Collaboration/Output in the CI Curriculum

I got this from John today:
My Latin Best Practices list is currently being flooded with discussions of strategies for effective group work–it’s as if many of them have just discovered this phenomenon of “student centered collaborative learning” that you hear a lot of in credential programs–which generally don’t distinguish language techniques from those used in other subjects. I chimed in that I have become wary of the old practice of having students read a script in groups because they often just go through the motions and in the first year are not in a position to help each other.  Also, that giving students comprehensible input in the beginning might need to be more (gasp!) teacher centered. No response.
I remember there being a discussion (perhaps from Drew?) of reconciling CI with very structured collaborative learning and technological requirements. Could you re-post this link, and/or suggest where collaboration/output might have a place in a mostly-CI curriculum?
I responded:
That discussion here was in May and June and centered around the singular challenge that Lori F. is facing this fall, that of delivering CI in a school building where collaborative work and technology form the central focus of the curriculum.
We were going to follow her trek this year through this obviously difficult forest, since CI, as you imply John, must be delivered in a teacher focused classroom and there is nothing wrong and everything right about that, especially at earlier levels.
Here is the link to the discussion with Lori:



5 thoughts on “Collaboration/Output in the CI Curriculum”

  1. We must not let “THEM” tendentiously frame the issue with “THEIR” tendentiously rigid trinary opposition of lessons centered either on teacher, instructional material, or students. For the trinary breakdown operates on a gradient, not as an absolute opposition.
    Most lectures may be predominately centered on the teacher, or perhaps the material to be learned. But we do not give lectures. We pursue constant friendly probes into the who, what, and how of each student. From there we try to provide compelling interesting TL CI about that who-what-how and to elicit freewheeling personalized responses. How can anyone claim that this is not predominantly student-centered?
    Nevertheless, to keep the absolutists off our backs, some of us sparsely and briefly make use of some rather conventional small-group activities. Those activities have been cited in comments to previous blogs. Perhaps some more patient than I, or with more successful experience in such activities, may cite them again here. I myself would be quite interested in having them recalled to mind.

  2. Glad to see this topic from someone else as well. There are things in New Tech project-based learning that I will appreciate: online agendas with linked resources so that students are more responsible for their own learning. They can no longer have the excuse of losing handouts or being absent; every one has access to whatever I choose to post. I hope to save paper that way as well.
    On the down side, there is too much emphasis on early output; the final product/presentation for each project is output-based. The rubrics at even the early levels emphasize correctness in spelling and grammar. Skills in collaboration are also highly valued. Students who do not work well in groups will be hard-pressed to earn an A, no matter how well they know their subject. This emphasis is justified because “in the 21st century, collaboration is an essential skill for the workplace”.
    At my training in Grand Rapids last month, they did pay lip service to Krashen by showing a marvelous clip by him on language acquisition. However, I was the only foreign language teacher who seemed to appreciate him. When I mentioned the ACTFL guidelines about 90% L2, the presenter agreed that such a goal was compatible with New Tech: just put everything into L2–the list of everything they “need to know” to complete a project can just be written in L2. If you need L2, just talk in L2. There is no concept of input needing to be comprehensible by sheltering vocabulary and going slow.
    Two pieces of good news: our school is de-emphasizing homework and strongly emphasizing literacy. I have high hopes for the emphasis on lots of reading.
    As far as actual projects, my fellow Spanish II teacher and I roughed out our first project–an interview to review last year’s vocabulary and grammar with the final product being a computer-based “Fakebook” page or magazine layout. However, I can scaffold–what New Tech calls any activity to help students reach the goal of the final product–in any way I wish to. So I plan to scaffold by using CI-based activities. Each group will make a google doc of vocabulary they think they’ll need for the project and then I’ll combine the most common (or important) structures. The powers that be at the national level prefer to have students teach one another as much as possible: to have a student who is proficient at one area of grammar to pull out the leader from each of the other groups and give him/her a short “workshop”. This program is very prescriptive and full of jargon: entry event, driving question, knows and need-to-knows, critical friends protocol, scaffolding, breadcrumbing…
    As I gain experience and headaches in this conglomeration of CI and PBL, I’ll report back. It will be a fight to stay true in this strange, new environment. When I mentioned at the conference about the challenges of doing projects with Spanish, I got a “oh, Spanish is easy–just do projects on family and restaurants and things like that.” Spanish–by way of poster board. I don’t think so.
    I am grateful for any and all advice given,

  3. I don’t think that TPRS/CI classrooms fall into either category. It falls into a completely different slot entirely. We strive for our classrooms to be a constant interaction BETWEEN teacher and students about an identified topic/story using the TL. It isn’t really teacher-centered. It’s teacher-moderated. It isn’t student-centered. It’s student-infused. I don’t know that we have the appropriate “edu-label” for it…yet. :o)
    with love,

    1. I really like “student-infused”. That’s really it, Laurie. Just go for it, Lori. You sound like you have the jargon they want and that is power. Tell them what they want to hear, and teach using your intuition about what is best. If, when a badge walks in, the kids are happily listening to or reading the language, that is a good starting point to begin the badge’s education about how their own vision must fit in with yours, as their expert in foreign language acquisition. Keep plenty of Krashen around. Maybe print what La Profe Loca wrote on this site at the “About TPRS” link/”Thoughts on Pacing Guides”.

  4. …so I plan to scaffold by using CI-based activities. Each group will make a google doc of vocabulary they think they’ll need for the project and then I’ll combine the most common (or important) structures….
    This is a concrete and plausible plan. Congratulations. I think it will work.
    …to have students teach one another as much as possible….
    I guess you just have to say that in your field that is not very possible. Let them react, but make them understand the truth about how language acquisition occurs – those who don’t have it get it from those who do. Computers don’t teach babies language, nor do foursomes of fellow babies. Mommies do that work.

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