What I Learned About Comprehensible Input From My Crawling Infants

One of the biggest things that has influenced the way I teach a foreign language has been being a dad and helping my daughters move from L-ZERO to L1.

Being a dad has shaped the way I teach L2 and my views on comprehensible input.

Being a dad has shaped the way I teach L2 and my views on comprehensible input.

tuesday's tips for staying in the target language

I love creating moments when language input is comprehensible to them.

The other day a teacher emailed me and asked how I started teaching they way I do.
Here’s what she wrote:
I was wondering how you got so involved in your teaching style? I used to be a high school teacher, and I would have LOVED to know more about how to teach the way that you do! Were you introduced to it in your undergrad, graduate, or just through practice? I’m thinking some workshops/books/websites to suggest to fellow teachers would be great! I’ve already shared your site with many of them.

Thanks!
Laura
At first I didn’t know how to answer.  But as I started writing back to her…I realized some of the major things that have influenced the way I teach.  …and I want to share them with you.
Here was my answer to her question:

“so…how did I get so involved in my teaching style?  …hmmm.  good question.
A huge influence is actually something that you’d probably never think would affect my professional life…but it has!  BEING A DAD has significantly influenced the way I teach a foreign language!
Why/How has being a dad influenced the way you teach a foreign language?
I’ve loved helping my daughters learn their first language.  Talk about a great opportunity for ‘staying-in-the-target-language’!  When a baby is learning his/her first language (mostly from family members in a home environment):
  • there is no option BUT to stay in the target language.
  • There’s no language besides the target language!
  • There’s no way of using L1 to explain L2.  There’s only helping a baby move from L-ZERO to L1.  🙂
  • It’s language learning at it’s best: the most natural way, the least work-intensive way, the most meaningful way…and it all happens pretty much by accident.
  • The L1 teacher (parent) and the L1 learner (baby) hardly even notice that L1 acquisition is happening.
  • No L1 wordsearches for baby.
  • No extensive/overwhelming L1 grammar explanations for baby.
  • No flashcards to make and memorize.
  • Baby doesn’t even have to try.
  • As long as baby is watching, and living and breathing…L1 acquisition happens!
I loved (and still love) creating moments where incomprehensible language is PAIRED with comprehensible extralinguistic input.
One day my daughter was crawling around on the floor while we were with our extended family in the living room.  She was at that age where she was just starting to be mobile and loved her independence and ability to explore new things.  During this same stage her mom and I had to keep our eyes glued on her because she didn’t know which of her exploration items were dangerous or not.  We loved letting her explore, but it was exhausting to constantly spend energy keeping her from exploring electrical sockets, stair cases and fragile decorations.
On this night I didn’t want to supervise my exploring daughter.  I wanted to stay in the living room talking with the other adults.  So I decided to try to tell my infant/crawler to stay in the living room and NOT CRAWL INTO THE KITCHEN.
I realized that she would’ve never understood my language if I said something like:
“Ava, there are some dangerous things in the kitchen.  Furthermore your father and mother are not in there to supervise you.  Therefore our desire is for you to stay in the living room with us.”
But she WOULD understand my language if I said/did something like this:
I took my daughter to the threshold between the kitchen and living room.  I knelt down at her level.  I pointed to the kitchen side of the threshold and (with serious looking eyes) said, “NO, NO, NO.”  I pointed to the living room side of the threshold and (with smiling looking eyes) said, “YES, YES, YES.”  I took the extra time to repeat these statements 3 or 4 times.  She was able to understand because I used fewer words and I made their meaning obvious.  If I would’ve used 4 sentences with complex ‘native speaker level words’ my daughter wouldn’t have even listened or looked at me.
Through situations like this, I realized that my daughters don’t learn L1 by only hearing L1.  They acquire L1 a piece at a time (or one baby sized step at time) whenever they experience a moment where L1 is made comprehensible for them.  They don’t just need to hear L1.  They need to hear L1 in a meaning-filled context.  They need to hear L1 in reference to noticeable, tangible objects.  They need to hear L1 as a corresponding gesture is being made.  Etc.
Teaching them their first language has helped me make a philosophical distinction between language immersion and COMPREHENSIBLE language immersion.
I guess I used to think that staying in the target language meant just talking to my students in L2 instead of L1.  I thought it was saying everything that you say in L1 but switching to L2 and holding up an occasional picture to make sure that I was checking of the “make input comprehensible” box on my foreign language teacher strategy checklist.
NO NO NO!!
I’ve learned that you have to make it a goal that every student understands pretty much every thing your saying…even though you are saying it in a language they’ve never heard of before.
Now, in my classroom, I talk to my students like I talked to my 1 year old when she was learning English from us at home.  I use fewer words.  …and create scenarios where the students pretty much know exactly what I’m about to say…but instead of saying it in a language they know…I say it in a language that I want them to learn.
Here are some examples to show you what I’m talking about:
1- I eat a bite of cupcake and put on a face that says, “I really enjoy this,” …and when they are all watching (and wishing they could be enjoying what I’m enjoying) I say, “Delicioso,” or “Que rico.”  (they wouldn’t know what it means except that the scenario I created made it unmistakable that I was talking about good taste.)
2- I have something in my hand (something attention grabbing) that the students watch me drop or see me thoughtlessly set down.  Then, I pretend that I lost it…or can’t find where it dropped.  I look around, with a slight sense of urgency, like I can’t find it.  Finally, when all the students undoubtedly notice that I can’t find something, I say, “¿Dónde está?”  It creates a wonderful moment for language acquisition:
  • The item was noticeable and attention-grabbing.  So every student knows where it fell.
  • The students are bursting with a desire to tell me where I dropped it.  They are pointing and sitting on the edge of their seats wishing to be the one that tells Sr. Howard where it is.  Some even start to say something in English because they are so excited that they know where it is.
  • Then…at that climax of attention…and climax of student desire to say something…I use the two-hand method to help them say, “allí está!!!”  …and then i pretend like I still don’t say it…and we go back and for saying, “¿Dónde está?” “allí está!!!” a few times.
  • They wouldn’t know what those words mean except that the scenario I created made it unmistakable that I was talking about “where is it?”  and. “There it is!”
So every moment of my Spanish class becomes moments like those.  In a 40 minute period, the students experience hundreds of meaningful PAIRING moments.  Every moment is intentional.  Every moment is on purpose.  A lot of times the students are so focused on the meaning-filled scenarios/situations I create, that they forget they are learning another language and even functioning in an L2-immersion environment.
“When a teacher uses PAIRING to facilitate L2 acquisition, it’s like she puts a puzzle together…all but the last piece.”
To me that phrase means…I create a scenario (and then another scenario and then another and another and another) where my students unmistakably know what I’m about to say next…but instead of saying it in L1…I say it in L2.
…and then I repeat it…and repeat it…and repeat it.
Sometimes I repeat it immediately.  Sometimes I say it once but repeat it daily/weekly by including the L2 phrase in one of my routines.
Repetition is important because each piece of incomprehensible L2 input will never be acquired unless students have the opportunity to hear it repeatedly PAIRED with an equivalent form of comprehensible extralinguistic input.
The last thing I should say about that is in regards to performance objectives, curriculum and state standards.
All of what I just said sounds very impromptu and improvised.  And, to be honest,…some of it is.
But I’m a firm believer that, in a formal academic setting, a teacher should be an instructional leader.  She should set daily performance objectives and short and long term performance goals for her students.  A teacher should have a standards based curriculum.
I don’t think that teachers who use this style of teaching should believe that all learning should be spontaneous and student led.  I believe that teachers should leave some room for that…but still be intentional with using this approach to move students through all the required components of a proficiency based curriculum.
So that’s a long explanation to my first answer: “Being a dad has helped shape the way I teach language professionally.”
Another thing that has shaped how I teach has been taking advantage of good PD opportunities.
Going to ACTFL 2012 jump-started me on this staying in the target language journey.  …and a lot of what I do has snowballed from there.
It’s really fun.  It makes the classroom so much more meaningful and worthwhile because we don’t emphasize things that students have a hard time finding meaningful (like L2 skills practice or L2 vocab memorization).  Instead, we do REAL.  We do MEANINGFUL.  We do FUN.  We do “STUDENTS TAKE OWNERSHIP.”  And yes…we do worksheets.  We do assessments.  …but we do it in an L2 immersion environment that’s RICH with instances of PAIRING. We do it in a way that all the students (even the kindergartners) understand pretty much everything I’m saying even though I’m talking to them in a language they don’t know.)
If you are interested in sharing resources with fellow teachers about this way of teaching…I don’t have much to offer…cause I don’t do any research or reading myself.  But I would say…:

 

 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).

“Ahhh! How Am I Supposed To Give Activity Directions In The Target Language!?!”

Here’s great question submitted by a language teacher from England:

“I am often met with confusion (or I end up resorting to English) because I don’t know how to explain a task.

 

I really struggle to explain what I want them to do as a task.

 

How do you explain games that you want them to play?”

Here’s how I would begin answering the question:

1- You’re doing a great job!  If you have a desire to stay in the target language, you are doing your students a great service!  Don’t give up.  Keep trying!  The more you experiment and try the easier it becomes.  Don’t feel like you need to make the transition (to 90+% target language) seamlessly.  Give yourself a year or two to transition.  Work on different PAIRING techniques.  Try different ideas.  Throw out ideas that don’t work.  Tweak strategies that do work.  Don’t feel pressure to do it all perfectly at once.  (Read this post for more info on why it can be such a good idea to stay in the target language.)

2- Pick instructional activities (i.e. games, projects, performance tasks) that are easy to give directions for.

If you…

  • …are just beginning your journey of trying to stay in the target language and
  • you don’t feel confident, YET, when it comes to giving students directions and
  • your students feel easily overwhelmed when you speak to them in the target language (i.e. they give up, complain, lose focus, start off-task behavior, etc.)…

…make sure you consistently pick activities that lend themselves to giving meaningful directions in the target language.

I suggest assigning activities like these to start:

  • Color/circle 1 of 4 pictures with the color that I say.”  (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “Hello class.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Here are crayons for you.  Crayons for everybody!  And…here is a paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you.  Paper for you and paper for you.  Paper for everybody!  Now…take out BLUE.  (Teacher takes out blue and shows students.  Teacher walks around room showing all the students her blue crayon until every student is holding up their BLUE crayon.)  Class, repeat: “BLUE.”  Good.  Now class.  Color the bird blue. (Teacher begins coloring the bird, on her copy of the worksheet, blue.  Teacher’s copy of the worksheet is posted on the board so students can see and imitate what she is doing.)  Great.  Good job class.  Yes.  Blue.  Blue.  Color the bird blue.  Good, Daniel.  Good, Jessica.  Good class.  Blue.  Color the bird blue.  Okay? (Teacher circulates to make sure every student has colored their picture of the bird blue.)  Okay class.  Attention.  (Teacher holds up the blue crayon for all to see.)  Goodbye blue!  (Teacher puts blue crayon away and then starts looking at the students and saying ‘goodbye blue!’ to imply that she wants them to put their blue crayons away.)  Good class.  Goodbye blue.  Okay class.  Now RED.  Take out RED.  Red.  Take out RED.  (Teacher continues to give instructions like this until the activity is done.)
  • “Color what I say” (activity modifications) (To practice numbers Teacher says, “Class take out the red crayon.  Color the number 57.  (Pause for students to do the work.  Then continue…)  Class take out the blue crayon.  Color the number 572.”  To practice adjectives Teacher says, “Class take out the red crayon.  Color the boy that is taller.  Class take out the blue crayon.  Color the big (bigger) animal.”  To practice reading comprehension Teacher asks the students to follow similar directions.  However Teacher now requires the students to follow written directions (on the board or on handouts) instead of verbal directions.
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (simple version) (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “John…sit here. (Teacher points to the chair she wants John to sit in.)  Stacey…sit here.  Jennifer…sit here.  Daesean…sit here.  Rogelio…sit here.  (Teacher continues like this until the whole class is seated.  Teacher pulls out a ball and says…)  Ball.  Class, this is a ball.  A ball.  (Teacher motions like she’s going to throw it to a student and says..) Who would like to catch?  (If a student raises his/her hand, teacher throws the ball to the student. When the student catches the ball, teacher says…) Nice job!  (Teacher motions like she would like the student to throw the ball back to her and says…) Throw the ball to me.  (Teacher repeats these steps with a few more students.  If students are cooperating and well behaved, Teacher changes the activity by saying…) Stacey…throw the ball to John.  (When Teacher says the words “throw the ball” Teacher does a throwing motion with her arm.  Teacher continues saying…)  John, throw the ball to Rogelio.  Rogelio…throw the ball to Daesean.
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (advanced version)  (i.e. Say and do the following in the target language: “John, throw the ball to someone wearing a red shirt.  Stacey throw the ball to someone wearing a blue shirt.”  Teacher may also choose to pass out large number flashcards to each student.  Teacher says, “John, throw the ball to the person holding number 47.  Stacey throw the ball to the person holding the number 124.”
  • Throw the ball to _____.  (confident/advanced student version)  Teacher follows the activity script from “advanced version” above.  Then she writes the sentence she has been saying on the board and asks for a volunteer to take her place as the “caller.”  Student, with the help of the sentence written on the board says the throwing directions to his/her classmates.

3- Pick activities that will be repeated many times throughout the school year.  It takes a long time to give comprehensible directions.  So if you are going to take the time to make it comprehensible…make sure you repeat the activity many times.  An easy way for me to do this is to have the students do all the things that need to be done in the classroom every day.  I never shut the door.  I never turn on or off the lights.  I never pass out the papers or supplies.  I never collect the pencils.  I always instruct students to do these things for me and I always give my instructions in the target language.  It may take extra class time for the students to get it the first time…but they will catch on easily and you can recycle the activity throughout the year.

4- Make it easy for your reluctant students.  Pick activities that target the interpretive mode of communication in order to help build the confidence of your reluctant students.  See this post for more details.

5- When you work on the interpersonal mode, here are some tips on making it as easy as possible for your language learners.

6- When giving instructions on what students should say to each other during a conversation activity, use the Two-Hand-Method.

Have you tried out any of these grammar teaching suggestions from Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language?  How did it go?  Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #langchat (for general language teaching comments) and/or #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments).

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

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How To Avoid “Freaking Out” Novice L2 Learners When Staying In The Target Language

Great question on Twitter, yesterday, from a high school french teacher named Martha Behlow:  (Link for tweet here)

90% target language in upper levels is realistic, but what about levels 1 & 2?  How do you keep them from freaking out?

There were some wonderful answers offered by Virginia Rinaldi, Cecile Laine, Laura Sexton and Kristi Placido (As of 12:57pm ET on 12/8/2014).  In more words, or less, they suggested the following: (live links below for further reading on each topic from Tuesday’s Tips…)

I’ll add my thoughts here:

1- Picture your novice/intermediate-low students as infants and toddlers learning their first language.  (Easier to do if you are a parent)  Doing this will help you avoid thinking,

“Ahhh!  ACTFL says students and teachers should stay in the target language at least 90% of the time!!  How am I supposed to do that with novice learners!?!”

