Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs

Time taken to pass out textbooks, iPads, papers and supplies does not need to be wasted time.  Here are some simple “Do’s & Don’ts” that turn what could be tedious tasks into teaching in target language triumphs.

(*Side Note: these tips apply to teachers working with novice or intermediate low students)


DON’T #1 – Although it may feel natural to do so, try to avoid passing out the materials while you use L2 to talk about what you’re doing.

teaching in the target language don'ts

Example of DON’T #1:  Teacher has an armful of books.  Teacher begins to circulate throughout the aisles passing out books.  Teacher says (in the TL), “I’m passing out books.  We will be working with books today.  Wait quietly as I pass out the books.”  (Side note: I used to do this all the time.  I would think things like, “This is great!  The students are listening to me speak in L2.  They are getting great exposure to L2.  I know they don’t quite understand, but it’s valuable for them to listen to what L2 sounds like even if they don’t know exactly what’s being said.”)

Repercussions of DON’T #1:  Students with low L2 proficiency will watch with anticipation (at least for a while) and quickly lose hope that they’ll be able to understand what’s going on.

WHY? The target language is incomprehensible.  Students can’t find enough meaning.  There are too many incomprehensible L2 words with no way of finding out what they mean.  (See THIS POST for more.)


 

DON’T #2 – Avoid whispering L1 instructions into the ears of a couple student helpers and proceed to use L2 to explain what’s happening to the onlooking class.

teaching in the target language don'ts

Example of DON’T #2:  Teacher places a stack of iPads on the desks of two students and whispers the following L1 instructions into their ears, “Start passing out these iPads to each student while I explain what you are doing in the TL.  Thanks guys.  Great job.”  Teacher proceeds to use L2 to explain what’s happening to the rest of the class, “Lucas and Andrew are passing out iPads.  Lucas and Andrew will give you an iPad that we will be using for our culture research project today.  Great.  Oh, Andrew…Stephanie still needs one.  Thanks.”

Repercussions of DON’T #2:  Students will quickly learn to rely on L1 for orientation regarding what to do.  L2 will be perceived as non-essential to the function of the classroom.

WHY?  If L1 is made available, whenever a student is unsure of what to do, he will be trained to tune out L2 and just wait for the L1 help.


DO – Help students find meaning by *Pairing a piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input with each L2 word/phrase that you use.

teaching in the target language do's

Example of DO:  Teacher stands herself in front of the class and ensures that all students are paying attention.  Teacher holds up a box of crayons and says, “Crayons” in the target language.  Teacher continues in the TL, “Class.  Repeat: Crayons.” (Students repeat.)  Teacher holds up a red crayon and says, “Look class…a RED crayon.”  Teacher holds up other colors and says similar things in the TL.  Teacher adds a layer of complexity by saying and gesturing, “THIS is a RED crayon and THIS is a blue crayon.  RED crayon.  BLUE crayon.”  Teacher uses “circling” questioning techniques to get students to answer.

Teacher looks at the first student.  While still looking at the student, teacher holds up the box of crayons and says, “Crayons…” (teacher gives the student the box and finishes the statement) “…for Robert.”  Teacher looks at the next student and says, “Crayons…(hands crayons to the next student)…for Rebecca.”  (Read THIS POST for more on why you should use this TWO PART gesture.)  Teacher does this with a few more students.  Teacher adds a layer of complexity by saying, “Crayons for YOU.  Crayons for YOU and crayons for YOU.”  Teacher adds another layer of complexity by saying and gesturing, “Robert…pass THESE crayons to Andrew.  (Teacher waits for Robert to follow through with the instructions.)  Rebecca…pass THESE crayons to Isabella.”  Teacher continues in this way until all students have received the needed materials.

Click here to watch a video example of how Sr. Howard does this with his students.

Using strategies like these can help you turn tedious classroom management tasks into teaching in the target language triumphs!


*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 a term found in formal, academic writing.

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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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).

A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake

I spent a day observing a high school French teacher for the purpose of giving her feedback regarding her use of the target language with students.  I was excited about my visit because I am ALWAYS wishing for opportunities to learn more French!  …and HERE was my chance to spend a WHOLE DAY in a French class.  I decided that I would write down everything that I was able to learn just from listening to her speak French.

There were a lot of things that this teacher did really well because my list ended up being very long!

At the beginning of period 1, the bell rang and she moved to the front of the class to address the chatty students saying, “votre attention s’il vous plaît.”  I understood!  Had she shown me each of those words in isolation, I would’ve said, HUH!?!?  However in this circumstance my lack of French knowledge didn’t matter.

She used different forms of extralinguistic input to make the incomprehensible L2 meaningful:

I learned because a piece of incomprehensible L2 was *paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.

Here’s another example.  The teacher had given a seat work assignment.  Students had to fill in a few blanks on a French worksheet.  After a time of everyone working quietly, one student put her pencil down and looked up.  The teacher walked over and said, “Vous avez fini?”  I hadn’t known what those words meant but, in that moment, they became meaningful to me because they were *paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  (*incidental situational and *gesticulated input.)

Those are just two examples (out of dozens) when incomprehensible French words/phrase became meaningful to me because of extralinguistic input *pairing.

Pretty simple, right?

I don’t think most foreign language teachers struggle with doing this kind of thing.  It comes naturally and we do it without thinking.

The only 2 problems I saw in this particular classroom were:

1- She was only giving her students a small amount of *pairing chances.  I didn’t make an exact calculation but I’d guess *pairing was only happening during 5% of the class time.  When it happened, it was GREAT!  But it didn’t happen very much.

2- Sometimes she *paired a piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input with TOO LONG of an L2 phrase.

Here’s what I mean.  At the end of class the students got out of their seats and started congregating by the door.  Meanwhile she started doing some paperwork at the desk.  When they got too loud, she started saying something like, “asseoir.”  I had no idea what she was saying, and neither did the students because no one was responding.  There was no comprehensible extralinguistic input available to make the incomprehensible L2 word meaningful.

Afterwards, I gave her this advice,

“In a non confrontational way, if possible, stand more towards the door.  Say, “sit down,” in French with a big smile, while walking towards a student and motion for them to sit down.  This might make it comprehensible if you are very slow about it.”

I also wrote her this:

“Make sure the target L2 is exactly matched with the corresponding extralinguistic input.  Read this post for an explanation.
EXAMPLE of NOT exact match: motioning for students to sit down and then saying the following in the TL, “It’s too early…I want everyone to sit down in their seat.”
EXAMPLE of good EXACT match: making eye contact with William.  Standing in front of William.  Motioning for William to sit down and saying, “William, sit down.”

A teacher who teaches in the target should have the following as their goal (note: quote taken from a previous post):

Repeated and meaningful opportunities wherein a piece of incomprehensible linguistic input is joined to a corresponding piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input.”

Make it your goal to have this happen hundreds of times during one instructional session.


*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).

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).

“Ahhh! How Am I Supposed To Give Activity Directions In The Target Language!?!”

Here’s great question submitted by a language teacher from England:

“I am often met with confusion (or I end up resorting to English) because I don’t know how to explain a task.

 

I really struggle to explain what I want them to do as a task.

 

How do you explain games that you want them to play?”

Here’s how I would begin answering the question:

1- You’re doing a great job!  If you have a desire to stay in the target language, you are doing your students a great service!  Don’t give up.  Keep trying!  The more you experiment and try the easier it becomes.  Don’t feel like you need to make the transition (to 90+% target language) seamlessly.  Give yourself a year or two to transition.  Work on different PAIRING techniques.  Try different ideas.  Throw out ideas that don’t work.  Tweak strategies that do work.  Don’t feel pressure to do it all perfectly at once.  (Read this post for more info on why it can be such a good idea to stay in the target language.)

2- Pick instructional activities (i.e. games, projects, performance tasks) that are easy to give directions for.

If you…

  • …are just beginning your journey of trying to stay in the target language and
  • you don’t feel confident, YET, when it comes to giving students directions and
  • your students feel easily overwhelmed when you speak to them in the target language (i.e. they give up, complain, lose focus, start off-task behavior, etc.)…

…make sure you consistently pick activities that lend themselves to giving meaningful directions in the target language.

