More on Rigor

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18 thoughts on “More on Rigor”

  1. Thanks for posting all this in one place, Ben. Whatever the final product, it will be extremely helpful to distill all our rich conversations, on and off line, into a concise statement that we can use to explain and justify what we do in our classrooms.

    I especially like the inside / outside distinction, as kids are still making sense of the relationship between their inner life and their social persona, and how their good intentions mean nothing if they are not manifested in their actions/behaviors. For example, many kids don’t understand that yawning while someone is talking to them is rude. They think they can’t help it, and many are not intending to be rude. So aside from the intentional troublemakers, we have a bunch of well intentioned kids who simply don’t know how to conduct themselves socially.

    1. I don’t know if it came from Jody or Clarice or whom. I do know that that discussion happened right after Jason Fritze left Denver in Feb. – that workshop.

      Today, Barb Vallejos and I were talking about how all it is going to take is some kahunas to bring forth the Interspersonal piece into our classroom like gangbusters in the fall.

      I plan on doing it very very heavily*. I still want to use numbers to find out what they know, but not to grade them, just to see if I am doing my job. That right there is the first honest thought I’ve expressed about grading in my career.

      Barb and I both did that kind of final exam where we both put major emphasis on their behaviors. We really liked the feel of it. We know it waS an exam, and that may be the only reason they were so attentive, but hey, it’s something to look at. We have 62 years of teaching between us, and 27 with TPRS/CI, so we weren’t just having an idle conversation on this.

      *I say that because I am the authority in this grading matter. No one in my district, certainly no administrator, will inform me how to grade, any more than any hospital administrator with an M.A. in hospital administration has license to tell a doctor how to treat a patient. The thought that someone would challenge me on that point makes me want to hop up and down in a boxing ring, like Ali used to do. This finally human way of teaching children to finally behave in ways that show respect for their teachers or feel it in the gradebook, their pocketbooks, has been a long time coming, and it will probably be a long time gone. My message to anyone who wants to challenge this new way of grading in terms of the Three Modes and the behaviors they describe is to be ready with some fine research to show me (there is none) or to put a sock in it.

      1. Could you tell us what you did for your final? I would love to do whatever you did. Or something very similar to end the year with the interpersonal focus. I got back to the metacognitive discussions last week, using the Robert document. We went through specifically “what does it look like when you are actively trying to understand vs passively vs working against it. They get it. But they don’t. They offered great examples of behaviors that support or detract from “negotiating meaning / trying to understand,” when we were going over the criteria at the beginning of the period. But in the last 5 min, their reflections were more like suggestions of activities. Not so much what I am trying to get them to think about. Boy will this take practice! And they will need lots of specific guidelines. And I need to remember that they need the daily practice of transitioning from whatever they are bringing in the door with them. So when I think “they get it” I cannot move on and assume that “they get it” automatically without the ritual of transition. I think that might be my new code word for “reminder.” I say this just as much for myself as for the students. Probably more for me 🙂

        Anyway, we have 2 more weeks of “regular classes” (whatever that means, with spring carnival and prom and field trips) and then “finals week.” In a way, I look forward to finals week because it is the one time of year where there is not as much multitasking. Each student has 2 tests per day and that’s it! And we get a 2 hour chunk of time!

        I would love to hear what you and anyone else did for your finals, especially regarding the interpersonal skills. If I remember correctly, Ben, you were planning to do another story. So a brand new script and you assessed the interpersonal skills as per this post. Did you also do a reading? Just wondering. And also trying to muster up some kahunas!

        1. I sometimes wonder if we aren’t all crazy, as in coo-coo. The kids, through no fault of their own, have been given to understand through the school culture that they need to memorize, and so kind of disappear as people in the process. But, whether they are at fault or not, it still makes them kind of coo-coo.

          So, when you try to get them to show up, you are not coo-coo. It just seems coo-coo. It feels coo-coo. But it’s normal. People who thought the world was round were thought to be coo-coo. But it turned out to be round. And I don’t think God wants any more of this cardboard cutout shit, dead person imitations from kids anymore. I think he wants real people in classes and I think that is what this entire thing about the Three Modes is all about.

          And then, here we are, thinking that if they get 75 right on the two hour final they pass but only 65 and they fail. What does that mean? It means nothing. Coo-coo kids and coo-coo assessment and coo-coo colleagues and the little coo-coo birds in all the rooms down the hallway flinging traditional shit our way and the big coo-coo bird in the principal’s office shitting on us (bc that’s what they do) and soon, with all that coo-coo shit going on around us in the building, we get some of the birdshit on us, and we feel, well, kind of shitty about ourselves and our ability to teach and we feel kind of coo-coo ourselves.

          You might think that that is kind of a coo-coo image, but, in my view, we get shit on every day in this profession. I just talked to a dear friend in the TPRS/CI world this weekend. We have been through so much together in terms of thinking that we were both, well, coo-coo, especially about four years ago, and in her building right now they might as well just set fire to it bc that is where it is headed, with a really shitty superintendent who, quite frankly, scares the shit out of my friend, who is no dummie. She’s like a TPRS rock star more like it. But there she is, feeling coo-coo this week, looking for a job for next year, willing to give up CI just to get away from her own Bird House.

          Now, my thinking, jen, is just not real complex on this. We did stories all year, or since October anyway. Shouldn’t the final assessment reflect what we did during the year? And the main thing I did was not teach French (can’t do that in my school) as much as try to make contact with more than 10% of them. So, that is what I did on the final. The desk shift to face me was powerful, as I said. I did a story and felt once again the POWER of this stuff when the group actually wants to learn.

          If you teach in a suburb and are reading this you should trade places with a colleague who teaches kids who can’t really read and many of whom can’t really speak English. Anyway, rambling here jen but the story, yes, was a true map into their minds. I honestly feel that the grade I chose for the interpersonal grade (not the reading, which is tomorrow) was even more accurate than a little quick quiz. People KNOW when they are being heard and understand. And those absent for the story will fail the reading part tomorrow*. Too bad. But to simplify – I did a weekly story format story with PQA (last Wednesday), story (on Friday), and reading tomorrow.

          But, jen, why do we need to get some kahunas to test this way? That reveals a lot about who is in charge. If I want to do a story and test on the interspersonal skill I will. End of discussion. End of ramble, also.

          *(today I bought Mexican ice cream fresas con crema and it rocked and I gave out honest awards, pins, certificates bc some really deserved to be formally recognized – it was a good time to wrap up the year.)

          1. “Un secreto…” this is all so validating to me. If you saw any of my previous “final exams” they were a joke (according to what I was “supposed to be testing.”) I never shared them with my dept. head. I always tossed them in the recycle bin at the end of each year. Why would I need to save them when the following year would bring a whole new group of kids for whom this “curriculum” would have no meaning? They were basically filled with questions about all the wacky stuff that came up in class, inside jokes, a listening comprehension exercise where I would dictate some ridiculous image. Everyone would be laughing. Maybe quotes from films in the upper level class.

            So yes, the “testing” for me is just a continuation of what I have done all year. I am going to try a story too. Because that is what we do. I think the kahuna (for me) is more about revealing “un secreto…” and not feeling like I am doing something wrong or sketchy.

  2. Ben and all,

    This is just an excellent collection. I’ve printed it off. School ends here on Friday. And then, I’m going to begin working my way through it with a poster in mind. Really, really rich. And yes, Ben, come round the full circle–a very helpful ride. Thank you, for your patience, your vision, your creativity.

  3. Jeffery Brickler

    Ben et al.

    Maybe we could set up a Google Docs for these posters that everyone here could have access to for editing. I was just thinking that Ben works so hard in overseeing this blog that he could use some help in putting together these docs. Having seen how awesome this group is, I am really humbled by the power of collaboration, especially when great minds are involved. If we don’t need/desire something like this, that’s okay with me. I’m only offering solutions to help.

  4. Ben votes yes. My Word files are so messed up that I am now the verge of not knowing what is going on with the posters or even being able to find them. I have them clearly in my mind, though.

    Next year is going to be a truly great year for posters that mean something and help us, so any help with this Jeff is greatly appreciated. And, as you say, if everyone has access to editing in their own versions of what they want, that would be huge. Help me do this.

    I am very particular about my own Word Wall since it formed organically over many years. I love those words and have those 150 words or so almost memorized. I could teach the entire year with just that wall. I thought it was lost but I found it. I love the combinations possible with those words. Just the right amount of verbs mixed in with other words. But with this idea people could make variations and then a person could have a choice to create what they want.

    Below is the backbone poster that serves as a big brawny sergeant at arms in my classroom. It changes very slightly every year, with the blurting rule being of much greater importance this year as we all know. So let’s start with it as the first doc in the googlection:


    1. Listen with the intent to understand.
    2. One person speaks and the others listen – no blurting out, no talking over.
    3. Suggest cute answers avoiding English.
    4. Physically clarify if you don’t understand. Other Students support all clarification requests.
    5. Sit up…Squared shoulders….Engage your eyes with the teacher.
    6. Do your 50%.
    7. Actors – synchronize your actions with my words.

    I would ask for help in simplifying this a bit. In particular rule #2 is a bit long. The idea there is that I want no blurting. Maybe I should just say no blurting. I don’t know.

    Rule #3, as well, may need work. The avoiding English part bugs me. Honestly, I think that Blaine is so right. That one little allowance where kids are allowed a cute suggestion because it is really funny leads to a lot of English abuse, if we were to study it. I say we change that to “suggest cute answers in French”. But that makes my socks roll up and down a little bit, as I have never insisted on that. Maybe the lesson here is to man up on the no English thing. Yes, that’s the lesson. I know it bc I don’t want to do it. Help with #3 as well.

