Time to Reflect – 5

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24 thoughts on “Time to Reflect – 5”

  1. For some reason, i dont see the anger but i feel that the tone is one of helplessness rather than hope. Sometimes it is a reality for many new teachers. Let’s create a positive outlook.
    We can say that despite district/building setbacks to teaching with TPRS/CI, new teachers are finding ways to meet mandates and still deliver NT CI. They do this by… and therefore are no longer crushed by administrators or colleagues.

    Some may feel angry at the last line.

    “T1 is junk and yet it has been allowed to become the TPRS/CI of the day. And Krashen…”

    and yet it is a valid evaluation of a situation… I believe however that letting emotions subside will result in better writing… one that will offer solutions for everyone…. Tina and you are on it.

  2. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    When I hung out w Tina during the Mitten CI conf we talked about the obstacles to adopting T/CI and arrived on documentation. Even though most of us here don’t follow a strict set of documents – curriculum, Scope & Sequence, textbook, word lists, somehow the adminz and many teachers have had the boldness, creativity and intellect driven out of them in this accountability and evidence environment….

    So Tina decided to put her brilliant and OH SO INDUSTRIOUS brain and laptop to work to create aligned documents – that look like the kinda stuff that decision -makers will eat up. I will widely disseminate her docs because I believe they will put a lot of naysayers out of business and comfort some who are peeking at us in curiosity from the periphery. ACTFL-aligned TCI documentation is, though it takes Tina away from her stupendous work with students that informs anyone who watches the videos’ practice…one powerful way to push through some of the resistance.

    I say we look at these docs when they’re ready and if there’s any editing and/or revision, it’s dome swiftly and SEND IT TO ACTFL to try to get it into their wheelhouse.

    The thing about writing with emotion is that it can be perceived as judgement – and then people respond with a, “What gives you the right to judge me?” attitude, rather than encouraging thought, reflection and further study.

    I had an interaction with a young teacher participant at the Mitten conf – he was talking about what high performance his students demonstrated (he was a newbie to CI) and I was skeptical – anyhoo he told me that my challenging questions made him feel uncomfortable and attacked! He initiated the discussion, but I immediately apologized for sounding too zealous…and I reiterated that we were each on our own journey of reflection about our classroom practices, and that we were all at the conference to be enlightened….

    1. I wondered where that idea came from. The ride across Michigan last month. How cool. Putting you two together in a car for four hours is of course going to come up with something big for kids, for education. You really hit on the right word – “industrious” – that is Tina to a T. And yes she is working on that document right now while teaching full time right up to the Cascadia Conference at the end of this month. It is a doc that will align what we do in NT with the standards but not as a treatise on the theory but as a pacing guide/SS. I did ask her not to try to get it done by the conference because that is too much pressure. The work she did to guide and direct the book on the Invisibles was enough to test the will of three hundred and fifty strong doctoral candidates and so if this new book isn’t ready by the conference I told her we can write it together on the road and if it is not done by the time we get to Chicago we can avail ourselves of your own particular firebrand of leadership to make it a really great piece of writing. So Tina let’s not rush this one and let’s ask Alisa to give it a good read before we let it out of the stable. It has the potential to finally get us out of our hell states in our buildings*.

      *Not everyone wants to do this. It is one reason why Tina and I have chosen to eschew iFLT and NTPRS this summer. There will be talk there about how to align with the curriculum, via targeting and other tricks, and we don’t want to align with the curriculum as it is written in most buildings, because it is written in strangling language, grating and clanging and unnatural and scratching language, and so does not align with the way we want to teach. We don’t want to teach in the way found in most district documents these days; we want to align with the research and the standards.

      Here is an unedited section of something Tina wrote in a draft in the introduction to this new book:

      …for those in this situation, those who need to align with district-created documents that require them to teach declarative knowledge of linguistics instead of language acquisition, we suggest a two-part approach. Why?

      Since comprehensible input is an unconscious process where the students focus primarily on meaning, and since grammar instruction and aligning with the textbook are quite the opposite in that they require the conscious mind to be fully active in the learning process (acquisition vs. learning), these two types of instruction cannot occur at the same time. They cannot be mixed.

      For too long, we have tried to use the unconscious process of listening to and reading comprehensible input to effect conscious learning in our students. It is our belief that this attempt to use CI as a tool for conscious learning has been at the core of many teachers’ struggles with CI. When we feel the pressure to use CI to try to get students to acquire certain features of the language, we are forcing a natural process that cannot be controlled, due to the immutable nature of the natural order of acquisition.

