As a review, if you want novice learners to succeed during your interpersonal mode performance tasks…:
- …keep the conversations teacher-led and teacher-initiated, at first.
- …keep the L2 conversations super-simple.
- …before you ask a student to respond to your L2 target question(s), make sure you’ve modeled the conversation plenty of times.
- …show engaging, targeted and simple L2 conversations modeled on video. (like these and this)
When you’ve modeled and repeated the target conversation (until the students are almost sick of it), THEN it’s advisable to move past teacher-student conversations and onto student-student conversations.
1- Start by letting CONFIDENT STUDENTS model the student-to-student target conversation in front of the class.
Don’t start by picking random students to model target conversations. It’s intimidating and awkward for novice learners to practice a foreign language in front of their peers. To them, the sounds of the L2 words are funny and strange. Even if they know how to say the word, there’s a chance that they will feel awkward pronouncing the words in front of friends (since it’s not ‘normal’ or ‘familiar’ to them). It’s even harder for ‘shy’ students to use the target language in front of their peers. Always make sure you’re asking novice learners to do things that you are positive they can do well. It’s important to not embarrass language learners. Encourage future willingness to participate by doing things that increase student confidence.
By starting with confident students, less confident learners can watch to see what will happen if they stir up the courage to participate. Reluctant students will watch to see…
- …how the audience reacts to the student L2 speaker. (are they regarded as cool? dumb? stupid? a teacher’s pet? smart?)
- …how the audience reacts to any mistakes the L2 speaker makes. (will they get laughed at? encouraged?)
- …how the teacher responds if the L2 speaker struggles. (does the teacher yell? smile? encourage? take points off?)
- …what happens if the L2 speaker does well.
- …what happens if the L2 speaker does poorly.
If you want shy students to participate, make sure all students are warmly and genuinely praised for trying, regardless of if they’re successful or not.
2- Have the target conversation written on the board.
This allows both the model students and the rest of the class to see what they need to say and to know what will be expected of them when it’s their turn. It also gives the teacher a non-threatening way to prompt the student if he/she get’s stuck (just point to the script).
3- Give lots of praise and meaningfully reward all students who participate.
Convince every observer that participating in L2 class will be positive, safe, non-threatening and rewarding. Convince everybody that failure will not be followed with reprimand or any other negative consequence. If a student is genuinely trying, they should always be encouraged and praised, even if they make mistakes.
4- Be strict with students who make their peers feel embarrassed for trying.
5- Eventually have all students, regardless of confidence level, attempt modeling the conversation.
6- Repeat the target conversation chorally.
Let the students get lots of pronunciation practice. Remember, their mouths aren’t used to moving in the new ways L2 requires. Use your two hands as two puppets. Make hand 1 say what person 1 is supposed to say. Hand 2 models what person 2 should say. It helps novice learners know that what’s happening is a L2 conversation.
7- When students are very comfortable and familiar with the target conversation, allow them to practice without the direct supervision of the instructor.
There are many ways to do this.
- You can make two lines of students and have them practice the conversation and then slide down the line and practice again with a new partner.
- Depending on the target vocabulary, you can have students walk around the room writing down information that they discover after they speak in the target language with their peers. (When is your birthday? What is your favorite color? What is your favorite food? How do you feel today? What is your (fake) name? etc.)
- You can arrange the desks/tables to put them in groups and practice the conversation with the peers they’ve been assigned to?
How about you? What are ways that you help students have meaningful practice in the interpersonal mode in the foreign language classroom? Leave comments below.
Part 3 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners
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