April Test Prep 2

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10 thoughts on “April Test Prep 2”

  1. You have me thinking, Eric, here about what vocabulary structures I choose to target. (Yes, I do target, or pre-prescribe as you say, specific vocabulary with my two Spanish 1 classes. It sounds like maybe you don’t. It seems like it would be hard to keep track of which vocabulary structures you’re covering over the course of the year with your classes if you don’t pre-prescribe them.)

    Perhaps it’s not the best way to teach but I have NOT been using any story scripts from Anna Matava or Jim Tripp. I create my own story scripts mostly because I want to use a pre-prescribed set of vocabulary structures to 1. teach the top 20 high frequency verbs as soon as possible, 2. teach relatively important nouns for kids (i.e., family, clothing, pets, places, etc.), and 3. teach other words that help students communicate higher order thinking (Bloom’s) like: compare/contrast (i.e.; is similar to or different than, is more important than, is more popular than), value (i.e.; I like, I love, I don’t care about, I’m interested in), evaluate (i.e.; good, bad, beautiful, ugly, scary, strong), or analyze (i.e.; always, never, sometimes).

    So, I guess, being that I pre-prescribe vocab structures as much as I do, if I had a colleague also doing TCI we could then pre-prescribe together, test our students at the end of the year with a common assessment and then have some meaningful conversations about the data this test would show.

    1. I target structures, but what Ben has said had resonated with me, and so I just choose the Matava script or the MovieTalk video that I think will be of highest interest. The vocabulary in my structures will come from what I need to tell the story. I think Sean, that over the course of a year, the high frequency vocab gets plenty of reps, because it is just that: high-frequency. That is why it doesn’t require planning (except for when it does . . . I mentioned that I’ve missed a few of the words from the top 100 high-frequency list). That “higher order thinking vocab” that you list also gets plenty of exposure, since it can also be used in every story to analyze characters and events, and since stories are personalized/customized, the kid-important vocab is also there.

      I use whatever grammar in the structure I want (past/present progressive, present/past perfects, direct/indirect object pronouns, etc.). I don’t let a traditional sense of what is easy or hard grammar govern my choice of structures. And I throw in the Super 7 verbs into every story (haber, ser, estar, tener, querer, ir, gustar) + dar & decir. The grammar gets constantly recycled and checked by asking “What does that mean?” I get a kick out of traditional teachers who say they “start preterite in April.” 🙂 We are way ahead of ya!

      It wouldn’t be any harder to keep track of my structures than it would be if they were chosen based on something other than interest. The issue could be that other teachers wouldn’t have “covered” the same vocabulary. But to the extent that we didn’t shelter grammar and spoke naturally we should have all jump-started acquisition of the high-frequency vocal & grammar. I think it would even ENHANCE the class if I received kids who all had common aural knowledge of the high-frequency words, but had differences in other vocabulary. Then, the kids would be able to provide CI to their peers on words not yet acquired by everyone.

      The goal of a proficiency test as I see it is that success doesn’t depend on having covered “this” or “that” vocab. If the kids have acquired the high frequency structures, then they can handle a broad number of situations. In a future comment, I’ll give you an example of what is commonly done on thematic speaking exams, which is clearly not testing proficiency.

      Related: One thing I questioned Blaine on recently on moretprs is the idea of “practicing for mastery.” Practicing output is not acquisition-inducive as Krashen theorizes, except for the CI that the practiced output provides the class. If practice were the way to acquire, then we’d be supporting the “communicative approach.” In this way, FL is not like practicing a sport or practicing to ride a unicycle. Practice does NOT make perfect. There are Natural Order studies that tried and failed to alter the natural order of acquisition.

      This is just me, but I wouldn’t worry so much if my kids spontaneously respond accurately in the first person verb forms or whatever form it is I’d want them to “master.” I still require my students to read the correct verb form off the board, because they are my puppets for providing the class with more CI. I don’t look at it as the student actor practicing and I even tell the class my intentions. If I want them to acquire these first-person forms, then I do tons of ROA around class stories written in the first-person and I pretend to be the main character. If I never moved on until the kids had “mastered” the first person verb forms, then I’d miss out on a lot more CI. The idea of teaching a FL for “mastery” just doesn’t sit well with me, when I think about the Natural Order research showing all the multiple, messy, and largely unknown stages that students go through as they acquire. I can’t force them to master something they aren’t developmentally ready for.

      If I can make the input comprehensible, then I’ll include plenty of words outside of the week’s targeted structures. I think that once we’ve built strong blocks for fluency, then the rate of acquisition can speed up and we can include more and more non-targeted input that gets picked up. This non-targeted CI does not shelter vocabulary. The trick is to still get in the reps. If l get in the reps of the targeted structures and the extra vocab is comprehensible, then, why shelter? Sheltering vocab also puts a constraint on interest. To keep CI compelling, I frequently go wider, but much of the non-targeted CI gets recycled in future classes. Right now, I am creating screenshots from the MovieTalk videos I’ve done and I will go back through all that language, since the first MovieTalk in September. I can do the same thing with the pictures of the Student Artist storyboards from all the class stories.

