Question

From John Piazza:
My students really enjoy it when I project their drawings on the screen and we discuss them in Latin. The trouble is, they get so excited about the artwork (it truly is compelling for them), that many classes (especially freshmen) cannot help but speak out and/or comment in English. Tons of blurting which undermines the activity. In addition, the talk can become negative about the artist.
Has anyone come up with a way to reduce the blurting in this situation? (in addition to continuous reinforcement of class rules) I am thinking of having students write down a description of each picture on a numbered sheet of paper for 30 sec or 1 min. After a minute, I then call on students to answer using their written responses for help if needed. I am also considering having them do a pair discussion of each picture, in which they negotiate the best phrase(s) and then offer their answer if called upon.
Any thoughts?
John

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16 thoughts on “Question”

  1. One thought is to get class attention and work with a single student by asking him, “Cómo se dice X en español? [How do you say X in Spanish?] The effect of this is to use L2 to direct the student’s mind back to the use of L2. It is also a reminder to all that L2 is the means of communication and L1 is for clarification. If the student does not know a necessary word, then it can be provided.

  2. I have a group that has the same issue when seeing their sketches or videos. (Maybe it puts them into the “I’m watching TV with my friends” mode.) I remind them of expectations right before we begin, and a couple times we first brainstormed a good list of reactions they might want to use from Chinese that they know. That helped a ton.

  3. John I think that works, but now you’re introducing another task. If it’s really a matter of rules, is the extra task necessary? It might be, but look into it. My fear would be committing “discussicide” much like “readicide.”

    1. Discussicide. Oh man that is rich. I’m not exactly sure how you mean it, Lance, but I have spent gazillions of hours talking about rules and procedures and SLA stuff in English when I just didn’t need to. Far beyond simple statements to get the kids self reflecting on how they are learning. All I needed to do was start the story, start the ROA process with the first step of ROA, just starting out class in the TL! (Not that a little L1 banter isn’t important here and there, but I couldn’t shut up and their blurting was caused by my L1 diversions.) Discussicide. You got me!

      1. I like your take on that, Ben, but I wonder if there’s a different word for that.
        Discussicide, like Readicide, is when you over-assign an accountability task to the point of killing any joy. When we assign double-entry journals every time there is FVR, or SSR, we kill reading itself. When we turn Look and Discuss into look, discuss, draw, write, analyze, etc., we kill the discussion.

        1. Got it. Double entry journals are killers, no doubt, and I only use them on sub days. The point might be a sensitive one among CI teachers. Many, still only half out of their old snake skins, pull the joy of CI down by using things (draw, write, analyze) that pull the kids out of the unconscious mind. That’s too much like school. Ours is a constant battle to preserve and foster the joy of this work, yet amidst a setting where everything is against that, where everything points to “thinking” and not “focusing on the message”, which is not thinking at all. Your point could not be better taken. It’s at the very core of what we do, and yet is largely misunderstood even among CI teachers. The more “in our minds” we are in a CI class, the less we are doing CI. The more we indulge in “discussitude”, the less teaching of the language we are doing.

          1. And Lance your explanation enables me to fully appreciate the term “readicide” as well. Susan Gross describes reading a text so that it is like a “movie in the mind of the student”. This is the exact opposite of readicide.
            Both terms you coined are megaton bombs and vastly under appreciated by language teachers.

          2. I only assign worksheets on sub days – Sr. Wooly supplemental packets. Even then, that’s CI, but in more traditional form. Don’t make kids want a sub 😉
            Although, I’ve had bad luck with subs sometimes not following the plan I leave 🙁
            My 5th graders just finished filming RT of every chapter of Brandon Brown. There was a day when I was out. Well, they like RT so much they literally come into class saying “Yay! There’s no sub.”

  4. Here’s my L&D procedure with student artwork in class:
    1) Have the first, or only, drawing projected on the board as students walk into the room. (This usually gives kids time to get used to the artwork and talk about it in English before the bell rings).
    2) Remind the students of the rules of L&D. A) We talk about the pictures in LATIN ONLY. B) It’s okay to laugh at funny pictures, but not okay to comment in English. C) We NEVER talk about the quality of the artwork.
    3a) When a student blurts something negative…I stop dead and laser point to the “Goodwill Attitude” classroom rule and look sadly at the student. (The slower and more deliberate the body language, the better).
    3b) When a students blurts something benign in English…I do the same thing only point to “No English during Latin time” rule.
    3c) When EVERYONE starts blurting…I say very calmly, “Timeout. Our artist has done some really amazing work, and I am as anxious as your are to talk about it. Let’s have this conversation in Latin and Latin only. If this becomes an English conversation, it is my responsibility to change activities. I personally would love to spend class talking, laughing and having a good time in Latin. Wouldn’t you? Let’s try this again.”
    4a) If civility has been restored, we have a good old time talking about pictures and laughing.
    4b) If the mass blurting continues, I fall back on the the following activity: 1) Read a paragraph of a class story aloud and have them write the whole thing down as a dictation. 2) Project the paragraph on the board and let them correct their spelling. 3) Have them translate that paragraph into English silently and hand in their translations for a “quiz grade”. (I never actually grade this. However, I will count this as a “homework assignment” and put it into my grade book to keep administrators off my back.)
    5) Try again next time. I make it point NOT to mention the previous L&D experience whether it was positive or negative. I want them to have a fresh chance to enjoy how much fun the conversations can be without all of that English and negativity ruining it.

    1. I like this plan. It sends a message without the need for lecture or begging, which weakens the teacher. I’ll post it as a separate article. Very useful and thank you, John.

  5. John, I get it, but how do you do a Dictation another day without them feeling like it’s a punishment? In a related case, I know that some people assign a 100 word essay in the target language for violating certain rules, but doesn’t that send the message that writing is a punishment as well? How do those kids then feel during a Timed Write?

    1. Great question, Lance. This differs in format from the way that we normally do dictations. The kids still enjoy Time Write activities. The main thing is making it clear to kids that this is not a punishment. I genuinely don’t see it as one. It is a far less interactive form of CI, but still CI for the most part. I typically present the Mega Dictation Translation as a choice. Lots of blurting and English tells me that they have chosen the Mega Dictation Translation over the chatting and giggling while looking at some funny pictures.
      You are right though, we have to be very careful about inadvertently branding valuable activities as punishments. If I run completely out of patience and lose my cool, I will make my kids take notes on declensions. Two minutes of declensions will make my students literally beg for more CI. I have no problem with them have an exclusively negative perception of declension charts 🙂

      1. I often think about this stuff because I’ve done reading on differentiating, and have applied that to punishment, and alternative work, etc.
        Generally speaking in education, while it might be tempting to give a fas processor kid more work when done early, that practice actually discourages students from working quite efficiently. I mean, why should I work that hard if there is an endless string of stuff to do…we’re only required to do this one task. Instead, give the student a more challenging task, or allow the option of one…it’s still one task like everyone else, but at their level.
        Our language equivalent is questioning levels (e.g. a “why” question for your fast processor, and either/or for the rest).

    2. 100 word essay.
      I am not sure if you are referring to Blaine’s Págame system or not. What Blaine did was take away participation points from the total. The points could be regained by writing (or copying) a 100 word story. The point loss was the punishment. The story was the means of returning to a perfect participation grade. It was a very efficient means of keeping students focused, holding them responsible for their actions, and allowing them to reconcile and forget the past. Unfortunately, admins could not always appreciate innovation and mental health for teachers and students alike.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for the advice. I am walking a tightrope in my school between the CI I want to be doing (and did for a few years at my previous school), and the CI hybrid paper trail that even my most supportive admin wants to see. These discussions help me to achieve that balance while staying true to CI as best I can within the context of my school culture.

  7. …the CI hybrid paper trail….
    Now there’s a weird combination of words. It shows how far apart school procedures and regulations are from the core of what we do. I just fake that stuff. You have my respect John, for taking all of that on, from the traditional Latin families in that school to the paper trail. You are doing hard work! And congratulations a bit in advance for graduating those gnarly bless-their-hearts seniors who believe we learn languages by memorizing them.

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