Tag Archives: World Languages

Feedback please – a focus on progress – an update

One additional revision of Julia’s rubric has been made based on feedback from our friend and colleague, Angél W. Kytle (@akytle).  In her comment, she asks

“… A couple of questions– first, do you need the number? Why have the kids rank themselves, especially if they are reflecting and also describing evidence of their assessment of themselves? …” (read all of the comments)

The numbers are actually quite important to me. They are not for quantitative purposes. They are communicating levels to move through. Our target is level 3, always. The numbers indicate what level you are on and offer one way (or two) to level up. Of course, once you’ve reached the target, we want you to stretch and level up if possible. I use the following visual when presenting and teaching about leveled assessments.

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While I must be frustrating her, Julia continues to think, learn, and prototype assessments.

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I love how Julia continues to act on and ask for feedback. Angél’s question help us move another step in the right direction.  We value and appreciate any feedback, warm or cool, that you might also offer.

Feedback please – a focus on progress

Building trust and relationship is critically important in growing and completing feedback loops.  I’ve been co-teaching World Language with Julia Kuipers as often as my schedule allows.  If you’ve read the posts, you know she is an excellent teacher.

Earlier this week, I read You’ve Been Doing a Fantastic Job. Just One Thing … from The New York Times. (HT @boadams1) The following passage stuck with me.

 “Those who had just started learning the language wanted the positive feedback, while those who had been taking the French classes longer were more interested in hearing about what they did wrong and how to correct it.

Why is that? One reason is that as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose. When people are just beginning a venture, they may not have much confidence, and they need encouragement. But experts’ commitment ‘is more secure than novices and their focus is on their progress,’ the paper’s authors said.”

I loved receiving the following email from Julia.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 8.20.39 PMJulia writes “I turned the student’s ideas into a self assessment for the 6th Grade ELD langauge project.” Awesome! Building a rubric from student ideas.  Here’s her draft:

I was off campus at a conference.  Here is my quick reply.

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I wondered what might come next.  How would Julia react to my feedback? What changes, if any, would she make?

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I really appreciate that she planned time in her schedule to review the feedback and work on another iteration.

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What a transformation! I bet that we are not finished with this rubric, but I think the next step is to use it with students.  They will have valuable feedback, and we want to continue to refine our assessments with their input.

To show Julia’s engagement in the process (and complete the communication trail), here is the rest of our exchange.

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To reiterate:

“… as people gain expertise, feedback serves a different purpose.”

Julia and I invite you to offer your ideas, opinions, and expertise to help us improve so that we may better serve our learners.  Any and all feedback is welcome.


Tugend, Alina. “SHORTCUTS; How to Give Effective Feedback, Both Positive and Negative.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.

Continued Co-Teaching World Languages with @j_kuipers3 – #TrinityLearns

photoIt’s the Monday after Spring Break.  As I am finishing up carpool duty, my phone dings.  It is my calendar notifying me of a meeting.  The invitation was from Julia inviting me and our Director of Technology to discuss YouTube and iBooks. When I arrived, I was surprised to find students in Julia’s classroom.  When I asked about our meeting, Julia replied that yes, I was supposed to be there; we were team-teaching part 2 of the project in 6th Grade World Languages. Yikes!

Inspiring…don’t you think? I wondered if I could be any less prepared.  Julia pointed out, very nicely, how improbable it was for me to be prepared since I don’t speak any of these languages.  She reminded me that I didn’t need to be prepared to deliver content, and I’m always prepared to facilitate learning through the art of questioning.

During our debrief before Spring Break, we talked about helping our young learners have a stronger sense of purpose and contribution to our community.  We thought it might help to ask these project developers to interview the teachers for whom they are designing.

I happened to catch two different groups interviewing with Carrie Peralta, a teacher of kindergarteners.

I love how Carrie offers our 6th graders feedback.  She likes what they show her, and she asks them questions to help guide their progress.  Isn’t it great that our young learners are willing to revise their work based on her feedback?

I wonder how to leverage and expand this type of feedback.  When we do peer observations, are they strength-based? Do we celebrate what we see others doing well?

I continue to think about Julia’s comment to me about being prepared.  Now, I am NOT suggesting that we “wing it” in class.  I did not have to be prepared to direct language learning; Julia, the expert, was in the room. I did have to be present and prepared to add to the conversation.

I do wonder if we might risk visiting, collaborating, and contributing to learning by showing up, listening, and adding to thinking.  What if we roll up our sleeves and participate in a class out of our comfort zone? What if we engage in and model authentic learning with our peers and others?

I have graduated from college twice.  I know stuff.  How can I push through the fear that I feel when asked to learn new things? Why do I immediately think I cannot contribute to learning experiences outside of my field of expertise and comfort? Why do I focus on what I cannot do? Why do I focus on what I cannot do when I work hard to focus on what others can do?

What if I give myself the same opportunities I offer other learners? What if I suppress some of the negative self-talk that runs through my mind and focus on the bright spots? How might I grow and learn if I expand my experiences and learn along side the young learners in my school?


Co-Teaching World Languages with @j_kuipers3 – #TrinityLearns

Is it possible to serve as an active co-teacher in a course completely out of my field of expertise? Am I willing to put myself in learning experiences where I am a beginner or a novice rather than someone who is proficient or advanced? I’ve written about this before.  If interested, please read s=v*t + 0.5a*t^2 ~ Wanneer heeft u vorige bezoek? and Sightseeing in “foreign lands” (Integrated Studies PD) #ASI2012 if interested. I’ve tried visiting the “foreign lands” of science and humanities when attending conferences with other educators.  Have I been willing to risk a visit to a “foreign land” with students in my new school?

Last week, Julia Kuipers (@j_kuipers3) and I planned a World Language project for 6th graders.  I enjoy working with Julia because she is so creative and forward thinking. The children asked her for a project – Yay! – and she asked me to brainstorm and design with her.  After planning, Julia invited me to come to class to help with the lesson.  That should be fun, right?

So, here’s what we planned from my perspective:

    • Problem: Early Learning Division (ELD) teachers need a digital resource for their young learners to use when learning the target language, and 6th graders are asking for a project.
    • Initial idea: Develop iBook for young learners to open to see and hear how to say common phrases in the target language.
      • What if 6th graders could design a resource for the ELD students to learn “May I go to the bathroom?” in the target language?
      • What if this phrase could be represented in text, visually, and in video?
      • What if we introduced the problem to the 6th graders and followed their ideas?

Now, in the most narrow of definitions, my subject area of strength is math.  I teasingly say that I speak several languages: English, math, and southern.  As far as school content goes, I am more diverse than math, but I do not speak any language other than English.

Julia’s facilitation of the first 6th grade World Languages class was masterful.  She began the class by having the 6th graders develop behavioral norms for working together.


Her resources were posted on the link to languages wiki space.  It said

Problem solving with Mrs. Gough –
Use the google doc below.

On these Google docs, Julia had predetermined the groups of learners as shown in the screenshot below:

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For those who don’t know, we use Rosetta Stone to allow our young learners to choose a 2nd language to study.  In the first class of the day, there are many languages being learned: French, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Japanese, etc. Needless to say I am way out of my content league! I assumed I was there to help with the technology aspects of the project.  In my normal fashion when asked, I replied “have you Googled it?” as a first response.  The kids made progress and seemed energized by the project work.  They were creative about using our spaces to work together.  I love their sense of independence.

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Before class ended, Julia reconvened the learners and facilitated a discussion (a formative assessment) on how well they met the established norms.  Successes and struggles were also discussed with brainstorming toward possible solutions.


Then, a scary thing happened.  Julia asked me to lead the second class.  She said she felt she would learn if she saw me introduce the lesson.  <GULP! I don’t teach languages, and I haven’t taught 6th graders.> I agreed as long as she would help me establish norms.   So, I set about facilitating the class my way – through questioning.  I explained the problem, and asked these young learners what they thought we could do to address the problem for our teachers.  We talked about leadership of 6th graders to our younger learners.  Through the questions – I don’t know what they were because I did not record them – we arrived at the same tasks to attack as the previous period.

Here’s the interesting thing.  Julia and I set out to help them write an iBook.  Through their questions, we learned that these young learners could be interested in writing an iBook, but they could also be interested in designing a website, using QR codes, and other web 2.0 tools.  A website could be accessed at home, Ms. Gough, so students can practice. QR codes could be posted in the classroom and at the entrance of the bathroom.

Wow! Listening to our young learners…letting them take charge improves the work and product.

And then…I received feedback from Julia.  Real, in the moment, feedback with a request for application.  Feedback about something that I was unaware that I was doing.  The power of peer feedback never ceases to amaze me.  She liked the questioning technique to guide and elicit ideas.  She liked that I positively acknowledged every offered idea and help  learners refine ideas based through more questions.

Julia took the lead for the third class and facilitated the lesson using questions.  It was awesome! I loved seeing her practice a different way to launch a project.  How often am I willing to let go of my really good, nicely planned lesson method to try something new?

How often do we risk trying something new and out of our planned comfort? How often do we risk collaborating with others to observe and learn from each other? Is it so easy to do what I’m good at that I am unwilling to risk? Why would our learners take risks if I won’t?

Even though I don’t speak any World Language other than English, I’ve been invited back to c0-teach again.  Now that I’ve done it once, I’m excited to try again.