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).

Language To Language OR Language To Living

I was silently YELLING at my students in my head.

angry teacher

“We’ve been over this a thousand times!”

“They are the simplest of L2 questions.  I know they’re novice students, but…C’MON!!!  How can they NOT know how to respond to “How are you?” or “What’s your name?” in the target language!!?!

  • I’ve modeled the target questions and responses!
  • We’ve gone over it again and again in class!  …even with puppets!
  • I made an “engaging” video to help them remember!
  • We’ve played practice games!
  • I’ve done everything I know how to do!”

Granted, the students COULD answer the questions during the games/activities IN CLASS.  However, as soon as I surprised them with the same L2 questions in the hallway or in the cafeteria they would look at me with a blank stare, pause and say, “huh?”

Confused-student

Why?

Why COULDN’T they answer (in an improvised, or real-life, situation) the same questions they were correctly answering during the classroom games/activities?

I think it was because I was asking them to do something I never prepared them to do.

Here’s what I mean:

At the beginning of my teaching career I taught students L2 by speaking L1.  I used a lot of different strategies to help them memorize L2 to L1 translations.  When I planned my lessons, the question in my head usually went something like this: “What can I do during class today to make sure my students know that, ‘¿Cómo estás?’ means, ‘How are you?'” (Side Note: Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that this is necessarily a WRONG approach to teach a foreign language.  I don’t believe there is one BEST way to teach L2 in every academic setting.  For more on this click here.)

So we would practice…and memorize…and repeat…and play practice games…and sing practice songs.

Some things went well.  The students could participate.  Some students would get good at winning those practice games.  But when I asked some of those winning students to answer one of those L2 questions at random outside of class it would always seem like they would think the following thoughts:

“Uh oh.  Sr. Howard just asked me a Spanish question that I think I’m supposed to know.  He said, ‘¿Cómo estás?’  Ummm…wait…I know that one.  What does ‘¿Cómo estás?’ mean again?  Oh yeah.  It means, ‘how are you?’  Okay wait…I know this.  Ummm.  So if he’s asking me ‘how are you?’ I need to tell him how I’m feeling.  Okay.  I’m feeling good.  But what is, ‘I’m feeling good,’ in Spanish?  Oh yeah…that’s, ‘estoy bien,’ I think.  Okay…so he says…’¿Cómo estás?’…and I say, ‘estoy bien.’  I hope this is right.”

Do you see their struggle?  Do you see how they couldn’t use L2 naturally because they were trying to make connections between the two languages in their heads?

My classroom activities weren’t fully preparing them to use L2 naturally in a real-life situation.

There was a missing link.  They were learning things ABOUT L2.  But they weren’t quite able to connect what they were learning to real-life.

During the last few years I’ve made some changes to my approach to teaching a foreign language.  The changes have helped me learn what thousands of foreign language educators already know.  I’m not well acquainted with the available research on foreign language teaching approaches/methods.  So I can’t astutely describe the changes I’ve made.  But a phrase popped into my head the other day that sums it up well for me:

Language To Language OR Language To Living

In 2012 I decided to start teaching a foreign language by staying in the target language.  Together with my students, I’ve thrown L1 out the window.  With no L1, the students don’t spend time making connections between two languages.  Now there’s only L2.  And the L2 is connected to all the things that happen when we’re together.  (See video examples here.)

I’ve observed some things that have surprised me.  The one surprising thing that I’ll take the time to point out now is MY STUDENTS CAN DO IT!  They can answer those same, simple L2 questions even when we’re outside of the classroom.  We’ll run into each other at the local mall…AND THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  I’ll see them at the food store…AND THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  Outside on the playground…THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  Even the youngest students!  Even after I haven’t seen them for 2 months during summer break!

The difference is that I don’t use class time to practice Language To Language connections.  I use class time to foster Language To Living connections.

I probably would’ve realized these things years ago if I would’ve taken the time to read the available foreign language acquisition research.  Instead I’ve had to stumble upon it on my own.  But slowly, I’m getting it.  I’m getting that…:

  • …when I effectively teach a foreign language by speaking the foreign language, the students will have been experiencing in the classroom what they’ll need in order to use L2 naturally outside of the classroom.
  • if I DO CHOOSE to teach a foreign language by speaking L1, I’ll need to make sure that I set aside the necessary class time to help them make that next connection.  I can’t only spend time helping them make connections between two languages.  I have to help them make the connection between the L2 they’ve learned and the real life situations they’ll have to use it in.

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).

What I Learned About Comprehensible Input From My Crawling Infants

One of the biggest things that has influenced the way I teach a foreign language has been being a dad and helping my daughters move from L-ZERO to L1.

Being a dad has shaped the way I teach L2 and my views on comprehensible input.

Being a dad has shaped the way I teach L2 and my views on comprehensible input.

tuesday's tips for staying in the target language

I love creating moments when language input is comprehensible to them.

The other day a teacher emailed me and asked how I started teaching they way I do.
Here’s what she wrote:
I was wondering how you got so involved in your teaching style? I used to be a high school teacher, and I would have LOVED to know more about how to teach the way that you do! Were you introduced to it in your undergrad, graduate, or just through practice? I’m thinking some workshops/books/websites to suggest to fellow teachers would be great! I’ve already shared your site with many of them.

Thanks!
Laura
At first I didn’t know how to answer.  But as I started writing back to her…I realized some of the major things that have influenced the way I teach.  …and I want to share them with you.
Here was my answer to her question:

“so…how did I get so involved in my teaching style?  …hmmm.  good question.
A huge influence is actually something that you’d probably never think would affect my professional life…but it has!  BEING A DAD has significantly influenced the way I teach a foreign language!
Why/How has being a dad influenced the way you teach a foreign language?
I’ve loved helping my daughters learn their first language.  Talk about a great opportunity for ‘staying-in-the-target-language’!  When a baby is learning his/her first language (mostly from family members in a home environment):
  • there is no option BUT to stay in the target language.
  • There’s no language besides the target language!
  • There’s no way of using L1 to explain L2.  There’s only helping a baby move from L-ZERO to L1.  🙂
  • It’s language learning at it’s best: the most natural way, the least work-intensive way, the most meaningful way…and it all happens pretty much by accident.
  • The L1 teacher (parent) and the L1 learner (baby) hardly even notice that L1 acquisition is happening.
  • No L1 wordsearches for baby.
  • No extensive/overwhelming L1 grammar explanations for baby.
  • No flashcards to make and memorize.
  • Baby doesn’t even have to try.
  • As long as baby is watching, and living and breathing…L1 acquisition happens!
I loved (and still love) creating moments where incomprehensible language is PAIRED with comprehensible extralinguistic input.
One day my daughter was crawling around on the floor while we were with our extended family in the living room.  She was at that age where she was just starting to be mobile and loved her independence and ability to explore new things.  During this same stage her mom and I had to keep our eyes glued on her because she didn’t know which of her exploration items were dangerous or not.  We loved letting her explore, but it was exhausting to constantly spend energy keeping her from exploring electrical sockets, stair cases and fragile decorations.
On this night I didn’t want to supervise my exploring daughter.  I wanted to stay in the living room talking with the other adults.  So I decided to try to tell my infant/crawler to stay in the living room and NOT CRAWL INTO THE KITCHEN.
I realized that she would’ve never understood my language if I said something like:
“Ava, 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.”
But she WOULD understand my language if I said/did something like this:
I took my daughter to the threshold between the kitchen and living room.  I knelt down at her level.  I pointed to the kitchen side of the threshold and (with serious looking eyes) said, “NO, NO, NO.”  I pointed to the living room side of the threshold and (with smiling looking eyes) 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.
Through situations like this, I realized that my daughters don’t learn L1 by only hearing L1.  They acquire L1 a piece at a time (or one baby sized step at time) whenever they experience a moment where L1 is made comprehensible for them.  They don’t just need to hear L1.  They need to hear L1 in a meaning-filled context.  They need to hear L1 in reference to noticeable, tangible objects.  They need to hear L1 as a corresponding gesture is being made.  Etc.
Teaching them their first language has helped me make a philosophical distinction between language immersion and COMPREHENSIBLE language immersion.
I guess I used to think that staying in the target language meant just talking to my students in L2 instead of L1.  I thought it was saying everything that you say in L1 but switching to L2 and holding up an occasional picture to make sure that I was checking of the “make input comprehensible” box on my foreign language teacher strategy checklist.
NO NO NO!!
I’ve learned that you have to make it a goal that every student understands pretty much every thing your saying…even though you are saying it in a language they’ve never heard of before.
