(Originally posted 3/20/12)
Rules are the first expectations that we communicate to our students.
Teachers who are new to TPRS, or struggling with TPRS often want to know what Rules work best. We have been taught that Rules=Discipline.
Rules are not discipline. Rules are communication. They tell students what we expect. From the rules students infer what we value. If there are toomany or they are too specific and we send the message that we value control. If there are too few or the consequences for breaking them are too spare, we communicate that we value the students’ admiration more than their cooperation.
What we should strive for are rules that set boundaries for the relationships that we want in our classrooms. So the question is: What boundaries are necessary for successful discipline and acquisition?
These are mine…
1. Pay attention when someone is communicating.
2. Ask questions when there is confusion.
3. Point out when there is a problem.
4. Make a situation better rather than worse.
5. Try not to offend or harm.
6. Join in.
7. Appreciate and honor.
8. Honor individuals.
9. Honor relationships.
10. When possible, do all of the above enthusiastically and creatively.
None of them specifically deal with language. Why? #8. If I make make a rule that specifically states how much language can be used, or what kind, then I have to make sure that it is appropriate for all my students,every day, at every level, in every situation and then keep track. I’ll never pull that off.
I keep my rules in mind for behavior. I keep the language in mind for the activity involved. Before we start, I’ll let them know what I have in mind for language. If I don’t, eventually rules # 2 and #3 come into effect and I have to address the issue.
When I have a rule that says “No English”, I engage the natural and instinctive teenage reaction to rules: Break ’em.
When I ask students to say something again in Spanish rather than English, they just do, if they can. If they can’t then I realize that they aren’t ready for production of that structure at that moment. I handle it in whatever way is best for that class at that moment and move on.
Are you wondering if they just answer me in English all the time? Some try. Most don’t. Why would they? If they trust me, if we are interacting in Spanish, if they are confident and capable, if they are engaged…well then, they speak to me in Spanish because that is what we do. Not because that is the rule.
Believe it or not. :o)
Does it happen instantly? No. But what we are focused on for the majority of our instruction and interaction is INPUT. INPUT leads to acquisition.
Output has other functions. If I have a heavy-handed No English Ever rule, then I give output another function: What to do to make the teacher angry.
Totally against all of my rules. :o)
Next question: So when might we “require” the TL from students instead of L1???
* When it is fun…like a silly signal response.
* When it is cultural, like after a sneeze.
* When it is easy, like thank you or yes.
* During lessons for acquisition.
We will get so so so much more L2 from students when we make it a natural, comfortable and confident part of our interactions and relationships than we will ever ever ever get from making it a rule.
The person who needs the rule is US. We are the ones who need to remember to communicate and to interact with slow, clear, Comprehensible Input in the TL.
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