Quick Response Needed

Those aware of what Paul is going through out there in Utah may not have read this from last February. Just so we know it’s not just unreasonable class size and load that is hampering his professional life right now. Those who may remember this may want to reread it just out of respect:
Hi Ben,
I just received some very disheartening news in my school that has 100% taken the wind out of my sails.
Tomorrow I having a meeting with the head of the World Languages at my district and I was planning on presenting much of the information that Robert has put together on scope and sequence. My state, Utah, just put together a common core and it is pretty good. It is based on the ACTFL proficiency scale, and leaves a ton of room for CI. Tomorrow’s meeting was to be about matching the state core to our district scope and sequence, but I was just informed this morning that my school will be expected to have common everything (disclosures statements, makeup policies, pacing down to the day with other teachers and within each class). While this could seem great, I’m very scared what that means to teaching to the individual students and classes. I teach 5 sections of Spanish 1 and not every class is in the same spot, and I don’t want them to be. One of my periods has acquired much more than the others, and I can’t be expected to have every class acquiring at the same speed.
We also have a French teacher in our department that is very stuck in her ways (drill and grill, ridiculous amounts of homework that is causing students to consider taking online French, an insane amount of vocabulary, and reading that is beyond the level of a lot of natives). She has the mentality that French weeds out the “not smart” students because of how hard it is. She has said that French is more difficult than Spanish because of the spelling, and says that CI is not a possibility in French, but may be good for Spanish. The French program in our district is much closer to having all of the scope and sequence finished in a way that “they say” meets the state core, but it is 100% based on the grammar model of teaching. It doesn’t align with the ACTFL because it is about teaching the language and not acquiring it. For example, the second unit is to learn the present tense of the avoir and expressions with avoir, and the vocabulary that is to help them do that is the schedule and time.
All that to say, I am afraid that because they are “ahead” of the Spanish department (because there are people like me fighting for CI) we will be pushed into adopting the way that the French team has laid out their scope and sequence.
I was reading Mike Peto’s blog post on transitioning a department to CI, and I was struck by the fact that moving too quickly to transition reluctant converts to CI could have serious repercussions if they are not trained (I am a second year teacher and am still learning a ton about CI, and do not have the expertise to train anyone).
I am aware that this is a bit of a rant and that I don’t really have any questions, but I was wondering what are your thoughts on my situation.
Paul Seevinck



33 thoughts on “Quick Response Needed”

  1. My view Paul is that this is about power. The French teacher and her faction have known power for a long time. They are certainly aware of the CI movement and this is for them, I would guess, an excellent opportunity to reinforce their old style power over others. They and this new plan in Utah (don’t they know they are not aligning with standards?) are basically putting you in your place as a second year teacher.
    It would seem to me that you have two choices. Fight or fake agreeing with them. I advise you choose the latter. When you still do lots of CI, with over half or more of your classes or maybe even 75% in the TL with maybe only 25% of your instructional minutes devoted to the book and test prep for the common exams, etc. then when your kids don’t do well, they will be happy. It’s their house and they get to say what the rules are. You become in their minds an underling. Just what they want. Do that for a few years. This assures you your job, which is of more importance then that of winning a battle against an army of petrified soldiers.
    Then, when your current kids’ parents start writing letters to admin about how they want you – and not the metallic soldiers, which are too clanky – to teach their kids as third and fourth year students, the thing will have by then become clear to many. The old guard stink will become more pungent. Their act will start to genuinely smell because of your steadfast devotion to good and proper teaching while giving them the illusion that you are doing essentially what they want.
    They will not be discredited by the worthless tests they write, which they protect with set jaw and intimidation, but rather by the talk in the hallway. This kind of thing is happening in lots of places, perhaps less dramatically than in your situation.
    Your mistake would be to mix things up with them, maybe throw a few CI punches in their direction. Stay quiet. Sneak in lots of CI. Don’t use the term TPRS or TCI or anything resembling those terms. Try to get to where those old style teachers are not away of what you do. Show them respect as we show respect to all people who are in a lot of pain. Evaporate. Disappear. Not time to fight it out now. Be silent.
    Time will do its thing. It always does. And make a firm commitment to not let these people get to you. Such people have ruined careers, are ruining careers as we speak. Avoidance. Silence. No discussion. It is not time to fight them now. That time is coming, but it is not here now. Unless you have an administrator who gets it. If not, don’t say a word. And if the administrator is weak, keep silent also.
    My opinion.

