Question from Jeff

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10 thoughts on “Question from Jeff”

  1. …you could set up a little group of them to do bookwork, prep for the NLE/AP, or have them writing stories on their own, or something on the computers, etc, as long as they agree to participate positively in class when you ask them to….

    John my view on this is that we should not send the message that our work in class can be negotiated. They must do it AND the extra stuff we give them.

    1. Plus, when they are busy being superior by doing the busywork, they are missing the crucial auditory input for the story quiz or the reading input for the reading test. What happens with these three is that they read far ahead from where the group is, thinking that they know the content – they don’t – and I painstakingly do R and D with the group, making sure that they are ready for the R and D tests* and the more busywork the three do, the lower their scores are on the quizzes. Add that to scores of 1, 2, 3, or 4 out of 10 on jGR, which is what you get when you don’t pay attention in class, and their grades tank. It’s a good response from me to them. It teaches them that they aren’t so smart. Most of all, it teaches them that they actually have to pay attention in class to get good quiz scores and to get a decent jGR grade. And what are they going to tell their parents about their grades when it is they who requested the extra work because the class is so “boring”. It’s a rigorous class and soon they will be begging to not have the busywork. It beats them at their own game. It’s badass.

      *I am now giving my students oon the Friday SSR tests (see Weekly Schedule New 2013) one Essential Sentences (Robert) test and one auditory quiz like the story quizzes, per chapter per week, usually. My students (those who attend well and are serious) and I have an agreement, that I don’t give those two quizzes until the class tells me that they are ready for it. So I get extra reps on each chapter.

  2. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak


    I too had a similar situation in which one of my 4% was starting to rebel b/c she thought she was smarter than to sit and pay attention to the stories. So I spoke to her at the end of one class and explained to her again how it all works and told her if she wasn’t satisfied with my answer she could go to the back of the class the next day and learn from the book and do the workbook chapter by chapter. She was thrilled. It lasted two days. She came back like a little sheep. That was way too boring and she realized it. It was a good lesson. She is smart and although she can speak better than a lot of the kids she still makes tons of mistakes because she hasn’t heard the correct ways enough times. So how could I convey that without making her feel inadequate? When she gives me an answer that is grammatically off I look at her with my special eyes that say it all ( you are smart but you can’t outsmart me yet) and I reiterate her answer with the correct french version and I say it sooooooo sweetly and with the emphasis on the correct form that she gets my message!!! I think she has learned to respect me and paradoxically, she is a great cocreator of stories now .She finally bought into it but it took 4 months of educating and going back and forth , and it is exhausting.
    Don’t give up Jeff, you are doing the right thing and you know it and oh my gosh you are getting such great advice from all the smart people on this blog!

    1. I talked with my academically strong (and personally arrogant) students during parent-teacher conferences, which their parents wisely made them also attend. We talked about the difference between recognition and acquisition, and talked about how their use of the language really isn’t showing acquisition yet. They need the input so that their production will improve. I affirmed that they can memorize vocabulary well – but that learning to communicate is a much deeper skill.

      In one case, the student has really improved his behavior. Not great, but at least good. He was “Problem boy #1” in my 7th grade class. Weeks later, I’m still fooling them into doing CI without them realizing it. I am also beginning to see higher levels of comprehension in that class over the past week or so!

  3. This is awesome. Such success stories are invaluable. And yes, it is exhausting. But we have chosen this path, and there is no going back. Thank you, Sabrina, for the report AND for hanging in there with that kid.

    There are so many teachers who have done such kids a great disservice bc they can memorize verb forms, and then, when such kids and their parents attack us bc they want more of the same bad instruction, and we throw rigor in their face, it can be devastating to us, as Jeff and others know, as we all must know at some point with our own stories with these kids and their parents.

    So we need more stories like this, where the kids – through our own refusal to crack under the pressure – finally realize how stupid the book is, and are welcomed back into the group, encouraged to learn in the way we know is best for them. We may be few, but we are right, and we can do this thing.

