90+% Target Language Use: How To Respond To Administrative Push-Back

Is your principal unsupportive of your exclusive use of the target language in the foreign language classroom?  Has your administrator told you to speak more English?  Do you feel like they don’t understand or support modern foreign language teaching strategies?

What should you do if ACTFL recommends 90+% TL use and your principal recommends 90% L1 use?

  1. Self-evaluate your instructional practices. (see list below)
  2. Receive feedback professionally/politely. (see example below)
  3. Repeat, in your own words, what you hear from your administrator. (see example below)
  4. Respectfully offer your administrator links to academic research. (see examples listed below)
  5. Continue doing an excellent job.

1-  Perform a quick, but honest, self-evaluation of the quality of your instructional practices.

Remember: teaching in the target language will not effectively help students acquire L2 unless you model widely accepted best practices for instruction.

Can administrators easily identify what they are looking for in your classroom practices?

  • Are the performance objectives posted daily where students can see them?  Are they aligned with state and national standards?
  • Are all of your students on task almost all of the time?  Are there clear and consistently enforced consequences that effectively redirect off-task behavior?
  • Are students collaborating with each other, and with the teacher, as active participants in the learning process?
  • Are classroom expectations, procedures and rules clear?
  • Do students respect you as an instructional leader who is firm yet caring?  Do you create a learning environment where diverse students thrive?
  • Are your assessments diverse?  Are the results of your assessments valid?  Are they targeted to effectively demonstrate student acquisition of performance objectives?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, first realize that IT’S OKAY.  Developing a solid foundation of instructional best practices takes years of effort.  If you find yourself overwhelmed by all that is required of you, work on one area of improvement per year.  Start with classroom management and work your way up.  Second, realize that your administrator may be unwilling to support your desire to stay in the TL.  If you aren’t excelling in what administrators look for, the first thing they may ‘push-back’ on is your use of the TL.  Remember: using the TL can be an effective instructional strategy.  However it cannot be effective…:

Using 90+% TL during instruction is only an effective strategy if it rests upon a solid foundation of instructional best practices.

 

Using 90+% TL shouldn’t be implemented as a standard practice by a foreign language teacher unless more basic instructional practices have been mastered.

But maybe all of this doesn’t apply to you.  If your administrator is unsupportive of your use of the TL, even though you demonstrate consistent mastery of instructional best practices, consider the following advice:

2-  Thank your administrator whenever you receive feedback.  They are trained professionals.  Even if you disagree with their feedback, it’s important to receive it in a respectful manner.  The more your body language is open and positive the more supportive they will be when you respond with dissenting, but respectful, comments.  Your statement may sound something like this: “Thanks for your willingness to help me improve my teaching practices.” or “I appreciate you taking the time to help me reflect on my teaching practices.  I’m grateful whenever someone is willing to take the time to help me improve my teaching.”

3-  Repeat back (in your own words) the advice or feedback your administrator gives.    It may sound something like this: “I hear you saying that I should improve in the following areas (list examples).  I hear you saying that I can make these improvements by implementing (list examples).”

4-  Refer them to up-to-date academic research available from resources like these: ACTFL’s TL Position Statement, ACTFL’s Foreign Language Educator Articles, Leading Research Citations.  Your statement may sound something like this: “I’ve been so excited about my teaching career recently.  I’ve been seeking to advance in my field in the following ways (collaborate with other teachers online #langchat, following good blogs, reading professional literature, attending professional development seminars and conferences).  In my studies I’ve come across some exciting approaches.  (begin talking/emailing about the sources listed above)”

5-  After all this, continue doing an excellent job.  In some cases, you may not receive the recognition you desire or deserve from your supervisor(s).  Encourage yourself to do an excellent job despite the ill-opinion of a supervisor.  Do an excellent job for yourself and for the students and families you serve.  You can also find support by connecting with like minded professionals.  Consider joining online professional development chats on twitter.  Attend ACTFL‘s national or regional conventions.  Your connection to your professional network will give you the encouragement that you may not receive from your direct supervisor.

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).

Glossary of Foreign Language Teaching Terms

Here’s a list providing quick and simple definitions of key terms used by linguists and language educators.

  1. L1 – a person’s native language. (more info)
  2. L2 – a person’s second language or the language being learned. (more info)
  3. TL – Target Language.  The language being taught.
  4. Native Speaker – Describes a person who demonstrates the highest level of language proficiency.  A native speaker has spent their childhood and teenage years growing up in the country in which the target language is the official language.
  5. Heritage Speaker – Describes a person who demonstrates a high level of language proficiency.  A heritage speaker has not grown up to adulthood in a country in which the target language is the official language.  Their family unit speaks the target language as L1 even though they live in a foreign country.
  6. CI – Comprehensible Input – Simply defined: Understandable or intelligible information being received/processed by an individual.  A foreign language is generally incomprehensible to a language learner.  A foreign language teacher uses techniques to make L2 comprehensible to her/his students.
  7. Flipped Teaching or Flipped Classroom – An instructional model wherein students learn new material before they get to class.  Class time is used more for practicing language instead of learning language components for the first time. (more info)
  8. AIM (Accelerative Integrated Methodology) – A method of developing proficiency in the target language.  Teachers focus on gestures, key words, content based instruction and contextualized approach to grammar. (more info)
  9. #TL90plus – a hashtag used to facilitate discussion about staying in the target language as a strategy for teaching a foreign language.  TL stands for Target Language.  90plus refers to ACTFL’s recommendation “that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom.” Click here to join the #TL90plus conversation on twitter.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

