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

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

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


Dear Carrie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When do you feel it’s okay to use L1?

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

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*Disclaimer: These terms are my own and I’m using them for the purpose of reflecting on my own foreign language teaching practice.  The reader should not assume that this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


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

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Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

The First Week Of Trying To Stay In The TL With Your Students

Need ideas for what to do on the first days of staying in the target language with your students?

1- Motivational Speech

Help the students know WHY you are staying in the target language.  Here’s what I tell my students.

2- Motivational Structure

Hearing ONLY L2 takes patience and determination on the part of the learners.  Give them some incentive to stick with it.  Here’s the incentive that I offer my students.

3- Catch Students Off Guard

How would your students react if the first lesson you taught had NO WORDS?  What if you didn’t say anything at all?  No L1 AND no L2.  I might start out by saying something like:

“We’re gonna kick L1 out the door.  We’re not gonna use L1.  See ya later L1.  Bye-bye!

 

But some of you might think, “I don’t understand L2.  I won’t know what to do!”  Well you’re right.  But I don’t expect you to know what to do when you hear L2…yet.  You will later.  To start, I’ll help you know what to do by communicating without language.

 

It’s sort of fun.  Watch.  First let’s start by spending 5 minutes DOING nothing and SAYING nothing.  Your job, during that time, is to get used to the silence and to watch me.  Silence is okay.  And watching me is so important that I’ll say it again: WATCH ME!  Remember… first 5 minutes quiet…then watch me.  And my guess is, even though I won’t speak any language, you’ll still know what to do.”

After the 5 minutes of silence:

  • Stand up.
  • Walk towards the students.
  • Point to a student and motion for them to stand.  (After they stand up, hand them their pencil/notebook/bag or whatever they brought with them to class.)
  • Motion for the student to follow you with their things.
  • Motion for the student to stand in the spot you point to off to the side.  (I don’t suggest asking the student to stand up in front because they might feel too “on stage.”  Off to the side will feel more comfortable.)
  • Motion for the student to stay there.
  • Smile and give them a thumbs up to help them know they are doing the right thing.
  • Walk towards the other students.
  • Point to a second student and motion for them to stand.
  • Motion for the second student to follow you and point for them to stand next to student #1.
  • Repeat these steps until the whole class is standing up in a line at the side of the room with their things.
  • Using the same types of motions/gestures/pointing, seat the students (one at a time) at new desks.
  • When the whole class is seated again, in their new seats, smile with a sense of satisfaction.  Let them read on your face that you feel that you accomplished your task.  You did it all without using language.  Give them a thumbs up.  Give them a quiet acknowledging applause just like a soccer player would do to the home team fans at the end of a soccer game.
  • If the students are responding well…continue the silence.  Motion for them to wait.  Motion for them to stay quiet.  Maybe show them that you’re looking at the clock and that you want them to stay quiet for 5 more minutes.  If they are really into it, you can even motion for them to sit at their desks with their hands folded.  If they all respond well, give them a thumbs up so that they know you’re proud of them for responding to your non-verbal cues.

4- Debrief With The Students

Start speaking L1 again.  Tell them, “Wow!  You just spent 15 minutes doing exactly what I asked…but I didn’t even use any L1!  How did you do it?”  Let them raise their hands and offer answers as to how they understood what you expected.  Help them realize that people can receive and respond to many different forms of input.  Usually we all think that we only respond to linguistic input.  But there’s SO MUCH MORE!  Explain to them that there’s:

5- Tell Them About *Pairing

Tell them that if they watch you they’ll know what to do.  Tell them that you’ll start sprinkling in bits of L2.  Explain how you will *pair incomprehensible L2 with comprehensible and meaningful extralinguistic input.  Tell them that if they watch you, that they’ll have opportunities to start seeing what hundreds of L2 words and phrases mean just because of your *pairing technique.

6- Start The Week With Some Fun Easy Lessons…

…to get them used to what it’s like to follow you even though you only use L2 words (plus lots of extralinguistic cues!)  Here are links to some lesson ideas, which include a script of what you can do and say:

Teaching Grammar While Staying In The Target Language.

Introducing New Vocabulary While Staying In The Target Language.

Giving Activity Directions While Staying In The Target Language.

7- Have Fun And Be Creative

You know your students.  You have creative ideas.  Never feel limited to what you read on this blog.  I share the ideas that I use NOT to suggest that it’s the only way to do it.  They should be a launching pad for you.  Use the ideas you like and build upon the ideas that you can make better!

 


*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.

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).

What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners

This post contains video clips of Señor Howard teaching in the target language.

Here’s what I said on the first day of L2 class this year.  Click this link to watch a video clip of how I started the first moments of class in the target language.

To make the L2 input meaningful, I…:

What else do you do to make incomprehensible L2 input meaningful through PAIRING?  What did you do in the target language on the first day of class?  Leave comments below.

Staying in the target language is definitely do-able!  It’s also fun!  Click here to read the story of how I started staying in the target language.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

P.S. Here’s a good blog post from a Latin teacher (@silvius_toda) who stays in the target language.  (An approach to teaching Latin that I think is wonderful!)  The blog shares detailed strategies for how to approach the first weeks of L2 teaching.

P.S.S. Another first day of L2 class post.  This one from @MartinaBex