Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Introduction

It’s not easy to teach a foreign language by staying in the TL.  Neither is managing off-task behavior.  When I considered following ACTFL’s recommendation, to stay in the TL at least 90% of the time, my biggest question was: “How do I effectively manage the classroom and keep students engaged?”

Without practical strategies for managing off-task behavior in an L2 setting, I felt like staying in the TL would never happen for me.  I needed to know…

  • …how to avoid students saying: “Sr. Howard, I don’t understand a word you’re saying!”
  • …how to avoid a disrespectful response after I reprimanded an off-task student in the target language. (i.e. ‘WHAT!?  WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SAYING!?’)
  • …how to motivate classes to stay engaged even though they didn’t understand every word I was saying.
  • …how to encourage on-task behavior without making the learner feel intimidated (as a result of the compliment being in a language they didn’t understand.)
  • …how to handle heritage speakers wanting to interupt instruction with direct translations of what I was saying.

After I attended ACTFL 2012, I took time to develop a new classroom management plan that would work for my students and me.  The plan worked!

Starting today, and over the next several weeks, I’ll share those practical ideas and strategies.  Remember: for students to acquire L2, while listening to only L2, the input needs to be comprehensible.  AND…For the input to be comprehensible the students need to be watching a contextualized source of instruction.  So classroom management is a HUGE deal.  Take it seriously.  Feel free to use any of these ideas (or adapt them) for use in your classroom.

What questions do you have about how to manage student behavior while staying in the target language?  Leave comments and questions below.

More posts on this topic:

Management Strategies – Increase Student Motivation

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 1)

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 2)

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 3)

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

After attending the 2012 ACTFL convention, I decided to increase the amount of L2 I used during instruction.  I initially expected the transition to be challenging.  However, the transition to 90+% target language use was easier than I thought.  I noticed…

  • …Immediate student ability to operate in immersion the setting.
  • …25 out of 26 classes reached 90% or more on first 40 minute session.
  • …In the first 4 months, my records showed 99.44% target language use.

In order to effectively stay in the target language I had made changes to my strategies for instruction, assessment and classroom management.  The changes worked!

Stay tuned to this blog every Tuesday.  I’ll share the ideas and strategies that I’ve implemented that have allowed me to stay in the target language over 90% of the time.  Generally I’ll start with ideas for managing student behavior in the TL.  Then I’ll follow with effective methods of instruction and assessment.  Feel free to submit questions in the comments section of the blog or on twitter.  I want my advice to be practical and reproduceable.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

For the first 8 years of my foreign language teaching career, I used more L1 than L2.  My classroom was entertaining, but students were not able to achieve long term retention of the language.

Things changed after I went to ACTFL’s national convention in 2012.  My new supervisor, Dr. JoAnne Negrín (from Borderless Learning), encouraged her teachers to attend.  It was a wonderful conference that inspired me to rethink my foreign language teaching strategies.  I decided to try reaching for the 90%+ target language use goal.  When I got home from the convention, I sat down to think how I could make this work in my classroom.

I made adjustments to…

  • …my classroom management techniques.
  • …my instructional materials.
  • …and slight adjustments to my assessment methods.

I initially expected…

  • …gradual success.
  • …a long period of adjustment for students.
  • …complaints from students.

The transition to 90+% target language use was a lot easier than I thought!  I was surprised by the successful results!

Are you considering a transition to using more of the target language in your classroom?  How do you imagine your students would respond?  Leave comments below:

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

90+% Target Language Use: How To Respond To Administrative Push-Back

Is your principal unsupportive of your exclusive use of the target language in the foreign language classroom?  Has your administrator told you to speak more English?  Do you feel like they don’t understand or support modern foreign language teaching strategies?

What should you do if ACTFL recommends 90+% TL use and your principal recommends 90% L1 use?

  1. Self-evaluate your instructional practices. (see list below)
  2. Receive feedback professionally/politely. (see example below)
  3. Repeat, in your own words, what you hear from your administrator. (see example below)
  4. Respectfully offer your administrator links to academic research. (see examples listed below)
  5. Continue doing an excellent job.