      Acquired competence is what allows an advanced speaker to effortlessly speak and write and understand our languages without having to think about whether or not we need to say “an elephant” or “a elephant”. Learned competence is what allows us to apply rules that we might not have yet acquired. Learned competence can help us to manipulate grammar points like mathematical or logic problems. De plus le equals du, but if the noun begins with a vowel, we do not combine them but rather say “de l’ ”.

      The sticky wicket in language teaching is that learned competence is developed in an entirely different system of the mind than acquired competence. Learned competence is conscious, much like math, logic, or linguistics. Acquired competence is unconscious, much like walking, running, or forming mental images in our heads. This foundational nature of learned competence versus acquired competence is another reason for teachers to separate the process of developing acquired competence through comprehensible input from the process of building learned competence through conscious learning.

      If we are required, by administrators or by grammar-based common assessments, to force students, at the beginning of their language study, into correct production of linguistic elements such as grammar rules that are late-acquired (for example, the correct usage of ser versus estar in Spanish or the “pas de” rule in French, both of which are in the first two chapters of the first-year book in Tina’s district), the only way the students can achieve the goal is through use of the Monitor. Use of the Monitor, to access consciously-learned information, is the only way for students to produce grammatical forms that have not yet been acquired by the Language Acquisition Device (Chomsky) because there hasn’t been up to that point nearly enough comprehensible input for it to be accessible to them.

  3. SO….what do we do, those teachers that are faced in this situation? I have been asking this question for years now, stuck in the same rut and it hasn’t gotten better for me. But I want to know what others have done.

    1. So that is what I’m working through in this book or document or whatever it’s going to become. The document lays out a scope and sequence for non-targeted input for a year and the curriculum that would go with it. And I’m starting to think that we cannot use comprehensible input to teach these required things at the district is asking us to do. So what I’m thinking now is that we should study those things in a conscious fashion if we are forced to do so, but that we should go ahead and separate the process of language acquisition through comprehensible input from that process. And so we would study those districts required things in a conscious way separate from story creation and discussions and such.

      1. A few questions, Tina:

        When do you think your work on this will be available to us?
        Would you consider inlcuding a daily/weekly/etc lesson plan format for doing this combination?

        I have begun watching your teaching videos on YouTube. Thanks for sharing those!

      2. Hi, everyone. I’ve been reading this blog for over a year now from Elizabethtown, PA, and some afternoons it becomes my reset button, after I’ve drifted too far away from NT-CI. I just want you all to know that in spite of the “Sturm und Drang” of what it takes to make administrators and many teachers (especially college-level teacher trainers!) see the light, I just know intuitively that what you all are doing is right!
        I’ve been wrestling with this curriculum dilemma as well. Fortunately, our district has so far not been micro-managing us in the classroom. One contribution I might make at this point in looking at curriculum is not to develop units according to grammar or vocabulary themes, but by physical context. For example, in level one I spent a block of time (perhaps a month or six weeks) on stories that take place in a forest or a natural location. They can bring their own creative characters into that context and will by default want to know vocabulary and structures related to the context, without me dictating what they must/should know. I’ve even taken a poll in a level two class about what context they’d like to concentrate on, though some of their ideas are less useful and I’ve needed to use my veto power. What I like about this is that it gives students who know nothing about how we acquire a language some focus for a period of time, almost like pre-schoolers doing some sort of role-playing game in a pretend context of their choice on the playground.
        If you have some thoughts about this, I value your critique!

        1. … I spent a block of time (perhaps a month or six weeks) on stories that take place in a forest or a natural location….

          This is bold. Anyone who can get away with this has the upper hand and I think it is very craftily conceived, Carl. What Tina is doing is a bit different in that we are basing all of our discussion on images, as per:

          “The best way I have found of getting to a place where everyone knows and approves of each other in a classroom, to form a community in an authentic sense, is by sharing images created by the students to use as a basis for stories. That’s the glue.”

          1. This has worked with my coach. I concur. He is a very straight and narrow guy who tells me he wants to see certain things. So a unit based on location would work because we are “targeting” a specific structure. So end of lesson assessments (objectives) can look like this for a unit on “at the forest”
            Lesson 1) recognizing the word in a new sentence 2
            Lesson 2) pronouncing the word (with a partner)
            Lesson 3) writing a unique sentence with the stucture
            Lesson 4) writing a narrative with the structure

            It is these things at my district that teachers but mainly admin want.

      3. In dividing the processes, as you mention, Tina, one question is the order of processes.
        It would seem that CI-based process should precede the conscious learning process. But perhaps with such a short time frame (let’s say, 4-6 weeks on a unit), it may not make a difference. Perhaps it could be reversed and have not impact. I do not know. I am just throwing it out there as a factor to be considered.

