Rubric Under Attack

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55 thoughts on “Rubric Under Attack”

  1. The performance indicators that these people are using to attack Laura are here:

    The first thing that jumps out at me is the elitist nature of the descriptors. They are clearly written by four percenters for four percenters.

    Another thing that jumps out is how the novice level descriptors include terms like “expresses self on a varitey of topic using words, etc. that have been highly practiced and memorized [ital. mine]” – this is the opposite of how we believe languagers are learned.

    Since Laura teaches focusing on input, and those who are attacking her teach using “highly practiced” rote production/output, Laura is in a very difficult situation.

    By the way, I happen to know from Anne Matava, who taught in the same building as Laura a few years ago, that Laura is extremely good at teaching using CI, a very strong talent.

    So what we need to do now is to decide as a group how to respond. I suggest we:

    1. study the ACTFL link above.
    2. study the various and numerous jGR articles that can be found in the categories (jGR and ISR) and in the Primers above.
    3. Suggest to Laura some ideas as to how to proceed.

    My position is that we always seem to be having to pick our battles and that this is another one of those decisions. Do we support Laura or do we let her go the way of compromise that is clearly being imposed on her? She already signs resigned to the latter. My vote is to defend her, somehow. How this plays out will depend on the quality of our responses to Laura’s two specific questions above.

    1. Here is an interesting quote:

      “Stories are learned by heart, not memorized, allowing for play with words, flexibility, and adlibbing with each audience. ”

      This is a fascinating distinction. Stories are not word-for-word recitations. They are a sequence of events, populated with characters, the details of which can be changed to engage the audience.

      The contrast is with acting which “Typically requires memorization of scripts. Lines are committed to memory allowing little room for change.”

      “Highly practiced and memorized” is on the bottom rung of Bloom’s Taxonomy (memorize and recite). Revising and Rewriting are on the creating/synthesizing rung (5th). Retelling as we know, would be oral equivalent of Rewriting.

      Blaine has actors repeat. This also is bottom-rung Bloom. But those are props to keep kids engaged for the “learning by heart” approach of storytelling. As students and teacher create the story the teacher is teaching by heart and the students are learning by heart. On a simple vocabulary assessment I would think that we may not be able to tell whether they were learned by heart or (rote) memorized. In more complex assessments involving reading and writing I think it would be more obvious how the words had been learned.

      Once the student has learned the story by heart (through input and interaction), she is able to able to tell the story by heart (output).

      How do we get to output? The seemingly logical approach is by production. Memorize these words and those verb endings and make up a story. The research, however, shows that this direct approach is not the most effective approach. Rather, we arrive at output indirectly through quantities of input. The students produce stories after hours of learning by heart, listening to and interacting with the stories.

      The hard task is to convince people that the Interpersonal Mode is the immediate interplay of input and output. It would seem to be the most logical proposition. How could it be interpersonal if one person is doing all of the production? So there has got to be input. The next questions is What does input look like? jGR is a way to describe the student’s role in the interpersonal mode.

      Do we leaving students uneducated about their role?
      Do we expect interaction in any classroom and fail to define what we mean?
      Do we lead them along the steps to a greater outputting role or do we just push them overboard and wish them luck with their first swimming lessons?

      I found the first quote on Word Reference:

      The quote appears to be take from The Story Biz Handbook, p 40, which also contains the second quote.

  2. In terms of the new diploma, will Standards be combined/converted to result in a GPA, and is there a requirement for how many Standards you need to assess? If so, your new Interpersonal Communication Standard needs to be highly weighted (so it “counts” more towards the grade). This might require separating out some jGR elements into their own Standards. Think of a Standard as just one strand/domain of a rubric. If there isn’t a requirement, just make your new Standard part of only a few (not necessarily the modes of communication), so you can say “given that we are assessing only 3 Standards, your son is ignoring one of them and refusing to learn this language.” Boom, accountability.

    You need a clear definition of what your school’s new Standards need to look like so we can help you adapt jGR. Can you send any examples? I’d love to see what they’re doing. It’s likely that the Standard scale is a 7-point scale (4 levels + half points for partial). From there, it is a matter of adapting jGR. James probably won’t mind me linking Standards he was working on. Perhaps he could chime in with how they’ve worked out ( The first step, given how aggressive your community is, is probably losing the term “behaviors,” from jGR since most SBG systems have a separate way to report non-academic domains (e.g. Effort, Timeliness, Group Work).

    You should have no problem convincing anyone that the jGR, or variation of it, can be Standards-based. According to ACTFL (page 7 of, Interpersonal Communication involves the following (IN the target language, understood):

    1) Active negotiation of meaning among individuals.
    2) Participants observe and monitor one another to see how their meanings and intentions are being communicated.
    3) Adjustments and clarifications are made accordingly.
    4) Speaking and listening (conversation); reading and writing (text messages or via social media).

    The problem I see is trying to create a Standard sympathetic to input-based teaching using the output-heavy rubric on pages 14-15 of that ACTFL doc. I see all of the above Interpersonal features represented on the jGR as signals, gestures, and single word answers. There’s really not much more to communicating beyond that except for more words. The kids will get there, but we need a Standard they can achieve. Set your lowest Standard value (probably 1.0 on the scale) as not doing any of that, and work from there.

    Another possibility is creating a slightly different Standard for each new level of language class. I mean, a fourth year student will certainly communicate more effectively than a first year student.

    Also, check out Bex’s Standards (

    Does this make no sense?

