could reach the heart of these students. The playful child inside these hardened teenagers just could not be reached. I’ll keep you posted as to what happens today. Wanted to let you know that you are reaching people through simple kindness and love which are the only things that can bring light into our classrooms these days, it seems.

    My thoughts:

    Instead of thinking about how to teach a required list of high frequency vocabulary in a textbook or in a semantic set list or thematic unit (or some list from a novel that the kids need to “acquire” before reading it), I now think about what is possible to try to move the L2 discussion into imaginary realms of drawings created by the kids, with everyone contributing equally because drawing is the fast road to inclusion and equity in the CI classroom, to paint with language in such a way that the kids say things like, “I am painting my picture here in class today! Let’s talk about it!” or “Hey I love it when you talk about my drawing!”.

    And I don’t have to have the pressure on me to create a story every time. I can just create some whacky little tableau. This is thinking in new terms about our CI instruction. It is what the Invisibles are all about.

    This reflects my favorite quote from Soren Kierkegaard:

    “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”

    This is the way I want to interact with my students in L2. This is how I want to teach. This is what it means to me to be a language teacher.

    1. Thanks, Ben! I’m reading through the Invisibles, and am hoping to pull some help from that as well. It’s nice to have this support group here because none of the other teachers in my district are taking this approach, so I do not have any local resources to tap into. Hopefully in the next few years, after I get some good experience under my belt, I can convince some of my colleagues to give it a shot and we can work together.

  5. Janet here is that long passage. Maybe something in it will help:

    Supplement 36 – Going Deeper with Classroom Management
    This supplement expands on some of the basic ideas about classroom management mentioned in Supplement 4.
    Student Engagement is the Key
    Really, for the majority of students, simply teaching an interesting class and making certain that our students understand are by far the strongest ways we have of ensuring good classroom management. Students who are engaged are your #1 ticket to your classroom goals.
    When students are engaged, they are easy to manage, as per the saying in sports that “the best defense is a good offense”. When the students understand, there is no doubt that classroom management problems will plummet.
    But engagement is a relative term. In many CI classrooms, the instructor is content when a certain portion of the class exhibits understanding. But in terms of building community, which besides student comprehension is a major factor in good classroom management, student understanding is a requirement to keep the classroom community alive and well and not split.
    Creating characters in the way described in the Invisibles books is the best way to engage all of the students. Why? It is because when students actually create the subject matter of the CI discussions in class, as opposed to being presented with something like a MovieTalk or some image not of their creation, they are much more engaged.
    Of course, in any discussion of how to maximize student engagement in our CI classrooms, we must recognize the role that the Walk Before You Talk technique plays as a major player in guaranteeing student engagement in any CI classroom. When we remember to use Walk Before You Talk at all times when speaking to our students, both to establish meaning and also to point to the rules, we guarantee that our students will stay engaged because they will understand.
    In the activities offered in this book there are also many subtle classroom management techniques such as assigning judges in the Word Chunk Team Game, using students to decide on the details of characters and stories, the student jobs, etc. that put the majority of students in the driver’s seat and allow us to simply direct the action as a conductor would direct an orchestra, instead of herding cats.
    It is these various jobs and responsibilities that we give out in our CI classroom that combine with the aforementioned factors to accomplish wonders in building a true sense of community in our classrooms.
    Positive relationships are the prime objective. When we have positive relationships, our teaching becomes relaxed because we and our students simply enjoy each other’s company.
    The Most Important Classroom Management Techniques
    A key point to make here is that how you manage your classroom in the first two weeks of school is of phenomenal importance fin terms of how things play out during the rest of the year.
    Don’t forget the importance of Classroom Rule #2 in the first few weeks of school, as discussed earlier in the Invisibles book. If you use Rule #2 effectively and enough times at the start of the year, then you won’t need to use it for the rest of the year, because your students will understand what you want from them. They will be trained.
    Thoughts on Building Community in the CI Classroom
    Personally, I don’t like the pressure of having to create a wonderful story in every class while at the same time mixing certain vocabulary into it. It’s too much for me.
    In the old storytelling model, everything, all the interest and energy, originates with the teacher, whom we can call Point A, and goes to the students, whom we can call Point B, whose actual contribution of cute answers to the story is, in fact, minor and limited to those few kids in class who are fast processors and free of the normal teenage angst that most kids today seem to be experiencing.
    In the old storytelling model, the few dominate the classroom and this is no way to get good classroom management.
    Teaching from Point A to Point B is not creating a web of connectedness, of community in the CI classroom. It puts the teacher, along with those few fast processors, at the center of the classroom, and this inevitably divides the class along socio-economic lines.
    What else is going on in the classroom? What parts of kids, their talents and greatness, their accomplishments in real life or imagined life, have we not brought into the discussion because we were concerned with the words from the list getting into the story? And why have we missed our kids’ interests as the most important factor in managing our CI classroom? How can we make it less about ourselves (Point A) and more about the group?
    Certainly, we were too focused on teaching something concrete, something connected to a textbook or some list of words. We thought that the textbook was the curriculum.
    Maybe, instead, we can use our intuition when we talk to our students in L2, not limiting our discussion to factual things but rather tying it to things that might just be there in the room in our kids’ imaginations, pinned down and thus ignored (the French verb “ignorer” means to “not know”) under the weight of the thematic unit vocabulary and other concerns tied to our curriculum.
    I tried for fifteen years to target certain vocabulary while making up a wonderful story at the same time to keep all the kids amused and lost, I have now chosen to focus (in my four most recent books that followed the Big CI Book) on what the kids can produce in terms of art work – what they can draw!
    Here is what happened when one teacher, Craig West, did that:

    How We Asssess Plays a Role in Managing Our Classrooms
    When we assess in the way presented in this and several other books I’ve written, we understand how making 65% of a student’s grade reflect the Interpersonal Skill of the ACTFL Three Modes of Communication can help classroom management.
    People who like to micromanage sometimes think that the Interpersonal Skill grade at 65% is too much, but it’s the most accurate grade we have. We are experts in assessing observable non-verbal behaviors and people who don’t teach a language aren’t. We see things they can’t see in kids’ eyes. If a kid isn’t able to shift (this is rare) the way they think a language class oughta be, we have to teach them and constantly redirect them with command of the classroom while we are teaching and honest use of the jGR (or whatever interpersonal skill rubric you are using) while we are assessing.

