Multi-level Instruction

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11 thoughts on “Multi-level Instruction”

  1. Multi-level is every class here in France. Students “pass” a grade when they have a passing overall average. So they may be getting failing grades in one or two subjects, but if they average them in with good grades in other classes, they pass. We have students who have been sitting in language classes for four or five years, or more, and would be considered beginners by any placement test on the market. And grouping them by levels is frowned upon. Not the fashion these days. They’ve even stopped giving them the placement tests that used to be required when they entered the lycée.

  2. I am for a class sequence like this:

    Beginning Language I/IV (repeatable up to four times)
    Beginning/Intermediate Language II/IV (repeatable up to three times)
    Intermediate Language III/IV (repeatable up to two times)
    AP Language
    AP Literature

    Let the kids take a year of beginning and 2 years of beginning/intermediate. Let’s be sure they are ready to move on before we force them to move on. I recently read Laurie saying she teaches a III/IV class (I think) the same way on a rotating curriculum. Brilliant! Don’t want to take AP (I don’t blame you)… Take 2 years of Intermediate then. I promise you’ll learn.

    1. great idea, especially in a big school like yours Drew. Hey, aren’t you the dept head now? 🙂

      With our grades of 20-30 students total, I think I could only pull this off for after level 1, and I’m going to start thinking about it. thanks for the ideas.

      1. I was in San Fran the other week learning how to write classes that meet A-G requirements in California. That’s the easy part especially because our California standards are set up in stages and they specifically say that movement between stages is not defined by a set amount of time, rather progression between stages occurs when it occurs. Our problem would be teachers who teach Spanish II, say, day-by-day, chapter-by-chapter the same way every single year. Let me exist as a year as dept. chair before I try to piss anyone else off. 🙂

    2. Currently in our system kids get to go on to level 2 with a D and very little knowledge. Some even agree to not go on, but in the falll there they are, ruining our first day smiles, ready to take level 2.They want to go to level 2 because they’re friends are doing it and because they need a credit.

      But they don’t deserve to move up. To them it is a social thing, but to us it spells another year of trying to teach unmotivated kids using TPRS/CI, which Blaine said can’t be done. This pulls the brighter kids back, which frankly pisses me off as often I have to start a whole story again for one kid whose head is wedged.

      Drew’s four year plan addresses this problem. In it, the kid is simply not allowed to go on because they are not ready based on the decision of the teacher, which is accurate way beyond the level of accuracy provided by mere grades. Hmmm. That may make too much sense for an educational institution.

      So next year we all will be teaching, in level 2, blob sucking energy units like Archie unless they are properly intercepted and schooled in rigor and the three modes in the first few weeks.

      Given the chance to repeat the language a number of times is a wonderful option for such blobular kids. I am certain that right now all of us have a number of kids in our classes now in May who should be forced by us to quit or stay where they are, but certainly should not be extended the privilege of moving on to the next level, where they will slow down the motivated kids next year again, as they have this year.

      We have spent much of this year in this venue talking about how to make the method work for unmotivated kids. Something’s not right. There are literally two threads going on simultaneously in our PLC:

      1. how to make the pure method work for people actually want to learn a language.
      2. how to make the method work with kids who don’t want to learn (like the Archie video).

      Drew’s plan is marvelous. We all need to implement it. We need to talk about it in our building PLCs. Thank you Drew. This is great. I’ll make the category for multi-level and try to highlight your comment as much as possible.

      I am sorry that you guys in LA don’t have district coordinators. You would be a great one because, unlike many of us, you have tact and deference and invite rather than impose. I asked Jason Fritze, by the way, about that and he said that the LA area is just so big and amorphous that WL coordinators don’t happen. Maybe that was Robert that said that. I forgit.

    3. One comment about the AP literature exam – in French it was not profitable enough for the College Board so they stopped offering it. Stop and think about that for a moment – we are talking about French literature here, which to me is up there on a par with the supremely fine German classical music tradition (it scrapes the heavens) and should therefore be one of the primary goals of any strong WL department.

      So the thing to do in all literature systems and screw the College Board, in my opinion, would be to allow the teacher to pick and choose what texts and what centuries they teach – THEIR favorite stuff – which would be even better for the kids bc the teacher would be so happy to not be forced to teach from a list and could do the stuff that they want to do, echoing Rabelais’ inscription over the Abbaye de Thélème – Fais Ce Que Voudras/Do What Thou Wilt.

      Now, how are we going to be able to discuss things like deliberated will in terms of the great authors of each of our language traditions unless we adopt Drew’s four year plan at the end of level one? Don’t we deserve to move our kids about ten times faster into the language than we are now just bc the current system of balls and chains is designed that way? Don’t people get what we are capable of now that we are letting the CI dogs loose on language education?

      It makes me think of those Latin teachers, in particular, and the potential there. Come ‘on, everyone, let’s get the Drew Plan in place now, so we can get these literature classes in place for our current ninth graders whom we know will easily pass the AP language exam as juniors with a 3 or 4 bc of TCI on their way to the study of literature as seniors.

      A prime goal of our work should be literature for seniors and not just language instruction for all. We can do it now. We have the method. We just need to implement the Drew Four Year Plan. So why are you reading this? Go find your department chair or a sympathetic ear in administration and set it up so that the plan is actually in place in the fall.

    4. 🙁 I don’t get this sequence thing……. Sorry…. Could someone spell this out and pretend I am two:)

      What would this sequence
      Beginning Language I/IV (repeatable up to four times)
      Beginning/Intermediate Language II/IV (repeatable up to three times)
      Intermediate Language III/IV (repeatable up to two times)
      AP Language
      AP Literature
      look like? I don’t understand what “repeatable up to four times” means…

      1. So imagine you just like to listen to the language and you have no intent to move along at a million miles an hour. You may want to take the same year over. I told Annick Chen today that whenever I hang out in her class I feel the burn of the Chinese language.

        I would definitely not want to be in an AP type class taught by Miss Chen. I would like a choice. I would base my decision on Miss Chen’s advice to just take that easy class again. She told me I would learn MORE because languages need lots of repetition and I believed her.

        Four years later I would know a ton of Chinese, carloads of it, because I got all that repetition, whereas had I gone to the AP thing with those other kids who are all about speed in Miss Chen’s class, then it would have just been a jumble for me. The four years of basic Chinese would have turned out to be an excellent decision for me.

        To repeat, taking Miss Chen’s Beginning Mandarin class four times would make me learn it better. Now, the kid behind me, who processes in class faster than me, but still feels a little intimidated by the idea of going up a level and traveling with the fast kids, might decide on Drew’s second option, two years of the Beginning Mandarin class, but only two years and then try that next level of Beginning/Intermediate. It’s what Judy said:

        …we have students who have been sitting in language classes for four or five years, or more, and would be considered beginners by any placement test on the market….

        with the supreme difference that there would be no shame in taking the same class four years, and I would get a credit for each year. I would have gotten credit for four years bc I took four years. Thus, it would be looked upon as a positive, bc I just don’t process real fast yet, I just enjoy listening to the stories and being in a class which is fun. If we do this right, the kids will be fine with whatever pathway they choose.

        Naming the class is important, reflecting what Judy said here:

        …I think it might be easier to get others to accept the idea if the Beginners’ level classes had different names, or themes, or codes maybe. Like saying “This class is for Beginners who are interested in simple social interaction and tourist type exchanges.” “This class is for Beginners who want to exchange ideas about popular sports/cooking/art/ whatever….

        The bugs haven’t been worked out. But the idea is solid and can bring a massive change for the better not just for the students but especially for the teachers, who can then move things along without the ball and chain thing going on. I see this idea as being at the tipping point. It is a reform idea. It is a powerful idea. Time to put on the gloves. DPS likes to claim that with the Gates money and all that it is the major metro district of “reform” – I hereby challenge it to implement this idea NOW in at least one of its schools. I know just the one.

        (That’s my best shot at an answer skip. Maybe others will add something. Hope it cleared it up a little.)

  3. Robert Harrell

    I originally posted this in Variety Pack 4, but here it is again:
    I do a two-year rotating curriculum for my combined 3-4-AP class. For it I do the following
    Year One
    -First semester is a virtual move to Vienna: learn about Austrian culture, students role-play older versions of themselves at the University of Vienna and UNO City*, readings based on Vienna, get to know the city. (*for example, Monday chats revolve around where they went and what they did in Austria over the weekend; did you take the train to Munich and visit Oktoberfest? Did you go skiing? Did you go to Danube Park with friends?)
    -Second semester study fairy tales and poetry; enjoy a “Viennese coffeehouse” experience

    Year Two
    -First semester is a virtual move to Berlin: talk about modern Germany, Re-unification, Cold War, interwar years. Similarly to Vienna, students talk about where they went and what they did “in Berlin”.
    -Second semester is a trip back to the Middle Ages; my medieval book is the organizing principle for the semester, and we use it for jumping-off points to explore medieval history and culture
    Until we get over the fixation of “quantifying” everything with a letter grade according to an (outdated) assembly-line production model, those of us who use TCI will be at odds with the system. This is part of why Ben often wonders whether or not TCI/TPRS can work in a school setting.

    On another note . . .
    We had a faculty meeting this morning to go over the standardized testing that begins next week. Paranoia has set in. I can’t believe the extremes to which our administration is going to “protect the integrity” of the exam. But it isn’t their fault or idea, it comes down from the State Board of Education, and they are getting pressure from the federal level. How can any of us be sane in a world of mad men?

  4. This is all so helpful. I am going to print out these replies to bring to my end of year meeting, along with all of Robert’s language acquisition posts.

    I love all of the rotating curriculum ideas, and in reality that is kind of what I do already. I have a student in my level 4 Spanish who started level 4 last year, but didn’t continue in the spring because of a schedule conflict. Last year, Dept. Head assured this kid (and another girl in the same position) that they would be able to move on to level 5. I suppose because these kids were concerned about “what it would look like on their transcripts.” Whatever. Anyway, over the summer, the boy contacted me about joining my class. At first he called it “staying back” or “repeating” but I reminded him that he was in fact proceeding from where he was. I had absolutely no doubt that this was a great move for this kid. Mostly because I knew the level 5 class was SAT prep. Barf. Oops, sorry. Anyway, the kid came to my class and is sooooo happy! He has noticed his progress and increased confidence. His parents are super stoked as well. So maybe I can use his reflection / feedback to add to the argument about being a bit more fluid with our definitions of the levels.

    Guidance, and no doubt parents and students are worried about “what it looks like on the transcript.” I say we just broaden our course titles. YOu have all given great examples of this!


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