    1. Thanks, magisterP, for referring to the ACTFL performance descriptors for the Interpersonal Mode. I’ve been referring to ACTFL as much as I can to legitimize my TCI.

  3. Lance this makes a lot of sense and is greatly appreciated. Can’t wait to read what others say as well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could show how Laura is in fact more closely aligned with standards than those attacking her?

  4. I have been thinking about the skills themselves and how they can be represented as “standards.” In the realm of communication, the “isolated skills” of negotiating meaning are really essential to develop.

    1) Active negotiation of meaning among individuals.
    2) Participants observe and monitor one another to see how their meanings and intentions are being communicated.
    3) Adjustments and clarifications are made accordingly.
    4) Speaking and listening (conversation); reading and writing (text messages or via social media).

    I’m still bumbling my way through this, but wouldn’t #2 and #3 above refer directly to the observable skills of responding (whether verbally or with a gesture or body language) and asking for clarification?

    #1 is the overall process that require #2 and #3. #2 and #3 are the very specific observable / documentable skills
    Also, #4??? Isn’t a conversation a big ole negotiation of meaning?

    I guess I just don’t really understand the standards. Are they simply “benchmarks” or something that students are supposed to reach? I know I have some homework to do on all of this. Sorry for my ignorance. I get that in the end, standards are outcomes. And I still think that negotiating meaning is an outcome based on developing skills.

    If the outcomes are simply chunks of language that kids are supposed to use, then they can memorize them and spit them out. This requires no engagement or negotiation. So how is that a conversation?

    1. jen said:

      …I guess I just don’t really understand the standards. Are they simply “benchmarks” or something that students are supposed to reach?….

      If students were supposed to reach them, then about 50,000 WL teachers would have to be fired because a very large percentage of their lower level students don’t come close to reaching them. Thus, favored memorizers are the only ones left at the upper levels and so those teachers look like they are doing a decent job of meeting standards at the upper levels. But what they are really doing is simply dumping most of the students off early to create that illusion. And no one has every called them on it. The myth of kids lacking foreign language ability is being perpetrated still.

    2. If the outcomes are simply chunks of language that kids are supposed to use, then they can memorize them and spit them out. This requires no engagement or negotiation. So how is that a conversation?

      And whoever doesn’t see the difference between memorization and acquisition, as you refer to here, jen, has either cloudy vision or some other agenda.

  5. Alisa Shapiro

    The well-placed qualifiers, “as appropriate,” or “consistent with expectations of Level 2 Spanish,” or even “developmentally appropriate,” etc. may help. Can the SB report be preceded by a 1-page narrative of how the T/CI class runs, incl a bit of embedded SLA?

    1. Awesome Krashen pun!

      Okay, I’m hoping to address administrator re-education.

      Poor Jen’s dilemma feels like a common song and dance: dealing with dummies who don’t understand CI and won’t listen–except that’s not true of ESL. The vast majority of ESL programs are able to teach using comprehensible input, and we have few problems getting admin on board–mostly because we have a specialized department and an ESL coordinator who supports us. Each year, my ESL coordinator has trainings for administrators and observers in what a CI classroom should look like (for ESL).

      Plus, we can assume that most ESL teachers are like me and they’re providing comprehensible input and are spending inordinate amounts of time re-educating principals, mainstream (math, science, SS) teachers, and even parents about what to expect in a CI classroom. (Not kidding, I’m stopped every five feet with one teacher or another asking what to “do about” Kid A or Kid B.)

      I hate to think that ESL and Foreign Language are duplicating efforts. How is it possible that your administrators know about CI? Haven’t your ESL teachers taught them? Also, are you sharing TPRS with ESL teachers (I know Ben shared he had poor reception when he tried.)

      I’m trying to understand the chain of command (which I guess may vary from school to school). Who are the administrators you would address about curriculum and what do they know?

      (I don’t know because administrators only ever talk to me about ESL.)

      Do you work under a county-wide foreign language department (or “World Language” or whatever)? How often do you meet with your peers? Do “regular” building-level admin sit in on foreign language curriculum mapping or is there a county-wide administrator who does this? Who observes you?

      I guess I’m trying to think aloud and troubleshoot: why aren’t Foreign and Second Languages combined-either by sharing resources (as a combined department with one set of administrators for both) or even just sharing training opportunities? Knox County Schools, TN (home sweet home) combines both Foreign and Second Languages in one department. Are your departments too big or too small or too dissimilar?

      1. Robert Harrell

        Most schools place ESL in the English department. After all, they both teach English, right? Just in different ways to students with different needs using completely different curricula – but those are minor differences, mere trifles. */sarcasm mode off*

        It makes a lot of sense to me for ESL and Foreign Language to be together, at least for the early stages of ESL – except that some ESL programs use a book and curriculum that has been chosen for political reasons rather than language acquisition.

        1. You’re right that ESL & ELA overlap more for advanced learners and foreign language & ESL overlap at beginning levels, but districts typically have a separate department, always with a central-office administrator responsible for Title I & III funding and laws related to NELB students.

          Are your districts big enough to have a Foreign Language administrator- not “department head” teacher? If so, how much support do they give you?

          I think it’s funny you say ESL uses textbooks cause that’s the perception we have of Foreign Language. I’ve taught in four counties and I’ve never been asked to use a textbook. There is a lot about CI that the vast majority of ESL teachers understand, practice, and share with administrators that you can benefit from. I just see you guys fighting the good fight and being so courageous and I want to help.

          1. Are you having problems more with foreign language colleagues in your buildings or evaluators & admin in your building? Do they “support” you or just let you fly under the radar or they straight up go after you?

