Turning Tedious Tasks Into Teaching In The Target Language Triumphs

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

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

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

teaching in the target language don'ts

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

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

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


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

teaching in the target language don'ts

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

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

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

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

teaching in the target language do's

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

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

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

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

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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