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

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 12) – Forms Of Input: Inflectional Input

In class, have you ever:

  • changed the tone/inflection of your voice to indicate that the L2 word you’re using is a question word?
  • made the tone of your voice sound angry in order to help students know that your L2 phrase meant you were displeased with something?
  • added urgency to your voice to communicate that you wanted students to hurry in order to finish an activity?

I’m sure you have.  We’re always using inflection or changing the sound of our voice to help us communicate what we mean.  (See an interesting post about this on a public speaking website.)

So how does this apply to staying in the target language with your students?

Although I’m not sure about this (and I DO need help thinking this through…AND I would really like it if you could pass on the titles of previously published work on this topic)…

…it seems like another way teachers can help students make sense of incomprehensible L2 words and phrases is by using an extralinguistic form of input that (for now) I’ll call *inflectional input.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point:

I love eating something yummy in front of my students.

  1. It makes them drool and I love to tease them!
  2. Since my food is yummy and attractive to them, everyone in class is watching.  It helps me get their attention.
  3. Even though they don’t consciously process the thought, everyone in the room knows that everyone wants my food and wishes THEY could be eating it too.
  4. If I suggest to the class that I’m willing to share, there’s an immediate and high level of motivation for them to use the target language in order to express their desire to have some.  (i.e. I hold the food item out in front of them and say (in the target language), “Do you want some?”  Then they all dramatically shake their heads, “YES!!!”  Then I say, “Repeat: ‘I want some!’ Repeat: ‘Can I have some?’ Repeat: ‘Please, Sr. Howard'” Etc.  It’s fun.

How do the students know that I’m willing to share my yummy food?

  • I gesture.  I hold the food out in front of them and maybe point to it.  I might also raise my eyebrows.  The term I’m currently using to describe all of this is *gesticulated input; using gestures to help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2 words and phrases.
  • I draw upon what I know everyone is currently thinking about.  (i.e. “I want some of that yummy food.”) Since I made them think that thought (by bringing out the food and eating it in front of them) we could say that I was using *constructed situational input.
  • I say an L2 word/phrase with the RIGHT INFLECTION.  I DON’T say, “Do you want some?” in an angry tone.  I DON’T say, “Do you want some?” in an urgent tone.  I say, “Do you want some?” (in the target language) with a tone that expresses my willingness to offer/share. (Note: if I did use an angry tone or an urgent tone, the students would be CONFUSED.  They would ask themselves, “Why is he holding out food but then saying angry L2 words?  This makes no sense!”  However, when I use the appropriate tone, it helps the students find meaning or confirm the meaning that they’ve found in the other extralinguistic forms of input.  For this reason, I think it’s appropriate to include *inflectional input in the list of various forms of extralinguistic input that a teacher can use to help help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2.

*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).

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).

The First Week Of Trying To Stay In The TL With Your Students

Need ideas for what to do on the first days of staying in the target language with your students?

1- Motivational Speech

Help the students know WHY you are staying in the target language.  Here’s what I tell my students.

2- Motivational Structure

Hearing ONLY L2 takes patience and determination on the part of the learners.  Give them some incentive to stick with it.  Here’s the incentive that I offer my students.

3- Catch Students Off Guard

How would your students react if the first lesson you taught had NO WORDS?  What if you didn’t say anything at all?  No L1 AND no L2.  I might start out by saying something like:

“We’re gonna kick L1 out the door.  We’re not gonna use L1.  See ya later L1.  Bye-bye!

 

But some of you might think, “I don’t understand L2.  I won’t know what to do!”  Well you’re right.  But I don’t expect you to know what to do when you hear L2…yet.  You will later.  To start, I’ll help you know what to do by communicating without language.

 

It’s sort of fun.  Watch.  First let’s start by spending 5 minutes DOING nothing and SAYING nothing.  Your job, during that time, is to get used to the silence and to watch me.  Silence is okay.  And watching me is so important that I’ll say it again: WATCH ME!  Remember… first 5 minutes quiet…then watch me.  And my guess is, even though I won’t speak any language, you’ll still know what to do.”

