Introducing New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (part 3 – modeling)

You don’t have to use L1 to introduce new vocabulary to foreign language students.  Instead, stay in the target language by using any of the following techniques:

It’s important to make language learning meaningful.  Don’t rob students of the joy of meaningful language acquisition by introducing vocabulary using L1.  When you start teaching language by using L1, you make language class about skills introduction, skills practice and skills assessment.  Teaching and practicing skills won’t be very fun unless you teach a class full of language nerds.  Instead, make language learning meaningful.  Introducing vocabulary AND staying in the target language not only has the potential to make make class more fun, but students will be able to retain more L2 for longer amounts of time. (see this post on why we should make students’ experiences of L2 meaningful)

One way to effectively introduce new target language vocabulary AND stay in the target language is by providing models or demonstrations of how L2 is used.

If I were to use modeling to introduce new vocabulary, here’s what I would try (and also what I’d be thinking in my head).

1- Keep students from getting lost.  It’s easy for students to get “lost” if you introduce unfamiliar words and phrases in the target language.  Sometimes listening to unfamilar L2 content can feel disorienting and unsettling.  To keep them from getting lost, ensure that you clearly communicate what the purpose of your instructional activities are.

If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, explicit and comprehensible performance objectives has the effect of handing your students a flashlight.

Students will be able to navigate the L2 immersion environment more effectively if they know exactly what you’re trying to teach them.  This is very important.  It gives the students a target to aim for.  It gives them an anchor to hold on to.

2- Students need to know what the performance objective for the day is.  In other words, they need to know what I’m trying to teach them on a given day and what I’m expecting them to learn.  I do this by writing the word, “IMPORTANT” on the board (in the target language) in big red letters.  Next to the L2 word for “IMPORTANT,” I write down the target phrases, words and/or sentences they need to know for the day’s performance tasks.

3- Always have the target vocabulary/phrases/questions posted conspicously while you are modeling L2 or showing models of L2 being used.  I frequently refer to the posted target phrases throughout the time that I am introducing the new content.  This helps students stay focused.

4- Give a demonstration or MODEL of how you want the L2 words/phrases/questions to be used.  If you are giving them language they can use in an interpersonal mode setting (for example), MODEL the language in a conversation.

5- Typically I start with a MODEL that is fun and attention getting.  I might use a video that I’ve made like this (for introducing the L2 for “How old are you?” or “When is your birthday?”) or this (for introducing L2 colors).  French teachers can try rythmic chants like these from RLRA.  There are many resources online.  You don’t need to make your own.

6- I realize that students are going to need repeated exposure to the new vocabulary.  Sometimes I forget that the first several times I introduce a word (or a phrase) the L2 sounds like jibberish to my students.  In order for the content to start sounding itelligible, I need to give them meaningful and repeated exposure.

7- Here are some ways I repeat the L2 modeling without boring the students.

  • I use the two hand method for modeling.
  • I show other videos of people modeling the new L2 content. (check out this resource from University of Texas at Austin.)
  • I might ask some heritage speakers in my class to model.
  • I might show the same 4 seconds of a video 7 times in a row.  It has the effect of making the students laugh because it’s repeated so much.  It also lets them hear the target word/phrase so many times that it starts getting stuck in their head.
  • If I make my own video or presentation for modeling, I make sure I repeat the target content several times. (click here for a video example)

How about you?  What are ways that you introduce new vocabulary in the target language by using modeling?  Leave comments below.

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

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – – @calhwrd

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