Helena Curtain 8

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10 thoughts on “Helena Curtain 8”

  1. I find it amazing that schools will say they align to research, but in fact don’t. Many many subjects besides ours fall in to this. For example, reading simply IN ENGLISH is far and away the one thing that will make your kid smart. So why is there so little real reading in schools?

    1. Great question, James – …so why is there so little real reading in schools?… – I am of the opinion that schools don’t have kids read in the way Krashen means because they don’t really accept what Krashen says in much of his reseach and most especially in the Power of Reading. If they did accept the points he makes, it would mean that they would have to redesign curriculae and change how teachers of second languages are trained.

      Krashen says reading must be enjoyable, for example, but that is a concept that goes directly against the old received 20th century idea that learning has to be a struggle and that we have to crack the books and do homework and all that stuff all the time in order to get the kids to learn. I hope to convince my bosses at Lincoln in the next few years that that is not true and that we can make great gains, unexpected gains, with second language learners without having it all be such a laborious and even painful kind of experience for the kids. We learn so much more when we are happy!

      In ELA in DPS, and this is not my area of strength so I may be way off here, teachers are given expensive training and materials to focus on with the kids in class in a conscious analytical way. The focus is on lists of individual words and not on the flow of language which alone provides the context within which those words can actually be acquired. This conscious analytical focusing is not on creating comprehensible input, which is an an unconscious process involving the deeper mind, as we do in stories. Rather, it is, to the great detriment of the students, a strained conscious focusing on a set vocabulary each day. This is done more and more not just in ELA instruction in the United States but also in all fields – kids are given a set of pre-determined vocabulary that ostensibly allows the kids to learn the specific concepts related to the area of study, but that is not what Krashen has shown is the way languages are actually acquired.

      It is so hard for kids to learn in the conscious analytical, paralysis by analysis, way. It is painful for them and because of that they make few gains and their confidence and motivation suffer greatly. While they are doing that in all their classes, focusing on words that the mind cannot grasp, they are decidedly not in line with Krashen’s Natural Order of Acquisition Hypothesis. Kids in current ELA classroom settings nationwide, and in WL classrooms that do not align with Krashen, cannot move to fluency because, again, they are stuck in the trap of conscious analysis of language and so fail to fully align with Krashen’s Net Hypothesis. When they thus cannot grasp what they are learning and fit it all into a greater Net, they feel stupid.

      Some schools attempt to say that they align with Krashen, and put in place classes where kids read silently, but often those kids have to take notes and write a report or even take a test on it, which is the opposite of Krashen’s entire point. We do things in our WL system that in DPS we call TCI, Teaching with Comprehensible Input, that engage kids on the unconscious level so that, in alignment with Krashen, they focus on the meaning and not on the words. I had a student who got a 4 on the AP French Examination in only his second year using TCI, with no prior background in French.

      We can create a taxonomy by designing lesson plans that move from the auditory acquisition of meaning up to reading. Then, when the auditory part sticks after a few days, because the kids have already focused and processed and acquired the auditory part in a stress free setting that has been of genuine interest to them, we can move further up the taxonomy to writing. We are not targeting writing in this process. Rather, we are providing for the student a rich and interesting context within which she can actually become engaged. This is in alignment with Krashen’s Non Targeted Input Hypothesis, which is just due out next month and is THE major new publication by Krashen in many years. So after lots of auditory input, at least two days of it, reading then becomes effortless and natural for the kids, who are no longer bored because a lot of what they are reading about is focused on them and their interests.

      What could be far behind the emergence of writing in our taxonomy? Yes – speech output. Notice in this taxonomy that the two input skills in second langauge acquisition precede the two output skills. This is the way we acquire languages, with listening occurring first and then reading and then the output skills of writing and finally speaking. Output follows, does not precede, input. I have a chance to work in an ELA classroom at Lincoln next year, and my principal says she wants me to bring the PROCESS piece to that classroom. That is an exciting prospect. Because language acquisition is a process, and cannot be compressed and folded neatly into a pre-packaged curriculum just because that suits the financial interests of the textbook companies that are so closely aligned with schools.

      Krashen lives his research. He has tried to promote bookmooch.com and websites like that where books are sent around the world at cheap rates so that everybody CAN JUST READ and not have to worry about “targeting academic vocabulary” and drag everything into the treacherous area (for kids) of “academic analyis”. Can this change that Krashen is trying to bring actually be put in place in schools, where everything seems to be based on schools buying expensive programs, training teachers in them, spending huge amount of money on it all, without any real gains? Krashen has sent me French science fiction books that are 40 years old. He practices and advocates for what his research implies. When schools finally grasp how much money can be saved when second language curricula begin to align with Krashen’s five major hypotheses, thing will change faster, I predict.

      Krashen also knows it’s all about poverty. Underline that sentence about fifty times. Krashen is vigorously opposing Arne Duncan at the national level right now because he knows, he really knows, what is going to happen if our precious kids are not allowed to JUST LISTEN, OR JUST READ, OR JUST WRITE, OR FINALLY JUST SPEAK. He knows what they need and what they don’t need. My 36 years in the field fully support everything he says. Krashen knows what will happen – nothing, as in no gains – if kids are continued to be required to focus their minds on individual target terms – like ELA does in DPS – because in the latter case kids are NOT RECEIVING COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT as per the Net Hypothesis and the Din theory that is so controversial especially at the university level right now. When kids are receiving INCOMPREHENSIBLE INPUT in classroom situations that has nothing to do with creating a din of language, they make few gains. The deeper mind needs something to feast on and process during sleep, so that the language system can be built in the deeper mind of the learner where Chomsky and Krashen and others have fairly convincingly over the past thirty years shown real language acquisition occurs. We need to align with the research we have in second language acquisition. Instead, we are moving fast toward Common Core, which is going to really keep kids out of their deeper minds and make them tired and depressed in their buildings by mid-morning, as they go through their days stuck in unending boring tasks of conscious analysis of language, when that is not how we acquire langauges.

      When DPS WL language teachers visit my classroom, I give them this document, and I include it here bc I think it provides a good practical classroom application of the ideas expressed above:

      An entire week of comprehensible input can grow organically from just three words/structures. When the week is organized in this way, if the “plant” that is the week’s instruction starts with and is limited to just those three structures on Monday, then the students are able to experience a more streamlined and focused period of instruction over the remaining four days of the instructional week – the instruction has a more simple quality. It captures the kids’ attention. This assures success. What does this organic instruction look like on Monday?

      Monday – We start with 10 min. of SSR – Silent Sustained Reading of whatever novel the class is doing. Kids who read fast finish the book and are given another book, but are responsible for the overall discussion of what the class as a whole did. That discussion happens on Friday (see below).

      Then we PQA the three structures for the week for the rest of the class period. This is the planting of the seed of the plant that will emerge during the week of instruction. When PQA of three structures is teh primary focus of the class on Monday, the root of the plant becomes strong and grows deeply into the ground.

      By working with only on the three structures on Monday, the instructor is able to personalize and get lots of repetitions on them. When this kind of focused PQA is done, the seed sprouts and the root goes narrow and deep. The growth of the plant through the week is assured. It is the delivery of knowledge and content and the checking of its comprehension in the form of discussion that characterizes Monday in this suggested schedule for teachers who use comprehensible input.

      Tuesday – 10 minutes of SSR of the novel – we do this every day of the week and it carries over into a big SSR fest on Friday.

      Then, we start the story, which is so much easier for the kids to understand because of all the PQA done the day before. If Monday provides the seed and root of the plant, then Tuesday, the story, is the growth of the shoot into a plant. On Tuesday we apply the knowledge and comprehension of simple information – the three structures – into the construction/illustration of same in the form of a story. Since the story script is written with no new words or structures in it, then the student is relaxed and in command of all classwork connected to the story. On Tuesday, then, we apply the knowledge/content learned on Monday to movement up the taxonomy.

      Wednesday/Thursday – 10 minutes of SSR of the novel.

      Then on Wednesday and Thursday after the SSR we do the reading class. This growing of the root and stem into a plant goes beyond mere application of the knowledge and content gained on Monday and Tuesday to the analysis of the story in the form of reading, discussion of grammar and accent, writing, etc.

      There are three options to these reading classes, one focusing more on the reading of a prepared text (Option A), the second focusing more on the writing of a text (Option B), and the third is when you haven’t had time to prepare any kind of reading class from the story.

      Reading Option A for the W/Th classes:

      1. Write on the board, in L2: the title of the story, and the words who, where, what happens, what is the problem? Then tells the students very quickly, those things, in L2. (optional)

      *2. Instructor reads aloud in L2 – this allows the student to make the necessary connection between the sound of the story with, now for the first time, what those sounds look like on paper. (required)

      3. Silent reading, decoding of the first page of the three page prepared text (usually a generic version of five classes’ stories). (optional)

      4. Pair work to translate. (optional)

      [note: some classes can’t handle steps 3 and 4 above and should not be allowed those options]

      *5. Choral translation using laser pointer. (required)

      *6. Discussion of text in L2. (required)

      *7. Discussion of grammar in L1 (3 and 4 may interweave) (required)

      8. Jump into the Space! – a technique for encouraging speech output in upper level students. See https://benslavic.com/blog/2013/02/26/jump-into-the-space/ for details.

      9. French choral and individual work on accent – this can be a very special time as we finally are able to hear, after a year and a half of constant input and relatively little verbal output, how our students’ brains have organized the language in the now emergent output. We notice how well they pronounce the language IF the output wasn’t too early. (optional)

      10. 5 minute write of the story, in which the students answer the questions: who, where, what happens, what is the problem. 5 minute write of the story, and he urges them to use the questions: who, where, what happens, what is the problem. (optional)

      *11. Sacred reading of the text – after 4 class periods of either listening or reading input, the students know the material. So, to conclude, read it to them with meaning, dramatic tone, artistry, in a quiet, sacred kind of setting. One teacher read it with such drama that the kids told her she should have been an actress. I generally do this step without the text in front of the students. They are really pleased when they can understand it. (highly recommended)

      *12. Translation quiz – pick any paragraph from the reading and have the students translate it into English for a quick and easy grade. (required)

      *these are the steps I do – they form the backbone of this reading approach and they work wonders. I think that the steps with the asterisks next to them, when done as the reading Step 3 of classic TPRS after Monday’s Step 1 PQA and Tuesday’s Step 2 Story, provide the highest quality instruction possible in comprehension based methods. The power rating in the asterisked steps above is off the chart.
      ?[credit – step 1 and step 10 above: Bob Patrick]
      ?[credit – step 2 above: Diana Noonan]

      Put in simpler terms, with less steps, the above can essentially be described in this way:

      1. get something to read up on the screen.

      2. translate it with the class chorally after they spend five minutes or so trying to read it themselves (or in pairs if your kids have enough discipline to work effectively together for five minutes (this is rare).

      3. ask questions in L2 about the text, pointing out grammar.

      4. Take a deep breath and say to yourself, “This CI stuff is easy if I work from a reading first. I can learn about stories and personalization on a deeper level next summer, or never.”

  2. A couple of points about Helena Curtain–her emphasis has always been immersion education–very different than FL. First, it starts in kindergarten for half of a kid’s day and is organized around delivering “curriculum”. Language is the vehicle, not the only “goal” per se. Kids DO get thousands of hours, etc. if they stay in a K-6, K-8, or K-12 program. Imagine the kind of fluency you can get with that much time! Also, students in immersion programs are frequently in dual-immersion settings where kids of different language levels, from very beginning to fluent, are in the same group/grade–very different than what we do. Pretty hard to teach this range of acquisition–certainly IMPOSSIBLE to do with a curriculum organized the way CI/TPRS teachers do it. What is difficult for immersion programs to deal with is how widely their results vary. Two things are at play here in my opinion. One = are kids really getting comprehensible input? Those who do thrive and acquire. Those who don’t, don’t. Two = poor kids do more poorly. That’s a verifiable fact.