            Do admin willfully misunderstand CI (like traditional foreign language teachers) or are they just not finding time for you or they’re getting mixed messages/misinformation from the department? All or none of the above?

          2. My program is too successful for them simply to ignore me, and my principal likes me. In fact, if I mention the word “retirement”, she says “No! No! No!” Since taking over the German program and then adopting a comprehensible input method, I have seen the following things happen:
            1. The program has grown from three sections with perhaps 50 students to five sections with 180 students.
            2. More students remain in the upper levels (German 3 and 4); a few years ago I did an analysis and found that I have a retention rate of 70% from freshman year to senior year.
            3. I have sent several students on full-year exchange programs to Germany, causing my district to have to figure out how to give them high school credit.
            4. I have had reasonably good AP pass rates even though I do not teach at all to the AP test, and only a handful of students (if any) take the exam each year.

            Because I am the only German teacher in a seven-high school district, I am generally left alone and allowed to do “my thing”. There are a couple of other teachers in my district who also teach using Comprehensible Input: one Spanish teacher at my school, another Spanish teacher at a different high school, and one French teacher at a third high school. We collaborate together and attempt to present any interested teachers with both some research and practical tips on teaching with CI.

            Throughout the district, we have an extreme range of practices. I am the most “radical” in terms of taking the SLA research seriously and incorporating its implications into my teaching. (But then I tend to be that way; a colleague commented not too long ago that I was the one Christian she knows who truly tries to live out what he believes.) Practices then run the spectrum all the way to basically Grammar-Translation, or at least Present, Practice, Perform, and follow the textbook page by page. Occasionally, I will have one of the more grammar-oriented teachers confront me about TPRS or CI, but the discussion rarely lasts very long because they are basing everything on, “Well, I’ve done it this way for XX years, and my students do just fine on the tests” while I am saying, “According to the research from Butzkamm, Chomsky, Asher, Krashen, VanPatten, Wong, Spada and Lightbrown, Hadley, and others …”

            I also work very hard to educate my administrators about what I do. Whenever one of them stops by my classroom, I make certain that I go to them personally afterwards to thank them and then engage them in a one to two-minute conversation about why I do what I do. Whenever I have a formal evaluation, I spend the pre-evaluation conference explaining what the observer should look for. Whenever I have a parent meeting (IEP, 504, etc.), I explain how the grading in German works but try as much as possible to avoid stating a letter grade. Percentages are irrelevant. Hanging next to the door of my room is an observation checklist, and I ask visitors to fill it out and give me feedback.

            For years I have worked to present CI to both administrators and colleagues with mixed results. On the one hand, a handful of teachers have moved in the direction of CI instruction – some farther than others – and the administrators on my campus are supportive of what I do. On the other hand, there are others who are extremely resistant. Fortunately I do not interact much with the latter.

            My district has a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) working as the Foreign Language Coordinator plus a TOSA as Heritage Language Coordinator, but their ability to influence practice is limited. The FL Coordinator tells me that my school is the most “progressive” of all seven high schools as far as teaching with CI and “communicative” methodology is concerned. (I long ago learned not to react to the use of buzzwords by people who have not read the research as extensively as I have.) Without being egotistical, I believe that this is because I have both modeled and advocated for CI in my school for so long and have results to show for it.

            At the same time, though, most of my colleagues on campus are stuck in practices from the past. Tomorrow is a collaboration day for us, and my department chair sent out an e-mail letting us know that she will show us “a poster I created using Canvas to teach the imperfect”. This grates on me incredibly. First of all, it shows a total lack of either awareness or incorporation of SLA research in teaching – though, to give full acknowledgment, she teachers Heritage Spanish 2 and so is dealing with students who have acquired a great deal of language and are perhaps ready for explicit grammar. Second of all, this does me absolutely no good unless I look at it from the perspective of “oh, a new bit of technology that I could explore if I had the time and weren’t overwhelmed by all the new technology that they keep telling me is so great.” German does not have the imperfect tense and certainly does not use tenses the same way Spanish does, so this poster is a waste of my time pedagogically – yet I have to sit through the “collaboration”.

            Most of the time I simply do my job and teach. When given the opportunity, I share my practices and the research and theory behind them. I try to encourage my colleagues to adapt their teaching to incorporate that research. Sometimes it does get discouraging, particularly when I consider my colleagues’ absolute failure to engage in professional development that is not provided by the district and/or for which they receive a stipend. ACTFL was in San Diego last year; I was the only attendee from my district. California Language Teachers Association had a conference in our city about four years ago; three of us went – the main three who already teach with CI. I am part of a group that presents workshops each year (a kick-off in August, a Fall workshop, and a Spring workshop); I can count on one hand the number of teachers from my district who have attended on their own money. (We did have one school come with a number of teachers because the district paid for it. The other two main CI teachers in my district are also part of the group presenting.)

            I refuse, however, to allow any of that to deter me from teaching the best I know how and seeking to become better. I consider it an ethical and professional obligation to give my students the best foreign language experience I can.

            Okay, that was probably far longer than you expected. Thanks for reading to the end.

          3. Worthy of emulation. I have two colleagues with whom to share this. One may have already seen it on the blog (Amy). But some days there is so much activity you blink and fail to see the answer to the question you asked. Two of your sentences stood out because they are connected to the fact that it is eval time.