  2. I feel for ya, Paul. I wish I had the short-term fix. The problem is ignorance. The answer is education and that’s not going to happen overnight. If explicit grammar teachers understood “proficiency” then they’d know the proficiency guidelines are “holistic” and do not have specifics on what grammar is supposed to be acquired at each sub-level. If they knew anything about SLA, they’d know TCI is research-based and that grammar & output instruction needs to be recognized at best as a hypothesis of how languages are acquired.
    It has to be stated that curriculum content is so closely related to approach that it is NOT okay to say: “But you can cover the material however you want.” Let them know vocabulary acquisition researcher Paul Nation says 500 words is what can be acquired in a 1 year of FL instruction. Let them know that the natural order is a bitch and only by impractical/inefficient means do you have a chance to beat it. And you risk regression by trying to force acquisition of something (the NO studies have been replicated numerous times and I’ve seen examples of regression reported a few times).
    Tell them to get with the times. Let them know ACTFL and College Board decry a grammar orientation. Show them page 4 of the 21st century skills map with the words “textbook” highlighted and pages 5-6 of the AP Spanish Language and Culture manual in which it says:
    “. . . the instructional focus is on function and not the examination of irregularity and complex grammatical paradigms about the target language. Language structures should be addressed inasmuch as they serve the communicative task and not as an end goal unto themselves. The AP Spanish Language and Culture course strives to promote both fluency and accuracy in language use and not to overemphasize grammatical accuracy at the expense of communication.”
    For Pete’s sake, any truly communicative teacher gets this one! Helena Curtain holds up her hands and puts one in front of the other and says the hand in front used to be grammar and the hand behind is communication and then she says times have changed and pulls the grammar hand back. Challenge them on the target language statement (90%+ L2). There’s no way they’re teaching grammar and all that vocabulary and staying in the L2. And if they are, then their kids aren’t learning OR acquiring 😉
    It’d be nice if you could agree to disagree with your colleagues and let results speak for themselves. Depends on how you agree to define “results.” This brings me back to the importance of assessments of acquisition (time pressure & focus on meaning). And just as important is the result of enrollment retention. A “Student Attitude Survey” could also serve you well in which they self-report their level of confidence, enjoyment, and comfort in class.
    Standardization doesn’t make sense in any class and especially not in a foreign language class.
    For a “Scope & Sequence” I imagine a list of high-frequency words, a list of the stories you will ask (and you wouldn’t have to stick to that), and the novels your kids will be able to read. Rather than have to list what grammar will be taught (and not acquired), maybe include a list of your own “Can-Do Statements” that you’d expect your kids to be able to handle.
    I feel most of us are fighting these same battles. It’s “Placement Exam Season” so I am preparing to propose tests of acquired competencies. I know the district is going to demand specific grammar concepts be assessed. In preparing I’ve gone back and forth a little with Krashen and his most recent response to me included this nugget:
    “Maybe what you want is a good overall global test, and then evidence that more grammar study doesn’t lead to better competence in these tests, and comprehensible input does.”
    And he goes on to cite me some studies. In other words, rather than give a test of grammar, just show the teachers the research that grammar study doesn’t help. I replied that I wish it were that easy, but many of us are working with colleagues who wouldn’t read that research if we shared it and wouldn’t want to have a dialogue with us about it. They are ignorant. Like 5-year olds. They don’t want to reason. They have no knowledge to reason with.

    1. Eric we are giving different possible responses that Paul might embrace. That is good. We want him to have all kinds of options for this battle. I do believe that keeping quiet is the right move, although I completely agree with everything you say as well,
      I just feel as if these teachers he is dealing with, esp. the grammarian who fails to align with what is actually happening in this century, cannot understand. She can’t get the points you raise. Paul would make his points and it would be like she is in the bottom of a well 1000 feet down and she would only get the echo. And yet, she could inflict great damage to Paul’s career, UNLESS Paul can get the ear of HER boss.
      Maybe that’s the way to go. Somebody has got to find someone in that school system who can understand the current position of ACTFL and the College Board re: function over form. Someone has to reveal the man behind the curtain here. I believe it is not saying too much that it is a kind of criminal negligence, pedagogical negligence if you will, unintended of course, but still harmful to children.
      Judges don’t let people off the hook for not knowing what the law is; nor should these people be allowed to practice their profession wrongly – it’s wrong to teach that way now – just because they don’t know anything else, or want to know. They have a responsibility to their employers to grow and change with the times in their profession. It’s like, not too many physicists are going around looking for jobs touting their slide rule expertise.
      Perhaps the answer lies in behind-the-scenes contact only with this grammar teacher’s bosses. One thing, Paul is in his second year and this kind of situation has broken experienced teachers, ground them down. I know that because I am one. Can anyone say Dakota Ridge High School, where my marvelous little national language contest 8th grade winners all went on to that high school (years ago) and promptly went from thinking that they were good at French to quitting or, at best, enduring.
      The thing Paul said about how they think that French is more complex than Spanish because is is a more complex language is just pathetic. How many clowns are really in that clown car?
      Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8StG4fFWHqg

      1. The bottom-of-the-well image reminds me of a Chinese proverb: a frog at the bottom of a well. It’s for people who think that they know a lot, but actually are only aware of their very small world. So it’s ignorance plus arrogance.

  3. So the French S/S is ahead. Hopefully you can help people see that it is not ahead. It is going backwards. It may be further out from point zero, but it is in the wrong direction. Nobody scored a TD this past weekend by running faster to the wrong end zone.
    Think about this from the perspective of your different classes. Is it possible to to have common goals for each of your own classes, so that everyone can meet a minimum curriculum, and yet those classes in which you can do more simply do more? If so could that extend to all teachers? My thought is to define a minimal common set of words/structures/ tenses. A common exam would include those, but would allow for anything additional that the student could add. The common part would be assessed by, for example, “Write this in English.” Anything else would be assessed on something like Free writes.
    What is minimal? I just finished a comparison of our Spanish 1 text (En español 1) with the “200 High Frequency Words in Spanish (Denver Public Schools)” list from Kristin Duncan’s site, which is based on Mark Davies list. (See link for Davies’ list:
    http://speak-spanish.ru/wp-content/uploads/A-FreDictSpan.pdf )
    I found that 91 of the 100 most frequent words are in the text, and that 72 of the second 100 most frequent are present. So 91% of the first 100 and 72% of the second 100 average to 81.5% of the top 200 words being present in the text. I was pleasantly surprised that the correlation would be that high. There is thus potentially (and on paper) more that we have in common than I had thought. If the words are in the text, then the texters can keep texting in class, so to speak.
    My thought is that the tested curriculum consist of those words. That way everyone can say they are doing the curriculum, because they are. And I do not have to feel compelled to cover everything in the topical lists. If others want to focus on grammar or culture projects while I do Spanish that would be fine for the moment. (It is mental health that I am after at this point.)
    Exactly how to divide it is a question. If there is a common MidYear Exam (which we have, and that is what has driven me on in this insane project), do we plan for the first 100 to be part of the MidYear? or fewer? Or do we look at the whole 200 and choose the first 100 that appear in the text to include on the exam? Or do we choose fewer? What about other high-interest , and do we need those on the exam?
    I am working through various lists that I have come across and am attempting to come up with something cohesive enough to be a curriculum but adaptive enough to include the collective personality of each class as well as the personality of each teacher in the department.
    The lists include Ben’s word wall, Alisa Shapiro’s elementary curriculum, Paul Kirshling’s 2 word lists (Dr. Beniko Mason DPS Study 1 and an eight-week curriculum), a useful expressions list that our department uses, and maybe something else.

    1. Nathaniel said:
      …if so could that extend to all teachers? My thought is to define a minimal common set of words/structures/ tenses. A common exam would include those, but would allow for anything additional that the student could add. The common part would be assessed by, for example, “Write this in English. Anything else would be assessed on something like Free writes.”….
      I really really like this. I was in a DPS classroom today and both teachers, more of those young rock stars Diana mentioned, had large lists on the walls of words that the kids had had ample reps on from all the CI so far this year. In one class I counted 71 words, mostly verbs. Even during class, this teacher laser pointed to every verb each time it came up and paused. (She wasn’t going out of bounds because she was reviewing a story from earlier in the week.) It was clear that her kids would pass such a test as Nathaniel suggests. Those not trained with that kind of repetition would not, and we all know that.
      Maybe I can get Diana to comment on this.

  4. Ben gave you “flight,” I gave you “fight.” haha. What I wrote in my comment were meant for YOU, Paul, to read. Whether you decide or not to share those talking points with colleagues is up to you.
    In my case, I keep quiet now as much as I can, and only speak up if it has any consequences on the way I have to teach. I have a supportive Principal, I’ve sold my approach to the Superintendent, parents and kids are happy, so I had no problem responding in my last department meeting: “I don’t cover the level 1 Scope & Sequence from the high school.” And I’ve told my Principal repeatedly that I would NEVER try to follow that textbook curriculum.

  5. I think Ben, Nathaniel, and Eric have given you plenty to think about as far as relating to the power structure is concerned.
    My question is about the whole “everybody needs to be on the same page” concept. My district has actually said that they want that because then a student who transfers from one school to another won’t have “missed anything”. They also want common assessments across the languages. Needless to say, I am contesting this attitude by pointing out its absurdities.
    An important element in this opposition is the fact that my district teaches French, German, Latin, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Rather than “digging in my heels” and being obstinate, I simply ask some “innocent” questions:
    – When will Spanish, French, and Vietnamese discuss case and the declensions?
    – When will Vietnamese discuss past and future tenses?
    – What do I do in German with the distinction between “to be” and “to be”?
    – When will French teach the Narrative Past and Conversational Past?
    – When will French the progressive and continuous tenses?
    – How long does it take for Spanish, French, German and Latin to teach the non-English alphabet? Can Vietnamese do it in that amount of time?
    My point with these questions is that if the “common assessments” are grammar based, they are totally useless when trying to coordinate different languages. The discussion of common assessment involving multiple languages must of necessity come around to communication and abandon discrete grammar items.
    The discussion of “covering” the same material at the same time is a bit more nuanced. People in my district think in terms of thematic units, if not semantic sets. They think that they can present “body parts” or “professions” all at once and then be done with it. I’m working on getting everyone to realize that we need to concentrate on the high-frequency words so that students have the ability to negotiate meaning in any situation and that it is actually more effective to keep talking about various “themes” throughout the learning process because massed and then increasingly spaced repetition is better for long-term acquisition/memory. (I’ve known this since I was a music major in college in the 1970s. We were taught to work on a new piece every day for a significant amount of time, then start spacing out the practice as we improved on it, eventually getting to a “maintenance pace” to keep it fresh in mind and muscle.) We still “cover” body parts, sports, school classes, food, etc. and do so repeatedly, so anyone coming from another German program to me will be able to pick up anything new while being able to look really good when we discuss something the student has already learned or acquired.
    A significant issue with requiring all teachers to keep pace with one another is that it totally ignores both rigor and relevance. One aspect of relevance is that something engages or involves us. Another is that someone else has a passion for it. Do we really expect all of our student groups to feel engagement and involvement for the same things and all of our teachers to have passion for the same things? In two different sections of the same year of German, I will often wind up emphasizing different things. My third-period German 1 class has a number of athletes in it; my sixth-period German 1 class has none. Am I supposed to spend the same amount of time on sports in both sections? Do we talk about sports in both? Certainly, but we don’t “keep step” because of some misguided idea about pacing. Sports have greater relevance to one class than to another.
    Last year I had a 3/4/AP combination that thoroughly enjoyed talking in depth (rigor!) about Harry Potter. This year, I have students who have never seen the movies nor read the books – nor do they have a particular interest in doing so. Since rigor includes depth and integrity of inquiry, I could be rigorous in exploring Harry Potter last year; this year it would be tedious and onerous. If I have that sort of divergence between two years of students in the same community, how can I impose a pacing guide across a district that represents highly divergent socio-economic, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups?
    My goal is to get my district on board with a single end-of-year “benchmark” that assesses communication. Even though I keep talking about Denver Public Schools and the work they have done, not many people are listening.
    Just some random thoughts for you.

    1. Okay, first edit:
      – When will French teach the progressive and continuous tenses?
      I also intended to mention the Foreign Service Institute’s information on how long it takes to learn a foreign language. How can Spanish (with an official 600 hours to “proficiency”) keep pace with Vietnamese (with an official 1100 hours to “proficiency”) for common assessment?

  6. This is my life for the last 5 years. I consider myself a hardcore TPRSer I am happy and love it. BUT I have been in this situation and still lose sleep over jerks that I work with. I agree with Ben on this…
    You cannot convince these people in the short-term. Arm yourself with the 21st century skills map (page 4 mostly advocates for TCI). Also arm yourself with the ACTFL aligning the CCSS that Martina Bex worked on.
    I have info on both of them on my blog (scroll down a ways).
    Track your test data for the day when you are questioned and maintain positive relationships with students and parents because they are our biggest advocates.
    And write this down somewhere and be ready to use Mike Peto’s line…live to fight another day.
    “If you want to criticize me…look at my results not my methods. If you want to know how I got those results…ask me about my methods.”
    You are not alone!!!

