Goals for 2014-2015 – 1

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17 thoughts on “Goals for 2014-2015 – 1”

  1. Maybe this comment fits here:

    We agree that CI is the means. We may be decent at providing it. Now, we should be looking at ways to increase it’s quantity in the same instructional class time – make it more efficient.

    We should evaluate those activities we do and decide their purpose: if we are trying to deliver CI, then are there activities that would deliver more CI? All those additional activities we use with reading, those suggested in pricey teacher manuals, come to mind. What if instead of spending extra days/weeks processing 1 chapter, we just read the next chapter? Extra time spent on one passage resembles intensive reading and I’d prefer extensive reading. Even ROA, our reading days that follow a TPRS story, are not giving students much to read (1 page at most?), but we are providing a lot of aural CI. That’s good, because beginners need more aural CI than written CI. Similarly, I really need to see how to deliver efficient CI when using embedded readings (ER). Seems to me that the activities between ERs is not CI efficient and for that reason, I rarely use ERs except for making them available during SSR. I use the concept more for differentiating readings for different grades.

    If the goal is to add some novelty or add some accountability, then we may give up some of our immediate CI efficiency aims in the hopes that in the long-term it means more and better CI. I’ve wondered how much accountability we have to include, which almost always means less dense CI. Probably depends on the class. But I’d really like to spend all class on the highest CI efficient activities and not have to impose accountability to pressure students into participation. More dense CI -> more acquisition -> more student confidence -> more motivation and engagement. I plan to make it known and constantly remind students that there will be an end-of-the-semester, comprehension-based exam, and I hope that’s sufficient accountability for those students who need it.

    1. I think there might be a definition issue for Embedded Readings. Is it possible that an ER is sometimes considered an Extended Reading, meaning there’s more in the reading?

      At least as we originally envisioned Embedded Readings, the idea is that the final version we’ll do is intimidating for some reason. That could be because of the vocabulary (which should be known by the time the kids read), the information, or the length of the piece.

      The first one has (usually) all the key structures and the critical information. It can be one sentence or ten, depending on the kid.

      The first version of a two-page cultural reading that I use with my kids is, for instance, “Moscow is a huge city. It is the cultural, economic, historical and political capital of Russia.”

      We have many activities that go with this ER. We play with the information. We create a parallel major city in the beginning. I backward plan the tough vocabulary. We might come up with questions they have about Moscow, since it’s always in the news. We run in symbols of capitals and capitols. We draw, we look at pictures and talk about them. We will do some MT this year, looking at cities perched on hills and in valleys. There is a great deal of CI between readings.

      There’s no way I could put this series of readings out for the kids to do on their own. It would not be compelling. By the time we read it, not only is it compelling (b/c we’re comparing our own capital city, the national one and the parallel one), but it is also easy to read. That’s the point!

      When I tell kids that I talk to other teachers about how to make readings more accessible, their comment is often that I shouldn’t do the work; the readings are easy enough for them to just do on their own. Since I have used these readings for longer than they have been alive, and know well how deadly they are without my ER support, I beg to differ, but we just keep on doing it this way. I love love love having kids think that history and cultural readings are interesting and easy.

        1. I will try to make one. I think Michael Miller gave me a video once of an ER presentation Laurie and I did, but who knows where that is.

          The problem for filming is that it’s like all good CI: it flows depending on the kids and their needs at that moment, and I’m not always guiding it perfectly. A three-version ER can happen in one class period occasionally, but more often in two or three, depending on how many levels. I don’t like to bore the kids. And sometimes I misread the class and have to jettison upper level versions. Because I usually have at least one or two very upper-level kids in the room, I might push on through and tell the group that the last version or two is for only the most advanced kids and that they should let those kids do the heavy lifting. (Then lower-level kids focus and try to strut their stuff, while the upper-level kids act like it’s boring.)

          I went looking on my blog for a description of the Moscow ER, and found only the post that shares how I started doing this system. We were going to read a history of the Moscow metro, and I wanted the kids to find it easy. If you look at the questions I ask in the post, you’ll see that almost all of them will eventually be answered by information in the metro piece, but it isn’t a very complete picture of the process.

          Lizette mailed me a good video camera and a mic. I’ll try to make some videos soon.

          1. I really look forward to some video footage of Embedded Readings, understanding that no video could be perfect. I just tried to film myself alone for a training and even then I left stuff out, so I’m going back in and adding subtitles. Ben adds commentary. It’s extra work, but it’s SUPER helpful.

