Report from the Field – Deena Swenson (3)

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13 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Deena Swenson (3)”

  1. …we’d be starting with the participation grades this week….

    Deena I advise that you get in the habit of calling jGR an Interpersonal Skill grade and avoid using the term “participation”. It isn’t a participation grade but a measure of the extent to which a student is able to fulfill the national standard connected to the Three Modes of Communication.

  2. And Deena when you assign jobs, let that emerge organically during the instruction. It makes a difference. Hire and fire. It becomes a real way to solidify fun and shoulder to shoulder pursuit of language in your classroom. The jobs are a KEY component in classroom management as well, as we have discussed here so much over the past year.

    1. I’m really getting into jobs, too. It helps a lot. With my younger kids (middle schoolers), I am thinking of assigning some jobs during some classes… ex, giving the fast processor the recorder job, or the quiz writer job. I think they don’t “get” how it will help them and the class until they do the job once. Then a few of them in one class don’t want to look to their peers like they’re helping me or enjoying themselves.

      1. I got observed today and wanted to show off the (until last year unexpected) raw power of the jobs to do things, and at one point when people kept doing their jobs at the right time is stopped the L2 discussion and asked how many kids had jobs and about 2/3 of the them raised their hands. It was boss. No wonder that French 1 class is so good. They’re into it.

  3. On the kids who don’t show up mentally, keep giving them those 2’s and stand by your guns. They will try to turn it around on you but if you make the phone calls now you won’t have to later. This really tests the kids, and many cave, not having been required to show human interactive social skills in any other classrooms before this. So do them a favor – teach them a skill.

    Overall, this is a good report. Good job. Stay by your guns. It works if you work it.

  4. Thanks for the great suggestions…our curriculum night is coming up in couple of weeks and I want to make sure that parents don’t freak out about the jGr grades…I tried to explain what they were in the course description, but a lot of parents were concerned that so much emphasis was being placed on how well their child performed in class. That was my mistake to call it participation. I will emphasize to parents that it is more of a communication grade? How well students can relate with and to each other. It’s a skill that is based on the National Standards, etc… It’s a skill that will help them relate to others for the rest of their lives. Talk about College and Career Readiness!!! Thanks again for all of the positive feedback! I’ll keep on keepin’ on!


  5. …a lot of parents were concerned that so much emphasis was being placed on how well their child performed in class….

    Deena tell them it’s a language and immediately say: “This is a national standard that is published as part of the Three Modes of Communication of the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages.” Have that link to the Three Modes and in particular the Interpersonal Skill up on our computer and go to it when a parent expresses concern.

    Tell them in those meetings that this way of assessing pertains to no other subject their child is taking, but that now in the 21st century the way they interact with you in your foreign langage class is crucial to their success in your class.

    Ask them to think about what you are saying and show them the jGR and the Classroom Rules (have them there printed out with you). Point out how jGR supports the standard. Guide them away from the term participation grade and into the the idea that this is a graded skill that their child must learn, and add that part you wrote above about how it is a deeply needed skill in the workplace of the future, far more important than grades.

    Point out the phrase “obervable non verbal behavior” on the jGR. Make sure that that kind of behavior is a skill that you have to be able to observe in their child. It may be all new to them. You may compare it to how the ability to conduct a science experiment properly in a science class is a skill.

    The science experiment helps them learn science. The jGR helps them learn a language. Click on the jGR category and read some of the many articles on it that have been published here over the past year and a half to prepare yourself for these meetings with parents.

    When Robert first mentioned this in May of 2011 and then many other highly intelligent people from this community started weighing in in complete support of it, I knew we were moving into a new way of assessing our kids in our comprehensible input classrooms. I knew that that lame term participation grade was going to topple over and something real was going to replace it. I realized I had been waiting for something like jGR to break through during my entire career as a language teacher.

    I express my deepest gratitude to Robert and jen and James Hosler and the others who stood up and helped during the intitial trial year last year. They stood tall. As we stand today, jGR is kicking ass in many of the classrooms it is being used in. That is a major step forward. One day at a time, we get better at this.

  6. Ben, I really cannot express to you and all of the PLC members how much I appreciate and value your guidance. I am the only WOrld Languages teacher in my dept. (we are only 4 people) who has decided to take the plunge and they are very supportive but not very knowledgeable about TPRS. I come here to find out what’s what and I am almost always blown away at how generous and willing to share you all are. Not to mention how quick everyone is to offer advice and support. THANK YOU all for your wise and kind words! I will be more than prepared for parents who are expecting the same old “Dark Side” method of teaching Spanish!

    Thanks again!


    1. Deena, you will rock this parent night! I don’t know if someone else already suggested this, but it is super effective to do a demo with the parents. I did this last week–only had a total of 10 mins so did a 5 min demo using “watches” and then took questions. I got a buncha reps on “watches / looks at” using gestures and then asking about stuff they watch on TV (programs? Netflix? Patriots? Red Sox? etc) At first they were like deer in headlights but as soon as one mom said she watches “Sons of Anarchy” it broke the seal and everyone laughed and contributed. Doing it that way opened the discussion in a more authentic way, because they got a taste of how it works. It becomes obvious why the interpersonal skills matter. Also obvious is the fact that the skills are observable and that the students are held accountable. I had to do a few “do-overs” with the parents in the demo: “We”ll try that question again. I need to hear all the voices.” Or when I yammered on quickly (on purpose, to get them to signal) in way out of bounds language: “Oops, rewind! Y’all need to show me instantly with the gesture that I am speaking too quickly.”

      Good luck & have fun!
      🙂 Jen

      1. I agree on doing a demo if you can. I did one using “wants to drink” with parents. Some of them got the process immediately, some not so much, but it was helpful to do nonetheless. I had to cut it short & then summarized the rest of the process (ex, using photos, gestures, reading, other things we do in class). As simple as possible would be best.

  7. I wasn’t sure where to put this, but I did want to share with everyone. It seems that some institutions of higher learning are beginning to “get it”.

    Today in class, one of my students told about an experience her older sister had at college recently. The sister graduated from Pacifica in 2009. She is currently taking a class on “How to learn a foreign language” – not a foreign language class, but a class on learning how to learn. The teacher presented the class with “this great new method for teaching a foreign language”, and the sister had to laugh because “That’s what Herr Harrell did for four years of German.” (The “great new method” was basically, “just talk to students in the foreign language in a way they understand”.)

    I told the class, “See, you guys are cutting edge.”

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