    1. Agree with Michael.
      The powers require conformity or the appearance of conformity. You can choose the latter with honor, many of us do that.
      Suerte! And keep your head up.

  7. Dang it…arm yourself with the correct quote.
    “If you want ot criticize my methods look at my results…if you want to know how I got those results ask me about my methods”
    I am fried 🙁

  8. You have received excellent advice.
    I too am baffled by the widespread craving for ‘consistency,’ ‘a common experience,’ ‘district- wide coordination’ etc.- all euphemisms for conformity. All stemming from a lack of trust and a need for control, AND EASE. Even when you prove yourself trustworthy, your kids ‘achieve,’ and most importantly, they LOVE to come to your class.
    I believe it is…inconvenient to accommodate the lone department/WL teachers whose boxes would truthfully be checked, ‘N/A’ – does not apply. What Essential Questions and Overarching Understandings? What concepts being applied to the real world? What integration of disciplines/content-based instruction? What evidence of students running the class? What “knows/understands/does?” We have found ways to get checks in the right columns there….
    With your structures roadmap and/or backwards planned reading/novels in hand, move forward, chin up, wide smile – nod head/smile (smirk?) in agreement, and as so many have said before, close the damn door and share the joyof SLA w/your students.
    Document your work, let the dust settle around you, hone your skills, wait and see…

  9. This whole topic reveals a kind of Grinch-like quality in those that Paul is dealing with. Do we want Grinches teaching our children? And do we want upcoming rock stars do be beat up all the time? Of course those two questions support Eric’s advice to mix it up with these folks.
    This is big stuff y’all. Big stuff. One thing is that we need to keep our mental health in this. We have talked about this for years and even have a category on it. As we approach another weekend now in one of the hardest parts of the year, let’s work on self-care with the intent to place it – self care – where is should be, in my opinion, at the top of the list. Our jobs come second behind self care or we can’t do them right.
    Some of don’t know about self care. I didn’t for a long time. I am learning. It’s subtle stuff. I have had to realize over and over how important it is to take care of myself during my career, and not mistake this work, this battlefield work, for what is most important in my own life. It’s not an easy thing to put down, this mashing work.
    I know we all know this, but sometimes, in the indescribable fun of wielding battle axes in an actual fight, (think of Eric the Jackal and the Robert the Bear last November with ACTFL and Robert on an actual horse in medieval armor), we need to sometimes remember to lay our axes down and take care of ourselves and those we love.
    Hey, this advice is coming from a retired guy who is supposed to be resting after practically living on the battle field for 37 years – I love me a good fight and prefer halberds myself – but hey, let’s all remember that we get to rest now and again. Rest is good.
    I honor Paul for the work he and all the others who are in Grammar Pain right now. May the Force be with you.

  10. I line up primarily with Robert on this, if the Spanish teachers have a similar mindset to you. Try to convince them to let French and Spanish go their separate ways. If not Spanish should probably have the numbers if the others support your position. If they support French though… Ben is of course right that there are times to keep one’s head down. My feeling is still make an honest attempt to swing the process to let each language do what they want at the moment. If not then you can pretend agree. They wouldn’t think of trying to map World and US History together even though they are both history. I hope this was helpful. Good luck.

    1. I’m likely responding too late for Paul’s sake, but I like Robert’s and Eric’s comments. If you have support within Spanish for an alternative to the current French teachers’ approach, I’d go with that and make the case that Spanish can have a different scope & sequence approach from French.
      No need to fight for French to change if they see no reason or benefit from anything else. It’s too bad for them and their students though.

      1. This might be a good course of action. The French people can respond with, “But OUR scope and sequence is the RIGHT one!” That would be them asking for a fight, in which case you want to fly in Eric. If other Spanish teachers are on your side, this could be a good option.
        But remember, this is an attack on your part against them. It may not seem like, but it is. You’d basically be saying, “Let’s go our own ways and see where the students follow.” Our jobs are all about numbers. Of course we would win that fight. French NEEDS you guys all to do the same thing for its own security. (I wrote about this below, too.)

        1. I like it, James! If Spanish and French can go separate ways, then do so!
          I’d start by defining a good common assessment, i.e. what is it your kids will be able to do (in reception & production) by year’s mid and end? With that in place, you’ll be able to “fake agree.” If the common assessment is not realistic (too much vocabulary) nor desirable (low-frequency), nor designed to test acquisition (untimed and focus on form), then I personally would fight. But that fight starts with agreeing on desired outcomes and a big piece of that is knowing how best to measure those outcomes.

          1. Eric…a big LIKE on this comment. IF different sides can agree on desired outcomes this is all that really matters.

  11. The discussion around Paul’s situation in Utah is very important. I am going to a DPS language lab right now, on my bike with a car in the shop, freezing my butt off, but guess what, if these young DPS teacher are willing to put themselves out there in front of their colleagues, then they deserve, in the spirit of the war rooms, to have an audience. I will say this for DPS on training. We train and get trained on our feet. We get this work going in our bodies and not just our minds. And we don’t discuss theory when we meet. We teach.
    I am going to publish this comment related to Paul’s situation without editing it because I have to go. But I want to get this out there because Paul’s meeting is like in five hours. I wonder if he will be quiet or speak with them. I say he speaks to admins and not that French teacher.
    Unedited, with apologies. The points are I here somewhere:
    …Benchmarks. What even is a benchmark? I think that in our CIberbabble we have a library of words that are not defined but yet loosely used in conversation every day. What even is PQA for that matter? Yes, we have agreed that as long as we talk to our kids in the TL every day, we are doing CI/TPRS. But what does that even mean? I think we need to rein things in on certain terms.
    Benchmarks. DPS makes list of vocabulary taken from a) the novels and b) the high frequency lists that were created painstakingly by the researchers whose work Eric has tattooed on his arms. Perfect. Why? Because we want our kids to be able to a) read and b) identify our speech. That really makes a lot of sense, because it takes the kids in the right direction as opposed to this super blunt ax blow to the Old Guard by Nathaniel:
    …so the French S/S is ahead. Hopefully you can help people see that it is not ahead. It is going backwards. It may be further out from point zero, but it is in the wrong direction….
    Benchmarks. So DPS has those benchmarks. We use them. Everybody use them. We have inner city kids of color who live in poverty outscoring by big margins IB white kids who drive their own cars to school. The difference is that the inner city kids are being taught with CI and the IB kids are being taught with the textbook.
    Benchmarks. So we give our new teachers lists because they say that they can’t teach without a S/S. That works. Here. Here’s your list. Go teach these words. (Credit alert: Diana Noonan and Carol Gaab. Remember that Julie pulled her entire CI work together after hearing Carol talk at CCFLT, our state organization’s fall meeting in early November. Julie stated that her work and understanding of CI turned completely around after hearing Carol talk about Diana and Carol’s vision with these lists of words taken from the novels.)
    (Julie finally felt clear about CI when she was made to understand at that workshop – which the textbook based organizers, leaders of CCFLT, of which Diana is the President but all the other officers spent the entire day in the hallway chatting at the front desk, refusing to even listen to Carol because she is TPRS – the fall conference is small so Carol was the only presenter in a big room all day).
    Let’s say that again. Julie finally felt clear about CI after a year or two in the district because Carol made it clear that we work from vocabulary chosen from novels and high frequency lists (that is the benchmark vocabulary, which varies in DPS from elementary to middle to high school levels and I would like Diana to comment about that because when we did this S/S work to generate these lists we broke up into language groups and teaching levels. Those DPS lists, generated from the high frequency lists and the novels, gave Julie something to hang her planning hat on.
    So Julie – and I am still working on that write up of her classes and apologize for not yet publishing it here and may not do that now since it is like ten pages long so I may just stuff it all into the new version of Stepping Stones sorry about that but it is too big for this space. So Julie now had a list of words to bundle into threes and teach via PQA and stories, three new words from the list every few days.)
    Diana told me that realistically that if her teachers could teach 25-35 of those words for true acquisition (lightning fast auditory and visual recognition in context), then she would be happy.
    Benchmarks. We have word lists that are our DPS benchmarks. Our kids hear and read those words which are steamrollered by our CI teachers, and it works. So it works.
    That has been the knock on the Matava and Tripp novels. Too vague. Randomly chosen target triplets for those admittedly otherwise state of the art scripts in terms of generating student interest. That is why I have been working with Anne to try to talk her into writing some scripts around the DPS vocabulary and she is open to it. That conversation has just begun. I am yet to talk to Jim about this but will. Anne’s third volume won’t be around the DPS vocabulary but a fourth could be. We’ll see. This is all in the beginning stages.

