Early Forced Output

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31 thoughts on “Early Forced Output”

  1. Melissa Kriebel

    I agree with what you are stating above. I find that my students are understanding more than they have before and are processing the language. However, how do we balance that when our administrators ask for samples of writing? And “data” from it? And a department head and curriculum map that supports it?

  2. This question comes up, it seems, almost monthly. We have ample responses but they are all over the blog. Mainly look in the Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education category.

    My response is to take each surge of data requests from admins and give them what they want. I collect writing samples three times per semester. I rate them according to the newest and best writing rubric that we have in DPS now, which I think is on our district WL website. It is awesome. I put a 9 on the sample if it is a 9. The admin. puts it in a stack of papers, not being able to read the French, and checks the box that Slavic bowed down low enough to the data gods for his bow to be accepted.

    All my VP wants is to tell the principal that I am doing my data collection and all my principal wants is to tell her area superintendent that she is doing her job. So I definitely provide those writing samples. Too bad my highers up can’t read them. I can’t read them either bc the kids shouldn’t be writing that early, but there you go.

    Oh and yes, data from it. I just enter each sample’s score in an Excel spreadsheet and send that on to our data people and my AP as well. They are proud to have such a professional data gatherer on their staff. Again, they don’t look at the numbers, which aren’t all that accurate, are they, bc gathering data on how well a kid can write too early is like gathering data on how a future dancer dances when she is still five years old. But they want it so they get it, and it looks real to them. So I give them what they want and they are happy. How do we get a dog to stop barking? We throw the dog a bone.

    And the department head, come on, really, unless they want your head what are they going to do? They really are operating in this military chain of command model, aren’t they? They are only afraid of the VP seeing them as inadequate. The saddest thing of all in this sad chain of command is the department head who thinks she has power and influence. She doesn’t. But have you seen those kind? Just pathetic.

    The most vulnerable ones among us are the young ones who have department heads like that who use this data collection process to intimidate and cojole the young teacher to do the doo doo that THEY do. That is just shitty. Those young ones are the teachers I worry about, as they are forced to teach in a way that is against their inclination, which is CI. That’s bad.

    Angelka Dodd got hit with that hard, as many of us know. Happily, she is subbing now and reading the blog every day. How cool is that? She is in recovery from people like those described above. The fact that she still reads here says a lot. Do you think she should be working with languages with kids? I do. Maybe it will happen. There is a teacher up in Vail here in Colorado cleaning ski lodge rooms bc of a department head at Arapahoe HS here in Denver who last year flattened her CI hopes. Ugly.

    And the curriculum map? Come on, y’all, haven’t we solved that? Haven’t we discussed that enough? See the link below for starters on that topic. Robert? Jody? Laurie? What about the curriculum map? I thought we got that dog to stop barking.


  3. Thanks, I know there are resources, I’ve read them – but this is my first year with CI and also with a new map. I am on the “younger” side so I guess I fit into the category of “young one” listed above, and still, I am trying to do what I know is right. You’ve definitely addressed the unit themes in a map… However, last year we revised our curriculum maps, bought all new textbooks, incorporated 21st century learning, and etc. and they are asking us to show that we are following them. The curriculum maps state that we are assessing Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking in each unit. All of our assignments are listed on our online gradebooks – so they are looking for those assessments. I just “found” TPRS in October (and had my ahh-haa moment) and so I am late getting started. (just did my first story today – wow, it felt good and the students were engaged). I do think there are plenty of resources on here for me to figure all this out, but it was helpful to understand how you provided your “data” and the writing criteria. Our curriculum maps don’t just state vocabulary. That’s all. This summer I am going to spend time organizing it all for next year when I go full steam with TPRS. Thanks!

  4. However, last year we revised our curriculum maps, bought all new textbooks,

    I hope the process occurred in that order. Usually the “curriculum map” simply follows the textbook. There is no true backward planning because the textbook lays out the scope and sequence. I’m sure eventually they will be giving you a curriculum map as well. My district is tied to a textbook that is now out of print; I’m looking forward to the discussion of benchmarks when they discover that their questions are so tied to a particular book that they are useless.

