Possible Olive Branch

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20 thoughts on “Possible Olive Branch”

  1. Personally, I couldn’t do grammar. It is not something advocated in our PDs though some teachers like to sequence their curriculum according to grammar via thematic units.

    For example, Food = the partitif in French. Or a childhood story for the imperfect to teach something that someone “used to do”.

    Personally, I would bridge my own CI practices with DAY3 of all forced output activities using some structures that we covered from Day 1 and Day 2. Any thoughts?

  2. “So why work so hard when our main job as language teachers should merely be to get our kids interested in pursuing the language in a serious way beyond their high school years, which they normally don’t do when they come out of language programs …”

    I have a weird experience with this. My old master teacher uses thematic units with activities based on a grammar sequence. However, mostof her classes are exciting to the kids plus she does so much building like French club, fundraising to go to France every two years, an after school dance for students of French, a Mardi Gras potluck and a karaoke show of all the French classes in the school at the end of the year plus a French camp in the Spring every two years. She will usually have one or two students who will either major or minor in French while in college every two years. I could only imagine if she went full blown CI.

    “The kids only care about it being easy and copying verb forms and adjective endings makes for an effortless class for them.”

    Yes and because some kids want to just memorize the rules get an A and them move on. Get the credit or units to get on with their lives as per my district. Of course, I don’t feel this way despite what the school culture encourages.

    “We must be in harmony with those with whom we work if we are to keep our mental health.”

    Does this also include respecting each others differences? Is it more important to have approval of each others work than to have different approaches to teaching language? I never talk about pedagogy with my department. We just do what we have to do for those who demand documents but never read.

    This last question does concern me Ben. I will write you an email about it.

  3. After our department meeting today I’m left with one question that I need to know to be confident in my arguments. Otherwise I’m going to sit silently in the back of the room for the rest of the meetings.

    Does the CI approach better prepare students for the AP test than a brand new textbook series “Descubre?” I say yes, but are we sure? How does it do that?

    1. The “data” is (primarily) anecdotal in nature, so many people will find it hard to reach a conclusion on this, and it is nearly impossible to “prove” one way or the other. In addition, I am not acquainted with the textbook “Descubre”, so I can’t speak to its organization, etc. However, if it is like most textbooks, then it does not align well with the AP exam. When we look at the revised AP exams, we see that they are not interested in discrete-item grammar but in communication. A teacher may use a grammar approach and textbook yet still prepare students reasonably well for the AP test, but it will be because of factors other than the textbook. As Krashen has pointed out, even the most hardcore grammar approach provides at least some Comprehensible Input.

      Speaking of anecdotal evidence. Last year I had a student in his third year of German who was on the autism spectrum. He took the AP exam and passed with a score of 3. I in no way teach to the test and do very little explicit grammar instruction – usually when students ask about something. I think that is “data” to support the contention that CI instruction prepares students for the AP exam. How does it do that? By providing students with sufficient understandable language for them to acquire it and the occasional “pop-up” grammar for them to be able to use the Monitor function as well. Which is “better”: an approach that relies (almost) solely on the Monitor function or one which relies on acquisition plus Monitor?

  4. Ok….so let’s just say I were to attempt this new 3-day plan, grammar included. For day 1, since I’m also working out of the textbook (which happens to be the “Descubre” mentioned above) how do I make day 1 work? Do I try to fit in ALL of the vocab that is in the back of the chapter? Do I include ALL 3-4 grammar structures, only on this one day? ‘

    I just need to know in more detail what this looks like. Someone walk me through a sample 3-day unit?

    1. If your department isn’t dogmatic, you can always save Day 3 for textbook activities or grammar.


      Day 1:

      CWB or even just One Personalized Question. Ex: How was your weekend? You can spin this off into a story by training your kids to give silly answers when asking “with whom” or “where”

      Ministory: Search mini story on this blog.
      Or tailor a script to your class.

      Day 2:

      Read the story with any of the ROA activities. Try them out and see what you like.

      Day 3:

      Textbook. You can choose some activities to do straight out of the textbook. Some audio etc… grammar concept/point etc….

      Personally, I am doing more grammar pop-ups. Personally, I hate but some kids like it. My classes have way too many 4%ers.

  5. What I had in mind was that you don’t connect days 1 and 2 in any way with the textbook. That is folly. Anyone trying to do CI instruction that is in any way connected to some district-driven agenda is not doing CI in the way I personally think it should be done, but is pulling it down, clipping its wings. Even targets clip the wings of CI. So Jen why not fly free with CI and reap its great freedom and then every third day tie things down? Why connect your CI instruction to a book when we know that that doesn’t work?

      1. Jen S. I had a hard time letting go what it was to be a “teacher” my first year. A lot of things were emphasized like rigor, common core, standards, performance and thematic units. Once I started reading and developing a philosophy, which is always in flux, I started to have conversations with the kids instead of teaching the material. I was modeling the passion we all have for our languages.

        Your wings “feel” clipped but anyone can do this work. I believe it. Deliver CI with effective classroom management and going slow and deep with stories and personalized statements. When you want, bail out with any of the bail out moves. After all, we are in a continuous state of practice.

          1. Your departmental colleagues have convinced the admins to adopt that position against you. How many years of this does this make? How much can you take? Can you possibly just do what they say?

          2. I’m sad to hear this. I want our dept to grow in the CI. Someone is going to retire and I am going to voice my opinion with my admin who supports me. Ill say “we need a CI spanish 1 teacher before X person retires.” By then, he will either be schooled or just give me the approval.

          3. Jen, if your administration has told you that you may not use a particular method in your teaching, they may have just trampled your First Amendment rights. Here are two paragraphs from an article about Teachers’ Rights and the link:

            The Supreme Court has recognized that a teacher’s academic freedom is “a special concern of the First Amendment.”74 Because school boards retain authority to control the curriculum, a public school teacher’s academic freedom is likely to be more limited than that of a college or university professor.75 Courts have held that public school teachers possess some discretion in determining the methods of instruction that they use to teach the required curriculum.76 Thus, courts have held that teachers could not be dismissed for such teaching methods as using a magazine survey that included items about sexually explicit matters in high school speech and sociology classes77 or using a simulation technique that evoked strong emotions on racial issues to teach about Reconstruction.78 At least where the teacher’s chosen method of instruction does not cause substantial disruption in school order, interfere with others’ rights, or affect the prescribed course content, teachers have a modicum of discretion in choosing their instruction methods.79

            Because, as will be discussed below, teaching about religion is permissible in the public schools, teachers should be permitted to use the Bible or other religious texts in their literature, history, or other courses so long as it is reasonably related to the subject matter in the curriculum.80 (For instance, a teacher may assign a passage from the Psalms in a literature class while discussing styles of poetry.)81 One federal court has also held that a school board order prohibiting “all political speakers” from access to the school violated a teacher’s right to choose the methods of instruction.82 In that case, the school board order was issued in response to a teacher’s decision to invite a Communist speaker to address her class. Applying the Tinker test, the court found no evidence of any material disruption of order in the school or any violation of others’ rights and thus held that this order infringed on the teacher’s right to use outside speakers as a method of teaching the proscribed curriculum.83 The court also held that the order violated the equal protection clause because it was intended to silence a particular viewpoint (Communism).84 The court said that the desire to avoid the discomfort that accompanied this unpopular viewpoint did not justify the order.85 Nevertheless, if a school had a policy prohibiting all non-students or faculty members from access to the school during instructional hours, the policy could probably be applied to prevent a teacher from bringing outside speakers, including speakers with a religious viewpoint, into the classroom. However, teachers should refrain from inviting only speakers with a religious viewpoint.

            Your rights are not absolute because you are a teacher, but neither do you give up all of your rights, and the court recognizes “academic freedom” as extremely important.

            You will have to decide what you want to do about this, but most school districts rely on people not knowing their rights. Perhaps an initial private (with union representation) conversation with your administrator about First Amendment rights? In California the right to choose the teaching method and assign course grades is nearly absolute – barring obvious favoritism or fraud. If a teacher shows that under her grading system, applied to all students equitably, a student has received a low grade, no one can force her to change that grade, and an administrator who changes the grade is open to criminal prosecution. You would have to see what the situation is in your state.

          4. 78 At least where the teacher’s chosen method of instruction does not cause substantial disruption in school order, interfere with others’ rights, or affect the prescribed course content, teachers have a modicum of discretion in choosing their instruction methods.

            Something tells me that Jen’s teaching “does not cause substantial disruption in school order,” unless we’re talking about causing disruption in colleagues’ egos!

          5. Sean said:

            …unless we’re talking about causing disruption in colleagues’ egos!….

            Yup. Preach it. Even within the so-called TPRS world, we see this. People not willing to embrace new ideas. Oh well. Some day humanity is going to get its shit together.

          6. No doubt you would have made a great lawyer, Robert, but the fact that you and others in this community chose education over some other career reaffirms my faith in mankind.

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