Robert Harrell on Assessment

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84 thoughts on “Robert Harrell on Assessment”

  1. …develop a suggested curriculum organized around the use of readers and music as end products for backward planning….
    Now there is a ton of work. Maybe you can do that during the year each day a little bit. It would be great to have though.
    …my district is emphasizing standards-based grading and insisting that study habits and citizenship not be part of an academic grade….
    Just yesterday I was thinking of how important it is to me to be able to hold them academically accountable for being a part of the back and forth nature of the work of authentic acquisition. To me, this seems reasonable, given what we do and how we do it. Can you say something to your district to the effect that study habits and even citizenship indeed aren’t what you are targeting, but rather the willingness of the kids to show up in class as a fully functioning student, with a societal obligation (what parent would argue that point?), a willingness to be open to learning? I mean, it is absurd to not hold students accountable for that piece, for showing up. Indeed, if they don’t do that, we have what we have now.
    …homework is to count as no more than 10% of the final grade….
    Nathan Black is the one who has the decoder switch on this with his idea that kids get homework credit simply for finding input out in their own worlds, but input that they choose and want to do, whether it be sharing a few moments with grandma in Spanish or doing something online. I personally am too lazy to give and assess homework, as are my kids. In our school, the culture has developed in all areas that maybe half will even do it on a good day, even if it of Nathan’s model. Of course, I work in a rough ass school. But still, if I had more organizational skills, Nathan’s ideas would be the bedrock of my entire homework approach.

    …active oral or written communication in which the participants negotiate meaning….

    That ACTFL description of the interspersonal mode is at the heart of the whole thing for me, Robert. It perfectly describes best practices in both reading and listening CI classes and should be a huge part of any assessment.
    …the ability to listen to or read a text and interpret the meaning….
    This description of the interpretive mode is also of huge – triple huge – importance. I really feel that in the text above, Robert, you are kind of twisting the arm or everyone to look toward and align assessment with Krashen and ACTFL both. This is a very important text and I will make it into a separate blog entry so that I can find it under assessment when I think about how I will assess next year.
    …command of the “productive skills” (speaking and writing)….
    Robert here is how you commented on this description of the presentational mode:
    …this would include fluency in writing (e.g. timed writing), accuracy in speech and writing (both grammatical and phonological – at the appropriate level, of course), use of idioms and more. Obviously it is the most difficult of the modes and the one acquired last….
    OK now here is where the rubber meets the road for anyone wishing to align with Krashen and the new state standards coming down the pike and already in CA, OR and CO – even if y’all in CA have chosen, as you said in an earlier comment, to just ignore them (out of sight, out of mind, right? You said that these output skills arrive last. I would like to underline that a thousand times. I would like to ask our community to reflect in all the conversations they have about output for the rest of their careers to reflect on what this means. What does it mean? To me, it means delaying output by YEARS. Then it won’t be difficult. We delay it in small children for years. Why not in our CI based programs? After all, small children aren’t forced to output for years and if they are forced to output too early they feel stupid and they hate writing and some even stutter through their childhood (I’m not sure if that is a physiologically true statement – what do I know? – but it seems like it could be true – why else would a child of God stutter if not for the fact that their speech gift would have been put under some kind of weird pressure too early?)
    I like the general percentages you suggest on the assessment of the three modes, but mine would be at 0% on the presentational for the first two years, or (maybe if I graded freewrites, at 5%) and then, by the AP level, yes, I would go up to higher percentages of assessment of output as you suggest above. But given that AP study represents a maximum of a mere sliver amount of roughly 500 hours of study, I would still not count the output as very much.
    What you suggest here Robert could be the first time this discussion has actually led to real assessment that aligns with the standards. In spite of the fact that I have been privileged to be trained by Susan Gross, and now work with Diana Noonan here in DPS, and have access to minds like yours and Laurie Clarcq’s, I can’t recall any such discussions. We always have talked mainly about the method and also keeping our spirits up in what amounts to a kind of psychological warfare each time we go into our jobs. So, I agree, we need to assessment now, and come out with something concrete by August. Because I certainly don’t want to do the kind of bogus assessment I’ve been doing. The worst about my own situation is that I just want to totally ignore the assessment piece and just enjoy the dance of CI. But these kids are cagey. They bend and twist my good will in grading into a kind of rudeness that gives them more power than they deserve. I am not holding their feet to the fire nearly enough because I am lazy in terms of assessment but what you wrote above holds real promise if we could come up with a streamlined way to do it – that would be crucial. I would ask, is it even possible to do all that we do in CI and then turn around and create a big new amount of work for ourselves by creating a complex standards based assessment scheme. The one thing that you have done above, Robert, most importantly of all, is fitting together the standards with the three modes. That is huge. That’s our starting point.

  2. Ben, you said: “They bend and twist my goodwill in grading that gives them more power than they deserve.” Well said and you are not the only one. Anyway, I am totally fascinated by Roberts’s recent posts. I read the 21st Century World Language Skills and was interested to see that Martin Smith of the Edison, New Jersey School District was one of the authors. In grad school, I have taken three of Martin’s classes – assessment was one of them. His text for the course was Understanding by Design – Wiggins/McTighe I have two more courses to finish up and a portfolio. I am hoping that he will be one of my mentors. Anyway, I am fascinated by the reading and music. Aside from all of the work that that CI standards based assessment will involve, I’d like to see a clearing house for all kinds of solid reading sources for all levels. This is “big work” and I thank Robert for starting the conversation.

  3. Ben, Scott Benedict has been working on standards-based assessment to mesh with TPRS and other CI methods for several years now. His webinar set off a year-long grading discussion at our school, and has been the topic of discussion in our TPRS group for several months at least. A teacher at our school made explaining standards-based grading to students and parents much easier through this prezi: http://tinyurl.com/4h4klbn . . . but no one as far as I know has matched the ACTFL language to the standards-based movement. Robert is a genius!
    I’ve been thinking about this interpersonal “negotiating meaning” standard all day. I’d argue that negotiating meaning often requires a very sophisticated level of language use. To me, it means being able to figure out what an unfamiliar word in the reading means by using context clues (an important piece of what we need to teach kids for success in overall literacy). It means being able to clarify what someone else is saying by being able to ask questions. It means being able to use circumlocution when someone else doesn’t understand what we say, or when we don’t know a vocabulary word for the concept we’re trying to present. I have no idea how to fairly assess that … maybe by throwing nonsense words into reading to see what kids come up with, or to play a game like Taboo, in which kids have to talk around a word. On questions, playing Jason’s question cube game could help them practice (as does circling!) —
    Someone in the Pittsburg Public Schools said, “If it counts, count it.” But I think it was Edison who said that not everything that counts can be counted. Grading is terribly subjective because in the end, individual teachers decide what to count. That’s why it is so important (if we’re being honest) to find a way to express what we think is most important in our classrooms, to make it make sense to the kids and parents, and then to record achievement in the fairest way possible.

  4. Hence my personal take on the subject: Grading is not assessment. Assessment in an integral part of the circle of instruction. Grading is a way to label students.
    with love,
    Laurie

  5. He may well be a genius. I know two things as I spend the day reflecting on this post:
    1. This is one big-ass firecracker he’s laying out there. And it’s lit.
    2. I’d hate to play the man in chess.
    With this post, Robert has made, and if you want to see this as hyperbole go ahead, a connection never yet made that could really help us get a brand new command of the method. It’s exactly what you said above, Michele, and this is so key –
    “…no one as far as I know has matched the ACTFL language… [need clarification here]…to the standards-based movement…”.*
    In my own classroom the assessment piece has hindered rather than helped my overall teaching using CI. I couldn’t hold the kids to my own rules. When broken, rule #4, for example (squared shoulders…) was not enforcible, and the kids knew it, and in my school, it’s a sign of power to put your head down on the desk. In an urban school with 35 kids in a class, this is gonna be an issue that is hard to get a handle on. I predict that if and when we get this new document up and running by the end of the summer on how to assess when we use CI, it’s gonna mean a brand new year for me in assessment and therefore in every other detail that happens in my classroom.
    And like Laurie said – this is so right on –
    “…assessment in an integral part of the circle of instruction…”
    And Michele what you said about teachers choosing what they “count” – that way of grading, which describes perhaps 99% of language teachers if not all of them in classrooms today – to make my point quickly and as non-scientific as possible, is total bullshit.
    *just to make sure that we are totally on the same page, I would like us to come up with a statement describing what we are reading about exactly Robert has done. Like in my mind he has connected the skill portion of the ACTFL map to the proficiency guidelines to his new CA state standards and Krashen. But I would like to read what Robert says he has done, what Laurie and Michele are seeing, in specific and clear sentences. If you don’t mind, guys. I want us to agree about what is going to keep me up tonight thinking about. I’m really responding to this intuitively and when that happens I know it’s important, but I want to balance my intuition with a clear intellectual target here.

  6. Robert’s brilliance here is that not only can the students’ performance level within the mode be evaluated, but also the teacher can define the behaviors that students use when working within a particular mode.
    In order to work successfully in the interpretive mode, a student must demonstrate the ability to:
    This gives language and credence to CI that is compatible with other L2 teachers, whether or not they are CI teachers.
    It gives us a way to COMMUNICATE with our students, our peers, our admins, OUR PROFESSION in words that they understand.
    One of the greatest challenges TPRSers face is communicating what we are doing to folks who haven’t been submerged in it. This gives a tool to do so that will keep the lines of communication open.
    Now students will know what we expect. Parents will know what behaviors will bring success. Colleagues will see what we believe leads to acquisition. Admins will get the data that they require. We get language with which to share our world.
    This is the next natural step. Scott and others have pulled us away from what wasn’t working. The standards-based grading turned us so that we were facing in the right direction. Now we can see what lies ahead. Robert kept walking down the road and look at what he found!!!!
    Like you all, I would love to process this for a while. This probably shouldn’t be the week for it since I already have a full plate but I’m sure that it will keep me awake anyway. :o) It’s kind of like trying to walk slowly downhill lol. Once you are going in the right direction and the forces of nature take over it’s hard not to pick up speed!
    Thank you Scott, Robert, Michele and Ben,.
    with love,
    Laurie

  7. Hi Ben, Michele, Laurie and anyone else who joins the conversation.
    Warning: this will be long.
    First, thank you for the compliments; I will savor them for some time to come.
    Second, what do I think I have done? I have tried to integrate a number of disparate elements into a coherent and cohesive whole. COACH worked through the national standards when they came out, so I have been familiar with the “5 Cs” for some time. When California first approved the State Standards and it looked like we were ready to move forward, I spent a lot of time working through them and even presented what is a byzantine compilation of diverse items (the CA standards as written) in a way that many people said made them understandable. I also keep a poster of the ACTFL proficiency guidelines on my wall and have investigated the European Common Frame of Reference for World Language. Since the CA standards reference the Language Learning Continuum, I have already worked to synthesize the “benchmarks” of A1/A2/B1/B2/C1/C2 (ECFR) with those of Novice/Intermediate/Advanced/Superior (ACTFL) with those of Formulaic/Created/Planned/Extended/Tailored (LLC). As I mentioned before, I have worked with Scott Benedict’s and Robert Marzano’s (well, I didn’t mention Marzano before) ideas on standards-based assessment, especially during the past year. I have also tried to act consistently on the things I hold true about second-language acquisition (e.g. Krashen’s theories and others). Then I have to factor in the reality of the high school classroom and the necessity of expressing what I am doing in terms that are acceptable to my district. That was where I was feeling some of the tension I mentioned earlier. Although I had read about the three modes of communication several times before, it was while analyzing the World Language Skills Map from the Project for 21st Century Skills that it coalesced. How’s that for a wide-ranging set of influences? (Did I ever tell you that I love being the Dungeon Master for DnD because I get to create an alternate reality with layers and nuances – an act of “sub-creation” – and then test it out with people who will make totally unforeseen choices; check out JRR Tolkien’s essay on this idea of being a sub-creator in “Tree and Leaf” for what I’m talking about. The above aside is not as extraneous as may first appear.)
    So, in the broad picture I will still require students to show me they are acquiring the listening, reading, speaking, writing, culture literacy and language manipulation skills, but they will be considered more holistically within the broader context of the particular mode in which we are operating. For example, if I am planning on reading “Arme Anna” with the class, I can do a lot of negotiation of meaning through PQA, Storyasking, etc. all in the interpersonal mode. Then when we read the book or chapter, students will function in the interpretive mode to express their understanding of the meaning. Perhaps a timed writing with the title “Arme Anna” would give opportunity for students to express themselves in the presentational mode. Of course, I imagine the interpersonal mode will intrude in the interpretive and even presentational modes; only when I am alone with a radio/mp3/book/e-mail can I be purely interpretive, because as soon as another person is present there will be (or should be) interpersonal interaction. The same holds true with writing or recording a presentation.
    The aspect that, for me, looks revolutionary is being able to bring the human element into the mix. Here it looks a lot like making citizenship an academic grade, but I perceive a difference that I hope is not mere semantics. Because of my district’s stance, I created a set of criteria for both citizenship (based on the 6 Pillars of Character) and work habits. Our system uses O (Outstanding), S (Satisfactory), N (Needs Work) and U (Unsatisfactory) to indicate citizenship and work habits. Many times one of my students will receive a different grade for each one. For example, a model citizen might have poor work habits. That will remain in force. Intimately related to citizenship and work habits but distinct from both are the skills I expect for working in the interpersonal mode. An example may help to make it clear. Satisfactory citizenship is fairly neutral to me – it does not detract from the classroom atmosphere but doesn’t contribute much to a positive atmosphere either. A student could sit quietly, not cause trouble, be on time, have materials, etc. and get a Satisfactory in citizenship and work habits. Because that same student is not actively negotiating meaning by choral response, cute answers, eye contact, etc. he gets a Below Basic rating on the standards scale for those activities.
    To respond to Michele’s comment: negotiating meaning can be incredibly complex and sophisticated but need not be at the lower levels. It can be as simple as giving me the sign for “I don’t understand”.
    In Ben’s last comment, he mentioned the whole issue of “urban slump”. That is true in suburban schools as well. I have one student in my infamous fourth period who is proud of the fact that he intends to take the easy way in life. Every day I have to ask him to sit up; otherwise he would lie on the desk the entire period. Others are similar. And here is where I think putting the human element back into assessment will help, because I have several students who do well on the five-question quizzes and other assessments when I am certain they haven’t been paying that much attention. With a class of 43 crammed together (I don’t even have enough desks for everyone), I cannot possibly catch all instances of cheating – in fact I’m certain that I miss significant amounts of cheating, and platitudes about “you’re only cheating yourself” fall on deaf ears because for them it’s all about the grade not the learning/acquisition. (Yes, I have students who would be happy to learn zero German as long as they got a good grade.)
    Because I see the interpersonal mode as key and occupying such a prominent place, both in terms of value and amount of time, I think having a way to make students accountable is beneficial. The hard work is in coming up with a workable way to keep track of this. I don’t want to become so enmeshed in check marks and tally sticks and stamping work that I cannot make the system work. At the same time, I am also aware of the saying that “people do what you INspect, not what you EXpect.”
    Let’s discuss the interpersonal mode for a while – we already seem to be doing that – and then we can deal with the interpretive and presentational modes later.
    Thanks for letting me ramble.

  8. I warned you that this was to help me refine my own thinking. Here’s some more thinking that I hope people will help me refine. No apologies for length, this is important.
    Earlier I mentioned the standards-based scale of Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. For the sake of clarity, let’s take a look at them. First of all, I am using them primarily because this is the scale used in the California State Testing. From the California Department of Education, here are the definitions:
    ? Advanced: This category represents a superior performance. Students demonstrate a comprehensive and complex understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
    ? Proficient: This category represents a solid performance. Students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
    ? Basic: This category represents a limited performance. Students demonstrate a partial and rudimentary understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
    ? Far Below / Below Basic: This category represents a serious lack of performance. Students demonstrate little or a flawed understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
    http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2009/help_scoreexplanations.asp
    Another way to define them is
    ? Advanced: Performance exceeds the standard
    ? Proficient: Performance meets the standard
    ? Basic: Performance approaches the standard
    ? Below Basic: Performance falls short of the standard
    ? Far Below Basic: Performance falls far short of the standard
    I think it is necessary to include the word “performance” in the definition so that students understand we are assessing activity or product, not the students themselves.
    This year I have been using the following equivalents in my classroom:
    ? Advanced = 95%
    ? Proficient = 85%
    ? Basic = 75%
    ? Below Basic = 65%
    ? Far Below Basic = 55%
    There are, of course, some choices to make and some necessary preparation to do.
    What if a student fails to turn in an assignment? I can give the student 0, na (not applicable) or some other grade. Scott Benedict maintains that it is the teacher’s responsibility to know where a student’s performance lies whether or not the student turns in a particular assignment. The debate for each of us is then whether failure to turn in an assignment represents an “academic”/standards-based weakness or a work habits issue. Depending upon 1) how the teacher answers that issue and 2) where the teacher stands on Scott’s statement, it might be possible for the teacher to assign a standards-based grade of, say, Basic and a Work Habits grade of Unsatisfactory.
    How detailed should I make my rubric? Do I list everything at every level? I got the following idea from the GermanTPRS listserv: I should give out a rubric that describes the level for which I am teaching. I think most of us would agree that we want to teach for Proficiency. Therefore my rubrics should describe what Proficiency looks like. Don’t help the “Gamers and Players” by describing either the bare minimum for each grade or the amount considered “Advanced”. Those really take care of themselves. Go above and beyond Proficient, and you’re advanced – figure out how to get there on your own. Anything that falls short of Proficient is, depending upon how far short it falls, Basic, Below Basic or Far Below Basic.
    So, if I wanted to describe Proficient Interpersonal Mode, what would I put down?
    A student demonstrates Proficiency in Interpersonal Communication in [The Target Language] when he
    – sits up straight with squared shoulders and focused eyes
    – indicates immediately lack of comprehension through an appropriate gesture
    – responds appropriately to prompts
    – participates in choral responses, TPR activities . . . ?
    – limits non [target-language] communication to 5% of the time
    – limits non [target-language] communication to negotiation of meaning
    – observes the social norms of target-language communication
    Students go beyond this to Advanced when they play the TPRS game. They fall short of this when the “check out” and put their heads down on the desk, talk to friends in English, read or do work for other classes, disrupt the teaching process, leave the room, etc. All of these could be considered citizenship and work habits issues when the class is operating in interpretive or presentational mode (reading, taking dictation, doing timed writing, etc.), but when the class is in interpersonal mode, these are key elements of communication and therefore “academic”.
    Now, how to observe, assess and record that without it becoming overwhelming? A first step is to decide that any student operating at the Proficient level receives no mark whatsoever. The teacher needs to note only performances that are above or below Proficient.
    Okay, I’m open to reactions and responses.

  9. Laurie said, talking about how what Robert has uncovered:
    “…now students will know what we expect. Parents will know what behaviors will bring success. Colleagues will see what we believe leads to acquisition. Admins will get the data that they require…”.
    and then:
    “…this is the next natural step…”.
    Of course, Laurie is talking about our now being able to define the behaviors that students use when working within a particular mode, as per her example:
    “…in order to work successfully in the interpretive mode, a student must demonstrate the ability to…”.
    Thank you Laurie for stating this because I thought I was a little off my rocker for awhile with this, ever since I read Robert’s original comment a few days ago. I thought I was seeing things – an inroad into a national set of documents that had never been read right or carefully enough (since 1983!).
    But you validate that this is indeed what we might term an “uncovery” – I hesitate to use the term “discovery” because I think things are uncovered more than they are discovered. Just my thing on that, though. This is an unopened cave, at the least. With treasures inside for sure!
    (And I just made a category for this called “Assessment/Robert Harrell” because I want us to be able to come to this particular thread – Robert’s – easily and right away. Just this morning, I used the three modes piece with my principal in my yearly evaluation. My boss had made the mistake of asking me what I planned on working on to improve my teaching in the next year. I noticed after about 15 minutes he started looking out the door to see if his next appointment was there. But hey, when we start thinking of assessment and evaluation of kids in language classes in these terms, it pretty much needs to be heard by principals in particular if they want enrollments to go up in WL programs, right?)
    And thank you Laurie. I also will need some time to process this. I won’t even read Robert’s comment until I have a nice hot cup of coffee next to me in the morning and some time to reflect. But, if my intuition serves me on this, we are looking at an entirely new slant on finally making the national parent organization’s words come alive in the classroom. There is a kind of PERMISSION being given here to grade kids on more than just academics. Anything that humanizes a classroom, humanizes children, is good. Brought through to its logical end in four or five years, this could be a big ass piece of the puzzle we are trying to solve. Like I said before, and Carol thanks for seeing and validating this in your own comment, I feel that if the assessment piece in our classrooms isn’t working, it chops away at the method. And the assessment piece has not been working for me. I have always felt that citizenship and the skills of communication are part of how we should assess. Leave the pure academic achievement to the math teachers and the science teachers – we teach LANGUAGES! As the Fonzie would say, “Whoa!”

  10. Whoa!!! Slow that horse down buckaroo!! If the system didn’t require us to, we wouldn’t ever need to grade anything.
    I don’t recall any grading system used in our first language acquisition.
    Only feedback.
    Think feedback. What do they understand? What can they do with it? How do they treat others in the process? How do I respond so that they can understand more and do more? What feedback do I give so that they than change the world for the better?
    with love,
    and another cup of coffee for ya,
    Laurie
    PS Connecting grades with the feedback so that connections can be made between effort and results is the part of the school game that we have to play. Assigning grades without blinding students to their own abilities is our challenge. Grades are simply not necessary for acquisition….only for job security.

  11. Whoa. I think I need to go stare at a Jackson Pollock painting to try to pull thoughts all together. I can’t imagine a world without grades and I certainly can’t in my pea brain even grock this:
    “…what feedback do I give so that they than change the world for the better…”.
    It’s like I forgot what I was doing. OK, two brain melts in one day. A demain.

  12. Nathan Black

    Wow, great stuff all around. One additional benefit of indexing your curriculum to the ACTFL standards is that the natural progression of those standards from novice to intermediate indicates that personalized output really isn’t possible, nor should it be expected from novice learners. Novice learners, by the way, don’t usually progress to Intermediate learners until somewhere in year 2 or 3. In other words, autonomous output shouldn’t be expected until a delayed stage. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?
    I wholeheartedly agree with everybody here that the key area here is the interpersonal, particularly the negotiation of meaning. In other words, this is not only how people interrelate with others (paying attention, being actively involved, etc.) but what people attempt to accomplish through language. This encompasses how students can start using the language to claim territory, or present themselves as a certain type of person, or to develop compensation strategies like Michele mentioned for repairs (restates, circumlocution, borrowing phrases from interlocuter, etc.). How do you capture that stuff in a rubric or grade it? No idea.
    At the same time, I share Laurie’s reluctance to tightly map all of this into grades, because the ACTFL standards properly engaged are for me more of my curriculum (what I emphasize at what point, and where I’m trying to go with it). I also have a copy of the ACTFL standards hanging next to my desk, and use it for end of semester student conferences to show my students a “you are here” type of mapping and reveiw how they’ve progressed over the past semester.
    OK, so how do you map this into a usable measure of progression for students? I agree wholeheartedly with Robert that this can be bogged down from the teacher’s perspective. To what degree then do we trust our students to help us out with the process. I like the idea of pulling in a self-rating system similar to what Ben is already doing for his participation grade, as this allows students to own up to where they are at in the process. I think we can actually expect honesty out of our students for the most part, because they are getting honesty from us. Ideally, such a self evaluation form is not just a bean counter of what you did or didn’t do, but a guide of what you need to work on, mapping out areas for students to focus on.
    Oh, and Ben. I appreciate the thought on the homework but my wife would laugh aloud if you describe me as organized at anything more than the functional level. I think I’ll give her a good chuckle.

  13. Well Nathan at the very least we need to get all those comments (on how you instruct kids to do homework) – that have since floated into the past of this website – back up here in a category form. I really can’t find them, and, in my own view, they are the definitive way to give homework – the only way that makes any sense at all. I just had so much on my plate this year that I never got to it and now I can’t find those comments. But you are getting major gains from kids outside of your classroom so they must be restated here and, as I said, formally categorized. I just thought of a way to find them. If you can find certain sentences from those specific blog comments (remember? it was about October of last year?) and then I will google the phrase and it might take me into the comments of 2010 to that set of your comments.
    Oh and also I stopped with the self participation evaluations. Too much trouble for not enough honesty and self-reflection on the part of the kid (that may just be this school, where grades rule and interest in the subject is peripheral). Now, I would rather confront a kid with a direct set of comments in the hallway. Ex: “I work hard to deliver the French language to you in class. Please sit in such a way that you let me know that you appreciate that. Thanks. See you in class.”

  14. Nathan Black

    Hi Ben, I think most of the discussion on the topic came in this post: https://benslavic.com/blog/2010/07/27/michele-whaley-5/
    By the way, the method of collection and review is very simple, so don’t worry about logistics. I have two clipboards I send around every Friday that contain a table with every student’s student number (to provide anonymity). In the first few columns my students give me their quiz scores of the week, free write word counts, etc. In the final column, which is a bit wider I ask everybody to give me a five word or so summary of their homework. While the clipboards make their way around (I could do it with one, but two work faster) I give everybody an 1/8 sheet of paper in which they write up what they did, what they got out of it, what they thought, etc. I tell everybody that they get 8 points automatically for doing the work, but 10 if their report is worth reading. At the end of each Friday I give everybody an automatic 10 points at the same time I input the other scores. Later on when I read the sheets, I’ll then adjust the ones as necessary that were too skimpy on the details. Most the time is actually just spend enjoying the reports, and setting ones aside to discuss in class, share with others, etc. It takes 20 minutes a week, and 15 of those are spent reading (which is the best part).
    You know, I’ve wanted for years to do a form of portfolio with my students but there hasn’t really been the personal investment in tracking their personal growth that I’ve wanted to see. Simply put, most of my advanced students who would be able to observe their growth just cared about the grade. Now that I’m getting a crop of students native to TPRS the entire time, I have higher hopes. I think that the profile that Robert is trying to pull together for the interpersonal/presentational/interpretational would necessarily need to be longitudinal to be of value to the student. Set a rubric in place and track their performance with it over time, and then you can have the students observe their growth in those areas. We can already do this in part by comparing past free writes, but I honestly think that our students in our school systems just don’t know how to observe and self-reflect. It hasn’t been required enough, and thus hasn’t been developed. If we create some solid rubrics and combine them with other forms such as self-evaluations, free write samples, (and even samples of good homework reports) I think our students could generate a decent portfolio that would be intrinsically interesting. How would we grade that? Again, no idea, but I think standards based assessments are lend themselves well with outcomes based assessments and we should look for the link.

  15. Know about IPAs (no, not the India Pale Ale I’m drinking now)? I didn’t read closely enough to see if you mentioned them, but in FL Annals a while ago, Paul Sandrock et al. wrote about Integrated Performance Assessments, which sound a whole lot like what Robert is talking about. It’s the magic of the triangle, where all three communicative modes serve to support growth in the other.
    For whatever unit you’re on, your students (1) interpret (2) interact interpersonally and (3) present. But if you imagine those as three points in a triangle, you can also see the interaction between each point:
    First pairing: students need to (2) interact interpersonally in order to confirm that they are correctly (1) interpreting what they are hearing. To reverse that, students need to (1) interpret correctly to (2) have something to talk about.
    Second pairing: students need to (3) present in writing or in formal speech new info that they got from (1) interpreting what they’ve read or heard. To reverse that, students need to (1) interpret correctly to (3) have something to present.
    Third pairing: students need to (3) present in writing or in formal speech new info that they got from (2) interacting with each other. To reverse that, students need to (2) have a conversation/interaction about something they will or heard someone (3) present.
    It’s very elegant, very idealistic, and the lovely. My wife just came home so I’m done for now. But the IPA seems pretty cool to me, if you can put the work in to make it work. Adjustable to all levels of proficiency, too, I think.

    1. Glad you have a smiley face after that reinvention comment! It’s when a good idea is reinvented that we hear it in new language that appeals to a whole different set of people or brings new people to understanding. And because we get to share things here, we learn that there may already be support out there for what was just floating in our heads. Otherwise we could just read once about TPRS and CI and be done…if you hadn’t started to share this discussion, I might never have known IPA’s existed, for one thing.

  16. I admit not having looked deeply at the descriptions yet, but from the survey of several articles, it looks to me like the model most people have in mind is as follows:
    -interpretive on the part of students as they listen to and watch teacher present
    -interpersonal as students interact with each other
    -presentational as students produce an “end product” based on the theme or topic
    What Ben and I are looking for is a model that considers the teacher-student interaction as much interpersonal as anything else, not presentational (teacher) / interpretive (student), because that is really a continuation of the current model. Perhaps I simply haven’t looked closely enough at the literature.

  17. My understanding of the IPA model (and it might be my idealistic fantasy version of it) is that it’s more dynamic than what you say most people have in mind.
    It would include the improvement that you and Ben have in mind–considering teacher-student action interpersonal–for all kinds of reasons: modeling for the students when they interact with each other and with native speakers, clarifying what they read and hear, and helping them to get ready to present themselves more formally in speaking and writing.
    The other two points on the triangle of the IPA are more interesting than what most people have in mind, too. Successful interpretive communication means understanding what you read and hear. For us culture wonks, it would also mean being able to interpret things like non-verbal, socio-cultural and culturally specific visual signs, practices and symbols too.
    The presentational looks right: making a unidirectional end-product in writing or in speech. But again, with the aim of eventually being able to use culturally appropriate discourse, forms, signs.
    AND the integrated part means using any one of the modes to improve the other. So there has to be practice (via CI stories and PQA) to get kids good at asking for help when they are reading or listening to something. CI stories need to be loaded with examples of characters interacting in culturally appropriate ways, to show interpersonal. CI stories help students get ready to interpret culturally authentic texts (read or heard or viewed), that they then use to figure out to…well, for all kinds of purposes, right. You get the point.
    I like the elegance of the IPA model. It’s so elegant that you have to get to it like you did if you think about the 5 Cs at all.
    But the planning that goes into units required for making it work? And the patience to employ all the CI/TPRS ahead of time in service to assessable work at each point? That kills me. I don’t plan deeply enough to pull it off. So it’s still kind of pie in the sky for me.

  18. Wow. I don’t really have words to express what this discussion has brought up for me. It hits all the deep nerves. I have not done the research that all of you have, but I’ve always had a queasy feeling about assessment precisely because teaching a language is an entirely different activity than any other teaching. As I see it, other teachers work with collection, analysis and manipulation of information, while we are working with something much deeper, cellular and subconsious. This is intuitive for me (always has been and always got me into trouble of some sort) and thank goodness it is also backed up by extensive brain research that I can now begin to cite.
    So, yeah, what AM I assessing? I love Laurie’s distinction between grading and assessing. And I feel so much solidarity (and sadness) reading that there are others whose students care less about learning than about a grade.
    Sigh. So as I wade through all of this for myself I keep coming back to the interpersonal piece. This is the core of language learning, yet, if we look around pretty much everywhere…interpersonal presence is all but dead. I am just now formulating this thought. How scary! The example Ben gave of being in a meeting and noticing the person checking his watch is so typical of our multitasking world. This fact underlines the importance and the challenges of our work of presenting language interpersonally (which is the ultimate purpose, no? ). I have never really thought about it from this angle. Right now I am in a place where I’m doing the very simplest of assessments (comprehension checks in reading and in listening via short unannounced quizzes) in my lower-level classes, along with Ben’s 10 point participation checklist and Nathan’s 30-min independent input. For now, that is all I can muster, since I just started TPRS a month ago :0
    Anyway, rambling. Sorry. But I mainly wanted to express gratitude for everyone wrestling in this mud pit. Robert’s correlation of the standards to the actual skills we work with are the most authentic criteria I have seen. I will be mulling this over lots more in the summer as I look to next year in hopes to develop a more authentic (and simple) program in my school!
    ***unrelated question…someone in an earlier post had calculated the number of hours in a “year” of language study and then compared it with the number of hours it supposedly takes to be “fluent” according to State Dept. or maybe Monterrey Inst.???? Anybody remember this or remember how I can find it? I’m putting together a list of links for my dept. head and want to include this info.
    Thank you all for this ongoing learning!
    🙂 Jen

  19. Robert Harrell

    Jen, I have a PowerPoint with that information. I’m at school now but will post a link this evening to where you can access the PowerPoint for a limited time.

  20. I don’t think Robert is re-inventing the wheel. There is a difference between what he is talking about and other documents that have the three modes in them. Our new Colorado state standards have the three modes in there, but that is all bullshit because nobody uses them, talks about them, as we are here. Echoing Michele, if it isn’t followed, read, understood, and practiced in our classrooms, then it has no value. Thus, we can say with a lot of accuracy that we in this discussion are dealing with a potentially massive explosion in assessment methods here – holding kids responsible in the classroom in a way that they have never been required to do before. Here the longed for mixing of the three modes with CI has finally been addressed and identified and aimed directly at robotic memorizing kids who have been allowed to become robots because of the design of the system over the last fifty years.
    The verbage in the new CO state standards, all of that discussion about the three modes, HAS NO VALUE unless it is discussed in terms of CI. So in my opinion the crucial task now at hand is to simplify what we are doing in CI and in CI assessment so that we can not be guilty of what so many others are – creating a babble of educationese that sounds good but, because the Krashen piece isn’t front and center in the discussion, is essentially worthless. I like the way Jen said that she feels
    “…so much solidarity (and sadness) reading that there are others whose students care less about learning than about a grade…”.
    Echoing Nathan’s point, we haven’t had time to set this up. But now we do with the summer in front of us. Robert and I have discussed this privately – we’re not letting this topic fade here. Why? Because kids are taking us to the cleaners because of the way we assess. We use the CI, we test with essentially a data driven (archaic) slant, they play the game (are not held accountable for the three modes at all) and we lose. They have actually been taught by previous traditional teachers to play for the A, and they are good at looking like they care. But they don’t. This can change now. We can remind them, as Oz did with the Tin Man, that they’ve always had a heart.
    They MUST BE AND WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for showing up as Robert suggests. Only if we cement together the modes with CI so that their grades in fact reflection the true nature of comprehension based instruction – that it is first a social contract – can we make our CI classes really fly to their true potential. As long as kids are continued to be allowed by teachers to play the game for the grade, then our power to make the class really roll will be heavily compromised. This is the exciting thing about what Robert’s connection between the modes and CI offers. This is new and is not stuck in some standard somewhere that nobody reads. Hopefully, before the next school year starts, we will have established a simple way to assess that is substantially based on the social reciprocity piece (my rule #4, which I consider the key rule) and only secondarily on how much #%^$& has been memorized.
    Do we really think that we will be able to teach in these data driven rat labs called schools using CI unless we bring to life what Robert is saying? No, this is no reinvention of the wheel. This is new because it has the potential to have teeth, because it is connected to CI, whereas the old stuff has been allowed to have been ignored since 1983 nationally and, like Robert said, look what CA is doing with their new standards – nothing!
    We don’t even want that wheel or other wheels. We want our wheel. The one with CI and the three modes rolling together. The one that will finally crush the backbone of the grade-based-on-memorization-and-reward-robots model. The one that will bring the heart quality into assessment.

  21. Jen, here is the URL to access the PowerPoint I mentioned. I did it in 2009 for a workshop COACH did on the then-new California Standards. As you can see, a number of the slides are intended to spark conversation, but the information you are looking for is in there as well. I have permission to use the images as long as they are for educational purposes – I think this qualifies.
    http://files.me.com/harrellrl/ir2h3b

  22. Byron and everyone else,
    I’m working through the Foreign Language Annals article on IPAs. Of course the IPAs are about assessment that also informs instruction. One graphic shows a cyclical approach with some descriptions. I’m going to quote the descriptions and then give some commentary for each.
    I. Interpretive Communication Phase.
    Students listen to or read an authentic text (e.g. newspaper article, radio broadcast, etc.) and answer information as well as interpretive questions to assess comprehension. Teacher provides students with feedback on performance.
    This sort of assessment ought to be happening constantly in the classroom. The assessment includes TPR, gesturing, asking for an English translation, and all the other things we do. It also includes checking for comprehension when reading. Formal assessment ought to follow the same format – students need to be tested the same way they learn.
    II. Interpersonal Communication Phase
    After receiving feedback regarding interpretive Phase, students engaged in Interpersonal oral communication about a particular topic which relates to the interpretive text. This phase should be either audio- or videotaped.
    If we expand this to include teacher-student communication, we are at the heart of both PQA and Storyasking. Especially at beginning of language acquisition, students are not ready to support interpersonal communication between themselves. They need the scaffolding and support of the teacher’s ability to go SLOW, get meaningful repetitions, etc. Students cannot during the earliest weeks support Interpersonal communication on their own for more than a few seconds at a time. (The length of time should gradually increase.) In addition, the teacher needs to monitor when the students need to return to interpretive communication. (The weakness I perceive in the graphic is that is represents a continuous cycle in one direction, whereas there needs to be a back-and-forth movement between modes of communication.)
    III. Presentational Communication Phase
    Students engage in presentational communication by sharing their research/ideas/opinions. Sample presentational formats: speeches, drama skits, radio broadcasts, posters, brochures, essays, Web sites, etc.
    At first glance, this appears far beyond what beginners can do (and the examples given generally are). However, if we include some of the standard practices of a TPRS classroom, this is achievable even in the first year. One of the common practices in TPRS is the re-tell. Students are given the opportunity to show what they can do through student re-tells (on a volunteer basis). Also, with the scaffolding Nathan Black describes in the Lori Fiechter thread, Novice students can sufficiently manipulate the language to accomplish some of these tasks. For the discussion, go here:
    https://benslavic.com/blog/2011/05/13/lori-fiechter/#comments
    More comments to come as I continue to digest this. I’m planning to take this to my department and my district – I’m writing some thoughts that I will edit as a more formal presentation and also send a copy to Ben.

  23. Rubrics . . . and speaking of rubrics, I have an initial rubric for the interpersonal mode of communication in the classroom, i.e. criteria for assessment. I have also come to the conclusion that what we need to do is provide students with an idea of what the “product” or “performance” at the expected level looks like.
    I am going with Standards-based grading here and a scale of Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. My goal is for students to be Proficient (which I would translate into a “grade” of B), so I want them to be aware of what that looks like. If they go beyond that, they reach Advanced. If they fall below that, they are Basic, Below Basic or Far Below Basic.
    Anyway, here’s the rubric. I really want people to comment and tweak it. I have tried to make every statement positive rather than containing negatives, and everything is based on IPAs and ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines with a little help from Ben’s Rules – these are all things that the profession says are part of “academic instruction”, that is not a citizenship grade or work habits.
    Rubric for Interpersonal Communication at Proficient level
    Student demonstrates proficient engagement in communication by
    ? Sitting up and slightly forward in a posture of anticipation
    ? Focusing on the speaker or listener(s)
    ? Listening when another speaks
    ? Listening with the intent to understand
    ? Contributing to whole-class discussion
    ? Participating in spontaneous whole-class conversation and exchange of information (There can be only one . . . conversation)
    Student demonstrates proficient interactivity by
    ? Responding appropriately to teacher prompts
    ? Suggesting cutes answers in the target language
    ? Being able to repeat or translate what has just been said
    ? Synchronizing actions with words
    Student employs clarification strategies at the proficient level by
    ? Indicating a lack of understanding (fist in hand; hand over head)
    ? Asking for clarification
    ? Asking for repetition
    ? Asking for confirmation
    Student demonstrates proficient language control by
    ? Using the target language for communication
    ? Imitating language presented by the teacher or a native speaker
    ? Actively following when a text is read aloud
    Student demonstrates proficient language function by
    ? Using target language to accomplish real-world tasks

