Report from the Field – Melissa Snider

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70 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Melissa Snider”

  1. Hopefully lots of people weigh in on your report, Melissa. The first and most important point to make is that you are not wrong, and that your colleagues’ 20 years of teaching in no way qualifies them to suppress your natural inclinations and inner voice about what is best for your students.

    The fact that things went well when you were doing comprehension based instruction but are not going well with the tossed salad thing is proof. You are in a most difficult situation but if you stay the course and listen to what many of us who have been in this situation advise you to do right now, things will eventually work out. I call on the group to flood the comment fields below with their own stories, because we have all been in your shoes.

    This is just part of a massive shift in language education. It is part of light trying to find itself amidst darkness. It is heart trying to balance with mind. Those people you work with, and their program that leads to one AP kid and lots of kids who don’t like learning languages, are a doomed species and time will slowly have its effect in ridding classrooms of the salad bowl stuff.

    Many could really rip into me for saying things like what we are doing as “light trying to find itself in darkness” but it is what I believe so I have to say it. You carry light and you bring to the kids the possibility of happiness in learning. This ignites my wish to be as aggressive in this blog space as I can be. So continue to follow your heart and don’t let your heart be troubled. It is just an unavoidable thing.

    I look forward to what the group might suggest about how to “throw them a bone” with the vocabulary lists and all that stuff that we know doesn’t work. The idea that summer school would be necessary to get the 2’s up to speed for level 3 is laughable and an insult to you professionally. Since those people don’t get what comprehensible input is all about, they reject it as ineffective. They are wrong.

    We need a concrete solution here. Let’s see what the group says and cobble one together so that you can relax and do what you, and many many others, know is best in your own classroom.

  2. A couple of things stand out for me. The first one is your pain in having to ignore what your heart tells you. Find the inner strength to follow what you know to be true. There is no benefit to anyone from you going against the flow. I know I know easy to say and then how does that work in real life with the constraints you are under.

    You said that when you were doing CI the kids loved it. YOu need to find a way to “just do it.” You also said their writing samples “sucked.” Of course. You were not teaching for output. I am guessing that you probably did not teach this way for very long, so don’t get tied to the accuracy of the kids’ writing. Could they string together ideas? Tell a story or part of it? (spelling and grammar aside) If so, that doesn’t suck!

    I would appeal to the kids, remind them “how fun class was when were doing…x,y,z.” Then you can continue with story scripts, etc. AND have a once a week (?) vocab jam session where you divvy up your lists and they memorize them on their own and then you spend that one day in class playing with that in whatever ways you can muster…flash cards, around the world, different memory games, drawing, partner work, group competitions, making skits, etc. This will satisfy the ppl who like to memorize and have “real quizzes” in addition to fulfilling your dept. obligation to cover this stuff. ??? That is just one idea. I’m sure others have more proven ways. I am just thinking off the top of my head. Someone on here had worked up some curriculum sheets that he had handy in the top drawer in the event that someone came in to observe….you could add this in as a CYA measure. I don’t remember who that was.

    Stay with your inner wisdom. You know what is right. The one kid who wants AP can “get what he needs” in other ways. Why are we gearing our entire departments for one kid? Silly. Try to laugh at this if you can. <3

    1. Ben and Jen,

      Thank you so much for your encouraging me! I will report back at the end of my meeting in a bit. Your responses really really help and ignite me to want to respond to others here to give back the same. Thank you, Thank you! I feel I have someone in my corner.

      1. Melissa if you get this in time (before the meeting) you may want to relate this anecdote to your colleague:

        Yesterday a seasoned CI teacher in my school, Barbara Vallejos, got a transfer student into her Spanish 3 class from Columbine HS, with whom I have worked but whose ten teachers didn’t make any changes. This student knew nothing and we are having to petition the counselors to allow the child to take Spanish 1 or 2 (probably 1 because she has never heard the language in the classroom) next year but be given Spanish 4 credit, since it’s not her fault that this happened. She learned nothing in her three years there. Not being a four percent AP type kid, she was SOL on actually making any gains in the language. Not only that, she will be humiliated when, at Lincoln next year, word gets out among the students that she has already taken three years of Spanish and she is a senior sitting in there with a bunch of younger kids. Through no fault of her own. Because of her teacher. Ask your colleague how all the vocabulary lists fared for this student in this situation.

  3. Melissa, I’ve only got one take on this for now, but hopefully it will help

    It sounds like your department will be satisfied if you meet some vocabulary goal. Is that right, or is there a grammar grind element to it, too? If it’s just vocabulary, you are in luck–TPRS/CI does vocabulary really really well. I would get that list you mentioned and talk about some kind of an agreement that would include you “teaching” the words on the list, but just with your own method. Get that agreement in writing, that is, get it over e-mail–like a follow-up e-mail after a face-to-face meeting.

    I think you need to stay defensive for the moment until you know exactly what your colleagues expect from you–gosh that sounds so condescending, I am sorry. How’d the meeting with your chair go?

    1. Ok!
      I left the meeting feeling hopeful but fearful. They want to let me go for it. Call it a “experiment” maybe. They want to have me turn in lesson plans with objectives and standards, ect. Turn in my assessments and record “data” as I live out CI. She was saying that “if you are doing something good, we want to know too.” This leaves me vulnerable I feel because I know in my heart it is right, I just need to have all the fancy appeasing words and fill out the right curriculum map (i.e. speak their language) I need to PROVE it. So, I will do my best. It feels like a lot of hard work. I suppose if I do it once…It will be done.

      The one thing we don’t agree on is output. She thinks at the end of level 2 that students “should be able to have a conversation” Like “what’s your name, what did you do yesterday, ect” So I pointed out if communication is the goal, why are we speeding time on these cultural projects. It is crazy!

      Also she said she is open to having her mind changed. I need to convince her that output for Spanish 2 is not appropriate. Help! I feel I need to present a keynote to my department educating them on this stuff. Can I find the research against output for low levels under the re-education link?

      She poses: “How can a student be getting an A if they can’t speak simple spanish in a conversation with me?”
      I did my best to explain the ICSR..and she still believes that the grade should NOT be based on behaviors. Could someone steer me in the direction of a section of the site to compile thoughts/evidence for this?

