My First Successful “Staying In The TL” Lesson

“Woohoo! I did it!”

“Finally an idea worked. Finally, a lesson that helped me successfully stay in the target language for a long amount of time!”

It’s a simple lesson that I came up with before I started staying in the target language. It can be modified to help learners of all ages and proficiency levels.

All you need is crayons (for each student) and a worksheet that looks like this:

rainbow spanish class


 

For Novice Low or Novice Mid

Walk around the classroom. As you give one worksheet to each student, say sentences like these, “Here’s a paper for you. A paper for you. A paper for you. And one for you. Here’s a paper for you. For you, and you and you.”

Then, pass out crayons in the same way: “Crayons for you. For you. Here are some crayons for you…etc.”

Once the materials are passed out, display a sample worksheet at the front of the classroom. Hold a box of crayons in your own hands. Take out a red crayon and hold it up in the air. Motion for the students to do the same. As students are taking out their red crayons, say things like, “Good! Good Aiden! Good! Yes, red. Red. Red. The red crayon! Good Jessica…etc.”

Once all students are holding up the red crayon, have them repeat the word, “red,” after you. Then, turn your back to the class and start coloring in space #1 on the rainbow with the red crayon. When you finish coloring that section, start walking around the room saying, “Good Aiden! Good. Yes. Red. Good.” Hold up a few papers of students who are coloring in space #1 correctly.

When most students are done, hold up your red crayon and say, “Goodbye red!” and put the crayon back in the box. Keep saying, “Goodbye red,” until all students have put away their red crayon.

Go back to the displayed sample worksheet and say, “Okay. Number 1…red,” or, “Okay. Number 1 was red.” Point to space #2 and say, “Number TWO. TWO. Number TWO is orange. Take out orange.” (Hold up the orange crayon.)

Make a coloring motion with the orange crayon and say, “Class. Color #2 orange.” (You may want to say the sentence a few times.) Turn around and start coloring space #2 with the orange crayon.

Repeat this pattern until the rainbow activity is finished. If you want (and if your students would like it) make up a little tune that you can sing while the students are coloring using ONLY the L2 color and number words. (i.e. “Number 1…red. Number 1…red. Number 2…orange. Number 2…orange…etc.”)


 

For Novice High or Intermediate Low

Follow the same pattern (as with Novice Low or Novice Mid) except substitute the simple L2 words for L2 phrases and/or questions.

After the materials are passed out, hold up a crayon and say things like, “Aiden. What color is this? Is this color red or is this color orange? Aiden. Point to something else in this class that is the color red.” (Aiden points to something red.) Teacher says, “Good Aiden. Yes. That flag is red.” Teacher turns to address the whole class and says, “Class. Take out the color red.” As students are taking out the red crayon say things like, “Not the blue crayon. NOT the green crayon. Don’t take out the purple crayon. The RED crayon. The RED crayon. Take out the RED crayon. Good! Yes! Yes! Like Jessica. Good Jessica! Yes class. Take out the RED crayon.”

Ideas For Interpersonal Mode

After you’ve done the rainbow lesson as a whole class, pass out blank worksheets and give instructions for students to work in pairs. Tell the class that they will color the rainbows with mix-matched colors. “Space #1 WON’T be RED. It will be a different color. It will be the color that your partner tells you.” Pass out a small piece of paper to all the Partner #1s in the class and tell them to keep it hidden. The paper will tell them what mix-matched colors to use for all the rainbow spaces.

#1 – Green

#2 – Red

#3 – Purple

Etc.

Walk around the room and make sure each pair of students is speaking only in L2 and coloring according to Partner #1’s instructions.


Intermediate Mid – Advanced Mid

Pass out the worksheet and the crayons. Instruct students to color space #1 RED, space #2 ORANGE and space #3 YELLOW. Tell them not to color spaces 4-6. Write your instructions on the board and have them start coloring.

While they are coloring, SECRETLY change your written instructions by erasing the word, “yellow” and replacing it with the L2 word for “purple.” On your page, color space #1 RED, space #2 ORANGE and space #3 PURPLE.

When all the students are done, start walking around the room with a confused look on your face. Take one of the students’ rainbows (choose a student who is confident and NOT easily embarrassed) and say things like, “Tyler. You colored #1 RED, #2 ORANGE and #3 YELLOW! Yellow!? Why did you color it YELLOW!?” (Let Tyler answer.) Then say, “No, Tyler. I did NOT say to color it YELLOW. I asked you to color it PURPLE! See! Look at the instructions I wrote on the board!”

