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StarChart™

Ben Slavic’s StarChart™

Here is an overview of the StarChart™ by PLC group members Jesse and Elahe. Jesse calls it “a summary of his experience and understanding of our Zoom CI classes.” It’s a great description of the Star and I suggest that anyone currently reading the Ultimate CI books and/or currently taking the Ultimate CI Zoom training read it and use it in communication about CI with their admin team. It has the potential to knock any sensitive reader out!

In fact, this is probably one of the best templates that you could use in communication with admins. My advice is to grab it now and put it somewhere in your computer, in with any other curriculum docs you collect for communicating with administrators who ask for information about what you do. It’s a concise doc, very to the point, and if you hand this to an admin it’s easier than giving them a whole book, which they won’t read:

Overview of demonstration  

  1. Ele followed the five stages of instruction as defined by The StarChart (see attached)
  2. Jesse took on the Artist student job (see Student Jobs)
  3. Suzanne completed 1 quiz (out of a potential 4) and got 100%, demonstrating comprehension of the target language.

We discussed:

  • Translation is used to establish meaning in a CI story class (beginner) in order to efficiently address student-generated ideas and to maximize comprehension while moving through The StarChart.
  • Parents (and students) may experience resistance to this new method. To ease this resistance, classes can be taken in 10-session units. It has been my experience that students love this form of instruction.
  • This method is input-focused rather than output-focused. Students are held accountable to demonstrate comprehension in class through constant CCQs and simple quizzes; however, they are not expected to output, unless they choose. The teacher encourages output but doesn’t force it.
  • In a CI class, vocabulary is shieled but grammar isn’t. This means that teachers use any grammatical structure they see fit to communicate the message; however, they are very careful to avoid cramming too much new vocabulary into a session, tableau or story, or progressing to more questioning levels too fast.
  • This method relies almost entirely on student ideas. Students drive the content. My personal experience of this is that students are engaged and happy. As a result, they focus on the message of the language, not the form. Krashen has overwhelming research supporting this as the only way we acquire a language.
  • This method brings students together and sends the message that everyone can learn a language. It speaks to students wherever they are on their language learning journey.
  • For an effective and efficient beginner CI Class, the teacher should be fluent in the student’s L1, in my opinion. This way the teacher can quickly respond to student ideas and keep the pace of the class engaging.

However, once students have basic fluency, native-speaker teachers become effective because of their feel for the language (acquired grammatical accuracy and extensive vocabulary). This makes them effective and creative at embedding 10% new vocabulary into the readings.

What is this method?

This method has been developed by language teacher Ben Slavic (https://www.benslavic.com/). It builds upon the work of Blaine Ray and the TPRS method (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) and is well supported by Krashen’s Input Hypothesis. This method details:

  1. Class activities (Card Talk, One-Word-Image, Individually-Created Image)
  2. Student Jobs
  3. Curriculum
  4. Assessment

This is a holistic method. I believe it can not only sit beside current curriculums, but can also replace existing ones.

Elahe and I are currently participating in a 6-week online workshop with Ben Slavic, receiving personalised feedback regarding our CI practice.

Further Points:

  1. The StarChart outlines the 5 stages of a CI class. I have used this in my CI classes and it is an effortless, logical and effective tool. Teachers love its simplicity and students love its predictability and safety.
  2. This method is less stressful for everyone involved, teacher and student.
  3. Student Jobs are a critical component to this method. It keeps students accountable in class and builds class community. In my opinion, this component transforms the classroom into an ongoing art project, with the teacher as facilitator.
    • Student jobs include: Artist, Teacher 2, Writer, Quiz Writer. In his practice of a CI class, Ben Slavic employs 17 student jobs.
  4. This method uses a Scope which is Whole Language Instruction. This means it doesn’t focus on the individual components of the language, rather the whole message. It also uses a Sequence which is Spiralling Expansive Recurrence of Comprehensible Input [credit: Frank James Johnston]. This means that high-frequency words occur repeatedly and low-frequency words occur within a meaningful context, building naturally from the previous one.
  5. Homework for a CI class is optional. This can be a mammoth leap for most students who have been conditioned to study out of fear of punishment or falling behind. However, because the content of a CI class is compelling and student-generated, students tend to eventually take to it. This creates trust and a new dynamic between teacher and student.
  6. Homework is based on comprehensible input, all of which has been carefully scaffolded and concept-checked during class. Teachers record themselves reading the class-generated texts and send the listening and reading to the students. Students review the readings and listenings at their own pace.   
  7. There are no “big tests” in a CI class. Student assessment is based on plentiful in-class quizzes (potentially 4 each class) and non-verbal observable behaviours, based on ACTFL’s Three Modes of Communication. This assessment puts far less stress on the teacher and student, which builds trust and personalized instruction and content.
  8. The whole objective of this method is to get students reading more in the target language. In my opinion, The StarChart crescendos at Stage 4 (Reading), when students are reading, in the target language, a story of their creation. It is a satisfying moment, when student and teacher get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour and creativity.

Attachments

I’ve attached an image of The StarChart (©Ben Slavic 2017) and a class-created story from my CI class, titled The Beatboxing and Dancing Tiny Shoes.

The Beatboxing and Dancing Tiny Shoes was created by a group of nine boys aged between 15 – 18. Before I took the class, they were preparing to study an Upper-Intermediate book, having somehow slipped through the system. They were of vastly varying degrees of ability.

Every student in the class contributed to the creation of this story. By the end of the StarChat, everyone was able to comprehend the entirety of the reading.

  • In the first session (1.5 hours), we created the characters of Hasan and Masume, the tiny shoes.
  • Second session, we reviewed the characters through a reading and then we created the story.
  • Third session, we read the story and used many of the activities listed on the StarChart. We then expanded upon the story by asking developing questions.

Please let me know if there is anything further you would like to discuss. Especially regarding;

  • What is The StarChart and how does it work?
  • How are students assessed in a CI class?
  • Where does the content of the class come from?
  • What is Card Talk, One-Word Image and Individually-Created Image?

Best regards,

Jesse Ledesma

[Credit: Jesse Ledesma and Elahe Najafian]


Learn more about Ben Slavic’s StarChart™