Can Do Statements – 12

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37 thoughts on “Can Do Statements – 12”

  1. My comment on this is that these teachers are working in ignorance of the fact that all language students can’t be like them. As four percenters, they excelled, so why can’t everybody else? Based on that reasoning, I get to play in the game tomorrow nite for the Miami Heat, because as a student of basketball obviously I can do what the best players can do. It’s so out of touch. If nothing else, by teaching in a way that reaches everyone in the classroom, we are helping dismantle the ignorance in the reasoning expressed above.

    1. Articles like this and the mindset that supports them are the reason that Mira and I will be giving a talk on Can-Do statements at NTPRS and ACTFL this year. (I was heavily encouraged to apply to ACTFL and decided that a presentation using a buzzword like the Can-Do statements would make it more likely to get accepted.)

      There has been some concern in the TPRS community that the Can-Do statements don’t go far enough to provide guidance and motivation, setting the goals too low and narrow. The good thing for us is that we can use them to show departments, parents and kids that our method does achieve specific results.

      My second year students didn’t think they had achieved goals in those lists, so I set up stories to show them that they could. At the same time, using the Can-Do statements reminded me to include some of real-life linguistic needs that I might not otherwise focus on. They help CYA. On the other hand, some of the statements set as Novice level require a high level of proficiency for Russian speakers (because they’re grammar dependent), and I explain to kids that they’re going to be able to do things all over the map in the Can-Do statement lists. After the Novice Low category, they don’t necessarily follow a natural acquisition pattern.

      If ACTFL is going to publish stuff like this that will require traditional teachers to resort to requiring memorized dialogues, we should use it to our advantage.

  2. It sounds like the textbook/tourist approach where we check off the box and move on. (I can hear the words, “Oh my kids can do that. Let’s move on to bigger and better things.”) It strikes me as being a little phony and basically indistinguishable from what you will see in a textbook. Which means that the textbook classroom will only produce more of the same “cocktail-party conversations.”

    It is just more Common Core unfocused shallowness. There is no sense of how many times a student must hear an utterance before he even captures it and recognized it as an utterance. It is a big temptation to shortcut the acquisition process and produce memorized output.

    However, that is the stick in the spokes, so to speak. One must move from “practiced and memorized” words and phrases in order to trend from Novice to Intermediate. In other words, the tasks of Intermediate have to be non-memorized and unpracticed to be valid evidence of the Intermediate level. The implication is that there must be something more profound and meaningful going on that writing dialogues and memorizing them. If the approach is to memorize and practice and move onto the next topic students cannot become intermediate.

    There are some excellent things in the list. I suggest that our task and discussion about this would be for us to clarify the priorities in this from a CI/CB/TPRS point of view. To use Wormeli’s question: what is primary (non-negotiable), secondary (fit it in where we can), tertiary (get to it if there is time).

    For example, “primary” would include following interpersonal skills:
    I can respond to yes/no questions.
    I can answer an either/or question.
    I can respond to who, what, when, where questions.

    The goal would be to be clearer in our own minds where we stand as we interact with our colleagues. ACTFL board has served us this and collectively we have the wherewithal to take the field.

  3. …if the approach is to memorize and practice and move onto the next topic students cannot become intermediate….

    Bingo. This is where traditional instruction can take a small group of gifted kids and fool a lot of people by bringing only them up to sufficient levels of memorization and practiced responses to get 3’s and 4’s on the AP exam. But by pointing out what you do above, Nathaniel, you make the point for comprehensible input, which builds not just a few kids but many to a far more authentic relationship with the language after four years. I still object to the AP exams on the grounds that we don’t have the time to get them ready to respond to those thematic original texts/prompts, but the overall points you make are very solid and any AP teacher would do well to reflect on them, to keep ideas of what is possible and what is not possible on the AP exam in the forefront of their thinking.

  4. I agree, Ben. If we really want more people at cocktail parties to say they remember some of the foreign language, then we need a way of teaching that will reach everyone.

    Focusing on proficiency will certainly be to our advantage. If we really had a way to give every student an OPI at the end of the year, then we could actually comment on a program’s effectiveness in producing proficiency. But alas, that is not practical. And I mean true proficiency: spontaneous, unrehearsed, unpracticed output in unfamiliar contexts with a native-like interlocutor. Too many people throw terms like “proficiency,” “acquisition,” and “communicative” around, each using a different definition. Just because we raise the bar higher and we apply the same high bar to every student across districts, doesn’t mean they’ll jump any higher.

    The mention of “more periodic assessments” triggers a gag reflex. Do our kids not feel confident and successful in our classrooms? Do they not show what they can do in our daily conversations, stories, and fluency writes? The whole idea that we’ll get more communicatively competent students because we assess communication and set that as our goal ignores the real problem: How do we get there? How do we train teachers and give them the classroom resources to get students there? I mean, is it really something new to think we would want as our goal that students be able to handle real-life situations?

    I fear many FL teachers will misuse the “Can-Do statements” and work backwards from them, designing units around each little thematic conversation, and they’ll check the box once the kids have “covered” that can-do. By the end of the year, since the traditional classroom suffers the “review problem,” the kids will no longer be able to do what they checked earlier in the year.

    3/5 of the Can-Do categories are about output, i.e. interpersonal communication, presentational speaking, and presentational writing. So another fear is that teachers will work backwards from the goal of output by teaching with output (rehearsed dialogues). We teach with CI and stories and by the end our students will have all the essential language necessary to check off their Can-Do boxes without ever having to practice each of these descriptors. We can “show” this to our students if we’d like by doing some PQA/Conversation around these points.

    The idea that we would know where we want our students to be by the end is problematic. It can lead us as teachers to teach too fast, cover too much, in order for them to reach said goal. Especially since everyone is acquiring at a different rate, I don’t get how you can have the same end goal for everyone, unless you continue to disrespect the rate of the majority for the few four percenters.

    1. Eric says, The idea that we would know where we want our students to be by the end is problematic.

      I don’t have to do this, but I can see how many would have to. The Winnetka 3 had to make a common assessment this past year, and they were frustrated by it. They ended up creating a Multiple Choice and True/False end of the year test whose questions referred to a passage they wrote with their teacher counterparts (i.e., 6th grade Spanish teachers wrote the same end of the year test) which included language structures that each teacher clearly included in instruction.

      I don’t see the harm done if we do what the Winnetka 3 did (I hope they don’t mind me mentioning them so much 🙂 in our own departments. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for us in our FL teams to agree upon teaching in a level 1 class the top 20 verbs, the most common prepositions, the common location words, and a few nouns describing family, friends, and common activities students do?

  5. …by the end of the year, since the traditional classroom suffers the “review problem,” the kids will no longer be able to do what they checked earlier in the year….

    …another fear is that teachers will work backwards from the goal of output by teaching with output (rehearsed dialogues)….

    …The idea that we would know where we want our students to be by the end … can lead us as teachers to teach too fast, cover too much….

    Very subtle points. Must be addressed. Won’t be. The last point is so true. We think that, because we know it, they do, since we taught it to them and we know it. It just doesn’t happen that way because those teachers seem to always forget how languages are acquired. I’ve addressed the point about how people acquire languages so many times here over the past years that I won’t even say it. It is the key issue and the one that won’t be addressed by most language teachers in the U.S. for what reason I don’t know. Blindness?

