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.”
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.)
(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.)
“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.
Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!
Part 5 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”