Russ on Assessment

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43 thoughts on “Russ on Assessment”

  1. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    The whole grades and accountability monster is unfortunately not just going away any time soon.

    Teachers are trying desperately to CYA and those who understand CI are trying to also stay true to their beliefs while keeping their jobs. On this fabulous PLC we’ve discussed:

    1. Educating the administrators, which is often a comical if it weren’t so painful affair (though my district has been awesome and we have 2 Spanish positions available….)
    2. Getting a department-wide movement going – power in numbers
    3. Seeing what other districts are doing – observing others’ classes, beg/borrow/stealing/sharing documents, creating/attending regional CI meetings
    4. Finding a new T/CI friendly job

    I really don’t know what I’d do (other than read everything related to it here) if I had to fill a grade book and assign letter grades to my young novice students.
    ACTFL needs an overhaul for sure, but what to do about grading acquisition in process, other than the beautiful jGR?

  2. Ben,
    I am very glad we can keep discussing this topic so thank you for making it a new thread! As you said why even assess presentational mode? And I agree and it’s basically cya. My school says we must have everything in our Gradebook tied to standards. I actually am opposed to presentational mode not because I have never given a speech in Spanish other than in school, and not because it has nothing to do with acquisition, but because it is basically all kids do. Think about it. They are interacting online. Almost nothing is face to face. They can edit their speech, there are no real consequences if they don’t, and I feel it is taking away some of our humanity, and i say that without exaggeration. I also think that Alisa is right, sadly this isn’t going away anytime soon. But this PLC is helping. I am pushing for jGR, we have already shared Laurie’s Danielson framework for CI adaptation with Admin, and someone was talking about World Readiness Standards for Language Learning on a jGR thread and that brought something into my mind.

    If the standards are not aligned to research (BVP has said ACTFL tries as much to be theory neutral as possible) and they are not updated (Ben, Last time was officially 2012 I believe, but they seemed the same as the ones before that to me anybody correct me if I am wrong) then it’s time to get some new ones.

    I have looked at international ones and it ties into your posts on the Brits, but I am interested in finding other standards that may or may not exist to present to my district to say these are more in line with what we want 21st century students to be able to do.
    And finally, yes more than any skill or technique I have acquired as a Language Parent, Teaching to the eyes is the most powerful. It lets me have a window into their minds, I can see if they are just not quite to the Kathunk moment or if they don’t get it at all.

  3. Ben is talking revolution. Or insurrection. I got arrested twice for my beliefs. Not why again?

    That said: I see it three ways.

    1) CYA – Covert operation. May or may not go to a conference (usually lonely and vulnerable)

    2) Local (state or district) reform AWAY from ACTFL (do even care to listen?)

    2) We build our own school(s) where students learn languages and meet other requirements for graduation and/or admittance to universities. (They don’t have to be in the US)

  4. To me it’s all about power. What, really, does ACTFL want? –

    (a) what’s best for kids?
    (b) style points for their really smart selves?

    Their tweed jackets give them away*. If what they want is (b) they they would update their guidelines more aggressively than what they have done for the past 30 years. Thanks, Russ, on that detail….

    I really think they want (b) above. Bless their bloated minds and not-quite-sure-about-Krashen selves.

    *with apologies to John Piazza who can get away with it

  5. Ben said “Stop your testing….Just go teach a story.”

    Yes. I would add, while you’re teaching, if you see comprehension in their eyes, take note of it -literally writing an anecdotal record or just jGR- or even just a mental note. “Tracking the speaker” is an observable skill. So observe it. If you want to attach a qualifier/quantifier: always, often, occasionally, never-somewhat, great. 50% 75% 100% of the time-fantastic. You’ve got data. No need to test. “Just go teach a story.”

    Russ, to answer your question, that’s what authentic assessment is. It’s assessing with tasks and language that are authentically related to your real classroom learning experience.

    I remember one of my first weeks here back in August reading in the archives here on Listen and Draw. Someone was saying they did a listen and draw activity-and it sounded fun. Then they did a quick quiz. I did a double-take, re-read it, and kind of stared for a minute to see if I read it right. They did quick quiz. Why? Why quiz on a listening activity where you have a finished product begging to be assessed?

    Simplify and “Just go teach a story.”

  6. These are all ACTFL aligned but don’t change the fact that I am only concerned with comprehension. Anything else is a bonus:

    Oh, and the biggest point that people overlook is the fact that I give each kid the rubric that gets them an A. That’s all. My session at ACTFL 2016 will be about proficiency grading using these things. I’m using their own weapons against them.

    1. OK Lance,
      I hope this is a good place to ask you about this, because you made a post on the More listserv that I found very provocative, in which you said that then there was a response from a vocal TPRS trainer who “rebutted” with these points.

      This is very interesting to me as I have been experimenting with what this person calls “freeform” TPRS for a while this year, more and more, and now I am convinced that it is best, at least for me and my mental health and my ability to “show up” for my own classes as more of a full-on person with real connections. Is everything perfect? Hell no. But things are going very well, and the kids are more engaged than I had hoped for on 86 degree spring days in April (which are now a thing in Portland, OR, apparently…we have had several this year and that is new).

      So anyway this person wrote the numbered points which I shall now attempt to respond to, below each point. Just to think through them. Please note that this is simply me thinking aloud, so these are unfiltered thoughts that I want to see what others think. And I am scared of the More list. I have had my little feelings hurt on there. So here goes in my happy place, here…

      Person: IMO if any of the following conditions apply, freeform TPRS is not practical:

      Person: 1. You have a curriculum and you have to stick to it, and that curriculum is not extracted from a set of materials that is TPRS-friendly;

      Tina: OK, isn’t this an issue for many people? How does “classic” TPRS respond better to this? Like if I was REQUIRED to work page-by-page through Discovering French or whatnot, how could targeted TPRS save me? Plus some of the structures that DF presents early are late-acquired in reality, so is this person suggesting that we should hammer the kids for “mastery” of late-acquired items just because they are in the textbook?
      And where is the place for pushing back? There are few situations that I have seen where the teacher had NO flexibility and no ability to exercise professional judgement. Is this just a Oregon Wonderland thing? Are other teachers in other states monitored by admin–you are not on chapter 5 of DF? Fired!! This might come off as rude or pushy, but are we that timid professionally? That we could not push back (even a little) against that kind of ignorance and rigidity? I could be wrong but I do not believe that even in a right to work state people are fired on the spot for not following curriculum exactly. Getting “caught” in a little “flexibility” or “creativity” could be an opening to educate and dialogue with admins and parents. Maybe people ARE that timid…maybe their jobs ARE that precarious, maybe I am just too much a union person…but I feel like these constraints are not as heavy and dangerous as we make them out to be.

      Person: 2. You have a pacing guide;

      Tina: So again, pacing guides may be based on ignorance. They probably are, in fact. Plus, could you not probably hit most of the stuff in the pacing guide, in a more memorable way, that would be better for the kids’ retention of the language, by letting them come up in the class when they are appropriate/needed? And probably you would hit these items by Spring, right?
      And, maybe, if you found there were things that the kids just “had to know” maybe you could target them as well, like sometimes have a story where you are like hey kids, we have to hit these targets today…maybe even for a “freeform” TPRS class this would be a fun challenge in the spring, or the end of the term, they could count reps and it would be fun for the kids (I like you Lance used to be a devotee of clicker kids counting our reps, and when we stopped in January they were sad sad clicker kids.)
      Also, there are other ways of using CI to load required items in kids’ minds. One word images and verb slam activities come to mind, as does plain old TPR.

      Person: 3. You must give common assessments;

      Tina: This seems to me to be about the same argument as the one above, and my response would be similar. Maybe you do some “test prep” but push back and try to get this off kids’ plates.

      Person: 4. You still need to think a fair amount about *how* to deliver the input and how to keep it comprehensible while you are in the act of delivering the input;

      Tina: This is counter intuitive I think, but in my experimenting more and more with non-targeted TPRS in my teaching, I have MORE brain power for delivering the input. Like I remember to direct actors to say things “like an old man” or “like you are dying of thirst” or “like you are really scared”. I can sit down more. I can be closer to the kids. I can slow down more and feel more comfortable and listen more to the kids’ ideas. I actually think that holding the targets in your brain and trying with all your might to say them a matrillion times is HARD mental work. Putting THAT down has been liberating for my brain. And if you have the basic skills of slow, staying in bounds, teaching to the eyes, and having a barometer, it, to me, feels really similar. OK, OK, I did practice for years with targets. That could be argued. I am trying to help two teachers new to the method start with non-targeting. If they can do it, maybe I can feel more comfortable saying I think new folks can do this. I feel it that they CAN, but I will have to see the results to know if my hunch is correct.

      Person: 5. You are obliged to provide a set number of grades per marking period or other period of time, and some of those grades must be summative;

      Tina: So you give a summative writing, reading, and listening assessment using a passage written with high frequency words. My kids would rock any first year assessment you put in front of them as long as it is comprehension-based. The amount of “thematic” vocab. we play with is amazing. The other day there was a story of a peach and a journey through the world of fruit ensued. They will not soon forget peach, apple, banana, black (the journey began at the black market in Atlanta GA) yellow (ironically the peach did not find the banana he sought at the yellow market in Macon GA — a kids remembered my hometown!), or ate (because this monkey had eaten all the bananas at the yellow market). I know this is not an exhaustive list of fruit words, but they will know these words by heart and not just by brain, for a test on food vocab. Do most teacher not have control of the kinds of assessments they do? I mean, I know Russ has to assess them on reading, writing, presentational, and interpersonal. But can’t he make these grades based on comprehension activities? (This is a basic idea I learned in grad school in 2004. Assessment FOR learning, they should learn some while doing the assessment.)

      Person: 6. You must provide evidence of “growth”, etc. at some point in the year that is not the last day;

      Tina: Well, OK, so record their writing over time. Or have them do retells of the same images over time and compare over the course of a couple months. I do not understand this, because the kids will develop during any time period.

      Person: 7. You must collaborate with a group of teachers and coordinate multiple sections in the same level and language;

      Tina: OK, this would be a challenge. And a potential source of conflict. But unless everyone was on board with TPRS it would be a challenge anyway. And, hey, maybe everyone agrees to try not targeting. Or maybe you decide to be the one who pushes back for the sake of furthering the instruction. Or maybe you get a new job. This non-targeting will not work for everyone everywhere all the time. But this person’s arguments are that if one of these situations is in place for a teacher it is impossible. I disagree. However, I have never been in a situation like this. The personalities of everyone involved would make a huge difference, I must assume.

      Person: 8. You lack the kind of mind that can keep track of precisely what language each group of students has had and approximately how much, and provide input designed on the fly with reference to what and how much has been done in the past.

      Tina: If my mind can do it, I would say most people’s could. I am really distractible and keep few records. Here is how I find it easy to know what the kids have acquired: a. Sometimes a kind student will take the emotional risk to give the “I do not understand” signal and I love them for that. Makes my job so much easier! b. Sometimes I just know that what I said is new. It just feels new saying it to the group. So I either write it or do the “word sandwich” à la Carol Gaab. (French word, English word, French word. Ex: “plus…any longer…plus” and then spend some time on that utterance, doing some circling but not circling into the ground (like I used to do to my poor kids, trying to get them sweet, sweet clicks on the clickers). c. I’ll ask the whole class (have been asking the whole class more these days) what did I just say and gauging the strength of the class’ response. If it is weak, a little more input is given quickly. I make sure to ask this from tie to time about stuff I KNOW they have, so I can “test” their choral response strength. (I want to make sure that they are trained to say what they know and be quiet if they don’t know it, so I can trust their choral responses.) d. THERE IS NO NEED TO PRECISELY TRACK THE LANGUAGE KIDS HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO. It took me a while to understand this, but they will be exposed to high frequency language with high frequency because it is high frequency for a reason. Because it is used, like, all the time. 🙂 So even without ever targeting “wants” I am confident that the kids will acquire it because in pretty much every story someone wants something. Or goes. Durn, we GO places in stories ALL THE TIME.

      Person: 9. You are not firm enough in the TL to write readings yourself so that they match up with whatever content was included the previous day. Please remember that not every language is readable without having the reading follow the oral input quite closely.

      Tina: You just use the previous story and write that up. I have all but stopped using my personal time to write them up anyway. We write them together, the kids dictating and me writing what they say. We use the art from the story to review (me talking and retelling the plot, asking questions when I forgot the plot –they ALWAYS know the details, it is humbling how our brains remember stories — or using the story writer’s notebooks to help if we get stuck, which ‘ardly hever ‘appens as Eliza Doolittle would say). And if they cannot focus on the class’ writing then I make them copy. So I have a way to MAKE them attend. But that too ‘ardly ‘appens. They LIKE seeing the story get written, they are proud of it. I feel more pride from them in the non-targeted stories. Like they OWN them, all of them, everything seems to them to be THEIR ideas and THEIR creativity shining.

      Person: It’s easy to forget that many teachers still face one or more of these conditions, but I think it’s important for us to keep that in mind as we think about how to popularize the method.

      Tina: It is not easy for me to forget! It keeps me up at night! I KNOW that there is a lot of ignorant shit out there. It is something worth fighting against.

      Person: If we put conditions on the method that have not been demonstrated to improve acquisition, and which make it difficult for them to adopt the method, they will drop it.

      Tina: So what about all the people who drop it NOW? Because thy can’t get stories to work for them?

      1. Tina, okay here goes this is long and basically a stream of consciousness, but there is a ton to unpack in your comment, so I hope this makes sense. And I might be opening myself up to criticism but oh well.

        I appreciate your candor. I do think also that you are right on all points. I think if you look for problems you find problems. If you look for solutions you solve problems. However, there are a few points I do think that need to be considered. In Oregon, we are a little luckier than educators in States like Idaho, Kansas, or Mississippi. Their legislators have really done some damage to the teaching profession. If you’re curious just search Kansas teacher shortage. Mississippi holds all students back who miss 2 weeks or more of school or who do not pass state assessments (18 year old 4th graders! they have ‘over age schools’.) And Idaho decided to link teachers’ continued employment to the Danielson framework, but that didn’t work out so who knows. But, I have been teaching since 2007 and only in my home state of Oregon, and I have been RIFed 3 times. Our jobs are not as secure as we think, and after eight years I am finally not going to be probationary next fall.

        Next, on the last episode of Tea with BVP a woman said her admin required a curriculum map down to activities for the day! As far as curriculum I feel that using the HFS or the sweet sixteen ensures that we do hit targets and would free us from cramming in vocab. Targeting structures is a slippery slope, soon you will notice you are writing a story to teach reflexive verbs. But they do anchor you to stay in bounds.
        We are forced to give common assessments in my dept, and it can be a pain since what I want to assess is very different than what my colleague does. I am glad that my dept is so close because it has been rough this year.

        Krashen has said there is no need to target, just speak the TL and eventually kids will get there, but we don’t have unlimited time or exposure. French, for example, is a foreign language, it’s not spoken outside of your class by your students, so that means you are the source of CI, and we need to help our students cope with everything that they could encounter. For me, this means we can’t just speak the TL Willy nilly. But we do need to remember to teach KIDS not curriculum.
        I think for collaboration the best bet is to try to eliminate units. If you all need to teach food vocab try to get colleagues to be okay with you sprinkling them over time. And don’t sweat if they don’t acquire them they won’t be the focus they are just in the story that will hit the HFS. And you can’t change acquisition orders even if you try to.

        My biggest strength is adaptability so maybe I can’t talk here, but for me losing my job all those times, Stressing all those springs summers and falls about where will I live where will I work will my girlfriend move across the state with me? Will I have a job to support my unborn son? Those years made me realize what is important and I’m not afraid any more. I have found a connection with my students only possible because I am focused on them and not the language. But this is not for everyone. And if you are new to the approach the idea of just winging it will add more stress not freedom. I would not be a TPRS teacher if I didn’t lose my job so many times. I like to say it got me down to my fighting weight, but I would not be a TPRS teacher if IT didn’t focus on structures. I looked at OWL, previously OLA. It was too free form, too reactionary in its approach, so I dismissed it. And thank goodness because it’s based on Comprehensible Output!

        I think Ben is right about TPRS on this issue in a couple ways: there is no right way to do this as long as it’s CI. And a lot of things in the approach are training wheels meant to be modified or discarded and even reapplied as necessary. If we want to create a revolution in language instruction, we must first be open to new people and work with them as they continue this journey with us. I feel that there is a snobbish nature to many CI instructors. They feel they are right and legacy teachers are wrong. And although as I read the research I believe I am using best practices, we have to remember that when we criticize other teachers we are basically saying to them, “You’re not doing what’s best for kids. You’re a bad caretaker. A bad teacher. A bad person.” Teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling as you well know.
        I hope that made sense! You said you wanted to know what others think and that’s what I think.
        Oh and are you coming down on the 29th? I want you to talk to Weston, my colleague who was at COFLT. He has been doing this for like two months and is practically better than me!

        1. “We are forced to give common assessments in my dept, and it can be a pain since what I want to assess is very different than what my colleague does.”

          So, just force a change in the common assessment. Once or twice a year, if the haters want to test our kids, I say BRING IT. We’ll knock their socks off, only we have to do one thing first: change the test.

          The easiest way to do this is to sound like assessment pros and bring the fight to them: “What validity measures do you have for this test? What empirical evidence do you have for its reliability? What? None? Oh, you just copied it out of the Teacher’s edition? Okay, we need a new assessment.”

          Then, just replace your assessment (okay, it’s a test, and it’s data, but a couple of times a year, it’s okay if it validates our program. Just explain that to kids: they are helping other kids get the awesome storytelling that you use. By acing this test, they are helping the whole school see that what they’ve been learning (how to actually use the language) is more important than memorizing grammar charts. Just once or twice a year, they’re usually okay with that and no harm done.

          Krashen likens testing to testing blood. Doctors take as small a sample as possible; they don’t drain every drop of blood from our bodies. We don’t have to be scared, it’s not that bad every so often and it can actually help us. But we don’t want to over-do it, just a very small sample.

          1. I guess the biggest pain in common assessments is a bigger issue. We all have assessments that are “designed to allow students show what they can do” the issue becomes what we think is developmentally appropriate and often what vocab or tense or structures they “should” be able to use. I keep pushing for more open assessments until I can get us to move to even better and less assessing.

          2. I know any assessments we counter with will be more heavily scrutinized than Obama’s next Supreme Court nominee, but might I suggest a strong front-runner: a Cloze assessment?

            Although it’s easy to standardize and the closest thing to “test” like, it still doesn’t look for discrete-grammar points or specific vocabulary words. It’s holistic and depending on how it’s graded logical substitutions can be allowed, so students have some serious freedom to demonstrate what they know in a meaningful context. Krashen’s used Cloze assessments in almost every study of his I’ve read. Plus everyone and their grandmother has heard of Cloze assessments and it’s so well researched and obviously reliable, it’s like who’s gonna object?

            Plus, there are ways to modify down for very low language levels. I’ve used and like the Non-Identification Cloze alternative for students in a silent period. Students read a passage retelling the story created in class, then draw a line through words (you’ve added instead of deleting as in a regular Cloze) that do not fit. It is perfect for beginning students who might not be ready to produce language, but can still apply what they know about multiple features of language to a meaningful story.
            Here’s an article with fancy charts to prove it’s validity:

            There are many other options, but keep pushing the alternative assessments that test language holistically. Eventually, we’ll wear them down. 🙂

          1. We don’t have kids that day so anytime. But I want to pick your brain about some of this stuff so I can’t wait.

        2. Did you know that OWL and PSU have a partnership going now? I’m a little sad to hear that. I’m not a big fan of OWL. From what I’ve heard it’s not comprehensible by design. Like they tell kids prepare to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Darcy who created it did so after her kids went to Mexico and were stressed by the Spanish they encountered. So she developed a method to make kids comfortable with ambiguity. Fir some reason they refer to this as CI.

          1. I went to the OWL session at SCOLT this year. Darcy is great – energetic, personable, and a great emissary for the program. However, I was SOO lost doing Chinese with her. I got nothing out of it. This is in sharp contrast to the demo that I did with Linda Li at NTPRS which I still recall phrases from. The OWL was confusing and incomprehensible for me and I am a true 4%er (Latin teacher).

          2. From what I have heard and read they do believe in Comprehensible input. CI is integral to swain’s theory of CO. The idea is that we try to communicate and fail so then someone fixes what we say and we learn more words. The idea is basically that output could lead to more CI. But the problem is that people use it as an excuse to force output. Also Krashen and bvp have shown that these instances are so infrequent they basically have no impact on acquisition. Now Swain may been to differ. But the distinction between OWL and TPRS is this:
            TPRS is an approach that essentially tries to create an immersion environment.
            Owl is an approach that essentially tries to create a submersion environment.
            No English. No. English. Ever. No “cómo se dice” no qué quiere decir ____. A lot of interaction with kids in TL but they are outputting instantly. So the kids start sort of word vomiting the TL. I have no idea if there is emphasis on reading or anything tho so I can’t speak for anything else. Just what I know from talking to Darcy and others in the program. And people who have been to demos and trainings.

        3. Russ said:

          “Targeting structures is a slippery slope, soon you will notice you are writing a story to teach reflexive verbs. But they do anchor you to stay in bounds.”

          Russ can you expand on that second sentence?

          You can see where I’m going with my question, right? If CI is all about focusing on the message, as the L2 then gradually takes hold underneath the level of awareness of the person acquiring the language, then won’t targeting structures lessen interest in the message, which will weaken the instruction to where, because of the targeting, it’s not interesting anymore? Krashen is all about compelling these days. Interesting is no longer enough for him. But when we target structures we lessen interest, forget about getting things up to a compelling level. Tina touches on this in her statements of truth against “person” from the moretprs list, which statements remind me to never go there again if that is representative of what TPRS has become, a kind of whore to the language industry, whose beauty and innocence are, with each “practical reminder” that “person” lists above, further compromised to where the original bloom of youth that TPRS had is now being codified and labeled and sold to those who want the future of TPRS to belong to them.

          I just finished my book. It supports Tina’s position. I will publish it. I will. For Tina. And Claire. And about four other people on this planet. TPRS, apparently, is not what I thought it was. I guess “person” gets to decide what TPRS is. Bless his heart. Thanks to him I now understand that, contrary to what I thought about it, TPRS is not easy, must be tied to a pacing guide, must be uniform, must teach the same thing, must please colleagues who don’t like it, and everything else “person” said.

          What would we do without the moretprs list? It keeps things on the straight and narrow.

          1. Fair enough. I personally no longer see the point of targeting structures beyond the most high frequency verbs. And of course you are right. I was merely suggesting that there is validity in beginning with target structures. To allow new teachers to get their feet wet so to speak. I know at least 2 people interested in TPRS who do not feel comfortable not having target structures. They did help me stay in bounds when I was starting but they are not necessary and I agree with Tina the skills and activities (4 truths and a lie, look and discuss, etc.) Are more useful to the new teacher than target structures. And the point of my post was not to validate the “person” on the listserv but to try to highlight some things that may not have been considered.

          2. …I was merely suggesting that there is validity in beginning with target structures….

            Point well made. We target verbs. We do TPR. We do CWB and OWI and WCTG and Three Ring Circus and whatever else we need to do to pour a nice clean and thick foundation of verbs. New teachers are invited to do very short little confidence building stories at first, for both their confidence and the confidence of the children. There is a lot of validity in targeting verbs first.

            BUT the idea of targeting “structures” that align with pacing guides as “person” advocates is a losing proposition. By the end of what looks to be a rocking TPRS summer at the three big conferences I suspect that there will be a huge dent in the thinking on targeting structures, and I think it will be in favor of no targets.

          3. …I know at least 2 people interested in TPRS who do not feel comfortable not having target structures….

            They don’t need training wheels. They need training. I just don’t think that those people are as needy as they think they are. They aren’t seeing this work for what it is, but for how it’s been packaged. There is a difference. The simplicity and ease are there. I promise. Yes, they have a big shift to make. No, it is not as big as they think. The mind and heart are now being asked to work together, that’s all. In some people that is not an outrageous claim.

          4. You asked Russ to address this, but I can’t resist (sorry!): “But (targets) do anchor you to stay in bounds.”

            Right? Targets can be a tool to provide comprehensible input when we point, go slow, stay in bounds, use HFW if possible. Ben’s explained that it’s best to use emergent targets –but with ESL I use “regular” targets I translate before hand into Uzbek, Arabic, and Spanish because I have to. Targets aren’t the problem; testing targets is.

            “The mind and heart are now being asked to work together, that’s all.”

            Teaching and assessing from the heart, what a lovely message, Ben. I love your post asking for more assessments that honor students. More storytelling that lets them speak and really be heard, not following a script and shutting down kids voices to check targets off your list.

            It is as simple as listening to children. Accepting L1 responses or drawings if that’s all they have. Then using those responses for “grades” because that’s the honorable thing to do. That’s “mind and heart…(working) together.”

          5. …accepting L1 responses or drawings if that’s all they have….

            I love the expression “if that’s all they have”. I interpret it to mean that in the dance of mutual respect that should be the teacher/student relationship, we don’t demand, but invite them to offer what they have. If assessment is kind, it has a greater chance of succeeding. I honestly think as I get deeper into the assessment piece with TPRS that one day we will all look back on how we tested kids in WL classrooms for decades in harshness and I would not rule out the word “cruel” in the conversation.

        4. Russ said:

          …I believe I am using best practices, we have to remember that when we criticize other teachers we are basically saying to them, “You’re not doing what’s best for kids. You’re a bad caretaker. A bad teacher. A bad person.” Teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling as you well know….

          Russ this is an extremely sensitive topic. TPRS teachers have indeed been perceived as doing what you say above. Some of us have gone looking for fights on the internet. But on this site we are over those days.

          The current group here is no longer like that and I know you are not talking about this group but let me say this anyway just to be clear. One can never state one’s intent enough in this profession at this time.

          The people in this group have grown so much over the ten years. We are very consciously aware that even though we are passionate about using CI in our classrooms awe don’t want to be labeled in the way you have done above.

          We don’t want to criticize others. We understand that that is where people are. I strenuously object to the portrayal above and anyone who is really calling their colleagues out for teaching traditionally won’t be a member of this group for long.

          Those who may see us as attacking them need to be careful who they are describing. Do they object too much? Is it not a matter of convenience to point at someone else with raised voice and say that they are attacking them instead of allowing the presence of the one doing it differently and looking within to see why there might be two different points of view?

          My goodness, we here on the PLC can barely keep our own heads together without going crazy ourselves in trying on a daily basis to walk into our buildings and keep from getting fired because we use CI. Who has time to “go after” traditional teachers? Why else is Mental Health the category du jour here this year?

          You hit a nerve there Russ. We can hug it out in August. I think you are fantastic. I get what you are saying. We are growing. Change is messy. But just for the record, this group is about reform, not attack.

          1. I apologize for offending anyone. Sincerely I am sorry. That was not my intent. I have a problem with communicating effectively apparently. I was not trying to insinuate that anyone here is like that. No one can deny that the language teaching community is fractured. Every where you look there is some blog post or Facebook post about teachers bullying each other. I am asking for compassion. Ironically I must have come off as a bully myself. Sad. Being new around here I suppose I needed to get schooled like that. But to be clear I wasn’t calling anyone out. Least of all Tina. Again sorry to anyone who may have been offended by my post.

          2. Russ there was no offense and everything you said was perfect. It is just a sensitive topic. The minute this PLC community “goes there” is the minute it loses its vision, one that has taken a decade to articulate and which work is still going on.

            I do want to be clear that those who attack and condemn others for being different is a two way street. It’s such an ugly argument, state of affairs, circumstance, situation with no clear beginning and end, so imperfect.

            Traditional teachers almost look as if they enjoy being attacked by the stray TPRS dogs on the street, but that act ain’t gonna fly much longer. We will take them down with good teaching in our own classrooms.

            I think it was the one and only Laurie – can’t wait to see her this summer – who first counseled us to do that here about five years ago and at the time we didn’t hear what she was saying. But that was a long time ago and we have matured.

            We are so much stronger in our teaching now and most of us feel no need to defend ourselves anymore anyway because a rocking story is its own advertisement. I don’t hear too many kids racing down the hallway after a class saying, “Wow! Did you get the part about how past participles agree with the SUBJECT IN Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp verbs! Man I never saw that one coming!”

            But no, my man, you offended no one. Love your voice. Keep bringing it. We need it.

          3. And Russ I would add that it is a very interesting point to make that while over the past ten years it can be said that any “advances” made by traditional teachers have been made in the area of the use of technology to teach a language, whereas the areas of growth of stories has been in the area of technique and classroom teaching. The one is a robot thing, the other a way of finding deeper ways into the hearts of kids, so that they want to learn.

            Thus, this entire discussion, rightly perceived, is really about how robots are trying to crowd into an area, human communication, where they do not belong. The real changes in teaching languages right now are on the heart level. The robots, confused, try to get in. But the real TPRS that I see and have put all my professional hopes in for the past fifteen years after 24 years of doing it the other way, cannot be infiltrated by robots, canned lessons, etc.

            Eventually, people will see this and rejoice in the new blending of heart and mind in education that will characterize the coming new time of peace and happiness in the world, a place that in my view with each new happy story comes closer and closer. The new time is a LOT closer than we think, as long as we don’t give up on us and the kids with the stories, and get up tomorrow morning and go focus more on the kids than the target structures.

            Focusing on the kids in spite of what people like “person” said alone makes for a great story.

          4. That was my intent. Not to say anyone was insulting any other teacher but that we need to move on from the arguments. We will prove that targeting structures is redundant, like having a step one. We don’t need it anymore. And I agree on them needing training not wheels. I think the jump from traditional teaching to CI is not that big. Just the skills and testing your students like human beings, that’s the biggest shift.I tried to do that with my kids in the grammar grind and it didn’t work. That’s why I talked about losing my job do much. I had to really rethink what i wanted in life and it was too teach my students Spanish and be with my family. TPRS allows me those things. It’s interesting that we got here from all the stuff in my post. That’s what I love about this site. We start taking about one thing and we never know where we will end up.

          5. …testing your students like human beings, that’s the biggest shift….

            This is the key. This is why I recruited Claire to this blog from her starting varsity position on the ELS assessment all-star team. We need insights on how to test. The recent thread is key to our growth in this area. We can’t move forward on the points you make above, Russ, unless we have a response to the assessment problem, because if we are going to teach them as human beings, then we have to assess them in that way also.

          6. Not only do we need to fix the assessment, we need to adopt targetless curriculum documents. Our Scope and Sequence and our syllabi should not have targets, or our assessments and instruction would be out of alignment.

            Targetless instruction, targetless assessments, targetless syllabi.

            Because that’s what’s most appropriate for early language learners.

            We encourage beginning students to use circumvention and focus on understanding the message of the whole story, because that’s what’s most appropriate. Heritage Learners, advanced, fluent ESL students, that’s a different matter.

            Take a big step back and consider the full Scope and Sequence of SLA.

            I hate to get too deep in theory, but you need to know why we don’t teach targets. Here’s an overview of what you teach (most levels foreign language fall on the right column (BICS).

            You’ll notice what you don’t teach: we don’t teach the “Thematic cues are lexicalized” –that’s CALP. We don’t teach “Language used in ways that eschew reliance on shared social and physical context in favor of reliance created through the language itself.” We don’t teach “Formal definitions.”

            It’s not just Krashen. There is a litany of SLA research that supports the idea that a focus on discretely targeted language is not appropriate for most foreign language or early language learners.

            Conversational language is best taught without targets because they simply don’t have the language to use discourse and text to find a “right” answer; they rely on context built by very simply language in familiar settings with paralingual and paratextual clues (body language/gestures, realia, visuals, etc.). Finding the “right word” is a late-acquired skill, and depending on the level of support we give (or don’t) it can be an exercise in futility.

            You help students acquire content-reduced, contextualized language. Therefore, you need to ditch your targeted, thematic vocabulary or grammar-driven syllabus. Then, you’ll be ready to “go targetless.”

            Does this help or just confuse you further? Not really good at building bridges. Sorry.

          7. If your brain is fried (talking to you, Ben) just ignore the above. It might be nonsense anyways.

          8. Claire,
            This is amazing. I have really rethought everything I “knew” about teaching with CI. I know that there is no one way to eat a Reece’s, but I think I will really push my abilities to help kids acquire language a lot better next year. I want to thank you for all of your comments here. Getting the second language perspective is so helpful. I will probably need to deconstruct the chart into CI for my colleagues and admin. And I think you are doing a great job building bridges! Thanks again.

