Drew’s Four Year Plan

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22 thoughts on “Drew’s Four Year Plan”

  1. Grant Boulanger

    “the kid is simply not allowed to go on because they are not ready based on the decision of the teacher,”

    I don’t like this. I am intrigued by Drew’s ideas but in public schools decisions about moving forward must be made by parents and students (with input from teachers in the form of evaluation).

    With real proficiency-based evaluations (I’m intentionally NOT saying “grades” here because I think there is no concensus as to what any given grade may really mean) the kid and parent should know and be able to make an appropriate decision about whether she/he should go on or not. Having the option to repeat “Beginning Language” is a good idea.

    I am strongly opposed to a teacher’s _opinion_ having any weight in whether a kid matriculates up to the next level. It should be obvious from their performance. Isn’t that what we have already with some grammarians telling kids who don’t learn in the way that they (the grammarians) teach that they (the kids) shouldn’t continue with the language study?

  2. Yes I agree with that Grant and probably mispoke. Somewhere in there, somewhere over the gradebow, there is a place where parents, kids and teachers can agree is the best place for them the next year. Thank you, Grant.

    An update: I did print Drew’s Plan and gave it to my PLC at school today. They are reading it and we will meet and discuss it later today. I showed it and discussed it with an open-minded AP. He really showed an interest. What we need is to get this idea working in a school, maybe Lincoln!

    And we can decide what factors should determine the decision. Just imagine, we have, in this discussion, a chance to do what is best for all of our students! That’s a first!

  3. I think it might be easier to get others to accept the idea if the Beginners’ level classes had different names, or themes, or codes maybe. Like saying “This class is for Beginners who are interested in simple social interaction and tourist type exchanges.” “This class is for Beginners who want to exchange ideas about popular sports/cooking/art/ whatever.” We know that the same fundamental structures will be covered in all the classes, but the students won’t feel that they’re repeating a year. It might even be possible to avoid using the term “Beginners” after the first year, but make it clear that to get into certain classes the student must have demonstrated a certain level of proficiency, no matter how many years they’ve studied the language.

    1. Annick and I just had that same idea three hours ago, but we were thinking along the lines of naming the classes after fish. But I like the above better. Thank you. It’s a great idea. I want to ram this thing through for next year at Lincoln.

      1. How do you pick what you are going to talk about without instituting “thematic units?” In my classes I can’t seem to decide this ahead of time. Even when I choose a script, the class often takes it in a surprising direction.

        I also want to “ram this thing through for next year.” It makes complete sense and eliminates shame. In fact it seems like the only logical way to proceed in CI instruction if we are truly working with the brain and with individual kids’ processing speeds.

        Would it make sense to incorporate the ACTFL descriptors for the different levels?

        1. That would make you a perfect teacher for this style of class. Your class will never be the same from one year to the next even if you use the same scripts. They never turn out the same.

          1. I really like the idea of Spanish 1 and 2 being tons of aural CI (stories, songs, jokes, etc) with literacy a lesser focus. And then, after those two levels (which could be repeated as many times as a student wants), a ton of literature being the focus with lots of self-selected SSR. But of course this depends much on the group dynamic, because I know for me a bigger class can be more difficult to create an environment conducive to real SSR.

            I’m just thinking, how might our students try to “work” the language program with this type of system? I can’t come up with an answer. If Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 were for the same type of credit and level destination (meaning that it would still say “Spanish 1 and 2” even though they took two years of level 1), and you didn’t have low-performing college bound students just going into Spanish 2 because they need it for college admission, but rather re-taking a Beginner course, I don’t see how or why anyone would want to “work” that kind of system.

            I think you guys at the bigger schools have something going here. I don’t think it will work well at my tiny school with classes (grade levels) of 20-30 students total. Just too little choice in this building.

          2. Grant Boulanger

            I will be out of the Blog’s mainstream on this, but I DON’T think that upper levels should be literature focused. *gasp*.

            I actually think this is an extension of the old system. the 4%ers also tend to like… you guessed it… literature. It’s one reason why many kids who liked languages in HS do not major in languages at the college level. It’s mostly about literature, not about real life.