            I went to your link and I understand that you StoryAsk/PQA the structures that will then be in the reading. Perhaps the biggest key to this work, and one that has been overlooked for so long, is that student confidence is at the center of success. Embedded Readings make reading possible for all students with a pulse 🙂

    2. Eric: I love how you succinctly distinguish between intensive and extensive reading. This concept has been in my gut lately, and I have been struggling to articulate it.

      Here is my example of leftover teaching assumptions that have shaped the way I do TPRS. In the very recent past I would plan my level 3 class by finding a level 3 novel, pulling out the structures that I need to pre-teach per chapter, and work away with PQA and story asking until I felt that my kids could read that chapter. Yes, we laugh and enjoy ourselves, and yes, by the time they read the chapter it is comprehensible.

      Last year I felt comfortable enough to begin to look critically at what I was doing and I realized that all of my level 3 novels are too challenging… there are none that a kid could just sit down and enjoy without previously attending classes upon classes of training. Training! If I am pushing forward that fast, there is no room for extensive pleasure reading. What does that do to a kid to feel like she needs a helper before every reading!? On some level my students were always dependent upon me, and they knew it. Contrast that with Michele´s description of students so empowered that they argue that they don´t need her!

      Here is my aha moment: some twisted inner seed within me still believed that “challenging” reading was “rigorous” instruction. My level three students finished the year with self-selected FVR, and I began to appreciate Krashen´s advice to provide enjoyable pleasure reading.

      1. Honest reflection, Mike. I bet we can all relate in some way.

        Reading is powerful, yes. But is rightfully one of those activities to be included more in upper levels, once students have enough of a listening vocabulary. That could be different if we had more easy texts for FL students. The challenge is that for independent reading, we must remember that if we want to ensure comprehension, then the students should already know 98 of every 100 words. Even 98 of 100 words in the research only gives subjects scores of 70% on comprehension tests.

        As I understand it, there is:

        intensive reading (IR) vs. extensive reading (ER),
        self-selected reading (SSR) vs. shared reading (aka guided reading),
        and there is ER vs. Free Voluntary Reading (FVR).

        I was advised to call my TCI reading program FVR, and to not make the mistake of calling it ER. ER and its advocates are associated with skill-building theory, the idea that reading is “practice” of some conscious knowledge. We want students focusing entirely on the message and not have some form-focus goal. It is not the “practice” that leads to improvement, it’s the additional CI (in a practical sense, the student may be doing the same thing, but theoretically speaking they are different).

        Intensive reading (IR) is the more traditional way of translating and working through a text beyond the students’ ability. In Krashen’s Power of Reading (2004), SSR and shared reading were always equal or better than alternative methods for improving reading. Interestingly, if I recall correctly, SSR and Shared Reading had equally superior results. If they are equally good, then why would we choose shared reading when that is so much more work for the teacher? One answer some of us may give would be the lack of easy and pleasurable SSR/FVR texts.

        I’ve worked over the past 6 months, intensively the past 2 months, to create an FVR program for true EFL beginners. I ended up dividing my inventory in 8 levels, each book within a level also ordered from easier to harder. Half of the first level comes from my own writings. The first level is made up of my own PQA writings on the top 50 verbs, my class stories, my MovieTalks, the first 4 chapters of LICT, the first 3 levels of Michael Miller EMB.Rs, the high-frequency books from Reading A-Z, and the novels Berto and Isa’s Adventures.

        Embedded readings may have been created to work top-down, backwards designing from a reading, but the use of EMB.R. (to distinguish from ER- extensive reading) can obviously be used for many purposes. Making the EMB.R. available during SSR means a student can choose the level of the story most comprehensible. If the student opts to read each version, there are more repetitions.

        We teachers can increase the compelling factor of readings. And we should when we can. But if we want to include SSR/FVR in our classes, then we need a lot more reading materials than our quantity of personalized, 1-page class stories.

  2. …if we want to include SSR/FVR in our classes, then we need a lot more reading materials than our quantity of personalized, 1-page class stories….

    Eric in my view there is no time for SSR/FVR. I tried for years to make it happen in the first ten minutes of class. First I tried FVR and when the kids were unable to really lock on, I went to forced SSR of the novel we were reading and that worked better.

    My point is simple. It is about available time. Krashen did not do his research based on non-motivated high school students with 50 instructional minutes per day in a forced and unnatural setting where the notion of grades hangs over the atmosphere of the class like a sword of Damocles always wanting to upset much of what goes on in the clasroom. Most of the conclusions in The Power of Reading were based on things learned from motivated students who had time to read, as I understand it – correct me if I am wrong on that.

    Much of what I have learned myself on my own journey with Krashen, most of what I have been doing all these years is trying to figure out how to attach the powerful Krashen engine to the little 45 min. go cart frame that I have to work with in a high school setting. That is not an easy thing to do!

    I always go back to the hours available argument. Yes we want to read 50% of the time. But my thinking of the past year has grown to be that the earlier years should be for more reading based on stories, the opposite of what you said above about needing more reading materials than just the class stories. We don’t have the time. So I say more readings based on stories in level 1 classes, moving to much more extensive reading of chapter books as we go to the upper levels, kind of like an exponential curve. I have been saying this here for some time and the exponential curve for me is a good way to express it finally in a concrete way.

    I do feel that one of the central points here is that expressed by Michael above – many of us can’t get rid of the deep seated desire we have to push kids in the old way. This affects us. It takes us away from everything Krashen says re: what is natural to kids, their motivation, the involvement of the conscious mind, We need to figure out what that means for us individually in our classrooms and then to try to reconcile that with how we choose to spend the time we have available in our high school settings, which is so limited in terms of a real and practical application of Krashen’s ideas, like trying to stuff fifty marbles into a small paper cup.

    I am in conversation with Carol as we speak about reading, trying to get a good answer to Ray’s question from a few days ago about what are best reading materials for level one classes.

    1. Trying to force novels is no different than trying to force a grammar.

      Students need to be able to understand what they are reading easily for it to be CI. If we are wondering what to read in level 1, we need to ask ourselves honestly what the can easily read. And we need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror after we answer. I suspect that even many of the TPRS-style novels are in fact way too advanced for early level 1 students.

    2. I have at times felt the relief of FVR as a bail-out move. It does have to be done with some frequency throughout the year in order for it to become something that students view positively and to not be viewed as busy work. But the thought that I have a few minutes relief to read in Spanish for 10 minutes can be relished.

    3. I felt that with first year they couldn’t really take advantage of the FVR time. There were a few that loved it but I stopped using it because I believed that the loss for the others was not worth the time. I then checked out books for the one’s that wanted to read. I also checked out books for students that were going to be gone for several days. When they returned they had to tell me about the story and show me where they stopped.

      What do y’all think about FVR in upper level classes? Last year my students always asked for more time. A couple of times they wanted to read all hour. Is this a poor use of time?

      1. My advanced kids loved FVR too. About once a month, I’d give in to their request for an all-hour FVR. They said it was the best way to measure their growth in comprehension. I have a lot of magazines (guitars, cars, fashion, little-kid) and those are popular for the short pieces. I also have children’s encyclopedia kinds of books, and my students can relate to those as well because they know a lot of the information already. Some of the kids like the dual-language books. Those are certainly comprehensible.

        I am still not quite sure that they learn as much as they would with classroom discussions, but on the other hand, I sometimes need a break! (It’s a great sub plan for one day, too.) If they’re all focused and interested and sharing occasionally, I think it’s a positive activity.

  3. Time, motivation, grades, force . . .

    I’m not sure what conclusion we can draw on FVR in a beginner FL classroom, since one of the essential tenets of a successful program, sufficient quantity of comprehensible texts, has rarely (ever?) been satisfied.

    And I agree Ben, a great use of the time in first years should be shared readings of personalized class stories, in which the CI is more of the auditory form.

    What I’m trying out is recording all my easiest stories and students will have the option to listen on mp3 players during FVR sessions. I’m still trying to make non-targeted CI (the Krashen engine) work in my classes, hopefully akin to trading in my Go-Cart for a motorcycle. I like the Go-Cart metaphor 🙂

    If non-targeted input is sufficient in quantity (how much is enough?), then all the reps are included and we can sacrifice complete translatability for a more general comprehension and know that the students will have many future encounters with those structures in which they can acquire more and more of the meaning. That is the natural way. That is Krashen.

    And I totally agree James, as per the 98% stat. I bet it would be ideal that FVR texts did NOT include any new words, but just familiar words. Besides it being confidence building, the context is the key to deepening vocabulary knowledge. There are many levels and elements of “knowing” a word. Grammar canNOT be acquired if there is little comprehension, aka if vocabulary is not understood.

