Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Project Ideas

Is this Monday's post four days late? Or did I miss that one, in which case next week's is early? In any case, ...

I have a couple of interesting projects on the horizon and want to get your input on one of them before I dig in.

I did not do anything with either of my classes for Black History Month this year. I do, however, plan to cover local Black history in some form or other before this term is over. The reason I did not want to study Black history with my students in February is that I want to go on a walking field trip to the Tower of Freedom Underground Railroad Monument in downtown Windsor as part of the unit. Neither my students nor I wish, however, to navigate treacherous sidewalks to get there. We will go when the weather warms up a bit.

Did you know that Windsor has one half of this international monument? The other half is in Hart Plaza, Detroit. At a recent TESL Windsor PD event, Irene Moore Davis told us that the sculptor designed the monuments so that the companion sculpture's pointing hand lines up perfectly with our sculpture in Windsor! You can prove it with a laser beam.

The day of our PD event, Irene Moore Davis provided us with a handout that includes links and references to a lot of good material. My problem is that this material is a bit beyond the reading ability of my class. I would love to create something for LINC teachers in the Windsor area to use with their students. It looks like I am going to be able to do that. I plan to write and illustrate something biographical with tie-ins to the monument and to people such as Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I am bad about biting off more than I can finish in a month or two. But I would rather do something really nice and not have it ready this school year than to do a rush job.

My question to Windsor area teachers is this: what would a booklet and activity pack need to contain in order for you to use it with your class? Would you use a level three text if the accompanying activity pack included level-appropriate activities for higher CLBs? Or should I publish three versions of the same book: CLB 1/2, 3/4, and 5 plus? Please leave me ideas in the comments.

The other project on my plate--one I can begin this Sunday at Taloola Cafe--is to interview Paul Chislett and get his ideas regarding the steps a teacher can take if he / she suspects an employer is not compliant with the new legislation that requires equal compensation for equivalent work regardless of the employee's full- or part-time employment status. I will post that interview on this blog soon.

What are you up to this week?


  1. Thank you!

  2. Have you all noticed that only one person made a thank you comment on this post BUT some readers are so very desperate to continue a PBLA argument and to bash each other that they have gone back to a post from April 2, 2018? I find this very interesting.

    1. Anonymous2/24/2019 8:54 AM

      The push to control and manage the overreach of PBLA is continuing. There are instructors who are being abused by their employers because of unrealistic expectations of PBLA. Please tell us how you manage PBLA, what time frame and within what constructs. Also include a list of what resources you use. Obviously, you can see that we need help.

    2. This aggressive PBLA response proves the point I was trying to make.

      I enjoyed reading the Good Sunday Kelly comment below however and will look for Follow the Drinking Gourd. Thank you for the suggestion. I am not in Windsor but look forward to hearing more of your ideas that I can adapt to meet the needs of my students.

      Thanks for this forum.

    3. This is the type of comment that is not to be made anonymously, please: criticizing those who need to talk to each other about the insanity of PBLA implementation. Please either respect this as a safe space where we can do that to our heart's content or identify yourself. Thank you. KM

    4. Anonymous 8:54/Linda,
      Have you noticed that it was YOU that introduced the topic of PBLA to this thread with your complaint about a response to a thread about PBLA?
      - Norma

    5. I agree Kelly.
      You can only be anonymous if you are completely against PBLA.
      You can only criticize those who are not.
      This is a safe space for talking against PBLA only.
      We can be anonymous but you have to identify yourself so that we can then talk about and criticize you too.
      Joy of ESL no more. Down with PBLA.

  3. Good Sunday Kelly

    I only have about an hour a week of Joy of ESL time. I grew up in Windsor. Great Black History moments around the city. So many found peace when they found their way to Windsor.

    I read Follow the Drinking Gourd to my class and then we talk about railways, and escaping to safety. Refugees understand. And when we talk about it, they feel safe.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you! Yes, Windsor is a great location from which to learn about the journey of enslaved people. The story definitely resonates with many of our students. I'm eager to start the project with Irene Moore Davis. --KM

  4. dear anonymous 8:54 AM - no we're not desperate to continue a PBLA argument. We simply cannot give it up because it is critical to keep trying to do the right thing. At the end of a weekend of far too much of my unpaid time (not that I make that much to begin with) wasted on PBLA nonsense, there is simply no time or energy left to even think about projects other than PBLA garbage. It's garbage that has stolen precious hours of my life and, of equal significance, the language learning lives of my students who can no longer count on us to teach them how to read, write and speak English properly. The only thing I want to / need to bash is PBLA - right out of the ballpark and right out of existence. Maybe I'll go to bed tonight and wake up to an email from our management saying, "We have decided to cancel the failed project that is PBLA because we can no longer continue with good conscience to treat our teachers with such a lack of respect. We've listened - we know you on the front lines are the ones who truly know how to teach. Now let's get back to teaching!" That's my dream. Oh and then a bonfire in the school parking lot for the binders. We would all smile at each other and say "I knew this day would come if I fought long and hard enough!!!" We would love our jobs again. We would smile at the thought of going to work. sigh.

    1. Now THIS makes me smile. Off to work with dreams of that bonfire. It's not a coincidence that the class with which I can still do projects like this happens to be the class for which I have received permission to NOT implement a full version of PBLA. It's a class for folks over the age of 50. --KM

  5. Here’s one of the things we’re doing to minimize the damage: We limit/cap the number of assessments that can be done in a term as it’s not pedagogically sound to assess without the skill-building and skill-using required to achieve the tasks. We refuse to stress our students and and turn our classes into testing centres. It’s also unhealthy and abusive for teachers to work so many unpaid hours.

    This means that we are moving students up when we believe they they’re ready (based on some evidence, but NOT 32-40 artefacts). Students DO NOT need 32-40 artefacts to move up (or down!) levels. The CCLB has officially stated this many times.

    It also means that those students will keep the same benchmarks when they move up a level because they don’t have the 8-10 per skill area. If they want a Learner Progress Report & LINC Certificate (LINC 4 & up) and to possibly get new benchmarks, they will need to do a third term to get in the 8-10 artefacts per skill area.

    There is a difference between PLACEMENT/PROGRESSION to the next level (COMPLETELY at the discretion of each service provider/school) and ASSIGNMENT OF BENCHMARKS—which is controlled by the CCLB and requires the minimum 8 artefacts per skill area. Again, the CCLB regional coaches have stated this many, many times on the PBLA forum for Lead Teachers. But I see questions from Leads on the forum all the time about this very point. I don’t blame those teachers for being unclear on this. Communication has not been great.

    Are you doing the same or something similar at your program?

    - Norma

    1. Norma,
      Yes, that is exactly how we do it at my centre. Students can go to another classroom and sit with students of another level before they have those magic 32 artifacts. But the administrative assistant just cannot change their benchmarks in HARTs yet. The student continues to collect the remainder of the artifacts with the new teacher. That being said, we teachers ARE required to administer the 32 assessments per term. That is in our performance review expectations document, so we are being rated on whether we accomplished that. It's stressful, as you know. I still believe it is unethical to do this in a foundations literacy class where PTSD is the rule, not the exception. --KM


    2. 32 “artificial artefacts”. Not 24; not 12; not 8. But 32. And if 32 are not in the binder the benchmark cannot be changed? Is this really happening? Even though the learner can clearly demonstrate great progress (or was mis-assessed in the first place) with just 2 “artefacts” in reading and writing done st a decent interval. Where’s the research that supports this? And shows that the time spent on “artefactcollection” is beneficial to a learner (“This (My Portfolio) isn’t useful for me, Claudie. Maybe is for the
      teacher to see what I am doing.” Umm. No. The student folders with work samples, tests that I keep on EACH student in a boxfile next to my desk are more authentic - and always available to me - whichthe LCs are not.)
      High stakes? What does that mean?
      For the student that is desperate, truly desperate, to apply for citizenship moving from L3S3 to L4S4 is. HIGH STAKES - can’t visit their children in other countries without a passport....can’t sponsor their families..
      For the learner who is very “literal” about where they are in their language learning the “NUMBERS” become important. (“I’m L6 but only W2”) As if. Is What we do with all this “assessment” really an “English litmus test”? Of course not. But assigning these fixed “numbers” can certainly affect how a person FEELS about themselves (shame, embarrassment, hopelessness) and can affect their learning and their daily life. DON’T EVER EVER LABEL ME AND MY LANGUAGE LEARNING WITH A NUMBER. TELL ME I AM A LOW BEGINNER...HIGH INTERMEDIATE..etc..That makes sense to me. Those numbers? Especially with NO empirical demonstration of validity, accuracy...just make me anxious and confused. My language learning (six) has never been linear. Double ditto for the learners....

      An interesting video. Very well worth the watch. It is Anne Senior talking about the CLBs (“The are valid because they have been around for so long.” Not “Here’s the deep research. Here’s the empirical evidence”)

      The inherent contradiction between the apparent care taken by CCLB to see the tests they develop are valid, consistent, and the “anything goes” laissez faire attitude to the
      RealWorld Task Assessment” we inexpert assessment (test) creators produce, is shocking. Anne blithely says SHE doesn’t CREATE the tests (like CELBAN), she couldn’t. But here she is supporting, part of the team over atthe Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks that is managing (and writing) the Portfolio Based Language Assessment protocol/experiment that DOES have very high stakes outcomes for EVERY SINGLE LEARNER. How they feel about themselves is a HIGH STAKES ISSUE.

      If you do not have time to watch the whole video just check these interesting and revealing points:
      32 minutes

      But frankly imo the whole video is revealing of the addled thinking over at CCLB.
      And explains some of the egregious flaws in both the CLBs and PBLA
      “product”. Monumental fail. When is an independent reviewer going to prove me right/wrong?
      And why they don’t care about the impact of all this on the learners - yes, like those that have PTSD.
      Sent from my iPad

    3. Further to : shame, embarrassment, hopelessness - today at my place of work Claudie, I overheard a colleague talking. She was saying "FAIL means FAIL! It's BLACK AND WHITE! and I told [my student] YOU FAILED! He doesn't get it! He thinks I'm going to move him to the next level!? " When did we start talking to our students in this kind of language? Learning a language is not 'pass and fail'. Learning a language is a gradual process. Test after test after test is such a terrible way to 'teach' our students. In addition to the stress most of them have gone through in recent weeks, months, years, now they have the hideous I-feel-like-a-loser-stress of failing over and over again. I remember a day when we were told (not so very long ago) that we should always treat our students with compassion and in fact we were discouraged from using a red pen to mark assignments because it made our students feel like failure. Now we just say to them, "Nope you fail. You're not moving. You're never getting to the next level unless you can PASS." What the hell is going on with ESL?

    4. Anonymous 4.22. What’s going on with ESl? I think I know, and I think you know and there’s not a darn thing we can do about it...

      PBLA is the presenting problem but the rot goes deeper. However PBLA, as has been pointed out by Prof Norm Friesen infantalises the learners and is a remnant of a Colonial mindset. Which is all too easily adopted by those who are insecure, carry prejudices within them (not talking only of native born Canadians - I’ve heard monstrous things from so called teachers from other lands who bring their prejudices with them. ) And only feel they are OK if someone else is not OK.

      ESLERs used to be notorious softies. Think Fran Marshall. Think Professor David Mendelsohn who exhorted teachers to love the students.

      Yup. I could no more use a red pen than I could say “You failed”. Which reminds me to go back and take out the Pass Yes/No on the stupid “rubric” I purloined... I will just put the (stupid) “CLB”...students can work out what that means. Heck. I might just even write ON the “test” - “good job”, forgo the meaningless rubric and save a tree (gnashing of teeth, and shudders from the poohbahs on the Ottawa Forum.) TahDah,,

    5. There is a darn thing that we can do. Contact your union, MP and MPP and everyone you know. This can change. Women were given the vote, slavery was abolished, interment camps were closed. TALK about it everywhere.

  6. Norma
    What does this have to do with Two Project Ideas and /or Black History Month?

    1. Anonymous 4:49, I was responding to previous comments on issues of PBLA implementation. If you’re not interested in this topic, SKIP THE POSTS ABOUT IT. *DON’T TRY TO CENSOR US.*



  7. -
    Anonymous 5.40 - here’s a link to Follow the Drinking Gourd.

    I have done “book reports” with learners for BHM ( and other topics)

    Students take children’s books out of the library ( I have a mini library for those who don’t have ready access to a library. They read the book and then write a short book report - following a guide.
    No. I can’t see me “grading” this or using as a topic. For me some content topics (BHM, indigenous issues like the residential schools, Remembrance Day)are sacrosanct (too important to be interfered with) and the (often paradigm shifting) experience needs to be authentic and not tied in to any fabricated, manufactured, invalid “new assessment” protocol (not a methodology). These topics should not be demeaned and diminished by a “collecting artefacts” mindset.

    See. You can have both. Sharing resources and criticising or lauding issues in ESL/LINC.

    When Kelly declares that this blog no longer needs/is going to be a safe haven for those living the real stress of PBLA then you will have the luxury of it being pblafree. Meanwhile your agressive words/are hurtful and unkind. Although you are obviously in the position of being “I’m allright” - sadly - others aren’t. So I hope you can put on your teacher empathy hat, be patient, unselfish, and give them/us space. Allow Kelly to balance what she loves doing - sharing - with her belief that she is her brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. Thank you Kelly for both.

  8. Claudie, I just could not agree more with every single word. Create an assessment out of Remembrance Day?? (I’ve seen this done.) Where is the humanity?

  9. Remembrance Day assessments created in London. Posted for all to use. Evidence that there is no thought that goes into the process. The person who created the resource is "influencing" others. Really? This encourages others to test culture such as residential schools, maybe the Holocaust is next by extension. How about the École Polytechnique massacre also known as the Montreal massacre? Lots of articles about that and social justice pieces. Maybe we could test on that. Sick. PBLA is sick.This needs to stop. Now. Not next year.

    No one should assess culture.

    Asking for help sending a package at the Post Office is good. Testing culture is not. See, PBLA has removed sanity. Desperation has filled the void. What can I find to use? Thoughtless drivel / busy work. This really needs to end. Now.

    1. Speaking of twisting everything just to get an artifact in the binders, I know of one teacher whose listening tests are almost always cloze exercises based on listening to a song on YouTube. So much for real-world tasks. I also learned this week of yet another teacher sending out resumes so s/he can leave this field. S/he did not get an advanced degree in order to babysit binders, s/he said. --KM

    2. A disconnect between what newcomers/immigrants want/need/feel in terms of both Language AND Canadian “identity” was noted in this study by D. Fleming.

      It is interesting because the same “disconnect” exists today in the “Portfolio Based Learning Assessment” rollout. Learners just want to get language to help them integrate, and they want to get it as soon as possible. It is now taking LONGER to get some basic skills - (SNORT) the (I guess ) Real World Stuff (whatever THAT manufactured terminology means). AND THEY REALLY REALLY WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE NEW COUNTRY THEY HAVE COME TO, FEEL WELCOMED, APPRECIATED. They do not want to be disrespected by some LINC/ESL Instructor telling them they need the “Portfolio” so they can LEARN to be organised. (I have heard this!) AND THEY NEED SOME HELP AND GUIDANCE IN FINDING OUT WHAT PROGRAMS ARE AVAILABLE. It is ABSURD and demoralising for that same Instructor to ask them to give a full blown Five Year Plan of their Goals and what steps they are going to take achieve them - all of which must be put in the “My Portfolio” section.

      BTW - The Autobiography is no longer required in the new “PBLA Emerging - as in snake out of a hole - Guidelines. (Of course. Not only were they an unforgivable insensitive intrusion on the learners’ right to privacy - get this...the LEARNER already knew the information! (Some instructors “assessed” the bios. I think there’s a rubric on Tutela.)

      Sigh, sigh, sigh.

      Come on IRCC Integration people. You CAN stop the ship. Face reality.

      I’m working my way through the extravagant undubstantiated claims made in the “new EGs”. I’m shocked at the almost non-existant, thin, less than clear section about “assessment”. Surely this is THE most important section. What is “About 70%” is a pass? For the learner 67%...the teacher 75%? Come on! How do we look to the world?
      I have to steal responses from two other ESL experts...One “They’ve dug a dep hole” (agree) and the other “Cut and Paste Factory”.

    3. Just realized that I DO actually have to read this new document because how else will I be able to point out to my admin which parts are no longer required? Perhaps I will use my next PBLA day to accomplish that reading.

    4. Kelly

      The PBLA PRACTICE GUIDELINES are no longer emerging. They are emerged. There are changes. Good changes. Now we have to implement the changes. Take back our lives. Here is the whole mess:

      It is short. It is worth the read. The old documents are gone but you may have printed them and also have the first PBLA document.

      I am hopeful that improvements will be made. I have an appointment early next week with a supervisor who can make the changes. PBLA is not liked in the west, or the east or central Canada. No one likes it. The new guidelines may change that if enough people consult them.

      I see glimmers of hope. The potential for sanity to return. Only if everyone reads it, and pushes for the improvements. The EPG did a lot of damage. The new document is PBLA slim. PBLA light. Condensed cream of PBLA. Let's hit the deck on Monday. Talk to your supervisor. Let them know the good news as I am sure most supervisors hate PBLA.

      And PBLA lead instructors, you will have the chance to apologize for the harm you caused.

      Let's work together to fix this. It can be done. No more time need be wasted.

      Contact the CCLB:
      the federal gov:

      They want the PBLA fiasco to be over. They are tired of their names being dragged through the mud. This is the time to act. Don't be quiet. Write the emails. Let them know that you have the new document and that you need their support to effect change in your workplace.

      Enjoy the read. I am smiling again. There is hope that I may get my life back.

      PS lots of good news about how to handle assessment in an easier less cumbersome manner.

    5. Which every good teacher out there is already doing in the classroom.

    6. I’m happy for you because it sounds like you may come from one of the notorious Boards or SPOs that went truly rogue...and for you here in black and white are SOME parameters that can be shown to Union officials, Board Trustees, politicians, administrators.
      However they are still carefully worded so as to give options for a SPO to demand full compliance - or they could make little adjustments to appease unions (about unpaid time). I don’t want to spoil your optimistic mood.

      However I think we’re reading from diferent perspectives. You are glad for small mercies. I’m still a total cynic.

      What I saw was the same old (unproven) statements based on low quality research about the heoretical academic underpinnings - with a really not relevant and outdated video of Dylan W.
      Old PBLA Videos about creating receptive productive tests aligned to the CLB (Ikea style)
      Blaming the teachers for feeling they are on a treadmill. Poor management of “skill using” and task assessments. (Page 32)

      No mentionof what it really takes (knowledge, time, effort) to create an assessment that is professional looking, AND valid. Reliable. Consistent.(Not just “aligned)

      Not a word about the evidence that this enhances the learning experience for newcomers. Makes it faster. (Because there IS no evidence. None. After four years. Nothing. Signs that it takes longer. Signs it has degraded the amount of English learned by newcomers. If there had been evidence it would have headlined the Guidelines. It woukd have appreared in the first sentence. We woukd have been spared a lot of obscure, irrelevant references to other frameworks thar cannot be compared to our ESL/LINC classes.)

      8-10 artefacts. Still there.
      Leads (??? trainers are morphing into LINC Team Leaders and Lead Teachers..) They will OBSERVE teachers. (Not this baby. That’s my tipping point.) (I like the TDSB solution. Teachers can invite Leads if they want to be observed).

      Modules are the way to go. (Don’t make sense for my levels with continuous intake and exit. I’d prefer a progressive Long Range Plan. As I used to produce.)

      But I would be happy if someone could tell me what is really good about this?
      (Apart from the relief that compared to the draconian expectations and humiliating and intimidating behaviour of some Trainers this is comparatively pbla lite”.)

      Yes. It seems to say teachers will have the responsibility of promoting (with evidence?) That does make sense. And would be a welcome change. Might put some ”Binder checkers” and Management out of work.

      But the “portfolio” is still a “graded portfolio”. Still the arbiter.
      For me portfolios have always been a useful tool. Just not the only tool.

      I do confess though to feeling a trifle hopeful that we can move to a less controlling, less humiliating for learners and teachers, more intelligent, effective and practical time in ESL. Wait and see...a

  10. Nothing REAL WORLD about the tasks provided in London either.


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