The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Learning: I is for Inequity

As I make my way from A to Z in this series, I have already and will continue to post about tech, tools, and techniques that teachers can use to provide comprehensible input (CI) remotely. Even though the location of our classrooms have changed, the main goal of our instruction – providing high quality, comprehensible input – has not. I’ve already taken advantage of lots of free or inexpensive online professional development (like some of the courses from this site and this site) designed to help world language teachers make the transition to online learning.

While all this professional development can help make me become a more effective remote teacher, what it can’t do is address issues of inequity that are making distance learning a challenging experience for some students. This is often based on lack of reliable access to technology (If you have been keeping up with education news, you may be familiar with articles like this one about disparities in remote learning).

I address lack of technology access currently by providing students with activities that they can do at home on paper (as I’m sure other teachers do also). One of our lovely office assistants mails an envelope home to any students in need of a hard copy whenever I need her to, often including envelopes addressed to me at my home so students can mail me completed work. The envelope usually contains stories that students read with follow-up activities like listening comprehension questions in English or a blank comic book template to draw, and I encourage them to find a way to listen to French or Spanish if possible by listening to music or changing audio language selections on a DVD or Netflix show, if possible. It is frustrating that I can’t give them more choices.

I’ve also tried to address educational inequity by differentiating work as needed (you can read more about that in this post). Also, I am not grading traditionally. I realize that other teachers have no choice but to grade traditionally, but I am thankful to have administrators who read an article like this one and who wholeheartedly agree with this statement:

Spearheaded by our awesome team leader, my entire world language department is assessing student performance using a standards-based model loosely based on Novice level proficiency targets set by ACTFL. For my seventh grade, I want to see evidence that they can operate in the Interpretive Mode at the Novice Mid proficiency level, and I want to see evidence that my Grade 8 students can operate in the Interpretive Mode at the Novice High proficiency level. So when work comes in I ask myself two questions:

  1. Novice Mid: How often is the student effective at identifying some basic facts from memorized words and phrases when they are supported by gestures or visuals in informational or fictional texts? Rarely, sometimes, or always?
  2. Novice High: How often is the student effective at identifying the main idea and key information in short straightforward informational or fictional texts? Rarely, sometimes, or always?

In addition, we are required to comment about the level of student engagement during distance learning and have the option of leaving a personalized comment.

Lastly, I will be able to address some of the inequities of remote learning by having input about how my classes will be grouped next year. I will have two Grade 8 sections next year, and I was able to work with the woman in charge of scheduling to make sure that my current Grade 7 students who consistently engaged well with the material during distance learning are in one section and those that struggled or didn’t engage with the material at all are in the other class. That way I will be able to meet both groups where they are at without leaving anyone behind by moving too fast or too slowly. I also plan to share my reports about the success and engagement of my Grade 8 students with the high school teacher, who I hope will be able to use the information to guide her practice also.

What’s so frustrating is that the practices I’ve mentioned above are the only things I can do to address the education inequity my students have. It doesn’t feel like it’s barely enough, but I can’t really do anything else except try to make sure they know that I don’t judge them only by whether or not they are able to turn int their work. Our government really needs to address issues of educational inequity in this country so that we can help all students be successful.

P.S. Make sure you’re registered to vote, and make sure you vote for candidates who want to improve educational opportunities for ALL students!

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