Language To Language OR Language To Living

I was silently YELLING at my students in my head.

angry teacher

“We’ve been over this a thousand times!”

“They are the simplest of L2 questions.  I know they’re novice students, but…C’MON!!!  How can they NOT know how to respond to “How are you?” or “What’s your name?” in the target language!!?!

  • I’ve modeled the target questions and responses!
  • We’ve gone over it again and again in class!  …even with puppets!
  • I made an “engaging” video to help them remember!
  • We’ve played practice games!
  • I’ve done everything I know how to do!”

Granted, the students COULD answer the questions during the games/activities IN CLASS.  However, as soon as I surprised them with the same L2 questions in the hallway or in the cafeteria they would look at me with a blank stare, pause and say, “huh?”

Confused-student

Why?

Why COULDN’T they answer (in an improvised, or real-life, situation) the same questions they were correctly answering during the classroom games/activities?

I think it was because I was asking them to do something I never prepared them to do.

Here’s what I mean:

At the beginning of my teaching career I taught students L2 by speaking L1.  I used a lot of different strategies to help them memorize L2 to L1 translations.  When I planned my lessons, the question in my head usually went something like this: “What can I do during class today to make sure my students know that, ‘¿Cómo estás?’ means, ‘How are you?'” (Side Note: Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that this is necessarily a WRONG approach to teach a foreign language.  I don’t believe there is one BEST way to teach L2 in every academic setting.  For more on this click here.)

So we would practice…and memorize…and repeat…and play practice games…and sing practice songs.

Some things went well.  The students could participate.  Some students would get good at winning those practice games.  But when I asked some of those winning students to answer one of those L2 questions at random outside of class it would always seem like they would think the following thoughts:

“Uh oh.  Sr. Howard just asked me a Spanish question that I think I’m supposed to know.  He said, ‘¿Cómo estás?’  Ummm…wait…I know that one.  What does ‘¿Cómo estás?’ mean again?  Oh yeah.  It means, ‘how are you?’  Okay wait…I know this.  Ummm.  So if he’s asking me ‘how are you?’ I need to tell him how I’m feeling.  Okay.  I’m feeling good.  But what is, ‘I’m feeling good,’ in Spanish?  Oh yeah…that’s, ‘estoy bien,’ I think.  Okay…so he says…’¿Cómo estás?’…and I say, ‘estoy bien.’  I hope this is right.”

Do you see their struggle?  Do you see how they couldn’t use L2 naturally because they were trying to make connections between the two languages in their heads?

My classroom activities weren’t fully preparing them to use L2 naturally in a real-life situation.

There was a missing link.  They were learning things ABOUT L2.  But they weren’t quite able to connect what they were learning to real-life.

During the last few years I’ve made some changes to my approach to teaching a foreign language.  The changes have helped me learn what thousands of foreign language educators already know.  I’m not well acquainted with the available research on foreign language teaching approaches/methods.  So I can’t astutely describe the changes I’ve made.  But a phrase popped into my head the other day that sums it up well for me:

Language To Language OR Language To Living

In 2012 I decided to start teaching a foreign language by staying in the target language.  Together with my students, I’ve thrown L1 out the window.  With no L1, the students don’t spend time making connections between two languages.  Now there’s only L2.  And the L2 is connected to all the things that happen when we’re together.  (See video examples here.)

I’ve observed some things that have surprised me.  The one surprising thing that I’ll take the time to point out now is MY STUDENTS CAN DO IT!  They can answer those same, simple L2 questions even when we’re outside of the classroom.  We’ll run into each other at the local mall…AND THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  I’ll see them at the food store…AND THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  Outside on the playground…THEY CAN ANSWER THEM.  Even the youngest students!  Even after I haven’t seen them for 2 months during summer break!

The difference is that I don’t use class time to practice Language To Language connections.  I use class time to foster Language To Living connections.

I probably would’ve realized these things years ago if I would’ve taken the time to read the available foreign language acquisition research.  Instead I’ve had to stumble upon it on my own.  But slowly, I’m getting it.  I’m getting that…:

  • …when I effectively teach a foreign language by speaking the foreign language, the students will have been experiencing in the classroom what they’ll need in order to use L2 naturally outside of the classroom.
  • if I DO CHOOSE to teach a foreign language by speaking L1, I’ll need to make sure that I set aside the necessary class time to help them make that next connection.  I can’t only spend time helping them make connections between two languages.  I have to help them make the connection between the L2 they’ve learned and the real life situations they’ll have to use it in.

