Thematic Units – 1

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14 thoughts on “Thematic Units – 1”

  1. Ben, I love you!

    You must realize it took me a ton of self-restraint to not jump all over those teachers responding to that thread! hahaha. I gave such a civilized response in my 2nd post, right? haha.

    When I search Helena Curtain’s PPT presentations I find that she gives 2 citations for defending the use of teaching themes. Her slide says this: “Thematic instruction can increase student achievement” (Beane, 1997; Kovalik, 1994). If you google those citations, it appears they are 2 books written for general education. Neither is specific to SLA. And I’m sure Curtain cites brain research in her book, but I also bet it’s not specific to how second languages are acquired.

    Just watching her “submersion demo” as part of that Helena Curtain video shared by James, I can see how she doesn’t really get it. That entire video was unimpressive. I only made it through half, because I was bored to tears. And this woman has power?

    And I was being genuine in asking for the research supporting themes and supporting use of authentic resources. I am presenting on theory aligning with pedagogy at the New Hampshire conference in 2 weeks and I wanted to hear the rebuttals so that I could better prepare my presentation. Apparently, no one can give me a rebuttal.

    Apparently Robert made an outstanding comment worth repeating: method doesn’t matter so long as the teacher is dynamic. Yikes. But no one could write in support of what I was saying!!! I received about 8 thank-yous and some started a dialogue with me off-list, but none of those teachers posted to the ACTFL community.

    1. …they are 2 books written for general education. Neither is specific to SLA….

      That fact is a damning indictment of Curtain.

      …but none of those teachers posted to the ACTFL community….

      This is of serious concern to me. Why not? Why did they keep their support of Eric’s points in private emails?

      My post in response to the successful German teacher never appeared. Grant’s did. My account has been disabled, just a few hours after I signed up. There was nothing offensive in what I wrote.

  2. I thought Helena Curtain’s book was called “Languages and Children – Making the Match.” I just checked on Amazon. That is the name of her older edition. There’s also a newer edition: Languages and Learners: Making the Match: World Language Instruction in K-8 Classrooms and Beyond (5th Edition).

    At the risk of seeming picky, I find imprecisely naming the title on the only book cited as including research showing thematic units are “necessary” disconcerting. It makes me think the writer just had a general idea in mind, not precise research – not even precise citations in a secondary source. Does this feel like the emperor has no clothes to anyone else?

  3. leigh anne munoz

    Hi, Eric — I am disgusted at the continual snotty discharge of blow-hard academics and their minions. I hope to join you soon on your mission to question what should be questioned!

    Go Eric!

  4. I added a general “I’ll be following this thread to see if ACTFL responds to Mr Herman’s questions” comment.

    Maybe if they see activity in this form it may put pressure on them to reply.

    I live in MN where the strategy is “ignore it if it might create conflict and it’ll go away”.

    I’m so not from MN.

  5. I just added this in direct reply to the Linguistics professor from Carleton, who is close enough for me to go have a coffee with:


    I’m really intrigued by this thread. Ms. Fortin, you’re citing Curtain and Dahlberg, a pillar in methods classes across the country. But, when I sought out Ms. Curtain’s ppt online, she gave two different citations for supporting themed units.

    The first, Beane, 1997, appears to come from the book titled “Curriculum Integration”. It’s about general curriculum creation and doesn’t, at least superficially, pertain to second language acquisition theory.

    The second, Kovalik, 1994, ITI, The Model, is fascinating. So much of it’s description appears to support what I feel I do in the classroom. But, the entire premise is: “a model for … using a year-long theme to organize curriculum content”. A year long theme? What language rpograms use 1 single year long theme?

    ACTFL certainly doesn’t advocate this. And, as in the prior case, this book does not appear to speak to the foundations of second language acquisition either.

    In fact, this appears to actually counter the idea of using semantically grouped themes, such as “At School” and “On Vacation” that would be completed in 2-3 weeks as presented by the typical textbook publication.

    This thread is getting more interesting by the minute! I’m eager to see what some if those who are more in the know can shed some light here…

    1. …I’m eager to see what some if those who are more in the know can shed some light here….

      I don’t think they can, Grant. I don’t think that any of them are in the know. I think that they have all rallied around Curtain and Met, who have defined and yet not defined an overall position, and everybody seems to agree on their non-definition. Eric is trying to pin them down on one aspect of their think-speak world, but they can’t be pinned down because they have no position.

      I predict zero good responses to Eric, or to the in-your-face points made by you and Robert. As Diane suggested, this truly is an example of the emperor has no clothes. Eric gets no responses and the beat goes on. That is why the thread is becoming so interesting to me, at least. I honestly think that Eric and you and Robert are the only ones who are presenting valid arguments here. Were they to acknowledge the points you make, their own positions would crumble like the fembots* we talked about two years ago, Grant. The ACTFL crowd’s lack of a strong response to his detailed points speaks volumes. They don’t know.

      Walking around downtown Denver at the 2011 national ACTFL conference, I honestly felt as if I was walking around in the midst of a crowd of well dressed robots. I felt that in the elevators. I felt how lonely they were. Bryce and I didn’t even go to the sessions. We would look in each room, see a sad presenter trying to make a sad point, mostly about how computer technology was going to revolutionize language instruction, and then we would run away in the belly of the beast at the Denver Convention Center and start laughing, and then we would go to another room in pursuit of something real, and the whole thing happened again. I personally found no one I could relate to in that conference. It was weird ass.


      1. Speaking of ACTFL conferences… I’m going this year to the one in San Antonio. I know there are some CI people going to be there – I know of 3 of us Chinese teachers for sure.

        I’ll be presenting Friday from 5-6 on Listen & Draw, Look & Discuss, and Read & Discuss. I hope to film some classes to show video as well as do these things live with people who attend.

        I’m interested in finding other CI-based seminars, too. I hear that Carol Gaab compiles a list. And I would really enjoy meeting others from the PLC… anyone else going? What about a Ben’s PLC lunch meet-up on Saturday? Or Friday evening? I’d even be up for trying a war room there… wouldn’t that be a radical thing?

  6. Just to let you know, I added a bit of fuel to the fire on the thread at ACTFL. Given the lack of concrete citations from the thematic unit crowd, I gave a couple from the other side. and also showed how the previous posters actually argue against thematic units or fail to address the prompt. 🙂

  7. I spent one of those sleepless nights over this, partly because my ACTFL account was “disabled” right after I posted this to the thread, addressing Morrey:

    …By your line of reasoning, a teacher of mathematics, as long as she was highly trained and highly effective, could teach math in any way she wanted. Sounds like it makes good sense, but it doesn’t. I would rather see a math teacher teaching math in ways that reflect how the brain actually learns math. I think that this what Eric is getting at with his questions about thematic units….

    That’s all I said.

  8. Grant and Robert are defending Eric in the wider professional community. I keep getting the image a Trojan Horse, as per Wikipedia:

    …That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night….

    I am a sick individual. But what about the rest of the group? Can we count on your contributing to the thread in defense of Eric on the ACTFL site? Those three opened the gates.

    Aux armes! Formez vos bataillons! Marchons!

    1. Dude. Awesomeness.

      And Ben, my account says “disabled” from time to time. For whatever reason, you have to click on “logout” then you have to close and reopen your internet browser and then log back in.

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