Here We Go Again

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26 thoughts on “Here We Go Again”

  1. Ben’s comments are dead on, but that doesn’t help much other than to give you the confidence that your approach is right. Let’s see what we can do here.

    First of all, this is the mother of all Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education tasks. Everyone in this scenario needs to be re-educated. Since you can’t give them the whole course of study (It would overwhelm them), what can you do?

    I suggest zeroing in on the implicit idiocy (but don’t use that word) of the complaint: She already got 2 complaints from parents saying the students don’t feel they can learn from me since all I do is speak Spanish

    1. Since when did students become subject area and methodology experts? Would the administrator entertain the same doubts if students who “aren’t good in math” complained that they didn’t feel they could learn trigonometry? If not, why not? The complaints are equally valid (i.e. not at all valid).

    2. Since all of the modern researchers (e.g. Chomsky, Pink, Asher, Krashen, Omaggio, Wong, Van Patten) agree that the single most important element in the acquisition of a language (whether foreign or native) is “comprehensible input”, i.e. understandable messages in the target language, what is the research base for questioning this method? Do the students, parents or administrator have any studies to counter the consistent statements of the experts, especially when they disagree widely on other aspects of language acquisition? (Even the most vehement proponents of the “output hypothesis” readily admit that comprehensible input must precede output and is absolutely essential to acquisition.)

    yet I’m getting high comprehension levels from the kids.
    3. There’s your data for our data-driven monster. If you can show high levels of comprehension (on quizzes, interpersonal communication, etc.), what is the basis of the complaint that students are not learning? Where is their data?

    Beyond that, you need to correct in everyone’s mind the misperception and misconception of what it means to “learn” a language. They seem to think that it means knowing a lot of facts about the language and isolated words from the language. That is an absolutely false idea. That’s the way most of the parents were exposed to a foreign language. Ask them how fluent they are. If some of them do speak a second language, ask when they became fluent: in the classroom or when they were immersed in the language? If they acknowledge that the old way did not make them fluent, why do they wish to perpetuate a method and curriculum that do not work?

    If someone objects that kids need to know the grammar, you have the following options:
    1. Explain to them how CI teaches the grammar in context
    2. Ask them if kids need to know the technical grammar terms in order to know grammar. If they think it is necessary to know grammar terms, you can point out 1) millions of people spoke excellent English, German, French, etc. for centuries and managed to do it without knowing grammar terms because they hadn’t been introduced into the language. (Vernacular grammars weren’t written until at least the 1600s – and most of the time people were writing about a vernacular language in Latin.) 2) Give them a “modest grammar quiz” in English. Ask them, for example, to give you the first person pluperfect subjunctive of “know” and use it in a conditional construction. (“Had I known”; “If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.”) Or perhaps they can give you the third masculine singular future perfect passive of “hang” in its judicial sense – or even the passive infinitive. (“He will have been hanged” – “To be hanged”, as in the sentence “to be hanged by the neck until dead) No? Then how can they possibly claim to speak English with any sort of fluency? [Be careful with this, though; you want them to see the absurdity of the notion that knowing technical terms equals knowing a language, not feel like you are making fun of them.]

    What are the enduring questions? I don’t teach IB, so I am unfamiliar with them. I do know some German teachers who use TPRS/CI in their IB programs with excellent results.

  2. Le Chevalier de l’Ouest has tied the argument, once again, into a very neat package. As usual, I will turn it into an article and put it into the When Attacked and Administrator/Teacher/Parent Re-education categories for our use.

    I would like to raise the question about when to fight and when to run. Others here have had to make that decision and now it’s Joe. The tone of Joe’s situation seems to be extreme. It’s not a fight I would want. I’ve had fights but like this, but not to this extreme, where there is an actual gang.

    When I was at East High School here in Denver in a similar situation five years ago, at least my district WL Coordinator Diana was there to back me up and Paul and Annick and others were here to help. Joe sounds completely surrounded. When I was alone before that, in Jefferson County, I left that district via bottle rocket.

