Compelling – 2

With emergent targets, the story will be different in every class, so different vocabulary and structures are used. Therefore, a traditional scope and sequence based on lists of vocabulary or grammar points is not needed or even practical. Such guides matter not to me, as the research shows that humans do not acquire language based on the random slices of language a random adult with a masters degree in education decided should go on Week Seven of Semester Three.

Robert Harrell once made a point that has always stuck with me. If we are hired as professionals, it is assumed that we know what we are doing.  Many of us in our field now know that strictly adhering to the teaching of certain words at certain times not only leads to boredom but, more importantly, goes against Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition hypothesis and is in conflict with how human beings actually learn languages.

Some teachers don’t pay much attention to that, but I do. As the professional hired to guide my students’ language acquisition, I must stay fully aligned with the research in my work. Trying to make stories use certain words is to me against the nature of what conversation is, and is detrimental to student engagement which is the cornerstone of making comprehensible input work.  Unless a student chooses to put her attention on the input, she will never acquire the language no matter how many times we can say “felt like looking at her watch” in a class period.

I have found that, except for Anne Matava’s and Jim Tripp’s kid-pleasing script collections, the stories we create using no guide words, just an image of an intriguing character drawn by one of us in class, are far more interesting to the kids. I believe that is because these stories, based simply on student ideas, are more spontaneous and therefore more interesting to watch as they unfold.  My own tendency is to not want to know anything about the image until it has been created and shared visually with the class.

I don’t even want to know what the character is, just that it evokes a strong feeling or reaction from the class. We stand to lose so much spontaneity when we know what we are teaching in advance, and, as I mentioned above, doing that doesn’t even align with the research. Intuition and information that emerge organically in the story, without any planning , are key to this work. They bring freshness. Isn’t that what we want in our work, and in our lives?

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2 thoughts on “Compelling – 2”

  1. The only circumstances that have forced me to worry about which structures and when? are: bi-annual Common Assessments (in my case at the other 2 elementary buildings – so it’s not like we can compare notes over lunch or during a schedule break); and preparing for a common novel – which we have committed to across the elementary buildings….
    Otherwise I fully agree that the HFW will get their reps anyways – but not ALL of ’em in unison with my colleague across town!!
    No question – the lists and the timetables (“do ‘returns’ and ‘picks up’ before embarking on Brandon Brown…Dog!”) do squelch creativity and limit creative options.

  2. My best instruction has always been unplanned. However, my worst was always the most “teacherly” and most structured lessons despite the amount of time. It is fear that creeps in and wins and defeats a potentially amazing class. Once I recognized this, I was able to let go and just teach “in the moment” which is just that steady stream of CI.

    I hope to improve using scripts and not making them too school like. I make it too stuctured and thus loose the magic. Time for more spontaneity!

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