jGR Has Warts

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53 thoughts on “jGR Has Warts”

  1. Funny how I would be cautious for this but basically for NOTHING else.

    Things on the curriculum front so far are going okay. Went to a workshop put on by the Ohio Dept of Ed on the new standards. I’m feeling pretty good about them. And the HS teachers actually recognize a shift, but unfortunately they have an output philosophy. But our cowboy friend, Ryan Wertz, from the ODE said at this workshop that the standards are structured and put in a certain order on purpose. He said we need to follow the order of acquisition which starts with interpretive first. HE said that presentational communication is last in the order in the standards for a reason and there are less “statements” under presentational, on purpose. He is stressing that teachers stop focusing on grammar, start using TL at least 90%, and start assessing based on the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. He also is a big fan of Linguafolio so I need to familiarize myself with that. Now in Ohio, thanks to our legislature, 50% of our evaluations are based on student performance. He said that the ODE will NOT be putting out anything for this because it is up to districts to decide how to do this because Ohio is a state that focuses on local control, I guess. He said that he highly recommends Linguafolio for this purpose, though. I’m on our district’s committee to “create” the new teacher evaluations so I definitely need to figure this out ASAP.

    Another “update” on the curriculum matter, I think it’s going to be a productive process, all of us Spanish teachers meeting monthly to work on a curriculum. One of the HS teachers (who is kind of the vocal leader of the bunch) asked me if I had any high-frequency lists. I did 🙂 . She also mentioned that I help renew her enthusiasm for teaching 🙂 . She also thinks that we should disregard the textbook and basically build the curriculum from the ground up, I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, like 99% of FL teachers, it seems as if they want to come up with “themes”. Maybe I should forward my email exchanges I’ve been having with her to Ben? They’ve overall been positive and he can let me know if I”m doing a good job in making my points.

    1. Thanks for that update Chris. Funny thing is I almost went to that meeting but changed my plan at the last minute so it is good to know what Ryan said. I wonder how Ohio teachers will react to the 90%. It used to make me shake in my boots because I couldn’t figure out how to make it comprehensible. Now I am getting closer and closer every day. I haven’t been that impressed with Linguafolio partly because it just looks like a lot more record keeping but if you find out more info, please pass it on.

      Here is a funny story. I have been in a FLAP group for Chinese teachers for the past two years (until it got cut by Congress) and one of our professors/trainers asked me to tutor her and her husband in Chinese. We meet once or twice a week. When I first came back from iFLT, I told her that I was switching to TPRS. At first she was skeptical about “that story thing” but then asked to try it. Last night she actually asked if we could do a story and was so gleeful by the end about what she had learned. At the same time, they are taking a continuing ed class at U of Akron and spent two whole classes on pronouncing the mind- numbing pinyin chart then two more classes repeating the names of provinces in China and hearing about them in English until the students revolted this week. The teacher just arrived from China so it is all about memorizing lists of related vocab. This just adds to the appeal of our little sets of terms and then stories by the time they see me. I laugh the whole way home after every class.

      1. There is a guy in China who serenaded me with all kinds of messages about how he wanted to learn TPRS and bring it over there and this and that. Turns out he runs a company that hires teachers in China to teach in the United States. He was looking for help in building his business. His name if Rocky Dail. So if he contacts any of you Chinese teachers, be forewarned.

        1. That’s weird. I wonder how he gets them here. All the teachers that I have met here that are visiting from China came through the Chinese government programs. The one I mentioned above came through the Confucius Institute at the U of Akron.

          There is also a program run by the Hanban, the part of the Chinese Ministry of Ed that promotes the study of Chinese. That program works with the College Board. Originally, it was meant to help schools start Chinese programs. Most schools used it for a few years then realized that they needed to transition to licensed Chinese teachers with training. The program was helpful at first when there was a Chinese teacher shortage but now there are local Chinese teachers who are trained and licensed and can’t find jobs because of layoffs and program closures.

          1. I don’t know what his deal is but it felt like he was into contacting people here to help him get a business going there. It is possible he would use TPRS as a carrot to bring people into a business relationship with him. I felt used in that he came off as this person who really wanted to learn about CI based instruction and it turns out it is a business thing. So that is why I brought it up here as a caution. Another reason why it is best to have this group private.

    2. I suggest that you take names out and copy and paste a few of them here as comments to keep this thread going. Then the group can respond. I trust the view of the group a lot more than my own. I have an uneasy feeling about the creation of the teacher evals. That is just weird. You are going to be in a very uncomfortable and complex sea of words and ideas that will largely be influenced by old thinking. I will ask Diana about this. Maybe we have something that isn’t proprietary in DPS that we could share with you. Lord knows we have done enough of this kind of document creation here in the past few years. But if it belongs to the district we can’t share it. I wish I could put out our yearly pre and post tests. Such work in them!

      1. So far, I’m the only teacher in the district on the teacher evaluation committee. I will send you an email to fully explain the concept to you and to let you know how the initial meeting yesterday went.

