Regional War Rooms – 1

I am thinking that the success of the War Rooms at the national conferences could lead to regional War Rooms. We could use the PLC to create a list of PLC members in each major metro area who would like to get some War Room training going on year round.

Since many of us now know what the War Room format looks like, we could organize trainings that follow the format of what we did in Chicago and Denver. With Sean and Ray and others in the Chicago area, for example, it’s a no-brainer. There is a group forming around Melisa and Derek in St. Louis, as well.

The idea, of course, is that traditional presentations at conferences, though valuable, don’t get the teachers up and working on their feet. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a minute of teaching on our feet in front of our peers is worth a thousand presentations.

On a personal note, I can’t ever remember being as happy in teaching as I was in those War Room settings in Denver and Chicago. I was just so happy to be with those people in those very rich hours. I watched people working so hard to get better at this, and hitting many home runs out of the park.

The War Rooms kind of blew my mind. My thinking is that if people like Jason from Scotland can do that kind of teaching via just internet training, what could they do if they were part of a regional group that meets even once or twice a year in a War Room setting?

Maybe we can collect the names of interested PLC members per region here, and get some email lists going and start planning some meetings. All we really need is one person from each region to agree to coordinate meeting in their area using the email list that we get going here. Is anyone willing to take that on in your region?

I am already in contact with Don Reed and John Piazza about doing a War Room session in the SF area because I will be out there anyway after Christmas.



40 thoughts on “Regional War Rooms – 1”

  1. Hey Ben – we’ve already been doing this – sort of- thanks to Skip and the peer coaching events he has organized up here in Maine. We started doing this after he saw you doing it two years ago in Vegas. We had a good session last October when Laurie and Sabrina were here, and I am sure that now we will be able to build upon that since Skip and Annemarie were in your War Room session in Denver (were Elyssa and Becca and Dustin also?)
    SO……anyone in New England…if you are interested, contact Skip – he has organized another peer coaching session Wednesday, August 21 @ USM in Lewiston. It is in the morning. ALL are WELCOME!!!
    And of course, the “Maine, New England and Beyond” Regional Conference will be the weekend after Columbus Day in Lewiston, Maine. Presenters are: Carrie Toth, Laurie Clarcq, Sabrina Janczak, and our very own Anne Matava (as in the famous Matava’s Story Scripts) and Jen Schongalla (as in jGR!). {wow! are we lucky!!!} You can be lucky too and learn from what these great minds have to share — just contact Skip Crosby to register! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Yes of course MB I didn’t want to leave out the Maine group. I wasn’t thinking so much about existing groups with strong annual workshops as much as creating regional groups doing nothing but War Room coaching. Anybody in the NE should definitely check out the October conference.

  3. In Northern California, there is already an email list started by Diane G. with more than 80 teachers. We try to meet once a semester and, while we do not always do coaching, I’m happy to organize more of a War Room approach. If you live in No. Ca. and are not on the list, please shoot me an email (john.piazza at and I’ll get you added.

    1. And again John I think that we need to keep the work of larger groups like that separated from what we do in the War Rooms, in much the same way that we did last month. Others in the larger SF group are certainly welcome to attend a War Room session, but I just want to avoid a conflict in their agenda with our very specific one.

      Also, as discussed so much this past month, we want to keep a feeling of safety and trust high in our PLC-based War Room groups. I think that even with newer people coming in to observe, the feeling was safe enough – I hope! I would like to hear from others on how that worked for them.

      One person in the SF group wasn’t happy and with good reason when I got pulled out of her ten minute session to talk to the Turks, although doing so was of such great importance. That is one reason I want to come out your way in 2015, to make up for that rudeness to that one person on my part.

      We just don’t want it to be too wide open, certainly, as when someone came into the room in Chicago, poured a big glass of wine in one hand, and then waltzed out of there with an $18 bottle of wine in the other. showing not the least bit of interest in helping us get better at this work. The person was intercepted, luckily, by the ever-vigilent and most wonderful Louisa Walker.

      By the way, just a little while ago I was trying to remember who worked first on Tuesday in Denver (Angie and Carly went on Monday) and then I remembered it was you with that great moving tent story from Anne Matava. You should make that a staple of any trainings you do. Putin and Hillary Clinton in the same tent – that’s compelling stuff.

  4. There is a growing group in the southeastern PA, southern NJ, and northern DE founded by Lori Belinsky and Anny Ewing. More news to come!

