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.
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