VP Opportunity

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32 thoughts on “VP Opportunity”

  1. Not sure where to post these now, but I’ve made the following:
    Episode 4 (much longer than the others…there was more SLA talk this week):
    Episode 3 (wasn’t recorded)
    Episode 2:
    Episode 1:

  2. Lance, awesome job in episode 4!
    I haven’t listened yet to your recaps, but that is an awesome idea! Lots of language teachers aren’t going to listen to an hour show. I suggest we all take Lance’s sparknotes and try to get our local PLC’s to listen together and discuss!
    And if you haven’t yet, everyone go SUBSCRIBE to Tea with BVP.

      1. I really like the quote in the last paragraph: “We have been reminded recently of Von Humboldt’s statement that we cannot really teach language, we can only create conditions in which it will develop spontaneously in the mind in its own way.”
        Also, when students simply repeat a memorized phrase (like a parrot) it shouldn’t be considered actual language. It should be considered “language-like behavior” (Spolsky 1966) because it’s only the repetition of something that they have heard. It isn’t really generated by the speaker.

    1. Lance, this is really helpful! You need to find a single place where you can post all of these and then we can redirect our colleagues to it. I’ve got my ESL teacher listening, but she doesn’t have the tolerance for the non-SLA banter. So these will be perfect.

  3. I basically see this as a TPRS/CI talk show. I hope we can get “the otherside” to speak up. My guess is they won’t…mostly because they don’t care enough to put time and energy into such matters.
    If the goals of World Language programs across the world are to communicate and use the language there are really no arguments against input based teaching.
    A big hooray for all that are tuning in and contributing!!!

    1. Yeah …she definitely comes off to be as bothersome. I wonder how her year is really going now that she went back to teaching in the classroom. It was cool to see Sandrock or anyone for that matter that is affiliated with ACTFL take part in such a thing.
      I wonder if we could help Cottrell ask the type of questions and concerns she has about acquisition so that we can help her type of mentality? She seems to have the same road block in her thinking that doe snot allow her to make the connections about SLA that we have. I know some people in the TPRS community have gone back and forth with her but I wonder if there could be a way to help her understand. I think she legitimately cares about SLA and has created some those BLACK BOX videos which are insightful.
      Any ideas for helping her get the answers to her questions with out provoking fights? I must admit I have trouble following her logic because like someone mentioned she is a bit obtuse. She seems to spin things to go against anything CI related yet wants to be in the mix with CI teachers…confusing to say the least!

  4. She says students know they’re learning the second they walk through the classroom door, so conscious learning MUST be going on. This is silly. Kids can go to class excited to “learn” Spanish, but in no way does that mean they expect to learn ABOUT Spanish. That distinction is for us to distinguish between teaching explicit rules and sending messages. Kids aren’t thinking about that.

    1. Yeah. I answered Cottrell. She called it a “flaw.” She doesn’t get it. You can be aware that the purpose is to acquire a FL and in no way does that mean you can’t acquire. You can engage in a conversation because you know you’ll acquire. When we are focused on the message and not deliberately trying to learn and not deliberately focusing on the form, then it’s called “incidental learning.” But acquisition happens even when we are deliberately trying to acquire, because deliberately trying to acquire would mean trying to communicate/comprehend.

  5. ^ VanPatten addressed that in the last episode. Somebody (Lance?) asked “when they start asking grammar questions, does that mean they are acquiring?” and BVP said (I am paraphrasing) “what they ask about grammar has no effect on what they are acquiring but is just natural curiosity.”
    He was VERY insistent: explicit grammar teaching has no effect.
    Strictly speaking, there *can* be conscious learning going on (and there probably is, in almost every C.I. classroom to a small extent. Cottrell isn’t wrong…but there is no evidence showing that this conscious learning has naythign to do with acquisition.
    BTW Eric’s comment about incidental learning also applies to grammar teaching: kids in grammar classes do acquire language. But not much, and not because they “practice” or “study” grammar, but because there is some meaningful input included. If you are “practicing” conjugating “jugar” it’s dumb but if you are aware that juego means “I play” and “juegas” means “you play,” you are picking *something* up.
    This point is important. I bring it up at workshops, where I have to be polite to skeptics. I say “grammar teaching/forced output etc don’t not work. They *do* work…but the evidence suggests that, compared to C.I., they don’t work quite as well.”

  6. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Before I knew abt her C/I skepticism, I had a few rounds of email with Cottrell (based on nandu posts). I asked about her extremely hi standards for elementary level outcomes. Most recently she was out looking for poems for her 6-14 yr old Ss to recite, in order to comply with some CAN DO standards, blah, blah, blah. She did write this to me last year:
    “With TCI and especially in elementary, it is very common to modify (or even ignore) output goals, at least at the beginning. This is an area I’m reevaluating myself. For one thing, I am contemplating why we try to measure output proficiency in assessment at the beginning when students need so much input in order to produce proficient output. So you have asked a great question that I myself am reconsidering! I still think in high school students have so much metalinguistic awareness that we can ask for output early (though I still wonder if we should assess it) but in elementary, it’s much muddier. When I was teaching I would require output from my students, single-word answers, conversation dialogues, and storytelling, but it was more feedback for me, how they were progressing, since it is hard to assess comprehension of some things like dialogues without asking for output. Does that make any sense?”
    What does ‘metalinguistic awareness’ have to do w/output? If anything, the Monitor Hypothesis casts a shadow on that, in that it’s hard for the 3 conditions to be met. (Time, focus on form, knowing the grammar rules). Perhaps she’s super literal or an extreme rule follower. Perhaps she (like so many administrators we know) has a “If you love it, it can be measured” attitude (Yes, an admin once actually said that to me in a discussion about measuring elementary student Spanish output). Some folks are quite uncomfortable with this unconscious mind business…and want it all wrapped up and tied with a bow…

  7. I like her final question, does that make any sense?
    Well it’s funny that she should ask. She makes no damn sense! It sounds like she’s confused about many different things and is just asking goofy questions to try to get to the bottom of something she doesn’t know what she’s trying to get to the bottom of.
    I see this as one of the big problems with a lot of the messages she has on Twitter. She asks many questions and gives many answers but they don’t always seem to relate to one another.
    Alisa, thanks for sharing that message. It kind of reflecrs that she probably is a lost cause and will probably continue to be a pain in the butt.

    1. Good to know these things about her. I only recently heard of her — read the Carol Gaab rebuttal to her “What I hate about TPRS” post (which is great) and then the original one by Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell.
      I don’t understand writing off acquisition as even possible in a classroom setting. That is like the whole goal I have: maximizing acquisition given all the challenges of seeking it in a classroom setting. Challenges of time, school format, expectations on the teacher from admins, parents, students, all that.
      It sounds kind of like Eric’s recent comments elsewhere that sounded like social SLA research (and I’m sure I’ve not got the right title for this approach to second language studies) — that no “conversation” can happen in a classroom because of the roles of learner and instructor, etc. Well, can we look at a CI classroom, and really see if people are exchanging real messages before we determine that? Can we see what kids can do with language and then decide if acquisition can happen there?

  8. There are so many wonderful moments (aside from the banter) on these BVP shows. Yesterday’s show, though it wasn’t about grading, supported my belief, and the discussion here on other threads, that we shouldn’t be assigning a level by year to students. Furthermore, it gave me backup for not assigning proficiency targets and thus grades in the classroom. Instead, I am now assigning tasks, grading those mostly on completion and effort level. If it’s writing or speaking, I give the kids a rubric so that they know what I think of their work in light of what they’re doing right or how they could move it up a notch.
    BVP gave us the best reason in the world to pay attention to Can-Do statements, and I think his use of them will make everyone here much happier. He uses them as assessments. He gives students a model so they know what a “2” or a “1” looks like/sounds like. “2” is for completing the task in a comfortable way. “1” is completing it with difficulty. Students can learn the material for the Can-Do statements. That doesn’t mean they have acquired the language, just that they’re aware of it. Having jumped through the hoop, that means they get the grade and the class can move on.
    I hope I’m explaining this in a way that makes sense, at least as far as grading goes, since we seem to need to grade something.
    But it still begs the question: if students can “learn” enough to complete the task, but completing it doesn’t add to their acquisition, why are we going to spend valuable class time on the task? Maybe they can complete it as a google voice message or send me an email, or go outside the classroom one at a time to record their voices for me.
    I’m SOOO conflicted on this! I’d rather give my kids grades for completing tasks that I believe add to their acquisition (or to my understanding of what they’ve acquired, for instance, participating in reading groups, doing fast writes, or completing a listening exercise. I like Ben’s quick student-written quizzes. I like participating in Textivate, or doing that at home. All these are ways I can collect the grades for the gradebook, and kids are either acquiring or showing me what they’ve got. It’s not wasted time for any of us.
    BVP did say at some moment (having to do with explicit teaching in the exchange program situation) that learning specific phrases can help students as they go out into the TL world. They might be better-prepared to hear and respond to those phrases. That could also help them in listening to snippets to movies in class. But learning those phrases (as they would have to for the Can-Do statement assessment) seems to me not the best use of time.
    Am I wrong? Can someone frame this idea differently for me?

    1. I like that VP said that an explicit instruction serves the purpose for making the learner feel better. It doesn’t add much to acquisition but makes them “feel” good…like learning is taking place.
      I am seeing that explicit grammar type of assignments appease outsiders and keeps the wolves away…

  9. Completion grades are out of fashion in general education. I think the best thing to do is veil such a gradig concept in terms people expect. That, or we can convince our school to award credit and no grade for all language courses.

    1. Right Lance! I put the “completion” grades under a “work skills” heading. One of my colleagues calls it a “college readiness” category. I don’t want to encourage anyone to do something that will raise eyebrows. I’m just beginning to feel like I need my grades to take as much time as they are actually valuable. I have been rocked off my foundation by a BVP earthquake. Up until now, I wanted the sections in my gradebook (listening, reading, writing, speaking skills) to reflect how successful the students were for their level of study. But now, I realize that I’ve always known it wasn’t completely fair for some reason. When a (to me) credible figure like BVP reaffirms that language is not like other subjects, and thus shouldn’t be graded in the same way, I want to find ways to assign grades that are reasonable.
      I like Eric’s (?) plan for asking about the biography of a singer as content for a grade, rather than assessing the language ability. That makes more sense to me than spending time creating the Can-Do samples for students and listening to their answers.
      BTW, here’s the Ashley Hastings paper of two decades ago, when he presented his research showing that the Focal Skills method of concentrating on Listening, then Reading, and finally Writing, without extra time on grammar and vocabulary, achieved results at least as good as the standard methods of teaching ESL to newcomers. The Listening module, btw, is MovieTalk.

      1. There are a few exchanges on my blog between Scott Benedict and me on two grading posts, one of which you replied to, Michele. Scott’s system is to show progress in each skill which then allows him to provide more input, writing, or speaking opportunities. I think that’s really contemporary in education right now, and it aligns with his own brand of Power Grading, but I don’t buy it. If BvP and other experts found that we have more control, all of that work of skill isolation/targeting, and reportin would be worth it.
        Does grading differently increase acquisition?
        Nope. It might help create a better environment in which to do so, but BvP is right…languages are special…a special kind of content.

        1. Lance,
          I loved reading the conversation you and Scott we’re having. I think this goes back to what you mentioned above, recognizing that learning a language is distinct from the way students learn about other subjects in school.
          Language teachers and especially language acquisition teachers need their own unique ways of establishing and using grades. Good work on your blog!!!

        2. And I can’t find that conversation! I’ve been following Scott’s rubrics and general system for some time now. It was ironic that I invited both BVP and Scott to come to our conference.
          Cognitive dissonance, anyone?
          It will sort itself out, but given how easily my classes are going, and how no one is complaining about the grades, it’s really theoretical and not critical that I figure it out right now.
          Grading is my least favorite thing–as opposed to assessment. My main goal in grading is to do no harm–to the process of acquisition, to the student’s self-perception or to a career (student’s or mine).

  10. Here is a little connection between BVP and Robert’s comments on Rigor.
    BVP said, “The representation you get in your head cannot come about through the rule; it can only come about through the data. This is converted into stuff your mind can use to actually create the grammar.”
    The words that stood out to me were, “it can only come about through the data.” The data, of course, is comprehended messages.
    I was reminded of Robert’s repeated explanations of Rigor. A grammar-based syllabus starts with the conclusions (the rules). A message based syllabus starts with the data which allows the brain to do this scientific type of rigorous program. With sufficient data the brain is able to engage in depth and integrity of inquiry and sustained focus. Withholding the grammar/rule allows for suspension of premature conclusions and continuous testing of hypotheses as as new data (messages) and new contexts present themselves to the brain.
    Before we allowing our visceral reactions to the many negative uses of rigor to take over, let us consider this definition. “Rigorous” in the academic setting means “extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.” Again, I am not referring here, to the conscious work of grammar/rule learning and practice, but rather to the work done by the Language Acquisition Device in the presence of comprehended messages.

    1. Thanks, Nathaniel, for articulating my position so clearly.
      Recently I read an article about the Republican candidates who are proclaiming how they plan to dismantle or repeal the Affordable Care Act but seem think that somehow an alternative will magically present itself since they have nothing. We run the risk of appearing similar on the issue of rigor when we speak against the common misconception of rigor as simply more work but offer no alternative. That’s why I’m trying to show a better way.
      Late last school year I was in a meeting in which the subject of “rigor” came up, and people started talking about it without a common definition. I proposed we need to have a common understanding of what we are talking about and presented the Department of State’s definition. Everyone was willing to accept it, and my principal really liked it, so I know it is possible to affect people’s thinking on this issue.

      1. Thanks for sharing how it turned out with your proposal, Robert.
        I have asked for time in my December department meeting to present a PPT to propose a common definition of rigor. It is suspected that our recent NEASC visit will recommend that we be more rigorous in our low-ability classes school-wide. I sense that teachers and administrators alike have a misconception of what we will be asked to do. I predict that the reaction would be to take what the students are already asked to do and increase it. This could mean more memorizing, more fill in the blanks, and so forth.
        I specifically said that we should consider what the Department of State says. It sounded like that carried weight in your discussions. I will see what happens out my way.

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