      There was a lot discussed in my original comment. I don’t want this comment to distract from what I consider most important: a template for creating a CI test.

      1. This example can be given to FL teachers in order to make it clear that requiring knowledge of a set list of thematic words is NOT proficiency. I bet this is a fairly typical example of a thematic speaking assessment.

        What if I started asking you a pre-determined list of questions like what weightlifting exercises are best/worst, or that you like/don’t like, or asking for you to tell me about their gym routine, etc. Or, what if I gave you a picture of the YMCA gym and asked you to describe the picture.

        Now, assume you don’t know how to say (many of which are words I wouldn’t know had I not trained in Honduras):

        “estocadas, sentadillas, pechadas, dominadas” (lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups)
        “colchones, maquinas, pesas, mancuernas” (mats, machines, weights, dumbbells),
        “repeticiones, series, velocidad” (repetitions, sets, pace)
        “levantar, bajar, trotar, caminar, sudar” (lift, lower, jog, walk, sweat)*

        *in this example, only some of the verbs are higher-frequency words.

        Assuming FL teachers don’t know this vocabulary, then they may bomb this speaking exam and I could conclude that you are not fluent, not a proficient Spanish speaker. Better yet: what if you did memorize these terms and were able to answer my questions with some degree of accuracy. Would that mean that you are fluent and proficient? 😉

        We need assessments not dependent on a thematic/specialized list of vocabulary.

        1. Ok, so, what I’m getting out of what you are saying, Eric, about creating a CI proficiency test: an output proficiency test should not restrict the student to any particular vocabulary structure. That makes sense. But, an input proficiency test will have to restrict students to particular vocabulary structures since they will have to be reading or listening to a text created by the teacher and administered to all students in the same class.

          On another note, I’ll have to give more thought on why I choose the particular set of vocabulary structures I choose on any given week. Again, I don’t do the Matava scripts. I’m not against them, I just haven’t had much luck when I’ve tried to use them.

          I also need to be more open about not sheltering verb tenses. For instance, I’ve avoided saying “she would like” and instead I’ve just used “she likes”. I’m still learning!

          And thanks, Eric, for making this point below very clear:
          FL is not like practicing a sport or practicing to ride a unicycle. Practice does NOT make perfect. There are Natural Order studies that tried and failed to alter the natural order of acquisition.

          1. I felt like what I wrote could come off in the wrong way, so I want to clarify: I don’t write about my way of teaching to make it sound like it is “the way to do it.” It’s just my application of TCI based on my evolving understanding and based on what has worked for me. When I mention my way of doing things I hope people can give me constructive feedback. I’m not proud at all. I appreciate it when people point out what I can improve.

          2. I’d like suggestions for an input-based test, but I think we have to also think of a CI-friendly output test, since the world isn’t ready to accept that output shouldn’t be tested in the beginning levels. Is there a way to test output that will allow students to be successful so long as they’ve acquired the high-frequency vocabulary? If anything like the ACTFL OPI, then the students get to direct the conversation into topics they have the vocabulary to talk about.

  2. And as Eric below reminded me of what you wrote above, these common assessments may do harm if you try too heavily to teach to them, but they do tons of good by nudging all the foreign language teachers to teach CI.

    I wonder if maybe Diana Noonan could make it so principals don’t get to see the data on these common assessments? I bet it would make for a much more productive conversation among the teachers if they knew that their data wasn’t being shared with their principals.

  3. Eric you have said some spot on things, brilliant things really and I’m not blowing smoke on that, and this ranks right up there at the top:

    …I understand that what you are saying here is that targeted CI is the way to go in a FL classroom, but “what” vocabulary is targeted shouldn’t matter. I agree with the latter, since the more we try to target a pre-prescribed set of words, the more constraint we put on interest and the more constraint we put on conversation in general….

    That’s it. That ties the gorilla down to the ground.

    Especially this part:

    …the more we try to target a pre-prescribed set of words, the more constraint we put on interest…

    I wish I had thought of that line when talking to Diana yesterday.

  4. One more thing to add here. The BIG HIT on Blaine’s stories has always been that students don’t need to know how to say rubber duck or plastic elephant. Blaine has taken more criticism for his choice of vocabulary over all the years than I care to think about.

    However, those bizarre words, as we know, are just delivery devices for the words around them. I have noticed so often when speaking with my kids how the term Wal-Mart or Canada or McDonald’s has served as an island of safety for my students as they work so hard to understand the meaning of what I was saying.

    We don’t target words like plastic elephants. We use them to bring fluency.

    Here are links to Krashen’s non-targeted articles, published in previous years here, for those interested:


  5. Aw, phooey, now I read this post. I added a comment to April testing 1 that would go better here.

    Also, Eric, your ideas for a listening-and-sum up in L1 for a test will be something I strongly consider this spring, when I’m required to give my 7th and 8th graders exams at the end of May. Might be a nice way to go with a listening comp section.

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