            I believe the upper levels and college should be more content-based. there’s ample evidence that elementary full-immersion programs, in which kids are actively creating stories, doing science experiments, etc in the language acquire beautiful, real language. these kids continue on to HS and face upper level Lit classes that are BORING to them. Once we, in traditional language education programs, get our kids to an intermediate level, I believe the learning should transition to doing life in the language.

            Literature is great. I love me some Lazarillo de Tormes, baby. but I can’t expect anyone other than geeks like me to like that stuff. I’ll be ready with it in my back pocket in case anyone approaches me with an interest in el quijote, but I have to think about how and why these kids will be using the language later in life. And it ain’t the poetry of Machado that they’re going to need when they’re working their way up the ladder at 3M.

          3. Grant,

            I’m with you. 100 %. There is some literature that is appropriate for use with high school students, but it’s not what is on the AP. Literature should be a college-level pursuit. Our students are just beginning to really understand what the study of literature is all about in their own language . Having taught seniors for nearly 30 years, I can tell you that it is only in the last few months of their senior year are our most advanced students able to appreciate literature in English.

            I, too, will be looked at aghast, but why on earth would a high school student even want to take the AP exam? When they get to college they will be tested with a placement test anyway. I’m not convinced that the few credits that they MIGHT earn are worth the numbers of students that are pushed out of language as a result.

            Reading? Oh yes!! And maybe even a division of listening/speaking focus vs. reading/writing focus junior and senior year (without exclusion of the other two!) in order to allow student to pursue their strengths and needs. (and to maybe take both!!!)

            But literature? Only the comprehensible and compelling for students of high school age. Oh why oh why do we always want them to grow up so quickly when there is so much to enjoy along the way?!

            with love,

          4. Robert Harrell

            Reading Laurie’s comment makes me think there needs to be an understanding of the difference between “the study of literature” and “just reading good books”. “The study of literature” implies a very left-brain process of looking at both form and content. Nothing wrong with that for those who want it, but for most of our students it makes reading a chore because they always have to be on the lookout for certain things. On the other hand “just reading good books” implies reading for enjoyment, then we can talk about what someone liked and disliked, a favorite quote, a favorite scene, etc. – just like in “real life”. Even if the book we’re reading is “great literature” or an adaptation thereof, we can approach it from two very different directions and get two very different results.

            BTW, I do not particularly encourage any of my students to take the AP and actually talk about reasons not to take it. My district would probably by aghast if they knew I do this, but so far I have not gotten flak. The Spanish department has done away with level 4; to go on from level 3, students must take AP. I told my German students, who had been told by a misinformed Spanish student that all level 4 language classes had been removed, that I would fight tooth and nail to keep level 4 in the German course schedule. Their goals for the language do not fit with the AP goals and requirements at all; why should they be forced to jump through a hoop that takes them nowhere?

          5. Robert Harrell

            I do and don’t agree with Grant. Given the four years of high school, I don’t think we can ever realistically expect to have a “literature class”. At the same time I think it is not only possible but also desirable to expose students to literature from the target culture in small doses, particularly if we can relate it to something from their own experience. This week my 3-4 classes read Goethe’s “Erlkönig”, listened to Schubert’s setting, then listened to Rammstein’s “Dalai Lama”. We certainly aren’t going to tackle “Faust” or “Die Leiden des jungen Werners”, but I scaffolded the poem and walked them through it and got very positive comments from everyone.

            I believe the learning should transition to doing life in the language. I agree with this, but as an educator I think part of my responsibility is to show my students a larger, richer world than the one they currently inhabit. And I don’t think everything should be viewed through the lens of utilitarianism. The poetry of Machado may not be what they need to move up the corporate ladder at 3M, but it may be what they need to restore their soul while moving up that ladder. Of course, we should not do any literature just because someone put it in a textbook or “scope and sequence” document. We should do what excites us; only then can we communicate a passion to our students. Last year I had a graduating senior girl tell me that she didn’t really care about the Middle Ages, but I was also so excited about it that it was fine.

            I also think there needs to be a distinction between literacy and literature. The upper levels, in my opinion, should do more reading than the lower levels, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the “great literature” of the target language all the time, and I question whether it even has to be “authentic”. As a child I was first introduced to some great literature through what would now be called “graphic novels”. That whetted my appetite for the meatier versions later, and it enriched my life even then. I knew D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis from a “comic book” – so what if it wasn’t “serious” enough for some people. Why not provide students with literature tailored to their level of acquisition. The studies show that reading is what is important, not so much what is read.

            And I certainly agree that the upper level classes should not be boring.

          6. Thanks for making this distinction Robert. When I said “literature” I was implying anything written out. I agree with all of you that it is senseless to push the classics on students who aren’t ready for it. Hell, I have a student from Puebla, Mexico in my classroom, 18 years old, and I tinkered with the idea of having him read Cien Años de Soledad (100 years of Solitude) because it’s what I would be reading if I were in his shoes, but what did he choose? A level 2 reader. And then a level 1 reader. And then a level 3 reader. And that’s fine with me. (He admitted to me that he had never read a book for pleasure in his entire life!!) Now he’s reading Los Tres Mosqueteros, with graphics, which I special ordered for him at his request. (That’s the only reason I now know who D’Atargnan is Robert! 🙂

            I think pushing the classic literature is akin to shoving spinach down a kids throat… the only thing you’ll give them is a complete aversion to it.

            (Re AP, I have no experience with all this and am learning by osmosis reading y’all’s comments about it)

          7. Ah Robert, you wrote what I wish I had. :o) The literature must be accessible, to the head and/or the heart. There are a number of ways to make that happen, but that is the key to and the gift of literature in the classroom.

            with love,

          8. Haha, I have never had the same class from one year to the next, even in my pre-CI days. I refer to this “style” as the 50 First Dates style. I want to be clear that I am not making light of the brain injury, but if you have seen that movie, Drew Barrymore’s character is so charming and fresh and completely excited at each new day. I love that! So yeah, I love using the scripts because I have a framework but I always wonder what will happen!

  4. Grant Boulanger

    I once grabbed a Denver document off their website that’s a pacing guide for levels 1,2. What I noticed first was that all the topics covered would be covered in ANY text book: Descriptions of self, family, friends – School – Food – Home – Fav.Activities – Travel – Shopping

    But when I thought about this, it became obvious to me. Years 1 and 2 often correspond with the pinnacle years of social stress of any human being as well as pinnacle years of self-centeredness. My proposal would be that the central unifying theme of years 1 and 2 be _one’s self_. Its all about me… in these different contexts. I would even go so far as to say that emphasis in year one be placed mainly on 1st and 3rd person singular. Don’t overreact. You would still use all other forms when appropriate and natural. I’m just saying that the expectation would be that structures are presented in these forms and any freewriting occurs either about him/her or about me.

    After two years of this, after kids’ brains are cognitively more advanced, a class would take on topics and contexts outside of one’s self – larger societal issues, in depth studies of cultures other than my own, etc. Robert’s two year cycle would be great. Another idea is to have 1 or 2 days per week be dedicated to creating a simulated town in your classroom, complete with jobs, a currency, policy-making, etc. This type of experiment has been done at the Language villages and I tried it at Middlebury but I don’t know that they continued it. I’ve never seen in tried ina classroom environment though.

    1. Grant, even my star students in level 2 do not quite have anything other than 1st person and 3rd person singular acquired, (I use Usted instead of Tu for first two years), and I even stop here and there to point it out and try to incorporate it. Even still, I think it is just a late acquired skill (subject/object agreement).

      But I’m not so sure that stating this explicitly is a good idea, it may make it look like we’re not teaching the whole language, when we know that it is impossible not to with stories and such.

      1. Grant Boulanger

        Precisely. I’m not advocating for stating it explicitly or only teaching 1st/3rd sing. We use what’s natural and appropriate in the context. I’m saying what yiou’re saying. they appear to me to be the voices kids acquire first. I think that may have to do with where they are in their cognitive development and how we as humans tell stories to deliver meaning.

