Standards Based Model

Anne Matava wrote this, which ties into the discussion we are having right now with Lori:
Is anyone working in a school that is moving towards a standards-based model?  My school is, and I am having difficulty reconciling the new demands with what we know to be true about language acquisition.  Up until this point I have been able to flood the students with copious amounts of CI, assess for comprehension only, and let them speak and write when they are ready.  No standards, no benchmarks, no formative assessments, just pure language.  At this point, and my knowledge on the subject is admittedly scarce, it seems to me that language falls into a different category than math, science, history, etc., and therefore I should be able to at least do a modified version of this standards thing, if not be exempt altogether.  The suits in my school will not agree.  I could really use some support.  Thanks.



25 thoughts on “Standards Based Model”

  1. You really should take a look at Scott Benedict’s materials at He’s amazing! He originally had 7 different standards: writing, speaking, listening comprehension, reading comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, structure knowledge, and culture. I think he only does four now: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. (Check out and under general questions, there’s a recent thread about standards-based grading.) I used Scott’s old method last year and really loved it. What was really helpful was utilizing his rubrics because it allows you to be the judge of what exactly you’re looking for (thus allowing more time for acquisition). I highly suggest taking one or more of his webinars to see exactly how he impliments it; he has a lot of good ideas that really helped me to simplify what I was doing and focus more on my students and less on assessment. Also, if you’re worried about acquisition time, then purposely choose not to assess in a particular standard. I know I waited for speaking and writing until the end of first semester–and then I graded it very gently. If I had a little more autonomy, I would wait until the end of the first year entirely for speaking and writing. I would still grade gently, but I would give them a grade for those standards. As long as you determine beforehand what your expectations for level one and two are, then you should be absolutely fine.
    I really like standards-based grading for the following reasons: (1) it allows students/parents/me/etc. to see what skill the kids gets and doesn’t get–and not just “I’m good at this” or “I suck at this.” (2) Because you have a clearer understanding of a student’s strengths/weaknesses, you can address it and provide more useful and effective help to your students. (3) It’s more encouraging to the kids who aren’t as good because they can see what they’re good at. “Susie, you’re really struggling with this reading, but I love the way you listen…look, you have a 91% in that category!” (4) It focuses on skills and not on effort. I really struggled giving kids a lower participation score because I liked them as people and came to realize each student was giving about the best effort s/he could muster. Each kid has his or her own story, and I respect that some kids come in more mature/prepared than others…and a lot of the time, it’s not really that kid’s fault s/he is unprepared. Now, I don’t have to even attempt to go there. If Johnny isn’t participating in class, most likely, his quiz scores will go down and he’ll be able to see a direct correlation between participating and getting good grades. (5) We don’t ding kids twice (or more often!) for not doing their work. Under a traditional method, Johnny–the non-participator–would get points taken off for not doing his work, not participating, and for not doing well on the quizzes/tests. Now, only quizzes/tests are taking the hit. Sure, we want him to do better, but now he has more of an opportunity to raise his grade since we’re not sinking him on 2 or 3 different sides. (6) It reminds me to provide well-rounded teaching. We all have things we’re good at and like teaching. Seeing the skills laid out like that reminds me I need to hit all of those skills multiple times instead of focusing on one or two and sprinkling the others in at will. (7) Because you’re only assessing one skill at a time, it’s easier to evaluate how you’re doing on teaching something. There were several times last year when I was grading and realizing how many kids missed a particular thing…which meant it was my fault for not presenting it in a better fashion. These mistakes became more obvious to me. (8) Using Scott’s rubrics and standards-based grading has simplified and quantified my grading more than I ever could on my own.
    I hope this helps!

