My Class is Structured

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46 thoughts on “My Class is Structured”

  1. OK I will try and memorize some of this stuff now b/c I have parent-teacher conferences all day today.
    Wait…. I can’t , rote memorization is against my religion and I have an allergic reaction to it, it gives me a runny nose (memorization intolerance syndrome).
    That’s OK. I was so focused on the message when I read it that I actually remember it ! Yeah, I guess I don’t have to memorize it!
    I had made copies of the ACTFL 90% Use Statement though. I do intend to pass them all out whether they want it or not.

  2. This jumps out at me: “…to understand what I am saying without focusing on the structure of it” (is what we’re asking students to do). That is why some of them don’t “feel like” they’re learning. They understand without focusing on the structure, and it does and should feel different. This is where kids don’t get the rigor of what we’re doing. I talked with 2 or 3 parents/kids about this (all from a supportive attitude and I am thankful for that).
    Just yesterday, for about the first time, my most recalcitrant 7th grade boy “played the game” well in class. He acted like he wanted to know more than just show off his memorized vocabulary, and that he realized he needed to understand meaning in the context of a class conversation. In short, that he has a lot to learn from hearing and responding to questions about some piece of comprehensible input. He is trying hard to output (ahead of his skills) but I won’t shame him for that. He wasn’t acting like a show-off for the first time, but like someone who was experimenting with whether or not he was speaking in real language. I need to write his mom about this. We had an excellent conference last Friday addressing his attitude and what I’m trying to do in class. Communication, not vocabulary memorization, and lots of input that leads over time to real, natural language skills instead of translating word-for-word in his head.

  3. I had one parent email me asking if there is anything else her son can do “so he feels challenged.” I responded: ” Your son may not always feel intellectually challenged in my class–but that is my intention, because people learn language best when they are not making academic effort. I assure you that he is learning a lot of Latin every day that he is hearing and understanding what I am saying during class.”
    Parents and kids are so used to the grind–they want to “feel the burn” of learning as if they’re in the gym, and with languages the grind doesn’t help. It’s hard to let that go. Imagine, all that effort, all those thousands of hours parroting phrases and filling out charts and worksheets, that generations of students have expended in their language classes, all for NOTHING. That’s not easy to come to terms with.

    1. Wish I’d read something like this a few weeks back. I have a student who complained that my class was not challenging enough and she made some kind of “contract” (that I did not sign) about what I would do to challenge her. When a couple of her classmates actually scored higher than she on the “more rigorous” version of my nine-week exam (they are very intuitive), she piped down and I heard no more complaints. It also helped when I showed my Spanish students the clip of Krashen teaching German in an incomprehensible and then comprehensible way.
      I’m making a large note of your line: “people learn language best when they are not making academic effort. ” and that “feeling the burn” make work for gym workouts, but not for acquiring languages.

        1. Diane–I just googled “youtube Stephen Krashen” There is more than one link, but this is the one I used:

          I told my students that the clip was very old, that Stephen Krashen was far ahead of his time, and that they were not to make fun of the old-fashionedness because he was my hero. They were very attentive! We no longer offer German at our school–I’d say that 1/4 of my class would take German if it were offered.

    2. We actually discussed this in class today. We were using the words for easy and difficult, and almost all of my students said that Spanish is easy. I told them that was great. Learning a language is hard work, but if we do it right, it should feel easy. We are fighting against 10+ years of academic experiences (and even more for their parents) that students equate with “learning.” It is a lengthy battle.
      I actually don’t receive many complaints about my class not being challenging enough. However, it made me think of a conversation I had today. One student who was absent told me that she had asked another student what we did yesterday. The response was that “we didn’t do anything important.” We did a story, which to me is pretty darn important! The perception that we didn’t do anything really bothers me, but I have to ask myself if it really matters as long as students are learning and engaging in the process? Am I just concerned about being judged by traditional measures of good teaching? Can the feeling of ease ever go too far and become detrimental to acquisition?

      1. Briana: Could it be the “didn’t do anything important” meant that they didn’t do anything for which they received points? That’s the definition of important to my kids. This year I’ve done away with points–I do assess and I give letter grades for those assessments, but there are no points attached to the work they do in class, home practice, etc. I’m working hard to retrain their thinking, but points = importance to most school kids.

