Test insight (?)

My kids were doing some new on-line pilot exams. A lot of them complained that some of their numbers are missing. I guess that maybe I really do need to have a “number of the week” or something like that, just to make sure that the basics end up getting in there. My entire second year class last year was able to count to a hundred, right after they told me they couldn’t, so I had decided this was not an issue. But they say that they can’t come up with numbers on demand.

Telling time is the other stress area. One kid told me she didn’t know how, and so I asked her what she’d said for a given situation, and she’d said it right. But it’s that missing confidence that worries me. They’re not sure they know it.

Would they know these things fluently in a traditional program? Probably. Possibly.


16 responses to “Test insight (?)

  1. No, they won’t. Don’t remember where I read this, but numbers are just about the hardest thing to cough up on demand in a FL. Rather late acquired as it were. Trying to remember why that is so. Traditional programs spend an inordinate amount of time on this with no better results in the long term. Kids can pass a short term test, but so what?


    • This whole scenario will change when a student really “needs to know” them for an authentic purpose–and, even then, will probably forget without constant repetition. My 2 cents-


  2. My students struggled SO MUCH with time prior to TPRS. They always confused how to say “at…time” vs. “it is…time”. Now, no problem. I just make sure to include times every now and again in the story, and they have caught on.


  3. Here is my personal “number example”. I am a native Russian speaker living in US since I was 22 years old. I learned English in school from the age of 8, and spoke it rather well when I came here. For the first 5-7 years in the States, I counted in English if it didn’t involve numbers beyond 20; after that I switched to Russian. Now, after 12 years of working and living in English-speaking environment, I can do it all in English. It took me a while, didn’t it?! Seems to prove the point of comprehensible repetitive input…


  4. I myself can only rattle numbers off when I’m looking at the actual digits. I stutter and start when I’m talking about numbers I can’t actually see. I think it’s my brain which isn’t as abstractly gifted as many other people’s. 😉


    • Wow, Natalia–that’s really interesting, and certainly does punch home the need for repetitive CI! Byron, you make me feel better about my personal number struggles. And Martina, you’re absolutely right–before TPRS they had these functions only in the context of a drill.


  5. No, Byron–you are normal. Natalia’s and Byron’s experiences are truly the norm (the exception to this will, of course, post soon). Try coughing up a phone number in the target language and notice the difference from your native language–just another example.


    • I have to consciously tell myself to count in Russian in class when I need a quick check of numbers or chairs; the only phone number I can rattle off in Russian is my own; and when I’m in Russia dealing with those prices in the thousands, the cashiers will sometimes lose patience with me for the extra seconds it takes me to spit out what the price is of whatever I’m paying for. I think I’m getting your point, Jody! Add to that the issue of how the numbers are spoken (for a phone number: “three hundred forty five, twenty-seven, sixty-two” instead of “three-four-five twenty-seven, sixty-two,” and the entire number for dates), and there are extra layers on top of the acquisition.


      • And I realized that though I think this on-line proficiency test is interesting, I don’t like it for the difference between it and a real-life proficiency test. A real-life OPI goes up only to the level above where the student is, and then returns that student gently to a comfortable spot. The test that we’re piloting goes all the way up to Intermediate High, which means that a person would be half the time on the Advanced Level (and is also supposedly the level of most American teachers of language). Many of my kids felt demoralized taking it. Luckily I’ve been trained in OPI, and could tell them that piece of information. It didn’t occur to me until I tested them that this could make them feel woefully unprepared. I’m not sure that we should use the canned prompts.


  6. My kids struggle with numbers in Spanish, too. I have a daily “What is the day and date” interactive bulletin board that really works the numbers 1-31 (although there is always at least one student every day who asks what the date is later on!). A “Question of the Week” includes time and age phrases. BINGO with numbers is always a nice break from stories. (Use a random number generator to get your call list, and give kids a range to fill out their cards. Almost zero prep.) Every day, they count how many points they earned on their class reward chart and add it to their total (going up to 200 points). And of course, numbers in stories. Even with all this, they are not super confident.


  7. I was cleaning up the stacks of stuff in my room for a visitor yesterday and found a bunch of number games I’d printed out from Scott’s page…left them on top of the pile to play with them, though I really like the no-prep bingo game idea!

    I was talking with a third-grade immersion teacher whose class does a drill at the beginning of class: the day/week/month/season of the year, tomorrow’s date, yesterday’s date, the weather, what time is it, what part of the day is it, how many days until X, how many days since Y, how many more days left in the month, in the week…

    …and she said the same thing: there are still kids who don’t know their numbers. I need to dig out my written-out numbers, at least for next year, so that when we do use a number, I can point to it and there will be more support.


  8. and, then, DON’T worry about it so much. I think we really have to look at use of time in the case of numbers.

    Diane, who taught my kids for two years after I had them, reported the same dilemma. Even though I had done daily calendar, bingo, put them in stories, etc. ad nauseum, they still didn’t know their numbers. So, she drilled ’em and killed ’em for a couple of years. In the end, of course, they knew them a little better, but STILL–it wasn’t close to perfect.

    Maybe the best thing to do is have a large reference chart on the wall and refer to it every time we say a number just like we do with other words—and forget about total mastery and memorization. Really thinking about this.


  9. Yeah, I am thinking the same way. The ones kids remember are the ones that matter to them–like any other word not in the top 100.

    Glad you’re here!!


  10. Numbers are deeply ingrained in one’s first language, like other closed class words such as conjunctions or prepositions. If you listen to bilingual speakers, you can often hear them insert these little words from their mother tongue: “I love cheesecake, pero it’s so fattening!” Many bilingual speakers also count in their first language even when in a totally L2 speaking context.

    In response to the question about whether students would have learned things more fluently in a traditional program, I really doubt it. What I suspect is that they would recall they had explicitly studied it in a traditional program (there was probably a page in the book with the heading “Telling Time”), but would not recall the language as well as when they acquire it through TPRS/CI practice.


    • This response is so helpful to me for when I’m talking with my kids about this test. It also makes me think that I’d like to try to work out some more reasonable prompts for kids for this assessment.


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