Immediate Attention Needed

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43 thoughts on “Immediate Attention Needed”

  1. Andrew my own reaction to reading this is that you just need to keep things really simple. Know your talking points. Only go into detail if asked. Say the same things.

    You want to leave this superintendent, at the end of the meeting, with doubt about everyone in the room but you. You can only do that if you keep hammering the same points and offering, only if asked, to elaborate on certain points later via email. Elaboration = bad. Simple repetition of the same points = good.

    The main leitmotif I would choose if I were in this situation is how your highest professional priority right now is to make sure that you are aligning your instruction with the national standards.

    You can’t really sit there with a big notebook of ideas, so, again, have your talking points in mind and stay with them. You know that we have discussed alignment with national standards ad nauseum here in this space for a good ten months now. All you have to do is find those posts and take what resonates with you.

    You can use the search bar to find articles here on standards, the three modes, the 90% Position Statement, etc, or click on the ACTFL link in the categories. Another category with power is the one labeled Assessment/Robert Harrell.

    Here are some starter links: (this would be a good one to send in your short and simple follow up thank you email to this superintendent.)

    Now, Andrew, you are invited to do some homework. You will receive extra credit. Here is your homework: read through the above posts and any others that you find that strike your fancy. When something speaks to you, cut and paste it into a Word file. Collect some notes – not too many.

    Then, start paring those notes down, and highlight the things that resonate with you. Make those things, the highlighted notes, your friends for the week. As statedm, they must be very few in number, as good friends must be. Then, maybe write only those things down on a 4 X 6 note card. Then, when you speak, it is acceptable to have that one card to refer to. The supe, who will be bombarded by conflicting information, will be very happy to see at least one prepared teacher who is on point in the group, as he sifts through all the information he will be bombarded with, none of which he will remember. Speak when spoken to.

    Once you do your homework, please respond to the group with what you plan to say by Thursday morning at the latest. That will give us time to respond with tweaks. Now, if we can get some good stuff from the group on your specific talking points, we can get some real action here.

    Good luck. This is not another meeting. When you speak on Friday, you will be speaking for all of us. Many if not all of us will have to do something like this in our careers, and most of us will blow it by speaking to much and going all over the place, and I speak from much personal experience.

    You are are going in with that first wave – Harrell, Lev, Clarcq, Noble, Boulanger, Gross, Noonan, Dzietzic, Kirschling and that crowd. Final thought: you cannot even remotely convey a fraction of the information that there is to convey, so that is why I say to limit what you say.

    I hope we get some good specific responses to your questions by tomorrow night. I will read them and sleep on them and answer the ones I feel I know things about.

  2. Note that there are two sets of points above. I have labeled the first set A and the second B. For convenience, and to encourage as many answers as possible in as fast a time as possible from the group, we need only answer this way, kind of saying things that Andrew could possibly say:

    B1: Languages usually come under scrutiny due to low enrollment, which is a function of the teacher. There are teachers who have tremendous enrollments. One in Los Angeles [Robert] consistently has classes of 44 students in German. It’s the teacher, not the language. (also addresses B9 about increasing enrollment.)

    Like that.

  3. A1: when mentioning comprehensible input to anyone, I just tell them that to learn a language must hear it as much as possible in ways that the learner understands and focuses on the message. Minutes lost to the use of English in the classroom are lost minutes. It takes over ten thousand hours of hearing a language, minimally, to aquire a language. In a four year program we have about 500 hours (125 hours per year) available. Do the math.

    That point kind of speaks for itself. No indeed to attack the book or the many well-intentioned minions of the corporate book establishment. The supe is not a supe bc she’s stupid. Or you could just mention to her that kids, when born, don’t immediately request a book so that they learn the language of the land, rather, they just start listening and keep on listening for years before they even put together their first goo-goo-ahhhh!

  4. Robert Harrell

    An initial thought – I just finished Open House and will be heading home in a couple of minutes – is to go back to presuppositions.

    Why do people “learn” a language? To communicate. That is a timeless truth; it will never stop being that way. Most of us do not “learn” a language because it is our hobby, we “learn” a language because we want to be able to say something to someone.

    [ed. note; this next sentence addresses 5A]: That means that the only curriculum that will still be relevant in ten years – or 20 or 30 – is the one that enables students to communicate in the language.

    The only curriculum that effectively and quickly enables students to communicate in the language is one that engages them in the three modes of communication. Guess what? The only curriculum currently available that is founded upon engaging students in communication is Comprehensible Input.

