Top 10 Lists…

To commemorate 100 posts published on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language, here are some Top 10 (and 15) Lists. In other news, I’ll be taking some time off from publishing these posts every Tuesday. Click here if you care to contribute opinions, comments and feedback regarding the future of this blog on a survey.

Top 10 Most Shared Posts:

  1. How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language
  2. How Not (I Repeat: NOT) To Assess The Progress Of L2 Students In A 90+% Target Language Classroom
  3. Debunking 5 “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”
  4. Debunking 5 MORE “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”
  5. A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake
  6. No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree
  7. Management Strategies For The 90+% Target Language Classroom: Increase Student Motivation
  8. My Favorite Activity For Interpersonal Mode (With Links To Handouts)
  9. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2
  10. 37 Links To Online Resources For “Teaching In The Target Language”

Top 15 Most Helpful Posts For Teachers Who Want To Start Teaching In The Target Language

  1. The First Week Of Staying In The Target Language With Your Students
  2. Q/A: What To Do On The First Week Of Class & When To Use L1
  3. What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners
  4. How To Manage Student Behavior & Stay In The Target Language: Increase Motivation
  5. Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
  6. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8)
  7. Assessing A Student’s Progress In A “90+% Target Language Use” Classroom
  8. Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs
  9. When District Expectations Make It Hard To Teach In The Target Language
  10. 90+% Target Language Use: How To Respond To Administrative Pushback
  11. Dos and Don’ts For Handouts In The 90+% Target Language Classroom
  12. Effective Routines For Upper Elementary L2 Learners
  13. Effective Routines For Lower Elementary L2 Learners
  14. Overcoming The Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible
  15. How My Walls Help Me Stay In The Target Language

Top 10 Posts To Read If Your Students Resist Instruction In The Target Language:

  1. How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language
  2. “My Students Don’t Feel Comfortable When I Spend Long Amounts Of Time Teaching In The Target Language.”
  3. “Ahhh! How Am I Supposed To Give Activity Directions In The Target Language”
  4. My First Successful “Staying In The TL” Lesson
  5. Interpretive Mode – Build A Reluctant Student’s Confidence
  6. Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  7. ClassDojo.com & Teaching In The Target Language
  8. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2
  9. My “Staying In The Target Language” Story/Journey (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  10. Helping Students NOT Feel Dumb/Stupid/Embarrassed

Top 15 Most Practical Posts:

  1. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” & “To Want” Verbs
  2. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To NOT Want”
  3. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change In Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence
  4. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Eat” Future Tense
  5. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Eat” Past Tense
  6. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Listen” & “To Like” Verbs
  7. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Go” Future, Past & Present Tense
  8. Using Your Hands During Interpersonal Mode Instruction
  9. My Favorite Activity For Interpersonal Mode (With Links To Handouts)
  10. Blindfolded – 5 Tips For Using A Blindfold In Your Foreign Language Classroom
  11. Lionel Messi & A Quick Tip For Staying In The Target Language
  12. Quick Tips: 4 Ideas For Getting Your Students To Use The Target Language
  13. Quick Pics Tip: How To Mention “Happy New Year” With Novice L2 Learners
  14. Technology To Help You Teach In the Target Language: EDpuzzle
  15. You Gotta See This Resource From Post-Primary Languages Initiative

Top 8 Most Reflective/Thoughtful Posts:

  1. How Not (I Repeat: NOT) To Assess The Progress  Of L2 Students In A 90+% Target Language Classroom
  2. Bad Oatmeal & A Simple, Sort Explanation Of How To Stay In The Target Language With Novice Students
  3. What I Learned About Comprehensible Input From My Crawling Infants
  4. The Vocab List Analogy
  5. No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree
  6. Language To Language OR Language To Living
  7. Being In Diapers And Staying In The Target Language
  8. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2

Top 10 Nerdiest Posts

  1. Why Do I “Use Fewer Words?” …Input Has Quantitative Qualities
  2. “Why Aren’t They Getting This?” – Input: Multiple Forms & ICI
  3. Forms Of Input – Linguistic & Extralinguistic
  4. Forms Of Input – Representational Input
  5. Forms Of Input – Gesticulated Input
  6. Forms Of Input – Constructed Situational Input
  7. Forms Of Input – Incidental Situational Input
  8. Forms Of Input – Inflectional Input
  9. The Key: “Pairing”
  10. Overcoming The Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible

Top 10 Posts With Video Demonstrations:

  1. What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners
  2. Video Recording: 1st Graders Learning Days Of The Week & Colors In The Target Language
  3. Video Recording: 5th Graders Learning “To Be” Verb Conjugations In The Target Language
  4. Video Recording – Comprehensible L2 Immersion Environment
  5. Senor Howard’s Video & Why He Does What He Does (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
  6. Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (“i+1)
  7. Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners
  8. Demo Lesson On Video: Cinco De Mayo
  9. Demo Lesson On Video: 2014 World Cup
  10. You Gotta See This Resource From Post-Primary Languages Initiative

Thanks for reading!