You wouldn’t expect your 10-month-old to produce very much L1.  Older infants might only be able to attempt single words or parts of words.  To communicate their thoughts and feelings, they would rely on signs, body language and noises.  Verbal communication is led/directed/initiated by the adult.  The dynamic should be the same in the L2 classroom.  Your novice learners shouldn’t be expected to carry on conversations in the target language, just like you wouldn’t expect your 1-year-old to carry the conversation around the dinner table.  Novice language learners need to be observers.  They need to hear L1 in context.  They need to hear L1 in comprehensible forms.  When language is comprehensible, and when there’s repeated opportunities to hear the CI in a meaningful context, language will be naturally acquired.

This doesn’t mean that novice learners don’t need to be immersed in L2.  They do!

2- Novice learners don’t need L1.  They can be very successful in an L2 immersion environment.  Use the following effective and practical strategies to stay in the target with novice learners:

3- Not only can novice students SURVIVE in an L2 immersion environment – THEY CAN THRIVE.  When you teach a foreign language by speaking L1, you tend be a “skills instructor” and a “memorization facilitator”.  It’s not a very natural approach and it doesn’t yield very organic results.  Consider an analogy of a tree; where the tree is your student and his ability to produce L2 is like a tree’s ability to display fruit.  Being a skills instructor is like being a farmer who’s trying to hang individual pieces of fruit on the branches of a tree.  It’s awkward.  It’s not natural.  It looks a bit funny to see fruit pieces duct-taped or stapled to the branches of a tree.  The fruit won’t stay up there for very long before it falls off.  Using L1 to teach L2 is a strategy that doesn’t focus on a learner’s “language root system.”

According to this analogy, a novice speaker might have 10 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang up.  An intermediate speaker might have 50 pieces of L2-fruit that you’ve helped them hang.  If you have a highly motivated “skills memorizer” in your class, you might be able to help them hang one or two hundred pieces of L2-fruit on their tree.

When you stay in the target language and ensure that input is comprehensible, you are focusing on the student’s root system.  You are no longer focused on producing fruit by duct taping it up on the foreign language proficiency tree.  You are feeding the tree.  You are nourishing the tree.  The tree might not produce L2 fruit right away.  But it will in time; and the fruit it produces will emerge on it’s own.  And it will continue to produce fruit on its own even when there’s no instructor their to duct tape it on.  Watching your students produce L2 fruit on their own is so exciting.  (See more on this analogy/topic by clicking here.)

4- Don’t talk over their heads. In other words: DON’T USE TOO MUCH L2 VOCABULARY.  Try to only say the words they know.  And say those words over and over and over again.  Language learners (including infants learning L1) need to hear new words and phrases over and over before they acquire and produce those language terms on their own.

You might ask, Sr. Howard…“what the -ell am I supposed to do with my novice students for 200 minutes or more a week if 1- I’m supposed to stay in the target language? and 2- If I’m only supposed to say a handful of words!?!”  For my answer, check out the links under point #2 of this blog or some of the following links:

Keep the conversation going!  How do you help your novice students not “freak out” when you speak in the target language?  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).

The Benefits of Insulting Students In The Target Language

Warning: don’t try this staying-in-the-target-language strategy if you struggle with behavior management in the classroom.

This year I’ve been developing a very fun, very silly and very effective instructional strategy to teach the following L2 components while staying in the target language:

  • subject pronouns
  • irregular verb conjugations
  • ‘to be’ verbs
  • making something negative (i.e. “I am,” vs. “I am not.”)

It all started when I began calling myself Superman in front of the students.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

I learned to use INSULTS to help students learn difficult aspects of a foreign language.

Whenever I had to move a heavy desk, or pick up a chair, or when I balanced a yard stick on my hand, I would always follow with, “I am Superman,” in the target language.  They would laugh at me and I could immediately tell, by the look on their faces, that they wanted to tell me that I wasn’t Superman.  They wished that they knew how to say, “Señor Howard…you ARE NOT Superman,” in the target language.  In order to help them learn how, I used the “Two-Hand Method.”

The students learned and they loved it!  They loved insulting me!

The next time I said, “I am Superman,” almost the entire class said, “You ARE NOT Superman,” in unison.  I put an offended look on my face.  I pretended that I was insulted because they said that I wasn’t Superman.  I put my hand on my hip.  I shook a finger in their face.  When they laughed, I continued pretending to be offended.  Then, while still looking offended, I paused.  And when the moment was perfect (while everyone was watching quietly with a huge amount of curiousity as to how I was going to proceed) I emphatically repeated, “Yes I AM Superman.”  The students would immediately laugh and keep telling me, “You ARE NOT Superman!” all in the target language.

