Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Ensure That You Are Pairing (Part 1)

A teacher’s chances of winning the behavior management battle, in a 90+% TL classroom, soar when she excels at pairing incomprehensible L2 input equivalent  and comprehensible extralinguistic forms of input.  Student tendency to engage in off-task behavior increases when he/she doesn’t understand what is happening in class.  Therefore, a 90+%-TL-using-teacher should have a goal of causing students to understand most of what’s happening in an L2 immersion environment.

How can a foreign language PAIR effectively?

1.  Use Fewer Words – When speaking in front of students, many teachers think that they need to sound like a native speaker.  This is, generally, NOT a good practice.  Staying in the TL (depending upon the proficiency level of the students) isn’t about sounding like a native speaker.  Don’t try to string together fancy sounding words.  Don’t try to speak quickly and fluidly.  These actions actually make incomprehensible L2 input feel more aversive to L2 learners.  And when this happens, students easily lose hope and give up.

Instead, teachers should consider the following principles in order increase the chance that a student will be willing to engage in an L2 immersion environment:

  • Use fewer words
  • Speak slowly
  • Insert brief pauses between words
  • Focus primarily on using vocabulary from the day’s performance objectives.

I learned the ‘Use Fewer Words’ principle when my daughter was 10-20 months old.  I quickly learned better ways to verbally instruct my crawling, non-language-using daughter to stay out of the kitchen?  Obviously a parent should not say something like: “Infant daughter, there are some dangerous things in the kitchen.  Furthermore your father and mother are not in there to supervise you.  Therefore our desire is for you to stay in the living room with us.”  In a situation like this, a parent needs to eliminate extra words.  I took my daughter to the threshold between the kitchen and living room.  I pointed to the kitchen side of the threshold and said, “NO, NO, NO.”  I pointed to the living room side of the threshold and said, “YES, YES, YES.”  I took the extra time to repeat these statements 3 or 4 times.  She was able to understand because I used fewer words and I made their meaning obvious.  If I would’ve used 4 sentences with complex ‘native speaker level words’ my daughter wouldn’t have even listened or looked at me.  (In teacher words: she would’ve engaged in off-task behavior.)

These same principles can be applied to foreign language classrooms.  When communicating with L2 learners, eliminate extra words.  Take extra time to ensure that your words are paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  Use situations, and context, to make words and phrases meaningful.  The more understandable the input is, the easier it will be for students to stay on-task during learning activities.

 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).

Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Increase Student Motivation

When switching to 90+% TL use, the first question I decided to address was…:

…how can I make students want to actively participate in a L2 environment that is initially uncomfortable, intimidating and confusing?

I initially did three things to increase student willingness to stay engaged in an L2 environment.

1-  I told students that it can be more exciting to learn a foreign language when the instructor stays in the TL. (keep in mind that the instructor has to be excellent at pairing incomprehensible L2 input with compelling extralinguistic input.)  I told students to imagine the way they learned L1.  Their parents didn’t sit them down, as 1-year-olds, and give them vocabulary lists or explain complex grammar structures.  Infants acquire language naturally through being immersed in their native language.  I told students that I wanted them to experience the beauty of foreign language acquisition through immersion.

2-  I set up a LONG TERM system for rewarding students.  We recorded how long we could stay in the TL.  The class with the most minutes at the end of the year wins.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I found a good timer/stopwatch (download one or use the one on ClassDojo)
  • Timer was ON when I was in the TL. (Students loved watching the timer go up!)
  • Timer was OFF when I had to switch into L1.
  • Record total minutes in the target language at the end of each class.  (I used Google Sheets to record.  See Kinder example.  See 5th grade example.  Note: Use tabs at the bottom to switch between sheets.  See how to set up online record sheet.)
  • Class/section that has the most minutes at the end of the year wins a party/award.
  • Timer keeps going even if students need to switch to L1.  Teacher must stay in TL.

