Time to Act

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14 thoughts on “Time to Act”

  1. That’s why I believe Organic World Language are our allies. The more people doing non-targeted, process-based curriculums, the better for us and our students.

    Many teachers simply don’t know that there are systems for teaching without theme-based, grammar point list curriculums. Teachers feel like they are not doing their jobs if they do not follow this type of curriculum.

    Also, OPI training tells you that there are no specific themes or grammar points to be mastered when we look at real-world proficiency.

  2. It’s like there is a glaring chasm between what the research says and what teachers think they need to do. ACTFL, for all their clout, has done little to encourage teachers to align with the research. That failure has allowed the textbook companies to retain their hold on teachers’ minds. It’s no accident.

    1. Jennifer Goldszmidt

      I started this last year with my level two kids, and they loved it. But towards the middle and end of the year, I had to backtrack hard to make sure they had the grammar needed for level 3. It’s not just ACTFL; it’s the school systems themselves. If language learning is linear (it’s not), then we have certain curricula we MUST cover or we’re setting up our students for failure in the next level. In fact, my team leader had a meeting with me in June, and asked me to use MORE of the textbook so that all level 3 students would have the same starting point.

      1. Jennifer every word you say is 100% true. When the kids have to go to a grammar-heavy level 3 class, it would be professional malpractice NOT to prepare them for that.

        That is one kind of professional malpractice. In my comment above, I was referring to a different kind of malpractice – that of not aligning w the research about how SLA is not linear.

        It’s a double edged sword, therefore. We can commit professional malpractice by teaching grammar all the time, or we can commit professional malpractice by not aligning with the research. But if we are EXPECTED to teach as they did in the last century, then we should do it cheerfully. Hey, I LOVE French grammar. It’s elegant. I could teach it all day. But my students wouldn’t listen to me. But that’s another story.

        So thank you for clarifying. My mantra now, and I find myself saying it a lot these days, is to first teach what you have been hired to teach within the academic zeitgeist of your building – and if that means discrete grammar, etc. – then do it.

        Your team leader has an expectation for you to fulfill so do it.

        I am of the opinion, however, that what used to take me 50 min. in a traditional setting to teach (I taught from a book for 24 years), I can do in half that time. So when class is half way through and I know that I did everything required by me professionally in my building, I tell the kids, “OK the important stuff is over so now let’s just hang out and do something silly like use the French language.” That’s when I get my CI in.

        Those NOT in a traditional department, those lucky enough to be on an all-CI team, their kids get more time for input, input and more input. But who’s kidding whom? If we use half of available instruction minutes over a four year program we end up with 1/40th of the time needed to get to real proficiency. If we use the entire class pd. we end up with 1/20th of the time needed (10,000 hours).

        Either way it’s not enough and that is why I say we should just take the load from our weary shoulders and instead of freaking about how much they have to learn, let’s just speak as much CI as we can, care for them, and send them on their way w positive images of themselves as second language learners.

      2. Jennifer, congratulations to you for starting teaching with CI last year. That’s wonderful. It took me a few years to really get comfortable with it. It would not have taken me so long if I had started off with Ben’s materials.

        As you continue to teach with more CI and your students grow more and more confident and more and more happy, you’ll be able to ignore your colleagues requests to hammer them with more grammar. You’ll have the most durable armor a teacher could ever have, the high regard of your students. They won’t be able to penetrate that armor.

  3. Where does the Somos Curricula by Martina Bex fall on this spectrum? I think it looks great and I love the culture that is included I’m curious to know what your perspective is, Ben?

      1. I know you wanted Ben’s opinion, but my opinion is that Somos could be a good bridge between traditional teachers and CI. It’s perfect for departments where the administration wants the department to be CI but there are traditional teachers that are either reluctant to take the plunge into CI or are against CI.

        I do know of teachers though that kind of skip the story-asks in that curriculum and focus on the “activities”. I suppose it’s better than the textbook. Martina Bex’s stuff is amazing and I use it for sub plans. For me if a teacher is not doing the Invisibles, TPRS stories, Movietalk, PictureTalk, Matava Scripts, or Storylistening- where they are simply interacting with the kids without the mediation of a worksheet it’s not really high octane CI.

        1. Thank you Gregg. I think my department wants to do CI but they’ve taught so long the old way they feel they’re leaving themselves vulnerable by not insisting on output that they can “measure”.
          Yesterday I had a teacher talk to me about how if we don’t insist on output then none of the Spanish 1 students will make it to AP language. I wanted to say that there is very little we can do to “get them there”. AP type proficiency requires familiarity with natural whole language. That doesn’t come by demanding output in hopes to “get them there”. Does it? I’ve never even considered AP level courses as an objective for my language students.

          1. Craig, as the school year unfolds your new colleagues will double-take when they walk past your room and hear the music of conversation, not lecture. Maybe even some laughter. Then they will pull you into the storage closet, pin you up against the wall and say, “Give me some of that teaching magic!” You’ll give it to them for free and they’ll think it’s a hustle. And they’ll love it even more.

            Or they won’t because they’re carrying an ego as heavy as a barrel of rocks. You’ll see the weight of this barrel of rocks on their shoulders, their frowns.

  4. In the same way that Americans have taken to the big box stores vs. the small shops, language teachers have exhibited a preference for ready made, plug and play instructional materials.

    Those kinds of materials are not my cup of tea, for the simple reason that they don’t align with the research as much as the smaller shops do, which allow for so much more community building (which is the key to everything in language instruction in my opinion).

    So I prefer the smaller shops, where we can just use the language and thereby go deep into the language in a non-artificial (read authentically human) way that is real, and so doesn’t trick kids.

    I’m not surprised the big box stores have happened. Like the novels, there is lots of money to be made from them. Plus, to expect the profession to align with the research in just a few decades is unreasonable. Language teachers now see clearly that they can’t have their textbooks anymore, so they try to find materials that approximate the textbook but say “CI” on the cover.

    I don’t subscribe to that idea. I think it’s not fair to the kids, doesn’t challenge the teachers enough professionally, and has sparked a money grab the likes of which I’ve not seen in my life.

    1. The money grabbers can’t be blamed if what Greg said here earlier today is true:

      many teachers simply don’t know that there are systems for teaching without theme-based, grammar point list curriculums….

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