Here is another idea, a repost from 2013, that maybe someone can use this year:

…we can work also with images when doing dictée. It helps the kids because they have a picture to look at while the instructor spins out stuff about what is going on the picture. This builds auditory comprehension, writing/grammar, and reading skills. Just put up a picture easily seen by all and go through the regular dictation process….

I might add here that, besides Pictée, there are a number of other variations on dictée that can be found at the link below, for those interested in getting your kids writing more during this 2016-2017 school year:


I am not suggesting that we do more writing this year – we have proven that more time spent on writing does not lead to greater gains in writing. We get greater gains in writing by doing more reading.

My point here is that again this year more gains should not be our goal here on the PLC. We must be ever vigilant and again this year to continue to remember as we did last year that in schools it is a fool’s errand to try to focus all of our energy on student gains, when our #1 priority each and every day should be our own mental health. I intend to beat that drum hard again this year.

(We cannot be the best teacher at the expense of our families and the loved ones in our lives. When we make it all about student gains we throw off the balance of our overall lives. This is not a good time in our society to be doing that, with so many people who are, as the French say, détraqué walking around. Think of your colleagues in your buildings right now, today. Something is wrong. There is a look there on their faces that ranges from mild to serious alarm. It is because we think that what our kids learn is the most important thing. Of course, it is the job of the kids, upon seeing that, to shut down in order to teach us what we have forgotten – that they and not academic gains are the most important thing. It is not good when the teacher wants too much that they learn.)

Sorry for the mini-rant there – my point here is that the best ticket to good mental health is a quiet classroom. When kids are too unruly to be able to handle auditory input, don’t give it to them. When they are too unruly to handle the great gift of reading in the form of FVR of the novels, don’t give that to them either. Make them appreciate the auditory and reading comprehensible input that you provide for them. If they abuse those two pillars of our work in CI, input in the form of listening and reading, then get them writing. It always gives a sense of legitimacy to our classroom process, even if, when it comes to foreign language, that legitimacy is false.



6 thoughts on “Pictée”

  1. That reveals an idea – the depths of CI cannot be plumbed because language is the prime instrument that we use in the human experience to share with each other what we are feeling, what we are experiencing.

    Words are so dangerous and so wonderful that they can bring great pain and great joy. Life and the language we use to communicate it are inseparable.

    That is why, when teaching languages, we are beholden to our students to make our instruction a reflection of life, with all its feelings, and not just focus on the mechanical editing part.

    Perhaps we have been afraid up until now to become real, as my own velveteen experience has taught me, and now we can. We can become real now in our classrooms. It won’t be easy, and many of us would rather stay in our grammar hovels, safe from the dangers of real human interaction, but also insulated from its joys. We must choose.

    That in my view is what this work is about. It’s not about figuring out another method of instruction and applying it in our classrooms, as Mimi Met told me and as Helena Curtain sees it.

    Instead, this work is about embracing the fears of initiating genuine human interaction with a segment of the population which, on the surface, doesn’t want any of it, preferring to interact instead with their electronic devices, but, below the surface, clamors for it mightily in the miserable silence that are our teenage years.

    We must go in with real language – interesting and meaningful comprehensible input – and we have to do it now, y’all. And, yes, we must be careful, as the fox tells the Little Prince, because “le langage est source de malentendus” (language is a source of misunderstanding), but we must also be brave.

    That is what I get from this group, above all the wonderful qualities we find here – I see a lot of bravery. For some, it leads to success, for others, failure. But those are only apparent.

    The real work we are doing, the work on the heart level that is realigning our hearts and minds with real things, is being done in spite of us, in spite of our fears, in spite of our apparent successes or failures.

    It’s the getting up and going to work and seeing that we want change and coming here and talking about it and initiating that change and finding administrators that understand and support our cause, our approach to teaching languages, so different from what has come before, that impresses me about this group. This is no game we are playing.

  2. I really like what you wrote Ben about how this work is all about genuine human interaction in the classroom. I have a short story to share from today that really made me smile and always makes me aware that kids DO really clamor for this kind of interaction.

    We were doing some PQA with “tiene / tienes / tengo” and I told everyone before class started to imagine an item that they had. It could be anything and they could make it up. And if we didn’t know the word in Spanish we would use el diccionario to look it up! (I, more often than not, still allow 1-2 words of English when giving cute answers … next year I’d like to try 0 and see how it goes). Anyway, a student said that he had “this tile” and pointed to a tile with his foot, which led to a great discussion with him and the class about this tile (I was able to get some good reps not only on “this tile” but also “that tile” as I moved around, pointing, making myself understood by writing both on the board”). It was great! And then we moved on to several other students and when I decided to change the activity (we had to do some grammar BLAH YUCK — long story, next year will be textbook free!) the kids were SO ADAMANT about wanting to stick with the PQA and going on to other students that we totally kept going and it was GREAT. So much laughter and so much Spanish used. Really beautiful and really gets at that idea that it’s all about building a relationship with your students in class. And being able to do it in the target language is amazingly wonderful :). Great start to the weekend!

  3. …it’s all about building a relationship with your students in class. And being able to do it in the target language…

    We can close all discussion now. No need to talk anymore. We’ll just put up a sign that says those words up there. Done. We go teach like that, and we don’t have to do anything more. Sound a bit frivolous, with maybe a little hyperbole there? No. I just spent 36 years at this stuff and the one thing I would say is true above all else, far above all else, was written right there by Nathan. It goes deeper than anything we’ve ever said here.

  4. My Chinese 2 students asked for one more day of writing practice after the dictation so I added timed picture writes. I get pictures from Google and put them into PowerPoint. Then I put the picture up and tell them they have 10 minutes to write as many sentences in Chinese characters as they can. The pictures match with what we have been working on like if the phrase is “can cook Chinese food” then I put up a picture of people cooking. I tell them not to be afraid of writing simple sentences. I know it is output but they had a lot of trouble with free writes and this scaffolds their writing. Then I can end the period with a free write because they are warmed up.

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