1-  Perform a quick, but honest, self-evaluation of the quality of your instructional practices.

Remember: teaching in the target language will not effectively help students acquire L2 unless you model widely accepted best practices for instruction.

Can administrators easily identify what they are looking for in your classroom practices?

  • Are the performance objectives posted daily where students can see them?  Are they aligned with state and national standards?
  • Are all of your students on task almost all of the time?  Are there clear and consistently enforced consequences that effectively redirect off-task behavior?
  • Are students collaborating with each other, and with the teacher, as active participants in the learning process?
  • Are classroom expectations, procedures and rules clear?
  • Do students respect you as an instructional leader who is firm yet caring?  Do you create a learning environment where diverse students thrive?
  • Are your assessments diverse?  Are the results of your assessments valid?  Are they targeted to effectively demonstrate student acquisition of performance objectives?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, first realize that IT’S OKAY.  Developing a solid foundation of instructional best practices takes years of effort.  If you find yourself overwhelmed by all that is required of you, work on one area of improvement per year.  Start with classroom management and work your way up.  Second, realize that your administrator may be unwilling to support your desire to stay in the TL.  If you aren’t excelling in what administrators look for, the first thing they may ‘push-back’ on is your use of the TL.  Remember: using the TL can be an effective instructional strategy.  However it cannot be effective…:

Using 90+% TL during instruction is only an effective strategy if it rests upon a solid foundation of instructional best practices.

 

Using 90+% TL shouldn’t be implemented as a standard practice by a foreign language teacher unless more basic instructional practices have been mastered.

But maybe all of this doesn’t apply to you.  If your administrator is unsupportive of your use of the TL, even though you demonstrate consistent mastery of instructional best practices, consider the following advice:

2-  Thank your administrator whenever you receive feedback.  They are trained professionals.  Even if you disagree with their feedback, it’s important to receive it in a respectful manner.  The more your body language is open and positive the more supportive they will be when you respond with dissenting, but respectful, comments.  Your statement may sound something like this: “Thanks for your willingness to help me improve my teaching practices.” or “I appreciate you taking the time to help me reflect on my teaching practices.  I’m grateful whenever someone is willing to take the time to help me improve my teaching.”

3-  Repeat back (in your own words) the advice or feedback your administrator gives.    It may sound something like this: “I hear you saying that I should improve in the following areas (list examples).  I hear you saying that I can make these improvements by implementing (list examples).”

4-  Refer them to up-to-date academic research available from resources like these: ACTFL’s TL Position Statement, ACTFL’s Foreign Language Educator Articles, Leading Research Citations.  Your statement may sound something like this: “I’ve been so excited about my teaching career recently.  I’ve been seeking to advance in my field in the following ways (collaborate with other teachers online #langchat, following good blogs, reading professional literature, attending professional development seminars and conferences).  In my studies I’ve come across some exciting approaches.  (begin talking/emailing about the sources listed above)”

5-  After all this, continue doing an excellent job.  In some cases, you may not receive the recognition you desire or deserve from your supervisor(s).  Encourage yourself to do an excellent job despite the ill-opinion of a supervisor.  Do an excellent job for yourself and for the students and families you serve.  You can also find support by connecting with like minded professionals.  Consider joining online professional development chats on twitter.  Attend ACTFL‘s national or regional conventions.  Your connection to your professional network will give you the encouragement that you may not receive from your direct supervisor.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Glossary of Foreign Language Teaching Terms

Here’s a list providing quick and simple definitions of key terms used by linguists and language educators.

