I met Abra last year at iFLT in Chattanooga. It was her first iFLT and it was an experience that empowered her to ditch the textbook and teach mostly with stories, PQA and FVR. I met Abra again at the Ohio Foreign Language Association’s conference a few weeks ago. She attended one of my workshops and I could tell, when I made eye contact with her, that my message of creating a #NationOfAdvocates through CI was a mission she deeply shared.
In early April, Abra shared this post on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching FB page. This is the kind of message that CI teachers need to share publicly. It’s the type of message that will inspire CI-curious teachers to take the next step.
I had 3 of my students from last year (my first official year of trying CI completely in my classes with no textbook, without really being trained). We did a lot of stories, used a lot of materials from Martina Bex and many blogs from generous people who shared their ideas online, and just experimented a lot. Of these three boys, all three were with me for Spanish 2 and Spanish 3 (block schedule), and one continued on to Spanish 4 with another teacher. They may not have been as successful in a traditional class, but they bought into the format that I was using, and they had a lot of fun. When they came in today, one said to me, “Señora, I DIDN’T forget all of what you taught me.” They proceeded to converse with me in Spanish for a few minutes. This young man has not had Spanish class for almost a year! I am so used to hearing, “I don’t remember anything.” What a difference!
What’s the big deal? The big deal is that we need a broader understanding of what it means to be successful. These three students may not have been successful in a traditional class. But the approach of story-asking, personalized questions and answers, and free voluntary reading is personalized and responsive to their identities. So much so that they found enough success to choose to enroll in level 3, the invisible gate that can keep students from enrolling in more prestigious higher ed programs.
Don’t take this lightly. It’s real and it’s really important. If there are techniques and strategies that can result in our most vulnerable or unlikely students choosing to return for more, they should be shouted from the mountain tops!
And that’s what we need to do: Shout from the mountain tops! By embracing comprehension-based techniques and strategies, especially until our students are strong intermediates, we CAN drive up the numbers of students who choose to continue and this includes those students who are least likely to continue: mostly males and students of color. And that means we produce, over time, communities in which more adults have experienced joyful and successful language classes and are more likely, as parents, community leaders and legislators, to support the learning of culture and acquisition of language.