  6. Before we left for France this year, I thought it would be a good idea to teach something practical. I was doing the “He is still hungry” (Matava?) script. We had the story going and I worked in as dialog “I would like a sugar and butter crepe, please.” We chanted it and every time we did a reading or a re-tell, the entire class chanted in French “I would like …” One of my sophomores who was traveling to France said to me:”Madame, this je voudrais thing is gonna be important for me when I get to France.” With that said, she said it so well, that a native would probably assume that she knew more than she did and the rest of the exchange would not go as well and communication in L2 would break down. This is our dilemma: how to honor CI and give them the fluent unconscious language to continue the conversation after they have run the table with their can do statements. I think we can’t always so easily dismiss “cocktail party” conversation. L’art de la conversation starts somewhere.
    Michele talked me through her presentation last night and I was impressed how she and Mira thought through taking the can do statements and giving them a CI spin. Short scenarios with a problem and three places , a solution a short reading and I mean short , some cloze activities, etc. Something that you would not do everyday, but it is CI nonetheless. If it’s not acquired, it’s heard and lays a little carpet down in the brain to be receptive the next time it is heard – then we would need to work these phrases into other forms of CI – Movie Talk, etc. Many on this blog have jobs that they need to keep, they work in less than friendly CI buildings, they need to give the illusion that they in lock step. Great, now they want can do statements. Perfect, we can CI that thing! We have embraced the strands and put a CI spin on them. Bryce has re-purposed Bloom’s Taxonomy with CI vision. Michele and Mira are doing the same work with the can do statements. No one reading here would ever want to go back to the textbook, but the same language the same structures we use to spin stories are in every textbook I ever used – John DaMado’s Allez-Viens series was heavily into expressing likes, dislikes, making arrangements, all that stuff and that was years ago. If the textbook folks are complaining that they still don’t get it, maybe it’s all in the method? We are like the Resistance, we have to beat them at their own game and I think we are.

  7. Carol said, backing the idea of using Can Do statements in class (those going to Chicago will be able to hear Michele and Mira present on that topic) :

    …many on this blog have jobs that they need to keep, they work in less than friendly CI buildings, they need to give the illusion that they in lock step….

    Eric said:

    …we teach with CI and stories and by the end our students will have all the essential language necessary to check off their Can-Do boxes without ever having to practice each of these descriptors….

    So these two points of view, one in favor of using class time to focus on and formally teach Can Do statements and the other against the idea, can be stated as:

    Does CI instruction “cover” those basic statements that allow us to converse more easily or not?

    It also raises the question of to what degree we capitulate to the Can Do teachers around us in our buildings so that we can appear to be teaching in lock step with them and keep our jobs even though we are not at all aligned with them?

    (There is a very poignant thing going on with one of our blog members with whom I have been communicating privately. He is stuck between the old way and the new way, kind of hanging in mid air between two cliffs. He feels the need to satisfy the old school desires of the teachers around him who teach verb conjugations and all that stuff people used to do, but his teaching train is rolling fast across the countryside in the direction of CI. I want to and hopefully will report on that in a future article. I mean, the guy is a true CI stud but, where his body and legs and arms are all running fast toward CI, his face is on the back of his head. He has to swivel his head back around.)

    So, I hope this is all making sense, Carol is saying that Can Do statements, though stilted, are useful, and Eric is saying that they are not. (Correct me if I am wrong!)

    So that is interesting. I’m not going to take a position one way or the other, but if I had to, it would be in support of Eric, but it probably depends on what day it is, this argument being so 50/50 that it’s ridiculous. At the end of the day, however, I would say that I am going to trust Krashen and say that my students would learn those Can Do statements anyway. But how do I know? I don’t have that much CI time. It’s a conundrum, fer shure.

  8. We can TCI the Can Do statements if we think we aren’t already giving kids the input to handle those situations. If our TCI already focuses on high frequency language won’t the kids be prepared for those Can Do statements? It seems the statements ask for a lot of first person output, so if we want to increase accuracy on the Can Do’s we can put our readings into first person.

    The one thing we don’t want to do is abandon TCI, because a Can Do statement is “still not a valid reason for employing a method that is incorrect” . . . “Most language tests are based on the skill-building hypothesis; they test grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc. It seems obvious to many people that the best way to study for these tests is to study grammar, vocabulary, spelling, etc. The research, however, tells us differently: Students in classes with more comprehensible input do better on such tests than those in traditional classes” . . . “We must, however, realize that it is our professional responsibility to teach according to our convictions about how people acquire language.” (Krashen, 2004)

  9. …if our TCI already focuses on high frequency language won’t the kids be prepared for those Can Do statements?…

    Yes because they are high frequency. The question becomes “High frequency in relationship to what? To common 24/7 first language speech? We don’t have a fraction of 24/7 speech. So for us it could be low frequency and that is Carol’s point. It’s a two edged sword, this discussion. If anybody needs a PhD sujet de thèse on CI instruction, this is one that needs doing.

