Options for Kids

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13 thoughts on “Options for Kids”

  1. Here’s the deal with this (I just created this doc this year for this specific class). These are 3 Spanish 3 kids: 2 resistant girls (an intimate couple) and a guy (who is willing to do whatever). During this 82 minute class, I also have elementary grades coming up to my room for 20-30 minutes. So I decided not to put too much pressure on myself for these 3 kids. They pick their weekly option (some turn out to be bi-weekly options, like Ben’s Bucky program, which the boy is doing right now), and then I don’t really need to consult with them again til Friday, when we have our assessment interview. Anything that they are to do verbally (i.e. Bucky, Textbook excercises, etc) they record on their ipads and share with me electronically… I just check to see they are doing it.)

    Weekly I also have this group do 15 minutes of TV from a Spanish speaking country (there is a website that links you to many stations categorized by country wwitv.com, but not very Comprehensible), a thematic vocab test of about 40 words (the girls’ idea… whatever!), and 20 minutes of journaling. Otherwise, they have the whole 82 minutes M-Th and part of Friday.

    It’s not a typical situation, and I don’t encourage anyone to try to duplicate it necessarily, but feel free to use and/or tweak to your liking.


    This Spanish 3 class with only 3 students is strange. But the reason it looks like it does right now is mostly because of that one resistant student who didn’t think she was learning (a textbook taught beginner). And her girlfriend followed her, even though she is a CI star. So, I caved and just decided to let them do their own thing. So yeah, basically I just have them choose on Friday or Monday what they’ll be doing that week. It has been 80% novels since I started, which I am happy about. I have block classes, so they have Mon-Thur to do their stuff, and on Fridays we have the interviews where I assess what they’ve done (novels are easy, because I can just ask them questions about the novels and if they do well answering them, that shows me they read/understood it). Other than that, they have the entire block. Because that class is so small, and our district can’t justify having such a small class, I also teach 20-30 minutes of elementary Spanish during that 82 minute class. They go to the library and do their stuff there during that time.

  2. Jim, I think I understand that this is a special small class, not part of a larger Spanish 3 class that is resisting your method of teaching. So my comment below has nothing to do with how you are choosing to teach that small group, and I’m supportive of what you are doing, but this thread prompted a thought.

    I have read many, including Blaine’s, comments about allowing those who resist TPRS to do textbook work or have some other option. I have sent unruly students out of the classroom for one period and assigned textbook or translation work, but I question allowing students to choose to not cooperate with the regular lesson plan. Does the math teacher allow students to choose a different way to learn math? If kids don’t like doing labs, does the science teacher offer an alternative? Will their college FL teacher let them choose their way to learn the language? Why do we feel obligated to tailor a special program for uncooperative students?

    If a student is making the teacher’s life miserable or dragging down the class, perhaps removing them from the class is necessary, and perhaps in high school that means creating an option to study independently. But I wonder if negativity is really a discipline issue.

    I have just three rules, posted in huge letters that take up an entire bulletin board:
    1) Solo español
    2) Siempre comprende
    3) Siempre positivo

    Not every student is cheerful in class and I’ve had some that were downright nasty. I’ve had classes that have sent me home with a daily headache. But a consistently negative attitude is breaking a class rule and is dealt with as such.

    I’m in a sweet spot right now–no negative classes and the few grumblers at least mostly hold it in during class–so I’m not an expert on dealing with negativity. But I just want to throw out the idea that perhaps we don’t have to feel an obligation to accomodate students who don’t enjoy TPRS. We do many different things in our classes: storytelling, reading, writing, singing. There are always kids who don’t like various activities, but they can learn to be polite and save their grumpiness for Facebook.

  3. Rita this is a very accurate and true point but I think that the reason Blaine let those kids off the hook was because of the truly deleterious effect on the class by those negative kids.

    In our work we DEPEND on good will. Any conversation does. If we sit down at a table for dinner and some nasty ass soul is sitting there spouting all sorts of garbage out, or just bad vibing the group, most of us would leave the table to be somewhere else. That, I think, is the idea behind creating a new “learning opportunity” for those kids. Move ’em out. In math it’s not that big of a deal. But with us it is a huge deal.

    Two options exist in such settings, and we have all stuggled mightly with both. One is to fight the thing alone, even fighting against adminsrators (!) and the other is is to fight the thing with the administrator’s backing. Everything depends on that.

    This year, on a lark, three weeks ago, I sent the names of 14 – failing or in danger of failing for the year – kids to a counselor who are gaining little from my class, bc they lack the social skills necessary to learn in that setting. They just come in late, you know the drill. This counselor removed 12 of them for next semeseter!

    She said, “You are right, they would be better off gaining a ceramics or weight lifting credit than failing your class.” The two she left in absolutely needed the credit to graduate and their schedules wouln’t allow a change, but she would have taken them out as well.

    That is because this one counselor really gets and supports what we do. It is, by the way, unheard of in my experience and I never even expected my request to be met, because such requests have never been met or even heard by anyone in the past, since it was “my job” to reach those kids, which is hogwash and code for “we don’t want to deal with it”.

    So I agree with you in principle but not in action. The fact is, that, in my view, jGR is the first document in education, in any field, that connects grades to the human piece. Such ideas have formerly been squelched under the platitude that teachers cannot connect behavior to a grade. But now, in these sunnier days, we can do that bc the fricking STANDARD is Communication/the Three Modes. Bringing that up was Robert’s blockbuster move in May of 2011.

    So I nominate Robert and jen for Teachers of the Year in our PLC group for 2012! Put it on your resumes, you two!

    Just my thoughts on it….

        1. …and until then…what script can you give me for the girl that was huffing and puffing today about how ridiculous it is that she was given a 3 out of 5 where interpersonal is 30% of the grade so she has a 60% in that category, an overall 85% which is the highest C grade in our school.

          She was livid and wanted to fight with me. I just did a broken record of “I understand that you feel that way.” Until she finally went back to her seat.

          1. My snarky self always wants to say something like, “You’re absolutely right. It’s ridiculous that you choose not to meet the standard when you are absolutely capable of doing so.”

            Seriously, as long as the student wanted to fight, you did the right thing: keep repeating a totally neutral recognition of her emotional state. You gave her nothing to fight, you saved yourself the hassle of engaging her with the class keyed in to see who won, and you left the door open for a genuine discussion at a latter time.

            I imagine you gave students the interpersonal rubric and the grading scale going in, so the weight of the grade is no surprise. The requirements for each level should be no surprise either. When the student is calm and not trying to pick a fight – or when mom and dad get involved – sit down and go over the rubric. State where you see the student failing to meet the rubric (e.g. consistently talking with friends, failing to seek clarification, failing to respond to questions and other prompts unless addressed directly – which would be a 2 not a 3). Allow the student to seek to prove to you that her observable behaviors* meet the standard. It may also help to translate those numbers into words: 4 indicates proficiency in that the student is able to perform the task with a consistently high degree of competence. Erratic performance is not proficient, no matter how well someone may do in a one-off situation. Perhaps a sports analogy would help. In tennis I might be able to ace the occasional serve or get a volley going, but until I can place the ball consistently where I want it to go at the speed I want from it and return the ball consistently, I am not a proficient tennis player, and I have to go far beyond that to be advanced/outstanding (i.e. in the same league as Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal)

            *This is key: the behaviors must be observable to be assessable. She may say, “Well I pay attention.” Ask her to describe how she demonstrates that in class when you observe her constantly turned away from you toward a friend. You are describing an observed behavior; she is trying to convince you that she does something you are unable to observe. She may say, “I answer your questions.” Your observation is that she answers questions when addressed to her; does she volunteer answers or contribute to the class conversation without having to be asked directly? Only voluntary response, either visually or in the Target Language, goes beyond a 2. (As an aside, the other day I was presenting cultural information about Christmas. I was speaking in German, but this was new information so many of my students were responding in English. I found that perfectly fine in the situation; it showed that they were engaged – “locked on” to negotiating meaning. All of those students were at a 4 but were not yet ready to output in German. Guess what, in my system that behavior plus doing well on the interpretive quizzes will still get you an A in the class.) If she tries to “prove” that she pays attention by referring to good grades on quizzes, your response is that she has received the appropriate credit and recognition for interpretive communication; the issue is the interpersonal mode of communication, which ACTFL describes and you have outlined with your rubric.

            She may also say, “Well what about Susie?” Your reply must be and remain, “We are talking about you, not Susie. Just as it would be unprofessional to talk about you to another student, I will not and cannot discuss another student with you.”

          2. Robert thank you for this which I will publish as a valued article on jGR. I have sensed the Power of jGR level 2 vs. jGR level 3 in my own classes. This is what jen has done that is the main goal of the rubric – delineate between those two levels.

            The way she set it up also makes the overall big range, in terms of observable behaviors, that big range between a 2 and a 4, very easy to grasp by the kids.

            Jennifer did this right, enforced it right, has legs to stand on in a challenge meeting, and all is good. It is a good day when teachers can truly rebuff this kind of lame attack from kids with hard numbers resting on solid ground, here ACTFL.

            It’s a win for Jennifer today. I really think the entire thing would not have happened if that 85% were the lowest B in her school and not the highest C. She probably wouldn’t have heard a peep out of the girl. It really is pretty much only about grades with the vast majority of students.

            What jGR did for jen in this situation is prevent the child from getting an A – in pre-jGR days it appears that her overall term grade would have been an A.

            Obviously she is smart, but not performing to standards, and so why should she get an A if she is not performing to standards? She shouldn’t and it took jGR to fix that situation.

            When you think about that, how can a child be smart and not perform to standards? We need to send all our colleagues around the country a box of jGR for the holidays, and, among those who open the package (maybe 5%) a few will actually use it.

            Then we can slowly make American foreign language students more accountable to standards than what has happened up until now, with memorization and rote learning, with far too early output, being the order of the day.

            Good job, Jen, for not caving on that single percentage point. I personally don’t think that a kid performing observably at a 2 on jGR deserves above a C.

  4. I wanted to share my use of jGR. When I saw it, I thought that it would have been great to have that last year or the year before, when I had classes and sometimes large classes to deal with. This year I’m tutoring private students, all ages including adults and I thought I’d have little use for it. My students are paying for their lessons out of their pockets or their parents’ pockets and they respect me, so it’s actually quite pleasant work. But I have three 12 year old boys who are good friends and can get off track and start fooling around. Nothing nasty, it’s all in good fun, but I didn’t want to have to turn into a gendarme. So I brought in the jGR last week and explained it to the two who were there as a way of measuring their ability to interact in a conversation, in any language. They were to evaluate their behavior at the end of the hour. Of course the third one, who is the one who usually starts straying and the one I thought needed it most, was in the hospital that day. The two boys took it seriously, applied themselves and gave considerable thought to what grade they had scored. Today I went back, and they were all three there. The other two immediately told him about the jGR as something very interesting that we had done while he was away. And they were concentrated and attentive throughout the lesson, even though it was after a long school day on the last day of school before the holiday. I’m impressed, jenn, it works like a charm.

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