  2. Anne,
    I find the emphasis on standards-based grading helpful – depending on the standards, of course. If Maine has no Foreign Language Standards, then the National Standards are your friend. If the State Standards are based on the National Standards or ACTFL, then they are your friend. Based on the Standards, grammar-based teaching is out.
    It all depends on how you frame the standards. I used to use Scott’s ideas, but my research has led me to the three modes of communication. We have a pretty long thread on all of that. Most people here are hung up on California’s list of topics to be covered and still grade pretty traditionally. I so that list as a teacher check-list, not a student to-do list. Instead, I am moving (school hasn’t started yet) to evaluating the three modes of communication:
    -interpersonal communication
    -interpretive communication
    -presentational communication
    The College Board is even helpful here. The new AP Exam has seven sections. There is not a single grammar section there. Even the cloze section has disappeared. Students have to do the following:
    -interpret oral communication
    -interpret written communication
    -interpret a combination of written and oral communication
    -engage in written interpersonal communication
    -engage in oral interpersonal communication
    -produce written presentational communication
    -produce oral interpersonal communication
    Just as an example of how a CI-based classroom can do this: Every Monday we look at the Bundesliga results. Students interpret a chart (one of the written texts on the new AP Exam). We also read a paragraph from about the weekend, so students interpret written text. We then discuss the weekend, so students engage in oral interpersonal communication.
    Everything you do in your classroom falls into one of the modes of communication. Once school starts, I’ll be sending Ben notes about what’s happening with my grand experiment.
    In addition to standards-based assessment, my school is requiring us to us the Gradual Release of Responsibility template for lesson plans. There the only difficulty is convincing the suits that while GRR is what language acquisition is all about, it doesn’t happen in a single 55-minute class period.
    Hope this helps.

  3. Our district started the discussion on that last summer. I volunteered to write the proficiency guidelines as the rep from our site. I think I am the only one in the district who is using them. They have changed the way that I look at assessment and have been a strong part of my teaching for the last two years.
    Ben posted on his blog last year my experiment with learning scales (Marzano buzz word). It might be under grading.
    We are slowly talking about benchmarks in our department (different from scales).
    It looks like our level 1 quarter 1 benchmark will be something like: “Students can use the 3rd person to tell a story.” The level 1 quarter 2 benchmark will be something like “Students can use the 3rd person to tell a story and include dialogue between two people.”
    This is all we have so far. We are starting to build it in sequence. So that the end of the level 1 benchmark flows into the level 2 benchmarks. It sounds highly grammatical in nature but I know that my students will be able to write in the 3rd person by quarter 1. The end of level 2 is that “students will show a beginning knowledge of the temporal aspect of languages”.
    I know that input trumps output at the early stages, but in my bipartisan department I need to be willing to compromise with the non-CI teachers to get what I want (and I don’t want a multiple choice textbook test).

  4. Christine, right on for what you said. I agree with you because that is what we do in Denver. Now please come here and work with us. That you want to focus more on your students and less on assessment, of course, is the key to the whole thing. We should make the eight point delineation of why you like standards based grading into a separate blog post. I’ll repost it in a few weeks so that we can read it again.
    And everybody needs to read and reread what Robert wrote, especially in the first two paragraphs of his comment. It neatly provides a coda here of that “superthread” from last June of what I call, in my own mind, simply, the Three Modes. I know that Robert is the one to do this, to get us fully in line with the Three Modes and to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk on them.
    Wherever Robert’s “grand experiment” leads, and it will certainly lead to curricular gold, I will fully implement in my own classroom, no matter where I am, “until I am dead and even after” (sorry, got the Pirates of Penzance going through my mind here).
    Really, I convinced that the standards thing is going to cause about forty years of confusion and resistance from those people still using books and pacing guides and, when the time is right, those three modes will be perceived for what they are, the simple way to describe best practices, a way that slug teachers from the last century can understand that they have to change or get out of the profession. Right now they (the one’s Drew is working with in his school, for example, are hiding behind the smoke coming from the fire over standards based). It will be the three modes that will be standing there when the fire is out.
    [ed. note: by the way, there are too many teachers in this group who are new and want specifics about starting the year, but now that Christine and Robert have responded to Anne’s question, I guess we are going to be discussing that. Oh well. I will just stop the queue of new blog entries for a few days and ask the newer teachers to TPRS to just go back over the last 6 or 7 blog posts and the hope is that those will help you plan your start for the year. I want to be concrete and specific about teaching here, I want the videos to appear, and I know they will – the video piece is going to be a late bloomer on this blog, but it will happen]
    O.K. back to Robert’s point. I repeat here his first two paragraphs:
    …I find the emphasis on standards-based grading helpful – depending on the standards, of course. If Maine has no Foreign Language Standards, then the National Standards are your friend. If the State Standards are based on the National Standards or ACTFL, then they are your friend. Based on the Standards, grammar-based teaching is out….
    …t all depends on how you frame the standards. I used to use Scott’s ideas, but my research has led me to the three modes of communication. We have a pretty long thread on all of that. Most people here are hung up on California’s list of topics to be covered and still grade pretty traditionally. I so that list as a teacher check-list, not a student to-do list. Instead, I am moving (school hasn’t started yet) to evaluating the three modes of communication:
    -interpersonal communication
    -interpretive communication
    -presentational communication….