        1. …perhaps with such a short time frame (let’s say, 4-6 weeks on a unit), it may not make a difference [to reverse the conscious learning and the CI]….

          Nathaniel I would submit that if the instruction is in the form of a “unit”, then it is not CI, with the exception suggested by Carl above about presenting a unit on natural surroundings, etc. But even then, the instruction must by definition reduce the language which is another way to say target words. And so that’s what is happening in TPRS right now where it has become T1 work, which is not unconscious work. The research says nothing about targeting, which reduces the instruction down to a certain list of words necessary to meet the overall curricular goals of the “unit”. I believe that it is better that the instruction expand, not be labeled in any way, be allowed to go where it wishes. When we grow up in our L1, we don’t break our topics of conversation into “units” That’s the way God designed it and He is a pretty smart Dude, like really smart.

          And if that is true, then we would have to start with free form CI (working from an image is the way I have concluded is the best to get free form CI going) and then when we write it up during Step 5 of the Reading Options we can let our inner grammar teacher out, and then, as Tina suggests, build in entire days full of little grammar units of conscious study into the syllabus to study grammar – after the CI – in a more formal way. What I hear Tina saying is that we need to separate conscious and unconscious instruction. I don’t think she is saying to not do the conscious/linguistic study of rules, she is saying to quit faking it (T1) like as if by magic we can mix oil and water. We can’t. And the proof of that is in the boring.

          1. For the “unit thing” to work. We must own the concept of what a unit is to us in a WL class. I have heard of CI teachers say that they have 2 overarching units for a whole year. It’s possible. One aspect of it must be “forwards planned” not backwards planned because it is backwards for us to do so. It’s idealistic for sure but that’s my mindset 24/7.

            In my region, there was a bogus “into,through and beyond” method created in the 70s for WL clsssrooms. None of it research based and still used to this day. The concept is wide spread and taught in methods classes for WL teachers. Similarly, we must create a culture of NT with its values, practices and even products like the invisibles images. I think that starting from NT is important as you said Ben.

            We can however make that your “unit” can work to meet mandates if nothing else. You get say, 1 to 3 emergent structures or words and have those written on the board then while students retell with a partner, you write an orginal sentence in the TL using one of those words and have the students translate. Done with the objective and the formative assessment. Collect these structures and that is your forwards planned unit…

            A different way is to get your own HF words ” list” pulled from your NT curriculum (text from stories) from a year prior and place this along side strategies like owi, special chair and MT on a “calendar”. Of course we may tweak as we go. I now get what my coach was saying when he “wanted to protect” me. Having a flexible plan written down that ties to standards can protect us BUT should never replace or undermine our students or NT.

            I’m ranting but sometimes it’s the only way to hash out ideas.

          2. I agree that these little rants are good in helping us hash out the ideas. Keep doing it.

            The thing is with this:

            ..you get say, 1 to 3 emergent structures or words and have those written on the board then while students retell with a partner, you write an orginal sentence in the TL using one of those words and have the students translate. Done with the objective and the formative assessment. Collect these structures and that is your forwards planned unit….

            I know what you mean and have done different things but for me at least having to remember to do even that kills the natural feel and smooth flow of the class. It’s probably just me bc it is a good idea.

          3. I just think that enough pressure on admins to make them aware of what the research really says and what the standards really are so that we can post objectives that are reasonable and in line w the idea of NT for example:

            SW listen to [the target language] with the intent to understand.

            If it’s a reading class, the posted daily learning target could be:

            SW read [the target language] with the intent to understand.

            If it’s a writing class, the posted daily learning target could be:

            SW write [the target language] with the intent to communicate.

          4. I am coming from a textbook bound situation. So I am trying to create sanity in my own situation.

            I think grammar days–verb days really–will work for me. Just a way to keep the grammar hammerers away. Actually, the piece-meal grammar stuff that is done by those who insist on grammar is ineffective in two ways. It so overwhelming with the person, which are not processed for meaning without a context. On the other hand, it is so divided temporally that no connections are made. So from a learning standpoint it is very inefficient.

            I see the SL idea as a way to fill in with NT on a regular basis under the rubric of a broad setting like the woods or the beach.

            I am looking forward to Tina’s results with a scope and sequence.

            Next year I will have French students with no experience, Spanish freshmen with two years of Middle school CI (thanks Amy Marshall and Paula Ye), and Spanish IV with the gamut of experiences. So I am constrained by the Unit shackles but will be trying to do the Houdini thing on a regular basis.

          5. …do the Houdini thing….