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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 Vocab List Analogy

What are your feelings about foreign language vocabulary lists?  You know…the handouts with the target vocabulary on one side and the L1 equivalent on the other.

german vocabulary

japanese vocabulary

 

russian vocabularySome people love them.  They’re very useful.

Some students cheat with them.

Some teacher’s feel guilty if they pass them out to their students.

Some educators write articles saying, “Hey!  These lists aren’t just part of some outdated strategy!  Don’t count them out!

In this post I DON’T want to make a case for or against the use of vocabulary lists in the foreign language classroom.  However, I DO want to mention them for the purpose of explaining what I do in my 90+% target language use classroom.


(And at this point I’ll include SIDE NOTE for new visitors to this blog who might be thinking, “What, exactly, is it that you do in your 90+% TL use classroom?”  Well…I try to provide my novice students with the following:

Repeated and meaningful opportunities wherein a piece of incomprehensible linguistic input is *paired with a corresponding piece of comprehensible extralinguistic input.

I make it my goal to have this *pairing” happen hundreds of times during one instructional session.  See examples in these videos from my classroom.)


So what does *pairing have to do with traditional vocabulary/translation lists?

The thing that makes L2 vocabulary lists so useful is that they *pair what is incomprehensible with something that is comprehensible.  They make the unfamiliar L2 (something that can be overwhelming/stressful) MUCH LESS INTIMIDATING because the L2 gets *paired (or matched) with the familiar L1.  This is so helpful for foreign language learners because their list becomes a tool that they can use to navigate an unfamiliar L2 environment.

A second helpful thing about these lists is that they take the L2 and break it down into tiny, isolated components or pieces.  You know what I mean, right?  Generally a vocabulary list isn’t a paragraph of L2 next to a translated paragraph of L1.  It’s one, single L2 word next to it’s L1 equivalent.

Well…

…in my classroom I do the same thing EXCEPT, instead of *pairing pieces of unfamiliar L2 with L1 words/phrases, I *pair them with any of the following forms of extralinguistic input:

So my students don’t get a printed out list.  I give them a different kind of list.  It’s not a list they can look at.  It’s more like a list that they experience live and in person.  For example:

  • when I put something cold in their hands and say the L2 word for “cold.”
  • when I say L2 words like, “YOU WON!” or “YOU DID IT!” or “GREAT JOB!” after a student wins a classroom game.
  • when a student randomly sneezes and I say, “God bless you,” in the target language.

When these moments/experiences are strung together in meaningful ways, the students start to form an intangible list.  The incomprehensible L2 is paired with something.  But it’s not paired with L1 on a handout.  It’s paired with comprehensible extralinguistic input.  And their intangible and ever evolving list serves the same purpose as traditional vocabulary lists: it takes what’s unfamiliar and makes it meaningful.  With it they can take steps towards more effectively navigating L2 environments.


Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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 this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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).

ClassDojo.com & Teaching In The Target Language

A language teacher from Pennsylvania recently asked me a question about using ClassDojo.com.

classdojo staying in the target language

Although I don’t imagine that it would be an effective resource in every setting (or with every age group), it is a HUGE part of what I do with my students.  (It’s so huge that I was pulling out my hair trying to keep student’s on task for an hour last year when our district servers went down and I couldn’t access the website!  hahaha!)

Here are some reasons why it works so well in my “90+% target language use” classroom.

1- The sound effects give my students comprehensible feedback regarding their behavior.

If you’re familiar with the website, you know that each student is assigned an avatar/cartoon/monster/character.

classdojo senorhoward

Each student’s avatar gains and loses points based on their behavior.  Teachers can elect to have a sound effect accompany the gain or loss of any point.  Those sound effects are key for me because my novice students won’t understand my L2 corrective phrases and sentences.  However, when they hear a “BOOM” (and see that their avatar has lost a point) they immediately get the idea that their behavior is off-task and won’t be accepted in my classroom.  9 times out of 10 I can redirect off task behavior at the click of a button; without needing to say a word.

Furthermore, I like the sound of the positive sound effect: “DING.”  Whenever a student gets a point, the “ding” makes them feel proud and motivates my young learners to want to do well.

2- The students and I love using L2 to discuss points accumulation and numbers identification.