  24. I’m glad you came back with this, Robert. We are now taking concrete steps towards connecting “behavior” with a grade as per the thread (“Robert Harrel on Assessment”) started here about a month ago.
    I consider this thread of utmost importance. We cannot be backing down to those who think that in a school building it’s all about academic achievement and the child’s involvement or not in that process doesn’t matter.
    That model may work in chemistry class but not in a language class where specifically the behaviors identified above, and not any conscious mental ruminations or memorizatins about some formula in math or chemistry, are in fact PRECISELY THE MEANS TO AUTHENTIC ACQUISITION. The behavior leads to acquisition. The old ways children behaved in LANGUAGE classrooms led to – pretty much – nothing.
    Once we realize this, and implement this assessment change in our classrooms – even though our group is very small – we can set in motion something really new. Even in the overall TPRS community, many of us don’t realize the paradigm level shift of energy that Robert’s position above represents. I don’t think Krashen realizes it, in fact. Look at this sentence:
    “…I [Robert] have also come to the conclusion that what we need to do is provide students with an idea of what the “product” or “performance” at the expected level looks like…”.
    On the surface, we read that and we think that this makes sense and to some extent we already do it. But we don’t. The kids don’t get that the product is the set of behaviors described in the rubric.
    This is really explosive. It will explode away old dogma about assessment. We can design it ourselves and that is why we need to take Robert seriously and comment on the rubric below – he wants this feedback for his own processing on this topic.
    My personal opinion is that, unless we get this assessment piece down, defined and in place by the fall, we will end up with a much less productive year next year. I know that to be a fact.
    The human element emerging into a robotic world. Kids being made to focus on content while the language is unconsciously acquired à leur insu/without their knowing it. But without the severity of the past – more a code of ethics in a society that doesn’t have one.
    That is to say, uplifting honoring behavior from and to all in the classroom that emerges not from any external force but from a behavioral imperative presented made clear in the first weeks of the year by the teacher and understood by the kids to be as a major part of their grade.
    An imperative conceived in kindness – to work together in a (classroom) community to heal, from the inside on a micro level, the currently shredded social fabric of America. Making a new web of kindness. One tha will inform instruction.
    I’m kind of rambling but yesterday I received a stunning email describing a visit by a TPRS teacher to a traditional classroom – she went just to see what was going on in there. It described draconian teaching. The teacher preferred I not publish it here but I am trying to talk her into it.
    But back to the point. Robert’s sentence above about that rubric tells it all, in my opinion:
    “…these are all things that the profession [ ACTFL Rubric for Interpersonal Communication at Proficient level] says are part of “academic instruction”, that is not a citizenship grade or work habits…”.
    I challange all 40 of us to keep this in the front of our minds as we think about getting ready for next year. Assessment SHOULD inform instruction, and student behavior SHOULD be looked upon as a “product” as much as a test.
    Correct me on anything that may not be fully accurate here, Robert or anyone else.
    OK off to film a reading class for DPS and then off to OK….

  25. I am in awe of this work! And I agree completely in the core issue: how a student shows up is an integral component. It has to be. We are in the interpersonal realm, so how can it not be “counted.” Learning a language is such a different experience than most other classes. It is a “whole person” activity, for lack of a better expression, so the quality of attention matters most. I’m lacking the vocabulary to describe it, but Robert and Ben have both expressed this idea clearly. As a beginner TPRS practitioner, I don’t have anything else to add to the rubric because I don’t have enough miles under me to have noticed more than what is there. To me, it is a highly specific list of actions that I could point to in order to engage and/or redirect kids, discuss in parent conferences or staff meetings, and review myself when reflecting on my teaching. I am finding this thread immenesly helpful as I look to next year and actually starting a full-year TPRS practice. Sorry I have not added anything specific, but if I think of something I will definitely chime in 🙂

  26. Susie has always said instruction can go nowhere without discipline. And as some know, I’ve been deep into SBG, which strongly suggests separating behavioral issues from academic grades. But what Robert has done here is to make a clear connection between behavior and communication. You are not communicating proficiently if you are chatting (especially in a different language) with your neighbor while class is proceeding. And by confirming understanding in multiple ways, you are making it possible to have a two-way conversation. I just flashed on how, in the early days of my Russian speaking adventures, Russians would always assume I didn’t know what was going on. I had to figure out how to make my face reflect understanding, because otherwise the conversations would jolt along instead of flow. I still don’t know exactly what I was doing to make them think I didn’t get it, but I did learn to nod a lot and ask a bunch of tag questions.

  27. Robert Harrell

    Michele, I have also been involved in SBG, and my district is moving strongly in that direction. We had Robert Marzano as a keynote speaker at our pre-opening workshops last fall, and he will return this coming fall for more. As I have mentioned in a couple of comments, the district is telling us that we may not allow citizenship or work habits to affect academic grades. As long as I am assessing discrete items like grammar, reading, writing, speaking and cultural knowledge, that dictum makes a certain amount of sense. As soon as I realize that the Standard (both State and National) is communication in a holistic sense, then those behaviors become part of the academic mix because they are part of the Standard*. That is why emphasizing interpretive, interpersonal and presentational modes of communication seems so key to me. I’m sure that my final take on this will not look exactly like IPAs – at least as they seem to be conceived by most of the websites I viewed – but the article about them from Foreign Language Annals was very helpful in getting a handle on things. So, too, are the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for K-12.
    *I can still foresee at least Work Habits being separate. For example, if a student exhibits all of the proficient behaviors in class but still doesn’t do an out-of-class assignment like Nathan’s “homework” or re-telling a class story to parents, I might give a less-than-outstanding Work Habits grade. Need to do more thinking on how citizenship factors in.

  28. First revision:
    Based on Michele’s comment about the need to indicate understanding, not just lack thereof, and more research of the ACTFL Guidelines, here is a slight revision of my rubric for interpersonal communication at the proficient level:
    Rubric for Interpersonal Communication at Proficient level
    Student demonstrates engagement in communication at the proficient level by
    > Sitting up and slightly forward in a posture of anticipation
    > Focusing on the content of the communication
    > Listening carefully when another speaks
    > Listening with the intent to understand
    > Participating in class discussion
    > Participating in spontaneous class conversation and exchange of information
    Student demonstrates interactivity at the proficient level by
    > Responding appropriately to teacher prompts and questions
    > Suggesting “cute answers” in the target language
    > Being able to repeat or translate what has just been said
    > Speaking slowly and distinctly so all listeners understand
    > Synchronizing actions with words (e.g. TPRS, gestures, acting)
    > Taking turns in communicative interaction
    > Following accepted cultural norms for interaction
    Student employs clarification strategies at the proficient level by
    > Indicating understanding or lack of understanding (e.g. gestures, face)
    > Asking for and giving clarification
    > Asking for and giving repetition
    > Asking for and giving confirmation of understanding
    Student demonstrates language control at the proficient level by
    > Using the target language for communication
    > Imitating language presented by the teacher or a native speaker
    > Actively following when a text is read aloud
    > Copying text accurately
    Student demonstrates language function at the proficient level by
    > Using target language to accomplish real-world tasks
    Note: Assessment of the interpersonal communication mode is holistic, taking into account the totality of communication and the overall performance.
    NOTES:
    -I have substituted “focus” for Ben’s “clear eyes” and stated the object of focus: content of communication (Get immersed in the water)
    -I have chosen not to define “participating” too closely to allow various personalities their expression
    -The cultural norms are those of the target culture, the native culture and the classroom/school
    -Michele’s comment prompted the change to “asking for and giving”
    -Using the target language for communication is the NO ENGLISH element
    -“Advanced” level can be achieved in a variety of ways, e.g. volunteering to act, giving thoughtful, apt suggestions and not just “cute answers”, showing a higher-than normal sensitivity to communicative interaction (e.g. deliberately drawing out students who want to share but are hesitant), showing an understanding that “participating” doesn’t mean “hogging the conversation”, speaking the target language outside of class
    -It is absolutely essential that the teacher model all of these behaviors; Ben’s post today on Classroom Discipline really brought home this element – the teacher cannot expect students to acquire the behaviors if the teacher does not model them.
    While I still am looking for input on content (I’ll tackle interpretive and presentational modes later), the next step is how to implement this. I’m looking for something that won’t require so much paperwork or administration on my part that it goes by the wayside. One idea I am toying with is assuming that everyone has a P (Proficient) in the class. As long as a record remains blank, that is what the person has. Only deviation from Proficient gets noted.
    Is anyone doing something with self-evaluation by the students? I know Ben tried that for a while but wasn’t happy with the outcome.
    Ben, I hope your time in OK is great.

  29. Great point, Laurie!
    Maybe, instead of handing in a self-assessment every so often, kids could review this document once a month, reflecting on what areas they have been demonstrating that they are proficient in. It could be one of the Friday writes that isn’t in TL–a list of things they feel they’re doing–

  30. Robert Harrell

    Well, I am forging ahead with this. As I said, I’m doing it for myself, and the blog gives me opportunity to bounce ideas off others. Thanks to all of you who have commented. Below is the first draft of a letter to parents and students for next year. Again, I would appreciate comments, especially things like redundancies, omissions and better ordering.
    Dear Parents and Students:
    Garden Grove Unified School District and Pacifica High School have committed themselves to Standards-Based Grading. This represents a change from what most people think of when they think about grades, so perhaps an explanation of what SBG is and how it looks in the World Language Classroom is in order.
    In SBG the emphasis is on mastery of a standard rather than merely doing a certain amount of work in order to get a grade. Students should not think that by doing extra work or getting “extra credit” they will improve their grade. Instead, they need to compare their work to the standard to see if they exceed, meet or fall below the standard.
    This method of grading works well in the World Language Classroom. The State of California adopted California State Standards for the World Language Classroom: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve in 2009. These standards define the content that should be taught at various stages of language acquisition. Coupled with the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Proficiency Guidelines for K-12, these standards tell teachers what students should be able to do and how well they should be able to do it at various stages of acquisition.
    What sets the World Language Standards apart from standards in other subjects is that they do not describe discrete-item knowledge. Rather they describe communicative competence. As the introduction to the California Standards notes, “We can no longer afford to simply learn about languages and cultures but rather, we must provide students with opportunities to learn languages and cultures by participating in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use and global citizenship.“ In other words, students do not learn a language by talking about the language, its parts and structure. They acquire a language by talking about other things in the language. This is different from all other disciplines.
    In the German classroom, Standards-Based Grading focuses on the three modes of communication and how well students use them. The three modes of communication are the interpretive mode, the interpersonal mode, and the presentational mode. Instead of categories like “reading” and “speaking” or “tests” and “homework”, grades will be entered under one of the three modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal and presentational) and indicate the student’s level of competence while communicating in that mode.
    In Standards-Based Grading, students do not receive the traditional letter grade or a percentage. Instead, they receive a notation that indicates how closely their performance aligns with the standard for that mode of communication. As a result, grade indicators will look different. I will be using the following markings:
    A = Advanced; the student’s performance exceeds the standard
    P = Proficient: the student’s performance meets the standard
    B = Basic: the student’s performance approaches the standard
    L = BeLow Basic: the student’s performance fails to meet the standard
    F = Far Below Basic: the student’s performance falls significantly under the standard
    Since students need to know what the goal is, I am providing the rubrics for evaluation in the three modes of communication. Since my goal is proficiency for all students, the rubrics describe what employing each mode of communication at the proficient level looks like. For certain assignments a more detailed rubric will be given, but all work in the German classroom will be assessed using the following general rubrics. Work that exceeds these standards will be evaluated as Advanced; work that meets the standards is Proficient; work that approaches the standard is Basic; work that fails to approach the standard is Below Basic or Far Below Basic.
    One other aspect of Standards-Based Grading that is important to bear in mind is that the goal is mastery of the standard. Feedback is essential to this process. Consequently, any time a students fail to achieve a level of competence that satisfies them, they may come to me to discuss what might be improved and then re-submit a performance or product to show mastery of the standard. Of course, this must fall within the constraints of the school system and requirements to submit grades at regular intervals.
    Rubric for Interpersonal Communication at the Proficient Level
    Student demonstrates engagement in communication at the proficient level by
    > Sitting up and slightly forward in a posture of anticipation
    > Focusing on the content of the class
    > Listening carefully when another speaks
    > Listening with the intent to understand
    > Speaking slowly and distinctly so listeners understand
    > Participating in class discussion
    > Participating in spontaneous class conversation and exchange of information
    Student demonstrates interactivity at the proficient level by
    > Responding appropriately to teacher prompts and questions
    > Suggesting cute answers in the target language
    > Being able to repeat or translate what has just been said
    > Synchronizing actions with words (e.g. TPRS, gestures, acting)
    > Taking turns in communicative interaction
    > Following accepted cultural norms for interaction
    Student employs clarification strategies at the proficient level by
    > Indicating understanding or lack of understanding (e.g. gestures, face)
    > Asking for and giving clarification
    > Asking for and giving repetition
    > Asking for and giving confirmation of understanding
    Student demonstrates language control at the proficient level by
    > Using the target language for communication
    > Imitating language presented by the teacher or a native speaker
    > Actively following when a text is read aloud
    > Copying text accurately
    Student demonstrates language function at the proficient level by
    > Using target language to accomplish real-world tasks
    Rubric for Interpretive Communication at the Proficient Level
    Student demonstrates Comprehension at the proficient level by
    > Showing understanding of short, simple conversations and narratives
    > Recognizing key words or phrases embedded in familiar contexts
    > Showing understanding of written and spoken language in familiar contexts
    > Recognizing cognates, affixes, thematic vocabulary, composita
    Student demonstrates Language Control at the proficient level by
    > Recognizing structural patterns in target language narratives
    > Deriving meaning from structures within familiar contexts
    > Sometimes recognizing previously learned structures in new contexts
    Student demonstrates Vocabulary Use at the proficient level by
    > Showing recognition of vocabulary words and expressions in context
    > Showing understanding of vocabulary in spoken passages when aided by pantomime, props and/or visuals
    > Showing understanding of written passages when aided by illustrations and other cultural clues
    Student demonstrates use of Communication Strategies at the proficient level by
    > Using background experience to anticipate story direction in highly predictable oral and written texts
    > Relying on visuals and familiar language to aid comprehension
    Student demonstrates Cultural Awareness at the proficient level by
    > Showing understanding of oral and written language within a familiar cultural background
    > Predicting a story line or event within a familiar cultural background
    Rubric for Presentational Communication at the Proficient Level
    Student demonstrates Comprehensibility at the proficient level by
    > Using short, acquired phrases and sentences
    > Exhibiting some accuracy in pronunciation and intonation
    > Reproducing familiar material
    > Employing visuals to enhance comprehensibility
    Student demonstrates Language Control at the proficient level by
    > Exhibiting accuracy when reproducing acquired words, phrases and sentences in German
    > Using simple phrases and expression on familiar themes
    > Eliminating inaccuracies and interference from English in acquired or
    pre-fabricated communication
    > Correcting orthographical errors where different from English
    Student demonstrates Vocabulary Use at the proficient level by
    > Employing fluidly a limited number of words and phrases for common objects and actions in familiar categories
    > Supplementing basic vocabulary with expressions acquired independently
    > Consciously eliminating use of English
    Student demonstrates use of Communication Strategies at the proficient level by
    > Making corrections by repeating or rewriting when appropriate forms are routinely modeled by the teacher
    > Strategically using repetition, nonverbal expression and visuals to communicate
    Student demonstrates Cultural Awareness at the proficient level by
    > Imitating the use of culturally appropriate vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and nonverbal behaviors modeled by the teacher
    While the rubrics are descriptions of what students should do to demonstrate competence at the proficient level, they also imply responsibilities for the teacher. So, what should I be doing?
    The teacher demonstrates Curricular Communicative Competency by
    > Showing respect for students
    > Establishing a safe environment for learning
    > Speaking German at least 95% of the time
    > Speaking slowly and distinctly
    > Making certain that the German is comprehensible by using cognates, gestures, facial expressions, visuals, props and other nonverbal supports
    > Repeating targeted structures and vocabulary numerous times until they are acquired by students
    > Modeling German language and cultural norms
    > Checking frequently for understanding
    > Giving level-appropriate prompts
    > Asking level-appropriate questions
    > Listening actively to student suggestions, questions and comments
    > Focusing on the class activity
    > Modeling expected behavior
    > Assisting students in understanding written passages
    > Pointing out when and where appropriate how German is structured
    > Reminding students of the rubric as necessary
    > Providing students with frequent feedback on performance
    > Providing students with ample opportunities to express themselves in German without forcing them to perform beyond their capabilities
    > Contextualizing words and structures during both instruction and assessment
    > Guiding without straitjacketing class discussion
    > Using German to accomplish real-world tasks
    > Sheltering vocabulary but not grammar
    >> Concentrating on high-frequency structures
    >> Concentrating on high-interest structures
    >> Speaking the language naturally without artificial restrictions
    > Presenting content that is relevant, interesting and personalized
    > Accepting school and class appropriate suggestions from students
    > Exhibiting enthusiasm for German
    > Exhibiting enthusiasm for teaching
    It is not my job or responsibility to entertain students. However, if I and they both do our jobs, the class will be interesting, relevant and enjoyable. I am asking you as a parent to reinforce and support the need for students to do their 50% so I can more effectively do my 50% and together we can do the job of language acquisition.
    I am looking forward to an enjoyable and productive year with your students. I am excited about sharing my love for German with your students.
    Sincerely,
    Robert Harrell
    German Teacher
    Pacifica High School

