Questions

Greg has some questions for the group:
I just got this e-mail from this company that is doing a supposedly “comprehensible” version of a Telenovela: https://www.edunovela.com/
As department chair I’m trying to transition the department to CI. Full support of admin. It’s been an uphill battle though. People know what I am doing with the Invisibles is working and that the kids love it but they (the ones that are nice about it) just look at it like, “That’s just Greg, he’s really passionate about it, I MYSELF can’t do that. I need the structure of a textbook and I just don’t have the time to change.”
The new hires coming in we can work with to a certain degree (since they are starting off with that expectation of CI), but even they are not the same as someone who came to the conclusion of TPRS/CI on their own . I am also finding that many people who are hired to teach CI (without being totally convinced of SLA first) tend to approach it as immersion rather than CI. There is also a lack of real initiative. Heck for me, I was reading your blog on Christmas morning. It’s my career but it’s also become somewhat of a hobby. For new hires they tend to want any training to be done during contractual hours- although I have convinced one to go to Saturday events.
What do you do in this situation? TPRS/CI (even non-targeted) teachers would have full freedom (if they wanted it!) but we just can’t find the right people and the people that are already there won’t budge. They definitely won’t do TPRS or the Invisibles. The most I can hope for is they just make tweaks to their thematic or textbook teaching and get them to focus less on grammatical accuracy in their own classes…. all the while I have freedom to do what I want.
So is a program like the Telenovela above a good option say, for the Honors track? My plan is to focus on CI for the regular track (the majority of the kids) for levels 1-2. That way we set kids up to want to go on in the language. The other option I was thinking is have even the traditional teachers teach one novel per semester.
I know you are against the class reading of novels, but I am looking at this in terms of not what is best (because that would take buy-in) but as far as damage control.
I’ve heard of a school that implemented Blaine Ray’s “Look I can Talk” curriculum by force, but I heard some of those teachers that teach with that curriculum actually just teach with it because that’s the mandate (some even secretly hate CI but need to keep their job).
I really don’t want to force people to teach with CI because the kids know when the teacher is not into it and the “CI” done by a reluctant teacher actually works against us.
Has anyone had success with any such online “CI” programs as the telenovela above? I know that Senor Jordan recently contributed to an online “CI” curriculum that also seemed like an option for these reluctant teachers in a CI department.
My other question was this….is there anyone on this blog that came to TPRS/CI because their department chair asked them to and THEN they became convinced of it? Or anyone that learned TPRS/CI after they were hired for that purpose?
Or is everyone on here a person who became convinced totally on their own intitative?

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11 thoughts on “Questions”

  1. Response from Alisa:
    I think you are right Greg that no-one wants to be forced and many in that situation push back…. though I have seen those who are led to the well actually successfully drink from it – depends on the person and the support/ pressure from above.
    As for ‘accepting the SLA research and rationale,’ I think it makes us look ridiculous as a profession to flout the research as though we know better than Krashen and the gang; as if we’ve designed and conducted the peer reviewed PhD research and reviewed others’ work 8+ hours a day for decades…
    I think much of the variety and ‘eclecticism’ in teacher practice comes from differing concepts about the purpose of our classes. Some still vehemently hold onto the importance of the 5C’s – maybe because they’ve done a ton of work and have developed lots of curric and programming and see the shift as a rejection of their investment…they don’t wanna feel like frauds….
    Others believe it’s not rigorous unless the CALP-content-based instruction is immediate – from absolute novice on up the ladder….
    I keep saying this again and again (cuz of my keen eye for the obvious – which I’ve mentioned previously) but any dept or institution willing to look at its WL offering has to start by vetting the purpose of the classes – and building consensus around it. Are they geared toward cultural enrichment – so we can experience ‘peoples, perspectives and products?’ Are they in order to place out of the college language requirement? Are they to inform religious/intellectual studies – which have more academic capital in that setting? Are they to impart communication skills?
    You’d be surprised to learn how different members of the same dep’t. see the role of their instruction!

  2. Steven responded:
    Finding out how each teacher articulates their purpose can definitely get us more clear about goals, how we view our.jobs and attitudes. My Dept wants to be low key. I want to just have students to understand communication skills and.maybe acquire some Spanish or French. Proficiency is not my goal because when people evaluate students, they lose.

