NTPRS Wrap Up

Chicago was wonderful. Craig Sheehy slept at the mini-steering wheel of the monorail above Victoria’s Secret and his Turkish boss yelled at him and then just outright fired him.

That same Turkish boss, Lt. Col. Ali Isik, blew up the word chok in Turkish into a big balloon and now I can’t forget it. He also taught us how to power lift the word laughs gurule above our heads.

Anu Singh danced the rrrrromba in Tamil so now I know how to say “too much” in Turkish and in Tamil. Then Scotland’s new pride and joy – they don’t know it yet but they will – Jason Bond showed us how blasta/tasty things can be in Gaelic.

Yes, thank you for asking, the world is getting smaller and we really are starting to learn each other’s languages, if only at these conferences. Such a small start will eventually only bring good things, because the work and the teaching we did this past week was real. It was real work.

Those things above represent about 0.0001 percent of what happened at NTPRS. I got to meet Senor Wooly. I met some of the best people in the world. A quiet member of our group, Ray Bauer, a very kind and unassuming Spanish teacher in Chicago, not only taught lights out Spanish to the War Room group, he also shared with me that, after getting hammered for his CI approach for years by colleagues, one of his students this year scored a perfect score on the national Spanish exam. He explained how that finally stopped the hammering on him by colleagues and shut everybody up. So mega congratulations to you Ray!

I also discovered another theme for this coming year’s work here on the PLC – the role of emotion/singing/chanting/dancing in this work, in our teaching. It hit me while I was teaching French this past week how truly physical this work is. Of course! How can a student respond physically to instruction that is presented non-physically? It would be like a yoga teacher teaching yoga using only words. We have talked a lot about creating images in the minds of our students via our TPRS/CI instruction, but have we talked enough about creating muscle memory in our students? It’s a very good topic for this coming school year. And no if you are not a singer or changer then you don’t have to do it since we also learned over the past two weeks how truly reflective of teacher’s own personalities this work can be.

I will publish an article here in the next month describing some other things that I think would be good to work on this year. There are about four things.

For anyone starting the 2014-2015 school year this week (!) like Louisa in San Diego does on Wednesday (!) and Bethany started last week (!), there are lots of articles on “Beginning the Year” in that category to the right of this page.

The work done in the War Room by both the Denver and the Chicago groups far exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t even begin to describe how, from the first work by Angie Dodd on Monday at iFLT to our last lesson (in German) from Eric Spindler Thursday nite at NTPRS, a parade of gifted teachers each taught a lesson at a level of expertise that far exceeded anything that I thought I would see. Some, like the super-talented Brian Peck from Detroit, have only been doing this stuff since October.

It really was a mind blowing two weeks, meeting people I had known online here for years in some cases. A problem was enough time. The last War Room session Thursday night went from 7:00 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. and the two nights before went past midnight, and it just wasn’t enough time for everybody to work.

This is a subtle point. We found that our format of ten minutes of uninterrupted coaching followed by a five minute critique and then two minutes of stoppage time added on, along with a five minute add-on for the teacher if desired, was not enough.

I found myself asking the timer (Carly Robinson in Denver and Erik Spindler and Sean Lawler in Chicago were perfect timers) for extended time for certain people working.

We need some kind of conference where we work and get coached all week from early morning until late night – like four days and nights of insane immersion coaching – that might follow something like this format:

10-30 min. – uninterrupted teaching
5-10 min. – discussion/critique/suggestions
2 min. – stoppage time on the discussion (probably not necessary to have this step but it’s cool and reminds us of the World Cup)
5 – 10 min. – final uninterrupted teaching sequence by whoever is working where they apply/test ideas suggested during the discussion period.

So if we were to follow that longer format it could be almost an hour of work by one person. What does the group think about this? The minimal time a teacher would work counting everything is 20 min. and the maximum would be 50 min. and in some cases like Lt. Col. Isik even longer.

I would love to hear what those who worked at both conferences might have to say about this idea and what they have to say about the War Room experience in general.

I sincerely apologize to those who didn’t get to work. Every minute of the work done by Ali on Thursday night was just mega important. Also I gave extended time to Jason Bond because we were learning a language that we have never encountered at summer conferences and it was just so cool to be doing that. That also goes for the rrrock and rrroll rrromba lessons given by Anu in Tamil. So if you didn’t get to work, jump up earlier next time and grab the spot before someone else does.

As I said about the work done in Denver, I am convinced that none of the work we did could ever be remotely captured on video. Fakat that doesn’t mean not to send in any video of your teaching this year. I was told by many at both conferences that they learned A TON from the videos on the blog.

For example, Jason, who teaches on an island off the Eastern coast of Scotland, told me that the work we saw him do last week was learned entirely on this PLC by reading and watching videos. That to me is my dream come true for this site, that someone could learn that kind of teaching just from the videos we have here.

Speaking of videos, I don’t think that many of us are aware of the truly valuable videos made in DPS over recent years that are on SchoolTube. Go there now if you haven’t already. It has video of a lot of the teachers who worked in Denver:

http://www.schooltube.com/channel/dpsworldlanguages/

That’s my report from Chicago. The rest is rrromba. The whole experience this past week was just chok. What we did was just so blasta, and au dessus de any previous experience I have ever had at any training, and I have been to many.

What people I am privileged to know! AND I got some precious time conversing with Le Chevalier de L’Ouest Robert Harrell who is as pleasant a conversationalist as he is well informed, if that is even possible.

