Now I had attended two NTPRS conferences prior to this, so I was a bit unsure about what to expect at IFLT, other than wonderful presentations by master CI practitioners! Although both conferences address teaching world language teachers about CI/TPRS, there are a number of major differences between NTPRS & IFLT:
- NTPRS is held in a hotel, while IFLT is held on a high school campus.
- Because of this, NTPRS has more of a "conferencey" feel to it, while IFLT is more casual and intimate.
- IFLT is a 4-day conference, while NTPRS is five days.
- IFLT has learning labs, where participants observe master CI teachers actually teaching students using CI, so folks can see it in action.
- NTPRS has language classes where participants can learn other languages just like students via CI and get to experience sequencing/scaffolding of lessons in a language which they do not know first hand.
My dear friend Edie, whenever she asks folks to tell her about their vacations or an experience, will ask two simple questions: What was most as expected about _________? What was least as expected about ________? I will follow her lead and use those two questions to guide my reflection (plus Justin Slocum Bailey, who also attended IFLT, and I just asked each other these questions, as he is in town before heading off to NTPRS in Reno, so these answers are still fresh in my mind).
1) What was MOST as expected about IFLT? Hands down - the incredible sessions! Looking over the list of sessions on the program, I knew that it was going to be difficult to choose. Like NTPRS, IFLT was a watering hole for those CI teachers whom I greatly admire, and I got the chance to learn from them!
2) What was LEAST as expected about IFLT? I have two answers for this question.
- The language labs. To get the chance to observe master CI instructors teaching students in a real-life classroom environment is always great for me, because I learn a new strategy or I see ways in which I can refine what I am already doing; I was excited that I was going to get the chance to see this at IFLT. However, what I was not expecting to witness was the relationships which these teachers had with these students in these labs. The students in these labs were elementary and middle-school age students whose parents had signed them up for it, much like a weeklong summer camp, so these teachers only had 4 days to "work their magic." On day 2, I saw French teacher Donna Tatum-Johns personalize the stories which she was telling in French by involving the students in the class and how much they loved being characters in the story. When in a story where the character was being described as smart and Donna asked the middle school aged girl playing the character if she were smart (as part of circling) and she replied, "No, I am not smart," I saw Donna stop what she was doing, go up to her, place her arms on her shoulders, look her in the eye, and say with a motherly tone, "You are always smart in this class." On the last day, I observed Annabelle Allen's Spanish class for elementary school aged students, and I absolutely teared up seeing her students RUN to her class with absolute joy to see her and how she greeted each student individually with a hug and a kind word. I stayed for two lab periods on that day, because I could not get enough of what she was doing with these kids. At the end of the lab, when Annabelle asked the kids what she did to make the lessons understandable, one of the students replied, "Your voice is happy."
- My own knowledge of CI. Yes, I know that I write this blog which is dedicated to implementing Comprehensible Input in the Latin classroom, but quite honestly, for some reason I still view myself as having a novice level user knowledge of CI facilitation. At IFLT, I was serving in the role as an apprentice coach, so I was involved in the coaching aspect of the conference, but quite honestly, prior to arriving, I felt like a fraud going in. I remember thinking going into the conference, "Wow, if the IFLT folks only knew how little I know about CI compared to the rest of these coaches." However, during the week, I cannot tell you how many lengthy one-on-one talks I had with beginner teachers in the Teacher Talk area who had questions about CI implementation, assessing with CI, how to plan a lesson, etc., and I was able to answer their questions. Somehow unbeknownst to me deep inside me I had that experiential knowledge, and that came out of me during these conversations. Maybe it was because I knew exactly where they were in terms of doubts and of concerns. Maybe it was because they just wanted to hear someone say that it was going to be okay. Regardless, I am finally beginning to think, "Wow, maybe I do know some stuff about CI..."
Anyhow, IFLT was an absolutely incredible experience, and I would recommend it to anyone (in the same way, I would recommend NTPRS to anyone). If you are interested in next year's IFLT, it will be in Denver from July 11-14, 2017. I have already decided that I am going to be there! Hope you will join me!