Just in case there were a few students who were lost, I wrote the target phrases on the board like this:

“I am Superman” | “Yes I’m Superman”

“You are NOT Superman” | “No you’re not Superman”

Some of the students felt strange to be insulting their foreign language teacher.  So in order to help them know that I was really proud of them for using the target language in this way, and in order to motivate them to continue this behavior, I gave them lots of points on classdojo.com.  (See my classdojo post here and Sra. Spanglish’s post here for using classdojo for motivating foreign language students to stay in the target language.)

Using this strategy, I was able to indirectly teach students some subject pronouns, some verb conjugations, how to make something negative, etc.  By writing it on the board I was giving them some L2 literacy skills.  And we were all having a blast!

When they had enough practice insulting me, I settled things down by giving them points on classdojo and then moving on with what I had been teaching.  Now I repeat this activity at random times throughout my lessons, whenever I do something impressive (i.e. lifting a chair or balancing something or modeling the target language).

I’ve taken this idea a step further by starting to insult my students.  In order to make the insults friendly and fun, I use the names of popular cartoon characters from TV or from movies.  I might look at a 4th grade boy and say (in the target language), “You are Dora,” or you are, “Princess Ana/Queen Elsa.”

Insutling students (in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even trying!

Insutling students (by calling them cartoon character names, in a thoughtful way) can help them learn tough L2 skills without even realizing it!

All the students laugh and don’t even realize they are learning “to be” verb conjugations and subject pronouns.

In order to keep the student from being embarrassed, I prompt the boy to insult me back.  He might respond with, “You are Barney,” or, “You are Doc McStuffins.”  I’m careful to always let the student win the insult battle, so that he doesn’t feel embarrassed.  I also make sure that the experience is rewarding (and not threatening) by giving him classdojo points or rewards after participating.  When fellow students see that there is great reward in insulting their language teacher, they start calling out insults in the target language.  It’s fun!  And students learn so much!

Students will learn advanced L2 skills without even trying if the experience is meaningful, fun, 100% in the target language, and contextualized.

Have you had any success using this strategy or strategies like it?  Share your stories and 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).

Introducing New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (part 3 – modeling)

You don’t have to use L1 to introduce new vocabulary to foreign language students.  Instead, stay in the target language by using any of the following techniques:

It’s important to make language learning meaningful.  Don’t rob students of the joy of meaningful language acquisition by introducing vocabulary using L1.  When you start teaching language by using L1, you make language class about skills introduction, skills practice and skills assessment.  Teaching and practicing skills won’t be very fun unless you teach a class full of language nerds.  Instead, make language learning meaningful.  Introducing vocabulary AND staying in the target language not only has the potential to make make class more fun, but students will be able to retain more L2 for longer amounts of time. (see this post on why we should make students’ experiences of L2 meaningful)

One way to effectively introduce new target language vocabulary AND stay in the target language is by providing models or demonstrations of how L2 is used.

If I were to use modeling to introduce new vocabulary, here’s what I would try (and also what I’d be thinking in my head).

1- Keep students from getting lost.  It’s easy for students to get “lost” if you introduce unfamiliar words and phrases in the target language.  Sometimes listening to unfamilar L2 content can feel disorienting and unsettling.  To keep them from getting lost, ensure that you clearly communicate what the purpose of your instructional activities are.

If L2 immersion feels like wandering in a dark room, explicit and comprehensible performance objectives has the effect of handing your students a flashlight.

Students will be able to navigate the L2 immersion environment more effectively if they know exactly what you’re trying to teach them.  This is very important.  It gives the students a target to aim for.  It gives them an anchor to hold on to.

2- Students need to know what the performance objective for the day is.  In other words, they need to know what I’m trying to teach them on a given day and what I’m expecting them to learn.  I do this by writing the word, “IMPORTANT” on the board (in the target language) in big red letters.  Next to the L2 word for “IMPORTANT,” I write down the target phrases, words and/or sentences they need to know for the day’s performance tasks.

3- Always have the target vocabulary/phrases/questions posted conspicously while you are modeling L2 or showing models of L2 being used.  I frequently refer to the posted target phrases throughout the time that I am introducing the new content.  This helps students stay focused.

4- Give a demonstration or MODEL of how you want the L2 words/phrases/questions to be used.  If you are giving them language they can use in an interpersonal mode setting (for example), MODEL the language in a conversation.

5- Typically I start with a MODEL that is fun and attention getting.  I might use a video that I’ve made like this (for introducing the L2 for “How old are you?” or “When is your birthday?”) or this (for introducing L2 colors).  French teachers can try rythmic chants like these from RLRA.  There are many resources online.  You don’t need to make your own.

6- I realize that students are going to need repeated exposure to the new vocabulary.  Sometimes I forget that the first several times I introduce a word (or a phrase) the L2 sounds like jibberish to my students.  In order for the content to start sounding itelligible, I need to give them meaningful and repeated exposure.

7- Here are some ways I repeat the L2 modeling without boring the students.

  • I use the two hand method for modeling.
  • I show other videos of people modeling the new L2 content. (check out this resource from University of Texas at Austin.)
  • I might ask some heritage speakers in my class to model.
  • I might show the same 4 seconds of a video 7 times in a row.  It has the effect of making the students laugh because it’s repeated so much.  It also lets them hear the target word/phrase so many times that it starts getting stuck in their head.
  • If I make my own video or presentation for modeling, I make sure I repeat the target content several times. (click here for a video example)

How about you?  What are ways that you introduce new vocabulary in the target language by using modeling?  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).

Introduce New Vocabulary AND Stay In The Target Language (“i+1”)

It can be done.  There are many different ways to introduce new L2 vocabulary while staying in the target language.  Stay tuned to this blog (over the next few Tuesday’s) for posts on…

…how to introduce new vocabulary AND stay in the target language.

1- Use What They Know To Help Them Progress (“i+1”)

This method is simple and extremely effective.  (Watch a video clip of Señor Howard modeling this technique with some simple Spanish words.)  Let’s say, for example, that students know the L2 colors.  Now you can easily teach any L2 noun by displaying 2 different pictures of the same noun but in different colors.  Like this:

"Red Bird"

Picture 1 – RED BIRD  (There are a lots of ways to teach new vocabulary WHILE staying in the target language.)

 

"Green Bird"

Picture 2 – GREEN BIRD (Use two pictures, like these, to introduce new vocabulary AND stay in the target language.)

Here are some examples of how you can introduce new vocabulary using these two pictures:

  • Teacher says, “Michael, stand up.  Point to the RED bird.” (Interpretive Mode)
  • Teacher points to the green bird and says, “Michael, is this the RED bird.” (Interpersonal Mode)
  • Teacher says, “Class, which is the RED bird?  Picture 1 or Picture 2?”
  • Teacher says, “Michael what color is THIS bird?” (teacher is pointing to one of the pictures).  If the student needs is stuck, ask this follow up question, “Is THIS bird GREEN or is THIS bird RED?”
  • Teacher puts the pictures at opposite ends of the room.  Teacher says, “Class point to the RED bird.”  Teacher says, “Class point to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Michael, stand up and walk to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Boys, stand up and walk to the GREEN bird.”  Teacher says, “Girls, stand up and walk to the RED bird.”  Teacher says, “Boys, SIT DOWN.”  Teacher says, “Girls, SIT DOWN.”

The principle is this: use what the students already know to help them acquire new L2 vocabulary.  The principle comes from Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis.  Krashen says a learner will acquire language when they receive L2 input that is ONE STEP beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence.  (This principle is commonly reffered to as “i+1” in the foreign language teaching profession.)

When you introduce new vocabulary by staying in the target language it provides students with so many opportunities to learn L2 easily (and even accidentally.  Stay in the target language and they will learn things that you haven’t even tried to help them learn.  Stay in the target language and you’ll help them produce “L2 Fruit” independently, creatively and for years to come.

 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).

Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (Part 4)

Sometimes I don’t know how to help novice learners (with almost NO L2 vocabulary foundation) practice language in the interpersonal mode.  I learned a great strategy at a RLRA presentation at ACTFL 2012.  Read below to see how well this activity can work for teaching basic vocabulary (like classroom object nouns).  Keep in mind that you can use the same activity for many different vocabulary units.

Use this activity to help students practice a conversation without having strong vocabulary foundation.

Use this activity to help students practice an L2 conversation without having a strong vocabulary foundation.

1-  Get the materials ready.  On index-sized cards, make a classroom set of pictures and their matching words.  (i.e. a picture of a pencil will be on one flash card and the L2 word for pencil will be on another flashcard.)  Make enough so that each student can have either a picture or one of the matching words.

How to practice the interpersonal mode when students don't even know basic nouns: Try using this conversation 'matching' activity:

Not sure how to practice the interpersonal mode when students don’t even know basic nouns in the TL? Try using this conversation ‘matching’ activity:

2- Here’s how the ‘Find Your Match’ activity goes.

  • Students are randomly giving 1 picture or 1 matching word.
  • All students hold their picture (or word) against their body so no one else can see.
  • Each student must use the target language to find ‘their match.’  Students find their match when they find the person that is holding the flashcard that matches or corresponds to theirs.  (i.e. The student with the L2 word for ‘pencil’ must find the student with the picture of the pencil.  The student with the L2 word for ‘scissors’ must find the student with the picture of the scissors.)
  • Students walk around the classroom asking their classmates the following question in the target language, “Do you have _____?”  (i.e. Do you have a pencil?  or Do you have scissors?)
  • When Student A asks Student B, “Do you have ____?” student B responds with, “Yes,” or, “No” in the target language.
  • If the answer is, “no,” then student A continues his/her search for the match by asking other students, “Do you have ____?”
  • If the answer is, “yes,” then the two students have found their match.  They must sit down quietly together until the rest of the class has found their match.

3- How to give students meaningful directions while staying in the target language.

