They aren’t just sitting there

Every teacher has those early language learners who are not yet fluent in social language.  To the untrained eye, they’re just “sitting there” but we know they are processing input.

Nonverbal response to comprehensible input is at the heart of methods like TPRS and TPR.  Assessments are built into the natural back-and-forth in a TPRS classroom, though sometimes teachers find nonverbal responses are hard to document.  Teachers feel they have to stop the story and give a test, sometimes on targeted structures from the story. However, story retells (written or illustrated), Listen and Draw, or TPR are authentic assessments of receptive language, and they can all be documented with the right rubric (like some I share here).   If we move away from traditional “tests” and towards authentic performance assessments, children can respond to stories verbally or non-verbally to communicate in a creative, engaging way.

For example, if during a story, we involve students in something easy and silly and linguistically appropriate for beginners, like “touch your nose” and the kid touches their nose, we can also document it with a TPR rubric.  We were going to notice them do TPR anyway.  But when we notice intentionally (assess) with a spreadsheet with a fancy title and fancy-pants descriptors, we basically throw the kid who touched his nose an assessment parade. Rubrics capture responses to CI on paper, then celebrate and share children’s growth with children, parents, and administrators.

Receptive language assessments send the message that receiving comprehensible input is all that matters in our CI classrooms.   We don’t fret over output until children are naturally and spontaneously ready to produce language.  Using rubrics to notice nonverbal responses supports the basic premise of TPRS: they aren’t just sitting there, they are learning by receiving compelling, comprehensible messages.





Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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