Scope and Sequence Clarification

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13 thoughts on “Scope and Sequence Clarification”

  1. Yes and no.
    A frequency list is a list of words with a DIMINISHING RETURN and with quite a STEEP diminishing return.
    Of spoken English, the highest frequency . . .
    10 words = 24% coverage (can anyone verify this number?)
    50 words = 60% of spoken English,
    1,000 words = 85%,
    3,000 word = 95%
    7,000 words = 98%
    9,000 words = 98% novels
    Since 95% = moderate comprehension, 98% = adequate, that’s how they draw the official lines on frequency levels:
    3,000 words = high-frequency
    3,000-9,000 = mid-frequency
    9,000+ = low-frequency
    I’ve seen it written that a 1,000 word spoken vocabulary could give you enough to get by in the real world. I just recall reading this, not sure how valid it is.
    By targeting, we are NOT giving students “natural input.” Looking at those figures, it can be admitted that the average student will NOT acquire enough for adequate or even moderate comprehension of the outside spoken world. In other words, in 4 years a student will not have acquired all the words officially labeled high-frequency and mid-frequency.
    In lieu of a frequency-based curriculum (a frequency established not based on a high-schooler’s language), a personalized curriculum, in which targets are chosen based on what interests students and what they want to talk about, is probably more practical and may even give the kids more language they actually need for expression. But probably beyond the highest frequency 50 words it will NOT cover a frequency list in order and there will be gaps.
    And we must remember that the kids have way more than vocabulary to acquire. Although, I feel that vocabulary is most important for communication. In many situations using L1 word order still allows us to communicate and it’s the content words that carry most meaning.
    As Terry Waltz advocates, ACTFL’s Proficiency Scale was not based on the progression of a TCI student and as such the scale often does not describe nor prescribe how our students progress. Our students have micro-fluency (fluency with a small, but mostly essential vocabulary). As you progress up the ACTFL Proficiency Scale you are supposed to be able to also handle a larger breadth of topics. The higher the frequency the words, the more topics we can probably handle. Frequency lists are not only decided based on number of occurrences of a word, but also based on “range” – how many contexts that word shows up in. That said, I am skeptical that fluency with the highest 200 frequency words is enough to give anyone an IL or IM rating on the ACTFL OPI. And that is okay. Maybe that is not the right goal to have.
    Regardless of the word targets we choose, we must remember to include frequent recycling of those words throughout the year – a cumulative curriculum. That’s an important principle in any subject – learned or acquired.