  1. Make sure the students can pronounce all of the L2 words before you attempt this interpersonal mode activity.  If students don’t know how to say the word for the flashcard that’s in their hand, the activity will breakdown.
  2. Model the ‘Find Your Match’ activity with the help of 4 students.  Ask 4 students to come to the front of the class.  Give them 4 large, sample pictures (the same pictures that will be used in the ‘Find Your Match’ activity).  Have students hold the pictures in front of them so the whole class can see which picture they have.  Show the class that you have a written L2 word that matches one of the 4 pictures.  While the whole class is watching you, put a confused look on your face as you examine your word and the four pictures.  Go up to the first student (who is holding the first of 4 pictures).  Say in the target language, “Do you have ____?” (and say the word that your holding in your hand).  If the student stares at you, repeat the question and tell them to answer with “Yes” or “No” in the target language.  The answer should be “No.”  Go down the line and repeat this until you get the fourth picture which will be the matching picture.  After the 4th student says, “YES,” show excitement because you’ve found your match.  Then grab your “match’s” hand and sit down together to show that all students should sit down quietly until all other students have found their match.
  3. Ask a confident student to model the ‘Find Your Match’ activity with your guidance.  The confident student will repeat all the steps under #2 above.
  4. If the class still looks confused, ask another confident student to model the ‘Find Your Match’ activity.
  5. When it looks like most of the students get the gist of what’s happening, hand out the matching flash cards.  Each student should have one.
  6. Using the two hand method, signal the start of the “Find Your Match” activity.  Repeat, “Do you have ____?  Yes/No.” in the target language over and over so that the students realize that you are doing what they have to do with each other.
  7. Circulate through the room.  Remind students to sit down quietly when they have found their match.  Help the students who are not sure what to do.
  8. When everyone has found their match, consider mixing up the flash cards and starting again.

Thanks to RLRA for this idea.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

Part 1 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 2 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 3 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 4 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

 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).

Using Your Hands During Interpersonal Mode Instruction

It’s hard for novice learners to understand what’s happening when the instructor is staying in the target language.  All of the L2 words and phrases can sound like a jumble of unfamiliar syllables.  One of the most important jobs of a foreign language teacher is to pair those unfamiliar sounds with meaningful extralinguistic input through PAIRING.  Although there are a million things a teacher can do to PAIR, the more limited focus of this post is to share strategies for using your hands to make your instructions for interpersonal mode tasks more meaningful.

One of the biggest tricks that a foreign language teacher can have up her sleeve is: USE FEWER WORDS.  The more words you use the more you risk confusing your novice L2 learners.  So when you’re trying to communicate that…

  • …each student will have a partner and that
  • they will have to practice an L2 conversation that has the 4 following components…

…don’t throw in extra words!  It will be too difficult for novice learners to track with you if you say something like this in the target language: “With a partner, do the following:  Partner 1 says, “Hello.”  Partner 2 says, “Hello.”  Partner 1 says, “What is your name?” Partner 2 says, “My name is _____.”  Partner 1 says, “How are you feeling today?”  Partner 2 says, “I’m feeling _____.”  Both partners say, “Goodbye.”

During that string of instructions, many novice learners will not have the L2 skills to even understand that you are talking about 2 people saying things back and forth to each other. (Remember, it’s easy for novice learners to hear the target language as a jumble of foreign syllables.)  So break it down as easy as you can.  Try doing something like this:

1- Write the target conversation on the board like this:

  • 1- Hello.
  • 2- Hello.
  • 1- What is your name?
  • 2- My name is _____.
  • 1- How are you feeling today.
  • 2- I’m feeling _____.
  • 1- Goodbye.
  • 2- Goodbye.

2- Put your two hands up in the air pretending that each hand is a person.  Hand 1 is Partner 1 and Hand 2 is Partner 2.  Make your hands face each other.

foreign language teaching strategies

how to teach a foreign language by staying in the target language.

3-  Help students know that Hand 1 represents Partner 1 and Hand 2 represents Partner 2.  Do this by making Hand 1 and 2 talk to each other.  Say the word, “One,” in the target language while making Hand 1 talk.  Then say the word, “Two,” while making Hand 2 talk.  Repeat this three or four times.  Students will start making a connection between Hands 1 & 2 and the numbers 1 & 2 on the board written next to some L2 words.

4-  Continue helping students know that Hand 1 represents Partner 1 and Hand 2 represents Partner 2 by having your two hands act out the interpersonal conversation you have written on the board.

5-  Help students practice the conversation by having them raise their two hands like yours.  Repeat steps 3 and 4.  This time, however, have students repeat every word/phrase you say while making their hands 1 & 2 act out the conversation that’s written on the board.

If you follow steps 1 through 5 you will have effectively helped students know that what they are practicing is a conversation between two people.  They know which words Partner 1 should say and which words Parter 2 should say.  You’ve given them a model that allows your instruction to be comprehensible.  Your use of the two hand method has helped you reduce the amount of L2 words you’re saying; increasing the chance that they will understand your instructions.

Now students will be ready to successfully practice the conversation with a partner in class.

This two hand method is also helpful for teaching novice learners what the word, “repeat,” is in the target language.  Sometimes a very young learner will not know what to do if you say (in the TL), “Repeat after me: Red.”  If this is the case, use the two hand method to show that you want them to say the word that you are saying.

  • Stand close to the student.  (Maybe 3 feet apart)
  • Put Hand 1 in front of your mouth and pointing in the direction of the student.  (As if Hand 1 were talking to the student)
  • Say, “Repeat: Red.”
  • Then put Hand 2 closer to the student and point Hand 2 towards yourself.  (As if Hand 2 were talking back to the teacher)

This may help the student understand that you are expecting him to say the word that you are saying.  If the student still does not say the word “red” after you:

  • Keep your 2 hands in the same positions.
  • Put hand 1 in front of your mouth and say, “Red,” and make Hand 2 say, “red” from the direction of the student.
  • Repeat this fairly quickly 3 or 4 times.
  • On the last time, make Hand 1 say, “red,” but make Hand 2 be silent and look at the student as if your saying, “please say what Hand 2 was supposed to say.”
  • After these steps the students should be able to successfully learn that you want him to repeat what you are saying.

Remember, the point of the 2 hand method is to reduce the amount of words you say in the target language; increasing the chance that students will find meaning in your L2 immersion environment.

 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).

Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners (part 2)

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

If you want to help novice learners succeed during your interpersonal mode performance tasks, you’ll have to take it easy (at first) and keep things very simple.  Start by having lots of interpersonal conversations between person 1 (you: the teacher) and person 2 (the entire class together).

Here are 2 types of conversations that novice learners (even those who don’t have any L2 vocabulary foundation) can have with you:

1- Choice between two items.

Step 1 – Make sure students know what the L2 word is for 2 items.  The way I would do this is by taking two items out of a surprise bag or box.  (A pencil and a piece of paper, for instance)  Take item one (pencil) out of the bag.  Repeat the L2 word for pencil several times.  Consider passing the pencil around the room and having L2 learners repeat the L2 word for pencil.  Repeat the procedure for item 2 (a piece of paper).

Step 2 – Ask the entire class which item is which.  Ensuring that all attention is on you, hold up the pencil and ask the following phrase in the target language, “Is this the pencil or is this the paper?”  Students will most likely answer with the L2 word for pencil.  Affirm their correct answer by saying the following complete phrase in the target language, “Yes.  This is the pencil.”  Repeat the procedure with item 2 (paper).  “Is this the pencil or is this the paper?”  “Yes.  This is the paper.”

Step 3 – Ask an individual student which item is which.  Repeat the line of questioning with individual students as opposed to the entire class.

Step 4 – Add adjectives.  Pull out additional ‘surprise’ items.  (i.e. A big blue pencil and a small red pencil.)  Now (after establishing the L2 meaning for the adjectives) you can ask questions like, “Is this the big pencil or the small pencil?”  “Is this the red pencil or the blue pencil?”  “Is this pencil red and big or red and small?”  Etc.

You can repeat this type of interpersonal mode questioning with a wide variety of L2 vocabulary.  (i.e. “Is this the color green or is this the color blue?”  “Is this the number 7 or the number 17?”  “Is the mother’s name Elsa or is the mother’s name Anna?”)

2- Conversations about eating food.  (Video Example of Sr. Howard doing this in the target language)

It’s fun to talk about eating food in class.  Check to see if you have students with food allergies.  If no, proceed.

  • Take out a bag of Cheerios.  Pour some onto a plate.
  • Say things in the target language like, “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good.”
  • Write the following TL phrase on the board, “I want ____.”
  • Say, “I want 5 Cheerios.”  Then count out 5 Cheerios and put them in your mouth.
  • Repeat the phrases “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good” in the target language.
  • Say, “I want 7 Cheerios.”  Then count out 7 Cheerios and put them in your mouth.
  • Repeat the phrases “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Good” in the target language.
  • Ask the following in the target language, “Who wants Cheerios?” or “Do you want Cheerios?”
  • If someone raises their hand, point to the target phrase on the board and ask them to repeat, “I want Cheerios.”
  • Ask them if they want 5 Cheerios or 7 Cheerios.  If they say, “7,” ask them to repeat the complete phrase after you, “I want 7 Cheerios.”
  • Repeat this type of questioning as long as students are interested.

How about you?  What are ways you help your novice learners succeed in the interpersonal mode?  Leave comments below.

Part 1 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 2 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 3 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

Part 4 – Making The Interpersonal Mode As Easy As Possible For Novice Learners

 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).

What To Say In The Target Language On The First Day Of Class – Novice L2 Learners

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

Here’s what I said on the first day of L2 class this year.  Click this link to watch a video clip of how I started the first moments of class in the target language.

To make the L2 input meaningful, I…:

What else do you do to make incomprehensible L2 input meaningful through PAIRING?  What did you do in the target language on the first day of class?  Leave comments below.

Staying in the target language is definitely do-able!  It’s also fun!  Click here to read the story of how I started staying in the target language.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

P.S. Here’s a good blog post from a Latin teacher (@silvius_toda) who stays in the target language.  (An approach to teaching Latin that I think is wonderful!)  The blog shares detailed strategies for how to approach the first weeks of L2 teaching.

P.S.S. Another first day of L2 class post.  This one from @MartinaBex