Report from the Field – Angie Dodd

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15 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Angie Dodd”

  1. Well said, Angie and thank you. My thoughts are:

    …output is a stated goal for every level, and the process involves having students prepare and memorize….

    If it is a stated goal, then do it. Just keep in mind what we have said a thousand times here, that output requires thousands, not hundreds of hours, and so you are being asked to require your students to do something that is inherently flawed. But we sometimes need to keep our jobs. We have officially dropped the speaking assessment in DPS after six years of trying to make the assessment we came up accurate. We didn’t come close.

    …I’m scared the weak memorizers and writers will lose confidence. I’m scared my autistic student will give up….

    They probably will lose confidence and the autistic kid will probably give up. Why? Because they are at risk in the current environment that schools have become (have always been), where competition and not cooperation reigns.

    …my beloved mentor has coached me on how to grade the oral “competencies”….

    Interesting term – oral competencies. Hmmm. We don’t demand that a chld of three, who has had thousands more hours of input than our high school students, be able to tell time and answer greetings. My point: that term competencies is a joke. Competencies comes naturally with time when there is no raised affective filter. We have made a hundred analogies on this point, trying to push a flower up out of the ground and make the seed grow faster, etc. It can’t be done and what is the rush?

    …there is a lot of English blurting….

    This is true in most CI classrooms. We have to continue to work on that with the Classroom Rules, jGR, the Ten Minute Deal and Bad Boy #4 (see recent article), which is that super efficient parent contact home with the participation rubric (jGR) becoming a daily part of the student’s interaction with you.

    …language makes me happy….

    This sentence almost got by me. But it is at the heart of all true instruction, isn’t it? If you love what you teach, then they will pick up on that. That love you have of the language, love of any sort, is in my opinion self-communicative in the sense that if the teacher doesn’t have it, then the kids won’t have it. You have it, so they can’t but have it themselves, in my opinion.

    So don’t muddy the overall picture you are now painting of your career. Those concerns above are concerns we all have. I have every confidence in your success at this, especially after seeing your excellent style (many style points!) in the Denver War Room last summer.

  2. Yay, Angie!!!

    The more we teach, the better we get. And the better the students get! I don’t know whether or not your students have had TCI/TPRS before, but I have found that every year I get with the same kids it becomes easier, classroom norming is easier, and discipline becomes a non-factor. If students truly only knew TCI/TPRS, had it in elementary school, and then went on to it in high school, man, it would be easier for the high school folk.

    That prepared output project is crap. Sorry you have to do it. It does not measure acquisition. Do whatever you can to set your kids up for success on it, but I wouldn’t stress over such an acquisition-less task. And since you already TCI/TPRS, then your kids will show plenty of fluency. If only all teachers realized that ease, speed, and quantity of comprehensible speech is most important. Unfortunately, accuracy gets way too much focus in instruction and assessment.

    It is very true that it is probably damn near impossible for us to reliably and validly assess speaking. Not to mention how impractical it is. That is why, when I worked on a comprehension-based test, I left out speaking. If I had to assess it, I would do it the same way I’m assessing writing. I’d either read a new story or give students a new story to read. Then, I’d take away the reading. The students would then have “x” minutes to summarize the story.

    1. Actually, I shouldn’t say “acquisition-less.” You just wouldn’t know whether the performance was based on what was acquired or learned. Since your kids have spent the vast majority of time acquiring, not learning, then their performance will be more affected by acquisition. Then again, can memorized output really measure anything?

    2. …accuracy gets way too much focus in instruction and assessment….

      This is so true Eric. Our goal is that a child communicate an idea, and the accuracy of the language is, should not be, a factor at all. High praise to a student who can communicate an idea. It’s thrilling to hear. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

      1. I don’t think the traditional teachers remember why they are teaching grammar in the first place. The whole point of focusing on form is in the hopes that it improves one’s ability to make meaning. If a teacher wants to try and teach form in order to improve meaning making, then that’s their decision. But the only meaningful assessment focuses students on meaning. But teaching form has become the goal in it’s own right.

  3. Thank you, Angie, for sharing your TCI walk. When I met you in Denver, your passion for reaching your students and mastering the process just radiated from from your face. I have been wondering how you were doing and now I know. Congratulations. You now see that although the road is not always clear or easy, you have seen the possibilities. Those glimpses of the possible will encourage you and keep you going. The oral assessment is a nuisance, but your kids will know that they have your support. I salute you, Angie! Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher.

  4. “Output is a stated goal for every level, and the process involves having students prepare and memorize/learn recitations of essays or stories that they create. ”

    Given these constraints, can you just make it as absolutely simple and fun as possible? Does everyone have to do the same reading? Seems like you could steer it somewhat with some wild rumpous circling of the super 7 or whatever structures you are already using / hammering on. Then have them add details and such…like you are already doing. Maybe bridge the gap by using dictado / super-dictado with a story that has some juice. That way it is almost like group memorizing. Could be fun if you have some particularly goofy story that is becoming your class inside joke type of thing? Include some chanting and gestures so it’s like a group/community building activity. Like Joe Nielsen with “de nuevo / otra vez” etc. I think you could kind of construct a frame out of a story and then each kid would have confidence and enthusiasm to “relive the fun” ??? Just shooting in the dark here. Even though it is a “test” if you make the atmosphere non-test-like (just a normal day in our engaging class…) it could help lower the kids’ stress levels.

    So happy to hear your report. I remember you in Maine 2 years ago at your wits end, just so beat up. And then last year at the peer coaching your energy was quite magical, and you were not teaching Spanish at the time. It’s so exciting to feel your enthusiasm and hear your stories. Thanks so much for sharing all of this. I’m so inspired! 🙂

  5. Haha! I made this up in my classroom. Actually I think I called it “Extreme Dictado.” It is when I use dictado excessively because I need them to be quiet. So I make it either longer (more sentences) or add having them translate / link meaning in English after they hear/write the Spanish sentence. Sometimes I would add choral “extreme dramatic” readings of the sentences if I really wanted to milk it and if I picked really juicy sentences.

  6. Dearest Angie,

    The things that concern you are the same things that concern us all. There comes a point when you realize that apprehension and uncertainty are givens in the classroom. It is that way with any relationship worth having. We make ourselves vulnerable in order to offer the best of ourselves to the relationship. On any given day, we may not get back what we think the relationship needs.

    We learn to stop measuring the value of what we get back in comparison to what we have given. At least if we want to stay sane we do. Like a good relationship, there is no “right” percentage of give and take. Some days you will give 100% and others 200%…so don’t feel badly if one day it feels like you only have 50 % to offer. Some days they will give you 100 % (for them…they are teenagers!!) and they don’t yet know how to give 200% to anything outside of their own bubble. There will be many days when it appears that they aren’t giving you their 50%. That too is par for the course and in time will seem less and less about you personally.

    The beauty of this method is that we have so many moments when we can pay close attention to each moment that we are there. Whenever you can do that, THAT is an incredible gift. In the moment, REALLY in the moment, requires that we let go of the worry, the fear, the insecurities….because then it is no longer about us…it is about the moment.

    When you want to evaluate how it’s going….think about when you were able to enjoy them. The fact that you can, and do, find those moments now tells me that you are truly doing a wonderful job.

    The worries are human, but serve no purpose.

    I’m proud of you…and so happy for your students. They are incredibly lucky to have you.

    with love,

    1. Angie we see that in her comment above Laurie outlines an inner mental/emotional strategy for getting out of a damaging way of thinking that many teachers have had for years, especially teachers who try to make it real in their classrooms, which can make us vulnerable.

      It is this vulnerability that Laurie discusses. I personally felt it in every class that I ever taught, all 33,000 of them (give or take 1,000). I was never able to get over the feeling that the students were in some way trying to test me, to take me down, to be obnoxious with me, to ignore me and just generally not show up for my class. It drove me crazy.

      I never had a Laurie there, or a Susan Gross, who showed me what fearlessness was, to grab me by the shoulders and point me in the direction of realizing that the feelings of not being listened to (manifested as dreams you would not believe that kept me awake probably for weeks if you added all of them and the sleeplessness they engendered together!) were largely imagined and that the calm and balance that I so craved in my classroom WAS within my reach.

      You said:

      …I don’t need or even want to have an easy work life, but I want to feel calm, confident and relaxed most of the time….

      You will. What you wrote above, and Laurie’s response about staying in the moment and feeling that feeling (in spite of our fears) of giving them too much and of not getting anything back, that horrible feeling that only those who work with teenagers know, makes perfect sense in one so young. But look how far you have come already! The Angie I met this summer is a fearless person. The year you had two years ago made you stronger.

      (And let us not forget that teenagers are not fully formed yet, and that they really are doing their best but can only learn to become present with teachers who set clear limits with them, and require them to come out from behind the cell phone and be real with us, which is why the Classroom Rules are so necessary. They need us to teach them how to do that AND to teach them the language. They need a strong adult who will set limits so that they can learn what is right in class.)

      I got on a soapbox there but what Laurie said really struck me as true and honest advice for any young teacher and I wanted to expand on it. I will go find a chapter from TPRS in a Year! that Laurie’s comment made me think of and publish it as an article.

      One detail. You said:

      …there are different ideas about when forced output is helpful to acquisition….

      You have to pick one. Either forced output is helpful or it is not, but you have to decide that for yourself. Just to be clear about where I stand on it: any degree of forced output of any kind, especially if connected to a grade, is very harmful.

  7. Angie, I’m sorry you have to do this. It doesn’t seem like a useful way to spend time in a fluency program (I love using that term since I’ve heard it recently). But, since it does sound like it’s in your best interests to play along, for now, may I suggest an idea? I would get the kids raw audio of the story they are going to need to memorize. Then, have them add music and sound effects and pictures. When they are doing these things, they will naturally be listening and re-listening and re-listening to each part of the story, to make sure that the sound faded in right or that the illustration popped up at the right moment, or whatever. This idea is pretty contingent on a few things though (available computers with audio editing software like Garageband, students or you knowing how to use it). I’ve found that when a kid does one of these podcasts, they have listened to it so many times they can spit it out without really thinking too much. And perhaps I’m not understand the exact requirements for this “oral proficiency”. Good luck Angie, sounds like you’ve got a real good handle on what’s going on in your classroom and department.

    1. …fluency program (I love using that term since I’ve heard it recently)….

      Yes Jim and this term – fluency program – is entirely from Susan Gross. I remember where I was standing (in a parking lot in Colorado Springs) about thirteen years ago when she used it and it also struck me then what a cool term it is. I just want to make sure we know where it came from.

    2. This sounds like a great idea in general, Jim. I could see doing something like this (with the equipment you mention) after initially recording a scene or story created with a class… having them each add sound effects, modify the voice, etc. For a class that needs the auditory reps but resents having to listen to the teacher “live,” this might be another route. This reminds me of an audio version of doing 8-panel comic strips (which I love) or PowerPoint illustrations to slides with captions on each slide.

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