This next bit of advice comes from Susie Gross. She offers a whole new perspective on playing the game that I had not considered, but it is very much part of “playing the game.”
It all comes down to the same thing: Relationship. The relationship between you and every individual in the room, the relationship between the kids in the room, and the relationship between you and the group.
When the relationship is healthy, learning is sturdy. When learning is sturdy and has a the obvious ability to do retells, to speak spontaneously, to write spontaneously, that provides motivation.
So your job is to promote a good sturdy relationship in the classroom. Your job is to create situations where everyone succeeds. Your job is to GUARANTEE success. Your job is to point out and celebrate that success. You job is to make sure that every celebrates everyone else’s success.
That’s it in a nutshell.
The moral of the story is that when your relationship with the class is healthy [whatever that may look like because we all have different personalities] the students will be more likely to play the game. When it is not healthy, the students are way less likely to play the game. If we do not have this relationship, than we can’t expect our students to play the game. If we do not have this relationship, than we need to do whatever we can to get this relationship with our kids. When we have this relationship it is so much easier to play the game and it almost just happens effortlessly because the students are willing to take chances. This was a good reminder. Thanks Susie.
Ben Slavic posted a question from Grant on his site today that really strikes a chord with me.
I need reminders that the best way to lead others to the light is through making my own teaching better and my own students outstanding rather than being evangelical, boisterous or confrontational. I battle with this on the inside. I know I can’t force boring teachers to change, but we can’t just keep being forced out of districts by thick-headed status quo mongers. A lot of TPRSers I know have this lonewolf facade that they’ve developed to counter the criticism and that seems to detract from TPRS’ credibility somehow. I think we need more Pams to help show beginning teachers the possibilities. Do you have any good anecdotes that will help me dissipate my frustrations during department meetings?
What Grant has written is so important because somewhere along the way we are going to have to work or visit with people that have: never heard of tprs, worked with tprs and don’t like it, may be open to tprs and need more information, have heard of tprs but don’t really know what it is, or any other combination of experiences that I haven’t mentioned. What do we do with people like this?
Well, how we work with these people may be a factor in the future and success of tprs. I was thinking today while I was I asking a story with my 7th graders that this is such a cool way to teach. I mean, how many teachers can successfully do what we do and have fun at the same time? Wouldn’t it be great if this was the way that languages were taught in our country? Could you imagine what the developments would be? That is why it is so important that we deal with our colleagues in a possitive way. Below is the response that I sent to Grant. It’s not the total answer, but it’s a start.
This is such a great question! People in the past have mentioned the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie as a good way to learn how to relate to the students. I know that this has worked for me in tremendous ways. But I think that the book can also be used to work with our colleagues, especially when they may be less than excited to hear about tprs. We don’t have to be a lone wolf and if we ever expect people to change, we definitely can’t afford to be a lone wolf. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Remember that it is impossible to defeat an ignorant person by an argument, so it is simply just best to avoid an argument.
2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions and never tell them that they are wrong.
3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
4. Begin in a friendly way.
5. Get the other person saying, “Yes.” immediately.
6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking and simply ask them questions.
7. Let the other person feel that the idea is theirs.
8. Try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view.
9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
11. Dramatize your ideas.
12. Throw down a challenge to people who have spirit and desire to excel.
Some of this may seem kind of corny, but we are not going to win people over by constantly criticizing and picking at the flaws of them or the system they use. It doesn’t matter how right we are, we are not preparing them and making them want to search for other alternatives. If they feel that you respect them and are in working with them for increased acquisition, they will probably be a whole lot more likely to consider CI based teaching.
Some of the items from the list above will help with the smaller battles of tprs and others will be good things to keep in mind with the larger issues of tprs [ex. CI based teaching].
We need to become people that are respected in our schools for the amount of language that our excited/motivated students acquire, rather than teachers that just use weird stories to teach a language. This will help us to establish more credibility and once the ball starts rolling, we may be surprised what happens in our districts.
Here is a tip that Ben Slavic posted on his blog today that really relates to playing the game and storytelling.
Don’t forget this crucial part … – when the circling saturates on one idea, bring in a new event or character and see where that goes. It works. Try it.
A simple, yet effective way to keep the game afloat and the class engaged in the CI.
Another aspect to keep in mind when playing the game with our classes is that the students need to directly know that they are playing the game. If at any point the students are getting a little lame in the suggestions, you just need to remind them about how the game is played. I did this with one of my classes today and the class really turned around. Here’s what I said:
Class, I want to remind you that we are playing a game in here. Here’s how it works. From time to time I will provide opportunities for you to supply details for our story. When I do this, you are competing against each other to see who can come up with the most creative answer. Now if I happen to not choose your answer it is because I have an overview of the story and I know which answers will work the best and which ones will not. So, if I don’t choose your answer, just think of a different one and don’t take it personal. If I happen to pick an answer that you don’t agree with, trust my decision and just go with it. Remember that I have an overview that you may not see and also that I have the best interests of the class in mind.
Of course if the class continues to disagree with your choice you can always pull the line, It’s my story. Though I must confess that I have always had trouble with pulling this off because I always felt like it was our story. Also, the students have adverse reactions when I give them this line because they like the idea that they have a say in the co-creation and to deny them of this by saying it’s my story really puts them off.
I really feel that from time to time the students need to be reminded that they are playing a game. This helps to re-focus my expectations and remind them that I do expect them to contribute. I had another hour today that had a case of the Monday’s and was not really contributing. So I simply said, Hey, you are not allowed to just sit here and do nothing. You need to contribute otherwise your grade will be lowered. Although I wish there were no grades in our classes, I still have to realize that I am in this system and most of them care about their grades. They really snapped to attention and did a lot better after that. I think there comes a point where we demand our expectations and they either rise to the challenge or not. But I am already starting to get into another topic.
If your class is not playing the game try this tactic of reminding them and see if it works.
I started a new page that you can find at the top. It is a list of other tprs blogs. So if you would like to be added to the list, please let me know where your blog can be found and I will add it to the list.
I have gotten several responses from teachers on playing the game, so I will post little segments of what I have found out. It is important that you establish how to play the game very early, but even if you haven’t it is still okay — the students quickly learn. While you are teaching them to play the game, they are learning: how the rules work, the most creative answer wins, which answers are appropriate, they have to participate, and how to respond to peoples suggestions. It is also important that we are encouraging and affirming as we go because they are taking little steps toward buying to our class. If we don’t choose their answer, it still needs to be a positive experience. Eventually, you can joke with them a little more about denying their answers, but in the beginning it’s good to keep it positive.
Here is a strategy that I received from Joe Neilson:
- You ask the class for a detail.
- The class is quiet because they don’t know how to play the game.
- You offer two or three boring suggestions and one that is really funny or bizarre.
- They learn how to play the game.
Ex. Class, why did she trip? [The class is silent, so the teacher says]
- Uhh, She tripped because there was a dog on the floor? [because they are learning the game the class will say, “Yes!” The teacher abruptly says, “No.”
- She tripped because her shoe was untied? [The class says, “Yes!” The teacher abruptly says, “No.” Then answers with an unexpected answer]
- She tripped because there was a bag on the ground. [The class may say, “Yes!” or laugh or they may say nothing because they are caught off guard. This causes curiosity because it was unexpected and then you can talk about why it was on the floor or what was in it or what color it was or where she got it etc. It is an element that leads to another open door and keeps the students on their toes]
I tried this today and it was magic. The students were way more engaged and started to offer up more exciting details. Many of them were better than the one I had reserved. I am going to keep inserting this technique anytime I need to establish the game or get more interesting answers from the class.
Today, my 2nd period class bombed today. Here is the break down of why.
- I didn’t keep the action moving. This made the interaction between the students and me stagnate. How did it get this way? I think that I asked too many review questions and did not keep the storyline moving. Eventually the students become tired of concentrating and you lose them.
- Poor casting. I really feel that this is the main reason why the story died so quickly. I had a kid who wanted to act, but didn’t want to be a ham in the hammy role and I had the kid who is really good at being a ham in a more passive role. If the story would have been casted better, it would have been way more successful. Live and learn I guess.
The nice thing is that I talked with a student from that class a few periods later and she said that it was fine. I feel the students are very forgiving and will come back tomorrow ready for class. Good thing!