    1. OK chill just keep me in the loop so that I can keep other PLC members in the loop via the formation of a category for the War Room group in your region. Dude that is a lot of states for one region!

  5. I sat in the conference War Room sessions (not the hotel sessions), but did not get an opportunity to work and get coaching myself. This is partly because I am new to all of this and did not know where to start, and partly because there was not enough time for everyone to get a chance. If we have a group in Denver/front range here in CO, I would be willing to meet up as often as monthly, or whatever other people are willing to do. I love the idea.

    1. Sounds good for Denver and easy for me. Maybe the group would be willing to come to my house in Littleton. Here is my contact information for anyone who wants to add theirs as we make our first email list for a Denver War Room group. Again, I just want to make it clear that this is not a workshop or conference, just a group of us here on the PLC who want to create a War Room training format in our areas. I truly think that training in TPRS in the future is going to be online and regional. My wallet does too, as it looks back on the cost of the cab ride from O’Hare to the Lisle Sheraton, and that was just one way, not to mention the time spent away from my family in the precious summer months.

      Ben Slavic 303-995-0526

      Matt pls. add your info below. We can be the first two in our CO group. I don’t know how to set up the actually groups but I guess I’ll make categories like:

      War Room Group – Denver
      War Room Group – St. Louis

    2. So Melissa the way it is going to work is that PLC members reading here will contact you in your area. As soon as a group forms, I will add a category for that area, and then all information about meeting days and times, etc. can be done through that category and arranged regionally. I know someone in Prague and if I go down there I will remember to contact you. I can do a lot more traveling to these regional War Rooms now that I am out of the classroom. That would make me very happy.

      1. I wasn’t able to go to the war rooms this year. I would have loved to meet you and others that have taught me so much. I would love to have feedback in order to grow into a better TPRS teacher. So to have a group around here would be an answered prayer.

        If anyone is in the NE Ok area my e-mail is Melissa Sadler

  6. Denver War Room

    Matthew Webster 970-903-0402

    This has the potential to be the most powerful professional development happening in the country. You just don’t see this kind of thing, which is crazy, because this is exactly the kind of thing that will help us all get better at what we do.

  7. I agree Matthew. National conferences are expensive, time consuming, they don’t really change from year to year, the same (fantastic, but the same) presenters are there, and in too many sessions we mostly sit on our butts thinking or talking about teaching the whole time, and after all that expense precious evening time is largely lost.

    Plus I have heard figures that as many as 75% of attendees at national conferences are new, which is a very disturbing figure. Moreover, who among us here in the mountains or out on the West Coast are going to fly over to Washington, D.C. next summer? Who can afford to? We need to figure out a way to get training standing on our feet in one or two day increments throughout the year in settings where we feel trust from the group. This will lead, of course, to increased opportunities to observe each other in our real classrooms, which is invaluable. It feels right to me.

    Matthew when do you want to think about our first training sessions? There is actually a team of three Front Range Christian School TPRS teachers around the corner from me, literally less than a mile away. My schedule is fairly open this fall. It’s starting to hit me that I will have more time for this kind of work and that I won’t be back in a classroom this fall. Thinking about it just now as I sit here at my computer is making my socks start to roll up and down.

    Of course, you and anyone in Colorado or in neighboring states is welcome – Diana has told me this – to attend at no cost any of her trainigs in DPS throughout the year. She starts one at North High School for teachers new to the district on Tuesday.

    1. Hello my friends,

      I think that regional groups are fantastic. If you have never been to a national conference, however, it is worth considering. There is a great deal to learn AND MANY great presenters (most of which are still classroom teachers) to interact with.

      In addition, NTPRS in particular has open coaching available at many hours of the day where teachers can go in and hone their skills. I do NOT want to get into a discussion about why the War Room scenario is or isn’t a better model. I DO want to let you know that participants can spend nearly the entire conference being coached/watching others being coached if they so desire.

      For teachers who have not seen teachers using CI in the classroom, the language lab model is also very valuable. (IFLT doesn’t yet offer the amount of coaching that NTPRS does, but the coaching team would love to change that.)

      Either of the conferences are totally unique experiences and I would hate to see practioners who have never been discouraged from going. If you have been to several, especially several in a row, I can see how they could get repetitive.

