jGR Question

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32 thoughts on “jGR Question”

  1. I actually would like to add a larger question to Erin’s. Is jGR working the way we meant it to work? I mean, does it have any teeth or are we currently not enforcing it because it demands too much confrontation on our part that the students actually change? I feel the 65% jGR/35% quizzes is the best. But I get the feeling after all our high hopes of a year ago that many of have blown it off. True?

    1. Jeffery Brickler

      I won’t deny it. I have not had the courage to stand up with this. I think it is powerful, but we have to own it. We have to give them time to understand. I think that it is really important to norm the class in the beginning and to give them examples of their grade early on. We need to discuss with them what their grade is after the first week. If we want it to have power, then they must know what the expectations look like.
      Another issue is that they don’t understand it. They are beat down in their other classes for not knowing something. They are told to be quiet and disengage. Take these notes, do this worksheet, do these stupid common core annotations about the reading. They don’t know what it means to show up. They need SO much training and retraining. I think we need to be firm, but gentle at first and then let bring the hammer.
      I also tell them that there JGR grade can change at any time. If they can prove to me that they can consistently do the skills, I will change their grade. I am hoping that I can find in mys soul the courage to give them the REAL grade that they have earned rather than the one that the THINK they deserve. When I do self-evals, they are totally off base. They can’t fill out the rubric. Next year I am going to work with them more deliberately so that they understand what is required.

      1. To be honest, I can’t use jGR. I really simplified it, made just 5 yes/no categories, but even then, I have trouble evaluating honestly a class of kids, and recalling a kid’s behavior on each category. And that takes time. They each have a chart in their notebooks for all their jGR self-evals and there’s a place for the teacher to add his eval. I’ll grade a few kids each class. But more often than not, I won’t even use it.
        One internal issue I have is that I feel like I’m using their grade (extrinsic reward) as a way to force them to communicate.
        I’m lucky to work in an elementary/middle school and get the same kids year after year. By 7th and 8th grade, I have buy-in from the vast majority. For the few that participate less, it’s usually because they are taking Spanish for the first time or really they can’t help it (shy or distracted types).

        1. Yeah, sometimes I find myself using jGR punitively. I will say, when I went over the change in rubric with my classes, and told them that I was willing to go back and adjust a bad grade, I got much better buy-in from all my classes, even the most chatty, blurty eighth grade class.

          1. Erin this is what I think is ethically correct. If a kid can move from a 2 to an 8 on the rubric by effort of will in class over a grading period, we evaluate at 8, in my opinion, and not 5.

          2. Going back and adjusting a bad jGR grade, or giving the 8 instead of a 2 for a student that improved over time, these are the humane things to do. At the same time, being how SLA works with the sinking-in of vocabulary structures in the unconscious after hours of input, then the poor jGR grades that the student was receiving at the beginning of the semester should count, right?
            I am currently facing the unfortunate reality, as the end of quarter 3 approaches, of teachers being mandated to give make-up work (packets and what not) to students that are failing so that they can bring up their grades. In this reality, students know how to play the game. It stinks. My students are super disruptive as a result.
            My admin want me to do away with jGR / Interpersonal Communication Skills as a graded assessment all together. It’s crazy because we’re also an IB school and 2/4 of the assessment criteria for IB in Language Acquisition involves listening to and responding to spoken text. I’m learning that jGR, and the idea of human interaction in the classroom, is a cultural shift that my school is not ready for. It will take time, but I’m not so sure that people will ever buy into it here.

          3. …then the poor jGR grades that the student was receiving at the beginning of the semester should count, right?…
            I would not count them, Sean, personally. But if the students are that good at playing you on that, and if the culture of the school allows them to do so by allowing them to make up work at the last minute, then there is nothing you can do.
            Educating your administrator to the value of the interpersonal skill in term of the Communication standard doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen. So much for admins supporting the national parent organization of their employees.
            Look man. I don’t know how tied to Chicago you are, and Denver sure ain’t Chicago, but at least consider DPS. I can’t see such a wonderful gentleman having to eat stinky sandwiches served up by idiots every day. You changed schools for a reason and now you find yourself being challenged on what you believe is best for your students. Diana would not let that happen to you, Sean.
            Sorry about the bitchy edge or if I offend someone. But when I see truly wonderful educators being taken around the side of the barn by people who don’t get it, it makes me that way. Especially Sean, who is as good as we get in this community.

          4. Thanks for your perspective Ben. I’m really in a conundrum here. If things work out, I’ll be teaching with another TPRS teacher next year here in Chicago.
            But yeah, I really needed to hear that from you… your affirmations. Much appreciated.

          5. Any need for Scottish Gaelic teachers in DPS, Ben? šŸ™‚ My senior manager told me that my classroom rule of “I don’t use English during Gaelic time” was unreasonable for learners today.

          6. We miss your voice Jason! Is the guy serious? Could you share with us why he thinks that staying in the TL is unreasonable? I don’t even know how to react to that.
            Hey we don’t even have German in DPS if you can believe that. And anyway they need you in Scotland. And the data collection piece is getting worse every year here, as well. Are you coming over here this summer?

          7. Cheers, Ben! Yes, she was quite serious. If I remember correctly, her reasoning was that it was too difficult for learners to do … despite my 6th graders doing it just fine this year. Their output and confidence after not even 40 hours of CI is staggering yet my admins apparently don’t value that. They value test scores and ticking the boxes. I’m making up a big official looking sheet that spells out how my activities in class meet the required outcomes so they back off.
            I’m also trying to spin my classroom rules as early preparation for the required rigourous listening/speaking assessments when the kids start taking the big deal exam classes. I’m slowly learning how to “bow” to the External Assessment Gods while still giving the kids a proper experience in class. It’s so difficult.
            Yes, I plan to be at iFLT and NTPRS this summer. I’ll be presenting a session at NTPRS actually! Wicked excited about that. I doubt that I’ll get funding through my school due to severe budget cuts but I’ll find a way over somehow.

          8. Jason, I’ll see you at iFLT in MN as well! You have to make sure you get a video recording of your session at NTPRS. I doubt I’m the only one here that would like to see it. Blasta!
            Sounds like you have a plan in place to respond to that 20th century admin, as Ben would say. I wish you luck.
            I recently had the assistant principal that hired me a couple of months ago, a guy that used to eat up the CI platter I served, turn on me and say things like, “We really need to focus on Common Core standards and teaching reading skills. You know, with all the focus on testing kids on reading, I even have to push the art teachers to teach reading skills.” My whole thing about kids not being able to read new vocabulary structures before we immerse them in an aural conversation fell flat. I know because of the current politics and culture at my school, he wasn’t hearing that anymore.
            I cut my teeth on this CI stuff last year working with neighborhood kids from the West Side of Chicago, from the most disenfranchised (or whatever you want to call it) communities. And it worked. I’m realizing it worked because I had a dean and a principal that loved what I did and told kids so when they came and complained. We need our admin to tell our students, “I value what you’re learning in that CI class. You need to value it as well.” Simple words. That’s what we need our admin to do.

          9. Hey Jason! It’s really a shame that this guy doesn’t get it. I’ve learned recently that changing the culture of the foreign language classroom in some schools is something that’s going to take a looooong time.

          10. Hey Sean! That sounds so familiar. Hopefully this wasn’t learned the hard way? šŸ™‚

          11. Yeah Jason I fear that with our gentle Sean it was learned the hard way. Let’s talk about it this summer. I’ll be at MN but not Washington, DC.

        2. …I feel like Iā€™m using their grade (extrinsic reward) as a way to force them to communicate….
          That is called working in a school. It’s set up that way. We can’t do anything about it except to protect ourselves. I know that the rubric has flaws. It is because the system it is designed to work in is so flawed. People learn languages because they want to, not because of any other extrinsic school related “motivator”. But what can we do? I must send strong messages every day that as the adult my evaluation of their observable non-verbal behavior is the law in the room. I will not be played for a grade by children who have learned that that is what students do in schools. They will earn their grade from me by abiding by the rules that I have decided are necessary for me to see gains from my instruction. Otherwise I have to work too hard. We both do our 50%. If they don’t, or at least try, their grade will suffer because it is the only way they can acquire. Tuning out teachers has moved up to #1 on my own personal hit list of things to not allow in my classroom. It ruins all our work.

        3. In the participation grade I gave my students, 5 out of twenty points were based on my opinion of how attentive they were. I told them that these 5 points were completely subjective, whereas the other 15 points were objective, based on the number of times they were recorded by a class secretary as participating in class. When I read the grades out at the end of each trimester, an ancient French custom, when I came to students that might complain about their grade, instead of reading it out loud, I asked them what they felt they deserved. Inevitably, they would give themselves either the same grade as I had written down, or less. I love how honest kids are in front of their peers.

          1. Nice. I love how the French humiliate people. In this case, we could borrow from them a bit. Somebody needs to write a book on the spineless American teacher.

          2. I love the idea of that class secretary job. I tinkered with it a bit recently. Next year, with a new set of classes, I think I can make it work.

          3. I plan on using the class secretary next year also but I think that I will play with it this year to work out some kinks. I only plan on having them record positive interactions, not blurting. I don’t think it would work well for me to have it anything other than rewarding the positive. I might even give a star of the week for the student with the most vocal contributions but fear it might encourage competition instead of just celebration. I guess I’ll just see how it works.

          4. Yeah, I think the classroom secretary can also provide “evidence of students’ responses” in regards to interpersonal skills that admins look for.

          5. In my school the language teachers gave an ‘oral participation” grade, so it was expected. I struggled with this, because it seemed to be so arbitrary on the teacher’s part and the students would explain a low grade with “the teacher doesn’t like me.” So I came up with the idea of having the class secretary record the number of times students participated in the class by contributing to the discussion. The job rotated every class, so the secretary was always a different person. It helped students whose thoughts tended to stray to focus on the class. It also helped them to understand that it wasn’t an easy job and to be less critical if the secretary missed one of their participations.
            I quickly realized that shy students would have a very low “oral participation” mark, so I came up with the idea that Attention deserved to be rewarded too, and is another way of participating. So the person who spoke up most often in class had a maximum of 15 points, and everyone who gave me the impression that they were listening attentively had five points. It worked out that shy students who were attentive and made just a little effort to speak once in a while got a passing grade. Chatterers and blurters lost points, and given the system where every point counts, made an effort to keep their full quota. What I liked about the system was that the students seemed to feel that it was fair.

          6. This is great Judy. I think I’ll give the class secretary job another try this year… rotating it and giving extra credit to the top students who respond the most. Question: do you have the class secretary make a mark when a student chats or blurts, or do you do that yourself? If you have the class secretary noting those disruptions, didn’t you get push-back from kids? How did you get your kids to take ownership of that disciplinarian role?

          7. Judy I will add this clarification to the job description of this job in the categories. I can see where it could get gnarly with kids emotions and sense of fairness but the way you explained it I think it could work.

  2. The reason that jGR was a great idea, and had great impact had nothing to do with the grade attached to it. What happened was that teachers (thinking that it mattered to students because of the attached grade) began to pay close attention to behavior, and responding in a way that would encourage students to behave better.
    1. Expectations were clear.
    2. Expectations were enforced.
    If we can remember to do that intermittently all year long, EVEN WITHOUT A GRADE ATTACHED, behavior will improve.
    Please believe that you can enforce behavior without a grade. You’ve been enforcing by stopping, pointing, waiting for the correct behavior, and then returning to the lesson.
    Your caring, clear expectations….followed by paying close attention to students’ behavior and responding to it is what is needed.
    The grade was just a carrot.
    with love,

    1. I totally agree, Laurie, that by ourselves placing value on the jGR students will learn to value it. However, jGR is more than “behavior”, don’t you think? It’s about laying the foundation so that students will begin to interact and respond, verbally, to spoken text. These are the demonstration of language acquisition skills that we are assessing. It’s a framework for building acquisition, just like in math class students must show that they can add, subtract, and multiply before they can do algebra.
      How else would we assess students’ ability to respond and interact to the spoken text / aural language? Have them record themselves responding to a recorded teacher dialogue? That would take forever to listen to and grade.
      This is the conversation I’ve been having with my admin recently…

  3. This is one of the best of Laurie’s observations here:
    …please believe that you can enforce behavior without a grade….
    It makes me realize what we have become in schools. We complain about the kids being driven by grades but then we fail to see that if is our message about proper decorum that we send out on the first day of school and every day after that that really determines how they behave. As Laurie implies, we have ourselves bought into the idea that we need grades to get kids to behave in a certain way.
    I am of the opinion that most CI teachders have a ways to go in establishing clear boundaries in a classroom. Grades can’t do it. Only we can. We demand the behavior we need to teach using CI, which is very different from the behavior needed in a traditional class, which is why kids push back so hard as James pointed out a few days ago.
    We can’t want kids to like us. It doesn’t work that way.
    I love what Laurie said about using jGR without the numbers part, just using it with extreme repetition until they get the new expected cultural norm in their WL class. I don’t care what they do in their other classes.
    One thing I will NOT do is forget that everything, all the years of training to teach this way, all the fights with colleagues, all the sleepless nights, don’t count for anything unless I am aware of my own personal strength as a teacher and as a person in a classroom, to in effect demand that my students behave with observable non-verbal behaviors that I have defined for them, and they will do it and there will no discussion. No matter how far down our overall system of education has descended, I will not go with it.

    1. Jeffery Brickler

      Thank you for continuing this discussion. I agree with Laurie that we can enforce it even without the grade. I can also admit that I am not doing that as much as I would like. Still growing here.
      So, do we use JGR as a grade? What say you benslavicland?
      I find that my most resistant students are the grade game players. It’s the students who want to get an A, have always gotten an A and that’s it. I get frustrated that grades get in the way of learning, but our system has it.
      Some classes have great buy in and I don’t even need the JGR. Other classes resist and don’t want to do what I ask. They want to sit and disengage and then blame me.
      Most important take-away for me: Set clear expectations and enforce them constantly. It’s exhausting. I am hoping an easier schedule will allow me to do that.

      1. Jeff I use jGR like a hammer on kids who need it. You know the ones. There are so few of them, that I don’t have many battles to fight. If the kid is of good will and trying, I grade them “up” on the scale. If they are trying to hassle me for a grade, I get out my little silver jGR hammer. I use it as a weapon on those kids who are not in my class for the reasons I myself went into a classroom – to find community and fun in doing cool human stuff that leads to a better experience of life vs. grade grubbing.

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