I suggest assigning activities like these to start:

  • Color/circle 1 of 4 pictures with the color that I say.”  (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “Hello class.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Crayons for everybody!  And…here is a paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you and paper for you.  Paper for everybody!  Now…take out BLUE.  (Teacher takes out blue and shows students.  Teacher walks around room showing all the students her blue crayon until every student is holding up their BLUE crayon.)  Class, repeat: “BLUE.”  Good.  Now class.  Color the bird blue. (Teacher begins coloring the bird, on her copy of the worksheet, blue.  Teacher’s copy of the worksheet is posted on the board so students can see and imitate what she is doing.)  Great.  Good job class.  Yes.  Blue.  Blue.  Color the bird blue.  Good, Daniel.  Good, Jessica.  Good class.  Blue.  Color the bird blue.  Okay? (Teacher circulates to make sure every student has colored their picture of the bird blue.)  Okay class.  Attention.  (Teacher holds up the blue crayon for all to see.)  Goodbye blue!  (Teacher puts blue crayon away and then starts looking at the students and saying ‘goodbye blue!’ to imply that she wants them to put their blue crayons away.)  Good class.  Goodbye blue.  Okay class.  Now RED.  Take out RED.  Red.  Take out RED.  (Teacher continues to give instructions like this until the activity is done.)
  • “Color what I say” (activity modifications) (To practice numbers Teacher says, “Class take out the red crayon.  Color the number 57.  (Pause for students to do the work.  Then continue…)  Class take out the blue crayon.  Color the number 572.”  To practice adjectives Teacher says, “Class take out the red crayon.  Color the boy that is taller.  Class take out the blue crayon.  Color the big (bigger) animal.”  To practice reading comprehension Teacher asks the students to follow similar directions.  However Teacher now requires the students to follow written directions (on the board or on handouts) instead of verbal directions.
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (simple version) (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “John…sit here. (Teacher points to the chair she wants John to sit in.)  Stacey…sit here.  Jennifer…sit here.  Daesean…sit here.  Rogelio…sit here.  (Teacher continues like this until the whole class is seated.  Teacher pulls out a ball and says…)  Ball.  Class, this is a ball.  A ball.  (Teacher motions like she’s going to throw it to a student and says..) Who would like to catch?  (If a student raises his/her hand, teacher throws the ball to the student. When the student catches the ball, teacher says…) Nice job!  (Teacher motions like she would like the student to throw the ball back to her and says…) Throw the ball to me.  (Teacher repeats these steps with a few more students.  If students are cooperating and well behaved, Teacher changes the activity by saying…) Stacey…throw the ball to John.  (When Teacher says the words “throw the ball” Teacher does a throwing motion with her arm.  Teacher continues saying…)  John, throw the ball to Rogelio.  Rogelio…throw the ball to Daesean.
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (advanced version)  (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “John, throw the ball to someone wearing a red shirt.  Stacey throw the ball to someone wearing a blue shirt.”  Teacher may also choose to pass out large number flashcards to each student.  Teacher says, “John, throw the ball to the person holding number 47.  Stacey throw the ball to the person holding the number 124.”
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (confident/advanced student version)  Teacher follows the activity script from “advanced version” above.  Then she writes the sentence she has been saying on the board and asks for a volunteer to take her place as the “caller.”  Student, with the help of the sentence written on the board says the throwing directions to his/her classmates.

3- Pick activities that will be repeated many times throughout the school year.  It takes a long time to give comprehensible directions.  So if you are going to take the time to make it comprehensible…make sure you repeat the activity many times.  An easy way for me to do this is to have the students do all the things that need to be done in the classroom every day.  I never shut the door.  I never turn on or off the lights.  I never pass out the papers or supplies.  I never collect the pencils.  I always instruct students to do these things for me and I always give my instructions in the target language.  It may take extra class time for the students to get it the first time…but they will catch on easily and you can recycle the activity throughout the year.

4- Make it easy for your reluctant students.  Pick activities that target the interpretive mode of communication in order to help build the confidence of your reluctant students.  See this post for more details.

5- When you work on the interpersonal mode, here are some tips on making it as easy as possible for your language learners.

6- When giving instructions on what students should say to each other during a conversation activity, use the Two-Hand-Method.

Have you tried out any of these grammar 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).

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

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