      It is also a viable alternative if you cannot get to D.C. But please remember than many of us have been traveling halfway or across country for 13 of the last 14 NTPRS conferences and every one of the IFLT conferences. Having the conference in D.C. finally offers a venue that East Coasters can access without exorbitant airfare fees. We are grateful that TPRS/CI folks there finally have an accessible national venue.

      Again…please don’t see my message as being against regional support…I am ALL FOR IT!!!!!
      But there is still a powerful place for the national conferences for many people and I would like folks on the list that they are welcome there and that they can benefit from them enormously. (
      again, my opinion only, I know that others of you may think differently)

      There is room for everyone in this field…let’s support each other!

      with love,

      1. Absolutely the national conferences are great Laurie. My point, and I should have made it more clear, is really about money – $300-$400 for airfare, $500-$700 for a hotel room, $200-$400 for registration, not to mention food. It adds up. And few districts are supporting this kind of training these days with all the budget cuts.

        Another point to make is that four days of intense training once a year is not enough to meet the challenges of the approach. We need more time to meet, get some ideas, take them back to the classroom, work on them, and then get back within a few months for some more training, and for some time to lick our wounds with others licking their wounds, because we are in battle.

        I am not trying to throw a wrench into anybody’s thing, merely to say that in this PLC we have found a joyous way of training that might actually be best applied at a regional level. All that is required is just some driving and in return we get a day or two of free training and more constant monthly communication with our colleagues, plus we would start observing each other a lot more because we know where each other is and we could drive there.

        On a personal note, someone told me in Chicago that the War Room up there was stepping on some toes. That was not my idea when I thought of the War Room training idea.

      2. I think there is room for training, practice, and coaching in as many venues as possible. This year was my first time at NTPRS, and I both enjoyed and appreciated the various aspects of the conference: meeting so many people interested and accomplished in TPRS/TCI, seeing and evaluating different approaches and philosophies within TCI, putting real-life people with names from the PLC, getting to watch people at various levels of proficiency. I truly regret that I flaked out on the War Room after the first evening. I know I missed a great opportunity to get even more out of the conference.

        I also participated in the first iFLT in Los Alamitos, and Laurie is correct that the two conferences offer different and complementary experiences.

        It seems to me that part of the issue with the War Room is the growth in size. At the first iFLT it was a small group of people just getting together. At the most recent NTPRS it became a large body of people, many of whom had chosen to attend there rather than some of the evening offerings of the conference like the immersion evenings and the open mic night. Not everyone would have gone to those “sessions” anyway, but I can understand that at least some people would view the War Room as a non-sanctioned competing event, even though this was not at all Ben’s intent.

        So, just to do some thinking out loud: perhaps the future of the War Room does lie in Regional War Rooms that happen more regularly. The question then becomes one of maintaining focus and “purity”. From what I saw, Ben is really the unique element in all of this. Anyone could imitate and emulate the format (present for ten minute, critique for five minutes with possible two-minute extension, possibly present again), but without the trust and camaraderie that exists within the nucleus of the PLC members – and that derives to a great degree from Ben – it would not be a War Room. Could it even be a War Room without Ben? What kind of training and development would Ben need to do for someone else to truly fulfill the role he plays?

        Leigh Ann is advocating for SoCal, and we have a couple of groups that meet after school during the week: I have a group from my district that meets once a month, and Doug Stone is part of another group that meets during the week. However, I know that my group is anything but a War Room (unless I really started pushing coaching in TPRS for everyone, and then it would be a War Room in the sense that we would be fighting a war in it), and I believe Doug’s group does peer coaching but does not replicate what goes on in the War Room. In my situation, it will take some definite changes of attitude and philosophy to begin to get to the openness that exists in this PLC. Some of the people who have been coming are not convinced that TCI works, and I do not wish to alienate them because they at least are willing to talk about it. Most of the teachers in my district are highly resistant.

        All that to say that the War Room may have outgrown its place at the national conferences unless the leaders of the conferences make a deliberate choice to include it as an official part of the conference, but then it would need to be open to anyone who wanted to come, not just an invitation-only group.

        Okay, just some thinking out loud here.

        1. Yeah those are good thoughts Robert. My take on all of it is that I can’t personally afford the money to go to the national conferences, especially since I am retired now. I also feel that the surprising influx of people into the room in Chicago was of concern. I like that you point out how the War Room is a trust thing and best done by us, the members of this PLC, and kept small. That happened in Denver pretty much, but not in Chicago.