      I am going to be doing a lot of writing fancy admin words..

      1. Melissa, my piece of advice is not to press against the idea of output in lower levels. From experience, people misunderstand and think you’re saying, “I want the students to be silent & unresponsive” which is, of course, ridiculous, but since their way of teaching is based on the idea that repeating words & memorizing dialogues makes a person able to speak another language. (No, Comprehensible, Compelling Input does that.)

        Instead, I suggest talking about how your input-based instruction leads to truly student-created, student-designed output over time, allowing for individual variance (differentiation in real form) so that some kids may spontaneously produce quite a lot of language early, and others less. But the output you are seeking is NOT memorized dialogues, it is true student-created interpersonal conversation ability. Some words, some short phrases, some sentences, depending on the kid. You invite them to respond and they do.

        I have been thinking about how communicative drill methods lead to a false sense of production quickly – on day 1, I guess, because they repeat things. That method, at best, means addition to language ability day by day. Our methods lead to exponential language ability. Initially it looks slow, but it absolutely is an exponential growth curve. It multiplies, not adds, to their ability.

        As for preparing for the AP, I think what we do is the best preparation! It’s not a grammar fill-in test anymore. It’s about conversation, reading, and writing based on visual prompts. Telling stories with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. Where do kids get good at that without TPRS?

  4. And Melissa I am going to post an article asap, in case you get it in time for your meeting. It was sent to us by Bob Patrick in Atlanta just this morning. It also, like the Columbine transfer student story, provides damning evidence against non-CI instruction. What I don’t get is how these people who turn their faces away from Krashen and even ridicule his work can get away with it. You will see that Bob’s story is compelling reading, and a bit earth shattering to a certain million dollar book corporation, as you will see in the article.

  5. We need to provide you with stuff from our computers – in the comment fields below – so you don’t have to take your attention away from your teaching in order to defend it. I urge the group to just go into your computers and send anything* back here. Lesson plans, whatever you have. I know that we can count on this group, if we can count on anyone, to get Melissa through this strong. There is this link for starters:

    *We need to define “anything”. Melissa exactly what do they want? We will provide it for you below. This method is about quality of life for CI practitioners. It provides time for family, self-reflection and rest. It provides Blaine with time to golf. The old idea of a teacher as frazzled unhappy overburdened worker is not compatible with what CI brings. We must guarantee you, in the next few days, enough examples of lesson plans and objectives and all that so that you don’t have to worry so much about your job. It’s only a job and there is more to life than working.

  6. Let me address “Rigor” for a moment.

    The first thing to do is define the term. What is “academic rigor”? According to the Department of State, academic rigor incorporates the following elements:
    1. Depth and integrity of inquiry – the current practice of touching on an element of the language and then moving on because it will be spiraled and “come around again” does not have depth of inquiry and is therefor not rigorous; TCI/TPRS, in which a set of structures are repeated and form the framework for extended interpersonal communication and target-language reading, does provide both depth and integrity of inquiry. It meets one of the criteria for rigor.
    2. Sustained focus – classrooms in which students do worksheets while chatting with one another in English have no sustained focus; students are able to be distracted for extended periods of time and still finish the assignment given to them. A setting in which students are required to be mentally present for the class conversation and discussion throughout the period, taking only a couple of brain breaks, is rigorous because it calls for sustained focus. jGR/ICSR reflects, among other things, how well students maintain focus.
    3. Suspension of premature conclusions – an instructional setting in which students are given the rules (grammar) and then asked to apply those rules to language through worksheets and drills has already given students their conclusions, a practice diametrically opposed to rigor. Students should be allowed to process the language and begin drawing their own conclusions about the way the language is put together. Studies show that grammar rules as presented in textbooks and beginning language classes do not provide students with a prescription that represents the way the language is actually used. (A recent article in Foreign Language Annals, ACTFL’s publication, addressed this precise issue in Spanish and showed how students accept what is presented by the textbook, thereby hindering language acquisition and even keeping them from adopting idiomatic usages because of a previously learned rule.) Once again, this approach is diametrically opposed to rigor. TCI/TPRS allows students to hear and read the language used correctly and begin to form their own conclusions about how the language works; they become inquisitive and ask questions to see if their conclusions are correct. Additional language without the prescriptive element allows them to make corrections or reinforces the direction of their thinking.
    4. Continuous testing of hypotheses. When teachers use the whole language and allow students to manipulate it before addressing discrete grammar items, students are encouraged to avoid premature conclusions and continue creating and testing hypotheses about what is correct in the language. When teachers give students explicit grammar instruction from the outset, there can be no testing of hypotheses – because students are not given the opportunity to create hypotheses -; rather there is only accuracy checking, a decidedly low-level and non-rigorous activity.

    By all of the tests of rigor presented by the Department of State for American Schools, TPRS/TCI clearly represents a rigorous course of study whereas grammar instruction does not. The problem, as the Department of State again notes, is that teachers have confused onerous and burdensome with rigorous.

    Here is a link to the relevant webpage:

    1. Oh my goodness Robert Harrell!!!
      I want to memorize everything you just said, dramatically retell on video, and post to the world! This is it!
      Thank you!!!

      1. Ditto that Melissa! Robert, beautiful. I’m copying and saving this on my computer for future reference, unless you object of course.

        btw Robert or anyone else, where might we find the Robert Harrell summary of the suggested hours to fluency that some State academy put out? I remember that being a powerful reminder for us that kids shouldn’t be expected to have accurate output after such few hours that we have them in two years.

        1. Also, thank you for sharing your frustrating and disheartening situation with us, it helps us all get more comfortable in this new role as deliverers of comprehensible input vs deliverers of instructional services. I wish you the best, please keep confident that your reasoning and intuition on this will prevail.

        2. Jim,
          I found it on the FAQ on TCI…it is a hand-out I think. Robert put it together and it references the number of hours and the source of those facts. Also, on Robert’s scope and sequence document. It is there also.

          1. There is this on the number of hours:


            The following ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) Ratings represent levels of expected performance for language learners who complete full-time intensive and/or immersion, proficiency-based language training under the supervision of an instructor and with 1-4 students per class.