            1. “I long ago learned not to react to the use of buzzwords by people who have not read the research as extensively as I have.” I am still learning this. I have to smile, though, when many of the buzzwords are words that I introduced into the conversation and they are twisted against me. I have to give them credit, though. They had to go find “teacher-centered” on their own. It makes it easier for me, too. I can respond to two evals with one answer. Buzzwords cause tunnel vision. I accept the challenge: it here is no thought put into buzzwords.

            2. “teach the imperfect” One observer watched us do a re-ask on a story. The kids did great. I didn’t do so bad myself. I started it as a review. The evaluator came in and we just kept going. The evaluator was not quite sure what to make of it. She said she could see the benefit, but was sure that I was teaching the imperfect. It being in the past time frame we used several imperfects to set up the action (there was, was named, needed, had, was happy). I went back and looked and, what do you know?, there it was lots of imperfective aspect. It never occurred to me. (And it seemed not to have occurred to the evaluator that the vocabulary was coming directly out of the textbook lesson that we were doing then. The bad thing (my misdeed) is that I was teaching my kids the imperfect and we have not done that lesson yet. Of course, you know that the imperfect is the action that was already going on when the preterite decided to roll out of bed and get dressed for the day. On top of that, it was suggested that we have some more authentic communication (without the imperfect). I should have learned German so I would not be so tempted to use the imperfect for imperfect action and states of being.

          4. On top of that, it was suggested that we have some more authentic communication (without the imperfect).

            So sorry you have to face this, Nathaniel. It’s so crazy how everyone one of has to put on the armor of a warrior.

            Of course, you know that the imperfect is the action that was already going on when the preterite decided to roll out of bed and get dressed for the day.

            I have to remember this one! I have to admit that I only gave up trying to understand those painful, meticulous explanations of the differences between the preterite and the imperfect when I discovered TPRS and this blog. And boy, was it freeing. The clouds blew away and the sun shone on my Spanish acquisition on that day. (That on the differences between por and para.)

          5. Hanging next to the door of my room is an observation checklist, and I ask visitors to fill it out and give me feedback.

            This is a great idea, Robert. (One of many.)

          6. “My program is too successful for them simply to ignore me”

            This is beautiful. You’re like the Beyoncé of SLA. You’re so hot, haters can’t ignore you.

          7. He’s a survivor/he’s not gonna give up/he’s not gon’ stop/he’s gon’ work harder.

  6. We have a “participation” component in our grade breakdown. It is undefined.

    (There seems to be an unspoken definition in the mind of my longstanding evaluator: 1. whatever everyone else is doing, 2. whatever Nathaniel is not doing.)

    Participation can include a lot of things. Bringing pencils, pens, and notebooks to class. Having HW in class to go over. Raising hand to give the answer. Speaking the language.

    I remember pre-TPRS when quiet kids could get lower participation grades than talkative kids; when timid kids could get lower grades grades than more outgoing kids; when introverts could get lower grades than extroverts; when listeners could get lower grades than speakers.

    To what extent do we want to penalize a student for being of the wrong personality type? Do we want to punish the child who loves the class and pays attention?

    There is an alternative.
    Define what it means to “pay attention.”
    Define what it means to interact at the level of one’s comfort level.
    Define how all kids can get credit for doing their best at their production level.
    Spell how one applies the interpersonal standard to students at the pre-production stage.
    JGR does all of that.
    Is there something better than jGR?

    Note bene: we call it jGR because of personal and historical factors dear to us. It will sound more like a standard if it is called “Interpersonal Communication Skills.” (ICS) Interpersonal is the first standard. Communication encompasses our purpose. Skills…well, who can argue with our kids having skills.

    I was cited for using ICS instead of Participation (like everybody else does). I think I will start using Interactive Communication Skills since we have a student expectation /rubric with that name. Maybe that sounds better any way. The one sounds like we are trying to get too personal. The other sounds like we want our kids to be active, yea, we want to be pro-active. We want them to self-advocate for a full understanding of what is going on in the classroom.

    The problem with output emphasis is partly just a social issue. Most miscommunication results from everybody talking and nobody listening. Unfortunately, the people who are challenging you are doing the lion’s share of the talking. But you may be able to listen to what they are saying. Are these state standards? District standards? School standards? Are there discrepancies when comparing one set of standards to another? Do any of them have a communication standard? Do any of them place value on listening?

    1. In our department we have created a scale of engagement that looks like this:

      Stage 1 : Attention (student is looking at/listening to w/intent to understand)
      Stage 2: Identification (student can locate sounds/text that are recognizable)
      Stage 3: Comprehension (student can visualize/dramatize meaning of the pieces they understand)
      Stage 4: Clarification (student will seek information needed to comprehend any missing pieces)
      Stage 5: Interaction (student will respond to aural input/text to the best of ability)

      It’s ‘jargony” which makes admins happy.

      It’s actually useful. We ask the student, “What stage are you at with this?” Then we ask, “What do you need to get to the next stage?” Sometimes the answer is as simple as, “I have to try.” :o) But it has encouraged students to a) realize that this is their 50% and b) We can help if we know where they are.

      It’s not going to solve a jGR issue, but this seemed like a good place to throw it at you all.

      with love,

      1. This is helpful Laurie. I like the idea of a “scale of engagement.” I think there is a scale of engagement in jGR as we move from right to left across the scale. Perhaps your scale reduces the stages from 4-5 levels of intensity at each stage to a yes/no for each level.

        Is this tied into the grade or is it an informal assessment?

        1. I should have prefaced this with a HUGE given, a message that we deliver from their first year on and reinforce as needed:

          We are professional educators. We understand language acquisition. The district has hired us with the expectation that we will lead classes where language is acquired. We have designed classes with that in mind. Students are required to participate.