  2. Eric Wrote:
    “In lieu of a frequency-based curriculum (a frequency established not based on a high-schooler’s language), a personalized curriculum, in which targets are chosen based on what interests students and what they want to talk about, is probably more practical and may even give the kids more language they actually need for expression.”
    These are my exact observations, reflections and conclusions this year. They may change because I keep on growing as a teacher and a human but for now this is where I personally fall in my own growth.
    Thanks to my colleagues whom I’m constantly sharing and collaborating with!
    This year I have been doing something which Nina Barber (my Spanish counterpart, dear friend and awesome collaborator) and I called “Star of the week” , it is hard to explain in a single article and better observed but I’ll try my best.
    Before doing that I will preface by saying that some other people have inspired us whether consciously or not with this “activity”.
    So before I explain what I do, let me give those people the credit they deserve and the activities that inspired what I do:
    Thank you Jody Noble for ” la Silla”
    Thank you Ben for ” Circling with Balls”
    Thank you Bryce for ” la Persona Especiale” and
    Thank you Anne for your “questionnaire”
    and thank you for all others whose ideas I have probably forgotten but inspired me nonetheless.
    And sorry for making this post longer than you probably have time for.
    The reason for my long rant emanates from a discussion that occurred at the bar two nights ago in which Ben, Diana Noonan, Julie Soldner, Mark Mallaney , a couple others not on this blog yet, and myself participated.
    We decided that there is really no proprietary rights to anything in our business unless you patent what you do (and even then, the question comes to who and what other sources inspired you to your final idea?). We all take ideas from each other and tweak them to make them our own.
    We do not work in a vacuum, but learn and grow from seeing each other, don’t we?
    End of rant.
    So Nina and I have been doing this thing we called ” Etoile de la semaine/du jour” or ” Estrella del dia/semana”
    We started in October and we had an epiphany!
    Nina and I were just shocked at the language gains our student got.
    Diana was so impressed when she came and saw it during our language labs that she asked us to present it for DPS teachers, many of whom are now doing it in their classrooms.
    Ben also saw it in my language lab last week and I gave him the template, may be he can share it on the blog.
    It is easier to see than describe but in a nutshell this is what is it.
    1) You give a handout with about 10 questions to your students .
    There are 4 columns on the sheet
    First column is the question in French/Spanish
    2nd column is the question in English
    3rd column is the answer in the 1st person singular
    4th column is the answer in the 3rd person singular
    Exemple of a question would be: “what is your favorite ice cream flavor”
    The students answer the questions following the format and can use English for whatever vocab they don’t have.
    In this exemple they could write”
    Mon parfum de glace préféré est Cantalope.
    Then they turn in their sheet with their answer and teacher keeps those.
    You ask for volunteers to be the star of the week/day and person comes and becomes that star and sits in special chair .
    Teacher goes through questionnaire and circles. Here are many variations possible.
    I drill and kill my students with follow up questions and compare and contrast withe previous students’ answers.
    For the first students it is pure listening and answering questions .
    After a few students I ask my kids to take notes. The original handout is projected so they are not
    struggling with writing.
    When I am done , I show the class a Powerpoint of the kids with his photo ( a selfie they took on my fone when they came to be the star), as well as a picture of what the questions represents,
    and I show the slides with the students answers, one slide per question, and again we ask questions, compare and contraste.
    This has been an amazing journey for us.
    The students gains have been amazing beyond belief.
    So much that I even do this with my adults and they too enjoy being the star and the questions there are also super compelling.
    Second semester I decided to tweak it some more. So at the beginning of the semester, I asked my students to come up with some questions they’d like to ask me to ask them and their peers (this was my contribution).
    I got some fantastic questions. Too many to share here and now. I picked 12 best questions and created a brand new questionnaire for 2nd semester.
    Kids who did not have a chance to be star of the week during 1st semester were the one that I started with.
    The point of this long post is that the reason this experiment has been so fun for Nina and I and beginning to be shared by some DPS teachers are due to the amazing language gains the kids have made. Eric’s comment was exactly that because
    1) It is personalized, the students get to be a star for a day, they get to shine , and their peers get to know them at a deeper level.
    2) It has built community like I never thought possible ( my students know each others ‘ birthdays and zodiac signs!!!)
    3) Tons of repetitions needed for acquisition
    4) Compelling to the max because it is their questions.
    I ‘m stopping here but could go on and on.
    Mary Beth from Maine was visiting this week and came and observed Nina and I as we hosted a language lab this week and she saw a demonstration of this .
    I think I could build a whole curriculum based on this!
    From snowy Colorado, happy Sunday !

    1. Thank you for sharing, Sabrina! I am trying to better understand this . . .
      1) So there are 10-12 questions. Do you do the “Star of the Day” with 1 question at a time? If not, how do you establish meaning for so much language all at once? Do you keep the English translation of all 10-12 questions projected throughout the activity?
      2) How does this usually play out class-to-class? 1 student is the star per day? How much time do you usually spend on 1 student?
      3) That last PPT step, is that done after ALL the students have been the “Star”?
      4) Do you encourage imaginative answers? Or do the answers usually stick to reality?
      5) Why are the students taking notes during the activity?

      1. Eric,
        great questions
        1) Yes , my students have the handout projected at all time except when they review with the powerpoint.
        Establishing the meaning is done slowly. I spent a lot of time on the very 1st student (a few days) because of that. Then it becomes easier with each student because they ve heard it already, plus they have the visual support and I pause and point .
        So you scaffold and by now they don’t need to read it anymore as they are familiar with the questions.
        2) I spend quite a bit of time with each kid, usually a whole class period so I can only 2 a week. I really drill and ask tons of follow up questions (i +1, novelty , not formulaic, personalization, etc… ). But Nina did 2 a day last semester. Now she changed hers again for this semester. There are so many possibilities with this.
        3) The Powerpoint is showed after each student and we get more reps, plus the kids love to answer questions about their peers since they know the answers.
        4) Do I encourage imaginative answers? Heck YES!
        Last week when Ben observed I asked one of my fr3-4 student what he regretted the most in his life thus far (one of my questions). He answered in the target language: ” I regret that I didn’t have surgery on my foot when I was a kid” . The only word he did not know was surgery and I gave him that. I had to take a deep breath as I wanted to cry (this kid had polio and still limps). I let 20 seconds of silence pass as I was stunned. After I got my composure back I followed up with another question. Which foot was that? Again, highly personal and no formulaic answer.
        5) Students take note to get them writing as it is a requirement in our district and they have a writing exam at the end of the year.
        BTW the answers are on the board , so all they have to do is copy and anecdotally I have noticed their writing has improved in quality and quantity.
        I do not ask my adult students to write anything.
        Hope I answered all your questions.