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

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).

Defining A Key Term: *Vague Pair Elimination

A carpenter needs to be good at using a hammer. It’s one of her essential tools.

A teacher, who stays in the target language, needs to be good at *VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION. It’s one of his essential tools.

What is *VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION?

Answer: It’s saying, suggesting or showing what an L2 word/phrase DOESN’T mean so that it’s meaning can become precisely clear.

Here’s a simple example:

Suppose I’m trying to help students make sense of the L2 word for “blue” by holding up a blue crayon. Students might misinterpret the meaning and think,

“is he teaching us the word for, ‘crayon,’ or is he teaching us the word for, ‘blue,’ or is he telling us that we’re about to do a coloring activity?”

The *PAIR is vague. Anticipating the VAGUE PAIR, a teacher could do something similar to what you see below in order to ELIMINATE THE VAGUE PAIRS:

“Students, this isn’t blue.”

purple

“This isn’t blue.”

red

“This isn’t blue.”

yellow

“THIS IIIISSSSSSS BLUE!”

blue azul

VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION is important because *PAIRING, in a #TL90plus foreign language classroom, can sometimes feel a bit like playing the 20 Questions Game. At the beginning of the game, when whoever’s ‘it’ says, “I’m thinking of a person, place or thing,” the participants feel like, “wow, that doesn’t help much! It could be anything!” It’s the same feeling a student gets when a teacher writes an incomprehensible piece (word or phrase) of L2 on the board. Students think, “It could mean anything!” One of the best/fastest ways to get a student to *PAIR the piece of L2 with something meaningful is by showing what it doesn’t mean. For now, for the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to this process as VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION.

(Note: For the sake of defining the term, I’ve provided an example that is very overt. At times, this type of intentional explanation is needed in a foreign language classroom. However, it’s ideal if a teacher can eliminate vague pairs in ways that feel, to a student, less like formal instruction and more natural. For examples, feel free to click on any of the links below. Each contains scripted lesson plans demonstrating how L2 grammar does not need to be taught with overt metalinguistic explanations.

Teaching Grammar While Staying In The Target Language.


*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

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).

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

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 16) – Overcoming The Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible

Nope. Not when you’re trying to stay in the target language.

Instead, #TL90plus foreign language teachers try something like this to help students find meaning in a piece of incomprehensible L2:

Instead of *PAIRING incomprehensible L2 with comprehensible L1, teachers try to *PAIR it with comprehensible extralinguistic input (i.e. *representational, *gesticulated, *inflectional, *incidental situational and *constructed situational input) (Teachers can also pair it with comprehensible L2 as student proficiency increases.)

THIS CAN CAUSE PROBLEMS THOUGH!

Some students will look at the above picture and think, “Oh!!! Azul means SQUARE!” Another student might look at the picture and think, “SHAPES! He’s going to teach us about L2 shapes today!” (Do you remember any of this from last week’s post, which is entitled Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible In A Foreign Language Classroom?)

Simply stated: the problem is the *PAIR is not matched properly (or specifically enough). (Click here for more details)

So…what can be done to overcome this obstacle?

1. Whenever possible, *PAIR EXACTLY.

AVOID using extralinguistic input that could mean more than one thing. For example, don’t use a THUMBS UP gesture to help a student find meaning in the L2 phrase for “I’m doing well.” He might think that you’re saying, “Good job,” instead. (Click here for more details on effectively using gesticulated input.)

2. *PAIR SUCCINCTLY

Depending on the proficiency level of your students, DON’T hold up a picture like this…

elephant-and-bird

…and say a whole sentence about it or sing an L2 song about it. NO! That would be like saying, “students: learn some L2 today by studying this L2 paragraph and, to help you out, here is an L1 paragraph that says exactly the same thing.” Especially if you’re teaching novice learners, that would be ridiculous! Students would think, “Okay!? Ummm. You gave us a translation, BUT how am I supposed to know which L2 words match up with the L1 words. This is too broad! There’s too much content. I need this broken down into WAY smaller chunks.”

INSTEAD…

  • Start simple.
    • Point to the bird.
    • Look at the students while pointing to the bird.  (This action suggests to the students that you want them to pay attention to the bird that you’re pointing to.)
    • Point to the bird again.
    • Say, “tweet, tweet,” while pointing to the bird.
    • Say, “bird,” while pointing to the bird.
    • Say, “bird,” again while pointing to the bird.
    • Say, “Class, repeat: BIRD.”
    • Say, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  BIRD,” while pointing to the bird.
    • Point to the elephant.
    • Look at the students while pointing to the elephant.  (This action suggests to the students that you want them to pay attention to the elephant that you’re pointing to.)
    • Point to the elephant again.
    • Make a motion/gesture that the students will know means elephant.
    • Say, “elephant,” while pointing to the elephant.
    • Say, “elephant,” again while pointing to the elephant.
    • Say, “Class, repeat: ELEPHANT.”
    • Say, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  ELEPHANT,” while pointing to the elephant.
    • Point to the bird and say, “A bird.”
    • Point to the elephant and say, “An elephant.”  (Repeat these last two steps)
  • Practice “the simple.”
  • Ensure that “the simple” is comprehensible
  • THEN add layers of complexity ONE AT A TIME
  • Click here to read an entire post about this.

3. PROVIDE *PAIRING VARIETY.

If you’re trying to help students find meaning in the L2 word for blue, show them the blue square and then show them many other blue things (i.e. blue circle, blue crayon, blue bird, blue elephant, etc). Then they’ll know that you’re trying to teach them a color word and not a shape or other noun.

4. EXACT *PAIR REPETITION.

Provide a variety of exact pairing instances over an extended period of time. This will allow for students to gain confidence for how the L2 word or phrase is used in a variety of situations. Each time you revisit the *PAIR, the meaning will become more solidified in the learner’s mind.

5. VAGUE *PAIR ELIMINATION.

If I’m trying to teach the L2 word for blue, often I will say/show what ISN’T blue (in the TL).

“This isn’t blue.”

purple

“This isn’t blue.”

red

“This isn’t blue.”

yellow

“THIS IIIISSSSSSS BLUE!”

blue azul

I do this all the time. When I’m trying to establish meaning for a piece of incomprehensible L2 (by pairing it with a corresponding piece of comprehensible linguistic input) I frequently say/show what it DOESN’T mean as well. In that way I eliminate incorrect/vague pairs.


Well, Sr. Howard…that’s nice…BUT:

“WHAT IF MY STUDENTS DON’T PAY ATTENTION!?”

angry teacher

“WHAT IF MY STUDENTS AREN’T MOTIVATED!?”

“WHAT IF THEY GIVE ME BLANK STARES EVEN AFTER I PROVIDE A VARIETY OF EXACT PAIRS OVER AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME?”

All of these questions can be summed up with the following sentence:

One of the BIGGEST ‘making input comprehensible’ obstacles in a 90+% TL use classroom is: the *PAIR isn’t seen/noticed/processed by the learner.

This is a huge problem because, if a student doesn’t process the instance of pairing, there can be NO STEP TOWARDS ACQUIRING that piece of incomprehensible L2.

Realistically speaking, this obstacle CAN’T be overcome 100% of the time.

  • Some kids are just too distracted.
  • Some students just have too much going on emotionally in order to concentrate on L2 class.
  • Some people are just down right nasty and like to cause trouble in class.

A teacher will feel unnecessarily overwhelmed if she feels like she should be able to effectively control every factor AND enable her students to pay attention all the time.

There are, however, some things that can be done to help maximize the amount of time students are noticing and processing instances of pairing.

Identify which of the following three scenarios is the reason for the disruption:

1- OVERWHELMED. The learner is willing and focused but doesn’t process the instance of pairing because the incomprehensible L2 is too unsettling.

The solution to this problem is pretty simple and I’ve already discussed it (in detail) in this post“Why Aren’t They Getting This? – Input: Multiple Forms & ICI.” You might also want to check out:

2- DISTRACTED. The learner is willing (and sometimes focused) but external stimuli causes his attention to be on something other than the teacher’s instance of pairing.

There are many solutions to this problem. Here are some of my favorite tips:

3- UNMOTIVATED. The learner is unwilling to engage because he doesn’t value the lesson activities enough AND values something else MORE.

I have classes that go well, and classes that don’t go so well. The classes that don’t go well usually have a handful of students in them that care too much about what their peers think. They try to show off in front of their peers. They try to give me a hard time so that their peers will think they are cool/rebellious. The students are paying LESS attention to what I’m trying to do and MORE attention to verbal and nonverbal input (from peers) that effects their social status. It’s a MULTIPLE FORMS OF INPUT situation (except that the overwhelming/distracting/competing input isn’t coming from me, it’s coming from their peers!)

The situation is difficult, but not hopeless. Here are some tips on how to deal with it.

  • Present your material in attractive and meaningful ways. Textbooks, pencil and paper are useful. However there are more engaging ways of presenting/studying material. Be thoughtful about choosing activities/materials that are relevant, creative and inspiring. The more meaningful your class is the more students will be willing to temporarily set aside their worries about peers during your instructional time.
  • Consider the learner. At the beginning of your lesson are you thinking about your instructional plan ONLY? Do you think about the students and gauge how they are feeling? Do you adjust your plans to accommodate the ‘feel’ in the room without unnecessarily compromising your instructional goals? How much do you smile? How personable are you? How much do you know about the students you teach? The more your students feel considered, the more open they will be to the input you offer them. You don’t need to be their friend. However, the more they feel valued, the more they will be willing to value what you have to offer them.
  • Help students feel emotionally safe. Many of your students are emotionally vulnerable. They will always be wanting to feel emotionally safe. Is participating in class too risky? Will they feel shame if they make a mistake? Will they feel that making mistakes is okay? What will the teacher do if a classmate makes fun of his peer? Does the teacher pay attention to all of the students, or only the ones who are most verbal or popular? Students will be more motivated to pay attention to you when they feel emotionally safe in the classroom environment that you create.
  • Help students feel valuable. Students will be more likely to care TOO much about their peers if they don’t have positive conclusions about their own value as a person. People easily forget that they are valuable. People easily forget that their perceived value doesn’t have to change based on the opinion of others or based on their social or academic performance. Take time to remind vulnerable students that they are valuable apart from what their peers say. These kinds of things will help students care less about the opinions of their peers; freeing up mental capacity to pay attention to academic things.
  • Place distracting students at the fringes. If a student’s lack of motivation disrupts class continually, try putting them in one of the back corners of the room. Do your best to work with the students that ARE motivated. And, who knows…maybe the unmotivated student will start to show interest after they watch from the fringes for a while.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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 15) – Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible In A Foreign Language Classroom

It happens to all of us:

  • The kids don’t try. Students are always saying, “Teacher, I don’t get it. I don’t know what that means!”
  • The kids don’t pay attention. We work so hard to prepare a high-quality lesson and it seems wasted because some of the kids aren’t even motivated enough to pay attention.
  • Some kids aren’t the brightest crayons in the box. We make the answer as obvious as possible and the students still look at us confused.

Research and workshops CAN BE helpful, but when you try to implement those proven techniques in a classroom full of 24 students (all of whom have their own problems) it’s not so easy to get the results you hoped for.

What goes wrong? What are the obstacles that teachers have to overcome if they’d like to use the target language over 90% of the time? Although the following list won’t be comprehensive, here are some common obstacles that can keep a teacher from reaching their TL use goals.

Problem #1 – The student says, “I don’t get it! I don’t know what that means!” (i.e. Students keep saying they don’t understand even though teacher is using visual aids and gestures to help students find meaning. Teacher works hard to find good visuals. Teacher works hard to speak L2 slowly. Students still don’t get it.)

Examples from class:

  1. Teacher says the L2 word for “to play” and shows a picture of kids playing in order to help students find meaning. Teacher later finds out that the students misinterpreted his picture. They thought he was trying to teach them the L2 word for, “sports!”
  2. Teacher says the L2 word for “with” and shows a picture of a big, bold, red plus sign. Teacher later finds out that the students thought he was teaching them the L2 word for “doctor” or “hospital.”
  3. Teacher stands, points out the window and says the following L2 sentence, “It’s a nice day out today, isn’t it?” Students give her a blank stare and don’t respond to the question at all.

The problem is in the *PAIRING. The *PAIR is not exact or is not matched properly. (Click here for more details.)

Don’t give up! When these things happen, some teachers conclude that students just aren’t ready for L2 immersion. Teachers conclude that they should stay in the target language with level 2 students but not with level 1 students. There are things you can do to pair more effectively. (Stay tuned for tips in next week’s post.)

Problem #2 – “The blank stare” from your students. Maybe your *PAIR is effective and matched properly, however sometime’s there still is a blank stare.

Examples from class:

  1. Recently I was SURE a student would be able to respond when I said, “Stand up,” (in the target language) especially because I even used my hands to motion for him to stand. I thought I was making it as simple as possible.  One short command.  One very obvious gesture.However, he gave me a blank stare.  NO RESPONSE. I thought to myself, “How much more obvious can I make it?”

The problem is that there are multiple forms of input (which are coming at the learner) and one of those forms of input is too overwhelming. It’s so overwhelming that it’s limiting the learner’s ability to process any of the other forms of input. (Click here for more details.)

Don’t give up! When this happens, you don’t have to revert to L1. Try communicating (for a while) with fewer words or even NO WORDS. It will help the student grow accustomed to paying attention to the extralinguistic input that you’re offering him. (Check out these examples.)

Problem #3 – The most obvious problem: some students just don’t pay attention. They lack motivation.

Examples from class:

Maybe the students are…

  • …not the studious type and are too bored by school work.
  • …worried about a boy that they like.
  • …thinking about the science test they have next period.
  • …upset about something that’s happening at home.
  • …angry that a friend intentionally ignored them in the hallway before class.

These problems are huge BECAUSE *pairing can’t happen if the students aren’t watching or focused on each instance of *pairing.

It’s an unfortunate reality that we have to deal with. It’s unfortunate that we not only have to do OUR job of TEACHING but ALSO have to bend over backwards motivating students to do THEIR JOB of LEARNING.

Don’t give up! All the things you do to motivate your students are very worthwhile! (Don’t forget the starfish story! “It makes a difference to that one!”)

If you find yourself particularly overwhelmed with unmotivated students, check out next week’s blog post, on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language. Maybe you’ll find one or two things that you might be able to use in your classroom. (If you can’t wait for a week, you can check out this post or this post in the meantime.)

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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 this is the term found in formal, academic writing.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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 14) – How To Make Input Comprehensible In A Foreign Language Classroom

Q- “How do you make input comprehensible?”

A- “Hmmm. I’m not sure what you mean? Do you mean something like Question #1 or do you mean Question #2?

  • Question #1: How do you help a novice student know that you want him to pass out the worksheets when you say the L2 sentence for, “Please pass out these worksheets?”
  • Question #2: How do you help a student come to a point of understanding a piece of L2 that he currently doesn’t understand?

If you’re looking for answers to questions like Question #1, it would be more clear to phrase the original question this way:

Revised Question #1 – How do you help a student find meaning in an L2 immersion environment if most of the L2 input is going to be incomprehensible for him? (For a list of practical answers to this question see ‘More Answers To Revised Question #1’ below.)

This is an important revision because Revised Question #1 and the question at the top of this post are definitely NOT interchangeable. The answer to Revised Question #1 is *PAIRING and the answer to the question at the top of this post sounds almost the same but is clearly different: REPEATED PAIRING.

*PAIRING happens when a teacher leverages different forms of extralinguistic input so students can find meaning in an L2 immersion environment even though the L2 input is incomprehensible. More specifically, *PAIRING is matching a piece of incomprehensible L2 with another piece of input (extralinguistic or linguistic) that is equivalent and meaningful. (i.e. 1- Like when a teacher gestures for a novice student to stand up while saying the L2 word for, “stand up.” The L2 word for, “stand up,” is the piece of incomprehensible L2 and the accompanying gesture is the other piece of input that is equivalent and hopefully meaningful. This is an instance of extralinguistic pairing. 2- Like when a teacher hands out a flashcard that has the L2 word for “stand up,” on the front and the L1 word for, “stand up,” on the back. This is an instance of linguistic, L1 pairing.)

REPEATED *PAIRING is…:

  • …a teacher gesturing while saying the L2 word for, “stand up,” a few times on Monday, a few times during Tuesday’s lesson, a few MORE times on Wednesday and even more times throughout the rest of the school year.
  • …a student not just looking at his L2 vocab list on Monday night, but again on Tuesday and again on Wednesday night and again on Thursday night before the test.
  • …giving the learner multiple chances to see a meaningful equivalent of an incomprehensible L2 word/phrase.
  • …the answer to Question #2 (above) and is a correct way of answer the original question at the very top of this blog post.

The purpose of REPEATED *PAIRING is to make what was once meaningLESS meaningFUL. When an instance of PAIRING is repeated enough times (over a long enough period of time) a piece of L2 input that previously had been incomprehensible to a student can become meaningful.”


More Answers To Revised Question #1

There are SOOOOO many answers to Revised Question #1.

1- There are entire methods/systems of foreign language teaching devoted to providing answers to that question. Here’s a post I wrote two weeks ago containing 37 Links To Online Resources that discuss such methods.)

2- I write “Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language” to give practical, step-by-step and (hopefully) reproducible answers to Revised Question #1. I’ve written practical advice/strategies for…:

…Teaching Grammar While Staying In The Target Language.

…Introducing New Vocabulary While Staying In The Target Language.

…Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible.

Giving Activity Directions While Staying In The Target Language.

3- In an effort to answer Revised Question #1, some articles and blogs provide answers that are too vague and incomplete like, “make meaning clear through body language, gestures, and visual support.” I wrote a series on practical tips and specific examples for how to do this. Click on the links below to access those posts:

That should be more than enough answers to Revised Question #1.

Have fun repeatedly pairing so that you can make more and more incomprehensible L2 comprehensible for your students!

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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 13) – “Language Acquisition Magic”

“Language Acquisition Magic”  …I don’t really like the phrase anymore.

  1. It makes it sound like acquiring a language is easy; and I DON’T think that’s true.
  2. It also makes it sound like there is a perfect formula for how to teach a foreign language; and I don’t think that’s true either.

However, I used the phrase several months ago while writing a series on comprehensible input and, in today’s post, I’d like to explain what I regret and DON’T regret about using it. Here’s the phrase in it’s original context:

“Making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition ‘magic’ to occur.”

What I DON’T regret:

In class, there are instances when I watch a student use the target language without even realizing it. It almost seems like L2 slips out of their mouth by accident or without expending intentional intellectual effort. Here are some examples:

  • One reluctant student blurted out, “I don’t want to,” (in the target language!) when he got randomly chosen to participate.
  • A 1st grader said, “sit down,” and, “quiet,” (in the target language) to an off task classmate.
  • A 4th grader said, “That’s not for you! That’s for me!” (in the target language) when I playfully stole his pencil.

It feels like magic, when those things happen, because:

  • we never formally covered that L2 content in the curriculum.
  • it seems that some students said those things without even realizing that they were speaking another language. (I notice that this happens more with the youngest learners.)
  • often, the students that said these things are not the stereotypical “overachieving students.” Sometimes L2 phrases like these popped out of the mouths of the ones that have been known as the “quiet” students.
  • the process of acquiring those L2 phrases wasn’t difficult. It didn’t involve copying, memorizing, drilling or homework. I would wager that most students felt like it was even fun and enjoyable.

Now for an important SIDE NOTE devoted to answering the question, “What is causing this “language acquisition magic” to occur?”

The answer, summed up in one word (and over-simplified) is: *PAIRING.

Pairing what?” you may ask.

Pairing a piece of incomprehensible L2 with an equivalent and meaningful form of extralinguistic input. It can be ANY form of extralinguistic input. (i.e. *representational, *gesticulated, *inflectional, *constructed situational and/or *incidental situational.)

It’s also effective to pair incomprehensible L2 with other linguistic input, namely L1 input (aka: translation) or comprehensible L2 input (aka: a definition or using context clues). However, when a teacher starts pairing in this way, the pairing experiences start becoming less “magic-like” and more “academic-like” or “study-like.”)


What I DO regret:

Besides the 2 regret-statements that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I regret including the bold part of the statement:

Making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition ‘magic’ to occur.”

I regret including the phrase because I think I used it incorrectly. I think I’ve had an incorrect (or at least an incomplete) understanding of what it means to make input comprehensible.

Up until recently, I THOUGHT making input comprehensible went something like this:

Sr. Howard thinks, “Okay…the students are about to walk into my classroom. I need them to stand up in the middle of the lesson, but they don’t know the L2 word for, “Stand up.” Uh-oh. What am I going to do? Hmmm. (Pause) Oh! I know! Maybe I can make the input comprehensible to my students by gesturing or motioning for them to stand when I say the L2 word for, “Stand up!” Yes! That will work marvelously! I’ll make the input comprehensible with the use of a gesture!”

I no longer think that’s correct. A gesture doesn’t make an L2 word comprehensible. A gesture, instead, offers the student another available form of input that he/she can use in an attempt to find meaning. Even if a student stands up, when I gesture and say the L2 word for, “Stand up,” it doesn’t mean that I made the L2 word comprehensible. It simply means that the gesticulated input that I used was comprehensible. More than likely, the L2 word remains incomprehensible. Furthermore, the L2 word will remain incomprehensible until the student can perform the appropriate physical response without the cue of an available form of extralinguistic input.

Here’s the same situation but with a change in vocabulary that indicates a more clear understanding of what’s happening for the learner:

Sr. Howard thinks, “Okay…the students are about to walk into my classroom. I need them to stand up in the middle of the lesson, but they don’t know the L2 word for, “Stand up.” Uh-oh. What am I going to do? Hmmm. (Pause) Well, it’s not likely that anything I do in class today will make the L2 word for, “Stand up,” comprehensible. It will likely take more time than we have during today’s session for that L2 word to become comprehensible. It will take repeated instances wherein that L2 word is paired with an equivalent and meaningful form of extralinguistic input. Once the students have experienced enough of these pairing instances, they will be able to perform the appropriate physical response without the extralinguistic cues. Until then, however, I can use these cues to communicate meaning even though my L2 input fails to communicate meaning.”

 

 


 

So at the end of this post I think I’d like to throw out the original sentence:

“Making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition ‘magic’ to occur.”

…and use this revised sentence instead:

“Providing engaging instances for students, wherein pieces of incomprehensible L2 are repeatedly paired with extralinguistic forms of input, can be great fun for both the teacher and students in a foreign language classroom. It can even make parts of the L2 acquisition process feel less work intensive for the learner while still allowing for exciting performance results that, in the best of instructional moments, feel almost magical.


Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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).

Back To Todd & “Which Form Of Input Is Most Effective For Facilitating L2 Acquisition?”

I took a break.

During the past 2-3 months I haven’t continued the series on CI with Todd.  However, I NEED TO GET BACK TO IT because at the end of each of those posts I listed some questions/discussion topics that I promised to address.  Do you remember them?

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  1. …the nature of input and comprehensible input.

  2. …different forms of input.

  3. …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.

  4. …making input comprehensible.

  5. …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.

  6. …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.

  7. …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.

  8. …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

In today’s post I’d like to tackle #3: “a qualitative analysis of the various forms of input.”

FIRST, I’ll list the forms of input that I’ve delineated in the series so far.  Feel free to click through the links if you need a refresher on their definitions and usefulness for facilitating L2 acquisition.

Forms of extralinguistic input:

Forms of linguistic input:

(*Things to keep in mind about the above list:

  1. I don’t think it’s a comprehensive list.
  2. You shouldn’t think of this list as a well researched piece of language acquisition theory.  I’m not an expert in the field.  I don’t even know the names of the real/academic terms used to talk about these forms of input.  They are just terms I’ve developed as I’ve tried to reflect on my own practice.)

SECOND, I’ll confess that I’ve changed my mind about this whole ‘qualitative analysis’ thing.  When I first started this series, I thought that some of the forms of input were more useful (or effective) for facilitating L2 acquisition than others.  However, several months later, I no longer think this is true.  Here’s what I think now:

  1. Each of the forms of input have equal degrees of potential to help facilitate L2 acquisition.  (How, you may ask, do they help facilitate L2 acquisition? They can be used to make a piece of incomprehensible L2 input meaningful through *PAIRING. See this post, Vocab List Analogy, for more on *PAIRING.)
  2. In an L2 immersion environment NONE of the forms of input will help facilitate L2 acquisition UNLESS certain factors are in place. 1) The learner notices and processes the instance of *PAIRING. 2) The instructor *pairs effectively.  (An effective *pair happens when an isolated and noticed piece of incomprehensible L2 is PAIRED with it’s exact extralinguistic match OR when a teacher uses comprehensible L2 to help a learner make sense of a piece of incomprehensible L2. See this post, A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake, for more details on effective pairing.)

Based on these two statements we can draw the following pedagogical conclusion:

A teacher should feel confident using any form of input for pairing as long as she pairs effectively and invests reasonable effort to increase the chance that a learner will pay attention to each instance of pairing.


Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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 Vocab List Analogy

What are your feelings about foreign language vocabulary lists?  You know…the handouts with the target vocabulary on one side and the L1 equivalent on the other.

german vocabulary

japanese vocabulary

 

russian vocabularySome people love them.  They’re very useful.

Some students cheat with them.

Some teacher’s feel guilty if they pass them out to their students.

Some educators write articles saying, “Hey!  These lists aren’t just part of some outdated strategy!  Don’t count them out!

In this post I DON’T want to make a case for or against the use of vocabulary lists in the foreign language classroom.  However, I DO want to mention them for the purpose of explaining what I do in my 90+% target language use classroom.


(And at this point I’ll include SIDE NOTE for new visitors to this blog who might be thinking, “What, exactly, is it that you do in your 90+% TL use classroom?”  Well…I try to provide my novice students with the following:

Repeated and meaningful opportunities wherein a piece of incomprehensible linguistic input is *paired with a corresponding piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input.