    What should he do, fight or just take a break from doing comprehension based instruction, laying down his weapons until he sees that it is safe to pick them back up again? The stress involved in a fight like this might be just enormous – those people really believe that he is wrong and needs correction.

  3. Joe, I feel for you. What I find amazing is that those parents complain to an administrator before they even contact you to find out what is “really” happening in your classroom rather than just believing every nonsense that comes out of their entitled brats mouths. If you are given the courtesy to find out who the complaining parties are, could you call them and invite them to your classroom to watch CI in action?
    I offer that to every parent at back-to-school night. So far, not one has taken me up on it but it’s an option for them. Maybe if they see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears how true and effective teaching/acquiring happens, they wouldn’t be so quick to complain.
    Another option, would it be possible for those two kids to transfer to another teacher (so they can find out for themselves afterward that they made a bad decision that they now have to live with)?
    I just can’t see you going back to teaching the old way. You are a born TPRSer. But I also get Ben’s point, it’s your first year there and in today’s climate we can’t take chances with our livelihood. Hopefully other people will chime in, too, with lots of practical advice that will let you teach how you know is right and keep your sanity at the same time.
    Please know that we’re all rooting for you.

  4. Hello Joe,
    I’m glad that your admin. is interested in helping you. Let’s look at some of the options that you have right now:
    1. Communicate with parents.
    Consider sending home w/ students or via email, edmodo, website etc. readings that students have done, or can do, for parents to see. This is physical evidence that students are indeed able to understand what is going on in the classroom.

    After parents have seen evidence, send a short message about CI. Lots of us have letters we have sent home. You can find my explanation here: http://www.mwcsd.org/webpages/lclarcq/index.cfm?subpage=475658
    You’ll see references to the projects we have to do for our tech grant. We’ve managed to do everything that is required and still keep it input-focused. But parents see that in many ways the class “looks” “productive”.
    2. Communicate w/your admin.
    Share everything that you share w/ parents w/admins.
    Show off excellent scores and thank her for supporting you in this research-supported approach to language instruction.
    3. Communicate with students.
    Praise the dickens out of them!! In the most sincere way. Don’t hide your pride or astonishment at what they are able to do.
    Take a “pop up” moment when they demonstrate acquired language. “See how cool the brain is?!! Because you are listening, focused and stopping me when you don’t understand, your brain is on fire in this language!”
    4. Play as much of the game as you can handle for now.
    If she wants story outlines, give them.
    If she wants lists of words, give her the stories or if necessary, turn the stories into a list of words/structures and send them along. The reality is that you may not stick to the story …but you will always do MORE than you plan. CI is like that!!
    5. As for the enduring questions, I think that there are ways to incorporate them that will actually ENHANCE what you are doing with CI.
    Questions like: What is a community? or What is friendship? can easily be addressed through stories/songs/readings using CI.
    Let us know what they are; we’d be happy to help.

    Good luck! We are thinking of you!
    with love,
    Laurie

  5. WOW!! I have to say that I am overwhelmed yet not surprised by the outpouring of support and help from all of you. This alone is making me feel better and proves why this PLC is my first place to turn. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!
    For the first unit, which is Daily Routines, the enduring questions are:
    1. What are my responsibilities to others and myself?
    2. How do I think and act?
    3. How am I changing?
    4. How can I look after others and myself?
    5. What does a well-balanced life look like?
    I don’t know if I’m over thinking things or looking for the perfect “formula” to make this work. I do know, however, that my students’ acquiring the language is my first priority and TPRS/CI is the way to get them there.