  5. Melissa here is a case in point of this mindset that I personally have developed to what I think are unreasonable requests of me by people who honestly don’t know what I do.

    I got an email a few minutes ago, right in the middle of the day here at Lincoln, from my AP. He asked me, in response to some lesson plans I had sent in in a new format we are using:

    “How often do you assess kids to see if they are progressing? weekly? 6 weeks?”

    I responded:

    Joe –

    assessment is almost daily in the form of short quizzes at the end of class, ten points, as an exit ticket. I am a big believer in formative assessment. Long term summative assessment involves too much memorization, in my view. I also do a writing assessment every two or three weeks as per district requirements. The formative daily quizzes really help the kids stay focused in class and give me immediate feedback on any student who may need some intervention.

    I got a nice email back. It said, “Thanks brother!!”

    He is happy because I rewponded to his request. He didn’t delve deep as I didn’t delve deep. We did what we had to do. Done with that.

    Now I have to deal with the lady who just walked in to observe me without letting me know. Don’t ya love that? Luckily I have my Matava scripts. I can bail from my planned rST work and do an unpublished story Anne just sent me.

    It’s just a big game. CI is CI. We do CI and our kids learn. We do activities and our kids don’t learn. Admins don’t get that. Bless their hearts.

  6. I am hoping that your email above is exactly what happens for me as well with administration. I am hoping when the high school teachers see how much my 8th graders can actually comprehend this year, it’ll speak for itself. BTW – Thanks for the blue chip post because I don’t have five years to read all this stuff…barely five minutes since I have a 4 and 3 year old waiting for my attention at home.

  7. Yeah we have to keep things simple here. We say a lot and it’s great. We have gotten to know each other well over the years. We are aware of what each is going through. There is so much to say. But I can say that there is a certain very small percentage of articles here, those describing blue chip ideas, that we must keep at the forefront. Anyone not using jGR to great effect by now, for example, is just losing out on the most ass-kicking TPRS/CI to come along since Circling, in my opinion. So, yes, I will continue to frame our focus on those things proven to work in our classrooms to the greatest effect while we, at the same time, can continue to get into all the details and side conversations that make this group so valuable to many of us, on both a personal and professional level.

  8. And another thing Melissa on the idea of throwing the admin dogs a bone, just giving them what they want (bc if we do it all properly, we won’t have any time to think about our teaching), I also have three sets of lesson plans, one for a week focused on writing, one for a week focused on reading and one for stories and auditory CI.

    So this week I am focused on writing. I had to submit the lesson plans to my VP by Thursday of last week. I just said to myself last Wednesday, “I think I’ll work on writing with rSF next week, so I’ll just send Joe that weekly template on writing.”

    Now, Thursday of this week we have CELA evals so that the students are not in the building. I forgot that and my VP let me know that my plans weren’t exactly right. Big deal. His reaction tells me that all he did was glance at the plans. He a) only had time to glance at them, and b) see if there were any glaring clerical errors. I know he didn’t think about the content of the plans.

    If we want to think that admins are going to meditate on what we hand in and then get all deranged about it, then we won’t last long in teaching. So we give them what they want, minimal stuff, they can’t understand it anyway, and we learn to do that, playing the game, and not fretting about all the paperwork. That’s how I roll, anyway.

    1. Just one caveat on Ben’s last paragraph. Occasionally you have to give an administrator more, but it won’t last long. A couple of years ago I had a principal who was big on GRR (Gradual Release of Responsibility) – it’s really just a new packaging of the five-step lesson plan, Madeline Hunter, et al. She insisted that we give her detailed lesson plans on certain occasions, and she went over them carefully and made comments. This happened about four times during the year; the rest of the time she simply wanted to see certain things on the board when she walked into the room.

      So, know what your administrators are asking for; learn to understand the language and give them what they want, no more and no less. Then they will be happy and you will be at peace.

    2. HAHAHA!!! reminds me of an observation a French teacher endured while I was an ed tech. (I hung out with the WL language teachers all the time — knowing that I eventually wanted to go back to school to be a Spanish teacher. – guess what? I achieved my goal!! HOOORAYY!)
      anyway, we were chattin’ it up one day, and she said, “hey, haha, I just got my eval. back….he (principal) wrote, “what a GREAT class! the teacher spoke the whole time in French and the kids responded! I didn’t know anything of which they were talking about, since I don’t know French, but it sounded good, and the kids seemed to understand. Good job!”
      hahahaha!!! Reminds me of Ben’s “popcorn” and “butter” story!!! 🙂

  9. I had a funny experience this week. We are in the middle of exams and I gave listening exams last Friday. In the Advanced class, I did a story with questions then said sentences where they had to pick the correct translation from a list. Students could ask me to repeat the sentences and they started asking me in Chinese. I never taught them to say, “Please say it again” and it hasn’t been part of our classroom routine except to show when they don’t understand through gesture or to ask what something means. It just popped out and during an exam no less!

  10. I just visited Michelle Metcalfe’s 3rd year TPRS Spanish class at West Van Sec for pro-D observation. These kids have had TPRS only for 3 years– exactly as long as Michelle has been teaching it– and to say I was astonished would be putting it mildly.

    The 3rd years were asked– with no prep– to write out three problems and solutions the world faces. Kids wrote things like this:

    “Hay mucha contaminación. Tenemos que limpiar el mundo” and “Mucha gente no tiene comida. Necesita comida.”

    Ok. Now…here is the kicker…this is gramatically perfect (and content-sensible) Spanish and THESE KIDS HAVE NEVER BEEN TAUGHT GRAMMAR! This blew my mind.

    Now, in her first year class, Michelle did vocab, PQA (lots of si/no and one-word answers) and then a story. What was interesting was that there was zero forced fake output.

    So…my take-away was, don’t rush it…you WILL get results…but on a developmentally-appropriate schedule, not on the whims of some school board monkey with an accountability agenda.

  11. This topic resonates particularly this week. I had an unscheduled 10 minute evaluation this week (of course it was with my most troublesome, largest class). My principal is new this year and is in favor of CI, but has questions about output. His evaluation is online and I have the ability to record comments. He walked in on a dictado of several sentences from Houdini, along with pop-up grammar. We also practiced a few kids’ songs.

    He wrote a few favorable things, and then asked this:
    I would be interested to hear the students ask you questions. They repeat and say things back to you often. Do you feel confident that they can speak the language clearly? They do seem to understand you, so my assumption is that you are confident with their skill level.

    I’m trying to think about how to answer him–do I just say that “research shows we need x# hours of input before output is unforced” or is there a better way? Thanks for any advice.

    1. I recommend using the term “silent period” to justify their mostly listening. Also, remind him that we acquire languages by hearing and seeing them A LOT first. Output should be unforced in early levels (as you said). I think pulling out a number is going to be unproductive, because you might want to make the case that some kids do produce now (I’m assuming there are a couple kids already spouting some stuff out here and there) but that they all start to speak at different times (differentiation baby!). And maybe one more thing… if you have any documentation or anecdotes of kids speaking OUTSIDE of class, that would be good to give/tell him. Good luck, at least he gets CI (which should be enough to soothe his worries). With that last fact in mind, you could pull out a fine statement from Krashen about output and give it to him.

      1. Oh I hadn’t seen this response by Jim, Lori. Perfect. Do exactly that. Silent Period. Get an article about it directly from Krashen. Show it to your boss. Tell him that this is the research you are basing your instruction on based on your own professional decisions made over years of study, training and workshops. Nice, Jim. Great answer! Thanks!

        1. also look at the Standards for national board certification that Skip posted — in IT it states that “teachers are aware that students acquiring a second language go through a ‘silent period’.” it also states that they need to hear comprehensible input just beyond their level of competency (i + 1) …..wow! did NBCT read Krashen????? 🙂

    2. Did anybody answer this yet? This is a huge question and we need to offer suggestions. I would probably just sit the dude down and give the research. Is there anything in the Admin/Parent/Teacher re-education category on this? Lori needs concrete answers here.

