20 July 2016

Big Questions - #iFLT16 Day 1



As expected, I've come out of the first day with big ideas, but also big questions (which you might be able to help me out with at the end of the post).

As of today, I'd say I'm pretty firmly in the Novice Mid range when it comes to the whole CI experience. So going in, I had a decent sense of WHY we needed to focus on Comprehensible Input, but what I'm longing to know is HOW. I feel like today was pretty WHY heavy overall for us beginners, but given the number of people who indicated they were pre-novice in matters of CI, I see the need.

Also, I'm totally pumped for a coaching session geared more toward us Novice Mids tomorrow!

Keynote

I feel there was definitely some preaching to the choir going on here, but I also think it was sort of an opportunity to arm ourselves to fight the textbook/grammar fight and get buy-in on real purposeful communication (which, PBL, hello!) 

You can see all of my tweets and retweets from Dr. Van Patten's talk below, but what I was left wanting to understand better is: 


What relevant purpose does storytelling fulfill?


We agree that language is not what we're learning about, but rather a means to gain information or maintain relationships. So language functions can't be our primary purpose, right?



Basics for Beginners

I started getting some HOW in this session, including a little clarification on the recommended order of things (establish meaning, ask the story, read and discuss) and a demonstration involving BVP's desire to bring Bette Middler a martini with iguanas at the opera.

A few things I think I've been missing in my stories based on the demonstration:

  1. The protagonist at the front of the room - this adds emotional interest for the class, gives me an excuse to recycle second person structures (and first person if I can hide behind them and have them lip sync their lines!) as I ask protagonist about their preferences to guide the course of the story.
  2. The freedom of focus - if I can narrow the whole thing down to ONE structure I want to hit hard, a structure that gets to the purpose of the story, the unit, etc. then that focus allows me to let go of the need to control where the story goes, because all I HAVE to do is come back to THAT structure again and again, and keep the rest familiar verbs and interrogatives with cognates.
  3. Whole class response routines - if you have to say "ohhh!" to everything that is "interesting," you kind of HAVE to catch up every once in a while--or get caught!
Afterward, though, I was still left with my burning question from the keynote, plus another, as I--an adult language nerd--found myself drifting during the 45-minute story:

How can you set up a story that's both short enough to maintain engagement and long enough to achieve sufficient input?





Lunch

Lunch gets its own category because I got to see and actually talk with friends! Sra. Placido made me feel super supported in my persistent questioning, and hanging out with Mme. Laine (with whom I'd only done Google Hangouts before!) really helped me feel comfortable just with the whole setup! Also, I have never felt more honored than when a tweep in the lunch line made it a point to tell me my blog had helped her through some hard times! (I missed your Twitter handle! Tweet me!)


Tea with BVP & SDK

What intrigued me about this time was the more "expert" angle of it. A certain amount of prior knowledge had to be accessed to make sense of the questions. In other words: I felt smart. In-the-know. I am still a little mystified by the push to "call out" ACTFL as if its communicative focus was at odds with a CI communicative focus. I get that there's been tension--I've been in the thick of it more than once online! I just don't see a remarkable difference in principles, much less anything that fundamentally makes the two schools of thought mutually exclusive.

A big revelation for me, though, was when Dr. Krashen stated the ultimate design of language programs: to make intermediates on independent learners. And really, I think it is supremely sensible to say any of us can keep learning at that point by 1) reading and 2) talking with friendly people! Aside from music, that's generally pretty much my own game plan!

I did get to ask my burning question from the keynote, but it sounds like it's not one our SLA Divas have worked out either. Dr. BVP did talk about the value of entertainment, so I guess my question became:
How does entertainment fit with communicative purpose?



Back to basics

I really liked ending the day with a little Q&A, and my fellow beginner colleagues thought of a lot of the technical questions that I wished I'd thought of. The main thing to remember? READING. Don't know what to give for homework? READING. Don't know what to leave for a sub? READING. Don't know what to give chronic absentees? Guess what. 

Getting to hear more from Dr. Krashen was useful too, as it helped drive home those points we'll need to drive home to our colleagues back home, especially about the efficacy of learning and applying rules.



At the end of the day, of course I still want to know more. I've had some kind souls try to help me work through these burning questions already, but I also want to open them up to anyone else who is willing to help clarify these points for me in more than 140 characters in the comments below.

I love the big ideas, but it's the big questions that keep me wanting more!

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