Quick Tips: 4 Ideas For Getting Students To Use The Target Language

  1. Opening the classroom window on a very cold day.
  2. Being the only one eating a delicious cupcake/candy bar in front of the students.
  3. Starting the lesson while wearing only one shoe.
  4. Intentionally making an obvious mistake in front of the students.

Doing this creates situations in which generally everyone wants to say the same thing. It gives students something that they’d like to say, and the only thing the teacher has to do is give them the L2 words. (See this blog post for more information on leveraging *Constructed Situational Input.)

1- Open window: Students start to shiver and bring their extremities closer to their core. They look around to confirm that others are noticing that the temperature in the room is unreasonably cold. Some start gesturing for the window to be closed. When all students are bursting with a desire to say, “Teacher, it’s cold! Close the window!” use the Two-Hand Method to help them say it in L2.

2- Teacher eats the treat: Students start salivating. Their eyes get big. Their expressions start saying, “Hey! This is not fair. Why do YOU get to eat in class and why are you NOT sharing your delicious treat with us!?” When the time is right, and all students want to eat your treat, write some L2 phrases/sentences on the board to help them say some of the following phrases in L2:

  • “I want some!”
  • “How about me!? Can I eat some!?”
  • “That’s not fair! I want some!”

3- Only one shoe: Students raise their eyebrows and think, “This teacher is a lunatic! Why in the world is he wearing only one shoe!?” When the entire class has noticed, give them the L2 words to say things like:

  • “Teacher! Look! Your shoe!”
  • “You are only wearing one shoe!”
  • “That smells bad!”

4- Making an obvious mistake: Who doesn’t like correcting their teacher? Help your students participate in a conversation that’s led like this:

  • “Oh, I’m NOT right? Oh. Okay, so this pencil is NOT my pencil? This pencil is YOUR pencil? Oh okay. I’m sorry. This pencil is NOT my pencil, this pencil is YOUR pencil. Thank you.”

Note #1: Within a formal academic program, scenarios like these should not take the place of curriculum goals and daily performance objectives. They should be additional enrichment pieces provided when time allows.

Note #2: These scenarios increase a student’s internal motivation to speak. There are many other ways to increase both internal and external motivations to speak. Click here and here for other blog posts on this topic.


*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).

 

“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.

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 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).

ClassDojo.com & Teaching In The Target Language

A language teacher from Pennsylvania recently asked me a question about using ClassDojo.com.

classdojo staying in the target language

Although I don’t imagine that it would be an effective resource in every setting (or with every age group), it is a HUGE part of what I do with my students.  (It’s so huge that I was pulling out my hair trying to keep student’s on task for an hour last year when our district servers went down and I couldn’t access the website!  hahaha!)

Here are some reasons why it works so well in my “90+% target language use” classroom.

1- The sound effects give my students comprehensible feedback regarding their behavior.

If you’re familiar with the website, you know that each student is assigned an avatar/cartoon/monster/character.

classdojo senorhoward

Each student’s avatar gains and loses points based on their behavior.  Teachers can elect to have a sound effect accompany the gain or loss of any point.  Those sound effects are key for me because my novice students won’t understand my L2 corrective phrases and sentences.  However, when they hear a “BOOM” (and see that their avatar has lost a point) they immediately get the idea that their behavior is off-task and won’t be accepted in my classroom.  9 times out of 10 I can redirect off task behavior at the click of a button; without needing to say a word.

Furthermore, I like the sound of the positive sound effect: “DING.”  Whenever a student gets a point, the “ding” makes them feel proud and motivates my young learners to want to do well.

2- The students and I love using L2 to discuss points accumulation and numbers identification.

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!”

3- My end of the month ClassDojo.com routine.

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.

4- It helps me keep the students’ attention.