    There are many ways to do this, all positive. We can ask for little rounds of applause for kids who listen well, just stopping class when we see the kids honoring the Classroom Rules and saying “Appaudissez, classe! Arnold is listening so well right now and I wanted to stop class just to say that, because that means that he paid attention in the first week when I stopped you guys all those times and pointed at rule #2, right? And you thought this class was weird bc you didn’t have to memorize stuff, and just give me your full attention and follow those rules over there and Arnold is doing that right now so congratulations Arnold you’re doing it right and it will show up as 65% of your grade at the next marking term so keep doing it! It’s how people learn languages! In fact, I’m going to my desk write now to write myself a note to send your parents after class an email to tell them how well you pay attention in class! It’s not easy to do this if you’ve never had a class like this before. Everybody needs to know that you think you are looking at me but I am looking at you too and you are being graded right now when I am talking in French! We’ve looked at the rubric together already so where would you put yourself on this rubric right now? We don’t memorize in this class and we don’t have big tests. And any big tests we have, we just do what we do on that Star every day. And Arnold I have noticed that you are really listening and trying to understand and that is done silently, right? And that silence and focus is the sound of your grade going up! Oh and don’t just start staring at me, because I can tell if you are trying to understand me in class, it’s a different look in your eyes and plus when you fail the quizzes (ed. note: formative grades in the first month of the year are only quick quizzes, which are essential to give, if you can, daily, along w rating them on the rubric every day to break in ALL the students in your classroom. The other formative grades like free writes, FCR, dictees, start populating the grade book later.) I’ll know that I was right about how much you were understanding. The quizzes and the interpersonal skills rubric work together, as you can see. Don’t worry! It’s my job to make myself understood and I will do that I promise (ed. note: via WBYT). And since I am grading you daily here at the beginning of the year, you better know that if I see a cell phone out, I won’t say anything but I will go over at the end of the class and write down a 0 on your daily IPS grade and those add up! So, if you see me making notes on my desk during class it’s either to remind myself to call a parent about good IPR skills or the phone problem. Yes, I do call parents during class. So, there are about four people right now who are failing the class due to phones but I don’t talk about it. We’ll talk later when the first grades come out. I know it’s weird being graded like this, on how you listen in class instead of on memorizing something for a test, but that’s how I’m supposed to do it, so we’ll see if any grades go up now. Let me show you what I mean. (Walk over to an empty desk and model the behavior physically that you want to see.) Congratulate Arnold again and get back into class. Of course, you wouldn’t say all of those things, just one or two each time you stop to congratulate the kid and ask for a round of applause on their behalf. Once we realize that the best way to improve their behavior is not by “managing” their behavior at all, but by complimenting them, we will have the kind of classroom environment we want.

    To review the above:

    …little rounds of applause….
    …stopping class when we see the kids honoring the Classroom Rules….
    …spot emails to parents ….
    …you think you are looking at me but I am looking at you too….
    …you are being graded right now ….
    …the silence when I am speaking is the sound of your grade going up….
    …it’s my job to make myself understood and I will do that….
    …the quizzes and the interpersonal skills rubric work together….
    …phone out in class? – I won’t say anything but at it’s a 0 on your daily IPS grade….
    …if you see me making notes on my desk during class it’s to remind myself to call a parent about good IPR skills or the phone problem. Yes, I do call parents during class….
    Plans A-E
    We will now take a look at the management plan of my invention that first appeared in my Year One/ A Natural Approach to the Year/ ANATTY book (2017). It is included here for ease of reference.
    Plan A:
    Plan A is the first step of five (Plans A through E) in establishing yourself as the calm, assertive, no-nonsense leader of the group. It has been my basic classroom management strategy for over two decades.
    Plan A shows my class that I will respond – I will act – each and every time a student breaks one of my classroom rules. I do not act from emotion. I use body language, calmness, silence, and patience to establish my leadership.
    The Classroom Rules poster does my talking for me. I notice each and every infraction of the rules, and then in a dispassionate way I immediately stop all instruction and use the Walk Before You Talk technique to slowly and silently walk over to the rules poster, and without speaking, point to the rule that was broken.
    The Classroom Rules have been discussed in Supplement 4. They are prominently displayed in a place where I can easily walk over to them, put my hand on them and simply wait, without speaking, until the class complies with the rule.
    The rule that I point to most frequently in the first few weeks is Rule #2 – “One person speaks and the others listen”. While pointing to is, I simply indicate with my body language that I expect my students to correct their behavior.
    When we hear comments like, “How long is she going to keep on standing there!” then we know that the more vocal, outspoken students are beginning to feel uncomfortable, that they are concerned that they may be in a class with a teacher who will actually stop them from to taking over the classroom. So, we simply wait it out.
    We wait until we get compliance. Waiting out those 30 seconds could bring us scores of hours of calm focused listening later in the year. Even the child whom we schooled will on some level thank us for finally teaching them how to behave in school. It can’t be fun to be a bully.
    This is a very critical juncture in your year. You do not want there to be any entertainment value in breaking the rules. In fact, you want your response to be so automatic that it is identical each time you use it. Even if you are pointing to the rules for the twentieth or even thirtieth time that day, you want to execute the same calm walk, the same calm wait, the same sequence of gestures that you did on your first trip over to the rules.
    We thus make listening to the actual instruction more entertaining than breaking the rules. And since our instruction is all about the kids and their ideas, why shouldn’t our instruction win? Especially when the alternative is to see the same exact, calm, same-old same-old response that they always see, the teacher calmly pointing to the same old rules.
    Establishing the rules in this way builds your personal power in the classroom. It establishes you as the calm, in-charge alpha energy in the room. This energy is ancient, even present in troops of chimpanzees. However, histrionics, exasperated emotional reactions and explanations undermines this energy. So when we simply stroll over to the rules in a calm way, pointing them out to the class with simple body language waiting for compliance, we build and maintain our alpha status in the group. ?
    The main objective in the first couple of weeks is to use very simple, engaging, personalized activities, and above all SLOW and thus easily understood speech, to train the students in the classroom rules. You will spend a good amount of time over at the rules poster, in the first month. It is a blue-chip investment in your future as a proficiency teacher this year! ?
    You will know that you are doing this right when the students begin to tire of your constant, calm, good- natured smiling, of your steady and silent reinforcement of the rules, and resort to shushing each other when they see you saunter over to the Classroom Rules poster. You will know that you have built the proper atmosphere in your class when you sense that:
    1. (1) your instruction has become slow and effortless,
    2. (2) your speech is calm and unhurried, as if you have all the time in the world to speak to your class,
    3. (3) your class waits silently and patiently as you frequently clarify your message by writing or walking
    to a word or visual aid,
    4. (4) you are taking time to breathe and think and smile in class,
    5. (5) your students demonstrate the desire to wait with you in the few seconds of calm silence that you
    lovingly insist on after each transgression.
    6. (6) you feel that you are finally teaching in a way that is actually fun to do!
    Such an atmosphere is crucial for authentic communication in the language to thrive in your classroom. Plan B:?
    Of course, if one student or group of students refuses to follow the rules as you have taught them in Plan A above, then we go immediately to Plan B. This is where we move physically to the student who is at ground zero of the disruptions. Dr. Fred Jones, the great classroom management trainer, and the author of the must-read book on classroom management, Tools for Teaching, calls this the Queen Victoria Stare.
    He suggests a specific sequence of movements and actions that use our body language and physical presence to establish our leadership and set firm limits with our students, without spiraling into those “But I wasn’t doing anything!” or “You’re picking on me!” arguments that end up with someone (usually the teacher) losing face.
    Please note that Plan B is for correcting the behavior of students who exhibit garden-variety patterns of misdeeds. It is not designed for students exhibiting seriously dangerous behavior. These suggestions are provided for dealing with commonly overlooked (except in your classroom) behaviors such as side conversations, using a cell phone, talking back to the teacher, interrupting, calling out, laughing at inappropriate times, making weird random noises, tapping pencils or coins, excessive pencil sharpening, congregating by the trash can, etc.
    Fred Jones says, “Open your mouth and slit your throat.” This means that when dealing with behavior management, talking is the enemy.
    We do not want to talk to the student about their behavior; we want the behavior to change. No hallway conversations. Fred Jones asserts, and the authors have found it to be true, that the more we speak, the more we diminish our personal power. Therefore, body language, silence, and patience are our best allies in our work with challenging students.
    When we have a student (or a group) who reveal themselves as needing some personalized attention to come into alignment with our expectations, and we have found ourselves pointing at the rules several times, just for them, this is when we use Plan B.
    Plan B
    Plan B is what Fred Jones calls the “Queen Victoria Stare”. It is a stare that says, “Oh, you poor fool, I have seen this kind of nonsense before and I will stop it just as I have a thousand times before.” Even if it is your first week of teaching, you can fake this stare. Soon, you will not have to fake it.
    Use Plan B when a student who has displayed a pattern of small infractions displays yet another one. You stop instructing just as you did for Plan A. At this point, everyone expects you to go to the Rules poster.
    However, you will instead turn your feet to face the student who continues to disrupt. You will plant your feet both facing in the direction of the student. Remain silent.
    Plant your feet, then turn your entire body in the direction of the offender, in silence. Keep your arms down; do not point at the student. Do not say anything. Do not call their name. Do not say, “Shhh.” Say nothing.
    Simply turn your entire torso and shoulders in the direction that your feet are facing, so that it is abundantly clear that you are stopping instruction to address the distraction. If the student does not notice your attention is directed at them, because they are so deeply distracted, enjoying themselves, simply wait silently until they notice.
    Remember, opening your mouth is your last resort. You do not invite conversation. You want to see a different behavior, not have a talk with the student. There is no need to discuss this with a fifteen- year-old. If you cave and allow the student to engage you in a verbal interchange in this moment, you may as well do a silly walk out of the classroom because you will have lost your class for the rest of the year.
    Everyone knows the rules by now. You have pointed to them perhaps hundreds of times in the few days of school that have elapsed so far. Now simply wait until the disruptive student notices the energy directed at them. They will notice.
    95% of classroom management is energetic and happens in the realm of body language and nonverbal communication, anyway. They will sense that you and the class are focused on them. They will eventually look up.
    Once they have noticed you and are looking at you, take a few slow steps in the direction of the disruptive student. Do not get overly close, though. And do not assume a combative posture. Keep your arms at your sides, not on your hips or crossed in front of you. Think to yourself, “I am fortunate that I have the tools to exert calm leadership, and I have worked too hard to get to this position professionally to let some rude child ruin it for everyone.” And mean it when you think it. That could be the root concept of the word mean – to simply “mean” what your say.
    Do not say a word. Simply make it clear that you are looking at them, so that they – and their peers – know without a doubt that you are dealing with them. Stare at them with a patient, withering, “Been There, Done That” stare. Do not say a word. Breathe. If they say something, perhaps, “What?” or “What’d I do?” then simply respond with what Fred Jones calls a look of boredom. It is not very productive for a student to argue with someone who is just staring at them silently, with a calm look of “I have seen this all before” on their face and no desire to win at anything but compliance with the rules.
    Once the student is listening, or has put the cell phone away, or has turned to face you, or has done whatever you need them to do to comply with your expectations, simply take another deep breath and resume instruction as if nothing had happened. ?
    It is important to note that Plan B is only the next step in a series of increasingly-pointed interventions.
    When the class in general continues breaking the rules, continue using Plan A. But when a particular student continues on breaking the rules, do not use Plan B more than a couple times on that child. Instead, move to Plans C and D. (You will use Plan A all year, every day. It is the default setting. It is your cruise control until June.) If other students test your limits, execute Plan B on them a couple of times and then move swiftly on to Plan B.
    Plan C: ? ?
    If you have a student (and, most likely, you do!) whom you have already stared at using your best Queen Victoria Stare a couple of times but who seems to always go right back to their old behaviors, you will need to move on to Plan C with that child.?
    In this level of intervention you actually get in the face of the student. It happens this way. You are teaching class. You notice a disruption. Simply turn and face the student, with your feet, then your torso, then your whole body. You take another deep breath, summoning your Withering Stare, aka the Queen Victoria Stare. Walk over to the student, calmly, without saying a word. Stand by their desk, silently.
    If the student is giving you backtalk, for example, “What’d I do?” simply respond with a stony silence, waiting with a calm, non-confrontational posture, as Fred Jones recommends, until they are all talked out.
    Then, get down on one knee by the student. This conveys a powerful message to them: “We are on the same team. I am strong enough to lower myself to you, in service to you and our class. I have the self-confidence to not lord my status as teacher over you. I do not need to assume a confrontational stance with you. My power comes from within, not from confronting you in public in front of your peers.” ?
    After you have knelt by them, quietly say to them, “This happened before, and it is happening again now. And if it happens again, we will have a longer conversation, and we won’t be smiling at the end.” And – this is key – smile at the student (even though it may be sort of a forced smile). Nine times out of ten, they will smile back. It is human nature to smile when smiled at. ?
    Notice that in this short conversation, you do not name the behavior. This is purposeful. Naming the behavior invites arguing. You do not want arguing. It is clear to all involved that the student has broken the rules. It is also clear to all involved that you have consistently and fairly applied Plan A to everyone every time a rule was broken. Thus, you are clearly not “picking on” anyone, or playing favorites. ?
    The student knows what they did wrong. There is no need to have a long conversation about it. It is best to follow up this conversation with a phone call home. Perhaps but probably not, the student has a family that can support them in processing the issues, which will certainly make your job easier. ?
    Plan D:
    Plan B is enacted when, earlier in the period, or perhaps yesterday or a couple of days ago, you took the time to slowly and calmly speak to that student individually. Now the behavior is still continuing.
    Get down beside them and ask them to step into the hall – we only enact this at this deep level of the plans. Tell the student that you will speak with them later in private. Then stand up, take a coupe steps away from the student, and calmly resume instruction. Do not make a big production of waiting for the student to get up and exit the room.
    Act as if you have every confidence that the student will comply with your request of their own accord. Remember, in all discipline, the goal is to de-escalate and remove attention from the situation in the heat of the moment.?
    There is a small chance that the student will not comply. In that case, go back over to the student again after a few minutes and simply repeat the same sequence of steps that you did the first time you spoke with them. Remain calm and non-confrontational, and keep the interaction quiet and private, from your kneeling position by the student’s seat. Remember that the class is watching you. This interaction is not just about your relationship with this student but your position as leader for the entire class.
    So just remain calm and say to the student, “I asked you to wait in the hall. We can have a quick conversation in the hall during class right now, or we can have a more complicated situation. It is your choice. I will keep teaching and wait to see what choice you make when I get up from your seat here.”