        Here is the series of emails between one of the HS teachers and me, I would say that she is probably the main leader in the dept at the high school:

        From me to her (IT IS LONG:

        It was nice hanging out at the Standards workshop. I forgot to mention this to you at the workshop. I think that there should be a lot of emphasis on reading at all levels, in my opinion especially in the lower levels, and we already talked about how there’s a ton of reading in AP. In order to get kids ready for AP, they should probably be doing a whole lot of it from the ver beginning, and there’s a lot of research out there that say the same. And now with the Common Core Literacy Standards, it will be an even bigger part of what we do. I have a huge library of level 1 novels, most of which are really good. I have a set of novels on the way called Tumba and I can’t wait until they come in! As soon as they arrive, I’ll be starting it. It has a heavy focus on some of the vocabulary in the first few chapters in level one and it’s based on Day of the Dead. Here’s the descripton of Tumba: “Want your beginning students to read in Spanish and stick to the thematic curriculum of “Qué te gusta hacer”, “Cómo eres” and “La escuela”? Lacking material in Spanish that is comprehensible about the Day of the Dead? Tumba combines both goals. This new reader is perfect for Spanish 1 at the end of October.” I will also say that the novel Esperanzab is fantastic and perfectly correlates with the movie El Norte, which I have a condensed, classroom-friendly version of. I’m attaching some samples of different level 1, 2 and 3 novels, along with a couple samples of teacher’s guides samples. I do have a couple of level 2 and 3 novels if you’d ever want to take a deeper look at them, or if you ever want to see the level one novels I have let me know. All of these novels that I’m attaching include different cultural elements as well. While the Blaine Ray novels like Pobre Ana, Patricia va a California, etc. are great for level appropriate vocabulary, the storylines are horribly boring and dry. These novels I’m attaching are great. Starting in November/December I’m going to start each class (or at least 3 days a week) with SSR, about 10 minutes.

        I’m a huge proponent and believer in doing a lot of reading in world language classes. The vocabulary and grammar gains as well as cultural and geographical knowledge that can come from reading novels is wonderful. The attached file is pretty big but it includes samples of a bunch of different novels, most of which I have if you ever want to see them.

        From her to me:
        Hi Chris! Nice to see you too. You are great for renewing my enthusiasm for teaching! I feel like I’ve been on auto pilot the past 3 years…

        I absolutely agree about reading at all levels and I would love to take a look at the novels for level 2 and 3. I may also look into Tumba to use this year with Spanish II since they didn’t get it with you.

        Let’s add reading to the list of things to discuss and add to our exciting new curriculum. Another important thing to discuss is reading and extracting meaning from informational texts- that’s the new push for AP beginning next year and in the common core- informational texts vs. literature (probably goes along with 21st century skills, right?)

        I’m composing an email all the HS people (not just Spanish) summarizing last night. I’ll include you and (other middle school teacher) just to keep us all on the same page, even though I’m sure you’ll fill her in too. I was going to highlight the useability of the new standards, the suggested uses of Linuguafolio…what else should I mention?

        Do you have lists of the top vocab words that you mentioned in your last email or links to a good website for that? Perhaps we should ask people to look at that before our meeting on the 16th?

        From me to her:
        The author of Tumba says that Tumba is perfect for Spanish 1 in October AND thoroughly enjoyable for Level 2 due to its readability. So I would highly encourage any level 2 teacher to use it if level 1 students haven’t had it. SLA theory says that we acquire language when we understand messages, so level 2 students would still be acquiring language because they would be comprehending what they are reading (and I”m sure there would still be some new words for them).

        Thank you for saying that I help renew your enthusiasm, I take that as the highest of compliments that I could get.

        I love the prospect of adding reading (hopefully a lot of it!) to our curriculum. I’ve read that some experts say that 50% of our class time should be dedicated to reading. That might be a little excessive, but maybe not, we’d have to find out, I guess. I do about 2 days a week of reading, we read and discuss everything we read and I compare the reading to the students to personalize it a little bit.

        As far as what else to include, hmmmm…
        • I think it’s definitely worth looking at Linguafolio and the CAP test that he mentioned. If we’re going to be evaluated on student performance, we need to find something that not only works best for our students, but is also manageable for us. We don’t want to hang ourselves by pushing for the “wrong” type of assessment tool.
        • I think it’s important to become fully familiar with the ACTFL proficiency guidelines (http://actflproficiencyguidelines2012.org/), the website fully explains what is expected at each proficiency level.
        • We also need to cue everybody in on the target proficiency levels for each year of study, but we need to stress that he said that these shouldn’t be used for evaluation of us, they’re just targets for us to try to reach. I”m attaching another document I’ve found of a chart of target proficiency level by year of study, it gives a percentage of how many students should be at what level by the end of x amount of years of study.
        • The process and content standards go in a progressive sequence overtime, they’re ordered in cognitive demand. And students progress at different levels and speeds
        • He mentioned the order of acquisition and how the 3 modes of communication in the standards purposefully go in a specific order:
        o Interpretive – First we understand
        o Interpersonal – after we get enough input, we can start talking back and forth a little bit
        o Presentational – only after we’ve gotten enough input and we feel comfortable, we’re ready for this
        • This is my personal philosophy but, I think in level 1 classes the 1st semester (1st 2 nine weeks) should primarily be focused on listening and reading and then include more writing and speaking in the 2nd semester, when they’re ready, when they’ve gotten enough input.
        • He stressed “intercultural competence”. I must embarrassingly admit, culture is my weakness. I think it would be nice to have in our curriculum some important cultural points to teach.
        • Elements of the Common Core were embedded into the process and content statements in the standards. We want students to develop oracy AND literacy in the TL.
        • That’s all I can think of for now
        I’m attaching a few documents of the most common, high-frequency words in Spanish. A lot of curriculums around the country are starting to focus on high frequency vocabulary. I will also send you studies on high frequency words.

        I’m also attaching some novels. I’m attaching:
        • La Guerra Sucia and Vida y Muerte en Mara Salvatrucha, both level 3 novels
        • Pobre Ana, Patricia va a California, Casi se Muere – three of the four level 1 readers by Blaine Ray (good but not as exciting as the sample novels I emailed you last night)
        • Pobre Ana bailo tango – the first in the series of level 2 novels
        • The 21st Century skills map: http://actfl21stcenturyskillsmap.wikispaces.com/file/view/ACTFL+2011+P-21+worldlanguages+skills+map.pdf/218699040/ACTFL%202011%20P-21%20worldlanguages%20skills%20map.pdf
        • Proficiency by years langauge hours – A study in N. Carolina on proficiency levels by language, by years of study. I would just scroll down to the table on our language. No need to read the entire thing……..boring
        • The ACTFL proficiency levels
        • A sample document of Expectation in Level 1 – I must say that I love this document
        • Some LInguafolio stuff — A LOT to digest, but we kind of have to, don’t we? It’s what ODE wants.

        Another from me to her:
        I’m sending another document your way! This is a list of all of the vocabulary from the novels Pobre Ana, Patricia va a California, Casi se muere and Viaje de su vida. It is ALL of the vocabulary from those four novels categorized according to standard Spanish I and II vocabulary units. Since those novels use common, high frequency vocabulary it may be worth discussing. I will add that although these are all level one novels, I think most people who use these novels use Pobre Ana and Patricia in Level One and Casi se muere and Viaje de su Vida in Level Two, simply based on time in the school year. Now, there are 1300 something phrases on this list, equalling to a couple thousand words. Way too much vocabulary for a year, heck even for two years it’s way too much, especially if we’re teaching for mastery and proficiency. But I think the goal for most of that vocabulary is comprehension, for students to be able to recognize the vocab after 1 or 2 years of study. The more frequent phrases and words on the list are probably what are expected for production, but definitely not all of it, way too much.

        But this list might be a good launching pad or discussion.

        From her to me:
        Wow! Thanks!

        I feel like one of our first steps needs to be getting an agreed-upon structure and map for our levels of Spanish. That’s why I thought that compiling a list for each level would be helpful. Along with that, I think we are going to have to agree upon themes (family, school, study abroad) and grammar topics (GASP!) that we will cover at each level. The challenge is that some people use stories and some do not. Also, (two of the HS teachers) use Pobre Ana in level II. I’m teaching II for the first time in a long time this year, so I’d be open to it as well. We’ve got some discussing to do.

        I was thinking that we may want to come up with the list of agreed upon themes for each level and use that to organize our vocab? People could teach the themes and vocab however they wanted- would you be able to fit the stories you teach into something like that?

        From me to her:
        I agree about an agreed upon vocabulary list (with some flexibility). I don’t think it should be completely set in stone and there should be a little bit of “wiggle room” for a few reasons:
        • There will be vocabulary and themes that some of us may not think is as important to include, and others might
        • Individual teachers may want to add certain themes and vocabulary that they personally find to be worthwhile
        • Curriculum Theory says that curriculum is all about “what knowledge is of most worth” – the most important goals and objectives. This is where I think the high-frequency lists and ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines will swoop down and save the department potential disagreements
        • As professionals, we should have some freedom to make our own professional judgements about what to include and exclude, but not to the detriment of students moving on from level to level. There needs to be some common ground, but I think there also needs to be some freedom; all students learn differently, individual students will more quickly acquire what they find to be of most importance and relevance; and every class has their own dynamic and “thing”, so each class will naturally learn different things, regardless of how strict we stick to a set curriculum. That said, all students do need to go into each level with some commonality and I think the proficiency levels will help with that
        • I’m not anti-grammar, and I”ve been teaching the heck out of grammar these past few weeks, just differently. Actually, TPRS is very grammar driven. The Look I Can Talk series is completely grammar driven, just different. For me, it’s all about context and having students acquire grammar like natives do, being able to use correct grammar because “it just sounds right”. Most natives, except for the educated ones who have gone to college, can’t really tell you why they say certain things they way they do, “it just sounds right”. I have a lot of friends from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico and they can’t really explain any grammar rules to me if I ask, but they use everything correctly. I try to teach grammar as meaning, rather than going through all of the rules that most of the kids could care less about, although I do eventually get to that, after I feel it’s been somewhat acquired; but I feel it is superior to teach grammar as meaning. For example, instead of saying “hablar” is the infinitive form meaning “to speak”, I’ve just been telling my students that the “r” at the end means “to”, the “s” means we’re talking to YOU, etc.
        • Another thing with grammar, we should discuss the tenses in each level. Recent studies have been showing how beneficial it is to be naturally using preterit, imperfect and present all in level one, as soon as possible. I was using all three tenses in my Spanish 1 classes this year on the 2nd week of school. My students already easily recognize era, es, esta (I don’t know how to do accents without copy-pasting from Microsoft Word), estaba, va, fue, tiene, tenia, quiere, queria, etc… I’m not assessing them on past tense, just present tense, but I want them to be seeing it and becoming familiar with it. Plus, a lot of those past tense forms are very high-frequency (in the top 100). And a study has been done, showing the effects of teaching with past and present from the beginning, I”m attaching it.
        • I have to admit, I’m not a big “theme” person, but I understand that most language departments are. My big thing is just making sure I”m providing compelling, comprehensible input to my students so that they’re focusing on the message, not on the language, and that’s when language acquisition happens. The goal of teaching for acquisition is to provide input that is genuinely interesting, so interesting that students, in a sense, “forget” that it is in another language, or “compelling”. This has happened a few times so far this year and it’s an awesome feeling. I feel that language growth is kind of an organic, free-flowing process that just happens (very hippie sounding, I know) and that the necessary, high-frequency vocabulary will eventually just happen, that’s why it is high-frequency afterall.
        • That being said, I understand that thematic vocabulary and units are the norm and I will make sure that my students get what is agreed upon. But hopefully we’ll all be able to agree that we all will probably do that in different ways. Thankfully, all of the readers and novels that are out there have all of that thematic vocabulary! And that’s how I would prefer to teach those themes in my class, through the novels, that way all of my other lessons can be focused on more personalized-to-the-class things. All of these available novels are wonderful and may be the solution to any bumps in the road when we go through this curriculum-building process.
        • It sounds like we’ll have to discuss these novels and the levels in which they’ll be taught. I’ve been using Pobre Ana in level 1, not knowing it was being used in level 2. We’ll have to discuss this at our meeting. There are a lot of really good novels for each level. Level 2 has some awesome novels, I attached some in the email last night. And there are some level 2 Blaine Ray novels as well, although not as interesting as the ones I sent last night. Pobre Ana is a horribly boring story, but the educational value it brings to level 1 students is tremendous. But there are other awesome level 1 novels as well. I didn’t know Pobre Ana was being used in level 2 since it’s a level 1 book.
        • Like I said, although I’m not a theme person, the novels include all of the “typical” themes seen in a level 1 and 2 curriculum. I think the themes should take frequency and commonality of words into account. I’m really thinking of buying the “A Frequency Dictionary of Spanish: Core Vocabulary for Learners” by Mark Davies. I think it would be a huge, instrumental tool in helping shape our curriculum. Here’s the description of the book: The only up-to-date frequency dictionary of Spanish currently available, this is an invaluable tool for all learners of Spanish that provides a list of the 5,000 most commonly used words in the language. Based on a twenty million word corpus evenly divided between spoken, fiction and non-fiction texts from both Spain and Latin America, the Dictionary provides a detailed frequency-based list, as well as alphabetical and part-of-speech indexes to ensure maximum ease of access to the information and efficiency of use. All entries in the rank frequency list feature the English equivalent, a sample sentence and, where applicable, an indication of major register variation. The Dictionary also contains thirty thematically organized lists of frequently used words on a variety of topics, such as animals, weather, materials, and family terms.
        • I think the stories could fit the themes and vocab…….depending on the themes and vocab. I try to focus as much as possible on high-frequency, common words. I think that’s the key to fluency. In order to teach for fluency and to teach for mastery we must limit vocabulary and teach high-frequency vocabulary. In Spanish:
        • The 100 most common words make up 50% of all speech.
        • The 1,000 most common words maek up 80% of all speech.
        If we stick to the most common words, students will be able to understand more of what they hear and read. They will be able to say much of what they need to say. According to a study:

        1 Learning the first 1,000 most frequently used words in the Spanish language will allow you to understand 76.0% of all non-fiction writing, 79.6% of all fiction writing, and 87.8% of all oral speech.
        2. Learning the top 2,000 most frequently used words will get you to 84% for non-fiction, 86.1% for fiction, and 92.7% for oral speech.
        3. And learning the top 3000 most frequently used words will get you to 88.2% for non-fiction, 89.6% for fiction, and 94.0% for oral speech.

        As long as we stick to high-frequency, useful words, I think everybody will be able to teach however they feel is best for their students.

        I do think we will be able to come to a happy medium where everybody is happy, regardless of teaching style. This is going to be exciting and we have our work cut out for us, but the kids are going to win in the end.

          1. Yes! I am impressed by the way you handled yourself above. Really. Maybe you’re not the Ohio Wild Man after all. Maybe you’re The Diplomat. Or maybe the Wild Ohio Diplomat. No, that’s not it. I’ll figure it out.

          2. Chris,
            That document pretty much opens the superdeluxe jumbo can of whoop ass. I agree with Jim. Feels like I just took three whole courses by reading this!

            Thank you for putting it all together. I will refer to this often and I just might print it out in the unlikely event that I someday meet with my department. Oops, looks like I picked the wrong day to quit being sarcastic and cynical. But seriously, it will come in handy for my own reflection and processing and for trying to articulate some of this to others.

            Thankyouthankyouthankyou 🙂

          3. Wow, thank you for the compliments! If you email me, I can send you the 15+ documents I’ve put together for these curriculum meetings. Some of the documents are from other sources that I’ve saved, a few of them are documents I made.

        1. For me, a 50% weight on the Interpersonal category would have been a death wish. By that I mean, in my school culture, I would have been inundated with the complaints from kids and parents –it’s nothing more than a punitive subjective grade, you don’t like me, my kid, blah, blah, blah. There is not enough time in the day to explain the finer points of jGR! The question for me became how to balance out the totality of the snapshot of a grade in a way that let the kids know that I value the traditional skills as much as I value the way that they “show up” in class. How do I get their attention that sitting up straight, showing up for class, responding in a constructive way, not blurting out, not talking over and above all avoiding English are behaviors that I also value highly? In other words, jGR needed to have teeth in a way that meant something without being the one thing that would torpedo their grade. I know the grading topic is a hot one and as much as I would prefer not dealing with it at all, it’s not my reality.

          My grading categories are as follows for French 1 and 2: Reading, 20%; Listening, 20%; Speaking, 15%; Writing, 15%, Interpersonal, 20%; Structures, Grammar/Vocabulary, 10%. My level 1s do virtually no writing or speaking for a grade until well into the year. Structures, vocab, grammar are where all dictations go. Since everyone gets an easy A on them, the 10% weight seems fair. The grammar /vocabulary part of the category name helps cover my butt – no one needs to know how I do grammar instruction (Pop-ups) or vocabulary for that matter, but it’s there. Everyone is happy.

          I have sold the Interpersonal grade based on the rules of the classroom and how all that ties in with ACTFL, the standards for the 21st century language learning, and real world workplace expectations. Part of my mantra has become: “You can’t go into a job interview and be in the reception area slouching down in a chair with your feet up and your cell phone in your hand. The same also looks bad around the conference table in corporate America. If the boss is looking for input, it would be good to come up with an idea and share it constructively! In addition, a potential boss will also be more interested in a responsive person who knows how to make eye-contact and have a good firm handshake. So it’s not all about me and French class but practice for how to “be” in the real world starts here!