Now, in my classroom, I talk to my students like I talked to my 1 year old when she was learning English from us at home.  I use fewer words.  …and create scenarios where the students pretty much know exactly what I’m about to say…but instead of saying it in a language they know…I say it in a language that I want them to learn.
Here are some examples to show you what I’m talking about:
1- I eat a bite of cupcake and put on a face that says, “I really enjoy this,” …and when they are all watching (and wishing they could be enjoying what I’m enjoying) I say, “Delicioso,” or “Que rico.”  (they wouldn’t know what it means except that the scenario I created made it unmistakable that I was talking about good taste.)
2- I have something in my hand (something attention grabbing) that the students watch me drop or see me thoughtlessly set down.  Then, I pretend that I lost it…or can’t find where it dropped.  I look around, with a slight sense of urgency, like I can’t find it.  Finally, when all the students undoubtedly notice that I can’t find something, I say, “¿Dónde está?”  It creates a wonderful moment for language acquisition:
  • The item was noticeable and attention-grabbing.  So every student knows where it fell.
  • The students are bursting with a desire to tell me where I dropped it.  They are pointing and sitting on the edge of their seats wishing to be the one that tells Sr. Howard where it is.  Some even start to say something in English because they are so excited that they know where it is.
  • Then…at that climax of attention…and climax of student desire to say something…I use the two-hand method to help them say, “allí está!!!”  …and then i pretend like I still don’t say it…and we go back and for saying, “¿Dónde está?” “allí está!!!” a few times.
  • They wouldn’t know what those words mean except that the scenario I created made it unmistakable that I was talking about “where is it?”  and. “There it is!”
So every moment of my Spanish class becomes moments like those.  In a 40 minute period, the students experience hundreds of meaningful PAIRING moments.  Every moment is intentional.  Every moment is on purpose.  A lot of times the students are so focused on the meaning-filled scenarios/situations I create, that they forget they are learning another language and even functioning in an L2-immersion environment.
“When a teacher uses PAIRING to facilitate L2 acquisition, it’s like she puts a puzzle together…all but the last piece.”
To me that phrase means…I create a scenario (and then another scenario and then another and another and another) where my students unmistakably know what I’m about to say next…but instead of saying it in L1…I say it in L2.
…and then I repeat it…and repeat it…and repeat it.
Sometimes I repeat it immediately.  Sometimes I say it once but repeat it daily/weekly by including the L2 phrase in one of my routines.
Repetition is important because each piece of incomprehensible L2 input will never be acquired unless students have the opportunity to hear it repeatedly PAIRED with an equivalent form of comprehensible extralinguistic input.
The last thing I should say about that is in regards to performance objectives, curriculum and state standards.
All of what I just said sounds very impromptu and improvised.  And, to be honest,…some of it is.
But I’m a firm believer that, in a formal academic setting, a teacher should be an instructional leader.  She should set daily performance objectives and short and long term performance goals for her students.  A teacher should have a standards based curriculum.
I don’t think that teachers who use this style of teaching should believe that all learning should be spontaneous and student led.  I believe that teachers should leave some room for that…but still be intentional with using this approach to move students through all the required components of a proficiency based curriculum.
So that’s a long explanation to my first answer: “Being a dad has helped shape the way I teach language professionally.”
Another thing that has shaped how I teach has been taking advantage of good PD opportunities.
Going to ACTFL 2012 jump-started me on this staying in the target language journey.  …and a lot of what I do has snowballed from there.
It’s really fun.  It makes the classroom so much more meaningful and worthwhile because we don’t emphasize things that students have a hard time finding meaningful (like L2 skills practice or L2 vocab memorization).  Instead, we do REAL.  We do MEANINGFUL.  We do FUN.  We do “STUDENTS TAKE OWNERSHIP.”  And yes…we do worksheets.  We do assessments.  …but we do it in an L2 immersion environment that’s RICH with instances of PAIRING. We do it in a way that all the students (even the kindergartners) understand pretty much everything I’m saying even though I’m talking to them in a language they don’t know.)
If you are interested in sharing resources with fellow teachers about this way of teaching…I don’t have much to offer…cause I don’t do any research or reading myself.  But I would say…:

 

 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).

