Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One C Through the Other Four?

The National Standards for Foreign Language Education, along with the corresponding version for Latin and Greek (opens a .pdf), have always seemed a bit strange to me. They are built around the "Five Cs": Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. Listing these five areas together can mislead one to think that they are all equal in the foreign language classroom.

Today in professional development, however, it clicked for me how to picture the alignment between these 5 Cs and the more recent work from ACTFL on the three modes of communication. I like this graphic, which we discussed this morning and which I subsequently pulled from a page on the University of Minnesota's website, as a way to show how communication should have the primary role in learning a second language:

Technically it is a graphic representation of the foreign language assessment framework from the National Association of Educational Progress.

Note how communication is central, which corresponds with ACTFL's own "90% Use Statement."

You engage in communication by way of the three modes--interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational.

We can then take the inner circle--the "four skills" of listening, reading, speaking, and writing--as the source for the specific "I can" statements that make up our performance expectations.

The outer circle is where it gets a little trickier. Without an understanding of the three modes and the 90% Use Statement, one might be tempted to make the same mistake I have made so many times before, that is, assuming that activities about Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities can (and maybe even "should" or "may") happen without Communication, that is, that they can be developed and presented in L1. Doing so kills the goal of getting to 90% in the target language, and turns our foreign language classes into something more like social studies classes.

My conclusion: Communication in L2 is the primary goal, so we should use the four other Cs as the subject matter of the communication. (The outer circle in the above graphic can rotate. The presentational mode, for example, is not locked up only with Cultures; the presentation can be about any of the four "little Cs," but must of course include a lot of L2 Communication.)

As a side note, the three steps of TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) line up nicely with this view. 1) PQA (Personalized Question-and-Answer) and 2) story-asking opens up opportunities for Comparisons and Connections, while the final step of 3) reading lets the class experience Cultures by means of carefully chosen and culturally-rich readings.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Uses of in Foreign Language Classrooms

I was recently sold on by the members of Ben Slavic's wonderful community. I have used it a few times now and have started trying to figure out how the different functions line up with the various goals of language learning. Here's where I'm at so far:

Section A, the red section, lets you scramble a text for students to un-scramble. In my view this lines up with reading, because it forces the students to re-read the text and then make the changes necessary for comprehension. I have used the activities in this section several times now in a whole-class setting with only one computer and a projector. You can do a few paragraphs together as a class and then have the students complete one or two sections individually on their own paper.

Section B, the blue section, also lines up with reading, but is more interactive. The students will get the most out of the activities if they themselves are able to use the computer and click around. I can imagine this being a very good use of some time in a computer/language lab.

Section C, the green section, seems to line up most with writing. Each activity is essentially a "guided-writing" activity. (Like in Section A, the students can use their own paper.) The students get some help, but most of the spelling and grammar will be up to them to supply. This is especially true in languages like Latin, Spanish, German, etc. where the words change a bunch based on grammar. For example, if the last three letters of a Latin verb are missing, the student must make the choice as an author whether they should be -bat or -vit or whatever else based on the context. This all feels a lot like that power-house activity known as "dictation," but based on reading instead of listening.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

TPRS Script: Wants to Look At

Here is another simple TPRS script that I have been working with recently in all my classes. It lines up well with the "celebrity crush" part of Ben's questionnaire (opens a .pdf). The kids mostly loved the PQA and the resulting story.

The English version:

Wants to look at
  • likes/loves
  • wants to look at
  • therefore (note: circle "because")
_ loves _. _ wants to look at _, but _ doesn't see _ in the house. Therefore, _ hurries to _.
     In the street, _ sees _. _ doesn't like _. _ doesn't want to look at _, because _ is afraid of _. Therefore _ runs away terrified.
     In/at _, _ sees _! _ loves _. Therefore, _ looks at _. But _ doesn't like _. _ doesn't want to look at _. Therefore, _ runs away.

The Latin version:

spectare vult
  • amat
  • spectare vult
  • igitur (note: circle "quod")
_ _ amat. _ _ spectare vult, sed _ _ in villa non videt. igitur _ ad _ contendit.
     _ _ in via videt. _ _ non amat. _ _ spectare non vult, quod _ _ timet. igitur _ fugit perterritus/-a.
     _ _ in _ videt! _ _ amat. igitur _ _ spectat. sed _ _ non amat. _ _ spectare non vult. igitur _ fugit.

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