I make it my goal to have this *pairing” happen hundreds of times during one instructional session.  See examples in these videos from my classroom.)


So what does *pairing have to do with traditional vocabulary/translation lists?

The thing that makes L2 vocabulary lists so useful is that they *pair what is incomprehensible with something that is comprehensible.  They make the unfamiliar L2 (something that can be overwhelming/stressful) MUCH LESS INTIMIDATING because the L2 gets *paired (or matched) with the familiar L1.  This is so helpful for foreign language learners because their list becomes a tool that they can use to navigate an unfamiliar L2 environment.

A second helpful thing about these lists is that they take the L2 and break it down into tiny, isolated components or pieces.  You know what I mean, right?  Generally a vocabulary list isn’t a paragraph of L2 next to a translated paragraph of L1.  It’s one, single L2 word next to it’s L1 equivalent.

Well…

…in my classroom I do the same thing EXCEPT, instead of *pairing pieces of unfamiliar L2 with L1 words/phrases, I *pair them with any of the following forms of extralinguistic input:

So my students don’t get a printed out list.  I give them a different kind of list.  It’s not a list they can look at.  It’s more like a list that they experience live and in person.  For example:

  • when I put something cold in their hands and say the L2 word for “cold.”
  • when I say L2 words like, “YOU WON!” or “YOU DID IT!” or “GREAT JOB!” after a student wins a classroom game.
  • when a student randomly sneezes and I say, “God bless you,” in the target language.

When these moments/experiences are strung together in meaningful ways, the students start to form an intangible list.  The incomprehensible L2 is paired with something.  But it’s not paired with L1 on a handout.  It’s paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  And their intangible and ever evolving list serves the same purpose as traditional vocabulary lists: it takes what’s unfamiliar and makes it meaningful.  With it they can take steps towards more effectively navigating L2 environments.


Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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 this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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).

Q/A: What To Do During The First Week Of Class and When To Use L1

Here’s a great question about L2 use in the foreign language classroom from a middle school German teacher:

Hello Señor Howard,
I’ve been teaching middle school German for 10 years, but I don’t like the amount of L1 I have been using. My goal is to use 90%+ TL in my classroom. In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom. What type of activities do you do the first week in L2? When do you feel it’s okay to use L1? Thanks for your help! So far I love the resources and advice on your page!
Carrie


Dear Carrie,

Thanks for writing! Best wishes on the upcoming school year and I hope the thoughts I’ve included below answer your questions.  (Your statements/questions are in bold with my response underneath each one.)

“I don’t like the amount of L1 I’ve been using.”

This may not be the way you are feeling (but it’s still worth mentioning)…Be careful NOT to assume that you’re doing something wrong if you use a lot of L1.  Some teachers feel that using L1 makes them NOT AS GOOD as other foreign language teachers.  It’s not necessarily true.  I don’t think that staying in the target language is the best way to teach a foreign language in every academic situation.  I wrote a couple of blog posts on debunking these types of teaching in the target language MYTHS.  To read more click here (for myths 1-5) and here (for myths 6-10).

“In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom.”

I really like your idea of helping everyone get acclimated/comfortable.  Intimidation and anxiety are big foreign language learning stumbling blocks.  If a teacher can kick those two things out of the classroom, at the beginning of the year, she’ll be doing herself a huge favor.  What you’re suggesting of using L1 at the beginning of the year to introduce students to routines, your teaching style, expectations, etc…is one great way to do this.  Here are some more:

What type of activities do you do the first week in L2?

Here’s a post I wrote about this topic entitled, The First Week Of Trying To Stay In The Target Language With Your Students.  In it, I give specific examples of how you can do the following:

One more thing: here’s a video of me teaching my students on the first day of the year.

When do you feel it’s okay to use L1?

There are generally 3 occasions when I use L1 in my foreign language classroom.  Click here for the full post on this.

My guess is that teachers feel like they have to use L1 in order to help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  I DO think that it’s absolutely necessary for students to find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  Without it, I don’t think L2 acquisition progress can be made.  The problem is (in my opinion) that many teachers don’t realize the amount of ways meaning can be found apart from using L1.  I’ve tried to list the various ways over the last several months (click on each item for more detailed info and examples):

The key for me has been repeatedly *pairing these extralinguistic forms of input with a corresponding piece of incomprehensible L2 in ways that are engaging for the students I work with.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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 this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


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

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).