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.



Personalized, Comprehensible Teaching Reaches the Tough Kids Too
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7 thoughts on “Personalized, Comprehensible Teaching Reaches the Tough Kids Too

  • May 3, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Preach, my brother. We are finding in our Latin program, that will reach 700 students next year, that the CI approach works for all kinds of learners AND that it changes the way we must be the “teacher” in the room. It’s a continuous learning curve. If your way of being the teacher in the room is contained in folders and books, you will struggle terribly. Being the teacher in a CI classroom with all kinds of learners moves us out from behind the desk or podium, out of books and folders, away from old notes and pre-made tests, and into the center of the room.

  • May 4, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Bob and Grant funny to meet you two here. I just wrote to my district equity administrators using quotes from both of your blogs, inviting them to come to the Cascadia CI Conference and attend our Equity Strand at a greatly discounted price. And here you are together talking about equity. Thank you both so much for all your work in opening our eyes in the CI world to the issue of equity. I firmly believe that by making it an equity issue we will reach more traditional teachers, maybe by getting admin fired up about closing achievement gaps. I am so happy that you guys are collecting the data and writing so extensively about it. Bob your Latin group is just going hog wild and I love it. THANK YOU BOTH.

  • May 4, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Thanks, Grant : )

    Just an update: Just under 90% of my current Spanish 2 students have scheduled Spanish 3 for next year. And our numbers for next year’s Spanish IV are up significantly (40 more students than last year). I am thrilled to see them choosing to stay in Spanish for the upper levels. I want this for everyone – for every student and for every teacher. It has been the most satisfying part of teaching with CI to see my students excited about continuing in Spanish. I love it that I am able to keep several of them with me from level 2 all the way through AP. (And incidentally nearly half of my AP language class signed up for independent study AP Literature next year). CI works for ALL of my students, and it helps them to love Spanish. What more could I possibly want?

  • May 16, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Agreed! I have students continue on to the upper levels who really don’t care too much about grades or about becoming fluent, but they enjoy the class, so I let them come! I figure any exposure is better than no exposure.

  • May 21, 2017 at 5:50 am

    YES! I don’t yet have any hard data (numberZ) but in the past 2 weeks as kids filled out course selections for next year 1) a lot of kids in the hallways whom I do not yet know yelled to me “Im taking your class next year!” 2) Kids have to get me to sign their form in order to take Spanish3 (??? huh??? ). It is currently listed as an honors course. Several kids (“not your typical honors student”) came to me, a bit unsure, until I reassured them that the class is no different than the current one they are in 🙂 Si se puede!

    I’ll be working on my curriculum structure this summer, renaming the courses, etc. to reflect the inclusive nature. But…there’s a part of me that wants to keep the “honors” label and have all those kids be “honors students.” Why the heck not?!

  • June 27, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I am so intrigued about CI. I really want to try it, but I am not anywhere prepared. I am reading all I can read about CI. I have no support group because I teach at a small private Christian school where I am the only foreign language teacher-Spanish. I have 8th grade Spanish, Spanish I, II and III. I would love to have someone walk me through the beginning of Spanish 8 to Spanish III. I am not satisfied with what I have taught in the past. I have not had any textbooks, so I have been “winging” it for almost four years. Thank you for any kind of help.

    • August 1, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Hey Candice. Just wanted to give you some encouragement!!! I jumped into CI a year and a half ago, and it’s been great! I’ll never go back! The results are wonderful and class is just SO FUN, for myself and the kids. I wish you the best.

      A. In terms of connecting with others, check these two projects out:

      1. https://citeachersgetlocal.wordpress.com/-It lists facebook groups by states. So hopefully you can collaborate with someone near to you.

      2. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1wLo89bskCtQ3pJemdsbm1IN1k/view-which is an awesome map of the USA with all the CI blogs that the author knows about by geographic location. Just click on the dots to open the blog links!

      B. The best substitute for actual collaboration is watching video of awesome CI teachers. Tina Hargaden is leading this charge. Last year she recorded every class I think, so she’s uploaded hundreds of hours to her facebook channel called CI Liftoff. And she’s amazing. She and Grant are the two best language teachers I’ve ever seen! I got to experience learning French from Tina this summer in Silver Springs, MD during her and Ben Slavik’s traveling workshop tour, and it was just awesome! Check out my blog for a growing database of videos to watch: https://comprehensiblerva.wordpress.com/videos-of-non-targeted-teaching/

      C. Taking the first step: The best way to learn more about CI is just to try it. At the national conferences, they are so gung ho on getting teachers to teach a 5 minute lesson sample to get coached. But the way I see it, I get like 45 times that amount of practice every day (about 225 minutes of instruction)! That’s how you will learn. By just doing it. And your situation is perfect–no other teachers questioning you, no other methodology that students will compare their experiences to. Your kids will be way happier, their parents will see that happiness, and as long as kids are happy, you won’t have administrative problems. So, I encourage you to take the leap and just start in on it!

      Good luck!

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