  6. Laurie, as always, has excellent advice. I would add the following:
    1. Invite your administrator to come and visit your class any time and then
    – the administrator fills out the observation checklist for the comprehension-based classroom
    – you go to the administrator as soon as possible and thank her for coming (do this with everybody who stops by; in person is best, but e-mail will work also)
    – you ask for feedback on the observation from the administrator
    – you explain what you were trying to do and clear up any misunderstandings (Thursday my student teacher was observed by her university supervisor, and the supervisor suggested having the students take notes during the story; I explained how this distracts from the ability to focus and suggested the compromise that the student teacher give students time at the end of class to write down what they learned. BTW, it’s a good practice and gives you a chance to remind students that they have indeed “learned” something.

    Just some spontaneous thoughts on your enduring questions.
    1. Responsibilities are easily covered in the target language through “must” and “should”. Pause for a moment from the bizarre and discuss with students their real-world “musts” and “shoulds”.
    2. This has jGR written all over it. When I finally went over class expectations with my students, I explained to them that I don’t have a lot of rules; instead I have principles articulated because I want them to develop ethical behavior based on principle not on a lot of rules. For those of you in the Bible belt and other conservative Christian venues, this is exactly what Jesus did when he said that all of the Law and Prophets (i.e. the entire Old Testament system) is summed up in two commands: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    3. In your setting, you might want to have students keep a portfolio – especially of their and your reflections on jGR. How are they changing?
    4. Does your school have Expected Student Learning Results? My school uses the acronym PHS (from Pacifica High School). H = honor self, others and community. From time to time I ask students if they are honoring me and their classmates when they detract from the class’s ability to focus. I also bring in other aspects of honoring. When I know about school activities that my students are participating in, I talk about them; at some point I will be sure to remind them that this is a way of honoring them, and going to support their friends and fellow students is how they can honor them. I’m sure you can work something out along these lines with your Enduring Question.
    5. Oh how we can run with this one! A well-balanced life for a student incorporates academics, “athletics”, family, friends, down time, entertainment. Are they doing all of these, or has academics unbalanced their lives? Do they live only for sports? Do they spend all their time playing video games?
    In fact, I think it would be good to ask the entire faculty how their classes support students’ ability to lead balanced lives. Are they giving so much homework that other things get crowded out? Are they training students to be so obsessed with “career” success that the other parts of their lives are stunted and ignored? Maybe the faculty, staff and administration need to answer that question and see if their practices align with the answer the seek.

    As Ben noted, you will have to decide whether the proper response here is flight or fight. Whatever it is, all of us are behind you.

    1. Just to clear up a couple of things:

      The checklist is something you have prepared in advance (I believe there are examples in previous threads; otherwise let me know, and I will send you a copy of mine.) and have hanging by the door to your classroom. Whenever anyone drops in, you ask them to grab a copy and fill it out while they observe. This will guide their observation to the things you consider important.

      If you are able to find it – I think it’s on YouTube – I would suggest looking at the “Pike Place Fish Market Success Story”. It is a great analysis of why the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle is successful. The four basic ingredients are
      1. Be there, both physically and mentally
      2. Choose a positive attitude
      3. Make someone’s day
      4. Play
      I think we all can see how these apply to the school setting. I have made four large posters of these and have them just outside my room. Yesterday I was dealing with a student who was being very negative, so I walked out the door, grabbed the “Choose your Attitude” poster and held it up. Before I even got to the poster, the whole class knew what was coming, because these are my advanced students, and they have gotten this before. You might also use this in talks with your administration; a former principle used this on staff development day at my school to address teacher and school success.

  7. Okay, this one is so obvious I don’t know why I omitted it in the first post:

    You speak Spanish with your students because you are required to do so by your professional organization. I don’t know what state you teach in – and that does make a difference – but if your state has recently adopted World Languages Standards you can probably say that the state standards require this as well. In California, the state standards include this sentence: “We can no longer afford to simply learn about languages and cultures but rather, we must provide students with opportunities to learn languages and cultures by participating in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use and global citizenship.” (Emphasis in original) In your case, I would stress “by participating in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use”. The only way to do that is by speaking the language with students. Otherwise they think of the language only as an academic subject that they talk about.