After the 5 minutes of silence:

  • Stand up.
  • Walk towards the students.
  • Point to a student and motion for them to stand.  (After they stand up, hand them their pencil/notebook/bag or whatever they brought with them to class.)
  • Motion for the student to follow you with their things.
  • Motion for the student to stand in the spot you point to off to the side.  (I don’t suggest asking the student to stand up in front because they might feel too “on stage.”  Off to the side will feel more comfortable.)
  • Motion for the student to stay there.
  • Smile and give them a thumbs up to help them know they are doing the right thing.
  • Walk towards the other students.
  • Point to a second student and motion for them to stand.
  • Motion for the second student to follow you and point for them to stand next to student #1.
  • Repeat these steps until the whole class is standing up in a line at the side of the room with their things.
  • Using the same types of motions/gestures/pointing, seat the students (one at a time) at new desks.
  • When the whole class is seated again, in their new seats, smile with a sense of satisfaction.  Let them read on your face that you feel that you accomplished your task.  You did it all without using language.  Give them a thumbs up.  Give them a quiet acknowledging applause just like a soccer player would do to the home team fans at the end of a soccer game.
  • If the students are responding well…continue the silence.  Motion for them to wait.  Motion for them to stay quiet.  Maybe show them that you’re looking at the clock and that you want them to stay quiet for 5 more minutes.  If they are really into it, you can even motion for them to sit at their desks with their hands folded.  If they all respond well, give them a thumbs up so that they know you’re proud of them for responding to your non-verbal cues.

4- Debrief With The Students

Start speaking L1 again.  Tell them, “Wow!  You just spent 15 minutes doing exactly what I asked…but I didn’t even use any L1!  How did you do it?”  Let them raise their hands and offer answers as to how they understood what you expected.  Help them realize that people can receive and respond to many different forms of input.  Usually we all think that we only respond to linguistic input.  But there’s SO MUCH MORE!  Explain to them that there’s:

5- Tell Them About *Pairing

Tell them that if they watch you they’ll know what to do.  Tell them that you’ll start sprinkling in bits of L2.  Explain how you will *pair incomprehensible L2 with comprehensible and meaningful extralinguistic input.  Tell them that if they watch you, that they’ll have opportunities to start seeing what hundreds of L2 words and phrases mean just because of your *pairing technique.

6- Start The Week With Some Fun Easy Lessons…

…to get them used to what it’s like to follow you even though you only use L2 words (plus lots of extralinguistic cues!)  Here are links to some lesson ideas, which include a script of what you can do and say:

Teaching Grammar While Staying In The Target Language.

Introducing New Vocabulary While Staying In The Target Language.

Giving Activity Directions While Staying In The Target Language.

7- Have Fun And Be Creative

You know your students.  You have creative ideas.  Never feel limited to what you read on this blog.  I share the ideas that I use NOT to suggest that it’s the only way to do it.  They should be a launching pad for you.  Use the ideas you like and build upon the ideas that you can make better!

 


*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).

Todd & A Series On CI (Part 11) – Forms Of Input: L1

I do speak L1, sometimes.

“When?” you might ask.

Well…I rarely use L1 to help students find meaning in L2.  (There’s plenty of other fun and effective ways to help them find meaning!  See here and here and here)

I rarely use L1 when giving directions for a learning activity or game.

Although L1 IS a form of input that foreign language teachers can use to help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2, I prefer to use L1 only in the following situations:

1- When students forget what we’re doing.

One time I was pretending that I couldn’t find one of the 3rd graders in my class.  In the target language I would teasingly say, “Where is Monica?  Where is Monica?  Where is she?!”  The students would get excited and want to tell me where she was.  I would give them the L2 words to say, “THERE she is!!” or, “she’s RIGHT THERE!”

After repeating this interaction 2 or 3 times, I heard a student say (almost under her breath), “Okay.  Let’s start learning now.”  Her tone of voice implied that she thought we were merely wasting our time with silly games.

The student forgot that what we were doing was more than just games.  She forgot that everything I do, in class, is full of purpose.  I’m not just teasing.  I’m speaking only L2…and having fun doing it!  I’m using situational input* and gesticulated input*.  I’m pairing* these forms of extralinguistic input with brand new L2 vocabulary.  I’m helping students acquire bits of L2 without even realizing that it’s happening!

In moments like these, when a student forgets the point of what we’re doing in L2 class, I may pause instruction in the target language to say a few sentences in L1.  (…especially when I get the sense that doing so will increase everyone’s motivation to stay on task.)

Generally I’ll say things like:

  • “I’m making this really easy for you!  Some classes are hard work.  Some classes require you to memorize lots of things (vocabulary, math facts, etc.)  Not here.  In a way, L2 class is like T.V.: all you have to do is watch.  If you are watching me you will be learning L2.  The moment you stop paying attention…you won’t know what’s going on.  I don’t ask much of you.  But I do ask this: watch, watch, watch!”
  • “Everything I do is on purpose!  Even when I make you laugh.  Even when I take attendance.  Even when I ask someone to close the door or turn off the lights.  It’s all on purpose.  If you are watching, you’ll have hundreds of chances, during every L2 class, to learn L2.”
  • “You have a job to do!  Your job is to watch.  When you’re watching me, you’ll be learning.  Sometimes I do silly things.  But it DOESN’T mean that L2 class is silly time.  L2 class is LEARN TIME.  I have a job while you’re in here and YOU have a job while you’re in here.  There’s lots of other times for being too silly.  There’s lots of other times for talking with friends.  Right now, let’s ALL do our job.”

As soon as the students are back “on-board” with what I’m trying to accomplish, I switch back into L2.

2- On an “As-Needed” basis for new students.

Every week or two a new student will transfer into our school.  Most of the time the new student is fine and doesn’t need any L1 orientation from me.  However, if a student is particularly intimidated by my L2 immersion setting, I will speak a few/phrases of L1 while the rest of the class is occupied with something else.

They might be phrases of orientation like:

  • “You’ll do great in this class.  All you have to do is watch.”
  • “If you’re not sure what to do, just watch the other students.  Do what they do.”
  • “We’re in the middle of this activity.  You’ll do a great job.  All you have to do is ____.”

At other times they might be phrases I use to endear the student to me:

  • “Wow.  You seem like a really great student.”
  • “I can tell you’re really getting this.”
  • “Hi.  Welcome to L2 class.  Is this your first day here?  Do you have any brothers or sisters that came to this school with you?”
  • “If you ever see me in the lunchroom or out on the playground, and you need something, just let me know.  I can help you if you ever need any help.”

3- To teach 1st year students one or two of my routines.

My 1st year students are kindergarteners.  We would have a hard time making it through 40 minutes of 100% L2 instruction (on the first day of class) without a little bit of orientation in L1.  So I typically take the first half of the first class to:

After that, we are able to spend the rest of the school year staying in the target language.  It’s a lot easier to stay in the target language than I thought it would be before I first started.


*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.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue discussing 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

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 10): Forms Of Input – Using L2 To Make Sense Of L2

This week I showed students some music videos of Ecuadorian pan flutist, Leo Rojas.

leo rojas

Since they had never seen or heard anything like it, they were intrigued!

After playing the video for 90 seconds (or so):

  • I paused the video.
  • I pointed to the musician and his instruments on the video screen.
  • Shaking my head I said (in the target language), “The music…The music…The music is NOT…The music is NOT…”
  • (Then, I started walking towards the Puerto Rican flag while shaking my head.)
  • “…the music is NOT from Puerto Rico.” (I pointed to the Puerto Rican flag.)
  • I continued, “The music is NOT from Mexico.” (I pointed to the Mexican flag.)
  • “The music is NOT from Cuba.”  (I pointed to the Cuban flag.)
  • I continued shaking my head, “no,” while walking to the white board.
  • When I got to the white board, I started shaking my head, YES and saying/writing the following TL phrase, “The music is from…Ecuador.”

Immediately after writing the sentence on the board I said, “Look class,” and proceeded to open Google Earth to show them Ecuador’s location on the globe.

They loved it!  I even showed some pictures of Ecuadorian landscape (available on Google Earth) while another Leo Rojas song was playing.

I didn’t speak any L1, yet every student was engaged, attentive, and understanding everything that was happening.

How did this happen?  How did I make it comprehensible?

1- The incomprehensible L2 words were written on the board:

“The music is NOT from Puerto Rico.”

“The music is from Ecuador.”

2- I made the L2 words for, “the music,” comprehensible by pointing to an image of Leo Rojas and his flutes.  (Pairing* L2 with representational input*.)

3- I made the L2 words for, “Puerto Rico/Mexico/Cuba,” comprehensible by pointing to the flags as well as their locations on Google Earth.  (Pairing* L2 with representational input*.)

