November 15, 2016

Visiting the High School

In an effort to align the programs between middle school and high school, I visited the high school today.  I had some observations on the differences between a traditional program and my CI classroom.

1. Class was based on ideas from the textbook or teacher. Kids were asked to describe pictures in the textbook and respond to the teacher’s questions about the vocab. of the day and the language that they used was largely limited to the thematic unit.

2. The teachers pushed kids to output in complete sentences with grammatical accuracy as they randomly called on kids in first semester Novice classes. I heard both teachers recast or explain the grammar rule the kid was misapplying.

3. A kid came in super late, a kid sneezed, a kid literally FELL OUT OF HIS DESK, it started to rain incredibly hard, and these interruptions were addressed in English, so that the class could get back to the study at hand. Taking advantage of these moments of levity is a huge advantage of CI. It builds community and I have found that kids are quite engaged in these little moments of spontaneous language use.

4. There is a lot of paperwork. Bell-ringers were passed in, which I assume are graded, quizzes were taken, homework was checked, Cornell notes were taken and checked. So many paperwork-type grades to enter.

5. The kids’ questions on the grammar rules revealed the difficulty of learning and applying grammar rules. “Why is that verb plural (tu parles)? It has an s on it.” This question led to an explanation of the concept of conjugated endings.

6. Class was very much centered on the individual and not on the group. With CI we are working as a group to communicate and create is very much group centered.

7. The rule came first and the examples come afterward, and are in the form of grammar-manipulation activities, not input that shows how the language SOUNDS. The kids thus had little auditory frame of reference to the language’s “sounding right”, from which to build interlanguage. In some ways, this is like a mathematics class. The students learn a formula (when to use pas de or pas d’ for example) and then apply it. The students would have  a better frame of reference when being asked to manipulate the grammar if they had first heard some sentences with examples of “pas de” just to fill the kids’ heads with some representation of the language before asking them to output correctly and apply the rule of the day.

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About Lanny Ball

For more than 23 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy and reading consultant in Northwestern Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on Twitter @LannyBall, as well as his literacy blog: lannyball.com or lannyball.blog.

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