            That is rich, given that you are only doing what is right and true for kids. This image, and your use of the term “keep the grammar hammerers away” are what so many of us go through. What if we didn’t feel that we have to keep them away? What if we felt that, since it is our professional decision to teach in this way, that we have the right to do so?

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Yes for too long and for too many people there’s been 2 opposing messages. Authentic communication built on (scaffolded,) extemporaneous conversation, vs. contriving situations to insert pre-planned thematic vocab and grammatical features.
    One is unconscious, the other conscious.
    Oil and water.

    1. But what is worst, the canned dialogues with thematic vocab or grammar? Are they both the one in the same since it is a focus of form? The former is memorization along side its meaning while the second focuses on the written form or rule. What if the ignorance is invading parents and students? I have to deal more with a thematic partner activities, task drills and games in an eclectic approach rather than grammar… these unfortunately are seen as best practices. I couldn’t stomach a 4 weekend PL meetups my first year. I’m infiltrating with new teachers in my region first.

  5. I’m not sure where to post this but it’s been on my mind for quite some time now: All of you seem to be sure about conscious versus unconscious learning a language, but I’m not and it’s bothering me.
    I know from experience that conscious grammar work gets tedious soon and the results for my kids have always been minimal at the best especially when I take into account the time spent on this work. So I have minimalized it. (But I need to do short grammar rules otherwise the parents would start c0mplaining.)
    I believe that (most) grammar is acquired by comprehending the message but I don’t think it’s exactly the same with vocabulary. As a learner myself I’ve always felt that regularly studying some vocab helps if you are not required to learn everything perfectly. Of course not just word lists. The vocab must be in context and I’ve read somewhere that we learn/acquire our L1 also via chunks, and when you do it this way you also get unconscious lexicogrammar. When you learn chunks or words in context it seems to work well from L1 to L2 but not the other way round hence it could be that L1 to L2 is more of an unconscious process and happens when the kids are ready.
    To me it seems that vocab from L2 to L1 in small portions may speed up the comprehension side of the L2 thereby helping the unconscious processes.

    Just thinking out aloud about the research: When we acquire our MT no-one can help us by translating but when learning/acquiring an L2 this help is available and we all use it for comprehension I suppose.
    So to me it appears that there is a crucial difference between conscious grammar and conscious vocab/comprenhension work. I’m not saying that vocab MUST be conscious or that everyone SHOULD have written vocab. By the way most of my seventh graders asked for vocab but not for grammar after some weeks without vocab.

    As I’ve read many times on the PLC: Live and let live.

    1. Udo,

      When you say L1 to L2 are you talking about translation?

      I am not sure about the difference between conscious grammar and conscious learning of vocabulary. The first is rules like math (which have many exceptions in language) and the second is simply memorization. Both grammar and vocabulary are acquired through CI. This is different than reviewing vocab in isolation. You are reminded of any vocabulary because of the input or experience.

      For L1 (or MT) children have the luxury of time, adults who look after them, context, material etc… to make sure we get that message. Remember than L1 acquisition is fundamentally the same process in the brain as L2, L3 etc…

      1. Sorry Steven, I made a mistake. It should read: When you learn chunks or words in context it seems to work well from L2 to L1 …

        I am certain that L2 acquistion is fundamentally the same as acquiring your L1, but as a learner myself and what I have experienced with my students and what I know about bilingualism, it can always be that learners translate sth inwardly from L2 to L1 and that’s a conscious process, isn’t it? Whereas they are very seldom interested in the structure (grammar) of the L2. At elementary level I think I can safely say I’ve never been asked about the language only about words.

  6. Udo you wrote:
    ” learners translate sth inwardly from L2 to L1 and that’s a conscious process, isn’t it? ”

    The search for meaning can be conscious or subconscious. Someone can use their L1 to think aloud and ask “what does that mean… i notice the “re” in the beginning of the word and that means again…” but that is when there is input and we do not get everything. Some learners are more tolerant of noise.

    The acquisition of language is subconscious, the negotiation of meaning and interpretation may be conscious but it is important that the flow does not get interrupted. This is why, I question the overuse of comprehension checks during stories. In story telling (telling a story and drawing it’s events” ) we build context for meaning and we write a translation but we do it in the service of meaning and we move on with the story. Once we speak in the common language, we break that flow and it can easily become conscious. Like when we review vocab in isolation. These are my two cents as to how I observe my own practices and how I felt students did while story telling. Next year I will use story telling more and more.

  7. Thanks Steven, I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you with regard to breaking the flow of L2 if we do many comprehension checks. This why I tend to let the kids retell the story in their L1 after they’ve listened to it or I just let it go if the atmosphere was one of high concentration during the telling.

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