  4. Love this discussion.

    I am so frustrated by the lack of available reading for my kids in Russian. That’s probably why I focus so much on the ERs that allow me to make seemingly incomprehensible texts accessible. There is absolutely no book out there that kids can read in Russian as early as kids can in Spanish. The only stuff they can read is what I write for them. The more advanced kids still can’t read almost anything written for native speakers unless I make it easy. I agree with Mike: I push too hard. Lots of times we don’t get to the final piece, because I don’t want them to be frustrated.

    I almost lost my upper-level class kids this year to the Russian immersion teacher who told my administration that my kids will never learn anything because of how I dumb it down for them. The parents are fighting back, and the U Iowa prof that watched a bunch of my videos wrote a letter to my principal telling him I do good work.

    Reading is such an incredibly effective way to acquire language and to train our minds that we need to be able to use it and to guide students into enjoying it. The kids and the nation as a whole are focusing so much less on long pieces of reading that our jobs just got harder. We are a Twitter nation.

  5. You’re totally right! The reading material situation is even worse for languages other than Spanish and English. And yeah, reading a book is less and less novel in comparison to today’s technology. You mean I can’t multitask when I read? You mean I have to read the same story for 10 minutes without a break? ha.

    I know I’m pushing this thread in a different direction than the original article, but I feel that here on the forum I get more of a response than posting on the forum. . .

    How many people have ever considered how well Krashen’s theories apply to vocabulary acquisition? Seems most SLA researchers are more concerned with grammar theories. For instance, Krashen leads the the Non-Interface Position camp, in which learning canNOT become acquisition. What does that say about our step of establishing meaning, our translations during Point & Pause and during readings, our word associations, gesture associations, and visualizations? These are LEARNING activities. Does this learning NOT become acquisition? We incorporate such learning activities because we believe them more efficient for making input comprehensible. Whether it’s learning then practiced in context vs. learning becoming acquisition vs. learning AND acquisition – learning making input more comprehensible to be acquired, it doesn’t change the activity in the practical sense. Does the strong version of the Comprehension Hypothesis say that learning doesn’t make input more comprehensible? Or does it just say that no learning is ever necessary?

    I bring this up, because I’m trying to implement an English as a FL FVR program in an elementary school of true beginners that could be run withOUT fluent teachers. I didn’t see how I could use a pure acquisition approach from the beginning. The first few pages of reading are structure-focused (1 reading per verb – 50 high frequency verbs), establishing gestures, using a visual representation of the verb, and there is a L2 and a L1 audio recording.

    In this situation, I saw this inclusion as necessary to ensure comprehension and keep affective filters down. There is repeated listening and reading of the same text, and comprehending the words in context with various repetitions would lead to acquisition. Maybe it’s not a causal link from learning to acquisition, but the learning stuff had to be included to make the very first week of readings comprehensible. After that jumpstart of 50 acquired verbs and the function words acquired from those first readings, then it is pure acquisition, except for those few words they may look up in a dictionary. None of the rest of the readings are translated.

    1. Here is another slant on Point & Pause. There are three things going on in the minder of the learner: an utterance, its written form, and the meaning of both. It is more than the working memory can handle. Pointing is a non-verbal way to direct the learner’s overtaxed attention to the meaning and spelling of the spoken L2. Pausing allows processing time: time to process the utterance which is rolling around in the memory, time to process its spelling, and time to process the meaning. How much of that can take place simultaneously? I would guess that for the true beginner, none of it can. As we say the utterance the spoken memory is refreshed. As we point to the English the meaning is refreshed. Is there “learning” going on? Not in the “learn your vocab by isolating the word/meaning and focus solely on linking those two in the mind.

      Pause and Point is a way to keep the meaning alive for the purpose of making the L2 input comprehensible to the listeners.

  6. Good questions, Eric. I have been considering the learning/acquistion issues in the last few days.

    What is acquired? It is the “deep” stuff that is unconscious.

    It is the rule-bound stuff that is so complicated that it cannot be accurately employed through the memorization of rules. It is the almost infinite number of ways that the non-native speaker could go wrong where the native speaker would never err. It is morphology and syntax and that could be spelled out in thick volumes and displayed in charts without communicating anything. It is the stuff that you know is right or wrong but do not know why?

    It is related to meaning, but it is not meaning. It clarifies and affects meaning. It is the whole basis for fluency. And it cannot be learned.

    The focus on vocabulary is more on meaning. It is what is on the surface, what is foremost in our mind. And because meaning is the conscious part of language, it seems that a lot of it could be learned.

    It is necessary for fluency, but it is not fluency.

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