    1. Perhaps we don’t teach high frequency vocab in relationship to 24/7 casual speech, say in the native-speaker’s home, but we do teach high frequency vocab in relationship to formal speech, say in a post-secondary classroom or a meeting of politicians or when conducting business with a stranger. I guess that’s how I look at it.

      1. I’ve recently learned of the suppression of French dialects in various regions of France well into the 20th century. With that being said, my students learning Spanish as a FL would have more doors open to them by learning a more standardized Spanish than a more localized Spanish. This is what I’m thinking. I do hope that after a few years of Spanish study, my students immerse themselves in a new culture and take in, whole-heartedly, the rich dialect of that culture.

        I think about our Sauk teacher in Florida…

      2. Sean, I think the high frequency dictionary I have “Frequency Dictionary of French Core Vocabulary for learners” is a list of single words that occur most frequently in the French language culled from a corpus of a corpus of French text – half from transcriptions of spoken texts and half from written texts. No idioms or collocations are included in the list. Idiomatic use of the language is to me a total different way of – a deeper more connected level – a more authentic way of communicating. I think it is very hard in a school setting to fit the fullness, the roundness, the ease of the Net Hypothesis into the square peg of what it feels like doing school is the 21st century is. I think what I am trying to say about can-do statements is that if a can-do statement can be naturally fit into a CI format, we as professionals may want to be aware of what they are. If we are able to tick off a box because it worked for the kids, for us, for the sake of the communication, story, etc , we should use it. For me, it’s kind of like doing a dictation and having the kids repeat the sentences after me – accent practice. It may not be TCI but it’s something different and they like it. If I can CI a can do statement – great. If the kids can say “I would like a coke, please.” in French – great. If it’s on the can-do list – it’s all good, as long as it’s a list that is not binding on me, the method, or the interests of the kids.

        1. …it is very hard in a school setting to fit the fullness, the roundness, the ease of the Net Hypothesis into the square peg of what it feels like doing school is the 21st century is….

          Wow Carol. I love that sentence. I have always thought that way but never been able to articulate it so clearly. Of course! Why would we ever work from a list of high frequency words when mere words but groups of them make up language in the way it really occurs?

          This as well:

          …if it’s on the can-do list – it’s all good, as long as it’s a list that is not binding on me, the method, or the interests of the kids….

          What I hear you saying there is that the interests of the kids, not a list of high frequency Can Do targets, should determine our choice of language goals.

  10. This is the first time I’ve come across the “Can-Do” statements, but just from the language of the excerpts of the article I can feel that knot in my stomach and throat that warns that here comes that thing in education that forces you to exit your heart and common sense in order to conform to some lonely, brain-centered expectation that makes a new teacher like me feel like I’m doomed before I get started. It SOUNDS logical and rational but it can have a truly evil core. It SOUNDS like it’s about teachers collaborating but it secretly divorces teachers from connection with their real, actual students. This is the kind of stuff that buried me the first time around and I am not even going to read about it until I am a more experienced and confident teacher.

    1. “It SOUNDS logical and rational but it can have a truly evil core.”

      I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the names of these authors referenced when they come out with a Common Core for FL. They are already using the Common Core and Danielson Framework language in this article. It smells to me like they hopped on that Common Core train of opportunism. Wait, CI is one of those passenger trains that runs along electronic wires. Common Core is a big ol’ 18 wheeler that emits lots of gas and doesn’t carry any passengers, just cargo.

  11. …. I can feel that knot in my stomach and throat that warns that here comes that thing in education that forces you to exit your heart and common sense in order to conform to some lonely, brain-centered expectation that makes a new teacher like me feel like I’m doomed before I get started….

    Dang it that is an incredible sentence.

    What you wrote Angie is helping me understand this more. It the intention of the teacher is to “impart” the knowledge, then that is suspect to me. For me, the deeper levels of the experience of using comprehensible input to genuinely reach our kids (so that the daily interaction doesn’t feel like “school” but is just a fun sharing of ideas in the TL) is a light-filled kind of experience of pure focus on the message in a happy way so that the process is given entirely over to the unconscious faculty, which is the way it should be, in my view. (I can hear certain people saying, at this point, “OK here comes Hippy Slavic and his Hippy Friend Angie with the “out there” talk again!).

    When we, as you say Angie, collaborate with our colleagues to “teach something”, we move ever so imperceptibly away from that light of teaching, away from the teaching that is non-targeted, Krashen, personalized, genuine interest communicative teaching of the real kind.

    Krashen would like this discussion. Maybe we can formulate a question so he doesn’t have to read all these posts. I can ask, anyway. How about this?

    Can we actually aspire to true non-targeted high interest CI in our classrooms when we don’t have enough time, because we are in classrooms in schools, to get enough reps on all aspects of the language?

    Tell me what anyone thinks about that question or how it can be reworded before I send it to him.

    1. Sounds like I need to give this teaching non-targeted structures more thought. I feel like I target structures. Probably 50% of the vocabulary I’ve used in my classes were targeted structures. I know there are articles about this here on the blog, Ben. I’ll have to read those.

      1. When you loose the reins on targets your teaching will improve, you will relax more, and you will just feel better in general about teaching. Why do we have to get our horses riding so fast with targets? Don’t trust Krashen? Don’t have enough time? Gotta teach it all? For how much money?

      2. Ok, but I know you used the Matava scripts so wouldn’t you call those, usually, 3 language structures at the top of the script your targeted structures? And days, weeks after you did a Matava story with your students wouldn’t you try to use those language structures as you PQA new language structures? If you did these things, then you targeted structures, right?

    2. This is a very interesting conversation. To the question for Dr. Krashen, I would add literacy issue: In a classroom setting, with limited time and only semi-volunteer or coerced students, if we use nontargeted input, how do we address literacy in the TL within the short amount of preparation time teachers with 4 or 5 levels need? (This gets to be a bigger issue with non-phonetic languages. You cannot sound it out based on what you heard – you need to hear it as it’s read, a lot.)

      Ok, that’s a leading question. Actually, what you’ve said Krashen has said about issues of making things work in a classroom, Ben, wasn’t it that he said something like we are the experts at that? So we’re probably going to find some principles that are musts – like finding ways to engage students’ interests and involvement – but a multitude of ways we carry it out based on our particular teaching duties, personality, school culture, and students?

      I find that with my students who really get CI methods and really played the game, they got a lot of nontargeted input along the way… a phrase here or there they asked for, classroom language, and things I said in response to them conversationally… but for the bulk of their class, it was targeted input. This was because I had 5 preps and I needed a lot of reading material for them to use – I couldn’t create it all as we went, though they did get some of that. But what was really marvelous was when something I didn’t target obviously was acquired – a child used it. I also find that in tutoring two very motivated kids (separate tutoring times) I can do a lot of nontargeted input, and it’s way better that way with an individual.

      1. Interesting points, Diane. Especially that about non-targeted input with individual tutoring. I’m going into teaching a summer program for a half-dozen students. I’ll get to see what kind of non-targeted acquisition happens then!

  12. “Learning communities were formed to investigate whether they were teaching certain concepts as effectively as their colleagues,” say Sherf and Graf

    To add another comment on this article “Being Clear About What Foreign Language Achievement Looks Like”… It’s cool to collaborate with peers so we may discuss our teaching and support each other, but this passage I reposted from the article is one of a few that will make all sorts of FL teachers away, CI and traditional alike. What FL teacher out there really believes that we teach “concepts” like a science class teaches the concept of mitosis? I got caught up in this idea of including “concepts” in lesson plans when I was writing lesson plans under the International Baccalaureate framework. I found that even those high up on the IB World Language totem pole couldn’t explain well, or give a good example of, implementing “concepts” in a foreign language IB unit plan.

    Also, all the websites that the authors list link to ACTFL. What’s up with that?

    But, I don’t want to sound all critical. It’s good that they are pushing the need to collaborate within our departments. (However the way they talk about it wreaks of Danielson Framework… oh well.)

      1. They don’t know what they mean. When I went to an IB conference a couple of years ago and sat in on the FL sessions, the presenter had us break into small groups at the end to work on creating a unit plan under the IB framework. We all were fumbling around and the presenter was basically encouraging us to just articulate something under the “concepts” box. Throughout that year of writing IB unit plans, here is what I came up with:

        Key concept: communication
        Related concepts:
        Linguistic: structure (grammatical structures change depending on point of view and verb tense)
        Thematic: perspectives (the perspective of a member in a group influences language forms)

        All baloney. Non of the people in IB could send me an example of something any better. I tell ya, it was after working for a hot minute in this IB framework that I quickly appreciated what TPRS had to offer. And now I’m here.

        I hope I don’t have to fuss around any more trying to figure out how we teach “concepts” in our FL classrooms.

        1. Right. Because if it true that human communication is an unconscious process, where words are understood and said far out of the reach of the conscious faculty, where concepts occur, then it is impossible to create key concepts that we “want” to teach for some administrator to be impressed by.

          I teach French by speaking it properly to my students so that they are interested and so that they understand. They learn correct grammar by hearing the language spoken correctly by me, and that process occurs entirely in unconscious minds of my students.

          Is that concept that hard to grasp? I mean, Krashen wrote it in English. Respecting the truth that language learning is an unconscious process will save the language teachers of the future an infinite amount of professional frustration if they can just grasp that one idea, that languages are acquired unconsciously and that all the teacher need do is speak to their students in a way that is interesting, and so that they understand.

          If the language teachers of the future can change their eclectic bullshit approach and focus on finding ways to instruct their students that appeal to their unconscious faculty so that so much money can stop being wasted, let alone the moral sting of giving kids the idea that they are stupid in languages, we will know that we will have broken through the current log jam, through the current sadness.

          1. What I plan to ask all my students next year: “If acquiring another language were easy, then who here would like to know another language?” I assume everyone would agree that it would be cool to know another language. Then I’ll tell them that my job is to make it feel really easy. I may have written this here before, but what I consider 1 litmus test for a TCI class is to poll the students on how easy the class is. To the extent that the teacher really does TCI, then it should feel easy. I mean, if you understand everything, then how could that be hard? That’s not to say we don’t have rigor. See Harrell’s argument.

  13. Angie said:

    …it [some lonely, brain-centered expectation] SOUNDS logical and rational but it can have a truly evil core….

    If we want to reach kids, who are still young enough to be able to see and hide from dark, ego-driven, bland and impersonal teaching, we cannot possibly let some lonely, brain-centered expectations into our classroom. They will kill our teaching. They, and not the whole language, becomes more important. Is Angie’s statement too strong? Not in my book.

  14. Angie’s words resonated really deeply for me as well. And as I get ready to watch Messi play for Argentina in the World Cup, it sank in–kathunk, as Ben often says….I learned about Messi from one of my students in Spanish class. I didn’t know anything about him until I started asking questions in class! And this very soft-spoken kid who came in every day looking like he wanted to nap, was suddenly alert bc he could share (in small spurts, from the questioning, not from a memorized speech) his passion for soccer and for this cool player I’d never heard of. This is the true beauty of a CI classroom. It is genuine give and take. Genuine learning. We learn about our kids, from our kids, by asking and listening. We learn what they care about, we learn about their heroes and fears and triumphs and what drives them crazy. We all know something about our kids that pops up in the real world, precisely because we interact with them in a real way. This is not something we “prepare” for. It is something we open to.

  15. And it is something that takes great courage and great discipline (to stay out of English when Messi comes up bc that would be SOOO easy). So much easier to teach a prescribed curriculum. But that kid doesn’t care about the curriculum. He cares about Messi. He cares about being recognized as a person with thoughts, not as a robot who memorizes. Thank you for that story, jen. I don’t think anybody even realizes how easy this is – a little slow circling, staying in bounds on one target at a time, personalized questions, what’s not to love?

  16. Holy moly…great converation. I agree with a lot of what was said here. FL teachers will ultimately misuse the I can statements from ACTFL.

    They will cover too much…teach for memorization… and “practice topics” and fail at providing students with what best facilitates acquisition. That being said if we are passionate and diligent with sharing our results TCI will spread and be the successful method for teaching in US classrooms.

    1. Hey Michael,

      Thanks for reading and commenting on some older posts, because that brings them to my attention, too. 🙂

      Right now, I’m appreciating the can-do statements because my administration wants more “lockstep,” but my colleague that I’m supposed to be in lockstep with does drill and kill vocab and grammar and worships the lame old textbook we inherited (although, luckily, no one has ever told us we need to use this textbook). She is nearing retirement age and 100% closed to changing anything about how and what she teaches. I feel grateful for the can-do statements because they are a lot closer to what I am doing/want to do with CI than what she does.

      I agree that the can-do statements allow communicative teachers to keep feeling good about their methods, which means their students won’t acquire language. But right now I see them as a step better than making students memorize isolated vocab words and grammar rules, which is unfortunately what I’ve been up against.

  17. “In Wellesley, Massachusetts, foreign-language teachers…”

    A look at Wellesley’s FL program is interesting:
    1. all students can learn a foreign language
    2. We therefore avoid at the beginning stages of instruction ability grouping of our students
    3. At the beginning stages of language instruction we employ such methods as TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading & Storytelling), pictures, basic synonyms, and the like.
    4. In the grammar arena, we strive increasingly and wherever possible to communicate and teach linguistic structures without resorting to formal grammatical terminology. Research has consistently pointed out the limited applicability of formal grammatical vocabulary as well as the futility in trying to impart such structures to the vast majority of students.

    This is from the Total Immersion link:

    The following guidelines have been established by the department so that everyone may be consistent in the use of the target language in the classroom.
    In the modern languages, the target language is to be the sole means of communication between teacher and student in the classroom setting for students at the third-year of study and above, and the major means of communication for students in the first and second years of study, except as noted below. In the Classical languages, use of the target language is optional.
    Various non-spoken means implementing English (e.g. writing on the board, flash cards, hand-outs) may be used to facilitate and insure proper understanding of what is being said or alluded to in the target language.
    Extra help may be given in English in sessions outside class, but these are not to be construed by the student as a way of avoiding the total immersion process in the classroom.
    In limited, extraordinary circumstances (e.g. an emergency, giving instruction that involves the use of technical vocabulary for the first time, in testing situations where use of the target language may betray answers, in some instances of peer editing), English may be used.
    As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, use the target language!

    The Grading link explains that they weight their semesters progressively:
    Term weights are as follows:
    Term 1: 10%
    Term 2: 18%
    Term 3: 25%
    Term 4: 31%
    (Final Exam: 16%)

    One of their teachers taught a 3-hour TPRS in Spanish workshop at MAFLA this past fall.

  18. Nathaniel,

    Thanks you so much for sharing this. I have been on a CI thinking and brainstorming binge today. This is such an innovation to see how Wellesley goes about teaching for acquisition. It is simply brilliant. It follows the path of acquiring language over time.

    So many of us are trying to figure out how to scaffold assessments for new learners. It seems that it is not so much the assessment that needs to be scaffolded as much as it might be the weighting of the school year as you shared here. Intuitively, good little TPRSers do this in the systems that have to operate in but this gives way to a new type of innovation and arguement.

    This year I/we were forced to adopt a weighting system that looks like this:

    40% test
    30% quizzes
    10% participation

    100% BS if you ask me. This is what I call malpractice in the foreign language classroom but I just call various assignments tests or quizzes to fit an acquisition mentality (passive-aggressive I know). I am going to look into this more and I would love to know what others think about it.

    I hope Eric Herman might weigh in on that proficiency exam or Acquired Comentency Evaluation (ACE) being that 16% of the overall grade at the end of the year. This plan is a contender for presenting to admin that respect SLA and its special place in the school system.

    Love it!

  19. I find this absolutely brilliant:

    Term 1: 10%
    Term 2: 18%
    Term 3: 25%
    Term 4: 31%
    (Final Exam: 16%)

    It helps in two ways:

    1. It gives kids time to figure out this brand new way of being in a classroom, this new way of learning that involves a completely different part of their brains from what they are used to.

    2. It keeps the momentum focused through the year and gives us much more instructional power in the spring, when we need it. It protects teachers. Twice in my last building, Abraham Lincoln High School, I awarded A grades to students at the semester, and the grades were richly deserved. But these were seniors who had figured out that all they needed to do was get their scholarships in the spring and then, once that was done, they both stopped coming to class entirely. My only recourse with counseling was to give them the F for the second semester and they walked with a C. This idea would stop that kind of April fall off in general.

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