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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Wonderful Soup: Actors, CI, Ablatives, and Latin Word Order

I recently had a cool experience that was repeated across several classes. It involves ablatives and Latin word order, CI-style. It's difficult to explain in words, but I'll try to be brief for those who are interested.

The main sentence we were focusing on was:

Maurine (or whoever) sagittam arcu iecit.
Maurine shot an arrow with her bow.

We were creating a story together as a class in which one student goes on a hunt to kill some food for another student to eat. In the scene with this sentence, there were three student actors in front of the class, one for the hunter, another for the prey (an elephant, for example), and another for the bow. The kids loved the idea of having an actor for the bow, and actually it really helps to demonstrate the ablative.

So for this sentence the hunter draws the bow and then the bow fires the arrow at the prey. Of course all of this is really funny to look at because the actors have to figure out how to do it. Once they do decide, though, I can start circling:

Q: Did Maurine shoot the arrow with the bow? (iecitne Maurine sagittam arcu?)
A: yes (certe!)
Q: Did Maurine shoot the arrow with the bow or with a lion?  (iecitne Maurine sagittam arcu an leone?)
A: A bow! (arcu!)
Q: Did Maurine shoot the bow with a lion? (iecitne Maurine sagittam leone?)
A: No! (minime!)

And so on, for as long as we can stand it to get as many reps as possible. Of course after each question I repeat the original statement "Maurine sagittam arcu iecit" and after a while the students can really hear this sentence and understand what it means.

Another cool thing here, besides the ablative, is that it allowed me to demonstrate to my students how Latin word order builds suspense. Let me try to explain...

After we had repeated the sentence a bunch and everyone had come to understand the sentence, we rewound the story and repeated a few sentences and watched the actors perform. When we got to the sentence "sagittam arcu iecit," I played a trick on the actors. I said the sentence dramatically, leaving out the verb "iecit": "Maurine saaaaaaigttam aaarrrrcuuuuuuuu..."

What happened next--and it happened in three different classes--was awesome. The actor who was playing the bow threw the arrow. When she did, I said "minime! inquitne magister 'iecit?'" and all the students in the class responded "minime!" The point was that I hadn't said "shot" so the bow shouldn't have thrown the arrow. And all the students knew it. So we repeated it again and the bow waited until I finally said "iecit!" before she threw the arrow.

The pause before "iecit" was really fun. I could even ask other questions--like "elephantus! vultne Maurine te necare?" A:"certe! eheu!"--and leave the actors hanging, just about to "shoot the arrow." Then finally the "iecit" comes and we get our climax.

The next day we were reading a written version of the story together as a class here is how I wrote out this scene to preserve the suspense:

Maurine sagittam arcu…
    tum elephantus triste inquit, “quaeso noli me necare!”
    Maurine nihil curavit. Maurine sagittam arcu iecit.

While we were reading this section I simply paused and we discussed for about 30 seconds in English how the verb was left off and how that built suspense and how that explains why Romans liked the verb at the end of a sentence, because it builds suspense and makes you listen to the whole thing.

It was only with actors and CI that I was able to make this particular point about word order so strongly.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Good" Technology: Making Personalized Readings with Replace All

There are good and lame uses of technology in foreign language classrooms. To be a "good" use, the technology must facilitate in some way the delivery of comprehensible input. Using movies, images, and audio clips as the basis for personalized, comprehensible discussion in the target language is "good," for example. So is the use of sites like textivate.com (see this post for more information). I want to describe another use of technology that can help the teacher facilitate reading-based input that's personalized for each class: Replace All.

Replace All is a nifty feature of almost every word processing program that lets you find all instances of a word and replace it with another word. Basically, if you have a story written about a "John" from your first period class, this feature will let you change it to a story written about "Phil" for your second period class in a matter of seconds.

There are three steps to a typical cycle of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). First, we establish meaning. Then we ask the story with a story script. Finally we read an official, written version of the story together. This "replace all" trick helps with the third step, the reading.

Of course it is best if the reading is personalized for each class. We work so hard during the second step to get a story that means something personal for each individual class that just using a generic reading in the third step seems anticlimactic.

We want unique readings for each class, based on the unique story created by each class, but we don't want to be up late every night writing out stories in the target language. We can use the written version of the story that was done by a student during step 2 as a guide (see this post for more information about student jobs), but even then with six different classes there are just too many stories for the teacher to compile individually into six different readings. The story writer is a super star, but even she or he will make mistakes and as teachers we'll want to embed new vocabulary and include various other conventions of written language in the final, official version for our reading during the third step.

Basically, In TPRS there is this problem: The teacher needs to take responsibility for editing and/or creating up to six different readings in the target language every other week or so. That's where "replace all" comes in.

(I'll talk about first year classes here. I have three first year classes so this procedure lets me get three birds with one stone. I also have two second year classes, but of course these need to be treated separately because their stories are completely different from my first year classes--they are working from different target structures and from a different story script. So I can repeat this process with my second year classes and get another two birds with one stone. So all in all that's five birds with two stones and a great savings of time!)

I like to start by carefully mulling over the best story from the day. From that class's story (and the story writer's work) I create an official, good sounding, final written version. I embed new vocabulary. I include conventions of written communication and all that jazz. Take for example this story ("very-fine" is a fruit drink):

very-fine dedit
quondam Brenden erat in schola. Brenden very-fine habebat.
     Colman quoque erat in schola. Colman very-fine vidit. very-fine Colmanem non delectabat. Colman, postquam very-fine vidit, erat iratus. Colman very-fine bibere non volebat. Colman inquit, “very-fine est stultus.”
     sed Allyson quoque very-fine vidit. very-fine Allysonem delectabat. Allyson inquit, “very-fine est optimus!” Allyson very-fine bibere volebat. sed Allyson very-fine non habebat. eheu!
     Brenden et Allyson erant amici. Brenden Allysoni very-fine dedit. Allyson inquit, “gratias tibi ago, Brenden!”
     tum Allyson very-fine bibit. Allyson, postquam very-fine bibit, erat laeta.

He gave very-fine
A little while ago Brenden was in school. Brenden had very-fine.
     Colman was also in school. Colman saw very-fine. very-fine did not please Colman. Colman, after  he saw very-fine, was mad. Colman didn't want to drink very-fine. Colman said, "very-fine is stupid."
     But Allyson also saw very-fine. very-fine pleased Allyson. Allyson said, "very-fine is the best!" Allyson wanted to drink very-fine. But Allyson didn't have very-fine. Oh no!
     Brenden and Allyson were friends. Brenden gave very-fine to Allyson. Allyson said, "Thanks, Brenden!"
     Then Allyson drank very-fine. Allyson, after she drank very-fine, was happy.

I spend a good amount of time compiling that story, making sure that it's simply written and at the right level for my students to be able to read it fluently.

Now I want to take that story and use it as a basis for the other two stories for my other two Latin 1 classes. They were working with the same script and so came up with something similar, but at least the names are all different and probably the places and maybe it was another drink besides that "very-fine" fruit punch.

If a class was particularly creative I can add in major differences on an individual basis, but those simple changes in proper nouns are very easy to do quickly using "replace all." After you have typed up the final version for one class, all you have to do is press "command+f" (on a Mac) or "control+f" (on a PC). This will activate the "find" feature of whatever word processor you're using. There should be an option not just for "find" but also "replace." If, for example, I tell the computer to "replace all" instances of the word "Brenden" in the example story above with the word "Thomas," I have instantly changed the whole story from Brenden having and giving very-fine to Thomas having and giving very-fine. A few more changes is all it would take for the story to be entirely about another first year class.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Year's end can be easy, if I let it

This has been the least stressful end to a school year I've ever enjoyed. It doesn't need to be difficult after all. I needed to realize two things:

First, I should give simple assessments. How easily can I gather information to show me that my students understand the target language? All they need is a passage on their level with some straightforward questions. The more complicated the project or test or whatever the more opaque the evidence becomes.

Second, I should stop planning in my pride to fix all the problems next year by preparing lots of materials over the summer. I don't need a worksheet for this, a web-quest for that, a new grammar handout, a new website, a new load of prompts for projects, new videos for my "struggling" students, a new homework policy, new classroom rules, new activities for this or that reading. I don't need any of it.

All my students need to learn the language is comprehensible and compelling input. I'll make sure the input is comprehensible by following all the protocols of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). I'll make sure the input is compelling by talking about my students with real interest in who they are in my heart. All of that will happen slowly and with a sense of joy and maybe a few smiles. What's scary about that? What do I need to prepare?

I used to schedule my summers so as to have such and such materials ready by such and such times. No more. Work smarter, not harder. I would spend two hours preparing a PowerPoint that would fill maybe thirty minutes of class time in one class period. No more. Now all I need is time to relax and dream of ways to talk to my kids about stuff they like. But how can I plan for that? I haven't even met my classes yet! It will all happen in good time.

What is "circling"? With examples!

"Circling" is a technique for asking repetitive questions in the target language. We do this all the time in TPRS and CI-based instruction in order to provide students with more repetitions of target structures (i.e., new vocabulary and grammar).

The basic pattern of circling is:
  • Yes/no question
  • Either/or question
  • Yes/no question
  • Who/what/where/when/why/how/etc. question
You follow this pattern to ask questions about the subject ("circle the subject"), verb, or whatever else.

A detailed, essential explanation of circling can be found in Blaine Ray's book Fluency Through TPR Storytelling. In this post, which presents my hodgepodge of an approach, I give some examples of circling in different scenarios, in Latin (the language I teach) with English translations (for most everyone else).

First, though, note six main rules of circling:
  1. Go slow. Super slow. The students don't know the language and every new structure is a totally new sound for them. Go so slow that you feel bored. Then slow down some more. Now they can follow you.
  2. "Teach to the eyes." This is a phrase from Blaine Ray or Susan Gross or somebody, but it is the main thing that will save you and your students. Make eye contact constantly with your students. And don't just look at them, try to feel whether they understand. Their eyes will tell you if they are lost or ready for the next question.
  3. Avoid unnecessary circling. Only focus with circling on new structures, probably only your target structures for the day. The sounds of the structures in circling need to be new to hold interest and momentum. If they have already acquired something, circling isn't necessary. But be careful here. Oftentimes students have acquired far less than we think they have.
  4. Demand a choral response. Every student needs to reply to every question in unison. If there is a weak response, simply stop and explain in English how everyone needs to show you they understand. Then ask the same question again, more slowly. If there is still a weak response, write translations on the board. Every student responds every time or the class takes forever and it sucks for them. They will get that pretty quick.
  5. Personalize. Make sure that you are asking questions and including information suggested by your students in the conversation or story or whatever is being said. Circling about how Random Roman Guy was in a forum is boring, but circling about how Susie (a student in class) was at a concert is awesome.
  6. Ask for quick translations. Every once in a while ask your students, in English, "What did I just say?" They should be able to provide a "this is painfully obvious" kind of translation.
So now lets look at two different sentences and how you would circle them with your students. It is assumed that you have written translations of new structures on the board and perhaps even established gestures. The students should be able to understand the meaning of everything you say. If ever you sense some students aren't following you (refer to rules 2 and 4 above), point at the target structures and translations on the board, write other things with translations they might be struggling with, or do something else to establish meaning so that the students are confident in their answers to your circled questions.

Example 1
Sentence, stated by teacher slowly to begin:
Trevor in cubiculo dormiebat.
--Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom. (Some teachers require students to go "ohhhhh" all together after a new statement as if the most interesting fact in the world has just be stated. If I were better I would insist on it every time just like choral responses.)

First, we can circle the subject:
Q1 (teacher): discipuli, dormiebatne Trevor in cubiculo?
--Students, was Trevor sleeping in his bedroom?
A1 (class): certe!
--Yes!
Teacher: optime! Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.
Q2 (teacher): discipuli, dormiebatne Trevor an Luke in cubiculo?
--Students, was Trevor or Luke sleeping in his bedroom?
A2 (class): Trevor!
--Trevor!
Teacher: optime! Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.
Q3 (teacher): discipuli, dormiebatne Luke in cubiculo?
--Students, was Luke sleeping in his bedroom?
A3 (class): minime!
--No!
Teacher: optime! quam absurdum! Luke in cubiculo non dormiebat. Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! How absurd! Luke was not sleeping in his bedroom. Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.
Q4 (teacher): discipuli, quis in cubiculo dormiebat?
--Students, who was sleeping in the bedroom?
A4 (class): Trevor!
--Trevor!
Teacher: optime! Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.

Then we might circle the verb, but really the possibilities are endless. Notice the pattern can change for variety based one whatever your students are ready for:
Q1 (teacher): discipuli, saltabatne Trevor in cubiculo?
--Students, was Trevor dancing in his bedroom?
A1 (class): minime!
--No!
Teacher: optime! quam absurdum! Trevor in cubiculo non saltabat. Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! How absurd! Trevor was not dancing in his bedroom. Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.
Q2 (teacher): discipuli, dormiebatne an saltabat Trevor in cubiculo?
--Students, was Trevor sleeping or dancing in his bedroom?
A2 (class): dormiebat!
--Sleeping!
Teacher: optime! Trevor in cubliculo dormiebat.
--Very good! Trevor was sleeping in his bedroom.
Q3 (teacher): discipuli, ubi Trevor dormiebat?
--Students, where was Trevor sleeping?
A3 (class): in cubiculo!
--In his bedroom!
Q4 (teacher): optime! discipuli, quid agebat Trevor in cubiculo?
--Very good! Students, what was Trevor doing in his bedroom?
A4 (class): dormiebat!
--Sleeping!
Teacher: optime! discipuli mei sunt intellegentes.
--Very good! My students are smart.

Example 2
Sentence: Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult, ut Will Smithem spectet.
--Maria wants to go to Hollywood to look at Will Smith.

This is just a quick demonstration of how scary grammar can be made less scary:
Q1 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire?
--Students, does Maria want to go to Hollywood?
A1 (class): certe!
--Yes!
Teacher: optime! Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult.
--Very good! Maria wants to go to Hollywood.
Q2 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Hollywood an Kansas City ire?
--Students, does Maria want to go to Hollywood or Kansas City?
A2 (class): Hollywood!
--Hollywood!
Teacher: optime! Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult.
--Very good! Maria wants to go to Hollywood.
Q3 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Kansas City ire?
--Students, does Maria want to go to Kansas City?
A3 (class): minime!
--No!
Teacher: optime! Maria non ad urbem Kansas City, sed ad urbem Hollywood ire vult.
--Very good! Maria doesn't want to go to Kansas City, but to Hollywood.
Q4 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire, ut Will Smithem spectet?
--Students, does Maria want to go to Hollywood to look at Will Smith?
A4 (class): certe!
--Yes!
Teacher: optime! Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult ut Will Smithem spectet.
--Very good! Maria wants to go to Hollywood in order to look at Will Smith.
Q5 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire, ut Will Smithem an Bruce Willisem spectet?
--Students, does Maria want to go to Hollywood to look at Will Smith or Bruce Willis?
A5 (class): Will Smith(em)!
--Will Smith!
Teacher: optime! Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult ut Will Smithem spectet.
--Very good! Maria wants to go to Hollywood in order to look at Will Smith.
Q6 (teacher): discipuli, vultne Maria ad urbem Kansas City ire, ut Will Smithem spectet? / Students, does Maria want to go to Kansas City to look at Will Smith?
A6 (class): minime!
--No!
Teacher: optime! Maria, ut Will Smithem spectet, ad urbem Kansas City ire non vult. quam absurdum! Will Smith in urbe Kansas City non habitat! Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult ut Will Smithem spectet.
--Very good! Maria doesn't want to go to Kansas City to look at Will Smith. How absurd! Will Smith doesn't live in Kansas City. Maria wants to go to Hollywood to look at Will Smith.
Q7 (teacher): discipuli, cur Maria ad urbem Hollywood ire vult?
--Students, why does Maria want to go to Hollywood?
A7 (students, maybe a volunteer because it's not a one- or two-word answer): ut Will Smithem spectet!
--to look at Will Smith!
Teacher: bene!
--Well done!
Teacher (quickly in English): Wait a second, what did we just say? Why does Maria want to go to Hollywood?
Class (there should be that "duhhhhh, it's obvious" feeling): To look at Will Smith!

If you see how this process could be basically endless based on the needs of particular students, and how the teacher could use it to talk about anything with any level using any grammar under the sun, then you get the point.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Only Give Unannounced Assessments

There isn't much point to giving announced quizzes, exams, tests, whatever in foreign language classes. If you are after fluency, you'll agree we should only care about what the students have acquired, not what they've memorized. (The same might be true in other subjects, too, but I won't go there.)

If you announce that on Friday there will be a test, the students will go home and (if you're lucky) study and memorize. Then on the test they will regurgitate.

Announcing assessments makes the whole thing about assessments. "We need to prepare for the test next week, that looming, dark thing" or "This will be on the test, so you better pay attention!" Of course assessment are necessary, but don't give them so much attention. Use them as a tool to tell where you're students are at, not as an end in themselves.

My students know to expect a "quick quiz" at the end of most class periods, but beyond that I try not to advertise assessments. I've heard whispers that we "don't even take tests in that class!" Of course that's ridiculous. My students take a variety of assessments, I just don't tell them that's what they're doing. I might give them questions and say "answer these," or I say "write about this," or maybe "draw pictures of this," all casually so that students simply do the task without really thinking about it as a test.

Observation Guide for Foreign Language Classrooms

Based on the examples of Susan Gross (.pdf) and Bryce Hedstrom (.pdf), I have created a guide for observing foreign language classrooms.

Since so many observation guides are state- or district-mandated, they often lack relevancy for foreign language classrooms. Furthermore, I have made this guide to be applicable to the method of comprehensible input (CI) and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). It can be used to supplement any required observation documents.


Next year I will stick a folder to the bulletin board next to the door to my room with a stack of these inside. When an observer comes in they can take a guide and get to work.

Download the .pdf files here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Look at Jobs in the TPRS Classroom

Ben Slavic is a great resource for information about student jobs. This post is largely inspired by his work. If you are serious about using these (and many more) jobs in your classes, you'll all least want to buy his books and will probably also want to subscribe to his online group.

Giving various students jobs to do during class can really help to drive your instruction to another level. It creates a great feeling of teamwork, provides the teacher with great instructional materials, and gives the teacher the opportunity to differentiate. (Yes, I said "great" twice and used a bunch of cliches. I'm trying to brief, y'all!)

Check out at what some jobs ended up looking like during two days of a level 1 class earlier this year:


  
I consider these jobs the "essential five." Numbers 1, 2, and 3, the red ones, are jobs that should be utilized starting with personalized-question-and-answer and then should continue into the asking of the story. Numbers 4 and 5, the blue ones, are added during the asking of the story.

The jobs are:

1) Repetition counters. These students (one for each new structure, so three in the picture above) tally how many times we use the target structures during the class periods. Normally this means how many times the teacher says the word. If you look closely, you'll notice there are two sections for each structure. This is because the rep counters work on both PQA and story days, so there is a total for the PQA day and a different total for the story day.

2) Quiz writer. This student complies a list of questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no." The questions must be based on what we discuss (during PQA) or the story (during the asking of the story). At the end of class (or to review the next day) the teacher chooses a few of the questions for a quick quiz. You'll notice, again, that there is a line drawn through the middle of the paper separating the PQA-day questions from the story-day questions.

3) Clacker guy. This student is responsible for "clacking," or making noise with whatever noise maker you prefer, whenever we start slipping into too much English. This keeps us in L2 in a funny way. Of course often times I, the teacher, am clacked more than the students. This is a permanent job done every day.

4) Story Artist. This job starts during the asking of the story. The student is responsible for listening to the story and drawing pictures of what happens. You can see in the example above that our story included two girls and a cat. It's great having this piece of paper! Just imagine all the opportunities to review the story in later classes, even several months after the story was created. Of course the discussion about the pictures can be entirely in L2, because the students were made so familiar with the relevant structures during PQA and the story.

5) Story Writer. This job also starts during the asking of the story. The student listens to the story and creates a written version of story. From this student's version I was able to create the extended reading for our reading day. Going back and forth between the student's handwritten paper and the pictures from the Story Artist is another option, all the while discussing and circling everything in L2.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Do foreign language students need explicit grammar instruction?

Do foreign language students need explicit grammar instruction? Let's see:

The St. Joseph YMCA and Heartland Health celebrated National Walking Day on Wednesday. The awareness day sponsored by the American Heart Association encouraged people to walk to promote the benefits of exercise. Studies have shown walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and breast and colon cancers.
-Jennifer Gordon, "Local groups walk for health," St. Joseph News-Press, link

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
-Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
-Tennyson, Ulysses

While you were reading those selections, did the term "direct object" once cross your mind? Some food for thought, I guess.

Leave a comment below or discuss on Google+

Monday, March 25, 2013

Standards-based Grading: The Letter Grade

Be sure to read Part 1 of this three part series first. It covers the standards themselves and the tasks for each level of each standard.

In standards-based grading (SBG), there are no points, and since there are no points grades are not based on averages. Therefore a student doesn't earn an A for getting 90% or 94% or whatever% of the points available over the grading period. For the philosophy and arguments behind this position, see an earlier post of mine which points to many other resources: http://jameshosler.blogspot.com/2012/02/bit-by-sbg-bug.html

Instead, for each standard students earn some rank 1-4 (or 1-10, or 1-2, or whatever scale the teacher is using) based on their performance against the tasks of the standards. If a student completes the level 2 task of the reading standard, for example, that student advances to level 2 for reading. And so on. In this way students earn some rank 1-4 for each standard throughout the grading period. Of course a student can go down the ranks as well as up, depending on performance. If a student gets to level 3 of the reading standard toward to beginning of the year, but by the end can longer complete the task for level 2, the student would fall to level 1 overall until he or she is able to demonstrate the adequate proficiency.

So, there are no points or averages. There is only a collection of ranks 1-4 (or whatever scale is used). The teacher needs to turn that into a letter grade. I use a conjunctive system after the work of Dr. Robert Marzano and the examples of many others (especially Chris Ludwig).

Final letter grades are calculated according to the various combinations of ranks. For example, here is how I calculated the overall letter grades in Latin 1 for third quarter this year:


You earn the overall grade:
If you earn these ranks:
A
-a 4 in at least one standard
-nothing lower than a 3
B
-a 3 in at least three standards
-nothing lower than a 2
C
either
-nothing lower than a 2
or
-1 in any standard
D
-1 in any two standards
F
-1 in any three standards
“pluses” and “minuses" can also be given when appropriate, for combinations of ranks that are “in between” the descriptions above

For progress reports between grading periods (my school does them at 3 and 6 weeks) the letter grade scale can be easily changed to reflect what standards have been assessed and at what levels they have been assessed. For example, for the first 3 week progress report of Latin 1, obviously not every standard will have been assessed. Perhaps only interpersonal to level 2 and hearing to level 2 will have been assessed. So your scale will say something like "an A is a 2 in both, a B isn't possible, a C is a 2 in one standard and a 1 in the other, a D isn't possible, and an F is a 1 in both."

As the students progress through the years of language study, the requirements for each letter grade can become more rigorous:


Latin 1, Semesters 1 and 2
You earn the overall grade:
If you earn these ranks:
A
-a 4 in at least one standard
-nothing lower than a 3
B
-a 3 in at least three standards
-nothing lower than a 2
C
either
-nothing lower than a 2
or
-1 in any standard
D
-1 in any two standards
F
-1 in any three standards


Latin 2, Semester 1
You earn the overall grade:
If you earn these ranks:
A
-a 4 in at least one standard
-nothing lower than a 3
B
-a 3 in at least three standards
-nothing lower than a 2
C
either
-nothing lower than a 2
or
-1 in any standard
D
-1 in any two standards
F
-1 in any three standards


Latin 2, Semester 2
You earn the overall grade:
If you earn these ranks:
A
-a 4 in at least two standards
-nothing lower than a 3
B
-a 3 in at least three standards
-nothing lower than a 2
C
either
-nothing lower than a 2
or
-1 in any standard
D
-1 in any two standards
F
-1 in any three standards


Latin 3 and 4, Semesters 1 and 2
You earn the overall grade:
If you earn these ranks:
A
-a 4 in at least two standards
-nothing lower than a 3
B
-a 3 in at least four standards
-nothing lower than a 2
C
either
-nothing lower than a 2
or
-1 in any standard
D
-1 in any two standards
F
-1 in any three standards

Leave a comment below or discuss on Google+

My Foreign Language Standards, Friendly to Comprehensible Input

This is the first post of three on my approach to standards-based grading (SBG) in the "teaching with comprehensible input (TCI) foreign language classroom." Part 2 covers calculating an overall letter grade and Part 3 will cover how SBG helps scheduling and variety in the TCI classroom.

During the past year and a half I have revised the standards for my classes at least two dozen times. Often the revisions were only theoretical and didn't impact my students. I would, however, sneak in whatever revisions I could between quarters and semesters in order to test the waters. After all that I am finally ready to put my name behind a set of standards for all four years of high school foreign language. I am particularly hopeful that the standards and tasks within each standard will mesh with the lessons of Dr. Stephen Krashen and the methods of TCI and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). I hope that readers find here a good union between profound assessment (SBG) and profound foreign language pedagogy (TCI).

The GoogleDoc, which contains all the standards for every year, can be seen here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Xg5gvhLZkbEoYESsbYbhg7NwueO1yQCF5OwVPKaRh2Y/edit?usp=sharing 
Note: This is the definitive version and will probably be edited more after this post is published.

Observation 1: Keep it simple!
I have observed that, generally speaking, the more standards a teacher has the less room the content has to prosper. Therefore, the fewer standards the better. Keep it simple. With too many standards class quickly feels like a checklist. The point of standards-based grading is to take stress away from assessment so that pedagogy can be the focus. Standards-based grading should make grading easy to do and easy to understand; it should take grading off the table, in a way, by making it unarguably fair and transparent.

The foreign language teacher has a huge advantage here because language is by its very nature a progressively rigorous, demanding, challenging subject. A standard for "reading," for example, can literally be the same all year, and even across all four years, because the tasks for each level will become more advanced as the reading matter becomes more advanced. And of course the reading matter becomes more advanced in a very slow and natural way as the students learn more of the language and so are able to comprehend more advanced readings. The language provides plenty of depth of rigor; the standards themselves don't need to.

Observation 2: It's best to make the tasks for each level of each standard really different.
For the longest time, level 2 of "reading" for my classes was "able to answer Latin comprehension question" and level 3 was "able to answer English comprehension questions." This was a mistake and after a while just felt ridiculous. Questions are questions, and while both Latin and English questions are necessary, both types still display the same kind of knowledge on the student's part. Therefore they should both be on the same level, now level 3, which opened up level 2 for the awesome dynamics provided by textivate.com.

Observation 3: It's unfair to expect students in lower years to speak or analyze grammar.
This isn't so much an observation from my time with standards-based grading as a hard lesson learned. The idea itself, that lower year classes should ideally be comprised entirely of comprehensible input (CI), is nothing new. It is based on current research, especially the work of Dr. Stephen Krashen. Many teachers have adopted a CI approach with excellent results, and my own experiences have only made me more enthusiastic. Therefore you will notice that speaking and grammar do not appear as standards until the third year of language study--they might even be put off longer than that--and when they do the tasks for each level are basic when compared to the unrealistic and unfair expectations of some textbooks. I use the word "unfair" carefully: The research says that it is pointless (at best) and potentially harmful (at worst) to have students speak the target language without first receiving massive amounts of CI. Students learn nothing by producing the language, they merely show what they have acquired. It follows that they need to acquire a good amount before showing what they've got. Then there is grammar, the formal study of which is less and less popular by the day as teachers realize more and more how class time is better spent communicating in comprehensible and compelling ways in the target language. I could go on for a while about this--it is easily the most controversial opinion I've expressed on this blog--but we'll leave it for now.

Now for a quick look at the standards themselves
Remember you can use the link above to see the latest version on GoogleDocs.

There are five standards in the first two years: 1) Hearing, 2) Reading, 3) Writing, 4) Interpersonal, and 5) Vocabulary. Two more standards are added in years three and four: 6) Speaking and 7) Grammar.

Standard 1: Hearing, Standard 2: Reading, Standard 4: Interpersonal, and Standard 5: Vocabulary
These are the same for all four years of language study. Remember, it's the language that naturally gets more challenging as time goes on; the standards can stay the same.

1. Hearing Latin (audire), Latin 1, 2, 3, and 4
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to answer English and Latin comprehension questions about passages they hear.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to record Latin dictation.
2.0
Students will consistently perform well on “quick quizzes”
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.

2. Reading Latin (legere), Latin 1, 2, 3, and 4
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to translate into English unseen Latin passages containing familiar vocabulary and content.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to answer English and Latin comprehension questions about passages they have read.
2.0
Students will be able to unscramble Latin passages they have read in the style of textivate.com.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.




4. Interpersonal Communication (a.k.a. “Letting Language In”), Latin 1, 2, 3, and 4

4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students volunteer spontaneous output in Latin.
3.0
Students consistently show signs of negotiating meaning when others are speaking. Signs include: good eye contact, attentive posture, participating in choral responses, offering answers during stories, receptive body language, consistently good performance on “quick quizzes”, etc.
2.0
The student shows only inconsistent signs of negotiating meaning when others are speaking. Signs include: frequent cell phone use, side conversations in English, blurting out in English, poor eye contact, struggling with sleep, giving only occasional responses and answers, weak body language, inconsistent performance on “quick quizzes”, etc.
1.0
The student is not attentive to the language during class. Signs include: sleeping, being constantly distracted, not responding to requests to improve, never making eye contact, poor performance on “quick quizzes”, etc.


5. Vocabulary, Latin 1, 2, 3, and 4
4.0
Students will be able to attain level 4 of the Reading Standard (Standard 2) with minimal vocabulary assistance.
3.0
Students will be able to attain level 3 of the Reading Standard (Standard 2) with minimal vocabulary assistance.
2.0
Students will be able to attain level 2 of the Reading Standard (Standard 2) with minimal vocabulary assistance.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.

Standard 3: Writing is the trickiest because it changes every year:


3. Writing Latin (scribere), Latin 1
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to complete summarium fabulae (a summary of a story) grids about Latin stories they have read.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to complete simplified Latin storyboards of Latin passages they have read.
2.0
Students will be able to complete a 40 word Latin free-write in five minutes about Latin passages they have read.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.


3. Writing Latin (scribere), Latin 2
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to complete summarium fabulae (a summary of a story) grids about Latin stories they have read.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to complete simplified Latin storyboards of Latin passages they have read.
2.0
Students will be able to complete a 100 word Latin free-write in ten minutes about Latin passages they have read.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.


3. Writing Latin (scribere), Latin 3
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to write descriptions of images using familiar vocabulary.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to complete summarium fabulae (a summary of a story) grids about Latin stories they have read.
2.0
Students will be able to complete simplified Latin storyboards of Latin passages they have read.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.


3. Writing Latin (scribere), Latin 4
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to write stories about images using familiar vocabulary.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to complete summarium fabulae (a summary of a story) grids about Latin stories they have read.
2.0
Students will be able to complete simplified Latin storyboards of Latin passages they have read.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.

Standard 6: Speaking and Standard 7: Grammar
These are introduced in years 3 and 4. If you are more of a hippie than me, you can hold them off until even later.


6. Speaking Latin (dicere), Latin 3
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to tell aloud in Latin a summary of Latin passages they have read and/or heard.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to answer aloud Latin comprehension questions about passages they have read and/or heard.
2.0
Students will be able to pronounce Latin passages with appropriate inflection and expression.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.


6. Speaking Latin (dicere), Latin 4
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to tell aloud in Latin unrehearsed descriptions of images using familiar vocabulary.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to tell aloud in Latin a summary of Latin passages they have read and/or heard.
2.0
Students will be able to answer aloud Latin comprehension questions about passages they have read and/or heard.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.



7. Grammar (grammatica) Latin 3 and 4
4.0
In addition to 3.0 content, students will be able to identify and correct grammar mistakes.
3.0
In addition to 2.0 content, students will be able to select the correct form of words to complete Latin sentences based on grammar.
2.0
Students will be able to select the correct English translation of Latin words based on grammar.
1.0
Little or no ability has been demonstrated.


A Word on ACTFL
These standards align completely with the three modes of communication set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 
  • Interpretive: Standard 1, Hearing and Standard 2, Reading
  • Interpersonal: Standard 4, Interpersonal
  • Presentational: Standard 3, Writing, and Standard 6: Speaking
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