Meeting of Anchorage TPRS-ers

We had a webinar with Scott today at Clark Middle School on Power Assessment.

I promised I’d share highlights, but don’t know how to do that two hours justice. Scott is so down-to-earth and clear about his reasoning that he is a pleasure to hear.

He tweaked all his rubrics so that they read either down (from beginner, through novice, intermediate, and proficient to advanced) or from left to right. It made sense. I also really like those titles. He said that if you’re labeled a beginner, it’s a whole lot less judgmental than having an F, and explains where you are in the process. I wish we could change those labels in our grade systems.

He has dropped the vocabulary and structures categories from his grading system, and explained how we can target structure and vocabulary in assessments of all other areas by changing our directions for tasks.

While I was listening to him, I realized how to tweak my listening quizzes so that they focus on the target vocabulary of the day. For instance, if a target vocabulary phrase is “is located,” then I shouldn’t be necessarily asking, “is the house located in Alaska?” but instead “where is the house located?” The first gives the clue, if kids have heard the story, while the second requires that students comprehended the new vocabulary.

As you can see, I need another hour to talk with my TPRS homies about these topics. Scott provides lots of solid advice and even more reason to shake up the status quo.

Next time, we need to make sure we know how to work the microphone so that we can all talk to Scott instead of chatting away in the text box. But this way, he didn’t have to hear all the basketballs bouncing in the gym and the announcements on the intercom. How lucky we are to know him, and how lucky I am to have a group of dedicated teachers here.


3 responses to “Meeting of Anchorage TPRS-ers

  1. Michele,
    I really need to improve my assessment skills! I appreciate you sharing what you are learning and what you are doing in assessment!

    Can you tell us a little more about why Scott dropped the vocab and structure categories? Based on what I understood from the workshops last summer I made vocab and structure categories in my “proficiency based” grading system this year. (Actually I made them a combined category due to the fact that our grade book was hard to adapt to the new system.) My kids are strongest in this category. I use sentences from our stories or readings to translate as an assessment for both vocab and structure. Grading it is hard! (I try to grade it with the focus structures and vocab having the most weight and the extras having less.) I feel that what we do in class really prepares them best for success in this area.

    I have struggled with how to assess their listening comprehension and since I have mostly first year students I feel a little guilty about assessing them too soon in speaking proficiency. I am trying this semester to give them more practice in speaking but struggle with what is the best use of the time I have with them?

    I really appreciate you giving examples in your post above about listening quizzes. It helps me understand clearly what I might be able to do.

    I would love to hear about examples of what everyone is doing for specific assessments. I have been very weak in doing small daily quizzes. I remembered to do a few but not enough. My assessment this year has been;

    Listening; Cloze activity based on our song of the moment
    Culture; Questions in L2 or English about the culture focus of the moment
    Vocab and structures; Translation from L2 to English (from class stories/readings )
    Reading comprehension; New story (with focus on targeted structures) in L2 with comprehension questions in English
    Writing; I give them a format and ask for original work (this is hard, especially if I give this assessment at the same time as the translation and reading. Some will copy phrases from the test. I usually try to put the writing on the back page and ask that they not flip to other parts of the quiz once there. It is more obvious if they are constantly flipping the paper back and forth.)

    Unfortunately I usually do these as one big quiz after we have finished our stories and reading on focus structures. (I hate assessment so I think I put it off! Also Michele I love the dream that the whole system might be different and we could give grades of beginning vs. F! Actually the only F’s I had last semester where kids who just didn’t show up much for class. Maybe D is more like beginning or emerging?)

    For me Speaking has been the category that has been the hardest to asses. But it is also one of the most heavily weighted categories (20%). I look to you all for inspiration. I feel O.K. about what I have done but know I could do a lot better.
    Thanks so much Michele for your constant inspiration, striving for more, sharing and energy!

    p.s. On an unrelated note I was observed last week by my vice principal. I gave her Susie’s administrator observation check list. We were on day two of a story and it was fantastic! I felt giddy with pride and emotion. The kids were engaged, speaking Spanish, laughing, playing, it was perfect! I can’t wait to see what she thought. It is her first observation of my class as I had a former vp last year. I hope she was as happy with the class as I was!


  2. Congratulations on the observation! I was observed two years ago with Susie’s list, and was just delighted by the results too. I think anyone who knows an administrator is coming into a TPRS class should use that form. It gives them a way to see what you’re doing. Scott mentioned another issue: his administrator wanted him to put up standards that he was addressing each day. He told the administrator there were just too many of them to list for the kids, unlike the global English class objective, like “Will write a multi-paragraph essay.” He counted and found 16 in one lesson. We asked what those were, and he mentioned things like comparing language systems, using language to communicate in writing and speech, comprehending commands and responding to questions…the list went on and on, and I probably haven’t even hit one of the ones he mentioned. Scott was just rolling them out at top speed. I think that when we point out to administrators that we are improving literacy skills in our classes, that is when they might recognize that we are offering something important.

    Scott talked about how a regular formative writing assessment would typically be a 10-minute write, so that you can find out what the kids have acquired, whereas the quarter or semester exam would be one where the kids have time to draw out their story and then write the story (with particular structures or vocabulary).

    That would be where you could find out how they’re using the vocabulary/structures. He said that in real life, we don’t cough up meanings of words; instead, we use them in context. Some of his kids could use words in context that they were unable to define on vocabulary lists. Moreover, he said that the foreign language standards list includes no standards that have to do with vocabulary or grammar!

    I’m trying to think through this idea of not using categories of vocab/structures. For sure I can’t change it this year. I do have a couple of kids who look blankly at those quizzes, but most do really well, and it’s easy to grade them. Scott talked about Bloom’s taxonomy and how we should put less of our grade into the lower levels of Bloom’s (knowledge). I have this feeling that knowing what a word means and being about to translate it gives a chance for a less intimidating test than having to write or speak. Then the writing/speaking (application, creativity — the new highest level on the updated Bloom’s) requires more from the kids and offers the higher-level kids the chance to expand. But then I realize that a lot of my kids spit out the right word in context, just as Scott mentioned.

    And by cutting to only five categories, I might feel that the kids have fewer ways to show their stuff in class. When I have seven areas, it means that I can pinpoint where they’re having trouble.

    I’m going to have to think about this.


  3. Scott just posted a sale for today, May 16, on his page. Here it is, in case you’re not on that site regularly…

    “ONE DAY ONLY SALE @ teachforjune Marketplace–As little as $5pp!!
    Hey, all!

    teachforjune Workshops is having a one-day only sale. All Webinars On Demand™ are on sale. You can get an hour’s worth of training for as little as $5pp!! Two or more hours on a single topic for as little as $10pp. And we have our Webversity™ courses and mega bundles priced like never before at $75pp or less!

    Take advantage now before the day is out and the specials are gone!!!

    teachforjune Marketplace

    And as always, certificates of completion and grad-level credit are available. Check out for more info.


    Scott “


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