More Sandrock

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17 thoughts on “More Sandrock”

  1. I wonder what ACTFL’s idea of FL instruction of “Today” looks like.
    Is it task-based? Role-playing? These Communicative Approach activities are incomplete in that it does not prescribe how to introduce vocabulary and grammar.
    What are ACTFL’s best practices for how to teach grammar and vocabulary?
    If it’s not “traditional,” i.e. textbook, and they don’t have TCI in mind, then what is it? We have to be careful about grouping all language teachers besides TCI teachers as “traditional.” What do we mean by “traditional”?
    The Can-Do Statements give me the sense that ACTFL supports a curriculum organized around “survival tasks,” e.g. order a meal, make a hotel reservation, etc.
    Language is complex. VanPatten and Krashen both say that as ways to discredit skill-building approaches. Krashen says it to show how the rules are too complex and the rules and vocabulary too numerous. VanPatten says it to show that language consists of lexicon, syntax, phonology, etc. as a way to also show that we can’t isolate one aspect of language to work on at a time. We simultaneously acquire bits of it all when we get comprehension-based instruction.

    1. ACTFL called and said that they want to make Robert Harrell president on the board of directors and Eric Herman the editor-in-chief of the Language Educator. They mentioned, in whispers, that Ben Slavic would serve nicely as an undercover agent within the walls of the textbook publishers.

      1. Sean you will need some practice to get up to Greg Stout’s level of prankster talent, but it was a nice try. I got a good laugh from it anyway, whereas when Greg wrote that ACTFL was changing to use the word Unconscious as a major descriptive tool in language teaching I temporarily lost my breath and almost passed out.

        1. LOL. I’m personally trying NOT to be conservative in the use of the word unconscious in my school as I describe how students learn a foreign language. It’s easier for me, I think, since I’m the only foreign language teacher in my school at the moment.

  2. Don’t sell Paul Sandrock short. I imagine he has a good understanding of what TCI and TPRS are and holds a position on them. He is, however, at this point the Voice of ACTFL on our thread(s), and he must uphold the ACTFL principle of inclusiveness. He’s very good at saying a lot without saying much, but he gives us at least the ability to claim ACTFL support for TPRS/TCI because he places it on a par with thematic units. Most administrators won’t take the time to read this thoroughly or analyze it, so we have the opportunity to do it for them, to guide their thinking as they read the platitudes. Be as wise as serpents but gentle as doves.
    In his response, Mr Sandrock indicated that he and others will be quite occupied with the conference in San Antonio until after it is over. Grant him the breathing space and ourselves the time to let all of this “marinate”. We are not going to see a massive organization change in a week or two, especially when nudged by as small a group as we are. The fact that Mr Sandrock has responded twice means that we have their attention. Let’s not waste the opportunity by pressing too hard all at once.
    I agree with Eric that we have to be careful about lumping teachers together. Not everyone who does something other than TPRS sticks to a textbook. Several years ago (probably at least 10), I attended a California Language Teachers Association conference. In one of the interest sessions, a teacher from northern California talked about how he organized his curriculum. He said that he realized most of his students would encounter the target language and target culture as tourists, so he thought through what they would need to know and be able to do from the moment they landed at the airport in whatever country. His curriculum was a series of encounters: customs official, taxi or bus driver, hotel clerk, food server, etc. with an emphasis on students being able to understand what they were being asked. (For example, a tourist/student doesn’t need to say anything when a customs official says, “Paß, bitte” but does need to know that this is a request to see the passport.) While I believe the teacher was more output oriented than we would be, he was far from traditional and certainly not grammar driven. He would, however, probably fit into the category of teaching “survival tasks”.
    Yes, language is complex, and that complexity means that the conscious mind cannot process all of it; the unconscious mind must do the heavy lifting, so the complexity and difficulty are masked from out students. But the milieu of the school requires that students feel the difficulty, so our method is at odds with an entire culture.

    1. Insightful response Robert. I totally agree about not categorizing teachers.
      Some teachers are also “stuck” in the grammar/textbook method because they don’t know of CI, and while they’re unhappy with the state of their students not acquiring, they “have to” follow the exact lessons of their department.
      I know CI works, which is why I use it. But, I also think incorporating survival tasks into CI is valuable for many reasons.
      Your last sentences hit home. I was told today by my supervising admin that my lesson using textivate.com (fill in blanks as a class) was not rigorous enough. My response was that “My main task right now is to build confidence in these level 1 students. It should feel easy to them. They shouldn’t be sitting there thinking this is hard.” He thought they should be doing it in pairs, and then share out the answers, to make it more rigorous. He also thought I should be sitting at the computer clicking the answers (a job one of my students was today – and the prized job that they fight over!) and instead a student could be the facilitator like I was, coaching them on. Can you tell I’m seething right now, with fury…?
      This method is at odds with what some administrators are mistakenly looking for.