            Group I Languages: Including Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish…

            Length of Training Minimal Aptitude Average Aptitude Superior Aptitude
            8 weeks (240 hours) Intermediate Low Intermediate Mid Intermediate Mid

            Source: Judith E. Liskin-Gasparro. ETS Oral Proficiency Testing Manual. Princeton, N.J.: Educational Testing Service, 1982. ILR ratings have been converted to reflect the equivalent ACTFL ratings.

  7. Melissa (great name, ja ja),

    I just want to make sure that this is the same story about veggie characters Felipe Tomate, Tomás Tomate, etc… I use Ensalada soap opera but I don’t do any of the activities with it. I use it more like a novel reading or individual mini scripts. We act out some scenes. Normally I tell/ask the episode to the class in Spanish and allow them to add in facts that don’t change the main story and then they read it. My quizzes are like other quizzes with CI. I have made the characters and the places magnetic so that they go on the white board and we use them instead of actors to the story. This year I will have students actors of the main characters so that I can talk to them. It is great to show the difference between pretérito and imperfecto as well as present perfect but I just use pop ups to teach them. The episodes are so full of the verbs that by episode 16 they have a great feel for it. I only pick out frequent vocabulary to focus on through circling. If you intend to keep using it I would love to share ideas. By the way, I tell the story in past tense in Spanish 2 and when they are in Spanish 3 we act out the court scene. This is only my 2nd year full on CI so I might find that it doesn’t work so well but I am going to try it this year.

    On needing to know long lists of vocabulary, I sent home a list with the old textbook and gave the students some memorization homework (nothing longer than 10 -20 minutes) and every 2 to 3 weeks we tested on it (I wrote Spanish word and they wrote the English). I sometimes used notecards for a couple minutes a day in class. My fear was that they would not know enough in the university and this would expose them to a large amount of vocabulary. I no longer have that fear and since I am the only teacher in my school I don’t do it this year at all.

    I can’t imagine how hard the struggle is for you and I hope things get better. I had the same problems with writings but I now am seeing much improvement without any direct grammar instruction. I don’t know who said it first but I remind myself to TEACH FOR JUNE. I can’t wait to see what they can do at the end of the year.

    Let me know if you want to brainstorm on the Telenovela Ensalada. I wish you a fantastic experience that others can’t deny.

    1. Melissa,

      Yes, I would love to brainstorm with you! What is the protocol for 1 to 1 interactions? Do I put my email or phone in the message here? Let me know! I want your ideas and I will share with you what we do!!

      1. On the moretprs group they have had a couple of teachers talking about it. One of the teachers gave the link for 4 blogposts that she made.

        One thing that I want to do is buy the cheap foam visors in the craft department and make them into each character. This way when we do the episodios the student actor can be wearing it and it will be clear to the others which character it is and I can talk to the actor.

        I’m not sure about the protocol but I believe on the Group members-alphabitized list it has e-mails. If you want to e-mail me we could communicate that way and share phone numbers.

        Melissa Sadler

  8. leigh anne munoz

    OMG!! My former colleague, Stephanie Campbell at Ayala High School in Chino Hills, Ca wrote, “Cuentos de Ensalada!!” Is that what you have been using? I have a copy in my cabinet. I can’t believe it. She was a bit of a mentor to me, and always tried to keep me encouraged.

    What you are going through sounds do-able, because they are really communicating with you. Open minds are the best kind.

    You are getting tons of good advice. I don’t think I can add very much, except that I do think that if your ‘betters’ want output, you might want to find a way to make that happen. I find that people really love output so much that they just cannot wrap their brain around non-output. Once someone truly believes in the sanctity of output, it is almost impossible to change their mind. But video-taping students saying the story using pictures is output; having students act out the story while one strong student narrates it is output. What kind of output do they want?

    1) You seem to be handling the situation very well, my dear.
    2) You have good instincts.

    Stephanie used to say the above encouraging words to me!

    All the best!

    –Leigh Anne Munoz,
    French I, II, III, IV-AP
    Chino Hills High School

    1. Leigh Anne,

      I am touched by your words, especially that they come from Stephanie Campbell! How interesting!
      The output they are looking for is the model from the NY regents test. I am not sure if you are familiar, but they have to have 6 utterances with me from a prompt that they don’t get to prepare for. Like: “You are at the beach and storm clouds are coming in. What do you say to your friend. You start the conversation”
      The kids I have now are FROZEN in fear and have no idea what to say!! If this is going to be the final exam, then I was thinking of developing scripts and vocabulary that go with the 40 prompts…Although my co-worker doesn’t want me to expose the information…what?! That is stressful to me and to expect that from low-level level 2’s. Our school breaks the level 2 into Honors and regular. The regulars usually don’t go on to 3 or 4 or AP. I have the regulars. (I love them by the way)
      It just seems too much for them..

      1. Years ago I went to a CLTA workshop where Stephanie Campbell presented “Cuentos de Ensalada” and found it interesting with potential. Since I very soon after that stopped teaching Spanish and never translated it to German, I never used her material. While I can’t speak to the quizzes, worksheets, etc., the idea of the story looked quite promising. (Not everything has to be directly about our students, but they have to be able to relate to it. After all, look at the number of students who react strongly to any mention of Harry Potter or even Edward Cullen.) As someone mentioned above, I would ditch all of the grammar stuff and concentrate on the story, doing something similar to the way we read a chapter book.

        You can also support output (what I think of as pseudo-output) with sentence frames. Think of phrases that they can use and write most of the phrase, leaving out a couple of words that students fill in; alert them to the possibilities. For example, I want to teach my students to talk about weather. On the board I have the weather report from Berlin, Vienna, Berne, and Dar es Salaam – both temperature and a symbol for sunny/cloudy/raining/etc. Below that I have a “key” to the symbols. Part of the opening of class now is to include some statements about the weather in all of those places. In first year, it is mostly me saying, “Es ist …”, and students supplying, “heiß und sonnig / kalt und wolkig” etc. At the very end I ask what the weather in Garden Grove is like, and students are starting to give me complete sentence answers because they are acquiring the patterns for talking about weather. I do this every day along with asking how they are doing, what they did yesterday, what they plan to do tomorrow, who is absent, etc. I imagine you could cover most of the prompts this way, a little bit at a time.

        You wrote The regulars usually don’t go on to 3 or 4 or AP. That is truly a shame, but I imagine it is reflective of the school’s attitudes toward language “learning” rather than acquisition, i.e. it is elitist to think that “regular” students shouldn’t or can’t go beyond second year. Your school is not serving its students. Your faculty probably has a different understanding of the purpose of a language class from mine. BTW, does your AP teacher truly teach that class at the level College Board says it should be taught? The literature says this should be taught as a third-year college course. Who takes a third-year college course? Majors. So, does the teacher teach this as if all of the students in the class were majors? The third-year course that non-majors take is the “conversation” course because that’s the one that will give them the tools actually to speak to people. I have persuaded my principal that we should be offering AP French and German only to students who are exceptionally good at academic language and that we need to offer a fourth year of Spanish for those who don’t want AP. Depending on enrollment, that may happen next year. Part of the struggle is getting everyone, including counselors, on board with it because the counselors have such great influence on what students take.

        Keep up the good work, Melissa!

        1. …it is elitist to think that “regular” students shouldn’t or can’t go beyond second year….

          This rarely gets pointed out, Robert and Leigh Anne, so thank you bringing this point up. The idea that there is a superior class of students – and most are white – is common in our society, and yet, with language instruction that is based on comprehensible input, we have seen so many times that ALL students can play the AP game if they just hear and see the language enough. (The George Washington High example I wrote about here yesterday is a supreme example). There is not a single reference to grammar in the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. With this change toward real proficiency in the language, grammar has been redefined. We teach heavy grammar in our CI classes, because we teach proper speech. Grammar is really CORRECTLY USED LANGUAGE, CORRECT SPEECH, in fact, and so exists in much fuller form than the old way when it used to be defined solely in terms of writing output, which is such a limited definition of grammar.

          1. It’s also very ironic, in my mind, that these beliefs exist about who is able to add another language to their ability. Where I lived in China, many of the local people were of an ethnic nationality of about 120,000 people (the Sani). The vast majority of them were farmers and they were often seen as less intellectually capable by Han Chinese. They often believed that nonsense themselves.

            They natively spoke a language in the Tibeto-Burmese family, and through interaction with local Chinese, they also knew the local dialect of Mandarin. They also knew standard Mandarin quite well from TV and attending school — not studying it at school, but being in that language environment in schools. (The dialect/standard Mandarin differences seem about the same difference as Portuguese/Spanish from what little I know of those two languages.)

            So they are almost all trilingual and none of those languages came through study, but through acquisition. Now when they get to a certain grade in school, though, they are taught English in the Chinese system of study, memorization, and exams. Almost no Sani becomes proficient in English — except the English that Sani women who sell handicrafts acquire through listening to English-speaking tourists!

          2. Bill Cosby once questioned why the ability to speak another language is viewed by others as a sign of intelligence. He was right to make that point. The fact is that anyone who hears a language long enough will become proficient at it, and it doesn’t matter how smart they are. There are 70 million people in France, and they all speak French fluently, even the ones with very low I.Q.s. Learning a language is not for the elite or the intellectually superior members of a society. It is too important for that.

          3. This reminds me of a Krashen quote:

            “Savignon (1976) is correct when she says ‘Attitude is the single most important factor in second language learning.’ We might even suggest that one characteristic of the ideal second language class is one in which aptitude will not predict differences in student achievement (S. Sapon, personal communication), because efficient acquisition is taking place for all students.” – Krashen, 1981

            I make a point of telling my students that they can ALL acquire and that intellect won’t matter in my classroom. I show them my model of acquisition and ask: “Does it say intelligence anywhere?” Answer: No. I have this quote hanging on my wall: “Language is acoustical, not intellectual.”

            . . . I read this quote from Krashen and was reminded of the importance of motivation/compelling/low-anxiety:

            “Simply hearing a second language with understanding appears to be necessary but is not sufficient for acquisition to take place. The acquirer must not only understand the input but must also, in a sense, be ‘open’ to it.” – Krashen, 1981

            So, our job is not to just deliver CI, but to lower affective filters and make that CI compelling. Note: focus on form/correctness raises affective filters.

          4. Being “open” to acquiring language is not a pep talk idea from a football coach. Krashen is basing this statement on research. Therefore, the elements of personalizing and team building and inclusion that we focus on so heavily in our work with comprehensible input are not pie in the sky hippie smoke blowing, but are real tactics to bring students into the social community as written about in this passage from what the French call the “Art of Conversation”:

            “La conversation constitue un tissu langagier grâce auquel les membres d’une communauté non seulement communiquent quotidiennement, mais encore assurent leur appartenance au groupe. Par la conversation, l’individu construit sa face sociale…..”

            “Conversation is made up of a linguistic tissue thanks to which the members of a community not only communicate on a daily basis, but also guarantee their membership in the group. Through conversation, the individual constructs his social place in the group…..”


            I would ask all the teachers who inflict verb memorization drills on their students if their students feel as if they are part of a social group. Well, I don’t have to ask because I know the answer.

            So great points and thank you Eric. By the way, that quote about language being acoustical not intellectual, for the record, is from Bertie Segal, who is the real originator of PQA as well.

          5. I didn’t know she was the originator of PQA! I always get a kick out of her name. Not sure how it’s pronounced, but looks like “birdie seagull.” 🙂

          6. Eric she originated the questioning process of getting simple one word answers, just to be accurate, according to what I have learned from Susan Gross and Diana Noonan. She may not have coined the term PQA, but she invented the idea of questioning students to get more reps. We owe more than a lot to her.

          7. “Language is acoustical, not intellectual.”

            I’m stealing this from you, Eric, and put it on my wall someday soon as well.

          8. Sean just make sure you put Berty Segal’s name under the quote. It’s one of many from our grande dame of CI. We might indeed currently be having conversations about CI without her, but the conversations wouldn’t be the same. Krashen and Asher and the others all kind of stem from Berty. I remember once having a wonderful conversation with her on the porch at iFLT in Breckenridge three years ago. I will never forget that evening. And what made the evening so special? The people there were REAL – that’s the only way I can say it. They spoke true words about language acquisition after I had just heard a lifetime of false words from people I’ve now forgotten.

          9. Sucks when teachers have to live up to non-CI standards, but the non-CI teachers don’t have to live up to CI (more rigourous!) standards! The only defense for the non-CI teachers is that many researchers still promote output and focus on form. I get the feeling that the Krashen Camp is a minority. So the non-CI teachers can actually defend their approaches in the research. Right? How come everyone can’t see what Krashen has been saying forever?, i.e. focus on form doesn’t help on Monitor-free tests!!! And success on monitor-free tests should be the goal, because in real-life communication, there is little room for the monitor. If we want an accurate assessment of output then there should be no preparation and there should be a time pressure. And it’s not fair to expect much success on these monitor-free output tests during levels 1 & 2. Although, I’m not sure how realistic it is to think non-CI teachers are going to ever go for only input tests in the first 2 years.

        2. “I would ditch all of the grammar stuff and concentrate on the story, doing something similar to the way we read a chapter book.”

          I am still new at teaching novels, and this is what I would like to try to do. Robert, Can you point me to where I could go here on the site to explain “the way we read a chapter book”?

          1. I’ve been working on some ideas about this, too, in preparation for using a chapter book after spring break with my 7th graders. I’d like seeing what people with experience do with a chapter book. My plans so far are to treat it the same as my regular cycle – using the new structures from a chapter, creating something orally with them, doing something reading with them, and then after they’ve mostly acquired those new structures, do an intensive read & discuss with a chapter:
            – I read a sentence or two (depending on how easy the sentence is) while students follow with their finger in the book.
            – Toss stuffed animal to a student for them to say English meaning.
            – After a chunk of paragraphs, ask them questions, compare the characters to the students, do PQA-like questions related to the structures in that section.
            – Go on to the next chunk.
            – Follow read & discuss with reader’s theater, re-enacting interesting scenes, etc.

            For the first book, I’ve planned to do ch. 1 that way, but then delay doing this read & discuss three or four days in a row on ch. 2-5 (at which point the school year will almost be over & it’s at an interesting point in the book – which I’ll continue next school year in the fall). Then taking a day or two for fun responsive stuff & a quiz, with timed writing of a summary or using Robert Harrell’s essential sentences format.

            One thing I really want to avoid is ever making this feel like English class. I want them all to enjoy this. Only some enjoy the English class process with their novels.

          2. That pretty much covers it, in my view. This is the key in what I heard you say above, Diane:

            …using the new structures from a chapter…then after they’ve mostly acquired those new structures, do an intensive read & discuss with a chapter….

            The problem for new people would be in the “using the new structures from a chapter” part. What does that mean?

            In Denver Public Schools, for us, about five years ago, it meant long sessions of isolating and using CI to pre-teach the words in any given chapter. We spent hours doing that for Blaine’s books because Carol’s hadn’t come out yet. BUT we then found out that we would have to use the new (isolated) structures for a month just to get the students prepared to be able to read one chapter. In other words, the PQA required to be able to read those books was way too much. We had too many words to teach. (This is all just my opinion). I personally just couldn’t figure out a way to teach a novel without needing exhaustive amounts of time to set up the reading of each chapter, because obviously if they haven’t acquired the words before trying to read the novel, they can’t read it.

            So I think that it is not totally inaccurate to say that many of us teach novels before the kids are ready. This is where stories and general PQA/CI discussion over long periods of time before reading the novels comes in, as you have outlined above.

            Again, in my own opinion, it just seems obvious that we shouldn’t begin a novel until the kids have done enough general stories to have control over enough general vocabulary to be able to read one of those chapter books that we call “beginning level” novels. Call me crazy.

            That is why I put off novels in level 1 until the second semester and only then do Pobre Ana and maybe some other really simple book. In level 1 I mainly teach reading in the form of TPRS Step 3 readings based on stories. For that I use the powerful ROA formula ( mostly during French 1, and it is in the reading of all those readings from stories that my kids are able to easily read the easy novels that I pummel them with in level 2 because they get a gnarly edge with stories in level 2 anyway. I consider Houdini a second year book, and I think that is why Carol just created that other chapter book about a younger Brandon for level one. Again, just my opinion.

            Anne has just completed writing a set of story scripts for each chapter of Houdini. I thought they would be out by now and I apologize to those who wanted them to help set up Houdini this winter, but we have just been slow in the editing process. I think that they will be very helpful in setting up Houdini, but in general I don’t think it inaccurate to say that the best way to set up the reading of chapter books using simple R and D is to do lots of general stories to teach lots of general vocabulary using ROA first. (If you are new and those terms are confusing, look them up in the categories to the right of this page.)

          3. Encouraging, thanks, Ben! I look for 3 to maybe 7 words that they haven’t seen before per chapter. If there were any more new words than that, I would think the book is too incomprehensible. For Chinese, I think they need ZERO unknowns in readings at the early stage I teach. It’s enough that it’s character reading for now, and their brains are adapting to that.

            Terry Waltz wrote a Chinese version of Poor Anna – it’s at least based on the Spanish version. That’s a year 3 book for Chinese in my opinion. It’s certainly beyond my current students, and I think they end up comparable to some stage of high school Chinese 2 after having me for 4 years 5th-8th grade. I’ve always wondered if its the language difference that makes it a year 1 book for French & Spanish or if Terry’s version is written to a later audience, but I’m guessing its the former. Very few cognates and character reading mean more time needed.

            Anyway, she’s the only one who’s written such simple Chinese books that my 5th graders are ready for the first one. They are getting excited about it. It’s called “Herbert’s Birthday” and it’s really quite silly. Perfect for early middle school. We’re going to add some “Rocky Horror Picture Show” elements to the read-aloud that will happen in class in a couple weeks. I’m hoping to film it. On some key, repeated, fun words, we’ll make up a gesture or quick action/word to shout. “Cry” – sob melodramatically, “Birthday” – they blow one of those birthday party favors, etc. At least I’m going to try it once and see if it’s fun or too disruptive. I wanted a way to know the kids were understanding as they listen and watch.

            My 5th graders are also really happy that they do not have a textbook like the Spanish & French kids got recently – they’ve told me so. I found it very interesting. I thought they might feel left out. The other classes’ kids initially felt very grown-up to get a textbook. When I explained we’d be reading a Chinese story book, they got excited. I’m only asking for parents to buy (private school, parents buy the materials) the easy readers from now on. I really look forward to not having even reference to elements from a textbook sequence, so much so that starting next week I’m not even referring to textbook sequencing for any grade I teach. I’m going backwards from readers based on most-frequent vocabulary and structure plus some fun, kid-oriented words (like animal names).

          4. Diane, sounds like there’s a big need for low-level Chinese chapter books. It seems to me that chapter books are an essential part in creating a well-rounded CI curriculum. If kids can’t get into reading chapter books starting, at least, in year 2, then I’d imagine a lot of the other stuff gets kinda old. I think you should start writing some!

          5. Yes Sean this is a fact, what you said here:

            …it seems to me that chapter books are an essential part in creating a well-rounded CI curriculum….

            The kids can’t learn to read if they don’t read. They should read more than they listen. The only other kind of reading is of the TPRS Step 3 variety, when they should use ROA, in my opinion. That is a great way to get them reading, but the best is those little chapter books. I am glad to know that Terry is producing some readers. The Latinists are chomping at the bit on this as well. Robert has his North Sea Pirates book in German and we need to hear more about that. Carol has lots of good books out lately. It’s happening.

          6. Terry is also soon to publish a TPRS level 1 textbook based off of/easily working with her readers, calling it “Zhongwen Bu Mafan” (Chinese isn’t a hassle). I think she really is making the textbook to fit her use – she said that’s why she made the readers. They’re sold at (but cheaper on Amazon).

            So far she has about 6 printed books and 2 ebooks. The textbook is supposed to be published in June 2014.

          7. It’s middle school, so making up stuff in a class and talking about things they choose are still quite appealing to them for years. They really are like year 1 high school for a long time – instruction must go slower (less content, more reps) because of their development. But what we do does shift over the years & I do introduce more formal output opportunities in 7th & 8th grades (but not requirements – some still are not there yet). Mostly I’d like to use readers because it increases the amount of reading we can do and gives another writer for them to see. I write up a lot of stuff for them in very short story form.

            And Sean, I may write some of these some day. My mom thinks I should write something about my chickens because the children love hearing about them so much. Again, it works in middle school, perhaps.

          8. Getting to the point where I could Read and Discuss a chapter book with my Spanish class last semester was a real nice way to break away from constant PQA and Asking-A-Story sessions. As Melissa and Diane are talking about how to make the reading of chapter books work, I think about how I found reading the chapter book less interactive, meaning, less back and forth between me and students and less “eyes on me” kind of thing. Reading the chapter book came to be a time where we all would sit down for extended periods of time, relaxing into the language of the book about a story that we discussed for the length of 2 months (and that was in a 90 min class that meet everyday).

            I used a lot of the strategies from RoA with reading the chapter books. In addition, since we talked about this book off-and-on over several weeks, we could also do some analysis of the characters, some analysis of the conflict, and make connections to students’ lives, to other texts, or to the real world. It was something I looked forward to.

            I’m hoping that I can move my Spanish 1 students into reading a chapter book after the first 1/2 of the course term, or maybe more realistically, after the first 2/3s of the course term.

          9. …reading the chapter book came to be a time where we all would sit down for extended periods of time, relaxing into the language of the book….

            And Sean this means that they were ready to read the book because it was relaxed. You had done your job with the auditory CI and now you get the payoff because they read based on images connected to the sound bank you set up in their minds with stories. As Susan Gross has famously said, paraphrased, “When they read it should all look like a movie in their minds.” It sounds like your kids are doing that Sean. Such is the power of stories to set up reading.

          10. Thanks Ben,

            I was planning on doing the 5 steps of R and D to “plow through” and make manageable getting through the episodes of Salad stories. I read all the posts and all your material on how to do it, I feel ready. The problem is: I feel exactly the same way you do about all the vocabulary and pre teaching it. They simply won’t be able to chorally translate if they haven’t acquired the vocabulary through other stories. I was thinking about trying to isolate the words for each episode and have them translated on the board? Any thoughts? It is a tough situation.

          11. Melissa, my “choral translation” has turned into me reading and pausing at words or phrases where I expect students can shout out the translation. What happens, then, is that by the middle of the story a handful of leaders of the class are translating word for word, phrase by phrase, with me chiming in from time to time when I feel appropriate. All eyes are glued on the reading up on the screen.

          12. Don’t translate any words on the board. If they haven’t been acquired, it won’t work. Pick, instead, a simpler text. This is crucial, because once they conclude that they can’t read, their confidence is gone. Not good.

          13. Hmmm. So, Ben, you’re saying that during the choral translation step in the Reading Option A sequence, I shouldn’t translate any of the words/ phrases on my own? I get it that I should be writing stories that only include words/ phrases that students have already acquired. If I am having to do the translation for the students, I’ve gone out-of-bounds.

            In addition, what I’m thinking I need to work on is to not read through so quickly. The problem is that when we do a choral translation, the handful of students that are really good at translating take over and the rest just follow along. It doesn’t seem like such a bad scenario since with the handful of leaders the rest of the class really do follow along.

          14. The whole group reads loudly together. I have a job in each class called the Reader Leader, who is the superstar who reads in the loudest voice. The rest follow. But if I don’t hear 90% of the kids, I stop and we start again. When only four or ten kids are reading, I don’t feel that they are doing my idea of ROA when I first thought of doing it in this rather specific way. The team reading thing is big in my opinion. I just listen. It’s a real visible proof of mastery of that story, not to get a grade but to show that they can do it. They love to show off.

          15. re: embedded vocabulary in ROA

            I like to embed a few new words in each ROA text. Not many, just a few. Like 2 or 3 or MAYBE 4 out of 200-300 total. And those new words get repeated a bunch in the reading and become sort of like mini-target structures. When we are doing choral translation, then, everything is moving along smoothly and then the point-person points at a new, embedded word and everybody stops, looking confused. I let the silence soak for a bit, then just quickly give the English meaning. Then the reading continues as normal, but now they have seen the embedded word and so don’t really struggle with all of its repetitions.

            Normally these embedded words are words that don’t lend themselves to PQA. Like narrative words (therefore, after, nevertheless, however, etc.) and other boring vanilla vocabulary. They work well in the readings because they are mostly narrative, that is, not used much in spoken language.

          16. Some of my stories are on the smartboard. They may only translate as fast as I move the pointer from one word to the next. This way keeps the class at a slower pace when translating.

      2. I taught Spanish 1-4 in NY for 2.5 years, so I have seen the format. It is possible to BS just a little bit, right?

        Nevertheless, that is tough–your students are not expected to go on to levels 3/4, yet they are being held accountable for the same tasks as those students who are going on? Weird. Is that correct?

        Well, I have a fun way to get some output; it is a lame game, though. You could play it at the end of a story, with very specific structures. Some of Anne Matava’s story structures can apply to different situations that could address many Regents topics.

        Anyway, if you want to know how to play the game, just let me know. I can e-mail you. It is so dumb, but it is tolerable, and will help the kids believe that they are preparing, and maybe they will calm down a bit.

        1. Leigh Anne send it to me too and I will publish it here. A vocabulary game to play at the end of a story? What’s not to love? I do think that the learning here is that we do in fact work in schools and so must accommodate those we work for yet in a way that doesn’t decrease our effectiveness with CI and our use of time for CI in the classroom. The thematic units do that because they makes the kids learn the words outside of class, so no class time is lost (although few kids learn much of anything from those lists and most just don’t even bother to study the words, but at least it’s CYA for us), and I think a lame vocabulary game at the end of a story would do the same.

          1. Leigh Anne Munoz

            Ok! Keep in mind that we don’t actually play this game in my class any more. It’s noisy. Plus, I’ve stopped playing games since I found Anne Matava’s stories.

            a) Practice for the game with the teacher saying the beginnings of sentences from various stories and letting the students finish each sentence as a class. Or practice à la ‘Numbered Heads Together.’

            [Google ‘Numbered Heads Together’ if you don’t know what it is.]

            Extend the practice (or call it a scrimmage and introduce the rules) by allowing individual volunteers to add bizarre words and phrases that vary from the original story versions to the beginnings of sentences that you provide orally or in a written fashion. You could even have them be the teacher, starting sentences for their partner to finish.

            Try to practice as much as you can before the game begins.

            b) Decide what the reward for the winning team will be. Score should be very close at all times.

            c) Decide what penalties will be assessed for use of English or badgering a classmate. My classes are *full* of 16 year-old athletes. Ugh. So easy for them to get crazily competitive.

            d) Stick a stuffed animal on a chair in front of the room; divide the class into two teams.

            1) Each team sends a player to stand on either side of the ‘chair.’
            2) Teacher says a part of a line from a story.
            3) First student to grab the stuffed animal and finish the sentence *in any comprehensible fashion* wins 1 point for their team.
            4) Either student may leave the front of the room to get ideas from a student on their team in the audience.
            5) Add any other rules you like. For example, if the student with possession of the animal adds two details instead of just one, they can get 2 pts, etc.

            It is fun to see them encouraging each other to finish sentences. It is stressful for the kids to come to the front of the room, but most students do ok because they know who to ask if they need any help. I make mine keep their current seating arrangement, because they always try to get the smart kid to sit up front. It is funny to see the students from one team watch their representative run around their side of the room while their competing player is doing the same exact thing on the other side of the room.

            Questions? Let me know if anyone plays it!

          2. Leigh Anne Munoz

            Oh — I allowed students to ‘ditch.’ They just go back to their seat after hearing the ‘prompt.’ Their team does not want them to do that, but if a student ditches play, another player runs up to the front to take their place and finishes the sentence. However, the replacement player has to wait until everyone else on their team has gone to have their turn again.

            You may determine that ‘ditching’ doesn’t work. Or, you may make it so that the ‘replacement player’ can stay in play without affecting the dynamic of the game.

            Sorry for the ambiguity — that is one of the reasons games are so hard in my classroom. I want both teams to have a fair shot…and that can require some manipulation of the game.

          3. Leigh Anne Munoz

            You could even make it so that if a student ‘ditches’ they could be replaced by a student from the opposing team!

      3. Hi Melissa, if you or anyone else in NY has access to some kind of a list of potential situations for that Regents exam, I’d sure like to get my hands on it. It would give me great material for scripting stories.

        1. Hi Anne & Melissa, I know that Laurie Clarq on a recent thread shared with us how she helped her school administer this NY Regents 1 v 1 interview exam last year. She was the department head in charge and they interviewed some 400 kids at the end of the year.

          1. Anne,
            What is your email? I have old material. I will scan what I have and send it to you!

          2. Sean,

            I was under the assumption that NY regents exams for Spanish are no longer given. Am I wrong? This would be new information to me. I am going to email Laurie! Thanks for the tip!!!

  9. And why would you think that those prompts might be too much for them? Well, because they go against Krashen’s Silent Period and Affective Filter ideas, badly. And also because:

    1. Output doesn’t really happen in the real and natural (not memorized) way until after thousands, yes thousands, many thousands of hours.
    2. These kids are being asked to output after, in true time measured in real hours, about 250 hours and that is if the teacher is using CI 90% of the time or more in the classroom.

    Now, I don’t know what to call this. I guess I’ll just have to go with the words “insane” or “stupid” and leave it at that. How can grammar trained kids, your colleagues’ kids, possibly handle those prompts? Their listening bank is empty. Have you asked those colleagues what their plan is? How are THEY going to game this, is the question, not how YOU are going to game it. THEY are the ones not speaking the language in the classroom*. The whole idea of forced early output is just nuts. There is a category here on it if you want to read more:

    Here are a few articles from that category that pertain to this discussion:

    *In Denver Public Schools we have data that shows that CI trained kids outscore traditional kids badly on listening comprehension tests. So Melissa your regular kids may end up stronger than the “smart” AP kids that your colleagues “just happened” to get in their classes. At George Washington High School in Denver a few years ago the nationally praised IB students in French scored far below the black and brown kids in the other part of the building on the DPS exit exams. That’s because their teacher, Reuben Vyn, spoke French 99% of the time in class in ways that were interesting and meaningful to them, and he never hit them with any grammar. But those same kids could not really speak. They were only French 2 kids. Nor could the IB level 2 kids speak enough to respond to a prompt in the way you describe above, no matter how many sample answers they memorized. Nor could anyone. Nor could we when we were only a few years old. Speech emergence doesn’t work that way. These people you work with are banging around in La La Land on this speaking thing.

  10. Wow. I’ve learned a lot from reading this thread.

    It’s interesting how different administration responds to our TPRS/CI and how we explain it to them. I went to a charter school job fair in Chicago yesterday and when I talked about this CI stuff with these administrators of high schools from very troubled communities, I could tell in their eyes, they loved it. As educators of marginalized communities, we know that our students need that human interaction, they need that community building, they need that positive feeling more than anything. So when I tell these administrators, “Students need a flood of input before we expect them to give a trickle of output,” and I throw out the question, “Then how do we assess students’ learning if they are not expected to give output?” with a description of all the comprehension checks we do, verbal and non-verbal alike, they grinned and encouraged me to apply to work at their school.

    Then you have your selective enrollment schools in Chicago, your affluent suburban districts, and your affluent private schools where my impression is they either want a foreign language teacher who will implement a sexier kind of instruction (i.e., “fun” projects), or have a Masters or PhD in Spanish literature, or show a zeal in challenging those 4%ers with supplemental 4%er kind of work.

    Perhaps I’m generalizing too much about this. Anyways, it’s got to be a really sad and frustrating feeling to have to submit yourself, Melissa, to the cold analysis of an administrator whose frame of reference is, most likely, the Common Core kinda stuff. I went through that last year, and guess what, it was at a school that was transitioning from being a neighborhood school (letting go of the principal even) to being a selective enrollment school (with a new principal that had special connections with the district chief).

  11. You’re not generalizing too much, Sean. This has always been about poverty, as Krashen won’t stop saying. The elitists get to do as you say so well above with their 4%ers, and buy all sorts of project based/computer based programs, and they think that this will allow them to continue to stay at the top. And there was nothing for the poor schools to do or buy or no teachers for them to help them compete, and the status quo of white/privileged elitism thus lasted for many decades. But now there are teachers like you teaching in the inner urban areas and coming out with a better product, a noticeably better product with happier kids displaying keen interest and strong gains. (Again, think of the George Washington High story where poor brown and black kids from inner city Denver completely dominated* their building mates over in the IB section, the white section, of the building.) That was not a fluke. It is not a fluke that Annick Chen was recently offered a matching salary by Kent Denver Country Day School – the richest of the rich in Denver – and turned it down to stay at Lincoln. These stories, where comprehension based instruction tilts the playing field in the favor of whoever uses it, has the potential to bring a true revolution to language education in the U.S. and this is a worthy goal for a society that has for too long now been out of balance due to the cranky presences of too many old white guys running things. I am proud and happy to see young teachers like you in those urban zones giving it every day, Sean. I repeat what I said here a month ago, my brother: you are my hero. Melissa is my hero. Steve Ford is my hero. Angie Dodd is my hero. Look at what Angie wrote about this work a year ago, the year she quit her job in mid-year because she was beaten down by the people in the building she was in, but who is now coming back strong to the profession that she loves. To me, this says it all:

    …yes, we understand how analytically-oriented high schoolers can be, but does that mean we play to that tendency in language class? Or is this where we encourage the aspect of ourselves that learns through a unique kind of paying attention…not taking apart and analyzing, but rather opening to something huge and beautiful and just becoming a part of it? Becoming a part instead of taking apart?…

    *Their bar graph on listening and reading was eight to ten times higher than those of the IB students taking the same level (2) of French. That is what properly done CI did in that case. Why were those scores so much higher? Because when the IB teacher was doing the textbook and having the kids fill in the blanks with the right form of the verb or pronoun, or watch some inane non comprehensible video, the non-IB kids were listening to Reuben Vyn speak French to them all period and they were doing tons of reading.

    1. Has anything changed about that IB program as a result, Ben? Or at least has anyone outside the CI community noticed and gasped, hey, we’re doing things wrong!

      1. I’m glad you asked, Diane. Yes. There has been a change. A new principal came in and put pressure on the rich parents to stop the apartheid in the school. That was about the time of the high test scores by Reuben’s kids, two years ago. She was Asian. She got canned. Then an African American principal came in this year. He got canned last month. Or, to be precise, he resigned. I’m only mentioning their races because I feel like it. These white parents who own their own little private high school within a public high school paid for by tax payers seem to get rid of anyone who suggests that what they are doing in the school is wrong. The district people have done nothing. Apartheid is even stronger now in GW than it was two years ago, so that is the change I mentioned. There is more to this but that’s the gist of it.

    2. This International Baccalaureate comparison is hysterically saddening. You know how Sabrina got dumped on with IB garbage last year here in Chicago. I was also at a school getting certified IB and I’m quite confident in saying that the IB framework has nothing to help teachers teaching the first few years of a foreign language. And our beloved Chicago Public School leaders have dumped IB on multiple schools around the city. It’s the new fad here. And they’re spending thousands (perhaps in the millions) of dollars sending teachers to IB conferences. They sent me to New Orleans at the super fancy Hyatt. It’s hysterically sad.

      But I’m certainly going to remember your comparison to the IB program as I hope to help roll-out the CI red carpet for foreign language teachers here in Chicago.

      1. Look at a series of articles I wrote many years ago on the Coalition of Essential Schools. In it, I challenge what has become a national elitist group of schools that was founded under very high ideals by Ted Sizer but has itself, very much like the IB programs, collapsed under the weight of monied interests bent on propping themselves and their children up in the community. Great for them but bad for the teachers, in terms of the workload as you mentioned, although if it helped get Sabrina over here into Denver Public Schools then I’m not complaining too loudly because she has become a FORCE FOR GOOD in this district. So if you want to explore the chasm between Sizer’s original “Ten Common Principles” and the foreign language instruction actually going on in Coalition schools, Sean, find that category on the right here on this page. I know about Coalition schools because I taught in one for eleven years, the single richest school in Columbia, South Carolina.

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