How True is This?

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67 thoughts on “How True is This?”

    1. Sean M Lawler

      As a high school teacher, TPR has worked best for me as a kind of tangent from stories. Like, when Savonce said he preferred to fly to the dance club (as happened during Circling with Balls at the beginning of the year). We then played around with the actions of walking, flying, swimming, down certain streets and over certain restaurants or buildings, because it was a novel action at that moment. But I’ve learned not to require all students to participate. I do read into the eyes of students to see who would be willing and animate them to act with me.

      1. There is a lot of wisdom in that comment. Doing TPR as it emerges is in my view the only way to do it. To do it as an “activity” activates the snore button in everybody in the room. And we never force kids to do a thing, in my view. We make it interesting and then they can’t help but join in.

  1. I’m not into boring and planned and lifeless TPR. I’m into gesturing and movement and I think that any good CI class would include TPR the entire class. In a wider and more inclusive definition there is no communication without TPR. I’m sorry I gave the impression that I’m not into it. Not true. Just when it’s boring. I once saw a demo in Russian by a district coordinator that was like, “OMG this is so embarrassing.” Because it was all mechanical and the kids were like little robots.

    1. Being mainly an elemantary school teacher I use TPR a lot. The kids love it and I love it. Only yesterday we pretended to go to our community swimming pool by bike and after we had gone swimming we ate a big ice-cream. Of course I tune into the energy of the class and their listening comprhension and make sure it doesn’t get boring. I use a lot of props,
      But in my grade seven I’ve stopped doing TPR altogether bc they had years of it.

      1. It’s a great thing that we get to pick from among all the CI techniques and strategies the ones that, targeted or non-targeted, work best for each of as as individual teaching artists*.

        *credit for that term: Moco Loco Thompson in Beaufort, SC (2001)

        1. Absolutely and do you know what I like best about you and all the PLCers? Your heartfelt openness to other people’s experiences and that you don’t think everyone has to strictly follow what you think is best.
          This is the most supportive training group for in-service teachers I have ever encountered in all of my 27 years of teaching.

  2. Alisa Shapiro

    For me down in elementary I think I can do SL in 3rd & 4th almost right away, and even in 1st & 2nd during the latter part of the school yr. If I make sure I’m in bounds and don’t have to write words/translations on the board as I story tell, then even earlier. (For the 1-2s, literacy is a concern).
    Recently I had lots of fun w/lil red riding hood (LRRH) in 1-2. I had a red cape, a wolf puppet, a play ‘bed’ and blanket, a weird hair net thing (for the grandma) and a basket of fake food (didja know? LRRH was bringing a can of soup and some spaghetti to granny). When we acted it out I had 6 characters – mom, dad, LLRH, grandma, wolf and LLRH’s dog, who saves the day by coming in when the wolf says, ‘I’m going to eat you,’ and scares the wolf away.
    I had a lil nose mask for the dog, a clown’s tie and top hat for the dad, a purse and funny hair for the mom – the props are a total gimmick and hook – i freely admit it cuz it works at that age/grade level…

    I story told it showing the props instead of drawing on the board; then the kids begged to and acted it out like a zillion times til everyone got the part they wanted. Then we read a simple version that I have – I kind of backwards planned the skit based on the book version I have, with the dog saving the day (and not a woodcutter…)
    I’m also going to experiment with an app called Storyboard That, that I learned about from Greg Schwab and his teaching partner, Sonja. I found an existing LLRH storyboard on the website, but the kids are very interested in creating their own storyboard, and it’s a great and very visual way to co-create a story. You can choose from onscreen backgrounds, characters/physical characteristics, settings, times of day – the works! – and with a click you can layer a visual scene – then add speech or thought bubbles or narration, too…There are several language options!

    I could do an entire collection of fairy tales all year long if I wanted – to my absolute surprise the 1-2s are still totally into it! How cool is that? Gives me hope for humanity!

    As for TPR I find myself employing TPR as brain breaks during intensive input cycles, as in (during LLRH): (In Spanish) Everyone get up and eat hot soup (we all crook our pinky and dip in with an imaginary spoon, blow and slurp;) girls -attack like the wolf; boys-be very scared and say, “Ay, un lobo!” Class, run like a grandma into the woods!”
    So it’s contextualized TPR – related to the language t hand. I also really like the way Tina breaks and has the kids cycle through the TPR action verbs they’ve employed in the past, adding the new ones. I’m gonna try to do more of that.

  3. If we decide to stay in bounds extremely and no words go untranslated, we do it in the service of creating a safe space for the kids. The only concerns should be lowering the affective filter, building trust and celebrating listening skills as we connect with the kids. Whether extremely or not, we stay in bounds as long as we gain the trust of students. This may take a few weeks or for some students may never happen in our class as they may be untrusting of any adults. However, by doing the above we model a caring by building the humble bridge of comprehension of a message about the students.

    Gains, curriculum maps and standards should not be a concern at this point as any pressure that we experience will certainly be placed as a burden unto the students.

    1. Steven thank you for validating my idea about when to start letting go of the reins of strict translation after a few weeks. I am sure that we will hammer this out this summer at the workshops.

      I appreciate this on many levels, not the least of which is your observation about the role of trust or its lack in our students, as a determining factor about how we define staying in bounds in our own classrooms.

      As usual there are no rules. We all have to figure this out for ourselves for each new group we have each year. It all goes to that one single point you made above about all things in the service of the kids’ lowered affective filters.

        1. Can we have a plc dinner one night? At the air bnb? I’ll cook. This is an offer that is not often made. Well I’ll book or get take out from new seasons. Either way I’ll feed ya.

          1. Before the sessions. Conference is over at 5. Coaching starts at 7. We can squeeze it in, right??

        2. OMG OMG OMG!!!!! It’s still hard to believe…but in 20 days I will be on a plane! I better start clearing out my classroom. With help from the cherubs, since I do not have any free days to get this done…bc…leaving on the last day of school…bc next few weekends…prom…dead show in Boston…hiking and helping to get the rest of the plants in…and puppy time… 😀

          I can taste summer even though we have 2 more full weeks. Ha! But thanks to the “book project” this week and last week was very chill. I basically did nothing. 🙂 Not really true, but “nothing” on my plate allowed me to roam around and answer the various calls for assistance! Kids “working on projects” and also having social time. It’s fine. We’re done. “Author celebrations and then a couple weeks of fun N games N outdoor time N “assessments” if we need to rein it in.


          “…we do it in the service of creating a safe space for the kids. The only concerns should be lowering the affective filter, building trust and celebrating listening skills as we connect with the kids. ” YES!!!

          1. I’m excited. I’m down for anything you got cooking Tina. Jen, you’re definitely a warrior doing all those things at the end. I got tons of paper but its all good live and learn.

  4. I don’t consider translating every word as a good interpretation of the research. When we introduce a new expression, we translate the meaning as best as we can in L1, if possible. So the message is more imoortant than small words or case markers etc… that are coming along for the ride . Though translating ever word can allow for some connecting in L1 via humor, direct translation or simply shooting the breeze. That’s what i did my first year.

  5. For my situation, I feel like SL with a familiar story OR with a simple story created from OWI could be used immediately. I am rethinking CWB in the beginning, because at least so far for me, personalization is not necessarily good straight off, until trust is built. So far I have not had success in this school building trust via CWB. IN my other school it worked great! That doesn’t mean I can’t do it here but so far have not been able to here.

    My thought is to start off “proving” to students their awesome comprehension super powers by telling a very short story, different one each day starting on day 1. It feels to me that would be powerful in getting the kids to believe that listening is the most important skill(aka superpower) to develop. And it would show them that they already have this “superpower” inside them. They just need to choose to use it. And it would set the tone for “Listen with intent to understand.” Of course SL would be very brief at first. I’m also going to use OWI right off. And some OWL type activities with movement. ??? Who knows, I will probably change my mind after Cascadia, but am most concerned with the trust and safety of the group.

    In one of my current groups, the students naturally flowed into sharing / discussing via PQA after several weeks. PQA / CWB did not work at the beginning. With other groups it does work. This is why I like having a “menu-style” lesson plan / scope and sequence. I need the flexibility to shift out of something that is not compelling.

    I guess this all cycles back to “know your students” and “know your community.” The culture here is decidedly defensive / antagonistic / downright cruel on the exterior. These are the coping skills students have had to develop in order to survive their situations. I am looking forward to the sessions with Jon Cowart and others in the equity work in Cascadia. I’m also eager to integrate a lot of the trauma-informed schools work I’m doing in my district. I will be digesting this all over the summer. Trauma is a huge elephant in the room.

    1. Jen said:

      …personalization is not necessarily good straight off, until trust is built….

      Wow jen that is deep. Indeed, how can we personalize the classroom if we do so when trust hasn’t yet been built each year? Thanks for this delineation. It’s very important.

      I’m sure we have all seen it where some kid who presents quite well on Day 1 turns out to be a jerk on Day 10. So that in any act of taming, we need to be careful about rushing in, as per:

      …Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te regarderai du coin de l’œil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près….

    2. In my own mind QWC (aka CWB) – Questioning with Cards as it is now called – and OWI and SL, in extremely slow forms, is as good a way to start the year as any to occupy the kids for at least two or three weeks before starting in with the Invisibles

    3. Sean M Lawler

      jen, I like your idea of telling a story instead of story asking the first week of school. I do think there is a big difference between the back-and-forth that happens with story-asking versus the sit back and surrendering the mind that happens during story telling. Some extroverted students are strong at responding and co-narrating during story-asking sessions. Other more introverted students no. Those introverted students make gains just as quickly, or even more quickly, right? Story telling during the first week, as jen suggests, could help all students feel successful and confident with their language learning ability, and build trust, as Steven mentioned, to a greater extent than if we were to hold ourselves to CWB (QWC), PQA, and Story-asking (or Talk-and-Respond activities). The introverted students may not feel inadequate since they are not responding as much. Plus, as jen says, it highlights extended listening as a superpower from the get-go.

      1. …the introverted students may not feel inadequate since they are not responding as much….

        Great point about starting the year with storytelling. I think we all have to find the balance for ourselves. I would start with QWC but work with only one kid per day for about ten minutes. I would not do PQA. I would do OWI, to begin collecting images for each class’s gallery, for a good portion of class. This is all just how I would time things. I would maybe tell a story (aka Story Listening and not to be confused with TPRS’ Story Asking which has the drawback Sean mentioned about dominant kids) once every day or two and for less than five minutes each story (three sentences or so). But where we have these strategies, we all have to make our own decisions about how we use them, as a reflection of our own personalities. If we don’t feel comfortable with something, we don’t do it. It’s all CI so why worry about forcing something? Bottom line for the first two weeks is use the activities as fronts to teach the Classroom Rules and to build community/trust in the classroom at the very beginning of the year because if we don’t do it then won’t do it and we will have a very tough year.

        1. I am working on the document aka the Cleveland Thing. But I started going wiggy cause I got up at 2:45 AM and worked on it till 6:30 then slept from 6:30 to 7:30 then came to school and started working on it more, and then just all day log I have nabbing a chance to work on it between helping with the books. I hope it is worth all this work.

          I am so happy with this books project cause it keeps everyone “working” (Some are socializing, OK? So sue me. One kid, right now, who started the year totally friendless but who gained notoriety among her peers both as an Invisibles artist extraodinaire, giving us the empty box and the mislabeled milk chocolate bar (labeled as bitter chocolate and friendless because of that), and now drawing the only graphic novel of the year with her three good friends who were not her friends at the beginning of the year, and who looks people in the eye now, and speaks up, and laughs, this kid is sitting down the table from me here, joking with her friends and making up “social experiments” one of which just involved taking a picture of me, after ordering me to laugh. Huh? But really, who cares? We have had a year together and it is winding down, and we are enjoying each other’s company.

          I had some eighth graders come visit us yesterday and they said, “We miss the end of the year project from last year!” (It was an illustrated nonfiction book like I used to do in Social Studies, in English…gasp!) Then my seventh graders said that they never get to do projects anymore. They said they never get to draw or do anything creative anymore. They are really loving the books project.

          And so am I as I am working on a books project of my own…

          1. April in Paris…Book Projects in May. C’est pareil!

            Just get the April/May sequence thing into writing for us Tina. No pressure and I think we all know how hard you are working right now but man we need to learn how to end a year with respect for ourselves.

            If a teacher knows that they are off the stories hook after testing finishes in March, that’s a really good thing. Doing those projects and the other end of year projects associated with the Invisibles or any projects that actually work (i.e. fool admins and make the kids think that they are learning and give them a bit of a break at the end of the year from all the intense input from the year) is about setting limits and protecting our mental health. We have these old stinky thoughts that we are supposed to work hard until June and then collapse. It’s not true. There should exist in our minds a “shape” to the academic year and it should be in favor of our longevity in the profession.

          2. Here is where our lives and the lives of the students are parallel. The students have paid their dues and so have we. Now, we can just coast the last two months (at least after spring break)

  6. jen you said:

    “My thought is to start off “proving” to students their awesome comprehension super powers by telling a very short story, different one each day starting on day 1.”

    This is actually really good. Students can be celebrated without being put on the spot. I have twelve year olds at a new school (7th graders) so Day 1 needs to be calm and fun.

    You also mentioned:

    “This is why I like having a “menu-style” lesson plan / scope and sequence. I need the flexibility to shift out of something that is not compelling.”

    Yes. My trouble is that my menu becomes a little old. I loose a few kids here and there. I kinda want to “plan” to wait for adding some menu items such as Special Chair for second semester (for both my French level 1 and 2) and MT.

    jen could you share your menu with us?

    1. This is excellent and new to our group:

      Students can be celebrated without being put on the spot with storytelling/SL.

      I think jen said it first and now Steve is repeating it. Huge. Never thought about how QWC/CWB put kids on the spot. Nice. Important.

      1. Sabrina is like the incarnation of warmth. I can tell there is huge trust and relationship building with her students… some call that “buy-in” but its something else.

      2. Like you always say, Ben, there is no one size fits all. We have to be able to tune into what feels right for the group in front of us. The card activity is so fun! I have used it on day one for many years. But this year I felt more tuned in to the energy of a lot of kids sending out the “please don’t ever pick me” vibe. And I did not know what to do with that. It made me question and doubt my favorite activities, “star of the day” and the cards. ???? What ??? How can this not be fun? Well, if you are an introvert and you would prefer to be invisible (at least to your peers) then this activity will raise the affective filter. I betcha even though student x is on the spot, student y may not be able to process anything if they are thinking “oh man, what if she picks me next” etc.

        On the other hand, the cards and the interviews can work with certain groups. At my old school it was great. Here, not so much. I don’t think that these activities automatically put kids on the spot, but there is that potential. Maybe it’s due to my lack of skill in trust building. That is definitely a factor.

        Always learning!

        Oh, and Steven you asked about my menu: it’s the good ole alphabet soup, in no particular order.
        FVR, QWC / CWB, PQA, TPR, story script, SL, OWI, star of the day, movie talk, reading options, dictee variations, Listen and draw. These are the basic go- to. But don’t listen to me, I choked big time this year. Maybe my worst year ever. I desperately need to come up with a better structured routine. I definitely switch things up too much so the kids’ heads are spinning. Best stretch was in winter with a nice routine of SL followed by reading. I lack consistency. Oh well. 3 weeks to go then a fresh start in August!!!

        1. Sean M Lawler

          “lack of skill in trust building”! No way, jen! You probably just aren’t seeing the trust manifest. Teenagers do put on a facade, right? With all that you’ve described and reflected on with your teaching, I can’t imagine anything but profound trust (as profound as we can get in our classrooms) you are building with your students!

          1. I agree with Sean. You don’t know how they feel about you bc it hasn’t been safe in the past for many of them to reveal such information to adults.

          2. Ditto woth what sean and Ben said… and because of that being consistent will be good for both you and students… even if they rebel sometime because some may have never had a routine like eating dinner together or watching the same movie at home or reading together.

    2. Yes. You gotta save some stuff for spring! Movie talk I’d never do before march 20. In the south we didn’t wear white shoes before Memorial Day. Same thing here. No MT before Presidents Day at least.

  7. I had a realization recently. We are using the wrong terminology. We’re not doing SL. We’re doing story telling. SL is a whole program where all you do is tell stories day after day. We’re doing story telling where we tell the occasional story. I’m not sure if anyone I know is truly following Beniko’s suggestion that we just tell stories.

      1. Udo I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. I meant that no one that I know of is doing uniquely 100% SL, as Beniko advises. Is Kathryn? I don’t see it as possible in the U.S. with all the pushback we get in our atrophied and repressive system.

  8. Alisa Shapiro

    I am so dang elementary school concrete.

    I assumed the difference between “Story Listening” and “Story Telling” is that the first highlights the role of the student, and the second refers to the role of the teacher. Story listening is a pathway to acquisition (story telling is not – if you can tell a story, you’re good.)

    We don’t acquire by telling ’em, we acquire by listening to ’em (which encompasses comprehending).

    1. Alisa, that is what I thought too. But now I get it. “SL” as in “What Beniko does” it its own stand-alone program, where that is all you do. Story after story each day. No other activities. Working toward extensive reading, I believe.

      I would love to do SL exclusively! Even though at the moment I may have to evolve into that over years, using other CI to support the gradual gains in stamina, etc.

  9. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Let’s not forget the student population – aren’t Beniko’s Ss all at university level? If so they are CHOOSING and paying to study language – self selected.
    I’m an elem school ‘special’ like gym and art (though they are calling Spanish an academic now!) – so I need the novelty plus bells and whistles that the other NT strategies provide – my Ss hands down LOVE creating and dramatizing stories the best! Most also love ‘listen and draw’ (I use a video of an artist drawing w/out the volume, a la Movie Talk).
    THey do love OWI and SL but they wanna action!

    1. Oh yeah, for sure! I teach HS and definitely need to shift things around, provide movement, etc. But for some groups SL is literally the only way I can provide a steady flow of input. It totally depends on the group chemistry, and some of them cant handle too much interaction without going off the rails instantly.

    2. Action for sure!
      And my seventh graders need a change of pace too. But I believe SL will just be great as a part of our CI repertoire.

      I need clarification on SL and Storytelling: Do you mean by Storytelling that the teacher tells a story which the students have to retell? Whereas SL means the teacher tells a story for the students to enjoy listening to and understanding the message?

      1. This is part of the answer Beniko gave me in response to my question about the ability level of her students (on Story Listening for Language Acquisition FB group):

        “As I answered somewhere already, I use SL with kindergarten children. I use SL with senior adults who have not attended English classes for decades… My students at my university are certainly not advanced. Recently It was reported that The level of Japanese college students proficiency level in English is at the level of junior high school proficiency level. Some students may not even know 200 words, not 2000 high frequency words. I can go on and on.”

  10. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Udo, I think the point above is that Story Listening a la Beniko is a program consisting of Ss listening to stories exclusively – no OWI or Invisibles, no Movie Talk, no Special Chair/Person, no question cards or PQA, etc…Her research is centered on a strict and steady diet of listening to stories told in caretaker language by the teacher.

    Some of us on the blog have begun to experiment with Story Listening as a trick in our non-targeted input bag – but none (that we know of, other than Beniko) uses SL exclusively. Beniko coined the term Story Listening for her ‘program’ of delivering CI.

    So since we’re using other strategies in addition to SL, Tina and Ben are suggesting that we not call what we’re doing “SL;” rather Story TELLING, to avoid confusion or the misinterpretation that we are doing/copying what Beniko is doing.

    Do I have that right, people?

  11. Ben, as per terms… On FB I wrote that “NT” was too reactionary because it used a negative prefix “non”. How can we word it positively? Organic CI? Hippy CI? Those were some of the suggestions on FB.

    1. I don’t see it as a negative term but I know what you mean. The thing is, it’s Krashen’s term so until something really good comes along, I’m sticking with it. It’s the research term.

  12. After reflecting on it, I feel as if we should just call it Story Listening. The term seems to have stuck. We know it’s Beniko’s term and should credit her for it each time we introduce it into a discussion. I don’t think we are going to come up with any other term. It’s too confusing.

  13. Somewhere, someone mentioned something about ALG. I did not know what is was and set about to search. Automatic Language Growth is method developed by Dr. J. Marvin Brown in Thailand. It was started in 1985 to teach Thai as a Foreign Language. A decade later they began using ALG to teach English to speakers of Thai. I have not watched their videos, so I do not know how what they do (so I am not calling for a push for ALG).

    But one thing that caught my eye about Automatic Language Growth is this quote from the ALG website:

    “The entertainment level was without parallel. “Just don’t ‘try’ to speak.” Most students wanted to speak from the start. The real miracles though, began with those who didn’t try! Speaking for those students began naturally at about 700 to 800 hours of class time while their understanding by that time was excellent.”

    Don’t try to speak. This may sound like an extreme application of the Silent Period. But it got me to thinking about how consistent this is with SL in which there is no requirement on the learners to respond in the L2.

    I am not sure if any others here have knowledge/experience of ALG, but is interesting how many times CI approaches arise independently.

    1. Sean M Lawler

      Super interesting, Nathaniel. This is worth repeating, “Speaking for those students began naturally at about 700 to 800 hours of class time while their understanding by that time was excellent.”

      I know Ben has thrown around hours like that over the years. That not even the 4 years of study we have in our high schools provides enough hours of input to start to expect (or assess for that matter) output. This corroboration strikes me as super significant. We are trying to change how students are assessed in our schools and districts and this is just exactly what we need to message to our supervisors and our students.

      Thanks for sharing, Nathaniel!

      1. Thank you for remembering Sean. And I am certain that those numbers of 700-800 are on the low side for speech to naturally emerge. I think that if we assess speech before level 4 (400 hours max CI input registered by the end of level 3) we are not serving the best interests of the kids. I might just go out on a limb and make it simple for myself to grasp. We cannot assess speech ever. We wait until it happens and then, when it happens, why assess what they say when we can just enjoy it?

        1. I am a firm believer in allowing output to emerge. And I pretty much never force it. So here is a question that has popped up before (like 6-7 years ago) but this year something made it scream out at me:

          Does anyone else have interactions with students that are L2 (from me) and L1 (from kids)? I am pretty sure I am falling down on the job in a number of areas because this happens regularly for me. Especially this year I notice that my students DO NOT WANT TO SPEAK L2. Ever. This is slightly exaggerated. There are a few kids who love it and want to try (2% maybe). But mostly everyone would rather not. “Level 2” kids. HIgh school. Age 15-16 mostly 1oth graders.

          I just watched the one video I recorded of myself this year. A star of the day interview that was all L2 from me and nearly all L1 from the student. When I saw it I was like “ooh, I really should have insisted on the L2 responses.” But on the other hand, she really really wanted to be interviewed. And the audience was doing a great job paying attention.


          I struggle with this so much. I know I need to tighten up my processes. And I also see/feel that at the moment, most kids are way too self conscious to speak and I don’t want to always have the 2% kids up there bc that would reinforce the hierarchy. I remind kids all the time that output lags way behind comprehension, so maybe they are saying “Phew” I don’t even need to say anything.” Their L1 responses demonstrate comprehension and when I ask follow up questions they hang right with me, but sometimes even when I offer 2 options (es un elefante o un perro) they will say in English “its an elephant.”

          Another reason I struggle is that this dynamic reminds me of my own teenage years as a heritage speaker. I *could totally* speak Spanish, since I had both languages at home. BUT I refused to speak with my Dad in public. So he’d be yakking away to me in the grocery store or (GASP!) at a school function…and I’d just respond in English.

          Is this what my students are doing? Have I simply not created a safe enough space in the classroom? That is usually my “default fault.” Whenever I have asked the question in a reflection, they usually say they are afraid to say it wrong, etc. 🙁

          In only my 2nd year here, I feel like I am still building (overall) trust just being in the building, listening to kids, trying to tune into their jam.


          1. Big question. I remember we talked about it once years ago.

            My answer couldn’t be more simple:

            Let them answer in English unless there is a rude snarky overtone to their answer. If they are just answering in L1 bc they feel like it, bc they are kids and kids do stuff like that, it’s great. I wouldn’t give it another thought.

          2. Maybe you are right but I’m still deeply divided on this issue.
            In my grade 7 group one girl has made so much progress by watching movies in L2 (English) that she happily conversres with me in L2. Then there is one boy who can communicate pretty well in L2 which he did last year but this year he has switched to using L1. Another girl is willing to use L2 to her best abilkity but i’m sure she would stopp making this effort if L1 if I was happy with everyone using L1
            I like to think I’m encouraging them to try and spread their wings in L2. Is that so wrong? (I DON’T tell my kids that they HAVE TO USE L2!)

          3. Sean M Lawler

            jen, your post here had me thinking about my heritage student classes too. Many of the heritage students do not feel comfortable speaking in Spanish and will certainly not do so in a whole group setting. I think that in the heritage classes students can overcome their lack of confidence (though you sounded like you had the confidence, in certain settings at least, like, not in public) in a year or two and start to speak with relative ease in the classroom. This all makes output rubrics silly. The only good assessment tool on output, I think, is a reflection done at the end of the quarter or semester on growth in speaking ability. Like, from one word answers to full, complex sentences. And then a grade is based on the reflection of growth.

            The problem I have is then, what if there is no evident growth in output? (ok, I’m speaking of just my heritage classes now) Should they get a bad grade?

            I have students in my heritage classes do Fish Bowl-like small group discussions on a rotating basis, discussing a news article they chose to read. These small group discussions put pressure on kids to speak in Spanish. Some students are just not ready for full-on Spanish like that. It becomes evident who these kids are after a couple of weeks when doing rotations like this. I refuse to give them a poor grade, especially if they show that they were reading the news article.

            Anyways, thinking out loud here, perhaps to my own benefit. But having the heritage classes has given me some good perspective on what to expect from non-heritage class kids. There are p.l.e.n.t.y. of heritage kids who aren’t comfortable speaking Spanish in the classroom despite having someone in their family talk to them regularly in Spanish their entire lives.

    2. So after two years in my class my students have about 360 hours of class time. It kind of makes you think about doing speaking assessment before the third year Huh.

      1. I’m in assessment land because I am working on this document on standards instruction and assessment I’m going over to my best friends house who is about to be a school principal and I’m going to make her look at it through a administrator lens

        1. This is what we consider fun on Saturday afternoon apparently. Either that or I’m the worst best friend ever. At least I’m bringing her some kombucha tea.

    3. Carmen Suárez

      Just out of curiosity, I read some months back “From the Outside In: The Secret to Automatic Language Growth”. It basically tells, in the form of an auto-biography, how Dr. Brown came to develop ALG and also his experience of 50 years as a linguist, and language teacher. This is very interesting reading because it is a linguist researching from the perspective of a teacher! Wow, wow! He tells in Chapter 6 – The Conversion: Age 55-60, around 1984, how The Natural Approach of Krashen came to play a fundamental role in his journey, and then in Chapter 7 he says “It was Stephen Krashen that came to my rescue”. This stuck with me. His methodology, which he derived from the principle that language can’t be “taught” and appeals strongly to the unconcious process of acquisition, has the particularity of requiring two teachers per class. When he talks about “don´t try to speak” and an extended “silent period”, he enphasizes the importance of the “cascade of happenings” are his ways to refer to the experience in the target language.
      Some of his recommendations are not practical in the American Educational System, but definetely his framework is well worth considering. Maybe the reason why not many people know about this is the context: mostly in Thailand.

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