Benchmarks, Rubrics and Bill Van Patten (separately)

Yesterday our world language teachers had a presentation by a representative of Avant, which is providing our district with the Stamp test. Although the test isn’t available for Russian, I attended, and am glad I did. I’d be very interested in getting my students assessed on Stamp. The test seems to be grounded in current research, and the presenter emphasized that we are not assessing grammar and spelling, whether in speaking, reading or writing. Speaking and writing are assessed with two pieces in mind: text type and accuracy. If the spelling or grammar interferes with the reader or listener’s ability to understand, then it affects the score. Otherwise, the focus is on text type.

This link to topics and benchmarks/rubrics, is a nice addition to what we already have through ACTFL.

This morning, I listened to Thursday’s archived recording of “Tea with BVP,” a new CELTA podcast by Bill Van Patten. It’s going to be a weekly event that will fall during my period 4 class. I had to download Sound Cloud onto my phone first to get the recording. This first discussion was a provocative one, claiming that most textbooks and language classes have little to none of the advertised “communicative approach.” It would be helpful to watch Van Patten’s videos (on the right sidebar) first to be able to understand some of the background, unless you were at AFLA 2015, in which case you heard the updated version.

The first listener question was how to teach grammar while using a communicative approach. BVP didn’t answer, stating that he’s tired of that question. Another question was how teachers can determine whether they’re using a communicative approach. BVP reviewed his definition of communication, which has to do with context and purpose. Next week, the topic is about comprehensible input. I will be listening, even if a few hours late again. I almost cannot believe that this podcast is available. For free.

Spoiler alert: BVP talks about Alaskans who tweet (that would be Martina and me, but at least she was on her computer) and then gives our Alaskan community a very nice compliment.

I voted for Spy Girls, and then tweeted my choice, breaking my rule that I tweet only at conferences.


2 responses to “Benchmarks, Rubrics and Bill Van Patten (separately)

  1. When he refused to answer the first question, did he say where to find the answer? I had gotten an email inviting me to this podcast but I am not sure about it if we are not going to get answers.


    • I think that was an unusual situation. He was very jet-lagged, having flown that day from London. He also might have been a bit frustrated, since his recorded lectures explain the answer. I highly recommend listening, but I can try to start an explanation. Basically, he posits that there is a “deep grammar” that our brains figure out soon after we have enough comprehensible input in any language, having to do with order and syntax. After that, grammar is simply too complex to be taught. He gives examples in English of grammar that we all know but can’t explain the rules, and incorrect grammar for which we do have rules, without knowing it (using “ain’t,” is one case: American English speakers know “I ain’t got time” is incorrect, and we would fix it to be “I ain’t got no time,” which is a double negative).

      Please don’t let my random remark throw you off. BVP was funny, insightful, and clear. I think it’s going to be very worth listening to him. He’s one of the few linguists who does both the theory and the practical (I guess that’s the definition of an applied linguist!) and then goes out and shares it with those of us in the trenches. Knowing that there are going to be many sessions is great, because otherwise I feel we wouldn’t get enough chances to ask our questions. I do, however, plan to get his book! I suspect that would answer many of my questions in advance.


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