Gary DiBianca seems to find himself in a predicament of many teachers I meet. He has to use a traditional textbook. However he has found a magical way that seems to make it work as he blends the textbook with CI.
One example of how Gary has successfully done this is that he blends “I Can statements” beautifully with SLA. For example one of his examples said, “I can listen to the story to aid in acquiring language while letting my teacher know when I do not understand.” Gary assured us that we CAN make “I Can statements” as TPRS/CI instructors. Some other key ‘TCI (Teaching with Comprehensible Input) pieces’ that we can add to our units are basic TPR which builds the foundation of students’ proficiency in ANY level, PQA (Personal Questions & Answers) and finally, reading stories.
Here is an example that Gary shared about TCI in his units:
- Piece 1: TPR, foundation piece all kids need. He teaches corre and not correr.
- Piece 2: PQA which you can do with card talk or circling with balls from Ben Slavic.
- Piece 3: Use stories. Gary reminded us that we do not HAVE to co-create stories with our students. We can tell them.
- Piece 4: Make sure to keep your stories SIMPLE, 5-10 lines …. You don’t need a million details. If you don’t stay simple and you are a beginner you will FAIL. Go slow, ask for help and BE SIMPLE!
I really liked that Gary said that we as teachers don’t always have to co-create a story with our students. We can TELL stories. Our whole world is built on stories. He shares some fun strategies that he is using successfully in his class. Some are circumlocution games like Hot Seat from Bryan Kandel, Kindergarten Day with novels, Movie Talk, Calendar Talk, the idea of a Password from Bryce Hedstrom, formative exit slips and class dictations (students write a sentence from what is dictated and then correct it after seeing the proper form).
Gary has successfully connected the Cuentame Más curriculum to the textbook. This curriculum is a wonderful asset to any beginner since it includes illustrated stories, written stories, cultural readings and activities that are based on high-frequency vocabulary and high-interest topics. Gary said he uses the story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” It incorporates core structures like yells, runs, cries, eats as well as structures such as tall boy and girl which build in the grammar needed in a traditional class.
Gary gave a shout out to Carrie Toth while he talked about the typical textbook house unit. Carrie Toth has created an incredible unit to build intercultural communicative competence with this unit based on Peter Menzel’s book, “Material World.” Students will go way beyond remembering, understanding and applying. This unit will have your students make deep cultural comparisons while analyzing, evaluating and ultimately creating with language!
A very enlightening moment for me was when Gary shared how he backward plans teaching with a reader. He first takes a reader, reads it, takes a highlighter and searches for words his students don’t know. Next he categorizes these words in his mind. For example when he pre-taught the vocabulary for “Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha” he organized the vocabulary into the three categories of love, crime and violence. Then he pre-teaches the necessary structures with stories, MovieTalk and Word of the Week/Password. Then he decides how long it will take his class to read the book. Gary likes to read the book in one straight shot instead of reading once a week (for example). This way the story stays fresh in the students’ minds. He also decides how he will activate prior knowledge, introduce the setting and the culture of the novel.
Gary spoke about how he connects readers to his textbook. He explained that you can tie many typical textbook chapters into one large unit with the reader. For example if you use Carrie Toth’s chuck-it-bucket, you can really hit on a few topics that are present in the textbook. Some of those chapters might be well-suited to teaching celebrations, shopping, or reflexives. I have had success with the same method.
Finally at the end of the session Gary talked about how he uses Socratic Circles in his classroom. Thank you Gary for a very informative session.