Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Part 3 – Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

So far in this series entitled, “Teaching Grammar In The Target Language,” we’ve discussed:

  • Teaching “To Want” and “To Have” Verbs – Part 1
  • Focusing on “To NOT Want” and “To NOT Have” Verbs – Part 2
  • Teaching subject pronouns Part 1 & Part 2

In this post we will discuss how to stay in the target language while helping students learn how L2 sentence components change when the quantity of an noun is changed.

Remember:

Some people say it’s nearly impossible to teach grammar while staying in the target language.  This IS the case if you feel like your job is to directly teach grammar.  However, a simple change in approach (as demonstrated in these posts) makes it much easier to help your students use correct L2 grammar structures.  Notice, in the script below, that the model teacher is not trying to directly teach grammar.  Instead, she’s helping students have a MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCE in which the target grammar structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.  If this is your strategy, learning grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for your students.

(Note: The following Part 3 transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

Teacher reviews grammar structures from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series by facilitating the following activity:

Teacher writes the following L2 phrases on the board:

“Who has Cheerios?  Who has Lucky Charms?  Who doesn’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”

“______ has Cheerios.  ____ doesn’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

Teacher passes out some individual boxes of the three cereal varieties to students who are sitting quietly and attentively.  (Remember, behavior management is a HUGE factor affecting how successful you are at facilitating foreign language acquisition by staying in the target language.)

Teacher walks around the room/circle saying the following phrases: “You… (points at student) …have Cheerios.  And you… (points at another student) …have Cheerios.  I… (points to self) …don’t have Cheerios.  You… (points at another student) …don’t have Cheerios.  But you DO HAVE Lucky Charms.  Mmmm.  Delicious.  I… (points to self) …I want Lucky Charms.  Yes.  I want Lucky Charms.  Give me Lucky Charms.”  (Student shakes head “NO” because he doesn’t want to give them up.  Teacher helps him say, “They are FOR ME!” by using the Two-Hand-Method.)  Teacher, in a surprised voice, says, “The Lucky Charms are for YOU?  For you??!?  But I want them.  I want Lucky Charms.  (Teacher helps student say (again) “They are FOR ME!”.)  Teacher gives up and says, “Okay.  The Lucky Charms are for you.”

Teacher walks back to the board and asks the first of several rounds of questions to various students in the class.  “Roger has Cheerios.  Stacey has Cheerios.  Lauren has Cheerios.  But…who has Lucky Charms?  Does Elvin have Lucky Charms?  Does Daequan have Lucky Charms?  WHO… (Teacher raises her hand to imply that she’s looking for a volunteer to answer the question) …has Lucky Charms?”  Student answers.  If the answer is not complete, teacher points to the target answer, that is written on the board, and helps the student say it in a complete L2 sentence.  Teacher continues, “More.  More.  More.  Who else has Lucky Charms?”  Teacher continues this questioning pattern with all of the target questions that are written on the board.

When it’s time to move on, Teacher focuses the attention on herself by opening a bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Teacher starts to eat the cereal and says, “Delicious.  Delicious.  I like this.  I like this a lot.”  Teacher walks around the room with the open bag and says, “Who wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?  Who wants some?  Who wants some?”  Teacher reminds students how to say, “I do!  I want some!  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch!” by using the Two-Hand-Method.

Teacher focuses on quantity by saying, “How many?  How many do you want?  How many Cinnamon Toast Crunch pieces do you want?  Do you want one?  Do you want four?  Do you want seven?”  If Student says an incomplete answer, use the Two-Hand-Method to help him say, “I want seven.”  When Student says the complete sentence, Teacher counts out seven pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Teacher says, “Eat.  Go ahead.  Eat seven.”  Teacher prompts Student to say, “Thank you,” and, “Delicious.”  Teacher looks at the rest of the class and says, “Who else?  Who else wants some?  Who else wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch and he wants some (Teacher points to the student that ate seven).  Who else wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”  Teacher helps students answer with complete L2 sentences.  Teacher says to Student #2, “How many pieces do you want? Do you want one piece?  Do you want 2 pieces?  Do you want one piece or four pieces?  Do you want one piece or six pieces?”  Teacher helps Student #2 answer with a complete sentence.  Teacher continues this pattern of questioning for as long as she thinks is best.

REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • Students saw how the noun (in this case “pieces”) ending changes based on how many “pieces” of cereal they wanted.
  • Students heard how to say the L2 words for “for you” and “for me.”
  • Students got a meaningful review of target language numbers.
  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The students realized that they could not only survive in an L2-immersion environment but that it can be fun.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.

Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below.

Stay tuned to over the next weeks for more blog posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.

 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).

Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Part 2 – Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

It’s not that hard to teach grammar while staying in the target language.  Additionally, learning grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for your students.

In PART 1, of this “Teaching Grammar In The Target Language” series, we discussed how to teach “To Have” and “To Want” verbs.  In this post you’ll read the transcript for a step-by-step guide to introducing “To Not Want” and teaching the words for “or” & “and.”  (Note:  The transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

See how easy it can be to help your students learn grammar while staying in the target language!

See how easy it can be to help your students learn grammar while staying in the target language!

Teacher pulls out an individual box of Cheerios.  Teacher says, “I have Cheerios.  (pause)  I have Cheerios.  (pause)  I have Cheerios but YOU… (teacher points to a student) …YOU don’t have Cheerios.  And you… (teacher points to another student) …you don’t have Cheerios.  I… (teacher points to herself) have Cheerios but you (teacher points to a student) …don’t.  And you…(teacher points to another student) …don’t.  And you don’t.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have Cheerios.  ALL OF YOU, all of you, all of you (teacher is pointing to the whole class)  All of you don’t have Cheerios.  But I do.  I have Cheerios.”

“Delicious.”

“Delicious.”

“I like Cheerios.”

(Teacher opens Cheerios and starts eating them.)  “Delicious.  Delicious.  I like Cheerios.  I have Cheerios and you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios but I do have Cheerios.”  (Teacher might choose to sing the following phrases to rub it in: “I have Cheerios.  Delicious Cheerios.  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios.)

Teacher pauses.  Teacher goes to the board and writes, “Who wants Cheerios?” and “I want Cheerios,” in the target language.  Teacher pulls more boxes of Cheerios out of the bag.  Teacher raises her hand and asks, “Who wants Cheerios?”  Teacher identifies 4 students with their hands raised and helps them answer the target question by pointing to the written answer on the board or by using the two-hand method.

After the four students have said, “I want Cheerios,” Teacher goes to the board and writes (in the TL), “Who has Cheerios?  _____ has Cheerios,” and “Who doesn’t have Cheerios?  _____ doesn’t have Cheerios.”  (At this point the teacher may choose to sit down and use the discussion, that follows, as a formative assessment.  Teacher will ask students either of the questions that are written on the board and assess student responses based on their correctness/completeness.)

When the discussion/assessment is finished, teacher pulls out an individual box of Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cheerios.  Teacher says, “I have Cheerios.  I have Lucky Charms.  I have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”  Teacher goes to a student who has Cheerios and says, “I have Cheerios.  I have Cinnamon Toast Crunch and I have Lucky Charms. (pauses)  You have Cheerios.  But you don’t have Lucky Charms.  And you don’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”  (Teacher may choose to repeat this step several times with other students who have Cheerios but not the sweet cereals.)

Teacher goes to several students, who have no cereal, and asks, “Do you want Cheerios or do you want Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”  (Teacher helps the student say, “I want ____.”)  To a student who says, “I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” the teacher responds, “You don’t want Cheerios? (waits for student to shake his head ‘no’)  You DON’T want Cheerios?”  (Teacher helps the student respond by saying, “I don’t want Cheerios.  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

After the student says the phrase successfully, teacher writes on the board, “Do you want Cheerios?” and, “I don’t want Cheerios.  I want _____.”  Teacher spends time asking students, “Do you want Cheerios?” and helping them answer with the sentences that are written on the board.  (Teacher may choose to reward student use of the target language by giving students several pieces of their preffered cereal to eat.)

 REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The teacher administered a formative assessment.
  • The students experience a formative assessment in a very low-anxiety, natural way.
  • The students realized that they could easily survive in an L2-immersion environment.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students naturally learned how to make something negative.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.
  • The students got repeated chances to acquire the words “and” & “or” in the target language.

Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #langchat (for general language teaching comments) and/or #TL90plus (forstaying in the target language comments).

Stay tuned to over the next weeks for more blog posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.

 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).

Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

 

Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” & “To Want” Verbs

Goodbye memorization.  Adiós drills.  Auf Wiedersehen worksheet packets.

Say hello, bonjour and 您好 to students beginning to say, “I forgot I was learning a language,” “I learned it without even trying,” and “I can’t believe that was so easy.”

Teachers can make learning L2 grammar natural and almost effortless.

Teaching grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for you or your students.

Read the following transcript of how a foreign language teacher makes even acquiring L2 grammar skills easy for her L2 students.  (Note:  The transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

“Hello students.”

(Students stand at the entrance of the foreign language classroom.)

“John. You sit here.  (Teacher points to the chair in which John should sit.)  Stacey.  You sit here.  Carlos.  You sit here.  Jenny.  You sit here.”  (Etc. until all the students are seated.)

“And I…  …I sit here.  (Teacher sits down.)  No.  No, no, no.  I don’t sit here.  (Teacher moves to a different seat.)  I sit here.   Mmm…no.  I don’t sit here, either.  No, no, no.  (Teacher moves to yet a different seat.)  I sit here.  Yes.  Yes.  That’s right.  I sit here.  I don’t sit there (Teacher points to her first chair).  I don’t sit there.  (Teacher points to her second chair).  I sit here.  Yes.  Here is where I sit.”

(Teacher has a bag.  Inside the bag is a variety pack of breakfast cereals.  Teacher pulls out an individual box of Cheerios and prepares to speak very slowly and with intention.)

Using fun and inexpensive food can help you teach grammar by staying in the target language and making it FUN!

Put the textbooks and your use of L1 aside. Instead use Cheerios to help your students acquire even tough L2 grammar skills in a fun and natural way.

“Class.  I have Cheerios.   Mmmmmm.  Delicious.  I have Cheerios.  Delicious, delicious, delicious.  I have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios and I like Cheerios.”  (Teacher points to a student across the room.)  “You. (Teacher gives an evil smile.)  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios but you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  Only me.  I have Cheerios.  Delicious, delicious Cheerios.”  (Teacher points to another student.)  “You.  (Evil smile.)  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios but you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios. AND you (Teacher points to the first student.) you don’t have Cheerios.  But I do.  I have Cheerios.”

(Teacher stands up with Cheerios in hand.  Teacher writes on the board the following L2 sentences.  “I have Cheerios.”  “You don’t have Cheerios.”)

(Teacher starts walking around the room, with her box of Cheerios, pointing to various students.)

“I have Cheerios.  But you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  And you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  And you don’t.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have Cheerios.”  (Teacher continues until she has pointed to all students and told them that they don’t have Cheerios.)

(Teacher sits down back in her chair.  Teacher looks satisfied.  Teacher takes a deep, satisfied breath and says:)

“But I do.  I do have.  I have Cheerios.”

(Long dramatic pause.  Class is completely silent.)

(Teacher looks at the student next to her, named William.  Teacher pulls out a second individual box of Cheerios.  Teacher looks at the second box of Cheerios.  Teacher looks at William.  Looks back at Cheerios.  Looks back at William.  Teacher shrugs her shoulders and, with a happy smile on her face, gives the second box of Cheerios to William.)

(Teacher stands up and writes the following three sentences on the board: “I have Cheerios.  William has Cheerios.  You don’t have Cheerios.)

(Teacher goes around the room repeating the following phrases in the target language:  “I have Cheerios.  William has Cheerios.  But you don’t have Cheerios.”)

(Teacher takes out 4 more boxes of Cheerios.  Teacher asks random students:)

“Do you want Cheerios?”  (Teacher models how to say, “Yes I want Cheerios,” with the two hand method.  Teacher continues to walk around the room asking, “Do you want Cheerios?” and helping students to say, “I want Cheerios,” or, “Yes, I want Cheerios.”)

(Teacher gives the 4 boxes of Cheerios to 4 students who are sitting especially quiet, attentive and still.)

(Teacher writes on the board (in the target language) “Who has Cheerios?”  “_____ has Cheerios.”  “Who doesn’t have Cheerios?”  “______ doesn’t have Cheerios.”  Additionally, the teacher may choose to write, “Does _____ have Cheerios?”  “Yes, ______ has Cheerios.  No, _______ doesn’t have Cheerios.”)