          So like you I am just thinking out loud on this. I do think that War Rooms can’t really happen in future in a formal national conference setting because, as you said, then they would have to be open to everybody which wouldn’t work for reasons similar to the ones you mentioned happen in your meetings in Los Angeles.

          Maybe those War Rooms in Denver and Chicago were just fleeting moments of serendipity on the waves of the ever changing ocean we are all learning to swim in. (I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.) Who knows? I guess at the end of the day it depends on what people want, what helps them most to become better teachers, and how they can best use the time they have for training.

          1. The trust element and commonality of purpose and focus are extremely important for the War Room to function as you intend, Ben. That is impossible to achieve at a national conference when people come from such different places with all of this. One morning at breakfast in Lisle I felt very uncomfortable. When I arrived at breakfast, the eating area was basically full, but some teachers offered me the one empty place at their table. They were nearly finished eating and also finishing a conversation. The primary speaker was holding forth on the need for specific phonological practice and explicit grammar instruction in the target language and how without them the students could never be ready for the AP exam and how difficult it was for students to overcome the lack of such instruction in earlier years and their own unwillingness to do homework, etc. The other members of the group were expressing general agreement for the most part and certainly giving no rebuttals. Because of the circumstances I did not think or feel that it was appropriate for me to interject my opinion, but I definitely felt uncomfortable and wondered why this individual was at the conference because my impression was that the person did not expect to get much out of it. I did not interact with any of these teachers again at the conference, but it did color my experience.

          2. See, this is why I admire you so much. Who else ever uses the great structure in this sentence from above:

            …the primary speaker was holding forth on the need for specific phonological practice….

            Thank you for that. The last time I heard that expression was about six life times ago in England. And I can just see you sitting there trying not to send your charger mind into the fray of that discussion. I have to think that you got the odd table, and that the silent ones were just being polite to the wind bag from the past century, bless his mental heart.

            Your point is a good one though, Robert. There are such people and one dude like that could wreck a War Room session. And it did get weird in Chicago with people coming in, but somehow still worked, even with the wine thieves active.

            Trust in the concept was best exemplified when (during the first meeting of the big group in Denver on Tuesday) as soon as the floor was opened for work John Piazza walked up and took us into the Tent Story as if he had been waiting to do that for a long time. He certainly had trust in those in the room and it showed up in his work and in the ensuing discussion, which was clear and to the point and highly valuable to all in attendance.

            This is what I am talking about wanting to see in the War Rooms as we all are and I guess this thread is about how to guarantee the trust. I am getting convinced that the model won’t work at a national conference – too much trust is needed, as you say, more trust than can be guaranteed in those national conferences for many of the reasons mentioned earlier throughout this thread.

            So we just need to focus on what works now. My thinking, which is connected to the financial reasons already mentioned and in support of those huge numbers of people who simply cannot even get to a national conference for whatever reason, is that we should at least try to get some regional War Rooms going.

            I am already hearing support from the group here. I am convinced that PLC people should comprise War Rooms on a regional level. I don’t think that my personality is needed to make a War Room work. That Chicago group is in full sail already while the rest of us are still holding our fingers up to test the winds.

            Regional WR groups that are comprised of PLC members not only bring the trust but also limit the size of the group (a necessity) while keeping out people like the phonologistus doctorandus. It brings safety in relatively small numbers while bringing people together whose backgrounds are of relatively one mind, although I am not sure what “relatively one” means.

  8. Ben, did you get my email about the East St. Louis group? This is exciting for me because there is nothing in the STL area like this. -at all.

    1. No but send it to me and I will add to the list. I am also in contact with Heather Manibusan at East St. Louis High School. She has a team of three there as well. And of course Derek and Melisa.

  9. Leigh Anne Munoz


    There are some people about an hour away from me who get together during the week, but I can’t — my gathering *has* to be on the weekend….

    Any takers?

  10. So if you want to start a War Room group in your area just send me the name of your group and a few emails of people who will coordinate meetings, to start the ball rolling in each region. We will add names to each group as they become available and everything will be reachable by clicking on the link for that War Room region in the categories on the right side of this page.

    I like the idea of keeping the term “War Room” and having the meetings lead by members of the PLC who know the process we have developed as discussed here yesterday. I am thinking that after Denver and Chicago there are people who can lead their region’s meetings quite effectively.