Let the students start venting their frustration at you in the target language. Encourage them to say things like, “No, Miss. You did NOT say to color it PURPLE. You must have changed your instructions!” Argue back and say, “Why?! Why would I change something like that!? And we all know that the third color of the rainbow is NOT yellow. It’s obviously PURPLE. All of you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Continue the argument for as long as you’d like. Repeat the incident with instructions for coloring spaces 4-6.

Ideas For Presentational Mode

Ask the students to write a story about a mom/dad doing this rainbow activity with her/his child. Tell the students that their L2 narrative must include dialogue. Have them model their story after the frustrating experience they just had with following your rainbow-coloring instructions. Give them some sample sentences like, “Son…you shouldn’t have colored #2 YELLOW. I told you a thousand times that it was supposed to be ORANGE. I told you that #1 was supposed to be RED and #2 was supposed to be ORANGE. It would be better if you listen more carefully in the future.”


Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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“They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2

Three stories and then I’ll get to the point of this post:


Story #1

I’m sort of like the bee and they’re sort of like the honey.

I’m sort of like the wallet and they’re sort of like the money.

I see them at McDonald’s and at the grocery stores. I notice them at the public parks when I’m pushing my daughters on the swings. They don’t think twice about seeing me. But when I notice them, I’m wishing for a chance to talk to them. I want to be around them. Sometimes I’ll give them a friendly smile and they look at me like, “why are you smiling at me?”

It’s a little weird, I admit.

“They” are the Hispanic adults that live in my community (mostly from Mexico and Puerto Rico). I wish that I could go up to everyone of them and talk to them because I LOVE getting any chance I can to speak Spanish.

However, over the years I’ve noticed a pattern. Whenever I open my mouth to speak Spanish to them, they tend to speak back to me in English. Even if their English is broken, they seem to prefer speaking it. Even if I insist by continuing to reply in Spanish, many of them stick to English. (The exception is if they have a problem and my ability to speak both languages provides a solution for them.)

This dynamic can be disappointing for me, at times. “Don’t they know that I just LOVE to speak Spanish!?”

I’ve wondered about WHY this happens. Maybe they prefer speaking to me in English because:

  • they are afraid that, if we speak Spanish together, it will mean that their English is not good enough.
  • they don’t want to stand out as a foreigner in the community.
  • they would prefer not to be noticed for their ethnicity or ‘foreign-ness.’
  • they want to prove to me that they can function as an English speaker in an English speaking community.
  • they want me to know that they don’t need my Spanish-speaking help.

I don’t know exactly WHAT they think, but I get discouraged when they finish their conversation with me and then walk off speaking Spanish with their hispanic friends/family.

Why do they give me a weird look when I want to speak to them in Spanish? Why do they speak Spanish naturally and comfortably with each other BUT NOT WITH ME?


Story #2:

I was on recess duty and, since it was raining outside, I brought the 3rd graders inside to play in their classroom. Some students started playing “Connect Four” and others sat at their desk drawing pictures. Three girls (all of whom were born into Mexican families and spoke Spanish at home with their parents) decided to play “Battleship.” They’ve always been great friends and it looked like they were having a wonderful time.

But there was one PROBLEM. They were speaking English to each other!

I thought to myself, “why do they speak English to each other if they all are accustomed to speaking Spanish in their homes?” I decided to walk up to them and (in Spanish) say, “why don’t you speak Spanish to your Spanish speaking classmates? She speaks Spanish and YOU speak Spanish. You should continue having fun playing “Battleship” but DO IT WHILE speaking Spanish together.”

Here’s how they reacted:

  1. They paused.
  2. They hesitated.
  3. They looked at each other awkwardly as if saying, “uh. yeah…I know we all speak Spanish…and that we all speak Spanish at home with our families…but it would be SO WEIRD to speak Spanish to each other here at school. All of the other kids are speaking English.”
  4. They said an uncomfortable word or two in Spanish to each other while I stayed close.
  5. They quickly switched into English as soon as they knew I wasn’t watching them anymore.

Why did they give me a weird look when I suggested that they speak Spanish to each other during school hours? Why do they naturally and comfortably speak Spanish at home BUT NOT HERE?


Story #3:

Ever since my wife was pregnant with our first child, I wondered what language I would speak to my children. I knew I wanted them to be able to speak both Spanish and English (and maybe even a 3rd or a 4th language!) but I I wasn’t sure how I would teach them. Some parents suggested for me to speak both languages to them. Other parents told me that doing so would confuse the child. They said it would be better for the mother to exclusively speak one language and the father to exclusively speak the other language. I didn’t know what to do. With hesitation, I to start speaking only English to my first infant. As the months went by, however, I started feeling guilty. I thought, “I’m a Spanish teacher, for crying out loud! At this rate my daughter will never speak Spanish!”

So, one night (when she was 8 months old), I decided to see what would happen if suddenly switched into Spanish in the middle of her bedtime routine. She got her bath (in English). I put her into her pajamas (in English). I gave her her favorite blanket (in English). I picked her up (in English) and then readied myself to sing a song for her and pray for her (in SPANISH). She had been completely calm and content but as soon as I switched into Spanish, she started to cry. It was weird. Her cry seemed to say, “This is different. This is not what I’m used to. Where’s Daddy? Where’s my usual bedtime song?”

Why was she pleasant while I was speaking English and UNPLEASANT WHEN I SWITCHED INTO SPANISH?


Getting To The Point:

As I reflect on stories like these, I realize that:

1- Every language has “its home,” if you will. Remember Story #2 from a post I wrote 10 months ago? A first grader (who speaks Russian at home and English at school) heard me play some Russian audio on my iPAD. When she heard the Russian language she didn’t say, “that’s Russian,” or “I know/speak Russian.” Instead, her eyes got big, her smile got bigger and she exclaimed, “that’s HOME!”

A language feels most at home when:

  • it is with the people that speak it naturally. (i.e. when it is with native speakers)
  • it is within the physical boundaries of where that language is expected to be spoken. (i.e. within a particular country, geographical region, or home/family etc.)

From Story #1 (above): Spanish felt “at home” when the Spanish speaker was speaking with his Hispanic friends and family. (not with me)

From Story #2 (above): Spanish felt “at home” for those 3 Mexican girls at home (with their parents) and not at their NJ public school.

2- When a language is NOT at home, it doesn’t feel as comfortable and the speakers of the language won’t feel as natural.

I think the reason why the Spanish speakers (from Story #1, above) looked at me weird when I suggested that we speak in Spanish is because:

  • we were having the conversation in a public place in New Jersey (where the “at home language” is English).
  • my face didn’t make Spanish feel “at home.” My face is a very non-latino face. I’m as white as white can be and, (no matter how good my accent is) when Spanish looks at me, it doesn’t feel “at home.”

I think the reason why my Spanish speaking students (from Story #2) looked at me weird is because:

  • the language of their school experience is English. Their teachers, cafeteria aids and peers ALL speak English. The “at home” language, in that space, is English.
  • no matter what language is spoken at home, students subconsciously feel/know/agree/believe the language spoken at school is English. To speak any other language, would feel unnatural or out-of-place.

I think the reason (at least in part) that my baby cried when I switched into Spanish (from Story #3) is because:

  • she was used to bed time in English. Her routine included English and switching into Spanish felt foreign.

Implications For The Foreign Language Classroom

  • Although I don’t think L2 can ever be completely “at home” in a foreign language classroom, how “close to home” does L2 feel in your classroom? The more “at home” L2 feels in your classroom, the more naturally it will be spoken by your students.
  • The less “at home” L2 feels in your classroom, the more students will need to be motivated by something external in order to engage in the L2 learning process.
  • L2 will quickly feel less “at home” whenever students perceive L2 as something to be practiced.
  • L2 will feel more “at home” whenever students perceive L2 as something needed in order to engage in meaningful/relevant interpersonal interactions.
  • It’s okay if L2 doesn’t feel at home in your classroom. There are situations where it’s NOT best to teach a foreign language by staying in the target language.

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.

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Quick Tips: Making The Mundane More Meaningful

I get tired.

tired

…tired of teaching certain vocabulary themes. (Months of the year, how to introduce yourself, numbers 1-20, to name a few.)

Here are some ways I’ve tried to MAKE THE MUNDANE MORE MEANINGFUL for my students and me.