    Helena Curtain would like to mitigate those varied results with an “output” emphasis. Immersion education NEVER used to emphasize “production”. Krashen and Cummins were followed and revered. It is clear that things have changed. Curtain maintains the old framework, but has added this incredibly archaic FL model of production to the mix–pairs work, interviews, etc–same old, same old. I believe this an attempt to deal with the unrecognized fact that not enough kids in immersion are receiving enough COMPREHENSIBLE input to acquire native-like fluency (considering all the time they put in).

    Here’s the piece that has me flummoxed:
    A quote from Helena Curtain’s wiki and specifically from a slide at an Immersion conference she gave: “When students are required to produce
    language, they process it at a deeper level then when they merely listen.”

    I really want to know where this TRUTH comes from. Where is this research?
    Now, I’m mad, too.

  3. Or, is it what we CI teachers have observed? When kids “interact” with the language by responding to questions, engaging directly in personalizing the language, etc., they process it at a deeper level than when they merely “listen”. I could buy that.

    Producing language by parroting the teacher/classmate/recording or producing “mentally translated from native language to target language garble” or formulaic fill-in-the blank language doesn’t make the cut for me. Completely different paradigms.

  4. I don’t think HC gets the part about it being unconscious. She is a teacher’s teacher, a grande dame. Mark Knowles knows a lot about her since he is an expert – we are very lucky to have in this group – at the university level and can articulate shit I never heard of. But, to avoid a long rant where I say things I don’t really understand, Jody, I see you trying to find a reason, some reason, any reason, to justify HC’s claim that requiring speech production forces students to focus at deeper levels, which action leads to better speech output. Bullshit. Look closely at the wording – she is implying that those deeper levels can be achieved by mental effort and hard work. The deeper levels CANNOT BE ACCESSED by the conscious mind and we are not allowed, if we are to be successful in our jobs, to go that far down. It’s just the opposite! We get the kids focused on the message and not the structure of consciously produced speech output. Krashen says that the input has to be processed effortlessly. Pair share to do output my ass. There’s hubris in that attitude. God designed and delivered a turn key product as part of the human brain, the Language Acquisition device, if you will, and now Helena Curtain gets to go down in there and tinker around? That is the frickin’ OLD MODEL. Krashen says that according to his (900 published articles and counting, and his several books that one can’t really argue with unless one is asking to look like a fool) research, language acquisition is an unconscious process. HC, I believe, doesn’t want it to be that way. Then she wouldn’t get to be an expert anymore, and the books she and Mimi work so hard to promote for the companies she shills, I mean works, for, would basically be bullshit. Read Krashen on Rosetta Stone, an articles published here a few weeks ago. Read that article. A lot of people have a lot to lose if they accept what Krashen says about it all being unconscious. We don’t have anything to lose, because we don’t care. We can’t teach any other way bc it would mess up our work as CI teachers. No, HC doesn’t fully get it. That’s my opinion. Thank you Jody. Send me and chill an update on things, o.k.?

  5. “I see you trying to find a reason, some reason, any reason, to justify HC’s claim that requiring speech production forces students to focus at deeper levels, which action leads to better speech output.” Nope, not what I’m doing. I thought I was expressing exactly the opposite. Guess it didn’t come through in my writing. I don’t get, nor believe her statement at all. That’s my point.

    I have seen (cuz I’ve been in this business way too long) these kinds of statements bandied about as TRUTH, taken at face value, and no one blinks an eye. Well, I’m blinking!

    HC would never say to focus on “form” nor “conscious learning”. It’s all about focusing on the message/content. She emphasizes “output” as part of that process. That is where we strongly differ.

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