What could be better? And now it’s time to think about next year. We’re not sure about iFLT yet, but NTPRS will be in Washington D.C. in 2015. So let’s knock out some discussion below about your suggestions/ideas for next year’s War Room while we have this one still fresh in our minds. I am completely open to what the group suggests for next year.

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64 thoughts on “NTPRS Wrap Up”

  1. I had a lot of fun sitting and soaking in (getting input, as I called it) the great and varied styles of people working the room at NTPRS.

    I propose that next year we sign up for slots ahead of time — that might help with some of the scheduling.

    I also liked that on the last day, we got to reading. I think it would be great to get in more time with stuff like that. We so rarely get to see anything more than establishing meaning going into PQA going into the bare bones of a proto-story.

    1. That is so true about reading Heike. We have to do that. Reading Option A is there in the categories on the right side of this page, by the way. Great to meet you. You were indeed absorbing a lot this week – I could see that for sure. Thanks for this idea. I don’t know about the slots. I would like to hear from others on it. The reason I say that is that I like that a person can just jump up and work. I like the spontaneity of it. But as I said I want to do what the group wants to do, not necessarily what I want to do.

  2. And don’t forget that we now are absolutely capable of telling someone not to be silly in Gaelic — NA BI GORACH! Thanks Jason 🙂

  3. Jason if you read this could you give us a phonetic spelling of “don’t be silly”? I want to yell it round Denver. Specifically, is the ch a k or a sh sound?

  4. Thanks for the “shout out”, Ben. Yes, NTPRS was a great experience. I’m sorry that I didn’t participate more in the War Room, but jet lag did me in. I was totally impressed by what I did see, though. Anu made us **feel and taste** rroommba, and she didn’t just point to words on the board but created links to them for the students. The others also inspired me.

    While I enjoyed the sessions and took away a lot to work through and incorporate into my teaching, the personal connections were the best part of the week. If I try to start naming people I’ll forget someone important, but to each and everyone one: It was a genuine pleasure to meet and get to know you. I wish we could have had more time for those important conversations. That and the War Room are where the real work gets done. (BTW, Ben, I loved your reaction when I asked about Rift Valley Academy at breakfast.)

    As for the War Room, I think the expanded schedule looks good. Perhaps simply schedule a full hour for each person. If someone finishes before the hour has passed, that merely provides some time for processing, reflection, and a brain break. Of course, an expanded schedule will put you in direct conflict with the conference coaching. Just something to think about.

    After the conference has been “interesting”. When I got to the airport in Chicago, I checked in and went to the gate. Because three of us shared a cab and arrived for the benefit of the first person, I had a bit of time to wait and started transcribing some of my notes. Finally, the aircraft arrived, but then they announced that there was a hydraulic leak, so departure would be delayed. About 10 minutes after the scheduled departure time, they informed us that the flight had been cancelled, so we headed to the Customer Service counter for re-booking. There were no seats available on flights to any of the LA/OC airports that night, so I spent one more night in Chicago (Elk Grove). The next afternoon (yes, afternoon), my flight was only slightly delayed, but it was a pleasant enough flight.

    Upon arrival at LAX, I went to the baggage office, figuring that my suitcase would have arrived before me. Sure enough, the agent smiled and told me that the bag had arrived at about 4:40 that morning, a full twelve hours ahead of my arrival. We went to get the bag … and couldn’t find it. Apparently, they had allowed another passenger who had come to retrieve his bag to take mine. The result was that I had to fill out a lost bag claim. From a reconstruction of the timeline, it took them about three hours to lose my suitcase once it was in LA, so I figured I would simply keep calling regularly for updates. I got past the automated service by pressing “0” repeatedly and actually talked to real people. Each time the agent assured me that my bag was in LA, so I would tell them what happened and say, “So now tell me where my bag really is.” That usually resulted in being put on hold while the agent called Los Angeles to see what the status was. On Sunday morning, the agent was able to get confirmation that the man who took my suitcase by mistake had contacted the Fresno office and would be bringing the bag to the airport for transfer to LAX. On Sunday evening, after going through the “It’s in LA” misinformation again, the agent said it would be on a flight arriving at 9:30 pm. At midnight (midnight)I got a call from the delivery service saying they could have my bag there in two hours. I replied, “So, you’re asking me to stay up for two more hours so I can get my bag.” The representative said, “Oh no, we can just leave the bag at your front door.” [Really?!, we’re just going to leave a bag at the front door of a house for several hours?] I told him that I didn’t want to do that, so the delivery service called just after 7:00 am this morning and said they would have the bag to me sometime within the next six hours. Less than two hours to go before I start asking “Where’s my suitcase?” again.

    Thanks for reading. I just needed to vent.

  5. Update: The bag has arrived – with a broken handle.

    Interestingly, after being told at midnight that they could just leave the bag at the front door, today I had to show the delivery man my ID and sign for the bag (signature, date, and time) in order to get it.

    Consistency, thou art a jewel. (Often ascribed to Shakespeare – or an old Scottish song)

    1. I was so glad to meet you in person and have a chance for a too short conversation. Sorry the trip home was so eventful. I know I was really happy to be back in my own bed! See you on the blog!
      Best,
      Chill

  6. I totally wimped out too! Because I was fighting a cold most of the week, I tried not to add to my schedule. Still, I’m extra happy to have met Heike, and to know she joined the War Room. (She’s a friend of my daughter’s, the same daughter who tries to sell TPRS at every turn, and she was thrilled to know Heike and I were in the same place.) I was delighted to meet Robert and have a face and a joy of life to go with his name. How lucky were we!