    Le Chevalier de L’Ouest here points to the real future, and no fake and false pathways to the future. His focus on the three modes is, in my view, the right road out of these standards woods, which are thick with overgrowth and confusion right now. Like Robert said above:
    …most people here are hung up on California’s list of topics to be covered and still grade pretty traditionally. I so that list as a teacher check-list, not a student to-do list….
    By the way, just to point out that if you go to Scott’s site and look at his evaluation instruments, (you can also see it on that tprs talk page), you will see that Scott counts speaking and writing more than listening and reading, even in the first year. This is egregious in terms of what we know about how kids acquire language.
    Christine you said:
    …if I had a little more autonomy, I would wait until the end of the first year entirely for speaking and writing….
    This, to me, is the key. Scott has a lot of good ideas, but his assessment focus is not in line with what we know right now. The best and most current research shows us clearly that listening is one bank and reading is the other bank of the wide river that takes our students happy to the ocean of fluency.
    I might suggest that when we we complain about not having enough autonomy, like someone is going to get us if we don’t do things a certain way that contradict the research, that sucks. What Scott is doing when he requires large amounts of output from first year students is wrong. Is he doing it because he is backing down in the face of the Nevada standards? What is going on? What are those standards? Why are they different in each state? Why was California the first state to hastily ratify the new alignment with ACTFL in 2008, I believe, and then keep doing business as usual by, essentially, following pacing guides like Robert said:
    …most people here are hung up on California’s list of topics to be covered and still grade pretty traditionally. I so that list as a teacher check-list, not a student to-do list….
    This means that there are no active standards in CA – the pacing guides (see this site “about TPRS/thoughts on pacing guides” are still being used, and we are still in the 20th century.
    So this is one big confusing mess. I know what I am going to do. I am going to thank my lucky stars that I work in Denver Public Schools and that my WL coordinator, Diana Noonan, is basically so in touch with the research (it helps that she very close with Stephen Krashen). And I am also thankful that Robert Harrell has said what he has said above about the three modes of communication because it is those three sentences that are going to get us out of these thick woods we are in right now. There is no reason I should get an email from a colleage whom I have never even met like this one:
    …maybe I should just get the fuck out of teaching. I have to face facts. No matter which school I am in, I will not be able to teach and assess the way I know to be right – just talking to the kids like Susie says. The weight of that realization is starting to crush me….
    I say that we need to remember that in the same way that corporations have a few wingnuts in them who are without empathy and are completely focused on the dollar, and who have managed to, through the banks, change and take over the government of and by the people, there are people who are doing that in education. So, this year, if you ever feel that you are being unduly targeted (we have the research, remember, and they don’t know about it so they are incapable of evaluating us properly), just weather the storm. It will all be o.k. Just don’t quit.
    Damn. This is not the way to start a year, by getting all hung about how we are going to be evaluated. I haven’t read Laurie’s comments yet this morning. I know they will bring me back to reality. I will go make a nice hot cup of chai and come back and read what Laurie says.

  5. I shouldn’t comment since I haven’t read all the other comments yet, but since I have limited time I will just copy and paste what Krashen said about the standards debate lately. I’m not sure if it even applies really to what you’re experiencing, but it is a gem, and if you haven’t read it I’m sure it will inspire some action for autonomy in yourself and possibly your school (or at least a different perspective). Here it is:
    The National Standards Discussion: A Weapon of Mass Distraction
    Stephen Krashen
    We are again invited to give our opinions about the content of
    national standards
    ). We are not invited to discuss whether we need national standards
    and their spawn, national tests. For those who haven’t been paying
    attention, the Department of Education is planning to impose more
    testing than has ever been seen on this planet, far more than is
    helpful or necessary.
    Those who accept the invitation to discuss the content of the
    standards will have the impression they have a seat at the table. In
    reality, invitations to discuss the standards are a means of control,
    diverting attention from the real issues.
    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly
    limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate
    within that spectrum … That gives people the sense that there’s free
    thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the
    system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the
    debate” (N. Chomsky, The Common Good, p. 42, 2002)
    The problem in American education is not a lack of standards. The
    problem is poverty. Our students from middle-class families who attend
    well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international
    tests. The US has the highest level of child poverty among all
    industrialized countries. If all our children were protected from the
    effects of poverty our overall international test scores would be
    Poverty means little health care, poor nutrition and little access to
    books and has a devastating effect on school achievement. The best
    teaching is ineffective when children are hungry, ill, and have
    nothing to read. The impact of poverty could be profoundly reduced if
    we invested more on food programs, health care, and libraries, instead
    of on useless standards and tests.
    We have been told not to worry about these things but instead to
    debate whether 10th graders should be required to write 40% of their
    essays as arguments, 40% as informational, and 20% narrative.
    Susan Ohanian notes that issuing standards is like presenting menus to
    starving people. Now we are invited to discuss what should be on the

  6. Jim this is so important. Thank you. Krashen provides a kind of positive electrical ground polarity for us as we, caught up in the electrical zap-zap-zapping action between him and Arne Duncan, flail about trying to keep our minds functioning in that heavy electrical field. We are trying so hard to find what is right for us in that gap between the positive polarity (Krashen) and what the people we work for tell us to do. If you ever feel like you are in shock as a teacher, it’s because you are.
    I agree with Christine that standards based grading can do a lot for us, but maybe Krashen is right, that all the discussion is really just a smokescreen, a diversion to give us the impression that we have a seat at the table. The person who wrote to me above about just getting out of the profession expresses a most poignant truth – how can we do our jobs when we are being forced to do stuff that we disagree with, that goes against the grain of the joy of pure comprehensible input, which, at its base, really is a very very joyful thing. I know what my answer is. For some reason I have been placed in a public school classroom to teach kids. As I near the end of that responsibility, I am clear in the knowledge that my responsibilities have been always only to those kids, and, most especially recently in my career, to their poverty. I will continue to bow my head to all that is good and great in all of us who do this job. I will continue to focus on and provide a good experience for my students. I will not fear being fired, because the standards debate instills no fear in me – I know that I am aligning with the research. I express the deepest gratitude to Stephen Krashen and Diana Noonan and Bryce Hedstrom and Blaine Ray and Susan Gross and Lisa Reyes and Scott Benedict – even if we don’t always agree on the details – and everyone else on this national team for their absolutely uncompromising stance on what they know is right. Bryce what do you say on the signature on your emails about us staying together, that quote from Gladiator? That’s it, dude. What is happening with the standards and Arne Duncan is merely a reflection of what is happening in the larger society as a whole. Ignorance, greed, and fear are rearing their heads perhaps in a way never experienced by mankind. Big deal.

  7. Thank you for the gem from Krashen, Jim. This is all so helpful. Thanks to you too Ben, for putting your finger right on the real issue: do I have the courage to do what I know to be right and not worry about getting fired? I do now.
    Thank you.

  8. Way to go, Anne!
    I made a decision a long time ago that I am obligated as an employee to follow my employer’s instructions unless they are illegal, immoral or unethical. Deliberately giving my students an education that was less than the best I could give would be unethical, so in this increasingly camazotzean world, fully aware of the risks I choose to do what I know is best. Or as the founder of the university where I got my BA would say, “Do right until the stars fall.”
    At the same time, we need to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” – a hard combination indeed. Last year I spent a lot of time figuring out how to couch what I do in terms that my administration found not merely acceptable but exemplary. Sometimes it’s a matter of learning to speak their language.
    I have also become an advocate and a gadfly in my district. Jason Fritze once told me that if we don’t become advocates for what we believe is right, other people will make the decisions for us. As a result, my district has heard a lot about SLA research, brain-based research, etc. Movement is glacial, but I keep pointing to the State Standards and ACTFL Guidelines – now I get to point to the new AP Exam as well – to support my position. Unfortunately, many of my suggestions are too “out there” for quick implementation (using novels/readers instead of textbooks for one), but at least I am starting to get more people to listen. Of course it helps that my program has the highest student retention rate in the district, and students use the language daily. In the last three years I have had a student per year go to Germany for a year abroad – in high school. I don’t think anyone else in the district has had any students do that.
    I don’t say the above to brag, I’m just noting that it becomes increasingly hard for people to ignore results. There is now a core of about half a dozen TCI teachers in my district, and we have begun meeting for mutual encouragement and coaching. Some of them have nearly impossible situations because of their colleagues, so I really admire their perseverance.
    Okay, stepping off the soapbox. You go, Anne!