Sometimes, when there’s a few minutes to kill at the end of class, I’ll randomly choose a student and they will have to say all of the L2 numbers that I point to on the ClassDojo homescreen.  I love doing this because my youngest students are masters at counting but start stumbling when I ask them to say a random number that I point to.

Often we will also talk about which student has the most points.  We talk about it so much that even my 2nd graders can ask and answer complete L2 sentences like, “How many points does Roger have?” and “Who has the most points?”

Whenever I see a student get excited about earning a point, I take the opportunity to use the Two-Hand Method to teach them to say, “Look Sr. Howard! I have 8 points!”

3- My end of the month ClassDojo.com routine.

The student that accumulates the most ClassDojo points in any given month receives a prize.  Then we reset the points to zero and start the new month fresh.

At this point I like to practice the L2 months in a meaningful way.  I say something in the target language like, “we have to say goodbye to all the points because we are saying goodbye to _______ (i.e. August, December).”  Then I have the students say, “Goodbye points,” and I reset the point bubbles.  Then I sing a “goodbye to the month” song.  Then we say goodbye to all the months that have passed in the school year so far.  By the end of the year students know all of the months without ever having to complete a formal thematic unit on the months of the year.

4- It helps me keep the students’ attention.

It doesn’t take long for novice students to disengage when they hear incomprehensible L2.  This is a very important point because, if a novice student isn’t watching the source of instruction, there’s ALMOST NO WAY that L2 will be acquired. (Since *pairing will not be occurring.)  With this in mind, a teacher needs to do everything he can in order to maintain the attention of his students.  ClassDojo.com helps me toward this end.  The sounds are attractive (at least to young students).  The avatars are attractive.  The idea that a student has their name up on the screen (and that they’ve chosen their avatar) is attractive.  It encourages them to watch what’s happening at the front of the classroom.

5- I can use it throughout the class period.

Some teachers ask me, “So do you just enter the ClassDojo data at the end of each class period?”  And I say, “No.  I enter the information throughout every portion of the class.”

I can enter the data onto any mobile device. (Just download the free app)  This is handy if I’m showing the students a video clip.  I can have the class list open on the ClassDojo app and be giving students points for paying attention or using the target language while their watching the video.  It’s also handy if the students are walking around the room doing some kind of interpersonal mode activity.  I can circulate throughout the room and record ClassDojo data on my mobile device.

I can quickly switch between windows/screens using the computer keyboard, wireless mouse or SMARTboard screen.  Let’s say we’re doing an activity using power point and a student knocks my socks off with an amazing L2 answer/contribution.  I can easily switch screens and give any amount of points to communicate that I’m very pleased.  In that moment every student WANTS to make the same positive contribution because they see how richly I rewarded the exemplary behavior.

6- I can use the ClassDojo reports.

  • I can print an individual student’s behavior report and send it home.
  • I can invite parents to sign up to receive live behavior updates.  I can also send messages to parents through the website without compromising my personal contact information.
  • I can run whole class reports and use them to award prizes at the end of the year.
  • I can run student reports at the end of each marking period and use them as a performance assessment.
  • I can have an objective count of how many points a student has lost and assign detentions accordingly
  • etc.

How to make ClassDojo.com more attractive to older students:

You may want to avoid using ClassDojo with older students to avoid making them feel childish.  But there are some things you could do to use this free resource and still make it age appropriate.

  1. Have every student be the same avatar.  I’ve done this before.  I choose a Critter Option instead of an Avatar Option.  I make it look really neutral.  Then the students don’t feel singled out…and it looks less like a childish cartoon.
  2. Don’t display the home screen in front of the students as much.  Keep it more private.  Enter data on a mobile device.  Show individual students the data as part of a teacher-student conference to discuss progress/performance.
  3. Turn off the sound effects in the settings menu.

 

Click here to read an older post on how I use ClassDojo to increase student motivation.


*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.

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com@calhwrd

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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).

Q/A: What To Do During The First Week Of Class and When To Use L1

Here’s a great question about L2 use in the foreign language classroom from a middle school German teacher:

Hello Señor Howard,
I’ve been teaching middle school German for 10 years, but I don’t like the amount of L1 I have been using. My goal is to use 90%+ TL in my classroom. In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom. What type of activities do you do the first week in L2? When do you feel it’s okay to use L1? Thanks for your help! So far I love the resources and advice on your page!
Carrie


Dear Carrie,

Thanks for writing! Best wishes on the upcoming school year and I hope the thoughts I’ve included below answer your questions.  (Your statements/questions are in bold with my response underneath each one.)

