I am back and reading after a great break and thank you for keeping such a lively discussion going on without me. Who needs the old retired guy? The summer itself didn’t seem much like retirement with the workshops and all, but this fall time does. I am enjoying an unprecedented amount of mental health and am beginning to see it wasn’t me that was so crazy all those years when I was teaching, just the buildings I was in. I just needed to get baking and cooking and spending more time in my garden in this beautiful state of Colorado, which is now at its best time of year and also in (more beautiful?) Oregon on a long delayed visit with my daughter. I hope everything is going well with everyone. My main concern is with the new people, that they continue to find the support they need here at this most important time of the year. From the experienced people, I have noted the following among recent comments:
1. The discussion about doing really short stories after CWB but before getting into longer stories was brought up by James and Leah and others. Skip Crosby and I had floated this idea about five years ago but it didn’t go anywhere, which was a loss. Maybe we can get it going this time. In particular, James’ idea of creating a bunch of those ultra short stories in a collection for all of us to use caught my attention. This is the time of year to be doing that, but we don’t really have the stories at this point. Ideas on how to proceed on that idea? I should add that in my opinion this idea of shorter and leaner stories might qualify for “Strategy of the Year” this year along with interactive whiteboards. Maybe if you have any done you could send them to me and I can at least add them to the “Story Scripts, Simple” category for starters, and eventually we might have a collection of powerful two or three line stories (in three locations with underlined variables, targeting specific verbs or not, however we want to handle that) to use not just at this time but at any time of year.
2. Nathaniel’s question about what a structure is seemed very important to me. That was a good discussion y’all got going. My view mirrors what Grant said about a structure being a word chunk that might or might now include a pronoun in it. A classic chunk in my mind is from a Matava story – veut l’ouvrir/wants to open it. That structure contains two verbs but really there is just one concept there. The point was also made that we can of course use individual words as target structures especially at the lower levels, but also, perhaps more often at the higher levels, instead focus on target chunks of comprehensible CI. My view of what a structure is can be compared to an image of throwing a ball to someone. If it is too big and heavy, with too many words in it, the person can’t catch it. If it is too small, like a single preposition, then it is too light and goes by the person too fast and the person will miss it for that reason. It has to be “catchable” to be a structure.
3. I have some reports from the field (from Robert and Jeff and others) which I will publish as articles forthwith. Thank you for those and please send more. We will succeed at this through the help and society of each other.
4. I also want to bring up a new thread at some point this fall, sooner than later, on classroom management. A lot (too many) of the emails I have gotten lately privately tell me that many of us, not all but many, are not managing our classrooms with enough personal power. I would invite a discussion about that, because without the discipline why are we even trying this approach? In particular, a rather scary thought is that when discipline and quiet focus is missing in a traditional classroom, that doesn’t seem to draw as much attention from building watchdogs and parents as when it is missing in CI classes. It’s the nature of the CI approach that it invites such criticism. Thus we simply must bring the discipline piece into our classrooms in strong and forceful yet loving ways, even if we are only just now beginning to understand what it means to exert adult emotional power over children vs. letting them exert their power on us, which is at the bottom of the discipline issue. To me this means strict enforcement of the Classroom Rules and jGR and using many of the other ideas mentioned in the “Classroom Discipline” category, like the great one where we shuffle misbehaving kids to the classrooms of colleagues (and vice versa) where the misbehaving kid has to come into our classroom immediately and sit in the back with a big football player type and be intimidated (I’m not sure where that is written up here but it is something we should all be doing right now with the real whack jobs).
If you are getting too much pushback from your students and haven’t yet spent some time reading the many articles from past years in the Classroom Discipline category, then I recommend that you do that as soon as possible. It will be time extremely well spent.
And don’t forget that feedback is invited on how to possibly get those really short stories going so that we can maybe one day have some concrete selection like Anne’s and Jim’s to choose from. That is, as James said and when James speaks I listen, a major initiative for us if we but grab it and make it work for us – the potential there is off the chart for us. In fact, I am starting to think that none of us has any right to even begin full out stories unless we do this simple little three line stories first. It could save our careers with CI – that’s how much potential is housed in this idea. We just need to get it going. I can maybe try to write a collection on my own if I can find the time, but I seem more busy than ever before these days!
Keep the faith, fight hard, knowing that the old way of teaching is like a dull stone next to the diamonds that we have discovered. We just have to keep digging, and we will, I know it, even as the year enters into the unavoidable time when the excitement is over and the real problems start to rear their ugly heads. Be strong, be brave.