Bad Oatmeal & A Simple, Short Explanation Of How To Stay In The Target Language With Novice Students

My 3-year-old didn’t know how to say, “DIS-gusting,” so she said, “Daddy, this is EX-gusting!”

My recipe must have been a failure because, before she even took a bite, she was telling me the food was gross.

“C’mon!” I thought. “I stayed up late last night getting this apple-cinnamon-steel-cut-oat deliciousness ready for you! You should at least try it!”

Recently, I’ve been feeling bad that all we serve our daughters for breakfast is cold cereal with milk. So I decided to take it upon myself to wake up earlier and put more interesting food on the table every morning. But I HATE waking up early! So when I saw a recipe for overnight steel cut oats in the crock-pot, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Yes. Everything was going well until I realized that “overnight” meant a cook time of 6-7 hours. I got a little angry at the recipe. “Huh!?! You’re telling me that if I want to serve breakfast at 7am, I will have to stay up until midnight or 1am in order to NOT overcook the breakfast!?” I couldn’t believe it! What a rip-off!! It is SOOO not worth staying up that late just to get some breakfast on the table! “But,” I thought, “since I bought all the ingredients, I should just go through with my plan…just this once.” My wife went to bed (at a normal time) and I stayed up watching MinutePhysics videos to pass the time.

The whole experience was irksome to me. I was tired the whole next day and my daughters didn’t even like what I made. Perhaps the only good thing that came out of this ordeal was a quote I heard on one of the MinutePhysics videos:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Rutherford via Einstein?

The quote made me want to explain, in a simple and succinct way, how I stay in the target language with novice learners. So here it is:

To effectively stay in the target language, some say to support L2 use with visual aids and gestures. With novice learners, I flip it around. I mostly communicate using visual aids, gestures and other forms of extralinguistic input. Then, at strategic times and in measured amounts, I sprinkle in L2 words, phrases and sentences. The pieces of incomprehensible L2 become increasingly meaningful, and eventually comprehensible, as I repeatedly *PAIR them with equivalent extralinguistic forms of input. 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.

In case you’re a first time visitor to this blog, here are some links for further reading, practical tips and model lessons. (Readers should also know that this isn’t the best way (or the only way) that a language should be taught. (TEACHING IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE MYTHS) This blog is meant to offer springboard ideas to help foreign language teachers jump into more brilliant ideas of their own that work better within their specific academic contexts.)


*Disclaimer: This term is my own and I’m using it for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that it’s the term found in formal, academic writing.

 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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