  3. Jenny responded:
    Just a thought- I had no problem implementing CI in my elementary school classes- I am more relaxed in the elementary school and the kids eat up the Invisibles. The participation is high and I feel very successful in that environment. I also teach a class at the high school. My first semester, I had a very challenging class who did not want to participate. I struggled to be able to implement the same type of CI that I could do at the elementary school. I found embedded readings and “Special Student” to be a way that I could implement CI and still have control of the classroom, something concrete to teach or talk about, and not feel too far outside my comfort zone (I struggled with both TPRS and the Invisibles in that classroom). Perhaps bringing in one tool at a time that doesn’t require someone to make such a drastic change in the beginning might help those that are struggling to see themselves doing CI? (They can even pick a story that targets a certain grammar point as well to help inch them along their way…)

    1. I’m very much convinced that delaying stories for a good while is key. People can start with very simple steps. Jenny I think with a class you should never struggle. Just give them snoozy CI. There’s no need for us to try to be Blaine. We can be ourselves and still have a real good class.

  4. Greg said, out of frustration about the new hires in his department:
    …they definitely won’t do TPRS or the Invisibles…..
    We must see this rationally. They probably became language teachers bc they were good at conjugating verbs and they wanted a career in something they were good at. So the raw material is not exactly the best to turn your department into what you envisage. No blame.
    Moreover, the time factor in this kind of monumental change has to be respected. This is a “long haul” change and as I have said many times here over the years, the true and lasting changes will be implemented by some current sophomore or junior sitting in our class, looking kind of bored, who will one day many years into the future – because they sat in your class – elbow out the “good at grammar” future teachers.
    This will happen, it will happen, only when there are enough new teacher candidates who have had CI in school, who get it bc they were taught using it, and also only when we have completed our work of these current years of scratching and clawing the attention of our colleagues to a deeper appreciation of what the research and what the standards really entail in terms of instruction and assessment.
    Odd to think that many of our own students now will at least consider teaching a language as a profession, but it is nevertheless true. Anything people feel good at gets put on their list of career choices. Oh, to have a crystal ball into the future! I would bet that we would be very pleasantly surprised about what is all going to go down as a result of the work we are doing/enduring/suffering now.
    So, those Saturday mornings that you spend with those teachers in Chicago may seem like not much, but as points of light, they will one day light up the world for children, so they can be happy finally and not feel that they aren’t any good at languages. We don’t think about it much – how can we since we are so “close” to the work right now? – but what we are doing together is big time, part of making a happier world. If 1/5 of a child’s course load in a school brings them good grades and a positive sense of what they can do in school, it’s a start. My opinion is that we are right smack dab in the middle of the tipping point right now.

  5. I just got your new book! It looks awesome! Can’t wait to read it.
    Is the “Curriculum Club” going to be different than this PLC?

      1. Jen as long as this PLC helps others I will keep it going. I like that it has remained so small and “intime” over the years. I like how we can be honest here. I like how we can share and be heard by old friends whenever we get crushed beneath the wheel in one of those all-too-common crushing moments in school which we cannot ever predict. We can come here and cry out and find solace, because each of us knows the crushing weight of the institution at some point – that is perhaps our main point in common. Also, this place has been a source of deep affirmation for me in my own work, and without it, without the sustained conversation that really started on the “old blog” 14 years ago, I don’t know what I would have done. So thank you for saying that. Many of us go back over a decade together. We have to stay in touch, if for no other reason than that.

  6. Hey you guys! So the Curriculum Club is a new site that’s going to be just to support the new book A Natural Approach to the Year. It’s prolly going to be through a platform called Teachable. It won’t be anything like our beloved PLC here. To me nothing will ever replace this little slice of the Internet. It’s a safe place to be held and to hold each other. The thing with Teachable is its video capabilities. I’m pretty sure it’s going to work. Our web guy is working on it.
    Ben and I talked a lot about the two groups. We had considered some kind of PLC Special Deal. We could still do that. Actual launch of the curriculum club group is probably a month out. We have time.

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