Lowering Anxiety & Priority #1: Every Kid Starring In Their Own Story

I had so much success with Slide Talk, the digital version of Card Talk, that I thought it would replace Card talk entirely. Well, some insight from Sr. Sedge has got me thinking that analog pencil—paper Card Talk still has it’s merits, especially at the start of the year.

Again, the digital Slide Talk is awesome for what kids bring to their slides (vs. stick figures), but I didn’t consider how I’d memorize names of students without a physical card right in front of me. After all, it will have been over two years since I began the school year in person, right?!

Starting Seating Plan & Starting Activity
In addition to learning names, there’s an idea Sr. Sedge brought up about a starting seating plan, and starting activity so kids just aren’t looking around. In fact, the First Day Anxieties is one of the more interesting pages I’ve seen on a CI site. The paper Sr. Sedge shares isn’t just Krashen this, and Krashen that. This is refreshing, not only because it’d be wise for many of us to expand our quote sources, but also because we know the affective filter is the least sciency part of the monitor model, and is an easy target for the haters. But lowering anxiety, in general, is a very good idea. I must admit that I never quite thought of how nervous it can be to walk in the room on the first day—a little late even—being told to choose a seat (“oh gods, just like the lunchroom!”), and then just sit there while we stall until it seems all students are there.

Class Photographer
This is an excellent class job for anyone doing some kind of collaborative storytelling with acting. To be honest, I don’t think it will work well in my context without actors. What would students take a picture of?!

Card Talk Stories & Everyone’s Awesome
This is it. This is the one. This is the one new take on something that makes the world of difference. Although we would scroll through student slides when fishing for details in a class story, Sr. Sedge uses Card Talk to write a story about each student! Now, I’ve had massive success at the start of the year by typing up details of students after the first day so we have a personalized class text right way. That’s a keeper, and that’s something I’ll spend prep time on, myself. However, it never occurred to me to turn student interests into mini story activity during class, even the type-up of the story. Amazing, right? N.B. unlike Write & Discuss/Type & talk, note-taking of the story is optional. I can understand that, especially if this ends up in a digital class library. This addition to the statements not only results in a lot more contextualized input, but it also begins to awaking creativity. All it takes is a few key words to make some comparisons because in these stories, everyone’s awesome at what they do in class. Sr. Sedge explicitly states that. So, you end up with a kid into soccer being better than a pro. You have a kid who likes to read end up reading more than everyone on Earth, etc. This is actually crucial when creating a nice little story. Watch Sr. Sedge explain.

Here’s an example story. The English translation follows below…

  • James plays a lot of video games (i.e., “Class, James plays a lot of video games. What kind?”).
  • James goes to a grocery store to the cereal section and plays Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, where is James? Where does James play video games?”).
  • Ellen DeGeneres comes in (i.e., “Class, who is James with?”).
  • Ellen asks what James is doing (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen say?”).
  • James says he’s playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (i.e., “Class, what does James say?”).
  • Ellen and James play (i.e., “Class, what does Ellen do?” or “Does Ellen play GTA5, too?”).
  • James wins (because every student is awesome).

Notice what few questions need to be asked in order to get at a simple story. I wouldn’t even say there’s a conflict in these short stories, and that’s fine. If the story is about sport, the kid wins. If the story is about food, the kid eats the food. Make sure to ask “where?,” and “with whom?,” and add a bit of dialogue. Just ask questions and use answers (AQUA). Also, don’t be afraid to add new details when typing up. That’s a classic way to keep interest going. Thanks Sr. Sedge!

CI, Equity, User-Error & Inequitable Practices

I don’t agree that the statement “CI is equitable” is harmful. Yet, I also don’t think the message behind “CI isn’t inherently equitable” is wrong, either. John Bracey said one can still “do racist stuff” while teaching with CI principles. Of course, we both know that’s an issue with content, not CI. Still, I get the idea behind that word “inherent.” In case you missed the Twitter hub bub, let me fill you in: People disagree with a claim that CI is “inherently equitable,” worried that such a message would lead teachers to say “well, I’m providing CI, so I guess I’m done.” I don’t think anyone’s actually saying that, but still, I understand that position to take.

Specifically, the word “inherent” seems to be the main issue. I can see how that could be seen as taking responsibility away from the teacher who should be actively balancing inequity and dismantling systemic racism. However, teachers haven’t been as disengaged from that equity work as the worry suggests. I’ve been hearing “CI levels the playing field” many times over the years from teachers reporting positive changes to their program’s demographics. What else could that mean if not equity? But OK, I get it. If “inherent” is the issue, maybe “CI is more-equitable” will do. If so, though, at what point does a teacher go from having a “more-equitable” classroom to an “equitable” one? And is there ever a “fully-equitable” classroom? I’m thinking no. So, if CI is central to equity—because you cannot do the work of bringing equity into the classroom if students aren’t understanding (i.e. step zero), and nothing has shown to be more equitable than CI, well then…

For fun, though, I’ll throw in a third perspective. Whereas you have “CI is equitable” and “nothing makes CI equitable per se,” how about “CI is the only equitable factor?” I’m sure that sounds nuts, but here it goes: Since CI is independent from all the content, methods, strategies, etc. that teachers choose, as a necessary ingredient for language acquisition, CI might be the only non-biased factor in the classroom. Trippy.

I don’t think that third perspective is really worth pursuing, though, so let’s get back to the main points. Again, I understand the message behind “CI isn’t inherently equitable” as a response to “CI is equitable.” However, I suspect the latter is said by a lot of people who aren’t actually referring to CI. Don’t get me wrong; some get it, and are definitely referring to how CI principles reshaped their language program to mirror demographics of the school. However, others are merely referring to practices they think is “CI teaching.” This will be addressed later with the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Otherwise, let’s talk equity…

Continue reading

Forced Input

There’s plenty of talk about forced output (i.e. when students are told to produce language beyond their proficiency level), yet not much has been said regarding forced input. Forced input occurs when students are given a text above their reading level, or told to listen to something beyond their comprehension. Perhaps this is even assigned, and affects the course grade. Forced input also occurs when students are given or assigned anything that lacks a communicative purpose. Forced input is not very meaningful at best, and incomprehensible at worst, which means the target language is less likely to be processed and acquired. Are you forcing input? Let’s see…

Continue reading

Comprehensible Online 2018 Takeaways

In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!

Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:

Continue reading

Mid-Year Check-In: Brain Breaks & Brain Bursts

Teachers fall into a routine, often focusing on a particular strategy for a while because a) they want to hone their skill,  b) it’s magically engaging for students, or c) both. During that period of focus, however, other teaching practices tend to get left behind. The holiday break is good time to take a look at what has NOT been going on in the classroom. For me, it’s been Brain Breaks. Annabelle Allen would be ashamed of me!

It’s true, though. Looking back to just before the holiday break, I’ve been doing just one Brain Break, and there were even days when I did zero due to an activity involving somemovement. There’s no excuse for neglecting Brain Breaks, though, and there’s no rationale behind substituting them with other activities. I need to get back on this horse…

Continue reading