    2. Sabrina, this sounds so cool! A few questions: how long are the students sitting in front of the class? (A few minutes? The entire period?) When the students are taking notes, do they have a form or are they taking notes in a spiral notebook? Who is keeping track of the etoile/estrella answers? (Do you have an assigned scriptwriter, or do you just ask for a set of notes from one of the listening students?) Would it be possible to get a copy of your original and new question forms?

      1. Hi Don,
        the student stays in front of the class for the duration of the interview, may take a whole period or more.
        Students take notes in their composition books.
        I still have a quiz writer who writes a quiz on it if i want a quiz. I save the original handout with their answer so I can refer to it when I create my Powerpoint .
        I gave Ben a copy of my fr 1-2 as well as my 3-4 for this semester.
        Ben could you scan it for the group.
        Otherwise, email me privately @ and I’ll send you a digital copy.

    3. I’m doing something very similar. I’ve been calling it Star of the Day, too only I was using “La vedette du jour.” Is “vedette” okay to use Sabrina? I kind of like “étoile” better. Anyway, I started it last year and didn’t get to very many kids because I kept trying different things in my newness. This year I want to get to everyone.
      When the student is in the chair up front, I get things going with the interview questions, but it becomes a mixture of interview and class responses, and turns into a kind of story-asking-telling. When the class responds with many suggestions, I have the star choose what to go with. It becomes a nice mixture of truth and fiction.
      I write up the story afterwards for the next time we meet, and we read it on the screen and it’s a time to get more reps and discussion. The later plan is to print a little book with all of their stories for each student at the end of the year.
      I actually have only done a couple in each class so far this year, once again distracted by other things and disrupted schedules. I plan to focus on them this half.
      I just today made a Visual PQA slide show of the repeating target structures that come from the basic questionnaire. These come up with each star. Then I can adapt it for each student in turn, adding any new targets that go with their particular story. That way we can review and expand upon those basic targets each time before adding the new. I think I will hire a story writer to keep track of details. We’ll see how it goes this week.

  3. Does anybody else love when Eric does that?
    The facts and figures put our work in to a context that makes what we do relevant and better than anythign else. The purpose of the S and S much like Ben pointed out, is not necessarily needed for the TPRS teacher. Ben gave an example, when Sabrina looked at the S and S after a few weeks and she realized was right on with it.
    Naturally most classes are going to utilize the Super 7. Not because it has a special cool name but because you can’t reach communicative competency without those words .
    I think putting a number of structures and a list of words on an S and S makes it feel like we must COVER material again as in the traditional sense. I don’t like that, I just want “anchor ” content to create immersion-like opportunities (e.g. novels, short stories, students MT’s, songs).
    In my view, the S and S is really for
    1. others to figure out what we are doing (new teachers come to mind)
    2. others for judging or evaluating us
    3. supervisors trying to keep us in a nice little row with all the other teachers
    4. parents and students that want explicit explanantion of a TPRS class
    Eric said something else that I really love…he mentioned the term microfluency. As Terry Waltz has said, this is exactly what we are strive for. It just ain’t real fluency, not in 180 days. We want them to be really good with the language that they are exposed to. If we do this and teach students to read in the TL, we set them up for learning more. The Reading and Storytelling part of tpRS is what should be represented in our S and S’s. Again not just for us…put for others in the peripheral.
    Thank you Ben, Eric, and Sabrina!

  4. OK – my observations of this: (of Sabrina’s, Nina’s and Bryce’s classrooms – where EACH of them did this “special” interview)… biggest takeaway, and it BLEW me away!!! was the incredible amounts of language/vocab that all of their students had!!! In all of their classes, the kids were actually asking each other clarifying questions — IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE!!! But, even more so….in Sabrina’s (looped) 3/4 class, the kids were actually ARGUING with each other in FRENCH!!! and not batting an eye, or turning to her for help with vocab! it was hysterical! 🙂
    Nina and Sabrina both had powerpoints to follow up on their special student — as a review for the classes. Sabrina did one student at a time. Nina’s powerpoint reviewed 4 students and compared them at the same time. Bryce has his students take notes on the “special student” in their composition books. When he reviews, they are allowed to look at their notes, and most of them gave full sentence answers to his questions. He later gives a quiz wherein he tells them to write as much as they would like (no less than 2 sentences each – at least at the beginning of the year) about 4-5 different students. They cannot use their notes however. This was in Spanish 1.
    As for the particulars, like Eric asked, I would like them too, as I missed many of the details of the process in each class — I just remarked on what seemed “remarkable” to me in each class and overall.

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