Report from the Field – Deena Swenson (2)

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16 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Deena Swenson (2)”

  1. So let me get this straight. You have to give a “pre-assessment” to students in a language they have never studied/learned/acquired to see how much they know? This must come from the same people who fund studies to see if water is wet. (BTW, I could understand a placement test for any students who have a background in the language, but this is not that and is a total waste of everyone’s time just to satisfy people who have bought into the decidedly false idea that only that which is “quantifiable” is important. Would someone hand them a highlighted copy of Le Petit Prince and make them read it?)

    I’m glad your students (at least some of them) could laugh.

    I’m not a New Yorker, but you will do fine. In any sane system you would be considered a prime asset because you meet the needs of your “clients”, but the educational system in the United States is not sane.

    1. I second that and offer an example of how insane it is indeed becoming, Robert:

      Diana Noonan is under intense scrutiny by a new, younger administrator at the district level in DPS who does not know her work. It is causing Diana a lot of stress. As Carol Gaab told me yesterday in discussing via email what Diana is experiencing:

      …why do morons want to make it so difficult to do what’s best for kids?….

      I was even thinking about asking those PLC members who know Diana or are familiar with her groundbreaking work in DPS to write to this person. But I don’t think the message would get through the pride in that person. Look at all the fools who have denied global warming – that kind of mentality would prevent this person from hearing what Diana has done for kids in foreign language classrooms and probably cause a backlash for her.

      The system really is not sane right now. So if you are experiencing stress within the system, keep that in mind. It’s not you, is what I am trying to say. Although one goal of this untracked (détraqué) system seems to be to get you to believe that there is something wrong with you. What could be more natural than teaching languages by speaking them to kids in a way that they can understand and that is enjoyable to them? Is that really so crazy?

      1. Sorry to hear about what is going on with Diana Noonan. It’s hard to believe. Surprising and discouraging. I’m reading a book called Switch that I discovered on Michele W’s blog. It’s about how people have made changes all over the world with little or no power, authority or money. It’s inspiring. Some of the changes were really significant, like making a dent in malnutrition in Vietnam, or preventing over 100,000 unnecessary deaths in hospitals. I’m hoping that some of the ideas in the book will help me make a difference in my school district. It’s a fun read, and maybe it could help Diana and others.

  2. Deena, I had the same thing as you mentioned: “I have been teaching for the past 15 years and kind of not really bothering to look at students to see if they understood…” That I needed to pace my course by teaching to the eyes of my students was something that TPRS training pointed out to me, too. It’s one of the major shifts that happened. I needed to make student comprehension ahead of the curricular agenda or my belief about how much time they “should” need.

  3. Oh, Deena I am so happy you have joined this PLC and I’m also relieved to see someone mention this SLO thing. I teach in NJ and we have just been told that we most do them along with creating and giving quarterly exams (until now, my school has done midterms and finals). All of us are trying to get a handle on figuring out the difference between both types of assessments and then, my colleague and I that teach via TPRS and also both teach Level 1 and 2 together are trying to figure out how to create an SLO assessment. Any help you can give would be so appreciated! I also have the same question/concern as you in that I wonder will I be able to show “growth” with a method that is better without a curriculum map……

  4. I will try to get what we do at Lincoln with SGOs into this thread in the next few days. We call them student growth objectives but they are the same thing as SLOs where you have to make a statement about what percentage of kids will score at what percent on the standardized pre and post tests given by the district in the fall and spring. I generally do mine each year in areas that I know I can easily show clear growth in. It is obviously easiest to show growth at level 1. We do that same thing where we take not three days but four to test kids who have never studied the language. I have had my level 1 kids for about twelve classes this year but only eight have been on CI, with those four on testing, although I rushed through it since the kids didn’t know anything. But yeah, DPS is a true data mill. When we get money like from the Gates Foundation we spend it on adding a data wing and hiring all sorts of new data analyzers in our downtown building. We hire more supervisors to get in Diana Noonan’s face with ignorant nonsense. It sucks.

    1. Thanks, Ben. This would be great. We call them what you call them too. My TPRS colleague is learning from me and we just haven’t known what to do. Another colleague has been pushing for us to do IPAs but they seem like so much work to grade, for an assessment that has to be given and graded so often. It’s also hard to take the advice from a non-CI teacher. I couldn’t help notice how this particular colleague cast a wicked glance at me (complete with a smug smirk) at the meeting when it was admitted that these tests basically are for showing who is a “good” teacher and who is a “bad” teacher.

      I’m confident in which category I fall but I haven’t known the best SGO/SLO to make in order to “prove” it. This sucks. I just finished reading a book called Confessions of A Bad Teacher by John Owens. This is the kind of thing of which he writes. It’s so sad.

