The tidal waves of change away from grammar and book based instruction are no longer coming, they are here. We in TPRS can take a deep breath. Each state is in a slightly different place on this, of course, but CA and CO are certainly on board with ACTFL – it is a legal thing now that grammar is not required to be taught in Colorado foreign language classes. To repeat, there is nothing in the law that says that we have to teach grammar.
A miracle has happened. The moment my state adopted its new standards, since none even mentions the word grammar, I was no longer required to teach grammar (I mean the old kind of grammar – you know what I mean) anymore. In fact, if I am aligned with the standards, I’m really not supposed to do that kind of fill in the blank work and those funky six part verb conjugation charts.
It’s over. It’s inked. That grammar stuff is no longer part of the curriculum (it hasn’t been in the ACTFL standards – at the national level – since 1983). Now, hopefully, it doesn’t take ten years for teachers to figure that out. I hope some teachers don’t do like those elephants in India who, staked to a rope around one of their legs since childhood, never walk away from the stake, even though the rope may have been removed for years.
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
6 thoughts on “It's Over”
That’s awesome, Ben! Congrats.
Stephen there is a blog category here called “Georgia Foreign Language Tenets” that you may want to read. I don’t think your state has moved as some of the other states have, although the documents I read and commented on here about Georgia may be outdated now. I hope they are.
In Oregon as well the latest standards are taken from the standards of another state and reference ACTFL in the titles of the different benchmark levels. There is not a single mention of verb tenses or grammar at each level. So why do people in my building still want to talk about “scope and sequence” in Spanish?????
ok that’s three states I am certain of … the answer to the very reasonable question is who knows?
I would add that here in Denver we are only talking about grade level expectations and evidence outcomes that we would associate with novice low, novice mid, novice high, intermediate low, and intermediate mid (we don’t think we can go any higher than intermediate mid in a four year high school program, even with TPRS, and intermediate low may be a more realistic outcomes goal for a four year program). So Dirk you’re point is extremely well taken. Either we are doing curriculum design that reflects ACTFL terms or we are doing design around something else. The commonality of language, as this thing changes, is going to have to change with it. What does scope and sequence mean, really? What states are going to do the right thing and align with the standard ACTFL terminology as expressed in the new state documents? For us here, it’s ACTFL. No district badge can now in good conscience bend the ACTFL terms into a curriculum design that is also used in math and science and other areas – some one size fits all format. They are going to have to think outside of their design boxes now, for real, or they will never align with the coming language and thus be in a strange position legally. My old county, Jefferson County, CO, just spent four years painstakingly designing curriculm pacing guides that were also used in other areas like math, and they tell which verbs, which book content, which form of pronouns and adjectives, are to be learned at which week in the year. They were all excited about it, because if a kid transferred from one school to another,they would be on the same page. Nothing in this already failed document (now that CO has chosen the ACTFL terms) represents much of a change from the book. Most teachers are book teachers out there in that district, and it is sad to see them oblivious to what is happening. They make it so hard on the kids (this is the district with that one high school with an 89% drop rate after two years), with all the writing and mechanical manipulation of language, and they are so far from the state standards and new terms that it is a joke, really, but not a funny one because it involves kids’ self esteem, self perception, sense of success at a time in life when those things are not the highest. It will be interesting to see if the various counties and states, once they see the writing not just on the wall but in legal documents, respond with heart, or whether they continue to resist the changes. Change for a district like Jeffco is going to be really painful, since the new pacing guides were supposed to kick ass and now they have to align with a completely new set of terms, novice low, etc. They may just stay with old terms like scope and sequence and curriculum mapping and pacing guides and levels 1 through 4 and all of that. I would invite anyone who may be reading this who does curriculum design in foreign languages at the district level to comment on this. Robert implied that the people who are still in charge, but don’t get any of the true size and importance of these changes, those who won’t read the newly arriving state standards with a clear mind and open heart, must not be allowed to keep their book/grammar thing going. But, if they refuse to accept the new documents at the state level, really, what will happen? Nothing, as in the past? I personally have no idea. I really don’t care that much and just want to study TPRS, but, as Robert said, I have to. We have to, y’all. We have to continue pressing for the elimination of even the concept of levels 1 – 4, in favor of describing a child in terms of where they actually are on the ACTFL levels. We have to do things like that. Most people are going to say, “What the hell do you mean no levels 1 – 4?” Fun.
If you look at the ACTFL performance guidelines page – I simply googled “actfl performance guidelines”, they give three benchmarks:
* Novice Learner (K-4, 5-8, 9-10)
* Intermediate Learner (K-8, 7-12)
* Pre-Advanced Learner (K-12)
From that I see that, at the high school level, ACTFL figures students should complete the Novice Stage in two years. They will be good at formulaic language, copying and imitating, short sentence, false starts, limited practical communication of needs. (I have the ACTFL poster up on my wall.)
ACTFL figures on 6 (six) years to complete the Intermediate Stage. Bummer! I only have them for four years. Yep, Ben, I’d better figure on Intermediate Low for a four-year sequence. Sentences and strings of sentences on familiar, personal topics in present time, recombining learned (acquired) vocabulary and structures, false starts and pauses, good command of present time, some command of other tenses.
Both ACTFL and the State of California figure on 13 years in the school system for someone to fulfill the Pre-Advanced qualifications.
What I need to remember is that someone who meets all of the Novice requirements and some of the Intermediate requirements isn’t really Intermediate; he is Novice Plus.
My district is still trying to figure this out. We are in a very awkward phase right now, and I really wish we had someone like Diana to say, “This is the new reality.” I have gotten highly involved in the discussion because I saw an opportunity to help my district along the right path. Jason Fritze encouraged me a lot; after all, if we who understand what the sea change is don’t help formulate policy and procedure, someone with antiquated ideas will – to the detriment of our students. I am by no means an expert at TPRS or curriculum design or second language acquisition theory, but the success of my German program has given me a voice at the district level and I intend to use it for good. I would encourage other TPRS teachers who can do so to get involved in district consults, planning, etc. Our involvement can make a world of difference to students for generations to come.