  4. Diane-It sounds like this kid is finally beginning to submit to the process. Your hard work is paying off. Your comment about the translating issue really hits something I have thought about a lot.
    I am convinced that self-forced output, particularly word-for-word translation from English into the TL (which is still really English), actually hinders and obstructs acquisition. This is not just an output problem. It is the “kind” of output. I don’t have researched proof, but this particular student mindset, in my experience, is truly deleterious to acquiring the structure of a new language–and it wastes enormous amounts of class time. 🙂
    You are right about the shaming part. Perhaps, because I find this to be a real sticking point, I feel compelled to help them notice what they are doing and how it interferes with communication. I have pulled kids aside after class to talk about this, saying something along the line of: “I can tell you’re working really hard to say things in Spanish, but I often don’t understand you. It sounds as though you are thinking in English and then trying to translate it into Spanish. Sometimes, that can work, but most of the time it doesn’t, and, then, people don’t understand you well. It doesn’t sound like Spanish and doesn’t mean waht you want to say. Are you interested to know how you might communicate better in Spanish? I have some ideas.”
    If they say yes, I suggest: “Use the Spanish we know from class to say what you want to say. (example, example, example) If what you want to say doesn’t come to your brain right away, it is likely you just don’t know it yet and won’t be able to say it right now. Because you are a good student and a thinker, your highly-developed English brain wants to do things it can’t do yet in Spanish. This can be very frustrating when you’re learning a language, but the words you want to say will come with time and more experience–just like they did in English. In the end, we can only say and write “what we know”. If your brain relaxes, it will acquire more. So, in class, if I tell you that I don’t understand what you are saying, think about our conversation. Think about “what you really know” (example, example), and, then, relax. When you say “what you really know”, I can tell you are acquiring. When you say things I can’t understand because you want to say complex things, it covers up your learning.”
    Of course, if the student is not interested, I don’t offer the suggestion. I’m trying to learn to “lead” the horse, not force him to drink. Hard for me.

    1. Hi Jody,
      That’s an excellent response to kids trying-so-hard-to-output. I may use that with a tutoring student of mine, too. He probably gets pressed to speak a lot in his language class in school, and thinks he has to with me, too. Just relax, listen and comprehend, and you will acquire.

        1. Yeah, it’s tricky. I tutor him once a week (in Chinese) and he takes Spanish in school. I follow a sequence like a weekly schedule: introduce 3 or 4 terms (and usually also put a couple words he’s heard that are likely to come up). I do that in a chart in a Word document. We come up with gestures & practice briefly – those can help weeks later because the gestures last in his memory longest. Then PQA for a while. I have a sheet with question words & phrases on it & use that a lot. Then talk about little scenes and/or a story and discuss. Sometimes I’ve prepared a reading that he sketches in chunks, and we retell and discuss. Personalization is key though – he is obviously more engaged when he’s determining the characters.
          It takes a careful balance to keep things simple enough not to frustrate him but with enough variety to remain interesting. It’s more of a sensitive issue when there’s only one person being taught. There’s no where for him to hide when he can’t understand and that is really fatiguing for him. He’s cooperative (but not especially self- motivated) and it’s tutoring after a long school day. Just last week I started to see him progress – before that I felt like every week was almost starting from scratch.

          1. Thanks Diane,
            My neighbor is insisting that I tutor her two daughters, and when I tutored in the past it was before I knew anything about CI. It is hard to imagine doing stories with 2 kids for the reasons you pointed out.

  5. I imagine this will go under the admin/teacher/parent reeducation category. I hope so. Lots of good thoughts here, simply put, from all of you. I’m so happy to be getting better at articulating the point of what we do and how we do it. Thanks to you all.

  6. Question: What do we add to this discussion with a parent when we are the Lone Wolf? I hear a parent saying, “Then why is my son’s friend learning the other way in Mrs. So-and-So’s class? Aren’t you in the same department, teaching the same language?”
    What do we say about this without throwing our colleagues under the bus?

