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INcomprehensible Input Archived Post 3.11.12

(Originally posted 3/11/12)
We all use incomprehensible language in class. I do it all the time. Sometimes because what I think is comprehensible and what is comprehensible to my students are two different things. Sometimes because, as Susie pointed out, I am thinking like a teacher rather than like a student. Sometimes because I just so love a word, phrase, song, story that I ignore that little “voice” in my head and turn it into a lesson. Sometimes, and yes, I admit it, I am thinking only of myself and I want to be a little tougher or a little bit more impressive (“Wow” my ego says to me,” Look at the level of language that you can teach!”)Sometimes I just end up wanting to hang out with the 4%ers for a moment and roll around in a little grammar ecstasy. Sometimes the 11 years that I was in a student and the 14 years that I was a teacher in a non-CI classroom suck me back in.

Here is what I have observed in the 15 years that I have tried to wrap my mind around the CI based classroom:

1. Language acquisition occurs in the brain of the student.
2. I cannot control the brain of the student. Ever.
3. I can do my best to control the environment that the student is in, and therefore the environment in which the language is delivered to the student.
4. The best environment that I know of is:
a. focused on a storyline (a story, a reading, a conversation, a compelling visual etc.)
b. encourages every student to participate.
c. clearly allows every student to feel welcome and capable.
d. filled with repeated, interesting, comprehensible, heart-connected, compelling input in the T.L.
e. eliminates ever other distraction possible.
f. relies on continues student -teacher feedback and response.

Each level, each class will require different things to make 1-4 happen. It is an incredible challenge some days to make that happen. But teachers who love teaching and who love students and who love languages love that challenge. And there is a very strong, supportive group of colleagues out there to help. COLLEAGUES…not ancillary materials. :o) Wonderful, capable,caring people who have been more help than an materials I’ve ever come across.

Lastly…(if you’ve made it this far) is a story that,for me, brings this point about comprehensibility home. Over 10 years ago, at my first Susan Gross workshop, Susie taught over 50 teachers French. A room full of interested, motivated, language-skilled, language-experienced teachers. After TWO DAYS of instruction, the group could not yet recall the phrase “a glass of water” We could recognize “glass”. We could recognize “water”. But we could not recognize “glass of water.” She did not get angry. She did not get frustrated. She spent over AN HOUR interacting with us, and “a glass of water”. At the end of the hour, we could clearly hear, and recognize the phrase. We went on. Then, about an hour later, she asked us to produce it. Silence. Nothing. We got as far as the initial “l” sound. (and she had used the phrase intermittently) in that hour! As a group, we were depressed at our lack of ability. Then she pointed out to us that if we, a group of motivated, talented professionals needed HOURS more of CI with this phrase, that our students would certainly benefit from the same. She told us that the fact that we didn’t yet “own’ this phrase did not make her a terrible teacher, or make us horrible learners. She said that it was now clear indicator that our brains needed more clear, comprehensible input and time with this phrase before it was ACQUIRED. THEN ,she said that it was her job to remember that AND to make that exposure as stress-free as possible, because if she freaked out about it and hyper-focused on it that our affective filter would go up and it would take us even longer to acquire it. THEN, she purposely involved us in a story w/conversations that was hysterically funny. By the end of day three we had, as a group, a much better hold on the phrase and a much better perspective on how TPRS works.

And I don’t know about the others, but I still can produce the phrase with ease. :o)

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Shelter Vocab Not Grammar Archived Post 10.20.10

One of the challenges we face as teachers is finding ways to help students use their language to express themselves fluently. The best thing that we can do for them is to show them how to communicate with fluency with the language that THEY have acquired…to model for them what it might look and sound like. Susie Gross has often said….Shelter vocabulary, not grammar.

But what does that mean? In the past few years I have really practiced this…and I wish that I had “gotten it” earlier because it is an incredibly powerful change in my teaching. But what is it that I have been practicing? Let me try to explain….

In the book that we are working on in, the phrases “brings him/brings her/brings them” show up repeatedly. What I would like to do is to create opportunities to use these phrases over and over and over and over and over again.