          Then we work diligently to establish relationships with each student and each class. We adjust our plans based on our students. We are transparent about these decisions with our students.

          Students who do not engage/participate will not acquire. Therefore, their assessment grades will be low. If non-participation affects the other members of the class, it is then considered a discipline issue. We address it by working to strengthen our relationship with that student and finding ways for that student to have a place/way to engage successfully in class. It’s often easier for them to participate than to not!! This works in our favor. :o)

          We do not tie behavior to a grade. A) The disengaged student rarely cares about the grade B) Disengaged students don’t show growth anyway. C) The disengagement is rarely ever about Spanish. It is a signal that other issues are preventing this student from wanting to be successful and have fun!!!! This is a serious issue. D) The extra attention to the student as a person, rather than as a grade, is far more valuable.

          As for our scale…. it’s used more as a diagnostic tool when students need help.

          I didn’t hear it/don’t see it.
          Stage 1: I heard/see it but I don’t recognize it/can’t identify it.
          Stage 2: I can identify/recognize it but I don’t know what it means.
          Stage 3: I heard/saw it AND I recognize it AND I’m pretty sure I know what it means.
          Stage 4: I checked what I think it means with the context to see if I’m right.
          Stage 5: I totally get it and can respond verbally/physically to it.

          In assessments we often only grade students on Stage 5….and there is a lot that goes on beforehand that we want our students to recognize and use to their advantage.

          I can use it to set up formal assessments if I want to, but it is most valuable as a tool that we use as we use language to communicate.

          Hope that makes sense…

          with love,

          1. Absolutely love everything that this system and message transmits to kids, parents, and teachers. It is so clearly something that you have crafted that it makes me see you in the words.

          2. leigh anne munoz


            The ‘scale’ you describe is wonderfully put.
            I really needed to hear what you had to say, today.


            –Leigh Anne

          3. “In assessments we often only grade students on Stage 5….and there is a lot that goes on beforehand that we want our students to recognize and use to their advantage.

            I can use it to set up formal assessments if I want to, but it is most valuable as a tool that we use as we use language to communicate.”

            This is assessment perfection. We can use formative assessments with rubrics like jGR if we want to make them “formal” summative assessments we share with stakeholders. We just need to document and honor stages 1-4, as well as 5.

          4. PS: formal summative assessments = grades

            ISR (aka jGR) = an important piece of the grading puzzle

  7. Don’t forget the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, which seem to be a revision of previous versions:

    Interpersonal Communication: Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

    The process is stated first “Learners interact and negotiate meaning.”

    This is followed by the media “spoken, signed, or written conversations.”

    And it ends with the purpose”to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.”

    Interacting and negotiating meaning is the standard. Anything which supports that is standards based.

    The former “expresses” is half the standard. That is why there is so little communication. Nobody is listening. Everyone expressing to impress. The full standard is better stated in the inclusive term “interacts.” But if we are not negotiating meaning we are probably just speaking past each other like vehicles on the northbound and southbound sides of the highway.

  8. You are right that jGR has got to be shelved, Nathaniel, in favor of what term exactly? I favor the ISR acronym. Let me know what you want and we will decide and we will lock it in.

    The lovely jGR acronym. Its fine history I won’t forget. Robert and jen and I mainly. Back in the old days. Figuring it out over two years of waking up at night and feeling its importance.

    Then jen breaking through after well over a year of reflection here on the blog, actually turning our thoughts into a rubric that we could use, and the realization that we had struck a mother lode of gold.

    I guess it’s time to let the term jGR go now, and reflect upon those heady days of this blog when we were creating new things more than now, some new strategy it seemed like every day, compared to now when putting out fires and keeping our sanity seem more to be the orders of the day.

    In those early days, we created more new stuff than we could use and I would say that anyone who just arrived on this site in the past two years has no idea how much gold is hidden here in terms of strategies and skills definition and refinement.

    That’s why I wrote my fourth book which I am plugging here. It contains all the best things from the previous three books (10% of the new book) and all the new stuff created by the great teachers who read here (90% of the new book). I wrote the new book for me, so as not to forget all the wonderful things we did, to have them at my fingertips, and for new people. The Big CI Book – my best work. jGR, or whatever we start to call it now, is at the top of the list of some killer strategies in that most final book from me, which my heart is so deeply in. I can’t write anymore books. I’m done.

    All is well as we rest now, sacked out by the river of summer, in the fields, letting the heat come in to warm us from a tough winter, but also dreaming about being better at this work in 2015-16 than we were last year.

    I’m waxing a little philosophic here late at night. Things are good. We are good teachers and we are part of initiating great change on behalf of children. Part of me hates – yes I said hates – those who reject VP at the university level. I was at Stanford University yesterday and wanted to scream at them, for their prideful ignorance. I am too sensitive. But their beautiful Roman arches and palm trees hid an ugliness and it ran over me yesterday. I saw through it all. God what a war we are in! How much stronger is the opposition!

    But we must rest now. Now is the time to rest. The rustling of the arriving armies will be heard again too soon – in a few months. Some of us will meet soon and share strategies for the coming war. People of most strong heart and character. Heroes. I will see Laurie and the other summer regulars and my heart will fill with happiness. But now we rest.

    Rant over. Time to think about a midsummer night’s dream. Maybe a dream about being in a class and feeling what teaching can really be, feeling how high a class can fly. Who knows? Since such a thing has been a recurring dream with me for decades now, it could happen. Imagine. Being in a classroom and really wanting to be there, experiencing no fear, but only good reciprocal back and forth enjoyment of this magical thing we call language, which is so close, so close to God.

    My prayer to God tonight is:

    Dear God, in your great kindness for us who toil so hard in your classrooms, please bless us so that we can figure out how this profession of teaching languages can bring us closer to you, in your service. Thank you for the chance at having a career that is fun and real and not a false one, the old kind. Bless Helena Curtain and those who think in that way. Please protect me from taking her inventory and judging her. May we now learn to come together in this profession. May you take full charge of the transition so that we do not make the mistake of thinking that we did it alone. And may your timing define the change. Help us to lay our impatience and anger at your feet. Turn those things to dust. Amen.

    1. Amen, Ben.

      Now as to the moniker, I am not saying for us to shelve jGR. It may be the label for us to use to communicate among ourselves. However, we need to consider the particular language that sounds most like national, state, and local standards so that it is not rejected for simply being unfamiliar.

  9. The state of Maine is also using Laura Terrell as a “god” – she wrote the book “The Keys to Planning for Learning.” All their workshops revolve around what she has to say. She is their workshop leader at the big Standards Proficiency Based Learning conference/workshop at the end of June for the past couple of years. She was Keynote Speaker at our yearly conference in March. She also did a workshop presentation and it was standing room only. So….if anyone knows anything about her and what she preaches, then a tie to her would benefit Laura.

    1. Hi MB,

      I did not know anything about her, so I cannot help in this way. I went to ACTFL to see more about her book and saw what seems to be a recurring theme: a lot of confusion about interpersonal.

      I took a look at a sample lesson from the book which Laura Terrell co-authored. What stood out to me is that she does not seem to distinguish between presentational and interpersonal. Except that perhaps presentational is more project-like for making a presentation in front of the class and interpersonal is more telling someone else the information face-to-face.

      The key, though, is not looking like you are doing a presentation versus looking like there is a conversation with the learner doing all of the talking. The difference is the interaction. Unidirectional messages with no interaction is presentational. Interpersonal, on the other hand, is two-way communication in which learners interact and negotiate meaning.

      To be standards-based, the grade should reflect interaction and negotiation of meaning.

  10. Alisa Shapiro

    Please excuse my ever keen eye for the obvious, but it strikes me that PLANNING and DESCRIBING what we do -through curriculum docs, KUD’s (Knows Understands Does – another Wiggins/McTighe torture device), Scope & Sequence, Unit Themes, performance rubrics, assessments, evaluations, word lists, etc….which has totally hijacked our teaching profession, since what we signed up for was spending precious time developing meaningful relationships w/students around interesting content…never looked more inane and absurd than it does now, since I feel like I have a 30,000 feet perspective on what’s important in teaching WL (at my elementary level). Entering the world of T/CI, practicing/honing it these past 2 yrs, and learning here from you guys, sharing our struggles and victories, makes all that paper toil seem so freaking ludicrous.
    Is my philosophical bent today due to the (1st ever!) killer yoga class I just did?
    I don’t think so…
    Yes, rename the jGR and connect it w/the monikers du jour, wherever possible.

  11. Laura does any of the above help? Are we closer to an answer to your first question:

    1. Can jGR/ISR be defended as standards based when it does not measure output? How?

    When we use ISR we do in fact address the Communication Standard via the Three Modes’ Interpersonal Skill. We address it strongly and it brings out qualities about communication that we don’t get from many of our students if we don’t use it. But those in charge are telling you that speech has to be there*. In terms of the research they are wrong, but in terms of your building it seems that they get to make up the rules and if you don’t teach as they do you can be threatened like this.

    But to answer the question, yes, ISR is standards based since it addresses the Communication skill, but, since it is based on input first with speech output emerging later in a natural way, it conflicts with the way your colleagues see it, what they see as important.

    So it seems to me that you need to either set out to convince them that ISR is not only SB but also aligned with current research, or you give in to their demands. I wouldn’t try to convince them of anything, because they don’t want to heart it and your job looks as if it might be dependent on their Jabba the Hut whims at the current time.

    So what will you do? Capitulate? I wouldn’t blame you. Your job comes first. So if you do, then it is up to the group to provide you with a detailed answer to your second question:

    2. How does assessment and grading look like for those not using jGR/ISR?

    *Can you even imagine what the speech of their students sounds like? How can it be nice to listen to if they rarely if ever actually hear any of the language spoken in a comprehensible and meaningful way? Right? The top memorizers feed them what they want, which allows them to jettison a large portion of their students after the first year or two, swatting them away because they can’t or choose not to memorize, and they even get to criticize Laura who teaches all the kids in the room and invites them further into the language. It’s a pretty shady scheme they’ve got going, but since they are in charge, Laura has to do the sweating here. Without an administrator in the building who gets it, these language bullies get to have their way. Bless their hearts.

  12. Thank you all for your efforts at trying to help me with this issue. Much appreciated especially at this time of year with the burnout.
    I think there is some valuable language that I could use to support ISR. I’ll have to write it down and think calmly about it sometime after I recover in the summer.