“My Students Don’t Feel Comfortable When I Spend Long Amounts Of Time Teaching In The Target Language.”

 “My students don’t feel comfortable when I spend extended amounts of time teaching in the target language.”

“My students complain when I stay in the target language.  They say, “Miss…I don’t speak Spanish!” or “What she sayin’!?” or “I didn’t understand a word you just said!”

“Staying in the target language may be a good instructional goal to shoot for, but it just wouldn’t work for my students.”

Along these lines, a reader made some insightful comments after reading last week’s blog post:

I think many HS students walk into a WL class “expecting” those L1 -> L2 connections to be made.  Many of them think they can’t function unless they “know” what those words mean in L1, and they dislike having that knowledge gap created.  It’s difficult for many of them to “trust” in the L2.  Lots of L1 interference comes into play here.  (I’m not commenting on whether these things are good or bad pedagogically — those are just my observations of student reactions).

If a foreign language teacher approached me for advice pertaining to situations like these I would say:

1-  My students, as well, experienced levels of discomfort when I switched into staying in the target language.  (Read my story of transitioning into 90+% TL use.)

When I asked students to participate, they would often say things like, “But Sr. Howard, I don’t understand Spanish!”  I guess their conclusion was that they were in the wrong place.   It was as if they felt like they boarded the wrong flight.  “I must be in the wrong place because this feels like a place for people who speak Spanish.  …and I DON’T!”  They assumed that my “Speaking Only Spanish” class wasn’t for them because they didn’t speak Spanish.

2-  Expect the transition into 90+% target language use to include a level of discomfort.

It’s normal for individuals to feel uncomfortable (especially at first) in an L2 immersion environment.  Explain to your students that it is okay if they feel uncomfortable.  Explain that it’s normal to feel confused or overwhelmed when someone starts talking with sounds they’ve never heard before.

3-  Give students a reason (or motivation) to “stick with it” even though it’s uncomfortable at first.

Click here to read a list of what I did to increase student motivation to “stick with it”.

Read this post for what I believe is the most important reason to “stick with it”.

4-  Give students tools/strategies to make sense of their new L2 world.

There are times when a class of mine might need a refresher on what tools and strategies to use in order to make sense of the language they’re hearing.  Whenever this happens, I pause instruction in the target language to tell my students, in English, things like:

  • “Don’t expect to understand 100% of what I say with my mouth.  Your goal isn’t to understand everything.  I don’t expect you to understand everything.”
  • “You can’t understand what I’m saying by just listening.”
  • “You have to WATCH, WATCH, WATCH!”
  • “You might think, ‘Sr. Howard, why do you make us be so quiet while you are teaching?  It’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop!’  Boys and girls, I ask you to be so quiet because the only way you will learn Spanish in my class is if you are watching what I’m doing or showing you.  If you are talking to a friend, or if your whisper makes someone stop looking at me, NO SPANISH LEARNING will be happening.  And you have a job to do when you are in this room.  Your job is to learn Spanish.  And to learn Spanish, I make it very easy.  All you have to do is WATCH.
  • “I never get mad at a student for trying.  I never get mad at a student for making a mistake.”
  • “I do get very mad at a student for making fun of someone else who makes a mistake.  I also get mad at a student if she keeps another student from WATCHING the source of instruction.”
  • “In this class, mistakes are good.  In this class I will say, “Hooray!” when you make a mistake because it means that you tried!”
  • “You’ll notice that I do some of the same things over and over again.  Those are the important things to pay attention to.  Also, notice what I write under the word, “IMPORTANTE” on the board.  Those are the important things to pay attention to.”
  • “You’ll never understand if you don’t WATCH what I’m doing or what I’m showing.”
  • “Spanish class is like TV:  All you have to do is watch.”

It’s important to give your students tools for making sense of their new L2 world because they can no longer rely on their ability to understand what’s being spoken.

