Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Ensure That You Are Pairing (Part 3)

If you’re concerned about how to manage student behavior in the 90+% TL classroom, there’s one thing that you MUST get right: PAIRING incomprehensible L2 input with compelling and comprehensible extralinguistic input.

Here are the key tips for PAIRING that we’ve discussed so far:

  1. Use Fewer Words – Don’t use unnecessary L2 words.
  2. Keep Students Attention and Increase Student Motivation– Students have to be watching the source of instruction (output).
  3. Only Short ‘Deciphering Periods’ – The topic of today’s post.

It’s important to realize that most students can’t sustain on-task behavior, in an immersion setting, for extended amounts of time.  Being in an L2 environment can be stressful, confusing and discouraging.  Only highly motivated language learners can sustain an effort to interpert their foreign surroundings for extended amounts of time.  So it’s important to…

…have ‘deciphering periods’ that last only 3-5 minutes.

What do I mean by ‘deciphering periods’?  It’s the time a student is bravely trying to figure out what is happening when they’re being exposed to new content.  During deciphering periods…:

  • …a teacher is introducing new content.
  • …students are unfamiliar with content.
  • …the meaning of content is uncertain. (since it’s being introduced in L2 immersion setting)
  • …students may tend to feel more stress. (because of the uncertainty and unfamiliarity)
  • …the probability of students giving up, and disengaging from the source of instruction, increases.

Because students are vulnerable during deciphering periods, it’s important to keep those times short.  After a student has invested energy into figuring out (or decifering) target vocabulary, follow up with a low-stress activity.  Low-stress activities can include:

  • Watching engaging video clips in the TL. (Spanish examples) (French examples)  (It’s helpful to choose video clips that reteach, or model, the content you’ve just finished introducing.)
  • Participating in review activities or tasks, which have been explained and mastered in the past.
  • Doing some kind of individual seat work.  Ensure that the task is simple and that student success is anticipated.

If you pattern the flow of your class time with plenty of SHORT ‘deciphering periods’ broken up by low-stress (non-threatening) activities, students will stay more engaged in an L2 immersion environment.

 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).

Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Ensure That You Are Pairing (Part 2)

(This post contains Sr. Howard on video.  Click here or see below.)

If a FL teacher wants to effectively manage a 90+% TL classroom, she needs to make sure she is pairing the incomprehensible L2 with compelling and comprehensible extralinguistic input. If a FL teacher wants to use PAIRING effectively IT’S IMPERATIVE that his students are continuously and actively watching the point of instruction.

To illustrate, consider the following three examples:

  1. A teacher is introducing weather vocabulary.  The student can repeat the target vocabulary all she wants.  But if she never looks at it’s corresponding picture, she won’t connect the syllables she’s uttering with the meaning they represent.
  2. Imagine that a teacher puts a cupcake in his mouth and uses the moment to model L2 phrases like ‘That’s delicious!’ or ‘Yummy!’ in the TL.  An off-task student may hear the L2 phrases, but if he’s not watching the point of instruction he will not see the context clues that allow the target language to be comprehensible.
  3. A teacher wants to teach basic phonics (in the TL) and is modeling how to pronounce the syllables in the months of the year.  A student can easily repeat the sounds a teacher models.  But if the student isn’t watching the syllables that the teacher is pointing to, she will never know which letters/characters produce those sounds.

There are many reasons why a student may not be watching the source of instruction.  He may be hungry, emotionally overwhelmed, worried about classmates opinions, etc.  I’ve even noticed that my students get distracted because speaking in the TL feels funny and awkward to them.  Whatever the case may be, a teacher needs to do everything he can to keep students’ attention.  Without it, all the efforts to PAIR will be for nothing. It won’t be long before students begin engaging in off-task behavior.

In my class, I do these 3 things to make to show students that I have high expectations for how they behave.

1.  My 2 rules are simple.  In Spanish class I say, “Importante – silencio.  Importante – attención.”  (Watch a video of how I make this meaningful for my Spanish students)  The students must know that 1- it’s important to be absolutely silent and that 2- all eyes need to be on me.  This is the case whenever I am modeling L2 or giving instructions.

2.  I immediately reward exemplary behavior.  I use tons of verbal praise.  I use ClassDojo.  (See this link for more on ClassDojo and behavior management in the 90+% TL classroom.)

3.  I effectively redirect off-task behavior.  Sometimes, I feel very mean and strict during the first 1-3 mins of class.  But this is okay because it sets the tone for how I want the students to behave.  Don’t feel the pressure to be a nice, friendly teacher.  Be strict for the sake of increasing the amount of PAIRING instances (which leads towards L2 acquisition).  Remember, students cannot benefit from your PAIRING instances unless they are watching the source of instruction.  If you feel that a student’s behavior is negatively affecting the learning environment, don’t just let it go.  Effectively redirect it.

What do you do to make sure students are watching the source of instruction?  Leave comments below.

Management Strategies – Ensure Input Is Comprehensible (Part 1)

 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).

Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Ensure That You Are Pairing (Part 1)

A teacher’s chances of winning the behavior management battle, in a 90+% TL classroom, soar when she excels at pairing incomprehensible L2 input equivalent  and comprehensible extralinguistic forms of input.  Student tendency to engage in off-task behavior increases when he/she doesn’t understand what is happening in class.  Therefore, a 90+%-TL-using-teacher should have a goal of causing students to understand most of what’s happening in an L2 immersion environment.

How can a foreign language PAIR effectively?

1.  Use Fewer Words – When speaking in front of students, many teachers think that they need to sound like a native speaker.  This is, generally, NOT a good practice.  Staying in the TL (depending upon the proficiency level of the students) isn’t about sounding like a native speaker.  Don’t try to string together fancy sounding words.  Don’t try to speak quickly and fluidly.  These actions actually make incomprehensible L2 input feel more aversive to L2 learners.  And when this happens, students easily lose hope and give up.

Instead, teachers should consider the following principles in order increase the chance that a student will be willing to engage in an L2 immersion environment:

  • Use fewer words
  • Speak slowly
  • Insert brief pauses between words
  • Focus primarily on using vocabulary from the day’s performance objectives.

I learned the ‘Use Fewer Words’ principle when my daughter was 10-20 months old.  I quickly learned better ways to verbally instruct my crawling, non-language-using daughter to stay out of the kitchen?  Obviously a parent should not say something like: “Infant daughter, there are some dangerous things in the kitchen.  Furthermore your father and mother are not in there to supervise you.  Therefore our desire is for you to stay in the living room with us.”  In a situation like this, a parent needs to eliminate extra words.  I took my daughter to the threshold between the kitchen and living room.  I pointed to the kitchen side of the threshold and said, “NO, NO, NO.”  I pointed to the living room side of the threshold and said, “YES, YES, YES.”  I took the extra time to repeat these statements 3 or 4 times.  She was able to understand because I used fewer words and I made their meaning obvious.  If I would’ve used 4 sentences with complex ‘native speaker level words’ my daughter wouldn’t have even listened or looked at me.  (In teacher words: she would’ve engaged in off-task behavior.)

These same principles can be applied to foreign language classrooms.  When communicating with L2 learners, eliminate extra words.  Take extra time to ensure that your words are paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  Use situations, and context, to make words and phrases meaningful.  The more understandable the input is, the easier it will be for students to stay on-task during learning activities.

 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).

Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Increase Student Motivation

When switching to 90+% TL use, the first question I decided to address was…:

…how can I make students want to actively participate in a L2 environment that is initially uncomfortable, intimidating and confusing?

I initially did three things to increase student willingness to stay engaged in an L2 environment.

1-  I told students that it can be more exciting to learn a foreign language when the instructor stays in the TL. (keep in mind that the instructor has to be excellent at pairing incomprehensible L2 input with compelling extralinguistic input.)  I told students to imagine the way they learned L1.  Their parents didn’t sit them down, as 1-year-olds, and give them vocabulary lists or explain complex grammar structures.  Infants acquire language naturally through being immersed in their native language.  I told students that I wanted them to experience the beauty of foreign language acquisition through immersion.

2-  I set up a LONG TERM system for rewarding students.  We recorded how long we could stay in the TL.  The class with the most minutes at the end of the year wins.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I found a good timer/stopwatch (download one or use the one on ClassDojo)
  • Timer was ON when I was in the TL. (Students loved watching the timer go up!)
  • Timer was OFF when I had to switch into L1.
  • Record total minutes in the target language at the end of each class.  (I used Google Sheets to record.  See Kinder example.  See 5th grade example.  Note: Use tabs at the bottom to switch between sheets.  See how to set up online record sheet.)
  • Class/section that has the most minutes at the end of the year wins a party/award.
  • Timer keeps going even if students need to switch to L1.  Teacher must stay in TL.

3- I set up a SHORT TERM system for rewarding students.  I used a free and popular behavior management software product.  www.ClassDojo.com .  Here’s what I liked about it:

  • Sound effects give immediate and comprehensible feedback to students regarding their behavior.
  • Students can choose/customize their avatars. (Make a lesson out of it by teaching/practicing expressing preferences.)
  • Student ‘behavior points’ are tallied next to their avatar.  (Use this feature for practicing numbers identification in the TL.)
  • Parents can receive daily reports on student progress with details.  (You can also text parents through the ClassDojo webpage.)
  • A Mobile App is available.  This allows you to use the software in front of the class or privately on the side.
  • Settings can be modified to make the system appropriate for different age groups.
  • More on ClassDojo to come in future blog posts.

Making these three adjustments has worked for me.  It’s fun!  Students who once struggled are now thriving.  Students use vocabulary that isn’t even part of our performance objectives.  Students are more motivated.  I feel like I have to focus less on entertaining and keeping their attention.  Teaching in the TL has made me love my job even more.

I like to talk with others about the changes I’ve made in my classroom.  Feel free to make comments or ask question in the section below.  You can also email me or follow me on twitter to ask questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for more posts on management strategies for the 90+% TL classroom, including videos of me using these strategies with students.

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).