It will work because these are high-frequency. It will work if I keep them in front of me…cognitively and physically. It will work if, every time I use them with students, they are comprehensible AND contribute to some sort of interesting interaction. Some opportunities…

Daily Routines:

1. We start the class with a message on the Smartboard. Here are some ideas …..phrases I could put on the opening message:

The teacher is ready to accept your homework. Bring it to her.

The miners brought rocks home from the mine. Why should, or shouldn’t, they bring them?

The students from France are arriving tomorrow! Our students will be bringing them to school.

2. We use signals to integrate vocabulary and structures and to refocus students on activities. Here are some phrases we could use:

I’m bringing them….to the party!
Bring them…with you

3. Instead of collecting papers from the first person in each row I can ask them to “bring them to my desk.’

Personalized Conversations (aka PQA)/Writing Prompts

I frequently start a conversation with students (or ask them to write a paragraph) that uses a particular structure…with this one I might try…

1. I just received an email from The New York Yankees. They want to come to watch their biggest fan (Dan) play soccer this Thursday. They will need a ride from the train station in Syracuse…..who in class can (will, would, should) bring them to school?

2. Our French visitors have a free afternoon on Friday and we are taking them around the area. They can leave school at noon and must be back for the football game at 7pm. You get to decide where we go….where should we bring them?

3. Silly Bandz is sponsoring a local contest. You can win $500 if you can write a letter that convinces our principal to put on 500 Silly Bandz and wear them to school every day for a week. What would you write in your letter?

4. Start a campaign to convince parents that they should no longer bring their children with them to every family function. What is a function that teens do NOT want to attend and why shouldn’t parents bring them?

5. School policy says “no coffee, no soda” in classes. Should students be allowed to bring them to class? Why or why not?


1. Day of the Dead….a great opportunity to talk about the ofrendas, the people who are honored and what families bring to the ofrenda.

2. Three Kings’ Day…another great opportunity to talk about a Hispanic holiday, who the Kings were/are and what children hope that they bring …


1. Headlines…a quick “Google”ing of the phrase “brings (or brought or will bring etc) them” in
Spanish brought me these headlines:

· Alejandro les lleva al paraíso (Alejandro Sanz concert…)

· Ronald McDonald visita a niños cusqueños y les lleva alegría (RM visits kids in Cusco, Peru and brings them happiness)

· The Cranberries, reunión y gira mundial que los llevará a España (The Cranberries reunion and world tour that will bring them to Spain)

And my favorite….

· ¿Es necesario que los escolares lleven el celular al colegio? (Do students really have to bring cell phones to school? …..)

2. Matching…I like to create short matching activities to use in little contests, extra credit opportunities etc…they are always easy, interesting, structure-focused. Here’s a sample:

1. My cat threw up three times. ____A. Bring them to a recycling container!

2. My Mountain Dew cans are empty. ____B. Bring them to school!

3. My clothes are dirty. ____C. Don’t bring them to your mother!

4. My Mercedes Benz needs a new owner. ____D. Bring it to the vet!!

5. My cousins are the Jonas brothers. ____E. Bring it to me!

Listening Songs….Again….I googled lleva+letra (Spanish for lyrics) and found….

Llevan por Raphael http://www.letras.com/r/raphael/hacia_el_exito/llevan.html

Mil Calles Llevan Hacia Ti por La Guardia http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti-bajar-89218/disco-vamonos/la-guardia-mil-calles-llevan-hacia-ti.html

Me Llevaras en Ti por Alejandro Fernandez http://www.quedeletras.com/letra-cancion-me-llevaras-en-ti-bajar-44250/disco-muy-dentro-de-mi-corazon/alejandro-fernandez-me-llevaras-en-ti.html

Imagine how powerful this kind of repetition could be with idiomatic expressions that just don’t “click” easily? It takes some practice to start “thinking” this way, but I promise you…once you get started it is a little like playing around with puns…you start to see them everywhere!!!

With love,

All content of this website ©Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Connections and Planning Archived Post 9.20.10

(Originally posted 9/20/10)
Hmmm….Carol and Michele and Carla got me thinking about how the connection of activities can make a difference in our instruction. A higher level skill? I’m not sure. I think to some extent it is a skill, but it is more a way of thinking that takes practice. I think that sometimes, in the classroom as in life, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

How did we end up in this place where what happens in class is focused around a focused series of structures? I think because I have a student teacher, I wanted to keep the focus narrow. This way he would have a better idea of what vocabulary was “in bounds.” We started with a series of goals: a) get to know the students b) use the present, past and future in a natural way in conversation/instruction c) connect topics with the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights d) connect the curriculum with the students’ lives.

I looked at the topics on the NYS Syllabus that my students needed to work with in order to be prepared for the NYS Regents exam and decided to begin with Work/Professions because I saw a way to connect it with each goal: a) we could find out about our students’ skills, interests and dreams b) we could discuss past, present and future jobs c) we could discuss the right to work, the rights of workers and the responsibilities of workers and employers d) every student is connected somehow to the world of work.

Next, we need a structure for the classroom….for organizing each period so that the student and the teachers were working within a routine. A routine helps us to rotate in activities and topics so that we can reach all of our students. It provides us with an avenue to drive down with the structures that we use to introduce class, make transitions in class, recognize students for their efforts, interact with students and include the language patterns inherent in the “niceties” of daily interaction.

We created a template for the month of September that included some pieces that are fairly typical of language classrooms and some that might not be. Class begins with a message on the SmartBoard about the first activity of class and what materials the students will need, including the formation of desks. (see Desk Drills) We have a quick review of the information that was on the morning announcements, taking special note of students who have been recognized. We ask for any other announcements (birthdays, driver’s tests etc.) We review upcoming, activities, competitions, meetings and deadlines. (lots of future tense)

Transitions in class are made with the use of Signals and the signals have been chosen with cultural,structural and emotional impact in mind (We will never forget, Viva Mexico, Here I Am etc) Thursday is quiz day…the first quiz was a reading quiz…using a letter written by my student teacher.

The second quiz was a writing quiz….my students introduced themselves to him in a 5-10 minute write. After the quiz they grab books for Free Voluntary Reading.

We notice that the students have a hard time remembering the word “son” they are.

Mondays we have been asking the question, “Where did you go this weekend? “ And throughout the week asked…”Where did you go last night?” (builds beautifully from the discussion of upcoming events) This week we added the question: “Who did you go with?” My student teacher created a short reading about his weekend…staying focused on “I went” I went with, I went to, I went for, I went because….When we ask students where they went, a ton of them respond with “I went to work”…a perfect connection for where we are headed.

When they talk about their friends, their teammates, their co-workers, they don’t use the word “son” either.

We’ve been looking at international news. Our focus? The miners trapped in Chile. How did we tie this in? What structures are connected? They went to work. They to the mine. They went to a refuge under the ground. The families went to sit vigil. The president of Chile went to the mine. He went to talk with the families. He went to see the messages from the miners.

Engineers went to the mine. They went with ideas. The engineers will meet. They will meet and make plans. They will meet and share ideas. They will organize a rescue. The miners will watch a soccer game. They will exercise to keep in shape.

We decide that we need to create a reading with a lot of reps of the word “son”…but that that word might be a “teach for June” goal.

We need to talk about danger and dangerous jobs. We revisit a song from last year “Aqui Estoy Yo” . All kinds of great lines. Don’t be afraid. Here I am. I’ll take care of you. Please accept. We use these phrases to write letters to the miners and their families.

We will talk about why the girl the songwriter talks about thinks that love is dangerous. We are going to talk about the four singers in the video and make sure that we are going to get a bazillion reps of the word “son.”

Another phrase that keeps coming up over and over again? The same. Going to the same meeting. Went to the same game. Ate the same number of pancakes at the pancake breakfast. Bought the same lunch. Scored the same number of goals. Both meetings are on the same day. In love with the same girl. Hoping for the same thing. Three plans for the same goal. Six weeks in the same place. Thirty three families with the same prayer.

We didn’t plan for that. We didn’t see that pattern ahead of time. But we put it up on the board when it came up and now it is popping up organically all over the place.

By reusing and refreshing a routine, by repeating a theme, by revisiting an ongoing story, by recycling a song, by realizing patterns, by recreating similar activities on a variety of topics, by using familiar structures WHILE AT THE SAME TIME staying within a narrow framework of new structures….we are creating a path for everyone in the class to follow throughout the forest….without getting lost among the trees.

I’m not sure that it takes any special skill. I think that it takes focus. And practice. And the ability to stay in the moment and get your bearing. The willingness to look back after the lesson and see where it went and where you should be going. And friends to remind you that it works.

Not every unit, or lesson, or moment will mesh seamlessly. But if we get out of the trees for a few minutes we can see that every tree is a part of the forest…in the great scheme of things it will all, eventually fit together. Every time we can plug into the connection, we just make it easier for our students’ brains to do what they do naturally…acquire language,

with love,

All content of this website © Embedded Reading 2012-2014 or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

What Do I Want? Archived Post 9.1.10

(Originally 9/1/10)

I was talking with my colleagues and trying to explain what I wanted my classroom to look like. Not the walls/decorations classroom….the real stuff happening in the classroom part.

I want it to be in a state of quality interaction.Not constant chaos…although if you don’t know Spanish it might look that way…

Not constant action…sometimes we need to give the brain time to process….

Not constant lecture….it’s too easy for students to “leave” the room…..

Not constant production….besides being poor pedagogical practice, I simply cannot monitor everyone at the same time…

Not constant input….I need to know how much is going in and how much is just flowing over their heads or around their bodies…

Not even constant interaction…..we have all seen areas in our lives where more effort more does not always mean more results.

Instead…I am hoping to create quality interaction.

Much of the time the interaction will be between me and the class….sometimes between classmates and sometimes between the students’ brains and the language….but it should be visible, if not measurable.

I think that the two main differences between acquiring a first language as an infant, and acquiring a second language later on are these:

● The ability to communicate is greater. The older the student is the greater the ability he/she has, not only to communicate, but to see the purpose of communication.

● The ability to reason. The older the student is, the greater the ability he/she has to think, to plan, to anticipate, to wonder, to put the mind, not just the brain, to work.

● The ability to read. It provides not only another mode of input, but also another mode of interaction.And what both “acquisition groups” have in common is that both, when acquiring a language,interact using the language.

Now certainly there are students who will acquire without quality interaction…..but frankly, those students don’t need me for much anyway. :o) Academically at least. But in order to create a safe place, an encouraging place, a challenging place, an appropriate place for my students to acquire language and to experience life, I need to focus on the quality of interactions in my classroom.

Discussions that are choreographed so that each student is part of the conversation.

Conversations that are modulated for speed, clarity, accent, rhythm and direction for each member of the class.

Class activities that flow in and around every corner….not just from the front (or the screen) towards the back so that by the time they reach the back corners only the foam is left behind.

Behind every interaction, a purpose: connect, connect, connect, connect.

Connect student with material, material with instruction, instruction with language, language with love.

Love, grace, honor, power, responsibility in every interaction.

Interaction. Quality interaction. That is what I am striving for……

With love,

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Year 28 Archived Post 8.9.10

(Originally posted 8/9/10)

This will be my twenty-eighth year in the classroom, and I still look forward to September with a mixture of joy and trepidation. (Oh yes…the school nightmares have started lol) The conferences that I attended this summer fired me up….but how do I bring that to my students, my colleagues, my student teacher? How do I plan for this year?!!

My focus has changed over the years and while I may have once arranged my classroom activities around a curriculum, I now arrange my curriculum around one theme: Building Strong Relationships.

So here I sit, pondering my plans, aware of this significant paradigm shift. What do I want to do in my classroom/program this year?

Build strong relationships………….using the language whenever possible.

Create a safe and trusting environment…….. using the language whenever possible.

Define roles and expectations ………..using the language whenever possible.

Establish routines…………… using the language whenever possible.

Interact with each student…………. using the language whenever possible.

Plan for success for each student………….. using the language whenever possible.

Recognize and honor the needs, emotions, wants, hopes, dreams, struggles, strengths, thoughts,weaknesses, fears, and accomplishments of others…… using the language whenever possible.

Model desired behaviors.…… using the language whenever possible.

Create shared experiences……… using the language whenever possible.

I’m going to start with this framework and choose high-frequency language structures for my classes that will allow me to reach these goals AND promote language acquisition and increased levels of fluency in my students. I’ll let you know what I come up with!!

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

It’s the Teacher! Archived Post 7.29.10

(originally posted 7/29/10)

So…I have to constantly ask myself: What is the goal of this activity? For my STUDENTS? (and their brains of course!) I want my students to interact with me in the target language in a way that will allow them to acquire as much language as possible. Students must be doing ALL THREE of these things during an activity in order for me to reach my goal.


In the target language

In order to

Acquire language


As I listen to the ideas and suggestions about shower curtains offered by all of these passionate and experienced teachers, it is so easy for me to forget about my goal. The teacher in me gets a “pedagogical high” from thinking about all of the other exciting possibilities and I forget the goal!

My teacher brain is just a’rockin’!! It’s a game? Ooooooo!! Kids love competition! ( teacher-brain starts tracking all of the articles/presentations about involving boys in competition in the classroom…..). It’s visual? Oooooo!! It’s right-brained! It’s multi-modal!! (teacher-brain scans all previously-stored info on teaching/learning styles and brain research……). And it a micro-millisecond I am off on my own teacher-track…having totally forgotten about my REAL goal: to provide activities so that my students will INTERACT with me in the TARGET LANGUAGE so that
they will ACQUIRE LANGUAGE. So what do I REALLY have to have in an activity in order for that to happen?

A) Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language and…..
A situation where we interact using it.


1. A situation where we interact…
2. Using Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay So, what all of these teachers didn’t tell me is what I really need to know.

HOW do they interact with their students in the target language so that the language is useable enough, compelling enough, personal enough, repeated enough, understandable enough for my students to acquire language as a result of that interaction?

THAT is what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong…the activities are PHENOMENAL!!!! But as you read them, remember that it is HOW these teachers interact with student during the activities that facilitates the language acquisition….not the activities themselves.

It is why watching other teachers is so powerful. It isn’t the shower curtain that is enthralling.

It’s THE TEACHER. It is why mastering skills is so important. It is why going back to basics, taking the chance to be coached, and learning to teach in the moment are so vital. It is the relationships developed during the activity that matter. The activity is not the vehicle that carries our students to proficiency. Compelling and Comprehended language is the vehicle. Games and projects, songs and stories, conversations and TPR are the roads we can explore with that vehicle.As teachers, we sometimes think that the trip gets a little boring….so we are constantly looking for new roads to take. What we need….is to upgrade the vehicle our students are riding in. Would you rather ride to proficiency in a broken-down jalopy or in a well-tuned “luxury” vehicle?

CI-based instruction is even better than a luxury vehicle. It won’t break down. It isn’t uncomfortable. It’s energy efficient. It feels good to be in AND it does the job…very very well.

What are your best CI teaching skills? Do the activities that you use make the most of them? Do the activities that you invest your time and energy in utilize those skills? How can you adapt an activity so that your skills create a luxury vehicle that carry your students closer to proficiency?

These are the things that I invite you to think about as you peruse these suggestions. If you don’t know…ask the person who has successfully used the activity to offer suggestions, not only about the steps involved in the activity, but about the TEACHING SKILLS utilized during the activity so that ALL ROADS LEAD TO PROFICIENCY.

I do love ideas. But I have to make sure to start paying more attention to the skills required by the
teacher and the actions required by the students once these ideas become classroom activities. It can be tough when being a teacher gets in the way of well….being a teacher!!

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myths #2 and #3 Post 5.6.10

(originally posted 5/6/10)

Output Myth #3:

The rate at which students begin to comprehend and produce a second language is totally dependent on teacher-controlled issues save three: student motivation, student work, student “ability”-level.    


If all of the students in the class are equally motivated,

(and teachers assume that they should be)

If all of the students in the class complete the same work,

(and teachers assume that they should have)


If all of the students in the class are perceived to have the same academic skill level,

(and teachers assume that students are either “teachable” or “not teachable”.)

then they will all accomplish/learn the same material at the same rate.


those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.


those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,


students who have earned A’s will know more and be able to produce better language than students who have earned F’s.

Although I thought so for many years………………none of the above is true.

Myth #3:

Saying a word or phrase over and over and over again is the surest way to learn it.

I’d like to share a story from 2000 ( I think….) when I attended my first workshop with Susie Gross.  It was the end of day two and we had been working with a select group of words for about 16 hours.   For whatever reason, the group could NOT produce the phrase le vert d’eau (the glass of water …please excuse any sp/agreement errors…I haven’t used the phrase since…).