  1. L1 – a person’s native language. (more info)
  2. L2 – a person’s second language or the language being learned. (more info)
  3. TL – Target Language.  The language being taught.
  4. Native Speaker – Describes a person who demonstrates the highest level of language proficiency.  A native speaker has spent their childhood and teenage years growing up in the country in which the target language is the official language.
  5. Heritage Speaker – Describes a person who demonstrates a high level of language proficiency.  A heritage speaker has not grown up to adulthood in a country in which the target language is the official language.  Their family unit speaks the target language as L1 even though they live in a foreign country.
  6. CI – Comprehensible Input – Simply defined: Understandable or intelligible information being received/processed by an individual.  A foreign language is generally incomprehensible to a language learner.  A foreign language teacher uses techniques to make L2 comprehensible to her/his students.
  7. Flipped Teaching or Flipped Classroom – An instructional model wherein students learn new material before they get to class.  Class time is used more for practicing language instead of learning language components for the first time. (more info)
  8. AIM (Accelerative Integrated Methodology) – A method of developing proficiency in the target language.  Teachers focus on gestures, key words, content based instruction and contextualized approach to grammar. (more info)
  9. #TL90plus – a hashtag used to facilitate discussion about staying in the target language as a strategy for teaching a foreign language.  TL stands for Target Language.  90plus refers to ACTFL’s recommendation “that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom.” Click here to join the #TL90plus conversation on twitter.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

learn Spanish with Señor Howard

A list of questions that makes this article easier to be found by search engines:  🙂  What is L1?  What does L2 mean?  What does TL stand for?  What’s the difference between a native speaker and a heritage speaker? What’s the definition of comprehensible input?  What is flipped classroom or what is flipped teaching?

 

Video Mini Lesson – Cinco De Mayo In The Target Language

Here’s a very raw, and very improvised, video of me teaching a mini-lesson (4 mins) in the target language.  Topic: Cinco De Mayo.  I asked one of my students to record me.  It wasn’t planned…and here’s what came out:

A brief and (overly-simplified) history of the Battle of Puebla on Cinco De Mayo (links to a youtube video)

Things to notice: (tips for staying in the target language)

  1. I write a lot on the board.  Sometimes cognates are very difficult to pick up on if you only hear them spoken out loud.  A foreign language teacher can incorrectly assume that students will understand a cognate because they can picture how it is written and spelled in their heads.  But the phonetic differences between the languages can make it difficult, for a student, to pick up on helpful cognates.  Write cognates down so learners can have a better chance of using cognates to formulate an understanding of what’s being said.
  2. I try to use as few words as possible.  You’ll notice I use a lot of sound effects to convey emotion and meaning.  If you know a word is hard to understand…try to skip it.  Try not to say it.  Convey meaning without words.  If you say too many words that are incomprehensible to the students, they will give up very quickly.
  3. I make obvious mistakes that students can correct.  This is effective for several reasons.  It’s funny (It’s good for students to laugh.  Laughing makes the L2 environment less stressful and intimidating)  It helps you repeat/review.  (meaningful repetition is essential for language acquisition)
  4. What other techniques do you observe that I use?  Leave comments below.
  5. What techniques do you use to keep students engaged while you are in the TL?  Leave comments below.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Effects of Using L1

For the first 8 years of my career I wanted to use more target language (TL) but found it difficult to do so.  I only used the TL 5%-25% of the time.

I noticed several negative effects of using too much of L1.

1- I noticed that there was little evidence of my students acquiring L2 over an extended period of time.   For example, during a Greetings Unit, most of the learners could use the target vocabulary during class activities and games.  However, if I a student the same target questions outside the classroom, they would not understand me and they would fail to produce an appropriate answer.  Furthermore, if I engaged a student with phrases from a previous unit, he or she would generally be unable to produce L2.

My students used target vocabulary in current unit activities, but had little ability to apply L2 outside of the classroom or in the future.

2- I noticed that there was a tendency towards low student self-motivation.  Spanish with Señor Howard would be boring, except that I bent over backwards to make it interesting and entertaining.  I remember telling family and friends that I felt like I was an actor in front of students.  I juggled, played the guitar, made videos, made powerpoints, used puppets…etc.  I felt like I was a good foreign language teacher for doing all of these things.  But I began to realize that I HAD to do these things or else students wouldn’t have a reason to pay attention or to care about what I was teaching.  When I used so much L1 my class was not a language learning class, it was a “List Memorizing Class”.  It was a “Play Silly Language Games Class”.  The language was not meaningful or contextualized.

My L1 approach to teaching a foreign language bred classrooms full of students with low self-motivation.

Are you a foreign language teacher recovering (or wanting to recover) from using too much L1?  What negative effects do you see in your classroom because of too much L1 use?  Leave comments below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought