Todd & A Series On CI (Part 10): Forms Of Input – Using L2 To Make Sense Of L2

This week I showed students some music videos of Ecuadorian pan flutist, Leo Rojas.

leo rojas

Since they had never seen or heard anything like it, they were intrigued!

After playing the video for 90 seconds (or so):

  • I paused the video.
  • I pointed to the musician and his instruments on the video screen.
  • Shaking my head I said (in the target language), “The music…The music…The music is NOT…The music is NOT…”
  • (Then, I started walking towards the Puerto Rican flag while shaking my head.)
  • “…the music is NOT from Puerto Rico.” (I pointed to the Puerto Rican flag.)
  • I continued, “The music is NOT from Mexico.” (I pointed to the Mexican flag.)
  • “The music is NOT from Cuba.”  (I pointed to the Cuban flag.)
  • I continued shaking my head, “no,” while walking to the white board.
  • When I got to the white board, I started shaking my head, YES and saying/writing the following TL phrase, “The music is from…Ecuador.”

Immediately after writing the sentence on the board I said, “Look class,” and proceeded to open Google Earth to show them Ecuador’s location on the globe.

They loved it!  I even showed some pictures of Ecuadorian landscape (available on Google Earth) while another Leo Rojas song was playing.

I didn’t speak any L1, yet every student was engaged, attentive, and understanding everything that was happening.

How did this happen?  How did I make it comprehensible?

1- The incomprehensible L2 words were written on the board:

“The music is NOT from Puerto Rico.”

“The music is from Ecuador.”

2- I made the L2 words for, “the music,” comprehensible by pointing to an image of Leo Rojas and his flutes.  (Pairing* L2 with representational input*.)

3- I made the L2 words for, “Puerto Rico/Mexico/Cuba,” comprehensible by pointing to the flags as well as their locations on Google Earth.  (Pairing* L2 with representational input*.)

4- I made the L2 word for, “NOT,” comprehensible by shaking my head, “no.”  (Pairing* L2 with gesticulated input*.)

5- That leaves two unpaired words.  The L2 words for, “is,” and, “from,” really didn’t need to be paired* in order for my students to infer meaning.  Why not?  My guess is that the incomprehensible words became sufficiently meaningful at the moment when enough of the surrounding L2 words had obvious meaning.

Which leads me to the simple point that I’d like to make in this post.  (Even though it’s an obvious point, I include it here because in this blog series I’ve been trying to delineate a comprehensive list of ways that students can find meaning in an L2 immersion environment.)

Another way that students can find meaning is by inferring meaning from surrounding, comprehensible L2 words.  (aka “context clues”)

I’m aware of 3 specific ways (although I’m guessing there’s more):

1-  Synonyms.  A student may, initially, be confused by an unfamiliar L2 word.  However once a comprehensible L2 synonym is paired* with it, the student easily finds the necessary meaning.

2-  Context.  A student may not know all of the words in an L2 sentence.  However, if he knows enough of them, he can infer sufficient meaning in order to “get by.”

3-  Simple Definitions.  (Or “Using L2 To Make Sense Of L2.”)  I picked the term “Simple Definitions” although I’m unsure of what term to use for this third point.  It’s not ‘circumlocution’ is it???  I need some of you to help me out with this concept by writing in the comments section below.  I think circumlocution is when a person intentionally uses more/extra words instead of using fewer, more precise words.  I guess the obvious foreign language classroom application of this would be an L2 student learning to use lots of extra words to try to describe something he/she can’t find the precise word(s) for.  (BTW I just found this neat archived #langchat summary posted by Calico Spanish on this topic.)

If that’s what circumlocution means, that’s not what I’m looking for.

I’m looking for a term to describe how a teacher will use familiar, simpler words (which aren’t synonyms) to help students find the meaning of a more complex word.  Sort of like a dictionary definition, except using very informal language instead of formal language.  I’m thinking of how I help my daughters learn new L1 words.  When there’s a word they don’t know, I don’t pull out dictionary definitions.  However I DO use simple L1 words to explain unfamiliar L1 words/concepts.  The other day my daughter asked, “Daddy what does, “getting carried away,” mean?”  I said, “It means when a person doesn’t know when to stop.  Like if two friends are wrestling, they get, “carried away” when they wrestle so much, and so ROUGH, that they start knocking down all the things in the living room and wrestle so much that one of them get’s hurt.”

Anyway.  That’s enough rambling.  I think the simple point of the post is clear:

L2 teachers can help students find meaning in an L2 immersion by using familiar L2 words to make sense of unfamiliar L2 words.


*Disclaimer: These terms are my own and I’m using them for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that these are the terms found in formal, academic writing.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue discussing my developing (and non-research-based) thoughts on…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 9): “Pairing”

These posts are probably helping me more than they’re helping you.

Writing them is allowing me to articulate, for the first times, exactly how I’m helping my novice students acquire their first bits of L2.  (Disclaimer: My writing is not research based.  I’m merely writing about my experiences.  The terms I’m using I’ve coined myself and aren’t taken from formal academic writing.  One day, I’d love to learn the “official terms.”  Until then, they are what I’m using to organize and explain why my novice students are thriving in an L2 immersion environment.  (BTW…please feel free to respond with comments and links to helpful academic resources that you’ve read/written that talk about some of these same topics.)