It doesn’t take long for novice students to disengage when they hear incomprehensible L2.  This is a very important point because, if a novice student isn’t watching the source of instruction, there’s ALMOST NO WAY that L2 will be acquired. (Since *pairing will not be occurring.)  With this in mind, a teacher needs to do everything he can in order to maintain the attention of his students.  ClassDojo.com helps me toward this end.  The sounds are attractive (at least to young students).  The avatars are attractive.  The idea that a student has their name up on the screen (and that they’ve chosen their avatar) is attractive.  It encourages them to watch what’s happening at the front of the classroom.

5- I can use it throughout the class period.

Some teachers ask me, “So do you just enter the ClassDojo data at the end of each class period?”  And I say, “No.  I enter the information throughout every portion of the class.”

I can enter the data onto any mobile device. (Just download the free app)  This is handy if I’m showing the students a video clip.  I can have the class list open on the ClassDojo app and be giving students points for paying attention or using the target language while their watching the video.  It’s also handy if the students are walking around the room doing some kind of interpersonal mode activity.  I can circulate throughout the room and record ClassDojo data on my mobile device.

I can quickly switch between windows/screens using the computer keyboard, wireless mouse or SMARTboard screen.  Let’s say we’re doing an activity using power point and a student knocks my socks off with an amazing L2 answer/contribution.  I can easily switch screens and give any amount of points to communicate that I’m very pleased.  In that moment every student WANTS to make the same positive contribution because they see how richly I rewarded the exemplary behavior.

6- I can use the ClassDojo reports.

  • I can print an individual student’s behavior report and send it home.
  • I can invite parents to sign up to receive live behavior updates.  I can also send messages to parents through the website without compromising my personal contact information.
  • I can run whole class reports and use them to award prizes at the end of the year.
  • I can run student reports at the end of each marking period and use them as a performance assessment.
  • I can have an objective count of how many points a student has lost and assign detentions accordingly
  • etc.

How to make ClassDojo.com more attractive to older students:

You may want to avoid using ClassDojo with older students to avoid making them feel childish.  But there are some things you could do to use this free resource and still make it age appropriate.

  1. Have every student be the same avatar.  I’ve done this before.  I choose a Critter Option instead of an Avatar Option.  I make it look really neutral.  Then the students don’t feel singled out…and it looks less like a childish cartoon.
  2. Don’t display the home screen in front of the students as much.  Keep it more private.  Enter data on a mobile device.  Show individual students the data as part of a teacher-student conference to discuss progress/performance.
  3. Turn off the sound effects in the settings menu.

 

Click here to read an older post on how I use ClassDojo to increase student motivation.


*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.

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).

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.

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).

Being In Diapers & Staying In The Target Language

I talked with my students about diapers during our last session of the school year.

I switched into using L1 so that I could debrief with them about why I teach L2 the way I do.  Here’s what I told them:

“You guys do a great job!  I’m very proud of what you do every time you walk into my class.  You’re learning a lot.  AND you are learning in a very special way.  You are learning like you’re in diapers.”

(I paused to let the awkwardness of the statement take its effect.)

“Yes.  You are learning like you’re in diapers.  Here’s what I mean.  I try to teach you L2 like I’m your mom and like you’re in diapers.  You see, when you were a baby and still crawling around the floor, you were learning your first words.  Maybe you didn’t even realize that you were learning how to talk, but you were.  You said things like, “Dada,” “Mama,” “potty,” and “drink.”  To help you learn them, your mom didn’t use flashcards.  Your mom didn’t give you homework.  When you were in diapers she didn’t have you repeat your words 5 times each.  She didn’t have you write them 10 times on a piece of paper.

You learned your first words without trying to learn them.  You learned them without realizing you were learning them.  You could almost say that you learned your first words by accident.

That’s how I’m trying to teach you L2.  Some of you might feel like L2 class with Sr. Howard is just fun.  We don’t copy spelling words.  We don’t have lots of homework.  We don’t stare at each other and repeat vocabulary words 7 times.  Your hand doesn’t get tired from copying lists of words.  That makes some of you feel like we don’t do “learning kinds of things” in here.  But that’s not true.  Everything I do with you is on purpose.  Every single thing we do, from the moment you walk down the hall towards my room, is on purpose.  I’m always trying to help you learn L2 words the way you learned your first words when you were in diapers.  If you watch me…if you stare at me whenever you’re in here…if you realize that everything I’m doing is on purpose, you’ll have hundreds of chances to learn L2 EVERY TIME you see me.  And you don’t have to copy, you don’t have to do packets of worksheets, you don’t have to do lots of memorizing.  L2 class is like T.V.: all you have to do is watch.  Next year, if you keep doing these same things, you’ll have hundreds of chances to keep learning L2 every time you walk through these doors.

Some of you know what I’m talking about because you’re surprised that you’ve said so much in L2 this year.  You’ve said things like _________”  (Then I recall some of the amazing things that students have started to say in L2 this year.)  “You’ve learned all of these things without even trying.  Keep watching me and you’ll learn L2 the way you learned when you were in diapers.”


That was my motivational speech and it’s based on their ability to pay attention and my ability to meaningfully and repeatedly *pair comprehensible input with incomprehensible L2 input.  It’s fun.  It’s natural.  It’s easy for the students.  It’s producing exciting results.


*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).

Links To Posts From Year 1: Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language

staying in the target language tips

It’s been a year since Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language was created.

A compilation of links to many of the posts from YEAR 1 can be found organized by topic below in part one of this anniversary post.

Part 2, of this post, contains a statement on how and how not to read this blog.  Find a modified version of this post under a new page called “1st Time Visitor??”


1- Managing Student Behavior AND Staying In The Target Language

2- Helping Reluctant Learners

3- 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.

4- Assessments

5- Comprehensible Input & Input Theory Made Practical

Todd (The Stick Figure) And A Series On “CI”

6- Why Teach In The Target Language?

Why I Switched (My Switching To “90+% TL Use” Story)


How To Read This Blog

This blog is meant to be PRACTICAL, PRACTICAL, PRACTICAL.

In 2012, when I wanted to use more of the target language with my students, I searched to find practical answers to tough questions like:

  • How do I effectively manage student behavior AND stay in the target language?
  • How am I supposed to introduce new vocabulary AND stay in the target language?
  • What do I do when students give up and say things like, “I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying!”
  • How do I give directions for activities AND stay in the target language?

I feel like I never got PRACTICAL answers.

People would try to give me answers, but the answers I got seemed nebulous.  It’s because of this that I try to be as practical as possible when I write for this blog.  I try to avoid speaking in generalities.  I try to avoid giving “teaching in the TL advice” without sharing exactly what I do to make “teaching in the TL” possible with my students.

I try to be as practical as possible so that my blog readers think, “Wow.  Finally.  Finally I’m getting some details.  Finally I’m getting to hear exactly how someone is doing this teaching-in-the-TL-thing with their students.”  “Ooooooh…I see.  Teaching in the target language IS possible and the practical examples/strategies shared on this blog give me ONE way for how this can be done.”

(Side Note: Remember, the ideas/examples/strategies/methods/videos that I share are meant to make this blog practical.  I DON’T share my ideas as a way of suggesting that these are the ONLY ways to teach in the target language.  As I wrote in one of my “Teaching Grammar” posts:

“Don’t feel limited to what is written (in these posts).  Let these simple ideas launch you into developing more creative, more thoughtful, and more effective ideas (that you can use in your own classroom).”

I liked what Sara-E. Cottrell (from Musicuentos.com) said on twitter the other day, “(The) Biggest advice I can give you & anyone exploring TCI: 1) know & be yourself 2) learn & love your students.”  What I got out of that tweet was, “Don’t limit yourself to what others do or have done.  Do what works for you and your students.  From the things that other people in your profession share, formulate your own ideas and strategies that work well in the distinct environment where you practice.”


I love to answer questions and hear your feedback.

Some of my favorite posts started with questions that blog readers have asked.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about 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?  Have you developed effective strategies for staying in the target language with your students?  Leave comments and 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember to keep in mind this general rule:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7-  More about experience than language study.

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

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

More posts to help you get started:

Rules of thumb to keep in mind:

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

Keep the conversation going!

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language

Great question on Twitter, yesterday, from a high school french teacher named Martha Behlow:  (Link for tweet here)

90% target language in upper levels is realistic, but what about levels 1 & 2?  How do you keep them from freaking out?

There were some wonderful answers offered by Virginia Rinaldi, Cecile Laine, Laura Sexton and Kristi Placido (As of 12:57pm ET on 12/8/2014).  In more words, or less, they suggested the following: (live links below for further reading on each topic from Tuesday’s Tips…)

I’ll add my thoughts here:

1- Picture your novice/intermediate-low students as infants and toddlers learning their first language.  (Easier to do if you are a parent)  Doing this will help you avoid thinking,

“Ahhh!  ACTFL says students and teachers should stay in the target language at least 90% of the time!!  How am I supposed to do that with novice learners!?!”

You wouldn’t expect your 10-month-old to produce very much L1.  Older infants might only be able to attempt single words or parts of words.  To communicate their thoughts and feelings, they would rely on signs, body language and noises.  Verbal communication is led/directed/initiated by the adult.  The dynamic should be the same in the L2 classroom.  Your novice learners shouldn’t be expected to carry on conversations in the target language, just like you wouldn’t expect your 1-year-old to carry the conversation around the dinner table.  Novice language learners need to be observers.  They need to hear L1 in context.  They need to hear L1 in comprehensible forms.  When language is comprehensible, and when there’s repeated opportunities to hear the CI in a meaningful context, language will be naturally acquired.

This doesn’t mean that novice learners don’t need to be immersed in L2.  They do!

2- Novice learners don’t need L1.  They can be very successful in an L2 immersion environment.  Use the following effective and practical strategies to stay in the target with novice learners:

3- Not only can novice students SURVIVE in an L2 immersion environment – THEY CAN THRIVE.  When you teach a foreign language by speaking L1, you tend be a “skills instructor” and a “memorization facilitator”.  It’s not a very natural approach and it doesn’t yield very organic results.  Consider an analogy of a tree; where the tree is your student and his ability to produce L2 is like a tree’s ability to display fruit.  Being a skills instructor is like being a farmer who’s trying to hang individual pieces of fruit on the branches of a tree.  It’s awkward.  It’s not natural.  It looks a bit funny to see fruit pieces duct-taped or stapled to the branches of a tree.  The fruit won’t stay up there for very long before it falls off.  Using L1 to teach L2 is a strategy that doesn’t focus on a learner’s “language root system.”

According to this analogy, a novice speaker might have 10 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang up.  An intermediate speaker might have 50 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang.  If you have a highly motivated “skills memorizer” in your class, you might be able to help them hang one or two hundred pieces of L2-fruit on their tree.

When you stay in the target language and ensure that input is comprehensible, you are focusing on the student’s root system.  You are no longer focused on producing fruit by duct taping it up on the foreign language proficiency tree.  You are feeding the tree.  You are nourishing the tree.  The tree might not produce L2 fruit right away.  But it will in time; and the fruit it produces will emerge on it’s own.  And it will continue to produce fruit on its own even when there’s no instructor their to duct tape it on.  Watching your students produce L2 fruit on their own is so exciting.  (See more on this analogy/topic by clicking here.)

4- Don’t talk over their heads. In other words: DON’T USE TOO MUCH L2 VOCABULARY.  Try to only say the words they know.  And say those words over and over and over again.  Language learners (including infants learning L1) need to hear new words and phrases over and over before they acquire and produce those language terms on their own.

You might ask, Sr. Howard…“what the -ell am I supposed to do with my novice students for 200 minutes or more a week if 1- I’m supposed to stay in the target language? and 2- If I’m only supposed to say a handful of words!?!”  For my answer, check out the links under point #2 of this blog or some of the following links:

Keep the conversation going!  How do you help your novice students not “freak out” when you speak in the target language?  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).