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!

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…

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Krashen’s “i+1” Misunderstood & Demystified (Krashen-approved)

Stephen Krashen himself has joked in a self-deprecating way that he came up with the vague concept of “i+1” to achieve fame as people argue its meaning indefinitely. Before contacting him, I wasn’t exactly sure how seriously we should take the man! Thankfully, Stephen clarified that for me real quick. Regardless of the joke being aimed at those using academic jibberish, the concept of “i+1” is demystified in the following Krashen-approved commentary…

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Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Check out the EZ conversions for remote learning!**
**Updated 3.2.21 with Mike Peto’s Read-Aloud**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**

When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!

**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**

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CI Flow: Participation & DEA

Scott Benedict just blogged about his current Pagame system, which is essential for a CI class to flow. If class doesn’t flow, we begin to consciously learn. If we do too much conscious learning, we don’t acquire as much. In place of a participation system, I use an adapted version of Bob Patrick’s DEA. I agree with Scott and the grading experts (e.g. Marzano, O’Connor, etc.) that traditional participation scores should be reported, but never included in an academic grade, especially when using proficiency-based grading systems. There is, however, one distinction that I, Bob Patrick, and other teachers using DEA make, that justifies including it in the grade.

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“School isn’t even close to an L1 environment:” Why reading is KEY

I’ve heard the argument that “it’s impossible to replicate a native language (L1) environment, so why bother with all this CI stuff in the classroom?” I used to counter this with “we’re trying to get as close to that environment as possible while lowering expectations to a realistic level given how little time (~400 hours) students have with a language in high school.” Sure, that’s all true, but we can do better.

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Non-Targeted Input: Ditching a Lesson Plan


Since I began teaching a language, it’s been pretty hard letting go of the graduate school generic UbyD planning mindset, and spending less time working on administrator-desired posted Objectives (see Terry Waltz’s answer for this). These and various other educational processes sap our time that otherwise should be spent on honing our craft, and really, really getting to know our students and their needs. The hardest, but perhaps most fruitful thing to let go is the Lesson Plan, and just discuss something non-targeted in Latin. I know, it sounds crazy, right? Read on…

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