    #4 may need some work. Suggestions from the group are encouraged.

    I changed #5 from the last “clear eyes” part to “engage your eyes with the teacher”. This was in response to something someone said here last week. But should it just be clear eyes, which is simpler? Maybe not, bc it sounds like we are asking the child to not arrive in class high, which doesn’t send the right message.

    Maybe we could take each poster, one by one, have a little discussion about it if needed through the summer, and emerge in the fall with what Jeff describes above. These posters have to be perfect, given the enormity of the task they are being called to do, to bring people to a modicum level of decent human interpersonal interaction from their current state of torpor and rudeness. The wording also has to be clear for kids.

    Trust me that this one poster is the work of over ten years and there have been over 95 or so rules thrown out. So this is pretty much gold, and in almost final form, but needs just a little polishing. Great idea Jeff. All aboard the posters train!

    1. Jeffery Brickler


      You mentioned that you were going to migrate to gmail. If you migrate to gmail, we can set up your googledocs account where you can then share files/folders so that people can see and edit. If you don’t want to set up a gmail account, I can come up with another solution. Let me know what you want to do. I am really tech savvy. I’m the go to tech guy in our school. I’m glad to provide assistance to make our collaboration among the group faster, better, easier.

      I have question for you and others. Latin is an inflected language like German or Russian. I was wondering how I introduce a word if it can have several meanings depending on its ending. For example, puer: boy (subject) puerum: boy (direct object). Are these two separate structures/words?

      1. That sounds like one for John or Bob Patrick (Latin) or Brigitte or Robert or Anne Matava (German). Anyone have an answer?

        Yes I do have a gmail account so let’s get going on this. We’ll do private emails on that. Let’s start with the current 2010 Rules poster and get that finalized. It’s nice to have this time to discuss each poster one at a time before next year.

      2. Robert Harrell

        A combination of my experience with German and a conversation I had with Carol Gaab earlier this year:
        1. If the word or structure changes so much as to be unrecognizable, count it as a new word or structure. For example, German verbs can change significantly. Once students have learned the simple past of weak verbs (add -te), I never have to give them the simple past form of a new weak verb as vocabulary; it’s easily recognizable. Strong verbs are another matter, so I treat them as a separate vocabulary item. Students may know nimmt as “takes”, but they won’t recognize nahm as “took”.
        2. When the change is purely grammatical (der > den > dem > des), I usually give just the nominative form and wait for a student to ask why it changed or to say “You made a mistake, it’s ….” The word that usually provokes this first is “friend”: Freund (male), Freundin (female), Freunde (male and mixed plural), Freunden (plural dative), Freundinnen (female plural). It’s important because we have to figure out if someone is talking about doing something with a male friend, a female friend or friends. Meaning-based grammar instruction. (And I don’t use the technical terms)

        1. Robert Harrell

          Oops – two more things
          -Once they’ve learned -te (I tell them it’s like -ed in English), students get spielt is “plays” and spielte is “played”. No need for a separate vocabulary entry.
          -When the change is small and purely grammatical . . . .
          The basic meaning of the word hasn’t changed: puer and puerum both still mean “boy”. With prepositions I often just say things like mit makes der change to dem, especially at the lower levels. In levels 3 and 4 I begin more explicit grammar instruction but still work to keep it short, meaning based and fun.

  5. A few thoughts on the poster rules:

    My issue with #2 is that there are times when we want more than one person speaking at the same time, e.g. choral responses. I was thinking:
    #2 Speak only when it is your turn–no blurting out

    For #3 I would set a limit: “provide cute answers in _____, or in English in 2 words or less.”

    #4 Signal EVERY TIME you do not understand something. (the phrase “physically clarify” is over most students’ heads)

    #5 When you SIT UP and MAKE EYE CONTACT, this shows me that you are paying attention.

  6. #3 – the entire problem lies in those two words allowed. I did that for over seven years and think it is now time to go to no English on the cute suggestions.

    #4 – yes

    #5 – yes something that has “eye contact” in it – that’s what we shouldn’t have to work so hard for. “Make eye contact with the teacher” maybe.

    1. I bungled #2 constantly because of the sometimes choral and sometimes individual answers. It was confusing to me and I did not have a clear protocol. So it was confusing to the students. I remember Laurie had some slick way to distinguish between the two. One way to make the distinction is to say “Clase…” before the question on anything choral.

      That said, I really like the wording of “One person speaks, others listen.” I want to keep this wording and somehow address the choral responses too.

  7. I’ve never had a problem with the distinction, perhaps bc I use “Classe…” all the time to introduce almost every question. The feel of that word is excellent.

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