Question About Rubrics

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17 thoughts on “Question About Rubrics”

  1. Hi Tiffany. In my experience, I haven’t had push-back from students on what score they get on the ICSR/ jGR. The “documentation” you’re asking about is pretty evident by teacher and student alike, especially when everyone gets accustomed to the way conversations happen in class.
    I have had push-back, though, this year at a new school I dropped into, with the weight of that jGR grade as part of their total grade. So much so that I’ve had to drop virtually all CI teaching I do these past couple of months. Unfortunately, in my current school setting (a neighborhood, inner-city school in Chicago) it is just too much of a fight for me to give them CI if I can’t hold them accountable to do their part. Too many just talk over me.
    I would love to think that I can use jGR as an expectation I can hold students to without having to worry about plugging in a grade but the reality is not ideal.
    Next year I will be taking baby steps with students with CI. And I will gradually increase it’s weight in their overall grade report as much as I can as students turn the corner with me and we are heading towards that Pure Land that Ben talks about.

  2. Hi Sean,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I will be honest, as I read people’s posts about using the jGR it seems like the pitfalls I have always found with participation rubrics are still haunting a large number of users. I guess I will have to use it to see if it is a motivating and clarifying document for students/parents, or if it turns into more of a hassle than it is worth. I know I WON’T make it a large percent of grades, more as a feedback document so students can see why they have the grade they have. We know, as teachers, that those who score high on the jGR will acquire more than those who do not. I am not sure you need to make it such a large part of “the grade”, as it seems to be causing people headaches either with students or admin. I have always preferred to let student work/output take center stage when I grade what a student can do with the TL. What I like about it, is the concise way it links tangible behaviors with teacher expectations. I think that will make it useful to help paint pictures for students and families when the why question comes up- “why is this child doing so well/poorly/etc.” Behaviors matter, yes! But, I am not sure grades should ever really stray from the wide variety of output that we ask of students. It muddies the water of the grading process, which should always be clear- how well has the student met the learning targets of the classroom? That’s my two cents. Thanks for having the conversation. It always helps clarify why and how we do what we do.

    1. What do we want a final grade to represent? Very subjective. No right answers here, I don’t think 😉
      We should look at the distinction between “achievement” and “behavior” as it applies in SLA, specifically in our approach, TCI. And we can break down “achievement” further – is it accuracy, fluency, complexity, or vocabulary size? Is it performance or proficiency? In what mode?
      Consider how a student’s interlanguage system develops – a language element doesn’t switch from right to wrong and will be a while before it’s consistently right. There’s lots of partial progress and some of that “progress” may actually look like reverting to an earlier stage of development (e.g. went -> goed -> went). U-Shaped Learning. Then there are lots of documented stages for syntax (e.g. word order in negation). So how do we assess and grade output? And this is just considering accuracy.
      In TCI we do believe everyone can acquire a language, but will do so at a different rate, much of which is out of their control. Do the kids who acquire at a faster rate deserve a higher grade?
      In the end, the number grade tells a kid and a family very little. Tying the grade to a standard may be more informative, but again, there are lots of components of a standard. My preference is to try to write a short, but proficiency and fluency-based test of achievement and comment on that result and progress on report cards, but not let it affect the number grade. Since I do not want to penalize slower processors, I do prefer the number grade represent “acquisition-based behaviors.” It is also these behaviors that make or break acquisition for the rest of the students in the classroom as well as consist of the behaviors that will facilitate life-long acquisition. That said, I’ve used jGR more as classroom rules and expectations and not as an assessment grade.

    2. Tiffany, I too look forward to continuing using the jGR/ ICSR to “paint the picture,” as you say, for students and parents to help them understand why or why not their student is acquiring. But yeah, when I say I’m currently not teaching CI, that does not mean I’m grading kids on output. The reality is, (sshhh), that I’ve really not taught any Spanish at all these days. I refuse to turn to a textbook or do forced output exercises, or to “practice” Spanish without CI. Funny and sad thing is that everyone in my school is content with me not teaching any Spanish. Admittedly, my story is a mess (all 4 Spanish teachers that started the school year quit by mid-year). It’s a long story. I’m really looking forward to starting fresh next year and since I’m the only surviving teacher in the department, and that I’ve kept kids happy and got decent evaluations, you’d think I should be able to throw my expertise around a little without much criticism of my use of the CI/ TPRS approach. You could say that the only surviving foreign language teacher that has crawled out of the trenches and survived in my school is the CI teacher. That’s testimony in and of itself!