In this post you can read about an important technique I use that I’m calling “pairing” and other summary thoughts (in Q/A form) regarding what I’ve learned from writing the first 8 posts in this series:

Question(s) #1– “Sr. Howard, how is it that your novice students are able to follow your L2 instructions?  How are the students not only surviving but thriving in the L2 immersion environment that you’re creating?”

Answer #1– I’m realizing that it’s NOT because they are finding a LOT of meaning in the L2 words and phrases that I use.  In fact, a lot of the L2 words/phrases are still INcomprehensible to them.

Students AREN’T finding meaning (in an L2 immersion environment) because they’ve suddenly become more fluent in L2.

They are finding meaning because I HAVE become more “fluent” at leveraging various forms of extralinguistic input.

In class, they gather meaning from comprehensible and compelling extralinguistic input that I repeatedly “pair” with incomprehensible L2 words, phrases and sentences. “Pairing” is what makes the pieces of incomprehensible L2 become increasingly meaningful, and eventually comprehensible. My own (non-research based) explanations and examples of the various forms of extralinguistic input that I use can be found by clicking on the links below.

  1. Representational Input
  2. Gesticulated Input
  3. Constructed Situational Input
  4. Incidental Situational Input
  5. Inflectional Input
  6. Procedural Input
  7. Melodic Input

Question #2: “Sr. Howard…you just used the word “pair”.  It seems like a significant word.  What do you mean by “pair” or “pairing?””

Answer #2: “Pairing” is what a traditional L2 vocabulary list does:

azul – blue

أحمر – red

bonjour – hello

спасибо – thank you

再见 – good bye

“Pairing” matches an incomprehensible L2 word/phrase with something comprehensible.  “Pairing” helps an L2 learner find meaning in incomprehensible L2 words/phrases/sentences.  A traditional vocabulary list matches (or “pairs”) an incomprehensible L2 word with it’s L1 equivalent.

In my 90+% TL classroom I “pair” as well.  However, I don’t “pair” an incomprehensible L2 word with its L1 equivalent.  I “pair” an incomprehensible L2 word/phrase with an extralinguistic equivalent.

See examples of how I…


Question #3- How does this ‘pairing’ technique benefit my L2 learners?

Answer #3-

  • It allows them to actively participate in all L2 immersion instructional activities while still having a small L2 vocabulary foundation.
  • It facilitates a process in which pieces of incomprehensible L2 input become comprehensible.
  • A traditional vocabulary list has the potential to be very UN-appealing (aka “boring,” “tedious,” “work-intensive”) to anyone except a highly motivated L2 learner.  “Pairing,” as I’ve described above, can allow L2 students to find meaning in potentially more engaging/exciting/meaningful ways.
  • In some instances, it allows students to learn bits of L2 by accident.
  • Students slowly/eventually start using L2 spontaneously and appropriately.  L2 fruit!
  • It allows them to not only learn what L2 words mean but ALSO experience what some L2 words can feel like. (i.e. exclamatory L2 words feel exciting, L2 reprimanding words feel corrective, L2 praise words feel encouraging, etc.)
  • As a student’s proficiency level increases, the need for extralinguistic support decreases. Incomprehensible pieces of L2 can now be made meaningful by *pairing them with comprehensible pieces of L2. See this post for more.

Question #4- Are there any other things you do to help “pairing” in a 90+% TL classroom go well?

Answer #4- Yes.  I “use fewer words” because input has quantitative qualities.  (Click here for more info.)  I also use strategies to keep students from being distracted by other forms of input.  (Click here for more info.)


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue discussing my developing (and non-research-based) thoughts on…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …obstacles to making incomprehensible L2 input meaningful in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the *pairing obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 8) – Forms Of Input: Incidental Situational Input

actfl 90 plus target language

A KID SNEEZES and you say, “Bless you,” in the target language.

THE PHONE RINGS and you say, “Telephone!” in the target language.

IT STARTS TO SNOW OUTSIDE and you point and say, “Look class!  It’s snowing!” in the target language.

TWO FRIENDS START CHATTING when they’re not supposed to.  You get their attention and say, “Quiet, please.  Don’t talk.  Pay attention,” in the target language.

A STUDENT DROPS A PROP/piece-of-equipment that you’re using in class.  You guesture and say, “Careful!  Careful” in the target language.

These are all examples of using “Incidental Situational Input” to help novice students find meaning in an L2 immersion setting.

It’s not a strategy that you can write into a lesson plan or plan on using.  It’s not one of the main strategies that a teacher will rely upon in a 90+% TL-use classroom.  But it’s a fun and effective strategy nonetheless.

It’s a little bit different than what we talked about last week regarding “Constructed Situational Input” in which a teacher helps students find meaning by creating a situation, scenario or experience wherein the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.”

With “Incidental Situational Input” a teacher doesn’t CREATE the situations.  She takes advantage of the spontaneous, random or INCIDENTAL situations wherin the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.


