The Brits

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14 thoughts on “The Brits”

  1. Amen! I’ve slowly won over more and more Scots as the years pass. I think it’s because my kids do well on their mandatory yearly exams. Those positive test scores are a language they can understand, as opposed to words like ‘affective filter’ that my department head told me to stop mentioning to her. Like you said Ben: if we can change things here, we can do it anywhere.

      1. We need to start a running list of terrible department head quotes.

        A Department Head Worst-Of List.

        What’s the worst thing your department head has ever said to you?

        My department head said I should have stayed in elementary because I was “too nice” to teach high school.

        1. Not dept head, but still a “worst of…”

          When I exclaimed how great it is to work with 8th graders bc they still have their imaginations intact:

          “Great! So you could give them Spanish-English dictionaries and have them make up dialogues!”

          ????

  2. And wait until you meet Lillian Stirling! My very favorite Scot. She was standing next to me in the crowd at my first TESOL conference in Paris and since I was gearing up all my courage to talk to someone (You’re supposed to be networking I told myself) she was the person I talked to. She came to my presentation and got all excited and has been rooting for me every since … and helped introduce me to the ways of TESOL France. Besides being open-minded and inquisitive, she’s also a lot of fun.

  3. Unfortunately Colombia is the same way. I live in Manizales, a city of 450,000 with 9 Universities. I imagined the it would be a progressive place that would embrace the latest research. One of my goals here has been to popularize TCI methods by volunteering in classrooms and giving small workshops. What I have found is that students and about half the teachers get super stoked on the methods. The people with power however, the ones that are in charge of departments are opposed. Every University subscribes to this idea of instruction through games and other strange activities that they call “communicative” and of course, forced output. There is absolutely no reading strategy here, only worksheets. And charades, rather than simply establishing meaning. They are adamantly opposed to L1 use and have this obsession over “teaching students to think in L2”. One A-hole, who doesn’t need to be named claims to believe in Krasken’s work but also claims Krashen doesn’t believe in L1 use in the classroom. I’ve provided articles written by Krashen that support the use of L1 but Mr. A-hole refused to believe them.

    Sorry about the rant! But the lesson I’ve learned here is to choose battles wisely. I’ve learned to work with the people who are stoked and simply leave the other BS behind.

    And many thanks to Ben for fighting the big battles for us!

    1. Something I saved from Eric Herman, is so informative about “teaching students to think in L2”

      “Research shows that particularly at low proficiency levels, L2 words are
      directly connected to their L1 equivalents (Jiang, 2002; Kroll et al.
      2002; Kroll and Stewart, 1994). Whether words are learned with L1
      translations or pictures does not affect connection to the L1, it happens
      regardless (Altarriba and Knickerbocker, 2011; Lotto and De Groot, 1998).
      However, even newly learned words can also access meaning directly without
      going through the L1 (Finkbeiner and Nicol, 2003).” – Nation, 2013, p. 45

      I understand Nation to be saying first that we automatically create a link
      to the L1 no matter how we are presented the vocabulary (and since
      translation is the most effective and we make the L1 link anyway, then
      that is most efficient), but we also can access the concept without
      dependence on L1. So, when presented with a new word: L2 -> L1 -> concept,
      but when later accessing the words (either for reception or production) we
      can go directly from L2 -> concept. We don’t have to worry that just
      because we gave the L1 gloss that the students will depend on that L1. In
      TCI we can quickly give the L1 meaning, which makes the tons of CI that
      follow more comprehensible.

  4. “Every University subscribes to this idea of instruction through games and other strange activities that they call “communicative” and of course, forced output.”

    Sounds like the district here in California where I work. They have professional development to promote an “Into” “Through” and “Beyond” sequence that forces students to speak through activities.

    “They are adamantly opposed to L1 use and have this obsession over “teaching students to think in L2”.

    Same here. The “Input” phase is just a smal stage where teachers CRAM about 10-15 new words and give instructions in the TL.

    The good thing is that I am the only French teacher and my admin is supportive.

    1. The “input” phase reminds me of what used to be called the “mug-Jug” theory. 15 new words at a time. That will get them thinking but not in L2. And we could probably guess what they are thinking.

    2. Robert Harrell

      One of the things I constantly look for is ways to use the jargon but still do what I know is best for students. Thus, I can make good use of “Into”, “Through”, and “Beyond”.

      “Into” is getting students ready to read by thinking about the theme of the reading. I can do that with class-created stories that employ vocabulary or address themes from the reading. (Yes, that’s backward planning, “structured”, etc. and not at all necessary for language acquisition. However, it keeps admins happy and causes no harm to students and their language acquisition.)

      “Through” is simply reading the text with understanding in whatever way(s) I choose to accomplish that and have students demonstrate comprehension.

      “Beyond” is extended activities based on the reading. Textivate, anyone? Free writes based on the reading. Re-tells. Write your own ending. (BTW, when we read “The Trip of His Life” in German 2, I stop the reading before the last chapter. It is literally a cliffhanger: the villain is about to push the hero off a cliff to his death. Students write their own ending; I polish the endings linguistically; we read and discuss them; then we read the book’s ending; most of the time we agree that the students’ endings showed more creativity.) Lots of CI activities are possible.

      Part of the game is learning to speak “Admin”.

      1. Excellent Robert. This is exactly what the district is promoting. However, at professional development there is no opportunity for teachers to share out what they do in the class. It is all a forced alignment of actitivies that lead to performance. From recall/recognition to meaningful and (forced) output.

        At my site, my admin is blown away from TPRS. I add a retell to have them “do the pony” show. However, my admin understands that language acquisition occurs in stages. I just had a meeting with my principal. He wants me to continue growing with the practices and structures I have in place. He also wants me to continue to engage students in story-asking and talking to them in a personalized way.

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