Instructional Strategies: Señor Howard’s Video and ‘Why does he do what he does?’ Part 3

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

It’s important for foreign language teachers, who teach in the TL, to develop routines.  The following video clips show Señor Howard leading students through some effective instructional routines.  This post is Part 3 of a series. (Part 2 | Part 1)

At 6min18secs – “I’m finishing one portion of the lesson and moving on to the next.  Notice that I take 5-15 seconds to help the students calm down, get quiet and look at the source of instruction.  It’s important to get the students used to having it quiet in the class.  Quietness shouldn’t be awkward.  Quiet is a sign that students are on task.  When students are on task it’s more likely that input from the teacher will be comprehensible.”

At 6min36secs – “Here’s another routine and I use it with Kindergarten and 1st graders.  When they walk into the room, we tip toe around the edge of the rug.  I say a few words and then ask them to count in the target language.  This routine/movement is helpful for practicing numbers.  It’s helpful for getting students familiar with following directions in the TL.  For example, students follow my directions regarding when to stop, what number to count up to, when to sit down, etc.  The first few times I did this routine I gave only one or 2 directions.  But the more times I repeat the routine the more directions/commands I can introduce and practice with students.”

At 6min38secs – “When I want the students to acquire words we’ve been practicing in routines, I speak very clearly and with pauses between words.  This deliberate way of speaking allows the sentence to sound like separate words instead of one very long, continuous word.  Sometimes teachers forget that novice L2 learners can’t picture the spelling of the TL words in their heads.  They don’t necessarily know where a word begins and where a word ends.  Breaking the flow of the sentence, by inserting pauses between words, allows students to know when a word starts and when a word ends.”

At 6min50secs – “I’m giving the command: ‘to count’.  But a lot of my Kindergarteners don’t know the L2 word for ‘count’.  In order to help them get a sense of what I’m asking them to do, say and count a lot of numbers.  This allows them to think, “I’m not quiet sure what Sr. Howard is asking us to do, but my guess is that it has something to do with numbers.”  When students have that kind of conclusion or thought process, I know I’ve made input comprehensible.  It’s not 100% comprehensible.  But it will be as we repeat this routine week in and week out.”

At 7min46secs – “In class, we are talking about how many points students have earned for the month.  I do this routine with every grade I teach.  This particular class is a 5th grade class.  They are responding to target questions with complete L2 sentences.  It’s very helpful to write target questions and phrases on the board.

  • It focuses the attention of the class.
  • It helps them know the particular skill you want them to practice.  It’s like writing the performance objectives on the board.
  • It gives the students confidence in the L2 environment.  Many times students may know an answer but they hesitate to offer the answer because they aren’t 100% sure what the teacher is asking or expecting in response.
  • It helps a teacher avoid the awkwardness of having to skip a student that doesn’t know how to respond.  Instead of skipping a student because they’ve hesitated too long, you can point to what’s on the board and help them succeed.
  • It helps learners indirectly practice skills needed for reading and writing.

At 8min – “I switch between addressing an individual student and addressing the whole class.  Doing this allows students to repeatedly hear verb and noun differences in the 2nd and 3rd person.  It allows students to receive grammar instruction without even realizing it.”

This concludes a series of practical instructional strategy tips for using routines in an L2 immersion environment.  Click here for more video examples of Señor Howard teaching in the target language.

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Instructional Strategies: Señor Howard’s Video and ‘Why he does what he does?’ Part 2

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

It’s important for foreign language teachers, who teach in the TL, to develop routines.  The following video clips show Señor Howard leading students through some effective instructional routines.  This post is a continuation of last week’s post.

From 1min56sec – 2min40sec – “I’m asking students to respond using the TL.  If students aren’t confident, participating isn’t their favorite thing to do.  I keep in mind that they might be intimidated.  I make sure to smile and nod a lot.  I try to verbally praise students after they respond, even if their response wasn’t correct.  After a student participates, I want them to feel that it went well even though it might have been nerve-wracking.”

At 2min30sec – “A student misses the target and hits the SMART board instead of my hands.  The class laughs.  It was an honest mistake.  So rather than trying to calm down the students (with verbal instruction and hand gestures or an angry tone) I move on to the next activity.  If your next activity is attention-getting enough (as in the case of the continuation of this instructional video clip) redirect off-task behavior by moving on.”  (speaking of SMART board check out this post for tips on using SMART board in class from @SenoraWienhold)

At 3min23sec – 4min10sec- “I decide to make the task more difficult by increasing the amount of target questions they have to respond to.  If you’re following ACTFL’s recommendation to stay in the target language at least 90% of the time, make sure your students are aware of sudden changes you might make in difficulty level.  To prepare my students for a more difficult task:

  • I interrupted the flow of the activity with an obvious break.
  • I slowed my voice down.
  • I used slower and exaggerated body language.
  • I modeled the performance task with correct answers.
  • I gave the first student participant a lot of time to think about what I was asking and what he needed to respond with.
  • I helped him feel more confident with his unconfident first answer by repeating the same target question.  The repetition reaffirmed for him that he was right.  It also changed his lack of confidence (in relationship to me) to a relational humor (because I was teasing him in a friendly way by repeating the same question over and over.)

The point is: do everything you can to help your students be successful.  Some teachers try to trick students.  Keep in mind that some students will be very embarrassed if they make a mistake in front of their peers.  Don’t unnecessarily trick someone into making a mistake.  Staying in the TL is intimidating enough.  Don’t compound it by tricking students on purpose.”

At 4min45secs – “I teach young students.  It’s helpful for them if I change things up every 5-10 minutes.  In this case, the students had been sitting on a rug for a while.  It was a big class so they were cramped a bit.  The movement at 4min45secs helped students take a stretch break.  Afterwards, they are refreshed and ready to keep engaging in the TL instruction.”

At 6min9secs – “I use a random student picker.  It’s helpful for a lot of reasons:

  1. It creates an expectation in the class that everyone participates.
  2. It keeps me from having to remember who I’ve picked and who I haven’t picked.
  3. It keeps students on-task.  There’s a constant feeling that they might get picked.
  4. It keeps students from blaming me for picking them too much or not picking them enough.”

At 6min9secs – “It’s time to turn on the lights.  Try to avoid being a teacher who does things that students can handle on their own.  Look for chances to give commands to students that can be repeated often.  Turning on and off the lights is perfect for this.  I have the students repeat the command with me until the lights are finally on.”

Next week’s blog post will continue picking apart Sr. Howard’s demo routines in the TL.  We’ll continue answering the question: ‘Why does Sr. Howard do what he does?’

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Instructional Strategies – Sr. Howard’s Video and ‘Why does he do what he does?’

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

Summary of last week’s post: ROUTINES are a great way to making students feel more comfortable in your 90+% TL classroom.  Included in the post was a link directing you to a video of Señor Howard leading some routines he uses in the classroom.

Read the rest of this post to find out why Señor Howard does what he does for his routines.

At 4secs – Señor Howard prepares to put on a video. (find it at  “I put on a video 4-8 mins after I do some type of whole group instruction or discussion.  Usually after 4-8 minutes of hearing the target language, a student gets tired of trying to decipher L2.  In an effort to not lose the attention of students, it’s a good idea to put on an engaging/attractive instructional video (still in the target language) that will allow students a reprieve from the hard work of tracking with what the teacher is discussing in the target language.”

At 22secs – Señor Howard’s video shows a numbers count down.  “Notice that each number is spelled in the target language underneath.  Teachers encourage their students towards success every time they allow students to see the TL written.  Written words allow students to practice reading/phonics skills.  Written words allow students time to study the word.  During the study time, students may have the chance to activate prior knowledge to help TL acquisition and/or comprehension.” – “Lots of students can count UP very easily.  Help students acquire other skills with numbers by practicing counting DOWN.”

At 25-60secs – Señor Howard takes advantage of ‘down time’ while students are engaged with the instructional video.  “It’s so nice to be able to have a moment to gather my thoughts while the students are occupied.  It helps me think about what’s next in the lesson.  I can prepare materials.  Sometimes I take a moment to record student performance data from current and previous activities.  Sometimes I pull aside a struggling or off-task student re-explain my expectations in L1.  Make use of these great ‘down times’.”

At 1min – Señor Howard pauses the instructional video.  “Some of the instructional videos that I use (which can be found at I show to the students repeatedly throughout the year.  At the beginning of the year I let them watch the video.  As the year progresses I start pausing the videos to allow students chances to practice some of the skills they see modeled in the video.  Sometimes I’ll use a soft object to help organize a conversation practice activity.  I ask a target question and throw the object to the student who will respond.  It’s fun for students to throw something.  It increases students’ desire to participate.”

At 1min5secs – Señor Howard uses his hands as puppets to help make input comprehensible.  “When practicing interpersonal mode activities, I use Hand 1 and Hand 2 to model what Person 1 and Person 2 are supposed to say.  It’s such a helpful technique that I picked up from some great teachers at ‘Real Language Right Away.’  It eliminates a lot of confusion among students regarding what they are supposed to say and when they’re supposed to say it.”

At 1min18secs – Señor Howard tries to only asks students to perform an interpersonal mode task when they’ve had the task modeled repeatedly.  “An L2 immersion environment is naturally intimidating.  Being put on the spot (in front of peers) is also intimidating.  Intimidation can squash a students desire to practice L2.  Try to eliminate intimidation from your classroom.  Expect your students to participate only when you’ve given them sufficient chances to understand what’s happening in a language task.  Model the performance activity repeatedly.  Use effective techniques for making input comprehensible.  Only then can you start to kick intimidation out of your classroom and allow your L2 students to flourish.

Next week’s blog post will continue picking apart Sr. Howard’s demo routines in the TL.  We’ll continue answering the question: ‘Why does Sr. Howard do what he does?’

Señor Howard –

Instructional Strategies For the 90+% Target Language Classroom: Routines

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

Teaching a foreign language, by staying in the target language at least 90% of the time, can make students feel uncomfortable (especially at first).  Your words can sound completely unfamiliar, especially to a novice speaker.

One of the easiest ways to make students feel more comfortable in an immersion setting is by creating meaningful routines.

Routines …:

  • …allow students to anticipate what will happen next.  (When students know what to expect, they will be less confused by the unfamiliar sounds of the target language.)
  • …help create a structure that enhances comprehension.  (The target language without context and repetition is almost meaningless.)
  • …allow for target vocabulary repetition.

Check out these video clips.  The three clips show Señor Howard using routines as an effective instruction strategy for the 90+% target language classroom.  In the next blog I’ll discuss how these routines, and others can help enhance comprehension in the immersion setting.

Señor Howard –

Instructional Strategies: Intro

Over the last several weeks my posts have been dedicated to answering questions like, “How do you manage student behavior AND stay in the target language?” (New to this blog? – Click here to see all blog posts touching on this topic.)

Looking ahead, I will start transitioning to instructional strategies that are effective for use in the 90+% TL-Use-Classroom. (I say start because I may still touch on classroom management by posting videos of classroom management techniques in the target language.)

Topics will include:

  • The importance of routines
  • How to create and develop worthwhile routines
  • Effective vs. Ineffective worksheets and handouts
  • What works and doesn’t work when focusing on interpretive, interpersonal or presentational modes

Feel free to leave questions and comments below regarding instructional strategies for the 90+% TL-Use-Classroom.

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

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – – @calhwrd

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