ACTFL Report from the Field – Carol Gaab

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23 thoughts on “ACTFL Report from the Field – Carol Gaab”

  1. I’m very glad I was there. During the convention I mentioned to a couple of people how different the conference was from the last time it was in San Diego (2009).
    In 2009 I helped the COACH Team with a booth so didn’t get to as many sessions as I might have – but it wasn’t really a problem because there were so few sessions offering something that I thought was truly beneficial. There were times that I actually asked myself if going to that conference was worthwhile.
    In 2015 I went with my district’s blessing and help, so I was free to attend all sessions. This time I was frustrated because good sessions with presenters I wanted to hear were competing with one another. While I made it to Carol’s first presentation (overflow crowd – people were actually standing in the main hall trying to see and hear), I did so at the cost of other sessions that I wanted to attend. Then I had to leave Mira Canion’s session early to get to Tea with BVP, and I really wanted to stay to the end of her presentation. I missed Carol’s second session (with “only” 125 people) because there was another session that took precedence this time – but it was another moment of frustration because I wanted to attend both.
    Another difference was the general attitude toward TCI and even TPRS. In 2009 the TCI/TPRS sessions were nearly clandestine; presenters were very careful about how they presented their materials. This time, Comprehensible Input was quite prominent as a hook or draw for various sessions, though I have no idea about the reality in most of them. The convention even allowed Bill VanPatten to broadcast from the media lounge in the exhibit hall, a very open and accessible place.
    Four of my highlights from ACTFL 2015 are
    1. Carol and Dr Krashen’s two-hour presentation on Comprehensible Input
    2. Tea with BVP
    3. Sharing my Swiss German experience with Dr Krashen and having him tell me that it needs to be told to a wider audience
    4. Having Dr Krashen attend my presentation on Sunday morning and tell me that he enjoyed it (and having that reinforced by Alina Filipescu, Mike Coxon, and others)
    I am seriously considering submitting a proposal for ACTFL 2016 in Boston.

  2. Very well articulated Robert. I had not attended an actfl conference for many years. It came to be a place where there was a lot of information being thrown around without very much depth to it or practical takeaways that meant something to my teaching. This year was very different. I’m encouraged to return next year and I have already submitted at least one session proposal. Your session was great very glad to “play” a part and purchase some books. They are great btw. We almost HAVE to attend in 2016 because of the popularity of CI.
    In my view, something changed this summer. Teaching with Comprehensible Input has clicked with mainstream teachers. I guess we could credit it to the plural efforts of everyone involved. Even those that share what we might call watered down versions need to be supported and commended.
    Possiblities for CI revival:
    There are several teachers of the year, several bloggers, the materials to use in the classroom are getting better and better, the conferences and workshops continue to provide useful and relevant ideas, the idea of INCLUSION is becoming stronger and stronger, the availability to view teachers online using stories and interacting with students is powerful, and last but not least teachers are realizing that their students are not achieving what they set out to have them achieve.
    I also had many highlights at ACTFL this year. I got very little sleep in those days but it was worth it! I think the biggest achievement for all of us was that VP connected with Krashen for all to see. Both of those figures have been and are now publically connected in 2015. They are instrumental in sharing with teachers ideas and research about sla theory.
    2015 will go down as a significant year in story of “CI across America.” As I reflect, I realize that it’s not just one thing that determines the success of a movement. It is the plural efforts of many and it is the personal relationship variable that makes all the difference. It is all about people!
    Additionally, there should be no mistake about the importance of this particular blog and the wonderful people on it. People like Michele Whaley, Mark Knowles, Chris Stolz, Robert Harrell, the Hermanator and many others have been diversifying SLA resources and keeping discussions going for years. These individuals had a lot to do with getting VP and K together this year. Right now IMO, K and VP have a lot more buzz because of the constant sharing and caring in this PLC. When these guys are successful so is TPRS and input-based teaching and learning.

  3. These are such encouraging reports. Thank you so much Carol, Robert, and Michael.
    200 at Carol’s session and only 40-80 at the other four. And then 75 of those divided themselves into 69 other sessions. Is there a World Series ring for that, too?
    It just hit me that VP interviewed SK at ACTFL. Here is an answer SK gave to the question about the value of limited classroom hours in FL elementary programs:
    “Start about age 10. 2 sessions a week of TPRS. I would love 2 hours a week of CI. I get a lot of credit for NA. It is really Tracy Terrill’s work. TPRS is better. Thank you, Blaine Ray…Come early to iFLT conference to Fluency Fast…offering some intensive classes. And you are gonna love it.”
    There it is “TPRS is better,” recommended Live from ACTFL. How recently were we wondering about SK and VP coming together? Thanks to Michele, Eric, and others.
    Hope all can make it out here to Boston next year.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Don’t know where else to put this (there’s no ACTFL tab) – it relates to the ACTFL communities ‘list serv/blog’ – there is a nice & intelligent discussion going on right now about the use of authentic resources and some of our own are ROCKING IT – (NATHANIEL YOU ARE AWESOME!!)
    Take a look and speak your mind.

