Report from the Field – Keri Colwell

Here is a nice report from Keri Colwell:

Hi Ben!

I just wanted to tell you that yesterday I taught my very first two classes using your methods and they both went very well (Spanish III and Italian III).  Surprisingly, my class of juniors laughed and seem to enjoy the CWB even more!!!  I trusted the process in my Italian III…not any students were actually into sports so I chose “Jakeplays videogames”  and I actually spend 30 MINUTES on this!!  It turned into “Jake plays Super Mario Brothers in his backpack with Arianna Grande only on the weekends at 8:00 in the morning….and that they play videogames in his backpack because he hides her so his mom doesn’t see her!”  So, I think this could have certainly become a story… I had Jake in front of class with his backpack, Ariana Grande there and also Jake’s mom.  I had them do a very quick dialog with his mom asking him what was in the backpack…but I stopped it…However, where could I have gone from there??

My Spanish class went well also but was strickly PQA…no potential stories or actors.  I was able to talk about 2 students in 30 minutes since interest seemed to dwindle a bit.   However, Jake, the football player, “plays football in the pool at night with Peyton Manning in the summer and Jake is much better than Peyton.  My other student, Emma, plays basketball in the bathroom at Stop & Shop with her cat.”  So, these don’t have to turn into stories, right?

During CWB in both classes I trained them how to react and for all to react.  They seemed to get the hang of the “game” pretty quickly! Some may need a little work…but nothing that CWB can’t do if focused on them next class!  After CWB, I gave them the questionnaire and we did three ring circus. On the spot I thought of quickly writing up the “mini-stories” we created together in PQA session on the computer and displayed it when they were done with their questionnaires.  Then, I had a student read in English while seeing the Spanish.  Then I shut off the projector and had a student do a quick retell!  They did great and were very proud of themselves.  We all clapped.   Since my PQA session with my Spanish class wasn’t as long as with my Italian class, I had about 10 minutes for OWI and we transformed a student into a small blue and yellow bird that was sick because he ate his hair.

Thank you so much!  The kids had fun and so did I!  I just hope I don’t get stuck when it comes to stories and I also hope that CWB doesn’t get boring for them if I am to get to everyone.  But I figure 1-2 a day is fine…I just don’t always want to use “plays” as the focus as it could get redundant, right?

Looking back, I should have given them a quick quiz today on the information but it’s too late…

I appreciate any feedback you have for me!!!  I will be teaching my three other classes tomorrow (2 Spanish III’s and 1 Italian III)




5 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Keri Colwell”

  1. Keri, that’s a great report from the field.

    There are a lot of places you could go with the backpack story. Just a couple of ideas:
    1. Interview each person in the story: does mom suspect anything? is Ariane okay with being in the backpack? what else does Jake have in his backpack?
    2. Have other students guess/decide what Jake has in his backpack and how/why it got there.
    3. Following up on that last question in #1, you could “unpack” Jake’s backpack with the class. Does he have books? What kind/color/size/etc. books? Does he have a refrigerator? Does he have a sofa? (In a TPRS classroom, this is a distinct possibility.) If “Jake” is willing, you could actually pull stuff out of his packback. Does Jake have a cell phone in his backpack? Whom does he call? How often does he call? Where is he when he calls?
    As long as there’s interest, just keep it going. When the interest wanes, do something else.

  2. Keri…you rock!!! And so do your students. What a great day!! What you have realized, right away, is that a winning day is not about the “perfect” story….it’s about ongoing positive interaction between you and your students using the language. Bravo!

    with love,

  3. Here is a follow up email from Keri, adding to her report:

    Hi Ben,

    Just a quick note to tell you that I actually did do a story the second class. It was a success although by the time I established the routine and explained to students what I expected, introduced target structures, gestures, practiced sentences with structures on individual white boards, reminded them that the reason we are counting reps in PQA is because you need to hear a word 70-150 times before it becomes part of your permanent vocabulary ( the students, in fact, remembered that fact from the syllabus), then we did PQA which was easier than I thought! I got 88 reps of “fue” for “went” in under five minutes! The kids were all listening and making eye contact with me as I explained to them that they need to talk with me through their eyes. Then, finally, the story!! We only had about 35 minutes left if class but and we barely got through the first paragraph. It wasn’t a homerun story but all kids were involved and 36 out of 42 got “100” on quiz! Two received 80 and four received 75. (I had to give a very short quiz with only four questions in one class.). So, overall I think it was successful and you are right! 84 minute classes are still not enough time! I could have used another hour at least!

    Again, I would appreciate any feedback and I am looking forward to the reading class!


  4. Hello! Thank you very much for the comments! They really are helpful! I just have one question. Should I leave the 3 target structures up with their English translations during the quiz or should I erase them?

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Keri, I think that’s up to you. You might decide you want to find out what students know without any supports, or you might decide that the students will have enough to process getting the whole statement (or question) and using the support of the target structures up would be fine. At least, I’ve done both. I try to make the quiz into something that a student who was predominately engaged and responsive would find successful; I don’t ask tricky things if I can help it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben