Report from the Field – Steven Ordiano

Hi Ben,
In an effort to streamline assessments, I have started an interview process for all of my 2nd year students. I do this as a personalized one-on-one NT CI. It’s kinda a farewell gift. Anyway, I have had the best French 2 class ever and some have agreed to get recorded. This is spontaneous and off the cuff. I have a notebook with me in case the student does not get the words I say. I adjust my speech and I try to stay on a topic for a bit before moving on.  I tell them I am looking for them to sustain a 10 minute conversation and I am looking for them to respond in single word answers if possible and if they want to confirm a word or question they may in English. Here’s a link to an interview I recorded. I am not sure how this student did or how far she got. Does it matter? It was all just a fun time doing the Invisibles with a sprinkle of SL and Small Talk and Special Chair.
Here are my notes on Steven’s work:
For those who don’t understand French, Steven asks basic interview questions. Nothing is prepared, just off the cuff non-targeted stuff like he’s been doing since 2016. This is a real treat.
Note the following points:
Beautiful accents and interchange by both Steven and the student. There is nothing forced here. They are just talking.
Certain teachers might find this “too simple” for a second year student at the end of the year. That is poppycock. I have been playing the “we-don’t-force-output” trumpet for many years now. In my own teaching I always noticed that in level 2 in about April the output comes naturally and freely, usually not before.
What Steven did that is brilliant here is to make the interviewee 100% comfortable by asking for one word answers like her birthday, the names of her cats, etc. He also allows in bits of English to work for COMMUNICATION.
I can’t stress enough here that Steven, by asking for simple one word responses and not chunks of words or whole sentences, and by allowing bits of English in, just at the time when they are needed to complete the communication, demonstrates here that he has not forced his students over the year to speak at a higher level than is natural for them.
Whenever that happens, it engages the conscious minds of the students and then at that point the class divides into groups of “can do” kids and “not yet” kids, and then the sacred name of equity and inclusion is tossed off the acquisition train.
Yes, teachers far too often, without even knowing it, shame kids with their “No English!” and “Speak French in Sentences!” rules, which behavior on their part amounts to a kind of hassling or putting down of the kids, causing them to retreat into the shell that we all have seen in SO MANY CLASSES where CI has been used over the past 25 years.
Any new teacher is invited to reflect on this master assessment by Steven as him putting the research into action. There is (a) nothing memorized about this interview, which traditional and most teachers who target lists cannot say, (b) the interview has zero tension. What does that really mean?
It means that the student is merely reflecting Steven’s relaxation back to him. Steven knows that he cannot make his class work by being the master of ceremonies. He knows that such communication environments resemble parties where there is one loud guy always taking over, exhorting all to “learn” more” – the cheerleader type of teacher who always burns out when, predictably under such lion-taming type of teaching, eventually burn out an leave the profession.
If nothing else, notice how Steven is simply not reading from a list of questions that are connected to a list of words somewhere on some dumb-ass common assessment to see if the kids have learned “what they were supposed to have learned” in the on-going insanity of world language education today.
Steven does not ruin the experience for his students. He INVITES them to the dance. They don’t have to dance. Some can’t yet. He knows that. He waits. It’s Chapter 21 in the Petit Prince:
“Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te re- garderai du coin de l’œil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…”.
The student in the interview ACTUALLY WANTS TO TALK TO HER TEACHER, enjoying speaking about her cats, favorite fruits, etc. in the target language. She is in a safe place with her teacher. She is not having to prove that she knows certain words, and in not having to prove, she proves.
Steven’s attitude is not only the superb thing going on here. His pacing is superb. The kids have heard the words in different combinations (no memorization!) over so many classes that they simply understand the message w/o having to focus on the medium for its delivery, which is exactly what Dr. Krashen describes as how people acquire languages.
Listen carefully to the exchange between 5:30 and 5:40. The student answers that she prefers Ranch dressing and doesn’t like catsup. But the point to make is that she is just talking to her teacher. I can’t stress this enough. IT IS WHAT WE WANT and why we prefer teaching using NT and why we – those of us here who do it – are so pleased about how GENUINE the results of our non-targeted instruction are in our classrooms.
At 6:00 to 6:10 Steven is talking about a fish. It is a good passage that exemplifies how all he is doing is trying to communicate. There is no hidden agenda here. No game of “Gotcha! You don’t know that word!” Then he talks about Hawaii. They’re just talking! THAT IS THE STANDARD!
When talking about Hawaii, Steven includes some noise (extra words the student may not fully understand). Steven did that on purpose. That doesn’t matter. The student will go home and during sleep all of that input will be replayed in the growing language system in her unconscious mind while asleep. SOME of what Steven said about his experience in Hawaii to the student WILL BE ABSORBED into the growing language system and SOME of it WILL NOT BE ABSORBED. We don’t get to say what does and what doesn’t STICK, even though many of us still TRY to do that, but we need to join Controlaholics Anonymous because that need to control (read “use targets”) does not in my opinion have any other than a deleterious effect on the process.
At 9:43 the student, in responding to Steven’s question about how many stars she would give to a TV show, she (a) doesn’t need to think about what “etoile” means when she hears him say it – she just knows it bc Steven has obviously used it so many times in class over the past year, and (b) she self- corrects on the use of the “de” structure after the word “beaucoup” and she does so because her phonic awareness told her to, and not because she memorized the “beaucoup always takes de” rule. Check out Krashen’s Monitor hypothesis on that topic.
I probably already said this, but this student is actually speaking French with Steven. It is effortless (Krashen), unconscious (Krashen), unforced (Krashen), enjoyable (Krashen) and relaxed (Ordiano). This student was not speaking from a list. That is the power of non-targeted over targeted language instruction. Steven you are to be commended. This is wonderful.



6 thoughts on “Report from the Field – Steven Ordiano”

  1. The #1 rule about assessment is that it’s supposed to reflect instruction. If the Ss have only been practicing their multiplication facts, then they are NOT supposed to encounter a multi-step story (‘word’) problem on the exam (unless that’s ALSO been part of the classroom experience!) NO Gotcha’s.
    So if Steven spent the year exchanging compelling information with the kids via the art of conversation, then the assessment is but more of the same, this time with the computer App recording the sound – that’s the only difference. Assessment as a window into what goes on every day – reflection as opposed to measurement – is often hard for adminz and newbie CI teachers to wrap their sort-and-winnow mindsets around. It takes a lotta unlearning.
    In my Hebrew consulting work, the project grant proposal forms always have a “How will you measure instructional outcomes?” assessment question. I explain that we can do this by comparing audio/video clips over time – of the growing amount of language the Ss can cope with, and demonstrating comprehension of more, and increasingly sophisticated language…
    This major shift in what constitutes appropriate assessment must be explained, practiced & defended again & again to everyone in the game – students, their parents, colleagues, adminz. The textbook folks are not invited to make any $$ off of any of these NT convos!!

  2. I can’t stop thinking about this interview. Yes, the student was gifted. So what? ANY child who has not been heavily affected by self esteem issues, the kind inflicted by schools on kids, could do the same. This child learned not bc she is smarter, but bc – we can hear it in her voice – she has a good self image.
    Because we, depending on how we bring our message to the kids in the first weeks of the year (see either A Natural Approach to Stories or A Natural Approach to the Year) can bring not just the “smart” kids into right linguistic/community adjustment w us and her peers but also the so-called less intelligent ones. Why?
    Because acquiring a language HAS NOTHING TO WITH INTELLIGENCE. Millions upon millions of people w low IQ’s demonstrate fluency in their first language every day. So if it has little to do with intelligence (ability to consciously reason). Then what does it have to do with?
    It is tied to what the research says – that acquiring a language is a COMPLETELY UNCONSCIOUS PROCESS which most CI teachers STILL FAIL TO GRASP. Our JOB is to make the process of acquiring a language in our classroom to not involve thinking.
    It’s harder to do than it looks. One thing is for certain – Steven in this interview reveals the truth of the research that if the kids hear enough language during the year, they can carry off a totally non-targeted (read “unconsciously driven”) conversation. He has shown us here what our goal should be each year.
    I once taught an AP class that had had three different textbook teachers at Denver East High School before me, each year a different teacher. They were white privileged kids, of course, bc that is how they play the AP game in DPS. They could not come close to doing what this student did in her interview with Steven. It was a form of professional malpractice.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Ben. This student is not very extroverted but she had buy-in in the approach and the sla process. In my school there are students who do academically well in elementary but come from schools of poverty. In fact we are title one. There are many students who went to the gifted elementary. I was lucky to have these students from year one when I went full NT. There were a few students who had a hard time dealing with communication. They wanted explicit instruction. Sticking to my guns, these students also did well. I hope I still get other volunteers for recording. Some of my students are C average students in other classes but here they excel.

      1. Bravo, Steven, for sticking to your guns. We can’t let those loud, extroverted students dominate the classroom culture. This is how we let Trump become president! I can only imagine the battle you faced in that regard these past two years.

  3. I love this Stephen! I look forward to trying this in the next 2 weeks while they do their book illustrations! Thank you for your inspiration!
    I think many of my students will be excited for this new activity (I hope…novelty and all!). I used to do something very similar many years ago and dropped it for whatever reason. I got so excited when students would have a full on conversation with me–unscripted–even if some of them answered every single question in English! I remember this one student who was about to make a negative comment about himself and the fact that he “could not say anything in Spanish” but I asked him a bunch of questions like: “Did you know this was going to happen today? Did you study for it? Did you have a list of questions I was going to ask you in Spanish?” No. No. And no. “Isn’t it SO COOL that you can respond so instantly to a bunch of random question all in Spanish? That you did not study for?” “Dude, you totally understand Spanish!!!”

    1. Yes – that kid lacked confidence. Whom to blame? No one and everyone. Maybe the culture in American schools these days. Parents. Teachers. Admins. Friends. The one constant that Tina and I keep coming back to is how the kids have been harmed. Really I could give a rip if targeted is better than non-targeted instruction. All I care about is what you clearly care about: always return the focus of the kids to whatever things they can do RIGHT.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben