Observers and administrators require teachers to use frequent comprehension checks and questioning. Teachers who use “a high frequency of questions” are given a higher score on teacher evaluations; teachers who ask fewer questions are penalized (Tennessee, 3). In the SIOP Model, a teacher is praised for asking a question, then literally covering her mouth until a child answers (Echevarria, 103). The lesson will not move on until someone answers.
Continue reading Talking to Administrators About Questioning
Students acquire best when they do not feel tested (Krashen, 85). While summative tests may be needed occasionally, most assessments should be natural, authentic observations of how much students enjoy and comprehend input. It is sometimes difficult to communicate and document alternative assessments.
Here is a simple primer with 15 commonly asked questions and answers teachers may face about authentic assessment for second language learners.
Assessment: A Simple Approach
Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free Voluntary Reading. Libraries Unlimited.
Language teachers are constantly bombarded with the latest buzz words for outputting (ex. comprehensible output , accountable talk, and academic conversations). Educational leaders propose “Everything but what works” while ignoring what is research-proven: pleasure reading (Krashen, 2016).
In the article titled “Anything But Reading,” Krashen writes, “I am afraid to predict what people will come up with next… It remains mysterious to me why the obvious, most pleasant, least expensive, and probably the only effective way to improve reading ability- providing readers with interesting, comprehensible reading material- appears not only to be the last resort, but is often not even mentioned” (2009, 25).
Students must average 100 pages per week to provide enough comprehensible input to catch up to grade-level (Mason 2011, Mason & Krashen 2015, McQuillan 2016). Instead, text is truncated into 1-2 page reading passages with endless outputting activities and skill-building activities.
“Educational consultants” undermine the simple, straightforward act of picking up a good book. That’s too simple: there must be comprehension checks, drills, and activities. The latest how-to for outputting activities makes a better GIF and gets more re-tweets than a student quietly sitting reading a book.
Krashen, S. (May/June 2009). Anything But Reading. Knowledge Quest. (37)5, 19-25.
Mason, B. & Krashen, S. (2015). Can Second Language Acquirers Reach High Levels of Proficiency Through Self-Selected Reading? An Attempt to Confirm Nation’s (2014) Results. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 10 (2): 10-19.
Mason, B. (2011). Impressive gains on the TOEIC after one year of comprehensible input, with no output or grammar study. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 7(1).
Tuesday, I saw all of my rowdy 5th and 6th grade boys were dead to the world and could barely hold their heads up. One finally fessed up that their soccer coach made them run a lot the night before. “But we can still read,” he said smirking.
I took stock for a moment. I remembered months ago, how risky and vulnerable it felt sitting with each reluctant reader one-on-one and letting them tell me they don’t like reading. I didn’t judge but reassured them that this is normal, saying confidently, “When you are ready, you’ll get there.” Continue reading Reading Stamina
Acquiring a second language is a natural, innate process. There is only frustration when input is not comprehensible. Answering the question “What do I do when I don’t understand?” with explicitly-taught metacognitive strategies empowers students.
Sit along side students and think aloud as you preview the book. Point at the difficult words and ask: “Is this too hard? Is it boring?” Model putting the book down and picking a new one. Matter-of-factly pointing at the book deflects from the frustration of incomprehensible text. The book is the problem, not the child.
Often children are assigned books in their mainstream classes. Students can’t put just put down their math or science textbooks without teachers misinterpreting this as disrespectful or lazy. ESL teachers can explicitly teach children to state clearly 1. what they tried and 2. where they got stuck.
- “I tried looking at the picture and title (point) but I got stuck here (point).”
- “I read this part (point) two times but I don’t understand.”
- “May I talk with Maria? She doesn’t understand these directions (point).”
Beginners or shy students will not use these strategies. But all it takes is one student leader to open dialogue and make teachers aware of the needs of their ELLs and appreciate their efforts. Children learn they can be assertive in an appropriate way and feel in control of their education.
“The people running our public schools don’t want to damage a student’s self-esteem. They’re concerned about “empowerment.” They’re worried kids will feel bad if they get a problem wrong or flunk a spelling test. …Some educators think being “judgmental” is the worst of all sins. The problem is that life tends to judge-and harshly at that. There’s no room for error when you’re launching the space shuttle. Or mixing the concrete for the foundation of Trump Tower, for that matter. Try giving a number “in the neighborhood of” on your tax returns and you may end up in a place where there’s a very definite number stamped on the back of your shirt.”
Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p. 69 , Jul 2, 2000
Trump has repeatedly used bigotry and xenophobia to disparage English Language Learners and people with disabilities. Above, he goes after all struggling, less traditionally academic populations by promoting “no excuses” accountability rhetoric. Continue reading Trump on Education: Teach Judgment, Disempowerment, & How to Properly Get Around Taxes
I have a firm, unshakable belief that one reason why educators are easy targets for the current war on teachers in America is because 76% of us are female according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
This case study on a young female teacher hit home:
“…it was clear that she was against ‘teaching-to-the test’ and the emphasis on content knowledge, ‘drill and practice’ instruction or other traditional instructional practices, which were prevalent among most of her colleagues…(who) attacked her for being ‘different’ and for not teaching the way everyone else was” (Zembylas, 474).
Zembylas notes that “shame…(tends) to characterize women more than men” (475). Society has for millennia used shame to demand conformity from women. Teachers who dare to be different in standardized US schools are punished with demands for data and tests to”hold accountable” a female-dominated teaching profession. Continue reading The War on (Female) Teachers