Episode 29: Drop the Bells and Whistles - An Ode to Ben Tinsley

Nov 30, 2022

You are going to love hearing about Ben Tinsley, if you haven't already! Get ready to be blown away!

Claudia Elliott - Growing with Proficiency
Growing with Proficiency - Podcast Episode 9

Cultivating Classroom Environment Podcast - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Ben Tinsley Website
Ben Tinsley Instagram

Express Fluency

Donna Tatum Johns Website
Donna Tatum Johns' Game: The Secret Number

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Welcome to Teaching la vida loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most our students, I'm your host, Annabelle. Most people call me la maestra loca, and I'm an educator just like you and inspiring teachers is what I do. Okay, y'all.

Showing Appreciation

Recording podcast is normally so easy, because I just go with what I feel inspired to record. And let me tell you, I have never spent so long trying to start this freaking podcast. Just because of the audio. The audio has given me such trouble tonight. In fact, I literally at one point had five pillows on top of my head, I think I'm going to have to post the photo because Paul took a photo of me trying and swearing, cursing at the freaking audio. Don't worry, I won't post the video, but the photo will be very, very funny. I always see podcasters wearing these headphones, and I thought oh, maybe I have to wear headphones. Okay, so for real though, I just want to give a quick shout out to Tiffany. Everybody say, wait, I want to tell you why you're gonna say thanks, Tiffany. First. Everybody, when I say go is going to say thanks, Tiffany because I record these and I do the editing. But then I send them to my friend Tiffany, and she uploads them helps them with show notes. Does the blog side does the transcripts. Does the publishing for me. Schedules them, does all of that for me. Because honestly, the back end is where I get totally overwhelmed. I can absolutely record. I feel so good about it. It's one of my favorite ways to share with y'all. But without Tiffany you wouldn't have teaching la vida loca. So, on the count of three, we're going to say thanks, Tiffany, and she's going to feel it at all times of the day and night. Sorry, Tiffany, not at all. Sorry. From wherever you're listening. So, when I say go, ready. Uno, dos, tres. Go. Thanks, Tiffany. We are so grateful for you, Tiffany.

Take Two!

Okay, so on to the podcast. I'm so excited to record today's podcast for you. Today's podcast is called an ode to Ben Tinsley. Q some sort of heroic epic, Avengers like music bum ba bum ba bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum bum. But we know that I'm not that fancy. And I'm not about to go and find some fancy music. So I'm just gonna sing for you instead. Y'all. Ben Tinsley, I will not lie. I recorded this episode once before. Yes, I did. I recorded it. And it was 45 minutes long. And because I am being more authentic and more real than ever with you, post actual, remember how I blogged about my actual takeaways. One of the biggest was, I'm not holding anything back. I'm going to be fully authentic all the time. Well, I recorded that episode when I had had a few too many drinks. And I thought it would be a really good idea to record a podcast to tell y'all how freaking amazing my French teacher is. Because he is for freaking amazing. And I recorded a 45-minute podcast about it. So, I then listen to the next day and was like, Oh, we are not letting the universe hear this. So as authentic as I am being instead, I'm going to record this again. wine glass in hand. This is my first wine of the night. I'll have you know, but I wanted to come and try this again and still title it an ode to Ben Hensley, and still tell you about how freaking epic and awesome he is and why. And why he is changing the way I teach, and the way I think about teaching, and how he can impact you and your students and your classroom starting tomorrow if you let him but I'm not going to do it while I've had too many champagnes and glasses of wine and, you know, gin whatever's. Okay, here we go.

My Ode

Are you ready? An ode to Ben Tinsley. I am currently taking French classes once a week with Ben Tinsley on Wednesday nights through Express fluency. Express fluency is a business run by Alyssa out of Vermont, and Alyssa McLean is an incredible human who I am very lucky enough to help run conference in the cloud with her. And Alison, I'm sure tons of you know, Allison Linton, and my Viviana Tracy, we all run conference in the cloud together which by the way we're doing again this coming summer. If we already have tickets on sale, I'll put it in the show notes. I'm not sure yet but you definitely want to stay tuned. It is an incredibly awesome conference and one that Ben Tinsley was a part of last year. And that's actually how I got to know and meet Ben Tinsley. He led one of our language labs last summer. Conference in the cloud is a fully virtual conference. But we do have language classes where teachers can come and observe real teachers, teaching real students in real time. Or, in recordings if they don't want to come live, because it's their summer. And hey, when it's our summer, we got a summer, but Ben, not den. Oh, my goodness. And don't worry, too many. Ben led one of our French classes, and I only got to pop into his room once, but he was in the middle of a map talk. And I was like, dang, that's good. And a lot of people are talking about Ben and map talk right now. And I'm not going to. I'm going to talk about Ben and his simplicity.

French Class

I am blown away every week when I show up to French class. And Ben starts class with 10 minutes of small talk, mostly in French, by the way, and we're all novices, when he still manages to do small talk with novices. And then he pulls up a single slide with, that says true or false. And that single blank slide, then has five sentences pop up one at a time as he wants them to. There are no fancy gifs. There are no fancy visuals. It's just five sentences, one after another. And he leads us through these conversations. And we're all so engaged. And he has five sentences on a slide prepped. Ready for the next part. Ben, in the last two classes has opened either a map, but I said I'm not going to talk about map talk. Even though it's epic. You can go listen to my friend, Claudia's podcast, growing with proficiency, her podcast number nine talks about Ben Tinsley and map talk. So, go listen to that. But, or go yeah, go and listen to that. That's the best thing to do for map talk. But he also will open a calendar, legit just open Google Calendar. And y'all he guided us through guessing each other's birthdays. And the language we use. We stayed 98% in the target language, at least 98 I would say he taught 98% in the target language. With novice students. Granted, we are educated adults who are eager, paying for this French class, because we want to learn but guided us in 98% target languages, language, novices through going through a calendar, guessing each other's birthdays. Do you think it's before or after April? Ask her Annabelle, what do you think? And then I'm speaking in French, I'm asking this person across the country that I don't know. Is your birthday in French. And I'm speaking in French, I know that was probably hurting your ears. Those of you who teach French, but I'm speaking in French asking a person in my classroom if their birthday is in March, and then she says no. And then he guides us to ask is it before or after? Is it in between this date in this date? And literally, can fill 45 minutes of time with a calendar open? Again, that's very visual. But did he prep the visuals? No. Were we fully engaged? Yes.


So, y'all I wanted to rerecord this tonight because I recorded the original disastrous Ode to Ben Tinsley, about three or four weeks ago. And I wanted to rerecord it tonight, because today I went to school after a really long night. I had a really long night really hard night. And, I just I have been working so hard on pushing out these emails. For those of you on my email list. I've been sending out an email every day for seven days. Each email includes a freebie of the day and a deal of the day. So, I decided to do this and I'm so glad I did. But it has been a lot of work. And then today was just yesterday was really, really hard. And then I was really, really tired last night, and it was a really hard night. And so when I woke up today, I was like, What am I going to do? What am I gonna do with my students, I have no energy. I don't have time or energy to plan anything and make my usual slides. And so I went into school and I was like, you know what, I'm going to try it. I'm going to do what Ben does. I'm gonna open a calendar. And then did I? No, I was super Annabelle about it. And I went extra. And I like, made a little Canva thing with one thing had like, the four different seasons, it was so simple for Annabelle, by the way, it wasn't like crazy extra, I had one little section of Canva that had the four seasons. And then I had another with the months of the year in Spanish, and then another with days in the year. That's it. And then the only language I had was, I think that and then she or he or they think that, in the target language in the translations. And before then and after. So, in Spanish, I had piensa que, pienso que, with the translations, and that's the only language I had on the slides. And I was like, oh my god, that was the easiest prep I've ever done. And then y'all, every class, I was so joyful. I found myself for the first time in a long time, literally dropping to my knees dramatically on the ground, like pulling my hair like oh my gosh, this is so intense classe, because we would get closer and closer to a student's birthday. Like, okay, is your birthday in March? And they were like, yes. And we had literally been narrowing it down for five minutes. And finally we get to March. And it's like, oh, we're there. Oh, my gosh. And is it? I think that your birthday is the 15th of March. And they're like no, incorrecto. And you're like, no, is it before the 15th. And I'm telling you, my kids were wildly engaged. I was easily 98% in the target language. My students spoke more Spanish today than they have all year. Granted, I know, I have already worked very hard to cultivate that classroom environment where they are eager and excited to speak in the target language. I recorded a three-part podcast about it, go and listen to it. Because I know that that's part of it. But my gosh, every child, they were raising their hands, they all wanted to guess each other's birthday. They all wanted to like get closer and narrow it down. The only struggle I had as an elementary teacher was there were kids who literally didn't know what before and after meant. In third grade. Some of my really low kiddos my low, low, low readers, or my low low tier three math kiddos had in a full inclusion school, had no idea what I meant by before and after. So, if I was like, okay, is your birthday before? So your birthday, we would establish, for example, that their birthday was before the 16th. But after the 12th. And then a kid would be like, is it the 14th? And they would say no, it's before the 14th. And we were like oh, it's definitely we know the date, then it has to be the 13th. And then we're like no, it we you just contradicted everything you just said. And it turns out the kid had no idea what before meant. So that's the only thing I had to navigate was in two classes. A couple kids that I had asked to navigate their birthday had no idea what before and after. 

Impactful Teaching

Y'all, it was such a joyful day. And it was so impactful to see how minimal prep I could do and how that language was maximized. How engagement was so high. They were the center of the class, as usual. They usually are but, man, they were they were so excited to speak in the target language and engage. And what I realized at the end of the day, y'all, I took a picture on my whiteboard. I used my slides, I used my Canva. But I use my whiteboard way more. I barely I didn't even need to do anything other than pull up a Google Calendar. And so, this is what I mean about Ben revolutionising, like my view of education or like how I prep. I use the lead workshops on no plan lesson planning, but I still would like say, Okay, you plan one thing and you teach it for all your classes, no matter what, you know, levels you're teaching, and I still could lead those workshops and I think it's powerful, but Ben takes us to a whole nother level of like, true teacher self-care, mental care, emotional care. I'm not saying he's lazy. because what he's doing is powerful and is very clearly intentionally planned and thought out. But he's not using a bunch of crazy gimmicks, or pretty gifs, and slides and all these things that I am so crazy about putting together and putting together perfectly. He's not doing that. And his teaching is just as impactful and powerful, and honestly, even more so. Because it's not anything extra. It's just connecting with me and the other students in my class. And today, I just connected with my students in a really powerful way. And, I am emotional now. But I'm really so grateful to Ben Tinsley, you can imagine now, how much mushier and emotional the other podcast was, oh, it was hot mess. But y'all, Ben Tinsley is really on to something. And I'm really grateful for him.

Where to Find

If you're not following him, I'm gonna link to his website, his Instagram, I'm gonna share the link to Express Fluency's page because I am hoping he will offer another class and, if he does, you should absolutely get on it. Give this man your money. If you are already a French teacher, sorry, do not join our classes. Because we are all very novice, and we don't need teachers coming in making us feel like we are sucky at French. But, you know, you can still come to Conference in the Cloud. And maybe we can twist his arm to do a lab again, because he is really powerful. He's really powerful. He's got something going on. So, hopefully your takeaway is to be a little bit more like Ben, do it a little less with the planning and the prep of these crazy, fancy slides and things, and just talk to your kids. Pull up a map, pull up a calendar, and just be. Thanks, Ben. What a powerful lesson.


I have one more disclaimer that I want to put it in here. Gosh, I really should have said at the beginning, make sure you listen all the way to the end. For a little disclaimer, if you're new to acquisition driven instruction, and you're brand new to this, like the world of making the the language or teaching the center like actually speaking more of the language instead of teaching about it. Moving away from explicit grammar instruction. If you're this is new to you. This episode might feel like Yeah, but how? That's okay, that's a normal place to be in. And I really do think it takes a lot of time. And literally scripting what you're going to say, to get to a place where you can just be like, I'm going to pull up a calendar. Here I go. But if you are more intermediate, and you've been doing this for a while, I want you to take this leap. I want you to try it even tomorrow. Just try it. Try it today. If you're on your way to work, try it today. Pull up a calendar, pull up a map, do what Ben does. If you're new to it, scaffold build up to it, do what Ben does. But go ahead and sit down with a notebook and script out the questions you're going to ask how are you going to stay comprehensible? How are you going to limit your vocabulary to high frequency language that your kids already know or you that you've been helping facilitate their acquisition of how are you going to make sure that you're not using too much out of balance? How are you going to keep it comprehensible by pausing and pointing, by asking comprehension questions, by slowing down. All of these things are skills that are built over time. And honestly, the journey to become an acquisition driven instruction teacher or teacher facilitating acquisition. It's it's a journey. It's a path and there's lots of ups and downs. I always say it's like a roller coaster. There's lots of big disastrous crashes and burns where you're like, what just happened? Can I just forget today happened or that class happened? And then there's these moments of? That's it. I did it. They did it. Oh my gosh, they're using it. Oh my gosh, it's happening. It's happening. It's happening. It's happening. Those moments are so powerful. They're gonna push you through those really hard moments. So hang on to those moments. I think I'm doing it, I think I'm doing it, they're doing it, we're doing it together. Hang on to those moments, because over time, there's going to be fewer and fewer of the crashes and burns. And more and more of the oh my gosh, we're doing it. Moments. Okay. That's my little disclaimer then, whoo, this was a longer podcast. I haven't done one this long in a long time. Should we do a brain break before we go? Okay, yes, why not? Okay.

Brain Break

Okay, so I will tell you the brain break that I did today. A la Donna Tatum Johns, I will link to this. I think she did a pod. No, not a podcast. I mean, a blog about this one. It fits so nicely. And with what I was already doing with Ben's birthday thing and the calendar that I just did her number guessing. So, she literally thinks of a random number. And she gives her kids a range like, Okay, I'm thinking of a number between one and 50. And she thinks of this number in her head. I think she even shows one student, I didn't show a student. I just trusted that they trust me. They're in elementary school, they know no better like with middle, I might have to like tell somebody or write the number down somewhere. But I thought of a number and then the kids try and guess what number you're thinking of? And then you either say no, it's bigger than or less than, and it's a great brain break. So no, so if I'm thinking of a number right now, between 20 and 50, I've got it in my head. Let's say Amber says it's 23. I'm gonna say, higher. And then Tyler says it's 30. And I'll say higher. And then I'll say classe it'ss in-between, it's got to be between 30. And what about 50. It gives you great reps of numbers, which isn't necessarily something that it feels natural to get reps of, gives them lots of exposure to numbers, but they're wildly engaged because they're just trying to figure out what the heck number you have, like what number you're thinking of a great variation is obviously to have the kids come up with the number and then narrow it down. 

Community Building

The community building is huge with this one, as with all brain breaks, just a reminder, because they as a collective are trying to figure out what number you're thinking of. And it's a great sense of accomplishment and joy, and cheering. A lot of cheering ensues when they do figure it out. So that's just a fun little brain break. Again, thanks Donna Tatum Johns for teaching me that one.


Okay, that's the end of this. Please, please, please, if you've enjoyed this episode, send it to a teacher that needs to hear that it's okay to plan less and do less. Send them this ode to Ben Tinsley and let them know that they can be equally as powerful with much less. And it's okay if you want to be like me and still hang on to a couple of your bells and whistles. But remember that doing less is always okay too. I love you, and I'm grateful for you teacher. I am grateful for my teacher Ben Tinsley. Ben, if you listen to the end of this gosh, I hope you make it through.

Thank you!

Thank you for all you do for your students for educators around the globe. You are certainly an inspiration, and I am so excited for class tomorrow. I want a word for excited. I don't know how to say excited. Just sleep clay content. The de ma cluster francais? I am clearly a novice but listen to that amazing French. I know my teacher would be proud. Thanks, y'all. Have a great night or day or whenever you're listening to this. And until next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca, and I'm sure you will be too! Take care, teacher!

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