(Standing next to the written sentences on the board, Teacher begins asking students the target questions and helps students respond by pointing to each word in the correct answer.  After each student attempts an L2 answer, the student should be rewarded. i.e. classdojo.com points.  Teacher continues this discussion (in L2) until class time is over.  If students get bored (from the repetitiveness) Teacher may choose to stop the activity and show some related L2 videos or do some other attention-getting activity.)

REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The students realized that they could easily survive in an L2-immersion environment.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students naturally learned how to make something negative.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.
  • The students got rewarded every time they offered L2 answers.

Your approach to teaching a foreign language can have a huge difference in what your students experience in the L2 classroom.  Your approach makes the difference between students thinking that it’s:

  • challenging or easy.
  • complicated or simple.
  • overwhelming or exciting.
  • work-intensive or second-nature.
  • intentional or natural.

I’m starting to realize that foreign language teachers CAN structure an L2 learning environment to give students an experience of actually forgetting that they are learning a second language.  If it’s done right, students can actually learn L2 without even trying to learn L2.  (More on this in future blog posts)

My next blog posts will be like this one.  I’ll give many additional examples of how to teach different verbs, L2 question words, subject pronouns, past, present and future tenses and more.

How about you?  How do you make learning L2 grammar as easy and as natural as possible for your students.  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).

Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language

Great question on Twitter, yesterday, from a high school french teacher named Martha Behlow:  (Link for tweet here)

90% target language in upper levels is realistic, but what about levels 1 & 2?  How do you keep them from freaking out?

There were some wonderful answers offered by Virginia Rinaldi, Cecile Laine, Laura Sexton and Kristi Placido (As of 12:57pm ET on 12/8/2014).  In more words, or less, they suggested the following: (live links below for further reading on each topic from Tuesday’s Tips…)

I’ll add my thoughts here:

1- Picture your novice/intermediate-low students as infants and toddlers learning their first language.  (Easier to do if you are a parent)  Doing this will help you avoid thinking,

“Ahhh!  ACTFL says students and teachers should stay in the target language at least 90% of the time!!  How am I supposed to do that with novice learners!?!”

You wouldn’t expect your 10-month-old to produce very much L1.  Older infants might only be able to attempt single words or parts of words.  To communicate their thoughts and feelings, they would rely on signs, body language and noises.  Verbal communication is led/directed/initiated by the adult.  The dynamic should be the same in the L2 classroom.  Your novice learners shouldn’t be expected to carry on conversations in the target language, just like you wouldn’t expect your 1-year-old to carry the conversation around the dinner table.  Novice language learners need to be observers.  They need to hear L1 in context.  They need to hear L1 in comprehensible forms.  When language is comprehensible, and when there’s repeated opportunities to hear the CI in a meaningful context, language will be naturally acquired.

This doesn’t mean that novice learners don’t need to be immersed in L2.  They do!

2- Novice learners don’t need L1.  They can be very successful in an L2 immersion environment.  Use the following effective and practical strategies to stay in the target with novice learners:

3- Not only can novice students SURVIVE in an L2 immersion environment – THEY CAN THRIVE.  When you teach a foreign language by speaking L1, you tend be a “skills instructor” and a “memorization facilitator”.  It’s not a very natural approach and it doesn’t yield very organic results.  Consider an analogy of a tree; where the tree is your student and his ability to produce L2 is like a tree’s ability to display fruit.  Being a skills instructor is like being a farmer who’s trying to hang individual pieces of fruit on the branches of a tree.  It’s awkward.  It’s not natural.  It looks a bit funny to see fruit pieces duct-taped or stapled to the branches of a tree.  The fruit won’t stay up there for very long before it falls off.  Using L1 to teach L2 is a strategy that doesn’t focus on a learner’s “language root system.”

According to this analogy, a novice speaker might have 10 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang up.  An intermediate speaker might have 50 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang.  If you have a highly motivated “skills memorizer” in your class, you might be able to help them hang one or two hundred pieces of L2-fruit on their tree.

When you stay in the target language and ensure that input is comprehensible, you are focusing on the student’s root system.  You are no longer focused on producing fruit by duct taping it up on the foreign language proficiency tree.  You are feeding the tree.  You are nourishing the tree.  The tree might not produce L2 fruit right away.  But it will in time; and the fruit it produces will emerge on it’s own.  And it will continue to produce fruit on its own even when there’s no instructor their to duct tape it on.  Watching your students produce L2 fruit on their own is so exciting.  (See more on this analogy/topic by clicking here.)

