Two Questions – 1

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34 thoughts on “Two Questions – 1”

  1. Curriculum is an even bigger (but very much related) discussion than assessment. If we’re waiting for Fall to open this can of worms, it may be too late for this upcoming school year. Just a thought.

  2. Alisa Shapiro

    Take a look at our district’s 1-8 Spanish and 6-8 French “curriculum” in the hard link above called Shared curriculum- it’s more like a Scope and sequence without a calendar. Since our work involves eliciting stories in collaboration, set curriculum doesn’t jive, but you could certainly say that you are backwards planning to a novel(s) – we do that for say, Brandon Brown (3rd grade), Isabela (4th) and others in grades 5-8.
    I think (hope) if you combine the S & S w/ a target structures list
    they may lay off. It worked for us…
    I don’t necessarily ‘follow’ these docs, but having them makes our lives a bit easier…and allows our adminz to sleep at night:}

    1. I get that this makes your lives easier, and Ben’s message is first and foremost mental health. I have the luxury of not having to fight this particular fight as 99% of everything I do at my school revolves around my role as ESL teacher (I do more, so don’t be jealous) -but I am technically in the “World Language” department so I guess I could invite myself to those meetings to see what happens.

      I just see that with TPRS, we have the keys to enact change if we’re brave enough (am I? Maybe not.) Aligning our curriculum, instruction, and assessment is how we end the “bait and switch” that Robert says happens in foreign language, where traditional teachers fail to align their instruction and assessment to the class’s understood objectives to communicate in L2.

      With TPRS, we align our communicative language objectives with our instruction and assessment, so as John Biggs says, “The cynical game-playing … is pre-empted. Matching individual performances against the criteria is not a matter of counting marks {Claire: exams or tests} but of making holistic judgments…. If this is not done, we are not aligning our objectives and our assessments.”

      It’s not that there shouldn’t be a curriculum, or that we should produce curriculum documents but not really follow it, although I see that as an easy out if we have to for mental health. It’s just that any curriculum should be planned with the end in mind: communicative competency. Our Scope and Sequence should include evidence of REAL communication, not just words or points of grammar.

      You guys get that you could really make traditional teachers sweat on that, right? If you wanted to.

      I told you that you’re hot, TPRSers. But being hot is not all it’s cracked up to be (just ask Lana Del Rey). Alisa’s suggestion is probably much more practical and a better fit for most, so thanks Alisa.

      Ooops. I’m supposed to not get into this until Fall, but oh well.

      1. Steven Ordiano

        “Our Scope and Sequence should include evidence of REAL communication, not just words or points of grammar.”

        Well as least the planning of structures for stories. My BTSA coach suggested I have a set of target structures for each story. Each story could be a unit.

        Again, it is the argument of targeting vs non-targeted.

        For me, personally since Im a newbie, I would use the following year long plan :
        1) class structures/targeted structures (for easing students into TL)
        2) Planned stories plus PQA (if the structures lend themselves) 3) Introducing MT and other strategies 4) Guided stories 5) Finally untargeted stories.

        Of course this is subject to change plus in all of the above, I am using HF verbs plus other compelling words.

        1. I would get into why I don’t put targets or themes or HF words on my curriculum documents or why I choose a simple Scope and Sequence, but I think it’s important we improve our assessment literacy first.

          On this blog, we’ve started redefining what assessment is, but it’s not just us. Recently, I started discussing assessment with colleagues including ESL teachers, who I assumed knew more than they did, but it’s a big mess. I doubt many teachers in your building understand what assessment is.

          We have to cast off the assessments = tests= grades cycle that is all about judgement and bring assessments back to what they are designed to be: helping us guide how we teach to support students.

          The powers that be seem to not understand assessment either. In this desire for assessment reform nation-wide, Krashen is always tweeting about the nightmarish effects of NCLB and high stakes assessments. Rick Stiggins summarizes it well, “The assessment environment we have in the United States today is one in which everyone feels victimized. And that’s got to change.”

          It’s pretty systemic. Clearly, we’re not just talking about foreign language any more. We’re re-educating administrators about what assessment really is for any classroom: ESL, foreign language, or mainstream content-area classes. Should we have to do this? No. But there’s this cancer eating away at our schools and the longer we ignore it, the worse it gets.

          This is huge.

          All that’s to say, let’s hold off on curriculum until we figure out how to re-define assessment for ourselves and our administrators.

          1. Can we take a second to appreciate the fact that we are attempting to (in some small way) fix one of the nation’s biggest national crises?

            If this is too much, don’t feel like you have to take this on. If HFW or using novels helps you stay in a classroom and changing kids’ lives, keep it up. You are already doing enough.

            I’m just in a place where I think I have the pull with my administrators to use authentic assessments and even be a little bit vocal about it. Okay, I’m pretty much obnoxious about it, I know.

            I’ve taken this on because I can, but you know your situation better than anyone.

          2. Robert Harrell

            Claire wrote:
            We have to cast off the assessments = tests= grades cycle that is all about judgement and bring assessments back to what they are designed to be: helping us guide how we teach to support students.

            Preach it!

          3. Claire, I’m not sure if you said so explicitly, but you helped me understand the value of how many lower-school teachers assess kids during Reading Workshop: with individual, anecdotal information, like, if a student is visualizing while reading or able to describe the beginning, middle, and end of a chapter book. These kinds of assessments help the teacher know what the student is capable of and what they’re ready for next in their literacy development. There’s no scoring or grade involved.

            This is the example I think of as we talk about authentic assessment.

        2. Might be interesting if you could pull off saying your “unit” is HF words and thus be able to start working with untargeted stories sooner? You think they’d buy that?

    2. Alisa, are there documents from your district for 7th and 8th grade French? I only see 6th grade. I think these could be useful in my district, too. Thanks!

      1. This document is set so anyone can edit it. Maybe it should be changed to “can view” so people don’t start revising before making a copy. I didn’t look at all of them, but they might all be set that way.

  3. Thank you for the comments so far. I am lucky to be in the district I am in because the World Language Coordinator loves the idea of teaching using TPRS. The only problem is that I am the only one in the district who actually does it. She specifically invited me to help write curriculum to have my input coming from a TPRS standpoint. However, there are two issues. My first issue is I will be working with “traditional teachers” although that doesn’t bother me too much since I know I’m supported in my method. My biggest challenge is actually helping to write that curriculum. In my heart, I feel that a curriculum is not necessary. If we use CI, truly speak to our students about their interests and tell compelling stories for four years, it seems inevitable for them not to learn! But how to put that into a plan??? I never shelter grammar anymore. My Italian I’s are now able to recognize the present tense, imperfect tense, passato prossimo tense, the future, and at times, the conditional. They cannot produce a lot of the forms on their own, but understanding always comes first anyway. Therefore, I would never ever write a curriculum based on grammar.
    The idea of backwards planning from a novel is a great idea and I will take that into consideration.

    I guess my main question is how do I put into words how I feel? What are some good points/reasons I could bring up for feeling the way I feel…if that makes sense!!!

    Thanks again!

    1. NON CI CREDO, LEI INSEGNA ITALIANO?! Keri, will you be my Italiana BFF? Pretty please?!! Also, is that a sweet Momma/Baby picture or what?

      “I guess my main question is how do I put into words how I feel?”

      We are going to hold hands on the “putting it into words” thing. Ben’s promised us that. (I think? Maybe that was all in my head.) But Ben’s asked that we halt the assessment discussion for the summer, and in my view we can’t go anywhere with curriculum until we have authentic assessments to match the authentically communicative method of TPRS.

      Diane will tell you I like to cheat, but I’m not going to on this one because it’s important that we get it right. I’m with you, I would love to just go there right now, but people are catching up on a lot.

      For now, we can read the assessment threads, plus I’m in love with Ben’s latest “Conversation With a Principal” which is in the primers. Now, if only Ben would make targetless curriculum into a book. …Ben???

      Però , se no può aspettare, mandame un’email . No posso aspettare, anche io. 🙂

      1. Grazie Claire! 🙂
        That would be great! I’d love to send you an email if you’d be willing to discuss this more with me! What is your address?? Thanks again!

    2. Bryan Whitney

      If I had to come up with a document I would base it upon student interests (if you wanted to come up with a list it would include friends, family, sports, activities, pets, etc…), high frequency vocabulary, and stories/novels. Since there is so much personalization it should’t be too specific, so that the class can be modified based upon students. Like you said grammar is mixed in as needed for communicative purposes and comprehension, not so much for focus on form.

        1. Bryan Whitney

          Actually, I WOULD say that grammar is included throughout the curriculum. The difference is that it is taught holistically and in-context for the purposes of communication and understanding in the target language. It isn’t necessary (or even optimal) to teach grammar as a subject in and of itself.

          1. I agree Bryan. That’s why it shouldn’t be written explicitly in our curriculum documents: it is implicit in the curriculum we use. We don’t isolate discrete points of grammar in TPRS instruction and assessment, so it shouldn’t be isolated in our curriculum.

    3. Steven Ordiano

      That’s a difficult situation to work with other teachers. The important thing is to have a dialogue with them — a two way street because if you come with fire they will be hostile. Have a few basic things you can reference like the silent period etc…

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Again as an elem teacher in a school that doesn’t give grades, with a 150-yr history of Progressive Education, I don’t have the hoops that many of the public Jr Hi & HS teachers do. My district bankrolled all of us getting trained in T/CI; there wasn’t much of a question of convincing folks…(except for handing off our 8th graders to a more traditional HS dep’t…)
    Are your colleagues interested in aligning their practice with SLA research? Are they open to it? Is your admin willing to pay for training for all?
    I am totally with Claire but I think that starting with some kind of articulated goal (list?) smoothes the transition…Many on this blog feel that such lists, docs, and training wheels aren’t necessary and can even lead to substandard T/CI but I don’t concur (based on my experience). The training wheels helped me master the foundational skills – I could practice them without worrying about ‘what to teach’. I only used ‘set curriculum’ (Carol Gaab’s Cuéntame) for a few months….til I ‘got the gist’.

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    And we OUGHT to be ‘making trad’l teachers sweat’ and not just “fudging it” with traditional style documentation. Hopefully our Assessment discussions will help fortify our take-down campaign.

  6. Thank you so much for all the replies. I wish I didn’t have to write the curriculum until after we talked about the assessments but unfortunately I have to on June 3. I just wanted to go in there prepared to defend my method of teaching. I think I will be able to though since I have valid reasons for doing what I do. I’m not so sure if the other teachers will have a real answer as to why they teach the imperfect tense, for example, in chapter seven of level two!

    I like that idea, Tina…starting with HF words.

    1. Following this thread closely. I also have to write up a bunch of Unit Plans. Due beginning of JUne also. Even though I got axed in the budget cuts. When I asked why I have to do this, when the Spanish program is eliminated, I was met with a lame “we have to show that we have a curriculum regardless of who the teacher is.” Huh?

      I’m torn between spending zero time and simply cutting and pasting some of the documents available here and using this as an opportunity to educate. But if there is no program I seriously doubt anyone is going to read my stuff anyway. They just need it to check the box.

      1. Right, who follows the curriculum written by someone else? Unless, of course, it’s a textbook. Sounds pointless.

        This reminds me of when I left a school in the middle of the year and the principal asked me to write lesson plans for the rest of the year. I felt it was such an ignorant request. I think it was a request done in desperation, similar to what seems to be going on with your school. So sad.

  7. Keri Biron video response:

    00:05 – students are relaxed but they know who is in charge and I don’t think it is just the fact of it being recorded. You have a very strong teaching presence, loud clear voice. Perfect for TPRS. We must project confidence and you do that here.

    00:36 – I love the way you say, after one boy suggested that they man’s name was “Billy” how you said “It is possible!” I never thought of that but it is a great way to get out of it if you don’t like it.

    01:26 – this happens to me. You drag the name thing out as long as you can because you aren’t happy with the lame names they gave but finally had to cave with Jerry. That part of getting a name always seems to drag out too long. But you did the right think in accepting the one they as a class suggested right there. I’m like weird I gotta have the right name.

    03:30 – you got through name and age and where he works in three and a half minutes. Not bad. I try to get through basic questions faster these days. I used to spend more than five minutes to get answers to basic questions and it kind of flatlines the story early. Gotta be crisp with early questioning esp. since they have been hearing those same questions all year.

    04:00 – love the way you have them repeat chorally, “I can’t believe it!”

    4:15 to 4:40 – artfully done on bringing up the actor. You sensed the hesitation in the first guy, went to the second, got him on the stool, all really crisp and nice. This is another area where many of us waste too much time. Get an actor and get going. Nice!

    5:00 to 5:30 – we can all learn from this artful questioning of the actor after he has sat down. He is a big guy but lower than you and that is what the stool is for, by the way. Chairs are too low and if they stand they become an immediate distraction. You went right for district vocabulary (age). But the big thing here is how your pacing is just perfect. Not too fast, not too slow. You use no new vocabulary. All in bounds, all nicely paced.

    5:40 to 6:40 – you got more reps by asking if the student “worked/wanted to work” at Victoria’s Secret. So more reps on a very common verb in context. Asking simple questions of the actor and students, questions that do not go out of bounds, is what is happening here.

    6:33 – notice the subtle hand gestures from the teacher on “wants to work” while the student is speaking. Result of TPR.

    6:44 – you are working from a script here. Who wrote it? For those not familiar with working with scripts you can see how nice it is to have that next question ready. Happens right at 6:44. When you work from a script in this way it just makes everything easier, gives a set of tracks for the story to go down. There are two good ways to ask stories and they each have their advantages – with or without scripts/targets.

    7:35 – this many not seem like a big deal but is. Keri right here goes back with yet another question of the actor “Do you live with your mother?”. This is artful. We always want to be going back and forth from the developing story to the actor(s) with in -bounds questions.

    General comment: I know that my speaking French is an advantage here, but the general feel in the classroom is, because Keri is so good at staying in-bounds, that I would like to be in there as a student because I can understand literally everything and I have never studied Italian although, like all of us, have always wanted to learn it. Why do I feel as if I could learn in this classroom? 1) teacher is comprehensible, slow and in-bounds. 2) no English side tracks to throw me as a student off, and 3) teacher is clearly in charge of this classroom. And those are big high school boys, some of them, who could easily try to take things over as we have discussed here recently. Keri is totally in charge. This is not easy work she is doing!

    11:24 – Keri talks right through the loudspeaker interruption, Nice!

    12:26 – another nice touch. Keri uses the laser pointer to point to the target on the screen. We can never assume that they understand us, and with the targets she laser points to she assures their understanding.

    General comment: it is the nature of working from a script that the safety of the rails/structures that there is a bit less spontaneity and originality/unexpected responses. Is that a problem? Not at all. Quality of stories varies w scripted vs. non-scripted stories but both work.

    13:00 Partner retells at this point was a good decision. Kind of a brain break. Besides partner retells I use tell the story up to this point to their hands, as partners bust right into English.

    During the retells: I’m not a psychologist, and I may be way off, but as a lover of the subtlety of language I do not want this boy speaking this way. I want him to bring a different mindset to the work, more attempt at speaking the language (this is Italian!) Maybe it’s just me with kids like that. I know he’s a scared kid, and that is all that that behavior is about. But this age HAS to be the hardest to teach. I’ve done TPRS for nine years with middle school kids and six with high school kids. Give me the middle school kids!

    14:40 – good time to get a retell to the group after the partner retells. This should be a part of any story, in my opinion.

    15:00 – Throwing the ball to someone, they have to speak a sentence so far. This works to keep focus.

    17:40 – This is very interesting in through here. Keri wants to get reps on the problem, first structure, and should do that. But we are working our way up to 20 minutes in the story and we’ve only established the problem. I have changed to where I try to get the problem established earlier and the failed attempt going a lot sooner. If you think about it, the best action happens AFTER the problem is established not before and during.

    20:00 – I can’t find anything to critique much in this story. It is just really good. I know you wanted help with that but it is a well-oiled machine. You are doing the right thing by staying expertly in bounds.

    20:30 – we see the value of dialogue. It is always effective and the kids always get into it. These kids didn’t even need any coaching. I use the director’s cues when doing this (kept above my whiteboard). Great coaching.

    21:00 to 22:00 – great stuff in through here totally comprehensible.

    22:30 – great buy in from the football player on acting. I wonder how much buy in we would get from the big guy by giving hime a verb conjugation chart. He would probably have to find different ways of getting attention in class.

    23:30 – the first time she let in a new word was at this point with the word “adopted”. That is some kind of record.

    Timer: You had a timer going the whole time and it has been perfect. Comments for us on that? (Did the video influence their staying in the TL?)

    26:50 – I personally don’t like the ball where if they catch it they have to say something. But this is where we all get to be different. There is HUGE ADVANTAGES in this move with the ball. It keeps them focused. I just don’t do it and that is what is great about this method. We all get to be different.

    27:00 – Watch this artistry right here. You – need – a wife – Jason. Keri plays a fully comprehensible card with her hand almost beating out the music with a slight pause between words and very strong loud accented speech. Really effective CI. And all in flow. How can they not learn the language when it’s that many reps? Love that move right there. Just great.

    28:10 – Nice work to stick in a date. Boring but we got to do it.

    29:15 – And then same thing with the time. Nice work. You hit both the date and the time and then got right back to the story. That’s the way to not let the story lag.

    31:30 – This is master teaching. What is being conveyed? Happiness. Pride in Mario, who needs love very much. Happiness in the fun of expressing herself in Italian. Round of applause for the kid. This is real teaching.

    32:00 – I just noticed something HUGE. I have heard almost no English for over a half an hour! I am amazed. Wow! I want to learn how to do that. Even with a timer like she has I mess it up. I can’t keep my own dang thoughts from messing up my CI with English. Oh well.

    32:30 – I don’t use props even hair props. Jason Fritze says hats and hair are the best. Again, just my style. I find that kids play with them and it gets distracting. And they smell. Distractions with props are not happening here, testimony to the firm hand Keri has on the class.

    33:00 – Look at the whiteboard at 33:00. That is very little new stuff for that amount of time of CI. I LOVE how Keri writes out that sentence at 32:50 to make sure they understand it. She’s teaching reading right there.

    33:20 – Finally she breaks into a little grammar lesson. Pure Susan Gross. What does this ending mean? PAST. What does “endo” mean? ING. That’s how you do it. It doesn’t have to be as short as four seconds long in this pop up grammar lesson. There are no rules in this work.

    34:15 – we can’t miss the little details here. Look at the way she keeps the students in line. I know that has to do with a timer working a clock there in that classroom but just notice. Whatever she is doing, it is something we all want to emulate. She has control over blurting. This class is a clinic in keeping kids in the TL. And she goes right down that row on the right and requires a response from each one about what the woman was doing when Jerry got there at five in the morning. The kids are really well trained!

    38:00 – great example of how to run a dialogue here.

    38:40 – How did so and so react? This is a classic TPRS skill move from many years.

    40:00 – 41:00 – I would have had the actors sit down on stools and stay there. Distracting. I would have pointed to Rule #7 on the Classroom Rules chart by now – “actors synchronize your words with my actions.”

    42:00 – this wrapping up is a good way to end a story. Just say what happened. The wallet got stolen. Simple.

    42:00 to 42:45 – I would have gone to a big retell right there instead of pair work. While it was super fresh in their minds. Would have not used the actors for the retell, just pointed to the spots they were in. BUT I do like the pattern Keri uses as well of short pair retells and then on kids does a big celebration retell.

    42:45 to end: Any further proof needed that this method works? I think not. The student retell is marvelous!

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