      1. Sean,
        Thanks for your honesty here. I hope it provides you some comfort you’re not the only one struggling with using TCI in an urban setting (and my schools is called “fake urban” as Kalamazoo is a small midwestern city, so we’re quite diverse.) The combination of being a first year teacher who is really nice and loves his students but doesn’t have management down and an urban high school classroom means that blurting and chatting in general take away a LOT of CI time in my class as well…
        Anyways, my point is there are also times I wonder if TCI actually works in this school, but repeatedly my evaluators and mentor teacher remind me that, “they would be lost if you were using the textbook.” Last week I gave students chance for feedback after their test. The first question was, what was the most helpful activity? While they complain plenty about stories, almost every student said that stories were the most helpful. So we might not be in TPRS wonderland (yet:), but even with the struggles, we’re doing what is best for our kids… keep up the good fight!

        1. I appreciate your words, Tim. Know that I had lots of success working with kids of greater poverty and marginalization last year than with the kids I’m working with this year. I attribute that success last year to admin support from the get-go. This year I’m at a school that has cycled through, big time, their Spanish teachers. There is a culture of skepticism, if you will, around foreign language teaching at my current school. That skepticism could be a tremendous blessing for me start fresh next year with CI as long as I my admin continues to feel like I’m listening to them and working with them as a team-player. I’m learning that they’re good people. Before I thought they had some big, bad egos. Perhaps the problematic ego was more mine.

          1. Sean, I think you have the most difficult teaching situation I’ve heard about, and it’s really admirable that you’re staying. You said like 4 Spanish teachers were there in semester 1 before you came?? Whew.

  3. I think implementing a JGR style rubric really depends on whether or not the culture of the school and admin will support it. Making use of the Van Patten perspective summarized by Eric below, if the school is open to the notion that language is not about mastering the vocab and constructions but primarily about communicating, then they are more likely to support a clearly stated and assessed interpersonal rubric as ESSENTIAL to the language acquisition process, in that it supports the building of a language learning community in each classroom. We have ACTFL, Van Patten, Krashen et al. on our side. But if a school admin thinks it’s “subjective” because of their old paradigm, all we can do is try to educate those folks, and work within the context of what is allowed when it comes to “participation” or “citizenship” grades.
    However, I think we need to be advocates for the idea that JGR behaviors are not separate from, but actually cause aquisition to happen. This is radical, so we have to be sympathetic to those who don’t understand the connection.
    Like Sean, I am in a new school as well, with a pretty traditional approach to FL, so I have had to figure out what will be supported in my context. Next year, I will be able to push this a bit more. And if I’m called on it, I’ll have all the great postings on this PLC to back me up.

  4. I’ve modified Bob’s rubric (, which is modified from sources here.
    His comments are important, and I think they apply to all of the rubrics I’ve seen for Interpersonal Communication, Participation, Rules, or whatever you want to call them. The most important one I’ve come across is that there’s a line between not participating in acquisition, and actually misbehaving and being disruptive. Don’t use these rubrics for the latter.
    To your points…
    I cannot sense and document each student’s participation fairly/accurately, at least not yet. My cognitive load is maxed out on providing CI, listening to students, and making sure class flows. As such, I do the following…
    Everyone starts a new quarter at 100. I assess them daily. When I see a violation, I go through the smile, point, explain to whole class, smile formula (, write their name down, and take off 5 points in the grade book. Students can regain points by coming in for a ~5min conversation, in Latin. It’s really a trick…they actually get 5% more CI time, one on one.
    I hope my reply is useful. Perhaps it shows that despite sooooo much awesome stuff discussed here being crucial to my success in the classroom, a single practice just doesn’t fit…and that’s OK.

  5. My own position will never change on output. I will wait until the seed opens up, sends up a sprout, then a plant, then a flower. I won’t rush that. Flowers start happening, in my students, unforced, appropriately, in April and May of level 2, IF there has been a massive amount of input up to that point.
    And when the output happens, at different times depending on the kid just like with real flowers depending on the kind of flower, it happens fast. But what if I had tried to pry open the seed or the sprig (level 1) or the stem (level 2) or the flower (depends on the individual)? I would have messed up a process (output) I have no business forcing.
    There are many years worth of articles on this topic here:
    Of course, all that is to justify my own strong (65%) weighing of jGR in my own classes. Quite frankly, I am not interested in what a child in level 1 or 2 can do. For what? I don’t judge kids on their speech at age two either. Because it’s not formed and no amount of conscious practice can make it any better.
    Now, the easiest thing if you are Mimi Met or Helene Curtain is to tell people that the conscious mind, when used in the pair share activities that they thought up, can be an effective tool in learning languages, as it gives practice to speech output. The problem, however, could not be bigger, and is in fact in my view a fatal error based in pride that does not take into consideration the best research we have that is available. And that research tells us that it’s an unconscious process. Unconscious. Not conscious. I know, I know – it doesn’t fit into your world.

    1. Rather than un(sub)conscious, which may be a sticking point, we can say:
      purpose: focus on meaning – meaning-based
      incidental – students trying to communicate (express & interpret messages), as opposed to trying to learn a language.
      implicit – unaware of what we are learning
      product: implicit knowledge (we may not know or be able to verbalize what we know)
      Now, “attention” is a tricky one. At some level we have to perceive the full word and process it all if we want to acquire it completely. If you read or hear the stem of verbs and other content words, then you can get the meaning without processing all the form-meaning mappings.
      E.g. Él le dijo a ella: Vamos a la escuela (He said to him: “We are going to the school.”) may be processed as Él — dij- – ella: Va— – — escuela. That is enough to get the meaning, but not enough to acquire all the grammar. So, there has to be perception of these function words and morphological aspects if it is to be acquired and that is largely what VP’s work is all about – manipulating the input in order that getting meaning depend on paying attention to the stuff that may not get processed in non-interventionist CI.

  6. Alisa Shapiro

    At least 2 opposing and simultaneous forces are complicating our WL teacher lives.
    1) We are still exploring our role as CI providers/WL instructors, which is quite different from teachers of other disciplines;
    2) The school model is predicated on measurable progress over time, and accountability.
    Newsflash! T/CI teachers just don’t fit the traditional teacher mold.
    Because of 1), we haven’t yet fully articulated our preference in lieu of standard assessment practices (like in the other disciplines), but outside forces (equity, the Board of Ed, teacher evaluations and PERA, helicopter and untrustworthy parents, to name a few) still breathe down our necks.
    So far, for assessment we have: Comprehension (input) measures in levels below Intermediate. For some gatekeepers (who trust us as the WL experts) , this is enough; for others (who prefer consistency across disciplines, whether appropriate or not) – not so much.
    Regarding 2), we experience a lot of the same issues that Ts of other disciplines have, and all the stuff Robert outlines in the research on WL assessment (See Primers for excellent overview!!):
    1. Practicality
    2. Reliability
    3. Validity
    4. Authenticity
    5. Washback
    On the one hand we get that all the targets must constantly be recycled month after month, year after year, massed and spaced, but on the other hand, the papers we are required to fill out (curric maps, scope & sequence, UbD KUDs, etc) invite us to slice and dice the language and superimpose a calendar as a way to insure a common experience, have documentation should anyone ask, create common assessments, etc. Then there’s Dr. K shouting from the sidelines, “Non-targeted CI!! Just talk and read!”
    Luckily our own observations as T/CI practitioners give us the faith and hope that we’re doing it the right way, and to stay the course. Meantime as we grapple with these school issues and others, we deepen our knowledge, sharpen our teaching skills, expand our T/CI strategies toolbox, defend our turf, and develop real relationships with our kids!
    Lotsa demands and gray area. But when I’m with the kids spinning a tale, it feels clear and free!

    1. One of the defining differences (of goals) between CI and traditional:
      1) CI prioritizes fluency – speedy comprehension & production (has to also be accurate enough to be understood)
      2) Traditional prioritizes accuracy – and this usually means “knowing” what is right, not “using” under fluency conditions

    2. …as we grapple with these school issues and others, we deepen our knowledge, sharpen our teaching skills, expand our T/CI strategies toolbox, defend our turf, and develop real relationships with our kids….
      Agreed. But who can do all these things? We are trying to implement something new while maintaining something old and it’s very exhausting. Defending our turf is for some of us almost a full time job! This is where the self-care/mental health piece comes in so strongly as a leitmotif in our sharing here over the year.
      And speaking of self-care, I’m going up into the mountains for a few days. I will time stamp a few articles and suggest to newer people that there are well over 5000 articles to choose from here over eight years now (and somehow few are out of date – they have retained their freshness). So go to the article archives (above right) or pick a category you want to read articles in, and tone things down a bit. This is the time for reflection, not doing.
      When else are we going to be able to take a deep breath, if not in the first week of June? I’ll check back in periodically here over the next few weeks.

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