  31. I really like what you have Robert. It’s a comprehensive rationale and execution of your system that covers all the bases. For many parents who are just scanning through looking for your grading policy, however, it might come across as trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. It’s long enough that you really have to be motivated to push through the whole document.
    Right now your lists of what the student has to do for Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational are long enough to almost be counterproductive. The reason I don’t like long lists is that because the nature of a list makes gives each element the same weight, where that is rarely the case in practice. In your list detailing proficiency for student comprehensibility, you have “Consciously eliminating use of English” quite buried down the list, where that likely should be in the top two or three. The thing is, people stop reading for the most part after the first 4 or so, and if you’re honest as a teacher, you don’t enforce all of the things on that list on a regular basis anyway (at least I don’t).
    My first recommendation, then, would be to go through those lists and identify what you consider to be the most essential elements: the class rules. In other words, which of the points on that list are you willing to call home or write a letter home on if the student is consistently breaking? Those are the points that need to be clear in your parents’ heads because that’s what you’ll be talking to them about in the future. If you pack too much into this overview, it won’t be of as much use to you later on for the parental follow-up. If you want to be comprehensive, find a way to highlight the essential points by giving them their own subheading that draws attention to them.
    My second point of feedback, then, would come in making this document more skimmable and scanable (which is the real way we read; not linearly) by inserting subheadings to your sections. Something along the lines of “How is proficiency-based grading different” or “Why World languages need proficiency based grading.” Continue this throughout the other parts by having such titles as “What students need to do” and “What the teacher needs to do.” Subheadings–even multiple layers of them–allow your readers to quickly index and jump around in a large document so that it feels smaller.
    One final note that might not be as useful for this letter but for your classes themselves when you are trying to give them an overview of what you mean by proficiency based grading would be the Prezi that Kelly Daugherty set up on the topic that describes the various levels in terms of riding a bike: http://prezi.com/axzlriy65i7x/daughertys-bicycles-performance-based-learning/
    Ever since Michele pointed me towards this Prezi it is my go-to explanation in all my classes as to why I’m grading the way I am.
    I’m interested in seeing how this document evolves, and am considering stealing it wholesale for next year to use myself. Thanks for all the work and consideration you’ve put into it.

  32. Dear Robert, in high appreciation of your shot at an optimally workable rubric, I have taken my best aim at minimal revision of its proposed title and first section (which, in my current opinion, might be better placed as second). My primary objectives were increased compactness, greater harmony with the language use of most laypeople, and (in my opinion) a more logical order of presentation. Here goes! Ready, aim, fire:
    A Conversational-Proficiency Rubric for the 1st 2 Years of French
    Students show full engagement in classroom conversations by …
    > Maintaining a posture that clearly suggests attentive focus & listening?>Synchronizing one’s acts with another’s words if chosen to be an actor > Speaking as authorized– and slowly and distinctly, as well as audibly > Repeating or translating what has just been said when asked to do so
    > Responding to prompts and questions? > Contributing one’s own personal perspective to class conversations?
    > Inventing offbeat, perhaps comical replies on occasion??
    Students show excellent clarification habits and skills by … ?
    > Showing one’s comprehension or incomprehension (e.g. gestures, face)
    ?> Requesting or providing clarification, repetition, or confirmation ?
    Students show additional mastery of French at their level by … > Copying/writing words/phrases/& sentences with high accuracy
    ?> Actively following along in a written narrative that someone reads aloud ?> Imitating French-language use presented by a teacher or native speaker > Speaking spontaneous French to accomplish practical objectives, not just for programmed classroom conversations

  33. Nathan and Frank,
    Thank you both for the suggestions. They are well taken – which is exactly why I wanted someone else to look at the rubric.
    After reflection – even before Nathan’s comments – I have been considering taking some of the sub-items out and simply referring people to the performance guidelines for a more complete rubric. As Nathan pointed out, I can’t assess everything all the time, so I need to emphasize/present what I think is most important and what I would contact parents about.

  34. Ugh! For some reason presumably due to the limitations of the word processor for this blog’s comment box, my lay-out was not transmitted exactly as I had set it up. But since that layout is basically Robert’s except for the Word Press word processor’s frequent refusal to follow my listing of new lines before each of my > symbols. Nevertheless, I guess this draft is easily readable for anyone who has already read Robert’s.

  35. Robert, I just can’t let go of your excellent starting point!. So here please note that not only do I suggest preceding your first section with the second in order to present a more logical progression; I also propose eliminating the verbosity of its first subsection by considering the need for synchronization of one’s role-playing action with a narrator’s words to be sufficiently implied in the words “attentive focus and listening”. Similarly in that subsection, your explicit inclusion of “repeating and translating” and “responding to prompts and questions” are clearly enough implicit in my “speaking only as authorized, and in slow, distinct, audible French”. Etc. So substantially more compact, logically laid out, and readily grasped, here it is as I now provisionally propose it, your first section, which to me would more logically be your second:
    Mr. J’s Rubric for Proficiency in 1st- & 2nd-Year French-Language Acquisition
    (1) Forthcoming (?)
    (2) Proficiency in Communicative Interaction During the 1st 2 Years of French
    Students show full engagement in communicative interactionby … > Maintaining a posture that clearly suggests attentive focus & listening? > Speaking only as authorized, and in slow, distinct, audible French > Contributing one’s own spontaneous conversational input
    ?> Inventing offbeat, comical replies on occasion??
    Students demonstrate proficient clarification habits and skills by … ?> Showing their comprehension or incomprehension (gesturally or facially )
    ?> Requesting or providing clarification, repetition, or confirmation ?
    Students show additional mastery of French at their level by … > Copying/writing words, phrases, and sentences in appropriate form ?
    > Actively scanning along in a text that someone reads aloud
    ?> Imitating language use presented by a teacher or native speaker > Speaking spontaneous French to accomplish practical objectives, not just for programmed classroom conversations
    (3) Forthcoming (?)
    I sure hope, this time, my cut- &-paste fully maintains the original layout! ?

  36. Once again, the Word Press word processor has not maintained my layout of lines, and it has inserted some question marks that I never wrote. Ugh and re-ugh!

  37. Earlier this year I was having some fairly significant cooperation problems with about 4 kids in one class. I had already contacted parents in a couple cases, and was just getting ready to send home letters when I realized it wasn’t fair to the parents of the kids that were cooperating that all my communication was being sent to the kids who weren’t there for me. As a result, I wrote a letter home to every parent in that class on how they were doing with the language and how they were doing with cooperation. It took me forever to do, but the result was strong, immediate and that class really became much easier to work with for everybody across the board.
    When reading your initial letter home Robert, that experience occurred to me as perhaps an initial foray of setting the lines for regular communication home as to how the students are doing in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational aspects. In addition to a grade showing up every quarter on the report card, you could mail home a rubric that summarizes the spectrum of how they did that semester in terms of their proficiency, along with a sentence or two comment about how you enjoy working with the student. These rubrics you are developing for the grading already could save you the hours of writing I had to do for each student, but give you similar results.
    If your students get that the in-class rating you are using to show them where they are at are going to be a regular conversation point at home, it will give it that much more relevance for them in your classroom.

  38. Great plan Nathan and Robert we can see from the above that Nathan’s ideas can do a lot to infuse the document that we finally come up with. Somebody has to start hammering out this document, by the way, or all these ideas will fade and we won’t get the document. Now all I have to do is figure out how to reach the half of my kids’ parents who don’t care, are too drunk to care, are too busy to care.
    All the same, I think that the behavior problems with comprehension based instruction are much more often with kids of privilege who are looking for a way to “play” the class for the grade that they require and balk at the idea of actually doing their 50% in my classroom because they never had to show up as anything but a robot in middle school.
    At least that is my own experience. Well dressed kids with frozen hearts that could use a little thawing out who could care less about the language – they are the ones I struggle with. It’s that way with CI – when we just roll and go and it’s just about having fun, the best kids in my CI classroom are the worst in their other classes.
    So I think that your idea, Nathan, it’s design, has great potential as we continue to move this idea forward. I’ll just quote here what I see as key as we move forward:
    “…[we can set our minds to] setting the lines for regular communication home as to how the students are doing in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational aspects. In addition to a grade showing up every quarter on the report card, you could mail home a rubric that summarizes the spectrum of how they did that semester in terms of their proficiency, along with a sentence or two comment about how you enjoy working with the student. These rubrics you are developing for the grading already could save you the hours of writing I had to do for each student, but give you similar results…”.

  39. Dear Robert, still at it I now propose my version of your second section, making it my first (which I do because of our emphasis on language acquisition being mostly driven by a language learner’s attentive intake of compelling CI). About half of your stuff is now missing because I believe it is all reasonably implicit in what I have retained. Since Nathan is correct to say that most people scan for key parts rather than read thoroughly, I would highlight in bold print those words and phrases I consider as key if only the Word Press processor would so allow. All the implicit stuff should be preserved only in our personal files, just in case we need to refresh our memories for an explicitly explanatory conference with a student, parent, or administrator. S0 now after still further refined expression of my first section, I follow with my second:
    Mr. J’s Rubric for 1st- & 2nd-Year French-Language Acquisition
    (1) Proficiency in Comprehending French Speech or Text
    Students demonstrate proficient comprehension of French by …?
    > Showing recognition of basic words or phrases within familiar contexts?
    > Showing recognition of basic phrases, words, roots, affixes, & cognates, as well as parts of speech, within familiar contexts > Showing general comprehension of short, simple conversations and narratives, as well as their basic French-language components >Using familiar context and/or other clues such as ambient pantomime, props, and/or visuals to predict the meaning of what is unfamiliar > Showing recognition of normal structural & cultural patterns in the conversations and narratives to which they attend?
    (2) Proficiency in the Use of French for Classroom Interaction
    Students show full engagement in classroom interaction by … > Maintaining a posture that clearly suggests attentive focus & listening ?> Speaking only as authorized, and in slow, distinct, audible French > Contributing one’s own pertinent remarks? > Inventing offbeat, comical replies on occasion??
    Students show proficient clarification habits and skills by … ?> Signaling one’s comprehension or incomprehension (e.g. gestures, face)? > Requesting or providing clarification, repetition, or confirmation ?
    They additionally show proficiency in classroom interaction by … > Actively scanning along in a text that someone reads aloud ?> Copying/writing with accuracy material related to classroom interaction ?
    >Imitating language use presented by a teacher or native speaker > Speaking spontaneous French to accomplish practical objectives, not just for programmed classroom conversations ?

  40. This certainly moves the train in the right direction, Frank. Now Robert and Nathan do you agree? Is this what we want to do here? And how do we then connect this concept to a specific grade that is major and important in the minds of the end users of the product, the parents and students? We must not only have a BAM! rubric but we must also make the point right between the kids’ eyes that they will behave in a certain way (my rules) or be graded down. They will know that they are either meeting or not meeting a standards that reflect our national parent organization’s expectations. In my case, because I am saying that for the first two years of study the standards must reflect input, the only of the three that I personally will be really assessing will be the first two modes/standards: interpersonal (the big one at level one by far for me in my own classroom world) and the interpretive (more important as we move deeper into the first year). The presentational, as output, can come in much later in my own classroom world. But holding the kids’ feet to the fire ACADEMICALLY for the first one over the crucial first year is my main concern here. Can we get a product/document that does that. That twists a robot kid’s arm behind him to SHOW UP OR BE GRADED DOWN. I can just hear the eyebrows furrow on this, as teachers say with incredulity, “Well, don’t tests count at all?” and after I say, “Shut up!” under my breath, I then say out loud, “Of course they do! They count this much ….” (it is up to us to hammer this out as we go through the next few months). So the way I see this now, as we continue to try to get to a document that we can use – I like what Frank describes above a lot – we need to keep the academic assessment piece connected mainly to the rubric so that we force compliance with unwilling robotic kids and parents whose fluency resulted from conjugating verbs (yes, I have been by some parents that they conjugated verbs and they speak just fine). Sorry for the rambling run on tumbleweed nature of this discussion but it’s how we get things done, right? I feel like it is my job to keep us all on the same train track on this discussion. Robert your job is to tell us if we are going to wide or narrow in this discussion and if it is in line with your main concept and wishes. So the ball is in your court now. Let’s see if we can get somewhere together on this. I want more focus on a single goal right now and Robert I ask you are we on the right track here or not?

  41. Sorry to be incommunicado but I was in Palm Springs with my COACH buddies yesterday and at church most of the day today; in the afternoon I heard about what’s happening in Kyrgyzstan and how important developing personal relationships is. I also heard some interesting comments about concepts of honor and shame.
    First of all, I think Ben, Frank and Nathan (to go in alphabetical order) are definitely on the right track. It would be great to have other minds contributing as well.
    Frank alluded to it, but I had already come to the conclusion that there needs to be two sets of rubrics: a short one for parents, students and “everyday use” and a detailed one for occasional reminders and administrators.
    The order that I put things in is hardly sacrosanct, it was just that I started on interpersonal first; I can see putting either that or interpretive first – the one that has to come last is presentational.
    This is a community effort, and anyone is certainly welcome to take my contribution and use it wholesale, retail, in part, adapted or any other way that helps. When we have this hammered out to what we think is reasonably final, I will make it available for at least a little while the way I made the PowerPoint on the standards available; Ben is certainly welcome to put it up on his site as a resource as well. But there’s still work to be done . . .
    I need to digest the comments on the rubrics, so for right now I’m going to re-post the letter. I’ve taken Nathan’s suggestion and inserted headers. I’ll try to get them to display properly. BTW, Frank, if you use html code Word Press will recognize it. Use pointed brackets and put in i and /i to open and close italics, b and /b to open and close boldface. It should look like this without any spaces inside the brackets: italics and boldface
    Comments encouraged.
    Dear Parents and Students:
    Garden Grove Unified School District and Pacifica High School have committed themselves to Standards-Based Grading. This represents a change from what most people think of when they think about grades, so perhaps an explanation of what SBG is and how it looks in the World Language Classroom is in order.
    What is Standards-Based Grading?
    In SBG the emphasis is on mastery of a standard rather than merely doing a certain amount of work in order to get a grade. Students should not think that by doing extra work or getting “extra credit” they will improve their grade. Instead, they need to compare their work to the standard to see if they exceed, meet or fall below the standard.
    This method of grading works well in the World Language Classroom. The State of California adopted California State Standards for the World Language Classroom: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve in 2009. These standards define the content that should be taught at various stages of language acquisition. Coupled with the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners, these standards tell teachers what students should be able to do and how well they should be able to do it at various stages of acquisition.
    What’s different about learning a foreign language?
    Students acquire a language by talking about other things in the language.
    That’s what sets foreign language learning apart. The World Language Standards describe communicative competence, not discrete-item knowledge. As the introduction to the California Standards notes, “We can no longer afford to simply learn about languages and cultures but rather, we must provide students with opportunities to learn languages and cultures by participating in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use and global citizenship.“ In other words, students do not learn a language by talking about the language, its parts and structure, but by communicating in the language. This makes foreign language different from all other disciplines.
    What does Standards-Based Grading measure?
    In the German classroom, Standards-Based Grading focuses on the three modes of communication and how well students use them.
    What are the three modes of communication?
    – Interpretive mode: students understand oral and written messages
    – Interpersonal mode: students exchange messages to gain understanding
    – Presentational mode: students pass their messages on to others
    What do Standards-Based Grades look like?
    What categories should I look for?
    Instead of categories like “reading” and “speaking” or “tests” and “homework”, grades will be entered under one of the three modes of communication (interpretive, interpersonal and presentational) and indicate the student’s level of competence while communicating in that mode.
    What does the grading scale look like?
    In Standards-Based Grading, students do not receive the traditional letter grade or a percentage. Instead, they receive a notation that indicates how closely their performance aligns with the standard for that mode of communication. As a result, grade indicators will look different. I will be using the following markings:
    – A = Advanced; student performance exceeds the standard
    – P = Proficient: student performance meets the standard
    – B = Basic: student performance approaches the standard
    – L = BeLow Basic: student performance fails to meet the standard
    – F = Far Below Basic: student performance falls significantly under the standard
    Why not just give traditional grades?
    Traditional grades often reflect many different things, so students don’t really know why they got a particular grade. Standards-Based Grading compares student work to a specific standard and informs students as to whether or not they are meeting the goal. As a result, students can see and explain why they received a particular grade. The Standards-based grade gives students important feedback so they can improve.
    How do students know how well they are doing?
    In a word: Rubrics.
    The Standards and ACTFL Guidelines are the basis for rubrics that enable students to see their level of competency. Attached to this letter are the basic rubrics I will be using for German class. For certain assignments a more detailed rubric will be given, but all work in the German classroom will be assessed using the general rubrics.
    Work that exceeds these standards will be evaluated as Advanced
    Work that meets the standards is Proficient
    Work that approaches the standard is Basic
    Work that fails to approach the standard is Below Basic or Far Below Basic.
    What if a student doesn’t meet the goal or standard?
    Any time students fail to achieve a level of competence that satisfies them, they may come to me to discuss what might be improved and then re-submit a performance or product to show mastery of the standard. Of course, this must fall within the constraints of the school system and requirements to submit grades at regular intervals.
    How can parents support students in German?
    If both your students and I do our jobs, the class will be interesting, relevant and enjoyable. I am asking you as a parent to reinforce and support the need for students to do their 50% as outlined in the rubrics so I can more effectively do my 50%. Working together we can do the job of language acquisition.
    I am excited about sharing my love for German with your students and look forward to an enjoyable and productive year.
    Thanks for your help and support.
    Robert Harrell
    German Teacher
    Pacifica High School

    1. Wow. This is completely readable. Someone (on this list? in a webinar?) said that whenever we ask a question, rhetorical or not, we set up the brain to consider the options. I love how you shortened up the text and answered logical questions in an order that makes sense.

      1. By bolding the questions, shortening your text and spacing between the paragraphs you made it so much easier to read, or as Nathan said earlier, easy to scan.

  42. Okay, the processor for Word Press read my pointed brackets and italicized and boldfaced anyway. This time I am substituting parentheses ( ) for the pointed brackets. <
    (i)text(/i) – with pointed brackets – gives italics
    (b)text(/b) – with pointed brackets – gives boldface
    There are other things that you can do, including underline and hide a url but create a link, but I’m satisfied with just italics and boldface at the moment. Also, if you are using Word to create a bulleted list, the formatting doesn’t transfer. Just delete the bulleted symbol (I have been using an arrow) and re-type a new symbol (I’ve been using dashes).

  43. I can just hear the eyebrows furrow on this, as teachers say with incredulity, “Well, don’t tests count at all?” and after I say, “Shut up!” under my breath, I then say out loud, “Of course they do! They count this much ….” (it is up to us to hammer this out as we go through the next few months).
    Yes, we need to hammer this out as well, but we also need to remember that tests can measure understanding of input and also be carriers of Comprehensible Input; they don’t have to be output only. It just depends on how we design them. I bet there are a lot of teachers out there who would be relieved to have someone model a different kind of test.
    Here’s a quote that I really like:
    A language is not an academic subject. A language is something that happens between people in flesh and blood. That is where it is. That is what it is. No more. No less. Individuals experience the world individually. That is called perception. Communities experience the world together. That is called language.
    It comes from Greg Thomson of SIL International. That used to be Summer Institute of Linguistics. It’s part of Wycliffe Bible Translators, a group of people whose sole purpose is to learn languages in order to bring the Bible to people groups who do not have the Bible in their language. Whether or not you agree with the Bible, these people know what communication is all about. Greg outlines a course of independent language acquisition (using native speaker “informants”) that has a great deal in common with TPRS. It differs because of the individual and independent nature of the “learning environment”.
    Sorry about taking up so much bandwidth all at once.

  44. Okay, here is my latest revision of the rubric, relying heavily on Frank’s comments. We will no doubt need to explain to students how Ben’s Rules fit into the rubric and how various specific behaviors either do or do not reflect proficiency. What I am excited about is doing away with the sense of entitlement that is expressed in the attitude “I showed up to class, so I ought to get an A”.
    Herr Harrell’s Rubric for German-Language Acquisition
    Years 1 and 2
    Interpersonal Mode: Reciprocal Communication
    Engagement

    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    – Consciously rejecting the use of English for communication
    – Maintaining a posture that clearly suggests attentive focus and listening
    – Speaking only as authorized, and in slow, distinct, audible German
    – Contributing pertinent and inventive remarks
    Clarification
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    – Signaling comprehension or incomprehension (e.g. gestures, face, acting)
    – Requesting or providing clarification, repetition or confirmation
    Interactivity
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    – Actively reading along in a text as someone else reads aloud
    – Copying/writing accurately material related to classroom interaction
    – Imitating language use presented by a teacher or native speaker
    – Speaking German to accomplish practical real-world objectives, not just for programmed classroom conversations
    Interpretive Mode: Speech or Text
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    – Showing recognition of basic German words, structures or phrases within familiar contexts
    – Showing recognition of basic German roots, affixes, cognates, compound words and parts of speech within familiar contexts
    – Showing general comprehension of spoken and written German, as well as basic components of the language
    – Using various clues to predict meaning of what is unfamiliar, e.g.
    — Familiar context, including format
    — Pantomime
    — Props
    — Gestures
    — Visuals
    – Showing recognition of significant German structural and cultural patterns in the conversations and narratives to which they attend
    The double dashes represent sub-categories.
    I need to address the presentational mode as well so that I can show my district that this follows the full standards. I also think there should be a teacher rubric to show students that the teacher is also accountable. I put in “compound words” because that is such a fundamental aspect of German word formation. My students are always fascinated by the 84-letter word I show them some time during the first year.

  45. Don’t ever worry about bandwidth Robert. Go for it. I can’t wait to get into my planning tomorrow morning in our last week of school and digest every word above. We’re doing good. HAY HAy!

  46. Dear Robert, et al., I think you, we, are basically still moving right. Not so, Ben? But I think we had best elide the “consciously rejecting” part. We don’t want to appear overly intrusive into each student’s psyché. Why not do it this way?: entirely delete that phrase and appropriately extend another phrase of yours, so that we end up with ” SPEAKING ONLY AS AUTHORIZED, and then only IN GERMAN–slowly, distinctly, audibly, with ABSOLUTELY NO ENGLISH.” ( Perhaps not just with such pertinent capitalization, but also with the additional support of accompanying bold print.)
    To accommodate quick scanning of our criteria for proficient involvement in the process of language acquisition, such highlighting of key points should be used throughout our rubric. So anyone who wants to avoid reading our mere qualifiers, clarifiers, and connectors may do so, but those subsidiary sentence components are always there if we need to refer to them for further elucidation of our standards.)
    Re the interpretive mode, I think it best to delete the first two
    standard-bearing phrases because the third one says exactly the same in substantially fewer words. If, however, you want to spell out all those details, you can simply place a colon after your originally third, now first, phrase and end it by there adding them in. To accommodate quick scanning, I would say that phrase should appear on the page as “Showing general RECOGNITION AND COMPREHENSION OF SPOKEN AND WRITTEN GERMAN, as well as it’s basic (micro-?) components” (perhaps followed by a colon and then an unhighlighted listing of them.)
    In similar fashion, the introductory statement that introduces the long phrase about proficient use of various situational and contextual cues should be highlighted; the subsequent listing should not. Likewise, in your final phrase, to accommodate quick scanning, highlight “RECOGNITION OF SIGNIFICANT
    GERMAN STRUCTURAL AND CULTURAL PATTERNS”.
    So, Ben, as James Moody’s ending goes– Eddy jefferson, King Pleasure, or even Moody himself singing– in that jazz standard “Moody’s Mood for love”:
    You can come in and
    Blow now if you want to
    W’ere through [at least for now!]
    As for the yet-to-come “Presentational Mode: Speech or Text”, I believe that kept even more brief. It doesn’t have to go into all details.

  47. I really need to get to bed. 🙂 But here’s the latest revision with the addition of Presentational mode, reduced to a single statement
    Herr Harrell’s Rubric for German-Language Acquisition
    Years 1 and 2
    Interpersonal Mode: Reciprocal Communication
    Engagement

    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    Speaking only as authorized, and then only in slow, distinct, audible German with absolutely no English
    Maintaining a posture of attentive focus and listening
    Contributing appropriate, pertinent and inventive remarks
    Clarification
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    Signaling comprehension or incomprehension (e.g. gestures, face, acting)
    Requesting or providing clarification, repetition or confirmation
    Interactivity

    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    Actively reading along in a text as someone else reads aloud
    Copying/writing accurately material related to classroom interaction
    Imitating language use presented by a teacher or native speaker
    Speaking German to accomplish practical real-world objectives, not just for programmed classroom conversations
    Interpretive Mode: Speech or Text
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    Showing general comprehension of spoken and written German in familiar contexts, as well as basic components of the language: basic words, structures, phrases, roots, affixes, cognates, compounds and parts of speech
    Using various clues to predict meaning of what is unfamiliar, e.g. familiar context, including format, pantomime, props, gestures, visuals
    Showing recognition of significant German structural and cultural patterns in the conversations and narratives to which they attend
    Presentational Mode: Speech or Text
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by
    Using German to communicate in short, acquired phrases and sentences that show some accuracy while reproducing familiar material and employing non-verbal means to enhance comprehensibility for unforced, practical communication
    Thanks again to everyone for the input. I believe this is a much better document for distribution to parents and students than I originally presented. Still open to suggestions, though.
    Of course, the work isn’t done; once we’re satisfied with the document, we need to work on the implementation aspect.

  48. Here’s my shot for French on Robert’s excellently attacked presentational mode:
    Presentational Mode (for Speech and/or Text)
    Students demonstrate Proficiency by?. . . * USING THEIR ALREADY ACQUIRED FRENCH, PLUS SUPPORTIVE NON-VERBAL MEANS, TO PRESENT ACCURATELY INFORMATIVE MATERIAL largely composed of their very own comprehensible, substantially well-spoken and/or well-written sentences.

    1. Robert Harrell

      Frank, I like that better than my version; as always, it may get tweaked for the German version. 🙂
      One reason I shortened presentational to one sentence was to help illustrate its relative importance (i.e., not very) in the Novice classroom.

  49. OK, just another thought to Robert’s segment on “How do the Students know how they are doing?” If we are going to be churning out a bunch of Rubrics that give a nuanced perspective of how people are doing, would it make sense to keep a longitudinal record of those rubrics. If these truly chart developed proficiency, not just how well they meet class expectations in a given quarter, then an upward trend over time should be recognizable. This would suggest some sort of student portfolio developing over time. A nice year-end activity would be for the students to look at their evaluation rubrics and explain in their own words why they think they had a number of various gains or losses; you could then combine the rubrics with that explanation and let the student use it in the future to guide what areas they need to work on and cement in their minds the areas that they are good at.

  50. Dear Nathan, I do believe, and probably so do Herr Harrell and Monsieur Slavic, that your idea of some sort of related progress-tracking portfolios merit at least a bit of serious thought. What say?

  51. Just one more sudden thought. Even for us CI/PQA/TPRSers, use of the presentational-mode rubric need not be entirely rare. For example, it should be used whenever any of us has students at least minimally transform a classroom mini-story into one that they can legitimately claim to have authored as a mini-book to be used used in a free-volontary-reading program for others. What about also applying it to any (homeworked?) transformation of perviously performed free writing into a mini-story? Etc.?

  52. Robert Harrell

    Frank, I agree that we simply need to expand – at least for the sake of surviving in most school districts – our definition of “presentation” so that it includes things not normally viewed as presentation. In another post there was a discussion of giving assessments in which the students primarily manipulate things provided. I believe they were the equivalent of “sentence frames” in ESL jargon.
    Here is my only slight tweaking of the Presentational Rubric:
    – Using previously acquired German, plus supportive non-verbal means, to present accurately informative material consisting primarily of their own comprehensible, substantially well-spoken and/or well-written sentences.
    I’ll post my complete letter and rubric to my website and then let everyone know where they can download it with formatting. Then just replace whatever you need to. One thing I really like is that we have a rubric that is only one page. (That’s another consideration in these things)
    Also, with everyone’s permission, I thought I would post a copy to the moretprs files; there seems to be a little discussion going on there about grading.

  53. Yeah go for it over there on the list. I consider this discussion absolutely critical to our success next year and Frank and Nathan and Robert you three have opened up a big can of Whoop Ass on this. We MUST assess properly. Robert if you consider it closed and you are happy with the document, I think Frank will plug in the French and we can get this up on the posters page of this site. I’m sure there will be tweaks, but if we can say that we are aligning with standards when we hold the kids to certain behaviors then I think we can say that the problem is pretty much solved. Does that jive with what you guys are thinking at this point?

  54. BOOM BOOM BOOM!, Herr Harrell! Just the right touch of extra polish for our infinitely reciprocal versions of previous versions!
    And Ben, since it ain’t no jive, not just feckless curricular bull shit that has little or nothing to do with language acquisition, of course it jives with all the best that all of us professionally– and humanely!– think and feel in at least our better moments.

  55. Robert Harrell

    Ben, yes I think the rubric is basically done – as always, subject to tweaks.
    However, the implementation piece needs to be done. Nathan has offered some wonderful ideas. I also want to get a mechanism in place to keep track of this. I’ve seen some methods of “bookkeeping” that are so complicated I know I will never keep up with them. So I’m looking for something fairly simple and straightforward.
    One idea that has possibilities is to keep a roll sheet handy. As long as there are no marks for a student, the grade is Proficient since that is what I’m teaching for. Whenever I observe performance above or below the standard, then I make a mark. Kind (positive/negative) and number of marks help me remember the evaluation. Just an idea.

  56. Yeah, Boomster Bob, we don’t want any assessment tracking system as complicated the as the feckless,onerous expensive, and most likely counter productive 12-year test-test-test- and-track system proposed by the Obama-Duncan Department of Education.
    And Ben, don’t to forget insert Boomster Bob’s above-stated final few tweaks to our joint PRESENTATIONAL MODE (FOR SPEECH AND/OR TEXT), also with my own final tweak within this parenthesized part of my highlighting here.
    Plus, dear Ben and Bob, one more minimal final adjustment of mine in our interpretive-mode that slightly tweaks its “GENERAL COMPREHENSION . . .” statement into “GENERAL COMPREHENSION OF FRENCH IN FAMILIAR CONTEXTS, AS WELL AS OF ITS SPECIFIC COMPONENTS:”

  57. OK but for me in my world if it ain’t simple I won’t do it. I’m too busy providing CI in the form of listening and reading to my kids to get hamstrung by anything. The goal for me is that this hold their feet to the fire but be simple.

  58. P.S.: As you all well know, general comprehension of parts of speech does not necessarily imply facility in explicit identification by name, but simply just pragmatic use of them to properly comprehend input and produce output.

  59. I love where this is going. As Ben has said, simpler is better. Now….having said that…this document really has more power in the hands of methods teachers and mentor teachers than with parents. Parents will receive 5-7 of these letters per child in September. They will barely skim it. I know, I know, we have to provide it for later in the year when they do not understand and we have to revisit the document….but….it is only going to be necessary for a few parents per year.
    This kind of work needs to be put in the IJFLT when completed. It needs to go on everyone’s blog with credit to Robert. It needs to get OUT THERE. It is for language teachers. Go back and read it. Only language geeks (I say this with great love) will care about any of it. That is why we are getting all goosebumpy over it. :o) It’s beautiful.
    Let’s make sure that it gets where it needs to go….and parents….as much as I love them….will need it the least.
    with love,
    Laurie

  60. “…it is only going to be necessary for a few parents per year…”
    Laurie you said it. That’s it. If I had the doc ready to roll with about ten kids last year, that’s all I would have needed. Actually more like two. Why waste trees? I also will have it on my classjump.com (class) website. It is the alignment with national and state standards that we need, and now Robert’s alignment at a deeper level with ACTFL, which (just by being understood clearly by whoever reads it) debunks those who still teach in the way they did in the 20th century without any attack on them. In our district they (book driven teachers of discrete grammar and people who still believe that English is an effective medium to teach another language) are backpeddling fast. DPS has made an amazing turnaround this year. This document is just another, deeper, way to state our case. It’s odd, but I never thought that I could say that people who teach the old way are actually starting to think about their job security now. Some are smelling the coffee and LEAVING, their ground having been taken away from them by the changes of the past six years in our district. That is not an idle statement – it is real and happening right now in our district. But I digress as usual – the point was that I am not going to publish Robert’s work and send it out to parents if I know they don’t need to or won’t read it, if they “get” the change already. Tonite I feel like the runner who started to run a marathon and just turned their mind off because they knew it was going to be a long haul and suddenly realized she had run like 12 miles. We’re on our way, y’all. Unbelievably.

  61. I have to admit that I haven’t had time to do a deep reading of the posts today and won’t for awhile; I’m in the middle of some deep restructuring with both my high school and district on how we configure our curriculum and professional development around students (in response to the RtI model) and will have a deep brain drain from that for the next while.
    That said, I don’t think that rubrics have to be difficult if you set them up correctly. The rubrics I hate to use as a teacher have a bunch of stuff written out in each box under each category. For example, a line on a speaking rubric evaluating fluency might read something as follows:
    Advanced: Has no hesitation in evident in speech
    Proficient: Occasionally hesitates but this does not impede comprehension
    Developing: Hesitates often but understandable for experienced listeners
    Emerging: Hesitates frequently while speaking but still comprehensible
    Beginning: Has lengthy pauses in speech that impede comprehension
    You DON’T need all of that text. Put a quick line that states “Speaks fluently, minimizing hesitation” and then a quick empty table to the right with headings for Advanced, Proficient, Developing, Emerging or Beginning that you can drop a checkmark into whatever applies. Nobody reads all those long, drawn out rubrics, and I think their complexity impedes how often we use and develop them. Keep it simple, check things off, and do it often. The greater good is to be seen in a longitudinal sequence of ratings rather than a painfully precise description.

  62. Oh, one last thing on that rubric I just described. I shade in the “Proficient” column darker than the others to indicate that it is the intended goal and that it’s okay not to have to max out every assessment. That way I find it easier to be reserve my advanced ratings for the students who really extra mile it. I’m perfectly happy with proficient; I’m thrilled in fact because it means they can work independently in that area.

  63. Nathan, thanks for reinforcing my own thinking. I had already come to the conclusion that the only rubric needed is for Proficient. That’s really the goal of my teaching, so why define anything else? Some of my reasons:
    1. Defining Proficient gives students a single goal that they can zero in on.
    2. If we give them a list of definitions for the other levels, it’s like providing them with a menu – they can pick and choose what they want, deciding if the “menu item” (grade/rating) is worth the “price” (amount of effort) and deciding what they can afford or want to pay for; having a single goal does away with the menu mentality.
    3. “Advanced” is anything that goes beyond Proficient; it doesn’t need any more description than that. “Basic”, “Below Basic” and “Far Below Basic” are also easily explained, based on how far below Proficient the product falls.
    Even the example that Nathan gave is relatively simple compared to some of the rubrics I’ve seen. Here in California we have a key player on the Standards committee who make the simple seem complex and turn the slightly complicated into truly byzantine. I think part of the reason many people are ignoring the Standards (besides there being no one who enforces them) is that they seem so complicated and difficult to understand. They say essentially what the National Standards say but had to be put into a more complex format.
    Can you imagine the monster our collaborative effort would have become if we had tried to define all those different levels? Igitt!, as the Germans would say.
    This afternoon I was at a workshop on Standards-Based Grading. It was given by a science teacher from one of the other high schools in my district. He was simply describing what his department has been doing in this area. I enjoyed the presentation and got some ideas on dealing with the mechanics of our particular grading program (Aeries) but nothing that took me beyond the work that has been going on here at Ben’s Blog.
    Totally Off Topic
    A friend of mine is a librarian. She told me about a couple of students who came in looking for books for a research project. They needed to get information on two Founding Fathers: Ben Jamin and Frank Lin. Aren’t they on this blog?

  64. I hope it is ok to give some broad non-specific feedback on this. I have been reading this thread quite hungrily, yet cautiously. It is brand new to me. Something I am eager to eat, a giant cake, but I feel like I have swiped my finger along the edge of the frosting, tasting so that nobody will notice. I decided I like it a lot and have gone back for several swipes. Like Nathan, I need more time, but I will soon chow down!
    I agree heartily with keeping the rubrics simple. I am a beginner here, and I feel like my main focus is still on learning the process in my classroom, so I can get overwhelmed with too many rules and checklists. I will admit here in public (gasp) that I have never really used rubrics. I tried once (!) but it gave me that creepy feeling that Nathen described of it being a menu for kids to decide how much effort they wanted to put in. It also felt like an invitation to litigate for those kids who like to spend their energy arguing rather than being present and making an earnest effort. Focusing on the definition of proficiency rather than spelling out what might be “advanced” makes perfect sense to me! I have always despaired about every other grading system in which a kid can get an A yet be unable to hold the most basic conversation.
    Rubrics aside, the correlation of ACTFL standards to the human elements of “showing up” is the most important piece. I have never seen anything like it. The love and work that has gone into crafting this document is priceless and soooooo timely for me personally because in a couple weeks I will be in meetings with ??? (who knows) my department head and/or administrators? and I will be able to use this work to explain what I so far have been unable to. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for all of you doing this work!

  65. The prezi that Nathan mentioned has really helped me this year with helping kids understand the standards, but I love the idea of describing proficiency only. I felt so lazy in the last weeks when I would put just that category up. Then if kids wanted further explanation of their proficiency rating, I would point to the pictures of the bikers (Kelly is going to start sharing posters outside our school soon!) and ask whether they felt they were riding in a safe, predictable environment, or whether they were using training wheels (or, for that matter, whether they had tied their bike to a tree for most of the year).
    Describing only “Proficient” is a huge breakthrough for grading purposes. What great brains we have here. Thank you all for your generosity and openness.

  66. Robert Harrell

    Jen, thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, except in Denver Public Schools (and a few other fortunate places), most of us have to keep justifying what we do – to administrators, to colleagues, to parents, to students, to outsiders, to people we are trying to help, etc. Yesterday at the Standards-Based Grading workshop I attended, I gave our World Language TOSA (teacher on special assignment) a copy of the rubric we developed. At some point I will need to defend that because parts of it look like I am giving an “academic grade” based on citizenship and/or work habits, something expressly forbidden in the California Education Code. So, this afternoon I sat down and started writing a “rationale” based on the CA Standards. I’m pasting it below just in case it helps you in any way and also to get comments and suggestions from the others. This document is aimed almost solely at administrators.
    The California WL Standards and the
    Three Modes of Communication
    The World Language Content Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve is a document that seeks to set standards for language acquisition within a multi-faceted, diverse and highly variable system of instruction. The document does not set grade-level expectations, rather it describes levels or stages of linguistic and cultural acquisition.
    According to the Content Standards, “For ease of presentation, the standards are separated into five categories: Content, Communication, Cultures, Structures, and Settings. They should to be taught together and in practice merge into seamless instruction within the various stages of the Language Learning Continuum.” [Italics mine] How these five categories are organized and related to one another within a course of study is not prescribed. There are a number of possible organizing principles but, I believe, only one that constitutes best practices.
    Since the purpose of language acquisition is to communicate, it seems logical to make this category the overarching structure which contains the others. This seems particularly advantageous in the area of assessment. After all, it doesn’t matter how much someone knows about content, culture, structures and settings; if no communication takes place, it is all for naught.
    The Content Standards state, “Real-world communication occurs in a variety of ways. It may be interpersonal in which culturally appropriate listening, reading, viewing, speaking, signing, and writing occur as a shared activity among language users. It may be interpretive in which language users listen, view, and read using knowledge of cultural products, practices, and perspectives. It may be presentational in which speaking, signing, and writing occur in culturally appropriate ways.” The ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners call these ways of communicating “modes of communication”.
    Within just this paragraph, the primacy of the modes of communication stands out. Culture contributes in a variety of ways, and this is stated explicitly as being subsumed under the idea of communication. Implicit as well are the concepts of Content (the “what” of communication), Structures (the “how” of communication) and Settings (the “when” and “where” of communication). In fact, the four remaining Standards seem more aimed at the teacher than the student. They are a checklist of themes or topics (Content) about which the teacher needs to communicate with students, the tools (Structures) that the teacher needs to give to students so they can communicate, the background for understanding (Culture) that the teacher needs to impart and the contexts (Settings) which the teacher needs to create.
    A curriculum that is modes-of-communication driven and assessed will naturally include content without the necessity of thematic units and structure without the necessity of grammar units, as well as settings and culture. The danger of thematic and grammar-based curricula is the perceived necessity to “cover” a certain amount of material, to the detriment of acquisition, fluency, rigor and relevance.
    By making the primary requirement that the teacher communicate in the target language at least 90-95% of the time (ACTFL standards), the foundation and parameters for true rigor and relevance, as well as acquisition, are set.
    If, as the US Department of State declares, relevance means using content material that has a prior intellectual or emotional connection for students, is connected to real life, actively engages or involves students, comes from someone else who has a contagious passion or enthusiasm and is novel (http://www.state.gov/m/a/os/44875.htm, “Developing Inclusive International Schools, Chapter 7: A-4 Relevance and academic rigor of content”), then only a curriculum driven by the modes of communication can be truly relevant. (Unfortunately, in the public school setting, individual teachers have little or no control over the final aspect of relevance: timing – i.e. the student is not hungry, tired or distracted.)
    In addition, only a curriculum driven by the modes of communication can be fully rigorous, which the Department of State defines as including depth and integrity of inquiry, sustained focus, suspension of premature conclusions and continuous testing of hypotheses. (Ibid.) Since sustained focus is supported by varying the pace, groups and activities, developing a personal code system with students, and asking mediative questions (Ibid.), then use of the three modes of communication as the organizing and assessing principle addresses these concerns as well.

  67. You’re an animal. I just don’t think they’ll understand it. It’s like you haven’t done enough work on this already, but I say cut where you can cut it – maybe bullet edited points along with as per Nathan above, and expand on this part of the document:
    “…the danger of thematic and grammar-based curricula is the perceived necessity to “cover” a certain amount of material, to the detriment of acquisition, fluency, rigor and relevance…”.
    Most of those principals won’t get that as it is written. They will blur it out. They have been made – by their employees – to think that the world is made of pacing guides and thematic unit instruction. Those teachers that inform what principals think already have huge shields of verbage in their district and building documents that allow them, precisely, to avoid aligning with the current research and that allow them to continue using Realidades. The current documents that they have save them from having to do the hard work of true alignment. Why change if no one is going to fire me? I think that you have there an explosive device, a career-threatening document (no exaggeration on that) and one can’t blame teachers (many of whom own their principals) for their acting like the idea of teaching 95% in the target language is fictitious, and that “Krashen is great, but….”. Those teachers aren’t kahunified in this area. The rubber will meet the road with each individual administrator. Some will see and get this. Some won’t. Principals like business as usual, don’t they, especially when their entire department is singing “The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops. My principal told me he want one thing – team players in the department. Well, 7 of 10 teachers in my department are still hiding in the 1950’s Bus. Just don’t take it all on yourself, Robert. Who is aligning with you in this thing? Are there enough of them riding next to you? I feel so comfortable being able to kind of walk right behind Diana and let her blow the path clear for the 1 of 4 of us in DPS who are in our TCI group, those you met last summer with your Coach Team. Ride on, but get ready for some dragon breath coming back at you. I love this. It’s real in your face. It’s a principal outer. Maybe write the document in such a way that a twelve year old could understand it.

  68. Make sure, everyone, to thoroughly read the world-language skills map for which Robert has above just provided the link. MAKE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN TO THE CONTRAST BETWEEN “THEN AND NOW”.
    But for all the good on that “map”, I– and I presume we– find some of its content objectives to be counterproductively (and maybe even irrelevantly) overambitious, in the first two years of language study. I propose that some of those are simply panic reactions to the overwhelming failure of traditional language instruction to fire up any appreciable desire for learning and acquiring a language rather than just superficially learning about it. They’re willing to try anything that seems even remotely plausible, except a full plate of us (supposedly not eclectic enough). What might be Susan’s take on that ?
    By the way, Robert: superb indictment of our self-styled educational leaders!. HAY HAy. You remind me a bit of, from a long ago, that German– what was his name? The guy who they say nailed that accusatory thesis on the door of his spiritually dead superiors.
    I’ve written a little something somewhat along the lines of your above mini-thesis, but much milder and not very satisfying to me so far. I’ve sort put it aside for now. Man, I want to listen a bit to the wonderful French radio station called France Culture and read some French. I’m not a mere academic bureaucrat. I’m a thoughtful person with strong intellectual interests directly related to what I teach. And if I can’t reserve myself enough time and energy to actually do what I teach, how can I consider myself worthy?

  69. Robert Harrell

    I made a copy of the “then and now” page to share with my colleagues. Sadly, I had to observe that this is in large part a piece of fantasy literature. My district, at least, is still stuck in “then”. Very few districts, it seems to me, have reached what is being described as “now”. This, in addition to Frank’s observation about the overambitious content goals, make the skills map fantasy.
    Ben, thanks for your comments. When I did the PowerPoint I did a lot of trimming – who needs all of that text on a PowerPoint? But I really did think that the original document was pretty straightforward. What’s not to understand? “Cover the material” = shallow, onerous and boring; “Communicate in the language” = deep, rigorous and relevant.

  70. Robert Harrell

    BTW, Frank all that German guy wanted to do was open a dialogue and talk about the issues. The people “in authority” got all defensive. If it sounds familiar it’s because people in positions of authority usually get more concerned about maintaining their supposed authority than about doing what is right. Definite parallels to World Language instruction today. We are threatening the power structure. I got an oblique warning from my principal just today about letting things “come down from the district” rather than doing grassroots work.

  71. Hey, Robert’s Boss Man, grassroots work is grass doing what it supposed to do: grow into healthy sustenance for needy lambs. ‘Tain’t goin’ tuh doo dat if acid rain is what comes down.

  72. Robert,
    I like your document especially the rationale to parents about Standards-Based grading. How many different standards do you believe that you will addressing? In “Presentational” you seem to deliver a number of indicators that a student has reached proficiency: free write, use of vocabulary, accurate use of language. Last year was my first year using Scales, as we call them in our district. I’m refining my use of them and trying to find a way to have fewer scales that still deliver good information about learning, which is the goal of standards-based learning. I currently use 11 scales that are aligned with the California standards.
    The difficulty is accurately defining proficiency in each standard. We took a Marzano approach in our district and defined proficient and approaching proficiency. By defining those two per scale, you have essentially created a 4-point rubric. If you do more than proficient then you’re advanced and if you do under proficiency then you are basic.

  73. Hi again, everyone. Frank did a great job of abridging the letter to students and parents, and then I tweaked it a little bit more. Right now I think I will use it on Back-to-School Night and as part of the Introduction to the class. In conjunction with the Prezi on riding a bicycle, this and the rubric can help set a solid foundation for understanding (parents and students) and accountability (teacher and students). When dealing with administrators I will use the longer version – they seem to be impressed by “babbling with many words”.
    Below is the shorter version of the letter to parents and students:
    Dear Parents and Students:
    I have committed myself to Standards-Based Grading (SBG). This represents a change from what most people think of when they think about grades, so perhaps an explanation of what SBG is and how it looks in the world-language classroom is in order.
    What is Standards-Based Grading?
    Under SBG, students cannot get a satisfactory grade just for doing a certain amount of work. Instead, students must show mastery of world-language performance standards described by the State of California and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). They need to compare their performance with those standards to see if they exceed, meet, or fall below them. This method of grading works well in the world-language classroom.
    What’s different about a foreign-language class?
    A language is generally not acquired by studying it, its parts, and its structure, but by using it to communicate about everything else. The standards of proficiency proposed by the State of California and The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) deemphasize mere analytical learning about a language and culture in favor of participation in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use and global citizenship.
    What does Standards-Based Grading measure?
    In my German-language classroom, Standards-Based Grading focuses on the three modes of communication. Focus on the interpersonal mode evaluates how well students participate in a conversational exchange of messages in German to gain understanding. Focus on the interpretive mode evaluates how well they understand communication in both spoken and written German. Focus on the presentational mode evaluates how well they convey extended, largely uninterrupted messages in spoken and written German. I will be using the following markings: A = Advanced, for performance that exceeds the standard?; P = Proficient, for performance that meets the standard?; B = Basic, for performance that approaches the standard?; L = Low, for performance that is below the standard; F = Far Below, for performance that is far below the standard.
    What if a student doesn’t meet the goal or standard?
    Any time students fail to demonstrate a level of proficiency that satisfies them, they may come to me to discuss what might be improved and then re-submit a performance or product to show mastery of the standard. Of course, this must fall within the constraints of the school system and requirements to submit grades at regular intervals.
    How can parents best support their son or daughter in my German class?
    I am asking the parents of my students to foster and reinforce in them a scrupulous contribution of their 50% to the language-acquisition process so I can most effectively contribute my 50%. If both my students and I do our jobs, the class should be interesting, relevant, and enjoyable. Working together we can accomplish an excellent job of language acquisition.
    I am excited about sharing my love for German and the German cultures with your son or daughter and look forward to an enjoyable and productive year.
    Thanks for your help and support.
    Herr Robert Harrell
    Teacher of German
    I’m looking for a good, single word for “F”. I know “Failing” is a possibility, but does that have too much baggage from its current use? All of the other letters can be described with a single adjective that begins with that letter. The reason I am using this particular combination is because it is what students see on the standardized tests they take, and it is common in California with other people who are doing some sort of Standards Based Assessment. I didn’t want to give another set of alphabet soup.
    For anyone who missed it, here’s the link to the Prezi:
    http://prezi.com/axzlriy65i7x/daughertys-bicycles-performance-based-learning/

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