    On my trip home, I met a Croatian who was learning Russian and who was reading my Karen Rowan book over my shoulder. I ended up teaching him some Russian, so he was flabbergasted that he could finally get a dative case construction right after some reps, and then he got all excited about getting the book to improve his English lessons with his kids…maybe a convert!

    Next time I hope to spend some more time with some of you…glad Diane made it and that we could chat!! And Anu … well, she was a star in the PDL session as well. Brilliantly done, all!

    Or maybe we can do a middle-of-America conference all by ourselves. Michelle K and Laurie and I were discussing such a thing…

    1. Michele, I don’t think you can call it whimping out, giving a solid 4 presentations on three different topics. I made it to two (you and Laurie are such a great team!), and the MovieTalk will be so much easier for me as a result. I am also excited to keep an eye on the developing thread of PDL and how it can help us enhance our CI and build bridges with the European folks. I think my advanced adult students will especially appreciate the Two Chairs activity…

      1. This just occurred to me. The Two/Three Chairs activity looks very much like “Philosophical Chairs”, an AVID strategy. Imagine having an administrator come into the room and “see” Philosophical Chairs – or at least think that’s what he’s seeing.

        You can explain any differences as using a “variant for a foreign language class”.

      2. I agree, Jim. Michele and Laurie did an amazing job. I am very grateful that Haiyun persuaded Michele to repeat the PDL workshop. That’s an area that warrants further investigation. I, too, have a much clearer picture of MovieTalk and how I can more effectively make use of it.

        This just occurred to me. The Two/Three Chairs activity looks very much like “Philosophical Chairs”, an AVID strategy. Imagine having an administrator come into the room and “see” Philosophical Chairs – or at least think that’s what he’s seeing.

        You can explain any differences as using a “variant for a foreign language class”.

      3. Not having been there :-(, could someone please explain the “two/philosophical chairs? I, too, need to revamp what I have been doing in order for it to work with upper levels.

        1. As we did it in the session I attended …

          1. Brainstorm and then choose a setting (class vote). We chose “on a train”.
          2. Brainstorm and then choose a situation (class vote). We chose “the window: open or closed?”
          3. Select two or three students to have a conversation about the situation. They sit in chairs in the center of the room.
          4. Divide the class in half (for two students) or thirds (for three students). They sit behind their speaker/actor.
          5. Assign roles. In our session, one person wanted the window open, and the other person wanted the window closed.
          6. Give actors a moment to think about what they will say.
          7. Start the conversation.
          8. If a speaker gets stuck, it is the responsibility of their group to feed them lines to say, so the groups have to be listening and thinking as well.
          9. Switch out the people in the chairs for a second round or whenever.
          10. Follow up with other activities, such as a free write.

          In our group, we as a group didn’t have much to do because our speakers were both very proficient, but we were all still engaged because we knew we might have to step in and help. They never actually got to the conflict itself because we ran out of time while they were still doing the “polite conversation on a train”.

          If I have missed or misrepresented something, I’m sure Michele will correct it.

          The way that this looks like “Philosophical Chairs” is that students are given a topic (to research in Philosophical Chairs). Then they have to debate it. With philosophical chairs, though, the room is divided into halves, and each student is allowed to make only one point and then must cede the chair to another student. The idea is for all students to speak on the topic, and four or more other people from that side must speak before a student can take the chair again. However, an administrator walking in the door for a brief moment will see the set-up and think, “Oh, they’re doing Philosophical Chairs. That’s student centered, an AVID strategy, and a Best Practice. Must be a good teacher.”

          1. Danke, Robert! What a terrific strategy to use with upper levels. This idea was/is completely new to me, and now I can’t wait to try it out.

          2. Michele is the PLC expert on this. It was her presentation at NTPRS, and she has done it in her classroom. I’m just giving you my notes from her session. Thank Michele.

    2. What is PDL? I only remember it was mentioned as a great upper level thing. I have upper levels this year for the first time so my ears perked up.

  7. and I missed the whole darn War Room in both places. Working full-time for both conferences just did not leave me enough energy. I’m so glad that both War Rooms filled the needs of those who attended AND created new friendships and connections….that is what it is really all about.

    I was overwhelmed with the love and support and hugs that I received there….and only wished that I had had the time/energy to be everywhere and with everyone at once.

    with love,
    Laurie

    1. I didn’t get enough Michele Whaley and Laurie Clarcq time. We pass each other on our way to something cool happening somewhere else in the building, grab a big hug, and run to our next session. We communicate more information through the hugs than any conversation we could have, so it’s all good. It’s that way. Already looking forward to next year!

  8. I was so glad to be there part of the week! It was a break from moving. All went well with moving stuff. Our truck of stuff comes later this week – look forward to that. Our chickens are transitioning (even Abigail, shout out to Ray’s Spanish lesson that centered on “plays with chickens” which is one of my hobbies).

    I like the idea of longer times b/c then I could bring in reading. I would really like to demo cold character reading but that MUST only come after saturation with aural-meaning connections.

    Writing this comment from my home in Evergreen, CO! Boy the mountains are beautiful.

    1. Bryce grew up there in Evergreen, Diane. We sometimes go through there on rides, on the Lariat Loop up from Golden and down through Morrison. Cool. We’ll visit. We’ll be on a ride in the next week or two. We can meet Abigail. We’ll call first.

  9. Beautiful recap of the NTPRS conference and War Room, Ben. I keep singing in my head “guluyor” (“laughs” in Turkish) taught by Lt. Col. Ali Isik and echoed by Cesar Gonzalez, husband of Pilar, from Spain. I took big gulps of Ali’s tall, refreshing glass of Turkish that night.