learn Spanish with Señor Howard

A list of questions that makes this article easier to be found by search engines:  🙂  What is L1?  What does L2 mean?  What does TL stand for?  What’s the difference between a native speaker and a heritage speaker? What’s the definition of comprehensible input?  What is flipped classroom or what is flipped teaching?

 

Video Mini Lesson – Cinco De Mayo In The Target Language

Here’s a very raw, and very improvised, video of me teaching a mini-lesson (4 mins) in the target language.  Topic: Cinco De Mayo.  I asked one of my students to record me.  It wasn’t planned…and here’s what came out:

A brief and (overly-simplified) history of the Battle of Puebla on Cinco De Mayo (links to a youtube video)

Things to notice: (tips for staying in the target language)

  1. I write a lot on the board.  Sometimes cognates are very difficult to pick up on if you only hear them spoken out loud.  A foreign language teacher can incorrectly assume that students will understand a cognate because they can picture how it is written and spelled in their heads.  But the phonetic differences between the languages can make it difficult, for a student, to pick up on helpful cognates.  Write cognates down so learners can have a better chance of using cognates to formulate an understanding of what’s being said.
  2. I try to use as few words as possible.  You’ll notice I use a lot of sound effects to convey emotion and meaning.  If you know a word is hard to understand…try to skip it.  Try not to say it.  Convey meaning without words.  If you say too many words that are incomprehensible to the students, they will give up very quickly.
  3. I make obvious mistakes that students can correct.  This is effective for several reasons.  It’s funny (It’s good for students to laugh.  Laughing makes the L2 environment less stressful and intimidating)  It helps you repeat/review.  (meaningful repetition is essential for language acquisition)
  4. What other techniques do you observe that I use?  Leave comments below.
  5. What techniques do you use to keep students engaged while you are in the TL?  Leave comments below.

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).

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Effects of Using L1

For the first 8 years of my career I wanted to use more target language (TL) but found it difficult to do so.  I only used the TL 5%-25% of the time.

I noticed several negative effects of using too much of L1.

1- I noticed that there was little evidence of my students acquiring L2 over an extended period of time.   For example, during a Greetings Unit, most of the learners could use the target vocabulary during class activities and games.  However, if I a student the same target questions outside the classroom, they would not understand me and they would fail to produce an appropriate answer.  Furthermore, if I engaged a student with phrases from a previous unit, he or she would generally be unable to produce L2.

My students used target vocabulary in current unit activities, but had little ability to apply L2 outside of the classroom or in the future.

2- I noticed that there was a tendency towards low student self-motivation.  Spanish with Señor Howard would be boring, except that I bent over backwards to make it interesting and entertaining.  I remember telling family and friends that I felt like I was an actor in front of students.  I juggled, played the guitar, made videos, made powerpoints, used puppets…etc.  I felt like I was a good foreign language teacher for doing all of these things.  But I began to realize that I HAD to do these things or else students wouldn’t have a reason to pay attention or to care about what I was teaching.  When I used so much L1 my class was not a language learning class, it was a “List Memorizing Class”.  It was a “Play Silly Language Games Class”.  The language was not meaningful or contextualized.

My L1 approach to teaching a foreign language bred classrooms full of students with low self-motivation.

Are you a foreign language teacher recovering (or wanting to recover) from using too much L1?  What negative effects do you see in your classroom because of too much L1 use?  Leave comments below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

From 2004 to 2012 I found it very difficult to stay in the target language.  In the classroom I was creative, strict, and entertaining.  However, my target language use was limited to 5%-25% of class time. (see video example)

Any TL (target language) I did use was generally…

  • …during a beginning of the class routine.
  • …isolated phrases throughout the lesson.
  • …lyrics to a song.

Most of my directions to the class were always given in English.  I would feel guilty about not using more of the TL.  I knew my supervisors would expect it.  I assumed my colleagues would disapprove of me if they saw how little I used the target language.  When I knew a formal observation was approaching I’d try to use more of the TL so the students wouldn’t be so ‘thrown off’ if I started only speaking in the TL when my supervisor was in the room.

Why didn’t I use the target language during at least 90% of my instructional time?

  • I was afraid of the students misbehaving.
  • I was afraid of students giving up and calling out, “I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying.”
  • I felt like I could cover material faster if I spoke mostly in English.  (And there was a lot of material to cover)
  • Whenever I asked another teacher “how do you effectively manage behavior AND stay in the target language?,” I felt like I never got a satisfying answer.
  • etc

How about you?  Why do you find it challenging to use the TL in the foreign language classroom?  Leave comments below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

 

Comprehensible Input: Use Fewer Words

One of the biggest threats to students understanding what is happening in the foreign language setting is teachers who use too many words.  Wanting to sound impressive in the target language, some teachers use complicated sentences spoken at very fast rates.  Although this may sound pretty to proficient speakers, it sounds like a jumble of chaos to language learners.

