Marathons, Toilet Paper and Language Learning

imgres“As with marathon runs and lengths of toilet paper, there had to be standards to measure up to.” Haruki Murakami.

My question is… over time, how well have language learners measured up to linguistic standards after having taken 9 or more years of language classes? Since getting into the field of education I have grappled with this. I was disappointed that students consistently graduated without having the skills to know how to keep their foreign language alive during summers or after graduation!
It all comes down to standards! I’ve been shifting language learning in a meaningful way since I first participated in Cohort21 in 2012-13. I looked at Personalized Learning and how to let students drive. I found some success and continued to refine. After an amazing chat with @lmcbeth I jumped on the Immediate Feedback train through Forms and DocAppender which was an excellent level-up from what I had been doing to improve student learning.

My most recent iteration was inspired by C21 Alum @ehitchcock who’s actionscreen-shot-2016-11-18-at-2-11-42-pmplan was based around Standards Based Assessment – this is well worth the 9mins! And that’s where I am at.
My plan is to give students the learning goals, and allow them to find content of interest in order to achieve said learning goals. We already co-construct success criteria and we share ideas. I’ve been very clear that I am their language coach and not teacher this year and we’ve done a lot of work around growth mindset in their pre-assessment of skills.

Here is what I’ve done. I’ve taken all the Can Do Statement from the CEFR and DELF – thanks to @jenbibby for her help in pushing me here! I used DoctoForm – an add on in Google Docs that allows you to make Forms quickly and easily. I took a PDF of the Can Do Statements, then uploaded to Drive – which converted it to a Google Doc. Here is what I have for A2, B1, & B2 (Feel free to make a copy!). These are DocAppended to the student Google Doc and there is a spot at the end where they submit a link to their evidence. This will be the basis for check-ins and they will have a wide variety of opportunities to practice and decide what they need to know in order to be successful. Peer collaboration is ripe for those challenging the same learning goals, and grammar is learned through need and function not in isolation.

What I want most for students is for them to learn and refine the skills of learning a language with appropriate coaching. The ultimate goal is language for life, doesn’t even matter which one!

Next steps involve doing the same with curriculum (I will use this form as our POC and feedback for students), and helping students connect with a more global array of French speakers. This is a small part of my idea to present to the Google Innovator program but I think it’s moving in the right direction to empowering students to unlock the mysteries of language.

I’m really keen to see how this turns out. What challenges do you see in this?How can I make this even better? What questions do you have? I’m looking forward to hearing from you!



4 Replies to “Marathons, Toilet Paper and Language Learning”

  1. You have a great authentic learning experience for your students here – giving them the end goal and allowing them to choose their own adventure in reaching it is powerful. Your end goal for them is even better: language for life!

  2. Oh, @ddoucet – how I love this! I have been thinking more and more about standards-based grading since I first read @ehitchcock‘s post that you linked to here. Trying to figure out how to implement that in my class is the hard part!
    I absolutely love your form that puts the responsibility in the students’ hands to demonstrate their learning of this. As I am about to begin the individualized, personalized, and project-based section of my Comm Tech course come January, I think I am definitely going to have to steal this idea. Getting students to submit a link (or now, with the option to upload an attachment!) a document or image that proves their mastery of the concept is such a great way to give them the choice and agency in how to show what they’ve learned.

    Thank you for this! It was just the kick in the pants I need to get ready for January. Can’t wait to chat more about it.


    PS – did you know that you can “force a copy” of your Forms just like you can with Docs? Letting people view your forms without also giving them edit access is possible! Change the word “edit” at the end of the URL to the word “copy” and it will automatically copy the form into the person’s Drive rather than allowing them to edit your original! Magique! 🙂

  3. Hi Derek,

    I read this post after my comment on another one. You’ve answered some of my questions here on feedback, grammar, etc. I can’t wait to pick your brain and learn from your experiences!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *