I’ve finished my first week of the school year, and this is my reaction–this is BY FAR the happiest I’ve ever, ever, ever been as a teacher! WooHOOOOOOOO!!!! If you want to see some of my teaching as I’m describing it, check out my YouTube channel here. I’m filming a Spanish 1 class every day (unless my camera messes up like it did on Thursday).
I’m modeling this year’s CI on Tina Hargaden, which means I look to do a few high-powered activities a day:
- Card Talk (Used to be called Circling with Balls)
- Write and Discuss
- Mysterious Person (another form of Write and Discuss with a bit of intrigue)
- One Word Images (OWIs)
- Invisibles Stories
- Sustained Silent Reading/Free Voluntary Reading (SSR/FVR)
- extras: TPR, Simon Says, Calendar and Weather, etc
This 1st week of school consisted mainly of Card Talk and Calendar with each class ending with a good dose of Write and Discuss or Mysterious Person. I also mixed in some Simon Says TPR when they needed a little pick-me-up.
THE BIG CHANGE: I have really opened up the language exposure floodgates.
I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this style of expansive, non-targeted CI these past 4 days. When I say expansive, I mean I haven’t restricted myself to writing every new word on the board for the students to see or lasering to a high frequency words chart, as is expected in traditional CI lessons. Expansive in my practice means that if the students understand the meaning of my communication (via context, cognates, body language, pointing, gesturing, occasionally drawing, etc), I let the language and conversation flow without interrupting the conversation to write up or laser to new words! We go slowly (very slowly in the first week to level 1s), but freely.
To read more about how this expansive version of non-targeted CI is different than other non-targeted CI, check out my previous blog here.
Awesomeness point #1: OMG! Not pausing to write or laserpoint to the text version of every new word has been amazingly freeing for me. But WAYYYYY more importantly, it’s been magnitudes more interesting for my students in class. I just convey the meaning via context and body language, and we just keep on conversing. And amazingly, their beautiful minds just figure out the words just like I did in Vermont learning French from Tina. A lot of the time, they even blurt the meaning out loud in English because they can’t help how fun it is knowing what I’m saying in Spanish! It’s so adorable! BEST WEEK EVER!!!
In hind sight, I realize that breaking away from the conversation to write up on the board was a major attention disruptor. If I could have made myself clear via context or body language, that time pulling away from the conversation is an invitation for kids to check out. Plus, Krashen has been telling us for decades that our goal should be for kids to get so lost in the meaning of conversation that they forget they’re even listening to a foreign language. Well, how can we do that if we keep on reminding them of the foreignness by writing up words and lasering to high frequency charts. No, just keep the flow and keep the language going to the subconscious.
All that sounds like I hate text, but of course I don’t. About half of a CI class should be reading after all! I just eschew it as much as possible (to keep interest going) until the all-text review of daily conversation, which leads me to my next section…
Awesomeness point #2: My new understanding of writing the text version of the daily conversation instead of writing it up during planning later on is a big upgrade from last year! In particular, I love using the “Write and Discuss” and the “Mysterious Person” activities. So, I lay on the verbal language for the first 2/3 of class or so and then spends the last 1/3 of class writing up the highlights of the conversation so kids get a good dose of the text visualization and reading comprehension.
Write and Discuss is just that–just typing out the highlights of the conversation from class, pausing each sentence to ask comprehension checks that direct the rest of the sentence as more review.
Here’s an example from my level 1 first day of class:
Mysterious Person is when the text describes a classmate from most generalized information to most specific while the students have to figure out who is being described. Mysterious Person doesn’t offer the opportunity to pause for comprehension checks and pqa, but the game-like aspect more than compensates!
Here’s an example from my level 1 second day of class:
Regardless of which write-up style I’ve used, the kids’ interest has been transfixed on the text, as was mine while learning French in Vermont from Tina. It’s just an amazing thing to our brains to see what the sounds look like after hearing them and understanding them in conversation earlier! They are desperate to see what the sounds look like. When they’ve already spent this lengthy amount of time figuring out what the oral sounds mean, seeing them written out is like drinking water in a desert. They are drawn to the words as if each sentence is a work of art.
It’s very different than last year when I wrote up the conversation or story from class during planning period and we read it the next class. Writing up text has at least five advantages on merely presenting the text the next day:
- the meaning of the text is so much fresher and more interesting when it’s from the same period
- my typing forces the pace to go slower than possible with reading (slower is always better as long as it doesn’t sacrifice interest)
- typing it live inspires an anticipatory participation in the minds of the students. It’s absolute gold. I’ve literally had level 1 students in the first week of class feel inspired by themselves to shout out the next words–the crucial words–in a mysterious person sentence. This kind of in-the-moment language decoding and anticipating is high-octane SLA!
- Because of all of the above, when I brake out of the text for comprehension checks and pqa extensions, it’s more effective
- Finally, writing it in class means I don’t have to write it during my planning period. Now, I don’t shy away from hard work, but if writing it right in front of the students is more effective anyway, I’m not going to hate the extra time that frees up during planning to do stuff like….um….write blog articles. (haha)
Awesomeness point #3: My new understanding of behavior management is working out just wonderfully! I love having Ben’s Classroom Expectations poster up on the wall (available on his website for free), and just walking over to it whenever someone talks out of turn. Just like in Tina’s video here (https://wordpress.com/post/comprehensiblerva.wordpress.com/906) if I stay calm and just point to whatever expectation was breached in a cool, calm, and collected way, students just get bored with the disruption of class. After a mere two classes, students are already shushing each other because they don’t want the same little routine to unfold again and again. And it’s completely non-confrontational, so it doesn’t call the guilty party out in front of their peers in a public way. It’s completely non-verbal, so it avoids a back-and-forth argument with the perpetrator over the disruption. It’s so non-confrontational, it helps me stay centered and calm. It’s lovely. There’s no other word for it.
CONCLUSION: Long story short, y’all: Opening up my language usage so much has done wonders to make class conversation exponentially more interesting for my students. It’s not that I think comprehensibility doesn’t matter anymore. Of course it is! It’s called CI for a reason! It’s just that comprehensibility of the message of communication doesn’t rely on seeing every sound spelled out. They can get it from Slow delivery, context, body language, and cognates. So if Pointing and Pausing isn’t necessary to comprehensibility, and it derides a good bit of student interest, do we really have to do it? I saw from Tina in Vermont that you don’t, and because of that change, I’ve had the best week of instruction of my career!