    If your state has no state standards, then the ACTFL National Standards should come to bear, and they also emphasize the use of the language. In fact, it is ACTFL’s position statement that gives us the 90% target language use inside and outside the classroom goal.

    The Partnership for 21st-Century Skills as well as the Common Core College and Career Readiness Objectives also place a premium on the ability to use the language. It just occurs to me that you and your administrator really ought to take a look at the 21st-century world language skills map. Of particular interest is the page comparing “then” and “now”. The “now” will give you an excellent opportunity to explain how the comprehension-based classroom meets the 21st-century skills ideal. Here’s the URL:
    http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/Skills%20Map/p21_worldlanguagesmap.pdf

    Ben, you’re going to have fun compiling all of this into a single document. 🙂 You certainly have my permission to edit, re-format, etc. as necessary; you need to include others’ comments as well.

  8. Joe is brand new to the school? And his boss is against him, kinda sorta? What did the boss say about TPRS when it the method was discussed in interview? Is the boss manipulating Joe?

    When I interviewed for elementary Spanish, they need my K-12 credential to get their grant money for their program. In interview, I told them how I taught, with TPRS. After I was hired, they started to push and manipulate me.

    Well, I don’t know what to say to Joe, but if it were me, I would leave. In the past, I have left, as soon as I could find another position. This does not mean that I have landed in a good place, but it does mean I don’t have to listen to crappy boss ideas.

    1. Great question. In the interview I told them that I teach using TPRS/CI. After being hired they say that was one of the reasons they hired me. Now she’s saying she’s not totally sold on it.

  9. a) Trad teachers like loading their kids with shitloads of vocab and “covering” it. But kids only ever really learn a few items per vocab sheet anyway. So hand it out and just do your thing and focus on 3-4 items for your story.

    b) Trad textbooks– like the idiotically and ironically named Avancemos that I have to use– will have like 2 grammar things per “unit.” Just weave those into your story, along with your 3-4 vocab items from (a).

    c) Document. After a month of good TPRS– esp if your kids have had previous Spanish– they should be able to crank out some decent, dialogue-laden stories, plus a fairly thorough first-person account of themselves. Writing samples, plus exit quiz marks, ought to keep the Headz and Adminz and Numberz Guyz off your ass.

    4) hand out grammar worksheets, explain them in the last 5 min of class, put the answers on the o/h at start of class, have kids self-mark, collect, collate and PRESTO! You have “data.”
    What? The kids are copying each other? Tell them not to, then tell your Headz and Adminz that you told them not to, then keep doing the grammar worksheet routine. Your ass is now covered.

    5) What Harrell said.

  10. ’twas ever thus. To wit–

    In a Canadian school district– let’s call it Slurry 69– there is a school widely regarded as “the best.” What this means in practice is

    a) there are all wealthy, and mostly white, parents sending their kids there

    b) they are rigorous. Lots of homework, esp in their language classes.

    c) They have an I.B. program– and we all know that I.B. stands for “ironically backward.” In the I.B. program, language-teaching techniques that are grounded in modern practice and research are not encouraged.

    The Defartment Head of languages– which includes the irritable-bowel, err I mean Ironically Backward languages program, for Very Wealth– err, I mean, Very Smart, children– has been to TPRS workshops taught by a great presenter who is also a seasoned and successful practitioner of TPRS. This Defartment Head has never practiced TPRS.

    This Defartment Head has, working in her school, two VERY talented TPRS teachers. The French one jumped headfirst into TPRS after twenty-five years of trad teaching. The Spanish one is much younger and is using TPRS not only for beginning Spanish– of which she has all six sections every year, for some odd reason– but for her E.S.L. kids. The Spanish teacher has also published her very own very good TPRS book that meets provincial standards. Both are widely praised by students and fellow teachers and parents. Indeed, these teachers are so good that, when students finish their intro courses, they are regularly sent into level 3 classes.

    The Defartment Head has responded to these teachers by

    a) criticising TPRS, despite never having used it, and despite the fact that the TPRS kids routinely blow her own kids away on departmental exams.

    b) criticising the two awesome teachers both in Defartment meetings and behind their backs.

    c) joining the District resource evaluation committee– along with two other non-TPRS using people– and blocking the use of basically all of Blaine Ray’s materials, on the grounds that they aren’t “authentic” enough.

    d) asking at district Defartment headz meetings that the District take a position on TPRS…then helping draft that position, which is never communicated directly to TPRS or other teachers, but rather “mentioned” to Defartment Headz who then “mention” it to teachers. The position is that T.P.R.S. should be only one of many strategies used by teachers, and that, concerns “having been raised” about TPRS’s lack of use of authentic cultural documents, T.P.R.S. should not replace the textbook, and teachers must follow the textbook program.

    Quien habla no sabe, or something like that…

  11. Thanks, Joe, for sharing this situation you find yourself because, you know what, I found myself in a similar situation last year.

    I was at an IB school in Chicago and I worked my butt off to research and implement everything that seemed to make sense within the IB framework.

    My principal gave me THE hardest time. I had kids attentively listening to extended PQA sessions in Spanish, and these were “neighborhood” kids, not “selective enrollment” kids. The principal would say, “I see you’re just winging it. There is no active learning. There is just passive learning,” and gave me unsatisfactory marks for things like “Understands how students learn… Understands how to assess student learning… Uses questioning and discussion techniques.” I couldn’t believe that one, that I didn’t know how to use questioning and discussion techniques in the foreign language classroom! She probably had just never seen this done before, didn’t know how to make sense of it, and, I’m afraid, was not open to hearing my explanations of the practice. Boy, I’m so glad I don’t work under that principal any longer.

    So, I appreciate this opportunity to share in our grief.

    If I may offer advice, it would be to not give up on demonstrating what you do and explaining why it’s a good thing to your school community. You’re only one month in. It takes time to building a trusting relationship with people and admin.

    And with the IB… my impression is that IB coordinators around the country understand that it is a very difficult thing to implement the IB framework in the foreign language classroom. If you can do it and make all parties happy in the process the IB people will love you for it.

    My understanding with the IB MYP unit planner is that you have Unit Questions, not Essential Questions. I highly suggest making these unit questions as broad as possible, like “How do we communicate to promote a healthy lifestyle?” Humor is certainly part of having a healthy lifestyle. Interpersonal communication is certainly part of having a healthy lifestyle.

    I’m happy to share with you any of the IB MYP unit plans that I wrote. Just email me at seanmichaellawler@gmail.com

    Thanks again! I certainly plan to be on this blog more.

  12. All of these people are reacting out of fear. It may manifest itself as anger, manipulation, insults and undermining….but it’s fear.

    The fear spawns many things: a desire for superiority, a need for control, an ability to humiliate. The fear is rooted in insecurity. An insecurity so deep and so nearly cellular that it permeates everything in that individual’s life.

    Insecurity rarely exists without fear. Together they are a powerful force, one that the victim has little control over. The battle between you and this person is really a battle between this person and his/her fear.

    We cannot change this battle. We cannot argue ourselves into a better relationship when it is a fear-based relationship. We cannot reason ourselves out of a fear-based relationship.

    The ONLY way to change a fear-based relationship is through Love.

    If you believe in prayer, pray for healing for that person. Pray for the ability not to take his/her actions personally. Or meditate. Or send thoughts of light. Whatever works for you.

    Find at least one thing to celebrate and honor about this person and do it: out loud. Thank him/her for something that he/she does well. Sincerely. In his/her heart of hearts, what this person wants and needs is to be noticed and appreciated. That is why people “suck up” to him/her. It makes them feel good.

    We don’t need to “suck up”. We can honestly find SOMETHING that this individual offers that is positive and focus on that.

    We have to in order to survive working closely with these people.

    Their fear and insecurity are so palpable and so powerful that they poison the entire environment that we work in each day. There must be a little part of our minds and our hearts that we can retreat to and remember that we all deserve a little grace.

    That does not mean that we have to agree to be abused, change who we are, back down from what we think is best for students. On the contrary, reserving an attitude of compassion for these folks, can give us the strength to face the strength of their fear with the strength of our commitment.

    We don’t have to stay. We can find another, more supportive, environment and walk away.

    But I can tell you from experience that we cannot escape for long.

    The universe will, in time, bring this person (maybe in a different body with a different name) back into our lives. They are everywhere. We, ourselves, may be that person to others.

    Everything that we are facing in education today is rooted in Fear. The control, the anger, the limitations, power-mongering.

    Again, there is only one thing stronger than Fear.

    That is Love.

    So, arm yourself with the love and support of the people in this group. Surround yourself with reminders of how love exists in your life despite this person’s Fear. Be an example of Love, not Fear, to your students and your colleagues.

    Imagine the remarks and the machinations going around you and over you, but not through you. Picture it in your mind, over and over again if necessary. Eventually, it will become a habit. More and more those remarks will slide off of your. Do not let them land, like flaming arrows, in your heart. They will burn you up.

    Deflect, deflect, deflect.

    Fear, as an enemy, targets fear. People who are motivated by fear have an uncanny ability to hit where fear lives.

    IN TIME, and maybe so far in the future that you cannot imagine it right now, Love will win. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

    In the middle of a Fear battle, it seems interminable. Unbearable. That is one of Fear’s favorite tricks: to make us feel powerless, with no end in sight.

    Shake off the thought. Repeatedly.

    This too shall pass. It will come back, because it is innately human…but it will pass. It just doesn’t feel like it.

    ALL of the world’s greatest teachers have faced this dilemma. The ones who have taught the greatest lessons responded from a place of Love.

    It isn’t easy. In fact, many times it is inconceivable. Again, I am NOT advocating that any of us stay in an abusive situation, at work or at home. I am advocating a response that does not retaliate, humiliate, or attempt to destroy another human being. The administrator, or colleague, as wrong-headed as he or she may be is acting in such a way precisely because he or she IS a human being. Many times the most powerful response is to simply be the best possible human being that we can be in return.

    I’ve seen it happen.

    Also, do not forget that other people are watching. People who are going through the same thing, maybe with this person, maybe with someone else. Respond, when you can, remembering that it may be your response that teaches the lesson you were put there to teach.

    with love,
    Laurie

  13. LC, if you haven’t posted this stunningly insightful piece on your Heart’s for Teaching blog, I believe you should. May I reprint in on FB with appropriate attribution? Powerful words and inspired exhortation for our times. Who, among us, has not waged our own battles with fear? Thank you.

  14. You guys are absolutely amazing!! Thank you so much for all the advice. I’m printing this thread out so I can refer to it.

    I sent an email to my administrator with an article from Susie Gross and here is her response:
    “Thanks for forwarding to me those TPRS articles.
    They confirm all that I already knew, and that which I am learning from you J about TPRS.
    Much of what’s there aligns well with what we know are best practices in second language learning . Therefore, as I’ve shared with you, I’m not opposed in theory to any part of the teaching model. And I am confident that through your diligent efforts you will absolutely foster in your students all four communicative skills. I do remain concerned that your students, while especially well understanding and fluent in their use of the interrogatives and other specific vocabulary, will fall short necessarily in their exposure to, and experience with, other topical vocabulary.”

    What do you guys think?
    Joe

    1. At least there’s some positive from your admin. Interesting that she chooses “exposure to” other topical vocabulary, not “acquisition of” them.

      What I hear a lot of people do with this kind of situation – “what about all the topical, themed vocabulary from the textbook” – is assign those as a list for kids to learn on their own (as homework). Then give a quiz on those words periodically. If I were required to “cover” certain vocabulary, that is probably what I’d do, too. I am so glad I do not have that pressure. That kind of vocab memorization is very unfruitful for acquisition.

  15. Joe I found an old letter about the thematic units from when I used to teach at East High School. This may be something concrete you can use and feel free to use any or all of it. It provides an example of how I used to fool parents and administrators into thinking I gave lists of vocabulary and tests as part of my curriculum. I can send you the CDs too. I have them in Spanish and French. Both the thematic unit lists of words and the CDs are useless, and only the four percenters even did them, but they made not only the parents and admins who wanted lists happy, it also made the four percenters happy! So maybe they aren’t useless – they are in terms of gains but mayabe not in terms of keeping dogs at bay by throwing them a bone. So they might help you. They are from about 2009:

    Dear Parents of East High French Students:

    I am happy to have the opportunity to teach French to your child this year. If your child is an auditory learner, he or she will be quite comfortable in my classroom, as the approach I have taken to meet the national foreign language standards is an auditory one. Doesn’t it make sense to learn a language as small children do, by listening to it first? We read a lot, as well, in my class. Listening and reading are passive skills, best for beginners, whereas writing and speaking, the active skills, emerge later on, although we learn to write as well in this level one class.

    If your child is a visual or kinesthetic learner, he or she is going to therefore be required to develop their listening skills in my class. It’s just that way in a language class. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds, since most students view themselves as visual learners in part because schools teach in a predominantly visual way so that is visual learning is what they know best. I will teach them in detail how to be good listeners to the French language.

    What kind of work will be asked in the way of homework and work outside of class? This is a most important question. On my website:

    http://classjump.com

    please go to the Denver East High School link, click on “slavic”, and find the “French Thematic Units” link. Your child will be asked to take monthly word for word translation tests (French to English) on this material, which is aligned with DPS world language benchmark vocabulary. So, if you find yourself in one of those moments when you want to help your child with school work and get the vague “…nothing…” response, you can tell them, “Oh, well, then let’s just see how your French thematic unit vocabulary words for the end of year district tests are going, shall we?” and you can quiz them right there, asking them when the next big test (listed month by month on the site above). Remind your child what I have reminded them in class, that, since this test counts as a big part of their grade, they may want to do this work for five or ten minutes each night, as learning it the night before the test is probably not possible nor does it result in any real acquisition.

    The rest of the grade is from in-class story quizzes, readings, dictations, etc. – primarily from the daily quizzes, which assess how well your child is listening in class that day. Any child who tries will succeed. That is my promise to your child, that I will do all I can to make myself understood in the French language during class.

    After all, learning a language should be effortless, just as it was with your first language. My goal this year is that your child truly enjoy learning about the French language and culture, and to want to take French for all four possible years at East High School.

    I can be reached at East at benjamin_slavic@dpsk12.org. Thank you!

    Ben Slavic
    World Languages
    Denver East High School

  16. Just to make it clear. I don’t use the Thematic Units anymore because I know it doesn’t work. We simply cannot learn a language by memorizing lists. But maybe somebody who is getting heat could be helped by it in which case feel free to use all or part of none. The best defense is a good offense.

    By the way, Joe, we have five (count ’em – five) APs in our building. Whenever I see one, I start talking excitedly about how CI is working in my classroom. I knock on their doors if I am going by. I pop up with all sorts of (to me) interesting things to share. Now, when they see me coming, they walk the other way. I drove a teacher coach from the district (don’t ask) away from our (school) PLC group. She came over to check if we were doing our work in a PD, and when she did I showered her in language. She tried to get away but I wouldn’t let her. The best defense really is a good offense. That is why Robert suggested the Administrator’s Checklist be by the door whenever they walk in. It gives them something to do, something to feel important about. Go after them, before they go after you. Power is funny that way, how a person who has a title all of a sudden knows more than they really do because of the title. And those of us who have admins that truly get CI (1 out of every 200 is my guess) – how lucky we are!

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