  12. Thanks, Jim. I was pretty much thinking along those lines. Although these are level II students, they had projects/grammar last year, so they’ve really only had input for about 6 months. Funny thing is, some of their parents have told me that their kids are actually speaking Spanish at home this year (not sure that is documentation as I did not record date/place). And of course, I have kids teaching siblings TPR gestures and songs and texting one another in Spanish.

    I’ll go grab a Krashen quote from “Foreign Language Education the Easy Way” and follow the rest of your suggestions. My mind is eased–thanks for the prompt reply.

    1. And don’t forget, Lori, that this man has been trained to “say something nice and then make a suggestion for improvement”. It is a formula that they are told to use when evaluating teachers. So he is just doing his job. Honestly, when he walked out of that room I honestly don’t think he cared to know anything about your kids’ levels of output. It wasn’t real. So don’t think about it too much. Administrators work in a whispy fabric of intimidation that exists in schools and that we would do well to just ignore. They don’t really get CI any more than most teachers. What a shitty job that would be to be an administrator. Talk about shallow and wide with everything all day! And vague threats that we’re not good enough. We’re good enough!

      Related: https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/11/05/stuart-smalley/

    2. update: I took advice from this PLC and emailed a few paragraphs to my building principal. It worked! This was his reply:

      This is a GREAT explanation Lori! Thank you for taking the time to explain. Makes perfect sense to me.

      So thanks to all of you who helped me give an explanation of input/output and the “silent period.”


  13. thanks, Ben, for reminding me about the “script” that administrators are expected to follow. Yeah, I would not want that job.

    It was such bad timing last week to have that 10-minute impromptu evaluation…I had lost my confidence this week b/c of a comment a student made to me that “90% of us don’t understand anything you say in Spanish.” He was complaining about my “less than 5 minutes of English” rule. I’d been tutoring the boy outside of class and frankly, I was hurt. I said “I need to slow down” and he said “No–just teach us in English.” I found out later that he’d been kicked off the swim team that day and so he was just taking out his frustration on me. I did ask my classes how many of them understand me in Spanish and it was far, far more than 10%.

    Still, it made me realize how easily discouraged I am–frightened me to think I am that fragile.

  14. Dear Lori,

    I think that we are all very, very fragile (students included) this time of year. Illness, weather, midterms, post-holiday recovery/let-down, pre-Valentine’s day worries (definitely for the kids) , financial struggles, etc.

    The increasing demands of administration are exacerbating that so much that many of us are on the verge of tears, shouts, and more.

    YOU ARE GOOD. In fact, you are GREAT. Your best does not mean THE BEST. THE BEST does not exist.

    Your advice to yourself is spot on. Slow down. Relax and enjoy. Don’t take the random comments seriously. Rely on student responses in class, what their papers give back to you and what you see in their eyes. Give the ornery ones love. Their criticism is simply their own frustration with not feeling good enough. Remind them that they are and thank them for helping you to be a better teacher and human being.

    These observations are for the birds. I had one myself this week. I haven’t been in yet for the “follow up” But her response to me? :

    a. You’ve got some kids I wouldn’t expect to see in Spanish 4. (I fear that her preconceived notions about students will prevent her from seeing how incredible they are!)
    b. I could only understand a little of what was happening. (she did have the reading in English that we were doing in Spanish)
    c. Don’t worry about the numbers. Everyone’s scores will be low. That’s how we’ll motivate teachers to improve. If they get good scores they won’t get better.


    with love,

  15. “Give the ornery ones love.” “Don’t take the random comments seriously.” “Remind them that they are [good enough] and thank them for helping you to be a better teacher and human being.”

    I needed that.

    thanks, Laurie. Your letter made me tear up a bit. As a side note, I was surprised to see that same boy who complained come back again the next day for tutoring as if nothing had every happened! And he is as polite to me as ever in the hallways “goodbye, Mrs. Fiechter.” yeah–I need to chill out.

    1. Don’t think you’re alone. I’m right there with you. We all are to some extent. Everybody is. I think that every single person in the entire world is afraid of not being good enough*. And that in most of them it’s to a strong degree, and is not just a mild case of insecurity. It’s my theory. And why do I say that? Because, obviously, things aren’t going real smoothly on planet Earth right now.