    It was also a real pleasure for me to see Diane N., Grant, Eric, Brian, Ray, Jason, and of course, Jim Tripp, all give lessons since I’ve come to know them otherwise over the past year. And thank you again, Ben, for taking the time to teach a lesson yourself. Your style is infectious.

    Yes, we all need to post videos of ourselves in our classrooms here on the blog. I submit to say that a video of weak teaching can be just as informative as a video of good teaching, so I’ll try to submit both.

    As far as planning War Rooms for next year, I really liked what you had going there, Ben. You were certainly in charge and we certainly benefitted from your commentary and coaching. I almost think that the War Room could be more meaningful if we broke up into 2 or 3 smaller groups. If we were to to that, I would want to make sure that we had veteran teachers in each group to give veteran feedback.

    Jill Busscher is hosting our next TPRS/CI Chicagoland teachers meeting in a month or so. I want to talk with her about doing coaching sessions like this during our meeting.

    While teaching reading, with Reading Option A and all, could be very helpful, I think you nailed it, Ben, in having us focus on teaching our students how to feel and taste the vocabulary structures as we established meaning with our students. If we don’t do that, we lose many of our students. I know I have a history of losing students because I don’t adequately establish meaning with them, every day for every new structure. There is so much joy that can be shared when helping students feel and taste the vocab, as we saw happening in the War Room. That joy is in us all, we just need to exercise expressing it.

    1. Sean you never miss anything. I also felt this tasting of the words in Step 1 as a new thing yet key if we are to bring the joy. I had shared the notes below with the Denver group but not with your group so I repeat them here on that subject of bringing joy by tasting words. (And no, if anyone is wondering, we are not crazy. We know that joy is an ingredient that helps children grow up and it is an ingredient that helps immensely in langauge acquisition. In fact, I once told Mark Knowles that I don’t consider my own style of teaching any different from anyone else and asked him what he looks for when observing me and this respected scholar simply replied, “The joy”. This academic wants to find the joy in teaching. No wonder he is getting heat. And yet, as he wrote yesterday here, is he so far off with that? Isn’t there some point when academia is going to have to start looking at non-specifically identifiable elements if they are going to truly come to an honest and authentic understanding of what real language learning is?) I remember when he said that because we were standing in a Whole Foods waiting for Diana and Sabrina for a meeting.

      Sorry for the digression (o.k. not really). Here is what I said to the Denver War Room group as an introduction to our work that week:

      …in my view the need is to simplify and protect ourselves from too many techniques and strategies. We must think about that when we work here together this week. We must learn simple teaching because if what we do is not simple then it cannot be elegant. Instead we become confusing. That is to say that if we are confused then our students will be confused. So we want to remin simple. The main ingredient of elegance besides simplicity is joy, in my opinion. How can we find our own joy so we can help our students feel their own language joy when we teach them? I truly feel that many of us are cluttering our teaching with too much thinking and nervous mental chatter and so I wish this week to focus on decluttering. Under the clutter is the elegance and fueling the elegance is joy….

      Then I brought in the points below that we saw so many people doing in Chicago, in particular point 4 below:

      What is more simple than working with a single word? So:

      1. Say what it means.
      2. Show me.
      3. How can we remember?
      4. Taste it (find the joy in the word and make it available and visible to the students before getting into the PQA).

      This new formulation* of the first part of Step 1 of TPRS (establishing meaning), before going to PQA, I must say was exactly what you were referring to above, Sean. Thank you for seeing it. Thank you for acknowledging it. Thank you for pointing it out.

      *still only 2- 3 min. long – just because some of us are adding the tasting thing (you had to be there to see what people did with it) doesn’t mean we get to drag that first part of Step 1 out any longer than before.

      And Sean I really appreciate what you said here:

      …that joy is in us all, we just need to exercise expressing it….

      Related: https://benslavic.com/blog/thomas-merton/

    2. to Louisa and Scott… I knew I was forgetting a couple of people. Louisa started the week out for us with a solid base and Scott built that suspense with the arm wrestling.

      Thank you for helping us relive those moments, Jim.

  10. Andrea Schweitzer

    The War Room and subsequently this PLC were amazing bonuses to what was already a fabulous week at NTPRS14, and I was fortunate enough to be drawn into them by Louisa. (Thank you, Louisa!) I too learned SOOOO much from the “input” as Heike mentioned by watching others boldly deliver their lessons. And I discovered so many things that I was needing to improve upon from the discussions that followed after each person went. Thanks to ALL of you for this… and THANK YOU, BEN for making the War Room possible (and for including the wine!). I think that the format you described above would be great for next year and I also like Sean’s idea of having multiple rooms with veteran feedback (although I would feel like I was missing out not getting to see those in other rooms take their turn…). I am really excited about getting into the classroom again in a couple of weeks and hoping to more adequately create a 100% TPRS/CI program for this year thanks to all that I learned last week!

  11. So far I am hearing:

    1. Possibly break up into smaller group so more people can work. (Sean)
    2. Giving a flat hour for the person to work. (Robert)
    3. Including reading into the process. (Diane)

    Other ideas for next year?

