Top 10 Lists…

To commemorate 100 posts published on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language, here are some Top 10 (and 15) Lists. In other news, I’ll be taking some time off from publishing these posts every Tuesday. Click here if you care to contribute opinions, comments and feedback regarding the future of this blog on a survey.

Top 10 Most Shared Posts:

  1. How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language
  2. How Not (I Repeat: NOT) To Assess The Progress Of L2 Students In A 90+% Target Language Classroom
  3. Debunking 5 “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”
  4. Debunking 5 MORE “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”
  5. A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake
  6. No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree
  7. Management Strategies For The 90+% Target Language Classroom: Increase Student Motivation
  8. My Favorite Activity For Interpersonal Mode (With Links To Handouts)
  9. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2
  10. 37 Links To Online Resources For “Teaching In The Target Language”

Top 15 Most Helpful Posts For Teachers Who Want To Start Teaching In The Target Language

  1. The First Week Of Staying In The Target Language With Your Students
  2. Q/A: What To Do On The First Week Of Class & When To Use L1
  3. What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners
  4. How To Manage Student Behavior & Stay In The Target Language: Increase Motivation
  5. Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
  6. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8)
  7. Assessing A Student’s Progress In A “90+% Target Language Use” Classroom
  8. Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs
  9. When District Expectations Make It Hard To Teach In The Target Language
  10. 90+% Target Language Use: How To Respond To Administrative Pushback
  11. Dos and Don’ts For Handouts In The 90+% Target Language Classroom
  12. Effective Routines For Upper Elementary L2 Learners
  13. Effective Routines For Lower Elementary L2 Learners
  14. Overcoming The Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible
  15. How My Walls Help Me Stay In The Target Language

Top 10 Posts To Read If Your Students Resist Instruction In The Target Language:

  1. How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language
  2. “My Students Don’t Feel Comfortable When I Spend Long Amounts Of Time Teaching In The Target Language.”
  3. “Ahhh! How Am I Supposed To Give Activity Directions In The Target Language”
  4. My First Successful “Staying In The TL” Lesson
  5. Interpretive Mode – Build A Reluctant Student’s Confidence
  6. Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  7. ClassDojo.com & Teaching In The Target Language
  8. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2
  9. My “Staying In The Target Language” Story/Journey (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  10. Helping Students NOT Feel Dumb/Stupid/Embarrassed

Top 15 Most Practical Posts:

  1. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Have” & “To Want” Verbs
  2. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Introducing “To NOT Want”
  3. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: Teaching How Change In Quantity Affects The L2 Sentence
  4. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Eat” Future Tense
  5. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Eat” Past Tense
  6. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Listen” & “To Like” Verbs
  7. Step By Step Guide For Teaching Grammar In The Target Language: “To Go” Future, Past & Present Tense
  8. Using Your Hands During Interpersonal Mode Instruction
  9. My Favorite Activity For Interpersonal Mode (With Links To Handouts)
  10. Blindfolded – 5 Tips For Using A Blindfold In Your Foreign Language Classroom
  11. Lionel Messi & A Quick Tip For Staying In The Target Language
  12. Quick Tips: 4 Ideas For Getting Your Students To Use The Target Language
  13. Quick Pics Tip: How To Mention “Happy New Year” With Novice L2 Learners
  14. Technology To Help You Teach In the Target Language: EDpuzzle
  15. You Gotta See This Resource From Post-Primary Languages Initiative

Top 8 Most Reflective/Thoughtful Posts:

  1. How Not (I Repeat: NOT) To Assess The Progress  Of L2 Students In A 90+% Target Language Classroom
  2. Bad Oatmeal & A Simple, Sort Explanation Of How To Stay In The Target Language With Novice Students
  3. What I Learned About Comprehensible Input From My Crawling Infants
  4. The Vocab List Analogy
  5. No Duct-Taping L2 Fruit On The Foreign Language Proficiency Tree
  6. Language To Language OR Language To Living
  7. Being In Diapers And Staying In The Target Language
  8. “They Look At Me Weird” – Dealing With The Awkwardness Of Using L2

Top 10 Nerdiest Posts

  1. Why Do I “Use Fewer Words?” …Input Has Quantitative Qualities
  2. “Why Aren’t They Getting This?” – Input: Multiple Forms & ICI
  3. Forms Of Input – Linguistic & Extralinguistic
  4. Forms Of Input – Representational Input
  5. Forms Of Input – Gesticulated Input
  6. Forms Of Input – Constructed Situational Input
  7. Forms Of Input – Incidental Situational Input
  8. Forms Of Input – Inflectional Input
  9. The Key: “Pairing”
  10. Overcoming The Obstacles To Making Input Comprehensible

Top 10 Posts With Video Demonstrations:

  1. What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners
  2. Video Recording: 1st Graders Learning Days Of The Week & Colors In The Target Language
  3. Video Recording: 5th Graders Learning “To Be” Verb Conjugations In The Target Language
  4. Video Recording – Comprehensible L2 Immersion Environment
  5. Senor Howard’s Video & Why He Does What He Does (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
  6. Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (“i+1)
  7. Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners
  8. Demo Lesson On Video: Cinco De Mayo
  9. Demo Lesson On Video: 2014 World Cup
  10. You Gotta See This Resource From Post-Primary Languages Initiative

Thanks for reading!

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).

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).

“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).

37 Links To Online Resources For “Teaching In The Target Language”

I was at #edcampWL this weekend. What a wonderful experience! I’d like to say a special thank you to the organizers for all their work! @ @ @ @ @ @ @

edcampwl

One question that was asked during the “un-conference” was:

“What online resources are available to help me stay in the target language?”

Here were some of the answers (I’ve added some of my own as well and, if you count, you’ll find 37 links to GREAT resources):

1- The Comprehensible Classroom (@MartinaBex) was the first resource suggested by a session participant. …and it’s a GREAT one to mention. There are lots and lots and LOTS of ideas/resources on this site!

2- PBLintheTL.com (@sraspanglish) Project Based Learning in the Target Language. Excellent ideas from an inspiring foreign language educator.

3- #TL90plus is a hashtag used by foreign language teachers on twitter to archive tweets, links, comments and conversations about teaching in the target language. You’ll find some other helpful tweets if you search #TCI, which stands for Teaching with Comprehensible Input. (Side note: don’t be surprised to find irrelevant tweets with that hashtag because it’s also used to discuss travel to some islands in Turkey and an automotive company.)

4- #TPRSTPRStorytelling.com – A widely used method for teaching a foreign language. Be sure to check out these other TPRS websites too: http://www.blaineraytprs.com/http://tprsteacher.com/ and be sure to follow some of these TPRS people:

5- Dr. Stephen Krashen (@SKrashen) Check this website for links to books and articles written by Dr. Krashen.

6- AIM Language Learning – ‘A‘ stands for Accelerate language acquisition. ‘I‘ stands for Integrate with other subjects. ‘M‘ stands for Motivate like never before. Their moto is “Oral and written communication in another language in 100 hours!” For more information you can sign up for their free webinar.

7- Organic World Language – “Where Language Comes To Life.” Founder Darcy Rogers says the goals of this methodology are:

  • To use the second language 100% of the time
  • To not be afraid of a second language environment
  • Take risks and break down the filter (make mistakes!)
  • To be able to infer and circumlocute
  • To participate & be part of a community

8- Real Language Right Away They have materials available for Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese. Check out their YouTube page for free access to videos that help you stay in the target language.

9- www.calicospanish.com/ – Great resources for elementary Spanish teachers. Be sure to follow Calico Spanish on twitter and Sara-E. Cotrell as well (who also is the author of Musicuentos.com).

10- ACTFL publications like this one…for tips on staying in the target language.

11- Dr. Helena Curtain speaks on the topic and has a great collection of resources here.

12- Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language – Lots of practical tips on how to stay in the target language. Check out the 1st Time Visitors Page for some great links.

13- World Language Classroom Resources – From Joshua Cabral. The entire website isn’t dedicated to staying in the target language…but you’ll find some great resources, tips and ideas for teaching in the TL if you look.

14- Albert FernandezA Journey Into The World Of Comprehensible Input

15- Time’s up…and I’ve only made it to 14. Now I have to get this post scheduled for release so I can go watch Cinderella with my wife.  🙂

We all know there are many, many, MANY more resources out there. If you’d like a particular resource mentioned in this post…please email me and I’d be glad to add it!


 

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).

A Common Teaching In The Target Language Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty simple, right?

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards, I gave her this advice,

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

I also wrote her this:

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

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

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

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


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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

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

Debunking 5 MORE “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”

(For myths 1-5 click here.)

Myth #6 –

Pictures and gestures will make L2 input comprehensible.

Although I’m not a foreign language acquisition expert (and I haven’t done any formal research) I’m coming to the conviction that Myth #6 is NOT true.  Up until recently I thought it was true.  My thinking went like this:

  1. I tell my students, “The boy is sad,” in the target language.
  2. They look at me with confused faces because the L2 input is incomprehensible.
  3. I show them a picture of a sad boy and repeat the L2 sentence.
  4. Their confused look goes away.
  5. I conclude that I made the L2 input comprehensible by providing a visual/picture.

I’m realizing that my thinking was a little incorrect.  Here’s the line of thinking that I believe is more accurate:

  1. I tell my students, “The boy is sad,” in the target language.
  2. They look at me with confused faces because they can’t find meaning in the L2 input that I used.  (AKA…the linguistic input was incomprehensible.)
  3. I show them a picture of a sad boy and repeat the L2 sentence.
  4. Their confused look goes away.
  5. I conclude that their confused look DIDN’T go away because the L2 input all the sudden became comprehensible.  I helped them find meaning by using 2 forms of extralinguistic input (*representational input and **incidental situational input).  (**Side note: How I used the second form of extralinguistic input is probably not obvious.  However I don’t want to take the time to explain it here.  Feel free to contact me if you want an explanation.)

The students found meaning in the extralinguistic input I used NOT in the linguistic input!

The conviction that I’m coming to is:

A piece of incomprehensible L2 input STAYS incomprehensible until an individual can find meaning in it APART from the help of comprehensible extralinguistic forms of input.

The pedagogical implication of this conviction is:

I need to, repeatedly and meaningfully, *pair comprehensible extralinguistic input with it’s L2 linguistic equivalent until it becomes comprehensible to the student.  (See a video example of how I do this here.)


Myth #7-

Excellent foreign language teachers stay in the target language 100% of the time.

There ARE excellent foreign language teachers who stay in the TL 100% of the time.  There are ALSO many foreign language teachers who stay in the TL 100% of the time AND are INEFFECTIVE.

A teacher’s effectiveness should NOT be measured by how often she’s speaking to her students in the target language.  That’d be like saying, “you’re a really good diet-er if you purchase a lot of Special K food products or drink a lot of Slim-Fast shakes.”

In order to know if you’re doing well or not, you have to determine how effectively you’re moving towards your goal.

The goal of dieting is to lose weight.  So it makes more sense to measure your dieting effectiveness by how much weight your losing and NOT by how many weight loss products you purchase.

Just like a “diet-er’s” goal is NOT purchasing weight loss products, a foreign language teacher’s goal is NOT speaking in the target language.  Speaking in the TL is just one of many strategies that a teacher can use in an attempt to do her job well.  And what is her job?

Her job is to help learners comprehend/use more L2.

A teacher’s effectiveness, therefore, should be measured in relation to the progress her students have made towards comprehending/using more L2.


Myth #8 –

Teachers who stay in the target language have to be very dramatic, creative and good at Charades or GUESS-tures.

I don’t think so.

In my experience, I feel like I was more of an entertainer before…when I spoke L1 to teach L2.  (see this post for more)  My class used to feel like just another academic subject.  (i.e. “Here are the language rules.”  “Copy down the vocab.”  “Let’s practice this skill.”  Etc.)  In order to motivate students to do the hard work of language learning, I had to bend over backwards to make it fun, entertaining, worthwhile and engaging.

Now that I’m teaching in the target language, class feels LESS like doing academic chores and more like having meaningful experiences in a new language.  We have the flexibility to do things that don’t feel academic.  We can laugh, tease and play AS WELL AS copy down vocab, practice conversations and grammar structures.  As long as it’s in the target language and I’m *pairing incomprehensible L2 input with other forms of comprehensible input, the students learn.

I also don’t have to put in a lot of effort in order to help students find meaning.  See some of the following posts for effective strategies that don’t require inordinate amounts of energy:


Myth #9 – 

Teaching in the target language takes too much time and effort.

Maybe Myth #9 is true…especially if you’re not accustomed to teaching in the TL.  Whenever you start something new it takes a bit more time until you get the hang of it.  But once you develop your “bag of tricks” or have your resources developed/found/organized, I think it doesn’t take much effort at all.

In fact, teaching in the target language has made my job more fun!  I’m observing that my students are learning and retaining A LOT more L2 AND, at the same time, I feel like I’m doing a lot less work than I used to.  I use lots of routines (which cuts down on the amount I have to plan).  I have the students do most of what needs to be done while we’re in class (which keeps me from running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off).

Check out what my class is like by clicking here.


Myth #10 –

Teachers who stay in the target language CAN’T effectively ASSESS the progress of their students.  These teachers also don’t set daily performance objectives for their lessons.  They just sort of “go with the flow.”

Regardless of whether a teacher stays in the target language, I NEVER would think it’s good practice to conduct instructional sessions without setting daily performance objectives for students.  Teachers who don’t communicate performance objectives to their students are doing them a disservice.  If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, communicating explicit and comprehensible performance objectives is like handing your students a flashlight.  Objectives help them:

  • know where you’re going.
  • know what you want them to pay attention to.
  • know what’s expected of them.

I also think that it’s NECESSARY to assess the progress of students frequently so that the students can have feedback on their performance and so that teachers can know if they’re doing their job.

I haven’t written a series on assessments in the 90+% target language classroom YET.  However I’m looking forward to it.  Presently here are the only two posts that have to do with assessment if you care to read them:


*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).

Debunking 5 “Teaching In The Target Language Myths”

Myth #1 –

“Staying in the target language is only for teachers who are native or near native speakers.”

Myth #1 MAY BE TRUE when a teacher is working with students who already function at a high L2 proficiency level.  However, when teaching novice students or intermediate low students:

  • Long, complex, L2 sentences can become TL acquisition stumbling blocks.
  • Lots of advanced L2 words may sound fancy and impressive to the L2 speaking teacher who is saying them.  However, to the novice student, they sound confusing, overwhelming and quickly reduce his level of motivation.

I’m starting to believe that the effectiveness of an L2 speaking teacher is LESS related to the level of his L2 linguistic proficiency and MORE related to his ability to *pair L2 input with meaningful and comprehensible extralinguistic input.

L2 speaking teachers do well when they…:


Myth #2 –

“Students will acquire L2 if they hear L2 spoken.”

Consider the following scenario:

If you answered the telephone and someone started speaking a mile per minute in a language you’d never heard before, you would:

  1. not be able to understand anything.
  2. be at least a little shocked and overwhelmed.
  3. arguably NOT be able to learn the language no matter how long you listened the native L2 speaker on the other end of the line.

Hopefully this simple scenario gives you insight into why I’ve been coming to the following convictions:

  • A novice L2 learner needs more than just L2 input in order to acquire L2.
  • It’s unrealistic for a teacher to expect novice students to acquire L2 if all he does speak in the target language.
  • IF the only form of available input is L2 linguistic input, the only way for a person to learn more L2 is by using L2 words she DOES KNOW to make sense of the L2 words that she DOESN’T KNOW.
  • If a person doesn’t know any L2 words (or if she only knows a few) her chances of learning L2 (by hearing L2) are very slim.

So…myth #2 will be FALSE particularly when a learner knows a negligible amount of L2 vocabulary.  Contrarily, Myth #2 becomes more and MORE TRUE as the amount of L2 vocabulary, that a student knows, increases.

(By the way…this doesn’t mean that novice students can’t acquire L2 in an L2 immersion environment.  They CAN!  It’s just that the environment CAN’T be an EXCLUSIVELY L2 input environment.  Their environment needs to be rich with meaningful and comprehensible forms of EXTRALINGUISTIC input that can be *paired with the incomprehensible L2 input.)

This leads me to myth #3.


 

Myth #3 – 

“I can only stay in the target language with level 2, 3, or 4 students but not with level 1 students.”

There are many strategies to help novice students thrive in an L2 immersion environment.  Here are some that I’ve mentioned on this blog:

1- Helping Reluctant Learners

2- 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.


Myth #4 –

“Students will feel overwhelmed or lost if the teacher stays in the target language.”

Myth #4 will generally be TRUE any time students can’t find meaning from the available input that surrounds them.  If a teacher communicates in ways that students DON’T understand, then, yes, they will feel overwhelmed and lost.

Although I can’t say for certain, my guess is that there are many teachers who choose NOT to teach in the target language because they are afraid of this.  They believe that students won’t be able to find enough meaning in an L2 immersion environment, so they speak L1 in order to help them feel more comfortable.

I think it’s a wise choice to opt for helping students feel comfortable.  However I don’t think it’s necessary to speak L1 in order for L2 students to feel comfortable and find meaning.

Over the last two years I’ve been learning that it’s possible to speak exclusively in the target language (even to novice students) AND, at the same time, avoid overwhelming them.

The trick (at least a trick that’s working for me) is *pairing incomprehensible L2 input with meaningful and comprehensible forms of extralinguistic input.  It makes L2 class fun, meaningful and students seem to experience low levels (and in some cases NO level) of stress.

Last week a teacher from a different school district came to observe my classes for a whole day.  He told me that, from his perspective, every student understood everything that was happening and that they knew what was expected of them even though I didn’t speak L1.

Earlier this year I asked a class to hold up 1 finger if they understood nothing in my class and 10 fingers if they understood everything.  They all held up 9 fingers or 10.


Myth #5 –

“It’s impossible (or nearly impossible) to manage student behavior while staying in the target language.”

Myth #5 is what kept me from staying in the target language for 8 years.  I WANTED to stay in the target language but I didn’t know how to address this issue.  (Read more about this here.)

I don’t believe that there is ONE fail-proof solution for every behavior management situation.  In my search for a way to stay in the target language AND manage student behavior, people gave me a lot of suggestions that I knew would NOT work in my situation.

So I can’t tell you what will work for you.  But I CAN tell you that I THOUGHT it was impossible to manage student behavior while staying in the TL and NOW I think it IS possible.

If you’re not sure what to do about student behavior, I’d suggest:

  • resisting the the pressure to stay in the target language 100% of the time.  Try it for little chunks at a time.  See what works.  See what doesn’t work.  Talk with your students about how it felt for them.  Reflect on what you will do if you try the TL activity again next year.
  • making the time you spend speaking in the TL as comprehensible as possible.  When students feel like they don’t know what you’re saying, they will probably start to engage in off-task behavior.
  • making the activities you do while speaking in the TL as meaningful as possible.
  • talking to as many people as you can.  See what they tried and see what might work in your particular situation.  If you’re interested, here’s what I tried.

 

*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

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).

How My Walls Help Me Stay In The Target Language

Here are some pictures of what I have on my walls.  Underneath the pictures you’ll find descriptions of how I use it to stay in the target language.

los meses del año

los meses del año

I keep a list of the months of the year posted on the side of my whiteboard.  I refer to them everytime my students have to fill out the heading (in the target language) on the top of their papers.  I like highlighting the current month (notice ‘septiembre’ in pink) to help students easily identify the answer to questions like, “What month are we in?” during routines like this one. (video post of a product I use for my calendar routine).

¿Qué hora es?

¿Qué hora es?

lista de los números en español

lista de los números en español

los colores en español

los colores en español

I like to have commonly used L2 questions and answers on my walls.  It helps reduce the amount of times students have that clueless look on their face when I ask them a question.  If they don’t know how to respond, I can quickly point to the wall that has the appropriate reference tool for them.

image

A card like this one is on the corner of every student desk.  Students are given a number on a flash card when they arrive at class.  They must take their flash card and match it to the corresponding written number on the corner of the desk.  This becomes their assigned seat for the day.  (Other routines for upper elementary L2 learners)

una alfombra de colores

una alfombra de colores

I chose this rug for my room because it had distinct and bold color spaces.  I can ask students to walk to (or sit on) whatever L2 color I say.  It’s great for giving and responding to directions in the target language. (Click here, here and here for some video clips on learning the colors in Spanish)

días de la semana

días de la semana

The days of the week are posted on the whiteboard so students can easily answer calendar routine questions like, “What day is it?” and, “What day was yesterday?”

What do you have up in your foreign language classroom?  How does it help you and your students stay in the target language?

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward