StarChart ™ Lesson Plan Suggestions

(The teacher is invited to take what they want from each one. As the number of suggested lesson plans grows in this Learning Community category, so will the teachers’ options grow when it comes to accomplishing the annoying job of submitting lesson plans):

1. This first one is from Cynthia Tann:

A Suggested Lesson Plan for World Language Classes using the StarChart™

[Note: In old lesson plan models, teachers often copied the Table of Contents of the textbook they were using. I do think that much of the importance of Cynthia’s plan here is that it explains to administrators not just the “what” but also the “how” and the “why” of their teaching. It is not inaccurate to say that the writers of most old-style plans DON’T KNOW WHY they teach the way they do, except to say, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” In fact, there is no rationale or justification of any kind behind the old lesson plan model. That’s why the new example below – and hopefully others to follow in our lesson plan collection here – is important.

The StarChart™ curriculum is based on the latest research on how the brain best learns a language.  The five points of the StarChart™ represent:

  1. Create
  2. Review
  3. Write
  4. Read
  5. Extend

Older WL curriculums are based on studying/memorizing word lists or verb conjugations. In those textbook-dominated classes, the child heard very little of the language presented to them in interesting verbal and reading contexts. This is the reason adults often say, “I took four years of Spanish in high school and can’t say a word.”

The StarChart™ when used as the base curriculum in any WL classroom is different. In each class we speak the language to our students, with the main area of focus being their understanding of it. This is called providing our students with comprehensible input (CI). Properly presented CI provides to all the students and not just the few the very clear feeling that “Yes, I can do this and yes I am good at language learning.

In each class we rotate through the following five points of the StarChart™:

  1. Create Phase – In this first phase of the StarChart™, students create a picture that has their name on the page and represents something that they like to do. This activity is called “Card Talk”.  When students get to more advanced levels, they use different “starting points” of creation for each “journey” around the Star. First the teacher engages the class in the target language to create, from three possible sources, an image,  asking questions in the target language about it:  WHO does it?  WHERE is it done?  WHEN is it done? As students progress in learning, more questions are added. A student in grades 5 or above is drawing this as we go along through class.
  2. Review Phase – The completed image is then reviewed by the teacher, who discusses all of the details of the drawing just created in Phase 1. After that, the first of four daily quiz is given. Once the students understand that paying attention in class leads to high quiz grades, the foundation has been laid for their success in the class.
  3. Write Phase – The teacher writes a full copy of what has been discussed and includes any extra details from the student picture. Students then copy this statement for a second quiz grade.
  4. Read Phase – In this most important phase of the StarChart™, the teacher employs ten reading activities whose common goal is to build confidence in the students that they are good readers in another language. This is the most important phase of the StarChart™, because according to the best research we have, reading is the high road to language proficiency.
  5. Extend Phase – In this final phase of the StarChart™, the students translate the original text (from Phase 1) word for word for a third quiz grade. A fourth quiz grade in the form of a dictation is then given. Because of all the recycled repetition over the course of the engaging lesson, the students all do well and a confident community of engaged students becomes a visible marker of the class. Instead of quiet classrooms in which bored students do worksheets and wrestle with confusing grammar rules, StarChart™ classrooms become places where students are actually happy being in school. In the Extend Phase, the teacher reinforces all previous instruction via the innovative Word Chunk Team Game and other activities that, in the fashion of a taxonomy, bring everything together, as it were.

Note that the progress around the Star during a StarChart™ “journey” is determined by each individual class. This is not cookie cutter instruction where everyone is expected to be on the same page in the book on a certain day. Rather, each class moves around the Star at its own pace. Some students who are fast processors of language absorb more language than others, but the assessment plan honors the differences in student processing speed. Students are never “behind” – they are absorbing the amount of CI that they are capable of absorbing that day. They are not rushed, they do no memorization, which has nothing to do with language acquisition in the sense that none of us certainly has acquired their first language via memorizing, and the students are not compared to other students in the classroom. This results in far more accurate grades. If a student tries, they succeed. No shame covers a portion of the students in StarChart™ classes, and there is no small group in a StarChart™ classroom acting as a kind of ruling classes.

The StarChart™ does not provide a “linear” sequence, where the student learns (read “memorizes”) regular adjectives in September, irregular adjectives and interrogative pronouns in October, demonstrative adjectives and relative pronouns in November, possessive adjectives and in December, with different verb tenses thrown in to make the students mildly crazy if they are not or choose not to be good little robot memorizers. In this class, the students get to interact with the other students in the classroom and with their teacher.

This textbook model of language instruction has long proven itself to be af failure, It is as if a car engine was laid out on the floor of a garage, the parts of the engine to be named and labeled in a way that directly reflects the worksheet model that has so badly failed American language students for decades now.

Rather, in the StarChart™, the parts of the engine are put together and the car actually moves down the road in a StarChart™ journey, with the teacher and students all packed into the car with smiles on their faces and a feeling of real community and Communication (the ACTFL nations standard). In this lesson, respect for all the students is evident and based on the research-proven fact that, if given enough comprehensible input, anyone can learn a language, as is proven by the fact that the students already speak one language and in some cases more than one, languages which they did not learn by memorizing.

In classes where it is possible, the pictures created by the class artists are posted on the wall for easy review in what is called the “Gallery”.  In other classes, the teacher posts the created images online.  The teacher writes up each tableau or story throughout the year to provide a final copy to go to students at the end of the year during the end-of-year “Celebration”, which replaces the final exam and to which parents and news media, other teachers and students from other classes are invited to enjoy a carefully constructed (by the students of Hub D) end of year party, in which laughter and feelings of community built over the course of the year go even deeper.

This is the daily lesson plan – the StarChart™ journey around the five points of the Star – is for all grades k-Spanish I for the entire year.  It becomes more complex as students progress in the language.

The key benefits over the StarChart™ as opposed to the textbook are:

  1. The student feels confident at the end of each year of study for no other reason than they understand.
  2. The student looks forward to coming to class each day because they know that the class will be fun.
  3. WL enrollments expand over time, and the upper levels classes retain higher enrollments and enrollments that reflect a more diverse population than in the past.
  4. Assessment is much more accurate because it is not based on memorizing for a test, which information is soon forgotten, but rather all assessment in the StarChart™ approach is based on the national ACTFL standard of Communication. ACTFL’s Three Modes of Communication in this approach are respected.
  5. Most importantly is that, unlike in the past, the instruction aligns with the research about how people acquire languages – through comprehensible input.

The only deviance from this will be for HS Spanish I on Fridays they may do independent work on their computers that will target advancing reading skills.



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