    So I made links for Denver, St. Louis and San Francisco just to get this process started, but send me more so that I can add other groups in. I’ll go make a link for Chicago right now because between Sean and Ray Bauer they have got the Windy City rockin’. (Chicago really WAS windy when Jason and Diana and I went downtown a few weeks ago!)

    Note that if you don’t want your email or phone or even your name on the site, I remind everyone that our recent work with the people who assure our privacy here made the site locked tight from outside readers. Still, you can always wait until a group appears in the categories list and contact them directly to get the information and be included in War Room trainings this year.

  11. No but send it to me and I will add to the list. I am also in contact with Heather Manibusan at East St. Louis High School. She has a team of three there as well. And of course Derek and Melisa.

    Ok. Heather emailed me saying she wanted to be part of the group. I am glad you have their information.

    BTW you can call me Lisa. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I just figured out that you are Lisa Alexander. Is that right? So this sounds good. We have a base to work from. St. Louis has gone from 0 people to 5 in a short period of time. 6 if Carrie Toth gets involved. I am interested in coming out to do a War Room. I went to college in St. Louis and after talking to Heather earlier this summer I think we can get some real work done there. It makes me think of a Dylan Thomas line of poetry, slightly modified:

    …and [poverty] shall have no dominion….

  13. Anybody can do War Room coaching. But I think we need to drop the term coaching. That term implies that there is one person who knows something about this way of teaching and watches someone who doesn’t and then tells them how they can get better at it.

    In my opinion, that is not what this approach is. We don’t teach that way in our classrooms. We don’t tell our students what they are doing wrong and then they get better at the language we are teaching them. There are no experts and we can’t keep acting as if there are. There is only us.

    We know that the only way a person can get better at a language is by hearing it spoken in ways that are interesting and meaningful to them. In my view, the same thing applies to us when we get better at teaching a language – we get better at it by doing it more.

    If it is true that the only way to get better at teaching like this is by doing it more often, and that being corrected or being told about things that we are not doing has no value (it doesn’t), then that implies that the person working is always going to be right. What does that mean?

    It means that the person working cannot possibly change and get better by focusing on what they are doing that is wrong, but rather that they will improve only by working more and more and by observing others. That is the basic philosophy of what a War Room is, in my own view.

    If the facilitator, when pointing out what they saw after the person worked, says something like:

    …I didn’t understand when you added in those new words after you said such and such…

    Then that is the facilitator saying what they saw happen. They are reporting that they didn’t understand at a certain moment in the ten minute teaching session. That is not a criticism. It is just saying what they saw happen for them. They could also at that point say:

    …I also felt that the group didn’t understand at that point….

    And then they could open it up to the group for their observations of what they were experiencing. There is no expert here pointing what was being done wrong (going out of bounds), there is only an observation by the facilitator of what they saw happen and by the group as well, if they saw the same thing.

    The facilitator could then ask the question:

    …What would it look like if you taught that section of your class over?….

    The person working could then choose at that point to explore the question raised by teaching for five more minutes or they could sit down if they didn’t feel comfortable about doing that.

    This work is so hard when you are first learning it (and so easy once you’ve learned it!) that the person should have the option to sit down after their first ten minutes of work because their circuits were blown, which I saw happen in the national conferences more than a few times.

    What a person does when they are teaching is where they are. We cannot change that just as we cannot catapult our students forward in the language in our own classrooms by using some new teaching method or computer program. All we can do is talk to the kids in the target language and all we can do in these War Room sessions is let the person work. We are not in control of the process of getting better at this work just as we are not in control of the process of our students getting better at it. It is all unconscious, and we learn by doing, not by talking.

    A new person working is not making a mistake when the go out of bounds, they are just where they are. If they go too fast, which they are guaranteed to do, the facilitator says something like:

    ….I didn’t understand right there at the beginning but when I signaled you to slow down from the back, so that I could understand, you did a great job of adjusting and then I understood….

    So the process of working in a War Room session becomes one of the person working and getting feedback by the facilitator (we need just one person in charge to avoid confusion, is the only reason) with the group experiencing the language and nothing else. The person working should certainly not be put in a position of trying to imitate someone else or awkwardly practice some skill like a five year old. They should not be made to feel as if they can’t do it but someone else can and if they just work hard enough they will get it. They should only teach, and be given feedback about what the people learning the language in the group experienced.