  12. “we also learned over the past two weeks how truly reflective of teacher’s own personalities this work can be”

    This I think for me was the biggest lesson of all. You have someone like Craig Sheehy whose on-stage performance is on par with a traveling acrobat comedian. And then you have Anu, dance-walking from word to word, bring us to another place entirely. There was Sandy teaching Chinese with such a fun calmness, fake-plucking hairs from Jason et all so that she could compare their lengths for the group. Grant trotting up and establishing a bond with every person in the room with his genuine and confident hand shakes and eye contact. Ray, cool and calm, cooking chickens. Ha ha, he actually had Richard pour invisible water on Diane as if to cook her, or rather Abigail. Cesar, oh Cesar, I wish I could have a dose of his hilarious and kind smiling personality in my life on a daily basis. Scott Grapin had me going with his energy. That arm-wrestling move with Eric was priceless. Well, not as priceless as Eric ripping his shirt when he pulled up his sleeve at Scott’s request. Talk about unscripted humor!

    To SLOW. This became so much more obvious to me while learning Tamil and Gaelic and Turkish from kickass teachers like Anu and Jason and Yasar, respectively. And I don’t even mean SLOW as in speed of speech necessarily, though that is surely part of it. But also the speed at which one introduces new structures. Too much up on the board too quick and I got nervous. And as you kept saying Ben how you were afraid the practicing teacher was going to leave the target structures, not stick with them for as long as we needed in order to feel comfy with them. I couldn’t believe it when Sean proved the solid point and stayed on “limpia” (cleans) for 10 min straight without even saying another single word. That took skill, and courage. Then there was the extra special nugget of training for the amazing Chinese teacher whose name I can’t remember, when after 5 tries she finally strung out that one sentence for a whole minute (“Jim likes David but David doesn’t like Jim”). Beautiful coaching Ben. My favorite part was when she made David and I hold hands and run together, me slowly and David quickly. That will provide me with laughs for some time to come.

    Re the format, I like it. Ben, you’re the most gifted articulator of what we do, and without you I wouldn’t be where I’m at. Nor would the War Room have even happened as it did. Your insane endurance and infectious love for our work and the PLC made it all possible. And you have a knack for talking. So much so that it’s hard to stop you when you get going. The problem with the format in my view is sticking to it. I’m approximating the average time for your processing portion was 13 minutes at NTPRS. Romba pesharan. After 8pm, with a full day under our belts already and much to still enjoy, the English processing commentary should be limited to 5 minutes, with the built-in allowance of 2 minutes. The only other piece I see beneficial to have guaranteed time is for the students (those of us who were not speakers of the language being taught) to give the teacher a bit of feedback too. This could be part of your time Ben, but I think it’s best separate to get your 5-7 minutes fully because your feedback is precious and your delivery is best uninterrupted. That’s my 2 cents on it.

    Thanks for all you gave Ben to make the War Room happen. And to Louise, whose consistent lead presence was calming and inviting the whole while. It was truly an inspiring experience.

    In the gaelic “na bi gorach”, the “ch” is silent, I’m fairly sure, after the 100+ reps I got of it. Sounds phonetically like “Nah bee gorah”, right crew? Blasda!

    SOOOOOO nice to finally meet many of you in Chicago. What a wonderful week. I had so many great conversations with such great people. I wish I had another hour to write about a few of those conversations (Scott, Robert, Michele, Grant, Kristen, Jason, etc) , but I’m afraid I must go to sleep now. Cheers to the upcoming semester!

  13. Great reminders, Jim, of some fun memories from the week. May we never forget them. I wish I could put those and many other memories from the past two weeks on the desktop of my mind for easy access for the rest of my life.

    Many of the scenes generated in the War Room were so exemplary of the humor possible when a shirt in class unexpectedly rips in a scene or an actor/teacher/gem of a human being comes to life when teaching in ways we couldn’t have thought possible when sipping coffee with them at breakfast.

    Imagine! We have found a professional setting in which we can become more alive, not less, when doing our jobs. For me, this was unheard of before I started doing stories.

    I can’t remember if it was in the Denver or Chicago group when, in a candid moment when processing someone’s work in front of the group, I shared that I have sometimes felt more alive and happier in my classroom during a rich story than in my regular life.

    How odd that is! What a shift in how we perceive our lives! We no longer have to be happy out of our buildings and then suddenly sad when we arrive in our buildings. Or because of the vicissitudes of life, sad in and out of the building. Happiness will find a way, and now happiness in our buildings can spark happiness in our lives outside our buildings, and no longer just vice versa.

    Normally, many of us, certainly me, have gone to work over decades with sadness and a sense of defeat in our hearts because we knew what we were going to find there – snarky kids with tough lives who have learned to manipulate teachers for grades, and colleagues who look at us as if we are crazy for doing stories, not to mention the alarmingly dullard administrators – supposedly our leaders – who look at our work in class with unseeing dumb ass eyes.

    Now, we can go to work and experience the things like we did these past few weeks: little unscripted things like ripped shirts that fall in perfectly with the events unfolding under our guidance, people pouring water on chickens, people driving monorails (credit Anne Matava for that really great Lazy script) with steering wheels the size of red dry erase markers (credit Craig Sheehy for genius acting and teaching) and on and on, with the core idea being as you said Jim that Grant is Grant with his own awesome style and Craig is Craig and Jenny is Jenny and Sandy is Sandy and on and on and we don’t have to compare ourselves or be perfect or any of that old stinking thinking that we used to carry around on our backs for so many years about this work.

    (Yes, we generally make better stories with our colleagues at conferences, but the point made in the paragraph above nevertheless applies to our work with CI in our own classes – great things can and will happen this year!)

    We get to be who we are in our work! We learned that last week! We don’t have to compare ourselves to anyone, or be better than anyone! We get to be ourselves. If we suck at it and go too fast, then we get that pointed out in the War Room and and go back and work on it and so we still get to be ourselves and work at our own internal growth in the way life offers to us each day with such compassion and patience and we no longer have to think that there is something wrong with us as teachers and that we’re not good enough.

    These are priceless things to learn. I am going to try to stuff some of the discussion above, especially the points made by you Sean and Jim, into Stepping Stones to Stories. I thought that book was finished just before the Denver conference but now with Educreations from Kristen and Chris (presented in Denver) and with some of the stuff that we are discussing in this thread above, I have to try to stuff those two things and a few others I just learned into the book before I consider it finished. So Jim and Sean please write me private emails giving me permission to include with credit some of the content in your comments above into that book. And y’all who bought the original 2013 shitty San Diego iFLT version of it or the 2014 Denver iFLT second version get the new ecopy mailed to you (by request again) as soon as it is done in a week or so.

    Of special interest to me is the importance of the Step 1 part 4 taste thing you mentioned, Sean. It expands on what Step 1 even is in my own mind, and I had hoped this morning to wrestle that idea into the book but instead ended up writing this long ass comment.

    What you wrote above Sean, about how Ali brought more energy and clarity to his lesson with the physicality of teaching us chok and gurule (also done in Denver by Yasar), really caught my attention and reminded me that for the past two weeks I have been seriously reflecting on what TPR really is and what its role should even be in a TPRS lesson. (I think it is vastly unused and unexplored by us.) In particular, you said:

    …I think you nailed it, Ben, in having us focus on teaching our students how to feel and taste the vocabulary structures as we established meaning with our students. If we don’t do that, we lose many of our students. I know I have a history of losing students because I don’t adequately establish meaning with them, every day for every new structure. There is so much joy that can be shared when helping students feel and taste the vocab, as we saw happening in the War Room. That joy is in us all, we just need to exercise expressing it….

    That was huge for me. I think that there is a sujet de thèse in those words, Sean, if the data gatherers could just stop counting the beans and start seeing between the beans in this work. (I can’t believe I just said “seeing between the beans”…. this is further proof of the unpredictability of language, but there is a point in there, I think, maybe lying there also between the beans.)

    Anyway, for the next few days I will try to transfer this idea of what TPR really means, can be, has within it for us, instead of the staid and tame device most of us think it is now, into Stepping Stones. I am actually going to call it a skill in that book, because that’s what I think it is.

    Jim I appreciate the way you called me out in such a loving and complimentary way for not being able to stay within my five plus two minute limit. I will work on that. Dude, I really need to just stay to the facts about what I see in the person who is working. You are so right on that. I will do it. It is my personal big goal in the War Room for next year.

  14. We’ve heard about student summer losses, especially by lower socioeconomic groups. The higher socioeconomic groups continue to read and grow over the summer, while the other group regresses. The achievement gap widens over the summer and after a few consecutive years, that achievement gap due alone to summer gains and losses, is substantial. The losses can be mitigated by self-selected summer reading.

    Then, it struck me, I bet the same phenomenon happens to teachers.

    While many teachers take the summer off from professional development (not reading research or methods books, not attending conferences, not teaching/tutoring, not participating in an online PLC) – the “impoverished group” – there are many teachers in the TCI community who continue their teacher development over the summer. After a few years, that “teaching gap” is going to be substantial. I’d bet that something similar happens over the school year for those TCI teachers who participate in moreTPRS and this blog – they gain, while many non-TCI teachers stagnate or regress. . . man, would I love a way to quantify this (to support its existence), but then that’d require quantifying good teaching – impossible?

    This is what standardized testing advocates miss – you want better teachers, then you have to train them and train them over the long-term. And that means more than attending lectures and seminars. The War Room and other TCI coaching sessions is leading the way in best practice teacher training! Learn by doing and acquire by observation and experience!

    1. I totally agree. Just being at the conference and soaking up the enthusiasm made me look forward to September in July! There are many of my colleagues who were almost in disbelief that I would go to NTPRS let alone pay for it myself. It was amazing!

      1. There are many of my colleagues who were almost in disbelief that I would go to NTPRS let alone pay for it myself. It was amazon

        This is, I think, one of the great hypocrisies of our profession. Union leaders and others throughout the teaching community complain about the lack of respect accorded us, the desire to be treated like professionals, etc. They compare being a teacher with being a doctor, lawyer. or other professional. But do they do the professional development that doctors, lawyers, and other professionals do? Only if they get paid for it. While doctors, lawyers, and other professionals do have some professional development that is paid for, they also spend hours of time reading about their craft, going to conferences and workshops on their own dime, collaborating with colleagues, consulting, and teaching others. If “we” truly want to be treated as professionals, we need to start acting like professionals.

        I am part of COACH, a group of world language teachers who present workshops and create teacher materials. We present at least two workshop and a fall “kick-off” each year, In addition, our local language teachers association affiliate puts on a “jamboree” each year, and for four of the last five years the state convention was in Southern California: San Diego (twice), Los Angeles, and Garden Grove. The first iFLT was held in Los Alamitos, just ten minutes away from my school. With all of the professional development available almost literally in our back yard, I can count on the fingers of two hands the people from my district who have ever come to a professional development session using their own money. Most don’t read articles, let alone books, on teaching foreign languages. The non-native speakers seldom, if ever, do intensive work to improve their content competency.

        While not everyone is as obsessive-compulsive as I am, the fact that the vast majority do nothing unless they are getting paid for it puts quit to their claims of being professionals. Professionals constantly strive to improve. Although my district “promotes” Professional Learning Communities (essentially equating them with our school departments), my colleagues at school are not really a PLC – and they are all fine people with whom I get along well. My PLC is this group, the small group of teachers who get together about once a month to support, encourage, and teach one another, and COACH. I am truly blessed to have all three, but I had to make the effort, put in the time, be willing to share and learn, and spend my own resources – either money or “sweat equity” or both – to become part of each one. Where are my colleagues, and what are they doing?

        Okay, sorry for the rant.

        1. Robert said above:

          … where are my colleagues, and what are they doing?….

          That reminds me of this passage from Le Petit Prince, Robert:

          Le petit prince fit l’ascension d’une haute montagne. Les seules montagnes qu’il eût jamais connues étaient les trois volcans qui lui arrivaient au genou. Et il se servait du volcan éteint comme d’un tabouret. « D’une montagne haute comme celle-ci, se dit-il donc, j’apercevrai d’un coup toute la planète et tous les hommes… » Mais il n’aperçut rien que des aiguilles de roc bien aiguisées.

          – Bonjour, dit-il à tout hasard.

          – Bonjour… Bonjour… Bonjour… répondit l’écho.

          – Qui êtes-vous ? dit le petit prince.

          – Qui êtes-vous… qui êtes-vous… qui êtes-vous… répondit l’écho.

          – Soyez mes amis, je suis seul, dit-il.

          – Je suis seul… je suis seul… je suis seul… répondit l’écho.

          « Quelle drôle de planète ! pensa-t-il alors. Elle est toute sèche, et toute pointue et toute salée. Et les hommes manquent d’imagination. Ils répètent ce qu’on leur dit… Chez moi j’avais une fleur : elle parlait toujours la première… » Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Ch. 19

          The little prince climbed a high mountain. The only mountains he had ever known were the three volcanoes, which came up to his knees. And he used the extinct volcano as a footstool. “From a mountain as high as this one,” he said to himself, “I shall be able to see the whole planet at one glance, and all the people…”

          But he saw nothing, save peaks of rock that were sharpened like needles.

          “Good morning,” he said courteously.

          “Good morning–Good morning–Good morning,” answered the echo.

          “Who are you?” said the little prince.

          “Who are you–Who are you–Who are you?” answered the echo.

          “Be my friends. I am all alone,” he said.

          “I am all alone–all alone–all alone,” answered the echo.

          “What a queer planet!” he thought. “It is altogether dry, and altogether pointed, and altogether harsh and forbidding. And the people have no imagination. They repeat whatever one says to them… On my planet I had a flower; she always was the first to speak…”

        2. Hi Robert! This is Leigh Anne,the lone TPRSer over in Chino Valley Unified, in Chino Hills, Ca..!!

          You wrote:

          ‘the small group of teachers who get together about once a month to support, encourage, and teach one another…’

          and was wondering about it…what is it? Ummmmm…is it a private group??

          1. Robert and Leigh Anne –

            I am thinking that the success of the War Rooms could lead to regional War Rooms. If we can get something like a list of PLC members in each major metro area who want War Room training , as has happened in Chicago and may happen this year in St. Louis, not to mention the NYC area, the PLC members who know what the War Room format looks like can organize some work that is similar to what we did in Chicago and Denver. The idea, of course, is that traditional presentations at conferences, though valuable, don’t get the teachers up and working on their feet. It’s an idea and I think a good one. I’ll post this as an article and create a category for War Room/Regional Groups. As we collect the names of interested PLC members, we can start planning meetings. I am in contact with Don Reed and John Piazza about doing a War Room session in the SF area because I will be out there anyway after Christmas.

  15. …this is what standardized testing advocates miss – you want better teachers, then you have to train them and train them over the long-term….

    This truly says it all Eric and you are right. Denver Public Schools has spent much more money than I care to even think about on testing and data gathering over recent years, so much that there has been a huge swelling of testing in the past year across all disciplines in the district. Think what those funds could have done had they been applied to training teachers. Diana spends a huge part of her budget on training teachers and doing Learning Labs, but it has been a drop in the bucket compared to the money spent on testing.

    We missed you this year, it was like a piece of the picture was missing. NTPRS is in Washington, D.C. next year. Perhaps we can all get together then.

      1. Yeah Sean I actually got into a conversation about the research with someone and we both said, “We need Eric in on this conversation.”

        It’s odd how we know each other without having actually met. Finally meeting each other these past few weeks has been really very cool!

        Dude, I have friends here with whom I share similar interests! (Not everyone in SW Denver is into Krashen, is the way to say it, I guess.)

        1. Awww. Yeah, we are all cyber colleagues and friends! I communicate more with you all way more than I do with any other teacher.

          Reading all about the War Room I realize how much I missed – great opportunities to become a better teacher!

          Unfortunately, unless the conferences happen during the school year, I won’t ever be able to attend. I’ll be here in Honduras, with my slow internet connection, sweating my a** off, and trying to keep up with everyone’s comments 🙂

  16. I am so enjoying reading the comments and your commentary, Ben, about the Denver and Chicago conferences. I am exhausted right now…it is only Thursday of my first week back with students and I am way over cap with 195 students. It is taking a lot of energy just to keep track of who is coming and who is going, all the while getting in some TCI for those who will eventually stay.

    I arrived home eager to jump right in after watching everyone work so hard in the War Room. Thanks, Ben, for your stamina and willingness to keep on working well past the regular work day 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all of your wisdom.