      1. I’m sorry to hear you are getting grief from your administrator about rigor. It sounds to me like he attended a meeting and received a one-size-fits-all worksheet. I think you need to educate him (nicely, of course) about what rigor is and what it looks like in a language acquisition classroom.
        As I continue to talk to people – including my students – about rigor, I have expanded a bit on my definition, though the base and core remain the statements provided by the US Department of State. This week I concluded that my students needed a reminder of what the class is about, so I had some discussion with them. When I got to the section on rigor, I began by asking them to define “Academic Rigor” or tell me how they decide if a class is rigorous. Then I gave them my own definition: Academic Rigor means that an educational experience is designed to help students 1) understand knowledge and concepts that are complex or ambiguous and 2) acquire skills that can be applied in a variety of educational, career, and civic contexts throughout their lives.
        Next I shared with them the four elements of rigor that the Department of State gives and one that I have added:
        1. Sustained focus
        2. Depth and integrity of inquiry – paying attention to what is going on until I understand it, can reproduce it, and can explain it in my own words. I clarify if I don’t understand, and I contribute appropriately to the conversation or discussion.
        3. Suspension of premature conclusions – I do not listen to only a few words and then think that I know what is being said. I listen to complete statements and questions and think before trying to formulate a reply.
        4. Constant testing of hypotheses – I try out the language and then listen for feedback. If I used the language correctly, I will get confirmation; if I said something wrong, I should get a re-statement with correct language or other help.
        5. Person Challenge – I do not take the easy way out but am always trying to improve both my understanding and my performance. I do not allow a failure to understand make me give up or be frustrated but strive to clarify and understand.
        I also addressed the issue of mindset, although I didn’t use the term.
        There are two ways of thinking:
        If I think my ability or intelligence is fixed, then I will do everything I can to protect myself
        If I think I can increase my ability and intelligence through challenging myself, I will not see walls but bridges to success
        Perhaps you can have a meeting with your administrator to discuss the concept of rigor. Ask him what his definition of rigor is. If you do a search and look through various websites that discuss rigor, most are careful to distinguish rigor from simply more or harder work. The Department of State website even cites Alfie Kohn. “Academic rigor does not imply harshness or severity. In a recent interview, Alfie Kohn (in O’Neill & Tell, 1999) states, ‘A lot of horrible practices are justified in the name of “rigor” or “challenge.” People talk about “rigorous” but often what they mean is “onerous,” with schools turned into fact factories. This doesn’t help kids become critical, creative thinkers or lifelong learners (p. 20).'” http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/44875.htm

      2. You are where many of us have been or some still are. Admins try to apply a model that works for other subjects but in no way, shape or form works for ours because of the facts about how people actually acquire languages. They are pathetic leaders and critics. You should be seething. I have seethed. We have talked about this so much here over the years. To take one of Robert’s articles from the Primers, or find one that fits your situation from the Administrator/Teacher/Parent re-education category might be your only move right now. IF you think they are open to it and won’t see our position as an attack. I know that God must have a special place in His heart for administrators. They need Him so much right now! Here you are doing good work, the admin comes in and makes crippling and ill-advised comments based in pure ignorance, the person leaves feeling fine, like they are “helping” us, and we get to seethe. What a sad time in education we are in. So sad. Please God help all of us. We need your help. And I know we can do our part by just telling these admins what Rigor looks like in our classrooms. Those who don’t know that link, that poster, can click on the Rigor category on the right side of this page.

  3. I have loved reading all of the posts on ACTFL – Eric did a great job of bringing up these questions that really needed to be asked, lest we all continued to be bullied by our “colleagues.”and citing the research behind SLA. So, thank you Eric! and thank you to Robert for bringing his ever-grounded critical thinking and calm demeanor to the nasties. (and thanks to everyone else for your great contributions! I knew I could never add anything to the conversations, because I get so passionate, I tend to speak before thinking! ….and would have ruined it for all of us!
    But, reading through all this over the past month, and listening to various people here in my state at a couple of workshops in the past month, I wondered…..
    Devil’s advocate here: (I dunno!)
    The Can-Do Statements give me the sense that ACTFL supports a curriculum organized around “survival tasks,” e.g. order a meal, make a hotel reservation, etc.
    Honestly, I think they ARE organizing it this way. The big problem I see is that ACTFL is NOT, I repeat, NOT pushing for early L 2 teaching in the USA!!! In other countries where L 2 is started around age 8, TCI *is* the *ONLY* way….it works! you canNOT argue that!
    However, here in the USA, ACTFL is pretty weak as a national educational organization — they are not as strong as the people behind CC$$, because they are not the egocentric billionaires pouring money into lobbyists. So, we are very LUCKY that we at least have colleges requiring a minimum of two years of L 2 for college admissions, because otherwise kids would not take it. It’s not a necessity here, especially in the whitest state in the country (Maine) so kids have no other motivation to take it.
    So, why do they take it beyond the college admission motivation? to travel. Hence, the can-do survival task statements. I had P-T conferences last night, and several parents asked “when will my s/d be fluent?” I actually DID laugh at those questions! 🙂 I then told them that native speakers are not fluent until 6-8 years of age – “now do the math! I only have your kid for 80 hours in a year.” Several also told me that they went to “mexico last year, and so-and-so was able to ask for directions/order our meal.”
    So, I am thinking that ACTFL is trying to “help” us by suggesting “themes” i.e. ordering food in a restaurant, finding your way around town, going to the doctor. ……..For those who aren’t creative, who can’t create stories, and have parents who want to see and demand immediate results. It’s just not a friendly environment out there anymore for any kind of teacher. 🙁

    1. I just looked at that article. They justify ambiguity, because they say kids need to practice ambiguity, because that’s what will happen when they go to the foreign language country. Nowhere do I see a suggestion that more ambiguity means more acquisition. And my kids aren’t moving to the FL country, so why are we so in a rush to prepare them for it? How about acquire some more and that would also reduce ambiguity!

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