    Then signal calmly to anyone in your classroom who is bigger and more intimidating and clearly in support of you to come help the student to the hall. You have ideally chosen a supportive, calm, and kind student for this job, and they can help coerce their peer into coming to the hall with them. Football players are good for this.?
    Calmly continue teaching, walking away from the student. After a minute, look back in a calm, nonchalant way, to see if the student has indeed chosen to go to the hall. If the student has not done so, you call administration. If they cannot or will not come support you, you really have no choice but to continue teaching. You now have two options.
    One, at the end of the period, hold the student back so that you can follow up with them in private. Two, tell the class to turn and talk about something, perhaps simply saying, “Turn and tell a partner what we have learned so far about X” where X is whatever you have been talking about. Then as the class talks, follow up with the student. No matter what, at this juncture you will want to get in touch with administration, counseling, their coach, if they have one, and the student’s family.
    Most students, however, will not put up any resistance and will go on to the hall either of their own accord or with the assistance of the Concierge.
    When you have a private conversation with the student, use your body language to de- escalate and support a productive conversation that truly leads to change. So, stand shoulder to shoulder with the student, not facing them in a confrontational posture. Mirror their body language. Lean on the wall if they are leaning on the wall, sit if they are sitting. Humans respond more positively to others who mirror their body language back to them.
    Do not want to make eye contact with the student during this conversation. Look off into the distance, in the direction that the student is looking. You will now ask a memorized sequence of questions. This takes off a great deal of pressure, as you now simply need to focus on remaining calm, using a non-confrontational posture and a calm tone, breathing, modeling calm energy for the student to respond to while asking them a series of memorized reflection questions.
    Here they are – don’t forget to memorize them:
    1. “What was happening?” ?
    If the student says “I don’t know” then simply ask again. Do not state the behavior. They need to state it. Ihat way they can own it, and describe it from their perspective. If they say something snarky like, “I was just asking what you were saying!” that is OK, just proceed once they have acknowledged the behavior.
    Then say, “Thank you.” Truly mean it. This student is helping you, and is complying with your wishes even though they probably do not feel like it. This is big internal work for a child. Acknowledge it.
    Do not restate, put into “teacher language”, elaborate or add on or correct their response. Simply accept it, thank them, and move on.
    If a student refuses to answer, say, “I will come back in a few minutes to see if you have an answer to this question.” Return to the room, leaving the child outside in the hall to reflect. Take deep breaths and remain as calm as always. Do not feed the student any nervous or anxious or angry energy. You want to simply exude calm, assertive, get-it-done energy.
    If they refuse to talk to you the second time you return, repeat that you will be back. If the third time you attempt to engage with the student, they still stonewall you, then you know that there is a much bigger problem at play here than just language class. Leave them in the hall and follow up later, with administration and counselors and family involvement, if possible.
    The majority of students, however, will answer our question the first time and we can simply move on to ask the second question in our sequence:
    2. “How is that a problem for the class?”
    Again, do not give up or accept a non-answer, but do thank them for their response. Do not add on – simply allow them to be correct in whatever they say, as long as it is an honest answer to the question.
    Next we ask Question 3 in the sequence:
    3. “How is that a problem for me as your teacher?”?
    You will repeat the same type of interaction as in the first two questions.? ?
    Finally, we move on to Question 4, the last one:
    4. “How is this going to be a problem for you if it does not stop?”? ?
    At this point the student will generally name the consequence they fear most. Generally, the students name calling parents, detentions, or office referrals. If they say, “We will talk in the hall some more,” tell them that this is the last time we will talk in the hall and inform them of a more appropriate consequence. ?
    This simple questioning sequence is worth studying and memorizing. Having all the steps ready to deploy is extremely soothing for your mental health and boosts your confidence. It is important that you not have to make those decisions when you are in your reptilian brain, and in fight or flight mode.
    You will be glad that you have a memorized script to deploy in a mechanical fashion, taking the guesswork and nervousness out of an already-charged situation, having to confront students and correct their behavior. ?
    Plan E:
    By the time a student has pushed our classroom management to Plan E, it is time to reach out to principals and counselors. Many teachers reach out to the office when they should be doing Plans A through D. This does not stand well with administrators, who in some buildings evaluate teachers not in terms of their instructional capacities, but simply by how many times a teacher sends a student to the office.
    Working through these steps with your students maintains your leadership, builds relationships, and allows you to use these challenging behaviors as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your students. It’s real teaching – teaching of the whole child.
    Plan E, getting outside help, is for those rare students who truly need more support than you can give in a classroom setting. Those plans are for students who have not responded to your very tight management plan. If you faithfully implement Plans A, B, C, and D, you will be able to winnow out the students who do not respond to calm, assertive leadership, and you will thus be left with the students who need intense adult support. ?
    You might very well have unearthed those students who are living with so much pain that they need more services than they are getting in school. Thus, your management can be a service to your community. It helps the school system identify those students who simply cannot, because of the struggle that their lives are, be part of a community with a calm, centered leader.
    If your student-centered curriculum, your success-for-all grading policy and your strong classroom management system do not support a student in being a successful, positive member of the class, then you have most likely identified a student who has substantial social-emotional needs.
    If your classroom-level interventions do not result in a change in the student’s behavior, you will need to seek assistance from family, administration, counselors, coaches, other teachers, or all of the above. The fortunate thing is that with Plans A through D, you will create a classroom environment wherein only a very few troubled students will need the Plan E level of time-consuming intervention.
    Elevator Speeches
    These two speeches, one short and the other long, are helpful:
    Mini-Elevator Speech:
    “You are sending me a message but let’s not talk about that right now. In fact, I don’t want to talk to you about it at all, but I will be talking to somebody about this.”
    Elevator Speech:
    (said to an entire class that needs redirecting. Cannot be used more than once or twice a year) –