  9. Robert we need to brag. I use my kids’ test scores all the time to make points about the value of teaching this way. I present results of competitions at parents’ nite. I give the basically useless National French Exam every year for that one single purpose, so that I can demonstrate the effectiveness of TPRS. I also head off arguments with that information, when little Jennifer goes home and complains about that man who doesn’t let her memorizing little self – bless her heart! – be the star of the class anymore. It shuts people up. No, man, it’s not just anecdotal like with your kids going on programs overseas and all, it’s about showing off data as well. You should see Anne Matava’s data. In fact, there are no small amount of TPRS teachers out there who should not let the invisible world dictum in our society that says we can’t brag about what our students have done prevent them from doing so. Echoing Jason, we need to educate people so that they, because they are some basically idiotic principal, can’t turn around on us and tell us what to do. We need to use our successes to make it clear to everyone that what we do does indeed produce rather striking results – weird things like kids understanding the TL when it is spoken fast after just a few years because they have been hearing it all the time, reading in the TL, scoring high on national exams, LIKING THEIR LANGUAGE CLASSES, etc. Just brag on, brother. You and Jason down there in SoCal are just kicking ass all over the place. Why not say it?

  10. Thank you, Robert. Maybe I could get in touch with you when it’s time to “use their language”, as you put it? I’ve never been good at putting a spin on things. Thank you for the support.

  11. Anne – I am volunteering Robert’s time on this. Robert, this is for real – we need you. I will do my part and publish as much paperwork stuff, like Irene refers to on that other comment, on my class website at, which in a few weeks will have a lot of good stuff about how what we do pertains to and reflects the standards. Don’t go there now because I have to build that site yet. But there will be some good stuff on there. In the meantime, Robert, thank you for everything. Anne is also a German scholar!

  12. Thanks so much, Robert–and Anne. I appreciate this:
    “Last year I spent a lot of time figuring out how to couch what I do in terms that my administration found not merely acceptable but exemplary. Sometimes it’s a matter of learning to speak their language.”
    That is what I need to do. And to have Anne’s “courage to do what is right”, regardless. I only have this job for one year, anyway. If I could somehow prove in a few weeks that my students this year are not making the gains that my 8th graders made last year with CI, maybe someone will listen…Or maybe I’ll take my nephew’s advice and “cheat the rubric.” Or take Christine’s advice and “grade gently” on those Learning Outcomes ( we have 6 of them in our school rubric, plus actual content knowledge) that I don’t believe lead to comprehension/acquisition.
    Maybe I have hope again.
    “Do right until the stars fall”–yeah. I can live by that.

  13. Ok Ben…here goes…for what it’s worth:
    1. In hundreds of years, not one human being has been able to create an evaluation system that ensured that any other human being acquired a language better and/or faster. EVER.
    Evaluation systems have NOTHING to do with acquisition.
    What we actually do know about acquisition is that it cannot be manipulated very well externally.
    What we can do is create an ideal-as-possible environment for acquisition emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physiologically. Then…feed people language in digestible chunks so that their brains can acquire it as they will. I think we know more about what interferes with acquisition than what elicits acquisition.
    2. What evaluation CAN do, is let us know what pieces of the language students have acquired and what they are skilled enough, and comfortable enough, to demonstrate.
    3. What evaluation is too often USED FOR is to divide students into categories, to provide justification for the sale of materials, to arbitrarily judge and rank students, teachers, programs and districts.
    Too often, as teachers, we spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to create, or adapt, or work with evaluation systems so that our students are not harmed in the process.
    I know that I am a cynic and a rebel on this topic. But I believe that there is no system out there that does any good for us, or for our students, no matter how much our “teacher brains” love those systems.
    Keep evaluation to a minimum. Use it to evaluate if you need to go narrower and deeper. Use it to evaluate how compelling your material is. Use it to evaluate the comprehensibility of everything you use.
    Use a little of it to showcase your students.
    Then, let it go….let it go…let it go….
    with love,

    1. Which Laurie is why I give only those little ten point quick quizzes at the end of class when the material is fresh in their minds. That’s basically it. All formative. The rest, the district evaluations and summative stuff, you are so right, they have no value.