      We can’t let those fears of not being good enough wrap us up and take us out of the ballgame. Even that administrator is afraid of someone up the ladder. We have work to do. Let’s do it. We have the method now. When we taught out of the book we had reason to think we weren’t doing a good job because we weren’t.

      One of the best language teachers I have ever seen recently told me privately it was over. She couldn’t handle the bullshit new train wreck coming from the new corporate model of education. It had completely taken her spirits away and crushed them that day. She had to deal with idiots around her. It was too much.

      I told her I didn’t blame her. Not a bit. I would be seriously thinking of leaving education right now if I were younger. I would compare the benefits and the costs to me and I think I would start thinking of leaving. It’s because I lack the confidence. I have let people who know nothing about teaching languages lord it over me in school buildings since the 1970’s. That sucks.

      But now, IF WE CAN TAKE THE STRESS, there is hope. We can actually teach for fluency and acquisition. As we get better, people will see, and the change will happen, and kids won’t feel so stupid, and it will be a better world. This I believe.

      Related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqC_Gma221M

      *except for Diana Noonan, who is afraid of nobody and knows what the deal is and says it no matter who the person is. That’s why DPS is such a place of change right now. And who benefits from Diana’s complete fearlessness? Oh, only about 100 teachers who each have about 150 students, which means that about 15,000 people in the Denver area, most of them kids, directly benefit from her fearlessness in standing up to ignorance, which is all it is.

  16. One last comment about your administrator’s “Don’t worry about the numbers. Everyone’s scores will be low. That’s how we’ll motivate teachers to improve. If they get good scores they won’t get better.” How ridiculous is that! But the concept is wide-spread; same thing happens to my husband at his job.

    I certainly cannot figure out how giving people lower scores than they deserve will motivate them to improve. If a student deserves an “A” on a paper or presentation or exam, should we give them a “B+” instead so that they’ll be motivated to improve?? Imagine the parent calls on that one! And yet we are expected to try our hardest and yet never be told that we are good enough. That certainly does NOT motivate me to improve.

    egads indeed!

  17. Lori my “areas to improve in” on my formal Leap evaluation last week were in:

    technology, bc I never got to the Textivate part of class that day bc I was busy with all the CI. My technology, by the way, has to be infused. I swear, the word was infused technology. That means all through my teaching. Or I will be seen as not good enough. By the observor, not by me.

    differentiation, bc I don’t really give a rip about it, even though I have two student/grammarian types in the Amsco book for extra work and now I have Gloire Gabell in my class from Congo.

    something else I forgot.

    The admin said he would specifically be coming in in walk throughs this spring to look for those things. I could care less.

  18. [Totally snarky comment]
    When Laurie goes in for the debrief, she should seize on that last comment. If it were me, I would really want to say something like:
    “Oh thank you for making me aware of that “Best Practice” in motivation. I’ll start implementing it right away and lower all of my students’ scores by a full grade to encourage them to try harder. Of course I’ll be sure you get the credit for making me aware of that this is a “Best Practice” and for modelling it for me. Thank you so much for helping me improve my motivational skills with students.”
    [/totally snarky comment]

    Seriously, this is supposed to be motivational? It’s too bad you can’t pick an area for the administrator and do the same, then ask whether your comments were motivational or demotivational and likely to cause defensiveness. My district has gone to evaluating long-term teachers every 4-5 years, so it has been a while since I was evaluated. That hasn’t stopped me from going to iFLT when it was here, CLTA, ACTFL and AATG, TPRS in Punta Cana, and other venues. I also participate in this PLC, collaborate with colleagues, and do other things to improve my teaching.

    You don’t have to be bad to (know you can) get better.

    And since these evaluations are extrinsic motivators, we have Alfie Kohn’s work and the studies that back it up to tell us they mean nothing. Motivated teachers will continue to improve because they care; unmotivated teachers will continue to do as little as they absolutely must to keep their jobs. It’s human nature, not just student nature.

    Okay, rant over.

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