Instructional Strategies: Targeted Repetition

My youngest brother grew up in the public school system in which I’ve been teaching Spanish for the last 10 years.  I gave him a quick Spanish quiz this morning as we were hanging out on vacation.  I said:

  • If, “I have internet.” = “Tengo internet.” and
  • “I don’t have internet.” = “No tengo internet.”
  • …how do you say, “I sometimes have internet,” in Spanish?

He thought about it for a while and, after getting a hint, he was able to say “A veces tengo internet.”  Our family congratulated him, for his demonstration of L2 retention, and he immediately said, “That’s one thing that the Vineland Public Schools sure did: REPETITION”

If you were familiar with my district’s L2 program two decades ago, you would know that he wasn’t necessarily complimenting the curriculum or instructional methods.  The curriculum (through grade 8) was basically the same set of thematic units repeated every year.  He implied that the program wasn’t inspirational, innovative or effectively structured.  However, he admitted that the repetition of the same content each year DID contribute to his ability to retain some things.  In short:


Why is repetition a helpful instructional strategy in the 90+% TL classroom?

1- Repetition creates a familiar environment in the L2 classroom.  For L2 learners, L2 is a very unfamiliar thing.  Unfamiliarity can cause some students to be uncomfortable, intimidated, and vulnerable.  Teachers can make ‘the feel,’ of an L2 classroom, more comfortable if they consistently recycle content and activities.

2- Repetition enables L2 acquisition and retention.  Sometimes I ask my students to teach me the language they speak with their family.  IT’S HARD!  If I ask them to teach me a Turkish greeting phrase, I can’t produce it the next day until I’ve heard them repeat it to me many times.  The syllables sound so unfamiliar.  The progression of sounds just doesn’t stick in my head.  It seems like I have to hear it a thousand times (over a series of days/weeks) before I can produce the phrase without reading or repeating it.  These experiences have helped me be patient with L2 learners in my class.  I say the same basic things over and over again knowing that my students need to hear it a thousand times before they’re able to produce L2 content on their own.

3- Repetition makes lesson planning less complicated.  Lesson planning is very important.  However lesson planning can get overwhelming if a teacher feels like the students need to experience new content and fresh activities every day.  Instead, create meaningful and targeted routines that allow students to repeatedly encounter target vocabulary in meaningful, focused and comprehensible ways.  It will help students feel more comfortable and help teachers feel less busy.

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

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