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At our first CI workshop for Haitian English teachers, we did an 8 to 9 hour ELL demo over the course of three days.  The teachers were blown away by what they saw. They literally could not believe their eyes or their ears. It seemed to them so effortless and seamless.  They’d never experienced English without all the grammar rules, repetition, memorization, endless drills and exercises. They witnessed the non-English speakers smiling and laughing as we encouraged them with praise and enthusiasm.  They saw us look into the students’ eyes and touch their shoulders with kindness and gentle reassurance. They’d never seen anything like it and they needed to know more.

But now, how do we teach them to teach using CI and TPRS?

  • How do we teach them to ask personal questions?
  • How do we teach them to turn away from their dusty chalkboard and walk towards their students?
  • How do we get them to stop spending an hour writing useless exercises on the board that contain words like Wimbledon that not a single person in the class can relate to?
  • How do we get them to stop using grammar-ese?
  • How do we get them to smile?
  • How do we encourage them to get to know their students’ names?
  • How do we teach them to look their students in the eyes?
  • How do we teach them to not use Creole or French the majority of class time?

4 teacher-training workshops later, here is what we have learned:

  • Take your workshop curriculum and cut in half.
  • Take your new curriculum and cut in half again.  😉
  • Start with TPR
  • Build slowly
  • Teach them about brain breaks
  • Teach them some songs (The Hokey Pokey, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, The Cupid Shuffle, etc…)
  • Put them in small groups and make them practice each skill, one skill at a time.
    • chain commands
    • unpredictable order
    • varying the group size
    • novel commands (Touch your head with your foot, Sit down on your hands, etc..)
    • who, what questions about commands
    • 2-ring circus with only one command (Who is jumping?  What is Louis doing? Who is eating? etc..)
  • Gradually add different question words one at a time.
    • Where and How  (How is Louis eating?  Where is Claude jumping? etc..)
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • In small groups, have one teacher stand up and be the teacher.
  • Have everyone in the group take a turn being the teacher.
  • GRADUALLY teach them a TPR Sequence à la Carol Gaab: (The boy wants a banana. The boy sees a banana. The boy eats a banana.)
  • Teach them how to make a statement and then ask a few basic questions.  add example
  • Encourage them to create their own TPR Sequence in small groups.  Be sure to check their work for accuracy.
  • GRADUALLY help them put it all together.
  • DO NOT try to teach them how to do a full-blown story!  They will fail.
  • Assume that the teachers will be very literal and have very little imagination.
  • Assume that teachers will struggle forming questions in English correctly.
  • Assume that they when they go back to their classroom they will forget most of what you taught them and will easily fall back into bad habits.
  • Assume that they will be afraid to try something that requires them to step way outside of their comfort level.
  • Assume that they will not receive any support for trying something new

We thought we knew what we were doing, but did we have a lot to learn.

Donna Tatum-Johns

My passion is twofold: training teachers using comprehensible-input methods and strategies as well as teaching French using these same techniques. CI helps language classes come alive and allows students to enjoy acquiring a second language more naturally.

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