          9. Russ, you responded to that like a champ. It’s not you, you missed it, but earlier there were things transpiring that Ben had to make tough decisions on and fight to keep this blog focused on healthy kids and healthy teachers. He’s a brave champion of mental health in schools.

            It’s funny how these discussions start, and like you say, you never know where they will go. Assessments started with me badgering you guys about choral translation, and went full circling when I came around to Ben’s side that if it’s a brain-break and mental health thing that works for you, do it.

            Then, to demonstrate that PQA can be a better form of assessment than choral translation (he’s right), Steven bravely posted on informal PQA assessments he was using. Ben pointed out this works with his higher kids, but unless all kids are 100% ready to answer on the spot (so really fluent, like Heritage Learners) even though they are kinder PQA, those wrong/right questions risk creating higher/lower kids in a classroom. And then assessment just took off from there.

            We all have evolved. (First year teacher Steven’s like “evolve”? nah, he’s like mutating like the Hulk at 90 miles an hour into a teaching powerhouse). We evolve when we are brave enough, like you Russ, to put ourselves out there in an honest way and say here’s how I teach and assess, and watch the discussion unfold.

          10. On a side note, I do not feel that teaching is a vocation. It might be an unpopular view, but my style isn’t exactly “kumbaya.”

            I took this cue from a professor of Educational Psychology. For some. Let me repeat, for SOME, they hide behind that “calling” and are led stray from effective practices, and instead gravitate towards a “feeling” or “sense” they get when teaching but really just continue to teach the way they were taught. That might work out OK for math, or science, but when it comes to language acquisition, this is not good for the profession.

            To me, teaching is a profession, not a vocation, and I have a responsibility to the profession to act in an informed way. This means staying current with professional development and enlightening others. Yes, we need to know about our students and know what our students find compelling, but at the end of the day I do NOT want some adolescent’s bad day negatively affecting mine. For some who find teaching a calling, they have a very hard time separating their job from their personal life. That could lead to problems, or just too much stress.

          11. That is a good point but I am curious as to how you would respond to Tina’s post, since it was actually directed toward you and not me…

          12. I don’t think Tina asked me anything in particular (did I miss it?). My reply to that other person on moreTPRS echoes Tina’s sentiment…I just provided a summary of why I didn’t think those points excluded how I approach mass reps. The points made seemed to be a red herring to arrive at the conclusion that we must get as many reps as possible or we’re being impractical. I don’t agree, nor does the evidence of TPRS masters teaching suggest so.

          13. I followed that on moreTPRS, too. I thought your point there, Lance, was mainly to push at the idea of “getting reps” on certain words to the point of dominating other factors involved in teaching. (Things like: teach to the eyes, knowing there isn’t a magic number of reps that ‘works’ like a formula anyway, that compelling input is more important than reps for reps sake.)

            It does seem to me that it can be a common issue for teachers, sort of a corollary to how many teachers new to CI ask “how do I teach X grammar feature.” (I think that question needs a gentle answer – how it’ll happen, and why not to target grammar that tightly.) It seems to me that my version of that problem was biggest in my first year doing CI: looking for ways to get reps instead of paying attention to the students, their comprehension, their interests, and responding back and forth with them. Forcing things too much. The idea of sheltering instead of targeting still helps me with the difference.

            I don’t think I ever heard any TPRS presenter promote this kind of over-emphasis on reps. I think my initial over-concern with reps & targeting was part of my own developing understanding. I really wanted to do CI “right” and that fear, in itself, caused problems, among which were controlling too much and thinking too formulaically about how CI affects language acquisition. I’m thinking of my first 4 months especially (fall 2012). A lot of the biggest problems got help after talking with this PLC that fall.

            I’m with Tina, though; I don’t feel very comfortable posting on moreTPRS, so I didn’t add to that conversation, though I read it.

          14. “…I don’t think I ever heard any TPRS presenter promote this kind of over-emphasis on reps…”

            Thank you. Half of me was like “wow, I guess I missed THAT part of the workshop(s), and the other half was “damnit, Terry is calling [me] out again for not having the 150 years of experience [she thinks] she has.”

            “…I think my initial over-concern with reps & targeting was part of my own developing understanding…”

            Yep, that’s huge. It’s not really promoted by anyone except ourselves, and we need guidance (not encouragement!) to avoid confusing the strategies and what we’re learning about. It could be more about prioritizing. That’s a word I wasn’t really using. For some, I swear that getting reps is a priority over comprehensibility.

            BTW, I feel like we’re definitely not talking about assessment at all at this point in the thread.

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