Scope and Sequence Meeting – 2

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21 thoughts on “Scope and Sequence Meeting – 2”

  1. I’m glad it looks like some sort of happy resolution is possible for you all in this situation. Here are a few things to consider, depending on the personalities of your high school counterparts.

    1) Are the high school teachers interested in “teaching the kids they get, not the ones they want or think they deserve” (Laurie Clarcq)? If you all are going to teach 10 minutes of grammar a day, what are they going to replace 10 minutes of grammar with 10 minutes of CI every day? Be careful of accidentally validating the premise that the high school teachers somehow outrank you. In my limited experience, that can be a difficult bell to unring.

    2) Will the 10 minutes of grammar a class period be “enough” for them? What happens when your students forget of all that grammar stuff over the summer? Will the high school teachers come back and say that 10 minutes isn’t enough, because your kids aren’t adequately “prepared” for their classes? When I spent 98% of my time teaching grammar straight out of the textbook for two years, my high school colleagues complained that my students weren’t well enough prepared. I even tried literally turning my 8th grade classes into a mirror image of the high school Latin 1 class, including using ALL of the exact same materials. They still complained that my kids weren’t prepared. When I spent .01% of the time teaching grammar to my 8th graders, the high school teachers still complained. Will enough ever be enough?

    3) Are you going to start assessing and grading grammar? What happens when your kids acquire huge amounts of French, get A’s and then have trouble in high school? Will you get blamed for that? Will your admin insist that you grade more harshly? Will your colleagues and admins insist upon grammar making up a large percentage of the grade? Will the idea of having common grammar assessments start to show up as potential “solution’?

    These all may be non-issues in your situation, but these are things to possibly consider. I think that compromise is healthy, but if those high school teachers offer nothing in return for your 10 minutes of grammar, you maybe be walking into a trap.

    1. John said:

      …be careful of accidentally validating the premise that the high school teachers somehow outrank you….

      Dude you are far more fearless than I thought when I first met you in Denver at iFLT a few years ago. That whole comment up there is full of a confident refusal to negotiate with people whose focus is less on the kids and more on the Scope and Sequence. Well said.

      The ten minutes idea is Zach’s, not mine. I will send this to him in case he doesn’t read it here. This really is the final word on compromise. Like Claire’s comment, I will add it as a Primer and as an article. It really is excellent.

  2. OK, I first posted to the S and S 1 thread, then I came here to read the S and S 2 thread. More food for thought. Yes, we could spend ten min. a day on grammar. They would probably retain just as much as if we spent all period all day every day. (i.e. Very Little)

    We could call it “Grammar of the Day” or something. Some of my kids would go ape-poo over this. Some of them like to ask questions to show off their intelligence such as, “When are we going to study reflexive verbs?” (Uh, dude, we use them every day).

    BUT, I can also see this opening a can of worms with the HS teachers. I have been a MS teacher for ten years, and throughout that time I have taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and French, and now just French and Spanish. And all that time, whenever we got together to hammer our S and S with the HS folks, no matter what subject area, there was a lot of judgement flowing.

    From the HS to us, it was “The kids are not prepared.” OR (almost worse) “You are teaching them X wrong.” Citations and the structure of essays spring to mind. Also, they wanted us to “cover” certain topics in social studies differently. And GRAMMAR in English is HUGE. “Why can’t the kids write a compound-complex sentence correctly?” “Their punctuation is atrocious!” (I know, dude, I know, I read their work for two years!)

    From us (or at least me) to the HS, it was “You do not teach the kids you have. You teach the subject the way you were taught and you loved it and you studied it and you became a teacher of it and you can’t see that anyone else does not like it, is not good at it, and does not relish your class)” But I am not gutsy enough to say THAT, so I would just think that and say stuff like, “Have you tried this…or this…” and that usually fell upon deaf ears.

    So now I am in a new district with the same issues. The HS teachers (Spanish and French) apparently have a long history of saying their kids are not prepared enough in middle school. But I want THEM to change. I will not change. And even doing grammar for ten minutes daily seems like it would be too much of a sacrifice. Because, like John said, what are they going to give in return?

    Are they going to open their hearts to our kids and their amazing abilities and (most valuable of all) expectation that French/Spanish will be an AWESOME class? What a gift, right? Sending them kids that are all psyched to continue the journey.

    Are they going to do CI for the block-period equivalent of ten minutes a day, so the kids can keep on hearing and interacting and enjoying the language?

    Are they going to stop showing full-length, native-speaker-level, subtitled movies while they assess kids and calling that input?

    I too am wary of conceding to them. But I want to develop an articulated program. This is a HUGE issue in my mind, and I am eager to hear others’ ideas.

    It gets me mad, too, because the HS teachers have no one who can come complaining to them because they are the end of the K-12 line. But I know that folks in the colleges and universities bemoan the students’ abilities. A LOT! (in fact that was one way the CC$$ was defended…that the college and university folks needed better-prepared kids) The HS people just are not held accountable by them in the same way we are, because there is no S and S that goes from HS to college.

    1. Tina. I am just starting teaching MS. Luckily, for me my students go to many different high schools…. well it’s a little bad for the students. The HS teachers may complain… as long as it doesn’t get big during my probationary period, I’m good.

      I don’t agree with grammar instead of CI. Like Eric said, S and S can be the structures and a list of stories and activities. DONE.

      1. Mine all travel to this one teacher’s class, so we really should be aligned, for the kids’ sake. We both teach first year and then the MS first year kids join the HS first year kids when the MS kids get to HS. Right now he is teaching my current MS students’ future classmates with the book, Cornell notes on language and grammar (such as “Cornell Notes on the Adjectives Beau, Beaux, Bel, Belle, and Belles”), oral proficiency tests, and workbooks. I am trying to figure out the best way to approach him with new ideas for teaching.

  3. I guess I am going to speak up and say that Scope and Sequence documents are needed in TPRS/CI classes. Taking a position against them is a BIG mistake in my opinion. Why?

    Individuals outside of understanding SLA needs something tangible and concrete to understand what we are doing. We have a responsibility to the students, families, and educators that we serve to come up with an intelligible way to communicate this.

    I am not referring to a grammar syllabus in the traditional sense. Like Eric, I have named my course “Students and Stories in Spanish.” This is just 1 step in helping others to understand what is happening. Inserting “Anchor texts” (aka TPRS novels) is imperative…doing this looks like school to others. There is nothing wrong with making our work look like school. Doing this helps bridge the gap for outsiders.

    What really is happening in our classes is that we are slowly morphing into Content-based instruction courses. Our S and S documents can reflect this without compromising core beliefs about how humans learn a second language.

    I would love to hear rebuttals on this topic…

      1. The answer is in the question:
        S – Stories you do (including novels)
        S – Student information (think: PQA topics).

        You could also phrase it in terms of what the students will be able to do (Can Dos), e.g. Students will be able to understand a story about a boy who wants a phone.

        If you MUST link the syllabus to specific linguistic items (but don’t assume you have to do this), then in level 1 you can probably guess at what will be accomplished:
        -use of highest frequency 10 verbs in the present tense,
        -some use of past with same 10 verbs,
        -use of the highest frequency (50) function words,
        -and there are some things that we probably notice our kids can do grammatically after 1 year, e.g. present progressives, possessives, conjunctions, prepositions, high-frequency verbs, etc.

    1. I want to say this to my fellow teachers in my district plus admin:

      My students can meet and SURPASS all of my California world language standards with TPRS/CI according to their levels.

      You want S and S? See my agenda for the day or my “lesson plan” book for the activities. Which are based on highest frequency words and or natural speech.

      You want results? See my student’s free writes. Speaking? Hear them out when I have a “spin-off” dialogue. Can’t understand? One of my students will translate.

    2. Who would rebut the point you make, Michael? You say it perfectly. Anchor texts, in particular, as used in the Denver Public Schools, become fertile ground for a creative new vision of what a Scope and Sequence can become. My problem with it, and this is not a rebuttal, is that since I am personally so non-targeted these days, I can’t be bothered to hassle planning a Scope and Sequence based on anchor texts or anything else. I literally don’t have the time and nobody reads them anyway except administrators and curriculum directors and they only skim over them.

      It ends up being a ton of work in order to placate a few powers that be, and to kind of stand up to the grammarian scope and sequence folks, who don’t want to hear what we say anyway. I personally have no inclination to stand up to anyone in this work anymore. I just want to let my (non-targeted) work stand for itself in my classroom, where I find peace and happiness and fulfillment in my career choice.

      We have different opinions, and that is what is great about our group here. But for me, dude, my focus is always going to be on being the best classroom teacher and father that I can be. I have no time for making nice. I’m not nice. I’m mean and cranky about all the Scope and Sequence bullshit that we have to deal with each year. I just want to be in my classroom. Almost ranted there. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  4. Great response Eric!

    Our S and S documents can be very much alike in year 1, 2, 3 etc. Basically, it could be tiered with stories and PQA activities that build in depth from year to year class to class.

    If there is a desire for cultural and historical topics in S and S documents than it makes sense to pick materials that reflect this. I now see myself as a teacher of things…not language…language is the by-product of my class.

    In the current reader we are finishing, I have taught my students about bullying and tolerance, history and culture, geography and adventure. They have no idea that they are using “advanced grammar” like preterit vs.imperfect, pluscuamperfecto, DOPs and IOPs. If I wanted to, I can make a syllabus that includes those things but it makes those discrete grammar the goal of my classes. For me, at this point, it is harmful to do so because the grammar is NOT the actual goal.

    The grammar is perhaps a tool to aid comprehension for the purpose of acquisition.

    Great feedback!

  5. Personally, I think it’s harmful to teach 10 minutes of daily textbook grammar in the early years of instruction.
    There will then be an implicit focus on getting it right (accuracy). Just knowing there is a right way (and they won’t retain much of the actual rules) will make students seize up.
    Plus, what a mixed message! Will the kids then think that grammar study is how they’ll get better? Will they attribute their gains to the grammar stuff?
    It doesn’t matter what you say to the kids. Your actions (teaching grammar) speak louder than your words (“we don’t acquire from grammar instruction”).
    If they never experience it, then they won’t know what they’re missing.

    1. Exactly!
      If we know that direct instruction of grammar is 1. a waste of time and 2. as you say truly “harmful” (for affective filter)… any amount of direct grammar instruction (even 10 minutes) would diminish our voice and feed into the Grammar Nazis.

      1. OK I missed this from Claire. Now there will be a combined document under the heading of Scope and Sequence and the now slammed idea of giving discrete grammar ten minutes a day. That document will be put in the Primers and as an article here as authored by John, Eric and Claire. (I am combining them as one article because they all say the same thing and we need to streamline here to any extent we are able).

    2. Great. Now it’s not just Bracy against Zach’s idea of ten minutes of grammar per day to placate the high school teachers and bow, if not reverentially at least in a perfunctory way, to the Scope and Sequence gods, but now the Hermanator weighs in with a head lock on the idea. I will add your comment, Eric, to the Primer article and new post featuring what John said in his comment. Man I can’t keep up with you guys. And I will send it to Zach and Jessica. The ten minutes of grammar a day idea is taking a hit!

      1. I wouldn’t be sure I could even teach 10 min. of grammar a day. Ex: Mike’s list of grammar terms and abbreviations went right over my head. I can really geek out about Chinese and how it is so wonderful and fascinating, and how to say different ideas, but that’s not really grammar instruction, is it?

  6. The phrase ‘a wolf in lamb’s clothing’ comes to mind.
    We are professional communicators and we can fancify and package the CI strategies any which way to meet the needs of curriculum czars, adminz, skeptical parents, etc. But why o’ why would we choose the language of last century to explain what we do now? Why would we offer to talk about indirect object pronouns unless we are specifically asked about them? Trying to ‘look like school’ is a point well taken. Some Ts show work-product (increasingly longer free and timed writes, video segments reflecting comprehension, class made stories, etc.) to elucidate their CI practice.
    If we choose to feature specific grammatical structures and other discreet elements of language, that’s what the above-mentioned community members will take away. It’s time for new & honest explanations of what we do. It will happen over time, as more and more students experience the new pedagogy.

  7. What is grammar? Ben has been wonderfully clear on this, it is properly constructed speech.

    If a structure used is “he falls down,” then we are doing the present tense. If, instead it is “he fell down” then we are in the past tense time frame focusing on understanding the preterite aspect. This is properly constructed speech. It is grammar. A text book pulled those two forms out of real life and encased them in a paradigm, where they sit pinned into place like so many dried insects in an entomology display to be viewed by specialists and other admirers. It is our task to break them out of the paradigm and breath life into them by using them to express meaning and teach kids to ascertain meaning until they themselves are using them to express meaning.

    We teach a living grammar by focusing on meaning. We teach a dead grammar by focusing on a word’s place in the paradigm.

    We teach meaning and an internalized grammar is the result. We learned (possibly taught) grammar rules and paradigms and a puzzling lack of meaning was the result.

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