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It’s the Teacher! Archived Post 7.29.10

(originally posted 7/29/10)

So…I have to constantly ask myself: What is the goal of this activity? For my STUDENTS? (and their brains of course!) I want my students to interact with me in the target language in a way that will allow them to acquire as much language as possible. Students must be doing ALL THREE of these things during an activity in order for me to reach my goal.

Interact

In the target language

In order to

Acquire language

Period.

As I listen to the ideas and suggestions about shower curtains offered by all of these passionate and experienced teachers, it is so easy for me to forget about my goal. The teacher in me gets a “pedagogical high” from thinking about all of the other exciting possibilities and I forget the goal!

My teacher brain is just a’rockin’!! It’s a game? Ooooooo!! Kids love competition! ( teacher-brain starts tracking all of the articles/presentations about involving boys in competition in the classroom…..). It’s visual? Oooooo!! It’s right-brained! It’s multi-modal!! (teacher-brain scans all previously-stored info on teaching/learning styles and brain research……). And it a micro-millisecond I am off on my own teacher-track…having totally forgotten about my REAL goal: to provide activities so that my students will INTERACT with me in the TARGET LANGUAGE so that
they will ACQUIRE LANGUAGE. So what do I REALLY have to have in an activity in order for that to happen?

A) Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language and…..
A situation where we interact using it.

-or-

1. A situation where we interact…
2. Using Repeated, Interesting, ComprehendED, Heart-connected language.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay So, what all of these teachers didn’t tell me is what I really need to know.

HOW do they interact with their students in the target language so that the language is useable enough, compelling enough, personal enough, repeated enough, understandable enough for my students to acquire language as a result of that interaction?

THAT is what I need to know.

Don’t get me wrong…the activities are PHENOMENAL!!!! But as you read them, remember that it is HOW these teachers interact with student during the activities that facilitates the language acquisition….not the activities themselves.

It is why watching other teachers is so powerful. It isn’t the shower curtain that is enthralling.

It’s THE TEACHER. It is why mastering skills is so important. It is why going back to basics, taking the chance to be coached, and learning to teach in the moment are so vital. It is the relationships developed during the activity that matter. The activity is not the vehicle that carries our students to proficiency. Compelling and Comprehended language is the vehicle. Games and projects, songs and stories, conversations and TPR are the roads we can explore with that vehicle.As teachers, we sometimes think that the trip gets a little boring….so we are constantly looking for new roads to take. What we need….is to upgrade the vehicle our students are riding in. Would you rather ride to proficiency in a broken-down jalopy or in a well-tuned “luxury” vehicle?

CI-based instruction is even better than a luxury vehicle. It won’t break down. It isn’t uncomfortable. It’s energy efficient. It feels good to be in AND it does the job…very very well.

What are your best CI teaching skills? Do the activities that you use make the most of them? Do the activities that you invest your time and energy in utilize those skills? How can you adapt an activity so that your skills create a luxury vehicle that carry your students closer to proficiency?

These are the things that I invite you to think about as you peruse these suggestions. If you don’t know…ask the person who has successfully used the activity to offer suggestions, not only about the steps involved in the activity, but about the TEACHING SKILLS utilized during the activity so that ALL ROADS LEAD TO PROFICIENCY.

I do love ideas. But I have to make sure to start paying more attention to the skills required by the
teacher and the actions required by the students once these ideas become classroom activities. It can be tough when being a teacher gets in the way of well….being a teacher!!

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myths #2 and #3 Post 5.6.10

(originally posted 5/6/10)

Output Myth #3:

The rate at which students begin to comprehend and produce a second language is totally dependent on teacher-controlled issues save three: student motivation, student work, student “ability”-level.    

Therefore:

If all of the students in the class are equally motivated,

(and teachers assume that they should be)

If all of the students in the class complete the same work,

(and teachers assume that they should have)

and

If all of the students in the class are perceived to have the same academic skill level,

(and teachers assume that students are either “teachable” or “not teachable”.)

then they will all accomplish/learn the same material at the same rate.

Therefore:

those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.

and

those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,

and

students who have earned A’s will know more and be able to produce better language than students who have earned F’s.

Although I thought so for many years………………none of the above is true.

Myth #3:

Saying a word or phrase over and over and over again is the surest way to learn it.

I’d like to share a story from 2000 ( I think….) when I attended my first workshop with Susie Gross.  It was the end of day two and we had been working with a select group of words for about 16 hours.   For whatever reason, the group could NOT produce the phrase le vert d’eau (the glass of water …please excuse any sp/agreement errors…I haven’t used the phrase since…).

How hard could it be???????!!!!!!!!!!!  We were ALL experienced language teachers.  We had heard Susie use it over and over and over and over again.  Someone suggested that we had not “acquired” the word because we really hadn’t had to use it.  We needed to say it. Over and over and over and over.

Susie said, “NO.”   The room got very quiet.  “I don’t believe in that any longer.   I haven’t used it often enough, comprehensibly enough for you all.  That’s all.”   I didn’t believe her.  I don’t know if anyone in the room believed her.

And she began another story…which I don’t remember at all…except that I do remember her somehow inserting “le vert d’eau” in there a bazillion times.    Finally…….it clicked.   And le vert d’eau was in our lexicon.  Just like that.  And it was still there the next morning.  And it’s still there a decade later.  And I definitely don’t go around saying it out loud.  At all.

Then there is the word “escaparate”  (shop window).   I learned it in grade 9.   I never said it out loud once in high school (although I really wanted to tee hee it’s a fun word…escaparate!  like pamplemousse!!  ).   I never used it in college.  Then, when I was in Spain for a semester….there it was..in my brain…totally ready to use!!!  Too bad I couldn’t remember a single one of the question words…..which I KNOW I had to use over and over again in high school and college.  In context.   Still couldn’t remember them….

Still….I spent many years creating activities which gave students plenty of opportunities to say things in Spanish.   Games and role-plays and projects and skits and all kinds of well-conceived, well-written, well-rubricked, totally ineffective activities…..that did not help students to acquire any kind of language for the long run.with love,

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Output Myth #1 Archived Post 5.5.10

(originally posted 5/5/10)

I normally do not “attack” any kind of language program.  It’s not something I am usually comfortable with.  However….one of the enormous frustrations of teachers is their students’ inability to speak and / or write with confidence and fluency.    I do believe that traditional second-language instruction attitudes are to blame.   This conversation  on Ben’s blog got me thinking again…..I wrote a fairly long response there, but would like to rewrite and break it down here…I started with the first myth I think exist and I broke it down.  In italics are the teacher’s words/thoughts/etc. when the myth starts to disintegrate into reality….

The Output Myths  (and their implications) of a non-Comprehesion-based Program

  1.    A student learns to comprehend and to produce language at the same rate.
  • Students are given a list of targeted vocabulary and grammatical structures for each unit.  The end-of-unit-evaluations will require students to comprehend written and spoken material using this vocabulary.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will also be expected to produce, with few to no errors, in speech and in writing, in contextually-appropriate, but contrived, situations.

Why do they have to stop and think about what to say?  We wrote these in dialogues and practiced them in skits.  Why can’t they just spit it out?They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Teachers know exactly how long it should take for students to master these items.

I have 9 units to complete in 10 months.   If I subtract time for review, testing and vacations that comes down to three weeks per unit.  They’ll have to study.

  • Teachers will plan instruction, practice and evaluation according to this knowledge.

If we can’t get to everything in class, then I’ll just have to assign it for homework.  They’d better put in the time and study.

  • Students who do not succeed in mastering these items, in the alloted time frame,  are considered responsible for their failure to do so.

They’ve had this material for almost a month now!   They knew that this would be on the test.  They obviously didn’t study.

  • Students will be expected to be able to recognize and to produce this list of items at all times once the unit is completed (even those who were unsuccessful during the unit.)

We studied this material for almost a month in ninth grade!   They should know it by now!!

Sound familiar???????????  These italicized thoughts/comments are so much a part of the “My Kids Won’t Do Work” litany that they seem NORMAL for people to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That’s just not right.

For those of you who are wondering……that is why I am so drawn to CI programs.    There is no place for these complaints because the system is simply different.   And it works.

with love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Planning “Backwards” Archived Post… 3.23.10

(Originally posted 3/23/10)

For years language teachers have organized instruction by topic.  Sometimes the topic was a grammatical concept, other times a thematic vocabulary focus.    Many CI-based classrooms have moved away from that organizational structure.  For many teachers, however, the organizing question now is, where do we go?

New York State has identified four main communicative functions:   Socializing, Providing/Obtaining Information, Expressing Feelings and Getting Others To Adopt A Course Of Action.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to start a list of phrases under each category.

But when I tried to place my phrases from last week into those  categories it was a rough go.

To be honest, I’ve tried to organize phrases by at least a dozen different methods over the last ten years….and each attempt was a no go.

The CI seems to be like a slippery little creature, sliding out of my grasp and going right where it wants to go….not the way I would like it to go.

So for the last two years rather than forcing the flow of language, I’ve been tracking it.

The key to this is, without a doubt, “backward planning.”   I find a story with a great message or plot, a movie of great interest, a song with great appeal AND clear, comprehensible language AT  my students’ level.     I go over the piece phrase by phrase looking for:

  1. Repetitive phrases
  2. Idiomatic phrases
  3. High-frequency phrases
  4. Interjections
  5. Cognates
  6. Already –familiar or acquired phrases

Phrases A-D become my focus phrases.   I use those for PQA, Story-asking, Games, Embedded Readings, Powerpoint activities…..whatever my little teacher’s heart desires.

I wasn’t altogether sure that this sort of planning would work.  So I tracked the language we were addressing and the language that my students were acquiring.

Wow.

Because the “curriculum” is drawn from real language the patterns that emerge are natural and high frequency.   Because the teacher the students had last year is incredibly intuitive, hard-working and student-connected, I start from a very good base.  Because I teach in a small department I have this luxury.   Because I have a number of years of successful students behind me I have this freedom.  I realize that not everyone does.

I still have to ask myself:  What is missing?  What else do they need to be able to understand and express?  How can I incorporate those?

But for the most part, things just fall into place.  When we talk about Finding Nemo, we  talk about fish and animals,nature and families, relationships and struggles.  We talk about meeting people, making friends, having dreams and making plans.  We talk about the order in which things occur and predict what comes next.

When we talk about the video “We Are The World” we talk about what different artists look like and sound like.  We talk about favorite singers, groups, songs and concerts.  We compare and contrast. We talk about international languages such as music and sports.   We speak in metaphors. We are the World.  We are the children.  We are Love.

When we sing Eres Tu, we are singing in similes.  When we read Casi Se Muere we imagine and describe characters and emotions.   We compare our travels to Ana’s and Ana’s last trip to this one.  We talk about making new friends, being left out, being scared, being nervous and how hard it is to do the right thing sometimes.  We talk about having crushes.   We explore Chile and volcanoes.  We talk about the lake district and the wine region and how much it is like the region where we live (minus the volcano!)

We were surprised and horrified by earthquakes and felt for earthquake victims.  We compared the nations of Haiti and Chile.  We talked about the challenges facing Chile’s new president…and ours.   We talked about what kind of clothing and furniture they might need…..and what we could donate.

And all of it will come around again when we watch Selena and learn her music.  In between we create original and personalized stories.   We told some, we wrote some and we read the ones that others told and wrote.   We extended skeleton stories and created artwork for our favorite parts.

Then, just to fill in spaces and have fun, we played games, read books on kindergarten day and sang somewhat silly songs.

The biggest problem?  Not enough time to do it all…………….

With love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

Start With Simple … Archived Post 3.23.10

(Originally posted 3/23/10)

Many people wonder and worry about how to choose the best structures to focus on IN STORY-ASKING OR READING.    As usual there is no one “right” answer.   I think the easiest route is to first eliminate what DOES NOT need to be a focus structure.

We DO NOT NEED TO CREATE A FOCUS STRUCTURE from:

  1.        Cognates

We want to USE a ton of cognates in our listening and reading activities….but we do not want them to be the focus phrases.   We want to build stories around other structures.

  1.        Things you have only seen in textbooks

This is just a waste of everyone’s time.   Choose  words/phrases that students are likely to come across over and over again.

  1.       Words/phrases that can be “TPRed “in a VERY clear way.

Save these words for TPR!!!

What does that leave us?  At the beginning levels we need structures that will allow for stories to take place.     If we combine the words below with other key words we can create nearly every story we need at the beginning level.   How?

Pick a phrase.   Add a word or two.   (ie  goes to the new supermarket)  Add cognates.  Add TPRables.    Add emotion (see next post) Done.

is + adjective (physical, personal, possessive…however your target language is structured.

is named                                    Lives in

Has     (to)                                  Needs (to)

Wants( to)                                 Should

Goes (to/towards)                    Leaves (from/for/towards)

Looks (for)                                  Finds

Says (to)                                     Asks (for)

Answers                                      Responds

Receives                                     Respects

Likes                                            Knows   (that/how)

Understands   (that)                 Thinks    (that)

I realize that it seems like it couldn’t be that simple.  But it is.  Start with simple.

With love,
Laurie

All content of this website © Hearts For Teaching 2009-present and/or original authors. Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited. Examples and links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

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