          I will be watching this marking period to see if 20% on jGR will have the effect of telling the all of them – who think they’ve got it made because of their ability to ace everything- that their lack of responsiveness in class or inappropriate use of English or anything else described in jGR could be the difference between an A and a B, a B and a C and so on.

          I struggle with creating the illusion of rigor as practiced by the traditional teachers with their charts and worksheets and the joy of acquiring a language in a TPRS/CI class. If a kid has no idea of what a traditional class feels like, I think they can sometimes take what we offer (just hanging out in the TL) for granted and may see our classes as nothing more than an easy A. They may not be able to see that they have a chance at some level of real acquisition – heck, they may not even care about it. Mind you, I have no problem with the A if it is reflective of some kind of contribution and integrity on the part of the student. I hope that jGR brings us all closer to what we value in our classes – happy places where all show up feeling safe to create and to communicate in a WL.

          PS: I am thinking about giving a few jGR grades and averaging them at the end. Any ideas are welcome.

          PSS Just another thought. Is there something a bit manipulative in all of this? The utopian dreamer (hippie) in me wishes they would all show up just because they really loved learning:) Is this where the tyranny of grading has led us?

          1. …is this where the tyranny of grading has led us?…

            This is exactly where the tyranny of grading has led us. What fuels me is exactly that – how a very natural process that we have no business assessing in the first place, a process that happens naturally by itself if we could but leave it alone, has been turned over into the hands of grade manipulators and people who unconsciounably and in full hubris have taken the natural process and made it unnatural. They have taken it from the unconscious natural thing that it is and made it into a conscious unnatural thing. What’s next? Replacing women with machines to birth babies? Or genetically modifying food to challenge the old natural way of growing food? That’s what is going on here.

          2. …part of my mantra has become: “You can’t go into a job interview and be in the reception area slouching down in a chair with your feet up and your cell phone in your hand….

            Here’s the thing for me on that idea – they hear stuff like that from teachers all day. They are immune. They are totally immune to admonitions. They will only respond to grades. That’s it.

            If jGR accomplishes nothing else, it will have been worth it that a few of us have used it with courage in what is in my view an unprecedented act of bravery by teachers who have the courage to think far enough outside of the box to challenge the little Fauntleroys to fricking show up as human beings in our classes and MAKE them do so with whip in hand next to the carrot that we don’t have bc they have to be there.

            I don’t think anything this creative has ever happened since the days when they first started herding kids into boxes to learn things. Or at least in our field of languages. And so now we can easily understand the pushback from traditional teachers.

            What we are doing is outrageous – we are demanding civility from our students and we are using the only thing that we ever had to get it from them – a rubric with fangs.

            The fact is that traditional teachers could in no way even dream of offering an attractive enough product to be able to even suggest that kids sit up and give back in class – what is there to give back to? – a direct object pronoun?

            We may not have a carrot to offer them, but now that we know and have seen and experienced the sheer thrill of stories and fun PQA, what we offer DOES HAVE VALUE and so we are in a position we’ve never been in before to demand that the value we bring to class is met with appreciation and respect, and that is what jGR does that nothing else ever has done, in my own experience.

        2. Damn Chris, that was like a mini-course in SLA and curriculum theory and diplomacy, all wrapped into one email. Nice!

          I think you’re right on in trying to stress the high frequency words, of course, and I think your push to use novels as a vehicle is a nice choice… it is probably the easiest way to get a traditional teacher to possibly interact in TL with kids (as opposed to the intimidating process of storyasking).

          And good point not to take Blaine’s level recommendations to heart, I don’t know who can get in four novels in first year, especially THOSE four. Maybe I’m just not teaching that well, but we only read one novel in Spanish one (Pobre Ana, but I may try to add Esperanza this year), and one or two in Spanish 2 (Piratas, and maybe Patricia, but usually the other novels read in level 2 are on a self-selected individual basis during SSR… Oh glorious day now that I have enough level-appropriate novels for an entire class of Level 2s to be reading their own book, and different books!!!)

          And thanks for the numbers on percentage of lexicon as high-frequency, did that come from some Bryce numbers? His latest lists of frequency verbs (as in most frequently used tenses for specific verbs!) is really helpful.

          1. Diana agrees with you Jim and puts it pretty directly when she says that attempting four novels in one year is kind of stupid. One, maybe two tops. And that is from a close friend of Krashen and our fearless leader here in DPS who wants us to do a lot of reading, but not so much as to get the shallow and wide pony running around the room.

    3. Chris, I’d like to respond to a couple things you’ve written (and say congrats to all the good news!!)

      1. re Linguafolio… I went to a workshop several years ago when working in Omaha, as they were developing this at UNLincoln if I’m not mistaken. It seemed very output centered to me, not that I thought that a bad thing at the time. But perhaps you can use the model and tweak it to meet comprehension goals. I don’t really know though. Good luck with that.

      2. re Themes and High Frequency lists, there are several thematic lists, based on frequency of usage, in Davies’ book Frequency Dictionary of Spanish. Those might be helpful if you are forced to work with themes. The interesting thing is that they are for the most part pretty darn infrequent, as in most are not in the top 300. I can forward you a couple if you’d like. I had a student type up several of them for me to use as “vocab tests” for my upper level students (who seem to think they should get that type of thing, and I’m happy to accommodate).

      3. re Ohio Legislature passing “accountability” laws, I don’t know if it applies, but Bill Moyers just did an really good short documentary about ALEC, called The United States of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). It’s worth the watch or listen. It premiered on DemocracyNow (democracynow.org) yesterday.

      4. That was really interesting and reaffirming to hear your cowboy’s take on the 3 modes, and their level of importance as he sees them.

      1. I’m getting some names going. We have:

        Le Chevalier de l’Ouest (Robert)
        Le Chevalier de la Forêt (skip)
        The Ohio Wild Man (Chris)

        and I am adding here:

        The Smartest Man in Iowa (Jim)

          1. Dude. Isn’t Iowa the home of the highest SAT scores in the nation? The home of (at least used to be) the Society for Accelerated Learning Techniques? And there was one other thing….oh yeah! The home of Jim Tripp!

          2. No way… highest SAT scores in the nation? Well, I’ll be damned. SALT, never heard of that one.

      2. I will have to second the suggestion of using Mark Davies Spanish frequency lists. Not trying to blow my own horn, but I helped with the research for the frequency dictionary when Davies was at Illinois State. That really opened my eyes to how random some of the thematic vocabulary and even grammatical structures were in textbooks. That is pretty much when I stopped using a textbook.

        I have made my own chart of highest frequency Spanish nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. from the Davies book (bought the paperback to make sure my name was listed in the front as promised, because although rewarding it was a huge investment of time to do the research, also needed the cred to convince my admin why I should not use a textbook).

        I think some lists of some categories are available on the internet, but more are included in the chart. Let me know, Chris, if it is something that you can use.

  2. For me it’s 1/7th of the kids grade in Spanish III. In grading with scales it comes out like this:

    1. Comprehension (Ability to comprehend and analyze a text or audio source)
    2. Oral Fluency (Ability to produce spoken language and be understood)
    3. Dictations (Ability to interpret spoken speech)
    4. Dialogue Journals (Ability to sustain a weekly written dialogue)
    5. Interpersonal Communication (Ability to respond and negotiate meaning)
    6. Written Fluency (Ability to produce written language and be understood)
    7. Free Write (Ability to write 150 words in 10 minutes)

    Spanish 2 doesn’t do dialogue journals and the free write is 100 words in 10 mins.

    So far, kids shape up as soon as they see me reach for my blue, felt-tipped pen. It’s amazing how erect all the spines get when all I am trying to do is give someone a “little blue dot” for unforced output. I figure if a kid gets marked down for rule number three but has a few blue dots and no other infractions that means the kid meets standards, right?

    We will see how this all works out. I had to modify it with my current learning scales to a 4-point rubric.

    I think too many kids are getting 3s, but I get too excited during class to pay attention to who isn’t paying attention because the story gets too damn good. Shit, it was the zebra who went to the psychiatrist and not the girl. And it turns out that she wanted to bathe him with butter because she wanted to show him at the fair, not because she wanted to eat the zebra.

    Quarter grades come out in a few weeks and tomorrow I put in the second batch of weekly IP grades. Again, too many 3s. That’s a good thing, right?

    1. Definitely a good thing. I was all about 2’s first, four weeks ago, and they did their chiropractic and optical work on the kids’ behavior in class.

      Now in class, like yesterday, in the middle of the story it occurred to me suddenly that these kids were looking at me with a focus I had never seen ever in my career. They were glomming on to everything.

      The 2’s already in the gradebook were causing that reaction. But was it fake and forced? No, they were simply doing what the rubric said – making their internal attempts to follow along visible to me – the key words in this entire plan being observable behavior and negotiating meaning.

      They had become aware that they had only one option – to fail or to function in class at the 3 or above level. The 2’s were wiping out their grades and they knew it.

      So, those 2’s were becoming 3’s right there in front of me. At one point I stopped to tell them that I was aware of how hard they were trying. I could almost see them sweat (rigor).

      Seeing the rigor. Seeing them try so hard. Nice. Many will move up to 3’s now. And all I have to do is lower the 50% unreasonable weight to the right number to assure that I keep the rigor piece going but not make it so I have half of them failing, which is not a choice, obviously. Thanks, Drew.

  3. I have to do a 60/40 split in my district. 60 = quizzes, tests and projects and 40% can be ‘other.’

    So, my jGR is modified. I like it. Kids are getting B’s on their grade checks and wanting to do better.

    I am thinking about doing the following:

    calling the 60% quizzes and tests ‘interpretive’, since it is reading and listening; and,
    breaking the remaining 40% down into just oral; with
    20% interpersonal [the choral/responsive component]; and,
    20% presentational [when I call on you, you can respond in some way].

    I don’t know yet. I agree that a formative assessment gives both the student and the teacher more power than the summative. Summatives put everyone in a passive position, IMO.

    1. …I am thinking about … calling the 60% quizzes and tests ‘interpretive’, since it is reading and listening….

      This is a breakthrough sentence. When we enter grades in columns that have national standard terms in the headings, it is a good thing. It means we’ve come a long way from “Ch. 4 test” or “Irregular Verb Conjugation Quiz”.

      Since I am lazy, I am going to go with Interpretive at 70% (like you say Leigh Anne those are the daily quizzes) and then the only other category will be Interpersonal, which kind of includes Presentational and makes it simpler for me, at 30%. We’ll see how that plays out, anyway. Thanks, Leigh Anne.

      And I’m with you on the formative piece. Our bread and butter, the mojo of language acquisition, is all about formative assessment. Even that is preposterous. We can’t grade people in how they learn languages.

  4. I do the following:

    50% Tests and Quizzes
    30% Participation as per jGR and self evals
    20% Classwork and Homework

    This has been working. jGR is helping my Participation. I got pushback from a class of chatty girls, but it has helped.

    I feel this year, more than any other, my participation grade actually means something. It’s something I can point to, and explain to parents.

    Super grateful.

  5. My grades set up looks like this at the moment:
    40% aural/oral for jGR and the little pop quizzes on comprehension
    20% reading – after the reading there is a quiz in characters about the reading. I also experimented with my Chinese 2 class on giving them a reading to take home and pick the right answers from a multiple choice/ true false. It was two hard but I want to adjust and try again.
    10% writing – writing Chinese characters is really hard for some students so I put this percentage very low for those kids who have a lot of trouble with this. With computers, people can type Chinese now and that is really a reading skill because they pick out the right characters as they type pinyin. That is really a much more important skill for this generation. The dictation is in here too and, following Ben’s model, this is turning out to be a great tool and a good way for students to practice character writing.
    30% cumulative assessments – this is for tests and projects of which I have done none so far but I will do at the end of the term. I might drop this category next year but since we are required to have semester exams, I thought this might be a way for them to pull together everything that they have learned so far.
    This is all in the experimental stage and different from what I used to do so we’ll see how it goes.

  6. I really would like to know what the Jgr is? I am new. Just purchashed this training stuff. It’s awesome! i teach tprs in temecula, California at a charter school. i teach 2nd- 8th. I hope to get involved with the discussions. I can usually put my 2 cents in at night or on Wednesdays.

    Darren Drago

  7. Welcome, Darren! If you look on the right side where the categories are, you will see one titled “jGR”. Take a look at the posts in there, it will be pretty self-explanatory.
    P.S.: jGR stands for Jen’s Great Rubric

  8. Soooo……what do I do about a very sweet, very active 4% who approached me politely before class to ask why her grade was approx 86% due to jGR which is a C in my school? This is because I marked her at my 8/10 which is that she 8 (B/C) RESPONDS REGULARLY IN SPANISH OR VISUALLY, INCONSISTENT USE OF “STOP” SIGNAL. I have to admit I probably should’ve given her the grade for the next step above because she does answer automatically rather than regularly but…well, I was just getting started on this jGR thing and maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the grade book. She said, “And even if you say I answer automatically, that’s still not a grade I expect of myself. I get higher than that.” My only suggestion was that she try to produce some non-forced Spanish but that sorta feels like I’m forcing her into it, you see? And doesn’t that defeat the purpose of non-forced? I don’t know….

  9. For me, the intent of the rubric is to have some concrete descriptions of the interpersonal skills. In practice I am using it in a similar way to Ben. I do scribble some notes to myself, such as “head down” “not responding” etc. so that if a kid asks how they can improve, I can tell them something specific. But it’s still all so subjective that I don’t want to spend time on it unless I have to.

    If that is her current grade, remind her that it will change as you progress, because it is a new skill and there’s a learning curve for everyone (including the teacher). Also, you have other grades for the content, which she is probably acing? Most of my students, even (in some cases especially) the 4% kids are definitely in the 3 category for INCONSISTENT USE OF STOP SIGNAL. They just don’t wanna signal. They stare instead. I am telling the older kids that if they don’t want to use the signal, then they still have to stop the conversation with a verbal signal “No comprendo” or “que quiere decir…” I don’t really care what signal they use, but I want them to respond proactively. So far there is only one student in the 4 category because of the “responds” part.

    I am trying to be like Bryce and cultivate an attitude of “oh well, bummer, but that is the rule.” I don’t want to have a bitchy edge, because that raises the affective filter. It is tricky for sure and I am the least qualified in this area, but I’m getting better.

  10. This is where the rubber meets the road. We give them what they deserve. We cave on that and we would be best advised to toss jGR into the trash bc its purpose of honest evaluation in terms of the standards would have been defeated.

    The kid who has the C/86% – Jen, that is her grade. That is her grade. But I am confused and please respond to this – you said she answers and you also used the term responds and what I want to know is what is the quality of this and how is it done. What do her eyes convey in answering? Is there non-forced emerging output in chunks of sound from her or just one word, mainly yes and no? All of these questions play into what is going on with this girl.

    If you cave, she wins and big. She knows that you can be bought with a little guilt trip. She said something very telling. She said this – …even if you say I answer automatically, that’s still not a grade I expect of myself. I get higher than that….

    Tell me what that means. Does “I get higher than that” mean that you don’t know what you are doing? Is it a threat that if you don’t give her higher, then you will have a problem? What is really going on? Shouldn’t she have said, “I CAN get higher than that if I follow this rubric implicitly.

    jen told you she had only one 4 going in a certain class. Right on. No caving there. She said this: …they just don’t wanna signal. They stare instead…. Right on, and they are entitled to a very nice grade of 2, around a C or D. Why?

    Because we are no longer grading them entirely quantitatively but in terms of the national standards and OBERVABLE BEHAVIORS IN HOW THEY NEGOTIATE MEANING IN CLASS.

    We are hell bent – I am anyway (can you tell?) – to hold them fully accountable in terms of the standards (that 50% of their grade) and never again let their rude little mugs sit there and challenge me to teach them in the shitty way that they are accustomed to across the board – where they get to be consumers/watchers but not sharers/participants because FOR ME TO BE EFFECTIVE AS A TEACHER I NEED THEIR COOPERATION AND GOOD WILL and this is a 21st century idea and it is going to happen in my classroom!

    I better go eat a French fry and calm down.

    1. Ben,

      No. I do not get a feeling from this girl (who I had last year) that she is trying to win something over on me. She is majorly hard on herself because her family has high expectations of her (she was homeschooled and I believe those kids are usually in competition with themselves).

      I misquoted the girl. When we were discussing the second to last highest place on the rubric she said that she wouldn’t be happy with herself to be in that spot either because she expects to do the most required of her. She strives to be on top and asked me what more she could improve upon. There was no sense of her trying to win over on me other than I know she tries for Teacher’s Pet.

      To answer your other question: her eyes convey understanding, always locked on, always nodding in affirmation or negation while verbally trying to say much more in Spanish than just one word answers. So a part of the reason I originally posted here today was to discuss how, I suppose, I doubt myself in where I put a student on that rubric even though it’s clear as day. But that’s my personal issue. I guess I placed her low because I thought we have been discussing strong arming the kids into striving for better; striving to climb that rubric ladder. I was thinking it would be ridiculous to start a kid off at 9 or 10 right away.

      But I’m talking about a girl who, last year, asked if she could sit with me at lunch just so we could speak in Spanish. She is hungry for it and enjoyed the few times I “practiced” TPRS in her previous class. Her father came in to thank me in June one day after school. He was supportive because, as he said, while homeschooling her he had no idea how to go about giving her a proper World Language education; not being bilingual, you know…

      But I did tell her to relax, that there’s time before quarter’s end. She overwhelms me because she’s (and her family, I’m sure) on top of that grade book. That’s the part of our discussion that really made me so uncomfortable.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. It makes me think of those kids over my career, maybe one like that every two years or so. Bless their hearts with compassion and generosity. They suffer so much. You described it perfectly. Look at this that you wrote:

        …eyes convey understanding, always locked on, always nodding in affirmation or negation while verbally trying to say much more in Spanish than just one word answers….

        It’s the last part that I would go at least 9 on – verbally trying to say much more in Spanish than just one word answers – how cool is that? Yeah, she earns that high 9/10 category based on observable behavior at the top of the rubric. It looks as if she is negotiating meaning and therefore totally aligning with standards in just about every single moment of your class.

        By the way, don’t tell anyone – she may fall into the category of a certain rare kind of kid who is both brilliant and yet is getting unyielding pressure from home. Very rare to have both. Then what? Those kids can crack.

        Do you know what I have done with those kids over all of my career, when I know I have one? I take them aside as soon as I figure out that they are one of those kind of kids (usually after about one or two weeks of school) and I make them a promise that if they come to class and just relax a bit, I will take care of the rest including their grade.

        I tell them that in my opinion they have gotten to where they have taken the school thing a little too seriously, and I have decided to promise them the A – bc clearly they are going to get an A anyway – just to get them to know that they have one class where, since they are going to get an A anyway, let’s not even play that game.

        I almost beg them to see my class as a time when grading and learning are not connected, and when they can learn for the sake of learning. I do this bc all their lives they have connected grading and learning, and someone has to put a stop to it so that they don’t end up 40 years old and asking for a grade somewhere, or in a morgue somewhere bc of all the pressure to be the best.

        To repeat – this is rare. It’s got to be a bonafide automatic A kid anyway. I want to teach them how life is not about grades. Whenever I have done this, I have seen a different kid in class. And think of all the pressure off their evening planning! Yup.

        Now, if the Thought Police and the Grading Police are reading this, my name is Ben Slavic and I live in Denver so come and get me. Lock me up. But you’ll never change me. I work on behalf of kids, and each one is different. God bless them for what they go through growing up. God help me do the best by them.

        1. Ben,

          Thank you so much for the suggestion. As you described “that type” of kid, it was her! It is her! She has so much going on and when I say I was uncomfortable by the conversation as it pertains to the grade book, it was because I was saddened how much she connects her learning and the grade. I realize that now after reading what you’ve written. I know that no matter what I do with her, she’ll be ready to move on to another (more grammar-based) classroom and do well. Last year, her 9th grade year, was her first in public school…she’s a member of cross-country, sings in the choir, has loads of friends, etc. She has surpassed expectations, I’m sure. A rare kid, indeed.
          I feel like I’ve been given clearance to make her life easy at least in my class. Thanks.

  11. I would like advice on where you guys think this student should place on the jGR. I have a kid in my Advanced class who until today was using a lot of English to ask questions. About a week ago I gave then a term in Chinese, “shenme yisi?” (What does —- mean?) so they could ask what something means. No one has used it until this kid did today. I was happy with this because this is a mixed level class and he is one of the lower level kids I worry about. They haven’t been using the signal in spite of reminders but this is the first time this kid showed that he didn’t understand something and he did it in Chinese. Now I need to see if he will consistently do this and look and his other behaviors but I am wondering if this behavior is an acceptable equivalent to giving the signal.

  12. Yes. But why did he do it? Did he really want to know? If yes, then yes, that’s a signal, and in my class he would go up to the 3 from the 2. And get a heap of praise in the doing. BUT if he just did it once it can’t be a 3, bc in my grading, not done daily, I would be looking for consistency across the board.

    1. One more thing from me, for now, Ben: I’d like to know what you’d suggest in regard to my schedule at school and how often you’d post the jGR grade if you were me. We have an 8-day rotation (letter days A-H). In that time, I see each class 5 times. So on the Plc when you discuss the week schedule by Monday, Tuesday, etc. I’ve finally figured out to tell kids our week is Day 1, Day 2, etc. I’m saying this because I’m thinking, is one posting per rotation enough? Every 5 days? Just trying to get an idea.

  13. The Fear. Is someone going to come into my room and tell me that I don’t have enough Interspersonal Skills grades?

    I have two Standards grades now in week 6. I don’t know what “enough” is.

    Who says you have to have enough? Is it somehow more accurate when you have more of these grades in the book? Can you get a pig to grow faster by weighing it more often, as we say in the TPRS/CI community?

    So, my answer is every 157 days, or the end of the grading period, or twice during the grading period, whichever comes first. But if that feels odd to you, like you shouldn’t be paid the big bucks for being that lazy, then, by all means, grade them every 5 days. I assure you that anybody who matters doesn’t really give a rat’s ass.

    Sorry about the tongue in cheek attitude. Let’s get over The Fear and do what is best for us in our classrooms for our students.

    The people who need to be sweating right now, and they are, are those who have no idea who Stephen Krashen is and who still think that we can acquire a language by looking in amazement at all the little words, instead of what meaning they convey when assembled all together in chunks in listening and reading. Now THOSE folks are in for a job surprise in the next five years.

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