4- Don’t talk over their heads. In other words: DON’T USE TOO MUCH L2 VOCABULARY.  Try to only say the words they know.  And say those words over and over and over again.  Language learners (including infants learning L1) need to hear new words and phrases over and over before they acquire and produce those language terms on their own.

You might ask, Sr. Howard…“what the -ell am I supposed to do with my novice students for 200 minutes or more a week if 1- I’m supposed to stay in the target language? and 2- If I’m only supposed to say a handful of words!?!”  For my answer, check out the links under point #2 of this blog or some of the following links:

Keep the conversation going!  How do you help your novice students not “freak out” when you speak in the target language?  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).

The Benefits of Insulting Students In The Target Language

Warning: don’t try this staying-in-the-target-language strategy if you struggle with behavior management in the classroom.

This year I’ve been developing a very fun, very silly and very effective instructional strategy to teach the following L2 components while staying in the target language:

  • subject pronouns
  • irregular verb conjugations
  • ‘to be’ verbs
  • making something negative (i.e. “I am,” vs. “I am not.”)

It all started when I began calling myself Superman in front of the students.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

Whenever I had to move a heavy desk, or pick up a chair, or when I balanced a yard stick on my hand, I would always follow with, “I am Superman,” in the target language.  They would laugh at me and I could immediately tell, by the look on their faces, that they wanted to tell me that I wasn’t Superman.  They wished that they knew how to say, “Señor Howard…you ARE NOT Superman,” in the target language.  In order to help them learn how, I used the “Two-Hand Method.”

The students learned and they loved it!  They loved insulting me!

The next time I said, “I am Superman,” almost the entire class said, “You ARE NOT Superman,” in unison.  I put an offended look on my face.  I pretended that I was insulted because they said that I wasn’t Superman.  I put my hand on my hip.  I shook a finger in their face.  When they laughed, I continued pretending to be offended.  Then, while still looking offended, I paused.  And when the moment was perfect (while everyone was watching quietly with a huge amount of curiousity as to how I was going to proceed) I emphatically repeated, “Yes I AM Superman.”  The students would immediately laugh and keep telling me, “You ARE NOT Superman!” all in the target language.

Just in case there were a few students who were lost, I wrote the target phrases on the board like this:

“I am Superman” | “Yes I’m Superman”

“You are NOT Superman” | “No you’re not Superman”

Some of the students felt strange to be insulting their foreign language teacher.  So in order to help them know that I was really proud of them for using the target language in this way, and in order to motivate them to continue this behavior, I gave them lots of points on classdojo.com.  (See my classdojo post here and Sra. Spanglish’s post here for using classdojo for motivating foreign language students to stay in the target language.)

Using this strategy, I was able to indirectly teach students some subject pronouns, some verb conjugations, how to make something negative, etc.  By writing it on the board I was giving them some L2 literacy skills.  And we were all having a blast!

When they had enough practice insulting me, I settled things down by giving them points on classdojo and then moving on with what I had been teaching.  Now I repeat this activity at random times throughout my lessons, whenever I do something impressive (i.e. lifting a chair or balancing something or modeling the target language).

I’ve taken this idea a step further by starting to insult my students.  In order to make the insults friendly and fun, I use the names of popular cartoon characters from TV or from movies.  I might look at a 4th grade boy and say (in the target language), “You are Dora,” or you are, “Princess Ana/Queen Elsa.”

Insutling students (in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even trying!

Insutling students (by calling them cartoon character names, in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even realizing it!

All the students laugh and don’t even realize they are learning “to be” verb conjugations and subject pronouns.

In order to keep the student from being embarrassed, I prompt the boy to insult me back.  He might respond with, “You are Barney,” or, “You are Doc McStuffins.”  I’m careful to always let the student win the insult battle, so that he doesn’t feel embarrassed.  I also make sure that the experience is rewarding (and not threatening) by giving him classdojo points or rewards after participating.  When fellow students see that there is great reward in insulting their language teacher, they start calling out insults in the target language.  It’s fun!  And students learn so much!

Students will learn advanced L2 skills without even trying if the experience is meaningful, fun, 100% in the target language, and contextualized.

Have you had any success using this strategy or strategies like it?  Share your stories and 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

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