  5. Hi Deena,
    I teach in NY (Long Island) and I can assure you, not only will your kids (and you) be fine – they will blow you away when it comes time for the FLACS exam!!! I’ve had the same worries when I first started with TPRS (I’m only beginning my third year with it right now) but even at the end of my first year, the kids way outperformed all who came before them.
    Best of all, you will enjoy the process of getting them there. You go, Deena, and thanks so much for taking the time (something were all so short on these days) to write such a detailed report :-).

  6. Deena, I’m in the same boat in NYC. I’m going to give an old proficiency exam (8th grade) as the baseline, but I’m not going to the speaking. It makes NO sense to me. It was torturous last year with 8th grade who had NO Spanish in 7th grade, so I cannot expect my 7th graders to do even do anything.

    It’s such an annoyance, but I’ll play their game. On the bright side, it could draw your attention to any native/semi-native speakers in your classes. Let’s not even talk about the administrator that told me to give the kids “higher order questions in English” to hit that point on our observation rubric. I thought I taught Spanish?

    I’m just worried, too, if my kids will make gains with TPRS, but I guess I can only hope. *fingers crossed*

  7. Deena,
    Your kids will do just fine on a proficiency based test, because your are teaching towards that end. What they know they will know well and will be able to show what they can actually DO with language.

    One colleague in Ohio gave this as the pretest to her beginners:

    She asked these five questions. They could answer in English or French.

    1. Comment t’appelles-tu?
    2. Quel age as-tu?
    3. Ou est-ce que tu habites?
    4. Combien de freres et de soeurs as-tu?
    5. Qu’est-ce que tu voudrais faire avec ta vie?

    Obvious they received a 0 and were ranked at Novice Low 0 on the test. By the end of the year their growth was quite obvious.

    You can do this to weed out those who have truly had some previous experience. They could be quizzed further to see how much and what they already know.

    Play the game when you must, use it to be reflective on your teaching, then go in the room and shut the door and do the best job you can do. You know you are thinking about the LEARNING going on in your classroom and make all their hoops be about that. Those powers that be think they are striving for the best learning for all students, but they get so wrapped up in data and details that they need reminded what it’s all about by those of us in the trenches. Just like in our classrooms, we need to slowly and repetitively make it comprehensible to them that we care about what our students know and can do and if their hoops represent that then we can comply, if not, then the hoops need to be changed.

    1. Hi Teri,

      Would an interview-type assessment like that be suitable for a post-assessment as well? The big push has been for IPAs, which the only training I’ve had on was 5 years ago and wasn’t very good, and I wasn’t able to afford the OFLA IPA trainings. And to be honest, I don’t know how I feel about IPAs given the “presentational” part, which I think is pushing it for lower levels. But I could see an interview type assessment being a pretty good idea.

  8. Forgive me if this has been stated. I have read through most but not all of the comments. My Spanish 1 students were at a higher level in writing, reading, listening and speaking than my Spanish 2 kids that were traditionally taught halfway through the year last year. I do have them do free writes much to the chagrin of some, but I never forced them to speak and they ended up being able to speak well enough for their level. The problem we come into with pre-made conversations and memorizing lines (this only happens in plays, movies, and grammar based classrooms, not in real life) is that if person A, being an unpredictable human, strays from the script, person B is totally screwed. By getting the words in the students so that they own them and they are natural to them, person A can stray as much as they want from the script as long as it is in bounds. Your kids will shine. Besides, you only can go up from zero.

  9. So I am happy to report that my students did absolutely horrible on the pre-assessment they took last week!!!!! I told them this today and one class asked if we could have a party to celebrate their complete and total failure. This leads me to believe that most of my kids get it and weren’t sweating over this test like I thought they were!

    We did a little reading activity using the vocabulary we’ve gleaned from circling today. I changed the names and activities for each class, featuring someone new from each class. I had someone make up a quick quiz that I then tweaked so it would make sense. We read the information together. I asked some questions about the reading. I gave the quiz. Out of the four classes, only one class didn’t do as well as they should have.

    When my Spanish 1 students walked into the room at the end of the day, the Intro class’s paragraph was on the SMARTBoard. My class groaned about how it was going to be near impossible to read such a long piece. When I told them that the Intro students had read through it without a problem, they were flabbergasted. “How could they possibly know what me gusta means? We didn’t learn that until like November! And why are they already learning juega? Isn’t that one of those weird verbs that has something wrong with it?” OH MY GOD!!!! What did I do to them last year? It’s ok…we talked about it and we decided that we would ease them into some TPRS…slowly so that no one would get hurt! Baby steps, friends, baby steps.

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