    “Look. I have worked too hard at learning how to teach a language to be interrupted by my students during class. So, whenever you see me stop class – and I will stop it on a dime – and point to this rule here, that means that someone has broken a rule. The rules are connected to the national standards. They are the way I’m supposed to grade you, on “observable non-verbal” behaviors. [Explain the term and model it if you haven’t already]. So, I will do what I just did and then walk over to my desk like I did just now, and you will know that you just collected a zero for the day. Now lookie here …. 65% of your grade in this class is just listening, and we’ll talk more about that tomorrow when we talk about the national standard of Communication and the Interpersonal Skill of the Three Modes of Communication that my national parent organization, the American Association on Foreign Language Teaching, requires me to follow – and I’ll show you what the Three Skills are with arm motions what I mean tomorrow so it is perfectly clear about how you are going to be graded in this class this year. So, think about it – if 65% of your grade is LISTENING, does that say anything about talking or getting on a cell phone? No. And by the way if you want to use your cell phone in class, go for it. I won’t say a word. I won’t even take it from you because it’s your property. I’ll just walk over here and put another zero in the book after you leave. Your grades align with the standards so yeah use your phone if you wish but keep in mind that those daily zeros add up and you may even think it’s unfair but like I said I have to align with the standards and by the way have I told you that I have worked too hard at learning how to teach a language for someone to mess it up for me and not just for me but also for the other kids in this class who think it might be cool to learn a foreign language. You know, when your phone is out you break almost every rule on here. (Explain how). Do I make myself clear? Good! Thank you!”
    Auditory Focus
    Sometimes with untrained students the sounds we make go into their ears, rattle around a bit, and then fall out. This is not what we want, since a child who doesn’t understand is a potential classroom management problem. We want to instruct our students in such a way that the sounds we say move from inside their ears into their eyes, and never fall out. We want them to keep what we give them, which keeps them engaged.
    When this happens, there is a real sense of what I call auditory focus in the classroom. It is a unique quality of awareness of the language that is in our students’ faces when we are teaching well, when we are engaging them and when they are clearly with us. We don’t want the sounds to fall out of their ears and rattle around on the floor. We always want to be on the lookout for the exit to the Pure Land. How can we do it?
    All we have to do is wait until the sounds we say go all the way into their brains and then show up visibly in their eyes before moving on to the next thing we want to say. Only until we have seen that recognition in their faces do we know that it is time to go on.
    Class works better when we look for auditory focus in our students. Three things make this kind of focus happen in a NT classroom: (1) our patience, (2) our uplifting attitude and (3) our remembrance that they are just children and many things are pulling their little hearts and brains in different directions, so we learn to be soft when we teach, not dominant, not harsh, never harsh, always loving.
    Teaching in this new way means that we have to learn to invite, not require, to point in the direction of, not push toward. We can invite them to the language dance now. The old days are over.
    The Psychology of Withdrawal
    Some kids engage at the right amount. Some too much. What about the kids who withdraw?
    It is my thought-out position that, generally, kids who withdraw from interacting in a CI class have a reason to do so.
    We all know that kids withdraw in traditional textbook classes from pure boredom. But when things are interesting (and they always are in a properly run CI class), then there is reason to respect the withdrawal of the kids in CI classes as more serious.
    If we were to videotape hundreds of CI classes vs. hundreds of worksheet classes, we would see much more varied observable non-verbal authentic engagement in the CI classes than in the traditional classes. One thing is certain in CI classes – kids are listening more than they appear to be.
    But what about those who are clearly out of it? It’s probably because they have a reason and it is not our domain to pry into what that reason is. The reason for their withdrawal may go back many years as a part of their own inner zeitgeist of having to be in school. Usually, however, it’s about their home lives.
    What should we do with such kids? My opinion is to let them go. Let them be in the safe space of your classroom. Find a way to pass them. Then you will learn something about teaching and trust and patience. If you go to the teacher’s lounge and complain to your colleagues about those quiet withdrawn kids who “aren’t learning anything” then you are the one with the problem.
    On the other hand, if you coax these kids along with infinite patience without forcing them to participate, then you are making the right decision. Coax them along in the manner of the shamans. Invite them back to life. Gently encourage their movement into the class process. Over many months of kind patience and compassion, you will see something.
    You may object that you need grades. You need to get grades in the book.
    Oh really? You need grades from a child who is not ready to give them to you? You want something you can’t have? Well then grow up and get creative.
    What I do is tell them point blank early on is that I will probably have to fail them for the first 9-weeks but I will let the quizzes slide if they can just give me something, anything, to grade that will keep them above water.
    I tell them that I can give them a passing grade on the rubric (jGR, etc. – the ones developed here over the past ten years) if they can just provide me with a minimum of positive observable non-verbal attention in class. This will get their attention.
    Basically, this is the “fake it till you make it” approach and it works wonders as a preliminary coaxing device. It opens the door to them without pushing them through. Most kids, I have found, take it.
    For the first nine weeks a D instead of an F saves me the hassle of having to contact their parents and by the last nine weeks such kids are at least at a C, and some have become class leaders. This positive outcome happened because I didn’t steam roll them in the first month but rather invited them and then waited.
    There are few teachers who wait for kids. Most want the changed behavior now, or by the test date anyway. Let’s do it the other way. The research supports such a stance with kids who are hurting.
    The loud rude kids is the subject of another inquiry. Just don’t consider withdrawal and aggression as the same kind of offense in your CI classroom. The verbally rude kids represent a much more serious topic and they won’t be addressed in this supplement except insofar as we have talked about how to deal with them above in Plans B through E.
    But with the kids who withdraw, my advice is to let them go. Properly done CI has the particular characteristic of making even the most withdrawn kids want to know what is going to happen. But if you push them to listen, expect nothing.
    Invite them. They will gradually show up as human beings in your class and at the end of the year you will be their favorite teacher – to your huge surprise. That’s how it works.
    Getting a Good Start to the Year

    These are observations I made for a webinar for Teacher’s Discovery’s FB site in August of 2019:

    Section 1 – Our First Priority is Not Teaching the Language

    A lot of us think that we are there to teach the language and that’s true but first we have a few much bigger priorities to attend to in the first few weeks of the year.

    Our first two weeks priorities should be in the areas of:

    1. Building Community, as referred to earlier.
    2. Establishing Who the Boss Is in a Calm Manner

    When we CONSCIOUSLY build community using the jobs and other techniques mentioned in this book, we guarantee each student’s membership in the group. That creates a web of connectedness between the students. This “web” is born of “appreciation and awareness of others”.

    Card Talk as described in the first (Category A) sections of the Invisibles book is the vehicle we use to first build the web of connectedness in our Invisibles classrooms.

    Once the community is built, the comprehensible input can travel around this web in the classroom, just like a spider can move about on its own web.

    We don’t want everything in our CI classrooms to run off of the teacher, off of Point A. It’s too much pressure. Once you build a community, it’s no longer you vs. the kids but rather co-operational. So, I’m suggesting a whole new dynamic, an entirely new zeitgeist for a WL classroom here.

    This has been addressed before, but too many kids are normally out of the loop simply because of the smart kids (more of a classroom management problem than we think) and so we need to use activities to start the year that guarantee everyone’s inclusion.

    When we guarantee each student’s place in the group, we demonstrate that no one group of students will control the class that year. The teacher cannot be blamed entirely, because she, naturally wanting to find some friends in the class, builds a kid of relationship with just that one small group of dominant students (the same group that probably dominates all their classes). This is a disaster for the idea of community in your classroom.

    In fact, most classes in all subjects get quickly split along social and economic and racial lines due to unconscious teacher bias.

    Classes that are split along these lines, between the “in” crowd and the ones on the outside looking in – it’s different in every school – cannot succeed with comprehensible input To be successful, CI depends on everyone working together, with no one excluded because they have been thus been labeled in other classes.

    All the books I’ve written on CI, all of the activities, curriculum designs, etc. that I’ve created over all the years have always had the single objective of giving all of my students reason to believe in me by my showing that I believe in them.

    Language acquisition is so different than other subjects. Everyone has the capacity for fluency and so there is no “smart” and “not smart” in a properly functioning CI classroom. Everyone can do it UNLESS the teacher does not consciously try to include everyone due to their unconscious bias about which students she prefers.

    So, the first thing to do each year is to create a mindset that “Yes, I’m going to teach the language, but no I’m not going to make that my primary goal in the first weeks because I have a COMMUNITY to build first.

    The Biggest Factor in Classroom Management is Inclusion of All Students in the CI Classroom Process

    Who wants to enter into a community without an invitation? Kids are shy. Just as animals naturally mistrust humans these days for good reasons, so do most students mistrust teachers for good reasons.

    But when the classroom feels like a community, the kids who usually withdraw or act out (the two extremes) in your CI classroom now experience hope because of the little hints that you dropped about how if they but listen they can earn a good grade.

    Knowing that they won’t be graded on tests but how well they listen in class has a freeing effect on children. They don’t like tests. And then, when they actually understand in the first few classes, because your instruction has been impeccably slow and precise and personalized and COMPREHENSIBLE, you now have a powerful start to including them in the classroom community and therefore you have a powerful start on classroom management.


    To summarize what we have said so far, we have said that the main factors in a good start to the year are:

    (1) establishing in the CI classroom a sense of cohesiveness and membership in a learning community,

    (2) grading them fairly in terms of the standards.

    (3) making sure that they understand everything you say using the Walk Before You Talk technique.



    1. DON’T focus on instructing in the language right away. Build community with the cards and establish the rules first.

    2. DON’T start w OWIs or ICIs. DO start with Circling with Balls/Card Talk.

    3. DON’T try to teach it all. The burnout in our field is bad, maybe worse than any subject. Focusing only on the material to be “covered” is a big mistake. One teacher expressed it this way:

    “It’s hitting me hard how so many teachers are so anxious about covering material that they leave behind classroom management and community-building. They get the rules/syllabus on day 1, then the train leaves the station. And, if you get left behind, sorry, not sorry!!”

    4. DON’T think you’re on stage. You’re not on stage and you’re not an entertainer. DO just be yourself. CI lends itself to that.

    5. DON’T PUT IN TOO MANY JOBS in the first month of the year. Put in about five at the most in the first month.

    6. DON’T try to speak at 90% as per the ACTFL 90% Position Statement. YOUR focus is on building community and classroom management now.

    ten minutes or last ten minutes of class.” They tend to go less during the half hour in the middle of class if they are engaged, which they are, because you have built in the first weeks a culture of trust and inclusion.

    8. DON’T mix languages. If you are just hanging out in English, because you FULLY GET how long it takes to get to mastery of a language (in the area of 10,000 hours, DO hang out in English. Get to know your kids. IT’S FINE. DO stay in the TL for at least ten minutes at a time. No mixing of L1 and L2 in rapid fire transitions from one language to the other during class.


    10. DON’T CHALLENGE YOUR STUDENTS WITH AUTHENTIC TEXTS AND OTHER THINGS THEY CAN’T READ. As Susan Gross has said, reading should be “like a movie in their minds” and not a conscious analytical linear intellectual pursuit. This is as per the research that states that learning a language has to be happen as a result of comprehensible input and not thinking.

    11. It is the same with auditory input as it is with reading. There really should be no analysis of how the language is built when the kids are listening to it. There should be no feeling of chasing the bus. There should be no child left behind. There should just be the pleasant flow of meaning into their heads so they can form images (i.e. imagine) so that they can focus on the MESSAGE. (“Chasing the bus” here is something that happens when you let a small group of kids take over your class. When the kids with the strong reading backgrounds. These are the few kids who come from privilege – and yes it is due to poverty and so yes is a socio-economic phenomenon.

    12. DON’T unconsciously put ANY of your kids in the position of feeling stupid. Do not find the least fault with any kid. They are waiting for that as an excuse to shut down in the same way they do in their other classes when the teacher and the “smart kids” are against them.
    13. DON’T EXPLAIN THE RULES on the first day. Model them.
    14. DON’T do any kind of interview activities with your students too early on. DO give them space to just listen.

    15. DON’T teach in a way that sets up the “October Collapse”, where the reality of the year sets in and a lot of new CI teachers begin to collapse under the weight of what they are trying to do, and the students often collapse too.
    The teachers often think it’s them. We can’t let that happen. It may be a lack of training in the basics of CI instruction, that is true. No matter, what we have to do, another mental health focus for October, is make sure that teachers new to his kind of teaching don’t give up. For some, the goal is just making it through the month, or the week, or the day….
    How to do it? More to the point, how to keep it from feeling like it’s some kind of personal failing on the part of the teacher, when new things are always hard?
    I would bet that more teachers – at least thousands of them over the past 20 years – have abandoned this way of instruction in the period of time from late September to late October than in any other month, for these reasons: (1) lack of early Classroom Rule setting (especially includes the students’ use of English) and follow up as described above, (2) failure to build community via Card Talk, (3) not using WBYT in an effective manner.
    16. DON’T fall into “the trap” students sometimes set of trying to get you angry. Even the students who set them will appreciate you even if they don’t show it.
    17. DON’T explain how you teach in the first weeks. Let them experience it first and then explain later.

    18. DON’T say that you teach differently from some teacher they may have had last year. This opens up parental visits to administrators. Just teach.
    19. DON’T start the year with heritage students mixed with novice learners if you can prevent it. If you have six kids trying to speed you up it WILL ruin it for the others. We all know that. And we also know that it is next to impossible to get them out of there. If you must keep them, the best is to give them the top jobs of artists and story writers and quiz writers and videographers and Profe 2. They cannot be sent to the back of the room to do the work they really need, reading and writing – this never works if they are physically in the classroom
    20. DON’T invite too much playfulness without having enough ways to stop it when it becomes a wave of playfulness that washes over the classroom and destroys the classroom focus. Just be careful not to open up the playful nature of the kids too much. As you know, it’s a very fine line.
    22. DON’T teach them the alphabet. It’s useless.

    23. DON’T formally teach them the greetings – useless.

    2. DO pick the right kid for Card Talk.


    View some YouTube videos in which Ben discusses classroom management in an Invisibles classroom:

    Video 11 (6:34) – In Videos 11-15 we leave Marvin and Jim skating in Italy to look at some important aspects of classroom management.
    Video 12 (8:52) – What happens if Classroom Rule #2 fails? The “Zero Option”.
    Video13 (5:01) – The “Mini-Elevator” Speech
    Video 14 (4:38) – The “Elevator” Speech
    Video15 (4:56) – Contacting Parents
    Q and A

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Janet, again reiterating that this is of course not your fault but trying to trouble shoot with my younger student hat on…
    with the younger’s I have found often mental turn-off during Calendar talk so unless it’s someone’s birthday or ‘ice cream for lunch’ day, I’d table Calendar Talk for now. Last year I started with a OWI and found it a great way to lay in the norms. The room got really quiet – I just had to manage time super closely to insure we could do a big reveal at the end. I went with a food item and got some great stories out of it. I rode the wave for weeks as classes learned about each others’ characters.
    The kids also want to use costumes & props so that can be used as leverage, too.

  7. Thank you! I think I’ll give this a try. We’ve got calendar down pretty well by the time they are in 3rd grade, having done it each year, so by MS, they are just tired of it. I’ll try OWI and see how it goes.

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Years ago I surveyed my 4ths about favorite activities throughout their tenure, and least favorite, too. Calendar, which until then I’d been doing regularly over the 4-yr sequence, was at the absolute bottom of the heap. I changed it up a bit, and now it’s mostly only for birthdays, vacations and other special events or holidays, etc.
    Since the months are cognates and the numbers past like 7 are so low freq I feel no compulsion or obligation… the days of the week are kinda hard. I use them in context but don’t insist that they master them by 4th… No one makes me do it…

  9. Hey Janet! I have tremendous respect for you in your interest to keep trying. You’ll figure it out. It may take time… just take care of your mental health!

    Another suggestion, don’t worry too much about students responding to you in Spanish. Let them respond to you in English. So, like I often do with unhinged classes, like my afternoon classes get some times, is to give them directions to do things, physical things, like pick up pencils, sit down in particular seats next to, in front of, behind… take out paper, copy words on the board that I commence to write, describing orally in Spanish the entire process… move parts of the body, move multiple parts of the body, tap your head and rub your stomach… talk about a phone that a student pulled out and is looking at, act out as I describe the use of the phone. You could also talk about students clothing items… draw students themselves, especially if they have a new hair do, on the white board and describe… tell particular students to throw paper into the garbage can but build suspense by asking the class if they think the student will make the shot or not…

    This is all NTCI stuff, slyly used, with a little dosage of drill sergeant, that students pick up. Very compelling, in my experience. Respond to them and what they are doing as they are being disruptive, but in Spanish. I know, it can be exhausting. But you’ll see that it can be fun too. It’s totally improvisational.

    Good luck!

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    There is actually a bona fide educational (kindergarten +) strategy called, ‘verbal following,’ which I learned abt from a colleague down the hall, where the T basically narrates what she sees the Ss doing…I’ll get you guys more on it soon… But it’s what Sean is talking about (he mixes in some TPR)!

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