Why What We Do Is Rigorous

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24 thoughts on “Why What We Do Is Rigorous”

  1. Here is an excerpt from a web page I have written for parents which summarizes my approach (www.johnpiazza.net/piazza_approach). It is very much a work in progress, and feedback would be appreciated. But I am trying to outline and connect the concepts of conduct and academic rigor:

    Behavior and Conduct
    Because interpersonal communication is essential to learning a language, it is particularly important that students respect the classroom culture which encourages ALL students to express themselves. Even subtle signs of disrespect have the potential to stop all language learning, and therefore will not be tolerated. High academic performance alone is not sufficient to guarantee success in this Latin class. However, sincere effort and goodwill in class can significantly boost the grade of any struggling student. I believe that having a rigorous (rigor = clarity + accountability) conduct policy will lead to academic success in the classroom for all students.

  2. I think you need to bring in the ACTFL Statements, in particular the Interpersonal Mode. We need Harrell on this. If we can’t tie it to standards and research, we can’t sell it to administrators and parents.

    If you think about what parents want – easy grades for their college bound kids – we know that, without strong statements, the parents will push hard on us. It’s ridiculous. Here we are trying to teach for acquisition and everybody else is in it for the grade.

    So this tying of the grade to behavior must be done and done well by the fall. We have no choice but to take the offensive in a well put together statement (it’s a great start up there John) that is super honed for getting our point to stand up and win.

    Robert, that is your cue to ride now into the arena at full gallop and provide us with our Rigor Statement. We have the posters, somewhere here in my infected computer, sorry about that again, but we need a Rigor Statement.

  3. Just last week there was the excellent paragraph on assessment that Robert wrote, defining the interpersonal grade. I can’t remember which post it was, but here is is below in a slightly modified format (no word changes, just made it into bullet points for my students).

    As you interact with students, check to see if they are fulfilling the requirements of Interpersonal Communication. It isn’t “participation grade”, it’s an academic grade based on demonstrated performance in the areas of culturally appropriate listening, speaking, reading, writing, viewing and signing.

    * Are they actively negotiating meaning in the target language, or are they passive or even working against the negotiation of meaning?

    *Are they observing and monitoring the teacher (not just each other) for understanding in the target language?

    *Are they indicating the need for clarification and adjustments?

    *Do they attempt to participate in a genuine conversation and interaction in the target language – or do they speak in their native language?

    I cannot emphasize it enough: this is not the traditional “participation grade”; it is an academically rigorous assessment based on the emphasis in the Standards on the Three Modes of Communication.


    Don’t know if this is what you are looking for, but I think it is in the rigor category for sure.

    1. What is “culturally appropriate listening, etc.”? What are “viewing” and “signing”? Does viewing mean watching a video? Is signing gesturing a structure?

      I have no clue about the answer to my first question, but it sounds like something very loaded that I’d want to stay away from. How would I know how “culturally appropriate listening” in Spanish differs from “CAL” in English or German? I do understand culturally appropriate gesturing, but only because I have lived in the TL culture for long periods of time in my life.

      I do think the OUR interpretation of the three modes is sharply distinct from the traditionalists’ interpretation of them, so right there we have a huge disconnect which is another discussion I’d like to have here.

      BUT, putting that aside for the moment, I do think we can say (without delving into the “modes discussion”:

      We are connecting “behaviors” to outcomes, not “behavior” to outcomes. We are talking about performance, not about conduct.

      1. Robert Harrell

        Many of those phrases obviously can be interpreted a number of ways, and not everything there is original with me. In California, American Sign Language is recognized as a Foreign Language, so the viewing and signing are primarily intended for ASL classes. However, there are applications in any class.

        All of the behaviors – and that is a good distinction you made (“behaviors” vs “behavior”) – are what the students need to do, not the content of the text. They fit both the culture of the class and the target culture(s). Of course, we have to show and teach them what is culturally appropriate; many do not know what is culturally appropriate listening even in their own culture. I was just talking to our Psychology teacher about being able to see the difference between students who have been “parented” vs those who merely have parents.

      2. …we are connecting “behaviors” to outcomes, not “behavior” to outcomes. We are talking about performance, not about conduct….

        Jody hits another one out of the park. Wow. I won’t forget that bad boy next time I am making my case for comprehensible input.

        1. Great distinction made here! As I’m reading through all the rigor posts here, I’m seeing we need some of this material amassed into ready-made articles, which is what I’m trying now.

    2. Thank you jen and yes this is it. I will try to plaster it all over here and it will be especially useful when we begin our discussion on how to present the rigor piece in the fall to our students in terms of the new posters on metacognition.

      Robert’s words and then the entire group of posters from Clarice that we have already and some other stuff I have been working on will give us enough to keep our last five minutes of class lively and informative for those kids who haven’t had their voices and personal ability to self reflect yet ripped from them by worksheets.

      I’m really looking forward to the metacognition piece next fall. I think that, by sitting there in class with our students and talking about how each just completed class worked for us or not, we will make great strides with the method, and we already have made great strides this year, if the last four months of posts and intense pedal to the metal are any indicators.

  4. How do the behaviors fit both the culture of the class and the target culture? This confuses me.

    I certainly agree that we have to show them exactly what we expect, but I’m not certain that has anything to do with “cultural appropriateness”–certainly not as far as the classroom goes. I can guarantee you that my CI/TPRS classroom looks nothing like a classroom in Spain, Cuba, Argentina or México in any way. Most teachers have spent little to no time in classrooms in their TL countries. I have, but I don’t believe it influences my classroom practices very much. My students do, and they’re American.

    I just believe that we ask students to use these “behaviors of rigor” because we have found that those students, who use these behaviors, tend to acquire more language than those who don’t. I believe that TPRS, particularly, is an American invention which fits the American student to a T. I would imagine that it (TPRS) must be modified in other countries to fit with whatever culture the students come from (bad grammar, I know.)

    1. Robert Harrell

      Jody, thanks for asking for clarification. My response was pretty muddy.

      Obviously, we develop a class culture and cannot fully establish a target culture environment in our settings. But we can introduce elements of the target culture into the classroom as part of our instruction. For example, I greet my students each day with a handshake and a verbal greeting. That is a very German thing to do (in the broader culture even if not so much in the classroom). So, I am creating a sort of “inter-culture” just as language learners often develop an “inter-language” as they acquire a new language. It means the class is not “just like” all of their other classes in its culture, even if it is not completely like a target culture classroom. I hope that makes some sense.

      1. I’ll just come out and say it. Of the five Cs the only one that we can honestly teach is communication and the rest is pretty much bullshit for our classrooms. However, it sure does allow a traditional teacher a big out, who can then address the culture C with a video. But, if Krashen is right, and it takes all those 1000s of hours to acquire a langauge, why would we do that? Why would we show them something like French in Action which is Incomprehensible Input and culture that is not thoroughly experienced but merely observed, two dimensionally like the grammar they have to eat is only two dimensional whereas the food we serve them is three dimensional bc it is real grammar, the kind that forms the language in the world of sound. Vids and little presentations in English are not the same bc of the viewer’s mega distance from the true culture. To create culturally authentic lessons in a box thousands of miles away from the culture being studied is just strange. Culture, to me, is snorted in the target culture. CI has by far greatest effect. I am even doing a story for my final exam. 2 hours and 15 min. of extra CI. Or I guess I could give them a 100 point test to see what words they learned this year. Hmmm.

        1. I agree with what you said about the 5 Cs. But, I will say I do like 5.1 and 5.2 with the mention of using the language outside of the classroom setting. By the end of the week, I often need a mental brain break, and more so, my students don’t handle as much rigor as well, and so I have my students go on memrise.com or duolingo.com in the classroom.

          After me introducing these helpful language learning tools to them, several end up practicing outside of the classroom, at home when they’re bored!

          I think we can all easily explain how CI hits most all the other ACTFL goals too.

    2. Here in France the students have been profoundly influenced by American series, so there’s little difference in their classroom behavior, or at least they have adopted a lot of cultural attitudes as seen on TV.

  5. I’ve taken what has been written and simplified into four basics of rigor:

    1. Students actively negotiate meaning in the new language.

    2. Students are looking to their teacher for meaning in the new language.

    3. Students are actively signaling their need for clarification and help.

    4. Students are choosing to participate in a conversation in the new language and not in their native language.

    Whether you like my simplification or not, you’ve just helped me create my poster for next year. It will be these four items.

    1. Robert Harrell

      Bob, I don’t mind your simplification. It looks good to me!

      I would, however, keep the structures parallel – #1. Students are actively negotiating meaning in the new language. (Or change all the others to simple present)

      I also wonder about #2 – “Students are monitoring their teacher for confirmation of meaning in the target language”?

  6. Robert, even after I posted, by the help of my friend and colleage, John Piazza, I realize that my “simplification” is still rather over the head of most students.

    How would you simplify “Students are monitoring their teacher for confirmation of meaning in the target language?”

    1. I’m still getting my feet under me in a lot of ways with respect to various aspects of the classroom environment that have been brought up here, but I am thinking about the question that Bob poses. Can it be shifted to become a rule, for lack of a better word, by incorporating the notion of body language? “Students maintain eye contact with the teacher,” perhaps? This might be over-simplification, but I’m just trying to put the idea (as I interpret) into something concrete and comprehensible (no pun intended) for the students.

      1. …students maintain eye contact with the teacher….

        Annick Chen has that one as her first rule and then uses my rules after that. If Annick uses it, it’s a winner. Now I am rethinking if my clear eyes rules (#4) shouldn’t be changed to something like this.

  7. Good question.

    Students are checking their teacher’s gestures, body language and reactions to make sure they understand the German. [insert proper L2 here]?

    BTW, I have always adapted posters, etc. so that they read “German” rather than L2 or “target language” or something more abstract.

  8. OK when you two agree on the poster, share with us. Then I will share what I have and we can all pick what we each want and create that. Great point about making it student friendly Bob. If we don’t do that, they won’t get it. It’s going to be hard enough for them anyway – I doubt if any have taken many Theory of Knowledge classes or done Socratic dialogue even in their Gifted/Talented classes. Don’t get me going on that as this is an area I have instructed in for decades. GT teachers who equate GT with extra work, and not discussion, are disgraces to the profession.

  9. I’ve been meaning to ask Ben this question and it fits here. The other day you posted that you’re going to give them either a 0 or a 10 for their demonstrated performance per day. What happened to the discussion Robert generated about 3,4,5 points on that rubric? Am I just totally confused? Also, I think I’m going to call the participation grade “Demonstrated Performance” next year on the online grade book.

    P.S. I got some great news from my admin that they’ll pay for me to go on the 3 day workshop in July in Philly. They’re seemingly on board with it. I’ve been trying so hard to implement TPRS into my lessons these last few days just to practice for next year BUT I haven’t trained the kids well enough at all and it seems to be falling apart every day.

  10. I like that term. It makes it academic, as it should be. As far as the 0 to 10 thing, I don’t think it’s going to happen. It is appearing so far to be just too much busywork. The problem is that in my high school cutting class is out of control now in May, and it is really bad all year, so I need to just be diligent and put zeroes in for cut classes and those other offenses. I know this isn’t all that clear. But the thing about head down and texting and all of that getting a zero for the day, I will enforce it next year and report back after the first month. I just have to in my school. It’s been messy here in May but everything is messy in May. To finally address your question, I won’t give a ten for showing up. I will give the zeroes, but not the tens. Make sense?

  11. Jane Little, my dep’t. chair, has a simple answer to those who ask about rigor. She says to just say to the person to sit down in one class, try to learn, and see what happens. Voilà. Instant rigor.

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