80% of the comprehensible input battle will be won if you drastically reduce the amount of words that you use during instruction.

Instead of using lots of words in the target language:

  1. Focus on using words associated with your performance objective(s) for that day.  …and use those words and phrases repeatedly.
  2. Train yourself and your class to feel comfortable with silence.  Only fill silence with words in the target language that are meaningful or that help students take steps towards mastering the day’s perfomance objectives.
  3. Try to reduce the amount of words for a direction you give.  For example, instead of saying in the target language “I want you to walk on this side of the hallway” say “This side.” or “This side please.”  Another example:  Instead of saying in the target language, “I want the boys to sit on this side of the rug and the girls to sit on this side of the rug,” say “Boys here and girls here”
  4. Try to incorporate words you use often into routines.  This allows students to hear important target vocabulary repeatedly and in a context that is anticipated, safe and comfortable.

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).

Comprehensible Input: Only Short Deciphering Periods

ACTFL recommends that foreign language teachers should stay in the target language at least 90% of the time.  I recommend this as well…

…but I don’t recommend that instructional leaders expect students to attempt to figure out what’s being said for the entire class period.

Most students can’t sustain on-task behavior, in an immersion setting, for extended amounts of time.  Being in a situation and not understanding the spoken language is stressful and tiring.  Only highly motivated language learners can sustain any effort to interpert their foreign surroundings for extended amounts of time.  So it’s important to…

…have ‘deciphering periods’ that last only 3-5 minutes.

What do I mean by deciphering periods?  It’s the time a student is bravely trying to figure out what is happening when they’re being exposed to new content.  After a student has invested energy into figuring out or decifering target vocabulary, follow up with a low-stress activity.  Low-stress activities can include:

  • Watching engaging video clips in the TL. (examples)
  • Participating in review activities or tasks that have been epxlained and mastered in the past.
  • Doing some kind of seat work, individually, where student success is anticipated.

Pattern the flow of your class time with plenty of SHORT ‘deciphering periods broken up by low-stress, non-threatening activities.

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).

Comprehensible Input: Behavior Management is HUGE

Foreign language teachers spend a lot of time and energy preparing visuals, props and handouts so that their input with be comprehensible or understandable to their students.  But just remember…

…any effort to make input comprehensible IS WASTED if students aren’t completely engaged and paying attention.

This is such an important point that you can almost say “A comprehensible-input-issue is a classroom management issue”.  A foreign language instructor that wants to stay in the target language must have an excellent plan for behavior management.

If the students aren’t watching you and/or the point of instruction, none (or very little) of the input will be comprehensible.

Language learners (depending on their proficiency level) can’t rely on their sense of hearing to help them understand what’s being communicated.  Teachers need to use any number of strategies to help the spoken language be understood not through the students sense of hearing but through their sense of sight, or touch or through creating predictable situations where a limited amount of target vocabulary can be explored, experienced, experimented with…etc.  Consequently if input is to be comprehensible a student needs to be watching and engaged during all instructional activities.

A foreign language teacher should invest just as much energy into effective classroom management strategies as she/he does into strategies for making input comprehensible.

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

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).

Comprehensible Input: Explained In Simple Terms

Although it’s not a complete definition, comprehensible input is easy to understand if you think of it this way:

…it’s what you do to avoid your students having the thought “I don’t understand what my teacher is saying.”

(Sr. Howard’s revised definition 10-27-16: “L2 input becomes comprehensible when a student finds meaning in the L2 (linguistic) input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues.”)

Language teachers, that stay in the target language, must avoid students thinking, “I DON’T GET THIS,” at all costs.  If a student makes the conclusion that he/she can’t understand, there’s very little time before the student loses interest.  Not only will a student lose interest but their belief that they can succeed in the foreign language classroom is threatened.

To all foreign language teachers embracing an immersion model of instruction:

Do everything you can to make the students believe that they can understand at least 80% of what is happening in the classroom.

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

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).

Staying In the Target Language: Not Easy

A blog sharing effective and practical strategies for staying in the target language during foreign language instruction.  ACTFL recommends that foreign language teachers should use the target language at least 90% of the time. (see ACTFL Position Statement)

But it’s not easy to stay in the target language.

  • How do you redirect off-task behavior when students don’t understand what you’re saying?
  • How do give directions effectively?
  • What do you do to keep students engaged during instructional time?
  • Isn’t it faster to just teach them what the words mean in English?
  • Why spend 15 minutes struggling through a charades-type-instruction when the students can understand the meaning of the same 5 words in 15 seconds of English instruction?
  • etc.

What else makes it difficult to stay in the target language?  Leave comments an questions below.

Follow this blog to receive weekly posts sharing effective and practical strategies for staying in the target language.

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

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).