On Uninterrupted Flow

A repost from 2009:

I suggest that we endeavor to respect the continuum of hearing and seeing in L2 – the auditory part in stories, and the visual part in readings. When I say continuum, I mean flow of L2, as in din of L2, in stories. Readers unfamiliar with Krashen’s term Din are invited to google it bc it has everything to do with our work.

Flow compares to an orchestral rehearsal. When the conductor stops the flow of music to make some point, and the musicians grab their pencils, bring their instruments down, lean forward, make a note in the music in response to the conductor’s comment, and then begin again.

It is an interesting image. Imagine how parents and young musicians in a youth orchestra would feel if they were asked to sit in their orchestra but not play. That is what we do when we keep interrupting our instruction in stories and reading. We’re just showing off. Some of us don’t really even want to connect with our students bc it’s too hard.

Uninterrupted flow. Zen of CI. I think that there is something to this. I DO think that we need to dump our erudition in a language class. There is only room for CI.

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9 thoughts on “On Uninterrupted Flow”

  1. The analogy of the giant boulder makes total sense. OK. So we’ve been doing pop-ups all this time essentially to bridge the grammar gap and appease the traditionalists. When I return from Spring Break my students and I will hop on the raft down the river of fluency and focus on flow. It’s truly a liberating concept.

    *****Let’s keep this dialog open and continue to share our observations. *****

    Let me pick your brains on the implementation of modified error correction. I’m thinking that grammar pop-ups may still have a place when correcting creative writing samples. Or don’t they???

    Because the kids have ownership of a writing sample (since it’s their work), they may feel more of a vested interest in noticing grammatical constructs. For example, if a student writes “yo tiene” I highlight it and write “I has” over the top. Now, I’ve only ever done this for students who I feel are ready for a jump-start in the process of self-editing. I would narrow it down to 3 or 4 really apparent mistakes. My feeling is that doing this allows students an opportunity to draw their own conclusions. They will not be penalized for not knowing the correct form, but it may help them to develop a greater awareness of what they are really saying.

    Now, when I ask the kids what benefits them, time and time again they’ve told me that it’s this kind of feedback that makes all the difference. But, then again, what do they know? How do I truly know that this is making a difference? My guess is that if anything, I am creating greater awareness. But I hope it’s not at the expense of their willingness to take risks with the language. Sometimes I fear that we’ve all been so brainwashed to focus on accuracy above all else that communication takes a secondary role. I would love to hear your thoughts on this take on explicit grammar.

    Now, there is something that is not completely clear to me about this post on reading. You say you are focusing on reading in L2 only? No translating to establish meaning? Or are you saying that you’ve simply scrapped pop-ups? To me it makes sense to read a paragraph through in L1 chorally without pop-up tangents, and then jump right into L2 for discussion of the paragraph. I think you also mentioned that Susie doesn’t recommend allowing the discussion to go so long that reading is neglected.

  2. Susie just explained in a workshop about code switching. Is that what you are referring to as L1.5? I have Ida’s question too. What about establishing meaning and making a reading 100% comprehensible when every reading is bound to have several words that need explaining?

  3. I meant straight translation into L1 of the reading text. I wasn’t clear. I was thinking in my own mind that translating a text in this uninterrupted way into L1 is relly a kind of L2 fluency. Kind of a weird concept.

    To me it all means that we translate from L2 into L1 with minimal, and I mean minimal, interruption. Sure, an occasional pop up here and there, a spin off discussion maybe, but not to where the reading is ignored, which is what I was doing for months up until my last class at Starbucks U.

    Susie told me last night that she is starting to write the reading thing for her site this week. That will clarify it all. Thank God for Susie – she makes it all so simple. I mean, really, what is so hard about just talking to kids? Our baggage, the way we were trained with grammar and all that, it just gets in the way, and we live in the clutter of our own classrooms, so distant from her vision.

    It’s really kind of sad. We could be so happy teaching if we just spoke with them, read with them. Maybe relax a little with them. Get to know them. Laugh a few times. Not be so smart all the time. Not be the center of attention so much. Not take all of this assessment stuff and differentiation and all of the administrative stuff so seriously. Like, o.k., my objective this week is to speak and read French with my kids so that they learn the language. Is that so hard to understand?

    1. I love this comment Ben. It is so true that we have the luxury to get to know the students and interact and laugh with them because of what we teach. I did just this today where we just talked about whatever for 15 minutes and had a ball. The kids were following me, adding comments and we were actually laughing. Imagine that…laughing and learning at the same time! And to top it all off I heard a student say on her way out of class today, “This class just makes me so happy!” To me this equals success. She isn’t one of my strongest students, but she feels a part of class and is always right there with me whenever I speak. This method allows us to build a community and this is what language and life should be about…sticking together to support one another and to be there for one another through thick and thin!

      1. Dude. That is a powerful report, Polly. You are describing the future, but it’s happening now in your classroom. The future will be defined by cooperation over competition, just as you describe here:

        … this is what language and life should be about…sticking together to support one another and to be there for one another….

        I can only say “amen” to that.

        1. Me too. Amen Polly!
          Feels like we as CI teachers are in on a grand universal secret (which really does not need to be a secret, and we are helping to bring it out into the open).

          I spent yesterday with Skip, a grand master of heart-centered teaching. The vibe of love and connection in his classes was palpable. Kids streamed in with a relaxed look on their faces, an openness to whatever was coming in that period. Skip’s wide open heart makes this possible. Truly open to each student, he creates a space for them to root into themselves and to feel part of something bigger. I know that sounds very “airy” but when you feel this in a group is is definitely grounding and there is a real feeling of family in the room. I watched a lot of the quiet kids during the class, and could see that they were completely engaged, saw the little smiles break out spontaneously when either something funny was said or when Skip referred to the particular student “so and so swims…so and so works out…etc…referring back to each students individual talent.

          These are the things that I am guessing an “official observer” might not pick up on if he/she were shackled to some random list of qualities and “expected outcomes” or whatever. These are the things that we are bringing forth as teachers. Really we are healers in that sense, connecting ourselves and our students to a deeper truth than the politically mandated “educational outcomes.”

          Some concrete “aha” moments I observed: Skip being genuinely thrilled / surprised when a student understood song lyrics that he had not specifically addressed “how did you know that?” “he said it in the song?!?!!” Another student, reacting to dialogue in “El Internado” exclaimed in the same way she might be thrilled to have gotten a puppy or something…”wow, I totally understood that!” A few of the very quiet students broke out into spontaneous grins of delight when Skip mentioned them. This was a pwerful reminder that those kids we may think are “somewhere else” are right there with us even though they are not clamoring to raise their hands, etc. Everyone wants to be seen and appreciated. There is something about these students’ openness that transcends a typical “classroom” feel where there is that sense of “doing time.”

          The vibe extended to his colleagues, who graciously spent their planning period listening to me bumble through a CI demo in Haitian Creole. Skip and I are presenting at the Maine FL conference in a few weeks! It was the end of the day and they were so helpful with feedback and comments and just with their willingness to be “guinea pigs.”

          Anyway, lest y’all think I yet again went off on a rambling tangent…these observations really bear the truth that Polly stated in her comment:

          … this is what language and life should be about…sticking together to support one another and to be there for one another….

          Thank you Skip, and thank you to all in this incredibly powerful tribe 🙂

          1. Amen Polly, jen, and Ben! I mean, a whole-hearted AMEN! I’m experiencing a little bit more and more how much more valuable the classroom experience is for everyone when I’m totally relaxed and work with what’s happening in the moment, all the while mining for those golden bits of personalized info about students.

  4. Carol on the codeswitching that word confuses me. I don’t really mean L1.5 to mean switching codes, which I always thought was something not used in classrooms, but in general conversation. The mixing of languages in the classroom is different in my mind, but I don’t really get it.

    By L1.5 I mean a cowardly avoidance on the part of the instructor of the discipline necessary to really teach a language for acquisition by staying in L2. Such avoidance is usually based on a lack of confidence and passion in the instructor to stay in L2 at all costs no matter how hard or scary or gnarly it is.

    I think you switched codes on Inga’s name, by the way. Or maybe her code name is Ida. Hee hee. But that question up there (chill’s comment) is huge. My mind wants to look at it in terms of Krashen:

    According to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, our students progress along a natural sequence forward when they hear or read language that is one step beyond where they are linguistically. That is what I think i + 1 means.

    Thus, without new language information being constantly embedded in old language information, the student cannot progress. So, in stories, we use point and pause to explain new information. That is why I think that point and pause is much more important than circling, which only solidifies already known knowledge. I don’t even use circling any more, because point and pause work so well to establish meaning.

    Likewise, in reading, we embed new and varied and interesting vocabulary in the readings. This is best done through write ups of the previous day’s story, much less with novels. But, since we just don’t have the time to write up five stories, some of us write a template for all five classes, adding new stuff in. The new CI stuff in the readings drives the i + 1 ship forward. The waters provide the context for the reading ship to move forward in. This means that acquisition (vs. learning) occurs when the student hears or reads CI that is at that point of i + 1, a very tricky point on the CI fulcrum to achieve, but well worth the effort.

  5. What you say about circling is interesting because it is the skill which I think many who try TPRS find so challenging-that’s the part we stress over. Did I get enough reps? Did I do either or? Did I circle it to death? I think Susie used code switching when she was discussing the different way to peel the banana metaphor. In other words, interrupting the flow of L2 to provide the meaning of a word in English which she said runs counter to any methods course instruction any of us have experienced! Sorry, Inga! Ida is a dear friend who teaches German, and lately , it seems like many German programs are becoming endangered species in these parts, so my German teacher friends are on my mind!

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