The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

In part 5 we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”

In this post (part 8) we observe that:

“’Incidental Situational Input is one such form of extralinguistic input in which a teacher helps students find meaning by taking advantage of spontaneous situations, scenarios or experiences wherein the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.”


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Incidental Situational Input” (as defined above) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones inserted throughout many of the posts in this series) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

I will discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 7) – Forms Of Input: Constructed Situational Input

Wow.

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time.

I get to write about my favorite “staying-in-the-target-language” instructional strategy.

I’ll start the post by telling three stories to illustrate how I use what I’m calling “Constructed Situational Input” to help an individual find meaning in an L2 immersion environment.

Story #1: I Stole A 1st Grader’s Birthday Crown

Rhyon (1st grader) walked into class with a birthday crown on.

happy birthday

We all got quiet and I stared at his birthday crown with jealous eyes.  I sat myself down right next to him in the class circle on the rug.  I slowly and teasingly took the crown off of his head in a way that would avoid him protesting, “Hey that’s mine!”  I, gently but triumphantly, put the crown on my head.  In the target language I said, “It’s MY birthday.”  The children, including Rhyon, all laughed and giggled because I was being playful with them.  Some of them smiled and protested, “NO!  Señor Howard!!!”

I used the Two Hand Method to help the students say, “Sr. Howard!  It’s not YOUR birthday!  It’s HIS birthday!”  We joked around in the target language for about 5 minutes, saying phrases like those to each other.

Even though I was speaking a language that the students didn’t understand, they found a level of meaning through what was happening SITUATIONALLY.

What I mean by that is:

  • They knew it was Rhyon’s birthday because, in this situation, he had a crown on his head.
  • They knew I was teasing because, in this situation, I put a devious/teasing look on my face and because EVERYONE KNOWS that no one should EVER take off someone else’s birthday crown and put it on their own head!
  • By putting Rhyon’s crown on my head I created (or constructed) a situation in which everyone wanted to say the same thing: “HEY!!!  That crown isn’t YOURS!”

Since I constructed a situation in which the students all wanted to blurt out the same thing (i.e. “It’s not YOUR birthday!  It’s RHYON’S birthday!”) all I had to do was give them the L2 words they needed in order to communicate.


Story #2 – “I WALKED INTO A WALL”  &  “I GOT SICK” (Watch the video clip here or by clicking on the links below)

ACTFL tips for staying in the target language

I needed to teach students how to talk about how they felt.  So I had my wife record 15 second video clips of me feeling different ways based on what was happening to me.  The clips included:

At the end of each situation/scenario, I say how I’m feeling in the target language.

The strategy worked!  Even though my students don’t initially comprehend the L2 words I’m using during these video recordings, they find meaning based on the situations I have constructed.  The situations make it so obvious.  The students know what I’m going to say even before I say it.  They would know what was happening regardless of what language I chose to use.  (See a different video example of this here.)


Story #3 – Snuggling My Daughter

holding daddy

I was holding my daughter Ava this morning.  After breakfast she walked over to where I was sitting, reached her hands up high and looked at me with the sweetest eyes that said, “Can you pick me up, Daddy?”

I was so happy to oblige.  I picked her up, put my arms around her, let her head rest on my shoulder and patted her back.  She stayed there motionless for about 10 mins while I talked to my wife who patiently listened to me ramble about this input theory that I’ve been writing.  (What other wife would listen to a husband’s musings about “Constructed Situational Input!?”)

Towards the end of my conversation with my wife, I paused, looked at Ava and snuggled my face into hers.

I told my wife, “See!  Ava is receiving input right now.  It’s not verbal (linguistic) input.  It’s non-verbal (extralinguistic) input that she’s receiving.  What is the extralinguistic input that she’s receiving?”  Sarah answered, “My daddy loves me.”  “My daddy is paying attention to me.”  “I love to be in daddy’s arms.”

Ava was listening in on our conversation and kept soaking in my affection.

Then I told my wife, “Into this constructed situation (in which I’m holding, snuggling, patting, caressing, rocking…etc.) I could speak the words “I love you” in any language and she would understand what I’m saying.  It doesn’t matter if the words are incomprehensible.  The extralinguistic input (in this case “Constructed Situational Input”) is so undeniably comprehensible that she will know what my words mean no matter what language I choose to tell her, “I love you.”

Then I demonstrated for my wife what I had just explained.  When I had Ava’s attention, and when she knew I was about to say something that matched up with the affectionate experience we were having, I chose to tell Ava that I loved her in Spanish.  I told Ava, “Te amo.”

When she heard “Te amo,”she smiled warmly and snuggled in closer to my embrace even though she just got done hearing language that is unfamiliar to her.


The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

In part 5 we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”

In this post (part 7) we observe that:

“”Constructed Situational Input” is one such form of extralinguistic input in which a teacher helps students find meaning by creating a situation, scenario or experience wherein the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.”


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Constructed Situational Input” (as defined above) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones inserted throughout many of the posts in this series) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

I will discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).