ACTFL Report from the Field – Bob Patrick

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18 thoughts on “ACTFL Report from the Field – Bob Patrick”

  1. I had a fun time at ACTFL, too. First time going. My favorite aspects are the same ones Bob mentions: getting to see and/or meet in person people I know from the CI online world or know of through friends.

    I arrived too late on Friday to see Carol Gaab’s presentations, but met her at her booth later. I was surprised to bump into Diana Noonan more than once. The first time I saw her, she was also trying out the assessment tool called AAPPL (oh, the Chinese one was a nightmare!). We didn’t get to compare notes on opinions… Also got to say hello to Robert Harrell and Michele Whaley briefly. Bob Patrick’s session was great and while he had too big a crowd for me to meet him afterwards, I met Miriam, his daughter, who is also a PLC member and Teri Weichart as well. I also spent hours talking with other Chinese teachers. I talked for a long time about CI practice and assessments with Reed Riggs, and got to hear about my former school from my friend who now teaches Chinese there. I briefly met Bill VanPatten at Research Special Interest Group presentations that he moderated. One of those was by (forgetten first name) Spino, a professor at W. Michigan Univ. who polled university language professors on SLA knowledge. It showed serious gaps, let’s say. She didn’t even ask high school language teachers. I think it might be worth being in ACTFL to get to be part of that group. Attended two or three other research presentations, which all had some good stuff. Two were about Chinese reading. At that one I got Claudia Ross to sign my copy of Lady in the Painting (which Chinese 4 is using), which was fun. Mostly I attended presentations to see people I knew or to hear what’s out there now, and was happy to gain some things that I think will help me teach better as well. Also I got to meet a couple of university people who are doing research related to Chinese – I’d like to keep in touch and be of use along those lines if I can.

    I was happy with how my presentation went, too. I presented on Listen & Draw (leading to Look & Discuss and Read & Discuss). A bigger crowd than I expected, maybe 120?, and only one who looked at me like I was a crackpot. I heard later she was complaining that it didn’t use authentic resources, but I did discuss how those could easily be used as the final reading or could easily be incorporated in Look & Discuss. A lot of good questions and discussion came from the audience. I was really pleased. The one thing I’d change is getting my video subtitles to work! I ended up having to translate the Chinese because the subtitles were screwed up and I used less than originally planned. Lesson learned: Annotating in YouTube isn’t reliable.

    I agree with Bob that there was CI felt there. I’m glad I attended and I came away thinking I need to join ACTFL and start having more of a voice in Chinese discussions. I think next time I go to something like that, I will present in Chinese for Chinese teachers – those were overwhelming the ones Chinese teachers attended. I hardly saw any Chinese at other presentations, and it seemed to me like 20% of the people there were Chinese teachers. I think it’s a rather insular group.

    1. wow, thanks for the reports Diane and Bob! And what big groups… 120 people!!

      Diane, you also did some Watch and Discuss (MovieTalk) in your presentation? Just curious, what were you using for the Listen and Draw part of your session? (I ask given the one person who was huffing about authres.) And, were you doing this in English? I do think you would serve the Chinese teachers well with a session in Chinese.

      1. Hi Jim,

        I did speak in English and showed clips from my classes, but explained those in English, too. I’d be happy sharing my handout and PowerPoint with anyone who wants it. My email is questyn @

        I didn’t do any MovieTalk. I focused on Listen & Draw, which is essentially Storyasking without the actors and with every student drawing the scene. (Classroom management is much easier, so I think it’s a good starting strategy.) I never said TPRS in the presentation.

        I showed two kinds of Look & Discuss: that based on student sketches from the Listen & Draw step, and that based on a teacher-found image (saying those could be perhaps art, photographs, etc. as authentic materials). In the Read & Discuss step, I showed short sample readings I wrote in English based on photographs, but also said that the final reading could well be an authentic material (song, poem, short passage, etc.) with all the previous steps leading to strong comprehension of it.

        At other presentations, I was happy to hear more than one college professor say that graded reading and scaffolding reading is necessary for student success before getting to any authentic materials. (That shouldn’t be a radical statement, right?)

  2. I, too, thought ACTFL was a good conference this year. Part of it was getting to meet or see again people from the blog. Bob, Rachel, and Miriam provided a good session on Untextbooking. I will try to bring my colleagues along a bit by using some of the things they presented. Part of the reason I went to the session was specifically so I could be certain of meeting Bob.

    Carol Gaab’s two sessions on Friday were packed, and Carol presented lots of good stuff, as always.

    Carrie Toth’s session on 90% was extremely well attended. It was in one of the larger meeting rooms and packed. The videographer had to warn several people about not sitting on or jiggling the platform the camera was on. It was great to meet Carrie, too.

    I made it to Michele’s session with Mira Canion. Even though the two have different presentation styles, it blended nicely, and they provided people with lots of good ideas. Michele gave me far too much credit for my virtual move project (I think she may be doing it better than I do.), and I may be presenting it at a regional conference next October. Mira gave a couple of good examples of how a small bit of language – or even nonverbal communication – can lead to authentic exchanges and more comprehensible input. Some of Michele’s observations on the Can-Do statements were excellent, and she reminded everyone that we get to interpret the statements for our students. Actually, we need to interpret them because otherwise our students will see them as things they cannot do.

    One statement that I liked, but unfortunately I don’t remember now who said it, was that we need to decide what is core and then simply do that every day. This was in response to a question about students forgetting how to say “My name is” and similar basic formulas, so it may have been Michele or Mira who said it. It was a subtle way of saying, “Students need lots of repetition for acquisition.”

    There were several sessions on reaching the 90% target language goal, and it looked to me like all of them were from a Comprehensible Input perspective.

    Another big topic at the conference was technology, and there were sessions on flipping, blending, etc. I went to one on using the online software GoAnimate. The information on the technology was great, and I plan to use it to animate some of our class stories so students get more repetitions in a different format. Unfortunately, all of the examples were ways to make grammar more palatable. One had a guy talking in English to a gal talking in Spanish. (Not necessarily a bad idea in and of itself) The gal’s name was “Métele”, and at one point the guy comments, “And I even know that your name is the indirect object pronouns ‘me’, ‘te’, and ‘le’.” This was somehow supposed to inspire students to learn the indirect object pronouns.

    On the other hand, the session on Digital Storytelling that I attended was good, even though it was geared toward a university course and project-based learning. Constructed correctly, a third- or fourth-year course could make use of this to give students an opportunity to share what they know and get more comprehensible input.

    Sunday afternoon I had lunch with Diana Noona, Leslie Davison, and Mira Canion. It was delightful. After lunch Mira took Diana and me to the Alamo and served as an excellent tour guide. Diana had to get ready to go to the airport, so after seeing Diana on her way to the hotel, Mira joined me in the Menger Hotel. When Mira asked for a beer, the bartender asked what we both understood as, “Would you like a laminate?” Naturally this caused much confusion until we figured out that she was asking, “Would you like a lime in it?” No doubt this story will make its way into a presentation or two about negotiating meaning.

    I also got to see three people I originally met when I was getting my MA in Spanish in Madrid, one of whom now teaches at the university where I got my BA and first MA. That was nice.

    On Monday, I arrived at the airport several hours early, thinking I might get onto an earlier flight, but I chose not to pay the hefty fee. Instead I got a lot of work done on the computer. I’m very glad that more and more airports are providing free WiFi and more electrical connections for electronic gadgets. In Phoneix, my connecting flight to Long Beach was delayed because of a mechanical issue. As a matter of fact, they had to substitute planes, so we waited until another flight arrived and went to that gate while they turned the plane around as quickly as they could. I finally got home about midnight local time.

    Today I’m visiting my brother’s French class and then talking to the head of the French department at Biola University. Victor is pretty traditional but open to new ideas, and my brother has been trying to teach as much as possible with TPRS while getting students ready to go on to Victor, so he wants me to talk to his boss because I know the research and have been doing this for a while. I just need to remember to explain it in ways that an “outsider” will understand. Who knows what might happen.

    Finally, I encourage people to submit proposals for San Diego 2015. I need to get my act together as well.

    It really was nice to see everyone who was there.

  3. Robert tell your brother that my materials are free to him in ebook form. This goes for anyone in our community who has a colleague on the fence with this work and who just needs a little nudge. Just send me their email addresses and I will get the materials to them.

  4. The gal’s name was “Métele”

    ??? really ???

    ummm…does anyone else find this totally sketchy?

    Robert, Bob and Diane, thank you all so much for your excellent ACTFL reports. It does sound like there is a shift in the energy. Very cool. It’s so great that there is such interest in what our colleagues offer. And invaluable to get to meet people in real life! We have such an amazing network of people.

    I agree that Diane should present a CI Chinese class. No matter how much research we cite, nor how well we describe what we do or even how passionately we write and speak about it, there really is nothing like experiencing it live in real time, interacting in a language we do not know. Once you feel this, there is no going back. It shifts everything, no matter whether your CI path is an abrupt turn from the main highway or whether you stay mostly on the road with little side trips at first. I had a colleague tell me this last year. Even though she speaks some French, when she came to film me in class everything “clunked in” for her. She instantly “got it.” I was driving her nutty before that, racing up to her classroom nearly every day with some fun or exasperating thing that happened in class, or with a quote or rant from one of you to share with her. Finally she just felt what this was all about by experiencing it live.

    The “laminate” story is classic! Haha, see we need CI and negotiating meaning even in our native language. Great example of this!

      1. I know! Do you think the guy is aware? I mean, how could he NOT be? But then again when one is so hyper focused on the microscopic parts that he fails to understand the big picture…???

        Oops why do I assume it’s a guy who made this up. I don’t mean to assume that.

        I’m not sure which is worse…being unaware or being aware and using the name anyway?

        1. My mind went directly to the vulgar connotation, and then I searched on some translation chats (e.g., etc) and saw some less crude translations of “Go for it!”. Kind of like “Dale”. I’m surprised nobody called him out on that.

          Robert, I agree that the digital storytelling (I like using Garageband for this) can be a great way to give students lots of CI, particularly as they attempt to sync up sound effects and photos with the narration. They will listen to the same part over and over, out of requirement (if they are actually trying to make a decent product). The hard part about things like this is always… Tech glitches. I hate tech glitches. And getting X doc or Y recording to all students without any issues.

          But lots of upsides, apart from the massive CI: having the completed product for future use; they can work on it without the teacher, therefore good for homework/makeup/substitute; we deliver the message once and the recording repeats it for us; they are learning how to use a useful tech tool; a break from the routine; something a sub can manage to oversee; fun for most.

          1. Robert, I think that this kind of digital storytelling can work well with any level, just depends on the difficulty level of the story you want to tell. I think simpler/shorter is better with these anyways, a la Profe Tejeda’s podcasts. An example:

            “A boy rides his bike to the store. He wants some milk. He buys 50 gallons of chocolate milk. He drinks the milk, slowly, and then takes a nap. He sleeps for 55 hours.”

  5. What if several of us proposed ACTFL sessions that were “Intro to (Language) Via Comprehensible Input) and made it for everyone who does not have any experience with that language.

    We could have Intro to Chinese, Latin, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Russian, German, Italian, et alia going on all over ACTFL.

    We could ever collaborate on what we could do in one hour in these intros. I absolutely agree that all the writing int he world does not compare to the experience.

    1. This is a very interesting idea! I think that it would draw the interest of teachers of those languages, but perhaps getting a group of volunteers who don’t know the language to sit up front where others can see their reactions… ?

    2. …. Tamil, Gaelic, Turkish, Sauk… Love the idea Bob!

      Thanks for the extra info Diane. I wonder if Ben (if you’re willing) will put your presentation up on the site. Are you doing that Ben, for those willing to share? I remember sending you mine, but not sure if you posted it somewhere.

  6. Nothing convinces like a TPRS demo in a foreign language. Mine take about 75-90 min. At the end of story asking, look and discuss, movietalk and ping-pong extended reading, the participants can read a 300-word story, with dialogue, in 3 verb tenses. If THAT doesn’t convince them, nothing else will.

    A demo is best, because, let’s face it, most pro-D stuff is in one ear and out the other. Without a demo, all you have is a bunch of disconnected ideas

  7. At “Education night” as I was standing amongst other teachers informally chatting and greeting parents, I gave some of them a 5 minute circling demo in French. It was spontaneous and totally unplanned. 5 minutes. That’s all it may take.

  8. You guys should fully do that. Just make sure you have 90-min sessions, include reading movietalk and l&d. Offer them in “scarce” languages e.g. German, coatian etc.

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