(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.
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)
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.
those who do as requested/planned will earn A’s and those who do not will earn F’s.
those who do as requested/planned and do NOT earn A’s are less intelligent than those who receive A’s,
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.
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,
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