Quick Pics Tip: How To Mention “Happy New Year!” With Novice L2 Learners

Here’s a quick tip on how to use L2 to mention the new year with novice learners.

Write or post this on the board:

Picture of 2015

After the students give you a weird look and shake their heads, “NO” (because they’ve just returned to school after all of their “Happy 2016” celebrations at home) write the L2 for the following on the board:

It's not 2015

Have the students say, “Mr./Ms. …it’s not 2015!” (using the Two Hand Method if you need to).

Add the L2 word for “December…”

December

…and, after they role their eyes and react, add the verb.

It's not December

Let the students repeat the L2 sentences out loud.

Add the following, using a gesture to *PAIR something meaningful with the L2 word for ‘crazy.’

You are crazy

Have fun letting the students call you crazy.

Then bring it all together by adding the following a piece at a time:

2016It's 2016Happy New YearAt this point, it might be a good idea to show the students a short video clip of some native L2 speakers celebrating the new year.



Happy New Year from Sr. Howard and 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).


*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.

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).

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).

Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs

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

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


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

teaching in the target language don'ts

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

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

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


 

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

teaching in the target language don'ts

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

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

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


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

teaching in the target language do's

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

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

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

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


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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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).

Video Recording – Comprehensible L2 Immersion Environment

This post contains a video recording of Sr. Howard creating a comprehensible L2 immersion environment.

I was wearing blue hair.

Señor Howard

I had just finished running through a crowd of 600 students spraying them with “silly string.”

silly string

I’m “Thing 5” (in this picture I’m chasing Thing 2 and I’m wearing the blue long-sleeve shirt underneath my costume).

It was Read Across America Day.  We had reached the end of a day FULL of Dr. Seuss activities.  100 first graders were sitting in the library watching a Cat In The Hat video; waiting for their classroom teachers to come and get them packed up to go home.

The teacher sitting next to me (who was also in costume) said, “Sr. Howard, the cartoon is almost done and we still have 10 minutes before their teachers come!”  So I got a box of Guatemalan kickballs and got in front of the students to occupy them until it was time for dismissal.

Watch the video of an L2 immersion environment (that’s RICH with instances of PAIRING) by clicking here.

This video is/was…:

  • …NOT planned.
  • …NOT meant to be a model lesson for how to teach in the target language.
  • …NOT a recording of an activity that the students had ever seen before in class.
  • …NOT suggesting that a teacher needs to wear blue hair in order to secure the attention of students.

The reason I’m posting this video

…is to help foreign language teachers make a philosophical distinction between an L2 immersion environment and an L2 immersion environment that’s RICH with instances of PAIRING.

It’s one thing to teach in the target language.  It’s another thing to teach in the target language in such a way that almost every student understands pretty much everything you’re saying.

If you want to teach effectively in the target language, you must make sure that your students understand pretty much everything you’re saying even though you are using a language with which they are unfamiliar.

In this video foreign language teachers will see that, even though the students (generally) don’t understand my language,:

  • students do understand what I’m saying and what I want them to do.
  • students are being exposed to the target language in meaningful ways.
  • students have repeated opportunities to use meaningful bits of the target language.  (Notice students are being exposed to subject pronouns, subjunctive conjugations, numbers, commands…etc.)
  • nearly all of the 100 1st graders are on-task and engaged.  (Side note: not bad, huh!? …especially considering that it was the end of the school day on Friday after a day FULL of Dr. Seuss activities on Read Across America day.)

Click here to watch the video.

 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).

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).

Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (“i+1”)

It can be done.  There are many different ways to introduce new L2 vocabulary while staying in the target language.  Stay tuned to this blog (over the next few Tuesday’s) for posts on…

…how to introduce new vocabulary AND stay in the target language.

1- Use What They Know To Help Them Progress (“i+1”)

This method is simple and extremely effective.  (Watch a video clip of Señor Howard modeling this technique with some simple Spanish words.)  Let’s say, for example, that students know the L2 colors.  Now you can easily teach any L2 noun by displaying 2 different pictures of the same noun but in different colors.  Like this:

"Red Bird"

Picture 1 – RED BIRD  (There are a lots of ways to teach new vocabulary WHILE staying in the target language.)

 

"Green Bird"

Picture 2 – GREEN BIRD (Use two pictures, like these, to introduce new vocabulary AND stay in the target language.)

Here are some examples of how you can introduce new vocabulary using these two pictures:

  • Teacher says, “Michael, stand up.  Point to the RED bird.” (Interpretive Mode)
  • Teacher points to the green bird and says, “Michael, is this the RED bird.” (Interpersonal Mode)
  • Teacher says, “Class, which is the RED bird?  Picture 1 or Picture 2?”
  • Teacher says, “Michael what color is THIS bird?” (teacher is pointing to one of the pictures).  If the student needs is stuck, ask this follow up question, “Is THIS bird GREEN or is THIS bird RED?”
  • Teacher puts the pictures at opposite ends of the room.  Teacher says, “Class point to the RED bird.”  Teacher says, “Class point to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Michael, stand up and walk to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Boys, stand up and walk to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Girls, stand up and walk to the RED bird.”  Teacher says, “Boys, SIT DOWN.”  Teacher says, “Girls, SIT DOWN.”

The principle is this: use what the students already know to help them acquire new L2 vocabulary.  The principle comes from Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis.  Krashen says a learner will acquire language when they receive L2 input that is ONE STEP beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence.  (This principle is commonly reffered to as “i+1” in the foreign language teaching profession.)

When you introduce new vocabulary by staying in the target language it provides students with so many opportunities to learn L2 easily (and even accidentally.  Stay in the target language and they will learn things that you haven’t even tried to help them learn.  Stay in the target language and you’ll help them produce “L2 Fruit” independently, creatively and for years to come.

 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).

No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree

A grower’s ambition is to cultivate her fruit trees so that they produce plentiful fruit for years to come.  And that’s the goal we have for our foreign language students: we want them to grow, mature and blossom; bearing healthy L2-fruit, not just in the classroom, but in their future workplaces and communities.  Whenever our students show evidence of L2-fruit on their outstretching language branches, we celebrate their steps towards target language acquisition.

How do we ensure our language students will bear healthy L2 fruit for years to come?

How do we ensure our language students will bear healthy L2 fruit for years to come?

Unfortunately, some of the methods used in our profession reveal a misunderstanding of the way L2-fruit is produced.  Instead of providing instruction that fosters natural and independent L2-fruit production, we take pieces of L2 fruit and try to duct tape them onto our students’ branches.  Learners will have a hard time producing healthy, lasting L2-fruit when our primary work is:

  • facilitating the memorization of uncontextualized vocabulary lists.
  • modeling how to use a foreign language grammar reference book to successfully conjugate verbs on their homework.
  • giving out word searches and crossword puzzles for ‘foreign language fun time’.
  • practicing verb conjugation raps from YouTube that help memorization but leave the students unsure of what to do when it comes to applying the skill during a conversation task.
  • conducting conversation activities that are motivated by a need to practice isolated skills rather than a purpose to engage in meaningful communication.

These efforts might allow students to display some L2 knowledge for a test or classroom activity.  However, it’s quickly evident that it doesn’t produce lasting L2 fruit.  (How many times have you heard an adult say, “I don’t remember anything from my high school language courses?”)

We must stop duct-taping L2-fruit on students’ foreign language branches and start focusing on their foreign language root system.

I’ve changed my focus.  For almost three years I’ve started following ACTFL’s recommendation of staying in the target language for over 90% of class time.  (Side note: speaking in the target language doesn’t magically make your students acquire the target language.  Unless you effectively PAIR incomprehensible L2 with meaningful, compelling and corresponding extralinguistic input, you’ll be wasting your time.)

Since I’ve made the switch, my students surprise me by what they can do with the language:

  • Today I told students that we are in the month of November and a 4th grader raised his hand and said (in the target language,) “My birthday is in November.”  Perfect sentence structure.  Correct form of the verb.  The last time we formally discussed that phrase in a lesson was10 months ago when he was in 3rd grade.
  • A 1st grader got excited that she beat a fellow student in around the world (to practice identifying numbers).  The boy next to her forgot to sit down after he was beaten.  She looked at him pridefully and said (in the target language), “Sit down.”  (We’ve never formally practiced that word).
  • My kindergarten students (whom I’ve seen for less than 240 minutes of instruction) come into the classroom and start tip toeing around the reading rug.  I say (in the target language), “Class, count to 10,” and they do.
  • Today my fourth graders were shouting at me in unison (in the target language), “It’s not for Adam.  It’s for Nehemiah!” because I was giving the pen to the wrong person.
  • We pass out papers, split up into groups, explain the instructions to games, administer formal assessments using Turning Technology data collection devices, and more ALL IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE.
  • Click here to watch video demonstrations of how I teach my students while staying in the target language.

It’s working!  Students are producing L2 spontaneously and creatively.  They don’t need L2-fruit duct-taped to their branches.  Their root system is developing.  They are producing fruit on their own.

Just like with fruit trees:

1- There is a dormant/silent period when L2 learners are immersed in a foreign language environment.  Don’t expect students to produce fruit right away.  Fruit trees don’t.  It takes several seasons for fruit to develop.  While the students are in their ‘silent’ period:

2- Don’t be discouraged if you start out with a low-yielding fruit output.  Fruit trees gradually produce more and more fruit with each season.  Don’t lose hope.  Keep focusing on the ‘root system’ by staying in the target language and making incomprehensible L2 input meaningful through PAIRING.

It’s being done.  Foreign language teachers are staying in the target language and effectively making input comprehensible.  Their students are producing L2 creatively and spontaneously inside and outside of the classroom.  Check out the writings from language professionals like these:

What about you?  What are your success stories?  How are you focusing on the root system to ensure your students are producing long lasting L2-fruit?  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).

Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (Part 3)

As a review, if you want novice learners to succeed during your interpersonal mode performance tasks…:

  • …keep the conversations teacher-led and teacher-initiated, at first.
  • …keep the L2 conversations super-simple.
  • …before you ask a student to respond to your L2 target question(s), make sure you’ve modeled the conversation plenty of times.
  • …show engaging, targeted and simple L2 conversations modeled on video. (like these and this)

When you’ve modeled and repeated the target conversation (until the students are almost sick of it), THEN it’s advisable to move past teacher-student conversations and onto student-student conversations.

1-  Start by letting CONFIDENT STUDENTS model the student-to-student target conversation in front of the class.

Don’t start by picking random students to model target conversations.  It’s intimidating and awkward for novice learners to practice a foreign language in front of their peers.  To them, the sounds of the L2 words are funny and strange.  Even if they know how to say the word, there’s a chance that they will feel awkward pronouncing the words in front of friends (since it’s not ‘normal’ or ‘familiar’ to them).  It’s even harder for ‘shy’ students to use the target language in front of their peers.  Always make sure you’re asking novice learners to do things that you are positive they can do well.  It’s important to not embarrass language learners.  Encourage future willingness to participate by doing things that increase student confidence.

By starting with confident students, less confident learners can watch to see what will happen if they stir up the courage to participate.  Reluctant students will watch to see…

  • …how the audience reacts to the student L2 speaker. (are they regarded as cool? dumb? stupid? a teacher’s pet? smart?)
  • …how the audience reacts to any mistakes the L2 speaker makes. (will they get laughed at?  encouraged?)
  • …how the teacher responds if the L2 speaker struggles. (does the teacher yell? smile? encourage? take points off?)
  • …what happens if the L2 speaker does well.
  • …what happens if the L2 speaker does poorly.
  • …etc.

If you want shy students to participate, make sure all students are warmly and genuinely praised for trying, regardless of if they’re successful or not.

2-  Have the target conversation written on the board.

This allows both the model students and the rest of the class to see what they need to say and to know what will be expected of them when it’s their turn.  It also gives the teacher a non-threatening way to prompt the student if he/she get’s stuck (just point to the script).

3-  Give lots of praise and meaningfully reward all students who participate.

Convince every observer that participating in L2 class will be positive, safe, non-threatening and rewarding.  Convince everybody that failure will not be followed with reprimand or any other negative consequence.  If a student is genuinely trying, they should always be encouraged and praised, even if they make mistakes.

4-  Be strict with students who make their peers feel embarrassed for trying.

5-  Eventually have all students, regardless of confidence level, attempt modeling the conversation.

6-  Repeat the target conversation chorally.

Let the students get lots of pronunciation practice.  Remember, their mouths aren’t used to moving in the new ways L2 requires.  Use your two hands as two puppets.  Make hand 1 say what person 1 is supposed to say.  Hand 2 models what person 2 should say.  It helps novice learners know that what’s happening is a L2 conversation.

7-  When students are very comfortable and familiar with the target conversation, allow them to practice without the direct supervision of the instructor.

There are many ways to do this.

  • You can make two lines of students and have them practice the conversation and then slide down the line and practice again with a new partner.
  • Depending on the target vocabulary, you can have students walk around the room writing down information that they discover after they speak in the target language with their peers.  (When is your birthday?  What is your favorite color?  What is your favorite food? How do you feel today?  What is your (fake) name? etc.)
  • You can arrange the desks/tables to put them in groups and practice the conversation with the peers they’ve been assigned to?
  • etc.

How about you?  What are ways that you help students have meaningful practice in the interpersonal mode in the foreign language classroom?  Leave comments below.

Part 1 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 2 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 3 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 4 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

 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).

Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (part 2)

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

If you want to help novice learners succeed during your interpersonal mode performance tasks, you’ll have to take it easy (at first) and keep things very simple.  Start by having lots of interpersonal conversations between person 1 (you: the teacher) and person 2 (the entire class together).

Here are 2 types of conversations that novice learners (even those who don’t have any L2 vocabulary foundation) can have with you:

1- Choice between two items.

Step 1 – Make sure students know what the L2 word is for 2 items.  The way I would do this is by taking two items out of a surprise bag or box.  (A pencil and a piece of paper, for instance)  Take item one (pencil) out of the bag.  Repeat the L2 word for pencil several times.  Consider passing the pencil around the room and having L2 learners repeat the L2 word for pencil.  Repeat the procedure for item 2 (a piece of paper).

Step 2 – Ask the entire class which item is which.  Ensuring that all attention is on you, hold up the pencil and ask the following phrase in the target language, “Is this the pencil or is this the paper?”  Students will most likely answer with the L2 word for pencil.  Affirm their correct answer by saying the following complete phrase in the target language, “Yes.  This is the pencil.”  Repeat the procedure with item 2 (paper).  “Is this the pencil or is this the paper?”  “Yes.  This is the paper.”

Step 3 – Ask an individual student which item is which.  Repeat the line of questioning with individual students as opposed to the entire class.

Step 4 – Add adjectives.  Pull out additional ‘surprise’ items.  (i.e. A big blue pencil and a small red pencil.)  Now (after establishing the L2 meaning for the adjectives) you can ask questions like, “Is this the big pencil or the small pencil?”  “Is this the red pencil or the blue pencil?”  “Is this pencil red and big or red and small?”  Etc.

You can repeat this type of interpersonal mode questioning with a wide variety of L2 vocabulary.  (i.e. “Is this the color green or is this the color blue?”  “Is this the number 7 or the number 17?”  “Is the mother’s name Elsa or is the mother’s name Anna?”)

2- Conversations about eating food.  (Video Example of Sr. Howard doing this in the target language)

It’s fun to talk about eating food in class.  Check to see if you have students with food allergies.  If no, proceed.

  • Take out a bag of Cheerios.  Pour some onto a plate.
  • Say things in the target language like, “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good.”
  • Write the following TL phrase on the board, “I want ____.”
  • Say, “I want 5 Cheerios.”  Then count out 5 Cheerios and put them in your mouth.
  • Repeat the phrases “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good” in the target language.
  • Say, “I want 7 Cheerios.”  Then count out 7 Cheerios and put them in your mouth.
  • Repeat the phrases “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good” in the target language.
  • Ask the following in the target language, “Who wants Cheerios?” or “Do you want Cheerios?”
  • If someone raises their hand, point to the target phrase on the board and ask them to repeat, “I want Cheerios.”
  • Ask them if they want 5 Cheerios or 7 Cheerios.  If they say, “7,” ask them to repeat the complete phrase after you, “I want 7 Cheerios.”
  • Repeat this type of questioning as long as students are interested.

How about you?  What are ways you help your novice learners succeed in the interpersonal mode?  Leave comments below.

Part 1 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 2 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 3 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 4 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

 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).