Update 2

Something thing that really bugs me is how some of us are trying to do too much. We’re loading up our plates at the salad bar and trying everything. Why should we do that? It just leads to confusion.

I am not overeating. I do PQA on Monday, stories on Tuesday which carry over to Wednesday if needed, and, if not, then we do the reading of the story on Wednesday, and on Thursday I embed the reading or just finish it, and then on Friday we do the SSR class that  is the culmination of the first ten minutes of SSR reading that we did at the beginning of each class during the week.

What has been the result of this strictly organized routine? There have been several:

a. I am not scattered for the first time in my career. The waters are no longer choppy all day. I never thought this possible – I thought school was supposed to be fucked up all day with crazy interactions with colleagues and kids all day that made me feel like I was on some kind of drug whose name began with some form of the word “meth -“.

b. the kids know what to expect. The routine is so important to them when, for most of them, their lives are pretty much in chaos. Their teachers across the board are running textbook/computer based programs at them so hard (Chris has something big to say about this, if he lets me publish it) that they are being overwhelmed in a Star Wars style of mental bot attack.

c. I don’t do stuff that doesn’t work. What I mean by that is that there have been so many little added twists and ideas in TPRS/CI over the years (I am responsible for many of them and so are others in this group) that, although they look cool, just confuse. If we try too many new options we forget the base structure of CI, which in my opinion must always be half of the time devoted to auditory CI in the form of PQA and/or stories and the other half to reading.

d. I am now refusing to answer pointless questions from teachers, again in private emails, about what they call TPRS “materials” and how to use them. What would I know about any of that? I don’t use materials in the sense these teachers are asking – they want so much to turn this into a textbook kind of thing and that is not possible*.

*I have always said that there are no materials. There is you and your communication with the kids and maybe a Matava or Tripp script and of course the novels to support you in that work. Yes, of course, teachers must use “materials” for training wheels, but we must take them off at a certain point! If you do that, you will bring true simplicity and majestic discipline – I shit you not –  into your classroom and the materials (LICT, Cuentame) will finally stop leading you around by the nose and you will learn and launch real CI into your teaching and won’t that be a hoot.

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4 thoughts on “Update 2”

  1. I had an observation with my principal last week and during our post-conference he made an earth shattering revelation that never even occurred to me.

    Background information first, before I get to his statement. During this observation I was doing a story, the “Can’t Find His Brain” script. During this story I was so uptight about having the principal in there that I was trying so hard to stick to that script and TELL the story that I completely neglected to give up control of the story and let the students drive it. Instead of asking the story, I basically told it and just circled the statements that I was making and coming up with. I wasn’t happy about it afterwards.

    During our post conference meeting, we were discussing how the lesson went and my reflections. I mentioned to him how I stuck to that script too much and didn’t ask enough questions and didn’t give them control over the details like I normally do. And as a result they weren’t as enthusiastic and involved like they usually are. He then said “Yeah, I noticed that. They were really quiet compared to the engagement I normally see. It’s almost as if that story script BECAME THE TEXTBOOK and you were sticking to it like a textbook”. Whoa! He was completely right. That story did become my textbook that I hid behind and authentic communication was lost.

  2. Wow, Chris, you must have a principal that really “gets” TPRS. Very insightful observation.

    Thanks, Ben, for the push for simplicity. I am still trying to do to much and figuring out what simplicity looks like on a block schedule. Do you still do timed writings and dictees in this simplified life?

    1. Rita the 90-minute block schedules that I posted here a few years ago did include dictees I think, but, if you read them, those were for survival. There were things associated with CI but mainly stuff, including some output, that was designed to get me through the class.

      Those 90 min. plans have evolved, however, and are now pretty good. They are in the articles here somewhere. I think I posted a plan for a block class just in the past few weeks. Of course R and D is the big anchor for any CI block class.

      I don’t even teach on a block. Maybe we should try to come up with “the ideal block schedule” for a class based on the use of comprehensible input. It would be a lot better from the group to create it together and then we could test it and make it a thread over the next few months to give those of us who use the block time to test it.

      I would add that in my opinion the block is ideal for CI classes. Start with PQA for half an hour, go to a script, build the story for up to an hour, that ends that block, and then the next block is a big R and D on the reading that you created from the story. This overall general plan is better than a bunch of short unrelated activities. The Three Steps are really ideal for block classes, if you think about it.

  3. Right on Ben (and Chris for that insightful account)!

    I have a hard time letting the critiques go, remembering what John said somewhere that for every student that complains (usually resulting from insecurity I think) there are many that aren’t complaining, because I’m teaching in an INCLUSIVE way. Those students, those high-acheivers who can’t take the slow and steady pace and who can’t see the forest through the trees, well, it would be nice if we could let them go, assign them a textbook to work through, and know that they will be supervised and not allowed to screw around, you know? So that there is that option, everyone can take it, but they don’t have to be in our rooms tainting the air so to speak.

    But all in all I’m a happy camper this year. Mostly due to accepting students, but also to the variety of readings, mostly personalized, that I have at my disposal. It really has been a big deal for me.

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