    Everybody hang tight until the Christmas break, if you are having challenges. Then rest and regroup for new year. I think that the entire purpose of this blog has been met just this past few days with the report from Jeff and the totally badass responses from his Latin colleagues.

    Jeff will prevail, those who quietly read along here, following the rich threads, even when alone, quietly making the slow progress that alone leads to real change, all of us will prevail, and some day, when people finally pull their heads out of their asses on how people learn languages, we can look back, scratch our heads, and wonder what the hell THAT was all about.

    We are part of a true revolution, and we get to be the rebels, which is always the best part, right? And look who we’re fighting alongside, from the LA people like Robert and David, up the coast to Jody and John and Ben and clear over across to chill and skip and the Mainers and everybody in between. We’re doin’ it!


  4. Vive la Revolution!

    One thing that I added to a conversation with a 4% parent was that the conversation/attention skills that we practice in class translate well into seminar classes and meetings when the world is no longer in a workbook. I also added that in an increasingly digital world of teen interaction, we are one of the few places where kids are practicing this.

  5. The jobs have worked well for me with the 4%. Class scribe and quiz writing keep them busy. I wonder if anyone has other challenging job ideas to add for this particular group.
    Funny story: in my noisy Chinese 2 class I was trying to get them to learn to ask what something means in Chinese. I did the thing where I said “Shenme yisi?” In Chinese and one kid is assigned to yell, “What does it mean?” We’ll, the kid kept forgetting to do it so the others around him would poke him or say his name when they heard it until he got it.” Then after Thanksgiving break I forget myself and said it in English a couple of times to check comprehension and this kid started shouting it in Chinese to remind me. Now everyone uses the phrase in Chinese to ask what something means.

  6. I had a ‘gunner’ parent who reaaaally wanted all the fancy pants preschool language classes to ‘amount to something’ in elem school, so she asked my principal to let her daughter ‘work on online math programs’ during Spanish b/c her daughter ‘already knew what Señora was teaching.’ Luckily, my principal directed her to me. I explained about her daughter’s fast processor, and my delight that the young prodigy already had acquired many of our target structures. Then I invited mom in to observe, so that she could see how such a class self-differentiates (sorry I know BS hates that word) since acquisition is a complex process involving phonetics, syntax, morphology, etc…the S in question may comprehend the targets, freeing her brain to focus/hear word endings/agreement; syntax, etc…I lent and recommended additional leveled novels, too. To be fair, the kid did have better output than her novice peers, but certainly was benefitting from the class!!
    The mom just didn’t/wouldn’t get it. She wanted me to recommend that her kid skip the next year of language class (i.e. 5th grade Spanish), so irked that the kid’s level to date didn’t earn her a pass to the front of the line.
    In the end and for many reasons, all related to ‘not meeting my advanced/gifted child’s needs,’ in a host of classes the family left the district and went private.
    You never know where the motives/attitudes are coming from, but I think in this case, it bothered mom that her kid already knew stuff, and wasn’t being ‘rewarded’ for it; she didn’t care about or accept any of the research – she wanted special dispensation.

  7. Some parents get uptight/feel the need to go to bat when their kids say a class is ‘easy.’ But for our classes perhaps we say, ‘easy is good; boring is bad.’
    I make sure to tell my principal/evaluator, my students, parents, faculty – whoever I’m discussing SLA with – that ‘easy’ is right where I want my students to be! Sometimes my ‘exit slip’ is, “How many of you forgot that we were telling the story in Spanish?”
    I had a 3rd grader tell me he wanted to feel challenged in all his classes or else he was wasting his time…whose mouth did that really come from?
    For those instances we need zingers like, “Well, you just created, dramatized then read/understood a 434-word story in a new language. Maybe it didn’t feel hard, but you sure didn’t know how to do it a few months ago!”

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