Introducing Yourself/Others

  • At random times I call myself the wrong name. (i.e. “Cool, huh!? Were you impressed by that? Round of applause for Sr. Howie!!!!”) Then, when the students are puzzled/shocked that I called myself the wrong name, I say (in the TL), “Sr. Howie!? No. Wait. No. My name is not Sr. Howie. My name is Sr. Howard.” Sometimes I’ll have the sentences written/posted so that I can point to them while I say them.
  • Well into November, I pretend like I don’t quite know the names of all my students. When it comes time to call on one of them, I pause (with a confused look on my face) and say, “What is your name?” or, “What is your name, again?” and expect them to respond with a complete sentence.
  • When I greet the students, at the beginning of class, I’ll ask them how their brother, sister, mother/father are doing. Then I will say, “What is your brother’s name, again?” and expect them to respond with a complete sentence. If they can’t respond with a complete sentence I’ll use the Two-Hand Method.
  • When we do Data-Hunt Activities, I will ask them to pick a fake name for themselves. At the end of the activity, I’ll ask questions like, “Class, what is Rachel’s (fake) name?”

Months Of The Year

  • The student that accumulates the most ClassDojo points in any given month receives a prize. Then we reset the points to zero and start the new month fresh. At this point I like to practice the L2 months in a meaningful way.  I say something in the target language like, “we have to say goodbye to all the points because we are saying goodbye to _______ (i.e. August, December).”  Then I have the students say, “Goodbye points,” and I reset the point bubbles.  Then I sing a “goodbye to the month” song.  Then we say goodbye to all the months that have passed in the school year so far.  By the end of the year students know all of the months without ever having to complete a formal thematic unit on the months of the year.
  • Students must write the date (including the month) as part of the heading on all of their papers.

Numbers 1-20

  • I have a set of 20 Guatemalan Kickballs (although you could use 20 of any throw-able object). I use the ClassDojo.com ‘random-student-picker’ to choose a volunteer to throw one ball at a time into a box. The class counts each time a ball is successfully thrown into the box. (Missed throw = no count) At the end, we write down the number of balls in the box.
  • Students find their seat by matching numbers.  Each desk should have a different number written out in the target language.  Each student receives a number when they walk into the classroom.  Students match the number to it’s written form to find out where they sit for the day.  Make the task more challenging by replacing low numbers for higher ones as the year goes on.
  • As a part of my attendance routine, I count how many students are in class. First I count from my attendance list, then I count the students in the room to make sure the numbers match. Once they match, I hold up the corresponding number (on a magnet) and show it to all of the students.
  • Sometimes, when there’s a few minutes to kill at the end of class, I’ll randomly choose a student and they will have to say all of the L2 numbers that I point to on the ClassDojo homescreen.  I love doing this because my youngest students are masters at counting but start stumbling when I ask them to say a random number that I point to. Often we will also talk about which student has the most points.  We talk about it so much that even my 2nd graders can ask and answer complete L2 sentences like, “How many points does Roger have?” and “Who has the most points?” Whenever I see a student get excited about earning a point, I take the opportunity to use the Two-Hand Method to teach them to say, “Look Sr. Howard! I have 8 points!”

Passing Out Classroom Materials


Not sure how to give instructions AND stay in the target language for some of the activities listed above? Check out this post: “Ahhh! How Am I Supposed To Give Activity Directions In The Target Language!?”


What do you do to make the mundane meaningful? Please comment below.

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).

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.

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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).

37 Links To Online Resources For “Teaching In The Target Language”

I was at #edcampWL this weekend. What a wonderful experience! I’d like to say a special thank you to the organizers for all their work! @ @ @ @ @ @ @

edcampwl

One question that was asked during the “un-conference” was:

“What online resources are available to help me stay in the target language?”

Here were some of the answers (I’ve added some of my own as well and, if you count, you’ll find 37 links to GREAT resources):

1- The Comprehensible Classroom (@MartinaBex) was the first resource suggested by a session participant. …and it’s a GREAT one to mention. There are lots and lots and LOTS of ideas/resources on this site!

2- PBLintheTL.com (@sraspanglish) Project Based Learning in the Target Language. Excellent ideas from an inspiring foreign language educator.

