Question From Anne

Here is a question from Anne. I guess the output thing never got a fork stuck in it (will it ever?):
We have learned that lots of input is necessary before students can begin to produce output.  It is also commonly accepted  that some students will be ready before others to produce output .  We give lip service to the idea that it is okay for students to not speak until they are ready.  It feels right, from a pedagogical and also human point of view, to assess students solely on comprehension when they are starting out in a language.
At what point, then, and to what degree, do we begin to hold students accountable for output?  To what degree are they accountable for accuracy?  If we do not teach grammar rules with worksheets and quizzes, can grammatical mistakes ever affect their grades in a negative way?  If so, when?  And to what degree?
So the question is asking at what point can we reasonably expect and assess output, and in what form?  I am hoping that someone has been doing this for longer than I have and can actually pin point a time, in the 4 years, when requiring output is reasonable and appropriate.
I am striving for integrity in my program.  I want to teach only what is important, in a way that is effective and enjoyable.  I want to assess only the skills and knowledge that are important and that I have spent the most time working on in class.  I want that grade to reflect the degree to which the student has met the reasonable and attainable expectations that I have set for him/her. 
Right now I can’t say that that is the case.



3 thoughts on “Question From Anne”

  1. Since we are in the midst of first-semester finals, this is a timely question. I don’t have an answer. I do have an anecdote.
    For my first-year students I had them create a T-shirt, either on paper (I gave them a template) or a real T-Shirt. They put minimal writing but lots of graphics on it. Today they sat in pairs (fortunately I have an even number of students in the class). They had to greet one another, share their T-shirts with each other and then say good-bye when it was time to move. Every 2-3 minutes they rotated and changed partners. While this was going on, I roamed around the room and listened in on the conversations. Before doing this I reviewed the ACTFL Performance Guidelines so I would have fresh in mind what they ought to be doing. My Grading was plus = above expected level; check = at expected level; minus = below expected level.
    1. Out of 36 students, I had 3 who received a checkminus (students who regularly come late or miss entirely and often do their best to check out mentally when they are there but still are only slightly below where they ought to be – and here at the end of the first semester two of them are starting to say, “I didn’t understand what you just said”), 10 who received a plus, and the rest received a check.
    2. The first two partners were basically “practice” before I started assessing but even then a couple of students already stood out.
    3. Many of my quieter students found their voices; I deliberately listened to my more vocal students first; by the fourth or fifth partner, the conversational sound level in the room had increased noticeably.
    4. Only a very small portion of students felt a need to revert to English; instead I noted communicative strategies that included gestures, intonation, repetition, paraphrasing and mimicking (of a stronger partner).
    5. The students talked for about 45 minutes.
    6. Last week I introduced a new construction; many students tried to use it. Most of them mangled it. See next paragraph.
    Point six is where I noticed the greatest change, not in my students but in me. Once upon a time I would have cringed and focused on the mangling that happened . Today I smiled internally and thought, “Wow, I’m impressed that they are trying something we just barely looked at.” After I called time we had a de-brief: students filled out a self-evaluation form (I haven’t looked at it yet), then I told them my impressions. Concerning the structure they mangled, I told them that obviously I hadn’t exposed them enough to how to express the idea, so next week we are going to spend some time talking about what they like and don’t like. We all went home happy, and none of them are stressing over their German grade.

  2. While I like the idea of letting students come to the point of output on their own – and I let them do this in class while we’re practicing and doing CI – I also have to acknowledge that my district DOES expect some output from them at a certain point. That would be the CRT, which is held in December. There is an oral test and a writing test.
    The oral test consists of 3 short-answer questions and one picture question. I find that my students are much more afraid of the oral test than they really need to be. They tend to do quite well on it, as the questions are pretty simple “qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire le weekend?” and the like. It’s not anything threatening and by December they’ve certainly HEARD the answer to that question plenty of times. The problem for some of them is that even though they know what it should sound like and they recognize it when they hear it, they don’t always practice saying it. So it doesn’t come out exactly the way they heard it in their heads…
    Writing is also pretty easy, at least for first year. They breeze through it, as it is all about them and their family and friends. They’ve talked about those things so much that they aren’t scared at all.
    Second year is a different story. The things they are required to do are much more involved and they have to make a decision. There are two prompts – one that requires the future, the other is about the past. They are still a little fuzzy on the past but they’ve forgotten the future by the time December rolls around, so they all try the past tense prompt when they would have done much better on the future – fewer things to mess up.
    One thing we are missing in our district is a good, solid rubric for grading these tests. We have one for the spoken test. The writing test is kind of a free for all. I am sure there are some teachers who are taking off half-points for missing e’s and accent marks – and some who are lenient on those things, but who expect more communication to take place. I tell them that there are certain things I need to see – girls/feminine things need to have e’s added, and subjects and verbs need to match. But I’m really just trying to pick what I think is the most important of the ‘power standards’ I’m expected to get through in the first semester.
    I have kids who love to speak and will say all sorts of wonderful, creative things. I have some who are shy and would rather just listen. For the most part, that’s OK. As long as they are really listening, that is! If that’s just an excuse to not pay attention, that’s not so cool. But I know one boy who never, ever talks – but he is 100% there, every day. He hangs on every word and I know he’s getting it – even though he’s not loud and showing it off. That’s fine with me, I know it will come out sooner or later. Maybe just not in the classroom – but if he talks to me in the hall, that’s just as good.

  3. “Caregivers intuitively encourage infants to engage in this vocal matching. “Whereas,” says Masataka, “no such encouragement is observed in nonhuman primates.” This style of encouraging prosodic cooing is commonly called “motherese” and serves two functions. It gets an infant’s attention and “affective salience,” which I take to mean seizing one’s emotional focus.”

    “Affective Salience” may be useful term? To me it asks why only seek to lower Affective Filter? Why not instead seek to raise Affective Salience? Is that just a different way to say the same thing? Or does saying it different make it different? Is it possible to make any safer a little more mimicry, interaction, involvment, participation, ownership?
    Me has no idea how to hold learners accountable for enjoying and using words after learner understanding them; I just found a new word I like, called “Affective Salience” and wished to share the link:

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