Upper Level CI/AP Themes – 2

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9 thoughts on “Upper Level CI/AP Themes – 2”

  1. I’m not gonna lie, I was a little taken aback at your reply, Ben! I’m still digesting your thoughts. Funny you should mention Mike Peto. I found this link to a listening activity he does with level 3 classes using authentic audio podcasts.


    This is exactly the kind of idea I’m looking for to bridge the gap between what we do in I & II NTCI and what the kids are doing at the AP level.

    BTW, 80-85% of our non-heritage, non-native speakers pass the AP Spanish Language & Culture test with 4 years of Spanish. Last year it dipped to 75%, the previous two years we batted 1000 with every kid passing. Not that passing a test proves proficiency by any stretch of the imagination, but I figure we must be doing something right, regardless of the methodology. I speak four languages, having learned three of them as an adult. Whatever the research says, I know from personal experience that the skills needed to pass that test are the same skills you need to survive an immersion experience in the Spanish speaking world. I just wish we could encourage more kids to take the class. Only about 10-15% of our Spanish I kids end up taking AP their senior year. I’m hoping that the positive feedback we’ve gotten from students regarding our switch to CI will motivate them to continue taking Spanish if they get more of the same in the upper levels.

  2. Well there are programs like yours but they are so rare I really stand by my opinions. There are so many factors but the big one for me is that I think in terms of equity and you guys must really be doing that as well if you’re getting such high passing rates. Congrats on what I see as a very rare success rate.

  3. I think our point of difference, David, possibly might be in the area of what one considers important in this work. My process ended up with a very low appreciation and respect for what tests really told us. Instead, each year it is accurate to say that my inner awareness of what I was even doing had evolved to a point where I simply had no interest in test scores.

    I know that most of the comprehensible input that we supply them with gets into their unconscious minds, where we simply can’t measure what is there. I know that my students don’t have enough time to truly master the language, and I know that after playing the AP game in various ways and winning, the price tag on those high test scores was always too many kids in the class having been disenfranchised by a culture that led to the test. I just don’t do that anymore. It’s not important to me.

    What’s important to me is to just hang out with my kids in the TL and watch each child’s progress w/o feeling as if measuring it is needed. Obviously David when you and your team use CI and not memorization and lists to get 80% of your kids at 3 and above on the AP, you are doing something right.

    1. Definitely makes sense that whatever you consider most important will drive curricular and pedagogical decisions. Both of us Spanish teachers had life-changing experiences while studying abroad. So for us, fomenting a love for language and cultural diversity, planting a vision of global citizenship, and equipping students with the skills to survive and thrive abroad all rank ahead of proficiency per se. Language just happens to be one of the best vehicles to attain those things. Plus, I just really enjoyed that AP class. The global themes and interrelated topics made it seem much more like a contemporary issues class that just happened to be taught in Spanish. Thanks for the affirmation. We’re really blessed to be part of a supportive team at our school.

  4. From what I learned at NTPRS this year, a lot of teachers are using Picture Talk at upper levels when they have to teach themes and culture.

    Seems like Storylistening could be a good option too.

  5. Thanks, Greg, good ideas. I may start collecting images that capture various facets of the six global themes that form the framework of the AP course. Taking a trip around the star using those images as jumping off points could be a good way to introduce students to the ideas of the AP class, without hammering needless vocab lists and grammar lessons into their heads.

  6. I can just imagine how taking a journey around the star might impact the six themes. It’s a perfect vehicle.

    But my own personal objection to the very existence of the AP exam remains. It’s a lot to unpack, and we can’t do it here, but I still want to say it. That exam has a deleterious effect on language instruction overall for all kids. It forces a kind of “We are going to score high on the exam” mentality which then poisons the average lower level class with an immediately competitive mentality that flies in the face of what the research says about how people – all people not just the few – acquire languages. So my own positions is that testing of any sort, except easy formative testing done preferably on a daily basis to see what kids got in any one class period, is far more deleterious to our work than meets the eye. I’ll take this statement even further – as I see it based on my own experience, we can either teach according to the research or we can teach to the test, but we can’t do both.

  7. The AP Spanish Language and Culture test is just like the SAT test except for a couple of sections, like the Interpersonal Conversation section where you listen to a soft voice talk about school, for example, and you’re given 30 seconds to respond to a question. Push record. Talk. Stop. Listen to more “authentic conversation.” Push record. Talk. Stop. For many of my heritage Spanish students, it’s hard for them to fabricate a conversation like that. They don’t know what to say. (It’s the Spanish heritage students in my school that take this AP test.)

    Then there’s the cultural comparisons essay. Again, it’s confusing to our Spanish heritage students. It’s asking students to compare something like school life between that of their community and that of a community in the hispanic world. Problem is, they are hispanic and their world is hispanic here in the United States. It’s confusing and, you might say, not inclusive of people of color.

    That’s just a couple of problems I have the AP test.

    If you’re good at taking the SAT test and you have a solid 4 years of L2 class behind you, I can see how you might be able to score a 3. These good test takers know how to make inferences, identify supporting details, deduce meaning, and other logical and analytical tasks the test asks of them. And the articles they are to read are very formal, making language easy to break apart.

    I am glad to see that the Seal of Biliteracy test gets closer to gauging a student’s language proficiency.

    This conversation has me thinking, again, about how to assess reading proficiency. It’s such a nebulous thing. I’m having a hard time seeing how a reading assessment isn’t anything more than a reaction to a text. The reaction could be a snicker. An, “that’s interesting.” Or a visualization. A connection.

    David, you probably have much more experience with the AP test than I do, but I’m frustrated with the Spanish one. I really think our Spanish heritage students in this country have skewed the results. The creators make the test more difficult because more heritage kids, with much greater skills than the non-heritage kids, get much better results. The Latin test, on the other hand, has a more level playing field.

  8. Sean said:

    if you’re good at taking the SAT test and you have a solid 4 years of L2 class behind you, I can see how you might be able to score a 3. These good test takers know how to make inferences….

    Add to that – as a business move to keep the dollars flowing, the College Board seems to have dumbed the test down in recent years. Am I wrong? I could be because I turned my back on that exam many many years ago and it was the right thing to do for me.

    I noticed that dumbing down happening w the French exam years ago. It’s about dollars and if they don’t make enough of them, they will no longer sell their product, as happened w the AP French Literature exam some ten years ago at least.

    I appreciate your thoughts Sean. Bottom line for me is that anything that impinges on equity in a classroom, that shows a belief in testing even though the research raises massive doubts about its value in a CI classroom, anything that sets the programs to end up with a big test, then I don’t want it or need it.

    I don’t need anyone’s approval of my work. My prayer is that some day we figure out how to teach kids w/o the need for summative testing and w/o the need to make our instruction into a COMPETITION. This thread has helped me see how far I’ve developed on the points of equity, testing and getting approval. I used to think the term AP meant something in a school. Now I think of it w disdain, at best.

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