    Teachers should not feel as if they have to try to remember a laundry list of “things to do” handed to them by some coach who supposedly has mastered the things on the list. Such is the nature of this approach to teaching that there is no one who does it perfectly. It is all a process of personal unfoldment into our own hard earned version of the approach. If those observing just try to learn the language without judging, then the person will get better.

    In War Rooms we should just observe and let the person work and let the facilitator express what they saw and add a point or two about what they experienced and invite the person to do a little more with those thoughts in mind to finish that session.

    So I suggest these things to describe the process of what happens in a War Room training:

    1. The person stands up to work and they teach their language for ten minutes and the group observes. All they do is try to learn the language, nothing else.
    2. One person writes down what they see happening. In Denver and Chicago it was me, but it could be anyone who has enough experience to be able to write down what they see happening with the person working. The person facilitating the session is not a coach, because the term coach implies that if the person working would merely listen to the coach then they will get better, but that is not true, as described above. You can only tell people what you see.

    So the War Room setting becomes one in which the person working is teaching their language while others try to learn it, like in a real class. And the facilitator simply takes notes on what they see happening.

    War Group sizes should be kept small (15 to 20). They should have been kept small at the national conferences but they swelled in size. This shows that the national conferences are not the best place to do this training.

    When we keep the group small, we ensure trust and so the person working doesn’t have to worry about who is watching because they know that everyone in their group is just there to learn the language and not to judge them.

    This is the kind of notes I was taking last month:

    …I really liked it when Sean spent ten minutes on limpia/cleans. I needed that. I needed all that time because now I really feel like I needed that many repetitions….

    …I really like his association with a limp cleaning rag. I thought of that every time he said it….

    …I really liked Jason’s energy. He just went for it. He took that expression and slammed it into the lesson so many times that people in the group started shouting it out. Instant chanting initiated by the group and not even the teacher – that is how much energy he put into the group with his high energy style of teaching….

    …There was a sentence you said that had seven words in it, but it was too fast for me to understand. I think it was seven words, it could have been more or less. Now can you say a sentence in your language in one full minute and put football fields of time between the word? The timer will time you. Ready? Go…..

    So we learn that the person who is facilitating the group just writes down and shares what they see.

    A person may ask, “Well, if they aren’t being told what they are doing wrong, how can they improve?” My response to that is that that is the old model. I never got better at anything whenever people told me what I was doing wrong. When I was running cross country in college, my coach never told me that the problem with my running was that I wasn’t moving my legs fast enough – he just let me run and the more I ran the faster I got.

    It is the same way with our students, isn’t it? The more we speak to them in the target language, the more they understand the target language. This is what Krashen and Terrell call the natural way of learning a language. You get better at it because you do it more. And the people in the group are unconsciously picking up all sorts of things from the people working. That is really how the teachers in the group are learning. We already know that.

    It might even be possible that the person facilitating the group need not even write down anything. One person teaches for ten minutes, then the next one, and the next, and , by focusing on the language we learn how to teach it. The process of learning how to teach this way then is accomplished completely unconsciously. It is by observing others that we learn.

    I certainly talked too much between most people’s sessions. Give me a soapbox and I become a problem. That is not a dig on me – I have studied this stuff for so long that I naturally have a lot to say about it.

    We conclude, then, that if the group decides to even let the facilitator talk, it should be kept to the five minutes allotted, with the two minutes of stoppage time. There are probably people bigger than the facilitator in the group who could just get up and carry the facilitator away if they go over the seven minutes.

    Stopping the facilitator from droning on is important because with each passing minute that I droned on I was pulling the group’s work more into the realm of the mind and out of the body, more into analysis and less into real teaching, because real teaching doesn’t exist in the mind.

    In this plan, therefore, the facilitator would therefore have only two jobs:

    1. write down what they see. and comment on it after the person works.
    2. communicate with the timer to extend time if they feel it is best for the person working and for the group.

    The person working teaches, the facilitator simply points out what they saw happening, the person working teaches a bit more if they feel like it, we do it again with another person, and that’s the War Room plan as I see it.

    1. I like this a lot…I was stressing over a demo at NTPRS and found Teri in the coaching room. She was kind enough to take me away from another group with about eight people in it and let me teach. Like what you’re describing in the war room, she just let me go for about ten minutes, then did what I swear was mental transfer. She would start a sentence, and I would finish it with an idea that improved how I was going to do the demo. She was incredibly supportive (as all coaches should be) and I felt confident not only about what I was about to do but about the changes I was going to make. This kind of work makes us excited about improvements, because we know what to do next.

