Saturday, October 11, 2014

Parent Meetings Reflections: A Justification for CI/TPRS

These past two weeks, I have attended five parent meetings regarding students in my Laitn 1 classes  - a combination of SSTs, IEPs and referrals. Because we have passed the midpoint of the semester, suddenly, there is much parental concern regarding grades. Each of the meetings, however, seemed to have the same scenario: the student was failing or close to failing the majority of his/her claseses but yet was flourishing in my Latin 1 class with at least a 95. 

In each meeting, as we teachers, the parents, the counselor, the curriculum administrator and special ed case manager all discussed the student's overall academic performance, it became obvious that something was going on in my Latin 1 class which was making these students succeed. At some of the meetings, I could tell that the core subject area teachers were dismissing the student's high grade in my class with an "But it's just Latin 1 - you really do not do anything in that class" attitude (these teachers really need to come to my classes if they think that!). One parent even commented, "My daughter says that she never has to study for your class. I'm concerned. I see her making vocabulary flashcards for Language Arts all the time - shouldn't she be doing that for Latin too?"

At each of these meetings, when it came my turn to talk about the student's performance, my first instinct was to defend everything about my methodology and why I have adopted a CI-based classroom, but I also knew that this was the last thing which parents wanted to hear, nor was that my purpose for being there. I instead decided to let the student's performance do the talking for me. In a nutshell, here is what i said at each of the five meetings:
  • Even though it is Latin 1, it is still a "rigorous" course, but my job as the teacher is not to make it feel like it is for students
  • My job is to teach the language by delivering understandable messages to students in Latin. I choose to do this through comprehensible, compelling stories.
  • All I ask is that your child pay attention in class and to interact with the stories/readings in various ways
  • Acquiring a language happens subconsciously - here is proof that your child is acquiring Latin
    • Your child is not having to make flashcards, because he/she does not feel the need to; unbeknownst to your child, he/she is internalizing the target vocabulary subconsciously
    • All of my vocabulary/comprehension quizzes are unannounced, but yet your child has at least a 95% quiz average, i.e. even though I give no prior notice of a quiz, your child still feels prepared and never feels "put on the spot" when I announce one. The vocabulary quizzes are cumulative, so the amount of words increases on each quiz - in fact, we are up to 40 words now. If your child were not acquiring the language, the proof would be a much lower quiz average. 
    • Your child's processing skills in the language are improving due to constant and repeated (but not repetitive) interaction with the Latin. Your child's word count output on his/her biweekly 5-minute timed writes has increased each time
    • On tests, your child is able to read a comprehensible story at sight in Latin and then to answer a mix of multiple choice and of true/false questions about the story in the language, thereby demonstrating comprehension. If your child were not understanding what he/she was reading, his/her test average would be much lower. 

At one of the meetings, the special ed case manager said to me, "Will you be teaching Latin 1 again next year? Because I want to send more of my cases to you!"

Each of these meetings confirmed for me that CI is the way to go when teaching Latin. Definitely under a grammar-translation methodology and even under a reading method with extensive vocabulary, these particular students would be failing, but under CI, they are flourishing. Even though all of this evidence is just anecdotal, I need no other proof that CI works for all students.

At the end of one meeting, a parent said to me in front of everyone, "I may not understand everything that you are doing, but keep doing it, because _________ is succeeding in your class." With results like this, I definitely will.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I've had a few similar experiences in my first few years. I think there is an unfortunate assumption that if struggling students are succeeding it is because the class is "easy." I've seen several students succeed in my class when they were failing all their other courses: I think they succeeded because they were interested and invested. My added hypothesis: They succeeded because no one had ever told them (directly or indirectly) that they "couldn't do" Latin. I'm happy to offer mine as a course which any student can take and which, with commitment, any student can do well in.