Scope and Sequence Meeting – 1

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19 thoughts on “Scope and Sequence Meeting – 1”

  1. If you send that letter to your supervisor you get the COJONES award for 2016.
    Every singly word of it is the gospel truth, so I’m gonna have your trophy engraved.

  2. More people need to speak out like this and then we might start to see change.

    ” but I don’t like to fake things in education – it affects the kids in too much of a negative way when we do that and it is done too much already. ”

    That is my favorite and so well said. Let’s stop the BS and just teach students to love learning again and that everyone can learn if they are inspired to do so, want to do so and are given the TIME to do so.

  3. Well we had the meeting. The supervisor was pissed. Visibly. So we sat down and I didn’t budge. She ended up saying that she no longer wanted to talk about S and S with me, but did I have any idea how we could make it easier for those in the K-12 department to learn this method. I said that I don’t know how to do that, that that is for the great ones like Susie Gross to do. All I could offer her was that my door is always open – esp. now that the Invisible creatures are basically providing a home run story in every single class. I said I would send my book to everyone. (By the way if you know of a teacher who might not be able to afford my books in electronic form, tell me and I will send them to them at no cost.) I said that reform in my view is about intentionality and we can’t decide what a person’s intentions are for them. I said that even really conservative personalities can become rock stars at this work. I stated again the supreme and overarching role of the unconscious mind in this work. I did my best, but I didn’t misrepresent myself – I didn’t try to solve her problem, which is curriculum development for the entire school whereas I am only a classroom teacher. It depends on the individual teacher to reach out and work hard and find a way to make CI happen for each one individually. We can’t be the ones to reach out – we have enough on our plates, n’est-ce pas? I respect my own need to not be everything to all people.

    1. So since I now see that my curriculum director didn’t really want to talk about S and S after all but really how to bridge the gap (I had called the gap in a vertical meeting with all ten teachers last week a “chasm” and she didn’t like that), so I sent her this email just now. It is all I can offer the school since I am neither a theoreticican nor a writer of either scopes or sequences, but a classroom teacher:

      Hey I have an idea to respond to what you brought up yesterday in our meeting. I have some of the best students in the world in my classes. What if, on a training day, we invited them to come to school for a four hour session where I teach them a true demo lesson, including a story and a reading, for these teachers.

      In that way the teachers could see the method more clearly than in a thousand meetings and workshops. Four hours on a training day. That’s what a I want. I’ll take five or six hours if I can get them. Linda and Zach can throw down into the session but I want to be in charge.

      I say this because you had asked me how to reach the teachers in our department who want a piece of this but don’t know what to do. Then, after they observe, i could train whichever of them wanted to learn (coaching is my great strength in this work along with grammar). The training would have to be a three month intensive because I won’t be at AES next year.

      I want to be able to say when I leave that I did all I can for AES while I was here. Then Linda and Zach can take over. Zach is a true rising star, and so is Bernie and I think those others in the high school whom you say want to explore this work can become experts at it but the window in terms of what I can offer the school is getting smaller fast.

      This is just an idea. I’m thinking like a consultant here and tapping into the true needs of the group, the actual needs, as you expressed them to me yesterday.


  4. Explain that there is such a thing as a “retroactive” or “a posteriori” syllabus. And you could list (maybe even order) on that syllabus the types of stories you do. But syllabi should stop being lists of grammar and vocabulary.

    You can give her last year’s scope & sequence (as an order of stories and conversations you did). You can give her the scope & sequence you’ve used this year so far, but you can’t give her that scope & sequence for the rest of the year. That would defeat the whole idea of teaching to YOUR students right NOW.

    1. That would defeat the whole idea of teaching to YOUR students right NOW.

      So true, Eric. This is the opposite the thrust of the reflecting on midyear exams, final exams, and high stakes testing. What I have witnessed, anyway, is looking at the errors made by this year’s students and plan what we are going to do for next year’s students. We do not have time to help this year’s students because we have to get along with the sequence to make sure we cover the full scope. But we will help next year’s students avoid the errors of this year’s students, maybe.

      (The real errors are in the Scope and Sequence. The sequence is artificial. The scope, as Blaine has said is a mile wide and a half-inch deep. The error that we transitioned, into when we went from students to teachers, was to go for breadth because we were never taught how to go for depth. Then, because the breadth is so daunting and so resistant to mastery, the solution for taking a break from the endless sweat and tears was to do projects. But we were doomed to follow the sequence to complete the scope, fearing that depth was quicksand.)

      Yet my hope in what is in many ways an overcast year is that we are supposed to make changes in the curriculum map to help students succeed. So the quest is to re-google the directions because I have a different destination than book writers. This post is where I my head is right now as we head into February break and the coldest days of the year.

  5. “I respect my own need to not be everything to all people.”

    “You can give her last year’s scope & sequence (as an order of stories and conversations you did). You can give her the scope & sequence you’ve used this year so far, but you can’t give her that scope & sequence for the rest of the year. That would defeat the whole idea of teaching to YOUR students right NOW.”


  6. I will soon be sitting down with a colleague in my school to work on S and S for our first-year Spanish classes (I teach first semester and she teaches second semester, but since we are in middle school, first semester is all of seventh grade and second is all of eighth grade, so we are basically teaching a year between us). She uses TPRS and comprehensible input, but she reached out to the district language TOSA (coach) for S and S and the textbook chapters to cover. We will be meeting in two weeks and I am starting to get a little nervous. Originally we had planned to loop, and I would go to eighth grade with my current kids, and then send them right on to high school, but she decided recently that she first wants to get this S and S hammered out and get my seventh graders next year so she can work with them and see how they do. And I know that the high school Spanish (and French!) teachers are mostly grammar-based syllabus type folks. I know she is an admirer of you, Ben, because she uses these color-coded word lists you made in DPS years ago. (Do you remember those? Are you still using them? She has the kids work on them independently and then tests them on the words. Do you do that?) So I will share this with her if it is OK with you. Powerful words in that letter.

    1. I may have shared this level 1 Spanish S and S before. I used this document within a large department that was not buying into CI only methods. You can see the blend of what non-CI teachers would like to teach and the expression of high frequency, input-based instruction for someone like me.

      I do not use this syllabus anymore in my new position but I think this document is NOT polarizing in anyway.

  7. The scope and sequence of a foreign or second language classroom should focus on the metacognitive and cognitive processes to acquire language, not just what words and structures are created. If you look at Common Core’s strands, you can see a movement in our country away from the content “what we’re teaching” towards the cognitive processes used for comprehension. The same is true for language learning. Self-monitoring comprehension, perceptual processing, engaging an interlocutor, elaborating from personal experiences, etc. need to be things on our Scope and Sequence, not individual words.

    I think this is one area where English as a Second Language is actually ahead of foreign language. Our department doesn’t require us to delineate and follow a strict “Scope and Sequence” (of individual words or structures). My administrators know that the kid in my class who speaks Arabic is going to learn individual words and points of grammar in a different way than the kid who speaks Spanish or Chinese. This is why out of the 3 counties I have taught in, only one county purchased an “textbook” that was optional. In fact, the ESL coordinator discouraged us from using it because it was “outdated.”

    Talk to your ESL coordinators and you might find a surprising ally in your fight against the antiquated and rigid Scope and Sequence as a list of grammar and vocabulary.

  8. Claire what you say there is pure gold. It is needed right now. I find it most refreshing to see it made clear that a Scope and Sequence need not be what it was, and that it can evolve into something bigger, something less focused on “things” and more focused on people/process. Thank you for this. I will make it into an article and a Primer articles and categorize it as ELA as well as TPRS.

  9. Thank you, Ben.

    I love that you emailed your administrator to say that planning Scope and Sequencing isn’t your job. Teachers have to distance themselves a little from that process; there’s a danger in being hyper-aware of an overly specific scope and sequence.

    We can use it like we would to track a baby’s growth, observing milestones. We can observe the stages of French I “newborns” and plan around how we think they will grow; we can even raise a red flag or change our approach if they aren’t toddling around when we think they should be. It’s good to keep the benchmarks in the back of our mind as we plan, but we need to provide i+1 to student students where they are.

    Students get left behind when teachers focus on a rigid scope and sequence or (worse) a textbook. I don’t see the harm in delineating which HFW you plan to teach when, as long as you modify your instruction based on student growth.

  10. I am being reminded this year how much more horrible a textbook based S&S is than a HFW word/structure S&S. The reason that is burning in my mind right now is the gradualness of working from a HFW list. The textbook chapter is such a defined boundary, so that previous chapters make a distinct break with successive chapters. With the HFW list is more like a rain cloud coming over. By the time the cloud starts with a new word on the front end, the ground has been thorough soaked on the back end. With the chapter divisions, we sprinkle over a wide area for a limited amount of time and then move on to another piece of ground. The first did not get a good soaking and will be dried up before we finish with the next plot.

    1. Robert Harrell

      I don’t know about Ben’s thoughts, but my thoughts in writing the document were to keep admins off the back of CI teachers. Some administrators demand that teachers submit scope and sequence documents, and at least this moves them away from following a textbook’s grammar-driven concatenation of discrete grammar lessons.

      Personally, I have never used the document in my teaching.

  11. Dana I read your question and took my computer out in the backyard to give the document a good reading since it’s been awhile. Then, after I read it I came back here to this comment field to give you my response. But meanwhile Robert gave his response above. No big surprise – my take on it was exactly his – it is perfect “camouflage writing” describing at which level what skill should be given attention, all supported by researched based comments that I fully agree with it. I think you were going in the direction that I might be wanting less prescribed documents now that you have joined us and studied current PLC discussion points, but I have to agree that with Robert the we need docs like this so yeah, what Robert said was exactly going to be my answer. We learn to throw the dogs the bones they want and the one that Robert wrote smacks them in the chops. It wakes the dog up a bit to the way we do things in CI-based language instruction and is sufficiently vague to assure no backlash from some of the admins who actually read those documents. In other words, what Robert wrote can be used by CI teachers to maintain honesty with themselves and keep fools at bay. But I also appreciate the inspiration of your question, Dana, because in fact we are moving closer and closer to S/S docs that rip apart the old unit model. Robert’s is a great start in that direction. You need not fret about the Office of Curriculum at the American Embassy School in the fall. Using Robert’s model as a guide, as well as all the other fantastic primer articles he and others have written there our the years (Primers hard link across the top of this page), we “got this”. I assume you are out across the pond now Robert. I think you will be spending most of it in Germany, right? Best of travels and give hugs to Martin, Judy, Phil and the others in Agen!


    1. Thank you to both of you! Since I’m new here, I’m trying to figure out what everyone is still thinking, and what ideas have changed or been left behind. So thank you for the clarification. I’ll likely have more of these types of questions as I continue to read and learn. 🙂

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