3- I set up a SHORT TERM system for rewarding students.  I used a free and popular behavior management software product.  www.ClassDojo.com .  Here’s what I liked about it:

  • Sound effects give immediate and comprehensible feedback to students regarding their behavior.
  • Students can choose/customize their avatars. (Make a lesson out of it by teaching/practicing expressing preferences.)
  • Student ‘behavior points’ are tallied next to their avatar.  (Use this feature for practicing numbers identification in the TL.)
  • Parents can receive daily reports on student progress with details.  (You can also text parents through the ClassDojo webpage.)
  • A Mobile App is available.  This allows you to use the software in front of the class or privately on the side.
  • Settings can be modified to make the system appropriate for different age groups.
  • More on ClassDojo to come in future blog posts.

Making these three adjustments has worked for me.  It’s fun!  Students who once struggled are now thriving.  Students use vocabulary that isn’t even part of our performance objectives.  Students are more motivated.  I feel like I have to focus less on entertaining and keeping their attention.  Teaching in the TL has made me love my job even more.

I like to talk with others about the changes I’ve made in my classroom.  Feel free to make comments or ask question in the section below.  You can also email me or follow me on twitter to ask questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for more posts on management strategies for the 90+% TL classroom, including videos of me using these strategies with students.

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).

Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Introduction

It’s not easy to teach a foreign language by staying in the TL.  Neither is managing off-task behavior.  When I considered following ACTFL’s recommendation, to stay in the TL at least 90% of the time, my biggest question was: “How do I effectively manage the classroom and keep students engaged?”

Without practical strategies for managing off-task behavior in an L2 setting, I felt like staying in the TL would never happen for me.  I needed to know…

  • …how to avoid students saying: “Sr. Howard, I don’t understand a word you’re saying!”
  • …how to avoid a disrespectful response after I reprimanded an off-task student in the target language. (i.e. ‘WHAT!?  WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SAYING!?’)
  • …how to motivate classes to stay engaged even though they didn’t understand every word I was saying.
  • …how to encourage on-task behavior without making the learner feel intimidated (as a result of the compliment being in a language they didn’t understand.)
  • …how to handle heritage speakers wanting to interupt instruction with direct translations of what I was saying.

After I attended ACTFL 2012, I took time to develop a new classroom management plan that would work for my students and me.  The plan worked!

Starting today, and over the next several weeks, I’ll share those practical ideas and strategies.  Remember: for students to acquire L2, while listening to only L2, the input needs to be comprehensible.  AND…For the input to be comprehensible the students need to be watching a contextualized source of instruction.  So classroom management is a HUGE deal.  Take it seriously.  Feel free to use any of these ideas (or adapt them) for use in your classroom.

What questions do you have about how to manage student behavior while staying in the target language?  Leave comments and questions below.

More posts on this topic:

Management Strategies – Increase Student Motivation

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 1)

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 2)

Management Strategies – Ensure That Input Is Comprehensible (Part 3)

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).

Comprehensible Input: Behavior Management is HUGE

Foreign language teachers spend a lot of time and energy preparing visuals, props and handouts so that their input with be comprehensible or understandable to their students.  But just remember…

…any effort to make input comprehensible IS WASTED if students aren’t completely engaged and paying attention.

This is such an important point that you can almost say “A comprehensible-input-issue is a classroom management issue”.  A foreign language instructor that wants to stay in the target language must have an excellent plan for behavior management.

If the students aren’t watching you and/or the point of instruction, none (or very little) of the input will be comprehensible.

Language learners (depending on their proficiency level) can’t rely on their sense of hearing to help them understand what’s being communicated.  Teachers need to use any number of strategies to help the spoken language be understood not through the students sense of hearing but through their sense of sight, or touch or through creating predictable situations where a limited amount of target vocabulary can be explored, experienced, experimented with…etc.  Consequently if input is to be comprehensible a student needs to be watching and engaged during all instructional activities.

A foreign language teacher should invest just as much energy into effective classroom management strategies as she/he does into strategies for making input comprehensible.

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).