    1. I would not get into a discussion of any other teacher’s class. I would say something along the lines of, “If you would like to know why Mrs. So-and-So teaches the way she does, you will need to talk with her. For me to discuss her teaching without her here would be highly unprofessional, and I will not do that. I’ll be glad to explain to you why I teach the way I do, but I will not compare my teaching methods with those of a colleague in her absence.” Then you can bring in all of the research to support CI without throwing your colleague under the bus. After all, she may have some studies to support her methodology, but that is her concern, not yours.

      1. It’s so easy to get sucked into that, though. Whether the parent realizes it or not, she is trying to re-direct attention from the child’s behaviors* (the real issue) to something else. When successful, it causes the “accuser” to spend time and resources on totally extraneous material and perhaps even be put on the defensive, thus releasing the “accused” from accountability. By thinking this through now and having an answer ready, you avoid that trap and keep the pressure on the student and in-class behaviors*, where the attention ought to be.
        *Notice that I use the plural “behaviors” in keeping with the rubric on Interpersonal Communication (aka jGR).

      2. This is classy, Robert, and something I really need to keep in mind, especially justifying refusing to compare by saying
        “For me to discuss her teaching without her here would be highly unprofessional, and I will not do that. I’ll be glad to explain to you why I teach the way I do, but I will not compare my teaching methods with those of a colleague in her absence.”
        I hear more complaints from students, but also from parents. This is a much better response than the way I’ve handled it–by justifying how the other teacher teaches (She is very good at technology, etc.) . Thanks for giving me a gracious “out.”

  7. I’ve been thinking about why forced output does so much harm. We’re trying to educate the subconscious so that when language is required, the subconscious spontaneously, instantaneously produces what is needed. But if nothing suitable has been acquired by the subconscious in the TL , it falls back on whatever it has at hand which might do the trick, usually mother language structures. The problem comes when, having repeated the same mistakes several times, the subconscious decides to validate an error which then becomes fossilized. Then the teacher underlines it in red, making sure that the student’s subconscious will remember it. How many times have students protested, “But I’ve seen it written like that” ? I have no research to justify this, but I am sure that students that are allowed all the silent period they need make far fewer mistakes and speak with a better accent.

  8. I think the forced output also hurts their confidence level which is high when they are listening and understanding everything. Last week, I tried to do a story retell with one of my Chinese 1 classes and it bombed. They all looked scared and didn’t want to do it. I apologized the next day and moved on to a couple of days of reading, dictation, and character writing (Chinese). After that, they were ready to tell the story but I had them tell it to a partner instead of putting one kid on the spot. It worked better by then. Still, I wonder if I should have skipped the retell.

  9. You should have skipped the retell. It was forcing them to speak. The Silent Period must be respected as real and not just a kind of cavalier idea. It took so much statistical analysis and hard work by Krashen to come up with it. It is the period of time when the soil is formed for the roots of language to take hold in – no soil, no language.
    This is so true from Judy:
    …if nothing suitable has been acquired by the subconscious in the TL , it falls back on whatever it has at hand which might do the trick, usually mother language structures….
    That is a cautionary idea for us. Do we really want to ask our kids to go into their deeper minds to try to form language when there is not enough soil for the language to grow in? Like Jody said,
    ….in the end, we can only say and write “what we know”….
    Another tangential thing about output – we do not and never have advocated preventing the kid from spontaneous output (not the self forced kind of output that Jody commented on and I agree with that point Jody). To repeat, we do not force the kids to be silent, we just don’t force them to speak.
    No force. None. Let the mind do its thing. Notice that every time a kid turns five or six, the adults who hear them speak in increasingly proper ways don’t deconstruct why it happened, they just accept it as natural. But then Krashen (and Tracy Terrell) suggest that we learn languages in a natural way, and then back it up with research, all of a sudden people are up in arms about the radical hippy from USC.

  10. Thanks Ben. It is good to hear that again and again. I think it is a symptom of having done output based activities for so long.
    I do have this question though that has been looming in my mind since iFLT. When I watched Linda Li teach, she had the students do story retell after 2 hours of instruction. Then I heard a couple of people say that Dr. Krashen thinks Linda is one of the best CI teachers ever. She asked for volunteers to do the story retell so maybe those two kids were ready? But she did tell them to go home and tell the story to their parents. So wasn’t that output?

  11. As long as she asked for volunteers, it doesn’t count as forced output. If a kid volunteers to do a retell it is entirely different. Yes, it’s output, but not forced. Linda just knows, as I have seen so many times, that she does such a good job in the lesson that anybody who was half way listening to the lesson would have very little difficulty outputting the story. Why? Linda is the master of SLOW and clarity.
    It’s really a simple thing that we are making complicated because we are teachers. We must not make a kid do the output – that’s the whole thing. At best it brings no results bc the wiring isn’t there, as per the excellent points made above in this discussion (…we can only say and write “what we know”…), and, at worst, forced output shames the kid into thinking he is stupid and we end up doing the same kind of shaming teaching that verb conjugating teachers do to destroy so many dreams.
    I explain to my kids over and over how it takes years to even begin to put a sentence together in a foreign language. They really need to know that. I tell them often that if they are asked to speak, to say, “I am only in my second year of French and my teacher says that I need a lot more time than just what I’ve had to be able to speak. Just like babies need five years to speak right, and they hear it all the time.” I really do believe that my classes this year have all accepted that. The result is more relaxed classes.
    I hope that helped to at least kind of explain it.

  12. “As long as she asked for volunteers, it doesn’t count as forced output.”
    I needed this reminder. I think this is key to placating those who demand output even in our first year classes, without alienating the majority of our kids. If we make it optional, then we can do all kinds of things to impress traditional types (and of course it’s the 4%ers who help us with this, but then other students, esp. auditory learners, will surprise us) without making it forced.

  13. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for patiently clarifying, Ben. And when it does happen naturally, it is so wonderful to see those young brains at work. At the end of each full lesson, I give the Chinese 1 students a vocabulary sheet of the terms we have just finished working on. They add a sentence for each term and can take it off of their character writing sheets or come up with their own, then they put that sheet in their binders. Last week, one of the terms was “my” and this one student came up with, “My pandas are twins.” We used the term “twins” in a story back in the 3rd week of school (I have a pair of identical twins split between my 2 Chinese 1 classes who were the subject of the story). It blew me away that the old word came popping out of this kid’s brain like that! It was one of those affirmation moments.

  14. Yes, there is constant observable reinforcement of so many of Krashen’s ideas in this work. Words pop out of kids in amazing ways and we want to take credit for that but all we did was provide the input when it was the deeper mind, in what is a magical and even mystical process, that did all the work – said work having been done in deep sleep following a day of as much input as possible by the enlightened instructor.
    Are teachers really necessary, in that sense? No, input is necessary, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. If the teacher doesn’t provide the input, then they are unnecessary.
    Let us not mince words. What I pointedly mean to say there is that most language teachers going off to work in the United States this morning, so full of themselves and filled with pride at being teachers of languages, in spite of the glowing resentment coming from some of their students – yes, grammar shaming will happen again today in countless classrooms – are useless and unnecessary wasters of kids’ precious time and would serve their students better by working in some other profession.

  15. Great reminder! I did a retell of part of a story today and had lots of volunteers saying sentences. There were a few kids that did not volunteer and though I wanted to call on them so everyone had to participate, I restrained myself, and I’m glad I did! This does make me wonder about my speaking assessments though. I usually have them speak by telling me a story for a certain length of time. How can I assess their speaking without “forcing” the output? These are upper-level students who have had traditional grammar-based French classes, but they are in year 8 or 9 of learning French.

  16. …but they are in year 8 or 9 of learning French….
    That’s 8 or 9 years too many for fluid, natural output to occur. They are officially stuck in the left analytical hemisphere of their brains, probably forever. So when you ask:
    …how can I assess their speaking without “forcing” the output?….
    my answer has to be, “You don’t.”

  17. Ben’s right….evaluation via speaking or writing is forced output. It doesn’t help acquisition. That being said, you can still use it from time to time to measure where they are and to build their confidence. Especially at that level. This group will never be “ideal”, but what you offer them will be a great gift!!
    with love,

  18. I used this line on students today and am about to use it on a parent. The students say that they learn better with doing worksheets but when I gave them a worksheet (a cloze activity) they could not do it so I am confused as to what they are talking about. I am tired of students thinking that the kill and drill grammar and vocabulary ways are the way to learn a language. Sure, they work to pass a class based on rote memorization and you learn, but you do not acquire.

