When stories don’t work

Hi kiddies, it’s your friendly neighborhood Profe. Today on facebook a teacher mentioned that they were thinking about going back to the textbook because they were having trouble keeping the kids involved in the stories, classroom management issues, and the like. I have a viewpoint or two I’d like to share.

  1. We all know the textbook sucks. If you’re like me, that’s why you finally went to a training or saw a video and accepted Comprehensible Input as your lord and savior.

  2. You, like me, may not be the cutesy, high energy teacher that has 14 million props and gets an insane amount of enjoyment out of acting a fool in front of their class all day. Some days I just don’t have the energy, and I don’t want to spend my own money on props and dance around. I start the year having kids respond with OOOHs but quickly abandon it once kids get in the flow of learning, unless it’s something really interesting. You CAN make it fun without all that stuff. You have to find a style that is YOU. I have a ton of respect for those teachers, but it ain’t me.

  3. You do what you can. If you’re a beginning CI teacher, you may just not be ready to be let loose with stories. It’s perfectly OK to step back and try one again when you’re ready. For my first ones, I scripted out a hundred questions before I did it with kids to make sure I had something to rely on. It helps. You really need a mentor, preferably someone who you can observe in the flesh. And regardless of cost, if you want to be a CI teacher you must go to some conferences. They will change your life. Now, in my 4th year of CI, I can riff off of things kids say and go totally random. No way I could do that my first 2 years.

I’ll post a video below of a recent class session. It’s easy to see I’m not dancing around, but everybody’s having fun and learning. It’s my style and no one else’s.

Now, What if you are reasonably practiced, bringing your A game,and still have a class of miscreants that just won’t play along? That doesn’t mean you have to go back to a text.

Take a step back and analyze. Is it just 1 or 2 kids? Why are they doing what they’re doing? If it’s persistent, they may have stuff going on in the home or they may be left behind and not understanding. They could be ADD and gazing at their navel the whole class. They are now teacher’s pet. Every time I ask the class a question, they get asked to answer, both before and after the class. Every statement, they trey are asked to translate. Now some are just shy and as long as they’re learning, I let them do their thing. I’m something of an introvert myself. But the disruptors? Nu-uh. Even if they can’t or won’t answer your question, they’re too busy getting them ASKED to them to start much trouble. And you’re providing an extra rep for the rest of the class. Win-Win. I make participation a must-do with rejoinders before class can leave. Passwords are mandatory. I love my kids, but I won’t let them get in their own way. I have 1 kid who skips class and will likely fail, but I have 99 who will pass with flying colors. If I can do it….

What if it’s the whole class? Well, it may be a classroom management thing. Read some other blogs on management. Implement a points system with rewards maybe. Maybe you can’t do this, but I got rid of desks and kids can keep nothing in their hands or lap. I have phone caddies on my walls to keep kids from staring at their crotch and I am VICIOUS about taking up cell phones if they don’t caddy their phone. I only have to do it a few times a year. Once the first week, and likely once for every new transfer kid. Once every other distraction is gone, generally even the worst kid will learn at the minimum passing level. It’s never stopped any kid from loving my class.

Ot just stop doing story asking. Write out the story yourself, hand it to the kids and start asking it like you would an embedded reading. Instead of PQA for vocabulary you have them practice with quizlet or other tech heavy feature. More boring? Yup. But anything to keep from using the textbook. More MovieTalk, more news articles from Martina Bex or whatever source. Instead of asking, the script is already done and kids gets reps and questions. “The boy’s name is John” and you’re done. Now ask a million questions. Up the stakes by asking your trouble-maker or a play along student, “Do you prefer John or do you prefer Homer?” Oh you prefer Homer? Well, too bad, it’s already written in stone, me boyo! Give the story another go after a few weeks of this.

Back to textbooks. Funny story – we had adoption last year. I wanted a CI curriculum and was told no. I told them I wouldn’t teach with the new textbook any more than I did with the old one, and they were OK with that. They wanted a grammar text for if/when I leave. Then I got yelled at this year when I didn’t use it. Funny, right?

Yeah. funny.

Hope this was useful But as always, YMMV.

Here’s a link to my most recent story when i was tired. It was the fifth time I’d done it that day. Not my best, but you can see the flow of the class still works.

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Why?

So one of the things I intend to do most with this blog is expand on my ideas from questions being asked by facebookers about various things.  I think it’s a place where I have something to say that might be valuable. I have no desire to babble on about the things that go on in my classroom every day, or the things that you can find in a hundred other places.  I also feel that there is sometimes a lack of pragmatism on the Facebook and the Twitter and among some of the folks who make $$$$ from CI. There are some who don’t recognize the realities of being a teacher confined to a textbook and get pretty uppity when you can’t do it there way.  I ain’t that guy, and that’s not what this blog is for.