  14. Laurie,
    Very wise insights as USUAL and VERY thought provoking! I am chewing on what you said and how it compares to what I believe to be true.
    How would you respond if I were to say that assessments have helped me “learn” things that I didn’t know before (so I got it wrong on the assessment:( and after the assessment I remembered them – long term?
    Could this 1. be true? and 2. Apply to language acquisition?
    Also, if nothing motivates like success, then couldn’t success on assessments motivate students to want to do better and make them feel good about languages and in the long run have the effect of helping them succeed? My biggest challenge always seems to be to get students to BELIEVE that they CAN acquire a language. Once I have accomplished this they do seem to acquire more easily.?????
    I would be very interested in your thoughts on this 🙂

    1. Skip you are a 4%er. Most kids never learn by being corrected. In fact, if corrected too early and too often, they stutter. And on your second point about getting kids to believe that they can acquire a language, do YOU believe that they can? Then do it – your belief in them will transfer into their belief in themselves.

    2. Dear Skip,
      I think that Robert is correct…it helped you to “learn” something, not necessarily be able to communicate fluently with it… were ready for it. As for assessment as motivation, yes..with some students it helps. These are students who are not accustomed to success. They can’t actually believe that they understand the language or can use it UNTIL a teacher makes it official via assessment. However, your “4 %ers” find these assessments horrifying. To these kids a real assessment is extremely challenging and separates them out as the “cream of the crop.” When other students do as well as they do on these assessments, it shakes the foundation that holds them up as “smart.” The good news? You know your students and you can create a quick end of the class assessment that will motivate them. :o) To me that is part of creating an environment that encourages acquisition. I definitely think that there is a place for assessment…but I like to keep it there…in its place…rather than give it more time and energy than it really merits. :o)
      with love,

      1. What you said there Laurie, at the end, is important I think. I used to spend so much time thinking about how I could fairly assess students. When teaching in Omaha, we would spend hours just discussing this topic ( when we could have been using that time much more constructively, like relaxing or learning another language ourselves). This effort to make assessments fair usually just made us do activities that would be very easy to measure, like did they put the DOP in the correct spot or is the verb ending appropriate or simple things like that. No way did we get into trying to assess fluency, too subjective for our objective box.
        Now I don’t have to think about that, because I’ve learned that assessments are not for usually done for the students’ sake, and therefore don’t really promote learning. Plus, Alfie Kohn has made a very convincing case against grading (the ugly step-brother of most assessments) in that they are rewards and rewards naturally and consistently do 2 pretty terrible things: Decrease long-term motivation and lower performance. That’s enough for me to agree with Laurie that we should keep assessments in their place and limit their impact on students.
        When I think about what assessments I should do or not do in my public school classes, I think about which ones I ask my paying adult students to do, which is pretty darned limited and carry NO extrinsic rewards of any kind.

  15. Laurie wrote, 1. In hundreds of years, not one human being has been able to create an evaluation system that ensured that any other human being acquired a language better and/or faster. EVER.
    I don’t remember if it was somewhere on this blog or in another place, but recently I read some things about the American love of “shortcuts”, of trying to do “more advanced” things without doing the basic things first – and it doesn’t work. It takes 15 years to produce a 15-year old.
    Even in agriculture we see and suffer the consequences of this desire to skip steps and shorten the process. Con Agra and other big concerns force their vegetables to mature “faster” so they can get another crop in each year or get to market “on schedule”. They feed their animals hormones to “promote growth”. The result? It has been years since I tasted a tomato nearly as good as the ones my grandmother grew in her garden. Children and adults are ingesting growth hormones and other chemicals that do unwelcome things to our bodies.
    This same thinking gets applied to education.Everything must occur “on schedule” (scripted teaching anyone?), and we are expected to “force” students to acquire language, math or science so as to reach a benchmark, so everyone gets uptight about “remediation” and test scores. Unnatural education warps our teachers and students emotionally,mentally and spiritually, just as unnatural agriculture warps us physically. Monsanto’s motto doesn’t always apply. [Better living through chemistry.]
    I am increasingly buying organic produce in the stores. I am increasingly teaching “organic language” in my classroom.
    Anne, I will be more than happy to help with language, etc. My e-mail is harrellrl at aol dot com.
    One of the things we are supposed to do each day is write down a goal and agenda for every class every day. The goal is supposed to be in the form of “Students will be able to” (SWBAT). The idea is that if students know the purpose of the class period, they will more readily get the knowledge. So, I did an experiment. Just off the cuff, I asked my students if they could tell a visitor the purpose of the class period. Response: “Communicate in German.” What’s the agenda? “Watch, listen and respond in German.” Works for me – I’ve fulfilled the requirement, and my students know what the lesson is about. 🙂
    Especially if your school is coming up on accreditation (we had a visit in March), it helps to coach your students on speaking the language of the visiting committee as well. I had two committee members come into my classroom at different times. They saw students engaged in speaking the language, stayed maybe two minutes, asked a student what we were doing, and left. This is a good sign, BTW. It means they saw what they wanted to see. It’s a bad sign if they come and stay or come repeatedly.

    1. Same thing Robert. Our WL team at Lincoln is actually going to make team-wide poster that kids can refer to when being asked to tell a (big intimidating) administrator (who has for some reason decided to zero in little ole me) something about the class. But I like your way – it is so much simpler. I’ll make it a separate blog post.

  16. Skip, I’m sure Laurie will reply on her own, but I note she used the phrase, ensure that any other human being acquired a language better and/or faster.
    You personally used the assessment because you were ready for it, but an assessment of something you weren’t ready for wouldn’t have helped you acquire it any sooner or better. You might have done better on other assessments because you learned it and, in the subsequent testing situation, had time to focus on the structure/rule and could consciously apply it, but that doesn’t mean you had acquired the language. At least that’s what the research seems to indicate.

  17. Robert wrote: “It takes 15 years to produce a 15-year old.”
    I love that. We need to get some more realistic expectations sometimes. This weekend I read in the local newspaper: “People have drove that route for years.”
    I heard in conversations with adults: “We have ate there a lot lately” and “she had wrote that down”.
    I guess folks in Colorado haven’t quite acquired the present perfect tense yet, but I also heard a four year old use the basics of English grammar quite well to communicate clearly, which was encouraging.

    1. A few years ago my administrator wanted all teachers to have a SWBAT on the board for each lesson, every day. I taught the kids to repeat “Our goal today is to practice our developing skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking in French”, and they would parrot it on request if I got observed, so the administrator knew that the students knew what the goal for the day was in class. It was a good reminder for me to attempt to hit practice in all four skills. She also wanted a SWBAT in the plan book for every lesson every day, so I wrote the above phrase in the front of the plan book, and said that it was the same goal, every lesson, every day: practicing our four skills. For a while I would put a “Focus” skill at the top of the lesson in the plan book, but I abandoned that too, because it was stupid. Luckily, I have an administrator who understands and accepts my explanations for why I need to do things differently from teachers of other subjects. Robert’s students were able to produce this kind of response spontaneously. I coached my students for “just in case” situations, at least for a few years, and new teachers may want to follow that model, if they are attempting to comply with administrators’ requests.

      1. Right on Naomi. Here’s the kicker that you said –
        …I have an administrator who understands and accepts my explanations for why I need to do things differently….
        I do too, now. Last year I didn’t. I had the thought today, just kind of walking around thinking like we do sometimes, about how crucial the building, the team, the principal are to our mental well being. I hid it from the group last year because I thought that it was me who sucked, but it turns out that was not true. My clear thought was that we can change jobs to follow principals and find our tribes. It’s a free country. We just can’t allow ourselves to be beaten down when we know what our hearts tell us, as per:
        …follow your heart; that’s what I do….
        – Napoleon Dynamite

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