    1. I think I am supposed to comment here but Ben has explained the DPS Scope and Sequence correctly. Simply put, it is NOT organized using a grammar syllabus but rather using the high-frequency word lists. The novels created by Carol Gaab and her writing team use those word lists when writing. Since DPS schools no longer have textbooks and make use of the novels as a part of the curriculum, it only made sense for us to use the novels as the basis for choosing the words. Our *Scope and Sequence was created using backward design work and is aligned with the Colorado Academic Standards and ACTFL proficiency ranges. In our Scope and Sequence, it clearly states that teachers, beginning in level 1, should use not only present tense, but also past, future and conditional tenses, along with the subjunctive because this is NATURAL language. We encourage teachers to shelter vocabulary, not grammar. In turn, our novice level assessments are created using the high frequency word lists. Teachers understand that to prepare students for the district assessment, both pre and post, they must use the high-frequency word lists when preparing lessons. Teachers do not have to use the Scope and Sequence, but for beginning teachers or teachers new to CI, it is essential. It is the “what”. And of course TCI is the how.
      *Joe Dziedzic needs to be given an enormous amount of credit for the DPS S&S since he generously gave DPS the use of his CIteachers.com curriculum, which was created by him and a team of teachers two years prior to the creation of the DPS S&S. Many DPS teachers use his curriculum rather than the DPS S&S since his site includes stories, videos, cultural units, tests, etc.

      1. Is there any way to get a copy of your scope and sequence? I would like to show it to my district World Languages lead. I would not use any of the information without first asking permission, but my district is at a place where they could be swayed to leave the grammar based approach and having a sample district would be amazing. I have tried contacting Joe Dziedzic through his website and have received no response.

  12. There may be something else going on here.
    On the one side you have old-school teachers clamoring for common assessments and writing them to be grammar-based. On the other you have us.
    Ask yourself: Whose class will the most kids choose to take?
    The old guard feels threatened. Their jobs are at stake, too. They are feeling it. Students are running away from their classes because there is an “easier” (I hate it when students use this word, what they really mean is “more loving”) class down the hall. These tests give this old guard ammunition.
    Why must we all behave like cornered snakes?

    1. James I’ve just understood that “easier” meant more fruitful. I take it the students who receive CI are actually understanding and actually understanding what is going on is “easier” than studying a lot and not understanding. It’s like saying running 5k is easier when you run a few miles everyday than if you lift a lot of weights. The thing is in a language classroom the activity is communication through a new language and so it is easier when a student is in a CI classroom than a grammar intensive classroom. At least that is the way I think of it and try to explain it to people who report that students think it is easier. The students are a lot more at ease in an environment which is conducive to what is supposed to be going on in a language classroom – communication through the new language.
      Thinking more about it: In a way the goal of any classroom is to make it “easy.” When you master something it becomes easy for you; it is effortless. For Lebron James, shooting a jump-shot is easy; for you Latin is easy. The goal is to make it easy, i.e. that we can do the activity with ease, and that is what CI does, no? Whatever you have understood enough times and become fluent in, it becomes easy.
      Maybe this way of thinking about it being “easy” is more helpful to situate the rigor too. The rigor is the paying attention (I like Ben’s poster on this), and then after enough time with certain things it becomes easy.
      Though I also agree it IS more loving. It is more considerate and so sets proper expectations on how quickly students should advance, etc.

  13. So much great feedback on this topic…
    The answer to the question to either fight or flight really is BOTH and NEITHER.
    It is NEITHER (fight nor flight) because the results of trying to fight fire with fire just results in more chaos. When the dust settles the wreckage will be broken friendships, hurt feelings, and possibly lost jobs. Human beings are passionate about what they put their faith in. Look at religion or politics for evidence of this. WE put our faith in pedagogy that creates a change in our students both cognitively and (may we dare say) spiritually.
    To fight for this is honorable but futile. I suggest much like Laurie Clarcq demonstrates…we love these “little demons” that want to control and create conformity (as Alisa mentions) for the masses of students. They are wrong and have misguided intentions but they have only experienced one “faith” of teaching and learning. They see the CI teacher as lazy without a lesson plans or an anarchist to the system of education.
    It is BOTH (fight and run) because we should NOT back down from something that makes the world a better place. Language is special and should be treated so. The army that is more strategic and patient wins a war, sometimes we must plan several steps ahead of our opponents and deal with each discussion as small battles to be won. They are predictable…I hate to sound tricky but the other side can be lured into a very narrow way of expressing their thoughts. If we initially engage in a battle we are the one that are lured in as bait. (I have been lured into emotional arguments about TPRS and won’t let it happen again).
    We have to stand up for the right to acquire a language yet do so strategically. When we play this GAME like a chess match our end goal should be to put the adminz and leaderz in a place of checkmate. Unfortunately, this is what it takes to fight the deformers of educationa and to righteously advocate for our students.

  14. I think that until you have tenure and/or have gained the respect/trust of your colleagues it is best to keep you head down while still doing what you feel is right for your students. If you connect with the hearts of your students, and strive to do so using as much of the target language as possible then the results in their lives will speak for themselves- even if it takes many years for those seeds to fully grow.
    I would practice the art of saying what they want to hear, and/or not saying anything at all, while doing what you need to do in the classroom to reach your students and truly teach them the language. Your first priority is to keep your job so that you can reach more students now AND in the future. The Grammar Drill Sergeants aren’t going to be around forever. This too shall pass…

  15. I’m alive!!! Thank you all so much. Today has been a long day, and as soon as I have had a minute to rest I will update you all on what happened.
    Thanks again. The support has been invaluable.

    1. When you think about it, these situations are pretty ridiculous. . . the fact that we can’t express to our colleagues what we think is best for our students. SLA researchers are working away in vain if teachers won’t read, share, and discuss it. Of all places, you’d think a school would be the place where teachers would be intellectually curious, open to dialogue, and dedicated to continuous learning.

  16. Since I first sent my email to Ben I have had a ton of very good things happen. The meeting I was worried about went very well. I did not have to be on the defensive as the only attendees to the meeting were the head of the World Languages at my district and my department chair (Spanish teacher). I was able to very clearly articulate that we need to match the state core (that is very CI friendly) to our district scope and sequence by asking the following questions:
    • What is the problem with the alignment of our can-do statements and curriculum maps?
    • What does the Utah State Office of Education core standards for world language say students should be able to accomplish after a given amount of time?
    • Where should students be after 2 years of L2 instruction (the minimum requirement for graduation with an advanced (college entrance) diploma in Utah)?
    • What should our Can-do statements and curriculum map look like at all levels (1-AP)?
    • What should our district formative assessments look like?
    I was able to use many examples from Robert Harrel’s ideal S & S and from Mike Peto’s already written lessons to show some examples of how we can push more towards ACTLF and our (Utah’s) state core standards. Using examples from Mike Peto’s lesson, I was able to make a case for shifting expectations of production for levels (years) 1 & 2.
    I was also able to make a strong case for using natural language (sheltering vocabulary and not sheltering grammar). This point was not lost on the head of the World Languages, but she stated that she needed time to process the use of past tense and other “advanced” grammar structures in lower levels.
    All that to say that your (the PLC’s ) words of encouragement gave me a ton of ammunition to respond to almost all questions that were brought in the 2 hour meeting.
    The one thing that she asked for (when I mentioned DPS’s S&S) is a copy of the how DPS has set up their S&S. Is there any way that I could get that? I have sent an email to CIteachers.com asking if there is any way to view their curriculum and have not received a response. I would only be using it as a way to show my school district that it is in fact possible to create a S&S based on proficiency/acquisition and not a textbook. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and I want to be able to give a concrete example of a district that has made the shift to true language acquisition in a high school setting. We would not be copying from it without expressed consent from DPS or CIteachers.com.
    This information would also be very beneficial; as I have been invited to join the talks at the University of Utah as they are trying to move their university curriculum away from a grammar based approach towards proficiency.
    Thanks again fro all your help PLC!

    1. Paul, this is truly great news. Among the positive aspects of this is that your time with the WL district person and department chair was not adversarial, rather they were willing to hear your research and ideas. The word of caution is: don’t expect things to move too quickly. It is simply the nature of the beast that school districts do not do anything rapidly. A few years ago when Ben was talking about what Diana Noonan has done in DPS, I was impressed by how quickly she seemed to have gotten things done. When I had a chance to say something to her about that, her reply was, “Well, if you think six years of constant pushing from a district position (her position as WL director) to get people to at least consider TPRS is fast, I guess you could say that.” DPS has made huge strides since then, and the influx of new teachers who are committed to TCI has made a huge difference in at least some schools, but we are seeing the result of at least 10 years of hard work.
      Sorry about the length of that comment. I don’t want to minimize the truly great things that happened. You genuinely deserve to celebrate what you have accomplished. Hang in there.

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