3- #TL90plus is a hashtag used by foreign language teachers on twitter to archive tweets, links, comments and conversations about teaching in the target language. You’ll find some other helpful tweets if you search #TCI, which stands for Teaching with Comprehensible Input. (Side note: don’t be surprised to find irrelevant tweets with that hashtag because it’s also used to discuss travel to some islands in Turkey and an automotive company.)

4- #TPRSTPRStorytelling.com – A widely used method for teaching a foreign language. Be sure to check out these other TPRS websites too: http://www.blaineraytprs.com/http://tprsteacher.com/ and be sure to follow some of these TPRS people:

5- Dr. Stephen Krashen (@SKrashen) Check this website for links to books and articles written by Dr. Krashen.

6- AIM Language Learning – ‘A‘ stands for Accelerate language acquisition. ‘I‘ stands for Integrate with other subjects. ‘M‘ stands for Motivate like never before. Their moto is “Oral and written communication in another language in 100 hours!” For more information you can sign up for their free webinar.

7- Organic World Language – “Where Language Comes To Life.” Founder Darcy Rogers says the goals of this methodology are:

  • To use the second language 100% of the time
  • To not be afraid of a second language environment
  • Take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes!)
  • To be able to infer and circumlocute
  • To participate & be part of a community

8- Real Language Right Away They have materials available for Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese. Check out their YouTube page for free access to videos that help you stay in the target language.

9- www.calicospanish.com/ – Great resources for elementary Spanish teachers. Be sure to follow Calico Spanish on twitter and Sara-E. Cotrell as well (who also is the author of Musicuentos.com).

10- ACTFL publications like this one…for tips on staying in the target language.

11- Dr. Helena Curtain speaks on the topic and has a great collection of resources here.

12- Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language – Lots of practical tips on how to stay in the target language. Check out the 1st Time Visitors Page for some great links.

13- World Language Classroom Resources – From Joshua Cabral. The entire website isn’t dedicated to staying in the target language…but you’ll find some great resources, tips and ideas for teaching in the TL if you look.

14- Albert FernandezA Journey Into The World Of Comprehensible Input

15- Time’s up…and I’ve only made it to 14. Now I have to get this post scheduled for release so I can go watch Cinderella with my wife.  🙂

We all know there are many, many, MANY more resources out there. If you’d like a particular resource mentioned in this post…please email me and I’d be glad to add it!


 

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).

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).

Assessing A Student’s Progress In A “90+% Target Language Use” Classroom

Great question from a teacher in the United Kingdom who teaches Welsh (follow him on twitter):

“I’ve been using your strategies and aiming for 90% TL.  My administrators want me to put some sort of survey together to test how much the kids understand etc.  I don’t want to include “what does this L2 word mean in English?” because, as you say, that’s not the aim.  Wondering if you’d have any tips/questions you’d use.”

Although I don’t feel like I can give him an expert’s answer, I pointed him in the direction of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements: Progress Indicators For Language Learners.

actfl can do statements progress indicators for language learners

A lot of people use this.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re going to love it!

Starting on page 6 of the document there’s a super-helpful (and comprehensive) checklist of Can-Do statements organized by proficiency level and mode of communication!

Here’s a great summary of the document’s purpose, which can be found in the preface:

“Ultimately, the goal for all language learners is to develop a functional use of another language for one’s personal contexts and purposes. The Can-Do Statements serve two purposes to advance this goal: for programs, the statements provide learning targets for curriculum and unit design, serving as progress indicators; for language learners, the statements provide a way to chart their progress through incremental steps…”

Here are two examples (out of hundreds) of Can-Do Statements:

  • I can say my name and ask someone’s name.
  • I can say or write something about the members of my family and ask about someone’s family.

There are many educators who have found creative ways of presenting the list in ways that motivate students to use the statements to measure their L2 acqusition progress.

From Cynthia Hitz (palmyraspanish1.blogspot.com):

foreign language can do statements cynthia hitz

From Jen Ken (senoraspeedy.blogspot.com)

can do senora speedy

From Martha Hibbard (check out her post on Can Do Statements)

can do martha hibbard

 

Personally, the thing I like about the Can-Do Statements is that it allows you to NOT assess proficiency/progress by asking questions like, “What does this L2 word mean in L2?” Check out these two posts on the topic:

Another personal note: I have LOTS of room to grow in this area.  I would benefit from your input.  How would you answer the question at the top of this post?  What resources would you point to?  Please share with us!

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).