Questions for Textbook Companies – 5

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17 thoughts on “Questions for Textbook Companies – 5”

  1. To add to Harrell’s: memorisation broadly works best when recall conditions mirror input and memorising conditions, and when input and active memorisation is “synchronously multimodal.”

    E.g. In a story, you are hearing the structure, seeing the action, possibly reading off board as well, and you are seeing it– over and over– in something like “realistic use,” all at the same time. While a story may be wacky, the essence of it is problem solving and always authentic language. This is why tprs kids can recall stories so well.

    With lists of vocab, or worksheets, learning to memorise these or learning the rules for doing them simply does not mirror authentic language use in any way. So yes, kids can learn to conjugate, or memorise, but the process of learning this– other than being conscious learning, which has an at best epically-slow way of getting into subconscious– is its own skill. It’s like the arguments that learning Latin, computer programming, Go or chess will make your brain work better. No, they won’t. They WILL make you better at Latin, coding, Go or chess (and Latin has cognate-knowledge spinoff value) but multi-domain affects? Nuh-uh. Learning to do worksheets and conjugation teaches you just that, not language.

    Indeed, there is good research that indicates that the essentials of maintaining mental health are (a) real-time meaningful face to face conversation with real people who care about us (b) exercise, (c) enough sleep and good food. And what do we do when we talk? Why…we tell stories!

    I would tell the Defartment Head that Realidades simply does not mirror brain research. Grammar worksheets, list memorisation, low amounts of CI, non-compelling input, lack of narrative (what Pinker has described as the oldest and most effective teaching tool of all time), isolated presentation of grammar etc– great for kids beavering away at video worksheets but not at all in line with research.

  2. Dang it Chris this is so good…I had to repost it hoping others can use it!

    I hear from some nonbelievers that when students do fluency writing or verbal retells that it is just a memorized information and not real language learning. This is a great way to enlighten others. In addition to this point, what are the L1 and L2 relationships in thes escenarios? Well we already know what we set out to do.

    Chris wrote…

    “In a story, you are hearing the structure, seeing the action, possibly reading off board as well, and you are seeing it– over and over– in something like “realistic use,” all at the same time. While a story may be wacky, the essence of it is problem solving and always authentic language. This is why tprs kids can recall stories so well.

    With lists of vocab, or worksheets, learning to memorise these or learning the rules for doing them simply does not mirror authentic language use in any way. So yes, kids can learn to conjugate, or memorise, but the process of learning this– other than being conscious learning, which has an at best epically-slow way of getting into subconscious– is its own skill.”

    1. Just gonna point out that a “practice effect,” “familiar context,” “rehearsed,” and “immediate” are all variables we have to admit potentially influence any fluency write or oral retell.

      If we do these activities frequently, then part of the improvements will be do to practice. Whenever we stop fluency writes we will likely see a drop off in quantity (and probably also quality).

      Stories are the context students are most familiar with, so asking them to do story rewrites shows us the students can use that language in a highly familiar context.

      When we spend 1-2 weeks on the same structures and familiar language and then ask students to rewrite a story, even write a new one, with that same language, then the prior weeks served as “rehearsal.”

      And when we assign fluency activities immediately after lots of time with that language (rather than delayed), then of course, the content is fresher and students will do better.

      Fluency activities are WONDERFUL both for increasing speed and confidence and these results can look impressive, but an educated critic could point out the above weaknesses and question how much of this is acquired competence and how much is due to effects of practice, familiar context, rehearsal, and immediacy. For these reasons, I caution us when trying to use such Quick Writes and verbal retells as evidence of superior results as compared to traditional classes.

  3. Good point Eric. What you say makes sense based on your work for developing acquired competence. I just wonder what can serve as evidence for formative assessments that allow us to show other teachers, parents, students, and us the results of developing fluency.

    Our instant gratification world doesn’t allow us to just hang out in the language and assess at the end with no consequences.

    I agree with because what you are saying is a traditional teachers rebuttal…” that writing is just a memorized story.” Which like you said is in some ways the result of practice. It isn’t the memorized as their memorized language practice but they do have a argument.

    Maybe others can weigh in on this…

    1. It is good evidence of fluency! And these are activities you DO want to include as part of a fluency development program! And use as formative, performance assessments! . . . Just not a strict measure only of what has been acquired. I was saying that these aren’t necessarily the best summative measures of acquired competency (unconscious language use), yet I read of TPRS teachers pointing to these formative assessments as evidence of what has been acquired. . . still better than any traditional measurement 😉

      And I wager most people (especially traditional teachers) aren’t educated enough in what “proficiency” and “monitor-free” means to recognize the 4 weaknesses I listed 😉

  4. Right! These are part of building fluency…and not actually fluency per se. I think this goes back to what Blaine tries to accomplish when he talks about getting students to write about TOPICS. This is supposed to be something new and personal. Topic writings are an example of an attempt to create that spontaneous, unrehearsed, un-memorized language…an application of what they learned in a new way.

    I guess next time a traditionalist points out that speed writes are just memorized examples, instead of pointing out that brain-based stuff and the fact that the information is stored in a different part of the brain, I will simply agree and say, “yes it is memorized but this is a great way of developing fluency.”

    1. You can say it’s not memorized. Very familiar, yes. If a traditional teacher told students to do a timed rewrite of what happened in that day’s lesson or to do a timed write using that week’s vocabulary, those kids won’t get the results our kids get (partly because they don’t give kids functional language). If you read kids a new story they’ve never heard before or gave all kids an unrehearsed topic, then TCI kids should blow the other kids out of the water, because they DO have more fluency AND acquired competence.

      There are different nuances to the word “fluency.” We are not using it the way the average Joe says “I’m fluent.” What Joe really means is that he is of INT or ADV proficiency. Thinking of fluency just as “speed” of comprehensible output, then our fluency writes develop AND measure fluency.

      Fluency is different from acquired competence. I think in order to assess acquired knowledge/ability, then fluency conditions are one prerequisite (time pressure and focus on meaning), but it’s also gotta be a new context, unrehearsed, and not an assessment of what was just taught.

      1. Right on Eric…the nuances of these words cause confusion. This is why I like the term MICRO-Fluency. People have to think about it for a second when they hear it. In one little hyphenated word we admit that in 180 days of school fluency can not be accomplished.

        It expresses the fact that we want to accomplish a goal with the language being used. It leads to the idea of high frequency language being used really well.

        “Acquired Competence” is now making me think about what students can do at the end of a program. Maybe this is something you have been saying all along. I have been thinking about it like assessing for proficiency.

        1. “I have been thinking about it like assessing for proficiency.”

          Certain elements, yes.

          Even “proficiency” is vague and every “proficiency” test is measuring different proportions of what has been learned and what has been acquired. I think the ACTFL OPI is the best thing we have. And yet, the problem I have with “proficiency” is that it’s a scale based on the “native speaker standard” with material “made for a native speaker.” The descriptors for the proficiency guidelines don’t seem to be (enough) about what a student can do fluently (with speed and quantity) with his/her language.

          All the below is a quote from Nation (2014):

          Fluency involves making the best use of what you already know. At every stage of language proficiency right from the very beginning lessons, you need to be fluent in using what you have already learnt. For example, when you learn the numbers, you should be able to recognise them quickly in a spoken form, so that when you go into a shop to buy something, you can understand the price.

          There are several popular ideas about fluency. When we say that someone is fluent in the language, we mean that they know a lot of the language and know it well. That is not the kind of fluency that we are talking about here. Another meaning of fluency is that someone is able to choose exactly the right word or phrase at the right time to suit the occasion. That also is not the kind of fluency that we are talking about here. In this chapter, when we use the word fluency, we simply mean the speed at which you can produce and understand the language. This is a very simple idea of fluency, but it is a very important language learning goal.

          How do you become fluent? Fluency activities have four important characteristics.

          1 They involve easy familiar material that contains no unknown vocabulary or unknown grammatical features.

          2 They include some pressure to go at a faster speed.

          3 They involve a large quantity of practice.

          4 They involve a focus on receiving or communicating messages.

  5. Each year, end of year DPS writing samples from 1st and 2nd year CI kids are amazing and certainly not memorized. I think that is one big reason just about everyone in our district has turned to CI. Imagine 100 teachers in groups of 7 or 8 per table grading writing all day. We would find a masterpiece, get up and walk around and find the teacher and say, “Look what your kid wrote. This is gold.” And it would be – interesting, complex sentences with connecting words, not spelled perfectly but clearly not skewed, stilted or memorized. Traditionalists sitting at the table would see it and realize that their #1 memorizer couldn’t hold a candle to the sample being carried around the room. So we went from 5 to 80 teachers doing CI in six years.

    And no it’s just not memorized.

    The problem is the amount of time spent. It just takes longer than we may want it to. This bolsters the illusion of the traditionalists.

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    It’s like an airplane’s black box. Everyone want’s to know what’s in the Acquisition Black Box. But real world variables prevent us from getting a good/objective read on its contents. While I teach novices, I’ll bet we’ve all seen kids do a remarkable re-tell one day, and momentarily falter/forget how to produce a Super 7 verb another.

    1. In research they look at instances in which a certain grammar aspect MUST be used (“obligatory occasion”) and then set a percentage of accurate suppliance of the rule (I’ve seen 75% in Ellis; 1989). In other words, it is considered “acquired” (internalized) if the subject uses the rule correctly 3 out of 4 times in situations that require the rule be used.

    2. Ok…slap me for being inappropriate, but when I read this I immediately went to the Cialis commercial….”When the time is right….”

      Truth is…sometimes the time is right and the output occurs ( oh dear….this is getting worse by the minute lol) Other times…..it isn’t.

      with love,
      Laurie

  7. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    How about the input/output issue – the kid understands it most/all of the time in context but can’t/doesn’t regularly output it. Or, they can correct when prompted. (Maybe I am not fully understanding your last msg).

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