        What I’m saying is whenever we ask for spontaneous output, i.e. freewrites, we allow them to write in 1st/3rd sing for the first two yrs b4 _expecting_ them to branch that out. It follows the notion that years 1 and 2 be about self. My expectation would be for the lowest of our students to have acquired these two voices by end of two yrs. to easily and comfortably write about myself and compare/contrast myself to any number of different individuals in any number of different contexts. Of course, many will move beyond that and many will do so fairly quickly.

        I guess what I’m wondering is do kids in the age of adolescence tend to use 1st / 3rd sing. more in their first language? I don’t know but I have a hunch they do. If they do, would it make sense to expect these voices to emerge first? If they do, should we use these voices with intention when delivering CI, much in the way we choose high frequency structures over random vocab words? Does it make sense to expect them to be able to talk about themselves and compare and contrast themselves with others in their own classroom and community before expecting them to compare and contrast themselves with kids from other cultures? I tend to think that if they can’t recognize similirities and show respect for their peers in the classroom, they won’t give a rip about people who live in a different country with whom they have no direct experience.

        1. I guess what I’m wondering is do kids in the age of adolescence tend to use 1st / 3rd sing. more in their first language?

          I think everyone uses primarily 1st and 3rd person when telling stories. German has a narrative past tense, used – as the name indicates – primarily to tell connected narratives. 1st and 3rd person are absolutely natural to me, but 2nd person not so much. How many times to we tell a story using “you”? (I know in my experience, it has been primarily when playing Dungeons and Dragons™ or reading a “labyrinth book”.) Since TPRS is story based, 1st and 3rd person get used a lot. 2nd person is used in PQA, but students usually respond in 1st person. Only in late 2nd year do I start to get students who ask me spontaneous questions – and they often get the wrong 2nd-person form. This is after nearly two years of my asking them “you” questions. Perhaps it is acquired later because it is rarer.

  5. The big advantage of teaching at a German Waldorf school is the relative liberty we dispose of. Once the general curriculum has been approved by the ministry, it is easy to make modifications. Although our students do English and French beginning at the age of six, we haven’t been satisfied with the results of our language programs for a long time, for many students don’t participate the way we expect them to do. Nevertheless they automatically pass from one grade to the next regardless of their real knowledge. We used to divide each class into a “quicker” and a “slower” group from 9th or 10th grade on, which often meant into a group willing to succeed and a group where part of the students were unmotivated and thus no longer able to progress. The results achieved in the final exams consequently were often unsatisfactory.
    We now plan to install a progressive system of six levels for our 10th, 11th and 12th graders. After each semester we plan to evaluate the progress of each student according to the standards of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages detailed in the standards of the state (“Bundesland”) of Schleswig-Holstein. They will then either pass to the next level or repeat their level. This is not meant as a punishment, but as a logical consequence and might help the students concerned more than learning in an environment they are not ready for.
    Of course we don’t all teach with the same method. Just my colleague and I, the two French teachers of our school, are trying to teach with comprehensible input. But I really hope we will be able to do more real literature and more culture in the upper classes, for this is considered essential in the Waldorf curriculum, too.
    And I love literature. With my 9th and my excellent 10th graders I’m just reading the short novel “Mateo Falcone” by Prosper Mérimée that I introduced as an embedded reading, starting with a basic version and continuing with an extended and the original version. Thus we are able to read it within a few weeks.

  6. That is how we approach literature in our Level 4 also Martin. When I choose literature (since I too am lucky enough to create my own curriculum), it must be comprehensible. Or, if it is just too darn good for kids to miss, we start with an embedded version and work our way up, although, often with just an excerpt as the final piece.

    with love,

    1. Robert Harrell

      Makes me wonder if there isn’t a market for “scaffolded literature” – taking some of those great books and turning them into a series of embedded readings.

      1. I believe that there is. It’s on the “one of these days” list. :o) Who would have thought that when Michele and I started playing with this idea, that so much would come of it? I hope that it continues to grow, develop and be shared so that more students can connect with language and literature…..and through them to others.

        with love,

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