      1. Thanks for the link, Diane.
        There should be a blue “Sign in” box in the upper right-hand corner of the page – at least that is what I found and used to log in.
        I just posted a fairly lengthy reply. Lance P and Dr. Eckard Kuhn-Osius (I know him from the GermanTPRS Yahoo group) did a nice job of replying, but I wanted to address presuppositions and definitions. The original poster just tossed out “authentic language and culture” with the assumption that everyone would accept whatever her unstated definition of the terms happens to be. Until we are all talking about the same thing and defining our terms the same way, we will talk past one another and either be falsely confirmed in our own misunderstanding or take offense unnecessarily.

        1. Well, Robert, one day I read that you will not be giving us much input over the next several months, being involved in writing books and constructing websites (and we look forward to seeing both reach their public form). The next day I check in with ACTFL blogs and you have the longest response of all. Glad we cannot keep a good man tied down. You have made many of those points here before but some of the personal information was added a fresh take on your well-written response.
          I found the variety of responses and writers to be quite interesting. Although the original question came from the university (Southern Illinois U, Edwardsville) asking about HS the challenge was taken by teachers at all levels, including two from the university level (Dr. KO from CUNY and Dr. Cahnmann-taylor from U of Georgia). Clearly it is not longer enough to cast down on TPRS.

          1. It looks great. I will be looking at it more carefully in the future. I am glad you included the Swiss German telephone story.

  5. Alisa Shapiro

    BTW you don’t have to be an ACTFL member to post there. Right after I posted I got a nice robo-note from the new membership person (Genevieve?), thanking me for ‘collaborating’ with my comments, then expounding on the benefits of being an ACTFL member. (As if I wasn’t for the first 20+ years of my career… after the fireworks on thematic units etc. last year, I intentionally let my membership lapse…we’ll see if the bile subsides – I may join up again.)

    1. I also received an invitation. This was a different approach than when Eric first raised some questions which turned into and exchange of very spirited letters. The attitude expressed by some at that time was more exclusive: if you are not a part of ACTFL don’t post here. So I welcome the more inclusive approach taken by Genevieve.
      I liked the way you set the record straight, Alisa: We do not exclude authres, but we do have priorities. The organizing principle is CI and that sets the tone for what we do. It is the authres which must move into position around CI.
      And Lance, you personal experience with the readers was powerful. It has come to me time and again that we each have our language acquisition story. If we can help people to properly interpret their own they may be better able to accept CI/TPRS into their own teaching. What I mean is this. Most of us had a legacy experience followed by a CI experience, spending time in an L2 environment. It is easy to think that that because the legacy learning (LL) preceded the CI acquisition that the LL was a necessary precursor to the CI Acquisition. If we can help colleagues to see that we just had two different experiences, one not so successful and one very successful, which are not tied to each other, perhaps they can begin to focus on creating the successful CI experience in the classroom. I have been told that students need to all have the same experience. I agree as long as it is the successful CI experience.

  6. Alisa Shapiro

    I LOVED your post Robert. Very thorough treatment of the issues.
    Though ACTFL hosts the discussion, I’m usually disappointed in their passivity about responding. We’ll see if any ACTFL folks with ‘authority’ join in….After all, we are pressing for them to shake up their interlocking circles of the 5 C’s!
    Having first prioritized Communication/proficiency (and this goal-setting is very important), I have come to believe that novices can’t spare the limited instructional minutes with the other 4 non-Communication C’s. We can pop-up Cultural or Comparison etc. nugget here and there, but getting the highest frequency language, the cadence, the taste and feel of the language, through copious input is THE PRIORITY. Many 5C advocates would respond by advocating for cultural based texts and units, but then we me sacrifice student interest, and we definitely sacrifice collaboration and engagement. In the case of younger kids, often the cultural nuggets are so far outside of their own life experience and schema as to be highly forgettable. My lil ones still confuse their home city/state/country (which is which?) – so how can I expect them to internalize all these other foreign places?
    Also, as you so deftly explained, target peoples/culture is not a monolith, and we risk stereotyping by choosing/seizing on one practice/product/perspective over another. I’ll never forget how fed up my Peruvian colleague was with the plethora of Andean images, Quechua myths, legends and history AT THE EXPENSE of any content about modern Peru.
    If we see our role as providing ACCESS to communication with the peoples who speak the target language, and access to the texts written and presented in that language, then our students will be able to experience target Culture, first-hand. That’s a tall enough task.

  7. Regarding the upcoming ACTFL conference in Boston in November.
    I’m told there were very few CI proposals accepted. Did anyone on the blog submit a proposal for the upcoming conf? I did – it was a re-submission of last year’s (rejected)proposal. This yr I changed the wording in the proposal description a tiny bit and it was accepted. Go figure.
    Please report back on whether your T/CI proposal was accepted. Apparently on the FB group (I’m not on it) there was convo that very few T/CI proposals made it thru…after this past year’s ‘historic’ successes!?!

