iFLT 2016: Immediate Instructional Changes, and Other Thoughts

I just went to my first iFLT conference. I got to chat (live) with Bill VanPatten and Stephen Krashen, saw master teachers teaching with CI, and went to some awesome presentations. I don’t take detailed notes during presentations, but as you can see there’s plenty to take away from a few ideas I emailed to myself over the week. This post includes what I intend to think about and/or change for 2016-17, and would recommend others considering as well. Some of the ideas were ones I’ve seen before but just haven’t gotten around to implementing them, while others were completely new. They’re organized by who inspired me:

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Updated DEA

**Updated Expectations Rubric**

“But it only counts for 10% of the grade” whispered a student as I pointed to our posted DEA rule agreements. I couldn’t believe it. This student really didn’t think it was important enough to Look, Listen, and Ask about Spanish just because I assigned a low grade weight! Over the course of a few weeks, I overheard the same rationale from different students who consistently messed with the CI flow of class. I had no idea 7th graders would be that snarky about grading!

So, I had to adapt my system. My Proficiency rubrics remain solid, but DEA is now 50% of my 7th graders’ Exploratory Language grade (up from 10%), and reduced to two rules; Pay Attention, and Be Prepared. The latter is only used for homework (rarely assigned) or other obligatory school stuff I don’t want in its own category. Otherwise, Pay Attention is our main focus during class. I’ve posted three suggestions on how to acquire a language on a daily basis:

Look
Listen
Ask

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Student Responses to 2015-16 Day 1 Survey Question: What Makes You Nervous? What Challenges Do You Foresee?

It’s a good habit to really listen to your students. In fact, if all language teachers did so, there would be more Teaching with CI.

At the start of the year, I hand out Expectations, and assign a few questions to be answered with an adult at home. Let’s face it, CI classes aren’t like other classes, and it’s good practice to make sure everyone understands how that academic environment is different, and what makes a CI class flow. The following response samples are somewhat depressing, but reflect the current state of taking a second language in high school. I offer them as anecdotal evidence that forced language production/output is damaging, as well as assurance that this “CI thing” will reach more students, especially if we embrace the research.

So, what makes kids nervous, and what challenges do they foresee? Some responses:

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CI Flow: Participation & DEA

Scott Benedict just blogged about his current Pagame system, which is essential for a CI class to flow. If class doesn’t flow, we begin to consciously learn. If we do too much conscious learning, we don’t acquire as much. In place of a participation system, I use an adapted version of Bob Patrick’s DEA. I agree with Scott and the grading experts (e.g. Marzano, O’Connor, etc.) that traditional participation scores should be reported, but never included in an academic grade, especially when using proficiency-based grading systems. There is, however, one distinction that I, Bob Patrick, and other teachers using DEA make, that justifies including it in the grade.

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