Where The Rubber Meets The Road

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4 thoughts on “Where The Rubber Meets The Road”

  1. . . . we canโ€™t reach a certain class, but hey, they could be a bunch of boring people

    Most classes are a mixture of “interesting” and “boring” people, but some classes have a preponderance of one or the other. Recently I did Anne Matava’s “Not Yet Full” story. Both classes started out with the protagonist going to Burger King for a Bacon Sundae. (This was a take-off on the announcement by BK that they really are selling Bacon Sundaes.) In one class he then went on the Titanic and ate Shamu – they were even creative about the different ways you can eat whale. After that he went to the Great Wall of China and at three pandas at Kentucky Fried Panda. (One other great note: For the final exam, the oral portion was to re-tell the combined story with their own new ending. The protagonist in the first class even changed perspective. Instead of saying “Ryan”, he said “ich”; I definitely told the whole class how great that was.) The other class’s protagonist went from Burger King to In ‘n’ Out and ate Four-by-Four Animal Style burgers. (That was all the farther we got.) Definitely different levels of creativity.

    If Krashen is right, the words will occur.
    I have posters of the California State Standards by stage on my wall. Some time during second semester I have the class look at the content standards for the appropriate stage. (In high school we will never truly get beyond Stage Two at best.) We look at the areas that are supposed to be “covered” in that stage:

    a. Greetings and introductions
    b. Family and friends
    c. Pets
    d. Home and neighborhood
    e. Celebrations, holidays and rites of passage
    f. Calendar, seasons and weather
    g. Leisure, hobbies and activities, songs, toys and games, sports
    h. Vacations and travel, maps, destinations and geography
    i. School, classroom, schedules, subjects, numbers, time, directions
    j. Important dates in the target culture
    k. Jobs
    l. Food, meals, restaurants
    m. Shopping, clothes, colors and sizes
    n. Parts of the body, illness
    o. Technology

    We go through them one by one, and I ask them if we have talked about anything in those categories. Of course, we have hit just about all of them even though we have not had a “unit” on any of them. I assure my students that by the end of the year we will have talked about every single category on the list. I need to do this again at the end of the year to show the students what we have covered.

    One thing I do with my upper level students, since I know that many of them will not be returning to my class (seniors graduating, juniors setting priorities and making up classes). I created a handout about driving their “auto” to proficiency. We go through the process of “Autodidaxy” (self learning), and I emphasize the importance of the four wheels:
    -“autoacousia” (listening for yourself)
    -“autolexia” (reading for yourself)
    -“autographia” (writing for yourself)
    -“autologia” (speaking for yourself)
    The first two are the “drive wheels” because they drive acquisition, but the other two are also important because they can help guide where you go. I go over different ways to accomplish all four items without ever setting foot in another language classroom. I also encourage students to advocate for themselves when they do go to another classroom and talk once again about the theory and research behind what I do in the classroom. It’s my last little gift and push toward equipping them to be lifelong language learners.

    I also recognize that unless they continue to acquire the language they will both fossilize where they are and then begin to lose from active recall what they have acquired. As much as we recognize the “I took four years of Spanish and all I can say is ‘taco'” phenomenon with traditional teaching, I worry that we will have students exiting CI classrooms and saying similar things after a few years – at least, though, the attitude toward the language will be different.

    Today was my last day at school this year, but I have a lot of things to get done in the next two days. Maybe I’ll have more time to reflect next week in Punta Cana.

  2. …and then begin to lose from active recall what they have acquired…. I worry that we will have students exiting CI classrooms and saying similar things after a few years โ€“ at least, though, the attitude toward the language will be different….

    I feel that the speed of the active recall will be much faster bc of the depths of the programming, even after years of non-use. When the brain has been rained on for four years with so many word-drops of rain and has then gone, in sleep that night, into parse mode to decide what stays and what doesn’t, it’s just going to be a more impressive neurological situation down there, with they keyword there being “down there”, where real acquisition occurs.

    In my own estimation, the amount our students can speak after a CI class will depend on their own natural wiring but that wiring itself will depend on how engaged they were during the CI.

    It’s Gladwell’s Outliars idea and Krashen’s before him (and others – I use Krashen as a kind of generic term of VanPatten and all those coolio guys) that the more they hear the language, the more they will be able to output it, so that if they take only one year they will be able to output a lot less than if they take four years.

    At some point there is a tipping point toward output. We don’t know when it is or in whom it will appear first, so all we can do is provide the constant every day input**. It really is a simple thing made complicated by teacher’s worship of activities that, in the end, if they are not CI, have no value.

    Thanks for the support of my idea Robert, because here in Denver, with all the CI teachers around, whenever the topic of targeting vocabulary comes up, and it comes up a lot, not one of them agrees with me. They think it odd that I even say it, and they spent large amounts of time planning what structures to teach each year.

    In my view, that is pandering to test scores and wondering what people think of my work. I’ve already done that. I did not go into this profession to worry about whether my students can say dog or not at the end of the year.

    Love your autodidaxy image. I will steal that one thank you very much. I will put it up here as a post and categorize it under our new Metacognition category so we can find it in case any of us want to include it in our metacognition sessions with the kids in the fall.

    *I know, happy is not a measurable term but all I am referring to there is the affective filter. God have mercy on me for not making my sentence more scientific sounding.

    **In one extreme example, a quiet child sat in my class all year and then in April spoke a sentence of about 17 words with a nice accent and I had to go out in the hallway to hide the tears that flowed against my will. It was a reminder of how special this idea of letting the unconscious do its work unimpeded really is. That was a great moment in sports.

  3. Just got home from my last day of meeting s and grinding through my reports. 11pm. Kicking back with my first frosty Presidente to celebrate finishing! Robert, your upcoming trip will no doubt include frostier Presidentes because those badass Dominicans have the special extra cold Presidente coolers.

    Anyway, this post is so relevant to today, because I had a piecemeal meeting with my dept. head and she was asking whether I had a weekly plan, and whether I was going to use “the same books” for next year, and which structures was I covering.”

    I felt pretty awesome saying yes, I have a weekly plan, and then proceeded to recite the Ben Slavic weekly plan. Then I said, yes, I have three books of scripts ๐Ÿ™‚ Then for the structures I just evaded that by going off on some other tangent. I also was able to read a list of things I wanted to have in place for the fall…most of this is all the norming / interpersonal skills / rules & consequences / word wall. I felt pretty confident in this conversation. At the same time it was a bit deflating, by virtue of her line of questioning. She doesn’t trust the process. I cannot argue with her or get back in to the zealous mode I was in last year. I just have to do the work.

    I feel frustrated that we never really have “vision” discussion. It’s all nuts and bolts and putting out brushfires. I have reams of material I want to discuss, esp. regarding the multilevel classes. She can’t even go there. It is frustrating, because the main reason we don’t have these discussions is that she has too much on her plate, and just has to keep moving. Ironically, the multilevel discussion could solve a critical staffing issue we have right now! Like, if I could dump my level 4 Spanish by combining it with level 5, it would free me up to teach the level 3 French. Instead they are trying to hire a part time person to come in and teach 1. 5 classes?!?! I could just go to admin but that would feel like an end-around. So I won’t do that to her.

    But it gets worse… she was very positive and supportive about what I am doing and all that, all good, but then she launches into this whole “oh well, we’ll see if this comprehensible input really works next fall when the kids take the SAT 2. OH DEAR. It was then that I realized that SAT 2 is in fact the “culminating experience” of our program?!?!?! WTF???

    Oh well. Back to my Presidente.

    So she also made some comment sort of cryptically referring to a basic doubt about CI. Oh well. What can I do about that? Nothing. Just do my work.

    Back to my Presidente.

    Next year will be interesting, because I am going to keep driving the CI car and truck and we have a reaccreditation visiting committee and I am just going to have to be honest if they ever corner me.

    Anyway, I love this analogy; it’s so empowering to the kids!

  4. When administrators don’t get it, you have to live with the little inuendos about CI and all that we do. Her comment about the SAT 2 reveals so much. What can we even do? Try to re-educate her right there? Impossible.

    We don’t give hospital administrators, with their degrees in how to run a hospital, the right to pass judgement on the work that doctors do, but, oddly, it is normal in our field.

    jen this is a great chance to let it go, to realize that at some point you may or may not be able to get this badge to understand the power of CI, but that you can’t be playing the game of letting her judge your work bc she simply has no idea of what you are really doing. To cover that she puts a quarter in the data machine and threatens you – those comments were threats (from someone else in the school, a lang. teacher who doesn’t get it?). This is an ideal situation to let what she thinks go, is what I’m trying to say, and your doing it with strength. I love that you say:

    …I am just going to have to be honest if they ever corner me….

    At some point we either go with our truths or not. Strong stuff. Others would worry and fret about such a meeting, which was designed from its inception to intimidate. You do not cave. It is huge that you can do that. I wish we could all work together in the same town.

    Now, summer is here, so let it all go. Rest. This is big news to hear in one day, that you and Robert both had your last days of this year just today. Strong fighters returning to their corners after a hard three minutes in the ring. I admire you both so much.

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