      1. Robert,
        Have you considered a historical overview of second language learning methods? I do not think that that would be attractive to a lot. But I am wondering if the academic soundingness of it would be of interest to a certain group of those who show up. Maybe I am missing the mark here, but it is worth a thought.

    1. Congratulations, Alisa. What change did you make in your proposal?
      So sorry Robert. I was looking forward to the possibility of attending your session. My suggestion is to do what you just said: Get the book done. Then propose in the future. Maybe a book would bolster your chances in the future. As your books start to become more broadly available so will your speaking opportunities. Just keep doing what you were called to do.
      There is an ebb and flow to this. Your opportunity may come after a dearth of CI opportunities. They may have cut too far back on CI this year and focused too much on production workshops.
      I scanned the pre-convention workshops and found them to be replete with in-vogue jargon. I do not know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing to absorb more of the jargon or not. It would be wrong to misrepresent what we are doing, i.e., false advertising. Of course, one of Robert’ strengths is to interpret what he is required to do in CI terms, so maybe I am just thinking on “paper” and not being of much help here.

    2. The one I’m involved in for 2016 was accepted. (Now I need finances to go.) Last year’s proposal was rejected.
      So this one is “Making Video Clips Comprehensible for Cultural Impact” and it’s a Chinese language presentation (I think we should have a back-up live translation plan if non-Chinese language people attend though). Ex: MovieTalk, etc. with Chinese videos & movies, and different ways to make those understandable and interactive without using English subtitles.
      Seeing the list of what was or was not accepted on that FB post made me think it was somewhat random which were accepted and which were not. I am not taking acceptance or lack of acceptance as meaning anything very significant.

      1. I will be presenting on Proficiency-Based Grading, which is really just “how to assign a letter or number that keeps DAPS (department heads, administration, parents, students) off our backs so we can get on with providing CI because grading has nothing to do with language acquisition anyway.”
        That was not part of my proposal, but this was the Content and Purpose:
        “With current discussions focusing on the shift to more realistic goals for students, assessments and grading practices must follow. This presentation demystifies how to assess and grade for proficiency. The presentation will offer an insightful perspective on the role of grades in a language classroom as well as provide a practical grading system fully-aligned with ACTFL recommendations and guidelines. The grading system is based on ACTFL’s expected timeline of student Performance over time, as well as indicators at Novice and Intermediate Proficiency levels that suggest students have far less language control than previously has been taken into consideration when grading. In addition,
        participants will evaluate example assessments on effectiveness within the grading system. Time will also be given for participants to collaborate in groups to create their own grading system following ACTFL recommendations and guidelines.”
        I am not misrepresenting anything, but now I wonder if someone just saw the keyword, ACTFL, a bunch of times and said “OK.”

  8. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I took out a lot of the references to FVR and classroom library and put ‘comprehensible texts’ instead.
    I agree that the selection of proposals is starting to look pretty random, though we dunno how many in each ‘focus area’ they’re looking for – mine’s in ‘planning for the learner’ and elementary…
    This session focuses on the benefits of reading to bolster language retention and enhance
    vocabulary. But many appealing books incorporate poetic language beyond the comprehension
    of novice level students, and end up collecting dust. How can teachers gauge the
    appropriateness of a text? How can they quickly re-purpose their books, rendering them 100%
    comprehensible to their students? These are some of the questions our session will address, as
    we explore considerations in selecting and adapting existing literature.
    Creating/authoring compelling and comprehensible texts for the classroom is another way to
    meet the needs of developing readers. In this way, teachers can control the language of their text
    by staying ‘in bounds,’ avoiding the overwhelm novice learners feel when bombarded with too
    many new words. Using techniques from Embedded Reading, teachers will learn how to increase complexity or pare down text to differentiate classroom reading materials.

  9. Mine was not accepted either, although I admit that I did not put the time into it that I might have. Love that yours on Embedded Reading was accepted Alisa!
    with love,

  10. Laurie,
    Though very inspired by your Embedded Reading work, ours is not ON Embedded Reading, though we mention it in our explanation of taking a story and either beefing it up or paring it down. Ours is on creating illustrated stories/readings for younger kids, and/or adapting existing picture trade books/readings. There’s a real dearth of existing CI materials for elementary.
    In my pre-T/CI life I had a budget and always bought, among other stuff, Spanish literature books for kids, but they sat on my shelf…I really didn’t know how to comprehen-sify them til T/CI.
    So that’s part of the discussion. When you pick up a picture book, what do you consider & how do you determine whether it’s usable/how do you adapt it to make it usable? (We do a lot of re-scripting of text using redacting tape and/or post-its.)
    Since elementary teachers often teach multiple levels (I teach grades 1-4, but it’s not uncommon for singleton WL teachers to teach k-8 – esp in private schools), we propose ways to make a simple children’s story of a few pattern sentences and then scale it up a few times by adding very few details & i.e., transition words. That way the teacher preserves some sanity by using the same ‘story,’ props, illustrations, etc. across grades…for the same basic plot line.
    Same general idea as Embedded Reading, but each version of same story is for a different level/grade/group.

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