Another War, Anyone?

Last year we had “the war” with those 18,000 ACTFL soldiers (they call themselves the “Language Educators”). Alisa is pointing at a new possible battlefield. If we go there, let’s play nice. That was brutal last year. Robert and Eric and others here in our group handed their asses to them on a plate. Instead of arguing with them about how languages are really acquired, and I think this is what Alisa is suggesting, let’s them give some good ideas that they can use. PLC members are invited to cut and paste entire Primer articles or blog posts here onto the link below. If even just 15 of us did that, we would gain some friends. Without having to reduce them to rubble, which is basically what the Bear and the Jackal did. And don’t use the term TPRS. 

Alisa explains:

In response to this query on the ACTFL community, it’d be great to have our TPRSers respond with the many and varied ways we assess.  Esp speed/free writes.  Since I don’t assess much in the young novice years, I’m not gonna answer it, but we have some voices that could offer up a great response.   The query is on the ACTFL community page:

http://community.actfl.org/communities/community-home/digestviewer/viewthread?MID=8302&GroupId=439&tab=digestviewer&UserKey=d6083d90-035a-416d-bede-5b434fdf21d4&sKey=A8312E92308C45DA9D37

Best,

Alisa

 

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12 thoughts on “Another War, Anyone?”

  1. Actually all jokes about warring behind us – we ain’t going there anymore – I was just thinking about what a tremendous opportunity this is for us to make the case for comprehension based instruction to a lot of people without even revealing that we are krashanistas, IF we can make our points subtly. I think they call moments like these teaching moments.

  2. The question for The Language Educator is “What strategies for evaluation or feedback provide learners with guidance to improve their performance?”

    I don’t agree with the assumption made in the question. It assumes that assessment and feedback actually give students info to improve their performance. Another issue not addressed is whether or not students care enough at all to take the feedback and go work on those areas for improvement.

    What would this sound like in a grammar-oriented classroom? Oh, Johnny, you didn’t use the direct object pronouns correctly. Thanks, Teacher, I’ll go acquire those right now.

    What would that sound like in an ACTFL Can-Do classroom? Oh, Jenny, you can only speak in short sentences about your after school activities and only a little about your morning routine. Thanks, Teacher, I’ll go acquire the syntax to speak in fuller sentences and practice my morning routine word lists.

    The silly part of all of this is the

    1) Misguided idea that we can actually control the rate and route of acquisition. The effects of instruction are nebulous to say the least. There is not a one-to-one correlation between what I teach and what gets learned. Likewise, there is not a one-to-one correlation between what a student tries to learn and what gets learned.

    2) There is also this focus on product. What can we get students to “display,” like improving their showmanship on tests. Instead, WE focus on process. Constant interaction day-in and day-out is all the feedback our students need. And we have plenty of actual scientific studies to guide our process. You simply cannot fluently perform (unrehearsed & spontaneously) what you have not acquired. And you can only acquire if you attend to comprehensible input. Even then, there are innate and universal constraints to what comprehensible input can be accommodated into our developing language systems at any one moment.

    Coincidentally, I learned yesterday that ELL state standards are framed in terms of Can Dos. ELL is ahead of the curve, because their situation demands they get kids to be able to immediately function in the language, rather than learn low-value vocabulary and grammar concepts and hope that sometime after they graduate they can use it. My (studied) ELL teacher told me that they do not teach “grammar” in ELL like they do in FL classes, because as she says “ELL kids are immersed.” She agrees that ELL and FL instruction are the same thing. If grammar instruction worked to develop functional language ability, then ELL teachers should also be doing it.

  3. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    YES, Eric, THAT ‘S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!
    Now go prettify that exact response (with citations complete enough to check your flawless research) for the dainty eyes of the ACTFL reading audience! The assumption that teacher feedback affects language acquisition is WRONG! SO all that proceeds from the assumption is also faulty. Teacher feedback is SO HUGE in all the other disciplines!! It’s a real darling right now.
    But of course for us it conflicts with what we know about language acquisition – that it’s UNCONSCIOUS. Maybe Eric starts by addressing the problem of the misguided assumption in the question, and Ben starts by responding on the issue of unconscious (one of his faves!)
    Then everyone who has so articulately written about free and speed writes and other measures can join in. This time, no bulging veins in our neck or lost sleep; just courteously offering up the research we base our best-practice upon…
    Power to the people,
    Peace Out

  4. When it comest to war…I think all we ever have to do is share videos of good teaching and learning and the results of student learning.

    Many people have already done this. Ben, Eric, Diane, Lance, and Sabrina just to name a few.

    Can you imagine traditionalists sharing their boring videos of teaching notes??

    1. Jim – put that on the ACTFL list. It says it all, in six words!

      For new people, if you are wondering about the assessment piece in re: to Ci/TPRS, please open your hearts to what Jim says here:

      I give feedback with my face.

      It is NOT flip. It is NOT inaccurate. It is not a joke. It is how people will do assessment when the current cloud over everybody’s head finally lifts, the assessment and data collection cloud, which is so dark and thick over our heads right now that many of us think that it’s permanent!

      I just need a rep on this, so here is what Jim said again, and it is so perfect to describe what we REALLY do:

      I give feedback with my face.

      All power to kids and their right to be happy and not feel judged because they can’t memorize some dumb ass verb!

      1. If anyone doubts that you can give feedback with your face, just check out Bernie Sanders’ reaction to a comment by Hilary Clinton from the last debate. I saw the clip on Facebook yesterday, and the sideways glance truly speaks volumes.

  5. Performance is not Proficiency.

    I saw that this morning and realized I can’t even respond to that. I teach for proficiency. I think most of us teach for proficiency. Performance would be assessing how well students retell the one story they’ve heard/read for a week. It’s going to be just as memorized and not an actual reflection of proficiency’acquisition as any performance-task-based-hardcore-Output folks dream up. If we move onto another story with completely different words, our students won’t know words from the first one they “so excellently” were able to retell. The retell is useless in terms of what they can actually do at this point. That’s Performance.

  6. This afternoon I was talking to my Student Teacher about why I do not ask students to get up and perform dialogues. It was an interesting conversation.

    I have had this Student Teacher for a very short time because my school was not her original placement. The original placement, however, turned out to be very problematic. While my ST has been discrete about the situation, I have put some things together from comments she has made and from conversations with colleagues. One of the requirements at her first placement was that she speak to first-year students in the present tense only. That alone tells you a great deal.

    This afternoon, my ST commented that students at the other school were required to write, memorize and perform dialogues, yet my students – who never do that and who primarily receive comprehensible input – were producing far more spontaneous, natural language than the other students.

    We then talked about the kind of language that students produce when asked to write and memorize a presentation. It is usually from an online translator (horrible), a more advanced student, or a native speaker and is language that the learner is incapable of producing on his or her own.

    My ST then told me about an Italian class she took at her university. They, too, were required to write, memorize, and present a “skit” as part of their final exam. The group of which she was a member chose to write their own script in Italian all on their own (looking up only the occasional word). They thought it was horrible, but the teacher gave them the best grade in the class and praised them for presenting what they truly had learned in the class. (This shows, I believe, that even traditional teachers recognize what’s going on with the dog-and-pony show of memorized presentations.)

    I think both of these observations illustrate that Performance is not Proficiency and often bears little to no relationship to Acquisition.

    1. What a good opportunity to have a student teacher in your class. I was introduced to TPRS through my “master” teacher a year ago. He lent me an old version of Blaine’s book and a whole world opened up — including this awesome PLC.

      Robert are you at GGUSD? I grew up in the area but now I’m in Fresno. I would like to have a chat when I’m down there during vacations.

    2. “One of the requirements at her first placement was that she speak to first-year students in the present tense only.”

      That is a telling statement, Robert. It sounds to me like a misunderstanding of the descriptors for Intermediate level, viz., that students are characterized by the present tense. My guess is that the descriptor is reflective of a grammar based syllabus which “covers” the present tense, proceeds to past, and to some other verbal tense from there.

      To say that students are characterized by the present and then turn that into a grammatical shelter seems a misapplication of the descriptors. To do the same at the novice level, we would be saying that we speak to students in single words, word strings (he big boy), and memorized phrases.

      RE the skit with the best grade in the Italian class, my own memories of that sort of thing concur with what that teacher apparently felt. Knowing what the class has done thus far, the picture perfect production that is really the work of the computer, a more knowledgeable student, or a native speaker rings hollow. Where does one begin in attempting to assess this photoshopped product? The candid camera presentation rings true with its “errors” and insights into the true capacity of the progressing student.

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