Here we begin our discussion of the 12 questions and concerns asked by our new PLC member (see last post) about the Invisibles:
Q. I am concerned about how my classroom is physically set up. I have 35 desks, sometimes 37. Should I replace them with tables so all students face me,(my desk is now in one corner with bookcases behind me and the projector system centered on the whiteboard next to me on the left). What physical setup would you suggest? I don’t have room to make two wings as you do – my room isn’t big enough.
A. Of course there will be as many responses on this one as there are teachers, so I can only give my own opinion and what I prefer personally. The reason my Invisibles classroom is set up the way it is is that I have to have my hires (17 student jobs) close to me for that system to work, as per:
But since you don’t have the room for this seating chart, the first thing – just my opinion – is to get rid of the desks. They can write on small dry erase boards when they must, which is about 10% of the time tops and so why all that clutter?
Classroom clutter is a far bigger issue than I used to think – it affects everything we do. Even the bookshelf behind you probably contains much superfluous stuff because in the Invisibles we just plain don’t need books – nor should we (it’s time for the change now). The less clutter there is, the higher will be the gains in proficiency by our students.
On the topic of posters, I now only have three, plus the Director’s Cues. The less posters, the better, and if you think about it for awhile you will see how superfluous posters indeed are, most of them. The only posters I need now with the Invisibles are the (1) Classroom Rules, (2) the colors/numbers chart, (3) the questions words in English and (4) the Director’s Cues, about seven of them that go above the whiteboard.
I don’t need a lot of whiteboard space, either. I keep it clean. If I speak for 20 min. and more than four or five new words were written down on the whiteboard, then I’m going out of bounds, and cluttering their minds usually to a point of overwhelm. I’m not joking. 15-20 min. of comprehensible input should only contain only four or five new expressions which you solidify in their minds using the Star Sequence and through your own mental discipline to stay in bounds.
Have you ever seen a big wall-to-wall whiteboard covered with words all over the place at the end of a story. That is not good. If the board is like that, all full of words, you can be guaranteed that the average student in your class will retain almost nothing from that class.
About verb posters – our students can’t learn verbs by looking at them, but by hearing them over and over in highly contextualized auditory settings. So ditch the confusing – and really sad – verb posters, including lists of words, which are equally bad. I don’t know what TPRS is doing now, but my hope is that they’ve ditched the words walls.
If your classroom is rectangular, can you make my seating chart (the link above) work by teaching with the long wall behind your back? If it’s too small for that, I wouldn’t know what to suggest.
Going out on a limb, I would suggest that the system projector might be a part of the clutter. This is because everything we have ever taught our kids has been that learning a language is visual so we set the room up like that for writing and “looking” whereas if you read the first part of the Invisibles Supplements book you will see that what we do now has little to do with looking passively and everything to do instead with interacting actively, reciprocally, interpersonally, because language acquisition cannot happen by students looking at things, but only by observable non-verbal back-and-forth behaviors we find described in the Three Modes of Communication.
Of course I agree that we need to project stories, etc. in the Star Sequence, but those big Smart Boards are a tragedy in a CI class for the reasons expressed above.
I like the small tables, because I think that only chairs is just too uncomfortable for our kids, unfortunately. They can’t handle it, most of them. Smaller sized tables provide a kind of emotional protective buffer that most socially-challenged kids need (so many of them now!), and yet if the tables are small enough you can get close enough to them to get good eye contact going, which is a must. My vote is always small tables.
It’s never too early to look at our seating charts each year and make those subtle changes that bring big changes.
Again, this is just what I prefer – no attempt is made to say it’s the right way, but in terms of the new Invisibles program, it’s definitely the best.