Our administrators don’t always understand. Most don’t understand foundational principles of Second Language Acquisition, much less the significant implications it has for classroom practice. But they do understand that some professional development experiences are better than others. Part of our job as TCI teachers is helping them understand what our classes should look like (teacher talk in a TCI classroom is NOT “teacher-centered”) and another important part is helping them support you in finding and attending quality professional development.
One of the 300+ practitioners who attended iFLT15 in MN this summer recently wrote me. Their school district had covered costs to attend iFLT and they had written a letter to their administrators to let them know the money was well spent. I was completely impressed by the level of forethought that had gone into attending iFLT. This person clearly lays out their goals for attending and details experiences and growth that show anyone who reads it that the experience was powerful, unique and fruitful. Simultaneously, the person does a fine job of helping their administrators understand some of the precepts of TCI: teach kids about language acquisition, require evidence of comprehension, emphasize proficiency over declarative knowledge about the language just to cite a few.
It never hurts to say thank you. And it never hurts to proactively educate your administrators. I strongly encourage anyone who attended any of the TCI / TPRS® or any other comprehension-based, proficiency-oriented conferences this summer and received school funds to do so to write a similar letter to administrators thanking them and laying out just how impactful the experience was.
Here I share with you, with permission from the author, this wonderful sample. Leave a comment below to let us and others know how you’re giving thanks and paying it forward.
I want to thank you for making it possible for me to attend the International Forum on Language Teaching conference. There were people from all around the world at the conference, and it was like an intensive, research-based methods course for language teachers.
The conference focused on how to foster long-term language acquisition by creating a learning community in which the target language is used over 90% of the time, yet students comprehend everything that is being said.One thing that stuck out to me was that students who learn through Comprehensible Input (as opposed to memorizing verb charts and vocabulary lists) have been reaching higher levels of proficiency than the national average.
According to the instructor of the Second Language Acquisition course at Bethel University, teaching with Comprehensible Input is the wave of the future. I am really excited to have had the opportunity to learn more about this. I viewed live demos, attended sessions on unit design and assessment, received individual coaching, saw a presentation by Dr. Stephen Krashen on recent research findings, and learned of a rich inventory of resources.
I went into the conference with four essential questions:
- How can I help students understand the long-term language acquisition process?
- What are some proficiency-based methods to help students see their progress?
- How can I structure units to be grounded in Comprehensible Input and Proficiency standards?
- What kinds of study materials are helpful to concrete-sequential students and also promote long-term language acquisition?
- Emphasize that listening develops speech, and reading develops writing. Write proficiency ratings on their work instead of letter grades. Give mini-lessons on language acquisition. Require everyone to show me that they understand every part of every listening activity, and include this in their grade. Speak slowly, point, and stay in-bounds.
- I saw many examples of meaningful performance assessments that flowed naturally from units, such as writing to a character or making a video to promote the funding of a KIVA project. I will keep referring to Martina Bex’s powerpoint.
- I was able to see patterns in how the practitioners structure their units; most had a three-part structure, and they all were “backwards-designed”. The bare bones of the structure were:
- Goal: Performance Assessment
- Top: A compelling cultural reading accompanied by discussion
- Middle: Develop background information and reinforce the lexical chunks via sheltered readings, Movie Talks, Embedded Readings, and other comprehensible input.
- Base: Identify and teach lexical chunks that are necessary to understand the “top-tier” reading. Story-Asking is a popular way to teach the lexical chunks.
- Practitioners explain the performance assessment to the students at the beginning of the unit, and give them a 3-tiered “lexical chunk” list. Grammar and vocabulary are embedded in the lexical chunks. The first tier lists all of the lexical chunks that all students must know. Students themselves fill-in the second and third tiers: the second is for lexical chunks that they find helpful, and the third is for “impressive” phrases.
This conference was one of the best professional learning experiences I have ever had. I found such awesome support and resources regarding my “essential questions” at this conference, and I am excited to start implementing what I have seen and learned. Thank you so much for making this opportunity possible and for supporting my growth.