    I will write more of my first few days and the comments of my many observers when I get some time over the weekend.

    Louisa

  17. 195. How does that work? They have to get you legally down to 150?

    Thanks for the kind words Louisa! You know, working in that War Room was just about the coolest thing I ever remember doing professionally. It’s just way badass cool to do that. I don’t know how else to say it.

    1. They only have to get me down to 180 by yesterday…barely made it as kids kept coming and going all week. Now I have a split-level class of 3rd and 4th years that could only really work well cuz of the TCI. My colleagues think I am nuts for taking the mixed class but I am not worried. I learned a lot over the last 2 weeks and am ready to practice it all in real life!

      Someone somewhere said, “a bad day of TCI is better than any day using ‘legacy’ methods”!!!
      I agree wholeheartedly and will keep working on improving my craft 🙂

  18. 198 down to only 180. OK now I feel better. For a moment there I was worried. Seriously, though, isn’t that just about crazy, 180? I think it’s crazy. Having met you this summer, Louisa, I am also certain that you can handle it, but I still think it’s crazy. We will certainly be waiting for your reports from the field on this as the year progresses.

          1. Wow, Melissa. I had the legal limit in Arkansas of 150 last year. This gives me perspective as to what’s going on in other places. Our school recently applied to become a “School of Innovation” and was accepted. That means the class size limit can be extended in the future.

          2. It can get really crazy. I had 174 students last year, and one of my classes was small – which means I had four classes of 40 or more each.

  19. I know this is a little ahead of time, but I just received a flier in the mail for Blaine Rays TPRS Workshops.

    Can someone who has personal experience give me a brief breakdown of the differences between the NTPRS Conference, iFLT and a Blaine Ray Workshop?

    I looked online at all three websites. Obviously Blaines workshops are shorter and it’s just him presenting. But, how about the differences between the first two? And how much of everything that is here on Ben’s site is practiced at Blaines workshop?

    I’m trying to plan ahead and want to know which one I will beg my school to pay for.

    Thanks! (Hoping someone reads this…)

    1. Lean, I have never attended one of Blaine’s workshops, but they are much shorter and in my opinion it is hard to absorb and practice this in the entire time frame. I am also not sure if he presents at all of his workshops any more. I definitely like the larger number of practitioners involved with both iFLT and NTPRS. Generally iFLT gets students to sign up and has master classes in the morning when you get to watch teachers teach actual students. In my opinion NTPRS has more coaching opportunities, but the best for either of those is when Ben runs a war room of intense late night coaching (with drinks). Also, iFLT generally does not have Blaine, but Blaine usually has many of the iFLT presenters such as Carol Gaab. Hopefully that helps. Maybe someone else can comment on this.

  20. Leah,
    It depends on what you are looking for. I have been to all 3. they each have served different purposes. The fact that you are already a member of this community suggests to me that probably NTPRS or iFLT will better suit you, for the reasons ERic mentioned. Either of the bigger conferences affords not only a variety of presenters, but also the important after-hours conversation and coaching.

    One of my favorite experiences at NTPRS was attending the beginner session, which included 4 consecutive days of Russian with Katya. For me there is nothing like being in my students’ shoes to hammer home so many of the skills I need to practice as a teacher. Plus it is damn exciting to understand Russian!

    At iFLT you get to see master teachers working with kids …live! The format is great. YOu watch the class and then there is a debrief with the teacher afterward. There is something about seeing a teacher with students in the moment that you cannot get any other way, not even in video although that is the next best thing. You get to witness everything and also be in the energy of it.

    I would recommend one of the bigger ones unless they are cost-prohibitive or time prohibitive. I can’t speak to the 2 day Blaine workshop. He is amazing. Obviously. And I am not saying don’t go, but if you can get $ I think you will get more from being with colleagues for a more extended time.

    My 2 cents 🙂

  21. Very helpful Jen!!! Thanks so much. I didn’t realize those differences. Sounds like I would benefit from both, and will just pick one this Summer (hopefully). I wonder why they are so close in dates to each other (at least they seem to have been last year)…?

    I really don’t know much about Blaine (I do have several of his readers) or what he does at his workshops. His website doesn’t spell it out for me (unless I’m missing something there).

    1. Blaine is awesome! The class I went to was a demo in German to start out. VEry powerful. Then we broke into groups to practice teaching. I got a TON out of it, and that was just the one-day version. I assume the two day is even better. After that one day, I jumped right in. This was about 6 years ago. But then I had to bail bc of a “situation.” Grrr. But it was that day that I remember so well, and the reactions of my students upon trying this even for just a few weeks, that led me in desperation to this community in 2011. 🙂 Everything appears just at the right moment, eh?

      You can’t go wrong whatever you choose! There is always a lesson in every choice!

      1. I went to a 3 day training last year and wow did it make a difference. Even reading here on this blog made more sense after seeing it in person. If you can afford to go to a training as soon as possible and maybe have your school fund one of the big ones next summer that would be great. If you haven’t had any training I think that you would benefit with the basics at one of Blaines trainings. I would like to attend another if there is one near because I couldn’t make it to trainings this summer. I found that my training was worth every penny.

    2. Blaine is the guru. He implemented Krashen’s CI theory and started a revolution. If you do get his training you will some day wish you had. And when people make references to Blaine on the blog you will understand where we are coming from.

  22. Hmm, the Blaine workshop is literally two miles from my work and seven from my house. I just wonder if he will be teaching it, or if someone else will. I suppose it should still be good. Maybe I’ll try for both this year! Thanks Nate.

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