Paul Sandrock – 1

Sandrock is the ACTFL Director of Education. In 2014 we in this PLC had a vigorous interchange with his massive ACTFL Foreign Lang. Educators group. We illustrated and defended CI and made the point over a month long interchange that CI is the way people acquire languages, and that the traditional methods of the ACTFL group of 18,000 essentially non-participating teachers are no longer valid, having proven themselves to be such.

Here is Paul’s reply from 2014 on ACTFL’s webpage to our volleys. It was written by a politician protecting his base (there are “good people on both sides”):

The key threads in this discussion cannot be set up with only two options, framed as though the choice is choose only A – or if you disagree with only A then you must be against A and only favor B.  That is a false choice.  ACTFL has been asked directly to respond:  we do not find disagreement in the discussion around the various points being discussed.

We do not read in this discussion disagreement with providing comprehensible input.  Suggesting that there is more to using language than only focusing on input does not imply that teachers should ignore creating comprehensible input.  You do not have to be an ACTFL member to participate in the ACTFL community, so many people posting comments may not have seen the October-November issue of ACTFL’s magazine, The Language Educator, in which ACTFL members read several articles focused on comprehensible input and output, including articles on using  Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling,  maintaining target language, making language comprehensible, and an article by researcher Bill Van Patten which framed this segment.

We do not read in this discussion an objection to using stories.  Stories create a context for learning, just as an essential question does.  A story is a thematic focus and provides the context for using language to engage learners in exploring motivating content.  

We do not read in this discussion disagreement with the use of high-frequency vocabulary.  Suggesting that there is more to using language than only high-frequency vocabulary does not imply that students should learn random low-frequency vocabulary.  We do not see suggestions in this discussion that would support learning long vocabulary lists on a topic such as food or transportation.

We do not read in this discussion disagreement with tapping areas of students’ interests or what is going on around them.  Suggesting that there is more to using language than only responding to current events in students’ lives or in the world does not imply that instruction must never respond to what is going on around us.  We do not read suggestions that no context should be provided.

Again, language learning is complex.  Yes to teaching high-frequency vocabulary, using language to explore students’ interests and what is going on in the world, and creating comprehensible input.  All are among the many important elements in language learning.

Ben’s comment: I could write a book about this. It doesn’t challenge teachers to align with the research. It makes the ACTFL textbook base (I am guessing about 95% of the teachers in ACTFL feel that still using some form of the textbook – which puts students in the wrong part of the brain to actually acquire a language – is justifiable. But I say, “Hold, sir! Do you really understand what comprehensible input is? You can’t just say that CI is good and not mention the problems that are dragging on our nation’s WL classrooms like lead weights. Help us dump methods that conflict with the research. Do that!

Look, Paul. Here is what my message to you is: I defend the right of teachers to teach as they best see fit, but not at the expense of children when the research is clear. I advise you to take ACTFL in that direction, and avoid inadvertently indicating your support for failed approaches. In other words, lead from the research and re-examine your organizations relationship with the textbook companies. Is the ACTFL gridlock really that bad?



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