Verb Play Involves Trust and Curiosity

It’s not like we’re on a world cruise with our students, although Robert has approximated it:
The truth is that we are in a box with our students. Not a lot to talk about unless we make the class all about them.
Being in a box in a limited setting, if you think about it, with few natural stimuli to spark discussion, we really have to trust that things will come up to talk about. Can we do that?
For me it means taking a verb and writing out what it means, having them show me the verb, playing around with that standard TPRS Step 1 opening routine, and then just being open to what comes up.
I always have Personalized Statements and Answers if get scared:
Just see what comes up. No plans. It’s scary, but it also works. Something will come into your mind. When it does, talk about it. We have rarely shared here how important it is to react to stuff that comes up in our minds. But those “little things that come up” are zephyrs, little promptings for us from the invisible realm, which is so real in classrooms. Angels are there to help us as well. I believe that as a fact.
For example, say the word is “listens”. Ask them to listen. Bring your instruction into the moments of class and wrestle the verb into the class if you need to.
Maybe in asking them to “listen”, you feel as if you want to ask if they “hear” anything. Ask them that. If they don’t know the verb already (1st and 2nd year classes), write it down. Now you are working with two verbs about hearing stuff. You are creating communication that is real. You really want to know if they hear what they are listening to.
Each time you bring in a new verb, write it down and then smulch it around in your mouth while letting the ideas come. You are experiencing language with your students now, not teaching them language, which Eric emphatically states cannot be done and I agree with him.
Watch how much you can do with those two related words. Make something happen with the sounds they report hearing to you. No English. Like a game of listening and hearing.
Maybe you need to ask them to wait while they listen for the next sound they are about to here. Throw in the verb “waits for”.
“Class! Wait! Everybody listen! What do you hear?” Work with them in the moment. Like John Bracey said:
…whenever the desire for communication precedes the selection of structures, the lesson goes great. Whenever the structures precede the desire for communication, the lesson falls flat….
Just be open to what comes up. Follow the energy. You are not required to produce something. You are not on stage. You are taking a verb or two or three and playing with them.
This requires curiosity and trust. Play. It’s at the heart of it all. So don’t start a class thinking you have to be the one to make the class happen. Give the kids a chance to play as well. They want to. They want you to hear their cute ideas.



7 thoughts on “Verb Play Involves Trust and Curiosity”

  1. Totally. It’s like we start the sentence and let the class finish it. We wait until they finish it. Maybe we have to give them a model first, like of what we want. Requires a lot of trust and a totally different paradigm from “the sage on the stage.” Give up the control. Who is going to want to communicate with someone who controls the direction of the discussion? That kind of forced communication is not meaningful to the students and so falls on deaf ears.
    So, today, I’m on TPR sequence #7: KNOW, CAN, CALLS, TALKS
    I started by showing a visual, gesture, and orally translating each verb in present tense 3rd person and 1st person singular (I have these forms written on the back of the visualization flashcard).
    Then, I model a mini-story: “I don’t KNOW how to dance. _Student_ CAN dance really well. I CALL _Student_ and the student does not TALK to me.”
    Then, I just pick a student and say “_Student_ doesn’t know . . . ” and I wait for the student and the class to finish the sentence. And we loosely follow the model. Next I would ask: Who can _(do what the student doesn’t know)_?
    This is “scaffolded” communication. I model. I start the sentence off. And the entire time I’m repeating, circling, checking comprehension, and adding details (vortex image).
    One underestimated skill is checking comprehension with L1 translation a la “What did I just say?” I need to do this A LOT more than I’m currently doing and I bet I’m not alone in this boat. The more accurate the students are comprehending (what BVP calls “processing”) the more they can potentially acquire.
    I told a slow processor today in private that rather than ask him: “What did I just say?” in front of the class and risk that kid not knowing, I’m going to start frequently asking the people who sit next to him. Now he knows when I do that, I’m doing it for him. We’ll see how that goes.

    1. Thanks for the update on this, Eric. And the calling on the slow processor’s neighbor for the “What did I just say?”
      Somewhat related, here is a technique for including KNOW a little more. I stumbled onto it last year.
      Instead of asking, “What is his name?, I take a roundabout way.
      I ask student(s), “Do you know what his name is?”
      Student likely says, “No.”
      I ask, “Do you WANT to know what his name is?”
      If student says no, I acknowledge the response with OK or How sad!
      Or, I respond with amazement and repeat the question.
      Or, I go to another student until I get someone who wants to know what his name is.
      I may simply say that his name is Tom Fred or I may build up suspense with dramatic pausing.
      I found that this allows a natural use of KNOW/s, and WANTS TO KNOW in a natural, communicative setting. It also allows me to ask slow processors the question because it gives them two exits. They can say “no” and to the “Do you know?” And they can say “yes” or “no” to the “Do you want to know?” Either way, they do not have to answer a question and they have options, empowering them to be a real player in the discussion since I am asking their permission to invade their world. And their response does not matter since either way a meaningful exposure to KNOW/ WANTS TO KNOW has been created.

    2. Eric, that slow processor move totally works for me. I first did it on the fly without thinking. I never told the student before hand. I saw the slow signal then restarted my story and circling. Then i ask for translation all this while pointing with my pointer on my visual. Then I ask again and choose the student who now has her hand raised. I choose the student. We then all applaud and continue the story.

      1. This is most important:
        …I first did it on the fly without thinking….
        This is what we do. For really concrete sequential teachers who need everything in a tidy box, it’s easy to reject. But for those willing to venture outside of the box, it holds treasures untold.
        We have a basic sequence as per Ruth’s W and D routine described in a post today, and we can stay with that if we want. (We find in the categories here many bullet pointed sequences of all the strategies we use: ROA has 18 steps, OWATS has 8, vPQA has 13, WA has 7, etc.) and we use those as a sort of road map as we go through our classes. But when we find an interesting turn, we do things on the fly without thinking, and this is where the art of teaching that plays such a big role in CI instruction comes in. This “going off road” when traveling is precisely what makes traveling interesting, and it is the same for teaching with CI.
        This work refuses be put in a box – I’ve tried it for 15 years. And we will all do it differently. The biggest discoveries about the possibilities in this work are not made here or in any book or workshop, but in those wonderful little moments of discovery like the one you describe above. Congratulations! When you discover new things, you are doing CI. There will never be one way to do it. Just establish meaning, ask questions and then read what you came up with. The form that the process takes matters very little. We just need auditory input followed by reading with little breaks to do some writing output. That’s it!
        All this is true if we remember to apply one of the great, if not THE great, new insights for this year on the PLC, as per the great Eric:
        …targets should serve communication. [Don’t] make communication serve the targets….
        And it will never stop. Steven you will find yourself continuing to make such “seat of the pants” discoveries. We must always remember that we can’t teach a class that feels fresh and exciting without leaving elements of it to chance.
        Soren Kierkegaard:
        “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” (Either/Or: A Fragment of Life)

  2. Eric I also recategorized that post to include:
    Beginning the Year
    Starting the Year
    Super Seven
    so we can have it for the first two weeks of the year next fall when things count so much.
    I remember how much I enjoyed following that script. You really fit the verbs in a flow that was just fun. Kids responded really well. And we were hitting the big verbs! A winner!

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