Original Purpose of CWB

When I first started doing CWB I was teaching stories in a middle school about ten years ago. The balls had the sole purpose of neutralizing the excessive physical energy of one nervous 13 year old boy whose identity lay out on the football field – such is the way we train boys in our society. I can still see that boy in my mind, so out of place in my classroom and trying to figure out a way to be in class.

I noticed how the restraining device that the child sat in was no match for the energy contained in his body. The restraining device was not restraining him. I knew that I had to do something. So I used the football, since this kid looked like his future lay in being an offensive tackle on the interior line of a pro football team, much like a trainer withholds food from an animal in training it to do what it wants.

So Brigitte then, over the years on the TPRS listserve, people didn’t get that part about the need to restrain the kid because the desk wasn’t working and I could see CWB evolve into something else. The impression on CWB was that I favored athletes and all like that and I quit trying to explain what I said in the above paragraph because it’s kind of hard to explain. CWB became what it became on the list, a kind of washed out version of the original, another reason I prefer the privacy of our group and the clarity of our communication here.

Recently I even made that series of Archie videos with my son to communicate my intention with CWB – it can be accessed on the Video hard link across the top of this page.

Since athletes, especially male athletes, in my classes continued to try to dominate the class for the first week or so and, unless neutralized, are like big lovable out of control bears in class, knocking over – intentionally or non-intentionally – our focus just because they are happiest on a football field, I continued to use the balls.

I was not trying to favor athletes, just get those guys quiet and learning. It worked. When they had “earned” the football after my holding it in front of them and pulling it back until they were listening and doing CI properly, I allowed them to place the ball in front of them on the desk in class with the warning that I would take it the minute it was misused.

Sometimes I would put my hands out in an invitation to throw the ball to me. This is because I like to catch footballs especially those soft nerf balls that are so much fun to throw around, but it is also because if I felt that the kid needed some refocusing I would ask him to throw it to me, then I would throw it to another kid, and so on for a minute or so.

This was really a hidden brain break, because each time that a boy or girl caught and threw the ball, the information delivered up to that point in class would drop down across the hemispheres into the hard drive of the kid’s mind and be taken off the desk top, such is the genius of the brain break, and this is a good place to remind every one that if we don’t do a brain break every twenty minutes, according to the research, we are making a mistake in how the brain processes information.

CWB as a classroom management tool or as a brain break, both are valuable. The kids who read books are not given a book, or if a kid does something other than a sport I don’t give them anything, it’s just not the same. So that is the purpose of the sports balls – mainly to gain power over loud boys in the first moments of class each year.



16 thoughts on “Original Purpose of CWB”

  1. Not to mention the dynamic offered by having athletic equipment out in the room during instruction. If you are doing structures like “throw” “catch” “better than” one can see the possibilities of letting the kids be active a bit while digesting the new structures, which are often tricky because they involve indirect objects.

  2. I get this better now, Ben. Thanks for explaining. I’ve not always felt this activity goes as well as I’d like.

    A question for you. Many of the sports are cognates in French. Except for golf, none of them are in Chinese. Ex: “plays Amer. football = da ganlanqiu” Do you think you would still end up using several sports/activities with a new class of Chinese students? In the past, I have polled student interests and picked 3 to 6 that cover the whole class with an activity. The phrase for “plays better than” (etc.) is also a mouthful in Chinese and is in fact something I avoid saying. I’m playing around with options to personalize at the beginning of the year and am not sure if CWB will be my best thing earliest in the year from a language standpoint. I will be trying this year again, with some adjustments since last year (added “where” and “with whom” to the questions).

      1. This morning I woke up with what I think is my answer. I don’t do CWB… I do CWNames. I already do something first thing in the class with new groups that allows me to learn their names, recognizes each one of them as an important member of the class, and allows us to goof around with the language. This is my CWB and I just didn’t know it.

        I show them “I” “you” “am called” (might switch that to “is/am/are”) and then begin. Simpler than the unfamiliar phrases needed for CWB in Chinese.

  3. Ben, thanks so much for taking the time to boil it down to the very essential yet again. I really appreciate it! I guess, sometimes I just read too much into all these strategies and forget that I just need to focus on the basics – personalization and circling.

  4. Hey Ben,

    First, What was Brigitte’s comment? (did I miss it – I think it would be helpful to know what the original comment was….

    Second, way to rock the beard….. 🙂

    Finally, can I ask yet again how what you use to get such a clear recording… Your voice is very clear… (I know I have asked before but I have to do some recordings this year and it would be really helpful… not sure it has ever been clear to me…

    Thanks so much..Skip

  5. I’m having this nagging thought as I daydream about my first days of school, which begin Sept 4th. It’s really more of a question: How do we handle students that find themselves with us for a second year in a row (a different level) who may have never “bought in” with us last year? There is one student I have in mind, in particular, who was a part of the textbook struggle I had shared at the beginning of last year; one of those students who knew how to play the game when it was years of text books and worksheets and conjugation charts but sat with a scowl on her face for a good part of the year. A good kid that probably didn’t mean to be so mean but kinda was…. I noticed her name appears again on my roster for this year….

  6. You do the same thing the rest of us do in that situation. You never let her see you sweat or stress over it. Bring the requisite smile to the situation. This is one of the big things about teaching that people who have never taught can never understand. That child is there to remind you of many things, to teach you many things. The one thing you cannot do is fight it by trying to get her out of the class. Let her in to play. She wants to learn. Scowls hide so much. This child is truly your teacher.

    1. I can’t say this will happen for you and this student, but over the 16 years that I taught in a program where I got the same kids every year for three years, I was the recipient of some amazing miracles which happened over time with some pretty “awful” kids. Time, love, and really getting to know each other were my allies. Over and over, students, who seemed impossible to reach and who, it appeared, spent their nights cooking up evil plans to make me mad or ruin my life, came into real relationship with me and “changed.” I’ll never really know who changed the most. I just know that staying the course with patience, consistency of expectations (don’t give up), and acceptance of the “who” they were was key. I understand your trepidation. It’s not easy to see “the face” everyday.

    2. “This child is truly your teacher” – So profound Ben!

      I will take that phrase into every classroom with me this year – In fact, I think it is going up near my phone!

      Thank YOU!

  7. I think it is also helpful to remind everyone early on in the year that we all change. We all grow. Often we are not the same people in September that we were in June.

    I recently read a blog entry (August 8th – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/) that reminded me how important it is that we communicate to our students in genuine, sincere ways that we LIKE them. I actually think the CWB activity communicates this. Student jobs do this too… Student jobs give me an authentic and honest opportunity to express my appreciation for the help… I was also reminded last year how much students like to see teachers at their games, concerts, recitals, etc.

    I would be interested in other ways that teachers can/do communicate to their students that they are valued, cared for and appreciated…

  8. That child will certainly not be the same this year. It may take a few months, or even the entire year, but there will be change. We can only love, we cannot make others accept it, nor us. If we attempt to give so that we get the response we desire, it is not really giving, it’s negotiation….and in many cases, manipulation.

    The best way for us to use the summer (even if there are only a few days left…) is to let go of how last year made us feel.

    Everything that students do comes from their own paradigm, their own little bubble. It may be directed towards us, but it isn’t always about us. We can’t know until we have developed a relationship with students that allows us to read them well, and allows them to speak honestly with us.

    Sometimes that never happens. That’s ok…keep the door open. Sometimes the best we can hope for is behavior in class that honors the rules. That is a huge step for many students. Sometimes we have to be very firm about the boundaries of acceptable. Very. That’s exactly what those students are craving. It says, “I love you and I am honoring you” in a way that they may not even know that they need.

    Students are constantly on emotion overload. That is the nature of the beast. It’s hard to be well-behaved, cognitively-sharp, introspective and interpersonally-mature in the midst of growing and changing at a phenomenal rate. That isn’t even taking into account what is going on outside of their bodies.

    Adults often have a myriad of issues going on in their lives that students cannot understand. It’s hard to come to school and be caring, giving, thoughtful, etc AND organized, caught up, creative, etc. at work. The moment that we leave the building we are assaulted by our other lives, and very few of them are stress-free.

    Our students’ lives are not stress-free either. We cannot play the “my adult life is more stressful than your adolescent-life” card. We will resent our students and they will resent us.

    We are all on a life journey and it is rarely easy. For a certain number of hours per week we share the journey with our students. Some days will be smooth and others will not be. What can we learn from the each day (even the difficult ones) that will make the next challenge easier for all of us? If we approach each hour in the classroom that way, we grow stronger.

    This summer has inspired me to be more reflective. This September I am going to try to ask myself this question at the end of each day: What did I learn today?
    I get so caught up in the day, and so caught up in other people’s days, that I have missed the opportunity to learn. I’ll let you know how it goes…

    with love,

    1. I had this |ah ha moment yesterday when I saw an excellent student that has been very awkward/rude? towards me for the two years that I have had her… (year 3 coming up!)

      I had this thought that, to the best of my ability, I need to just do the right thing…. I need to just LOVE this kid unconditionally… without (as Laurie so rightly says “negotiation or manipulation”…. What the student does REALLY needs to be irrelevant as LONG as I do the right thing, respond the right way… etc… Right?

  9. Thank you for your loving and understanding words, Laurie. You care so much both for the students and for the teachers in need. One very important advice Teri Wiechert gave us in Agen was to strictly reserve a quarter of an hour’s time each day to reflection: What did my students learn today? And what did I learn today? It think this is the only chance to keep our heads above the water in the middle of all we have to do.

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