John Bracey on Verb Conjugation

Responding to Eric on the Sandra Savignon article*, John Bracey said:
“Very important point, Eric. We haven’t happened upon a better way to prepare kids for conjugating verbs or declining nouns. We have learned how to teach a language to another human being. Given an assessment on spontaneous comprehension and production, our students should perform well. Given an assessment on discrete grammar items, our kids should perform quote poorly.
“The real gem in this article is that best practice in language teaching is fundamentally incompatible with traditional assessments. Giving a CI kid a verb synopsis assessment is like giving an art student an assessment on the factory identification numbers for different types of paint brushes.”
*http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED135245.pdf

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7 thoughts on “John Bracey on Verb Conjugation”

  1. I agree with everything John said, except this: “Given an assessment on discrete grammar items, our kids should perform quote poorly.”
    I said in my comment to which John responded: “And then there’s plenty of studies that show that even when taught more communicatively, performance on those discrete tests is comparative to when people are taught with fewer communicative activities.”
    I also hesitate to say we are “teaching a language” because of the generally accepted sense of “teaching” is quite different from what we do.

    1. All great points Eric. I tend to think too much like a Latin teacher when I think about traditional assessments. Traditional Latin assessments are just ridiculous. But your point still holds up. It’s not like my students did any better on those assessments when I taught them traditionally.

      1. “Should” was the operative word John used. Our kids should score lower on grammar tests of the old kind. But because we indeed teach grammar and a ton of it by speaking correctly, our kids in fact do learn the grammar, and so test out well on those tests, answering questions correctly based on sound. One would think that someone of the old school would have noticed by now that our kids do fine on their tests. But whenever we get kids from traditional programs, in mid-year for example, they are toast and it takes them all year to climb back up and that with lots of effort.

  2. Hey John,
    Just wondering if things are going better for you with colleagues etc? I think of you and your situation there often….
    Best
    Skip

    1. Hey Skip! Things have definitely quieted down over here. I have taken to becoming somewhat of a hermit. I am fortunate enough to have my own classroom, so I spend most of my time in there. I don’t communicate with my fellow Latin teachers anymore, even on k-12 PD days. My department head leaves me alone now because I suspect that our awesome assistant superintendent told him to back off.
      It is quiet, but I am still teaching with fear. I fear that I haven’t given enough homework to keep the dogs at bay, I fear that I will blamed for the shortcomings of our high school Latin program, I fear that I will get slammed on a walkthrough observation, I fear that my grade book doesn’t look OCD enough, I fear that I will get blamed again for other languages losing enrollment in the middle school, I fear that I will get punished for my class not being “rigorous” enough, I fear that the benefits of teaching Latin with CI are not obvious enough, etc.
      For now though, I will live peacefully in my village and hopefully be ready for the next snarling attack from wherever.
      Thanks for checking in, Skip. You are the man 🙂
      John

      1. Skip is like that, John, as we all know. Welcome to the MA Hermitage. You must be in another part. Glad it is peaceful for you. Keep plugging away. The kids know the difference.

  3. I am really so sorry you have to teach in fear. I have found that things go in cycles – sometimes the cycles are long – but eventually things change and improve. I am confident the tide will turn – hopefully soon!
    Please let me/us know if there is anything we might do to help/encourage and or support.
    (a recommendation for example 🙂
    Happy Thanksgiving John
    Skip

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