    Achieving the 90% TL and above is REALLY very difficult.
    I know I myself use more English than I should. It’s the fast and easy way to get a message across. So I am responsible for this and have it as my ongoing improvement goal. If I use English why can’t they?
    The way I have always seen ISR (or jgr, or whatever we call the interpersonal rubric developed by you all many years back) is as the tool that guides the class on how to achieve the 90%. So when I apply the rubric to those who cannot control their blurting and inner group jokes, it turns out that it is my subjective opinion that takes their grade down, and not their little to no effort at staying in the TL.
    I have had this conversation in light of the actfl standard adopted in our school “Students meet the indicators when speaking/writing in short messages using highly predictable everyday contexts that are familiar to them. Recall highly practiced phrases and formulaic questions to respond”
    I know that I am doing much more than this memorized BS the standard determines. What they think would be more objective is if I only assessed them based on their output ( hear them stink at talking). I don’t want to give a “sit down and speak grade”. They think this would be more “objective”. But even with four years of Spanish (the most they can do in our system) their speaking truly sucks. It would really be easier to sink their grade by assessing their output, but this also means a lot of class time spent not in Spanish and giving in to output based instruction.
    My colleague next door who teaches with the book has no such problems. No problems with adapting to the standards, no problems creating or adapting rubrics. The book provides it all prepackaged and ready to go.
    I don’t know what I’ll end up doing. But I have to keep my job and sanity.
    Thank you all very much.

    1. “What [admins] think would be more objective is if I only assessed them based on their output ( hear them stink at talking). I don’t want to give a “sit down and speak grade”.”

      You said exactly what’s been on my mind, Laura! I’m getting that exact line of thinking over here in Scotland. I was told this week that my kids were “very behind” because they couldn’t use memorized phrases to tell my dept head “I am ____ years old” and “I live in _____.”

      What I’ve started with my 6th graders is giving them a list of “I can…” statements aligned to my standards and the most popular textbook curriculum, things like “I can describe places and people” or “I can tell that I like something”. As we go through our CI activities, some kids tell me they’ve met these goals – I sit down with them while the class is working independently and invite them to chat to me. If they can communicate meaning, we both sign off on that outcome. It feels less “sit down and speak!” and more “show me what you can do!”

      Could something similar work for you?

      1. That’s portfolio assessment, except we sit down with students with the written work/illustrations and all rubrics and we point right at “Look, you illustrated this Listen and Draw and you wrote X number of words. ” or “Look at this TPR rubric, you were able to follow directions ___% of the time” or “Look at this retell; you scored a perfect 4 on ___.”

        Then, we invite students to self-reflect in L1 if necessary, or using simple rating scales and they pick their goal for next time. This doesn’t apply so much at beginning levels, but with advanced ELLs (or I image Heritage Learners) you can even decide together what your next writing goals could be.

        (The above is totally optional but it works wonders for putting the

  13. Laura has no plan of action yet. Leah has generously offered to help one one one but this problem is not relegated to the Northeast quadrant up there. It’s not a local problem. It’s national and Laura’s problem is being repeated all over. It’s just that her problem is happening right now. She has expressed the need to rest, recover and then figure out a way to respond to the pressure in the building. But so far generally we are speaking in vague terms. How can we help, really? Maybe by rereading the questions and saying what we would do if we were in her situation. I know what I would do. I would compromise and keep my door shut next year. Those people want her to teach how they teach. I don’t see how she can do that because she has spent a long time mastering CI instruction. But she can fake them out a little, as we all have at some point. I know for certain that she can’t change their minds. I just don’t see her winning the current battle. Laura what about Anne? How was she received up there in that building? Of course, only share what you feel comfortable but the group may need more information to help you with this. I sense it is really serious. I will hold off on new posts for a bit. This concerns all of us because most of us either have been or will be in this situation.

    1. I agree, Ben! I would do a mixture:

      1. Act like I’m giving way.
      2. Close my door.
      3. Re-write jGR: quote the ACTFL standards at the outset, then break the Interpretive mode into smaller pieces as per jGR.

      I can’t imagine how the colleague can stay in all Spanish, unless of course s/he is doing NCI (non-comprehensible input). I have a neighbor who does that; when Bryce came to do model lessons, those kids didn’t know “walks,” “his name is,” or “he wants” after a month of Spanish.

      Isn’t the 90% rule for the teacher? I agree that simple directions and “what does that mean” should often be in English so as not to take up too much time. After that, CI is the only way in the world to achieve 90% and keep kids acquiring.

      Maybe I shouldn’t be talking. They’re trying to kick me out too…

    2. One compromise I remember is Ben’s “thematic vocabulary lists” from way back. Tell me if I am mistaken, but didn’t you used to give these lists to kids and have a “vocab quiz” once a week. This would appease the memorizers and give the illusion that you’re teaching to the book, but the grade didn’t count for much. The kids had to do this work at home. This could be a simple way to compromise, you know, without having to put a lot of extra work in. ???

      1. Yes jen thank you for remembering. I put so much work into that. But then after a few years in a school I felt no need to defend myself so I stopped doing it at that point, because half the kids didn’t do anything with them and the other half never remembered them after the test. Those thematic units and the CD’s I made to go with them really do quiet the rhinos down and make them slide back down into the water and put mud over themselves and their students knowledge of the language. I have a CD/DVD duplicator and when I hand the kids a CD that they must study at home along with the actual exhaustive list of vocabulary, with big tests once a month, everybody just seems so happy! What would be cool is if we could put links up somewhere (I put them on my school website) so the kids had access via a click to the vocab lists and the CD content, and the letter explaining it all to the parents, with the dates for the tests. I actually wrote a number of tests for them to use each year, but that got so boring I quit writing them. The beauty of those thematic unit tests was that I got street credibility without taking up any class time. If a parent came into a conference all hot and bothered about their kid’s grade, I just calmly inquired as to whether the child studied for the tests as they had been told at the beginning of the year. The ire of the parent was immediately transferred directly to the kid, the parent’s head would turn from me to the kid, and at that point I just leaned back and watched the fun. I will say one more thing – even the few kids who took those lists seriously didn’t actually remember more than a few of the words on them and they were the ones we used all the time in class. And then there was always one kid who remembered all of them but couldn’t speak the language for jack squat. What a big pain in the butt but it did help me a lot when I was new to a school.

        1. I put HF frequency words into Quizlet (trying to copy Ben, but found a bunch of thematic Quizlet units already in existence) and kids had to take tests and print out a screen shot of their results. You could also find Quizlet thematic sets in your own language and ask kids to do those by linking to them from your website. No work…

          That doesn’t solve the in-class, attentiveness question. It’s just one other useful thing to look good for–to compromise with–the traditionalists.

          Here’s the first of the HF Quizlet lists in Russian that I made:

          Here’s a list I found when I searched on the site for Russian food:

          It’s unlikely that anyone would have to create anything…just take the time to find eight or nine thematic lists and use those for your homework. Now that most have recordings, you don’t even need to make the CD. Helpful for the kids? Probably not. Useful to show that you’re assigning something? Possibly.

  14. Sounds to me like the best thing to do, before resorting to compromising and closing your doors next year, is refashion the ICS into language that your admin would like to hear (as has been suggested here).

    I work in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school so I’ve been combing through the IB subject guides to find suitable language to defend the TCI. I’ve recently tried to start a conversation with admin about what a common summative assessment would look like. Eric gave us lots of insight on this a while back, from which I gathered that a test of acquisition needs to have the following characteristics (like a QuickWrite):

    1) unrehearsed
    2) spontaneous
    3) focus attention on meaning and not on form
    4) time pressured

    More or less, Eric said:
    Implicit (unconscious) linguistic knowledge comes from focusing on meaning in the TL. How to test this? Through a monitor-free test. That test has to be unrehearsed and spontaneous, it has to focus attention on meaning, and it has to be time pressured. Those are, after all, real-life conditions for language use, so no one should argue with that. (says Eric on 4/20/15)

    However, it doesn’t sound like your admin, Laura, is open to a talk about how to best test levels of acquisition. Rather, it sounds like they don’t want to shake up the status quo.

    Whichever route you take will be a noble one as you seek to teach in a way you know your students learn. If you have to compromise for some time, all the while planting the CI seed in your school community so that someday it will grow to full bloom, or change schools where you could fully implement CI, either is a noble endeavor. I guess the question is if you stay, will that seed get any sun and water, or is your FL department more of an expansive desert of sand and wind; a place where the rains never come?

    I bet you have some educators in your building that will support your CI efforts, no?

    1. This is a beautiful message to Laura. Thank you for this Sean:

      …if you have to compromise for some time, all the while planting the CI seed in your school community so that someday it will grow to full bloom, or change schools where you could fully implement CI, either is a noble endeavor. I guess the question is if you stay, will that seed get any sun and water, or is your FL department more of an expansive desert of sand and wind; a place where the rains never come?…

  15. Alisa Shapiro

    To clarify, is the the admin or the WL colleagues (or both) that are an issue? We have ways of repackaging what we do with the right descriptors, Essential Questions, textbook connections etc. but if it all boils down to a form-focused common assessment then you’d have to compromise. I need further clarification on what they’re requesting Laura to replace…

    1. …I need further clarification on what they’re requesting Laura to replace…

      I doubt that Laura’s critics right there in her building even know the answer to that question. They just want power over her. She is probably way to successful for their blood, just as John Bracey and so many others here have been far too successful in their instruction in their buildings to avoid direct attacks, in line with what Robert said here last night.

  16. I keep thinking of a line from the James Asher video: “When speaking emerges, language learning has already taken place.” Or something like that. It’s unbelievable how difficult it is to show that this is true. It’s actually pretty easy with our students in class, but once you step out the door all bets are off.

    Everywhere in school, students are expected to “pay attention” yet nobody actually teaches them how to do that, how to bring attention back over and over when it wanders and how to even notice that it is wandering. We actually get to teach this practice as part of our “subject!”

    Everywhere in school and life, students are expected to “listen” or “listen actively” or “be engaged” but again, there is no specific practice of these important skills. We get to teach this practice too.

    Why does everyone focus on “speaking?” If everyone is speaking, who is listening? Are we expected to teach students to speak at people rather than interact with them? This is apparently what we’re supposed to do. What happens when the people they speak at respond? Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter. Everyone just speaks at each other in canned phrases and nobody listens anyway. “My name is Joe” “Hello, my name is Bill,what is your name?” “The dog is small” “I like pizza.” Where is the bathroom.” “The capital of Spain is Madrid.” “Goodbye” “Good morning”

    I might be missing something, but to me, the “scale of engagement” and/or “interpersonal skills rubric” address the specific observable skills that students can become aware of and focus on. How is this not standards-based?

    1. …everywhere in school and life, students are expected to “listen” or “listen actively” or “be engaged” but again, there is no specific practice of these important skills….

      And jen that is why the moment you took what Robert and I were talking about in terms of the Thee Modes here a few years ago and put it into rubric form, in that moment, the peace of traditional teaching was shattered. You found a way to define what those terms connected to listening actually look like. One would think that those who teach languages in our buildings would welcome such a definition, such a clarification of a term whose meaning we cannot assume everyone agrees on, and whose definition is far, far more important than how we define speaking, for those who know what that means.

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