I got this from a colleague who had asked me about using CI with the textbook:
Thanks so much for the advice! The problem with not using the textbook (Realidades) is that our district has common assessments, so everyone has to give the same tests… which come from the book. I have tried to use the Realidades TPR resources, and it just confuses me. There isn’t really anyone else close by who does TPRS, so I sort of feel like I’m on my own there and sort of jumping without a parachute!
The way this is written, the vibe, made me realize today something I had never even thought of. The book companies and the creation of common assessments built around a certain book is probably much more ubiquitous than we think, and a yoke around the neck of the teacher who might want to explore everything available out there for her students.
It is astounding to think that a teacher wanting to implement CI into her teaching could be – is in the above case – held back because of the relationship between book teachers and their common assessments and book cartels. Once a district has a common assessment in place, which usually represents long hours and many dollars spent by the district, they will be loathe to give it up.
All teachers in the district must test the same way. I won’t go into it here, the topic is much too complex, but I maintain that the entire data driven/book based assessments are without actual merit – it only looks like they measure gains in languages. The teachers are part of a smoke and mirrors scheme to get people to think that their kids are learning something. The worst part is that they don’t even know it!
I say again – most students aren’t really learning anything at all from books. Just the four percent white females. Which is one reason the book and CI can’t mix. Books are for the four percent white females and CI is for the masses, for everybody. Can’t let the rabble, the Latino and African American kids and kids with nose rings and bad parents who might make things rowdy and raucous and, God forbid… fun, take over the class.
The teacher above. What is she supposed to do? Not even attempt to grow into what we hippies know works? It is very disturbing. New teachers can’t just toss the book. The cartels own them. If they toss the book, they toss their jobs.
There is something unfree, something that is against the very concept of what real teaching and learning are, in this email above. I feel very sorry for the Realidades bound teacher who wants to fly, but whose wings are clipped by common assessments. Just to be clear, I disagree with all in TPRS who say that books and CI can be mixed. I say to that idea, “Not really.”
And no apologies for the rant – it’s my blog. And Harrell quit apologizing for your rants. They belong here. I love reading them. They bind us in our common vision. This is the place to rant. Anyone who gets offended by how nuts we are shouldn’t be reading them. Rant on, brother!



3 thoughts on “Realidades”

  1. I, too, am new to CI, and tied to common assessments with Ven Conmigo. I tried an experiment last week. I pulled out an old final and asked my level 1 students to attempt the questions. Some said “Uh, oh, I’m gonna fail for sure” and others “This is easy!”… I did get some valuable feedback, the best of which was “It sounds right” when I asked “How did you know that was the right answer?” 🙂 I figure I’ll just keep on churning out CI and they will do just fine on that multiple choice farce of an assessment. (Our district has an “exam exemption” incentive for students. Typically 50-60% of my students do not sit for finals. That’s another one for Pandora to open.

  2. I am also trying to work with Realidades. My students’ knowledge has to be aligned with it by the end of the year. There’s a realidades tprs group on yahoo. Some people seem to do great with it. I am still trying to figure it out, so help from anyone else would be appreciated…
    One thing to consider is what kind of support the other teachers give students. Some teachers still do the “index card with all the info you’ll forget” trick. Are they doing the assessments straight from the book? I couldn’t see the majority of even the textbook trained students passing those…
    I think that focusing too heavily on the vocabulary doesn’t really help anyone. My students last year had so much vocab that they didn’t have time to soak in how to use it. and that’s causing them trouble this year. So if you can figure out what your students really need to know for their tests, that would probably help them. Grammar seems to be more important than vocabulary. So I have deemphasized my cumulative vocab tests by making them matching tests. That way they are exposed to them all year, but vocab dominates less.
    With the TPR resources, I appreciate that Karen has mostly weeded out a lot of the low frequency words, and then divided the rest into TPR and stories. I think what you’re supposed to do is do all the lessons at once at the beginning of the year. That way you build up a vocabulary base to be used in stories. I tried that this year, and once we got to a certain point, things just had a textbook flavored heaviness. I hope that will get better as I improve with TPR. I tried to add some more high interest words into the mix, and I took a break from the TPR list. We’ll TPR them as we get to their chapters. As for the stories, high frequency words are foundational in TPRS, I think, so i’m using stories from a variety of sources, and I think everything will work out in the end.
    Karen assumes (from what i can tell) that you’re teaching the Para Empezar theme words some other way. She uses them in the Episodios but doesn’t actually teach them. So this year, I skipped the episodios and I’ve started trying to use more songs to teach those things. It’s easy to find songs with days, months, weather, seasons, body parts, etc. And I spread them out over the entire year, with simple vocabulary at the beginning of the year and complete sentences coming later. Maybe you could spread them out over a semester… Maybe you could get permission to line up with the other teachers at semester and finals, and give the other assessments in a different order… that would give you a lot more flexibility.
    On a positive note, my students are able to read this year, whereas last year, we gave up on Pobre Ana after a painful couple of weeks. I’ve reorganized everything. In the interest of class discussion, we have done whatever words seemed to enhance conversations about the students. So we have used a lot of words from units 1, 4, 5 and 6., skipping school and food words. Strategically choosing vocabulary seems to have helped them a lot. On a negative note, I was just looking at my semester exam, and I see that now my students will not be ready to take the usual one.
    I’m trying to get together a frequency list of all the vocab, to help me cut the list confidently. It hasn’t been too big a problem so far since we’re still on high interest words. well actually it has been a problem…but I think it will become even more important later.
    Yes, it really feels as if the textbook has a stranglehold on what students learn. Textbook vocab lists take up a lot of time but often don’t give a lot back… If anyone else has ideas of how to deal with this, I’d love to hear them too.

  3. Who are the CI teachers out there who are trying to create assessments that can be given across buildings and teachers that actually do measure something and actually can be used to inform progress and proficiency?
    The struggle here is huge. Motivations behind the idea of common assessments are indeed stemming from the assembly line mentality- Grades not based on proficiency are essentially meaningless when comparing one teacher to the next. Some out there want these grammar tests to make it super easy to determine ‘who should move on’ based on these tests… and the fact that we are all bound to teach whoever comes through our doors is offset by the notion that language learning is being forced into a linear progression and kids must know pronouns and have 100% subject verb agreement and know obscure, infrequent vocab before moving on … Who has an answer to those of us who want make common assessments across multiple buildings a gateway to further language study rather than a bottleneck?

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