  19. Here is a ‘sneaky” way to deal with the “I learn better with worksheets.” Have the students write a short piece (10-15 sentences) titled “The Terrific Day.” Give them a list of structures, in the target language, that you have worked with this year. Tell them that they can, and should, use whichever structures that they would like to use off of the list in their writing. Then, the next day, ask them to write a second piece titled “The Terrible Day.” Give them the list again and tell them that they are not allowed to use any of those structures. They can only use what they learned “from worksheets” (whether that was from you or another teacher.) You can even give them verb boxes or whatever they might have used.
    I promise you that they will see the difference. :o)
    with love,

  20. This is so timely! I just had back to school night and everyone was wonderful… except that one parent. She greeted me by refusing to take my handout. One of the items on the handout spoke about what we do do and what we don’t do. Borrowed from Annabelle Allen, La Maestra Loca. We don’t memorize, we don’t do grammar rules, we don’t do word lists.
    This parent wanted to know when her second grader that I have had since Kindergarten once a week for 45 minutes was going to learn all of his colors in Spanish. I very kindly told her how class works and how in real life, we don’t have conversations about every color in the rainbow. We may talk about a few colors as we speak on someones shoes or who has green shoes vs who has red. What color is Kim’s shirt, pink or purple?
    She then asked me “So, you are saying that they won’t learn anything by the time they finish 8th grade?”
    Hmmm, no. I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that at all… SMH.

    1. Learning all the colors. What an idiot. I experienced a similar moment when an entitled little 7th grader blurted out in class, “We haven’t even learned our ABCs yet!” I remember truly hating my job in that moment. It’s hard enough without those Einsteins messing with us. There oughta be a law.
      So Andrea if you write the above up in a letter please share it with us. Good luck with the expert. I bet she doesn’t do that with her doctor or lawyer.

  21. Jennifer Goldszmidt

    Hey, Ben and Andrea — and anyone else… I love this, I’m using this. Meanwhile, I’d love to know what you do for midterm and final exams in high school. I am required to have students do a “speaking part” for both of these exams.

    1. Ah, the speaking assessment. I lobbied very heavily in Denver Public Schools to abolish it at level 1 and they did. It saved them a lot of money at the district level and is an absurdity. No need to fight it, to tell the people that we need 10,000 hours for mastery and how we have only 125 hours of instructional time in a year (minus 50 for junk stuff in L1) and how kids are just plain unable to speak, any more than a small child, after that little time. [Even the autocorrect knows best, as it just corrected as I wrote that previous sentence to read “snail child”. That is the truth with speech output!]
      No, we can’t fight that kind of thing. Just tell the kids not to worry, that you won’t count the speaking part much at all. Then don’t. They told you to give the speaking part, but they didn’t tell you how much to weigh it.
      Greg in a recent comment mentioned some possible speaking activities, actually very recently. Maybe search his name in the search bar and look around.
      Now, regarding the format: The classic thing we did in DPS was show them a picture. Well, then, if you are using ANATTY, you know how narrow and deep our stories go, with all the great reps possible in the Reading Options, which took me years to develop and refine like a lot of the other ideas in ANATTY, you could just give them a pic of a drawing they did right before the exam time, so it is fresh in their minds. The 21 reading options go so deep on reps, but reps that they are not aware of. Then practice with it, with that very picture, during the review period before the exam. No one said you can’t do that. During the review period, write the vocabulary in a corner and “accidentally” forget to erase the words related to the pic. Then have them practice with a partner during the exam period. They will look at the words. Walk around and listen as they practice. Then surprise them by saying, “Oh you did so well on the speaking!” OK let’s move to the next section of the exam!” Nobody said you have to administer the exam one by one. And if somebody objects (they never do bc admins are at this time busy running around putting out fires all over the building) to that type of speaking exam, tell them that it takes too long to give individual speaking assessments in one exam period and that you won’t take the time out to give it earlier bc according to the research speaking is not recommended early on. Even if a kid says nothing, which some will bc of toxic shame put on them by previous teachers not to mention that being a teenager is a toxic and difficult time anyway, you can tell them to come in later or the next day and speak a bit about the pic. Then if they still won’t talk, tell them “Well, just so you know, this part of the exam is only 1% so it won’t affect how you did on the exam.” Then let them go.
      Or you could give anyone who challenges you on your policy for this part of the exam this article by our resident super-mind Nathaniel Hardt from the Primers hardline above:
      Possible Response #2 to Supervisors Requesting to See Forced Speech Output in our Classrooms – Nathaniel Hardt:
      First, in Massachusetts [maybe there is something similar in your state.], Stage 1 students are expected to “use selected words, phrases, and expressions with no major repeated patterns of error.” Sentences are not expected until Stage 2.
      Students are not expected to reach proficiency stage 1 until the end of grade 4 if they start L2 in Kindergarten or 1st grade. (Those who start a sequential language program in grade 6 are expected to reach Stage 1 at the end of grade 8.) Stage 2 is expected to be reached in grades 8 (if they start in K) and 10 (if they start in 6th). So we allow quite a bit of time to transition from words into sentences.
      Second, We use an interactive, student-centered process to teach the grammatical relationships to a particular verb (has). By focusing on “who?” we lead students to intuitively and automatically identify the subject of the verb (who has?). By focusing on “how many?” we are teaching numbers as well as helping them to unconsciously respond to the morphemes for number (-s in cuántos) and gender (cuántos vs. cuántas). [Note the combination of buzz words and linguistic analysis].
      Third, we start simple and make sure that our students understand us. This will motivate them to do their best. If they do not understand they will become discouraged and give up. Their success in understanding will motivate them to speak.
      Fourth, we work with complete sentences. A complete sentence is a conjugated verb and whatever is needed to complete the verbal idea. Structures used are very often either complete sentences or the kernels of a complete sentence. Working with your structures and family vocabulary a complete sentence that might be likely to develop is “He has a sister.”
      Fifth, after declaring a complete sentence statement you use circling to help students process this complete sentence in a variety of ways. In the following example, the students must focus successively on the truth value of the complete sentence (yes/no) and on the object of the verb.
      Statement: Tiene una hermana. (He has a sister.) [The teacher speaks in complete sentence]
      Response: Ohhh!
      Q. How many sisters does he have? [The teacher is helping students to process one aspect of the complete sentence]
      A. One. [Important feedback: student is not responding in complete sentences, so teacher will model again, in the interrogative form]
      Q. Does he have a sister?
      A. Yes. [Normal conversation would not require a complete sentence here, but teacher keeps modeling]
      Q. Does he have two sisters?
      A. No.
      That’s correct [encouragement]. He does not have two sisters; he has one sister.
      Q. Does he has one or does he have two?
      A. He has one. [The complete answer here is a complete sentence. Some students may be able to give this.]
      By circling the verb you may find that more students are able to respond with a complete sentence
      Q. He has one or he doesn’t have one?
      A. He has one. [Complete sentence.]
      Q. Does he need a sister?
      A. No.
      Q. Does have a sister or does he need a sister?
      A. He has a sister. [Complete sentence with direct object noun.]
      If we decide to name the subject we will be considering the complete sentence in yet another way. [Note that by calling it “modeling” we are showing that we are in touch with current modes of thinking. We are giving lots of meaningful input, but this may not register as essential for everyone.]
      Sixth, although the focus is on a single complete sentence, circling challenges the students to process multiple complete sentences: He doesn’t have a sister; he has two sisters; he has one sister; he needs a sister, etc.
      Seventh, the value of single word responses is that it allows the students to stay focused on the complete sentence utterance and not be distracted by word order, googling their brains for vocabulary, self-editing utterances for grammaticality, or deliberating the proper pronunciation. This is similar to using calculators to do the calculations in higher level math problems so that students can focus on a complete mathematical thought.
      Eighth, when we speak to the students in such a way that they must try to understand the message, and not focus so much on responding to it in the target language, we engage our students in higher-level thinking that is natural. Forced speech output in language acquisition is unnatural and impossible. Speech output will eventually emerge but not because of rote memorization of complete sentences. Rather, we skillfully lead our students by playful analysis of many complete sentences to the point of spontaneously producing their own complete sentences because they have been listening and understanding. This requires far more time than we have in our classrooms, thousands and thousands of hours and, according to Dr. Stephen Krashen, the process is not even a function of the conscious mind. So trying to focus on speech output in class, especially in the early stages of language study, is futile, like trying to shine a light through a wall of rock. To quote Dr. Krashen on the subject:
      “Language is acquired through comprehensible input. It is an unconscious process that happens when the learner is focused on the message, rather than the language itself.”
      There are other options that maybe Greg or Sean could help me dig out here, but this is a pretty long response already.