4- I made the L2 word for, “NOT,” comprehensible by shaking my head, “no.”  (Pairing* L2 with gesticulated input*.)

5- That leaves two unpaired words.  The L2 words for, “is,” and, “from,” really didn’t need to be paired* in order for my students to infer meaning.  Why not?  My guess is that the incomprehensible words became sufficiently meaningful at the moment when enough of the surrounding L2 words had obvious meaning.

Which leads me to the simple point that I’d like to make in this post.  (Even though it’s an obvious point, I include it here because in this blog series I’ve been trying to delineate a comprehensive list of ways that students can find meaning in an L2 immersion environment.)

Another way that students can find meaning is by inferring meaning from surrounding, comprehensible L2 words.  (aka “context clues”)

I’m aware of 3 specific ways (although I’m guessing there’s more):

1-  Synonyms.  A student may, initially, be confused by an unfamiliar L2 word.  However once a comprehensible L2 synonym is paired* with it, the student easily finds the necessary meaning.

2-  Context.  A student may not know all of the words in an L2 sentence.  However, if he knows enough of them, he can infer sufficient meaning in order to “get by.”

3-  Simple Definitions.  (Or “Using L2 To Make Sense Of L2.”)  I picked the term “Simple Definitions” although I’m unsure of what term to use for this third point.  It’s not ‘circumlocution’ is it???  I need some of you to help me out with this concept by writing in the comments section below.  I think circumlocution is when a person intentionally uses more/extra words instead of using fewer, more precise words.  I guess the obvious foreign language classroom application of this would be an L2 student learning to use lots of extra words to try to describe something he/she can’t find the precise word(s) for.  (BTW I just found this neat archived #langchat summary posted by Calico Spanish on this topic.)

If that’s what circumlocution means, that’s not what I’m looking for.

I’m looking for a term to describe how a teacher will use familiar, simpler words (which aren’t synonyms) to help students find the meaning of a more complex word.  Sort of like a dictionary definition, except using very informal language instead of formal language.  I’m thinking of how I help my daughters learn new L1 words.  When there’s a word they don’t know, I don’t pull out dictionary definitions.  However I DO use simple L1 words to explain unfamiliar L1 words/concepts.  The other day my daughter asked, “Daddy what does, “getting carried away,” mean?”  I said, “It means when a person doesn’t know when to stop.  Like if two friends are wrestling, they get, “carried away” when they wrestle so much, and so ROUGH, that they start knocking down all the things in the living room and wrestle so much that one of them get’s hurt.”

Anyway.  That’s enough rambling.  I think the simple point of the post is clear:

L2 teachers can help students find meaning in an L2 immersion by using familiar L2 words to make sense of unfamiliar L2 words.


*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.


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue discussing 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

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 9): “Pairing”

These posts are probably helping me more than they’re helping you.

Writing them is allowing me to articulate, for the first times, exactly how I’m helping my novice students acquire their first bits of L2.  (Disclaimer: My writing is not research based.  I’m merely writing about my experiences.  The terms I’m using I’ve coined myself and aren’t taken from formal academic writing.  One day, I’d love to learn the “official terms.”  Until then, they are what I’m using to organize and explain why my novice students are thriving in an L2 immersion environment.  (BTW…please feel free to respond with comments and links to helpful academic resources that you’ve read/written that talk about some of these same topics.)

In this post you can read about an important technique I use that I’m calling “pairing” and other summary thoughts (in Q/A form) regarding what I’ve learned from writing the first 8 posts in this series:

Question(s) #1– “Sr. Howard, how is it that your novice students are able to follow your L2 instructions?  How are the students not only surviving but thriving in the L2 immersion environment that you’re creating?”

Answer #1– I’m realizing that it’s NOT because they are finding a LOT of meaning in the L2 words and phrases that I use.  In fact, a lot of the L2 words/phrases are still INcomprehensible to them.

Students AREN’T finding meaning (in an L2 immersion environment) because they’ve suddenly become more fluent in L2.

They are finding meaning because I HAVE become more “fluent” at leveraging various forms of extralinguistic input.

In class, they gather meaning from comprehensible and compelling extralinguistic input that I repeatedly “pair” with incomprehensible L2 words, phrases and sentences. “Pairing” is what makes the pieces of incomprehensible L2 become increasingly meaningful, and eventually comprehensible. My own (non-research based) explanations and examples of the various forms of extralinguistic input that I use can be found by clicking on the links below.

  1. Representational Input
  2. Gesticulated Input
  3. Constructed Situational Input
  4. Incidental Situational Input
  5. Inflectional Input
  6. Procedural Input
  7. Melodic Input

Question #2: “Sr. Howard…you just used the word “pair”.  It seems like a significant word.  What do you mean by “pair” or “pairing?””

Answer #2: “Pairing” is what a traditional L2 vocabulary list does:

azul – blue

أحمر – red

bonjour – hello

спасибо – thank you

再见 – good bye

“Pairing” matches an incomprehensible L2 word/phrase with something comprehensible.  “Pairing” helps an L2 learner find meaning in incomprehensible L2 words/phrases/sentences.  A traditional vocabulary list matches (or “pairs”) an incomprehensible L2 word with it’s L1 equivalent.

In my 90+% TL classroom I “pair” as well.  However, I don’t “pair” an incomprehensible L2 word with its L1 equivalent.  I “pair” an incomprehensible L2 word/phrase with an extralinguistic equivalent.

See examples of how I…


Question #3- How does this ‘pairing’ technique benefit my L2 learners?

Answer #3-

  • It allows them to actively participate in all L2 immersion instructional activities while still having a small L2 vocabulary foundation.
  • It facilitates a process in which pieces of incomprehensible L2 input become comprehensible.
  • A traditional vocabulary list has the potential to be very UN-appealing (aka “boring,” “tedious,” “work-intensive”) to anyone except a highly motivated L2 learner.  “Pairing,” as I’ve described above, can allow L2 students to find meaning in potentially more engaging/exciting/meaningful ways.
  • In some instances, it allows students to learn bits of L2 by accident.
  • Students slowly/eventually start using L2 spontaneously and appropriately.  L2 fruit!
  • It allows them to not only learn what L2 words mean but ALSO experience what some L2 words can feel like. (i.e. exclamatory L2 words feel exciting, L2 reprimanding words feel corrective, L2 praise words feel encouraging, etc.)
  • 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. See this post for more.

Question #4- Are there any other things you do to help “pairing” in a 90+% TL classroom go well?

Answer #4- Yes.  I “use fewer words” because input has quantitative qualities.  (Click here for more info.)  I also use strategies to keep students from being distracted by other forms of input.  (Click here for more info.)


The conversation is just beginning.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue discussing my developing (and non-research-based) thoughts on…:

  • …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
  • …different forms of input.
  • …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
  • …making input comprehensible.
  • …obstacles to making incomprehensible L2 input meaningful in a classroom full of students.
  • …strategies for overcoming the *pairing obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.

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 8) – Forms Of Input: Incidental Situational Input

actfl 90 plus target language

A KID SNEEZES and you say, “Bless you,” in the target language.

THE PHONE RINGS and you say, “Telephone!” in the target language.

IT STARTS TO SNOW OUTSIDE and you point and say, “Look class!  It’s snowing!” in the target language.

TWO FRIENDS START CHATTING when they’re not supposed to.  You get their attention and say, “Quiet, please.  Don’t talk.  Pay attention,” in the target language.

A STUDENT DROPS A PROP/piece-of-equipment that you’re using in class.  You guesture and say, “Careful!  Careful” in the target language.

These are all examples of using “Incidental Situational Input” to help novice students find meaning in an L2 immersion setting.

It’s not a strategy that you can write into a lesson plan or plan on using.  It’s not one of the main strategies that a teacher will rely upon in a 90+% TL-use classroom.  But it’s a fun and effective strategy nonetheless.

It’s a little bit different than what we talked about last week regarding “Constructed Situational 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.”

With “Incidental Situational Input” a teacher doesn’t CREATE the situations.  She takes advantage of the spontaneous, random or INCIDENTAL situations wherin the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.


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 8) we observe that:

“’Incidental Situational Input is one such form of extralinguistic input in which a teacher helps students find meaning by taking advantage of spontaneous situations, scenarios or experiences wherein the observer(s) know(s) exactly what’s being said or what’s about to be said.”


Language Acquisition Theory Statement:

“Incidental 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 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).