ACTFL Discussion

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17 thoughts on “ACTFL Discussion”

  1. I am new to the ACTFL listserv, but people writing me had implied that the listserv never has much activity and never much discussion of the big issues. And this is the online community of our National Organization?! Something’s wrong there.

    So, there may be a lot of people signed up on ACTFL’s listserv, but who knows how many of those accounts are active. I think there are other FL teacher listservs where we would have gotten more intelligent defenses.

    It’s cool, really. For 1 month we turned ACTFL’s listserv almost entirely into a place for TCI teachers. In that entire time, were there any new threads of substance besides ours? Nope.

    I don’t know how much the ACTFL leaders read, but hopefully a lot. They certainly haven’t been active. Paul Sandrock gave us a substance-less response, even making statements that I deem false (claiming authres are “redundant”). Jaime, the Manager of Member Services, poked his head in, but then took off running when confronted. Helena Curtain never responded to me. My mistake was to make my letter to her public. At the time, I thought it was gonna be the only way to pressure her to respond to me, but it probably looked like bullying.

  2. If you want to call those calling out Monsanto on GMO’s I guess you can call it bullying. However, those bullying Monsanto are not doing it because they don’t like Monsanto, but because the future of the food supply on this planet is about to implode under the weigh of their greed. So they are acting on behalf of humanity. It may be less dramatic, but that is what you and the Bear are really doing. For me it always comes down to what is best for kids in the WL classroom. So if you want to call into question not keeping that letter to Curtain private, be my guest. I see the work you and Robert doing on that list as nothing short of heroic, because you are using reason in the most honest way. You are not speaking out of both sides of your mouth (Sandrock) in order to not offend someone. You don’t care about offending. People who are not afraid to offend bring change. We all know that Curtain actually believes her position and yet she shied away from you, Eric. This entire thing is ridiculous. I am not believing their lack of anything meaningful in response to your arguments and those of the Bear and the others here who have posted over there. It seems so odd. They have no clothes on. The question is how many of us are going to do what the little boy did, and how many of us, by not joining the discussion, are going to just continue to think that the emperor is clothed. I’m talking about Sandrock. Is he going to get away with this kind of ineffective leadership? I fear he will due to our silence. What in hell are the people in this group who haven’t posted afraid of? Just yesterday I got a private email from one of our group who had a chance to deal directly with Sandrock and chose not to. When are we going to do something real here? I have seen the Bear come and go on discussions here for years. He never addresses anything unless it is an alive topic. Look at him now, spending literally hours a day on this. He gets it. How many of the rest of us are going to let him and Eric continue to fight on their own? Aux armes, citoyens!

  3. I posted after Greg Stout on the thread, “What is Comprehensible Input really?” Ben, you say that there are lots of people lurking on these ACTFL threads even though they don’t reply. I’ll take your word for it. You say that through these threads Eric started, we can initiate change. Let me follow your lead on this!

    Here’s my post to that thread, “What is Comprehensible Input really?”

    Thank you for taking the time, language educators, to dialogue on the question, “How do we make input comprehensible for our students?”

    Greg expands on the idea that Comprehensible Input makes learning easy in the foreign language classroom. I like that. I thought I’d build off that idea.

    If I use a word or word chunk in the TL in my classroom of which I have not established meaning (i.e., written the word on the board, translated through writing and verbally, shared a gesture or sign language for that word, and asked students to try to sound out the word with emotional effect) than I can’t expect that word or word chunk to be comprehensible for the student. Right?

    Now, we have cognates that we may not need to establish meaning for, and we have little words (for the lack of a better term) that we may not need to establish meaning for – e.g., I may use a reflexive pronoun while in a conversation with students alongside a verb that they already have intimate familiarity with, but not fuss with establishing meaning of that reflexive pronoun until we read that reflexive pronoun in a passage (mini-story) and translate that passage together.

    That said, it takes training and discipline as a teacher to stay in-bounds and make the TL comprehensible for their students. It is what we have to do. Contrary to what others have said in this thread, I don’t see how I could ever be exhausted with finding ways to teach comprehensible input. My students’ ability to acquire the TL depends on it.

    If my students say that learning Spanish (my TL) is easy in my class AND they are showing me strong interpersonal communication skills including; good posture, clear eyes, responding non-verbally, and responding verbally (starting with answering yes/no questions), then I know that the TL is settling in, nestling, getting cozy on the sofa next to the fire in that space we call the unconscious, where language acquisition occurs. I want my students to say that learning Spanish is easy in my class.

    I also know that a student who demonstrates strong interpersonal communication skills won’t say that learning Spanish in my class is easy unless I make the input comprehensible and compelling. Making input comprehensible and compelling is not an easy task. Yet, it is not a complicated task.

    So, no. I won’t tire of learning from and learning with others how to teach comprehensible input. Thank you all who have helped me along the way. I wish I could turn to ACTFL more for help in this regard. The 90% in the target language position statement and the articulation of interpersonal communication skills has been helpful. But we need more from ACTFL on how to help us teach comprehensible input.

    Thanks for reading!

    1. “…then I know that the TL is settling in, nestling, getting cozy on the sofa next to the fire in that space we call the unconscious, where language acquisition occurs.”

      The other 90%, the unconscious… that warm cozy place where hard thinking isn’t necessary. Love it Sean!

    1. I wonder, mb, if shorter posts would be more effective. I suspect many people don’t take the time to read the longer posts. I no I didn’t. I thought my post was going to be short. It ended up being kinda long.

  4. Nice post Sean! More articulate than my simplistic post claiming that TCI makes language learning easy. Plus, with the important caveat that easy is only good as long as acquisition is taking place and with the timely request to ACTFL for guidance in using CI.

  5. I just posted on ACTLF in response to one of the comments on the thread “What is Comprehensible Input really?” Probably beyond the short length recommended here on the PLC lately, but I’m hoping Ms. Schuster will respond since I sincerely would like clarification.

    My comment:

    “I would like to respond to Engracia Schuster’s comments, in the hopes of her clarifying one of her ideas. I appreciate her response to Eric Herman’s original question. She says that “it is not a matter of which methodology to implement, rather understanding how language learners learn.” Indeed. Ideally, any language teacher would organize their instruction based on what is most beneficial for students’ language acquisition, not based on his/her own preference of methodology.

    My confusion comes from Ms. Schuster’s comment on how she thinks a language teacher could best organize instruction. She says that after “facilitators briefly introduce topics, vocabulary and grammar not in isolation…” students then do “activities that require learners to research further, practice, think, collaborate and add information for the purpose of establishing meaningful communication…”

    The title and central question of this thread is “What is Comprehensible Input really?” So, my question for Ms. Schuster is, in which part of the instruction she describes do students receive Comprehensible Input? It sounds like the students’ attention is on the “facilitator” only briefly before they are directed to “activities”. What is the facilitator presenting? If he/she only “briefly introduce[s] topics, vocabulary, and grammar”, I don’t understand how this could be a significant source of Comprehensible Input. If there is extended TL conversation with the students on the given topic, I see how this could be Comprehensible Input. However, “vocabulary and grammar”, even if presented in the TL, are not Comprehensible Input if we understand Comprehensible Input to consist of messages that the learner understands. Vocabulary and grammar are merely vehicles for a message. Vocabulary and grammar, even if understood by learners in the TL, are not Comprehensible Input, unless they are embedded in messages.

    Also, I wonder how Ms. Schuster ensures that Comprehensible Input continues when the students are directed to the mentioned “activities.” Or does it continue? What are the students researching further? What are some examples of what they are practicing? Is their collaboration done with fellow learners and, if so, is it done in the TL? Even if the students are collaborating with each other in the TL, doesn’t this create a situation where they merely get repetitions of Input they have already received (this would not be harmful, I simply wonder to what “collaboration” refers)? I.e., language learners cannot possibly generate new TL that they haven’t yet acquired.

    To summarize my above questions to Ms. Schuster, where exactly does the Comprehensible Input happen in your classroom, and how do you ensure 1) that your students understand the TL and 2) that they get a sufficient amount of repetitions for acquisition to happen? I wholeheartedly agree that students should be actively, not passively, involved in the classroom, but I would like to know how you recommend facilitating this while simultaneously ensuring that students receive a steady flow of Comprehensible Input.

    I look forward to maybe reading some examples of how you provide Comprehensible Input in a student- (not teacher-) centered classroom.

    Thank you for your participation in this question that is crucial to students’ success and the advancement of our profession. Thanks also in advance for your response to my questions.

    Greg Stout, French teacher”

    1. I look forward to maybe reading some examples of how you provide Comprehensible Input in a student- (not teacher-) centered classroom.

      Yes! This is our push-back against the Danielson Framework, the fact that we can not provide Comprehensible Input in a student-centered classroom. I’d like to debate this topic so that I’m fully armed argumentatively when I push-back against those evaluating my teaching using the Danielson Framework.

    2. Very nice questions. Engracia did a great service by spelling out her understanding of CI.

      Pretty much her answer is to send the kids to search for [comprehensible?] input. They report back with output, which in turn, becomes a source of [comprehensible?] input.

      The way we view input is messages produced by the most fluent person in the room and made understandable to the students. This other way is to have the least fluent persons in the room produce messages for each other, with some guidance from the most fluent.

      The first has been compared to caregiver talk. The second can be compared to very young kids talking to each other.

      1. She did, didn’t she? She let us further in on how little she gets. We could go to town on her for this statement:

        “Students learn best by doing. We introduce, we model, we ask students to produce. The classroom may be the only opportunity for many of our students to practice the language and I make sure they do. If I take too much time with input then they are not producing enough.”

        She also lets us in on her support of skill-building theory. I could cite Krashen and VanPatten papers for her that destroy the idea that acquisition happens from skill-building.

      2. I so agree with what you said here, Nathaniel. Engracia truly outlines for us how CI has come to mean something other than what Krashen means. So sad, really, because she’s selling it and people are buying.

        1. I like you Ben was not expecting an answer from Engracia, but I’m glad she responded and at least seems open to dialogue (Even though the boiled down essence of her type of teaching amounts to young kids talking to each other, as stated by Nathaniel, and “skill-building”, as stated by Eric).

          Of course the impediment to a paradigm shift (i.e., growth, repentance) with people with professional track records such as Ms. Schuster’s is that their “success” obscures the need for change. Most people do not feel a need to question their beliefs if they are experiencing success. But maybe her students are achieving the best possible gains in a classroom setting. I have no idea, because I do not know them. But if they are practicing skill-building and not listening to compelling and comprehensible message in the TL, I don’t see how the most possible acquisition could be happening.

          This is exacerbated when you have fairly or very cooperative students who politely do the activities you plan for them -the kind of behavior that you would likely find in a university classroom. No malice intended, but I wonder how Ms. Schuster’s instructional habits would play out in a pre-college school setting.

          I’m not really making any points here, just voicing my thoughts on Engracia’s response.

          I’ll respond to her later today or tomorrow when I have more time -not that I’ll be able to voice my questions any better than Robert Harrell already has.

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