Defining A Key Term: *Vague Pair Elimination

A carpenter needs to be good at using a hammer. It’s one of her essential tools.

A teacher, who stays in the target language, needs to be good at *VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION. It’s one of his essential tools.

What is *VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION?

Answer: It’s saying, suggesting or showing what an L2 word/phrase DOESN’T mean so that it’s meaning can become precisely clear.

Here’s a simple example:

Suppose I’m trying to help students make sense of the L2 word for “blue” by holding up a blue crayon. Students might misinterpret the meaning and think,

“is he teaching us the word for, ‘crayon,’ or is he teaching us the word for, ‘blue,’ or is he telling us that we’re about to do a coloring activity?”

The *PAIR is vague. Anticipating the VAGUE PAIR, a teacher could do something similar to what you see below in order to ELIMINATE THE VAGUE PAIRS:

“Students, this isn’t blue.”

purple

“This isn’t blue.”

red

“This isn’t blue.”

yellow

“THIS IIIISSSSSSS BLUE!”

blue azul

VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION is important because *PAIRING, in a #TL90plus foreign language classroom, can sometimes feel a bit like playing the 20 Questions Game. At the beginning of the game, when whoever’s ‘it’ says, “I’m thinking of a person, place or thing,” the participants feel like, “wow, that doesn’t help much! It could be anything!” It’s the same feeling a student gets when a teacher writes an incomprehensible piece (word or phrase) of L2 on the board. Students think, “It could mean anything!” One of the best/fastest ways to get a student to *PAIR the piece of L2 with something meaningful is by showing what it doesn’t mean. For now, for the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to this process as VAGUE PAIR ELIMINATION.

(Note: For the sake of defining the term, I’ve provided an example that is very overt. At times, this type of intentional explanation is needed in a foreign language classroom. However, it’s ideal if a teacher can eliminate vague pairs in ways that feel, to a student, less like formal instruction and more natural. For examples, feel free to click on any of the links below. Each contains scripted lesson plans demonstrating how L2 grammar does not need to be taught with overt metalinguistic explanations.

Teaching Grammar While Staying In The Target Language.


*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 it’s the 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

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).

Blindfolded – 5 Tips For Using A Blindfold In Your Foreign Language Classroom

Use a blindfold.

It makes activities a bit more fun!

learning activities with blindfolds

Try these ideas:

1- Describe the “mystery classmate.” While students are able to see, have them look carefully at what each classmate is wearing. To help students recall previously acquired L2 vocabulary, Teacher can choose to walk around the classroom using L2 phrases and sentences like these: “Boys and girls, notice that Jack is wearing a purple shirt and that his shoes are brown. And remember Jack’s hair color. His hair is brown but Josiah’s hair is black.” Etc.

Pick 3 volunteers. Student #1 will be blindfolded. Student #2 will be the “mystery classmate.” Student #3 will need to use L2 phrases/sentences to describe the mystery classmate to Student #1. Student #1 (the blindfolded volunteer) must guess who the “mystery classmate” is based on the description.

2- Build a puzzle. Put a blindfold on yourself and pretend like you’re having a difficult time getting the pieces in the right spot. With older students, use a document camera so they can see from their seats. With younger students, have them sit in a circle so they can watch what you’re doing.

animals puzzle

numbers puzzle

As you struggle with the zoo animals puzzle, say L2 words/phrases like, “Okay…ummm…zebra? No, not a zebra. Elephant? An elephant? No. Not an elephant.” (Touch the long neck on the giraffe piece.) “Hmmm. Long neck. Oh…oh! Giraffe…a giraffe! Yes. Okay.” (Start feeling the empty spaces to figure out where the giraffe piece goes.) “Here. Yes, here. The giraffe goes here.” In order to get students talking, ask L2 questions like, “does the giraffe go here or does the giraffe go here?” or “Hmm. Where does the giraffe go? Here? No? Here? No? WHERE!? Where does it go!?”

3- Organize items. With your eyes uncovered, show students a set of items (i.e. a set of classroom objects, a set of food items, clothing, toiletries…etc). Show pictures of the same items. Put the set of items in a box and cover your eyes with the blindfold. Lay out the pictures of the corresponding items while saying things like, “Okay…this picture…hmmm…what’s in this picture? Is this a picture of a carrot or is this a picture of a banana?” (Students answer.) “Okay, thanks. The picture of the carrot goes here. And what’s in this picture?” (Students answer.) “Okay the picture of the banana goes here.” Finish laying out the pictures and say, “Okay…the picture of the carrot is here and the picture of the banana is here and the picture of the orange is here and the picture of the tomato is here. Great.” Now reach for the box of the corresponding items while still blindfolded. Take out an item and say L2 sentences like, “Okay…umm…this is NOT a banana, this is NOT a tomato…this is DEFINITELY an orange.” Place the orange on top of the picture of the orange. Have fun making intentional mistakes. Put the orange in the wrong place. Students will want to correct you using the L2 sentences you’ve just finished modeling. For students that need extra help, have the target sentences posted nearby for reference.

4- Order sequence words. (i.e. months of the year, days of the week, L2 numbers by 10s to 100 or by 100s to 1,000.) Blindfold yourself, mix up the target vocabulary flashcards, and post them in random order on the board. Use L2 sentences to ask the students what’s written on each flashcard. Elicit their verbal instructions to help you successfully sequence the target vocabulary.

5- What changed? (Hint: This won’t work so well with novice students.) Pick Student #1 to stand in front of the class. Pick Student #2 to be blindfolded. While Student #2 CAN’T see, Student #1 will have to change ONE THING. (i.e. put his wrist watch on the other hand, button the top button of his shirt, untie one of her shoes, take one earring out…etc) Once STUDENT #1 has changed one thing, Student #2 must take off the blindfold and use L2 phrases and sentences to guess what changed.


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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Share your target language teaching experiences!

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

Bad Oatmeal & A Simple, Short Explanation Of How To Stay In The Target Language With Novice Students

My 3-year-old didn’t know how to say, “DIS-gusting,” so she said, “Daddy, this is EX-gusting!”

My recipe must have been a failure because, before she even took a bite, she was telling me the food was gross.

“C’mon!” I thought. “I stayed up late last night getting this apple-cinnamon-steel-cut-oat deliciousness ready for you! You should at least try it!”

Recently, I’ve been feeling bad that all we serve our daughters for breakfast is cold cereal with milk. So I decided to take it upon myself to wake up earlier and put more interesting food on the table every morning. But I HATE waking up early! So when I saw a recipe for overnight steel cut oats in the crock-pot, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Yes. Everything was going well until I realized that “overnight” meant a cook time of 6-7 hours. I got a little angry at the recipe. “Huh!?! You’re telling me that if I want to serve breakfast at 7am, I will have to stay up until midnight or 1am in order to NOT overcook the breakfast!?” I couldn’t believe it! What a rip-off!! It is SOOO not worth staying up that late just to get some breakfast on the table! “But,” I thought, “since I bought all the ingredients, I should just go through with my plan…just this once.” My wife went to bed (at a normal time) and I stayed up watching MinutePhysics videos to pass the time.

The whole experience was irksome to me. I was tired the whole next day and my daughters didn’t even like what I made. Perhaps the only good thing that came out of this ordeal was a quote I heard on one of the MinutePhysics videos:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” -Rutherford via Einstein?

The quote made me want to explain, in a simple and succinct way, how I stay in the target language with novice learners. So here it is:

To effectively stay in the target language, some say to support L2 use with visual aids and gestures. With novice learners, I flip it around. I mostly communicate using visual aids, gestures and other forms of extralinguistic input. Then, at strategic times and in measured amounts, I sprinkle in L2 words, phrases and sentences. The pieces of incomprehensible L2 become increasingly meaningful, and eventually comprehensible, as I repeatedly *PAIR them with equivalent extralinguistic forms of input. As a student’s proficiency level increases, the need for extralinguistic support decreases. Incomprehensible pieces of L2 can now be made meaningful by *pairing them with comprehensible pieces of L2.

In case you’re a first time visitor to this blog, here are some links for further reading, practical tips and model lessons. (Readers should also know that this isn’t the best way (or the only way) that a language should be taught. (TEACHING IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE MYTHS) This blog is meant to offer springboard ideas to help foreign language teachers jump into more brilliant ideas of their own that work better within their specific academic contexts.)


*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 it’s the 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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

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

My 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

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

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

Language To Language OR Language To Living

I was silently YELLING at my students in my head.

angry teacher

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

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

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

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

Confused-student

Why?

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

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

Here’s what I mean:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Language To Language OR Language To Living

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

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

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

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

The Vocab List Analogy

What are your feelings about foreign language vocabulary lists?  You know…the handouts with the target vocabulary on one side and the L1 equivalent on the other.

german vocabulary

japanese vocabulary

 

russian vocabularySome people love them.  They’re very useful.

Some students cheat with them.

Some teacher’s feel guilty if they pass them out to their students.

Some educators write articles saying, “Hey!  These lists aren’t just part of some outdated strategy!  Don’t count them out!

In this post I DON’T want to make a case for or against the use of vocabulary lists in the foreign language classroom.  However, I DO want to mention them for the purpose of explaining what I do in my 90+% target language use classroom.


(And at this point I’ll include SIDE NOTE for new visitors to this blog who might be thinking, “What, exactly, is it that you do in your 90+% TL use classroom?”  Well…I try to provide my novice students with the following:

Repeated and meaningful opportunities wherein a piece of incomprehensible linguistic input is *paired with a corresponding piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input.

I make it my goal to have this *pairing” happen hundreds of times during one instructional session.  See examples in these videos from my classroom.)


So what does *pairing have to do with traditional vocabulary/translation lists?

The thing that makes L2 vocabulary lists so useful is that they *pair what is incomprehensible with something that is comprehensible.  They make the unfamiliar L2 (something that can be overwhelming/stressful) MUCH LESS INTIMIDATING because the L2 gets *paired (or matched) with the familiar L1.  This is so helpful for foreign language learners because their list becomes a tool that they can use to navigate an unfamiliar L2 environment.

A second helpful thing about these lists is that they take the L2 and break it down into tiny, isolated components or pieces.  You know what I mean, right?  Generally a vocabulary list isn’t a paragraph of L2 next to a translated paragraph of L1.  It’s one, single L2 word next to it’s L1 equivalent.

Well…

…in my classroom I do the same thing EXCEPT, instead of *pairing pieces of unfamiliar L2 with L1 words/phrases, I *pair them with any of the following forms of extralinguistic input:

So my students don’t get a printed out list.  I give them a different kind of list.  It’s not a list they can look at.  It’s more like a list that they experience live and in person.  For example:

  • when I put something cold in their hands and say the L2 word for “cold.”
  • when I say L2 words like, “YOU WON!” or “YOU DID IT!” or “GREAT JOB!” after a student wins a classroom game.
  • when a student randomly sneezes and I say, “God bless you,” in the target language.

When these moments/experiences are strung together in meaningful ways, the students start to form an intangible list.  The incomprehensible L2 is paired with something.  But it’s not paired with L1 on a handout.  It’s paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  And their intangible and ever evolving list serves the same purpose as traditional vocabulary lists: it takes what’s unfamiliar and makes it meaningful.  With it they can take steps towards more effectively navigating L2 environments.


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.

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).

Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Part 2 – Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

It’s not that hard to teach grammar while staying in the target language.  Additionally, learning grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for your students.

In PART 1, of this “Teaching Grammar In The Target Language” series, we discussed how to teach “To Have” and “To Want” verbs.  In this post you’ll read the transcript for a step-by-step guide to introducing “To Not Want” and teaching the words for “or” & “and.”  (Note:  The transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

See how easy it can be to help your students learn grammar while staying in the target language!

See how easy it can be to help your students learn grammar while staying in the target language!

Teacher pulls out an individual box of Cheerios.  Teacher says, “I have Cheerios.  (pause)  I have Cheerios.  (pause)  I have Cheerios but YOU… (teacher points to a student) …YOU don’t have Cheerios.  And you… (teacher points to another student) …you don’t have Cheerios.  I… (teacher points to herself) have Cheerios but you (teacher points to a student) …don’t.  And you…(teacher points to another student) …don’t.  And you don’t.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have Cheerios.  ALL OF YOU, all of you, all of you (teacher is pointing to the whole class)  All of you don’t have Cheerios.  But I do.  I have Cheerios.”

“Delicious.”

“Delicious.”

“I like Cheerios.”

(Teacher opens Cheerios and starts eating them.)  “Delicious.  Delicious.  I like Cheerios.  I have Cheerios and you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios but I do have Cheerios.”  (Teacher might choose to sing the following phrases to rub it in: “I have Cheerios.  Delicious Cheerios.  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios.)

Teacher pauses.  Teacher goes to the board and writes, “Who wants Cheerios?” and “I want Cheerios,” in the target language.  Teacher pulls more boxes of Cheerios out of the bag.  Teacher raises her hand and asks, “Who wants Cheerios?”  Teacher identifies 4 students with their hands raised and helps them answer the target question by pointing to the written answer on the board or by using the two-hand method.

After the four students have said, “I want Cheerios,” Teacher goes to the board and writes (in the TL), “Who has Cheerios?  _____ has Cheerios,” and “Who doesn’t have Cheerios?  _____ doesn’t have Cheerios.”  (At this point the teacher may choose to sit down and use the discussion, that follows, as a formative assessment.  Teacher will ask students either of the questions that are written on the board and assess student responses based on their correctness/completeness.)

When the discussion/assessment is finished, teacher pulls out an individual box of Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cheerios.  Teacher says, “I have Cheerios.  I have Lucky Charms.  I have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”  Teacher goes to a student who has Cheerios and says, “I have Cheerios.  I have Cinnamon Toast Crunch and I have Lucky Charms. (pauses)  You have Cheerios.  But you don’t have Lucky Charms.  And you don’t have Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”  (Teacher may choose to repeat this step several times with other students who have Cheerios but not the sweet cereals.)

Teacher goes to several students, who have no cereal, and asks, “Do you want Cheerios or do you want Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”  (Teacher helps the student say, “I want ____.”)  To a student who says, “I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” the teacher responds, “You don’t want Cheerios? (waits for student to shake his head ‘no’)  You DON’T want Cheerios?”  (Teacher helps the student respond by saying, “I don’t want Cheerios.  I want Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”

After the student says the phrase successfully, teacher writes on the board, “Do you want Cheerios?” and, “I don’t want Cheerios.  I want _____.”  Teacher spends time asking students, “Do you want Cheerios?” and helping them answer with the sentences that are written on the board.  (Teacher may choose to reward student use of the target language by giving students several pieces of their preffered cereal to eat.)

 REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The teacher administered a formative assessment.
  • The students experience a formative assessment in a very low-anxiety, natural way.
  • The students realized that they could easily survive in an L2-immersion environment.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students naturally learned how to make something negative.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.
  • The students got repeated chances to acquire the words “and” & “or” in the target language.

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 (forstaying in the target language comments).

Stay tuned to over the next weeks for more blog posts on teaching grammar while staying in the target language.

 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).

Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

 

Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” & “To Want” Verbs

Goodbye memorization.  Adiós drills.  Auf Wiedersehen worksheet packets.

Say hello, bonjour and 您好 to students beginning to say, “I forgot I was learning a language,” “I learned it without even trying,” and “I can’t believe that was so easy.”

Teachers can make learning L2 grammar natural and almost effortless.

Teaching grammar doesn’t have to be a headache for you or your students.

Read the following transcript of how a foreign language teacher makes even acquiring L2 grammar skills easy for her L2 students.  (Note:  The transcript is written in English, although you should imagine the teacher saying all of her statements in the language that you teach.  i.e. French, Russian, Arabic, etc.)

“Hello students.”

(Students stand at the entrance of the foreign language classroom.)

“John. You sit here.  (Teacher points to the chair in which John should sit.)  Stacey.  You sit here.  Carlos.  You sit here.  Jenny.  You sit here.”  (Etc. until all the students are seated.)

“And I…  …I sit here.  (Teacher sits down.)  No.  No, no, no.  I don’t sit here.  (Teacher moves to a different seat.)  I sit here.   Mmm…no.  I don’t sit here, either.  No, no, no.  (Teacher moves to yet a different seat.)  I sit here.  Yes.  Yes.  That’s right.  I sit here.  I don’t sit there (Teacher points to her first chair).  I don’t sit there.  (Teacher points to her second chair).  I sit here.  Yes.  Here is where I sit.”

(Teacher has a bag.  Inside the bag is a variety pack of breakfast cereals.  Teacher pulls out an individual box of Cheerios and prepares to speak very slowly and with intention.)

Using fun and inexpensive food can help you teach grammar by staying in the target language and making it FUN!

Put the textbooks and your use of L1 aside. Instead use Cheerios to help your students acquire even tough L2 grammar skills in a fun and natural way.

“Class.  I have Cheerios.   Mmmmmm.  Delicious.  I have Cheerios.  Delicious, delicious, delicious.  I have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios and I like Cheerios.”  (Teacher points to a student across the room.)  “You. (Teacher gives an evil smile.)  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios but you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  Only me.  I have Cheerios.  Delicious, delicious Cheerios.”  (Teacher points to another student.)  “You.  (Evil smile.)  You don’t have Cheerios.  I have Cheerios but you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios. AND you (Teacher points to the first student.) you don’t have Cheerios.  But I do.  I have Cheerios.”

(Teacher stands up with Cheerios in hand.  Teacher writes on the board the following L2 sentences.  “I have Cheerios.”  “You don’t have Cheerios.”)

(Teacher starts walking around the room, with her box of Cheerios, pointing to various students.)

“I have Cheerios.  But you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  And you don’t.  You don’t have Cheerios.  And you don’t.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have.  And you don’t have Cheerios.”  (Teacher continues until she has pointed to all students and told them that they don’t have Cheerios.)

(Teacher sits down back in her chair.  Teacher looks satisfied.  Teacher takes a deep, satisfied breath and says:)

“But I do.  I do have.  I have Cheerios.”

(Long dramatic pause.  Class is completely silent.)

(Teacher looks at the student next to her, named William.  Teacher pulls out a second individual box of Cheerios.  Teacher looks at the second box of Cheerios.  Teacher looks at William.  Looks back at Cheerios.  Looks back at William.  Teacher shrugs her shoulders and, with a happy smile on her face, gives the second box of Cheerios to William.)

(Teacher stands up and writes the following three sentences on the board: “I have Cheerios.  William has Cheerios.  You don’t have Cheerios.)

(Teacher goes around the room repeating the following phrases in the target language:  “I have Cheerios.  William has Cheerios.  But you don’t have Cheerios.”)

(Teacher takes out 4 more boxes of Cheerios.  Teacher asks random students:)

“Do you want Cheerios?”  (Teacher models how to say, “Yes I want Cheerios,” with the two hand method.  Teacher continues to walk around the room asking, “Do you want Cheerios?” and helping students to say, “I want Cheerios,” or, “Yes, I want Cheerios.”)

(Teacher gives the 4 boxes of Cheerios to 4 students who are sitting especially quiet, attentive and still.)

(Teacher writes on the board (in the target language) “Who has Cheerios?”  “_____ has Cheerios.”  “Who doesn’t have Cheerios?”  “______ doesn’t have Cheerios.”  Additionally, the teacher may choose to write, “Does _____ have Cheerios?”  “Yes, ______ has Cheerios.  No, _______ doesn’t have Cheerios.”)

(Standing next to the written sentences on the board, Teacher begins asking students the target questions and helps students respond by pointing to each word in the correct answer.  After each student attempts an L2 answer, the student should be rewarded. i.e. classdojo.com points.  Teacher continues this discussion (in L2) until class time is over.  If students get bored (from the repetitiveness) Teacher may choose to stop the activity and show some related L2 videos or do some other attention-getting activity.)

REFLECT: What did the students experience during this activity?

  • The teacher stayed in the target language.
  • The students realized that they could easily survive in an L2-immersion environment.
  • The students naturally learned some subject pronouns.
  • The students learned some first person, second person and third person verb conjugations.
  • The students naturally learned how to make something negative.
  • The students saw L2 in written form.
  • The students practiced responding to L2 questions with complete L2 answers.
  • The students got rewarded every time they offered L2 answers.

Your approach to teaching a foreign language can have a huge difference in what your students experience in the L2 classroom.  Your approach makes the difference between students thinking that it’s:

  • challenging or easy.
  • complicated or simple.
  • overwhelming or exciting.
  • work-intensive or second-nature.
  • intentional or natural.

I’m starting to realize that foreign language teachers CAN structure an L2 learning environment to give students an experience of actually forgetting that they are learning a second language.  If it’s done right, students can actually learn L2 without even trying to learn L2.  (More on this in future blog posts)

My next blog posts will be like this one.  I’ll give many additional examples of how to teach different verbs, L2 question words, subject pronouns, past, present and future tenses and more.

How about you?  How do you make learning L2 grammar as easy and as natural as possible for your students.  Leave comments below.

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

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

Part 1 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” and “To Want” Verbs

 Part 2 – Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To (NOT) Want”

Part 3 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change in Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence

Part 4 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Future Tense of “To Eat”

Part 5 –  Step-By-Step Guide for Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching Past Tense of “To Eat”

The Benefits of Insulting Students In The Target Language

Warning: don’t try this staying-in-the-target-language strategy if you struggle with behavior management in the classroom.

This year I’ve been developing a very fun, very silly and very effective instructional strategy to teach the following L2 components while staying in the target language:

  • subject pronouns
  • irregular verb conjugations
  • ‘to be’ verbs
  • making something negative (i.e. “I am,” vs. “I am not.”)

It all started when I began calling myself Superman in front of the students.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

Whenever I had to move a heavy desk, or pick up a chair, or when I balanced a yard stick on my hand, I would always follow with, “I am Superman,” in the target language.  They would laugh at me and I could immediately tell, by the look on their faces, that they wanted to tell me that I wasn’t Superman.  They wished that they knew how to say, “Señor Howard…you ARE NOT Superman,” in the target language.  In order to help them learn how, I used the “Two-Hand Method.”

The students learned and they loved it!  They loved insulting me!

The next time I said, “I am Superman,” almost the entire class said, “You ARE NOT Superman,” in unison.  I put an offended look on my face.  I pretended that I was insulted because they said that I wasn’t Superman.  I put my hand on my hip.  I shook a finger in their face.  When they laughed, I continued pretending to be offended.  Then, while still looking offended, I paused.  And when the moment was perfect (while everyone was watching quietly with a huge amount of curiousity as to how I was going to proceed) I emphatically repeated, “Yes I AM Superman.”  The students would immediately laugh and keep telling me, “You ARE NOT Superman!” all in the target language.

Just in case there were a few students who were lost, I wrote the target phrases on the board like this:

“I am Superman” | “Yes I’m Superman”

“You are NOT Superman” | “No you’re not Superman”

Some of the students felt strange to be insulting their foreign language teacher.  So in order to help them know that I was really proud of them for using the target language in this way, and in order to motivate them to continue this behavior, I gave them lots of points on classdojo.com.  (See my classdojo post here and Sra. Spanglish’s post here for using classdojo for motivating foreign language students to stay in the target language.)

Using this strategy, I was able to indirectly teach students some subject pronouns, some verb conjugations, how to make something negative, etc.  By writing it on the board I was giving them some L2 literacy skills.  And we were all having a blast!

When they had enough practice insulting me, I settled things down by giving them points on classdojo and then moving on with what I had been teaching.  Now I repeat this activity at random times throughout my lessons, whenever I do something impressive (i.e. lifting a chair or balancing something or modeling the target language).

I’ve taken this idea a step further by starting to insult my students.  In order to make the insults friendly and fun, I use the names of popular cartoon characters from TV or from movies.  I might look at a 4th grade boy and say (in the target language), “You are Dora,” or you are, “Princess Ana/Queen Elsa.”

Insutling students (in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even trying!

Insutling students (by calling them cartoon character names, in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even realizing it!

All the students laugh and don’t even realize they are learning “to be” verb conjugations and subject pronouns.

In order to keep the student from being embarrassed, I prompt the boy to insult me back.  He might respond with, “You are Barney,” or, “You are Doc McStuffins.”  I’m careful to always let the student win the insult battle, so that he doesn’t feel embarrassed.  I also make sure that the experience is rewarding (and not threatening) by giving him classdojo points or rewards after participating.  When fellow students see that there is great reward in insulting their language teacher, they start calling out insults in the target language.  It’s fun!  And students learn so much!

Students will learn advanced L2 skills without even trying if the experience is meaningful, fun, 100% in the target language, and contextualized.

Have you had any success using this strategy or strategies like it?  Share your stories and comments below.

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

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

Introducing New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (part 3 – modeling)

You don’t have to use L1 to introduce new vocabulary to foreign language students.  Instead, stay in the target language by using any of the following techniques:

It’s important to make language learning meaningful.  Don’t rob students of the joy of meaningful language acquisition by introducing vocabulary using L1.  When you start teaching language by using L1, you make language class about skills introduction, skills practice and skills assessment.  Teaching and practicing skills won’t be very fun unless you teach a class full of language nerds.  Instead, make language learning meaningful.  Introducing vocabulary AND staying in the target language not only has the potential to make make class more fun, but students will be able to retain more L2 for longer amounts of time. (see this post on why we should make students’ experiences of L2 meaningful)

One way to effectively introduce new target language vocabulary AND stay in the target language is by providing models or demonstrations of how L2 is used.

If I were to use modeling to introduce new vocabulary, here’s what I would try (and also what I’d be thinking in my head).

1- Keep students from getting lost.  It’s easy for students to get “lost” if you introduce unfamiliar words and phrases in the target language.  Sometimes listening to unfamilar L2 content can feel disorienting and unsettling.  To keep them from getting lost, ensure that you clearly communicate what the purpose of your instructional activities are.

If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, explicit and comprehensible performance objectives has the effect of handing your students a flashlight.

Students will be able to navigate the L2 immersion environment more effectively if they know exactly what you’re trying to teach them.  This is very important.  It gives the students a target to aim for.  It gives them an anchor to hold on to.

2- Students need to know what the performance objective for the day is.  In other words, they need to know what I’m trying to teach them on a given day and what I’m expecting them to learn.  I do this by writing the word, “IMPORTANT” on the board (in the target language) in big red letters.  Next to the L2 word for “IMPORTANT,” I write down the target phrases, words and/or sentences they need to know for the day’s performance tasks.

3- Always have the target vocabulary/phrases/questions posted conspicously while you are modeling L2 or showing models of L2 being used.  I frequently refer to the posted target phrases throughout the time that I am introducing the new content.  This helps students stay focused.

4- Give a demonstration or MODEL of how you want the L2 words/phrases/questions to be used.  If you are giving them language they can use in an interpersonal mode setting (for example), MODEL the language in a conversation.

5- Typically I start with a MODEL that is fun and attention getting.  I might use a video that I’ve made like this (for introducing the L2 for “How old are you?” or “When is your birthday?”) or this (for introducing L2 colors).  French teachers can try rythmic chants like these from RLRA.  There are many resources online.  You don’t need to make your own.

6- I realize that students are going to need repeated exposure to the new vocabulary.  Sometimes I forget that the first several times I introduce a word (or a phrase) the L2 sounds like jibberish to my students.  In order for the content to start sounding itelligible, I need to give them meaningful and repeated exposure.

7- Here are some ways I repeat the L2 modeling without boring the students.

  • I use the two hand method for modeling.
  • I show other videos of people modeling the new L2 content. (check out this resource from University of Texas at Austin.)
  • I might ask some heritage speakers in my class to model.
  • I might show the same 4 seconds of a video 7 times in a row.  It has the effect of making the students laugh because it’s repeated so much.  It also lets them hear the target word/phrase so many times that it starts getting stuck in their head.
  • If I make my own video or presentation for modeling, I make sure I repeat the target content several times. (click here for a video example)

How about you?  What are ways that you introduce new vocabulary in the target language by using modeling?  Leave comments below.

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

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