Local Food Fights

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29 thoughts on “Local Food Fights”

  1. Laurie and I were yacking last week-end and she is mulling over the idea too. She said she senses that the need to bond or re-bond with like minded CIers is particularly felt during these deep winter months.

  2. Yes, we seem to be among the few lucky ones who operate with terrific administrative support. Two of us started TCI last year in our district, and this September we were joined by two more teachers. From the beginning of the year, we have been meeting once a week just to support each other, exchange ideas, decide what is and isn’t working. A few months later, we were joined by a teacher from another district (his principal is the father of one of my students!) who is the lone TCI wolf in his department and was looking for ways to collaborate with like-minded colleagues. Our chairman noticed that things were gaining momentum and he suggested that we could be frontrunners (much like DPS 😉 on Long Island for a more wide-spread TCI movement. We will begin hosting monthly meetings at the beginning of next school year that will be open to any teacher from Long Island interested in learning the method or simply to have a venue to discuss the experience in a “friendly” environment.
    I am so psyched about this, I see great things happening as we spread the word.

  3. What I’m hoping is to make French teachers realize that there is a world out there where things are happening. With Teri and Lynnette coming along, I’m hoping that we’ll wake some people up. If you can join us, don’t hesitate. The food and wine are great!

  4. Interesting that you should create a post with the title “Local Food Fights”. On Valentine’s Day a Minneapolis high school had a huge food fight that turned into a brawl. Police were called in, and they Maced the students.

    The Minneapolis police spokesman had an interesting comment:
    “This is a high school in America, there are fights,” he said. “This was just a much larger fight.”

    On Friday the school operated on a “Code Yellow”, meaning that students had to remain in their classrooms at all times and that access into and out of the school would be limited.

    Sounds like the principal is thinking, “The prisoners are rioting, let’s move to lockdown.”

  5. I just attended a workshop this morning on Standards-based instruction and assessment in World Language, put on by our state’s dept of WL. After the week I have had, it was SOOOO good to see Skip and his colleague Therese there!!! (I almost started to cry!!!) There were 3 other CI-based teachers there too, and when we were given the task of “developing a theme-based unit” we stuck together. We then had to all write up our units on butcher paper, and they were pinned up around the room and everyone went on a “gallery” walk. We wrote on the top of ours, “Comprehensible Input-Based Unit”, and I noticed that a lot of people were lingering at ours!! — it was probably because we used “structures” instead of “Grammar” ; we used “topics” instead of “vocab” — and we had a lot of structures up there — we based it on the Houdini novel. Our essential question was: How do my actions affect my life and the lives of others.
    It was SO refreshing to work on this with like-minded professionals; instead of grammar topics like: possessive adjectives, “ar, er and ir” verbs, telling time, colors, numbers 1-100. No….we had structures like: I have to, I should, he lied, it’s my fault, etc.
    We then got to “plug” CI a little, and Skip was GOOD!!!! This workshop, of course, focused on Integrated Performance Assessments. So, at the end, Skip asked, “So, if ACTFL is telling us that we need to be 90% in 100% comprehensible input during class time, HOW are we to find the time to do these IPA’s? Because they certainly take more time than just 10%.” GREAT question Skip!!!! 🙂
    Others there tried to argue that when the kids are doing their “performances” they are doing them in the TL. HOWEVER, we pointed out – they are NOT comprehensible always, if the kids are at a novice level and cannot make themselves comprehensible. (Feedback on this, anyone???)
    The presenter then asked if anyone would be interested in learning more about CI, that perhaps a CI workshop could be arranged. Then one of the CI people said, “Well, Skip puts on a REALLY GOOD CI conference.” and I added, “Yup! it’s in October, if anyone wants to learn more!” then the workshop ended.
    Again, it’s great to be part of such a ground-breaking (and well-learned) group!!! You are SO right Ben!! People NEED to learn more about Krashen and SLA!!! I cannot get over how many L2 teachers are out there who do not know the brain research behind SLA, and swear that they need to make the kids OUTPUT to make them better speakers and writers!!! (and to “get them out of their comfort zone.” – of not speaking!)

    1. mb,

      I would love to hear more about your experience, and how you think this “theme-based unit” can be adapted for CI instruction.

      I am very much a lone wolf at my school and we are moving to standards based grading, and in particular in the world language department – towards the ACTFL proficiency standards. The way that this is being implemented is that we are being asked to come up with a number of “Can do” statements for each level, that are consistent with the ACTFL proficiency level of that course. I am having an enormously hard time evisioning being able to put in “can do” statements in a TPRS based course. My department eventually will be asking us to present backwards-planned designed units showing how we will arrive at these “Can do” statements. It seems to me that this is all output based and not consistent at all with what I am doing, but I would like to stay where I am if possible. It is stressful.

