It’s Just a Listening Activity

I think it is a stroke of genius that Amy used the term “listening activity”. So many of us get all weird in presenting to our students our expectations with CI – simply because we expect pushback bc it’s new – and then they pick up on our nervousness.

Amy and I had this interchange:


It really does feel “magical.” I’ve been calling the OWIs “Listening Activities,” and whenever I say we’re going to do another listening activity, they say, “Oh, you mean the tiger thing? The whale thing? the omelette thing?” haha.


This term “listening activity” diffuses the whole CI freak out thing. It really takes away the drama! How simple.


Yes, I like “listening activity” because it puts the emphasis on precisely what I want from them during the activity :).

(I started it off by walking them through the interpersonal rubric and explaining the cues I look for regarding active listening, and they get excited because they feel like they’re getting “free” points, just for paying attention ).



23 thoughts on “It’s Just a Listening Activity”

  1. Brilliant! I just did Tina’s “Spa week” battery of assessments a couple of weeks ago (Listening, Reading, Writing & a self-assessment/reflection piece), and I feel like that has also really helped students to better understand what my goals are for the class. It’s fairly simple when our activities align with those basic modalities (with space for speaking as well, of course). I also found that when I really, really want them to listen, and they’re having trouble doing so, I can just tell them that we’re going to do a listening quiz where they just need to write down what they understand. They’re certainly all ears then! I also found that it helped me to really gauge the right speed for them because some students would have me slow down, which doesn’t usually happen when it’s not a “quiz”.

    1. So how do you assess it if the student sort-of gets it? That’s where I’m struggling with things now. I have some students who understand some of the message but not all of it.

      1. See the false assumption is that they are supposed to get it bc we taught it. That’s what we as teachers are taught to ascertain in each student. But doing that conflicts w the research and is not how languages are acquired. They all pick up at different speeds, some get a lot and some less. How are we going to quantify that? Bryan’s translation idea is the best we have. Quizzes are ok but kind of stupid. My position is there is no lazy student. Not a one. I think they are blocked. So if a kid translates less, I just keep the CI coming. If a kid starts getting it, fine, but if not, I don’t care. I don’t know what is in that kids’ mind and I won’t take my own inventory if all the kids aren’t getting everything. And I will never ever tell a parent that their child is lazy when I know they are blocked. I am professionally FINE w fudging grades on what I CAN OBSERVE related to the Three Modes. And, indeed, our SSR new rubric does exactly that. The kid who gets it all gets an A and the kid who gets some of it gets a B and the kid who gets none of it gets a phone call or parent meeting to decide if they should be in the class. I won’t lose any sleep over any of it. Here is an image – measuring what our students are getting is like trying to count seeds under the ground. My thumb is preventing me from making my point but there is one in there somewhere.

        1. I get that. So, everyone gets “Meeting” as long as they’re trying? I do need grades past the ISR and the HGR rubric.

          1. Dana, Every gets credit for “listening/reading with intent to understand”. Acquisition is like short term memory loss. So even if students do not understand terms, you provide them opportunity to understand with body, gesture, facial expression, writing translation, saying the translation etc… They get credit for attempting to understand. That’s it.

    2. We are just finishing SPA WEEK right now! Spa Week #2! The kids are beside themselves with glee at how much they can write in twenty minutes. And I am sitting here working on my Cycles of Instruction book. 😀

  2. …I can just tell them that we’re going to do a listening quiz where they just need to write down what they understand….

    This detail is gold. Thank you, Bryan. (And so easy to fudge oops I meant assess for a grade).

    1. I think they also have more freedom when you tell them that you’re looking for a summary and that it doesn’t need to be word for word, though you want as many details as possible. I figure that as long as they are getting a good amount of it then they’re doing great. If they’re not getting so much of it then they may just need more time, or as Ben said, they’re blocked in some way (that is probably beyond my power to change..). I tell them straight up that if they’re giving me their best effort then they have nothing to worry about. Everyone acquires at different rates, and we all have good and bad days. It’s overall growth and improvement over the semester/year(s) that I’m really looking for. That’s why I really like the portfolio assessment. It’s not just a one shot, all or nothing sort of deal.

      1. Bryan, does your school do SBG? Or are you on a letter or percentage grade system? Just trying to wrap my head around how to do this and being able to defend this to admin.

        1. We use a percentage/letter grade system. Technically, I tell them that an A= 90-100% comprehension shown through their writing, B= 80-90% comprehension shown, etc. The amount and quality of writing relative to their level is taken into account as well (which gives me some flexibility- I could say that it is relative to the individual level [which is what I normally do] or relative to the class level as a whole).

  3. Alisa Sapiro-Rosenberg

    If this PLC hosted a folder containing exemplars of all the teacher documentation that gets everyone’s underwear in a knot – curriculum guides, unit plans, report card templates with a “bank” of comments, midsemester reports, standards, grading rubrics, Cornerstone assessments, etc it seems to me that we would be providing a tremendous service to so many teachers, who are just sinking under the weight of all of these demands.
    Last weekend we hosted a TCI Chicagoland meeting in my classroom – Sean presided – we had over 40 teachers and many of them were newbies – we saw a real appetite for such documentation. By providing teachers with the samples from which to cut and paste, they can then spend their time and mental energy mailing the actual classroom management and communication skills!

    1. SOME of those documents are in the Primers Alisa but let’s keep this idea in mind – I would love to pursue this idea for the PLC. Ultimately we break that model though.

  4. Totally agreed! but I feel like it’s a hoop that many jump through and feel constricted by – like they (new to T/CI) are watching the power of the strategies and appreciating them in real time at demos, but there’s a gnawing anxiety in their minds about accountability, documentation, grading, communicating to adminz and parents, etc…
    This PLC is so much more than all that BS paperwork that most of us (if we’re lucky) never look at after we create it. So just like Tina created the cycles of instruction – so awesome to relax so many – we gather all those docs together (maybe in a Bite-Size-Book with chapters for kinds of documentation? I’d help with that if you like) and then when anyone shares, presents, gets observed by outside teachers, gets emails from newbies asking for help – we direct them to the cache of documentation…
    Which if in Google doc form can be updated and tweaked as the educational tides ebb and flow…

  5. If you help organize that Bite Size Book it would be the best thing ever to happen Alisa. There are so many Bite Size Books planned, like 30 more, and we can’t get out of the gate on them. My thumb isn’t helping bc it’s in a 12 week cast. I TOTALLY agree that Tina’s new book on Cycles of Instruction is the most needed thing right now.

    1. Just spent three hours on it. Ben I’m ahead of schedule!!! I thought my brain wouldn’t work till November. I’m a month early!

  6. This video is freaking amazing. You can’t get this kind of thing anywhere else.

    Other trainings only give teachers support by showing a polished demo.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben