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19 thoughts on “Question”

  1. I hope Bryce means by speaking saying only yes or no, along with anything they WANT to say in class. That’s how I define their speaking.

    Regarding Annabelle’s allowing only Spanish, as long as the Spanish is not forced and as long as the kids aren’t graded down for not speaking, to me it’s not a big issue.

    You’re not missing anything. We all need to read the last two paragraphs you wrote five times a day.

    1. So, do you allow the students to speak in English past the Town Hall? I’ve been getting them to give me ideas for the direction of the story in English. Is that what you intended? Or once the Town Hall is over, only TL?

      1. Dana for me it kind of depends on the class. I don’t have any hard and fast rules on use of L1/L2 except that I know deeply after so many intense years of trying to and failing at the (what I think is stupid) 90% ACTFL position statement that I am not going to guilt myself if English creeps in. So what if it does? Of course, I am diligent that any English not go beyond a few seconds. For me it’s not so much if L1 creeps in, it’s keeping it short and then over, a second or two or maybe five seconds tops. When it expands beyond that, we have a problem.

        1. I got freaked a little bit when I read the email you sent me this morning about those two Spanish teachers at the American Embassy School forcing their students to speak in class. “Making them use the language as much as possible” is cruel. THEY ARE NOT READY TO DO THAT. Those Spanish teachers need to be told that. But they won’t listen. You described the effect of this practice on the kids – their affective filters go way up under the guise of “rigor”. Everyone is watching them and they are stuck in their minds. Their eyes reveal stress and searching by the Monitor for the right words, as they look up and to the left. Anyone wanting to know how we define rigor in should look up rigor in the search bar, or go to the Primers link above and find “Robert Harrell – U.S. State Dep’t. on Rigor.” That explains what rigor in language teaching is, and beautifully so.

    2. With the coming of proficiency based learning objectives and assessment, our department that used to be super relaxed is having to formalize our assessments based on ACTFL. I am feeling like the odd one out who can’t imagine having speaking and writing on my Level 1 (grades 6-8) report cards, yet that is what will be happening next year. I go to department meetings and then I get critical of what I am doing, and like jen, I find myself in that horrible comparing mode.

      Then sometimes it’s some of the kids who get critical and want things to feel more like school, to memorize and “write more” or whatever. Sometimes I give it to them and they feel like they are working. Of course many of them don’t like that at all and I generously accommodate them but they get bummed out.
      There are so many pieces and angles and faces and sparks and strings in this work we do. It’s like a kaleidoscope world.

      1. I don’t have time in my career to turn my department around like some here have done. I do what I can to illustrate other forms of rigor and whatever, and none of them are wanting or expecting us to all be the same. They are good people doing some good things in their classrooms. I think that’s why I can occasionally get into the comparison mode and start wondering about what I do. If they were totally out to lunch, I could just ignore them and pretend and say “yup yup” and then do what I want. Now I listen, say,”but what about…?”, and then pretty much do what I want, but with those niggling doubts loitering at the back of my mind.

        1. Their eyes don’t see Krashen’s work. They don’t get it. No blame. My path has been to find it in my heart to just let them go. We have the research, and they don’t. But since they don’t know the research – they really don’t – they feel that they can judge us. It’s just human nature. But doesn’t the research count for something? Doesn’t the process of acquisition take place out of conscious control? Don’t all we have to do is provide comprehensible input? That’s what Krashen and Beniko Mason’s – just those two – combined 50 years of research deserve more than just a passing glance? I think on the old blog we had a “flat earth” category where we talked about this stuff.

      2. Dude asking 6th graders to speak and write. That’s cruel. That means memorization, which means activation of the affective filter, which means loss of confidence, which leads to them feeling that they don’t like the language because they suck at its, which leads to AP classes of 2 students. So cruel.

  2. Thanks, Ben. Funnily enough, my 9-year-old son came home from school one day extremely frustrated because of the Spanish-only rule in his class. He feels like he can’t say anything in class because he doesn’t know the words for it. (To give you some background, from Gr.1-3 he did French immersion where almost every class is in French. So he’s not new to language learning.) They do a lot of activities to encourage speaking and have words and phrases around them to reference. So in theory, it all looks great. However, I see the emotional side of it where a child feels they can’t do it so he now “hates” the class. Obviously, as parents we’ll work him through it and it’ll be fine. But I see him at that threshold where he wants to say things but can’t because he has so little of the language.

  3. I’ve never had a “Spanish only” rule. Mostly because I know I can’t enforce it. That is because of what you describe, Dana, as that layer of stress it adds to the students. This goes against the relaxed feeling we want to create. I’m only speaking from my own experience.

    I also have two added complications: generational trauma and a block schedule. Supposedly in 1/2 a year, my kids will acquire just as much as the kids who get a full year. Sorry, but my “level 3” kids, while maybe have had the same “seat time” in reality have had at best one full year plus one semester. At worst one semester each year. “Level 4” has had 2 years. Someone tell me the research behind how the math works on this.

    Long ramble to say no, I do not even “require output” from my “level 4” kids. Unless they want to of course, and many do, but sometimes I catch myself in that horrific place of comparing myself and my students to all the superstars and I think “omigosh we are REALLY FAR BEHIND and these kids have not acquired nearly enough to warrant the “level 4” label. Then I get over it. But it’s still simmering beneath the surface.

  4. The research tells me exactly what I’ve been experiencing since the beginning of my teaching career: If we ask/force the kids to output L2 before they are ready, kids get so frustrated when there is an interesting topic and they would like to talk but just can’t that they shut down if they are not allowed their L1 !!!
    When the class got so enthusiastic about a topic that even the very shy kids wanted to participate, we spent the better part of a lesson in L1 and I had the feeling it greatly benefitted our relationship as humans which for me is crucial in order to reach my students in any kind of deeper sense and have them stay open for our L2.
    In my grade 6 I suport those kids who are able to, to try out their English=L2 (They’ve been comprehending English for 5 years.), but they are always allowed to switch to our L1 if they can’t go on. This works fine for me.

  5. Good conversation! There’s plenty of contributing ideas in L1 in my classes. I encourage them to use French when they can, to use the words on the walls to remind them of things they are familiar with, but they often want to say something else, or they just get excited. I try to speak French back to them, translating what they have said and asking followup questions as we figure out where we are going in a character creation or story. It gets a little chaotic at times, and when I say, “I try to speak French back to them,” that is because sometimes I need to reel them in in English, or I think I do anyway. I guess sometimes reeling them in in French works too.
    I think it might have been Sean who once said on this subject that if we the teachers can stay in L2, that’s more important than the kids having to stay in L2. I agree. I keep having to remind myself.
    Watching that old video with Krashen and others that isn’t available anymore, I noticed in the immersion classes in Canada, many of the kids were speaking English, but the teacher was always speaking French and they were understanding and some were mixing French and English when they spoke, and it was all very relaxed.

    1. …Sean who once said on this subject that if we the teachers can stay in L2, that’s more important than the kids having to stay in L2….

      I had missed that so thanks for reminding us, Ruth. It’s very much on the point.

      Also this:

      …[in Canada] the teacher was always speaking French and they were understanding and some were mixing French and English when they spoke, and it was all very relaxed….

      This is the way it should be. ACTFL can make all the pronouncements they want – they are not classroom teachers and so don’t know what we know.

    2. I used to teach in French immersion. The thing is, their whole day is in French so they get so much more input than kids in WL classes. In the early years, you encourage production and teach pronunciation but don’t force it. As they get older, you require it of them, once they’re able to do it. At least that was my philosophy.

  6. I think the key with the 90% concept (which Blaine Ray stated in his 2004, 4th edition) is that the focus is on creating meaning in the language, understanding it, and scaffolding/negotiating meaning.

    The stark contrast is found in the traditional textbook approach in which English is used to explain the grammar and go over the worksheets.

    Since you are erring on the side of the first option, keep it up…focus on meaning, focus on students. Do what you need to keep it going.

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