      1. Hi David,

        I hope that you’ll keep us aware of what’s happening in your situation. I think more of us will be in similar circumstances at some point. My school has a review of “Scope and Sequence” for the World Language Department in a couple years, so some of the same kinds of things could come up.

      2. David, work on putting the “can do” statements in the “domains” of interpretation and interpersonal communication.
        – can identify the main idea of a text
        – can use verbal and nonverbal signals to negotiate meaning
        – can identify and sort main supporting ideas
        – can interpret meaning in written texts

        Take a look at the current French and German AP tests – and the coming (2014) Spanish test for ideas. For example, the Interpretive section of the exam is entirely multiple choice. One question might ask students to put the main ideas or events of a text in order; they have to choose the correct order from among four choices, but the choices don’t just copy text from passage. You might have a text that reads, “Joe wants to go to the prom with Taylor Swift. He sends her an e-mail and asks her, but she turns him down. Joe’s brother posts on Facebook that Joe wants to go to the prom with Taylor Swift. After the post goes viral, Taylor posts that she will go with Joe to the prom.” What is the correct order? Students choose from four combinations of Problem – Rejection – Solution. (Okay, that was super easy and obvious in English, but what about in a foreign language?)

        Another question would be to identify the people who would be interested in the text. This is especially good for non-fiction writing. You might have an advertisement for a summer trip to France. Who is it intended for: parents, students, administrators, teachers?

        Yet another question would be to indicate what a word means in context. So you might have a text about a bodybuilder and what he does to train. Question: what does “train” mean in this passage?
        – a connected line of railroad cars and locomotive
        – a long piece of cloth that trails behind a bride’s dress
        – doing an orderly routine of exercises
        – an orderly succession of thoughts
        All those are meanings of the word “train”, but only one is correct in context. None of those require output from the students. I use these kinds of questions beginning in level 1 and continue with increasing difficulty to AP. It’s one of the changes I instituted with the new AP exam.

    2. MB, I e-mailed Skip after I read this last night because to punch my ticket for my MAT, I have to come up with four thematic units – 40 days of instruction and Rutgers is not content with essential questions, I need to come up with “enduring understandings”. My question to Skip was just what David said below. How to make these thematic units TCI thematic unit? I agree that we will be speaking more English and the kids are being asked for output too early. I am torn between giving them four units of what they are looking for and being done with it or actually trying to square the units with CI. The twenty-first century standards and the modes can obviously be interpreted to fit whatever the traditional teacher wants to do in the classroom. It also seems to me that the thematic units that are given as examples in the 21st century document of what students should be able to do are way beyond what any student is my experience would be able to do after three-four years of language instruction.

    3. Isn’t Skip the best ? He always asks the most pertinent questions…..
      And challenges the naysayers in a non aggressive manner, that s my style too.
      Skip I love you!

      1. I appreciate the kind words Sabrina…. maintaining calm, not taking things personally and waiting for the right moment to speak have been long term goals of mine… Some days go better than others 🙂

  6. I’m hoping to start a local food fight. 🙂

    At the semester I was elected Chair of the World Languages Department at my school. The department is very supportive, and we work well together even though we have some very different approaches. We can disagree on subjects without it becoming personal. I hope to foster that sense of being in this together more and will be doing some things that I got from the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.

    Yesterday I was talking to our French teacher, and she had some good ideas. In March I will be re-starting a monthly meeting for people who are interested in TCI and TPRS; it will be open to anyone from the district who wants to come. Ariene Borutzki (Ben met her at iFLT in Los Alamitos) will come, and she is totally on board with TCI/TPRS since she uses it in her classes and is doing a great job. (I need to encourage her to join the PLC.) She is also Department Chair at her school. Yay! I will also offer training and coaching to anyone in my department who wants it and try to move the department toward TCI even if the rest of the district is stuck in the mud of grammar-driven instruction.

    At the district level, I will most definitely ruffle some feathers. Our first district Department Chairs meeting will be next Thursday, and, depending on the agenda, I am ready to start challenging assumptions, policies and procedures. Even though I haven’t been a chair for years, I’ve stayed aware of what is going on. They are forming groups to re-do our benchmark tests in World Language. It’s something that they have to do because they have admitted for years that the benchmarks are not consistent with what we know about Second Language Acquisition. However, Ariene told me that they are populating the groups with grammar teachers. I won’t challenge the people, but I will ask questions about the presuppositions that will underly the “new” benchmarks. I intend to check on knowledge of California State Standards, the new AP exams, SLA research, brain research, ACTFL guidelines and positions, 21st Century Skills, etc. among the committee members. If they don’t know that stuff, how can they write adequate benchmarks? Furthermore, if they intend to tie the benchmarks to the current Spanish textbook, as they did the last time, they will be in for a shock: that textbook was discontinued and last published in 2004.

    My district has paid lipservice to TCI for years, but they confuse it with the “communicative approach” and are unwilling to move forward. Now they are going to have a gadfly (me) in their midst. This stint as Department Chair will be different from my last one because now I have experience and confidence – and quite frankly no longer care if I make people unhappy. I’m close enough to retirement and committed enough to doing what is best for students not to back down.

    I’ll keep the PLC posted on what happens.

  7. Speaking of confidence, as Robert stated above, I need to thank you Ben for this PLC — without this forum, and all you wonderful knowledgeable people who are so willing to unabashedly and non-judgmentally help us all out, I would not have the confidence or the knowledge base of SLA that I now have.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! (I actually spoke up at the workshop today! – I didn’t chicken out!!! lol)

  8. We expect so much from a workshop–but it’s unrealistic to think a one day event is going to make a big difference. We may be very inspired during the workshop, but get home and forget all the things we wanted to implement. Our workshop notes collect dust in some file…

    However, I met a fellow TPRS teacher at a Carol Gaab workshop last year with whom I started a TPRS coaching group with a few other local people I found through the yahoo group or the TPRS map. There are about half a dozen of us that meet once a month. We spend an hour discussing experiences and getting input on problems or ideas and then an hour taking turns presenting a 5-minute lesson. We set goals and hold each other accountable for following through on those goals. It has been especially helpful to me, because I’m the lone language teacher at my little high school. It’s wonderful to have like-minded colleagues to work with and bounce ideas off. We have shared materials as well as ideas.

    Why haven’t presenters figured this out already? There needs to be some kind of local follow up for a workshop to be effective. At the end of any workshop, the presenter should encourage small groups to be formed in local areas and allow a little time for those connections to be made among those attending. In fact, if I were presenting, I’d give participants a list of ideas of how to work in those small groups. Workshops would be many times more effective with such a follow-up plan.

    1. Great idea Rita! I know a number of presenters who encourage the get-togethers, but an outline of how to start is fantastic. Consider that idea “harvested”! (and credited!) BTW…this is the kind of idea that is a GREAT presentation idea for Ntprs or iFLT. You should write it up and send it in!!

      What it needs is just what this group has: individuals willing to take a little time and energy to get it started. There is a need! Let’s start some ripples and keep them growing!

      with love,

    2. I’ll be attending a Carol Gaab workshop on Feb 26th, in Newark NJ. If anyone sees this and is going, please let me know! I’d love to meet up. I’ll also be with a colleague who is brand new to TPRS but very interested in learning.

  9. It may be time for you to push for change in your local ecosystems. Personally I believe that administrators will hear us when we speak of a lack of equity in language education. When they understand that method is important (it isn’t important in all subject areas) and shifting method (which we can do if we have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset) can increase results, they’ll begin to understand our goal is not a personal vendetta against colleagues who do things differently. No, it’s about college readiness for more students by getting more and more people of all shapes and sizes through 2nd year and into the upper lvls.
    Darcy Pippin has some amazing stats as her dept has transitioned to TCI over the last 6 years – going from approximately 15 kids in 4th year and 15 in AP to 30 in each. Besides that, she went from 30% passing the AP test (that’s about 5 kids of 15) to 75% passing (that’s about 23 kids of 30). Those are impressive stats.
    If we contrast this with our own district’s existing stats, it’s all the more powerful. What’s your district’s retention rate over 4 years? Retention rate in a traditional public high school, which will be mirrored across the country, will be <10% retention over 4 years. mostly white, mostly female, nearly all high-achieving students in the upper classes. Does that reflect your district's demographic? If not, why not? Does it reflect your district's dedication to closing the achievement gap? Should it? If so, what changes do we need to make?
    But these are just stats. And people are naturally skeptical of stats, as they should be. It's only 1 part. The stories you tell will be what people remember and what will create in them the feeling that they can be a part of this change.
    Everyone wants to feel successful and feel like they're good at what they do. Everyone wants their kids to buy in and feel successful too. So, there's the special ed student who shines in your class and in fact outshines many higher achieving kids. There's the social outcast who raises her head, laughs and smiles. There's the high-achieving kid who is writing better by March than many level 3 kids from grammar-centric classes. Then there's teacher X who, just 3 years ago was a staunch page-turner, honing his explanations and packets for years and who had written off TPRS because of an underlying fear of change. It probably sounded more like, "I tried that already and it doesn't work". The "issue" is never the issue. But he now says things like, "wow, my kids are so much more engaged. They're not resisting me anymore. We have so much more fun and I'm so much happier"
    These are the stories that need to be bottled, resold and trumpeted until the tipping point is reached inside your small district or department.
    In my district, we're reaching the tipping point. Working from within the existing structures, we have crafted and presented a TCI-friendly goal statement that will be adopted for the district secondary language classes. It's only a starting point, but this statement is clearly drawn from our district's own language around equity and the ACTFL 90% statement published in 2011. It's very hard to argue. The harder part will be putting the goal statement into action. But our district is supportive. They're implementing Balanced Literacy in language arts and it's a big shift for a lot of teachers. So, the district people are saying that they will support our department in the same way, with ongoing training and a transitional period so people don't feel as if they need to change tomorrow. They're recognizing that it is scary for people to change, but that having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, is necessary.

  10. I love this discussion. I don’t fully agree that presenters coming in never change anything, because, if Susan hadn’t come to Germany, I’d still be teaching unhappily. As you said, I think it’s a first step. And follow-up is important. I’m working on that too. After my first open talk at the local teaching institute it looks like our local food fight will start much earlier than I thought. I’ll tell you about the results soon, it was awesome.
    Robert, I love your approach, best of luck!
    And thanks again to the forum, it’s sometimes a bit overwhelming with the amount of reading, but very, very helpful.

    1. I too have to say that my teaching has been revolutionized by workshops. From Susie, to Jason and from Carol to Ben from Joe to Laurie (Ben has probably had the most profound effect on my teaching as a result of visiting Maine twice) all of those experiences have cause me to grow….

      I do think though, that ultimately peer coaching is absolutely necessary for further growth after a certain point. There is something so powerful about being coached and watching people who are being coached….

      The other problem is getting people together regularly. People are well intended but they are so busy… Furthermore, geographically everyone is so spread out here in Maine. (I know people will suggest skype or some such method but I just don’t think it the same) We are making an effort and I think it will happen – it just might not happen as often as monthly…

  11. The food fights are just starting. But they won’t be so vicious*, if what Grant wrote is accurate, and I think it is accurate.

    Big things – huge things – are now happening with administrative support, in places like St. Paul where Grant is and Long Island, NY where Brigitte is. Is Maine there yet, or do they need to fight awhile longer? Alaska? This strong administrative support of what we do is kind of a new deal for many of us, right?

    When what Grant describes above becomes a reality in more places, the struggle will be effectively over, because administrators will finally meet and respond to our struggle to push this change up to reach them and it will all change. We will finally be working with, not in spite of, administrators.

    That is happening right now. Then it won’t be so hard on us. We won’t have to do it all by ourselves, as administrators do their job with fresh eyes. Then we can rest.

    *we’ll only throw food and not plates, and food is nourishing. We used to throw plates at each other. Plates hurt.

  12. Hey Folks — why not get into the spirit of this Food Fight thing and throw “Animal House” into the DVD player and get a good laugh on this long weekend! (haha – Ben, I immediately thought of Animal House! I was a freshman in college when it came out — and I went to THE showing that all the 16 fraternities in town went to!!! CRAAAAZY! – and, of course, there were the regular food fights in the dining hall….ahhhh, memories! lol)

  13. Okay, now to comment on the correct thread.

    I think there is a place for both workshops and local coaching. Our profession has the workshop thing down pretty well but needs to work on the coaching and collaboration.

    I really like Rita’s comments and suggestions. Several in the PLC do something like that or are trying to organize it. My district likes to have teachers go to conferences (at their own expense, of course) and come back and share with other teachers what they learned. I think it would be much stronger for two or three teachers to go to a conference or workshop and attend the same session(s), then come back and work together on what they have taken away. I also think it would be very powerful for a presenter who comes to a school district to do a presentation and then work with interested teachers in organizing an ongoing PLC or work group.

  14. We’re doing this in the Lower Mainland. Districts have release day $$ which in our case was recently used to bring 25 Spanish teachers to see WVS’s Michelle Metcalfe do a one-day how-to-TPRS workshop. At the end of the day, I swear, 25 people walked out sayingn “holy CRAP that looks like fun!”

    BCATML will have another TPRS sess next fall and Adrian Ramirez is doing a one-day at the STA Convention in May. Plus Canada gets Von Ray in Aug for the first time!

    I have now been TPRSing for 3 weeks. Most fun I’ve had in 14 years and every teacher in my dept is chomping at the bit to hear about it. In French, we start with 8 blocks (240 kids) in grade 8 and we have 25 in French 12. So yes, 4% it is, and yes, they are all well-off, mostly girls, and academic types. So we have room to improve.

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