Thoughts on a Wednesday

We were pretty cavalier in the old days around 2000-2001 when this stuff was starting to get some attention. Teachers would tell students to act like lions under a tree, for example, and there would be laughter and theatre with very literal actual CI and respect for the Three Steps.
Much of what we did wasn’t comprehensible. A lot of it was just bad. People noticed how weird the new flash in the pan method was. It was our fault. They could base their own defense of their outmoded instruction on our failures.
It all had to do with blurting. Every failed story and visceral based reaction in fear of the method by the few teachers who were brave enough to even try it contributed to a growing image of TPRS as just plain wacky.
It was all because of blurting that we weren’t able to parade out a great product. People presenting at national conferences misrepresented the method because we had teachers for our students. Back in our classrooms, because blurting was there, destroying the ideal, we crashed and burned more than we soared in the storytelling heavens.
But we kept at it. Now, this week, three things in my own CI world have finally helped me remove blurting, so long ignored as THE cause of our unrest and insecurity in our classrooms, for good:

  1. The Town Meeting. How on earth any one of us could actually believe that we could slay the blurting dragon without a team approach within our departments, I’ll never know. We need to make it a department problem, take our complaints to the students in a town meeting setting, and keep checking in with our students in that larger venue throughout the year. Blurting is not an individual teacher problem and cannot be solved within individual classrooms. When we bring it to the larger departmental group, the kids perspective that the students have on our remonstrations about blurting becoming entirely new. There is an awareness of responsibility that grows in the kids. They stop blurting. Then we learn something.
  1. Two Strikes and You’re Out. This bad boy of bad boys works for me with my smaller classes. The question is who will test it in larger classes? So many of us – me included – are so absorbed here with a kind of self-indulgent pre-occupation with people in our buildings who are not going to change professionally that we are entirely missing the potential for us that Two Strikes and You’re Out and other new strategies provides, and we need to test Two Strikes now in larger classrooms but nobody seems to be stepping up. If you need proof on that look what people are commenting on here lately – it’s not on strategies, which is the main reason for this PLC – to test and implement new ideas that can make our CI instruction better in our classrooms.
  1. The Creator(s) of the Invisibles. The timers are no longer useful. The quiz writers are history. (At least in my own CI world, I now do both of those jobs very efficiently with much less hassle.) This new job is kick ass. We have kept the Story Writer and the General Artist and now we have added this new job which jacks up the interest in the classroom to an extraordinary degree. I’ll post on that. Here is a link to what one of my classes has created. I just give the job to one person and with middle school kids they all want in and start emailing each other ideas in the evening. Hey, does this mean that I give homework?

These new creatures who live in the French classroom are taking over my classes. Especially that horrible Ugly Unicorn.
French poster-p1



4 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Wednesday”

  1. “Blurting is not an individual teacher problem and cannot be solved within individual classrooms.”
    I think that’s right. It is a major help to have the department unified about this point.
    But we also need at least administrative assent, if not support. The dept. I’m part of is pretty well together about this issue, but I think our admins only kind of get it. Not having experienced this approach to language acquisition, it sounds extreme and unnecessary to be so demanding about students’ comments and behaviors. That means that if further action is needed because a student won’t back down from interrupting the flow of class and the flow of CI, we must also gain administrative supportive behind whatever plan teachers have to prevent blurting.
    Where I am, I do not think that Two Strikes would get admin support at this time. In fact, I think they’d side with parents if they complained. Maybe if it were made the dept. approach, very carefully explained over months, then tested with a few classes, one day it’d be ok with them. As it is now, admins think of removing a student from the classroom as a sort of in-school suspension.
    Why I say that: This fall I had a renewed press to get one class that was always harder to manage last year to be on board with CI class flow (no blurting, no wrong use of English). One kid was still very resistant. After consulting other faculty & deans, I gave him independent work for 2 days in another classroom, and wanted to continue that until a conversation with him, mom, etc. could resolve the conflict. Before that meeting happened, an admin told me he would be back in class before coming to that resolution. When I said how uncomfortable I was with him returning before having agreed on appropriate behavior, I was told to “ignore” his blurting that day if necessary. I asked a coworker to spend her planning period in my classroom while I taught that class, because I wanted an adult to see whatever happened. Having a witness seemed to me to be important.
    It turned out that he didn’t come back to class that day after all. He was meeting with a dean; I’m told, crying and in part acknowledging what was going on in my class and other issues the student faces. His B-/C+ in my class was by far his highest grade. The next school day, we had a meeting with him, his mom, a dean, dept. chair, and me, and the boy has been a step or two better since. He acknowledged agreement about how to behave. A battle isn’t being waged against me anymore, at least. There’s still some passive resistance, but it’s not an active attack anymore.
    In this process, I was seen as hypersensitive for being so disturbed by his repeated, deliberate, usually negative, English comments during instruction. The comparison was made to students cussing out a teacher and throwing chairs — since I didn’t have that, why was I so upset? But his behavior felt like harassment, and it was destructive to the class. (My dept. chair called it abusive.) It was de facto setting himself up as who was in charge. It had to be stopped. Without that kind of attack, I teach so much better, and can think of how to create more compelling CI instead of just surviving the class period.

    1. Yes! The old “hey it could be worse” pep talk. Really??? The fact that we can’t, literally can’t teach language bc of blurting but are somehow supposed to “ignore” it?
      Latest thing I tried today was the “$#%- it” strategy: I just sent a pile of kids out into the hallway. Like 8 of them. Very calmly. “oh, you can take your conversation outside so that in this room we can hear Spanish. Thanks. Bye.” I got unofficial “word” that I can do that. We’ll see.
      I got busted sending kids to the library. And I tried to get a bunch of colleagues to take one kids each but that doesn’t work here bc everyone is already doing triple duty, like subbing and hall duty during planning period and then we all have “study hall” kids in the back of our regular classes while we teach. So really nowhere to send kids. When I heard my French college “invite” a student “out” I asked “where did he go?” And she said “i don’t know, wandering around.’ so if she can do it then I will join in.

  2. Ben, I believe I am going to try some variant of two strikes. I need to think on how to implement it and what I can get away with. As we are on Finals week (Block 4 plus starting August 13th), I won’t implement this until next week. One class in particular really needs this treatment I think. I am also trying to increase my variety and frequency of brain breaks to go with this.

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