      It’s funny that you said “Drop Coaching” in the beginning of your post, because I thought you were going to refer to the booklet of that title by Karen Rowan. I had to re-read the sentence.

      In that booklet, she comments on how people have had to attend numerous conferences to finally “get it,” and she has suggestions on how to make the acquisition of TPRS teaching ability speed up. I would share some of those ideas with you, but have to finish making another copy. (I nabbed a copy at the conference, but a Croatian teacher of English/student of Russian on the plane home was so thrilled by the whole concept of TPRS that I had to give him the booklet.) Did anyone in this group attend her sessions?

    2. Today I went to the first day of a three-day workshop by Katya Paukova. I originally signed up to accompany and encourage a colleague, but she cancelled. (Long story, but it has to do with a lot of back and forth on who would be teaching French at my school next year; my colleague cancelled when it looked like she would have all English, and then they gave her back the French. *sigh*) However, my brother – who spent many years in francophone Africa and France before moving to Kenya – has just taken a part-time job teaching French at Biola University. Over the years I have talked about what goes on in my classroom, and he wanted to go to the workshop, so we are commuting together.

      On one level I might ask why I’m attending a beginner workshop since I am no longer a beginning TPRS practitioner. Even from that point of view, it’s valuable because I we can always benefit from review. Beyond that, though, it’s good for me to see the issues and skills with which beginners struggle. At this point, I think the War Room would do them little good except as an opportunity to watch more experienced teachers. However, as a participant, I was able to whisper some suggestions when my practice partners got stuck on what to do. At one point I saw the lightbulb go on, and my partner said, “Oh! I get the connection now!” There was no, “You’re doing this wrong” but rather “Why don’t you try this?” at a place she was stuck. For me it was analogous to when a student is stuck for a word, and I supply it. We do that all the time in our native language; someone pauses, and we supply a word, not because we necessarily speak the language better or consider ourselves superior, but because we are helping out our partner in the conversation. That is another model of “coaching”.

      1. Robert, I volunteered to facilitate in the beginner sessions at NTPRS. Who could not learn something from Katya Paukova? There is always a pearl not to mention the repetition!

        1. I agree with you both: in beginner workshops we can help out and learn. It’s kind of how I feel about attending other first-year classes of Russian: I can always pick up something. When I sit in on Katya’s intro classes at NTPRS, I learn some new Russian tweaks AND get more ideas for storytelling. Last year, I figured out with a flash of light that “Eta,” a word that means “this is/these are/are these/is this” needs a lot more time than I was giving it. (I thought it was “easy.” The word is easy, but the concept isn’t.) It changed the way I taught this year.

  14. Hello!! I am new ish to reading the blog (and to CI), and this is my first actual post, but I’ve been in touch with Ben a bit over the summer. I was unable to attend conferences because I was out of the country with my family, but after reading about the War Rooms, I am really interested! Anyone in the Pacific NW? I’m in Portland.



  15. Darcy I will make a category for the Portland group. Even if you are the only one, at least then anyone in your area can eventually find you. And I will be out there from time to time to see my daughter. This will start slowly, I imagine, but I think it’s worth it. We can only try!


  16. I think that much of the feelings of awesomeness that were felt by me from the War Room come from the fact that we’ve all grown close by (virtually) communicating about these heavy themes in our professional lives over the years. We all knew that those of us who were there, were there to help each other figure shit out. That’s what this blog has been, with Ben providing the roof and often getting the ball rolling in an important direction.

    Also, there was alcohol, which I like after conference hours.

    Any model has it’s limitations, often unconnected from the model itself, a few of those many being group make-up, mood of participants, facilitator, lighting, time of day. The War Room had mojo with these factors.

    Again, the part that drew me back to the War Room was being with my tribe. A tribe within a broader TPRS tribe. I like them both very very much.

  17. Ben, there’s a lot of gold here. I’m going to read it over and over again as I prepare for our Workshop in Agen. People who had never heard of TPRS before came last year and/or the year before and are returning this year. They now know the ideas and principles of the method but are having difficulties implementing it without mentors to help them along the way.

    With Chill and Annie Ewing and Teri and Sabrina there, I think we can help them progress. It has always been about trust. Our idea is to have experienced teachers model in the language labs for part of the morning, then for participants to stand up and take over, then to end the morning with a feedback session while everything is still fresh.

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