If you ever have the chance to attend the iFLT Conference, I strongly urge you to go! Last year the conference was incredibly close to me, but it happened to coincide with the intense 30 days I had to spend working on site for my Master’s. I remember feeling so bummed that the conference was only 2-3 hours away and that I wasn’t able to attend. Then I saw everyone’s selfies with Krashen and I was instantly jealous! Fast forward to this year and I was extremely blessed that my new school (effective next year) was willing to support me to go to the conference. How lucky am I!?
In addition to new friendships and connections, I gained a plethora of wisdom and ideas to bring to my classroom. I shared a lot of ideas on my own Twitter account (@SraDentlinger), but I highly recommend you check out both #iFLT16 and #iFLT16pics on Twitter to check out all the ideas shared by everyone. I thought a good way to begin decompression would be to identify the messages that stood out most to me in a sound bite style a la Allison Wienhold (twitter: @SraWienhold; blog: misclaseslocas.blogspot.com) who borrowed it from Musicuentos (twitter: @Musicuentos; website: musicuentos.com). So without further adieu, here are the statements that resonated with my heart:
Bill VanPatten (BVP) (twitter: @teawithBVP; website: BVPSLA)began his keynote by telling attendees to know their principle. A principle is a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption that forms the basis of something else. BVP identified 7 language acquisition principles, but focused primarily on two: the fact that language is not a subject matter like ELA or math and that we have a working definition of what communication is in order to be able to communicate. In regards to the former, BVP implores us to think about the consequences when we think about assessing students on practices and [grammar] rules. Laura Sexton wrote “This is why people who aren’t language geeks hate class” on Twitter. It’s so true! BVP shared SEVERAL grammar rules that had exceptions to the rule – not only illustrating how faulty grammar rules can be, but also how we intrinsically knew the correct way to say something even if it went against the rule. At one point a comparison was made to chemistry – imagine if only professional chemists who already worked in the chemistry field could pass beginning chemistry!? This really struck a chord with me. When I taught traditionally (with a textbook that focused on memorizing 30+ vocabulary terms and at least 2 grammar rules a chapter), I had very unrealistic expectations of my students and I was expecting them to have abilities of someone who had already studied Spanish after 2 weeks with the chapter. Now I have put in a sincere effort to understand second language acquisition and realize it is a progress and takes a ton of practice. In regards to the latter, BVP tells us that people don’t communicate just to communicate – there is a purpose! There is psycho-social communication, which greases the wheels of communication (Ex: Hey! How’s it goin?), and Cognitive-Informational Communication (Ex: What can I do for you?). BVP says that we cannot make the classroom like the world and urges us to not make the classroom something it’s not (ex: a restaurant, a hotel, etc.). However, the classroom itself IS a real context (although limited to the same participants and setting) and we should should use the language to communicate and learn about our students and the outside world. We are a community of language users! We are real and we are authentic. Additionally, there are to be some interpretation and negotiation in communication. Lastly, you should teach others what your principle is so that you can: 1. justify your pedagogy to them, 2. that your students can continue to grow after you, 3. that students tell their parents (who can sometimes be on the school board).
If you’re interested in this concept, I recommend checking out Laura Sexton’s Storify on the keynote as well as the CIPeek blog’s post on it. Martina Bex also has a great post called Comprehensible Input is that ONE thing that is along these lines, too.
In addition to Krashen restating just how important input and reading are, I LOVED his message about being active in spreading the words about CI and about promoting and saving language programs. In regards to spreading the word about CI, I was astonished Krashen openly and readily admitted that it was just a hypothesis and he then encouraged others to test his hypothesis. I’ve heard this from others, but I couldn’t believe its own creator said it. Can you imagine if textbook companies urged you to simply test how effective their curriculum was!? As for promoting my students’ successes I began a Twitter account specifically for students and my school to share all the positiveness from within my classroom and school; however, I would like to begin promoting more of what they can do with the language (sharing timed writes, recording my classes to share, etc.). I also want to become more involved politically. I feel like creating the Comprehensible Iowa Conference was a good first step, but I feel compelled to do even more… so I’m going to officially announce that I will be running for VP of the Iowa World Language Association this fall!
It was incredibly hard to find ONE quote to sum up all the knowledge and wisdom I gained from Bryce Hedstrom (twitter: @BryceHedstrom; website: BryceHedstrom.com). Bryce tackles classroom management and truth be told his session was the primary reason I wanted to attend #iFLT16. Bryce began his conversation by talking about his ever-famous classroom jobs. As he so eloquently put, why are you doing work with a Master’s degree that a 6 year old can do? Makes a lot of sense to me! This is definitely one thing I want to do a better job of incorporating next year. My goal is to have students also ask me, “You don’t really do much around here, señor(ita), is there?”, at the end of the year. However, I feel that Bryce has a much deeper message than simply classroom jobs – hence the sound bite I have chosen. It’s not a secret that upper level courses tend to be have primarily female students or that some programs are heavily female in all levels. Bryce’s mission is to connect to ALL students – thus resulting in a more gender balanced classroom. He connects by having students model the good behavior (and the teacher models the bad), because otherwise students will repeat the bad. He reminds us that with rules you’re either consistent or you’re not. It’s so simple but so profound! Also, in a world where judgements are made in milliseconds and social media promotes wild and negative behaviors, forgive them because students need to see forgiveness modeled these days. Bryce implores us to let our students move! Think about how you can tweak your classroom physically to get them moving, to consider activities that let them burn some energy. As he said, “There is nothing wrong with our 14 year old boys! They should be moving!”
If you ever have a chance to attend a presentation or workshop with Bryce Hedstrom, I highly recommend it. If you ever have to choose between his session and another’s, choose his. I assure you that you will leave feeling inspired to do an even better job, with tons of practical tips you can use to make your classroom run smoother, and you will feel his message in your heart. I cannot thank him enough for his presentations this week!
I am so grateful that Grant (twitter: @grantboulanger; website: grantboulanger.com) is so
gracious granticious with sharing his knowledge with all of us. I’m especially grateful because he helped solve a conflict I’ve had trying to merge CI and ACTFL’s 3 Modes. I’ve often wondered how I can/should have kids communicate interpersonally because it clashes with the concept of input. Should I wait until upper levels? Should I disregard it all together? Should I simply do some interpersonally activities anyway along with CI? I tended to throw in some interpersonal activities and mixed between required interpersonal activities and some that were more open ended; however, I’ve really struggled with this! Grant worked with a team of teachers to create a nonverbal interpersonal communication rubric that focuses on students’ preparation, interaction, and engagement in relation to interpersonal communication. This rubric allows all students to be successful – even the quiet ones – while it addresses interpersonal communication and that’s why I love it so much.
If you ever get a chance to hear Grant Boulanger, you are in for a real treat! Not only is Grant a wicked good Spanish teacher, he has a powerful message about connecting to your students and he asks educators to think about issues like gender and ethnic inequalities in world language education. He also has solid data (that I hope he publishes soon!) about how CI made a positive impact on his school’s world language program in multiple ways.
I could go on and on and on with wonderful quotes from this conference, but these are the pieces that touched my core as an experienced CI attendee. If you ever have a chance to attend in the future, I strongly urge you to go! I’ve already added next year’s July 11-14th conference in Denver, CO to my calendar.