5-  When you stay in the target language, your students will stay uncomfortable IF you haven’t made a philosophical distinction between an ‘L2 immersion environment’ and a ‘COMPREHENSIBLE L2 immersion environment.’

It’s one thing to be in an L2 immersion environment and have no idea what’s being said.  (i.e. Example #1: Listening-in on a telephone conversation between two native speakers of a language you’ve never heard before)  It’s another thing to be in an L2 immersion environment (or situation) where you can understand completely what’s being said, even though you’ve never heard the language.  (i.e. Example #2: Someone just indulged in their first bite of a chocolate dessert and closes their eyes before slowly saying something to the effect of, “Delicious,” in the target language.)

In your 90+% target language environment, try to avoid facilitating an immersion experience like example #1 from above.  Instead, try to facilitate situation after situation after situation of examples like example #2 from above.

Remember to keep in mind this general rule:

Hearing a foreign language ALONE will not allow a person to acquire a foreign language.

6-  Stick with it.  Students will gradually become less uncomfortable.

Many transitions in life are uncomfortable at first.  When you start a new exercise routine, it can be painful at first.  When you start setting your alarm to wake up early after a long vacation, the first couple mornings can be very difficult.  A first year teacher is in for quite a long year as she transitions into a new teaching job.

If you give up quickly, you’ll never be able to notice that, eventually, it does get easier.  Tell yourself and your students that it won’t always be as hard as it is during the first couple weeks.  Stick with it and it does become easier.

The majority of my students have not only moved past experiencing discomfort in a comprehensible L2 immersion environment, many of them actually love it!  Some of them even forget that they’re actually learning L2.

A few minutes ago (as I am writing this post) one of my students just walked into my classroom with his mom.  We chatted for a while before it was time for them to leave.  When his mom said it was time to go, he said, “I wish that I could just stay here and live with Señor Howard.”  I asked another dad if his son told him what we did last time in Spanish class.  His Dad rolled his eyes and said, “Yes, he told me like 200 times.”  One mom said, “We’ve moved a lot, and we’ve never had a language class experience like my son is having now with you.  He is learning so much.”

An Italian teacher from Australia just tweeted me the other day and said:

“Gotta tell you that you inspired me! Am now running Year 8 and 9 classes in 100% Italian except for the last 3-5 mins! Thanks!  …and not only that, but have managed to inspire the other 7 people in my faculty! Xlnt results,kids focused,& enjoying it!:)”

7-  More about experience than language study.

If you still find your students feeling uncomfortable or uninspired, long after you’ve made the transition into staying in the target language, consider doing things to help the students focus less on language learning and focus more on whatever experience they are having in the target language.

For an example of this, read the posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.  You’ll notice from the scripts that a participating student could easily forget he’s learning language because the activity (eating cereal and/or wondering who’s going to get to eat the cereal) is so engaging.  If your activities/experiences are worthwhile and meaningful, it could be that the students begin to acquire L2 without even realizing it.

More posts to help you get started:

Rules of thumb to keep in mind:

  1. If something you are about to say in the target language isn’t going to be comprehensible, it’s not worth saying.
  2. Use less words.
  3. Set a goal that your students will not think, “I have no idea what my L2 teacher is saying.”
  4. It’s not unrealistic to set a high goal for how much of the input will be comprehensible for the students.
  5. Even though you are speaking a language that is foreign to them, you should strive to make sure that at least 80% of the input is comprehensible.  They may not understand every word.  …but that’s okay.  If you shoot for input being comprehensible 80% of the time it won’t matter as much to your students that they don’t understand every word.  The will still be able to decipher.
  6. It’s hard work for students to decipher the input that you are trying to make comprehensible.  Give them frequent deciphering breaks.

Keep the conversation going!

Have you tried out any of these teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #langchat (for general language teaching comments) and/or #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments).

 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!

How NOT (I Repeat: NOT) To Assess The Progress Of L2 Students In A 90+% Target Language Classroom

I need some help.

I need some feedback on a thought I’ve been developing regarding how to assess the progress of L2 students who have been learning L2 by being immersed in a comprehensible L2 environment.

