Management Strategies for the 90+% TL Classroom – Increase Student Motivation

When switching to 90+% TL use, the first question I decided to address was…:

…how can I make students want to actively participate in a L2 environment that is initially uncomfortable, intimidating and confusing?

I initially did three things to increase student willingness to stay engaged in an L2 environment.

1-  I told students that it can be more exciting to learn a foreign language when the instructor stays in the TL. (keep in mind that the instructor has to be excellent at pairing incomprehensible L2 input with compelling extralinguistic input.)  I told students to imagine the way they learned L1.  Their parents didn’t sit them down, as 1-year-olds, and give them vocabulary lists or explain complex grammar structures.  Infants acquire language naturally through being immersed in their native language.  I told students that I wanted them to experience the beauty of foreign language acquisition through immersion.

2-  I set up a LONG TERM system for rewarding students.  We recorded how long we could stay in the TL.  The class with the most minutes at the end of the year wins.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I found a good timer/stopwatch (download one or use the one on ClassDojo)
  • Timer was ON when I was in the TL. (Students loved watching the timer go up!)
  • Timer was OFF when I had to switch into L1.
  • Record total minutes in the target language at the end of each class.  (I used Google Sheets to record.  See Kinder example.  See 5th grade example.  Note: Use tabs at the bottom to switch between sheets.  See how to set up online record sheet.)
  • Class/section that has the most minutes at the end of the year wins a party/award.
  • Timer keeps going even if students need to switch to L1.  Teacher must stay in TL.

3- I set up a SHORT TERM system for rewarding students.  I used a free and popular behavior management software product.  www.ClassDojo.com .  Here’s what I liked about it:

  • Sound effects give immediate and comprehensible feedback to students regarding their behavior.
  • Students can choose/customize their avatars. (Make a lesson out of it by teaching/practicing expressing preferences.)
  • Student ‘behavior points’ are tallied next to their avatar.  (Use this feature for practicing numbers identification in the TL.)
  • Parents can receive daily reports on student progress with details.  (You can also text parents through the ClassDojo webpage.)
  • A Mobile App is available.  This allows you to use the software in front of the class or privately on the side.
  • Settings can be modified to make the system appropriate for different age groups.
  • More on ClassDojo to come in future blog posts.

Making these three adjustments has worked for me.  It’s fun!  Students who once struggled are now thriving.  Students use vocabulary that isn’t even part of our performance objectives.  Students are more motivated.  I feel like I have to focus less on entertaining and keeping their attention.  Teaching in the TL has made me love my job even more.

I like to talk with others about the changes I’ve made in my classroom.  Feel free to make comments or ask question in the section below.  You can also email me or follow me on twitter to ask questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for more posts on management strategies for the 90+% TL classroom, including videos of me using these strategies with students.

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

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

After attending the 2012 ACTFL convention, I decided to increase the amount of L2 I used during instruction.  I initially expected the transition to be challenging.  However, the transition to 90+% target language use was easier than I thought.  I noticed…

  • …Immediate student ability to operate in immersion the setting.
  • …25 out of 26 classes reached 90% or more on first 40 minute session.
  • …In the first 4 months, my records showed 99.44% target language use.

In order to effectively stay in the target language I had made changes to my strategies for instruction, assessment and classroom management.  The changes worked!

Stay tuned to this blog every Tuesday.  I’ll share the ideas and strategies that I’ve implemented that have allowed me to stay in the target language over 90% of the time.  Generally I’ll start with ideas for managing student behavior in the TL.  Then I’ll follow with effective methods of instruction and assessment.  Feel free to submit questions in the comments section of the blog or on twitter.  I want my advice to be practical and reproduceable.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

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

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

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

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

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

For the first 8 years of my foreign language teaching career, I used more L1 than L2.  My classroom was entertaining, but students were not able to achieve long term retention of the language.

Things changed after I went to ACTFL’s national convention in 2012.  My new supervisor, Dr. JoAnne Negrín (from Borderless Learning), encouraged her teachers to attend.  It was a wonderful conference that inspired me to rethink my foreign language teaching strategies.  I decided to try reaching for the 90%+ target language use goal.  When I got home from the convention, I sat down to think how I could make this work in my classroom.

I made adjustments to…

  • …my classroom management techniques.
  • …my instructional materials.
  • …and slight adjustments to my assessment methods.

I initially expected…

  • …gradual success.
  • …a long period of adjustment for students.
  • …complaints from students.

The transition to 90+% target language use was a lot easier than I thought!  I was surprised by the successful results!

Are you considering a transition to using more of the target language in your classroom?  How do you imagine your students would respond?  Leave comments below:

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

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

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

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

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

Comprehensible Input: Use Fewer Words

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

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

Instead of using lots of words in the target language:

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

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

Señor Howard

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

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).