Anne sends us this bio:
This is my 27th year of teaching language, 20th year of teaching high school, mostly German. I teach in a small rural high school in Maine and have 6 sections of German, it’s pretty sweet. This will be my 6th year of using TPRS/CI. So far every year has looked a little different from the one before it, some have been better than others. In general:
What I like and what seems to be working:
Teaching first year classes! Being in the target language so much of the time. PQA with the kids when we are really cranking it out. (One day last week we spent an entire 40 minutes on the verb “texts”. In the course of that discussion I actually had a young man admit that he texts in my class–the only one out of a group of 17. His ass was front and center the very next day, believe me!) The fun and enthusiasm in the class. I am especially proud of my students with special needs. I love it that they do better in my class than in English. I love them so much.
What my current challenges are:
How inaccurate much of the output is, once we get to the upper levels and I kind of expect some output. Trying to figure out how to incorporate more output, how to facilitate improvement in output, how to assess it. (I’d be happy with just first year classes, although it’s a fun time with the seniors, to be sure.) Specifically, how to give the kids enough reps in persons other than 3rd person for them to really acquire it. How to enable them to have equal facility in both past and present tense. How to make the learning less passive for the students, without letting them loose to “work in groups” (which is code for “speak in English.”) What to say to the administrator who observed a rockin’ PQA session with my 3rd year students and wanted to see my tool for assessing said session. Working with a department who pay lip service to CI but are pushing for us to put together a common oral assessment to be used in week #3 of level 1. Facilitating the transition to college where my kids are placing into upper-level courses because of their fluency, but suffering because everyone else knows the grammar and they don’t.
This is a year of experimentation for me. I am trying a lot of different things and it is dizzying. I’m not in much of a position to contribute to conversations on this blog, but eagerly reading every word of every post. This is a strange bio, I know, but it is where my mind is right now. Thank you to everyone who participates in this. Thank you to Ben for making it possible.
My comment: Of course, most of know Anne for her unmatchable scripts for stories. They have gotten me through hundreds of classes and are definitely the source for my belief in the power of stories. I love the format Anne chose for her bio – describing what is and what isn’t working for her in TPRS right now. I would like to see more of those. On the output question that you raise, Anne, I have to say that we need to remember how much time real output requires. I am firmly of the position that, regarding output, most seniors with four years of CI are still no more than two year olds, more like under one year old, in terms of their ability to speak. I think your experience with a group (les Hogs) that could be called twice exceptional, if one can get away with a label like that for a group of kids, may have colored your expectations. Thank you, Anne.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
4 thoughts on “Anne Matava”
Of course, any brief end-of-class quiz you might give at the end of a PQA/TPRS session only assesses progress in aural comprehension.
But Anne, read the 9/27 “Annemarie Orth” blog entry, making sure to check out in the comments her “Class Participation Self-Evaluation” rubric and Robert Harrell’s tweaked version thereof: “Interpersonal Communication Self-Evaluation Rubric”. Weekly(?) or semi-weekily(?) use of the Orth-Harrell delineated 5-point scoring for “I use [the target language] to communicate” should hopefully satisfy administrators who prod you on assessment of progress in oral output. Naturally, as needed, you realistically adjust those self-evaluations and discuss them with the most unrealistic self-evaluators.
Anne, I use your stories as well and they are just wonderful. One of my goals this year in my classroom is to find more ways of having the stories and PQA in something other than 3rd person. I’m sure you do this already, but after we read one of our stories, I’ll have them write the story again in the first person. In fact, yesterday while most of my students in one 8th grade class was just translating a story, I had a few of them write the story in the first person and they were psyched for this challenge.
I totally understand the challenge of letting students working in groups and speaking English. You know, I think it’s ok sometimes. It changes up the class and gives them a little break. I often have them add different endings to the stories and then share them with the class.
Something I do to encourage more output from the start (even though it’s not encouraged in TPRS) is teach students a personal question every day like how are you, what’s your name-the answer being in the first person. I work with middle schoolers so we pass around a little stuffed monkey and ask each other the questions. Then I might do what I call a 3-minute fiesta, where we walk around the class, and ask 4 students different questions in Spanish. They like this too because it allows them to get up, move around, and talk to their friends (but in Spanish.) And I’ll let you know that I am all over them to make sure they are sticking to Spanish.
I’m part of a PLC this year that focuses on Student Engaged Assessment, so I will be pondering about how best to assess my students with TPRS. I look forward to sharing more of these assessment ideas with you.
Anne, wouldn’t it be cool if we could sit in on each others classes to get new ideas and give each other feedback? You are such a veteran teacher, it would be so awesome to have you sit in my class and help me out!!! I’m in Portland, Maine and you are welcome anytime! Where are you in Maine and are you going to the Susan Gross workshop? By the way, I totally need to credit Susan Gross (if you are out there and reading this) with the self-eval I use-she has one on her website and I just adjusted it to fit my needs. Thanks, Susan!
Anne and Annemarie,
This is one of the many times that I am grateful for this blog. I pound the idea Ben mentioned into the kids’ ears–that it will possibly be years until their grammar gets right, because they are “babies” in the language, even if they are babies who are much farther along than they would have been for the first 23 years of my teaching life. I am not precisely jealous of young teachers who have found this method early on, but it is sure bittersweet to think that I could have been doing this all along, had I only known.
My kids, like yours Anne, are testing into the higher levels at colleges now, except when the college administers the old-fashioned grammar exam. If the kids get a chance to speak, respond, read or write, they shine.
But now I’m seeing that I need to do what Annemarie mentions a whole lot more often, and from the very beginning: those perspective changes. I hadn’t done them enough, and I need to keep on it. What I discovered last week is that it works really well to share the stories the first-years are writing with the advanced kids and ask them to switch perspectives on those. The verbs are the HF ones, and the stories are shorter and simpler enough that we can do perspective changes without getting into the traps that we find with the more advanced writing.
The other day, my advanced kids were having so much fun with perspective changes that we spent nearly an hour on them. I had to ban them from my lessons for the next week, because otherwise we’ll run them into the ground. I can see that this is work they could do in groups and then check against my version–no need to speak English–or they could write them the next time…lots of variety.
This is such great stuff, and thank you all. Annemarie, I am in Waldo county, it would be a 2-hour drive to Portland. You are welcome in my classroom any time. I’ll look for you next week in Lewiston.