How hard could it be???????!!!!!!!!!!!  We were ALL experienced language teachers.  We had heard Susie use it over and over and over and over again.  Someone suggested that we had not “acquired” the word because we really hadn’t had to use it.  We needed to say it. Over and over and over and over.

Susie said, “NO.”   The room got very quiet.  “I don’t believe in that any longer.   I haven’t used it often enough, comprehensibly enough for you all.  That’s all.”   I didn’t believe her.  I don’t know if anyone in the room believed her.

And she began another story…which I don’t remember at all…except that I do remember her somehow inserting “le vert d’eau” in there a bazillion times.    Finally…….it clicked.   And le vert d’eau was in our lexicon.  Just like that.  And it was still there the next morning.  And it’s still there a decade later.  And I definitely don’t go around saying it out loud.  At all.

Then there is the word “escaparate”  (shop window).   I learned it in grade 9.   I never said it out loud once in high school (although I really wanted to tee hee it’s a fun word…escaparate!  like pamplemousse!!  ).   I never used it in college.  Then, when I was in Spain for a semester….there it was..in my brain…totally ready to use!!!  Too bad I couldn’t remember a single one of the question words…..which I KNOW I had to use over and over again in high school and college.  In context.   Still couldn’t remember them….

Still….I spent many years creating activities which gave students plenty of opportunities to say things in Spanish.   Games and role-plays and projects and skits and all kinds of well-conceived, well-written, well-rubricked, totally ineffective activities…..that did not help students to acquire any kind of language for the long run.with love,

with love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myth #1 Archived Post 5.5.10

(originally posted 5/5/10)

I normally do not “attack” any kind of language program.  It’s not something I am usually comfortable with.  However….one of the enormous frustrations of teachers is their students’ inability to speak and / or write with confidence and fluency.    I do believe that traditional second-language instruction attitudes are to blame.   This conversation  on Ben’s blog got me thinking again…..I wrote a fairly long response there, but would like to rewrite and break it down here…I started with the first myth I think exist and I broke it down.  In italics are the teacher’s words/thoughts/etc. when the myth starts to disintegrate into reality….

The Output Myths  (and their implications) of a non-Comprehesion-based Program

  1.    A student learns to comprehend and to produce language at the same rate.
  • Students are given a list of targeted vocabulary and grammatical structures for each unit.  The end-of-unit-evaluations will require students to comprehend written and spoken material using this vocabulary.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will also be expected to produce, with few to no errors, in speech and in writing, in contextually-appropriate, but contrived, situations.

Why do they have to stop and think about what to say?  We wrote these in dialogues and practiced them in skits.  Why can’t they just spit it out?They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Teachers know exactly how long it should take for students to master these items.

I have 9 units to complete in 10 months.   If I subtract time for review, testing and vacations that comes down to three weeks per unit.  They’ll have to study.

  • Teachers will plan instruction, practice and evaluation according to this knowledge.

If we can’t get to everything in class, then I’ll just have to assign it for homework.  They’d better put in the time and study.

  • Students who do not succeed in mastering these items, in the alloted time frame,  are considered responsible for their failure to do so.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will be expected to be able to recognize and to produce this list of items at all times once the unit is completed (even those who were unsuccessful during the unit.)

We studied this material for almost a month in ninth grade!   They should know it by now!!

Sound familiar???????????  These italicized thoughts/comments are so much a part of the “My Kids Won’t Do Work” litany that they seem NORMAL for people to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s just not right.

For those of you who are wondering……that is why I am so drawn to CI programs.    There is no place for these complaints because the system is simply different.   And it works.

with love,

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Love The Ones You’re With Archived Post …4.24.10

(originally posted 4/24/10)

There is a difference between going in to school every day to teach students who should appreciate us and don’t and going in each day to teach students who don’t appreciate education but have the potential to.

The difference is in the emotional weight of the perspective.   The difference is in the expectations.

When we perceive ourselves as going in every day to teach students who SHOULD appreciate an education, SHOULD  understand the power inherent in knowledge, SHOULD see the value of the work that develops skills, SHOULD thank us for choosing this career and working hard at it, we are placing OUR values and expectations on our students.     When, invariably, our low-achieving students fail to live up to those expectations there is a great deal of hurt, disappointment and anger.

So why do they fail?   Because we are teaching the students we think that we SHOULD have….rather than teaching the students we DO have.

Frankly, the students we think that we SHOULD have do not exist.  I don’t care if you teach in an urban, rural or suburban setting.  It doesn’t matter if you teach 40 kids in a class or 14.  If we don’t get to know these students that we have right now, we do not know whom we are teaching.

What I often hear sounds something like this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work.

These kids don’t do homework.

And so on.

What those folks (and I myself have been one) are REALLY saying is this….

These kids don’t know the meaning of work….AND THEY SHOULD…(like the kids I used to have, like last year’s group, like when I first started teaching, like I did, like my own children would etc. etc.)

These kids don’t do homework…AND THEY SHOULD…(like they would if they were smarter, like they would if their parents gave a damn, like they would if they had had me for a teacher last year etc.)

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to teach the students we have…not the ones we wish we had.

But unless we stop comparing our students to who we think that they should be, we cannot truly get to know, love and teach the students that we have.

I know that you may not agree with me….but think back to my original post

This is an idea I think it is worthwhile to consider.   Who knows how powerful it could be?   Sometimes it takes just a little tiny turn of the handle to open the door…….

With love,

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Cleaning House Can Get Ugly Archived Post …4.23.10

(originally posted 4/23/10)

This week I have been cleaning, really really cleaning, out my house in preparation for a move.   It’s not the kind of change we often volunteer for because we know how much needs to be done.   Change is not for the faint of heart.  j

In order to get to a new place, I have had to empty out the old one…or at least get it ready to empty out.   I had to dig deep into the deep dark places that I have resisted looking at and have become good at avoiding.

I had hoped to move earlier, but this delay has had it’s benefits.  I’ve been able to sort through some things, many things actually, and determine their value to me.   (Is this really important enough to take up space in a new place?)

It has become a question that I am asking myself about my teaching as well.   Change is a process and the fact that I started a CI journey ten years ago does not mean that I have arrived at the end of it.    So I have looked at a few things to get rid of….and as usual….a few new ideas have crept in to take their place.

Ideas to Let Go Of….

  • Language must be learned academically.
  • Memorizing the rules and the exceptions to the rules is the PRIMARY prerequisite for success. (i.e. Only “bright” students can learn a language because memorizing rules and vocabulary is required.)
  • The amount of homework assigned and completed has a direct correlation to the ability of the student to be successful.
  • The older students are, the less desire and ability they have to be independent learners.
  • Students and parents do not see an immediate benefit to studying languages and cultures because they are uneducated or inexperienced.
  • Students have been taught by parents and by society to understand that education is a vital and important investment in themselves and their futures.
  • Students who do not invest themselves in school work are making an irrevocably bad decision and should be blamed for their own failures.
  • Students should be expected to rise above a negative situation outside of the classroom. Those who do not have their priorities “messed up.”

Ideas to Try Out…

  • Language is acquired through an intellectual, social and/or emotional interaction via Comprehensible Input.
  • Rules can be identified and utilized when students have a) enough language or b) a natural interest.
  • ANY student can acquire a language.
  • The main reason to memorize rules/exceptions is to perform well on tests required by an external system.
  • Many students who are high school age or younger do not achieve large gains in language acquisition by completing regularly scheduled homework activities.
  • All human beings are naturally independent learners.  Our students teach themselves all the time.    Students who are interested and motivated will continue acquiring language outside of the classroom experience.
  • Students and parents who experience success will be motivated to continue with language study.
  • Students who compare and contrast their personal experiences with the cultural and personal experiences of others are very interested in these topics.
  • MANY children are not raised to see any value in an education.    Some have received no instruction about schooling, others are influenced by their caregivers’ negative experiences and still others are directly instructed that education, particularly past the secondary level has little to no value.     They have also been raised to believe that teachers value education because they want to keep their jobs.  Their suspicion of schools, and of us, is understandable given these circumstances.
  • Students often lack the maturity to prioritize more than two items at any given time.   The item with the most immediate value often is perceived as the item having the most value.

with love,

P.S.  Look for more thoughts later on this week…these need to be taken apart….
All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.