    When the suit wants details, promise a follow-up. Then you hit him with the research about second language acquisition. But hammer home the point:

    1. Relevance means meeting the needs of the students.
    2. The need of the students is the ability to communicate.
    3. Comprehensible Input best enables students to communicate.

    Now, as far as limiting the languages, I will look up my promotional materials and give you a set of reasons why German is important. I’m sure there are similar lists for French, but I have one only for German. In addition, how does restricting the choices of language meet the needs of the students? The federal government has reports out showing the critical need for Americans to know more languages, not fewer. If we do not start doing a better job of teaching students languages – multiple languages – America will become increasingly unable to compete in the global marketplace. Is the district truly concerned about what is best for students or what is easiest for administrators?

    1. Also, Andrew, something Robert wrote above makes me think of the importance to address the word rigor. Certainly a happy word for supes who think that they can intimidate teachers by asking them what is rigorous about their curriculum. Search that word here as well. We had a great few months in early spring on that word, thanks to Jody and Clarice and Jason’s visit to Denver. Rigor? We got that! We can talk about rigor!

  5. A5: This is where to bring in the 90% use statement. You can say that the national parent organization for language teachers, ACTFL, in the last century, used to talk about the four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking and they were all kind of expected to occur together, and the book was used for that, but that the recent research points to the need to focus first on the listening and reading skills, and then, only after at least a few years can the skills of writing and speaking emerge. Don’t go into too much detail, maybe this is something for a follow up email to the supe, but you do want to appeal to her sense of logic with this. You can say that listening and reading are input skills, in fact, they define comprehensible input, and that, if you think about it, enough listening will one day turn into speech and enough reading will one day turn into writing and, had the old model of teaching those four skills all in a big glop using a book (the book is the glop) were effective, then the ten year models of the past would have seen much greater gains in student progress and student retention but they didn’t.

    (Andrew, you could even precede your meeting with some of this by directly copying and pasting some of the answers you get here into a kind of preliminary email. You could say that you know that the supe is highly pressed for time, but that you did want to at least respond in writing to some of the points that will be raised in the meeting to kind of give her a heads up on your own thinking, in case it doesn’t all get covered in the actual meeting. It’s kind of a proactive thing to do.)

  6. A9: There isn’t much research on this, to my knowledge. I think that, if there were, it would be very bad for traditional teachers. I am almost certain that non-CI methods in middle schools provide no product, no results in high school*, and frustrated (and self righteous!) high school teachers suffering from ego acne use that fact to persecute, behind the walls of their buildings, those poor middle school teachers who are screwed bc the book can’t reach kids at those ages, as per Rudolf Steiner (kids don’t have big logic hair until they are through the transition age of 14).

    *even CI methods in middle school are met with disdain by most old school high school teachers, who mock it** as child’s play (how wrong they are!).

    **I’m talking about real CI instruction by trained CI teachers who aren’t just farting the term out to make a smell in the room.

    [Andrew you can tell the supe that you know of one middle school teacher whose student as a ninth grader with no previous background in French except as an eight grade CI student, passed the Advanced Placement exam in French Language with a score of 4, which according to the College Board means that the candidate is “highly qualified” in French. That student also scored 70/70 on the National French Contest that year and four other CI students scored at 67/70. 65/70. 63/70. 63/70. on that exam to rank the state, scoring above the highest score earned by any high school students on that exam that year.]

  7. A7: I was talking with Annick Chen today about cyber-classesn bc we were talking about this request from you, Andrew. She said that she was watching one once and fell asleep. She told me that she could see the CI method at work, but, because it was not personalized, she just got the heavy eyelids thing going on and couldn’t hang with the instructor. Again, in this case, it wasn’t the instructor (cyber space is not like a sandbox), it was the delivery system that was at fault.

  8. A4. A scope and sequence is like a pacing guide, in my view. Therefore, you can use what follows, which is from my website. You can retrofit the terminology if you don’t want to drop the TPRS bomb into the room, which I most certainly wouldn’t:

    The differences in philosophy between TPRS and traditional language education:

    1.TPRS is a student-driven methodology. It responds to the linguistic needs of the students at any given time. This makes it free-flowing curricularly.
    2.TPRS believes that we should shelter (limit) vocabulary, focusing on the top 100 words then adding words based on high interest and communicative needs, but not sheltering grammar – using grammar naturally.
    3.TPRS believes that linguistic features are acquired in a natural order and that the brain cannot be forced to acquire a feature out of sequence or before it is ready.
    4.TPRS believes that each learner acquires knowledge at his/her own pace – that no two students are at the same point in learning at the same time.
    5.In TPRS we believe that student output cannot be forced. Students need hundreds of hours of repetitive input before they are ready for unrehearsed, spontaneous output. Much like a baby hears his/her first language for thousands of hours before being able to produce meaningful language. We believe that activities practicing output before students have reached this point is counter-productive and leads only to short-term learning goals, not to long-term acquisition.
    6.TPRS adheres to the Monitor Theory – we believe that direct instruction of grammatical rules in not helpful until upper levels of instruction, after students have acquired these grammatical features through context. At such a time students can use the analytical rules to polish their understanding, and to become truly literate in the language. Prior to this, overfocus on the rules inhibits student production and acquisition – students focus on rules rather than meaning. In TPRS grammatical features are highlighted through the use of brief explanations that focus on meaning not rules. i.e. The -n on this verb means that more than one person is doing it.
    7.TPRS believes that language instruction should be practical and focused on communication in areas that currently interest students.


    1.The Pacing Guide assumes that instruction and pacing are based on the curriculum, that they are not student-driven. This leads to a curriculum that is not especially responsive to student needs.
    2.The Pacing Guide does not shelter vocabulary. It shelters grammar. Students are expected to learn copious amounts of vocabulary for each chapter. Yet, students are exposed to one discrete feature of grammar at a time.
    3.By sheltering grammar the Pacing Guide does not allow for Natural Order of Acquisition. It does not provide adequate exposure to late acquired features early on and expects mastery of some late acquired features in beginning stages.
    4.The Pacing Guide exists to make learning uniform across the district. Every student in the district is expected to learn the same material at the same time.
    5.The Pacing Guide and accompanying benchmark exams are filled with output oriented activities. The philosophy is that practice with output rather than time of input produces accurate spontaneous output in students.
    6.The Pacing Guide, benchmark exams, and department teachers assume direct instruction in grammatical rules. They assume that students will know technical terminology and will be able to discuss the grammatical features in a metacognitive fashion.
    7.The Pacing Guide etc. assumes that language acquisition is an academic activity that will result in preparation for college and perhaps eventual communication in the language. Areas that currently interest students are not covered if they do not fit into the long-term goals of academic study.

    An analogy:

    In a way, the pacing guide is like the old practice in manufacturing of ordering and stockpiling a bunch of materials on a rigid and pre-set schedule – it might sit there for a long time without being used. TPRS is like the more modern practice of ordering “on demand”. As something is needed, it is ordered and used. The second way is simpler, more efficient, and more economical. The pacing guide is an attempt to recreate the old style factory production line. Why try to do that when factories don’t even do it anymore – at least the ones that aren’t shut down!

    It is no wonder that students find much of their school experience boring, irrelevant, mystifying and unengaging; it is almost diametrically opposed to how they learn on their own. Early 20th-century methods in a 21st-century world leave everyone behind.

    Comparison taken from “La Profe Loca” by Jennifer (“La profe loca”); posted on Ben Slavic’s blog, 21 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010 Analogy by Chris; comment posted under “La Profe Loca” on Ben Slavic’s blog, 22 April 2010; downloaded 23 April 2010

  9. B4: Just speak your truth. Don’t engage in oppositional discussion about pedagogy in front of this supe. Take the shot and keep your mouth shut. The supe will get it. You knew that. I was talking to myself, actually, for the next time I get in it with someone.

  10. A5: Any curriculum tied to a textbook will be out of date and irrelevant out of the box. It will create the following dilemma:
    Since it is tied to the textbook, it will be “relevant” (relevant to what?) only as long as the district uses that edition of the textbook. As soon as the textbook changes, the curriculum will have to change. That means you have tied yourself to either constant re-writing of the curriculum or the use of a particular textbook ad infinitum. Textbook companies tout a new edition of their textbook about every 7 years (coinciding with the normal adoption cycle). That means they know that their textbook will be out of date and irrelevant within seven years. Does the district really want to tie itself to planned obsolescence?

  11. A5: What does the supe/district mean by “relevant”? Relevant to whom? Relevant in connection with what?
    “Relevant to students” precludes, when you really think about it, any textbook-driven curriculum. The textbook is developed and typeset years before it reaches the hands of any student. How can the textbook company possibly know what will be relevant to the students at your school in their own socio-economic, demographic, geographical and cultural setting? The textbook companies target general demographics and, as a result, actually address almost no real student.

    The Department of State ( says that material is relevant when
    -there is a prior emotional or intellectual connection to the material
    -it is connected to real life
    -it actively engages and involves us
    -someone else has a contagious passion or enthusiasm
    -it is novel

    Because textbook companies must meet the “needs” and desires of a broad range of state departments of education, they can do basically none of the above. How can a pre-printed textbook connect to the real life of a So Cal surfer dude, an Iowa farm kid, a New England preppy and a Texas immigrant child at the same time? How can the repeated conjugation charts be novel? When has a standard foreign language textbook ever conveyed passion or enthusiasm? How can a generic, pre-printed textbook know what your students’ prior knowledge and emotional connections are? A curriculum can hope for long-term relevance only by NOT being tied to a textbook.

  12. A 5 and 6: I realize that much of my previous post address A6 as well.

    I would be chary of asking to bring in a curriculum writer. You may know someone who is excellent, but can you guarantee that this would the person brought in? Will the expert wind up reinforcing adherence to the textbook? My district hired some consultants several years ago, and it eventually became clear even to the suits that all they were doing was charging a lot of money to get the teachers to write the curriculum without sufficient guidance.

  13. B5: Alarm bells! How can the CRT hope to accomplish anything if she doesn’t know what the meeting is supposed to be about? (I don’t mean having a pre-determined outcome – though that might be the hidden agenda.) It sounds like she is hoping no one will be prepared so she can push her ideas through without much or any opposition.

    1. That was my thought and one reason I am saying let’s front load this thing with some heavy artillery in the short time we have. Andrew will need it. That CRT is clearly not wanting to hear anything but her own thoughts on this deal.

  14. A4:
    Scope: emphasis on the highest frequency structures
    Sequence: student driven as revealed by classroom questionnaires and interaction with students

    Similar to the textbook issue, how can a Sequence guide remain the same year after year? It is the opposite of a student-centered classroom. The teacher must be able to change the sequence at any time based on data provided by students on questionnaires, in classroom comments, through informal and formal assessments, and via personal observation. As Ben’s post on the pacing guide above indicates, the very question presupposes an outmoded view of the educational and acquisitional process that follows an outdated paradigm. There needs to be a paradigm shift.

    [Are we throwing out enough jargon?]

  15. Jargonize away, mon pote, jargonize away. It’s where they live. Nice point about the outmoded view. It really is. But, unless we act, ain’t nobody else I know of out there opposing that bullshit. Many of us are even starting to hunker down into “I just want to keep my job” mode. That ain’t no way to live.

  16. A3: I would expect this meeting to be a setting for an attempt at a thinly veiled fiat from on high. The administrators expect everyone to “get with the program” and let them do what makes life easier for them. They don’t expect anyone to have cogent and forceful reasons for doing something different. This does not look to her a friendly meeting – though I hope can present everything in an amicable manner.

  17. B2: If this means doing away with other languages, pursue the idea of why she thinks “one size fits all” is acceptable in education. Schools exist in part to open the minds of students to new worlds, new ways of thinking, new ideas. By getting rid of French and German, the district will take opportunities away from students, not offer them new options. It goes back to the outdated factory notion of education and goes even further to the Henry Ford offer on the Model T: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it’s black.” Would this same administrator be happy to have the option of purchasing only Dodges? Get rid of all the Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Hyundai, Benz, BMW, Saab, Audi, Volve, etc. dealers. From now on, we will offer only Dodges. [This works better if you have an idea of which make of car the CRT would NOT want to drive and make that the choice.] Perhaps she would be happy to be required to purchase only Grape Nuts – no Corn Flakes, no Cheerios, no Wheaties, no Rice Krispies, no Special K – just Grape Nuts, and she must buy them. That is what she is proposing for students in the realm of languages. Not only will they have no other choice, but by making Spanish part of the Core Curriculum, she will be forcing them to make that purchase. Quite frankly, that sounds awfully dictatorial to me.

    Furthermore, I’m going to say some very non-PC things here. Let me preface my remarks by reminding everyone that I love languages. I have an MA in Spanish that I paid for myself and pursued for my own benefit. It did absolutely nothing to increase my wages. I enjoy speaking Spanish, and the language is as worthy of being learned as any other language. That being said,

    Spanish is not a language of power in the US. It is the language of the lower class. People who are gardeners, maids, servers speak Spanish. There is nothing wrong with those occupations – they are as honorable as any other – but they are not occupations of power. Why, then, does the administrator want to limit the language option to the language of subservience in our society? What is she saying about the place and abilities of the district’s students? Why not give them the opportunity to learn the language of science, mathematics, philosophy, economics and arts (German)? Or the language of diplomacy, literature, music, fashion and philosophy (French)? Does this administrator want to send the message to students that they are unworthy or incapable of greatness? That they need to know and keep their place as drones?

    I apologize to anyone offended by the above paragraph, but I am deliberately giving a negative interpretation of the administrator’s goal based on some of the realities of American society in the 21st century.

    On the other hand, you could be enthusiastic about adding Spanish as part of the Core Curriculum in elementary school so that students have the opportunity to take a second foreign language in junior high and senior high school. Then they can begin to compete in the global economy with Europeans who speak two and three foreign languages. Wrest the all away from the administrator and run in a different direction 🙂

    1. I am a Spanish teacher, but I agree with you. Our school started phasing out German five or six years ago and now students have no options, just Spanish. I don’t like it; quite a few of my students have German or Swiss ancestry and would prefer to learn German.

      Choice in languages is a good thing; sounds to me as though it is more a matter of economics or ease of facilitation to kill off German and French. But the push now is for Mandarin Chinese, at least here in Indiana. That is seen as the “power language” of the future. And perhaps it is.

      1. Robert Harrell

        I am sure, lori, that it is a matter of economics or “ease of facilitation” (read: laziness on the part of administrators) or both. What upsets me, though, is when I hear administrators herald the message: “We make decisions based on what is best for our students” and then see them make decisions based on their own convenience or “ease of facilitation” or economics. Can’t we at least be honest with ourselves and our constituents?

        I see the same thing going on here in California with Mandarin. Instead of adding the language to the classes being offered and giving students greater choice, many schools are killing (not allowing to die, but killing*) their German, French, Italian and other programs in order to bring in Mandarin. That’s because the Chinese government is currently underwriting the costs, at least of the teachers. I wonder, what will happen to those programs when the funds are no longer so readily available?

        *One high school not too far from here had a full German program with lots of students signed up, enough for one full-time and one part-time instructor. Their French program was even bigger with two full-time French teachers. Last year the principal arbitrarily announced that there would be no first-year classes in either language; they will be phasing out the programs. The school has already lost some very talented teachers because of this.

    2. Your Factory Line analogy make a whole lot of sense to me.

      I do relish the rhetorical move of encouraging Spanish as a part of the Elementary Core. As Ben says, I can applaud my colleague for her foresight in wanting to get Spanish started so early. In the same turn, I could proceed to recommend a certain approach/set of approaches which has had excellent success with elementary kids all over the country, and have Carol Gaab’s elementary curriculum handy for perusal….

      The thought of Spanish in the Core, to the likely exclusion of all other languages, would not make me as upset if this were a CI department. I could console myself knowing that the students would leave the program competent and fairly to very confident in Spanish, ready for the future. But this department is so far from that. So many more kids would leave demoralized and thinking that they aren’t smart enough to learn a language–

      1. When NJ mandated but did not fund l2 in K-12, Spanish, although not stipulated as the language of choice, became the language of choice. There were not enough certified language teachers available and stories abound of Muzzy, Destinos, French in Action, and emergency certified non-l2 speakers. Many kids ended up hating Spanish by the time they got to 9th grade and opted to switch languages. Sad, I think, but it speaks to your point about CI in lower grades. It’s amazing that in addition to educating our kids that we have to spend almost more time on the suits!

  18. Sorry for various typos in the above posts. Sometimes autocorrect doesn’t really correct but actually makes things wrong. German has a wonderful word for this phenomenon: verschlimmbessern – to make worse by trying to make better.

  19. Thank you for posting this, Ben, and the thoughtful responses already from Ben and Robert.
    I was wiped and collapsed right after getting home Tuesday evening and missed the opening salvo. Happily, I have a good deal of time for processing this in-school today. [There are all kinds of perks to being a travelling teacher – I can go make an appearance at Field Day in the middle schools, acknowledge all my students, and then sneak off back to the high school to work.]

    1. Andrew: Looks like you are well armed with really great advice. I agree with Ben on the jargon – they gobble that stuff up – like brain based. Here’s a link to an article by Carol Gaab. This article should re-enforce everything that has already been said. My principal loved the emphasis on reading as a way to possibly help strengthen the reading scores in L1.
      You will do a great job!

  20. Dear Andrew,

    First, we all have great confidence in you and your ability to express a very clear view of what will ultimately be the best program for your students, and therefore, your district.

    Second, a district that offers only Spanish is like a district that only offers Biology. Offering other languages provides an automatic level of differentiation (jargon, use it) and depth of understanding (a key Common Core concept). In this day and age, a district must remain competitive in order to survive. A district that offers more than one language is the district that will exist in 10 years….and have taxpayers living in it to ensure that.

    Third, using a computer to teach a language is a marketing concept only. Point out that Rosetta Stone does not allot college credit, nor do colleges award credit to high schoolers who have put X numbers of hours into it. Implementing a more “college-like” online course would require money invested in programs that your district does not currently own. And learning a language online is about as effective to the average student as learning to drive online. You may get lots of “practice”, but what good is it in a real situation??!!

    There are many many teachers who can show that their numbers have increased substantially via CI. I’d give you ours, but we’re Spanish :o).

    Ok…it’s getting late and finals await!

    Sending love and prayers!!

  21. Elizabeth Friedle

    First off as a newbie CI’er I’d like to say a thank you for this community. As Andrew’s colleague I thank you for the vast amount of “ammo” and resources for Andrew and I to bring to a meeting with the administration.

    As Andrew stated one of the complications in the matter is that the district suggested in January to eliminate the French and German program and offer some sort of ambiguous “online alternative”. (This has nothing to do with lack of enrollment and our numbers keep growing…It is purely them buying into the marketing.) Officially, the vote never got to the full board as we had students come and speak up against the elimination. We were to find out our teaching assignments June 1st but now will not know until the 12th. Today, we received word that our meeting would have to be rescheduled until after staffing is finalized…

    Hopefully Andrew and I will get positive news on the 12th and will still have the opportunity to have this conversation with our Admin.


  22. Thank you very much for this information. Two people in this situation is better than one. It’s the elimination of the two languages due to “marketing” pressure – which I agree is the right word Elizabeth – that is the deal here.

    So now with more time to prepare you can focus on that part of the argument. A year ago in May I was in a department meeting where the narcissistic principal, also having bought into marketing about Chinese, mainly from rich parents in the school, walked into the meeting, sat down, and announced that Japanese (four classes taught by a single mother with a newborn) was out for the next year and Chinese was in.

    Fifteen minutes later, he left with no such deal. The department turned on him and, using kind words, blasted him and he backed down. That is one response style – attack mode.

    OK well just stay in touch as this develops. It is going to take more than a few kids to stop this, is my opinion. But the person wanting this change can only have one thing thrown at him/her: HEAT. Something that has the potential to make him/her look bad.

    Andrew or someone touched on this yesterday and it is key. This person is a chamelion. If Chinese is wanted by the parents, and he can deliver the product by rolling over a few French and German teachers, he will do it, bc he/she lives above all for APPROVAL.

    If, on the other hand, this person would be made to look bad in the process of trying to make this happen, since that person’s goal is APPROVAL, then the change won’t happen.

    You work directly on the person and weather they will get or lose points and job security. That is what this is all about – it has nothing to do with Chinese being brought in. The person does not CARE. It is about the person and how they look. Make them look good and they will agree with your demands.

  23. For what it’s worth, Andrew, our German program was shut down a few years ago due to low enrollment. A parent, with a son in the German program, was very unhappy with that decision. His son had been handled with kidd gloves during his time in a very traditional German class- lots of English grammar explanations, projects, retests, open note tests-
    The whole nine yards. The father raised a fuss, demanded re-establishment of German and donated five scholarships to the school – $75,000 – to make it happen! The headmaster, who cancelled the program in the first place, got busy recruiting potential German students as he ran the check to the bank. Sometimes parental “pressure”and student pressure helps. Politics, who you know and what you know often come in to play with these decisions. Lets hope that your well-researched and reasoned approach wins the day. My money is on you and Elizabeth!

  24. A quick update: Elizabeth and I both have jobs. She and I will doing our best to up enrollment so that the following year will bring two full German positions in the district.

    At the moment, it looks as if a Spanish colleague who just got her French cert will have French 1 and French 2 and take on any others as independent studies of some sort. This is not in-stone, but will likely be the scenario, since this allows them to pack some other Spanish classes fuller.

    We have the following scenario makeup [just for anyone who cares or is curious about how these numbers work.]:
    German 1 @ 2 middle schools @ 18-20 students each = 40 students in 8th grade.
    German 1 @ 1 HS class @ 14 students [“who requested it as first choice”] = 14
    German 2 @ 2 HS classes @ total of 47 students “first choice”
    German 3 @ 35 “first choice” requests
    German 4 @ 12 “first choice” requests

    They decided to do the following: 1 class of German 3 and 1 class of German 3/4.

    Elizabeth and I are going to try to tackle this 3 and 3/4 issue with a cycling curriculum, A/B type of thing, I think Robert does this too? Vienna/Munich as center-points?

    There has been no meeting and no hint from our CRT that she’s received any communications.

    I am still working to be ready for the “What is CI?” question. Given the lack of communication we’ve had in our district, I’m not sure when/if this meeting will happen, but I have to assume that things will come to a head at some point, and Elizabeth and I need to be ready and crisp and clear in what we say.

    1. Yes, I do an alternating curriculum for 3-4-AP, just with slightly larger numbers. Next year, though, I will have separate level 3 and 4-AP classes. I’m happy to discuss what I do.

      The A year we do Vienna – Poesie – Märchen
      I use the second-to-last chapter of Sabine und Michael to help introduce the city, and I have various materials I have prepared to set up a “virtual move” to the city. During the second semester when we do poetry, students write a “poetry book” using highly scaffolded templates for poems. One day we have a “Vienna Coffeehouse” where we sit around drinking tea or coffee or hot chocolate and eating pastry (I get Apfelstrudel from Costco), then students stand to read one of their poems. It’s a great setting for students to do an oral presentation – very low affective filters.

      The B year we do Berlin – Middle Ages
      Berlin provides an opportunity to look at the modern Germany, Reunification, Cold War and Inter-war years. We read Emil und die Detektive, among other things. For the Middle Ages I have developed my own semester plan, based around my book Ritter von heute.

      I chose not to do Munich because we cover the city with Sabine und Michael.

      1. Robert, sometime I really want to talk with you, since I’m leaping into your idea. Someone else is too. We thought we were going to catch up with you at iFLT, but I gather you’re going on some sort of wonderful trip which will interfere with those of us who want to pick…no, clean out, your brain.

        Could you be a little more specific about the “various materials” to set up a virtual move to a city? I have been thinking that first kids would read about hostels, then room rentals, then jobs, and after that (and after having reported or argued about which ones are better or worse, or maybe having written e-mails to their teacher about their success as opposed to the reality) they would start checking out reviews of restaurants and clubs and dry-cleaning establishments and so on. I’m not really sure what to have them read as an entry into the city, but I have friends I can ask.

        1. previet, Michele. Yes, I’m off to strange lands. Right now I’m at the TPRS conference in Punta Cana. Each morning I’m taking Russian so I can be a student again. During iFLT I will be in Spain, visiting the site of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on the 800th anniversary of the battle. This is considered the key turning point of the reconquest of Spain because the moors never again posed a serious threat to the re-taking of the peninsula.

          One of the things I do for the set-up is create a “passport*” for each student. I created a template that I use. Students fill in the blanks, and I take their picture to past or staple into the booklet. Information does not have to be true. Then I stamp the entry and exit visa spaces when we start the year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and at the end of the semester. By the end they will have about six stamps in their “passports”.

          Last year I added another aspect of role-playing to the project. Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons? Using the same idea, I had students roll dice and create older versions of themselves. They were all graduate students enrolled at the University of Vienna and working for the UN at UNO-City in Vienna. The dice rolls determined the following:
          Major at the university
          Number of classes per week
          Job at UNO-City
          Number of work hours per week
          With that information they determined what kinds of things they would do based on amount of free time and funds available. Most formed groups to share an apartment and then traveled together. They had to take a couple of trips during the year – most went to Oktoberfest because it wasn’t that far away – and report later about it. Each week when we talked about plans for the weekend or what they had done on the previous weekend, students had to talk about their activities as if they were in Vienna.

          Students had to look up prices for hotels/hostels to stay in upon arrival and apartments for long-term living. One group wound up camping while another stayed in a luxury hotel. (Difference in money available.) They also checked out restaurants, and we talked about typical Viennese foods. A couple of supermarket chains have websites, so we compared prices and offers between the US and Vienna. Students had to visit some of the big tourist attractions in the city but also decided what they would do in their free time during a normal week – lots of skateboarding, bicycle riding, going to cafes, playing sports, going to Danube Island for swimming, etc. We talked about where they could do that. We also looked at the layout of the city. Next time I might have them look at the Austrian soccer league. I didn’t do anything with laundry or dry cleaning, but that would be a good thing to do – do they have laundromats? What does it cost to do wash?

          My idea was to have students be old enough to go and do things on their own, have them be self-sufficient (jobs), but at the same time have some responsibilities (jobs, classes) so they had to figure out how to manage their time. I also wanted them to imagine what they would talk about as older versions of themselves – school dances became club nights, school sports became club sports, concerts took place in Vienna, etc.

          At the start of the project we read and discussed a vignette from Michael Miller’s Sabine und Michael in which Michael goes to Vienna and has a nightmare experience. I also showed slides of Vienna that I have taken. Students learned their way around the city. We explored the transportation system and did an activity in which students looked up what films are playing in Vienna and where they are playing, then made a “date” (not necessarily romantic) with another student to see the film

          We also read a short story about a robbery in the Art History Museum that I adapted and translated from a story created by the COACH group I work with. After we read the story we looked at articles about a real theft that took place in 2003 and discussed similarities and differences.

          A lot of what we were doing involved output, but by level 3-4 students are ready for it. I structured the assignments so that students could do a lot or a little output and graded on what I knew about their ability.

          The “culminating event” was a presentation about what they had done during their year in Vienna. It was a group project, which allowed students to take roles that supported their abilities. As part of the evaluation, each member of the group had to sign a statement about whether each member of the group shared fairly (not equally) in the work. The presentations were very creative, and we enjoyed them a lot. The language was also good. I believe I mentioned in another post that one group had some grammar errors on their PowerPoint slides, but when I engaged them in a conversation about their trip, they corrected all of the errors in their spontaneous speech. Another group had a member who works late at night and has a hard time staying awake in class. We of course give him a bad time and do things to help him stay awake. In the presentation he kept falling asleep and having things happen to him, like waking up at the end of the streetcar line and not knowing where he was.

          Second semester we continued with the Vienna idea but shifted focus from the city to literature. We looked at German poetry of various sorts, then did the project that finished with a “Viennese Coffee House”.

          *I use card stock for the outside of the “passport” and regular paper for the inside. The cover has the Great Seal of the United States and looks like a real passport. The inside is designed to look like a passport as well (though I think I need to update this – just got a new passport). For anyone who doesn’t know it, all publications by an agency of the federal government are public domain. You do not need permission to reproduce them – 0f course, you can be prosecuted for using them for fraud or other illegal activities, but we aren’t doing that. NASA photos are also public domain.

          I hope this answers some of your questions. My intention is to get all of this collected and publish a how-to manual. The basic idea is the same, no matter where you go, but it would be great to have materials and guidelines for specific cities from various target cultures.

          One of these days I ought to get to NTPRS – and I definitely want to make it to the next iFLT in 2014. Unfortunately, you can’t do everything. I would be glad to tell you more about the virtual move project, though.

          1. Robert, you are a lifesaver! This is very helpful. I am going to start working on the passports, and then get to the specifics of the dice, so that I’m not flailing right away. I will have the kids enrolled at MGU, and probably get them to be interns at the Embassy or someplace like that.

            Thank you very much for taking time out of the lovely day there to help out.

            Hmmm…maybe some of your Russian class that isn’t going to iFLT or NTPRS would be willing to Skype for about an hour with me when it’s cloudy or they have sunburns and want to be inside. Or maybe not.

            I guess I should shout out to this group: would anyone be willing to listen to a “first draft” presentation on Scaffolding Literacy, with a little lesson in Russian??

          2. Oh…and Robert, if you have more details coming, I would love to hear them, though at this point I am concerned about the nuts and bolts of the passport and dice, and am awed enough by the rest of the ideas that I don’t have questions yet. I’m really excited about this. Your explanation makes it a whole lot more clear and manageable.

          3. Thank you Robert!!! And thank you Michele for remembering to ask for details on this! I am one of the “someone else’s” that wanted this info, since I told my class we were going to do this (haha, without knowing any details).

            I have not yet hit the one-week mark of vacation, so am still picking up pieces and would definitely have forgotten to ask about this until Breckenridge! Michele, maybe we can do some brainstorming and fine-tuning of this idea?

            Thanks again! Robert, enjoy your travels 🙂

  25. A CI teacher in LA has 9 classes and 240 students, if it makes anyone feel any better.

    I have no issues with the combined 3/4 class. It doesn’t matter as long as they are getting lots of CI and one group, bc of its prediliction for one way of learning, doesn’t jam the other.

    Keep us up from time to time on this. You may be in the middle of a positive change that you are not fully aware of. The more happy customers you have, the less heat you are going to get from the CRT, right?

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