        1. It’s kind of like we build all this trust in community and the kids let their guards down and then we slam them bc they can’t do something that they can’t do because they can’t do it – like climb a 14,000 foot mountain in half an hour, but the people say that they should be able to do it, and if they can’t then they get burned. It’s actually a game they play, à leur insu, called “crazy making”. And they’re experts at it. And the result is that tens of thousands of kids start learning that if you trust someone they might turn on you. That’s just not aligning with what we know about how people learn. So we become their PROTECTORS from the data gatherers. I would argue in court that it is my job to protect them, such sweet and innocent children. And I would win. Because I got the big dog researchers on my side.

    2. Hey Jennifer. The only reason why I do speaking exercises is for students to play with the language. As a kind of brain break.
      Greg has his students use the app Let’s Recap where students video record a Speed Speak (1 minute or so). With the ease of Chromebooks now, it’s not a bad thing to, at the end of a class period once a month or so, to have every student access the site, video record themselves retelling a story, and then filing them away in their portfolio. I’m going to try this with my level 2 students because, well, I have 95 min block classes and I need to include some of me-not-talking-so-much-I-lose-my-voice time.

  22. …I have to speak French in my classroom. Please help me by helping your child understand what I am saying to you right now. I can’t go back to speaking English in my classroom because I want to keep my job and align with standards. I’m sure you understand….
    This is so excellent Andrea. This shows personal power and it’s all you really need to say. Once said, you need only refer the person to your administrator. It’s conflict with a silver lining, as all conflict brings. In this case the silver lining is that parents and admins are then forced to learn what it is that you actually do. We have so many stories here over the years that reveal what side of the bread admins put the butter. So many stories. Sean and Jen and Steven and others will tell you. If they do attack you, you immediately go to the “Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education” category here and print off a few articles (there are several) and give them to the admin. Then, the next day, you ask if they read the articles. If not, you already have a leg up on the situation. But most admins are people pleasers and not mean and they are actually there in a support role to the real stars in the building, upon whom everything depends, the teachers. But what I am saying is that when teachers are able to say what you said above, the problems seems to evaporate. The problems arise when the teacher hunkers down in fear. That doesn’t work. Open dialogue about best practices and the standards and the research work wonders, and the cheerful tone in what you wrote is magically effective. Cheerfulness with idiots always wins. If the admin is closed to those discussions, just wait. In a few years they will be gone. So we should never worry about doing ignorant (of the standards and research) things ordered by ignorant people. Because the turnover for them is so high.

  23. …the only reason why I do speaking exercises is for students to play with the language. As a kind of brain break….
    I do these as well, Sean. Even to the point where I made one of the 21 reading options to repeat the story after me and work on accent. As long as I don’t expect any gains (they are thinking about speaking, going against all the research), it’s a great way to eat up minutes and let them have fun.

  24. What I have done for speaking is at the end of the year, I do personal one on one interviews with students at the end of LEVEL 2. I would highly advise against level 1 speaking. Anyway, in our NTCI work we should only assess comprehension (still!) but it should be spontaneous and use language that we have gone deep and narrow with all the students.
    I have a 10 minute one-on-one FREE Conversation. At first I start with questions from the special chair interviews to make the students at ease like “What’s your favorite food”, “What is your favorite show?” “DO you want Netflix/Youtube”? etc… Then I start asking for details like “What type of ____ do you like?” “Where do you eat _____?” “DO you prefer instaram or snapchat?” etc… I have a notebook ready in case we have a communication breakdown. I recorded a couple. Here is one from level 2:

  25. I like the free conversation. You could put them in smaller groups so that the shy ones aren’t shoved aside. Maybe groups of 5 or 8 or something. I think 10 would be too big. Maybe a fifteen minute conversation so you only have to burn one pre-exam class for it or you could even give it during the exam. If they say ANYTHING they get big credit. Remember – the research shows that they should not be able to say anything in level 1 and really in my interpretation of the research only very limited chunks (not sentences) begin to emerge only in levels 3 and 4.

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