Dr. Bob Patrick really laid a great foundation for what fluency in the Latin classroom looks like. He posted his Daily Engagement Assessment, or DEA, that he uses to monitor his students daily level of engagement (ok, that was an obvious statement…).
One of the things we who are transitioning from traditional Latin practices to comprehensible input (CI) have to work out is what an assessment looks like – and what is its purpose.
First is purpose. Grades, grades, grades. This is not assessment but the end of an assessment. A grade represents a percentage of a certain level of skill or content knowledge. At least, in theory. Students also don’t quite understand this but refer to their grade, which is an abstraction, as something of value. The focus is on the number, the percentage, and not on what they actually understand.
The purpose of an assessment in a CI classroom is to gauge proficiency with the language. What can the students do with the language? Magister P also puts together an excellent system that I highly recommend implementing into your practice. Using the ACTFL’s proficiency metrics, these become the focal points for assessing student performance. Magister P puts together an interesting setup for his gradebook – including a 0% Portfolio category that will allow you to document student work without it adversely affecting student grades.
In my opinion, this is the singular most important shift teachers moving into CI must make – we don’t need to be bean counting but instead measuring the progress of our students. This also allows us to make an extremely personalized approach for each student, measuring where they are and where we want them to go. We should definitely include our students in that conversation and invite them to get in touch with their personal goals for the course and find ways to demonstrate their understanding and their growth along the way.
That brings us to what assessment looks like. In a CI class, we need to get lots and lots of reps. Students need to develop a disposition for second language acquisition and the Dr. Patrick’s DEA speaks directly to shaping that behavior. If you break it down, there are three fundamental behaviors students need to exhibit each and every day – look, listen, and ask questions. If students fulfill those three basic things, they will get a lot of exposure to the language and their proficiency will expand.
But wait, what is assessment? Well, I’d argue that 98% of what we do should be perform the language to our students over and over – storytelling, storyasking, circling, total physical response and gesturing our way to comprehensibility. We do, however, have to confirm our students are growing and the DEA is one way to chart that growth. If the students fulfill the objectives of the DEA, they are consuming the language at a highly efficient rate – so long as we are delivering it in the classroom.
The DEA would then be a part of the proficiency rating – again, using Magister P’s system and his rubric, based on the ACTFL’s recommendations. All other assessments can be used to verify if students comprehended the language – simple and quick 5 question true/false statements would do. Grade and slap the scores into the Portfolio category – students know the grade won’t “count” in the gradebook, but will factor into how you assess their proficiency rating.
Again, this is the key – disposition. Students will learn, through our assessments, that our goal – and theirs – should be to get better at using the language. They should want to understand what is going on and develop an ability to articulate their own thoughts in the language. We cannot get there if we are teaching grammar all the time and never actually using the language – but that is what CI promises and, I assume, you are already a convert to that notion.
The DEA shapes their daily behaviors; the mini assessments documented in the Portfolio record the progress. Students can then review their work and reflect on how it is connecting to their personal goal for the year. Students stop talking about grades, points, and instead focus on what they can do. The conversations are more substantive.
Yet, don’t get too sidetracked. We want to continue to give our students as many reps with the language as possible. Although they need to reflect on their learning, we may also want to get them to do that in the target language (TL). A new challenge presents itself.
One last thing – documentation should be easy and fluid because if not, it won’t get done and no one benefits. Currently, I am playing around with ClassDojo’s app on my phone and laptop. I use their reward system to vote down my students’ distracted behaviors and vote back up when they do something right. I count this towards their DEA and they get instant, realtime feedback. They hear the sound go off when something they do disrupts the class or works against developing their disposition for second language acquisition (SLA). I keep the total running and update that score each week in the gradebook with a category (Participation) that has only one entry. I’ll post more specifics in a future post when I get more feedback about how to best implement this.
So, the DEA will instill a disposition for SLA in your students provided you let “her” do her work in your class every day.