“I don’t like the amount of L1 I’ve been using.”

This may not be the way you are feeling (but it’s still worth mentioning)…Be careful NOT to assume that you’re doing something wrong if you use a lot of L1.  Some teachers feel that using L1 makes them NOT AS GOOD as other foreign language teachers.  It’s not necessarily true.  I don’t think that staying in the target language is the best way to teach a foreign language in every academic situation.  I wrote a couple of blog posts on debunking these types of teaching in the target language MYTHS.  To read more click here (for myths 1-5) and here (for myths 6-10).

“In the past I have used many activities the first week in English to help get to know everyone and help them become acclimated to my classroom.”

I really like your idea of helping everyone get acclimated/comfortable.  Intimidation and anxiety are big foreign language learning stumbling blocks.  If a teacher can kick those two things out of the classroom, at the beginning of the year, she’ll be doing herself a huge favor.  What you’re suggesting of using L1 at the beginning of the year to introduce students to routines, your teaching style, expectations, etc…is one great way to do this.  Here are some more:

What type of activities do you do the first week in L2?

Here’s a post I wrote about this topic entitled, The First Week Of Trying To Stay In The Target Language With Your Students.  In it, I give specific examples of how you can do the following:

One more thing: here’s a video of me teaching my students on the first day of the year.

When do you feel it’s okay to use L1?

There are generally 3 occasions when I use L1 in my foreign language classroom.  Click here for the full post on this.

My guess is that teachers feel like they have to use L1 in order to help students find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  I DO think that it’s absolutely necessary for students to find meaning in incomprehensible L2.  Without it, I don’t think L2 acquisition progress can be made.  The problem is (in my opinion) that many teachers don’t realize the amount of ways meaning can be found apart from using L1.  I’ve tried to list the various ways over the last several months (click on each item for more detailed info and examples):

The key for me has been repeatedly *pairing these extralinguistic forms of input with a corresponding piece of incomprehensible L2 in ways that are engaging for the students I work with.

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd


*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 this is a term found in formal, academic writing.


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

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).

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).

Top 10 Teaching In The Target Language Tweets From @HolaSrHoward

10 of my favorite “teaching in the target language tips” in 140 characters or less.
senor howard on twitter

A rule of thumb in my classroom: if something I say won’t be comprehensible, it’s not worth saying.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


grammar approach: give Ss MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES in which target grammar structures are used often enough 2b noticed and acquired.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Jan 8

Ss in a class shouldn’t think “this L2 word means this L1 word” Instead “In this L2 situation, this L2 phrase is used”

(Check out THIS POST for more)


21 May 2014

Ts who stay in the TL don’t need ‘near-native-speaker’ skills as much as they need ‘making-input-comprehensible’ skills.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


Make a philosophical distinction between an ‘L2 immersion environment’ and a ‘COMPREHENSIBLE L2 immersion environment.’

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Mar 12

I’m realizing that the rich feelings/emotions that L2 words represent get easily lost when Ss learn L2 in an L1 environment.


  10 Jun 2014

Half the battle (in the 90+%TL ) will be won if input is comprehensible.

(Check out THIS POST for more)


L2input becomes comprehensible when a S finds meaning in the L2(linguistic)input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues

(Check out THIS POST for more)


  Aug 19

Ts force themselves to translate L2 into L1 when they include lists of TL vocab on their handouts. Try this instead

(Check out THIS POST for more)


If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, explicit and comprehensible performance objectives is like handing your Ss a flashlight

(Check out THIS POST for more)


Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com@calhwrd

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

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Have the contents of this blog ever impacted your teaching or philosophy of teaching?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).

Video Recording: 5th Graders Learning “To Be” Verb Conjugations In The Target Language

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

Teaching Grammar In The Target Language Teaching Grammar In The Target Language

The students were exposed to so much L2 grammar!  AND it was fun.  Check out the video recording by clicking here.

I used…:

…(and a few other tricks) to help my 5th grade students find meaning in incomprehensible L2.

I *paired comprehensible (and meaningful) extralinguistic input with incomprehensible L2 input to help students take steps towards acquiring bits of the TL.

To help them respond in the target language I used the Two Hand Method and wrote scripts for them on the board.


*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).