Here’s the thought: Don’t expect students (from an L2 classroom where the teacher stays in the target language 90+% of the time) to be able to answer assessment questions like:

  • What is the word for “please” in L2?
  • Match the following L2 phrases with their correct English translation.
  • Fill in the sentence blank with the correct form of the L2 verb.
  • Also…(especially if the student is younger than a 4th grader) I don’t think parents should be shocked if it takes a lot of effort for their child to answer the question, “What did you learn in L2 class today?”

I’m starting to think that foreign language teachers shouldn’t expect students in their #TL90plus classroom to be able to think that way.

Here are two stories that explain why:

Story 1 – “Teach Me Your Language”

Every year I teach 600 elementary aged students.  Whenever I meet a student that speaks a heritage language, other than English, I tell them: “If I teach you Spanish…you should teach me your language.” (i.e. Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Turkish…etc)

Over the last 11 years I’ve tried learning basic phrases in the language that these students speak at home with their parents.  (It’s important to note that most of these children speak their heritage language fluently with their parents.  When they’re at home, they can navigate, the Russian language (for example), with ease and fluently talk about a wide variety of topics.
I’ve noticed, however, that when they are with me (a non-Russian speaker in a setting where they never use Russian words to communicate) they struggle to answer seemingly simple questions about their language.  For example, If I ask, “how do you say the word for ‘please’ in Russian?” they might…
  • look at me with a blank stare
  • they think for a while
  • and then they say, “I forgot.”

I’ve also noticed that this happens more consistently with students that are younger.  The older students (4th and 5th grade) tend to be able to give me the Russian word for the English word that I give them.  The younger students, however, almost exclusively, freeze up, seem shy, don’t respond, or say, “I forget.”

When I ask them to make a direct connection between their L1 and my L2…THEY CAN’T.

They CAN fully function in their family’s L1 environment (Russian).  They CAN fully function in the school’s L2 environment (English).  But they struggle when they are asked to make direct connections between the two languages.

Story 2 – “That’s Home!!!”
The other week I got so excited about an idea I had to make a special connection with one of my 1st grade students who speaks Russian at home and perfect English at school.  I recently downloaded a trial version of Rossetta Stone (in Russian) onto my iPad.  When I saw the pictures and heard the Russian audio, I knew right away that my student would love seeing/hearing it.  Remember: this 1st grade girl can speak English just like her 1st grade classmates.  …but at home the family only Speaks Russian.
I walked into her classroom (while she wasn’t too busy with other work) and I showed her the app.  I briefly showed her how to use the interactive features and she saw the pictures and heard the audio recordings of native Russian speakers.
As soon as she heard/saw it her eyes brightened up….and she said, “That’s home!”
Notice that she didn’t say, “That’s Russian,” or, “That’s the language that I speak!”  She said, “That’s home.”
Her statement made me realize that, in her mind she doesn’t think in terms of “languages” or “L1” or ” L2” or “translating.”  If she tries to say something in English to her friends, she probably doesn’t think of it first in Russian and then wonder, “what is the English equivalent of these Russian words that I would like to speak to my English-speaking classmates?”
If she has any thoughts about languages, I would guess that she would think more along the lines of:
“My parents speak to me differently than my school teachers speak to me.”
or
“The words I use at home (to communicate and get what I want) are different words than the words I use at school (to communicate and get what I want).”
Because of experiences like these, I have developed the phrase:
L2 teachers (who stay in the target language) should try to help students avoid thinking, “this L2 word means this L1 word.”  Instead, students should think, “In this L2 situation, this L2 phrase is used.”
Why is this discussion important?
Foreign language teachers need to assess the progress their students are making.  Foreign language teachers need to make sure that their instruction is effective (i.e. that the students can give an acceptable demonstration proving that they’ve mastered of each day’s performance objectives).
However, foreign language teachers need to make sure that they are using appropriate assessment measures.
It would be inappropriate for a #TL90plus foreign language teacher to teach in the target language and then ask their students to demonstrate language acquisition progress by providing direct translations.  Staying in the target language, as a foreign language instructional strategy, isn’t about helping students to make connections between L1 and L2.  It’s about giving them the tools they need to jump into a different world.  A world where people use different verbal sounds (and read and write different letter patterns/symbols) to interact, enjoy friendship, argue, express passions, create, debate, express their grief, work…etc.
What do you think?
I’m particularly curious about your experience with older individuals.  I only work with young students.
1- Is it ‘easy and natural’ or ‘difficult and strange’ for older students, particularly students immersed in a comprehensible L2 environment, to make direct connections between L1 and L2?
2- Do you think students should be expected to demonstrate language acquisition by making direct connections between two languages, or should teachers keep the following phrases in mind when they are preparing their assessments:
L2 teachers (who stay in the target language) should try to help students avoid thinking, “this L2 word means this L1 word.”  Instead, students should think, “In this L2 situation, this L2 phrase is used.”
Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #langchat (for general language teaching comments) and/or #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments).

 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!

No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree

A grower’s ambition is to cultivate her fruit trees so that they produce plentiful fruit for years to come.  And that’s the goal we have for our foreign language students: we want them to grow, mature and blossom; bearing healthy L2-fruit, not just in the classroom, but in their future workplaces and communities.  Whenever our students show evidence of L2-fruit on their outstretching language branches, we celebrate their steps towards target language acquisition.

How do we ensure our language students will bear healthy L2 fruit for years to come?

How do we ensure our language students will bear healthy L2 fruit for years to come?

Unfortunately, some of the methods used in our profession reveal a misunderstanding of the way L2-fruit is produced.  Instead of providing instruction that fosters natural and independent L2-fruit production, we take pieces of L2 fruit and try to duct tape them onto our students’ branches.  Learners will have a hard time producing healthy, lasting L2-fruit when our primary work is:

  • facilitating the memorization of uncontextualized vocabulary lists.
  • modeling how to use a foreign language grammar reference book to successfully conjugate verbs on their homework.
  • giving out word searches and crossword puzzles for ‘foreign language fun time’.
  • practicing verb conjugation raps from YouTube that help memorization but leave the students unsure of what to do when it comes to applying the skill during a conversation task.
  • conducting conversation activities that are motivated by a need to practice isolated skills rather than a purpose to engage in meaningful communication.

These efforts might allow students to display some L2 knowledge for a test or classroom activity.  However, it’s quickly evident that it doesn’t produce lasting L2 fruit.  (How many times have you heard an adult say, “I don’t remember anything from my high school language courses?”)

We must stop duct-taping L2-fruit on students’ foreign language branches and start focusing on their foreign language root system.

I’ve changed my focus.  For almost three years I’ve started following ACTFL’s recommendation of staying in the target language for over 90% of class time.  (Side note: speaking in the target language doesn’t magically make your students acquire the target language.  Unless you effectively PAIR incomprehensible L2 with meaningful, compelling and corresponding extralinguistic input, you’ll be wasting your time.)

Since I’ve made the switch, my students surprise me by what they can do with the language:

  • Today I told students that we are in the month of November and a 4th grader raised his hand and said (in the target language,) “My birthday is in November.”  Perfect sentence structure.  Correct form of the verb.  The last time we formally discussed that phrase in a lesson was10 months ago when he was in 3rd grade.
  • A 1st grader got excited that she beat a fellow student in around the world (to practice identifying numbers).  The boy next to her forgot to sit down after he was beaten.  She looked at him pridefully and said (in the target language), “Sit down.”  (We’ve never formally practiced that word).
  • My kindergarten students (whom I’ve seen for less than 240 minutes of instruction) come into the classroom and start tip toeing around the reading rug.  I say (in the target language), “Class, count to 10,” and they do.
  • Today my fourth graders were shouting at me in unison (in the target language), “It’s not for Adam.  It’s for Nehemiah!” because I was giving the pen to the wrong person.
  • We pass out papers, split up into groups, explain the instructions to games, administer formal assessments using Turning Technology data collection devices, and more ALL IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE.
  • Click here to watch video demonstrations of how I teach my students while staying in the target language.

It’s working!  Students are producing L2 spontaneously and creatively.  They don’t need L2-fruit duct-taped to their branches.  Their root system is developing.  They are producing fruit on their own.

Just like with fruit trees:

1- There is a dormant/silent period when L2 learners are immersed in a foreign language environment.  Don’t expect students to produce fruit right away.  Fruit trees don’t.  It takes several seasons for fruit to develop.  While the students are in their ‘silent’ period:

2- Don’t be discouraged if you start out with a low-yielding fruit output.  Fruit trees gradually produce more and more fruit with each season.  Don’t lose hope.  Keep focusing on the ‘root system’ by staying in the target language and making incomprehensible L2 input meaningful through PAIRING.

It’s being done.  Foreign language teachers are staying in the target language and effectively making input comprehensible.  Their students are producing L2 creatively and spontaneously inside and outside of the classroom.  Check out the writings from language professionals like these:

What about you?  What are your success stories?  How are you focusing on the root system to ensure your students are producing long lasting L2-fruit?  Leave comments below.

 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).

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

After attending the 2012 ACTFL convention, I decided to increase the amount of L2 I used during instruction.  I initially expected the transition to be challenging.  However, the transition to 90+% target language use was easier than I thought.  I noticed…

  • …Immediate student ability to operate in immersion the setting.
  • …25 out of 26 classes reached 90% or more on first 40 minute session.
  • …In the first 4 months, my records showed 99.44% target language use.

In order to effectively stay in the target language I had made changes to my strategies for instruction, assessment and classroom management.  The changes worked!

Stay tuned to this blog every Tuesday.  I’ll share the ideas and strategies that I’ve implemented that have allowed me to stay in the target language over 90% of the time.  Generally I’ll start with ideas for managing student behavior in the TL.  Then I’ll follow with effective methods of instruction and assessment.  Feel free to submit questions in the comments section of the blog or on twitter.  I want my advice to be practical and reproduceable.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

For the first 8 years of my foreign language teaching career, I used more L1 than L2.  My classroom was entertaining, but students were not able to achieve long term retention of the language.

Things changed after I went to ACTFL’s national convention in 2012.  My new supervisor, Dr. JoAnne Negrín (from Borderless Learning), encouraged her teachers to attend.  It was a wonderful conference that inspired me to rethink my foreign language teaching strategies.  I decided to try reaching for the 90%+ target language use goal.  When I got home from the convention, I sat down to think how I could make this work in my classroom.

I made adjustments to…

  • …my classroom management techniques.
  • …my instructional materials.
  • …and slight adjustments to my assessment methods.

I initially expected…

  • …gradual success.
  • …a long period of adjustment for students.
  • …complaints from students.

The transition to 90+% target language use was a lot easier than I thought!  I was surprised by the successful results!

Are you considering a transition to using more of the target language in your classroom?  How do you imagine your students would respond?  Leave comments below:

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Effects of Using L1

For the first 8 years of my career I wanted to use more target language (TL) but found it difficult to do so.  I only used the TL 5%-25% of the time.

I noticed several negative effects of using too much of L1.

1- I noticed that there was little evidence of my students acquiring L2 over an extended period of time.   For example, during a Greetings Unit, most of the learners could use the target vocabulary during class activities and games.  However, if I a student the same target questions outside the classroom, they would not understand me and they would fail to produce an appropriate answer.  Furthermore, if I engaged a student with phrases from a previous unit, he or she would generally be unable to produce L2.

My students used target vocabulary in current unit activities, but had little ability to apply L2 outside of the classroom or in the future.

2- I noticed that there was a tendency towards low student self-motivation.  Spanish with Señor Howard would be boring, except that I bent over backwards to make it interesting and entertaining.  I remember telling family and friends that I felt like I was an actor in front of students.  I juggled, played the guitar, made videos, made powerpoints, used puppets…etc.  I felt like I was a good foreign language teacher for doing all of these things.  But I began to realize that I HAD to do these things or else students wouldn’t have a reason to pay attention or to care about what I was teaching.  When I used so much L1 my class was not a language learning class, it was a “List Memorizing Class”.  It was a “Play Silly Language Games Class”.  The language was not meaningful or contextualized.

My L1 approach to teaching a foreign language bred classrooms full of students with low self-motivation.

Are you a foreign language teacher recovering (or wanting to recover) from using too much L1?  What negative effects do you see in your classroom because of too much L1 use?  Leave comments below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought