Todd & A Series On CI (Part 7) – Forms Of Input: Constructed Situational Input

Wow.

I’ve been waiting to write this post for a long time.

I get to write about my favorite “staying-in-the-target-language” instructional strategy.

I’ll start the post by telling three stories to illustrate how I use what I’m calling “Constructed Situational Input” to help an individual find meaning in an L2 immersion environment.

Story #1: I Stole A 1st Grader’s Birthday Crown

Rhyon (1st grader) walked into class with a birthday crown on.

happy birthday

We all got quiet and I stared at his birthday crown with jealous eyes.  I sat myself down right next to him in the class circle on the rug.  I slowly and teasingly took the crown off of his head in a way that would avoid him protesting, “Hey that’s mine!”  I, gently but triumphantly, put the crown on my head.  In the target language I said, “It’s MY birthday.”  The children, including Rhyon, all laughed and giggled because I was being playful with them.  Some of them smiled and protested, “NO!  Señor Howard!!!”

I used the Two Hand Method to help the students say, “Sr. Howard!  It’s not YOUR birthday!  It’s HIS birthday!”  We joked around in the target language for about 5 minutes, saying phrases like those to each other.

Even though I was speaking a language that the students didn’t understand, they found a level of meaning through what was happening SITUATIONALLY.

What I mean by that is:

  • They knew it was Rhyon’s birthday because, in this situation, he had a crown on his head.
  • They knew I was teasing because, in this situation, I put a devious/teasing look on my face and because EVERYONE KNOWS that no one should EVER take off someone else’s birthday crown and put it on their own head!
  • By putting Rhyon’s crown on my head I created (or constructed) a situation in which everyone wanted to say the same thing: “HEY!!!  That crown isn’t YOURS!”

Since I constructed a situation in which the students all wanted to blurt out the same thing (i.e. “It’s not YOUR birthday!  It’s RHYON’S birthday!”) all I had to do was give them the L2 words they needed in order to communicate.


Story #2 – “I WALKED INTO A WALL”  &  “I GOT SICK” (Watch the video clip here or by clicking on the links below)

ACTFL tips for staying in the target language

I needed to teach students how to talk about how they felt.  So I had my wife record 15 second video clips of me feeling different ways based on what was happening to me.  The clips included:

At the end of each situation/scenario, I say how I’m feeling in the target language.

The strategy worked!  Even though my students don’t initially comprehend the L2 words I’m using during these video recordings, they find meaning based on the situations I have constructed.  The situations make it so obvious.  The students know what I’m going to say even before I say it.  They would know what was happening regardless of what language I chose to use.  (See a different video example of this here.)


Story #3 – Snuggling My Daughter

holding daddy

I was holding my daughter Ava this morning.  After breakfast she walked over to where I was sitting, reached her hands up high and looked at me with the sweetest eyes that said, “Can you pick me up, Daddy?”

I was so happy to oblige.  I picked her up, put my arms around her, let her head rest on my shoulder and patted her back.  She stayed there motionless for about 10 mins while I talked to my wife who patiently listened to me ramble about this input theory that I’ve been writing.  (What other wife would listen to a husband’s musings about “Constructed Situational Input!?”)

Towards the end of my conversation with my wife, I paused, looked at Ava and snuggled my face into hers.

I told my wife, “See!  Ava is receiving input right now.  It’s not verbal (linguistic) input.  It’s non-verbal (extralinguistic) input that she’s receiving.  What is the extralinguistic input that she’s receiving?”  Sarah answered, “My daddy loves me.”  “My daddy is paying attention to me.”  “I love to be in daddy’s arms.”

Ava was listening in on our conversation and kept soaking in my affection.

Then I told my wife, “Into this constructed situation (in which I’m holding, snuggling, patting, caressing, rocking…etc.) I could speak the words “I love you” in any language and she would understand what I’m saying.  It doesn’t matter if the words are incomprehensible.  The extralinguistic input (in this case “Constructed Situational Input”) is so undeniably comprehensible that she will know what my words mean no matter what language I choose to tell her, “I love you.”

Then I demonstrated for my wife what I had just explained.  When I had Ava’s attention, and when she knew I was about to say something that matched up with the affectionate experience we were having, I chose to tell Ava that I loved her in Spanish.  I told Ava, “Te amo.”

When she heard “Te amo,”she smiled warmly and snuggled in closer to my embrace even though she just got done hearing language that is unfamiliar to her.


The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

In part 5 we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”

In this post (part 7) we observe that:

“”Constructed Situational Input” is one such form of extralinguistic input in which a teacher helps students find meaning by creating a situation, scenario or experience wherein the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.”


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Constructed Situational Input” (as defined above) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones inserted throughout many of the posts in this series) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

I will discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 6) – Forms Of Input: Gesticulated Input

This post contains links to a video recording of Señor Howard demonstrating how he uses gestures in his classroom.

target language tips


Does staying in the target language feel like a game of “GUESS-tures” or “Charades?”

I’ve heard people say that it’s tiring to constantly be trying to get students to GUESS what what’s being said.  “All my gestures and visual aids result in students giving me looks like these…!”

Confused-student

There are many strategies that foreign language teachers can use to avoid making class feel like a L2 guessing game.  In this series we’ve already discussed some of these strategies, which include:

This post will cover how to make the move from GUESS-tures to gestures.

tips for staying in the target language

Gestures Tip #1 – Use multiple gestures for one L2 phrase.

When I say, “How are you?” I use 2 gestures.  (See video example)

When I say, “Raise your hand,” I use 2 gestures.  (See video example)

When I say, “This is a big pencil,” I use 3 gestures.  (See video example)

See more video examples here.

Why use multiple gestures?

Answered simply: multiple gestures helps a student find more comprehensive meaning in your L2 phrase.  The question, “How are you?” (for example) has 3 distinct components: a verb, a subject pronoun and an interrogative word.  How will a student find comprehensive meaning for all three components if there is only one gesture used?

If you’re like me, it’s easy to forget how confusing a foreign language can sound.  Sometimes I don’t realize that even the simplest L2 words sound like a messy jumble of sounds to my students.  In order to effectively help them find meaning, I need to facilitate repeated and direct connections between small, “bite-sized,” incomprehensible pieces of L2 input and a matching form of comprehensible input.  Using multiple gestures for 1 target language phrase helps me do this.

See video examples here.

Gestures Tip #2 – Repeat your “L2-gesture pairing” more than once.

If one of my students gives an answer out of turn, and I need to say, “Raise your hand,” I will repeat the L2 phrase 3-5 times.  (See video example)

If my class is chatty, and I need say, “It’s important to be quiet,” I will repeat the L2 phrase 3-5 times.  (See video example)

Why repeat?

Repeating a target vocabulary word/phrase multiple times can be like using a SPOTLIGHT on a theater stage or a HIGHLIGHTER on a page full of text.

If a teacher immediately repeats an L2 phrase 3-5 times it can be an effective strategy for focusing student attention on an important word or phrase.  It helps a piece of L2 input to be noticed when it wouldn’t otherwise be unnoticed.

Of course repetition can get tiresome.  Teacher’s can avoid tiresome repetition by giving students MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which the target language structures are used often enough to be noticed and acquired.

Click here to watch a video of Sr. Howard doing this with 1st graders.

Gestures Tip #3 – Ensure students are watching the source of instruction.

how to help students stay in the target language

Gestures won’t help any students find meaning if they aren’t watching the source of instruction.  For ideas regarding how to motivate students to watch the source of instruction, browse through some of the following posts:

Managing Student Behavior AND Staying In The Target Language


The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

We also observed that:

“It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.”

In this post (part 6) we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”

AND

“Gestures and facial expressions are one such form of extralinguistic input that I will refer to as ‘Gesticulated Input.'”


Todd (The Input Theory Stick Figure) and Gesticulated Input

This is Todd:

Todd - Comprehensible Input

Todd can receive input:

input

Todd can receive linguistic input:

Spoken Linguistic Input

Todd can receive comprehensible extralinguistic input.  One of the forms of extralinguistic input Todd can receive is “Gesticulated Input” (as illustrated in the diagram below):

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input: Gesticulated


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Gesticulated Input” (i.e. hand motions, facial expressions and other gestures) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 5): Forms Of Input: Representational Input

It’s easy to make incomprehensible L2 input meaningful with the help of a picture.

However, it’s JUST AS EASY TO CONFUSE L2 students…

…if you use a picture in the wrong way.
elephant-and-birdLet’s assume that your L2 students don’t know any vocabulary related to this picture of an elephant with a blue bird on its back.

Here are some UN-helpful ways to use the picture to help students acquire new L2 vocabulary.  AVOID using the strategies listed below.

1- Don’t, don’t, don’t…hold up the picture and say a sentence about it.  Don’t, don’t, don’t…hold up the picture and start talking (in the TL) about it.  For example: don’t hold up the picture and say, “Look at the picture of the elephant and the bird.  The bird is on top of the elephant.  The bird is on top of the happy elephant.  The elephant has four legs and the bird is on his back.”

Danger:  The students may be sitting quietly.  The teacher may be saying lots of sentences in the target language.  The students may be having an experience in a target language immersion environment.  HOWEVER…the quantity of L2 input is too great.  The picture is no longer a helpful tool for making the L2 input comprehensible.  It’s likely that the students are feeling overwhelmed and want to give up.

2- Don’t, don’t, don’t…hold up the picture and sing a song about it.  For example:

“The elephant is carrying the bird. Cha, cha, cha!

The elephant is carrying a bird.  Cha, cha, cha!

The bird is blue.  The elephant is gray.

The elephant is carrying a bird.  Cha, cha, cha!”

Danger:  The students may be smiling.  The students may be enjoying the “cha, cha, cha” part of the song.  With enough practice, the students may even be able to sing the L2 words.  The teacher may be proud of the strategy.  He might say things like, “Wow!  We spent 15 minutes practicing an L2 song.  The students really got into it!  They loved the, “cha, cha, cha” part of the song!  Every student was paying attention.”  HOWEVER…it’s likely that the students are having so much fun watching each other sing, “cha, cha, cha” that they don’t even focus on the target L2 vocabulary and what it means and how it can be used in a real-life situation.

3- Don’t, don’t, don’t…hold up the picture and start asking students questions about it before you’ve made sure they’ve acquired key vocabulary words.  For example: Don’t say, “Class…yes or no…is the bird blue?  Yes?  No?  Blue??  Is the bird blue?  Yes.  Yes.  The bird is blue.  The elephant is gray and the bird is blue.  Is the elephant big?  Yes or no.  Is the elephant big?  Yes.  The elephant is big.  The bird is small and the elephant is big.”

Danger:  The students may be listening.  The heritage speakers (if you have any in your class) may be able to answer the questions.  HOWEVER it’s likely that many students will have no idea what is being said, even though the questions are simple and the answers seem obvious.

Here are some GOOD WAYS to use the picture to help students acquire new L2 vocabulary.

1-  Start simple.

  • Point to the bird.
  • Look at the students while pointing to the bird.  (This action suggests to the students that you want them to pay attention to the bird that you’re pointing to.)
  • Point to the bird again.
  • Say, “tweet, tweet,” while pointing to the bird.
  • Say, “bird,” while pointing to the bird.
  • Say, “bird,” again while pointing to the bird.
  • Say, “Class, repeat: BIRD.”
  • Say, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  BIRD,” while pointing to the bird.
  • Point to the elephant.
  • Look at the students while pointing to the elephant.  (This action suggests to the students that you want them to pay attention to the elephant that you’re pointing to.)
  • Point to the elephant again.
  • Make a motion/gesture that the students will know means elephant.
  • Say, “elephant,” while pointing to the elephant.
  • Say, “elephant,” again while pointing to the elephant.
  • Say, “Class, repeat: ELEPHANT.”
  • Say, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  ELEPHANT,” while pointing to the elephant.
  • Point to the bird and say, “A bird.”
  • Point to the elephant and say, “An elephant.”  (Repeat these last two steps)

2- Practice “the simple.”

  • Point to the bird.
  • Say, “Class.  A Bird or An Elephant?”
  • After class says, “A Bird,” say, “Yes. Yes.  A Bird.  Correct.”
  • Point to the elephant.
  • Say, “Class.  A Bird or An Elephant?”
  • After class says, “An Elephant,” say, “Yes.  Yes!  An Elephant.  Correct.”
  • Point to the bird and say, “A bird.”
  • Point to the elephant and say, “An elephant.”

3- Ensure that “the simple” is comprehensible.

  • Point to the bird.
  • Say, “Aiden.  Is this An Elephant or is this A Bird?” (Hint: One thing I like to do if I’m afraid I’ll confuse the student by adding the verb (“Is”) is to say the incomprehensible words (i.e. the verb and the adjective) quietly and quickly and say the comprehensible words (i.e. “An Elephant” and “A Bird”) slowly and deliberately.  This keeps the student from freezing up because of the unanticipated addition of extra, unfamiliar L2 words.  For more on this “hint” read this post.)
  • When Aiden says, “A bird,” say, “Yes!  Yes!  A bird.  A bird!  This is a bird.”
  • On the board or next to the picture write the L2 words, “This is a bird.”
  • Give Aiden ClassDojo.com points or some other form of reward.
  • Point to the bird again and repeat the same line of questioning with another student.
  • Point to the elephant.  Pick a new student and repeat the same line of question for An Elephant.

4-  Then add layers of complexity; ONE AT A TIME.

Adding Adjectives

  • Point to the bird.
  • Assuming that the students know the L2 colors, say, “Jessica.  Is this a RED bird or is this a BLUE bird?” (Hint: say the capitalized words more deliberately to draw attention to them.)  (Hint #2: If Jessica looks confused, point to the bird and say, “Red? or Blue?”
  • After Jessica answers say, “Yes!  Blue!  The bird is blue.  The bird is blue.”
  • On the board or next to the picture write the L2 words, “The bird is blue.”
  • Give Jessica ClassDojo.com points or some other form of reward.
  • Repeat this line of questioning as many times as you would like for practice.
  • Point to the elephant.
  • Say, “Aliquan.  Is the elephant BIG (gesture BIG) or is the elephant little (gesture little)?”
  • Etc.

Making The Sentence Complex

  • Point to the picture.
  • Say, “Justin.  Is the elephant big and blue or is the elephant big and gray?”
  • If Justin lacks confidence you can write the question on the board before you ask it or while you ask it.
  • After Justin answers you can pick other students to answer the exact same question.  The students will need this repetition.
  • Point to the picture.
  • Say, “Ariella.  Is there one elephant and two birds or is there one elephant and one bird?
  • After Justin answers you can pick other students to answer the exact same question.  The students will need this repetition.
  • These are just two examples of ways you can make the sentences more complex.  Use these ideas to help get your own creative juices flowing for how you can effectively use a picture to help students acquire more L2 while staying in the target language.

(Side note: at the beginning of this post I said that it’s a bad idea to sing songs about the picture of the elephant and the bird.  I just want to clarify.  Songs are fun.  And songs CAN be used effectively.  It would be a good idea to use a song after you’ve helped the students complete steps 1-4 that are listed above.  The song, then, can be used to enrich their L2 acquisition experience.)


The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

In part 4 of this series on input theory we observed that:

“If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.”

We also observed that:

“It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.”

In this post (part 5) we observe that:

“There are several forms of extralinguistic input.  Each can be used strategically by an L2 teacher to attempt to make L2 (linguistic) input comprehensible.”

And:

“Pictures, drawings, images, etc. are a form of extralinguistic input that I will call “Representational Input”  (see explanation below the sketches of Todd)

Over the next several weeks my purpose is to help readers explore how the forms of extralinguistic input can be used effectively in an L2 classroom.


 

Todd is a stick figure that is helping me explain some of these input theory concepts.  Notice, in the drawings below, how Todd can receive multiple forms of input and that some of them are extralinguistic forms of input.

The words that Todd hears or reads…whatever symbols he sees…whatever gestures he interprets…can be called INPUT.

input

 


 

Todd can receive input from a T.V. screen.

input can be received from television


 

Todd can receive input (in written form) from a book, magazine or from his iPhone.

Written Linguistic Input

Written Linguistic Input


 

Todd can receive input in the form of another person’s words.

Spoken Linguistic Input

Spoken Linguistic Input


 

Todd can receive input (from another person) even though they don’t use words.

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input


 

Todd can receive input when he reads words on a sign.

Linguistic Input

Linguistic Input


 

Todd can receive input even when a sign displays no words.

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input


 

Representational Input

One form of extralinguistic input that teachers can use to their advantage is pictures and drawings.  I’m not sure what other writers have called this form of input but I will call it “Representational Input.”  I call it “Representational Input” because pictures and drawings represent (or are image reproductions) of things that are real.  (For example: a postcard picture of the Grand Canyon is a picture representation of the Grand Canyon.  An iPhone snapshot of a flower is a digital representation of that real flower.)


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Representational Input” (i.e. pictures, images, drawings, etc.) is one of several forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use strategically to help students acquire L2.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI – (Part 4): Forms Of Input – Linguistic |Extralinguistic

Imagine that you have the opportunity to host a foreign exchange student in your home.

Foreign-Exchange-Student-

It’s meal time.  Since your exchange student barely speaks any English, you speak as slowly and clearly as possible.

“Please pass me a fork,” you say to her.

She looks confused and doesn’t respond.

In order to help her understand the English word for “fork” you touch (or hold up) a fork and say…

fork

“…Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork.”

In the precise moment that you hold up a fork and say, “Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork,” there are two different forms of input that your exchange student is processing.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

The linguistic form of input is the English words you are saying to her: “Fork.  Fork.  This is a fork.”

The extralinguistic form of input is the combination of all the gestures, pointing, and facial expressions you use in an attempt to communicate comprehensibly what your English words have failed to comprehensibly communicate.


Later in the evening you spend some time trying to get to know your foreign exchange student.  You decide to talk about her life in China.

You ask her, “Have you ever been to the Great Wall Of China?”

She looks confused and doesn’t respond.

In an attempt to help her understand your question, you flip through one of your National Geographic magazine issues to a picture of the Great Wall Of China.  You show her the picture and say…

Great-Wall-of-China

…Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?”

In the precise moment that you show the picture and say, “Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?” your exchange student is processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

The linguistic form of input is the English words you are saying to her: “Here it is.  The Great Wall Of China.  Have you been here?”

The extralinguistic form of input is the combination of the National Geographic picture and all the gestures, pointing, and facial expressions you use in an attempt to communicate comprehensibly what your English words have failed to comprehensibly communicate.


I do this all the time in my class.  In fact I try to do it as much as possible.  In fact…it’s pretty much all I do during my 40 minute instructional sessions.

Example #1: When my next class walks down the hall to my room, I meet them at the door.  As they are approaching I make eye contact with the line leader and say the following phrase in the target language, “Stand right here.”  While I say those words (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

  • tap my foot 3 times in the spot I want them to stop.
  • hold my hand up, motioning for them to stop.
  • point (with my finger) to the spot on the floor that I want them to stop.
  • get my whole body in the way so they have no option but to stop.

In the precise moment that I tapped my foot, held up my hand, and said, “Stand right here,” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

Example #2: When every student has lined up quietly at my door (in the hallway), I make sure everyone’s eyes are watching me…usually without using any words.  Then, I look at the line leader and say (in the target language), “Enter.  Go in.”  While I say those words (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

  • gesture for the line leader to start walking into the room.
  • give a head nod as if to say, “Yes, you can go in now.”
  • walk over to where all the students are walking in and motion with my hands for them to walk in and stand in their “spots.”

In the precise moment that I gave a head nod, gestured for the line leader to enter, and said, “Enter.  Go in,” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

Example #3: When the students are quietly lined up at the back of the room, I make sure everyone’s eyes are watching me and the projection screen.  Then, in the target language, I ask the class, “How are you?  Well? or not well?  Well? or just “okay?”  Well?  or tired?  Well? or excited?”  While I say those words/phrases (which are incomprehensible to the students) I:

In the precise moment that I flash pictures onto the screen and say, “How are you?  Well? or not well?  Well? or just “okay?”  Well?  or tired?  Well? or excited?” the students were processing two different forms of input.

One form of input is linguistic and the other form of input is extralinguistic.

These are just 3 examples out of over a hundred examples that may occur during any given 40 minute class session that I spend with my students.

Summed up in one sentence, read below what I want my novice L2 students to experience (as much as possible):

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

It’s so exciting to see the results!

The students are acquiring the first parts of a foreign language without even realizing it.

  • 2nd graders are looking at ClassDojo.com data and telling me L2 sentences like, “Aiden has more points.”  “No, Isabella AND Aiden have the most points.”  “Isabella has 18 points and Aiden has 18 points.”
  • Kindergarteners the other day (without me speaking a word of English) were pointing to the classmate that had accumulated the most ClassDojo.com points for the month after I said, “The pencil is for…who?” in the TL.
  • 4th graders laugh when I call myself Superman and say (in the TL), “Sr. Howard you’re not Superman.  You are Queen Elsa.”
  • 5th graders examine Turning Technologies test question data and say, “Answer ‘A’ is incorrect and answer “C” is correct.”
  • When I ask a 1st grader to pass the laser pointer to another classmate named ____, he/she says, “I already passed it,” or “I already have it.”

The THEORY behind the PRACTICE

I’ve repeated myself a lot, so far in this post, in an attempt to make the following, simple points that have huge implications for language acquisition:

  1. An individual can receive input.
  2. The form of the input that an individual receives can vary.
  3. An individual can receive multiple forms of input simultaneously.
  4. It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.
  5. If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to a student, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.

Take Todd, for instance, who is a stick figure that is helping us in this series on comprehensible input and input theory.

Todd - Comprehensible Input


1- Todd can receive input.

input


2- The form of input that Todd receives can vary.

Spoken Linguistic Input

Spoken Linguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input

Gesticulated Extralinguistic Input

Written Linguistic Input

Written Linguistic Input


3- Todd can receive multiple forms of input simultaneously.

 

Todd input


4-  It can be helpful to categorize forms of input into LINGUISTIC input and EXTRALINGUISTIC input.

Linguistic Input

Linguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input

Extralinguistic Input


5-  If a linguistic form of input is incomprehensible to Todd, attempts can be made to communicate comprehensibly by making extralinguistic input available.

image


 

I’ve learned an important distinction:

Recently I’ve been learning what the term “making input comprehensible” IS and what “making input comprehensible” IS NOT.

Previously I thought making input comprehensible meant holding up a picture or performing a gesture.  I thought that if I spoke L2 and could still manage to get a student to find meaning by using extralinguistic input…that I would be “making input comprehensible.

I’m realizing that that’s not a clear understanding of “making input comprehensible.”

I’m realizing that students can do what I want them to do but still find ZERO meaning in the L2 that I’m speaking to them.

I’m realizing that students can perform the daily performance objective while I’m speaking L2 and still find ZERO meaning in the L2 words that I’m speaking to them.

I’m realizing that as long as the L2 phrases and sentences that I’m using sound like unfamiliar, jumbled utterances, they are INCOMPREHENSIBLE phrases even if the students are successfully doing what I want them to be doing.

L2 input only becomes comprehensible when a student makes sense of, or finds meaning in, the L2 linguistic input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues.

This doesn’t mean that extralinguistic input keeps a student from acquiring L2.  NO!!  In fact, it would be very difficult for a novice L2 student to acquire L2 naturally without it.  It just means that a student needs repeated, frequent opportunities to hear the target L2 phrases with their extralinguistic “crutches” in order for the L2 phrase(s) to finally become comprehensible.

Notice this distinction in point #5 below.  In all of the examples at the beginning of this post the following things happened:

  1. …the student (whether it be the exchange student or one of the learners in my L2 classroom) was a novice L2 speaker.
  2. …the student received two different forms of input at one time.
  3. …the linguistic form of input was incomprehensible to the student (because they were novice L2 students).
  4. …the language teacher used a simultaneous, extralinguistic form of input to try to communicate comprehensibly what his/her L2 words/phrases failed to comprehensibly communicate.
  5. …by introducing simultaneous, extralinguistic input to the student, the teacher hoped to either A) make the L2 input comprehensible to the student or B) provide a secondary way for the student to find meaning since, at that moment, the L2 input cannot be comprehensible to him/her.

Language Acquisition Theory Statements:

  • A person can receive different forms of input.
  • It’s helpful to categorize the different forms of input into “linguistic forms of input” and “extralinguistic forms of input”

The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI – (Part 3): Why Aren’t They Getting This? – Input: Multiple Forms & ICI

With students who are not used to being immersed in a L2 environment…:

…there are times that I sense the need to use MORE gestures and facial expressions and use FEWER L2 words, phrases and sentences.

When I’m starting to get too many looks (from students) like this…

confused

…it’s my cue to start doing more of the following:

Sometimes, instead of affirming students with L2 phrases like, “Nice Job,” “Great work,” and “You really do great in L2 class,” I will simply smile, clap and give an energetic thumbs up.

Sometimes, instead of saying the L2 phrase for, “Come here,” I will simply use a hand gesture to get the student to come.

Sometimes, instead of making a request in L2 like, “Would you please pass out the papers?” I will simply hold up the stack of papers and use hand gestures to show that I want the volunteer to give one sheet to each student.

Sometimes, instead of reprimanding Roger in the TL by saying, “Roger, make sure your eyes are on the screen!” I will simply snap my fingers while looking sternly at him and then point to the screen in order to redirect his off-task behavior.

Sometimes, if a student is brand new to a 90+% TL environment, it’s necessary (for a while) to use LESS L2 and MORE non-verbal methods of communication.

This strategy is one of the ways that I avoid students looking at me like this:

blank-stare

It’s a strategy that I use to avoid students blurting out comments like:

“I didn’t understand a word you just said!”

“Excuse me.  I don’t speak ______ (name of L2).”

“Huh!?  What!?  I don’t know what to do because I don’t speak your language!”

Strategies (like the ones above) really help!

Recently I asked my students to hold up 1 finger if they felt “always lost” in L2 class and to hold up 10 fingers if they felt “never lost” in L2 class.  Every single student held up either 8, 9 or 10 fingers!!!  Generally, almost all of my students know what’s expected of them and know exactly what to do.  These results are possible because I use strategies like the ones I will discuss in this blog post.


With that being said, there are occasional times when a student of mine will give me a blank stare when I least expect it.

Confused-student

Recently I was SURE a student would be able to respond when I said, “Stand up,” (in the target language) especially because I even used my hands to motion for him to stand.

I thought I was making it as simple as possible.  One short command.  One very obvious gesture.

However, he gave me a blank stare.  NO RESPONSE.

I thought to myself, “How much more obvious can I make it?”  “If this simple, obvious hand gesture doesn’t make the L2 input comprehensible, then I don’t know what will!”

A lot of times I get the blank stare especially when I have a new student that transfers into the district.  No matter what I gesture…no matter how obvious I make it, they just stare at me.  Their facial expressions say, “Who is this guy?  What is he doing?  What language is he speaking?  What in the world am I doing here?  I have no idea what’s going on?”

I’m making it as meaningful = as possible…but the student is completely lost.

Here’s another example:

This happens every week or two.  I’ll ask a student a question like, “What’s your name?” or, “What color is this?” (in the target language) and the student will not know what I’m asking or what the answer is.  In order to help him out, I tell him the answer.  I ask him to repeat the correct answer after me.

Simple enough, right?  However, the student gives me a blank stare.  NO RESPONSE.  He can’t even repeat the correct answer that I ask him to repeat.

I think to myself, “Hello!?!? – “Repeat” is a target language command that we use dozens of times every class!  How can you be giving me a blank stare for, ‘Repeat!?!'”

So I try the Two-Hand Method to get him to say the simple, one-word answer after me.

The Two-Hand Method fails and the student gives me a blank stare.  NO RESPONSE.

A lot of times, in scenarios like these, every other student in the class is thinking what I’m thinking, “Hello!?!  All you have to do is say the exact same word that Sr. Howard is saying.”  Occasionally a compassionate peer will address the confused student in English and tell him, “Just say what Sr. Howard is saying.”

What is happening in these situations?

Why do I get a blank stare / no response?

I’m using the most simple of gestures!  Why does the student look at me with a blank stare even though I’m doing everything I can to “make the input meaningful?”

The reason I’m surprised, in situations like these, is because there are a couple of things (regarding the nature of input) that I’m not keeping in mind.

More specifically, I’m not keeping in mind that…:

1- …an individual can receive multiple forms of input at one time…

and that…

2- …one form of input can affect a person’s ability or willingness to respond to another form of input.


As an example, consider Andrew (in the picture below):

boy playing video game 1

Andrew is playing his new video game.  He loves it!  Ever since he got it for his birthday, it’s all he wants to do whenever he has free time.  He hardly does anything else.  He loves the graphics.  He loves the adventure.  When he’s playing, he’s in his own “video-game-world.”

What do you think happens when Mom tries to call him to the dinner table?

“Honey…it’s time for dinner,” Mom says.

No response from Andrew.

What’s happening here?

Is Andrew ignoring his mom?  Did Andrew not hear his mom?  Did it register in his mind that he heard his mom said something, but his video game adventure kept him from really processing WHAT she said?

For the purposes of this discussion, the specific details of what Andrew experienced are irrelevant.  All we need to consider is that at the moment of Mom calling him to the dinner table…:

1) …Andrew is receiving not one form of input, but two (or more) forms of input.

AND

2) …one form of input is affecting Andrew’s willingness/ability to respond to the second form of input.

What are the specific and different forms of input that Andrew is receiving?

The first form of input is coming from his video game.  (Let’s call it Input #1.)  His video game might be flashing words on the screen. (i.e. You have 2 lives left!)  His video game might be producing L1 words and phrases. (i.e. You’re dead!  Game over.)  Even if his video game is not producing L1 words (or written phrases/sentences) there are still situations/scenarios that Andrew is interpreting. (i.e. The enemy has Andrew’s character cornered.  Andrew thinks, “Ahhh! What should I do now?!?”)

The second form of input is coming in the form of his mom’s voice. (Let’s call it Input #2.)  She’s in the kitchen, calling for him to come to the dinner table.

The input from the video game (Input #1) is so exciting to Andrew, so enthralling, that it’s limiting his capacity to pay attention to other forms of input that are being directed to him.  He’s either:

  • so engrossed in the video game that he doesn’t even process the input of his mom’s voice (i.e. unable to respond) or
  • he values his ‘video-game-playing time’ so much that he’s willing to disregard his mother’s wishes in order to continue playing. (i.e. unwilling to respond)

So WHAT does this have to do with L2 class?

What does Andrew (and his video game) have to do with my L2 student giving me a blank stare when I say, “Stand up,” and motion for him to stand?

Just like Andrew received multiple forms of input in the example above, my L2 student receives multiple forms of input when I say, “Stand up,” and motion for him to stand.

Input #1, for my L2 student, is my L2 command: “Stand up.”

Input #2 is my non-verbal hand gesture: I motion for him to stand.

(Important side note:  It’s VERY IMPORTANT to note that Input #1 is incomprehensible to my student.  This is important because incomprehensible input has the potential to do to my student what video games do to Andrew:

It affects his ability or willingness to respond to other input.)

Here’s what I mean:

At the moment that I gesture and give the L2 command for “stand up,” here’s what I’m thinking in my head:

“Student, I know you don’t understand the L2 word I’m using.  I know all of this L2 is brand new to you.  But don’t worry, I will make it easy for you.  First of all, “Stand up,” is such a short phrase.  It’s not like I’m asking you to follow multi-step directions.  It’s just one phrase.  Second of all, to help you find meaning (although I’m using incomprehensible L2), I will use a gesture.  It’s a simple gesture.  All I’m doing is motioning, with my hands, for you to stand.  That way, even though you don’t understand the L2 phrase I speak to you, you’ll be able to make sense of it because the hand gesture is so simple.”

Even though that’s MY experience…it’s NOT MY STUDENT’S experience.  Here’s what he’s thinking in that same moment:

“Huh!?!  I’m frozen.  I’m overwhelmed.  My anxiety level is high.  I have no idea what is happening.  All I heard was a jumble of sounds.  This is really uncomfortable for me.  I have no idea what that jumble of sounds means.  How am I supposed to know what to do right now!?  This is embarrassing.  Everyone is looking at me.  I hate this.  How am I supposed to respond if I don’t know what that jumble of sounds means!?!”

Behind the blank stare are feelings and thoughts like these.

The overwhelming nature of the incomprehensible input makes it so that it’s attention-consuming.  Just like Andrew wasn’t able to think about anything besides his video game, often a student (who isn’t used to being immersed in L2) will be unable to think about anything else when they hear incomprehensible input.

The L2 phrase, short as it may be, is nothing but an overwhelming jumble of sounds.  It’s incomprehensible, unsettling and so confusing.  Even though there is an accompanying, simple hand gesture, there’s nothing else on my student’s mind besides, “What the heck was that!?  I have no idea what Sr. Howard is trying to say.”

Just like Andrew wasn’t able to respond to his mom’s instruction (because his video game was too all-consuming), my L2 student isn’t able to be helped by my simple hand gesture because my incomprehensible L2 command is too all-consuming.


How does the “occasionally use MORE gestures and LESS L2” (as described at the beginning of this post) help overwhelmed students like this one?

The strategies listed at the beginning of this post can help.  These strategies train students to look for meaning in new places.  Students are used to relying on language to gather meaning in a situation.  However when they are introduced to an unfamiliar L2 environment, their ability to gather meaning from language is eliminated.  But there are other ways to find/gather meaning.  Students can find it in other forms of input like gestures, facial expressions, body language, etc.  However, as I mentioned above, they won’t have the capacity to notice or pay attention to these extra linguistic forms of input if they are too overwhelmed by your incomprehensible foreign language.  At the beginning of their L2 immersion journey, (while they are still afraid of hearing your “jumble of sounds”) make it easy for your students to notice those helpful extra linguistic cues by occasionally refraining from L2 use.

Once the students become more familiar with finding meaning through extra linguistic input, and once the students become less overwhelmed by the sound of unfamiliar L2, the teacher can start using the target language without getting looks like…

Confused-student

What else can we do to help overwhelmed students like these?

There are so many tips on this blog for helping students that are overwhelmed in an L2 immersion setting.  Check out some of the posts below for tips:


The THEORY behind the “occasionally use MORE gestures and LESS L2” practice.

Todd is a stick figure and he is helping us with our current blog series on input and comprehensible input.

Todd - Comprehensible Input

Check out the pictures (below) that help explain the theory behind this “occasionally use MORE gestures and LESS L2” practice.


Picture 1

input can be verbal input from person

Todd can receive verbal/linguistic input.


Picture 2

image

Todd can receive non-verbal/extra-linguistic input.


Picture 3

image

Todd can receive multiple forms of input at one time.

Sometimes Todd can successfully process (and appropriately respond) to simultaneous and multiple forms of input.


Picture 4

image

Sometimes Todd receives one form of input that affects his ability to respond to another form of input that he is receiving simultaneously.


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

Since…

…it’s possible for a student, especially one who is at the beginning of their L2 acquisition journey, to be overwhelmed by a piece of incomprehensible input…

And since…

…it’s possible for incomprehensible input to be so overwhelming that it keeps the student from being able to pay attention to, and process, other forms of input (which a teacher introduces in an attempt to encourage L2 meaning)…

A teacher should…

…train a student (using some of the strategies listed in this post) to notice ways he/she can find meaning in an unfamiliar L2 immersion environment by using available non-verbal (extra linguistic) input.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like the ones above) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 2) – Why Do I “Use Fewer Words?” …Input Has Quantitative Qualities

“Use fewer words.”

“Train yourself and your class to feel comfortable with silence.”

“Generally, if something I’m about to say in the target language is not going to be PAIRED with another MEANINGFUL form of input, it’s not worth saying.”

“Try to reduce the amount of words for a direction you give.”

These are rules of thumb that I follow in my foreign language classroom.  I’m passionate about them.  I feel that they are extremely important.  I believe that they are a huge part of why my students are acquiring L2 and thriving in an L2 immersion environment.

Instead of saying a longer phrase like, “Boys and girls, please sit around the edge of the rug,” I say shorter/simpler phrases like, “Aiden…sit here.”  “Jessica…sit here.”  “Rebecca…sit here.”  “Roneem…sit here.” Etc.

Instead of saying a longer phrase like, “Roger pass out a sheet of paper to every student in the class,” I say shorter/simpler phrases like, “A paper for you…a paper for you…here’s a paper for you…a paper for you…and for you…here’s a paper for you.”  Etc.

Instead of saying a longer phrase like, “Today we are going to write down the numbers from 1 to 100,” I say shorter/simpler phrases like, “With a pencil (and I hold up a pencil) write here and here and here and here and here (and I point to each of the lines that they will have to write on.”

Instead of saying a longer phrase like, “It’s time to put away your notebooks,” I say shorter/simpler phrases like, “Goodbye notebooks.”


A STORY about “using fewer words” with my daughter.

10624591_955670187674_8684531864456166944_n-2

If you have followed this blog for a while, you’ve probably already heard this story of how I “use fewer words” with my infant/toddler daughters.

One day my daughter was crawling around on the floor while we were with our extended family in the living room.  She was at that age where she was just starting to be mobile and loved her independence and ability to explore new things.  During this same stage her mom and I had to keep our eyes glued on her because she didn’t know which of her exploration items were dangerous or not.  We loved letting her explore, but it was exhausting to constantly spend energy keeping her from exploring electrical sockets, stair cases and fragile decorations.
On this night I didn’t want to supervise my exploring daughter.  I wanted to stay in the living room talking with the other adults.  So I decided to try to tell my infant/crawler to stay in the living room and NOT CRAWL INTO THE KITCHEN.
I realized that she would’ve never understood my language if I said something like:
“Ava, there are some dangerous things in the kitchen.  Furthermore your father and mother are not in there to supervise you.  Therefore our desire is for you to stay in the living room with us.”
But she WOULD understand my language if I said/did something like this:
I took my daughter to the threshold between the kitchen and living room.  I knelt down at her level.  I pointed to the kitchen side of the threshold and (with serious looking eyes) said, “NO, NO, NO.”  I pointed to the living room side of the threshold and (with smiling looking eyes) said, “YES, YES, YES.”  I took the extra time to repeat these statements 3 or 4 times.  She was able to understand because I used fewer words and I made their meaning obvious.  If I would’ve used 4 sentences with complex ‘native speaker level words’ my daughter wouldn’t have even listened or looked at me.

Here’s my RATIONALE that explains why I have a “use fewer words” practice. 

Todd is a stick figure and he is helping me with my current blog series on input and comprehensible input.

Todd - Comprehensible Input

Check out the two pictures (below) that help explain the theory behind this “use fewer words” practice.


Picture 1:

input has quantitative properties

Todd can receive small amounts of input. (i.e. Todd has been sitting alone in his jail cell.  The guard slides his lunch plate in and says, “Lunch time,” and leaves.)


Picture 2:

there can be little input or lots of input

Todd can receive large amounts of input. (i.e. Todd is a graduate student and is taking notes during a two-hour academic lecture.)


Sr. Howard’s Explanation Statement #1: Input has quantitative qualities.

In less formal language,

  • “Input: there can be a lot of it or a little bit of it.”
  • “Input: you can measure how much of it a person is receiving at a given moment or during a certain period of time.”

Why does Explanation Statement #1 matter in a foreign language classroom?

Last summer I was replacing a garage roof with a bunch of friends.

EODC Home Renovation

While he was up on the roof, one of my friends realized that HE HAD LOST HIS WEDDING RING!  He was frantic!  He wasn’t sure if he lost it while he was shoveling off shingles.  He wasn’t sure if he lost it while he was walking on the grass and among the plants.  He wasn’t sure if he lost it while he was carrying arm-fulls of shingles to the dumpster.  He wasn’t even sure if he lost it in his car on the way over to the job site.

Right from the beginning of the search for his lost ring HE FELT HOPELESS.

There was soooo much to look through.  There were so many possibilities of where the ring could be.  Where should he look first?  Would it be in the weeds?  In the rafters?  Would it be in the dumpster with a ton of shingles?

needle in a hay stack

It’s possible for L2 students, who are searching to find meaning in a foreign language immersion environment, to feel the same way that my friend did when he was searching for his ring.

If a student, especially a novice L2 student, is presented with large quantities of unfamiliar L2 input, his search for meaning will feel hopeless.

Foreign language teachers will be doing their students a disservice if they think teaching in the target language means that they must string together long, complex L2 sentences.

When teachers use too much L2 it’s like they are asking their students to look for a lost ring inside a dumpster full of shingles.

Teachers should make an L2 student’s search for meaning easier by eliminating needless, non-essential, incomprehensible L2 words.

The smaller the quantity of unfamiliar input, the greater the chance is that the L2 student will find meaning in their foreign language immersion environment.

If your language student is Todd, then Todd will be more successful in the L2 immersion environment if his experience is like this:

input in a language other than your native language can be incomprehensible

…rather than like this:

 incomprehensible input


A quick word for curriculum writers…

Students who acquire L2 in an L2 immersion setting need lots of time and space.  They need to spend a lot of time with new material in order to become comfortable with it.  They need to have repeated and comprehensible encounters with the L2 input in order to acquire it.  Too much curriculum content doesn’t allow the time and space a student needs for L2 acquisition to occur.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to re-write our district’s world language curriculum for the grades that I teach.  The “use fewer words” principle influenced what I wrote.

I reduced, reduced, reduced, reduced.

It’s good to keep in mind that one thing you can’t do when you teach in the target language is cover lots of material fast.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that simple sketches (like these) have on foreign language teaching and foreign language acquisition.

Todd will help me discuss and/or continue to discuss…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

 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).

Todd (The Stick Figure) & A Series On Comprehensible Input – Part 1

Over the last few months, in my spare time, I’ve been having fun thinking about things like input, comprehensible input and extralinguistic input.  Call me crazy (or a language acquisition nerd) but I’ve even gotten up in the middle of the night to write down thoughts I’ve had about it.

Disclaimer: I haven’t taken the time to do any research on what’s already been written about the topic.  So none of the stuff that I’ll be sharing in this series is researched-based or formal/academic writing.  I’m just having fun sharing my own reflections on the nature of input and how it’s affecting the way I teach my elementary-aged, novice, L2 students.

So here I go with Part 1:


Say, “Hello!” to Todd.

person


The words that Todd hears or reads…whatever symbols he sees…whatever gestures he interprets…can be called INPUT.

input

 


Todd can receive input from another person.

input to listener from person

 


Todd can receive input from a T.V. screen.

input can be received from television

 


Todd can receive input (in written form) from a book, magazine or from his iPhone.

input can be received in written form

 


Todd can receive input in the form of another person’s words.

input can be verbal input from person

 


Todd can receive input (from another person) even though they don’t use words.

input can be nonverbal from person

 


Todd can receive input when he reads words on a sign.

input can be from words

 


Todd can receive input even when a sign displays no words.

input can be non verbal and not written

 


Todd can receive small amounts of input. (i.e. one word or one phrase)

input has quantitative properties

 


Todd can receive large amounts of input. (i.e. a two-hour academic lecture)

there can be little input or lots of input

 


One form of input can affect Todd’s ability or willingness to respond to another form of input.

Todd input


Input, that Todd receives, can cause him to feel happy.

image

 


Input, that Todd receives, can cause Todd to feel sad.

input can make you sad

 


Todd can have an experience of understanding the input he receives. (In other words, the input can be comprehensible.)

input can be comprehensible

 


Todd can have an experience of not understanding the input he receives.  (In other words, the input can be incomprehensible.)

input can be incomprehensible

 


When the input Todd receives is his native language (L1), it is almost always comprehensible. (Like when he hears his friend say, “I like your shirt.”)

input in your native language can be comprehensible

 


On occasion, Todd may experience instances when his native language (L1) is incomprehensible. (Like when his calculus-nerd-friend states the Quotient Rule:

“y prime equals the denominator times the derivative of the numerator minus the numerator times the derivative of the denominator, all over the denominator squared.”)

input in your native language can be incomprehensible

 


A language that Todd has never heard before (L2) will generally be incomprehensible to him.

input in a language other than your native language can be incomprehensible

 


There can be instances when the teeniest part of the language that Todd has never heard before (L2) becomes meaningful.  (Like when Todd sneezes and a native L2 speaker immediately says, “Bless you,” in L2.  Both Todd and the native L2 speaker smile at each other because they each experienced a moment where the L2 was incomprehensible, however there was available extralinguistic input that made the interaction meaningful.)

input in a language other than your native language can be incomprehensible

 


A foreign language teacher’s goal is to enable Todd to meaningfully enter an L2-world.

the goal of fascilitating language acquisition

The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that these simple sketches have had on my foreign language teaching practice.

Todd will help me discuss my developing (and non-research-based) thoughts on…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
  • …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
  • …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.

STAY TUNED!

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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